Early afternoon, with a fresh, sea-tinged breeze drifting in over
the mountains. The kind that one wanted to gulp at greedily,
because it tasted so good.

Adric stood on the lawn and found himself looking uncertainly at
the space pirate girl not ten meters away, while a small crowd of
onlookers watched nervously. "Ryoko..." he asked cautiously,
"are you certain this is safe?"

The cyan-haired young woman slapped a magazine into her ZF-1,
then checked the counter display on the control panel. Good, a
fully functioning ammo pack. She never really trusted these
cheap Groaci knock-offs, but they were all that her arms VAR had
available, so she didn't have much of a choice. Even so, she
examined the display warily; just because the magazine checked
out didn't mean the first cartridge would fire properly. After
all, she'd had entire generic manufactured clips empty themselves
automatically before, not one firing correctly because the first
one had been a dud. Too bad Zorg-branded ammo was so hard to
come by these days, what with their buy-out and all. The new
owners just didn't care about customer service, and had left
Zorg's loyal customer base high and dry and without proper
product support.

"Yeah, I'm certain. But if anything goes wrong, I'll make sure
it's quick and painless." She hefted the weapon, and aimed it at
the young Alzarian. "Ready?"

Adric gulped, and closed his eyes. Tightly. "Ok, ready."

"OK, on the count of three. One... two..." (One corner of
Ryoko's mouth upturned) "two-and-a-half... two-and-three-



Ryoko pulled the trigger, sending a finely-woven net of extremely
tough polymer in Adric's direction. Even before the net fully
enveloped him, she had switched to gun mode and watched
clinically as the first round fired and hit the Alzarian squarely
in the chest. Then the other rounds all followed suit, landing
more or less in the same area the first had struck, this despite
the fact that the recoil had pushed the muzzle upwards and in a
direction above the young man's head. It didn't matter, though;
the bullets knew immediately where the first one had struck, and
so the others all zeroed in on the same target no matter which
direction they were initially heading. A missile volley came
next, followed by the raft of poison darts. As soon as those
magazines had emptied, Ryoko switched the weapon to Fire 'n Ice
(tm) mode, first aiming a long jet of reddish-orange Insta-Flame
(tm), followed by a blast of white-gaseous Insta-Freeze (tm).
Then she hit the bolo release, and a trio of stringed objects
ejected from the weapon and at the frozen figure, impacting at
the neck and wrapping themselves relentlessly until there was no
rope left to continue, at which point the bolos impacted against
each other and consequently exploded.

Ryoko took a deep breath, and waited for the smoke to clear.

After a few seconds, the outline of a figure could be seen. The
figure took a hesitant step forward, stopped, stumbled forward
again, than collapsed into the grass.

Sasami was the first to reach him, followed by a small, brown,
mewing cabbit. Ayeka and Tenchi were a few steps behind. The
cabbit hopped toward the young man, then uncertainly began to
sniff, but reacted unkindly when its nose brushed against the
very faint bluish sheen that now enveloped the Alzarian.

"Adric-sama!" Sasami shouted at the figure, shaking the young
man's shoulders and ignoring the faintly electric feel beneath
her fingers. "Wake-up! You must turn off the force field!

"Ryoko!" Ayeka blurted irately (but daintily) as she came to her
sister's side, "You didn't _have_ to do all of that to make the
test! A few bullets would have done just as well."

The aqua-haired girl flew over and landed beside the group. "Hey,
you don't know who he's up against. Trust me, that was nothing
compared to what the Psycho usually throws at him. Besides..."
Ryoko produced a small control in her palm, then hit one button.
"I can always do this..."

For a split second, the bluish sheen became more pronounced, then
collapsed entirely. As soon as it was gone, a long, deep, but
very urgent wheezing sound issued from Adric's mouth. His chest
and stomach heaved with the intake of precious oxygen.

Minutes later, Adric was sitting up and breathing regularly
again. "I told you to take a deep breath before turning it on."
Ryoko commented. "It's a force field, dang it! It's not
_supposed_ to let anything through."

"Yes, but you could have warned me you were going to take that
much time. I thought a few moments, not two minutes worth." He
took another deep breath, and massaged the back of his neck.
"With everything you were throwing at me, its no wonder I passed

"Does she ever let up when she can't get you on the first shot?
OK, then." She looked him over. "Other than that... did you
feel the impacts? Did it insulate you well?"

Adric nodded. "Well enough. I felt the bullets impact as little
pin pricks. Neither the flame nor the cold were really
noticeable, though."

"Good. Unless she's going to throw a hovertank at you, you
should be all right "

Tenchi looked dubiously between the young Alzarian and his space
pirate friend as a rather obvious thought struck him. "Umm,
Adric... You're suppose to use this to last long enough to ask
her out, right?"

The two nodded.

"So... how are you going to be able to ask her if the force field
is covering your mouth?"

There was a slightly stunned silence as everyone digested that
piece of logic.

"Umm, Ryoko?"

"Back to Washuu?"

"I think that would be appropriate, yes."


In a gathering of trees along the gentle mountainside slope above
the Masaki Shrine, a dark-haired man in jeans and a black Lynyrd
Skynyrd t-shirt lowered his binoculars and began to consider his
next options. While Number One did so, he spat out the
long-extinguished cigarette butt from his lips, then drew another
white sliver of cancer death from the pack at his side. He lit
it and took a few puffs. It helped his thinking.

He watched the group of people turn toward the white house with
red shingles. He watched as the two older girls -- the
blue-haired troublemaker and the purple-haired quiet type --
exchanged barbs and insults at each other. He knew they were
barbs and insults, because he could hear them from all the way
down there.

He blew a long thin jet of smoke in their direction.

Forcefield, he thought. Bad news. And if the person he thought
was the one who designed it, that was even more bad news. Then
the little, um, creep could turn it on and Her Holiness could
plug away at him all day and still not cause a scratch.

They obviously hadn't perfected it yet, though. When the smoke
cleared, Swamp Thing had keeled over unconscious, and Ryoko had
had to turn off the shield by remote. But that diminutive little
egotist had enough of a reputation that he doubted the problems
would last for long. So, what to do about it?

He scanned the house and the grounds with his binoculars. The
others had by now gone into the house, so the area was almost
vacant of people. A middle-aged man was busy sweeping the
grounds underneath the arch; by the ease and grace with which the
man moved, Number One doubted it would be wise to tangle with
that one in a fight. He turned to another area, and found two
young ladies in another corner of the grounds, both with guns
drawn and evidently involved in some kind of target practice. The
blonde-haired one seemed visibly upset about something, but the
darker-haired one was just rolling her eyes in exasperation.

He zoomed the binoculars in on a jacket one of them had dropped
to the ground, and got a good look at the insignia. Crap, he
thought. Galactic Police. Stay away from those two if at all

He turned the binoculars back to the house, then to the area
where the test had occurred.

A hint of dark plastic in the grass caught his eye, and a
tentative grin spread across his face.

No, he thought. It couldn't be _that_ easy.

But even as he said it, he made out one red button and a small,
stubby electronic rod, enough to confirm his preliminary ident.
The grin switched to becoming hardly tentative.

The binoculars came down. He shoved them into the backpack at
his feet, then looked around to carefully plan not only his
approach but his exit strategy. Don't go out the same way you
came in, he thought, and keep to the tall trees for as long as
you can before breaking out into the open.

And, he reminded himself, watch out for the damn mountain

"Why?" A faint, soft voice asked, more out of amusement than

"Shut-up." Number One mumbled. "I'm not talking to you."


There is a school of thought that says extremely long-lived
beings eventually come to a point where they grow bored of their

The Doctor(s) had talked about it periodically. After a few
millennia, some beings find that they've essentially done
everything they can think of, and the rest of their time is spent

looking for something else to stimulate them, something new to
try that they've never tried before, something different to
experience. Generally, this works for a few more centuries,
until those new things, too, have become old. Eventually, they
tend to grow so apathetic that they do one of three things: 1)
kill themselves out of shear boredom and lack of anything better
to do; 2) put themselves into a sort of "waking trance", waiting
in vain for a new sensation to come along to experience; or 3)
try to conquer the universe, because even after 12-14 billion
years of existence, no one has quite been able to accomplish that
particular feat. So universal was this fate that the Doctor had
sometimes quipped, "Don't ever trust anyone over 30,000".

Washuu hadn't yet reached 30,000 (probably -- no one was quite
certain how old she really was, although she did once boast of
having "dated" Rassilon), but by all the signs had yet to reach
anything approaching ennui with the universe. Nor was she ever
likely to, Adric surmised. She was one of those beings that just
seemed to always be finding something interesting wherever she
was, always finding some new activity that she could devote her
attentions to wholeheartedly. In short, she was the kind of
multi-millennial being he expected the Doctor to eventually grow
into. She certainly had his ego.

No, scratch that. The Doctor's ego still needed a few more
centuries of seasoning.

The ancient woman, of course, looked hardly ancient at all.
According to Ryoko, she had cultivated a preference for her
current look some millennia before and had never quite gotten
around to changing it. Something about treating it as a private
joke, was the way the space pirate had phrased it. After all,
most beings wouldn't expect someone who usually looked like a
ten-year-old girl to be "the greatest scientist in the galaxy"
(just ask her). The reddish-puce hair, though; that did tend to
make her stand out.

At the moment, Adric was watching Washuu gleefully examine the
forcefield generator before her with all the abandon of, well, a
ten-year-old with a new toy.

"So tell me, sonny. How is the old fart doing these days?"
Washuu asked him conversationally, examining her latest
technological marvel with a magnifying glass and a Black & Decker
sonic screwdriver.

"Depends upon which old fart you're referring to. At the moment
there are anywhere between eight and thirteen or more of them,
depending upon who does the counting."

"Sounds like a timelord. No clue what they want to be when they
grow up, so they try to be everything." Washuu leaned further
into her workbench. "You did tell them I was in the
neighborhood, didn't you?" she asked over her shoulder.

"I did casually mention it, yes."

"And what did they say?"

"They all coughed, laughed nervously, and changed the subject."

Washuu laughed, the grin on her prepubescent-looking face
spreading wildly. "Oh, they did, did they? Well, then. I'm
just going to _have_ to drop by sometime. Catch up on my 'old
friend'." The grin didn't go away.

"Oh. Try coming on a Friday night, then."

"Why Friday?"

"Because I usually don't work that shift, and one of the writers
is trying to revive Friday Night Crossover Poker."

Washuu nodded, the grin still solidly etched. "Good idea." she
laughed, then concentrated on a display screen on the bench.
"Well," she pronounced, "I don't think I can lower the field
threshold enough to let adequate oxygen in, not without severely
undercutting its effectiveness as a shield. I may have a way
around that -- phased neutrons in quantum flux, for instance,
might work just as well -- but then you'd probably have to worry
about someone finding the phase frequency and penetrate that
way. And from what you've all been telling me about your friend,
I wouldn't put it past her to think that one up."

"But isn't that the reason why you're not using something from
off the shelf?"

Washuu shrugged. "Your call, I suppose." The smallish woman put
her magnifying glass down, snapped shut the back panel of the
device in her hand, and began to secure it with a soft hum from
the screwdriver. "I guess I could redirect the forcefield so
that it covers everything but your mouth when you're talking, but
then you'd be vulnerable to attack every time you spoke."

"That's the story of my life." he sighed. With a grimace, he
waved his hand resignedly. "Ok, do whatever you think will work

From behind a monitor on the other side of the lab, Ryoko spoke.
"How long will it take for you to make the adjustments?" she
asked, without looking up from the display, as if watching
something carefully. A couple of quick clicks on the keyboard

"Give me a day or two, and I should have something worked up that
you can use. All you need are a few minutes, right?"

"That's the general idea."

"Then I'll let you know when I've got it finished."

The Alzarian nodded. "Thanks." he said, without any real
enthusiasm. He turned towards the cyan-haired girl. "Um, Ryoko.
It's getting late, and I'm suppose to be on-shift soon..."

Ryoko nodded, but continued to examine the display. "Hey, no
prob." she responded, her voice trailing off in a manner that
displayed less than full attention. "I just need to finish...
up... something... here..."

Unconsciously, she leaned toward the display, watching intently.
Suddenly, her mouth took on a malicious, nasty grin. "Come 'n
git it, you bastard..." she whispered.

Adric stepped up to the display. "What are you...?" he asked,
cautiously. He attempted to get a glimpse of what her monitor
showed, but the space pirate hit the power off switch before he
could get anything more than a vague look.

"Oh, nothing." she said, waving one hand dismissively. "Just
something I needed to take care of. Nothing big." She stood,
and put her hands on her hips. "Ready to go?" she asked.

Adric nodded and moved to follow his friend, while at the same
time trying to make sense of the brief image he had seen, of the
grounds outside and of someone bending down to pick something up
from the grass. Probably nothing important, he thought, though a
distant unease remained.

These days, it seemed that little of what was going on around him
appeared to be inconsequential.


"You seem a little distracted."

They were moving slowly along the pathway towards the 'Round.
Adric was spending much of the time staring down at the crushed
gravel and absent-mindedly kicking at the larger pebbles.

His eyes glanced up toward the space pirate, who was floating
about a foot off the ground and keeping an even pace with his
slow gait. "Nothing," he mumbled. "Just... still tired.
Between yesterday and everything else... Didn't sleep well last

"Oookay." was Ryoko's response, not sounding like she quite
believed it. She stole a glance at the Alzarian, and wondered
what was going on in his head.

Ever since the previous night, she'd observed, something had
changed in him. She wasn't quite certain what it was, but the
change in his demeanor was palpable. He seemed more detached,
withdrawn than he usually did, as if he had mentally put himself
on cruise control and was now just going through the motions.

All in all, Ryoko thought, it wasn't a good sign. The whole
purpose of this exercise had been to make him feel better, not

"You're worried about what they think of you, aren't you?" Ryoko
blurted, taking a stab in the dark.

Adric kicked a stone and sent it forward, but said nothing.

"You're worried that they'll always be like this, that you'll
always end up between them, and you're afraid to choose?" she
ventured again.

The stone skipped forward a few more feet, prompted by Adric's

"You're worried that you're starting to prefer one over the
other, and you're afraid she's the wrong one?"

Adric's toe missed the stone, but he didn't seem to notice.

"You want some hot, lurid, trampoline action and you don't know
how to ask?"

That stopped the Alzarian cold. "Ryoko... " he said, teeth

Ryoko rolled her catlike eyes skyward. "Hey, he reacted. That
means he's not brain dead after all." She smiled. "So, which is
it? What's got you so uptight right now?"

Adric sighed again. "I don't know if you'd understand."

"Try me."

Adric took a deep breath. "Do you ever think about your future?"
he asked. "Think about where you'll end up, what you'll end up
doing, who you'll end up with?"

"All the time." Ryoko admitted, wondering where this was going.
Their pace picked up again. "I wouldn't be on Earth if I

Adric nodded. "Yes, I know. And I know why, too." He took a
deep gulp. "But do you ever think about what your future will be
like, if it doesn't have Tenchi in it?"

That stopped Ryoko cold. "What does Tenchi have to do with
this?" she asked, coolly.

"Everything, for you and your future." he said, and continued.
"Do you ever think about what your future will be like, if it
turns out that your destiny is to be another Ukyo? To always be
on the outside, looking in on someone that you wish more than
anything to be close to, but knowing that it'll never be
allowed? That your fate is already decreed, and they're not in

To her credit, Ryoko managed to control her emotions long enough
to at least appear thoughtful. "Yes, I've thought about it." she
said, weakly. "I've thought about it a lot. But until it
actually happens, there isn't anything to be done except hope and
work to make sure it doesn't happen."

They resumed their pace.

"Ryoko..." Adric said, after some moments of silence, "I don't
have that luxury. I'm only here on a technicality, remember?
It's easier for them to reanimate me than to keep having to pull
new ones in from outlying reality planes."

Ryoko considered that, and chose her next words carefully. "But
nevertheless, you're still here, which means there's still some
hope Besides, there's no guarantee it'll always be that way.
You know as well as I do that there's always the possibility
they'll reverse themselves, that there'll be a change of heart. I
mean, how many times should Davros be dead by now? Besides, you
keep pointing out yourself: you aren't actually shown to die,
just that it's heavily inferred.

"Yeah, right." Adric responded, sarcastically. "And in Mad
Larry's next book, I'm the new Grandfather Paradox. Ryoko,
realistically, you know what the likelihood of that ever
happening is. Two words: 'Fat' and 'chance'."

"But the point is, there's nothing that says it won't happen."
Ryoko pleaded. "It has happened elsewhere, with even less
validity. Why _not_ here, why _not_ you? That's what you've got
to keep hoping for."

Adric took another deep sigh. "I used to. Now I'm not so
certain it's even worth it to kid myself."

They reached the edge of the car park, the 'Round looming nearby
across the auto and TARDIS-crowded asphalt. Ryoko decided to try
another tack. "Then forget about the psycho and concentrate on
Ember." A knowing smile crept across her lips. "Unless, of
course, Ember isn't who you meant when you referred to looking in
at someone from the outside."

Adric's face reddened. "That's not what I..."

"Agreed. Your total lack of elaboration was most glaring."

The glower he gave her was withering. His pace suddenly picked
up as he made a beeline toward the entrance. "I'm running late."
he mumbled, putting much effort into achieving a small degree of
distance between them.

Out of long habit, his eyes had now also started darting from
side to side, looking for any tell tale sign of an imminent
ambush. Thankfully, nothing seemed readily apparent. He managed
to make his way to the pub's doorway, but before he could reach
the handle, the door began to open. The young Alzarian took a
step back and to the side, to be out of the way of whoever was on
their way out.

He grimaced at the sight that now greeted him.

A line of three people were stepping out, one after the other.
From the look of their t-shirts and the other regalia they wore,
they were probably fans -- two male and one female. The female
was heavy-set and sporting an "I (heart) Turlough" button; the
other two were smaller and thinner, one with longish, slightly
greasy hair and wearing a 4Doc scarf, the other with slightly
effeminate posture, a thin goatee, and wearing a Dalek MOMI
t-shirt. The three had begun to file past Adric and Ryoko when
suddenly they stopped, smirked, and gawked openly at the young

"Why, look." Greasy-hair-with-scarf said in an oddly whiny voice,
pointing at Adric. The smell of alcohol was plainly apparent.
"It's the nuis... I mean, it's Ah-dwic!"

The three giggled. Adric rolled his eyes and simply tried to
take a step towards the door and away from them, but found the
heavy-set woman in his way. "Pardon me," he said tersely, "but I
have to go through..."

"What's your hurry?" the woman said, with a degree of taunt.
"Need to find out if you were right?" Another giggle.

"Boom!" said effeminate-with-Dalek-shirt. All three burst into
uncontrolled laughter.

Adric took three deep breaths, but said nothing. From the corner
of his eye, he could see Ryoko's face meaningfully but ever-so-
slightly contort. Her smile became one thin, straight, _nasty_
line, one hand clenching into a fist, the other moving into the
grip one would expect if one were about to handle an energy
blade. The Alzarian reached behind him and placed his hand on
her arm to dissuade her from going any further.

He met their stares with one of his own. "Please pardon me," he
repeated, evenly, "but I do have to go inside." In his mind he
added, *for your sake, because I don't think Ryoko will take it
kindly if you refuse.* On the other hand, a part of him was
actually hoping they would refuse.

But the woman simply stepped aside. "Of course." she smirked,
and with mock exaggeration, presented him with the doorway.

It was only then that the three actually noticed the young woman
hovering beside Adric, especially the fact that she was A)
dressed in an outfit tight enough to leave little to the
imagination, and B) curvaceous enough to leave imaginations
running rampant. Ryoko took one look at their surprised faces,
and immediately decided to pull a page from Ember Ashe's
playbook. She gave them her best innocent smile and wrapped her
arms around the Alzarian. "Come on, _Darling_." she said aloud,
sweetly and dreamily. "We have _so much to do_ together
tonight..." She promptly pushed him through the doorway and past
the threesome's startled faces.

Once inside, Adric and Ryoko managed to catch the three's parting
comments, in which the words "dickwad", "pathetic", and "sucks"
figured prominently. The door finally shut behind them.

Adric gave a long exhale. Somehow, he looked even more
melancholy than he had before.

"Who were those jerks?" Ryoko asked, letting go as soon as they
were safely inside.


"Them? They acted more like assholes."

"In some corners, that's much the same thing."

Ryoko shook her head. "Why did you just let them...?"

Adric turned grimly towards her. "And what would have been the
point?" he responded tersely, without letting her finish. "What
have we just been talking about, Ryoko? Trust me, I've been
dealing with their kind for long enough." He stormed off towards
the bar. "I'll always be the obnoxious dead kid to them, end of
story. I can't change their minds, I'll never be able to change
their minds, so I don't even try to bother anymore. Just leave
them alone, and they usually leave you alone. That's just the
way things are."

Ryoko watched him evenly as he disappeared behind a door that
said "Employees Only", and once more shook her head.

This wasn't going the way they'd been hoping, she thought.

Part One - Part Two - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six

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