All the characters in this story are the creation of Akahori Satoru,
Kotobuki Tsukasa, and Rumiko Takahashi... or practically all of them,
anyway. The title is stolen from Heinlein... with one letter s added.

My thanks to T. H. Tiger for the creation of this next scene, and new
character. It was so perfect I used it unedited.

Strangers in a Strange Land
Chapter 14

It had been five years since Chodo the baker had needed to deliver
his own goods, not since he'd finished his apprenticeship, and having to
do so now was a major inconvenience. Despite that, he was whistling a
happy tune as he manhandled his pushcart through the early morning
traffic. The reason for that was quite simple. This morning he was
finally going to get to meet the famous Marionettes, the Heroines of

He had been supplying bread to Otaru's restaurant for two months
now, but he had never had an excuse to deliver his bread himself. He
didn't want to appear a hick after all. He was a big city boy, and he'd
seen lots of fancy Marionettes.

"Yaa, Yaa, bread is here, bread is here," an excited voice suddenly
chimed out, and a Marionette dressed in Yellow and white was suddenly
bouncing around his cart.

"You must be Lime," Chodo commented as he handed the Marionette
several trays of bread, and took several himself.

"Yes, I'm Lime," she agreed as she headed toward the door. "Bread,
bread, bread," she chanted as she walked through it, Chodo on her
heels. "Cherry, bread is here!" she shouted toward the back of the

"I heard," A voice said from the back. "The money for the order is
on the counter. Could you give it to him, Lime? My hands are covered
in flour right now."

"That's alright. Bakers are use to flour," Chodo called out. He
was a bit disappointed. He'd hoped to see all the Marionettes.
Meanwhile Lime had bounced over to the counter and picked up his

Just as he was resigning himself too not seeing any of the other
famous Marionettes a redheaded one walked in from the back. That must
be Bloodberry, Chodo thought. Funny, I thought she was bigger then
that. She's tiny.

"Yaa, yaa, Ranma. Bread is here," Lime chanted, causing the
redheaded Marionette, who had been setting up tables, to glance up. She
looked at Lime with a broad smile, and then switched her view to Chodo.

Even from across the room, Chodo could see a film suddenly cover the
Marionettes eyes as her body went rigid. "Uc, Uc, Uc," she stuttered.

Lime looked at the small redhead in puzzlement, and asked. "Ranma,
what's wrong? Are you making a joke? Is it a game? Can I play? I can
do it too. See," Lime's body went rigid, and she started to stutter
out, "Uc, Uc, Uc," as well.

Chodo was getting nervous. Their was no other human in the
restaurant, and he had a sudden vision of him being accused of damaging
the, no doubt expensive, Marionette. Nervously, he said, "I don't think
she's playing, I think she's jammed."

"Jammed?" Lime asked, turning to look at him.

"Yea, jammed. I use to have a mixer that did it all the time. I
was always having to give it a good hit to get it going again."

"I can do that!" Lime said in excitement.

"Wait, don't!!!" Chodo yelled, but too late. Lime delivered a
might blow to the back of the redhead, who went flying through the air,
and through a wall.

Chodo beat a hasty retreat.


Akane looked at the help wanted notice in the bakery window, and
crossed her fingers. "Please let this be the one," she said under her
breath, giving her clothes a few tugs to straighten them out, she
marched through the door.

"Hello, do you have an order for me?" the lady behind the counter

Wait a minute, Lady, Akane thought. Taking a closer look, she
could just barely make out a few telltale signs. "You're a guy," she

The man behind the counter looked a bit startled, but then he
grinned, and said, "Well of course I am, dear. And you must be one of
those famous Marionettes. Wait, don't tell me, you're . . .Cherry,

"No, I'm sorry. I'm Akane."

"Akane?" I don't think I've ever heard of an Akane. Are you one of
those Gartland Marionettes?"

"No, those are Panther and Lynx. I'm a new one. I was only built a
little while ago." Akane flinched a bit at saying those words. It was
still a hard concept to adjust to.

"Well, I guess it had to happen. I'm sure we'll be seeing more and
more of your type. I'm rather looking forward to it. I wouldn't mind
owning a sweet thing like you myself."

Akane flinched again, harder. If it was hard to think of herself as
a thing, it was even harder to hear herself referred to as something
that could be bought and sold. She felt her temper flaring up, but
managed to control herself, barely.

Keeping a tight rein on her temper, she said. "Well, this is your
lucky day. I came in about the job."

The man looked surprised. "Job? You mean the one in the window?
You want that job?"

"That's right," Akane confirmed.

"But you're one of those fancy Marionette's, why would your master
want you to take a job with us?"

"I don't have a master!" Akane shouted, and then modified her tone
quickly. "I'm sorry. My master is dead. I'm staying with Otaru and
his Marionettes, and I want to earn money to pay my way."

The feminine man looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry, dear. I've heard
that you're sort are pretty attached to your masters. To tell the
truth, I'd love to have you, but it's not my decision to make. If you
want to wait a little while, Chodo should be back any minute now.
Stretching himself up a bit, he looked out the front window. "As a
matter of fact, there he is now."

Akane turned just as a tall slim man stepped in the door. She
blinked once, and stared, her eyes going wide in shock. Her arm came
up, and her finger pointed at the man. "Uc, Uc, Uc," she stammered.

The man stopped and stared. "Not again," he said. He stepped over
and guided Akane out the door. "Here you go, Sugar." You go on home
now," he said, closing the door behind Akane.

"What was that all about?" the man behind the counter asked.

"Damned if I know," Chodo said with a shrug, "and I've got bread to
bake." Stepping around the counter and back into the kitchen, he
slipped the large metal baker's peal he used for self-defense off his
back, and hung it on the wall. Taking a second to make sure his long
brown hair was still secured in a ponytail, he then went to work getting
the next day's dough ready.


Nabiki entered the palace kitchen were Lorelei was busy at the
stove. "Oh, Nabiki. Would you like to join me for breakfast?" The
petite scientist gestured at the skillet where she was frying a pair of

Nabiki sniffed the air and nodded. "That smells good. I'd
appreciate it." She wandered over to the cupboard and started getting
out a pair of plates and cups. "I can make tea while you're doing

Lorelei nodded with a smile. "That sounds nice."

Before long the two women were eating in silence. "You're a good
cook." Nabiki commented after a while. "I never really learned,

Lorelei shrugged. "It's not all that different from doing a science
experiment... you have to do everything just so... with all the right
ingredients. You just have to be patient." Nabiki nodded and went back
to her breakfast.

A few minutes later, as she was cleaning off her dishes, Nabiki
spoke up. "Lorelei, would you mind answering a few questions about
marionettes? I don't really know all that much about my body, and there
are some things I have questions about."

Lorelei nodded. "I'd be glad to answer any questions you have."

Nabiki took a deep breath. "Well, lets start with the easy question
first. Ranma got me up early to start training today... but a question
came up. Just how exactly do we learn to do... physical things. You
know, like martial arts. Ranma explained that a human has to repeat a
move over and over, even after they're doing it perfectly, so that it
will be part of their muscle memory. That way you can do that move
without having to really think about how to do it."

Lorelei nodded. "I understand the theory. Marionettes can learn in
much the same way, especially Saber Marionettes. You're nervous system
is very sophisticated. It learns much the same way a human's does,
opening up certain pathways to work faster when they are used over and

Nabiki blinked. "Well, Ranma will be happy to hear that. She
wasn't quite sure if her training methods would work the way they're
supposed to."

Lorelei nodded. "Her training techniques should work fine." She
tilted her head curiously. "You said this was the easy question. What
was the hard one?"

Nabiki hesitated. "Well... it's sort of complicated. You see, last
night...." After an embarrassed explanation, Nabiki shrugged. "So...
can you help me figure out what's wrong?"

Lorelei blinked several times in astonishment. "You want me to

Nabiki blushed, glancing at the door to the small room where they
were talking. "Keep your voice down! It's embarrassing enough just
asking you. I don't really want the whole castle knowing about my

Lorelei blushed as well. "You're saying that it didn't feel right
when you... masturbated?"

Nabiki nodded. "That's right. Physically the... parts behave like
they're supposed to... you know what I mean."

Lorelei hesitated, then nodded quickly. "Yes...."

"But..." Nabiki continued, "it feels wrong. It is... pleasurable...
sort of, but not what I remember. It's too different. I think Godai
screwed up somehow."

Lorelei was silent for several seconds. "I don't really know,
Nabiki. This is a new one for me. I'm not really sure how the
programming for your senses was done, or how to fix what's wrong."

Nabiki's face sagged in disappointment. "You don't? Isn't there
anything you can do?"

Lorelei put a hand on Nabiki's wrist reasuringly. "I'm sure we can
find out what the problem is. We'll just have to ask someone who
understands the programming behind your sensor data. I'm sure someone
here in the palace will be able to help."

Nabiki wrinkled her nose. "So we have to go to a specialist, huh?"
She sighed "If that's what it takes."

Lorelei squeezed her wrist. "I know this must be embarrassing for
you. We'll be as discrete as possible." The willowy scientist stood
up. "I'll go ask the boys in the lab who understands sensory
programming. You can wait here if you like, and I'll come back and tell

Nabiki hesitated. "No... I'm your bodyguard. I should come
along. They don't have to know that it's me you're asking about, after

Lorelei nodded hesitantly. "Well, unless you want to wait until I
can learn what it is we need to do to fix the problem myself, we'll have
to tell one other person at least."

Nabiki shook her head. "If we do, then we do. Lead the way,

After asking around, Lorelei was directed to the head of research,
an older man with graying hair by the name of Nobou. "How can I help
you, Lorelei-san?" The man's genuine smile and openness were reassuring
and Nabiki relaxed a bit.

Lorelei smiled back at him. "Yes, I was hoping you could tell me
about how a marionettes sensory data is programmed. How feelings,
sight, smell, etc... are interpreted."

The older scientist nodded. "Why yes, I can explain that for you.
In fact we came up with a new system that I helped to devise not fifteen
years ago. It was needed to make the Saber Marionettes that we used to
rescue you as close to human as possible. We decided to give them
senses that were as close to human as we could make them. We took
detailed brainwave and sensory readings of volunteer test subjects, who
underwent every conceivable stimulus we could think of that a marionette
might experience."

Lorelei blinked. "Every experience?"

The older man shrugged. "Well, every experience we could reasonably
replicate. Naturally there were some experiences we weren't willing to
put our test subjects through, such as extreme pain, or death. We came
to the conclusion that most of those experiences were not conductive to
growth in any case."

Nabiki nodded to herself. "That makes sense. Losing my hand
hurt... but not anywhere near as badly as I'd have expected."

Nobou nodded in agreement. "An overwhelming pain stimulus would
also degrade combat efficiency, which was a priority. The Saber
marionettes needed to be able to penetrate the Mesopotamia's defenses,
after all."

Nabiki blinked in understanding. "Oh! Now that explains why the
most powerful weapons developed were marionettes. It was because you
were trying to make a marionette strong enough to save Lorelei here."

"Yes, that's correct." The scientist nodded to Nabiki, then looked
at her in sudden comprehension. He looked at her intently for the first
time, having been focused on Lorelei up to that moment. "You must be
one of Godai Kuno's prototypes, correct? So, you really have the
memories of a human from the past?"

Nabiki nodded in affirmation. "As far as I'm concerned, I AM that
human. I have... her memories. As far as I can tell I react, think,
and feel like she did. I am Nabiki Tendo... or an exceedingly good
reproduction." She looked disturbed. "You know, sometimes I wonder
what happened to that other me. The Nabiki that had her memories
recorded, then went on with her life... what happened to her?"

The middle Tendo sister shook her head. "It's hard to realize that
I'm not really her. I'm just a copy."

Lorelei took Nabiki's hand. "You may be a copy, but you are still
Nabiki. Just because five hundred years ago another you lived and died,
doesn't mean you are any less real."

Nabiki sighed. "That's nice of you to say, and I want to believe
it, but sometimes...."

The older man had remained silent during their conversation, but at
that point he spoke up. "So, am I correct in assuming that you have
come to me with a specific problem concerning your sensory systems?"

He addressed Nabiki directly this time and she turned toward him to
answer directly back. "Yes, that's correct. Godai did pretty well with
most of my... senses, but not everything... feels the way that I
remember it should."

"Fascinating!" The balding older man frowned in thought. "Your
recorded memories included all of the sensory experience from your
previous life as well? Of course it did! A personality transfer without
sensory information would be incomplete since our memory is largely made
up of sensory data."

He nodded to himself and glanced at Nabiki again. "I would be
interested in hearing exactly what it is that feels 'wrong' as you put
it. Up to this point we have not been able to fully test whether or not
we were successful with our sensory programming, as no marionette really
knew what they were and were not supposed to be feeling! We believed
our programming was correct, but we couldn't really test it fully, aside
from looking at the brainwave data."

Nobou looked at Nabiki intensely. "If you can accurately recall
from your past experiences where we have gone wrong on certain sensory
programming, we would be able to update it completely."

Nabiki blinked. "Er... I suppose so."

The scientist nodded encouragingly. "So, what is it exactly that's

Nabiki swallowed once, steeling herself. "Well... it's um...." She
tried not to blush, but couldn't help it.

Nobou raised an eyebrow. "Yes? What is it?"

Nabiki threw up her hands in surrender. "I was masturbating,
alright? It was all wrong. There was... sensation, but not like there
should have been."

The older man blinked slowly, then blinked again. "Oh. I see.
Well then, there is a simple explanation for that."

Nabiki's eyes widened hopefully. "Really?"

He nodded. "Yes. As we didn't have an actual female subject to
test, any sensory input that a female has that a male does not could not
be fully simulated. We simply didn't have the necessary data."

Nabiki blinked. "Oh." She raised an eyebrow. "Does that mean you
can't help me?"

The older scientist looked thoughtful. "No... no, we should be
able to do something... since you can inform us when something does and
doesn't feel correct, we should be able to tweak your sensory program
until we reach something reasonably close to what your memories would
suggest. It's a major project, however. It might take weeks of
programming time, perhaps longer if we have to do it all manually."

Lorelei spoke up. "Well... perhaps... perhaps I have a suggestion?"

Nobou glanced at the petite scientist in front of him. "Yes,

Lorelei hesitated. "If you could collect data from a human female
to correct your current program... would that help?"

The older man nodded. "Yes of course. We still have the facility
for collecting brainwave data and sensory information here in the lab.
It hasn't been used for awhile, but if you were to assist us in
completing the gaps in out data we could create a proper sensory program
in a few days. Most of the work would be done automatically by the
translator program."

Lorelei nodded firmly. "Very well. When can we get started?"

The older man stood up. "I have nothing on my agenda more
interesting than what you have brought me. Quite frankly, I find this
problem fascinating. The amount of useful data that we should be able
to obtain is more than worth my full attention."

Nabiki rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath. "I'd just bet
it is."

Nobou gestured to his door, not hearing her comment. "Let me show
you to my old workstation and I'll explain the procedure from there."

"Lorelei...." Nabiki glanced at the petite woman hesitantly. "You
don't have to do this for me."

Lorelei shook her head. "Nonsense. I can imagine how it must feel
for part of your senses to not work properly. It would be like your
body was betraying you. I cannot simply stand by if I can help, so
let's just get started."

Nabiki sighed. "Alright, if you insist on helping me, I doubt if I
can stop you."

Nobou showed them to a small laboratory in the recesses of the
castle. There was a reclining chair for the test subject, with
connections for scanning equipment attached to an equally small
observation booth filled with computers next door.

He started to explain. "We'll have to set up the connections to the
booth, and attach some sensors to the chair's connections as well.
Lorelei, you'll have to wear a pair of sensors on your temples. We
should be able to get your brainwave data from those, and the recording
devices will pick up your actions."

Lorelei blushed slightly. "I see." She nodded quickly. "Alright,
how long will it take you to prepare everything?"

Nobou wrinkled his nose in thought. "No more than an hour or two.
I have to load up the translator programs as well as prepare the room."

Lorelei nodded. "Very well. Do you need any assistance?"

Nobou shook his head. "We should be able to handle things here just
fine. I've done all this many times before."

Lorelei nodded again, stiffly. "Well then, could you let me know
when things are prepared? I'm going to my rooms for a while."

Nobou nodded back. "Of course."

Lorelei spared him a faint smile. "Thank you." She nodded to him
again and left, followed by Nabiki. She didn't speak again until they
were safely inside her bedroom, well away from anyone else in the
palace. Lorelei paced, wringing her hands. "Did I just agree to do
what I think I just agreed to do?"

Nabiki watched her walking back and forth in concern. "I didn't ask
you to do this, Lorelei. If it's a problem, don't do it. It'll take a
bit longer, but the Doc seems to think we could tweak my sensors in a
few weeks."

Lorelei's shoulders sagged. "That would be asking you too...."

"Masturbate?" Nabiki helpfully supplied.

Lorelei blushed. "Yes, you'd have to... masturbate dozens, perhaps
hundreds of times for him to 'tweak' your program sufficiently...
describing the sensations you felt each time so he could make
adjustments... and he would have to make each change in the program by
hand. It could take days for each test." She shook her head. "It's
too much. From what Nobou told us, I could do this with one or two...
demonstrations. How could I refuse?"

Nabiki stepped in front of Lorelei to stop her pacing, putting her
hands on the willowy scientist's shoulders. "Lorelei... calm down.
You're working yourself into a nervous breakdown. Try to relax. You
won't make a very good test subject if you're all tense." Lorelei
nodded slowly and took several slow deliberate breaths, closing her eyes

After several moments the longhaired woman opened her eyes, looking
calmer. "Thank you, Nabiki." Her brow knit slightly and she glanced
down at Nabiki's hands on her shoulders. Nabiki followed her gaze and
her face flushed when she realized that she had been massaging Lorelei's
shoulders unconsciously, even going so far as to run her hands down her
chest a ways. Both women blushed slightly, then simultaneously glanced
at Lorelei's bed. Nabiki snatched her hands away with a gasp and
Lorelei took an involuntary step back.

"Oh my." Lorelei started at Nabiki with wide eyes, which slowly
narrowed in understanding as she watched Nabiki's obvious distress. She
opened her mouth to reassure the suddenly emotional marionette, then
closed it. Her eyes narrowed a bit more and she smirked very faintly
before concealing it. "Oh my, Nabiki.... I had no idea.... Is that
why you want me to relax... here in my bedroom... with you? Were you...
offering to 'relax' me?"

Nabiki's eyes went wide. "No! No, you're misunderstanding me! I
wasn't trying to... I wasn't trying to get you into bed, really! My
hands had a mind of their own! I wasn't doing it on purpose...."

Lorelei giggled. "Now you know what it feels like when you tease
people, Nabiki."

Nabiki blinked dumbly. "Huh?"

Lorelei started laughing out-loud. "Oh my... the look on your
face. If you could only see it!"

Nabiki started to shake her head and chuckle. "Out-foxed me. I
never would have suspected, Lorelei. Not bad, not bad at all. We'll
make a real terror out of you yet."

Lorelei giggled some more. "Oh yes, I'll be the terror of the
palace. Nabiki Tendo, you are a bad influence on me."

Nabiki grinned. "The girl your mother always warned you about?"

Lorelei snickered. "And here in my bedroom no less!"

Nabiki raised her hands menacingly, ready to grab. "Look out, or I
might grab you and do terrible things to you."

Lorelei's eyes twinkled and she walked over to her bed and patted
it. "Will you do terrible things to me on this bed, perhaps?"

Nabiki choked. "Would you please stop doing that, Lorelei? You
keep teasing me like this and I really will do terrible things to you."

Lorelei raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" She jumped onto her bed
and lay on her stomach, gazing a Nabiki from the side. "Well then,
please go ahead." Nabiki froze in shock and Lorelei couldn't stifle
another giggle.

The middle Tendo sister's eyes narrowed and she smirked. "Why
you...!" Nabiki jumped on the bed behind Lorelei and straddled her over
the petite woman's waist. Reaching down, Nabiki started tickling her
unmercifully. Lorelei squirmed and shrieked loudly, but Nabiki just
laughed and kept tickling until Lorelei winced in pain.

"Stop! Nabiki stop, please!" Nabiki left off just as the bedroom
door burst in, revealing a pair of amazonlike marionettes, weapons drawn
and ready.

"Lorelei!" Baiko shouted as she came in. "Are you alright?" She
and Tamasaburo came closer, threateningly, but Lorelei was quick to wave
them off.

"I'm fine, please." Lorelei put a hand out from underneath Nabiki
to ward off the weapons. "Nabiki and I just got a little carried away.
There is nothing wrong." The two palace sentries raised identical
eyebrows as they looked at the two women, Nabiki pinning Lorelei to the
bed in a very compromising looking position.

Tamasaburo nodded after a moment. "Understood, I will update my
files to include this activity as non-threatening. May I inquire if you
will be making any other loud noises in the near future?" Lorelei
glanced at each other and couldn't help but start giggling again at the

After a moment, Lorelei nodded to Tamasaburo, still chuckling. "I
may, Tamasaburo. Please disregard similar noises in the future. If I
need help, I'll call for help, alright?"

The two palace sentries nodded. "Understood." With a bow they
left, closing the door behind them.

Nabiki shook her head in bemusement. "What do you think they
thought we were doing?"

Lorelei blushed and giggled at the same time. "I'd be to
embarrassed to ask... but I suspect they might have misunderstood
slightly." She had turned over in their struggle and looked up at
Nabiki's face. "Nabiki, in the future, could you try to regulate your
strength better? You started to hurt me a bit at the end there."

Nabiki paled. "Oh no... Lorelei, I'm so sorry!"

Lorelei shook her head. "I'm fine. You stopped as soon as I asked,
thank you."

Nabiki sighed. "I keep forgetting how strong I am in this body.
Are you really OK?"

Lorelei nodded, then rolled over underneath Nabiki, careful not to
dislodge the other girl. "Nabiki, while you're there, could you...?"
Nabiki put her hands on the small of Lorelei's back and worked them
upward slowly, massaging the muscles carefully. Lorelei sighed in
relief. "Oh... yes... oh yes. That's very nice." She moaned slightly
as Nabiki continued to massage her back with extreme gentleness. "A
little harder please, Nabiki. Yes... a bit more...."

Nabiki complied, gradually applying more pressure. "Lorelei." She
said quietly. "If you want me to do this right, you really should take
off that sweater."

Lorelei nodded into her blankets, not quite willing to speak. "Mm
hmm." She raised her arms over her head and waited patiently. Nabiki
swallowed once, then started pulling Lorelei's sweater up from the
bottom slowly, carefully bringing it up over her head and pulling it
down her arms. Lorelei let the sweater drop off the side of the bed and
went back to relaxing. Nabiki swallowed again at the sight of Lorelei's
back, only crossed by the petite girl's bra straps. She then started
massaging Lorelei from the base of her spine again.

Lorelei moaned appreciatively as Nabiki continued to massage her.
Every so often Nabiki had to pause to lift her hands over Lorelei's bra
strap, and after a minute of this, Lorelei reached back and undid her
bra in the back to Nabiki wouldn't have to lift her hands away any more.

Nabiki continued to work on her wordlessly, and Lorelei sighed
happily, almost purring in pleasure. "Oh Nabiki, this is so wonderful.
Do you know how long it's been since anyone gave me a backrub this

Nabiki smirked to herself. "Three hundred years?"

Lorelei groaned. "Oh no! That makes me sound so old! I was only
twenty-four when I went into cold sleep. It's only been four months or
so since I got out, so I'm not even twenty-five yet. At least

Nabiki laughed. "I've got you beat there. I'm over five hundred,
but this body is probably less than a month old."

Lorelei smiled. "So I'm being molested by a one-month old?"

Nabiki pouted. "Why? Don't you WANT to be molested?"

Lorelei laughed. "In your case I'll make an exception. For a one
month old you have very good hands."

Nabiki smirked again. "The hands you speak of will become quite
naughty if you don't stop teasing me about me age."

Lorelei hesitated for several long moments as she considered that.
"Oh... I see...." She shrugged. "I suppose in that case... I should
stop teasing you."

Nabiki frowned in disappointment. "Oh."

Lorelei giggled. "Because it wouldn't be fair to tease a newborn!"

Nabiki's eyes twinkled. "You asked for it!" She lightly ran her
hands down Lorelei's flanks, making her squirm and giggle again. As
Lorelei's chest left the bed for a moment in her attempts to evade the
tickling, Nabiki's hands flashed into a burst of incredible speed,
removing Lorelei's bra and tossing it away before the petite scientist
could even notice anything was happening. Nabiki's hands ran down
Lorelei's sides again, and as Lorelei continued to writhe, trying to
escape the torment, Nabiki swept her skirt and panties off and tossed
them aside as well, leaving the older girl completely naked.

Nabiki lay down gently on top of Lorelei's body, causing her to quit
struggling momentarily as she realized what had happened. "How did
you...?" Lorelei flushed to the waist. "Nabiki!"

Nabiki ran her hands up and down Lorelei's sides lightly. "You know
what? You've cute when you're flustered... and naked."

Lorelei shivered. "Nabiki... I... I'm not sure I'm ready for
this...." She closed her eyes as Nabiki's roaming hands wandered to the
sides of her breasts. "I know I provoked this... ah... but...."

Nabiki stopped her groping. "But you're getting uncomfortable?"
She rolled off of Lorelei and sat on the edge of the bed facing away
from her. "All you have to do is ask, Lorelei, and I'll stop, OK? I'm
not going to make you do anything that you don't want to."

Lorelei sat up, covering herself self-consciously with her hands.
"I'm sorry... I...."

Nabiki sighed. "Aren't interested in me that way? I understand
that, Lorelei, and I don't blame you. I've been acting like a
nymphomaniac... and not only am I female, but I'm not even really a

Lorelei sighed back, shaking her head. "Nabiki, would you please
stop feeling sorry for yourself? I'm not completely closed to the idea
of you and being... being together. We're just moving a little bit too

Nabiki blinked and turned around. "You're not?"

Lorelei hesitated, blushing slightly at Nabiki's stare. "No, I'm
not. Intellectually, I find you quite attractive, and emotionally, I
feel a growing bond to you. I really do care about you, you know. As
for my... sexual preferences... I'm starting to wonder. I never
considered myself attracted to women especially, but being with you
feels comfortable. I've never been able to... play like that with
anyone... not since I was a child. It's nice... just... I just need a
bit more time."

Nabiki smiled. "I'm not going to push, Lorelei. Besides, even if
you were ready, I'm not. Talk about not being wired right, huh?" She
sighed. To tell you the truth, I think we have something in common
there. Before all this, I wasn't attracted to girls... well, not
exactly, anyway. When Ranma first came to live at our house, I think I
started to realize that I wasn't repulsed by the idea either. After a
while I realized that I feel pretty much the same about girls as I did
about guys. If they were cute, I liked them... and if I liked them, I
could feel attracted to them. I just hadn't been letting myself think
that way until after Ranma showed up."

Lorelei raised an eyebrow. "Nabiki... are you... are you in love
with Ranma?"

Nabiki's eyes widened and she blushed. "No!" She shook her head.
"I knew that Ranma and Akane were meant for each other after a few
weeks... and by then it was too late for me to go after her myself.
Ranma and I were never meant to be."

Nabiki looked at Lorelei strangely. "I've never told anyone else
any of this, but I can't seem to keep anything from you anymore." She
shrugged. "If you want to know if I'm attracted to her... I am. I
won't lie to you about that. I'm a hundred times more attracted to you
than anyone else I've ever known, though. It's probably just my maiden
circuit... at least most of it. But even if I wasn't bonded to you, I
think might still have been interested."

Lorelei smiled faintly. "I hope that's the case. You've been very
honest with me, Nabiki, so I'll be honest with you. I do like you.
I've said it before, but I do mean it. You're just about the first
person on this planet I've found that I can talk to as a person and not
either as a scientist or as a symbol of everything female."

Nabiki looked skeptical. "What about Otaru? He seems pretty
comfortable around you."

Lorelei smiled fondly. "Otaru is that way with everyone. That's
what made him perfect to raise Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry. Social
status, being a human or a marionette... it does not matter to him."

Nabiki smiled at her knowingly. "I know you like him. It's been
obvious for awhile." She hesitated. "Heck, you're practically in love
with the guy. He's great... why should you settle for me?"

Lorelei sighed. "I am not settling for anything. " Otaru is not
available, even if I was interested in him."

Nabiki frowned. "I'm still you're second choice... if that."

Lorelei sighed again. "I don't think we're getting anywhere right
now." She glanced around for her clothing, spotted her sweater on the
floor next to the bed and leaned over to get it. "Listen, Nabiki."
Lorelei held the sweater in front of her while she found the sleeves.
"If you keep looking for reasons why we can't be together, I'm sure
you'll find them. You could find reasons why any two people can't be
together if you look hard enough, but that doesn't mean anything. I
want to try and make this work between us, and that means looking for
reasons why it will work, not why it won't."

Nabiki looked like she was trying to stop frowning. "OK... I can
see your point. So, why should we be together? Ignoring the irritating
little fact that I happen to be bonded to you, that is."

Lorelei shook her head. "That's a little hard to ignore... but."
She shrugged. "I've already given you a reason. Intellectually, you
have more in common with me than anyone else I know. We're both women,
we're both unique, and we both think of the other as a normal human
being. Believe it or not, there is no one else that fits. No one else
that I could see myself being with."

Nabiki blinked. "No one? What about... Faust? I've heard that he
spent... what, twelve, thirteen lifetimes to bring you back. I mean,
sure, he went too far in the end, but he...."

Lorelei shook her head. "Faust... was always intense... almost
obsessive... but the Faust that exists today went far past that point,
into insanity. He's recovered, for the most part, but he's still not
the man I knew. Nabiki, I was serious when I told you that I'm open to
the idea of us being together. I didn't mean I was considering all my
options, with you as one out of many. I mean I am considering you and
you only. I don't believe in pursuing a relationship with more than one
person at a time, and I plan on giving this every chance."

Nabiki sighed. "I'm sorry, Lorelei. I shouldn't be so negative.
"She frowned. "I haven't been myself for days, now. I never used to
let things bother me this much."

Lorelei smiled in understanding. "You've never been in love
before. Trust me, it makes you crazy." Lorelei pulled her sweater on
over her head and hopped down from her bed, looking around. "Now where
did the rest of my clothes go?"

End Chapter 14

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