Chapter Two: The Darkness of the LightEdit
"So, what does it say?" Ranma asked.
"What do I look like? A professional translator?" Akane quipped.
"What's the matter?" Tifa asked as she came into the clearing. A part of her seemed to flinch when she noticed the long barbed wire fence.
"We found this sign. But I can't read English. And I guess Akane isn't good enough at it to understand," Ranma waved his hand about.
"Well excuuuse me. At least I'm better at English that you are!"
"Who needs to know English anyways? We live in Japan!"
"Well, it would sure help to know right now!"
"Private Property," Cloud said.
"Huh? You can read English?"
"In a way I guess. Where we come from, reading both languages is commonplace."
"Can you speak it too? If the sign is in English, it's not hard to imagine the people would be as well."
"If need be, yes."
"What do we do now?" Akane asked.
"Well, if the sign reads `Private Property', that would mean that on the other side of this fence, there are people. So lets go!" Ranma said and he began to climb over the fence.
"Wait," Cloud interrupted.
"If it says private property, those people won't be too happy with our trespassing."
"So? If they give us any trouble, we can take care of them."
"I'd rather not have to hurt innocents."
"Aww, who ever said we'd hurt em?"
"Ranma..." Akane said. "He's right. It would be wiser just to follow the fence until we find a gate or something."
Ranma paused for a moment. "Well," he began, "Alright, whatever."
Akane smiled as they continued to walk.
"What?" the man said, "Speak English, damnit! I can't understand a word you're saying!"
"Will you PLEASE speak in a language we can understand?" Lina shouted. "Honestly."
"Lina, its not his fault. For all we know, our language isn't even spoken here," Zelgadis explained, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Here, allow me to try something."
Zelgadis stepped in front of the man and pulled out his pouch. Opening it, and placing three gold coins on the table, he pointed at the t-shirts. The man at the table caught on.
"Are these real?" he asked, astounded at the sight of the gold coins. He picked them up and examined them. "How do I know these ain't pyrite or something?"
"What is he saying now?" Gourry asked.
"I don't know."
The man paused for a moment. Reluctantly, he reached over and plucked three shirts from the rack. "If I find out these are fake, I'll have your ass in a bind!"
Zelgadis nodded and smiled under his mask. "It seems we've managed to communicate even through the language barrier," he said as he passed a t-shirt to Lina and Gourry.
"What the? They're so thin," Lina said as she examined the cloth. "How are these going to protect us?"
"I believe they are used simply for fashion. I don't think there are many bandits in this place."
"No bandits?" Gourry asked.
"I would suppose not."
"Well, this isn't going to do much about us. We're still going to look like outlanders, and Zel, no offense, but you're probably going to bat a few eyes."
"What now?" Gourry asked.
"I suppose we should find somewhere to change into these. And find a place where we can get some other garments."
"Where would we find them?"
"I suppose we could follow the path, it may lead us to a marketplace, or an Inn."
"I don't know about that. Gourry, keep your sword handy."
Gourry smiled as he patted the hilt of his sword. "No problem."
"Doctor?" the nurse called frantically as she ran up to him.
Doctor Masato Masakawa turned around to meet her. "What is it?"
"The patient, Japanese Jane Doe?" she told him.
The doctor nodded. "Inform security. I don't want Mr. Ikari to see her until Detective Costa and I have gotten the facts straight."
She nodded. "Yes sir."
"Detective Costa?" he turned towards the man sitting in a chair on the opposite end of the room.
"Yessir," he muttered as he got up and began to follow.
"Where the hell am I?!?" Asuka screamed at the top of her lungs.
She was angry. Even the people four rooms away could sense that. She had woken up a few minutes earlier, to find herself stripped down to nothing but a hospital robe, and surrounded by several people, who didn't speak a word of Japanese, or German for that matter.
"<Please, miss. Calm down.>"
"I can't understand a word you're saying, you dummkopf!"
A moment later, the door swung open and a Japanese man walked in, followed by an official looking western man.
"Miss? My name is-"
"I don't care who you are! Where the hell am I?"
"It's alright, miss. You're at Cedar Grove Memorial Hospital."
"Where the hell is THAT?"
The official looking man glanced over at the doctor for a moment. "Cedar Grove, California."
"CALIFORNIA?!" Asuka yelled as she slumped back into the bed.
"Yes, miss. If you'll calm down, I'm sure you'll have a lot of questions you need answered, as do we." he turned around, "This is Detective Walter Costa of the local police department. He'll be asking you a few questions."
"And you expect me to answer? Last thing I remember was... The Eva's... I... What happened to me?"
"Miss?" the detective asked.
"Before I begin, I should ask if you'd like to press charges."
"Press charges for what?"
"When you were taken in, another person, a boy was with you. He claims he was responsible for your current state."
"My current state? What the hell are you blubbering about?"
"Miss, you were brought into the hospital unconscious, and with several marks around your throat."
"What?" Asuka reached up towards her throat and felt the bruises. A part of her memory clicked. "Shinji...?"
"Yes, that's what he claims his name is, however there is no proper form of identification."
Asuka nodded. "That's his name."
"Would you like to press-"
"Very well, would you like to see him?"
The detective nodded towards the doctor, who in turn said something to the nurse, as she left the room.
"May I ask yours?"
"Asuka. Asuka Langley Soryuu."
"What the hell do you think? Martian?"
"Alright then, moving along. Date of birth?" he grinned for a moment.
"December 4, 2001..."
He dropped the grin. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me, dummkopf!"
"What's the current date?"
"What the hell do you mean, `what year'?"
"Miss, I'll really need you to-"
"2015! What the hell year do you think it is?"
The doctor let his mouth drop open. "1999..."
"Its June 7, 1999."
"What? What nonsense are you going on about?"
"ASUKA!" Shinji cried as he walked through the door. He ran towards her smiling, a familiar face he can relate with after all that's happened.
"Shinji!" Asuka let a small smile grow as she saw him. Then as he got closer, let his drop and balled her hand into a fist.
The blow was quick, and sent Shinji sprawling onto the floor.
"WHAT WAS THAT FOR?" he yelled.
"YOU WERE TRYING TO STRANGLE ME? WHAT ELSE WERE YOU DOING WHILE I WAS OUT?!"
"NOTHING! I JUST BROUGHT YOU HERE!"
Asuka stopped for a moment. "And how exactly did you get us here, Shinji? Explain to me how you managed to cross an entire ocean and go back in time 16 years?"
"I don't know."
"DUMPKOFF!" she yelled. "How can we go back in time without you knowing how?"
"I don't know! We just ended up here!"
"EXCUSE ME!" the detective yelled. After recieving silence from the two teens, he continued. "I'll still need you to answer some more questions, Ms. Soryuu."
"Now, who are your parents and how can I contact them?"
"Wow!" the child called out. "Mom, lookit that!"
Fei clenched his teeth, he had thought they would be safe from detection in the woods, but apparently not. He hopped down from the cockpit and managed to close it as fast as he could without anyone noticing.
"Oh my. I don't remember that. Is this a new addition to the park?" the boys mother called to Fei and Elly.
"Yes, yes it is," Elly interrupted.
"Look at the detail on that. You could almost swear it was real!" the woman said as the boy began to climb about its legs.
"Almost..." Elly smiled.
"It must have cost the parks and recreation board a bundle."
"Mom! Look! I'm a mecha pilot!"
"Mecha?" Fei asked.
The woman shrugged and proceeded to fetch her son, who was now running in circles around the gear.
"Fei? Something wrong?"
"These people. They think its some sort of... Ornament. A statue."
"At least they're not trying to steal it. Look at it this way, now we can go to the city without raising any eyebrows."
"I'm still not sure about this."
"Relax, even if they did find out it was real, they'd have no way of figuring out how it works!"
Fei reluctantly agreed.
"Great, lets go check out the city."
"Ah, lieutenant. Anything new to report?"
"Yes sir, the female at the Cedar Grove hospital is awake, and she confirms what the male has said. We matched her genetic test to one of the patterns, and it came out as a positive."
"So we've pulled two people in from sixteen years in the future?" he shook his head. "Absolutely amazing."
"But these reports came in as well, sir. It seems they come from a holocaustic future. They were special pilots for an organization called NERV. Intelligence tells us there is no such organization at the moment. Questioning them revealed the date of such a holocaust. September 9, 2000."
"And what's supposed to happen then?" he asked.
"The second impact."
"They were pretty unclear on the whole subject, but apparently some big explosion was recorded in Antarctica, and much of the world was overflooded."
The General shook his head. "Have them brought to the facility. I want to find out as much as possible on this," he looked at him. "Anything else?"
"Yes sir. It seems we've located where the Unidentified Flying Object landed. There is a team en route to the location as we speak, sir."
"Where did they land?"
"A forested park on the outskirts of San Francisco. We're closing off the whole park, but there were four hours between the time they landed and the time we located the craft. The inhabitants may be among the general population now."
The General turned. "You telling me there might be a couple of Martians roaming around San Francisco, with whatever diseases they may be carrying?"
"Yes sir. However there is reason to believe they are human in nature. We could have brought them in from much farther into the future."
"Find them. Now."
"Has there been anything else?"
"Not yet sir, although..."
"The missing prisoner was found."
"Cause of death?" detective Roland Lee asked over the cell.
"Undeterminable. I've been unable to tell so far, there are no external injuries, even internally, nothing. No sign of shock, no cardiac arrest. Blood and Saliva tests revealed a perfectly healthy man. I can't tell anything wrong with him."
"So what are you trying to say, Jack?"
"By all means, this man shouldn't be dead."
Roland shook his head, paying close attention to the road he was driving down. "Well, something happened to him. I can't accept the fact that a death row inmate escaped from prison, Somehow ended up in the middle of nowhere, less than a day later, and just drops dead for no reason whatsoever."
"I know, I think there's something fishy going on as well. The military seem to be taking an interest in this. I got a call from some bigshot lieutenant in Washington, asking me tonnes of questions I couldn't answer."
"I don't like this. If the military have their hands in this, it can't be good."
"What should we do?"
"Just find out what you can. Look for any proof they has something to do with this. In the meantime... Jack, hold on a second. There's something weird going on here," he said. "I'll call you back in a minute," the car slowed to a halt by the roadside, right next to a small group of people. Two male, two female.
"Can I help you kids?" he asked out the window.
They didn't answer. They just stared wide-eyed.
"Something the matter?"
"Uhh.. Uh, no, no. Sorry. We just didn't expect you to pop up on us like that," one of them said.
"Well, I was just wondering. You kids seem lost, where you headed?"
"Actually, we ARE lost."
"Where you headed?"
"Well, this is a problem, isn't it. You kids better hop in, its not safe to be alone around here. We've got a possible killer on the loose, and it may not be %100 human if you catch my meaning."
The people seemed to look at each other in confusion.
"Don't worry about it. Where you kids from? I might be able to get you back home."
"Well, I suppose if you could tell us where Mobliz is, we'll be fine from there."
"Mobliz?" Roland thought to himself. "Nope, don't know where that is.. Oh wait, isn't that up north by Cedar Grove?"
The green haired girl shook her head. "I don't think so."
"Well, hop in. I'll see if I can set you up in a motel or something for tonight, and we'll get you home tomorrow, its getting late, here."
To Roland's confusion, one of them walked up to the car and tried to pry the door open with his fingers.
"Uhh, you could try the handle, son."
"Oh. Right," he said, laughing.
The boy managed to open the door via the handle rather than pry it open, while three of them piled into the back seat, the other boy, blonde and buffed up, walked around to the other side of the car and got into the passenger side.
"Pleased to meet you kids, names Roland," he reached his hand out towards the boy beside him.
The boy looked confused for a moment, but then took Roland's hand. "Sabin.", he said, smiling.
"And you three?"
"Uhh. Names Locke," the other boy said, looking towards the girls next to him.
"You can call me Celes," the blonde girl said with a smile.
"I'm Terra," the last one said, somewhat distracted.
Roland smiled and turned back to the road. He began to drive off, but stopped a second after noticing something.
"Uhh. Seatbelts, kids?"
"Seatbelts. We can't go anywhere unless you kids wear your seatbelts."
Sabin still looked confused. "Wha-"
"I think he means these straps of cloth, here," Locke said as he clicked the two metal pieces together.
Celes and Terra did it just as Locke had, but Sabin was having trouble locating his.
"Son, its up there," Roland pointed, mouth still agape.
Sabin quickly located it. "Oh, right."
After the seatbelt lock snapped, Roland began to drive again, noticing that Sabin was looking fairly frightened and digging his hands into the seat.
"Were you kids at a party or something?"
"The way you're all dressed, it would seem like you were at a costume party," he said, then looked back in the rear-view mirror. "Especially if you got green hair."
"What's wrong with my hair?"
Roland smiled and shook his head. "Nothing I guess, we just don't get many strange hair colors around these parts."
"Since when is green hair strange? And where exactly _ARE_ these parts?"
"Well, we're heading back to Garrison right now. I'll see if I can put you kids up in the motel for tonight, courtesy the Garrison police department, and we'll see what we can do about finding this Mobliz place. How long have you lived there?"
"Well, with the exception of Terra, we haven't really lived there. In fact, we don't really have a place to live."
Roland nodded. "Drifters, eh?"
"You could say that."
"Well, I'll tell you what, kids. You look hungry. I'll treat you to a full expense paid dinner, courtesy the Police department. Put you up in the motel, and tonight I'll see what I can do about finding Mobliz. What are the neighboring towns called?"
"Neighboring towns? There.. Uhh.. Really aren't any."
Roland shot a confused look for a moment. "No neighboring towns? Where is it? The desert?"
Terra couldn't take it anymore. "Sir, I'm not even sure Mobliz is around here. For all we know, it could be farther away than you think."
"Really? Is it even in California?"
He turned around. "You telling me you ain't never heard of California?"
Terra shook her head.
Roland looked back to the road and shook his head. "I don't know about you kids."
A moment later, something very strange happened. Something that shocked everyone in the car at that moment. The whole event was hazy, and it wasn't until the smoke cleared that they realized what had happened.
There was a sword embedded into the hood of his car.
"Hey! I think I found something!" Cloud yelled from ahead of the rest of them.
"What?" Ranma replied.
He picked something up off the ground and ran towards Ranma. "This."
Ranma skeptically eyed the object in his hand.
"It's a bottle of some sort."
"It's an empty bottle of Coke."
"You know, Coke. Soft drink?"
"Soft drink? Oh right, for tenderizing you when you're petrified, right?"
Ranma eyed him again. "You're joking, right?"
Unbeknownst to the both of them, the girls had already walked ahead. When Akane spotted something out of the corner of her eye, she yelled back.
"Hey! A road! There's a road over here!"
Cloud and Ranma turned around and ran towards them.
It was true, Ranma could indeed see the gray asphalt from where he was standing. "Lets go!"
They ran out onto the road with blinding speed. Cloud and Tifa seemed distracted at the sights as Ranma and Akane tried to flag down a car.
"Cloud..." Tifa said.
"I've never seen cars like that before," he replied.
Ranma had little success in flagging down a car. A moment later, they heard a screech. Ranma turned around just in time to see a car bearing down on Akane with blinding speed. He jumped towards her, grabbed her and jumped off, but not before Cloud had intercepted by sticking his sword into the hood of the car. A moment later, several people were seen looking out of the windows.
"What the hell?" Roland cried. He looked towards his passengers. "You kids stay in here, I'm going to find out what the hell is going on."
He grabbed his gun and stepped out of the car. "FREEZE!" he yelled.
He saw four people. The blonde kid who had crammed a sword into the hood of his car, a girl with long brown hair, and a couple of Asian kids.
For some reason, instead of standing still, the blonde kid flinched as if he were expecting something. But after nothing happened, he stood there.
"Hands in the air!"
"Why?" the kid asked.
Roland's jaw dropped open. "What the hell do you mean, `why'? You stick god knows what that is into the hood of my car, and you ask why I'm putting you under arrest?!"
"I had to. You were about to hit Akane."
"There was nobody in front of my car but you!"
"No, just before I stopped you, Akane was in front of you."
"He's right!" the brunette called.
"You shutup, girl. As far as I'm concerned you're all part of this."
"WAIT!" Terra yelled from the car. She got out and walked towards Roland.
"Damnit, kid. I told you to stay in the car. Get back in."
"No, I... I sense magic."
"What the hell are you saying? This man is dangerous."
Cloud looked confused for a second. Then he reached into his pocket.
"Hands up! Keep your hands where I can see them!"
"You mean these?" he said as he pulled three marble-like objects out.
Terra closed her eyes for a second. "Yes," she answered.
"What the hell are the both of you blubbering about?"
Behind him, he heard three consecutive doors open and shut. The other three were with Terra in no time.
"Terra?" Locke asked.
"I sense it. Those... Objects. They're magic."
Cloud nodded. "Materia."
"There's also... Something else nearby," she said looking around. "Different somehow. Dark."
Cloud looked around. "I don't hear anything."
"No. Sense it. It's very close, almost on top of us."
Roland was getting annoyed. "I don't know what you kids are talking about, but this is a police matter, get back in the car and let me handle this!"
"This man meant no harm, sir," Celes said, walking up to him and pushing his gun down.
"He was merely trying to save his friend. Had it been your friend about to be hit by one of these, you would have done the same."
"That," he pointed at the sword. The car emit steam out from the hood. "Is a lethal weapon, my dear. In case you didn't realize, its illegal to carry them. Even guns can't be used without a permit!"
"I'm not familiar with your laws. I apologize," the blonde said.
"What the hell are you saying? First these four, now you four."
"We're not sure how we got here. We just appeared in the forest, near a lake."
"What do you mean, `appeared'?"
"Exactly what he says, sir," Sabin said. "The same happened to us," he looked at him and pulled out a claw from his pocket. "I'm afraid we aren't familiar with your laws either."
"What about those two?" he said pointing to the Japanese couple.
The blonde man nodded. "Them too."
"Let them speak for themselves!"
"I'm afraid they don't know the language as well as we do."
Terra stared confusedly at the Asian man by the side of the road. "I sense a strange magic emanating from him. I think it's a curse."
"Curses? Magic? Swords big enough to make mincemeat of my engine? What's next? Flying robots?"
"Sir. I believe these people meant no harm. They are as unfamiliar with your laws as we are."
Roland shook his head. "I don't buy it. There's been enough strange happenings around here as it is. We found a dead body this morning, that by all means SHOULD NOT BE DEAD!"
"I'm afraid we know nothing about that," Celes shook her head.
"Neither do we," the blonde man said.
"No, I don't expect you do," he said. "You just stand right there, son. I'll have to bring you in. All of you," he looked at the four kids he picked up on the road earlier and reached in for his radio.
"Come in, HQ, Margie, you there?"
"10-4 Roland, what's the problem."
"I'm going to need backup sent out to the road by the old Barker's place, bring about three cars."
"What is the situation?"
"I've got eight people here who need to be taken in, and I'm without a car right now."
"10-4 Roland, We're dispatching Steve, Earl and John right now."
It was disappointed. To say the least, it was very disappointed. He had come across a treasure trove of hosts, all he would have to do is infect one, and the rest would be easy. But she _SENSED_ him. He didn't know how or why, but she did. He had never had that happen before.
But, he resolved. He would have to take care of it. Now, if not sooner. He turned back and continued his way to where he had seen them before.
In truth, he enjoyed walking, it gave him the brisk, cool feelings he could never have when in his energy form. Even his true form couldn't completely enjoy the feeling of the air on his skin, as he had no sense of touch in his true form.
It wasn't long before he returned to the site, and to his pleasure, there were three more people. Police officers, his memory told him, his memory mixed from his two previous hosts of fear, hate and friendship.
He walked out of the bush, into the road.
"Well, if it ain't old Gus!" the police officer named Earl greeted.
"Hey, Earl," Old Gus greeted. "What's the deal here?"
Earl turned around. "Oh, a buncha crazies. One of em stuck a sword into Roland's car. A big improvement if ya ask me," he quipped.
"I heard that!" Roland called from one of the cars. He had just finished piling the four kids from earlier into the cars.
"You four. Here. Now," he called to the four people standing between the cars. The blonde kid and the brunette walked over, but the Asian kids gave him a look of defiance.
"I think we should do as he says," the blonde kid said. Roland didn't understand a word of it.
"No talking, just move," he said, grabbing onto him roughly and placing some cuffs on his hands.
"Move," he pushed him into the car.
The Japanese kids came eventually, but not without arguing a little in Japanese. Roland eventually got the idea that they wanted to be in the same car, and agreed to it.
After all of them had been placed in the cars, Roland hopped into the passenger seat of one of them and called out.
"Earl, come on! Lets go!" Roland yelled out.
Earl dizzily turned around and walked towards the car. He seemed to have a smirk on his face. Old Gus was nowhere in sight.
"Where's Gus?" he asked.
Earl shrugged. "Went back into the woods," he gave a quick look at a horrified face in the back of one of the cars. As he stepped into the police car, Terra started yelling. A moment later, they were on the road.
"Shut up, back there!" Steve yelled.
"NO! WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!!" Terra yelled.
Sabin smirked. "You only need say the word."
Within seconds, Sabin had managed to slip the cuffs off of his hands and punch open the ceiling of the car. Steve swerved the car to a stop and pulled his gun out.
"We've got a problem, here!" he managed to yell into the radio.
The last car in the line was next to be affected. Tifa had punched a hole into the ceiling, to Locke's surprise, he noticed she was still wearing her cuffs. IT wasn't long before the back seat was completely empty.
Ranma smirked as he heard the voices yell over the radio. This wouldn't take long.
He jumped up in the car seat and managed to move his hands to the front of his body. IT was that moment, when to Roland's utter confusion, he pulled the cuffs apart.
"Damnit, Earl! Stop!" he yelled.
Earl gave an evil glare in Roland's direction. "No," he replied.
In fact, Earl sped up. Ranma punched a hole into the metal netting separating the front of the car from the back seat. He knew something was up and grabbed the wheel.
"Earl, what the hell are you doing?!?" Roland yelled.
A moment later, Ranma managed to aim the car into a ditch, and they stopped with surprising force. Blood dripped off of Ranma's arm where the metal grate has cut him. He managed to retract it without further injury and punch open the ceiling, he and Akane escaped easily.
Whether it was by choice, or by chance, Ranma didn't run away from the car. Something clicked in him, as he ripped the passenger side door open and pulled Roland out.
"Ranma!" Cloud and Tifa yelled as they ran up to the three. They were followed by the other four that had been arrested. He managed to notice two unconscious police officers standing beside they're cars.
"What happened to them?" he asked.
"Simple sleep spell. They'll wake up in an hour or so."
"There's something fishy going on. This guy was yelling something at the other guy, and he didn't even let it register. He just smiled and drove faster!"
"I know," he pointed back towards the other four. "They noticed something."
The green haired girl nodded. "In there," she pointed towards the car Ranma had just escaped from. A shrill laugh was heard from inside.
"What the hell?"
The drivers side door literally burst open. The police officer known formerly as Earl stepped out, the huge wound on his head completely evident.
"I've got to admit, that was tricky. If I had known you people had that much strength, I would done all this much earlier."
"Who are you?"
He laughed again. "I have no name. I am the one who transcends mere names. I am the one who is all names, and none. I am the one that consumes lives the way you would consume food. I am the destroyer of worlds."
"That don't tell us much," Ranma said. "Hey, how come you speak Japanese?"
"Languages are nothing. Speech is nothing. I know all that I have consumed. The names. The memories. The dreams of each person. Trillions upon Trillions of lives have been mine to consume. This mere planet is nothing compared to my conquests."
"What are you saying?"
"I know what he's saying," Terra interrupted. "He is evil. A being that can consume life force, and become a symbiant. He merely lives in that body, the owner of it is now gone."
The being nodded. "This is true, you're a lot smarter than you seem, girl. It is no matter, all of your memories will be mine before the day is out."
Ranma went into a defensive stance. "I don't think so."
"You wish to fight me, mere child? I'll have you know that whatever petty art of fighting you may have learned in your short life is dwarfed by the fighting skills of a thousand worlds."
"I'll fight you or die trying."
"Earl?" Roland groggily woke up and looked around.
The being looked towards Roland. "Roland, they're trying to escape!"
Roland looked at them, confused. "They're just standing there."
"Sir, don't believe him. He's not who he says he is," Terra said.
"It's not the man you call Earl, its something else."
"What are you saying, kid?" he stood up.
Earl started to laugh. A deep evil laugh. "You should listen to her, Roland. It might help you live a few seconds longer!"
"What the hell is going on here?"
"Look, you guys can talk with each other as much as you need, but I've got something to take care of," Ranma jumped towards Earl, throwing a flurry of kicks and punches in his wake. Earl fell to the ground quickly. He got up a second later.
"Interesting. It seems I've underestimated the human anatomy. I hadn't expected you to be able to jump that high."
"You'll find we're full of surprises."
"What's going on?" Roland asked.
"Sir, just stay out of it. Whatever is going on here is bigger than you or I. Which car is my sword in?" Cloud asked.
Roland confusedly pointed towards the car he had come from, and Cloud shot off like a bullet towards it. He ripped the trunk open and pulled his sword out.
"Time to play," he said, brandishing his sword.
A part of him looked confused. He could recall from his hosts memories that human had used swords in the past, but they had normally stuck to guns recently. A moment later, he smiled in understanding.
"You were brought here as I was. Interesting."
"I found it rather surprising as I arrived here myself, but I soon understood the opportunity. The machine that brought us here. A facility in Cedar Grove. Military in nature."
"It does not matter. There may be more of you. But you will still die this day."
He launched the attack quickly, Ranma managed to barely dodge while Cloud brought his sword down to his the asphalt. Pieces of cement sprayed all around, creating a miniature pothole.
He spun around and delivered a kick to Tifa's side, sending her sprawling to the floor.
Luck must have intervened on Akane's behalf, because as he grabbed Tifa's neck, ready to transfer his essence, Akane kicked him in the side of the head, sending him flying towards the asphalt.
Tifa recovered quickly. She pulled something out of her pocket and yelled. "NEO-BAHAMUT! MEGA-FLARE!"
Roland stared as the ground around Earl's feet started to crackle and pop. Earl himself, if it was Earl, also looked confused. The ground literally lifted into the air and shot into the sky.
"What... Just happened?" Akane asked as Ranma and Roland stared with their mouths agape.
"I don't think it will kill him, but it may buy us some time before he falls back down. We've got to get out of here."
She looked towards Roland. "<We'll need your help.>"
Roland simply nodded. There was no way he could argue with someone who could do that.
Roland couldn't believe it. He had just seen some of the most amazing scenes he'd sen in his life. He drove the police car frivolously down the road, as he noted the location of the other car. Directly behind him. The blonde kid from earlier seemed to be driving it, although he couldn't quite tell.
"How did you do that?" he asked the girl next to him.
"That funky thing with the ground. You just tore a chunk of asphalt and sent that.. Thing flying towards the moon!"
The girl shrugged. "It's easy if you know how," she gave him a small marble-like object. "The power comes from these."
The girl laughed. "Not quite. They're called `Materia'. It's how we can cast spells."
"Like that one you just did?"
"No, that wasn't a spell. That was a summon. Neo-Bahamut."
"And that's what lifted the ground up like that?"
"Well, what it does, since Neo-Bahamut is so big, is it raises your enemy up into the sky, and then he blasts them away."
"What exactly _IS_ Neo-Bahamut?"
She pointed out the window, towards a red figure in the sky. "That."
Roland nearly crashed into the side of the road as he saw the thing. It looked like a dragon, it seemed to be the size of a football stadium, if not bigger.
"You'd better watch the road."
"How long does it take?"
"Well, it takes a few minutes for him to arrive and blow him away and such, and then they fall to the ground."
"And he's supposed to survive that?"
"Sometimes they do. I have a feeling he will."
Roland shook his head. "That wasn't Earl. It was someone.. Something else."
She nodded. "I'm sorry about your friend. He's gone."
A moment later, Locke said something from the back seat. "Hey, he's waking up!" he said, holding the police officer in his arms.
"Steve?" Earl called.
Groggily, Steve opened one eye. "What the hell?" he asked.
"Steve, its alright. They're not going to hurt us. There's something going on here. Earl's dead."
"He's what?" he looked around and noticed the presence of the people who had punched holes in the roofs of the cars. Then he noticed the hole was still there.
"Hello?" a voice called over the radio.
Roland picked up the receiver. "Yeah?"
"He's waking up..." the voice said. "What should we do?"
"Give him the radio, let me talk to him."
A moment later, a voice answered. "Roland?"
"John, they're not going to hurt us. In fact, they just literally saved all our lives."
"Earl is dead. Something... Took him. I've got a theory, though. Remember that body we found this morning?"
"I think the thing that took Earl was living in that before he found someone else. Probably Old Gus. We're going to drive these folks up to Cedar Grove."
"Roland, what the-"
"That's all I can say right now. I don't know the whole story."
"We appreciate this," the girl said. She gave him something. "Here. If you're ever in trouble, use this."
He looked in the palm of his hand. "Materia?"
"Yes. It's a summon. Call for Shiva, she'll help you."
"Another UFO sighting?"
"In a way sir, people in Garrison claim to have seen a large red object in the sky this afternoon."
"How long ago?"
"About an hour."
"What was the description?"
"A... dragon, sir."
The General shook his head. "Find out all you can about it," he looked at him again. "Isn't that where they found the dead prisoner?"
"Yes sir, which makes it even more interesting."
"Interesting, indeed. How far is that from Cedar Grove?"
"About 60 miles."
"It's a pattern, then. All the strange sightings have been laid in a direct path from the San Francisco facility and the Cedar Grove facility."
"I think it's a little more than simply time travel, son. I don't care what you say, Dragons never existed. The only thing I can think of is a dinosaur, in which case we've got a quarantine problem. Seal off Garrison until you find the offending animal."
"Oh and, lieutenant?"
"Have you had the two kids from the hospital brought to the facility yet?"
"They're being brought there as we speak."
"Where would we go?"
"He was talking about some kind of military facility, I suppose we should find out about it."
Roland nodded. "There's a facility on the edge of town. Just head straight down this road until you come to an large fenced area that says "United States Military Installation."
Cloud looked off into the distance. "Thank you."
"No problem, we'll go back to Garrison and see what we can find out. Keep in touch."
Cloud nodded. "We will."
"Keep that materia handy."
Roland smiled. "No problem."
A minute later, they drove off.
"So, what did he say?" Ranma asked.
"Just keep following this road."
"That won't be a problem, but what about the police around here? They're bound to notice the sword, and the fact that I'm dressed like a policeman," he looked at his borrowed clothes.
"It suits you, Ranma," Akane smiled.
"Really? Hey, maybe when we get back to Japan, I should look into becoming a cop," he beamed.
"Well, at least we know where we are," she said. "But nobody else does. They're probably still back in China, worried sick about us!"
"Well, we'll get back and-", Ranma stopped as he noticed a digital clock in a mall parking lot.
"What's the matter?"
"Hold on," he said. "Look."
The digital clock showed the time. 4:36 PM. Then showed the temperature, 92 degrees Fahrenheit, and then showed the date. June 7, 1999.
"Oh my god," Akane gasped.
"What's the matter?" Cloud came up behind them.
"The date. It's... 1999..."
The date made no difference to Cloud. "What about it?"
"When we were... Taken... It was 1996," Akane continued.
"Three years? In the future?" Ranma said to himself. "We should be 20."
"We've been missing for three years?"
Ranma slumped to the ground for a moment.
"Look, Ranma. We're all missing from our homes, we all have people who will miss us, but if we find this facility, they may be able to send us home."
Ranma got up. He looked at Cloud and smiled. "Lets go."
"Excuse me, sir?" the nurse called out to the man at the front of the small troop that had walked into the hospital, dressed in army fatigues.
"Miss, we've been commissioned to find and retrieve two Japanese individuals. Shinji Ikari and Asuka Soryuu. Can you tell us where they are?"
The nurse looked suspiciously at them for a moment, but after seeing their credentials, she pointed them towards the right room. The four soldiers followed him. A moment later, a screech was heard.
"What the hell is going on here?" she yelled out.
"Miss I am a repre-"
"I can't understand a word your saying! Get the hell out of here!"
"Asuka," Shinji began, "I think they're army. They want us to go with them."
"Alright men, they're going to give us trouble. Detain them."
After several minutes of struggling, they finally had Asuka in cuffs, she screamed and swore at them as they dragged the out the back door. As her final struggle, she kicked one of the guards in the face, and began to run, but stopped after she noticed something. Three of the guards were unconscious.
"Damn I hate people like this!" Ranma swore. He had just ran by and knocked three men out without being noticed. He didn't like what he saw happening, and continued onward. He jumped on top of the van and looked down at them.
"You want to pick on girls? I'll show you a thing or two!" he yelled as he jumped down. Three guards pulled out their guns, but were disarmed just as quickly, Ranma continued to beat them into unconsciousness. The two Japanese teens stood, staring.
"You guys alright?" he asked.
The girl smiled. "Yes," she dropped the smile, "I could've taken care of them myself, you dummkopf!"
The boy recovered quickly. "Thank you," he said.
Ranma shook his head. "These guys... What were they doing?"
"I don't know. We were just sitting in the hospital and they came and took us."
"Do you know why?" Cloud said as he walked around the van.
The boy stared at him for a second, and then continued. "I'm not sure. We're really not supposed to be here. It's 1999, but we-"
"You're aren't from 1999, are you?" Akane asked.
Shinji shook his head. "2015."
Akane smiled. "Same thing here, except we're from 1996. These guys aren't even from this planet, I think," she pointed at Cloud and the rest of the team, who were lagging behind the group.
"I think it would be best we got out of here before we cause any more of a disturbance."
The girl looked down at herself. "I'm not going anywhere without real clothes! You expect me to walk around in a hospital gown?!"
Ranma shrugged. "And I look like a cop," he pointed at Cloud, "He's wearing armor and has a zanbatou strapped to his back," he pointed at Akane, "And she still looks like a tomboy."
"Hey!", Akane yelled.
"The point is, we're heading to a military installation, which may hold some sort of indication of how we got here."
"I'm still not going anywhere without some real clothes."
Shinji walked towards the group. "I'm going. You can stay here if you want, Asuka."
"Hey!" she called as the group started to walk away. "Hey, wait for me! Can I stay in the middle?!"
It was mad.
It was very, very mad.
It had thought it to be a golden opportunity, taking the life of the dragon that stood before him. If he had managed to even hold onto it for longer than five seconds.
The blast burned his current body to a charred remnant of what it was before, each bit of pain making him even more angry.
When he had landed, the pain was intense. He knew what he liked and didn't like. And he didn't like pain. It was one thing he could never get used to while in a host. The body he was in was burned and charred, he would have to find a new host soon, or he would have to leave the body in his energy state. He wasn't willing to do that just yet.
He saw it in the distance. A car. A blue one. He knew how he would do this. He jumped into the road and lay perfectly still.
The last thought he had as the car stopped was how easy it would be.