Disclaimer: Tenchi Muyo and the characters in it belong to AIC and Pioneer Corp. No profit is being made from this fanfic.

Authors notes: After months of writers block, I've come up with this story. I have a basic plot outline in my mind, but many of the details still need filling in, so there might be times where I don't update for awhile. Anyways, I hope you all enjoy this story, I can never tell if anything I write is any good so I'd appreciate some feedback.

Bang the drum slowly

Chapter 1: Walking into the fire


"What have I gotten myself into?"

While those words had been muttered many a time by one Tenchi Masaki, they nevertheless seemed quite appropriate as he stood outside his home, nearly buried under a mass of suitcases. The cause of his predicament was, not surprisingly, the result of his homes many female residents. During Tenchi's summer vacation from school, the ladies had decided it would be fun to all go to the Startica festival on the planet Jurai.

Well, Ayeka wanted to take me there, and of course Ryoko immediately decided that she would need to accompany me, Mihoshi then chose to use some sick days she had accumulated, and Washu realized how long it had been since she had seen the festival. Of course nobody really cared to ask if I wanted to go, they all just sort of decided on it. All I wanted was a normal relaxing summer, and I just know that this little 'vacation' is gonna end up giving me a headache. Heck, it's already giving me a backache...

"Say Ryoko, could you maybe give me a hand with these?" Tenchi's muffled voice pleaded when he spotted the golden eyed girl slowly float by.

"I am helping Tenchi, see?" she answered while holding out a small box with the words 'Fragile! Handle with care!' stamped onto it.

Tenchi frowned while looking at her box. "What's in that thing?"

"The Sake of course." she said cheerily before flying off to the shore of the lake.

"Figures." he mumbled before staggering forward.

First princess Ayeka demurely strode out of the house, with her hands clasped in front of her when she spotted Tenchi. "Oh hello Tenchi, I'm glad I found you, there are a few more items of luggage you'll need to bring out." A strangled groan was the only reply Ayeka received.

"Don't worry Tenchi, I got them." Sasami reassured him while trotting out towards the lake with a few suitcases in hand, with the cabbit Ryo-ohki bounding along behind her.

"Thanks Sasami." a grateful Tenchi sighed.

"Come on! We haven't got all day." Washu's nasal voice called out.

Mustering up his reserves of strength he finally arrived to where the others were waiting. Letting out a relieved grunt, he set down the luggage and rubbed his back while glancing around. Tenchi's father was too busy with work and wouldn't be able to come with them, and his grandfather was adament about not wanting to return to Jurai, even for a short time, however he was there to see them all off.

"Grandfather, I'm sorry I wont be able to help out around the shrine." Tenchi said apologetically.

Katsuhito waved his hand dismissively. "Quite alright, I'll manage. I wish you safe passage, Tenchi." turning to his half sister, Ayeka, he leveled his normal calm gaze at her, "Give mother my greetings and well wishes."

"Of course, take care brother." Ayeka said while giving a short bow, which he returned in kind.

Washu summoned up her holo top computer and punched in a few keys. "Alright, let's get this show on the road."

And with that, a hole opened up above the lake and Mihoshi's ship, the Yukinojo, emerged in all its glory. The group had decided to use the galaxy police officers ship to avoid causing the stir that would result from flying the notorious Ryo-ohki. Tenchi had wondered how Ryoko would be received on Jurai, where she had wreaked havoc some 700 years. She assured him that she would keep a 'Low profile.' but he had his doubts about how well that would work.

Taking a look to his right he spotted the violet haired princess who had spawned this idea for a trip to Jurai. He had confessed to her that he really didn't want to have to deal with the galactic press hounding him, seeing how he was Yosho's decendant and crown prince. His fears were partly put to rest when she stated that the general populace of Jurai had no idea he even existed, and that his identity would be kept a secret during his stay on the planet.

Though he still harbored worries, he didn't have any further time to mull on them as the Yukinojo began to beam everyone onboard. Blinking a few times to recover from the slightly disorienting sensation, he looked around the main cabin of the vessel, a fairly modest setting with a small table and some emerald colored cushions around it. The ship wasn't designed to house six people plus a cabbit, so they were bound to be a little cramped on this trip.

Mihoshi's bubbly voice crackled over the intercom from the cockpit, "Ok everyone, we're off to Jurai! I can't wait to go to the Startica festival, I mean there's so much see there, with the lights, the fireworks, the dancing...and the food! You know I hear they have all sorts of flavors of..." the message was abruptly cut off, thanks to Washu and her holo top computer. "Maybe we can finally relax now." she muttered under her breath.


***


Having set which course for the GP cruiser to take, Mihoshi joined the others in the 'living room' onboard the vessel. Sasami prepared some tea and everyone gathered round the small table much as they would any normal day back on Earth. Tenchi sat inbetween Ryoko and Ayeka, which would normally mean he'd end up having to scramble away to avoid being caught in the crossfire of their fights. Yet this day however, Tenchi noted that both Ryoko and Ayeka seemed more calm, and neither one had said anything to instigate a battle. Yet as normal, such peaceful moments would not last long...

"You know Ryoko, I was wondering, what will you do on Jurai while the rest of us attend the Startica festivities? You know that if you show up in public you're bound to cause a riot." Ayeka calmy stated while setting down her cup.

Ryoko smirked before answering, "Simple really, I'll just have to disguise myself a bit. A hat to hide my hair, some contacts for my eyes, and I'll be dancing the night away with my Tenchi."

"Just what makes you think he'll be dancing with YOU, hmm?" Ayeka inquired with agitation evident in her voice.

"Well, you know how Tenchi doesn't want the galactic press all over him, and what do you think is gonna happen when the media sees you dragging Tenchi all over the place? They'll be very interested to know who your 'mystery date' is. So, it looks like while you'll be out playing with your mommy and daddy, Tenchi and I will be entertaining ourselves in private." Ryoko began to chuckle as she watched Ayeka turn crimson with rage.

By now Tenchi had slinked away and was looking for some cover to shield himself from the conflict brewing. Mihoshi intervened, trying to be the voice of reason. "Please don't fight, you might damage the ship and then we'll never get to Jurai."

After taking a deep breath, Ayeka saw the logic in Mihoshi's statement. "You're quite right, there's no reason to let some silly remarks lead to violence."

Ryoko snorted while finishing the last of her drink. "Isn't it 'silly remarks' that start all our other fights?"

The princess chose not to reply as she demurely sipped her tea. A thick silence descended as Tenchi wearily slipped back to the table, his eyes nervously checking to make sure no energy blasts would suddenly begin to fly. Sasami broke the tension when she brought up something which had been nagging her for some time. "Say, there's six of us, right? So where are we all gonna sleep?"

"Well....umm..." Mihoshi said thoughtfully.

A sweatdrop formed on Tenchi's head. Figures. They were so excited about going that they didn't even think about the details. Washu then spoke up with a solution. "Well, there are two bedrooms, the prison cell, and this room. Now, the cell has a bit of a smell to it, so that's out of the question. So, it looks like Tenchi will get one room, Ayeka and Sasami the other, and Mihoshi and Ryoko will stay out here."

Ryoko blinked a few times. "What about you?" she inquired.

Washu's tone was as flat and serious as she could manage. "I'll be with Tenchi of course."

Tenchi promptly choked on his tea while Ryoko and Ayeka lunged at Washu, the cyan haired pirate managing to grab the pint sized scientist by the collar. "Listen you little pipsqueak, you won't be anywhere near Tenchi's room, got it?" Ryoko hissed into Washu's face.

"Quite right!" Ayeka chimed in.

Washu gave her 'daughter' a dissapproving look. "Such rude manners, Ryoko. Besides, I thought you'd want me to be with Tenchi, that way you could have a little brother or sister." Of course, that comment resulted in some rather heated retorts by the two enraged women.

Yeah, this trip is gonna be real fun... Tenchi thought with a sigh as he tried to block out the firey bickering going on around him.


***


It was many hours later that the residents onboard the Yukinojo finally turned in to get some sleep. The calm, serene atmosphere was accompanied by the occasional light snoring of some of the ships members. As the residents onboard the Yukinojo slumbered away, a much more violent scene was occuring outside the craft. The galaxy police vessel was currently soaring through a hellacious cloud of dust and debris, tiny specks and sometimes larger chunks of matter whipped all around the ship in a blazing fury. Speck after speck battered the sturdy vessel, while the effects of a lone strike were minimal, the added effect of multiple impacts would be something more.

The nocturnal dreams of the crew were shattered when a shrill beeping sound flooded the cabin and the entire ship lit up with the blood red light of the emergency alarms. Immediately the occupants awoke and tried to make sense of this confusing turn of events, Mihoshi stumbling into the cockpit to find out what was happening.

"What the hell is going on?" a bleary eyed Ryoko muttered as she glanced over at a frazzled looking Tenchi who had just come out of his room.

Before he could reply Washu emerged from her interdimensional subspace laboratory where she had been resting, a stone faced expression evident. "We've got trouble." she murmured under her breath.

In the pilots chambers...

Mihoshi stared pale faced at the moniters around her, sweat beads forming on her forehead. "Ok Yukinojo, what you're saying is..." The digital voice of the ship interrupted the blonde. "That the ship is only 0.236 parsecs from the star known as HSC 034492, which is a class V stellar object, otherwise know as a 'black hole'. Now normally such distances are within nominal operating ranges for a galaxy police cruiser of this nature, however the ship has sustained an uncontained failure of the hyper-ion cooling systems, leading to a serious decline in engine efficiency."

Tenchi and the others had entered the cockpit a moment earlier and had picked up most of what Yukinojo had said, the serious expressions they held were testimony to that. Mihoshi gave a quick glance behind her before turning once more and examing the readouts in front of her. "Yukinojo, what will be result of this?"

"The ship is being pulled into the gravatational vortex of the black hole at an ever increasing pace." it quickly replied.

Mihoshi gulped before speaking up again, "Our engine efficiency is only at 16 percent, what would be required to get to escape velocity?"

"Currently 83.389 percent, though that figure will rise as we are pulled at an accellerating velocity towards the black hole."

Mihoshi's blue eyes widened further as she began to piece together the seriousness of the situation. "W-What's the best course of action?" she asked with a faltering tone.

"Immediate repairs to the hyper-ion cooling pipelines, however they are on the exterior of the vessel, and due to the extreme intensity of which the ship is being bombarded by debris, such repairs are impossible."

A silence hung over the group as they processed the situation, the only sound being the occasional pang of another small object striking the craft. Finally it was Sasami, who had been clinging to Ayeka's side, who spoke up, "What're we gonna do?" she asked meekly.

When no response came from anyone in the room, Ryoko crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "I'll fix it, I'm the only one who could go out there." she declared in a stoney manner.

The barest glint of pride flashed through Washu's eyes at that moment, but it went unnoticed as she summoned her computer and her tiny hands went into action typing up a storm. "You'll need a few tools Ryoko, here." she quietly said before a small interdimensional hole appeared and a small box fell out. "It'll be dangerous, you know." she said while handing the item to the cyan haired girl.

"I know." Ryoko said with a grin before taking the metal box and peering inside for a moment. "I know how to use these, it'll be a cinch." she said with her usual bravado.

"Be careful, Ryoko." Tenchi said softly, and a moment later a chorus of well wishes came from the rest of the group.

Ryoko waved her hand dismissively at them. "Don't worry about it. Besides, you think I'm gonna let the princess have Tenchi all to herself at Startica?" and with that she floated up through the roof of the craft.

Sasami gazed up worriedly at her sister, softly asking, "Do you think she'll be alright?"

Ayeka began to stroke Sasami's hair lightly. "I hope so, I hope so." she murmured.

As soon as Ryoko phased outside the ship, she was instantly assaulted with an intense pulling sensation towards where the black hole was. She focused her energy swiftly to keep herself from being sucked into the gravatational vortex and took a look around her. The withering cloud of dust and debris that was also present was making it even difficult to see very far in front of her. Damn, if we can't get this ship moving soon it'll chip away at the hull until there's nothing left.

Squinting her eyes, she hovered around the ship until she came to the area where the coolant pipes were. Grimacing when she saw the massive puncture holes in it and the fluid being spewed outward, she flew over to begin repairs. Yet she soon discovered one little problem. Wait a minute, where the heck am I gonna put this toolbox while I fix this thing? It'll get sucked off into that black hole. Shrugging her shoulders, she stuffed the metal box down the front of her dress after she retrieved the first tool she needed for the job.


***


Back on the inside of the ship, Tenchi and the others were still in the cockpit, examining the flashing colored readouts on the moniters. "Yukinojo, what's the necessary engine efficiency for escape velocity at now?" Mihoshi asked nervously.

"92.276 percent."

"And what are we at currently?"

"Still at 16.748 percent."

The silence that hung was thick with worry and despair as everyone's mind was scrambling. Tenchi stared at the floor tensely, trying his best to remain calm in the growing crisis, Come on Ryoko, we're all counting on you.


***


Gritting her teeth in the face of the furious blast of debris, Ryoko was becoming more and more hard pressed to focus her energy to counter the gravatational pull and continue her repairs. Ok, just one more sealing agent ought to do it... Pulling the final item out of her dress, she also tossed the toolbox into the depths of space, not wanting any distractions while she finishes the repairs. Applying the think gel like substance carefully, she occasionally had to close her eyes as particles of debris hit her in the face. Were she a normal human, she'd be covered in cuts, scrapes, and bruises by now, but her regenerative abilities prevented that from occuring.

Finally! It's done! she mentally cheered to herself. She grinned widely, showing off her fangs. I bet Tenchi will be so proud of...she could think no further as a stray object struck, sending her spiraling away from the ship...


***


"Mihoshi, our engine efficiency is now rising rapidly, we will be able to achieve escape velocity in 0.452 minutes." Yukinojo said calmy as a collective sigh of relief was heard from the group.

"Well thank goodness Ryoko managed to fix the ship." Ayeka said sincerely.

Tenchi smiled and ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, looks like we managed to get out of trouble."

Washu stared ahead with a pale face. "No, we haven't." she said distantly.

The cheery atmosphere evaporated instantly as all eyes turned towards the dimunitive genius. "What do you mean, Washu?" Tenchi asked with growing concern.

"It's Ryoko, something's happened, she's in trouble." she muttered quickly while summoning her holo top computer before her jaw dropped slightly, "She's being pulled into the gravatational vortex of the black hole, and she can't escape it."

Tenchi's face became set with a grim, almost cold determination before he quickly rushed out of the cockpit. "Tenchi, where are you going?" Ayeka called out to him.

Washu's eyes were fixed on the receeding form of Tenchi as she softly spoke, "He's going to try and rescue her, of course."

The doors to the airlock swished open and Tenchi strode in quickly, not paying any attention to his surroundings. Taking a deep breath, he went over some of the many calming excersizes his grandfather had taught him. After what seemed like an eterinity, but was closer to only a few seconds, he searched within himself for the incredible energy he knew he harbored. Finally, he could feel what felt like a glowing ball of warmth, he focused every fiber of his being on it, and like a dam bursting, the warmth exploded, sending a tingling sensation rocketing throughout his entire being.

Opening his eyes he saw the shimmering forms of the light hawk wings in front of him as expected. He raised his arms and at the instant his fingers contacted the wings they began to transform his clothing. He could feel the silky heat of the wings envelope his body as he embraced the power they held, all his senses felt as if they had tripled in intensity in that moment. Closing his eyes, he began to mentally search out for the energy signal of Ryoko, and since she held an incredible amount of power, it wasn't a difficult task. When the final door in the airlock opened, Tenchi paid no heed to the ferocious conditions outside the ship as he glided forward.


***


Ryoko's eyes blinked rapidly as her disorientation began to fade. Blinded by the cloud of dust and debris all around her, panic flooded throughout her as it occurred to her that she was being sucked into the black hole. She immediately tapped into as much of her power as she could manage, trying to fight the intensity of the gravatational pull, yet she quickly realized it was a losing battle. Her mind scrambled in a wild frenzy as she tried to think of some way out, yet no solutions seemed available to her. As has happened before to her, when all hope seemed lost, she screamed out into the airless vaccum of space the name of the boy she loved, hoping against hope he could save her once more.

Tenchi could feel the aura of Ryoko's immense power flaring up, but grimly noted that it barely seemed to make much difference against the force of the gravatational pull. Pressing onward , the bits of debris evaporated around him as he neared ever closer to Ryoko, until he felt something which made his stomach churn. He could feel her energy signal suddenly die down and become more and more distorted as she obviously by now was nearing the event horizon of the black hole. He knew it wasn't far ahead, he could feel the twisting of the fabric of space around him, and then, he emerged from the cloud of debris, and stared head on at the vast gaping abyss of the black hole in front of him.

Plunging ahead, he could just make out Ryoko's form. Ignoring the pressures being exerted on his light hawk wings, he raced towards his goal steadfastly. Even with the power of the wings he was starting to have some trouble dealing with the gravatational strains, but thought no further of it as he finally reached Ryoko. Her mouth was opened in a silent scream along with her eyes. Tenchi reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her against him, and noticed with relief that she looked fine.

He noted how time seemed frozen in this distorted realm, and the ripples and tears in the fabric of space were felt all around him and became nauseating. Suddenly, something went wrong, as Tenchi felt as if he was being swallowed alive by the universe itself, there was no up, or down, or any discernable way out of the black abyss. And then, all went dark as he lost conciousness...


***


"Is there any sign of them, Washu?" Ayeka asked desperately as she nervously fiddled with her kimono.

The red haired girl sighed and rubbed her temples. "No, not yet, I'm not sure what's taking so long. Let me check..." the rest trailed off into mumbles as she rapidly began to begin some new analysis of the situation. Blinking a few times in shock, she straightened her back mechanically and stared at the figures on her computer screen. "There's been a massive shift detected within the black hole, and I can't find any trace of Tenchi and Ryoko."

Shock was evident on everyones faces as Ayeka rushed over to Washu and hysterically asked, "What do you mean? How can they just...vanish?"

Washu put a finger to her chin as she contemplated for a moment. "It's possible this was a hyper dimensional object, and that the corresponding influx of energy from the light hawk wings disrupted the balance causing a massive distortion in it's internal spacial properties."

Ayeka grabbed Washu by the collar and began shaking her. "What does that mean?!"

"Stop shaking me!" the pint sized genius cried out.

Finally getting herself under control, Ayeka let go of her collar and took a deep breath. Washu straightened out her uniform. "I'll explain in easier to understand terminology. Now, you've heard of wormholes, right? While rare, they do exist in the natural universe. The thing is, they are very fragile, and can easily collapse if something enters it which can shift or distort its internal properties. I think it's safe to say the power of the light hawk wings would be sufficient enough to disrupt a wormhole and cause it's collapse." she spoke as if she were a teacher in a classroom.

Sasami hung her head sadly as tears began to spill over her cheeks. "Are they..."

Washu closed her eyes and exhaled. "Maybe not, it's still possible they are alive. They could have come out of the other side of it. The problem is, it's impossible now to determine where that is since the wormhole collapsed."

"So we have no way of knowing where they are?" Mihoshi wailed, grief written all over her face.

"I'm afraid not," Washu said quietly, pausing a moment before continuing, "if they made it out alive, they'll have to fend for themselves."


End of chapter 1