Season One: Honor Among Thieves

Episode One: Bad Omens

Planet Neo Tokyo, Silver Alliance Containment Facility 'Cross' - Interior

Two men in identical uniforms wandered down a corridor toting blaster carbines in their hands. They were wearing silver jump suits complete with visored helmets, and were speaking in hushed tones to each other.

"This is a bad idea."

"You've said so before."

"Yeah, but this… this is bad. We should not be here."

"Well, we need to get paid so – company."

The two men stopped in their conversation, smiling politely and nodding as two more men in the same silver jumpsuits strolled past.

The first one gritted his teeth. "I know we need to get paid, I'm just saying. This is a bad idea. We don't even really know this guy, and we're breaking into a heavily fortified Silver Alliance base for him?"

The other young man sighed. "I know. But… well, we need this score. What were the last jobs we had? And what exactly did they pay? We don't do this; we're out of the air. And I mean to keep flying."

The first man shook his head as they swiped a card through a scanner next to a door. "I'm with you one hundred percent. I'm just saying…"

"I know. It's a bad idea…" The door opened, to reveal twenty men dressed not only in the same silver jumpsuits they were wearing, but also a golden armor over it. All of them were pointing weapons at the two. "…That just got a hell of a lot worse."

The first one gave a small smile. "Routine inspection?"

---

Planet Neo Tokyo, Silver Alliance Containment Facility 'Cross' - Exterior

Another man snuck silently through the streets just outside the facility. He was dressed in black and gray 'urban' camouflage pants and shirt, with heavy black boots and gloves. Distinct lumps suggested body armor underneath the camouflaging. The lower part of his face was covered with a black cloth, above which were wrap around goggles topped off by a similarly camouflaged helmet, leaving no piece of skin uncovered.

In front of him was a man in a Silver Alliance jumpsuit, with his back turned, next to a tall, tower-like structure. The camouflaged soldier's footsteps were silent as he raised a small, highly technological sidearm. Remaining perfectly still behind the man he watched again calmly, making doubly sure that there was no human or electronic surveillance about to look in his direction within the next minute. Then, he fired.

A nearly soundless purple bolt flew from the pistol, impacting the guard in the back, who dropped instantly like a sack of potatoes. The camouflaged infiltrator grabbed the man before he could hit the ground and dragged him around a corner before checking the man's vitals.

Only unconscious.

Nodding to himself, he propped the guard up out of sight and snuck back around the corner. With the guard gone, he crouched down and stared fiddling with an access panel.

---

Back inside, the first man's voice trailed off and the smile died on his lips as the soldiers in the room opened fire. The two men dived out of the path of the weaponry, rolling to a stop on either side of the door. A fireball accompanied the expected blaster shots, and the man on the right swore. "They've got a mage in there!"

The man on the left looked at the gun in his hands as claxons started blaring and this section locked down from the outside. "Well, this will get us precisely nowhere." He tossed it away. On the other side of the door, the other man did the same. "Agreed. I think we can safely assume stealth just flew out the window."

He pulled a communicator off his belt and activated it. "K2? Things just went south on us. Be ready to book in a hurry."

A soft hiss accompanied the voice over the machine. "Right, Captain."

He put the device back on his belt. "Well, brute force it is. Ready Ranma?"

The man smirked under his helmet as he summoned up the over inflated ego that allowed him to leave normal human performance in the dust. "Always, Tenchi. MOUKO TAKABISHA!"

A bright, flaming ball of blue and gold confidence slammed through the wall like it wasn't there, exploding in the middle of the room the soldiers occupied.

Tenchi, meanwhile, held his hands in front of himself in a ready stance, summoning forth a blue-white energy sword. He ducked and rolled through the entranceway, bringing the blade up in a block position, catching the sword of one of the more quickly recovering soldiers.

Even with the enhanced magical technology of the Silver Alliance, however, there weren't many physical objects that could easily stand up to the blade, power, and heat of Tenchi's Spirit Cutter. And while this sword in particular could in fact take the blade and power without blinking, in was not prepared to deal with heat in extreme excess of its forging, and wasn't so much cut through, and it was melted through.

Tenchi's sword sailed through the soldier's sword like a hot knife through butter, and while the soldier was distracted, Tenchi took the opportunity to belt him in the head with the other hand, laying him out, unconscious.

Sensing danger to his left, he swung his sword around and parried a lighting strike from the mage, whose uniform only differed in that he carried a staff instead of a sword in addition to his gun.

He idly noted that Ranma was playing merry hell with the remaining soldiers and was unlikely to even be grazed. Trusting his longtime friend completely, he zoned out the remaining men to focus entirely on the mage. Mages are always tricky bastards.

Darting in close, he swung, and was rebuffed by magical shielding. Not surprised in the slightest, it was never that easy (and if it was, it only meant something else was about to go hideously wrong), so he used the momentum from the rebound to spin away from the mage's counter attack, another fireball.

A shield that could block his blade though, would take a good deal of effort, Tenchi knew, especially with the extra effort need to keep on the offensive… Damn. He'd caught sight of a glint just under the man's armor. A power stone. These magic jewels must be worth a hell of a lot more than I thought. A power stone meant he could keep that damn shield up all day and Tenchi doubted they had more than another twenty minutes before reinforcements clouded the skies and descended upon them like the wrath of god…

Which gave Tenchi an idea. He swung his energy blade in a small arc sending smaller blades shooting out of his weapon. Some of them went directly for the mage, mostly to keep him from noticing that some of the blades went into the floor around him, slicing it open. That would be no more than a moment's problem for a mage with a levitation spell, but a couple of the couple of them went up as well, burying the distracted mage in debris.

Turning around, risky if the mage wasn't really out of it, he noted with a smile that Ranma was putting the last of the magically enhanced armored soldiers down.

Ranma gave him a nod and they walked over to the opposite wall from the entrance.

They gazed at it for a moment. "Well, that certainly is a big, thick, door." He glanced at Ranma. "Blow it."

Ranma nodded, and simply touched the thing. "Bakusai Tenketsu!" And that was all it took to shatter the finest vault door on the planet like cheap glass.

Glancing around inside, Tenchi opened the box on the only pedestal there, confirming there were, in fact, three glowing red gems sitting inside. He clapped it shut and stepped out. "Time to go."

They leapt up and out the hole Tenchi had made in the ceiling earlier. Sounds of violence followed.

---

Planet Chicago, Five Years Ago

The sounds of violence rang out over the pockmarked ground that used to be part of the planet of Chicago. In particular, high in the night sky, several ships focused on bringing down a small, brightly lit speck of light that danced through their incoming fire and returned it with equal vigor, though the less agile ships found it difficult to dodge the masses of firepower.

The ships persevered however, seeming to box in the light speck, just before it flashed with even more brilliance for a moment, the consumed the entire battle group surrounding it in a massive ball of energy.

On the ground, two young men, last survivors of their platoon, watched in awe and sadness.

"Grandfather!!"

A young man in a pigtail held back another young man, his hair in a small ponytail.

"Let me go, Ranma!"

Ranma continued to hold Tenchi down. Despite the differences in their hairstyles, they shared the color, black, as well as the color of their eyes, blue. People often mistook the two for brothers, and even though there was no real relation by blood, the two were as close. "I liked the old man too, Tenchi, but he didn't give his life just now so we could waste ours. We need to go. Now."

"But…!"

"The Moon Kingdom is closing in, and we can't fight this war by ourselves, Tenchi! We've lost this battle, and maybe the planet, but we haven't lost the belt yet!"

As Tenchi considered this, Ranma cuffed his slightly younger friend across the back of the head, enough to stun him, but not enough to make him fall fully unconscious, and shouldered him in a fireman's carry as he dashed off through the ruined streets. "We're getting to a transport and getting the hell off this hunk of rock."

---

Now

Ranma and Tenchi, now divested of their silver jumpsuits and back into their usual clothing, moved toward their ship, which was camouflaged in a forest, scanning behind them urgently. Tenchi, it seemed, had been hit somewhere in the escape, as he was pressing into his side with one hand, and leaning on Ranma for support.

Tenchi spotted a familiar face rushing up to them. Ranma tossed the other man the box with their find in it. "Put it somewhere safe, Keiichi. I'm not sure if we were followed or not."

There was a sudden deafening explosion from behind them. Turning back towards the main city of Neo Tokyo, they watched a tall tower go down in flames.

Keiichi sweat dropped. "Uh, I think they have bigger things to worry about than us right now."

"Agreed." With the rustling of some nearby bushes, a harsh faced young man dressed in 'urban' military fatigues carrying a goggled helmet emerged and nodded towards them. "Captain, I believe we should depart now, while their control tower is down."

Tenchi groaned. "Sousuke…" There was a reason they were wanted men, and it was usually less to do with what they'd taken, and more to do with the property damage done by Sousuke Sagara, resident mad bomber. On the flipside, the people chasing them usually had many better things to do than stop them or properly identify them.

Ranma grabbed Tenchi under the arm again and began dragging him into the ship, Sousuke a step behind. "You can yell at him later. Right now we need to get off this planet, the sooner the better."

Tenchi let himself be dragged along into the ship as the bay doors closed behind them. "Still got that bad feeling?"

"Yeah."

"I was afraid of that. Those gems have to be more than just some petty nobleman's treasure to be guarded that heavily. Double cross?"

Ranma nodded as he let Tenchi go. "Double cross."

Tenchi sighed and slapped a hand against a speakered unit on the wall. "Keitaro! We're on! Chaff to full, and let's go!"

The voice came back over the speakers. "On it, Captain!"

There was a coughing noise behind him and Tenchi turned. Seeing who it was, he smiled sheepishly. "Hello, Belldandy."

The brown-haired woman smiled at him. "Hello Captain. I think that side needs treating, don't you?"

Tenchi tried to smile disarmingly. "No, not really. It's just a scratch, really."

Belldandy didn't comment, though her smile faded a bit, and her eyes acquired a bit more steel. Tenchi felt himself wilt inside; this look always made him feel like he was six again. It clearly stated that he would be coming whether he felt like it or not because she knew better than he did.

Tenchi sighed. "Then again, it does hurt a bit. Maybe you should take a look at it."

Belldandy's smile returned. "Of course Captain. Now, do you think you can make it to the infirmary on your own, or should I ask Ranma to carry you?"

Tenchi opted to walk. He knew when he was beaten.

---

The light gray Falcon class ship, named for it's distinctly bird-of-prey silhouette, rose gently from the forest floor, before it's main thrusters, concealed in the wings, activated, sending it streaking into the clouds, emitting a subtle glow from all around it, the result of the electronic chaff.

The electronic chaff was a poor man's stealth system. While a true stealth module would conceal the ship from nearly everything, the electronic chaff would simply prevent scanning systems from getting more than the silhouette, and the Falcon class was a popular design.

This was not to say that even with this added to Sousuke's 'distraction', everything was smooth sailing.

---

Keitaro Urashima, or 'K2' as he was known to some of his shipmates, truly loved only two things in life. Archeology, and piloting ships. This was not to say he was particularly good at either one, but they were his loves in life. Currently he was piloting, that was good. For him.

Not so good for others.

Keitaro adjusted his glasses as he hummed quietly to himself; absently dodging force bolts from Silver Alliance destroyers by only the narrowest of margins.

Of course, while he was concentrating on dodging the energy fire, he completely forgot to dodge the enemy ships. The left wing slammed into the much larger ship's hull, knocking the Falcon class ship silly, but amazingly doing no real damage to the smaller ship's superstructure.

The Alliance commanders could only watch in disbelief as the tumbling ship still managed to evade all direct fire while tumbling helplessly.

Keitaro made another attempt to right the ship, but only succeeded in bouncing off another ship, this one a carrier, and the rebound carried them through a scattering wing of deploying fighters.

---

Ranma sipped from a mug and watched out the window, the inner scene strangely still compared to the acrobatics the ships were doing outside. He glanced at Keiichi. "And you said that I was crazy for insisting on military class stabilizers for the grav generator."

Keiichi shrugged sheepishly.

---

After bouncing around another ten patrol ships like a demented ping pong ball, Keitaro finally got the Falcon class vessel righted again, still with no structural damage from the impacts, or scoring from blaster fire.

The Silver Alliance ships, on the other hand, had shot down one of their own destroyers, six patrollers, and the second wing of fighters had jammed up the launch deck on the carrier.

Keitaro's piloting was best described as 'crack-head on amphetamines with the luck of a thousand gods'. He flipped on the drive core and they vanished into subspace, double-timing it for Mars.

Setting the autopilot, disabling the chaff, and turning off the camouflage, Keitaro wandered out of the cockpit to get some food and his books.

He really had to study if he wanted to get that correspondence degree in archeology.

The Falcon class vessel continued on in sub-space, loosing the light glow. On its forward bow, a panel flipped itself over, revealing the ship's legal markings. The logo in the center was like a stylized sun, a half circle with several triangles leading off. Though there was a long bar next to it leading off towards the rear of the ship, leading one to wonder if the ship's name, the Morning Star referred to sunrise, or the weapon.

---

Tenchi sighed, which Belldandy ignored as she wove energy over and around Tenchi's wound, muttering under her breath in the fashion of mortal magicians. Belldandy was not a magician, at least not a mortal one. She was actually, in fact, a genuine goddess, though she had to admit that her husband's idea to pass herself off as a mortal mage certainly helped keep that little fact a secret.

Smiling, she examined the wound once more, making sure that it was healing correctly. Often the largest problem she faced was making sure that she didn't overdo something, there being limits to what terrestrial mages could do. In this case, she was not examining that there would be no complications, so much as to make sure that she hadn't overdone it and simply caused the wound to vanish suddenly.

Smiling at her efforts, she straightened herself and addressed the Captain. "All done, Captain. Please come back and see me if anything unexpected happens."

Tenchi nodded. "Sure. Thanks, Belldandy."

Belldandy followed him out; it was almost time for her to begin preparing dinner.

---

Belldandy hummed quietly to herself as she flitted about the kitchen area preparing meals as best she could. She truly enjoyed cooking in addition to her role as the ship's doctor. Her main love in life was caring for living things, and in her free time she could often be found in the small garden area she'd crafted in one of the spare rooms on the ship.

She paused in her cooking and handed a smiling Keitaro a plate with a few sandwiches on it as he retreated to his bunk. The ship's pilot nodded gratefully, and gave her a warm smile before completely vanishing.

Belldandy had seen many things in her years as a goddess. She was an employee of the Goddess Relief office. While her current marriage to Keiichi was the result of one wish – not that she would change it for anything – there had been other wishes before that. And wishes, she knew well, always had a purpose behind them, and could even change the shape of the universe as they knew it.

She herself had granted the wish. In the darkest hour of the Moon Kingdom, she had gone to the Queen Serenity and granted her a wish for her tireless and selfless efforts, and the Queen had wished for the war with Beryl's Earth to end and her kingdom the be preserved.

The wish had been granted and the seeds of the universe as they knew it had been planted. With Beryl's forces crushed, a sort of renaissance had begun. And along with the improvement in arts and technology came other matters, like those of overcrowding and excessive populations.

In an effort to combat this, Serenity's finest minds had proposed and implemented the solution. The largest chunks of the asteroid belt had been dragged out beyond Pluto. Once there, teams of mages went to work casting revolutionary spells that gathered space dust around the asteroids transforming them and terra-forming them, creating new worlds for colonization, The Belt Worlds.

But, wishes or not, nothing stays peaceful forever. In a bit of irony, Serenity realized this, and it started the next Great War.

The Moon Kingdom had over extended itself when creating the new planets, and thus were forced to let the settlers fend for themselves. By the time they got back out to exert their authority, the Beltworlders wanted nothing of it.

Fearing another war from the hardened Colonists, The Moon Kingdom developed the Cleansing. The Cleansing was a way of making people happy – with magic. The people of the Belt were shocked, horrified and rebelled.

Serenity put off using the Cleansing until her kingdom was unified again. As much as it pained her, her soldiers would need those emotions, and their weapons, for battle.

The war was brief, but bloody, and in the end, the Moon Kingdom won, evolving into the Silver Alliance.

At that point, Serenity put the cleansing into action, first on Earth. It was a disaster that Belldandy often wondered if she could have prevented somehow. Most reacted just as predicted and were happy, productive citizens… but some of the people were so attached to their darker emotions that it twisted the magic behind them and changed them into things worse than the most powerful Youma at Beryl's command.

In panic, Serenity sealed Earth off, the once beautiful planet an angry black and red orb that destroyed anything that got too close to it.

She smiled and shook her thoughts off as Keiichi and his friends wandered into the dining area, even Keitaro putting off his studies and his earlier snack in favor of the camaraderie and friendliness of the table.

Belldandy's smile grew as she kissed her husband on the cheek and sat down with the dishes floating into place.

This was as close to home as she could get out in space.

---

Planet Mars, Ares – East Side

Tenchi, followed by Ranma and Sousuke, all of them visibly armed, walked down the streets, Ranma carrying the small box with their cargo in it. They were visibly armed because you can't just wear a sign declaring you can shoot energy out of your hands, and needed something to discourage trouble. This wasn't exactly the bright and cheery part of the Mars' capital.

"So where exactly are we supposed to meet this guy?"

Tenchi grimaced. "That warehouse across the street there."

Ranma frowned. "That's ah… a little run down, isn't it?"

Sousuke nodded. "Yes. A good place for a clandestine operation. Especially given the high numbers of Silver Alliance troops here."

Ranma glanced at Sousuke sideways as they crossed the street. "I'm not saying it isn't. And yer right. There were a lot of troops, even for the capital, I'm just saying-"

"You've got a bad feeling about this. I know." Tenchi sighed. "Believe me, I know. But you can't just go being all doom and gloom all the time Ranma. Sometimes things do go right for us…"

Tenchi opened the door. Inside were a bunch of heavily armed shady looking guys around a large high-tech looking crate. "But apparently not today."

Tenchi thought fast, not wanting to do anything to spoil his payoff. He addressed the men on the other side of the room. "Look, guys… You obviously have your own things to deal with, so we'll just wait quietly over here in this corner and wait for our contact, and you wait over there. That way, no one has to get hurt and we all go home happy, okay?"

The men on the other side of the room didn't look like they liked that idea, and started raising their weapons.

---

Planet Mars, Ares – Docks

Morisato Keiichi smiled at his wife briefly where she relaxed next to the ship's loading ramp, before returning his attention to the dock mechanic. He looked again at the form in his hands wondering just what he should allow to looked at by professionals and what he should have ordered and do himself once they were back in the air, an especially hard choice with the false bottom on their ship concealing Sousuke's Arm Slave, not mention the reversible panel with their ship's registry on it.

Sighing again, he signed off on everything to be delivered for him to do himself. It wasn't like they had a lot of money to spare, and bribing the maintenance crew to ignore the irregularities was a hassle that they could do without.

He also resigned himself to doing everything himself again, perhaps with a little of Belldandy's help in those hard to reach spots. It wasn't that he wouldn't get plenty of help if he asked for it; it was that his crewmates were all horribly inept with mechanical devices. Well, except Sousuke, but they had enough problems slipping through customs without Sousuke adding gun ports everywhere, thanks.

Thanking the man and turning back to the ship he saw Belldandy ushering a young man aboard with his suitcase. Catching up to her he smiled. "Who was that?"

"Shinji Ikari."

Keiichi smiled. "Well, Tenchi did tell us to see if we could pick up some passengers for the next run out to the Belt. Where's he headed?"

Belldandy sighed. "Tokyo 3, supposedly."

Keiichi frowned. "Supposedly?"

"He's running, Keiichi. Anywhere that isn't here will do for him. And the fact that we're leaving in under two hours certainly helped him decide."

Keiichi blinked. "Running from what?"

Belldandy shook her head. "I'm not certain. But he needs us. And we'll need him."

Keiichi's eyebrows rose. Belldandy, as the Norn of the Present, couldn't exactly see the future, but any of the Norns could sense a person's general purpose if it was strong enough, given that they measured the strands of fate. But for Belldandy to know these things was one thing. To talk about it was quite another.

"Need?"

She smiled sadly. "I'm not sure. But I know."

Keiichi nodded, and wrapped an arm around her waist. They'd deal with it when they had to, as they always did.

---

Things were tense in the warehouse. Not that Tenchi harbored any doubts as to their ability to take out the people of the other side of the room, but he'd really rather avoid the mess and attention if possible.

Just when things started to look like someone would make the first move though, another person entered the room.

"Enough, gentlemen!"

Tenchi winced, recognizing their contact, Kagato. He hoped the blue haired man wasn't about to get himself killed. Luckily, the armed group on the other side lowered their weapons as the robed man approached them.

Kagato pushed his spectacles back up onto his nose more fully. "I apologize to all of you for not telling you the other group would be here, but each of you retrieved one half of what I needed – and I didn't want the Alliance informed should any of you be captured. But you all did splendidly, and so, again, I do apologize."

Kagato quickly exchanged money with the leader of the men around the crate and they left just as quickly. Beginning to feel like things were looking up again, though he was a little suspicious of the guys who left still, Tenchi motioned to Ranma and they walked over to the man, Sousuke remaining where he was, ready to act.

Feeling better about the situation didn't mean they were planning on being caught off guard again.

About halfway across, though, Kagato pressed something on the side of the crate and it began lighting up and hissing. This was unremarkable, given that he was doing it in plain sight of them, but as it happened, the box in Ranma's hands shattered as well.

The three gems flew forward towards the crate, but Ranma was faster, grabbing two of them before they could get too far from him. Unfortunately, he missed the third gem, not having a third hand, and straining too much with the other two to transfer one to another hand in time.

Kagato, however, only leaned back and smiled as the gem passed by him, melting a hole in the crate as it passed by. "Ah. Excellent. They are the real gems. I was half afraid the information I'd given you was wrong and there were only fakes in that facility. You may release the other gems."

Tenchi held up his hand. "Our money?"

Kagato smiled. "Oh. Of course." He pulled a second bag of money out from under his robe and tossed it to them.

Tenchi looked inside, and nodded to Ranma who released the gems with some visible relief. They quickly followed the first.

Kagato smiled and looked at the crate again, seeming to completely dismiss them. "Ah… Now she will be reborn… RYOKO!"

Tenchi stiffened and both Ranma Sousuke reacted to him in the background, knowing something was up. Tenchi's grandfather had told stories when Tenchi was a child about the vicious demon who had assaulted all the planets of the Jurai Empire before finally being brought down over Mars.

Shit.

The crate exploded in a haze of red power, and a figure was visible inside. Ryoko was, Tenchi decided, a very beautiful woman, what with her spiky cyan locks, curvy figure, and red and black body suit. But that didn't do anything to suppress the feeling of fear he got from her sheer power.

Kagato's grin turned quickly to the insane as he pulled another device from his robe. "And now, creature, you will come back under my control."

Ranma, it figured, didn't even seem to realize the danger he was putting himself in as he dashed between Kagato and Ryoko, a small ki blast incinerating the machine.

Kagato gaped at his hand for a moment, then glared at Ranma. "You dare…! After what I paid you…"

Ranma grinned. "Yeah. You paid us to get those gems for ya. You got 'em. But you didn't pay me to let ya take advantage of a cute girl like that – not that I'd take that kinda job."

Tenchi gulped, not really knowing who to support in this instance. Ranma, who was against their very insane client, or Kagato, who despite his insanity, might have a backup control device in that robe somewhere to keep the demon from killing them all.

The tension of the situation, however, was dispersed, when Ryoko vanished suddenly, only to appear right behind Ranma and throw her arms around his neck, molding her body against his back. "Aw… isn't that sweet? He cares about me." One of the hands casually detached itself from Ranma's neck and blasted Kagato out through a hole in the wall. Ryoko kissed Ranma on the cheek. "Thanks, cutie." Then she followed Kagato out. "Get back here, asshole!"

Tenchi, Ranma, and Sousuke looked at each other for a long, long, moment. Finally Tenchi spoke. "Well, at least we got paid."

Sousuke nodded. "Affirmative. The best course of action would be to return to the Morning Star and depart immediately."

Ranma nodded. "Yeah. This place has too many crazy chicks floating around."

Tenchi nodded. "Let's go."

The three men exited the warehouse, only to find the shady men from earlier standing out there. The man who was probably their leader leered at them. "We'll be taking your half of the loot how."

"Shit."

Violence ensued.

---

Tenchi whistled happily as he and his crew walked back towards the Morning star. They'd escaped without Alliance patrols catching on to the fight, without injury, and with the other guy's half of the loot, their just rewards for having their own half nearly taken from them. Life was on an upswing, Tenchi felt.

If Tenchi had been paying any sort of attention at all to the patterns of the last few days, he would have immediately groaned. Good things had only been followed by very bad things.

He was immediately slammed into by another man, and the two dropped. Tenchi scrambled to his feet, making sure he still had the moneybag, when he noted that he'd been slammed into by his own pilot.

"Keitaro?! What the hell?" Outside of flight, Keitaro tended to be rather level headed.

Urashima looked up. "Captain! Um… look. Let's just get the hell out of here, okay? They'll be on us any second now!"

Tenchi nodded, and Ranma picked the pilot up, and the four men began high tailing it for their ship.

Ranma grumbled as they hustled along. "So… who are we running from, exactly?"

Keitaro blushed a little. "Uh… well, you see…"

Keitaro didn't finish his mumbling, as at that moment, a building behind them was destroyed and an Arm Slave slid out of the rubble. The least peculiar about it was the distinctive three-eyed crest on the torso, and that was pretty rare in and of itself. The back of the torso was covered in a huge shell, and it looked like there were miniature missile silos back there if the warheads sticking up were any indication.

Tenchi groaned as he caught sight of the crest. "Mol-Mol? How did you piss off Mol-Mol? They're one of the easiest going peoples in the system!"

"Not all of Mol-Mol, just one of the princesses…" Keitaro's voice was weak with shame as he blushed.

Seeing the Arm-Slave charging up its energy cannon, Sousuke intervened. "I would suggest taking evasive action now, and interrogating Urashima later."

Ranma nodded. "Seconded. Break!"

All three, Ranma still carrying the nervously sweating pilot, scattered, letting the energy round explode a few feet ahead of where they were. Ranma noted the bright purple color with a bit of surprise. Stun bolts? Not goin' for a kill then… Seeing the ten-meter robot refocus itself on him in favor of his compatriots, Ranma left ground level and took to the rooftops in an effort to slow the thing down.

Down on ground level, Tenchi stared, and wondered just how this kept happening to them as he got off the com to K1, telling him to get the Morning Star ready for emergency take off.

Sighing, he summoned his energy blade, and closed, hoping he could keep the machine occupied long enough to wring Keitaro's neck personally.

Closing to the mecha's leg, he swung, knowing that there wasn't a heck of a lot that could be done to fully stop the machine, but that he might he able to limit its mobility a bit. His sword slashed though the armor with little difficulty, but Tenchi wasn't sure if he'd hit anything vital inside.

Tenchi didn't think so, given that the machine swung around pretty easily, not in response to anything he did, but because Ranma was circling around them, hoping to limit the zone of destruction.

Tenchi caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and spotted Sousuke rushing away from the mecha. Cursing under his breath, Tenchi bolted as well.

Sure enough, the Arm Slave's left leg, the one Tenchi hadn't been slicing into with little effect, blew off at the knee and the entire thing tumbled to the ground.

It's external speakers activated for the first time, and a female voice yelled aloud. "ARRGH! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MECHATAMA DOWN! MECHATAMA DOWN!"

Ranma finally jumped down from the rooftops. Keitaro caught his breath from over Ranma's shoulder and smiled sheepishly. "Thanks guys-"

Ranma interrupted. "Shut it. Let's just go."

Tenchi sighed. "Yeah. Before anything else happens."

---

The crew crowded into the somewhat spacious cockpit as Keitaro shot them like a bat out of hell right out of Martian orbit.

Tenchi collapsed into the co-pilot's chair and sighed. "So why, exactly, are you being chased by a companion's guild?"

Keitaro shrugged. "I, well, my grandmother wants me to run the place. And I don't really want to do that. I want to be an archeologist."

Pretty much every male in the solar system would have looked at Keitaro like he'd lost his mind for not wanting to run a Companion Guild in place of digging through the dirt. Given, however that pretty much every exception to that rule was right on board the ship with him, they just nodded for him to continue.

"But, Grandma'a pretty stubborn and set in her ways. None of the girls even liked me when I was there for the first few days just to tell her no, but she's… insisted. So no matter what any of us wants, they have to hunt me down to inherit the place." Keitaro paused. "Well, the only person who did want me there other than Grandma was my adopted sister, but… that's an entirely different problem."

Sousuke frowned to himself for a moment before speaking. "Given that soldiers tend to closely ally themselves with the Guilds, we should expect a great deal of trouble with Alliance patrols – especially given that Urashima is registered as the pilot of this ship."

Tenchi swore. "He's right, folks. Never mind the stealing we've done recently, or setting Ryoko loose, every Alliance soldier in the system will be hunting us down like dogs for messing with their… recreation. We need to be elsewhere for a while."

"Um… could we maybe go to the Jurai Empire?"

Tenchi's head snapped up, his sword forming, and Ranma pointed a glowing palm while Sousuke leveled his handgun – none of them recognized the voice.

Keiichi blushed. "Ah ha… sorry guys. I forgot to mention we picked up a passenger. This is Shinji Ikari."

Shinji Ikari was a short, nearly emaciated boy who looked like he couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper sack. He also looked like he was going to wet himself from the weapons being pointed his way.

Fortunately, Belldandy intervened before things got ugly. "Now, now. Shinji is just trying to be helpful." Even Sousuke managed to look embarrassed as Belldandy gently reprimanded them.

Tenchi nodded to the boy. "Sorry, kid. What's that about Jurai. It is a bit out there, but…"

Shinji blushed a little. "Well, it's where I was going to try to book passage to after Tokyo 3, so I thought maybe I could ride out there with you guys?"

Tenchi sighed. The kid had a point. "Fair enough, Shinji. And it's not a bad idea either, to get completely out of Alliance space for the moment." He looked around. "What do you guys think?"

Ranma grinned. "Anywhere but Nerima's fine with me."

"A tactical retreat is the wisest course of action."

Keitaro looked nothing short of ecstatic. "Hey there are some great ruins out in Jurai space! Maybe we can go take a look at-"

Tenchi interrupted him. "We'll see. Anyone actually object?"

Nobody said anything.

"Okay… off to Jurai."