No need for a foreword. I explained everything important on the last page. Read on, my friends...

Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 1: A Timely Arrival

"RANMA YOU JERK!!!" The sight of a handsome, pigtailed teenaged boy in a red Chinese shirt flying through the wall of the Tendo Dojo was not a new one. Had any of Ranma's neighbors been watching, they would not have been surprised, nor would they have cared. The fights between Ranma and Akane were well known, both for their frequency and the seemingly excessive amount of punishment inflicted on the combatants and the surrounding area. Ranma sat up as a furious teenaged girl stormed out of the dojo, carrying a bandaged and equally angry piglet under her arm. Having just returned from an afternoon jog, she was wearing jogging shorts and a red and blue T-shirt. A red headband was wrapped around a head of short, black hair. The piglet, oddly enough, wore a yellow and black striped bandana around its neck.

"Akane, really! I only accidentally dropped P-Chan into that dog kennel!" Ranma protested, giving Akane a desperate grin. The little black piglet in question squealed, and stuck his tongue out at Ranma. Only a sudden, nearly uncontrollable urge for self-preservation kept Ranma from sticking his own tongue out in return.

"I don't believe you," Akane said coldly. With her free hand, she hefted a huge, wooden mallet, produced, apparently, from nowhere.

Just as Akane was about to give Ranma a royal pounding, there was a loud thunderclap and a bright flash directly above them. The boy, the girl, and the pig glanced upward, just in time to see a silver flash streak across the sky and disappear in the distance. "What was that!?" gasped Ranma.

"I-I don't know," answered Akane, her anger temporarily stifled by the strange sight. "It didn't look like lightning, and there isn't a cloud in the sky."

Seemingly concerned, P-Chan squealed loudly, and struggled free of Akane's grasp. He raced out of the yard. "Wait, P-Chan!" called Akane, but the little black pig was out of sight.

"He'll be fine," reassured Ranma.

Akane did not look reassured. "Like you care, Ranma!" She was about to go after P-Chan, when the two of them heard a high-pitched whine, like a distant jet engine. Looking up again, they saw the silver object again streaking through the sky, approaching from the opposite direction that they had seen it disappear.

"Could that thing have circled around the globe already?" Ranma asked in disbelief.

"Look Ranma! It's stopped right above us!" True enough, the strange silver object was hovering above the Tendo yard, close enough to make out some details. It was vaguely egg shaped, and had fan-like wings protruding from either side. Then, it started to descend.

"It's gonna land Akane! You'd better get someplace safe," Ranma warned, jumping to his feet.

"You idiot! I can handle anything you can!"

"Sorry, I forgot what kind of violent tomboy you were," Ranma grinned. Akane scowled, but before she could do any life-altering damage to Ranma, the silver egg had landed.

With the egg on the ground, Ranma and Akane could see more of the topside of the thing. There was a glass cockpit, and a large, orange fin mounted on the back. The word "Epoch" was printed clearly on the side. With a whirr, the fan-like wings folded into the sides of the egg. "Is it a spaceship?" whispered Akane. Ranma just shrugged, staring at the odd vehicle with wide eyes.

Then, with a loud hiss, the cockpit began to slide open. Without a word, Akane and Ranma backed away slightly. Suddenly, a boy jumped out of the silver egg. He had spiky red hair, and was wearing blue overalls, leather boots, and a red bandana. He had a long katana sheathed at his side. Next to jump down was a girl with thick glasses. She wearing an orange tunic, a short dress, and a helmet with a small antenna. She carried a satchel strapped around her shoulder. The last to emerge was a blonde girl wearing a tear-shaped pendant. She was wearing a loose white blouse, and had her hair tied in a ponytail. She had a crossbow strapped to her back. The three seemed confused by something, and were soon deep in conversation with each other.

Seeing that the strange visitors were human, Ranma and Akane relaxed a little. The blonde girl was the first to notice them. "Oh, hello!" she called, waving cheerfully. The other two stopped talking, and turned to see who she was talking to.

"Er, hi," replied Ranma, with typical flair.

To Ranma's surprise, the redhead asked him what year it was. "Er, 1995," Ranma stuttered at the odd question.

The three newcomers seemed surprised. "1995?" repeated the blonde girl. She turned to the girl with the helmet. "I thought that we were going to 2300!"

"So did I," replied the other. "Perhaps something went wrong with the temporal motivators." She looked around, her glasses glinting in the sunlight. "Still, something seems wrong. It's only four years until the Day of Lavos. Where are all the domes? The advanced technology?"

"Um, excuse me," began Akane, a little quicker to recover than Ranma, "but could someone please explain WHAT'S GOING ON!?!"

The three newcomers jumped, and then looked sheepish. The redhead apologized, and introduced himself as Crono. After introducing the blond girl as Marle, and the helmeted girl as Lucca, he explained that the three of them were looking for his mother.

"Your mother?" asked Ranma, a sudden, wistful picture of his own mother, Nodoka, appearing in his mind.

"Yes," answered Lucca. "She was chasing Crono's eleven cats when she disappeared. Have you seen her?"

Ranma paled, and edged away, "C-CATS?" he mumbled. "E-ELEVEN!?"

Akane sighed and quickly whapped Ranma on the head with her hammer, causing the three guests to start in surprise, both at the casual nature of Akane's violent action and in wondering where the hammer had come from. "Snap out of it, Ranma. There aren't any cats here."

She addressed Crono. "I'm sorry, we haven't seen your mother. But with eleven cats, she should attract some attention, wherever she is."

The three looked disappointed, Crono most of all. Shoving eldritch feline horrors from his mind, Ranma came to a decision. "No one should be kept from their mother," he announced bitterly. "By the way, I'm Ranma, and that's Akane. We'll help you find her."

Crono looked grateful, but told Ranma that there was probably little he could do to help.

"What do you mean?" said Ranma, slightly miffed. "She's gotta be somewhere, doesn't she?"

"That's the problem," replied Lucca. "She doesn't have to be somewhere. She could be somewhen."

"Huh?" said Akane and Ranma in unison.

"The Epoch is a time machine," Lucca continued. "When Crono's mother disappeared, she fell into a time Gate. We aren't sure where in time she ended up. We were headed to the year 2300, but for some reason, we ended up here."

Ranma and Akane stared blankly, trying to absorb all this.

"Well, we really should be going," reminded Marle. Crono nodded and the three of them started back toward the Epoch.

Suddenly, there was a strange ringing sound, like a bell. Then they heard a rapid clicking sound followed by a crash, and the Epoch flew into the air. Crono abruptly found himself on the ground with a bicycle and a purple-haired rider on top of him. He gasped for breath as the girl looked down at him with a puzzled expression. She said, "You not Ranma!" Meanwhile, the Epoch crashed to the ground on the other side of the yard.

Crono yelled at the strange girl to get off of him. Seeming almost hurt by his vehemence, the cyclist pulled her bicycle off of the prone figure.

As Crono started to get up, the girl spied Ranma. "There you are, Ranma!" she shouted happily, dropping the bicycle onto Crono once again. She tackled Ranma in an embrace.

"Um, hi Shampoo." Noting Akane's cold stare, Ranma pried himself loose from Shampoo's amorous grasp, and said, "Shampoo, we have some guests."

Crono had pulled himself out from under the bicycle again, and was staring at Shampoo angrily. "That's Crono."

"The Epoch..." whispered Lucca in horror, and ran over to the fallen time machine.

"That's Lucca."

"What have you done?" shrieked Marle.

"And that's Marle."

"They seem like they too grumpy," said Shampoo.

Lucca was crouched by the time machine. The machine itself was badly dented, and there were bits and pieces of delicate machinery strewn about it. Lucca began muttering to herself as she surveyed the damage. "This bird is totaled. It's gonna take me a while to fix it. I'm not even sure I can fix it. I'm no Belthasar."

"You mean we're stuck here? Forever?" demanded Marle.

"Unless I can get Epoch up and running again, I'm afraid so. The regular time Gates are closed, and I don't think there was ever one here anyway."

Shaking with rage, Marle unslung her crossbow and leveled it at Shampoo. "This is your doing!"

Quickly Ranma jumped between the angry girl and Shampoo, "Don't hurt her! It was an accident!"

Wasting no opportunity, Shampoo embraced Ranma. "Ranma save Shampoo!" she cooed.

"What are you doing, Ranma?" said Akane, furious.

"Out of the way Ranma! I have no quarrel with you!" Marle loaded the crossbow. "This quarrel's for her!"

Then, Crono was beside her. He gently pushed the crossbow down, and told Marle that revenge would solve nothing. Marle still looked angry, but acquiesced.

Struggling briefly, Ranma once again disengaged himself from Shampoo. He looked at her sternly, and she looked at the ground, guiltily. "You should apologize, Shampoo," he said.

"Shampoo sorry she wreck machine," she said.

Akane, having calmed down a bit now that there was a little more distance between Ranma and Shampoo, said, "So, I suppose you're stuck here for a while." Crono nodded. "Then you'll need someplace to stay. Our house is pretty crowded, but we should be able to find someplace to put you."

"Say, why are you here, Shampoo?" asked Akane, suddenly remembering their unwelcome Chinese visitor.

"Shampoo make ramen delivery to Tendo's," she answered, gesturing to her bicycle. There were several boxes of ramen noodles loaded on the bicycle, and oddly, they were all intact.

"But why?" wondered Akane, "I was cooking tonight!" Abruptly, she glanced at Ranma, who was edging away, grinning sheepishly. "RANMA YOU IDIOT!" Raising her hammer high, Akane lunged after the fleeing boy.

* * * * * *

Later that night, Crono, Marle, and Lucca were sitting at the Tendo dinner table. They were introduced in turn to Genma Saotome, Ranma's father, Soun Tendo, Akane's father, and Nabiki and Kasumi, Akane's sisters. Genma was a tall, stern-looking man wearing a karate gi. Perched on his nose were a pair of thin, wire-frame specticles, and wrapped around his head was a turban of white cloth (which did little to conceal the fact that Genma hadn't a hair on his head). Soun was equally tall, equally stern, and equally dressed, but more slender than Genma. Also unlike Genma, Soun possessed a full head of shoulder-length black hair, as well as a proud black moustache. Nabiki, the middle of Soun's three children (Akane being the youngest, and Kasumi the oldest), was a tall, slender, attractive girl. Her brown hair fell just short of her shoulders, and the bangs were cut short, forming a sort of frame around her face. She was wearing blue jeans and a striped T-shirt, and possessed an almost perpetual expression of cynical amusement. Kasumi, of an even hight with Nabiki, instead wore an almost unbearably innocent expression on her pretty face. She was wearing a modest dress and an apron. Her hair was also brown, though a darker shade than Nabiki's, and was tied back in a long, lustrous ponytail.

Akane had made good on her promise to cook dinner, as there were several unidentifiable dishes on the table in addition to the boxes of ramen. Without exception, these dishes had remained untouched. Marle was startled to see one of Akane's dishes edging toward her bowl of ramen. Thinking quickly, she grabbed her crossbow and blasted the offending meal. It keened shrilly, and expired. With the exceptions of Crono and Lucca, no one seemed to notice the violent exchange.

"So, where are you and your friends from, Crono?" asked Kasumi.

Crono started to respond that they were from the past, but noticed Akane gesturing at him not to tell. Crono was confused, but answered that the three of them were from the town of Truce. Nabiki watched this exchange carefully, realizing that secrets were being kept. She smiled. There was good money in secrets, and she had a knack for finding secrets out.

Akane, for her part, was relieved. She didn't like to think of what Nabiki would do if she knew that they had a time machine, even a broken one.

Lucca, quick to catch on to Akane's subterfuge, continued, "We can't get back to...er, Truce, our home town, until we fix our...um, jet."

"You have your own jet?" Nabiki asked. 'These people must be loaded,' she thought. She reflexively used her chopsticks to stab a renegade dish that was threatening her ramen. Again, no one paid any attention, and Crono and his friends were starting to get used to it.

Marle nodded to Nabiki, and changed the subject. "So, what do you people do here?"

Genma beamed proudly, "We teach the Anything-Goes style of martial arts."

"Anything-Goes?" asked Lucca curiously.

"Anything!" replied Genma. "An adept at Anything-Goes martial arts can overcome any challenge."

"And I'm the best there is!" announced Ranma cheerfully through a mouthful of ramen. Without warning, Genma grabbed Ranma and chucked him out a window. Ranma's scream was heard, and then a splash.

"You will have to pardon my son. Sometimes he forgets his humility and must be disciplined."

The front door of the Tendo home slammed open, and an unfamiliar, but sopping wet, red-headed girl glared at them.

"Um, who's that?" asked Lucca.

"Don't drip inside the house Ranma!" called Kasumi. "I just cleaned."

"Ranma?" asked Marle, startled. A second glance at the girl revealed that she was wearing Ranma's clothes, and her hair, though red instead of black, was braided in the same short pigtail. "What happened to you?"

"Ah, a tragic story, that," began Genma, oblivious to the approaching Ranma, who had dried off outside. "You see, my son is the victim of a tragic curse, so that whenever-"

"Why don't we tell them about your curse, Dad!" yelled Ranma as she grabbed Genma and threw him out the window. A second splash was heard.

A moment later, a large panda stood in the doorway wearing a tattered gi, glasses hanging from one ear. It held up a wooden sign that read, [I was going to get to that.]

After staring for a moment, Lucca shrugged and said, "I've seen weirder."

"You don't know the half of it," muttered Nabiki drily.

Over the next couple of minutes, Ranma and Genma (through sign-language, of course) related the tragic tale of their ill-fated expedition to the cursed training grounds of Jusenkyo. "So, you've been looking for a cure ever since?" asked Marle.

"Yup," answered Ranma in her new, high-pitched voice. "Almost had one a couple of times, but something always seems to go wrong, and I stay stuck like this."

They all ate in silence for a few more minutes, and then dinner was over. Genma held up a sign saying, [Come Ranma, we must train.] Ranma sighed and stood up. She held out her hand, and Kasumi handed her a teapot full of hot water. Ranma poured the water on herself, thus returning to his proper form, and left the room with his father to apply the same treatment to him in privacy. Crono, Lucca, and Marle watched this exchange with interest. Evidently this sort of thing had become routine for the two families.

As father and son headed out to the dojo, Crono asked if he could watch. "Sure," said Ranma. "Are you a fighter?" Crono looked at him ironically, and nodded. "Great! Maybe we can spar." Crono mentioned that he was only adept as a swordsman, and pointed out his katana for emphasis. "That's fine. A master of Anything-Goes martial arts can fight anyone." Genma cuffed him lightly. "Not that I'm a master yet, of course," he added, throwing Genma a disgruntled look.

* * * * * *

In the dojo, Crono sat and watched Ranma and Genma fight. He laughed at some of the petty tricks they each used (usually effectively) to distract the other to get an effective punch or kick in.

"Look!" shouted Ranma. "It's Mom!"

"WHAT? NODOKA?" exclaimed Genma, whirling around. Ranma swept Genma's legs out from under him, and he fell to the ground with a grunt. "I'll teach you to respect your elders!" Genma growled. Then he noticed Crono grinning. "Oh, and I suppose you think that you could do better?" Genma asked Crono.

Crono replied that he could. "I'd like to see that," said Ranma. In answer, Crono unsheathed his Rainbow. Then he confidently announced that he didn't want to hurt Ranma too badly, and set the katana against the wall. To replace it, he took a mop that had been left in the dojo. He gave the mop a few swings, testing its balance and then moved to the center of the dojo.

"Begin!" said Genma, having moved away from the two combatants. Wasting no time, Ranma threw a punch, which Crono easily sidestepped. Ranma ducked Crono's returning slash, and swept Crono to the floor. Almost instantly, Crono was on his feet again. Crono and Ranma each jumped away from each other, and then leapt high into the air toward each other. They met in mid air, and this time Crono gained the upper hand. He struck Ranma with the mop, and Ranma lost his balance. Crono landed on his feet, and Ranma landed on his head. Ranma stood up and winced as he felt the developing bump on his head.

Crono asked Ranma if he was ready to conceed. "Are you kidding?" he laughed. "That was nothing. Let's see how you can handle this!" Ranma ran towards Crono, who warily took up a defensive posture. "Tenshin-Amaguri-Ken!" shouted Ranma gleefully, as he threw punch after punch with blinding speed. Crono managed to block or dodge the first hundred or so, but eventually, Ranma's incredible speed broke through Crono's considerable defense. Crono was thrown to the other side of the dojo, where he made a tidy, Crono-shaped hole in the wall.

Ranma grinned. Then, a disheveled and thoroughly irritated Crono crawled out of his hole. "So are you ready to conceed?" mocked Ranma. Crono glared at him, and uttered the word 'Confuse'. Ranma was taken off guard as Crono abruptly leapt close to him. Crono began running in a circle around Ranma, too fast for the eye to follow. Ranma desperately kicked at a space where he thought Crono would be. He wasn't. Ranma was rewarded for his effort by a hard strike to the back that knocked him to his knees. He quickly stood up again, just in time to receive a second strike to the gut. A third hit soon followed. Ranma was swaying dizzily. Suddenly, Crono stopped in front of the bewildered fellow and delivered a vicious upward cut with the mop, lifting Ranma into the air and sending him flying. Genma winced at the specticle, and was glad that Crono had elected to use the mop instead of his sword. Then Crono fell to the ground, exhausted. Neither Ranma or Crono moved from where they lay.

"Draw!" announced Genma. He looked at the battered dojo with a sigh. "Soun's gonna have a fit," he muttered. "Then again, he always does."

Genma walked out of the dojo, and then came back in, carrying a bucket of cold water. He splashed Crono, reviving him. He splashed Ranma, who also revived and transformed. "Hey!" sputtered Ranma. She looked at Genma, annoyed. Then she remembered why she was on the floor, and looked at Crono with respect. "You're pretty good!" she told him. "Of course, you wouldn't have stood a chance if I hadn't been winded from fighting Dad." Crono snorted, and mentioned that Ranma had at least had a chance to warm up.

Ranma looked ready to continue the argument, but Genma laid a hand on their shoulders. "Now, now," he said, condescendingly, "you can fight again later." Working as one, Crono and Ranma grabbed Genma and chucked him outside, into the pond. The panda surfaced and held up a sign, [Kids these days!] Laughing, Ranma and Crono walked into the house, with the panda close behind.

* * * * * *

When Marle saw the battered couple, she asked, "Crono! What happened?" Crono explained that he and Ranma had just been practicing. "Well, let me fix you up," replied Marle. "Aura." Marle glowed slightly, and then touched Crono. Crono's minor scratches and bruises closed up and healed. Marle then applied the same treatment to Ranma.

"Wow," said a wide-eyed Ranma. Looking around, she saw that her father and the Tendos were similarly awed.

Nabiki, on top of any situation, was the first to recover. "How'd you do that?" she asked.

"Huh?" answered Marle, startled. "I never really thought about it. I just have this knack for healing people. Maybe it's part of my royal heritage."

At the words "royal heritage", a slow grin appeared on Nabiki's face. One could almost hear cash registers tallying huge sums of money in Nabiki's mind. "So your father's a king, then?"

"Uh-huh. 'Course, we don't always see eye to eye. He wants me to stay home and act like a good princess. But I couldn't let Crono search for his mother without me. I guess I'm something of a tomboy at heart."

Ranma groaned at this. "Great. Another tomboy is all we need. At least this one's cute."

"YOU JERK!" Ranma was instantly flattened by Akane. No one seemed to notice.

Nabiki continues, "So, you ran away? Your father must miss you." A newspaper headline appeared in Nabiki's mind: NABIKI TENDO OF NERIMA RECEIVES 100,000,000 YEN FOR RETURN OF LOST PRINCESS!

"Oh, probably," replied Marle. "But he trusts me now, and I don't think that he's worried about me."

Nabiki's dream newspaper vanished, and she sighed, thinking, 'Well, she should still be rich. I may turn a profit out of this yet.'

Marle beamed, "Thanks for your concern, Nabiki!"

"Anytime," Nabiki smiled.

"Say," groaned a crushed Ranma, "can you do that healing thing again?" Marle giggled at Ranma's pathetic state, and then healed her. "I think I'm going to like having you around," said a relieved Ranma.

Afterword:

So, the adventure begins...

Please don't judge me too harshly for having the fight between Ranma and Crono end up as a draw (by far, the cheapest way to introduce two main characters). Really, I couldn't see any way to avoid these two dueling at some point (neither Crono's nor Ranma's personality would have allowed these two to coexist without sparring at least once), and I found myself uncertain as to who would win. On the one hand, Crono can singlehandedly kick Lavos's butt (on the second time through the game, at least). On the other hand, part of Ranma's nature is that he is the best, and this is shown time and again in both the anime and the manga. However, Ranma often loses the first time he faces a new opponent, so I felt that a draw was entirely fair. Just assume that Ranma would win any rematch.

Another important note: I've never really figured out exactly why Ranma and company never just go back to Jusenkyo to try to undo their curses. Many reasons seem to be possible. Perhaps they don't have enough money (but if so, why not just walk and swim there?). Perhaps Ranma has to stay close to Akane (so why not take her with?), which is implied by the last episodes of the first season of the anime. Maybe they just don't know how to find it again (why not just find the Guide again, and ask him?). Due to the fact that the Epoch exists in this crossover, and has the potential of providing fast, cheap travel to the Cursed Training grounds, I am working under the assumption that Ranma and his fellow cursed just don't know where to find it. The only real alternative is a cheap cop-out like that in the first Ranma movie, in which everyone merely 'forgot'. I won't be a party to such a travesty.

Crono Trigger Tip #1:

Where on Earth did Crono get eleven cats?!?

Well, Crono starts the game with one. At the Millennial Fair, he can win a second one by playing the Rescue the Damsel game in the House of Horror. And the rest? To attract more cats, you need to win cat food. You win cat food by playing any of the three games in the House of Horror after winning the prize initially offered (i.e., a musical Poyozo doll for the Find Vicks, Wedge, or Piette game, a Crono clone for the Imitate the Clone game, or a cat for the aforementioned Rescue the Damsel game). The more expensive the game you play, the more cat food you win. To see how much cat food you have, look in the pot in Crono's room. Every 150 ounces or so, you get a new cat. Once I reached eleven, though, it seemed to stop.

It takes mindlessly obsessive patience to win enough silver points to play Rescue the Damsel enough to get enough cat food for eleven cats, but it's worth it, if only to watch Crono's mother chase them all at the end of the game. Also, I love cats. I really, really love cats. It's almost enough to make me like Shampoo. But not quite.

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