A/N: again thanks for proof from James Axelrad. Also a few comments. Ranma will be appearing and he is a large part of the story, this is a long story to tell. This is a completely original universe I've created and the similarities with others are just coincidental. I plan to bring in a good portion of the Ranma characters into the story and none of them should have small parts.
Thanks for the reviews.
It was with a painful moan that she had awoken, her abdomen was killing her and she hoped now literally. Cracking her eyes opened she looked towards her desk finding Sinfa perched there sitting on the edge kicking her feet while wearing a schoolgirl outfit. She was also glaring stubbornly.
"Time to get up!" Sinfa demanded. Ranko rolled over to ignore her only to be assaulted by the same voice blaring at three times louder.
"Ok! Ok! I'm getting up…" Ranko complained and did as she said. Slipping out of bed she removed her skin suit and tossed it on her desk flattening Sinfa below it who complained loudly at the cruelty of the act causing Ranko's to smile.
Weakly she entered her shower and activated it. As the water began to cascade over her body she looked down past her breasts to the angry mosaic of blacks and blues that had been painted across the entirety of her abdomen. Frowning she hoped it wouldn't effect her performance today as she suspected yesterday had been the only breath of fresh air any of the class was going to be allowed under the supervision of Brigs.
Falling back against the wall of the shower she let out a shallow breath and brought her hands to her breasts, shamelessly caressing them. It felt so nice to relax like this drowning in a steamy downpour of oiled water. After the events of yesterday she had been eagerly waited to return to her shower and now here, back within it, she purred as it soothed her aching wound making the day seem so worth it. Even the fight with Akane.
"Shower Hotter." She grimaced as the heat in the alcove became suffocating, the water burned across her skin like fire and forcing its warmth so deep inside her body that it warmed her bones. Sighing in bliss she opened her eyes only to gasp startled at finding Sinfa hovering over her glaring. She was wearing a rain suit along with an umbrella, her image being projected from a holo projector in the ceiling.
"You're going to be late!" Sinfa snapped.
"I haven't been in here that long, get out!" Ranko cried and covered herself with one arm while she swatted Sinfa who dematerialized with the other. "Are you some kind of pervert!?"
"You have been showering ten minutes, if you don't leave immediately you will be late." Sinfa complained though a comm Ranko wasn't even aware existed inside the shower and for that matter she wasn't aware there had been a holo projector as well. Blushing furiously at being caught doing something so intimate she shut she shower off, paid the usage fee, and stomped out.
Casting a glare at her skin suit that still trapped Sinfa below it; she retrieved the self drying towel of her desk. She had bought it yesterday on her way home after parting ways with Nabiki. Wrapping the towel around herself she began to dry off enjoying the soft friction the fabric gave as it absorbed the water still dripping from her.
"Don't ever do that again!" Ranko complained loudly face still burning brightly. Sinfa gave no reply but she was sure she understood. It took her a few minutes to dry, her hair taking most of that time but she would not have it any other way. There was something so much more satisfying about putting an effort into her morning routine instead of letting some colonist designed tech pamper her.
Nodding at a job well done she folded the soaked towel and tossed it on her desk, it would be dry again in an hour. She retrieved her skin suit and slipped it on quickly bringing a wince as it aggravated her stomach. Once she had reattached all her accessories she left her room Sinfa reappearing and sat on her shoulder wearing a skin suit that looked exactly like her own.
"If you don't take the glow ways you will be late for sure." Sinfa explained casually. It was a welcome change from the range of mocking and cutesy attitudes Ranko had to put up with since the upgrade.
"Guess I'll be late." Ranko sighed and was in the middle of doing up her hair once more. Even if she had the wound it was no excuse to take it easy. Hair tied, she started off with a jog that quickly increased to a brisk run. Each movement bringing fireworks of pain but she grinned and bared it like she had always done.
"Brigs didn't seem like a nice man." Sinfa spoke worriedly still sitting on her shoulder. "He said you would be in trouble if you where last again. You shouldn't be late."
"I can handle him." Ranko growled as she came out on a familiar walkway, the one she had leapt from the day before but in her condition she didn't want to risk it and regrettably continued on to the stairs some ways farther along the walkway.
The rest of the way was spent in silence; by the time she had reached the frame training room she was several minutes late. Breathing deeply she slowed and strolled in where the students, like the day before, were lined up and staring. Brigs had his arms crossed and looked as mad as hell.
"I believe I told you if you where last again there would be consequences." Brigs spoke dangerously in a deep slow voice. "Do you have a reason for being last again Saotome, or an excuse why you are late?"
"Nope." Ranko answered but then decided to add cheekily. "Got carried away in the shower."
Brigs eyes narrowed and she could have sworn she heard a bone cracking in his knuckles even from this distance. Many of the students gave her queer looks a few confused while other where obviously thinking in the gutter and snickered. She noticed Akane and Nabiki again not to far away. Akane didn't look her way while Nabiki wore a smile she didn't think was at all related to her comment.
"Get in line Saotome." Brigs ordered finely. Not wanted to lose what appeared to be a free pass she quickly found a place in line. Maybe old Brigs weren't such a hard ass after all she thought.
"Room lockdown." Brigs barked and waited for the blast doors to seal. "Unlike yesterday, today you are going to sweat and you are going to bleed. Combat training ladies and gentlemen; I don't care if you haven't thrown a single punch once in your life. Today you are going to learn how to fight like it or not.
Once you frame up you will be paired up with a partner and you are going to fight. If you choose not to fight I warn you, you're still going to get hit. Know that there are no rules. Fighting is not about honor and fairness it's about winning. Now suit up and pick a partner, if you don't I'll choose one for you." Brigs finished loudly.
Ranko was one of the first to break ranks and hunt down a call plate for the frame tubes. From the sound of it a lot of the students weren't happy about today's lesson and she noted that, as she passed, the sensitive girl from yesterday almost looked in tears. Rolling her eyes she stomped on a pad and a tube slide up from the floor.
Stepping inside the tube it closed around her and she waited for something the happen until a holo projection before her blinked to life giving her a time till her frame would arrived. How did brigs expect them to learn combat training from fighting each other? She doubted less then five of the dozens of students present had ever trained in martial arts.
Waiting impatiently she rubbed her abdomen and frowned, despite being sore, it was also becoming quite tender. With any luck she would be paired with someone who didn't know how to fight and make it easer on her, otherwise she was going to have to be careful and protect this weakness carefully.
Suddenly the indicator blinked off and the floor parted, once more the arms lifted and like before served no purpose she could see. Her frame that had melted off her last time was creeping up from the darkness below like some kind of alien blob with thick tentacle like arms wrapping around her legs. Once it had made contact it spread out over her sucking itself up and around her limbs at surprising speeds till after only a few moments her frame had reformed around her exactly as it had been the day before.
After the arms vanished she left the tube, many of the other students were doing the same, and after a few minutes everyone was ready. Deciding to see if anyone would pick her as a partner she returned to the area where they had lined up and waited. Only a few of the students picked partners and she thought the pairs must be friends at how they interacted with one anther.
"Everyone framed? Good!" Brigs barked. "If you don't have a partner find one, except you Saotome. You're with me." Ranko figured she had a penalty from being late after all and the gasps that arose from every student in the room made a feeling of dread appear. Even Akane and Nabiki wore startled looks; she had made a note to keep her eyes on them since yesterday. This definitely wasn't good.
With the heavy feeling settling into her bones she wordlessly closed the distance between her and Brigs who continued to bark at students who where reluctant to find a partner and paired them up forcefully. Crossing her arms she waited, but it didn't take long to straighten the others out and in moments Brigs was standing before her staring down menacingly.
"Now that you're paired up you're going to fight. But first I think it's best to demonstrate what combat truly is." The grin Brigs favored her with was one she didn't like. He wasn't wearing a frame to her relief, but in her condition she figured he still had the advantage.
"Line up and watch!" Brigs ordered and Ranko watched as the students took their places in their assigned pairs. Great… first Akane makes an example of her, now Brigs was going to do the same, but this time he was going to making a lesson of it.
He started the fight coming straight at her without any warning and with a massive fist which she dodged, rolling to the side as she spun while trying to kick his legs out. He had seen though the action and braced him legs to absorb it, the action rendering all her momentum gone and vulnerable to attack in her crouched position.
Giving her no room to recover he kicked out towards her face which she leaned back to avoid and pushed of with her hands in a propelled hand stand. Unlike their fight before he choose to close the distance with a lightning fast knee to her gut. She had been slow in her escape and Brigs was more then happy to exploit the mistake, she had no chance to avoid.
The impact was strong and her tender wound amplified its potency a hundred fold. She might as well have been naked for all the protection her frame offered this venerable area. She stumbled backwards on shaky legs that gave out as she collapsed unable to breathe, eyes filling with tears of pain. After a few moments she was finely able to inhale a ragged breath and grit her teeth.
Brigs didn't allow her much time to recover as a massive hand wrapped around her neck and roughly dragged her to her feet pulling her face inches from his. Opening her teary eyes she glared a painful sneer at him, his own face contorted in what was a mixture of rage and disgust.
"You're still injured from yesterday, why haven't you visited a med center?" He growled. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the students whispering worriedly and a few where even loud enough for her to hear.
"She didn't go to the med center after that? Is she some sort of idiot?"
"I don't even know how she lived."
"Serves her right, she's a spacer after all."
"Slipped my mind sorry." Ranko replied hoarsely as the fierce pain that continued to pulse though her like concussion bombs. Brigs griped suddenly tightened around her neck nearly choking her.
"Do you think this is some sort of game?" The anger in Brigs voice had raised a notch as he spoke down to her. "Think you're a tuff guy?"
"I'm not some colonist that needs to run to the med center after scraping their knee." Ranko jeered and felt she shouldn't have said it at the expression she was rewarded.
"Ah? Is that so?" Brigs raised an eye brow losing all his anger. "Well then by all means let us continue."
The fist came out of nowhere slamming into her face and rocketing her backwards. Somehow she had managed to keep her balance which only served to allow Brigs full reign over her as he began to use her like a target dummy. She quickly lost track of the punches and kicks that continuously rained down on her, no way to defend herself. She was a rag doll before the might of this bastard as he beat and broke her body.
Sometime later the blows stopped and she was surprised to find herself still standing, if bearably and leaning heavily forward on her knees. She felt numb and dazed, the thick iron taste of her blood clearing it somewhat as blood dripping and pouring from a gash over her eye. Looking up she smirked at Brig's indifferent expression.
"Tendo, Nabiki,. Please escort Saotome to the med center and tend to her 'scraped knee'." Brigs ordered.
"That's ok sir, all I need is a band-aid." Ranko grinned weakly before coughing up some blood. Damn him, he went for her abdomen again, didn't he? Her whole body was numb and she couldn't tell where the damage was but she was sure Brigs had made a point of doing a number on her.
Despite her words Brigs turned away and began to address the students who looked positively terrified. Most of them stared at her in horror even the one who had voiced his opinion on spacers. It was most likely none of them had ever witnessed such a brutal beating and no doubt served as an eye opener for half of them, exactly like she thought, colonists where weak. Distracted by the crowed she failed to notice Nabiki till she had wordlessly came to her side and collected her in her arms like some newlywed,
"What the hell do you think your doing?" Ranko spat before breaking down into painful coughing. "Put me down I can walk."
"You can't walk. If you could I wouldn't be carrying you." Nabiki replied mater of fact, looking up, Ranko found Nabiki to be pale. Even Nabiki was affected by the fight; perhaps she overestimated the vibe she got from her the other day.
"Put me down and I'll prove it." Ranko growled but Nabiki didn't take the bait.
"Move your legs then. If you can walk you can move and kick your legs while I'm carrying you." Nabiki challenged and Ranko eagerly accepted. Gritting her teeth she tried with all her will but only succeeded in barely wiggling them. Feeling a sudden flash of anger and humility at the situation she now found herself in she glared hatefully at Nabiki as if she had caused it.
"Your bodies in shock" Nabiki explained. "It's also why you can't feel how much shit you just had beaten out of you. I'm amazed your even conscience after something like that."
"I'm not a weak colonist is why." Ranko replied hotly and turned to see most of the students where staring after her still as Nabiki carried her from the training room. Brigs was going to pay for this humiliation.
"If being a spacer means you have to put up with that sort of thing I'm glad I'm a colonist." Nabiki replied neutrally, but Ranko felt it was an attack on her people.
"And that's why you're a colonist because none of you have any backbone of willpower to survive in space. You're all weak." Ranko spoke hatefully but once again Nabiki refused to take the bait.
"You may be right." Nabiki spoke simply. Ranko never knew someone agreeing with her could anger her so deeply, she wanted to reach up and strangle Nabiki but her arms lay limp on her chest.
"Why the hell did Brigs have you of all people escort me huh?" Ranko closed her eyes feeling increasingly dizzy losing interest in trying to start an argument.
"Because my frame is tuned for intelligence gathering including medical scanning, it makes me the best candidate for dealing with injured frame operators. The men in charge of the frame complex want to see how far my frame can evolve in the medical field so every time there's an injury I'm tasked with dealing with them." Nabiki explained.
"Sounds like a bunch of bull to me." Ranko sighed as her body began to tingle and her injuries began to reveal themselves, she didn't like the alarming number of them she was finding.
"I warned you this would happen." Sinfa suddenly appeared sitting cross legged on Ranko's forehead again wearing the same skin suit as her owner. The sudden appearance startled Nabiki; Ranko could tell by the tightening of her arms.
"Shut up." Ranko felt a headache coming on.
"Next time don't spend so much time in the shower." Sinfa continued. The comment made Nabiki give a small laugh.
"So you weren't lying? Nabiki asked and Ranko felt another stab of embarrassment. If it wasn't enough she was being carried around like some child, now Nabiki thought her little joke had been real and that she had been doing something lewd. Before Ranko could counter Sinfa spoke quickly.
"Nope, she was all over herself!" Sinfa clarified.
Ranko growled with the painful effort it took to slap a hand over her I.D., effectively killing the holo projection of Sinfa in the process. "I was tending to my wound." Ranko lied fiercely as her face felt on fire. When she was alone with Sinfa they where going to have a very long talk about this.
Nabiki didn't make another comment and they remained silent as they continued in silence all the way to the med center that was closer then Ranko had suspected. Entering a long corridor Ranko noted a dozen or more doorways. Every room completely bare of detail except for a single long table in the center of each.
Walking into the furthest most room Nabiki placed her down on a table and then retreating to the door, passing an arm over a panel beside it. Ranko thought it was to call the med center staff till the door sealed itself with only the pair of them inside.
"We are going to have to get you out of that Frame." Nabiki explained as she came to her side once more and began to tap away at a holo interface that had appeared on the edge of the table.
"What, you're going to treat me?" Ranko scoffed.
"Don't trust me?" Nabiki countered and continued to type away at the interface.
"Got that right, and how do I know you even know what your doing?" Ranko complained.
"Well seeing as you can't move I don't think it maters if you can trust me or not. As for knowing what I'm doing, you will just have to wait and see." Nabiki smirked and stopped typing just as a panel beside the table slid away and familiar mechanical arms rose, the ones from inside the frame tubes.
"Just what are those for anyways?" Ranko asked as her suit began to melt like before and slip of the table oozing into the pit.
"What the hell?" Nabiki was staring at her completely confused.
"Huh?" Ranko blinked back. Nabiki was staring after her suit in confused shock. Once the suit had vanished along with the arms the expression still remained.
"That's not suppose to happen." Nabiki spoke more to herself then to Ranko. "I've never seen a frame do that before."
"Whatever." Ranko sighed as it was becoming painful the breath, the shock of her body wearing through and her injury's beginning to scream. "You going to treat me or not?"
Nabiki shook off her surprise and began to tap away at the interface again commanding a holo grid to appear throughout the room along with many floating displays showing various vital statistics on Ranko and her condition.
"Did your frame do the same thing in the training room chambers?" Nabiki asked.
"Yea, didn't see anything wrong with it." Ranko grit her teeth and tried not to let out a painful moan. God Brigs really did do a number on her she thought as several beams of light began to crisscross over her body scanning her injuries in detail.
"How was it put back on?" Nabiki continued much to Ranko's annoyance.
"The same way it came off! ahh!" Ranko sucked in a sudden breath of air as her outburst aggravated pretty much every injury she had. Panting lightly she quickly controlled the spasms of pain and tried to relax while waiting for whatever it was Nabiki had intended to do. The truth was, this would be her very first visit to a med center, at least what colonists consider a med center.
Spacer med centers where more practical and relied on old technologies as colonists always loved to complain about. Most of it was nanite based used to treat burns, bind open wounds, and strengthen broken bones. It was often painful to administer but the effects where second to none even among colonist standards.
"We are going to have to remove your skin suit as well.' Nabiki frowned as her interface informed her.
"Like hell." Ranko growled threateningly.
"Your injuries are deep. We can't treat them with your suit on." Nabiki explained but Ranko refused to listen. As Nabiki reached over her to try and remove her suit Ranko struggled.
"Stop it your only going to aggravate your injuries and it's not like I haven't seen you naked before." Nabiki growled reminding her of the customs and registration office. Ranko was momentarily stunned at hearing that and gave her the opportunity she needed to quickly unbind her skin suit.
Ranko turned her head away with a look promising death as she admitted defeat, allowing Nabiki to tug away at her suit slowly removing it. She tried to ignore all the intimate places Nabiki's hands came across as they tugging the skin tight suit from her limp body. She didn't need to look up to feel Nabiki's eyes on her drinking in every detail as the suit slowly vanished, revealing her tender damaged flesh and she couldn't help but growl softly never having felt so exposed and vulnerable in her life.
Once the suit had been fully removed Nabiki stood at her side and retrieved a glove like device that had descended from the ceiling which was attached to a pulsing cord of light. Slipping it on, the light began to pulse through the glove as well, flowing like veins.
"I can't believe you didn't get this taken care off." Nabiki's voice was soft and accusing as she placed the glove on her black and blue abdomen, its touch warm and soothing, and began to caress in a small circles. Ranko refused to response as she tightened her fists and continued to look away defiantly as if trying to ignore the situation all together.
Time seemed to lose its meaning as she lay there with Nabiki caressing her in a way she could only describe as intimate. Whatever the device did, it was doing it, her abdomen was growing warm and it seemed as if the heat itself was burning away the pain. Instead of growing relaxed by it, she only found herself become more and more tense with each passing second.
"Are you done yet?" Ranko bit out with hostility and gritted her teeth. She wanted to be out of this room as soon as possible and away for this woman.
"You're really hurt. It's going to take some time." Nabiki replied with a sigh.
"I think its good enough. We're done." Ranko countered and tried to sitting up regardless of the shooting pain that sprang through her mid-section as if it had never been touched by the device.
"What the hell are you doing?" Nabiki snapped and pushed her back down forcefully with hand and glove on her shoulders. Ranko glared up at her in wild fury and continued to struggle and kick trying to knock her away but was quickly over powered as Nabiki all but lay across her torso and pinned her arms beside her head.
"Let me up!" Ranko demanded yelling into Nabiki's face which was right above hers and breathed heavily from the pain and exertion.
"Are you crazy?" Nabiki growled right back. "Don't you even realize what condition you're in? I'll strap you down if I have to, your not leaving here until I'm done with you!"
Ranko could do little more then glare death up at Nabiki and she fought to control her emotions. How dare she, how dare this colonist weed subject her to this humiliation. How dare she touch her in such a way, how dare she hold her down!
It was impossible to keep the trembling that began to filter through her body from being revealed or the clear intense fear that filled her eyes. She didn't want to be here, naked and at the mercy of this woman, not her, anyone but her. Her face trembled terribly as she tried to maintain her determined hateful expression that wanted to so badly change into one full of tears.
Had she been in a more stable frame of mind she would have noticed Nabiki's shock reaction to the sight, her eyes had softened and lips parted slightly an expression of realization. The expression did not remain long as Nabiki regained her composer and stood her hands still pinning Ranko.
"Are you going to keep fighting me or are you going to let me do my job?" Nabiki asked with an air of authority that cut through Ranko's stubbornness. Gritting her teeth she wordlessly turned away again just as she had at the beginning and went limp. Taking that as her answer Nabiki returned to her task and did her best to speed the process up.
It wasn't till several hours later Nabiki was satisfied all the major damage had been dealt with and chose to forgo the minor ones for Ranko's sake. Giving one last glance over Ranko's body, now devoid of visible injury, she nodded and removed the glove which returned to the ceiling on its own.
Silently Ranko sat up on the table and placed her back to Nabiki. They had not shared a single word since the struggle, perhaps due to the tension that remained heavy in the air. Retrieving her skin suit from Nabiki's outstretched arm she slid into it slowly, body still trembling lightly. Once the suit was on and fully sealed a feeling of security returned to her allowing her to turn to Nabiki with a hateful expression
"Can I go now doc?" She asked.
"As long as promise to take it easy the rest of the day, I healed the worst of it but you still have some injury's that can become a problem if you aggravate them." Nabiki explained and walked to the door to unseal the room. "Class isn't over yet but I don't think it will matter now."
"Not like I need combat training." Ranko said distastefully as she hopped off the edge of the table and made her way for the door. Before she could pass through she was halted by Nabiki's hand around her upper arm.
"I don't give a crap if you are a spacer or not, there is no excuse for you to have been walking around with an injury like that. I don't ever want to see you in here in that condition again." Nabiki glared at her with such anger that it startled her.
"What do you care?" Ranko hissed back at her challengingly, breaking the grip.
"I care enough to tell you." Nabiki replied her expression hard.
Ranko stared unable to accept the response or come up with something to scream in reply. In the end she was unable to resolve her indecision and turned sharply away from Nabiki, storming out of the room fueled by fury. How dare Nabiki… how dare her.
"Initiating warp collapse, captain." A bridge hand announced formally.
"Very good, we got lucky this time." The captain spoke with an air of relief. "Only one more jump to go."
The captain watched as his ship tore a hole into normal space and smiled. It wasn't much of a ship, only a light freighter but it meant the world to him and after this run he would finely be able to upgrade her the way he always wished.
When he was approached about this job, he was filled with an unnerving sensation that it was the one job he should pass up. However he had a reputation to uphold. His moto was, transport anything anywhere for the proper price, and he lived by it never turning down a single job.
The job was simple, transport some government related cargo from point A to point B, no bells or whistles He didn't like to deal with government related stuff for the pure reason they paid crap, but this job, this job was well above crap pay and that had been the red flag that made him consider this decision thoroughly.
Anyone paying such a high amount for a simple cargo hull obviously had some secrets to keep. He wasn't the sort to ask questions. Sure this may be related to some conspiracy some fancy pants colonist set in motion, or some illegal goods, but he didn't particularly care. What mattered was that the shipping documents were legit and that was what was going to fill his pockets with credits.
"Ten minutes till warp is ready again." The only other bridge hand spoke.
"Good work, take five, then we can get this last jump calculated and through with. Find us a nice resort afterwards to celebrate at." The captain laugh deeply, this job had been a boost in moral for his two crew members who welcomed the bonus, business having been slow of late.
As his crew left the bridge he leaned back and propped his legs up on his control consol. They were a good crew and had stuck with him through the good and the bad. They had survived countless pirate attacks as well as business boycotting and general lack of business. They where brothers, not by blood, but by hardship and that sort of bond could never be broken.
Yes, he answered an unspoken question which he had been thinking about for a long time. After this haul he was going to co-sign his crew to the ship's deed and make the three of them partners. Without them the ship would have vanished long ago and it was the only true way he could show his gratitude to them.
As his console gave a beep he spread his legs curiously to investigate the reason only to have his blood run cold. There was another ship out here now which hadn't been there before. In an instant the ship proximity alarm sounded and his crew broke into the cabin a few seconds later without word and took their seats.
"Ship detected no sign of warp out interference." His first deck hand yelled.
"Damn thing appeared out of no where." The captain barked. "Get the defenses up and give them a hail."
"Hailing." The other deck hand spoke and the bridge went completely silent for several moments as they waited for contact.
"No response." The hand said urgently causing the captain to grit his teeth. Maybe he should have trusted his gut feeling after all.
"What's the ETA till warp's ready?" He barked.
"4 minutes sir." The hand replied.
Damn, that was to long. They had no clue what that ship out there was packing and it only took one mass drive round or bore beam to cut a freighter like his in half. Mass drive was rarer but more deadly firing micro black holes while a bore beam was far more common and just as deadly. Designed for cutting through the densest of rocks, a bore could easily if supplied punch a hole through light freighter amour as if It where paper.
He just hoped they where after cargo and not salvage. If it was the cargo they would have to board, which meant a greater possibility of survival for him and his men. Where if they where only interested in scrap metal they would just blow the freighter apart and pick away at its corpse.
"They have launched two objects, their heading this way but are to slow to be missiles. Judging by their size I believe their exo-suits.
"Hail them again. If they don't answer target those suits and fire. Make sure you tell them we like our personal space." The captain growled and waiting for the ultimatum.
"Damn it, Fire." It wasn't the first time he ordered such a thing and he knew it wouldn't be the last. Some pirates where idiots, they thought that fancy exo suit they bought, along with all its anti personnel hardware, would be a great tool to infiltrate and hijack unsuspecting ships. What they didn't realize is those suits couldn't stand up to direct fire from a particle cannon.
"What!? Sir the suits have just broken off course and are accelerating… what? I've never seen suits move this fast!"
"Keep tracking them, little missy has protected us form plenty of asteroid storms, she can pick theses guys off." The captain growled and ignored the feeling of dread in the back of his throat.
"Direct hit! Wait... no, no damage sir! No damage is detected from the target!"
"I want them on screen now!" The captain barked.
"Focusing optical sensors. There." Two different holo's appeared within the bridge and they fell silent as recognition made itself clear. There was no need to speak as the conclusion was decided.
"Well damn." The captain sighed and gave a laugh. "It's been nice flying with you boys… been one hell of a ride."
"You too sir." His hands replied in unison with the same pride and regret as they no longer manned their consoles, leaning back to await the inevitable.
"Damn the wild stallion…" The captain sighed and leaned back himself pulling down his hat to cover his eyes. It was a shame, the captain thought. He really looked forward to treating his men to that resort. It was with a feeling of regret that the captain watched his bridge glow brightly as he disappeared from existence.
Nabiki fell boneless into the comforting embrace of her station chair; it had been a long day and she looked forward to some relaxation. Stretching she moaned happily and kicked her legs to enjoy the feeling of air caressing them, no longer wearing her skin suit. She had entered the apartment that she shared with Akane and slipped out of her skin suit in favor of a set of old fashioned shorts and loose fitting t-shirt.
Crossing her arms behind her head she sighed with her eyes closed not yet motivated enough to activate the impressive station that sat before her. It was something she had built for herself in her spare time, a muti monitor monster of a computer that wrapped smoothly around a comfortable reclining chair.
Holo technologies had many advantages but Nabiki was a woman of substance, she enjoyed stuff and useless clutter, preferring things she could pick up and touch as opposed to those that could only be seen. The station was simply a physical interface for her to indulge in, instead of waving her hands around aimlessly at some holo keyboard.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly and lifted a foot lazily and pressed the activation switch with her big toe and sliding a retractable command consol across her lap. Taping a few keys the monitors blinked to life each one with its own tasks and operations; she pulled up her messages sliding it from one of the smaller monitors to the main screen they surrounded.
"Junk… Junk… junk…" Nabiki sighed and nuked messages she had no interest in reading and as she nuked the last one she realized there was nothing at all that interested her. Changing to another monitor she checked on a few tasks she had left running that morning and still had yet to yield results. On a whim she brought up a task she had started yesterday evening. It was a global search for information on Ranko.
Yesterday as they ate in silence with each other, she decided to look into Ranko's past, specifically the incident with the three spacers dieing in a colonist created accident. It wasn't that she didn't believe Ranko it was only the fact she wanted to see who she had lost. So far she had found no records of such an event and had widened the search, there was always the possibility it had not been recorded which she was starting to suspect.
She wasn't naive enough to think that colonists where as clean and perfect as they believed. Erasing a little incident like that from the record books would hardly be a stretch if it meant keeping face for someone with power. Reviewing the global search she was displeased it had found nothing of value.
Closing her eyes she sighed thinking how boring the night was going to be at this rate before her mind turned towards Ranko once more. She had tried not to put much thought into it at the time and avoided it completely till she got home. It was the expression and reaction Ranko had given as she tended to her, even now she almost thought she made the wrong conclusion.
Tapping her wrist computer which she had saved a complete copy of the day's events to from her frame, she transferred it into her station and slid the command console away to allow a holo grid to appear over her. Tapping the air a few times she located the time code she wished to review and brought it up. It was the fight between Ranko and Brigs.
Replaying it she felt the same sickening emotions and feelings she had the first time. Relentlessly Brigs pounded away at Ranko with solid blows that soaked through her frame as if it where paper. Over and over Ranko was knocked back or completely off her feet but each and every time she only grinned and bared it, returning to her feet awaiting more. She hadn't even bothered to defend herself absorbing the blows almost happily.
By the time Nabiki felt she was going to be sick Brigs had given up his attack and left Ranko teetering weakly. Even through all the punishment she received Ranko had still attempted to goad Brigs on and for that moment Nabiki had been afraid for Ranko's life.
Not of Brigs killing her outright but from not believe her able to survive another brutal beating like the first. How Ranko had accepted the beating so easily scared Nabiki and made her wonder if Ranko had a death wish or if she just didn't know where to draw the line.
She watched as the holo shifted to encompass herself as she picked up Ranko, who complained of course, before carrying her to the med center. The appearance of Ranko's A.I. startled her; in the past three years of being at ASTRA she had met no one who had purchased the upgrade, so seeing a tiny person on Ranko's head had been unnerving.
She smiled again as the A.I. betrayed Ranko and purposely embarrassed her by revealing the truth about her showering. Her amusement didn't last long as she decided to fast forward to the treatment room where she was about to strip Ranko complete skipping the puzzling events of her frame melting. She had already decided to look into the matter another time.
Watching it now, focusing on Ranko a great feeling of urgency filled her. She watched as Ranko grew tense as she striped her never once blinking an eye or looking in her direction. She continued to watch as she began the treatment and Ranko only continued to grow more uncomfortable until finely she tried to escape.
She held Ranko down as she fought and kicked, her frame had made it easy to over power Ranko and hid from her the true amount of strength Ranko had fought her with. The urgency flooded her and suddenly exploded into a feeling she couldn't quite name as she paused the holo, a feeling somewhere between pity and regret.
In the holo she held Ranko pinned, her face contorted in fright as she so desperately tried to hide her emotions. At first she had thought Ranko's fright to be something related to her past… something chilling and cruel. But that wasn't the truth; the truth was far more complex and far more chilling at least to Nabiki. Staring at Ranko's expression and how she contorted her body protectively below her. It was as clear as day.
Ranko was attracted to her, fiercely attracted. Her eyes that where full of intense fear had been softened by longing and her expression that tried so hard to express anger was mixed with an equal amount of denial. The way her legs closed together at the knees and twisted sideways so to protect herself, an image of offered submission and vulnerability. No she was not a victim of some past sin, this fear was directly only towards her and her alone.
Feeling suddenly empty, she hit her stations activation switch with her toe banishing all light from her room as the monitors blinked off and the holo melted away. She rested her arms across her face as a deep heavy sigh left her lips. She wanted to laugh at the thought of love at first sight but she knew love had nothing to do with this.
In hindsight this discovery wasn't a big deal but she couldn't get her head around it. The thought of Ranko being attracted to her wasn't in anyway revolting but it left a feeling of pained sympathy which she could not explain. Perhaps it was Ranko's expression that caused this feeling… even now with her eyes close it would not leave her.
It was so primal, so wild, an expression of cornered pry that both feared death and longed for it to escape its terror. The longer she focused on that expression, the more it turned her insides to knots and made her feel ill. How was she supposed to react to something like this? How was she going to deal with it?
It was clear Ranko was in denial, at least to an extent. It was a comfort thought that Ranko, she was sure, even if she realized the attraction wouldn't pursue it openly. In fact she was sure Ranko would completely ignore it to the best of her ability till it was forced upon her like earlier in the treatment room.
The answer was as simple as that. Now that she knew about it she should just forget it. There was no need to worry herself over something that filled her with confused and conflicting emotions. Just accept it as fact and file it away with all the other trivia she had collected over the years.
"Nabiki are you home?" Akane's call was a welcome distraction to her thoughts and she climbed from her chair leaving her darkened room.
"Yea sis." Nabiki smiled and walked into the center of their living room. It was a large and spacious room that was lit by a solid lightly glowing ceiling. The longest curved wall that was opposite their entrance was a solid sheet of holo glass that was currently transparent to give them an impressive view of one of the most prestigious resident sectors in ASTRA.
Walking down a small ramp to a sunken section of the floor she fell backwards and lay across a comfortable couch. This little section of the living room was her favorite as it several couches surrounding an advanced entertainment holo grid which she thought had never been turned on. No she liked this place for the atmosphere it gave, a warm relaxing place where she had enjoyed partaking in many afternoon naps.
"I'm glad." Akane beamed and walked down the ramp sitting on a couch opposite hers before favoring her with a distasteful look. "Why do you always insist on wearing those things?"
"Comfy." Nabiki grinned cattishly before rolling on her side and propping her head up with an arm. "So what's up?
"Oh! I ran into Kasumi today on the hub rail. She said to say hi." Akane explained and was reaching into a small bag pulling something free. 'She also told me to give you this, you haven't been by recently to pick it up yourself.
Nabiki suddenly caught the object Akane tossed her way, it was an heirloom from their mother she had been given. Nabiki tried not to let her discomfort show as she flipped the holo disc over and over before tossing it on the floor atop the entertainment grid where other similar disks lay. She didn't have much attachment to the thing anymore but she kept up appearances for the sake of it.
"Thanks. So how's Kasumi doing?" Nabiki inquired it had been some time since she bumped into Kasumi herself. Kasumi was just like their mother diving into research and only came up for air when she made a breakthrough. If Nabiki remembered correctly Kasumi was working under a Dr. Tofu in the medical research sector of the ASTRA secondary labs.
"She's doing fine, looks like she found something interesting again. Didn't look like she has been eating much recently though." Akane sighed sadly, and left it at that.
"I wouldn't worry about it." Nabiki commented. "Mother was the same."
"So…. How's Ranko?" Akane asked in a voice Nabiki could not recall ever hearing from her. It was childlike in it stubbornness as if she where embarrassed to ask as well as mixed with a feeling of guilt.
"She's fine." Nabiki spoke tiredly and rolled onto her back crossing her arms behind her head. "Brigs tore her up pretty good but a lot of it was superficial. Most of the damage came from your kick, Brigs of course aggravated it. I don't know what the hell was going on inside her head for her to walk around in that condition. Hell, I don't know how she walked around in that condition."
Akane didn't make any comment as she withdrew into herself. Nabiki was always blunt or honest when it counted and she wasn't going to spare her sisters feelings if it meant hiding the truth. Maybe this event would have a long lasting effect on Akane but Nabiki sadly suspected it would lose its potency in time and Akane would return to her normal temperamental self.
"Combat training go well?" Nabiki inquired. Having been in the frame program for three years now, entering when she was 18, she had been subjected to many combat training lessons. They where not fun or enjoyable but she had survived them easily enough, her father had taught her basic marital arts which helped greatly.
"The primers had a pretty tough time, along with everyone else it seemed." Akane explained quietly. "I think everyone was affected by Ranko's beating, no one was able to focus and everyone made a lot of mistakes." Nabiki nodded silently as it wasn't surprising to hear.
Just then a buzzing beep filled the room and repeated every few seconds, it was a holo transmission from someone. As Nabiki was too comfortable to make a move Akane answered it by leaning forward and passing her hand over the entertainment holo grid.
"Dad?" Akane spoke happily.
"Ah! Akane how is my little girl doing?" Soun Tendo beamed and reached out hugging Akane who accepted it with rolled eyes as her Fathers embrace passed right through her.
"I'm fine daddy, how are things?" Akane smiled.
"Good, good. Had an ecological specialist by the house today but even he couldn't explain why the koi keep dieing in the pond." Soun burst into tears as he finished.
"Not the koi again? How many times has it been now?" Akane frowned.
"Daddy you forgot to feed them again." Nabiki rolling away from the holo screen sighed. Honestly their father never learned.
"Nabiki?" Soun quickly turned left and right till her noticed Nabiki with her back to him.
"Hi daddy." Nabiki yawned and waved over her shoulder.
"Ah, let me see my little girls face!" Soun begged pouting.
"You have a life size holo of it on your desk." Nabiki sighed exasperated. "Besides I'm too comfy to roll over."
"Nabiki you're so cruel to your pappa!" Soun wailed which only caused Nabiki so smile out of sight.
"So why did you call daddy?" Akane asked.
"Oh, yes yes I nearly forgot." Soun cleared his throat with a cough and straitened. "I'm going to be out of system for a while. I've been invited to be part of a colonist resort space cruise. It's supposed to take us on a tour to secluded nebulas and exotic uninhabited worlds."
"That's great daddy!" Akane smiled and Nabiki rolled her eyes again.
"Make sure you doesn't sign anything while on it daddy. They probably want you to invest in them or something and I'm not going to get you out of it this time." Nabiki warned.
"Well I better be going, just wanted to let you know. Be sure to let Kasumi know as well, I was unable to contact her." Soun smiled.
"We will daddy, have a nice trip." Akane waves as Soun vanished and the holo grid died away.
"He's going to get swindled again." Nabiki groaned.
"Well it is his money." Akane sighed. "Mother left everything to him."
"I'm just worried there won't be any left for us when he kicks the bucket." Nabiki smirked cruelly and Akane rewarded her by throwing one of the couch pillows at her.
"The shipment was stopped as we had suspected." A male holo image in an old fashioned tuxedo with a white rose pinned to his chest spoke. His face was without eyes, nose, or mouth. "He appeared again."
"He is a nuisance and should be dealt with!" A young girl screeched in a high pitched voice, she wore a pink frilly wide skirt victorian dress as she twirled a matching sun umbrella over her head. Her face, like the mans, had no details.
"They have plans for him. We must follow their judgment." Mother spoke appearing in her heavy, elegant dress that showed a generous amount of cleavage.
"I agree with sister." A boy in old fashioned farm ware overalls and frayed straw hat spoke as he chewed on a shoot of wheat which was unnerving as he had no mouth for it to enter.
"Brother agrees with me. Let's deal with him" Sister demanded.
"But father does not. Nor do I." Mother spoke as the man in a tuxedo nodded in agreement.
"What about baby?" The boy asked and all turned to the center of the dark room where a glowing infant lay in a beam of light crying loudly.
"Baby is not complete." Mother stated.
"Baby needs more time." Father added.
"Baby must rest." Sister agreed.
"Baby will be the best." Brother smile..
"May the family be forever." The four chorused as the light in the room began to dim.
"He will continue to be for now. The plan is in motion." Father spoke.
"The plan will bring us happiness." Sister squealed.
"The plan will bring us victory." Brother grinned.
"The plan will bring us peace." Mother smiled just as the light completely vanished from the room along with herself and her family.