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Chapter 56 Main Chapters Chapter 58

Chapter 57: No Need For Repelling Boarders

Tenchi walked into Yukinojo's lounge and was about to sit down to join Mihoshi when the program changed. An announcer appeared on the screen and said urgently, "Breaking news: the Takebes, fugitives from justice, have just incited a riot on the troubled world of Gadanta. They fled from the chaos they created, though reports are that there were only minor injuries. The Takebes are now being pursued by the Juraian fleet and Galactic Police forces."

"Is that the area where we're heading?" Tenchi asked urgently.

"Yes, but we'd better adjust course a bit now that we know their latest position," Mihoshi agreed. She called, "Yukinojo, bring up the charts again! We need a course correction."

Yukinojo's A. I. replied, "Yes, Officer Mihoshi." The hologram appeared and Mihoshi put a hand to her chin as she examined it. Tenchi guessed that somewhere on it she saw this Gadanta planet. Mihoshi glanced over at him and saw his befuddlement for the first time. "Oh, Tenchi, let me show you. See, we're here," she said, pointing to one region of the map, "where there's not anything around for awhile. And we were trying to head here," she gestured with her other hand to a place somewhat nearby, "where the Takebes were last spotted, so we can join up with them. But now we know they're leaving Gadanta," she moved her hand, "so we've got to head that way. We'll just keep to these uninhabited areas here-"

She had moved her hand again, but it was at that point that Yukinojo's A. I. exclaimed in alarm, "Officer Mihoshi, we've wandered into a passive sensor net! Contact inbound from the uninhabited planet nearby - confirmed, it's Ken-Ohki!"

Mihoshi yelled, "Oh, no!"

Kiyone, aboard the bridge of Yagami, tensed. Ken-Ohki and Nagi must've anticipated they'd pass this way, to strew a sensory net and wait in ambush. The mostly passive nature of the net meant they hadn't been able to detect it until it alerted the bounty hunters, so they had little time to try anything fancy.

Of course, Kiyone reflected, with Ryo-Ohki aboard, they didn't need much time to prepare, and indeed Ryo-Ohki had already phased out of Yukinojo's hull, morphed into spaceship form and was moving to intercept Ken-Ohki. Still, they were all within Ken-Ohki's lethal range, and were too close to get out of it anytime soon.

In that case, they'd all have to fight together. "Mihoshi," she said to her communications equipment, "let's back up Ryo-Ohki!"

"OK!" Mihoshi said eagerly. Kiyone smiled, heartened by the confidence even though she knew Mihoshi would probably panic sometime soon. Kiyone herself was only barely not panicking now.

Yukinojo and Yagami spread out behind Ryo-Ohki as she faced Ken-Ohki. He was accelerating towards them and already trading fire with Ryo-Ohki. The two cabbits, in spacecraft form, blasted at each other with beam weapons, rotating and dipping and strafing. Yukinojo and Yagami found it difficult to get firing solutions that wouldn't hit Ryo-Ohki as well, so they fired guided missiles and tried to keep themselves in formation with Ryo-Ohki.

Ken-Ohki, who, so far as Mihoshi knew, had only ever used beam weapons, launched a physical projectile. Almost as soon as it had appeared, it had closed the short distance to Yukinojo, yet there seemed to be no effect.

"Yukinojo, where'd the missile go?" she asked with urgent perplexity.

"It reached the engine room and-" Yukinojo's A. I. cut itself off to exclaim, "Losing main power!"

"Oh no!" Mihoshi screamed as she ran out of the bridge, through two rooms, and into the engine room. As the door opened, a bit of smoke billowed out, and she saw Nagi, operating a display on the main engine control panel, before ripping the panel off and shooting at the interiors.

"Yukinojo!" Mihoshi screamed as she drew her own blaster and fired at Nagi. Nagi stumbled away but took a hit to her arm, dropped the blaster and cried out in pain. Nagi pivoted and took cover behind another panel. Mihoshi moved to get a clear shot and saw Nagi reaching out with her other hand towards one of the engine's more exposed components, she had enough strength to rip it off, and-

Azaka and Kamadaki teleported into the room on either side of the engine and extended a shield around it, announcing, "Engines shielded, engines shielded!" Nagi was now running towards the far side of the engine room, where a large, black crystal protruded from the wall. Azaka and Kamadaki and Mihoshi fired on her, hitting her legs and back, and she stumbled into the crystal, which opened to admit her and then sealed up. Mihoshi realized this crystal must be Ken-Ohki's projectile, but before she fired on it, it phased through the wall, leaving the hull intact.

Kiyone saw Ken-Ohki's mysterious projectile emerge from Yukinojo, and rejoin him. Moments later, Ken-Ohki began to flee at top speed, while Ryo-Ohki gave chase. Kiyone wanted to press the attack as well, but was worried about the projectile, especially since Yukinojo wasn't changing course in any way. "Mihoshi, do you copy?" Kiyone said urgently to her comm.

Tenchi and Ayeka, and the others on Yukinojo, piled into the entryway to the engine room. They hardly noticed the lack of free space because of Mihoshi's wailing, the reduction of the lighting levels from full to emergency, and the control panel hanging on torn hinges, with melted components where it had once been. Ayeka noted grimly that Nagi had also managed a bit of minor sabotage to the engines themselves, most likely before anyone had realized she had boarded the ship.

Ayeka ordered, "Azaka, Kamadaki, scan the room!"

"No remaining intruders, Princess Ayeka," Azaka reported.

They heard the voice of Yukinojo's A. I. announcing, "Officer Kiyone is calling, Officer Mihoshi."

"Send it here," Mihoshi sniffled.

Kiyone's voice came out of the speaker, saying, "Mihoshi, do you copy?"

Mihoshi lamented, "They hit Yukinojo's engine room!"

"How bad?" Kiyone inquired, aghast. Tenchi swallowed. He didn't think he'd ever heard Kiyone sound afraid.

"Yukinojo, damage report," Mihoshi said, then sobbed as the A. I. said things that made little sense to Tenchi.

A call came in from Ryo-Ohki, and Mihoshi accepted it, but a fresh wave of sobs mostly drowned out Ryoko's demands to know if everyone was all right.

Yosho shifted behind Tenchi and said for all to hear, "We're all safe, but Yukinojo has taken serious damage."

"How soon can you fix it?" Ryoko questioned sharply. Ryo-Ohki broke off pursuit of Ken-Ohki and began to return to Yukinojo and Yagami.

"We can't!" Mihoshi whimpered.

From Yagami, Tenchi's dad asked, "Can somebody tow it?"

"Not fast enough for a clean getaway," Washi answered from the same vessel.

"Doubtless Ken-Ohki will inform the nearest planet of our presence here," Ayeka concurred.

"Should we start moving people onto Yagami and Ryo-Ohki?" Sasami suggested.

Kiyone said concernedly, "Yagami's life support can't handle many more people for an extended period of time."

Washi added, "On our current rations, I don't think Ryo-Ohki can generate enough atmosphere for too many more people." Ryo-Ohki added a disappointed meow, and was reassured, "No one's blaming anyone."

"Every minute we wait," Ryoko pointed out, "is a minute we aren't getting away from here, so we need to decide something now."

When Minagi, daughter of Lord Yakage, stood in the prison's room of release, and the last bit of paperwork was finished and the official there declared aloud that she was officially released, the parole officer waiting for her almost immediately ushered her out of the room. Minagi felt a bit disoriented about leaving the walls of the prison after so long. She had a bit of time to get used to the feeling of wind and the smell of the outdoors as they walked some distance from the prison to leave its antiteleportation shielding. As soon as they had, they were beamed aboard a Juraian space tree.

The parole officer conferred with his ship a moment while a few other Juraians stared at her. Minagi returned the stare, wanting to have some idea of just who she would be dealing with. Most of the other Juraians appeared to be wearing the livery of militias or guards of noble houses.

The first parole officer finally finished his conversation with his tree and said to her, "I am Lord Mori, one of your parole officers. May I also introduce Lord Haruhi, the other officer?" This was the only other Juraian in nobleman's robes, and he bowed slightly to her as his name was mentioned. Lord Mori continued, "We are aboard my partner Tetsuya, accompanied by Lord Haruhi's partner Umino and your Shorai." He stared at her carefully and added, "We intend to treat you well, so long as you give us the same treatment. You will spend most of your time upon Tetsuya or Umino, accompanied by our guards. As you demonstrate respect, you will be allowed more time on Shorai, again, accompanied by guards. Do you understand?"

"Yes, my lord," Minagi agreed. It was hard being a prisoner still, but the restrictions had been worse in prison, so this was an improvement.

Lord Mori and Lord Haruhi looked at each other a moment. They appeared young, Minagi suddenly realized. The duo was quite at ease with each other, but she was getting the impression that they were inexperienced in this sort of situation. That made three of them. Lord Mori finally asked, "Do you have any questions, Minagi?"

"My lord, may I please have other raiment, and leave to don it?" she asked. She was still clad in shameful prison garb.

The two looked at each other, totally taken aback. "We have none," Lord Tetsuya told her. Lord Mori added, "And we have no time to procure any."

"My lord?" Minagi said, deeply disappointed.

"We are en route currently, hoping to intercept the nearest criminals," Lord Mori said carefully. He frowned thoughtfully, apparently trying to decide how much farther to trust her, and how to proceed in the awkward situation.

Lord Haruhi, who had seemed embarrassed, seemed to light up with an idea as he suggested, "My friend, why not let her refresh herself on Shorai briefly? If you think it best, we may tell her more when we are nearer our destination."

"Yes, yes, indeed," Lord Mori agreed, relieved. "Some maids will accompany you, Minagi, to assure your good conduct. Go now."

The maids stood near at hand as she teleported over to Shorai. Just before she did so, Lord Mori removed from his robes her father Yakage's blade - the one he had worked a millennium and a half to perfect, the one he had battled Tenchi with. "I present this to you as a sign of good faith," he said, holding it out.

"I will wield it with good faith," she said, taking it reverently.

Aboard Shorai, she looked about for a moment, so glad to finally see the hills and rivers that she considered home. Her father's sword grew warm as Shorai spoke to her, "Minagi, it is so good to have you aboard once more."

"And I am glad to be with you once more, Shorai," Minagi said quietly. She swallowed, then asked, "Shorai, I'm sure you've heard how I was imprisoned, and even now am on strict parole. May I ask what sentence you labor under?"

Shorai said seriously, "Lady Tsunami remanded me to Lord Tenju for judgment. He determined that I should be allowed to travel only within the zones nearest to Jurai."

Minagi swallowed. Such a hard restriction on a space tree which loved to travel, and such loneliness as Shorai must have felt - "I am sorry. This all happened because I failed to win the battle for us."

"I do not blame you," Shorai reassured her. "And though it is a hard sentence, I can still aid the Empire, since the traitors have come so close to Jurai."

One of the maids watching Minagi cleared her throat discreetly. Remembering herself, "Shorai, I have been allowed here to refresh myself, but I don't know how much longer I may stay. I suppose I must rest while I can."

"I've made your old rooms ready," Shorai told her proudly.

"Thank you," Minagi said gratefully. She and the maids began to walk towards the buildings as she asked further, "Do you happen to have any of my garments? I would rid myself of these shameful clothes as soon as possible."

"I have some of your training outfits," Shorai considered.

"That will do quite well," Minagi said eagerly. "The familiarity will be encouraging, and they will be suited to my quest."

Meanwhile, aboard Mimasaka, Yume was preparing a remedy for Gohgei. She was doing it in Asahi's presence, whether to reassure the young lady Takebe as to her new good intentions, or for company, was unsaid. Yume continued her explanation to Asahi, "And this herb, it's got the liquid in the center, you see, plenty of bacteria growing in that fluid. It's meant to feed the plant, and actually the bacteria will provide some useful compounds for feeding the plant too. The bacteria are good for Gagutians, too, strangely enough, so hopefully enough of them will get into Gohgei so they'll win over the bad ones."

Asahi nodded. In truth, she cared more about whether Gohgei would be getting better soon, or at all, than the intricacies of the herbs she had purchased on Gadanta. Still, she concentrated on Yume's words, so as not to be rude, and to focus her thoughts on something productive.

Lord Takebe twirled his beard around his finger as he thought. He was carefully trying to think about almost anything other than whether Gohgei would recover, such as whether he should take up Takashima's offer of shaving the tangled mess of hair closer to his chin and starting over.

Letting go of that thought, he returned to a more serious concern. The fleet that had been trailing them since Gadanta was traveling at its top sustainable speed, as had Mimasaka. Mimasaka would not be overtaken, but neither could she escape their view. Lord Takebe was sure that eventually their pursuers would be able to coordinate with a fleet ahead of them, so that Mimasaka would be boxed in. Somehow, they had to avoid that. The first step would be to make sure that their pursuers could no longer see them. If they could break the line of sight, then their pursuers would not be able to tell any fleets ahead of them where they were, and they be neither boxed in, nor pursued. There was an area of space ahead that wreaked havoc with even the best sensors. However, that region was a well-known navigation hazard in one of the most civilized parts of the galaxy, so their foes had to anticipate that move.

Mimasaka alerted him to a fleet ahead. It was too late. Now they would either have to fight or be captured.

Yume ran to join him, apparently similarly warned. "Can we take the ships ahead?" she asked.

"There's only three, so it is possible but unlikely," he said seriously. "All will depend on our breaking through the fleet ahead of us."

"That doesn't sound like good odds," Yume said suspiously. "We're still at high storming levels, right? Between that and my sensor ghosts, they probably can't hit us enough to stop us."

"They'll be expecting that now," Lord Takebe disagreed. "They'll probably adopt firing patterns to sweep general areas. Without Light-Hawk Wings extended, we'll take serious damage, too serious to keep from being caught."

"But you can't use Light-Hawk Wings without going to lower storming levels," Yume sighed.

"Our best possibility is the most unexpected," Lord Takebe said seriously. "The lead ship is Tetsuya - I worked on him often." He called up a hologram of the space tree and pointed to one section. "The antiteleportation shielding node is here, fairly deep within the trunk. However, if you can get past the Light-Hawk Wings, and your weapons can burn through the bark, you can strike it down. Then you'll be able to teleport in and strike at its motion roots."

"Ah, its engines," Yume translated his technical term.

Lord Takebe nodded quickly. "Indeed. That should confuse them enough to get us to the -"

"To the sensor interference hazard, yes!" Yume clapped. "I like it. You can count on me and my Shimas, if you can keep them occupied."

"Mimasaka and I will do our best," he promised.

Mimasaka approached Tetsuya at full speed. Just before they reached weapons range, Mimasaka suddenly moved slightly from the course she had been on, just as she lowered her storming levels and extended her Light-Hawk Wings. This meant that she was now at a slightly different place than Tetsuya was expecting from her previous striaght course, so the first volley of himself and his fellows was off, while hers was true. His own Light-Hawk Wings caught it, and were moderately weakened. A moment later, he realized that a small vessel had used the opportunity to pass his bow and move to his side - ordinarily, his Wings would've tracked the vessel and blocked its path, but they had been rotated to defend against Mimasaka's blast. Tetsuya began firing his point-defense cannons, noting that the vessel lurked just behind his port beam. He felt the expected pain as the vessel began to blast at his hull, and surprisingly effectively. Shorai, who was on his port side, came in closer to lend support with its own point-defense weapons, as he and Tetsuya and Umino traded volleys with Mimasaka. As the distance between them and the oncoming Mimasaka closed, they slowed, then reversed their motion but kept their prows pointed towards Mimasaka, keeping pace with her, keeping her boxed in, and keeping up their attack on her.

The small vessel was bobbing and weaving and wearing away at his bark distressingly well. Tetsuya wondered why it was fixated there instead of making the foreigner's usual mistake of going after the engines or Light-Hawk Wing generators. It was almost as though it was after the -

Tetsuya shouted its realization at Lord Mori, "Prepare to repel boarders!"

A moment later, his bark was overcome, but he'd been anticipating that, and despite the pain, he put up a forcefield to keep the wind inside himself and the blasters out - that'd hold long enough, Mimasaka's Wings were starting to wear down. If only Mimasaka weren't wasting her valiance on treason! Tetsuya managed another hit with the point-defense cannons on the small vessel, but it also was only a glancing blow.

The small vessel then shot out a canister, and Tetsuya wasn't able to reinforce the forcefield in time to stop solid objects from entering. The canister turned out to be full of something that felt like acid, and he moaned in extended pain. As his anti-teleportation shielding was eaten away, he saw inside himself that three beings had teleported in, and he gave the coordinates of the intruders to his Juraian partners. He'd have to focus on the battle outside for now.

Yume and Hishima and Mushima were ready the moment they teleported aboard Tetsuya, and it was well that they were, for almost at once Juraians teleported in. Yume's saber shone briefly before she plunged it into foes, as Hishima in his Gagutian form and Mushima in his own deadly form battled the other Juraians. They prevailed, and quickly turned towards the engines - motion roots, they were truly named, for they did look like great, coiling roots. Yume had a syringe ready, full of a large dose of sedative for Gagutians, in case Gohgei had needed surgery. She wasn't sure what it might wreak on Tetsuya, but she hoped it at least would slow it down. The roots were gargantuan, and were bound in the turf also, so that their weapons would not do much in the short time they had.

They were nearly within reach of the roots, but this time they heard the sound of teleportation before and behind them. Before them was only one person, but behind them were many Juraians. Yume frowned - the person before them looked similar to Ryoko, but there was something different, almost Juraian about her. There were also large lightning designs or scars on her cheeks.

"I am Minagi, daughter of Lord Yakage," the new arrival announced.

"That's nice," Yume said impatiently, wishing they could just get on to fighting or disabling the ship instead of going through some sort of Juraian honor protocol.

Minagi appeared miffed by this impoliteness, and announced grandly, "Now see how the fires of vengeance fuel me!"

Yume was planning a sarcastic snort, but there wasn't really time, since Minagi moved quickly and swung fiercely with her saber. Yume parried it, barely, but in another moment Minagi had teleported behind her, and Yume had to duck to dodge that blow. She rolled forward and to her feet, turning as she did so, only to find Minagi firing energy bolts at her. This wasn't going well. At least Hishima and Mushima were fending off the other Juraians. She hated to think , though, what might happen if Minagi chose to attack them at this moment, since they had their backs turned to her.

It was probably that thought, more than any other, that encouraged Yume to charge Minagi, although she made sure to try and add unpredictable dodges and jumps to the charge so as not to offer an easy target. Almost when she had reached her, Minagi flew slightly off the ground and hung there as she slashed downward.

Yume had much practice battling people taller than her, so she was ready with not just a parry, but a risky counterattack, in which she disengaged from Minagi's sword and stabbed at her legs. Minagi phased through this attack, then traveled forward, through Yume, turned, and solidified and struck again. Yume had managed to turn as well, to block this attack. Yume tried an attack of her own, but this time Minagi parried it.

Hishima and Takashima were now to Yume's side and facing only three opponents, but still in danger. They were back to back. Hishima made a sudden strike at the Juraian facing him, felling the man. Hishima then looked at Minagi and said, "If you fight for vengeance, you will dishonor the one you fight for."

That wasn't really something that either Yume or Minagi had expected. She moved forward, but in an incredible display of discipline, attacked Yume instead of Hishima. Yume barely blocked this attack. Yume ducked under the next attack, and, remaining half-crouched, swiftly scooted under the levitating feet of Minagi. Minagi pivoted and prepared to fire on her. Hishima and Takashima had felled the last of their foes, and so Hishima sprang up at Minagi, so she had to turn back to face him. He managed to catch her sword arm before she could strike too severely at him, though he groaned as his chest was grazed by the energy blade. Meanwhile, Yume reached the roots. She put her hand to bark, confirming that it was too tough and dense for the syringe. She then stabbed with her energy saber. It made only a shallow hole, since she had not held the blade long, but she stuck in the syringe and injected, hoping it would get in far enough.

The roots were large, but also complex and full of energy for propelling faster than light a massive Juraian space tree. The foreign substance interfered with the complex fields and flows, and the injection wracked Testsuya with pain, causing him to lose focus. He slowed to a standstill as he felt his insides searing. Yume and the Shimas hurriedly teleported out.

Shorai was frustrated, but kept it in check. She should've realized the smaller vessel would've tried something like that, but she, like everyone else, had expected the fugitives to react with panic rather than initiative. Doubtless the fugitives had been staking all their hopes on disabling Tetsuya and throwing them into confusion, and they had succeeded.

Shorai had not seen much battle in the seven centuries she spent with Lord Yakage and Minagi outside known space, but she was older than Tetsuya and Umino, and felt some obligation to have looked after them better than she had.

She had a sudden thought for a counteroffensive, one that pleased her, especially since Mimasaka had been targeting her while Minagi was too occupied with battle to generate her Light-Hawk Wings. While Umino slowed to a stop to help guard Tetsuya, and Mimasaka sped up to pass them, Shorai accelerated towards Mimasaka. As they passed, she turned and began to fire upon Mimasaka's broadside. Shorai imagined she could hear Mimasaka's painful shouts. Quickly, however, Lady Asahi Takebe, generating Mimasaka's Wings, shifted them from their usual position at the prow to the broadside, where they blocked the worst of the blasts, then the stern as Mimasaka finally cleared them.

Lord Tohru, leader of the expedition that had pursued Mimasaka from Gadanta, sighed. The reinforcements he had called for had been defeated, and Mimasaka was sailing beyond their grasp, and almost certainly on a course for the navigation hazard. It would be much more troublesome to maintain pursuit if they reached it. Perhaps there would be yet other reinforcements they could call on, or perhaps Mimasaka would be forced to slow down due to her injuries.

Honda, Lord Tohru's space tree, informed him with surprise, "There is an urgent call for you from Gadanta, on a governmental channel. It's from a magistrate!"

Lord Tohru felt dread grip him. What had their search parties done in the open marketplaces? The reports just before they hurriedly left had suggested that the crowds were close to rioting. He asked Honda to accept the call, and looked at the hologram of the man forming before him.

"I am Magistrate Inari from Gadanta," the man said. He was sitting in an office, and wearing a judge's robes. "I have several of your men in custody, in connection with recent riots. Return to the planet at once to give a statement."

The lord balled his fists. So there had been a riot, after all. "My lord, we are members of the Juraian fleet in active pursuit of dangerous criminals. You have my word that we shall return in due time."

"You will return at once, or you shall face charges yourself," the magistrate said sternly.

The lord seethed inwardly. However, the magistrate was quite clearly serious. There was no way of knowing whether the charges would stick, but any legal proceeding was a serious business. In addition to that, he did hate the thought of leaving one of his vassal's men in custody. That vassal, Lord Kiseki, had already asked if he himself could return. Further, the lord had decided he simply would not be the one to start another interstellar incident on Gadanta. Clearly, if there was any way to maneuver himself and his men out of this hazardous legal space, he'd have to do a lot of explaining and negotiating, and that was often best done face to face.

The lord grasped his key and said to his space tree, "Lord Kiseki and I will return to Gadanta to answer this summons, and work to recover Lord Kiseki's men. Sir Kaien will lead this expedition's pursuit of the fugitives. Please connect me to the rest of the fleet so I can tell them, and then we'll broadcast our best guess of the fugitives' heading to the nearest bases."

Ken-Ohki frowned at Nagi as she lay in the hospital bed.

"Did I hover this badly when you were on the mend?" Nagi asked him aloud. She made her tone report that this was rhetorical, although a part of her wondered if she had annoyed Ken-Ohki. She had intentionally kept a distance so he wouldn't be annoyed.

"I am simply disappointed in myself. I thought I could do more with the boarding crystal, but it was too hard to perceive your battle and mine," he answered gruffly.

"It's like I always say," Nagi said calmly, "when we do our best, there's no need for blame. Your idea for the boarding crystal was brilliant. They're almost certain to be caught, and if not, they're down a ship. Justice will catch up with them. Maybe even we can catch up to them, if I can make myself rest like I ought. We'll get those traitors yet."

Nagi pursed her lips. She could sense Ken-Ohki's thoughts, and that Ken-Ohki himself did not like them. However, clearing away the debris from the latest battle had meant they were the only thing remaining in his mind.

"Nagi," he thought to her, "we have encountered Ryoko, Ryo-ohki, and their crew twice now, at different times. So we know in what direction they are traveling, do we not?"

"I should think so," Nagi told him back in a thought.

"And it looks, as we would've expected, as though they are proceeding from Earth to Jurai."

"It does," Nagi agreed telepathically.

"The official story right now is that the king was lost in the Dek'lar region?" Ken-Ohki continued.

"Ken-Ohki, if you're just going to ask rhetorical questions-"

"We both know what this means. No usurper in their right mind would leave Earth, go halfway across the galaxy to ambush the King, and then return to Earth, instead of Jurai. Dek'lar is far, far closer to Jurai than to Earth, and if they were going to seize power, they would've done it the moment they felled the King."

Nagi had reached the same conclusion, but felt a strange obligation to play the devil's advocate, so she asked, "Are you sure they weren't trying to muster some support before they attacked Jurai?"

"We both know that Earth has nothing like the resources they'd need," Ken-Ohki reminded her.

Nagi sighed. She couldn't go on trying to defend the official story. As they'd been suspecting for some time now, it was all a lie.

Ken-Ohki, knowing her thoughts, insisted, "We can still go after them the moment you're recovered."

"Why?" Nagi asked. "Why let our fight for justice be used by Oda? Let's just call off the hunt. We've done more than our share. Let the Juraians fight amongst themselves for who gets to be king of the galaxy. Why don't we get back to hunting real criminals?"

Ken-Ohki fumed, "Not once in 700 years has Ryoko or Ryo-Ohki paid for their crimes. We've got to make sure that they do. What kind of universe would it be if we let pirates live out their days in peace just because they seemed to be done with their rampages? Should they be allowed to live off of their stolen food? Instruct new generations in evil? If they live at ease, unpunished, more will be emboldened to follow them."

Nagi frowned. She believed that as much as he did, but she knew it was, to some extent, just a common boilerplate bounty hunters all over the galaxy used to defend their profession. Why was he reciting it at her?

Nagi pressed him, "Not once has either of us taken a shady bounty, or a bounty where we even suspected the law was being twisted. At this point in our careers, we have enough saved up to pick and choose our bounties. Are we really going to chase people who did nothing wrong at this time in our lives?"

"They did something wrong!" Ken-Ohki screamed inside his mind. Following that, Nagi could see the old, painful memories, forced again into the forefront of his mind; Kagato seizing him, Ryo-Ohki's glowing green eyes as she shoved Ken-Ohki into the airlock, Ryoko standing mutely, glowing eyes staring at Kagato.

"So it's all about that, is it?" Nagi said sadly, sorrowful that her suspicions of his reasons had been confirmed.

He stared at her brokenly. "Isn't that enough?" he asked, pained. His face showed his despondency. Nagi realized that he actually did think it wasn't enough, that what had happened to him would be just as ignored by everyone for the next 700 years as it had for the past 700 years.

What they'd done to him had actually made him believe that he didn't deserve justice.

Unbidden, their minds conjured up Ryo-Ohki's insistence that it was all done under mind control. Nagi paused. Ken-Ohki refused to believe that. Could she, Nagi wondered? Could she take that chance?

Even if it were true, did it really make a difference?

Nagi swore to Ken-Ohki, "Whatever the reasons, they must pay for what they did. I'll help you see justice done."

Next Chapter

Mihoshi comments, "Wow, it's really nice that the Juraian guy chasing Mimasaka finally got a name for himself."

"And his space tree got a name, too," Dragonwiles notes. "Aren't I magnanimous?"

"Lord Dragonwiles, I believe it is time for the next chapter preview," Ayeka reminds him.

"Ah, yes, go ahead," Dragonwiles says to her.

"Thank you, sir," she nods. Turning to the audience, she announces, "In the next chapter, we seek to reach Jurai and avoid our pursuers, but this is complicated by the crippling of Yukinojo. What can be done for brave Officer Mihoshi's noble vessel?

"In addition, Gohgei's fate will be determined not only by Yume's medical skill, but also by his friends' ability to defeat their enemies, enemies who will increase in number even further in the next chapter.

"The next chapter is 'No Need for Confusing Appearances,' to arrive eight weeks from now."

Continuity With Dragoniles

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.

"Lord Mori, Lord Haruhi, and their ships Testsuya and Umino are not canon Tenchi characters. Lord Mori I named after Detective Mori in Detective Conan - but he's supposed to have his good, not his bad, points. Lord Haruhi got his name from either Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, or Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club. (It's my understanding that Haruhi is a name for either a man or a woman.) His personality will probably be closer to that of Fujioka. Tetsuya, I don't remember where I got the name from, and Umino is named after Iruka Umino from Naruto, though I doubt I'll give them similar personalities. Naturally I own no characters or franchises to which I am making references.

"Lord Tohru I'm mostly naming because that's a name that I'm aware of. I'm naming his space tree Honda, because Tohru Honda is the main character in Fruits Basket, which I don't own. Magistrate Inari's name comes from the little boy in the Wave Arc of Naruto, but there's not supposed to be any real resemblance. I just needed a name on short notice. Of course, I don't own 'Naruto' or any of its characters.

"I don't quite remember where I got Lord Kiseki's name from, but he's not a canon Tenchi character. Sir Kaien's name is based off of Sir Kaien Shiba, from 'Bleach'. I own never the series nor the character, and there isn't any current plans for any resemblance between their fates, though I'll probably give mine a similar personality. I was just thinking of a second-in-command who would be probably be minor nobility, and 'Sir Kaien' popped into my head. That's a nice thing about fanfiction, being able to use so many different sources of names!"

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