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Partners in Space, Part Two: Burning

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The pursuit was long and frustrating; the pirate's ship was incredibly fast and maneuverable, and despite Yukinojo's speed, the detectives had to struggle to keep up with her. High speed pursuit had lasted as long as both ship's thrusters would allow, and then the pirate had ducked into an asteroid field. It was an old trick, but it worked to slow them down.

A strange drone came from the main pilot's seat. It didn't sound like something from the ship. Kiyone blinked, and then narrowed her eyes. "Mihoshi!" She shouted as she kicked the seat in front of her. "Wake up!"

"Oh!" The chair swiveled around. "I'm sorry Kiyone," Mihoshi said, biting her lip.

"This isn't leisure time, Mihoshi," Kiyone grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"I'm sorry, but we've just been at this so long... all these..." Mihoshi paused to stifle a yawn, "asteroids look alike after awhile. Besides," she shrugged, "Yukinojo's keeping an eye out, aren't you, Yukinojo?"

"I am, Mihoshi, but you are on duty and should not fall asleep. You need to monitor the sensors yourself."

"Sorry."

"Sorry!? We've lost the pirate and you're just 'sorry'?" Kiyone shook her head. "What's wrong with you, Mihoshi?"

Mihoshi shrugged. "There's no need to get so upset about it, Kiyone. We'll find her again, don't worry."

Kiyone clenched a fist and was about to say something, when she was stopped by Mihoshi placing a hand gently on her shoulder. She looked Kiyone in the eye, and part of Kiyone's mind, way in the back, idly observed that Mihoshi's eyes were like the skies back home on a clear day. "Kiyone," Mihoshi said, the corners of her mouth turning up reassuringly. "We'll find her. You're one of the best detectives in the whole force. There's no need for worrying."

Part of Kiyone wanted to push the blonde woman's hand away, scream at her and shake her and demand of her why didn't she understand why this was so important. But another part of her, looking at those eyes, so adult and yet so child-like, would not allow her to lose her temper over this. Mihoshi did seem to understand it was important, but she was just dealing with things... the way Mihoshi dealt with things. The aqua-haired officer took a deep breath and shook her head, saying the only thing the two parts of her mind could agree upon: "I don't get you, Mihoshi."

Mihoshi simply blinked. "Really?"

"Really," Kiyone replied tersely, not wanting to get further drawn into irrelevant conversation. "You should be looking at the sensors, Mihoshi."

Mihoshi's eyes lowered, and she slowly pulled her hand away. She turned away as if to monitor the sensors, but continued to talk to Kiyone. "Sometimes I don't get you either, Kiyone." Mihoshi sighed. "Well, Ryoko says I don't get a lot of things, which might be true, I don't know. There's just so much going on, usually, you know, Kiyone? There's just so much to take in, sometimes it's hard to sort it all out. I was always amazed, Kiyone, you're so good at just taking things one step at a time, you're so down-to-earth."

"Oh?"

"But then you sometimes just get so angry all of a sudden." Mihoshi still was looking at the screens as she talked. "I mean, I'm sorry, Kiyone, but just out of nowhere, you'll explode at the smallest things, and I just don't understand why. You get so mad at... at... accidents that happen, as if someone could have controlled them."

Kiyone replied, in a low and even tone, "Sometimes one just gets sick of accidents when they happen constantly."

"It's just weird, Kiyone. When you let yourself, you can handle stressful situations very well." Mihoshi scratched her head. "Which reminds, me Kiyone, I always meant to ask you... I mean, there never really seemed to be a good time, but um... how did you escape that reactor?"

Kiyone sighed, frowning. "Do we have to talk about this?"

"Well, no Kiyone, we don't have to. I was just curious."

The cockpit went silent for several moments, as Mihoshi leaned back, her eyes apparently still on sensors. Kiyone looked at her own display and fiddled with a few settings. Her shoulders were tense, but even though she tried to force herself to relax with a few breaths, it wasn't working. She couldn't see Mihoshi's face very well from where she was sitting, but the blonde detective was sitting back, looking around, her posture loose and unassuming. Neither the search for the pirate nor their conversation seemed to be worrying her. "Does anything ever bother you, Mihoshi?"

"What? Of course," Mihoshi said. "I have a problem with wool. It makes me itch, that really bothers me."

"Be serious, Mihoshi."

"I am serious! I think I'm allergic to it."

"Does anything bother you emotionally," Kiyone tersely specified her question. "Does anything get on your nerves? Worry you? Make you angry or afraid?"

"Of course, Kiyone," Mihoshi sighed, an air of impatience squeaking through her light-noted voice. "When my friends are in danger, or hurt... or when someone's resisting arrest, that's really annoying. I'm afraid of ghosts, and of... of losing people I care about. And it... it..." Mihoshi's voice was rapidly descending, starting to waver. She swiveled her chair slightly toward Kiyone, although the profile of her downturned face was still somewhat blocked from sight from the generous wisps of hair that fell into Mihoshi's eyes. "You don't know how awful I felt, Kiyone. I didn't know what happened. I... I'm a police officer, Kiyone. I've seen a lot of bad things. I've seen people get hurt and get killed. But I hadn't lost a partner before. And I couldn't go back. It was too dangerous, they said, and I wasn't allowed." She lifted one hand, the white glove balling into a fist. "I could go back in time. And all I could think about... all I could think about, Kiyone, was how lonely you usually seemed. You'd just been promoted to First Class Detective, and you seemed so determined to prove yourself... like I was the first time I became a First Class. But you didn't know anybody, and I remember seeing you stay in your office all night, sometimes, even when there was no work that really needed to be done. It was like you were just keeping yourself busy, like you didn't have anything to go home to. And I wanted so badly to be your friend, I wanted so badly to brighten things up a bit... but when you really needed me, I let you down, and I'm sorry."

Very slowly, as if each muscle in her back, one by one, relaxed, Kiyone's shoulders sunk. "Mihoshi..." was all she managed to say.

"What really bothers me, Kiyone, is that you won't forgive me, although I guess I can't blame you. What bothers me is that even though you're alive, I know that I already lost my partner." Mihoshi seemed to deflate in her chair.

This was the conversation Kiyone had been avoiding for almost two years. Because Kiyone was angry with Mihoshi for her negligence and for the fact that Kiyone had felt that she had to suffer the consequences of Mihoshi's actions far more than Mihoshi ever did. And Kiyone wanted to be away from Mihoshi, because of these things, and because Mihoshi always... made things... complicated. More complicated than they had to be.

And because Kiyone knew, that as long as she avoided Mihoshi, she wouldn't have to forgive her. But the problem with Mihoshi... the biggest problem with Mihoshi... was that it was impossible to stay angry at a woman who was so sincerely and genuinely kind and honest.

And so despite Kiyone's best efforts, even though the part of her that felt abandoned was urging her to affirm that Mihoshi had indeed lost her partner, Kiyone knew she was losing the high "moral" ground. Sooner or later, she was going to end up forgiving Mihoshi for the accident during the Energy Matter Theft.

"You know," Kiyone said aloud, slowly. "That's the crazy thing, Mihoshi. I was... I am mad at you for leaving me behind... just because I know you're not the kind of person to leave people behind." Kiyone sighed, having at least vented a little last steam. "But.... Mihoshi, you were also the key to my survival. Accidentally, of course, the way all things are with you." She sighed. "Your control cube–you dropped it as you has tripped and knocked me over. It went over the side with me. As I was falling–it was a pretty long drop–I suddenly noticed it beside me, and I managed to catch it. You got the special issue cube from your grandfather–it was one of the experimental models, with the sub-dimensional protection function. It sensed the increase of energy, and I managed to set it off in the nick of time. I had to drop the remote to do it, and the remote falling into the energy matter is what caused the explosion." Kiyone sighed. "That's why normal sensors didn't pick me up, especially amid the debris and the continued explosion–because I was inside some kind of dimensional force field generated by the cube. They didn't find me till later, when someone had the proper equipment to find me and thought to look for me. I had to stay inside, you see, because it was the only thing protecting me from the vacuum."

Mihoshi turned her head to look at Kiyone, wide-eyed. Her eyes were glassy, but whatever tears she might have summoned during her earlier speech, they were already fading. "Wow, Kiyone, that's amazing! What reflexes you have, to get that set off just in the nick of time!"

Kiyone merely shrugged at Mihoshi's sudden enthusiasm. "I was lucky, mostly. It destroyed your cube–unfortunately, that's a one-use kind of function."

"It's all right, I got another one." Mihoshi shook her head. "I failed you, Kiyone. I should have been able to find you. I should have." Her eyes narrowed, a sudden glint of determination edging out the usual innocence. "It won't happen again." Kiyone shook her head. "It... don't... don't worry about it, Mihoshi. You were right the first time–it was a long time ago. And we have a mission we should be completing, now." She frowned, her brow quickly crinkling. "Dammit, Mihoshi, you always distract me when I least need to be distracted!"

"Sorry."

"Check the sensors again. Oh, and Mihoshi?"

"Yes?" Mihoshi was caught between paying attention to Kiyone and turning back to her console.

"Apology accepted."

A smile spread its way across Mihoshi's face. "Thanks, Kiyone."

 

"Mihoshi, that's it, keep going, we've got her!"

The intrepid policewomen had, after a long search, finally detected the pirate ship's signature on the other side of the asteroid field. Both women were rapidly working their controls as they tried to keep up with the pirate.

"Come on, we've go- what the hell? Shields to starboard!" The co-pilot managed to divert the energy to the deflectors just in time.

The cops clung to their chairs as the shuttle rocked hard.

"Dammit!" Kiyone gritted her teeth, checking the displays. "Stealth charge..."

"She dropped it without our noticing?"

Kiyone rolled her eyes. "That's why it's called a stealth charge, Mihoshi."

"Damage, Yukinojo?" the blonde turned to their robotic companion.

The head swiveled to regard Mihoshi and listed off a number of problems, most importantly being that the hyperspace drive was offline and that the starboard hull wasn't in the best of shape.

"Washu's little robots can't fix it?"

"It will take some time for the nanites to get all the repairs done."

"Little robots?" Kiyone queried the odd conversation.

"Washu made my ship able to fix itself... since I still have trouble remembering there's no landing beacon on Earth. Funny how I can remember it now."

"Never mind, Mihoshi, we've got to figure out a way to keep her from getting away. That was a energy pulse which has jammed a good deal of our operations, here. We're lucky life support wasn't damaged."

Mihoshi shook her head, pointing at a viewscreen. "I don't think her getting away will be a problem, since she's coming toward us."

"What?" Even as Kiyone reacted, she saw clearly that the pirate ship was coming toward them–very quickly. She slapped her forehead and gritted her teeth. "It's a trap. She's dragged us into the middle of nowhere..." She shook her head. "I should have seen this coming."

Mihoshi shook her head. "I think you're doing a great job, Kiyone."

Kiyone ignored the comment, concentrating on trying to get results from her weapon controls. She cursed as she discovered weapons were offline from the stealth charge. Due to other damage, Mihoshi couldn't maneuver the ship away fast enough–the ship would go forward but that was about it. The women braced themselves as their sensors picked up several more charges being fired from the pirate ship–and then blinked in surprise when the ship was not struck. Instead the charges flew past the cruiser and seemed to explode behind them.

Kiyone checked her monitor. "Wait, they're not destroyed... they're emitting some kind of energy field."

"The charges are emitting a steady stream of energy in multiple directions, together, forming an energy net. If we attempt to fly through it, the ship will be severely damaged," Yukinojo reported. Even though he was a robot, there seemed to be a waver of worry in his polite, mechanical voice.

"Very astute for a lousy GP AI," a woman's voice came over the comm system. An image appeared on the front monitor of a tall woman with pale skin and wild, wavy chartreuse hair. One eye was replaced by a small black cylinder, some kind of cybernetic scope; her other, natural eye was narrow and silver in color. The only skin of hers to be seen was on her face; the rest of her body was covered in a form-fitting dark blue metallic-looking armor. "I've surrounded your ship and mine with the field. The only way you have to go is toward me, and my ship's nowhere near as badly damaged as yours. Thanks for giving me the time to set that charge–it unfortunately takes awhile to set up, but your incompetence in chasing me gave me what I needed."

"What do you want?" Kiyone demanded.

The cyborg pirate smiled. "That seems pretty obvious, honey. I want you out of my way."

"So why not just destroy us now?"

The criminal continued to smile. "Because that would be no fun, now, would it?" She leaned closer on the monitor. "I might have a use for you, after all. My robots will be boarding your ship soon. I wouldn't do anything silly, though. I have no qualms about destroying you earlier if I must. But..." The pirate lifted her chin as she seemed to be reading a viewscreen in front of her. "I've got back the final analysis from my scans of your ship. Everything but your forward thrusters and some of your deflectors is pretty much kaput. So there's not really much you could do, anyway. I love that little stealth charge. They're a bitch to come by, but that particular kind comes in pretty handy against ‘high-tech'"–she laughed slightly as she said the words–"GP cruiser."

"Who are you?" Mihoshi asked of the pirate.

"Well, that's not important, yet, but..." the green-haired cyborg shrugged. "My name is Yami. I'm an artifact hunter."

"Yami..." Kiyone muttered quietly, trying to think if she had heard the name before.

Meanwhile, Mihoshi continued asking questions. "But why'd you attack the police station? They don't have any artifacts."

Yami paused to allow the two detectives to grab to their consoles as their ship shook violently for a moment. "That would be my robots trying to break in."

"It will take them awhile," Mihoshi said simply, "So would you mind, Ms. Yami, answering my question?"

"Not at all, Miss!" Yami raised her voice a notch, mocking Mihoshi's polite tone. "Because I was after two things, both of which had information about stored in that particular station's database. One was information on a few artifacts and the pirates that had tried to steal them. The other was a detective named Mihoshi Kuramitsu." The pirate sighed. "I admit, the attack was a bit... barbaric. But sometimes the simplest way to create a diversion is the loudest one."

"What do you want from Mihoshi?" Kiyone asked before her partner could interject.

"That's none of your business, little girl. Let's just say both I and my pay source have an interest in her."

"But how can I help you if you don't tell me what you need?" Mihoshi replied innocently, even as Kiyone kicked her chair. "What?" Mihoshi turned to give her co-pilot a blank look.

"What do you mean... you don't..." Yami squinted at the monitor with her one organic eye. "Don't tell me you're Kuramitsu. One of the most famous living detectives in the Galaxy Police could not be... this empty-headed little girl scout, could she?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Kiyone asked, most genuinely, although she was also trying to deflect the conversation away from Mihoshi.

"You haven't heard of Kuramitsu?" Yami raised her single eyebrow at Kiyone.

Kiyone shrugged. "There are lots of Kuramitsus in the Galaxy Police. The Grand Marshall is a Kuramitsu."

Yami waved her hand diffidently. "No, not him. Mihoshi Kuramitsu... three years ago, she single-handedly brought down Shi Tomokyo, one of the baddest Relic Hunters out there... not as bad as Kagato, say, but pretty bad. And speaking of Kagato, I'm not sure of her involvement, but I heard she was there for his undoing, too. Most people in my... 'field'... have heard of her. Of course, there are other rumors too..."

"Oh?"

Yami narrowed her eye at Mihoshi. "That she lost it shortly after the Shi Tomokyo incident. Caved in. Burned out. Brain went... bye bye. Although if she helped with Kagato... but ah!" Yami reached toward something off screen. "I've managed to find some intereresting personnel files. Let's see what we've got here."

Kiyone looked nervously about, as she knew that the robots were just outside the hull of Mihoshi's shuttle, but so far, Mihoshi's prediction that the robots would need awhile to get in was remaining true. Mihoshi, as usual, seemed unconcerned about the whole thing, and gazed at the screen featuring Yami's face with only a bit of puzzlement.

"Let's see. . ." the space pirate scanned the screen below her, grinning. "‘Detective First Class Mihoshi Kuramitsu, sex female, age twenty-four'" Her eye went wide–even the cybernetic scope seemed to dilate–"and we have a picture. It really is you, isn't it?"

"Yes, I am Mihoshi."

Kiyone groaned and muttered something about someone having the subtlety of an elephant. She decided to concentrate on re-adjusting computer settings so she could figure if there was anything she could do to prevent the pirate from doing further damage to them. Things didn't look great, but she did notice things had begun to improve, as if indeed, the ship were repairing itself. Some minor self-maintenance technology had been installed in some of the better GP vehicles, but nothing of this level of technology. Kiyone kept it in mind that if they managed to survive, to ask Mihoshi who this "Washu" was.

Yami continued to read, slowly grinning as she scanned Mihoshi's file. "‘Current assignment, patrol of Sanctuary System of Sol, by special permission of the Jurai Royal Family...'" The space pirate's bright green eyes widened as she grinned again. "Jurai royals? Hmm. What's the little Seniwan girl doing with Juraians, eh? And if this is you, what are you doing here?"

"I was turning in my quarterly report when you attacked."

"Oh. That actually makes sense, according to your duty schedule here–we can continue to believe you for now. Well, thank you for your cooperation, Detective Kuramitsu."

Mihoshi nodded and smiled politely. "You're welcome."

"Shall I continue to read?" The pirate was enjoying this game of polite taunting–although Kiyone noted to herself that she was also clearly stalling. The robots were having trouble infiltrating the hull, despite the ship's weakened condition.

"I'd really rather you not, actually. A lot of that information is classified. You'll be charged with even more crimes if you try to break into them."

Yami shrugged. "Too bad. This is just SO interesting... Ooh! I have to break through another little security protocol to get to the rest of your record." She clicked a few buttons and then continued reading. "‘Number of sucessful cases solved'... Damn! And you've only been a full time cop since you were nineteen! Number of promotions... this gets better all the time! You were promoted to Special Investigator pretty damn quick, and got demoted even quicker! Can you really be such an ace cop and such an idiot at the same time?"

Mihoshi stared ahead blankly, although with her right hand she'd reached down to her puffball-control cube and had begun to idly play with it. Kiyone looked back up at the pirate on the screen. "Demoted...?" She repeated quietly.

Yami's eye scanned over the document rapidly. "This just goes on and on. . . Superior officer's comments: 'officer is dedicated to Galaxy Police, but tends to use highly unorthodox methods to solve cases and is prone to mood swings. . . until the Shi Tomokyo Incident, officer had highest record of success than any other in her class and was ruthless in pursuit of suspected criminals'–should I be worried?–'Directly disobeyed orders six times during Shi Tomokyo case, cumulative with other behavior problems, resulted in demotion to Detective First Class. . . No longer attempts to compensate for natural attention deficit and vacillates between being very reluctant to take on high levels of responsibility and then insisting upon it. Still displays excellent piloting and marksmanship skills, and as always shows signs of superior perceptive skills, but only when she considers it necessary. First Class Detective Kiyone Makibi had been assigned to help Kuramitsu readjust to duties after Setaru case, but this was not as successful as hoped–Kuramitsu's stumbling almost cost Makibi's life during Ultra Energy Theft, and since then Makibi has refused to work with Kuramitsu. Kuramitsu then assigned to light patrol work. Grand Marshall has demanded her return to Central Headquarters for office assignment, although by special request of Jurai she has remained in Sol System. Apart from the Kagato and Sunja incidents, patrol there seems light work and in my opinion may give officer much needed rest... displays fierce loyalty to wards on planet Earth. For further information, consult my personal logs...' Hmm...In total... 20 counts of insubordination, 101 counts of reckless behavior..." Yami looked up at the screen and grinned. "You almost killed your friend, eh?" She asked, although Mihoshi's eyes were still closed, and the detective was trembling slightly. "And what happened during the 'Shi Tomokyo Incident?' Did you actually succeed in killing someone there?"

Mihoshi's eyes, seeming to drift off into space, suddenly narrowed and locked onto the pirate, burning with a new, cold fire.

Yami looked surprised. "Is Space Cadet mad? What is Space Cadet going to do to me? Space Cadet's ship isn't going to fly away..."

"I'm not going to fly away," Mihoshi replied in a quiet, constricted tone, one Kiyone had not heard her former partner use before. The blonde detective very carefully placed her cube on her console. Then she slowly reached down with her right hand and gripped the throttle.

Kiyone's eyes widened. "Mihoshi, what are you doing?"

The energy net would not allow the ship to fly away from the pirate ship without being destroyed. Kiyone leaned over and tried to get a look at her co-pilot–and shuddered at the icy determination still shining out of Mihoshi's eyes.

Mihoshi muttered something very faint under her breath. It sounded like an apology... to Yukinojo?

"Mihoshi? Mihoshi!" Kiyone cried out, reaching out to grab the pilot's chair even as Mihoshi pushed the throttle to the max. The shuttle's thrusters fired as Mihoshi carefully and swiftly guided her craft directly into the pirate ship's hull.

*****

In a remote corner of Galaxy Union territory, no one even knew of the attack on the GP headquarters or the ensuing chase for the pirate. This particular system so far in the middle of nowhere, most people didn't actually even realize it was part of the Union. The sole habitable planet had once been settled by Juraian colonists eons ago, and they, seeking a "simpler life," mingled with the natives there and started life anew without, usually, contact with their parent nation. For the most part, only unreadable remnants of their heritage remained.

On this planet, in one particular home, the people who lived there did actually have more than an inkling to their connection to the Galaxy Union, but they still had no clue about the fight going on in space. A little girl, accompanied by the family pet, was making tea. Her older sister was hanging laundry outside to dry, while intermittently scolding her snoozing housemate for not taking a more dedicated part in household chores. A young man worked happily and hard in a field harvesting carrots. Life was going on in a most usual way.

The fifth member of the household was also working, but at nothing so mundane and blissfully ordinary. She was in her science laboratory, which happened to occupy an artificially formed pocket between dimensions in space. Perched on a levitating pillow, the scientist, who despite her 20,000 plus years looked to be perhaps twelve years old at most, gazed with bright green, young-old eyes at the holographic monitor before her.

She had just noticed something new going on in the Milky Way galaxy: due to one of her inventions planted on a galaxy police ship that she was often in the habit of "improving" (or completely rebuilding), she had just learned that the absent sixth member of her household had just been in an accident. This in itself did not surprise her in the least, but the peculiarities of where and when were just enough to cause the usually-detached scientist to bite her lip in some concern.

"Perhaps," Washu muttered to herself, "I ought to tell Lord Tenchi."

*****

Kiyone opened her eyes to note firstly, that she wasn't dead. She recognized a familiar pinky translucent wall surrounding her and Mihoshi; outside the walls she could make out a good deal of twisted metal and debris.

"Thanks for reminding me of the emergency dimensional barrier feature," Mihoshi said to Kiyone, smiling brightly at her. "I think we completely breached the pirate's hull."

Kiyone blinked and shook her head. "Are you INSANE, Mihoshi?"

Mihoshi shook her head, still smiling. "Unh-uh. Not according to my evaluations, anyway. I just tend to use highly unorthodox methods to solve cases and am prone to mood swings." She shrugged. "We got out of the tractor beam, didn't we?"

Kiyone looked down at herself as to double-check to make sure she was all in one piece, and then stared in disbelief once more at her partner. "Mihoshi, if we get out of this alive... well, I'll either be reporting you for possible psychosis or commending you for your genius."

"Thanks, Kiyone," Mihoshi replied congenially, still smiling, looking at the pink walls protecting them from the debris and the vacuum outside. "Now, how do we get out of here again?"

Kiyone sighed.

[That's the end of part two! This has been slow in coming, but I would like to finish this one day. Knowing that what I do in my OAV-based universe is not going to fit well into what really is going to happen in OAV3, and if I've wondered if I should wait for awhile and then do a rewrite, or just keep going. BIG thanks to those of you who have given me feedback and enjoyed it, and apologies for the state of non-updatedness. I always encourage FEEDBACK! You never know–if I get enough I might finish.

Next time: What's on the Pirate ship? What's the pirate looking for? And how the heck are Mihoshi and Kiyone going to leave, when the pirate ship has a big hole in it, and Mihoshi's own ship is no more? Are we actually going to see the Tenchi cast? You just might! Hold on for Partners in Space Part Three: Drifting!]


Death Quaker's Realm All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard. Tenchi Muyo! and all related concepts belong to AIC.
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