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La Princesa Antigua
By Rob Barba

 

Yes, I've finally started writing again after a brief hiatus. Hope you
enjoy. ^_^
Ja ne,
--Rob
rob@mitsukai.com / mara@megami.net

AIM: mitsukaicom
Mitsukai! - http://www.mitsukai.com

Some will die in hot pursuit and firey auto crashes
Some will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes
Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountian
That is pouring like and avalance coming down the mountian
--the Butthole Surfers

======

La Princesa Antigua
By Rob Barba

Tenchi Muyo! (c) Pioneer et al.

She stood on a beach, looking at the waters of the Mediterranean Sea
splash upon the shore, washing each of the infinite number of sand grains,
creating more from the detritus of the brine, breaking apart the last
remains of others. It had been this way since the body of water began, and
there was no reason to believe that it was going to change any time soon.
It hadn't since she'd begun her daily ritual of coming here, nor even from
the time she moved here.
After a few more moments, she could feel the caressing, gentle rays of
the sun as it came up over the horizon, on the east. Climbing centimeter by
centimeter into the growing blue, it began to blanket the town of Malaga in
its life-giving blanket of love, the symbol of whatever gods created the
huge cosmic lantern to protect whichever people it lit upon. It too had
been nourishing the southern Spanish countryside for an infinite time, part
of the cycle of life and death that she'd seen around here for the longest
time.
Smoothing her dress to accommodate sitting down, she grounded herself on
the sand, continuing to watch the sunrise and the seabirds flit about, their
acrobatic motions entertaining her as they jousted with the sea in attempts
to gain a meal from it. She chuckled softly as one of them swooped towards a
cresting wave, chasing a fish that had come far too close to shore for its
own safety. It had been saved by the wave, which had nearly plowed into the
avian. The bird managed to get away unharmed, but it was also denied its
meal as the fish learned its lesson, likely swimming back out to sea. It
had escaped a fate that it never wanted, and wasn't prepared for.
((As have I,)) the woman thought. ((Or have I? I wasn't prepared for
this, and I didn't want it, but now I don't think I could have ever lived
without it,)) she admitted to herself as she continued to watch the sun
clear the distant horizon, bound for its daily routine.


"Watching the sun again, Do?a?" a voice at her side said. A man of more
years than she appeared to have sat down beside her. "You always sit out
here, watching the waves, as if you're looking for something that you'll
never find, or in wistful loss of something that you'll never know." He
turned to her, his weather-beaten, aging face showing a tenderness that
could not be mistaken for anything other than love. "My dearest Princesa
Antigua."
The woman blushed. "You know it wouldn't work out between us,
Salvador," she told the middle-aged Spaniard. "I'm eternal, and you've aged
so much since I knew you. Remember, I was there when you were born."
Salvador chuckled. "Of course you were, my dearest Ayeka. You were
here before my parents, my grandparents, and everyone else in this town.
You've lived in the same spot in Malaga for the past three hundred years!
But that does not matter to me. I have loved you since I have known you,
and I still wish to marry you, even if I am nothing but an aging banker and
you are an immortal princess from another world."
"No, not a princess anymore. I haven't been one for three hundred
years, not since...." She stopped speaking, as if there had been a line
that she did not cross. Changing the subject, she asked, "But Salvador,
look at you and I. It's known to everyone that I'm in my mid-7000s, while
you just turned 38 this year. And yet you look 38, and I still look 18
after all these years - and that estimate may still have me as too old! The
locals would know and wouldn't care, but what about others? Could you go
places, trying to explain that not only are you not a cradle-robber nor am I
a teenager? Juraians are still not quite understood as a different branch
of humanity than Terrans, so people would only laugh if we tried to explain
that *I'm* the older one, and if anything, *I'm* cradle robbing. Pretty
much literally, since I knew you when you were in the cradle," she added
with a smile.
"I've never cared about that," Salvador answered, running his hands
through his mane of hair. "I've never cared about anything but you, Ayeka.
But it is a shame that after all this time, you do not love me."
"No, it's not that," she countered. "Were I Terran or you Juraian, I
would have married you. Believe me, I would have been honored to. And I do
love you, enough that sometimes I wonder if I've made the right decision.
But it's best for us this way. Maybe not what is right, but what is best."
Salvador nodded, but there seemed to be a sense of defeat in that head
bob. "I understand, Ayeka. I'll leave you alone, then." But as he got up,
she reached up and grabbed his arm. "What?" he asked.
"Don't go," she said, her voice soft. "Don't get me wrong: I said I
love you, but I cannot marry you. That doesn't mean I want you to go,
though." Her eyes held, if such a contradiction could be found, love,
uncertainty, and steadfastness, and for a slight second or two she looked
like the teenaged girl she always seemed to be.
"I never do, but I have to go now. I promised Eunegio that I would
help him work on his s-car today. I must go." But before he did, he bent
down, giving her a kiss on the lips, whispering, "I shall never leave you,
my beloved Princesa Antigua." With that, he trudged up the shore, back
towards the boardwalk, and in a few minutes, he was gone.
Aeka Juraino, once the crown princess of the Juraian Empire, sat on the
empty beach in the wee hours of the morning as the sun had cleared the
horizon. And none but the sun and the seabird could be witness to that
ancient princess as she wept unashamedly.


An hour or so later, she trudged up the steps to her beachside house in
Malaga. The property had been owned by her forever, even though the house
had been rebuilt several times in the past three centuries. However, she
always used the same design, and the two story house, made of a twentieth
century Japanese design, looked oddly out of place against the traditional
white-painted homes of the local Andalusian culture or the distant
superskyscrapers and futuristic landscape of Gibraltar. But it was a
reminder of the only place in the universe where she'd really felt at home,
which was why she kept it that way. She couldn't live in the original house
anyway, as not only were there too many memories involved, but the Emperor
of Jurai had donated it to the regional government in Asia as a museum site.
Opening the door and setting her sandals down on the floor, she walked
in, calling out, "I'm home, Neva, Pedro-okhi. Don't worry about breakfast,
I'm not really that hungry." She walked into the living room and promptly
collapsed on the sofa. A second later, Pedro-okhi, her pet cabbit, hopped
on her, mewing and curling into a cuddly ball on her chest, waiting to be
petted. A calico-colored cabbit, Pedro-ohki had been a gift from the
Empress on Aeka's last birthday. He'd been born with a birth defect that
prevented him from converting into a starcraft like others of his kind, but
that was fine for Aeka. She hadn't left Earth since 2004, anyway.
"Oh, you're home!" A girl, similar in physical age to Aeka came into
the room and nearly glomped her, pausing only when she realized she would
have crushed Pedro-ohki. "I've missed you so, Ayeka!"
"Um, Neva, I only went to watch the sunrise," Aeka answered.
"Still, it's good to see you home!" The adolescent exuberance in the
girl cheered Aeka up immensely, something she felt she needed now. But that
was just Neva Del Rios' way. A girl with short aqua hair, eyes of a
brilliant turquoise hue, and fair skin, people would at first think Neva to
be like Aeka, a teenager. In truth, Neva was older than Aeka, and she
wasn't even human. Neva was a water sprite, one of the legendary dones
d'aigua of northern Spain; on a vacation to Catalu?a about 180 years ago,
Ayeka found developers trying to destroy an ancient fountain that was Neva's
home. Sensing the other girl as something other than a normal human, Neva
revealed her presence to Aeka, pleading for her intervention; Aeka was moved
by the being's plight and bought the site from the developers, demanding
that it be left as is other than some minor restoration to improve the
historical beauty of the place. In return for that act, Neva pledged
herself to be Aeka's servant until the end of time though she hadn't needed
one.
In the successive decades since, Neva had become Aeka's closest friend,
one that she was glad was there. The Spanish water sprite, in the end,
turned out to be the perfect thing that the Juraian ex-princess had needed
for her voluntary exile on Earth, even if she had the bad habit of needing
excessive water usage - if both women weren't so well off (Aeka with her
investments and the sizable monthly stipend she received from the Juraian
government, and Neva with the inexplicable treasure that is the birthright
of all Spanish water sprites), their water bills would have put them in the
poorhouse.
The water sprite then noticed the tear tracks on Aeka's face. "Oh, you
ran into Salvador again, didn't you?"
Aeka nodded sadly. "Is it that obvious?"
"Ayeka, we've known each other for a long time, and he's the only person
I've ever seen that you've loved. I know your heart beats for him like
there's no tomorrow, and I wish that I could find someone like that for me,
and yet you're in the same boat as I am - most of our choices around here
are mortal. She kneeled by the couch, putting her head on Ayeka's lap, not
far from Pedro-ohki. "I wish I could help you find your happiness, Aeka.
You made me happy, and I haven't been able to return the favor."
"Neva, you're my best friend, and you've made me happier than you kn-"
The soft chime of the commsystem went off, and Aeka groaned. Who in their
right mind would be calling at seven in the morning? "Computer," she
inquired to the air, "who is calling at this time, and is it full holo,
holovid, or audio?"
"DETECTING," the computer answered before adding, "CALL IS FULL
HOLOGRAPHIC INTERFACE. ATTEMPTING TO CONFIRM IDENTITY OF TRANSMISSION."
"I see," Aeka said, handing her cabbit to Neva and getting off the
couch. Unlike Audio, which was sound only; and Holovid, which was just a
screen, transmitting a view that someone could sit down for; it was usually
considered impolite to be seated when you had a guest by Full Holo. A
combination of holography and forcefields, the presentations were meant to
imitate an actual person paying a visit. With the necessity of that
advanced of a commsystem to pull that off, they were very expensive and only
a few private citizens on Earth had them, most of the units belonging to the
government, the military, or corporations. That information alone told Aeka
likely who was calling her now.
Sure enough she was right. "TRANSMISSION CONFIRMED AS COMING FROM THE
IMPERIAL PALACE ON JURAI. WILL YOU ACCEPT?"
Aeka nodded tersely. "Yes, I'll take it."
There was a shimmering swirl of sparkles in the room as the image began
to come into shape and the forcefields began to approximate the shape of the
person - clearly female, from the way the fields were converging on the
matrix. Eventually it stopped, and a girl stepped out of the mist.
Slightly younger in appearance than Aeka, she had long indigo hair tied into
two ponytails that raced down her back, and amber eyes that couldn't hold
the warmth and cheeriness in them, no matter how much she tried to look
dignified. The girl wore a white kimono similar to the one that Akea used
to wear when she had been the crown princess, and the golden tiara that sat
on her head shone with a brilliance that was dulled in contrast to its
wearer's beauty. And although the girl in the hologram tried to look very
dignified, the closest she came to it was looking completely and utterly
bored.
Aeka gave herself an inward grin - Mayuka tried so hard to be the best
crown princess that she could be, and it hadn't been fair to her when Aeka
abdicated, leaving the younger girl in the role. But she was trying, and
that's what mattered. "Hello, your highness," Aeka said with as much
formality as she could.
Mayuka, still trying hard to hold a straight face, nodded slightly to
her elder. "Lady Aeka, it is good to see - oh, I can't *do* this!" The girl
smiled brightly, leaping forward to hug Akea, who got a slight static jolt
from the amount of forcefield energy hitting her at once. "Oh, I missed
you, Aunt Aeka!"
Aeka held the holographic girl, feeling warm inside from the static
charge and the emotions of holding her niece. "So what prompted you to
call, Mayuka? Aren't you busy with affairs of state and all that?"
"But affairs of state are so *booooooorrring*," Mayuka complained as she
got out of her aunt's embrace. "I want to be a warrior like Mommy and Daddy
were!"
"Mayuka, it's hardly ladylike for the Crown Princess of Jurai to be
fighting, you know. And yes, I know that's a hypocritical statement, you
needn't remind me," she added a split-second later. "But enough of that.
Why did you call? Of course I'm glad you did, but I thought you would have
paid a visit or something."
Mayuka nodded. "I wanted to, but unfortunately we need you here at the
palace, Aunt Aeka. Something's come up."
Aeka visibly bristled at that. "I...can't come back. I'm persona non
grata back there. Don't you think there's a reason why you're the Crown
Princess now and I gave up the crown?"
Mayuka pouted. "But Aunt Aeka, we need you here! Everyone does! I
don't know why you left us, but I wish you'd come back!" The girl seemed on
the verge of tears, somehow unable to understand why her prodigal relative
wouldn't return to the fold. "Please!"
The pleading tones of her niece cut Aeka to the quick, but she held
firm. She had every reason not to go back and the more she thought about
it, the better it was that she never stepped foot on Jurai again. "Mayuka,
you are the Crown Princess, now. It is underneath your station to beg."
((Unless you're trying to win the heart of someone you love)), she added
with bittersweet silence, remembering a time when she herself had acted much
the same way. "Secondly, I cannot. I have much to do here on Earth as the
Juraian Ambassador."
"Oh bullshit," a new voice snarled, as the commsystem began to create a
second holo-simulacrum. Within a second, the woman who had raised Mayuka as
her own daughter stood before Aeka, the woman who was now Tenchi's wife and
the Empress of Jurai - and the irony of *that* was something that legions of
Jurians talked about on a regular basis.
"Ryoko," Aeka whispered fondly. Her oldest rival and dearest friend,
the one who'd eventually won Tenchi's hand, managed to convince an entire
galaxy that her pirating skills were suitable for ruling an empire, and
eventually met her match in her daughter. "My, aren't we looking
exceptionally royal today," she joked, noting the very common clothing Ryoko
was wearing. Aeka smiled while trying not to laugh; Ryoko would never
change. Though she's the Empress of myriad worlds now, she still acts very
much the Space Pirate.
"Aeka," Ryoko said, just as tender in her tones as Aeka had been.
"Look, stop feeling sorry for yourself and come back. It wasn't your
fault." When Aeka crossed her arms and said nothing, Ryoko got the hint.
"Mayuka, can you do me a favor and go see what your Aunt Sasami's doing? I
have to talk to Aeka in private."
"But - " Mayuka tried to argue, and was met with a hard stare. "Yes,
Mother," the girl said, bowing to the image of Ryoko; apparently the girl
had chosen to be mature about it for a change. Turning slightly to Aeka,
she said, "I'll call you again later tonight, Aunt Aeka." With that, the
image of Mayuka quickly derezzed into sparkles as the girl ceased her
transmission.


Both old friends stared at each other for the longest time before Ryoko
said, "You didn't have to do that, you know. She knows. Tenchi and I told
her."
"That's not the point," Aeka challenged. "I don't want her to know."
Ryoko fumed, exploding into anger instantly. *"AEKA, FOR THE LAST TIME,
IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!"*
"Easy for you to say," Aeka said, her tones dropping to that of ice.
*"YOU WEREN'T THERE!!!!!!"* The memories flooded in on Aeka, the images in
her mind merciless and still as fresh as they'd been on the day it had
occurred. From behind her, she could hear Neva gasp. In all the years
she'd known the sprite, Aeka had never told her, and there was good reason
not to. Aeka slumped to the ground, the tears coming once more.
Aeka felt someone embracing her, thinking at first that it was Neva. A
second later, she felt the buzz of energy, and knew it had been Ryoko who
had run to her aid.
"Aeka, we never believed that you killed them. That's why no action was
ever taken against you. You didn't have to abdicate. You didn't have to
leave." Ryoko was firm in her tones, kinder to the ex-princess than she'd
been in a while. "Everyone always wondered why you snapped that day, and
now we know: you *didn't* do it."
"Huh?" she asked, surprised at Ryoko's words. Standing slightly behind
her, Neva had a look of confusion on her face that spoke volumes; she'd
known Aeka forever, but this was the first time she'd heard of any
wrongdoing by the Juraian.
The image of the Juraian empress let go of her friend and scooted back a
few centimeters. "We recently found evidence that proves you've been
framed, Aeka. If we're right, someone else committed the crime, and left
you holding the bag. Remember the evidence the security cameras had when
you found yourself there? My mother's been going over the evidence, over
and over again at our request. After all this time, we found evidence of a
psychotropic drug, as well as DNA spoor that was where the camera said you
were not."
"But why so late? Why just now?"
Ryoko sighed. "The drug that we found wasn't created until last year.
Yet it seemed to have existed for three hundred years before it's actual
invention? You know as well as I do that's impossible - and yet, it
happened. Secondly, Juraian DNA is slightly hardier than Terran DNA is, so
it lasts longer. It was found over by the central fountain, and according
to the scan, it's as old - to the hour - as that from the crime scene.
Ryoko paused, then continued. "If that isn't enough for you, there have
been sightings of you running around the galaxy for the past four hundred
years. At first, we thought it was a rumor, or someone who looked similar.
But that idea was quashed two weeks ago when Sasami went on an ambassadorial
trip to the Avedrai system. The premier there had an adviser named 'Aiecca'
who he never introduced Sasami to, but she had a couple of her people
investigate. It turns out that this Aiecca person was none other than you.
Shortly after this was discovered, the Avedran premier there was found
murdered, and Aiecca was nowhere to be found."
"But that's impossible! I haven't left Earth in four hundred years!"
"We know. We checked with both your staff at the embassy *and* Earth
Immigrations."
"So you're saying...?" Aeka breathed, as though a doorway to something
unknown just opened.
"You were framed," Ryoko answered. After a stately pause, the empress
continued. "This other woman is like you in every way, shape, and form.
She's not a clone - a copy of the investigative report that Mihoshi obtained
for us indicated no sign of genetic drift."
"Investigative report?"
"Yes, the one regarding the Avedran premier. Likewise, she's not an
android or magical construct. There's another you out there, and she's the
one who committed all those crimes!"
"But how...how...." Aeka stuttered, unable to believe that her
innocence, which she'd been unsure of herself all these years despite the
faith of kith and kin, was finally proven.
"Again, DNA. Samples of, well, pubic hairs were found on the premier's
body. Apparently she had sex with him, then killed him in cold blood."
Ryoko had a bemused smile on her face, then added, "Your friend's
blushing - is she that wet behind the ears? - so I'll skip the actual method
of death, which I might add would be in line for your talents."


Aeka rose to her feet, dizzied by the news. How could she be innocent?
She was...she was.... Aeka shut the thoughts from her mind lest they haunt
her again; why was it she could remember the aftermath all so easily, but
she could remember nothing of the attack, nothing of it at all? Even from
an outsider's viewpoint, the reasons for it were hard to pinpoint - while
she'd never loved her father, she did love the two women prevalent in
raising her. Though the evidence had made her seem guilty even though she
couldn't believe she did it, now a new layer proved otherwise.
"Aeka," Ryoko asked. "Come home. At the very least, we're going to
help you prove your innocence." The demoness smiled slightly and added, "I
could make it an imperial edict, you know."
"As if I would actually listen to you, you hussy!" she retorted in a
joking tone. "Seriously, dear Ryoko, this is my home now. This is where I
belong. However, I must prove my innocence, if for no other reason than the
fact that I don't want Mayuka to believe her aunt is guilty, regardless of
what you told her. It's something I have to prove to her."
"Okay, that I can respect. Do you need an escort of some kind?
Mihoshi's on liaison duty with the crown now, so I think we can send her to
go pick you up."
"Have her meet me over by Plutonian space. We can make our way there
by s-car." A thought brushed her mind. "How's she doing, anyway?"
A dark cast briefly crossed over Ryoko's features. "She hasn't been the
same since Kyone died, even if it's been a couple of decades now. It was
part of the reason the GP assigned her to us, if you ask me. I think that
Mihoshi always thought they were going to be together, but she forgot one
important thing."
"Kyone was Terran human, and rarely took the gene therapy," Aeka
answered sadly. Considering her position in GP and the fact that she lived
longer than most Terrans, it was hard to remember that both Kyone was from
Earth as well, one of the few kuzamurai during the Feudal Era and brought to
Jurai by someone who found the female warrior rather interesting. Having
adapted to modern Juraian life and its trials, the only indicator that Kyone
had of her past was her very abnormal calm and patience. But the fact that
she rarely took gene therapy (unlike so many Terran ?migr?s who wanted the
pseudo-immortality of their Jurai brethren) had been her undoing, and it had
been in 2286 that the (physically) 88-year-old woman had breathed her last.
Kyone had been buried at the Masaki shrine grounds of the Jurai Imperial
Museum on Earth; that had been the last time Aeka saw her extended family.
"Well, it might be in Mihoshi's best interests that we send her; she's
getting mopy around here anyway. Since it shouldn't be a problem, I'll even
send Mayuka." A faint cheer of excitement wafted into the room; an
indicator that Mayuka was likely peeping in. A knowing grin crept on the
faces of the two friends; something neither was a stranger to before.
"Well, I'll get off the line right now so I can give Mihoshi the news and so
we can get a celebration going!" Ryoko hugged her friend again, gave her
regards to Neva, patted the small cabbit, then derezzed as the holosystem
shut down.


Watching the remaining motes of light and energy sparkle into
nothingness, Aeka stood stock-still, unsure of what everything meant.
Though life on Earth the last three centuries had been sweet, it was still a
cage. She hadn't seen the world of her birth in the longest time and life
as she knew it had changed. Because of one event, everything had been taken
from her (even if, in truth, many of the avenues weren't really open to
begin with, she later discovered) and she became a prisoner on the world
she'd initially come to rescue her brother from. Granted, now said world
was her home, but a new door had opened before her, and it was a door that
held promise and a terrible amount of the unknown in its maw. Aeka had
never been one to be afraid, but there was something different this time.
"Ayeka?" Neva spoke, her voice a whisper. The former princess knew that
tone in her friend's voice; it was the sound of Neva's worry and anguish.
The water sprite was nothing if not emotional - she and Mihoshi were far too
alike for Aeka's taste in that regard - but there was no reason to worry.
((Is there?)) Aeka wondered. She took a large, calming breath, thinking
of the starflowers on Jurai and their sweet smell. Turning to Neva, she
asked, "Neva, I have to go to the embassy in order to make sure that they
know what to do in my absence. If you would be so kind, please pack my bags
for me." Seeing the timid look in Neva's eyes, Aeka also added, "Don't
forget your clothing as well, Neva. After all, I can't travel without you,
correct?"
Neva bounced up and down for joy, giddy with excitement. "?Fantastico!"
With a cry of joy, she bolted up the stairs towards her room, leaving a
slightly amused Aeka to walk outside to the door-shaped structure on the
outdoor lawn. Opening the door, she stepped into the interdimensional
tunnel that led to the matching gateway in front of the Juraian embassy in
New York. There was quite a bit of work to be done before she could leave
at the end of the day, and knowing the vagaries of warp travel, Ryoko was
telling Mihoshi to be in Plutonian orbit as soon as possible.

???

The starship floated over the remains of the colony on Nomus Maxima. An
Earth settlement, it was supposed to be the herald of a new direction in
Terran humanity's leap to the stars. Now, it lay in ruins, smoky, destroyed
and slagged as the flames reached up to the sky with the raw fury of a choir
raising its hands to God. Those that had survived the firestorm had escaped
to the safety of caves in the mountains where they lived like their
ancestors on the mother world so long ago. At least they were the lucky
ones; the litany of those not so fortunate still littered the grounds or
were consumed in the fiery dance of the burning city.
And above it all, in a low orbit the ship watched, a dark sentinel
watching and awaiting the next move on the world's surface. Shaped vaguely
like a black albatross, it was more akin to bird of prey in intent than a
friendly seabird. Every so often a blast of energy would loose itself from
the weapons matrices on the belly of the starcraft and miniature dots would
light up on the surface of Nomus Maxima, a sign that yet another settlement
on the world had been downed. So far the ship had destroyed the colonial
capital and several of the outlying towns, farms and wealthy estates were
next.
On the bridge of the _Bird of Prey_, a woman sat in the pilot's chair,
smiling over her handiwork. She'd been paid a hefty amount to do this job by
her unnamed employer (she preferred it that way; it prevented her from
having to kill them). Her skills had been in high demand since the
retirement and rehabilitation of the Great Space Pirate - now the Pirate
Empress of Jurai - and she was currently listed by the Galaxy Police as a
Class A criminal, the highest classification. In fact, only two others, the
Empress of Jurai included, had attained such a dubious honor. The irony of
this of course was that her name wasn't known to the GP, and as a result she
was only known to them by a codename, Mercury.
Reaching over to grasp a glass of wine, she continued to watch her ship
automatically rain death down on the planet, white-hot beams of energy
coring the atmosphere and stripping away precious layers of life from the
planet even as it continued to crater the surface below. Within a few
hours, the place would be perfect for her employers to claim as a location
for strip-mining. Sure, there'd be some investigations, and the Terrans
would likely blame one of the other races, with their Juraian brethren
joining in on the fun, but eventually it would all die down, get swept under
the rug, and everyone would be happy. Especially her, with the 765.8
million in Earth dollars she was being paid in.
((All I have to do is sit here a few more hours and depopulate this
mudball)), she reminded herself, ((and then I can get back to my main
purpose.)) With an angry shake of her fist, she shattered the wine flute in
her hands, sending delicate and expensive shards of Juraian crystal flying
to the four winds. ((I'll get you yet, "Aeka"! *I'll make you pay!*))

???

"I said, you can't go, Salvador! I don't know how long I'll be gone!"
Inside, Aeka was a bundle of nerves. She wanted him to go, to have someone
besides her (other than Neva, of course), who can be by her side when she
finally faced the Juraian royalty...when she finally faced Tenchi again.
Yet at the same time, she didn't know how long she'd be gone, and what might
be a routine, two-week trip back to Jurai might end up being something
longer; something past the normal lifespan of a Terran human - and Salvador,
already into his thirties, might not survive that kind of trip.
"That's fine, my dearest. If I must leave my job, my life, and
everything behind to be with you, then I must do that." There was a
determination in his eyes that she could see; a macho pride that was
hardwired in the DNA of every Spaniard, male or female, that she'd ever met.
Had these people been given access to starcraft several hundred years ago,
there was no doubt in her mind that any of them would have given Ryoko a run
for her money for the title of "Galaxy's Most Notorious Space Pirate."
"It would be a good idea if he came," Neva agreed, while cuddling
Pedro-okhi. "You know that our s-car hasn't been working well lately; I
don't think it can make it as far as the system boundaries. Remember the
time when it broke down just off the gravitational coast of Saturn, and we
were stranded there for a few hours until the Earth Navy show-"
Aeka coughed politely. "I needn't be reminded of that, Neva dear. I
also have to admit that our s-car is in the shop at the moment, and I'm wont
to actually requisition a full shuttle for our needs." Unlike the standard
shuttlecars that most people used to travel around Earth and within the
limits of the solar system, full shuttles were considerably larger and
capable of warp, but would be a waste of energy if they were being ferried
to Jurai.
Taking the cue, Salvador bowed. "We can take my s-car, my beloved
Princessa Antigua, and be at the rendezvous point within a matter of
minutes."
"I said-" He cut her off with a simple finger laid onto her lips.
"I understand what you said, my do?a, but also know that I love you.
And what should happen if decades or centuries were to pass without me
seeing you again?" He shook his head sadly. "I couldn't live like that. I
would rather climb into the plaza de toros and throw myself to the mercy of
the bulls than to live my life without you." The last he punctuated with a
kiss, one that she returned. "And I know you feel the same. Your lips and
eyes tell me what your mouth cannot."
She blushed; amazing how he always made her feel so young. "Okay, you
win. You're right - it would hurt too much to be without you. But you have
to know that there is a chance that we may not return here within your
lifetime."
He nodded. "I know. I resigned from the bank this morning, on the
condition that should I come back within a year, I will regain my position
once more. Besides, everyone at the bank knows why I am leaving, and
they've been very supportive. In fact, Sra. Blanco hopes that, in her
words, God willing, that I find some magical elixir that will make me as
young and immortal as you, and we can spend our time together forever."
For the briefest of moments, Aeka mulled the impossible: it was possible
for Salvador to begin the gene therapy, once he arrived on Jurai, but could
Washuu actually find a way to reverse the aging? It didn't seem so, and
yet, she'd always lived up to the title of the Universe's Greatest
Scientific Genius. Would it be too selfish and heartless to ask? Or would
they, knowing her plight and her being family, throw themselves into her
request with ease? Could even her own sister, the Goddess known as Tsunami,
work something to help - Sasami usually didn't use that part of her being,
but that didn't mean it wasn't there.
((Too many questions, Aeka,)) she chided herself. ((Too many questions
and you haven't even left yet.)) Even so, she didn't really have time to
answer them, as Salvador grabbed Aeka's bags and began carrying them to his
s-car, parked out on the carpad in front.

???

"Oh, this is going to be *great*!" Princess Mayuka said, as she bounced
up and down. She was getting to see her favorite aunt again, the person she
idealized so. She was so looking forward to seeing Aeka again, that she'd
abandoned her formal wear in favor of some standard Earth jeans and T-shirt,
looking far more like a typical 14-year-old Terran teen than the next in
line to a space empire.
The person in the seat next to her agreed, though with far less
enthusiasm. "It'll be great to see Aeka again," Mihoshi agreed, in much
more somber tones. Mayuka took Mihoshi's answer in stride, though; the
blonde had always been very dour, ever since Kyone died. Some, like
Grandmother Washu, said it was much better, as it made Mihoshi "grow up",
but others, like Aunt Sasami, said it was very sad to see someone as always
happy as Mihoshi used to be so stern and businesslike; almost as though she
was becoming like Kyone to cope for the loss of Kyone.
"Well, still..." the girl answered, unable to have her enthusiasm downed
again. "Maybe we'll have some time to go shopping? I wonder what the
latest fashions are in Paris, or New York, or Moscow, or Tokyo, right? I
also wonder if I can talk the Captain of the Guard at the embassy into
allowing me some military training, as Mommy or Daddy never let me! Can we
go to an amusement park? Do you think Aunt Aeka will let me do that
'Running of the Bulls' thing they do near where she lives?"
"I don't know," Mihoshi answered tersely, punching in coordinates
slowly, doublechecking to make sure she entered everything in correctly,
then tapped up a schematic. "Listen, Your Highness..."
Mayuka pouted. "Oh, I wish you wouldn't call me that, Mihoshi! I
thought we were friends!"
"We are, Your Highness. But out here, a different rule applies. I'm
Major Kuramitsu, responsible for your life. When we're groundside, we can
go back to normal. Until then, I have my duties as a senior Galaxy Police
officer, and I can't abrogate them."
Mayuka yawned. "Oh, c'mon, Mihoshi! Stop acting so stuffy! You're
actin' just like Kyone used to!" The words were out of her mouth before she
could stop them, and even as she gasped, regretting the words she said, it
was too late.
Mihoshi reacted as though she'd been slapped, and for a second or two,
there was a virulent anger in the GP major's eyes. But as she regained
control of her emotions, the only sign on her stoic face of something wrong
was the single tear that trailed down her left cheek, a solemn trace of
loyalty to the person who'd been the blonde's best friend. Raising from her
seat, she announced coldly, "I'm going to go to my cabin. I need to get
some sleep. You've got the helm."
Turning to look at Mihoshi's receding back, Mayuka said, "Mihoshi,
I...didn't mean what I said. I'm sorry."
Mihoshi stopped. Without turning to face Mayuka, she replied, "So am I,
Your Highness. More than you'll ever know." Nothing more to say, she
walked out of the cockpit, leaving a very embarrassed princess behind.
Looking at her reflection in the transparisteel of the cockpit, Mayuka
admonished herself, "Way to go, Mayuka. Now you're going to be grounded for
a week, at least."


Mihoshi managed to make it to her cabin before the tears began to spill
in earnest. Tapping a familiar and worn button on her console, a life-size
holograph, similar to Full Holo mode comms, appeared. However, unlike the
comms, this holo wouldn't move, and continued to stand like a statue. There
was no life in the holostatue, because the person it represented was gone,
gone forever.
Nevertheless, Mihoshi hugged it fiercely, sobbing, "Oh, Kyone.... You
have no idea how much I miss you...." Slinking to her knees, Mihoshi buried
her face in her hands and wept, crying unashamedly for the still painful
loss of one of the closest people in her life. Not even when her
grandfather died, had she felt this strong a loss, and here in the cold
emptiness of space, it was nothing compared to the emptiness of her heart
without Kyone.
As the GP starcruiser _Kyone's Sword_ raced through the warpstream, its
captain cried her heart out, torn apart by the loss and a flagging sanity
she could barely take.

Next:
Quemadura del Sol

Notes:
Not sure which continuity this is in; likely it's a blend of them all with
my usual amount of zen ad-libbing thrown in for good effect.

"La Princesa Antigua" means "The Ancient Princess" in Spanish, for those of
you who weren't aware. At least I think I remember it being so; my Spanish
tends to be rusty nowadays. ^_^;;;; Also, for those of you want to know
where the story is set, it's set in Malaga, a town in Andalusia province in
southern Spain. A coastal town nestled on the Med, it's roughly due east of
Gibraltar.

I was oddly inspired by this while listening to the Orbital song "Beached",
off the soundtrack to the movie _The Beach_. While the song played, I
looked at the cover of a forlorn, searching Leonardo Di Capricio, then my
eyes wandered a couple more spaces over, to the _Tenchi Muyo_ soundtracks
that I have, with a look on Aeka's face that registered the same thing.
They connected well enough that I decided to use it. How the Spanish
influence crept in? Well, after having lived in that area of Spain for
three years (I get around a lot, don't I? ^_^;;;) I've always wanted to do
something with it, and somehow this just fit.

As always in my _TM_ fics, I use "Ayeka" vice "Aeka" in speech because
Westerners tend more often to pronounce the obsolete "ye" sound, which of
recent seems to be making a comeback in the Japanese language. More and
more times the "ye" kana characters have been popping back into contemporary
Japanese, but I digress on this.

No, I have no idea of Kyone was Terran or Juraian; I think I read the former
as a fact somewhere before. If so, cool; if not, chalk it up to the usual
Tenchiverse contradictions, or my usual ad-libbing.
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