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A Ranma fan fiction story
by Josh Temple

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.


Chapter 3: Technical Support


"Nothing's the same anymore."
—Babylon 5, Season 5 Intro.

Ranma awoke in the upper bunk bed. She glanced over the edge to see Sarah sleeping in the lower bunk. No one had told Ranma that she needed to sleep in female form. Ranma and Sarah were brother and sister, technically half-siblings, but that didn't matter.

Ranma had lost what had been, for a short time, his room, so Allison could sleep there. It was a symbolic gesture, designed to appease Allison's parents. If Allison and Dan wanted to get frisky, nothing could really stop them, especially given Allison's ability to turn invisible.

This bunk bed had a lower bunk running perpendicular to the upper bunk. Ranma jumped off the upper bunk, got dressed, and walked out of the room. She knocked on the bathroom door. "Just a minute!" Allison shouted over the shower.

"Never mind," Ranma said then headed down the stairs.

Jack was sitting in the living room reading a newspaper. "Hey, Ranma," he said without looking up.

At the foot of the stairs, she asked, "How'd you know it was me?"

"I have my ways," the sheriff said, turning the page.

"I'm really sick of people saying that."

"Sorry to hear about your template."

"Have any suspects?" Ranma asked, looking for the downstairs bathroom.

"Not my jurisdiction."

"Whoever did this tried to kill us."

"Read the town charter," Jack said, still reading. "I'll help when the time's right," he said in the grim tone of a man caught between duty and honor.

Ranma shrugged and went to find the bathroom. It was adjacent to the den, tucked away near the kitchen. Ranma tried the faucets first. She managed to change back with hot water. Her curse seemed to have stabilized, at least for now, and was back to the standard triggers.

Ranma exited the bathroom and went into the kitchen. Dan was sitting at the table. He had a pot of coffee in front of him, with a straw sticking out. The pot was half gone and he had a glazed look to his eyes.

Actually Ranma wasn't sure, considering he'd never seen Dan when he wasn't sleeping, pulling an all-nighter, or looking half-baked.

"Hey, it's the Ran-Man," Dan said before falling face first on the table. "Ouch," he said in a little too mellow a voice.

Sarah, wearing slacks, a blouse and her vest walked into the room, took a swig of coffee, then put the pot back down. "You are an idiot," she said slowly to her cousin, then turned to Ranma. "We're going to have some problems unless we can get wonder boy here to wake up," she said pointing to Dan's now sleeping form.

"What did he do?" Ranma asked.

"He just stayed up all night getting a project essay done, but that's not the worst of it; if he can't drive us to school…" Sarah trailed off when Allison entered the room.

Allison done with bathing and had dressed in her normal clothes — that is to say, revealing, yet not cheap. Well not that cheap. "You know, Dan, you shouldn't do this every night. It's bad for you…" Allison's stern lecture fell short when she realized what Dan's present state meant. She stopped looked at her sleeping boyfriend then at the coffee pot, and then ran out of the room.

Ranma heard the garage door slam shut. "Is she really that bad?" he asked, not wanting to know the answer.

"Worse. It's not that she can't drive… Actually, yes it is. I mean, she's almost as good as Dan is when it comes to mechanics, but put her in the driver's seat, and… Well…" Sarah rambled off.

"So what do we do?"

"We can't stop her… unless you want to try."

Ranma remembered the maniacal glint Allison possessed. "Um, not particularly." He then looked at Dan's comatose body, "So what do we do with him?"

"Help me drag him to the Beast."


Dan woke up. He felt nauseous and had a splitting headache. It almost felt as if his brains were being ground up. Wait, that wasn't his brains. It was his truck. OH NO!

Dan bolted up — or tried to; he was secured in the front passenger seat by his belt. "Allison," he said grinding his teeth. "Why are you driving my truck? You know I love you, but… YOU DO NOT DRIVE MY TRUCK!"

Dan unclipped his belt and lunged over to pull the key out when it hit him. The truck sounded normal, a bit strained, but normal and otherwise fine. "Um, sorry, but when did you start to drive competently?"

"Oh, that," Allison said, shifting into a higher gear. "I've been practicing at my parents' house."

Dan nodded. Allison was driving a bit slow, only twenty over the speed limit, but she had shifted into the right gear, and was handing the Beast reasonably well. Considering the engine under the hood of the black truck, that was an accomplishment for even a normal driver, let alone Allison. "Why'd they let you drive? I mean, you're a great mechanic, but you backed into a tree." Dan paused, then added, "Repeatedly."

Meanwhile, Ranma was relaxing in the back. Allison was still going way too fast, but at least they had yet to go airborne.

Sarah was sitting next to Ranma working on a laptop. She was humming.

"What are you doing?" Ranma asked.

"Researching on Spore," she replied.

"Oh, the German guy who wrote my template."

"That's the one," she said, then resumed humming. "Except he's not German."

"Huh?"

"I traced back those files that Sean was storing. The German account was just that, another account, another storage site." Sarah then hummed a few more bars. "So I searched the billing list as to who paid for the drive space."

"Who?" Ranma inquired, pondering the song. It was vary familiar.

"A Japanese software company."

"Oh, crap."

"Yup! Seems like one of your old 'pals' has a sick sense of humor."

"The software company may be just another shell," Dan said, watching Allison drive.

"Too much of a coincidence," Sarah said, then started humming again.

Ranma nodded. That song was really getting annoying. It almost sounds like the opening to….

"Hey!" Ranma said, indignant.

"Took you long enough," Sarah said grinning.

"Isn't that the theme song to Sailor Moon?" Allison asked.

"Eyes on the road," Dan warned.

Ranma fumed.

"Lighten up. I mean, you can hum the theme to MechWarrior."

"Or the Matrix."

"Or Invisible Man."

"Or the Terminator."

"Or Stargate."

"Yeah, but you guys chose your templates and you can still edit yours," Ranma said.

"True. That does suck," Sarah said.

"But a least you've got some serious power," Dan said.

"You can fly, too," Allison added.

Ranma grumbled.


The Beast pulled into the school parking lot. "Very good," Dan said as Allison put the truck into park and pulled out the keys. He got out of the truck. "Okay, Allison and I have all of our classes together, and you two have all of yours together," Dan told Ranma and Sarah, who'd also piled out of the truck.

"So did you get put ahead a year?" Ranma asked. After all, he was a year older.

"Not exactly," Sarah said, grabbing her pack and starting to walk to school.

Ranma thought about this. "I got set back a year?"

"Yeah. Despite coming from a school that you had to take an entrance exam to get into, the administration here decided to drop you back. They had some points. Our school years start at different times. It also seems that your grades weren't all that hot. Then again, they could have done it just because they could. I mean, there's this one VP that's a real pain," Dan said flatly.

"Well, it's not that I couldn't do the work. I just don't care," Ranma responded.

"You're preaching to the choir," Dan said.

Ranma approached the door to the school, "Wait, the hacker that did this to me is most likely a student here, right?"

"That's why I'm suggesting we stay in teams of two," Dan said, approaching the door.


The Lady in Shadows sat in the student lounge, working. This time, she was not alone. About a dozen other students were in the lounge, most of them working on laptops similar to hers. A few even had I/O spheres out. She had hers set on long-range scan.

It started when she replayed what the golem sent out before being destroyed. She found that Sarah's twin was named Ranma, and when she correlated it with school records, she found a Ranma, but this person was male.

Further examinations of the broadcast revealed two things: first, in the hands of a skilled user, that template was very powerful; second, her toy had some other programs. The conversation in the standing circle referred to a sex-changing curse. She then researched the name they had used: Jusenkyou. Apparently it was a water-triggered curse.

This made the repercussions of the imprint even more amusing. The intentions of the Lady in Shadows were not that malicious; if Ranma ever got the decryption key, he'd have a good chance of removing a good part of the code.

Wizards and such are generally a laid-back bunch, but they suffer from the same malady of immortals and other beings of power… boredom. So they spend their time finding activities that they find interesting or entertaining.

Granted, the Lady did have a sick sense of humor, and she'd play puppetmaster just for a few laughs, but that didn't mean she was evil… Wait. Yes. Yes it did. But at least she wasn't a megalomaniac demon from an alternate dimension bent on global domination.

Given her intentions, what she did to the school's computer system was no surprise, even though it was a simple trick.


Ranma was following Sarah, walking towards the doors, when he heard something. A familiar noise, the sound of sprinklers about to go off. Ranma tried to dodge, but for some reason he could never dodge water very well, whether it was from a ladle, puddle, or sprinkler.

Jets of water came out, covering the lawn and a certain martial artist. From inside the foyer, Dan and Allison watched Ranma get soaked. "Ranma wasn't kidding when he said he was a water magnet," she commented.

Dan nodded.

Sarah was standing by the door, "Come on in," she told Ranma.

Ranma walked in, completely soaked. Her shirt was quite clingy. She was grumbling something.

"That was odd," Sarah said.

"Nah, it's just my curse. This kind of crap always happens to me."


From the guardrail of the student lounge, Ned Winston saw Sarah O'Neil enter the school followed by a soaking-wet girl that looked just like her. He then walked up to the Lady in Shadows. "Hey, Rebecca, you know Sarah had a twin?"

Rebecca looked up from her laptop. "Heard she's her long-lost sister from Japan."

Ned nodded. "Makes sense. I mean, Sarah is half Japanese. Although the sprinklers seemed to have hit her. Odd."

Rebecca raised an eyebrow at Ned.

"Yes, fine, that wasn't that odd at all. It was probably just a prank." Ned, sensing awkwardness, grabbed his bag and left the lounge.

Rebecca sighed. The only reason she put up with Winston at all was his ability to create golems; magically enhanced robots. Ned had that right mix of programming talent and engineering aptitude to excel in the field. They had worked out a little agreement; he gave her the occasional 'bot and she kept him supplied with certain hard-to-find raw materials.


"Well, this sucks," Ranma said, still in female form.

"What?" Sarah asked leading him to the next class.

"Let's see: a good portion of the school saw me transform."

"I don't think so. I was standing right at the doors and I didn't see anyone out there, and no one from the lounge could see where you were standing."

"True," Ranma said, pondering. "So now what?"

"You should just go on in."

Ranma looked at the knob. Inhaled, grabbed and turned. She stepped into a classroom… At lest she thought it was one. Her experience with classrooms were close to the rigid grid of desks that dated back to the fifties. This room had a whiteboard that ran along one wall, a cluttered teacher's desk in a corner, a bunch of chairs and tables in the center of the room, and running the other three walls were numerous computer stations.

The teacher, a well-rested-looking middle-aged man, walked up to the near-twins. "I'm Mr. Jones, and you must be the new girl, Ranma," he said, and then wandered back to his desk.

"Um, yeah," Ranma said, unsure. "What's going on here?" she whispered to her sister.

"Most of the teachers are pretty laid-back. I mean, they have to be. They're teaching a bunch of people that have some pretty heavy powers. The only way you can stay sane around here is to go with the flow. But Jones is the most apathetic… then again, he's been here the longest out of the entire staff."

"No, not that. Why did he call me a girl?"

"There is the family resemblance," Sarah suggested.

"No, that's not it. We'd have different last names on the roster, yet he knew mine." Ranma had a bad feeling about this.

"Um, the records could be wonky. Come on, let's sit down," Sarah said, leading Ranma to a computer station in the back.

Ranma saw about an eighteen other students, most of whom were asleep. He then sat down in a seat next to Sarah, who had just turned on one of the computers.

Mr. Jones shuffled to the front of the room. "All right, class. Come on, you lazy bastards. I only require you to listen to me once a day… so Wake Up!" he said, clenching his teeth.

About a third of the class woke up, blinked at Mr. Jones, and fell back asleep; the rest maintained conscious, but were apathetic and slothful.

"Close enough," Mr. Jones muttered. Then, in a dry monotone, "Anyway, your projects are due Friday, not that any of you care. We have a new student. The damp one next to Sarah. That's it. I'll be sleeping." He then shuffled to his chair, put his feet on his desk and went to sleep.

Ranma found this surprising. She never had a teacher that did not at least pretend to care. She looked at the rest of the class. Some were still sleeping, while the others had shifted to computers. "What's with this place?"

"Nearly all the classes here are self-paced," Sarah said. "It would be a futile to try and force any of us to do daily work. Even the people with limited potential and skill are too independent to be 'normalized' by public school. This must be really weird, considering the uniform-wearing, teacher-respecting, hard-work-grinding, and pointless-task-completing regimentation of Japanese schools."

"That's an extreme interpretation."

"But an accurate one. Right?"

Ranma shrugged, he turned to see a girl standing behind him. She was rather average, with long brown hair pulled back in a loose braid.

"Hey, Sarah?" she asked. "I didn't know you had a twin," she said gesturing at Ranma.

"Ranma's not my twin, Julie," Sarah said, typing. "Technically, she's my half-brother."

"Huh?" Julie said, confused by the conflicting pronouns.

"We share a mother. You see, when his father died, he moved over here. Now the reason he looks like, well, me is that he's got this weird curse."

"Oh. Is it a virus or corrupt coding?"

"I think it's a little of both, although it wasn't written in Calash."

"Have you tried removing it?"

"Oh, the uninstall is easy, but it won't be taken out right now."

"All right then," Julie said, then walked off.

"It's not that I don't mind it, but no one's freaked out by the curse," Ranma said, slightly confused.

"Granted, there aren't too many sex-altering applets floating around, but a couple of people have them."

"So what class is this?"

"Um… English?"

"Wait. You don't know?" Ranma asked. God, the teachers were lax here… which was a good thing.

"Well, all he does is give us long-range writing projects, and then grades them ruthlessly."

Ranma shook her head.

"So why don't you get some hot water?"

"My clothes are still wet. I'd just change right back."

"Yes, I see," Sarah said, looking at Ranma's shirt. "You really should wear a bra when you're in that form."

Ranma glared at her sister.

"Sorry, but I've got 'em too."


Rebecca checked the remote connection to her O/I sphere. She linked the device to what used to be a cell phone and made a wireless connection between it and her laptop. She didn't want to leave the sphere alone, but she had to distance herself from her toy, and the work she planned was far too precise for the sphere's long-range broadcast settings.

When she found out about her toy's curse, she began making a little upgrade for Ranma's template. Part of it was a program she had used before and required only minimal editing to suit her needs. The rest was a little set of programs she picked up, but had yet to test. Rebecca even found a way to compensate for the fact that the template could not function at all when Ranma was male.

Now all she had to do was wait.


Ranma grumbled. She was once again female. Just before lunch, her clothes had dried enough to allow her to switch back, and then when they walked back from a restaurant near the school, the sprinklers hit him again.

At least students were allowed to eat off school grounds. Ranma sighed, pulling at her damp again clothes. Tomorrow, she would bring another set to change into. "So this is the physics room."

"Yup," Sarah replied, working on a miniature Tesla coil.

Ranma looked around the room. Half the class was helping the teacher, a black-suited Mr. Smith, build some sort of contraption, while the rest of the class built other, smaller machines. Whiteboards were covered with descriptions of Gaussian surfaces, Ampereian loops, and other things that Ranma didn't understand. The room looked very much like a mad scientist's lair… or a least a slightly perturbed grad student's lab.

During lunch, Sarah checked the school records and found out that someone had changed Ranma's sex to female. Sarah remarked that this was another prank done by the same person that imprinted Ranma. Sarah fixed the settings, but considering how easy it was to get in the records, it could be switched back rather easily.

Ranma was bored and tired. All she wanted to do was take a little nap, and for once in her scholarly career, no one would stop her. Ranma put her head down on the workbench and fell asleep.

"Ranma, give me some more copper wire," Sarah said. When she failed to get a response, she looked over to see her sister fast asleep.

"Fine, be that way." Sarah went back to work.

A few minutes later she stopped, and walked out to go to the bathroom.


Rebecca observed all this from the security camera she'd compromised. Her patience had paid off. Ranma was asleep and would be unaware of the edit, and Sarah, who might have been able to tell something was amiss, was out of the room.

Being in study hall, she had no concerns of being interrupted, but she had to act fast. She linked the sphere to Ranma's template, and got the standard: "Program locked. Please enter edit code or software will be read only."

Rebecca typed in "noops_wraith_alpha_coMSYS_threve_56," and gained full access to the template. She then loaded her upgrade package which self-extracted into the template. After checking to see that the installation was successful, she went into the template's history and deleted any record of the installation. She wanted it to look like the new code had always been there. Included in the package were some power limiters. Now, if it looked like her toy was about to find and attack her, Rebecca had a way to remedy that situation.

Satisfied with her work, Rebecca disconnected from the template. She would pick up her sphere after school. She continued to watch through the securety-cam to see how much extra time she had before Sarah returned or Ranma awoke. It was about two minutes.


Sarah came back into the class room to see Ranma still asleep. "Lazy fool," she said, sitting back down and going back to work on her Tesla coil.


Sean Reno was at his computer, trying to contact Spore. He had some rather bad news. Sean knew that this was the chat room that Spore normally hung around. All he had to do was wait.


[Spore has signed on @ 15:23 GMT]

Spore: hello forge

Germ_Forge: y34h \/\/e h4v3 t0 t4[k

Spore: damn man dont go into that l33t crap now

Germ_Forge: sorry can we talk in private

[5 users have been removed from discussion group]

Spore: Remember this is my domain

Germ_Forge: true

Spore: what do you have to say

Germ_Forge: remember the hacker that stole those files i was storing for you

Spore: yes

Germ_Forge: that bitch imprinted this new girl

Spore: so

Germ_Forge: she and her friends are pissed

Spore: so

Germ_Forge: they are looking for you and the hacker

Spore: so they do not know where i am

Germ_Forge: neither do I but you should be prepared

Spore: true okay give me a description

Germ_Forge: japanese girl about 16 short well endowed with bright red hair and she's got a twin sister

Thirty seconds passed without a response.

Germ_Forge: spore whats wrong

Spore: describe the template

Germ_Forge: short skirt ribbons and bows angel wings

Spore: not good

Germ_Forge: what

Spore: i have to go now but we will talk later


Gosunkugi Hikaru disconnected from the forum, and looked at his monitor blankly.

"Well, you're screwed," a girl's voice said.

Gosunkugi turned to his other computer monitor. On the screen was a girl that looked about his age. She had dark blue medium-length hair, and was wearing black tights, a black blouse, and a short chainmail skirt. She was an extremely lifelike three-dee rendering.

"Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Erika."

"Why did you make all those templates in the first place? I mean, Shampoo, Akane, Ukyou, Ranma's girl side… Oh, wait — I see," the computer-generated girl glared at the pale teen.

"It's not like I have any magical skills. I mean, look at how pathetic I was with voodoo."

"But you're actually good with Calash; some of those were almost fully-functional templates."

"With Calash, anyone can write the programs, but only a select few can actually execute them. I have no latent potential, so I thought they'd never be used. They were just practice."

"But you made me," Erika offered.

"No, I didn't. All I did was hack into and link the best experimental AIs. You were just a fluke."

"But here I am," Erika said pointing to herself.

"No, the only thing 'here' is your input/output feed and your graphical interface. The rest of 'you' is still in over a dozen campuses and corporate labs. The only reason you haven't been taken apart yet is that you've hidden your existence to your true creators."

"But I can pass any Turing test and am the culmination of the top minds in artificial intelligence."

"But all I did was highjack their work."

"So you're a really good hacker that made a simulated girlfriend," Erika said.

"That's too creepy, isn't it?"

"Well, not creepy. Is pathetasad a word?" Erika offered.

"I don't know. Is sarcastabitch a word?"

Erika laughed. "Okay fine. So what do we do about Ranma?"

"Well, you try to find out why he left, and where he is now."

"Why don't you ask his friends?"

"Um, at school I'm considered the quiet background person. They'd get real suspicious if I started asking where Ranma is, considering that they have yet to find him."

"And what'll you do?"

"I’ll get as much as I can about that hacker."

"Why do you trust that drunk?"

"What?"

"When I found out about Germ Forge, I traced back to his real name, then did a government search on him."

"And what did you find out?"

"Drunk and disorderly."

"So?"

"He's a bad person."

"Look, Erika, he's my friend. He was the one who gave me an I/O sphere and the Calash compiler."

"And why did he do this?" she asked skeptically.

"Well, I cleared up some tax problems he had."

"I told you he was bad news."

"Why don't you like him?"

"He let someone get in to his system and take files he was watching for a friend."

"That wasn't his fault."

"Yes, it was."

Gosunkugi sighed. It wasn't like their own systems were totally secure. That was one of the reasons he had moved some of his archives to Forge's servers. "Look, I think I’ve got a plan, but we need more information."

"All right, I'll do it."

"That's my girl."

"I thought you said I wasn't real."

"That's part of my plan, too."

Erika looked quizzically at Gosunkugi.


"So what do you think of school?" Sarah asked while she was getting ready for bed.

"It's good, but weird. I mean, everything is a long-term project," Ranma said, striping down to her boxers and a t-shirt.

"Yeah, but don't think it's not hard. It's real easy not to do your project until the last moment, like Dan does," Sarah said, getting into bed. "And you still don't have to sleep as a girl."

"I know, but it seems weird to sleep in a girl's room as a guy."

"Eh, Lockridge is pretty easy-going by modern standards. Don't worry about it," Sarah said.

"Hmm," Ranma said, not listening.

"What?"

"Ever think that Spore and that hacker are in cahoots, or even the same person? I mean, it's way too convenient that someone from Japan made a template of my girl-side and then stored that template with someone who just happened to live in Lockridge."

"You may have a point. We'll check it out tomorrow," Sarah said, turning off the lights. "Good night, Ranma."

"Yeah. 'Night," Ranma said, quickly falling asleep. Rebecca's supplemental programming activated, and the dreams began.

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: This is a short chapter. It's mostly setup for the next one.

Very Special thanks to Joe Fenton, who has been instrumental in the revision of the first half of Generation Lost. I would also like to point out my rage against the evils of the comma.

Chapter 4
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