DISCLAIMER: Ranma 1/2 belongs to the brilliant
Takahashi Rumiko. Robotech is owned by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. No copyright
infringement is intended.
This story is based on McKinney's books. C&C desperately needed.
Standing no more than a few miles away from the SDF-1, Ranma tried to come to a decision. What should he do now? That was the million dollar question. He had absolutely no idea what had happened a moment ago. One minute, he had been walking towards the SDF-1, a ship he had wanted to visit for some time now. The next, that same ship had fired a blast of energy over the city. A _very_ powerful blast.
He spun around and looked around Macross. The crowd was slowly dispersing, the confused people scattering toward either their houses or the impressive underground shelters Ranma knew the government had built years ago.
To say the army was on alert would have been the understatement of the year. All of the soldiers he had seen near the fence had hurried away just a second after the ground had become still again. They had got into a green jeep parked next to the sentry box and had taken off at terminal velocity, leaving a puzzled Ranma behind. A Ranma full with doubts.
´Now what?´ he asked himself mentally. The SDF-1 was one big klaxon, as Veritech after Veritech took to the air in rapid succession. It didn't seem the right moment to visit a lost uncle...
Maybe he ought to go to the shelters--not that he couldn't handle whatever it was the SDF-1 had shot at. No, not at all.
´Besides, I'm sure I'll have another chance,´ he thought, almost as if he were trying to convince himself. ´At least, I hope so.´
Giving the great starship a last longing look, he slowly headed further into the city.
Two days had passed since the SDF-1 had crashed in their camp, and by then, both the Saotomes and the Tendos knew it was actually an alien spaceship. Many politicians had called its arrival a miracle, but to Ranma, it had just been another strange incident in his hectic life.
So, there he was, performing a kata in the dojo, when Akane decided to give him a surprise: she cooked dinner.
Everyone quickly left the house, leaving a terrified Ranma behind. Ranma knew he had been unfair, he shouldn't have been feeling that way. After all, Akane _was_ getting better. By then, her tea was almost as good as Kasumi's, and her curry was at least passable. Better yet, when supervised by either the elder Tendo daughter or Nodoka--or both, for more security--she could cook simple meals--like rice or something.
But that day, she had done the forbidden: she had improvised.
She didn't follow a recipe, as she said she already remembered one she had once read in a magazine. Big mistake number one. Innocently, he had asked her what ingredients she was using. She had just given him an enigmatic smile and said, "Oh, just some wildflowers and vegetables I found in the island. I'm sure you'll like them." And with that, she had run to the kitchen, leaving a bewildered fiance behind.
´Wild... flowers?!´ he thought. Okay, big mistake number two.
Two hours he sat at the table, every single minute spent making up excuses to say to Akane. Perhaps if he said he was ill... No, he never got ill. A challenge? No, that wouldn't work, either. No matter how many fights he managed to get into during the day, he rarely missed a meal.
He was still absorbed in his musings, gazing intently at a wall, when Akane came in with a big white bowl. A big bowl full with... some greenish stuff. That's the most accurate description Ranma came up with in the long minute he stared at the dish.
"What is this?" he fearfully asked.
"A salad, of course," she said with a pride-filled voice.
He peered again inside the plastic bowl. He could notice strange-looking petals, chopped stems, and what he thought--hoped--were leaves. What the heck had she put in there?!
He quickly came to a decision: he _had_ to do something to get out. Anything!
"Eh... Akane, I'm sorry, but I gotta go--" he started, but stopped himself when he noticed the expression in her face. She looked so sad. Suddenly, a small tear appeared in the corner of one of her eyes and, after a moment of seeming hesitation, toppled over, tracing a wet path in her cheek.
Sometimes, a tear is stronger than a thousand mallets.
Steeling himself, he grabbed the chopsticks in a strong grip. Sweat poured down his face, but he kept repeating himself he couldn't fail Akane. She had put so much effort in cooking this. He just couldn't. He wouldn't. He would _not_.
To his credit, his hands didn't tremble when he took the vegetables to his mouth. Maybe it would have been better if they did.
His mouth closed over the leaves.
Alone, again. The shops were closed, the deserted streets void of the thousands of people that had been there minutes before. It appeared evacuations plans had been prepared beforehand. In less time than he spent walking back towards the city, all of Macross' inhabitants had gone indoors. So he was in the middle of a ghost town, trying to find his way to the nearest shelter. And he was _not_ going to ask for directions.
´Now, if I were an impregnable underground shelter, where would I be?´ A dog's angry barks were his only answer.
From his position, he was able to distinguish the supercarriers anchored in the port. Aircraft of every kind took to the sky from its catapults. A swarm of Veritechs already soared through the air, fast as rockets, flying towards the ocean.
´Whatever it is that's happening, it must be serious.´
He followed the planes for as long as he could, till they were only tiny black specks in the canopy of heaven. Moments later, any evidence of their presence in the air was gone. He was about to resume walking, when something caught his eye. The part of the sky where the Veritechs had been seconds ago was suddenly bathed in yellow points of fire. Short-lived, they disappeared and reappeared constantly in different places, almost like...
´Explosions!´ thought Ranma in sudden realization. ´The battle must have started.´ He stared at them for some time, but he soon got bored.
´Not really interesting to look from here. Anyway, it has to be one hell of a dogfight.´
He wandered through the city for several more minutes, still unable to find anyone. He was about to give up, when he suddenly heard a voice from somewhere around the corner. Ranma made a dash for the place--and found a little boy playing with a toy plane--a Veritech. He was wearing a yellow sweatshirt and blue bib overalls, and had shoulder-length chestnut hair.
Running along the sidewalk at a breakneck pace and making loud engine-like noises, he was enjoying himself, and thus didn't notice he wasn't alone any more. Ranma was still looking at him, when the boy stumbled over a loose tile and lost balance, starting to fall and letting go of his toy. Not thinking twice, Ranma jumped towards the boy and caught him before he touched the ground. Without loosing any momentum, he leapt again and caught the miniature Veritech. Calmly now, he set the slightly shaken boy on the sidewalk, steadying him with his arm.
"Here ya go," said Ranma as he handed him the plane. "You should be more careful, kid. You could have gotten hurt."
"Sorry," said the kid sheepishly.
"No prob." After all, he had done worse. He still remembered the first time he had tried to walk over the fence.
"How did ya do that?" asked the boy after a moment of hesitation.
"You know--you caught me and the plane, and you were so fast..." he trailed off, obviously at a loss for words to explain what he had seen.
"Oh, that." He shrugged. "Lotsa training. You see, I'm a martial artist," he explained nonchalantly.
"Really?" His eyes were wide and filled with admiration.
"Yes..." He didn't like the look the boy was giving him--it sort of reminded him of Asuza. ´Time to change the subject,´ he wisely decided. "What's your name, kid?" he asked with a warm smile.
"Jason!" chirped the boy.
"Hey, Jason. I'm Ranma."
"Hi Ranma! Wanna be friends?"
Ranma winced. 'Not the best words to use, Jason. Not now. But how were you gonna know.´ Still, he deserved an answer.
"Sure, kiddo. I'd love to be your pal."
"Cool," said Jason with a big smile. "Maybe you can teach me martial arts later, or something."
"It's a deal." He probably wasn't going to have time to keep this promise, but there was no need to disappoint him. "But tell me, Jason. What are you doing here alone? It could be dangerous, ya know," Ranma almost chided. Funny, that he was lecturing someone on not taking dangers. Maybe he was growing up or something.
"Mom and Dad told me I could go and play for a while," said the kid defensively.
"I guess it's okay then... Tell me, Jason, where do ya live?" Maybe his parents could tell him where he could go.
"There, in that restaurant," he answered, pointing at a Chinese restaurant in the far end of the street with one of his little fingers. Next to a big wooden door, a sign read ´White Dragon´. For some reason, it made him remember the Nekohanten. He just hoped Jason's parents weren't amazons.
"Are your parents in, Jason? I'd like to talk to them."
"Sure! C'mon, let's go! My cousin is there, too! She's the greatest!" He eagerly grabbed Ranma by his arm and started dragging him towards the restaurant, tirelessly droning about how much he was going to love his family.
´Oh, man! What have I gotten myself into?´ thought Ranma, desperately trying to keep his footing.
He had known he was going to his doom, but he hadn't known how terrible this was.
His tongue finally touched the salad, and Ranma gazed down, staring at his food wide-eyed. It was delicious! He had never eaten something so tasty!
"Akane, you're sure _you_ cooked this?" Ranma asked, amazed.
"Of course. Why do you ask?"
"It's the best thing I ever ate!" It was the truth. Not even Kasumi had cooked something so perfect, so... right. He just couldn't stop stuffing himself.
"Oh, Ranma. Are you serious?" asked Akane with tears in her.
"Sure. Give me more, will ya?" he said while handing her his plate. He wanted more. He needed more.
"Yes, Ranma. Here you are." A wide smile showed in her face as he saw Ranma fell on the food as if he hadn't eaten for a week.
Soon, the bowl was empty, the salad gone. Ranma felt still hungry, but strangely satisfied.
"That was excell--" He couldn't finish, as the room started spinning around him. ´Retarded effect,´ he concluded, steadying himself with the table. ´I should have known better.´ He tried to get up, but fell to the floor as soon as he released his grip on the table. Akane yelled something he couldn't make out, and the world became a strange place.
He saw sounds, smelled colors. His senses were overwhelmed by an attack of light--and voices; some were old, other young; some were screaming, other were singing. And even through his confusion, he felt... something, taking form in his body, in his soul. He didn't where exactly, but it was there. A connection of sorts--a bond, a key. To unlock what, he still didn't know.
As suddenly as they had come, the voices were gone, and the room became still. Exhausted for some reason, he started closing his eyes. The last thing he saw was Akane tearfully talking into the phone. Then, the world went black.
Jason opened the door and pushed Ranma inside. There were only two people in the restaurant: a short man with broad shoulders who seemed to be going bald, and a tall slim woman with short, black hair. He supposed they were Jason's parents, as it wasn't probable there were patrons during an alert. ´Unusual couple,´ thought Ranma while comparing them. The boy quickly released Ranma's arm and ran towards the couple.
"Mom, dad, this is my new friend Ranma," said Jason brightly. "He wants to talk to you."
"Hello, pleased to meet you," said Ranma politely, bowing. After so many years living with his mother, he had finally learnt some manners. Some.
"Hello, young man," said the big man, standing up and bowing as well. Then, he held out his hand to him. "My name is Max, pleased to meet you too."
Ranma quickly shook his hand, and the man continued, "And this is my wife, Lena."
"Pleased to meet you, Ranma," Lena said, rising from her chair and bowing.
"Hi." He wasn't able see the kid any more. Maybe he was back in the street.
"Well, now that the boring pleasantries have been exchanged, what can we do for you?" asked Max with a friendly smile. He looked to be a man of action; the sort of person who didn't care about etiquette and formalities: Ranma's kind of man.
With a small grin, he explained, "Well, I've just arrived to the city and I don't know where to go during the alert, so I thought that maybe you could tell me where the shelter is."
"There's one a mile or two towards the hills. You could go there."
"But he shouldn't stay in the streets," said Lena, frowning slightly. "It could be dangerous."
"Oh, you're right. Well, the evacuation hasn't been ordered, so you don't have to go to the shelters yet," informed Max, his hand stroking his chin pensively. "Why don't you stay here till everything calms down?"
Ranma wasn't expecting the invitation, but it did sound like a good idea. "Okay, if you don't mind..." he trailed off.
"It's decided then, you'll stay here," said Max cheerfully, and clapping Ranma on the back. "Come on, sit down and tell us something about you!" He practically shoved the pig-tailed youth into a chair.
"Okay," he started while gently rubbing his back. Max had some strength! Perhaps he was Ryoga's long lost father. "I arrived he--" He was interrupted by the sound of loud footsteps and shouts coming from upstairs.
"Come on! You have to meet him! He's very fast, and tall, and strong... and knows martial arts, too!"
´Heh, that must be me,´ thought Ranma, mentally grinning. ´Very accurate description, if I said so myself.´
"What is it, Jason? I'm busy right now. Wait!" sounded a voice from the staircase. A woman's voice.
He turned around just in time to see a girl going down the stairs. She was wearing a short red dress and was being forcefully dragged down the stairs by Jason. She appeared in her mid-teens, and had long raven black hair. She was slender and had shapely long legs and a beautiful face. She strolled gracefully to the table where they were sitting, Jason trotting excitedly to her side.
"Oh, hi! I'm Minmei," she greeted cheerfully, noticing Ranma.
"Hi. Name's Ranma. Nice to meet ya." He had to recognize she was very pretty. Not as much as Akane, but, then again, no one is. She had a certain charm, with those honest blue eyes and her angelic features, that made her easy on the eyes.
"Nice to meet you, too," said Minmei smiling.
´She sure has a nice smile,´ thought Ranma, smiling in return.
"Well, son, you were going to tell us about yourself," said Lena.
"Oh, yes." ´Where should I begin?,´ he pondered. ´Nerima is out of the question. Besides, they wouldn't believe me. Jhusenkyo? Nah. Well, the basics will have to do.´
He was about to start telling the edited version of his life story, when a tremendous crash thundered from outside the restaurant.
It seemed it was going to be one of those days. Again.
When he woke up, he found himself in a dim room. He was lying in a soft bed, the only light provided by the moon, which he could see poking out from a window to his right. How had he got there? The last thing he remembered was eating some of Akane's food and... taking a rest--martial artist do not faint.
´Once more, victim of Akane's cooking.´ He sighed. But something was different this time. He had loved the food. How something so delicious could be harmful at the same time was beyond his grasp. ´Maybe Kodachi put something in the food. Or the Old Ghoul,´ he considered, his eyes focused in the barely-visible ceiling.
He still felt strange, like if something was stirring in his body. Something he didn't even know existed a few hours ago. It was so confusing! He remembered the voices, the lights. They were telling him stories, but he couldn't understand them.
He shook his head, trying to clear it. He had to focus and forget about those damn... hallucinations! He sat upright on the bed and looked around for the first time. He was not alone. Someone was sitting in a chair next to the bed--a woman--but seemed to be asleep, her chin resting in her chest. She struggled against the shadows for a few seconds trying to find out who she was. Long locks of black hair hid her features, but he guessed her to be Akane, as she was wearing a wrinkled Furinkan's girl uniform.
"Akane," he called softly, almost timidly. She stirred slightly, but didn't wake up.
"Akane," he repeated, louder now. Once again, she failed to wake up, so Ranma slowly reached to her and gently shook her. Before he could do anything, a hand grabbed him by his arm and threw him to the other side of the room. So surprised he was, that he didn't react, and hit head-first against a wall.
A lesser man would have been knocked out by that, but Ranma was no common person, and thus was still awake--if slightly dazed--when Akane ran to him, lifted him up, and hugged him fiercely.
"Oh, Ranma! You're okay!"
´No thanks to you,´ he thought, but didn't find the strength--or the will--to say it aloud.
"I'm so sorry! Please forgive me!" she continued, tightening her hold on him.
"Eh... Um..." he stammered, nervous. This was an Akane he had never seen before. "Akane, I'm fine now. You can let go."
Apparently realizing the position they were in, she quickly released him, backing away a few steps. Ranma could see how a slight blush spread across her cheeks. "Sorry," she said, looking down.
"No problem," he assured her, also gazing down to his feet. A tense silence ensued, till Ranma decided to end it, asking, "Where are we, Akane?"
"In my room," Akane, obviously relieved by the change of subject. "Father thought you would be more comfortable here."
"Mr. Tendo's here?" he asked, confused. When Pop and Mr. Tendo went out for a drink, they usually didn't return till way after midnight. "Just how long was I out of it?"
"Er, Ranma, you've been unconscious for six days now," she said, not looking at him.
"SIX DAYS?! How?!" he shouted, bewildered.
"Well, I don't know. Dr. Tofu said that you were in some kind of coma, and that all we could do was wait and hope..." she trailed off and, after a taking a deep breath, she continued, "I was so worried!" Tears started cascading freely out of her beautiful eyes and Ranma, swallowing his nervousness, tenderly gathered her in his arms. She immediately put her head in his shoulder and started sobbing.
"Shh, Akane. I'm okay now, am I not?" Ranma softly said. His mind, however, was a whirlwind. ´In a coma!´ He couldn't believe it. He rapidly examined himself. His muscles were full with kinks after the prolonged immobility, but it was nothing a few hours of training wouldn't fix. His eyes seemed fine--he didn't see any strange lights dancing in front of them. In fact, they seemed better than fine. His sight was keener than ever, and even in the poorly-lit there was nothing he could not see. The same thing happened with his other senses, as if something had heightened them somehow. Straining his ears, he was able to hear his father and Mr. Tendo talking in the living-room over the now terrible loud rumble of Akane's sobs. He could feel an almost non-existent breeze against his skin, and he guessed it was coming from under the door. His nostrils twitched lightly as the most luxuriant fragrance he had smelled in his life reached him. ´Akane's shampoo,´ he realized with a start. What the heck was going on?
And there was more. He didn't know how to explain it, but he was seeing shadows in the room, shadows that shouldn't be there. Some had well-defined shapes, like the old-looking desk that rested against the wall--or the big bookcase crammed full of books placed above it. He could also see a tall translucent tree through the window, in a place where he knew was bare just a few days ago. Other shadows were amorphous, and he had no idea what they were.
´I'm going crazy,´ decided Ranma, closing his eyes. ´I need to get some sleep.´
Meanwhile, Akane had apparently calmed down, and had her eyes closed.
"Akane," he called, but she gave no answer. He could clearly hear her peaceful breathing. ´She beat me to it. She's already asleep.´ Trying to not wake her up, he gently put her in her bed.
´Rest well,´ he silently wished her while covering her with a blanket. Then, he left without sound.
Already in the passage, Ranma thought of what he ought to do next. He could go to his bedroom and see if he would be able to get some rest, or he could go downstairs and make his pop know that he was already up. After a moment of consideration, he decided on the former. His father would find out soon enough, and for some reason, he felt incredibly tired. He made his way to the guestroom, all the time struggling to keep his eyes open. Already inside it, Ranma collapsed onto his mattress, not even sparing time to undress. He fell asleep in an instant.
The nightmares began that same night.
Quick as lightning, Ranma ran to the door and opened it. Stepping onto the sidewalk, he was astonished by what he saw.
A damaged plane--maybe a Veritech--was apparently trying to land in the street, but in doing so it was destroying building after building. At least, Ranma thought it was a plane. It had two long metal legs outstretched in his direction, with powerful thrusters in the "soles" of his humanlike feet. Two metallic arms with their respective hands came from under the cockpit, one of them wielding what looked like some sort of weapon. The complete picture made Ranma think of an eagle posed as if about to catch its prey.
Despite all the damage the plane was producing, it didn't seem to be affected at all. The crashes, though, were slowing it down--and sending tons of ruble and concrete flying in all directions.
Deciding that self-preservation was the best part of courage when confronted with a rampaging, out-of-control plane, he went back towards the threshold--where Jason was already standing, his mouth agape.
´Two times in a few hours. I thought I'd lost the ability to be surprised. Guess not,´ he concluded, grabbing Jason's shoulder to keep him from going into the street.
"What is that?!" shouted Max, who had just arrived to the door, over the din.
"Don't have a clue. Maybe a new kind of plane," he ventured, unsure.
Finally, one of the thing's feet crashed against a metal post, destabilizing it and breaking its somehow-smooth slide, and causing it to be sent spinning towards a nearby office building. After a few moment, it stopped moving.
"Stay inside. I'm gonna see what that thing is," he ordered Jason, who merely nodded.
He started heading towards the downed aircraft, but something made him stop dead in his tracks. He couldn't believe his eyes. Amongst the rubble, the plane was... changing, shifting--there wasn't a word to describe it. It slowly altered its shape, the cockpit hiding while a "head" of some kind appeared at the top. When once it could by all rights be described as a mechanic eagle, in front of Ranma stood now what looked like a man in armor, a humanoid robot of sorts.
He didn't know why, but he had the strong impression that his life would change dramatically after this day.