Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any characters presented in this story.

A/N: It's been a long time since I've done anything in this fandom, but inspiration hit and I decided to run with it. I don't know if this will be a one shot or if I'll spin it into something more, for now, it's just what I felt like writing.


"I Am A Rape Victim."

Ryoko stared at the words written in her handwriting on the loose sheet of paper, her cyan locks falling into her eyes as she struggled to contain the emotions that boiled within her as she read and reread the words and let them really sink in. She sat on the rafters of the living room while the rest of the family slept soundly on their futons upstairs, mindless to the demon that struggled below them.

Rage and fear battled strongly within her.

There was so much wrong with the sentiment that paper expressed.

Washu had suggested, in one of her rare moments of adult concern before she jumped up and down proclaiming her own genius and waved her fans around, that Ryoko write the phrase down and really contemplate it. Ryoko, in one of her even rarer moments of actually listening to the diminutive redhead that called herself her mother, had taken the suggestion to heart. She didn't have many other options other than taking advice from the self-proclaimed genius. It wasn't like she could go seek out a therapist for these minor issues that she had.

She could just hear that bitch Ayeka now, laughing behind that prim and proper hand that she always covered her mouth with before she said something incredibly derisive. The way that she would look down on the pirate for admitting that she wasn't okay, that there was so much pain in her heart that she couldn't stand. The last thing Ryoko needed was for Ayeka thinking that she had mental problems. It was enough that the princess could call her a monster and a demon, she didn't need to have "damaged" added to the lists of painful insults hurled at her.

And Tenchi!

How could she ever expect him to love her when thoughts like this one ran through her head? How could she ever expect him to love her when she was so flawed? She could never admit to him the extent of her relationship with Kagato. It was best if he thought that she never thought about it, so that he didn't think about it and ask her about it. She couldn't handle him asking her about it. She couldn't handle seeing the horror and revulsion on his face as he realized how despicable she really was.

These thoughts had come from a night of Ryoko heavily drinking sake to take away the memories that plagued her, like most nights. It had unfortunately turned into one of those uncommon nights where the alcohol only brought the memories to the forefront instead of making them disappear. From the memories came the ache, the fear, the anger, the pain, the helplessness, the disgust.

And through their link, Washu had felt the intense emotional pain behind all of those emotions that Ryoko usually managed to keep stuffed under the surface, usually managed to hide behind a whimsical, unpredictable personality, a brazen laugh, a flirtatious smile, a bold challenge, a short temper, anything, everything fake that could stop anyone else from seeing the scars that her body couldn't show, but her mind couldn't repair.

Washu had made her too well for the physical wounds inflicted upon her to remain. Her "father's" genetics made it so the bruises were gone in moments, the scars healed up and faded away like they never happened. The masu could wipe away any sign of physical trauma, regrow parts of her as needed, but it could do nothing for 5,000 years of psychological and emotional abuse at the hands of a sociopath.

It could do nothing to take away 700 years of loneliness being locked away within a cave with nothing but those torturous memories for company. Nothing but the pain to keep her company, nothing but the fear to keep her warm, nothing but the self-disgust to shape her.

And now the hatred that people looked at her with. The fear and the loathing that took them over when they looked at her.

Because she was a monster and they could see it. The masu genes could not hide what made her ugly. It couldn't hide the loathsome creature she had become under Kagato's control.

It couldn't hide the way that man touched her.

Ryoko coiled away from the paper at that thought. The thought of his hands on her as she was literally paralyzed before him, helpless, weak, a victim.

More than anything, it was that word that she hated.

Victim.

Poor, weak, Ryoko.

Fragile, unlovable, Ryoko.

That he had reduced her to these thoughts.

That someone as inferior in every way as him had managed to overpower her and keep control of her for so long.

That he had dared to use her body to satisfy his need for power and for his sexual pleasure.

That she couldn't stop it.

That Washu, her supposed mother and the greatest scientific mind in the universe, couldn't stop it.

She knew that was supposed to make her feel better. If someone as smart and talented as Washu couldn't escape Kagato's prison for almost 6,000 years until Mihoshi of all people freed her, what chance did a useless weapon, a tool, an instrument of destruction, like her, stand?

And look at Washu. She seemed fine. She went through over 5 millennia of incarceration and she didn't come out on the other side broken like this. She didn't have these thoughts and feelings that stopped her from sleeping, that stopped her from knowing how to interact with everyone else, that stopped her from being able to integrate fully with them.

That's because Washu was a person, she reminded herself. Ryoko wasn't a person. She was a weapon, a creation made for destruction, terror and mayhem. All she knew how to do was destroy anything in her line of sight. She was defective. A weapon without a target. A weapon with thoughts and dare she say emotions. It was the thoughts and emotions that made her so defective.

Kagato would always take over when thoughts or emotions stopped her from completing a task. The task of being normal was the most daunting challenge she had to undertake because it was a constant effort. Even the mass genocides she had performed, erasing entire planets from existence, had been less difficult than simply surviving every day within her own head without someone to save her from herself.

And how horrible did that thought make her? How horrible was she that she wished she could be a mindless servant to that arrogant asshole rather than deal with the consequences of not being his slave? It was no wonder Ayeka called her a monster, it was no wonder that she felt like one.

How could she ever expect Tenchi to love her?

And that was the thought that hurt the most.

While victim might have been the most despicable word, the most despicable thought was that Tenchi could never love a monster. She couldn't even love herself. How could she expect him to love a non-entity like her?

A strangled sob escaped her lips at this thought, this dreaded realization that she was always aware of, but never really wanted to consider. Even if he could, even if he could somehow look past the demon, if he could get past the fact that she wasn't a real person, if he could somehow see past the prim and proper princess, or the bubbly blonde, or the little girl that would grow up to be a knock out, or even her own genius of a mother that could turn herself into a beautiful adult at will and he decided to choose Ryoko…what kind of horrible person would she be for letting him? What kind of vicious, despicable person would she be to let him get saddled with her?

All she had to offer was her body and her willingness to do anything for him.

She wasn't smart like Washu.

She didn't have the manners of Ayeka.

She didn't have the domestic talents of Sasami.

And she definitely wasn't as well endowed as Mihoshi.

Everything for Ryoko stemmed back to the words on the paper, and even those didn't really make sense to her. Could she have a sense of identity if she was only a tool? What right did a science experiment like her have to assume a possessive like that? "I am" is a declaration of self, and Ryoko was not a person. Kagato had made sure to tell her enough times that she wasn't a real person. She was a weapon.

Yet, she had heard Katsuhito and Washu discussing an Earth philosopher one day while she lounged on the roof of the temple and they took tea together. He had explained the concept that the only way the philosopher knew that he existed was because he thought. "Cogito ergo sum" was the phrase Katsuhito had used in a language Ryoko had never heard before. He explained that it meant, "I think, therefore I am."

Even if the philosopher couldn't prove the existence of the world around him, he knew that he existed in some form because unique thoughts ran through his head. Weren't thoughts now running through her head? Wasn't she now grappling with ideas and feelings, didn't they prove some how that she was an "I am?"

Kagato would have smiled that cold, heartless smile at her were he alive and knew any of the thoughts running through her mind. He would have explained to her that she was a puppet. That she had no unique thoughts. That she had no purpose outside of him. She was a weapon. Any thoughts she had were not unique to her. They were a byproduct of programming.

Like Zero.

Zero was a machine. A machine that had memories and a personality downloaded into it.

Ryoko assimilated with the machine. They weren't two separate beings because they shared the thoughts and feelings. They weren't unique. They were a program that the two science experiments shared.

Nothing was unique to Zero.

Nothing was unique to Ryoko.

Does thinking that you think count as thinking? Ryoko wasn't sure. Which just proved how defective she was. A faulty program, a useless tool.

With Kagato, she had structure and purpose. He told her what to do and she did it. Without this, she was adrift, lost in her own apathy.

A sword without a fighter is just a blade.

A gun without a trigger finger is just shaped metal.

A Ryoko without a master is just a body in a space.

Yes, she hated Kagato. She was glad that he was dead. She was glad it was Tenchi who killed him. She was glad that she no longer had to rob and murder in his name. Yet, without him, she had nothing. No purpose. No ambition beyond a bumbling, uncertain boy who didn't know how to use her.

Ryoko took her pen and crossed off "I Am."

She wasn't sure she was.

"A Rape Victim" was left.

If she didn't have a unique identity, if weapons weren't people, then was what Kagato did to her mind and her body really rape or just masturbation? Was she a glorified blow up doll? Just because she thought that she might have thoughts and feelings didn't mean that it was true. Zero was proof that a personality could be downloaded into a machine and wiped clean from it just as easily. Thoughts and feelings were programmable, not unique to being. If she really wasn't a person, like he had told her so often that she wasn't, then he didn't rape her. He had sex with a toy in his possession. You can't force yourself on a machine. They don't have real feelings.

That made her feel even worse.

She couldn't even hold onto that much of her identity – even if it was the worst identifier she could think of.

With a shaky hand, she crossed off the three remaining words on the paper. If she wasn't a person, then she wasn't raped either.

What was she left with?

Nothing.

Zero.

That's what she was. Zero. She was the machine with a downloaded personality. A weapon sent in to kill and destroy. It didn't matter that an egg had helped create her. She was as much Washu's "daughter" as Ryo-Ohki was. She was just another of Washu's toys, a whim of her mad genius. It didn't really matter if it was Washu or Kagato who had really created her, as they had both claimed to do, the fact remained that she was artificially created and designed.

It wasn't even the same as a test tube baby. She was never in her mother's womb. She wasn't created to be loved. She wasn't even made with the genetics of two compatible species. She was spliced together and designed to look like she did to serve a function.

She was now just a program without a function.

And Ayeka called her lazy and useless.

But she wasn't.

She just didn't have a purpose.

How could the destroyer of worlds, the most feared and respected space pirate in all of history at all be lazy? She couldn't be. She just didn't have anything to expel any of her energy into. Except for chasing Tenchi. It was the one thing that she had to do, programmed or not.

Even Zero felt it.

Tenchi was the only good thing that Ryoko had in her world. He provided purpose. Danger and drama were lured to him as much as interstellar women were. Protecting him, fighting alongside of him was something that she was good at. Whether it be from monsters in her past, Washu's past, or new threats to the solar system. They found Tenchi, and he rose to the challenge to defend them all, and Ryoko was a good weapon in his arsenal. She was good at fighting beside him and helping him win impossible battles. That's when she had a purpose, when she knew what to do, when she didn't feel so useless.

The universe wasn't in constant peril, though. At least, not in a way that was beneficial to Ryoko. There would always be petty criminals out there that the Galaxy Police would chase, but Tenchi was not a police officer. The petty criminals weren't attracted to him and he had no desire to chase them down.

The times of peace were much more prevalent than the times of war.

Ayeka was good at the peaceful. She shone in these lag times between fights while Ryoko squandered her days away feeling like the unnecessary weapon that she was.

Perhaps that was the biggest problem currently facing the weapon. She hadn't been utilized in so long. This current period of peace that they faced seemed to be stretching on for forever.

None of the people in the house seemed to mind. They relished the calm, everyday life that Earth afforded them when intergalactic warlords and evil scientific geniuses weren't kidnapping one or all of them to further some agenda. Ryoko just couldn't reach her stride in peace.

A weapon without a wielder is just like an antiquated suit of armor locked up as art in some forgotten castle, except for Ryoko, the dusty castle just happened to be a small house in a rural town on a backwater, insignificant little planet in the remotest part of the galaxy.

Instead of waiting for a great warrior to come and lead her into battle, she was waiting for some indecisive little boy to dust her off and use her for training.

Ryoko's yellow cat-like eyes narrowed as she incinerated the paper in her hand that explained to her all that she wasn't and all that she never could be.

This was familiar.

This emotion…anger…was safe and comfortable.

Ryoko could live angry. Anger didn't care if she was a tool, it didn't care if she was defective. Anger was warm and welcoming, anger allowed her to forget those other things. It wiped out all of the other useless thoughts and feelings that threatened to destroy her. Anger was the only thing that kept her going under the years of slavery and forced bloodshed.

Anger fueled vengeance.

Vengeance was all that she had dreamed of while being the largest gun in Kagato's arsenal. Thoughts (did weapons have thoughts?) of finally being strong enough to rise up against him kept her sane and strong in the face of the impossibility that loomed before her.

But then, like now, anger lost its power.

Anger is powerful in bursts. While a slow rage can simmer, anger was usually the most powerful when it was first erupting. If left to cool even a little, it lost some of its potency.

She looked at the ashes of charred paper that floated in the blackened room, illuminated only by the moonlight trickling through the windows. Anger burns brightly, but leaves only ashes in its wake.

When the fire cools, you're only left with those feelings you tried to scorch away.

Ryoko had never been more alone.