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Chapter 38 Main Chapters Chapter 40

No Need For Mines

Gohgei, a giant dude in a robe with a bald head, smiles cheerfully and says to the audience, "Greetings, my name is Gohgei, and I'm a wanderer. This next chapter introduces me, but before we get to that, I'm going to be your DJ for the chapter's opening theme song. You know, that reminds me of a time that I met a DJ. I suppose he wasn't quite like what the people of Earth usually think of as a DJ.

"In his particular culture, you see, a DJ was expected to not only play songs of others, but regularly compose his own music and perform it as well. I haven't told you though, their particular music was unique. It involved periods of silence lasting for minutes, but also simple auditory recordings of nature that would last for hours.

"Now, when I met this DJ, I asked him why his people considered that a unique composition of his, and his answer surprised me, he said that it wasn't, and that was precisely the point. Of course, I was confused, so I asked..."

The travelers slipped into a geosynchronous orbit over Yatsuka's Hielzen S mines. These mines were the main source of wealth for the planet. A small city, the largest on Yatsuka, had consequently sprung up nearby, becoming the center of culture and government. The palace of the planet's lord, Lord Ohsa, was situated just outside the city.

"All right," Ryoko said impatiently, "let's get down there and find out whatever there is to find out."

"Wait just a moment," Ayeka said. "Ryoko, you are a notorious criminal-"

Ryoko crossed her arms, "My file has been wiped. I'm as pure as the driven snow."

"But you are still very well-known," Ayeka pointed out. "It would impede our investigation if we were to attract curiosity, or bounty hunters."

Ryoko laughed. "You and your sisters are princesses of the galaxy-spanning Juraian empire! Everyone knows the two of you by sight! You two rule this planet and thousands more! I think you two are the ones who will cause a fuss."

Ayeka subsided. Galling as it was, Ryoko might actually be correct.

Kiyone pointed out, "This isn't a very heavily populated system, and it's fairly far from major galactic cultural influences. There aren't many people who will gawk, and anyone who does recognize the princesses will probably try to help them, not annoy them. I don't think we'll encounter too many problems."

"But we are trying to be circumspect," Asahi reminded them. "I think it might be best if we were to try to don some sort of disguise."

Tenchi wondered to himself if this was really necessary.

"Ooh, I've got an idea!" Mihoshi suggested excitedly. "We could pretend to be mad scientists who want to experiment on Hielzen S! Washu will be the evil genius," Mihoshi grabbed Washu by the shoulders and pulled her forward, "and Kiyone and I will be her assistants!"

Washu, trying to decided whether she was complimented or insulted, commented, "Genius I understand, but why exactly did you qualify me as evil?"

Asahi said nervously, "This wasn't what I intended."

"Why do we even listen to Mihoshi?" Ayeka murmured to herself.

"Now, ooh, I know!" Mihoshi squealed. "Ryoko is Washu's faithful alien friend, and Ayeka can be the head accountant for Washu. Sasami and Asahi are Washu's grandchildren."

"We don't look like Washu!" protested Sasami.

"You can wear a wig!" Mihoshi suggested bouncily.

"But I don't like wigs!" Sasami protested, putting her hands on her hips.

"And Tenchi can be our bodyguard!" Mihoshi concluded excitedly.

"Really?" Tenchi said diffidently. This whole scheme seemed out of control to him.

"Yeah, you can wear sunglasses and a microphone like they do on Earth TV!" Mihoshi suggested. "That'd be cool."

Tenchi pointed out, "Mihoshi, I don't have any sunglasses."

Ryoko started to walk away, "This isn't gonna work. Let's just go."

"Oh, really?" Mihoshi sniffed. She began to tear up.

Kiyone shook her head. Why had she thought Mihoshi might begin to behave normally on this trip?

Washu clapped Mihoshi on the back and told her, "Hey, don't worry, Mihoshi! A genius can fix all of these problems!"

"Little Washu, that really isn't necessary," Ayeka said diplomatically.

"I would feel more comfortable in a disguise," Asahi said. "I would not want Tatetsuki's henchmen to learn of my location. We are Father's only hope. So, if you think this is best, Washu, please assist us."

"I was hoping you'd say that!" Washu said in triumph. "Just leave it to the genius!" She cackled as she rubbed her hands together.

Tenchi adjusted his sunglasses to keep out the harsh glare of the sun, then rubbed the back of his neck with a handkerchief to try to keep down the perspiration. A suit wasn't really the best attire for a dry, warm climate like this, he reflected. Yeah, it was amazing that Washu had fabricated sunglasses, an earpiece and microphone, and a tailored black suit in under an hour from materials aboard Mimasaka, but it was hard to appreciate that when it was this hot out.

Sasami remarked in an irritated tone, "You're lucky, Tenchi. This wig is itchy all over." She was wearing a vibrant red wig, matched exactly to Washu's hair color, and children's playclothes. Though infantilizing, they were at least practical for a warm climate.

"Yeah, well, at least your clothes breathe," Tenchi said quietly.

Asahi remarked, "I hadn't realized it would be quite this hot out." She fanned herself with a gaudy fan that Washu had also fabricated, to match the gaudily fashionable teenage attire that Washu had made for her. In the back of her mind, Asahi hoped desperately that no one would recognize her. She almost lifted up her red wig to cool herself, thinking it was a hat, and only barely remembered in time.

Just behind them were Ayeka and Ryoko, with Ryo-ohki hopping beside Ryoko. Ayeka was wearing a dark and rather nondescript business suit favored by many accountants in more settled regions of the galaxy. Ayeka felt as though its dark fabric were retaining every joule of heat that the sun was pouring out. She looked up, but there were still no clouds in the sky that might offer some temporary relief.

Ryoko already matched nearly exactly the ambiguous role of "faithful alien friend" that Mihoshi had suggested. To heighten the effect, and prevent her being recognized, Washu had fashioned a brightly colored mask which Ryoko had pronounced "garish" five seconds before Washu shoved it onto her head with a snap of the elastic band.

Further forward, Kiyone and Mihoshi were dressed in white lab coats, with dozens of pockets, each crammed with writing apparati, portable computers, and field meters for everything from soil composition to radiation levels. "Gee," commented Mihoshi, "Washu sure equips her lab assistants well." Kiyone simply observed to herself that there was a good chance that the party was now more conspicuous than before they had donned the disguises.

Washu was leading the procession, acting the part of the evil genius, wearing a white lab coat, oversized goggles, and black rubber gloves that reached beyond her elbows.

There weren't many people in this area of town, but those they did meet were giving them strange glances. Seeing these, and feeling the glares of the rest of the party directed at her back, Washu admitted, "Well, I did go a little overboard. Maybe Mihoshi was right about me being an evil genius!"

"But she is a genius!" proclaimed a small robotic duplicate of Washu which climbed onto her shoulder.

"A genius can't help this sort of thing!" proclaimed another, which climbed onto her other shoulder. A red letter "B" was emblazoned on its chest, and the other robot had a red letter "A". Washu laughed, and the two things laughed along with her.

Just then, Tenchi's stomach growled.

"Excuse me," Tenchi said, embarrassed.

Ayeka noticed a sign on a building ahead. "How fortunate," she commented, "I believe that is the first restaurant we've seen in the city. Lord Tenchi, shall we dine there?"

"Sure, if the rest of you are fine with that," Tenchi said, still somewhat embarrassed.

"I'm up for some grub!" Washu said heartily, and set off at a quick pace.

As they neared the building, Mihoshi whispered to Kiyone, "Hey, it looks like a lot of the locals eat at that place too. Maybe we can pick up some information!"

"Good thinking, Mihoshi," Kiyone affirmed. This was an encouraging sign of good detective work from Mihoshi - hopefully she wouldn't ruin it too soon.

As the group entered the restaurant, an old woman behind a counter near the door called out, "Oh! Welcome, new custom.." She caught sight of their odd outfits and paused in midword, then stammered "!" She said a bit hurriedly, "New customers! Yes, welcome, welcome! You're from offworld, eh? I can't keep up with those newest fashions!"

Ayeka, wanting to leave the topic of their clothes as soon as possible, asked politely, "May we please see the menu?"

"Oh, sure, sit out at the table and my grandson'll bring them to you," the old woman said, becoming more relaxed with a familiar topic. "Hey, we got new customers here!" she shouted behind her. "Don't keep 'em waiting!"

"Right, gramma!" said a young boy as he bustled out from the back. "Welcome, guests!" he said to the group. "Please follow me!" Kiyone saw the old woman smile at her grandson's back as they followed him to their table.

The restaurant had grown silent when the group first entered, but as the group headed to their table, the air was once again host to the conversations of many people who had known each other a long time. In the midst of the noise, Tenchi said quietly to Ayeka, "That's two embarrassing situations you've gotten us out of now. Thanks."

"Oh, not at all, Lord Tenchi," Ayeka said softly, blushing slightly at the unexpected compliment.

A few moments after being seated at their table, Asahi noticed one of the table's condiment jars and examined it with a noise of delight.

The grandson quickly brought them their menus, and a few moments later took their orders in a very eager fashion. His eyes shone brightly and curiously as he stared at them.

"So, what will we do after we eat?" Mihoshi asked the group in general.

"Is this really a safe place to discuss that?" Tenchi asked, worried about talking in public about trying to investigate the local political leader.

"You're really getting into your role!" Mihoshi clapped her hands in delight.

"Yeah, I guess," Tenchi said noncommittally, remembering that he was dressed as a bodyguard.

The young boy brought their orders, somehow managing the giant serving tray with agility and speed. Asahi gleefully slathered onto hers the condiment she had discovered earlier and the sauces that came on the side of her meal.

Ryoko swore. "Washu! My mask doesn't have a mouth hole! How am I supposed to eat anything!"

"You didn't notice that until now?" Ayeka tittered.

"Shut up!" Ryoko growled, "I bet you didn't notice either."

"Well, let's see what we can do," Washu said as the two robots jumped off her shoulders and ran towards Ryoko.

"Here's a bright idea- why don't I just take the mask off?" Ryoko protested, but the two robots had already leapt onto her face and started cheerfully working on her mask, while chorusing, "But a genius can make a great thing even better!"

Asahi asked Kiyone, "Would you please pass that jar?" Kiyone did so, and Asahi thanked her, then sprinkled its contents on her food.

The robots returned triumphantly to Washu's shoulders, then gestured grandly towards Ryoko's mask and announced, "Behold the visionary work!"

"Tenchi," Ryoko asked, "you can tell me honestly. Does this look ugly?"

"It's just a mouth hole," Tenchi said honestly, "but it seems a bit small."

"How cruel!" Ryoko pouted. "Saying I have a big mouth."

"What?" Tenchi exclaimed in surprise.

Ryoko sniffed, "But, but, it's true, isn't it. I'm just ugly, and that's all there is to it!"

"I didn't say that at all!" Tenchi said, exasperated. "All I was saying was that the hole in the mask is too small!"

Their scene was interrupted by a hush. The whole restaurant had gone quiet as several people entered the restaurant. These people were all dressed fairly similarly, in scruffy and somewhat threatening attire.

"I thought I told you hoodlums not to come back!" the old woman behind the counter shouted, throwing the vegetable she was holding into a stew.

"How can you treat us so coldly?" the leader of the newcomers asked, his condescending tone and hungry eyes giving the lie to his words. He came up to the counter and said, "We were just worried about you. Places a few streets away got robbed last night. Just wanted to be sure you weren't among the victims."

The old woman made an inarticulate noise of frustration.

"My offer still stands," the leader told her quietly, leaning towards her, over the counter. "This is a nice place you've got here. Wouldn't want to lose it, would you? Just a little favor and we can protect it for you."

Asahi gasped.

A new voice behind the hoodlums said, "Oh, my. I was looking forward to a good meal, too."

The leader whirled in place to face the newcomer. The hoodlums edged away from the door, backing slowly towards their leader.

"Hey," the leader said savagely, wearing a scowl, "what're you doing here? It's like I said last time. Don't get involved. I've got friends. They can make problems for you."

The giant man who had just entered the restaurant shrugged. "I just came in here for a nice, peaceful meal." He smiled affably, though his words held a slight edge as he inquired, "I'm sure that's all you came for, isn't it?"

"We've lost our appetite," the leader barked. As he and his men started to sidle out the door, the leader scoffed, "Besides the food here is bad."

"Oh, but we all enjoy it very much," the giant pointed out.

"You won't be grinning for long!" the leader shrieked. "I've got friends!" He stalked away, shouldering his way to the front of his gang.

At their table, Kiyone said to Asahi, "You can relax. Everything's fine for the moment."

"It's not that," she whispered back.

The old woman said to the bald giant, "Thank you, Gohgei. Oh, it makes me so mad how the magistrate just lets those criminals run wild! You used to feel safe raising children in this city!"

Her grandson almost shouted at Gohgei, "That was awesome! You were totally cool!"

"Thanks," Gohgei told him. "I only wish there was more I could do," he added regretfully, more to himself.

"Say, you haven't met the offworlders yet!" the little boy exclaimed.

Asahi began to fan herself rapidly.

"Oh?" Gohgei said, curious. He followed the little boy to the table where Tenchi and the others were sitting. "Guests," said the little boy, "please meet Gohgei, the coolest visitor we've ever had on Yatsuka!"

"It's nice to meet you," said Gohgei. He looked with an intense curiosity at Asahi, whose fan was now still and covering her face.

"Nice to meet you too, I'm Tenchi Masaki," Tenchi introduced himself.

Gohgei nodded, then craned his neck to try to see over Asahi's fan. She tilted the fan more and more, forcing him to stand on tiptoes. Finally, Gohgei both pleasantly surprised by recognition, and nonplussed by the excessive fanning, said, "Asahi, is that you?"

"I think I'm going to die!" whimpered Asahi, collapsing her fan and putting her hands to her eyes.

Tenchi and Gohgei traded surprised and embarrassed glances.

"I'm sorry, Gohgei," Asahi said after a few moments and a few deep breaths. "It's just, so mortifying, having anyone who knows me seeing me in-" she paused, "that is, looking the way I do now."

"You don't have to try to spare my feelings," Washu reassured her, "those clothes were supposed to be in bad taste."

"Washu!" Sasami exclaimed angrily, putting her arms akimbo and glaring. "You've done enough damage without saying that!"

The grandson cum waiter asked, "What's going on?"

"Beats me," Ryoko muttered to herself.

"I think everything will be all right in a while," Gohgei told him kindly, "just get me my usual, please." The boy nodded and ran off.

Gohgei then turned back to the table and said, "My apologies, Asahi, everyone. I suppose I was too caught up in trying to recognize you."

"No, no, it's quite all right. Please, sit down," Asahi asked.

Gohgei promptly took an unoccupied chair from an empty table and seated himself. "I don't believe I've met the rest of you," he said conversationally.

Washu coughed, "There is a reason why we're all dressed like this."

Sasami said quickly, "I'm Sasami, and I'm pleased to meet you."

"My name is Mihoshi, Galaxy Police Detective!" Mihoshi said cheerfully.

Kiyone put her head in her hands and moaned. What was the purpose of all this humiliation if they were going to just reveal their identities in a crowded restaurant?

Washu shrugged and announced grandiloquently, "I'm Washu, the greatest scientific genius in the universe!" Her robots, danced on her shoulders and agreed.

Ayeka decided they had attracted so much attention already that secrecy was impossible, so she said quite properly, "I am Ayeka. It is a pleasure to meet you, Gohgei."

Kiyone, trying to make the best of the situation, sat straightly and introduced herself, "I'm Kiyone." She was off-duty and theoretically on a covert mission, and didn't feel the need or desire to add her rank.

Ryoko unmasked herself and revealed with relish, "I'm Ryoko, the space pirate!"

Gohgei tensed, then looked around the table, where everyone was acting normally. He relaxed and said, "Well, it's nice to meet all of you. I don't believe I've ever been in such distinguished and varied company." He looked carefully at Ryoko, and said in a voice with an edge slightly softer than that which he had used on the thugs, "I'm going to have to be sure to hear more about your escapades, though, and why you're here now." Then he smiled at everyone and said, "But, you all probably just got here, and you'll be staying awhile, right? We'll have plenty of time to catch up!"

Asahi now inquired, "Gohgei, what have you been doing recently? We haven't heard from you in some time."

"I meant to send you all another note soon," Gohgei agreed. "But, there's not a terrible lot to tell. My galactic wanderings are still at a standstill, due to lack of funds. I'm still working as a security guard at the mines. My life here has been stable, uneventful. As you can see, crime has unfortunately picked up lately. But, not so much as to make life unbearable. How have you been, and your father, and Master Houran?"

Asahi's face fell. "Master Houran has died. And Father is in distress."

"I see," Gohgei said, an expression of shock and sorrow crossing his face. "I must apologize again. We don't get much news from Ryuten. My ignorance has pained you more. I seem to have intruded in some delicate matters."

"Oh, no, Gohgei, you couldn't have known," Asahi told him anxiously.

"Still," Ayeka put in, "it would be best to discuss this in closer company."

"I quite understand," Gohgei agreed. Just then Gohgei's food arrived. "The food here is wonderful, isn't it?" he commented, and all at the table agreed. The boy grinned as he returned to his grandmother.

"That actually does remind me of something that happened only a few days ago," Gohgei commented. "I was eating here, in this restaurant, when some of the guys were talking about the mining robots they have here. They're similar to the mining robots on Peragus - have you been to Peragus, Tenchi?"

"No, no I haven't," Tenchi chuckled ruefully - he was not very well galactically traveled even despite his recent adventures.

Gohgei nodded, then added, "Well, I should say the mining robots here on Yatsuka are similar to others in purpose, not form. The properties of Hielzen S requires many modifications from standard mining robots. I don't know much about that myself. But the guys were talking about some of the adjustments they had to make. You wouldn't believe how much overtime they work...

An Hour Later

"...and so that's why it's best to take two changes of clothes with you on any intragalactic voyage," Gohgei concluded.

"Quite," Ayeka agreed politely. To be fair, he hadn't exactly monopolized the conversation, and a lot of the past hour had been spent on his returning the friendly greetings of the other restaurant patrons. But did his story really need to be that long, she wondered? In any event, it was time to take action. Seizing on her opening, she said, "Gohgei, it was such a pleasure to meet you. If Lady Asahi finds it agreeable, perhaps we might all take a walk together." Ayeka shot Asahi a significant glance.

Asahi caught it and agreed, "Oh yes, let's. As soon as possible."

Gohgei was agreeable, and appeared perfectly composed and comprehending of the situation, while Tenchi was wondering to himself why exactly Ayeka had looked at Asahi like that.

After about half an hour more, the entire group had returned to the deserted outskirts of town where they had first set foot on Yatsuka. Asahi removed her key from concealment and grasped it tightly. It glowed in return, and suddenly all of them, including Gohgei, had been teleported aboard Mimasaka.

Gohgei was entirely unsurprised, and even looked about the onboard forest fondly. "Mimasaka still looks well," he commented. "The trees are much taller than when I was here last."

Asahi's key glowed, and she said with a shy smile, "Mimasaka says it has been too long since you've been aboard."

Tenchi felt like he understood a little better now. Somehow or another, Ayeka had been checking with Asahi whether it was alright for them to invite Gohgei onto Mimasaka. Since he had been here before, evidently Asahi and Mimasaka trusted him. So, probably that was what the glancing between Ayeka and Asahi at the restaurant was about. Wouldn't it, Tenchi wondered, have been simpler just to have whispered?

In any event, Asahi now looked at Gohgei sadly and sighed. Sasami put her arm around Asahi's shoulders, earning her a grateful glance from Asahi. Asahi finally managed to say, "Gohgei, my father has been accused of murdering Master Houran. Tatetsuki has had my father imprisoned, and he is poised to become the next royal tree carver."

"That is terrible news," Gohgei said somberly, "and I feel sorrow for your pain. Do you need my assistance?"

Asahi could only incline her head affirmatively, for she was near to tears again.

"Then I will help to see that justice is done," he told her solemnly. "I believe you've come to the right place. We can best begin to help your father from here."

As Sasami slipped off her wig with a sigh of relief, Ayeka told Gohgei, "I thank you, Gohgei, for your assistance in this matter. We have need to investigate the Hielzen S mines. Can you aid us?"

"Indeed," he agreed. "There is something worth investigating there, I am sure. And I shall help you to do it."

Next Chapter

"Next chapter we'll be sneaking into the mining complex of Lord Ohsa," Washu informs everyone.

"That raises an interesting ethical problem," Gohgei points out. "Presumably we'll be using my security guard credentials to get in. But isn't it wrong of me to let unauthorized persons into the facilities? Especially considering that it is my job to prevent that?"

"We're doing it for a good reason," Ryoko protests.

Gohgei points out with a smile, "Ah, but the ends don't justify the means. Just because Lord Ohsa is a criminal doesn't make it right for me to be a criminal."

"I think it's time for an ethics class!" Washu proclaims, putting on her professor's cap.

Sasami says to the audience, "Once we graduate, look for us in the next chapter, No Need For Incriminating Evidence!"

"My career is in a nosedive," laments Kiyone, "from detective to vigilante!"

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."

"Well, as you've probably noticed, some of the situation on Yatsuka, and a good deal about the introduction of Gohgei, have been changed from Hitoshi Okuda's manga. In the manga, Gohgei was introduced among the workers in the Hielzen S mines, who worked in nearly slavelike conditions. Instead, I have robot miners, and most of the sentients working at the mines are geologists, roboticists, security guards, accountants, etc."

"Also, in the manga, I don't believe the restaurant existed at all. And in the manga, the grandson had only just been born. The grandfather had been jailed by Lord Ohsa, whereas in my story - ooh. Where is the grandfather." Dragonwiles riffles through some scrolls and computer documents, then says a little too quickly, "Why, the grandfather works at the mines in my story! That'll work- yeah!" Dragonwiles attempts to inconspicuously enter some notes in a computer document. Dragonwiles then mutters, "Uh-oh, what did I do with the boy's parents in my story? Uh, I guess they're working in the mines too. Oh no, can't even remember what they were doing in manga."

Returning from the reverie, Dragonwiles adds, "Oh, and also, Peragus, which I had Gohgei refer to in the prelude to one of his long-winded stories, is actually a fuel mining planet from a game for the personal computer and Xbox, which is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. I do not own that game or Peragus."

Chapter 38 Main Chapters Chapter 40