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Chapter 70 Main Chapters Chapter 72

Chapter 71: No Need for Past and Future

Ryoko exclaims to the audience, "Hi, I figure you all know me by now. Dragonwiles is making it up to me for taking over Mihoshi's chapter preview when she bailed. I'm getting her DJ part! I'm going to play this interesting little number, 'Nazo', both the third and forty-first opening song for the show 'Detective Conan'. Dragonwiles doesn't own the song or 'Detective Conan', though, so don't worry."

The song, full of loss, but also surprisingly upbeat, begins to play.

Kiyone and Mihoshi had divvied up their task; while Mihoshi investigated Z's actions and associations that had led to the present idea that he was associated with Lady Tokimi, Kiyone would investigate what was known about Lady Tokimi from the past. She had found a starting point for her research fairly quickly, as the few surviving documents containing the legend (as it turned out, legends) of Lady Tokimi were so well-researched that articles were available in general-interest online public sites. She made the mistake of trying to learn about the various schools of interpretation before reading the legends themselves, and spent an unpleasant week reading summaries of scholars arguing with each other in polite terms, with neither side having much evidence except for the word choices of the original chroniclers. Eventually she read the legends themselves, and came away with a better appreciation of her subject, but not much more actual knowledge as to whether any one school of thought about the legends was more correct than the others.

Later in her investigation, she came to realize that the study of the legends of Lady Tokimi had an ebb and flow. At one period in time, there had been many researchers intensely interested in it, and they had produced many papers and conferences and books. Nowadays all who were left were either summarizers interested in helping lay folk understand the schools of interpretation, and other issues of purely historical import, or dilettantes who pretended to care about the old schools of interpretation so they could get more enjoyment from trolling each other. It was something of a pity, Kiyone mused, but she also couldn't blame people for not wanting to study the matter forever. Lady Tokimi simply did not seem to affect most people's lives.

That was still surprisingly true, even given what she had learned about a rebel leader touting some manner of relationship to her. There were very few legends about Lady Tokimi to begin with, and they had not been foundational to any culture she could find record of. The legends themselves did not suggest that her actions had affected anyone, except perhaps the long extinct cultures whose citizens had recorded the legends. Further, she was evidently not even popular enough to be a candidate for ridiculous people to claim to know her or be her child, let alone for serious people to do so.

Only two exceptions existed there - the rebel leader, and Dr. Clay. The latter technically hadn't claimed to have met Lady Tokimi, Kiyone realized soon after starting that thread of the investigation, but instead had only claimed to have a way to meet her. Apparently the Academy routinely recorded its professors making requests for funding, and Kiyone found in the Academy's online public records the recording where Dr. Clay pitched something called a "Multidimensional Being Contact Mechanism."

Watching the recording made her feel chills that she quickly forced down - the noted criminal Yakage and supercriminal Kagato were present at the public gathering. She couldn't force down the sense of oddity, though - to see so not one but two powerful evildoers, who had both fallen in open battle against Tenchi, whom she knew as a friend, and then a third, Dr. Clay, whom Tenchi and she and the others had captured together - it felt disconcerting, somehow too pat. It was too much an uncanny coincidence to be a coincidence. She distracted herself by noting how time had changed the participants: Yakage, Dr. Clay, and Kagato, all had black hair at this time, Dr. Clay had both original eyes instead of an original and a biomechanical implant, and Kagato's eyes were those of a Juraian instead of - well, whatever they had become. Further examination of the recording revealed that Washu was present, looking much the same as ever, and was sprawled on a seat in the audience, which prompted a thought. She paused the recording, and double-checked some dates. Washu was indeed the Director of the Academy at the time of the recording, but she had abandoned the imposing chair reserved for the Director.

Kiyone listened to the first part of Dr. Clay's presentation at double the normal playback speed, for, as she guessed, most of what he talked about she had learned from her prior research. She slowed it down as he began speaking about his own proposal.

"So I propose a means of contacting these multidimensional beings," Dr. Clay announced. "Through this means, contact with them will finally become possible, and diplomacy, the free exchange of ideas, will at last become reality. Reality, that is, if you are willing to support this grand endeavor. Thank you. Now, have we any questions?"

An audience member asked, "What evidence have you of multidimensional beings to contact?"

Dr. Clay responded with a false smile, "Although that has already been covered, I will gladly do so again. The historical records speak very clearly, and of course, the Juraian empire already has contact with a personage who does fit the category rather nearly, I should say. This device would make it finally possible to contact others."

Kiyone fought the urge to retreat as the recorded Kagato stood and asked, "The legends you referred to earlier in the presentation. I take it that you have examined Morian's paper on them as well?"

Dr. Clay's hands steepled and eyes grew narrow with vulturous delight as he archly explained, "Dr. Morian's paper was fascinating reading, of course. Still, one does wish it had more data, especially given that it was trying to explain away the historical record, rather than arguing from it. We are all in Dr. Morian's debt for pointing out various contradictions in the legend as we have it now, but that does not mean the legend is a forgery."

Kagato questioned coldly and abruptly, "Why should we contact them when they have not wished it?"

Dr. Clay seemed not to have expected this line of inquiry, but quickly retorted, "They are a part of this cosmos, are they not? Whatever their true thoughts, they share this space with us, and beings so grand surely have nothing to fear from such small creatures as us."

"Perhaps they don't wish to be bothered with us and our trivial concerns," Kagato proposed icily.

"There is no way of knowing until we ask," Dr. Clay fired back smugly.

Kagato adjusted his pince-nez and retook his seat. Yakage was sitting in the next row up, and now rose to present his question, or as it turned out, his statement. "Dr. Clay," he said, face strained with mistrust, "granting for the moment the existence of multidimensional beings and the authenticity of the legend, should we not be more cautious about opening this door? This door, perhaps, is actually a sealed gate - sealed, perhaps, for our protection."

Dr. Clay spread his hands and retorted, "But sealed by whom, and for what reason? Is there no time when the seal should be undone? We operate in ignorance here, and it is our job as scientists, as academics in the best sense, to shed light on the matter. All we can do otherwise is argue from silence."

Yakage folded his arms and asked, "Would you then explain what precautions may be taken, and whom will take responsibility if something goes awry? If the beings throw our current order into chaos, what measures can be taken to close the door again?"

Dr. Clay shook his head. "Measures? This is a mere experiment in communication. I am not attempting to upset any balances. I propose to communicate with beings who are there whether we speak with them or not, who could easily have means at their disposal to upset all our petty order, whether or not we ever talk to them. If any change does happen, I believe we can all adjust as is best for the situation as it actually arises. The most likely change, I should think, would be that they would be less inclined to crush us unthinkingly."

Yakage sat down but appeared unconvinced. There were other questions from other audience members, and Kiyone noted Dr. Clay's growing annoyance. Perhaps this was because many of the questions focused on the theories of how the technology which would communicate with the beings worked. Dr. Clay at first referred to subparagraphs of his reports and papers, but in the end, he exasperatedly insisted that only as the research was funded could the experiments be designed. Washu had not asked any questions, but many audience members seemed to be scrutinizing her reaction to such answers. Dr. Clay may have noticed this, as his glances at the reclining director became increasingly suspicious. Matters quickly turned, however, to the budgetary portions of the proposal. After a fairly nasty and superficially data-driven verbal altercation over budgetary figures with an audience member was narrowly won by the doctor, Washu unexpectedly arose from her slouch and spoke in a voice that carried throughout the room: "Dr. Clay, first of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to make this highly informative presentation. I think we all," she looked around the room briefly, "can see in these pages the same passion that made each of us want to enter the sciences and further the boundaries of knowledge." Dr. Clay appeared somewhat mollified, but also extremely wary. Washu continued, "So what I should most like to ask you, Dr. Clay, as a fellow scientist, what is the best-case scenario, the grand end, that you would like to accomplish by speaking with these multidimensional beings?"

The two locked eyes with each other for a long moment. Dr. Clay's eyes were scouring Washu's face for any hint of her intentions, his mouth sometimes loosening, sometimes tensing again, as though testing whether the air would bear the weight of his words. Washu's face was neutral, but it was perhaps her eyes that most clearly showed it not that neutrality that is hatred, but that neutrality which seeks honesty.

Though the moment lasted long, it ended quickly. Dr. Clay's gaze dropped a fraction as his mouth assumed its usual overly broad smile, opening to pour forth in his usual, overly sophisticated tone, "Washu, I suppose the best case I can expect is that we shall be able to learn many things and have great advancements in culture and learning from communicating with these multidimensional beings. Such benefits, I am sure, cannot be lightly overlooked by our fine institution."

Kiyone wondered if she was imagining disappointment in Washu's eyes, because her tone was as neutral as before as she gratefully acknowledged his reply.

There were no further questions. At Washu's invitation, a vote by secret ballot was taken. Kiyone saw that Yakage was punching many more controls than most voters, and wondered why until Washu announced, "The votes have all been collected, and the answer of Lord Yakage to Dr. Clay's secondary grant application has been recorded. I shall now reveal the results."

The numbers flashed up in a large holographic display that hovered behind Dr. Clay, along with the words, "Yakage Fund: Application Denied". Washu was still announcing, "Regrettably, the primary application of our esteemed fellow Dr. Clay to the Academy has been defeated, along with the secondary application to Lord Yakage," as Dr. Clay was stalking with a scowl towards the exit. After he turned into the hallway with a huff, Washu shrugged and announced, "Meeting's over, everyone."

The recording ended there, and Kiyone sat back thoughtfully.

"Wait, wait, wait," Tenchi said urgently. "You know, Ayeka, uh, Queen Ayeka, I'd do my level best in a fight with this Z person. I'm ready to duel him. But I have to negotiate with him first? I don't know where to start!" It was enough of a surprise to have Ayeka and her bodyguards unexpectedly arrive at his house (she hadn't come since they retook Jurai, but he knew she was working hard for everyone.) For Ayeka to make this kind of request was beyond anything Tenchi could've imagined.

"I am confident in your abilities, Prince Tenchi," Ayeka replied firmly.

"I've got to stop a war, though," Tenchi insisted, "and I barely know what's going on in the galaxy! I don't know how to deal with this guy except at sword's edge! Sure, I'll fight him, but we'd better get an actual ambassador to try talking to him."

"The diplomacy is probably a pretense," Ayeka countered, "from which neither Z nor we expect much. He hopes to gain prestige from the meeting, and then press right on with his agenda. We are informed that it is a point of honor to have the same champion both parley and battle, so we cannot provide one of our diplomats as your substitute there. There is no reason why we should condescend to Z's level, why he should not deal on our terms, or at least on a compromise. Still, I hope in this manner to defeat his greatest strength: his reputation, his facade of invulnerability. Should you defeat him fairly, according to his own customs, then the rebels should slink back to their holes in shame. Even if they break their customs and fight after their champion is defeated, as their own histories acknowledge they have done, their confidence will be shattered, and they will be short a champion."

Tenchi blinked; he hadn't usually seen Ayeka this passionate before. He rubbed the back of his head briefly, then bowed and said, "I'll do it. I know Grandpa can look after everyone here. If there's a chance of stopping the war altogether, or at least beating the villain - well, I've got to take it."

"Thank you, Prince Tenchi," she said immediately, bowing lower.

"Can I ask a question, though?" he inquired. When she nodded, he continued, "Do we know how he got his Wings?"

Ayeka revealed, "Mihoshi and Kiyone have agreed to investigate the most likely source; a legendary but obscure being known as Lady Tokimi. We have no answers besides that, and so are focusing on defending Jurai whatever happens."

Tenchi nodded, then remarked, "So Light-Hawk Wings are not that rare after all!"

Ayeka laughed.

"It's not that funny," Tenchi muttered.

"No, forgive me, Prince Tenchi," Ayeka said finally. "It is just, I had not thought of it that way until now." She laughed again, almost uncontrollably, but seeming to actually be happy. He strove to chase concern off of his face - he didn't want to embarrass her.

There was a bit of small talk, then she had to take her leave for Jurai. All too soon - but that was how it was. She did, however, mention that she had hoped to meet Ryo-Ohki and Zen-Ohki, and got to hold the latter in her palm. "I'm very glad to get to meet him," she told his mother, who agreed, standing tall in her humanoid form.

Ayeka stroked his fur, which was splotched with many colors, then fingered the jewel on his forehead, which was almost carrot-shaped, saying, "This is a very lovely jewel on his forehead."

"You're too kind, Your Majesty," Ryo-Ohki said proudly.

A Few Days Earlier

"Birth defect?" Ryo-Ohki repeated incredulously, stalking several paces further into Washu's dimensional lab, away from the door anchored to the interior of Tenchi's house.

Washu turned away from her phantasmal laptop to face her fully, both hands raised in a placating gesture. "I only meant it in the most technical sense. Personally, I think it's kinda cute. It's just in a different shape from the gems I intended your species to be born with."

"Will it hurt him?" Ryo-Ohki asked, looking at her child in concern. She could sense no pain in his mind at the moment.

"I'm running some simulations to guess," Washu sighed, "but given that they didn't anticipate a gem could form like that, I'm not sure they'll be accurate. Besides, there are now a grand total of three-" She put a finger to her chin and thought a moment.

"Cabbits," Ryo-Ohki supplied.

Washu groaned. "I am so sorry to you all for leaving it to Mr. Masaki to name your species. OK, three cabbits, to base my theories on. He should have all the abilities I'd expect cabbits to have, especially since he seems perfectly healthy otherwise, but maybe not. Or maybe he'll have different abilities, I dunno." She wailed at her computer, "I wanna know already!"

Washu sighed dramatically, then turned to find Zen-Ohki peering at her curiously above his mother's fingers. Washu ruffled his fur affectionately and cooed, "Oh, don't worry, Zen-Ohki. I may not be your grandma, but I'll keep a good, close eye on you! Mm hm! We'll play science lots together!"

"Please take good care of him," Ryo-Ohki said with a shake of her head and a wry smile.

"I will," Washu said, abruptly serious. "It's my responsibility. However it goes for him. As long as I can. If I don't make it back-"

"You told me how to get into the computer," Ryo-Ohki said somberly, not liking the turn of the conversation.

"Yeah, I did," Washu scratched Zen-Ohki's neck, and he began to purr. "When the sims get done, their results may be garbage. But you never will be, Zen-Ohki," Washu said quietly to him.

Mihoshi caught sight of Kiyone as the latter was exiting the museum module of Galactic Police HQ. This was one of the few areas open to the general public, but it wasn't much frequented at this time of day. Perhaps that was the reason why Kiyone seemed to have the full attention of a number of the employees, the eldest of whom was telling her, "Just you think about that, inspector. Those poor patrolmen, starving so bad they had to eat pureed asteroids!"

"I still don't believe it," Kiyone said with a sigh, but a laugh as well. The museum workers laughed heartily, and good-naturedly, before exchanging bows with her and returning to their work.

"You looking into something for the case here?" Mihoshi asked curiously.

Kiyone shook her head, saying, "This was more personal."

"Mm," Mihoshi nodded. As they began walking together, Mihoshi said, "I was remembering what you were telling me about the connection with Dr. Clay, and it got me thinking that it might be nice to have some of the data from his ship, especially the navicomputer. We never cracked it while it was in evidence, but if we had another shot at it, we might find out something interesting."

"It might be worth a try," Kiyone supposed aloud.

Mihoshi shrugged, "Except apparently after Dr. Clay's conviction, it was confiscated, and now is being used by GP patrols pretty far from here. I sent a request - I mean, you'd think they'd have the navicomupter unlocked by now - but who knows when, or if, I'll hear back."

Later that evening, the two of them were at the hot springs (after a great deal of cajoling and wheedling by Mihoshi to finish discussing the investigation there.) Kiyone ordinarily would only have regretted having the soothing experience diluted by work, even if it was the detective work that she loved. This time she was faced with the disturbing prospect of having Mihoshi gushing about what she had learned about Z. It would've been only faintly annoying ordinarily, but given that Z was a probable traitor to the crown - Kiyone stopped herself. Even if this was a public bath, this was public knowledge, and not many people this close to Jurai seemed to know of Z's treachery yet.

"And so he was in the militia of his homeworld, like I said, and he was in it during their biggest battle against pirates ever - one of the biggest battles against pirates ever, except for this other battle I'll tell you about in a minute-"

Kiyone nodded at Mihoshi and smiled apologetically at a woman who sent them an annoyed glance before moving further away in the giant bath.

Mihoshi hadn't noticed, and was continuing, "And his family died in this battle, too-"

"They did? Why?" Kiyone asked. She thought she'd been paying better half-attention.

"It was during evacuation of a civilian space station," Mihoshi explained, excited to have Kiyone's participation. "It was a large-scale battle, and they got caught up in it. Z should've died, people said, but somehow, he survived, and started charging the pirates alone - not for long, the surviving militia forces started rallying to him. The pirates were driven off, but everyone was sure they'd be back, and the whole planet was angry. And that's all for now."

Kiyone protested, "That's all for now? Mihoshi, you can't just leave me hanging like that!"

"It's not that great a story," Mihoshi told her reluctantly. "And I can't really go telling it to you in a public place."

Placing her hands over her mouth, Kiyone decided, was nearly the only thing that kept her from reminding Mihoshi that Kiyone had made that point when arguing to not go to the hot springs.

They forgot about work and just relaxed the rest of that night, so it wasn't until the next morning when they were back in their offices that Kiyone learned the remainder of the results of Mihoshi's investigations. The battle against the pirates was the first time anyone had claimed to see Light-Hawk Wings on or around Z (the stories weren't always clear.)

Mihoshi continued her tale, "Everyone was so upset, and it was such a big pirate attack, that the Juraian lord of the planet finally got personally involved (people thought the pirates bribed him to do nothing, I didn't find evidence.) He led the militia on an expedition to the area the pirate base was suspected to be in. Officially, that lord lost his life in the ensuing battle, passing his title to his heir, though all the pirates and their base was also destroyed. Unofficially, people think Z got both the lord and the pirates. Only people from the militia survived, and they don't talk much about it publicly, but they've been Z's most loyal forces ever since."

Kiyone nodded and drummed her fingers on the desk. She looked at Mihoshi briefly, but the latter had evidently finished her tale. They both sat a moment and thought.

Mihoshi then sighed and lamented, "We can't rule anything out! A rebel leader, OK, we could've guessed that. But is there a Lady Tokimi, and is she helping him? Maybe yes, maybe no! We need evidence; how will we get it?"

Kiyone said quietly, "A new lead would be good."

They were silent a bit longer, then Mihoshi thought aloud, "Maybe we can get a new lead from the old one. If we research what Dr. Clay did after he left the Academy, maybe we'll come up with something new."

"Worth a shot," Kiyone agreed, and they reached for their computers.

"Sir Z", Lo-Folot addressed his leader, "they thought you'd want to know. Some of Dr. Clay's tripwires left in the Academy databases have been set off lately."

"It took the Juraians this long," Z said, shaking his head. "Do we know who?"

Lo-Folot bowed and said, "Apologies, sir, but they were optimized for remaining hidden. We can only localize it to GP HQ."

He had the rare privilege of seeing Z surprised. "Unusual. Though I have heard that Juraian intelligence has a presence there. Our opponent continues to play her pieces. Is our next move ready?"

"Yes, sir," Lo-Folot confirmed.

Next Chapter

"They're getting to move again!" Mihoshi squawks indignantly. "That's a foul! They moved twice!"

"You're mixing up games, Mihoshi," Kiyone points out. "Anyhow, the reviews are when we get to critique Dragonwiles' writing; this segment is when we introduce the next chapter."

"But Z's moving twice!" Mihoshi protests.

Kiyone yells, "You napped during the last preview and left Ryoko to do it instead! You're not getting away this time!"

"I get it," Mihoshi agrees, in a fashion Kiyone still found irritating, and goes on to say, "The next chapter is 'No Need for Love's Pangs', where heartache and conflicting emotions rule."

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 idea of the locked navicomputer comes from the computer game 'Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords', in which the 'Ebon Hawk' has a navicomputer which is not only locked, but locked so that only a particular persons' voice, can unlock and reveal just where the ship has been until now.

"Z's backstory in canon is somewhat as Mihoshi told it - his family was killed in a pirate raid that he wouldn't have survived without the Light-Hawk Wings he was given, as I understand it, while he was on the brink of death. I made up the follow-up battle.

"Z's culture's mode of duel, and Ayeka asking Tenchi to be Jurai's champion for it, I made up as well.

"I made up Tenchi's dad, Nobuyuki Masaki, naming the Ryo-Ohki's species 'cabbit'. I believe I came across the term being bandied about in fan fiction or promotional materials for the series, so I came to think of them as that, and came up with Mr. Masaki naming them that in order to introduce it into this story.

"I don't believe that Zen-Ohki or his forehead jewel is at all canon. It's possible that I came up with his name because a main character in 'Snow White With the Red Hair' has the name Zen, and I watched that show a few months ago - it's hard to say."

Chapter 70 Main Chapters Chapter 72