Future Perfect
			Book One: Past Tense
			Part Six


	"What the hell was that?!"

	She thought she ought to know that voice, but it was distorted by
the distance.  Echoes from so, so far away through the darkness.  She
thought she ought to be smiling.  Somewhere, she was dimly aware,
something was not quite right.  She thought she ought to be doing
something about that.  But this was so comfortable.  Aside from that
strange throbbing in her head.

	"I didn't mean it!"

	"Forgive me, Kasuga-san.  I had no intention of..."

	These voices, too, were familiar.  If only they would make
sense.  Her nice, warm, comfortable darkness was rippling in the most
alarming fashion, and that throbbing simply refused to go away.  If only
they would be quiet and let her sleep.

	"Ryouko, I thought I asked you to act normal..."

	"But I -was- acting normally!"

	"Not normally, normal... oh, forget it, it doesn't matter now."


	"Anyway... Kasuga-san, how did you do that?"

	Another familiar voice.  Sandcastles on the beach.  A snowball
fight in the shrine yard one winter.  He had wanted to be an astronaut
and... something... and she'd said... something... and they must have
fallen asleep, there under the sakura blossoms after the festival, because
now there was only darkness and silence and the voices calling to her from
across an ever-narrowing void.

	"Well, I...  Hey!  Don't try to change the subject!"

	Ah, yes, she recognized that voice.  Soccer balls and fifty-meter
falls, and she'd worn a dress, because he'd said...

	"Kyo-chan?" she thought she ought to say.  It emerged a
muffled croak as she reluctantly opened her eyes, just a crack.

	A minor earthquake struck, causing Madoka's world to shake and
shift unsteadily.  "Eh?!"

	Madoka's eyes snapped open at that.

	She stared straight into the amber eyes of an overjoyed space
pirate.  "You're awake!" Ryouko announced, rather unnecessarily.  Her
fangs gleamed.

	Madoka screamed and shrank back... into someone.  Her scream cut
off from the shock, and she instinctively tilted her head
back.  "Ka-Kasuga-kun?"

	Kyousuke looked almost as shocked as she had, but, as she
spoke, the expression melted away, replaced with one of concern.
Although... she would have sworn it had flickered past 'disappointment'
first.  She must still be groggy.

	Kyousuke gently righted her, then drew a deep breath as he stepped
back slightly.  "Ayukawa..."

	"What... what happened?"

	Kyousuke and Tenchi's gazes met, and they nodded in
unison.  "Ayukawa," Kyousuke began, "There's something I've been meaning
to tell you..."


	"So this is it, huh?"

	Most people would not be so sanguine about the appearance of a
swirling disc of prismatic colors, which hovered silently two feet above
the ground and shifted and pulsed in an oily, almost organic,
manner.  Then again, most people were not Ranma Saotome.

	"Yes, son-in-law.  At the stroke of midnight, it will begin to
glow.  That will signify that the portal is fully aligned.  I suggest that
you spend no more than two hours there--"

	"Like I want to spend any more time than I have to..."

	Cologne favored the young man with a sharp glare, which he
summarily ignored.  "--But you'll have to be careful.  Time there isn't
the same as time here... usually.  Listen to the Devil Hunters, if you
want to return safely."

	"Right, I gotcha."

	The matriarch sighed heavily.  "This is not a game, boy.  What you
do tonight may prove vitally important.  Do try to keep that in mind?"


	"Very well.  Let us go join the others.  There is one small step
that needs to be taken in order to finish preparing you..."


	Madoka sat in silence as Kyousuke finished his story.
Tenchi's other guests had straggled in over the course of the telling, and
watched with some interest.  The silence began to stretch to an
uncomfortable length.

	"Cracker?" Mihoshi asked her.

	"Ah... no.  Thanks."  Madoka shook her head, and turned to fix
Kyousuke with a piercing stare.  "So... Kasuga-kun... your entire family

	He nodded, shrinking in upon himself.  "Um, except for my father."

	Surprisingly, she looked thoughtful, rather than angry,
excited, betrayed, or any of the other emotions Kyousuke had
expected.  "You know... that makes sense.  I thought I recognized
you..."  Before he could work up to asking for an explanation, she glanced
at Tenchi.  "Your turn."

	Tenchi chuckled nervously.  "Well... our guests are pretty
unusual.  I guess you deserve a real introduction, though."  He stood up,
gesturing at each of the girls in turn.  "Meet Ryouko, former space
pirate; Aeka-san and Sasami-chan, the first and second princesses of
Jurai; and Mihoshi, of the Galaxy Police."

	"Hi!" the blond bubbled.  "I'm sure we'll be good friends!"  A
confused expression flashed across her face.  "Oh, wait.  Did I say that

	"Ah..."  Madoka's mind had momentarily frozen up, but she
quickly seized on one aspect, perhaps less because it was most
comprehensible than because it was most recent.  She pointed at
Mihoshi.  "She's a... police officer?"

	"Go figure, huh?" Ryouko murmured halfheartedly.

	"You're not joking, are you?" Kyousuke asked Tenchi.

	Tenchi slowly and solemnly shook his head.


	Miki shambled down the stairs with all the vigor and
enthusiasm of the living dead.  Waking up wasn't exactly high on her list
of favorite pastimes, and she hadn't slept very well last
night.  "'Mornin', ever'ne," she mumbled, nearly losing the words in a
massive yawn.

	She was rather startled to find nobody there except Yuu.  He
looked up from his paper and gave her a laconic wave.  "I was wondering
when you'd get up.  How about making breakfast?"


	"You're right, I'd better do it.  Your cooking is still a
disaster," he teased, standing up.

	It took Miki's sleep-befogged brain a moment to realize that she'd
walked straight into that, but the results were spectacular.  Her eyes
opened wide, and she flushed a bright, angry red from the neck
up.  "Yuu!"  He laughed, and only then did she think to ask, "Where are
our parents?"

	He nodded toward the table as he tied on an apron.  "They left us
a note."

	Curious, Miki picked up the square of paper which, judging by its
creases, had once been folded, but which had long since passed that state
of being and now approached the crumpled stage.  "Miki and Yuu," she read
aloud.  "We're going on a second honeymoon--"

	Yuu interrupted with a sardonic quip.  "Let's hope they don't meet
any old friends."

	"That's not funny!  Anyway... 'Honeymoon.  Sorry for not
telling you sooner.  We were planning to surprise you, but I guess we
never got around to it.'  Oh, don't worry, we're surprised..."

	"I thought I was supposed to do the interrupting, here."

	"Quiet, you.  'We'll probably be gone for a few weeks, so
enjoy your upcoming break.  Use the card we left if you need anything, and
don't do anything we wouldn't do.'"

	A pan clattered softly as Yuu set it on the stove.  "Don't do
anything they -would- do would be better advice."

	"Tell me about it.  'If you need to get in touch with us, call
this number; they'll know where to find us.'  I didn't know our parents
knew anyone in America."

	Yuu shrugged.  "It's probably the number of the hotel."

	"Maybe.  'We'll bring you some souvenirs...'  Typical.  And it's
signed by all four of them."

	"As usual.  What do you want in your omelette?"

	Miki sighed.  "I guess it is.  Oh, well, it looks like we have the
house to ourselves for a while."  She smiled, remembering the last time
that had happened.  Maybe this wasn't such a bad thing...  Oh, Yuu was
still waiting for her answer.  "Um, anything you have.  Except green
pepper.  And pineapple, no pineapple this time!"


	There is a theory which states that everything has already
happened, or is already happening -- there is no difference --
simultaneously.  As the proponents of this theory have it, "time" is a
creation of the mind, which perceives only an infinitesimal, but ever
changing, fragment of the whole.

	Perhaps that theory was correct, somewhere, but not in this
universe.  But clearly, time was not necessarily a simple constant. Even a
neophyte of a mere two centuries or so could deduce that, given the data
she had available.

	Time was better expressed as a vector, Washuu felt.  It had a
certain velocity and direction, a rather impressive build-up of momentum,
as it were.  A difficult vector to change.  But hardly impossible...

	Calling up her keyboard, she began to enter her chosen parameters.


	A funny thing about momentum; the more of it is built up, the
easier it becomes for a tiny nudge, applied in just the right place, to
change the course of the object.  This is what Ranma Saotome would have
understood about time, and what Washuu, starting from a scientific tabula
rasa, overlooked.  Even the greatest scientific genius in the universe
doesn't catch every little mistake.



	The young girl stood alone, far beneath the Antarctic.  Blood
flowed from a multitude of wounds, and her left arm hung limply by her
side, but she was past caring about her pain.  She had run the Dark
Kingdom's entire gauntlet of menaces to reach this point.  She had not
come alone, but she had watched as, one by one, her companions sacrificed
themselves for her -- Ami, Minako, Makoto, even the man she loved.  She'd
watched, and then she'd left them, moved on, lest their deaths prove
meaningless.  She hadn't felt the pain, nor the cold, nor much of anything
else, since.  All she had left was a burning, tumultuous mass of mingled
anger and grief.  It kept her on her feet; it shone like fire in her eyes.

	Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom regarded the last of the
Sailor Senshi with a condescending smirk.  "A noble effort, I'm sure.  A
pity it's all for nothing."  She paused, smiling cruelly.  "I particularly
liked that blonde girl's death.  True artistry, wouldn't you agree?"

	The Senshi straightened, glaring daggers at
Beryl.  "Monster."  Her right fist, the one she could still move, clenched
tightly as anger surged through her.  Too tightly; she was absently aware
of blood trickling over her fingertips, where her nails had broken the
skin of her palm.

	"Is that the best you can do?"  Without changing her
expression in the slightest, Beryl managed to convey a sense of
absolute boredom.  "Well, I suppose it doesn't matter.  It's time to end
this farce anyway."  She languidly raised her arm, inch by inch.

	"Yes... to put... an end to..."  A part of the Senshi's mind noted
that she really didn't feel all that well.  She ignored it.  The burning
inside her would give her the energy to press on.  Resolute, she pointed
her own hand, gathering what scraps of power remained to her.  She thought
of her friends, and the power seemed to double, then double again, as she
built up her will for this final assault.

	Beryl completed her gesture.  A brilliant beam of white
streaked toward the battered Senshi, who quickly invoked her own attack...

	"FIRE... SOUL..."

	Released by the incantation, fueled by grief and fury, a gout of
roaring flame erupted from Rei's outstretched hand.  The blast rushed to
meet Beryl's lance of energy, backed by a force of will that had never
been stronger.

	Nor would ever be.

	The tongue of flame exploded as it contacted the beam, and what
had already been a nearly uncontrolled burst became a raging
inferno.  Tendrils of flame rushed through the corridors, reaching like
living things into the darkest recesses as Sailor Mars, perhaps
unintentionally, in one stroke brought both light and destruction to the
Dark Kingdom.  And to its ruler as well.

	The charred form that had been Sailor Mars slowly collapsed to the
ground, lacking now the impetus to continue to struggle, or even to
acknowledge the pain of her burns.  It seemed her power had shielded her,
to an extent.  But not enough.

	Her face twitched painfully into what would have been a smile, had
her lips not been burnt off in the backlash.  "I'm... coming,
Usagi..." she said, though she herself was the only one who could have
understood the gurgling rattle even if she weren't alone.  She felt her
body give out, her breathing stop.  "It's..."



	"What was that?" Mirai asked, staring out the window.  A
ripple had just passed across the sky.  In its wake, the city had
changed.  Where a hospital had stood, there was now a park.  The
office complex neighboring it now seemed to be an elementary school.  She
was fairly certain that the young girl walking along the street just
outside her home had not previously existed.  It was, to say the least,

	"Time shift," Nozomu mumbled, lifting his eyes from a
blueprint long enough to elaborate.  "Something important in the past just
happened.  Or un-happened."  He looked back at the schematic, and
frowned.  "We'd better hurry up with this.  The more things change, the
harder it's going to be to set them right."

	"I thought you said we had time because the past is still the
past."  Mirai, too, frowned.  Thinking, she had to admit (though only to
herself), was not her strong suit.

	"We do, but we still have to actually fix everything,
eventually.  We can't just prevent the interference..."	"Why not?"

	"There's a chance that the paradox would end up changing the
timeline in a way just as damaging as what we're trying to prevent.  I
don't think it would actually happen, but..."

	"But Hiroshi is playing hero again."  Mirai giggled,
remembering his exploits as Moldiver before she'd taken over the
identity.  "Still, he has a point..."

	"Maybe.  Anyway, I am doing it his way, so he's got nothing to
complain about."

	"Is there anything I can do to help?"  Mirai didn't like
feeling helpless.  She'd become accustomed to the absence of that
particular emotion, thanks to the unfathomable power the Mol unit
represented, but that only made its sting worse, now.

	"Make dinner?  You know he forgets to eat sometimes, and I have a
feeling we'll both be spending the night in the lab again.  So anything
that we could eat while we work..."

	For once, Mirai didn't argue.


	Madoka sat on the porch, deep in thought.  She had needed to be
alone for a while, she'd said.  That was true; she was by nature
superstitious.  The events of the evening would have shocked anybody, and
she -had- fainted, but somehow...

	It seemed so right.

	Kasuga-kun really was an Esper.  She remembered the near-riot over
that movie their classmates had made, just weeks ago.  Afterward, he'd
asked, very seriously, what she would say if he was an Esper.  She'd
smiled, answering that that would be quite interesting.

	And 'Interesting times...' she reflected, chuckling at the
irony.  Well, she'd get another chance to see how the legendary Chinese
curse held up.  There were worse fates...

	Briefly, she wondered what Komatsu and Hatta would say about all

	There was a cough behind her, followed by a quiet mutter.
"Are you all right?"  Ryouko's voice, her mind whispered.  If there was a
trace of disappointment in the thought, she didn't allow it to show in her

	"Yes."  Rather surprisingly, it was true.

	The was a faint rustle of cloth behind her as Ryouko shifted
uneasily, but no sound from the floor.  "Look, I came because--"  The
gruff voice stopped short, but Madoka didn't turn to look.  After a brief
pause, the former pirate continued, but in a softer, gentler voice.  "I'm
not very good at this sort of thing.  I just... I'm sorry."

	Now, Madoka turned.  "Sorry?"  Her expression might have been
quiet surprise, but it might have been skepticism.

	Whichever Ryouko saw there, she shrank back half a step.  "I
didn't mean to put you in danger," she said, surprisingly defensive.

	"I'm all right."  Thanks to Kasuga-kun.  "Did Ten-chan ask you to
do this?"

	"No!"  Blushing slightly, Ryouko tried again, less
vehemently.  "No.  He doesn't know."

	"You think he'd be angry if he did."  It was not a question.

	"I didn't say that!"

	Smiling, Madoka replied, "You didn't need to.  Don't
worry; Ten-chan is probably the most forgiving man in Japan."

	"Yeah, that's true."  The thought brightened Ryouko.  "Ever since
he was a kid, he's been like that.  Must've gotten it from his mother."

	"You... knew him when he was younger?"

	Ryouko's eyes were innocently matter-of-fact as they met
Madoka's gaze.  "Sort of.  I wasn't able to be with him, most of the time,
but when he used to come to the shrine, I could watch him.  And he saw
me..."  Her lips curved into a gentle, wistful smile.  "I always knew he
was special."

	Unsettled, Madoka shifted positions, turning more toward the
cyan-haired pirate as she did so.  "But that would..."  Her eyes narrowed
warily.  "You don't look old enough to have..."

	"Depends on how you count it."  She shrugged.
"Chronologically... well, I'm not sure, since I wasn't free for all of it,
but I think I'm around 2500 years old, give or take a couple
centuries.  Of course, I wasn't really my own person until Yosho managed
to seal me away... I guess that'd be about 800 years ago.  And then, I
didn't really have much of a life until Tenchi set me free..."  She paused
for thought.  "...About 2 years ago."

	Madoka blinked at her, in something approaching wonder.  "It's all
real, isn't it?"

	"What is?  No, never mind.  Pretty much everything you could
imagine is true somewhere or other... but Washuu is the one to ask about
that sort of thing."  Leaning forward in conspiratorial fashion, the
erstwhile demoness whispered, "Let me just put it this way.  'Star Wars'
was practically a documentary."

	"That's--"  Her instinctual protest caught in her throat as she
remembered what Kyousuke had done.  Force, indeed... why not?  "Really?"

	Ryouko nodded.  "Of course, they did change a few of the
details.  Naturally, there were no humans involved, though there is a

	"Naturally."  Her voice sounded very distant to her.  She
hoped Ryouko hadn't noticed.

	"You -are- Tenchi's cousin, right?"

	"Eh?"  She blinked, jarred by the sudden change in
topic.  "Yes..."

	"Related by blood?"

	"Right..."  Madoka's uncertainty was plain in her voice.

	Ryouko grinned.  On her, the expression always carried a hint of
the feral.  "Just ask him, then."

	Madoka nodded.  She could see that there was much more to
catch up on than she'd previously thought.  "Thank you, Ryouko-san."

	"Huh?  But I didn't... um..."

	Smiling gently at the demoness' confused expression, Madoka
suggested, "You could just try 'You're welcome.'  I... I'm glad you talked
about this.  Even if I can't quite manage to believe all of it yet."

	"Oh... um, no problem."  There was a long silence as Ryouko
searched for something else to say.  "Er, would you like to see what it's
like, in space?"  She bit her lip, mentally berating herself for the

	Madoka was not so jaded.  "Seriously?"  Her eyes were wide, but
she hesitantly shook her head.  "No... I don't think I could handle that
tonight.  Maybe some other time?"

	"Sure!  Whenever."  Ryouko's smile reflected her inner
exultation -- Tenchi's cousin... no, Madoka... didn't hate her after
all.  Maybe this could still work.  Besides, she was beginning to like the