No Tendo: A Fusion Tale
by Greylle (Kestral) and Kender_Sci
DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything. Don't have money. Just written to hone skills and amuse readers. Originally written by myself and Kender_Sci over at the Anime Addventure.
Chapter 39: Travel
Lieutenant Hodges tried to focus on the task at hand and NOT dwell on where he was. "Anchors deployed. System reads green."
"Roger, Bogey Two. Clear to three thousand."
"Roger, Hood," said Hodges, triggering the chemical manuevering jets. He watched the distance-to-target slowly tick away.
"Bogey Two, clear to return."
"Roger, Hood - though I thought since I was here I might as well see if it opens. Save a trip if it doesn't."
"Bogey Two, roger. Remote activating."
That this was cool, well that was besides the point, right?
A thin mylar sheet was extended, something cobbled together by the British because NASA had decided that in order to perform this - they needed about 17 million more dollars and a five year study. So the mix of tape, mylar sheeting, and a few motors linked to a solar battery were not nearly as efficient as what would come down the road.
It was available now however.
"Positioning check aye. Sail deployed. Transponder activated."
Hodges clicked his radio. "Roger, Hood. Returning to base."
It was hard to believe that something that small could shift the course of an asteroid, but maybe the brain trust had a clue after all. Well, at least the transponder would allow for faster tracking of it.
"Minako Aino, repotting for duty!"
"That's 'reporting for duty', Miss Aino."
"Right, that's what I meant," agreed the blonde in the flight uniform.
The flight officer looked over the girl briefly. "Aren't you a little young..."
"You really don't know?" asked Minako, blinking at the older man.
"You've got to be all of what? 14?" asked the flight officer.
"Captain..." Minako peered closer at the man's ID. "Captain DuBois? You're not the usual officer in charge here, are you?"
"No, I'm filling in for Major Crowley," said Captain DuBois. "That doesn't get around you being severely underage for service much less piloting... this is a joke right? A modified A-10? In SPACE?"
Minako just went for the friendly approach, it was just part of being her after all. "It's my plane. I just need to report to the flight officer and file my mission plan."
"This is STILL highly irregular," said the flight officer, taking the offered papers and quickly looking them over.
"We're going to be going to those electronic clipboards soon," said Minako, trying for small talk. "Like in the original Star Trek series. That's cause of paper dust and the cost of transporting paper and stuff like that."
"Yeah, so I hear," said the gray-haired officer, frowning at the papers in question. "Going to Io? You understand there's a no-fly zone... around an invisible castle... Man, I miss the days when my job made sense."
"There's a lot of that going around," noted Minako.
"Oh, this is not a good way to wake up," groaned Shampoo.
"Well, it was this or take a month to travel in space," came her Great-Grandmother's voice. "Considering all the things that could go wrong..."
"Yes, Great Grandmother, I understand," said Shampoo, her voice a little testy. "Couldn't they have used something else to knock us out for the trip? My mouth is dry, my head weighs more than usual, and it feels like I slept on my arm."
Cologne shrugged. "I imagine that like our presence here, there was a series of compromises at higher political levels that caused some of the difficulties and nonsensical parts."
Shampoo took her time stretching out before exiting the small hut. "Not much of a living quarters."
"Bigger than an apartment in any of the large cities back on Earth," responded Cologne.
"Looks not that dissimilar to our home village," said Shampoo as she walked along one of the paths, looking over the village.
"Well, we'll see, won't we?" said Cologne as she cane-walked alongside her great-granddaughter.
Seth was frustrated by the lack of success. The two targets he'd chosen, either one would do, remained frustratingly out of reach.
He chose his agents carefully, but there was only so much he could do without getting involved himself. Going to the locations in questions though, that was a level of danger he wasn't ready to subject himself to. Right now, the authorities had no clue that there was a Goa'uld still on Earth - and if that ever changed he'd have to hide himself more thoroughly than he had in over a thousand years.
Fortunately, he had a backup plan.
"I'm still surprised that you were able to find him at all," Jacob said as he leaned back in his seat.
Daniel blinked slightly and looked up from his notebook to glance at the older man. "Ah, yes. Well, the thing is that I've always tried to find all the connections between things."
"Which has helped out a lot, I'd imagine."
"Not always. You wouldn't imagine how much a... hassle it becomes when you tell people that ancient Egypt was visited from space men."
"True enough," the former general admitted with a shrug. "Kind of different flying like this, isn't it?"
"What? Are we missing the chance to take a Gulfstream?" Jack drawled, smirking just a bit.
"Didn't take one of those. But this isn't the worst plane I've been on," the archeologist manage to murmur over the drone of the engines.
"Not as much in the way of farm animals."
"At least, not yet. We haven't met the sheriff yet."
"I doubt that we're going to have to worry about that outside Seattle," Sam put in.
"You never know."
Training was something that Ranma tended to do on his own. For him, it was actually rather relaxing, as it spoke to the center of himself. That was something physical that he could use to work through any sort of stress that he'd get in the day. It also gave him the chance to focus his mind on something that he understood.
But as he went to grab a towel, he knew that there were things that he could not do with a mere training session. Wiping at his face, he began to work out what exactly he could do about it. Unfortunately, he couldn't come up with a clear plan.
As he looked around, he wondered where Hotaru had gone off to. Something seemed to be wrong with her, and had been ever since they had been to China. He wondered what it was that had bothered her, but she had seemed a little down from then. Well, at the very least, it hadn't made her embarrassed, though she was certainly depressed.
So far, she hadn't said anything, but he knew that she was uncertain. She had been rather quiet as of late, and even though she wasn't the most exuberant person he knew, that was a little odd. Every time that he had seen her though, she was apparently thinking, which could mean a lot. As it was, she didn't seem to be about talk to anyone about it.
Still, he didn't know how to make her how to perk up, and wondered what he could do for that.
"Well now, this looks very interesting," said Cologne, looking over the building.
"It's a monastery?" asked Shampoo making her way up the path behind her great-grandmother.
"It's the dojo, a safe house, and a home," said a voice.
"Who said that?" asked Shampoo.
"I did," said a large metal post, a panel sliding open to reveal a single green-glowing lens and a speaker. "Scan completed. Two Earth-normal humans, genetic scan reveals probably related."
"You're a security guard for this place? You speak Mandarin very well," commented Shampoo.
"Actually, no. I speak nine Earth-based languages, four dialects of the Goa'uld worlds, and six computer-based languages. I'm actually an ion cannon."
"You speak our language very well, though a bit stiffly, for a gun," commented Cologne. She gave them points though. If you were going to give intelligence to a weapon, you might as well make it a polite weapon.
"Is anyone at the dojo expecting you?" asked the ion cannon.
"No, we just arrived and are getting a feel for the place," said Cologne. "Naturally, having an interest in the martial arts, we were quite interested in seeing the dojo."
"Of course," agreed the ion cannon. "I have buzzed the office and they have confirmed you are allowed entry. Just stay clear of the landing pad. Tidus is expected to land there within the hour and he can be a little... rough on landings."
"We'll keep that in mind," said Cologne affably as she continued up the path.
"Are you sure this is the guy?" asked Jacob Carter.
"Reasonably," said Sam. "He moved recently. He was flagged at that point, as there were complaints about his cult prior to that but no hard evidence of any wrongdoing."
"Yeah, and now that the general public's heard about 'shapeshifting monsters from beyond time', they tend to flood local authorities with reports anytime their Aunt Betsy forgets her meds," quipped Jack.
"Well, yes sir, but all of those go into a computer and then only the ones with a dozen or so common hits get investigated," added Samantha Carter, rummaging in a pocket and pulling out a folded sheet of paper. "When one of the cult members left the compound, a federal agent with a medscanner checked her out. This was the result."
Jacob Carter looked at the paper, but it was Sel'mak who answered. "I see. A biological enslavement agent."
"Right," said Samantha Carter, inclining her head towards the current 'specialist' SG-1 would be working with. "That's why she's taking point this time."
KOS-MOS didn't blink as she met Jacob Carter's gaze.
"Even if you dress her up in civvies," said Jacob. "They're going to know something's off about her the moment they speak to her."
Doctor Janet Fraiser adjusted her kelweave vest and patted the medscanner she kept under a flap of the material. The little devices would be worth more than three of the cars heading for the little compound if it were on the open market, but it would be invaluable on this operation. "That's not a problem. We're only infiltrating so far as to try to keep hostages from being taken or similar situations. We've determined that a strong electrical charge will inactivate the agent. Probably a design feature."
"We need to turn our back on these new untested technologies. Let these aliens keep space while we address problems here on Earth!"
There were cheers from the audience to that, though the girl walked past the street-orator without a passing glance.
A radio was turned on, revealing another viewpoint from another speaker. "So we have nutcases saying we're not ready. Put the genie back in the bottle and bury it. Well, folks, sad to say - only one country ever managed to do that. That was Japan when they closed the borders, but they DID manage to go isolationist and turn their backs on most of the outside world. Not completely though, and it only worked as long as the outside world let it."
This time the woman glanced towards the group around the radio, but walked past them as well. Finally she reached an unremarkable looking door in the side of the Lincoln Memorial. A metal door with a sign that read simply "Restricted Access" on an equally simple plate. A small black panel set into the wall beeped when an ID card was pressed to it, and the door clicked to an unlocked position.
The woman entered, her black high heels clicking on the tiled floor as she entered the tiny room on the other side and let the door clang shut again and lock behind her.
She stood there, unmoving, for several deep breaths.
A section of wall to her right moved silently aside. Without a word, she turned and ducked through.
"Ah, Meiou-san, good of you to arrive," said an old balding man with a toothy grin. "I was told you are an expert in this field, and I'm glad you were able to make it. Your flight was pleasant?"
"I didn't fly here," said Setsuna Meiou, wondering how much the stereotypical mad scientist-type knew.
"Well, true," said the old man. "Everything checks out that you are who you say you are. Dratted nuisance all the security measures but..."
"Yes, 'Q' - I understand," said Setsuna Meiou. "By the way, what's with the codename?"
"Well, I'm rather fond of the Bond movies," complained "Q" who then added. "Since my birth name is 'Percy' I rather fancy being called 'Q' you know."
"You have something to show me?" asked Setsuna Meiou, wanting to cut to the chase scene as it were.
"Oh this way then," said Q.
Setsuna followed the lanky scientist. "Why in the galaxy did you build a secret facility HERE in a high tourist area?"
"Well, this wasn't intended as a lab to begin with," said Q apologetically as they went down a short stairway. "It was just to be a data coordinating center, located directly in the center of a ring of sensor equipment. When we found IT, this was the most secure location that didn't have some specific department or branch of the government in charge of it. Rather a clumsy arrangement, when you think about it."
"Then that brings us to the question of why contact me," stated Setsuna Meiou.
"Well, yes, alien science and high tech ARE rather my own field of expertise," said the scientist as he came to a wall with a single horizontally-slit window. "Your Silver Millenium items are rather outside that field. Can you tell us what THIS is?"
Setsuna Meiou frowned as she looked over the object that was apparently on the other side of three inches of safety glass and in a biological clean room.
"See, I was figuring that it was some sort of shield generator," said Q. "Form following function no matter what the tech behind it is. And we thought it inert - but there were minor energy reactions to our probes - so it isn't completely dead."
"What kind of reactions?" asked Setsuna Meiou.
"Mainly in the FM range, short pulses in a group of three, with a pause and then another group of three." Q looked in at the device. "So... what exactly is it?"
"That, my dear doctor, is a very good question indeed," said Setsuna Meiou as she peered in at the device. "For I don't recognize it in the slightest."
It had taken awhile, but things were finally going her way.
Marller watched from afar as the idiot "scientist" (as if someone with stone knives and bearskins could call themselves a scientist) tried to probe her construct.
One of those Senshi was now there. All it would take was -
Dropping the connection as the Senshi in question was looking around as if she'd detected the scrying!
Marller scowled at the now-blank wall. Just when things were getting good too.
"What do you suppose this will do?"
Senbei smirked. While Senbei would admit he had doubts prior to this, it appeared the Mistress' plan was working. Inside the Millenial-style artifact he waited, the complex set of corrupting instructions ready. Essentially a curse that would latch onto the transformation wand the woman carried, it would then corrupt that device.
What was necessary was that he get close and undetected. So far, so good. She was just outside the furthest range of the curse. All she needed to do was take one step closer.
"I have no idea. You may proceed. It is certainly nothing I recognize though the style is familiar."
"Very well then."
Senbei's grin faltered as the woman stepped further away. What was she-?
An ominous hum built up and then Senbei experienced a burning pain in excess of ANYTHING he'd ever felt - and he was several thousand years old so he'd experienced a fair amount.
"What the hell?"
"Pardon me, Ms. Pluto. But did I just apply a spectrographic laser to an ancient artifact, only to have a six inch high humanoid figure leap out of said artifact - holding his smoking posterior in both hands?"
"Indeed you did, Q. Indeed you did. Some sort of imp or yoma, I'd imagine. When it hit your containment wall, there was an odd sound."
"Hmmm. Oh. Something we've incorporated into a few defenses of late. Experiments with yoma have led to the development of these."
"Is that... a POKEBALL?"
"Well, that was the design we used mainly for it to be distinctive. The 'biohazard' and 'do not open' stickers don't quite fit the image but are necessary. It also doesn't shrink and it's rather large compared to the source."
"You are pokeballing yoma. Q? I do not have words to express how BAD an idea that is."
"Some yoma are quite cooperative. Some are not. United States laws regarding yoma are being yelled about in the Senate you know. So we have to have some way of humanely containing them until such times as such debates have reached a conclusion."
"You are pokeballing yoma."
"There are those who want them to be accorded full human rights as sentient beings whether they cooperate with us or not."
"You are pokeballing yoma."
"Senbei no like this game," said a voice within the 'pokeball' as the debate went on.
The poster was simple enough, in the manner of countless posters before it. Before that, there had no doubt been banners, and if one went far enough back most likely scratches on walls or something similar.
This particular one was for something that would have been derided as a science fiction prop just a few short months ago. It would have been glanced at and dismissed by fully 95% of those who saw it.
It showed a perky-looking young girl, smiling and saluting, with a futuristic-looking fighter-type aircraft behind her. The words were "The sky is no longer the limit."
The rest of it was contact information for further interest, dealing with a government department that had just been cobbled together in the last month or so.
Of course, if one looked at the last four months - things had changed a bit.
Since then - things had gotten rather bizarre and the old term "Future Shock" had been taken out and dusted off for people who were dealing with the revelations of that time period.
Eleven months ago, the idea of shapeshifting vampiric entities trapped in a subdimensional limbo was considered ludicrous by the public at large.
Eleven months ago, the idea of modern magic-wielding spellcasters fighting such things had been scorned by most of the population.
Barely two months after that, the idea of alien life was still considered to be "that science fictiony stuff" by the masses. Good for a decent special-effects movie, that was all. Alien invasions were considered to be a cheap plot device, period.
Winning against an alien invasion force would be impossible by the thinking of most.
There were still a few corners of the world where all this was still considered trite fantasies.
The rest of the wold was dealing with the new reality.
There were vampiric shapeshifting creatures, most of whom considered humans their rightful prey.
There were elemental superpowered (?) guardians of humanity who had united to fight said creatures.
There were aliens. Not all of whom were friendly, one of whom had proclaimed himself to be a god.
The peoples of Earth had revealed that they knew their broadcasts were being monitored and had developed in secret a method of fighting them and HAD KICKED THEIR COLLECTIVE ASSES.
Yeah, it was a different world. A world in which the school's ROTC program now had a military poster which depicted the United States Spaceship Iowa in front of a depiction of the Earth.
Since the revelations of the vampire-things and Japan having teenage defenders of humanity? Yeah, there was a surge of interest in Japan nowadays too.
Arthur "Art" Clark (no relation) was just one of the roughly seven hundred fifty students at Northwood High School, dealing with grades 10-12. Average grades, average looks (below average in some frequently stated opinions), and a geek/nerd. Which wasn't as much of a social stigma in 1992 as it would have been a decade or two before - but still considered not exactly mainstream or cool.
"Hey Art! Didja hear!"
Arthur looked around, finally locating the speaker in amongst the crowds milling about prior to start of class. "Wassup?"
Jesse Jefferson was enthusiastic. It didn't matter what it was, he believed in giving it his all. Also a pretty good artist who hoped to work for one of the comics companies sometime in the future. Therefore a fellow nerd. "We got testing!"
"Jesse? Why is that a good thing?" asked Arthur. Word of a pop quiz ahead of time? What did he need to brush up on?
"The artifacts man! They brought testing equipment and an artifact!"
"Not awake yet this morning, Artie?" Jesse shook his head. "It's one of the Millenial Artifacts, they're looking for reactants."
"You're sure that's not an urban myth?" asked Arthur. Don't get your hopes up. Even if it turns out to have some truth to it, it wouldn't mean anything.
"No man. They were scheduled for three months from now, but apparently something went wrong and now they're rescheduling everything." Jesse grinned as if he'd won some lottery or something.
"That isn't the important bit!" said one of the female students. Arthur didn't recognize her. "There's going to be an assembly later. One of the pilots from the battle will be speaking to the school!"
"And you're excited about this, why?" asked Jesse, who apparently knew the girl.
"Duh! SHE is one of the pilots who defended Earth against the Goa'uld," said the girl. "I wonder if she's met the Senshi?"
"Well," said Jesse. "Technically she IS a 'senshi' since that just means 'warrior' - do you know what she piloted?"
The girl looked distasteful at the first part but regained enthusiasm with the second. "One of the... F-302s I think it was was called."
"Oh, that's cool," enthused Jesse. "Those are those small space-fighter craft that flew beside the Iowa."
"One of the survivors then," noted Arthur. They'd all seen the reports of the numbers lost. Some because they had run simulators before, but not any actual flight time with the new vehicles. Some had apparently been tested out okay but then lost orientation when in space and in combat situations. Add to that number the losses due to the greater experience in space of their enemy and the fighter losses had been pretty high.
"Well, there's the Excalibur space fighters they're working out now," said Jesse. "I hope we get to see those. I bet they're dipped in awesome-sauce."
"Yeah, well I heard that Lucasfilm wanted a hold put out on them because they looked like 'X-wings' or something," said the girl. "Too bad we couldn't get a senshi though."
"I heard only three of them speak English anyway," offered Jesse. "Come on, they're probably booked solid in Japan."
"With a warm welcome to Northview High School here in Osaka, we have a crewmember of the Yamato. Welcome, Mori Yuki."
"We wanted a Sailor Senshi!"
Yuki flinched at that response, even if it was a lone person in the audience, but stepped up to the microphone. "I'm afraid the Senshi don't DO public appearances. They're trying to maintain secret identities, so they stay out of interviews and the like."
Everyone had been assembled outside, expecting that someone in a suit or uniform would come walking up to the podium and give a boring speech in which they said quite a lot about very little. Generalities and trite overused cliches would dominate.
That was how the vast majority of speeches went, with facts dispensed that would have little truth involved.
A few individuals were surprised that this wasn't taking place in the auditorium with a few slides or maybe a short film being involved - just to set things up.
That's what Arthur expected. Maybe to make it different from what everyone was familiar with from the TV they would use footage from the cockpit recorders or something like that.
Four dogs trotted out from various buildings, passing the crowds and looking around the field. Not wandering, more in the manner of they knew where they were going and moving into position.
That was unusual, with a few of the students making abortive moves to go towards or away from the canines but stopped by various security guards.
"What's with the dogs?" asked Jesse, sitting to his left.
"Well trained?" guessed Arthur.
Glancing in the direction of the yell, Arthur noticed that a few people were pointing now.
A silver dot with a contrail was curving down towards the school. Not a missile though, as missiles did NOT visibly slow.
"It's a SAMAS!" yelled someone in the crowd. A different voice from last time.
"What's that stand for again?" asked Jesse. "Strategic Armored Mechanized Artillery Suit?"
"I thought it was 'Assault Suit'," said Arthur, squinting as he tried to make out details.
The suit came down slowly, going once around the school perimeter, before slowly coming down and settling a little to the right of the podium.
Arthur had to admit that seeing one in person gave an entirely different impression than seeing one on television. The armor gleamed in the sun, the various decals and insignias being the only things that didn't shine in the sun. It LOOKED well armed and armored, but that hadn't mattered in Washington DC when that big robot had attacked.
There was a bit of steam and hiss, then pieces of the armor started retracting.
As predicted, the figure coming out of the armor was female - though at this distance Arthur could only tell because the undersuit worn under the armor was pretty close fitting. Her hair wasn't all that long when she removed the helmet.
The woman got up to the podium and nodded to the principal and other school officials there, cleared her throat and began the obviously prepared speech.
She'd memorized the speech for this, but there was bound to be interruptions. There always were. This might have been her fourth time giving this speech but by now the Anti-Space groups would have gotten the schedule change and were likely breaking local traffic laws to get their protestors in place.
If she was a bit cynical, well, it WAS her fourth attempt to get through this speech.
"Good afternoon, Northwood High School. I am Captain Tabitha Hwang, United States Air Force. As many of you know, I flew an F-302 in the defense of Earth in a recent battle."
"CGI! Liar! Stop militarizing space!"
Tabitha glanced at the speaker. One of the students and not one of the professional protesters. Who, despite, having SEEN her come flying down in a SAMAS suit was denying the existence of the space battle. At least she wasn't one of the conspiracy nuts currently getting airtime talking about how the entire thing was staged by an administration bent on world conquest or something equally silly.
"This is a SAMAS," said Captain Hwang indicating the gleaming white suit. "This is what I'm flying now. The reason for this is to remind you that even if you don't register as a Positive with a Millenial Artifact or an Ancient Device - you CAN have a place with the new space forces. You CAN contribute both to your own future and to the safety of the world. We have the SAMAS, and we have other suits and mecha in development.
"There is a need for space-capable personnel. Not just soldiers and pilots, not just crew on spaceships and starships."
There was a general murmur at that. Seeing as she hadn't been interrupted, and that when the previous interrupter had been repeatedly hit in the head by the girl behind her - Captain Hwang saw this as a positive development and an encouragement to explain that.
"The difference for those of you interested is that a spaceship is designed for near-Earth destinations. Usually smaller, less complicated, and has a specific single purpose it is designed for. Examples would be shuttles, what we call a work-bee, or even some of the space-tugs we've got in development. By the time many of you have graduated, some of those vehicles will be in active use.
"Starships, on the other hand, are intended for tasks that are very far away. Greater demands on life-support, supplies, and tend to be much bigger with more crew. The Iowa is one such and the USS Enterprise will be another when it finishes construction."
Tabitha Hwang noticed those who'd reacted to that, nodded her head in recognition of the geeks among them, and continued.
"We will need personnel of ALL kinds in space, save one," continued Captain Hwang. "If you are easily distracted, frequently clumsy, forget little details, like to ignore safety rules? Please. Do NOT go into space. Space is not a forgiving environment. Forgetting to properly dog a hatch or check your suit is very likely to be fatal and quite often to more than just yourself. There are plenty of what we call 'dirtside' jobs that will be available. There will eventually be completely civilian jobs that may not require you to be obsessive-compulsive in the safety department. That time is not now."
"AND THE TIME IS NOT NOW FOR YOUR LIES!" yelled a voice.
Captain Hwang bit back a swearword. The protestors had arrived, with bullhorn, and a TV crew behind them.
And it had been going so well too.
The prepared speech had obviously gone straight into the shredder.
"You know, I kinda lost interest in those protest groups when I saw 'em running around on the TV protesting about pollution in the space environment," said Jesse, grumping a bit and slouching in his sheet.
"Like, those Near-Earth debris fields ARE totally a problem!" protested a girl nearby as she turned to glare at them. "And who knows what, like, one of those alien drive systems will do when they run into something!"
Arthur sighed. He didn't want to get drawn into it, but not saying ANYTHING would be taken as agreement. It was all entirely too troublesome.
"And having those alien ships come and crush us like bugs would be WAY less a problem?" asked Jesse.
"We only have a single broadcast and that could have been a bad translator," said the girl. "We should, like, totally open a dialog!"
Jesse stared at her for a moment. "Yeah. Right. Bad translator."
"Better than dealing with a LITERAL war machine," said the girl rolling her eyes and turning away from the obvious infidel.
"Did she just diss the BOLO?" asked Jesse.
"I wasn't paying attention," lied Arthur.
The protestors were shouting insults at the Captain, who ignored them and simply shook her head and went back to her SAMAS. She even ignored them when one took out a spray can and began shaking it.
"Think she deliberately knocked him over with the launch exhaust?" asked Arthur a minute later.
Jesse grinned. "No. Wish I had a recording."
"That bully! She could have hurt that guy!"
Jesse made a face at the girl from earlier who'd just shouted towards the podium.
The school president finally got up to the podium. "Anyone wanting to test for reaction to the Millenial Artifact, please head to the auditorium."
The press had been turned away at the door. The line had been fairly long, every student given just a few moments to walk into the room and go past three weird objects that were spaced out on tables.
Both the objects and the doors were all guarded by large individuals who looked like they were more than ready to break legs if anyone spent too long or tried to take one of those things with them.
Arthur looked them over, one at a time, when his turn had come up.
The first was a metal and crystal donut that responded to his touch by growing warm and having a shifting light appear in the blue crystal seam that ran around the inside.
The second was a cube of some unfamiliar substance. Arthur couldn't decide if it was dull metal or plastic. Whatever it was, it didn't react to him at all.
Finally there was a little metal bell on a string that chimed once when he'd started reaching out for it.
A woman in uniform checked her clipboard. "Arthur Clarence Clark?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Arthur, deciding the woman looked stressed enough.
"Double reactive, that's rare and useful," noted the woman. "Someone will be contacting you soon. Any particular science or profession you're looking at?"
"Uhm, I was kinda keeping my options open," confessed Arthur. "I don't even know what I'm good at yet."
"We have a set of aptitude tests you can take," said the woman. "I'll pencil you in for that. Best to choose a field that interests you."
"Uhm. You said 'double reactive'? Does that mean that they're not all Millenial artifacts?" asked Arthur.
"Sorry. Classified. Go through the far door and back to your regular class for now," said the woman.
"Next," said the woman as he left.
"She said 'Double Reactive'?" asked Jesse. "What's that mean?"
"She said 'classified' - so I don't know," said Arthur. He shrugged after a moment. "Didn't sound like it was a BAD thing."
"If it's really classified you probably shouldn't be talking about it," pointed out Jesse. "You may not have signed any papers but that'd affect your job chances down the road."
"I don't even know if I want to be in space," said Arthur. "Yeah, it's cool and all, but that don't get around that it's just plain an unforgiving environment. You join the Navy or Coast Guard and fall overboard, there's a chance you'll live. Air Force - they got those ejection seats for a reason. Space?"
"Yeah, they got space suits and such for a reason too." Jesse started moving his hands around, a clear sign for anyone who knew him how agitated he was getting. "You notice that Captain? That suit she was wearing to pilot the SAMAS?"
"I think every guy in this school, except Alfonso, noticed," agreed Arthur. "You aren't saying THAT was her spacesuit?"
"Wouldn't be surprised at all," said Jesse. "That SAMAS - supposedly it was built with tech we got from the BOLO. The same kinda thing that Popular Mechanics was talking about for doing artificial limbs. I counted three things she unhooked from the suit to the SAMAS when she was getting out. What you suppose they did?"
"Yeah? I thought it was just some kind of gel. You know, to pad and give some protection from impacts."
"Probably," said Jesse. "One of them at least. Maybe some sorta coolant too. Gotta get hot in them things."
"They go in space, I'd expect something to keep 'em from freezing their buttocks off." Arthur considered. "That's two. You saw three?"
"Yup, one nozzle here," Jesse indicated just along the ribs and to the side. "One here in the back."
"I noticed that one. It was like the suit moved the hook-up to make it easier for her," mused Arthur.
"The third one was here, smaller one," said Jesse, indicating the outer right thigh.
"Telemetry maybe?" asked Arthur. "Isn't that what they do with fighter pilots in regular jets?"
"Maybe, I can check that later," agreed Jesse. "That ain't counting the helmet. I... oh. Teacher's back."
"Nav, confirm spatial coordinates."
"Coordinates confirm, aye."
"Helm confirms coordinates and course set."
"All lights are green for go."
Captain Tennant nodded, his eyes sweeping the various displays for anything that wasn't right. "Go."
Helmsman Piper took a deep breath, reached out and flicked a switch on the console. "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands prepare for shortrange hyperspatial jump in fifteen seconds. All hands secure positions. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one."
Energy flared as the generators reached out with high-energy gamma rays, flexing space/time.
"Why does that always make my stomach queasy?" asked Captain Tennant as the HMS Hood reappeared in normal space.
"Because we just went from normal space and matter, to existing in a flow of higher order energies and then back again?" asked Helmsman Piper, her accent coming in sufficiently strong to indicate that she was feeling a bit stressed out.
"Because we just travelled from near-Earth orbit to Jupiter, in perhaps a minute's time?" asked Doctor Agyeman from her own position.
"Maybe because we're way too close to that floaty-castle thing?" asked Minako Aino, pointing.
"Castle Io, Miss Aino," pointed out Helmsman Piper. "Why is she on the bridge anyway?"
"She's actually here as a specialist regarding that very castle," noted Captain Tennant.
"But she can't even get the bluidy name right," pointed out Helmsman Second Class Billie Piper.
"Now now, helm," said the Navigator. "It's all classified as above our paygrade. It might be just an act."
"Unlikely. Nobody's that good an actor."
"Stressed a bit, are we, Helmsman?" asked the Captain.
"Other than we're less than a thousand kilometers from a castle floating in space whose energy tap is the planet Jupiter and which has energy discharge capabilities that I'm told could go through our shields and reduce us all to a mist of charged particles," stated Helmsman Piper, "there's also that the specialist in charge of seeing we don't get targetted as intruders wasn't briefed on any of this and is a Japanese schoolgirl. Of course there's not a single problem with any of that."
"You know," said Captain Tennant. "That's exactly the sort of negative attitude that bounces you back to Helmsman Second Class every time you merit a shift to First."
"Miss Aino? Do you require me to open a channel to the castle?" Communications wanted to know. Also what frequency and codewords might be needed.
"Hmmm?" asked a distracted Minako. "Oh sorry. I was talking to the castle."
"What?" asked Helmsman Piper. There was a few seconds as she gaped at the aforementioned Japanese schoolgirl.
"Ah," said Navigator First Class Amara Karan. "She's a high-level reactive to Millenial Artifacts."
"Whot? Her?!" asked Helmsman Piper, though after the initial shock she realized that made everything click into place. She and several others (including Amara) were all rated as low-level Millenial reactives. It was even on their military identity cards though it was just an odd symbol. Since they were listed as low-level, it followed (and there was much speculation about) medium and high-level reactives.
"Now now, someone's reactive level is all classified you know," said Captain Tennant. "Even that there ARE levels isn't to be bandied about."
"You really think any of this can remain secret what with testing civilians and all?" asked Navigator Karan.
"Actually, no," admitted Captain Tennant. "However, if you're very bad, I've been authorized to threaten such individuals with transfer to Captain Barrowman's ship."
"HIM? Captain Grabbyhands? I think not," said Helmsman Piper.
"Io says it's good to go, Captain Tennant sir," said the chipper Japanese girl. "Your ship has been recognized as an allied spacecraft. She just requests that you don't come within five hundred meters. She seems a bit twitchy with all the traffic today."
"Oh?" asked the Captain. "I wasn't aware there was a lot of 'traffic' out here. Anything we should be on the look for?"
"A cloaked Asgard ship, but it started moving out-system as soon as the castles started waking up," said Minako, listening to something only she could hear. "Apparently it's trying to find a spot out of the way in the Oort Cloud right now. Sailor Mercury is currently in the Mercury Tornado, currently a little over five thousand miles away. Oh, that's just next door."
"Well, yes, I suppose one must redefine 'next door' when one is dealing with our current speeds and distances from Earth," said Captain Tennant. "Takes a bit of getting used to."
"There's a bluidy lot of this takes a bit of getting used to," said Helmsman Piper.
"Right, Helm, now set course towards our stationkeeping point, will you?" asked the captain. "This'll be a long term duty, so I do hope everyone's packed their toothbrushes."
"With the exception of Miss Aino there, who will be picked up later in the day by Sailor Mercury," said Captain Tennant.
"Oi, you think you can get me an autograph?" asked Helmsman Piper.
"Of Sailor Mercury? Uhm, yes, I guess," said a startled Minako.
"Oh, that'd be right smashing. She's not Sailor V, of course, but that's something for me nephew."
"Oh?" asked Minako. "You like Sailor V?"
"Now now, don't be bothering the mission specialists for autographs. We're here on business after all," chided the CO.
"I don't mind," said Minako.
"I see, so she was just found patrolling..."
When he spoke next, his eyes were glowing and his voice had dropped into a more commanding and inhuman mode. "What kind of joke is this?"
"Sir?" asked the henchman.
"Readying electromagnetic pulse. Discharging."
"What?!" It was hard to sound confused and off-balance while using one's Goa'uld voice. He managed.
"Hi there. My name is Captain Jim Butcher. You can call me by my nickname of 'sir' just 'cause I like you. Did you happen to hear about our Cinder Spire facility? You're just gonna love it."
"You dare address Seth with such a tone?!"
"I'm wearing a respirator and am heavily armed. In addition - Miss KOS-MOS, if you would demonstrate?"
Seth pursed his lips at the zak'niktel in the construct's hands. "I see. You make a - persuasive argument."
He disliked coming here. It was a number of factors, but at least one of which was that there always seemed to be bad news waiting for him the moment he got off the elevator.
"Sir, there was a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Mister Stan Lee."
"Damnit. The SAMAS is NOT an Iron Man suit and he can NOT sue us for the idea."
"Problems?" asked Seth, not looking up from his magazine.
"Quite a few," said Colonel Maybourne, rolling a chair over. "Now, I have a few questions."
"You do realize I've been trapped on Earth for quite some time, and any information I've got is severely dated."
"Oh, that part I understand," said Colonel Maybourne. "What I've got is a deal to be made."
"Oh?" asked Seth, putting the magazine aside. "That sounds rather more interesting than this. Do tell me more."
"Captain's Log. January 4, 1999. We are still on station-keeping duty overseeing the construction of the Babylon space station in an outer orbit of Jupiter. Construction of the magnetic deflection array to keep survivable radiation levels within the zone has been completed and is active. I'm told when the whole she-bang is completed, that the radiation levels on the station will be comparable to those at a Glasgow pub. Why that comparison, I'm not entirely sure other than the construction chief has apparently been pining for a cold Guiness for the last four months.
"The Hood's radiation shields are doing quite nicely, by the way. Our physician has been monitoring the crew that work on the hull or outer layers here as we do upgrades, she reports no problems thus far.
"Rather boring really. Honestly though - world could use a touch of boring every so often. All the running about in all directions as things go to pot may be a bit more exciting, but we need periods of relative calm so as to catch up on everything.
"Had to let one of our crew go back with the last mail run. Ensign Hardaway started to show signs of being cooped up a bit too long between crew cycles. Touch of claustrophobia that didn't show up on the psych evals prior to posting. Bad bit of business that. Going to have to recommend that in future long-term missions, we have a better schedule for cycling the crew off and on.
"Also we'll need better air scrubbers. Already fired off a quick notation to the engineers back on Earth. Several areas getting a bit whiffy. Also screen personnel for any digestive difficulties as per previous log and the need to put Ensign Mbombo back on Earth due to his lactose intolerance. As a side note, further thanks to Captain Hornblower of the USS Constellation for his dropping by of those little cans of neutral-scent air purifiers. I've made sure to note to our Supplies Officer to get a case whenever we're in port.
"Today we're getting a load of the improved 'Work Bee' units, which are from a German company. Thing looks like a blast to be able to fly around in, long as the radiation levels aren't too high and no little asteroids or space junk tears into your life support. Problem with the previous British-made one was the four-hour operations life. Honestly, what was someone thinking with that? Four hours operation then six to get it ready again?
"Of more pressing concern, I'm appending our Chief Engineer's report on the latest upgrade to the F-302. While bigger guns are appreciated, the cooling system has an entirely unacceptable failure rate. Just a reminder to our most lovely weapons designers, if the gun stops shooting for any reason it becomes a very large paperweight. And weight or more properly 'mass' matters when one is managing fuel and the like, thank you very much. Yes, even in space.
"Captain David Tennant, HMS Hood. On station at Jupiter."
"That's IT?" asked Seth. "You seriously want me to believe that's all you want?"
"Believe it or not, yes," said Colonel Maybourne. "Our research and manufacturing capacities are pretty much full. Have you actually read any of those magazines?"
"A few," said Seth.
"Then you know we have riots dealing with alien technology," said Maybourne. "We have protestors demanding access to new tech. We have terrorists who we believe are actually on government payrolls who are trying to get ahold of alien technology from the governments that have it. We just had a hostage crisis in Japan where some radical group tried to get Silver Millenial artifacts from their government."
"Was it successful?" asked Seth, calmly reaching for a cup of tea.
"I did say 'tried'," said Maybourne. He was silent a moment, apparently contemplating the ceiling.
"Ah, so you did," said Seth to fill that silence. "So? My part of it is my freedom, and my word that I take myself far from any conflict with your world and forces?"
"Your word as a Goa'uld is admittedly not quite reassuring," admitted Maybourne. "However, in any high stakes game - there are always risks. Someone high above me in the chain of command has apparently decided that compared to many of the other Goa-uld -you are an acceptable risk."
"Ah, and you don't?" asked Seth easily, taking a sip of his tea.
"I've met worse, I've worked with worse," said Maybourne.
"You've killed worse," guessed Seth.
"That too," said Maybourne.
"What do you really think, sir?" asked the aide.
"When he was stuck on Earth, what did he do?" asked Maybourne as the elevator went up the shaft. "He did a bunch of little cults with lotus-eaters, harems, and a few thugs. I was completely honest. I've met worse. Trust him? Absolutely not. Can we use him and him us to our mutual satisfaction? Quite possibly."
The aide was silent for a moment. "That last sounded VERY weird sir."
"True, hadn't meant it quite like that," admitted Maybourne as the elevator doors opened.
"What next?" asked the aide, checking her stylus. "There's a meeting at 0200, though that's secured encrypted video so it can be done from the jet."
"Double check the security on that will you?" Maybourne glanced to the side as they went through the park. "Tower Of The Americas. There's a Chart House restaurant on top."
"Way overpriced sir," said the aide. "There's some cheaper fare closer to the Alamo."
"On second thought, let's just get to the jet," said Maybourne. "I just thought of someone I want to send an encoded anonymous message to."
He gathered it, the energy folding in upon itself to become a concentrated sphere the rough size of a baseball.
Hotaru cocked her head as she regarded it. "I thought you were going to work on something to deal with airborne targets."
Ranma felt muscles in his arms quiver and forced them to stop through sheer will. "I have been. This is it."
Hotaru turned her attention back to the sphere. "This is your 'ki' and that other energy?"
"Yeah," said Ranma, who then turned and threw the ball.
As soon as it left his hand it expanded into a javelin shape. When it hit the mountain, it exploded.
"Uhm," began Hotaru. Frankly, she'd expected a bit more.
"Still a work in progress," said Ranma as he noted the tiny crater in the rock. He could do a lot more damage up close, but the main trick here was keeping everything together - stable enough to make the trip and unstable enough to blow up when it got to the target.
"Ah," said Hotaru, accepting that.
"So what's the occasion? You normally don't come out this far from the camp," asked Ranma. "Not while I'm trying to blow stuff up at least."
AUTHOR'S NOTES: It appears that Kender is no longer with us. Either he's given up on writing, or - as TV Tropes would put it - Author Existence Failure.
Which is not the first time this has happened to me, for those who remember Celeste.
It'll make updating this story a bit more difficult as Anime Addventure is currently having severe problems with an apparent virus attack from one of the trolls currently hanging around over there - and this story is complicated enough (and huge enough) that i may end up having some problems with future plotting. Heck, just trying not to keep from contradicting previous things in the story is going to be a major work.
But the story has not been abandoned as of now, and i'm getting to it as i can.
thank you for your patience.