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Chapter 10

A Tenchi Muyo story
by D.B. Sommer

Disclaimer: Tenchi Muyo!, its characters and settings, © Hitoshi Okuda, AIC / Pioneer LDC, and Viz Communications, Inc.

All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at sommer@3rdm.net

Using all of his remaining strength, Tenchi staggered towards Mihoshiís prone form, barely able to make it to his feet without the use of his badly damaged hand and ruined leg. He stopped once he made it to her side. He fell to his knees as his vision swam out of focus and he nearly passed out a second time. It took several moments before enough of the pain subsided that he could think once again.

The hole in her uniform made locating the wound easy. It was several inches to the left of her sternum and had pierced clean through the upper part of her breast. Given the power of Malgauntís type of sidearm, Tenchi knew the blast had gone clear through to the other side. For a moment he hesitated to touch that area of her body, then he came to his senses as he realized it was no time for such prudish behavior. His fingers wouldnít respond to his wishes, so he was left to caress the hole ever so gently with the back of his hand. He could just make out the blackened flesh underneath, and that there was no apparent bleeding from the wound. Not that he was in any shape to bind her injury, but he would have found some way around the wound if he had to.

A feeling of panic began to rise in Tenchiís throat. It didnít seem like Mihoshi was breathing. And the location of the wound, right next to, if not right through, her heart, how could she not be de—

"Mihoshi!" Tenchi cried out in panic, hoping his voice would cause her to open her eyes. But nothing happened. The panic that had risen in his throat became a hand that grasped his heart and threatened to squeeze the very life out of him. She couldnít be dead. Not after everything they had gone through, everything they had suffered. They had beaten the odds and had somehow not only kept the Shihana out of the bad guysí hands, but had stopped the men as well. They had saved everyoneís lives. It wouldnít have been right for Mihoshi to give up her life in order to take out that Malgaunt person. She had won the duel, damn it!

It was all Tenchiís fault that she had been in that position to begin with. If he had kept his concentration and maintained his hold on the light hawk wings, he could have stopped Malgaunt. The corrupt Galaxy Police officer would have been as dangerous to Tenchi as an infant child. But instead, Tenchi had made a mistake and placed both himself and Mihoshi in jeopardy. It was her life that she had been forced to risk in that duel to correct that mistake. If she were dead he would never forgive himself.

Losing Mihoshi, losing someone close to him suddenly, would have been too much like losing his mother again. He was tired of losing the people he cared about. His mind involuntarily began reflecting upon the times he and Mihoshi had spent together, as though she had already passed from the veil of life. Everything that they had gone through since the start of their ill-fated vacation had been an enlightening experience for him, showing a depth to Mihoshi he had never realized before. She was certainly still frustrating, though in a different way from the other girls and in a manner that usually caused him considerably less stress. Her heartfelt sincerity and honesty had touched him in ways he had never felt before, and as his vision shimmered from tears of emotion instead of pain, he started to say, "Mihoshi, donít die. I think I might ló"

And then her eyes darted wide open.

"Ack!" Tenchi cried out as he fell backwards onto his rear end.

"Ohhh," Mihoshi let out a low moan. "That didnít feel good at all."

"Y… youíre alive!" Tenchi cried out. Tears of joy overcame the impending tears of sorrow.

Mihoshiís right hand slowly came up, and she poked her stomach. There was still feeling there. Weakly, she said, "As near as I can tell, yes."

Tenchi tried to get up, out of reflex by using his injured hand, and immediately went down in an agonizing heap. Still, he would not allow the pain to rob him of his happiness. He rolled over and raised himself up by doing a makeshift sit-up. "But you got shot right through the heart."

Mihoshi raised her head up off the ground just high enough to be able to see the wound in her chest. "Umm. Tenchi, thatís not where my heart is."

"It isnít?" he asked.

"No. Itís right over here." She brought her right hand over and pointed about five inches or so to the right of her sternum.

"It is?"

"Isnít yours?" she asked.

"No. Itís just a tad left of center."

"Oh, just like Juraians. Silly me. I should have remembered that. Anyway, the shot did go through one of my lungs." Seemingly out of breath from the brief conversation, her hand fell limply across her chest and her breathing became shallower.

"I thought you were dead. You didnít seem to be breathing." That was all Tenchi got out as he reexamined her as best as he could. He wondered if he could really be this fortunate, or if there was still some other shoe waiting to fall. Like a meteorite plunging through the skies and destroying the whole area with them in it.

Mihoshi looked at him through half-lidded eyes. "My body automatically shut down while it contracted the muscles near the top of my bronchial tube, that way my lung wouldnít collapse."

"You can do that sort of thing?" Tenchi asked, curiosity poking through the blanket of relief that had been thrown over him.

"Of course." Mihoshi spoke as though it was as obvious as putting loxvomit in oneís coffee. "Itís from the genetic reengineering our race used to do before they realized the dangers of universal genetic manipulation. Weíre completely immune to over eighty percent of the known contagious diseases in the galaxy, and our wounds heal really fast, and our skinís more resilient than most other peoples, and all sorts of other things were done to us that are pretty beneficial."

"Oh," was all Tenchi could think to say. "You donít look too good, though." Her skin had gone from its usual tan to an almost alabaster white and her breathing had become very raspy.

"I have a hole in my chest, Tenchi." Mihoshi sounded exasperated.

Tenchi would have hit himself on the head, if not for the fact the pain from his hand would probably have sent him into unconsciousness again. "Iím sorry. Itís just hard to think because of the pain." Now that the adrenaline that had been fueled by his initial fears of Mihoshiís death had run its course through his body, the agony from being shot through his hand and leg began to make him feel light-headed and dizzy. "Are you going to be all right?"

That required some thought on Mihoshiís part. She pondered that from her prone position. She too was feeling exhausted from her wound and the amount of energy her body had expended in preventing her from further harm. "For now. I got shot by a laser, so the woundís cauterized. But since Iíve only got one lung left, I wonít be able to do much heavy work. And if I donít get some medical help before too long, there could be some complication from infections or permanent damage from my injury. Mensans sometimes have problem with cloned organ rejection, you know."

"Actually, I didnít," Tenchi pointed out, though he was glad Mihoshi seemed to be out of immediate danger. "You think once we get rescued, they can do something about my hand and leg?" He held up the hand for Mihoshi to see.

She cringed at the sight. "Jurai has the best medical technology in the galaxy. Iím sure they can. Does it hurt bad?"

"Not really," Tenchi lied, firmly convinced she wouldnít see through the deception. "I think Iím going to pass out for a while."

"Me too." A wave of white passed before Mihoshiís eyes. She had never been shot as badly as this before. Actually, she had never been shot at all. She would never have guessed it was so exhausting. At least her bodyís endorphins were working and blocked out the worst of the pain.

She watched Tenchi roll back onto the ground and close his eyes, breathing regularly. It was taking everything she had to remain awake. She wanted to watch over Tenchi and make sure he remained all right, but she just needed to close her eyes for a moment. She wasnít going to sleep, really. Just rest her eyes, so tha…

Mihoshi fell asleep within moments.

Tenchi looked up at the twin suns and began to feel concern. He and Mihoshi had been essentially trapped in the clearing where the anti-grav sled had broken down for the last four days, and their supply of food had dwindled away to almost nothing. Neither of them could hunt considering the condition they were in. Luckily, they had been unaccosted in all of that time. Tenchi was now certain that Saíbre, Malgaunt, and their two companions had indeed been the last of the people looking for the Shihana. However, due to his and Mihoshiís injuries, they had been reduced to being able to sitting around, talking, and not much else. As many might have suspected when speaking extensively with Mihoshi, the conversation rarely became too deep or philosophical, but there was something nice about the way she jumped around from topic to topic and discussed her various life experiences, which were amazingly extensive for someone that was under twenty-five years of age. Mihoshi seemed fascinated by anything Tenchi had to say about Earth in general and his life in particular. There was nothing too irrelevant or obscure for her, and she listened to everything with rapt attention. That made their time together pass quickly while they remained entertained.

While the time off and lack of things attacking them was pleasant, there was that little problem with starvation to worry about. Their own supply of food had already dwindled to nothing, and they had resorted to using the rations they had found on Saíbre and his companions. Luckily they had grabbed them before they had given the bodies a proper burial, which, due to his and Mihoshiís injuries, took up most of the next two days. It was a good thing it had not taken them any longer, or else there would have been serious decomposition problems. As it was, when they finally buried Malgauntís body, it had begun to take on a very rank smell. Tenchi noted that in all of the stories of heroes he had grown up listening to, not one of them spoke of basic problems like corpse disposal.

The time Tenchi had also allowed him to reflect on Saíbreís death. As with Kagato, he felt very little in the way of remorse. He was sorry it had to happen, but there was no other choice. Part of him was glad that he would not be plagued by any nightmares or other such recriminations, but another part of him felt appalled at the seeming ease with which he dealt with his actions. Perhaps so long as a part of him felt bad about that, he would never have to fear becoming someone that gave little thought of killing others, like Saíbre.

Tenchi was inventorying the last of their rations, noting that Mihoshiís appetite had, if anything, increased from its normal levels, and that they had perhaps enough to last one more day. Mihoshi had begun to talk about the lessons taught in Dr. Lectorís survival course when salvation was delivered to them at last.

The spaceship was long and obsidian black, constructed of a mix of wood and metal. It was very wide, but cylindrical, reminding Tenchi of Aekaís own Ryu-Oh. Slowly, it descended through the clouds before settling in a position directly above the clearing their camp was in. Tenchi looked at in with a mix of apprehension and joy.

"Do you recognize it?" he asked.

"Itís from the Juraian Security Directorate," Mihoshi said. "Theyíre a specialized law enforcement unit for the Empire thatís under the Emperorís direct supervision. Lots of people call them spooks, but I donít think they look like ghosts at all. Theyíre not transparent or dead. Some of them are just as scary as ghosts, though. Maybe thatís where they get their nickname."

"Theyíre good guys, then." Tenchi breathed a sigh of relief. Mihoshi and he could finally get some much-needed medical attention and the Shihana would be in the proper authorities hands once again.

A beam of light shone down from the underside of the vessel and over thirty men and women, dressed in purple and blue battle armor with black helmets whose mirrored visors reflected everything, materialized in the light. Each one of them bore various lethal-looking weapons, all of them large. A squad of four officers bore down on Tenchi and Mihoshi while a handful of others went over to the Shihana and surrounded it. The remainder of the personnel secured a perimeter.

One of the men next to the Shihana wore a large metal cylinder that shone with a greenish hue on his back. A nozzle led from the cylinder to a sprayer in his hands. After adjusting some of the dials on the nozzle, he ordered the others to stand back. A gray-white gooey substance sprayed out from the nozzle. Both Tenchi and Mihoshi could see it form around the stasis field protecting the Shihana, but definitely not collapsing it. Within moments the Shihana was completely covered by a foot thick layer of the material, which, after several moments of contact with the air, went on to change from gray-white to a more jaundiced-looking yellow.

"Sylli Puddi," Mihoshi said quietly to Tenchi. "It gets just as hard as adamantium after several seconds of contact with the air. I got stuck in a pile of it once, right up to my waist. It took a team of demolition experts over nine hours to get me out. It was a good thing they got me out when they did too, because I had to go to the bathroom really bad. I couldnít cross my legs to hold it in or anythinó"

"Thatís a little more information than I needed," Tenchi said as he became increasingly nervous about the guns the officers surrounding him seemed intent on keeping aimed in his direction. "Umm, I donít suppose youíd consider pointing those things away and getting us some medical help? We are sort of wounded."

One of the women pulled out a black oblong box and pointed it at Tenchi. It didnít look like a gun, and since they already had plenty of those pointed in their direction at the moment, it did nothing to increase his unease. The box beeped, and a red light blinked upon its surface for a moment. She pointed it at Mihoshi, and the box beeped again.

"Sensor readings confirm their identities as Tenchi Masaki and Mihoshi Kuramitsu." The woman reattached the box to her belt, while the rest of the officers lowered their weapons. The woman began speaking to a communicator on her wrist. "We have two individuals requiring medical assistance. Punch up the bio-files we have on them and get them ready for treatment."

Within moments, Tenchi and Mihoshi found themselves enveloped in a beam of light and transported to the shipís medical bay. Immediately, they were surrounded by a host of men and women dressed in formal-looking red uniforms that were curiously somewhat reminiscent of the outfit his great-grandmother had worn during her visit to Earth.

The duo was quickly instructed to lie down on a couple of examination tables. One of the red-suited men took charge and with a gloved hand, gave Tenchi a small, five-inch diameter metal orb with rounded metal studs to hold. Someone did likewise for Mihoshi.

"Whatís this?" Tenchi asked.

"Contact anesthetic," the man informed him as Tenchi felt a numbness crawl up his arm and spread to the left side of his body. His hand went limp and the orb fell out of it. The red-suited man caught the sphere before it hit the ground. "When you wake up, youíll be as good as new."

Tenchi didnít hear a word as a drugged-induced sleep washed over him.

"Itís just a final informal debriefing," Sergeant Michikacu informed Tenchi. Mihoshi was at Tenchiís side, and the pair followed the slender man down the corridors of the ship.

It had been two days since he and Mihoshi had awakened from their medical treatment, both of them judged completely healed. They had even treated some potentially cancerous cells they had discovered in Tenchiís liver.

Immediately after they had been given a clear bill of health, they had been thoroughly interrogated by a host various investigators. Both together and separately, Mihoshi and Tenchi had been asked questions about the events that had occurred since the moment they had left Earth, to when they were rescued by the Directorate. Actually, only Tenchi had been asked the host of questions. Mihoshi was separated from Tenchi at first. The man that had been the first interrogator assigned to her had only asked one question: "Exactly what happened?" Mihoshi then proceeded to give an unbelievably detailed and exhaustive report on every single thing that had occurred during that time period, right down to how many times she ate and what the exact contents of each meal were. After talking for six straight hours she was finished. There were no further questions from that interrogator.

Mihoshi was removed from her isolated room and then placed in the same one with Tenchi. The first investigator left her, allowing a second one to take over and directed a question to Mihoshi. After he too asked, "What happened?" and the first couple hours of her speech were repeated verbatim, the Security Directorate ceased questioning her and concentrated on Tenchi. Mihoshi happily corrected him whenever he made an error about how an event occurred, and he had to concede she was right each time. After being interrogated on a second day, they were allowed to sleep for over nine hours, before being roused and taken to the commander for one final report.

The trio stopped before a large metal door at the end of the corridor. "This is where I leave you. Good luck." Sergeant Michikacu turned and began to retreat back down the hallway they had come from.

Tenchi was about to say something to the sergeant when the door irised opened. The duo looked at each other, shrugged, and accepted the unspoken invitation.

The first thing Tenchi noticed was that the chamber within was quite spartan. Dim lights ensconced in the ceiling reflected dully off mahogany-colored wooden walls that lacked even a single picture to break the monotony of the wall. The furniture consisted solely of a long metal desk with a variety of holograms hovering above it. Two plain-looking metal chairs, that reminded Tenchi of similar ones in his high school, sat in front of the desk. Even the floor was the same material as the flooring of the rest of the ship. The whole effect was very somber and drab, at least to Tenchiís way of thinking.

There were a couple occupants already in the room. Two men — both of whom appeared physically to be in their earlier thirties — one sitting in the chair behind the long desk and the other standing at ease next to him, were obviously waiting for Tenchi and Mihoshi. The one sitting wore the black uniform that Tenchi had learned was that of the Juraian Security Directorate, though this individualís was more elaborate than the others in that it used a black and silver motif that was obviously carefully tailored. His right breast held a variety of gold, green, and crimson decorations, which Tenchi assumed were awards of some kind. His long black hair was tied back severely into a ponytail, reminding Tenchi of the style his grandfather wore. Since the man was sitting down, Tenchi was uncertain of his height or weight, but he had the impression that the man was neither particularly tall nor heavyset. His nose was slightly hooked, and there was a look of intelligence in his eyes, both features reminding Tenchi of his great-grandmother. At present, there was a smile on his features and he radiated an aura of friendliness, but Tenchi had the feeling the kind gaze could change to a harsh glare in an instant.

The other man was of medium height and build. He too wore the same uniform of black and silver trim that the man seated had, though this one lacked the awards on his breast. His hair was blonde and short, a style similar to Tenchiís, though lacking the small ponytail he wore. The man was decidedly unremarkable in appearance, and would have blended in effortlessly into any crowd back home, even with the uniform he wore. The only unusual thing about him was that he wore glasses, octagonal framed. Not a style Tenchi had seen very often. Presently, they were gleaming in a way that hid the manís eyes, a curiosity since the roomís lights were actually quite subdued. In spite of this, Tenchi was certain he was being visually dissected in the same manner Washuu used when confronted with a problem that challenged her impressive intellect. The man raised his head slightly, the gleam disappearing and showing that he was doing no examination of the kind. He gave Tenchi a brief smile. Still, the man put Tenchi on edge for some reason he couldnít put a finger on. There was something almost Kagato-like about him, but not quite.

The man behind the desk hit a button and all of the floating holograms disappeared. He rose and bowed. "My name is General Shakari Shokai. My associate is Colonel Devon Stormhaven. Please, Mr. Masaki, First Class Detective Kuramitsu, be seated."

The two did as they were asked, waiting for the general to continue. They did not have to wait long.

"I apologize for any inconveniences you might have undergone during your stay with us, but I assure you it was necessary, given the circumstances."

Both Tenchi and Mihoshi nodded.

"Excellent. Iím glad you understand. Allow me to start off by thanking both of you. Your actions have prevented a madman from getting his hands on a genocidal weapon that would have killed billions and spread untold havoc across the empire. The galaxy owes you a debt it canít begin to pay."

"Actually, I do draw a salary for doing that sort of thing, so it is a debt that can and will be paid, sort of," Mihoshi pointed out.

Neither of the security men knew what to say to that statement. Tenchi just smiled at her. Oh, yes, he was definitely getting used to Mihoshi, in a weird sort of way. At least the things she said rarely threw him anymore.

"I… see. I suppose that is true, in a fashion," Colonel Stormhaven commented once he recovered from the odd pronouncement. 

Shakari cleared his throat, drawing the othersí attention to him once again. "In any case, we apologize for the need of the extensive debriefing, but it was necessary to determine exactly what happened. We had some facts and evidence that implied certain things, but we could not be confident in them until we had the details the two of you provided."

"And what exactly did happen, sir?" Tenchi asked. "I mean, from what Mihoshi says, itís a bit strange for the Security Directorate to be wandering around space. Not that Iím complaining about your rescuing us."

Devon and Shakari exchanged a glance. The general shrugged, then continued. "I think itís safe to explain a few things to you. After all youíve done, we owe you at least that much. Understand, the need for secrecy is of the utmost importance. What we tell you now can never leave this room. Do the two of you understand?"

"Yes, sir," both of them said as one.

Shakari nodded, then began pacing back and forth behind the desk. Devon made certain to stay out of his superiorís path. "It is no coincidence that we were out here and rescued you. Weíve actually had Marshal Malgaunt under investigation for the last couple of months and were trying to trace his movements. Somehow, he managed to avoid our surveillance long enough to contact Stargrave and initiate this plan. We knew he was crooked, but we had no idea that it was this bad. If we had, we would have brought him in a long time ago. However, he was a shrewd man, very clever. We had to be careful, or else he would have been able to destroy any evidence of his wrongdoing and escape justice. Perhaps itís better that he died on some backwater world instead of dragging him, and subsequently the Galaxy Police, through a messy trial that would have had been a tabloid feeding frenzy.

"In any case, we suspected he was up to something big, and when we got a distress call from the base the Shihana was stored upon, and once we ascertained its destruction occurred during one of Malgauntís inspections, we knew he had made his move. I have to admit, he managed to outfox us on this one, the sly devil."

Tenchi could not help noticing the near open admiration the general seemed to have for the corrupt marshal, and was slightly disturbed.

Shakari failed to notice Tenchiís slight shift in emotion and continued. "We began combing space for any trace of him and the plant. We did suspect that he might be involved with the Yagdagron, and paid very close attention to their supposedly secret communication frequencies. When we received an emergency distress call on their frequency, we headed directly towards it. You can imagine our surprise when we also discovered an emergency distress signal coming from a Galaxy Police vessel on the same planet as well. We searched the remains of Stargraveís ship, then investigated what was left of your Galaxy Police vessel. When we couldnít find you there, w…"

"Is Yukinojo all right?" Mihoshi blurted out.

Shakari seemed taken aback by Mihoshiís concern for the shipís AI. "Yes. His systems were intact. Heís currently residing in a back up for the AI on our ship. In any case, we did a planet-wide scan and discovered your location. It was quite easy, since you were the only humanoid lifeforms on the planet. You can also imagine our delight when we discovered you had the Shihana in your possession, and intact, too."

"You should just throw that stuff into the sun," Tenchi said. "Itís way too dangerous to be allowed to exist."

Devon interjected himself at this point. "It has been judged too valuable to be summarily destroyed. We need to find a cure for it first, just in case someone else has the technology to recreate the plant."

"In any case, it is not ours to destroy," Shakari said. "That can only be decided by the Emperor himself, and he has already made his feelings on the matter known. Weíll just find some place even more secret than the first, and this time make certain that even if there is a high level traitor in our midst, it still canít be taken over. We do learn from our mistakes."

The mention of the emperor reminded Tenchi of something else. He spoke quietly, almost inaudibly. "I mean to have a talk with my great-grandfather about some things. If what Saíbre… if what my uncle said was true, he has a lot to answer for."

Shakariís eyebrows creased for a moment. Then they unfurled as he gave Tenchi a knowing look. "Oh, about Saíber Stargraveís little story concerning his family history, it appears it was all a complete fabrication."

"What?!" Tenchi half-shouted. It didnít seem possible. Saíbre had spoken with such conviction. And why lie at that point? What could he have hoped to gain by spinning such a fanciful story that, by his own admission, he had told to almost no one else?

As though reading his mind, Shakari hit a button and a hologram appeared above the table, pointed in Tenchi and Mihoshiís direction. A number of lists of names appeared on the hologram. "We did a background search on any Allegra Masamotos that might have worked in the palace. No Allegras, and the only Masamoto that worked there was a man that was in his two hundreds when he signed on as a cook, and that was three thousand years ago. In addition, we tried running a general search on the name Again we came up with nothing. There is no Allegra Masamoto in the Empire."

"But he sounded so sure," Tenchi said.

"Most likely to gain sympathy from you," Devon said from Shakariís side. "He probably figured if he implied the two of you were family, and that he was a victim of the Empire, you might join him. Or at least hesitate to kill him, which would leave him with the opening he needed to kill you."

"Besides," Shakari said, taking control of the situation again. "Itís quite impossible for the Emperor to have fathered any bastards."

"Why is that?" Tenchi asked.

Shakari shifted uncomfortably for a moment. "Well, Saíbreís claims about the Emperorís appetite for women is actually accurate, though not to the degree he implied. In any case, in order to make certain he doesnít father any children out of wedlock, the Emperor takes Bobbiticide 347. Itís a form of birth control that kills sperm. Itís guaranteed 99.998% effective. Itís why there arenít hundreds little princes and princesses running around. Heís been on it since long before Stargrave could have been born."

That did seem to make sense to Tenchi. "So there have never been any Ďmesses taken care ofí, like Saíbre implied?"

Shakari shrugged. "In previous emperorsí reigns, I canít be certain. They wouldnít have kept records of those sorts of actions, and no one from the previous administration would admit to doing something like that, but I can guarantee Azusa certainly never has. I would never condone such a thing, and Iíve been the head of the Security Directorate since Azusa was coronated as Emperor."

"But what about the light hawk wings?" Tenchi asked, praying that Shakariís information was right about everything.

Shakari shrugged. "Correct me if Iím wrong, but even the self-proclaimed Greatest Genius in the Universe, Washuu Hakubi, could not figure out the exact reason you yourself can employ the light hawk wings, correct?"

"Well, yes," Tenchi reluctantly admitted.

"Since, to date, no one outside of yourself as ever been able to generate the light hawk wings, including every other member of the royal family past and present, youíll forgive me if thatís not really enough to go on. It is indeed a mystery, but it indicates nothing of Stargraveís true heritage, especially with the other information we have on hand."

Tenchi felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. So his fears had been unjustified. Still, he should probably make absolutely certain and double-check with his great-grandmother. She was the Inspector General of the Ministry of Information, and independent of the Security Directorate, according to Mihoshi. He could trust her, and she would be able to find out for certain. Besides, she needed to be informed of her husbandís infidelity. She might have known already, and Tenchi did feel something like snitch for wanting to tell her, but she had a right to know.

Shakari sat back in his chair and cleared his throat. "There is one remaining detail we have to clear up."

"What is it?" Mihoshi got out before Tenchi.

Shakari seemed hesitant to say anything, but after a moment, in which he took a deep breath, he began. "You see, under Imperial law, we canít allow either of you to have any recollection of the Shihanaís existence. That means memory erasure right up to the moment you met up with the Yagdagron dreadnought."

"WHAT?!" Tenchi and Mihoshi shot to their feet.

"You canít do that!" Tenchi shouted.

"Itís not fair!" Mihoshi wailed.

There was obvious sympathy in Shakariís eyes. "Only the members of the Emperorís inner council, several members of the Ministry of Science, several members of the Security Directorate, and the Emperor himself are allowed to know. Everyone on this ship, but myself and Colonel Stormhaven are also going to have to have their memories erased as well."

"But Iím the Emperorís great-grandson." Tenchi pleaded. He felt ignoble in trying to use his heritage to gain him favors — it just wasnít the way he did things — but he was desperate. To lose all of his memories, especially the ones of the time he had spent with Mihoshi, was too much to ask.

Shakari gave a sad shake of his head. "The royal edict is specific; no one else can know. We would even have to wipe out either of the princesses memoriesí if they had discovered the truth."

"But I donít want my memories erased," Mihoshi wailed, tears pouring from her eyes as she fell to her knees and began groveling. "Tenchi and I spent so much time together, and it was good too, except for the people trying to kill us and crash landing and getting wounded and not getting to the beach where we wanted to go to. But aside from that it was perfect and I donít want to forget it."

Devon tried kicking Mihoshi from off his leg. "Now cut that out! Youíre a grown woman and a member of the Galaxy Police. Youíre a hero, even if no one can be allowed to know it. Try acting like one."

"Not if it means giving up all of the bonding experiences I shared with Tenchi." Mihoshi remained steadfastly attached to his leg.

"There is another way," Shakari said.

"There is?"

"Yes, Detective Mihoshi. And would you mind not pleading on my desk? I know itís rust-proof but with the way youíre crying, Iím not sure if even the specialized treatment can withstand it."

"Sorry," Mihoshi said as she got off the desk.

The general cleared his throat. "Now, as I was saying, there is an alternative. Recently, a new technique of memory adjustment has been developed. Instead of simply wiping out oneís memory, a different set of memories can be substituted. Now, the procedure is over a hundred times more expensive than the standard one, but under the circumstances, since you, Mr. Masaki, are a member of the royal family, and since you both saved the Empire and countless lives, I think we can overlook the expenditure."

Tenchi and Mihoshi embraced one another in joy. Shakari smiled at the look of rapture on their faces. Even Devon seemed to nod in approval.

After the duo had calmed down, Tenchi turned to the pair of Directorate officers. "What sort of memories will you be putting in for the substitution?"

"Instead of the Shihana, weíll change it to a shipment of pyriteiron, one of the most valuable substances in the galaxy. That should work, I think. Do you agree?" Shakari gave a questioning glance towards the duo. The looks on their faces told him all he needed. "Iíll inform the medical staff of their new instructions. I think you can find your way there with little difficulty. Thatís all now. Youíre free to go."

"Sure. Itís no problem." Tenchi bowed at the man in appreciation, then turned to go. Just as he was almost out the door, he said. "Thanks again for going out of your way to help us."

"No problem," Shakari said as both he and Devon bowed before the younger duo until the door irised shut behind them. They pair of Directorate officers remained that way for a full minute, until Devon rose and broke the silence.

"Itís too bad we failed to develop a type of Bobbiticide 347 that the Emperor wasnít allergic to three years earlier, then we would never have had this whole Stargrave mess placed in our hands."

"That worm-eaten prick!" Shakari roared as he slammed his fist on the desk, rattling it from the force of the blow. "Itís not enough that he has that perfection of divine beauty, Misaki, as his wife, but he marries that insufferably nosy alien bitch as well and still continues to sleep around with yet more women!"

"I think itís his way of rebelling against his wives," Devon offered. "They do keep him on a tight leash."

"Sometimes I think the dog deserves it!"

It took some effort for Devon to restrain his amusement. "Calling the Emperor names like that is grounds for dismissal."

"To the Nine Rings with that!" Shakari shot back. "Iím his cousin. Weíve grown up together all of our lives. Hell, Iíd have been seneschal of the palace if I hadnít enrolled in the Security Directorate. Iíll bloody well kick him in the balls when we get back if I feel like it. And Iíll laugh about it afterwards, too." The look he shot Devon indicated he meant every word.

From what Devon could tell, regardless of Shakariís loyalty to Azusa, he still bore him ill will for the unrequited love the general carried for the Empress. According to Shakari, it went all the way back to when the three of them were children playing on the grounds of the palace. According to the general, it was Azusa who had lusted after Misaki and stole her away from Shakari, whom she truly loved. According to everyone else around at the time, Misaki had relentlessly pursued Azusa (and she had to pursue him, for he usually ran as fast as he could from her) from the time they were about eight until she finally managed to catch him shortly before his ascension to the crown. Shakari had been nothing more than a shy boy who lacked the nerve to tell her how he felt, and Misaki had seen him as nothing more than a friend whom she enjoyed tormenting frequently, especially when they were younger. Still, Shakariís loyalty was to Azusa first and foremost. Some of the actions he had engaged in in the name of the Emperor were evidence enough of that.

There were matters to consider other than Shakariís future dealing with the Emperor. "You know, if the Inspector General of Information finds out we lied to her about when the Emperor started taking 347, sheíll have our heads on a platter." Devon watched closely to gauge his commanderís reaction.

"Leave that to me. I can handle that lard-butted narf farmer."

This time Devon failed to reign in his amusement as a wide grin split his face. Shakariís various (and usually creative) epithets for Funaho were always entertaining. The colonel envied his commanderís inventiveness and foul tongue. Most assuredly he had never heard any other member of royal blood talk in such a manner. The very concept of someone farming narfs made Devon want to cringe as well as laugh out loud, though he did disagree on the condition of Funahoís posterior. It had always seemed quite well formed to him on the occasions that he was in the Inspector Generalís presence. Very nice, indeed.

Despite what some people theorized, the Ministry of Information worked quite independently of the Security Directorate. They did work together frequently, especially on larger and important matters, but there were very different objectives at the core of each. The Ministry took care of the day-to-day matters of the empire, from controlling the media to more important things, like the matter of Ryoukoís gems. The Security Directorate did those things too, but the emphasis was more on covert operations and other, more Ďdirtyí work, which was kept hidden from the rest of the population. Rumors still leaked out, though, hence the poor reputation for the Security Directorate amongst the citizens of the Empire.

Technically they were supposed to share all of their information with the Ministry of Information, as well as vice-versa, but both sides held out against the other, even going so far as to have a handful of low-level spies in each otherís ranks. Funaho had tried several times to absorb the much smaller Directorate into the Ministry, but Azusa had remained adamant about the separation between the two departments. Openly he said it was because they each had a different emphasis upon doing the same job, which was necessary for the continued effectiveness of the Empire (which was true). In reality, it was as much to quietly dispose of potential messes the Empire had to deal with in ways that would have made the Empire look bad. Blackmail, assassinations, torture of suspected rebels, taking care of complicated and distasteful problems like imperial bastards, and similar duties.

Funahoís contention was that such actions were immoral (but not illegal. The Emperor was technically all-powerful, even if the reality of the matter was different) and that it eroded the populousí confidence in the Empire. Azusa — and the Directorate — disagreed and claimed that such things were necessary to keep things running smoothly which, in turn, made the masses happy. Ultimately, happiness was what the public wanted, and they were prepared to pay the price to receive it; they just didnít want to have the price tag rubbed in their faces was all.

The only times Funaho really suggested absorbing them anymore was when she caught wind of some of the more questionable actions on the Directorateís part, and would take the Emperor to task for it. Given his generally whipped condition, he would cave in and reprimand or order all actions on some mission to be suspended. One of the worst times though, was when Funaho caught wind of what steps the Directorate had taken in disposing of the potential messes the Emperor made when he slept around with other women. It wasnít so much that Funaho disapproved of the fooling around — apparently she was willing to tolerate such actions as long as Azusa used discretion — it was what was done with the mess afterwards.

Allowing any royal bastards to exist was just plain stupidity in light of what had happened with past ones, but Funaho wasnít willing to see it that way, or give in to the Emperorís rationales. Up to that point, he had been unwilling to use any of the more popular (and effective) methods of male birth control, claiming they made him feel weak and out of sorts, but in order to give in to his wifeís demands he agreed to use 347. It was shortly after using it that he discovered he was allergic to it. He ordered that a version that he was not allergic to be created. Not wanting to bother his wife with Ďpetty details,í no mention of that fact was made. While it was still being devised he continued sleeping around, resulting in almost a half dozen situations that the Directorate had to take care of before a version of 347 was developed that he could use.

But now it appeared one of the Ďproblemsí had somehow slipped through their screen. Now it was time to cover their tracks. Luckily, they were very skilled at that sort of thing.

"What are we going to do?" Devon asked.

Shakari calmed down almost instantly and considered the situation. "First, we need to erase any record of Allegra Masamotoís existence in the royal palace. Use the special backdoor programs in the Royal Archives to do it. Even the nosy bitch is unaware of that program. And I want an investigation as to how this Allegra woman slipped through our screen. It might have been a fluke, but if it was by design, then there might be some more Imperial bastards out there, and that could mean potential trouble. Officially, say weíre doing an investigation into possible corruption in the Royal Medical Staff. Make sure we nail someone to add credence to it. Falsify some evidence if you have to.

"I want the survivors of the Rack NíRuinís crew disposed of as well. I doubt if they know any of the truth, but weíre not taking any chances. Weíll get copies of all of Malgauntís files to make sure he didnít mention Stargraveís heritage anywhere. I sincerely doubt heíd have been sloppy enough to leave a hard copy of that sort of thing lying around, but we must be thorough. Luckily, Stargraveís body was eradicated. That means no DNA evidence. Atomize the remains of the Rack NíRuin just to make sure. Backcheck Karastaed: make sure the mother really is dead. Stargrave kept this a closely guarded secret, so Iím inclined to believe him when he said that he only shared his true heritage with those people he mentioned."

"Which means only this Autolycus creature still knows," Devon finished as he watched his superior in admiration. The man was unbelievably brilliant.

"Yes," Shakari said pensively. "I truly wonder what he is. Neither of those survivors of the Rack NíRuin seemed to know, and thereís no record of such a race existing in the known galaxy. You say thereís absolutely no trace of anomalous lifeforms on the planet?"

"We tripled-checked it, Sir."

Shakari seemed mollified somewhat at that. "Run one more check, but I doubt if youíll come up with anything. Most likely heís dead somewhere on the planet. If he had some sort of ship, heíd have used it to rescue the others and retrieve the Shihana, and weíd have a much bigger problem on our hands. Still, weíll leave a death warrant on him for his participation in the Tartarus Affair. Since that whole operation was covert, his death warrant will be too. Even that tight-assed bitch canít complain about that."

"And what do we do about Masaki and Kuramitsu memories?"

Again Shakari had to consider that. "Weíll replace all references to Stargraveís heritage to the Royal family with some mindless revolutionary talk. Exchange the light hawk wings he used with some advanced form of energy sword and forcefield combination that weíre lamenting we didnít get our hands on. Make sure it didnít appear as powerful as the boyís wings, though. After all of thatís done, send a sanitized report about the whole affair to the Ministry of Information. With this new intelligence, we can send the main fleet after the Yagdagron and take care of their little would-be rebellion. Weíre going to come out smelling like heroes when this is all said and done. I think that should take care of all the loose ends."

"Then the case of Saíbre Stargrave will be closed at last," Devon said pensively.

Shakari shrugged. "It doesnít really matter. In the end, he was nothing more than a pirate. Virtually everyone that knew him is dead. Itís not like thereís anyone that will miss someone like him."

At that moment, somewhere else far, far away, Shakariís statement was proven wrong as a being of tremendous age sighed at the way events had unfolded. No matter what problems he had had, Saíbre had deserved a better fate than that. All that potential, and in the end it had amounted to nothing, and he had lived and died as most other men did. For others that would have been enough, but for Saíber, it should have been so much more. It really was such a waste.

With Saíbreís passing, it was time to wander the universe once again and see if he could come across and help another being that held the potential for great change once again.

After all, Autolycus had to do something to pass the time.


To be continued.

Author's notes: Yep. Thatís that for the main story. Only the epilogue to go.

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