"OK, people! Places! We've got a Ranma omake ready to go," the director called out.

"Akane's not available," said Shampoo, not looking up from her "Iron Eagle" magazine. "She's off at a casting call for 'Enterprise' as a Klingon warrior."

The director stopped. "You're kidding. She's missing 'What If Ranma 1/2 was written by Miyazaki'?! i thought she *wanted* to be the dashing damsel/heroine."

The various actors stopped.

"You're kidding. You're going ahead and doing it?" Ranma looked over at Shampoo and the two began to grin maniacally. "You *do* know how many people are going to complain about the OOC levels?"

"Screw 'em," replied the director. "It's just an omake. Besides we're aiming for completely outside the typical Ranmaverse, so some of it is necessary. Scriptwriter! We need to replace Akane. Who's available?"

"Uhm, well," the writer (who looked an awful lot like the director except for the hat) stammered as he flipped through pages of applications, "we can have Akane having died a horrible death prior to the story. Say she went stomping off in one of her high rages, forgetting for the moment in typical fashion that she's at an altitude of 5,000 feet over a shark infested ocean."

The director leaned back in his chair. "i like it. i don't think it's been done before. Who will we get to play the Ingenue/young warrior type/youngest Tendo?"

The writer held a photo up. "She's available."

The Director was visibly tempted. "No. Much as i like Hotaru Tomoe, and think that almost any of the Sailors would make a good match with Ranma, let's not go with a Sailor Moon crossover this time around."

"What about this one?"

"Not enough people familiar with 'Love Hina' to realize who Shinobu is, mind you - she's the sanest girl in the series and the most likable, but not at this time."

"This one?"

"?!" The Director stared. "She'd be perfect, except we're trying to avoid OMG xovers here. Particularly after reviews of that last SI experiment were sufficiently hostile (including to her presence) that all copies were deleted. Sorry, Megumi."

"Well, that *was* a bit of a different experiment, and like some experiments it *did* fail," admitted the writer. "Maybe we should just leave out the character entirely?"

"No. Heck, this could be an entirely new series of omake. The Replacement Akane." The Director paused at muttering from the audience. "Maybe not. Okay, cue the opening animation while we go to the big pre-battle scene."

"Oh man, we've missed out on the introductory scenes because of this 'behind the scenes BS'," Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Dang it, *I* wanted to be the dashing heroine this time."

--------

(Picture of vast sky cities floating in the clouds)

Harukana sorani chikae
Owaranai kibo-to-yu umi-wo

(closeup of one such city, the once gleaming walls showing many scars)
Haretari kagettari
Kimochi-wa kawaruyo-ne

(camera pans up, showing five dots crossing under the sun)
Rakunakoto bakarijya naikara

(the five dots zoom down as the music speed picks up)
Demo shinjite itai
Negai-wa hane-ni naru

(the first dot is shown as Ranma "Wild Stallion" Saotome aboard the gunship Gungnir. Second is Kasumi piloting airscout Copain. Third is Nabiki piloting her airscout Grand Magasin. Fourth is Shampoo piloting Lookfar, followed by Ukyo in her sweep-wing Spatula.)
Mada shiranai
Asu-eno chizu-ni naru

(required villain group shot. Holds for a brief moment before Kodachi and Azusa start in on a catfight and roll offscreen. Most other villains sweatdrop. Happosai merely leers.)
Sa-a kaze-wo ukete tate
Namida gao kawakuyoni
Harukana sorani egake
yume-ni mita jibun-no sugata-wo

(close up of Tarou in his sweep-wing black-painted bandit- the Branchee, camera pulls out as he begins a diving attack.)
Ima niji-wo tsukamaete
Ryusei-wo oi-kakete

(scene of big battle with large raider ship nearing city, wheeling air battles going on all around. Close up of major characters in split screens as they fight out major rivalries in the skies)
Kumono youni katachi-nai
Michi-mo nai tabi-ni deru
Sa-a kaze ni mune-wo hare
Hohoemi-de utauyoni
Harukana sora-ni chikae
Owaranai kibo-to-yu umi-wo. (1)

--------

"Wishing For An Eternal Sky" by Kazuko Hamano
Wishing for an eternal sky
a vast sea of endless dreams

Emotions will brighten
Emotions will cloud

Nothing comes easy

But I'll keep on believing
Hope will turn into wings

You still don't realize
it'll guide you through the map of tomorrow

So stand up to the wind
as the tears dry from your cheeks
Look into the distant sky
And see yourself in your dreams.

Catch a rainbow
and chase a shooting star

Like a shapeless cloud
your adventure lies on an unknown path
So stand with your face against the wind
as you sing with a smile on your face
wishing for an eternal sky
a vast sea of endless dreams.

------

Ranma stepped up to the railing, leaning over it slightly as he looked to where his red-and-black biplane with the three chainguns and the two ship-to-ship torpedoes was being reloaded. "Tomorrow is the final battle they say."

Shampoo jauntily threw one end of her scarf over a shoulder. "Will you be able to face your father this time?"

Ranma clenched a fist so hard the leather gauntlet squeaked in protest. "Even if he *is* my father, no - especially if he is my father - some things cannot be forgiven if I am to call myself a man."

"I could face him you know. You could lead the assault on Happosai's 'Brassierei' Air-Fortress. They could use you there." Shampoo didn't really expect Ranma to agree. "It isn't good to enter a battle with your heart divided."

"It isn't. He got in some lucky shots the last time." Ranma scowled. "This time there will be no mercy given."

"Good. Since her ship was shot down into the Toxic Cloud, Kasumi is stuck in the infirmary, and Nabiki's own ship was too shot up for her to get in this battle," observed Shampoo.

"She'll be my tailgunner in this fight," said Ranma, indicating the second seat and the rear mounted swiveling chaingun.

"As long as she's not stingy with the ammunition, that's what got her into trouble in the first place." Shampoo looked over at her own craft, the Lookfar with its special observation scopes. "Maybe Kasumi can ride with me. Normally it's a one seater with the pilot just moving over to the observer platform, but she's light. She could fit there."

"Are *you* going to be OK? Mousse will be in this battle too!"

"Hey, no problem." Shampoo gave a thumb's up. "When we were young he was a friend. A mainly blind annoying friend, but a friend. That friendship died a little every time he mistook me for a cow or pig. Siding with a master criminal like Happosai in order to get a chance to shoot you down? He's made his bed. Now he's going to get shot in it. What about you? He may be Happosai's right hand man, the Panda Bandit, but he's still your father."

"Like I said, he can't be forgiven." Ranma shrugged. "Course, Ukyo might get to him first." (Brief flashback to when a large aircraft steals an okonomiyaki yattai by means of a grapnel chain.)

Sirens began to blare, causing the mechanic's bay to accelerate into a whirl of activity.

"Looks like Happosai decided to send an advance group after all," observed Ranma.

-------

The red/black biplane moved slowly among the clouds. Almost lazy. Though the most manueverable of the city's defenders, it was the ability to hover for brief periods that made Gungnir's two forward-mount machine guns as deadly as they were. "Gungnir standing by," said Ranma into his radio. "No sign of bogies." Nabiki shifted her weight slightly, their backs pressing against each other as sky continued to darken.

Far above, Lookfar circled. "Shampoo here. Neither I nor Kasumi have bogies on scopes."

"Spatula Bomber here. Where are those jackasses?!"

Kasumi's voice interrupted the squadron. "Got them! They're coming out of the Undercity!"

Gungnir seemed to stall briefly, then began a high speed dive.

The formation lasted a few minutes before it became a series of dogfights.

Gungnir spun briefly through a formation of Poulet snub-fighters (one machine gun and mainly cheap plywood construction, they were cheap and annoying) making brief bursts of fire from all three guns. This was not the main battle - it was just a warm up, and using all their ammo now would leave them out of the main fight.

"Nabiki! Watch your tail, bandits on your eight!" Ukyo cursed briefly as she pulled up. These little fighters would waste all her ammo if she used it. The Spatula Bomber had a pair of machineguns, but the main armament were ship-to-ship missiles and the Fireworks bombs. Overkill on these guys. Plus there was the factor of how the ship tended to wallow when fully armed. "I could use some help here."

Dramatic music began to play over their radios. "This is our cue. Our terrible destiny."

"To sow the seeds of war and strife,
and make ourselves a better life,
to steal the lips of innocent maids,
and their wallets so's we gets paids.
Mikado! Azusa!
Team Turbo striking from the rear!
What the heck, it's a career!"

The twin aircraft began raining shots down on Ukyo, causing smoke trails to erupt from her aircraft.

-------

"Now is the time for a true samurai to move as befits a true warrior," proclaimed Tatewaki Kuno aboard the Blue Thunder. He frowned after a moment. "Though methinks I needs must speak to Sasuke after this battle, the engine doth make a ticking noise which does not lend itself well to mine combat."

Close up of a little package marked "To my dear brother. -Kodachi."

-------

Smoke rising from parts of her plane, Ukyo struggled with the controls, her theme music rising in the background. The "Brassierei" could be seen over her windscreen.

Shampoo's voice crackled over her radio. "Ukyo! Pull up! You can get back to Nerima!"

"No way, sugar. Stabilizer's fried. Controls unresponsive. Only thing I can do is arm weapons and guide this down into the control tower. Without 'Mister Happi' - this battle's done." Ukyo gritted her teeth. "Give... give Ranchan my love. I'm sorry I won't be there for him..."

"Ukyo my love!"

Ukyo groaned at her big dramatic scene getting derailed. "Tsu-BAKA! Not your anything!"

"Let's commit 'lover's suicide' Ukyo!" Tsubasa set his airframe towards Ukyo's ship. There was a last minute flumf as Ukyo ejected before the explosion occurred.

------

"They got Ukyo," reported Shampoo, saddened by the loss of one rival. "At least she died a warrior's death."

"I'm not dead, you jackass! I ejected! You think I'd *want* to share eternity with that idiot?!"

Ranma was apparently out of range of Ukyo's suit radio. "We'll have to mourn her later. I just spotted the Panda Pirate!"

Ukyo realized her tiny suit radio didn't have much range. "Aaaaaaarrgh! Shampoo! Tell him!"

Shampoo glanced at where Ukyo was drifting though she was interrupted as white ovoids began exploding around her. "No time for such things. Here comes Mousse, I have to get my own battle out of way."

"Oh dear," said Kasumi. "He's loaded his Ducklord with explosive eggs and a goo-bazooka."

"He's trying to capture me alive to ravish me," grimly said Shampoo, exaggerating slightly. "So that Happosai can use his 'Slaver Of Gor' shiatsu technique. Let's see how he deals with a couple of bonbori missiles!"

Colorful missiles shot out from the wings, one bouncing off the plating of the mechanical duck. The other exploded in a satisfying manner.

"And that is *that*," declared Shampoo at the cloud of smoke.

Kasumi brought up the bad news. "Those were our only two missiles and the target survived."

"What?!" Shampoo stared at the slightly singed duck shape emerging from the cloud. "We've still got our main gun. Fasten your seat belt Kasumi, it's about to get bumpy!"

"Oh myyyyyyyyyy!"

--------

Nabiki and Ranma had never operated as a team before.

Ranma Saotome - the hotshot air ace. Winner of countless dogfights. The Wild Stallion of the Battle Of Jun Senkyo. A risk taker whose skill in Martial Arts Combat Piloting was enough that he could pull off his manuevers.

Nabiki Tendo - the girl voted "Most Likely To Join The Black Market" in Air Ace magazine. Someone who rarely shot anything unless she was absolutely sure it would hit. Ammo costs money, you know.

An unlikely team to say the least.

Nabiki carefully lit the rocket, ignored the machine gun, and tossed the thing into a pack of the Zippers (small one-man one-gun fighters - cheap and fast but prone to break up if you tried fancy manuevering in them) as they passed overhead. Then added another hashmark to her chalkboard.

"Why aren't you using the gun," Ranma yelled back from the pilot's seat.

"Fireworks are 150 Nuyen. 25 Nuyen per shot from this chaingun, but it fires three shots in a burst or ten shots per second. It's more economical." Nabiki rooted around near her feet and pulled out a brick before judging speed and angle and releasing it. Bricks were only 10 Nuyen each.

With a burst of clouds, the Scarlet Pig dropped into view.

"I HAVE YOU NOW RANMA! YOU SHALL PAY FOR THIS!" *THWAM!* Ryouga felt the brick bounce off his head and blinked in surprise. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT TOO!" *WHANG!*

Nabiki added one used kitchen sink to her list of items used in this battle.

Ryouga's twin chainguns began to fire, a synchronized rain of metal.

Nabiki calculated price of potential medical stay vs price of ammo. *Brrrrrrrrt!*

Nabiki was *very* frugal with ammo. Ryouga's propeller came apart in the exchange of gunfire.

"YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT TOOOOOOoooooooo!" Ryouga swore as his plane began descending in smoke.

"BILL RANMA," called down Nabiki.

Ranma glared back at his tailgunner. "That wasn't really necessary, was it, Nabiki?"

Nabiki shrugged before she caught sight of the terror of the skies. "It's the Panda Bandit! Twelve O'clock!"

Ranma started looking around. "Where?!"

---------

"I have you now," said Genma, chuckling evilly in his black armor with the black facemask and breathing apparatus. "Ranma, join me! We can rule together!"

Silence.

Genma reached over and flipped the "On" switch for his radio. "Ranma! Join me and we can eliminate the Master and rule together!"

"...and now back to the greatest hits here at KTEN 350. Next up is a hot little number from 'Mineko & The Pussycats' and it is chomping through the charts like Ranma Saotome at an All You Can Eat Bar-B-Cue Buffet. Here's 'Up Close & Personal'..."

Genma started fiddling with his radio.

*VVRRRRRRTTTT!*

Genma looked up, realized Ranma's Gungnir was missing, then looked behind his ship. Yup. "Oh hell."

*VVVRRRRRRTTTT!* *Poom!*

--------

Nabiki saw the Panda Bandit going down and picked up her phone. "Hello, KTEN? This is Nabiki Tendo. I'd like to request 'Pandas Must Die' by the Flying Freeps? Thank you."

--------

*THOOM!* *THOOM!* *THOOM!*

Everyone looked towards the stage doors.

*CRASH!*

Akane rushed in. "Where's my costume?! You're doing the Miyazaki bit?! Where's my plane?!"

"Too late, Akane, we recast your part." The director wasn't concerned, except over having to redo this scene, of course.

"What?! Who else could play the part of 'Ranma's true love - seperated as children with only the promise to reunite after they both became pilots in the skies over Nerima'?! Who else could pull it off?" Akane glowered.

Half the female cast pointed at themselves.

"Hah! I'd like to see you try," said Akane.

--------

*Boom!*

Mikado slumped in his cockpit. "Aaaa! Azusa. Why?"

"You're trying to shoot my Ranma! I won't let you!" Azusa held one hand over her heart and gestured dramatically with the gun holding one. "It was all to serve his cause that I pretended to be one of the bad guys, all so that I could come to assistance in this final battle between the Dark Emperor Happosai and the forces of light & goodness."

"...but you're a ditzy little kleptomaniac."

"An act," said Azusa. "It gave me the excuse to keep odd items around that were actually used for this coup! Soon I and Ranma will be together, Micki! As it always should have been!"

"Uhm, betrayed by an airhead," gasped Mikado. "The ignoble end. No, it can't end this wayyyyyyyy!"

"Oops, little Azusa hit the Eject button." Azusa sat back down in her own seat. "Time for phase two! Oh, and Micki, you were never that good a kisser."

--------

"Even if she's still a ditz, nobody is going to buy THAT," exclaimed Akane.

"Well, how about," suggested the director.

-------

Her ponytail drooped as she hung her head. "Alas. Forced to choose between filial loyalty and one's true love. Truly my heart breaks anew with every beat. To have to choose between giri and duty to one's lord, or to choose love and a just cause. For one of samurai upbringing, the choice is too painful."

"Sister," proclaimed Tatewaki Kuno, "merely turn thy gaze and I shall remove this onerous choice from thee!"

Kodachi sniffled, then straightened, bringing a .55 caliber chaingun into view. "I don't think so, bucko!"

-------

Akane shook her head again. "Nope. Never work."

"Maybe then..." The Director gestured.

-------

"Oh my!" Kasumi blushed becomingly in her nurse's outfit. "Ranma-sama, I've got something to tell you."

Ranma looked up from his hospital bed, holding his hand out. "Ah, Kasumi. You've been so kind to me, nursing me back to health after that ambush. What can I do for you?"

Kasumi turned away, blushing even more. "Well, I might have a request..."

"Say it then," said Ranma, coughing weakly. "If I can grant it, I will."

Kasumi turned and knelt at his bedside, the light turning soft and violin music increasing in volume. "Well then, how about if we honored that pledge when we were children. Will you marry me?"

Cue storm of sakura petals as the two lean into a kiss.

-------

"CUT! CUT! CUT!" Akane jumped up and down on Ranma. "NOBODY will believe *that* kind of sappy romance!"

"Well, maybe," said the exasperated director.

------

Brassy music plays in the background. Ranma in a tuxedo, Nabiki in a slinky black dress, enter the ballroom.

"M'sier Ranma, Mam'selle Nabiki, if you will follow me." The maitre'd popped his mouth and headed to the stairs.

"Is the spy camera in place?" whispered Ranma to Nabiki.

Nabiki smirked. "Of course. With the two top secret agents of Nerima City on the case, the only thing we won't find is a boring time."

-----

"AAAGHHH NO NO NO!" Akane yelled. "And don't even bother with Ukyo or Shampoo or Hotaru or Shinobu! I'm the only one who can play this role! Not a vacuous idiot like Kasumi, not a soulless greedy machiavellian like Nabiki, not a ditz like Azusa, not a psychowitch like Kodachi, nor a bimbo like Shampoo, nor a lesbian crossdresser like Ukyo."

"Hmmmm, you know I think I do have a role for you," agreed the director.

-------

Akane flew her bright red tri-wing through a cloud, guns blazing a song of death as she raced into the aerial battle. "Yeah, this is more like it!"

*Vrrrrrrrrtttt!* "Oh no," said Shampoo, "my guns started firing and I'm too much of a bimbo to figure out how to turn them off!"

*Poom!* *Poom!* "Oh my! My Fireworks missiles went off by accident. I guess it's because I'm a vacuous idiot."

*Braaaat!* "Don't look at me. I couldn't have sent that shot since it's not Machiavellian enough."

*CHOOM!* "Oh dear, little Azusa being a ditz tripped and sent a Dog Missile towards the pretty red plane."

*Foom!* "I am *not* a lesbian, damnit!"

*Chunk! Shoom!* "Oh dear, did I do that? Oh ho ho ho ho ho, errr. Sorry. Force of habit."

Akane watched as chunks of her plane came apart and she started spiralling down towards the ocean. "Hey, what about my role?!"

"The heroine who meets a tragic end, providing everyone a chance to cool down and realize their conflict has gone too far," said the director. "It's a starring role."

"Oh, well that's okay then," agreed Akane as the sorrowful music increased in volume and her plane fell apart around her into the Toxic Cloud.

-------

"So are we going to do this over now?" Nabiki asked.

"Ran out of time," said the director. "We had enough time for Akane or the big battle. This *is* just an omake after all."

END THEME: "Wandering Heart"