Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Demon

William Mark woke up that morning and immediately dressed in his apartment.

Getting together his things, he began to set out Daisy's food and water for the day. He'd cleaned the cage yesterday. Reaching down to pet her behind the ears, when the phone rang. His cellphone. Mark sighed and made his way over to it, picked it up, and checked it.

"Hello?" asked Mark.

"Your reputation proceeds you, William Mark," said a modulated voice.

"Who is this?" asked Mark. "How did you get this number?"

"My name is Samuel Hayden, and I will be communicating with you in place of Captain Routhe from now on," said Hayden. "I believe we'll be able to help one another out."

"The researcher assigned to the science crews?" mused Mark.

"That is correct," said Hayden. "We've been analyzing the weaponry that these Juraians utilize. Its destructive power is immense. The weapon seems to have no ammunition limitations—even our strongest armor at maximum setting.

"It easily surpasses any armament which I've ever observed.

"However, I believe we should be able to reverse engineer it. The weapon has a power pack, one which utilizes raw Sakuradite, or Vespene to use the European phrase. As far as we can tell, the methods used to refine the Vespene are identical to those used by Britannia. A very efficient process, but somewhat obscure.

"We suspect that there has been some technology changing hands between the two—especially given the Royal Families bloodline.

"However, that is all the moot point." Wait, Mark had only just gotten on the phone with him, and he was giving him exposition on weapon tech? "The amount of Vespene within the gun lacks sufficient energy to create the kind of beam we observed. Our own attempts at energy weapons with a similar design have been far less productive. They invariably lose stability and bleed energy, or simply lack the power to be effective.

"I believe that the Vespene is not the source of the beam, but instead a means to access another energy source. No doubt you were briefed on the Thought Elevator?"

"A device that exists within a metaphysical plane. They can access humanity's collective unconscious," said Mark. He'd read about this, even been to the ruins at one point for his training. The memory of that planet, like Mars high above, bore into his mind as well as the innumerable voices.

"Precisely," said Hayden. "Our observations of it have found a variety of potential uses. Among the most interesting of our findings is that thought can alter matter within certain parameters, of course.

"It is conceivable, therefore, that the Juraians access a similar alternate dimension."

"Why are you telling me this?" asked Mark. He certainly didn't need to know, that was for sure.

"I'm giving you the context for my next orders," said Hayden. Why did Mark need context? Couldn't he just do his mission? "I want you to open up a dialogue with the Princess Ayeka. I want you to ascertain the details of how exactly they access their power. In addition, you are to speak to Officer Makibi and Ryoko Hakubi about the nature of their abilities. It is conceivable that they may operate on different principles."

"Yes," said Mark. When was this man going to stop lecturing him and let him do his job?

"Remember that secrecy in this matter is paramount," said Samuel. "You are not to expose your true identity."

"I understand, of course," said Mark, who already knew all this.

"Also, I want you to continue to gather samples from the ships," said Samuel. "So long as it does not conflict with your other orders, of course."

"Is there is anything else?" asked Mark, keeping the edge out of his voice.

"Nothing at the moment," said Hayden. "Hayden out."

Mark shut the phone and reflected just how difficult what he'd suggested was. What was with people who micromanaged him? Did they think they could control how he infiltrated? "...Let's get this over with." Then he picked up Daisy and kissed her. "You don't bombard me with the information I don't know or care about, do you, Daisy? No, you don't. I'll be back."

He put her back after double-checking she had everything she'd need for the day.

Could you take rabbits for walks?

He'd be sure to look it up later.

Taking the bus to the usual stop, he began the usual climb up. When he reached the shrine, he found Tenchi waiting around. Ryoko was a ways off, lying on the roof and sunbathing a straw hat over her head. "Oh, Mark, there you are."

"Good morning, Tenchi, I'm just getting set up," said Mark, getting his broom to sweep the leaves.

"Right, glad to see it," said Tenchi, looking a bit awkward. "Mark, can I talk to you?"

"Yes, what is it?" asked Mark.

"Ryoko told me that you were the one who told her I was going to die in a hundred years," said Tenchi.

"Yeah, um, I didn't mean to upset her like that," said Mark. "I mean, it just sort of seems like something that's obvious is all."

"I guess it is," said Tenchi. "Right, I'm sure you didn't mean any harm. Let's just try to be a bit tactful in the future."

"Tenchi, don't keep me waiting, will you," called Katsuhito from the trees.

Tenchi looked up. "Right, I've got to practice swordplay with grandpa, see you."

"Right, I'll be careful," said Mark, looking apologetic. "Sorry about this."

"How am I supposed to interrogate three different people in one day?" asked Mark to himself. "Not to mention investigate the cave without even blowing my cover?

"Ryoko is certainly easily manipulated." He glanced at Ryoko, then down the stairs to see Ayeka coming up the stairs. Waiting until she was close enough to happen in on the conversation, Mark made his way over to Ryoko.

"Excuse me, Ryoko," called Mark up.

"Hmm, what are you doing?" asked Ryoko, drawing off her hat. "You're waking me up."

"Oh, sorry, I just figured I ought to tell you that there are some areas here that are off-limits," said Mark.

"Off-limits, what do you mean?" asked Ryoko.

"Well, there's a sealed area where Katushito says a demon is sealed," said Mark.

Ryoko got interested at once and leaped down to stand in front of him. "What kind of demon?"

"Well, um... I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell you. I mean, I'm not really sure..." began Mark, trying to lead her on.

It worked.

A little too well, because Ryoko suddenly got behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck. At the same time, she pressed her breasts against his back and breathed on his ear. "Oh come on, you can tell me, can't you?

"You'd be doing me a real favor?"

Mark ignored his hormones, remembering that Ryoko was an alien. His persona was blushing scarlet and not quite trying to break free. "Well, um... see, I really shouldn't..."

"Please," said Ryoko.

And Ayeka arrived, grabbing Ryoko by the ear and pulling him back. "What are you doing? Leave him alone, Ryoko."

"Get off me, you silly Princess," said Ryoko. "I'm just interested in learning about this place."

"What could possibly be so important that you have to make such a lowly display about it?" asked Ayeka, turning up her nose.

"Well, I was trying to avoid telling her about how there was a demon sealed over there," Mark's persona blurted out. "And how the keys are in the shrine over there..." Ryoko smiled. "Oh, um...


"Alright! This should be what I'm looking for!" said Ryoko, phasing into the house then out again.

"Hey, hold on, Ryoko! We can't go there! Katsuhito ordered it!" said Mark in a panic. "I'm going to lose my job! Come on; we've got to go after her!"

"Right, we can't let her get away with this, we must ensure she does no harm!" agreed Ayeka and they headed after her into the woods.

It had been remarkably easy to kill those two birds with one stone. Not that Hayden's suggestions had been reasonable. He had no conception of how stupid these people were. Still, now that they were moving at a brisk walk along the path, Mark glanced at Ayeka. "Um, Princess Ayeka, how do you do that thing with the logs?"

"What do you mean?" asked Ayeka.

"I mean, is it something a human could learn?" asked Mark.

"Of course not," said Ayeka quickly, sounding slightly offended. "Though, of course, it's through no fault of yours. My power comes directly from the Jurai Power, gifted to my family in ages past."

"Well, what about Ryoko, she's not a relative?" asked Mark. "Is she?" This was valuable data.

"Ryoko is a lab experiment. She has no family," said Ayeka firmly. "When Professor Washu was imprisoned, she was raised on Jurai."

"Professor Washu?" asked Mark.

"One of the greatest scientific geniuses in history, perhaps the greatest," said Ayeka. "She was a close associate of Emperor Nesshin but went mad. My cousin, Kagato, revealed she was creating weaponry capable of annihilating entire stars. Also in destroying the time-space continuum.

"I uh...

"I imagine some of those terms may not be familiar to you."

"Well, I know what a space-time continuum is," said Mark.

"In any case, at the time, Ryoko and her sister Nagi had just been created," said Ayeka. "They are artificial creations using the genetics of a number of different races. Ryoko was always a troublemaker and didn't fit in at all.

"Eventually, she snapped, set fire to the forests of Jurai, and made a break for it. No one died, but it caused a great deal of damage. That was the first of a crime spree that has lasted until today."

"And what about her ship, Ryo-Oki," said Mark. "Where does it come from?"

"It normally takes the form of a small animal," said Ayeka. "A cabbit. I imagine she's kept it hidden until now."

"How was Washu imprisoned?" asked Mark, calculating things quickly.

"Well, she was bound within a stasis cell," said Ayeka. "However, there was an accident during transportation, and it was set adrift in space. It was... actually around this system. We had thought she'd have ended up in the sun because of the accident, however-"

They came around the bend and found Ryoko working at the door to a cave. Symbols were painted on it, and she was fiddling with the wrong end of a key. "Come on, come on, open!"

"Why are you even bothering with that?" asked Mark. "You can phase through solid matter."

"Not this matter," snapped Ryoko. "Somebody has warded this place good. Funny, I didn't think anyone was able to do stuff like this on Earth."

Well, obviously because Yosho was here. Supposedly he was powerful, even by Juraian standards. "...Ayeka, how common is this kind of stasis imprisonment?"

"Very uncommon, to be honest," said Ayeka. "It's only used on prisoners who are impossible to hold while conscious."

"And what was Washu's sentence?" asked Mark.

"There never was one, she was captured, but no trial was ever begun," said Ayeka. "She was captured somewhere on the Mars Colony. And the accident happened en route to the court."

Mars Colony? There was a Mars colony? That could be a problem for humanity's expansion in the future. "So for all you know, she could have been proven innocent?"

"Well, yes, it's possible," said Ayeka. "I hadn't been born at the time, of course."

"What's all this about my mother?" asked Ryoko, looking up from banging the lock.

"Well, based on new information," said Mark, wondering why she didn't just blow it down. "I think this place might be where Professor Washu is imprisoned. Unless it is common practice for people imprisoned in such a fashion to go near earth?"

"No, it is not," said Ayeka. "Only members of the Jurai Royal family are allowed beyond Mars. Except, of course, the Galaxy Police when pursuing criminals.

"In fact, unless I'm mistaken, this is the only instance of it happening in history. Earth is usually off-limits."

"Fine, fine, whatever, just open the stupid door Mark," said Ryoko.

"Why don't you just blow the door down?" asked Mark suddenly, forgetting his persona.

"Because it belongs to Tenchi, obviously," said Ryoko. "I'm not going to go blow up his stuff. Now just get it open."

"Don't you find this interesting?" asked Mark, taking the key. "I mean, she is your mother?"

"She's my creator," said Ryoko with a shrug. "And I'm not here for her; I'm here on behalf of someone else I met."

"Someone else?" asked Mark.

"Yeah, you don't think I'd show up on this ball of dirt, risking Azusa's wrath, on a joyride, do you?" asked Ryoko. "Nah, I'm here on behalf of someone else. I've been trying to track down Washu for a while now for a friend. Well, actually, because of something that friend told me as well."

"Why?" asked Mark.

Ryoko paused and looked at him. "Well, aren't you interested in meeting your creator?"

"We kind of originated in a primordial soup," admitted Mark, offended at the prospect.

"Um, actually, Earthlings have the same basic DNA structure as Juraians," said Ayeka. "The base DNA ended up on Earth as part of an experiment by Emperor Tenchi-" She faltered as Mark glanced up. He wondered if she'd put two and two together. "A strange coincidence.

"Hold on a minute, Ryoko. Who was this person who knew where Professor Washu was? And why are you even looking for her anyway?"

"Are you asking me why I would want to meet the person who made me?" asked Ryoko in a faux offended tone.

Mark walked over to the door and inserted the key.

"No, I'm asking why YOU would want to meet the person who created you?" snapped Ayeka. "You've never done a single selfless thing in your life. And you've never cared about anything beyond whatever catches your eye at the moment."

Mark turned the key and opened the door.

"Oh right, because you're so much better. Ms. I-Wanted-To-Marry-My-Half-Brother," said Ryoko.

"It has nothing to do with my desires!" said Ayeka. "Yosho and I were betrothed by order of the Emperor in order to ensure the bloodline remained pure!"

Mark began walking into the cave. Beyond were number tunnels, and he drew out a pocket knife and disarmed a few traps. None of them were lethal. More akin to practical jokes.

Yosho didn't buy into his own hype.

"The hell it was!" said Ryoko. "If Azusa cared so much about keeping the bloodline pure, he wouldn't have married Funaho!"

"I should have known you'd never have comprehended such a thing as marrying for love!" said Ayeka.

"You should try it sometime, Princess Incest," snarled Ryoko.

"Why you..." Ayeka's voice raised. "I will not tolerate this! You will be taught a lesson you will not soon forget, now-"

"Doors open, let's go," said Ryoko, cutting her rant off and walking through.

"Hold on Ryoko, we are not finished here!" said Ayeka, racing after her.

Mark found Ayeka's suggestion regrettably relevant. Given their obvious physiological similarities, it seemed likely Juraians and Earthlings were related. If only in the same sense that mankind shared the same family tree as a guerilla.

Who was the animal, Mark wondered.

"You didn't answer the question before Ryoko," said Mark, trying to take his mind off it.

"Hmm, what do you mean?" asked Ryoko.

"What do you get out of finding Washu?" asked Mark.

Ryoko floated beside him while lying on the air, head resting on her hands as she smiled. "Alright, you caught me.

"Truth is I've got this gem thing I inherited from her and supposed it offers ultimate power. Nagi's got the other, and there's a third with the Tal'Darim. Supposedly we were created to use the thing with full power." She raised a hand and showed off a gem.

"And?" asked Mark.

"I have no idea how to use this thing," said Ryoko after a moment. "I mean, I can draw off a bit of power, but nothing all that major."

"Why do you even want with ultimate power?" asked Ayeka. "You've got more than enough power to stay on the run from the law. And it's not like you have enough of an attention span to conquer anything."

"Can't a girl have a hobby?" asked Ryoko.

"And this 'friend?'" asked Ayeka.

"I'm not snitching to you," snapped Ryoko.

Coming to a halt, they entered a glowing blue chamber. It was circular with a high ceiling. At the center was a pillar of crystal, and within it was a beautiful, red-haired woman. Her body type was moderately less exaggerated than Ryoko, but that wasn't saying much.

"So, is that her?" asked Mark.

"Yes, that is most assuredly her," said Ayeka. "I've seen her picture."

"How exactly can you free her?" asked Mark.

"Well, there should be an energy console I can access by-" began Ayeka.

"Yeah, let's speed up," said Ryoko.

Then she sent a bolt of red energy into the pillar. It exploded into a million pieces, and Mark was thrown from his feet. Twisting in midair, he narrowly kept his feet, before dodging a number of sharp fragments. Fortunately, neither Ayeka nor Ryoko were looking at him.

"Ryoko! Do you want to kill her!" said Ayeka.

"Eh, she's tough, she can handle it," said Ryoko with a shrug.

Out of the fragments staggered Washu, coughing violently as she fell to her knees in the smoke. "What the hell! I almost died there! What is going on..." Then her eyes locked on Ryoko. "Ryoko, you..."

"Yeah, fine, great, whatever, not interested," said Ryoko. "How do you use this gem thing, Washu?" And she raised her hand.

"Excuse me?" asked Washu.

"The gem," said Ryoko. "The thing you implanted into Nagi and me, I need the power I'm on the run from the law."

"Let me see if I understand this quite clearly. I've just spent..." Washu raised what looked like a computer of energy and looked at some readings. "I uh, estimate five hundred to a thousand years in stasis. My long-lost daughter has blasted me out after being stolen from me. And the only thing you want from me is instructions on using the gems?"

"Yeah, last time Nagi tried to capture me it was pretty close," said Ryoko. "So, I figure I need an edge to kill her if things get really bad."

"Why is Nagi trying to capture you? Where the hell is Kagato and where..." Washu shifted. "Earth, this is Earth, though there are a lot more energy signatures. Not advanced enough to be any other race, so humanity must have come pretty far."

"Instructions on how to use the gems, now," said Ryoko.

"Oh, buzz off, will you!" snapped Washu. "I'm trying to come to terms with the passage of time and how someone ordered my arrest!"

"Yeah, I don't care about that," said Ryoko. "So, I'm going to go over there and wait until you come to terms or whatever." Then she walked over to the entrance. She separated into two different bodies and began playing cards with herself.

Washu stared and shook her head. "...That's the second time I've had a daughter taken away after never even knowing about her. Who are you, people?"

Ayeka glanced at Ryoko. "I um...

"I am Princess Ayeka Jurai, we, well, your stasis cell was lost during an accident while in transit for trial."

"I'll bet it was," muttered Washu. "Probably sabotage by someone who didn't want me to get a chance to defend myself."

"In any case, you were lost in space, and your cell ended up here," said Ayeka. "When we learned you were here, William Mark and I felt we ought to free you."

"How very nice of you," said Washu, scanning for more readings and frowning. She looked at Mark. "You, does Earth have interstellar spaceships yet?"

"Well, we have a moonbase, and we're in the process of terraforming Phobos and Deimos," said Mark. "The moons around Mars." Hold on, if there was a Mars base, how was it possible that they hadn't detected it. There were scanners sent down regularly. "But, it would take a year's worth of travel to get there, so progress has been slow."

"Oh, oh, I see," said Washu, before closing her console and looking to Ayeka. "Princess Ayeka, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Um, I don't understand," said Ayeka.

"This is an underdeveloped planet," said Washu. "THE underdeveloped planet. Emperor Tenchi put in place simple instructions: Leave Earth alone. It's supposed to develop on its own.

"We don't understand their culture or experiences. Any attempt to interfere in their history. It could lead to disaster for all involved.

"So, I ask again, what are you doing here?"

"Well..." Ayeka shifted.

"Let me explain, you see, Ryoko came here looking for you-" began Mark.

"Still waiting on the ultimate power," said Ryoko in a singsong voice.

"SHUT UP!" said all three of them in return.

"She came here looking for you, but had a run-in with a Galaxy Police officer named Kiyone Makibi," said Mark. "They both shot eachother down and ended up staying here. They sent out a distress signal which drew Ayeka here. She would have evacuated Kiyone and Ayeka, however, well...

"Ryoko provoked Ayeka, the two had a space battle and crashlanded down here."

Washu looked at Mark with obvious distrust. "And nobody noticed this?"

Mark shifted. "There hasn't been anything on TV. So I guess not. Unless the government is covering it up or something."

"You had a full-scale battle in the skies above Earth?" asked Washu, looking to Ayeka. "What if they saw you? No, better question, what if ONE of the attacks beams a Jurai vessel is capable of firing hit a city? You could have leveled the entire place and killed everyone! This planet doesn't have energy shields! At least nothing that could stand up against us!"

Ayeka went white when she said that. "I realize some of our actions were... unwise. However, since your imprisonment, the connection between Earth and Jurai has become strong. The Jurai Royal family has become more... well, there were attempts to speed their development."

"Oh, so they're okay with you having dogfights in their airspace?" asked Washu.

"Well, I..." Ayeka shifted.

"Would you have pulled the same stunt if you were on a developed planet, Ayeka?" asked Washu.

"Naturally not, but..." began Ayeka.

"Have you set up colonies on Earth that could have minimized collateral, at least," said Washu.

"No, they are as of yet unaware of our existence," said Ayeka. "Our influence was accidental at first, and always secret."

Washu shuddered. "...Did any of you even think before you did any of this! Do you have any idea of what the consequences could have been?! Ryo-Oki's firepower could glass this entire continent!"

"Who cares?" muttered Ryoko.

Washu shuddered. "...Yeah, I'm just going to give you both a time out until I have time to deal with you."

Then Washu pressed a few buttons and opened a portal beneath Ayeka and Ryoko. Ayeka screamed, and then both fell through as the portals closed behind them. It was probably the first sensible decision anyone had made all day.

"Um, what did you just do?" asked Mark, wondering if she'd killed them. It didn't really seem like a disproportionate response.

"Subspace creation, I mastered the technology some time ago," said Washu. "They're going to be falling in an infinite loop until I let them out.

"Now, which government do you work for? What is the political situation on Earth? And why are you going to such lengths to hide your knowledge of Jurai?"

"I'm sorry, what?" said Mark, persona confused.

"Don't give me that, you dodged those attacks liked a trained soldier," said Washu. "A marked contrast to the image of a bullied weakling you put on. Those glasses you are wearing are fake, I can tell by the different way it filters light. Which, of course, they'd have to be, since your vision is twenty-twenty.

"You've clearly had extensive training. Earthlings don't have time to get that much martial training in one lifetime unless they make a career out of it. I've also noticed a change in your body posture now. You're coiling as if for a spring or to make a break for it."

Mark was fully aware he had been compromised, but he had no intention of admitting as much. "Um, are you sure your instruments aren't malfunctioning after all that time in the thing? I'm just an ordinary high-school student. I get bullied by jocks, and I've never had a girlfriend in my life.

"You've got the wrong person. I hadn't even heard of anything like Jurai until a little while ago."

Washu sighed. "...Have it your way. Alright, I need a history textbook, contact with this Kiyone Makibi person and drink. In reverse order."

"I'm sure I can get you that," said Mark.

This was probably the closest thing to a sane alien Mark had ever met, to be honest. He almost liked the woman.