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Ranma1/2
Whole New World
Chapter 5
The End of the Road, or Is It? (or, The Interlude Before the Arrival)



"I challenge you!"

There were few other phrases that Ranma enjoyed hearing, for it
meant the chance to test his skills against another. Matching wits,
speed, and strength with an unknown opponent and proving himself
superior, was the ultimate high for a martial artist. And if he picked
up a new technique or two out of the deal, so much the better.

IF he was the one doing the fighting, however.

"Ranma!" Akane yelled, frowning. "He doesn't mean you!'

Ranma glanced at his Tomboy pokegirl. "But..."

Nabiki joined in on the frowning.

"This whole world is messed up," he grumbled while relaxing his
attack stance. Even though the Tendo, err, `girls' had explained the
concept of pokebattles to him, Ranma still wasn't too happy about it. He
wanted to be the one to fight, dammit!

They had been traveling for several days, and for the most
part, things had been calm. They had seen no sign of Kuno, for which
they had all been grateful, but Ranma thought that things had been too
quiet. That was part of the reason why he became excited at this latest
distraction.

"The name is Huguo," the boy who had shouted the challenge
stated. He looked a little confused at Ranma's actions, but shrugged
them off. "And I propose two one-on-one pokegirl matches."

"I accept!" Akane declared eagerly, falling into a ready stance
that was similar to the one Ranma had held a few moments before.

"Hey!" Ranma protested. "He was talking to me!"

Nabiki rolled her eyes. "What, you want to surrender then?" She
had managed to surreptitiously check Ranma with his pokedex when he went
female again, based on Kuno's declaration a few days ago that female
Ranma was supposedly a Tomboy. However, this time the pokedex merely
showed static, so she shrugged it off as Kuno being delusional again.

"No!" the pig-tailed boy objected strongly to Nabiki's question.

"Then let Akane fight," the Catgirl told him, twitching her
whiskers and crossing her arms over her chest. [Better her than me.]

Ranma grumbled again while pulling out his pokedex and pointing
it at the feathered and spandex-clad girl Huguo had released from a
pokeball. [Pidgy, the tweety-bird pokegirl. Pidgy usually fill the role
of couriers or messengers, since they posses only average combat skills.
However, their lightweight body allows for quick aerial movement, though
this also hinders their resistance to damage.]

"Pidgy!" the pokegirl squawked proudly.

[Great,] Nabiki thought. [Pidgy's are good against fighting
types. Cat-types like me are better able to handle them. But type
comparison is not everything, as battle experience plays a role. So,
who's got more? Akane or the Pidgy?]

"This will be easy," Akane declared with a grin, then charged
her opponent. "Take this, HA!"

"Pidgy, take off!" Huguo commanded. His pokegirl jumped into the
air, easily avoiding the pile-driving punch, leaving Akane unbalanced.
"Now, Peck Her Attack!"

"Pidgy!" the feathered flying girl acknowledged as she dive-
bombed.

Akane's head vibrated up and down from the multiple-beak
attacks impacting the back of her skull, before her balance was
completely overrun and she ended up kissing the ground.

"I'm not out yet!" the Tomboy declared, standing back up and
spitting out dirt. Her eyes followed her hovering opponent, flitting
back and forth. Gauging the distance, she leapt, but the Pidgy simply
flew higher, out of her reach..

"Tackle attack!"

Akane landed, only to get hit from behind as the Pidgy plowed
into her. The Tomboy was really starting to hate the taste of dirt. "Why
you...!"

Nabiki covered her face in her paws, embarrassed. [Great, my
sister is being outsmarted by a birdbrain.] She looked up to see Ranma
studying the flying pokegirl with an intense look on his face. [What is
he thinking?]

"Care to give up?" Huguo taunted Ranma. "Everyone knows fighting
types are weak against flying types. Your Tomboy can't win. Give up, and
I'll spare both of you further humiliation." He figured this other tamer
would switch in his Catgirl to beat Huguo's Pidgy, but that would mean
the Tomboy couldn't come back in for the second match. And Huguo knew
his second pokegirl, his Alpha, could easily beat a Catgirl.

Nabiki resigned herself to the fact she would have to fight.
"Ranma, you better switch me in." [I really didn't want to get my claws
dirty. I just hope I can beat this guy's second pokegirl.] A small part
of her was looking forward to it with much anticipation, however.

"Is that okay?" Ranma asked, raising an eyebrow. "I didn't think
you could do that..."

Nabiki ground her teeth. "Look, do you want to win, or don't
you!?" The Catgirl's tone and volume caused Ranma to jump several feet
away.

"No!" Akane countered before her tamer could respond. "I can
handle this!"

"Oh sure, you're doin' a good job so far," Ranma commented
sarcastically. It was all the same to him if the stupid girl wanted to
let herself get beat up. Still, a small part of him couldn't help but
admire her determination.

Nabiki shook her head as her sister tried yet another futile
leap for her airborne adversary, who simply flew out of reach.

"Pidgy, quick attack!" Huguo commanded as Akane landed, then
grinned as the attack connected with the Tomboy's backside. "I got you
now!"

"No you don't!" Akane declared, twisting and grabbing ahold of
the Pidgy's arm before it could get away. She gave it a good twist, then
slammed her opponent into the ground.

"Well, whatta ya know," Nabiki said, surprised. "Akane may
actually win this. As long as she's got a grip on that pidgy, her
opponent's agility and speed are negated." The Catgirl remembered her
sporadic sparring sessions with her sister, knowing from first-hand
experience Akane's strength and grappling ability. She turned to Huguo.
"I'd suggest you call your Pidgy back!"

Huguo's grin disappeared almost as fast as an all-you-can-eat
buffet in front of Genma Saotome. "But..."

Ranma winced and averted his eyes, unprepared for the ferocity
displayed by the Tomboy as she took her revenge. Several colorful words
could have used to describe the scene, but only three words could form
in Ranma's mind: Definitely Not Pretty.

"Uh, Akane, doncha think that's enough?" he suggested.

Akane paused and looked up, an uncomprehending look on her
face. "Huh?

"Pid.......gy," the feathered pokegirl whined.

"Oh my precious Pidgy!" Huguo bemoaned. "Return!"

Akane cursed as her opponent disappeared in a flash of red
light.

"I'll get you for that!" the angry tamer yelled, pulling out
another red and white ball. "Uniko, I choose you!" Huguo's Alpha
appeared in a flash of white luminescence.

She was furry.

She was naked.

She had a strangely-shaped tail.

She was yellowish with a couple of brown stripes.

Ranma stared at the newcomer, suddenly and inexplicably
afflicted with both nervousness and fear, as if he were in the presence
of some unnatural evil. But given how cute and innocent this pokegirl
looked, Ranma wondered why that was.

"Peekabu!" the new girl announced. "Uniko is ready to fight,
Master!"

Akane smiled grimly. "Bring it on!"

Nabiki gulped, suddenly glad it wasn't her out there.

Ranma blinked a few times, then shook off his feelings of
unexplainable evil and activated his pokedex. [Peekabu, the electric
mouse pokegirl. Peekabu are normally shy, but can be fierce fighters
when backed into a corner. With their agility and powerful electric
attacks, Peekabu make loyal pokegirls. However, taming can be a shocking
experience to the new tamer.]

Akane was undeterred, however, and charged in.

"It's not going to be that easy," Huguo warned. "Uniko, Thunder
Shock!"

Crackling electricity surrounded Uniko. "Peeeeekaaaa... Bu!!!"
She thrust out her hands, and the charged-up energy lanced out,
temporarily connecting herself to Akane by an arc of electricity.

"AAaaAAaaAAaaAAaaHH!" Akane stated as the attack coursed through
her. She dropped to the ground after it ended.

Ranma blinked. "Woah. Powerful." He then licked his lips as
thought he caught the scent of barbecue.

Akane coughed once as she rose, her gi somewhat charred. "Is
that... all you've got?"

"I'll hand it to you," Huguo admitted, talking to Ranma. "You've
got a tough pokegirl there. But it won't be enough. Uniko, another
Thunder Shock!"

"Peeeekaaa... Bu!!!" Once more, the crackling energy shot out,
but this time, Akane managed to dodge to the side so it only clipped her
right arm. Her sleeve wasn't so lucky, as it detached from the rest of
her gi.

Akane frowned at the loss of clothing. "And this was my
favorite! PEEKABU NO BAKA!"

Uniko's eyes widened as her muscles locked up in fright. Akane
took advantage of her opponent's immobility, and charged in.

"Uniko!" Huguo cried. "Snap out of it and use Agility!"

Akane picked up speed, striking out with her right fist but
meeting only air as her opponent practically vanished, appearing several
spaces to the side. Akane lunged again, but Uniko easily dodged,
blurring away from every attack and eventually ending up several dozen
meters away.

Ranma blinked again at this girl's abilities. "Dang, that's
fast."

Nabiki gulped, really glad she wasn't the one in there. She
wouldn't be able to match the Peekabu's speed, nor take hits as well as
her sister was.

Akane leapt to the attack, trying to catch the Peekabu by
surprise, when another bolt of electricity struck her in mid-air,
sending her tumbling to the ground.

"Hey, come on!" Ranma finally protested, upset at the one-way
battle. "You think that's enough? This is hardly a fair fight!"

"A Peekabu's Thunder Shock is a perfectly legal attack move,
sanctioned by all the leagues," Huguo responded, then paused
thoughtfully. "Except for the sex leagues, of course." He shook his
head. "But that's a whole different story. If you want it to stop, feel
free to give up anytime."

Ranma clenched his fists and teeth, spying a glanced at the
charred Akane, who was shockingly rising to her feet once more. Her gi
was little more than tatters now, hanging on by threads. Ranma didn't
want to give up, but he felt uncomfortable enough about letting a girl
fight for him, taking the blows that he should have been taking. And it
was worse, because of how badly Akane was getting hurt.

Could he really stand by and let her take more of that
punishment? "Alright, I'll-"

"NO!" Akane yelled. "I'm not giving up!"

"You stupid girl!" Ranma yelled back. "You want to get beaten to
a pulp?"

Akane's eyes blazed as she scowled. "I can win! I'm not beat
yet, and I'm not giving up!"

"Why do you have to be so damn stubborn!?" [Stupid girl,] Ranma
thought. Couldn't she see that he just didn't want her to get hurt?

"What did you say!?" Akane shouted, her ire reaching the boiling
point.

Huguo blinked as he witness the verbal sparring match. "Um,
excuse me..."

"Stay out of this!" the bickering pair commanded him in stereo.

Nabiki covered her eyes with her paw and shook her head.
[Idiots, both of them. I could have stayed home and waited for another
tamer, but nooooo; I just had to come along.] She wondered why it seemed
like a good idea at the time.

"Would you two just shut up!" the Catgirl finally yelled at her
two travelling companions.

The pair turned to look at her, then each other, then Ranma
threw his hands up in the air. "Fine then, if you want to get yourself
beat up, I don't care."

Akane stuck her tongue out at him, then turned back to Uniko.
"Okay, let's get it on, rat-girl."

"Uniko is not rat-girl!" the Peekabu fumed. "Uniko is electric
mouse! Take this!"

[Great,] Akane thought, gritting her teeth as she dove to avoid
the electric attack. [I just had to make her mad. At this rate, how will
I get close enough to attack?] She rolled to avoid another lightning
strike, enduring a dirt shower instead. [Think, Akane! I need a
distraction or something.] She blinked. [Wait a minute... Mad? That's
it!]

"You couldn't hit the broadside of a barn," Akane taunted,
standing back up.

The Peekabu blinked. "What you say?"

"You heard me," Akane continued. "Without your electric attacks,
you're nothing. And even with them, you can barely hurt me."

Uniko fumed. "You... you... PEEEEKAAABU!!!"

"Yikes!" Akane dove, and rolled back to her feet to avoid the
large thunderbolt hurled her way. She then flipped backwards to avoid
the second one. Landing, she leapt once more towards her target.

"Not again!" Nabiki exclaimed. "She's an easy target in the air!
Idiot!"

Ranma furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "I don't think so..."

"This is it, Uniko!" Huguo cried gleefully. "Finish her off with
a Thunderbolt!"

Uniko braced herself and fired, the streak of electricity
bursting into the air and striking the incoming object. "Got her!" Then
she realized there was two incoming objects, and she had only hit one.
"What...?"

The thrown mallet exploded and Akane flew through the flaming
remains. Uniko attempted to charge another burst, but the Tomboy landed
and grabbed her wrists, just as the gathered electricity discharged.

Just because they use electric attacks, doesn't mean Peekabu
are immune to them. Akane completed a circuit between herself and Uniko,
frying them both with electricity.

"Akane!" Ranma called, seeing both girls alight with voltage.

As the attack died away, the two pokegirls felt woozy, but
managed to remain upright. Uniko was unable to free herself from the
Tomboy's strong grip, however. Akane grinned, then rammed her head
forward and a resound *Crack!* was heard as the two skulls collided. For
a second, nothing happened, then the Peekabu dropped like a rock.

Ranma sprinted to their location, as a now completely naked and
burnt Akane turned to him. "Are you alright?" He was surprised by the
goofy grin Akane had on her face.

"Told ya I'd beat her," Akane said, giggling crazily. Then her
eyes rolled up into her head and she collapsed.

"Akane!" Ranma put his shirt on her and raised her head
slightly, checking her pulse. As the Peekabu disappeared in a flash of
red light, Ranma's gaze met Huguo's and his voice turned accusatory.
"Are you happy now?"

Huguo looked at him strangely. "Hey, it was a good fight. I
must say I'm surprised. I didn't think your Tomboy could fight so well.
You gotta tell me how you do it!"

Ranma ignored him and turned to Nabiki, who had come up to
check on Akane. "Is she gonna be okay?"

The Catgirl nodded. "She should be, she's tough. She just needs
to rest. I recommend putting her in her pokeball until we reach the next
pokecenter. She can be make a proper recovery there."

Ranma pulled Akane's pokeball off of his belt, looking at it.
"How far is the next town?" The idea of stuffing a girl into such a
small object made Ranma uncomfortable. He'd rather not do it, though
Nabiki had put herself into her ball once or twice, and she didn't seem
to mind. However, he had noticed that Akane seemed to almost be afraid
of it.

"Juba town is just a few miles down the road," Huguo pointed
out. "I just came from there. They have a pokecenter."

"I'm goin'!" Ranma picked Akane up, cradling her in his arms as
he started down the road, running swiftly.

Nabiki growled and took off after him. "Ranma, wait up!" As a
Catgirl, she was usually faster than most normal humans. However, she
was surprised that she was only managing to keep up with her Master, and
she knew that she couldn't keep up the speed for very long since she
lacked a strong endurance.

"Ranma, you better put Akane in her pokeball!" she called out to
the pig-tailed boy just a few feet ahead of her.

"I ain't doin' that!" Ranma called back over his shoulder.

Nabiki felt like growling again, but needed to save her breath.
"But you're only going to make Akane's condition worse at this rate!"

That brought Ranma to a skidding stop, and he stared at Nabiki
as she came up beside him. "What do you mean?" he asked in a hard tone.

"Akane is weak right now," the Catgirl explained, gesturing to
her unconscious sister. "It's not good for her to be jostled in your
arms as you run, and in this weakened state, she's more susceptible to
catching a disease or virus. Putting her in a pokeball will keep her
stable and safe until we get to Juba."

Ranma glanced back and forth between the two sisters, the
warring emotions quite visible on his face. "But..."

Nabiki pressed on. "Come on, it won't her . In fact, it's
rather comfortable in there. Look, I'll go into mine as well, that way
you can run faster and get there sooner."

This last bit of logic managed to worm it's way into Ranma's
thick skull, and he reluctantly relented. "Okay, but only this once, and
only `til we get to this pokecenter place!"

At Nabiki's nod, he set the unconscious Tomboy on the ground
and unhooked both pokeballs from his belt. Holding one in each hand, he
studied them for a moment, then pointed them at the girls and applied
some pressure. He felt a strange mix of fascination and slight disgust
as Nabiki and Akane were sucked inside, but it lasted only a moment
before he fastened them back to his belt and took off down the road as
fast as he could run.




Akane floated in a void, unaware of either up nor down. Even
when she opened her eyes, she was still confronted with complete
blackness.

"Wha-where am I?" she asked in a worried voice. Her limbs felt
sluggish and her whole body tingled, as if it were half-asleep. "Am I...
in my pokeball?" The fear in her heart bled into her voice as she
realized her situation.

While she liked fighting and the power that came from being a
pokegirl, that was the only benefit as far as she could see. Being a
pokegirl also meant being tamed, being commanded by another, and being
confined and imprisoned inside a small object. It meant her fate was not
her own, but to be decided by another. She would gladly give up her
power, if it meant becoming one of the few, normal girls out there.

And now she was bonded to a tamer, who was also a jerk and a
pervert. Of course, deep down she was secretly beginning to like the
taming sessions, not that she would ever admit it. If only her tamer
wasn't a jerk.

However, the fear she was currently feeling pushed everything
else to the side for moment, as claustrophobia took over.

"Gotta get out," she repeated to herself over and over as she
clenched her eyes shut and flailed. Her voice became begging as she
struggled. "Please, let me out!"

Her eyes opened again and she gasped.




"She's going to be all right," the Nurse Joy of Juba town's
pokecenter declared.

Ranma let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, as he
watched Akane stir and open her eyes in the water-filled rejuvenation
tube. He was worried when she started struggling and the machine hooked
up to the tube began beeping, but she seemed to settle down once she
opened her eyes.

"How long will she be in there?" Ranma asked.

Joy checked the monitor. "Hmm, she recovers pretty quickly.
Probably another thirty minutes." She turned back to Ranma and smiled.
"Why don't you wait in the lobby?"

Ranma nodded and, after a last look at the floating girl in the
tube, allowed the Nurse to escort him out to the waiting room, where
Nabiki was reading a magazine. Ranma picked a seat on the opposite side
of the room, causing Nabiki to frown in annoyance. Ranma watched the
Nurse walk back inside the treatment room.

"Well, at least she seems normal enough," he remarked.

Nabiki smirked. "She's a pokegirl, too. All the Nurse Joy types
are."
"Ain't there any normal chicks around here?" Ranma asked in
disbelief.

"A few, less than 10% of the female population," the Catgirl
replied. "If a girl isn't born with activated pokegirl genes, they
normally activate during puberty. Sometimes the genes don't activate at
all, or a girl is born with so very few or none at all. No one knows
why, exactly."

Ranma frowned, leaning forward. "So how come it's only girls?
Guys seem normal enough."

Nabiki resisted the urge to comment on Ranma's normalcy, or
lack thereof, and instead just shrugged. "You'd have to ask the guy that
started the Great War, 250 years ago, whoever that was. His name was
lost in the collapse that followed. At any rate, somehow the Y
chromosome negates and/or suppresses any pokegirl genetic information."
Nabiki noted Ranma's blank and uncomprehending stare. "It just doesn't
happen to guys, and we don't know why."

Ranma's eyes lit up with understanding, even as he looked a
little annoyed. "So why didn't you just say that, then?"

The Catgirl rubbed her temples and sighed in exasperation as
she leaned back in her chair, suddenly feeling glad she was in a
pokecenter. She could feel the beginnings of a migraine coming on.




"Here she is, good as new!" Nurse Joy announced, waking Ranma,
who had begun to nod off.

He jumped to his feet as the pokegirl nurse led Akane back in,
looking as good as new with a fresh new gi. Her long hair was even tied
off with a yellow ribbon on the end. She appeared a little nervous as
her tamer and her sister looked her over.

"Lookin' good, sis," Nabiki offered as she walked up to Akane.

"Yeah, um, it's nice to see that you aren't charred or nothin'
anymore," Ranma added. He blinked at Akane's strange look. "What!? "

Akane shook her head, trying to hide her smile. "Nothing. Thank
you, Ranma."

"Uh, sure." Ranma waved her off. "It wasn't no big deal. Just
don't go lookin' for me to do it again if you go and do somethin' stupid
again. Ooof!"

"You're still a jerk," Akane muttered with no real anger,
removing her fist from her tamer's stomach.

Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Well then, if we're all finished with
the pleasantries, shall we get going? Professor Kao's lab shouldn't be
too much farther."

"Excuse me, but did you say Professor Kao?" Nurse Joy inquired
from the front desk.

"Uh, yeah," Ranma confirmed, looking quite eager. "You know
where he is?"

"He lives about a mile up the mountain," the nurse pokegirl
answered. "Just follow the east road out of town and you should find it.
Though it has been over a month since I saw him last."

Ranma leapt into the air. "Yes! I'm almost home!" He turned and
rushed out the door, waving to Nurse Joy. "Thanks!"

"Ranma, wait up!" Akane called, chasing after him.

Nabiki exhaled in exasperation, taking off after her tamer and
sister. "Well, here we go again."




"Did you *huff* have to *puff* run the whole mile?" Nabiki
managed to gasp out as she caught up to her two traveling companions.

Akane was a little short of breath as well, while Ranma
appeared only mildly winded. The Catgirl came up beside her tamer,
surprised when he didn't shy away at all from her near-presence. Then
realized he was too busy gazing at the rather large, one-story white
house on the other side of the elegant iron-barred gate.

Ranma felt a small thrill. In just a short while, he would meet
with the guy who brought him to this strange world, and get this
professor guy to send Ranma back. Finally, all this weirdness would end!

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Ranma asked gleefully, before
he pushed open the gate and dashed inside.

Nabiki nervously grabbed ahold of her sister's shoulder before
the Tomboy could follow after Ranma. "Wait a minute, Akane." She pointed
to a nearby sign.

Akane's eyes widened as she read it. "Ranma, wait!"

"YEEEEOOOOWWWCCCH!"

Both pokegirls flinched at their tamer's pained call, but
before they could investigate, Ranma dashed back out of the yard and
slammed the gate closed, chest heaving heavily.

"Ranma?" Akane asked worriedly. "What happened?"

He turned and pointed back into the yard. "She... she... BIT
me!"

Before the two pokegirls could ask who, a furry girl with
floppy dog-like ears and wearing only a studded collar, pressed up
against the other side of the gate. She was growling in a low voice,
while holding two pieces of material in her teeth, one black and the
other blue and white.

"Is this whole world nuts!?" Ranma yelled to the sky, then
turned to Akane as she tugged on his sleeve. "What!?"

His gaze shifted to where she was pointing; a sign that read:
"Beware of Growlie."

Ranma growled. "Why didn't you tell me that before? OUCH!" He
turned back around to prevent Akane from poking his rear wound.

"Honestly, would you just calm down and let me treat it before
it gets infected?" Akane told him while taking out a first-aid kit and
pushing her tamer face first to the ground. She then grabbed the
waistband on his pants. "Quit struggling!"

"Hey!" Ranma protested while he was divested of his lower
clothing.

"Ginger, heel!" came a soft, feminine, voice. "Hello? Is anyone
out there?"

The Growlie pokegirl dropped the fabric and bounded over on all
fours to a new girl who was clad in a white scientist's frock. Her
complexion was a pale yellow, but not as full as the Peekabu Akane
fought before. She also sported a pair of flopping antennae on her head
and a pair of circular glasses.

"I'm sorry if she startled you, I-" She paused, seeing a boy
crouched on the ground with his pants down and a pokegirl on top of him.
"Um, are you okay?"

"Your Growlie took a piece out of him, but it's not too bad,"
Akane replied as she finished applying a salve. She then slapped a pad
on him.

"Well, if you like, you can treat him inside," the other girl
informed them. "We have better medical supplies. Oh, by the way, my name
is Mary, an A-bra, and this is Ginger." She scratched the neck of the
dog-type pokegirl. "Ginger's not too intelligent, but she's mostly
friendly, except to people who are trying to break in."

Akane stood up, closing up the first-aid kit. "Well, I'll all
finished now. I'm Akane, a Tomboy, and this is Ranma Saotome."

Ranma grumbled something unintelligible as he stood and pulled
his pants up. But he didn't protest too much, as he did feel a bit
better, despite the rough treatment.

"And this is my sister... Nabiki?" Akane looked around for her
missing sister, only to find the Catgirl several yards down the road and
up a tree. "Nabiki, what are you doing up there?"

Nabiki quavered slightly. "Um, just enjoying the view! Really!"

Akane glanced back and forth between the Growlie and her
sister. "Honestly. She won't hurt you, Nabiki."

"I'm not scared!" the Catgirl countered fiercely "I'm just
relaxing! I like it up here. So there!"

Akane turned back to Mary. "I'm sorry about that. I think my
sister is a little skittish around dog-types."

"I am not!" came the shouted rebuttal.

"I could send Ginger away," Mary offered. Ginger whimpered at
this. "But she is really quite friendly." As if in response, Ginger
padded up to Akane, who hesitantly began to pet the furry pokegirl.
"Won't you please come inside?"

Ranma eyed the dog-girl, then turned to walk beside Mary, with
Akane and Ginger following. "So, is the professor in?"

"You mean my master, David Kao?" Mary asked, suddenly looking
excited as Ranma and Akane nodded. She suddenly grabbed two fistfuls of
Ranma's shirt. "Do you know where he is or what happened to him!? I've
been so worried, as I haven't been able to reach him for the past two
weeks!"

Ranma fudged at the sight of an upset girl with tears in her
eyes. "Er, I... um... that is..."

Akane sighed at the lack of her tamer's coherence. "We thought
Professor Kao would be here."

Mary promptly released Ranma and turned to the Tomboy, her face
downcast. "Really? Well, he's not here, and hasn't been for awhile."

"You mean I came all this way and he's not here?" Ranma asked in
disbelief, recovering from Mary's inadvertent near-hysterical sympathy
attack. "You know where he is or when he's gonna be back?"

"I'm sorry, I don't," the A-bra replied apologetically as she
led them inside the house and into the living room. "He sent me away
nearly two weeks ago with a few artifacts to research. But Anne was
still with him. Unfortunately, I lost contact with him shortly
thereafter, and have been looking for him ever since. He's not answering
his communicator, and I can't reach him telepathically. Of course, he
could be out of my range, or in an area with too much psychic
interference.

"So you don't know?" Ranma nearly whined, upset at this setback.

Mary shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. We parted somewhere in
southern Indigo." She touched her lower lip with her right index finger.
"Hold on and I'll try to contact him again." She closed her eyes.

Ranma blinked as the girl just stood there, antennae twitching
every so often. "Um, what's she doin'? Shouldn't she need a phone or
somethin'?"

Akane elbowed him. "Be quiet! A-bra's are psychic types. She's
trying to contact her tamer telepathically." She reclined into a nearby
couch to wait.

Getting into the routine, Ranma flipped open his pokedex. [A-
Bra, the psychic pokegirl. A-bra's are lightly endowed, but possess
greater intelligence than most other pokegirls. They also are gifted
with strong psychic abilities. However, they tend to sleep almost 18
hours a day.]

Ranma blinked again. "Ya know, this thing is actually kinda
handy."

Ginger chose that moment to happily pad into the room on all
fours, and Ranma swung the pokedex her way. [Growlie, the puppy
pokegirl. Growlies are highly loyal and generally friendly, but are
fierce fighters when defending their masters. Growlies are highly
competitive and amorous, but do not get along very well with Domina-
types.]

Ranma exhaled as he snapped the device shut and sat down next
to Akane. When Ginger placed her head on his knee, panting happily and
wagging her tail, Ranma hesitantly reached a hand out and began to pat
her head. A vaguely disturbing feeling materialized in his gut at the
sight of an otherwise normal girl acting like a dog, fur and tail
notwithstanding. Though he supposed that if a girl could be a cat or
mouse, then a dog wasn't too far out of the equation.

After a few moments, Mary's eyes snapped open, the worry
returning to them in addition to a new dose of sadness. "I'm sorry, I
can't seem to contact him." Her head dropped to stare into her lap.

"You really miss him, don't you?" Akane inquired in a gentle
voice, empathetic to the pokegirl's sadness.

Mary nodded. "I love him. He was constantly researching
something, that he almost didn't have time to spend with us, but he was
a very passionate man when he did. It didn't matter, though. Anne and I
shared his excitement whenever he made a breakthrough, or discovered
something new. And Ginger was always happy with at least one of us
around." She glanced up at something only she could see, a gentle,
melancholy smile appearing on her face. It didn't last long, though; she
promptly shook her head and glanced over as Ranma sunk back into the
seat. "Is there some reason you need to see my Master?"

"All I know is that he brought me here through some sort of
water portal," Ranma explained. "Said he had a cure to my curse. But now
I just want to go back to where I was."

Akane frowned, feeling oddly upset at that, but pushed it
aside. It wasn't like she wanted a tamer in the first place, so she
should be glad to see the idiot go. "What about the recorder?"

Ranma's eyes lit up as he promptly began digging through his
pack, eventually pulling out the mangled black case. "Oh yeah! This is
supposed to be the doc's journal or somethin'. But it's kinda broken."

Mary practically leapt out of her seat in excitement and
snatched the device from Ranma's hands, then hopped over towards a
computer terminal embedded in the wall. She tapped a few buttons, then
placed the device inside a panel that slid open. Once the recorder was
inside, the panel slid shut again.

"Hmmm, Professor's Kao's recorder was an old piece of lostech,"
Mary commented, typing away at the keyboard. "It was supposed to be
incredibly durable. What could have done this much damage to it?"

Both Ranma and Akane recalled how the recorder's condition came
to be, in the hands of a certain doctor.

"Well actually mmmpph!" Ranma flailed as Akane slapped a hand
over his mouth.

"We don't know," the Tomboy finished for her tamer, then shot
Ranma a look to shut him up.

Ranma stopped trying to pry Akane's hand off, then rolled his
eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. Akane removed her hand
voluntarily. "Hmph."

"Well, whatever happened to it," Mary continued, unaware of the
antics behind her, "it certainly was brutal. It'll take the computer
some time to retrieve any useful information. But hopefully we'll be
able to determine where my Master is!" She turned away from the console.
"In the meantime, you can stay here. In fact, why don't I show you
around?"

Akane smiled. "That would be nice, wouldn't it, Ranma?"

Ranma rolled his eyes again, clearly not as enthused. "Yeah,
whatever." But he didn't resist as Akane grabbed his arm and pulled him
along, following as Mary led them out.




Outside and high in a tree, Nabiki glanced toward the house.
She wasn't scared of any dog-types, no; she was just on lookout. Yeah,
that's what she was doing! Still, she decided that maybe, just maybe,
she should just check on her tamer and little sister.

Gathering her courage, she leapt from tree branch to tree
branch until she was next to the brick wall surrounding Kao's house. Not
seeing any sign of the Growlie, Nabiki leapt down into the yard. She
paused for several moments, then decided she was safe.

"Well, that wasn't so bad," she said to herself, pleased at how
she had conquered her fear. Not that she had any fear, of course. Now if
she could just-

"Yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap!"

"ROWWWWWR!" Nabiki commented as she shot into the air.

Once she landed from her ten foot leap, she took off like shot,
the happily barking Ginger hot on her heels. Much like the Catgirl fled
before the pursuing Growlie, intelligent thought fled before the power
of instinctual fear and she quickly dropped to all fours. If Nabiki had
any sort of thought capacity left, she would have noted that she had
made ten cycles around the house, before spotting the lone tree in the
backyard.

Heart pounding heavily, Nabiki scrabbled up the tree trunk and
desperately clung to one of the highest branches. Ginger tried to
follow, but slid back down after several feet. The Growlie contented
herself with simple yapping as she playfully trotted around the trunk,
then settled at it's base when she grew tired.

Up in the branches, some semblance of normal thought returned
to the skittish Catgirl. Her chest heaved as she rested against the
trunk, and she wondered what exactly she was supposed to do now.




"And this is the main lab," Mary explained as she led her two
guests inside the larger room.

The two teens took in the array of tables, artifacts, devices,
and bubbling beakers scattered across the white-tiled room. To Ranma,
the entirety of it was completely unintelligible, and didn't interest
him in the least. Although his philosophy held that, if it didn't have
to do with martial arts or a way home in the first place, then it wasn't
worth paying any attention to.

Akane, however, was taking great interest. "What is all this?
What was Professor Kao working on?"

"A variety of subjects," Mary answered. "A little of this, and a
little of that. Mainly genetics, but he dabbled in history and
technology as well. He's managed to help restore several pieces of
technology lost since the collapse after the Great War. But he's mainly
dedicated himself to the study of pokegirls."

"Anybody hear that?" Ranma asked, head perking up. Before anyone
could respond, the trio looked out the windows to witness a pair of
blurs zipping by. "Um, wasn't that Nabiki and Ginger?"

"Ginger won't hurt Nabiki, will she?" Akane asked, a little
worried.

"No, Ginger knows Nabiki is a friend," Mary answered, smiling.
"She's just playing."

"Oh, good!" Akane's sigh of relief was evident. "By the way,
what are those, over there?" Akane pointed to a pair of giant, clear,
cylindrical tubes, hooked up to several pieces of blinking machinery.
"They almost look like rejuvenation chambers."

Mary nodded. "Good call, you're close." She led the duo over to
them. "These are specially modified chambers. Normally a rejuvenation
chamber accelerates healing by stimulating individual strands of DNA,
working especially well on pokegirls. Something to do with their
genetics. But my Master modified these to affect specific strands of DNA
for modification."

Akane moved closer, noticing that the tubes were filled with
water. "Why?"

"Almost every pokegirl carries the genes for several pokegirl
types," the A-bra explained. "But only one of those is dominant over the
others, and influences what type of pokegirl a girl becomes. The
recessive genes govern what kind of secondary abilities a pokegirl is
capable of learning. My Master was experimenting with identifying and
activating those secondary genes, trying to separate out what exactly
made a pokegirl, in order to determine why less than five percent of
females don't become pokegirls. On a commercial scale, he thought it
would be possible to change a pokegirl's type, and use that service to
bring in the revenue for continued research."

"Does it work?" Akane queried in an awed voice.

Mary shook her head. "Sadly, not yet. He's some luck with
modifying Anne's genes, but he's never had the time to test if fully.
Theoretically, it should work, however."

"Um yeah," Ranma commented, the entire conversation having gone
over his head. His stomach chose to rumble then. "Say, got anything to
eat around here?"

An embarrassed Akane covered her eyes with her right hand.
"Ranma..."

Mary giggled. "No, it's alright. Why don't I show you the
kitchen next? And after dinner, I can show you to your room for the
night?"

Ranma licked his lips hungrily as he followed the A-bra out,
not noticing the thoughtful look on Akane's face as she glanced back
toward the chambers. After a moment, the Tomboy trailed after her tamer.




"Ranma?" Akane whispered in the darkness as she lay on her bed,
but got no answer. She whispered a little louder. "Ranma!"

"Hmmng?" was the muffled reply from the bed next to hers.

"Do you..." she began, hesitantly. "Do you think you'll be able
to go home... back where you came from, I mean?"

"s'ppose," Ranma mumbled. "dunno..."

"Ranma?" Akane inquired of the darkness.

"jus' go ta sleep, `Kane," he muttered, then turned back over in
his bed, seemingly intent on following his own order.

But Akane was unable to do so. She just lay there, staring up
at the ceiling. [So what if the idiot did leave?] she asked herself. [It
shouldn't bother me. I'll just go back to live at the dojo. And that's
where I'll stay.] She sighed. [Until the next tamer comes along, that
is.]

She turned over to her side, just barely making out the other
bed several feet away. She could also just make out the form underneath
the sheets, that represented the slumbering form of her current tamer.

[If only I was a real girl, and didn't need a tamer...] She let
that thought linger for a minute or two, then came to a decision. As
quiet as possible, Akane got up and put on a robe, slipping out of the
room and leaving a still-slumbering Ranma behind.

She padded down the dim hallway, finding the set of double
doors she was looking for. Still creeping as silently as possible, Akane
quietly opened the door and slipped inside, making her way over to the
far corner of the room from whence the only the source of light
emanated: the dull blue glow from the twin rejuvenation chambers, and
the blinking lights of the attached computers.

She shivered, not the from the cold, but from the life-changing
decision she was now facing. If she did this, there would be no turning
back, and there was no guarantee it would even work.

Resolving herself, Akane stepped towards the chambers.




Ranma snorted himself awake, surprised to see it was still dark
out. He usually slept until morning, unless something dangerous
triggered his awareness sense. A brief scan of the room revealed nothing
out of the ordinary. Still the sense that something was wrong continued
to tingle in his skull until he noticed that Akane's bed was empty.

Telling himself that nothing had happened to stupid tomboy,
Ranma opened the door and stepped outside.

"Ranma?"

The pigtailed boy turned to see Mary stepping out of a room
further down the hallway, dressed in a skimpy pink nightgown, but still
wearing her glasses. "Have you seen Akane?" he asked her.

Mary shook her head, then opened her mouth, but stopped before
anything came out. She promptly grabbed her head in agony and collapsed
to one knee, prompting Ranma to come up beside her in concern.

"What's wrong?" he asked worriedly.

"Pain..." she gasped.

Ranma was confused. "You're in pain?" Was this what he was
sensing?

Mary shook her head again and stood up slowly, leaning on Ranma
for support. "No, I sense someone else in great pain." Her gaze turned
down the hall. "This way!"

Ranma wasted no time in running after the suddenly-sprinting
pokegirl




Outside, Nabiki sleepily raised her head from where she was
curled up on her branch. She glanced toward the house and blinked, then
looked below and frowned. Ginger was still laying at the base of the
tree, seemingly asleep. Nabiki bit her lower lip, then glanced toward
the house, growing worried.




"AKANE!" Ranma placed his hands on the glass, feeling the subtle
vibrations. "What is she doing in there!?" He turned to Mary, who was
furiously tapping away at the console. "What is happening to her!?"

"I don't know!" Mary nearly shouted back. "Give me a few
moments!"

"She doesn't have a few moments!" Ranma shouted, turning back to
the chamber.

Akane was floating inside, a breathing mask in place over her
mouth and nose. Her eyes were closed, but she was spasming violently,
giving the appearance of being in great pain.

"From what I can see, she apparently told the machine to remove
all pokegirl DNA," Mary said at last, frowning. "That's crazy; it'll
kill her!"

"That's it, I'm gettin' her out of there!" Ranma declared.
"Stand back!" Winding up, Ranma smashed open the glass with his fist,
then caught Akane as she fell.

Mary stared as the water fell out and changed Ranma into a
girl. "What? The water wasn't supposed to do that!"

The now-female Ranma laid the still-spasming Akane down on the
ground, and did her best to hold her steady. "What's wrong with her?
Shouldn't she be better now that she's out?" She was disturbed by the
fact that, every so often, it almost appeared that there were two
Akane's, as if one was an afterimage.

Mary shook herself out of her shock, switching herself into
full scientist mode to handle the more pressing situation. She then
grabbed the portable scanner, running it up and down the length of
Akane's body. "She's in shock. Her genetic pattern is unstable, and if
it isn't stabilized soon, her genes will break down and she'll die."

"So how do we fix it?" Ranma asked, impatient.

"She needs to temporarily borrow the genetic pattern of her
tamer," Mary declared, snapping the scanner closed. She then grabbed a
hypospray and loaded in a canister, shooting it into the side of Akane's
neck. After a moment, the seizures began to subside. "Now, you need to
tame her." She look at the busty Ranma and frowned. "Although, you'll
need to be male to do so, and I don't know where to begin to change you
back. The chamber isn't supposed to affect normal humans!"

Ranma looked up, then finally noticed her own change. "Huh? Oh
yeah. Just get me some hot water and I'll be fine."

Mary blinked. "Curious. This has happened before?"

"It's a curse," Ranma explained. "Look, is Akane going to be
alright?"

Mary nodded absently. "Yes, she's stable for now, but you have
to tame her soon to make it permanent."

Ranma grimaced, remembering what taming meant on this world.
Could he do that to a near comatose Akane? "I don't know if I should..."

"You sure as hell will, Saotome!" Nabiki declared from the
doorway. She stalked up to him, somewhat glad to see he was holding his
ground instead of fleeing. "I know you're a chicken when it comes to
sex-"

"Hey!" Ranma objected, attitude changing from nervousness to
anger.

"-But you will save my sister," the Catgirl finished. "You are
not going to hurt her by doing this. In fact, you are only going to help
her. Am I making myself clear?"

Ranma looked down at the girl she was supporting. Akane did
practically have her way with him almost a week ago. "Fine! But don't
blame me if any problems come of this!" She looked around, looking for
an out, then it came to her. "Um, no hot water, though. Too bad!"

"Oh, that's no problem," Mary replied, then put two fingers in
her mouth and whistled.

Nabiki paled as the dreaded yapping sound grew louder. "Um,
I'll see you guys later. There's, um, something I have to take care of!"
She sprinted to the window and opened it up, diving outside just as
Ginger came barreling inside the doors.

"Ginger, stop!" Mary commanded, then pointed to the water on the
floor. "Ignite! Warm up this water and splash Ranma!"

Ginger nodded, then placed her paw in the water, wincing
slightly. Ranma was amazed as the water on the floor began to bubble,
then Ginger splashed the pig-tailed girl, reverting Ranma to his birth
gender.

"I assume you know where your room is?" Mary inquired.

Ranma nodded as he picked Akane up, cradling the unconscious
girl in his arms. Without saying another word, Ranma carried Akane out,
disappearing through the set of double-doors.

Mary then turned to the Growlie. "Good girl, Ginger!" Her voice
dropped to a sultry tone. "As a reward, how about spending the night
with me?"

Ginger yipped happily, tail wagging.


---------------------------
Author's notes:

Kai: Boy, is it me, or are these chapters getting longer?

Shampoo: It not just you. But Shampoo hope you make long chapter for her
lemon scene with Airen!

Kai:: Ah, speaking of lemon scenes, I'm planning to do them as
sidestories. So the people who want to read a lime-only story can easily
avoid them, while others who want to, can, well, enjoy them. Any
important story bits will be re-covered in the main story, so those who
don't read them can catch up on what happened in the following chapter.

Shampoo: (threatening) And...

Kai: Yes, you'll get your lemon seen, Shampoo. But I won't say much more
at this point!

Shampoo: Stupid author-boy better write Shampoo/Airen lemon, and not
with stupid duck boy...

Kai: *ahem* Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for the first lemon
sidestory, and then look for Chapter 6, where Ryoga finally shows up!
What will his relationship be with Ranma? Does he have any pokegirls?
Will he die of a nosebleed? These questions and more, answered next
time!

Shampoo: (waving happily) Bai bai!

Thanks to Hpackrat and T. H. Tiger for prereading!