Future Perfect
			Book One: Past Tense
			Part Five


	Nabiki looked up from her magazine as the young martial artist
stepped into the room.  Her younger sister mirrored her action, but
quickly looked away.  Nabiki allowed herself a small smile -- they
couldn't keep this game up forever.  "Ranma," she noted laconically.
"So, when are you fighting Mousse?  I'll give you six to one odds."

	Ranma's mouth twisted.  "I'm not.  He didn't want a fight."

	Akane's head snapped back up.  "He didn't?"

	Arching an eyebrow, Nabiki asked, "Then what, exactly, did he

	"I don't think it'll be profitable for you, Nabiki."

	"Ranma!" Akane hissed.

	"Indulge me," the older sister suggested, ignoring Akane's
interruption.  "I'm sure Akane will want to know, too.  Right, sis?"
she asked, wearing her most suggestive smile.

	"It's not as if I care what he does," Akane protested.

	"Of course not.  Why should you?"  Nabiki was starting to get
tired and decided to end the teasing.  Besides, the answer might be
more amusing.  "Well, Ranma?"

	"All right.  We're gonna meet at the Nekohanten tonight at
midnight, then I'm gonna go with some Devil Hunters or something to
stop a demon from conquering the world.  Or something like that."

	Nabiki was used to suppressing her more extreme emotions.  It
took her a full five seconds to break down into fits of convulsive

	Akane, on the other hand, was not amused.  "Let me guess.
This was Cologne's idea, and you and Shampoo are going."

	"Well... uh, sort of.  I mean, it was Cologne's idea, but--"

	"Ranma, you idiot."  Akane sighed, placing one hand to her
forehead and closing her eyes.

	"Hey, it's not what you're thinking!  Look, it's not like it's
just the two of us, the Devil Hunters are going, too... and besides,
if the ghoul is right, this demon or whatever could be a serious
problem.  We've got to stop it."

	"Come on, Ranma, this is so obvious..."

	"Huh?  What do you--?"

	"You expect me to believe that?"

        "What?"  His voice was indignant.  "You've seen guys turn into
ducks, p--uh, pandas, and girls, and you can't believe this?"

        "Ranma, that's ridiculous."  She rolled her eyes dramatically.
"It's just another one of her stupid schemes to get you to marry

        He frantically motioned for silence, but it was too late.  The
very word 'marry' drew their respective fathers in an instant.  Moths
to a flame, Nabiki thought, and sighed.

        "How could you desert your fiancee, boy?" growled his father,
striking a pose of righteous anger.  "Why don't you just accept your
commitment like a man?"

        It might have been more impressive had her father not been
loudly wailing in the background.  Or it might not.

        While Ranma sputtered, trying to formulate a coherent
response, Akane spoke up.  "I'm NOT going to marry that PERVERT!"

        "Hey!"  That 'pervert' spun to face her.  "Who are you calling
a pervert, you tomboy?"

        It was, all in all, a fairly ordinary day at the Tendou dojo.


	"It doesn't look like anything's changed," remarked Mirai,
flipping the power switch to turn off the newscast.

	"Trust me, Mirai.  It may not be apparent, but this isn't our
world."  Hiroshi sifted through the pile of components on the floor,
searching for the right piece.  "Whatever you do, don't take off that,
err, brooch."

	She fingered the intricate disk of circuitry that she'd
attached to her jacket.  "I know, you've told me that before.  How do
these things work, anyway?"

	Nozomu answered, "They're temporal stabilizers.  They keep you
'locked' in time.  You can think of it as a generator for a small
'paradox field,' if it helps."  Judging by Mirai's expression, it
didn't, but the young man forged on.  "That's why it lets you remember
the 'right' past when history changes."

	Nodding, Hiroshi added, "And it keeps you here.  If you were
to take it off, and history had changed so that you didn't exist..."

	"I get the point."  Mirai frowned.  "What if I need Moldiver?"

	Hiroshi paused in his work momentarily to ponder the question.
"Interesting.  I suspect the Mol unit would work the same way as the
stabilizers, in that respect.  At least, as long as the power lasted."

	"I wouldn't want to be you when the time limit shut it down,
though," said Nozomu.

	"But if I can't take this stabilizer thing off before I

	"Then the transformation would destroy it along with your

	Mirai sighed.  "Here's hoping we won't need Moldiver."


	Madoka Ayukawa leaned back on one arm as she sat on the
hillside between the two boys, looking out over the placid surface of
the lake.  Sunset had painted the sky a panoply of oranges and golds,
and the surface of the water danced and swirled in a latticework of
reflected hues.  "You don't get to see anything like this in the city,
Ten-chan," she declared, a phantom smile playing over her lips.

	In that moment, thought Kyousuke, she looked as beautiful as
she ever had.  If only there were a way to preserve it, he could
happily live an eternity in that moment.

	The moment passed.  Tenchi nodded.  "It looks like it'll be a
clear night, too."

	"So, is this what you've been doing for the past ten years?
Enjoying the peaceful country life?"

	"Well--"  Tenchi laughed -- almost nervously, Kyousuke
thought -- and hesitantly admitted, "I have been helping Grandfather
with the shrine, and all..."

	A throaty purr interrupted their conversation:  "Tenchi."
Ryouko managed to stretch the name to eleven syllables as she latched
on to the young man from behind, causing both Kyousuke and Tenchi
himself to start.

	"Ryouko!  Don't -do- that!"

	The space pirate managed to twist herself around him, somehow
ending up in his lap without ever relinquishing her hold on his arm.
Her eyes were wide, expression set in what was probably intended to be
a look of wounded innocence but instead came off as pouting.  "You
know I'd never do anything to -you-, Tenchi... unless you wanted me
to..."  She favored him with a sultry smile that had Kyousuke
practically ready to melt at thirty paces, but Tenchi hardly seemed to

	"I know, you're trying," the young man said, voice and body
language equally resigned.  "Just try to remember not to scare our
guests like that, okay?"

	Kyousuke hastily pulled himself together, mumbling, "Oh, no,
we're all right."  He prayed that Ayukawa hadn't noticed...

	It seemed he was safe; her attention was focused on her cousin
and his odd girlfriend.  "Yes... we're already imposing on your
hospitality, there's no reason you and your... friends... should have
to go to special lengths for our sake."  She smiled slightly,
continuing, "Besides, with friends like Kasuga-kun, I'm used to
surprises."  If she only knew, Kyousuke thought...

	"Oh, that's right!"  Ryouko released her iron grip on Tenchi's
arm to smack one loose fist into her other palm.  "I came to tell you
that Sasami's almost got dinner ready."

	"Oh.  Um, thanks, Ryouko," Tenchi stammered.  "I guess we'd
better head back, then."  Ryouko obligingly stood, and practically
pulled Tenchi to his feet; Madoka and Kyousuke followed suit.  The
four began walking back to Tenchi's home.

	"Sasami?" Madoka asked as they proceeded.  "By herself?"

	"Hey, I offered to help," Ryouko protested.  Tenchi directed a
skeptical glance at her, and she petulantly added, "Well, I did."

	He chose to ignore the interruption, explaining, "She enjoys
cooking, and she's really good at it."  Tactfully, he added, "The rest
of us sort of take turns helping out, but she insists."  Probably
because their 'help' consisted largely of rendering quantities of food
absolutely inedible and, occasionally, destroying kitchen utensils.
"Remember how she acted when you offered to help?  That's pretty

	"It still doesn't feel right..."

	Kyousuke interjected, "I'm sure she'll let us take care of it
tomorrow, or at least help."

	Laughing, Madoka quipped, "'Us,' Kasuga-kun?  Just when did
you learn to cook anything more complicated than rice curry?"

	"Hey, I like rice curry.  What's--"  He stopped, grumbling
softly to himself as Madoka laughed out loud, and was quickly joined
by both Tenchi and Ryouko.  "Hmpf."

	"I'm sorry, Kasuga-kun, but... the look on your face..."
Madoka started laughing anew at the recollection.

	"Sure, the three of us could handle tomorrow night's dinner
ourselves!"  Tenchi paled at Ryouko's confident declaration, but she
didn't notice.  "Hey, she must be ready by now.  I'd better go help
her set the table."  Releasing Tenchi's arm, she dashed ahead a few
steps, turned to wink at him, then continued on her way, leaving
Tenchi even more puzzled.

	"Wow," commented Kyousuke.  "She's really thoughtful, isn't

	"Yeah," Tenchi slowly answered.  "I didn't expect her to act
like this..."

	Grinning, Kyousuke replied, "I knew it.  I've always thought
I was a pretty good judge of character."

	Madoka silently rolled her eyes.


	The room was small, but quite adequate to their purposes.
Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, the three of them could come
together and simply relax.  Yes, it was a veritable stronghold of
cheer, where the drinking and the dancing continued until the wee
hours of the morning.

	Not that the residents of Maison Ikkoku had ever needed much
of an excuse to party.  Their reason for choosing room five was a
mystery, however.

	"Hey," Akemi slurred, looking up from her sake for a moment to
focus on the round, cheerful, somewhat manic face of Mrs. Ichinose.
"Where's Godai?"

	"Drowning his sorrows, no doubt," Yotsuya replied.  His voice,
at least, showed no indication of the alcohol he had consumed; his
pronunciation was impeccable.

	"It's not the same without him here."

	"Patience; he shall return."


	Madoka Ayukawa was not used to being groped.  Those
unfortunates who dared to attempt such a thing were usually rendered
unconscious or otherwise harmless long before they could lay a finger
on her.  Which is a part of the reason that she was so surprised.

	The other parts were the complete lack of any warning and the
ease with which her reflexive blow was caught harmlessly in the man's
palm.  Though perhaps the identity of the assailant played a part.


	"Hello, Madoka-chan.  My, how you've grown."  The old man
smiled amiably at her.  "I see you've kept up on your training.  Next
time, though, turn your wrist a little more like this."  His hand
turned, guiding hers into position, and he nodded in satisfaction.

	Tenchi, mortified, buried his face in his hands.  "Do you
really have to greet all my friends that way?"

	"An old man must have his hobbies."  He turned toward
Kyousuke.  "And who might this be?"

	"A friend of Madoka-chan's.  Kyousuke Kasuga."  Tenchi turned
toward the young psychic and completed the introductions.  "My
grandfather, Katsuhiko Masaki."

	"Err... pleased to meet you?"  Kyousuke was not at all
convinced of that, but, on the other hand, Madoka hadn't exploded in a
fury.  Yet.

	The old man bent forward, adjusting his glasses and fixing
Kyousuke with a piercing stare.  The Esper fought the urge to shudder.
The scrutiny continued for several uncomfortable seconds before
Tenchi's grandfather abruptly straightened.  "It's nice to see that
you have such good friends, Madoka-chan."

	Kyousuke blinked, but Madoka seemed speechless with surprise.
He wasn't sure how he should take that, either.

	"Are you going to join us for dinner, Grandfather?"

	"Oh, I thought I might..  will you be joining Tenchi at our
practice session tomorrow, Madoka-chan?"

	The young girl smiled fiercely.  "I think I'll take you up on

	Katsuhiko nodded knowingly.  "There's nothing like the proper

	"Tenchi-sama," Aeka interrupted -- in the politest and most
proper manner, of course.  "If you and your guests would come join

	"Oh, right.  Thanks."  Tenchi led the group into the dining
room, followed closely by his grandfather, who hadn't said anything
more, though Aeka hadn't seemed at all surprised to see him.

	For her part, Madoka leaned toward Kyousuke and whispered,
"We'll explain later," before following.  The bemused psychic trailed
along.  Not that he really had any other options.

	As they entered the room, a young blonde with an olive
complexion looked up at them from her seat at the table, waved, and
beamed complete happy radiance in their direction.  "Hi!  You must be
Tenchi's cousins -- hi, Tenchi! -- and I'm--"  Here, she yawned.
"--Mihoshi.  Sorry about that, I was just taking a nap and, well,
never mind.  I'm sure we're going to be good friends!"

	"Hi.  Madoka Ayukawa."

	She certainly seemed to be taking it in stride.  She also
seemed to be nudging him again.  Oops.  "Um, Kyousuke Kasuga, nice to
meet you."

	"She's the third, Ten-chan?"

	Tenchi sheepishly clutched the back of his head in one hand.

	"Hmmmmm?"  Mihoshi leaned forward over the table, nearly
toppling a gargantuan platter of pickled vegetables.  "I don't

	"There's a surprise," Ryouko muttered.  Kyousuke glanced about
and decided that the comment must have been addressed to him, since
nobody else seemed to have heard it.  He considered a number of
responses before deciding that the best course might be to pretend he
hadn't, either.  Besides, the way Aeka was eying Tenchi was much more
interesting.  It rather reminded him of the way Madoka had looked at
him on... well, on more occasions than he cared to admit.  Perhaps it
was best not to think about that, either.

	Tenchi, however, was very much thinking about it.
"Madoka-chan was surprised to find so many other guests, Mihoshi," he
explained.  It seemed to placate Aeka, and he lowered himself to the

	Kyousuke blinked, and opened his eyes to find Tenchi
sandwiched between Aeka and Ryouko, neither of whom appeared to have
actually crossed the intervening space.  He shrugged and knelt next to
Madoka -- which suited him just fine -- and the young girl, Sasami,
who smiled affably at him.

	"Didn't you say there was one more, Ten-chan?" asked Madoka.

	"There is."  The boy turned, surprisingly (to Kyousuke, at
least) to Sasami.  "Washuu-chan isn't joining us, again?"

	Sasami shook her head.  "She said she was really busy and not
to bother her until breakfast tomorrow unless the planet was going to

	Kyousuke and Madoka chuckled, stopping when they noticed that
none of the others had.

	"That's too bad," Tenchi said.  "I wonder what's so

	"Do you really think you want to know?" Ryouko asked.

	"Come to think of it..."  He shook his head.  "Anyway, it
looks like you've really outdone yourself, Sasami-chan."

	The young girl blushed, smiling shyly.  "It really wasn't

	"Oh, no, this is great!" gushed Mihoshi.  "Could you pass me
the rice, Ryouko?"

	Ryouko bit back her initial response, instead forcing a smile.
"Sure.  Here you go."  Even though the smile hadn't been directed at
him, Kyousuke flinched; there was something feral about the
expression.  Aeka chuckled almost silently, either at Ryouko's
admittedly labored attempt at politeness or at his reaction.  This in
turn earned a dangerous glare from the older girl -- at least, he
thought she was older; it was difficult to tell, with gaijin -- from
which he found himself instinctively withdrawing further.  As, a small
corner of his mind noted, Tenchi had.

	On the other hand, Mihoshi was unfazed.  "Thanks!  Oh!  You
should try this..."  She pushed a bowl in Ryouko's direction with one
hand, the other being busy manipulating a pair of chopsticks with
remarkable speed and precision.  "It's delicious!"

	Ryouko turned away from Aeka, much to the relief of the two
young men.  "Thanks," she said curtly, taking the bowl and serving
herself a portion.  She handed the bowl to Tenchi, who merely blinked
at it for the moment, and tasted the offering.  "Hey, this -is- good."

	"Inconceivable," Aeka murmured.

	Tenchi's grandfather coughed quietly, clearing his throat.
Kyousuke blinked as all motion at the table ceased, except for
Mihoshi, who continued to eat.  Chopsticks still poised, he paused,
glancing at each of the other faces at the table before joining them
in looking expectantly at Katsuhiko Masaki.  For his part, the old man
seemed surprised, and more than a little amused, but his words were
innocuous enough.  "So, Madoka-chan, you're staying for the summer?"

	Somewhat warily, the others at the table returned to eating,
Kyousuke a step behind the rest, as Madoka answered.  "Until the end
of break, if it's not too much trouble..."

	"Trouble?"  He laughed.  "You're more than welcome.  Our offer
still stands, you know."

	Madoka smiled.  "I appreciate that, but--"  She glanced at
Kyousuke.  "I'd hate to leave my city, my school... my friends... now.
Besides, soon enough, we'll be in college..."  She trailed off, as if
not sure how to proceed.

	The old man slowly nodded.  "True enough."  After a moment's
hesitation, he continued, "I look forward to our practice tomorrow,
then.  If you'll excuse me, I must tend to the shrine..."  He set his
chopsticks down, and Kyousuke realized with a slight shock that he
had, somehow, finished eating without ever seeming to have begun.
Tenchi started to stand as well, but his grandfather stopped him with
a glance.  "There's no need for you to join me tonight, Tenchi.  Take
care of Madoka-chan and Kasuga-kun."

	"Well, I guess..."

	Ryouko tugged Tenchi back to the floor -- and, incidentally,
nearly into her lap.  "He's right, Tenchi.  You should stay here."

	"Ryouko!"  Aeka barked.

	"What's your problem?"

	"That was entirely inappropriate, as you should very well

	"Uh, Aeka-san..." Tenchi pleaded uselessly.

	"What?  He's right.  Tenchi should stay right here."  She
paused for a moment before adding, somewhat less vehemently, "With his

	"That is true," Aeka acknowledged grudgingly.  "But that
hardly excuses you for treating Tenchi-sama in such a way!"

	"And just what way is that?  Besides," she taunted, "Tenchi
doesn't have any complaints about the way I treat him.  Do you,
Tenchi?" she asked, leaning in close.

	Tenchi gulped.  "R-Ryouko..." he whined.

	Kyousuke felt a tug at his sleeve and turned to see a
worried-looking Sasami.  "You and Madoka-san might want to move aside
a little," she whispered.  Kyousuke took one look at Ryouko, who was
rather annoyed, and Aeka, whose eyelid had begun to twitch in a rather
unpromising manner, and nodded.

	"See?" Ryouko purred, leaning in even closer to Tenchi, who
leaned back to compensate and found himself nearly lying prone on the

	Aeka was livid.  "I -demand- that you unhand Tenchi-sama
immediately, you... barbarian!"

	Ryouko laughed scornfully.  "Oh, yeah?  And what if I don't?"

	Kyousuke hesitantly took Madoka's wrist and gently tugged,
trying to will the statement 'Move back.' into her mind.  Never had he
regretted his lack of telepathic ability so much.  Fortunately, it
seemed that Madoka had already come to the same conclusion.  No
surprise; the tension between the two women was so great that Kyousuke
could almost hear it.

	"You-- how DARE you!" Aeka exploded.

	Grinning, Ryouko slid closer to Tenchi, who found himself flat
on his back on the floor with Ryouko not very far above him, and no
place to run.  "I don't hear Tenchi complaining," she answered smugly.
She turned to look down at him, and her smile took on a decidedly more
predatory tone.  "Tenchi..."

	"I will not allow this!" Aeka proclaimed, leaping to her feet.
Kyousuke would have sworn that he heard a faint crackling sound.

	"Seems to me it's none of your business," Ryouko replied,
without taking her eyes from Tenchi's.

	"Oh, no..." Tenchi moaned.  He was ignored.

	The rage in Aeka's expression suddenly crystalized into a
chilling calm, with only her eyes betraying any hint of her true
emotions.  Those, and her voice.  "Very well, then; you brought this
upon yourself."  And something began to happen.  Kyousuke felt Madoka
stiffen.  He himself was already paralyzed with shock and fear.

	"Butt out," Ryouko snarled, raising one hand negligently to
point toward Aeka.  A burst of red energy swirled about her hand,
shooting toward the princess.  A sphere of force manifested around
her, deflecting the blast.

	Toward Kyousuke and Madoka.

	In the millisecond that followed, Kyousuke caught a brief
glimpse of the matching expressions of horror on both women's faces.
Sasami was shouting something, but he tuned her out, desperately
reaching for his Power.  He clenched his free hand into a fist so hard
that he felt blood on his palm as his nails cut into the skin, but the
sensation was insignificant compared to the psychic strain of
channelling so much of the Power so suddenly.  It weighed on him like
a mountain, it lit the air with a visible, electric, blue glow, it
felt like fire running through his veins.

	He mentally pushed the Power toward the burst of energy,
staggering as the moment of impact occurred.  It was like a truck
crashing into the wall he had hastily constructed around them.

	Then, suddenly, the pressure was gone as the burst dissipated.
Kyousuke released the Power, swaying as the exhaustion caused by his
effort made itself felt.  Somehow, he managed to remain on his feet.
He shook his head; there seemed to be a ringing in his ears, and
people were looking at him.  Even Tenchi seemed to have freed himself.
Had someone said something?  Of course they had; they had to have
noticed -that- usage of Power.  The ringing was receding.

	Mihoshi stepped forward, a very serious expression on her
face.  Kyousuke fought the impulse to step backwards.  She looked
directly into his eyes...

	And held out a plate of pickled vegetables.  "You should try

	Madoka fainted into Kyousuke's arms.