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 9: Preparations and Expansions

Formerly:  Reveal and Repurpose

 

 


            "Minako has been taken?" Setsuna asked after entering the apartment. She tapped a flask discreetly placed in her jacket but pulled her hand away. She was beyond the temptations of the body.


            From her seat, Makoto tilted her head. It was odd how Setsuna stressed that verb.


            "That bitch, Ami got her too," Rei grumbled. She was folding strips of paper and making a slowly growing pile.


            "We're running out of Senshi," Makoto sighed. She looked to the other side of the couch and sighed again. In the brief moments where Rei was not folding or writing, her hands would spasm.


            Setsuna nodded and walked up to Usagi who was silently sitting on a chair facing the window. "What do you have to say for yourself, Princess?" she flatly asked while standing behind the blonde.


            Usagi strained her vision. She could almost make herself believe the glint on the building across the street's roof was a scope. "Well, the plan worked, perfectly."


            Setsuna nodded. "But there's no response from Ranma?"


            "Not yet," Usagi picked up her glass gave it a glance and then put it back down.


            The older woman frowned.


            "Plan? What... what are you talking about?" Makoto slowly asked.


            "May I?" Setsuna inquired.


            Usagi nodded.


            Setsuna turned to the couch. "Minako is a plant. She's going to lead us right to Ami."


            Rei stopped folding and looked up. "That whole fight was an act?" Her eyes were cold.


            "Maybe," Setsuna shrugged. "It doesn't matter. We'll still find her."


            "That's why DarkStar was there and why she left early," Makoto's eyes widened in realization. "She's going to follow Minako... right to Ami's hideout."


            "Ranma has resources at her disposal to covertly track Minako. This was important for our backup plan," Setsuna explained.


            "You mean if Ami really has corrupted Minako," Rei shook her head. "You knew. You knew Ami got her claws into Mina! And then what?" She stared at the green-haired woman. "You used her as bait? And it doesn't matter if Ami really does turn her into a robot, because your demonic mercenaries will take care of it. Usagi, why did you listen to her?"


            Usagi slowly turned her head. "It was my idea, Rei. After... Minako came to me. We both knew what Ami wanted."


            Rei stared. "And... and DarkStar?"


            "I hired her." Usagi smiled. "It's really amazing what she'll do if you set the right price."


            Despite the mood, Makoto smirked. She congratulated herself on her ability to avoid laughter.


            "Minako knew she was the next one. Ami abducted her to learn the best way to... turn her, and tonight was the first time we'd have run into Ami since the last time," Setsuna said.


            "Perfectly cold and logical," Rei grumbled. "You sure Ami wouldn't be proud of this?"


            Usagi narrowed her eyes. "Again. Minako volunteered. Are you angry that I kept this secret from you two?" She chuckled. "I'm sorry I don't have that luxury anymore. Pluto's right. We cannot beat Ami. She knows our moves, our powers, our minds. She has built herself to defeat magical girls."


            "You changed the rules?" Makoto's smirk turned into a grin.


            Usagi nodded. "Setsuna, what are Ami's weaknesses?"


            "She's very bright and used to be very shy and meek. Mistress Mercury is now quite domineering and is always calculating; she plans. This gives her certain... vulnerabilities."


            "Oh, being intelligent and planning ahead are vulnerabilities?" Rei skeptically asked.


            "It just requires the right enemy," Setsuna smirked.


            Makoto paused and stared out the window. "I see... wow... so that's why you hired her?"


            Usagi nodded.


            "Wait... DarkStar?" Rei asked. "What does she have to do with it?"


            "Consider: Ranma gave massive headaches to Setsuna, a very cold and calculating person."


            Rei blinked. "Of course... Ami went out of her way to avoid angering her. She's... she's afraid of Ranma?"


            "Why not?" Setsuna looked out the window and smiled. "DarkStar is everything Mistress Mercury is not. Impulsive, passionate, professional, connected, ruthless, charismatic, murderous. For all her damage, Mistress Mercury..." she laughed. "Mercury is a poser compared to DarkStar. Compare their fighting styles."


            "They're both very good and always win."


            Setsuna tilted her head slightly and seemed to... listen. "Mercury is a threat to you all, but that's different. For one, Mercury hasn't killed any of you."


            "So what? DarkStar's a real monster? Is that it? Ami's jealous?" As soon as the words left her mouth Rei jumped up and turned towards the door which eased open.


            Dressed in dark purple leather boots, pants, bustier, and coat, the pale redhead stepped in. Behind her the door was closed by a blonde woman who almost towered over the other demon. The blonde wore a dark silk grey suit skirt that seemed to be Setsuna's twin.


            "Ah, I see Rei's gotten better," Ranma smiled broadly. "Nice fire by the way."


            Rei looked down and extinguished her flames. "You know where Ami's hideout is?"


            Ranma stepped forward. "You told them, Usagi?" She shrugged. "Eve? Evaluation."


            "Their door was trivial to defeat. Blinds are drawn open. Only one responded with any proficiency. Of the two who knew we were coming, only Miss Meiou seemed to know exactly when we would enter."


            Ranma grinned. "That's not quite what I meant." She stepped up to Usagi and handed the blonde and an envelope. "I was surprised. Minako actually tried to evade us," she said as she pulled up a chair and sat down facing Usagi. "Though a golden robotic succubus doesn't exactly... blend in."


            "Your wings are giant and purple," Makoto noted.


            Ranma sighed. "Anyway, Minako did lose me. Of course that's when the surveillance swapped. Akumi's got herself a nice little mansion."


            "How do you know that's really where Ami is? What if she just stopped there?" Rei asked.


            "Very good question," the redhead brightened. "That is why we're late. It took a bit to get surveillance setup. Care to explain, Sis?"


            Eve's eyebrows rose for a brief moment. "The target wanted to guard the location against detection surveillance; she tried too hard. So anyone with... discretion in their methods will immediately know that spot for what it is. That level of interferences is not... natural."


            "Granted, it's still an assumption." Ranma shrugged. "Maybe, Akumi's clever enough to use this as a distraction, but it's still something we can watch. We are your backup."


            "You just keep smiling," Rei groused.


            Ranma shook her head. "I warned you that keeping them in the dark would make things worse."


            "That was my decision," Setsuna interjected. "I was worried that Ami would take someone else, that Minako would be too obvious."


            "So?" Ranma asked as she leaned back. "Minako knows the plan. You're putting an awful lot of weight on Ami not breaking her."


            "Minako didn't know about your role." Usagi gripped her glass and sunk her head. "She thought everything was on her spying on Ami and then returning to us."


            The redhead smiled thinly. "Not bad. My involvement tonight will increase Akumi's jealousy."


            "We hope it will start affecting her performance," Setsuna agreed.


            "Taking Miss Aino in this manner suggests desperation or a desire for theatrical drama," Eve stated. "Perhaps, Miss Mizuno feels her progress has stalled and felt forced to act now, or perhaps she has a more elegant way to show off her new toy."


            "Toy? That's our friend," Makoto said, indignantly.


            "To Miss Mizuno she is just that." Eve shrugged.


            "Is... is there any Minako in her?" Usagi asked Ranma.


            The brood mother nodded. "The robotic stuff was an act, a poor one at that. She seemed to be having fun in that suit though."


            Usagi smiled. "Good, that's good. Ami won't know what'll hit her."


            Ranma's smile grew and her teeth began to show. "Excellent, when does the strike start?"


            "We've got to confirm the location ourselves," Setsuna said, taking the envelope from Usagi. "Continue your own surveillance. Do your best to keep it hidden from her, that way if she spots you..."


            "She'll think we don't want her to see us," Ranma laughed. "I can see why you love this spy stuff, Sis."


            "Physiological torture is more challenging and intellectually satisfying," Eve agreed. "Of course there's something to be said for the traditional methods: blood, sweat, and tears."


            "You truly are an artist," Ranma smirked when she saw the barest hint of a blush and pheromone change in her sister.


            "She's talking about torturing people," Rei flatly stated. "Usagi, you can't be in league with people like this."


            "Yeah, I know that. I kill and eat people, gonna freak out on that?" Ranma's voice was innocently confused.


            "And that is why Ami's jealous," Setsuna smirked. "You are casually inhuman. You don't play at being a dangerous blood-thirsty creature. There's no act, no apology, no drama. You just are."


             "That's not admirable!" Rei cried. "We can't be with killers."


            "What about all the 'monsters' we killed?" Usagi quietly asked. "Many of them were sentient, some were even human once. The Shitennou?" She continued, her voice growing louder. "What about ones that are still human? Those cultists? You burned several of them to death. I cut one apart with my tiara and crushed the skull of another? Am I a monster?"


            "No, you're our princess." Rei looked down. "You're Queen Serenity's heir, you wield the Silver Crystal. I know how good you are."


            "Queen Serenity was not just some peace-loving holistic sappy ruler. You know that She built her empire through conquest right?" Setsuna asked.


            "She took over the Earth by making deals with demons," Ranma happily added.


            "Liar," Rei glared. "She saved the Earth from a demonic invasion."


           "I was there," Ranma sighed. "Setsuna was there too, and Queen Serenity was one of the few friends I had in that life; I helped her take over the Earth."


            "The Terrans felt cornered. They lost their royal family and ended up with a 'tamed' succubus instead. They could not defeat the invading demons on their own, but to ask for Serenity's help would result in their subjugation," Setsuna explained.


            "But, Serenity would have helped them. Her rule was good." Rei defended.


            "So? Benevolence of a ruler is moot to those who value independence. Not everyone wanted to follow Serenity. That's how things like Beryl and Diamond start." Setsuna pulled out her flask and glanced at it. "I say this as the biggest supporter of Serenity's plans for Unification."


            Makoto raised an eyebrow. This looser and more open Setsuna was disturbing.


            "It came down to me. I was the granddaughter to the head of one of the demonic armies, a Senshi in the service to Serenity, and the Queen of Earth." Ranma closed her eyes. "It didn't end well."


            "Serenity did help BlackSky destroy House Vephar," Usagi offered.


            "Yes, and the chance to take Vephar's territory, that was enticing to Grandma.  It was when the other Houses, like Luxon and Elena started to worry."


            "What happened?" Rei asked.


            "After I... died, BlackSky and Serenity made a deal. As you know, two demonic Houses invaded the Earth. Vephar's forces preferred to eat and turn just about anyone. She had a lot more numbers, and more land back on the homeplane. Grandma, BlackSky was more careful in who she took, and had less territory. It was a... shaky truce. Vephar killed me because she thought I was making a deal to get her House destroyed."


            "A rather perceptive evaluation," Setsuna stated.


            "What was the deal?" Rei repeated.


            "Serenity would wipe out Vephar's forces on Earth, and spare BlackSky's. BlackSky would then be allowed to take her broods back home."


            "But... weren't some of them human?"


            "Quite a few."


            "Why did BlackSky give up on Earth then?"


            Ranma chuckled. "Think about it. The bulk of Vephar's forces, including her most powerful were on earth. Her holdings on the homeplane were still guarded... but easy pickings to an entire House flush with veterans."


            "So BlackSky would rather take some territory on this demon dimension than rule the Earth?"


            "Of course, a risky guerrilla war against Vephar's demons, the Terran forces, and Serenity and her commandos all at a chance of ruling Earth versus avenging my death by utterly destroying House Vephar and taking a continent of much more valuable land."


            "I guess." Rei shrugged.


            "Succubae are very attached to their Homeplane. They believe it is a sanctuary made specifically for them by the creator of their species. A place where they would no longer be enslaved. This makes the land in those territories very valuable. Naturally, Earth, being the home of humans is important, but it's not their... homeland," Setsuna explained.


            Ranma blinked. "Yeah, that's right." She should have expected Setsuna to know all of this. Sailor Pluto had been around for a long, long time.


            "My mother made a deal with a demon to control another planet," Usagi surmised.


            "At least it was cleaner than what she did when she took Mars," Setsuna shrugged. Normally, dredging up the past made her numb, but tonight she felt more alive, more connected. Her memories were more vivid, more tangible than they had been in centuries.


            Rei's eyes narrowed. "Pardon?"


            "This was about thirty years before Earth's demonic invasion. Serenity came and it looked like diplomacy would win. The nobles on Mars were quite amiable. Then the Martian military tried a coup. It was quick and bloody, but they got power."


            "I remember hearing about this," Ranma noted.


            "Serenity's response was quicker, and bloodier. She sent in her wraith. They got that name because they struck fast and seemed invisible. They just wore cloaks that matched the colors surrounding them, and used magical staves designed to kill quietly, efficiently, and accurately. They would drop onto the planet and cause havoc."


            "Good guys. They had less magic than any competent sorcerer, and those staves would have mediocre range in today's world but they knew to duck and shoot at anyone in fancy robes first," Ranma evaluated.


            "Yes, anyway. Serenity used them to soften the target, do reconnaissance, and set up the gates. Then the bulk of her armies would teleport in. Of course... her boys got a bit exuberant. By the time the regulars arrived her wraith had killed the entire officer core and gutted the capital. Serenity's Senshi helped, but it was really the Royal Commandos that won the battle."


            "Okay, I get it. Queen Serenity was a sovereign and a commander-in-chief," Rei stated. "And I guess she did a lot of... difficult things to get where she was."


            "You don't mind her subjugation of your planet?" Setsuna asked.


            "My ancestors didn't. You said they agreed with Serenity."


            "That was likely out of fear and self interest. At that time only they and the Earth had resisted Unification. The Martians knew their days were numbered. Only the Terrans has the population and magical reserves to resist Serenity. It took a massive demonic invasion to weaken them enough to be taken. None of the other colony worlds stood a chance."


            "She wanted peace."


            "In her image," Setsuna reminded.


            "Why are you doing this? I thought you supported her!"


            Setsuna narrowed her eyes. "Yes, I swore total allegiance to my queen and do not regret it. Even knowing the oaths and duties I am bound by I do not regret my service to the Queen."

 

            She exhaled.  "It is not a light burden.  But I knew exactly what Queen Serenity was. You don't. Only two people here have any idea what the Queen was really like, and what swearing to her, to her heir, means."


            "DarkStar and Usagi, right?" Rei asked.


            "It's good that you're at least that clever. Yes, Ranma understands. One cannot become Serenity's friend and conspire to sell a planet and not understand her. Usagi..." Setsuna's face thawed and she began to smile. "Usagi, you are your mother's daughter. I'm confident that this won't overwhelm you. You've shown great strength in that."

 
            "I don't know if I can do what... mother did," Usagi admitted. "Taking over planet after planet."


            "Well, that's not a worry for you. Earth's the only inhabited planet in the solar system," Makoto offered.


            "In this plane of existence and by humans, sure." Setsuna weakly smiled.


            "Ja, there are plenty of demons and other things out in the universe," Eve added.


            "And you fight them too," Makoto noted, the blonde demon's casual intensity was... wrong. One should not be that at ease with being intensely focused.


            "Exactly, in the broadest terms we are all on the same side," Ranma agreed.


            "Well if the KGB... well.. FSB's Seventh Directorate and the Papal Expeditionary forces can be on the same side." Eve frowned slightly at her slip. "Why not us?"


            "Who?" Rei asked.


            "The first is a branch of the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. They were formed to deal with the NH threat within the Soviet Union and its successor states. The second are special forces troops the Vatican hires from Switzerland," Setsuna explained. "The Russians have manpower but their sphere of influence and funding is limited. The Vatican has the opposite problem."


            Eve nodded.


            Setsuna smirked slightly at the blonde. "Of course, both are eclipsed by the stellar professionalism and reach of the Company. Not surprising, really. The Russians tried to copy your model, but were hamstrung by the massive, paranoid organ of state that was the Committee for State Security, and the Vatican's always had manpower issues."


            "Is this really necessary?" Makoto asked with a frustrated sigh.. "Are we going to have to worry about priests and Russians?"


            "The priests don't fight," Setsuna corrected. "That's the Assembly of Man. I told you, the Papal Expeditionary force is Swiss soldiers."


            Eve wondered why Setsuna had yet to mention the Sisters of Purity. They were a key part to Vatican operations.

            Ranma shrugged. "If we were in Europe it'd be a different story, but so far they don't care. No, we get all the nuts on this continent. Enough power plays and history though, what are you going to do about Akumi?" She asked again with a fanged smile.


            Usagi took a sip and paused to collect her thoughts. "We, need information from Minako. I don't want to go in there blind. I'm sure Ami has planned for this. If we just run to her lair, she'll be prepared: traps, weapons, and an escape route."


            "Don't delay too long, that's just as bad as doing nothing," Ranma looked at her watch.


            "It is time," Eve stated as Ranma got up.


            "Leaving already?" Rei asked.


            "Well, you don't seem to be making any definite plans now, and unless you want us to go in and rescue Minako and stop Ami." Ranma looked at the magical girls and her voice became more sympathetic. "I'm being sincere. We can help you."


            "You've already helped immensely," Setsuna reminded, tapping the envelope she held.


            "And when we do strike Ami, you'll be very useful," Usagi said with a dark little smile.


            As she watched the two succubae leave, Setsuna reflected on her Princess. She really was starting to become her Mother's daughter.

 

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

 


            "Venus has arrived," Sailor Virgo said with a little bow. She concealed her ill ease at the golden figure.


            "Wonderful." Mercury stood up and crossed the main-room to her latest acquisition. The analysis of the Time Gates could wait. The metal succubus stood ramrod straight. "How do you feel Mina?"


            The figure's eyes dimmed slightly in their red glow, but remained silent.


            "Oh, already?" Mercury's smile grew as she stepped around the figure. She leaned in and ran a hand over the cold metal cheek. "Is this how you're going to play?" she asked, amused when the armored girl pulled her head to the side.


            Venus pulled her head straight again.


            "Senshi, what is your purpose?" Mercury icily asked.


            "To serve and train the Queen," Venus replied in a monotone.


            Mercury flicked the blonde hairs that made up Venus' crest. "Accurate words" Mercury turned around and walked back to her workstation. "Virgo, show Venus her new accommodations," she said almost dismissively.


            Easing back into her throne, Mercury watched as Virgo led the armored sword-woman to a golden altar built into an alcove in the wall. As soon as Venus sat down, golden tendrils reached out and plugged into sockets that were exposed by a subtle shift in Venus' armor. Responding to the tugs of the cables and tubes, Venus laid herself down and shortly her eyes dimmed.


            "Connection successful. Power-down cycle has commenced," Orion said from her workstation. "Fluid exchange and body maintenance are queued. Data insertion starting... now." She felt vaguely unsettled with all the euphemisms, but this was important work, and, so far, it was going successfully.


            "Good, good," Mercury muttered. Her attention back to the data on her display. She looked up and saw Virgo standing at attention. "You're free to go. I'd suggest training though. Venus will probably want to spar once this is done."


            Virgo bowed and headed for the training room.


            "And Venus has finished powering down, transfer process starting," Orion noted.


            "Fine, keep an eye open if anything goes wrong," Mercury muttered. She switched to another screen and looked at a dataset overlay. "It would work... fascinating."


            "The spells really do block the gate's power?" Orion asked.


            "There is a strong correlation between the effect our benefactor's spells have on matter and the things that the Silver Millennium scientists found invisible to the gate's senses. Of course this could all be a plant," Mercury admitted suddenly frowning.


            "Planted data? To lull people into thinking they can escape surveillance?" Orion rubbed her chin. "Quite possible, Mistress. Queen Serenity and Sailor Pluto could have prepared false data. The scientists would think they had discovered weaknesses to the gates. If any were tempted to sell that information..."


            "Serenity would have an excellent trap. Their attempts at secrecy would act as a beacon. Carefully played, she could use this to watch the deepest conspiracies against her."


            "Fascinating, and frightening," Orion admitted. "If this is true then, Setsuna knows everything, and has let it happen."


            "We would be her pawns," Mercury closed her eyes. "I tell myself that that facility on the Moon would be impossible for Murdock to break into, but that's cold comfort. We've seen Millennium secrets escape before."


            "The Path's book," Orion nodded. "But our surveys of it have shown nothing about the Gates."


            "Yes, it dealt more with the powers of Serenity, and it's helped us escape purification." Mercury sighed. "I cannot escape the possibility of this all being Setsuna's doing."


            Orion chewed on her lip. "Does that worry you? With all respect, Mistress, Sailor Pluto was one of the Queen's strongest and most loyal supporters. She was key to Unification, perhaps our goals are in line with hers."


            "That would explain why she let us do our work," Mercury frowned and scrolled through the records. "If Setsuna has total surveillance of us, then there is nothing we can do but press onward." She had plans for dealing with Setsuna but they could not be communicated, not now.


            "If I may, personally, I have my suspicions as to Pluto's power," Orion said. "If we accept that Murdock was allowed to operate by her, then that means that Mamoru's death was fine with her. We know our queen, no true servant to her would let her true love die, not like that."


            "That's why I worry, I don't like what I'm learning about Setsuna. Her actions at the Fall...."


            "What about them?" Orion asked. "What did she do when Beryl attacked?"


            "The records on that are wiped, by the old Queen. Dated exactly at her death."


            "Granted, that's not a troublesome detail for someone like Serenity, but it's too neat."


            "Pluto would never betray her queen." Orion stated.


            "Yes, I would rather it if she could. That would make things simpler. There is a nasty secret about all of this."


            "The gates are an odd construct," the auburn-haired girl agreed


            "Yes, it is unlike Serenity's other creations. The testing and checks for the Silver Crystal were not as involved, and that thing can alter reality. It's more powerful than some chronoscope and temporal displacement drive."


            Orion frowned. She could see her Mistress was starting to go in circles. "Murdock still had to get this information. Even if it was planted, he still had to get it."


            "It's probably another eldritch book," Mercury admitted.


            "One full of magical spells."


            "And we know what happens to books like that." Mercury chuckled. "Okay, do a search on all ancient tomes about time travel, and any cults associates with the same themes. Include ones about visions of alternate worlds and teleportation too. These fools often have no idea what they've really got."


            Orion nodded and eagerly went to work. It was good when her mistress had a direction and a goal. Paranoid worries did not suit her.


            "DarkStar," Mercury stated. Her hands frozen.


            Suppressing an expression of pity, Orion turned to the blue-haired girl.


            "She was around too, it was brief but... Setsuna knew her." Mercury rubbed her forehead. "That gives her a reason to let Mamoru die and let Murdock 'sabotage' the summoning. Setsuna picked Ranma; Setsuna knew she was DarkStar reincarnated. This can't all be her plans, it just can't be."


            Orion silently watched, worried that her mistress would get into one of her "moods".


            "I can see her doing this, but I can't see a reason for it!" Mercury snarled. "I can also see her being tricked and used, but I can't reconcile that Pluto with Serenity's closest advisor."


            Nodding Orion went back to her work.


            "I'm really starting to worry for Usagi. I think she's trusting the wrong people," Mercury sighed and decided that another glass of wine would not hurt.

 

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

 

 

            Bishop Fortson frowned at the report. The losses had started to mount up. It was small compared to that forest debacle, but they were still destroyed. He looked up when the door to his office opened.


            A pair of inquisitors entered the room. They wore the white masks with long hooked beaks and large goggles of their office. Both had large, wide-brimmed, puffed black hats that concealed their heads and connected to the hoods on their long floor-dragging charcoal cloaks. Thick black pants and heavy boots peaked out from within their coats. Their gangly arms and long fingers were concealed by gloves that peeked out sleeves. They separated to allow a tall man with grey hair and eyes enter; he had a contemplative and serene expression and smiled warmly at the Bishop.


            "High Father Corvine," Fortson said, immediately bowing his head.


            "Rise," Corvine gently stated. "I just completed my tour, impressive facility."


            "Thank you, Sir. It's been fortunate that the mercenaries have not discovered us," Fortson allowed, wondering what had prompted this visit.


            "You've shown care. None of the Assemblymen sent to attack those demons and mercenaries knew this place even existed. The surveillance has also narrowed their focus to the city itself," Corvine explained as he sat down in a chair opposite Fortson's desk.


            "I knew that even the most loyal Assemblyman might..." Fortson raised his hand and gave a dismissive wave.


            "Our enemy's methods are quite unholy. Your wisdom has kept this facility safe," Corvine said pleasantly.


            "You have been gracious enough to approve my requests for more manpower, no doubt your appearance will hearten the men."


            "It is good that they recognize my concern for their well being. Doubtless, they know what they face." Corvine studiously avoided looking at the papers on the desk.


            "That is why things are different now," Fortson reminded.


            "Yes, I've noticed the men waiting," Corvine mentioned, offhandedly.


            Fortson forced his smile to broaden. "It's all part of the plan. We know how they operate, but caution is in order."


            "Yes, you can't just call them up or attack their base," Corvine noted.


            "Well, that will happen.... eventually." Despite his efforts, Fortson's eyes flicked to the two inquisitors flanking the door.


            "Yes, a cunning second stage," Corvine seemed to allow. "You also have contingencies in case this trap has the same result as all the others," he idly mentioned leaning back in the chair.


            Fortson paused. "I wouldn't dare use these men wastefully," he eventually allowed.


            Corvine's eyes closed slowly. "I wonder. Is that because you are weighed down with the value of the lives of the men you control? Perhaps, it's because you've finally sated this morbid hobby of feeding demons? Personally, I think it's because of simple arithmetic."


            "High Father?" Fortson ventured.


            Corvine opened his eyes and smiled warmly. "Come now. You know you've exhausted your own men, and had to make your case to have more transferred. While this did not endear the other Bishops to you, the importance of your mission required their submission."


            "My original orders were a simple recovery of two lost acolytes. The expansion to... to... wiping out a rival organization was unexpected." Bishop Fortson immediately regretted his words, but silence would be more damning.


            Corvine nodded, his gentle smile never leaving. "Your loyalty was always your strong suit, and you've learned. As I've said you've handled this mission well... so far."


            "Thank you, High Father," Fortson bowed his head and pondered. Corvine never stumbled with his words; he was always serene. "Does something, well, trouble you, High Father?" he asked, suddenly.


            "Your concern is most welcome."


            Fortson looked up and was shocked to see an almost genuine expression of joy on his superior's face.


            "I am troubled," Corvine shrugged. "We seem to have underestimated things. Our supposed allies, organizations that should be working with us against monsters have turned their backs on us. All of them have started to fall towards evil, but what can you expect from mercenaries, papists, and atheists."


            "We have always held the highest standards. We do not work with the impure," Fortson softly said. He knew a speech full of bravado and force, one that could rally, but right now it was useless.


           Corvine rubbed his chin. Eventually, he gave a slight nod. "Yes, I'm glad you see things that way." He rose to his feet. "The aftermath of your plan will be quite delicate, but I'm certain you can handle it."


            "Thank you," Fortson bowed his head again. "I will do my best to honor the Assembly of Man."


            "Yes you will," Corvine amiably said as he left the room, followed by the two inquisitors. Preparations were being made, just in case.

 

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

 


            Nabiki rotated her wrist and the foot long blade flipped open. It had the same slight red tint as her sister's still unnamed sword. It was an amazing improvement over the all steel prototype. She reached out and slid a piece of paper onto the blade and watched a sliver peel off. She turned the knife over and then tried the other blade. Unlike the short secondary "false" blade the main blade ran the full length of the knife and seemed to cut motes of dust that drifted onto it.

 

            She did another paper test.  Except this time she put the paper flat on the table,  position the blade along the face of the page and with a gentle push filleted the paper in half cutting its thickness in half.


            "It holds an edge fairly well," Master Nishina noted dryly.

 

            He then  inspected a scabbard. He turned to a different demoness and glared. "You scratched it."


            Nariko blushed, "I was sparring and Akane's claws came at me before I could draw."


            Nishina relented. "It's not much damage. The coloration is off, but it can be anodized again, and these are supposed to be used." After putting on a set of protective gloves, he then pulled out the blade and started inspecting its length. "Any balance problems?"


            "Nope."


            Nodoka walked over. "I'm sorry, but are you saying it blocked Akane's claws?" The materials scientist immediately picked up the scabbard. "I know that typical niobium-titanium alloys have only above average resistance to the crystalline cleaving."


            "There's no such thing as a typical niobium alloy," Nishina said as he continued his inspection. "How's the grip?" he asked Nariko.


            "Good, the pattern keeps them from getting slick," the demoness said, eyeing her weapon.


            Nishina nodded. He did not like using metal for the handle, but conductivity trumped aesthetics. He turned to look at the pair of folding daggers, even those were all metal.


            "Did you put energy into the blade?" Nodoka asked as she relinquished the scabbard to Nishina.


            "I was about to draw it," Nariko explained.


            "Ah. You're taking care of the blade itself," Nishina appraised, before returning the blade to its sheath.


            "Thank you," Nariko said taking back her weapon and giving a small bow.

 

            "What about the name?" Nishina asked.

 

            "You didn't give it one..." Nariko frowned.  "And it hasn't told me its name yet."

 

            "Good answer," he nodded.


            "I'd like to run some tests," Nodoka said, stepping up to her granddaughter.


            Nariko looked down at the cradled sword. "Okay."


            "Just don't break it," Nishina cautioned.


            Nariko nodded as she and Nodoka went to the opposite end of the laboratory.


            "Why didn't you put a spring in these?" Nabiki asked as she practiced flipping her blade open. There was a spot for the thumb to rotate them open, but there was also a mechanism that converted the correct rotational acceleration into an opening motion. The action was nearly identical to the test types that she had been practicing on before.


            "Springs break." Nishina stated. "If your wrists are broken then you shouldn't be holding a blade."


            "I suppose," Nabiki said as she flicked her thumb just as she rolled her wrist. The result was the heavy blade flicking out and locking into place.


            "You'll get the knack." He smiled when Nabiki opened the weapon with her left hand. "Like that. Now are you certain you don't want wooden grips? If I use the right species and varnish, it will patina wonderfully from skin oils and other fluids."


            Nabiki looked at the steel sections. They were rather plain, especially compared to the metal of her blades. "What do you have?" she asked, knowing full well that Nishina had only given her one of the knives.


            "Well, American Hornbeam, Rosewood, Chloroxylon that one has a nice grain, but I'd recommend Cocobolo. It's a nice wood: fine texture, extraordinarily dense, very strong, very resilient to damage, moisture, and handling."


            "Good qualities, I can see why one would use it for knife handles."


            "Gun grips too," Nishina sighed. "But these days people want fancy composites. It's not a perfect wood. There are some downsides." He smirked. "You have to be careful, most people are allergic to its sawdust so you have to have a collection system if you're going to work it."


            "How fitting," Nabiki dryly remarked. "Can you show me the one you put wooden grips on?"


            Master Nishina smiled and pulled up a case. He opened it and handed a large silk-wrapped bundle. Inside was the twin to Nabiki's knife. Deep orange, almost golden, wood with darker irregular traces shined under a glossy, almost oily surface. She reached out and found the wood almost wanting to mold to her hands. With a little smile she flipped her wrist and the blade shot out.


            "Now this... this is a handle worthy of its blade," Nabiki remarked looking at the entire two foot-long weapon.


            "Yes, your grandmother is great at weapons, but she doesn't aim to give them a soul. Most of the time her brilliance has that happen anyway, but...." His voice lowered. "Sometimes, she needs help."


            "You've already made the other grips haven't you?" Nabiki smirked.


            "Making four twenty-five centimeter grips takes only a bit longer than making two of them," Nishina shrugged. "Besides, I figured you would want, something more expensive than just plain steel."


            "The blades are priceless," Nabiki dryly remarked as she closed her knife.


            "I didn't want you to be jealous of your sister's scabbard," Nishina innocently stated as he took the all metal knife and started to carefully remove the grips.


            "No, I'm pretty sure you wanted to make pretty and lethal weapons." Nabiki leaned in and whispered into the weapon-smith's ear. "You know you're going to get a great big hug when you give me a matched pair?"


            "The perils of my profession."

 

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


            An elegant woman with rich black hair sipped her cocoa, leaned back with a broad smile, and closed her eyes in pleasure. Eventually, she opened her eyes and focused on the woman sitting across from her. "How have you been, granddaughter?"


            The other woman blushed slightly. "I've been doing well, contracts are up and my daughters are keeping my busy."


            The elder demoness nodded. "And where are they?" she asked with a smile..


            "They'll both be here soon, Grandma BlackSky," the brunette assured. There should be a couple greats in there, but BlackSky insisted on just grandmother, and she was Family. "I must say I am surprised that you came here. Mother said you don't spend much time on Earth."


            "And how is she?"


            The younger woman chuckled. "Same old, same old, she still plays with demon hunters foolish enough to chase her," her hand went to the hilt of her sword in memory.


            BlackSky raised an eyebrow. "Really? Well, I suppose it works out. Look how much you've learned, Yohko."


            Yohko forced a smile. "I'm no longer some broodling." She was about to mention that she had been a demon for ten years. but stopped. It would be meaningless; her grandmother could not even remember her own age to within a hundred years anymore. "I told you already; I'm a mother."


            BlackSky put her mug down. "That's what I'm here about. Do you have a mate?"


            Blushing, Yohko poked at her cup and looked out the cafe window and at the darkened street. "No... I never really found the right girl."


            "Don't be embarrassed, sometimes it takes time to find someone," BlackSky gently said.


            "Tell that to my daughters," Yohko joked. "So why did you ask? Playing matchmaker?"


            "Would I?" BlackSky innocently asked.


            "This wouldn't happen to do with those rumors I keep hearing? The ones that talk about a certain demoness returning across the Pacific? My clients have started making comparisons."


            "That's the one. She's got a lovely family. Amazing mother, but-" BlackSky shook her head. "The poor dear doesn't have very much in the way of peers, and you're an older mother."


            "I suppose I could try calling her," Yohko allowed. "Is she really a freelancer too?"


            BlackSky nodded. "I talked with some very nice gentlemen when I was there. She seemed quite attached to them, but making deals with humans of that nature runs in the family, doesn't it?"


            Yohko raised an eyebrow. "Really? I suppose there are worse allies."


            "Like magical girls?"


            "So those rumors are true too?" Yohko shook her head. "I knew there was less action in Tokyo, but..." she bit her lip. "Maybe I should go visit; my girls would love a vacation, and talking with some succubae their age would help." She sniffed the air and smiled. "There they are now," she said as the door opened.


            Two succubae entered the room. One wore a very well-filled, frilly almost-pink dress with a lot of flounced detailing and ruffles. Her dress had black edging and was complimented by a black and pink choker and a ruffled black headband. Thanks to a puffed petticoat her dress came out to a wide circumference but it hardly made it to mid thigh. Her shapely legs were covered in a pair of pink stockings.

 

            Pink stud earrings were matched by a pink pearl necklace that nestled over her cleavage. Pastel pink lipstick and eyeshadow contrasted greatly with her pale skin. She carried a pink parasol with embroidered edges and a curiously thick lacquered handle and a porcelain doll in a matching outfit.


            The other wore a plum yukata with a snowflake pattern, and had more subdued makeup that was still rather stark, given her complexion. The one in the dress had platform shoes and black ribbons tied her hair into a series of long curled spirals. The other wore more subdued but still elegant low heels, and had her hair styled more naturally and freely.


            "Cute, their hair and dress colors are swapped," BlackSky remarked.


            "That's them," Yohko got up and hugged her girls. "Please tell me you changed after the hit, Scarlet." She whispered into the ear of the more fancily dressed of her daughters.


            "They didn't expect someone dressed like her," Scarlet's sister assured. "It was an easy job."


            "Lovely name," BlackSky remarked picking up the one English word.


            "It's a nickname, her full name means Scarlet wings, in our language."


            "And of course they ended up red." BlackSky laughed. It was obvious that "our language" did not refer to Silvan Latin.


            "She smells familiar, Mom." Scarlet shyly said questioningly, looking at the English speaking demoness.


            "She's your great grandmother by several times, BlackSky," Yohko said as she led her daughters back to the table. "So the mission went off okay?"


            "All gone," Scarlet's mate assured patting the other girl's stomach.


            "Good, I'm proud of you girls. We'll talk later in more detail, but first -" Yohko then formally introduced her daughters to her grandmother.


            "What does the other one's name mean?" BlackSky asked.


            "Winter child," Yohko said after translating the question for her daughters.


            "Lovely. I'm very glad I brought presents."


            Yohko's daughters knew enough English to get excited at the last word.

 

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

 


            "What do you think the Senshi will do?" Eve asked her family as they sat in the commissary.


            "Usagi should have us go in and take care of things," Misako stated as she poked at her breakfast. The meat was gone, leaving just some soggy pancakes.


            "That's not what she's going to do," Ukyou stated after she sat down with a new fresh mug of coffee. She then handed a mug with tea to her mother and one with hot chocolate to Akane. "You still pouting?" she asked her mate


            Misako nodded.


            "I'm sorry you didn't get your normal ham; they had steak and eggs but you ate it all," Ukyou glared, at the put-off teen.


            Snickering, Akane took a sip from her cup. "Thanks, Sis. Well, should we care what Akumi does?"


           "Her plan is to control Usagi. Reports peg her as an insanely powerful magical girl. Useful to have," Ukyou reminded.


            "Power's not everything." Misako's nose twitched, and she rose to her feet. "They put out more bacon, sausages too!" she happily cried as she left the table.


            "Misako has a point. That's the Company's central doctrine. The correct application of force to defeat a more powerful enemy," Ukyou stated.


            Eve raised an eyebrow, but continued eating.


            "They finished my knives," Nabiki proudly stated as she put the twin weapons down on the table.


            "Master Nishina and Grandma do lovely work," Nariko noted as she sat down.


            "Shouldn't you two eat?" Ranma asked, as she looked over one of the knives. It had about the same weight as the prototype. "Heavy wood?"


            "We already ate," Nariko assured.


            "Yes, Nishina was dying to do some woodworking," Nabiki smirked.


            "It is very pretty," Ukyou said as she ran her hands over the other weapon.


            "Maybe I should have asked for wood on my gun," Misako noted, as she ate some sausages.


            "I thought Sasha was perfect?" Akane teased.


            "Well..." the green-eyed demoness blushed.


            "You're the only one left, Akane," Nabiki smirked as she pulled her knives back and slid them into leather slings that connected to her belt.


            "Wow, you can really conceal a pair of giant folding knives," Ukyou teased.


            "It's no giant handgun." She turned to Nariko. "Or a full sword."


            Ranma rubbed her chin. "Nabiki's got a good point. You sure you don't want anything, Akane?"


            Akane shook her head. "I wanna be like you."


            Ranma smiled broadly.


            "There are few better people to emulate than your mother," Eve added.


            The redhead blushed.


            "Yes, Mommy really is the best." Nariko's eyes twinkled.


            "Now, that's too much." Ranma sighed but was interrupted by a ringing on Eve's phone.


            "Captain Jarvis, here," the blonde answered, and listened briefly. "I see," she stood up and motioned to Ranma. "I think we should go to the command room."


            "What's up?" Ranma asked her demeanor becoming serious. "This about Akumi?"


           "Probably not," Eve allowed. "Just before dawn, one of our patrols spotted an NH on our wanted list and trailed him. Surveillance scan came in, it looks like we may have found another enemy force."


            "What pattern?" Ranma stood up and stretched.


            "V. Going to make a morning operation interesting," Eve smirked.


            Ranma nodded. "Girls, get your gear ready and wait in the motor-pool. Nabiki, are you comfortable with your blades?"


            "I've been training with the prototypes," Nabiki assured.


            "Good, Aunty Eve and I will talk with Jacob. Then we'll probably go."


            Misako watched the two briskly walk out of the room. "So vamps, great. Disgusting sacks of trash. Over-dramatic morons bemoaning their undeadness."


            "Well, we can kill a whole mess of them," Ukyou offered.


            "They don't even taste good," Misako pouted. "Being all corpsified."


            "She's got a point," Nabiki reluctantly agreed.

 

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

 


            "No more succubus stuff?" Virgo asked looking Venus' form over with a critical eye. The horns, wings, and tail were gone. Though the gold features were still quite lovely, if cold and impersonal. She at least was a spirited sparing partner.


            "A jest on Mistress Mercury's part," Venus said, flatly.


            "Be nice if you could still fly," Virgo grumbled as she looked at the bookstore's back door. A bare field separated the building they were perched on from their target.


            "My wings are merely retracted," Venus stated.


            "Okay," Shampoo chewed her lip. "Do your fancy eyes detect anyone in the shop?"


            "Two life signs. One is wandering around the shelves another is at a counter."


            "You can actually see inside there?" Shampoo raised an eyebrow.


            "Energy signatures matched to the layout captured from when we surveilled from the front," Venus said with what Virgo could swear was a hint of pride.


            "We'll go when the customer leaves." Virgo muttered.


            "You're displeased?"


            "No, stealing old books is just what I wanted to do." Virgo turned back to the frozen face. "Is this what you wanted for your first mission?"


            Venus tilted her head as if she could not comprehend the question.


            Rolling her eyes, Virgo turned back to East York Rare Books. "Don't pretend around me. You're more than some goody-goody robot. You're a girl in a suit."


            "This is me, the metal is my magic, it is... integrated," Venus stated, eye-slits blinking on and off.


            Virgo frowned. "So, you like this?"


            Venus paused, her eye-slits dimmed. "It is not without... pleasure."


            Imagining the body-covering metallic suit encasing the blonde, Virgo coughed. "Right... least it doesn't slow you."


            "The customer is leaving," Venus stated.


            "Those eyes are handy."


            "The Mistress' work is the best. Don't be jealous though. I'm certain she has plans for you as well."


            Virgo shivered slightly and jumped off the roof. Her skills and her Senshi powers made it a trivial endeavor. As she summoned her swords, she wondered why she felt that way. Venus' suit made her a better warrior.

 

            The whole reason she was serving Mercury was to get the power to destroy that demon. After applying a crystal to the door that Mercury said was needed to defeat the warding that protected it and freeze all the cameras in a twenty yard radius, she drew her swords.


            The door sliced open and she rushed across the storeroom. The scent of dust and aging paper crept into her nose and slightly receded when she entered the front room. A spare balding man in a white suit with an amber tie stared at her slack jawed.


            His expression became even more disbelieving and scared when the golden armor of Venus entered behind her. Sweat dripping down his brow, he started to chant but was cut off by a glowing blade that seemed to materialized at his throat.


            "Shut up. Hands still," Virgo ordered.


            The bookshop owner glared but closed his mouth. He watched as the metallic woman locked the front door and drew the blinds. What had to be a gynoid or perhaps a golden golem turned and bored the red slits that passed for eyes onto him.


            "Mr. Incognito, you recently spurned a most generous offer from an interested party," said a flat voice emanating from the golden golem, despite its frozen lips.


            "I-" Incognito started but was cut off by more pressure from the sword at his throat. The girl was dressed absurdly, somewhat like the rumors that had been plaguing the city. At least he knew they were not involved with the Company. That organization cornered the market on "forbidden tomes" and was second only to the Vatican in the size of its library.


            "Silence," Virgo reminded. Mercury had warned them about him.


            "We do not require your life, but things will go faster with your assistance," Venus stated.


           Incognito nodded slightly. He preferred not to read too deeply into his wares. He was simply a distributor. Of course, he was quite careful as to what he sold to his customers. He liked repeat business, and that was hard to get if a buyer purchased a grimoire from him and then went mad and killed himself or someone else. He also liked avoiding prison or worse, so he was careful to whom he sold his books.


            Along the way he learned enough to protect his wares and until today, his life.


            "Do we have your assistance?" Venus asked.


            Mindful of the blade poking his skin he nodded slightly.


            "Good. I will give you the list of required books: All nine volumes of the Revelations of Glaaki, Chronoscopic Travelers, Turba Philosophorum in the original text, Cthaat Aquadingen the Brownian translation, the full eight page pamphlet version of On the Sending Out of the Soul, Unaussprechlichen Kulten in German, Liber Ivonis version of the Book of Eibon, and an unabridged copy of Kryptographik."


            The bookshop owner stared. It was an... eclectic mix: a book of codes, one involving summoning beings from the deep, a pamphlet on... astral projection, and various other books on dark magic and history. He was impressed that no nonexistant books were asked for.

 

            He did make plenty of money selling "Necronomicons" that were just Sumerian gibberish.  That particular sub-field was awash in frauds and hoaxes of various levels of skill.


            No legitimate... hobbyist asked for books like that. Dabbling delineates on the other hand... They were people who read the publish claptrap written by that New England dandy and his cronies and asked for "Necronomicons", "Pnakotic Manuscripts", or "Dhol Chants".


            Incognito did give Howard credit, much of what he wrote was... correct. It was like learning about POW camps by watching a comedy sitcom set in one.  Yes, the barbed wire and guards and prisoners were there, but the tone of everything was too sanitized. Something completely horrifying had been turned into... entertainment.


            "Will you sell us these books?"


            Blinking at the word sell, Incognito nodded again and looked down at the sword.


            "Good, Virgo will escort you."


            Virgo grumbled and stepped back enough to let him walk forward. She was hoping he would try something, and she would be able to kill him. Unfortunately, the weasely, man seemed cowed into submission. A little force and he became happy to sell these books to them.


            Standing at his side with her blade at his neck, Virgo escorted him to the back room. This gave Venus the opportunity to plant surveillance devices in the front room as well. The placing of a couple in the back room was what had delayed Venus' entrance.


            Virgo could see why tracking this man's interactions was important to her Mistress, but she felt that killing him and burning the store to the ground would be a simple way to cover their tracks.


            Keeping a shocked face, Incognito pulled the first couple of books off their shelves, and started unlocking the individual cases that contained the others. It was odd, they were not even asking for his rarest or most valuable books. Did they not know he had a copy of the Celaeno Fragments, or that he had in a lead-lined box the first printed copy of De Vermis Mysteriis commissioned by Ludwig Prinn himself, complete with margin notes and corrections to be put into the next version.


            He pulled out a small wooden crate and started putting in the selections. The multiple volumes of the Revelations of Glaaki took up a good third of it. Sighing, he dropped the thick, leather bound folio that contained one of his two original 1783, Salem printings On the Sending Out of the Soul. The folio contained the preserved pages in a sealed case and had an exact reproduction in the opposite pocket. It was an expensive piece, but he liked the composition.


            "Nod if that's all." Virgo tapped him on the neck


            Incognito took stock and shook his head. He still had to get Liber Ivonis and the Friedrich von Junzt's definitive work on cults. He could have pulled off the common version that he kept on an open shelf out front, but he knew that these women wanted the undiluted, uncensored, original version.


            Placing the final two books into the crate, he closed it and used the complementary padlock that he kept with all purchases of a certain... caliber. He immediately raised his hand and offered the key to the purple-haired woman.


            "Now, is this everything?" Shampoo asked.


            Incognito nodded and found himself turned around. He saw that the golden figure had been standing in the doorway that separated the front and back rooms of the shop. It was completely still and looked indistinguishable from a metalwork statue, with a pair of red lights.


            "The transaction is complete." Venus stated. A seam opened; the figure pulled from within the golden contents of her chest a full-sized bar of and placed it onto a workbench to her left.


            Despite the blade at his throat, Incognito smiled. What would money matter to a being that could make a golem like that?

 

            Whoever made the golem did sound like a petulant teenager when she called, demanding those books. If real, that bar had to be at least ten kilograms. A bit above his asking price for those books, he guessed. More than enough to replenish his stock, and buy a few new items. He knew someone willing to pay quite handsomely for a Testament of Carnamagos. It would also allow him to put in some much needed security improvements.


            Virgo noticed his eyes light up at the bar and laughed. Mercenaries were all the same.


            Stepping over and picking up the crate, Venus turned to Incognito. "If the goods meet the Mistress' satisfaction we will do business again. Hopefully with less hassle."


            Incognito nodded, and breathed a sigh of relief when the blade finally lifted away from his neck. He watched the two girls back out of the store and awkwardly close the broken door.


            He gave a brief incantation and reactivated the wards, sealing the back door in the process. The cameras would have to be setup again, but they were not an immediate concern. Turing towards his workbench he wondered how they had defeated them, those wards were supposed to keep out any magic, human, or nonhuman. He sighed and chipped off a piece of the bar. It was certainly soft enough and looked real. The weight was also right.


            He knew he'd have to do a full alchemical test on it. Not just to tell if it was real, but to make sure it was safe. At least gold was easy to exchange. He was still sitting on some difficult to fence diamonds that another client had paid him with.


            As Incognito went to the front room and reopened his shop, he started humming. All in all it was a rather peaceful meeting. At least they were sane, and willing to pay. As to what they did with the knowledge that was none of his concern.

 

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

 


            A woman with brown hair that was tied behind her right ear and spilled down one shoulder sipped her coffee. Her patience had paid off.  Geneva was a large city and it was only a matter of time before she found a place that brewed it properly, including the zhezva pot.


            Her companion, a younger looking woman with much shorter hair, looked up. "How can you drink that stuff? It's got the grounds sitting right in the cup." she asked cutting open a wax-sealed envelope.


            The longer-haired woman sighed and put her cup down into its metal holder. This cafe even had proper ones made out of glass. "Arisha, there comes a point in one's life when one has to take the time for the extra little pleasures."


            "Da, that is why we're doing this." Arisha Dva said as she extracted a few papers from the envelope. The cover letter had been translated into a few languages. She immediately went for the original one and started reading. She always had a gift for languages, one which the Motherland had decided to use. "It's simple enough, A'deen ," she said after finishing.


            Galina A'deen  frowned slightly "Oh?  That sweating lawyer made it sound quite the challenge."


            "The mission may be," Arisha explained waving a hand. "But the reasons behind it are simple,"  she passed a photo over to her superior.


            Galina studied the image. Japanese with a rather good dye job. It did not seem worthy of her and her team. "Pretty girl. Revenge?  Daughter of some minister, some businessman? "


            "Doesn't say, but the letter does warn that she's got... abilities."


            Taking another sip Galina considered the photograph. It was not the worst job they had taken, but the compensation was suspicious. "Just her? All nine for just her?"


            Arisha pulled out two more photographs.  Each had a group of school girls and each one was numbered. "There's instructions and information on each. In a little binder.  Handwritten," she said flipping through it. Arisha paused and stared at the binder.


            "What?" Galina's eyes widened.  "Are you okay? We had just taken care of your-"


            "I'm okay," Arisha assured. "It's...  well, we always knew that the Japanese and the Fascists had their scientists working together."


            Galina looked at the images. "Are you saying..."


            "Why not? Just because the NSX Program failed doesn't mean-"


            "We did not fail," Galina said icily.


            "No, we performed beautifully," Arisha sighed. "But, that wasn't enough was it? The heads of the program, of our nation... they failed. And now..."


            Galina nodded. It made sense. 
Project A had a huge impact on post-war research. Of course, the Japanese would have dabbled in it too. It seemed that they had hit the same "production" barrier too. "Now we've got a job to do."

 

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

 


            "We're not sure how many are at the location, but initial surveillance reveals a group of cabins, an old camp. Probably a medium flock of V's. We'll proceed with the quarantine and our teams will move in and clear the buildings," Eve said repeating the earlier briefing.


            "Remember, these ones might not die in sunlight," Ukyou cautioned. "They could be ready for us."


            The rest of the brood nodded. Undead patterns tended to have a hodgepodge of abilities and weaknesses. Ranma stretched out and leaned her head on the bulkhead of the APC. "We never did figure out the details of that last nest of vamps," she murmured.


            "Alexia's brood was more pressing, and it's clear that the vamps went to ground," Eve shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were feeding someplace well outside of the city, like Barrie. If they're smart they can pick a different small town every night, take teenagers, runaways. If they're careful, it would just be noise in the missing persons' stats."


            "Yeah and if they were smart they wouldn't kill to feed," Misako reminded.


            "Could be nice vamps," Akane suggested with a hardly concealed smirk. "I'm sure there's a reason for a known enemy NH and her buddies to lurk about here."


            "Right," Nabiki shook her head. "Least we're getting out of school." Even if the battle was short there would still be plenty of work afterwards, likely the whole day would be shot.


            "Yeah, I was going to try to tell Sam and Nami... something," Ranma shrugged her shoulders.


            "Really? It was the parent-teacher thing wasn't it?" Nabiki asked.


            Ranma nodded. "They're great, they know something's up and-"


            "They're just waiting for you to tell them," Nariko said as she held her sword between her legs.


            "Yeah. I can see it now," Ranma's voice rose from her normal low and powerful contralto tones to something cuter. "Hi guys! Well guess what, the reason there's all this weird stuff is because I'm actually a succubus that works for the government killing monsters. Oh yeah, the rest of our little clique consists of my demonic spawn, and I'm also the reincarnation of a demonic princess and my ancestors tried to take over the Earth."


            "They'd probably nod, and the one that was wrong would pay the winner." Misako smirked.


            Ranma sighed. "Probably." There was a tingle in her mind. "Are we there yet?"


            "No," Eve said tilting her head. "White check the scanner!" she ordered to the agent operating the NordStar system sitting next to the driver.


            "Got a few really weak echoes. Maybe a-" White's response was cut off by an explosion in the vehicle ahead of them. "RPG! North side of the road!"


            As Eve called command with the situation, the driver in the convoy moved their vehicles but more rockets launched from the woods to the North. One hit the front of the brood's vehicle and Eve ordered them out. "We have wounded, that's our priority. Misako you clear the woods. Ranma, start taking them out at range. Rest help get the wounded off the south shoulder."


            Ranma jumped out of the vehicle and put it between her and the North side. She could feel the Assembly patterns more clearly, but they were still quite weak. Looking around she could see more forest behind her and a squat two story brick building further up the road on the South side.

 

            The redhead looked up to see two of the APCs were still firing the machine guns in their turrets.  The men in their would also be calling base, so reinforcements would be coming, unless this was not the only ambush.  She caught a glimpse of another missile streaking in and hitting just below the turret armor.


            "They got all four vehicles!" White stated as he applied first aid to the gash along Stanford's arm. It and the break in his wrist happened when the steering wheel bucked up in the crash.


            "Right, we'll split up the rescue then," Eve said. "Misako, Ranma, some suppressive fire please."


            Misako eased around the edge of the truck and started firing Sasha into the woods. She raked the gun across the trees. Most of the grenades hit lumber, but they stopped more RPGs from being launched. A pair of DarkStar Bursts were then summoned to suppress things further.


            "They're further up the hill more to the East, change ten meters left," Ranma said sensing through the DarkStar bursts. She then accelerated one of them and slammed it into a group of assemblymen.

 

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

 


            Nariko helped an agent pull out another body. The lead vehicle had been hit the hardest: the armor had failed and the blood was thick. Akane had been sent to watch the injured and get them to some cover off the road, while Aunty Eve had stayed behind in the second vehicle to make things out. She helped Lieutenant Patterson down and smiled weakly, at least his injuries were not too threatening.


            She turned to see, Nabiki was leaning over two bodies. Henderson was obviously dead, the other... Nabiki tugged at his tags, but it was just a procedure. "Nariko! Over here, you're strong enough, right?"


            Nariko jumped over and nodded. The increased gunfire reassured her. It was clearly HOG fire. She looked at Morrison and frowned, his vest had kept him from dying outright at least. He was unconscious but the D stamped into the metal was consent enough.


            "Nariko go out and help, I can do it," Eve said stepping into the broken vehicle. Her eyes were bloodshot and tears had been on her cheeks.


            Nariko nodded. "I can..." She saw the hurt in Eve's eyes.


            "Wetherhold... declined," the blonde said tersely as she climbed over to Morrison. She gave a small nod and energy blossomed around her and Eve as the blonde sunk her teeth into him. A burst of explosions was ignored as Nariko fed Eve who then fed it to her new daughter. Eve smiled peacefully at the young demoness and then collapsed over her.

 

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

 

            From his position, Paladin Griswold could see the group of vehicles pass. His team had been given the warning earlier today and he had made sure his men were ready. He tensed up when their comrades attacked.

 

            It almost looked like the big vehicles would not stop but then among clouds of smoke they stalled and the demons got out. Some began attacking the diversionary team to the North while the rest scurried to other vehicles, they were soon followed by some mercenaries. Disturbingly, some of them started to look to the South as well. Time was short. Especially given the high power of that one grenade launcher, but following the mission plan was the best way to help them.


            "Concentrate on the redhead!" he shouted to his men as he kept watch on the lead demoness.

 

            Fire flared around her body, her wings spread, and she made a dash for the North side. "Now!" At his command eight men with rocket propelled grenades and three with heat seakers fired. The demoness turned and even managed to flare a bright aura... just as the first rockets started to come in.

 

            Two missed and hit pavement, two more were deflected,  the rest...


            The explosions briefly obscured things but Griswold soon saw the results. The right half off the body was crushed and the left arm and left leg were ripped off. Most importantly the head was hanging on by a bare thread.

 

            Given the damage, he weighed pulling back his men or telling them to fire a second volley. His indecision was cut short by a 40 mm grenade being shot through his window, followed by every other window and then the doors to the building.


            "Misako! Stop firing," Ukyou yelled over the radio as she sprinted over to the abandoned building. Tears in her eyes she refused to look back; she new what mother wanted. "Cover the back!" she ordered.


            Seeing the collapsing brickwork and smelling the gore, Misako raced around the building firing into the side as she passed it. Popping around the corner she saw a small squad trying to get into a truck that faced a wooded path and her aura immediately sprung out, ensnared the men, sucked them dry, and clawed at the newly blighted grass under them. She then turned to the rear of the building, twenty meters away. "There's nowhere for them to escape this way," she said over here radio. She saw a man poke his head out of the back door and launched a volley of grenades at him.


            "I've got the front Misa-chan," Ukyou coldly assured to her mate's headset. "Just kill them all."


           

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

 

 

            Usagi snapped to attention.  Her sharp motion startled the other students in the classroom.  "Ranma... oh God," she whispered.

 

            It was a tenuous link, but she felt the connection to one of her Senshi... sever. She excused herself and ran to the bathroom. Gasping, she looked at her reflection. Despair filled her, she had experienced this sensation plenty of times, but it did not ameliorate things.


            Across town, Setsuna looked up from her notes and frowned. She did not expect something like this, not this soon. The princess was her priority, she had to make sure Usagi did not do something... rash.


            In what was assumed to be a secure location, Mercury suddenly glared at her scanner. The burst of magical energy coincided with the feeling of death. "Orion we need to go, now. Kill everyone not a demon or WIC trooper."


            "Are you sure we shouldn't wait-" Orion's interjection was cut off by a slap from her mistress.


            "What for Virgo and Venus to return from their little bookstore mission?" Mercury glared. "Then it'll be too late. We go. Now." She grabbed Orion's unresisting hands and activated the teleport.


            Suddenly appearing on a wooded slope, Mercury unfurled her tessen, and motioned for Orion to get behind her. The first thing that struck the pair was the smell of burnt powder, sulfur, blood, and pine trees. A constant chorus of gunfire was peppered by heavier explosions and the shrill screams of the dying.


            "Sounds like the fighting is further down the hill," Orion could just make out a ribbon of road down the slope and see the plumes of smoke.


            "Good, they'll probably try retreating through here." Mercury whispered coldly.


            "We're going to avenge DarkStar?"


            Mercury laughed for a couple seconds. "Oh no, not at all."

 

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

 

            Eve woke up to her shoulders being shook. She looked down and saw a slim woman in ill-fitting armor and uniform peacefully sleeping in a pool of blood, waste, and organs. A connection more powerful and direct than any she had experienced pulled her to the newborn demoness. Folded under her were greenish-blue wings; her hair was a similar shade.


            "We've gotta get out of here." Nariko said, thankful that Eve had not been out for long. What happened to mother was bad enough; they did not need to lose anymore.


            Eve nodded and scooped up her... daughter, intensifying the connection.


            Nariko drew her sword and hopped out of the broken vehicle. She first saw the brick building up the road progressively turn to a pile of rubble. Just before the last bit collapsed a dozen of disheveled men clambered out. "Like rodents from a stricken vessel," she muttered before leveling her sword. A Lightning Devastation attack trimmed their numbers as she ran in and closed the distance.


            Nariko saw her blonde sister raise her weapon. Each shot took one side of the group while Nariko went for the center. Unsurprisingly, the agents firing on the building stopped, but surprisingly the Assemblymen did not even bother to raise their weapons. They stared transfixed with frightened eyes and were slaughtered. Only a couple ran away, the rest stared with uncomprehending horror as Nariko's sword did its work.


            The two that ran were shot by Ukyou as the blonde emerged with a tiny little smile. She wobbled slightly but leaned over to hurriedly and horridly feed on her kills. Misako bounded from the other side of the building and rushed to her mate.


            "You didn't say it was going to hurt you like this," Misako whined as she hugged her stricken mate. "You said they were already scared out of their minds."


            "Misako, Ukyou, on your feet," Nariko ordered as she still sucked in energy from her kills. "Eve's got a new spawn. We're not losing anyone else today," she said looking to the fallen agents and thinking of... mother.


            Ukyou stood and sniffed. She had been with Nabiki when they went to the trail vehicle. At least the casualties from that had been stable enough, and then there was mother...


            "Close up the perimeter," Eve ordered into her headset, as the group crouched down and went to the shoulder behind the brood's vehicle. A drainage channel on the side of the road provided a makeshift trench and triage station. Some of the agents had positioned themselves in the forest behind them, just in case.


            "Support's en-route, will be here in a few minutes, Ma'am," Lieutenant Patterson said as he knelt down.


            "Good," Eve put down Morrison and smiled despite herself. "The rocket-teams were taken out but it sounds like the diversionary group's still active."


            "If you're doing the D program, we've got someone in bad shape." Patterson motioned to the casualties. Most were able to hold their weapons and were actually firing. The few that the surviving medic was tending to were much worse.

            "We've got only one left with D," Agent Trenton, the medic, stated as he gave more painkillers. "I was hoping Red would get to Graham but... Thankfully you're here. The other two, he came to me unconscious and she's not that bad."


            Agent Lytle slowly shook her head while whispering, "No thanks."


            "I'll take over here," Eve stated as she kneeled next to the gasping man.


            Noting that Misako was wearing her energy storage earrings, Nariko ordered her to go over and help Eve. She then turned back to Patterson. "Where's Akane and Nabiki?"


            "They're with a squad we scrounged up recovering the body. They insisted." Patterson shivered, something... strange was going on over there. The Assembly had reduced their attacks and was obviously trying to regroup. Akane was certain that the loss of their friends in that building had demoralized them.


            "Glad that you listened," Nariko said giving the officer a hug. "Once they get back we'll take out the enemy. You guys can cover us and guard the wounded. How's it going, Akane?" she asked over her headset.


            "Angry, very angry," Akane stated as she watched the blood around the body... boil, in greater and greater intensity.

 

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

 


            Mercury froze another fleeing man and shattered off a leg before Orion lunged  and stabbed the fallen man in the chest. A tall man in a cloak holding a pair of long blades suddenly appeared and ran up to them. He threw them at both girls and both parried. One better than the other. Orion's deflection was less complete and the blade sliced through her right am and got stuck to the hilt.


            Successfully blocking his knife, Mercury fired a blast of freezing ice and was shocked when the man leaped over it and flipped out another pair of blades.


            "I don't know who you're working for but this isn't a game little girl," Father Pierce laughed as he slammed into Mercury's tessen, almost knocking them out of her hands.


            Mercury gritted her teeth and with her spare hand launched a barrage of razor sharp icicles into the man's chest. He leapt back in surprise, and she smirked, most of them had pierced his armor.


            He threw another blade and Orion was barely able to block away from that one. Smirking, he stood to his full height revealing that his chest had healed. "For the life of me, I can't see why my comrades had such a problem with you girls."


            Mercury glared and fired another blast that was nimbly dodged. Pierce came in and stabbed forward nearly cutting her neck. "It's just luck that you ran into some scared acolytes first. One of my Paladins could take you out before you even saw him," he taunted as he danced around Mercury's attacks.


            "You're the one playing," Mercury sneered as she jabbed forward with her tessen. "Don't you care that your men are being slaughtered?"


            Pierce laughed and dodged an abortive stab by Orion. "I care that they're actually pulling back. We actually did it. That demon bitch is gone."


            Mercury's smirk grew. "Oh?"


            "I saw it, myself. She was blown apart. Her head's gone off, her chest is jelly, road kill. Shame about the South Team, though."


            Mercury laughed. "Oh and now you think, what... that you can kill me and your men can melt into the forest?" she asked as she dodged his attacks. She wondered how Ranma could do it. These bastards could heal way too fast.


            Pierce simply smiled, and renewed his attack. He slammed his blades down and had them just barely countered by her fans.


            "You took off her head? Broke her body? Destroyed her heart maybe?" Mercury laughed. "That might have worked against any other demon, but not her."


            Pierce blinked and felt a screeching noise rush past and chilled his spine.


            "I think she's pissed," Mercury used his distraction to stab him in the neck. Pierce pulled back and frustratingly the rapidly bleeding gash started to heal before her eyes. She raised an eyebrow at his shock. "You regenerate yourself and are surprised when other people do it?"


            Down on the roadbed, the writhing blood shot back into the body and began to twist and shape. Earrings shimmering, her head snapped back into place as black and violet tendrils started to form around her body and ooze about the pavement as it lifted up and began to solidify. Missing chunks initially started as inky black shadows that began to solidify.


            Knowing the demon was weakened, an enterprising Assembly sniper decided to fire, and hit her in a mostly reformed chest. The feeble violet shield did not protect her vulnerable flesh and a gigantic hole was torn through her body. The demon's eyes snapped open and a pair of DarkStar bursts appeared in her shadow-wreathed hands and launched at the man, seeking their goal. Her wings spread and she shot off up the mountain. She was hungry, and could smell plenty of food


            The assemblyman got off another shot, this one went higher and tore out part of her shoulder. The wound was quickly filled with shadows. The demoness found a group of fleeing men and tore into her prey. There was no martial arts, no moves, no finesse. She ripped into them and began to feed. Two tried to raise rocket launchers but found their arms and feet cut off by thick purple beams. They tried to crawl away but could not get very far before a more solid demoness descended onto them.


            By now much of the brood and a detachment of agents had commenced the counterattack and started going up the hill.


            One retreating group of assemblymen was surprised to find a small demoness carrying a pair of blades that looked about half her height suddenly appear right in front of them. The more observant in the group noticed another demon behind her.


            Their shock was short lived as she pounced and the redish blades cut open their throats. Some fired and managed to wound her, but it did not hinder her. It was not stealthy or quick as they gurgled and died, but the battle was well beyond that point.


            "Icicle Parade!" Nabiki shouted as she shot explosive ice shards into the remaining men. One had actually managed to dodge and pull out a pair of Assembly blades. Behind her Akane sidestepped and used her explosive shadows to get any of the stragglers.


            Nabiki laughed and readied her blades. He managed to parry her first blow but was pulled back when he noticed her knives started to sink into the edge of his swords. She then spun down and used one knife to parry him while slicing across his outstretched foot with the other.


            His foot healed but he found himself off balance. Finding one of the knives thrown at his head he put up his blades and managed to block. Unfortunately the momentum of Nabiki's knife was still enough that the end of the knife hit and broke his nose.


            Worse, it left his midsection open and Nabiki ran the other blade diagonally across his chest, sticking it in its full length. Nabiki giggled and began to feed. Akane knelt down and had a brief snack herself.

 

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

 


            Much further up the hill, Mercury's smile broadened, at the pained screams. "I told you. She is coming."


           "It doesn't matter." Pierce stabbed forward. Once he got past this girl he could escape and be part of the next attack.


           "Oh? Got another attack planned then?" Mercury asked. That made sense, especially if all this was just to kill Ranma. She smirked; she knew what she could do for DarkStar. She flipped her tessen and cast a wider spell. Ice shot out around her coating everything other than Orion in an eight meter radius in a thick layer of ice.


            Her mirth died when cracks formed around the Father and in an explosion of ice he broke through the frozen prison. "Should have just killed me," Pierce grumbled as he flexed his hands. He ran up and kicked towards Mercury while making a sideways stab.


            Mercury blocked with her tessen and sidestepped... to allow Orion to stab forward with her staff. The bladed weapon went through the assemblyman's chest and popped out the other side.


            Pierce dropped his blades and tried to pull the weapon out of his chest. He gasped when he found ice creeping around his hands and screamed when the tendrils started to spread and burrow into his flesh.


            Mercury removed her finger from the staff and shook her head. Another spell froze Pierce's boots to the ground, and once again instead of a mere encasement the ice wormed through his feet.


            "This healing ability is very convenient." Mercury said after making sure that Orion was firmly holding the staff. "The blade missed your heart so I don't have to worry about that, and unless you rip your hands and feet apart, you can't escape."


            Mercury stepped a bit down the hill and cocked her head. "Wow... it's starting to quiet down. Guess no one else's making it out." She then noticed a shadowed figure moving down below her. Mercury could hardly make it out as it bounded between the trees, what she could see was the lethal efficiency.

 

            Every time the demoness moved, she killed. Those that tried to fight her died the quickest, but even they were... artistically dispatched. Mercury did not need much detail to tell when a person was torn apart.


            Once the carnage was over, Mercury gave a little wave. It was best to be pleasant.

 

            The demoness noticed and with a few flaps of her wings closed the distance. "Hello, Mercury." Ranma smiled, showing her teeth.


            Mercury looked at the gore-streaked demonic Senshi and took a moment to compose herself. The effects of DarkStar's fighting style were... vivid and assaulted her nose. Under the gore was the expected and abbreviated leather uniform. Violet eyes bored right through Mercury, and deep, deep crimson hair spilled down the demoness' back and seemed to twist and writhe.


            "What are you doing here?" Ranma asked looking around and seeing the collection of frozen corpses and one that was neither quite as frozen or dead.


            "I heard some shocking news. Some bad people tried to kill you." Mercury shook her head. "And then some of them tried to run away when the big bad demon just got angry at their tricks."


            "Really?" Ranma dryly remarked. She could feel her family, so that was okay, and the fighting had quieted down. "And who's this?" she asked, walking up to the frozen father.


            "Just a little present," Mercury stated innocently. "He was running away right at the start." She put a hand in front of Ranma.


            The redhead looked down at the hand in front of her and raised an eyebrow. "What? He's in quite a bit of pain. Nice job on holding him. Did he give you much trouble?" Ranma teased.


            "I've kept him on ice so you can eat him later. However, he was bragging about his plans. I think the Assembly's got something else in mind."


            Ranma's smile warmed. "It's nice to see that you're a sensible girl. Eve will really enjoy this." She moved her hand to her ear and frowned. "Damn... I lost my headset."


            "Probably around the time you got your head blown off," Mercury remarked.


            "It didn't come off all the way. And how did you know that?"


            "Senshi powers, we can sense when one of us dies. Course, I knew that wouldn't stop you. It was then easy to find the big explosion."


            "And you decided to come and help," Ranma shook her head and walked up to the silent Assemblyman. "Guess your little plan didn't work." Ranma forced a smile and turned away from him.

            "I'll be right back," the demoness said as she took off down the hill aiming for the closest friendly unit.


            "Did it work?" Orion asked.


            "We're still alive," Mercury muttered.


            They watched as Ranma ran back up the hill. "Okay girls, can you move him without killing him?"


            "It'll hurt like hell, but his regeneration will take care of it," Mercury appraised. She then cast a spell that lifted his feet out of the ground and added ice to keep him from thrashing.


            "Good."


            The trio then started to laboriously move the body down. As they got further down the hill the damage increased. Most of the trees had fire and bullet damage and every dozen yards was a different pile of broken corpses. Every time they met up with a brood member the little demoness insisted on hugging her mother which stopped the procession.


            Mercury tried to keep her composure, but the mundane nature of the brood and agents disturbed her. About halfway down a group of agents had run up with a litter that made moving the prisoner much easier, though Orion's staff was still in the way.


            Eventually, the litter was carried entirely by agents while the demonic and rogue Senshi watched. They reached the road and found a mess of company vehicles both damaged and fresh. A helicopter orbited above them and more agents marched about. The normal practice of quarantine and cleanup had started.


            One of them ran up to Ranma and gave her a quick hug. "Hi Kas," Ranma said after the embrace. "You're out here?"


            "I'm just happy you're okay. The reports..."


            Ranma nodded. "What's the total? I know my girls are okay," she could actually feel more than the normal six. "but..."


            Behind her balaclava Kasumi frowned. "We've got eighteen casualties. Half aren't too serious, the serious ones have already be evaced. Six KIA."


            Ranma turned to the prisoner. "I see."


            "It could have been worse. Captain Jarvis..."


            "The D program," Ranma stated. She could feel them. She turned to see Eve slowly walk out of an idling APC. "Two?"


            "Yes, Morrison and Morgan," Eve gave a weak smile.


            Ranma ran up to her and gave her a hug. "But... you're too young."


            "Did that stop you?" Eve asked. "Anyway, your girls helped me a lot." Captain Eve Jarvis straightened up. "I heard you have a prisoner you'd like me to interrogate?"


            "Yes, apparently he knows what their plan is," Ranma smirked.


            "Bring him to the vehicle. We can do it in back." Eve crisply ordered the agents carrying the litter.


            "Wanna watch?" Ranma asked Mercury. "It's very informative."


            "I guess." Mercury looked to see the man being lifted into the interior of the APC and start to be tended by a medic while Eve started a recorder and began to flex her fingers.


            "Sudden remorse Mercury?" Ranma smiled coldly. "These bastards just killed a bunch of my friends. They were trying to kill me, my children and everyone I care about. I don't mind doing what it takes to stop monsters like this. Do you?"


            "I'm the one who captured him."


            Ranma narrowed her eyes. "That's why I haven't kicked you out. You tried to help us. I can respect that."


            "I'm still loyal to our queen," Mercury reminded.

 

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

 


            "How're they doing?" Ranma asked as she looked at the sleeping forms of Eve's daughters.


            The new brood mother gave a slight smile at the two young women on either side of her. "They'll be okay." Her expression hardened. "It's time for the debriefing?"


            "Almost," Ranma's eyes widened. "Oh man... I've gotta call Usagi."


            "You didn't call her yet?" Eve raised an eyebrow and moved her arms to better hold her spawn.


            "Things have been hectic," Ranma shook her head and walked to the phone in one corner of the empty barracks room. After getting the communications officer, she connected to Usagi's apartment.


            "Uh... yes?" Usagi asked in a very hesitant voice.


            "Hey it's me, Ranma. Calling to say I'm fine. Heh, guess Mercury didn't call you, figures. She refused to come here, I can see that. She wouldn't be caught dead within range of our Jammers."


            "Oh... yeah I felt that. I fell onto the bathroom floor," Usagi mumbled. "You're okay? Wait... Mercury? What happened?"


            "Ambush, lotta good people killed. Mercury actually came and helped. Captured the enemy leader." Ranma brightened. "Anyway, sorry for scaring you, gotta go. I need to kill a lotta people." Despite Usagi's confused protests Ranma hung up.

 

            She turned to her sister. "Wanna go?"


            "Yes" Eve gently poked the blue-green haired demoness. Morrison slowly opened her eyes and looked at the blonde officer and immediately nuzzled into her side.

 

            "Momma... Ma'am?" Morrison asked her eyes confused. She looked down at the dog-tags that dangled over her neck. She suddenly remembered the explosions, seeing Andrea get knocked over with... him as the vehicle stopped, and then... nothing.


            Morrison's mouth worked experimentally as she realized the body she was happily leaning against "I'm..."


            "Agent First Class Morrison," Eve said as she turned to wake up her other daughter.

 

            Morgan's eyes opened quicker and immediately locked onto her mother. "Wow..." she whispered.


            "Come on girls," Eve ordered as she had the two stand up and looked them over. Morrison had not lost much height and was still a rather tall woman. Morgan Graham on the other hand was rather short and had lost enough height to where she was only a few centimeters taller than Ranma. They were handed some female dress uniforms, which showed off the figures of the expected caliber.


            "How bad?" Morgan asked after she finished buttoning up. The skirt was odd but she knew better than to question mother, even if she was not her mother and just Jarvis. She briefly smiled at her page-boy length coppery red hair. It at least looked better than the last time it had gotten longer than a buzz. Looking at her reflection, she angled her body and was... impressed.


            "It's up to seven. We lost one in surgery." Eve frowned. She did not like it, but people did have the right to say no.


            "It's only us?" Morrison asked as she put on a sidearm. She noted one upside; her guns were going to get much bigger shortly.


            "Henderson died before we could get to him and Gordon didn't get hurt," Eve stated, listing the other two D program members on the mission.


            "What about Andrea.... Mom?" Morrison asked a bit hesitantly.


            "Mom works in private." Eve clarified. "Lytle? She'll pull through."


            "The enemy?" Morgan asked putting on her own sidearm. She was wondering where her rifle had gone and was more than a bit curious.


            "Some... surprising reinforcements came and blocked their escape. After Ranma reformed, it quickly became a rout," Eve said as she opened the door out of the barracks room. A pair of agents standing guard at the door watched the quartet of demonesses leave.


            "Keep a watch on them," Ranma leaned over and whispered to her sister. "They're still shocked. Ukyou was like this when she first turned."


            Eve nodded.


            "It was an ambush. Aunty Red was the target," Morgan concluded.


            Eve nodded and lead the pair into a conference room. The Commander and the Colonel were there as well as Lieutenants Tendo and Patterson and Major Saotome. Captain Jarvis and her daughters saluted and took their seats.


            "We've gone over the recording from your interrogation, Captain." Jacob stated. "Miss Mizuno's help was quite fortuitous."


            "It gives us an option for the next step yes," Eve tersely agreed as she held her girl's hands.


            "The Assembly obviously feels that open war with us is a fair price for assassinating Miss Saotome," Commander Stillwater noted. "The manpower alone to do this...."


            "The prisoner noted the necessity of having two teams, and even gave the base camp for the Diversionary, Northern team. It was a fair plan. Have one attack sure to force us to stop and engage them. Then once Red is drawn out, eliminate her with a second team. In that respect it did work. They even had preplanned escape routes. They didn't intend to stay and fight us. This whole ambush is just phase one for a larger plan." Eve concluded.


           "I'd argue that the real phase one was them spying on us enough to learn our routes and timetables." Jacob remarked. He then looked at the transcript of the interrogation. "If I'm reading this correctly they discovered the Pattern V nest first and used it as bait. They knew that we'd eventually find it and it was far enough away that this was the most likely road we'd take." He flipped the transcript back to its first page.


            "Yes, Sir." Eve nodded.


            "This Father... Pierce. He wasn't supposed to know the next phase was he?"


            "No, Sir." Eve shook her head. "He was almost... proud to have gotten the information out of his superior. He seemed quite confident that the next phase would kill us all."


            "A massed assault on a Company base," Jacob frowned. "It would explain the decreased activity the AOM has been having, in addition to having lost so many man before today."


            "Many of the known safe houses and training bases have emptied," Stillwater sighed. "Captain, you took care of this man. Did it sound like he was being lied to? That his bosses were just giving him some story to make him feel he might survive?"


            "He sincerely believed it, and he did have his men prepare escape routes." Eve looked around the room. "This was the most organized AOM action we've seen yet. I don't buy that it's just a plan to kill Ranma. No, the Assembly feels that WIC is building a demonic army."


            "I'm sitting across from some pretty strong evidence that they're right," Major Saotome dryly noted.


            "Yes, they've planned more, and we don't have much time. If they haven't started the next phase they will any moment now."


            Stillwater paused for a second. "Agreed. Mission approved."


            "That's it?" Ranma questioned almost rising from her seat. "You agree with all of my plans?"


            "Yes. Why is there a problem Miss Saotome? You helped come up with this plan," Jacob had gotten Miss Saotome's note and agreed with her. "I'd rather kill them on their doorstep than on ours."


            Jacob smiled and activated a wall display showing a map of the area with a few pinpoints. There was a single red blip immediately due West of Algonquin Provincial Park "The first helicopter is already on route, and the HIMARS vehicles and their escorts have already left. It was clever to put their base far enough North to escape our sensors, but now we can try netting them."


            "No statements to keep me from going off doing something stupid?" Ranma asked looking at the assembled officers.


            "It's not like we'd try to stop you." Stillwater shrugged. "Or would want to. Your plan sends a distinct message. Captain Jarvis and her... girls can escort you to your transportation. We'll tell you as soon as we get confirmation."


            "Thank you," Ranma bowed and left the room to get to the waiting helicopter. She was then followed by the other succubae.


            "Patterson, Tendo, you two know your responsibilities, get the rest of the brood in and net anyone that manages to get out. Complete clean. No prisoners. Patterson, you're senior, take charge." Jacob ordered. "Do not. I repeat do not enter that facility. If they've got half a brain they'll have booby trapped the whole base. Dismissed."


            The two Lieutenants nodded and left to get with the rest of the troops. Kasumi still had her men, but Patterson's had been reduced to just him and Stevenson.


            "I hope the Assembly hasn't left their base yet," Major Saotome muttered.


            "We're moving as fast as we can. Father Pierce said that the next attack was going to take place at night." Jacob shook his head. Of all the lunacy. "Major you should go with Eve and her spawn."


            "They're not going on the mission are they?" Nodoka surmised.


            "Miss Saotome decided that two newborn demonesses would be a liability in battle, and that Jarvis herself would be too drained and distracted. I agreed with her," Jacob said.


            "They would benefit from a family presence," Stillwater added.


            Nodoka nodded and a smile grew on her face. "Sergeant... Graham, she's a sharpshooter right?"


            "Yes she is; perhaps a visit to your lab would be beneficial to them," Jacob agreed.

 

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

 


            "We're not going!" Morgan said with a hint of a whine escaping. "I'm ready," she said clutching her sniper rifle.


            "No, you're not. None of us are." Eve stated as she watched Ranma's helicopter leave. "Your Auntie's right."


            "Our friends get to go," Morgan murmured as the trio went back to the elevator and began to descend back into the subterranean base.


            "Language," Eve hissed.


            "Morgan's right, Mom. We're fine," Morrison said before they went through a security checkpoint. The new species of the two agents caused a brief delay that was resolved by the calling of another officer.


            "Oh good, you three didn't leave. I was worried about that," Nodoka said as she looked at two new... grandkids.


            "Major can you tell Mother that we're good to go?" Morgan pleaded. "I don't need to be too active. At least let mother go!"


            "Yeah, we can stay with you," Morrison offered, as the quartet snaked through the corridors.


            "They make a good argument," Eve allowed, smiling broadly.


            Nodoka spun around. "Oh no, I've spent too much time around demonic grandkids to be played like that." She opened the door to her lab. "Both my eldest daughter and commanding officer have ordered me to keep you three out of trouble."


            "That seems hardly necessary," Eve started.


            "Don't make me pull rank." Nodoka said as soon as she got the demonic trio inside. "I do have some ideas on what we can do." She frowned when the two newborns sullenly slumped on her lab couch. There was one sure way to cheer up sad succubae.


            "You two have very pretty hair, and you've got your mother's eyes Morgan," Nodoka smiled.


            Morgan who until today had brown eyes blinked. She looked down at her slim hands and shivered. "Mommy..."


            "It's okay," Eve said reaching around her shoulder. The blonde looked over and saw Morrison about to cry as well. "You'll be okay."


            Nodoka frowned. "Would you like to talk about weapons, then?" She then stood up and moved in to join in the group hug. As this happened she made a note to get out the large mirror. These girls needed some help adjusting.

 

 

End Chapter 19

 

Once again, I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They read through my most egregious mistakes so you don't have to. DGC, J St C Patrick, Terra, Pale Wolf, Wray, Kevin Hammel, Ikarus, and Jerry Starfire.

 

 

Revision Notes:   Another busy chapter. The Assembly tries to take out Ranma.  Eve's developing and growing into a brood mother in her own right.  And Mercury is starting to realize just how deep the waters are.