Disclaimer: Kyon-kun... denwa. (Not again!!!)
Disclaimer #2: I was so tempted to make the chapter title a reference to Schrodinger's Cat.
Author's Notes: My apologies for releasing this chapter to fanfiction dot net so late. Not only did I forget to warn you all that between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, there would be a bit of a delay, but when I got home after work, I found out that Champions Online is allowing people to play for free this weekend! Needless to say, I've been completely absorbed in the game these last two days. ^_^ Since I've given up on making it to 50,000 words this year (due to not wanting to lose sleep or gain too much weight), I'm taking the next couple days off to fool around with various superhero powers. I'll get back to writing next Tuesday. I'd like to at least finish the in-story week before I return to my other stories (which I really need to start publishing, even if it's just in a "miscellaneous works" kind of thing, since I have so many that are only one or two chapters long right now) so it looks like I've got another five or six chapters to go. Of course, my initial outline was to end the week at chapter forty, so....
Chapter Thirty-Nine – The Face of the Enemy
Aino Minako, in her guise as Sailor Venus, looked at her fiancee in confusion. "A vampire?"
"Yes," Ranma said as she produced long a silver case from nowhere and set it down on the receptionist's desk. She opened it and put the Gekkaja in its foam indentation. "There's something wrong with it, though, and I'd like to know what it is." She shut the case with a snap. "Plus we need to determine whether it's feral or not." She grabbed the case and it vanished. "We can't destroy it until we know more about it."
Minako pointed at the travel-stained man. "And who's this?"
"Oops, forgive me. Sailor Venus, this is Hibiki Ryouga, an old friend of mine. Ryouga, this is one of the Sailor Senshi, Sailor Venus." Ranma turned to Doctor Ono. "So doc, why do you have a vampire in your clinic?"
"Wait a second, Ranma," Ryouga said, indignantly, pointing at the examination room, "How the hell can he be a vampire? I've been carrying him for days, and he didn't burn up in the sunlight!" He paused. "And why do you look like that?"
"Ryouga, don't believe anything that Hollywood shows about vampires. If you want a realistic depiction of them, read the novel Dracula. Most of us are pretty sure that some vampire set up the 'destroyed by sunlight' idea just to keep regular people off their guard. The truth is that vampires avoid going out when the sun's in the sky simply because they lose most of their powers during the day, so they prefer to hide, even though they're still stronger than several grown men. They avoid direct sunlight, or any bright lights, because they don't cast shadows, and the stronger the light, the easier it is to tell something's not right about them." Ranma paused. "And I look like this because Takeda Megumi is a known the devil hunter... and I like the auburn hair," she added impishly.
Minako looked into the examination room. "What's a feral vampire?"
Ranma frowned. "A feral vampire is one that doesn't have the intelligence, self control, or patience to exist among humans. If a feral isn't destroyed soon after its created, it flees into the wilderness, where it preys upon those who stumble upon it. Feral vampires are safe to hunt down and destroy. The so-called 'civilized' ones aren't."
"Because they're more dangerous?"
"No, the ferals are more dangerous. Not only are they more vicious, but they also create more ferals. If a feral isn't destroyed quickly, they eventually form packs, and then get brave enough to start attacking small, isolated communities.
"The civilized ones are smart enough not to leave a trail of corpses behind them when they feed, that will rise to create more vampires. The problem is that once their victims die, they rise anyways. But the civilized ones take steps to ensure that doesn't happen, because they don't want competition. A single civilized vampire keeps track of thousands of its former victims, and destroying it means that each and every one of them will become a vampire when they die."
Ranma grimaced. "Recently, technology has reached the point where we might be able to identify and track those fed on by vampires, and be able to finally get rid of vampire scourge once and for all, but some stupid webcomic artist has introduced a new strategy that they use to ensure that destroying them would do far more harm than good. They've been secreting away feral vampires, driving stakes through their hearts with an enchantment that, if it isn't renewed, destroys the stake and releases a hungry vampire. And since they're timed to be destroyed simultaneously..."
Minako shivered. "I get the idea." She looked at the vampire again. "So if it isn't a feral, does that mean we have to cure it?"
"Or at least know where it came from. It looks Caucasian, so it's probably from the West somewhere. They don't practice cremation very often, so the vampire problem is much greater in the West than it is here."
"Do vampires normally kind of feel like youma?"
"What?" Ranma joined Minako at the door, and reached out with her senses. "It does sort of feel like a youma, doesn't it? Damn... I wish I knew. As I said, we don't have nearly as many problems with vampires as the West does, so I've never hunted down a feral one." The auburn haired woman frowned. "I'd better call Col. Anderson. If there's even the possibility that Beryl's recruiting vampires, feral or otherwise, it's better if we find out sooner rather than later." Ranma looked at the younger girl. "Why don't you go to bed? You've had a very... busy day and you've got school tomorrow."
"I'm too pumped right now to sleep! I've never felt this alive before!" Seeing Ranma's expression slip, Minako sheepishly added, "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. If anyone has the right to feel alive right now, it's you." Ranma smiled at the girl. "And I suppose we could use the moral support, and the additional firepower if this is some kind of ruse."
"Thanks." Minako turned towards a completely confused Ryouga. "Is he going to be helping us?"
"I don't know." The auburn haired woman turned to the man she hadn't seen in over ten years. "So, how about it, Ryouga? We're facing an ancient evil that almost wiped out every living thing on the Earth thousands of years ago. You in?"
Ryouga snorted. "Of course. I'm not a coward like you, Ranma." Ryouga paused before adding, "But if Akari and the kids..."
Ranma smiled. "Of course. I feel the same way, and she can handle herself." She turned to Sailor Venus. "Go ahead and change back, if you want."
"Hai." Minako detransformed in a flash of light and bowed. "Hello, Hibiki-san. I'm Aino Minako." She looked at Ranma. "I'll go get Artemis, and then brew up some coffee and make us something to eat." She summoned the door that now connected the clinic to their extra-dimensional dojo, and stepped through.
Ryouga shook his head before turning to his old nemesis. "So, is she your adopted daughter or something?"
Ranma frowned at the man. "No... my fiancee."
Ryouga looked from the weird door to the woman he considered his only rival. "So... going the Genji Hikaru route, are we Ranma?"
- + - + -
"Colonel, you wanted to see me?"
Col. Richard Anderson yawned. "Yes, Lieutenant. I need you and your team to go to the Ono clinic in Nerima and take custody of a vampire they found there. Take whatever precautions you deem necessary, but don't destroy it unless it attacks, which is probably unlikely. Bring it here and secure it, so we can deal with it in the morning." The colonel yawned again. "Besides, it'll take some time to get a vampire expert here from the States, so some of us might as well get some sleep tonight. Dismissed."
- + - + -
Minako, Artemis on her shoulder and a tray with coffee and treats in her hands, returned to the clinic and stopped in shock. Ranma had Ryouga in a headlock, and was growling, "What's my name?"
"Wrong answer, P-Chan!"
"Don't call me that!"
It took a few seconds for Minako to find her voice. "What the hell are you two doing?"
"It's okay, Minako-chan," Dr. Toufuu said. "They're just reestablishing their friendship."
"It's alright. The vampire hasn't moved an inch."
"Something wrong, Minako-chan?" Ranma asked around Ryouga's hand, which was currently pushing against her face.
"Hey, Ryouga? Why don't we table this for another day."
Ranma straightened up and fixed her mussed hair. "So what's wrong, Minako-chan?"
"Do you think I should call the others?"
"Nah. Let's let them get some sleep. No sense disturbing them until we actually know what's going on."
- + - + -
Tsukino Usagi quietly unlocked the door to her home. She was just sneaking past the kitchen when the light turned on, momentarily blinding her.
"Tsukino Usagi," her mother Ikuko said firmly, "Do you know what time it is?"
"Hai. I was... I was visiting a friend at the hospital, and I kinda lost track of the time."
"I see," Ikuko said more gently. She looked at her somber daughter, before gathering her into a hug. "Is everything alright, Usagi-chan?"
"I don't know, mama... I don't know anymore."
- + - + -
Hino Rei stiffened when she heard an unwelcome voice as she bowed before passing through the torii of Hikawa shrine.
"So... not only did you humiliate me by not showing up to dinner today..."
"But here I find you sneaking in at this hour. Where were you? What's the boy's..."
Rei's slap interrupted the older man. "How dare you! Where was I? Where was I? I was watching a friend die. I was watching a friend die, just like Mama. Where were you? Where where you when we needed you?" Rei wiped furiously at her eyes. "Why weren't you there?"
"Rei, don't talk to me like that! I am your father..."
"No you're not! You're not my father. You're just the jerk that slept with Mama nine months before I was born!"
"Go away and leave me alone!" She turned and ran into the shrine. She didn't see the figure that emerged from the shadows to block the man's path after her.
- + - + -
"So right before he left, Mousse suggested a possible work around for storing Saffron's weapons in stuff space," Ranma explained to Ryouga as they watched Dr. Toufuu examine the vampire the eternally lost man had unwittingly been carrying around for quite a while.
"I helped her a bit with the dimensional work, though," Artemis added. "Math isn't her strong suit."
"Yeah. Once all of this is over, I really need to go back to school. It's one thing to have enough power to use the brute force approach, but doing so just lacks style." Ranma turned to the doctor when he straightened up. "Well, Doc? Any clue on what's wrong with it yet?"
"No, Ranma. I'm completely out of my depth here. Normally, the lack of pupil reaction..."
"Doc? If its pupils did react, we'd be in a lot of trouble. That would mean that not only was it conscious, but it has existed long enough to learn how to fake the normal reactions of the living."
Toufuu frowned. "I hadn't considered that..." The doorbell rang. "Now what?"
Minako stood up from where she'd been snuggling against her sempai. "I'll get it."
"Thank you, Minako-chan."
A minute later Minako returned with an American Air Force Lieutenant and three other soldiers. "Megumi-sempai, this is Lieutenant Castro. Colonel Anderson sent him to secure the vampire so we can, and I quote, 'Get some sleep until we get a vampire expert here.'"
Ranma smiled when the lieutenant saluted. "Thank you, Lieutenant," she said in English. "Your colonel thinks of everything."
The lieutenant smiled back. "That's his job, ma'am. What the colonel doesn't think of, Captain Tapping does." He signaled the other members of the team to take custody the creature. "The ETA on the vampire expert is eighteen-hundred hours."
"Thanks, Lieutenant. Please tell the colonel that I'll try meeting with Shampoo, Herb, and Kiima again tomorrow afternoon, about two o-clock. Why don't we take a second look at the vampire at... eight good for you, doc? Hibiki-san?"
- + - + -
"Rei-chan, are you alright?"
Rei, busy trying to regain control of her emotions, started at the quiet voice. "Mako-chan? What the hell are you doing here?" She winced at her tone. "Sorry. I didn't mean it that way."
Kino Makoto sat down on the bench beside her friend. "I was worried about you. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but..."
"Don't you think you were a little hard on him? I mean, he is your father..."
"I've ditched our monthly 'family dinner' before. Since he was upset that I didn't show today, he probably invited others so he can show of what a 'devoted family man' he is. He only thinks about me when it's convenient to his career. Just like he did with Mama." Makoto put her arm around her friend. "I don't need him anymore. You guys are all the family I need. Hell, if I ever need a father, I'm sure Ranma'll be a better one than my old man would be any day."
"I don't think that would be a good idea, Rei-chan."
"Well, if Ranma-sensei is your father, that'll make Minako-chan your mother, and that just ain't right."
- + - + -
Deep beneath the Earth, three men ran for their lives. "Hurry, this way," Nephrite said, leading the other two into a chamber. He briefly considered leaving the two behind, but they were like brothers to him. 'Maybe Endymion-sama will be able to repair the damage Beryl had done to them.' "Zoisite, can you seal off the passage?"
"Sure." Zoisite unleashed a huge sphere of energy into the ceiling of the corridor. In a flurry of debris and dust, the passage collapsed, sealing them in. Then the man began to giggle. "Rocks go 'boom!'"
'Okay, I think it's safe to assume that he wasn't pretending to be mad, just to throw off Beryl.'
Nephrite turned to look at Jadeite, who was once again curled up at in ball, sobbing, "Beryl-sama. Beryl-sama."
Nephrite grabbed the collar of the younger man's uniform and pulled him upright. "Jadeite, snap out of it! We've got one chance to escape, and that's if you can get the bridge to Tokyo working!"
"What's the point? Without Beryl-sama..." Nephrite's slap cut the blond's blubbering off.
"So you're just going to abandon us, are you? Just let that monster kill you, or maybe turn you into one of his kind?" Nephrite shoved him away in disgust when all he did was look away.
"Don't you want avenge Beryl, Jadeite?" Zoisite asked. Nephrite looked sharply at the white haired man. "We can't do that here. The only thing we'll do is add to Marlowe's power. Once we've escaped, we can get Kunzite's and Endymion's help, and destroy Marlowe."
"You're right, Zoisite."
"And when we're done, we can all go out and get ice cream with sprinkles to celebrate!" The man gushed girlishly.
'Oh, god... we're all going to die.'
- + - + -
On the other side of the rockfall, one of the swirls of dust coalesced to become the vampire Marlowe. He snarled at the sealed corridor, then turned to his former clansmen. "Well, what are you standing around there for? Start digging!" We watched the sad creatures that had once been proud members of his clan begin to remove the rubble. Once he was sure they would follow his orders, he left to attend to other business.
The creature stalked down the dungeons, to the very cell that had once been his. "Are you still alive in there, witch?" He walked up to the bars and looked inside. "Ah, good. I'll send some food down for you. I wouldn't want you to expire until my people find some prey. The only thing to eat around here besides you is human food, and that just doesn't do anything for my kind."
Getting no reply from the woman, Marlowe laughed. "What, no comeback, Barrel? What do you think of that name, by the way? Or how about Barry? You look like a Barry." He laughed again. "I really must thank you, Barry. My kind have long suffered under the thumb of humans. Look at what we have to do survive. We've become accountants! Keeping track of every human we've fed upon, to make sure we don't become a 'nuisance' to the humans. But now, with Queen Metaria's power, we will once again become the predators we were meant to be! And it's all thanks to you, Barry."
He stepped away from the cell, adding, "Do try to regain your strength, Barry. It's only been a few hours, and I'm already feeling a little peckish again. Sleep tight."
- + - + -
"I don't know about you," Minako said when she and Ranma returned to their apartment. "But I'm still not tired." She glanced at the clock. "And I don't feel like wasting the next three hours taking a nap before I have to get ready for school." She put her arms around the older woman. "Can you think of any way to pass the time?"
"Well, we can get a little training in," Ranma said, grinning at the brunette's pout.
"Ranma, don't you think it's time we..." She was interrupted by the lobby buzzer. "NO! Ranma, don't answer that!"
"Minako, nobody visits at this time of night unless it's an emergency." She smirked at the girl. "And if it isn't, believe me it soon will be." She turned on the lobby camera, and looked at the unfamiliar man. "Anyone you know, Minako-chan?"
"No... he looks like a drifter to me."
"Well, we'll never know what he wants if we don't ask." Ranma turned on the intercom. "Hello, this is Takeda Megumi. You better have a damn good reason for..."
"Kunzite? Thank god you're there after all."
Ranma shared a look with Minako, before turning on the intercom again. "How do you know that name?"
"Kunzite," the stranger said, "It's Zoisite. I'm afraid I did something extremely foolish trying to escape from Beryl."
- + - + -
Author's Notes: Grayson Towler is the author of Thunderstruck, and is also the author of the classic Ranma ½ fanfic Relentless.
One of his characters in Thunderstruck threatened to unleash a vampire apocolypse by collecting vampires, hiding them, and driving a stake through their hearts that could be destroyed at her command, ensuring that thousands of starving vampires would be unleashed simultaneously. And despite this, it could be argued that the woman was one of the good guys.
The story is a great read, with excellent and complex characters, but its now a dead webcomic because Grayson has decided to make a career of writing. I really hope he writes a novelization of Thunderstruck. I wanna know how the story ends!!!