Disclaimer: I do not own Tenchi Pioneer and AIC do. I do however claim rights over all original character wherein including, Matt, Sor-ra-eyu and half of Ieya.
Preface: This story is a continuation of the Dreams Continuum story arch started in Midnight on the Last Perfect Day, if you haven't ready it you probably won't know who several key characters are so I urge you to go have a look there first.
Standing atop the tallest building of this dead place a lone figure looked out at the barren wasteland that was once a shinning jewel of civilization. All that remained was crumbling buildings and the shadows of the souls that had once inhabited this place. The solitary figure contemplated this as he surveyed the desolation. Thousands of thoughts raced through his mind until they became one single stream of light. An image formed in his mind. She stood beautiful bathed in sunlight surrounded by green, as water danced merrily in the background. He would see her in that place. At any cost.
"Freedom," Matt whispered to the dusty air of this dead city, "We're going to be free of this place Ryoko I promise you."
The hunt was on. Ryoko stalked through the silent streets in search of her prey. Before her the shadowy souls of the city parted, shrinking back into the darkness in fear. Only once before had a power like this entered their domain, the result was their current state of undeath. In the wake of the Demon streets cracked further and the dust of millennia was stirred by her aura of power. Fortunate were the shadows of the living that they were not the prey of this huntress.
That title belonged to another. Deep within his lab Dr. Clay was hastily making preparations to escape. His scanners had detected the power surge coming from within the emerald ship at the edge of the city, in fact most of his instruments had been damaged by the back lash. He had lost all external sensors and cameras sending him into a frenzy of button punching and cursing trying to get them back on line. He had to know what was going on. The situation was rapidly getting out of hand, the project was a failure, his subjects escaped their various prisons, and his main means of defense had turned traitor.
"I believe the time has come to leave," the doctor mumbled to himself, stroking his beard and trying to mentally stabilize the situation.
"Aren't you forgetting something doctor Clay," the melodious voice seemed to fill the lab as Clay looked around for the source. Of course there was none, after a moment Clay recognized voice as belonging to his mistress, the Goddess Tokimi. A sense of dread fell over the scientist as he remembered his orders. Only now it seemed impossible, his strongest creation has already been felled by the Guardian, and Clay had a healthy respect for Ryoko's temper. Without Sor-ra-eyu by his side he would have never survived his initial encounter with the former pirate. How was he going to ever defeat both of them on an even footing without the aid of his goddess? Still, fear of reprisal from that same mistress forced out his next words.
"Of course Lady Tokimi," Clay bowed his head looking pathetically alone in his darkened lab, "I must destroy both Ryoko and the Guardian Matthew Aaron Carson."
"Do not fail me Dr. Clay," was all Tokimi said before her presence faded.
The wispy light of her aura flickered through the darkened streets of the dead city creating monstrous shadows that came to life and died just as quickly as she moved on. Lost within her need Ryoko noticed none of it. She could almost smell Clay's fear, he was close now, her heightened senses told her. For the first time in her long life Ryoko's powers were functioning at full capacity. Not only was her ability to destroy greatly increased her powerful mind was now able to travel the ether and reach out to other consciousnesses. She used this ability now to seek out her former tormentor.
It was kind of sad actually when she found the entrance to his lab hidden within the ruins of a sub-way station. Within the dark, dusty, tomblike platform it's tunnels leading off into the darkness she found his marker upon a wall. A quick search found a matching marker near the floor. Grinding her heal into the sigil, obliterating it, she pulled back one toned arm, curled her delicate seeming fingers into a fist, and sent it hurling forward. The force of the blow buried her arm half to the elbow into the concrete but she felt the coolness of metal against her knuckles. Retracting her fist she took two quick steps back. Up came both hands wrists together fingers slightly curled. Within the cups of her hands an orange light appeared. A tiny flicker in the darkness. Brining the power forth Ryoko caused it to grow. It doubled in size a high pitched hum echoed through the empty station. It tripled in size, engulfing her hands although she was unharmed by the growing energy. Pulling the orb of deadly light up to eye level she smiled a vengeful, fang filled smile and hurled the globe of power forward crying out in glee.
The explosion sent chunks of concrete flying and filled the stale air with a massive cloud of dust and debris. A few twisted shards of metal whipped through the air, all that was left of Clay's massive door. Twin sentry guns hanging from the roof opened fire into the dust filled entryway adding to the chaos. Seconds passed like hours as the guns poured munitions into the threat zone, until finally they clicked with empty magazines. Before the reload could initiate a bolt of orange energy tore through the gritty air turning one cannon into so much scrap. A second followed into the remaining sentry gun with predictable results.
As the dust began to settle a few pieces of loose concrete fell absently to the floor around the black clad feet of the Angel of Vengeance. She knew Clay was here somewhere, his presence assaulted her senses and filled her with loathing. One step, then another, Ryoko walked into her former tormentors lair with resolute strides. Today it was Ryoko who got revenge against a hated foe, not Tenchi, not Washu, not Matt. This was her hour of glory, and nothing was going to take it from her. It was at that moment, ten steps into the lab, that a mass of green slime rose up and engulfed her.
Matt felt the explosion rumbling under his feet a split second before the sound of it deafened him momentarily. The shock wave rolled over the Guardian a moment latter making him fight for his footing and causing Ses to jump from his shoulder and take to the wing. As he recovered his balance he could see, from his vantage point on top a small building, a cloud of dust rise up over the dead streets of this city of ghosts.
I think we found her, Ses sent rather sarcastically.
"Don't be flip," Matt snapped quickly before sending Ses on ahead. The winged cat could get down there faster than his gravity bound host.
Racing for the stairs Matt's only thoughts were on getting Ryoko back safe and unharmed. He leapt over the railing of the first flight and landed gracefully on the stairs below. He ran down two more flights before vaulting over the railing towards the last flight on ground level. Unfortunately his foot slipped on the landing sending the Guardian on a bruising tumble down bottom half of the stairwell. His head and right shoulder slammed into the door pushing it open and sending him sprawling into the street. Ses was at his side a moment latter as Matt got to his hands and knees. The dust cloud was just settling as both man and winged cat heard a whining hum coming up from the subway station below. Yellow lights appeared within thinning cloud followed by the vague outline Clay's octopus shaped sentry droids. Matt blinked once in surprise before the long snout on one let out a piercing blast of red light. A dozen laser blasts followed the first as Clay's flying attackers closed in on the disoriented weapons master.
Clay laughed as he came upon Ryoko's trapped form, this was too perfect. The stupid girl had just come in through the front door. Although he was rather miffed about the loss of his door and the hard to replace sentry guns the cost was worth it. Now he had her, and this time there would be no escape for her. He couldn't wait to send Washu back some choice body parts. Maybe one of those long, ugly ears, he mused, smiling evilly. The smile stayed in place as he walked around his captive admiring his handy work. He took a couple of steps back before turning to face her. At a snap of his cruel fingers Clay caused the ooze around her face to pull away. He wanted to hear her scream when he started.
"It's too bad Washu didn't give you her smarts when she made you," Clay taunted coming closer to his victim, "At least then you might have made it a little farther into my lab before being caught."
"It doesn't take a genius of Washu's caliber to out wit you Clay," came a familiar voice from the shadows to his left.
Clay whirled at the sound of Ryoko's voice unable to grasp the situation. He spun his head back and looked at the Ryoko trapped in his goo but she was motionless within the green substance. The hum of an energy ball being formed turned his attention back to the shadows. She held up the orange light to illuminated the black painted side of her face, it gleamed off a single fang as her mouth twisted into a wicked smile. As she closed her fist around the glowing orb it elongated into her wicked energy foil. The brighter light of her blade forced the shadows back and revealed her fully.
"This, this can't be possible," Clay stammered, taking a few steps back his hands coming up in meager defense.
"Anything is possible doctor," Ryoko corrected and then cocked her head slightly, "Except for the possibility of your seeing another sunrise."
With that Ryoko stalked in drawing her humming weapon back to strike. Clay stumbled and fell hard to the floor with a thud. He scooted back whimpering pitifully as the looked into the hard, golden eyes of his killer. As the killing blow sped towards him Dr. Clay knew wasn't seeing Ryoko, he was witnessing what few others had ever seen and none had survived. The demon Kagato had created empowered by the anger and torment of millennia. This was the Angel of Death, and there was no escape.
Matt managed to roll to the side avoiding the first deadly blast. A backward roll saved form the second. He planted his hand and launched himself feet first into the air. As his hand left the ground another blast singed the pavement where he had just been. The Guardian landed in a wide stance as his right hand closed around the hilt of the sword strapped across his back. His left hand gripped the bottom of the scabbard as he drew forth the gleaming blade. Both hands gripped the handle as his attackers came on unaware of what they faced.
Crackling energy ran up the blade as Matt lowered it preparing for his first strike. A blue trail of light followed the curving blade as the cleaved one droid half. The blow streamers of light followed the crackling blade as the weapons master went to work with fluid, deadly efficiency. The machines, with their programmed attack patterns, were no match for the Matt's years of training. In under a minute the last of Clay's machines fell broken to the cracked pavement. With a dramatic flourish he sheathed the gleaming katana. The hint of a self satisfied smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth as Ses landed lightly on his shoulder once more.
The smile vanished instantly as a blood curdling scream rent the still air.
Matt's sudden lurch into motion shook Ses from his perch leaving the golden cat hanging in mid air looking after the fast disappearing form of his host. He didn't bother with the stairs this time. Matt merely launched himself into the air. He landed on one knee at the bottom of the rail station his keen eyes searching the darkness. His right hand instantly gripped the snakeskin handle of his katana as he surveyed the hole blasted in the wall.
With as much stealth as he could manage the Guardian crept towards the mangled entrance of Dr. Clay's lair. He placed his back flat against the wall and peaked his head around the corner. A quick glance showed him the twisted remains of the sentry guns hanging loosely from the roof and a mass of green goo several feet further in. Knowing Ryoko must have been here he edged his way around the corner and into Clay's lab. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, as they did he looked upon a horrible sight. Ryoko stood at the foot of Clay's corpse. The doctor had been sliced in half from shoulder to waist. His one good eye stared up unseeing at the ceiling, a look of sheer terror was his death mask. The sight of Clay's mangled corpse troubled him but, the look on Ryoko's face drained the blood from his. Her smooth features, dotted with blood, were twisted into a horrible grimace and her flat golden eyes promised nothing but death. She ignited her energy foil an began to stalk towards him.
"Ryoko," Matt called her name hoping to snap her out of it, "It's me. We have to get out of here now. Clay isn't the only threat to us hear."
Ryoko wasn't listening, and as she drew closer Matt discovered her thoughts were closed to him, hidden behind her mirrored eyes. Like Clay before him Matt raised his hands before him and took a shuffling step backwards. If I don't do something she's going to kill me, Matt knew as he backed away. But for every step he took she paced him foot for foot. For that instant Matt knew what it was to be prey in the eyes of a hungry lion. Well this one deer that can fight back, the swordsman thought grimly. Instantly he regretted the idea. It reminded him too much of the last they had fought one another on the trails leading away from the Misaki shrine. On that occasion Matt had nearly killed her and come closer to death than he ever wanted to be again.
There had to be anther way.
Ryoko didn't give him time to come up with one. She slashed her energy foil down in a brutal stroke intended for a quick kill. It wouldn't be that easy. Matt was probably one of the finest trained swordsman in known space and his skilled showed through his conflicting thoughts. Reacting on years of experience he half drew his sword form over his shoulder and turned into the blow. The shinning blade caught Ryoko's energy weapon half way along it's length and with a crackle of electricity turned it aside. Matt followed through on the move fully drawing the curved sword.
Low in stance and with Ryoko over his shoulder Matt took a two handed grip coming up and around in a deadly arc. The former pirate stepped out of reach as the blade whipped past her face. Matt stood facing her holding his crackling sword with the hilt close to his face, blade straight out. Ryoko took up a fencing stance, blade out in front, her toned body turned to the side to make the target smaller. Both eyed each other, one set wet and pleading the other gleamed with murderous intent. Predictably Ryoko made the next move thrusting forward her foil like a ripple of light across placid waters. Matt spun into the rushing move letting the glowing blade slide along his own as Ryoko pushed past him. Before she was clear, however, Matt smashed the snarling dragon that was the pommel of his sword into the back of Ryoko's head.
She stumbled, but her fist came spinning around. It caught the Guardian unaware snapping his head back brutally. She followed this a knee to the stomach doubling her opponent over. Both fists then hammered into back of his unprotected head smashing him, face first, into the metal floor. The shining katana fell to the floor with a clatter. Ryoko stepped to his side and smashed her foot into his ribs with all her considerable strength. Matt hit the wall with a crack, ribs snapping with impact. He looked up just in time to see a brilliant globe of energy hurling towards him. Matt caught the force of her blast full in the chest.
Slowly he managed to open one eye, noting he was now sitting on the floor, slumped against the wall. His vision focused on Ryoko as she stalked in. He was beaten and she knew it. Now she was going to finish the job. He watched helplessly as she reformed her energy foil and closed on his helpless form. I can't let it end like this, Matt thought trying to shut out Ses's frantic please for action. His master had always told him that those who lived by the sword died by the sword, but Matt didn't want to die like this. He couldn't die like this, Sor-ra-eyu and Ieya were depending on him. Ryoko needed him. He needed her even more. Suddenly a desperate plan came to mind.
Ryoko towered above her victim, he was broken, barely alive. Now was the time to finish him. She raised her humming energy foil for the killing blow. Down swept her right arm. Out came the Guardian's foot. His heel hit her shin just below the knee driving her off balance. The glowing blade dissipated as she tried to catch her balance, but his foot swept to the side taking her other foot out from under her. Suddenly she was falling. Ryoko landed against something soft instead of the cold metal floor. A pair of strong arms wrapped around her as she tried to escape their grasp. Then she looked up and saw his eyes. Purple around blue and a starburst of green flashed tearing into her soul. Still the Demon in her fought for control, too powerful now that it had been released. A tear slid down her blood speckled cheek.
Then she felt it, the trickle of energy sweeping into her body. The essence was weak but soothing on her blood filled thoughts. The demon fought back, It wanted control. Her body thrashed in the confinement of his arms trying to escape. He held her tightly whispering soothing words with his weak voice. In response she screamed in rage and thrashed all the harder. She managed to get one hand free and wrapped it around his throat. Even as she began to choke the life from him he held onto her, he whispered her name with his last breath.
And then it was over, his arms went lax, slipping off her black and red clad body. His eyes slid shut forever hiding those unique eyes and all their knowledge. In that moment Grief overcame Anger and Ryoko tore free of the rage that had bound her. With a shuddering cry she flung her arms around the corpse of the man she loved, the man who had given his life twice for her. She had killed him, with her bare hands. The hurt welled up inside and with a sobbing gasp buried her face into his shoulder.
"Don't leave," she cried into the black shirt, "Don't leave me alone."
"I don't want to be alone anymore!" she cried into the heavens above.
"Please come back," Ryoko whispered as the tears ran freely down her cheeks.
"I love you Matt," she said sadly caressing his face with the same hand that had just choked the life from him. Slowly she lowered her face to his, her tears fell against his still warm skin. With one last prayer to Tsunami and any other deity that might be listening she pressed her lips against his. She closed her eyes and held on, unwilling to give up. After several long seconds passed nothing happened, a quiet sob racked Ryoko's body as she started to pull away.
In a garden far away a spark of hope answered Ryoko's prayer. Just as she was about to rise from Matt's body a hand grabbed hers. An arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her close against a chest. Aside from her own frantic heart rate she felt another steady rhythm. A pair of gem like eyes peered into her own golden orbs. A slight smile curved his mouth as he wiped away a tear fro her face. One warm hand stroked her back soothingly relaxing taunt muscles. His voice was weak but steady when he spoke.
"Don't leave yet, we were just getting comfortable."
With that he pulled her face gently towards his and again their lips met. A soft blue glow enveloped them as Matt used the kiss to drain away the last of the power Ryoko had taken from his sword. He let it disperse into the still air of Clay's lab. It leaked into the cracks of the stone that lay beneath the dead streets of the empty city above. Somewhere a shadowy figure shed a ghostly tear for a love lost.
When at last the two broke the kiss and Matt was able to reassure Ryoko he was fine they helped each other to their feet and slowly made it out of Clay's lair and back into the empty city above. Both weakened by the ordeal they were forced to move at a slow place through the gray, dead streets. Finally though they made it to the outskirts and the massive emerald ship that awaited them there. For it was their salvation and the way home. Within a treasure neither had dreamed they would find in this place of death. Created through pain and despair, she had been saved by love and sacrifice, and she would carry hope into the future. Ieya slept soundly as Salvation left Tokimi's realm and headed into the vastness of space, towards home.
Ok this is the last official chapter in this story although I will put up an epilogue as there are some unanswered questions left to wrap up. I'm terribly sorry I took me so long to finish this chapter but I lost touch with this story for a long time and faced several irritating setbacks including the loss of an entire story. I really hope I'll do better with Dream Lost and I'm looking forward to working on that one a lot. Anyways, my thanks goes out to everyone who reviews my works it always makes my day and pushes me to continue writing in the Dreams Continuum. I have just one question before I go. I hope the city in Tokimi's realm came off well. I'm trying to experiment with settings and making them feel alive (or in this case dead) and give them presence. So did it work? Your thoughts would be appreciated.