Back in the Great Fox, everyone was recovering from the jolt of the attack. No one was hurt, but everyone was shaken. They dusted themselves off; Ranma kindly helped Ameria up from where she had fallen. Ryoko seemed to be in shock that Ryo'ohki had fired upon a ship she was in, and that she didn't seem to be able to communicate with the cabbit.
The ship lurched to a slow stop as the maneuvering thrusters kicked in. After taking another look at the damage reports on his viewscreen, Fox turned and looked at Washu. "I hope your plan doesn't involve us going anywhere for a week or two," he said dryly. "Because until I can fix the port engine, we're all stuck here." Everyone could hear the bitterness in his voice -- he clearly still resented having his ship 'borrowed.'
Washu's reply was unexpectedly cheerful. "Nonsense, Fox!" Her happiness seemed out of place. "There's still the Arwings! You can teach Zelgadiss how to fly one and scout for the enemy, while we repair the ship." She said this almost as if it had been the plan all along. Maybe it was, as far as the rest knew.
Fox was unbelieving at this point. "What!? None of you know the first thing about the Great Fox's design or piloting an Arwing!"
Ameria spoke up. "Mr. Fox does have a point, Miss Washu."
"That's okay, Ameria," Washu replied kindly. "I have all the know-how we'll need. You guys can help me out. And we'll need someone who can fly a starfighter later. Trust me."
No one was sure how to reply to this, except Ryoko. She was obviously still frustrated. "Then let me go! I can fly circles around anyone else here, with or without a ship!"
Washu knew that Ryoko really just wanted to pursue Ryo'ohki and find Tenchi. A good goal, but Ryoko went about things the wrong way sometimes. She sternly said, "No, I need you here for the next part of the plan."
This time Fox was quick to speak up -- he was none too anxious to have Ryoko as a wingman. "There's only two Arwings in the shuttle bay," he informed, "and if you're already a good pilot then we should train someone else as a backup." He knew that didn't quite make sense, but fortunately Ryoko was too upset at Washu to catch it.
"So it's settled!" Washu exclaimed, even though it wasn't. "Fox, you and Zelgadiss scout out the area. Everyone else, follow me to the engine room." With that, she turned and walked purposely down the hallway.
The rest followed, some less willing than others. Ryoko knew Washu could restrain her if it came to that, and so floated down the hall like an angry thundercloud, ready to blast someone with a lightning bolt. Ameria passed her carefully, going to ask Washu about the 'plan.' Ranma ran after Ameria, figuring it was unwise to be left between Ryoko and Fox. Zelgadiss awaited Fox to show him where and what these 'r-wings' were; he had no where else to go, and maybe he could see more of this new world. Fox was the last to leave. As he left the cockpit, he quietly ordered Rob64 to keep an eye on the strange guests while he was away, and locked the door.
"Are you ready, Zelgadiss?" Fox asked over the intercom.
Zelgadiss looked through the narrow viewport of his darkened cockpit. He saw Fox in an identical Arwing cockpit next to him in the hanger bay. He checked all the displays in the starfighter's tight cockpit as Fox had shown him, and then looked towards the opening shuttle bay doors in front of him. The depth of the starfield momentarily startled him. He wondered if a levitation spell would work in outer space.
"Ready," he calmly replied.
"Prepare for launch in three, two, one," Fox counted down. As he reached zero, Zelgadiss felt a powerful shove behind him and both ships blasted out into space. He was almost afraid, but was glad that his vessel was on automatic control for now.
"Is it okay if I call you 'Zel,' by the way?" Fox's voice cracked over the intercom. "It makes ship-to-ship communication simpler."
Zelgadiss spoke his approval to Fox. Fox then began the task of teaching someone who had never piloted any mechanized vehicle how to fly a high-tech multi-million-dollar planetary defense and interception starfighter. It wasn't too different from trying to get his team to fly correctly, he later decided.
Ameria and Ranma listened to their transmissions from a monitor in the engine room. Since they really didn't know much about starship repair, Washu had turned on a viewscreen to give them something to do. As they watched, they saw the two Arwings deftly weaving around each other.
"Zelgadiss seems to be a quick learner," Ranma offered.
"Yes, he's very patient too. It helps in our world," Ameria replied. After thinking for a moment, she asked Ranma, "What is your world like?"
"Pretty plain compared to all this," he said, gesturing to the viewscreen, and to Washu and Ryoko working on an engine the size of a house behind them. "My group of friends keeps it interesting, but there are no spaceships or sorceries or anything like that. Well, there is one weird thing..." he began, but suddenly caught himself. Probably best NOT to share that right away. "But otherwise it's pretty normal," he quickly finished.
"You must care for your friends a lot, especially being willing to do all this for your kidnapped friend."
"Well, Ryoga has a... special place as a friend," he replied, not sure how to characterize his friendship with Ryoga.
Ameria smiled at him and turned back to watch the screen. She noted that it was just a friend, and not a female friend, that Ranma had mentioned. Not that it was any of her business. Ranma was kind of good-looking in his strange formal outfit, though. She thought about the situation, to the background noise of Zelgadiss training in the Arwing. She didn't ask Ranma if he was attached in his world; little did she know that she had avoided a half-hour explanation by doing so.
Ranma smiled back, relieved that she hadn't come any closer to finding about his or Ryoga's "condition." The less people that knew about that, the simpler it'd be for him. He wandered over to Washu, to see if there was anything he could to. As long as it didn't involve cold water.
Meanwhile, Fox had decided that Zelgadiss was ready for something a little more challenging than loop-the-loops and barrel rolls. While teaching the basics of starfighter maneuvering, he had remotely ordered Rob64 to perform sensor sweeps of the area around the Great Fox. He had found a few interesting things and wanted to check them out. So he opened up a communication channel to the Great Fox to let the others know where he and Zelgadiss would be.
"Attention everyone," his voice echoed throughout the ship. "Fox here. Zelgadiss and I are going to scout out up ahead. Back before the repairs are finished!" Before anyone could object, he cut the channel.
"Are you sure this is wise?" Zelgadiss asked.
The reply was very confident. "Of course -- you're a natural. We're just going to fly by a few planetoids and see if we can find the trail of that other ship. We'll come back immediately if there's any danger. What could happen? Now hang on while we switch to..."
Fox's voice faded for a moment while he adjusted the navigational controls. Then, with a sudden roar of the engine behind him and a cry of "Turbo!!" through the intercom, Zelgadiss felt what he was missing with levitation spells. He could get used to this.
"Okay everyone," Washu said out loud as she wiped her hands off after finishing the engine's repairs. "Time to fill you in on the plan."
At this, everyone gathered together. Ranma looked up from where he was trying to figure out how the engine did whatever it did. Ameria walked over from the wall viewscreen. Ryoko drifted down to the floor from where she had been perched on a roof support.
"Here's the deal. You may have noticed that the enemy has spaceships. According to my readings on this dimension, there are more than the one we saw." No one doubted her about that. "We, however, have to make do without spacecraft, except for Fox and Zelgadiss in the Arwings." Ryoko still looked resentful about that whole exchange.
"So I have prepared a way for you to combat the enemy in space." This didn't strike Ryoko as odd, but Ranma and Ameria, who had never been in outer space before, were a little fazed by it. Ranma was about to bring up the fact that there is no oxygen in space, but Washu cut him off.
"There is a way to draw energy from one's home planet and use that power to do many things, even travel through space. It's not a natural occurrence in most dimensions, but I borrowed the way to do it from another dimension so we could use it here. The people who normally use it there were busy at the moment, but you can probably figure out the details yourself."
All this time Ameria was remembering the fact there's no air in space, and trying to figure out what life would be like without air. It didn't look good, she decided. At this natural pause in Washu's speech, she tried to bring this up, but was cut off also.
"Now, these powers alone are sufficient for space travel and space combat," Washu resumed. "So with all your natural abilities, you should be able to do some impressive moves."
"Oh yes, and the powers will let you breathe in space," she quickly added.
With this, Ranma and Ameria both sighed in relief. They looked at each other sheepishly. Ryoko snickered.
"So how do we access these powers?" Ranma asked after a moment.
Washu replied knowingly, "Normally each 'senshi,' or warrior, who uses these powers, is linked to some planet. Since we're all from different dimensions, you can draw on the powers from your planets in your home dimensions. I'll stay here and keep the links operational. So once everything's all set up and Fox and Zelgadiss find our opponents, you all can fight the enemy."
"Excellent!" Ameria shouted, startling the others. "Justice will strike a strong blow against evil this day!"
Washu smiled with the rest, in part because of Ameria's enthusiasm and in part because of what was next. She loved doing this...
"Well," she began, "there's one more detail." Everyone looked at her, wondering what it could be. "When you're using senshi powers, you have to wear special uniforms that reflect how the planetary energy is augmenting your own energy. How the outfits look will be a reflection on your personality and abilities... but their basic form is fixed from the dimension I'm borrowing this technology from."
Ryoko was used to battle armor, but was curious when she asked, "Exactly what kind of 'uniforms' do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing too fancy," Washu replied innocently. "They're standard sailor senshi outfits, but they're kind of like school uniforms."
Everyone thought about this. At Furikan High School, Ranma as used to wearing whatever he wanted -- the dress code wasn't bad at all. No problem. And whenever Ameria had been on ships, the sailors had never worn anything too odd. No problem. And in Ryoko's experience, space pirate armor or Galaxy Police uniforms were nothing to worry about. No problem.
Washu looked at everyone for a moment. They all bought it. No problem! She quickly turned to a computer console and said, "Okay then, it's settled. Let's see what the others are up to."
Continued in Chapter 4: Preparing for Battle
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