Strangers in a Strange Land
Chapter 5
By Chris Olsen

All the characters in this story are the creation of Akahori Satoru, Kotobuki Tsukasa, and Rumiko Takahashi

               Strangers in a Strange Land  Chapter 5

    Ranma woke with the early morning's light shining into her eyes. She blinked blearily and started to reach up with a hand to block the sun's rays when she noticed the warm body laying half on, half off her. Sometime during the night, Akane had turned over and was hugging Ranma with her good arm, cuddling up against her.  Akane's face was away from the sun and she shifted slightly at Ranma's movement, but didn't wake.

    Ranma froze, panicking at first.  <When did we...?  We didn't...?> Ranma started breathing again as the previous days events came back too her.  <Oh yeah,>  Ranma remembered dourly.  <We're on another planet, five hundred years in the future, and we're on the run because we're not human anymore, but robots of some sort... Marionettes.  Oh, not to mention Nabiki being missing, and Akane nearly destroying a Marionette... and needing to get her arm repaired and....>

    Ranma sighed quietly to herself.  <Forget what I told Akane about being in worse situations before.  This is way beyond anything I've had to deal with before this.>  Ranma slowly sat up and carefully started to try to move Akane off of her without waking her up.  Akane sighed and blinked her eyes open even as Ranma was starting to lift her up.

    The youngest of the three Tendo sisters blinked, feeling herself being lifted slowly, and glanced up into Ranma's face.  Akane started in surprise, and a host of emotions ran over her face, shock, anger, memory, remorse, and then embarrassment.

    Akane's face flushed as she stared Ranma in the eyes from inches away.  "Oh!  Ranma... um... good morning."  She glanced away self-consciously and Ranma hurriedly lowered Akane to the side and off of her.  Akane turned over into a sitting position, hampered somewhat by her still immobile arm.

    Ranma noticed the problem and spoke up quickly, jumping at a chance to break the tension.  "Does it hurt, Akane?  Are you OK?"

    Akane shook her head, moving her broken arm's shoulder experimentally.  "No, it hasn't changed.  I still can't feel it, or move it.  Actually, I kind of wish it did hurt... at least then I'd know it was real...."  She shook her head.  "It's hard to remember sometimes... that we're robots, I mean.  I feel so... normal."  Akane glanced at her broken arm.  "Most of the time."

    Ranma winced again.  "I understand.  Don't worry, Akane, we'll get your arm fixed up, I promise."

    Akane smiled slightly.  "Don't go making promises you can't keep, Ranma.  That's how you get into so much trouble."

    Ranma frowned.  "Hey!  I don't go around promising nothing I won't keep to....  Pop is responsible for making all those stupid promises, not me!"

    Akane looked thoughtful.  "Really?  Engaging you two four different women wasn't your idea?  I thought that would be any guy's fantasy."

    Ranma blinked.  "No way!  That was most of the trouble!  I would never...."

    Akane laughed.  "I was just teasing you, Ranma.  Anyway, that's all ancient history now, right?  That all happened five hundred years ago."

    Ranma sobered.  "Yeah... no more engagements to worry about... no more curse... just a whole mess of new problems."

    Akane sobered as well.  "Nabiki....  Ranma, how are we going to find her?"

    Ranma looked thoughtful.  "Well, we know where those Marionettes that had her hand came from, so we've got a place to check first, but before we go back to the palace, we gotta get your arm looked at. There's gotta be a doctor... or a Marionette repairman or something we can find."

    Akane nodded, looking hopeful.  "So we go back into town?"

    Ranma hesitated.  "No....I'm going alone.  Akane, no offense but you're not at your best right now.  If we got into trouble I'd just have to look out for you.  I'll go myself and find out where you need to go."

    Akane's eyes lit up in anger for a moment, and Ranma could see her visibly calming herself down.  "Ranma....  OK, you're right, I admit it."  Her shoulders slumped.  "I'm worthless to you like this."

    Ranma looked worried.  "Akane... I'm...."

    Akane shook her head, forcing a smile.  "Go ahead.  I'll be fine. Find me a doctor, or whatever, and then we can rescue Nabiki together."

    Ranma nodded.  "Right.  I'll be back as soon as I can Akane, don't worry.  Wait here for me."  The red haired marionette shrugged.  "It may take some time, but I'll come back by next morning at the latest, no matter what I find."

    Akane glanced around the small clearing.  "I'll be here, waiting. Don't get yourself hurt, Ranma.  No heroics this time, OK?"

    Ranma snorted.  "Hey, I never lose, right?  I'll be fine."  She turned to go, then hesitated, glancing back at her ex-fiancee.  "Um...."

    Akane held her breath, waiting for Ranma to speak, but the red head seemed to be having difficulty forming words.  "Yes, Ranma, what is it?"

    Ranma sputtered a bit, looking embarrassed.  "Um... about last night...."

    Akane blushed, remembering falling asleep in Ranma's arms.  "Yes?"

    Ranma swallowed.  "Um... it... it was... nice."  The red head shook slightly, then ran off, leaving Akane standing dumbfounded in the small clearing.

    Akane stood still for several long seconds until Ranma was well out of sight, then her face lit up with renewed rage.  "Why that... idiot! How can he... she say something like that and just run off!"  She glowered.  "Just you wait until you get back here Ranma... just you wait."  Akane's anger dissolved almost as fast as it had appeared. "Just as long as you get back, Ranma.  Please, come back safe."


    Ranma made her way to the city stealthily, avoiding the paths and roads.  Getting over the wall was a challenge, but she was able to barely reach the top with a full power leap.  Ranma pulled herself on top of the wall and looked around carefully, noticing a guard a hundred yards away, she waited until he was looking in a completely opposite direction before jumping down to the ground below and sneaking off.

    Ranma began moving through town, keeping out of sight by bounding from rooftop to rooftop.  She couldn't move quickly, there were too many people on the street to avoid being spotted, so she had to take her time, only moving when no one was looking in her direction.  It wasn't easy, but Ranma kept her patience, and kept moving slowly but surely through town, looking for some one that could repair Akane.

    "I'm not really sure what I'm looking for."  Ranma groused after several hours of fruitless search.  "I mean, I'm not looking for a doctor's office... what do you call a marionette repair man anyway?" Ranma kept looking, checking the signs on buildings unsuccessfully for one that would be helpful.  Ranma sat down as it was coming around to the afternoon and tried to think.  "OK, how did Nabiki find out where we needed to go?"  After several moments, she remembered.  "Oh yeah! Nabiki found a library... she said she read some newspaper articles about Lorelei....  That would work.  I can look in the classifieds or
something...."  Ranma started looking around for a newspaper, and before long she spotted part of one lying in the entrance to an alley.

    She jumped down and grabbed it when no one was looking, then jumped back up to the rooftops and sat down to read.  "OK, classifieds, classifieds....  Hey, one of the marionettes we saw in the palace is on the front page!"  Ranma read the copy.  "Lorelei to reopen Japoness Pioneer Museum...."  The red head blinked.  "That was Lorelei?  Damn! We were right next to her in the palace and we never realized it!" Ranma thought about it.  "I bet Lorelei could fix Akane... and she might even know where Nabiki is.  I've just got to go grab her, and make her fix Akane."

    Ranma nodded to herself and started heading for the palace determinedly.  An hour later, she had reached a building a block away from the palace and was trying to think of a way to get inside without being noticed.

    "I don't want to start another panic."  Ranma decided.  "If their guard is up then it'll be a lot harder to get out of the palace with Lorelei.  I've got to wait until someone else is going into the palace, and sneak in with them, like we did with the guards last time."  That decided, Ranma moved around to a vantage point where she could watch the front gate without being spotted, and sat down to wait.

    Hours passed before Ranma found her opportunity to enter the palace unobserved.  A particular looking car pulled up to the front gates and Ranma jumped down and stealthily followed it inside when the gates were opened to let it drive in.  She was careful not to get too close and broke away from the vehicle as it neared the front of the main building inside the compound.
A number of guards opened the palace doors and Ranma took the opportunity to slip in past them, using the special technique his father had invented, the "silent thief."  It was an original but very apt name for a group of techniques that Genma Saotome had created for breaking into houses.  The counter technique that Genma had invented, the "noisy thief" was one of the most dangerous and lethal martial arts techniques Ranma knew.  Designed to destroy entire buildings, Ranma had sworn never
to use the "noisy thief" technique unless in the most dire emergency.

    Still, while Ranma didn't approve of her old man's larcenous tendencies, she had to admit that he was a truly skilled martial
artist.  Using Genma's stealth technique, Ranma was able to make her way to the ventilation system again with no one noticing her.

    Ranma had been crawling around in the air shafts for what seemed like hours with no success, going from grate to grate, looking everywhere she could think of for Lorelei.  A delicious aroma caught Ranma's attention, reminding the red haired marionette that she hadn't eaten in almost a day.  Ranma's stomach didn't growl, but she still felt ravenous, and headed for the smell of the food.

    Ranma sniffed thoughtfully as she headed in the direction of the smell.   Miso soup?  I wonder who it's for?  Ranma blinked.  Maybe it's for Lorelei!  I can just follow the smell right to her.  Ranma followed her nose, and indeed, the willowy, beautiful young woman was getting ready for dinner when Ranma finally found her in the Palace kitchen.  As she usually did this time of day, Lorelei had dismissed the palace's marionettes and was fixing herself a meal.  Ranma's mouth watered at the appetizing aroma, but she forced herself to concentrate on the task ahead.  Ranma ripped the grate above the large kitchen stove off and
jumped down still holding it.

    Lorelei's eyes went wide and she started to speak.  "Who...?"

    Ranma moved like lightning, dropping the grate with a clatter, she rushed over and covered Lorelei's mouth with her hand.  "Shhh.  Be quiet, or else."  Ranma's mind asked sarcastically, < Or else what?  Its not like you're going to hurt her.>  Ranma shot back instantly to that. < Oh yeah?  At least she doesn't know that.>  Lorelei froze, intimidated by the red head's speed, and Ranma slowly lowered her hand.  "OK, quietly, tell me if there are any guards nearby."

    Lorelei hesitated, then shook her head.  "No....  I'm alone.  What do you want with me?"

    Ranma looked the strawberry blond haired scientist in the eyes. "You're Lorelei, right?"

    Lorelei nodded, calming down.  "Yes.  You've been trying to get to me for two days now, haven't you?  Why?"  There was something about this marionette that made her curious instead of frightened, Lorelei remembered the recording of Otaru and his marionette's fight against the petite red head in front of her.  She hadn't done any damage in the fight, despite her obviously greater skill.  Something told Lorelei that she wasn't in any immediate danger.

    Ranma nodded.  "We were, until you sent your guards out to catch us."  She looked angry all of a sudden.  "What have you done with Nabiki?"

    Lorelei blinked.  "Nabiki?  Who is that?"

    Ranma's eyes narrowed dangerously.  "She was with me and Akane before... your guards must have told you.  She's got short brown hair, and was wearing a green kimono."

    Lorelei thought furiously.  "So Akane is the marionette with short black hair?"  Lorelei's eyes widened.  "Nabiki... a green kimono... Cherry found...."

    Ranma took a threatening step toward Lorelei, genuinely angry now. "Where is she!"  She hissed the last word loudly, remembering to keep her voice down at the last second.

    Lorelei shook her head quickly, looking frightened.  "Cherry only found a hand... I swear I don't know where... Nabiki is."

    Ranma looked into the woman's eyes and saw no deception there, only fear.  "I see."  She sighed heavily, her face becoming bleak.

    Lorelei's fear started to fade again as the small marionette in front of her visibly went from anger to worry.  Such a range of
emotion.  This marionette's maiden circuit is incredibly advanced! She's worried about her friend....  Lorelei blinked at her own
thoughts.  Friend, yes.  She's worried about this Nabiki very much. She's acting in a completely human manner.

    Ranma shook her head, focusing on Lorelei again.  "Never mind. You've got to come with me."

    Lorelei took a step back, suddenly frightened again.  "Why?  I told you I don't know where your friend is!  I'm not your enemy, I promise...."  Lorelei found to her surprise that she meant it.

    Ranma reached out and lightly grabbed Lorelei's arm.  "I'm sorry, but you've gotta come with me.  I need your help."

    Lorelei didn't struggle, knowing the futility of fighting against the robotic strength of a marionette.  "Why do you need me?  How can I help you?"

    Ranma paused, thinking.  I guess she'll need a tool kit or something....  "OK, I need you to repair Akane.  Her arm is broken, and I want you to fix it."

    Lorelei blinked, then took a long, thoughtful look at the petite red head in front of her.  The marionette was about as far from threatening in appearance as a person could get.  Wearing an oversized man's shirt, she appeared to be just out of puberty, wafishly attractive, and anything but dangerous.  Appearances were meaningless, of course, when dealing with marionettes, but there was something there that made Lorelei believe her.

    "All right."  Lorelei said calmly, no longer even the slightest bit afraid.  "I'll help you."  She smiled slightly.  "I'll need to get some tools.  It would be better if we could get your friend... Akane, into my lab, but I suppose that's out of the question."

    Ranma blinked.  "Um... yeah.  I don't think that would work."

    Lorelei looked her captor in the eyes.  "What is your name, if I may ask?"

    The red head looked surprised.  "Me?  I'm Ranma, Ranma Saotome."

    Lorelei filed that for later, and reached over and patted the hand that held her left arm.  "You don't have to hold me.  I promise I won't run."

    Ranma hesitated, then released her.  "All right, I'll trust you."

    Lorelei smiled.  "Thank you, Ranma.  My tools are in my lab.  We might run into some guards if we go get them, I'm afraid."

    Ranma looked determined.  "It doesn't matter.  We're going to get them, and go fix Akane.  I don't care how many guards I've got to deal with to do it."

    Lorelei nodded.  "I understand.  Perhaps I can think of another way?"  She's not bluffing.  From seeing her in action, Ranma really could walk right though the palace guards.  Only Otaru's marionettes have a chance of stopping her... and I don't want to stop her!  Lorelei suddenly froze in realization.  "Ranma, why do you have a last name?"

    Ranma was broken out of her own thoughts about how to get Lorelei's tools.  "Eh?  A last name?  It's my family name of course.  Everyone has a last name."

    Lorelei shook her head.  "No marionette has a last name.  At least not yet.  Why do you?"

    Ranma shook her head, confused.  "Why do I...?  It's my name, OK? Ranma Saotome, just like my mom and dad.  I guess I'm the last Saotome... unless mom and dad had another kid after I...."  Ranma looked confused.  "Wait, I didn't die... well I did... but Kuno's machine didn't kill me... just copied my memories... so maybe Akane and I had kids."

    Lorelei was looking more and more confused as well.  "I don't understand.  Your mom and dad?  There's never been a mother on this planet since it began... did the Kuno's create a fictional past for you?"  Lorelei shook her head.  "I don't understand."

    Ranma glanced over at her.  "Oh... well its kinda complicated.  The Kunos... your Kunos, made me, Akane, and Nabiki, right?  Well, to do it, they used the memories that Kuno... the Kuno from five hundred years ago, got from the three of us, using this machine he got from some crazy scientist called Iago...."

    Lorelei interrupted, looking shocked.  "Iago?  Iago Ikari, the famous scientist?  The man who revolutionized computer storage capacity?  He claimed he could store everything in a human brain... but he was discredited after he died in a lab accident."  Lorelei shook her head in bewilderment.  "But he did it?  He stored your memories in a computer?"

    Ranma blinked.  "Um... yeah.  I'm here, right?  Anyway, the Kunos... your Kunos, apparently had our memories... and they woke us up.  Only... they wanted us to be some kinda slaves!  I'm grateful for them bringing me to life... I guess, but I ain't nobody's concu... concu...."

    Lorelei guessed.  "Concubine?"

    Ranma nodded.  "Yeah, one of those.  Anyway, they were going to reprogram us to do whatever they wanted... so we left."
Lorelei nodded, her eyes dark with anger.  "I understand.  I really do understand.  I promise I'll help you.  We won't let the Kunos get you back, I promise you that."

    Godai Kuno's voice came from outside the kitchen, surprising both of them.  "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Miss Lorelei."  Ranma and Lorelei spun to face him, but before Ranma could do anything else, she was racked by a horrible jolt, and went down, limbs flailing out of control.

    Lorelei spotted the fist-sized device that Godai was using on Ranma and immediately guessed what it was.  "An EMP caster?  What are you going to do with her?"

    Godai shook his head sadly.  "I'm afraid it's not what I'm going to do with her, but what I'm going to have to do with you, Miss Lorelei, that you should be concerning yourself with."  He nodded to his left and a marionette in a green kimono and short brown hair stepped into view. "Nabiki, capture Lorelei for me."

    The brown haired marionette stepped forward obediently.  "Yes master."


    Nabiki woke up, finding herself feeling an intense deja vu.  She was in the same place she had woken up the day before.  The only difference was that this time she couldn't bring herself to move.

    "Nabiki, get off the table and stand up please."  Nabiki found herself doing so before she could think.  In a moment she found herself standing in front of the speaker, Godai Kuno.  Belatedly, Nabiki realized that she was naked, but again found herself unable to act as she wished.  Instead of covering herself up, she just continued to stand.  Nabiki couldn't seem to even blush or close her eyes.  Her gaze rested firmly on Godai's face.

    Godai walked around her once, inspecting her while Nabiki struggled inside her head.  As far as she could tell, she had lost all control over her body's actions.  When the older man finished his inspection he turned to face her, then nodded to a pile of clothing on a nearby table.  "Get dressed."

    Nabiki rushed to obey, and found motion restored to her.  The sensation was an incredible relief, and Nabiki got dressed quickly... then found herself standing paralyzed again.   "Come over here."  Godai commanded, and Nabiki turned t face him, then tried to stop, refuse his command, but to no avail.  Her body kept moving, except now she was no longer in control of it.  Nabiki found herself moving entirely against her will, and she was powerless to do anything about it.

    Godai waited for her to reach him and looked into her eyes enquiringly.  "So, how do you like your new program, Nabiki?"  Nabiki frowned, not speaking, and Godai smiled.  "I see that you've discovered the fact that you no longer have control of your body... unless you are following my instructions."  He shrugged.  "The command protocols I inserted are quite sophisticated, but they cannot express an opinion... which you can."

    Nabiki spoke.  "My opinion isn't fit for human ears... but for you I'll make an exception...." "Shh."  Godai put his finger to his lips.  "It wouldn't do to hear such words from such an exquisite creation as you, my dear.  Keep your words polite, or do not speak."

    Nabiki glared at him, finding that his command did keep her from expressing anything "not polite" through her words, but didn't restrict her expression.  "Turn it off."  Nabiki said finally.  "I'll do what you want, just turn it off."

    Godai shook his head.  "I think not.  I do not wish a repeat of your earlier actions.  You are my property, and you will remain my property."  He turned towards the stairs.  "Come with me, I have a few tests to perform."

    Nabiki found herself following along after him as Kuno left the lab and went up the long flight of stairs.  Almost immediately, she surrendered, and started walking after him on her own.  The regained control of her body was intoxicating, a vast improvement over paralysation, or having her body controlled by someone else.  Before long, they reached the courtyard and stopped.  Nabiki found that she retained control of her body as long as she obeyed Kuno's instructions to the letter, following him or even standing still was under her control.

    There was a vast difference even, in standing motionless purposefully, than being simply unable to move.  Nabiki had never
thought of herself as a hedonist, but the lack of sensation when she was not in control of herself was rapidly becoming unbearable.

    There was a pair of Cherry Blossom marionettes in the courtyard, and Godai Kuno pointed to them.  "I want you to fight these marionettes, now."

    Nabiki hesitated, then found herself moving forward towards the marionettes against her will.  The Cherry Blossoms readied their weapons as she moved close, and Nabiki fought down a wave of panic.  Don't freeze up now girl!  Kuno's already proven that the automatic pilot or whatever that is controlling me isn't as good at using this body as I am... so I've got to take over, or get skewered!

    Nabiki thought about blocking one of the marionettes spear thrusts, and found herself in control of her body once again.  Rapidly however she found herself on the defensive.  Oh no!  It's been too long since I practiced.  I haven't done any real martial arts since I was a kid.... Nabiki didn't have anymore time for thought as she retreated quickly, barely avoiding being struck by the Cherry Blossom's weapons.  This body is plenty fast and strong... but I just don't have the moves....

    Godai's voice rang out.  "Nabiki, begin combat protocols level one!"  Suddenly Nabiki found herself fighting back again, only her body was once again out of her control.  She watched in horrified fascination as she spun through the Cherry Blossoms defenses like they weren't moving, and knocked them both off their feet.  Grabbing a spear away, and snapping the second one's weapon with a snap kick, Nabiki's body was about to finish the fight when Godai shouted again.  "Halt!"

    Both she and the two Cherry Blossoms stopped moving at his command. The older man nodded in satisfaction.  "Excellent, the program works perfectly.  Nabiki, come to me."

    Nabiki obeyed immediately, not wanting to lose control of her body again.  She spoke accusingly.  "I know that style, those moves...  Those were Ranma's moves, I was using the Saotome style of Anything Goes style of Martial Arts."

    Godai nodded, looking extremely smug.  "The program is of my own invention.  Thanks to Professor Iago's data, and my technology and know-how, I have produced to most powerful combat program yet developed.  As a grandmaster of the Anything Goes style, I chose Ranma Saotome to emulate for the program."  His eyes gleamed.  "As of now, only a Saber Marionette such as yourself had the capacity to handle such a sophisticated program... but as we speak, Yusaku is upgrading the capacity on several of our Cherry Blossoms.  Before long, my marionettes will be the most powerful in the world."

    Nabiki tried to keep from laughing.  "Aren't you being a bit... megalomaniacal?"

    Godai frowned.  "I'm getting tired of your attitude.  From now on, keep your opinions too yourself unless I ask you for them... and address me properly.  I am your master, and you will address me as such."

    "Yes Master."  Nabiki found herself answering immediately.

    Godai nodded.  "Very good.  Now, we do not have much time to waste. Come with me."  Once again Godai started off, and Nabiki hurried to follow, seething with anger and trying not to let the hopelessness of her situation overwhelm her.  Before long she found herself with Godai in an odd vehicle apparently called a 'Motor Palanquin' and headed for the Japoness Imperial palace.  Two of the Cherry Blossoms accompanied them.  The vehicle drove there automatically, and on their arrival the
gates were opened with no questions, and then the main palace entrance as well.

    Godai lead her and the two Cherry Blossoms inside, and took them to the main palace security room.  There were a pair of marionettes outside of it. Godai pulled out the small device he had used on Nabiki earlier and pointed it at them.  A moment later they fell over, jerking and sparking.  He got out another small electronic device and put it on the door lock.  Seconds later the door slid open.

    Godai nodded to the marionettes.  "Bring them in here.  The pulse will have wiped out their short-term memories.  They aren't as well shielded as a Saber model."  The two Cherry Blossoms did as he commanded, and Godai closed the door behind his little group.  "There, we should now have access to all the security systems in the palace." He popped a computer disk of some kind into the control panel and started typing in commands.  Before long a picture of the inside of the main palace appeared, with a number of glowing dots on it.

    "Now, all I have to do is identify Lorelei's position.  The men of Japoness have been ordered about by a woman for the last time."  Godai nodded at a point on the screen.  "That's her.  It's the only human on that level of the palace, which is near her private chambers."  He frowned.  "From this I can read one marionette in the area with her... and its not one of the palace sentries, all of those are accounted for...."  He spun away, heading for the door.  "Come, we must hurry."

    Nabiki and the Cherry Blossom Marionettes followed immediately after him, winding their way through the palace quickly, taking a circuitous route to avoid sentries.

    Godai gloated slightly as they hurried along.  "I've taken over most of the palace security with a specially tailored computer virus I designed myself.  Once Lorelei is dealt with, power will be restored to its rightful place, in the hands of intelligent men."
Nabiki glared at his back, raging silently.  In the hands of an egotistical chauvinist pig you mean.  The control program kept her from speaking, but her thoughts, at least, were still her own.

    As they rounded the final corner, Nabiki could hear two women quietly talking, and one of them was Ranma!  She sighed in relief. Ranma will save me.  He... she always manages to save the day in the end.  And she's with Lorelei!  Ha, Godai, what are you going to do now?

    Godai heard the voices as well and frowned.  He strode to the door to the kitchen just as Lorelei voice raised in anger. "I understand.  I really do understand.  I promise I'll help you.  We won't let the Kunos get you back, I promise you that."
Godai interrupted, clearing his throat for emphasis. .  "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Miss Lorelei."  He brought a small device out of his pocket and pointed it at Ranma, and the red head went down instantly, limbs thrashing.

    Nabiki felt a slight tinge even standing behind Godai and winced. < Oh no!  That thing again!  How can Ranma fight if I she can't even stand up?  Ranma... come on, get up... you can do this!>

    Lorelei looked shocked. "An EMP caster?  What are you going to do with her?"

    Godai shook his head sadly.  "I'm afraid it's not what I'm going to do with her, but what I'm going to have to do with you, Miss Lorelei, that you should be concerning yourself with."  He nodded to Nabiki and she stepped forward against her will. "Nabiki, capture Lorelei for me."

    Nabiki found herself answering automatically.  "Yes Master."  Her body once again out of her control, Nabiki stepped forward to do her master's bidding.

    Lorelei stepped back but Nabiki was on her in a flash, pinning her arms behind her.  < That combat program is still on.>  Nabiki realized. < There's nothing I can do!>  Nabiki pressed a spot on Lorelei's neck with precisely calculated force and after a few seconds Lorelei fainted dead away in her arms.

    Nabiki cradled the woman carefully in her arms, finding herself temporarily back in control of her body.  She suddenly noted with a surge of hope, that Ranma had managed to get to her feet, and was headed for Godai.  < Come on, Ranma, get the box!>

    Godai stepped back; keeping his device firmly pointed at Ranma. "What's wrong with this thing?  I increased its output by fifty percent... it should be working."  He waved to Nabiki.  "Hurry up, get away from there and get behind me with Lorelei."
Nabiki found herself obeying automatically for a moment before she resisted the command.  No!  What am I doing?  I can't help him kidnap Lorelei.  Her inner protest was unheard as her body continued to follow Godai's instructions, carrying the woman out of the kitchen and around behind Godai Kuno.  He continued to back up as Ranma came for him.

    "Damn."  Godai looked extremely annoyed.  "I wanted to get the Ranma marionette back as well... drop, damn it, drop!  You should be shutting down by now!"  Running footsteps interrupted him.  "Now what?  Guards?  No more time."  He hurried down the hall, stopping at a panel at the corner. "Hmm, there should be a passageway... here."  Godai pushed a spot on the wall, which promptly caused a ten by six section of it to open up. "Hurry, go through here.  I can't be seen here."

    Godai kept his EMP caster on Ranma until all three of his marionettes were through the wall then.  "I suppose I'll let you take
the blame for this.  Convenient, isn't it?"  He closed the passage behind him just as Otaru and several of his marionettes rounded the corner heading for the kitchen.

    Ranma felt full control of his body returning slowly as the group of marionettes came into view.  The one in the lead was the same marionette that Akane had damaged the day before.

    "I'm sure the signal is coming from the kitchen area."  Cherry explained as she led the way through the palace.  "It's the same signal I noticed before those two rogue marionettes attacked us, Otaru-sama."

    Otaru nodded.  "Well, I'm just glad you're back on your feet again, Cherry.  I don't know what we'd do without you."

    Cherry smiled happily at the praise, then went back to leading the group through the corridors.  "Not much farther...."  They rounded the corner to the kitchen and spotted a familiar looking red haired marionette wearing a man's shirt.

    Panther went after her in a rush.  "It's her!  I'm going to tear her head off!"  Bloodberry followed right after, a violent grin on her face.  "I'm going to get you for making me look bad in front of Otaru." She promised quietly.

    Ranma's eyes went wide and she turned to run, still feeling the effects of whatever Godai Kuno had been zapping her with.
Oh man, I'm in trouble!  They want to kill me now... what about when they find out Lorelei's gone?  I've got to get out of here!  Ranma's thoughts became increasingly desperate as Panther and Bloodberry closed the gap between them and her.  I'm still woozy from whatever Kuno did... I can't fight them all like this!

    Otaru watched the trio sprint off in dismay.  "Lime, go after them, try to capture her intact."  Lynx, Cherry, find out where they're going and head them off.  We need some answers!"

    Lime raced off with a cherry nod.  "OK!"  Cherry and Lynx began quickly scanning and Otaru started to run off.

    Cherry hesitated.  "What are you doing, Otaru-sama?"

    Otaru glanced back, not stopping.  "I'm going to check on Lorelei! Now hurry?"

    Cherry nodded, going back to her work.  "They're headed for the main gate.  We can still cut them off if we hurry."  She was already running in mid word, Lynx a step behind her.

    "I concur."  The blue haired marionette replied softly.  "But where are the other two rogues?"

    Cherry shook her head helplessly but didn't answer, the two of them running in silence.


                          end of chapter 5