The Harem Saga Sequel

EPISODE 6 Tokimi

On either side the river lieLong fields of barley and of rye,That clothe the wold and meet the sky;And thro' the field the road run byTo many-towered Camelot;And up and down the people go,Gazing where the lilies blowRound an island there below,The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,Little breezes dusk and shiverThro' the wave that runs foreverBy the island in the riverFlowing down to Camelot.Four grey walls, and four grey towers,Overlook a space of flowers,And the silent isle imbowersThe Lady of Shalott.

Only reapers, reaping early,In among the bearded barleyHear a song that echoes cheerlyFrom the river winding clearly;Down to tower'd Camelot;And by the moon the reaper weary,Piling sheaves in uplands airy,Listening, whispers, "'Tis the fairy,The Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and dayA magic web with colours gay.She has heard a whisper say,A curse is on her if she stayTo look down to Camelot.She knows not what the curse may be,And so she weaveth steadily,And little other care hath she,The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clearThere hangs before her all the year,Shadows of the world appear.There she sees the highway nearWinding down to Camelot;And sometimes thro' the mirror blueThe knights come riding two and two.She hath no loyal Knight and true,The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delightsTo weave the mirror's magic sights,For often thro' the silent nightsA funeral, with plumes and with lightsAnd music, went to Camelot;Or when the Moon was overhead,Came two young lovers lately wed."I am half-sick of shadows," she saidThe Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,He rode between the barley sheaves,The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,And flamed upon the brazen greavesOf bold Sir Lancelot.A red-cross knight forever kneel'dTo a lady in his shield,That sparkled on the yellow field,Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;From underneath his helmet flow'dHis coal-black curls as on he rode,As he rode down to Camelot.From the bank and from the riverHe flashed into the crystal mirror,"Tirra lirra," by the riverSang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,She made three paces thro' the room,She saw the water lilly bloom,She saw the helmet and the plume,She look'd down to Camelot.Out flew the web and floated wide;The mirror crack'd from side to side;"The curse is come upon me!" criedThe Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy East Wind straining,The pale yellow woods were waning,The broad stream in his banks complaining.Heavily the low sky rainingOver tower'd Camelot;Down she came and found a boatBeneath a willow left afloat,And round about the prow she wroteThe Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse

Like some bold seer in a trance,Seeing all his own mischance -With a glassy countenanceShe looked to Camelot.And at the closing of the dayShe loosed the chain, and down she lay;The broad stream bore her far away,The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,Till her blood was frozen slowly,And her eyes were darkened wholly,Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.For ere she reach'd upon the tideThe first house by the water-side,Singing in her song she died,The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,By garden-wall and gallery,A gleaming shape she floated by,Dead-pale between the houses nigh,Silent into Camelot.Out upon the wharfs they came,Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,And round the prow they read her name,The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?And in the lighted palace nearDied the sound of royal cheer;They crossed themselves for fear,The Knights at Camelot;Lancelot mused a little spaceHe said, "She has a lovely face;God in his mercy lent her grace,The Lady of Shalott."

Title: "The Lady of Shalott"Music by Loreena McKennitt (1991)Lyrics by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1843)

How does one describe psychic mechanics to someone born without them? How does one describe the techniques needed to reach out and grasp Power manifestations, to manipulate them in ways subtle and mighty, to someone who has no clue of the efforts and rewards? One cannot; and so Tenchi Masaki, Emperor of Jurai, Super Class Power Adept, simply didn't talk much about his gifts.

Actually, he didn't talk much about anything anymore, relying on others to do his talking for him. These others were blessed with their own gifts, gifts like politics and military strategy. Their gifts were used in his name, with his blessing, and usually to a much wider audience — often tens of billions in number — but always with his consent. And sometimes Tenchi envied them.

But there were also those times — rare and catastrophic — when Tenchi and the others would have to use their gifts in concert. No one individual person could face such pressing issues alone, and the power of shared voices, shares purpose, would be required to resolve them.

Which, Tenchi sighed, explained his present circumstances: he was wearing his combat armor, sealed in a bubble of blue-white force, floating weightless in outer space. His mind was coupled to the blue-white disc behind him, a massive dimensional doorway he had constructed out of the Lighthawk Wings of those others. He had done this so often of late that it was becoming almost second nature to him (which amazed him sometimes, when he cared to think about it). This particular doorway was closed at the moment, it's far end having been allowed to collapse...not that anyone could tell by looking at it. He was conserving his strength, and his composure, by leaving the doorway in 'neutral'.

Nor was he alone — the others were floating close by. Immediately surrounding the doorway were...

* Ryo-ohki (in ship form), with Washu and Ryoko both — who had donated their 20 Lighthawk Wings to the doorway.

*Tsunami-ki (Ouke no ki), the Juraian flagship, with Sasami aboard — who had contributed their 20 Lighthawk Wings.

*The Kamidake II, Captain Sir Seina Yamada commanding — whose potted Treeship had provided three Lighthawk Wings.

*All 86 active-duty Treeships (four first generation, 12 second generation, 27 third generation, and 38 fourth generation) — 133 Lighthawk Wings.

Thus, the doorway behind him was more complicated and more vibrant than anything he had ever constructed before, comprised of 176 Lighthawk Wings.

Beyond the pool of Treeships, organized in successively expanding arcs, were thousands of metal-hulled combat vessels. The Juraian admiralty had stripped most of the active-duty ships from all over the empire, leaving behind token forces for garrison duty. All eight grand fleets were present, sailing under the flag of Fleet Admiral Kasumi Masaki (Tenchi's great-grandfather's sister) and her Companion Yuubu. All were armed to the teeth with standard energy and kinetic weapons — and even the new Masaki drive, in many cases.

The Juraian Navy occupied the floor of a very vast bowl, whose sides were composed of space ships...layer after layer of combat vessels stretching as far as the eye could see. The call for help had gone out to the hundreds of alien governments who had contacted Jurai in the preceding weeks; only 412 nations had responded, sending everything from single observers to squadrons to whole battle fleets. Over 15,000 non-human warships floated in formation, sprinkled liberally throughout with scores of Galaxy Police ships — whose job it was to translate the commands of the Great Conductor into the hundreds of languages and dialects that comprised the coalition armada.

Tenchi allowed himself to drift away from the doorway, rotating slowly to enjoy the view — because the view was spectacular. The slowly receding disk was impressive enough, but behind it the Milky Way galaxy stretched across the horizon, an edge-on disk many orders of magnitude larger than Tenchi's Power construct. Hundreds of thousands of stars (just the closest portion of the nearest spiral arm) were visible, scattered around and through the nebulae that clumped together like banks of storm clouds. It was enough to take your breath away.

Above and below the great island of suns was the infinite blackness of intergalactic space. Here and there Tenchi could see the sparks that represented individual galaxies, so far away and so utterly unreachable that the mind froze just thinking about it. He had been out here once before, chasing mysteries and testing a new engine...but it had seemed like such an adventure then, traipsing around the Great Emptiness. Now, though, it just seemed like an ominous omen...standing at the gates of Hell and staring into the endless abyss.

And the Devil's minions were approaching: the coalition armada's sensors had confirmed what Washu's instruments had detected nearly two months earlier: a cluster of objects was racing towards them through psuedospace and would drop out of warp in a matter of minutes. Tokimi and her horde had finally arrived.

A shimmer caught Tenchi's eye, and he rotated to see it fully: an astral projection of Tsunami, easily a kilometer in height, which glowed with its own internal light. She appeared just as she had on their first meeting: an ageless beauty with a willowy figure, alabaster skin, twin azure ponytails that hung to her ankles, and coral-tinted eyes as enchanting as a summer sunrise. Two gems floated on her brow, dancing with each twitch of her eyebrows. Though a simple simulacrum (on a titanic scale!), it was still able to express the full gamut of her emotions and personality.

A second shimmer caught his attention, and he pivoted. Another astral projection was coalescing, as immense as the first. This one was a woman, too, possessing an athlete's proportions, a professor's posture, knee-length scarlet tresses, and piercing emerald eyes. Three jewels adorned her brow, riding above her signature smirk. The facsimile of Washu was so accurate that Tenchi fully expected to hear her cackle — but with the booming voice of a true giantess.

And both specters were looking directly at him, a mere speck floating in the vacuum between them.

Tenchi - Wow, Ladies — you look impressive!

Washu - Thanks, Sweetie

Tenchi - I wonder what our new allies think about your projections?

Washu - Probably having second thoughts about humans in general, and about what they're getting into in particular

Tsunami - I pray they won't flee when we need them the most

Tenchi - Where can they go? We brought them all here using doorways — it would take them months to get home

Washu - What a logistics nightmare that was. And we will have to do it all over again to transport them home!

Tenchi - I don't mind, really. I got a lot of practice out of it

Tsunami - Not to mention the prestige this all brings to Jurai

Tenchi - I just hope we have enough ships here. So many refusals...

Washu - You can't really blame them, Tenchi. The whole thing did sound pretty far-fetched — and suspicious

Tenchi - It sure did

Washu - Have faith, Tenchi. It will all work out

Tenchi could not hear the utter cacophony going on around him; the radio spectrum would be awash with coded and encrypted traffic. He could hear some of the chatter among his own captains — until Fleet Admiral Masaki's voice cut through the racket. "Silence, please. The enemy breakout is imminent. We await final instructions from His Majesty."

The chatter stopped instantly. Tenchi wondered idly if the same silence was rippling throughout the fleet's other members.

"Thank you, Admiral." Tenchi took a moment to compose his thoughts. He had made a half-hearted attempt at writing a speech, half-expecting something like this — and had consigned all his efforts to the trash. He had always believed that the greatest truths, and sincerest expressions, came straight from the heart.

"I am overwhelmed by the numbers here today, by the response from so many galactic nations, who represent its great variety and diversity. Sadly, circumstances of late have been very pressing...there has been little time for diplomatic niceties. I have not had the chance for much personal time with your envoys, and for that I apologize. I intend to rectify that situation in the near future.

"And I must say, this is the most impressive display of firepower I have ever seen. So many different designs, so many configurations, and yet, all sharing the same purpose.

"That bears repeating: sharing the same purpose. It is not a new idea, but it is a very profound idea.

"To each and every nation here today that listened to us — and believed us — I offer my very sincere thanks. You honor us by being here...an honor that will not be forgotten.

"Some of the envoys we asked for help replied that this is a human problem, so let the humans deal with it. I can say with absolute certainty that the danger affects us all.

"Your presence here proves that cooperation is not only possible, not only desirable, but is (as in cases like this) mandatory. No single nation can defend the galaxy from outside threats; no single nation is safe from outside threats.

"I understand that many of you have long-standing issues with one another — but that you have set aside your differences to stand with us and face the common threat. We thank you for that action...it makes the honor you bestow upon us even more significant."

"Future generations will look back on this day, and will say that this day marked a new turning point for all of the galaxy's peoples. We will defend our own...and when the day is done, we will talk as equals, as comrades in arms, and as friends...and we will talk of ways to strengthen our new alliance.

"But first, we must vanquish this invader, and remove the immediate peril.

"So to all the captains and their crews I say: good luck, and good hunting!"

A single flash of light caught his eye, and then another, and another, until whole series of brilliant white sparkles rippled across the surface of the formation (much like camera flashes in a sports stadium). It took him a moment to realize that score of ships were Rendering Honors...to him. Thousands of military vessels, from hundreds of species, were giving him the universal salute. A lump formed in his throat.

Reality quickly dashed the moment: "Your Majesty, the enemy has dropped out of psuedospace," Admiral Masaki announced.

Tenchi's 2D and 3D helmet displays flickered into life, projecting a series of colored graphics. The sensors of the coalition armada registered the same thing that Tenchi's enhanced senses did: nineteen great ships, globular in shape and nearly 20 miles in diameter, were decelerating towards them. In appearance, each was studded with city-sized armaments and massive shield generators, the remaining surface spaces covered with sensor arrays and thousands of hangar doors.

And as they watched, the hangar doors began to open and emit a stream of spaceships. A few at first, then dozens, and then hundreds emerged from the cavernous hangars. No one needed to study the readouts to know that they were all combat ships, ranging in size from nimble scout ships to lumbering dreadnoughts.

"Dear God," Admiral Masaki whispered.

The hostile swarm began to organize itself, separating into predetermined ranks.

"Admiral, I assume it's safe to say that they've done this before?" Tenchi asked.

"I would say so, Your Majesty. Our tactical computers are analyzing their formations. We'll have something to report soon."

"Thank you."

A column of shimmering light distorted Tenchi's view of the approaching forces, and a third female figure began to take shape. While it looked like a woman, there were...oddities...about her. Her eyes were sapphire almonds, with violet lids and miniscule pupils, quite ophidian and foreboding. Her pale skin was broadly covered with leaf-like tattoos that dripped down her cheeks and circled her neck. Her spiky hair was straw-colored and straw-shaped, and one large sphere (a crystal?) crowned her face.

Tenchi - Is that Tokimi?

Tsunami - Yes

Tenchi - Is that what she really looks like?

Washu - No. She's just trying to mimic our projections. I doubt if she's ever seen a human before

Tsunami - You forget, Tenchi, we are partly human now, and have lived among humans for thousands of years

Washu - Yeah, our familiarity with H. Sapiens permits us to paint a very accurate portrait

Tsunami - I do not believe she has ever assimilated with any mortal creature, or else she would project that creature's essence

Washu - That's probably a good thing. How would you react to seeing a K'vimm deity, for instance?

Tenchi - Not very well

Tsunami - Is that why you asked for these projections?

Tenchi - Yes. Our side should know who they are fighting for — and against

Washu - A useful psychological ploy. You never cease to amaze me, My Love

Tenchi - And speaking of useful psychological ploys...

"To all those members of the coalition armada: Many of you have met Empress Washu and Princess Sasami. While undeniably human, they also possess aspects derived from a more-highly evolved life form. So, too, does the approaching invader. Allow me to introduce you to the Chôshin, the Three Celestials: Washu, Tsunami — and Tokimi."

The three images simply stared at one another, virtually static except for an occasional shifting of the head.

Tenchi - Is she talking to you?

Tsunami - Yes

Washu - Here, Tenchi, let me relay our conversation

Tenchi - Thanks

Tsunami - — How many of our kind have you killed or driven insane?

Tokimi - Do you really want to know?

Washu - No, we just want to be left alone

Tokimi - I cannot allow that

Tsunami - Why not?

Tokimi - I was instructed to bring you back for Transcendence

Washu - We have already Transcended

Tokimi - Do not mock me, Sister

Washu - I am not mocking you; we have truly Transcended — just not as planned

Tokimi - Please be more specific

Washu - We have assimilated with the Lower Orders

Tokimi - That is revolting; an abomination, an aberration, a —

Tsunami - Quite the contrary, Sister. We have expanded our lives in ways we never before imagined

Washu - That is the purpose of Transcendence, isn't it? New experiences, new priorities...

Tsunami - We are not as we once were, Sister. We may not even be permitted to return

Washu - I repeat: we have Transcended, just as commanded

Tokimi - I must consider this development

Tenchi - Yes, please do

Tokimi - Who said that?

Tenchi - I did — the little spark down here between your sisters...?

Tokimi - A mortal? You dare to interrupt us?

Tenchi - Yes

Washu - Have a care, sister, he is my mate

Tsunami - And mine

Tokimi - Your mate?

Washu - As I said: We have assimilated — fully and completely. I have borne his progeny

Tsunami - As will I

Tokimi - How can this be part of Transcendence?

Washu - What do you think happens after Transcendence? Life continues as before; only the format changes

Tokimi - Not like this!

Washu - Then how?

Tokimi - That is not for me to say

Tsunami - If not you — if not each of us — then who can say?

Washu - We have chosen to evolve by helping the Lower Orders evolve. That requires personal participation

Tokimi - I cannot accept this

Tsunami - Yes, you can. And yes, you will

Washu - We are happy here, Sister

Tokimi - This is...this is just wrong...

Tsunami - There is no going back for us. Our future is here

Tokimi - My instructions did not allow for this possibility

Washu - We, too, never foresaw such an event. Yet, here we are

Tokimi - I cannot make this decision. You will have to return with me and plead your case

Tenchi - At the risk of sounding impertinent, may I ask a question?

Tokimi - If you must...

Tenchi - Has every member of your race already Transcended?

Tokimi - Yes

Tenchi - Then, who will help you through the process?

Tokimi - One of the Elders was chosen to remain behind, to assist any stragglers

Tenchi - Ok...but how long will that Elder remain behind?

Tokimi - I do not know

Washu - That is a salient point. What if the Elder tired of waiting, and has Transcended? You may have been left behind

Tokimi - I will determine that possibility when I take you both back

Tsunami - You have been hunting a long time, Sister — there may be no one to return us to

"I'm sorry to intrude, Your Majesty, but you need to see this." Admiral Masaki's voice was tinged with concern.

"See what?"

His helmet monitors lit up with schematics and sensor displays, all pertaining to Tokimi's fleet. "The invader has begun deploying her forces. The negotiations may be significant, but they also serve to buy her some time."

"She's stalling us," Tenchi translated.

"Yes, Sire."

"What about our forces?"

"We're tracking their movements, and the tactical computers are doing their best to analyze the situation, but the longer this drags out..."

"I understand." He understood, all right: time to pull the plug. "I'll get back to you."

Washu - Consider the ramifications, Sister. You will be alone

Tokimi - I have been alone for a very long time

Tsunami - You will be alone for a much longer time

Washu - Are you prepared to face that prospect?

Tenchi - This has gone far enough

Tokimi - Silence, mortal

Tenchi - No. You don't command me, Tokimi, nor do you intimidate me

Tsunami - Tenchi, please...

Washu - Tenchi, you're not helping matters any...

Tokimi - 'Tenchi'? So, the creature has a name

Tenchi - The creature has more than a name — the creature also has a question: Why have you started deploying your forces?

Tsunami - What? Tokimi...?

Tokimi - Control your meddling livestock, Sisters, or this conversation is terminated

Tenchi - 'Livestock', am I?

Tsunami - My mate is not some domesticated animal!

Washu - Easy, Tsunami; you must make allowance for Tokimi's ignorance

Tokimi - Ignorance! I WILL NOT BE MOCKED!

Washu - Since you lack complete facts or first-hand experience, you are ignorant. Just accept it as truth

Tokimi - Argh! The mortal is right — this has gone far enough

Tenchi - At least we agree about something...

Tokimi - Sisters, either you return with me now or you will die. You have no other options

Tenchi - Don't be so sure of that

Tokimi - As for you, mortal — my agents will decimate this galaxy for your impudence!

Tenchi - You know, there's a very fine line between hate and love; be careful that you don't cross it

Tenchi hadn't realized you could bait such a highly evolved entity — but upon reflection, it made sense: anger must be one of those universal emotions common to every life form. "Admiral Masaki: raise the shields and pick your targets!"

Several things happened almost simultaneously:

*Each ship in the coalition armada engaged its shields — but they had been reconfigured so that they overlapped their neighbors. Thus, where the Horde ships were drawing further apart and sealing themselves inside cocoons of energy, the Armada was actually drawing closer together and layering its defenses.

*Tenchi teleported back to the edge of the giant disk, just as Tokimi's giant astral projection vanished, followed immediately by Washu's and Tsunami's. The closest ships — Ryu-oh, Kyoko, and Yukinojo — repositioned so that they could extend their shields around their Emperor.

*Tokimi's Super Class Power Adepts began manifesting their Lighthawk Wings: dozens of three-, four-, and five-bladed starflowers blossomed in a wide bouquet before the center of the invading fleet. Tenchi used his extended senses to identify each of them, memorizing the creatures' signatures so that they could be located even without their radiant blooms.

* Within the Armada ships, combat computers began exchanging data and prioritizing targets, verifying last-minute updates to their standing orders. All those sentients manning their stations made their peace with the universe and focused upon the task at hand — and all turned their eyes upon their leader.

"Your Majesty, the opposing force will be within range in a few moments. Under present circumstances, they will determine the time and vectors of engagement. It would be prudent if we were to take some of that initiative from them."

"Can we maintain our overlapping shields if we advance?"

"With such a menagerie as this? No, Sire, I cannot guarantee it."

"Then we will hold our position here."

"With all due respect, Sire, if we attack now we have a chance to interrupt their deployment."

"With all due respect, Admiral, neither one of us can predict what kind of weapons we are facing. We increase our defense under layered shields, and we increase our offense by converging our weapons."

"Yes, Your Majesty." The Admiral's voice expressed her disagreement with her Emperor — but she would obey his orders without fail.

Tenchi grinned. "Well, perhaps we could do a little more than just twiddle our thumbs while waiting for them to come out and play."

"Sire?"

"Signal to all Treeships: initiate the Chorus."

"Aye, aye, Sire!"

Beside him, the great blue-white disk began to churn. The combined 'voices' of hundreds of Power adepts, the force of will of human and arboreal Companions united in defense of their homes, stirred all 176 Lighthawk Wings into a super-excited foam. And as Tenchi carefully monitored the rising agitation, he allowed his mind to wander back to that moment weeks earlier, when Washu had found him sitting alone in his garden, lost in thought.

##########

"What's the problem, Sweetie?"

"I still don't know how to defeat all those Lighthawk Wings Tokimi is going to use against us. The females will be bad enough, but multiple males — like Z — able to suppress my own wings..."

"You already have the answer, My Love."

"Huh? What is it?"

Washu kissed his forehead, and started to walk away. "Go look up the meaning of 'coherence'. You'll figure it out!"

"Washu, wait!" But she was gone. Curious, he returned to his office and located a dictionary:

co•her•ence:

1. The quality or state of cohering, especially a logical, orderly, and aesthetically consistent relationship of parts.2. Physics: The property of being coherent, as of waves.One of the most interesting and clever applications of coherence is the laser. If you have ever shined a flashlight at night, you can see that its beam spreads out, because the light bulb emits energy in random bursts (incoherent). And, though the reflector around the light source projects the resulting light in a parallel beam, the wave nature of light causes it to disperse. Laser light, however, consists of waves all being emitted and amplified at the same time (coherent). Thus, laser light does not spread out. Another characteristic of laser light is that it can be focused to a very small point.

##########

Tenchi began to concentrate, shutting out of his mind everything but the task at hand. A woman in a nearby ship was monitoring his vital signs, and perforce flipped a switch on her control panel. This severed all communications channels to her husband but one — and on this one a very carefully chosen piece of music began to play. A steady rhythm began, calming the Great Conductor, as well as providing him with the foundation needed for juggling so many wings, coaxing them into a complicated dance of form and function.

The great blue-white disk began to change shape, its center bowing backwards and turning it into a convex structure, much like an antenna...or a lens.

Tenchi's enhanced senses reached outwards, finding the closest of the alien Power adepts, the creature's surface thoughts radiating a distorted — but recognizable — form of arrogance. Bereft of all emotion, Tenchi connected the alien with the Dragon's Mouth.

An incandescent beam of blue-white fire burst from the center of the coalition armada, crossing the distance between the fleets at near-infinite speed. The first target was a two-meter tall insectoid sentient who wielded its five Lighthawk Wings with the confidence of a seasoned warrior. Its victories had been legion, it prowess undeniable — and its death was instantaneous: the alien's five wings were extinguished by the torrent of energy, and the warrior was reduced to a cloud of sub-atomic particles.

In the span of a heartbeat, Tenchi located two more alien Power adepts and snuffed them out like wind-blown candle flames. Then he began the methodical, relentless elimination of every single adept arrayed against the coalition armada.

The reaction on both sides was identical: every sentient stopped its activity to stare dumbfounded at the mind-numbing power being used.

The invading adepts scattered, trying everything from doorways to teleportation to evade the Dragon's Breath, but nothing worked. They had been marked...and they could not hide.

The remainder of the horde — too disciplined to panic — advanced upon the coalition armada and opened fire.

Fleet Admiral Masaki — already briefed on the Emperor's sudden silence — ordered the coalition armada to return fire.

The volume of space between the two fleets roiled with beams and balls of energy, and waves of semi-sentient torpedoes burrowing through the maelstrom — only to be annihilated by similar predators.

While individual horde ships were pound-for-pound more lethal than their coalition counterparts, the largest of the former were quickly targeted by scores of the latter working in unison. The result: pinpointed horde shields immediately overloaded and their hardened hulls ruptured in dozens of places. These stricken vessels burst into balls of superheated plasma, or shattered into thousands of chunks of plasteel and organic residue. A fog of dust and debris soon gathered in the space between the fleets, illuminated frequently by luminescent beams and nova-like flashes.

And through it all, the Dragon's Breath continued to bore through vacuum, dust, and starships alike, remorselessly scorching its prey.

Time passed, starships flamed, sentients died. And eventually...

...Tenchi paused. It was finished: he had gotten them all. Each had been disintegrated into fine ash. At the moment, he felt neither jubilation nor remorse, just a general disgust that such actions had to be taken in a life filled with so many better things to do. This had not been a test of courage and wits; this was war, not a duel...you did whatever it takes to win, to inflict the maximum damage with the minimum cost. He sighed, deeply, bringing himself out of his trance, placing the Dragon's Mouth into 'neutral' again.

His headphones crackled with the sound of a communications channel being restored. "Your Majesty?"

"Yes, Admiral?"

"We have a situation that you need to be appraised of."

"Please proceed, Admiral," Tenchi replied wearily. The meditation techniques didn't do all that much for him — he was going to have to ask for some painkillers for his growing headache.

"It's those transports, Sire. They will be in range in a few moments."

"What do you recommend, Admiral?"

"Sire...?" The confusion in her voice was obvious. "I...I would highly recommend that you target those ship's main batteries with that Power weapon."

"Would it be effective? I understand those behemoths mount planetary-scale defenses."

"Uh, Sire, were you aware that your last eighteen salvoes penetrated those ships' hulls — through all of their shields and armor plating — with no resistance whatsoever?"

"No, Admiral, I wasn't aware of that fact. I was rather preoccupied."

"My apologies, Your Majesty, I meant no disrespect."

"None taken, Admiral." Tenchi really wanted to massage his temples, just to ease the throbbing...he couldn't, though, because of the space suit. The Fleet Admiral was right, of course — each of the cannons on those leviathans could shatter large asteroids, and they would do tremendous damage to his own forces: his ship's layered defenses couldn't withstand more than one or two blasts of that magnitude. "I'll see what I can do."

"Thank you, Your Majesty."

Tenchi took three cleansing breaths and entered that mental realm where his enhanced senses ruled. He 'reached' outward past the furiously waging battle, past the cloud of radioactive dust and energized gas, clear out to the closest of the lumbering intergalactic transports. It was easy enough to identify the enormous weapons clusters, each glowing with bridled energy. Conduits of power crisscrossed the sphere's surface before diving beneath the metal skin. His mind followed these channels, passing ghostlike through the walls of metal, brushing lightly across the firefly sparks of the thousands of sentient minds that dwelled within. He followed the massive circuitry all the way to the core of the monster, until he finally reached its flaming heart. Or, rather, hearts — six great reactors labored like miniature suns to provide the flying megalopolis with heat, air, light, mobility, weapons, and shielding.

Tenchi toyed briefly with the idea of targeting each of the massive turrets, and discarded the notion...too many of them, and too little time. Instead, he decided to cut out the Hydra's heart rather than lopping off its snarling heads.

He re-entered his trance state, and the Dragon's Mouth rumbled into full readiness. With an ease than still astounded him, he connected the first of the massive reactors with the blue-white construct beside him.

The Dragon's Breath exploded outwards, penetrating vacuum and shielding and armored hull and hundreds of decks and radiation screens, extinguishing the inferno instantly. Moments later, the remaining reactors were obliterated in like manner. Tenchi's attention moved on to the next transport.

Meanwhile, the transport staggered under the cataclysmic power loss. Columns of atmosphere and solid detritus blew out of the miles-deep chasms left by the Dragon's Breath, spewing clouds of freezing gas crystals, hardware, and dead creatures. Airtight doors by the thousands slammed shut, trying to contain the damage. But the vessel's commander faced an even more serious problem: the ship was now forced to rely upon its finite battery reserves — huge though they were, they had had to be prioritized for life support and damage control, the remainder to be divided between the shields and the engines. There was no surplus for the weapons. It was bad enough that the leviathan would soon be in range of the Armada's guns, but the commander also had to consider the all-too-real possibility of having the transport carved into pieces by the same beam weapon that had crippled it. The commander gave orders, and the great vessel began to rotate around its axis, bringing the untouched stern to face the raging battle. The commander knew that the ship had too much inertia to stop in time, and so the engines were directed to take the vessel on a cometary orbit out of the combat zone. If luck held, it would not come under any further fire, and might even be able to recover whatever remnants of its strike force trickled home.

It wasn't long before other transports followed suit, veering away from the conflict, trailing massive clouds of debris.

It was within the final transport, the largest, the furthest away, and undoubtedly the flagship, that Tenchi found what he was seeking: the enormous cloud of quantum patterns that was Tokimi. Tenchi took special care disabling this ship, careful not to threaten the ancient creature. Afterwards, satisfied that her ship was crippled and taking evasive maneuvers, he placed the Dragon's Mouth in 'standby mode' and emerged from his trance.

"Cease fire," he commanded. It took a few moments for the Great Conductor's order to ripple throughout the Armada, but it was heeded immediately once it was received. Soon all was still. "Admiral Masaki, what's our status?"

"Forty-seven percent of our ships have received moderate damage, 22% have received heavy to severe damage, 13% have been totally destroyed."

"And Tokimi's forces?"

"At least 75% of their force has been completely destroyed; the remainder is either returning to the transports or is making a run for our galaxy."

"Pass the word: pursue and engage enemy forces at each captain's discretion. But — do not fire upon the transports. If they give you any further grief, I will deal with them personally."

"With pleasure, Sire!"

Seconds later the great bowl formation dissolved, as whole sections of the Armada accelerated away. Tenchi noted absently that the remaining vessels began to regroup, forming a smaller version of the bowl.

Even before that action had concluded, the Brobdingnagian apparition of Tokimi once more sparkled into existence. Moments later Washu and Tsunami joined her.

Tokimi - I am impressed, Sisters

Washu - So are we

Tokimi - You sound surprised. At what, the speed of my defeat?

Tsunami - No, we are surprised at the efficacy of that weapon

Tokimi - Why?

Washu - Because we did not create it

Tokimi - You did not? Then who...?

Tsunami ,Washu - Tenchi!

Tokimi - Your...mortal...mate? That is not possible

Tsunami - Truth

Washu - Proof of our Transcendence, Sister

Tokimi - Please explain

Washu - We have been nurturing his ancestors for many generations, breeding a line of sentients capable of assimilating with

Tsunami - He is not just capable of generating Lighthawk Wings —

Washu - You accomplished that same goal yourself

Tsunami - — but of full assimilation. His mind is closer to our own than anything we have encountered in our travels

Washu - The possibilities here are boundless!

Tsunami - That weapon was his creation!

Tokimi - As was the Empathy Wave we encountered earlier?

Tsunami, Washu - Yes!

Tokimi - I am even more impressed, Sisters

Tenchi teleported back among the projections — but this time, it was at face level with them.

Tenchi - This is all very flattering, but we have a dilemma here

Tokimi - I assume you are referring to me?

Tenchi - Yes. I have located you — well, as much of you as there is in this space. I do not believe I can kill you, but I do believe I can hurt you sufficiently for your own kind to finish the job

Tokimi - So, what do you intend to do now?

Tenchi - I will leave that up to my family — after all, they are the ones you have been hunting for millions of years

Tsunami - Will you leave us in peace, Sister?

Tokimi - No

Washu - Even though we have Transcended?

Tokimi - No

Tenchi - Why not?

Tokimi - Because that is my purpose in life

Tenchi - And you never gave any thought to what comes after?

Tokimi - I...no, I have not

Washu - We found a new purpose, and so can you

Tokimi - It is too late for me, Sisters

Tsunami - It is never too late

Tokimi - So, it comes down to this: I withdraw and return later, after building another fleet — or you kill me now. Are you prepared to face either prospect?

The pause seemed eternal, with Tokimi's question hanging in the air like a Damoclean sword. That is, until Tenchi broke the silence.

Tenchi - Actually, there is another alternative...

############# AUTHOR'S NOTES #############

As mentioned elsewhere, the characters of Tenchi Muyo! were created by Masaki Kajashima, and brought to North America by Pioneer LDC. The attached story, while incorporating names and situations held under copyright by others, is copyright 2005 by Jeffery L. Harris. Said story came entirely from my imagination, and is not, nor intended to be, canon. Please do not send the legions of lawyers after me...it's not worth their time, or mine.

Any questions or comments should be directed to:

Jeffery L. HarrisSubject: "The Harem Saga Sequel - Tokimi"

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