A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Josh Temple
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Foreword: In terms of the manga, this starts just before volume 22. Ranma has never seen his mother, but because this is an alternate universe, past events will not follow the canon precisely.
"And so it begins."
—Babylon 5, Season 5 Intro.
Prologue: Sins of the Father
"There is a hole in your mind."
—Babylon 5, Season 5 Intro.
Ukyou was bored. Her small shop was still empty despite opening ten minutes ago. That was strange in and of itself, because for some reason Tuesdays were one of her busier days. She wondered if it was connected to the incident.
It had been three weeks since Genma had died. The two Saotomes were on a training trip and Genma had a heart attack. Ranma had been forced to drag his father's corpse out of the woods.
After the funeral, Ranma ran off. It made some amount of sense, that was a move Genma had taught him. The only clue to his location were rumors that he had been seen talking with Cologne several times. The assumption was that he had gone off to finish the training trip, or that he was grieving in private. Ranma seemed to be in severe shock. Hibiki had his own private theory: Ranma killed his father and ran off to evade capture, but the coroner had proved that it was a stroke.
The front door opened. "Hi, welcome to Uc—" Her greeting cut off when she realized who was at the door.
"Hey, I've got to talk to you," Ranma said, standing in the doorway.
Ukyou was taken aback, he had had spoken in English. Pretty good English, from a person who had slept during all his classes. That he was caring a large pack was almost unnoticed. "Sure," Ukyou responded in the same language. "Just turn the sign to 'closed' on your way in."
Ranma sat down on a stool in the front, and put his pack down next to him.
"Why English?" Ukyou asked.
"Cologne suggested that I practice," Ranma said, turning around. He was relieved to see that Ukyou had yet to open the blinds.
Ranma shrugged "Yah know most of the story. It was on the trip. We were sparring, and he fell to the ground and started gasping. What I didn't say was helpin' –well trying..." He rubbed his eyes. "It started to rain; I didn't change."
"But I saw your curse after you got back," Ukyou interrupted.
"I know. Give me a glass of water," Ranma requested, still speaking in English. He then poured it on his hand. Nothing happened. "The curse is unstable. Sometimes water works, sometimes the opposite temperature works, or sometimes I can change at will."
"So you went to Cologne to figure out what happened, and she taught you English?" Ukyou asked confused.
"No, I requested that," Ranma continued. "After I brought Pop back, this lawyer contacted me about my mother."
Ukyou interrupted again, "So you're going to live with her."
Ranma's face darkened. "No. She's dead."
"It was Pop's fault — as usual. After I was born, he filed for a divorce. Guess my mom didn't approve of Pop's plans, like a ten-year training trip or the neko-ken. He somehow got me. The lawyer didn't go into details, seems that Mom had a very... questionable past. It was all in her past, but he dug it up. She was forbidden to see me, and left the country in shame."
Ukyou could have been in shock, but in light of what Genma had done to her family. "Then why are you learning English, and what about your curse?"
Ranma continued, barely maintaining his composure, "She moved to America, got married, and had a daughter... my sister. Then two years ago she died in a car accident. Pretty dumb eh? Didn't even know I had a mom, and now it's too late."
Ukyou simply nodded.
"The curse, Cologne says it's a mixture of stress and skill. A focused mind can control it... like Cologne does," Ranma gave a hollow laugh. " I had no idea she had one, but a stressed one can mess it up. I'm both. Cologne says that if I got away from Nerima, I should be able to gain full control."
"Is that why you were gone? And why is she helping you?"
"Cologne was trying to get on my good side. They're all more fanatical about getting me, except you."
Ukyou turned away. She had planned to give Ranma a special meal after the funeral, in order to cheer him up. It would only have a bit of chemical assistance, just enough to get Ranma over his indecision and pick the obvious choice.
"I'm definitely going to see Sarah." He shrugged.
"So your question is whether you should come back or not. How long are you going to be there?"
Ranma paused, then said, "No... that's not a question at all."
Ukyou looked down.
"I'm sorry. It took me time to realize it, but what's here for me? Nerima wasn't normal for me. I don't stay in one spot, most of my live I've been going from place to place."
The chef maintained her silence.
"It's time to move on... I can see what's going on.. over there.. maybe " Ranma trailed off. "Sarah lives in a small town in Southern Wyoming. Talked to them on the phone; they seem like a nice if not particularly odd family."
"They know about the curse?"
"Kind of. Stress makes the curse very random, and I changed during a call."
"Gets worse. The lawyer set up a video phone thingy in his office."
"Why'd you agree to that?"
"Just I wanted to see her." Ranma stood up and hefted his pack. He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, and left it on the counter. "This is the phone number to the house; please don't tell anyone else about this."
Ukyou watched stunned, as Ranma walked away. "Your English is very good," she finally said.
Ranma nodded and left the restaurant.
Chapter 1: Lockridge
"What do you want?"
—Babylon 5, Season 5 Intro.
Ranma looked out his window and saw the odd roof to Denver International Airport. It looked like a giant white tarp pulled over a mountain range. The plane landed, taxied, and docked. Ranma got out of the seat and took his pack. It was his only baggage and contained all of his possessions. Ranma was never really into materialism, but still... to have all your existence boiled down to one bag?
Customs gave a cursory glance at his student visa and passport, and welcomed him to the United States. After customs, Ranma went to the men's room.
While using washing his hands the faucet broke. Ranma managed to dodge most of the water, avoiding getting soaked, but not enough to prevent the change.
Some were perplexed when they saw a redheaded Japanese girl exit the men's room, but no one really commented. Ranma looked around the terminal for Sarah's father. A tall man in sheriff's khakis walked up to Ranma. He had dark blue eyes and short red hair. "Are you Ranma?" the Irish cop asked.
"Uh yeah, how'd yah know?" Ranma asked.
"Even if Sarah hadn't mentioned your curse, I'd have known for reasons that will become apparent when you meet your sister. Come on, let's go to the car."
Ranma shook her head, "Ain't this strange to yah?"
"What, that my wife's first child changed sex in front of my daughter's eyes?" the cop smiled. "Sorry to disappoint, but you only rank within my top dozen, not my top ten weird things. Oh, by the way, my name's Jack O'Neil."
Ranma paused. That name sounded kinda familiar.
O'Neil smiled. "I have the same name as a character on a TV show, Stargate SG1. Except my last name has only one 'L'. Has a circle portal thing that people walk through to get to other planets.."
Ranma nodded. She vaguely remembered seeing a bad dub of the movie sometime. "Isn't that set in Colorado?"
"Yup, Cheyenne Mountain. NORAD," O'Neil smiled slightly "But it's more of a documentary than a cable show."
Ranma pondered this as they walked out of the airport. This was weird. He wasn't even fazed by the curse, and claimed some sci-fi movie was real.
In the parking garage, O'Neil led Ranma to a large jeep with "Lockridge Sheriff's Department" stenciled on the hood. O'Neil put Ranma's pack in the back and opened the passenger door. The sheriff got in the driver's seat and drove out of the parking lot.
"So, would you like to learn about your mother, Nodoka?"
During the five hour drive northwest, O'Neil told about how he found Nodoka drifting though town. They married quickly, and shortly thereafter Sarah was born. Jack seemed reluctant for furnish further details about their meeting.
She was a good woman, but a part of her soul was destroyed by Genma. Forbidden to see her firstborn. He talked about the fifteen years of bliss. About Sarah. ("She looks exactly like you, Ranma. You both take after your mother.) Then the accident. A drunken driver plowed into a car driven by Jean, Jack's sister, with Nodoka in the passenger seat. Both were killed instantly. Jack was the apprehending officer. He noted that the driver had an 'accident' of his own, shortly after he met bail. Some of the stories were fantastic and bizarre. Jack was vague, but apparently Lockridge rivaled Nerima.
Ranma described her life — the fiancées, the curse. Every time she talked about Genma's stupidity, Jack nodded grimly.
Lockridge was a small town nestled in a mountain valley. O'Neil had two deputies working under him. Being mid-spring, only the mountaintops had any snow on them. The mountain slopes were covered with evergreens, and huge rocks protruded from the ground. Even the center of town had the feel of the frontier.
O'Neil turned down a side road and drove up into the mountains. After going only half a mile, all, save the road and a set of power lines, all signs of human existence vanished. O'Neil rounded a corner and stopped in front of a good-sized house. It was old but well-maintained. When O'Neil shut off the engine, Ranma heard gunfire. She looked over to O'Neil, who appeared unconcerned.
"We'll drop off you bags and go up to the range," O'Neil said, walking up the steps and onto the porch.
Ranma hoisted her pack and followed the sheriff inside. Walking into the cluttered living room, she saw some guy asleep on the couch. He opened his eyes, and for a split second Ranma was sure that they were glowing red, but they were a dusty brown. When he stood up, Ranma got a good look at him. He was a Caucasian who bore a strong resemblance to the sheriff, who had wandered off into the kitchen.
He stood more than a head over Ranma, and had spiky brown hair. "Hey, Sarah," he yawned, leaning back. He looked blank for a second, then focused on Ranma. "Wait a minute," he said, looking at Ranma's face and the braided pigtail. "You're not... Oh, I see. Hey, Ranma. I'm Dan. Dan Arzish. Boy, she wasn't kidding when she said you did that."
"Did what?" Ranma asked.
"The curse. I mean, aren't you supposed to be a guy?" Dan yawned and wandered off, going up the stairs.
Ranma blinked and shook her head. What the hell's going on around here? Ranma thought back to when she arrived at the Tendos. Apathy was not how people were supposed to react to seeing a curse like this. Oh well, at least these people seem nice, even if a little odd. Ranma walked into the kitchen.
Jack was staring out a side window. His hand had fallen to his sidearm. He twitched slightly and turned to Ranma. "I was looking for you. Come on, let's go up to the range and talk to Sarah."
The living room and the kitchen, both large rooms, made up half of the floor space of the ground floor. The living room was in the front, and the kitchen was in the back. The other half consisted of rooms that Ranma had yet to enter.
Ranma went out the back door and onto the large porch that encircled the house. The house, built into one of the more gentle regions at the foot of the mountain, had only a half a flight of steps at the front of the house, with the back nearly at ground level.
Ranma put her pack next to the door and went outside.
On a well worn path, O'Neil led Ranma a hundred yards up the slope. As they walked, the sound of gunfire increased. It was in bursts of four or five shots followed by a pause, then another burst. At the end of the path was a large clearing. Graded flat and level, it was twenty yards wide and went back over two hundred yards into the hillside. This formed a large bank at the end of the range, and smaller triangular banks among the sides. A line of stones had been buried flush to the ground running from one side of the range to another.
A girl was standing at this line, in a fleece vest and pair of jeans. Her bright red hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. She had a large shotgun shouldered. Her foot touched down on a pedal resting on the ground. The pedal was connected to a simple trap machine. The spring-loaded arm flung a row of four clay disks. Each was subjected to different accelerations and torques, and thus each arced at a different angle and inclination.
She turned the gun fluidly, precisely, and squeezed the trigger. Thunder rolled up the mountain. The lowest target burst into a thousand particles. She pumped shotgun and fired again destroying the next disk. She continued racking the weapon, hitting the targets when their trajectory reached apex. It was over in seconds.
She slung the weapon over her shoulder and turned around. The teleconference's video was of rather low resolution. All Ranma could honestly tell from it was that Sarah was a redhead.
Now Ranma could see her face, and aside from having traces of her European heritage, she was nearly identical to Ranma. Something about that seemed odd. "How old are you? I mean, look at us," Ranma said pointing at her own body then at Sarah's.
O'Neil decided to speak up, "Almost a year. Your birthdays are only a week apart."
"That body of yours is a curse right? What was it again?" Sarah asked.
"Spring of drowned girl." Ranma said, looking at the range. It made sense, but something else tugged at the back of her mind. If she was a year older than Sarah, then that means that their mother was impregnated about three months after her first birth. That seemed suspiciously fast, especially for a woman who had been horribly betrayed by the last man she trusted. She wondered how fast O'Neil and her mother got married.
"That could be it," Sarah said while she put the trap machine in a small shed in a side well behind the range line. "I mean, the curse could have set your age back or something."
Ranma nodded. She was looking at a strange wooden tripod-like device. It sat in its own little range perpendicular to the main one. It supported two logs cut crosswise. Each of the big logs was about a foot long and a foot in radius.
"Like the hawk blocks?" Sarah asked, closing the shed.
"Huh," Ranma said. She then walked up to them. The faces of the logs were scored with hundreds of linear cuts and rough notches. It then dawned on her. "Ah, it's for knife throwing." She had done enough training with throwing weapons, but the targets she used were more makeshift.
"Or ax or tomahawk," Sarah added. She was lowering a rope tied to the base of a flagpole. Once the flag was at the base, she tied it back. "The flag goes up when the range is occupied," she told Ranma.
"I've got to go back to the station. Be back later tonight," O'Neil said. He then walked down the path. A little later, a truck started and drove off.
"You know, he really likes you," Sarah said behind Ranma.
Ranma looked at the retreating man's back. She turned to see her... sister. It was surreal, like the first meeting with the Tendos, but not. "Yeah, I figured. He's usually very quiet, isn't he?"
"Yup. Even when Mom was around, he never talked much." Sarah's voice quieted.
"She really was something, wasn't she? I mean, your dad spent nearly the whole trip talking about her."
Sarah started down the path. "Come on, let's go inside."
Thinking, Ranma followed her. His father had banished their mother. Sadly, it wasn't even one of the worst things that Genma had done. Again, Ranma had ditched all that he had for a new life. On the bright side those, hideous English lessons Cologne had put him through, were coming in handy. He managed to carry on functional conversations with both Jack and Sarah.
Ranma followed her sister in the house. Dan was at the table working on some type of mechanical apparatus. "Dan, don't do that in the kitchen," Sarah said.
"What? You clean your guns here," Dan said, hitting the catalytic converter with a pipe wrench.
"So do you."
"Exactly," Dan flatly said.
Sarah rubbed her forehead, "Fine. Could you clean my gun while I show Ranma her room?"
"Okay, but it'll cost you."
Sarah racked the shotgun so that its action was open, exposing an empty breach and an unloaded tube, and handed it over to Dan. "I'll cook dinner."
Ranma shook her head and picked up her pack. As she left the room, she heard Dan mutter under his breath, "Damn twins." Ranma could have taken offense to that, but she let it slide.
"Hey, Ranma?" Sarah asked at the top of the stairs.
"Huh?" Ranma said.
"There's a bathroom at the head of the stairs." Sarah pointed to a door on the left.
Ranma walked up the narrow staircase. Sarah stepped back. Ranma walked into the open bathroom. Using the sink she tried the hot water first, then the cold. No change.
"The curse still unstable. Jet lag?"
Ranma nodded. She was still really groggy, even though she slept during the entire flight.
"Okay," Sarah continued. "You said that sometimes you can change at will."
"Yeah," Ranma said stepping out of the bathroom.
"Come on. I'll show you your room."
Ranma followed Sarah to the guest room at the end of the hall. Sarah opened the door to a nondescript bedroom. Ranma put his pack on the bed.
"Is this fine?" Sarah asked. She eyed her new relative. She wondered what he would think of this town, and if he could fit in.
"Sure. Why'd you ask about the curse?"
"Oh," Sarah said, glancing out the window. "It's just that being in a new location, the curse might have to adapt to local magics."
"But my curse had been acting up since... Wait, are there curses and stuff here too?"
"No curses per se, but weird things do happen," Sarah dodged. "But I wouldn't be surprised. You said that a focused mind could control the curse."
"Then sit here," Sarah said pulling the pack off the bed.
Ranma complied, sitting in the lotus position.
"Now try to clear your mind. Reach out; you should be able to tap into an energy well."
Ranma felt a tingling grow inside his skull, like a strong electric current.
"Now link it to your curse. That's it. Use it to revert back," Sarah said, keeping her voice strangely flat.
Ranma diverted the flux. It touched his curse and the change happened. Ranma felt the familiar shift and turned. He opened his eyes and looked at Sarah. She was nodding. "What?" Ranma asked.
"You're good," Sarah stated, making several mental notes.
"I am a martial artist, you know," Ranma said, stretching his arms.
"True. Come on. I've got to get dinner ready." Sarah left the room.
Ranma sat for a second and pondered. When Cologne tried to teach him to change at will, there was no stream, no flux. Maybe this was just the first time he noticed it, but how did Sarah know? Ranma remembered that he had to be careful until he adjusted. He had no intention of screwing up like he did at the Tendo's. Ranma stood up. Wandering down the hall, he noticed that the lights were recessed in the corners where the walls met the ceiling.
Ranma walked into the kitchen. Dan's engine part, or whatever it was, was gone, and in its place was Sarah's gun. He had the thing disassembled, and was running clean patches through the barrel. Dan looked up. "Hey. So you're back to your old self. Pull up a chair, and we'll spin a yarn."
"Shut up," Sarah said from the stove where she had started cooking in some kind of pot. "We aren't a bunch of hicks, Ranma."
"Okay," Ranma said. The smell from the pot was very familiar. "Ramen," he guessed.
Sarah nodded. "Yup. Food's just about the only thing Mom taught me that was even remotely oriental."
Ranma sat down. He did notice the absence of anything Japanese in the house. He guessed Nodoka had no reason to feel obligated to that country.
Dan finished cleaning the gun, reassembled it, and walked out of the room. He came back a couple minutes later, sans gun. He started setting the table for three persons. "Oh, Sarah? Jack called. He'll be staying late tonight, so he won't be here for dinner."
Sarah nodded, and continued to cook the food.
Dan turned to Ranma. "So, you gonna tell us about all your zany adventures?"
"What about you guys?" Ranma asked. "Mr. O'Neil made it seem like this place was pretty weird too."
"Just call him Jack. Everyone does." Dan continued, "Well some things have happened, but Jack is known for embellishment."
Ranma looked at Sarah who had remained silent. Even if Jack was little odd, Ranma didn't think that he was the type to say anything other than the truth. Then again, it wasn't like anyone around here was anything but odd, himself included. Ranma decided to give it time, and not rush things.
Ranma had also come to realize that he was always putting his foot in his mouth. If he told about his life, he could prattle on and not risk asking the wrong questions. So when dinner was served, he gave his life's story.
Dan and Sarah listened, nodding in all the right places, but something was off. It was almost as if they had heard this story before. Well, maybe not this story exactly, but this type of story. The ramen even tasted close to what Shampoo would make. And one thing was still bugging him.
"Why did Mom stop in this town? What was she even doing in Wyoming?"
Sarah glanced at Dan. "We were planning on taking you to the place where Mom met Dad after school tomorrow, and tell you what brought her here," she explained
"School? Yeah I guess I need to go," Ranma muttered to himself, then aloud, "But why don't you tell the story now, and how come you're not surprised at all by my life?"
Dan spoke up, "Well, we're kind of in the same situation. Do you know why I'm here in this house?"
"I'm Sarah's cousin. My dad died of cancer many years ago."
It took Ranma a few seconds to get it. There was another person in the car with Nodoka. "Both your parents are dead, then?"
"Okay, Dan. I cooked, you clean," Sarah said.
Sarah stood up. "Ranma, want to see the rest of the place?"
"Why not?" Ranma said. Having something to relate to with these people made it easier to accept the warnings in the back of his mind.
There were two rooms that Ranma had not seen on the first floor. The room that used to be a dining room now stored a couple of server banks, miscellaneous computer equipment, and storage boxes. A cavernous sunken den was set up to be an entertainment center. A door in the den lead to a two-bay garage. The rear of the garage held an extensive metal shop. One of the bays was empty, presumably for Jack's Jeep.
The other held what used to be a late 'eighties Suburban. The huge truck had been modified extensively, and according to Sarah, all the work had been done by Dan himself. The truck had a lift kit, brush guards rear and front, step-up running boards, wide all-terrain tires, fog lamps, light rack, winch, heavy dual exhaust pipes, custom suspension and shocks, tinted windows, and God-only-knew what Dan did to the engine, for the hood had multiple intake scoops mounted in it. It seemed unusually wide and long. The double pair of axels in the back were also noteworthy
Ranma walked up to the vehicle. Its semi-gloss black paint seemed to move and swirl. The truck had overpowering presence.
Sarah stood next to Ranma. "It's almost as if it's alive."
Ranma nodded looking at his reflection in the inky surface.
"He calls it 'the Beast'. Go ahead, touch it."
The pigtailed martial artist placed his palm on the hood. The metal under seemed to vibrate and squirm. Ranma pulled his hand back, unsettled.
"Cool, isn't it? Dan spent three years building this thing. A year longer than he's been driving. He's spent so much time with it, it's almost as if part of his soul is in it."
Ranma eyed the truck. It was beautiful; an achievement in manufacturing, engineering, and art, but still there was a definite sense of wrongness to it. Sarah took Ranma back into the den and turned off the lights. Ranma turned to see the truck melt into the darkness.
The upstairs held four bedrooms and two baths. One of the bathrooms was in the master bedroom, leaving one bathroom for Ranma, Sarah, and Dan. The bedrooms were what Ranma expected them to be. Dan's was cluttered with papers, books, and random metal components. Sarah's was reasonably neat, and except for the weapons, ammo, and trophy heads, it was much like a normal teenage girl's room. Jack's was pressboard neat, with very minimalist furniture. Each bedroom had its own homebuilt computer, and was LAN'ed to the servers in what used to be the dining room.
After the tour, Sarah went to the server room to fix a broken tower. As he watched, Ranma was given a lecture on the basics of computers. Dan was apparently in the garage working. Jack came home, said his hellos and had some leftover ramen in the den.
Soon, he was joined by Dan. Ranma then followed Sarah into the room. The TV was on, and Ranma sat himself down next to Sarah on the big couch. Dan and Jack were both sitting in easy chairs that flanked the couch. They watched a strange show where small robots and a big dopey guy from Wisconsin made fun of excruciatingly bad movies. Some of it was very funny, and Ranma guessed that he would have gotten the rest, but the jokes were rooted heavily in Americana. After three of the movies, everyone scattered, and eventually went to bed.
While Ranma prepared for bed, he brooded on his new family, eventually falling asleep. Dan and Sarah were in their own rooms, having a conversation via the LAN. Jack linked in and out to make occasional observations, but stayed silent.
Eventually the two reached an agreement. Ranma had the potential and the skill. Tomorrow they would show him the standing ring.
To be continued.