Project A-ko
TV Series
Episode 1: Fish out of Water


Prologue

The sky explodes in a flash thousands of times brighter than the sun, and the glorious city that once stood, proud and beautiful is engulfed in an immense dome of light that expands rapidly outwards, felling buildings before it, like wheat under a scythe. From a distant observing place the massive explosion flares and fades even before the first sound is heard. Once the sound can be heard, it comes as a sharp CLAP, as if thunder, followed by a deafening roar that seems to last forever.

All that can be seen now, is a city in ruins, charred and blackened. The earth has largely swallowed the once great lake, and a new great island reaches for the sky, where there was none before. This island steams and burns, sending a pillar of smoke skyward, along with the smoke of a thousand fires in the city. And the Alpha Cygnan funeral pyre burns.


* ** *** ** *

Somewhere a baby cries.

All around groans can be heard, as dozens of moaning wounded individuals pull themselves from the smouldering wreckage. The landscape is a junkyard of boulders, huge twisted sheets and pylons of metal. Smoke rises from everywhere, flames flicker in various places, and the occasional harsh fizzle of an electrical short circuit can be heard.

Above all this, the distant sound of the baby continues.

The survivors of the crash all make their way wordlessly to the edge of the island of wreckage, heading for the soothing coolness of the lake. They move like zombies; dazed, confused, injured and alone. No one speaks, for there are no words to describe the tragedy of the situation. Like the dead rising from their graves, more and more appear from the rubble, and they join their sisters in their confused shuffle.

Yet one moves against the tide. She is young, sixteen at most, with green hair. She looks tattered and bloodied, but what remains of her tattered clothes still looks fine and rich, possibly regal. Into the silence of her kin, and the noise of the wreckage she calls out a name. She acts as if she expects no response, and continues to move into the wreckage, looking for someone.

She hears the distant sound of an infant crying, and looks up desperately. She hurriedly makes her way across the rubble, slipping occasionally, and once stepping on a bloodied hand sticking out from under a huge metal bulkhead. The crying is nearer, and she quickens her pace, her look of despair turning into one of hope and relief.

Over the next pile of rubble can be seen a crater of sorts where a large engine component landed in the rubble. Another part of the engine is precariously balanced on the edge of the crater, and at the very bottom, lying on a broken and sparking control panel is a small blonde-haired baby. Confused and afraid, the baby screams, flailing her arms and legs about wildly.

The woman begins to move down to get the child, but she steps on some debris, which rolls down the crater's edge, striking the engine, which groans and rocks ominously. It is obviously too unstable to risk climbing down. Small pieces of rubble roll down the sides almost constantly, and the woman looks desperately for a way to the baby.

A small rock, the size of a fist tumbles down the wreckage, bouncing almost in slow motion. It hits the child on the hand, and it reacts violently, with a scream so loud it is painful on the ears. She screams and screams and all around more rubble dislodges and the engine groans more. The tremendous noise causes a steady flow of rubble down into the crater, and parts of the wall start sliding down.

The woman desperately looks for some way; any way to reach the child, but it is impossible, as the ground is too unstable. With a sudden screeching groan from the rubble, the engine topples, and rolls to the bottom of the crater, bringing tonnes and tonnes of rubble with it, down upon the child.

The screaming stops and soon the only sound is that of metal softly creaking as it settles into its new position.

The woman drops to her knees, looks to the sky with tears streaming down her cheeks, and screams to the heavens,

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

* ** *** ** *

Somewhere in the distance a shrill noise grew louder. A-ko groaned softly and clenched her eyes together. But the sound came closer and louder, and became more annoying by the second. She tried to ignore the sound, but it didn't go away. She tried reasoning with it, she told it that it was too early to be making so much noise, and wouldn't you like to sleep for 10 minutes more too? Yet it still didn't go away. A-ko reached out a hand, and fumbled on her bedside table, seemingly looking for something. An empty glass fell to the floor, and A-ko flinched. Her hand found a tissue box, but she tossed it aside. That won't do. Then she found something heavy, what was it anyway? Never mind. With the flick of a wrist it hurtled across the room and struck the source of the horrible noise, knocking it to the ground with a pained "clang".

A-ko smiled, and drifted back down from consciousness into the warm and welcoming arms of sleep...


* ** *** ** *


"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa-kooooooooooo"

There it was again, C-ko was calling out to her, but she couldn't see her friend anywhere!

"Aaaaa-kooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Where was that blasted girl? A-ko had looked all over the beautiful meadow she was in, but couldn't see the yellow-haired girl anywhere! Maybe she was hiding down there in the dandelions...

"A-ko! A-ko! A-ko! A-ko! We're gonna be late for schoooool!"

With a sudden gasp, A-ko sat bolt upright, what remained of her duvet on the bed fell to the floor. A-ko looked at the clock, where was it? Oh hell! It was on the floor, lying in broken glass. She leaned over, trying to reach the clock without getting out of bed. Leaning on one hand, nearly falling out, and her nightshirt sliding up her back and over her head, she flopped over the clock.

"OH HECK! 8:20! Class begins in fifteen minutes!"

Then she realised that her ever-vigilant friend C-ko was still calling her and ringing the doorbell. Why didn't her folks ever answer the damn thing, she wondered. Maybe to teach her a lesson, and get it herself. Or maybe they were just too lazy themselves.

A-ko opened the window. "Yeah hi C-ko! I'm sooo sorry, I'll be there as quick as I can!" She ran back inside to get changed as C-ko called out something unintelligible from the porch.

A-ko slammed down the bread in the toaster, opened the fridge and picked up her bag, threw in her books and a jar of peanut butter, threw off her nightshirt onto the toaster, opened the cupboard while pouring a glass of orange juice, got out a pink bra, put that on while drinking the juice, grabbed some more books and threw them in her bag, smelled something burning, grabbed her nightshirt from the toaster before it burned a hole, caught the popping toast mid air, went to grab the peanut butter, but found her calculator instead, ate the toast dry, slipped on her sailor fuku, grabbed her bag and ran out the door. Still C-ko was calling to her. All right already! Thought A-ko, I'm going as fast as I can!

C-ko backed away from the door and braced herself, ready for the usual impact. The door slammed open with such force that it bounced back and closed itself. The two girls hurtled up the hillside at one hundred kilometres per hour, as C-ko shouted at the top of her lungs,

"DID YOU REMEMBER YOUR PERMISSION SLIP!?"

"Oh hell" A-ko cursed as she spun one hundred and eighty degrees, and headed back home.


* ** *** ** *


It was a crisp and fresh morning. One of those Spring mornings which told the tale of a bitterly cold night, but held the promise of a beautiful warm day. The sky was a dark, rich blue, broken by the occasional high cloud. Birdsong competed with the hum of city traffic as Gravitonians headed off to another day of work.

Under a bridge that carried the dutiful citizens on their daily cycle, sat two figures huddled together. Shaking with the cold, looking around like frightened animals, they seemed completely out of place. Their clothes were torn and blood-soaked, and looked foreign. Their hair was dirty, but underneath the filth could have been pink or red. One of them wore a holster, but no sidearm was there.

This lost pair seemed to have surrendered themselves to whatever fate awaited them. From the looks on their faces, they expected it to be a horrible one.

A shadow fell across them, and they looked up in fear. A tall, slender figure in a long leather coat stood over them, and they shrunk back against the wall. The cloaked figure reached into a pocket and pulled out a badge or tag of some sort and showed it to the disheveled pair.

A look of shock and disbelief spread over their faces, which was almost immediately replaced by one of joy and relief. The tall figure extended a hand and spoke to them.

"You're safe now, I am one of you."


* ** *** ** *

"The Aquarium huh?" A-ko pondered without much excitement.

"Yeah!! It's gonna be GREAT! I love the Aquarium, watching all the fishies and the scary sharks, and all those huuuuge tanks of water! So cool!" C-ko replied with much excitement, including A-ko's share.

"I hate school excursions." Complained A-ko. "I always end up getting embarrassed or something."

"Oh that won't happen again A-ko! That was at our last school. No-one here knows about how you were the one who toppled the only tree to survive the Great Impact last year!"

"I only leaned against it I swear!"

"I know" grinned C-ko. "Lets make it a fresh start at this school ok? And besides, the boy's school is coming too. We could make new friends there!"

"Boy's school? Why didn't you say so C-ko!" A-ko laughed as they queued to board the bus.



About fifteen girls ahead of them, B-ko and her gang got on board the bus. B-ko got on first of course, followed by the others, Mari last. As soon as Mari put a foot on the bus, it groaned ominously. With her full weight squeezed through the door, the bus lurched dangerously to one side, sending the queuing girls scattering in fear. The bus driver let out a barely restrained expletive, while the suspension groaned in complaint.

With a yawn, A-ko put out her hand, and righted the bus.

"Okay girls! Enough gawking! Get on the bus quickly or the boys will be waiting for us!" ordered Miss Ayumi, who herself was quite stunned.

"Wow A-ko! That was cool!" shouted C-ko as she bounced with excitement.

"I'm always having to fight that girl's bulk."


Meanwhile, inside the bus, B-ko and friends made their way to "their" seats. The very rear of the bus naturally.
But this time they found someone already there.

"Mari!" B-ko commanded.

"Grunt"

"Sit..."

A gigantic brown and white mass descended upon the poor blonde who dared to occupy the 'forbidden seats'.



Miss Ayumi tended to the poor blonde girl, who was shaking and mumbling incoherently.

The whole bus sounded like one, very loud, incoherent mumble as girls talked about their favourite singers, what colour they should die their hair, and sharing waxing tips.

A-ko turned to look at B-ko and her gang at the back of the bus. They all seemed to be plotting something, huddled together. Asa looked up, and caught A-ko watching. She pulled down her lower eyelid, and stuck out her tongue. A-ko simply sighed and turned back to C-ko.

"...and then the puppy jumped up and licked my face, it was sooo cute, so I picked it up and carried it with me, cos I thought you'd like to see it before we went to school, but then it made a naughty smell and I had to put it down or..."

"C-ko?"

"Hmm yes A-ko?"

"What's going on over there?"

A-ko pointed out the window towards the city center as the bus circled the inside edge of the crater on its journey downwards. There was a lot of activity going on around the new addition to the city-scape, the crashed alien spaceship. At least a dozen helicopters were hovering nearby, every now and then a flight of fighter jets would fly over, and even a Japanese destroyer was docked by the island, under the shadow of the monstrous ship.

"Oh I heard on the early news that the government want to quarteen, uh.. carroteen, ummm..."

"Quaranteen." A-ko interrupted.

"Yeah! Queenteen the ship cos they're afraid of alien viruses or something like that. If you'd have got up in time you'd have heard that yourself A-ko!"

"*yawn* Yeah I know C-ko, but I just can't seem to do it."


"Ex-excuse me?" came a timid voice from the aisle. "Would you mind if I sat next to you here over the aisle?"


"Hi!" A-ko saw a medium height girl with shoulder-length dark brown hair in a single ponytail on the left side of her head. She had a bright and lively smile, large brown eyes and a light smattering of freckles over her pale tan skin. She had a slim build, and held her bag in front of her with crossed arms.

"My name's Emi, pleased to meet you" she said as she bowed to A-ko and C-ko.

"Hiii!" Yelled C-ko enthusiastically. "I'm C-ko! And this is my friend A-ko."

"I know." Smiled Emi "Everyone in the school knows you two. It's not every day that new students arrive at school in pieces of an alien space-ship!"

"Oh yeah," laughed A-ko nervously "that! It's real nice to meet you."


Suddenly, Emi was pushed back into her seat, falling over the arm. Asa stood in the aisle with her legs apart and her hands on her hips.

"Miss C-ko, I have the honor of informing you that you have been invited to sit with Miss B-ko at lunch today at the aquarium. Please do accept!"

A-ko cringed and ground her teeth.

"Oh cool!! We can all have lunch together! A-ko and C-ko and B-ko and Emi and Asa!!"

"Miss C-ko, the invitation was for you only."

"Now listen here!" A-ko interrupted. "C-ko's my friend and we always have lunch together. So wherever C-ko eats, I'll eat as well."

This time it was Asa that was sent sprawling as B-ko pushed her way to A-ko.

"Okay SuperGirl, you're new round here so I'll bring you up to speed on the rules round here. What I say, goes. I get what I want, and if anyone tries to stop me, then all hell breaks loose. But you already know that, don't you. You remember this, right?"

B-ko popped the top button on her blouse and pulled it aside to reveal part of the Akayama 23 that she was wearing beneath. A-ko cringed again, and rubbed her hip. It was still hurting from the fight the week before.

"Yes, I see you do. So I'll see you at lunch C-ko!" B-ko smiled with an arrogant confidence.

"C-ko will eat WHERE she wants with WHOM she wants, got that?!" shouted A-ko, as she got to her feet, face to face with B-ko.

B-ko fumed, and grabbed on to her collar, ready to rip away the school uniform and fight A-ko.

All the girls in the bus immediately squealed and tried to find what little cover there was. Miss Ayumi leapt to her feet, and tried to rush to avert the brewing cyclone.

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" she yelled at the two girls. "We are out on an excursion to a public place, and while we are here we are representatives of Graviton Girls High School. For that reason, you will both be on your best behavior, and will do your uniform proud. And that means you must STAY in your uniform, Miss Daitokuji! Am I CLEAR?"

"Yes Miss" the two girls chimed in unison.

"I won't forget this A-ko" B-ko snarled as she returned to her seat at the rear of the bus.

A-ko just sighed and slid back into her seat.

"I swear, that girl is going to get me expelled one day. Say C-ko, since she asked you to have lunch with her, you should make lunch for B-ko and her friends sometime! I'm sure she'd love it!" A-ko chuckled evilly.

"Yeah!" Shouted C-ko, as she punched the air, and jumped from her seat, banging her head forcefully onto the overhead luggage compartment and falling onto A-ko.

"Oww!" whimpered C-ko.

Emi watched the whole scene in shock, still sprawled in her seat where she landed.


* ** *** ** *

Thin shafts of light penetrated the gloom through the horizontal blinds. One beam of light illuminated the glass and the maroon liquid within it. The glass was slowly tilted forward and back, making the liquid move rhythmically within it. The faint creaking of leather could be heard from the gloved hand that held the wine, and the only other noise was the regular ticking of a clock, which punctured the silence in a rhythm that was alien to the occupant.

With a sigh, the glass was put down on a table, and the figure rose to their feet, a long dark cloak trailing behind them. They walked over to the window, and peered out the slats at the unfamiliar world beyond.

"Stranded," they thought, "alone on a hostile planet, light years from home and with no means of return. This must be what hell is like."

The individual returned to the glass, and with one gulp, finished the wine.

"Actually, once this last bottle is finished, THAT will be hell."

The figure picked up a wine bottle, and removed the cork with a squeak. The remaining contents were poured into the glass, filling it only three quarters.

With another sigh, the Captain sank into the chair once again.


* ** *** ** *

"Radiation levels check out okay."

"Roger."

"No evidence of biohazard threat."

"That's a relief!"

"Doesn't appear to be any outgassing or trace alien atmosphere, should be okay to breathe."

"Alright, stand by, Control is analising your data."

"Roger that."

This place is amazing! army technician Matsumo thought to himself. All these years the eggheads spent looking for ET, only to have him drop right into our front yard!

His quickened breathing briefly fogged the inside of the visor on his protective suit briefly with each breath, and the quiet beeping that informed him his heart was still beating had been getting faster with each minute. All around him were sights no human had ever seen. Control panels, huge display screens, strange alien writing, pipes wires and bulkheads were everywhere he looked.

Strange, everything seems to be on human scale. Matsumo pondered. Perhaps they were like us.

Matsumo's com system chimed, and Control spoke into his ear.

"Okay Mats, you have the all clear, you are safe to depressurise. But be careful."

"Roger that control. Are you sure there's absolutely NO traces of alien atmosphere? This area of the ship was still pressurised when I got here."

"Affirmative, it seems their atmosphere is incredibly similar to ours."

Matsumo was relieved, and began the depressurisation procedure. A thousand thoughts ran through his mind, as he prepared to expose himself to the alien atmosphere. Sure it was exciting to be the first here, but he couldn't help but have a shade of doubt about Control's ability to determine if everything truly was safe. Strangely, just as he was about to raise his visor, the most perplexing mystery about the alien ship came to his mind, Where is the crew?

With a slight hiss, the atmospheres between the suit and the ship mingled. Matsumo could smell the sharp tang of ozone the result of so many electrical short circuits. He lifted the visor completely, and risked a breath.

The air was fine!

"Matsumo to Control, the air is fine, I'm breathing norm...*GASP*"

"Mats!? Matsumo report! What's wrong?!"

"Ahh guys, I think I've solved the mystery of the missing crew, take a look at this..."

Matsumo swung his camera around to the right. The spotlight illuminated what looked like an airlock. Next to the airlock hung a row of EVA suits.

They were humanoid.

"Oh hell." crackled Control over the com.

"Yep, air-breathing humanoids Control. The crew must have left the crashed ship and be among the population."


* ** *** ** *


The chattering noise the girls made had a distinctive sound of excitement to it, as they giggled and pointed and talked about the guys from Graviton Boys' queued at the turnstile next to them. At the same time, the guys were doing something similar, showing off rowdily, pulling muscle-man poses and winking at the girls. They of course returned the favour with coy winks, smiles and hand gestures. You could almost smell the hormones.

A-ko blushed as a tall, well-built guy winked at her, goaded on by his friends.

"Ooooh did you see that A-ko?" exclaimed C-ko.

"Yeah C-ko, he's cute isn't he?"

"Who? I was talking about the tiger shark in the tank behind the guys!"

"Oh yeah, that!" A-ko laughed nervously. She took one more glance at the hunk before she collected her token from the bored-looking gate attendant. Little did she notice another pair of eyes on her from further back in the queue, watching her every move through slightly smudged glasses.

Even B-ko was slightly embarrassed by all the attention she was getting. But only a little, and not for long...


"And these are Japanese Fighting Fish, known the world over for the fighting behaviour of the males during mating season." Miss Ayumi described to the class. As A-ko looked into the tank at the beautiful fish with their translucent tails and large eyes, she found it hard to believe they could fight so viciously as Miss Ayumi had described.

"Oh well," A-ko thought "I know for a fact that it doesn't matter what you look like, sometimes a fight just comes looking for you." She sighed as she looked at B-ko, who was staring moodily into a tank with a Moray Eel.

"Why is she so obsessed about C-ko!?" It didn't make any sense to A-ko.

"Oooooh woweee! Look at these Linefish A-ko!" called C-ko as she pushed her face against the glass.

"That's 'Lionfish' C-ko."



After the video presentation, the classes were free to go to the cafeteria for lunch. They would have to return for a lecture afterwards, before free exploration of the aquarium and returning home.

Already A-ko was getting tired.

"C-ko, have you noticed people seem to be avoiding us today?"

"No more than usual!" laughed C-ko with one arm behind her head. "We're the new kids A-ko, it'll take people a while to get used to us."

"I suppose...." She listened to C-ko making more sense than usual, but she couldn't shake the feeling that this excursion would somehow end in disaster like every other one had before.

"A super deluxe bento box, two beef bowls, five California rolls and a 1.25 litre bottle of cola. That comes to 2200 yen. Will you be paying separately for that?" asked the lady on the register.

"Oh no, that's just mine!" admitted A-ko sheepishly. "Here you go."

A-ko handed over the money, but the lady had fallen off her chair, and one leg was in the air.

"Ooooooh..." cooed C-ko "Looks like she doesn't know your appetite!"


The massive tray that A-ko carried out of the cafe to the outdoor seating attracted a lot of stares, and A-ko could feel every one of them in the back of her head.

"I should have brought a packed lunch." she said between clenched teeth.

"A-ko, lets sit over here! It's in the sun, and we can see the shark tank from here!"

"Okay C-ko!" replied A-ko, as she made her way to the table.


B-ko decided that now was the time to make good on her offer to C-ko, and with a snap of her fingers, walked boldly towards the two of them, with her henchgirls in tow, each carrying a silver platter with a domed cover.

"This is perfect!" thought B-ko, as she approached A-ko from behind. "C-ko will be overwhelmed by all the magnificent food I brought her, and if A-ko tries to make me leave C-ko will cry and be angry with A-ko for stopping her from eating. Then when A-ko is shamed into letting C-ko eat, C-ko will forget all about her, and be overflowing with praise for my food!"

As B-ko approached A-ko, deep in thought about her glorious plan, she didn't seen A-ko's fist lash out.

"It's a perfect plan! It's brilli"*SMASH*

With the sound of a bowling ball hitting the pins, B-ko was sent flying into her gang who all rolled together backwards before slamming into the wall, immediately followed by four platters of gourmet cooked food.

A-ko and C-ko didn't even pause their conversation.

"AAARRGGHHH! That cow did it to me again!" shouted B-ko as she stood and wiped caviar from her eye.


* ** *** ** *


Another sharp pain shot up the Captain's arm, and the light shining through the blinds seemed a lot brighter than it did before. She didn't know how much longer she could stand this place, but there was no other option for her. It would be a lot easier to cope if the room would stop spinning.

From outside came a noise. The Captain stiffened in her seat. Heavy footsteps and a low grunting could be heard. Her heart raced, and her mind spun, she was alone, defenseless and cornered. Thoughts raced through her head of what the humans would do to her if she were captured. She would be interrogated, dissected or worse!

The Captain decided there would be no way she would allow that to happen. If she was going to die, she would go down fighting.

A key slid into the lock and the handle turned. As the door slowly opened, the Captain reached for her laser gun.


* ** *** ** *


A-ko had nearly finished her last California roll when she heard several people walk up behind her. She felt a firm tap on her shoulder and turned around.

She was faced with a massive torso towering above her, and atop that, a foolishly grinning head, with crew-cut blond hair.

"Heard you're tough." grumbled the big guy through grinning teeth. His muscly arms were folded across his chest, and his uniform was obviously too small for him. Around him stood a group of other guys, all laughing and slapping each other on the back.

"What of it?" quipped A-ko, who was already dreading where this was headed.

"Show me", demanded the blond, as he flicked a short ponytail off his shoulder.

"No thanks, maybe another time." replied A-ko as she turned back to C-ko. C-ko looked terrified and quivered in the shadow of the big bully.

"Gee A-ko, he looks so big and mean!"

A glare and a grunt from the bully immediately silenced c-ko.

Determined not to let A-ko get away with being so dismissive, the bully and his group of friends walked around to the other side of the table to face A-ko.

"Wrestle me!" demanded the bully, as he forcefully sat down on the bench opposite A-ko, on the other side of the table. He pushed up the sleeve of his t-shirt, and slammed his elbow on the centre of the table, his open hand inviting A-ko's to take it.

"I don't thi...." A-ko stopped mid sentence as she saw immediately behind the bully, the hunk she had seen that morning.

"Um, I wouldn't do that if I were you mister." C-ko advised the bully. "You might get hurt."

The bully burst into raucous laughter, but A-ko's hunk simply smiled at her.

"Um-um-um.." A-ko stammered "Okay, but only if you'll promise to leave me alone afterwards."

"Heh heh heh, what interest would I have in a weak little girl like you?"


Within an instant of the two of them slapping their hands together, a large crowd had gathered around them to watch. "No B-ko" thought A-ko to herself "She's probably in the bathroom washing herself." The thought amused A-ko and she smiled to herself.

The smile only seemed to enrage the bully, who let out a roar and tried to finish A-ko off quickly with one push. Much to his surprise, A-ko's fist didn't budge.

He tried again and again to push A-ko's hand, but nothing happened. His face started to turn red, veins on his forehead popped out, and sweat ran from his brow. He may as well have been wrestling an iron bar. Murmurs of surprise became exclamations of incredulity.

C-ko, meanwhile had been packing up the rubbish after their lunch, and calmly got up from the table, and moved through the crowd, looking for a bin. Once A-ko saw that C-ko was out of the way, she didn't waste any more time. With her hunk watching on, dumbstruck, she finished off the bully.

"Thanks for cleaning that up C-ko!"

"That's okay A-ko, you can do it next time! What happened to the bully?"

A-ko pointed. The dust was settling and revealed a smashed table and benches, and a brutish blond holding his arm crying for his mamma. Around him his friends laughed, and called him a moron.

"Well we won't have any problems from him again, will we A-ko!?" C-ko laughed.

"None at all I'd imagine!"


The smudged glasses watched A-ko again, but this time they were fogging up as well. The wearer was very impressed and intimidated by the spectacle that had just occurred.


* ** *** ** *


The Captain was ready, standing behind the door, with her blaster at the ready. The door opened almost fully, and a large figure entered the room. Swiftly, the Captain brought down the hilt of the blaster on the top of the figures capped head. Holding the blaster firmly, she put all her force into the blow.

"OOOOWWWWW! That hurt!" cried the Captain as she held her hands and jumped on the spot.

"Oh Captain! There you are!" responded a surprised D, "What are you doing behind the door?"

"I thought you were a human spy! I tried to knock you out! Damn your head is hard!"

"Gee thanks Capt'n!" grinned D.

"That wasn't meant to be a complement. Where have you been? You were gone for three days!"

"The supplies you sent me for were hard to find! Most of the things you requested are beyond this primitive culture's technology level. For example, I wasn't able to..."

"Did you get the booze!" interrupted the Captain, suddenly desperate.

"Yes Captain, I was able to secure a crate of the local wine. I hope you find it to your satisfaction."

"*glugglugglug* Ahhh! It's just fine!" Sighed the Captain as she drank directly from the bottle she had just found in the crate D put down.

"So how are things looking outside D?"

"Not so good. Our crew has scattered, the ship is surrounded, and we have no way of making contact with the others or our home. I think we could be in big trouble...."


* ** *** ** *

A-ko yawned and stretched as she rose from her seat at the end of the lecture. "Well" she thought to herself "If anyone asks me which end is the front of a sea urchin, now I'll know what to tell them." She shook her head and picked up her things.

C-ko and A-ko shuffled along the row of seats where they were sitting to the aisle, amongst a throng of hundreds of other students, mostly from other schools. Out of the corner of her eye, A-ko saw someone waving. It was Emi.

When A-ko looked to her, Emi nodded towards the aisle, indicating that she wanted to talk. Pushing against the flow of students, A-ko and C-ko caught up with her.

"Hi again!" said Emi, smiling as usual. "I was wondering, where do you guys live?"

"Oh we're both about three kilometers around the South of the edge, half-way down." The "edge" is what many of the locals called the crater walls. "What about you?"

"I'm between school and there! Do you want to walk home with me?" Emi smiled at C-ko and A-ko as they made their way up the stairs to the back of the lecture theatre, and the exit.

"That would be great Emi!" replied C-ko, who gave her a hug around her waist. Emi giggled.

"Great, I'll meet you when we get off the bus..."

Emi was interrupted by some screams from the girls ahead of them. A-ko looked, but couldn't see the cause of the commotion, only the heads of girls scattering ahead of them.

"Now, now, what's this?" Miss Ayumi asked authoritatively as she moved through the crowd behind A-ko.

"AAAAA-ko!" screamed B-ko immediately in front of them. She was standing there, in front of a great glowing fish tank, her legs apart, her head down, her skin red and sweat pouring down her brow. Behind her were her four gang members, silhouetted in front of the tank, and over her head she held one of the aquarium's rubbish bins.

"This is for getting food all over me at lunch and humiliating me in front of BOTH schools!" she shouted as she hefted the bin over her head, directly towards A-ko.

A-ko squealed and barely had enough time to push C-ko and Emi aside before she ducked, the bin sailing close over her head.

*BONGGGGG* came the sound behind A-ko, followed by a simultaneous gasp from everyone in the room, then an unearthly silence. A-ko turned around to look, and saw Miss Ayumi sprawled unglamorously on the ground, a large red bump rapidly growing from her forehead, and the bin slowly rolling away.

"Ohhh B-ko, you're SO in troub.."

A-ko didn't get to finish her sentence as B-ko rushed towards her to strike. A-ko managed to spin out of the way just in time, causing B-ko to overshoot and run into the wall. This made B-ko even angrier and she looked around for another projectile. Finding a chair nearby, she wasted no time, and hurled it at A-ko.

Girls ran screaming in every direction as they tried to avoid being hit. The chair sailed through the air, well over A-ko's head, but on a line for one of the huge tanks.

"Ume!" Cried out Asa "Don't let the chair hit the tank! If it does, Miss B-ko could get detention!"

Valiantly Ume dove through the air, and with a block worthy of a World Cup goalkeeper she stopped the chair; with her head. Shattered pieces of her glasses fell to the ground.


"Wow, she's outa control!" thought A-ko. "I don't really wanna fight in here, it's too dangerous."

But A-ko wasn't given much choice as B-ko lunged at her again. A-ko easily sidestepped her punch, but B-ko grabbed A-ko's bag on the way through. B-ko turned around and held it triumphantly over her head. She proceeded to open it, and empty the contents onto the floor in front of everyone that was watching.

A-ko turned bright red as her books and papers tumbled onto the floor, along with pencil shavings, a jar of peanut butter and things that a lady would never want seen by others.

If B-ko wanted to aggravate A-ko, she had succeeded. A-ko lunged at B-ko, but she was cut off halfway there. Two men in paramedic uniforms ran between them towards Miss Ayumi. With amazement, everyone stopped to watch what happened.

"Dr Greene, what have we got here?" asked the first paramedic as he dropped to his knees next to Miss Ayumi and opened a box full of medical equipment. The other paramedic examined Miss Ayumi.

"Looks like a severe impact concussion of the anterior cranium causing ALOC. We should do an EEG stat! Dr Carter, pass me the gel." The first paramedic handed the second a tube, which he then proceeded to smear over Miss Ayumi's forehead.

"I'm guessing the trauma was caused by an airborne refuse receptacle. When will people learn." Dr Carter bemoaned as he shook his head, and started attaching wires to the wounded teacher's head.

"I know, I know, but we can't worry about that now, we have a job to do!"


A-ko was hit in the head with her jar of peanut butter.

"Ow! Stop that!" she shouted at B-ko, rubbing her temple. No sooner had she turned around, than one of her folders flew at her and hit her straight at her face. Getting more and more frustrated, A-ko was ready to pound B-ko when yet another missile approached her, a pot-plant from near-by. As A-ko ducked she saw that Ine and Asa were passing B-ko missile after missile.

"Fine!" thought A-ko to herself. "Be that way." A-ko grabbed a nearby pole that was part of a barrier, keeping people away from a fragile display. A-ko held it at one end, and hefted it over her shoulder. Pulling a baseball cap out of a back pocket, she shouted at B-ko "Batter up!"

One after another, B-ko hurled missiles at A-ko, and one after another, A-ko smashed them back towards B-ko. Or at least she tried, it was pretty hard to make a turnstile go where you wanted it to. Ume continued to valiantly defend the tanks, blocking one projectile after another, thus saving her Mistress from detention.

*Whack!* and a security camera went flying. *Crash!* and a chair flew over the paramedics, still hard at work. *Thud!* and a soft toy caught Ume square in the chest. Screams were all around, and people ducked and looked for cover wherever they could find it. Everyone was expecting one of the tanks to come crashing down any second, flooding the room.

Eventually B-ko ran out of ammo, and looked around for something to throw. Ine and Asa just shrugged, and A-ko smiled, thinking the battle was over.

"Here!" grunted Mari. She was on a bench and had pushed open one of the access panels over a tank. With one hand she was reaching into the tank, like a child searching deep in a lucky dip. With the other she tossed B-ko a large salmon.

"Are you kidding Mari! It's a FISH! I'm not gonna start slapping A-ko with this unless you find me a pith helmet!" B-ko threw the salmon over her shoulder as she continued to berate a sheepish Mari.

A girl screamed as the fish landed in her arms. She threw it away, and a tall thin guy caught it. He tried to hold on to it, but being so slippery and flapping about made it pop right out of his arms. The crowd watched in shock as the fish was passed around like a hot potato. A series of gasps and exclamations punctuated the silence as the fish flew from one end of the room to another. Finally a battered Ume lunged at the fish with both arms, and grabbed it mid-air. Unfortunately she landed on her chest, and the slippery fish shot out like a round from a cannon.

Almost in slow motion the shiny pink salmon sailed through the air in a graceful arc, shimmering in the light as nearly one hundred pairs of eyes watched in awe. All C-ko could think was "How pretty!"

That was, of course, until the fish found the gape in her neckline and slipped completely down her blouse, leaving only the franticly flapping tail sticking out, slapping the horrified C-ko repeatedly on the chin.

For a split second C-ko was silent.

Those who heard the scream will remember it forever as one of the loudest things they had ever heard in their lives. They would tell their grandchildren about how their ears rang for a full week after that day, and how every single tank in the aquarium shuddered, cracked and then exploded in a torrent of water, fish, seaweed and pebbles.


Moments later the paramedics sat back from Miss Ayumi triumphantly. Proud of their work they helped her sit up. They had treated her successfully and announced to anyone who was actually listening that she would make a full recovery. Miss Ayumi now wore an oversized band-aid on her forehead.

As the paramedics packed up and left, slapping each other on the back for a job well done, Miss Ayumi looked around her, and saw the aftermath of the battle. The floor was ankle-deep with water, and hundreds of fish of all sizes flapped and bounced on the floor everywhere she looked. Dozens of students also sat and stood around the room with dazed looks on their faces. C-ko sat in a corner crying with a large salmon on the ground beside her, and A-ko sat awkwardly under a large tank, completely soaked, her red hair matted and dripping.

"Oh my!" Exclaimed Miss Ayumi. "I lie down for a nap for five minutes, and everything goes to hell!"

Somewhere in the crowd of stunned onlookers, a girl with glasses and a blonde ponytail pointed at A-ko and shouted "Hey look everyone! When she was splashed with the water, she turned into a red-haired girl!"

Immediately she was pounded upon by five of her classmates.



* ** *** ** *


With a hiss and a thud, the bus' door opened, and the girls flooded out onto the footpath. It had been an eventful day, and there was much to talk about. Miss Ayumi, with no band-aid in sight, saw everyone off the bus and wished then all a pleasant evening. The hubbub rapidly dispersed as everyone went home or off to other extra circular activities. A-ko and C-ko waited for Emi to join them for the walk home.

Emi approached them with a nervous smile, and characteristically held her bag across her chest with her crossed arms. A-ko smiled at her, and reassured her.

"You can relax Emi, today wasn't a typical day! You'll be completely safe walking home with us! Maybe even safer than walking home alone."

"Yeah" added C-ko "With A-ko around you'll never have to worry about dirty old men trying to offer you candy! In fact with A-ko around you won't have to worry about ANY men getting near." Laughed C-ko mischievously.

A-ko fwapped C-ko over the head with a folder. "Thank YOU C-ko. I don't need those kind of comments! Besides, there was one guy watching me all day" A-ko giggled as she remembered.

Emi joined them as they walked towards the schools great iron gates. "Okay guys, I'm sorry I seem awkward. You're a little bit intimidating you know? I mean whenever B-ko's around, things seem to go straight to hell!"

As if on command, B-ko stepped out from behind one of the gate pillars, and struck her familiar threatening pose. "That's far enough" she commanded with a firm voice.

"I never gave permission for A-ko to make any new friends here" announced B-ko, looking straight at A-ko, as if Emi wasn't even relevant.

"B-ko!" retorted A-ko.

"Hold on A-ko" interrupted Emi rather nervously. "Let me handle this."

A-ko looked shocked and her expression implored Emi to reconsider. Emi had decided, however, and she was going to stand up for herself.

Emi started nervously, her voice croaked, and her mouth was obviously dry, but as she spoke, she gained confidence. "B-ko, I do not intend disrespect, but A-ko and C-ko already agreed to walk home with me, and it is their right to do so. So if you would be so kind as to let us pass, we'll be on our way."

B-ko's jaw dropped.

"Wh-wh-what did you just say?" she exclaimed.

"Um, ah, please l-let us pass." Emi repeated.

A-ko knew this was headed for big trouble. B-ko's hands became fists, her teeth clenched and her jaw muscles twitched. For ten agonising seconds, everything was silent, and all that could be heard was the wind blowing, and B-ko's skirt flapping slightly in the wind.

"NO ONE talks back to me, and no one defies my will!" Veins started to bulge in B-ko's forehead, and sweat trickled down her brow. "I will NOT allow anyone to keep me from what I want, especially someone like YOU!" B-ko was now rapidly heading towards a howling rage.

A-ko knew that the situation was completely out of control, and firmly grabbed C-ko and Emi by the hand. With one huge leap, A-ko was in the air over B-ko. Emi screamed with surprise and held on for dear life. C-ko just giggled.

A-ko hit the ground past B-ko running, and soon all that could be seen was a dust cloud and a rapidly diminishing brown blur.

B-ko was left alone, once again, to fume over her misfortune.


* ** *** ** *

"WOW! What a rush!" exclaimed Emi as A-ko came to a screeching halt about two kilometers from the school. "That was incredible!"

"I'm so sorry Emi, I didn't want to scare you. B-ko was just about to boil over, and I didn't particularly feel like fighting her again today."

"Gee, don't apologise! It was my fault that B-ko lost her cool. I thought that she might have listened to a polite request, but I guess I was wrong. You didn't scare me at all! I don't know you much yet, but I already feel like I can trust you. Besides, that was a real thrill!" a breathless Emi said to A-ko.

C-ko giggled "Glad you like it, cos you're probably gonna do it every morning from now on! You must think that we're so weird!"

"Oh no, not at all!" gushed Emi "I think you're adorable C-ko, and A-ko, you're just amazing! I can't wait to spend more time with you both. That is, if you'll have me around!"

"Oh Emi, we could really do with a new friend!" replied A-ko happily "Consider yourself one of 'the gang'" A-ko laughed.

"Yeah! A-ko, C-ko and Emi!" sang C-ko.


The three of them walked down the long zigzagging road that descended the inside wall of the crater. The summer breeze carried on it the smell of freshly cut lawn, and the salty tang of the sea, while the birds sang and children laughed and played, enjoying the end of the day.

"A-ko?" inquired Emi.

"Yeah?"

"The way you two fight.... Are you and B-ko long-lost sisters?"

A-ko fell to the ground at Emi's question.

"Guess not!" laughed Emi.

C-ko giggled and giggled until she too fell over.