As a fanfiction writer, I'm sure one has always had fantasies they wished to write about concerning some of their favorite stories/settings/character. And along with these, sets of what-ifs. Fanfiction, in a way, has always been about what-ifs by most authors. It allows them to express their own thoughts and insights into the characters and settings of a story. Or if you're feeling particularly unforgiving at this time… It's just blatant teenage hormones going off… Hit and Miss y'know.
The scenario presented is something along the lines of a twisted what-if. What if, you took a fanfiction author's fantasy scenario, and twisted it? Corrupted it. Made one of the most basic desires of the amateur fanfic writer go COMPLETELY… 'NOT AS PLANNED!'
The following story will be such an experiment. Things won't be going according to the scenario. This is not part of the master plan… In fact, Gendo has been banned from all further meetings.
So without further ado: We begin our story.
How do you sleep? What helps you get to sleep? Everyone has this little comfort zone of normality. For some, it's total silence. Others? Absurdly cold, or warm. Some people can't sleep without something to snuggle up next to. People know what they like, and know when it's not right.
And how well do you sleep? Some people sleep like the living dead, and could ignore world war three, a dozen hurricanes, and a meteor impact out their window combined. Others would notice a pin drop on the other side of the house and be up with a baseball bat.
I'm none of those extremes. But like any sleeper, I notice instantly when my comfort zone is disturbed. The first sign that something was off was the same one that woke me. The quiet. I sleep in the same room as my computer. And the mild droning of the CPU fan is the white noise that lulls me to sleep, and the soft bluish glow of my screen provides a comforting light. It woke me before, when the power failed for some unknown reason. The sudden spooling down of the fan and the still air of the room become stifling enough to wake me up within seconds. But ultimately, that was never much to bother me beyond the usual 'oh great' response.
This time however, the silence was different. The human mind can process a massive amount about the environment and notices changes on a subconscious level. We think of these as 'instinct'. An almost in built ability to realize something isn't right. Something you take for granted most of the time, until something unexpected occurs.
The silence woke me, but it was the subtle acoustics around me that told me something more was wrong.
I sleep facing a wall not a foot away. That close you can 'hear' the wall's proximity because of the way the ears detect that tiny reflection of sound coming from your own breathing, and the way it dampens other sounds. And I have a lot of furniture that breaks up harmonics.
I was nowhere near a wall.
It was too open, the room felt too hollow, the bed was warmer than I was used to. And it wasn't just my breathing I could hear.
I was awake in an instant, sitting bolt upright at the unfamiliarity of my environment. It was dark, which precluded any semblance of my computer monitor casting a glow on the room. But it wasn't pitch black. And from what I could make out… I wasn't in my room.
The adrenaline kicked in, jolting my groggy brain into overdrive. My last actions before going to bed had been checking email, responding to a few random forum posts, and crawling into the nest of blankets and pillows I called a bed. I had not been drinking, the clarity was too sharp to be a dream, and I find it rather hard to believe someone could have gone through the lock on my bedroom door without waking me up.
Of course, the rapid motion of sitting up was not without side effects. In sitting bolt upright at my sleep being disturbed, I had inadvertently disturbed the sleep of the owner of the breathing.
The owner slowly sat up, muttering something sleepily in a tone that sounded tinny, slightly high.
I reflexively wanted to reach for my glasses. Unfortunately, as one little corner of my brain remembered, those would be on my desk. Not that I really needed them much in the dark, but clear vision would be nice right about this point.
The girl or woman must have noticed me about that moment, as I caught what sounded like a sharp sucking hiss, like a bristling mouse. It was enough to make your blood run cold. Because you realize at that very moment that you're not just out of place, you're an intruder wherever you are now.
Muttering and movement from my opposite side then proceeded to make my blood freeze. It was also female, but sounded more like a child. I would be lying if I said a thousand thoughts went through my mind at this moment. The flashes of concepts that processed were too raw and unstructured to really qualify as anything resembling what humans called thought. But they conveyed the meaning of the situation I was in enough for my higher functions to formulate the correct phrase to describe it.
Once she too noticed me, the room went deathly quiet, except for me. Already distraught from my unexpected relocation, and pumped full of adrenaline, I could feel my body tremble slightly and shudder as I tried to control breathing which was ramping up to match.
There was a delay I managed to note. It seemed the two didn't quite know what to make of me. The term 'paralyzed by shock' would probably be adequate. It bought me enough time to collect my thoughts. I was screwed. How much I was screwed would depend solely on my actions in the next few seconds. But I was definitely screwed.
There was a right way and a wrong way to respond. The cliché's of fiction pretty much taught you the wrong ways well enough to know to avoid them. So I decided to take the initiative while I had it.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!? WHO ARE YOU? WHERE AM I?!"
I dropped my tone and projected from the chest, bellowing my questions rapid fire like an angry drill instructor. At this volume, it was obvious I wasn't trying to hide… but who'd actually pay attention to that detail in a home invasion scenario?
At the very least, it broke the ice. The older girl inhaled sharply, and I knew what followed. In fact, anyone with an IQ in the double digits knew what followed.
I twisted around and pushed off the ground even as the ear-piercing shriek damn near blew out my hearing, and forced me to retreat. My mind filed away the hollow thump I made as I rose to my feet, indicating I was not on the ground floor of this building. It was of little precedence however since I was occupied with more pressing issues. I swear… In the instant I managed to throw the blanket I had pulled with me at the screaming girl, I could feel all the hair on my body standing on end. As if I was a second away from getting struck by lightning.
In a near blind panic, I tried best to keep my head. Muffled sounds indicated there were others in the building… And my booming yells combined with her shrill scream had surely woken all of them. This would only end badly.
Fleeing is of course, considered a sign of guilt. But at the same time, it is extremely hard to fight the urge to escape from a terrifying situation. And I'm not about to stand around dumbstruck in a house full of angry people. Where I'm from, that's a quick way to get shot.
It took my mind only a second to identify the door. It was opposite the window. I slid it open and quickly moved into the hall, identifying the direction to the stairs in the dim light and despite being half-blind. Vaguely, I wondered how I knew the door was a sliding one, but ignored that nagging thought over the growing sounds of worried shouts. Bolting for the stairs, my mind briefly reflected upon my state of undress, and I was somehow relieved that in this situation, I was wearing enough clothing classify as publicly decent. Not that I would be caught dead wearing TABASCO brand, bright red pajama bottoms outside my own home.
The relief gave way to surprise a moment later. Something came through the wall on my left.
I don't mean came through the wall as in smashed through it like an obstruction, but more like the wall wasn't there to begin with, or the person was a ghost or something equally beyond my normal scope.
If I wasn't in a state of panic already, this pretty much undid any remaining screws in my already stressing brain. I twisted to react to the appearance, noting a human shape to it before my feet tangled up in their attempt to follow conflicting instructions, sending me tumbling sideways.
I went with the fall, probably looking absurd as I rolled through the impact and regained my feet to try and reach the stairs. There was crystal clear shouting right behind me as I recovered. And again, my hair began to stand on end. I didn't really think about what it meant more than what the stairs in front of me meant.
I had to bound down them, without screwing up my footing. You can't sprint down a staircase; you'd break your neck. That meant slowing down. The place was alive with shouting now, and I really didn't want to slow down at this point. Only pain awaited me in that future.
I bounded the steps haphazardly, three to four at a time, ham fisting the wall as a balance to keep from tumbling as I tried my best to navigate the dark. I stumbled near the bottom, taking a step farther over the edge than I should have, hitting with my heel and rotating onto the ball of my foot as it straddled air. The wall kept me from wiping out as intended, but I could feel the sharp pang of overstressed tendons by the next step. If I didn't get out of here NOW, I wasn't getting out of here.
There was a whoosh from above and behind, the strangest little sound I'd ever heard. It's hard to describe it in clearer detail but it sounded almost like air suddenly being let out of a very large balloon, very quickly. The sound repeated, this time ahead. And seemingly backwards as something seemed to simply fade into view as I made for what looked like a sliding glass door. It was a person, and they were blocking my path.
I had no choice but to turn on my heel on my next step and push off sideways. Luckily, on the foot opposite to the one that was hurting. I didn't make three steps however before the shouting was joined by a voice, distinctly male. I'm not sure, but I think he vaulted the rail on the floor above, landing just far enough to give me time to see the landing, but not enough time to react before he caught me by a wildly flailing arm and curled inside. Forcing me into a submission hold even as I realized it was coming and throwing me face down on the floor.
I heard them shout around some more, now realizing that what they were saying was completely unintelligible, at least, to me. The guy who'd floored me continued to hold on as I squirmed a bit to test if I could break free. I found nothing, but he increased pressure just slightly to let me know who was in charge.
Defeated, I relaxed, and felt the pressure ease up slightly in response. I didn't stand a chance against this guy.
The incoherent babbling continued for a few more seconds before the world lit up. Someone flipped on a light.
I was pulled to my feet and winced at the pain in my foot before taking a look at my captors. I had to blink and look again.
While they were obviously discussing what to do with me, I was trying to place the faces. It wasn't too hard to see them, just a little fuzzy. But I knew these faces. I also knew that the people these faces belonged to weren't real. Right?
The possibilities this presented were as numerous as the protests of my understanding of reality. But then again, the pain was real. This was real. THEY were real.
At this point, I really should freak out. It would be a logical response when faced with a larger than life situation. But three months of drill instructors can add a good dose of perspective to the concept of stress and keeping one's cool while under it.
I tracked the incoherent conversation as they spoke, watching as they each took turns addressing someone else. Then, finally, there was a pause.
It took as second to figure it out, but they were all looking at me.
I returned their glares with quick set of blank looks, and finally, the short red head, which had been the last one to speak before, spoke again. It was obviously a question directed at me, and they expected a response.
I paused, and the short one let out another comment that had to be the equivalent of 'well?' If what I was thinking was correct, then I was about to gamble my life on the accuracy of geek knowledge. I did a head count, noted who was here, and gave myself an appropriate quick rundown of their history in my head. Then responded.
"Washu, I really don't want to be bar-b-queued by an angry princess…"
First impressions are king. I figure that waking up in someone's bed without warning, pretty much wiped that one out. So instead I needed to make an impact if I wanted any kind of control over my fate in the next few minutes. The gamble was accuracy of geek knowledge. If my verbal prod was accurate, what I said just got her attention. I'm sure of it. I saw her eyebrow go up right after I finished.
"You speak English?" the seemingly child-like scientist responded, without so much as an accent.
"In Texas, it's that or Spanish," I responded in a half joke, relieved. "And my Spanish barely covers hello and goodbye."
Washu cocked her head to the side. I watched the others exchange confused glances. Ryoko, who I suddenly realized, was the person who'd not only come through the wall, but teleported in front of me… Damn saying that in the serious sense feels weird. Ryoko grumbled audibly. Something Washu quickly silenced with a very stern pointed look.
"How much do you know?" she asked. The gamble paid off. Washu read between the lines. But this wasn't exactly safe territory. I had her interest, but I wasn't yet a non-threat. Not that I could threaten them in any way, shape, or form. I had to gamble more.
"Enough to cause a temporal paradox," I responded. She smirked.
"How old am I?"
I wasn't expecting that one. Questions about time travel perhaps would seem more fitting. But then again, she was going to test me to make sure I was telling the truth. But, how do you answer that kind of question about someone like Washu? Might as well start with what I knew, and not the simple version, the complicated one.
"Physical age, twelve or mid-twenties as you see fit. Incarnation's chronological age, twenty-thousand, and your OTHER age-" I raised my eyebrow. "Technically timeless since that occurs outside the time stream. Like someone else here." I made a very quick sidelong glance towards the child I had now realized was Sasami. This was getting surreal.
Washu looked at me long and hard. I could see the intelligence behind those eyes working. The gamble seemed to be successful. If anyone could make heads or tales of what was going on, it would be her. It certainly wasn't going to be me.
"Why are you here?"
"I don't know."
"How did you get here?"
"Not a clue."
"What were you doing?"
"In Ayeka's futon?"
"I went to sleep in my own bed, thank you."
Washu barked something that sounded like a command. Tenchi, he'd been keeping a hand on my shoulder the entire time just to make sure I wouldn't take off running, released me. Though honestly, with the likes of the current group, I wouldn't have run very far.
Washu continued to speak rapidly to the rest of the group, asking questions and getting responses quickly, and seemed to grill the two princesses for information. After about a minute of this, she abruptly turned to me, giving me a curious look.
"How the hell?"
I instantly knew what she'd been discussing.
"As if you had been there under the blanket and everything the whole time?" she continued after momentary pause.
I looked at her, then at the elder princess, who was still scowling mind-you, and shrugged. Princess Ayeka of course, snorted in contempt. I could understand the temper. If I woke up with a stranger in my bed, I'd probably have reacted just as insanely. At least for the moment, I was safe from being roasted. I know now I'd come very close twice just a minute ago.
"Have a seat over there," Washu pointed to the couch. "I need to figure out what to do with you."
"Yes ma'am." I replied, as professional as I could come off. With a turn, I made to go exactly where I was told. My foot however, immediately reminded me of its recent torment as I did so. There was no missing the pained grunt I made, or the momentary hesitation in my step. Sucking it up, I kept moving, changing my stance to a waddling shuffle. I didn't need to look like I was trying to milk some sympathy for an injury. Not now…
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Washu watching me with a measuring look as I sat down on the sofa. To a genius, I was probably transparent.
"Took the stairs a little hard?" she asked.
"Nothing I can't handle," I lied. I hate pain, really hate pain. I try to take care of little problems and minor injuries while they're still minor just to try and avoid the extra pain. I'm good at hiding it when I want to, but pain is not my favorite sensation.
"Don't lie," she continued. "I can already see your ankle starting to swell from here. It's generally not good for a regular human to try and take a staircase at a full sprint in the dark."
"Normally, I'd agree with you." I responded. "But I don't usually wake up in strange places with people trying to kill me."
I was feeling a touch sarcastic. I had a certain sense for making snarky comments but a poor judgement in knowing when to use them. Under normal conditions, I might have seemed a touch rude. Personally I thought that it was justified in the current situation.
"I'll have Sasami get you some ice," Washu smirked. Blasted goddess was smart enough. She probably saw right through me and knew that I knew I was next to helpless.
Washu spoke with Sasami, indicating me with a quick motion before turning to the others in the group. The child of course, nodded enthusiastically and disappeared into the kitchen. She returned within a minute with a small cloth full of ice, which I took and pressed to my foot with a brief quip of 'Arigato Sasami-chan'.
The girl seemed to pause, looked at me funny, and then turned to ask Washu some question. In retrospect, I suppose it was how I knew her name, and Washu's name. I could tell Washu was having a hard time finding the right-answer for it by the way she mulled on it.
While they distracted themselves discussing my knowledge of names or at least, that's what I thought the discussion was about. One of the other residents decided to make her own opinion of me. I'm not sure what exactly you could classify the critter. Animal, person, or weapon of mass destruction… But Ryo-Ohki chose that moment to leap quietly onto the couch next to my shoulders and start sniffing.
Now, I'm fairly decent with animals. You respect them. They respect you. But like I said, I'm not sure if Ryo-Ohki classified as an animal or not. The hybrid life form had so many component forms that observing one could make you forget about the others.
Still, it was a cute kitten/rabbit… Thingie. And cats like to be scratched right behind the ears right about…
Yes, I'm scratching a 'cabbit' behind the ear. No, I'm not actually sure this is happening at all. Ryo-Ohki seemed to have the same sweet spot behind the ear as a regular cat, and positively melted into a mass of purring. If only I had some carrots. The best way to a person's heart is through their stomach. If I had carrots, Ryo-Ohki'd be my new best friend. I entertained that line of thought for a bit longer. Pet capital starship.
Maintenance: Feed it carrots.
Witty One Liner: Beware of Cat
Somewhere between two and five minutes of conversation between the others passed before they turned their attention to me again. Only to find that I'd made myself quite comfy with one leg propped up, purring critter in my lap while I used my free hand to keep the ice on my foot.
Tenchi seemed to get a laugh out of it. I heard him say Ryo-Ohki's name amidst a jumble of the unintelligible babble I was quickly getting used to tuning out.
"Point in your favor," Washu laughed in English. "Ryo-Ohki likes you."
"Stellar," I let my sarcasm slip through in the comment. "My fate is being determined by a hybrid life form with the personality of a four year old."
"At least it's in your favor," the scientist pointed out.
"Beats getting bar-b-queued I suppose." I responded with a sigh. "So, what happens now? I'm not exactly an invited guest."
Washu cocked her head to the side then spoke to Tenchi for a second, who nodded.
"Well," she continued at length. "I guess I should get to the bottom of this situation, and everyone here's pretty much convinced you're not a threat."
"Except the princess," I added.
"Except the princess," Washu amended with a suppressed laugh. "So if you'll just step into my lab…"
Oh dear. I'm not one to worry. But realistically speaking, Washu's lab covers five planets in a pocket universe. The entrance was little more than a door under a staircase. The implications of having to go in there depended on what interpretation of her personality you subscribed to. I subscribed to the 'not as bad as it seems' edition, but still… You can never be too careful. That and what happened if I got lost? It's five PLANETS of science lab. Hell, they might have their own indigenous life forms and lethal ecosystems in place as something akin to her own perverted version of junkyard dogs. Better to be careful. One doesn't survive by being naïve about things.
"You going to tie me up with some tentacle machine and attach a scanner covered in light bulbs to my head?" I asked.
"Nah, that's just for Tenchi," Washu cackled, then looked at me confused. "You weren't exaggerating, were you?"
I nodded slowly. The scientist smirk from earlier was replaced by a serious business look.
"You. Lab. NOW."
"Time for the interrogation…" I muttered. Wincing as I rose to my feet and put pressure on the ankle. As I made for the lab entrance, my mind played back the last twenty minutes. Yeah, this was screwed up. In more ways than one... And if I knew anything about Murphy's Law, it could definitely get worse. I decided to stick to the only weapon I had: Geek knowledge.