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Chapter 31 Main Chapters Chapter 33

No Need For Body Doubles

"My designation is Camouflage Battle Robot Zero, addressable as Zero," states the dun-colored robot with Dr. Clay's logo on its chest. "I have been assigned to be your DJ for this episode."

"Zero!" Dr. Clay shouts petulantly, "get over here and help me!" Washu still has her sword at his throat.

"Dr. Clay, we're just about to start the shot," Washu says reproachfully, "just a few minutes more, please?"

"Very well," he grumbles.

Zero continues, "The database query shows the theme song matching this chapter is a 'Doublemint Gum' commercial jingle. Dragonwiles' comments indicate that this is to be a humorous reference to my ability to impersonate lifeforms, thereby doubling them." Since this is supposed to be funny, Zero laughs, albeit in monotone machine fashion: "Ha, ha, ha, ha."

Dr. Clay incredulously repeated Washu's words, "Nothing left to lose?" He then said urgently, "Washu, be reasonable. If you go to Lady Tokimi, you will live!"

Washu remained behind his back, holding her sword at his throat. Zero stood to her side, pointing an oblong arm at her head. Washu tried to watch both Zero and Dr. Clay simultaneously. Doubtless Dr. Clay had manufactured a second Zero, since the first one sent to fetch her had been thoroughly destroyed. How many more had Dr. Clay made? He had a large amount of resources at his disposal. For all Washu knew, he could've built an army of them long before sending one to capture her.

Washu tried to think. Every moment of delay was to his advantage, since they were aboard his ship, the Shunga, and it was rapidly heading towards his rendezvous with Lady Tokimi. Washu's mental connection with Ryoko and Ryo-ohki informed her that Ryo-ohki and Kiyone's ship Yagami were still in close pursuit. Nevertheless, so long as Washu stayed in the present situation, the situation only got worse for her.

"What aspect of meeting Lady Tokimi so repulses you?" Dr. Clay cajoled her.

"You read Mihoshi and Kiyone's report, you said," Washu said, breathing heavily as her body prepared itself to attack or run, or both. "You know I was in stasis for 700 years. Maybe I'd rather die than be anyone's prisoner again. Or maybe," she smiled deliriously, "seven centuries in limbo drove me mad."

Dr. Clay caught his breath and went rigid. Then he slowly relaxed a slight bit. "I don't believe you're mad, Washu," he said confidently. "No one who could oppose me would be so weak as to lose hold of their sanity."

"It's not always about strength," Washu pointed out. "But no, I'm not mad. That doesn't mean I'm prepared to come quietly."

Dr. Clay frowned. Something was wrong. Then he realized what it was. Out of the corner of his eye, he could still see Washu's energy saber at his throat. He could, however, no longer feel its searing heat at his neck.

"Zero, search the room!" he called, turning around to see a small doll of Washu behind him. There was a crash to his side, and he turned to see the real Washu hacking through Zero with her real saber. He waved his hand in the air. His ring, bearing his logo, moved with his hand in a precise pattern, and two Zeros came out of the floor as Washu turned on him.

Dr. Clay's vessel Shunga, on which Dr. Clay, Washu, and the two Zeros were aboard, was rapidly moving towards a rendezvous with Lady Tokimi. Ryo-ohki kept up the chase easily, but Kiyone's patrol ship Yagami was nearly at its top speed and having difficulty keeping pace.

Under other circumstances, Kiyone would've called in backup, but in this remote region of space, none would arrive in time. All she could do was send a transmission in the direction of Galactic Police Headquarters telling them what had happened.

The Shunga began firing at them some minutes after the chase began. Kiyone recognized the firing pattern- it was a standard automated defense pattern. A computer had been loaded with a program to rapidly fire its lightest guns, rapidly changing aim so that they swept a large area of space. In this way, it could keep clear the surrounding area. Kiyone fell back slightly to keep out of weapons range, but maintained speed and pursuit. Ryo-ohki used its maneuverability to avoid most of the blasts and hover near Shunga.

On the bridge of Ryo-ohki, Tenchi frowned and clenched his fists. Ayeka observed the screen calmly, but her war paint accentuated the dangerous look in her eyes. Ryoko was standing, staring at the screen as if concentrating very hard.

"Ryoko, would it be safe to shoot back at him?" Tenchi inquired. "Maybe at some part of the ship far from wherever Washu is on that ship?"

She shook her head, "We could, but it's not the problem. My mom," she pronounced the last word sarcastically, "is having to fight off a bunch of Zeros. He's probably manufacturing them somewhere on board."

Ayeka understood immediately: "So even if we disabled Dr. Clay's ship, the Zeros would've had enough time to kill Washu."

Tenchi's eyes grew large, and he exclaimed, "Then we need to teleport after her, and help her!"

"Quite right," Ryoko said, putting an arm around Tenchi's shoulders. Ryoko looked back at Ayeka and said, "You hold the fort."

Ayeka crossed in front of them as she said angrily, "You were saying just a few minutes ago that Ryo-ohki was your partner! I don't have the experience to work with Ryo-ohki!"

Kiyone hailed Ryo-ohki and said to them, "We need a strategy."

Ryoko looked unconcernedly at the small, two-dimensional image of Kiyone that had appeared as part of the communication. Ryoko shrugged and said, "Ayeka, Tenchi, and I are teleporting to the bridge of Shunga. We'll bring you back Dr. Clay, and you can take him to jail."

They teleported away using Ryo-ohki's powers before Kiyone could exclaim, "That's not a strategy!"

Kiyone grumbled at the screen. Ryo-ohki was now using her own initiative to return fire on Shunga. It looked like Ryo-ohki was trying to disable the engines. Kiyone thought through her options and decided on the only one that made sense. She used Ryo-ohki's attack as a distraction so that she could move closer to Shunga.

Dr. Clay frowned as he saw three more people teleport onto the bridge. He cursed softly, glad he had already summoned two more Zeroes. There were four Zeros in the room, and one of him, and four opponents. The odds were in his favor already, and now he simply needed to increase them further. He waved his hand again, summoning two more Zeros for a total of six.

Seeking to end the fight quickly, Ryoko quickly teleported to behind Dr. Clay and stabbed at his back. One of the Zeros managed to react just fast enough to intercept the stab with its chest near the right shoulder. It raised its left arm and fired at Ryoko, who phased out, allowing the blast to pass harmlessly through her, then demolished the Zero. Ryoko saw Dr. Clay drawing his blaster at her and- Ryoko swore.

The two Dr. Clays facing her smirked condescendingly as they fired their blasters at Ryoko. Ryoko barely dodged the blasts while swearing even further. Dr. Clay not only had at least one Zero impersonating himself, he evidently had a handheld blaster of the same type as the Zeros had built into their arms, so she couldn't tell them apart by their weapons.

Tenchi was still on the other side of the room, fighting an onslaught of dun-colored Zeros. He managed to destroy one, but in the next second the robots around him had turned into replicas of Washu, Ayeka, and Ryoko. Since they were all attacking him, he was fairly sure they were hostile. Or were they his friends who had gotten confused and thought he was a Zero impersonating himself?

He wondered how to certainly identify his friends. Ayeka had started out right beside him, but what with robots coming up through the floor and the general chaos of battle, he wasn't sure of her exact position moment to moment. Given time, he could probably use the same techniques as before to distinguish her. There was unfortunately not much time, as the room was a melee of duplicates and triplicates hacking and blasting madly at almost anything in sight. He found himself fighting three to four opponents at once, new Zeros taking place of the old. At least none of the opponents he'd destroyed had turned out to be his friends.

Kiyone ordered Yagami to launch the boarding charge at point-blank range. The shaped explosive flew through space and created a localized rupture in Shunga's hull, one meter in radius. One second later, Yagami violently collided with Shunga- Kiyone had been forced to come in fast to avoid the Shunga's fire. Yagami would be safe now- it was too close to the hull for the weapons to reach.

The hull sensors on Yagami confirmed that she had managed to collide their vessels so that Yagami's airlock matched with the hole she had just created. They also confirmed that the corridors were too small for her mecha- she'd have to do this on foot. Kiyone rapidly went through the airlock, blaster drawn.

Her unexpected entry, and the fact that she hadn't used the actual docking bay, meant that she wouldn't have to deal with any defenses in the docking bay, and she assumed she had a few minutes before any person or automated system could reach her. She'd have to use those moments well.

Dr. Clay was angry and frightened. He'd never thought his bridge could be penetrated so easily, and now it was full of warriors. The report hadn't suggested they'd fight this hard to get Washu back- they barely knew her!

Why did everyone care so much about Washu? Lady Tokimi wanted her, these people wanted her, why? She was gifted, true, but in a galaxy this large, talented scientists and researchers could always be found.

He was starting to get sick of this. He'd wanted revenge, but beyond that and Washu's worth to Lady Tokimi, he had no interest in her. All Dr. Clay wanted was to rule the galaxy as Lady Tokimi had offered him, if he brought back Washu. Washu hardly seemed worth a galaxy to him, and ordinarily he would've been suspicious of so high a price, but the offer was too tempting for him to refuse.

The Zeros weren't performing as expected, and he'd finally figured out why. He hadn't yet included the modification that gave them partial regenerative abilities. That had only been a prototype innovation included on the first Zero. For the moment, however, they served their purpose; he'd simply have to create more of them for his present needs.

He turned as he heard an alarm coming from his chair, and gasped as he quickly scanned a small screen in its armrest. Ryo-ohki was seconds away from disabling his engines. He'd be dead in space soon.

It was time to go to his backup plan. He reached forward and pressed a button on his chair, then motioned with his hand to summon two more newly created Zeros to the bridge.

His scowl grew as he scanned the room but saw no new forms coming out of the floor.

Kiyone panted as she yanked her tonpher, a knifelike weapon, out of the sheath she had hidden up her sleeve, and threw it at the oncoming Zero. The tonpher's blade buried itself in the middle of the Zero's ovoid head. The Zero collapsed to the ground, flailing its mechanical limbs and firing its blaster wildly. This tripped the Zero beside it, causing its blast at Kiyone to go wide.

Swinging her yoyo in a complex pattern, Kiyone hit the standing Zero at several spots which experimentation on the previous pairs of Zeros had indicated was the most vulnerable to direct attack. The robot stumbled and was caught in several blasts from its convulsing partner, and it fell to the ground on top of it. Kiyone caught her yoyo, ducked back into cover in the form of a perpendicular hallway, then rolled back towards the fallen robots, swung her yoyo and barely snagged the flailing blaster arm of the convulsing Zero. She pulled the arm down so the intermittent blasts were directed into the flooring and stepped forward, pulling her tonpher out of the robot's face, then hurried forward to the door the two robots had emerged from moments ago. She grimaced as she ran- an earlier pair of Zeros had grazed her ribcage with a blaster, while the other had clubbed her and probably at least bruised her forearm, and possibly broken it.

Kiyone had been following the trail of Zeros backwards, hoping to find their source, and had been attacked by a few, like the two she had just disabled, that found her before she managed to hide.

With relief, Kiyone used a quick glimpse to verify that she had indeed reached the source of Zeros. The grenade that she threw inside shortly thereafter destroyed most of the automated blasters mounted inside the room to defend it, and the blast damaged the optical sensors of those remaining enough that they shut down. The machine creating the Zeros was further in, and Kiyone risked entering the room and studying it a few moments to be sure of how to shut it down. She allowed herself a grin, for it was a complex process- therefore one with multiple points of failure, therefore one with multiple possibilities for sabotage.

Using snap judgment, she chose her target. She located the machine which dispensed the most volatile chemical compound used in creating the Zeros. Kiyone used her yoyo to strike at the distribution pipe and her other hand on its control panel, ordering it to send its materials faster. Her strike at the pipe didn't do as much damage as she'd hoped because her injured arm protested, but it had set off vibration sensors in the pipe. The dispenser's control system reacted with alarm to the pipe vibration and dangerous command, and shut the system down. Without the supply of the compound, the entire manufacturing process ground to halt. Slowly the air filled with alarm sounds as individual machines complained that they did not have the materials necessary to perform their part in making new Zeros.

She opened the door, then ducked as green beams came at her from a floating cloud of about a dozen small octopus-like robots which fired more green beams at her. She drew her blaster and fired from the hip a few times before ducking away from them, gaining cover from the wall beside the door. She had done all of that on sheer reaction, without a single thought. They came through the door, and she swung her yoyo at them, destroying them all, but one managed to blast her leg. It didn't prevent her from walking, she found as she tested it with gritted teeth, but it did prevent running. Kiyone wondered how many more small clouds she would survive.

Ayeka began to feel faintly disturbed that it was now so easy to hack through the likenesses of even herself and Lord Tenchi. She noted with grim satisfaction that there were no longer replacements for each Zero- the tide was turning in their favor.

There was the faint sound of an explosion from somewhere far behind them. Washu defeated the Zero next to her and announced, "Your engines are disabled, Dr. Clay. Give up or we might kill you without even realizing it."

The five Dr. Clays standing near his chair continued to hold their blasters at the ready and occasionally fired at Ryoko, who hovered near them, trying to discern some difference between them. She disabled one of them, but the other four maintained the same condescending smirk.

Sometimes the Dr. Clays would fire at other people in the crowd. Tenchi realized that they must be firing at the real persons, not the Zeros, and managed to defeat the last few Zeros near him with that information.

Ayeka had also worked free. Together, she, Washu, Ryoko, and Tenchi, stormed the only enemies standing, the four Dr. Clays. The battle was over in seconds.

"What does this mean?" Ayeka asked Washu, looking at the four ruined Dr. Clays about them. They appeared to be four demolished Zeros, not the organic beings she had anticipated. "Was there ever a real Dr. Clay?"

"There was once," Washu said cautiously. With more certainty she replied, "Yeah, the one I was talking too was too good to be an AI. So..." she trailed off, looking at the chair. She tapped at its controls, reading its readouts, getting a sense of how layer/antilayer ship design had matured since she and Kagato had pioneered it in Souja.

The bridge was actually part of the ship's layer to avoid entrapment in the bizarre world of the antilayer. It was surrounded in antilayer so as to make it hard to scan from afar. The transition between layer and antilayer- that explained why the Zeros kept coming up through the floor. The Zeros marched from the place where they were made, through the antilayer, and then onto the layer of the bridge. Washu herself had been able to teleport directly onto the bridge because it was in real space, but the Zeros and other physical objects went from the main layer of the ship, through the antilayer, onto the layer of the bridge.

The ship design journals she'd perused in the past few weeks had indicated that only the very rich could afford this new innovation. There was another feature mentioned in those journals, and Washu found it in a few moments more. It was possible to hide an escape pod in the antilayer which would launch into real space. Dr. Clay had escaped in that fashion some moments ago, using his duplicates as cover. Washu sucked in her breath as she made an intuitive leap, and checked the power generator status to confirm it.

Washu's voice was oddly calm as she announced, "Dr. Clay escaped a few minutes ago in a pod. He's rigged the power generators to destroy the ship in a short time. Don't worry, Ryo-ohki can survive the blast. Only problem is, we're not on Ryo-ohki."

"Then let us teleport onto Ryo-ohki!" Ayeka exclaimed.

"We did, observant brat," Ryoko said sarcastically. They were indeed now aboard Ryo-ohki. Tenchi and Ayeka stared at her. Somehow, they both had the impression that Ryoko was angry, not at Ayeka, but at someone else.

"Can Ryo-ohki see Dr. Clay's escape pod?" Tenchi asked Ryoko urgently.

"We're on it," Ryoko said in a calm voice, noting the stares. Ryo-ohki meowed in anticipation and raced after the small, fleeing pod.

Kiyone hauled herself aboard Yagami and quickly shut both airlock doors. She scrambled into her seat, wondering only for a moment why Ryo-ohki was leaving quickly. Readings from the Shunga indicated it would soon be destroyed.

She received a message from Ryoko: "I told you that we'd bring back Dr. Clay."

Kiyone responded as she moved away from Shunga at top speed, "I'm a Galactic Police officer. It should've been my job."

"Your duty might've killed you," Ryoko snarled. "This one was too big for you."

"Now hang on," Tenchi said calmingly in the background. "Ryoko, you shouldn't say things like that. Kiyone, you were the one who shut down all the Zeros, weren't you?"

"I did," Kiyone said, feeling both defensive and stubbornly proud.

"Thank you, Kiyone," Tenchi told her. "That was a big help to us."

"You're quite welcome." Some of her tension returned as she asked, "Where's Dr. Clay? And Ayeka?"

Ayeka's voice came through as she explained, "We intercepted Dr. Clay's escape pod. I have been restraining him. He should be ready for transport whenever you wish."

Kiyone nodded and responded, "Please take him with you to Earth. Mihoshi and I will take custody of him there, and one of us will ensure he arrives at a Galactic Police base."

Ayeka agreed and added, "The house of Jurai is very grateful to you for shutting down the source of Zeros."

Kiyone was going to respond to that, but she heard Ryoko snapping at Ayeka, "Hm, very grateful, blah blah blah. What would we have told Mihoshi if Kiyone'd gotten herself killed?"

Uncertain what to say, Kiyone simply signed off.

Mihoshi had once described Kiyone as a perfectionist, hating to leave anything half done. Apparently she was right, because Kiyone hated the fact that hadn't been able to finish the mission.

Next Chapter

A crowd of paparazzi surrounds Kiyone as she exits the soundstage, snapping pictures. Others shove microphones at her and ask questions even as she shoulders her way through the crowd.

"Is it true that rivalry with Ryoko drives you both to violence on the set?" one asks.

"How long does this fanfiction go?" another bellows over the other questions.

"Will any characters die in the next chapter?" another shouts.

"What are the secret ingredients in Sasami's cooking?" a woman yells.

Kiyone pulls out a pocket Galactic Police bullhorn and uses it to announce, "I'm bound by a confidentiality agreement, please direct all questions to the author."

Dragonwiles ambles forward and announces, "I'm afraid I can't comment on most of those matters. I need to preserve suspense. I can reveal that winged monkeys will not be making an appearance in the next chapter." He adds in an undertone, "I hope."

The paparazzi stare agape at Dragonwiles.

Kiyone's now clear of reporters and making a dash to Yagami in the parking lot. Dragonwiles finishes covering her escape by announcing, "I can also tell you that the next chapter is 'No Need For Information.'" The paparazzi surrounds Dragonwiles, begging for more details, while Yagami lifts off unnoticed.

Continuity with Dragonwiles

Dragonwiles reposes in state in the library of his lair. Looking up from his book, he greets, "Welcome to this special segment, in which I give a few brief continuity notes."

"The tonpher is actually a weapon for giant mecha from Dual: Parallel Trouble Adventure, another anime made by AIC, the same studio which made Tenchi. I assume that the tonpher is a sort of knife. I of course, for the purposes of this fanfiction, made it into a weapon that a humanoid can use."

"In the OVA, there was only ever one Zero, and I don't think it had even prototype abilities to regenerate limbs. Also, it may or may not have had a blaster of the same sort that Dr. Clay wielded."

"I also made up the part where the Shunga has a bridge surrounded by an antilayer, and the idea that layer/antilayer design is becoming more common in spaceships."

"Finally, I made a few edits to this chapter after its original posting, clarifying that, given time Tenchi would've been able to distinguish Ayeka, not 'him' as I mistakenly wrote, and that Washu used controls on Dr. Clay's chair to determine that the Shunga was about to blow up, and wasn't just making some great intellectual leaps."

Chapter 31 Main Chapters Chapter 33