On to Chapter 5, all characters not made up by me, belonging to the Ranma ½ cast, are not property of me. I do not own so I do not expect to gain in any way from using them in this story. This is just an innocent fan fiction. On to Chapter 6.
Ranma was sitting down on the couch when she found him, he seemed to be deep in thought about something. His eyes were squinting hard and he had a hand on his chin, his eyes stared blankly at the air in front of him. Nabiki sat down next to him but he did not seem to notice, so she cleared her throat to try to get his attention. Still the martial artist did not so much as twitch and for a second she could swear she was looking at a statue. Nabiki sat a while longer before she became fed up with waiting for him to acknowledge her and slapped the back of his head. His head leaned forward for a second before it snapped back and he turned to glare at her.
"What'd you do that for?" The man asked with irritation.
"I don't know, you seemed to be out of it and you wouldn't show any sign of me being here," Nabiki answered with her own irritation.
The martial artist looked a little sheepish, "Um, sorry, I was just thinking about a few things."
Ranma sighed, "Like the fact that I was found as a male, even though I had just fallen in the river. There's also the fact that even if somehow I didn't change then, I would have some time during my stay at the hospital. Somehow it would have happened but there was not even a mention of it."
Nabiki nodded, "Now that I think about it, that is kind of weird, and then there's the fact that this agency that's after you could have killed you in the hospital."
Shaking his head at that, Ranma answered her question, "No, they are not like that, this agency is not evil really. They are very aggressive, true, but they don't kill without giving some kind of choice. There is a chance that some of them had infiltrated the hospital in fact, but that would just be to make sure their investment did not get out of their hands."
Ranma sensed a presence behind him and jumped to his feet only to face a man standing next to Hitomi. He was a tall man with dark skin and a shaved head, he wore a suit as if he was a business man but the martial artist could tell another martial artist when he saw one. The man chuckled slightly and held his hands up to indicate he did not come here to fight.
"Long time no see," The man said, "It seems the stories of amnesia were true but I was sure that you would remember your old friend, Jack."
There was a sneer then, "I got my memory back but I don't remember you, how did you get in here?"
The man pointed to Hitomi, "She let me in, she's a sweet little girl. Despite what you think I did not come to fight you or take Nabiki back. I'm here because I need to explain some things to you. I am not an enemy but an informant."
Ranma lowered his guard, slightly, "Go on."
Jack nodded, "I heard you talking just now and I have the answers you're looking for. I'll just let you know that we are a lot of places that you may not know, for instance, it is entirely possible that we had an operative follow you to make sure that if something went wrong you were eliminated. Unfortunately they only accomplished the first part of their job which was to change you back to your male form since it is the only body that is not on file and would not lead back to us. That man was killed not because you did not die though, he was killed because the director has no patience for those who do not follow orders. Of course he was given a choice but he did not take the one that would allow him to survive."
Ranma had been blown away at first but everything was slowly falling into place, "So the only reason I stayed male in the hospital was because you guys did not want my identity known."
Jack nodded, "That is the main reason, yes. Like you said, we are not evil just very aggressive. Normally.
"What do you mean normally?" Nabiki asked.
The man let out a deep sigh, his bass filled voice making sound more like a growl, "Well, the director has been different lately. I don't know if it's stress or what but he seems to be… evil. Something has changed at least."
"So what does this have to do with us?" Ranma asked, he did not like where this was going at all.
Jack answered strait, "I want you to try to find out why he has changed. Well actually it's him and the whole upper level of leaders. They are afraid of you, Ranma, because you are the best we have. You are the only one who can do this, I know it, and I believe that you know it also, and before you say no, you should realize that if it is what I think it is, Japan, no, the whole world could be in danger."
The man stood in
silence for a while before he let his guard down fully and shook his
head, "I don't know, I have people to think about, Nabiki,
Hitomi, Akane, Kasumi, will they be safe?"
"That's what I'm here for," Jack said with a cocky grin that matched Ranma on his best day, "I know I don't' look like much but I can put up a good fight. Just keep in mind that there are others who are totally loyal to the director so they will not hesitate to follow even the most insane orders. If you do this be very careful."
Ranma was weighing the choices, on one hand he would have to leave everyone in the safety of a man that only claimed to be his friend. On the other hand if he did not do this he would have to deal with not just a few people coming after him but an army of people that were bent on taking over the whole world. He turned to see Jack watching him intently, he needed to make a decision but there was one thing he wanted to do before he decided fully.
"You want to fight me," Jack said finally, "To gage how good I am."
Ranma blinked and nodded, "Yeah, but how?"
"Did I know," Jack just grinned, "I told you we were friends, we worked together on a few missions and I'm good a reading people, and you never had the best poker face."
Jack nodded, "The training hall at the ruined Tendo house where you used to live, will that suffice."
Try as he might, Ranma could not suppress he astonishment, that had been exactly where he had intended to suggest fighting, "Yeah, in about an hour."
Jack nodded and bowed before he turned and walked out the door the way he had come. Ranma watched him go with a feeling of nervousness that he had not felt in a long time, however it was not one that told him of immediate danger. This told him that he should be careful as not all was as it seemed with this encounter. He looked over to Nabiki and she looked a little nervous herself.
"If you don't want to see the fight…" Ranma paused and let the sentence die on his lips.
The woman shook her head, "I'll come and watch the fight. I think it will be good for me to see you fight to remove my own doubts."
The man nodded and the group walked out back where the two men faced each other and waited. When Nabiki realized what they were waiting for she nodded and signaled for the two of them to start with a downward motion of her arm. When her arm came down, and no later, the two of them launched into a flurry of attacks. Ranma started with a simple punch which was blocked easily and countered with a quick front kick that the other man also blocked. Jack launched a kick at the man again and Ranma ducked under it before he grabbed the leg and stopped its momentum. The dark man smiled and brought another foot up to target Ranma again, which the man had not bee expecting so he let go of the leg in favor of rolling backwards and performing a handspring back towards Jack.
The man sidestepped and went to elbow drop Ranma as he passed but the other martial artist grabbed the waist of the man as he passed and brought his legs up behind the dark man's back so that he was upside down with his legs twisted around Jacks neck. At this the man went to fall back but Ranma quickly inverted himself so that he was on top of the man and used him as a springboard to leap back and land on his face. Ranma looked up to notice Jack rolling to his feet and removing his now broken sunglasses with a grin. Ranma noticed something then, the man's corneas had just the lightest of color in them, his eyes were milky.
"You're blind?" Ranma asked in surprised.
The man grinned, "Does it matter?"
With that he rushed towards Ranma who dodged the punch aimed at his head by inches and let loose with an elbow to the man's chest. He followed that up with an elbow to his back that dropped him to the ground with a thud so hard he bounced off the ground slightly. Even with this the bald man rolled quickly to the side until he had enough room to leap to his feet and once again he was on the offensive, launching kicks and punches which Ranma blocked and answered with his own attacks.
"Time for the next level of attack," Jack said as he leaps back and suddenly his body became covered in an aura of energy.
Ranma blinked and shrugged, summoning his own aura, the two rushed at one another once again. Fists and legs met arms with enough force to shattered a good sized boulder but the two men held their own against the force the other produced. Ranma for his part, was realizing that this was a fight that would have to be fought with skill and not power so he changed his method of attack and let his aura die before launching himself into the air and dropping an aerial axe-kick on the man's shoulder. Jack dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes and barely blocked a kick aimed at his side. Still he was sent sliding across the lawn and hit the fence on the other side of the yard, dust and debris erupted around him.
Slowly Jack stood and whipped some blood from the side of his mouth, still he was grinning, "Okay, that's good, I'm done."
Ranma nodded and his serious face was suddenly replaced by a grin, "You're good, that was the best fight I've had in a while."
Jack nodded and took a knee, "Thanks, it seems you are the best. I will protect your family. Just remember to be careful."
Ranma nodded, "Right, so what is it you want me to investigate for you?"
"There is a secret room in the same warehouse that you lady friend was held in that no one besides the boss enters," Jack said, "I want you to break in and find the secret of that room. I believe the secret to how the boss acts lies there."
Ranma nodded and ran a hand through his bangs, absently scratching his scalp as he did so, "Okay, well I see why you came to me, but do you know what I'm looking for?"
Jack shook his bald head, "No, but I have a feeling that when you see it you will know it. Sorry for the lack of intelligence."
"No problem," Ranma said absently, "Take care of the family, I'll be back."
Nabiki spoke up for the first time since the two had finished the fight, "Ranma, please be careful and come back to me."
The man smiled easily at her, "No problem Nabiki, just take care of Hitomi until I get back and don't worry. After all, this big guys here to help," Ranma indicated to Jack with a casual nod.
If he had let them know that truth, that he was just as worried if not more worried, then anyone there, there would be no going. If he did not go there would be no way for him to find out what was going on behind the scenes. He needed to find a reason for the attacks, and a reason for his joining the company that had cloned him. He did not need to pack anything, he knew where he was going and it was not far. He jogged down the street, not wanting to tire himself out but at the same time wanting to arrive quickly, when a blur of red and black hair dove in front of him.
Ranma jumped a short distance to the rear and landed easily and smoothly in a defensive stance. It did not take long for him to drop the stance however when he noticed that it was not an enemy that stood in front of him, but a friend. This friend however had a look on her face that was quiet stern and she seemed determined to stop his progress.
"What are you doing here?" Ranma said in a confused tone.
Akemi aimed a look of anger at him and said to him in a tone that was not at all that nice, "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
The man was taken back for a second before he shrugged and drew his mouth into a emotionless line, "Doing some investigation work."
The girl with multi-colored hair made a sound as her tounge clicked through her closed teeth, "Do you think I'm a stupid little girl, Ranma? I heard everything you were talking about just now."
With a wave of his hand the martial artist continued on, "Then you know that this is just for me, do not even try to go with me."
The girl growled and socked him in the side of the face, "Don't even try to be macho, just shut the hell up, I'm going with you whether you want me to or not."
The man sighed and rubbed the area where she had punched him, "Fine, just do me a favor and don't be dumb. Stupid girl."
Akemi stuck her tounge out at the man and the two of them continued on towards the factory that Ranma had infiltrated earlier. When they arrived it was just beginning to be sunset and the two of them slipped in quickly when the guards switched and were busy doing a turnover. Only one of the more tired guards saw the two of them and he was to busy trying to stay awake for the last few minutes of his watch to think anything of it. Who would be dumb enough to run through an open courtyard anyways. The guard yawned and his head bobbed before he fell over on his face with a thud just has his relief walked up to him.
Across the way where Ranma and Akemi had just done what the guard had thought them too stupid to do, the two of them were kneeling down behind a crate with a look of intense concentration on their faces. It would not be long before the guard that saw them reported what he had seen, their only hope was that it would be written off as the man being too tired to account for much. Ranma scanned the area, listening closely for any sound that might indicate a guard was taking a round near him. When he was sure that it was okay for the two of them to move, Ranma motioned with his hand and the two of them ran into a door just as it shut and ducked behind a wall just as the door was starting to close behind one of the guards that had been relieved. The male of the group looked around the corner before he spoke softly to his female companion.
"Alright, I'm going into the facility, you go towards the security room and take out the system," Ranma finished and stood.
The girl nodded, "Alright, just keep in mind that I'm not too sure where the security room is in this factory."
Ranma smirked, "Follow the guard that just got relieved, he should lead you there."
The girl nodded and followed after the guard, leaving Ranma to take off on his own path, leading him towards the room that he had been informed of. He was a little worried about Akemi leaving off on her own but it was the only way that he could be sure that the security was taken out properly. He put any thoughts of danger to the girl out of his head and focused on his goal and keeping himself out of trouble. Hopefully this would go quickly and he could get out without anyone realizing that he was even here.
Elsewhere, Akemi had started her tracking of the guard as he wound his way though the hallways. She was glad she had taken Ranma's advice and followed him because with the amounts of twists and turns the man had taken it would have been impossible for her to find the right room on her own. Especially without prior information as to where the room was. Soon the guard stopped at a room and the door opened when he swiped his card in a reader just to the left of the door. The girl followed in quickly behind him and just made it as the door closed on her. When she entered however there was just a little problem with the room. It was full of more guards that were all staring intently at her as she stared back at each one of them in turn. Finally she sighed and burst into action, leaping forward and knocking out the guard that was about to hit an alarm. She then quickly broke the alarm and continued to beating the stuffing out of the remaining guards. Working quickly she dropped each guard one by one, even one with a full helmet on that made her hand feel like it was being pierced by a million needles afterwards, and cracked the helmet. Akemi quickly set to disabling the security system while monitoring Ranma's progress as he went through the building. So intent was she on her task that she did not notice the guard she had hit earlier, without the helmet, slowly regaining consciousness and pointing a gun at her. Only when he spoke did she turn toward him.
"You're an agent, are you not?" The guard said in a deep gravely voice.
Akemi snorted in a very unladylike manner and folded her hands across her chest, "And what if I am, that gun will do nothing for you."
The guard ginned over his bloody mouth and pulled the trigger, the ammo flew towards the girl and even when she dodged she felt something pierce her arm. Landing with a roll and coming to her knees she hissed in pain. That was impossible, she should have dodged that bullet. Looking down at her right bicep where the projectile had hit she realized that it was a tiny dart. She almost grinned in relief, before the man spoke again seeming to get weaker with every word.
"Heh, you stupid girl," The guard said, "That dart will be your undoing, it contains the same transformation serum that we used on the woman you two freed earlier. Since your DNA is already altered you will not even need much time to change. I have beaten you!"
Akemi growled and pulled the dart out, before she walked over and let loose with a hard punch into the man's face. She felt his jaw displace under her fist and smiled as the guards eyes rolled back in his head. He was not dead but he would be in some pain for quiet some time. Returning to the console she had stood at just previously, Akemi looked at the monitor and pushed a few buttons, stopping the security system from sensing Ranma just as he opened the door to the room he had been seeking out. As she watched she started to feel a burning in her arm and looked to see a rash starting to spread from the wound she had received. She was not sure if she believed the man about the serum in the dart, but whatever it was hurt like hell. Still she fought though the pain and concentrated on keeping her partner safe, a bit later Ranma came out of the room and gave a thumbs up to the camera. Akemi hissed again as the pain got worse and her arm was practically fully inflamed in red now. In fact there was another strange coloring starting to show. Akemi growled, kicked the unconscious guard that had given her the wound one last time and ran out the door.
She did not know how she would explain what had happened, her black short sleeved shirt made it hard to hide such a wound, but she had to come up with something. If she told him the truth he would worry to much for her and she would not have that happen. Luckily he was so focused on leaving that he did not even see the wound when the two of them met up. The left the same way they had gotten in, without the advantage of the guards doing turnover it was a little harder than before but he still managed to make it outside the gate safely. Once they were a good ways away from the factory, the two of them slowed down and Akemi breathed a sigh of relief. The running had not done anything to help her wound and in fact it probably sped up the effects of the serum.
"So did you get what you needed?" Akemi asked.
Ranma nodded and sighed, "Yeah, but I'm not happy. This will make things a lot more difficult."
The girl winced slightly but caught herself and tried to cover it from Ranma, "I think I twisted my ankle a little earlier."
She was lucky that it was dark and the wound was on her right arm while Ranma was on her left side. It was enough to hid the wound that was still spreading across her arm and was starting to make its way onto her neck and shoulders. It was hot too, which made it more than a little uncomfortable. Akemi shook her head to clear it and tried to focus on what Ranma was talking about.
"What is it that you found?"
The male martial artist looked into the distance as he spoke, "I found that he was doing experiments with demons. I didn't believe it at first but I found that somehow he managed to summon demons from another plane. Actually that was not the only thing he summoned, he came across a few other creatures but they proved to hard to control. One example that was given was this fox that he ended up killing. The kept some DNA though."
"I see." Something about that last statement bothered her but she was not sure was it was.
Finally they arrived at the house again and Akemi went to open the door, as she did with her right hand, pain like she had never felt burst through her entire body and she screamed and fell to the floor. Rolling around she felt the her entire body get hot as the rash spread across her whole body. In the background she heard Ranma yelling out her name and tried to respond but all that came out was a gut wrenching scream. Finally the screaming stopped and Akemi felt herself drop into darkness, as if she was detached from her body.
It was much later when she woke and she realized she was in bed with a blanket over her. The pain was gone and she felt normal enough, but something felt just a little off about her body. Opening her eyes she felt a weight on her legs and looked down to see Ranma sleeping, leaned forward in a chair. She felt a smile grace her lips and reached out to wake him up when she saw her hand she paused though. It was strangely covered in reddish hair up to her forearm and the fingernails were longer than usual. The other strange thing was that her fingernails where also curved downward and thicker than normal. They looked more like claws.
Akemi shifted slightly and placed a pillow softly under Ranma's head so as not to wake him up. Sliding off the side of the bed she looked at her feet and saw they they too had undergone the same transformation as her hands. The same reddish hair come up to the top of her calf. She walked to the bathroom that was attached to the room she was in and looked at herself in the mirror, and almost let out a scream. Her once multicolored hair that she used to be proud of, mostly because it made her that much different from all of the other mindless clones, was now red and reached all of the way down to the center of her back. The hair had been in a pigtail like Ranma's but now it hung loose after the hair growth had been to much for it to hold. Her face was the same, her same blue eyes stared back at her but out of her head like two great spires stood what appeared to be animal ears that matched the rest of the hair that had grown on her. Akemi had gathered enough evidence here to realize that the hair was actually fur.
The woman reached back and touch the side of her head where her ears should be and found that they were gone, replaced by these ears that stood higher on her head. She tried to twitch one ear and the animal ear on her head moved slightly. It was almost enough to make her faint. Then something brushed against her leg as if it was a child tired of being ignored and when she looked down she saw what she could only deduce in her current frame of mind as being a bushy tail that was coming out of her backside. At this point, Akemi had taken all she could and let out a scream that was enough to wake everyone in the house up.
When they all came running, they stopped short seeing her standing in the room with a scared look on her face. Ranma blinked and opened his mouth to say something but stopped short. Nabiki covered her mouth in horror, Jack stood stiffly without any emotion showing and little Hitomi looked like she wanted to scream also.
"Who are you?" Ranma finally managed to get out.
Akemi blinked at him and suddenly felt like crying, if the person who was the closest to her did not recognize her what was the point, "Ranma..."
The man blinked before a look of horror came over his face, "Akemi? What happened."
Akemi did not say anything, could not say anything, she ran forward and grabbed the man. Ranma was surprised at first before he realized that she was crying and he returned the embrace and gave her a reassuring pat on the back to let her know that he was okay. In his mind he was thinking about the strangeness of this whole thing, first Nabiki had been changed but that had not been permanent. It was a shared form, why then was this girl not able to change back to her original form? Or, if she was, how did they do it?
Nabiki felt for the girl, she wanted to try and comfort the girl as she was the only other one who had experienced a change like she had. The difference was that she had been able to change back and, at least from what she had seen so far, Akemi was not able to change back to her original form. The woman frowned at the thought that the company, the same one that had captured her and changed her, had struck again. There had to be a reason that they were doing all of this. After what Ranma had told her last night she was sure something big was being planned but what it was could not be yet deduced from what evidence had been collected.
Jack sighed, "I'm sorry for what had happened, this never would have come to pass if I had not asked you to go."
Ranma disengaged himself from the girls arms and looked back towards the man, "No, it's not your fault, its those bastards that developed the formula that are at fault for this."
Akemi wiped her eyes and sniffed, "I shouldn't have come, now I cause you to be concerned over me. I'm sorry."
"I think you look cool," Hitomi spoke up, they had all forgotten that she was there until then, "why are you upset about it?"
The girl looked down at the child with a smile and nodded, "I'm always surprised at the innocence of children. Thanks Hitomi, you're a good kid."
There was a sudden crash from the closet and everyone turned suddenly towards it with a serious expression. Not one person in the room expected anyone to be in there or anything to cause a crash to come from it. Everyone was instantly on their guard as they waited for whoever, or whatever, it was to show itself. The door flung opened and when it did Ranma wanted to fall over laughing.
A man with a yellow and black bandanna holding his black hair back fell out of the closet covered in dirt and clothes. It was rather strange to behold but only Ranma could truly say that he would expect no less from such a person. Ryouga Hibiki stood up with an embarrassed look on his face and laughed nervously with a hand behind his head. Ranma just shook his head with a smile.
"Well man," Ranma said in amusement, "You never cease to amaze me."
Ryouga tried to compose himself, failing miserably given his situation, and tried to explain, "Well I was walking across a desert and suddenly a door formed in front of me. I opened it and everything went dark and then I was here all of sudden."
"You can get lost anywhere," Ranma said.
The man shrugged before he looked around the room and then finally he came to rest on Akemi, "Whose the foxy lady?"
The girl was taken back by the question, "Foxy?"
Nodding, Ryouga made a motion with his fingers wiggling at the sides of his head like ears, "Yeah, as in the animal."
"Ah," Akemi said, slightly disappointedly, "It's not my normal look."
Ryouga nodded, "I see, so your company has struck once again, eh Ranma?"
The man nodded sternly, "Yes, and we should really discuss how we are going to deal with them."
Jack nodded in agreement, "You are right, we need to make some plans for what is coming."
"Is something wrong?" Ryouga asked in confusion, "I feel like I'm out of the loop here."
Ranma nodded, "I'll fill you in while we discuss our plans. Until then, it's late and we have a long day ahead of use, as cliché as it is, everyone needs to get some sleep. Especially you Akemi."
The girl nodded and everyone headed out of the room towards where they stayed in the house. It did not take long for anyone to go to sleep as it had been a tiring day and they had already been asleep in the first place. Nabiki fell asleep first and Ranma sighed and he studied her form, before falling asleep himself with his arms wrapped around her body. Ryouga was sleeping on the floor using a bedroll next to the couch that Akemi chose to sleep on, Jack was set up on a mattress in Hitomi's room, he would be damned if he would take the chance of anyone trying to get to the girl. A long day awaited all and there would not be a lot of chances to get sleep later. So the house fell silent and waited the coming day.