Chapter Four: Battle of WitsEdit
"All right, Zel. Talk. What did we just run from?" Lina asked, trying to catch her breath after the narrow escape.
Zelgadis narrowed his eyes in thought. The truth was, he wasn't even sure himself what he ran from. He just sensed the danger coming from the astral plane, and reacted upon it.
"Rah Tilt hurt it. It sent him... Out of that shell. The woman he was using as his vessel was dead, that much I'm certain of, but the entity itself mainly resides on the astral plane."
"So whatever it was, came after us in the astral plane?"
Zelgadis nodded. "I'm certain that if it actually reached one of us, we would be the new host."
Lina felt a shiver run down her spine. The thought that something could even do that to someone was mind-blowing to her.
"Hey, Lina?" Gourry asked from his cross-legged position below.
"It's all good and fine that weird thing can't reach us and all," he began. "But where are we going?"
Lina narrowed her eyes. "There's still that magic I sensed from before. It's close. Very close."
Zelgadis looked over the horizon of trees before him. He could vaguely make out a shape in the distance, just beyond the endless abyss of trees.
"There," he said as he pointed.
Lina strained her eyes to see. "A town?"
"Yes," Zelgadis replied. "I think we may find the source of the magic there."
"Terra?" Celes asked, mocking deep concern about her friend.
It took a moment for Terra to snap out of it, but she soon did. "Sorry," she said.
"You zoned out for a bit there," Celes said. "Are you all right?"
Terra nodded. "Yes, it's just... The magic is getting closer."
"What bothers me," Sabin muttered. "Is how we're so sure that this new magic is gonna be friendly."
"It's hard to tell. I can sense two different magics. One is dark, while the other... I'm not sure. It's somewhat different, but it seems to be gray magic."
Shinji broke into the conversation by asking, "are you sure it's not this... thing, whatever it was that you faced?"
Terra shook her head. "No, that was different... Raw... Almost wild in a way. Whatever it is, it's sentient, but its form of magic seems untamed. It's hard to explain."
"I'm still not up on this magic thing. Where I come from, the only thing even close to magic are the Eva's," Asuka muttered. "And they're made from science!"
Shinji shook his head. "The Eva's weren't that simple, Asuka."
"Look, Shin-boy. If I wanted your opinion, I'd have asked you!"
Shinji just shook it off and sped up, to try and catch up with the others.
"Terra?" Celes asked.
"Yes?" She replied
"How close are they?"
Terra looked towards the horizon and narrowed her eyes.
"Close," she replied.
"So how exactly do those things work?" Ranma asked, motioning towards one of the materia embedded into Cloud's sword.
Cloud popped the materia from it's slot and handed it to Ranma. "It's hard to explain, actually. There are two ways to use it. Flat out, which is a bit harder to do, or junctioned to a weapon. In your case, we could probably hook a bracelet or something on you."
"Yeah," Ranma said. "But how does it WORK?"
Cloud smiled. "Well, you call out the name of the spell, and it'll be cast. It's fairly straightforward. How it works from the inside... Is somewhat hard to say. As far as I can figure, the materia are solidified mako power."
"Where I come from, it's the source of energy. At least it was, before we found out what it's capable of."
"What's it capable of?"
"Turning a living human being into an insane monster."
Ranma quickly handed the materia back to Cloud.
Taking it back, Cloud laughed. "This materia is quite harmless, I assure you. It's the raw mako you have to be careful of."
"So where does this mako come from, anyway?"
Cloud sighed. "In our world, when someone dies, their body is given to the planet to feed the life already there."
Ranma nodded. "Yeah, decomposition. I learned that in school."
"Yes, but the soul also must go somewhere when it dies. It goes into the earth, and is responsible for creating new life. For giving life, rather than feeding."
Ranma blinked. "So, the mako power is really..."
"Souls of the Dead."
"So you get your power from these materia, which are really..."
Ranma swallowed and nodded in understanding. "I think I see."
"Still want one?"
Ranma shook his head. "I think I can live with my own magic."
"Your own magic?"
Ranma nodded. "I can do a couple ki attacks."
"Yeah. the Moko Takabisha and the Hiryu Shoten Ha. In some cases, the Shishi Hokodan."
"You realize of course, I have no idea what you're talking about, right?"
"You don't have any ki theory in your world?"
Cloud shook his head violently. He was often prone to fits of rage like this. He hoped it wouldn't last too long.
"Well, the human soul is balanced into two parts. The good and the evil. The yin and the yang. This is what we call ki. It's a balance between the two parts that can bring out the most power."
"A balance? Meaning you'd have to be good AND evil?"
Ranma shrugged. "You got me. That's just the theory. I can use it, and I'm pretty sure I ain't evil at all."
"A demonstration, perhaps?" Cloud asked, smirking.
Ranma smiled. "Maybe a bit later. Right now I don't wanna attract any more attention to myself than necessary."
Cloud nodded. "Of course. I think the uniform you're wearing is doing enough of that."
"Like what Akane's wearing ain't doing any better?"
"I heard that, Ranma," Akane yelled from a few feet back. "Besides, these are YOUR clothes!"
"Yeah, and because you TOOK my clothes, I'm stuck with this cop uniform!"
"You'd rather me run around naked?"
Ranma fought the urge to answer that with a snide remark, and just sighed and kept his eyes forward.
Meanwhile, behind them, Akane, Tifa and Locke were having a conversation of their own.
"Is he usually like that?" Akane asked.
"As far as I can tell... Yes."
"Nah, he likes you. He really likes you." Locke said.
Akane blinked in surprise. And then blinked normally. "Eh?"
Locke nodded. "Yeah, it's easy to tell. Otherwise he would have made a snide remark just then. He doesn't like to fight with you."
"How can you tell?" Tifa asked.
"I've spent my life as a treasure hunter. Reading people has become sort of a gift."
Akane remained silent.
"And I think Akane here likes him too," he smiled.
For all the success Locke had with his reading technique, there was still the odd behavior that he couldn't read. In this case, it was Akane's fist to his face.
Locke had hit the ground before he knew that he'd been hit.
"Hey, guys," Shinji yelled, running up to them. "That Terra girl says we're expecting visitors pretty soon!"
Cloud looked back and narrowed his eyes. "Should we fortify?" he asked.
Ranma sighed. "I don't like the idea of us all being in one place in front of a potential threat. We should get all the non-combatants someplace safe before they arrive."
Cloud nodded. "Tifa, get Akane, Shinji, Asuka and Terra somewhere safe."
Tifa didn't contest it. She just ran to gather them all up and run to the side of the road near a tall tree, while the others stepped forward.
"They're almost here," Terra said. "We should see them any second now."
Needless to say, a few seconds later, they saw them.
"Doctor Sandhu?" the technician asked.
"Yes? Any progress?" the doctor asked from his makeshift desk made from a picnic bench not twenty feet away from the object.
"Well, I've unloaded a maintenance log from the system, but..."
"What? What is it?"
The technician sighed before continuing. "The date system they're using isn't gregorian. It's using the Jewish calendar, but that's not the remarkable part. What's remarkable is... the actual date, sir."
"Well, spit it out, man!"
"The current Jewish year is 5490, however the log states the last bit of maintenance took place on 16 Cheshvan, 15875."
The doctor's eyes shot open. "A FIVE digit date? Are you serious?"
"Yes, sir. Not only that, but the objects activation date is 5788."
The doctor's eyes shot wider open, if such a thing was possible. "You're telling me that thing is ten THOUSAND years old?"
The technician nodded. "It was designed and created by someone named Zohar in that year, aboard the USS Eldridge. I'm looking for more references to Zohar or the Eldridge, but there is a gap of ten thousand years between it's initial creation and now. Although it is possible the date system is corrupted, and the thing is only 100 years old."
Doctor Sandhu sighed in thought. "That still leaves the question of how it got back to 5440."
"5490, sir. 5440 is the name of a band."
"WHATEVER, that's beside the point," he said. "The point is, time travel is involved."
"So this thing is from earth, then."
"That's still debatable. I'm not so sure we'd renounce use of the gregorian calendar so easily... Unless..."
"You said the USS Eldridge, right? The use of Jewish dates could mean a military involvement. The Military has been using different measures of time for years now, they may turn to the Jewish calendar just to be mindless gits," he said, obviously deep in thought. Suddenly, he looked up. "Let me try something," he said. "Let me in the craft."
"What do you think?" Fei asked, paying close attention to the weapons held by the several guards placed at the entrance to the park.
"Well, we could just go up and tell them we parked our buggy in there," Elly suggested.
"The only thing that would lead me to believe that wouldn't work is the simple fact that he's got a gun, and I have feeling a feeling that our 'buggy' is the only reason he's there."
"Well, shouldn't we at least give it a try?"
"No, look," Fei pointed to the nearby parking lot. "That place was filled with buggy's when we left. It's empty now. I think they've moved them all."
Elly sighed in thought. "Well, we have to get back, and the only way I can think of is through there."
"A full on assault?"
"As much as I don't want to get shot, it may be our only option."
Fei nodded. "We've got our gear that would protect us partly from the bullets, but it still leaves our head open."
"We're in public, and as far as I can tell, these people aren't like some kind of martial police force. They wouldn't make it a head shot."
Fei nodded. "Should we make a break for it, then?"
"We can start up the gear and get it off the ground in a few seconds, before they'd have time to grab us and pull us out."
Fei nodded again. "On the count of three."
Doctor Sandhu was in perpetual heaven. He was delving head first into futuristic technology, and enjoying every bit of it.
In fact, he had found a panel behind the cockpit pilot's seat, and had literally jumped in head first to examine the circuitry underneath.
He was so involved in what he was doing, he failed to hear the shots of gunfire from outside, the frantic yells, or even the distinct sound of two people entering the cockpit and closing it.
However, he definitely felt the engine start up, seeing as he was busily playing with several wires that were connected to it.
He popped his head out of the panel as quick as he could, thinking that he had inadvertently started the craft up. That was when he noticed the others.
"Who the hell is he?" the man asked.
"I don't know. He must be with those others," the woman said.
"Who are you people?" Sandhu asked.
"We're already taking off. We're gonna have to take him with us."
Doctor Sandhu's heart jumped. They were the pilots. The actual pilots of the craft... and they wanted to take him with them.
"To the future?" he asked excitedly.
"The future? So then we are in the past?" the woman asked.
Doctor Sandhu nodded. "At least two hundred years, unless the date in your system is correct, then it's closer to ten thousand."
The man smirked. "Then we have to be on the planet of origin!"
Doctor Sandhu held his breath as he watched out of the cockpit window at the city below. The city of San Francisco.
Then he paused. "Planet of origin? You mean... You weren't born on Earth?"
"Earth? That's the name of this place?"
The doctor nodded.
The man would have replied if it wasn't for a beeping noise coming from the panel in front of him.
"What's the matter?" the woman asked.
"We've got company, Elly," he replied. After typing a few things in the panel, an image came up on the viewscreen.
"What... is that?" Elly asked, looking at the object.
Doctor Sandhu strained his eyes to see, and adjusted his glasses.
"What?" the man looked back. "You know what that is?"
The doctor nodded. "That, my alien friends, is a United States Army Apache Combat Chopper."
"So it's a bad thing, then?"
The doctor sighed. "Judging from how fast it's closing in on us, it'll either force us to land, or shoot us down."
The man sighed. "Stupid military. What's their maximum speed?"
"Maximum speed. What is it?"
"Oh... I'm not sure. A couple of hundred clicks per hour, possibly."
Elly thought for a minute. "Clicks? How fast is that?"
Different rates of measurement. Doctor Sandhu smiled. "A bit faster than those cars below us can go."
"You mean the buggies?"
"Perfect. We can outrun them easily," he said as he typed a few more things in. Finally, he reached for the throttle, and pulled it back.
What was strange, was that the craft was moving at an immense speed, faster than that of the helicopter. The doctor saw the Golden Gate bridge pass by in an instant. He saw rows of trees before them and a thin road, littered by the various farm or small village.
What was even stranger, was that there was no inertia. They were moving, but he couldn't FEEL them move.
The doctor did all he could to keep from fainting of happiness.
"I think we're far enough, Fei," Elly said.
Fei nodded and brought the craft to a stop. Looking over the area below him, he narrowed his eyes. "Where are we now?"
The doctor looked out of the window and let his jaw drop. "Cedar Grove! You got us to Cedar Grove in THIRTY seconds!"
"I'm guessing that's a good thing," Fei said.
"A good thing! Even our fastest jets would take us two minutes to get here! The Apache would be here in ten! That's amazing!"
Elly seemed distracted for a moment. "Do you see that?"
Fei looked out the cockpit. "Is that...?"
Doctor Sandhu strained his eyes to see out the window and get a view of what everyone was looking at. After he saw it, he finally fainted.
Elly just looked down at the unconscious man, and then back out the window.
"Are those people... FLYING?"