A Ranma ½ / Wild Cards crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The official Wild Cards short stories edited by George R. R. Martin.
"Hey, cut it out! That's no fair!" Genma whined, shifting out of his panda form for the burst of speed needed to avoid his son's incoming heat wave. Even having evaded the brunt of the wave, the man's gi smoldered in several places and he looked like a man who'd stood in the sun for a few too many days.
"Don't complain, old man. You cheated first, so now you've got to live with it." Punctuating his proclamation, Ranma punched towards his father, releasing a thermal void and propelling it at the frantically dodging martial artist. Ranma cursed as Genma fell into one of the many pools that dotted the secluded valley that the man had dragged him to. A moment later the misty blob struck the pool and froze it more or less solid. Stupid old man. He knew he couldn't swim, so why had he used the pool for an escape?
Ranma waited, tapping his foot impatiently on the side of the bamboo pole he was balanced upon. With nothing better to do while his deuce of a father worked himself out of the ice, the young man scratched vigorously at the small bony ridges extending from the backs of his hands to slightly past his elbows. The normally insensitive plating could deflect small caliber gunfire with little difficulty, but using his dual ace abilities within such a short time of each other left them irritated and produced an itch that could last for hours. Just another reason to pound the panda for a while longer.
Two dozen feet below, the ice that imprisoned Genma began to shudder, finally cracking into large blocks as the man used his limited ability to generate heat to weaken the structure and allow him to escape. Ranma couldn't clearly see the form that exploded from the ice, mostly because of the hail of chips and blocks that his father threw into the air, but he did gather that his father wasn't in his human or panda shape. Did the old man have a trick up his sleeve? Ranma dismissed that possibility with a laugh. Genma didn't have the patience or discipline to keep that type of secret, not to mention all the times when being able to change into something so large would have aided him greatly. No, now that he thought about it, Ranma was almost certain that his father had simply discovered a new shape when confronted with possible death trapped below the ice.
As the ice settled and the mist of melting ice dissipated, Ranma saw his father in all his glory, if that particular word could be applied to a man such as Genma. Ranma vaguely recognized most of Genma's new form as something resembling that horrid singing purple dinosaur joker from America, but the multitude of tentacles were new. Damn, the old man was even uglier than normal, and that's hard to do when you look like Genma Saotome.
"Heh. Not much of an improvement," Ranma said sarcastically, smirking at his father's obvious distress.
Genma took his time in examining his appearance, looking over each tentacle with horror. He hadn't induced the change! Whatever had happened to him had turned him into a joker, a joker!!! He contemplated fainting, but the overpowering urge to murder his son got in the way of that. It was the boy's fault! Ranma had caused him to change and now he was a monster. What would Nodoka think of him now? A shudder racked his massive frame and he smothered that thought with images of cute animals and pretty flowers. Nodoka probably wouldn't be upset at all. It was what she would want to do with him, not to him, that terrified him so soundly.
Genma, in a voice barely human, roared a phrase that Ranma would soon come to hear on at least a weekly basis. "Ranma, prepare to die!!!" His new body surged forward, much faster than Ranma would have believed possible, and the area around him soon whistled with the approach of about twenty tentacles, each adorned with vicious barbs or grotesque suckers.
Okay, Ranma really started to worry this time. He'd heard of the incidents where new forms twisted the person's mind or introduced strange and unknown instincts. Whatever his father's problem was, he had to get the man calmed down and back to his human shape before one of those tentacles ripped his guts out. Staying clear of the whirring appendages wasn't difficult in the virtual forest of bamboo poles that littered Jusenkyou, especially for someone with Ranma's agility and speed, but avoiding the streams of acid that soon began squirting from each tentacle.
Finally, after nearly half an hour, Ranma noticed his father slowing down, becoming sluggish, and shooting fewer and smaller bursts of acid at him. It made sense. Changing into a larger form would be draining, but the size his father had attained couldn't possibly be fully organic. He'd read all the required books and pamphlets, and Ranma knew that oftentimes a wild card could substitute mass with a kind of false matter, telekinetically holding some kind of quantum particle in stasis to achieve the effect. Right now Genma was probably closer to exhaustion than he'd ever been in his life, at least Ranma guessed so, and it would be only a matter of minutes before he reverted to his true form.
Then Ranma made a mistake. He leaped from one pole that was dangerously close to his weakening father and landed on one that was dangerously weak from a glancing blow dealt earlier by the tail end of a stream of acid. Ranma's added weight snapped the pole immediately, giving the young ace no time to propel himself to another perch. Oh well, he hadn't bathed in a few days and sparring all day every day definitely worked up a 'healthy' aroma. Ranma rolled himself into a ball and decided to make as big a splash as he could.
An improperly performed cannonball could sting more than a little, even to someone as toughened by his training and innate durability as Ranma, and Ranma hadn't really been lined up for the attempt in the first place, but the wrenching, tearing pain that permeated his being and skewered his senses with flashes of lightning should not have occurred.
Ranma surfaced, screaming and tearing at his arms. They burned horribly; going so far beyond a mere itch that Ranma could barely remember what such a pleasant sensation ever felt like. The shrieking and thrashing eventually lessened, though Ranma felt drained by the experience and waves of dizziness assaulted him. He vomited once, expelling his meager breakfast in seconds, then gratefully sank into the black abyss of his overloaded mind.
Genma gained control of himself as he watched his son, now daughter, thrash around and scream in the water. His dinner plate sized eyes bulged and great fist sized tear drops welled up in them. It was the water; it had to be. The only explanation was that the water was somehow infected with the wildcard virus, and that meant that it wasn't Ranma's fault that Genma was now changed so thoroughly…and that meant that his son's change was all 'his' fault, since he had caused the boy to fall into the water. Sigh. He was so screwed.
Ranma awoke to the whistling of an untended kettle. He sat up, throwing off the thin wool blanket that covered him, and was surprised that his head wasn't spinning and that he could stand without problems.
"Ah, mister customer, there you are. You sleep well?" asked a rotund Chinese man who wobbled into the bamboo shack through its open door.
"Uh, sure, I guess. Do you know where my father is?" Ranma looked around the small shack, noting his and Genma's packs resting against one wall and the man's bag of signs hanging from a peg in another.
"Not to worry, boy; here I am," Genma answered with false gaiety. Ranma took notice of the tone, and prepared to bolt if needed. His father always sounded like that when he had done something stupid and pissed lots of people, governments, or superhuman beings off.
Ranma glared at the man and said, "All right, spill it."
Genma sighed mournfully. He'd have to explain eventually, and it'd be better to do it now when the shock would give him time to get a good distance away before the boy went homicidal.
*Insert standard Jusenkyou explanation here*
Then, while Ranma was still digesting what he'd just been told, the guide decided a demonstration was in order. Needless to say, sprouting a pair of large breasts and losing the heat induction organs in his arms came as something of a surprise to Ranma. A stunned patting down of his groin confirmed his fears.
Shadows played across the ridged plating of Ranma's now slender arm as light and energy were absorbed into the organ. That wasn't a normal function of his organism, but he knew how to use what had been provided to him.
Genma was creeping towards the door, trying his best to appear harmless and pathetic. It proved to be a bad move on his part. If he had just run away he could have escaped before his daughter gained a partial understanding of what had happened to her ace abilities. The area directly around Genma darkened, first becoming shadowed despite the full sunlight that a trio of open windows allowed in, then further darkening until the man was surrounded in absolute darkness, unnatural darkness, for the cocoon that enshrouded Genma was devoid of all energy of any kind and the man only had to move a hair's breadth in any direction to feel the bone-numbing cold Ranma's new ability had created.
At first the encircling wall appeared static, but slowly, so slowly that Genma barely noticed at first, it began to contract. The man's eyes became wild as he contemplated life as a flash frozen person-sicle. Just when his limbs were beginning to stiffen and Genma felt his joints locking up, he realized Ranma's error. He'd left the cylinder uncapped. A single weak, desperate jump was all he could manage, and it barely got him clear of the tightening wall. Genma bounced off the ceiling and landed on the dirt floor of the hut. His lips were blue and his entire body trembled violently.
Ranma, her fists clenched within twin clouds of purest darkness, looked down at her father, the cause of this demeaning transformation. Never mind that her control over some facets of her ace abilities had increased exponentially. It would be so easy to kill him, to freeze his heart into a block of ice, to explode his brain into a puddle of gore. Ranma growled, sounding more like an enraged squirrel in his cursed form, and kicked the unconscious man in the gut a few times. Hmm, that felt quite nice. The girl leveled a few more sharp blows into her father.
More than a minute passed before Ranma could tear her gaze away from the beaten and bloody man. The urge to kill him was strong, but not overpowering. "Old Man, one day I'm gonna get you for this," she promised, storming out of the hut.
The poor guide did the only thing he could. He climbed out from under his bed and began to straighten up the cluttered room, all the while avoiding the black cylinder that didn't show any signs of fading away.
Genma learned early on that it was only required a simple act of will to shift from his cursed form to that of his panda shape, then back to his human form. He'd been overjoyed to make the discovery, especially when he noticed just how much water found its way to him since that day a week ago. The pleasure was short-lived, though, when Ranma learned of his father's luck. Genma had burns; long slashes where no fur remained on his panda shape and the exposed skin showed painful blisters.
The older man nursed his injuries, secure in the knowledge that his regenerative abilities would soon repair enough of the damage to allow him to become human once again. With one last glance back at the pile of embers that had been his bag of signs, Genma hurried to catch up with Ranma, trying to figure out how to tell his son that he was hungry.
"Growf," Genma protested, patting his belly vigorously, tiny whimpers escaping from his muzzle.
Ranma faced the man, his brow furrowing in a moment of concentration, then smiled in satisfaction as a beam of light crashed into the ground at Genma's furred feet. The soil soon stopped hissing and became a small pool of molten glass.
The panda, sweating profusely, looked up to the sky expecting another bolt from the heavens to strike him down, but when none came he emitted one last whine before resuming his trek with Ranma. At least he wouldn't have to wait too long. Ranma had to eat too.
Ranma felt her danger sense flare in warning. She swept the small walled village with a quick probe, only relaxing when she felt no hostile emotions directed at her or her father. The psychic abilities were inherited from his mother's wild card altered DNA, and they proved useful on many occasions, but whenever Ranma remembered the sheer power Nodoka Saotome could bring to bear with nothing but her mind, she felt shortchanged. Barely perceptible precognition, only slightly stronger telepathy, and telekinesis that barely had the power to lift a sheet of paper; all combined to aid the young martial artist in some tight situations, but the only really helpful trait was the walled-off mind she possessed, a nearly impenetrable mental shield that so far had repulsed every attempt at intrusion except for those of her mother.
"Growf," Genma grunted, his large nose twitching excitedly. Food! Somewhere nearby, a feast awaited. Genma could clearly discern the scent of ham, duck, pork, cat, dog, and a myriad of other delectable culinary delights. Ranma seemed distracted, lost within her mind, so Genma took the opportunity, unsure of when food would present itself again for some time.
Ranma found where the occupants of the village were; at least the impression she got was of a great many people in a normally sparsely populated area. Excitement, anxiety, anger, and a dozen other more subtle emotions assaulted Ranma's receptive mind. A fight— a good fight, from what Ranma could tell. It had been a while since she'd faced another serious martial artist besides her father, and Genma no longer proved worthy of a challenge. Maybe she could get in on this one. Self-consciously tightening the ties that held the long sleeves of her silk shirt in place, she leaped to the ceramic shingled roof of a nearby home and took off to the village's center.
No one noticed Genma in his panda form virtually inhaling half a ton of prize food, so engrossed as they were in the spectacle taking place upon a rope suspended log of larger than normal size.
The purple-haired warrior flowed, quite literally flowed, from one stance to another, her lithe form bending in impossible ways. Where her hands should have been, a Chinese short sword extended from one wrist and from the other grew a large metal ball. Ranma first believed the girl to be a joker, but she dropped that idea when her 'hands' both became normal, complete with delicate fingers and purple-painted nails.
The warrior's opponent glowed phosphorescently from within, the silver-white aura obviously provided some sort of shield, but it wasn't very effective, losing pieces of itself with every blow from the smaller girl's slashing and bludgeoning strikes. It was with normal hands, though, that the purple-haired girl jabbed the glowing woman in her no-longer-glowing throat, that particular area no longer being protected.
Gagging and choking, hands clasped protectively around her neck, the woman couldn't counter her opponent's next move, a simple leg sweep that took her legs out from under her and caused her to fall to the turf. Cheers went up from the crowd and Ranma's attention was drawn from the fight. More than a dozen women floated several feet above the other spectators. She could feel several more using telepathic skills to see the fight through the eyes of others.
Unusual didn't even begin to describe this village. If it had drawn the wild card, most of the population should be dead and the majority of the survivors changed into mutated jokers with maybe a few aces. There were no jokers in evidence, and many, many more aces than there should be. Ranma wouldn't put it past some aces to take a vacation from the hectic outside world, where their lives and exploits were common news and street-side gossip. She'd even visited a couple of the larger resorts that catered to wealthy jokers and aces, but she'd never heard of a rustic, get back to nature, retreat for others like her.
Ranma himself shouldn't really exist as he did. Chances had been astronomically high that she would be born monstrously deformed, if she survived at all; but the scientists, Dr. Tachyon among them, believed that her mother had subconsciously manipulated her DNA while still she still existed as nothing more than a cluster of undefined cells. She didn't even want to try to calculate what the odds against this gathering being a natural occurrence could be.
The approach of an uncommonly powerful aura, even among all these aces, drew Ranma's eyes down and to the right. The woman, if that's what 'she' was, was so shrunken and wrinkled that Ranma thought she'd encountered the sole joker in the village. Even if she/it was a joker, there was an undeniable level of power within her/it, some intangible force that warped the very space around her/it.
It/she cackled, a creepy kind of skin tingling sound, and said, "I assure you, young one, that I am not what you would refer to as a 'joker'." The Japanese was perfect and Ranma wondered how the crone (what else could he call her) had known to speak in her native language. More importantly, how had the woman known her thoughts? Ranma didn't like the idea of someone intruding into her mind, the core of her being. Despite the woman's knowledge, Ranma had felt no probing and his natural shield was still intact.
"Then why in hell are you so ugly?" Ranma asked bluntly, unused to being caught off guard.
The wrinkled face cracked into a wry grin. "Let's see what you look like in three hundred years, young woman. Those perky breasts and that unlined face of yours will one day sag and wrinkle, then you shall know the burden of time." The woman turned back to the cheering crowd and regarded the purple-haired girl who was now being hoisted onto the shoulders of her peers. "A formidable warrior, yes?" she queried.
Ranma shrugged, unimpressed. "She's not too bad." Ranma wanted to ask about all the aces in the village, but decided to wait to hear what else this strange old— very old— woman had to say.
A prunish eyebrow crooked impossibly high and the woman said, "I sense the power about you, both of the gift and that of a true warrior. Do you presume to question the prowess of an Amazon warrior maiden?" She sounded more intrigued and curious than offended or amused.
"I don't use my powers to fight for me, if that's what you mean. And no, I don't really care about the girl's prowess." Ranma was beginning to worry about where her father had run off to and what trouble the worthless man had gotten himself into.
"For one so young and inexperienced, you show little respect for your elders," the woman said more seriously. Cheers turned to grumbles and a few angry hisses, but the woman and Ranma paid them no immediate attention.
"I've known too many old people who didn't deserve to live to automatically just assume someone who remembers running from dinosaurs is worthy of recognition." The growing disturbance finally caught Ranma's eye and she groaned.
Genma, still a panda, floated helplessly in the air, his face and prominent gut covered in crumbs and sauces, the remains of a sizable spread of food lying below. She'd better straighten the mess out before the panda got desperate and hurt someone. The situation looked to be approaching that point rapidly, if the thrumming battle auras and rising charge of power in the air meant anything.
"Damn it, Old Man, I can't ever leave you alone," Ranma snapped. To her unknown conversee, she said, "Uh… Be right back; gotta go save my idiot father."
Genma was trying to figure out why all the women were so pissed and silently cursing Ranma for destroying all of his signs. It couldn't be that time of the month for all of them, could it? He prayed that he was wrong on that account, and began to gather his chi energies, supplementing the power with the small amount of thermal energy he could generate with his ace abilities.
The pretty girl with purple hair was shouting at him in Chinese, waving an arm around before him that ended in a wickedly barbed hook that made Genma's blood curdle. An incandescent sphere of energy appeared slightly below Genma's navel and he prepared to will it into the girl's brain on the first sign that she intended to use her hook. Genma's eyes brightened, though, as he saw his daughter roughly shove the other girl aside and glare up at him.
"Damn you, Old Man. If it weren't for mom, I'd get you fixed." Ranma emphasized the threat by making a scissoring motion with her index and middle finger.
Genma 'growfed' pathetically and tried to shrink within himself, afraid that his son might actually try to do as he claimed.
The sudden stillness behind her, an almost supernatural silence, caused Ranma to turn. She met the angry stares of dozens of women, many of whom possessed fantastic powers that could possibly rival her own (though she doubted it). Oh, yes; snip, snip, snip…
To be continued.
Author's Notes: Yay, finished! This could be fun for a few chapters. Feel free to post complaints about excessive fics or C&C in the Delphi forums, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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