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A Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki fan fiction story
chronicled by Dro'gan NiteFlier

Disclaimer: Tenchi Muyo!, its characters and settings, © Hitoshi Okuda, AIC / Pioneer LDC, and Viz Communications, Inc. Some elements taken from the Shining Spiral, used without permission but with great respect.


Chapter 2


Sasami shuddered as she felt the ship pass through a jumpgate into normal space. She never liked traveling through hyperspace, but without it, a ship would take millennia just to travel across a single sector.

She knew that Ryoko had no qualms about hyper- or norm-space, but her sister had never had problems with the theoretical mathematics that made travel in hyperspace possible.

Ryoko was like that.

She sighed, and moved to find the miner whom they had contracted. This was probably the star system that he had been so obsessed with. Sasami shook her head, as the gut feeling of uneasiness grew, instead of fading.


Ryoko cracked an eye open when she felt the slight shiver which heralded the transition into normal space. She hoped her sister wasn't puking her guts up right now, as she had done when they first shifted to hyper with the miner's ship. She had to admit, it had been a bit shocking to her as well, and that was quite unusual. After she had helped Sasami to the head, Ryoko had asked the miner about taking a look at the drive, since it was quite obviously damaged or degrading well past specs.

The miner had just looked at her, not saying a word, then turned back to the controls.

Ryoko ground her teeth, and went looking for the miner again. They had probably come to that damn system the miner wanted to stop at.

Her instincts told her that there was something seriously wrong going on.


If one had known Haolo Hermious in his youth, his past, or really any time up until three months prior to a young, cyan-haired girl asking for passage for herself and her sister to Hope Shipyards, one would have never have recognized what had become of him.

Where before that fateful outing he had been lively, passionate man, full of jovial spirit and always one to find something to laugh about, the man who came back from sector 3491 by 7883 by 937, also known as Dead Man's Retreat, was… not. Not lively, not passionate, not… anything.

He and seven other asteroid miners had gone to the Retreat, the lure of untapped Elerium singing in their ears, but only Haolo came back. Whispered tales told of a mysterious creature that roamed a star system where the greatest veins of that precious substance ran, tales heeded by many. Tales told to the deaf ears of Haolo and his comrades.

Now he knew the truth, though. He, out of eight miners who had gone to claim that fabled treasure, survived the encounter with its guardian.

Now, he longed to go back, to either make the demon finish what it had started, or to end its unknowing reign of tyranny over the markets of the quadrant, and perhaps even the sextant.

Haolo Hermious was determined to find the Space Dragon.


The two sisters met in the corridor leading to the command center, looked at each other, then proceeded down the zero-g passageway. They both knew that something was not right with their pilot, but neither of them had suspected that the fool was willing to kill himself.

The pair had realized their mistake when the miner had dumped the cargo bays, taking all their supplies and no few pieces of the degrading ship with them.

They had signed on with a man with a purpose, but his purpose was to kill or be killed.

And for the first time since they had escaped the orphanage, they were both very, very afraid.


He wasn't sure what had tripped his sensors. There was nothing odd, and no intrusions into the volume of space he resided in. His own internal functions were normal, at least considering that he still wasn't quite sure if he were completely sane again.

For some reason, every time he ran a computational check, it came out differently. He had a feeling that this was not the way it was supposed to be. Though for some reason he could not access his primary memory, and thus, could not be certain of the proper formulae that betokened his complete sentience and sanity.

Rather annoying, that.

He burrowed deeper into the rock, wondering why his stores were depleted, since he couldn't remember being in any battles recently. Of course, he was here to protect something, he just couldn't remember what. Why, oh, why did he have to rely on faulty electronics? They couldn't hold enough of his thought to cover memory as well as current processing.

Suddenly, something blossomed on radar, and as he turned his attention to it; a point near the gravitation boundary of the star. He suddenly recalled that there was a gate there, and idly wondered why he had not destroyed it before this, for was he not supposed to be guarding something? He pushed off from the rock, flowing silently through the asteroids, ready to destroy those who threatened— What was he protecting? It was something important, he could recall that. Something that had belonged to him once, he was sure.

Tracking the intruder, his computations forced idle thought out, relegating it to backup processing, and immediately losing it forever.

Now there was only the target.


Ryoko burst upon the control center, Sasami not far behind.

"What the hell are you doing?" she yelled out.

The miner shifted his attention to the sisters for a moment, then back to the readouts in front of him. "Here. It's here. The bastard won't get away. No. Even if I have to die, it'll pay."

Sasami squeaked, and clutched Ryoko. "There's… There's something out there!"

Ryoko nodded, she could feel the presence as well, and had also felt it, notable in the absence of any other, turn its attention to the ship, feeling first confusion, then deliberation, and finally — uncomprehendingly — rage.

She immediately grabbed the miner, "Turn us around, you idiot! That thing's coming after us! We might be able to get back to the jumpgate!"

The miner feebly tugged at her hands, trying to get her to let go. "No. No, no. Have to get rid of it! Have to make it pay for letting me live. Killed all of them, and more! Can't go back; drive went kaput. Can't even activate a gate! Lemme go and make it pay!"

Ryoko threw the miner back into his chair, and he immediately forgot about the encounter, and began murmuring to himself about payloads and drives. Sasami looked at the rage on Ryoko's face, something that she had never seen before. "Ryoko?" she asked.

The girl immediately whirled, and grabbed her by the arm, dragging her along the passageway, the microgravity not hindering her in the slightest. Sasami kept asking her sister what she was doing, until the pair stopped near their cabin, where one of the lifepods was. Sasami's eyes widened. "Ryoko—"

"Shh, sister-mine." Ryoko embraced Sasami, quieting her. "I know. They only hold one person. I'll get to one of the others, but you have to get off now. I'll see if I can stop that damn miner." She hesitated for a second, and Sasami saw tears in her eyes. "I'm so sorry! I never should have—"

Sasami quieted her cries, hugging her tighter. "Don't say it. Just make sure you get off if you can't find some way to stop him, okay?"

Ryoko choked off a sob, and nigh crushed her sister in her arms. "Be well, sister-mine," she whispered, then let Sasami get into the pod. She sealed it from shipside, and punched it off, letting its own programming take it where it was safe. Tears flowed freely now, as she flew down the passageways, heading for the drive units. Sasami would kill her when she found out that there had been only one pod remaining on the dilapidated ship, and now there were none.

"At least it is comfort that Sasami survived," Ryoko told herself. The words echoed hollowly, both in the ship, and in her heart.


He barely noticed the bright flare shooting away from the intruder, pausing only to determine that it was not on a vector to his position. After that, it fell completely from his awareness.

A vector that did concern him was the ship itself. Its engines destroying themselves to accelerate, it appeared as though the ship was trying to ram him.

Ram him!

The fools, to think that he could not simply move away, for it was obvious that the ship was too decrepit to make any major vector changes. But then, why should they get off so easy? He shifted power to his weaponry, and opened his mouth.

The small disruptor beam in his mouth couldn't sustain a burst of more than half a second, but that would be more than long enough to take out the unarmored attacking ship.


Ryoko screamed soundlessly.

She had somehow instinctively known that the creature was going to attack, and had tried to phase through to a different part of the ship. But there was no safe part of the ship. And now, there was no ship.

Ryoko cracked her eyes open, almost expecting to see nothing. She couldn't hear anything, so she shouldn't be able to see anything, right? That was what death was, wasn't it?

Her cracked eyes, became saucers, as she tried to gasp.

Stars.

She gagged silently when she found that she could not draw in breath. She flailed, realizing that she was bound to die in this vacuum.

So she lay quiescent, drifting among the shattered remains of the mining ship.

It took her four full minutes before she comprehended that she wasn't dying. In fact, she was no more uncomfortable than normal, despite not having taken a breath for well past the time a human could live without oxygen.

Her eyes narrowed, and she slowly flipped around, until she was facing the creature that had nearly killed her.

It lay silent, as if contemplating the debris before it, and she ground her teeth in rage. How dare it act so innocent after killing.

She willed herself to the creature, and began flying through the vacuum between the asteroids, intent on teaching it a lesson.


He started with surprise as his IR array tracked an incoming projectile. Upon visual confirmation, the projectile was confirmed to be a body of a humanoid female, still warm in space.

Where had the corpse come from? Surely it had not been on the intruder. He could not take life without orders, could he? But then, how had she come to be here?

As his limited available memory became bogged down with the recursive loop, he quickly forgot about the battle, and the destruction of the ship, until he was wondering how the body came to be in this area of space at all.

He was shocked out of his ruminations by the corpse abruptly slowing in vector, and disappearing from outside his hull.

Only to reappear, moments later, inside his command center.

Coming to a command decision, he immediately instigated a Level Alpha diagnostic of all systems, trying to discover not only how the corpse had suddenly translocated, but why and where she had come from.

The Alpha diagnostic ate up his memory, but he struggled to hold on to his conclusions thus far. As it finished he was presented with a startling discovery.

Not only was every single one of his primary command modules down, but also the majority of his secondary ones as well. He was, for all intents and purposes, working solely from tertiary memory, something that should not have happened but in the most extreme case.

He was, as far as he could tell, rewriting his conscious existence every instant.

Amazingly, upon coming to this conclusion, several of the secondary RAM cases energized, and came under his conscious control.

Seeing that he was no longer in extreme danger of accidentally writing over his consciousness anymore, he turned off the tertiary memory that he had been working off of for so long, and marked it for a complete physical and electrical benchmark.

He turned his attention to the humanoid corpse, almost expecting to see that she was in fact alive.

Surely enough, she was moving with purpose in the vacuum of his command center, as if trying to complete a task. Her mouth was opening and closing, but she showed no signs of asphyxiation. He routed a diagnostic probe through his few active systems, and found that he had compressed his internal atmosphere into one of his fuel cells.

Puzzling why he had done that, he pumped it out of the cell, and began flooding his internal habitable compartments with it. It was only after the command center had reached 4.58R atmospheres, and the humanoid had settled to the floor, that he ran a check of the atmospheric contents, and found that it was composed mainly of CO2, and nitrogen.

Unsure, he tried to access the atmosphere recycling plant, only to find that it was offline, like most of his systems. But, he saw that the humanoid was having no problems, and in fact was communicating verbally now.

He ran a check through his available memory to see if he could find the language the girl was shouting at him stored. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Quite sadly, he knew that he could not hope to translate it from scratch with his current RAM size, because he would run out of memory long before he acquired a large enough sample for testing.

He was at an impasse. He didn't know what to do.

The next move, he decided as he went back to work finding which systems were still functioning, was hers.


Ryoko took deep breaths as she stopped ranting. There was something seriously wrong here. The feelings that she had gotten from the creature/ship had not been hostile in any way, and in fact, had changed radically, from confusion, to deliberation, to friendliness, to patience.

It was as if the thing that had destroyed the mining ship and nearly killed her was a completely different entity.

The entity had supplied her with an atmosphere in which to rant at it, and it had been slightly surprised at something shortly afterwards, and saddened as well.

It was as confusing as Sasami.

She jerked upright. Sasami! She was still—

Safe, probably, and asleep in the escape pod.

She took one last breath, and let it out slowly. She then turned in place, looking at the space inside the creature-ship's head.

The cone-shaped space was pointed towards the fore of the head, making it triangular on the outside. Several consoles curved around and away from the walls, with seats before them. In all, there were three of the chairs, two to the left, and one to the right, with a strange arch running along the floor in the tip of the cone. Behind her was a segmented corridor, probably running down the creature-ship's neck.

She slowly walked over to the front left console, and sat heavily in the chair. It resisted for a moment, then it slowly conformed to her body, shifting itself to her form.

That almost had her up and away from it again.

She swallowed audibly, and slowly relaxed into the chair again, letting it support her. Its movements to her shifting became quicker, as if the mechanisms inside were reviving themselves after a long sleep.

"Okay," Ryoko stated aloud, feeling as if the silence had gone on long enough. "What do I know so far? I've got a ship that seems to not only be alive, but sentient, and mechanical to boot. That leaves out it being of Juraian or Vorlon manufacture. The Inner Sphere is way too backwards to even contemplate. Taiidani would have ships out here looking for any runaway tech, especially something this important. Too different from Haven manufacture." She slammed her fist down on the armrest. "Damn!"

A beeping noise from the console in front of her made her glance down at the armrest she had hit. Sure enough, there were tiny controls there. "Ah, shit."

Ryoko turned her attention to the console, hoping that she hadn't done anything too stupid.


He paused as he witnessed the girl hit the auxiliary control for his primary systems console. That couldn't have been an accident, could it? Due to her random movements, he now had the entirety of his secondary functions at his command. He immediately began Alpha level diagnostics on all systems previously untested, and found them thankfully free of defects.

He routed through one of his auxiliary command structures and was able to access several primary systems, although the majority were still barred to him. He immediately hacked through his own codes and neared the final level of completeness. All that was left were his three CORE modules. Pausing to regroup, he began systematically checking and refurbishing himself. Long inactive systems ground to life, and dormant nodes of cables and wires began to transfer energy once more.

Hydroponics came online, and with it, the secondary atmosphere control units. Within an hour's time, all personnel areas would have a human-capable atmosphere, and within 60 hours, there would be greens to eat.

His contingent of Spiders became active, and immediately fell to repairing themselves. He queued up commands, setting them to repair the systems that he showed as faulty, then to go over his entirety and recheck his inputs. The squad of Skorpions, too, awoke, and he quietly put them back to sleep.

System by system, until all that was left were his COREs, and the primary memory and sentience within.

One thing caught him off guard; going through his available memory, he found he now understood the girl's ranting, and it shook him.

Did he really? Could he have just casually destroyed? Not only that, but had been doing it for quite some time?

The evidence was for it. His limited stores were down to his special weaponry, and his combat systems showed far too much wear and tear to be simply time's fault.

He knew that if he were human, he would be curled up in a ball crying. Even so, his physical structure was doing just that, curling up into a small circle, and he realized that he had been in combat mode this entire time.

One more argument towards his casual murders.


Ryoko stared unseeing as the console lit up, displaying figures and values that made no sense to her. Her attention was with the entity instead.

Joy, at being able to reclaim a part of itself. Happiness, at once again being useful, and mending all as it should be. Then, suddenly, shock, and horror. Finally, a deep well of sorrow.

Ryoko shuddered, and folded in on herself, unknowingly copying the ship's actions.

She couldn't bear it! She was not strong enough to bear the weight of unknown deaths! It could not possibly be her that was responsible! But there, there is the proof! Proof of guilt, proof that she did not want to face.

"STOP IT!!"


Connection.


Her eyes were wide as she viewed the asteroids floating near, and she picked up the deep groan from each, signifying their precious contents.

His sensors saw the blinking lights of the console, and heard the soft clicking of the chair reconforming itself.

She/He felt the silken touch of fabric on skin and the blinding cold of the eternal vacuum on external plates.

He/She…


Ryoko gagged and coughed, trying to catch her breath from the experience of merging with Ragnarok.

Ragnarok wished he could perform similar actions as Ryoko, for not only was the encounter disturbing in the extreme, but his CORE modules suddenly awakened, and he was immersed in the hidden knowledge that was contained therein.

"Rags?" came the quiet query.

"Yes, Ryoko?" was the equally quiet reply.

"What did we just do?"

Ragnarok paused. "As a tentative explanation, and from what little I received of your mind during our merging, your natural empathy with artificial entities such as myself caused a concurrent link between us." He paused, correlating data. "I do not believe either of us are alone anymore. At least, alone in our minds."

Ryoko slowly sat up, and stared at the projection arch in the fore of the command center. "That's what I was afraid you were going to say." She sighed. "Calculation, two plus two equals?"

Quickly running through the program, Ragnarok displayed the value. Ryoko grimaced as she counted up the decimal places. "There's three hundred and twenty-one, right?" she asked the ship.

"Affirmative," replied Ragnarok.

"Right." Ryoko stood up. "Find Sasami's capsule, and bring her on board. How long until there's a viable atmosphere?"

Ragnarok immediately began searching the special vicinity. "About fifty minutes. Is there anything you need?"

Ryoko shook her head, and staggered down the corridor.

Ragnarok quite agreed. It was strange having another inside of your mind.


Sasami blinked as she came awake. When Ryoko had pushed her into the escape pod and launched it, the capsule had immediately gone into stasis mode, freezing her for however long it took for someone to find her.

Fear suddenly pierced her heart, for she didn't know how much time had passed, or if Ryoko still lived. She blindly groped for her, knowing that it was all too likely that she had not survived her encounter with the creature that the miner had been intent on destroying.

Warm arms suddenly lifted her up, and she could feel herself being encircled in a warm embrace, one that drove the chill from her limbs. Her eyesight finally began to focus, and she saw a mass of cyan.

"Hush, sister-mine, you're safe now."


Ragnarok was pleased that Sasami showed no problems from the abrupt stasis that he remembered Ryoko placing her in. As well, it appeared as though Ryoko was doing what was proper, for Sasami's tears quickly dried, and his mindmate carried her to the cabin that he had refurbished.

:Ragnarok?:

:Yes?: he tentatively answered. He was unused to this method of communication, even after half a day of it. :Is there something you need?:

:No.: he heard. :Just… I was just wondering how you were taking all this.:

:It is…: he searched for an appropriate descriptor. :Odd. Although not as much as it could be. I was designed for female occupation, after all.:

Ryoko mulled that over while tucking the covers of the cabin's single bed around her sister. :Oh? Is that why this place seems more geared to a feminine mind, when you are really male?:

:Most likely.: He switched his primary focus to his repairs, making sure that they were proceeding smoothly. :I cannot remember more than your recent memories, so I suspect it is the same with you. I was designed and created to be a scout/courier for a matrilineal kingdom, and after the fall of said kingdom, went back to the world of my creation to receive several changes in structure and scope. I am now a light freighter with medium-heavy class offensive capabilities. However, most of my limited stores are depleted, due to…:

Ryoko nodded as the ship trailed off. :Due to your recent insanity. I remember that much. Have you figured out a way we can leave here? We can't stay forever. The thing that you were guarding, your sanity, has now been returned to you. Hey,: The girl teleported to the command center and sat down, relaxing as the chair molded to her. "Did you figure out why your CORE mods failed?"

"Yes," he replied, his attention distracted by an unusual hyperspace anomaly. "After I began the descent away from total sanity, certain subsystems that contradicted each other came online. It was a case of equal priority, and the conflict shut down access to my COREs. However, they were still affecting my processing, which is why I never lost my sense of 'me', even while I forgot anything that took too much processing. I locked away the majority of my capabilities and was dependent on a single tertiary system for all thought and processing. I remember all of it, because my primary memory was still recording it. Ryoko," Ragnarok suddenly inquired, "What is this?"

Ryoko stared at the display before her, the image showing not only the physical object, but the hyperspace port that it had opened and was communicating through.

"That's…" She hesitated, then continued disbelievingly. "That's the crystal structure/theorem."

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Don't ask me, I just write the darn thing.

A few points. How could Ryoko and Ragnarok merge minds? Well, Ryoko was programmed to have a sentient ship, and to be in contact with it. But because she's never met Ryo-Ohki in this life, it developed into a general empathic talent, that was specific to artificial life forms. Ragnarok, as he said, was made to be used by a woman, and he needed the stability of Ryoko to push him that last step into regaining his COREs.

Ragnarok's systems: Actually, Ragnarok just controls the ship; it's really named the Lunarus. As an AI, Rags doesn't run the whole ship by himself, but leaves a great deal of the tasks to subprograms that act as extensions of himself, kind of like how you use a pencil and paper as an extension of yourself to write. He has direct control over these subsystems, but they aren't really him. (Which is confusing, since he is the ship.)

Chapter 3
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