Disclaimer: This chapter is not meant to be offensive to any particular nationality. G Gundam was absolutely full of stariotypical portraiyals, from the tiquila gundam to Gundam Maxter, and we're just trying to follow in those foot steops, not be offensive ourselves. Please, remember this while reading this and future chapters.
Chapter 3: Nabiki proves Her Ancestry.
Something was rather odd, Nabiki thought as she slowly chewed on a carrot. While the food being served was of a decent quality, given the surroundings, she just couldn't understand their host's behavior. The fact that he insisted on serving them himself was only the first strangeness
"Is that satisfactory?" the man asked, his hands twitching in the front of the jacket he wore as he stood in front of their table. "Will there be anything else?"
"Um, don't suppose ya got any..." Ranma started, before his mouth was clamped shut by his engineer.
"We've got to pay the bills, remember?" she snarled, in a low voice
"Was only gunna ask for some soy sauce," he grumbled, but returned to his meal.
"On eggs?" Dr. Svensson asked, from where he was eating across the table.
Ranma didn't respond, and the table fell silent for a moment before the owner of the small restaurant in which they were eating turned and left. Once he was out of earshot, Nabiki spoke up. "Isn't he acting a little strange?"
"Hmm? How?" Ranma asked.
"Yeah, I see it too," Allenby agreed. "He really wants to keep us happy for some reason, like he's afraid we'll do something to him."
"A few others in the city were acting like that," Dr. Svensson said. "Maybe they recognize Allenby and Ranma as Gundam Fighters?"
"No, they didn't react to that when we were shopping," the aforementioned blue haired girl chipped in, "and I would be the most likely one for them to recognize, given I'm this country's Gundam Fighter."
"We could always just ask 'em," Ranma said, and before anyone could stop him, he raised his right hand and waved it. When the owner hurriedly came over to the table, he asked, "Hey, why're you so nervous around us? We ain't gunna do anything."
"Nervous? I, I don't know what you mean, I..." the older man said, straightening up a little, but as he did, Nabiki noticed him glancing uneasily at the hand that Ranma had rested back on the table. Blinking, she noticed something there.
"Ranma, where'd you get that tattoo?" she asked, reaching across her bowl and his to grab the appendage in question, without heeding the large spike in her danger sense when her fingers were over his food.
"Tattoo?" the pigtailed martial artist questioned, and then blinked as his green haired mechanic tapped the back of his hand. "Oh, that," he mumbled. "I woke up with it the day before we left for Earth. Figured it was your ol' man's idea of a warning to keep you safe, or somethin, since he had the same one."
"Oh," Nabiki said, and she resolved to call her father the first time the group reached an area with a good satellite phone network. For the time being, she wanted to know why the thing made the restaurant owner so nervous, but as she turned to ask him, she realized that he'd wandered off during the conversation.
"Damn it, where'd he go?" the middle Tendo mumbled, but was mostly ignored by the rest of her table, who were too busy enjoying their food.
"So, what do you think?" Allenby asked as she and her mechanic stood in the latter's room. She stood at the window, looking out at the small village, while he typed away on his laptop in the background.
"We can't really verify the story; most records from that far back are classified, destroyed, or both," the older man grumbled.
"I don't see why they would lie to us," Allenby objected. "They've been friendly so far."
Dr. Svensson shook his head. "You know what the Gundam Fight is about. Many nations would do almost anything to allow their fighters to win, and in many ways, Nerima is more desperate than others. There has to be a reason they entered this year, of all years."
"You're way too paranoid," the girl objected. "I bet you're just upset that they won't share their stuff with you, isn't that right?"
"Why I, that, how could..." the professor stuttered indignantly, but trailed off as he saw his charge's smug grin. "All right, perhaps I am a little miffed about that, but what has convinced you that they're trustworthy?"
Allenby shrugged, and then turned back to gaze out the window. "All those times, when my machine was being tested, I didn't have any enthusiasm for the fight at all, and then..." She shuddered, recalling the berserker system and inwardly breathing a sigh of relief that the entire framework for it had been torn out of Nobel Gundam during Nabiki's repairs. "Before the system was activated this time, though, I actually felt a thrill at fighting a human opponent, someone who just wanted to test their skills against mine, even if there was another motive behind it."
"That's all of it, hmm?" Svensson asked, looking up from his screen and giving his charge a speculative look that she didn't see, both due to the fact that she was looking the other way and because his glasses were reflecting the light of the screen.
"Well, no. He really did seem like he didn't know what he was doing while I taught him how to use his Gundam's weapons systems, and I don't know if anyone could act that consistently confused," she returned, completely missing whatever else he may have been implying. "As for Nabiki..." She shrugged. "Why would she lie after spending all of that time and material on fixing my Gundam?"
Svensson shook his head, but he also couldn't help grinning. He was glad that what had been done to her hadn't destroyed a rather innocent soul, even if that may bite her later. "Well, the readings I've got now indicate that we can take our leave of those two whenever we want, if we want, so I suppose it hasn't hurt us so far." As he said that, the doctor looked down at his screen one final time, cursing the results shown there.
"Got him again," Nabiki said, smirking as she reclined on her own bed one room over, Ranma leaning on the window ledge nearby.
"I still think you get way too much satisfaction outta jerking that guy's chain," the dark haired boy grumbled.
"Well, he is inviting it on himself," Nabiki countered, before she sighed and closed her laptop. "Looks like he packed up for the night."
"Is this place what all cities are like now?" Ranma asked, out of the blue, as he turned to more fully face the window, gazing across at the little village.
"Hmm?" the middle Tendo asked, not very interested, as she lay staring at the room's ceiling. "Most places are pretty small like this, I think, other than Neo-Hong Kong and New york."
Ranma frowned. "Yeah, figured," he mumbled, and hearing something she didn't particularly like in his tone, the green haired girl stood up to see the gundam pilot glaring rather than just looking. "Doesn't look right," he complained. "Dunno why, considering I spent mosta my time out on the road, but it just doesn't feel right."
Nabiki nodded slowly, but wasn't sure what to say. Instead, she tried to think of a different subject to change to. "What doesn't feel right to me is that you're in here, and it's almost midnight. Aren't you going to find another place to sleep?"
"Huh?' Ranma asked, blinking at her stupidly. "Thought I'd crash on the floor, and..."
"Oh, no you don't, not after last weekend," the girl retorted.
"Hey, that was an accident, and you were screamin your head off, y'know!" The martial artist objected grumpily, but at a steady look from the middle Tendo, he frowned. "Fine, lemme get some stuff."
She just watched silently as he packed up several spare bedsheets and a comforter, before leaping out the window. "Damn orders," she complained sourly. She doubted that Ranma would really go on a rampage and attack the other colonies if he found out about the prevailing conditions on Earth, but Elder Shampoo seemed half-way convinced it would happen.
She would have liked to ask the matriarch why in the world they were sending him to the planet, in that case, but hadn't really had the chance before being carted off into the drop capsule. "Probably not important," she assured herself. After all, she'd been around the pigtailed martial artist for about a year, and other than his ego, there wasn't much he would ever get excited about.
In a dimly lit corner of a small, dingy bar, four figures sat. None of them would be all that noticeable, as all of them wore dark, obscuring cloaks, except for their clustering together. The one time the bar tender had come over to ask them if they wanted anything, he'd received a glare that had sent him skittering back to serving other people, and no one else had really had the courage to approach since.
"So," one of them said, in a deep, rumbling voice, "you've all heard the rumors, as well?"
Another nodded. "Only from a couple of small towns, but something like this is hard to keep under wraps," it replied, in a voice that sounded female.
"So there is someone impersonating us, and for what reason we do not know," a third person said, quietly. "A... red joker, I believe they said?"
"Red Joker," the final figure snorted. "The least they could do is use one of the suits that we already use." He shook his covered head. "Have you heard that the fools are even using the same tattoo on two different people? A young man, and a girl."
"A stop must be put to this, or it will sully our reputation, and our honor," the rumbling voiced man commented. "We strike Neo-Nerima's Gundam, and its impertinent fighter."
"Agreed," the woman said, though at least one of the four had twitched in startlement at the name. They all stood to leave, dropping a small pile of currency on the table, before leaving the bar as one large, coordinated group.
The universe was once more in its proper alignment, as someone was out to beat the crap out of Ranma Saotome.
"Grass... more grass... even more grass," Ranma complained as he flipped through the magnification modes of the Rain Gundam's cameras, observing the countryside. At least when he'd been on the road with his father, he could jump around or work out to relieve boredom, but on long flights using the mobile fighter, the muscles used to activate the jets, normally flexed only rarely even in his more gymnastic fights, would begin to cramp, and therefore he was flying the machine using its mobile suit control scheme.
"Anything up ahead?" he asked, flipping a switch that caused a screen to pop up that showed Allenby, sitting in her own cockpit, her machine running almost entirely by auto-pilot and slaved to Nabiki at the moment.
"Still nothing," she said, and then smirked at him. "Just like the last ten times you asked."
The pigtailed pilot grimaced. "Bein in this tin can when I'm not fightin's a real pain in the neck," he complained. "I'm gunna start climbing up the walls, soon."
"That'd be kind of fun to see, actually," the blue haired pilot remarked, before gesturing, a holographic map appearing before her. "Don't worry though, it should only take us another couple of hours to reach our next target. Nabiki thinks that there's a Gundam Fighter there."
"Oh, yeah." The pigtailed martial artist said, smirking. "I can get some fightin in, after all."
"Hey, who says it's yours?" Allenby asked, indignantly.
"Huh?" Was Ranma's only response, followed by a blink.
"If I fight this guy, it'll be my first battle without that control system in," she explained. "I... I want to know if it's easier to work like that, if the combat can be more enjoyable, like it was with..." She bit her tongue, and then looked away.
Ranma, of course, didn't notice this, only shrugging. "Well, okay, 'guess I'll leave 'em to you, unless they challenge me first," he reluctantly agreed, even if it went against his sensibilities to give up a chance to fight.
Allenby briefly wondered what the odd look on Ranma's face was, before deactivating the communication line. The martial artist went back to looking out into the plains in front of him. "...Even more grass..." He sighed, and pondered the feasibility of putting his own machine on auto-tracking and doing a Kata in the cleared rear space.
"So, why am I doing this again?" Nabiki asked, slipping another item into her hidden weapons space for easy carrying. Those little baskets would never be large enough.
"Because we've been on the road for two weeks, and we need some stuff," the blue haired girl returned.
"And that giant box of chocolates?" the middle Tendo drawled.
Allenby looked at her like she'd grown a second head. "IT'S CHOCOLATE!" she exclaimed, vehemently.
"..." the colony born engineer replied, eloquently. She really didn't get the point of spending what would probably amount to half of their remaining funds on something that would likely be gone within a week, especially with the way she and Ranma ate. Still, it would be kind of nice. "Is there anything else we 'need?'" she asked, actually doing the quotes in the air.
"You're way too pragmatic sometimes, you know that?" the military raised giant robot pilot observed, giving the other an odd look. "Maybe we could get something for Ranma."
"We're going to be in debt for months after this," the green haired girl sighed, but Allenby resolutely ignored her, and started for a large bin full of ice cream.
"Do you think he likes this stuff?" she asked, and Nabiki tried to hold back a maniacal laugh as she thought of certain unfortunate venders in the colony's market district. In her entire life, she hadn't seen such a good execution of the puppy dog eyes of doom technique, and she was considered a fourth dan practitioner.
"Yes, she definitely does," she replied, putting special emphasis on the pronoun.
Allenby just blinked at her, but scooped up a tub of chocolate ripple anyways, and the two started for the cash register. When the mechanic dumped the contents of her hidden weapons pocket onto the conveyer, the clerk blinked rapidly several times, but began to scan the items through anyways.
"Whoops, don't scan that!" She quickly said, snatching a small Beretta 9mm pistol from the mass. "How did one of my antique guns get in there?" Allenby was about to say something, when the box of chocolates she'd bought was scanned through, and Nabiki blinked at the price readout. "Um, is that right?" she asked, pointing at it.
The clerk looked at her oddly, and then tilted his head and re-scanned the chocolates. Nabiki didn't respond, only nodding sagely, before taking off back into the store with a mad grin on her face.
"Um," Allenby said, fully aware that the other girl was holding their money. She stood there looking sheepish for several moments, before someone tapped her on her shoulder.
She spun easily, only to come face to upper chest with something red. Tilting her head upward, she saw a pale man with refined, sharp looking features staring down at her. "Um..." she said again, stepping backwards.
"Hello, pretty one," the man said, bowing to her and thrusting out his arm so that the red thing she'd seen previously unfurled, resolving itself into a cape. "Have you perhaps purchased too much for your means?"
"Nabiki should be back in a minute with..." Allenby started, but was interrupted.
"Enough, serving boy, charge this lady's bill to my account," the tall man ordered, and seemed to flick a small card out of nowhere, which Allenby would have found much more impressive before she'd seen Nabiki pull a three meter by three meter sheet of armor out of the same place.
"Thank you," the blue haired pilot replied, a little bit taken aback by the man's actions, "but you don't have to..."
She was cut off as the man leaned close to her, and put one long finger against her lips. For some reason, she twitched, and had the incredible urge to bite it. "Have no worries," he interrupted.
Just then, a walking pile of boxes of chocolate ran up to the two. "Um, Nabiki, is that you?" Allenby asked, looking dubiously at it. The pile nodded, sending several boxes cascading onto the counter, and revealing the Neriman's flushed, grinning face behind them.
"It's mine," she giggled, "All mine!"
"Uh..." Allenby said again, and briefly thought that she perhaps needed a new expression of total confusion, as that one was getting worn out through overuse.
Nabiki didn't respond, only dumping the rest of her newly found, and loudly claimed, possessions, and starting to dig through her wallet for her money.
"Isn't that a little... much?" Allenby asked, looking dubiously at the pile of boxes and completely forgetting about the red caped guy who was standing behind her.
"Nah, I only took half the stock," Nabiki returned. "So, how much is it?"
"Nine..." the cashier was saying, when he was interrupted by the rather miffed sounding red caped man.
"I have said that I would pay, and that I shall," he proclaimed. Charge whatever it is to my account, for these two wonderfully beautiful ladies shouldn't have to bare the burden."
Allenby was about to open her mouth, when Nabiki nudged her in the ribs, provoking an annoyed glare in return, which she promptly ignored. "Oh, you would really do that?" the middle Tendo asked, looking up at the taller man with falsely shining eyes. "That's so generous of you!" She continued, falling into form #5 of the Puppy dog eyes basic technique.
"Well, of course, and I'll even carry your things for you!" the man exclaimed, and then looked over to the pile of stuff at the end of the counter. "Erm, maybe I... should rent a truck for that," he amended, sweat-dropping heavily.
"That's great," Nabiki exclaimed. "Just hold on a minute while I get some more ice-cream." Without waiting for a response, she darted back into the aisles. A few minutes later, she returned, seemingly empty handed.
"My dear, were you not retrieving more ice cream?" their self-proclaimed payer asked.
"Nabiki," Allenby began nervously, "do I want to know how much you have stashed in there?" Considering how much she knew Nabiki could carry, this could end badly, especially for the strange man's wallet.
Nabiki had the grace to look a little sheepish. "Well, there were a bunch of flavors I've never even heard of," she explained. And I wasn't going to waste our money by buying something I didn't like." The caped guy, who had heard everything, flinched slightly. His eye began twitching regularly as each quart of ice cream was rung up with the others.
"Well, if that is everything, allow me to pay," the pale man said, holding his card out. His face was rather drawn, as though things had not gone exactly as he had planned.
"I'm good," Allenby said, feeling slightly bad for the guy. "What about you, Nabiki?"
"Yeah, I'm good," she agreed. Sure, she could probably get more out of the guy, but they already had enough to be set for quite awhile, especially since nothing they bought would be going bad anytime soon.
"Ah, thank god, I mean... good. Allow me to call for that truck." After a three minute call, he returned to the register and paid for the various items. Bowing slightly towards the two women, he said, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Vlad Carp, Gundam Pilot for Neo-Romania."
"A Gundam Pilot, huh?" Nabiki mused. "I'm Nabiki, and this is Allenby. Thanks for buying all of that, by the way." When Allenby was about to add something, most likely about her own status as a pilot, she received a hard jab to the ribs.
The trio stood around somewhat awkwardly for the next ten minutes while waiting for the truck. When Vlad was looking the other way or trying to flirt with Allenby, Nabiki would shove a few quarts of ice cream into her weapons space. It would not do to allow it to go to waste.
Finally the truck arrived and the driver helped load everything into the back. Vlad gestured the girls into the front and climbed in after them. "And where would you like me to have you and your things delivered?"
Ranma looked up as he heard the sound of a loud engine echoing around the camp site, where he was running through practice kata, and Dr. Svensson was busily digging through the innards of the Gundams, doing tune ups, as he called it.
He really couldn't blame the guy. After all, he had done similar to learn martial arts techniques, but he just wished the scientist would give up, or Nabiki would finally tell him. The martial artist's stomach gurgled. "Wonder when they'll be back with the food," he mused.
Seemingly in answer to the question, the rumbling got louder and the vehicle that was producing it rapidly started approaching from the direction of the nearby city. Looking up at it, the black haired boy blinked. "Did she buy a truck?" he thought, but his question was answered when the vehicle pulled to a stop, and the driver's door opened to reveal a man who Ranma didn't recognize.
"Hey, what's goin on?" the martial artist asked, falling from his Kata and starting towards the newcomer in a casual lope.
"Hey Ranma, we got the supplies!" Nabiki's voice came from the vehicle's other side, the green haired girl hopping out easily. Seeing the pigtailed boy's odd look at her companion, the middle Tendo explained, "This is Vlad, he offered to pick up the tab for us this time. Vlad, this is Ranma, Neo-Nerima's Gundam Pilot. We travel together."
Vlad's brain took a few seconds to process this, during which time Allenby had gotten down out of the truck. Abruptly, he snapped out of thought and exclaimed, "You fiend, how could you keep two ladies such as these traveling across the wasteland?"
"Um, Nabiki's my mechanic, and Allenby's a Gundam Pilot," Ranma said, blinking at the idiot in front of him and resisting the automatic urge to bash him in the head for speaking like Kuno.
"A complete impossibility! Lovely flowers such as these could not possibly be lowered to do such menial tasks, nor would they have the skill for it!" the man objected, swirling his cape dramatically.
"...what did you say?" Allenby asked, her eyebrow twitching as she clenched and unclenched her fists.
"I don't mean to offend, my dear, but piloting a Gundam? Truly 'tis not a job for you," Vlad said, patronizingly.
"You... really shouldn't have said that," Ranma observed, wincing for the poor guy's safety. True, he was a jerk, but the way both of the girls were twitching, he probably didn't deserve what was coming.
"I challenge you to a Gundam Fight!" Allenby said, pointing dramatically at Vlad with one trembling hand. Nabiki was strangely silent, just standing nearby with her arms crossed. "Dr. Svensson, is Nobel Gundam ready for combat?" the girl asked, and the older man wandered out from where he was looking over the considerable amount of new supplies to respond.
"Fully repaired and functional," he said. "Should I prepare the support equipment?"
Allenby nodded sharply, but Vlad looked a little panicked. "I have not agreed to this match, dear lady!" he exclaimed, backing off and raising his hands.
"What, so you're backing down from the obviously incapable?" Nabiki asked, frostily.
"I, erm..." the vampiric man said, caught out.
"Face it, you're screwed," Ranma said, walking up to the man and slapping him on the shoulder. "Ya may as well get it over with."
The Romanian fighter looked between the angrily glaring Allenby and the nonchalantly standing Ranma, and scowled. "I apparently don't have a choice," he grumbled, before turning to the girl. "Very well, I shall fight you. Count Gundam, Arise!" he yelled, and abruptly, the ground started shaking.
Within seconds, a massive geyser of dirt exploded from where Ranma had been standing, but the pigtailed boy easily jumped clear beforehand, landing on Rain Gundam's leg. What he, and everyone else, saw caused them to blink.
"You've got to be kidding me," Nabiki mumbled, as she stared up at the eighteen meter tall coffin that now stood, fully upright, where Ranma once had.
Vlad didn't respond, only walking towards the massive object, and swirling his cape dramatically. He would have vanished, giving a truly dramatic exit, except for the fact that his cape got caught on the secret hatch that he'd entered the coffin with, and he sheepishly opened it for a moment to remove the cloth before slamming it again.
Ranma just blinked a couple of times, before shrugging, hopping up to Rain Gundam's entrance hatch in order to get the machine out of the combat zone. As he did so, however, he opened a link with Nabiki and Dr. Svensson, who were sitting at the sidelines behind the latter's laptop.
"So, ya think five minutes?" the pilot asked, off-hand.
"Three," Nabiki growled.
"Yeah, he did say somethin pretty stupid," the martial artist agreed, before turning his attention back to the battlefield, where Nobel Gundam was now standing across from the giant coffin. "So, the other guy in his Gundam yet?" he asked, but was answered as the massive construct's lid opened, the hydrolics that made it do so also somehow giving off a low pitched creaking sound.
In her own machine, Allenby's eyes narrowed as she caught sight of her opponent. The gundam actually looked much like the man, its body covered from head to toe in what looked like a red cloak, though it had the traditional Gundam head design. Strangely, protruding from the face mask were two long, downward pointing spikes that gleamed metallically in the sunlight. "Fighter ready," she said, and heard Vlad's response.
"I am ready, but my dear, are you sure that you do not want to stop this?" the pale man asked, appearing on her screen in a pilot suit that, strangely, still had his cape.
Allenby's response was Nobel Gundam's heat sinks beginning to unfurl as her teeth grit together. "No way," she snarled, "Fight!"
Ranma was impressed in spite of himself when Nobel moved. It seemed to blur, the hair flying behind it, as it delivered a devastating kick to the frame of the count gundam, causing it to fly back. Pretty much everyone there was surprised, however, when its cape unfurled, and it caught the air. In conjunction with its lift thrusters, the red and black machine used its wings to swoop around and land back on its coffin.
"Not a bad move, little girl," Vlad said, but he now sounded mildly annoyed. Unfurling the wings to full extension again, he swept down off of the coffin, swooping just over Nobel Gundam's head before turning around and trying to use the sun as a blinder to camouflage a dive-bomb attack.
Allenby raked her beam whip along the other Gundam's front, but this didn't do anything to change its trajectory, as it barreled into her, knocking them both to the ground and sending up a massive cloud of debris as they slid. Said cloud kept the entire field obscured for several seconds, but when it cleared, Ranma blinked. "That..." he said, surprised. "That was good."
On the ground, Nobel Gundam was laying with the other machine on top of it, however its beam whip was wrapped around the Count's neck. "Yield," Allenby demanded, over all frequencies.
"Now Miss, you cannot do..." Vlad started, before he was cut off by a brutal jolt to his machine. "You... did it?" he asked, as all of his external sensors shut down at once.
"Count Gundam's head has been destroyed," Ranma said, loudly. "Remind me never to piss you off, all right?"
"Sure thing," Allenby responded, pushing the hulk of the other machine off of her and scrambling to her feet.
"What is the meaning of this?" Soun demanded, looking over the reports Shampoo's aide had brought in.
"Well," Shampoo replied, looking over her own copies, "it looks like Ranma's back to his old tricks again."
Soun slammed the datapad against the table. Luckily, the device was made to withstand an angry maintenance worker, so no harm was done. The table, on the other hand, dented slightly. "You mean he always collected floozies when he should be loyal to his fiancee?"
Shampoo's eye twitched violently and her staff whipped out, smacking Soun upside the head. "You do realize," she growled, "that I was one of those floozies, correct?" Turning away from Soun, she continued, "No, Ranma doesn't even know about the engagement, so, even if the new girl, this Allenby, is there for that reason, Son-in-law is not 'cheating' on your 'baby girl.' Besides, it's always amusing to see him squirm." A short cackle echoed through the room, making the aide standing directly outside the door very thankful that she had already been dismissed.
"Are you trying to imply that your amusement is more important than my little girl's future?" Soun coldly demanded.
"Not at all," Shampoo denied. "Why should I settle for just one? Besides, we have a much better chance of success now than we ever did in Nerima."
"I hope you know what you're doing, Elder, for Nabiki's sake." Shampoo's only reply was more cackling that raised the hairs on Soun's neck.
Agatha: But that cape couldn't possibly...
Weebee: It's G Gundam.
Agatha: Yes, but even as a Heterodyne, I have to at least say hello to physics before running past!
Weebee: I repeat, G Gundam.
Jonakhensu: Trust us, it works.