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A Ranma ½ / Avengers (the superhero group) fusion
by DB Sommer

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at [sommert@connecttime.net]

Act II, Scene 6: Not So Startling Revelations

Toji Yamamoto, the self-proclaimed '3-D' (Dashing, Debonair, and Drop-Dead handsome) anchorman of Channel 4 News sat in his dressing room, delighted for the first time in weeks. Ever since that annoying pest, Akemi Shutaro, had upstaged him during the Hornet incident he hadn't been able to think straight. It just wasn't fair. He had his butt handed to him by a three-inch tall girl while Akemi had snagged an exclusive interview with the very villain that had humiliated him. People even had the audacity to suggest (though not in his presence) that she should be the anchor, as though the frigid bitch could cover the news better than him. It was ridiculous. She didn't possess half his experience when it came to ferreting out a story. Her delivery was atrocious. She wouldn't sleep with him. The only thing she had going for her was luck in being in the right place at the right time, and luck was no substitute for skill.

No, she was completely unacceptable for the job, and he was about to prove it. It had taken all the pull he had with station management to get Akemi reassigned. Now she was putting together a "major story" on the street performers in the Shibuya area. Of course, everyone knew the only street performers in Shibuya were mimes. Interviewing mimes was the equivalent of reporter suicide. When that bitch turned in the unacceptable report, the top brass would have the excuse Toji needed to have her demoted. But Toji would make himself seem the good guy when he insisted she be kept on as his personal gopher.

"It's good to be 'the man'." He chortled to himself in the mirror. And it was a chortle. He was an important person. Important people didn't laugh: they chortled.

As he fantasized Akemi threatening to club a mime to death with her microphone if he didnít say something, a commotion out in the hallway interrupted his daydream. Perturbed (and he was perturbed, not annoyed, since important people never stooped to annoyance) he went to the door and looked out in the hallway. The source was a technician who raced toward the control room as fast as his spindly legs could carry him.

"What's going on?" Toji asked.

The technician paused for a moment. "We're going to a live feed on some late-breaking news. One of the reporters in Shibuya is live on the scene with a supervillain. Not only is he knocking over a bank, but he grabbed the person she was interviewing from right in front of the camera. Can you believe it? We're going to scoop everyone."

The technician hurried off, leaving Toji to wail impotently at the injustice of fate.

"How can it be that I, Gypsy Moth, one of the greatest supervillains of our era, am unable to knock over a simple bank?" Teshigawara Suguru grumbled to himself. He fondled one of the fake insect wings sewn into the back of his costume while he considered the matter. Well, perhaps his plan did have a few flaws in it, but he had been certain his cloth drill could handle a mere fifteen-centimeter thick titanium vault door. Perhaps he should have asked to borrow one of the late Living Laser's weapons from the Crimson Cowl before setting out to make his fortune.

The sounds of struggle came from one of the cloth cocoons that lined the ceiling of the bank, catching his attention. At least that had gone as planned. He had used his ability to telekinetically control cloth to reweave everyone's garments into a form of confinement, hanging them from the ceiling. The cocoon design was simply inspired. It went perfectly with his insect motif.

Gypsy Moth turned his attention to the hanging man, who continued shifting around inside the cocoon. "If you've got something to say, say it, don't just shoot me dirty looks… Oh! That's right. You're with the Legion of Mimes." That had been his other stroke of luck, capturing the team of superheroes that had been lying in wait for him outside the bank. But he had shown them by capturing their entire roster on nationwide television. Now Gypsy Moth's career was made. All he had to do was get into the vault, grab the money, and he'd have it all.

The supervillain released one of the dozen white-faced men that had been so easily incapacitated. He warned, "Don't try anything, or we'll find out if my cloth drill can bore its way through flesh better than steel doors."

The mime began pantomiming. Gypsy Moth watched closely, speaking aloud to make certain he understood things correctly. "You're… not… a… superhero…. You… and… your… companions… are… just… ordinary… mimes." Gypsy Moth shook his head. "Impossible! You attacked me as soon as I appeared. Only a superhero would try to stop a supervillain."

The mime began signing again.

"You… thought… I… was… another… street… performer… trying… to… muscle… in… on… your… turf…." Gypsy Moth bristled. "How dare you imply that I, a great and powerful supervillain, would have anything in common with some pretentious avant garde clown! Especially when I'm wearing what is obviously ultra-stylish supervillain garb." He spun around, displaying his brown and blue body suit, the antenna projecting from the cowl's headpiece and the transparent insect wings jouncing about. "For that insult, I shall crush you!"

Just was Gypsy Moth was about squeeze the mime's clothing so tight his face paint would come off, a tremendous explosion rocked the building. The villain's mouth dropped open as a hammer flew through one of the walls of the bank, creating a huge hole, before returning through the aperture it had created.

There was no time to react as, from the opposite side, a huge green form hurtled through the wall as though it were made of paper, landing nearby.

A door opened at the front of the bank, heralding a shield-toting redhead. "Doors, guys! Doors! It's okay to use them."

The Hulk turned to Bucky. "Shield Girl is just jealous because she can't smash through walls like Hulk."

"Yeah. It's all I can do to keep from turning as green as you in envy," she said flatly.

"Hulk knew," he said smugly.

Thor emerged from the hole Mjolnir had made. She leveled her hammer at Gypsy Moth. "Hold, base villain, and surrender to the might of the Goddess of Thunder."

"Avengers!' Bucky snapped. "There are other people here, you know."

Gypsy Moth's attention went to each of the newcomers in turn. He waited patiently until they finished sniping at one another. Once they calmed down, he postured before them. "Fools! You have entered the lair, no, cocoon of the Gypsy Moth, who single-handedly nearly defeated all of the Defenders."

"The who?" Bucky asked.

"They're superheroes."

"Never heard of them," Bucky said.

"They're a non-team."

"What is a non-team?" Hulk asked.

"It's where some people on it feel it's a team, but others say it's just a collection of individuals who happen to be in the same place when things happen."

"Fine," Bucky said. "Next question, why did you pick a stupid name like Gypsy Moth?"

"Because I can telekinetically control cloth." He laughed in a half-crazed, half-sinister, fashion.

The Hulk was the first to react. "That's a stupid superpower."

"I knew it!" Bucky shouted, looking like she was ready to turn around and walk out. "As soon as I laid eyes on that stupid outfit I knew this guy was a moron. We should have let Daredevil handle it solo. His rogues' gallery is nothing but losers. Some cloth-controlling bug guy would be a perfect addition to it."

Thor nodded. "Tis beneath the Goddess of Thunder to deal with such fools. Hulk, grab yon miscreant and let us be on our way."

The Hulk scratched his head. "Hulk thought Stupid Bug Man was Gypsy Moth, not Miss Creant. Stupid Bug Man is not even a girl."

"I'll do it," Bucky said, moving toward the villain.

Gypsy Moth didn't move. He simply stood there casually, saying, "I think not."

Thor, Hulk, and Bucky suddenly found their clothing torn free from their bodies and flying to the far side of the room, as though the material had the substance of the wind.

The Hulk noticed the draft and looked down. "What happen to Hulk's pants?" As he looked around for them, he saw Thor's naked body, displaying divine attributes that were proportional to her six and a half foot frame. Blood shot out of his nose, spraying upward like a fountain, while his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He fell limply to the ground, cracking the floor with his massive weight.

Thor also noticed the draft. After one stunned moment, she screeched at the top of her lungs, covering her intimate parts as she ran for her life toward the nearest bathroom. She didn't bother opening it; she ran straight through, knocking the door off its hinges as she screamed the entire way.

Gypsy Moth laughed so hard he nearly doubled over. "Wait until I tell everyone how I singlehandedly defeated the Avengers. I'll finally get the respect I deserve. I…." His boast stopped abruptly as a leap kick met him squarely in the jaw, sending him to the ground. As consciousness left him, he gurgled out, "Have… you… no… shame?" and passed out.

The now nude (save for her shield) Bucky, stared down at him in satisfaction. "That takes care of that."

A woman's voice came from the doorway, declaring in an announcer's voice, "There you have it, folks. We finally have the answer to the question on everyone's minds: is Bucky a natural redhead?"

Bucky turned to see several news cameras pointed at her, or more specifically, pointed at everything below the neck. She squeaked, "Don't photograph me naked, you creeps!" She crouched behind her shield just as she would if a foe was firing beams of energy at her.

Ignoring her protests, the news crew moved closer, the smell of ratings intoxicating them like sake to an alcoholic. Before they took two steps, there was a loud crash of thunder and a flash of light from the direction of the restroom. After a handful of seconds, a second peal and flash followed. A triumphant, "Yes, they have returned!" came from the bathroom, followed a second later by Thor.

There was a look of blood in her eyes as she shouted, "Gypsy Moth, prepare to meet thy doom!" She looked down to see his unconscious form and the glare departed. "Oh, I see thou hast already met it."

"Do something about these creeps, would you?" Bucky shouted from her position behind her shield.

Thor turned her attention to her comrade and the predicament she was in. Scowling, she turned to the reporters. "Only the lowest of jackals would dare to take advantage of one who has saved them from a terrible menace," Thor paused and looked at Gypsy Moth again. "From a terrible irritant. Away, gnats."

Grabbing her hammer by the thong, she spun it around like a giant fan, instantly creating a wind of near tornado intensity. It blew the cameramen and reporter away and out into the street like tumbleweeds across an empty desert.

Satisfied at her handiwork, Thor turned to Bucky, who remained crouched behind her shield as though more cameramen might come after her. The goddess undid her red cape and handed it to the girl, who accepted the offering.

Bucky wrapped herself in the cape. While she was a tall, buxom girl, Thor made her look small, and the cape was easily able to cover her entire body. "Thanks for the save. How did you get your clothes back?"

Thor hefted her hammer. "A magical enchantment upon Mjolnir."

Bucky fingered the cape. "Too bad I donít have magically appearing clothing."

Thor scowled. "In truth, thy garments seem to magically disappear at times."

Bucky's teeth gnashed together. "That ain't my fault. Things just seem to happen." She gained a sinister gleam in her eyes. "Besides, you don't see me scurrying for cover just because I flashed some tit."

"That is because thou art a brazen harlot!"

"I just ain't ashamed of my body." Bucky struck a seductive pose, despite being draped in a cape.

It was Thor's turn to gain a sinister gleam. "Very well, I shall summon yon reporters back."

The posing stopped. "Never mind! Let's grab the Nudinator and ole Greenskin and…" Bucky stopped as she stared at the Hulk. "Well, well, well, it looks like the blood didn't rush only to his nose."

"What dost thou mean?" Thor looked in the same direction and was confronted with unquestionable evidence that everything about the Hulk was proportional and that he was decidedly heterosexual.

Thor's jaw dropped, then she turned red-faced and shouted, "Pervert!" She ran across the room drawing back her foot as she arrived at the Hulk's side. A thunderous kick punted him clean through another wall and off into the distance.

Awareness returned to the Hulk when he found himself wholly submerged in water. Or more appropriately, awareness returned to the Incredible Bwee. Annoyed rather than incapacitated at the lack of oxygen, Bwee swam upward. Upon breaking the surface, the two hundred pound 'piglet' — if anything that size could be called such — took a deep breath, then went back down to the bottom of the river he had been punted into. Kicking off from the bottom, Bwee shot through the water like a torpedo, then was reclassified as a missile as he arced above the river and into the air. He landed on the nearest shore, wet, smelling of sewage, and angry.

It took Bwee a moment to remember what had happened. He had followed Shield Girl to a building that held Stupid Bug Man. He had been ready to grab Stupid Bug Man when Bwee's clothing had disappeared. Then he looked up to see Hammer Girl's clothing had disappeared as well.

Visions of nude Nordic perfection caused Bwee's nose to spurt out a healthy amount of blood again. He rolled over onto his side, unconscious.

Gym class was a pain, Ukyou decided. Sports bras were a hassle, and she hated those idiotic ensembles girls had to wear. Guys' gym clothes were more practical, comfortable, and never rode into her crotch. However, by far the worst thing about it was today's class: archery practice. She would have to act as though she couldn't recognize one end of an arrow from the other for fear of being recognized as her alternate identity. Darn that Ranma for giving everything away by using her old nickname. She didn't think he'd remember, or have the nerve to do it if he did. Now she didn't know what to do, other than doing everything possible to prevent anyone from discovering her identity.

At least she had missed the call to action yesterday. Had she ended up like Bucky, her secret would have been lost for certain. She made a mental note to avoid fighting any villains who could control clothing, and Gypsy Moth in particular. She was sure she could come up with some excuse. Maybe she had late homework she had to turn in. It was either that or come up with a plastic outfit.

Grumbling under her breath, Ukyou noted she was alone in the locker room. The girls' locker room, specifically. She had almost entered the guys' room out of force of habit, only catching herself just as she was about to open the door. After entering the correct locker room, she had hung back, waiting for the others to finish dressing before changing herself. It was a routine from the old days when she went to an all boys' school. While guys were usually blissfully unaware of their surroundings, they tended to focus pretty intently when breasts showed up. Ukyou knew it didnít matter anymore, it wasn't as though anyone would be surprised if she showed off the set of equipment under her clothes, but old habits died hard.

She had nearly finished changing when a familiar voice called out, "Hey, Ukyou!"

Ukyou winced as Akane Tendou came limping up to her, gnarled wooden cane in hand. She wondered if the girl was poor and unable to afford a newer one. She would have thought someone would have bought one for her birthday or something.

Akane chose a locker next to Ukyou and began to change. While Ukyou wanted to hurry and leave, she knew it would be considered rude, and she had wronged Akane enough as it was. She slowed down and allowed herself to be cornered by her classmate.

As Akane pulled her blouse over her head, she said, "It seems like you've been avoiding me lately."

Leave it to Akane to get right to the point. Ukyou's laugh was tinged with embarrassment. "Sort of. I'm sorry about shoving you around on my first day here."

Akane grunted in disgust. "Don't tell me you're still hung up on that. I just landed on my bottom. I was perfectly fine. I hate the way everyone treats me like I'm made of glass. I just have a bad leg, it's not like I'm in a wheelchair."

Ukyou remained uneasy. "Still, you must not think too much of me. Lord knows not too many people around here do."

Annoyance became sympathy. "Yeah, you did kind of get off on the wrong foot with everyone. I'll tell you what, why don't we become friends? That should squash a lot of the resentment directed at you for shoving me around."

The open proposal surprised Ukyou. Admittedly, she could really use a friend, but Akane was the next to last person she thought would offer the hand of friendship, Ranma being the absolute last. "Really? Even after what I did to you?"

Sympathy shifted back to annoyance. "Look, the first thing you have to agree to if we're going to be friends is that you don't act like I'm breakable if you shout too loud, got it?"

Ukyou nodded. "Okay, I got it."

Akane seemed relieved. "Good. The next thing I wanted to talk to you about is Ranma. I…"

"Break off your engagement to him before it's too late!" Ukyou interrupted. "You don't know what kind of a monster he is! He'll break your heart and abandon you like yesterday's garbage!" Ukyou grabbed Akane's hand and held it in what could have been interpreted as an intimate gesture.

Akane focused on the statement rather than Ukyou's action. "I am not engaged to Ranma. Who told you something stupid like that?"

"Some girl named Nabiki. She also told me if I get bullied around she was available for protection services at reasonable rates." As though Ukyou needed anyone's protection. Still, a part of her would have been amused at hiring Nabiki and having the girl discover the types of supervillains that wanted to 'bully' Ukyou around.

Akane simmered in fury. "That idiot! How dare she spread around lies like that!"

The vehemence of the rejection startled Ukyou. Akane almost sounded like her when it came to Ranma. "You're not engaged to him?"

"No, and I never will be!"

Oh yes, she was sincere about it. "Why would Nabiki lie about something like that?"

Akane calmed down noticeably. "Well, technically I'm a prospective fiancée. It was an idea my father and Ranma's came up with before we were born. They wanted to unite our two families' martial arts schools by marriage. However, I have no intention of marrying Ranma. Not that there's anything wrong with him. Actually, he's one of the few people that doesn't treat me differently because of my leg. And he is really buff and good-looking. But he's not for me," she quickly added. "I'm looking for someone who's older and more mature. A professional who enjoys helping others and would let me stand by his side to assist him in his good deeds."

Ukyou noticed the distant gaze in Akane's eyes. "Sounds like you have someone already picked out."

"No, I haven't." While her lips said one thing, her face turned bright red in disagreement. "Anyway, either of my older sisters is more appropriate for him. Nabiki practices martial arts like he does, and my oldest sister, Kasumi, is at an age where she needs to marry someone before she becomes an old maid. Either one would be perfectly suitable for him."

"It'd be better if you broke off the engagement altogether," Ukyou insisted.

"Nah, both of them could use men in their lives," Akane said.

At that point both girls had finished dressing. Their conversation continued as they headed out to the archery practice yard. The rest of the class were already present, some of the girls having taken their places at the firing line and examining their bows.

As Ukyou and Akane sat down behind the line of archers, a girl with brown hair plopped down next to them. She said to Ukyou, "Hey, I'm Yuka. I hear you're so good with a bow that everyone calls you Hawkeye."

It was Ukyou's turn to blush. "No, no. I'm a terrible archer. It's my worst sport. It's just a coincidence that my childhood nickname was the same as a superhero's."

Yuka clapped her hands together in hope. "Then maybe I won't be the worst shot in class anymore."

Akane said, "I don't know. You are pretty lousy. Ukyou would have to be really bad to be worse than you."

"I never said I was that bad," Yuka defended.

"You nearly hit someone standing behind you."

Yuka sighed in surrender. "I wish I was half as good as Hawkeye. I bet he's the best archer in the world."

A loud clapping caught the girls' attention. They turned their attention to the cause of the commotion. Everyone was applauding a blonde girl who had just hit the bull's eye three consecutive times. The arrows were bunched together so closely there appeared to be no space between the arrowheads.

Ukyou looked at the girl, who had decidedly Western features. "That's the foreign exchange student, isn't it? The American?"

"Jessie Gartland," Yuka confirmed. "Everyone says she's a prodigy at archery. She'd be a shoo-in for the Olympics, except she's said it's a waste of time. I bet she could give even Hawkeye a run for the money."

Ukyou scoffed. "Hawkeye's the best in the world."

"Hardly. He's not even in the top three."

The girls looked up to see the speaker. Jessie's hearing was truly remarkable to hear them at that distance. Despite the fact she had addressed them, she wasn't looking at the trio of girls. Instead she drew another arrow and pulled back.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ukyou snapped.

Jessie put a fourth arrow in the mix with the other three. Now it looked like one giant arrow sticking out of the middle of the target. "I can tell you the three best archers in the world right now." She drew another arrow, not even deigning to look at Ukyou. "Number one is Joshua Gartland, my father, who used to perform in a circus by the handle of 'Trick Shot'. He might have retired, but he's still as accurate as ever."

Ukyou picked up a bow and quiver of arrows and walked over to stand next to Jessie. The girl that had previously occupied the spot wisely got out of Ukyou's way before she was bowled over.

"Number two?" Ukyou asked.

Jessie still didn't bother looking at her. "Number two is a protégé of my father's named Clint Barton. Actually, he used to go by the name of Hawkeye when he took over my father's spot in the circus, but when he heard there was a superhero by that name, he switched it to Deadshot, which I think is much better."

A fifth arrow left the bow, impacting right next to the others. Jessie grabbed another.

Ukyou chose an arrow, feeling its shaft, then held it to the bow and pulled it back. "And the best?"

"Why, that would be me." Jessie released her arrow.

Ukyou released hers at the same time. Jessie's shaft was pierced in mid-flight, sliced in half as Ukyou's continued on to hit dead center in the middle of someone else's target.

Ukyou giggled girlishly. "Sorry about that. I was so far off the mark I accidentally hit your arrow. That was inexcusable of me. I'm really impressed by your accuracy. I hope I can be half as good as you someday."

Jessie's upper lip curled in a sneer of anger. It appeared she would say something, but then her attitude changed and she smiled sweetly. "That's all right. Accidents happen. Why don't you try again?"

Satisfied her point had been made (if only she knew about it) Ukyou accepted the offer, drew another arrow and lined up for another shot. Pride wouldn't allow her to 'miss' so badly a second time. She aimed for the very edge of the target. A centimeter higher and it would hit the fence behind the large circles she was supposed to be aiming at. Barely hitting the very object she was supposedly aiming at should solidify her reputation as a poor markswoman. She held her breath and visualized where the arrow would impact. The instant she released the bowstring, she knew the shot was true.

The arrow embedded itself exactly where Ukyou had wanted. However, her mind had barely registered the fact when the shaft was split in two by another arrow. It happened so quickly that the second arrow must have been fired while the first was still in flight.

Jessie giggled just as girlishly as Ukyou had before. "Oops, looks like I missed, too. I guess I'm not the best after all."

It took everything Ukyou had to keep from challenging the girl to a duel on the spot.

Ranma plopped himself down in the bedroom he shared with his father, relieved that another day of school was over. The walk back had been boring since Akane had work at Dr. Tofu's while Nabiki said she had some business to conduct and went off in another direction. It was just as well. He was still a little tired from yesterday's experience. Fight was too strong a word, but it had been exhausting all the same.

The peace didn't last as his father entered the room, closing the door behind him. He stood right in front of Ranma, his posture one of confrontation. "Boy, when I told you to get some exposure on television, that wasn't what I meant."

"Shut up, Old Man! You didn't have to fight some freak whose only ability is to turn everyone into flashers." Ranma shot his father a look that said he'd enjoy bouncing Genma around like a giant basketball.

Genma pressed onward. "Just be glad no one photographed you above chest level, or you'd never be able to show your cursed form anywhere."

"I said knock it off!"

Sensing his son was not in a mood to be trifled with, Genma eased back. Unfortunately for him, Ranma was in the mood for confrontation, and something had been bothering him for a while. He had been trying to find the right segue to broach the subject before, but now he didn't care. "When are we going to see Mom again? Now that I'm a superhero, twice over, I think I've lived up to my end of the bargain of becoming a symbol of pride for this country."

Genma nodded. "After you pick one of the girls as your fiancée. That way we can tell her the good news all at once. So, have you decided on which girl?"

Ranma backed off, not anticipating the shift in topics. "I, ah, haven't gotten that much time to get to know them, with me having to be an Avenger and school and everything. They seem pretty busy, too. So it's not like we've had many opportunities to be together."

"You can always skip school," Genma suggested.

"I don't think being known as 'The Drop-Out Superhero" is conducive to the whole symbol of heroism thing."

Reluctantly, Genma nodded. "True, but you still have to make a choice about the engagement. Maybe you could have the girls draw straws and the winner would end up with you. There's something to be said about Fate, you know."

It was getting bad. His father was rarely this insistent about the engagement thing. Ranma tried figuring a way out, then suddenly realized how he could change topics and settle a problem at the same time. Much more casually he said, "Speaking of engagements, I have something I want to ask you, Pop."

That made Genma smile. "Boy, I'm glad you feel comfortable enough with me to seek out my advice."

"You do?"

"Certainly. It just so happens that I am an expert in how to pleasure women. Why, if it wasn't for condoms, you'd probably have a half dozen brothers and sisters by now. Let me describe some of my basic techniques that will have your partner begging for more."

A kick landed in Genma's face. "I don't need to hear about no sexual techniques!" Ranma removed his foot, since kicking his father's jaw shut wouldn't get him the answers he really wanted. "Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk about."

Genma rubbed his jaw, staring at his son warily. "What is it, then?"

"Good ole' Hawkeye showed up at my school."

Genma gasped. "You mean he knows your secret identity? How?"

Ranma shook his head furiously. "Not that Hawkeye! The girl one. My childhood friend, Ukyou Kuonji. Remember her?"

Genma suddenly broke out in a sweat. He grabbed Ranma by the shoulders and shook him hard. "Listen to me, boy. One of your numerous foes must have discovered your connection to her and brainwashed her to turn against you. Pay no attention to what she says, especially anything relating to me."

Another kick landed squarely in Genma's face. "I somehow doubt the Mandarin's master plan for my downfall involves making my old friend think she was engaged to me. Now, if he was laying the groundwork for pretending he was my real father, then he'd be onto something since that's exactly the sort of thing you'd do. Now fess up. What did you do to make Hawkeye think we were engaged when we were kids?"

"I engaged the two of you."

"That would explain much."

When Ranma didn't immediately hit him, Genma relaxed. "Of course it does."

"Including the depths of your stupidity!" Ranma opted for a punch this time. "You already planned to engage me to one of the Tendou girls, so what possessed you to engage me to Ukyou too?" Ranma looked like he wanted to work his father over like a punching bag.

Sensing his son's borderline homicidal desires, and not in the mood for a beating, Genma said, "Let me explain, and don't hit me until I've finished!"

Ranma glared, but nodded. "Go on."

Since it no longer appeared escape was a necessity, Genma regained his composure. "I didn't think she'd actually want to marry you. I figured after a few months she'd get over her childish infatuation and you two would return to being friends."

Ranma drew his fist back. "Then why engage me to her in the first place?"

Before his son could launch the punch, Genma hurried out, "I was hoping she'd become your superhero sidekick."

The first uncurled and his anger disappeared. Ranma stared at his father, dumbfounded. "What?"

Genma dropped into a lecturer's tone. "Many reputable superheroes have sidekicks. It's a tradition. With her skill in archery, she'd have made a great sidekick. I was thinking of calling her 'The Fuchsia Arrow'."

Ranma winced, but said nothing, still too dumbfounded to respond.

Genma continued. "But at the last minute, I had second thoughts. This isn't the sort of life for everyone, and it would be dangerous. We have to make you a superhero for family honor, but Ukyou wasn't under any such obligation. I'd have felt bad if something happened to her. When I envisioned what might happen, I just couldn't go through with it. Since I couldn't explain why I changed my mind, I just headed out, leaving her behind. And that's the whole story." Genma visibly relaxed.

After several seconds, Ranma said, "I don't believe it."

"That I would have second thoughts about endangering Ukyou?"

"No, that there was a reasonable explanation for leaving her behind. Mind you, you were your typical idiot self in engaging me to her so she'd be my sidekick, but at least you came to your senses."

"Thanks, I think." Genma was happy at not being beaten further, so he wasn't about to complain about a few backhanded compliments.

Ranma laughed a little. "Besides, even if you had taken her along, it wouldn't have worked out."

Now Genma felt insulted. "Why? I think she'd have made a great superhero. Trust me, I have an eye for that sort of thing. She had just the right mix of talent and dedication."

Ranma snorted. "Shows what you know. She gave up archery."

"Her arm was cut off?"

"No! She outgrew it. She said proper girls didn't do that sort of thing. I can sort of believe it. You should see her, Pop. I almost didn't recognize her because she's so girly. Heck, when I was little I used to think she was a guy, until we switched clothes that one time as a joke. And even then you had to explain to me she hadn't been mutilated or something."

Genma held his hand to his chin in thought while Ranma shook his head in disbelief at the memory. "Outgrew it, you say?"

Ranma picked up on his father's interest. "What are you up to, Old Man?"

"Nothing." More firmly he said, "Since I'm responsible for this situation, I'll explain it to her personally. You don't happen to know where she lives?"

Ranma shot Genma a dubious look, but answered, "She runs an okonomiyaki shop after school. A lot of my classmates go to it and say the food's great. I haven't dropped by since she's angry with me and I don't feel like making things worse. You're really going over to explain things?"

"Of course."

"What are you going to tell her?"

"I'll take full responsibility. I'll claim I had second thoughts due to the previous agreement with the Tendous. I'll make sure she knows you had nothing to do with it."

Ranma snapped his fingers. "Now I get it!"

"Get wha—" Genma's question died on his lips as Ranma punched him in the face, knocking him down to the floor. Holding his jaw, he stared angrily at his son. "What was that for?"

Ranma began shifting the weight on his feet back and forth, ready for a fight. "There's no way you'd be taking responsibility for this willingly. Obviously you're under someone's mind control. Don't worry, I'll free you by beating you up until the pain drives the controlling presence from your body."

Genma began to back away. "I'm not under anyone's mind control."

"That's what everyone under mind control says. Now hold still. I can inflict lots more pain on you if you just stand there and take it." Ranma moved in for the kill.

"Stupid boy, thinking I'm under someone's mental domination," Genma grumbled to himself as he saw a sign announcing the name of a new restaurant called 'Ukyou's'. He moved the curtain aside and entered. The place was half full of customers. A cute girl in her late teens was dressed as a waitress while a girl in a traditional okonomiyaki seller's outfit stood behind the grill, whipping up food like a professional. Genma recognized the style belonging to the Kuonji clan, and he could still see traces of the old tomboy Ukyou had been growing up.

Catching sight of the new arrival out of the corner of her eye, Ukyou looked up and said, "Welcome…" then stopped in recognition. "Oh, it's you."

Genma walked up to the grill. "Can we talk in private?"

A battle of emotions flared across Ukyou's face. Just when it seemed she might send Genma on his way, she acquiesced. She asked the waitress to keep an eye on things while she took Genma in the back.

She led Genma up to her room and closed the door behind her. "What are you doing here, fat man? If it's an apology, save your breath. I'm not accepting them."

Instead of answering, Genma's hand lashed out, snaring Ukyou's wrists and clamping them shut in his meaty grasp.

"What are you doing?" Ukyou shouted in shock, struggling in his grasp. But the older man proved superior in strength, holding her firmly in place.

"I knew it!" Genma shouted triumphantly. "You were lying about giving up archery."

Ukyou froze in his grasp. "I… I don't know what you mean."

"Come off it, girl. You can't hide the calluses." He twisted her wrists so the inside of her hands were visible to her. There were indeed calluses right where Genma claimed. "The only way you could get those there is if you practice archery constantly. Probably every day."

Ukyou snatched her hands out of his grasp. She half-turned away and kept them behind her, out of his reach. "So what if I do?"

Genma grinned in smug satisfaction. "The boy said you claimed you gave up the bow, but I knew better. You have the spirit of a fighter in you. Archery is a part of you the way martial arts are to me and Ranma. Now the only question is why you would hide something like that."

Ukyou looked like she wanted to run, but the only way out was the door, and Genma was between her and it. "I just didn't want to admit to an unfeminine hobby like that. I'm not a tomboy anymore."

"Right, and it's a mere coincidence that when you showed up a talented superhero archer appeared at the same time. One with the same nickname you used to have, Hawkeye."

Ukyou regained some confidence. "You're forgetting something. Hawkeye's a guy, while I am obviously a girl."

"Nothing a padded costume couldn't take care of, and I'll prove it." Before Ukyou could react, Genma lunged for her, ripping open the front of her outfit. "And there's the proof!"

The only thing underneath the outfit was a pair of breasts restrained by a bra.

"Oops." Genma's face turned crimson.

"Pervert!" Ukyou kicked him in the stomach, driving him back. With some space between them, she brought her foot down on a floorboard, driving it upward to reveal a secret compartment underneath. In one fluid motion she brought out a collapsible bow and an arrow. The bow sprang out, and she pulled back on an arrow, pointing it right at Genma's face.

"Looks like an explosive arrow to me," he said calmly.

Ukyou looked at the weapon in her hand and realized her mistake. The energy drained out of her as her arms slumped and the weapon hung idly in her hands. "Damn it. And I worked so hard to keep anyone from figuring it out."

Genma straightened up his roughened gi. "Don't worry about it. I won't tell anyone about your alter ego." Genma said it casually, as though commenting on the weather.

Ukyou could only stare at him. "Why would you do that after you went to such lengths to figure it out?"

As he had with his son, Genma took on a lecturer's tone. "Because I approve of your work. The world needs people like you, risking your life to stop menaces that the normal authorities can't. Telling everyone who you are would make your life hell. And your taking up the cause also proves my instincts were right on the ball. That idiot boy owes me an apology."

Ukyou didn't understand the latter part of the statement and didn't care. She was at a complete loss. For years she had hated the man, convinced he and his son were demons incarnate. Worse, he had seen through her secret in a matter of moments. And just when it seemed he would ruin her life for the second time, he assured her that he would help protect her secret. That he approved of her actions. She was uncertain of how to react. Numb, she barely mumbled out, "Thanks."

Genma appeared as though he was about to leave, then squared his shoulders to her again. "I almost forgot. You really shouldn't hold anything against Ranma. He never even knew about the engagement. It was all my idea, as well as leaving you behind."

If the old man hadn't turned her world upside down before, now it was almost completely destroyed. Ranma hadn't known? It didn't seem possible. Then again, it would explain his complete lack of concern about the past and his bewilderment at her attitude toward him. Ignorance was the only rational explanation. But that only applied to Ranma, not the man before her. Long repressed emotions surged to the forefront. In a hurt voice, she asked, "Why did you do that to me? I was just a little kid."

A rare look of sympathy appeared on Genma. "The boy and I were going somewhere dangerous, and I made an error in judgment thinking I could take you along."

"I could have handled it," Ukyou said, tears filling her eyes as she learned the true reason behind her abandonment.

Genma shook his head. "Ranma was also promised to one of the Tendou girls, and I made that one long before I met you."

"I could make a much better bride for Ranchan than any of them! Not that I want to marry him. There's some other guy I have my eye on," she added quickly as visions of the hunky and noble Captain Japan danced through her mind.

Seeing her lost in thought, Genma nodded. "Good, good. It all worked out all right in the end, as usual. It's nice to know I haven't lost my touch in making things turn out all right. Not that anyone ever acknowledges it," Genma grumbled the latter part of the statement as he turned to go.

Ukyou called out, "Wait a second. I have just one more thing to do and then we'll be even."

"What is it?" Genma huffed.

Ukyou didn't answer immediately. Instead she reached into the secret compartment and pulled out an ordinary arrow. She then went to her desk, pulled out a magic marker, and began to write on the length of the shaft. After making a few scribbles, she put the cap on the marker back on and tossed it aside. "I had the wrong name on this," Ukyou explained as she drew it back in the bow.

Genma could just make out the word 'Ranma' having been crossed out and replaced by 'Genma' on the side. Fearing the worst, he drew back. "Now hold on, girl, I thought we had a deal."

Ukyou smiled menacingly. "I said I forgave Ranchan for dumping me. I didn't say I forgave you. Now hold still, and it'll be over quickly."

Genma screamed as he headed for the door.

"Hey, Pop. Why are you holding your butt like that?"

"Shut up, Boy!" Genma snapped, rubbing his posterior. "I made the supreme sacrifice for you today, so show some gratitude."

For a moment Ranma was about to ask what his father meant, then shut his mouth. Some things were best left unknown. Problems with his father's posterior were near the top of the list. "How are things with Ukyou?"

"She forgives you," Genma grunted.

Sensing the topic would best be left alone, since Ranma had a bad feeling it related to the problems with his father's bottom, he switched back to another one. "I really want to see Mom. Why don't we visit her tomorrow?"

"You mean you've decided on a girl?"

Ranma had already thought this argument through, and thought he had a way out. "Seeing Mom shouldn't have anything to do with marrying one of the girls. One promise doesn't have anything to do with the other, and it would be wrong to make her miserable by staying away from her any longer."

Genma was about to retort when he stopped and thought about the matter. It appeared the boy was dragging his feet regarding the engagement. With their obligation fulfilled, it would be safe to return Nodoka. Moreover, she had always been eager about the idea of Ranma marrying young and having grandchildren. She would no doubt push the boy into selecting one of the girls as well. Between him and his wife, they would be sure to force Ranma to choose one of them before the month was out. "A good idea, Boy. We'll go tomorrow."

The sudden change in attitude made Ranma suspicious, even if it was what he had wanted. "Really? No catch?"

"No catch." None on his part, anyway. Ranma might find himself firmly caught once his mother started encouraging him to become engaged, though. But that had nothing to do with Genma. It was Ranma who insisted on seeing her. Just because she didn't respond in the exact way Ranma wanted to was the boy's own fault, not Genma's. His conscience was clear, and his ass sore.

Ranma was relieved at finally securing his father's permission. Between that and his father solving the Ukyou problem for him (admittedly Genma had been responsible for it in the first place, but he caused problems all the time so it wasn't unusual), Ranma felt the urge to do something with him. Since Genma didn't look up to sparring, Ranma thought of something else. "Why don't we watch television? You can pick the show."

"As long as it doesn't involve sitting, fine."

The pair headed to the living room, only to see Akane and Kasumi were already there, watching the television.

"What's on?" Ranma asked.

"Talk show," Akane said.

"Change the channel. Talk shows are always boring," Ranma said.

Akane said, "They're about to interview some woman who's forming a group regarding superheroes."

"Oh?" That caught the men's interest. Ranma sat down on the end of the table, making certain he was equal distance away from both girls so no one could accuse him of preferring one over the other. Genma remained where he was, staring mournfully at the floor and rubbing his bottom. It looked like there was going to be a lot of standing in his immediate future.

All eyes were fixed on the television as the advertisement ended and they introduced the show's host. Sitting across from him at an angle, so the television cameras could show her entire face, was an older woman, attractive despite being in her mid-thirties. She wore a formal, if plain, white kimono, and had her reddish-colored hair tied into a bun.

Akane and Kasumi were so caught up in the show they failed to notice the Saotomes' reaction.

The interviewer spoke. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm your host, Ken Ootoki. It is my pleasure to introduce to you our special guest this evening, Nodoka Saotome." There was a brief moment of polite, obligatory applause. Once it died off, Ken continued, addressing Nodoka. "Now it's my understanding, Mrs. Saotome, that you've founded a group that's against superheroes."

"Not at all, Ken," Nodoka corrected. "We're against the immoral and indecent scoundrels that pose as superheroes. While they contend that they are trying to help society, what they are really doing is undermining the very fabric our culture rests upon with their vulgar and lewd acts. Whatever small benefits their defeat of supervillains might bring are vastly offset by their behavior, which far too many people find acceptable."

The interviewer nodded his head in agreement, despite what should have been his impartial status. "Can you give us an example of such so-called superheroes?"

"Easily." Now Nodoka seemed to be far more eager and emotional as she spoke. "At the forefront is this 'Bucky' bimbo everyone talks about. Since her first appearance fighting that mysterious flying vehicle in downtown Tokyo, she's been constantly stripping, flaunting her body before everyone. Why, just yesterday she pranced about naked before this very station's news program." She stared in disapproval at the host, as though he were responsible. "Now I ask you, is this the sort of behavior we want our children to emulate?"

"Polls show she is very popular, though," Ken pointed out.

"Popular, or merely notable? And what is it that makes her popular? Do people cite the lives she's saved, or how many times she jiggles when she throws a punch?"

A murmur of agreement began to emanate from the studio audience.

Nodoka continued. "I rest my case. Like far too many women, she's only known for her breast size, not her accomplishments, and her behavior only enables others to foster such sexist attitudes. She's little more than a garishly-dressed whore, and everyone knows who her pimp is."

"Captain Japan?" the interviewer asked.

Nodoka's anger bubbled through. "Of course! It's obvious he's the one in charge of their dubious relationship. They even have matching shields and costumes, yet she's referred to as his sidekick, a clear indicator of who is in charge. And yet he does nothing to stop her behavior. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if he's designed tear-away costumes for her. Lord knows they come flying off every time she exerts herself. And I have it on very reliable word that they sleep together. That such shameless people adorn themselves in our nation's flag makes me ill."

There was now loud cheering among the audience, and very, very few boos.

The interviewer said, "And yet, in spite of your criticisms, you claim you're not against superheroes?"

Nodoka's demeanor went from anger to tenderness. "On the contrary, I am very much in favor of them. I approve of them so much that my husband is training my son to become one. Their training is so arduous that they've been journeying for over a decade. I haven't seen them in over ten years." She dabbed at her eyes.

The audience "Aww"d in sympathy.

"Thank you," Nodoka said.

"I had no idea you sacrificed so much," Ken added.

Nodoka finished drying her eyes. "Yes, but it will all be worth it once my son completes his training and returns. He will be a man among men. A hero among heroes. A symbol of our country's greatness and what it means to be Japanese. In essence, the exact opposite of what Bucky and Captain Japan represent. This obligation to our country is so great that before they set out, they agreed that should they fail to live up to that promise they will be disowned from our family forever and shall be nameless from that day forward."

There was a collective gasp from the crowd.

"That seems a bit harsh," the interviewer said.

"It is a matter of family honor," Nodoka assured him. "And because it is such a hard path they have taken, how could I do any less? That is why I have formed the Citizens Against Immoral Superheroes. Already our membership is in the hundreds, and our numbers grow each day. Soon these false idols shall be torn down, and true heroes, like my son, will become the paragons of virtue our people should live by."

There was a deafening cheer from the crowd. The camera panned over the audience, showing it stood almost to a person as everyone applauded.

Ranma and Genma turned as pale as the older man's gi. Ranma turned to his father. "Remember what I was saying earlier about visiting you know who? I changed my mind. We should put it off for a good long while."

Genma could only nod his head in agreement.


To be continued.

Act 2, Scene 7
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