Starring Nicholas Cage as the Disclaimer: This story features the casts of Superman and the Tenchi Muyo! Original Animated Video. DC Comics and AIC/Pioneer LDC, Inc. must FIGHT TO THE DEATH for the rights to their respective characters, because I misplaced the index card that said who owns who. My money's on whichever one owns the Haunted Tank. I mean, a tank with a ghost in it? That's wicked slick, my friend. Tell you what, why don't you drop by your local comics store or Suncoast Video or Metropolis, IL or whatever and buy their merchandise. It ought to have copyright information somewhere on there.

I guess what I'm tryin' to say is that this is an unauthorized work and no profit is being made on this work by me. Which is cool, since this work is copyright of me, so I can at least say "Download it if you like, but please don't archive it without my permission. Don't be shy."

And Eric Bittingham as the Continuity Note: Sometime following the events in ACTION COMICS #773 and Tenchi Muyo! Episode #13, the Galactic Tribunal captured the dashing and lovable rascal Ryoko to see her tried for a lifetime of coerced criminal activity. Ryoko's friends, Superman, Mihoshi, Sasami, and Ryo-Oh-Ki all followed her to Tribunal World to convince the judges of her innocence, but things have gotten complicated...


Original Tenchi Muyo! concept by Masaki Kajishima and Hiroki Hayashi
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Inhuman Condition: 11

by Mike Smith

They didn't understand. She was guilty, but she wasn't. It was just one of those contradictions in life. You could either waste your whole life pondering the deep mystery of such impossible yet oh-so-real statements like that, or you could just live with them and concentrate on the important stuff.

"Boto Ryoko gonna blow up like keend-ling!"

"Gasleen, matchbox 20/20 funny money go-bye-bye!"

Stuff like the quartet of salvagers pointing plasma rifles at her. It was funny really. She was Ryoko, notorious space pirate who razed countless worlds under the thralldom of the somewhat more notorious Kagato. Since escaping his control, she had made a new life for herself on the planet Earth, a place where the local law enforcement was compelled to leave her be. But that hadn't stopped the Galactic Tribunal from arranging their own extradition and trying her for crimes that she'd unwillingly committed long before any of them were born.

But wait, it got better! Her friends had convinced her that they could sway the Tribunal's reasoning and get them to call off her imminent execution. Instead they reduced her sentence to an extensive examination. Just so they could take a look under the hood and make sure she wouldn't conquer the universe as soon as they let her loose. Worse than death, as far as she was concerned. So she forced the issue by attempting to escape, an act punishable by death on Tribunal World.

And the best part of all: Despite the piracy, the endless running, always hanging on by a thread, she was gonna get done in for trying to hijack a used spaceship.

Yeah right. She'd been in worse scrapes.

"H-hey, peace out guys!" she said slowly, hoping that their bootleg translator systems would be able to keep up. "I'm not trying to steal this baby." She patted the nose of the small spacecraft she had backed up against when the aliens had pointed their guns at her. "Really, I'm doing you a favor. I know someone who'll pay top dollar for one of these models. He collects vintage stuff like this. I figure we can go into business together, and you guys can make more on the split than you would with any buyer you'd find by yourselves."

"Pretty face yak ain't just another hot tamale!" One of them replied. The snort of distrust from his purple trunk might have indicated his distrust, but who could tell?

"Here come da judges sentence escapes to death," another added. "I heard the news today. Space pirate lookin' to beat a path to the world's door get the hell out and dodge the rap."

The third simply started charging his rifle and shook his head. "Firefirefire! Space pirate money better'n salvager money, but salvager money worth it to blow up pretty face yak and toast march mellow yellow! Easy doubya decision."

OK, the sweet talk wouldn't be the way out, but she could deal with that. Let the fourth one say his piece and then she could use the distraction to make a fast teleport to the top of the ship, then shock them silly with her power until they dropped the guns. She'd done this sort of thing a hundred times. Piece of ca--

"Lookinabook!" the fourth one suddenly shouted. "Sounds like hurricane jane on the plain outside--"

"Oh, no..." Ryoko groaned. And right on cue the concrete wall behind the salvagers smashed apart and filled the air with dust and debris. She buried her face in her hands, but she knew exactly who it was.

"Holee fuku! It's Superman!"

"The lady's with me, gents. If you have a problem with her, you'll just have to wait in line!"

"Bah! Can't be! I heard the news today! Manny Steele wouldn't defy boto Tribunal! Some kinda doppler gangbanger! Gun 'n' run!"

At the sound of the plasma discharges she looked up to see the big guy getting blasted like a practice dummy, except he just stood there and smirked at his assailants. Then he calmly walked over to the one closest to him and grasped the barrel of the weapon into his hand, and bent it to a right angle, causing it to power down automatically.

The rest of them didn't take the hint apparently, so he just looked at each one intently for a moment, and a split second after he shifted his eyes away, they all dropped their rifles and started blowing on their hands, howling in visible pain.

"You believe I'm Superman NOW, don't you?" he asked firmly. "Now get!"

He raised his hands quickly as if to appear like he wanted to fight some more, and they all just ran off in a panic. He turned to face Ryoko now, and he put his hands to his hips. "OK, so maybe you'd like to tell me what this is all about?"

"It's called escaping, you tool!" Ryoko screamed, flecks of spittle flying in his face. "Except thanks to that new door you put in this building every guard on the planet is probably on their way here! Say it with me: Suuhhhh-tulll-teeee?"

"Like smashing your way out of the Tribunal courtroom twenty minutes ago?" Superman retorted.

"Diversion!" Ryoko shouted. "You do something loud and crazy first, then no one expects you to take the sneaky way out. I thought you WANTED me to get away from these people."

"This wasn't quite what I had in mind, Ryoko," he replied, reaching out to take her by the hand. All he got was thin air.

"I don't CARE if you like it," she snarled, rematerializing to his left and striking him across the jaw with her fist. He fell over from the force, but only part way before he levitated his body upright again. Ryoko tried to ignore the pain in her knuckles and held up her other hand to blast him with a bolt of energy. "We tried it your way, and nothing! I'm taking over from here!"

"Is that so?" he asked. Only his voice came from behind her. Ryoko stopped firing and spun around to find him standing there with a frown on his face. "I'm a little confused here, Ryoko. When I found you before, you were practically resigned to whatever fate the Tribunal chose to hand down. Now that we've gotten them to reduce sentence, you want to smash your way out in a blaze of glory?"

"I guess your pep talk did the trick," she sneered as she leaped into the air to get away from him.

"That's debatable," Superman replied as he suddenly appeared in front of her in a blur. "So is this just how you deal with stress? Or is there a setting somewhere between manic and depressive?"

"You don't understand!" she growled.

"Make me understand," he shouted. "You're not guilty of anything, but instead of working to prove it, you're running away? And how far do you expect to get? Where would you hope to go?"

"I came here to this impound lot for a reason y'know!" Ryoko challenged. "The mob that owns this ship in particular would pay top dollar to have it returned, even if the owner rots in a Tribunal prison for the rest of his life. I take this, use the money to arrange transport to Deneb II, where the locals owe me a favor. Seems that an artifact I stole from them for Kagato contained high concentrations of thorium, and I wound up unwittingly curing an ancient 'plague'. They've kept me under wraps before, and I'm sure they'd do it again. From there, who knows? Maybe I can still sneak back to Earth when the Tribunal stops looking for me."

"And the rest of us are just supposed to wonder what happened to you?" Superman objected. "After your friends came all this way to save your life?"

"You think I don't care about them? Blast it, Superman, I'm only doing this so they won't have to get hurt because of me! Do you think this is what I wanted? Well, it's not, but I'll just have to make do!" She raised her arms and squinted at him menacingly. Bioelectric energy roiled off her body and began to intensify with each second. "Now get out of my way, Cowboy."

"And what DO you want?" Superman asked. He didn't budge an inch. And something inside of Ryoko chose that moment to snap.

"I want to be left ALONE!" she screamed, releasing the energy at him in one massive jolt. It struck him square in the chest and he started to lose altitude.

"I want people to stop trying to... FIGURE me out! Deciding if I'm guilty or innocent--it's not that simple!" She hit him again and he flew backwards, tumbling down to the ground. Somehow, he still managed to land on his feet.

"I want the Tribunal to know what it was like to witness every single atrocity I ever did FIRSTHAND, but not being strong enough to stop it!" She hit him again, and he stepped back and grunted in pain.

"I want them to know how sorry I am that it happened, even if it wasn't my fault, and I want YOU to understand what it's like to remember EVERY... SINGLE... DEATH, and feel guilty even if you're really not."

"But most of all," she gasped with a voice raw from her emotional outburst, "I just want to go home! I want to be with Tenchi and give Ayeka her first wedgie and eat Sasami's cooking and con Mihoshi into doing my chores and... and..." She laid into him once again with another energy pulse and sent him crashing back into the wall and down to his hands and knees.

"I just want to go home and at least pretend that I'm a normal person, if only for a few hours a day! Is that so wrong? Does it really accomplish anything to let the Tribunal probe me like a bacteria sample just to make sure I'm a nice guy?"

It was right about then that she noticed he had collapsed on the floor and he wasn't breathing. She teleported down to his position and knelt down to check on him. "W-what? What did I just do? S-superman, are you--? I didn't mean to--"

And in less than a second he was up on his feet and clamping his right hand firmly onto her neck. His eyes flickered with a red glow and he bared his teeth at her like a wild dog. She squirmed to get free of his iron grip, and not for the first time she wondered what this latest tantrum was going to cost her.

"I think that's all pretty reasonable, Ryoko," he fumed through clenched teeth. "But you see, I've got just one objection..."

It had only taken a few moments for everything to go wrong. The Tribunal had reversed their previous decision to execute Ryoko, instead choosing to detain her until they could run a battery of tests to determine the precise danger she posed to sentient life, and then all hell had broken loose. Ryoko snapped her bonds like so much paper mache, and then phased her way out of the building like a ghost. Her partner in Ryoko's defense, Superman, had chosen to take matters into his own hands after that, smashing out the roof and flying after her by himself.

And that left Detective First Class Mihoshi Kuramitsu of the Galaxy Police back in the courtroom to try to pick up the pieces of their case. In her eyes the matter was simple: The Tribunal had made an illegal arrest by taking Ryoko to their world. Earth was part of the Galaxy Police's patrol--her beat specifically--and Ryoko's legal status simply wasn't theirs to decide. The probation sentence was no less appalling to her than the possibility of execution, but at least Ryoko would be alive while she complained about it. Now she was a fugitive, and from the commotion going on in the courtroom, she had made a very pertinent observation about what the Tribunal did to fugitives.

"Death!" Pollux cried. "The sentence can be no less than death! Ryoko has blatantly defied our process by daring to escape from custody. The law on this matter is clear!"

All around her, various guards and personnel were setting up equipment and whispering orders and status reports to each other while the Tribunal judges continued to sit on their bench and discuss legal matters. It was almost surreal. So far, everyone seemed to be more interested in how the escape changed the course of the Ryoko matter than in--you know--actually recapturing the prisoner. In fact, no one seemed to question the fact that Superman had been the first to go after her, and he wasn't part of the Tribunal's staff. For all they knew, he was helping her get off planet.

"Mihoshi!" a small girl called to her. "What are we going to DO?"

She knelt down and put her hands on Sasami's shoulders. The Juraian princess had tagged along on their rescue trip, and now she was watching their venture go down in flames. What could she tell her? She had no idea at this point. The Tribunal seemed uninterested in them for the moment, but they were all but demanding Ryoko be killed for escaping. And Superman, well, they seemed to trust him unwaveringly. Whatever happened next, it didn't look like they would be sharing the same fate from the way things were shaping up.

"I shouldn't have let him talk me into this," Mihoshi whimpered. "I mean, my old partner Kiyone would have called this in to our superiors at headquarters, and we would have confronted the Tribunal on more equal footing. And maybe we could have gone to the Juraians. They might have helped us out on this. But Superman seemed so sure we could do this, and I don't even know what he's up to now--"

"Mihoshi!" Sasami scolded. "That's not important right now. Forget about them. What are YOU going to do?"

As if to emphasize Sasami's point, Ryo-Oh-Ki meowed from her perch on Sasami's head. The small brown creature was Ryoko's oldest compatriot, and in fact she was Ryoko's preferred means of transportation, being able to transform into a large, crystalline starship whenever Ryoko gave the command over their telepathic rapport. Mihoshi couldn't decipher Ryo-Oh-Ki's noises, but the urgency in her cry was unmistakable. And she too wanted to know what they would be doing next.

What could she do? She wasn't a superhero. She couldn't fly or walk through walls or eat iron filings for every meal. The Tribunal dealt with people like that every day. Not even Superman or Ryoko were a match for their technology. Although just as Superman had told her before, the Tribunal seemed ill-equipped for dealing with escape attempts, presumably because they focused their resources on preventing escapes before they could happen--

And how would he know?

Because he must have escaped from Tribunal World once himself? He DID say that he was imprisoned here once before. And the Tribunal must have restrained him the same way they did Ryoko...

Only they didn't with Ryoko. She must have been playing possum in that geneti-lock the whole time, waiting for the motivation or the right opportunity to make her move. And that didn't add up, because the Tribunal's whole argument up to this point was that Ryoko was too dangerous to be protected by imaginary lines of jurisdiction. Why would they be so irresponsible when it came to keeping her locked up?

"You honors," Mihoshi finally said, calling to the judges. "What were you planning to do about us?"

"Eh?" Tribunal Sirius grumbled as he looked up from his work. "You and the girl are free to go as you please, Detective. We can hardly accuse you of assisting Ryoko in her escape attempt, even if you did come here to defend her before us."

"And Superman?" she asked.

"Hmmph. With any luck, he will have the prisoner recaptured for us in a matter of moments," Ternion mused. "Technician, is the video feed ready?"

A man in uniform plugged in a connection and a holographic projection crackled to life in the center of the room. When the picture cleared, an image of a dull gray building appeared. A large hole had been made in the side, as if a missile had struck it. "Where's this?" Mihoshi asked.

"Although our defense systems haven't finished mobilizing to neutralize Ryoko just yet," Pollux replied, "our security monitors have, and they tracked Kal-El of Krypton to this building, an impound lot where Ryoko is no doubt attempting to find a transport to leave the planet."

This explanation was interrupted when something came flying out of the building at breakneck speed, making another hole in the wall to match the first. The view immediately shifted to catch a glimpse of the projectile, and image resolution revealed it to be--

"Ryoko!" Sasami cried out. "Is she--?"

"I-I don't know," Mihoshi gasped. "She's taken pretty tough hits before, but she looks hurt!"

The view shifted back to the building, and climbing out of the hole in the wall was a man, his blue and red outfit tattered and coated in dust from the debris. If there was any doubt he'd struck the blow, the angry look on his face erased it.

"Ah, so Kal-El has indeed engaged the prisoner," Sirius noted. "She appears to be putting up stiff resistance, but once our security forces converge on the scene, they should end this matter quickly.

"Mihoshi, what's he DOING?" Sasami asked. "He brought us here to help Ryoko, now he's fighting her?"

She didn't answer. Instead Mihoshi just kept watching the battle on the holo-image. Ryoko recovered and then teleported behind Superman to strike him in the arm with her energy sword. It seemed to hurt him, but it didn't slow him down much. He tried to finish her with a second punch, but this time she must have been ready, and she managed to teleport repeatedly in order to avoid his powerful hands. She kept this up for several seconds, and Superman seemed to be getting more and more frustrated.

And suddenly she just stayed in one position for a split second too long, and Superman managed to grab her in a midair bearhug. She strained to escape, and then suddenly they both disappeared.

"She teleported him with her?!" Ternion shouted. "She can do that?!"

"You didn't know that?" Mihoshi asked them incredulously. For a few moments there was nothing in the hologram but empty sky, and then they located Ryoko's destination and found the two of them slugging it out on the ground. That begged the question of how Ryoko had broken Superman's grip, and suddenly he grabbed her again, and took off into the air at an incredible speed.

"This is becoming problematic," Pollux observed. "The way they keep changing position, it's becoming impossible for our forces to catch up to them. We may have to rely on Kal-El to handle this matter alone."

Mihoshi sighed. That seemed to be how he liked to do things judging from her experience with him. The trouble was that she couldn't figure out what he was trying to do. And that brought her back to Sasami's question. What was SHE going to do?

She walked back to the broken geneti-lock on the floor and knelt down to it. "Your honors," she asked, "Uh, would you mind if I asked a couple more... teensy little questions?"

"We are rather busy at the moment, Detective," Ternion grumbled. "Ryoko's capture must be our highest priority at this time."

"Oh... well, that's actually what I wanted to ask you about, really," Mihoshi said sheepishly. "You see, I was wondering just WHY you need to capture her again in the first place. I mean, how did she escape?"

"She... the geneti-lock," Sirius muttered. "The detective raises a valid point. The device was specially constructed to nullify her powers, and yet she tore it apart as if it hadn't even been activated."

"Sabotage?" Mihoshi asked. "Maybe someone tampered with it, y'know?"

"Improbable," Ternion replied. "Our technology has been refined to the point of near infallibility. Even in the unlikely event of a malfunction, a alarm would sound from sensors within our facility that the neutralization field was disabled. In fact..." he held up a computer pad and pressed some keys on it with one of his fat blue fingers, "according to this that geneti-lock is still functional as we speak, even in two pieces as it is."

"Well, what if the prisoner's powers aren't necessarily brought on by genetics?" Mihoshi asked. She pointed to the hologram image that now displayed Ryoko repeatedly slashing at Superman with her energy blade. "One of Ryoko's powers is the ability to assimilate with certain biotechnological devices. Her sword for instance. If it's not a genetic trait, then the lock wouldn't be able to disable that, right?"

"We anticipated that," Pollux answered. "And she is not entirely unique in that regard. In such instances, we program the geneti-lock to respond to certain metabolic shifts and other biological activities that are known to accompany such powers. We have a file on Ryoko's specific powers and the bio-readings that correspond to them. It was part of the evidence gathered against her. Many of the worlds she attacked had performed sophisticated scans of her physiology in an attempt to find a weakness of some kind."

"Oh, wow! Really? Because the Galaxy Police does that too," she explained. "It helps with identification purposes, too, because those kinds of scans are unique to each individual."

"That has been our experience as well," Sirius agreed.

Mihoshi put her hands together and smiled broadly. Maybe she could pull this off after all! "Well, in that case your honors, it seems to me that the only sensible explanation is--"

"Sirs! We've spotted them again! They're in the Reconstruction Zone!"

Mihoshi looked away from the judges to see just what had prompted a guard to interrupt her line of reasoning, and sure enough the hologram showed Ryoko and Superman still duking it out, but now they were dogfighting over what looked like a battlefield. "NOW where are they?" she asked.

"When we last met Kal-El, he helped save our world from one of his old enemies, a being known as the Cyborg. He attempted to merge with our technology and reshape Tribunal World to his own ends, but Kal-El succeeded in subduing him first. However, this area was badly damaged from the Cyborg's tampering, and we have still been repairing the ruins. Can we establish audio feed?"

After a moment, sound started to pipe in from the viewer. "--over, Ryoko! As of now, I'm taking you into custody! The custody--of SUPERMAN!"

"Hah! I'm hearin' it, but I ain't livin' it, Cowboy! Maybe you have the edge in speed, but I got the finesse!"

And they went at it again, this time managing to tumble headlong into a small shack in the rubble. "That--that's an explosives depot!" Sirius shouted. "If one of them tries to--"

But the result was demonstrated before he could even put it into words. Suddenly the entire image was consumed in billowing flame, and finally the picture itself began to flicker and die. "The camera-probes!" Pollux screamed. "They must have been caught in the blast! Re-establish visual! I want to know what's going on down there!"

"Mihoshi--" Sasami whimpered. Tears were starting to well up in her eyes.

Mihoshi might have joined her in sobbing their eyes out, but it seemed... wrong somehow. She looked at Ryo-Oh-Ki and noticed the look on her tiny face, and like a light bulb being switched on she suddenly understood what it was.

"We have visual back, sir!" a crewman announced. Even as he finished speaking, the image came back and showed the aftermath of the explosion. It located a speck of color amidst the blackened ash and rubble on the flattened ground, and the camera-probe zoomed in on it to display the anomaly at maximum magnification.

It was a shred of red cloth flapping from underneath a pile of rocks. And a piece of a charred hand sticking up from the debris. Sasami simply put her hands over her eyes and ran to the other end of the room, causing Ryo-Oh-Ki to tumble off her head and flop down to the ground.

"How can this be?" Pollux said in horror. "In his zeal to assist us, Kal-El has not only destroyed the prisoner, but himself as well? Is there any sign of survivors?"

"No, sir," Mihoshi replied before the Tribunal staff could answer. "And your people won't find any, either."

"You know, I always thought heaven would be more picturesque than this. At least dying wasn't so bad."

"Speak for yourself. My head is killing me from all those shots I took."

"Hah! At least you still HAVE a head," Ryoko quipped, holding up the severed end of her right arm up to demonstrate. "This was your big idea, so don't whine to me because I put on a good show."

"You'll be all right, won't you?" Superman asked. "I think leaving a piece of my cape behind was more than enough to keep them guessing."

"You worry too much, Cowboy," Ryoko smirked. She held her remaining hand over the injured area and drew it back to reveal a new hand had already grown in to replace the lost one. "I haven't survived this long by being made of Kleenex, you know?"

"I suppose not," he smiled. "Although I think you'll agree that I'm no slouch when it comes to escape plans."

She phased into the cockpit of the spacecraft and found the control that opened the door. Superman stepped in and took a seat next to her. "Gotta give you credit there," Ryoko admitted. "Couple of times I thought you really wanted to bring me in."

"That was the idea," Superman explained. "Believe me, Ryoko, I don't approve of the Tribunal's verdict any more than you do, but we agreed to face them together. I didn't drag Detective Kuramitsu and Sasami all the way out here so you could pull a solo act. Not when we could have a much better chance by pooling our resources. And my experience tells me that they'll be so confused from our little playacting that they won't even notice us leaving in this ship you picked out. I assume you can fly this rustbucket."

"I have to hand it to you, you know how to throw a jailbreak," she chuckled. "And if it was built to fly, I can fly it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride."

"What about the others?" Superman asked. "Did you contact Ryo-Oh-Ki?"

"She's up to speed, yeah. The Tribunal said they'd let them go free whenever they decided to leave, so it's up to them. Hopefully Mihoshi or Sasami will notice that Ryo-Oh-Ki's in a good mood and figure out that we're OK." Ryoko paused and stared at the controls for a few seconds.

"What's wrong?" Superman asked.

"I screwed up. Yeah, I knew I could break out of the geneti-lock almost from the start, but instead of telling you guys that I tried to handle it myself, and when it started to get rough I took it out on you. I'm not used to having people looking out for me, Superman." She tapped a few keys and the vessel slowly began to taxi out of the building through an opening in the roof. "So... thanks... for putting up with me."

"You've spent your whole life blindly following orders," Superman replied. "I'd say you're more than entitled to make a few of your own mistakes for a change. No hard feelings." He took her hand in his and squeezed it. "Now let's get out of here, OK?"

The surprise of that nearly made her hit the ejection seat button by mistake. "Er... yeah! Planet Earth here we come, right?" As they emerged from the impound hangar she did her best to keep her mind on the controls, and hope her face didn't look as red as it felt at that moment.

He had FEELINGS for her? The hell? Of course, who could blame him, and he pretty much ran himself ragged just to help her out, so it made some sense. But HIM? Well, she could let him down easy when they got back to Earth, she figured--

"--listening to me? Bring us about, Ryoko!"

She forced herself to get back into reality, and that was when she saw them. The Tribunal security forces. They'd found them. And they were everywhere. "We're surrounded..." she gasped. "But how did they find us so fast? Our distraction was--?"

"There's your answer," Superman said glumly, pointing out the cockpit at a crystalline ship directly above them. "Looks like the others got wise to our plan sooner than we expected."

"It was all a VERY complex puzzle, but to an experienced and qualified Galaxy Police officer such as myself, it fell together like clockwork... Well, wait, that's a mixed metaphor, but--ooohhhh you know what I mean!"

"What Detective Kuramitsu is trying to say, Kal-El," Pollux explained, "is that the reason Ryoko was able to escape from us so easily is because the geneti-lock we used to restrain her was programmed to neutralize the powers of a different person."

"Who?" Ryoko asked.

"Ryoko," Pollux said with an obvious distaste for the statement.

"So does anyone want to try explaining it so it makes sense?" Ryoko snapped.

"Fingerprints, Ryoko," Superman explained. "Among humans, the fingerprint is an indelible method of identification. And other species, of course, but with humans, they depend on fingerprints as a convenient way to identify criminals for arrest and trial. No two people have the same prints, and so Earth's law-enforcement agencies keep them on record so they can be absolutely certain of a person's identity."

"OK," Ryoko nodded.

"Yes, but the Galaxy Police use DNA scans and energy signatures instead," Mihoshi went on. "So do the Tribunal, but the difference is that the records they found on YOU... or Ryoko, I should say... those records are centuries old. Even millennia. Maybe the information was never accurate to begin with, or maybe the data has been degraded over all that time, or maybe it's been tampered with--"

"Or maybe I was never the Ryoko they've been looking for in the first place!" Ryoko said as she snapped her fingers in delight. "So that would mean no execution for trying to escape, I assume? No probationary periods to examine me in order to make sure I'm not a threat?"

"Err, no," Pollux assented. "Indeed, by the very act of escaping as you did, you have proved conclusively that the evidence gathered against you was fundamentally flawed. And it would be the summation of hypocrisy for us to refuse to trust the Galaxy Police's judgment when we cannot even rely on our own forensics in this matter. I confess that I have misgivings about this, but the law is the law. And we have voted unanimously to have you released, Ryoko Hakubi."

"If that is in fact my real name, right?" she cooed. "Well, that's just too perfect, chief. Better luck next time, OK?"

Pollux sighed and nodded to Mihoshi. "In that case, my work here is concluded, and I have other matters to attend to. I leave you to your own duties, Detective. And I wish you and your organization well." And with that, the large blue man shimmered with light as his body was teleported off the bridge of Ryo-Oh-Ki.

"Huh. Thought he'd never leave," Ryoko smirked.

"What did I tell you, Ryoko?" Superman beamed. "Your friends came through in the end after all!" He walked over to Mihoshi to congratulate her, but instead she stepped back and crossed her arms. "Uh, is something wrong, Mihoshi?"

She sighed and rolled her eyes. Sasami shook her head in sorrow. "She's not very happy right now," she warned him.

"Do you have any... IDEA how much trouble you should be in right now?!" Mihoshi said, shaking as she spoke.

"Um, what?" Superman asked innocently.

"You guys kept ditching us!" Mihoshi shouted. "You keep going on about teamwork and then you left us to sit there and guess at your next move! What kind of teamwork is that? If I did that sort of thing I'd be suspended without pay for a whole MONTH or something!"

"Was I supposed to get paid for this?" Ryoko asked. "Because there's this kareoke machine I had my eye on and--"

"Detective, please!" Superman interrupted. "Ryoko got frustrated and rushed off on her own. Once that happened, I knew I had to follow her to make sure no one got hurt! And you played your part just fine without the two of us, right?"

"Oh, SURE!" Mihoshi whimpered. "I figured out how to talk the Tribunal into letting us go while YOU guys run off to show off your powers in a stupid exhibition to cover your escape! The only reason you're not in a Tribunal cell right now is because I convinced them to turn you guys over to me!"

"Oh, right, because we blew up that construction site," Ryoko realized. "Hey, it was HIS idea. Don't look at me. 'It's uninhabited at the moment, so we can cut loose without hurting anyone!' he says. That may be how it runs on Earth, Cowboy, but you're a long way from home, you know?"

"I was just--!" Superman tried to say.

"And then you guys tried to make everyone think you were DEAD!" Sasami added. "And I believed it until Mihoshi noticed Ryo-Oh-Ki wasn't upset about it like the rest of us. How could you scare us all like that, Superman?"

"I wasn't trying to--!"

"And the whole POINT of this was to get the Tribunal to respect the Galaxy Police as an institution of justice, but the whole time you and Ryoko kept flagrantly defying THEIR institution of justice. I'm surprised this worked at all!" Mihoshi fumed.

Superman sighed and looked up at the floating crystals that hung throughout the deck. "Anything you'd like to contribute to the Superman Victory Roast?" he asked.

Ryo-Oh-Ki meowed in reply. "She says she's happy to have me back," Ryoko translated.

"Well, that's one satisfied customer, anyway," Superman mumbled. "Seriously, Mihoshi, I apologize if I overstepped my bounds. I suppose in contrast to Ryoko's loner tendencies, I've gotten so used to working with my colleagues that I just assumed we'd all adapt to each other's strengths and weaknesses. To be honest, this isn't the first time I've stepped on the toes of the police."

"Oh, it's much worse than that!" Mihoshi growled. She reached into her uniform and pulled her sidearm from the holster. "I've got every right to have you two clowns put away for... destruction of public property, obstruction of justice, and... well, I'll have to check the manual when we get back, but you get the idea!"

"I thought that gun wasn't working?" Sasami asked.

"Oh, come off it, Mihoshi," Ryoko groaned. "Nobody got hurt but me, and if the Tribunal hadn't bungled their arrest in the first place, I wouldn't have had to go and wreck their stuff! Let's just forget the whole thing, shall we?"

"I think she's got a point, Detective," Superman agreed, holding his hands up and moving towards her. "Besides, Tenchi's only got one toilet, last I checked--"

"Hey, I said you two are under arrest," Mihoshi cried, pointing the gun at Superman and clicking the trigger twice, but with no effect. "Ohhhh, not again! C'mon!" On the third try, a burst of red light fired out of the barrel and bounced squarely off Superman's chest, ricocheting off into the recesses of the bridge. Ryoko teleported herself into its line of travel and absorbed the errant blast into her hands.

"Well, I think that settles that," Ryoko laughed. "Satisfied, Mihoshi?"

"I need a vacation," Mihoshi sobbed. Sasami took her by the hand and tried to console her.

"All righty, then," Ryoko giggled as she took her seat in the center of Ryo-Oh-Ki's bridge and took a moment to settle in. "Now that our legal trouble is behind us, who's up for some dinner? I know a GREAT four star steakhouse on an out of the way planet in the Okuda System. You guys in?"

"Sure!" Mihoshi said, her mood suddenly brightening at the mention of food.

"Well, I guess so," Sasami considered.

"Budzy's?" Superman asked.

"Yeah," Ryoko replied. "You been there before?"

"Hmmm," he mused. "We stopped there once after a JLA mission in the vicinity. Wally would never forgive me if he found out I was in the neighborhood and didn't pick up some takeout..."

"Then it's settled, and we'll put it on your tab, just to keep it simple!" Ryoko cheered as she pointed to the fore of the ship. "Ryo-Oh-Ki, I trust you know the way, right? Then let's get going."

The ship meowed enthusiastically in reply and soon the Tribunal World was just a pinpoint on the rear viewscreen.

NEXT: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Continue To Chapter Twelve