Here we go, done at last, jiggety jig! The plot bunny that was this story is finally and completely burned out of my skull and I may joyouslyreturn to working on Dark Titans full time . . . at least until the next half baked, insane plot idea pops into my head.
I have to say, it's been an interesting ride, if extremely frustrating. I learned an important thing writing this tale: when doing your outline, don't inject every single line of dialogue into it as you go. By the time I finished the outline on this, I realized I hadn't written an outline, I had freakin written a fifty plus thousand word story all in present tense. Hell, the only reason it took me so long to post this story was because I had to re-write the entire damn thing into past tense and flesh out everything around the dialogue.
Still, I'd like to think that I've managed to pull off the very slippery trick of writing a MegaCrossover story that people enjoyed, and hopefully the lot of you agree with me on that -
Now go away, shoo, ya bother me . . .
But please, Enjoy if you will, Tolerate if you won't.
Pushing his slowly drifting glasses back in place for the umpteenth time since he had originally sat down to work, Gendo let out a weary breath. All he could see were the mountains of paperwork that surrounded him on all sides, burying his desk and surrounding his chair like an ominous prison of pulp. Just like the singular report before him, roughly ninety percent of the burdensome workload consisted of the various damage claims that had racked up with shocking rapidity over the past two days.
'I'll have to ask Mr. Hibiki about this claim for a demolished ice cream truck later,' he mused silently.
A whisper of sound to his side heralded the first bit of good news that he had received all morning. He turned to regard Yui as she seemingly glided across his office floor. His flat scowl melted into a fond smile, only to widen into a thankful grin as he noticed the steaming cup of coffee balancing in the lovely scientist's hands. With grace that threatened to take the otherwise stoic man's breath away, his wife placed the cup before him (thankfully covering a number of damage claims) before draping herself comfortably across his shoulders.
"How are you holding up, dear?" she whispered teasingly into his ear.
Sighing weakly, Gendo replied wearily. "Let me just say that Ryoko's space walk idea is starting to look quite appealing."
His loving wife giggled in a manner that caused his heart to flip-flop in a most undignified manner.
"Now, is that anyway for a prospective father to be speaking?"
At that Gendo blanched as he felt his heart attempt burst out from his ribcage.
"Don't even joke about that, Yui. You know that I would make a terrible father."
His fervent reply elicited a sweet laugh from the researcher before she leaned in to plant a soft kiss on his cheek. "I'll be the judge of that."
Then, regretfully, she pushed herself up from her perch and moved around him to sit on the only bare corner of his desk. "Now, back to business for a moment," she stated in her 'work voice', "You'll be happy to know that Dr. Brain and Agent Sagura managed to capture the escaped experiment."
Following her cue, he took a moment to calmly fold his hands before his mouth and tilt his glasses so that they would glint, just so, in the light. "And the reasons for the mutations . . . further mutations?"
Only to have Yui playfully swat his folded hands back down. "How many times have I told you not to do that? How can I tell if you're making funny faces at me?"
Gendo smirked, which was more or less as close to playful as he was capable of yet. "Me? Resort to such silliness? You wound me, Yui."
A shiver ran up his spine as she donned a wicked smile, leaning forward seductively. "If you keep it up, I just might. Maybe a good spa-"
"Agent Ikari! Your appointment is here!" The cheerful voice of Nuku Nuku burst from the intercom on his desk, shocking the living daylights out of both Ikari's. Instantly, Yui's face flushed red and she leaned back quickly. Gendo, who was definitely not blushing in any way, for no reason whatsoever, straightened his tie. It only took him several seconds after that to remember to hit the respond button.
"Thank you, Nuku. Please have her wait until I call her. I'm just finishing a meeting."
Yui giggled mischievously as Gendo let out an uncharacteristically relieved sigh. "You know," she tittered, "We are married now, we've really got to stop acting like a pair of teenagers sneaking intimate little moments all around the facility."
Shaking his head, he could hardly disagree. "Some habits are hard to break, it appears. Still, we should wrap this up quickly. I still have several other important issues to attend to, not the least of which being Dr. Mizuno. Then, after I finish sacrificing another old growth forest to the gods of bureaucracy, we can get back to discussing my . . . punishment."
His wife's eyes flashed with excitement, but the woman quickly schooled herself before gracing him with a gentle smile. "Please, try not to be too hard on her."
He frowned as much as possible when his wife was concerned. "It is a tremendous breach of our codes. But, then again, if her misconduct was made public, her head would not be the only one to roll." A sly smile found its way onto his lips. "Perhaps a . . . small amount of discretion may be advised."
Yui's lips quirked up into an impish smile. "At the same time, something does need to be done. Perhaps a short leave of absence while we determine what should be done . . . say, to Juuban?"
Gendo stared at his wife for a moment, one of his eyebrows quirking in amusement. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"
The lovely researcher leaned forward once more, playfully curling his tie around her graceful fingers. "This is the first time today. I think I might need to punish you for that too."
Leaning forward further, his wife began to pull him inexorably forward by his tie-
"Yo, Ikari! How long are you – oh! . . . Ohhhhh!"
In a burst of speed that would have undoubtedly left Dr. Saotome green with envy, Gendo and Yui flew apart. With as much haste and what little dignity he hoped to retain, the former quickly straightened his tie again while the later bounced to her feet and began hurriedly smoothing out her skirt. Primping completed, the pair then turned to the door.
Ryoko's disembodied head hung before the heavy door, the amber eyed deputy's neck and long, cyan locks disappearing into the carved wood. The smile that hung from the ex space pirate's lips was positively delighted.
Yui quickly cleared her throat, perhaps just a touch loudly.
"So, it turns out that Dr. Brain's experiment had come into contact with one of the numerous, yet small, outcroppings of crystal when Sheriff Hibiki ejected it from the clearing when he rescued Sheriff Hercule. Dr. Brain determined that it must have slammed into the crystal with enough force to shatter it, introducing a number of shards into its bloodstream, where they were then integrated into its physical makeup – hence its unusual energy absorbing abilities." Amazingly, Dr. Ikari delivered the entire (haphazard) explanation in a single breath.
Perfectly stone-faced, Agent Ikari nodded curtly. "Excellent work, Dr. Ikari. That will be all."
Nodding quickly in response, she then made her way to the side door (not quite rushing, and not quite blushing all the way.) As soon as the door clicked from her exit, Gendo turned his attention back to Ryoko, who had decided to use the time to fully enter the room. The government liaison took a moment to calmly fold his hands before his mouth again, and tilted his glasses to glint in the light.
All of his efforts to put forward a detached exterior were for naught, though, as the giddily smiling Ryoko floated forward and plopped herself down onto the exact spot on his desk that his wife had just vacated.
"Ikari, you sly dog! Why didn't you say you were having a meeting? I could have waited a good twenty minutes or so."
He leveled his best glare in her direction, but regretfully it had about the same effect that it did on the deputy's mother. He soldiered on regardless, though. "I would thank you not to discuss my personal life, as it is just that."
The cyan haired engine of destruction pouted sadly. "Aw, but if you don't want to dish about your love life, then why am I here?"
He redoubled his glare, but still to no effect. Finally, resigning himself to the fact that he would never be able to intimidate this woman outside of any purely professional scenario, he released a defeated sigh. "Ryoko, I have a serious question for you, so I would appreciate a serious answer."
She obviously noticed the shift in his tone and posture, as a look of interest descended over her normally playful features.
"Tell me . . ."he inquired in a low tone, "What is your opinion of Ryouga Hibiki?"
It had taken him several long minutes to finally come to his decision, but in the end the lonesome wanderer felt certain that he was making the right choice. Taking a deep breath, Ryouga finally placed the small black tile on the Go board, before shooting his rival a triumphant sneer.
On the far side of the board, Ranma studied the numerous white and black pieces with intense scrutiny . . . at least until he leaned back and released a frustrated groan. "Man, I can't believe they threw us both in jail."
Ryouga, sitting comfortably on the edge of his cot, looked up to the familiar sight of prison bars surrounding them. Even the 'Ryouga' shaped indent in the wall was still waiting to repaired. The pigtailed researcher was sitting on the far side of their purloined shogi board, using the large stack of papers that composed the Lost Boy's contract as a makeshift stool.
"Hey, what do you have to whine about? I'm supposed to be the Sheriff and they still threw me in here."
Ranma chuckled in amusement. "That'll teach ya to try to kill me while everyone is celebratin' the fact that we're not gonna die; man, there's gotta be some kinda irony there."
Shaking his head helplessly, Ryouga could hardly argue the point. "I guess I didn't need to body slam you through Washu's holographic display when I finally woke up. I mean, how was I supposed to know you actually weren't laughing at me for a change?"
"Well, I guess I didn't need to drop kick you into Ryoko, either. Sure was funny, though," conceded the pigtailed researcher.
Ryouga rubbed his jaw gingerly. "Maybe, but she broke that fight up damn fast after that. You know, now that I think about it, this might be the longest that the two of us have actually gone without getting into a real fight."
His rival considered his words for a long moment. "Yer right . . . I hate it too."
And again, silence descended over them as Ranma returned his attention to the board.
As the wanderer impatiently awaited his rival's futile attempt to counter his strategy, Ryouga couldn't help but muse out loud. "I still can not believe how anticlimactically things ended. I mean, the world was saved by a phone call? Something just seems so wrong about that."
Ranma nodded in a sagely manner. "I know. I mean, solving a problem without a climatic martial arts duel? Just, what's the point? But what I can't believe is how Dr. Mizuno forgot about that for, like, three hours? Where the heck was her head at?"
"You know, I can appreciate the fact that neither of you may want to talk to me, what with my near destruction of Japan, but why do you insist on speaking as if I'm not even here?"
Both Ryouga and his rival turned to regard the blue haired scientist. The lovely young female was currently lying on the far cot of the prison cell, a small ice pack pressed against her forehead (apparently Agent Ikari's chewing out's were migraine inducing).
Ranma waved his hands frantically in the air. "How could you possibly forget something like 'Oh, right, my best friend can turn this thing off and save us all instantly'? I mean, I've seen some boneheaded things in my time, but that's gotta rank right up there."
Despite her naturally sweet demeanor, Dr. Mizuno scowled darkly in the martial artist's direction. "Well, I had been trapped in a giant crystal for two weeks, perhaps that might have contributed. Not to mention the fact that you and the deputy went out of your way to shock me as much as possible with your 'By the way, meet the new Sheriff' routine. Honestly, how can you blame me for being so unsettled after that?"
Feeling the familiar need to side against his rival, no matter what the situation was, Ryouga shot the blue haired scientist a sympathetic look. "Hey, don't worry about it, Dr. Mizuno. It could have happened to anyone. Besides, it's not like Ranma's the sharpest knife in the drawer, so he's the last one that should be criticizing you."
"Hey! Genius over here, remember?"
"Genius? You're the only person I know that thinks Hoboken is a martial arts technique!"
Ranma's face turned an amusing shade of red. "Damnit! If that cop hadn't arrested me for soliciting, I would have had enough to fill the pit! Then I would have proved everyone wrong! And who are you to talk, at least I can find my own ass with both hands and a map!"
"Hey!" Ryouga snapped, "That doesn't count! I'd had a lot to drink that night!"
The pigtailed warrior leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest, looking very much like Ryouga had just proved his point for him.
For her part, Ami looked back and forth between the pair, very evidently questioning their sanity. "Ahhh . . . be that as it may," she began tentatively, "And despite the fact that neither of you could possibly think very highly of me at the moment . . ."
The blue haired woman gingerly removed the icepack from her head and rose to her feet. She then moved over to stand beside their board before dipping into a low, respectful bow. "I would still like to offer you both my sincerest thanks. The two of you risked your lives to rescue me . . . I owe my life to the both of you."
Ryouga shifted uncomfortably, even as Ranma let out a put upon sigh as they both stared at the deeply bowing woman. As the seconds ticked by, it became readily apparent that she wasn't getting back up, either; at least, not without their say so. Even though he wasn't even sure why, the Lost Boy was getting a distinctly 'guilty' feeling crawling up spine, so he did the first thing he could think of-
"Y-you don't need to bow, it was nothing, really – well, not nothing, I mean, rescuing you was really important to save Japan – not that that was the only reason we saved you . . . but it wasn't any trouble for us to do it, um, not that we wouldn't have done it if it had been troublesome, because we definitely would have –"
Luckily, his rival was considerate enough to smack him upside the head and snap him out of his downward spiral into humiliation. Ranma then shot him a pointed look, prompting the Lost Boy to chuckle in embarrassment as he regained his bearings.
"I think what Bacon Bits meant to say, was that we were just doing our jobs . . . well, his job for the most part, but rescuing damsels kind of old hat to us."
Ryouga scowled at the pigtailed warrior. "That's not exactly what I was trying to say. Just, you don't need to thank us for doing something we would have done regardless of the situation. The fact that you're alright is all the thanks we need." He shot a pointed look at his rival. "Right, Ranma?"
Ranma waved off his ire with a casual wave of his hand. "Yeah, yeah, whatever; we're big damn heroes and all that junk."
Slowly, Ami rose from her bow, a mixture of confusion and gratitude struggling for dominance on her lovely face. "That's very kind of you to say . . . I think. Still, I have to admit to being surprised. I doubt most people would be as considerate as you, considering the situation."
The fact that her last statement was not-so-subtly directed at Ryouga was not lost on the pair of martial artists. As such, the fanged warrior shot his rival a quick, superior sneer, before returning his attention to the lovely soldier of love and justice. "I don't think it should be that surprising. From the sounds of it, accidents happen all the time when it comes to finding ways to help people . . ." He paused for a moment. "Um . . . you were trying to help people, right? You aren't one of those section Five people, are you?"
Ami quickly shook her head. "No-no-no, I'm purely a medical researcher."
Instantly, a broad smile plastered itself across Ryouga's face. "See, you don't get any more noble than that!"
"A medical researcher?" The skeptical tone in the Saotome Heir's voice instantly drew Ryouga's and Ami's attention. "Well wait a second there. If yer strictly a med-nin, then what were ya doin' working on that space age crystal stuff?"
Ryouga was about to harshly shush his impolite rival - but the seemingly simple question brought him up short. Slowly, he turned to regard Ami. Even as he did, she in turn looked down to avoid his gaze. Though it annoyed him to no end that Ranma was actually making good sense, even he couldn't ignore it. "H-he does raise a valid question, Dr. Mizuno. Crystalline city planning seems pretty far removed from most conventional medical areas of expertise that I know of. What exactly were you doing?"
The shame-faced doctor shuffled her feet uncomfortably for several long seconds before finally letting out a resigned sigh.
"Cheating . . ."
"Huh?" Ryouga and Ranma sounded in stereo.
"What do ya mean by that?" asked the latter.
Ami tentatively lifted her chin to meet the pigtailed researcher's inquiring gaze, only to sigh a second time. "My progress review was set for the end of the month . . ."
Immediately, Ranma 'Ahhh'd', as if what the young woman had said had actually made even a lick of sense.
"Progress review? What the heck does that have to do with anything?" asked the suitably confused Hibiki.
Ranma groaned loudly. "It's when the bigwigs get together and go over all of your work with a fine tooth comb. Then, usin' whatever alien logic they use, they decide if your research has actually been comin' along at an acceptable level or not. I mean, I passed my review without much trouble, on account of how great I am, but still, goin' through it was about as fun as those IRS tax audits those Americans are always goin' on about."
Dr. Mizuno nodded sharply in agreement. "Exactly. Don't get me wrong, I love being here, I love being on the cutting edge of scientific discovery . . . However, my first priority will always be to my friends, to my team . . . and, unfortunately, that has been becoming increasingly evident in my work lately."
It took Ryouga a moment to clue in. "Oh, your vigilante work."
Another nod, this one far less sharp. "Indeed, my vigilante work." A forlorn expression settled on the blue haired female's face and she slowly sat down to Ryouga's side on his cot, completely missing the tinge of red blooming on his cheeks. "I don't want to sound conceited, but I am a very smart woman, Sheriff Hibiki, very smart. However, compared to some of the minds that occupy this town, sometimes I feel like a chimp trying to rub two sticks together to produce fire."
She gestured to Ranma with a wave of her hand. "Even you, Dr. Saotome, in your own unique way, are truly brilliant. And you possess the drive and boundless energy to focus completely on your work. I'm not surprised that someone like you would have no trouble with your review. However, for me it's different: I'm . . . I'm not brilliant, not driven like so many people here. I have to work so hard to further my research, to pioneer into the unknown reaches of scientific discovery."
The young woman's hands curled up into tight fists, twisting the fabric of her skirt mercilessly in their grip. "And on top of that, so many emergencies seemed to be coming up back home; always dragging me away from my work. I can scarcely even count the number of times that I've been just teetering on the edge of epiphany, only to have the incessant beep of my communicator irrevocably destroy my concentration . . ."
Finally, Dr. Mizuno lifted her gaze once more to meet theirs. "So, when I discovered that I had a review coming up in such a short time . . . I panicked. I knew that with things the way they were, I would never be allowed to stay . . . so – so I decided to cheat. With Mi – ahem – Sailor Venus' help, I teleported to the moon and gathered as much of the surviving Silver Millennium technology that I could locate."
Ryouga nodded sagely, despite not having a single clue what she was talking about. Then again, it hardly seemed like his understanding was important, it looked like the simple act of confessing her misdeeds was more what the doctor ordered than any kind of sympathy on his part.
Barely even acknowledging his nod, the blue haired scientist continued. "I had hoped to find some form of data storage device, something, anything that might hold a key to any of the medical technologies used back in the Moon Kingdom. Unfortunately, I found such a random assortment of devices and crystals that I didn't even know what I had, let alone where to start my analysis."
This time, it was Ranma that nodded in understanding. "So you found yourself getting sidetracked pretty fast with all the weird stuff ya found, right?"
A weak sigh. "Correct. Unfortunately, one of the crystals that fascinated me the most was the crystal which nearly destroyed Japan. I noticed its unusual reaction to energy, most notably magical and other esoteric forms of energy, very early on in my research."
Ryouga whistled. "I bet. Man, they must have had some crazy technology back in the Millennium Falcon; I mean, making entire cities like that . . ." A short pause. "Wait a second, you make it sound like this civilization was lost long ago, so why the heck would they make a crystal that would make a crystal Tokyo?"
Red tinged Ami's cheeks as her embarrassment increased by an order of magnitude. ". . . Actually, the crystal was a blank slate when I found it . . . which was why it hadn't started growing immediately after we teleported it back. . . . I-it was actually me that inputted the design for Crystal Tokyo into the crystal matrix during my experimentation."
An incredulous look spread across Ranma's face. "What? You designed an entire city in your spare time?"
A quick shake of her head indicated the negative. "Actually, I cheated there, again. I had managed to obtain a schematic for Crystal Tokyo during . . . a – a most unorthodox journey that my friends and I had some years ago. All I really needed to do was download the file directly from my Mercury computer."
Ryouga scratched his chin in thought. "I guess that begs the question then; it sounds like you had everything pretty well in hand, so what went wrong?"
Again, the blue haired woman's gaze dropped to her knees. "I – I got sloppy. I had thought I had everything perfectly under control. I had shielded my lab from all external energy sources, set up sensors and dampeners and all manner of failsafes; all designed specifically to negate the possibility of any form of magical energy from interacting with the crystal after I had programmed it."
A sad nod of understanding came from Ranma's direction. "I thought the same thing when I designed that experiment to attempt to cure myself of the Neko Ken . . . So what happened then?"
Ami graced them with a sardonic grin. "In all of my haste to develop something that could save my career, I forgot the most important source of magical energy in all of the GeoFront . . . myself. I had fallen so completely into the routine of doing research, being interrupted by my team mates, battling some nameless foe, then returning to begin the entire cycle anew, that the very first time that Sailor Moon contacted me about another threat, without even thinking about it . . . I transformed right in front of the crystal . . ."
Ryouga winced, letting out a pained sound. "Well, that certainly explains a lot, then."
His rival nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I guess as far as reasons for screwing up go, that's a pretty good one."
"Ranma!" Ryouga spun on his rival. "We're supposed to be cheering her up, not making her feel worse!"
Ranma shrugged. "What? That's what I'm doin'. I totally understand not wanting to get booted outta here. I mean, sure, Agent Ikari isn't gonna give a crap about why she did it, but I understand."
The mere mention of Agent Ikari was enough to cause all of the blood to drain from Dr. Mizuno's face, which would have made for a good porcelain doll metaphor, except that Ryouga was fairly sure he'd never seen a doll made with such a look of utter despair on her face before. Instantly, the fanged warrior leapt to his feet and dragged his rival up by his collar.
"Damnit, Ranma! Don't you have even an ounce of sensitivity in your body? Why would you remind Dr. Mizuno that she'll likely be facing severe criminal charges for what she did, and that just getting fired will probably be the least of her worries?"
Ami fainted dead away . . .
Ranma shot a flat glance in Lost Boy's direction. "Man . . . you really are a moron, aren't you?"
"Damnit! That was all your fault!"
"What? I'm not the one that dropped you on your head as a baby, how is this my fault?"
"If you hadn't brought it up, this never would have happened!"
"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, and I've known you for years, so that's saying something!"
With a deep growl, Ryouga shoved his rival back roughly and dropped into a fighting stance. "That's it, Ranma! Prepare to di-"
The small bell that hung above the sheriff office's door tinkled loudly as the door swung open. A moment later, a widely smiling Ryoko floated into the room and began to make her way to her desk. The ex-Space Pirate only made it three feet before she noticed the pair of martial artist's preparing to inflict massive bodily harm on each other inside the confines of her holding cell.
Ryoko's eyes narrowed . . .
In a blur of motion rarely observed outside of life and death battles, Ryouga and Ranma nearly teleported back to their seats and began placing black and white tiles on their purloined board at breakneck speeds.
Ryoko smirked at the display. "Damn right."
Dominance firmly reinforced, the cyan haired demoness then floated the rest of the way to her desk and lazily pressed one of the buttons on its surface. In response, the holding cell door swung open.
"Alright, Lady Fingers, you can get outta here now."
Ryouga grumbled darkly as his pigtailed rival smugly rose from his seat and dusted off his pants far more than was actually necessary before swaggering out of the cell. About half way to the door, though, the Saotome Heir stopped and turned back. "Hey, what about Bacon Bits, there?"
Ryoko's smirk (which was merely malevolent at the best of times) descended once again into the depths of pure evil. "Oh, don't worry about him. We have a few things to discuss. Now get out of here, Saotome, ya bother me."
Ranma turned back to Ryouga one last time before leaving, shooting him a sly wink. "Heh, good luck, Buddy."
And then he was gone.
Ryouga spared a glance to the unconscious form of the young woman sharing his cell (not to mention his cot; man, was Ryoko gonna go to town when she noticed that). The lack of consciousness thing seemed like a pretty good idea at the moment, he was just jealous that Ami had thought of it first. More than a little forlorn himself, Ryouga let out a defeated sigh.
"Why do I have a feeling that my luck will be anything but?"
One Week Later
Ryouga tugged at his collar, unsuccessfully trying to stretch out the over-starched throat hugger, before finally smiling and smoothing out the rest of his new, tightly fitted shirt. The newly bedecked Hibiki turned to face his companion, sitting comfortably behind her desk.
"You know, this isn't all that bad. Still, I can't believe it took them a week to get me a uniform."
Ryoko smirked. "Hey, bullet proof, acid proof, energy resistant material that weighs as much as cloth takes time to replicate. I must admit to being surprised, though; it actually looks good on you . . . Sheriff."
The not-so newly anointed sheriff smiled proudly. "Thanks, Ryoko, that means a lot to me." He shifted around a bit, still trying to get used to the feel of his new, beige uniform. "Still, it feels a little on the tight side."
His erstwhile partner smiled broadly. "That's what I'm talking about! I mean, what's the point of having a hot piece of law enforcement running around if you can't get a good look?"
Ryouga felt his face heat up to fusion reaction inducing levels. "Ryoko! We're going to be partners until Hercule gets back, so can we at least pretend to have a professional relationship?"
She replied with an amused shrug. "Hey, I never said I was interested. I just happen to appreciate the finer things in life." She followed up her declaration with a rather lewd look in his direction.
Though it hardly felt possibly, the sheriff's face reddened even further. Moving quickly, he slipped behind his own desk and dropped into his nicely cushioned chair. His move towards modesty prompted a teasingly artificial pout from his shameless partner.
"Ahem, when is Hercule getting back, anyway?" he asked, deftly shifting the topic. "I mean, if they'd just brought him to me, I would have had him out of there in under a minute. After all, I have a lot of experience with restoring people from statues."
One of Ryoko's eyebrows rose skeptically. "Really? And who would that have been?"
"T-" Ryouga almost responded, but suddenly realized his error. ". . . Um, Dr. Mizuno! Yeah, that counts, right?"
Ryoko rolled her eyes with great aplomb. "Hardly. Besides, do you know how mad the higher ups were when they found out how reckless you were when you saved her? Don't worry about Hercule, though, Gendo assured me that he was in good hands."
In the dim light provided by the ancient hanging bulbs it was impossible to make out the contents of the wooden crate. This fact was made doubly so when a wooden lid dropped down on top of it, hiding the interior from view completely. Then, with the liberal application of a trusty claw hammer, said lid was solidly nailed to the crate. The only markings on the entire wooden box was the stenciled message on top, which read -
ARMY INTEL. 9906753
DO NOT OPEN!
The hammering was soon completed, only for a pair of hands to shift the heavy crate onto a dolly. With a grunt of effort, the Little Old Government Warehouseman began to push his heavy burden down an aisle; an aisle that was formed by huge stacks or crates. The crates came in many shapes and sizes, but when it came right down to it, they all looked eerily like the crate which he was currently pushing, even down to the stenciled warnings on top, give or take a few numbers.
Already beginning to sweat at the effort of pushing this especially large crate, the Little Old Government Warehouseman felt certain that he had to be in one of the biggest rooms in the world.
And it was full.
Crates and crates.
All looking alike.
All gathering dust.
And then, just as countless times before, the Little Old Government Warehouseman, pushing his new crate ahead of him, found his destination and turned into another aisle, disappearing from view.
For some unknown reason, a shudder ran down Ryouga's spine, but he quickly shrugged off the errant disturbance.
"So, anything on the docket for today, Deputy?"
Sticking out her tongue in a display of just what she thought of his meager attempt at professionalism, his trusty sidekick lazily picked up a short stack of papers from her desk. Taking a brief moment to read the first document, she held it up for his perusal.
"Washu wants you to go in for a physical."
The page burst into flames.
"Like that's gonna happen. Damn woman is a sexual predator in that lab of hers."
Ryouga was sure, had he been drinking coffee, he would have spit it out all over his desk. The fact that Washu was a twelve year old girl, at least in appearance, was just all kinds of wrong.
"Next!" he squeaked loudly.
Ryoko glanced over the next one.
"Let's see. Apparently Professor Membrane wants to run a test on his Quantum Field Generator this afternoon."
"What the heck does that do?" he felt compelled to ask.
His sidekick shrugged. "Hell if I know. Gendo just wants one of us to be there in case anything goes wrong."
Ryouga stared pointedly at the cyan haired deputy long and hard . . . before finally sighing in defeat. "Fine, I'll go."
Ryoko smiled at her effortless victory. "Damn right. Oh, Gendo also wants us to keep an eye on Professor Tomoe. Apparently he's been acting a little odd lately, could be some kind of take over the world thing."
The fanged sheriff stared at her in mild disbelief. "You're really that desensitized to it, eh?"
She offered him a teasing smile and a nod of her head in return. "Don't worry. I'll check it out, since you're gonna be busy."
Well, that was something at least. "Thanks, Ryoko. So, is that it then?"
Apparently not, as she shuffled yet another piece of paper to the top of the stack.
"Meh, Lady Fingers wants you to head over to his place; says he's got a new technique he wants you to try."
He actually considered that for a moment. "Hmm, well, that could either be very cool, or horribly humiliating . . . still, it will give us the chance to discuss who we should invite as the fourth for that poker night thing he wants to start up."
"Heh, as long as it ain't Kagato, I'll be happy to clean out your wallets on a weekly basis."
He rolled his eyes at his deputy's (very likely valid) bravado for gambling. Ryoko, for her part, prepared to dump the thin sheaf of papers into the recycling bin . . . when a small envelope dropped out, quickly catching her attention.
"Hmph, lookie here, nearly missed one." The cyan haired demoness picked up the envelope, flipping it over to read who it was addressed to and from. "Oooooh, this one is from Dr. Mizuno!"
The mere mention of the blue haired researcher's name was enough to perk Ryouga right up out of his minor funk. "Really? She's back from her suspension already? That's good to hear."
Ryoko shook her head in disbelief. "I still can't believe that was all she got. Hell, I was half expecting an execution for all the crap she nearly flung straight through the fan."
It was Ryouga's turn to smirk. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. Unfortunately, the person in charge of writing up the report on the entire incident was extremely new to his job and terribly incompetent; missed all kinds of details." He shook his head sadly. "Gendo sure was upset with me."
His partner could only stare at him in wide eyed wonder, until finally a sly smile formed on her lips. "There's hope for you yet, Hibiki. This might just work out after all."
With that, Ryoko tore open the envelope with nary a second thought.
"Hey, that's mine!"
Quickly pulling out the letter within, she shrugged her shoulders impishly. "Oops, too late."
He glared for all he was worth as the nosy female indulgently began reading through the contents of the communiqué. "You are aware that opening other people's mail is a crime, right?"
Only for Ryoko to scoff loudly. "What are you gonna do, arrest me? Oooh, this is good!"
Unable to contain his curiosity, or cow his partner, Ryouga opted for the third option of leaning forward eagerly. "Well, what does it say?"
For just a moment, Ryoko looked ready to tease him mercilessly, when an unexpectedly genuine smile appeared on her face.
"Looks like our little lab mouse wants to invite you to dinner; thanks for you saving her narrow butt." Ryoko looked over the letter again, chuckling in amusement. "Who woulda figured Nerdmeister would have the guts to be this forward."
Ryouga rolled his eyes. "Oh, quit it, Ryoko. There's no way anyone as good looking as her could be that shy. Heck, she's probably already got a boyfriend and this is just a thank you, like she wrote."
Ryoko stared at him through lidded eyes. "Riiight. Trust me, if she already had a boyfriend, you wouldn't be getting an invitation like this. She is totally into you."
He couldn't help but shake his head in disbelief. "Stop teasing, Ryoko. What could she possibly see in me? I mean, she's smart, beautiful, sweet . . . not to mention strangely familiar, and I . . . well, I'm just a dusty vagabond turned sheriff."
Ryoko continued to stare at him through her lidded eyes (man, he really wished he knew what that expression meant). "Hibiki, you punched your way through a wall of glass to rescue her. Trust me, that kinda thing makes a pretty big impression. Besides, knowing Miz-Nerdo, this is probably the first time she's had a big, muscly alpha male type showing any interest in her."
The fanged sheriff chuckled in amusement. "Big muscly Alpha male? Heh, I don't know if that's an insult or a compliment."
The cyan haired demoness rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Oh, get over yourself. You're a stud and you know it. Of course, I personally am more into the quiet carrot farming type, but for someone like her, you're probably we – ahem – a wild dream come true."
Not exactly sure how to deal with the slightly disturbing compliments his deputy was lavishing him with, Ryouga began to run his hand through his hair, chuckling nervously.
"Now you're just being ridiculous. Beautiful women just aren't attracted to me. They're all too busy being infatuated with Ranma."
Again, Ryoko rolled her eyes. "Sheesh, talk about self esteem problems," she muttered darkly. A moment later, she leaned back into her chair, a sly smirk appearing on her lips. "Okay, listen here, partner. If it weren't for you, my apartment would probably be buried under a mountain of rubble right now, so I owe you one."
Suddenly, the lovely female leaned forward, her smile growing disturbingly devious. "You let me give you a few pointers, and I bet I can get your dinner invitation changed to a breakfast invitation."
Ryouga looked at the demoness like she had just lost her mind. "What? Why would I want to do that? You get a lot more food at dinner!"
For some reason, Ryoko's jaw dropped open as she stared at him in a look that screamed 'utter, complete and total disbelief'. He was so startled by her reaction that he was about to ask her what the problem was . . .
He was, before the entire office suddenly chose that moment to rattle violently in tune with the discordant sound of a distant explosion
Several seconds later, the phone rang.
The pair of law enforcement officers stared at the piece of black plastic for two long rings . . . until Ryoko realized that it was the phone on her desk that was ringing. Sighing weakly, she answered the accursed thing.
"Yep . . . yep . . . un huh . . . Okay, the Sheriff will be there immediately."
Ryouga groaned loudly. "Oh, Lord, what now?"
His lovely assistant smirked wickedly. "Looks like Dr. Gero and Biko are having another . . . disagreement over whose robots are more powerful."
The already beleaguered sheriff sighed. "I guess I better go break it up then, right?"
A teasing smile and nod. "You might want to take the HAZSIT suit, though."
Nodding wearily, Ryouga tapped the button on his desk which opened the hidden closet with all of the funky safety gear in it. Pushing himself up from his seat, he moved to grab one of the gaudy looking yellow suits which slid out from the closet, when his partner chuckled in amusement.
"Hold on, Hibiki. Those are the Hazardous Materials suits. You're gonna want the Hazardous Situations suit."
He offered her a queer look. "What's the difference?"
Standing up (and incidentally phasing through her desk), Ryoko donned a smile of pure delight.
"Oh, you are gonna love this."
Dr. Gero scowled across the verdant subterranean plain at the maniacally laughing, if somewhat scantily clad, figure of the infuriating Dr. Daitokuji. Between them, the once pristine meadow had been torn asunder by the battle being waged betwixt their respective creations.
His precious Number Eleven, looking very much like a rather handsome young man wearing a black body suit, dodged nimbly to the side as the ground where he had been standing erupted into a fountain of radioactive glass. The good doctor marveled at the perfect balance between form and function he had created in Number Eleven as his android fluidly spun to the side, unleashing a powerful blast of raw, crimson energy from the emitter imbedded in its palm.
Unfortunately, the potent blast did little more than scorch the six-inch, duranium plated armor of the lumbering sixteen foot monstrosity that the tedious young woman standing across from him had cobbled together.
"Absolutely no sense of style," he groused to himself.
The blasted thing looked like a cheap attempt at building a Transformer, and not the classic ones, either, one of the Micheal Bay Transformers.
Dr. Gero shuddered.
Bah. He'd be damned if he let an upright walking artillery piece, built by some spoiled lack wit, destroy his creation. He reached for his trusty remote. Maybe it was time to move up to sixty percent of its maximum power-
"Dr. Gero, Dr. Daitokuji . . ." The booming voice nearly deafened the good doctor, even drowning out the annoying laugh of that lavender haired witch.
It was followed a moment later by a massive tremor which nearly toppled him from his feet. His android faired better, though Biko's cumbersome beast collapsed completely, to his amusement.
The source of the voice, and the seismic shockwave, was impossible to miss. Standing over five stories tall, towering over even his rival's overly large comptraption, polished gold and ebony armor gleaming in the sun was . . .
"Oh, hell . . ." the genius muttered.
He could almost see the fanged smile plastered across the face of their newly appointed sheriff through the two feet of solid Gundanium armor.
"I'm going to have to ask you both to come with me."
The Road To Cydonia
Dragon Ball Z
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Cooking Master Boy
Yu Yu Hakusho
All Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku
Men in Black
Pinky and the Brain
Full Metal Panic
Power Puff Girls
My Life As A Teenage Robot
Sailor Moon (Come on, you really didn't see this coming? It's practically obligatory)
Back to the Future
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Gundam (Any of the dozens of variations)