The Martial Arts Family Vacation Challenge
by Juliet Carnell
based on Ranma ½ by Takahashi Rumiko

Hi everyone. Here is the long-awaited follow up to Martial Arts Motherhood Challenge. I've been very busy working on other things including a novel I hope to get published someday. I'm still quite occupied with that and other projects so the ground rules for this book are going to be a little different from MAMC. I won't be putting out a chapter every week like I did before, but I still hope to have this finished before next spring. So sit back, relax and get ready for another fun ride.

Prologue

Perm adjusted the contrast on the XBR-9000 as a cloud passed overhead. The South African made sniper scope was actually a sophisticated multi-spectrum surveillance system capable of tracking multiple targets at ranges up to three kilometers. Hooked up to a laptop, as it was now, it could also identify targets based on biometric information stored in a database back home.

From her perch atop the Atamatsu Love Hotel she had a clear view of the entire Kuno estate, but as yet the primary target had not shown him or herself. She reached up and tapped the broadcast button on her headset.

"Report?"

"Clip here, in position, nothing going on."

Perm hit a key on the laptop and the huge fifty-caliber rifle, a North Korean version of an old American design, swung silently on its robotic mount as the attached scope zoomed in on a tree near the entrance of the compound. There was no sign of the young Amazon hidden there, so Perm tapped another key and the display changed to infrared. Even now the girl's outline was barely visible amidst the flowering cherry blossoms.

"Maintain your position and watch for approaching vehicles. Anyone coming in this early will either be family or service personnel. Snip, where are you?"

Perm noted with satisfaction the blinking red symbol next to the girl's name which indicated the scope had lost track of her second operative. The gun swung suddenly to the left and the display reverted to visible light. The scope locked in briefly on a smiling young face before it disappeared again into a sea of roses."

"I had to abandon my original position when security set up a watch post there. I'm now concealed fourteen meters west of the altar on the far side of the pool."

"Good work, both of you. Stay sharp and remember what we're here for."

Perm allowed herself to relax for a moment. The Kuno-Tendo wedding was, she hoped, the first real break she'd had since coming to Japan. The target had remained secluded at home since returning from the hospital eight weeks ago and all Perm's attempts to infiltrate the Anything Goes Dojo had been thwarted. Security there was non-existent, but her target was surrounded by a web of bad luck and chaos that jinxed her every move.

"Limousine approaching the front gate from the west."

Clip's voice ended her musing and Perm quickly set the scope to track the car as it made its way up the driveway. It rolled to a stop in front of the main house, a huge western style monstrosity that irked Perm's post-Communist sensibilities. A security team descended on the vehicle and one gorilla sized westerner opened the rear door.

A woman in a slinky black dress stepped from the limo and turned to speak to the guard. The tracking system came to life and popped up a window with a picture and bio information. Perm read these out loud as others began emerging from the limo.

"Nabiki Tendo, female, age 30… Akane Saotome, female, age 29… Kasumi Ono, MD, female, age 31… Masato or Hideto Saotome, male, age 7…" Perm chuckled at the system's inability to identify the twins accurately. Akane Saotome returned to the car and held out her arms. Someone inside handed her a bundle and another window popped up. "Ranko Saotome, female, age 8 weeks? Who'd put a baby into a sniper database?"

Suddenly the laptop burst into activity as all of the windows were wiped from the screen and red lines appeared from the corners of the display converging on the center. A targeting grid appeared and wind velocity was automatically calculated. Finally a window popped up framed in red with the words "Target Confirmed" pulsing across the top.

Perm smiled and fingered the ammo clip resting next to the laptop. It contained six huge bullets, each with a laser guided homing apparatus whose effective range was over five kilometers. "Ranma Saotome," she read from the screen. "Male, age 29, mother of one…"

o o o

"Ranma," Akane said turning towards her tuxedo clad husband. "Would you mind changing Ranko-chan before you go looking for Kuno?"

Ranma nodded somberly and reached for the squirming bundle. "Sure, Mom'll be here soon so why don't you go help Nabiki get ready."

Out of everyone at the Saotome residence that morning, Akane had been the most shaken by Ranko's unexpected transformation. Nabiki thought it was hilarious, while the two doctors, Kasumi and Toufuu, simply examined the infant and pronounced him a healthy baby boy. The twins high-fived one another as they celebrated a new little brother to play with and even Ranma was more concerned about finding a clean shirt to match the one Ranko-chan had soaked.

Akane on the other hand burst into tears at the first sight of their daughter's new form. In eight short weeks she had formed a maternal bond with the baby every bit as strong Ranma's. She saw Ranko-chan as the daughter she had always wanted, the one who would grow up to be everything Akane could not because her own mother died when she was a toddler. Now that future was threatened by the same bizarre magic that plagued Ranma's life and Akane just couldn't seem to deal with it.

He knew what bothered her most was not knowing why this was happening now. They had tried so many times to trigger the curse, even as early as the day Ranko-chan was born, using water of all different temperatures. Bath time had become a nervous game of will-she-or-won't-she and they were finally beginning to believe his vision of their daughter turning into a boy was all just a big mistake.

Ranma looked at the black haired, brown eyed little boy in his arms. There was no question this was Ranko-chan, the female inside him was screaming so at the top of her lungs. He bent to kiss his baby's forehead, but wrinkled his nose instead. "Whew! You really do need changing, sweetheart. This time daddy's ready for you. Nobody gets off the same move on Ranma Saotome twice. Besides, I've got another clean shirt in the diaper bag in case you do."

Fifteen minutes later his parents walked into the room just as Ranko-chan was finishing off a bottle of breast milk.

"There you are, dear," Nodoka said reaching for the baby. "They're looking for you out front, so you best run along. We'll take care of Ranko-chan for you."

Ranma stood up and pulled the cloth diaper from his shoulder. "Thanks, Mom. I just changed… um… her so you shouldn't have to worry about that until after the ceremony."

Genma chuckled. "The twins already spilled the beans, boy. We know Ranko-chan's not a girl now."

Nodoka cradled the baby in her arms and smiled up at her son. "Don't look so shocked, Ranma. I've accepted your curse, this is no different. Whatever happens, I love you both with all my heart. Now go, before that Kuno boy starts waving his sword around again."

o o o

Perm watched with distracted interest as the last of the bridesmaids, Akane Saotome, joined her sister and two other women beside the altar. Ranma Saotome stood on the other side with a man identified as Tatewaki Kuno. The stage had been erected in the backyard of the estate in front of a seated crowd of about two-hundred. Everything was draped in white lace and bouquets of white roses were everywhere. Watching the wedding through the sniper scope made it all seem like part of a gaudy American movie.

The bride appeared and Perm tried to imagine herself, dressed in yards and yards of white lace, walking slowly past all those people with her hand on the arm of her father. Not that Perm's father looked anything like Soun Tendo. Nabiki's father stood out handsomely as the only man in the wedding party dressed in a formal kimono. He was also crying the whole way down the aisle.

"Snip, how's it going?"

Her headset crackled to life as it tried to amplify the whispers of the girl concealed in a rose bush near the wedding. "Still recording, but there aren't very many conversations now, mostly just comments about the bride having a lot of nerve wearing white? Why is that a problem, lingdui?"

Perm's eyebrows arched as she considered an answer. "I have no idea. None of this makes any sense to me. I'm still wondering why the groom hasn't prostrated himself before the bride's sisters yet."

"The bride wears white as a sign of purity," Clip's voice broke in. "Obviously, some believe the bride is not a virgin."

"You watch too much Western television, Clip," Perm said with a grin.

"Not me. My grandmother's the one addicted to soap operas. It's all she ever talks about anymore."

Down at the wedding, the bride kissed her father goodbye and mounted the short flight of steps to join the groom on stage. A priest stepped between them and began reading from a large black book. Perm chuckled as the bio information which popped up for this man revealed he was actually a salary man from Shinjuku whose part time job was acting as a priest for western style weddings.

Suddenly a vase full of roses behind the altar burst apart, spraying shards of glass and rose petals across the stage. Perm instantly rolled into position behind the huge rifle, the ammo clip in one hand and the other on the trigger. Her headset suddenly blared painfully in her ears as its circuits were too slow to keep Snip's sudden shout from being amplified.

"It came from behind me, lingdui! Low trajectory, small caliber like a handgun. What should I do?"

"Hold your position," Perm said calmly as she watched through the gun's eyepiece. The groom had drawn his katana and stood like a defiant idiot, the perfect target for a second shot. Ranma on the other hand leapt across the stage, looping one arm around the bride while planting the other for a vault that set them both flying towards the pool.

Suddenly the stage floor where Ranma had just been standing exploded as if hit by canon fire. Shards of wood bounced off Tatewake, but the fool never moved an inch. The report of the gunshot came from her left, so Perm swung her own rifle in that direction. With the help of the infrared scanner she quickly located the hot gun barrel on a rooftop below her and several blocks away.

As she watched, the gun disappeared and a figure sprinted from the concealed position to disappear down a stairwell. "That was a handheld shot? He might have been aiming at anyone."

"Lingdui! The pool, lingdui! Look at the pool!"

"I hear you, Snip." Perm said as calmly as she could. "Stop shouting or you'll reveal your position."

"I'm sorry, lindui, but Saotome and the bride fell into the pool."

Perm swung the big gun back in the direction of the wedding. The red targeting grid reappeared in her eyepiece as the system locked in on Ranma again. "Of course he did, water offers an ideal defense against high caliber gunfire."

"But, lindui! He didn't turn into a woman!"

Perm blinked as she stared at the image before her. Ranma was leaning over, pulling the soaking wet and furious looking bride out of the pool. He looked perfectly normal, except that he was soaking wet and male. "He's using some sort of magic to keep the water from triggering the curse."

"Take the shot!" Clip's excited voice rang in Perm's ears. "Lindui, you'll never have a better opportunity than this. He can't change into a warrior, so you can't possibly fail."

Automatically Perm placed the ammo clip against the breech of the rifle. All she had to do was ram it home and squeeze the trigger. Her years of sniper training with the PLA took over and she cleared her mind of all distractions. Her heart rate slowed to less than fifty beats per minute and her breathing dropped to only one breath every ten seconds. Time began to stretch out as she prepared herself to end the life of Ranma Saotome once and for all.

Then she slowly moved her finger from the trigger to the safety catch. She flicked it on as she let the ammo clip drop to the floor. "No," she said into her headset, "that's not our mission for today. Besides, this is a dishonorable way to kill a warrior. Ranma Saotome, even if he has chosen to remain male, is a warrior and as such deserves to die in combat. Resume your monitoring…"

The rest of her command was cut off as the tarpaulin concealing her position was torn away by a violent gust of wind. Perm rolled onto her back just in time to watch a blood red helicopter roar past a scant three meters overhead. The only detail she could see from so close at hand was the huge black rose painted on the belly of the beast.

o o o

Shampoo clapped her hand across her eyes and shook her head. "I can't watch anymore of this, great-grandmother. It brings back too many painful memories."

Cologne would have been concerned, except Shampoo was trying too hard not to laugh out loud. "Relax child, now you know how I felt all those years. Besides, this is the most fun I've had since they stopped making silent movies."

Shampoo grinned. "What was the name of that American actor? The one you used to talk about all the time."

"Errol Flynn, but he came along after silent films. What a specimen! With a bit of training that man could have become a true warrior. In some ways Ranma always reminded me of him."

Shampoo's smile disappeared. "She almost did it, didn't she?"

"Almost, but Perm knows the real mission is to find out who's behind that computer game. The council's assassination order comes second. I wouldn't worry too much, Ranma managed to avoid being killed by our tribe's best warrior. He even managed to avoid marrying her." Seeing sadness creep into her great-granddaughter's eyes, she added, "You still love him, don't you child?"

"Not so much as I love Mousse and my children, but I would not want to see him dead."

"Perm is still young and you trained her well. You heard what she said, have faith she'll do the right thing."

"It's not my training I'm worried about, but what they filled her head with at the PLA."

The old woman tapped the spacebar on her keyboard and the video from Perm's sniper scope continued to play out on the big flat screen monitor. "At least give the girl credit for having the presence of mind to keep recording all of this. Most young warriors would have simply run away after their position was compromised."

They watched as the strange red helicopter hovered above the wedding, its backwash sending everyone except the groom running for cover. Black ropes dropped from its doors as four masked women in black leotards repelled to the stage. They touched down and drew small automatic weapons before surrounding Tatewake.

"Kuno family security force?" Cologne asked.

"I don't think so, female ninjas aren't their style. These look more like… gymnasts"

Suddenly the soundtrack came to life as Snip reported in. What the young Amazon said was insignificant compared to the cackling laughter which could be heard in the background.

"Oh no," Shampoo slumped back in her chair and moaned. "It is Kodachi!"

A lithe figure in a red leotard leapt from the audience onto the stage. In her hand was a bouquet of black roses, which she promptly flung into the face of her brother who slumped forward and fell unconscious at her feet. While placing one foot on her brother's prostrate form, Kodachi struck a heroic pose, threw back her head and laughed like a pirate from an old swashbuckler.

o o o

Akane watched as Nabiki and Tatewaki danced serenely across the floor. Her sister looked only a little worse for wear after her dunking in the pool. Tatewaki's eyes were finally beginning to uncross from whatever his crazy sister drugged him with and were now focused only on his bride. She had to admit in an odd way they fit one another, Mr. and Mrs. Kuno.

Akane sighed and let a relieved smile cross her face as she turned and went looking for her own husband. She found him sitting on the remains of the stage, holding Ranko-chan in the crook of one arm while teasing him with a bottle.

"Still having trouble getting him to take a bottle?"

Ranma looked up with delight twinkling in his eyes. "Yeah, he knows where this stuff comes from and he wants the real thing. Sometimes I wish Shampoo had sent us an antidote as well as the waterproof soap. Now that this disaster of a wedding is over I want to get back to our normal life as quickly as possible."

Akane laughed as she hopped up on the stage beside him. "Sweetheart, we don't have a normal life. Don't you remember what our first wedding was like?"

"Oh, right. I guess you've got a point. At least we didn't have world war three break out at any of our weddings."

"I'm just thankful no one got hurt." Akane shuddered and slid closer to Ranma. "Promise me you'll always be there to snatch our children out of the way of any bullets life throws at them."

"I may have to grow as old as Happosai to do that, hon."

"That's okay with me," Akane put one arm around her husband's waist, then took the bottle from him with the other. "Just don't start snatching panties if you do."

She rubbed the nipple gently under Ranko-chan's nose until the baby opened his mouth and started sucking in the milk. Akane grinned smugly and Ranma used his now free hand to plink her on the forehead.

"Smart-aleck."

"Jerk."

"Un-cute tomboy."

"Pervert."

"I love you, Akane Tendo, mother of my children."

"I know. I love you too, Ranma Saotome, father of my children... and mother of my sometimes daughter."

"You're right. We don't have a normal life."

x x x

Author's Notes:

(1) lingdui – Chinese for group leader.

(2) katana – Japanese long sword.

(3) PLA – People's Liberation Army, the standing army of China.

All characters in this story are a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental.

This work is copyright © 2006 by Juliet Carnell, it is not public domain and all rights are reserved. This work is not for publication. This work may not be reproduced, distributed or sold in any format or media. This work may not be included in any collection without the express written permission of the author. The reader may make one printed or electronic copy of this work for personal use.

Characters and story elements that have appeared in 'Ranma ½' are copyright © 1987-1996 by Takahashi Rumiko and are used here without license.