Honor of the Matukai
Disclaimer: The following is piece of work that was produced voluntarily for free consumption. It uses characters and universes that do not belong to the author, namely the characters from Ranma ½ in the Star Wars universe in the KotoR era. The author feels it is only fair warning to point out Akane will not be in any scenes with Ranma, nor will they be getting together.
The Matukai are a Force using group that originated in the Hero's Guide. To my knowledge they are only mentioned descriptively in the Hero Guide and with a brief description on Matukai items in KOTOR2. As such some of the information you will find in here had to be created by the author, although efforts were made to keep things in the proper spirit. They are also one of the very few Force using groups that doesn't have its roots in either the Jedi or the Sith, yet has a solid grasp on the Force. I had to almost completely create the Jal Shey stuff from scratch because I couldn't find any real data on their order, just for your information.
C&C is appreciated, although not required.
It is a time of great conflict 4,000 years
before the Battle of Yavin. The Republic Fleet under
the command of the Jedi Knight Revan has returned
as the basis of an armada of conquering Sith.
Their numbers swelled by defectors,
and raw recruits the Sith numbers and forces
seem all but unstoppable. The Jedi's assault
on the flagship of the Dark Lord of the Sith,
Darth Revan, has only made things that much worse.
Instead of the tactical calculating Revan,
the ruthless Darth Malak has taken the helm
of the Sith war machine. The Jedi and their dark counterpart
however do not possess a monopoly on the Force,
nor are the repercussions of the war limited to them…
Ranma slid his gaze down from the star studded sky. The beauty of the stars and the intellectual exercise of spotting constellations however would have to wait. For now was the time to spar. An exercise respected in the traditions of the Matukai Order as it allowed students to learn off one and another.
"Are you going to make a move or stand there all day?" His opponent impatiently demanded. Ryouga Hibiki was still technically an apprentice of the Matukai Order. To easily did he become flustered and upset, and to impatient was he for the Master to promote him to Adept. The Master had felt it best that Ryouga receive assistance from another student as he had already received the basic instruction.
"Patience, Ryouga. Your thrashing will come soon enough." Ranma responded in good humor.
Focusing the Force through his body refined by the various harsh lessons of the Master Ranma took up his normal stance. This was to say he put his hands in the pockets of his robes and took on a casual air. The Master was often amused by this stance, as it was a show that often the stance itself was not an overly big factor in a fight, and by not taking a traditional stance one could hide their intentions.
Ranma casually sidestepped Ryouga's debladed Wan-Shen. The Wan-Shen was the traditional weapon of a Matukai. Each was unique to its user, but all followed the lines of some sort of staff with a blade. With the Force guiding Ranma's body and movements Ryouga could not hope to hit him while being ruled by his impatience and lack of control.
Still moving Ranma jumped and actually landed on the part of Ryouga's Wan-Shen he was holding between his hands. The resulting momentum and shock unbalanced Ryouga, and as Ranma hopped back off Ryouga could not hope to arrest his fall.
"Control Ryouga, it's all about control. You know I wouldn't be able to do that so easily if you could manage to maintain your cool." Ranma said to the prone Ryouga. His voice was free of the tones of bragging, but instead colored by the helpful tones of a friend showing concern.
Ryouga pulled himself up, but his expression was one of upset. "Every frickin time." He grumbled as he stomped off.
Ranma stared sadly as his fellow pupil and friend left. It had went so well initially. They were rivals, but they looked out for each other. As they advanced in the traditions of the Matukai though, Ryouga began to fall behind. While the trials had given him an amazing amount of endurance, Ryouga's performance had been less then stellar. He did not have the patience for the slow moving meditation, or the holding of the proper poses both key to the training and way of the Matukai.
Ranma jumped as he felt a hand fall on his shoulder.
"It would serve you well to be more mindful of the present Adept Saotome." Came a female voice Ranma knew as belonging to their Master.
"I am sorry, Master. It just seems Apprentice Hibiki doesn't fit in here." Ranma said with the proper amount of reverence.
"Perhaps. It is however his choice to remain, and he would not be the first student I have seen that required more time to sort themselves out."
Ryouga kicked a piece of trash he had found around as he walked along. It wasn't fair. Ranma had left him in his dust. The Master insisted on him doing forms slowly. He just knew she had to be holding him back.
When he had heard of the Matukai Ryouga had been quick to want to join them. They were strong, capable, and tough. They also didn't hold themselves aloof like the Jedi with their unnecessarily constrictive code and regulations. He had respected them and had wanted to be one.
Not paying attention to where he was going Ryouga kept kicking his piece of trash. His frustration building with every passing moment he stopped. With one swift movement he used a full powered overhead blow with his Wan-Shen to smash the offending piece of trash to bits.
When he heard someone clapping Ryouga finally became aware of his surroundings. A female in dark robes was the source of the noise and he had somehow managed to arrive at the starport.
"Uhh... who are you?" Ryouga asked after a few minutes.
"I am a seeker, a finder, a messenger who spreads the truth. There are aspects of the Force that contain great power. The Jedi would deny this power to anyone else, while fearing to use it themselves considering it to quick, to easy. To prone to letting apprentices challenge the ruling orders authority and supposed wisdom. Any that learn the truth behind their lies are ruthlessly hunted down and quietly removed. Even you of the Matukai must know they only barely tolerate your order as long it is not a threat to their authority and power.
We of the Sith know the truth behind the Jedi Orders lies, the power they would deny to everyone else lest it challenge them. We however have become too strong for the Jedi to silence, to numerous to be quietly removed. Thus it is now we can spread the truth. If you come with me you can learn the power the Jedi would deny you. We can show you how to truly harness the Force, if you let us."
Power, the word resonated in Ryouga's skull. Ranma. Ryouga's lips began to curl cruelly at the thought of finally having the power to defeat his rival.
Akane Tendo smiled from within the hood of her robes. Her Master had sent her here to Callamar to oversee the transfer of supplies from this world's well-developed agricultural base. To bring back a Matukai, ripe to be turned with her... Her Master would be pleased.
"Follow me." She said now only using a little bit of mental Force trickery to enhance her abilities at persuasion.
Ryouga faced a human whose entire head was tattooed in a way very similar that common among the Matukai. The Matukai who were into that practice however did not usually shave themselves bald and have their entire face so adorned. No, the mark of mastery for a Matukai only covered part of the forehead and the sides of the eyes.
"I trust your trip was successful, young one?" He said, the question obviously directed towards the female accompanying him.
"Yes, Master Uthar. I was able to convince the Callamar authorities it was to their benefit to sell us supplies." She said with just the necessary tone of reverence.
"That is good. And who is this you bring before me?"
"He is a Matukai who wishes to learn our ways, Master Uthar."
The man now turned to him and looked at him with an intentness that seemed to strip everything away. Finally addressing him in a fatherly tone he said, "I sense much anger in you. That is good. Harness it, use it, and it will give you a power greater then any you have ever known."
Turning to his companion he said, "Will you see to arranging his quarters, Akane?"
"Yes, Master Uthar."
Ranma emerged from his quarters, robed and ready for the day. Some of the older Adepts were already instructing some of the newer Apprentices in some of the more basic katas in the practice field.
Ranma turned to see the aged visage of the Master. While she was beginning to get on in years, she had lost neither her spunk nor edge. As the occasional session where she showed off the power of a fully trained Matukai, by taking on several Adepts once attested to. Right now her face was contorted by a look of concern.
"Yes Master?" Ranma asked with a bow.
"Come with me. There is something I must tell you."
"Are you sure! You know how prone he is to getting lost."
"I would not be telling you this if I was not sure, Adept Saotome." The Master said with a sigh. "Ryouga is gone and I feel that he has fallen into a dark place. As the closest thing he had to a friend you deserve to know."
"I'll rescue him then." Ranma declared decisively.
"Do what you must. You have learned you lessons well, and there is little more you can learn here, Adept Saotome. Remember though that a Matukai no matter how strong, how tough, or how fast they may be is not immortal and your friend may not wish to be saved."
Ranma followed Ryouga's trail. Ryouga might have a bad sense of direction, but he had quickly learned how to pick up Ryouga's trail. While the Master might speculate that Ryouga's ability to appear in odd places was tied somehow to the Force guiding his movements, Ryouga always walked. Thus in turn he left a trail that could be picked out easily enough if one knew what to look for.
Finally reach the end of the trail Ranma found himself within an empty landing pad. Dock security was relatively lax around here, so unless a landing pad was actually occupied or a VIP was on their way no one really cared if you wandered around the pads. Noting the pad number, Ranma decided he needed to have a chat with the Dock Authorities.
Ranma entered the Dock Officer's office only to find the on duty officer fitfully snoring in a chair. A quick look around confirmed that security, as usual, wasn't present. Reaching into a concealed pouch sewn into the inside of his robes Ranma pulled out some equipment that was considered illegal in more systems that anyone bothered to keep track of, and was just as readily available. While he rather would rather not dwell on his past, Ranma had to admit his life before joining the Matukai did give have some useful perks, besides the Matukai emphasized being flexible.
The security system on the computer proved to be the predictable joke one would expect on a world like this. Easily bypassing it Ranma did a quick search. There was only one ship that had used that particular pad in the past week. Apparently the person had been some sort of VIP who was going to talk to the planetary authorities. Records on the ship, it's captain, and related data had been deleted, but the system hadn't been updated so it was nothing to restore the data. These country bumpkins probably thought they'd done a good job of hiding the evidence though.
Finishing his download Ranma stored his ill begotten data disk along with his equipment back in his robes. Ranma scanned the office one more time to insure he hadn't been watched or missed anything that might be incriminating. Looking at the still unconscious Dock Officer Ranma debated with himself for a few minutes before deciding to indulge himself. Afterall, the guy was practically asking for it. A rapid set of precisely controlled taps, and the snoring Dock Officer's forehead now featured a set of bruises that spelled out "Sleeping On Duty" in clear easy to read Galactic Basic. The Dock Officer continued to snore away undisturbed as with a swish of green robes Ranma was gone.
Ranma pulled down the hood of his green over robes as he scouted out the local catina. As such things went this establishment was most certainly sub par by galactic standards, although apparently the drinks were particularly good. The main thing going for it was its close proximity to this star port. Few would bother going all the way to next city over to merely get a drink. While what passed for planetary administration was there, their local drinking places weren't much better
While his clothes might draw more attention, particularly with the hood up, people would focus on them more instead of on anything identifiable. Plus in the dim interior of the catina its residents would be less likely to be able to see his face anyway.
There was really only one vessel presently on this planet he could use to get off Callamar anytime soon according to the computer systems, the Baker's Justice. It was a rare class of ship that had seen service mostly in use by the Mandalorians. A type of attack craft only about twice the length of a starfighter although a lot more bulky. That length actually became its height when in flight, presenting a somewhat larger frontal target profile then many preferred. Steps however had been taken in its design to aid in deflecting shots, and it had devastating firepower, as befit a Mandalorian ship. With the Mandalorians scattered only a bounty hunter would privately own such a craft, and a good one at that.
Pulling out a small portable holo-projector Ranma slid his ill begotten data card into it. He took a moment to dwell on the figure of his adversary, before switching to an image of the owner of the Baker's Justice. Pausing he took the time to rotate the projector and look at it from several different angles. After gaining confidence he'd be able to pick her out Ranma shut off the holo-projector and put it away. Well at least she was cute.
Ukyo Kounji was a bounty hunter by trade. She had been captured by the Mandalorian forces early in the war when they had invaded the world of Butuan. The Mandalorians were both worse and better then most people in the Republic considered them. Times like now she almost wished they'd won. At least that would have kept away the five previous would be suitors.
Honestly, it wasn't like she was even dressed in something that could be considered feminine. What did she have to do, bind her chest so these losers would leave her alone?
There were only two worthwhile things about this particular mudball. The alcohol and some special ingredients she used in her cooking that were hard to find, not to mention expensive, anywhere else. Taking another sip from her tankard of frothing beer she idly noted a robed and hooded figure enter. The locals seemed to regard it with some measure of respect and fear. Lucky it.
As the figure began to approach her Ukyo reached down and checked to make sure her blaster could be easily drawn. Casually resting a hand on it, the other ready to pull a spatula out of her bandoleer she waited. As it gained further definition in the establishments dim interior she could make out the distinctive green robes of a Matukai. While not anywhere as big an organization as the Jedi or the Sith you could often find them if you looked hard enough. She'd heard tales about a group of them being on this rock. If rumor could be trusted then you could trust one about as much as you could trust anyone.
"I want to hire you to help me find someone." Came a male voice from within the robes.
Direct, to the point, and with a job offer. Things were looking up.
"How much?" She asked with a level tone. Best to let the customer place the first bid on these type of things. You could haggle price after you had a feel for the details and how much they were willing to pay.
"5,000 Republic Credits. Half in advance, but only if I come along for the ride."
Ukyo subtly straightened. It wasn't a large bounty as such things went, but for an individual it was a respectable amount. Unless this man was actually representing some organization he was plainly very serious about finding this person.
"You have my attention." Ukyo said with a level voice, subtly signaling it was time to get down to business.
As the figure pulled up a seat he pull his hood back up some. While it still difficult to make out exact features in the darkened interior of this building, she could at least make out his face.
Placing a holo-projector of the type commonly available throughout the galaxy on the beaten up table he manipulated its controls.
"This is the person I want you to help me find. His name is Ryouga Hibiki." Again manipulating the control the man changed it to another image this time a long range shuttle she remembered leaving as she was coming in. "I've been able to track him to this ship. The job will be completed when I have both where he has gone, and the means to reach him."
Ukyo nodded to herself, it seemed straightforward enough and the trail was still fresh. "What's the catch?"
"Other then I'm going with you, there is no catch. I need transport and assistance in tracking him down. By the time I could get transport off this rock through normal channels it will have been to long. I can make myself useful if you're worried about that."
Seemed reasonable enough, she'd been here enough to know what he said was true. Except for the bulk transports carrying supplies transports ships only came here rarely. By the time one the next one arrived the trail would be most certainly cold. "Okay, you've hired yourself a bounty hunter."
Ryouga tugged at the collar of the dark robes he had been given. His old Matukai robes had been confiscated. They said he could get the back after he became a full fledged Sith. As he entered the chamber he found an instructor had setup a line of boxes. The students who were present stood in front of a box. Ryouga quietly took his place in front of one towards the end.
"Thus it is necessary that we first show you our way of channeling the Force before you can truly be considered trainees of this Academy." The Instructor finished what had been a long lecture Ryouga hadn't been present for a good part of. "Let's start with..." The Instructor paused with a hand holding his chin as he scanned the students contemplating who to choose.
As Ryouga felt the Instructor's gaze begin to linger on him, he knew he had been picked out.
"Hibiki isn't it? Master Uthar informed me you would be joining us. Seems as how you are new here I would like to gauge for myself how far along you are. You see that box in front of you?"
"Yes." Ryouga said a little meekly.
"Reach out feel the Force with your mind." The instructor commanded.
Ryouga did a less then graceful move with his arms trying to center himself.
"Now focus on that box, imagine it is the thing you hate absolutely the most in the world. Feel the rage build in you, stoke it into a inferno."
Ryouga began to breathe through his mouth as the anger built.
"Now direct your rage at your enemy."
The box shattered as it was smashed against the far wall. Ryouga felt as if he had just managed to see true power and felt a craving to see more.
The instructor turned his attention back to the class. "Now let's see if the rest of you can do half as well."
Ryouga for the first time since joining the Matukai truly felt successful. Picking out an unattended box he began to focus on it.
"There are two rules on this ship that shall not be violated. First, the seat in the refresher will be down and clean when you are done with your business. Second, try to take advantage of me and they'll never find your body. Understood?" Ukyo said with a voice the allowed for no debate.
"Yes, Captain." Ranma said in a resigned voice. What did she think he was?
"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you." Ukyo said tapping her foot.
"That's better. Now I run a tight ship, and as much as you might wish to help if you aren't dead certain what you're doing don't do it. I don't need to be cleaning up your messes." Tapping a control on an electronics ridden armband Ukyo opened a comm channel.
"T2-S9 this is your captain. Get the ship ready for liftoff, we're leaving."
Ranma noticed several seeker drones come out of hiding and hover towards the now opening hatch. Obviously this was someone who took securing their vessel very seriously. Those particular models carried both lethal firepower and what passed for a solid intellect.
Ranma watch as Ukyo ducked under a cluster of maneuvering thrusters built into the craft chin before pulling herself bodily into the narrow hatch, and the hallway beyond. Entering the cramped interior of the ship Ranma followed Ukyo's lead of using D-rings built into what was presently the floor to help pull himself along. The passage was to narrow to allow him to stand anyway, and it helped get up the slight incline.
Finally reaching the main cabin Ranma felt himself suddenly go weightless. A quick scan revealed six rooms set into the wall, and a door leading to a refresher unit which was probably only compatible with humans. The cabin a few square meters of floor space, which was presently wall space. Another D-ring lined passageway clearly led to the bridge.
Kicking off the "floor" Ukyo flew to the "roof" and manipulated one of the door controls. The door swiftly opened revealing what was more of a closet then anything else. A sleeping bag was affixed to the far wall, and there was a locker set flush into the side wall. Other then that there was just barely a little more room then necessary to be able to turn around.
"This will be you cabin. Do you need to retrieve any luggage before we leave?" Ukyo said after tossing an electronic key towards Ranma.
"No, I have everything." Ranma stated simply kicking off towards his "cabin." "That ship was transporting one Akane Tendo." He said as he tossed a copy of the data card he had sliced from the Dock Officer's computer towards Ukyo.
Catching the card Ukyo slotted into a port on her armband. "You're pretty slick. There was a bounty on information relating to this Akane Tendo." Ukyo commented as a small holo of Akane appeared from her armband. "I'll check to see if it's still open."
"What about the destination of those shipments?" Ranma asked.
"Jaksar is a world that the Sith have been using as one of their supply depots. Except for it just so happening to be near several critical worlds it has no strategic value and there's nothing worthwhile there. Do you really think she'd take your friend there?"
"I don't know." Ranma said after stashing his over robes in his locker.
Ukyo noted that he wore simple off white clothes under the robes. Some type of metallic cylinder dominated the back of a utility belt and a blaster pistol was strapped to his right leg.
"I didn't think Matukai used blasters." Ukyo commented.
"Most don't." Ranma stated simply. Kicking off from his cabin towards the bridge he said, "So are we going to look into this other bounty or not?"
"You think you're something, Hibiki?" Came a rather annoying voice.
Looking back Ryouga noted the speaker appeared to be of more coreward descent.
"Why? Do you lack something?"
The other trainee struck out with a fist, and felt it impact something that felt more like Durasteel. He stared numbly at his fist when Ryouga's fist came up and sent him flying.
Just then an instructor came rushing in. "What happened here?"
Before Ryouga could say anything the other trainee cried out, "He hit me."
"Really! What's your side of the story, Hibiki?"
"He tried to provoke me, and attacked first." Ryouga tried to explain.
"I sense you speak the truth. Take pride in your actions, you will find no recriminations here. It is the way of the Universe that the weak envy the strong's strength and seek to humble them to their level. The Sith do believe it is the responsibility of the strong to hide their strength and play along with the weak to appease them."
Turning towards the other trainee he said. "You on the other hand have proved yourself unworthy of the Sith. Trainee Hibiki you may dispose of this weakling as you will. Show him no mercy, he doesn't deserve it."
"I can't stand picking on the weak, sir." Ryouga said doubtfully.
"Showing others mercy is a path to self-destruction. Others merely wish to use your power for their benefit. If you show them compassion they'll just use you to further what they want. In doing so you take on their problems, their conflicts taking away that which makes them grow. Thus they become stagnant and weaker."
Murray Cole stared in fear, which quickly turned to relief as the instructor left.
Ranma groggily pealed himself out of his sleeping bag. By the time Ukyo had checked the bounty, arranged the meeting, and gotten landing clearance it had been bordering on nightfall as far as the ship and thus her captain were concerned. Thus they were presently cruising through hyperspace at reduced velocity so they could get plenty of shuteye before they got there.
Keying open the door Ranma entered the main cabin, which now was under a artificial gravity just slightly above what was comfortable, if you weren't using the Force to enhance your bodies performance, and moved swiftly towards the refresher unit. Thanking the Force that it was presently unoccupied Ranma entered and proceeded to empty an uncomfortably full bladder. Sleepily looking around he noted that as expected the unit was not set up for use by multiple species. As a matter of fact it was the most compact and cramped full-fledged refresher unit he'd ever seen.
Pulling his pants back up and cleaning his hands Ranma keyed open the Refresher door. A seeker hung menacingly in front of him and alarm klaxons seemed to be ringing in his head from some directed sound source. Turning around Ranma noted that the seat was still up.
A female instructor was overseeing the Training Room as Ryouga entered.
Turning to him she asked, "Are you lost, or looking to get some training in?"
Not willing to admit he had gotten turned around coming back from the restroom Ryouga said, "Training."
The instructor stared at him intently before shrugging. "We have convicts shipped in here to allow our students to help refine their techniques on."
"Convicts?" Ryouga asked.
"Convicted murderers, rapists, you get the idea. Instead of them executing them locally they send them here. They are something of a limited resource so you're limited to three for this week." The instructor explained.
Ryouga paused. These were clearly criminals who deserved to die if they'd been convicted the lowest of the low, the kind of scum who clearly needed to be brought to justice. He mentally battled with himself a moment between backing out and admitting he was lost or going through with this.
Finally he said, "Actually I'd like to know the way back to dormitory."
Nodding with a smirk the instructor gave him the appropriate directions.
Madoi was a relatively unimportant planet. As one of the minor trade centers it saw plenty of traffic, but the colony world itself didn't really have much offer. The establishment that was the preset meeting place resembled many similar ones common throughout the galaxy. These watering holes were universally places for someone or something to come in, relax, and have a drink. They also tended to have a sort of underground culture of their own.
As they entered they were assaulted by the body odor of creatures from a hundred worlds, and the numerous chemical concoctions they considered a pleasant intoxicant. A holographic stage had a recording of some Bith band playing to the accompaniment of holographic Twilek dancing girls. Ukyo herself personally found these displays distasteful. For the life of her she couldn't figure out what was so particularly attractive about them. They had weird skin colors and two hunks of fat hanging off the back of their head instead of hair.
A quick scan revealed only one figure in the dignified robes of the Jal Shey, their contact. Taking a seat Ranma put down his holo-projector and manipulated the controls so it displayed the figure of Akane Tendo.
"Yes that's her." Said the woman. Her voice was tired, and filled with resignation. "What is she up to now?"
"It appears she's joined the Sith. This was taken on Callamar, where she apparently was arranging for several shipments of produce. My friend here's best friend apparently was... convinced to go along with her." Ukyo explained.
The woman sighed with resignation and pulled back the hood of her robes. "Then it is as I feared. The more I think about it the more I realize I always knew, I just wasn't willing to admit it."
"Come again?" Ranma asked.
"A Matukai?" She said noting the distinctive tattoo forming a kind of artificial eyebrow, with legs curling down to the sides of the eyes on Ranma's face. "That would make sense. I fear that if my sister is involved your friend is already lost, but I get ahead of myself. Why have you come here?"
"I intend to save him." Ranma said.
The woman had a bitter smile on her face. "Then allow me to tell you a story. There once was a man with three daughters, all strong in the Force. They lived in a sector of the galaxy that was beneath the Republic's notice. Thus it was that they were not dragged off to Coruscant, to be instructed in the ways of the Jedi. One day however a member of the Jal Shey Order happened to be passing through, and discovered the girls. The man pleaded with the Jal Shey for them to trained so they could be something greater, and the Jal Shey agreed.
The middle daughter, lets call her Nabiki, however was lazy and lagged behind her other sisters. One day the youngest asked her, "Nabiki, why shouldn't we use our passions? Mommy made cookies with the passion of her love and they were always good."
The middle daughter did not know how to answer this question, so simply informed the youngest that their teacher would not approve. Many years would pass, and eventually finished with his lessons and in need elsewhere the teacher left. Everything always seemed to conspire to go in the youngest's favor except for one thing. The oldest daughter who had taken on the role of housekeeper and mother after their real mother's death had attracted the favor of a man that the youngest was enamored with.
One day much to everyone's surprise the oldest died. The cause of death appeared to have been caused by a heart attack, despite the girl's young age and good health. Oddly most passed it off merely as an odd accident. It wasn't long after that the youngest began openly seeing the man. There was talk they would marry, and her father was most pleased.
The couple however became more and more reclusive. The man's medical career, once so promising closed down. It wasn't until one of the youngest's friends came by and found the house abandoned except for the man that anyone realized there was anything wrong. The man's mind had been destroyed so that he could barely even take care of himself or muster any will of his own. The youngest however had disappeared, and she was not seen again. As the years went by people began to question some of the things they'd done, and the remaining middle daughter tried to put the pieces back together of what happened."
"Mind control powers, huh?" Ranma commented idly.
"It would appear so." The woman replied.
"So did the middle daughter blame herself for the youngest?" Ukyo asked, keeping the question tactful.
"The youngest was always prone to fights, rivalry, and fits of anger. Everyone said it was just a stage and that she'd grow out of it. No one bothered to really discipline her instead praising her for one thing or another. After a period of time it appeared they were right, she ceased becoming physically violent and outwardly angry."
"But you don't believe she actually stopped." Ranma observed leaning back in his chair.
"No, I believe she found what she thought was a better way striking where they had no defense, and no one could see. I believe she fell to the Dark Side at some early date and none of us suspected it until it was to late. She only truly slipped up once, when she found something in her way she couldn't just manipulate. Yet even then everyone had become so conditioned that the suspicion of foul play never arose until she had left." Ranma allowed himself a smile as he noted her slip up.
"Do you have anything that could help us?" Ranma asked. As far as he was concerned he'd heard enough history.
"Most likely she took your friend to Korriban, a world that should have remained lost. There is a Sith Academy in that dark place. Korriban has consumed many Jedi, and a planet full of Sith is not to be taken lightly."
"I'm not going to leave him behind." Ranma said levelly.
"So you intend to save him? Fight through hundreds of armed Sith and just turn your friend back to the way he was?"
Ranma sighed. "How much?"
As Ukyo turned to Ranma with a look of confusion the woman named her price. "200 credits."
"And that gets me?" Ranma asked.
"This amulet that belonged to me dear departed elder sister." She explained.
Ranma made an annoyed sound.
"About that bounty you posted." Ukyo mentioned
"Oh yes, here's one hundred credits and the amulet."
"The bounty was for five hundred credits." Ranma observed.
"Is something wrong?" Ukyo asked as they left the Catina.
"Couldn't you feel it!" Ranma said exasperated quickly whirling around. As his brain caught up with his mouth he said, "Great, now I'm making a fool of myself."
"Do I at least get a hint?" Ukyo asked as Ranma went back to purposefully striding on.
"She is Jal Shey." Ranma said as if that should be enough. "We need to get moving."
Ryouga sat in his room gathering and refining his rage, his depression, and his pain as he focused it. He could feel it, the plane of true power he had been denied. Finally he could see.
Ukyo found Ranma practicing some katas in the main gallery as she came down from the bridge. They were now on course to a planet were she had some contacts that could help them to be able to travel in Sith space without getting shot at every step of the way.
"Echani forms?" She asked.
"No." Ranma shifted into another kata. "This is a Echani form."
"So you feel like talking yet?" Ukyo asked.
Ranma sighed. "The Jal Shey were Jedi that decided to break away because they viewed their counterparts as to aggressive and caught up in the mystical aspects. They go to the extremes of using the Force with one's mind trying to intellectually understand it. They also are a bunch of arrogant scum that have an unnatural knack for convincing other people their view is right and they're wise.
That one stunk of greed and self-absorption. Even in simple negotiations she was trying to use mental influence of her own." Ranma slightly sped up his forms as he talked before bringing them back under control.
"It seems a little more personal then just that." Ukyo commented.
Suddenly an alarm claxon began to blare. Ukyo's eyes bugged out in realization.
"We've been interdicted."
Ukyo made a run for the bridge, strapping herself into her seat.
"T2-S9, what do we have?" She said as she brought weapon systems, and combat shields online preparing for battle.
The utility droid beeped a response dutifully as Ranma made his way into the bridge and commandeered a seat.
"The Blue Thunder is interdicting us and we have six fighters in bound?" Ukyo asked.
T2-S9 beeped in confirmation.
"Now that's just insulting." Ukyo flipped a switch and suddenly the cockpit was filled with a type of aggressive music that seemed oddly appropriate.
"The warship is holding station, fighters are closing." Ranma commented reading the scopes.
"Well we'll just have to go greet them won't we?" Ukyo commented as she brought the ship around so it was on an attack vector. Manipulating several controls the rapidly growing specks of the Sith fighters became highlighted on the viewport as targeting systems locked onto them.
Ranma heard the roar of the Justice's guns as they stitched out at extreme range towards the incoming fighters laying down a track of red fire. Checking the scopes Ranma saw one of the fighters disappear.
As the range further closed Ranma saw a pair of missiles streak out. Regaining their bearing the remaining Sith fighters began to open fire. While technically Ranma could not hear the actual sound of these bolts in space, all modern craft carried a built in system that simulated the sound thus not depriving the pilot of a valuable sense, and promoting situational awareness.
Ukyo jinxed the Justice as the bolts got closer. Those bolts that actually did manage to hit just spanged off the deflectors. Focusing on one group as she pulled the Justice out of a complex evasion pattern she opened fire. At this range the first fighter was immolated before he knew what hit him. His partner tried to evade, but the tracking system and gun traversal capacity were too much for him.
As Ukyo pulled the Justice around the last remaining Sith fighter took a place on their tail.
"You think that's going to save you, sugar?" Ukyo commented, just managing to keep the vast majority of the bolts from impacting.
Ranma suddenly felt the normal comfortable forward thrust of the engines disappear replaced a strong sense of spinning. Staring as the star field seemed to be spinning impossibly fast he heard the roar of the Justice's guns and felt the remaining fighter cease to exist, its pilot in a state of stunned disbelief.
Feeling the engines brake their spin it finally occurred to Ranma what was going on. He had heard about this. The Republic had their ships designed so they mimicked the way the moved in atmosphere in space. It was said to cut down on training time. Mandalorian ships were not however limited by such things, and their pilots were known to be able to pull seemingly impossible maneuvers because of it. From what he had heard the Republic had experimented with trying the same thing, but found it took considerable training before not simulating atmospheric flight became a real asset.
Ukyo let out a whoop of triumph as the comfortable forward thrust of the engines returned. Looking at the chronometer Ranma noticed it had taken only an amazingly short time to immolate the enemy fighters and get back to getting out of here.
"The Sith warship is opening fire." Ranma observed as an alarm started beeping.
While it was possible to evade a warship concentrating entirely on a vessel such as this, when it had all its guns oriented towards, you filling all of surrounding space with colored death the chances of success went to almost zero. Ukyo oriented the vessel so the top of their ship was facing towards the Sith warship as they tried to make an escape from its interdiction field weaving a complex pattern through the storm of colored death. This way their smallest, properly sloped cross-section faced the enemy as they made as direct a line as possible for the limit of the interdiction field.
Ranma gritted his teeth as a bolt hit the rear deflector. As Ukyo pulled through a maneuver that exposed more of the Justice's backside it was hammer by a cluster of turbolaser fire crippling the rear deflector. Ranma physically pulled back, arms askew, as another red bolt deflected off the deflector screens right in front of the viewport.
Ranma could only watch mesmerized as another cluster of red bolts headed for them. As Ukyo tried to keep them from getting overwhelmed they scored a glancing hit on the Justice's rear taking out the rear deflector and causing damage.
"We're losing power." Ranma reported, as the console in front of him started beeping and displaying damage reports.
"Sithspit. I'm going to have to put her down." Ukyo said, changing course.
The Blue Thunder stopped firing as if in acknowledgement to fact they were now limping towards the planet instead of trying to escape. For that they could be thankful.
"Amazing, simply amazing."
Captain Rehan Forn looked on with distaste as his "commander" continued his antics. The fool's actions had already cost him six good men today alone. If it had been the "Furikan militia" he might not have cared, as much, but to have his own men pointlessly sacrificed like this made him really begin to wish he could just space this excuse for a human being and get on with his job.
Of course, if he did get spaced his father would stop providing support and heads would roll. This obviously was what they were talking about when they said "some people are alive, just because it is illegal to kill them," Rehan thought to himself. The worst part of it was that the Sith really did not really need said support, but some female Dark Jedi had arranged it. Then proceeded to arrange his ship to be under the loser's command investigating this hellhole of a planet. Which was only made worse by the way his men were forced to sacrifice themselves to capture samples of the dangerous local fauna.
"You said the captain was female, right?" His superior asked.
"Yes. A human female named Ukyo Kounji, a bounty hunter." Rehan said trying to keep things short and to the point. It usually kept his "commander" reasonably quiet, which was to say the rants were a lot shorter.
"Then she has earned the honor to consort with me." The sicko declared.
Rehan allowed himself a brief incident of what might be considered open insubordination. "Why would she want to, my lord? You shot down her ship."
As the fool proceeded to launch an extensive rant, Rehan regretted opening his mouth.
Murray Cole peaked around the corner. His adversary appeared vulnerable, deep in meditation. It was the time to strike.
Trying his best to sneak up on his opponent, he ignited his lightsaber. Bringing up the blade he brought it down quickly in a swing that would decapitate his adversary.
Murray stared in open shock as his blow was blocked by what looked like an axe with a segmented handle. "How?" he stuttered out.
"How could I not be aware of you?" Ryouga said as he got up from his meditative pose, keeping his weapon between him and his opponent.
Ryouga disengaged his weapon before delivering a short heavy blow to his opponent's head. As Murray blocked, his voice full of false confidence, he said "You can't defeat me. I have a lightsaber. I am a Sith!"
Ryouga coldly noted his opponent had apparently not caught on that his weapon had a Cortosis weave built into it. That however did not change the fact his adversary was trying to kill him with a weapon quite capable of doing so. Pulling back from the lock, Ryouga feinted a heavier blow, and then delivered a quick blow with the back of his Wan Shen as Murray moved to counter.
As the metal sunk into flesh, brain case, and finally brain at the right temple, Murray paused looking shocked. After a moment passed, a thin trail of blood dripping down from his forehead onto the thirsty stone, his stunned expression gave way to one of the hysteria that was clearly evident in his eyes and voice as he declared, "I am invincible."
Ryouga looked at his opponent in disgust and dismay. He hadn't realized… Suddenly Murray was quickly slashing with his lightsaber, and Ryouga was forced to pull back to avoid being dissected. The blade however impacted on the Wan Shen's shaft driving it in further, causing Murray to cry out. Panting Ryouga realized he did not have a choice. Rushing forward he ripped his Wan Shen clear before delivering a decapitating blow that managed to get through.
He panted heavily as he saw the head try to breathe like a beached fish before going still. Still in shock at what at happened he could only stare. The instructor's words echoed in his head. The weak will seek to humble you to their level… Showing others mercy is a path to self-destruction. And here before him lay the proof.
He felt the anger build, and it gave him clarity. This was not picking on the weak, it was justice. Justice the Sith rightly wanted to bring to the Jedi for what they had done. The Jedi who had stood by and done nothing while countless billions were slaughtered by the Mandalorian's advance, and the Republic they defended which had sat on its hands until the Mandalorians hit their member worlds. The Jedi Order which stole children from their mothers, so they could indoctrinate them from infancy, and would reject anyone old enough to think for themselves. Truly the Sith had the right idea.
Repulsorlift units built into rear of the Baker's Justice provided most of the control as it began to land. Helped by bursts from maneuvering thrusters located throughout the ship it put down on its side in a smooth controlled fashion landing in an open clearing.
Ranma felt the harness biting into him as they hung from their seats. Reaching towards the center of his chest he unbuckled himself before using the straps to swing around behind his seat.
"Show off." Ukyo commented as she followed him down the D-ring lined passage to the hatch.
"We have the parts, but it's going to take a week to make proper repairs." Ukyo commented after assessing the damage.
"Can't you just patch it?" Ranma commented doing his own casual assessment from the side.
"With a warship hunting us, we're going to need full power to get out of here. A patch job to that relay just isn't going to cut it." Ukyo said shaking her head.
Tapping a button on her armband she said, "T2-S9 you're in charge of the ship. We're going to scout out the area to make sure we're safe here."
Ranma followed her into the foliage.
"Seems kind of marshy around here." Ranma commented looking distracted as if trying to listen to something he could barely hear.
"No bugs though." Ukyo commented. "Well, I don't see evidence of anything particularly dangerous. Let's get back to the ship."
Tapping another control on her armband she followed a holographic arrow pointing back towards the ship. She however failed to notice Ranma's agitation as he kept looking around searching for something that just managed to elude his senses.
Suddenly the arrow wavered and disappeared in static. There was the sound of an explosion, and the tweet of blaster cannons firing. A series of chirps emitted from Ukyo's armband before being drowned out in static.
"No way. We were only gone..." Ukyo paused as she read her chronometer, it indicated only a few minutes had passed. "Oh great. They no doubt already reported they'd found the ship. This place is going to be swarming with Sith in..."
A bestial roar rang out as a three meter tall charged out of the underbrush. Ukyo fired a shot at the things head blowing off a sizeable piece of flesh, but it only made it madder. Realizing the thing was to close to be messing around with Ukyo ran, getting ahead of Ranma as they fled from the thing. Its wide tusked head seemed to lack any sort of eyes, ears, nose, or other obvious means of tracking them, but still it pursued them.
Ukyo noticed a coming valley up ahead as they continued to flee. Its expanse covered by dozens of disorderly little pools.
"The Dark Side is particularly strong down there." Ranma commented apparently not exactly strained by the pace.
Looking at the dense vegetation on either side Ukyo commented, "Do we have a choice?"
"Not really." Ranma said as they began to make their way down the path down the valley the creature not far behind. "Find cover. It's after me." Well if he insisted.
Stopping, Ranma turned around and pulled the cylinder from the back of his belt. Ukyo heard the distinctive sounds of an extendable weapon deploying, along with the distinctive hum of a vibroblade. Diving bodily into some underbrush she heard the creature roar and the distinctive sound of something being hit hard. Just as she turned around inside her cover, pulling her blaster out ready to take a full power shot when the opportunity presented itself, she saw her companion flying through the air his short trajectory intersecting a nearby pool.
The beast plodded the remaining distance to the pool leaning over it seeming to study it, but avoiding contact. Ukyo jumped back as Ranma suddenly shot out of the pool driving something that looked like a spear through the creature's skull far enough it protruded more from the top then from the bottom. Rolling as he landed behind the creature Ukyo could see Ranma pull out a blaster and shoot the thing blowing out a sizeable chunk of flesh. Predictably this seemed to just make the thing madder still.
Ukyo, forgot about her blaster, as she just stared as Ranma ran around the valley jumping around in a bizarre show of acrobatics, always just getting out of the things grasp as he kept shooting it. She couldn't decide which was more bizarre, that the thing just would not die or Ranma's antics. Finally, Ranma landed on top of the things head and ripped the spear from the creature's skull, before pointing the blaster down into the resulting hole and firing a three shot burst. As the things hands came up he jumped off landing a fair distance behind the creature. It staggered clumsily for a moment as it took a step to turn around, before finally collapsed.
As Ukyo approached she could see Ranma eject a spent magazine before pulling another from within his robes and slamming it home. With a florish he holstered his blaster, before picking up the "spear."
"Ewww, Gross" Ranma commented, after examining the residue left on the weapon, making a face. The entire weapon was coated with dark blood and clumps of what probably had been the thing's brain were stuck to it.
"You're pretty good with a blaster." Ukyo commented as Ranma went over to a nearby pool.
"Martial arts alone can't keep you from getting killed." Ranma commented kneeling in front of the pool and washing the crud off the weapon, changing to color of the pool to a slightly darker hue. Now that it was clean Ukyo could clearly see it had a segmented nature to it, as was to be expected with an extendable weapon. A press of a button and the entire thing compacted down the familiar cylinder in a fraction of a second. Ranma stowed it back in its place within his sopping wet robes.
Shifting gears his equipment now properly back in its place Ranma paused, looking confused as if he had entered a room and knew instinctively something was out of place. Ukyo became concerned when for a minute he seemed to zone out. Something seemed inherently off about Ranma, and given their present situation that could be a very bad thing. She'd heard stories of what the Sith were capable of, and most certainly didn't want to confirm it first hand. Ranma had afterall said this place was strong in the Dark Side. Apparently returning to reality all Ranma said was, "Oh."
Looking around he began gathering up wood. Considering that Ranma's robes were soaked through this seemed a logical enough course of action. Whatever it was, was probably nothing. If this place had truly begun to effect her companion surely he'd not be acting so docile.
As they finally set a fire, Ranma looked at her intently as if trying to gauge something. She could guess what he was thinking. Of course, it wasn't like she hadn't seen a naked guy before.
His face and voice agitated by embarrassment Ranma said, "Ukyo there's a favor I need to ask."
While she had a pretty good idea she still asked, "What kind of favor?"
Ranma finished moving closer to the fire and putting his dark green over robes on a framework they'd constructed near the fire. What was underneath was a sopping wet off-white material. As Ranma turned around Ukyo finally took a good look as opposed to averting her gaze.
"Ukyo when we get out of this can you teach me how to be a woman?"
Ukyo just stared too stunned to speak before, in a way that didn't allow for argument, saying, "Explain. Now."
"Sith Alchemy, probably the result of that dip in the pool." Ranma said quietly shyly looking down and away like some nervous school girl.
"You seem to be taking this all amazingly well." Ukyo deadpanned.
"Matukai are taught to be flexible." Ranma said with a hint of pride, still not looking at her.
"Riiight." Ukyo deadpanned.
They sat in front of the fire for a few minutes before Ranma seemed to get antsy.
Reaching up to the elastic collar of her shirt she pulled it away from her chest and looked down.
"You know, they aren't as interesting as I thought they'd be." Ranma commented.
Ukyo didn't comment.
Letting the collar resume its proper shape Ranma held her breasts as if weighing them. Looking over at Ukyo she asked, "Hey Ukyo, do you think I have bigger breast then you do?"
Ukyo did a reasonably good job of keeping herself under control. "Maybe."
Pulling her pants down Ranma bent over looking at her nether regions. "So that's what that looks like."
Ukyo grabbed Ranma's head by the pigtail with one hand and her pants with the other pulling both up.
"Is there a problem?" Ranma asked innocently. As a matter of fact she looked completely innocent, curious instead of perverted.
"Cut the strip tease, okay?" Ukyo said.
"Oh, okay." Ranma said as she turned her head to the side.
Ukyo paused not feeling entirely sure why this entire situation seemed particularly grating to her. Certain elements she could easily understand, but others…
"Hey Ukyo, can you tell me about this 'that time of the month thing' I've heard about, girl to girl? "
Ukyo stared. 'I'm not having this conversation. I'm not having this conversation.' Ukyo kept repeating to herself.
Ryouga stood before Master Uthar. He had been summoned before him although he had not been given a reason.
As Master Uthar stood from his usual meditative pose he held out the familiar cylinder of a lightsaber. "You have earned this, young one. You have shown that you recognize our way that of strengthening ourselves through conflict, and avoiding the weakness of showing others mercy in following the true nature of the universe and being what we were meant to be."
Ryouga regarded the cylinder disinterestedly arms crossed. "I do not need it."
"Perhaps you refer to your Wan Shen, young one? It will not be taken from you, but I assure you that you will find this graduation present most useful."
"Graduation present?" Ryouga asked as he uncrossed his arms.
"Yes, your progress has impressed me, and I welcome you as a Sith into our academy." Uther said nodding as he held out lightsaber again.
Taking the cylinder Ryouga nodded. "Thank you. I don't know what to say."
"Of course, there are some exams before you will be considered a full Sith, so keep up the good work." Master Uthar said before assuming his usual meditative pose, the conversation effectively over.
Ukyo wasn't sure what to make of her companion as she put her robes back on.
Part of her was convinced her friend must have fallen into the Spring of Drowned Airhead, who was killed in a very tragic story that involved said airhead getting on her companions nerves to the point they ditched her in the pool. The other part thought that was plain stupid.
She started to tap the buttons that would activate a indicator to lead them back to the Justice before remembering the events leading up to this bout of weirdness. If the ship was still there it would have been seized by the Sith, and they'd just be waiting for them to come back for it.
Ukyo slammed her fist into a tree in frustration. "This is not happening to me." She said almost as a sob.
"It'll be okay." Her companion said trying to console her.
"Okay! Okay! What part of us being stranded here isn't getting through your thick skull! Don't you get it! They have our ship, damn it! And the worst part is I'm not sure which would be worse, having them capture and torture us, or becoming the local wildlife's chew toy!" Ukyo paused, breathing labored after finishing her outburst clearly agitated.
"Well look on the bright side, now it's just us girls so you don't have to worry so much about me taking advantage of you." Ranma said cheerfully, putting on a dazzling smile.
Ukyo felt the strong urge to strangle her companion, before feeling it go out as she realized the futility of it all. "Oh forget it, we're dead anyway." Ukyo said as she felt apathy begin to overcome her.
Ranma looked sadly at her companion as she walked off dragging her feet as she trudged along. If only she could come up with something to cheer Ukyo up. Suddenly Ranma got an idea. Making sure her companion wasn't about to get herself lost, Ranma bound off.
Ukyo looked back, noticing her companion was no longer behind her. She paused a moment before going back to trudging along.
Ukyo kept trudging along. It didn't matter anymore. She was as good as dead. With no ship they weren't going to escape. That left being captured or a death caused by the local wildlife. Capture by the Mandalorians had not been a pleasant experience, although she had learned many things from it. She knew enough from what she had heard of the Sith to know she didn't want to be captured by them.
A blur moved in the corner of her eye. Rapidly turning around Ukyo drew her blaster and fired. A creature that bore a strong resemblance to a cat lay twitching in its death throes after it hit the ground.
"I have not been through all this, just to be killed by you!" She declared giving the creature a quick kick, sending its corpse flying in the process. Whirling around Ukyo sensed she was surrounded.
Ranma looked around the inside of the cave. It seemed perfect. As far as she could tell it was abandoned, and she had explored its entire length. Looking an ocher colored gem reflecting the sunlight she pressed a button that just extended the blade of her Wan Shen. As it hummed she chipped away at the surrounding rock before pulling the gemstone free.
Suddenly she heard the distinctive sound of a blaster shot ringing out. Remembering Ukyo Ranma rushed out stowing the crystal in her pocket.
The sound itself hadn't lasted long enough for Ranma to get a proper bearing off of it, but she didn't need one. Tracking Ryouga down routinely had honed her tracking skills to the point she could pick up Ukyo's trail from where she remembered her last being and follow it. Eventually making her way to a clearing she spied a pair of female sentries. Approaching them she waved the universal sign for wanting to talk, a white flag.
Ranma couldn't be sure if they recognized the signal, wanted her to put her pants back on, or they just had orders to bring her before a higher authority, but they escorted her into the village. Eventually they brought her before a woman with a air of authority. She was taller then her with dark purple hair, something not unheard of in humanoid species although certainly not common. The woman emitted a series of chirps as Ranma pulled her pants on.
Ranma looked at her with head tilted before saying, "My friend came by here, have you seen her?"
The woman emitted an agitated series of chirps grabbing a pair of sticks with large metal spheres on them and waving them menacingly. It was clear she was picking a fight.
"I guess I could spar with you." Ranma said disarmingly, hands in her pockets as she leaned slightly back casual as could be.
The woman chirped waving a stick clearly indicating she wanted Ranma to follow. Dutifully following Ranma found herself at the base of a large log suspended by ropes. The woman jumped on to the log impatiently. Ranma followed suit. Fights on a log usually followed a rather standardized set of rules, knock the other person off and win. There otherwise tended to be little point bothering with the entire exercise, at least when it was already setup like this.
The woman waved one of the sticks while emitting a proud sounding series of chirps, before charging forward. Ranma simply leaned out of the path of the woman's first blow before moving forward in a burst of speed and sending her flying with a standing vertical kick.
Just as the woman got back up from the surrounding forest floor, a small old creature that looked like it may have once been a frog hopped onto the log emitting a series of chirps, with a air of command. A figure was shoved forward through the crowd that had formed to watch the fight. As it finally emerged Ranma was able to make out that it was a male human, in a Sith uniform. The old looking creature emitted a series of chirping sounds.
"You want me to translate?" The male said apparently able to make sense of the chirps.
The old creature emitted a short series of chirps, which Ranma suspect amounted to it saying "yes."
"You can speak Basic just fine, why do you need me, ghoul?" The male said, before getting smacked by a pair of nearby females.
The creature emitted a short burst of chirps in explanation.
"Don't you understand? I love her." The male said, but all the surrounding females just regarded him coldly.
The old creature emitted a series of chirps clearly agitated. Ranma in one quick, smooth motion drew her blaster, set it to stun, pointed, and fired. Shampoo let out a cry of surprise before falling off the log, the sword in her hand dropped from nerveless fingers.
"There's dishonor in being caught unaware, but not in defeat, right?" Ranma said simply as she maintained her focus on the old creature and smoothly holstered her blaster.
"Shampoo." The man said pitifully after overcoming his shock.
Ranma sighed. This whole situation was beginning to get on her nerves. "Would someone please explain what the meaning of all this is? And maybe what planet this is, because it wasn't on our charts."
The old creature emitted a series of chirps, and the male looked thoughtful before explaining. "This is Moriban. In the distant past a Sith Lord, came here and conducted extensive experiments in Sith Alchemy. We believe he may have been one of the greatest masters of Sith Alchemy in history of its use. These tribeswomen you see here, the Joketsu as I call them, are the descendants of the servants he brought with him. You have defeated Shampoo, their present champion, and my love."
The old creature emitted a series of chirps.
The male paused a moment adjusting a pair of glasses in thought before translating, "She says, the penalty for this stain on the champion's honor is death."
The old creature's eyes went big when Ranma's arm became a blur and the humming blade of a fully extended Wan Shen appeared scant centimeters above her head. "I just came here to save my friend, but if I have to kill you to do it, I will." Ranma said coldly.
The creature emitted a series of chirps not taking her eyes off of Ranma.
"She says that the old laws don't apply to you, that you have magic. I believe she means by that you can use the Force. She says to tell you your friend will be returned to you, and to spare her."
A bound Ukyo was brought to the forward of the crowd.
"Give her back her weapons, and equipment." Ranma said, an edge in her voice.
The creature emitted a series of chirps and they were carried to Ukyo after her bonds had been cut. Turning to the male the creature emitted further chirps.
"She asks if that is all?" He translated.
Ranma paused a moment before tapping a control retracting her Wan Shen back into its usual cylindrical form. "Yes."
The creature emitted one loud squawk and the strange tribal women rapidly disappeared into the foliage, taking their champion and the male with them.
Ukyo paused a moment after strapping her gear back on as Ranma made her way towards her. After a moment of silence she quietly said, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it!" Ranma said thumping her on the back. Ukyo winced, but smiled. "I found a place we can stay." Ranma said enthusiastically.
Ranma paused on their way back.
"Uhm… Ukyo I need to…"
Ukyo could tell from her companion's body language what she needed to do. Waving a hand she said, "Go on. I'll wait here."
"Thanks," Ranma said as she ran off.
Ranma pulled her pants slightly down as she found an appropriate tree. Then did a double take as she realized she was missing a critical piece of hardware. She paused for a moment before pulling her pants further down and squatting. Then paused as she realized she was commanding a group of muscles to release that didn't exist on this body.
Using her Matukai training she centered herself before diving into herself to find the appropriate muscle group.
Shampoo sat nestled in the boughs of a tree observing her adversary as she tried to go. The matriarch had been clear. Now would be the best time to strike while her opponent was lulled into a false sense of security. Sensing that her opponent was now more out of it she silently as possible pulled the string of her bow back holding the shaft of the poisoned arrow notched there. Taking a bead on her opponent she allowed her breathing to stop as she steadied herself and released the arrow.
She stared in shock as her adversary seemed to accidentally fall just in time to avoid the arrow. Now was the time to withdraw.
Ranma pulled herself off the ground rubbing her abused rear. She had suddenly had a premonition of danger, and had allowed her body to do what it needed to avoid it. She just wished it had been a little more cogniscent of the surroundings.
Now knowing the proper muscles, she quickly did her business, noticing an arrow stuck in the tree in front of her. It appeared she wasn't out of trouble yet.
Ukyo surveyed the interior of the cave.
"Well it looks okay, but the entrance seems kind of big with all the critters." She commented.
"Don't worry, I found some rocks we can use to block up the entrance." Ranma said smiling. Ukyo looked at her companion oddly for a moment before shrugging.
Lieutenant Arrigin oversaw his troops scouting of the area. They had managed to capture the vessel intact, but so far the crew had managed to elude them.
Private Uln signaled he had found something. Approaching Arrigin could make out what appeared to be the remains of a fire.
"What do you think?" Arrigin asked.
"It could have been them, or it could have been the locals, sir. Seems pretty odd for it to have been going when it was, either way. Frankly I'm just glad it isn't an ambush, after they dragged off Specialist Mousse who knows what they'd do?" Uln said the shaking of his helmet the only visible indication of his agitation.
Ryouga had decide to forgo a shirt after finally getting tired of messing with the collar of the clothes he had been issued. Entering the training room, he was distracted from his intention to try out his new lightsaber on a live opponent, by the flashy display of another student firing what appeared to be purplish lightning from his hands at convicts in cages lining one side of the wall.
Walking up to the on duty instructor he asked, "How do I do that?"
The instructor paused before saying, "Force Lightning? Well if you're willing to wait until the other student is done I'll show you. It's ideal for those times when you want to torture your opponent as you destroy them instead of killing them cleanly. We reserve the child molesters, rapists, and what not for students to practice it on. Do try to not go too overboard."
Ryouga paused momentarily unsure. No, this was justice they rightly deserved and a power he should not be denied.
Roasting some kind of fish she had managed to catch over a small fire, Ranma looked over at Ukyo thoughtfully before saying. "Have I told you about my friend Pixy?"
Ukyo looked startled out of some reverie she was having staring out of the fire. She paused before saying, "No."
"Well Pixy isn't her real name, but we all call her that. She's the youngest member of our monastery, and a feisty little thing. I remember this one time we were in town there were these two big guys, I mean tall brawny guys, who were arguing about something. And here comes little Pixy and tells them that fighting is bad. Well the two guys just kind of stop and stare at her a few moments, before looking sheepish and apologizing to each other." After getting no response Ranma said, "Well I guess you just had to be there."
"So explain this whole Force thing. I've heard rumors, but what makes you Matukai, as opposed to Jedi or whatever?" Ukyo asked without preamble
"Well… There are basically three advanced schools of Force users. The Jedi, the Sith, and the Matukai. In order to use the Force a certain state of focus and level of control must be achieved. How this focus is achieved is the main dividing factor. The Jedi use primarily their minds in a sort of quasi-meditative state, although they often use a body movement to help reinforce their control. The Sith are basically Jedi that have decided to use their passions. The Matukai train their bodies to use the Force, through martial arts."
"So the difference is just what your focus is?"
"Partially, the Master had some interesting opinions on that."
"Care to share?" Ukyo said looking interested.
"She said that you could learn a lot about any particular sect of Force users by just knowing what focus they used. Take the Sith for example, she said that the way to disrupt a Sith's focus would be to disrupt whatever passion they were using. Anger of course is the most common as even you should recognize the inherent power and ease of use. Thus if you break a Sith's rage, say by him feeling compassion, he's left himself wide open. So of course, naturally the Sith would abhor that which leaves themselves wide open with their focus.
The Jedi are the exact same way. They need to have their mind in a state of reasonable calm to use the Force. Thus they can be disrupted by strong emotions, and anything that breaks their concentration. Thus the Jedi Masters dictate you will basically suppress your emotions. It's gotten so bad the stuck ups even deny that a Jedi feels several emotions." Ranma shook her head before continuing. "Their philosophy is dictated by their focus. The Master even hypothesized that all the concepts of various sides of the Force was just a bias from the lens the observer viewed the Force through due to their focus. Different focuses let you see different parts of one greater whole. She liked to talk about it with the Adepts, and ask us various odd questions that occasionally she'd use to give us an insight into ourselves."
"You didn't say anything about the Matukai." Ukyo observed.
"Breaking the focus of a Matukai, particularly for an extended period, is rather difficult. You could say that's our edge. They're better at manipulating the Force because they have more conscious control over it, but our focus is a lot harder to break. By emphasizing flexibility we compensate for getting hung up on things which can disrupt our focus."
"So how are you doing?" Ukyo asked after a moment.
"It's just not really hit yet." Ranma admitted, while staring off into space.
As night approached and the temperature plummeted Ranma felt the heat leaving her body and moving away from her limbs to her torso in a much more pronounced way then normal. It made sense in a way given what a female body was supposed to be able to do that a male one could not. Subtly using the Force and control of her own body Ranma increased the amount of heat being produced by her body to compensate. Looking over at Ukyo she could see she was shivering.
"We can share my robe." Ranma offered trying to keep her voice and expression cheerful. Hypothermia was no joke.
Ukyo paused for a moment pondering the offer before nodding her head. Taking off her robe Ranma covered both of them with it as they huddled together inside the rock of the cave, thankful it had retained the heat from the earlier fire.
"So what can you tell me about these mind control power you Force users are supposed to have?" Ukyo asked after a moment unable to get to sleep.
"Well for starters there isn't just one approach. The normal way is to do this kind of wave you use the Force with to temporarily induce a hypnotic state. Then you basically give them a verbal command. That's kind of the poor man's version, though." Ranma looked distant and disturbed for a moment, before finally saying. "The heavier stuff is exactly what it sounds like."
"You seem rather disturbed about that." Ukyo observed.
"Shouldn't I be? Have you never wanted to hurt or even kill someone and done it in your head? Have you ever wanted someone to acknowledge you were right, because you thought you were? If you control the Force with your mind the ability is right there, always right there. How can anyone truly resist the temptation to abuse it, ever? What happens if they get sick or in severe pain or something and they do something and that makes it easier to abuse it the next time, and that much easier the time after that, and…" Ranma paused before finishing quietly. "That's why you can't trust Jedi, because their ideals are too high for anyone to truly achieve. At least the Matukai have a safety on it and most of our stuff is just using it with our bodies."
"Can you use that trick to help me get to sleep?" Ukyo asked after a moment, it becoming clear Ranma had said her piece on the issue.
"Are you sure you want me to?" Ranma asked hesitantly, clearly not that comfortable with the idea.
"I asked didn't I?"
"Okay." Putting a hand on Ukyo's shoulder Ranma concentrated for a moment before saying, "Sleep." In response to which Ukyo proceeded to pass into a deep sleep. Leaning against Ukyo, Ranma set about getting to sleep herself.
Ukyo became aware as hundreds of little points of light peaked through the rocks and illuminated the small cave. Opening her eyes she realized that over the course of the night she had somehow ended up embracing her companion, who was now snuggled up against her. It occurred to her that Ranma was actually smaller as a girl. She pet the other girl's dark hair slowly, as Ranma slept peacefully. Ranma looked so vulnerable like this. Ukyo felt part of her feel the need to protect the smaller girl.
Finally disengaging herself Ukyo got up and moved the rocks they had setup to function as the cave's door. Crawling out of the cave, she spent a few minutes admiring the sunrise. After a moment Ukyo looked critically at the water bladder stashed in with the usual gear she carried around. If her Mandalorian survival training had taught her anything it was the need to have drinkable water. Boiling the blood of animals was one of the better tricks as you got extra protein and salt with your fluids. Of course, apparently with the way Matukai used the Force they considered the otherwise harmful bacteria in water that had not been disinfected to be free protein. Or at least that was what Ranma said when she just went and drank the water the fish had been swimming in yesterday.
Ukyo decided she would have to ask if those powers would help with determining what plants and animals were edible and which ones weren't. With their ship captured, effectively marooning them on this planet it was time to dig in their heels and insure they could survive for an extended period. None of their other problems would matter if they starved to death after the first week, or died of dehydration after a few days.
Taking stock of the supplies on her Ukyo decided it would be best to go ahead and get a head start on setting up some traps and snares to catch the local wildlife. Water could wait, for now, and it would probably be best to wait for Ranma to wake up before doing too much with potentially edible plants. Of course, she could collect a few of the more promising looking samples, while setting up her traps.
Ranma noticed that Ukyo seemed more alive as she left the cave the next morning.
"So why aren't the Matukai helping the Republic in this war?" Uky asked cheerfully, without preamble.
"Matukai don't really train to fight, per say." Ranma said a little sheepish.
"But they practice martial arts and you have those Wan Shen things." Ukyo insisted.
"We use martial arts to learn to use the Force." Almost to quietly for Ukyo to hear she finished. "Wan Shen are really meant to be tools that can double as weapons. In a real fight someone would just pull a blaster. We can't block those, we aren't even trained to deal with them. All we can do is hope the skills we've developed with the Force are sufficient to keep us alive."
"So in other words you can look cool, but it has little practical value."
"Well they are good at keeping us alive in survival situations." Ranma piped in innocently arms behind her back.
"Come here." Ukyo pounced on her companion, who emitted an eep but didn't struggle. Ukyo rubbed her knuckles on her companion's skull a few minutes before letting her go and saying, "You can just be too nice sometimes. Is that resistance stuff of yours good enough you could test the edibility of plants?"
"I think so, why?" Ranma asked naively.
"Well I have some things for you to try out then." Ukyo declared as she pulled out a bag.
Surprisingly almost half of even the promising looking fruits turned out so poisonous Ranma had to forcibly expunge and neutralize the toxins from the minimal quantities she had put in her mouth to test them, instead of being able to avoid serious ill effects by just spitting them out. The few species of flora that actually turned out to be safe enough for consumption by a normal person now had numerous specimens piled up inside the cave. Even these were not without residual chemicals that could have detrimental effects from sustained consumption. Ukyo felt it was probably better to have Ranma test any plant before taking a bite herself after finding out just how much of the promising looking stuff was poisonous. At least Ranma had ways to survive and deal with it, she'd just be dead, incapacitated, or seriously ill.
The one rabbit-like creature Ukyo had managed to catch in time for lunch, possessed a hard exoskeleton and was so downright vicious it was hard to believe the thing was a herbivore. The fact it had pronounced claws and sharp teeth only further made the animal seem an abomination.
"This reminds me of one of my outings with Ryouga." Ranma said as the little animal was being roast on a spit, its dead body still twitching around.
"Really? How so?" Ukyo asked as she tried to decide whether the thing actually had some kind of well-protected secondary nervous system or it just naturally squirmed around this much after it died. Part of her wanted to blast the thing a few times, to make sure it was dead, but that would mess up the meat, and she felt like having some meat with her lunch. Especially as they hadn't yet found any vegetable type plants they could use.
"Well the thing you have to understand about Ryouga is that he has a bad sense of direction. So one day me and Ryouga were supposed to run some errand or another to some place he had been before. I was focusing on something, I forget what, so I wasn't checking on where Ryouga was going. Next thing you know we're lost and it's getting dark.
At this point Ryouga decides we're somewhere in the deep uninhabited remote wilderness. So we go and catch a rabbit. Well he smacks the thing on the head and its squirming and screaming like crazy. So here I am thinking this thing is really doing the chicken running around with its head cut off thing to the extreme, when what does he do? He starts petting it, and then I find out the big guy didn't have the heart to actually hit it hard enough to do anything.
So morning comes, and guess where we are? In Tesee's rabbit farm on the outskirts of town. Well Ryouga, turns out to be attached to his new friend and turns around and pay's Tesee for it. Him and that rabbit were like best buds until a year ago when it went up and died on him. Ryouga wasn't the same for a month afterwards, insisted that it get an honorary Matukai burial and everything." Ranma finished shaking her head in amusement.
Ranma perched herself over the watering hole Wan Shen in hand. The most difficult part of this was waiting in a way so as to not disturb the fish, and making sure to compensate for the water bending the light. As a particularly hearty specimen passed by she fingered a control causing it to be speared. This would make a good dinner.
As dusk approached Ukyo and Ranma snuggled together under the thick green cloth.
"Could you?" Ukyo asked quietly.
"Okay." Reaching out a hand, Ranma concentrated a moment before saying, "Sleep."
Snuggling up against her unconscious companion Ranma felt a feeling of inner warmth as she decided she had found a friend she could put her trust in.
"So do you have any good stories?" Ranma asked over their breakfast of fish and scavenged edible plant matter.
Ukyo paused a moment looking thoughtful before saying, "I have plenty of stories, but I'd rather forget most of them. As would the galaxy, I think." She said with a sigh clearly having a brief bout of melancholy.
"What makes you say that?" Ranma asked.
"I fought for the Mandalorian Clan Fett in the war." Ukyo stated before clarifying. "They captured me, trained me, and I ended up fighting for them. I was with them until almost the end, though."
"I'm sorry, I..."
"Don't worry about it." Ukyo said with a sigh. "Thing is I'm more affected by abandoning my squad at the end then the devastation I wrought. I can still remember my first time out. The Mandalorians send the raw recruits out in Basilisks to soften up a target's defenses ahead of everybody else. It gives them a chance to prove themselves without being overshadowed by the more experienced members of the clan, and it weeds out those who don't make the cut.
I can remember it so clearly, hanging above a world just seeming to awaken as its defenses come online. The euphoria of flying through the guided munitions and beams at full burn, before flipping and coming to a hover above the ground with scant meters to spare. We crippled their defenses, and then we crushed them. I can't even remember what the planet was anymore, but I've flown that mission a hundred times in my dreams."
Colonel Cutton read a report that had just come in to the local base they had established on this planet. The present Sith overseeing the research on this planet had just signaled in that he was going to join in the search for the missing crew of the Baker's Justice. Cutton couldn't help but consider this a little odd. He hadn't known Yun that long, but what he did know was that the lad didn't take well to what he considered common work. He was constantly looking for something to test himself against, which was why for the past month he'd been somewhere in the jungle. In between transmissions to fetch this or capture that they couldn't even be sure if he was alive or dead. The only thing he could figure is their quarry was more dangerous then they appeared in some way that had caught the lad's interest.
Cutton stood up and walked to the heavily reinforced window behind his desk. At least the bigger critters had decided to stop vaporizing themselves on the base's shield. Cutton sighed as he saw some of his soldiers shooting some creature that had managed to burrow under their defenses. He hated this planet.
A figure jumped into Ranma and Ukyo's path covered in dark robes.
"I'm Yun. I've never met a Matukai before, but based on your Order's reputation I have high expectations." Yun declared confidently brandishing his crimson bladed lightsaber in a standard guard position.
"Then prepare to face the ultimate anti-Sith technique developed through the years by the wisdom of the Matukai." Ranma declared in a grandiose manner as she palmed her holoprojector. Taking care to not look at it directly she touched a special switch as she brought it out.
"It's so cute." Yun said as his lightsaber dropped out of guard position.
Trying to maintain her own best innocent cute act Ranma moved as quickly as she could up to the Sith, before knocking him out with one chop. The overwhelming power of Pixy's cuteness, in a holo taken of her in a costume that had stunned multiple people with its cuteness back when, had rendered his focus null and his attention elsewhere.
"The Matukai's ultimate anti-Sith technique is that?" Ukyo deadpanned after Ranma turned it off. She had barely seen Ranma move, but the "technique" itself was so...
"It works." Ranma said simply, before admitting. "Well at least it works if you can exploit their focus and attention being disrupted for like a second. If the distraction wore off they probably just be madder for you trying."
"You know what they're going to do if he reports back about this, right?" Ukyo said.
"I can picture it now. It's so sad, and it will just make them that more vulnerable to it."
Asuza Shiratori ran around in circles. They were burning her collection of valuable cute stuff. The collection she had spent decades acquiring.
"How dare you." She said finally stopping in front of the pair of Sith soldiers overseeing the incinerator.
They paused a moment, and looked at each other before picking her up and tossing her bodily into the incinerator.
"You have a weird mind." Ukyo commented. "Who was that girl anyway?"
"No clue. So what do we do with him?" Ranma asked pointing at the comatose Sith.
"I say kill him. If he gets back he'll report our relative position, and we won't have long before they capture us." Ukyo said, her voice flat.
Ranma paused a moment before saying. "I have a better idea."
Shampoo climbed down from her perch to inspect the still unconscious Sith, who her adversary had tied up to a tree with a excessive amount of vines. Looking at his scribbled on face she paused a moment before drawing her sword, and cutting the male's head off. It was the duty of the strong to cull the weak. Picking up her own piece of charcoal she wrote what once may have been Sith characters on the male's forehead before placing his head under his feet.
"See." Ranma whispered after the purple haired amazon left. "She's been following me around since I defeated her."
"I guess her tribe doesn't value honesty." Ukyo observed.
Ranma paused in the bushes as she approached the watering hole to catch some more fish and refill the bag containing water in need of or in the process of being disinfected. The Force told her to wait, so she did.
With a cry that tore through the sky a giant winged, and clearly predatory, creature landed. It's red eyes, fangs, vicious claws, and general demeanor made it seem more demon then a animal. Just as it bent down to take a drink however, tentacles shot out from the underbrush grabbing and restraining it. Ranma just looked on in stunned disbelief as what was clearly a plant pulled the giant predator into a gapping maw that was slowly exposed as surrounding plants were forced out of the way. The plant fired what looked like a spread of poison darts, stunning the struggling creature, before finally pulling it into its maw. As the sound of meaty chewing echoed through the clearing as Ranma decided it was probably best to find some other watering hole to use for the time being.
"I'm a gorilla." Ranma declared in a voice that one would be hard pressed to take seriously, before beating on her chest and laughing.
"What's that supposed to be?" Ukyo asked looking amused. Dinner had already been prepared, eaten, and cleaned up after. They were just keeping themselves occupied before turning in.
"Ancient technique for reducing stress and promoting good health. Come on why don't you try?" Ranma said pausing her gorilla imitation.
"No, I'm fine." Ukyo said waving her off.
"Come on you'll feel better afterwards." Ranma insisted.
"Okay." Getting up so she was standing next to Ranma she assumed a similar pose. "I'm a gorilla." She declared imitating the inflections Ranma had chosen and copied the maneuver, while Ranma joined her.
Ranma watched as the roasting fish crackled near the fire. They were almost ready to eat, and then they could break the morning fast. After she was sure they were ready she hand a skewer to Ukyo before taking the other one for herself.
"Feel like talking some more about the war?" Ranma asked quietly after a moment.
"Well I could tell you about my ship. We usually worked in groups, but it was our job to eliminate the fighter screens around enemy capital ships quickly and efficiently. There's nothing quite like firing a spread of concussion missiles and watching entire squadrons just disappear off the board. If we had any missiles left after we took out the fighters we'd use them to hit targets of opportunity on the enemy capital ships. Which isn't to say we weren't hitting them hard with our guns or proton missiles if they didn't have one of their deflectors weaken or go out.
There is one thing you can't deny after fighting with Mandalorians, they kick ass. Those ships are designed so that they crew six, but one person can fly the thing all by themselves. Usually we just had three shifts of two people, although I heard some of other ships worked with two shifts of three. In the last days of the war when it started to become clear the Republic could win, I stole the ship while the rest of my crew was elsewhere... I betrayed their trust. I... I can still hear them in my dreams." Ukyo said clearly becoming emotional. "The worst part is the other people in my clan that I've met forgave me for what I did. I don't deserve forgiveness for what I did. They relied on me, trusted me, and I betrayed them so utterly..."
Ranma felt helpless not sure what she could do as she watched Ukyo breakdown in front of her. After a few moments she walked over and gave Ukyo a hug, unable to think of anything better. As Ukyo began to calm down Ranma suggested they take a walk.
Suddenly getting a premonition of danger Ranma pulled off her over robes and raced between Ukyo and what turned out to be a small swarm of poison darts setup to fire when something tripped an almost invisible tripwire. Due to their construction, and the minimal amount of momentum they possessed the darts ended up getting stuck in the thick cloth.
A sound like an animal growling emerged from the bushes. Ukyo jumped back as an object was tossed out hitting Ranma and causing a cloud of something to surround her. There was the distinctive hum of a vibroblade, a meaty thump, then silence.
As the cloud dispersed she could see Ranma standing in her under robes looking at a familiar purple haired amazon who was nailed to a tree by Ranma's Wan Shen. It appeared to be driven straight through what was probably the heart, although it was hard to tell as Ranma's over robe obstructing her view as it hung on the Wan Shen's shaft.
The amazon chirped in what sounded like defiance, with her face contorted in disbelief, as blood ran down darkening Ranma's over robes.
"You can't poison me that easily." Ranma said, her voice filled with resignation.
The purple hair girl seemed to understand what Ranma was saying and slumped a little, letting out a final chirp that sounded sad and resigned.
"I'm sorry, it had to be like this." Ranma said as she watched the life fade from the purple haired girl's eyes.
Slowly and carefully Ranma pulled her Wan Shen out of the corpse letting it down with as much respect and dignity as she could. A quick inspection of her over robe made it clear the piece of clothing was ruined. Wiping the blood off her Wan Shen onto it, she retracted and stowed her weapon. Ranma took a few minutes to forcibly shake her over robe to knock the darts out of it and then proceeded to wrap the purple haired girls corpse in it. Picking it up she respectfully carried it to a area where the rock was relatively flat, and set about burying the girl under a pile of stone.
Ukyo looked on quietly while Ranma did this. She had, had to bury enough friends and enemies herself. It was the honorable thing to treat the dead with respect, and those who did not were below scum.
Finishing a silent prayer over the grave Ranma took her Wan Shen out again, and extended it. Depressing a control and rotating the last segment on the bladed side she slowly retracted the weapon's blade.
"What are you doing?" Ukyo asked, after a moment.
"There's been enough killing. She pursued me this far merely because I defeated her. Killing any more of them will probably just stir them up that much more." Ranma said in resignation as she pulled out a cap and installed it, making it so her weapon now looked like nothing more then a common extendable quarterstaff.
Cologne observed the burial of her descendant with detachment, hidden within the trees. She could have the body retrieved later. For now, there were other ways to strike at someone.
"So what now?" Ukyo asked as they huddled together shivering as the temperature plummeted.
"Well..." Ranma made some adjustment using the Force and control over her own body and proceeded to begin producing an excess of heat.
Ukyo became concerned as she felt her companion heat up to almost feverish temperatures warming her in the process. "Are you okay!"
"Don't worry." Ranma waved a hand, the movement showing signs of tiredness. "I'll be okay."
"Don't strain yourself." Ukyo insisted.
"I'm not." Ranma said slowly. "It just wears you out after a while."
Ukyo paused for a moment before deciding to trust in her friend to take care of herself. Whatever all this was doing to her she was doing to keep both of them alive, and was clearly determined to do so. To harass her further would serve no good purpose, and at this point all she really could do was trust her friend and keep an eye on her.
Akane regarded her servant with a sigh. It was so boring after someone broke to her will. They became so dependant upon you it was simply to inconvenient to keep them alive. Reaching out a hand she used the Force to strangle her newest servant. She would just have to ensnare a new one.
Ignoring the sound of breaking cartilage Akane's thoughts drifted to her newest love interest, Uthar Wynn. He was the one. He would be perfect after she corrected a few of his more annoying habits. Like not recognizing her womanly traits by calling her, "young one."
Lieutenant Arrigin of the Sith cruiser Devestator, stood with his men in the shiny full body armor of the Sith outside the cave that was supposed to house their quarry. A messenger from the local tribe of warrior women had approached the base, and told them tales of their quarry. Most of it likely fabricated or exaggerated for their benefit.
Now he and his squad were positioned where they could catch their quarry early in the morning, while they were still in the process of waking up. Scanning the trees Arrigin gave an order to make sure that all weapons were set to stun as dawn began to break. This had better not be an ambush, Arrigin though to himself.
The first person to emerge from the cave looked like many a street ruffian that could be found on various planets. Except for her odd choice in melee weapons, likely due to idolizing the Echani there wasn't anything requiring extra attention. As tired and out of it as she looked he doubted she would give them any trouble. The urchin looked sheepishly as a second girl emerged from the cave, her bounty hunter gear clearly marking her as the more dangerous of the pair.
"I am Lieutenant Arrigin, surrender and you will not be harmed."
"Yeah, right. I've heard all about what you do with your prisoners." The bounty hunter declared coldly. While at least half the rumors were in fact true on standard Sith interrogation techniques, the other half being propaganda either from the Sith to intimidate or the Republic to demonize, the commander had different plans for this pair.
"He means it." The urchin said quietly clearly giving differing command decisions to the bounty hunter. Arrigin decided to keep quiet so as to allow this to play out. It would make matters that much easier if they came along willingly. It wasn't like they couldn't stun them before they could draw, but with all the animals around it was more convenient to have the prisoners travelling on their own feet, and as soon as possible.
"What do you mean? He means it?" The bounty hunter asked turning towards her companion, futily trying to keep her voice low enough they couldn't pick it up.
"Call it an instinct."
The bounty hunter spent a few moments glancing back and forth between her companion and his patrol before she took off her gun belt and a bandoleer of what appeared to be spatulas, holding them out in a sign of surrender. A second later her companion unbuckled her utility belt holding it out. Knowing better then to let his guard down, Arrigin signaled one of his soldiers to cautiously move in and confiscate their weapons while the rest of the patrol covered him.
"You will take good care of them." The urchin said, as Sergeant Konn confiscated her weapons.
"Don't worry, I will take good care of them." Konn replied.
After being searched, and taken on a shuttle up the main ship they were brought before the Captain of the ship.
"I am Captain Forn of the Sith cruiser Devestator, and I must apologize for this entire incident. Of course you probably know this ship better as the..." Captain Forn trailed off, unable to come up with the proper name. "What is he calling my ship now?" He asked a nearby tech.
"The Blue Thunder, sir."
"Ah yes, the Blue Thunder." Captain Forn deadpanned, clearly unimpressed with the name. "My commander has got it into his head that we should waste resources by keeping an interdiction patrol running, despite this being a system we want to keep secret. The end result is this system is the worst kept secret it Sith space. Luckily for you, you're both girls. I could explain why, but it's probably best you see for yourselves." Turning around he led the way as a pair of Sith soldiers took up the rear.
"It's so big." Ranma commented, her voice and disposition such she came across as a complete airhead. Ukyo inwardly cringed, she was doomed.
A tall handsome man in an elaborate costume stood at the center of the bridge surveying the expanse of stars. Turning around he said, "Greetings, I am Tatewaki Kuno, Heir of the Carridian Furkian/Furikan system. You two have proven worthy of consorting with my greatness."
Ukyo crossed her hands over her chest. "Why would I want to consort with you? You dragged my ship here, shot it down, made me have to survive a week on that hellhole thinking I was stranded, and now you expect me to want to consort with you!" Ukyo declared clearly pissed off.
A sound of suppressed snickering could be heard from the crew pits.
"But I'm Tatewaki Kuno." He said as if that made all the difference.
Ukyo's eyebrow began to twitch before she lunged forward putting him in a chokehold. Pulling a small shiv from the inside of her mouth she put it up against Kuno's throat.
"I'll kill him." She declared, maneuvering him so he was between her and the people who were armed.
Ukyo felt something cold run up and down her spine. The crew's reaction was wrong, they were surprised, but...
"My lovely dame..." She sent the fool into unconsciousness with a blow to the head. The crew paused a moment as if to make sure the commander was actually unconscious before breaking out in applause, crying "Kill him." It completely covered the sound of several objects rolling up to the lip of the crew pits, and falling down before continuing on their merry way.
"Go right ahead." Captain Forn said calmly from across the bridge. "You have no idea how we've suffered under him."
Ukyo stood uncertain. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. This was...
"Hey, its time to go, Ukyo." Called out the familiar voice of her companion.
Ranma stood leaning casually against a bridge console pointing a pair of blasters at the Captain. The Sith soldiers who had been guarding the bridge lay in a heap. As the crew in the bridge pits began to focus on this new threat they were torn to shreds by several grenades going off in their midsts. This left the Captain, Ukyo, and Ranma the only people on the bridge not dead, dying, or unconscious.
The Captain slowly put his hands behind his head. "Very clever, so where were you intending to go from here?"
Ranma tossed a blaster to Ukyo, who caught it allowing the unconscious Tatewaki Kuno to slide to the floor. Walking past the captain she relieved him of his sidearm before moving to another console. Rapidly typing she said, "Well in about two minutes this ship is going to have an emergency lockdown. Anyone who is still out, except the three of us, will be stunned by your battle droids. I'm presently purging your system of all the data related to us including internal holo logs, and sending a tapeworm to the local base computer. So the plan you could say is for you to allow us to escort you to the armory were we will retrieve our gear, your droid shop where we will retrieve our droids, and then finally to the hangar were you will see us off."
"And what incentive do I have to help you?" Captain Forn asked stoically.
"Other then not dying? You just lost your bridge crew, and have had your ship taken over. I thought you were looking for a legitimate excuse to get rid of your commander." Ranma commented coldly. "I think the better question is, what is my incentive to not activate your automatic self-destruct while I'm at it?"
Akane felt a life under her influence go out. A quick mental inventory revealed it to be Kuno, who she had put in the Moriban System to study its secrets. With a start she realized this would make her look vulnerable and worthy of attack once word of it got out.
She became acutely aware of all the Sith surrounding her, lying in wait to increase their power and influence. Her mind control powers took time to do more then suggest with this bunch. Regarding the lightsaber on her belt she realized she couldn't remember when she had last practiced with it.
Ranma shucked her clothes off as she entered the refresher unit. Ukyo had already had her turn at the shower, claiming first dibs as captain of the ship. Ranma sighed as she entered the cramped shower stall. Being personally responsible for the death of the thousands of people who had been on that ship didn't sit well with her. Ranma allowed herself to hit the wall of the stall in frustration, making sure to prevent the Force from being involved.
She felt sullied and unclean. Sure, she'd killed before, but never before had her opponent seemed so helpless. It had always been clear they were going to kill you, before. This time she could have left them alive, could have gotten away without destroying the ship. That the Sith fleet would have been after them, or the ship could have turned around and went after them again, if they hadn't was small solace to her more of just a mental justification then anything else. She'd been on ships enough to know just how many something that big held, and that most crewmembers just went about their usual routines, and weren't even related to the combat detail. Thus it didn't change how she felt, but maybe a good shower would bring some solace. Reaching for the sprayer that would dispense hot water she pushed the trigger mechanism dousing herself in hot water. Soaping herself up she paused as she reached for her chest before screaming.
Ukyo sat languidly in her command chair, in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, staring at the blue chaos that was hyperspace through the viewport. It was good to be off the hellhole of a planet. She had set course for Carmalia after a brief discussion with Ranma. The Sith hadn't repaired the damage to their ship and she insisted the short jump to Carmalia to fix it was necessary, wouldn't add to much time to the trip. They were presently running on a backup circuit at reduced power, but she didn't want to push her luck with it. There was no tertiary backups for that system, and having your sublights cut out in enemy territory was never fun. Either you were killed, captured, or your buddies would mercilessly harass you about it until you obtained better dirt on them.
As she leaned back with her hands behind her head just as she began to let her eyes slip closed she heard a scream.
"T2-S9, you're in charge." Ukyo said as pulled herself out of her chair and flew down the corridor. She could hear his beep of confirmation as she entered the main cabin. A quick scan of the surroundings revealed that her companion was neither in the main cabin or her quarters, which left the refresher unit. Quickly entering a override code. Entering the refresher unit she quickly was able to figure out that Ranma was in the shower stall.
"Are you okay?" She called out.
"Don't come in here." Came back what sounded like Ranma's voice but off somehow.
Pulling back the partition Ukyo found a male Ranma standing there, who backing away managed to hit the triggering mechanism for the cold water dispenser dousing him, now her.
"So it appears you change gender depending upon the temperature of the water you're doused in." Ukyo commented after some experimentation with Ranma sitting in the stall with a towel covering his/her lap.
She waved her hand in front of his face after getting no response and noticing Ranma's shell-shocked expression.
"Anybody home." She said lightly tapping Ranma on the head with her knuckles.
"Huh? Wha?" Ranma said.
"You seem a little out of it." Ukyo commented.
"Oh? I guess so." Ranma said disinterestedly.
"I thought you would be happy to be able to change back." Ukyo said trying to be supportive.
"That's just it, don't you see? As long as I thought I had just been transformed so I was stuck as a girl I could deal with it. I could put up a good front, while I came to terms with it and possibly eventually got used to operating from the other side. Now... Now I'm just some kind of freak." Ranma curled up into the fetal position as he finished.
Ukyo sat with her back towards him having put away the water dispensers. "Well you're a Matukai right?"
Her response was a mumbled yes.
"And Matukai are supposed to be flexible, right?"
Ranma mumbled something.
Tilting her head to the side Ukyo said. "So why don't you show some of that flexibility here? You've lived enough years as a man to know how they think, why not continue what you were doing? Learn more about being a woman, while in the process learning to deal with your curse."
Ranma made a dismissive sound.
"Oh come on. It's not like I'm asking you to be one or the other. I'm just asking you to be yourself and accept what you are now, which means sometimes you're a woman and sometimes you're a man. You know you're going to have to learn to deal with it and be able to function."
There was no vocal response, but she could feel that she had her companions attention.
"How about this? We extend our stay at Carmalia to at least a day, and let you get yourself sorted out? You aren't going to be any use if you go to Korriban and you're an emotional wreck."
"Thanks." She heard Ranma say quietly as he got up. As he left the stall Ukyo reached back and pulled down the cold water dispenser taking careful aim she doused her companion, who jumped at getting hit with cold water, squealing.
"Let's keep it just girls for now, okay?" Ukyo said as she put the dispenser back in the stall.
Ranma felt herself become aware in what looked like a forest. Turning around she saw a pack of wolves. Her attention zoomed in on one that was injured, and she somehow knew she was responsible. She also was somehow aware of the overwhelming hunger of the wolves.
The rest of the pack surrounded the injured one, keeping their distance lying in wait. The injured one made a show of looking intimidating with its fur completed fluffed out and its hackles raised. Finally one of the pack moved forward, but quickly retreated when the injured one made a show of viciousness in a clear show of cowardness. A wolf behind the injured one took this as its opportunity to pounce and soon the entire pack was ripping the injured one to shreds.
Stripping the corpse bare they turned to her.
Ranma awoke in cold sweat breathing heavily, taking a moment to realize where she was before deciding it might be a good time to get some training time in.
Ukyo docked the Baker's Justice with what was clearly a large spacestation. Among the usual com traffic containing docking instructions was another transmission.
"How's my old buddy doing?" Came a human voice in crisp Mandalorian.
"Friend from the war." Ukyo explained in response to Ranma's questioning look. Pressing the talk button Ukyo responded in Mandalorian, "I've just managed to escape a hellhole of a planet, and my ship needs repairs."
There was a pause before the voice responded, "I hope they came out worse then you did."
"It was a Sith warship, called the Devestator, and now it's a debris field."
After a pause the voice responded, "How did you manage that?"
"Well, I had some help from a friend. I'll introduce you later." Ukyo said finishing docking maneuvers.
"You're a lot cuter and shorter then I thought you'd be. You look like something someone would just eat up." Said a large man bearing the tattoo of one of the Mandalorian clans.
"That what makes her so dangerous." Ukyo said giving a wink. "So, how long to fix my ship?"
Looking over a diagnostic uploaded to his datapad Arvid, pondered its contents for a few minutes before saying, "Five hours. I do however have some other jobs I'm working on, so if you're in a particular hurry it's going to cost you extra. Otherwise I'll have it ready by tomorrow morning. You might as well go ahead and wheel out the cart."
Ukyo nodded saying, "I'll do that. So how have things been here?"
"Quiet. With the way the Sith keep hitting ships though I have plenty of work. If it's not some scamp wanting better protection, it's someone limping into system needing repairs."
"Well it was good to see you, Arvid." Ukyo said, shaking his hand.
"Guess I'll be seeing you later then. Don't be a stranger now." Arvid said walking off.
"Cart?" Ranma asked.
"Well yes, the bounties don't exactly line themselves up at your convenience, you know. So I run a yattai every now and then. Speaking of which, we need to get you some new clothes."
Ranma looked down at somewhat tattered clothes that were now more brown and green then off-white, before looking up and asking, "Why? We're not trying to impress someone are we?"
Ukyo paused a moment before saying, "Yes, we are. Don't worry, together with our combined cuteness we'll reel in enough customers to turn a nice profit."
"Hey look at me. I'm an arrogant overrated martial artist." Ranma commented facetiously sticking her tongue out at the mirror as she modeled some robes common among the Echani.
Ukyo exited the nearby dressing room in a cute, yet highly practical outfit. That she had already bought, after going through her own selection process. "Are you sure you weren't born a girl? How many outfits have you tried on so far?"
"You're just jealous." Ranma said twirling around.
Ukyo sighed. Oh sure, it had been a little difficult to get Ranma shop for clothes initially, but once she had gotten into it… "I'll get you two outfits here, and that's it. Hurry it up. We have a schedule to keep, and I have customers that aren't paying me to fill their stomachs because you're holding us up." Ukyo finally aid tapping her foot.
"Oh, phooey." Ranma said before picking out two outfits from a rather sizeable pile and making a line for the dressing room.
Ranma stood to the side in the cute dress she had picked out as Ukyo opened a compartment built into the wall of the main cabin.
"I didn't know those compartments were there." Ranma commented, looking over Ukyo's shoulder as she pulled the partially disassembled cart out.
Not looking up from guiding it to the ramp Ukyo stated simply, "That's because you haven't spent much time on this ship. Supplies, cleaning equipment, and other things are all within their own appropriate compartment. This one was meant for extra cargo, which we usually used to carry spare parts or extra missiles during the war. Now I use it to store my yattai. Come on." Ukyo's voice came from the bottom of the ramp as she finished.
"Get your hot, delicious Okanomiyaki, right here! Today only!" Ukyo declared like a regular street hawker.
Ranma hung her data pad on her belt as she picked up several plates to deliver to customers. They had set up in a food court that already had the tables and chairs set up. All manner of creatures had come in and a significant number of them had decided to partake of their offerings.
Putting the plates in front of their appropriate customers Ranma pleasantly said, "Enjoy your meal." All the while making sure to smile and be as pleasant as possible. Otherwise Ukyo was going to have a fit, and give her another little lecture on customer service.
Ranma sat languidly in a chair after the crowd finally dispersed and people went back to their normal routine. It had been just hustle and bustle since they set up, her taking orders, serving, and taking the payment, Ukyo constantly cooking.
"Is it like this everytime?" Ranma asked as Ukyo disassembled her yattai.
""What's the problem, all that training not prepare you for working in a restraunt?" Ukyo asked.
"I never told you about Callamar's Spring Festival, did I?"
"Not that I can remember. I've heard about the festival though."
"Well it's actually a rather involved thing. Four musicians are chosen from our order each year to play four instruments relating to clouds, thunder, rain, and wind. It is said that the reason that particular part of Callamar is so fertile and her crops so productive is because of our presence there, and the festival."
"So that's why they're so respectful towards your Order." Ukyo observed.
"Well the Jedi do send their less successful member to help maintain crops, and we do use the Force to try to bring things into balance. Of course, in addition to that and a few other ceremonies where we try to ensure good crops, there is this entire festival around it. Most of the stuff is from the locals, but we maintain a few booths including a small restraunt to sell goods and raise funds. The thing is I've never been felt up, hit on, and harassed like this. It just made me feel downright gross inside." Ranma clarified.
Ukyo felt sheepish. "Well now that you're a girl part of the time, you'll have to learn to deal with that kind of attention, so it was a good learning experience, right?" Ukyo said hoping her companion would go have her attention redirected. She hadn't really meant to expose Ranma to that, and didn't feel like admitting it if she didn't have to.
"I guess." Ranma said looking doubtful.
Ranma, now male, walked the streets of Carmalia in a functional unisex outfit Ukyo had bought him in addition to the dress. They felt kind of weird after so long wearing the more traditional robes of a Matukai, but he had his utility belt and his weapons, so he didn't feel naked. Allowing his mind to wander Ranma realized that while he might not appreciate everything about his curse, it was something he could live with. Afterall he had already spent most of his as a guy, and he had been willing to adapt to being made a full time girl, so it wasn't that big a deal to change back and forth. Not that he was really comfortable with the notion just yet, but he knew he could live with it.
Pausing in front of a refresher unit, he realized living with it might not be as simple or straightforward as it at first seemed.
"Well, hello there." Arvid declared as Ukyo and Ranma entered his workshop. "Don't worry, my techs are installing the parts now."
As Ranma turned slightly Arvid got a good look at the cylinder strapped to her back. "Echani, right?" He said pointing.
Realizing what he was pointing at Ranma pulled it out and depressed a button extending both sides. Suddenly realizing she hadn't set it back for lethal combat yet she removed the cap and made the necessary adjustments.
"Nice." Arvid comment appreciatively. "We Mandalorians usually tend to be a little dismissive of Echani stuff, because they have a habit of not having sufficiently powered weapons, or sufficiently protective armor. Not to mention half of their stuff's so fragile it would flat out breakdown on the battlefield. That there, on the other hand, is a nice weapon. Clearly Echani, and shows what they can do when they put their minds to it."
"Thanks, I had an Echani weaponsmith, who was an old friend of mine, help me make it before he passed away. You certainly seem to know a lot about weapons." Ranma said.
"That's because it's my business to know a lot about them. Kind of hard to repair something if you've never even seen the thing intact. Besides it pays to at least know what the major ones are and the associated styles. Know what I mean?" Arvid asked winking.
"So how much is it going to be this time?" Ukyo interjected, calmly standing off to the side half paying attention to all the activity going on around her.
"Well it is just a relay, and a small armor patch. 300 Republic credits or the equivalent should do it. Anymore then that and I'd be ripping you off, considering your droid did half the work." Arvid said grinning.
A tech came over as Ranma and Ukyo left.
"Do you think those two are more then friends, sir?" He asked innocently, cleaning some grunge off his hand with a rag.
"Sure, they are. Can't you tell they're buddies? Those two have been through enough hell they instinctively rely on each other. It's a wonderful thing to see." Arvid said beaming.
"Actually I meant..."
Arvid cut him off. "Get your mind out of the gutter, and back to work before I fire you. People these days. You can buy a 2 credit whore on any planet in this galaxy, but the universe will only let you have a few buddies if you're lucky. I'd rather have one buddy I can count on, when the credits are down, then all the whores in the galaxy."
Akane stood before Master Uthar.
"It is good to see you again, young one. Ryouga wished to speak with you." Uthar said simply, unreadable as always.
Making her way towards Ryouga's room Akane kept her guard up, which saved her life. Ryouga silently dropped down from the ceiling behind her, and only the fact she was already on guard allowed her to parry an otherwise lethal blow. Internally cringing at the force that had been behind the blow Akane declared confidently, using as strong a command voice with as much suggestion as she could muster, "You cannot win."
"No longer will your words crawl within my skull." Was her only response as Ryouga's eyes burned with hate. This was not good.
Wincing as she parried another blow that seemed stronger then it should be, she used one of the techniques she kept in reserve for times like this. Reaching into her opponents mind she grasped the fears she could find there and inflamed them. For a moment it seemed to work as her opponent lost his focus. Just as she moved to take advantage, she felt his power flare.
"You will regret that." Ryouga declared coldly.
Master Uthar calmly maintained his meditative pose as a scream range out and was suddenly silenced. It appeared that Ryouga had succeeded. Internally he smiled, Ryouga's progress was most impressive, he would make a good Sith.
Ukyo stared at the barren walls of her cabin. The thought of this trip being over filled her melancholy. She had a strong impulse to start planning some way to extend the trip, some excuse. She had several, that however was bad for business.
Opening her locker she reached towards the back and pulled out a well-shielded case. Opening the case using the built in fingerprint ID lock she pulled out a small holoprojector. With a press of the button it activated bringing up pictures from before everything had went to hell. She smiled as it transitioned to a holo of her making her first okanomiyaki. Under her dad's watchful eye and guidance the little Ukyo went about getting the ingredients just right. It had been so long since she had actually sung that song her father had taught her. Nowadays she just made them to order. The war had touched everyone in its own way, for her father it had cost him his life.
As it cycled through other scenes it came to dwell on one with one of her old childhood friends on Butuan. Good old Ran, she'd called him that ever since he ran out, when it came to pay for his meal. Of course, she had tracked him down and dragged him back.
Something nagged at the back of her mind. Freezing the image she took a good look at her childhood companion.
Ranma went through his Matukai drills. Getting sloppy now, at the end wasn't going to help him.
"Hey Ran, when are you going to start paying for your meals!"
Instinctually Ranma responded, "What do I look like the Bank of Coruscant?" As his conscious mind caught up with his mouth he froze in mid move. That response had been so ingrained he had responded without thinking. Now if he could only remember who that was. Drawing a blank he sheepishly turned around. "How do I know you again?"
"I'm the bounty hunter you hired to get you to Korriban to help you save a friend." Ukyo said, managing to keep a straight face.
"Come on, give me a hint here. Do you know how many worlds I've been dragged across?" Ranma said exasperated. It really wasn't fair, it really wasn't. When you have been to over a hundred worlds and met tons of sentients on each it became hard to keep track of it all. Meanwhile when they finally managed to remember you, they expected you to share their epiphany.
"Ultimate Okanomiyaki, Butuan."
Ranma scrunched his brow. "Wait... You don't mean you're Hunter..." Ranma laughed nervously.
"What is it?" Ukyo asked.
"Well you see uhm..." Ranma realized he was just going to have to say it. "With the way you acted back then I got it into my head you were a boy. Heh, heh." Ranma laughed nervously.
"I guess I did give that impression." Ukyo said looking sheepish.
"Well then might Hunter, you have caught me at last, so what do you want?" Ranma said as he did a mock bow.
Ukyo smiled, before affecting a mock-serious tone. "I order you to tell me what you've been up to."
"Well, Hunter that is a long story, that involves more planets, people, and stories then I could relay in one telling." Ranma said.
"Okay, okay enough." Ukyo said finally laughing. "So how did you end up becoming a Matukai?"
"Well my father's luck finally ran out and he got caught by no less then a Jedi. The Jedi recognized the potential in me and so I was brought before a Jedi council. As they were trying to negotiate an association with the Matukai they decided I would be turned over to them for training as I was to old to be a proper Jedi. The Jedi who found me though, taught me the basics of the way of the Jedi, before I went to the Matukai. Of course, in the end the Matukai weren't interested in being associated with the Jedi and I just ended up staying with them and learned their way. That was years ago." Ranma said shaking his head.
"Your dad was always getting himself into trouble. Good to see you turned out okay. So where's the old codger now?"
"I don't know really. Probably still locked away in a cell somewhere. I'm just lucky I never got directly involved in his more outlandish schemes, so I was clean enough not to get dragged in. It's funny really, he always made such a big deal out of learning martial arts, and when he got caught I end up getting hooked up with Force users who use the martial arts to develop their talent. You know I wonder what happened to that Jedi, now that I think about it."
"Probably dead the way things are going." Ukyo said.
"No, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure she is still alive. I think I would know if she wasn't." Ranma trailed off.
"Sorry." Ukyo apologized.
"Forget about it. So how were you were captured by the Mandalorians? I know they hit Butuan shortly after we left, but..."
Ukyo seemed lost in thought for a moment. "They killed dad, and I was captured as they raided the world. I suppose you find it strange I'd fight for them after they did that… I doubt you can know what it is like. I knew my dad would have wanted me to survive, and so I did. The Mandalorians can come across as harsh, but as time went on the clan became my family, they trusted in me, and in the end I betrayed their trust. That leaves a mark. Since then I've just been trying to make my way in the universe. It's funny, way back then you always said I was just destined to be a bounty hunter. Now I am one. Seems like forever and yesterday doesn't it?"
The Baker's Justice smoothly set down within the enclosed landing pad, before the roof irised closed.
On board Ranma finished putting on an attractive dress, before slipping her Wan Shen down the front. As Ranma shivered at the cold piece of metal between her breasts, she made the mental note to see about correcting that.
Climbing down from the cockpit Ukyo commented, "You sure about this?"
Tying her lush, brushed out hair with a bow to gather it back behind her head, Ranma commented, "It'll work."
"Maybe, but do you really think these Sith types will fall for that?"
Ranma looked petulant putting her hands on her hips. In a mock-serious yet cute tone she said, "Are you saying cute little Ranko cannot flirt a guy into being alone with her for two seconds?"
"No, I'm saying cute little Ranko may end up with more then she bargained for when she tries to take advantage."
"Don't worry, I'll be careful." Ranma said piling on cuteness. "Besides cuteness inherently inspires a kind of compassion which wrecks the focus of these guys." Ranma finished as she slid down to the hatch.
Ukyo said a silent prayer for her friend. Hopefully whatever powers existed would watch out for him in this dark place where she had to walk.
Ranma felt lecherous eyes on her from when she paid the docking fee till she found the local bar. While on many levels it left her feeling disgusted, it clearly meant she was on the right track. This bar was quite Spartan, neglecting many of the excesses common in such establishments. It also was well lit unlike many of its contemporaries. It was however, where the local students going to the Sith Academy tended to hang out. Something she had managed to convince several males along the way to tell her.
Ranma subtly adjusted her dress as she entered the establishment. A part of her wasn't wanting to admit she was doing this. The other part was telling it to shut up, necessity knows no law.
Picking out a Sith student that was closer to her size she made her ways towards him.
"Hi, I'm Ranko." Ranma said doing her best to act as adorable as possible.
"Yush Balu." Ranma could tell from the body language he had the guy's attention.
"You know what? I've always adored strong men." Putting on her best nervous shy girl making an admission act Ranma continued. "Could you... I mean... Could we go someplace private?" Ranma kept up the nervous looking down act up, waiting for a reply. She didn't even need to fake the embarrassed blush, just tweak it to give the proper impression.
"Sure I know just the place." Yush declared confidently.
Following submissively Ranma kept projecting the emotions she wanted to be picked up. The Sith student eventually led Ranma to a rather secluded area of the Dredsen colony.
"So do you want me to do you from behind or..."
He was cut off as a Wan Shen smashed into the side of his skull, from behind, sending him into unconsciousness.
"Pervert." Ranma said coldly.
Ranma finished tying up the now stripped student with space tape. The tape's exact origins were shrouded in legend, but by in the present there were hundreds of uses that had been developed for the stuff, among them tying up lecherous perverts. (1)
With an evil grin Ranma pulled down the last piece of cloth she'd left on the pervert and strapped his thing down with a length of space tape before pulling the boxers back up. That'd teach him. Trying to get a girl he'd just met to do it with him just because she wanted to be alone with him, who was he fooling?
Picking him up she dumped him in a nearby empty cargo container before sealing it. She'd unseal it when she came back. Of course, if she didn't come back the sicko had better hope someone bothered to check it's contents before he ran out of air in the next few hours. Of course, if he used the Force he could probably get himself out of there. Well it wasn't big deal afterall.
Gathering up the student's clothes and possessions she made for the nearest refresher unit.
Ranma made some final adjustments to the dark robes as he exited the refresher unit. Ranma stuffed his Wan Shen down his front. Due to the nature of the clothes it wasn't really obvious. Ranma took the time to examine the lightsaber he had taken. It didn't really look like much. While he admittedly was no expert it looked kind of crude compared to the ones he'd seen before. Putting it up his left sleeve Ranma stowed it in a holster he had found on the guy. Ranma couldn't figure out why the guy had went to all the trouble, but it suited him just fine.
Pulling out the guy's student ID and some equipment Ranma made a few modifications. The picture part was now covered with a properly sized picture of himself. As long as no one looked particularly closely at it everything would seem to be in order. Ranma looked mournfully at the stuff he was going to have to leave behind. It had cost a quite a few credits to buy that outfit and the related accessories. He couldn't prematurely take the stuff back to the ship though, or someone would catch on really quick what he was up to.
Hitting upon an idea he took the various accessories and put them inside the dress before folding it up and stuffing it down his front. Checking himself in a nearby mirror and finding that there were still no tell-tell bulges Ranma assumed a air of confidence as he proceeded on.
Ranma casually strode out the exit from the colony leading to the Sith Academy. Oddly it appeared that there was only one Sith Trooper acting as a guard to the entrance. Of course, it was quite possible they figured no one would be stupid enough to try anything requiring more guards. This was afterall the academy for a bunch of Sith, who would like nothing better then to expose people to things worse then death.
Striding up to the entrance Ranma confidently flashed his stolen ID.
"You can pass." The guard said with disinterest.
Entering the Academy Ranma took a few minutes to allow his eyes to adjust to the dark interior. Ranma paused as he focused on his senses reaching out, searching. In this place of dark power his senses seemed dulled, but he could still make out the familiar presence. Making sure to continue to maintain his air of confidence and belonging, Ranma confidently strode down the hallways.
What he found was his old friend, but he was different. Now being able to focus his senses more clearly he could feel the darkness in him. Ranma moved closer before jumping so as to land on Ryouga's head. He used the Force to lighten his weight when he did this, so it had not yet actually caused any of his victim's physical problems.
"Hey there, Ryouga." He said basically bent over backwards to look in his friends face while maintaining his perch on Ryouga's head.
When Ryouga finally opened his eyes they regarded him coldly. "You were a fool to come here."
Ranma felt something constrict around his throat as he was picked up bodily and slammed into the far wall sending chunks of rock flying. Ranma got up unsteadily to his feet. If it hadn't been for his Matukai training he'd have been well and thoroughly dead from that attack. (2) As was, he was more disoriented then anything else.
Ryouga however wasn't about to give him the time to recover. Smoothly getting to his feet he extended his right arm. Some kind of dark energy gathered in Ryouga's hand before shooting out in coruscating bolts from his fingers. Ranma only had a split second warning before the bolt reached him, just enough to realize he couldn't dodge them. Ranma felt the attack tearing at his very essence convulsing his body with pain, and disrupting his body's attempt to counter by fortifying itself with the Force. Through the pain he could make out Ryouga slowly walking forward. An old lesson suddenly came back to him clarified by the pain. The old Jedi had once told him that it was possible to use the Force to repel and counter attacks using the Force. Stretching a hand forwards against the onslaught Ranma used the Force clarified in his mind through the pain and tried to repel the attack. Ranma felt the intensity lessen as bolts began to repel back off his hand. (3)
Ranma felt himself stumble as the storm finally let up. That had taken more out of him then he wanted to admit. Before he could get himself together he felt a hand clamp down on his skull. With Force amplified blows he was smashed into walls, and the floor until he could no longer tell the difference.
Ranma suddenly felt something which felt almost like a spear drive into his back breakings ribs and driving them into his lung. It took a moment as he felt them being grounded in to realize he was now on the floor pinned down by Ryouga's boot.
Ranma heard the distinctive snap-hiss of a lightsaber igniting. "Now you will die." Boomed Ryouga's voice.
The spinning in Ranma's head lessened enough he could make out that somehow his Wan Shen had gotten knocked free and lay a few meters in front of him. Stretching out both physically and with the Force he called it to him. Not bothering to look he activated the extension mechanism and felt it jump out of his hands as it pushed off the floor. He had the distinct impression of a blade just passing over his neck as the weight on his back disappeared.
Rolling away Ranma got unsteadily to his feet. He could now see Ryouga crimson lightsaber in hand, his Wan shen had driven itself through Ryouga's gut and he could see the blood dripping from where it protruded on the other side.
"You are hard to kill." Ryouga commented regarding the shaft through his gut with an odd look of disinterest as if seeing something done to someone else. Ranma felt mental feelers reach out for his mind. "You… You came here to turn me?" Ryouga let off a hollow laugh. "As if you are any different from me."
"What are you talking about?" Ranma asked, cautious.
"Look at all that you did to get here. Can you not feel it! Under your excuses the seed has already begun to grow. Reach out, seize it, and realize your true power!"
"No… I'm not like that. I didn't…"
"Mean to kill all the people you did to get here? Mean to force your view of what is right on others? Let go of the lie, Ranma. Realize the truth as I have and stop holding yourself back in a web of lies."
Ranma could feel the power calling to his, the dominating strength. It was just within his grasp, waiting for him to seize it.
"No." Ranma said slowly. "You may have learned a few tricks, but you aren't stronger. I can feel it. It is you who is in a web of lies. It is you that is destroying himself for false promises of power. My soul might be tainted, but that doesn't mean I have to try to destroy myself as you are doing. Let it go Ryouga, you don't need to destroy yourself this way." Ranma smiled in friendship, and began to see the darkness around his friend crack.
Just then though, another student came around the bend seeing the pair of them. Glancing in the intruder's direction Ranma realized he was out of time. As Ranma looked back at Ryouga he saw his opportunity had been lost.
"No, it is you who is trying to deprive me of my power to save yourself!" With this declaration Ryouga tore Ranma's Wan Shen from his gut in a spray of blood, before hefting it in one hand and giving it a mighty throw towards Ranma's chest.
Ranma dodged out of the way thankful his Matukai training had provided techniques to let him keep going with an injury such as this. Ranma dashed down the hall dodging a blow from the student's lightsaber before decapitating him in mid outcry quick drawing the lightsaber he had up kept up his sleeve. Ranma paused for a moment looking back, entertaining the thought of trying once more, but it was too late, before dashing away.
Ukyo opened the hatch as Ranma limped towards the ship. Rushing over she took his arm over her shoulder as she helped him inside.
"What happened?" She asked, looking at her clearly drained companion.
"I lost. Don't worry. I'll be fine." Ranma got out, clearly having problems breathing.
"We're getting out of here." Ukyo said after she helped Ranma into to cockpit and a chair, before manipulating the ships controls.
Ranma sighed, then winced as he lay back in the chair. It had been too close. If that, that wellspring of the Force, hadn't went tearing through the Sith ranks he had to admit to himself he would probably be dead. Closing his eyes trying to focus his powers more on healing his severely aggravated injury, he felt a familiar presence. Ryouga was alive, that much he could clearly tell.
Ryouga heard a voice as if at a great distance, "Awaken."
The first thing he became aware of was the horrible pain of his insides destroying themselves.
An old woman stood over him, her face obscured. "Use the pain you feel to heal the wound, Sion."
Ranma sat in his room. After all that he had been through these rather simple quarters seemed like a high quality luxury suite. It had been a week since they had come here. Ranma opened the drawer on the little table next to his desk. Side by side sat two metal cylinders. Ranma regarded both of them. One belonged to a Sith, that was probably a former Sith by now, and the other he had been constructing himself scavenging parts from the other lightsaber when necessary.
With his Wan Shen for all intents and purposes lost he felt almost naked. His Wan Shen had required the cooperative effort of an old Echani weaponsmith he had known on Callamar who had long since passed away. The manufacture of such a weapon by himself was beyond his means, so he had decided to substitute.
The secrets to making a lightsaber weren't that big a secret to begin with and his brief brush the Jedi Order had allowed him to learn them. It had required a week and occasionally checking off the other one in his possession to actually make one properly. Finishing up a few final adjustments through the Force Ranma took the oval cross-sectioned handle in hand before pressing the recessed control stud. With a snap-hiss an ocher blade jumped into existence humming with a life of its own. He had ended up using the crystal he had picked up on the world that had transformed him, by making it so he changed gender with water. It seemed appropriate, and he wasn't about to use the crystal from that Sith saber. Ranma waved his hand near the blade, and did some other checks he had heard about to make sure it was functioning properly. They all checked out.
"So are you a Jedi now, Ran?" Came Ukyo's voice from the door. He hadn't seen her since they had come here so he could recover.
"No, I just don't have the connections or funds to make another Wan Shen the way I want it." Ranma explained thumbing the control stud and making the blade disappear from existence. "Besides the Jedi seem to get by with these things okay." Ranma said jokingly.
"Well I could use another hand on ship to help me out." Ukyo offered.
"Sounds good to me."
1) Space Tape is from one of the Star Wars novels I've read. It's basically just a better duct tape.
2) Remember RotS and what Tyrannus did to Obi?
3) Do note what he's doing is the same thing Luke does in RotJ. Of course, in the movie you really have to be paying attention to notice the bolts that are actually being reflected back. It's much clearer what he's up to in the novel.
Author's Notes: To be perfectly honest it was my original intent to have Ranma's confrontation with Ryouga end with Ranma's death. As I worked more with crafting the story though I began to come up with things that I felt would work better by keeping him alive. The original ending was however for Ranma to die when Ryouga had him under his boot, while Ryouga declared his new identity.
I hope you enjoyed the fic if got this far. Do not hesitate to e-mail concerns or suggestions in regards to the fic or otherwise put up a review.