The ships came from around the darkside of the moon, where they had been carefully organizing all their forces. Flying at the point was Swordbreaker, the ultra-modern warship being flanked by the Manticore fighter wings and the remains of the Moon Kingdom forces.
"I'm still not very happy about having those Moon Kingdom ships coming along with us," Ruri quietly noted from her usual position at the ship's helm. Despite being the temporary captain the blue haired girl maintained her position there, smoothly coordinating with Rei and Asuka over at the communications and tactical stations.
"Neither am I," Mitsuki agreed from her rather uncomfortable seat in the captain's chair, "but we needed enough ships to make Ryo-Ohki's absence a bit less noticeable." The tall redhead was maintaining a close watch on the tactical updates, as well as keeping an eye on the ship's system's itself. 'This is a lot harder than Ruri makes it look,' she noted.
"A flight of enemy ships are coming up from Earth space," Asuka calmly noted, but her voice was coming out just a bit more eager than usual. It was quite clear that the orange haired young woman really enjoyed her work, both in her voice and in her posture, leaning into her controls. She smiled just slightly, "It seems that several of the ships that were more heavily damaged in the last engagement are still grounded."
"Keep an eye out for any cloaked ships," Mitsuki ordered them all crisply, "we've been assuming that their only cloaking devices were used in the ships that attacked the Washu's Revenge, but we could be wrong."
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Ruri smiled.
"An incoming message on a secured channel," Rei said, working her control panel calmly, "it's from the Moon Kingdom's lead ship."
The main screen changed as they received the signal, and a dark haired woman appeared up there. Lady Mars smiled at them slightly, "We're ready to go, ma'am." The noble pushed her long hair back, "We've concentrated on getting our warships back to fighting form, but we're only at seventy-five percent capacity."
"System limitations?" Ruri asked crisply.
"Our long range sensors are more limited than I'd like," Mars admitted, "and our point defense is going to be spotty at best."
"Initiating secure computer links," Rei anticipated the command, "tying in the Moon Kingdom vessels into our sensor grid."
"Thanks," Mars grinned.
"Message to all ships," Ruri began to bring them forward, "prepare to initiate combat maneuvering. Fighters, move out!"
The nine fighters shot forward, rapidly reaching the first of the Earth ships. The smaller vessels bobbed and weaved in among the larger vessels, fireballs blossoming at the enemy frantically tried to shoot them down.
"Well, well, it looks like the enemy's learned how much damage those fighters can actually do," Mitsuki noted.
From the surface of the Moon a wave of energy struck out, and an Earth ship exploded violently. A few moments later there was another, as the Earth ships frantically maneuvered about to try to avoid the attack.
"Do make sure that Kiyone and Mihoshi remind Serenity that we're up here, too," Ruri noted calmly as an energy-bolt nearly singed their hull.
Mitsuki smiled grimly as the range quickly closed between the two fleets, feeling honest relief that Rhione and the others were down on the Moon's surface and out of danger. "All right," she sat up straight as they finally came into optimum weapons range, "let's make these guys regret ever going after Manticore!"
Not far from the battle they floated silently, the lights dim and only the most minimal power being used. Swordbreaker and their allies unleashed a massive stream of weapons power, and Minagi whistled softly, "Now that's impressive."
"Not too bad at all," Ryouko agreed, standing nearby her blue haired twin sister. Ayeka paced impatiently not far away, and Ryouko could certainly understand how she felt. Thankfully, the wait was almost over.
"So we're going to follow a damaged Earth ship down?" Ayeka asked, her twin tails of dark purple hair flowing behind her.
"It should help shield us from their sensor grid," Ryouko agreed. Her eyes narrowed as an enemy ship blossomed in flame, "Ready, Ryo-Ohki?"
"Myah!" the ship replied cheerfully.
"Then let's go," Ryouko swept her long blue hair back with a grin.
The twisting, tumbling enemy craft suddenly found itself with a new shadow as Ryo-Ohki zoomed in right beside it. The nimble craft echoed the other ship's descent almost perfectly, using the fire and debris to cover their descent to the blue green world just below.
"Are we going to be able to break away from it's slipstream?" Minagi asked calmly as the ground rapidly began to fill the viewscreen.
"Let's find out," Ryouko replied, "go, Ryo-Ohki!"
They were shaken roughly as the slim ship fought to break free from the path it was following, but in moments Ryo-Ohki broke free. The black and red craft floated not far above the ground, as they all took a moment to get their bearings.
Ayeka raised an eyebrow as Ryouko and Minagi argued over the map and sighed softly. "Give it here," she took it from them. After orienting it the correct direction she pointed, "According to this the capital is due west from here."
Minagi shook her head with a smile, "Thanks."
Ryo-Ohki skimmed along the ground, and they looked out at the scenery that passed them by. Industry seemed to have overrun this world, frantic efforts being expended to manufacture machinery of all types. Ominously, much of it seemed to be the weapons of war.
Ryouko studied the various munitions factories as they skimmed by with a trained eye and frowned, "If this is all fairly typical, they've put much of their manufacturing capacity into building up for warfare." She shook her head as she grimly concluded, "It looks like the Moon Kingdom may just be a first step for them."
"Myah!" Ryo-Ohki cried out in warning as several fiercely red glowing objects appeared on another of the viewscreens.
"It looks like we've been spotted by their mobile security forces," Minagi noted as she called up a closer look at their pack of pursuers. Slim, fully air-bound fighter planes, but sill quite deadly for all of their primitive technology.
Ryouko gave them an single glance, quickly assessing their capabilities, "I think we can handle them, but it'll be noisy."
"Can we outrun them?" Ayeka asked. At the sisters surprised glances she continued, "It may not be too heroic, but the faster we get to their leader the better."
"She's got a point," Minagi admitted.
Ryouko nodded and flashed a sudden smile at her lover, "Part of why I love you." She tilted her head up, "Ryo-Ohki, let them eat our dust."
"Myah!" Ryo-Ohki agreed cheerfully, then put on a burst of plainly unearthly speed, soon leaving the fighters far behind.
Ayeka looked out the viewscreen and frowned. 'Could one of my blood really be responsible for all this?' she wondered, 'Could my brother's descendant have fallen so very far?' She sighed, 'At least the others are safe up on the Moon.'
The Palace shook slightly, a near miss rattling the energy shields that fought to protect it. Sasami leaned up against a wall a moment, waiting to see if there was another hit, but after a few seconds of silence moved on. The main hall was packed, the wounded being carried on one side and a improvised command center operating on the other.
"How are we doing?" Sasami tentatively asked.
Washu smiled slightly, "We're winning."
Sasami looked around at the growing casualties and quietly said, "If this is winning, I don't want to see what losing would be like."
With that Sasami moved off to help out her mothers Funaho and Masaki along with Rhione, leaving Washu to gaze after the girl thoughtfully. "She's quite an unusual little girl," Yume said quietly, reaching out to take her lover's hand gently in hers.
"I think I may have underestimated her," Washu admitted. She looked up to where Lady Mercury carefully studied her readouts, "How are the shields holding?"
"I'm impressed," the blue haired young woman admitted, "your improvised repairs are actually holding up better than our original shield grid." Lady Mercury gave her a slight smile, "The stories of your technical prowess aren't exaggerated."
"I noticed you were working on similar improvements when we started work," Washu said modestly, "it gave me plenty of material to build on." She tilted her head to the side, "Have you ever considered visiting the Science Academy?"
"A few times," Mercury acknowledged with a slight nod, "but I suspect my lover would be rather uncomfortable in such a place. She much prefers a simpler life of cooking and housekeeping for the two of us and our daughter."
Yume nodded slightly, a mental image of a sweet housewife for the dynamic Mercury. "May I ask who your lover is?" she asked curiously.
Mercury smiled happily, "The Lady Jupiter."
"Wha.." Washu gaped, the mental image of a sweet little housewife shattered when confronted by the amazonian Lady Jupiter.
Lady Mercury just smirked in reply as she returned to her work.
Ryo-Ohki rocked slightly, a near miss jostling the little ship. "Did the fighters catch up with us?" Ayeka asked in surprise.
"No, they're ground based defenses," Ryouko scowled, "I think we've hit the capital's outer defense perimeter."
Just ahead of them a great building rose up towards the sky, a fortress of gray stone and dull metal. And all around it a small army waited, fully prepared for battle. "Looks like they were expecting us." Minagi noted.
"We'll ram the building," Ryouko said thoughtfully.
"Like back in our raider days," Minagi grinned, "you two go in to find this King Tenchi, and Ryo-Ohki and I will hold off the army."
"That sounds like a plan," Ryouko grinned ferally as she ordered Ryo- Ohki to charge. They hurtled towards the great building, breaking through the stone into an open chamber within. All three of them leapt out, even as Ryo-Ohki reverted to her cabbit form. "Go get them," Ryouko waved as Minagi and Ryo-Ohki took off.
The two dropped towards the army, Minagi igniting her energy sword while the cabbit fell beside her. Ryo-Ohki shifted, growing larger, until at first a cabbit/little girl stood by Minagi, then a tall cabbit woman stood there.
"I never realized," Ayeka looked down in shock.
"Myah," Ryo-Ohki gave a very Ryouko-like grin, ignited an energy sword of her very own, then she and Minagi charged the army.
"Let's go love," Ryouko tugged Ayeka forward. She consulted a rough schematic Lady Mars had given them of the building and nodded towards a hallway leading into the heart of the structure. "The throne room's that way," she said.
"Right," Ayeka nodded, almost flying down the long hallway beside Ryouko. A few of the guards attempted to bar their way, but the two of them handled that threat fairly easily with sword or electrical blasts.
The hallway opened up into a much larger chamber, a great hall of some kind. An ornate throne stood there empty, but just behind it a dark haired young woman paced in front of an armored door, a fierce expression on her pretty face. That look soon turned to alarm once she saw them coming, "Stop intruders!"
Before Ayeka or Ryouko could even react, a powerful energy shield stopped them both in midair, sending them hurtling down to the ground. "Why, that.." Ryouko snarled out as she ignited her scarlet energy blade angrily.
"Wait," Ayeka waved Ryouko back, quickly extending her own force shield outwards until it struck the younger woman's barrier head on. There was a moment of interference, then both shields slammed down suddenly.
"How?" the girl gasped.
Ayeka met her gaze, "It seems our energy fields canceled each other out."
"You're related," Ryouko murmured in surprise. The girl's long hair was black, the shape of the face was similar, and her eyes were the same violet shade of Ayeka's own.
"My name is Funaho," the young woman met their eyes defiantly as she declared, "and I will not let you pass!"
"I am.. Queen Ayeka of Jurai, kinsman," Ayeka said softly. She met the girl's gaze steadily, "I seek to parlay with King Tenchi, to forge a peaceful resolution to this conflict."
"No one sees the King," the younger Funaho said regretfully, "not even his daughter." Her expression darkened, "Only his vizier sees him now."
"And how long has this been going on?" Ryouko asked her softly, a sudden sinking feeling coming over her. She didn't like the sound of this, not at all.
Funaho looked over at her with a frown, obviously wondering who this woman was, but she still answered. "A few weeks," she said softly, "why?"
"About the time our wedding party was attacked," Ryouko's expression was grim. She looked over at Funaho then nodded to the heavy armored door, "Your father is in that chamber there?"
"You will not pass me," Funaho vowed.
"Then come inside with us," Ryouko snapped back. "You have a right to see your father," she strode towards the sealed door, the others trailing along behind her.
Ayeka put her hand on a large keypad, looking down at it thoughtfully as Ryouko studied the massive door itself, "Do you know the code to open this?"
"Only the vizier knows," Funaho scowled, "supposedly for added security." Proudly she continued, "The door is three feet of battle steel, you'll never get inside."
"Three feet?" Ryouko tapped the material, listening to the metal ring thoughtfully, "Shouldn't be too much of a problem." With that she ignited her energy sword, driving it into the metal, swiftly melting a doorway for them all.
"You must fight on," the man's voice declared, "for the greater glory of Earth!"
The three rushed inside the room, only to freeze at what they saw waiting for them. The dark haired young man lay sprawled on the throne, clearly dead. A blow to the head was what probably had slain him, many weeks ago. Nearby another man, likely the grand vizier, continued to urge his troops on more and more desperately.
Funaho gazed at the boy sitting on the throne, tears streaking her face as she murmured softly, "Father?" Then more loudly, an anguished cry as she ran to kneel at his side, "Father!"
"No, you can't" the vizier raised a gun from his cloak, and Ryouko reacted without thinking, cutting him down with an energy bolt.
Monitors across the one side of the room showed the ongoing space battle, what was left of the Earth forces about to be destroyed. "We've got to order them to surrender," Ayeka ran towards the control panel to try and stop the needless loss of life.
"No," Ryouko stopped her gently before explaining, "they wouldn't take such an order from either of us."
Funaho knelt by her father's side, tears streaking her face. "Computer," she rose to speak softly with an odd sort of determination, "The king is dead, long like the king."
A woman's voice rang through the chambers, "Acknowledged. Queen Funaho, your authority is accepted and confirmed."
"I will not rule under that name," Funaho murmured softly. Eyes flashing she declared, "From this day forth, I am Queen Tenchi the Second."
"Your reigning name has been recorded, Queen Tenchi," the computer reported.
"Patch me through to the fleet and ground forces," Tenchi said crisply. She took a deep breath, "I order you to stand down. The war is now over. I will reveal more when I know it myself, but our king has been betrayed by his dearest comrade." Another breath, and with a bit more emphasis she finished, "The war is over."
The weapons fire trailed off, silence falling both in the small room and between the fleets out in space. Ayeka met the woman's gaze who was most probably her niece and gently asked her, "What will you do now?"
Tenchi looked up to meet her eyes, looking like a young girl out of her depth as she softly said, "I don't know."
To be continued...