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Interlude One: Akane

A Ranma / Tenchi Muyo! crossover story
By Brian Randall

Disclaimer: Ranma belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Communications.  Tenchi Muyo! belongs to Hitoshi Okuda and Pioneer LDC.  Among others…

She woke to the trill of a warning alarm, and reflexively leapt out of the bed.

Or rather, she tried to. A pair of straps held her to the surface, thankfully sparing her a repeat of the previous day's experience. Shaking her head, the young woman reached down, tugging the straps upward. Velcro complained loudly as it separated, allowing her to slowly tumble free of the wall-mounted bed.

The door hissed open softly, as another young woman opened it, floating into the small room with a dispirited air. "Heya, Akane," she managed, yawning, and then coughing as a long stray hair was inhaled. "Damn… stupid hair…"

"Morning, Ukyou," Akane responded, shutting off the alarm. Ukyou had been fairly lucky. All of the clothing she had packed was sensible, almost all slacks, the tights she commonly wore, or snug shorts.

Akane had learned the problems involved in zero gravity fashion very quickly, and Shampoo hadn't gotten a chance to pack any clothing whatsoever, let alone something decent. Akane managed a wry grimace. "Put it up in a bun," she suggested, eyeing Ukyou's hair.

Ukyou nodded, already climbing into the small pallet, and strapping herself in. "Do it tomorrow," she murmured.

Smirking, Akane shook her head. Her own selection of clothing had contained a jogging outfit, and two sweat suits. The skirts were essentially useless. Between Ukyou and Akane, Shampoo managed to stay covered, but had a somewhat dour outlook on the entire ordeal.

The lights dimmed as Akane touched a wall panel, leaving the only illumination to be the faint light of the stars. Ukyou mumbled something appreciative, as Akane opened the door.

Gleaming and polished corridors lined the whole of the ship from end to end. There was no new dirt to smudge them, and there was no gravity to allow dust to settle. Merely the soft and constant hum of the ship's systems as it cruised through space.

Akane took hold of a small rail, and pulled herself upwards sharply. Without gravity, she sped across the hall, stifling a yawn. Shampoo was probably elsewhere -- the crew in charge seemed to have no real problem finding things to keep people busy, though Akane had a firm suspicion that what they were doing was usually nothing more than pointless busywork. She paused before entering the main control area, looking at the stars.

In the science fiction shows, the stars always streaked across the windows. Here, they merely hung, still and unwavering. "Bleah," she murmured.

She remembered quite clearly what had happened on Earth. She shuddered, thinking about it. Maybe the pointless busywork was a good thing, but…

There was some time before she had to show up, ostensibly to find something to eat, but rations were limited. They were three people where there should have been two.

The fact that half of the intended occupants had never made it, so that the vast majority of the ship's rooms were actually unoccupied helped, but the three shared a room anyway. None of them wanted to be alone after what they remembered. Their last sight on Earth, before Ranma had shoved them into the capsule that later dumped them into the ship, only moments before it escaped. And their last sight was him: alone, bleeding to death, and smiling despite that.

Her eyes shut, and she sighed, releasing the rail to float in the center of the corridor.

Ranma had seemed so happy, and his last words… "You owe me," he had said. "I gave up what I got for you, and you… you owe me bein' safe. So… go."

She felt tears forming, and struggled to control herself. If only… if only she had gotten a chance to tell him, before he left, tell him that she loved him. Sniffling, she wiped at her eyes, taking hold of the rail and guiding herself forward. The door opened before she reached it, into the large spherical area that was the control center.

The technicians and crew were all neatly uniformed, while the 'civilians' were simply attired in whatever clothing they could find. Shampoo was wearing a pair of Ukyou's slacks, and one of Akane's sweatshirts. The purple-haired girl looked up from a console, and smiled weakly at Akane, waving.

Akane nodded, and took a seat near Shampoo. She made a face at the screen before her. "More training," she grumbled, trying to find an emotion to fill the emptiness.

Shampoo sighed, shaking her head and studying the screen before her. "Shampoo understand," she said quietly. But they both understood that knowing how to control the various systems could be important, as little as they enjoyed it. And it was better than the pointless tasks they often got assigned instead. "Akane thinking of Ranma."

And that was it, of course. "Yeah," she mumbled, hearing the faint chatter of others echo about the chamber. "How did you know?"

"Can tell," Shampoo said, stabbing at a button fiercely. She held her strength in check enough to avoid damaging it -- important, considering how ultimately fragile the ship truly was. "Hard not to think of him."

Akane nodded, sighing. "Well, another day," she mumbled. "How long until we get there, again?"

"Forty-three years, Akane. Unless someone finds us first." Her voice was tired, but the question was old.

The shorter-haired girl sighed again, punching at the buttons next to her screen as it taught her the basics of stellar navigation. "Great," she grumbled. "That's just perfect."

Shampoo shrugged. "Never know," she mused. "Juu-rai might send someone to pick us up, first."

Akane rolled her eyes. She had expected, somehow, that space would be exciting, full of things to see. She had thought that they would pass by planets -- she even had a camera packed for the occasion. Reality was far less exciting. The way the crew had explained it when she asked, there was a significant chance that they'd never see anything at all on the voyage, aside from the moon when they had left, and… whatever awaited them when they arrived. "Maybe," she said neutrally.

The Amazon smirked, shaking her head. "Bad joke," she said. "Sorry."

It was easy to forgive. The three had learned to live with each other fairly quickly, considering the main source of their disconcert was… She let that thought die. "Have I ever told you that you were a good friend?" Akane asked suddenly.

Breaking away from her screen, Shampoo turned to stare at Akane in surprise. "Friend?" she asked, wondering.

Akane smiled brightly, and nodded, nearly bouncing herself out of her seat. Grabbing onto the straps, she pulled herself back down, and belted herself in. "Yes, Shampoo," she said, buckling the straps, "I think you are a friend. I wish I had thought so before…."

Shampoo smiled suddenly, and waggled a finger at Akane. "Think about, less and less. Worry about this," she said, thumping Akane's console. "Time help, until then, train, become strong. And…." The Amazon hesitated, then shook her head and turned back to her own console.

"And?" Akane prompted.

Frowning, and looking at Akane thoughtfully, Shampoo said, "Train, become strong, and… never stop hoping."

Akane smiled, nodding, and turned to the console before her. Long hours of pointless work, yes, but it kept her busy. And she could still hope. "Thank you, Shampoo. I'll do that."

"If Ranma alive, he's mine," Shampoo said softly.

"Hah!" Akane taunted Shampoo. "Not if I get to him first!"

Shampoo giggled softly, and the two fell into a companionable silence, working together.


To be continued.

Author's Notes: Short, pointless, and the first of three. Collect 'em all!

Part 6
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