Interlude Three: Shampoo
A Ranma ½ / Tenchi Muyo! crossover story
By Brian Randall
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Communications. Tenchi Muyo! belongs to Hitoshi Okuda and Pioneer LDC. Among others…
Sitting before a console was boring, boring work, in Shampoo's mind. It was, however, important that someone do it, on the off chance that something came near the ship. An asteroid, some random piece of debris… something.
Space, in her mind, was truly far too empty. "So long," she mused aloud, drumming her fingers against the control console. The unending dreariness of space travel — once the simpler tasks of navigation and assisting her crewmates had been learned — was unrelenting. It was boring enough that she almost wished she could spend more time in the habitat ring. Being at the one place on the ship with any appreciable gravity, even if it was less than Earth's, was strenuous compared to the constant drifting around.
The ever-present worry that her physical fitness would vanish warred with her worry that the rations they had to eat — as tasteless as those were — wouldn't provide her with enough energy to survive. But, she realized, she was thinking too hard of trivial things. Trying to distract herself from something.
Sighing, she turned her attention to a flashing alarm, frowning. "Oh!" she exclaimed, squinting. "Something's coming!"
Her supervisor glanced up briefly from his own instrumentation, then hit a few buttons. "Looks like another ship," he said, surprised. "It's not in formation — why didn't you report it showing up sooner?"
"It just showed up now!" she protested.
The man seemed about to contest her words, then reconsidered. "Take over for the communications officer," he ordered, pulling a hand-held computer from his pocket and checking it quickly. "It could be outside help."
Shampoo stuck her tongue out at the man, and unbuckled herself, drifting to another console. As luck would have it, she was alone with the supervisor. She would have suspected it was a ploy on his part to be alone with her, but he seemed far too distracted for that to be the case. Buckling herself in again, she fiddled with the dials for a moment before leaning towards the microphone, watching the tiny spec that was visible of the theoretically approaching ship in the monitor. "This is the Terran vessel 'Rickenbacker'," she said, struggling momentarily with the foreign name before continuing in Japanese, "contacting unidentified vessel. Please identify yourself, over."
The radio crackled to life after a moment, a voice calling out, "This is the Galaxy Police vessel Yukinojo, responding to Terran vessel Rickenbacker. We have your sister ship, the Von Braun, in convoy. Do you need assistance, over?"
Shampoo's jaw dropped open at that, and she blinked, stunned. "Juu-rai did send help," she whispered. Her supervisor's head snapped up at the Galaxy Policeman's voice, and he grinned, unbuckling himself. "Tell him to wait," he told her. "Or make small-talk — I'm going to get the captain!"
She recomposed herself, frowning at his departing form, and shrugged. "Can you help us?" she asked. "We have been traveling for nearly five months already, and are very tired, over."
The voice on the other end of the link laughed, saying, "Understood. We're going to tow you toward a Ginraii vessel. Does anyone aboard need medical attention, over?"
Shampoo furrowed her brows, considering that, and shook her head, a sudden, irrational hope building in her heart. "No one I know of." She almost said 'over', but caught herself, and bit her lip, staring at the access way the captain would eventually return from. But before then… she had to know. Steeling herself, she asked, "Do you know… someone named 'Saotome Ranma', over?"
There was nothing but silence for a response. Of course, she thought to herself. What were the odds that they would know Ranma, after all? He was only one boy, and there were millions of people on Earth when Ranma had sent them away.
Still, when the man's voice finally sounded again, it was very somber. "The captain of the Ginraii ship Vidarr would like to invite you personally to dinner tonight. I think… he can explain it best, over."
Blinking away the tears she could feel forming, Shampoo nodded to herself. "Thank you, over," she said, voice cracking as she concluded her statement. She hung her head, silently dabbing at her eyes with the sleeve of the shirt Akane had leant her. All of her feelings that she would someday meet Ranma again, and… It had come to that? The answer she was given told her far more than a simple 'no' ever could have.
The three girls sat uncomfortably, fidgeting while they sat at the table in the captain's private quarters. Of course, they were unused to the constant gravity that the Juraian ship provided. He inclined his head to the girls, expression solemn.
"My name is Laruma Genoh, and I am the chairman of an organization called Ginraii — the Silver Journey," he said by way of introduction.
They stared at him silently, and he sighed, bowing his head. When he raised it, he said, "I suppose you might be a bit nervous and confused at what's going on. You knew a young man named Saotome Ranma, is that correct?"
Shampoo nodded slowly, glancing to see Ukyou and Akane doing the same.
"It was… difficult to piece together accounts, given that the survivors of the last battle of China nearly all went their separate ways, but thanks to detectives Oe and Kuramitsu, the story was assembled." He paused, sipping at a cup of water and making an absent gesture. At his gesture, the floating cylinders that attended him drifted to one side, then landed atop the table. "Now, you must understand before I tell you this that much of what I tell you is known only to a select few — this information is tightly controlled."
"Why?" Ukyou asked, rubbing at her eyes and scowling.
Probably, Shampoo thought, to mask her grief.
"I'll explain that in a minute," Genoh hedged. "Regardless, while I'd never met him myself, he is the apparent favored of Tsunami, the Goddess of Jurai. He halted the reaver's advance across your homeworld."
"So where is he?" Akane demanded, impatiently, fiercely rubbing at a few tears of her own.
Genoh tapped the table with a fingertip, and a display appeared over the center, a holographic window that showed an unfamiliar planet, white and blue, and very, very cold looking. "This is Earth as it stands today," Genoh said, sighing. "You have my condolences, ladies. He was a brave warrior until the very end, and he did everything he did in the hopes that someday this sleeping planet would be able to wake up, and life could spring anew."
Shampoo wanted to say something, but her mouth was too dry to speak.
Banishing the image, Genoh apologized, "I wish I could do more, but all I can offer you is my most sincere condolences."
"Why… Why is this a secret?" Ukyou asked, wide eyes streaming tears as she stared at the image. "What…. How did Ranma… how did he die?"
Genoh hesitated for a moment, then bowed his head. "I'll spare you the political details for the moment, and tell you what I know of Higurashi Ranma, who was once Saotome Ranma…."
To be continued.
Author's Notes: Short, pointless, and the third of three. Save, collect, trade for swell prizes!
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