Chapter 10: The Serengeti

"Not fair!" Brittany yelled. "Wait for me!"

Brianna laughed lightly. "Who ever thought you would say that?"

"How the hell did they get so fast?" Brittany growled.

"More time working out, less time in malls?" Gina suggested. "You need to get off your tail more."

"I don't wanna hear that from you!" Brittany stuck her tongue out and sped away under the hot African sun.

Gina and Brianna shared a savage grin and Brianna put the hammer down in the Ginamobile. This version was more rugged than Gina's usual sporty designs, built on the chassis of a jeep out of the 50s. Even before the super-mad-science stuff was installed the thing could run over an elephant without denting a bumper. Now the engines were hand built by Gina and the frame was Brianna approved, which explained how it was keeping pace with subsonic werecheetahs on open ground without so much as a tremor in the cabin or a ripple on the icewater Gina casually sipped. "I knew we should have added a back massager to the seats," she grumbled.

The Serengeti blurred passed as they streaked across northern Tanzania. "It's actually fairly pretty," Brianna said.

Gina nodded. "Much nicer than the last time we were in Africa."

"Well if you ever visited places that weren't the Sahara or some god-forsaken jungle," Brianna pointed out.

"Hey, you usually don't find archeological troves within eyeshot of a national park," Gina objected, pointing off to the left. "I don't know how the clan ever managed to stay secret around here."

"Well, that's why Dad set us up with his old contacts," Brianna said.

"True. And you'd better floor it; we're almost out of sight of Ranma."

"Y'know, I have to agree with Brit. How did Nabiki get that fast?"

Gina shrugged. She was still surprised that the mercenary girl had come along at all.

About a week ago, one month after Ranma's return to Nerima

"C'mon, Ucchan, even Nabiki's going," Ranma coaxed.

"No dice, Ranchan," Ukyo said, flipping another okonomiyaki onto a plate and serving it to one of her regulars. "School's out which means the lunch crowd is in. If you needed my help, that'd be one thing, but you just want me along for…why do you want me along anyway?"

Ranma shrugged his massive furry shoulders. "We're gonna be huntin' down the last home of the last werecheetahs. Kinda felt like you and Konatsu should be there, what with all the rest of us going."

Ukyo glanced at her blonde waitress. "I still can't believe he shoved his hand in my mouth when I was sleeping," she grumbled.

"I can't believe he can still pull off the girl act after he changes," Ranma countered. "Not that he ever really does."

"I think it's a ninja thing," Ukyo said. "He can't hide as well with an extra foot and a half on him. And the health people would be all over me if either of us served food with that much fur." She poured some batter and spread toppings on it for the next order. "So all the werecheetahs but the two of us, huh? That'll be quite the party."

"Brianna and Gina are coming, too," Ranma said.

Ukyo searched her memory. "Brittany's sisters, right? One of them's a half-cheetah?"

"Something like that," Ranma agreed. "They're some of the best explorers in the business, accordin' ta Nabs."

"And you think this'll help you figure out the whole clan thing?" Ukyo asked.

Ranma shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "It can't hurt."

That was true, Ukyo agreed. Ranma had been muttering to himself for weeks about being the head of a new clan. And a clan under fire, at that. He'd had a long talk with Nabiki about the dangers of selling information on the clan which bought them a one year moratorium on the idea. He'd barged in on the Kunos and somehow ended up with some kind of formal blood feud between himself and the Kunos, but at least "the honor of the Blue Thunder" wasn't going to let the idiots hire some assassins and end up tipping off a wererat somewhere. He'd been found making lists of every enemy that was dumb enough, ignorant enough, or desperate enough to reveal everything to the world at large, which had the end result of him bitching about how it was all a huge pain and it was so much easier when he could just beat the crap out of the challenger/kidnapper/reborn god de jour and call it a day. There really wasn't a way to make the poor boy more confused than he already was.

Nabiki's betting pool on the topic wasn't doing much better than selling information. Anyone that knew Ranma knew that "protect Akane" would win out in the end. Ukyo slid an extra-large seafood okonomiyaki (now on the menu as the Werecat Special) over to her fiancé and grinned. "So, how did you talk Nabiki into going?"

Ranma took a bite out of his lunch before answering. "She thinks there might be some relics of the clan worth selling."

Ukyo frowned. "Isn't that grave robbing?"

Ranma waggled a hand. "Eh. This isn't where they died, it's what they left behind in good faith. Brit's the only one with any real claim to it, an' she'll be with us."

"Still, it's weird for her to stick her neck out like this," Ukyo said.

"According to Nabs, Gina pulls down more cash from a trip like this than Kuno would pay for a three album swimsuit edition of the pigtailed girl," Ranma said dryly.

"Okay, not so weird," Ukyo amended. "Uh, how does Nabiki know how much Kuno would pay for that?"

Ranma shuddered. "I don't want to know."

Nabiki felt a feral smile on her face as she ran. A month ago, in her old body, this would have been impossible. Even the crazies like Ranma couldn't match this pace. Now, she felt like she could keep this up forever. It had only been a few seconds since Akane had suggested they race to the horizon, but already that goal was forgotten. It wasn't a race, it was just…running. Something primal in her liked that idea, something that was as rooted as the most ancient instincts but was really only a few weeks old. Magic. Don't try to figure it out, Nabiki, she told herself.

Nabiki looked around at the others. Ranma was, unsurprisingly, increasing his lead. Akane was about halfway between him and Nabiki. A glance behind saw Britanny catching up fast, with the Ginamobile coming on just as fast. Nabiki shook her head. She'd never trained in the Art through adolescence like Akane, but she had kept up some of the exercises Soun had taught them all. Physical attractiveness was a tool, after all, as was good health. And anyone who lived in Nerima had reflexes to spare, just trying to stay out of the way of the crazies, so it really didn't surprise her that she'd taken an early lead over the original werecheetah.

Britanny grit her teeth and demanded more speed from her legs. Ranma she couldn't hope to match. Whatever that ki stuff was, the kid was ungodly fast with it. And he was training Akane, so naturally she was pulling ahead. But Nabiki was just an ordinary girl, wasn't she? Yeah she was fit, and Britanny knew that most werecheetahs had been a lot faster than her, but come on! Even as she passed the girl, Britanny grumbled at the unfairness of being in last place, even for a little bit.

It wasn't all one-sided, of course. Ranma had been disappointed that he didn't have her raw upper body strength. Britanny also knew how to make the most out of her speed better than any of them…although Ranma learned that kind of stuff fast enough to add to her growing unease. She had the best profile…unless Konatsu put his mind to it. That was sufficiently creepy that Britanny really didn't want to think any more about it. And besides, she had Stryyp, and they were still a bunch of kids sorting out their hormones. She didn't need to be jealous at all.

Well, maybe a little bit. Damn, Ranma was fast. Maybe it was time to stop judging herself by human standards and step up her own training.

Nabiki pounced the Ginamobile as it caught up to her and calmly opened the rear door and slipped into the cabin.

"Are you nuts?" Gina yelped. She glanced at the spedometer and confirmed they were going bloody-splatter-on-the-ground miles per hour.

Nabiki shrugged and reached for a bottle out of the cooler. "I was thirsty," she said calmly. "Besides, I tripped at this speed a few days before we left. Skidded over a bunch of road. I don't think it would hurt all that much more falling onto dirt off this jeep of yours."

Gina boggled at the girl briefly while Brianna cackled. "I like your style," the half-were decided.

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. That was a first. She pushed the thought aside and looked to Gina. "You really think we'll find something?" she asked.

Gina took a moment to get back into expedition mode. "From the werecheetahs? I'm not sure," she admitted. "From what we saw, they weren't typical refugees. They left their homes in full dignity, so either they were confident they were coming back someday or they knew they never would."

Nabiki snorted. "So either you'll find a settlement full of valuables just waiting for new owners, or they picked it clean and sold what they couldn't carry."

"And either way, hidden by their best ritualists," Gina added, "so no common tomb raiders would have gotten their mitts on it."

"And the uncommon tomb raiders?" Nabiki asked cannily.

"Are all friends of mine," Gina said calmly.

Brianna snorted a laugh.

"When they're not shooting at us," Gina amended.

Brianna let loose a giggle.

"Okay, some of them are at their friendliest when they're shooting us."

Nabiki glanced between the two of them. "You're new at the whole reassuring speech thing," she observed dryly.

"The point is, we know them all and none of them have been within fifteen hundred miles of here," Gina said with a final huff. "Good enough?"

Nabiki nodded. "Good enough," she agreed.

Gina smiled and turned back to look outside. "We should be there soon."

Theodore Diggers was well aware of where the werecheetah village was – their hunting grounds had become wildlife preserves and the structures were hidden by the werecheetahs' own failing rituals and the more recent efforts of their friendlier neighbors. It was odd, Gina reflected, that there were so many people nearby that were still actively keeping the lycanthropic secrets of the Serengeti. She was used to dealing with cultures long forgotten, ruins worn away by time and confused by the distance of culture. The werecheetah culture was as extinct as any she had studied, but it was only a generation old. People still remembered the reclusive nomads in the wild, separate but there, a fully developed twentieth century civilization that chose to keep their older traditions alive. It would be the youngest civilization that Gina had ever studied. She turned to Brianna and opened her mouth. "Are-?"

"Gina," Brianna said warningly, "I swear if you ask me 'are we there yet' I am going to wedgie you harder than you have ever been wedgied before."

Gina grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."

Up ahead, the werecats suddenly stopped running and clustered on the top of a hill. Brianna brought the jeep in next to them and they looked out over a valley that had just appeared in front of them.

Brianna whistled. "And the answer is yes, by the way."

The werecat village was obviously old, abandoned, and traditional, but Gina had never expected it to look so…complete. What they knew about the werecheetahs led her to imagine a tribe living out of tents or even caves, maybe some huts at most. Nomadic, always on the move. She was shocked, completely shocked to see a valley so obviously inhabited for generations on end. From a distance, she knew, magic smoothed over the edges of the valley to look like rugged but relatively flat terrain, but even without those spells the valley itself made it hard to tell there was anything inside it until you were right ontop of it. Given that the valley floor covered an area of at least ten city blocks, Gina could only imagine the land itself had been sculpted to benefit the illusion.

And the village covered the entire valley floor! And it wasn't simple huts, those were cabins at the very least. A fair few were big enough to be proper houses in every sense of the word. Wood was the dominant building material, and given how well it had held up it had to have been sealed somehow to resist rot (although Gina didn't like the looks of any of the roofs). There wasn't much evidence of paint, but that would have been the first casualty of time. The largest structures had stone foundations, but the closest quarries were obviously too far away for that to be economical. Several structures in the valley looked to be storage for grain or water, and a full third of the valley floor was covered in vegetation which had to have descended from farmland crops.

Brianna whistled. "This is no nomadic village," she said softly.

Gina shook her head. "No," she agreed.

Ranma walked over to the jeep and leaned against the door, looking in at Gina. "Hey, you said the old clan was nomadic, right? These guys had been here a while. Or is that more magic?"

Britanny joined Ranma at the side of the Ginamobile. "Lycanthropy and magic don't mix too well," she said. "I can't see them using it just to pack their bags."

"And if they could, they wouldn't have left this much behind," Brianna agreed. "I think we made some bad guesses. We know they were hunters, and almost every hunting culture and species in this region is nomadic to some extent."

"But none of them are as fast as werecheetahs," Gina realized. "Remember what your mother said? They relied on their speed to survive. Britanny, you're fast enough to run down anything else on this continent without trying. Why would they need to be so much faster than you?"

Britanny shrugged and looked to Ranma.

Ranma frowned in thought and looked down.

Akane tilted her head. "To get to the animals in the first place?" she guessed.

Gina nodded. "That's my theory. Well, my new theory."

"You're kidding," Britanny said flatly. "They trained their speed up as some kind of supersonic commuters?"

Brianna nodded, smirking. "It fits," she said. "Best of both worlds. A civilized home and all the freedom to run around and bring home a fresh kill from a few hundred miles off."

Britanny's ears drooped. "My respect in my birth parents is crushed," she said gloomily.

"That's normal," the teenaged werecheetahs said in unison.

Gina chuckled and turned back to look over the village. "Regardless, this is an amazing find. The history here can tell us a lot more than a series of tents or anything. Let's get to work."

Gina grabbed her hair in frustration. "Nothing! There's nothing here!" she groaned.

"What's wrong?" Britanny asked. They'd been in the village for hours, mostly watching Gina, Nabiki, and Brianna put their collective intellect together from house to house while the other werecheetahs alternatively stood guard or enjoyed running along the plains. Over those few hours, Britanny had watched Gina get steadily more frustrated.

"We're not finding much of use," Nabiki admitted. "Which we probably should have seen coming."

"Why?" Britanny asked. The Tendo girl's inclusion in Gina's little think tank, formerly the domain of Gina and Brianna alone, surprised Britanny. Ever since they learned that she was passing off Ranma's misadventures as her own field work, Britanny had assumed the girl had nothing of use to contribute, and didn't think her sisters would argue the point.

True to Britanny's expectations, Nabiki hadn't raised so much as a finger to search the houses or fields. But with the two explorers puzzling over their finds, the Tendo girl was right there with them, offering her own surprising insights.

"The people that lived here didn't die here," Nabiki said. "They left in the face of prolonged hardship. They had time to gather up their valuables and get their affairs in order, no loose ends."

Britanny scratched her head. "Isn't that a good thing?"

"For them? Yeah. For us?" Nabiki snorted. "Loose ends are information and artifacts."

Brianna shook her head. "All we've got left is stuff that was too big or too worthless to take." She gestured to a completely ordinary set of dinnerware disgustedly. "US exports, almost all of it. Tells us nothing."

Gina tilted her head. "It tells us they kept up with the times and valued everyday convenience," she mused.

"More than that," Nabiki concluded, "they had money. These are ordinary, but they're not cheap. No way they got these from charity."

"Well we know they traded with their neighbors," Brianna said dismissively.

"There's a big difference between trading for local goods, trading for exotics, and buying everyday overseas imports," Nabiki said confidently. "These people went shopping. Regular, ordinary shopping."

Britanny scratched her head. "Something about that sounds wrong," she complained.

Gina glanced at her watch. "We'll figure it out tomorrow," she decided. "We need to make camp now."

Nabiki got up with a languid stretch. "I'll chase down the speed junkies," she offered. She changed into her hybrid form and sprinted off before anyone had a chance to comment.

Gina shook her head. "She still thinks she can live human?" she asked.

Britanny nodded. "Yeah," she said sadly.

Ranma stared at the tent over his head. "We're here," he said unnecessarily.

"Figure anything out?" Akane asked.

Ranma rolled onto his side. "I dunno," he said. "It's not like there's gonna be a big how-to book under one of the houses."

"Would you want one even if there was?" Akane asked.

Ranma levered himself to sit up. "As long as it wasn't a what not to do," he said flippantly. "I'm not sure I can punch fate without it."

"Screw fate," Akane advised. Then her eyes grew hard and she jumped on Ranma. "But only after me!" she shouted angrily.

Ranma blinked and felt her chest and Akane's doing interesting things in this position. "Wha! Bu-bu-but we this I you-"

Akane put a hand to Ranma's mouth. She looked around the bedroom and smiled as she saw a bottle of sake. "How do you take your sake?" she asked.

Her hand lowered and Ranma stammered, "I, I don't-"

"Answer the question!" Akane snapped.

"Aaa crème and five sugars!"

"That is an unmanly answer," Nodoka said softly, emotionlessly, fine silk upon deadly steel. One of the walls shattered to reveal Ranma's mother only she had kitty ears and they were really kinda cute.

"Wha?" Ranma asked.

"How could my manly son be corrupted by such moe?"

Ranma glanced at herself and noticed big paws and a set of Mousse's glasses. "I can explain!"

"DON'T MESS WITH ME!" Nodoka bellowed, ripping her sword from her scabbard and bursting into flame. "Manliness must radiate from within! It is not a mask to be set aside for a new fad! No! It must never be so! The boy who peeks into a public bath to learn the sacred mysteries of the female condition with wide eyes! The yearning to nurture one to whom that inner strength be lost and the tragic figure need be nursed back to health! Manliness only works because of a reality involving all of these facts! Yet you, you..." manly tears erupted from her ears as she ceased gesticulating and pointing at illustrations. "Your sin of toying with my heart with fake manliness, you deserve to die a million times! Divine punishment!" And then she exploded.

Ranma sat bolt upright in bed, sweat pooling in his fur. He grabbed his chest, feeling like his heart was going to burst, and took deep, labored breaths. "No more tuna before bed," he snarled to the empty, one-man tent.

A second explosion rocked his world and Ranma decided that after he beat the crap out of whoever was trying to kill them, he would thank them for waking him up from his nightmare. He ripped open his tent and ran out into sheer bedlam.

"What's going on?" Gina screamed. The human woman had a hormonally charged dream interrupted by an alert from anti-shrapnel forcefields on her tent and the automated deployment of a squad of four Hurtbots. She was grouchy, horny, unsatisfied, and in direct command of some humanoid artillery. Someone was going to pay.

"Shelling from the west," Brianna yelled back. The lycanthropod had outfitted herself in her latest variation of power armor, a full suit of red and black alloys with back and shin mounted low atmospheric jets, a 30mm vulcan cannon with attached belt feed, and two shoulder mounted high-density omnidirectional DEW pods with integrated peebo-grade targeting Ais. She was directing fire at incoming shells, which were now exploding uselessly above the valley rather than inside it.

Britanny cracked her knuckles. "That's all I need to know," she growled. "Come on, Ranma!"

"Akane," Ranma called as he ran off with Britanny. "Guard Nabiki!"

"What?" Akane yelped. Okay, so she was only just sticking her head out of her tent and the idea of being bombed wasn't exactly in the martial artist's handbook, but why'd she get relegated to guard duty?

Ranma would later tell her it was because Britanny was already charging into battle, which mollified the youngest Tendo into only malleting him once.

Ranma ran to the valley's edge and jumped up from handhold to foothold to outcropping, barely slowing down and quickly leaving Britanny behind, the older werecheetah resorting to traditional freeclimbing. Ranma quickly crested the ridge and jumped a good ten feet above the heads of their new enemies. He read surprise and fanatic hatred on their faces and decided not a one of them could hold their own in a brawl, let alone a fight with someone who was actually trained.

Their weapons, on the other hand, were impressive. Three large pieces firing on the camp and at least two dozen automatic rifles slowly coming to bear on his chest. Ranma was able to roughly classify them as carbines but his knowledge of firearms was limited to practical generalities rather than specific details. Even with lycanthropic healing, he didn't want to get a bullet to the anything thank you very much.

Ranma fed ki into the air and kicked off a surface that didn't exist, executing a perfect somersault to land on his feet and run into the ranks of their assailants. One gunman tracked him uselessly but cut off the spray of his bullets as Ranma wove among the men, quickly delivering knockout blows as he went.

By the time Britanny made it up the cliff the battle was half-won already. She resigned herself to mop-up duty when a glint of silver crossed her vision. She ducked under the blade and came away with some char on her ears and a startled yelp.

The man holding the sword laughed cruelly and flourished it. Britanny stared in bewilderment at a man that carried an epee and stood in a classic fencer's stance. He wore a simple white suit that she could tell was hand made, tailored to his measurements, and extremely expensive. "You've gotta be kidding me," she growled out.

"Non," the man said in a French accent so florid it had to be faked. "I would never tease such a beautiful lady."

Britanny snorted. "I'm taken."

"Ah, monogamy is the first casualty of beauty," the man sighed dramatically. "It is a pity that you need be a casualty of me."

Britanny scowled and settled into a stance. "We don't have to fight right away, do we?" she asked. "Don't you want to go over your evil plan first?"

"Evil plan? Non non non," the man tsked, waving his sword like a naughty finger. "We cannot in good conscience allow the sole survivor of these barbarians to repopulate. Think of the damage you would cause."

"Damage?" Britanny asked. "You're blowing up a village, and you're worried about us causing damage?"

"But of course. Who cares for a few trinkets from dead men when there's a living world to consider?"

"What are you talking about?" Britanny raged. "You know what? No, doesn't matter. I'm taking you down hard."

The man only smiled and adopted a simple guard. "Ladies first."

Britanny rushed in with a low palm to his abdomen, but had to spin away to avoid the silver epee. Ridiculous weapon or not, it was pure silver and didn't need much more than a tap to cause serious damage. Backing off, Britanny circled the man at high speed. After two circuits she lunged for a kidney blow but instead nearly lost a finger to the damn sword. Again she backed away and circled him. "How the hell are you that fast?"

"The gentleman has blocked before his opponent has thought to strike," the man said earnestly.

Britanny looked around for options. This was the part of the plan where she would tag off with Brianna or Gina, then come in swinging once the sword was dealt with. But they were below, dealing with the shelling. All she had for backup was Ranma, who was running circles around the gunmen.

Britanny grinned. That was a good plan B. She turned and showed sword boy a clean pair of heels. Rather than just running away, she ran headlong into the remaining gunmen. She bowled two over with her initial charge and a third fell to a simple shoulder throw. "Hey Ranma!" she yelled.

"What's up?" Ranma shouted back.

"Tag team!" Britanny said, pointing at the incoming fencer.

Ranma looked to the man and his face blanked. If he said anything, Brittany missed it in the bursts of gunfire. She was just glad to see Ranma lunge at him.

Ranma didn't know who the swordsman was, exactly, but the family resemblance was there. "Chardin," he snarled.

"Oh? You know of me?" the man asked.

"Let me guess, Picolet's your brother, right?" Ranma snapped.

"Picolet? Ah, you must be Ranma!" Chardin shrugged expansively. "My dear brother is still waiting on your debt. I'm told the interest has accrued to a nasty sum."

Ranma growled. "I...Ranko Tendo settled that debt!"

"Young miss Tendo settled her father's debt," Chardin said. His eyes narrowed. "You would claim a maiden's deeds for your own benefit?"

Ranma ground his teeth in frustration. "Tell ya what, after I kick your ass you can tell Picolet that my debt was paid in blood. Sound good?"

"I suppose it is hard for a dead man to settle his creditors," Chardin said. He swished his epee through the air as if cutting a rope. "Very well. One way or another, your debt ends today."

"Finally," Ranma muttered. "Whenever you're ready then?"

"En guard!" Chardin yelled, thrusting forward.

Ranma calmly ducked below the thrust, picked up a rock, and smashed it into Chardin's hand in one flowing motion. He rolled away as the silver epee fell and took his rock to smash the blade, snapping it clean in half. Ranma's hand came up again and he aimed for another piece."Kashuu tenshin amaguriken!"

By the time Chardin had recovered from the pain, his weapon was in five pieces, each one bent and mangled and warped into useless shapes from countless blows. Ranma casually threw the rock at Chardin's feet. "I win."

Chardin grabbed his head in both hands and his jaw dropped to the ground and unrolled a further three feet before coming to rest against the stone that had so insulted his weapon. "NOOOOO!" he bellowed.

"Damn, what did you do to his face?"

Ranma turned to look at Britanny. "Nothing," he said flatly. "You are witnessing a master of Martial Arts Dining." Chardin was actually just a disciple of the family school, but he was in too much distress to argue the point. "So," Ranma continued, "guns all settled?"

Britanny looked over one shoulder and smirked. "I may not have your moves, kid, but I've taken down more grunts than you can count," she boasted. "Now we just wait for Gina to decide if we salvage their gear or wreck it."

"Other than mouth boy here, any idea who they are?" Ranma asked.

"The M4s are very American, so are their accents," Britanny said. "Beyond that, no clue."

Ranma thought that over. "Better get Nabiki up here then," he said. "She'll figure them out faster than we can."

"You think we need to?" Britanny asked.

"Not really," Ranma admitted, "but I don't want her feeling useless and this is kinda her specialty."

Ranma missed the speculative look Britanny gave him before she turned and shouted down into the valley.

"Find what you came here for?" Brianna asked. She was sitting with Ranma in the heart of the dead village, waiting for Nabiki, Akane, and Gina to finish up with the soldiers.

"I dunno," Ranma said.

"We can't stay long," Brianna predicted.

"I know, Bri. They might have people comin'."


Ranma sighed. "I ain't never thought about raising a family, you know? And now I got people thinking about founding a clan...this clan." He gestured around them. "Not a lot to build on, you know?"

"Yeah," Brianna agreed. She waited a moment, letting the silence hang.

Ranma sighed and filled the air with his thoughts. "It's great out here. Plenty of space to run, great air, far from pryin' eyes, but it ain't. We got shot at within days. An if we'd had kids here, they coulda been hurt.' there ain't a dojo or temple or anything. What would I do here? What am I doing here? These people...I got no doubt they were good people an' we're poorer for not having them around, but they ain't me. My clan's not gonna be these guys."

Brianna smiled sadly and said nothing. Ranma wasn't exactly the deepest guy she'd known, but he felt things...honestly. Yes, good word for it. He'd probably fret over it a while longer, but he had some idea of where he wanted to send his life...that was enough.

The two enjoyed a comfortable silence until Gina and Nabiki made their way back. "We're moving out," Gina called. "Akane and Brit are getting the gear stowed."

"Find out who those guys were?" Ranma asked, getting up with a languid stretch.

"PETA," Nabiki said.


"It's an American group," Gina explained. "They didn't want the werecheetahs coming back and killing prey animals."

"They're nuts," Nabiki said flatly. "They actually asked me to 'eat them instead of the innocent furry creatures' and 'fulfill my true place in the cycle of life as nature intended.'"

Ranma stared at Nabiki. "You're kidding."

"Saotome, these guys are crazier than Kuno. All three of them."

Ranma winced. "You're not joking. Let's get out of here before we get stupid for being too close to 'em."

Gothwrain took a long draw from a cigar.

Well. This certainly wasn't going according to plan. Chardin was one of the highest ranked fencers this side of Jade. These new werecheetahs had skills.

Ah well. He snuffed out the drug-laced stick and walked away. "I'll need to recruit some more impressive talent," he told himself. Then maybe he could get his plans back on track.

A/N: Soooo...there's over a year of writing here.


Seriously considering scrapping this chapter entirely. I honestly don't remember where I was going with it in the first place.