Eilsa Jardon sighed as she glanced at her surroundings, clear blue eyes taking in the scenery.
"Another backwater planet," she muttered as she shook her head, the ponytail of her straight black hair shifting about slightly under the hood of the brown cloak she currently wore. Underneath that were simple cotton white robes that hid her lean and athletic form.
If a passerby chanced to look into her hood, her pale and aristocratic face bore a small scar on her cheek, an indication of an old, old wound.
Not quite backwater, but definitely not the most advanced she had been on. Dodging the old fashioned radar to land her craft here, where her senses told her there would be easy resupply after she got lost.
As she walked though the market, it didn't take her long to realize that she would not find the supplies she needed here. The stalls and shops selling fresh food, mostly vegetables and fish. None of the fuel or other supplies she could use. The other shops were selling small electronics that she had built as a youngling.
The language was extremely difficult It didn't match any language that she was familiar with. She was a skilled translator, but this one eluded her. Only her mastery of the Force allowed her to acquire the gist of the conversation directly from the minds of the local denizens. Before she could attempt to talk to one of the venders, she staggered in shock as a cry screamed into her mind.
A young soul, calling for help against a terrible fear driven home to her by the child's own Force. Before she could think, the Force guided her actions and she blurred towards the strident call, not thinking about the possible ramifications of her actions.
Luckily, the residents of Nerima were used to the abilities of martial artists.
As she flashed over the roofs, cloak streaming behind; the clarion call of fear and terror struck her even more desperately causing her to move faster. Reaching for deeper and deeper levels of the Force, she rushed to save a soul from a horror beyond imagining.
As she homed in on the pit of despair, she skidded into an alley where a small redheaded child was being surrounded by some local predators. They looked vaguely like Cathar infants - small, furry, clawed, both playful and dangerous. She couldn't conceive why they were threatening a small child, till a smell of fish wafted across her nose, reminding her of some Cathar's love of fish. Before she could act, her senses verifying the hunger of the predators, the child's emotions... shifted was all she could think of... turning a desperate child to a mindless carnivore.
She stared, aware of how desperate the situation had become, especially when she felt the whisper of the child's own Force forge into insubstantial claws and harmlessly scattered the small animals. Her senses confirmed what she saw from the child's position, as if the child was an animal. The posture and behavior indicated no hunger or anger from the child and a whisper in her mind hinted at a way to help this hurt soul.
She watched the feral child carefully, letting the girl study her. She sunk her soul deeper into the Force, letting it steady her and sent out calming waves of emotions. Eilsa knelt in response to the child approaching her and was rewarded by a sniffing of her out-held hand.
Without warning, the child pounced, slamming into her chest, knocking her back onto the ground. She opened her eyes from the shock and found herself being stared at with inhuman curiosity. Calling upon the Force to calm the world around them, she sent waves of comfort as the purrs quieted and slowed.
As she felt the child's Force signature calm and settle into the state that meant sleep, she slipped in her own touch, sending the child deeper into slumber which would allow her to move the young girl safely and get her to the ship so she could gather information on this girl's health. She carefully gathered the girl as she resumed a more normal pattern for sleeping into her arms, and moved out of the alley and then took to the roofs with speed and control intent on not disturbing the bundle in her arms.
As the cloaked figure departed, faint calls of "Ranma!" could be heard over the wind.
Balance of Force
Andrew 'MageOhki' Norris with grateful assistance and kibitzing from
Nicholas 'NightElf' Leifker
Major C and C provided (not all of it accepted, mind you, but most was) by Quedrom
As Eilsa laid the child into the capsule she kept in her ship, she shook her head. A six year old. Unbelievable. She couldn't conceive of a Jedi able to form solid weapons with the Force, much less a child of such a young age using the Force to any significant degree. She brushed the bangs of the sleeping child, sighing softly at the thought of the scene earlier today. She stepped back and gestured at her medical droid to run a complete medical history of the child, although, only a Jedi healer could determine the cause and reasons for the state this girl went into.
She stood up as the droid began its work, and she went to the small galley, making a cup of kaff for herself. As she sipped it, she walked to the cockpit of her ship, to study her journey. A planet this advanced should have been discovered by the Order or Republic scouts already.
She was out of range of contact with the Temple, even if she was of the mind to seek their ... advice. She finally found the name of the planet, only because of the recording and translating watch she had her computer do, or was this Nihon the name of the area she was in? Eh, no real matter she thought as she stood in response to the medical droid's call for attention.
"Madam, you need to look at these results" M-21J spoke as Eilsa strode into the medical bay.
"Readings?" Her response was in a soft contralto as she held out her hand for the datapad. She glanced through the basic data, and then moved on history. She slowed down as her eyebrows rose, and her face paled.
She set aside the datapad and studied the child in the bed. Her Force presence blazed like a beacon, and any rational Jedi would assume that's why she lived through all the injuries that the droid reported. Part of her was severely tempted to put her into stasis and head directly for the Temple, since she was either an orphan or abused by her parents, but that would not be the way of the Jedi as she and a few others saw it. She couldn't work within whatever the law was here, but she could at least find out from the child's own lips what and how these conditions occurred, and who caused them.
She wasn't taking her back. No way. No how. No chance was he returning to his parents. Nor the situation in Nerima. She regretted not listening to her first impulse, but that was a passing fancy. She also knew that what he told her, while more than he'd tell any stranger, was still incomplete, and he would have avoided the Neko-ken, as he called it training altogether. She breathed as she watched a 6-year-old body do a jump and a kick that many Jedi in their prime could not do.
She shook her head. Yes, the child, and while she believed his actual 17 years of age, she couldn't make herself consider Ranma a person on the verge of adulthood. While the child had many flaws, to be expected of one raised by a Sith in all but name, goodness still shone within the child. Not a bully to his true inferiors, nor someone who was greedy in an evil sense, or even one who sought power for power's sake. But... she had to fix this. The only way Ranma could become what her Force senses told her she could become, was if she took the child with her.
However, to do that, she'd need to acquire fuel and to deal with the Neriman mess. She couldn't just steal the child. Even though Ranma's father was a Sith, and his mother was a clear threat to her own child's safety, that still didn't give her the right or the duty to just steal the child away. It would not be the Jedi way, and even if she was willing to waive that, it would lower her to that... panda's level.
And in truth, she would have to also need to deal with the others in fairness. The Amazons, Ukyou, and the Tendos... they should provide no difficulty in this situation, but still by having Ranma disappear without at least letting them know and say goodbye to them was truly against the spirit of the Code she followed.
'Assuming I could kidnap the child, that is. Even if I did not need fuel, she is quite skilled.' She thought with a slight snort and smile.
She had a feeling that training Ranma in the ways of the Force would tax even Windu's skills... not because Ranma was inept... but because she exceeded her teacher or could quickly if her words about how fast she learned were true.
She picked up a data chip with a visual recording of how the Neko-ken was taught. She shuddered. The memory of Ranma's tone of voice as he described being put into the pit repeatedly...
The idea that someone was foolish enough to put a child through such torture was bad enough. Knowing that it was the boy's father made her sick.
It was nothing short of a miracle that Ranma didn't hate his father for this. Indeed, all throughout his tales, he never actually hated anyone. Some of their actions, yes, but not them.
She picked up another chip, relating the experience of Jusenkyou. Even when she saw it with her own eyes, she doubted she'd actually get anyone to believe this without them seeing it for themselves.
Yet another reason for the child to hate, and yet did not.
Another data chip.
"The suicide promise." She snarled softly before recovering her poise, still wondering at what type of mother would agree to a pledge made with a handprint by a 5 year old to -kill- himself if he wasn't... manly. She took a deep breath reciting the Code in her mind, till she calmed down. She had always felt drawn to children, and loved being with them, and often wondered if she made the right choice in staying a Jedi, instead of becoming a mother. How could she even consider herself a mother after having agreed to such an action. She couldn't bring herself to even think about striking down one of her padawans if they fell, but to fail to live up to some 'standard' as artificial and variable as being 'manly'? It was a perversion of the very nature of motherhood, and it both horrified and angered her deeply.
She stood up to collect herself and let the waves of anger wash away with her calming mantras. After that, she replayed the discussion of Happosai in her mind. There was a Sith if she ever had heard of one.
Self taught maybe, and not quite sunk to the level of depravity that some could go to, but clearly in thrall to the Dark side.
She briefly recalled the discussion of Shampoo and the other two
Amazons, and rather looked forward to meeting Cologne, but wasn't sure of Mousse. Shampoo had potential, however she was too old. She moved on to Ukyou and shook her head at another father that basically shuffled his problems onto his child.
She stopped pacing and thought about the Tendos. This would take careful handling. Her training as a diplomat allowed her to pick up on clues, and while she was sure Ranma didn't want to get married, even at his proper age, he did hold feelings for the Dark Marauder in training called Akane. He had fondness for Kasumi, the eldest of the three daughters while Nabiki...
It is said that there are many paths to the dark side, and greed is one of them. Perhaps it was a good thing she wasn't a student of this planet's way of the Force, otherwise there would be three Sith to consider.
Last, but not least, was Ryouga. She wasn't sure how to consider him. Was he just a victim of hardship and circumstance, or was he truly disturbed? Ranma's description of him wasn't conclusive enough, though Ranma didn't bash him, she sensed that Ranma was displeased about some of his behavior, but wouldn't say what.
She shook her head, thinking back onto the interview she had with the young man.
"Hello, My name's Eilsa. What's yours?" Eilsa asked in a warm tone.
"... Ranma" a young female voice answered.
"Ranma? An interesting name. 'Wild horse', right?"
She was answered with a nod.
"Ranma, I hope you don't mind, but I need to ask a few questions."
Eilsa was rewarded with a sigh and an annoyed comment from the girl.
"Okay... what did Pop do now?"
Eilsa studied the child and came to a mental conclusion. This wasn't the first time something like this happened. What type of world had she landed on?
She shook her head. "Mind telling me why you acted like a cat?"
"Cause my father is an idiot" Ranma responded like it was the most obvious fact in the world.
"Ah... but how did that happen?" Eilsa was getting the funny sense she wasn't dealing with a six year old mentality. The patterns and emotions weren't corresponding to that, nor what thoughts she could sense. More like a 13 or 14 year old. Then again, the child was in a feline state of mind no less than an hour before, so the unexpected pattern might be intentional.
Ranma shrugged. "Like I said, Pops is an idiot. He found this martial arts technique - the Nekoken - and decided to teach me in it. Training consisted of wrapping me in fish sausage and tossing me into a pit full of c-c-cats - repeatedly" The offhand tone it was spoken with would fool most.
Eilsa wasn't one of them. "So... that would explain the injuries
I found." The tone made it sound like a mystery solved.
Ranma's expression was puzzled as she replied. "Injuries?"
"Your body shows a horrific number of injuries. Your bones have so many healed breaks that I lost count - everything from your jaw to ribs to both your arms and legs - on several occasions. Or was that something else?" Her tone of voice matched her eyebrow's questioning stance.
Ranma shrugged. "Eh, only scratches mostly from that. Lots of them, but can't recall any broken bones from it."
"So where did the broken bones come from?"
"Eh, training mostly, I guess." Ranma's casual attitude was beginning to scare the Jedi.
"14 recently acquired hairline fractures of the skull from training?" The stress on the last word indicated to anyone aware that Eilsa's view on such training was... displeased to say the least.
"Huh. Those are new. Akane's work." Ranma's response was casual.
"And who is this Akane?" Eilsa's voice responded not showing the growing horror she was experiencing.
"My fiancee." This offhand answer shut down Eilsa's mental processes for a second.
"Excuse me? As in a female intended?" Eilsa asked, confirming what she heard.
"Yup." An 'are you stupid'-tone, so typically teenager rattled the adult across from Ranma more.
She just knew something was way off. She wasn't sure what she was asking, but she had the feeling she was missing something... and well... "How old are you?"
Eilsa blinked. She rose from the chair, saying, "I'll be back in a second. Have some snacks."
Ranma nodded and started munching on the wafers she laid out.
Eilsa returned after verifying that Ranma was human with her medical droid. "Care to explain how you're 16? My medical ... device indicated that you were at best 6, more than likely 5."
"Well, that's a bit hard. You see, Ryogua found these mushrooms, and..." Ranma's voice washed over her, explaining the whole chain of events until "After we accidentally destroyed the last of them, I couldn't take losing all the things I trained for. I'd hate the thought of having to do that training trip again..."
Eilsa blinked. Every word Ranma said rang with truth. Some of
Ranma's words were self-serving statements certainly, but still
truth. And it would explain the injuries. However...
"I... find that hard to believe. Magic?" Eilsa couldn't keep
disbelief out of her voice.
"Got hot water?" Ranma enquired, smiling like she had a secret.
Eilsa shook her head. She had to believe Ranma. Between the demonstrations she arranged and other things, it was all true. Of course, which was Ranma's point of view. She had to find the other point of view. Which means, she thought, time to investigate Nerima.
Not to mention figuring out why the same soul had two different levels of Force presence.