Subject: [FFML2] [fanfic][ranma]Bedlam Fire Chp. 6
From: Allyn Yonge
Date: 2/3/2001, 5:29 PM
To: ffml@patchmonkey.net, ffml2@listbot.com

FFML2 - http://ffml2.rcbooks.org

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The  characters  of the Ranma 1/2 universe  are  the
creation   and   possession  of  the  brilliant   Rumiko
Takahashi.  They  belong  to Rumiko  Takahashi  and  her
licensees   (Shogakukan   Inc.,   Kitty-Fuji   TV,   Viz
Communications   Inc.)  No  copyright  infringement   is
intended.   
          


"The Green Lantern", copyright ALL-AMERICAN COMICS
 # 16 (July 1940)   
               
(Note: Green Lantern #16  provided the inspiration for this
story. However only the colour green remains.)



WARNING: This story contains scenes that some readers may
find sexually suggestive and/or violent.          


Extended author notes will be added at the end of
of Chapter one and again at the end of the final chapter.


*******************************************************
          

          Bedlam Fire


Chapter 6

******************************************************
******************************************************

     "Dammit, old woman," Ranma stood beside Ke Lun,
just inside the door to Akane's room, "you promised to help
Akane. What're we doin' here, 'stead of with her?" he waved a
hand in the direction of the doujou where Akane was being . . .
looked after . . . by her sisters, Shan Pu and Mu Si. 

     "Quiet boy," Ke Lun snapped, not even looking at
Ranma. Her concentration was focused entirely on the,
apparently, completely ordinary room. Slowly she scanned the
small space with her five senses . . .and more-- from the single
bed close up against the right wall, across the desk, slightly
untidy with an unfinished geometry assignment sprawled across
the top. Then the bookshelf and dresser, a tiny bit of brightly
coloured cotton peeping from the corner of an incompletely
shut drawer.  Moving cautiously, as if a wild animal might be
hidden within, the old warrior opened the closet doors,
breathing deeply the young-girl scent of perfume and powder,
mixed with the tang of wood and iron from  martial art
equipment stuffed into odd corners, around shoes, dresses and
school uniforms.

     "A'right ya old mummy, what's the deal? Why aintcha 
helpin' Akane 'stead of pokin' around in here?" Ranma's store
of patience had been exhausted and he was rapidly using up his
children's and children's children supply. 

     "I am trying to find something," Ke Lun said absently,
leaving the closet and moving toward Akane's desk.

     "Yeah?" Ranma said skeptically. "What?"

     "That, I do not know," Ke Lun cautiously pulled open
the drawers to Akane's desk with her staff, "but ----"

     "I'll  know it when I see it," Ranma finished
impatiently. 

     Ke Lun looked at him sharply.

     "Hey, that's what they always say on TV," Ranma
replied, somewhat defensively.

     Ke Lun gave him a darkling look before returning to her
investigations. "Something has affected Tendou Akane----"

     "No kiddin'." Ranma muttered, earning another look.

     "----and I am looking for the source."

     "In her room?"

     Ke Lun shrugged. "I must begin somewhere, and her
room is as good a place . . ." her voice trailed off and she
stared at the lamp that stood above the head of Akane's bed.

     "Turn off the lights boy." Ke Lun didn't look to see if
Ranma obeyed but went to the window and pulled the curtain
across the window, shutting out the setting sun.

     "What's the big idea?" Ranma's voice died as he turned
back toward Ke Lun to see a faint green glow coming from the
headboard. He could see Ke Lun moving cautiously in the
gloom until she stood between him and the source of the glitter.
A fat green spark lit the dark as it jumped the distance between
Ke Lun and the glow.

     "HEY!" Ranma jumped. "Old ghoul, are you OK?"

     "Turn the lights back on, groom." Ke Lun answered
calmly. 

     At least he wasn't " boy", anymore he thought, flipping
the switch. Although he wasn't sure groom was that much of an
improvement. "What the heck is it?" He jerked his reaching
hand back as her staff came down sharply across his knuckles.
"Wha'ja bu vat for?" he asked crossly, sucking on his bruised
hand.

     "It is death," Ke Lun stared at the statue of the goddess-
of-mercy with cold eyes.

     "Hey," Ranma's brow wrinkled in thought, "that's the
thing Ryouga gave Akane for her birthday!" Another thought
came to him. "Why couldn't we see it before?" For the statue
was in plain sight, standing in front of the lamp. But Ranma
would swear it hadn't been there when they'd come in the
room. It was too ugly to miss.

     "It did not want to be seen," Ke Lun replied cryptically.
"Don't touch it," She threatened him with her staff again as he
reached for the statue. "Give me that pillowcase," she pointed
at the pillow laying at the head of the bed, "but do not get near
the statue." she warned him as he started to lean over the bed.

     Ranma considered the problem for a second, the lamp
was only a foot or so above where the pillow lay. Moving
suddenly to the end of the bed he grabbed the bed cover and
sheets where they were tucked under at the foot and, with a
yank, jerked the bedclothes and the pillow along with them,
toward him. Grinning in triumph he stripped the pillowcase
from the pillow and handed it to Ke Lun. 

     "Very clever groom." Ke Lun had Ranma help her hold
the pillow case open as she  carefully tipped the statue into it
with her staff and quickly knotted it closed.

     "A'right!" Ranma pumped his fist in triumph. "Akane's
gonna be cured, now we got this thing outta here."

     "Not yet." Ke Lun eyed her burden as if it were a bomb
with a smoking fuse. "Now we must take this to China and
dispose of it."
     
     "We?" Ranma shook his head. "I ain't goin' nowhere
'till Akane's better." A sudden thought made him frown. "This
ain't come kinda trick is it? To get me to China so's I gotta
marry Shan Pu?"

     "Listen to me Saotome Ranma."

     The young martial artist straightened in shock. Ke Lun
only called him by his name when . . .actually he couldn't
recall her _ever_ calling him by name.

     "Until _this_ is destroyed," she jiggled the improvised
bag. "it will exert it's evil over Tendou Akane, and I can do
nothing for her."

     "Well . . .yeah," Ranma agreed doubtfully. "but why do
I gotta go? I don't want to leave----"

     "I may need you," Ke Lun admitted, "I am  old and this
evil is strong. Also . . .Tendou Akane must be prevented from
harming herself or others while under the influence of this
foulness. I can not depend on you not to do something foolish, if
left here with her. She will be well cared for," Ke Lun
dismissed his protests even as he formed them. "her sisters are
well able to keep her safe." Or, at least I can depend on
Tendou Nabiki to be motivated by self interest. _She_ will
keep her sister secure, until I return, she thought. "Come," she
motioned for Ranma to follow, "If we hurry we can catch the
evening tide."

******************************************************
******************************************************

     Nabiki's self interest was motivating her----to run like
hell----he tea tray clattered and she sternly willed her trembling
arms to stillness. Standing in the bright sunlight she stared at the
doorway to the doujou, the darkened interior unpleasantly
reminding her of the maw of some great beast. Mouth open
wide to swallow it's unwary prey.

     Her----Tendou Nabiki----middle daughter of Tendou
Soun and Ichijo Ukifune. President of Class Three, Home
Room B. Future executive of a major corporation.

     She was too smart to get eaten by some stupid monster.

     Where was Ranma when you needed him? In China,
that's where. He'd only been gone five days. Eighteen hours.
She glanced at her watch. Fifteen minutes.

     Dammit!

     She knew how long he'd been gone to the minute. And
she despised herself for it. For counting the minutes, the
seconds, he'd been gone. As if the knowing would get him back
sooner. Ke Lun, with Ranma's help,  had ripped out every bit
of iron and steel, anything that was faintly metalic in the
doujou, muttering all the time about a Jade Daemon, then they'd
all run off and left her to deal with----this. Dammit, Ranma was
the one who knew how to deal with this demon and magic stuff.

     She took another step, onto the covered path leading to
the doujou, telling  herself that she was shivering at the sudden
coolness from the shade.

     She could wait for Kasumi to get back. _She_ didn't
seem to mind taking care of . . .not Akane. That _thing_ was not
her sister. 

     Kasumi had gone _shopping_, when she should have
taken care of . . .of . . .it,  first. Nabiki hated Kasumi for her
selfishness, at going off and leaving _her_ to ----  She hated
herself more for her own fear, fear that she turned against
Kasumi. But  knowing didn't make her any less afraid.

     Daddy should be here. It was a father's responsibility.

     Another step, and another. One more took her out of the
bright sun into the gloomy interior of the doujou.

     Funny. She'd always liked the doujou. Not that she'd
ever tell daddy that. She remembered sitting in the corner as a
child. Watching her father with his students. She'd thought his
name was "sensei" until she was eight.

     Her tall, strong father. Moving so confidently, pinning
younger, stronger men with ease. So serious. So kind. She
loved the sound and smell of the doujou.  Nothing bad could
ever happen as long as daddy was around.

     But he wasn't around. He'd had another breakdown
when they brought Akane home. It was like mother, all over
again. Uncle Genma and Auntie Nodoka were taking care of
him, at a resort hotel in the country. 

     "akane?" her whispered call seemed to echo in the
darkened interior. She didn't expect an answer. Not with all the
drugs they were----

     Another hesitant step. Like a rabbit tip-toeing past a
pride of hungry lions.

     "akane?"  Please god, don't let her be awake.

     She'd taken too long to get up her nerve to come in
here. She knew that. But there should be time, still. Nabiki
looked at the IV-bag on her tray, next to the syringe and vial of
Pentobarbital. All she had to do was change out the old bag of
fortified-glucose for the new one, inject the narcotic into the
bag and leave. Kasumi had even fixed a little schedule to the
tray and attached a pencil to it with string. When to change the
bags. How much drug to inject. Everything. All she had to do
was follow the instructions and mark off everything as she did
it. Easy. Foolproof.

      A dark shadow bulked in the gloom. Nabiki's slowly
dark adapting eyes could make out details now.

     The short, muscular, body of her . . .of "it", was forced
into a kneeling position by massive timbers----an old fashioned
set of stocks really----sized to hold Godzilla prisoner, resting
in the middle of the doujou. Eight-inch thick timbers of oak
enclosed the nude body at ankles, knees, wrists and elbows,
fastening her limbs behind her back.

     Ke Lun had a great deal of respect for Akane's brute
strength. 

     Kasumi had insisted on padding the floor to keep . . .
her . . .it . . .as comfortable as possible. Nabiki reached across
the kneeling figure. It would have been easier to move to the
other side but she couldn't bring herself to put  "Akane"
between herself and the door. Awkwardly holding the tray in
one hand, she fumbled with the nearly empty IV-bag. She really
should change the catheter-bag as well. But that could wait-----

     Almost nose to nose with the bound figure she could
feel it's warm breath tickle her cheek. The slightly sour smell
of a body incompletely washed by sponge baths for nearly a
week, mixed with the odor of stale urine and reminded her
unpleasantly of hospitals and beeping machines trying to keep
life in a body the soul had already fled. Of her mother. And
death.

     A head, crowned by a cap of midnight hair, rose slowly
upright, like a flower seeking the sun, and the eyes snapped
open.

     Nabiki's heart stopped.

     "let me go."

     "akane?"

     "Let me go." Heavy ropes of muscles bunched under the
skin, like a basket of snakes.

     "asleep," Nabiki's voice was a whimper. "you should
still be asleep."

     "Let me go!"

     Nabiki fumbled with the IV bag, the slick plastic falling
from fingers greasy with fear.

     "Let----me----go!" Impossibly the massive timbers
groaned as the bound girl surged forward, actually rocking the
quarter ton structure slightly.

     "no," the tray dropped from nerveless hands with a
crash.

     "LET ME GO!"

     Nabiki fled, from the darkness and into the sunlight,
followed by the bestial howl of her sister's voice and the
moaning, cracking sound of the timbers as she thrashed against
her prison.

******************************************************

     Green fire crackled and surged, beating futilely at her
wooden prison. But wood was as insubstantial as smoke to the
green fire and all the rage and fury of a mad beast could not
change that. Questing tendrils of fire crackled throughout the
empty doujou, looking for something to use as a weapon. A
tool.

     Nothing. Nothing. The structure had been carefully
cleaned. The few modern metal fastenings  had been replaced
by wooden ones. Even the lamps and electric wiring, a
relatively new addition, had been ripped out. The green fire
lapped at the edge of the door, spilling out into the garden for a
few meters before falling back.

     Weak. She was too weak. It had been too long since
she'd fed.  She was starving in an ocean of food. Even inside
the gloom of the doujou the space around her was filled with
energy, thermal radiation, photons of light, cosmic rays . . .all
useless to her as tinned food to a starving man without a can-
opener. She needed the catalyst of fear.

     And there _was_ fear. Delicious terror. Just out of
reach. She could smell it.

     Howling with frustrated need she surged against her
prison of wood, her insane strength actually shivering the
structure a bit. Blood ran from her arms and legs and trickled
onto the floor as she gouged her flesh against the unyielding
timbers in her frenzy to escape, green fire crackling and
storming around the empty doujou in a mindless search for
something, anything she could use----

     A pencil.

     A wooden pencil

     With a metal band to hold the eraser.

     The sudden calm was as frightening as the rage storm.
More frightening, because of the contrast, had there been
anyone to see the cold hungry look in Akane's eyes.

      Immaterial fingers jerked the pencil free of the tray and
lifted it into the air, starting it gently spinning. Slowly at first,
then faster. And faster. Until the air began to scream in protest
as the rotations went super-sonic. Then those same invisible
fingers set the spinning tip of the pencil against the top of the
wooden stock. The high pitched shriek deepened suddenly to a
low moan as the tip of the pencil ground against the top bar of
her prison. And a small tendril of smoke curled up from the
wood. 

******************************************************

     Nabiki sat huddled in the family room, her hands
wrapped firmly around a hot cup of Uncle Genma's favorite
restorative . . .bourbon and coffee. Only in her case she'd
actually added a little coffee. 
                         
     Keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the garden outside, she
took another sip of the bitter brew, gasping only slightly as the
hot liquid burned a blessed numbing path down her throat and
exploded like a fireball in her belly. Glancing at her watch
again, as she had been doing involuntarily every minute for the
past two hours, she willed the hour hand to move faster. This
time it worked. It was time for Kasumi to be home from
shopping.

     A koi broke the surface of the pond with a tiny splash,
probably begging for food, when the sound of a footfall caught
her attention. Kasumi-oneesama . . .right on time as always.
Bracing herself for her elder sisters gentle non-condemnation,
when she told her of her weakness, Nabiki resolutely scrubbed
tears from her face with the back of her hand.

     "Kasumi? I'm sorry I didn't----

     It wasn't Kasumi.

     "oh god." She could feel the blood drain from her face
as she scooted backward, coming up hard against the wall.

     "Where is it." The flat toneless words were a
command.

     "I don't know what----" A giant hand slammed her
against the ceiling and held her there just long enough to be
afraid of falling, before letting her drop.

     "My statue. Where is it."

     She stood there in the middle of the room, naked body
streaked with blood and ash, smelling of wood-smoke and
pain. Like the incarnation of some pagan goddess she stalked
her sister around the small family room with blood and fear.

     Nabiki lurched to her feet and scrambled to the door,
but a wall of green fire blocked her way.

     "Leave me alone," panting with fear her eyes darted
around the room, looking for an escape, a weapon . . . anything.

     "Just leave me-----" Wood! The sudden memory of
Shan Pu's telling of the fight at the hospital galvanized Nabiki
and, snatching the table with a surge of fear-fueled strength, she
threw it at her sister. The green fire _was_ ineffective against
wood, but a hard right hand smashed the missile to kindling and
Akane continued her stalk.

     "No. Akane, please . . . no!" Nabiki smashed futilely at
her sisters face as Akane grabbed her by the collar, lifting her
clear of the floor.

     "Where?" Just that single word.

     "I don't know what you're----" Green fire stopped her
mouth. Effortlessly Akane carried her struggling sister into the
kitchen. With a thought she smashed the water pipes.

     "Where." 

     The green fire vanished for an instant.

     "I don't----" A cylinder of force raped her mouth,
forcing wide  her jaws until she thought they would crack and a
torrent of water from the broken pipes surged down her throat.

     "Where." The cylinder and water vanished.

     "I can't----"

     The tube rammed down her throat again, snapping off a
couple of teeth. That pain was nothing compared to the flood
being forced down her throat, filling her stomach. She couldn't
breath. Frantically she beat and kicked as blackness roared in
her ears. 

     "Where."
     
     "China," sobbing she gulped air as the water vanished
again.  "China. I don't know where." she begged, and was too
frightened to be ashamed of her weakness. "China. Ke Lun,
Ranma . . .China . . .Amazons . . ." her stomach heaved and she
vomited the water that had been forced down her, all over her
sister. Akane seemed oblivious, closing her eyes and turning
toward the north-west, as if searching. Her eyes snapped open
and she looked back at her sister in satisfaction.

     "Thank you." Her fist tightened and Nabiki's eyes went
wide with terror as she realized Akane intended to crush her
throat.

     "Akane?"

     "Kasumi! RUN!" Nabiki forced the shriek past her
constricted throat in the bravest act she'd ever done.

     "Oh dear," Kasumi put her bag of groceries on the
counter and surveyed her kitchen with a tiny frown. "Dinner is
going to be a little late, I'm afraid."

     Worms of green fire writhed across the floor toward the
eldest Tendou girl, and fell back, baffled. There was no fear to
latch onto.

     "You need to let me look at those scrapes, before they
get infected." Kasumi lay a gentle hand on Akane's arm. 

     "K . . .kasumi?" The green fire dimmed, and confused
brown eyes looked out of a bruised and bloody face.

     "Nabiki, why don't you fix us some tea while I dress
Akane's wounds."

     Akane followed Kasumi's gaze and saw Nabiki
dangling from her fist. She looked at her arm as if it belonged
to a stranger, then, gently, lowered her middle sister to the
ground.

     Gagging and gasping Nabiki staggered over to the sink
and spat out a mouthful of blood. "Tea!? Kasumi are 
you cra----" her mouth snapped shut under Kasumi's mildly
reproachful gaze. Her terror receded a little under the influence
of Kasumi's soothing aura and she willed her limbs to move.

      "Tea. Right. Keemun," she opened a cabinet and 
pulled down a can of Kasumi's favorite aromatic black tea,
"Pai Mu Tan," she liked a white tea herself, "and . . ." she
glanced at Akane, standing docile and somewhat dazed looking
as Kasumi carefully washed blood and dirt from her face and
arms, "de-caf‚ for you," she muttered under her breath, wincing
as her broken teeth began to throb. She was going to hurt like a
son-of-a-gun once the shock and bourbon wore off. She hated
the dentist. Keeping a wary eye on her . . . on _it_ . . .  she
started water boiling and carefully measured tea into separate
pots.

******************************************************

     "Kuonji-sama," Konatsu trotted after his mistress,
sweetly innocent face twisted in worry. "please reconsider.
This is most unwise."

     "Don't tell me what to do," she growled at her faithful
cross-dressing ninja, taking out her worry . . .and fear, on
him."Ran-chan hasn't been to school in a week." Ukyou
mentally berated herself for not checking on him sooner. She
should have been out to see him the first day he didn't show up,
only . . .

     "Of course not, Kuonji-sama." Konatsu answered
submissively. "I am thinking only of your safety."

     "Well stop. Thinking. It doesn't suit you." Ukyou
snapped spitefully, wanting to hurt him as she was hurting.

     "Of course Kuonji-sama," the ninja replied, faithful and
forgiving as a loyal dog. "I will stop thinking at once." The
gentle eyes widened fractionally. "Please Kuonji-sama, _how_
do I stop thinking?"

     Ukyou stopped so suddenly that Konatsu almost ran into
the back of her. She turned to look at the painfully kawaii young
man, her mouth dropping open slightly.

     "How do you . . ." She stood silent a moment, then put a
hand on his silk clad shoulder. "Konatsu . . ." That was all, just
his name. "Konatsu . . ." Sighing heavily she turned and
resumed her journey.

     "It's goin' to be alright, sugar." She tugged her
bandoleer into a more comfortable position, then reached
behind her back and adjusted her spatula. It wasn't her beloved
Masamune, _that_ blade was at the swordsmith being repaired,
and would be for a year or more. But this one was suitable.
Perhaps more than suitable.  Daruma was considered
Masamune's equal by many, but his blades were also thought to
be unlucky because they constantly sought blood. Ukyou pulled
the slim pole arm from it's sheath and admired the sheen of it's
blue-black steel.  She didn't consider that unlucky at all. 

     "Kuonji-sama," Konatsu began timidly, watching Ukyou
admire her reflection in the metal. " Tendou Kasumi-san may
not like it if you start a battle in her home."

     "I've got to save Ran-chan from himself. He doesn't
know what's good for him."

     Konatsu was quite certain that no smarter, braver,
kinder or more generous person than Kuonji-sama existed on
the face of the earth. Or, what was more important, in Japan. 
And her word was law. However . . .

     "Kuonji-sama . . .perhaps . . .perhaps Saotome Ranma-
san will not . . .possibly does not . . .wish . . .what is good? For
him? Maybe?" He trailed off weakly as Ukyou whirled, pinning
him with a burning stare.

     "I----am----going----to----save" Ukyou bit off each
word as if she were chewing concrete, "----Ranma-honey----
from----that----scheming----HUSSY!!!" Ukyou broke off,
blushing as she realized she'd attracted a crowd, some of
whom were eyeing her combat spatula uneasily.  Scattering
them with a glare, she stomped on down the street, faithful ninja
at her heels.  A few more minutes brought her to the main gate
of the Tendou compound. Pushing open the doors she walked
down the path, faltering only a moment before sliding back the
front door and stepping into the alcove.

     "Ukyou-sama," The ninja stopped to leave his street
shoes beside Ukyou's. "Please Ukyou-sama."   Konatsu's voice
was pleading as he hurried to catch up. "You still have not
recovered from your injuries."  This was an unfortunate choice
of words.

     Ukyou's face tightened as she recalled her humiliation.
And fear.

     "I'm not going to let that fiancee-stealer get her own
way. And if you think I'm afraid of Akane----"she stopped
abruptly in the doorway to the kitchen, with a little noise like a
squeaky toy with a broken squeaker. 

     Konatsu peered around his mistress to see a tableau of
Tendou's. Nabiki, next to the stove, frozen in the act of pouring
something into a small blue pot decorated with flowers. Across
from her, Kasumi stood by the sink, running water over a clean
cloth. To the left of her stood Akane, naked--smeared with
blood and soot--her face and arms oddly streaked with white,
which Konatsu abruptly realized, explained the cloth in
Kasumi-san's hands.

     Brown, softly unfocused eyes, suddenly hardened into
emerald ice and locked onto the okonomiyaki chef like a
missile battery. Ukyou gasped and took a step back, Konatsu
moving protectively in front of her. This second tableau lasted
only a fraction of a second before Akane vanished out the back
door with a crash of splintering wood, followed moments later
by the shivering crack of a sonic boom rolling away into the
distance.

     "Oh dear." 

     Konatsu didn't think this was a good thing. Kasumi-san
actually had a tiny frown wrinkle.

     "Shit." The epithet was said without much force, as if
the speaker was saying it only because it was expected. "Now
what?" Nabiki turned to her sister, placing the steeping pots of
tea on the table.

     "Would you like some tea?" Kasumi asked as she
carefully hung the damp cloth in her hands across a drying rack.
"Nabiki just made it." Bowing politely she indicated a spot for
her guests to sit while she walked to the telephone.

     "Who are you calling, Oneesama?" Nabiki poured tea
for Ukyou and Konatsu, hoping it was the dentist. Now that she
was no longer in fear of imminent death at the hands of her
possessed sister, she was aware that her broken teeth hurt like
hell. 

     "The airport," Kasumi's voice came back. "to check on
departure times.

     "Departure?" Ukyou said faintly, inordinately proud
that her hands shook only a little as she picked up her cup.

     "I don't think it is proper for Akane to be in China 
without a chaperone," Kasumi answered. "and she didn't even
take her toothbrush. So I'm booking two tickets." 

     Nabiki choked, as tea went down the wrong pipe, and
Ukyou pounded her on the back with her free hand.

     "Make that three, Kasumi-san." Ukyou put her cup
carefully on the table. "You'll need someone with experience
in rough country travel and----" 

     "Four tickets, Kasumi-san." Konatsu put in quietly.
Ukyou looked at him sharply but the usually compliant ninja's
look dared her to disagree.

     "_Four_ tickets please," Ukyou sighed. "I will pay for
"our" tickets, of course."

     "Thank you Ukyou-chan." Kasumi replied. "And if you
would walk Nabiki to the dentist----" The girl in question
groaned, half in pain, half in anticipation. "I would appreciate
it. I'll call and tell them it's an emergency."

     "Dent----?" Ukyou noticed Nabiki's bruised face for the
first time. "What happened to you?"

     "C'mon," Nabiki was starting to hurt. "I'll tell you on
the way."

******************************************************

     Thirty five thousand feet above Sichuan province,
Colonel Sima Wu, People's Liberation Army Air Force, was
putting his new J-12 Biaolong fighter through it's paces. The
People's Republic had four prototypes of the new Storm
Dragons, based on the Soviet Su-37 advanced tactical fighter
design. He had just started a test of the navigational computer
when an alert tone pulled his attention from the exercise.

     "Missile detected! Missile Detected." The strident
voice was coming over the General Alert frequency. "All anti-
air defense stations----missile inbound . . ." there followed a
string of numbers that Sima punched into his computer.

     The Yellow Sea. And if it held course it should pass
just south of----

     "Missile entering Jinan radar control."

     ----Jinan city. Damn, it was fast.

     Another voice came over the alert channel.
     
     "Beijing control. Beijing control.  Contact lost. Repeat
contact lost. Last projected course, object should enter Shanxi
radar coverage in sixty minutes. Repeat, six zero minutes."

     Shanxi? The thing was cutting a path straight through to
Tibet. Sima frowned, looking at the map projected on his
Heads Up Display.  He didn't think it was a missile, or rather,
not a deliberate launch. Even with a nuclear warhead, a single
missile couldn't cripple the military potential of a nation the
size of China. And there were much better targets than a modest
town like Shanxi or the empty Qinghai Provence or Tibetan
Autonomous Region beyond.

     He touched a liquid crystal display and the computer
obediently back-tracked to the probable launch point. 

     Japan? Not a weapon then. It was probably a test
vehicle that had gotten away from them or perhaps even a
remotely piloted reconnaissance drone. 
     
     A sudden thought came to him. The Japanese 
government wouldn't fire a missile at China. They _had_ to
know that retaliation would be swift and terrible. And their
American masters would piss themselves at the thought of
starting a war with the People's Republic.

      Not the _government_, but the Japanese had their own
fanatics; he recalled pictures of a wild eyed mystic who had
killed his own people with poison gas.

     It, whatever it was, was moving more slowly now,
according to the reports coming in. If it could change speed
perhaps it could change course. If it turned south into the fertile
Red Basin . . .ninety five percent of Sichuan province lived
there. His blood went cold at the though of the mega-deaths
from a properly designed and placed chemical or biological
weapon.

     "Chengdu control," he switched channels to the
Chengdu Military-Region frequency, "this is Colonel Sima. I
am moving to intercept intruder." Air Defense was strong in
Anti-Air-Artillery and Surface-to-Air-Missiles, but they were
emplaced around major cities and industrial complexes.  Most
of his homeland was naked to air attact--but he was flying the
most advanced fighter in the world.

     "Colonel Sima, this is Chengdu control," the response
was immediate. "You do not have authority to leave CMR

     Sima hit his mike button. "Chengdu control, I must
maneuver _now_ if I am going to generate an intercept vector."
He advanced the throttles and the big turbofan engines
accelerated him quickly through Mach 1.1 on Super Cruise. 
Tapping a series of commands into his nav-comp he watched a
green line stretch across his HUD until it intercepted the red
line of the intruder's path.

     "Colonel," control came back, sounding more than a
little agitated, "it will take some time to contact Jinan control
and assign you----"

     "Control, "Sima spoke with the authority of the senior
pilot on station and, unless he screwed up by the numbers, the
probable future commander of the PLAAF, " I am maneuvering
to intercept an enemy of the people." He watched the icon of
his plane move slowly across the computer generate map.
"From Jinan MR reports, the target seems to be stealthed,"
more likely it was outdated detection equipment, and not
enough of it. But, better to give the people in Air
Defense(Radar) a way to save face. "I do not intend to allow
enemies of the people to think they own the peoples sky."
Which was true enough he thought, but it never hurt to say so
for the record. Or rather, for the recorders that were taking
down his every word.  Nor did it hurt that his grandmother had
been with Mao on the long march. Now Gengdu control was in
the unenviable position of having to _refuse_ Sima permission
to defend the homeland. On the other hand if they released  him-
---


     "Colonel,"control came back after a moment. "Gengdu
Command releases you from local control. As senior pilot you
are instructed to act on your own authority."

     ----then it would be _his_ head if he failed.

     "Acknowledged, Gengdu control. Please alert Beijing
Military Region  of my intentions and have them ready to hand
me off to Lanzhou M-R, once I pass the border." he thought a
moment. "relay my intentions to all Military Regions and have
them prepared to provide intercept information, if the Intruder
changes course."

     "Acknowledged. Good hunting, Colonel" Control's
voice changed tone. "and good luck."


******************************************************

     " . . .oving . . .tercept. Ac . . .dge . . ."  The voice was
broken and distorted by static. Of course the owner, flying an
elderly J-7,  didn't have Sima's advanced communications
suite. What he _did_ have was the advantage of position.  Sima
was still fifteen minutes out and reservists, flying the Chinese
version of the old Mig-21, were about to intercept the intruder,
while Colonel Sima and his ultra sophisticated J-12 were going
to be left to help write the after-action report on "Lightning
Flight's" victory.

     "Can't get. . .adar lock. Switch . . .ase gener . . ." The
rest of the transmission was lost in an electronic hash. Sima's
Electronic Warfare suite had no trouble detecting the other
fighters attack radar as it increased in power, illuminating the
still far distant target. Sima would be in range to use his Kh-
17's in a few minutes. He doubted they would need help against
the unarmed and probably un-manned recon craft that Sima was
now convinced had invaded his homeland. The intruder was
now moving under five hundred kilometers per hour, barely
eight thousand meters above the earth. No pilot would have
penetrated so far into China, moving so low and slow. Or
rather, if slow they should have been _much_ lower, tree-top
height or less. Or much faster and a lot higher.  Well, he
amended that thought, no _sane_ pilot would----


     " . . .issile lock. We ha . . .missile . . .ock. Firing now!" 

     Sima grinned wryly, at the excitement in the young
voice, evident even through the static. He was, he freely
admitted to himself, more than a little jealous. Both on a
personal level and for the fact he wouldn't be able to
demonstrate the Storm Dragon's capabilities.      

     "This is Lightning-Lead, missiles have acquired target. 
Second missile launch."

     He was closer now, their signal was much stronger. 

     "Hard lock. Good tone," the leader's wingman
announced. "Launching now. Launch, launch, launch."
     
     Too bad there wouldn't be anything left by the time he
got on site. Appropriations were coming up and it was always
easier to get money for a proven weapon----
     
     "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!"

     Sima jerked upright in shock at the strident call for
help. 

     "My wingman is going down.  Something hit his port
wing . . .I don't see a chute." The voice was steady, a credit to
his training. "Missiles detonated short of target. No visual
contact. Radar contact difficult. Closing to gun range."  Perhaps
not trained enough. With the loss of his wingman he should
have pulled back.

     Sima went to war emergency power and keyed his
mike, as a hundred thousand pounds of thrust pressed him into
his seat. "Lightning-Lead, this is Colonel Sima. I am closing
fast on your nine.  Do not engage, until I arrive. I repeat, _hold_
your position until----"

     " . . .can't see it----wait----wait," the excited voice cut
across his transmission, "I can see something. A glow, bright
green." The shuddering thunder of cannon was added to the
transmission as Lightning Lead opened fire. "Can't make
out----YES!" The voice rose an octave. " I can see it. It-----"

     The transmission ended so abruptly that Sima waited a
moment for Lightning-Lead to continue, before he realized what
must have happened. His radar screen, now clear of everything
except the intruder, confirmed his fears. 

     "Lanzhou control, this is Sima. Do you have Lightning-
Lead or Lightning-Two on your radar?"

     "Negative. They went off our screen. Their
transponders have also quit transmitting." There was a pause.
"There is no ELB."

     No Emergency Locator Beacon meant that neither of the
pilots had gotten out.

     "Lanzhou control. Are there any other aircraft in the
area?" His screen was clear, but he had to make sure.

     "Not at this time. There are two commercial transports
that will enter your zone of control in five minutes. And we
have a flight of J-8's that are moving in to support----"

     "Turn them back. Clear this air space."

     There was a startled pause. "Colonel, one of the
commercial flights is nearing the end of it's endurance and
must----"

     "Get it down. Tell the pilot unless he wants to end up in
the middle of a shooting war he'd better get his ass on the
ground." He didn't have time to sooth feelings. "The J-8's will
just be in my way. Turn them around. Now!"

     Without waiting for an acknowledgement he switched
on his targeting radar, sweeping the sky with eleven million
watts of energy, the most powerful fighter born radar in any air-
force. One of the benefits the peoples scientists had provided
for the peoples army. Among others.

     A faint return showed the position of the intruder. It was
fuzzy and hard to hold. Stealthed, as he'd suspected. He
frowned as the intruder kept it's slow steady pace. It was
moving at only 0.7 Mach now, but even as he watched it
slowed rapidly, speed falling to below four hundred knots. At
this range his attack radar would be boiling the paint off the
intruder.  He _had_ to know he was being illuminated. Only an
insane man would ignore this threat . . .Sima abruptly recalled
this crazy man had just killed two of his countrymen.
     

     He flipped a switch, activating his helmet-mounted
targeting system. He had only to look at a target to acquire it.
And his medium range K-73 Anti-Air Missiles could be fired
ninety degrees off bore. With the exceptional maneuverability
of the Storm Dragon this meant that he could kill any target he
could see.  But the K-73 was a medium range missile, good to
no more than sixty miles. And his job was to kill the Peoples
enemies, not to take chances. 

     He selected two missiles from his store and waited for
the lock-on signal. A moment later a steady tone indicated
radar lock and his two Kh17s dropped from  hard points and
raced for their target at Mach 4.5. They were intended to kill
American AWACS, the most heavily defended air target in the
world, at over two hundred miles. Unless this intruder was
some sort of magician he couldn't possibly----

     Damn.

     "Sima to Lanzhou control. Kh17s detonated short of
target. Intruder apparently has some sort of anti-missile
defense." But it had changed course. And speed. It was doing
Mach 2.5 and accelerating on a reciprocal, about thirty degrees
off his base course. He could see it now, a faint splotch of light
on his helmet display. Eighty miles and closing.

     Radar lock was intermittent so he switched to Thermal
Guidance for his R-73 AAMs.  He twisted his head to follow
the target, but the pip kept blinking, the missile still couldn't
lock. 

     The target was _behind_ him and moving like a bat out
of hell. Assuming a bat could do Mach 3.2.  The target might be
fast, but the Storm Dragon had a few secrets of it's own.

     Sima twisted the side-arm controller, vectored thrust
engines and forward canard acted together, spinning the fighter
one hundred eighty degrees in the horizontal plane, with no loss
in altitude. A maneuver no other fighter in the world could
duplicate.

     The targeting pip finally steadied and two missiles
raced for their target, then two more. He kept the last two in
reserve. His normal load-out was twelve missiles but two of
his hard-points were dedicated to instruments packs for his test
flight. No provision had been made to jettison them, which
would undoubtedly make the Peoples scientists happy, but he
would have been just as glad to be rid of their weight and drag.

     All four missiles detonated, without hitting their target--
which had dropped back to Mach 3.7 from a high of 3.9. He
had only one choice if he wanted to engage it.

     "Sima to Lanzhou control. Closing to gun range." Just as
Lightning-Lead had done. He ignored that unlucky thought and
armed his thirty millimeter cannon. He'd fire his last two
missiles at one mile, point blank range, and follow with gun-
fire. He had one hundred fifty rounds of high explosive and
armor piercing shells that no anti-missile defense could stop.

     Setting himself in his acceleration couch he flipped the
protective shield off a switch on the arm-rest. He twisted the
red button to the right and shoved it home. Instantly constriction
bands in the legs and belly of his flight suit inflated, forcing
blood to his brain. At the same time his environmental system
increased the flow of oxygen by thirty percent, while paired IV
tubes began to simultaneously deliver carefully metered
amounts of stimulant and nutrient through one tube, while the
second scrubbed toxins from his blood. An instant later, liquid
oxygen and hydrogen were dumped into his engine exhaust from
tanks that occupied his final two hard points.

     A giant hand slammed him against his seat with a force
twelve times gravity and only the drugs and other supplements
kept the grey tunnel constricting his vision from turning black. 
Riding a pillar of flame the Storm Dragon accelerated past
Mach 4.2 under computer control, following the movement of
Sima's eyes as he tracked the faint green sploch that was his
target. He had thirty seconds before Over-Boost exhausted the
fuel in his drop tanks.

     Twenty seconds.

     The computer automatically fired his last two missiles
at one mile. The target took evasive action, possibly it had
depleted its anti-missile weapon. No matter, the missiles lost
lock as the target jinked insanely. Storm Dragon had no such
limitations and the computer reefed the big fighter around in a
twenty-G turn that was too much even for his anti-G drugs.

     Fifteen seconds. 

          Sima regained consciousness to the thunder of the
cannon. The computer had acquired the target and started firing
while the med-systems were forcing his brutalized body back
to life.

     Ten seconds.

     Four hundred meters range. Damn, it was small. It
couldn't be a piloted craft. Sima's heart burned with rage at the
thought his countrymen had been killed by a machine. He took
control from the computer and began firing short, aimed bursts,
the fighter shuddering every time the big cannon fired. The
target continued high speed maneuvering but it was beginning to
slow.  

     Yes! 

     The intruder began another evasive  maneuver, a slow
turn to the left.  Sima was exultant.  He could turn inside the
target, engage at such close range it couldn't evade his cannon
fire. The intruder couldn't possibly escape.

     The intruder wasn't trying to escape. Intent on a distant
objective, it was tired of being pursued. 

     Sima had an instant to realize the target had made an
impossible ninety-degree turn, and was charging him like a
cornered tiger.

     Colonel Sima was a brave man and well trained in the
defense of his country. But there is no training for the
impossible. And bravery can't stop a lightning bolt.

     Claws of jade fire tore his fighter apart, like some cruel
spiteful child crushing a butterfly. And Sima died, unable to
understand what was killing him.

******************************************************

END Chapter 6 Bedlam Fire


Author Notes::

My first try at posting to the 
"new" lists and I _think_
I've figured it out.

 If this works I'll
try to be a little more
adventuresome and do
some C&C and more 
regular posting.

If it blows up in my face,
I'll go out in the garden
and eat worms. 

In the meantime I'm working
on Sukeban 8 (rev 2) and
a few other things.

However the "guts" of my computer
are scattered around the room as
I try to fix a slight problem. It
seems the new HD I just installed is
eating resources, causing my monitor
to automatically and randomly go to 
stand-by mode. :( While waiting to 
hear from Tech-Support I'm using 
a kludged system with parts from
several old computers.  So,
if I'm slow to answer or don't
answer at all . . .I have a 
good excuse.

Hope you like this chapter.
More to come. 
  


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