Strangers in a Strange Land
Chapter 13
By Chris Olsen


All the characters in this story are the creation of Akahori Satoru,
Kotobuki Tsukasa, and Rumiko Takahashi... or practically all of them,
anyway.  The title is stolen from Heinlein... with one letter s added.

        Strangers in a Strange Land
         Chapter 13

    It was getting close to dinnertime when Nabiki walked back into
Otaru's apartment.  She hesitated before heading into the restaurant.
Looking around, she spotted Ranma flirting with the customers as usual,
the men around her talking and laughing cheerfully.  Nabiki noted that
the crowd was larger than the night before, and smiled slightly, marking
up the profit margin the restaurant would be making in her head.

    When the red head came by where Nabiki was sitting, she stopped,
wiping her brow in mock fatigue.  "There's quite a crowd tonight, ain't
there?"  Ranma noted unnecessarily.  "What can I get for you, Nabiki?"

    Nabiki nodded towards the menu.  "A pork cutlet.  Put it on my tab."

    Ranma blinked.  "You don't have a tab."

    Nabiki smirked at her.  "So start me one.  I'm good for it, Saotome,
trust me."

    Ranma shrugged.  "OK, I guess you are."  She turned to tell Cherry
what Nabiki's order was.

    Nabiki put a hand out, stopping her.  "I need to talk to you later,
OK Ranma?"

    Ranma nodded.  "Sure, Nabiki.  I'll take my break in a minute and
eat with you."  The red head walked off, passing by Cherry to give her
the orders she had received, then swinging around the room again to
check up on the customers before going back behind the counter to give
Cherry and Lynx a hand with preparing.  Several minutes later she
brought two plates around to Nabiki, setting one down in front of the
middle Tendo sister and the second one down in front of herself as she
sat down next to her.  "OK, what's up?"

    Nabiki glanced around the room, shaking her head.  "You sure do know
how to pack them in, Saotome, I'll give you that.  I'll have to talk
Otaru into giving you a raise if you keep bringing in customers like

    Ranma shrugged, smiling smugly.  "Hey, what can I say, am I cute, or
what?  I know what guys like, and I'm not afraid to use it."

    Nabiki laughed.  "No you aren't, are you?"

    Ranma blinked.  "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?  The

    Nabiki shook her head.  "No, but speaking of that, you'd better not
let Akane catch you flirting like you are, or you'll regret it."

    Ranma shrugged.  "Akane ain't here, and besides, it's just
business.  You should know that, Nabiki."

    Nabiki raised her hands.  "I do know it, but try convincing Akane of
that.  I saw how she was glaring at you yesterday, you know."

    Ranma frowned.  "Yeah...  I guess I should tone it down a bit, or
maybe try to explain things to Akane.  She's got nothing to be jealous
about anyway."  Ranma shook her head.  "Not that I can figure out why
she would be jealous anymore.  I mean, it's not like she wants anything
to do with another girl, right?"

    Nabiki frowned back.  "I wouldn't be so sure of that if I were you,
Saotome.  You think there's something wrong with a girl liking another
girl or something?"

    Ranma blinked.  "No...  not really.  I mean, I'm a girl now, I
guess, and I sure don't like guys... not that way, anyway."  The petite
red head looked curious.  "Why do you ask?"

    Nabiki's eyes widened for just a moment, then narrowed again so
quickly Ranma wasn't quite sure if it had happened.  "I'm thinking about
Akane, you moron.  If you think it's weird for two girls to get
together, what do you think that would make her feel like?"

    Ranma raised her hands.  "I didn't say that.  I just don't think
that Akane's really interested anymore, you know?  I thought... back
when I still turned back into a guy, that maybe... maybe in a couple
more months...."

    Nabiki raised an eyebrow.  "That you and Akane would finally get
together for real?"

    Ranma's head sank.  "Yeah, yeah, I know.  Fat chance, right?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "No.  Actually, I had odds on you two tying
the knot when you finished high school going at 50/50, and that was a
conservative estimate.  You two had nearly stopped fighting, and most of
your fights were because something your father or someone else started.
Since we've gotten here though, you two haven't fought once... not
seriously anyway."

    Ranma looked worried.  "What do you think that means?"

    Nabiki smiled.  "Don't get your pants in a bunch, Ranma. I think
that you're not fighting anymore because there isn't anyone trying to
force you two together... and I think Akane's not as unwilling as you'd
think for you two to become a matched pair of perverts together."

    Ranma growled threateningly at her.  "Nabiki!"  She imitated Akane's
voice well enough that Nabiki had to bite back a chuckle of laughter.

    "Come on, Ranma."  Nabiki said, shaking her head.  "You know her
better than almost anyone by now.  Do you really think that Akane is
going to let a little thing like you two both being girls get in her
way?  You should know by now that when she wants something, nothing
stops her."

    Ranma sighed.  "Sure... but does she really want someone like me?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "You two really are slow."  She patted Ranma
on the shoulder.  "Just trust me, and trust her.  She won't keep you
waiting much longer, I think."

    Ranma sighed again, then glanced at the door.  "So... where is she,
anyway?  Akane left before you did.  Do you think she found anything

    Nabiki shrugged.  "Knowing my sister...  I have no idea.  I do know
that she'll keep trying until she does."

    Ranma blinked.  "Oh yeah, speaking of a job, did you find anything?
What was it that you wanted to talk to me about, anyway?"

    Nabiki grinned at the red head knowingly.  "Oh ye of little faith.
You doubt my ability to find employment, my soon to be sister in law?"

    Ranma snorted.  "I take it that you found something?"

    Nabiki nodded confidently.  "Of course.  My new job is why I wanted
to talk to you.  You see, I need you to start training me."

    Ranma blinked.  "What?  You want me to train you?  In Anything

    Nabiki nodded.  "That's right, Ranma.  Well?  Will you do it?  I'll
even consider paying you a small fee for the service, seeing as I hate
to see the girl my sister is so deep in denial over making minimum

    Ranma narrowed her eyes.  "Why do you need me to train you?  What is
this new job of yours, anyway?"

    Nabiki shrugged nonchalantly.  "Well, if you must know, I'm
Lorelei's new bodyguard.  It pays better than anything else I could
possibly get, at least that I'd be willing to do, that is."

    Ranma looked incredulous.  "You're kidding!  You, a bodyguard?  I
never pictured you doing anything like that, Nabiki."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "It wasn't something I had envisioned for myself
either, Saotome, but you've got to admit, with things the way they are
on this planet, I'm not very likely to be able to work myself up in a
company, or get any kind of position of authority.  If there was a
'glass ceiling' in Tokyo, the one here is made of solid steel.  This
planet hasn't seen a woman for so long, no one has any idea that we
might just have more than sweetness and light under these pretty little
bodies of ours."

    Ranma frowned.  "Yeah, I think you're right about that.  Some of em
aren't so bad.  The bunch around here has gotten used to Lime and
company for long enough that they're better than most, but from what
I've seen it ain't like that most everywhere else."  Her face took on a
worried expression.  "I hope Akane's OK.  She doesn't take very well to
people putting her down."

    Nabiki snorted.  "I hope Akane hasn't lost her temper too badly by
now.  Knowing her she's about an inch away from punching some idiot's
lights out.  This isn't Nermia.  If she decks some poor guy they'll be
picking up the pieces for miles, and she could get into real trouble.  I
should have had a talk with her before she went out."

    Ranma shook her head.  "Akane won't hurt anyone.  She's been really
careful ever since she nearly cracked Cherry in two.  She really doesn't
want to hurt anyone else like that.  She might get mad, but she's not
going to go knocking anyone through any walls."

    Nabiki looked at Ranma in some surprise.  "You seem to be pretty
confident in her, don't you?"  She smiled slyly.  "Nice to see that you
believe in the one you love."

    Ranma started to protest, then sighed.  "Ah, forget it.  I can't
fool you anymore, can I?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "No, you can't.  So, when can you start
training me?"

    Ranma raised an eyebrow.  "You're really serious about that huh?
I'm not so sure you should be doing something so dangerous, Nabiki.  I
mean, you trained for what, a year, back when you were a kid?  And now
you want to protect the only human female on the planet?  That's not
going to be an easy job."

    Nabiki shook her head.  "It's not as bad as all that.  From what
I've heard, there are exactly nine Saber Marionettes with Maiden
Circuits on this planet... and we're all right here in Japoness.  There
isn't much of anything else that can stand up to one of us, at least
nothing smaller than a tank... which I shouldn't have to worry about, as
if anything that large starts coming her way, it'll get spotted by
Tamasaburo and Baiko way before it can get close.  All I have to deal
with are things like assassins and combat marionettes."

    Ranma rolled her eyes.  "Oh is that all?  You weren't awake for the
fight with those Orange Blossoms.  They were really tough, you know.
Even I had some trouble with them."

    Nabiki shook her head.  "I had to fight a pair of Cherry Blossoms
when I was at Godai's place.  They weren't that bad, even with your
moves, Ranma."  <Well, they weren't too hard for me when it was Godai's
program doing the fighting for me... but I'm not telling Ranma that!>

    Ranma shook his head.  "Those things were a lot slower then the ones
at the palace, and what if you had to deal with more than one?"

    Nabiki shrugged.  "That's why I'm asking you to train me, Ranma.
Tamasaburo and Baiko will be around to help out if there's real trouble
anyway, but they want you to train me if I take the job."

    Ranma sighed.  "I don't have any choice, do I?  Akane would kill me
if I let anything happen to you because I didn't want to help."  She
frowned.  "But if Lorelei wanted a bodyguard, why didn't she ask someone
like me?  I can handle just about anything that comes.  I'm the
strongest marionette on this planet, right?"

    Nabiki rolled her eyes.  "Strongest ego, anyway.  Sure you could
take the job, Ranma.  Sitting around, listening to Lorelei talk to
scientists for hours on end, watching her work in a lab, waiting around
while she gardens, following her into the bath...."

    Ranma blanched.  "Oh.  On second thought, I guess it'd be pretty
boring, huh?"

    Nabiki shrugged.  "If it pays well, I can afford to be bored.  So,
will you teach me or not?"

    Ranma nodded.  "Yeah."  She looked thoughtful.  "Now that you
mention it, I could start lessons for Lime and the others too.  Maybe I
could even start my own dojo finally?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "I wouldn't think too far ahead, Saotome.
Let's take this one step at a time at first."

    Ranma hesitated, then sighed.  "Yeah, I guess you're right.  I don't
know if anyone would want to learn from me, anyway."  She glanced at
Nabiki.  "How about tomorrow morning, for an hour before breakfast?
What do you say?"

    Nabiki sighed.  "Whatever you say...  Sensei."

    Ranma glanced around and jumped up.  "Whoops, we've been talking for
so long I forgot.  I've got to get back to work.  Cherry's falling
behind without me."  She nodded at the small longhaired marionette, who
nodded back looking relieved.  "I'll be with you in a second, Cherry!"

    Cherry smiled and pointed at the entrance to the restaurant.  "Four
more customers are waiting, Ranma!  Could you take their orders please?"

    Ranma grinned.  "I'm on it, Cherry-chan!"  The petite red head
skipped off to work the customers again, and Nabiki went back to her
meal.  Several minutes later, Akane walked in, visibly steaming over

    Nabiki picked up on her sister's mood at once.  "Job hunt didn't go
well, I take it?"

    Akane sniffed angrily and sat down next to her older sister.  "You
could say that.  Half the places I tried they couldn't seem to
understand what it is I wanted, or thought I was broken or something.
The other half wanted to know who they would be paying for me!  Some of
them kept looking around for my "master' as if it was all one big
joke."  She shook her head.  "There was one or two that were willing to
'rent' me...  I almost did take one job, until I found out what he
wanted to rent me for!  I should have known when he kept asking
questions about the quality of my manufacture and my programming."

    Nabiki's eyes widened.  "You're not implying what I think you're
implying, are you?"

    Akane growled.  "I sure am... he apparently leases his 'stable' of
marionettes from various manufacturers, so that his clients don't get
bored with the same ones over and over.  He explained it to me while he
was negotiating my price with me...."  Her face flushed darkly.  "Once I
found out what it was he was selling, I left... and he had the nerve to
try and stop me!"

    Nabiki frowned worriedly.  "You didn't hurt him too badly, did you

    Akane's eyes widened.  "You're worried about that... that... pimp
instead of me?  No, I didn't hurt him, thank you very much.  I just kept
going, and he couldn't hold me... and I was afraid that I'd kill him, I
was so mad that if I had started hitting him, I might not have held

    Nabiki put her hand on Akane's arm.  "Which is why I was worried.
Not that you'd hurt the guy, really, but that you'd get in trouble for
it.  We don't have any legal rights here on Terra Two, remember?  What
that guy does is probably perfectly legal.  No different than selling
hentai video games or videos would be back in Tokyo....  He might not be
respected for it, but he's got every right to do it."

    Akane looked shocked.  "Don't tell me you're defending that scum?
Why he's using...."

    Nabiki interrupted.  "Keep you voice down, will you?  We don't want
to disrupt Cherry's customers.  Yes, he's using marionettes to entertain
men.  What exactly do you think that marionettes are usually built for,
anyway?  Sure, a bunch of them are used as sentries, and lots more, like
Gemini, are companions and servants for lonely guys like Gennai.  A good
percentage of them have more uses than that... as the Kunos should have
made perfectly clear to you by now.  And so what if they do?  Your
normal marionette has no emotions, no consciousness.  They are machines,
pure and simple."

    Akane protested quietly.  "But...."

    Nabiki shook her head.  "But nothing.  Sure, Lime, Cherry and the
others here aren't like that and neither are we, obviously, but you've
got no reason to be shocked at how some guy uses his marionettes.  He's
got the right to do whatever he likes with them.  We're different, but
how is he supposed to know that?"

    Akane sighed.  "I guess you're right, Nabiki.  But... I'll never
accept being treated that way."

    Nabiki shook her head.  "I'm not saying you should.  I just want you
to understand why you ARE getting treated that way, so you don't lose
your temper and pound some poor idiot who's only crime is not knowing
any better.  People like Lorelei and Otaru are the exceptions, not the
rule.  Even Gennai tends to think of us as more things than people... or
haven't you noticed.  Sure he's nice, but he doesn't really act as if we
have much in the way of minds of our own."

    Akane frowned.  "Gennai's not like that."  She hesitated.  "Not
really.  Maybe before... but he tries to treat us like people."  She
shrugged helplessly.  "I can tell sometimes that he forgets we can
think... but he does try.  Lots of the men who come into Cherry's
restaurant are like that.  They know we're not regular marionettes, and
they do try and treat us more like...."

    Nabiki continued the sentence as Akane faltered slightly.  "As their
neighbor's dog, maybe?  They treat us like pets they don't own.  Waving,
talking nicely to us, but never to us as equals.  Bloodberry and Cherry
don't seem to mind, and Lime acts enough like a puppy that it just about
fits....  I'm not sure Lynx and Panther even care about anyone besides
their precious Faust, but they get the same treatment.  Haven't you seen
it?"  She waved a hand at the other side of the restaurant.  Nabiki had
purposely sat down in the corner at the far end of the bar, so she could
have some privacy, but as she waved several of the men waved back
cheerfully, not being close enough to hear her conversation with Akane.

    Nabiki rolled her eyes and turned back to Akane.  "Not that this
bunch is all that different than what we were used to back in Tokyo.
But come on.  This bunch treats us at best like a favorite mascot or

    Akane glared at her older sister.  "Nabiki, that's not a very nice
thing to say about Lime."  She hesitated.  "I guess I can see your point
about the men... and you're right.  Guys in Tokyo used to act pretty
much the same."

    Nabiki nodded.  "Like we're great to have around, but not for our
brains.  But that's from a group that have been around marionettes with
Maiden Circuits for a year or so now.  They've gotten used to the idea,
sort of, but to the rest of the people, especially those who deal with
normal marionettes all the time, we're machines, nothing more, nothing
less.  If you expect anything else then prepare to be disappointed."

    Akane sighed.  "I just don't want to accept it... but I don't seem
to have much choice, do I?  I'm not giving up though.  I'll find a job
yet."  She glanced at Nabiki.  "I don't suppose you found anything, did

    Nabiki nodded.  "As a matter of fact, I did.  You're looking at
Lorelei's new bodyguard."

    Akane blinked in astonishment.  "A bodyguard?  You?  You're

    Nabiki frowned.  "Why, don't think I can handle it?"

    Akane hesitated.  "Well... it's not like you spent much time
training with father.  You never fight, anyway.  You always leave that
to Ranma or me."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "So I'm not a brawler like you two.  That doesn't
mean I can't protect someone.  Most of it is just standing by and making
sure nothing dangerous happens.  I'm not going to have to fight all the
time or anything.  Just being in this body is advantage enough for most
things, anyway.  Nobody's going to try anything with a Saber Marionette
around, so I won't have to do much fighting."

    Akane frowned.  "These bodies are really strong and fast... but if
something was to happen...."

    Nabiki put up her hands placatingly.  "I haven't completely lost my
senses, Akane.  I got Ranma to agree to train me, so that if something
does happen, I'll be ready.  Besides, this job will pay better than
anything else I could possibly get... that I'd be willing to do,

    Akane stared at Nabiki quietly for several seconds, looking
thoughtful.  "I guess I could do something like that... maybe."

    Nabiki raised an eyebrow.  "Oh?  And who would you be protecting?
Who do you know that needs a bodyguard... and can pay for one?"

    Akane hesitated.  "Well, maybe some rich tycoon or something...."

    Nabiki looked dubious.  "Who would be expecting complete obedience
from you.  You know they do have marionette services that rent out
marionettes as bodyguards.  Those marionettes are considered
expendable... and you'd probably be bored out of you mind the rest of
the time."

    Akane blinked.  "I didn't think of it like that.  If it's so bad,
why are you doing it?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "It's not the same thing.  Lorelei knows
full well that we're as human as she is... mentally at least.  Spending
most of my time hanging out with one of the few humans on this planet
that treats us like people isn't my idea of a rotten time.  Sure, it'll
be dull occasionally, but I could do a lot worse."

    Akane nodded.  "I can see your point.  So... do you think Lorelei
might be looking for another bodyguard?"

    Nabiki shrugged.  "You could ask her if you'd like, but I don't
think so.  She's already got Tamasaburo and Baiko, remember?  The reason
I got the job is because Lorelei could use some company that isn't
either emotionless or male.  We're the only girls on the planet after

    Akane sighed.  "I know.  I don't think I could forget it."  She
shook her head.  "I'm going to find my own job.  There must be somebody
else out there worth working for."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "Good luck.  Listen, don't worry about it too
much.  With what I'll be making and the money Ranma's been putting into
the restaurant here, we'll be more than fine... at least in the money
department.  If you decide to stay around here and help Cherry with the
restaurant, or maybe find out if Otaru needs any help fishing...."
Nabiki flinched.  "On second thought, you keep trying to find a good
job.  I'm sure you'll find something!"  She closed her eyes.  <What was
I thinking?  Akane around either food or large bodies of water is not a
good thing.>


    Late that night, after everyone else had drifted off to sleep,
Nabiki found herself lying awake.  The image of a woman a few years her
senior, with long, reddish brown hair framing an angelic face....

    Nabiki shook her head violently in denial.  <No!  Stop thinking
about her!>  She sighed.  "Why can't I stop thinking about her?  Why?>
Nabiki closed her eyes and slowly lowered her right hand down her belly
and into her panties, where it slipped into the space between her legs.
Slowly she started to finger herself.  Suddenly, Nabiki jerked upright
out of her blankets.  "What in the hell?!?"

    Akane rolled over, blinking blearily up at her older sister.
"Nabiki?  What are you doing?"  She blinked twice, glancing down at
where her sister's hand was currently residing.  "Nabiki!"

    Nabiki's eyes widened.  "Eep!"  In a flash she whipped her hand out
of her panties, then grabbed her blankets to cover up again.

    Akane rolled her eyes.  "Nabiki...."

    Nabiki shrugged, trying not to appear as embarrassed as she was.
"What?  Don't tell me that you've never indulged an urge or two.  I
should know, sleeping next door to you for the last couple years."

    Akane blushed slightly.  "Well at least I did it in private!"  She
hissed back in a loud whisper.  "Sheesh, Nabiki.  What if someone else
had woken up and caught you?"

    Nabiki chuckled.  "I'd have given lessons.  I have the distinct
feeling that these marionettes have no idea about masturbation."

    Akane's eyes went wider and she put her finger to her lips
warningly.  "Shh!  Nabiki, what if they hear you?"  She leaned in
slightly, lowering her tone of voice.  "What made you call out like
that, anyway?"

    Nabiki flushed.  "None of your business!"

    Akane put her finger to her lips again.  "Shh!  I'm sorry, it just
sounded like something was wrong."

    Nabiki frowned.  "If you must know, something was wrong."

    Akane blinked.  "What?"

    Nabiki blushed.  "I'm not sure... you interrupted me in the middle."

    Akane blushed right back at her.  "Oh... you mean something is
wrong... down there?"

    Nabiki rolled her eyes.  "You mean besides the fact that the Kunos
apparently didn't believe in body hair?  Yes... there was something
else....  It just didn't feel right.  Everything... er... seems to be in
the right place but... the sensations were all wrong."

    Akane blinked again.  "Really?  Are you sure?"

    Nabiki hesitated.  "Why?  Don't tell me you want me to check again?"

    Akane's face flushed bright red.  "No!  Well... not exactly...."

    Nabiki sighed.  "Hang on... and don't watch if you're too shy."  She
reached under her blanket and closed her eyes again.  Akane could see
subtle movement under the blanket and couldn't seem to stop blushing,
but kept silent.  Nabiki's eyebrows twitched violently and her eyes shot
open again.  "Ah...."

    Akane blushed even brighter than before.  "Nabiki...?"

    The middle Tendo sister shuddered once and blew out a breath.  "It's
not... bad... exactly.  It's just wrong."  Experimentally she reached up
into her shirt and cupped her right breast.  "OK... ah... ahhhh....."
Akane's eyes went wider and wider as Nabiki's hand roamed around under
her shirt.  "Damn it!"  Nabiki swore under her breath.  "Couldn't they
have gotten that right?"

    Akane blinked in concern.  "What's wrong?  Doesn't it... feel

    Nabiki shook her head.  "No...  and I figured out what it is.  My
hand feels normal enough against my skin... and I start getting
physically... you know."  She blushed.  "I "nip" out.  But my nipples
feel strange... different.  You know how you feel when you're horny...
and you're really attracted to someone?  Or you're touching yourself and
you start to get wet?"  Akane nodded, blushing bright red.  Nabiki shook
her head.  "It's all wrong.  The feelings, they're off.  It's like when
they built my nervous system they crossed a wire in my sex drive."

    Akane looked shocked.  "The Kunos?  You don't think they did it too
you on purpose, do you?"

    Nabiki frowned.  "I don't know."  She shook her head after a moments
thought.  "I can't see why they would.  Godai seemed to want us as
'accurate as possible.'"  She blushed slightly.  "And it's still...
pleasant... in a way.  It's just wrong."

    Akane hesitated.  "Do you think it might be just you or...?"

    Nabiki frowned.  "Why should I know?  Find out for yourself if you
want to know."

    Akane hesitated again.  "Me?  Here?"

    Nabiki shrugged.  "If I can do it, I don't see why you can't."

    The door to their small room slid open a couple feet.  "Yeah."
Bloodberry said reasonably.  "Why can't you?"  She was kneeling right by
the door, looking interested.

    Cherry was just behind the larger red haired marionette, looking
like she wanted to hide.  "Bloodberry!"  She pulled the larger
marionette back slightly by the elbow.  "Don't be so rude!"

    Bloodberry glanced back at her smaller companion.  "What?  I'm not
being rude.  I'd just like to know what Nabiki meant about the feelings
being wrong... and what masturbation is exactly?"

    Akane was blushing bright red, but at the last question she
blinked.  "What?  You mean you really don't know?"

    Bloodberry shook her head.  "I think it has something to do with
sex... and I thought I knew all about how to have sex with a guy... but
that's not it, is it?  What is masturbation anyway?"

    Cherry protested faintly.  "Bloodberry!"

    Bloodberry smirked.  "Don't "Bloodberry" me, Cherry.  I know you
want to know just as much as I do."

    Nabiki smirked.  "So, Akane, you want to answer this one, or should

    Akane blushed again.  "Nabiki?  Me?  No...  what if Ranma wakes up?"

    Nabiki glanced over at the petite redhead still snoring away just a
few meters away.  "Do you think Ranma would like to know about it as
well?  Or do you think she's already figured it out for herself?"

    Akane turned a brighter shade of red and Nabiki could almost see
steam coming out of her ears.  "She had better not have!"  Akane
growled.  "That pervert."

    Cherry nodded to herself.  "I knew it was something perverted...."

    Bloodberry's eyes glowed.  "OK, now I really want to know!"

    Nabiki grinned and shrugged.  "Tell you what, Bloodberry.  I'll give
private lessons later... this really isn't the time or the place.
Besides, I want to find out what's wrong with myself first."

    Bloodberry looked disappointed.  "Are you sure?"  Nabiki nodded to
where Otaru and Lime were still sleeping, just past Panther.  Those
three were still sleeping soundly, but on the other side of them Lynx
had woken up and was looking over curiously.

    The blue haired marionette crawled over quietly to join them.  "What
are you four discussing?"

    Nabiki waved her off.  "Tomorrow.  Unless we want everyone else
waking up, I suggest we leave this for tomorrow."

    Bloodberry sighed.  "Alright... you've got me curious now... but
I'll wait.  Goodnight."

    The others nodded.  "Goodnight."

    Everyone crept back to their futons, and Akane slid their door shut
again.  "What are you going to do tomorrow, Nabiki?"

    Nabiki shrugged.  "Besides explain to a bunch of marionettes how to
play with themselves?  There's only one person I trust enough to help me
with this...  Lorelei.  I'll go talk to her."

    Akane sighed.  "I guess you're right.  I don't know if I'd want to
go to Gennai-san with something like that.  He's nice and everything,
but I would be too embarrassed to tell him."

    Nabiki chuckled.  "Nice, as in a nice dirty old man?"

    "He is, isn't he?"  Akane giggled.  "He means well though."

    Nabiki shrugged again.  "I guess so.  Anyway, go to sleep.  I'll
handle things in the morning."

    Akane sighed.  "Alright.  Goodnight, Nabiki."

    Nabiki nodded with a sigh of her own.  "Goodnight, Akane."


    That morning, for Nabiki, began with Ranma waking her up at the
crack of dawn.  "Rise and shine!"  The petite red head whispered loudly
to her.  "Time for you to start training!"

    Nabiki glanced at the red head blearily.  "It's still dark out,
Ranma?  Can't this wait a couple more hours?"

    Ranma shook her head and grabbed Nabiki's covers.  "Nope, now get
up, or else."

    Nabiki raised an eyebrow.  "Or else what?  You'll toss me out the
window?  I seem to remember Genma thinking that was a great way to start
the day.  You planning on imitating your old man, Saotome?"

    Ranma flinched.  "Hey, my old man my have been an idiot, but he knew
a lot about how to train someone.  I mean, you've got to admit, I was
the best around."

    Nabiki sniffed.  "I'm not you... and you're not your father."

    Ranma frowned.  "If you don't work hard at this, you won't be any
good.  I don't want you to get hurt because you don't know how to take
care of yourself."

    Akane rolled over.  "Ranma, I'm glad you're concerned about
Nabiki... but keep it down please?  You'll wake everyone up."

    Ranma glanced at their door and held up her hands.  "I'm trying, but
we've got to get started early if Nabiki is going to learn anything

    Nabiki sighed and pulled her covers off.  "Fine, fine....  I can see
I'm not going to get any more sleep anyway."  Ranma goggled at Nabiki
for a moment then turned her back in embarrassment.  Nabiki glanced down
at the bra and panties she had worn to bed and grinned.  "You sure you
still don't want to throw me out the window?  I'm sure the neighbors
wouldn't mind the show."

    Ranma choked back a gargled cough.  "Just put on some clothes, OK?
You're not going to learn anything if you're not serious about this,

    Nabiki frowned.  "Fine.  You want serious?  I'll show you just how
serious I can be, Ranma."  She grabbed her clothes and quickly started
to dress.  "Go out in back, and I'll join you in a minute."  Ranma
nodded and left, and Nabiki turned to glance at Akane, who was still
huddled beneath her blankets.  "Aren't you coming, Akane?  I know you've
been wanting Ranma to train with you."

    Akane shook her head.  "Spar with me, there's a difference.
Besides, all he's... she's going to do today is go over the basics.  I
could teach you that much myself."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "Fine, leave me to Ranma's care.  With any luck,
I'll be jumping out of a pit of starving cats by the end of the week."

    Akane chuckled softly from the comfort of her futon.  "I'll be sure
and find you some nice catnip."

    Out in the back yard, Ranma was waiting when Nabiki showed up a
couple minutes later.  "OK, lets get started.  Why don't you start by
showing me what you already know, and then we'll work from there."

    Nabiki nodded, and got into a horse stance, trying to recall the
lessons her father had given her long ago.  She went through everything
she could remember, rather pleased as she continued at just how much of
it was coming back to her.  After several minutes of doing punches and
kicks, and running through what she could recall of the only kata she
could remember, Nabiki stopped.

    Nabiki shrugged.  "That's just about everything I can remember.
What do we do now, sensei?  Aren't we supposed to stretch or something

    Ranma shook her head.  "No...  these bodies don't need to warm up to
work...  I figured that out a while back.  Also we're not going to have
to do any work building up your muscles... that saves us some time.
Strength training is kind of pointless when you're mechanical."  Ranma
frowned.  "What you've got to do is learn the basics all over again.
The only way you're going to get any better is for your form to be
perfect.  You've got most of the basics down alright, but you've picked
up a lot of bad habits too.  The hard part will be getting you to get
rid of them."

    Nabiki sighed.  "OK, what first?"

    Ranma nodded.  "Well, first let's show you how to punch."

    Nabiki's shoulders sagged.  "I thought I already knew how to punch."

    Ranma shook her head.  "That is going to be your worst problem.  You
think you do, so you're not going to want to change.  I want you to
forget what you think you know, and learn it all my way, OK?  When we're
done you'll punch twice as fast, and twice as hard, without being the
slightest bit faster or stronger, OK?"

    Nabiki blinked.  "Form can't make that much of a difference, can

    Ranma nodded seriously.  "You had better believe it."

    Nabiki took a deep breath.  "Yes, Sensei.  I'm listening.  So, show
me how to punch already."

    An hour later, Nabiki was bored out of her mind.  She had been
throwing punches the whole time, with Ranma coaching her the whole
time.  At the least she wasn't getting tired, and it did seem to be true
that the way Ranma had shown her seemed a whole lot better than how she
had used to do it.

    "I've got it, I've got it."  Nabiki growled after Ranma corrected
her stance slightly for what must have been the hundredth time.  "I've
been doing these perfectly for the last half hour.  Let's move on to
something else, OK?"

    Ranma looked her in the eye.  "Perfectly?"  She nodded.  "You're
form is fine... now.  You're right, you have been doing them right for
the past half hour."

    Nabiki groaned.  "Then why didn't we go to something else yet?"

    Ranma shook her head in dismay.  "I thought you were going to take
this seriously?"

    Nabiki frowned.  "I am...  I'm still here, aren't I?  Do you really
have to waste my time just to see if I'm serious about this?"

    Ranma shook her head.  "I am not wasting your time.  If you had just
stopped when you had gotten it right the first time, you might have gone
back to doing it the wrong way tomorrow.  This way, you'll remember how
to throw a punch the right way, in your muscles...."  Ranma blinked.
"Or will you?  Darn it, I keep on forgetting these bodies aren't human.
Does muscle memory even work like it's supposed to?"

    Nabiki interrupted.  "Muscle memory?  What are you talking about?"

    Ranma blinked.  "You know, if you do something enough times, you're
muscles and your nerves remember, so that you don't have to think about
doing it consciously anymore.  In a fight, that's critical, cause if you
have to think about how you're punching someone, it takes time.  You
have to be able to just react and let your training take over.  You
think about the big picture while you fight, not about each blow... or
you'll lose every time."

    Nabiki nodded.  "OK, that makes sense.  I remember daddy telling me
something similar when he was teaching me.  I'm not so sure it works
like that in these bodies, Saotome."

    Ranma frowned.  "This is important.  If I don't know how your body
learns, I'm not sure how I should teach you."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "You'll think of something."

    Cherry came out into the backyard.  "Hello Ranma, Nabiki.  What are
you two doing out here?"

    Nabiki turned to the small marionette.  "Ranma here is just showing
me how to throw a punch properly."

    Cherry looked interested.  "Oh?  Otaru-sama did say something about
you being skilled in the martial arts, Ranma-san.  That's how you are
such an effective fighter, correct?  I neglected to ask you this before,
but do you think you could show me how you do your martial arts?  I
recorded a large selection of your fighting techniques, but I haven't
yet been able to completely incorporate them."

    Ranma blinked.  "Er...  I guess I could show you.  Do you think any
of the others want to learn?"

    Cherry nodded.  "I could ask them, but I believe they would."

    Nabiki grinned.  "Well, Ranma, it looks like you might have a class
after all.  I've got to get going to the castle, so I'll leave you to

    Cherry blinked.  "What about breakfast, Nabiki?  I was coming out
here to invite you and Ranma to it.  I thought we might have a talk
after?  You, Bloodberry and I, perhaps?"

    Nabiki shook her head.  "I'll eat at the palace.  Thanks anyway...
and we'll talk after I get back, OK?"  She started walking off, and
Ranma shrugged.  "I'll eat Nabiki's share, OK, Cherry?"

    Cherry blinked as she watched Nabiki go.  "Alright, Ranma, if you'd

        End Chapter 13

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