The Return

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple

 

Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer

 

Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.

 

Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

http://jtemple.florestica.com/

 

Temporary Backup Site.

http://www.fukufics.com/fic/

 

 

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C is appreciated.

 

Book 2:  Betrayed Consequences

Chapter 4:  Treacherous Conditions Ahead 

Formerly:  Retrograde and Remade Part 1(ii)

 


            "There you are," Ranma said as she slid up next to her fiancee in the basement corridors of the Company base.


            "Yes," Kasumi stiffened as Ranma put her hand onto her butt. She reflexively moved the demon's hand to her hip. "How are things going with the Major?"


            "I told you about our trip to the range this morning right?" Ranma asked as they walked.


            Kasumi nodded. It was hard to forget post-coitus that involved firearms. "I really hate that I had to miss that."


            "Oh, it was something else," Ranma's eyes twinkled. "There were just two designs, and there were a few flaws. The one mom's leaning towards' got funny balance, especially after you fire it."


            "She's still tinkering with the designs?"


            "Kinda. Misako and Ukyou are in the lab with one of her assistants, Agent Ayanami. She's a nice girl."


            "What' is the Major up to?" Kasumi asked as they made their way to the commissary.


            Ranma turned and smiled. "She figured out what to do with Grandma's gift."


            "Oh my," Kasumi let the redhead's hand move back down to her ass as they entered the commissary's queue. The looks from the other agents and officers was still novel.


            "It'll take a while to make. Mom doesn't have the machinery here," Ranma said as she looked over the various soups and stews.


            "The Company does have machine shops that can make armaments," Kasumi noted while taking a turkey and rye sandwich.


            "Well right now, Mom's working with someone in Michigan or Maine, maybe Manitoba. Someplace starting with an M, but..."


            "Slivers and dust from machining that material can be very dangerous." Kasumi laughed. "Doubtless, it's a chance for Major Saotome to expand her lab."


            Ranma nodded.

 

            "Today's weapon was simple enough for the Major to build herself?" Kasumi asked as they walked to a table where Kasumi's team was already eating.


            "It was just a modification," Ranma shrugged and sat down. She then looked at the four other agents. "You were there Steven, what did you think?"


            "It's big," Agent Deschain said controlling his voice. His eyes darted to the lieutenant and then to the demon sitting next to her. "If controlled, it could be very effective."


           Ranma nodded. Aram's... replacement seemed to be fitting in well, if a bit standoffish. He was good with demolitions, though. "Don't worry, Misako took a shine to it."


            "Ma'am, Red, I must say you two make a good couple," Deschain smiled.


            Kasumi coughed. Less from the comment, than Ranma moving her hand back to her butt.


            "There aren't many secrets in a place like this," Sophie said with wry irony.


            Ranma smirked. Before she could start her meal, the phone in her coat pocket began to ring. She answered and asked who was calling.


            "Oh hi, Usagi. How are you holding up?" Ranma said into her phone.


            "How did Usagi get that number?" Sophie asked.


            Ranma covered the microphone "I gave it to her a few days after the toy store thing."


            Sophie nodded.


            "What're yah calling about?" Ranma asked Usagi.


            "Well... I... it's kind of embarrassing," Usagi's voice was hesitant.


            "Oh?" Ranma's interest raised.


            "Are you free tomorrow?"


            "Well, sure." Ranma blushed slightly as she was struck with the image of Kasumi and Usagi. Both were nude and blood-soaked.


            "Uh, Ranma? Hello?"


            "What? I said I could go." Ranma tried to push the vision down.


            "I was asking you if tomorrow at the mall would be good," Usagi repeated.


            "Sure, I'm free on Sunday, around one?"


            "Okay, see you at that leather shop you like." Usagi teased.


            "What do you want to talk about?"


            Usagi paused. "I think we should start working together. We're both leaders of Senshi."


            "That's true. So Setsuna filled you in on my little project?"


            "Five new Senshi was going to attract attention, Sunny. Well bye bye."


            "Yeah, bye." Ranma then hung up. She shook her head at the phone.


            "Meeting with Usagi?" Kasumi asked.


            "Yup, mall tomorrow." Ranma shook her head and started eating her soup. "I guess."


            "Should be fun. A pair of teenage girls enjoying the mall."


            Ranma glared. "You're going to pay for that."


            "Oh my, I got a succubus angry at me." Kasumi laughed.


            Gabriel concentrated on his lunch. The lieutenant flirting was surreal enough, but her teasing a sex demon was just over the top. Though it was cute how Red blushed from all the attention.

 

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

 


            The predator crept along the forest. She was at home among the underbrush and branches. It seemed as if the dusk-borne shadows were deliberately aiding her concealment. The chatter being broadcast into her headset was mercifully brief. They knew she had locked onto the scent. They would only tell her new information. They understood. They understood the hunt.


            A thin smile formed as she got close enough to make out the figure of the intruder. Her quarry was being cautious but it was not fair. She knew of only one group of humans that could even hope to out-track a succubus, and they were her allies.


            Someone was foolish enough to intrude on her home. She had planned a quiet night, but this was an interesting change of pace. Normally she would be more direct but this time caution seemed more prudent.


            The demon's movement slowed when she noticed the human look towards her. She was downwind enough to capture the scent, and that gave her pause. Well, their scanners were right, she's a Senshi too. Ranma gave a mental laugh. It figured. There were plenty of new Senshi, herself and her kids included.


            As she crept closer she got a clearer look at the intruder. The scent was proof enough, but it was satisfying to see the same hairstyle. The pleated skirt, bows, and those particular swords were new however.


            She paused and watched as the Amazon made her way forward. Her woodcraft was excellent, but several things were working against her.


            The first was that the pattern Silver output had tripped the scanners before she got remotely close to the house. The second was a seemingly gross underestimation of her intended target.


            Ranma slid back a few paces to keep the same distance between them. Shampoo knew she was a demon. That fit in well with her mission. Killing a demon was even better than killing a mere outsider woman.


            The redhead entertained the idea of ending things here and now. If Shampoo was smart she would know she was being tracked and have something planned. In all their previous meetings Shampoo had been alone, though that did not mean that Shampoo had to be alone this time.


            Ranma quietly summoned a small DarkStar burst. Holding the orb she considered her options. It would be easy, but she still had questions. Her eyes scanned the uniform Shampoo wore.


            The outfit was standard human Senshi. There were the long gloves, flared collar, tiara, and knee-high boots. Her eyes went back to the boots. In place of a planetary symbol there was a pattern of dots. She had only seen one other Senshi with boots marked like that.


            Ranma made her decision and darkened the orb until it was almost dead. She then released it so that it went perpendicular to the line between Shampoo and herself for a dozen yards before crashing into a stump


            "I know you're out there, demon!" Shampoo shouted in passable Japanese and roughly the stump's direction as she unsheathed a pair of swords that began to brightly glow.


            Ranma suppressed a groan. She made a natural Senshi. The brood mother let a bit more of her power leak out. This would be over quick. The next part was still a challenge for her. She waited.


            Shampoo brandished her weapons and strode forward. She had not planned to strike tonight, but would not let some demon intimidate her. This time the advantage would hers.


            The succubus slid back and considered things. That she was a Senshi complicated things, and the type of Senshi complicated them even more.


            Shampoo could sense the dark presence. She could also feel it retreat with every step forward she took. "Stop hiding from me! The darkness will not save you!"


            Ranma let herself chuckle. The irony was too much.


            Shampoo hesitated as malevolent laughter grew all around her. Her swords tried to banish the darkness, but it still felt oppressive, like an inky oozing weight.


            "How about a deal?" Ranma asked in a bored tone. "You tell me how you got these neat powers, and I'll turn you over to some nice men that probably won't dissect you."


            "Your threats don't scare me!" Shampoo stepped forward again.


            Ranma laughed. That was ludicrous. People like her did not need to threaten.


            "Laugh all you want. You're the one being pushed back." Shampoo paused her swords seemed to be just a bit dimmer.


            Ranma kept her silence. Shampoo was a talker, and a bit better at her Japanese than the last time they met.


            Shampoo hesitated as she recalled what she had been told earlier. The demon-girl was not alone. "You won't trick me, demon! I know your plan."


            "Oh?" Ranma dryly asked. She sighed and strode forward.


            Shampoo watched a figure wreathed in shadows suddenly appear to her left. She slid into position and held her flickering swords up.


            "Interesting design," Ranma remarked. The familiarity was more interesting than the workmanship.


            Shampoo watched as the dread demon diverged from the darkness. "You're..."


            "As much a Senshi as you are," Sailor DarkStar smiled brightly.


            Shampoo glared, but held her ground.


            Ranma nodded. "That's good. Fights aren't for mindless banter, and you don't want to give me any extra advantage," she explained as she paid special attention to the pattern on the top of Shampoo's boots. It had to be a constellation, and she could find out which one later.


            "Why aren't you attacking?" Shampoo asked as she kept her swords up.


            Ranma shook her head. It was a wonder that Amazon had lasted as long as she did. On the other hand, that the girl did not simply charge in with her shiny swords, did point favorably to her self preservation.


            Shampoo concentrated and her swords stopped flickering. The meager light they cast did little to push back the darkness but it was a start.


            Ranma tilted her head and walked around the Amazon. A plan formed and was executed. "You really should calm down, Dear," Ranma purred


            Shampoo automatically flicked her swords down at the succubus that seemed to appear at her side. She gasped in surprise and then horror as the demon invaded her personal space. The overpowering... presence caused her grip to loosen for a split second, but it was enough.


            Ranma flicked the weapons out of the loose hands. She could feel her shadows enveloping the nervous girl. "I know your kind, you're not afraid to die." She laughed and licked her fangs. "But that's not nearly the worst thing I could do to you."


            Shampoo stiffened in shock, until the demon wrapped herself around the Amazon. The contact should have been repulsive, it should have been unnatural, especially what the monster was doing with her tail. As Shampoo looked into those hungry violet eyes, her will wilted. With a sudden source of strength she freed a hand and swung it up and at the demon's head.


            Shampoo felt the grip on her give way and leapt out of the demon's clutches. Immediately after she landed she turned and started to run. Thanking her magically enhanced abilities she put as much distance between herself and the demon. She was stupid; she did not intend to make... contact with the demon.


            "You want us to pick her up, Red?" an agent asked via Ranma's headset.


            "No, we're going see where she leads us," Ranma replied as she started the chase.


            "Nice work on the seduction scheme," the agent complimented.


            "It was nothing. I just gave her an escape route and she took it," Ranma then put her full attention to following her prey. At first it was not a hard trail to follow, Shampoo was going for speed not concealment. Her path was in the direction of the city.


            Ranma paused when the pattern silver signature suddenly vanished. She smirked as her own clothing shifted into a purple Lycra unitard that did not look out of place on a young woman out for a run.


            Shampoo was smart enough to realize that her Senshi powers made her trivial to track. Ranma sighed, the scent had gotten a bit colder, especially since she was now relying on her nose instead of a magical signature.


            "Did you lose her?" the agent asked via headset, once Ranma had stopped at a street corner.


            "Not really, but I think it's better to warn someone now." Ranma then cursed to herself. She had gotten cocky. Shampoo should have been captured right in the woods. Though that might have warned whoever had recruited her.


            "It's because she's a constellation Senshi?"


            "Yup, I'm going to need a pickup, and any photos of her."

 

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

 


            Ami looked up from her notes. "Are you doing okay?"


            "Yes," Rei said with a slight shake of the head.


            "I'm just not sure it would work well. This isn't your fire," Ami looked back down to the translations.


            Rei smiled. "I know, that's why it took a while for it to accept me,"  she said her concentration back on the small pyre before her.


            "I see," Ami looked back to the door. "You think anything will come from that informant of Setsuna's? She ran out of here right after getting that phone call. Really shocked the priest she smooth talked into letting you do this."


            "Nope." Rei was torn between telling Ami to be quiet and letting her talk. This was the most civil and calm that Ami had been in a while. Rei supposed her trying to get a vision helped. Ami was no longer alone, no longer the only serious Senshi.


            "Yeah, it sounded like some cultist fan boy, but if he has information..." Ami shrugged.


            "You're really worried about this aren't you?" Rei pushed the wood around a bit on the fire.


            Ami looked down and organized her papers. "I'm afraid."


            "We've faced worse before." Rei blinked. She thought she felt something... a flicker of shadow that did not belong.


            "No, we haven't."


            Rei stopped. "How... how can you be sure?" she asked deliberately.


            "It's just a feeling," Ami rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I can see why Setsuna's so frayed. The deeper I go into this-" she waved at the papers and books she had brought with her. "The more I realize that we're not good enough."


            Wind gusted around them; Rei kept her eyes on the fire. "You don't think that WIC and those demons-"


            Ami's grim laughter cut deeply into Rei. "No, the princess will prevail, but she can't carry us. We can't fail her again," Ami said this with no fire or bolster. She was now stating fact.


            "We won't," Rei assured. Her voice grew distant as the flames started to change.


            Ami held her reply, and smiled slightly. Rei's visions were something Ami could not predict. They might greatly assist her plans or be a hindrance. This way she would be the first to hear what Rei had seen. She would also be the first Rei would talk to about the vision.


            Keeping an eye on Rei, Ami organized her papers and put them back into her bag. She then quietly waited. In the scheme of things a few minutes was not much of a wait. Especially given what might be at stake.


            Rei's hands went to her shoulders and she started shivering. Before she could fall forward Ami ran in and pulled her back. "Rei, what happened?" Ami asked after making sure she was breathing and absent of visible injuries.


            The fire maiden's eyes opened and locked onto the dark shape that loomed over her. "Get back!" Rei cried and watched as the shadow retreated and the air chilled. She then blinked and realized who was over her.


            "Bad vision, then" Ami said in that strange, matter of fact, voice.


            "She was cold, very cold." Rei mumbled.


            "Who?" Ami gingerly asked, kneeling closer to her.


            Rei breathed a few times as she tried to get her bearings. She remembered the blackness, a piercing chill that seemed to cut through anything. "I've seen our enemy."


            Ami motioned for Rei to continue.


            "There were shadows, but they didn't move, frozen. All I could see was a throne, it was crystal. The princess- Usagi- she was on it," Rei shivered at the irises on the blonde. "Her eyes were wrong. All wrong. No color, no color anywhere. But then the throne... I don't know. It moved over her... and she smiled."


            "Over her?" Ami tilted her head. She had to remember everything. Quick thinking was critical for this to work.


            "It formed-" Rei looked into Ami's somehow expectant eyes. After a hesitation she decided to tell Ami, she deserved it. "- hands. I think. Then the Mistress showed up."


            "Mistress?" Ami asked savoring the sound of the title.


            "It was terrible. She wasn't human. All cold... She wants Usagi. That's what we have to deal with. She's the one after Usagi" Rei shivered again.


            Ami grabbed Rei's shoulders "What did she look like?"


            "I..."


            "Tell me! It's important."


            Rei felt another chill and looked into Ami's worried eyes. "She was tall... I think. She was shapely, but it was the beauty of a statue. She wasn't nude, but it wasn't clothing. It was a parody of decency." Rei shuddered. "Prongs and bits poked and shaped and exposed everything. Her eyes... I don't know. She wasn't human. I don't know, it was all washed out. No color."


            Ami withdrew her hands and sat down next to Rei. "I'm sorry. I was afraid. The book..." She shook her head, things did not match up exactly, but visions were not literal things.


            Rei's eyes widened. "There's someone in that book? Like what I said?


            Ami shrugged. "There's a whole section full of sorcerers and necromancers. The... mistress you described, she sounds familiar. Is there anything else?"


            "That sounds like someone in the book? That's great." Rei brightened. At least something came from this. "Well, her hair... it was up. There was also a crown or a tiara. Not like ours. It was silver, I think. There were no gems on it, though. None."


            "Really?" Ami bit her lip. "That's not right at all."


            "So it's not the dark sorceress you were thinking of?" Rei's shoulders sagged.


            "Not necessarily."


            "Yeah, no reason she couldn't have changed her crown in the meantime. So who do you think it is?"


            "Maybe," Ami said as she pulled out some copies she made of book.


            "I uh... can't read this." Rei said looking at the foreign symbols.


            "It's a list of contemporaries of Serenity."


            "Mages from the Silver Millennium," Rei said looking at Ami instead of the paper.


            "Earlier than that. One of them sounds kind of like your Mistress," Ami cracked an embarrassed smile. "It was the armor. Some of these people had some very odd stuff."


            "Who was she?"


            "There isn't much other than a description of herself and how she dressed, but she did help Serenity, or at least they worked together. She was big on enchanting artifacts. Her personality could also match what you mentioned; apparently she was a very dour woman."


            "What happened to her?"


            Ami shrugged. "She and some other explorers from around the same time as that DarkStar stuff, give or take a decade, went out on a trip beyond the solar system. Contact was lost. Nothing was found."


            Rei looked at the passage that Ami pointed at. The text was gibberish to her so Rei simply nodded. "What was her name?"


            Ami paused and ran her finger over the text. A wicked little smile formed. "You're right. Her name and title roughly translate as Mistress Lyra."


            Rei shivered. "Do you know what this means?"


            "What?"


            "We finally have a name. We know who's controlling Murdock, who's pulling all the strings. Everything. And we owe you."  Releif colored Rei's face as she smiled.


            "You had the vision," Ami reminded, adding in her own grin.


            "But your research told us who it was. This is all your doing."


            Ami blushed. "So what makes you think Lyra is doing this?"


            "It makes sense. You have this powerful mage that goes out, and who knows what happens to her. Maybe she's corrupted or possessed or maybe just drifting for thousands of years left her bitter. But she comes back, and who knows what she knows."


            "She works from the shadows... why bring us to Canada?"


            "Why was Beryl's base on Antarctica?" Rei shrugged. "We don't know the details, but we know what she wants."


            Ami smiled. "Usagi."


            "We need to call the others. The have to know this." Rei's enthusiasm damped the few qualms and questions that remained.


            "Yes, they'll be thrilled that you figured out who's behind all this." Ami remarked. Things were definitely looking up.

 

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

 


            Usagi sighed into her textbook. Ami was right; she felt like she was wasting her time. At least Rei was doing something productive. Setsuna had found a temple that might do the trick for her.


            The blonde's worrying was interrupted by a knocking at the window. She stared at the image of an inverted succubus. Usagi concentrated on the mass of crimson hair that fell down from her pale face. It took effort to keep her gaze from rising to see the redhead's chest, and how it was pressed against the glass.


            "You gonna let me in?" Ranma asked from the other side of the window.


            "But... how?"


            Ranma sighed and spread her wings a bit.


            "Oh, of course," Usagi blushed. Given the visual distraction, the walk to the window was made with great difficulty.


            "Thanks," Ranma said after the window was opened and she flipped into the room. She then raised an eyebrow at Usagi and where she was looking. "Yeah... they're called boobs."


            "I'm sorry," Usagi blushed. "I'm just not used... to. I mean it's not every

day a succubus visits me in the night."


            Ranma laughed.


            "What's wrong?" Usagi asked. Luna had just wandered out of the apartment with Artemis. She had guessed the little snoopers were going to spy on their neighbors.


            "That's prompt."


            "Well, we're meeting tomorrow, so it's something that can't wait until then, and you're not calling so it's a big secret. There's also the climbing into my window." Usagi explained.


            "Very good," Ranma's face then darkened. "It's about Janet. Something's wrong with her," Ranma said as she handed some photographs to Usagi.


            "But, this is some other girl. She's a Senshi too?" the blonde asked while inspecting the print-out of a strong, well-endowed young woman with purple hair.


            "Sailor Virgo." Ranma pointed to the constellation pattern on Shampoo's boots. The agents had been quite helpful on that.


            "What does this have to do with Janet?"


            "She's not here is she?"


            "No.... It's just me and Minako and Makoto. Rei's with Setsuna and Ami at a temple trying to do a fire reading."


            Ranma thought for a second. "Maybe we should talk in the living room. Those two might be a help."


            The two exited Usagi's room to hearty applause. Usagi glared at the clapping Minako and the sniggering Makoto.


            "We didn't do anything!" Usagi cried.


            "Oh? Why else does a succubus visit a nubile princess?" Makoto teased.


             Ranma shrugged. She already had a girl, but it was amusing to watch Usagi blush. Minako's appraising looks were also interesting. "No, we didn't do anything," Ranma allowed a hint of disappointment to enter her voice.


            "Oh, you didn't come over for some fun?" Minako sighed.


            "I'm worried about one of your friends." Ranma motioned for Usagi to pass the photos around.


            "So? It's another constellation Senshi," Makoto shrugged.


            "Yeah, looks like Janet got another friend." Minako did notice the new Senshi's assets.


            "I find it pretty odd that a girl that was trying to kill me suddenly turns up as a new Senshi, complete with magic swords." Ranma remembered the agents grousing at the swords vanishing at about the same time Shampoo detransformed.


            "What are you saying?" Usagi asked.


            "Sailor Virgo is someone from my past, but I've got no idea who Sailor Orion was. Do any of you know her?"


            "Of course. She's Janet." Minako said.


            "No... I mean did any of you know her as someone else? Or maybe get an odd feeling from her?"


            "I'm pretty sure she and Ami are more than just friends," Makoto allowed. "But no. Janet's a nice girl."


            "You just accepted her because she's wearing the right uniform?"


            "We accept you," Usagi reminded.


            "Okay, fair enough." Ranma shrugged.


            "Besides, half the time we fight a new enemy we get some more Senshi," Minako sighed. At least Usagi got Senshi allies within the first few weeks of her fight. Minako had to wait for months before she met another magical girl.


            "There's nothing wrong with Janet? She's perfectly normal?"


            "Yes, if anything she's been a calming influence," Usagi said. That part was familiar. Janet was not the first friend of hers who was like that.


            "She's been great at keeping Ami from stressing out," Minako added, though a part of her wondered how often Ami would yell and throw fits before Janet came around.


            "You rushed over here because you were being spied on by a Senshi of the same type as Janet?" Makoto's tone was dry.


            "You at least should know about Virgo, but I just wonder about Janet." Ranma slumped down in a chair in the living room. "Not a bad place you got here."


            "Are all demons this paranoid?" Minako joked.


            "Just the living ones." Ranma smiled toothily.


            "It's not just demons that are paranoid," Usagi quietly said.


            "Yeah, Ami and Setsuna are pretty out there too." Makoto's voice sounded worried, at least to Ranma.


            "And Ami trusts Janet. So Janet has to be okay."


            "Ami also thought we weren't worthy of being Senshi." Minako reminded as she got a glass of water. "Heck, she wanted us to train under you." The blonde pointed at Ranma.


            The demon thought for a second. "Not a bad idea. We could setup some scenarios and do some drills to sharpen things up."


            "Not you too," Minako sighed.


            "Well... training is important and you might as well fill the time between fights with something.  I mean what do you think my girls have been doing this whole time?" Ranma asked


            "Having sex?" Minako ventured.


            "Waiting on a rooftop, ready to attack?" Makoto guessed.


            "Not bad," Ranma admitted.


            "Training in your dojo," Usagi said.


            Ranma brightened and nodded. "In between working on their reading, too."


            "Reading?"


            "Training isn't all practicing to fight." Ranma paused. "Maybe I should just wait for the other Senshi to come back."


            Makoto nodded. "Makes sense, ask Ami about Janet. She would know more about her. Those two are very close.


            "Why are you so worried about Janet?" Usagi carefully asked.


            "Well, Virgo's from my past. I know her. Now, she's not exactly a friend, but still. I knew her before all this Senshi mess. I ran into her village in China after I got... never-mind," Ranma shrugged. "I was wondering if the same was for your Janet. It's not like Janet was from the Silver Millennium."


            "Neither were you," Minako stated. She then froze at Ranma's glare. "Right. DarkStar was before our time."


            "You think that... what.. Janet's from our past too?" Makoto was confused.


            "Maybe. Seems odd that Shampoo just stumbled into those powers. How much do you know about how Janet got hers?"

 

             "She had a dream and woke up with her transformation item," Minako said.

 

             Ranma shrugged. She sniffed the air and smiled a bit. Someone then knocked at the door. Minako ambled over, checked the peephole, and then happily opened the door.


            "Great news," Rei beamed as she and Ami entered the apartment.


            "It's not that big," Ami cautioned. Everyone but Janet and Setsuna were there, which made sense. Setsuna was still running down that lead, and Janet had her own task for tonight. She then noticed DarkStar and gave a slight nod.


            Rei blinked in surprise at the succubus. It was unsettling to see her lounging in their living room. At least she was not too close to the Princess.


            "You got a vision?" Usagi asked as Rei sat down with an assured smile.


            "Yup, we figured out what WIC and the demons couldn't."


            "Really?" Ranma asked, giving a measured look to Ami. "What did you find? The big bad guy that's pulling all the strings?" The redhead noticed Rei's souring expression. "Sorry, I'm actually sincere. I want to know what's going on just as much as you guys."


            Rei eased back from her glare. "Well, it was all Ami. Her research made it so we could decode the vision."


            Ami looked down and blushed.


            "What did you see? Who's behind it?" Minako asked.


            "Mistress Lyra," Rei said.


            Usagi stayed silent. That name meant nothing to her, but it was comforting to give the enemy a name. It was more tangible.


            "Never heard of her," Minako said.


            Ranma paused and looked down. The name was a bit familiar.


            "Have you heard of her?" Rei asked the demon. "She's from about your time."


            "Maybe. I think she worked with the Wraith Raiders. Dunno what exactly," Ranma said.


            "Wraith Raiders?" Minako asked.


            "Nickname for Royal Reconnaissance Commandos. When Queen Serenity needed someplace invaded they went in first. Disabled protection wards, took out command posts, set up teleport portals, everything to make way for the main force. They were called wraith because of their uniforms," Ami explained.


            "They were invisible?" Minako asked.


            "Not quite." Ranma gave al little smile. "They just had really good camouflage. No shinny metal armor or big bright bows like we have. They blended in." Ranma was slightly impressed with Ami. "You've been reading up on what the Serenity from my time was like?"


            "A bit."


            "Mistress Lyra was involved in Serenity's military too?" Rei asked.


            "It makes sense," Ami allowed. "She enchanted stuff, including weapons. I'll have do to more research to see exactly what she did.  But her background's murky. I'm not even sure she's human."


            Usagi was silent. She knew her mother had to have had an army, the Senshi could not do everything, but it still sounded odd.


            "So why do you think this egghead magical enchantress is behind everything?" Ranma asked.


            "I saw her. She had Usagi on a throne... and she..." Rei shuddered. "She wants to control you Usagi."


            Ami nodded.


            "Why?" Usagi asked. Once again some woman had come into her life and was hurting people, to get to her.

 

            "Well there were Beryl and Nehellenia. Maybe Lrya had a falling out with Queen Serenity. There's also the Black Moon family going after you," Minako proposed.

 

            "Maybe that's why Lyra left the solar system." Rei nodded. "That explains it. Mistress Lyra was last seen on an expedition out of the solar system."

 

            "Is this normal for you guys?" Ranma asked. "Single madwoman villain from the past out for revenge."

 

            "Nah, most are dark gods out to destroy or enslave earth," Minako explained ever so nonchalantly.

 

            "Mistress Lyra was probably corrupted by something out in deep space, and is now finally back for her revenge." Rei said.

 

            "You're reaching on all this.  You think some woman from only a vision is behind everything? Mamoru's death, my activation, Murdock, those cult guys. Everything?" Ranma skeptically asked.

 

            "Everything," Rei nodded.

 

            "Is she behind the constellation Senshi too?" Ranma somewhat sarcastically inquired, carefully watching Rei and Ami's faces.

 

            "What? Activate Janet's powers? I guess, but why?" Rei leaned forward. It was annoying how the redhead kept staring down Rei while they talked. "Why are you here anyway?"

 

            "I've got some information too. Something a bit more... tangible" Ranma slid the photos of Sailor Virgo over.

 

            "There's more than one constellation Senshi." Usagi sighed.

 

            "So there's another constellation Senshi. Isn't that a good thing?" Rei asked.

 

            "Ranma knew this Senshi before she got her powers," Minako said.

 

            "I think she was given her powers to get revenge on me, and that got me thinking about the other constellation Senshi." Ranma reclined into her chair and watched Rei's and Ami's reaction.

 

            Usagi walked over to Ami. "Do you know where Janet is?"

 

            "Pardon?" Ami asked.

 

            "We know you're close to her. It's okay," Usagi said reassuringly.

 

            Ami coughed nervously. She did not want to betray Janet, but she had no choice. "Janet just said she was out with an old friend."

 

            "At around the same time Virgo is scouting around my house." Ranma noticed Ami's poised demeanor crack or at least appear to.

 

            "It can't be that. She would have told me. I'd know if she was with other Senshi." Ami's shoulders sagged.


            "Look, we don't know anything for sure. Janet's probably not related to this Virgo person," Makoto said.


            Ranma's observing was interrupted by her phone vibrating. She opened it and listened.


            "It's all just a big coincidence then?" Rei sarcastically asked. "I wouldn't be surprised if Virgo was another agent of Mistress Lyra. Right Ami?"


            "There is a constellation Lyra, but there's also a constellation for everything else." Ami forced herself to sigh. "I'll have to do more research on her."


            Ranma quietly spoke into her phone. "Glad to know. Just keep watching for now." She hung up and looked at the Senshi. "Janet just came in. Unfortunately, she was alone, no purple-haired friend with her."


            Ami nodded. She expected no less from DarkStar.


            "You've got people spying on the building?" Usagi asked.


            "There was a chance Virgo could show up here." Ranma played with the recline feature in the chair she was sitting in. "You guys and Janet do live in this building."


            "So, now what?"


            "You're asking me? I don't think you'd want me to talk to Janet."


            "Don't you think of touching her," Ami growled, before regaining her composure.


            "You're a sick demon," Rei agreed.


            "And that's why." Ranma gave up trying to make the chair recline. "Usagi, just call her up here."


            "Uh sure." Usagi wandered over to the kitchen phone.


            "So what do you think of this Lyra stuff? Any information from the Company" Makoto asked.


            "It all fits together, just fell into your lap, and it makes perfect sense to you guys." Ranma appraised. "I'm calling bullshit on it."


            Rei grumbled about smug demons.


            "Hey, Makoto wanted my gut feeling. Sure, be on watch for this Lyra chick., you know, if you get more proof about her. Ami seems to know plenty about her," Ranma smiled at the Senshi of Mercury. "I'm sure she can whip up a Lyra detector or something."


            "I'll have to see. I need to find more about her," Ami stated.


            "Of course, though it's odd that a sciency person like you would be so attached to this Lyra idea. My mom's a lot more skeptical, especially about supernatural crap, like visions."


            Ami twitched. The subtle but direct jabs were getting bothersome but at least the other girls did not seem understand them. "I merely took what I could from Rei's vision. I trust her sight. We all do."


            "But... doesn't your mom work for WIC?" Minako asked in confusion. "Knows for a fact that the supernatural exists."


            Ranma shrugged. "More reason not to trust it."


            "If Lyra's not behind all this then how do you explain my vision? I saw Usagi frozen to a throne, and there as an inhuman woman next to her." Rei countered.


            "I dunno. Sounds like a lot of ways to read that one. Probably right that someone's after Usagi."


            "And it's Mistress Lyra, Ami identified her," Rei countered.


            "I see."


            Usagi hung up the phone. "Janet's coming up," she shouted towards the living room.


            "How'd she sound?" Ami asked.


            "Oddly relieved," Usagi admitted. "Like she was hoping I'd call."


            Ranma smirked.


            "That doesn't prove anything." Ami said. There was a knock on the door and Ami's face became worried.


            "That'd be her," Usagi walked towards the door.


            Janet rushed through the door and closed it behind herself. Ranma's eyes focused on the girl and began to glow.


            "Thanks for calling me up," Janet said as she leaned on the door. "Mom was like a woman possessed when I got home."


            "Possessed?" Usagi asked tilting her head while looking at Janet's hair. Ranma's earlier questions echoed in her mind.


            "Yeah, she was talking about my bad luck with boys. I think she wants to set me up on a date." Janet smiled at Ami before looking back to Usagi. "You really saved me there."


            Ranma shook her head. How could the others not see that there was something going on between those two.


            Usagi blinked. "I saved you from your mother." Her voice was hollow. "This wasn't the first time was it?"


            Janet looked at the blonde. "I suppose there was the time in the office building," she said carefully.


            "No, that wasn't it."


            Ami jumped in while Usagi pondered. "Do you know any other constellation Senshi?"


            "There's others? Like me?"


            "Oh, yes." Ranma rose from her recliner. She then handed the photographs over.


            "It's another Senshi. Looks like Virgo maybe." Janet evaluated.


            "Very good," Ranma smiled. "I knew you'd have met her. Now I'd recommend you play nice."


            "What?" Janet paled and backed away. "I just know what her constellation looks like. After I became Orion I studied them. I thought there would be others."


            "Paranoid demon," Rei remarked.


            "She has Shampoo's scent on her," Ranma stated. "It's fresh. She was with her today."


            Janet froze.


            "We're supposed to trust your nose?" Rei asked. "When was the last time you saw her?"


            "A while back, I was a new demon, but you don't forget the scent of someone trying to hunt you," Ranma said as she stared down Janet.


            Usagi sighed. "I did save you before, Janet. It was from your mother, but it was a different mother." Her voice was sad and drained. "Instead of a doctor she was a jeweler."


            "Are you saying Ranma's right?" Ami asked.


            Usagi slowly nodded.


            "Yes, she is." Janet stood up to her full height. "Usagi's saved me before lots of times. In fact, saving me was her first act as a Senshi."


            "Oh, God." Usagi shuddered. "Why?"  She looked at her friend.  Her old friend from Japan.  Her old best friend... before she met the Senshi.


            "I was right. Who is she then?" Ranma asked.


            Janet smirked. "Naru, I was once Naru."


            "The hair color does match," Minako noted. "But your face is different. Why you?"


            Janet, formerly Naru, laughed. "Osaka Naru worshiped Sailor Moon, and was Usagi's closest friend that wasn't a Senshi."


            Usagi's voice rose. "Why turn you... what's the point."


            "To get close to you," Ami glared at Janet. "Your former best friend was made into a new Senshi. You'd feel strangely close to this new girl. We'd all welcome her."


            "Some moreso than others," Rei reminded.


            Ami spun around to face Rei. "Silence," she commanded. "You have no idea how I feel about this."


            Rei wilted before Ami's venomous gaze. "Sorry..." She looked to Ranma, who was still watching the... traitor. "Looks like we're both right," Rei laughed bitterly. "Virgo and Orion are both spies."


            "I kept telling you girls that you weren't good enough," Ami complained. "Look at this. Spies in our midst and it takes one of them being some aggressive moron with more balls than brains for you to figure it out."


            "Calm down," Minako tried to comfort. "I know you're feeling betrayed by Janet."


            "Why should I be? She was competent. In the end it took DarkStar to reveal her role in all this."


            "I'm sorry Ami." Janet kept her hands at her sides.


            "You're working for Mistress Lyra?" Rei asked feeling her stomach clench.


            Janet stayed silent.


            "Fine, the Princess will just purify you and then you'll tell us everything."


            Ranma clenched her teeth.


            "It won't work?" Usagi worriedly asked. She wanted to save Naru.


            "I'm just frustrated. I mean I'm used to dealing with pros, and this is amateur hour."


            "You don't think it would work?" Ami asked, interested.


            "How smart is Mistress Lyra?"


            "Very. She did all that work for Serenity."


            "She knows about Serenity's powers."


            "Yeah."


            "And the purification powers can be blocked. Even goobers with a magical book can do that."

            For a split second, Ami smiled thinly before switching to a puzzled frown. "I'm afraid she's right. Even if you could purify her... Naru might not have any memories of being Janet."


            "Yeah, that's what happens with people who are possessed by youma," Minako agreed.


            "Are you girls gonna stand around and gab while I watch her?" Ranma inquired. "Unless you want to give her a chance to escape."


            "Well, what are we going to do?" Minako asked.


            "I'm sure Ami has an idea," Ranma graciously offered.


            "Well, I have been working on a way to defeat the interference the Path gave," Ami admitted.


            "There's a way to save Naru?" Usagi's spirits rose.


            "Aww, there's the ever-hopeful Usagi I knew." Janet smiled.

 

            "Maybe we should make sure she can't run?"  Makoto asked.


            "So... you know how that power blocking thingy works?" Ranma idly flicked a finger closer to Janet and was pleased to see Ami flinch.


            "Of course, you can't defeat something without knowing how it works."


            "Then you'll just have to come up with something to get Naru all better." Ranma smiled warmly at Ami. "First you decode that magic book, then you help Rei with her vision, and now you'll try to cure Naru. I wonder if your teammates truly appreciate all you've done for them."


            Ami responded with her own warm smile. "It's hard work. I'm even trying to get them to train more, like you and your daughters."


            "Thanks, I try my best." Ranma said with false modestly. "So once Naru's dealt with, you've gotta get Virgo. Though I know the real Shampoo, obsessive jerk."


            "Yes, it seems that way," Ami agreed


            "What's with you two? Why are you having thinly-veiled super-villain banter? I understand Red, she's a secret agent demon, but why you Ami? Are you working with Naru too?" Minako jokingly asked.


            Ami froze then tried to offer a weak smile.


            "That's mean," Usagi chastised.


            "Oh come on Ami, you can't handle that?" Ranma walked closer to her. "Maybe you're not up to this sinister spy work."


            "Quiet you." Ami blinked and sighed. "Don't say that Minako. It's hurtful."


            Ranma shook her head.


            "Well, what is going on?" Makoto asked. "Ami's corrupted by Mistress Lyra too?"


            "Makes sense. Ami gets seduced by Naru and then turned. Oh how sinister." Minako mock swooned.


            "And that's why Naru was made all brainy. Perfect trap for Ami to fall into."


            Ami's eye twitched.


            "It's somehow worse when they're competent isn't it?" Ranma quietly asked.


            "If I do something a tad... mean to them you won't get in my way?" Ami whispered back.


            "What are you talking about?" Rei asked, noticing the hushed voices.


            Ranma smirked and gave a curt nod.


            "I'll tell you what's going on, Rei." Ami glowered. "I had a good thing going, but no, you girls had to figure it out."


            "You know, if you'd have kept a better leash on Shampoo, you could have used that Lyra nonsense for weeks." Ranma said.


            "Wait... so they're not working for Lyra?" Rei asked.


            Ami rolled her eyes. "I'd just found out about this Shampoo bimbo." She then smirked. "And yes, I did plan on having fun with this for at least a month. Rei focused on the one 'mastermind' behind it all so fast I nearly pissed myself to keep from laughing."


            "You tricked me?" Rei angrily asked.


            "Of course," Ami chuckled as she stood and smirked. "I told you girls you weren't ready. You didn't notice a conspiracy right under your noses."


            "We thought you and Janet.. er Naru... were sleeping together," Minako said.


            "She has a point," Janet agreed.


            "Ami... how could you?" Usagi asked, sadly. First Janet and now Ami the betrayal shocked her and she didn't want to believe.

 

            "It's all for you," Ami promised.


            "So, you're evil now? Corrupted like Chibi-Usa and Hotaru were?" Rei asked narrowing her eyes.


            Ami smiled thinly. "Maybe I'll just show you." She closed her eyes and a column of blue light and ice shards sprung up around her. They then coalesced around her nude form. Her hair lengthened and save for a pair of strands that framed her face, it was now all up in a large, high bun. On her forehead a silver tiara formed. Unlike a normal Senshi one its bottom was horizontal and it had a raised center. Instead of jewelry, it was set with a large gem-cut piece of ice.


            She had black lipstick, eyeliner, and grey eyeshadow. Silver stud earrings were in her ears and a dark-blue choker was around her neck. She wore thigh high black stockings, that were oddly garter-less, and blue pumps with a low heel. Dark blue, elbow-length, leather gloves adorned her hands.


            The main part of the uniform she wore was technically a Sailor Senshi uniform, or at least it had many of the components. The was a bow over a chest piece and a pleated skirt.


            The materials and design were very different however. Her skirt was made out of segments of shimmering ice, and her top was simply a corset. Leather, it was the same dark blue as her gloves and shoes. Unlike most corsets the ties and lacing used to tighten were in the front. The bow on her chest was used to tie off the top of the light blue ribbon. At the bottom the ribbon wrapped around either side of her waist and was tied into the uniform's back bow


            The corseted woman then snapped her fingers and summoned two long items. She then unfolded them to reveal a pair of dark blue tessen. "Does that answer your question?" Mercury asked coldly as she moved the two war fans.


            Rei's stammering response was interrupted by clapping.


            "Now that's just some quality work," Ranma appraised. "Good use of ribbons, leather, corset, and that skirt. Sure it's very vain, but it works on you."


            "Someone already did the leather battle bikini," Mercury complimented.


            "Is it me or did her bust size go up?" Minako asked.


            "I think it's just the corset," Makoto asked. She was amazed. One of their own could get turned evil, again, and Minako would talk about their assets. Makoto wanted to forget the conversations about Mistress Nine's buttocks. Then again, Ami seemed to once again confirm that with evil powers came a complimentary boob job.


            Rei used the opportunity to turn into her Senshi form. Once she was Sailor Mars she immediately readied an attack. "Mars flame-"


            Mercury sighed and aimed her tessen. "Cold snap!" she said, flipping the fans closed at Sailor Mars. A pair of bands of ice flew out and froze around Mar's arms and legs immobilizing them. Unbalanced, she wobbled on her heels before falling over and landing in a painful heap.


            "Now you girls should stay quiet and pay attention. You might learn something from the big kids," Mercury advised.


            "Bitch, I'll stop you!" Mars screamed.


            "What did I say about quiet?" Mercury shook her head and snapped her fans twice again, forming an ice barrier over Rei's mouth and causing the two bands around her arms and legs to merge into one, hogtieing the Senshi.


            "And yes Minako, they are bigger, and no it's not from being evil," Mercury laughed, and snapped her fans at Minako and Makoto. She then leaned over the immobilized blonde. "And don't you dare start talking about my ass or I'll tell Hotaru those things you said about her."


            Usagi shivered as she watched Minako and Makoto get bound. She then looked on as Mercury bent over and felt a chill on her. It was invasive and sudden, like a cold hand groping her.

 

            She stood up and narrowed her eyes. "Ami...."

 


            "Yeah, nice job," Ranma said as she walked over to the struggling Senshi. "The ice negates their powers?"


            "Of course, Rei'd just burn through it otherwise." Mercury smiled. At least someone other than Orion appreciated what she did.


            "Course, you'd know how to control ice. Otherwise your skirt'd melt. Shame."


            "Can't you do something Ranma?" Usagi pleaded.


            Ranma looked at Janet and Mercury. "Not if you want them in one piece. I reckon I could beat her tricks " She then shifted into her true form and smirked as her power flowed out, and stretched her wings before folding them back


            Mercury held her gaze. The demon was really something else. The demon's violet eyes were not threatening or challenging. A creature like DarkStar did not need to make threats.


            "You don't need to worry about me," Mercury promised, folding her fans and bowing to the demon.


            "Really now?"


            "You have my word. Neither me nor my people will harm you or your family," Mercury swore.


            "Say I don't believe you? That you won't keep your word." Ranma idly inquired.


            "Then you'll kill me. Quite painfully and savagely, I'd guess."


            Usagi looked down at her struggling whimpering friends. "Free them at once!" she demanded.


            Mercury's expression was pained. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Princess."


            "Don't forget about Shampoo," Ranma reminded.


            "Oh, I'm quite cross at her," Mercury said as she knelt down beside Rei, who was trying to break her bonds by rolling into a table corner with them. She reached out and froze the ice manacles to the table and floor. She laughed at the futile hatred in Mars' eyes. Mercury got up and looked at Ranma meeting her gaze. "I'm going to make Virgo wish she hadn't escaped your clutches tonight."


            "Good."


            "Ranma, how can you say that?" Usagi cried. "And Ami how can you do all this? We're friends!"  A sparkling scepter appeared in her hand,  the gold crescent moon on the end hummed as she leveled it at the ice-adorned dark Senshi.


            Mercury walked over and embraced her princess. "I'm doing this all for you," she repeated in a whisper into Usagi's ear. "And really why is everyone getting so jumpy? Biggest thing that's happened is some bimbo forgetting her place and pissing off a horde of demons."

 

            Usagi's hand trembled.


            Mars struggled against her bonds and tried to growl. Minako and Makoto watched from their places frozen on the floor.


            Moving her head to look down at the prone girls, Mercury laughed. "Oh that's right, I'm a servant of the master mind behind it all. I'm sure I'm somehow responsible for a school full of youma as well."


            "Ami... I'm confused." Usagi escaped from the hug and looked at her... friend. "What's happened to you?"


            "I'm finally able to be myself."


            "But... the evil?" Usagi hesitated.


            "Do you sense dark energy on me?"


            Usagi looked down.


            "Probably not, given how much Red over there's pumping out," Janet pointed out. "Look Usagi. Newly turned evil people don't normally swear not to hurt a family, promise to help, and then give a loving hug."


            "Help?" Usagi asked. She was even more unsure what to think about Janet.


           "You're getting ahead of the game," Mercury gently chastised. "Yes, we're going to help you. You're still our princess, and there are still people who want to kill you."


            "This is nice and all, I mean. I like the honorable, classy sinister-type person." Ranma's smile turned serious. "Don't disappoint me, but there is one thing I'm wondering about. Who turned Naru into Janet? After all she's the one that 'opened your eyes'."


            Janet laughed as she idly scratched her ear. "I'm afraid I can't answer that question just yet. You and I have a couple things in common, and that's one of them."


            Noticing the gesture and decoding the likely meaning, Ranma shook her head in bemusement. Those two were pretty paranoid, and of Murdock of all people.


            "What's going on?" Usagi asked.


            Ranma sighed. "This whole plot's part of some trick, like the scheme that got me made."


            "Yes, an enterprising and improvisational buffoon has taken a great interest in you." Mercury smirked. "It's one of the few things Setsuna's right about, but for the wrong reasons." She looked Ranma. "I've got a question. What happened to the moon cats? I'd expected to have to freeze those morons, but I'm not sensing them here."


            "Why would I know anything about missing cats?" Ranma innocently asked. She was interested to know Ami could sense life-forms now.


            "Oh, I think you'd want to know about their presence." Mercury shrugged.


            "Fair enough," Ranma said. That Ami seemed to know about the neko-ken could mean an intimate knowledge of Ranma's past. Maybe Murdock really was involved with these two.


            "Where are they?" Mercury repeated


            "Still on the roof I'd imagine. Found them when we landed." Ranma smiled. "Nabiki and Nariko were ecstatic. They just picked them up and started petting."


            "I'd imagine they don't get to pet many kitties now."


            Ranma shrugged.


            "That thing behind your house. Is it a real dojo or just your brood's playroom?"


            Ranma growled.


            Mercury smirked. So, the demon was not totally unflappable.


            "You'd complimented me on my training methods earlier."


            "Yes, your Senshi may be the youngest, but they're the best. Of course when the competition is like this..." Mercury pointed to the bound girls on the floor.


            "Well you've got a ways to go with yours too," Ranma reminded.


            Mercury nodded. "I didn't want it to go this way, but I'm doing to make the most of it."


            "I guess that's that," Janet sighed.


            "Oh," Mercury smiled sweetly as she and Janet were about to leave. "I'd find someone to teach you girls some more self control. I'd hate to imagine what would happen if someone trapped them using a simple binding spell."


            "Didn't that happen back when you guys were fighting Beryl, like all the time?" Janet asked.


            "Yes it did, but it takes a long time for some people to learn." Mercury turned to Ranma. "Oh can you have your agent friends let us pass? I don't want there to be any trouble with them either."


            "Same promise to them as my family."


            "Of course. You'd just kill me. Sure it'd be slow, but not as slow as the scientific dissection they'd do."


            Ranma chuckled.


            Usagi noticed that they were going and that she had still done nothing. "Ami..."

            "Yes?" Mercury noticed the worried fear in Usagi's eyes. "I won't do anything to make you feel shameful. You can count on that."


            Usagi gathered her wits. "Don't worry Ami, I'll save you." She knew that if she tried to transform she would be encased in ice like the others, now was not the time.


            "Of course you will, my princess," Mercury smiled warmly as she and Janet left through the door. "You always do, but this time I'm going to save you first."


           

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

 


            "There are problems with the Senshi?" Stillwater asked Jacob.


            "Yes Sir, it turns out that Mercury and Orion are double agents of some type," Jacob explained as he leaned back in a chair in Stillwater's office.


            "Yes, the images of her new uniform were interesting." Stillwater sipped his drink.


            Jacob smirked, and shook his head. "We need to know what she'll do, and what Miss Tsukino will do in response."


            "How much of a threat is this new Mercury to our plans?" Stillwater asked.


            "It depends. She is certainly well-informed. She's a major part of their intelligence wing. She does all their on-site scanning and much of their research."


            "It's safe to assume she also has a lot of insider information."


            Jacob nodded. "What do you think, Miss Saotome?"


            Ranma lowered her glass. After she choked on the first taste she resolved to sip. The burn was something to watch out for. "She's the biggest threat to her fellow Senshi. Though I think that's kind of the point."


            "Oh?" Jacob asked with a hint of amusement.


            "Well, she immediately promised to avoid attacking my family and the Company." Ranma sipped her drink. She was new to scotch, and it was... interesting.


            "And if she's lying?" Stillwater asked.


            "Then we kill her," Ranma said simply.


            "I don't think Usagi would approve." Jacob proposed.


            "So? I'm not going to put my kids at risk just to please her, and you shouldn't do the same with your men." Ranma sipped her drink again. This time finding the warming more pleasing. "Besides, she knows we're pros, that's why she respects us."


            "She was pushing the Senshi to be more serious, before she snapped," Jacob said.


            Ranma laughed. "Oh, that's still her plan. Heck, before she left she told them how to avoid her binding attack."


            "It was all a training mission?" Stillwater skeptically asked.


            "This is a bit too dramatic for that." Jacob agreed.


            "Why? They're used to their teammates turning evil, and now Ami can force them to train. Otherwise she'll beat them horribly." Ranma took a contemplative drink. "Eh, she'll still beat them horribly, but she's the kind of threat that's personal and very offensive to them."


            "Offensive," Jacob stated.


            "Oh yeah, the hate and hurt on their faces was damn clear. Ami played them, betrayed them, and tricked them. It was dumb luck that she got exposed." Ranma shook her head. "Personally, I think she could have wormed her way out. She didn't have to do the dramatic 'coming out as evil'."


            "Why'd she do it then?"


            "She was sick of playing nice." Ranma shrugged. "She finally got fed up with working on the inside. Hell, she cleared it with me right before she did it."


            "And now she's free," Jacob laughed and took a sip.


            "It's not just a desperate and unorthodox training plan. Someone transformed the Osaka girl," Stillwater reminded them.


            "Has the Japan branch found anything out, Sir?" Jacob asked after a drink.


            "It looks like Osaka Naru and her Mother moved. Shop was legally sold and they left the country. They're still at it."


            "Yeah, someone set this all up," Ranma agreed. "Janet hinted that it was Murdock. Which I guess makes sense. Setsuna thinks he did the same thing with me."


            "Why?" Jacob asked.


            Ranma shrugged. "Usagi."


            "Fitting, first use a sex demon as a replacement for her boyfriend, and then use her former best friend. This makes Mercury more of a risk." Jacob evaluated.


            "Especially if she gets to Usagi." Stillwater scratched his goatee.


            "That depends. Is there still influence? Is she a free agent?"


            Ranma sipped from her glass. "I don't know. We'll have to watch her."


            "Of course. Maybe there's really even a Mistress Lyra." Jacob joked.


            Stillwater smirked. "That's fitting misdirection."


            "So, that's it about Ami?" Ranma asked as she ran a finger over the rim of her glass.


            "Did Miss Tsukino give you any advice, orders?" Jacob asked.


            "She told me not to turn or kill her." Ranma laughed. "I'm not going out of my way to hunt her down, unless she gets dumb."


            "You're assuming she's going to be smart about this?" Jacob asked.


            "She wants her princess to be stronger." Ranma sipped her scotch. "She's got a big ego. She really likes being smart and liked showing off her powers. Getting herself killed isn't part of her plan."


            "She plans to live. Become the right hand to Miss Tsukino," Jacob stated.


            "Which is nice for anyone controlling her," Stillwater added.


            "Right. I'm not worried about her. I'm worried about who is pulling her strings.  And it's those girls that should worry," Ranma shook her head. "They have no idea what they're in for. It's easy to underestimate Usagi. Just look at her, but when pushed into a corner she's tenacious. She won't give up."


            "And Mercury would know this." Jacob stated.


            "Yes, the Senshi face someone who won't underestimate Usagi. Ami knows her princess' mettle, I think she plans to use that to her advantage."


            "We'll keep an eye on them and her," Jacob assured Ranma. Mercury might be the catalyst needed to temper the Pattern Silvers for what was ahead or it could get them all killed or corrupted.


            "There's also the projects Major Saotome proposed." Stillwater reminded.


            "Oh, I know you're letting her make those guns. Is there more?" Ranma put her empty glass down.


            Stillwater gave a curt nod. "Yes. Her report was most convincing on the need for isolated machinery to work the demonic metal as was her recommendation to bring in outside help."


            "Good, I'm sure the girls will be very happy when it's done." Ranma pulled out one of the ice cubes from her glass and sucked on it.


            "No questions about us once again yielding to your needs?" Jacob slyly asked.


            Ranma shrugged and crunched the ice. "Now, now, you guys are just as interested in new weapons as my kids are."


            Jacob smiled.


            Ranma leaned back in her chair. "How did your inspection go? You guys gonna keep your jobs?"


            "Pardon?"


            "There was that strange officer. He was asking everyone questions, especially about that traitor stuff. Jarvis said he was sent by the General. Guessin' that's your boss. You guys doing stuff you're not supposed to here?" Ranma winked.


            Stillwater laughed, and motioned for Jacob to explain.


            "Major Koster is an aide to the General Anderson, and yes he was checking up on this operation. Our working with you warranted special attention, to make sure we're following procedures." Jacob took a leisurely sip.


            "Anderson, eh?" Ranma thought. "That's the guy that trained you two right?"


            Jacob and Stillwater exchanged a glance. "Yes, he was our commander when we were young officers. Still is now," Jacob said.


            "So... he knows you two, and he still sent a lackey to look around." Ranma laughed.


            "Can't be too careful," Stillwater said.


            Ranma smirked. "The paranoia just keeps going don't it?"


            "Yes, but the base passed inspection. Major Koster even complimented you and your girls in his report," Jacob said.


            "Good for him."


            "He did not even bat an eye at your rescue proposal." Jacob wondered if the General was slipping or had finally gained a sense of humor.


            Ranma paused. "Oh that idea. Huh, cool then."


            "We'll have to work out the list."


            "Shouldn't be too long. Not too many people would want it."


            Jacob gave a sympathetic nod. "What about your tastes? I would think you'd be selective as to who you'd save."


            "I've got a pretty good idea who would say yes." Ranma sighed and thought about her fiancee. "And of those I don't have a problem; I'd rather they stayed alive and fighting with us. Maybe I should ask the candidates myself."


            Ranma looked up at the two officers. "No dry commentary?"


            "It's a good idea," Jacob admitted. "You, or one of our daughters, would be the one doing this. I would insist that one of us be there for the interview. I suppose we'd start with Lieutenant Tendo."


            "No need," Ranma crossly said.


            Stillwater's face remained neutral.


            Jacob's eyes widened nearly-concealed surprise. "Really? This is only for those that would be dead otherwise."


            "I know." Ranma sighed. "I'd like to think that it's because of the daughter thing, but it might not be that. If she's strong enough... she could be..." The redhead sighed again and put an ice cube in her mouth.


            Unsure of what to do Jacob offered to refill her glass.


            Ranma waved off the bottle. "I guess that's that."


            "There is the matter of Misako and Ukyou," Jacob said


            "There going to be any problems for them?"


            "We'll have to see how they take to the training. Things will be different for them."


            "Oh?"


            "Their training under you and their previous experience will cover a lot of ground. It's really gauging their skills and seeing what they need more of." Jacob allowed. In many ways WIC was more flexible with its NH applicants.


            "That's good. You shouldn't waste their time, and don't waste your men's time too. Don't pull agents away from their jobs just to baby-sit them."


            "I find it remarkable that Miss Ukyou kept her interest, even after being turned," Stillwater finished his own drink.  "Though she may not want to be a full agent.  A contractor position would give her more flexibility."

 

            Ranma nodded.

 

            "Miss Misako following her makes perfect sense. Those two have always been partners."


            "She always liked you guys, and she wanted to be more use than just a defector." Ranma shrugged. Ukyou was a demon Senshi and already worked with WIC. There was no need for her to formally join, but that's what she wanted to do.


            "And your youngest? Is she ready for school on Monday?"


            "Nabiki seems ready," Ranma stretched her legs. "I'm also worried about Misa-chan. She's been out of school for a long time; Ucchan will be there for her though."


            "They don't have to be in school, you know." Jacob's voice carried an offer.


            "I think it's good for them to interact with normal people, least some of the time, and I guess the work's good, more well-rounded." Ranma was tempted however. During the last couple weeks she had been able to get more done, but that was out of necessity. Her girls needed a breather and time to recover.


            "That's good, we're going to need you and your girls in top shape," Jacob said.


            "I know." Ranma looked at the far wall, her eyes distant. Things were coming. Anyone with heightened senses or good intelligence could see that. Ami certainly could.

 

End ch4

 

Revision Notes:  And here we are, Mistress Mercury.   And while Girl Talk did get pushed back, given the plot elements in the story, that worked out for the best.

 

Author's Notes:

 

The interlude got pushed further back, but that's okay.

 

I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They're the ones that made sure this story was readable.

Acey, Trimatter, PyroRaven, Questara, Solara, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, and Jerry Starfire.

 

I'm gonna repeat myself. I really apriate everything you guys have done.  My prereaders are a tireless group that go through my stuff on their own to make it better.  It's just amazing, and I don't think I can thank you enough.  The rest of you that review; thank you too.  It's great to hear more from you guys.  To get a reading of my performance and what you guys think of all this.

 

I can't express how much it means to me. Thank you all.