- UPDATE! - This is pretty much just a 15 year old attempt to document an RPG campaign that ran for twenty years. It has since ended, and some of the souls came back in a spiritual sequel series of published novel. Check Chapter 9 for more information
Pointless Copyright Notice:
I'm not even going to list it here. By the time all is said and done, several dozen companies could sue me if I tried to make a cent from this. Good thing I'm not, eh?
-Twisted Prophecy, Prologue-
"What does not kill me make me stronger"
- Friedrich Nietzche
His body lurched up suddenly, pressure in his lungs choking the life out of him. His eyes snapped open to find he was captured in a glass tube. He beat against it a moment, pulling against the restraints that limited his motions. 'Calm down there man' a voice entered his head, 'You're in a bacta tank. That's liquid oxygen. You don't need to worry about breathing.' He ceased struggling, finding that not only could the voice be correct, but the effort he exerted was causing black spots to swim about in his vision, making him dizzy. 'You're... you're psychic?' he projected outwards. 'Just about everyone is here. Seems you are, too.' came the voice in his head, 'But we'll talk about that later. Tell me, can you remember your name?'
A flash of memories. A woman by his side.. her warmth, ker kindness. Moments of anger, teasing. The joy of pleasure with her, as only a man and his wife can feel. The angst of childbirth in primitive surroundings, the triumph at holding his baby boy for the first time. The pain, searing and burning hotly in his heart... of it's end.
'Gone... all...' he thought. 'Pardon?' came the other's voice. 'I asked your name.'
Names... their name... his name. Gone. All gone. He remembered the first time he came to her bed, expecting fully to be yelled at, to be slapped, kicked, cursed at, anything. He remembered shaking with fear on that night, not so much in fear of what she would do after discovering what he desired, but in fear of what was to be if she did not reject him. He remembered her eyes, waited for the denials to begin again... but they did not. Her mouth formed eight words he would treasure so long as he lived. "I'm sorry. I've loved you for so long." And he would never hear her speak of that love again. Why had the Kami allowed him to live when all he loved were ripped away from him? There could be no purpose for his existence. Save for one. His eyes opened again.
'Cabal. I am all of what we were.' he managed, focusing his thoughts in anger. 'The people in your village said you were called "Ranma". Do you remember that?' the other's voice probed gently.
A house in the Nerima district of Tokyo. His father taking him off of a long life on the road. The first day there... and her. Her smile, so beautiful, as if there was nothing in the world could ever break that smile down. Then her frown, when she found out what he really was. Then there were others, so many others. Of all the others, only one had any effect, but he left, with his intended, and the other was left behind, again. The battles, the bizzare transformation. Curses, Kendo sticks, panda bears. Yes, he remembered.
'Ranma is dead.' he thought neutrally. 'Ah yes well Cabal, my name is Joshua Taylor.' He pulled his eyes open. Through a green haze, he could see the form of his rescuer. Yes, he remembered Joshua vaguely. 'Why?' he asked Joshua. 'I couldn't let you die like that. I thought you might want to settle the score. Better like this than as a revenant.' Joshua responded.
He remembered Akane, playing with Kouma, taking him through the best katas he could do. Kouma was shaping up to be so much like his old man. Probably better than his old man. Though he did not age anymore than a few years for whatever reason, and was certainly not getting "old", family life was making him slow. Ranma had become the village's protector, by proxy of being the only warrior to ever come to that simple agricultural community. But as time wore on, the attacks upon the village became less and less, and Ranma found himself spending more time in the fields with the other men. Tricks to coax crops out of the wasteland became of more importance than how to focus his Chi in battle. The ability to find water where there seemingly was none was more useful than 30 foot leaps to rooftops. His father's words came back to him, spoken in love and encouragement once, now sounding mocking and cold. "A true martial artist allows nothing to distract him. Nothing will ever be more important than the Art."
'Yes.' he projected. thought was coming more clearly and rapidly now, 'You're right. I do. I was too lazy.. I could not...' Joshua stopped him, 'That won't happen again. You were severely overmatched. Even if you were in your absolute prime, you stood no chance.'
Ranma was busy tilling up land, getting it ready for this year's Ewbikiberry crop. The elders approached him, he did not pay much attention. They told him it was time to defend the village again. Ranma did not even stop to warm up. He finished tilling the row, then walked to the edge of town, confident that his enemy would fall before him easily. That was when he saw the situation. The raiding party itself was nothing unusual. A large group of assorted humanoids, ranging from lizardlike to dwarfish man, many atop the local six legged beast of burden. Brigands, in this world, they had a certain amount of honor. When encountering a village they wished to loot, the would offer the village a chance to present their best warrior in it's defense. If the champion won, the raiders would usually take dinner with the village, then leave. If the raider's champion won... the town and it's resources were at the mercy of the raiders. Ranma had never any trouble defeating the "champions" of these ragtag groups in physical combat.
The preliminaries were already parlayed, the stage was already set. Ranma did not have to deal with the diplomacy, he was only the defender of the village. To show up, fight, bask in victory, then go back to his wife and child. Ranma limbered up a bit and squinted against the setting sun to make out his opponent. The opponent stepped into view.
'He was... you are right. But I can't.. ever.' he cast his eyes down at the thought of his own limitation. Joshua turned fully towards him and held up a clipboard. He could not read what it said. 'Actually, Cabal, you can. At the behest of General Kurosawa, I'm authorized to give you enhancements that will more than equal the odds.' '...enhancements?'
The opponent was 9 feet tall. He was much like a mythical centaur, albeit not in a beautiful fairy tale way. He advanced on Ranma, and snarled. Ranma shot a look back to his wife. She, for the first time since they had come to this strange land, looked afraid. Seeing her husband's glance, she pasted on a smile of confidence, but that it was forced was easy to see. Her eyes were afraid for him. The centaur advanced upon him. Ranma leapt out of striking range, flipped onto his hands, and launched up from there back towards the centaur. He timed the landing, extending his foot to strike a devestating flying kick into the beast's head. He struck dead on target, between the eyes. It was like kicking a tank. Ranma felt pain shoot up his leg in white hot arcs; there was no give from the beast's neck to absorb the pressure. The centaur reached up before Ranma could even bounce off his target, and clasped one large hand around his calf. He was then slammed forcefully to the ground. It was over that quick. Several bones were broken, and he could tell those bones included his neck. He lay there on the ground helpless to stop what came next.
'What sort of enhancements do you mean?' he asked. 'Well,' Joshua replied, 'We're going to enhance your muscles with myomers created... let's just say you're going to get a LOT stronger. It's biotech, so you'll have to keep working out and such if you wish to maintain the strength. We're putting subdermal armor in, also.' 'Subdermal what?' he asked again. Having not spent much time in school, that phrase meant nothing to him. 'Means we're grafting armor into your skin. It will grow and act like normal skin, and it's well.. armor. It'll make you tougher against firearms and will pretty much make bladed weapons useless against you. I can't fix your lungs yet though, I don't happen to have any new lungs on hand. We'll have to set you up with noseplugs or a filtration mask. You can't breathe normal air for long. The trace toxins which most people are immune to will slowly clog up your weakened alvioli. Want me to fix up your face?'
He could see it in detail from where he lay. The brigands, knowing they had won, began their plunder of his village. Akane stood amidst all of it, holding Kouma and staring at her husband. Tears formed slowly in her eyes, but she did not know anything beyond the first aid she was taught in lifeguard class. And that was 18 years ago. The centaur stalked over to Ranma, grinning sadistically. He clawed across Ranma's face, four slashes running from his temple across to the opposit cheek. Then the centaur belched a cloud of fume at Ranma, and though he tried not to inhale, he had to eventually breathe. It burned, and he was having trouble getting enough air, even after the cloud was gone. Ranma closed his eyes, ready to die, but the centaur slapped him into wakefullness and turned him on his side so he could fully see Akane. Having done so, he took a bow from one of the other brigands, and drew back the arrow, pointing at her. "Beg for your life!" he bellowed. Akane bit her lower lip hard enough to draw blood, but did nothing else to show her fear. "I will never do that. You can take me and do what you wish, but for whatever you hold holy, don't harm my child!" The centaur began to laugh grandiosely, then cut short and let the arrow fly. It struck Akane between the eyes with such force that half of the length burst out the back of her skull, loose chunks of brain matter under the mushroom-like tip. She clutched Kouma protectively to her before sinking to her knees, silent forever. Ranma cried out as best he could at this, though it was little more than the keening wail of a dying animal.
'No... I' his head was spinning at all of this, and he knew he would go back into blissful oblivion again for a while, 'It is... my shame... do not fix my face. I will wear these scars as a reminder of...'
The centaur walked to Akane, and tried to wrench the child from her arms. In her death, she clutched the baby tightly to her bosom, who was strangely quiet. The centaur could not easily remove the child from mother's arms, so he instead ripped the arm off. Kouma fell to the ground, crying a bit but not wailing in fear. Ranma could not help but be proud of his boy, despite all that had happened. The centaur picked the child up and sniffed him. "Is this your boy, weakling?" he asked Ranma. Ranma could respond in no way but affix the centaur with a look of steely hatred. "Yes, he is your boy. He smells like you. Arrogant stink of weak humans. How brave of him, not to be puling like the beast he is." The centaur sniffed the child once more, then held him between his hands... and tore the child into two pieces. Ranma felt burning rage at this, which then subsided into utter despair when he realized there was nothing he could do about it, and he himself was dying. The top half of Kouma was thrown by Ranma, and the last thing Ranma heard struck him deeply, pushing him into something beyond rage. He heard his child cry one last time, a cry of mortal pain that would burn inside him for the rest of his days.
He finally blacked out, and dreamed. Mercifully, he dreamed of better times. He dreamed of Ukyou''s okonomiyaki house, scamming free food off of her, talking to her about his problems, and being understood by her. Her unconditional love, fuled with 10 years of rage and loss behind it. He remembered defeating the "Gambling King". He remembered her assistance delivered so many times. Whenever Akane was in trouble, Ukyou was there to help Ranma. Blowing up his wedding.. he wasn't ready to marry at the time anyway. He remembered her way of talking, though not entirely unladylike, tending to be vulgar. He remembered her voice, clear and full of confidence, with an edge of sultriness just below the surface. Not slutty, like Shampoo tended towards, but always with a little hint of things that could be. He could almost hear her saying "What the hell does that mean, you jackass?"
"Well," Joshua said, "It means his revenge is in another dimension. I don't think you want to pay for that. " "Well," the female voice replied, "Why can't you just let him run for the money a while?" "Not a bad idea."
He felt that he was no longer in the liquid. He was lying down, with a tube going down his throat. He opened his eyes. Could that...? "Uk-?" he managed, then thought better of this. "I think I'm... gonna... puke..." He looked at the female standing there. It certainly looked like Ukyou. Bit taller, same proportions, and some kind of marking on her left cheek. "You know Joshua, when I look at him on the table, he really does look like-" Joshua chuckled and completed her phrase, "Your old Ran-chan? Hey killer, why don't you tell her your name, eh?" Joshua was looking at him now. "My name... is Cabal... pleasure... meeting.. you." he managed, dizzy and barely understanding what people were saying. Joshua raised an eyebrow at this, but said nothing. The woman smiled at him. Same dazzling smile, full of infinite empathy and compassion. "My name is Brigadier General Tina Lynn Kurosawa. I have other names, too, depending on who you ask, but Tina is the one I go by. Feeling well enough to chat a bit?" He raised up slightly, and found that the bed raised with him, offering him support in his more upright position. It helped clear his head a bit.
"Yes, I'm allright. What happened to me?" he asked. Tina smiled at him, "Well sugar, according to Joshua here, he was going through a rift that tore open, and found you lying there. You were pretty torn up and nearly dead." He nodded slowly, beginning to understand. Alternate reality. This wasn't Ukyou at all. "Anyways," Tina said, "Joshua brought you here, and asked me what to do with you. I'll admit it's a bit silly, but rather than let you die I decided to pay to fix you up. You look so much like I would assume a man I once knew would look if he was a few years older." "What was his name?" he asked. "Ranma. Ranma Saotome. Real pigheaded fucker at times, but I loved him more than life itself. Boy pissed me off, oh I'll tell you-" Joshua interrupted her again, "Oh yes, she'll tell you allright. Get her even slightly drunk, and that "Ranma" guy is all she ever talks about." Well then. Maybe this was her. Tina shot Joshua a cold glare, then softened and giggled. "Yeah, I do tend to do that, don't I? It's been 80 years since I last saw him. I'm just disgustingly obsessed." Joshua looked piercingly at the man on the bed, under the oxygen tent. "No Tina, you're just hopelessly lost in love is all. Not many people can claim to have loved like that. I hope that some people can learn to be more like you, and not deny themselves." The man ignored this, and addressed Tina. "80 years? How could it have been that long?" Tina laughed lightly and said "Long, LONG story sugar. Remind me to tell you sometime. Suffice it to say I ain't human, never was. Didn't know what I was when I was young, still don't. I bleed green though, and don't seem to get older." The man tilted his head, a bit confused, "And you never loved anyone else since then?" Tina got a bit of a starry look in her eyes, "If you ever met this man, you'd understand why I didn't. He was so-" Joshua cut her off again, "Studly, manly, kind, gentle, free of prejudice, noble, et fucking cetera. Shut up already, psycho." Tina giggled again at Joshua.
"You got him registered in the 'runners database yet?" she asked. "I'm trying, but there's already someone named "Cabal" in this city. It's not taking a second one without having his real name also." The man turned to Joshua, "Spell it with a "K" then. What's this runny thing you're talking about?" Tina sat down on the edge of Kabal's bed and smiled sunnily at him. "Well, you see, Joshie-poo there got a reading on the place where you came from. We can get you back there, but it'll take lots of money. Dimensional hops cost so much your implants look like a burger and fries next to a new house." She looked at her watch. "Well, " she said with a sigh, "I'm gonna have to run out now. I have a press conference to handle. We had a few Marines get overzealous in the pursuit of poontang. Can you take him through the rest of this Joshua? "Sure." Joshua replied. Kabal spoke up, "Wait Tina... how can I repay you for all this?" Tina shook her head, "Don't worry about it sugar, it's on the house." With that, she bolted out the door. Kabal shook his head, still slightly fazed. She used to use the same phrase when he'd leech Okonomiyaki off of her. "So you're going to make a mercenary out of me?" Kabal asked. Joshua smiled, "That's about the size of it. In a coupla days I'll line up your first job." Kabal shook his head, "No way man. I won't be a hired killer."
"From what Tina's told me about you over time, " he looked at the door she just left through, "I knew you wouldn't. Don't worry. I'll get package runs and bodyguard duty. You'll probably have to kill people at some point though." Kabal nodded, "It's allright, I'm just not an assassin." "By the way man..." Joshua began. He mulled over it, then decided to go ahead and continue. "That was a REAL shitty thing you did with Tina there." Kabal hardened his expression there, "It's no business of yours." Joshua cracked his neck with a quick jerk to the left. "Tina's my friend, my oldest and greatest. I owe her my life many times over. Seems like you owe her one, too." Kabal looked away, "Ranma is dead. It's that simple. I am not the man she seems to want." Joshua slapped down his clipboard, "What the hell ever man. That much faith doesn't get misplaced. I know her, she's way too smart to delude herself like that. If you ever hurt her in any way man, I swear I will frag you myself. Got me?" Kabal's muscles tensed and his pride roared, but he was too weak to fight this man at the moment. "Ranma is dead." he repeated, more softly. Joshua softened as well. "I understand your pain man. I've been there myself. If you thought of yourself that way, it would open a whole new world of shit for you. Maybe it's best you do wear your mask until you get it all worked out." Kabal nodded, "You're... right, mostly. I... I feel numb right now. I have to kill that centaur. I've gotta.. he took my family.
Joshua reached over his desk and picked up a metal mask, looking somewhat skeletal. "Speaking of masks... this was my costume to a ball last week." He showed it to Kabal, "Shall I set this up with the accoutrements you'll need to breathe? It's much less obvious than a nose-filter." Kabal nodded to Joshua, "Yes, do that." Joshua nodded back. "And my friend... once you have your revenge, don't just let yourself die. It hurts a lot, but there may be other things to live for, in time."
Kabal chuckled a bit lightheartedly, "Are you trying to set me up with your friend?" Joshua grinned, "She loves you. But put that aside right now, I don't think love is what you need just right now." Kabal's thoughts turned inwards again. He remembered the cry of his child, the touch of his wife. There was no purpose in life anymore but to avenge his family. And himself.
But he had to admit, it was nice to see his Uc-chan again.
Please, by all means, let me know what you think! This is, as stated in the summary, a rewrite of an old story that I lost. I was mulling about the idea of trotting it out again, as I never published the old one. If you all would like me to write more... then by all means please e-mail me at soheifox . Comments and criticism are VERY welcome!