Girl Talk

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple and Trimatter

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 our  fanfiction websites.

https://www.fanfiction.net/u/553057/Trimatter

 

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

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C as always is wanted.

 

Yes this is another co-writer project between both Sunny and Trimatter.  That should be all the warning you need.

 

*************** 

 

Ranma's bare feet padded along the wooden floor as she danced in a kata, one that she used to help clear her mind when she was troubled. She found great comfort in the familiar movements of the art, like a child with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket would. Whenever something bothered, disturbed, or just preoccupied her mind, she had found solace in the complex forms of the art. 

 

The only problem was that it wasn't working this time. 

 

"Damn it, why in the hell did I do something so stupid?" She groused to herself. "The past was dead and gone... then Nabiki had to spot me and bring it all back." 

 

Stopping her exercise, she glanced at a clock that rested on a low bookshelf. Sighing heavily, she wiped the sweat from her brow. "I have five and a half hours to decide whether or not I'm going," she mentally noted. "Damn, I wish Tenchi could be here right now.

 

Standing and trying to sort through her mixed emotions turned into a battle between keeping a promise and letting go of the past. Shaking her head, Ranma returned to the kata only to stop a short time later. She looked out the window into the darkness of early morning. 

 

"It's no good," she concluded. "I can't stop thinking about what to do." She cocked her head to one side and made a contemplative smirk on her face. "I'll think I'll go for a walk." 

 

Transforming into her Senshi form gently as to not alarm Tenchi, who could sense her now for some reason, she summoned her sword and paused. ""Where to go? Hmmm... doesn't matter, as long as it's daylight." 

 

With a shrug of her shoulders, Ranma - now Sailor Sun - sliced a long line into the air, reached in with the tip of the sword, and randomly picked a nearby universe. It was something she had only done a few times, mostly driven out of curiosity as to what was there in the multitude of different universes. Also the excitement of going to a completely alien universe and what might be found there was like opening a Christmas present – she never knew what she was going to find. 

 

Ranma consciously picked a universe not too far removed from her own. She didn't want to deal with anything too weird because she needed to think. And right now an alien, yet familiar, setting would do the trick. 

 

She used to do that with the myriad of small cafes and tea houses in the surrounding area, but lately it was harder to get privacy since the news of her pregnancy got out among her many friends. Ranma needed to think and "baby clothes shopping" was not going to solve the problem of her past coming up and smacking her in the face. She could have picked any point in the world to go to, but it was just as easy to move between dimensions as it was to move from one point to the next, so why not? 

 

Poking her head slightly through the newly made opening, she looked around to make sure that the coast was clear. Ranma did not really need to do that for her powerful senses had already told her that it was safe, but it was a force of habit that she could not break. She looked around the new world - and smiled. 

 

"An alley," she mused to herself with a slight smirk. "It's always an alley." 

 

Stepping completely through, her form wavered as her Senshi uniform changed into a nice, ordinary blue skirt while her top changed into a pale pink, button-up shirt. She was still in her Senshi form, but it was now disguised from the eyes of anyone who looked at her. Even though she never had any problems when she went "exploring", Ranma didn't want to take any chances - especially in her condition. 

 

Walking out of the alleyway into the bright sun, the first thing she realized that she wasn't in Japan. "Hmmm... well, all the better. I didn't want to see anyone I might even vaguely know anyway," she thought flippantly. "This is not too far removed from my home universe, so I should be able to find some decent tea somewhere." 

 

***************- 

 

"Yeah, what do you want?" Ranma asked as she looked up from her breakfast in the Company commissary. She had been discussing things with her mother. It had been a depressing morning. Ironically, her father was one of the people trying to warn her about the problems with Kasumi. It seemed that she was the only one to not see it coming. Ranma took some comfort in her father's tacit acceptance of her and his earnest, albeit clumsy, attempts to help.

 

"We've got a favor to ask you," Colonel Jacob Edwards stated as he sat down next to her. He noticed the demon's tear-stained face. This breakup could be troubling, but he knew both parties were professionals. That would mitigate things. 

 

The demon eyed the officer. Part of her expected the other shoe to drop; that they would finally ask for something she would not do. "What?" She looked over to see her mother stiffen. 

 

"Twenty minutes ago we detected a spike in Hamilton." Jacob said, referring to the small city to the south of Toronto and at the Southern end of lake Ontario. 

 

"What kind, Sir?" Major Saotome asked as she removed an arm from around her daughter. 

 

"It was a teleport. Pattern Silver. More powerful than normal." 

 

"What's the big deal? Setsuna can do that, and so can Usagi with her friends." Ranma was still alert. Jacob's presence for what looked like a minor thing meant something. 

 

"The Tokyo section just reported in and all of the Pattern Silvers are accounted for." 

 

"You're thinking it's another Virgo? Or is Mercury setting a trap like the Assembly's?" Ranma asked. 

 

"That sounds a bit beneath her. She's not likely to sacrifice Virgo quite yet," Jacob said with no indication of humor.

 

Nodoka paused wondering if her boss had tried to crack a joke, which seemed as unlikely as him cracking a smile.

 

"But we have to consider the possibility," Jacob continued.

 

"Doesn't sound like her style anyway," Ranma shook her head. "They're rebelling, dressing in black and getting tattoos. Classic teenager. But..."

 

The redhead straightened. "What do you want me to do?" 

 

"If it's a new Senshi. We'd like you to be our greeter," Jacob smiled. 

 

"Yeah.... I don't know if some unknown magical girl would react best to a demon." 

 

The old mercenary gave a dry smile. "You're better than one of us." 

 

"Not sending backup with me?" 

 

"Of course, I am." Jacob clarified. "But you'll do the talking, one magical girl to another." 

 

"We've got some unknown Pattern Silver. What's her strength?" 

 

"That's why we're sending you. Our scanners... the first spike, though brief, was powerful," Jacob continued in a more serious tone.

 

Ranma sat and digested that tidbit for a moment. Something that big coming through and she missed it. Being busy trying to deal with breaking up with Kasumi did that.

 

"After the initial spike, the power faded to a less disturbing intensity. Then we had a helicopter try and get closer and triangulate the Silver's location, but it had faded by then." Jacob knew that Hilbert would be flying cautiously.

 

"Now, unlike your Grandma, this visitor didn't break anything, but BlackSky can mask herself completely." He then went on to give a description of the recorded harmonics.  "Also our guest's power does not seem to be quite as intense as your grandmother's."

 

"I suppose the analysis on BlackSky's signature paid off," Nodoka proposed. Though she did remember that BlackSky's arrival was undetected and she only melted those scanners when she showed off to Ranma. 

 

"Lovely," Ranma sighed. "So she could be anything. What about my kids?" 

 

"That's up to you. Though I feel a gaggle of demonic spawn might upset her. " 

 

"And if she's hostile?" 

 

Faded green eyes twinkled with a ghost of amusement. "Then you can blow off some steam." 

 

Ranma raised an eyebrow. "You're not worried about my emotional state?" 

 

"No. I thought work would help distract your mind." Jacob's tone was its normal flat self, but a hint of something else slipped out. 

 

Ranma shook her head at the agent's sympathy. "Just as long as Kasumi's not on my backup detail." 

 

"Of course." 

 

"Have a helicopter on the base ready for my kids," Ranma said as she pulled out her Company cell phone. 

 

"What about the Inners?"

 

Ranma paused. She remembered Usagi soaked with her victim's blood and vengeance in her eyes. The memory then shifted to the hug with that sad blonde in the leather shop.

 

"No... Usagi's got too much on her hands right now. Not with Ami and all. We'll bring her in if things go further." 

 

"Fine. Your helicopter's on the roof. You'll rendezvous with a team of plainclothes agents and a detachment of battle-dress troopers, that were already dispatched." 

 

"Do they have a lock on the Senshi's location?" Ranma asked as she got up. 

 

"A general area," Jacob confessed. 

 

Ranma nodded. 

 

"Good luck Dear. Remember she might just be lost, confused, and new to this," Nodoka said. 

 

"If she is, I'll send her right over to the Inners. Unless she'd rather work with professionals," Ranma grinned. 

 

"The Silver must have powered down after she teleported." Jacob added as they walked to the elevator bank. 

 

"I can find her easily enough." Ranma stepped into the elevator. After passing out of security and entering the main lobby of the Toronto Trust tower she was then led to another elevator that took her to the roof and the waiting WIC Blackhawk. 

 

***************- 

 

When she first strolled along the streets, Ranma thought she was in the United States, but that was quickly proven wrong as she spied some signs in French as well as English dotted here and there. Curious, she investigated discreetly and discovered herself to be in Hamilton, Canada. Not only was she in a different universe and a different part of the globe than she was used to, Ranma found herself in the past relative to her universe; six years in the past to be exact. Satisfied where on the globe and when she was, she made her way to the first place that looked like it might have some decent tea. 

 

Seating herself near the large window, Ranma relaxed and took in the atmosphere of the coffee house. She watched as people walked by, some hurrying, others more casual in their pace and smiled at the wonder of it all. Smiling at the server who brought a steaming cup of tea to her table, Ranma fished out a handful of change to pay. "Heh - good thing I can use my senses to find spare change that others drop," she mused. "It's best to pay for everything using the local currency." 

 

Seeing that the tea was literally steaming hot, she placed it aside to cool a bit and returned to watching the world go by. It was quiet and she was the only person in the cafe at this time of the morning and that was fine with her. 

 

"What to do, what to do?" She pondered. "One part of me says 'screw it' and another part says 'give them a chance'. Gah, I thought I was over all this." 

 

*************** 

 

During the ride, Ranma made another short call to Nariko and got another briefing, but the majority of the time was spent brooding. The redhead did not even really notice that this was the first time she had been in a helicopter since the forest fight. Part of her was relieved that there were just the two pilots in addition to herself in the vehicle. She did not think she was asking too much of a commitment from Kasumi. They were engaged after all. She had not even asked or suggested that Kasumi change. Ranma knew Kasumi's stance on that. 

 

It was disheartening. For both her sisters, Kasumi chose demonhood over death. Ranma could not understand Kasumi's decision to break things off with her, and that made things worse. Almost as bad was when Ranma started crying about how her mate was leaving her.

 

Kasumi did not react well to that word's use. Ranma was relieved when the helicopter safely landed on a hospital helipad in Hamilton. WIC was making sure to keep the helicopter at a distance from the area where the suspected Silver was. Anything to distract her from the breakup. 

 

"Jarvis?" Ranma asked as she jumped off the helicopter. A Company officer was waiting for her, she looked him over,  tall, cold, short blond hair. "Well, it's nice to know you can wear something other than your uniform." 

 

"This practically is a uniform," Jarvis said as he fingered his button-down shirt. Business casual was the standard dress for plainclothes agents. There was something almost... interested in those cold blue eyes of his.

 

Ranma blinked.

 

Jarvis continued. "And you're impeccably dressed as always. We're not exactly sure where the Silver is, but the rough bearings we got put her somewhere-" 

 

"Don't tell me," Ranma said as she closed her eyes and expanded her senses. There was a faint trace of... something, but a trace was all she needed. "She's that way," the demon stated pointing to the South-west. 

 

"Want a lift? It is daylight." 

 

"Sure, but only to just a few blocks near her. It'll give you guys a chance to do your thing too." 

 

"Fair enough." Jarvis nodded. The two walked to the waiting van. "How are you holding up, Red?" he asked after the van had pulled away from the hospital and traveled several blocks. 

 

"Wow, news travels fast," Ranma grumbled as she watched buildings pass by.   She kept her irritation down, for the dour German's standards this was downright empathic.

 

"Especially among secret agents." 

 

"Yeah, I'm okay. I guess... I dunno. I thought she was..." 

 

"What? The One? Don't kid me, I saw you two. You were a couple but never an item."

 

The redhead paused there was again that bit of.. emotion.  Jarvis seemed like he cared that she was hurt.

 

"Let's just do this," Ranma stated flatly. She ordered the van to stop. They were close enough. 

 

"Right," Jarvis relented. He closed the sliding door after she got out and the van drove off. 

 

Ranma shook her head and started walking down the sidewalk. It was a brisk day. She wore a jacket but more to fit in and for style than out of any need. The scent she followed was definitely that of a Pattern Silver, but not any that Ranma knew. It was definitely a new Senshi. 

 

She quickly closed in on the location, and soon enough only a large window separated her from her quarry. Before entering, Ranma called in her status. She knew the agents would want time to set things up. 

 

*************** 

 

Scrunching her mouth up in thought, Ranma didn't bother to note the customers as they entered and left the shop, jiggling the bell that hung over the door. Pondering the problem of revisiting her past like she promised or moving on with her life. Ranma sat, pondered, and took an occasional sip of her now much cooled tea. Ranma knew that you could only be angry for so long before letting it go, but six years was a long time... but maybe not long enough.

 

Ranma was literally in a universe where no one knew her, so she was not expecting anything to intrude into her thoughts or for anyone to bother her. That's why she was surprised when someone addressed her. 

 

*************** 

 

Ranma smiled as she entered the coffee and tea shop. At least a bunch of agents dressed like yuppies would not stand out here. They would fit in well with... well... the cafe was currently empty of patrons save one. 

 

She studied the lone woman. She had bright red hair that was long and loose and, although sitting, it was obvious that she was a couple inches taller than Ranma. She looked to be in her early twenties and was dressed in a pale, light pink button-up shirt with a blue thigh-length skirt. It was something that Nariko or Nabiki would wear... or try to get their mom to wear. 

 

Ranma smiled. An outfit like that would look good on her, but it was not her style. She went back to looking over the Senshi. There was an odd sensation from her - Ranma could not shake it. She seemed to be in deep troubled thought. 

 

With a shrug Ranma went for it. This was the Senshi, and she looked preoccupied with something.

 

"Visiting or lost?" She asked, sliding in front of the woman's view. She was leaning towards lost. 

 

As the Senshi paused and looked at Ranma, the demon made her own observations. Her senses confirmed that this was a Sailor Senshi, but not much on power levels. The Senshi was clearly masking her abilities, and doing it well enough. Ranma was reminded of her grandmother. Though BlackSky could do more than merely mask her power. BlackSky could conceal any indication that she was even masking anything.

 

*************** 

 

"Visiting or lost?"

 

Shaken from her thoughts, Ranma looked up at a - biker chick? The woman who spoke stood over her wearing leather - nothing but leather. Leather bodice, leather jacket, elbow length leather fingerless gloves, leather thigh-high boots, and a short leather skirt - all of it form-fitting like a second skin. Ranma wondered how many cows had gone into creating the outfit. 

 

Of the woman herself, she had alabaster skin, deep red hair, purple eyes that were penetrating, and for a second what looked like horns or something appeared on her head. When Ranma looked again she saw that it was just a trick of the light on the teased shape of the strange woman's hair. Ranma's eyes widened at the hair. It was a rich and full mass that tumbled down and had a character all it's own.

 

The strange woman stared down at the still seated Ranma as if trying to bore into her. What made Ranma feel slightly ill-at-ease was that the leather-clad woman seemed vaguely familiar 

 

"Excuse me?" Ranma asked cautiously, masking her surprise at being caught off guard. "I think you have the wrong person." 

 

The standing woman then gracefully slid into the chair off to Ranma's right and looked into Ranma's eyes, almost as if she were trying to find something. She then leaned forward slightly and sniffed the air. She then cocked her head to one side, never breaking eye contact with Ranma, and seemed confused by something. 

 

"No mistake," the leather-dressed woman said in a voice that was slightly musical. "You're not from around here." 

 

Ranma blinked at the strange woman. In the back of her head, alarms were going off. Her ever-present tactical thinking was already devising several defensive measures as well as escape routes, plus she had subconsciously raised the level of her shielding. Something was very wrong with her table companion. 

 

*************** 

 

"Excuse me?" The Senshi asked. Her face masked her surprise, but her scent gave it away. "I think you have the wrong person." 

 

Ranma sat down and took a more detailed look. There was something familiar about the Senshi's scent too. Not her power, per say but something more basic. Something fundamental. She was human, or as human as a Pattern Silver could be. Ranma made eye contact and kept it; she wanted to show respect. This Senshi had to have some power, but more importantly she had to have skill. The scale of both quantities was completely unknown. 

 

"No mistake," Ranma lilted. "You're not from around here." 

 

Ranma noted the Senshi's blinking. She was surprised? Did she think she could set off every detector within fifty miles and no one would notice? A new Senshi showing up was pretty obvious. Again Ranma thought of her grandmother. BlackSky teleported from another plane. Maybe this Senshi really was lost. 

 

"I'm just passing through," the Senshi stated, in an almost embarrassed tone. "This is my first time through here." 

 

Ranma leaned back and smiled triumphantly. She was right. Before she could ask her questions her companion spoke. 

 

"You're a demon," the Senshi said in a measured voice. 

 

Ranma blinked. It looked like the Senshi was making observations of her own. 

 

*************** 

 

"I'm just passing through," Ranma admitted evenly as information was being fed into her consciousness about the nature of the biker-chick seated next to her. The findings were alarming. "This is my first time through here."

 

As if picking up on the changing mood of the redhead, the biker-chick leaned away and smiled in a most disarming way - revealing her extra long canines. This action had the effect of making the alarm bells in Ranma's head blare louder as she stared at what she knew was some type of demon. The tactical part of her mind kicked in as she developed several different attack options and raised the level of her shielding even more. 

 

"You're a demon," Ranma stated flatly. 

 

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

 

Both women were wrapped in a blanket of silence as each seemed to size up the other. 

 

"Yes," the demon agreed in a tone that was better suited to a comment about the weather.

 

"That all you can see about me?" she asked, almost disappointed.

 

The redhead paused and looked over the biker-demon again. It was true that she was not making any threatening moves, but there was something else. Something unsettling.

 

"I guess we'll start simple," the leather-clad demon began. "Who are you, why are you here, what Senshi are you?"

 

The redhead's skin turned almost as pale as her demonic companion's at being discovered.

 

"How did you know?" Behind the eyes of the redhead, senses started to feed additional information that was gleaned from the demon. Patterns within patterns, ones that were very familiar and alien mixed together.

 

"My god.... you're a Senshi too," the redhead said as she tried to wrap her mind around the idea of a demonic Senshi. The redhead's eyes seemed to burrow into the demon's as if looking for something of their own. 

 

"Isn't being a Senshi supposed to be a good thing?" the demon seemed genuinely confused.

 

The redhead's skin turned even paler before a mask of fear crossed her features. It was obvious that she recalled something unpleasant -  very unpleasant. She suddenly slid back in her chair slightly, the demon also moved back slightly as she sensed the other's power-up; it was shielded but directed at her as a definite warning. It was almost overwhelming. "Stay back!" The redhead said firmly. 

 

The demon sighed. "I told them I wasn't the best choice for this mission. Some random Senshi might not react well to a demon. Especially a pregnant Senshi. A mother's drive to protect is an amazing force." She seemed to speak from experience. She also hoped that her words would at least calm the other woman a bit.

 

"You know?" The redhead's eyes narrowed as she maintained her guard.

 

"One mother can spot it easily enough in another," the demon noted absently. She frowned. "I guess you're not going to answer. Least you're being civil." She then ordered some tea of her own.

 

"So are you, I've never heard of demons being well-mannered," the redhead replied somewhat evenly. 

 

"You've never met my eldest." The demon smiled fondly. "She's such a sweet and gentle girl."

 

"Sweet and gentle?" The redhead repeated. "In a demon?" 

 

The demon's piercing gaze returned. "Is that a problem?" She asked sharply, hurt in her voice. "I guess you wouldn't think our kind was capable of that."

 

The redhead wore a look of confusion for a second. She was visibly wrestling with some internal thoughts before her face changed to a neutral expression. "You're insulted?" The redhead commented softly. 

 

"Of course." The demon snorted. "You're a bigot. Maybe to you we're all the same. I'm not even part of the whole 'Satanic rebellion against Heaven' thing I'm Shinto," the demon spat.

 

A weird sort of stalemate rose and fell just as quickly. The redhead's shoulders sagged a bit as she came out of her defensive stance and relaxed a bit.

 

"I'm... er, sorry? I've never really met a demon, not a real one," the redhead offered with a slight bow to the demon next to her. "But all the demons that my friends had to face were more interested in stealing heart crystals or people's life energy than being civil. I'm sorry if I assumed wrong." 

 

An uncomfortable quietness fell between the two for a brief moment. 

 

"Our reputation does precede us," the demon admitted and relaxed. "Can you at least tell me your name?"

 

The human redhead cocked her head slightly and shrugged her shoulders. "My name is Ranma. I'm pleased to meet you." 

 

The demon blinked once. Twice. Three times. "Ranma?" 

 

The redhead who claimed the name Ranma looked back at the demon. "Yes. That's my name. Er, what's yours?" 

 

The demon smirked, then giggled a giggle that was pleasant to the ears. "You're not going to believe me, but my name is Ranma." 

 

*************** 

 

After hearing the giggling demon use her own name, Ranma's brain when into overdrive. "That's why she seemed so familiar!" Her mind howled. "She's me! Well, a version of me... that is, this universe's version of me." 

 

It was at that point that the demon named Ranma leaned toward the redheaded Ranma and took a deep sniff. "Why is she sniffing me like that?" Ranma thought self-consciously. "I bathed this morning."

 

Human-Ranma was slightly taken aback by being sniffed at again and as discreetly as she could smelled herself to see if she was malodorous. Finding nothing, she mused that maybe it was just something demons did. Sensing an awkward silence building, demon-Ranma felt the need to break it before it began. 

 

"Your smell... your underlying smell, is just like mine," The demon-Ranma said. "You weren't kidding when you said you were Ranma."

 

"She was smelling me out - literally," human-Ranma mentally concluded. She swallowed a bit before nervously asking, "So... what are you a Senshi of?"

 

"I'm Sailor DarkStar," demon-Ranma quietly replied. "You?" 

 

"Sailor Sun," human-Ranma replied, with a note of pride. 

 

"Oh.... that's ironic," DarkStar laughed. 

 

"What?" Sun asked. 

 

"I go to school under the name Sunshine." DarkStar replied. 

 

"I - see," Sun said with some hesitant sympathy in her voice. "Er, why did you pick that as an alias?" 

 

"Don't ask. It was the Drake's idea, the school principal," DarkStar dismissed.

 

Sun blinked a few times before speaking. "Okay."

 

"It's okay. It could be worse, somehow," DarkStar sighed. "So, back to my first question, vacation or lost? Does it have to do with your baby? If you're running from something, we can help."

 

"Thanks, but I'm okay. I was just visiting." Sun assured. She studied the demon. DarkStar's concern seemed genuine. Sun then remembered something DarkStar had let slip. "You're a mother too?" 

 

DarkStar's face brightened. "Yes, I have five daughters."

 

Sun looked over her doppelganger's frame. She noticed the curves that were hugged by the tight leather outfit and for some reason wondered how Ryoko would look in it. There seemed to be advantages to having a demonic body. "Five kids?" 

 

DarkStar paused to thank the waitress who served her tea. She nodded affirmatively while taking a sip of her drink. "I have a seventeen year old, three sixteen year olds, and one that's now fourteen." 

 

Sun looked the demon over again and found that it was hard to tell her exact age. That was common enough Sun knew girls in college that could pass for junior high. "Er, how old are you?" 

 

"In this life... sixteen," DarkStar answered while placing her cup on the coaster. "But a couple records have me around thirty." She paused and regarded Sun a moment. "So is this your first child?" DarkStar asked as she smiled warmly and sipped at her tea. 

 

Sun blinked at the eager inquisitiveness and paused at the thought of five teenage daughters before answering. The strangeness in DarkStar's age was noted for later.

 

"Yes, this is my first," she replied, happy that things were still civil, but things seemed to be getting stranger and stranger. In spite of the more relaxed attitude that fell between the two, Sun still maintained some of her defenses. 

 

Sun wondered if DarkStar was doing something similar. She could sense the demonic energies her double was giving off but had no idea if they were hostile or normal. DarkStar was maintaining an engaged posture, especially with the near constant eye contact. 

 

DarkStar nodded. "You'll love being a mother. It changes everything, but it's worth it." She paused and took another sip of her drink. "So... if you're not lost, why are you here?" 

 

Sun fidgeted uncomfortably. "I wanted some privacy, to think things over."

 

DarkStar's eyes suddenly narrowed. "It's not about your baby is it? Is something wrong?"

 

"What?" Sun was again shocked to see the concern and empathy on the demon's face. "No, no... the baby's fine. I'm worried about something else."

 

"Good. Sorry, I was just worried that you might be thinking of something... drastic." DarkStar bowed her head.

 

Another bout of silence revisited the pair as each seem to size up their thoughts. 

 

"I was just trying to decide if I did a stupid thing or not," Sun said. "I said that I would... meet some people and I think I've pretty much decided not to. They're not worth it." 

 

DarkStar cocked her head in curiosity. This was not unnoticed by Sun. 

 

"A few days ago I ran into someone from my past that I'd rather not have," Sun clarified. "For some stupid reason I told her to get everyone from... my past together. I'm supposed to meet them in," Sun glanced at her watch, "four and a half hours, but I think I'll just forget it." 

 

"Why is this a problem?" 

 

Ranma looked down on the table top. She fidgeted and swallowed. "These are the people that... basically stabbed me in the back six years ago. The only reason why I even thought of going was because Nabiki said my mother missed me - but now - I don't know now if I should have believed her." 

 

"Your mother?" DarkStar asked, puzzled. "What's she do? Sell you off to Genma?" 

 

"Worse. She gave me up to... Genma," Sun spat the name out like a curse word. "Then I come to find that if I didn't return as a man among men she would kill me." 

 

DarkStar looked at the young woman seated next to her. "Man among men?" 

 

Sun looked up at the demon and shrugged her shoulders. 

 

"You started out as a guy too?" DarkStar asked. 

 

Sun nodded, then stopped and looked at DarkStar. "You too?" DarkStar nodded, taking another sip of her drink. "I guess it just runs in the universes," Sun quipped.

 

 Both Ranmas giggled at the small joke that seemed to break the ice slightly between them. Each settled more comfortably into their chairs. 

 

"So... what's this about your mother?" DarkStar asked curiously. 

 

Sun sighed. "It's like... stupid Genma, he made mom a promise that if I didn't turn out to be a man among men, we would both kill ourselves." 

 

Sun watched the demon closely as she thought over what was said. In spite of the differences there were somethings that were eerily similar to herself. It made her feel creepy in an excited way.

 

DarkStar gave Sun a gentle look and smiled. "Come on, your mother wouldn't do that, not make you kill yourself." 

 

Sun sighed and nodded. "Yeah, she would... well she can't anymore. I'm not a Saotome - haven't been one for years," Sun explained. "The only time I saw her I was a girl at the time and she didn't know it was me. Anytime anyone even suggested that I was unmanly, she would pull out that damn sword of hers and wave it around." 

 

"She was serious, and a sword?" DarkStar asked with surprise.

 

Sun nodded as she took a calming sip of her tea. "Yes - she was," she said placing her cup down. "She seemed nice enough, but what kind of mother holds their child - especially a five year old - to something like that?" Sun grabbed at her tea and took another calming drink. "Well, since I'm not a Saotome anymore, she could take that suicide pact and shove it." 

 

DarkStar sat there and quietly pondered the other Ranma's plight. Her own mother had made mistakes like that, and DarkStar had failed Nariko in an even more damaging way... 

 

The pause also gave Sun the opportunity to collect herself a bit - this was obviously an emotionally charged subject.

 

"Well, you're no longer a Saotome so she can't do anything to you," DarkStar pointed out. "Why let it get to you?" 

 

Sun sat in silence for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. 

 

DarkStar sighed and took Sun's hands in hers. Sun found the touch surprisingly warm.

 

"You said something about a Nabiki saying something about your mother missing you?" DarkStar asked. 

 

"Yeah..." Sun said softly. "But knowing the middle Tendo, she'd think of this as a cruel joke to pull or just to make money from. Bitch." 

 

DarkStar looked puzzled, but did not immediately say anything. She gave Sun a gentle squeeze of the hand. "Nabiki Tendo? You have one too? I know she... well I mean, my - Nabiki wouldn't." 

 

Sun sighed again as her shoulders sagged. "I don't know really anymore," she admitted. "If this was six years ago I would say: Yes she would, in a heartbeat. But now? I really don't know." Then she added softly, "She really did seemed changed, though." 

 

"Well, your mother can't touch you, and Nabiki - your Nabiki - can't hurt you," DarkStar said. "So why don't you go? You have nothing to lose and you might gain something." 

 

"That's not the point!" Sun shot out, gripping DarkStar's hands a little firmer, but not painfully, with her own. "A mother is supposed to put the well-being of her child over hers or anyone else's. She failed. I might not have my child in my arms yet, but I already know that I will be dead and cold in the ground before anything gets between me and my child." 

 

DarkStar smiled in approval. "This one will make a good mother." she thought to herself.

 

"From what I see here, you'll make a wonderful mother, " DarkStar said, echoing her thoughts. "Okay, you're here to work out some personal problems?" 

 

"Yeah, I guess you could put it that way," Sun said softly as she looked out the window. 

 

"Why here? I mean, why bother crossing universes?" DarkStar could accept crossing plans of existence to visit family, but not just to find a quiet place to think. 

 

Sun shrugged her shoulders. "Coming here is just as easy as crossing the street for me. Also it's kind of exciting - I was hoping to take my mind off things for a bit before really thinking about it. Back home all my friends would want to do is talk about the baby and I wouldn't get anywhere with my problem." 

 

DarkStar seemed to weigh that. She hadn't detected anything but honesty, a guarded honesty, but honesty none-the-less. DarkStar nodded. "What do you know about your mother?" She asked, picking up the conversation. 

 

Sun leaned back in her chair and pondered a moment before her face hardened. "My mother is a sword wielding psycho with an unhealthy fixation on manliness." She paused and looked out the window again. "She can go to hell for all I care." 

 

DarkStar studied the human version of herself; in spite of the differences, she picked up on the underlying problem. "You know, I was just as scared about seeing my mother as you are. Especially since she's a demon hunter, but... I'm glad I did." 

 

"I'm not scared," Sun defended herself. "There may be a lot of stuff that scares me and this is not one of them." 

 

DarkStar gave Sun a measured look as she sipped at her drink. "You're lying." 

 

Sun looked at DarkStar with wide eyes before narrowing them. "I am not!" She said defiantly. "Nabiki said that she wanted to see me curse or no, but knowing Nabiki..."

 

"You're afraid of rejection," DarkStar said pointedly. "It's written all over your face." 

Sun looked at the tabletop between them, but remained silent. 

 

"Look," DarkStar said while taking Sun's hands once again into her own, "Rejection - it happens, but if you don't risk anything..." 

 

Sun still examined the tabletop and let the demon massage her hands. After a brief moment, she sighed heavily. Looking up she noticed a pain in DarkStar's eyes that wasn't there before.

 

"The voice of experience?" She asked, a half-sad tone in her voice. 

 

It was DarkStar's turn to study the table top. "Yeah. Actually it is," she said sadly. "I just... just broke up with my fiancee." Technically, it was Kasumi that did the breaking up. 

 

Sun opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She tried again with success. "I'm so sorry," she said sympathetically. "Here I am telling you my problems and here you are in pain too." 

 

"Thanks," DarkStar said with a sniffle and a brave smile. "I thought that she was the one, you know?... she didn't... she... didn't want to lose her humanity. I didn't even ask her for that, but she got... scared." Tears started to leak from the corners of the brokenhearted demon's eyes. 

 

Sun slid off her chair and squatted next to the still seated demon and embraced her. The demon stiffened in surprise at the physical contact but then went with the hug.

 

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Sun repeated while hugging her with one hand and handing DarkStar paper napkins with the other. DarkStar accepted and began using them. 

 

"I thought she was the one, you know?" DarkStar repeated through bouts of sniffles. "I mean I was good enough to be a mother to her sisters, but... but..." DarkStar fell into another bout of tears, burying her face in a mass of napkins. Sun began rocking the distraught girl gently. 

 

"I guess I was good for a lay... but not for a commitment," the crying demon mewled into Sun's shoulder. Sun drew DarkStar further into the hug and continued to rock her gently and rubbing her back. Being unsure of what to say in this situation, she remained quiet. The two stayed like that for a long moment before DarkStar came back to herself.

 

"Sorry," she said wiping her eyes with a damp napkin. 

 

"Are you going to be okay?" Sun asked as she gently untangled herself from DarkStar's embrace. It was... odd. One moment this demon seemed to be the jaded voice of experience, and the next she was crying her heart out. 

 

"It's okay," DarkStar said with declining sniffling. She smiled at the other redhead. "Thank you. I needed that. I normally cry on my Mom's shoulder. Actually, that's what I was doing before I came down here. She's helped me though my... changes." 

 

"It's good that she... understands," Sun allowed while a tinge of jealousy and depression formed within her. 

 

"My mom's been great though. She's been such a help. She helped me realize what my responsibilities were." She paused and cocked her head, wearing a crooked smile. "If you want... I could... call my mother. I think she would like to meet you." 

 

"Sure, I'd like to meet your mom," Sun said while handing off more napkins to the emotional demon. "I wish I was sure about mine... Maybe yours could help me with my problem." 

 

DarkStar smiled widely, but thinly. "Just a sec," she said as she reached somewhere, pulled out and flipped open her phone then casually punched a button.

 

"Hello?"

 

Pause.

 

"Everything's fine. No. Yes. I was just talking about Kasumi - say, could you have my mom come over?"

 

Pause.

 

"No, but I think she'll want to meet our wayward Senshi."

 

Pause.

 

"Right." She then folded her phone and replaced it in a jacket pocket. 

 

"She's coming? But... you just met me." Sun felt honored but apprehensive. A bit of hope bloomed within her. After all, if this Nodoka can accept this Ranma, why not her Nodoka? 

 

"Should I be concerned? You're a Senshi, you're me, and you're a good mother. You won't be the strangest person she's met," DarkStar sipped her tea again. She let her ancient demon queen of a grandmother meet Nodoka, this alternate her would be fine too. 

 

"You said she's a demon hunter? What kind?" Sun then noted that the demon's eye makeup was pristine again.

 

"She works for Willard International Consulting. They act like a scary secret organization. Sunglasses, black helicopters, all that stuff." DarkStar laughed as she caught the eye of a pair of young professionals at a nearby table.

 

"But they're really good guys. They fight monsters and such. Dang professional at it too. They... care." 

 

"Do you work for them, too?" 

 

"Yeah, I fight with them, and they've been a big help with my family." DarkStar's smile turned bittersweet. She sighed and looked at the table. 

 

"What does she do?" Sun asked quickly changing the subject. 

 

"She's the head of the Toronto base's Science and Technology section. Mostly she does armor and weapons. Making them lighter, stronger that sort of thing. Lots of composites, stuff I don't understand." DarkStar avoided mentioning any current projects of her mother's.

 

A surprised smile formed on Sun's face. "She's a research scientist?" 

 

DarkStar paused in recollection. "I guess so. She got her doctorate in materials science before joining WIC." 

 

Sun blinked at the overload of information before renewing her smile. "I just got my degree in chemistry," she said. "I was thinking about going for a doctorate, but," she paused and rubbed her stomach, "life had other plans for me." 

 

"Yeah," DarkStar said absently. "A year ago I never thought I'd be where I am today." 

 

Sun gave a nod. "I hear that - hell, six years ago I'd never imagined I'd be happily married - much less to a guy." 

 

"How did that come about? I mean you starting as a guy and ending up a girl?" 

 

"Difficult," Sun said flatly. "I was cursed... 

 

"Jusenkyo?" DarkStar interjected quizzically.

 

Sun nodded and continued. "Then I lost a fight and got stuck as a girl and disowned by Genma." 

 

DarkStar blinked at the human version of herself. She could almost see her father doing that. The way he looked at her, when she had first accepted being a mother... "You mean he disowned you because you got stuck?" 

 

Sun shook her head. "Not really," she admitted. "Because I wouldn't marry Soun to 'join the schools'." 

 

DarkStar frowned. The more she heard about Sun's Genma the less she liked. "Marry Soun?" She repeated with a shake of her head. She would rather marry the Drake. He was a much better parent. "Okay, but how does that explain how you ended up like you are?" 

 

Sun looked at the tabletop for an extended moment, lost in thought. "I - I have no idea how long, but I was living on the streets for a very long time... a lot of things can change when you're hungry all the time and digging through dumpsters for something to eat." 

 

DarkStar easily read from Sun's face that there was still more to this story.

 

"A lot of things change... things that you take for granted. Hell," Sun continued while looking up with a dismissive a wave of her hand, "I was so desperate at one point I seriously thought about..." her voice faded into nothing.

 

She remained quiet for a few heartbeats, her gaze returning to the tabletop. "I even thought of selling myself," she said barely above a whisper. "All so I could just have something decent to eat. That's how far I sank." 

 

"But you didn't?" It was shameful, but DarkStar knew exactly what she would have done in that situation, and was pleased that her alternate was capable of a... nobler path.

 

Sun shook her head. "No. If it wasn't for Granny finding me when she did, I just might have," she explained. "Hell, if it wasn't for her I'd probably be dead." 

 

"Granny?" DarkStar questioned, thinking about BlackSky. 

 

"Yeah," Sun smiled. "She wasn't my real Granny, but she was more family to me than my own family had ever been. She took me in, cleaned me up, gave me a job, and finally saw me adopted me into her clan." 

 

"She sounds like a wonderful person," DarkStar commented as she took another sip of her drink, emptying it this time.

 

"She was," Sun agreed, the meaning of her words clear. "In fact," she patted her lower abdomen, " if this is a girl, I already have a name picked out for her." 

 

"Keeping the sex a secret?" DarkStar asked with a smile. 

 

Sun nodded with a smile of her own. "Yup, I want to be surprised." 

 

"I know I love my children," DarkStar said. "Everything else seems so unimportant compared to them." 

 

Sun leaned forward. "You wouldn't happen to have any pictures, would you?" 

 

DarkStar smiled and reached somewhere in her incredibly tight outfit and pulled out a hefty photo wallet. 

 

*************** 

 

Across the room, sipping a coffee and pretending to read a newspaper, agent Morrison watched over the two women. "What are those two doing now?" he asked his partner, a young women seated beside him. 

 

Agent Andrea Lytle glanced over her laptop's screen. "It looks like Red is showing pictures of her kids again," she commented quietly. 

 

"I wondered if she is going to show the one with Nariko and Akane with the whip cream and-" he was interrupted by a loud burst of giggles from the two Ranma's. 

 

"I would take that as a yes," his table-mate deadpanned, while pretending to work a spreadsheet. 

 

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

 

"Oh my god, they're adorable," Sun exclaimed gleefully. "You must have your hands full at times." 

 

DarkStar beamed at the compliment. "Yes, they're still very young," she said as she looked at the picture of her family. 

 

Sun studied the photograph. One face in particular stood out, a familiar one among others that were slightly less familiar. "Is that... your mom?" she asked pointing to a lab coat-wearing older woman who stood behind her daughter with a smile. 

 

"Yes, that's my mom. She wanted a family picture for the longest time," DarkStar said as she pulled out a couple more pictures. 

 

Sun's attention went from Nodoka to the others in the photo. Some of them looked familiar, but it had to be a coincidence. "Umm... what are your kids names?" she delicately asked. 

 

"Akane, Nariko, Ukyou, Misako, and Nabiki," DarkStar explained pointing to each of the girls. 

 

That creepy disconnect feeling returned to Sun. She now knew who her counterpart had just broken up with, though that meant that.... Her eyes went back to the two demons who were once her fiancee's. "Were... were they always demons?" Sun asked, knowing the answer. 

 

DarkStar looked at the still image of her daughters. "No. They were human, but they got turned." The demon's shoulders sagged. "It started with saving one person's life... and then it snowballed." 

 

"Turning saved their lives?" Sun asked. That fit with the demon's earlier comments. 

 

"When I turn someone, their body is remade. Side effect is that it heals mortal wounds," DarkStar said before ordering another cup of tea. 

 

"And since you turned them, you became their mother? That makes sense. I guess." Sun's eyes returned to the photo, changing like that... at death's door had to be traumatic, but they looked happy. 

 

DarkStar's frowned and looked at her photos. One was a picture of Nariko happily holding a test in one hand and an arm around her mother with the other.

 

"I wish I had been able to see it that quickly. I... I didn't know what I was, what my daughter was...." DarkStar's eyes started to tear. "And it hurt her." 

 

Sun didn't know exactly what was happened to DarkStar's daughter, but she did understand that whatever it was, was not good. Sun found herself hugging and comforting a sniffling, emotionally-charged demon again. The napkin dispenser got another workout. 

 

*************** 

 

"They're hugging again," Morrison commented as he turned the page of his newspaper. He reminded himself to find something to give Red, It was the least he could do: he owed her. "I guess they're getting along. What do you think they're talking about?" 

 

Andrea lifted a cup of hot, black coffee to her lips and paused as she typed a few words into her laptop and looked at the responding feed. "Looks like plain old girl talk to me." 

Morrison cocked his head toward his partner while keeping the two Senshi within his peripheral vision. "Girl talk? Are you sure?" 

 

Andrea looked at her partner through half-lidded eyes. "Men," she snorted before returning to her laptop. 

 

*************** 

 

"If I only knew then what I know now," DarkStar sobbed a bit as Sun continued to hold her. "Nariko is special... because of... my cocky mistake."

 

Sun nodded absently as she held and stroked the demon's back. She understood the price of being cocky. "It couldn't have been that bad," she said as she held DarkStar. "If your Genma is anything like mine-" 

 

"You don't understand," DarkStar interrupted, wailing into Sun's shoulder. "What I did was worse than anything Pops ever did to me." 

 

"You seem like a good person, I don't think-" 

 

"I pushed her away," DarkStar said into Sun's shoulder. "I didn't know and I didn't understand and I didn't want her, so I pushed my child away onto her father... and it hurt her." 

 

"But if you didn't know and really understand what was going on," Sun said, trying to comfort the distraught demon. "It seems to me you're doing the best you can to make right your mistake, so don't beat yourself up for it." 

 

"But... but," DarkStar started, before relaxing more into Sun's embrace. Calming herself somewhat, she began again.

 

"Before Nariko.... I... was in denial. I kept pretending I was still human, still male. That wouldn't last. I see humans and I know what I can do to them. It's so easy. They're so fragile... and I know how good it feels." Her mind flashed to the fight against the Assembly.

 

DarkStar looked Sun in the eyes. She was not ready to tell Sun that experience had proved much of this. That she had happily torn into humans and feasted on them as they screamed. They were evil, and monsters in their own right, but... she had still fed and would continue to feed.

 

"There was once a time that I wondered if I was human," Sun whispered gently into DarkStar's ear. "Knowing that you were created in a lab - turned into a weapon." 

 

The two broke apart with their arms still around one another. Both gazed into each others eyes and found as they found an understanding. "There's nothing like being turned into a weapon of mass destruction - being a weapon of mass destruction - that makes you question your humanity."

 

"At least it's still just a question for you. I know the answer." DarkStar sighed, as she looked at her companion. "You were created?" DarkStar asked in a voice filled with curiosity. 

 

"I was -," Sun paused in thought for the right word, "- turned into a weapon. I was a human before the Techno-mages got a hold of me. Afterward, it was training, honing my powers for the time that I might be called upon." 

 

DarkStar continued to look into Sun's eyes. "Wow, it's almost like you are - were more inhuman than me," DarkStar said while wiping stray tears from her eyes. "Sure I'm a demon, but you... you were made to be a thing. Man that sucks."

 

The two shared a quiet moment as their emotions ran down. Re-seating herself back into her chair, Sun studied her demonic twin. "I got over that. My husband helps." A smile crept across her face. "When I'm with Tenchi, I know I'm human. No doubts."

 

"You're lucky," DarkStar said sadly. "I thought I found a mate, but..." she ended with a even sadder sigh. 

 

Sun took up DarkStar's hands into hers. "You'll find someone!" she said in a positive tone. "I'm sure of it. It always happens when you least expect it and you have so much to offer." 

 

DarkStar gave a weak smile. She was a single mother demon still in high school with five children. "Thanks. I... I thought Kasumi was the one. But she... well I can't blame her. She's the last human among the Tendo sisters." 

 

Gently squeezing DarkStar's hands, Sun smiled re-assuredly. "Don't worry, you'll find someone. Trust me." 

 

DarkStar tilted her head so that she was looking at their joined hands. "Yeah. If things get too bad, I can just ask - well -Jarvis or some other agent." She sighed depressively. "One of them would be willing to take one for the Company." 

 

Sun opened her mouth in shock at the casualness with which DarkStar seem to take her love life. She swallowed hard before speaking. "What about love?" 

 

DarkStar sighed heavily. "Love is easy for my kind... and it would keep me sane. I hope it doesn't come to that, but... sometimes life forces things on you." 

 

"I know what you mean about life," Sun replied while nodding. "I know I never asked for any of this, but still... shouldn't love count for something?" 

 

"Yes," DarkStar admitted. "But... I-I've had hopes," she added sadly. In many ways a mating of convenience would be easier. Biology would take care of the details. 

 

Sun squeezed DarkStar's hands. "Don't give up then," Sun implored. "So what, if it didn't work out between you and Kasumi? Is there anyone else that you are interested in? I'm sure there has to be someone that's caught your eye." 

 

DarkStar looked uncomfortable. "Yeah. But it's even a longer shot than-" 

"There you are," a voice called out. "How is everything?" 

 

Both Ranmas looked up at the newcomer. She was very familiar to both of them. 

 

"Hi Mom," DarkStar said with a smile. "Everything's fine. We were talking about - stuff."

 

"I see," the older redhead said with a warm smile while eyeing the human-Ranma. "And who do we have here? Our wayward Senshi?" 

 

"Um, Mom, I'd like to introduce you to... Ranma," DarkStar said a little nervously. "Er, Ranma this is my mom. Um, Mom, Ranma's from somewhere else." 

 

"I gathered," Nodoka said dryly still maintaining her warm smile as she slid into the seat between the redheads and addressed Sun. "I heard, you're just visiting?" she asked with the intention of quickly breaking the ice. 

 

DarkStar and Sun looked and each other, then back at the older woman before bursting into a fit of giggles. 

 

*************** 

 

Morrison cleared his throat slowly. "Look alive, Andrea," he said out of the corner of his mouth. "It must be more serious than we thought, look who just showed up."

 

Andrea paused in her typing and stretched, using it as cover to scan the room. 

 

"Major Saotome brought some reinforcements," Andrea said as she made like she was looking over some papers by her laptop. "It may be nothing... I mean the Major's S&T not Operations. They're getting together like old friends. Stay alert, though - it may be nothing, but we can't afford to get too comfortable now." 

 

Morrison grunted a positive response while pretending to work the crossword. Their job was just to watch and provide support if things went bad.

 

*************** 

 

Major Saotome raised an eyebrow as she sat down. "You seem in better spirits dear," she said, putting her hand on her daughters. 

 

"I've been getting some... perspective." DarkStar allowed. "This is a me that's from another universe or something."

 

"That could explain the variance in the inter-dim signal we detected," Nodoka mused as she appraised the other Senshi. The scans that WIC had taken and were still taking confirmed her Pattern. She was clearly masking her full power and doing it quite well. 

 

"That's how you found me," Sun thought aloud. "You picked up my space fold... Hmmm... Washu did say that I could be tracked through primitive technology. I guess yours was primitive enough, er - no offense."

 

"None taken," Nodoka said, brightly. To her being able to be seen by "primitive" technology was a major oversight. It was like making a plane invisible to radar and then not bothering masking its thermal output or giving it a concealing paint job. "I take it you were surprised?" 

 

Sun nodded. "Yes. It's not that often that anyone can find me." 

 

"Really?" a much interested Nodoka asked. She was interested in gathering any information on this new Senshi. 

 

"Er, when they made me, I was designed to be invisible to every form of detection," Sun explained, "But what they didn't do was to bother to test that against, er - 'cruder instruments of detection'. So... while I'm invisible to 'more modern' scanners, more primitive ones can pick me up on a wide-scale." 

 

Nodoka nodded in understanding. "It's usually the things that are considered unimportant that cause trouble later on." 

 

"It's also arrogant." DarkStar sourly noted. "Though, those mages or whatever were playing god."

 

"In combat, teleportation is a frightening ability," Nodoka noted. Which was why it was an ability she hoped her daughter and granddaughters would figure out.

 

"It's not really teleportation," Sun clarified. "I don't like doing that - it makes me a little dizzy."

 

Nodoka cocked her head. "Then what would you call it?"

 

"Folding space," Sun answered plainly. "I create a slit in space/time, find a another point in space where I want to go to, fold the ends together, and then pass through." 

 

DarkStar thought on Sun's words with a frown on her face. After a brief moment she asked, "Isn't that the same as teleportation?" 

 

Sun looked at her other self and cocked her head and reconsidered. "Well, I guess it could be," she admitted before shrugging her shoulders and addressing Nodoka. "You're Ranma's mom? I'm Ranma Masaki, I'm pleased to met you."

 

"I'm Dr. Nodoka Saotome, and I'm also pleased you met you as well," Nodoka answered. She declined to give her military title. That might spook the girl. "I understand that you are having family problems?" 

 

Sun blinked at the older woman. "Er, how do you know about that?" 

 

DarkStar looked puzzled at Sun for a moment, before her eyes widened. "Oh yeah, we're being monitored. You understand, we didn't know if you were a friendly or not." 

 

Sun nodded. "I... see. I guess that's understandable, er - I guess. After all, you know nothing about me." 

 

The conversation lulled as a waitress came up to the table. Ranma took the time to study DarkStar's mother. She was dressed in a nice pair of khakis, blouse, and light jacket and was not carrying the family honor blade with her. Though it was hidden by the jacket, Sun detected the handgun that Nodoka was carrying. 

 

Nodoka absently nodded to Sun's statement as she placed her order with the waitress. "You two want anything to eat? I hadn't really eaten much for breakfast." 

 

"I'll take a slice of pie," DarkStar said. "I didn't eat much this morning and I'm starting to feel it." 

 

The waitress wrote the order down and looked expectedly at Sun. "I'm fine," she said. "I ate." 

 

The waitress departed with a nod and Nodoka continued where they left off. "Masaki? Your husband's name?" 

 

Sun nodded with enthusiasm. 

 

"How nice. My daughter wants a mate," Nodoka said while eyeing DarkStar. "You have any pictures?"

 

DarkStar's eyes widened in irritation. Her mother could still sometimes find ways to embarrass her.

 

Sun blinked at the question. Not seeing anything wrong with the request and since DarkStar shared hers, she fished around in her subspace pocket for a small photo wallet. To the others at the table, it was as if Sun reached into thin air and extracted the light blue photo album.

 

Sun looked at it and frowned for a brief second, before shrugging her shoulders. She flipped to the first page. "This was our wedding," she said as she handed the small book to DarkStar. 

 

"Wow," DarkStar commented as she leaned toward Nodoka so she could see as well. "A western ceremony. You made a beautiful bride." Both DarkStar and her mother looked at the group picture and noted the familiar faces of the Senshi.

 

"Thank you," Sun said with a slight blush. "That's my husband, Tenchi, the girl next to me is my sister, the one next to her is Ryoko," Sun's tone changed with the mention of the name, adding an affection to it, "then there's Usagi, Ami,... you probably recognize the rest." 

 

The two Saotome women nodded as they began flipping through the book. "Tenchi is a handsome young man," Nodoka commented as they continued to flip through the book. Though a professional, she found it fascinating to be seeing so many faces that she knew at a event that happened universes away. 

 

DarkStar stopped flipping and lingered over a photo. Nodoka raised an eyebrow, looked at Sun, then back at the picture. DarkStar then rotated the book and mimicked the elder Saotome's motions, looking between Sun and the picture that they were looking at. 

 

This did not go unnoticed by Sun. "What?" she asked. 

 

DarkStar smiled as Nodoka addressed the redhead. "You are very flexible," she said in a approving manner, "and you seem to enjoy Shibari very much." 

 

Sun looked confused for a moment, then her eyes widened. The blue album! With the wedding and honeymoon pictures! "Eeep!" she embarrassingly exclaimed as she made a grab for the book in DarkStar's hands. DarkStar clutched the small book protectively to her chest. 

 

"Hey! I'm getting ideas here," DarkStar said somewhat defensively. She then looked down for a quick peek and whispered, "Very interesting ideas." 

 

Sun's face turned as red as her hair. "Hee, hee, hee," she giggled uncomfortably. "I grabbed the wrong one," she explained. "I meant to show you the red one. Hee, hee, hee.... Can I have those back, er - please?" 

 

Sun should have known better than to carry that around... but it was exciting, fun and kinky at the same the time. 

 

"Don't worry about it," Nodoka reassured. "Ranma, my daughter that is, is a succubus. There's nothing to be embarrassed about." 

 

"A succ-?" Sun began. Part of her thought that might be what DarkStar was, but still... "Err.. Um, I'm not quite sure what that means." Sun did not want to make another faux pause. 

 

"That means she's a sex demon," Nodoka explained while DarkStar carefully examined Sun's honeymoon pictures. "She literally thrives on this, so there is not much that can surprise her." Reading BlackSky's books to the brood had been quite informative on the nature of that species. 

 

"How'd you get your ankles that far back...," DarkStar muttered absently as she paid special attention to one photo. "... and tied that way too..." 

 

Sun's face flushed. 

 

"What about your mother?" Nodoka asked, distracting Sun from her current predicament. "You really should see her."

 

"I know," Sun lamented. "But what if Nabiki lied to me? What if she... hates me." 

 

"You're her child, why should she hate you?" Nodoka asked as DarkStar shifted in her chair, ignoring the two other women. 

 

"Because I'm a girl and pregnant," Sun explained. "That's about as unmanly as you can get." 

 

"Unmanly?" Nodoka questioned. She paused to thank the waitress who placed a slice of pie in front of her and her daughter, who was now jotting some notes down on a napkin.

 

Sun notice this and sweatdropped. "This-" Nodoka continued while motioning to DarkStar, "-isn't very manly." 

 

"Hey!" DarkStar said indignantly. She gave a pretty little pout directed at her mother as she handed the embarrassing photographs back to Sun while pocketing her own notes. 

 

"Well, I'd like to think that she has changed," Sun said as she quickly stuffed the photo album back into her subspace pocket. "I guess I'm just getting cold feet." 

 

"Understandable," Nodoka said after she swallowed a bite of food. "When was the last time you saw her?" 

 

Sun thought a moment. "I haven't seen her in about six years, but she didn't know it was me... so its been... sixteen - seventeen years for her." 

 

"So, you really have no idea how she is today?" Nodoka asked pointedly. 

 

Sun shook her head in admittance. "Only what Nabiki has told me." 

 

"Spy on her," Nodoka suggested as she dug into her pie. "Figure out what she does, how she treats other people. That way you're not going in blind." 

 

"Umm... Mom," DarkStar stressed. 

 

"I can't do that! She's my mom!" Sun objected to Nodoka's idea. 

 

"Why not?" Nodoka countered with a wave of her fork. "You're her daughter." 

 

Sun opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She then sighed heavily.

 

"It doesn't matter," she said. "I've only got," she glanced at her watch, "three hours. I wouldn't have any time to spy on her even if I wanted to." 

 

"Just give her the benefit of the doubt then," DarkStar suggested. 

 

"It's just that- what kind of mother abandons her child?" Sun asked. She was dismayed and embarrassed to find both Nodoka and DarkStar sadly raise their hands.

 

"Oh yeah....." Sun sighed. "Sorry... about... that..." 

 

"And it's not like your mom locked and disowned you. How could she if she never knew who you were?" DarkStar suggested. 

 

"Yeah, you're right. Setsuna was the one who arranged for me to get locked," Sun admitted, "and a lot of other... stuff too..." 

 

"What?" DarkStar's brow furrowed. "She's not that evil. Sure, she made me a demon, but that was because of her incompetence. She wanted me human." 

 

"Well, it was because I had to be totally female and accept who I really was, otherwise I couldn't access my Senshi powers. It was also an emergency at the time," Sun explained.

 

"Setsuna had to break me from my current life to re-awaken me. It pretty much killed who I was, but brought back who I am. She did what she felt was necessary." 

 

Sun notice that her table mates were very quiet, with a glance she was looking upon their horrified faces. "What?" 

 

"She just thought the ends would justify the means? How... monstrous." Nodoka shook her head. 

 

"It wasn't that- okay, it was that bad at first, but I'm now who I was meant to be, what I should have been in the first place," Sun said. "Besides, I forgave her." 

 

"You forgave someone that destroyed your life to turn you into a weapon?" Nodoka was aghast.

 

"It's okay, Mom," DarkStar said with a bit of sarcasm. "Ranma spent a long time living on the streets but eventually she made her own life, so it worked out in the end. So who cares about the means?" she added her voice now dripping with sarcasm 

 

"That's a simplification." Sun glared. 

 

"I see... let me see if I understand all of this correctly," Nodoka said while setting her empty plate aside and looking at Sun with firm eyes. "Setsuna arranged to lock you as a girl and thereby leading to you being disowned by your father." 

 

Sun looked at the older woman briefly before nodding. 

 

"Then you spent lord-knows-how-long living on the streets, barely living just above the level of an animal," Nodoka continued, unrelentedly. "Destroyed the life you had, just so she could have you back - as a weapon..." 

 

Sun looked uncomfortable and showed it by shifting around in her seat.

 

"... and after basically making your life hell, breaking you and remaking you into what she needed - you forgave her?" 

 

Sun sat, biting her lip and looking like she rather be anywhere but there. "Well... yeah... basically... kinda...," she finally said. "But... umm... it's... more complicated.... it's... umm..." 

 

"You forgave Setsuna for her transgressions, yet you can't forgive your own mother." Nodoka interrupted Sun's stammering while taking a sip of her coffee. 

 

Sun's mouth dropped open as she was rendered speechless by the stinging words of the older Saotome woman. As she mentally grappled, trying to find a way out of the corner she found herself in, DarkStar reached over with a dainty hand and casually closed Sun's mouth with a gentle snap. 

 

"Your capacity for forgiveness is.... odd," Nodoka finished with more than a hint of disapproval. 

 

"That's different," Sun finally said in a weakly defensive tone. "It's not that simple! My mother abandoned me! Sure Setsuna ruined the life I had, but I can't hate her... if... I did... if I did..." 

 

"You would have to kill her?" Nodoka asked over the rim of her raised cup.

 

Sun was quiet for what seemed like a long moment before nodding weakly. She had seen first-hand what hate, especially self righteous hate, could do and how dangerous it was. Hate was not an emotion to be taken lightly. 

 

"I don't want to hate." She said as the top of the table seemed very interesting at the moment. "I saw... I've seen what hate can do... to someone like me." 

 

The succubus nervously ran her tongue over her teeth. Among other things, Alexia had given DarkStar her fill of hate, both Alexia's and her own. 

 

The two Saotome women's curiosity was aroused, but they both to set it aside to concentrate on the matter at hand. "Are you going to give your mother at least the chance for forgiveness?" Nodoka asked. 

 

Sun sighed and her shoulders sagged slightly. "Yes. Yes, I will," she said lowly. "You're right," she sighed out in defeat. "If I can forgive Setsuna for what she did to me, I should at least give my mom the chance."

 

Nodoka smiled warmly at the younger woman.

 

"And remember, " DarkStar added. "Even if it doesn't work out, you have friends and family of your own to fall back on. You're not alone."

 

Sun looked across the table at her new... friends? She smiled in amusement at the thought and nodded. "You're right," she agreed. "I'm just being a coward about it. I'll go and see her." 

 

"Good for you," Nodoka chimed as DarkStar smiled broadly.

 

The three women sat in companionable silence for a minute, gazing outside and watching the world go by. The sun was higher in the sky and was now streaming in through a skylight as well as the windows brightening the interior of the cafe. Each woman was lost in her own thoughts.

 

"So, Ranma tells me you're a scientist," Sun said breaking the silence before it became awkward. "What do you do?" 

 

If Nodoka was alarmed or suspicious of the question, she did not show it. Instead, she was prepared to answer such things in broad terms. "When Genma disappeared with Ranma, I joined WIC. This was all after I got my Doctorate in Materials Science," she said in a conversational tone. "I do research into developing armor and weapons." 

 

"What school did you go to?" Sun asked, propping her head up with her arm braced against the table. She was fascinated with this version of her mother.

 

The officer was clearly intelligent, articulate, and very accepting of her demonic daughter. There was also a grim and pragmatic aspect to her. Sun was reminded of a play she read in college. Not only was Nodoka aware of the Sword of Damocles, but she seemed to know exactly how thin the thread holding it up was. 

 

"Tokyo University," Nodoka answered. 

 

Sun smiled broadened. "Tokyo U?" she said merrily. "I just graduated from there not long ago. I got my degree with a major in chemistry."

 

"Really now?" Nodoka said in a somewhat delightful tone. "How marvelous, how did you do?" 

 

"Well, I like to say I was the top of my class, but I made a few mistakes here and there and ended up fifth in my class in my major," Sun replied. "You know what was really cool? I was - well with my powers, I was able to see the chemical interactions on a molecular level. It was so cool!" 

 

Nodoka smiled as she finished taking a sip of coffee. "One of the things I'm finding pleasure in is the challenge of making materials that resist energy claws." She was also designing demon-specific weapons both bladed and ranged, but her guest need not know that. 

 

DarkStar's eyes started to glaze over as boredom started to set in. She would be more interested if her mother was talking about weapons for her daughters, that was always interesting . The brood mother idly wondered if she could get that photo album back from Sun. 

 

"Energy claws?" Sun mused aloud. "Unfortunately, the only way to have matter that's resistant to energy is to either have it dense enough," Sun paused as she thought over the problem more, "or if the atomic binding between the molecules is being reinforced by another energy field."

 

"Look at it from a logistics standpoint," Nodoka said thoughtfully. "Armor that is dense enough to resist energy claws would be too heavy to carry. You could rely on an energy field to make lighter armor as strong as heavier ones, but - well... batteries are finite and it wouldn't do to have dead batteries in a combat situation." And WIC troopers carried enough electronic equipment already.

 

DarkStar's boredom was complete as she stared off into space, looking out into the street through the window, but not really seeing anything. The two older women continued to "talk shop". 

 

"If the armor has to resist the energy blades and has to be light enough to be carried, then you have to go with some type of reinforcing field," Sun countered. "True, there is the power supply situation, but-" 

 

"That's for total resistance," Nodoka interrupted; she was clearly enjoying the conversation. "You are overlooking dissipation. You can have the right refraction and have it weaken the field. The trick isn't to block the energy, but to make it lose coherence." 

 

"Like how a bullet-proof vest dissipates the energy of a bullet," Sun said, grasping at what Nodoka was getting at. She blinked and looked at Nodoka. "Wow. Against an energy weapon? I mean - wow, that is a challenge." Sun then turned to the spaced out DarkStar. "What do you think?"

 

DarkStar blinked a few times before coming back to the here and now. "Um... I'm just a line grunt?" She blinked a few more times. "Mom's stuff is great though. Saves a lot of agent's lives."

 

Sun blinked at DarkStar. "I take you're not majoring in chemistry."

 

DarkStar shook her head. "I have to get out of high school first."

 

"Oh yeah, I forgot," Sun said. "This is six years in the past - that is your universe is six years behind mine." 

 

DarkStar shrugged her shoulders. "I don't really understand the science behind it, but Ucchan does like those guns you made for her, and Misa practically sleeps with hers." Which was a bit of a problem given that the IGMG weighed about a hundred pounds in total, and that the brood slept as one group.

 

Sun looked between DarkStar and Nodoka. "You can magically enhance your guns?" 

 

"Just the ammunition," Nodoka said while motioning to the waitress for more coffee. She was a bit disappointed that this girl immediately thought to magic for enhancement. There were other ways, did not their talk about armor just show that?

 

"When I was first awakened, the Senshi infused some of their power into ordinary guns," Sun mentioned casually. "It turned them into real demon stoppers." 

 

"Yeah," DarkStar agreed while rubbing her chest and side. "Anti-demon weapons are... effective." 

 

Sun noted this and decided to change the subject slightly. "Are you going to go to university and follow in your mother's footsteps?" 

 

DarkStar looked into her older near-twin's eyes. "No... I'd rather... find someone and settle down and concentrate on teaching." 

 

Sun cocked her head, not quite understanding. 

 

"It's okay," Nodoka said while patting her daughter's hand. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a... homemaker." 

 

Sun realized what was meant and smiled. "You know, I never thought about it, but I'm heading that way myself. Not that I'm complaining." 

 

"My kids are everything to me," DarkStar said with conviction. "I still do my freelance work. Hmmm... I could train agents more regularly."

 

"Don't forget your singing," Nodoka reminded. 

 

"Mom... that's just a hobby," DarkStar countered. "It's not serious." 

 

"Singing? Oooo... I love to sing," Sun added happily. "Every weekend my husband and I still hit the karoke bar. You?" 

 

"Uh... I usually do a couple sets, a night or two a week at the 'Red Turtle', " DarkStar answered. "Um, that's an agent and succubus bar."

 

"That's cool," Sun said. "I don't go out as much as I used to. Since I got married I've, er, that is, I've been doing other things," she finished with a slight blush. 

 

"Yes... I'm now single. Unfortunately," DarkStar sadly said. 

 

Sun looked at Nodoka and back at DarkStar, who was starting to fall into a funk. Looking back at Nodoka, it was as if an unplanned plot was being hatched between the two. 

 

"Maybe there is something we can do," Sun ventured. "I mean, surely you have someone in mind. There was that long shot you mentioned." 

 

"If not," Nodoka interjected, "I could compile a list of candidates."

 

"Oooo... who? Who?" Sun asked eagerly. 

 

"Just no Jarvis, Mom," DarkStar said with a cringe. "He's a good guy, a great friend, but... I mean he... I think he wants to be a succubus... and not as a mate."

 

"But don't you want someone who will accept you for who you are?" Sun asked. 

 

"Well, yeah," DarkStar uncomfortably said. "That's a big part of it. But he's kinda... kinda of that ilk - I mean given his job." 

 

"His job?" Sun queried. 

 

"His job is information extraction and command," DarkStar answered with a chill in her voice. "I can respect his reasons for wanting to get rid of his humanity though..." 

 

"Er, I don't think I quite understand, but if you're not comfortable with him, then he's a no-go," Sun said agreeably. "But you were saying something before your mom showed up." 

 

DarkStar shifted under the gaze of her table mates. She sighed. "Umm... Usagi... but that's too much of a long shot. I need someone who can accept me and... eventually... is willing to give up their humanity." 

 

"Usagi?" Sun said with surprise. "Ol' meatball-head?" she added with an affectionate smile. "But what about Mamoru?"

 

"He died," DarkStar shrugged. "His death was what awakened me in the first place. It was the start of all this mess. I was the backup." 

 

"Oh," Sun blinked. That changed things. "Well, she's a good person in my world. Strong-willed, too." 

 

DarkStar was clearly distracted and softly thinking aloud. "The way she handled those cultists... ," she whispered. "She was covered in blood and her eyes... in that moment I saw..." her voice trailed off as she looked at the table top. 

 

Nodoka leaned toward her daughter. "Have you talked to her?" 

 

Blinking as her mother's question registered, she cleared her throat. "Um, not since the mall." 

 

The two women studied the demon as she appeared lost in thought again. The talk of being covered in blood was a bit disturbing, but the emotions that were betrayed in the demon's behavior were unmistakable.

 

"Man, you have it bad," Sun said. "Have you at least asked her for a date?" 

 

"No... no not yet. I was... Kasumi," DarkStar sadly said. "And she's dealing with Ami right now." She let a bitter chuckle escape. "Who would have thought Janet, well..  Naru, and Ami would turn evil, be turned evil?" 

 

"Ami? Evil?" Sun said, surprise clearly in her voice.

 

DarkStar chuckled again with very little humor in it. "Putting on a black corset and beating up the Senshi – well that ain't much when there's a squad of demonic Senshi."

 

She raised her eyes to meet Sun's. "Usagi wants me to hold back - she doesn't want Ami to be turned by me... or killed... nor Naru neither. She wants to save them herself." 

 

Sun took DarkStar's hands into her own and gave then a sympathetic squeeze. "I won't pretend to understand what's going on, but if you care about Usagi, you should be there for her. You seem to have someone in your corner," the last said while sharing a look at Nodoka. "You can be there for Usagi like that." 

 

"I'm trying to help her, I've dealt with stuff like this before," DarkStar sighed out. "But she's... You know who Naru was... is? It turns out that Usagi's best friend from before... well she was taken and changed. Changed into a girl that fell in love with Ami." 

 

"Oh my!" Sun exclaimed. "Ami must feel terrible." 

 

Nodoka was well versed in the situation between Ami and the other scouts, so remained silent. She instead used the time to study the interaction between the two Ranmas. They were oddly complementary. 

 

"She would if she wasn't so enamored with being a Dark Mercury," DarkStar continued with another dark chuckle. "Of course... Sailor Dark Mercury is nothing compared to Sailor DarkStar." 

 

"Power is seductive," Sun said in a lost voice. "That's something I can tell you for certain." The tone in Sun's voice called to DarkStar and Nodoka.

 

"It's almost like a living thing that worms into heart and soul." Sun paused a moment. "I know about power. I hope Ami walks away from it... she won't regret it." 

 

"Yeah... you see.... Ami was brainwashed," DarkStar corrected. "She wasn't seduced by power. She was seduced by something more... well... powerful, love." 

 

The two women sat, hands still joined, pondering the problems that faced them. Nodoka sat and marveled on how different and how much alike the two were. 

 

"So...," Sun said breaking the silence, "back on the subject. When are you going to make a move on Usagi?" 

 

"I can't go too fast," DarkStar said. "I don't want her to think it's my powers seducing her. It has to be real." 

 

"But you haven't told her how you feel?" Nodoka asked, rejoining the conversation. 

 

"No," DarkStar answered. "Of course not. I had... I thought I had Kasumi... and, that is, I'm a demon and she's... she's..." 

 

"You need to tell her," Sun said. All this talking had finally taken its toll and she motioned toward the waitress. "You at least owe her that much." 

 

"I can't tell her," DarkStar complained, "I'm just getting over Kasumi, Usagi has her hands full with Ami and Naru, and-" 

 

"You're scared," Sun interrupted. 

 

"I'm not scared," DarkStar defensively said.

 

Sun gave DarkStar a smirk as she sipped her just served tea. "You're lying." 

 

DarkStar looked at Sun with slight surprise before giving her a pretty pout. Nodoka laughed and clapped her hands with glee as her daughter started to blush at the unwelcome attention. 

 

Sun giggled lightly and looked at Nodoka with mischief in her eyes. "You know maybe we should take matters into our own hands." 

 

"Yes," Nodoka mirthfully said. "It would probably be very beneficial for my daughter to move on with her life." 

 

DarkStar was dismayed at what was unfolding before her. It was like watching a horrible accident in slow motion - one that you were powerless to prevent. It had to be a bad dream. 

 

Sun stood up, nearly spilling some of her tea as she did. DarkStar was surprised and further dismayed as her mother mimicked Sun's actions.

 

"It's Ranma's -" 

 

 

" - and Nodoka's: -"

 

" - Operation: Get DarkStar a date!" 

 

The two standing women howled in laughter, drawing curious looks from everyone in the cafe, civilians and agents alike. As the laughter died down the two women were facing an empty chair that once housed DarkStar. Blinking, they looked at one another and then back at the vacant chair just in time to see DarkStar's head poke up from under the tabletop. 

 

"Scary..." she whimpered, her eyes shifting between her mother and the other redhead. 

 

*************** 

 

"I wonder what that was all about," commented Morrison as he looked at the trio of women cackling in laughter. 

 

Andrea smiled. "I think they're working on Red's love life." 

 

Morrison shook his head. He'd never understand women. Through his shirt, He idly fingered the "D" stamped into his dog tags, knowing his luck he might get a chance to understand.... 

 

*************** 

 

"Sit back down, Honey," Nodoka said with laughter still in her voice. "We were just having fun." 

 

"It's too far fetched," DarkStar sighed as she reclaimed her seat. "I mean... she's the Moon Princess. Line of Serenity, and I'm a demon." She dropped and looked at the table. 

 

"If you have feelings for her.... it doesn't matter," Sun reassured. 

 

DarkStar looked her in the eye. "You're a Sailor Senshi. What would you do if a demon came sniffing around the princess and wanted her?"

 

Sun bit her lower lip as she thought a moment. It probably was not what DarkStar wanted to hear, but she had to be honest. "I - or the other Senshi in MY universe would do everything to prevent that - unless Usagi said otherwise," she answered as carefully as possible.

 

"Gee, thanks. So for your Usagi it's no, but mine's fine?" 

 

"Hey, I said if Usagi said it was all right. Besides, mine's married. Yours is a widow," Sun reminded. "Things are different here, so that doesn't count." 

 

"How do you know that?" DarkStar asked in a pressing way. "How do you know what the Senshi are like here?" 

 

"Because you haven't mentioned having to kill any of them yet," Sun shot back.

 

"I owe Setsuna for that one." DarkStar stated flatly. "She actually explained to them what I was, and I guess it helped. But you're forgetting something. I haven't shown too much of an interest in her. What if when I try to make my move Rei or someone blasts me? What if it divides the Senshi? Well… divides them even more." 

 

"Look," she continued on in a patient manner, "what's important is are you going to let a chance of finding love go by you?" 

 

DarkStar sat and looked at her other self. "But... you'd stop if it was yours...." Sighing, she shook her head. "I can't... not yet." 

 

"Lord," Sun exclaimed, "I hope I wasn't this unreasonable about seeing my mother." 

 

"Yes you were," Nodoka said in bemusement. She then chuckled. "You two are so much alike, it's amazing." 

 

She was answered by two pouting Ranmas. Nodoka covered her mouth as she giggled at the sight, but it did lighten the mood considerably. The three relaxed a bit into their seats as each quietly sipped their drinks. A companionable silence fell as a sense of camaraderie was felt between them.

 

"So daughter-" Nodoka said in a way only mothers could master. DarkStar herself was proficient, but still not as skilled as Nodoka. "-what are you going to do?"

 

DarkStar sat and pondered. "I have... I need to move slowly," she said. Sun opened her mouth to say something, but was stopped by DarkStar's upheld hand. "It's important to me that Usagi's feelings for me are real and not something made by my influence." 

 

Sun nodded, even if she didn't fully understand the whole meaning behind what DarkStar just said. "There's nothing wrong with slow," she agreed. "Hell, when I fell for Tenchi, I wasn't even looking." She paused and looked at DarkStar. "So what do you have planned?"

 

DarkStar sighed softly. "I don't know. What am I supposed to do? Walk up to her and ask her if we could go out for lunch or something? 

 

"Well that would be a start," Sun deadpanned. 

 

"You don't want to be too clever," Nodoka cautioned. 

 

"But how can I even approach her?" DarkStar asked, looking at Sun in the eye. "She has nightmares about being with me." 

 

"Nightmares? About you? Are they nightmares or... wet dreams?" Sun asked boldly.

 

"Er, both," DarkStar admitted. "Also she was influenced a bit to fall for me... stupid Murdock." 

 

There was a pause as Sun considered something. "Tuxedo Highflyer?" she asked. 

 

"No, the same guy who corrupted Ami and Naru," DarkStar answered, looking confused, but she let it pass. Nodoka gave Sun a blank stare and shook her head slightly. Sun noticed the looks and shrugged her shoulders. Maybe the Alpha Guard didn't exist here. 

 

"Doesn't matter," Sun said with a frustrated wave of her hand. She then leaned toward the demon. "Does it change the way Usagi feels about you... or how you feel about her?" 

 

"Yes, yes it would!" DarkStar growled. "That's what I was trying to say." 

 

"Calm down, dear," Nodoka advised putting her hand on her daughter's shoulder. 

 

"But do you know? It sounds like you're using that as your excuse," Sun pointed. 

 

"I - I guess it is an excuse," DarkStar finally admitted after considering how smooth the table top was. "But I can't take advantage of her," she said looking up, "not if what she feels isn't real." 

 

"How do you know that what she's feeling is real or not and how she really feels about you?" Sun pressed. "Maybe she is just as interested in you, but is just as scared." 

 

DarkStar looked down on the table's surface again. "She did... she just lost her lover... and I guess she could be scared." She looked up with a firm look. "I guess it couldn't hurt... I have to be slow." 

 

"Are you that afraid of love?" Sun asked. She would never have guessed that a sex demon would be so hesitant. 

 

"Yes. Love is powerful. Love changes people," DarkStar pointed to a photograph of her children. "Literally and permanently for my kind. My girls weren't always like this. I helped them as best as I could and that meant some things had to be let go. Love saves too. It saved their lives... their souls."

 

Sun paused. A demon talking about souls.... but her twin had a point. For a sex demon love was more primal, and more... dangerous.

 

"I held back around Kasumi, and even then she felt that I was pushing her, forcing her to commit," DarkStar's hands shook. "It was just so easy to see her as my mate. We had sex, sex as lovers, not as a demon feeding on a human." 

 

"Explain to her, Usagi may understand," Sun offered. 

 

"You're not getting it are you?" DarkStar sighed. "If Usagi and I start dating then what?" 

 

"Get married?" Sun said hopefully. 

 

"Oh, I see," Nodoka noted as she gently put down the mug she was about to sip from. 

DarkStar nodded sadly. 

 

"What?" Sun inquired. 

 

"You said you and your Senshi friends would only back off if Usagi agreed to the demon's advances. But what if... what if somehow-" DarkStar smiled despite herself. 

 

Sun looked at DarkStar with a look of incomprehension on her face. She then remembered one of the reasons Kasumi broke up with Ranma. Her eyes slowly widened as realization struck her. "Oh God."

 

DarkStar frowned at the last word. "Yes, can you imagine your princess like that? Like this?" DarkStar said showing her fangs. Her expression faltered and she leaned onto her mother. "At least your species isn't the embodiment of female lust." 

 

"It's okay," Nodoka comforted. "It's okay." 

 

"I think my husband would disagree with you on that point," Sun quipped a bit glibly, and then paused as she truly studied the display. It was too much Usagi... doing that, but true love....

 

"It will be okay, if it is true love," Sun reaffirmed. "Then... then it will overcome any obstacle." 

 

Keeping her head on her mother's side, DarkStar looked over at Sun. Her eyes were suspicious and Sun noted how predatory they really were.

 

"Love, true love finds a way. It always does," Sun assured in a voice barely above a whisper as she turned and peered out the window. "It always has." 

 

The two Saotome women studied the other as a quite moment stretched on. 

 

"Voice of experience?" DarkStar softly asked as she basked in the warmth of her mother's embrace. 

 

Sun continued to look out the window. After a slight hesitation, she answered the question with a jerky nod. 

 

"Wanna talk about it?" 

 

Sun faced the two, who were still embraced, and smiled thinly. "Maybe later," she said with a hint of something undefined in her voice. "Right now let's talk about you." 

 

"What? What about me?" DarkStar asked as she lifted her head up. 

 

"Well, why do you have an interest in Usagi? Is it just physical?" Sun inquired. 

 

"You two do have stuff in common," Nodoka interjected. 

 

"You both lost someone," Sun ventured. 

 

"There's that," Nodoka smiled. "You're both single mothers. You both have groups of Senshi you're in charge of. You've had daughters turned evil. There's also your willingness to do what is right no matter the personal cost." 

 

DarkStar smiled slightly. "I... guess."

 

Sun noted other similarities. The emotional displays and raw affection were similar too. "You respect her, don't you?" 

 

"Well of course," DarkStar raised an eyebrow. "I've seen her fight, and how much she cares for her girls." 

 

"Does she respect you?" Sun inquired before sipping her tea. 

 

"I have no idea," DarkStar pouted.

 

"Perhaps you should try and find out," Nodoka suggested. "There are two ways to approach the problem: Direct and subtle." 

 

"Mom, I'm not spying on Usagi. I'd come across as a stalker," DarkStar said with a hint of frustration in her voice.

 

"Then that leaves the direct method: Ask her," Nodoka stated. 

 

DarkStar sighed. She looked at her mother and then to her human twin. "I'm not getting out of this until I promise to talk to Usagi am I?"

 

She was answered by two shaking heads.

 

DarkStar sighed again, then remained silent for a few moments. "Okay, I'll talk to her - But not right now. I'm still getting over Kasumi and I don't want to distract Usagi while she is dealing with Ami." 

 

Sun nodded. "Okay, fair enough," she said, "but you will be there for her in case she needs you?"

 

"Of course, I will," DarkStar said, slightly offended. "I don't leave my friends when they need me the most." 

 

Sun smiled back at DarkStar. At least they were getting somewhere. Silence revisited the table as all three women took sips of their drinks and shared looks. 

 

*************** 

 

"Looks like things are winding down," Morrison commented as he shifted in his chair. His butt was getting sore from all the sitting.

 

Andrea smirked.

 

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

 

"Can I ask you something?" Nodoka said in a pleasant voice. "I noticed in your photographs that none of the Tendo girls were present." 

 

Sun thought a moment before answering. "That's because I haven't seen any of them in the last six years," Sun replied. "They - turned their backs on me." 

 

"Oh dear, that doesn't sound like the girls I know," Nodoka said after emptying her cup and motioning for the waitress. "They're all such nice girls." 

 

"Well... I was engaged to Akane," Sun said. "She was a real tomboy-type and she always seemed to want to help whether she was capable or not. Kasumi was a very sweet, typical Japanese-house wife type, and Nabiki was a gold-digging bitch that would have sold me into prostitution if she had the chance."

 

"I couldn't imagine being engaged to Akane," DarkStar chimed, "and your Nabiki... Well mine went though...." she shook her head. "Your Tendos seem a lot different than mine. I mean your Kasumi.... no military, not even police?" 

 

Sun blinked, and sipped her drink. "No.... not unless she had a breakdown or something. It has been six years, but Nabiki didn't mention anything." 

 

"That's what got my- our - Kasumi into WIC in the first place." DarkStar shrugged. "But engaged... to Akane?" 

 

"Well Akane wasn't bad - she wasn't afraid to show her disapproval, though," Sun said with a smirk. "It was just that... when I needed help the most... when I got stuck as a girl permanently... when Genma," she spat the name, "disowned me... no one helped me."

 

"It's funny," DarkStar said absently. "When I first was locked as a demon, there was one guy that helped me... stupid Murdock - but later on, after I... finished... with Alexia, I ended up locked and not really caring."

 

 The demon smirked. "I didn't even notice I was locked until Ucchan asked me about it. Kasumi seemed to take it harder than me." Her expression soured. "Guess she wanted the human me." 

 

Sun smirked. "Nothing wrong with being a girl." 

 

"True, so true," DarkStar said dryly in a fake English accent. 

 

The two girls giggled.

 

"It is horrible that the Tendo girls turned their backs on you though," Nodoka said in a disappointed way. "What good is someone if you can't depend on them when it counts?"

 

Sun sighed. "To be fair, I think the Tendo girls were surprised by what Genma did. I know they knew that Genma wanted me to marry their father to join the damned schools, but I can't honestly say that they thought he'd go as far as throwing me out. I don't know... I think maybe they thought that me getting locked was something that would work itself out like all the other messes that I got into." 

 

"Other messes?" DarkStar asked. 

 

"Yes, my life back then... It was a mess - multiple engagements, and a constant stream of piddling little adventures," Sun smirked. 

 

"Ick, that kind nonsense must have worn you down," DarkStar stated. 

 

"You have no idea." 

 

"But, are you going to visit them?" Nodoka asked. "At least to get some closure?"

 

Sun lifted the almost empty cup to her mouth and paused. "I'll see them today along with my mother," she said before completing the motion with the cup.

 

Nodoka nodded in an approving way as Sun finished her tea. 

 

"Well, we talked about me," DarkStar said, "We talked about you," she continued while looking at Sun, "now we going to talk about you, Mother dear." 

 

Nodoka blinked at her daughter. "Me? I'm perfectly fine, Dear."

 

"Right," DarkStar snorted. "You've been alone for ten years - is there someone you're interested in?" 

 

Nodoka looked at her daughter and Sun. They both had the same scheming look in their eyes. It was right then she knew she was in trouble. "I'm a WIC officer. I'm...."

 

"Not allowed to have romance?" DarkStar laughed. "I know for a fact that the Company's not that restrictive." 

 

"Does anyone interest you? Any hobbies?" Sun asked inquisitively.

 

"I have my work and my family," Nodoka quietly said. For a long time she just had work.

 

DarkStar reached out to her mother. "Don't you want someone for your own?" 

 

"I have you and my grandchildren," Nodoka said with a smile. "I don't need anything else." 

 

"Mom," DarkStar began in a half-pleading way, "you've been alone for too long. I know you don't need a mate like I do, but you should have someone." 

 

Nodoka hugged her daughter. "I guess, but... I've...." She looked into her daughter's violet eyes. "I'll think about it." 

 

"That's all I ask," DarkStar said as she untangled herself from her mother. "Well guys," she said as she rose from her chair. "If you excuse me, I gotta use the powder room." 

 

The two seated women watched as the demon-Ranma made her way toward the back of the cafe where the restrooms were located. Once she had gone, Sun turned to Nodoka. "Can I ask you a question? It's rather personal. You don't have to answer if you don't want to." 

 

"That depends on the question," Nodoka said.

 

"Well... it's more about Nariko," Sun paused. "What... what happened to her?"

 

Nodoka looked up at the bathroom door where her daughter had left too. "I suppose you can hear this. Nariko... Nariko was Ranma's first. This was back when my daughter still thought her demonic body was just a costume with creepy powers. Even after turning someone she didn't know what she was. Nariko was dying. Ranma saved her life." 

 

Sun nodded. She could understand that desire to clutch onto your manhood. "So Nariko was a human, what happened?"

 

"I guess I should explain a bit about how succubae work," Nodoka's tone shifted to that of a lecturing scientist... "A newly turned succubus is a very delicate thing. Dependent on support by her mother. New body, new urges, a fragile young mind. A new succubus needs a guiding force to help deal with it all." 

 

"And DarkStar...." Sun felt cold at the realization. 

 

"Yes, she saw 'Nariko' as a reminder of her inhumanity. The poor girl's affections annoyed her, especially given who she was.. Ranma tried to help... by trying to cure her, but she wasn't being a mother. Motherhood was the last thing Ranma wanted then." 

 

"What happened? And who was Nariko?" 

 

"Was there a Tatewaki Kuno where you're from?"

 

"The sweet and nice girl? Kuno's Nariko?!" Sun felt even more of the universe fall out below her. "My God, Kuno's got both Akane and Ranma." 

 

"Yes," Nodoka nodded. "Akane and Nariko are mates. Nariko saved Akane's life... but that's another story." 

 

Sun blinked a few times.

 

"As I was saying, new succubae are very dependant on their mothers. Without a mother helping them grow and nursing them... they get damaged. Their bodies weaken and their minds... get worse." 

 

"Not that Kuno had much of one to start with," Sun commented before almost physically being knocked back by the elder Saotome's glare. 

 

"You have no idea what he... she went through. Nariko has more strength in her than anyone I've ever seen and never ever stopped believing in her mother. She's why my daughter became who she is, she saved Ranma. Then there's what she went through with all that Eclipse crap," Nodoka said very sternly while staring down the younger woman. "Nariko's father helped as best as he could, and I'm sure it saved her, but Nariko wanted her mother. She needed her mother." 

 

Sun was glad she had waited until DarkStar had left to ask her question. She swallowed, and bent under the elder Saotome woman's gaze. It was piercing and something she was not used to, not since her grandmother.

 

"I-I'm sorry... I didn't mean to offend," Sun apologized while deeply bowing. Though she didn't stick her foot in her mouth as much as she used to, Sun still had the occasional tendency of saying the wrong things. "I didn't realize... I'm sorry..." 

 

"Neither did Ranma at the time," Nodoka said more gently, her eyes softening. "But it still hurt Nariko."

 

"But DarkStar figured it out, eventually," Sun offered. "But I guess some of the... damage was irreversible?" 

 

Nodoka sipped her coffee. "Yes, Ranma came to me. Eventually, she realized what she was, and what her responsibilities were. I had to agree with her, it was scary, but it was the right thing to do." 

 

"You encouraged her to become a mother?" 

 

Nodoka laughed. "My dear, she already was a mother."

 

"Did Nariko forgive her for what DarkStar did to her?"

 

The officer paused to think things over. "I don't think she ever blamed Ranma. Nariko was just happy to have her Mommy, and Ranma... well her body finally meant something."

 

"She wasn't kidding when she said motherhood changes people." 

 

"Not in the slightest. Ranma lives for her children. I'm amazed the things she's done to help them. I wish... I wish I could have been half the mother she is. There's more I could..." 

 

"What are you talking about? You're her anchor." Sun pointed to the empty seat that was next to Nodoka's. "I've seen how she is around you. She goes to you for advice and support." 

 

"She did spend half the night crying in my lap after she killed her first human," Nodoka noted. 

 

"Huh?" Sun knew she did not hear that right; she couldn't have. 

 

"He was a sniper who shot Ukyou. DarkStar tried block it, and lost most of her side doing it. He would have picked off the rest of her children and the agents with them if she hadn't stopped him."

 

"But he was... human. Did she have to?"

 

"Not all monsters have fangs," Nodoka stated. "DarkStar was protecting her young, and she literally needed her pound of flesh." 

 

Sun's hand went to her stomach. Thinking of her yet-to-be born child, she found it easy to think of killing anyone or anything to protect it. She was starting to understand those maternal drives, and DarkStar was a demonic mother.

 

 "But... this proves my point. You accepted your daughter fully. Even after she...," Sun finished with a wave of her hand. "I was just trying to make it up to my daughter." 

 

Sun nodded in understanding and paused for a moment. "I've got another question," she stated. "Don't worry... it's not as serious." 

 

"Yes?" 

 

"What did you see in Genma in the first place?" Sun asked. "I mean, I'm not sure how your Genma is here, but it seems he caused about as much trouble as mine did. Why did you pick him?"

 

Nodoka studied the younger redhead across from her. She furrowed her brow in thought before speaking. "He had a passion for life, and, in his own way, a sense of direction and purpose. He seemed to know exactly where he was going, even if he didn't know how to get there. In his way he was... kind. The sex was also very good, and he seemed willing to raise our child while I worked," Nodoka laughed bitterly.

 

Sun was sitting and musing over the older woman's answer when DarkStar returned to the table. "Whew," she said casually. "I feel much better." 

 

Nodoka smirked a bit at DarkStar's behavior. "Now that you have brought that to my attention, if you'll excuse me," Nodoka said as she rose from her seat and walked the path that DarkStar had earlier.

 

"Your mom is still married to Genma?" Sun asked DarkStar once the older women was gone.

 

"Yes," DarkStar answered with a shrug. "What about it?" Genma had been a lot better lately, but DarkStar knew there was no chance of her parents getting back together. The best she could hope for would be them to act civil with each other. 

 

"How can she move on with her life if she is still connected to him?" Sun asked pointedly. "She should have ditched his ass years ago." 

 

DarkStar nodded. "What does that have to do with anything?" 

 

Sun rolled her eyes.

 

"I'm sorry," DarkStar sighed. "But Mom's been separated for ten years already."

 

Sun considered that. "All the more reason to convince her to move on with her life by divorcing Genma, formally." 

 

"Yeah," DarkStar thought aloud, "She might go for that. It won't really be much. It would be a step in the right direction." 

 

"Hey, they say that a journey of a thousand miles, starts with the first step'," Sun said trying to sound sage.

 

DarkStar smirked. It was easy to sound wise, especially when teaching. 

 

"It may not be really much at the moment, but it would free her up if someone did strike her fancy in the future."

 

DarkStar smiled. "And there would be really nothing for mom to object to, either." 

 

Sun smiled. The goal was set and the plot was easily hatched; Nodoka wouldn't have a chance.

 

Just as the two were about to continue discussing their scheme, Nodoka returned and reclaimed her seat across from Sun. "As you put it daughter: much better," she smirked at DarkStar. 

 

Sun giggled at DarkStar's slightly pinking complexion, which stood out even more against her pale skin. That was when it was nature's turn to call upon her. 

 

"Wait," DarkStar said as Sun excused herself, "while you're in there, can I have another look at that photo album?" 

 

Sun paused and almost tipped over her feet at the request. "What?!"

 

"What do you mean 'what'?" DarkStar asked. "It's only sex. You're not embarrassed are you? Sex is very natural." 

 

Sun hesitated and looked to Nodoka for support, but none was forthcoming. "Er...," Sun began, only to be derailed by DarkStar's puppy dog eyes... and there was nothing more pitiful than those purple eyes filled with hope. "Oh what the heck," Sun gave in while reaching into her sub space pocket. "Here, you've already seen them." 

 

DarkStar took the album with all the enthusiasm of a child with a new toy on Christmas day. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she said happily as she immediately poured over the photos. 

 

Sun sweatdropped at the demon's behavior. Seeing that Nodoka wasn't a least fazed by her daughter acting this way, she chalked it up to the differences in this universe and hers. Heading toward the back of the cafe, she was unaware that she was being followed. 

 

*************** 

 

"She's heading for the restrooms," Morrison pointed out. 

 

"I'm already on it," Andrea said while rising from her seat. She moved quickly and subtlety followed the redhead into the ladies room. Besides, she needed to go herself. 

 

*************** 

 

Once Sun was in the restroom, DarkStar leaned back in her chair and looked at the lone agent who was parked across the room. "Hey Morrison!" she called while waving the blue book with one hand. "You got your camera? I want copies of this stuff!" 

 

"Ranma!" Nodoka admonished. "Don't talk to the surveillance agents!" 

 

"But mom...," DarkStar started to whine, but was interrupted by catching a small, digital camera.

 

"Thanks!" she called out to the agent who was desperately trying to go back to being inconspicuous. 

 

"Dear...," Nodoka began sternly, but was derailed by DarkStar asking, "Can you hold this flat for me please?" 

 

Nodoka sighed and held the book's covers flat as DarkStar focused and snapped a few photos, giggling with glee all while doing so. "This is great, isn't it?" DarkStar asked while flipping a page and waited for Nodoka to hold it open for her. "I gotta try some of this." 

 

"W-what are you doing?" Sun's shocked voice of stammered out, heralding her return. 

 

"Research," DarkStar answered merrily while taking another shot. 

 

"B-but what -?" Sun began indignantly. "That's mine! I didn't mean for you to-" 

 

"That's why I'm making a copy," DarkStar said, cutting off Sun's objection. "But you're going to have to explain this one to me," she said while pointing at the photo she had just snapped a shot of. "How'd you manage to get into that position?" 

 

Sun mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water before DarkStar's words registered.

 

"A copy!" she half-shrieked. 

 

"Yeah," DarkStar answered distractedly. "My kids would love to see these." 

 

"Your kids?" Sun's hands spasmed. She thought of Akane and Nariko giggling over these photographs while they readied some rope and other toys. 

 

"They're succubae too, you know." DarkStar laughed. "Say, would you like a video of my stuff?" She leaned back in her chair once again and called across the cafe. "Hey! Did you guys record that time with me and Kasumi when we were in the den?"

 

"Thank goodness I left my tapes at home," Sun muttered, trying to tune DarkStar's naughty request out. She felt the beginnings of a headache. 

 

"I told you she was okay with this stuff," a clearly amused Nodoka said. 

 

"And you weren't kidding," Sun said as she rubbed her temples with her hands as she sat back down. 

 

DarkStar pouted at the two. "Well I happen to like these," she said while returning the photo album to Sun. "They're very passionate and imaginative. I can't wait to try them myself." 

 

Sun boggled at the sight of a very happy sex demon. It might not have been food, but the pictures were like a menu that made DarkStar long for more variety in her diet - a variety that she was now more than ready to explore. At least there was an upside to this: DarkStar had yet another reason to find a mate. 

 

Sun noted that the camera disappeared somewhere on DarkStar's person and wondered for a brief moment if it was worth the argument. She eventually decided to shrug it off. 

"Er, thanks... I think," Sun said. Something did not sit right. "Wait.... who were you talking to about recording your sex stuff?" 

 

"Um, you remember earlier when I told you we were being monitored?" DarkStar said.

"You mean we're still being watched?" Sun asked in a whisper, leaning forward. Her eyes now shifted around the room. 

 

"Let's see... WIC Toronto's trump card, their top scientist, and some unknown Pattern Silver that just teleported in... yep," DarkStar said conversationally, "we're being watched." 

 

"That's kinda creepy," Sun said. "They're not going to do anything... rash, are they?" 

 

"Rash?" Nodoka said with a raised eyebrow. "Dear, they've managed not to do anything rash around my daughter and granddaughters. I also outrank everyone here..." 

 

"That's good...," Sun said, relaxing a bit. 

 

"... so unless you are planning on doing something worse than gutting a screaming man and feasting on his liver, you have nothing to worry about," Nodoka finished. 

 

DarkStar nervously coughed. 

 

"I don't like liver," Sun said before blinking. She then realized what Nodoka had just said. It fit with the earlier story about that sniper. "Eww." She paled and her hands went to protect her baby. She then turned to DarkStar. "You... you... didn't?" Sun assumed that Ranma merely drained people, like the demons in her universe did, not... literally eat them. 

 

"What do you want to hear?" DarkStar said as she gently deposited her teacup. "You know I'm a demon but you don't know it. You haven't seen me fight, and I hope you never do." That WIC agents were unfazed by seeing her fight and feed was comforting, if a bit creepy.

 

"I guess you'll telling me I'm better off not knowing." Sun stated. 

 

"We're in a war," Nodoka interjected. "An ugly, secret war." She sighed. "I'm guessing the Senshi where you're from never had to fight humans." 

 

"I don't think the Senshi had to fight any humans, but I can't be sure," Sun admitted. "I was only - reawakened late - because of a mass invasion." 

 

Nodoka held her peace at the mass invasion comment. That was one of the things WIC existed to prevent. 

 

DarkStar smirked. "Humans can be monsters too. Look at history. But yes, it's much easier to dehumanize your enemies." She sardonically chucked. "Especially when they're not human." 

 

"I know my history. I know what you mean," Sun replied evenly. "It's just that I haven't had to..." As she paused to organize herself, she looked over her counterpart. It was hard to believe that she was so young and had been a demon less than a year. "You said before that you're a line grunt right? I'm more like... a battleship."

 

"A battleship?" Nodoka inquired. She wanted to use this opportunity to glean some more knowledge of Sun's abilities. "That seems rather... an extravagant description." 

 

Sun idly ran a finger over the rim of her cup, appearing to be lost in thought.  

 

"Yeah, I guess it is," Sun said as she recalled being all of creation and pushing it away and almost being lost in it. She shuddered; her full potential was frightening. "A closer analogy would be a 'doomsday weapon' - an ultimate deterrent; a fat lot of good it did them."

 

"Let me guess, you were too powerful to use?" Nodoka could easily see that. Weapons too powerful to use were half a century old technology. Perfectly sensible for a more advanced civilization to have even more powerful and thus even more impractical weapons.

 

"Uh, yeah." Sun replied as she looked at the others. She decided to dissuade any skepticism. "Look, I'm being serious here." 

 

"We're not questioning your honesty," DarkStar commented. She knew what her grandmother could do, so powerful beings were not beyond her imagination. "But why so much power?"

 

"Can you believe that it was an accident?" Sun replied with a half snort, half laugh.

 

"Those idiots were aiming for the ultimate weapon, well they got it."

 

"It seems that there are a great many things these people overlooked," Nodoka commented, thinking back on the earlier oversight of Sun's creators. "What were they thinking?" 

 

Sun shrugged her shoulders. "Desperate politicians and fears of the unknown at the time...," she trailed off as she fingered her cup again. "So they made me."

 

DarkStar nodded. That fit with her double's earlier comments about being made to be a weapon. "So you just have targets, not people," she shrugged. The brood's own experience with indirect fire-support left her less than thrilled. She would rather work with a small team of professionals in battle. 

 

"Yes," Sun nodded. "I've been lucky. Everything I've fought has been... clear. Still though, you guys seem to be open enough around me." 

 

"You're a Senshi," DarkStar added with a shrug. "And if you were bad-" 

 

Sun silenced DarkStar with a wave of her hand. "I wouldn't... and I killed the one who would." 

 

"What's the problem then?" DarkStar asked. 

 

"It's just creepy knowing you're being watched," Sun said. "It's... creepy," Sun repeated, being at a loss for descriptive words. She had worn one of Washu's monitoring devices but that did not actually spy on everything she said and did.

 

"You get used to it," Nodoka said plainly. "They're normal human beings and professionals - like we are." 

 

"Emphasis on professionals. They're just human, but..." DarkStar gave a fanged grin.

 

"They show what just human can do. Take that guy," she pointed to Morrison. "He doesn't look it, but he killed a succubus in melee. She had him pinned and was cutting him apart and what does he do? Slits her throat just as she's about to feed."

 

Sun nodded, only vaguely understanding. She could clearly see that the agent in question seemed embarrassed by the attention he was getting. "You seem... close to them." 

 

"Aren't you're close to the people you fight with?" DarkStar asked. "Hey mom, isn't Morrison also alive because of your armor?" 

 

Nodoka blushed slightly. "Yes... it reduced the damage those claws did to him." 

 

Sun raised an eyebrow. It looked like Nodoka was speaking from experience when she talked of energy resistant armor. 

 

"You do good work, Mom," DarkStar assured. "And those agents need every edge they can get."

 

"He's also alive because you grabbed him out of a crashing helicopter," Nodoka reminded.

Sun blinked and looked between mother and daughter. "And they watch you... even when you..." 

 

"Make wild nookie?" DarkStar said with great mirth, enjoying Sun's paranoia. "Yes they do." 

 

"But... but... even then?!" Sun asked incredulously. 

 

"Tell me," Nodoka said, "when you are in a fight, do the other Senshi watch out for each other?" 

 

Sun blinked at the question. "Well yes - of course we do," she answered. "We have to. We depend on each other in a fight."

 

"It's the same here," Nodoka explained. "We are in a war with enemies that can show up anywhere at anytime. In a situation like that, everyone watches everyone's backs. It's the only way to stay alive." 

 

"It seems so... dehumanizing," Sun said softly. 

 

DarkStar snickered. 

 

"Not at all," Nodoka said. "Once you get used to it... you find a certain amount of comfort in it. It's nice to know that there is someone you can count on watching over you and watching out for you." 

 

Sun considered that. These people were at war. It seemed and a certain amount of security was necessary. She shrugged her shoulders. "Okay... I guess. I don't think I could ever get used to it." 

 

"You would be surprised," DarkStar piped in. "I wasn't sure at first... but it does save lives. Also... I know what I am."

 

Her voice became more serious. "The command staff's honest about things with me. We have a bit of an understanding." 

 

"Understanding?" 

 

"They've been honest with me from the start. It took a while to build trust with them, but it's there." 

 

Sun nodded her head; she understood about trust. Turning her attention to Nodoka, Sun returned to the previous conversation, before they got side tracked by DarkStar's "research" and them being watched. "So, Mom-, er, sorry, Mrs. Saotome, why haven't you ever divorced Genma?" 

 

Nodoka smiled at Sun's slip. "That's alright dear, just call me Nodoka or Mom if you're comfortable."

 

"And if you're not comfortable it's Doc or Major Saotome," DarkStar teased.

 

"As far as Genma goes, the reason why I never divorced him was because he had been on the run from me for the past ten years, and when I finally found him I was more concerned with my daughter and her life." 

 

DarkStar blushed slightly. 

 

"I can understand that," Sun said. "But why not divorce Genma and be done with it?" Sun asked the older woman. "I mean, why hang on to a marriage that... never worked?" 

 

"I had more important things to do," Nodoka said, "and... it already feels done with." 

 

"Mom, you haven't said more than ten words with him since he got back," DarkStar stated. 

 

"I asked him to explain his actions," Nodoka replied, her tone even. Genma had at least accepted the reality of Ranma's gender and family.

 

"You pulled out a gun and then afterwards you had some agents take him and hand him over to Jarvis," DarkStar corrected. 

 

"I don't feel the need to do it," Nodoka sighed. 

 

"You're essentially divorced already, just do it formally," DarkStar encouraged. 

"I guess you're not too fond of Genma either," Sun noted. 

 

"He can be annoying, but he did try to warn me about the breakup, and he does seem... proud of me. I know that sometimes parents just don't feel that way for each other." 

 

"You do?" Sun asked. 

 

DarkStar smirked. "Remember? I didn't want to marry Soun either." 

 

Sun absently nodded. Her double was the mother of two of Soun's daughters. "And then there's Nariko..." 

 

"Yes, Drake's actually... I can respect him. He was great for Nariko. He actually is there for his children," DarkStar smiled. "But that doesn't mean I want to mate with him. Nari-chan understands."

 

Sun nodded. "So are you teaching your kids martial arts?" she asked after ordering another cup. 

 

"Of course, we are 'line grunts' as you say," DarkStar laughed. "It's amazing how much that training can compliment our abilities. Of course, we had to rework a lot of the moves. New balance, and then there's that it can be a truly aerial style." 

 

Sun nodded. "Master Happosai has just named me his heir and Master to the Anything Goes school," Sun said with a small bit of pride before adding with a sigh, "It took years, but he managed to knock some sense into my thick head." 

 

"Oh?" DarkStar asked as she blinked at her counterpart. 

 

Sun looked at each of her table-mates before answering. "I had a bad habit - a very bad habit - of jumping into things and reacting on an emotional level - without thought," Sun explained. "It made me careless and I got myself into some very bad spots that I should not have been into to begin with." 

 

"That's stupid habit to have," DarkStar bluntly agreed. "It's not professional." 

 

"I wasn't a professional," Sun shot back. "I was an arrogant, cocky kid who thought she was so powerful that she couldn't be touched." 

 

Nodoka and DarkStar looked at Sun and said nothing. DarkStar did not like what she felt, but part of her was amused to know that arrogance seemed to have bitten this version of herself too. Though it was unsaid, she sensed it was also at someone else's expense - maybe like what happened to herself. 

 

"Look, we all made stupid mistakes when we were younger. We both had emotions getting the better of us and then there's how stubborn we can be," DarkStar explained. 

 

Sun said nothing, but nodded in agreement. She did find irony in someone six years her junior saying "when we were younger". 

 

"So, Happosai made you a master?" DarkStar asked, steering away from uncomfortable subjects. "He's nice enough, for a dirty old man." 

 

"Hey!" Sun bristled. "He may seem like a dirty old man, but he's not bad."

 

DarkStar laughed. "I never said he was bad. I'm a sex demon remember? I ain't gonna get on his case for having some harmless fun and a little draining." 

 

Sun blinked. "Oh... I guess that makes sense. You two would have some things in common." 

 

"He also has great taste in underwear," DarkStar nonchalantly added as she sipped her drink. 

 

Sun blinked. She thought back to some of the antics of her Happosai and mentally agreed.

 

"Does yours help you train?" 

 

"Yeah, he knows his stuff. Lots of experience. And unlike Pops he doesn't get tired when he spars with me." DarkStar snickered.

 

"He make you a master yet?" Sun asked. 

 

"Nope, I haven't known him that long. Would be nice though." 

 

"Oh yeah, six years in the past." Sun noted; she then smiled. "But I'm sure he's impressed with you. You are coming up with your own school." 

 

"Yeah," DarkStar shook her head. "I never understood why Pops and Soun were so afraid of him. He's such a gentleman, especially around my kids." 

 

Sun blinked. DarkStar's Happosai had never subjected her to the pervert act? The testing? 

 

"To be fair... my former... husband and his friend were never as focused or principled as you are. And you were never afraid or intimidated by him," Nodoka added. 

 

Sun nodded. That had to be it. Happosai had seen that DarkStar would pass any test like that, probably. "Don't underestimate him. He's... good. Some of his training came..." Sun shuddered at the memory. After a few seconds she found her voice again. "When it counted, when it really counted. It made all the difference." 

 

"I won't," DarkStar promised. 

 

"Good," Sun answered with a thin smile. "Who'd thought that the old letch had it in him to be a good teacher." 

 

"Anyone who doesn't judge a book by it's cover?" DarkStar responded. She looked at Sun's souring expression. "Sorry." 

 

"No, it's okay," Sun sighed. "I have a tendency to do that. You saw what happened when we first met. Happi's helping me with that too." 

 

"What can I say? Being turned into a demon and working with scary secret agents tends to do that? I can't judge anyone based on something like what species they are. Now if they harm my kids or an innocent... all bets are off." 

 

*************** 

 

"Andrea, how long does girl talk usually last?" Morrison asked in a tired voice. "I mean, they've been at it for hours now." 

 

"I'd say not much longer," Andrea said offhandedly. 

 

"Because of her watch?" 

 

"Yes, our visiting Senshi is glancing at it much more often than before," Andrea answered. "My guess is she has someplace to be and it's getting closer to that time." 

 

"I hope you're right," Morrison said as he shifted in his seat. "I'm getting sore from just sitting here." 

 

*************** 

 

"What are your plans once you have dealt with your mother and the other people from your past?" DarkStar asked.

 

"Well, whether it goes smoothly or not, I'm going to be leaving in about six months to my husband's... well... my husband's planet." 

 

"His planet?" Nodoka asked with a raised eyebrow. "Same universe though?" 

 

Sun nodded. "Yup," she paused to take a sip of her drink. "Same universe, different planet. I married an honest to goodness prince. He's like third or forth in line to the throne or something like that of some galactic empire." 

 

"You don't know?" Nodoka asked with a tilt of her head. It was an amusing coincidence.  Her daughter was once queen of Earth, and was the favored granddaughter to the eponymous founder of House BlackSky.

 

"I fell in love with him, not his title," Sun replied with a shrug. "At least I get a say on who is to be his second wife." 

 

"Second wife?" Nodoka repeated with both eyebrows raised.

 

"Er, yeah," Sun stammered a bit. "You see, it's like... tradition or something," she explained while running a finger along the edge of the table. "The Emperor and his heirs have at least two wives, sometimes more, but it is expected of him to have at least two." 

 

"I see, and how do you feel about this?" Nodoka asked while folding her hands. 

 

Sun shrugged her shoulders. "It's okay with me." She then leaned forward and said in a conspiratorial voice, "I'm dropping strong hints for Ryoko because we get... well, we get along - if you know what I mean." 

 

"Ryoko?" DarkStar let the name roll off her tongue. "I think you mentioned her before when you were showing us your pictures." 

 

"Yes... we're close," Sun said with a slight blush. "We have... you know - and Tenchi knows, so I kinda hoping that she'll be the second wife." 

 

"Ahhh... So you're bi," DarkStar said in understanding with a wide smile. "Sounds like you want Ryoko for your own mistress." 

 

Sun's face flushed. "Er... well... I wouldn't mind it and, um, it would be more fun in the bedroom." 

 

"Oh really," DarkStar asked, glad that the conversation moved back to one of her favorite subjects. "So, how much 'fun' have you two had already?" 

 

Sun's face went brilliant with embarrassment. 

 

"That much," DarkStar said around her laughter.

 

"Daughter please," Nodoka said in a mirthful way. 

 

"It's okay," Sun said after quickly composing herself. "Ryoko and I have been making plans to take Tenchi and...," she paused at the eager face of DarkStar and then the older woman's. Though Nodoka wasn't really her mother, it weirded her out to talk about such things in front of her. "Er... maybe I'll tell you later." 

 

"Don't mind me," Nodoka said with a wave of her hand. "Succubae normally 'talk shop' in front of their moms. Don't they daughter?" 

 

DarkStar nodded in confirmation. "It was especially frustrating back when I was a virgin and my kids still asked me for advice." 

 

Sun eyed both women and thought for a few heartbeats. She had shared a great deal with them already, so why not? "Well, okay," she said as she lowered her voice further and began whispering the naughty plans that she and Ryoko had for Tenchi

 

*************** 

 

"Are they huddled for the reason I think they are?" Morrison asked his table-mate. 

 

Andrea nodded. It looked like Morrison had some clue.

 

*************** 

 

"... and that's what we have planned for foreplay," Sun finished with a slightly lecherous grin. 

 

DarkStar looked at the redhead and mused over her and Ryoko's plans. She then studied the top of Sun's head for any signs of horns, with the plans that she and this Ryoko came up with... "Well... it's a nice idea," DarkStar said with a smirk, "but unless Ryoko can float in midair... wait... nevermind. I bet she can." 

 

"Yup, ain't it great?" Sun gushed. "Anyway, after that, we plan on getting Tenchi to..." 

 

*************** 

 

"They're huddling again. Damn I wish I could listen to the tap over there." 

 

Andrea rolled her eyes and ignored her partner's comment. 

 

Morison's hand went to his dog tags and the "D" mark placed there. "Andrea , if something should happen... and I get... turned will I sit around for hours and talk about stuff like they are?" 

 

As Andrea looked at Morrison a smile formed. "You've seen how Misako, Nariko, and Red act. What do you think?" 

 

Morrison blinked. "I see." He looked at the paper he had been pretending to read. "I guess it's still better than being dead." 

 

"It would be eye opening," Andrea allowed. 

 

*************** 

 

"... and then we plan on breaking for lunch. What do you think?" Sun finished as she propped her head up with her arm. 

 

"Hmmm...," DarkStar mused aloud. "Well... it's the best you can do without tails or getting too rough. I guess you want to ease Tenchi into the really kinky stuff- oh, nevermind, you already started." 

 

"Umm... right," Sun stammered a bit, "but we don't want to wear him out too much until he builds up his stamina." Sun wagged her eyebrows. "He already knows what I like." 

 

"Stamina's important," DarkStar agreed, "and eating's a great bit of foreplay." DarkStar's mind drifted back. "I remember this one time after Kasumi hosed the blood and guts off of me...," she voice trailed away into a pleasant memory and she sported a dreamy smile. 

 

Sun nodded her head. "I remember when Tenchi and I cleaned the fridge and got quite silly. After it was all said and done, we had more food on us than-" she stopped as she realize what DarkStar had just said. "Blood?" 

 

"Umm...," DarkStar started, "It was after a sortie... my fighting style can get... messy... and violent." 

 

Sun looked at DarkStar, at the table top, and then back at her. "Oh... I see. Well, I have a habit of vaporizing my targets." 

 

"Where's the fun in that?" DarkStar asked innocently. 

 

Sun sighed heavily. "Fighting is not exactly fun... anymore." 

 

DarkStar stared at Sun contemplatively. "I... see. The whole weapon thing you had going. I have problems killing humanely." 

 

"Now dear," Nodoka said gently while laying a hand on DarkStar's, "most of the time they die too quickly to notice." 

 

DarkStar sighed as Sun spoke. "Killing can become too damn easy for me if I let it," she said with a shudder.

 

"You too?" DarkStar looked Sun square in the eye and took Sun's hand in hers. "Be careful, be damn careful. Look at me. I just told you what doing that makes me feel." 

 

Sun noticed the haunted look in DarkStar's eyes and stared. She was starting to understand how much DarkStar could relate to some of her own problems. They were both tempted. 

 

"Have you killed a human yet?" Nodoka asked turning to Sun. 

 

"It's too late for me," DarkStar muttered lowly.

 

Sun thought a moment. "Yes," she answered. "But she was more like a monster than a human." 

 

"Not all monsters have fangs," DarkStar repeated, echoing the words she spoke earlier.

 

"And some monsters are made," Sun added cryptically. 

 

Nodoka and DarkStar looked at Sun and watched as several emotions played across her face. It was DarkStar who took the initiative. "Is it something you what to talk about?" 

 

Sun smiled a thin smile. "Not really," she said.

 

"That's okay," DarkStar stated with a wave. "As you know, I don't have... privacy."

 

DarkStar glanced at the surveillance agents. "In a way it's kinda nice to be able to keep some secrets. Some things I'm not gonna pry on." 

 

Sun tilted her head, slightly confused. 

 

"Don't misunderstand, I respect the hell out of these guys, the agents, but... they all know what I am and what I've done. Even those that haven't fought with me have seen photos and videos of me working. That they can still... look me in the eye means a lot to me but...." 

 

"They still see you as.... that," Sun surmised. She wondered what her life would be like if all of her fights had been recorded and then played in front of everyone she knew and cared about. If they saw with their own eyes what she was capable of. 

 

"And do you want me to hear about your darkest moments?" 

 

Sun shook her head. "Not now...," she said. "Maybe later... after I've fully dealt with them myself." 

 

A certain silence fell about the table. It wasn't an uncomfortable one, nor was it exactly peaceful. It was a type of silence that seemed to lend a finality to the discussion.

 

"So," Sun coughed, breaking the silence. "I've gotta ask before I go, what's with the hair?" 

 

"My hair?" DarkStar blinked. "What about it?" 

 

"It's" Sun fumbled for an inoffensive way to say it. "It looks... like more work than I would expect from you. It's really long. Do you use mousse or hair spray? And how does it stay so soft looking?" 

 

DarkStar blinked as she ran her hand through her spiked and feathered tresses. "It's not hard, it's pretty much natural. like my makeup." She did not want to tell Sun that it came from eating a relatively powerful demon hunter.

 

Sun nodded and let out a barely audible "ah". She could relate to "magic makeovers". 

 

Sun took one last glance at her watch. "I need to go," she announced. "If I'm going to get to the Tendo's on time." She then asked the waitress to bring her her bill. She would be relieved that she had enough native currency to pay it. 

 

Her table-mates nodded. "Do you need to go anywhere special?" Nodoka asked. 

 

"Not really," Sun replied. "Just somewhere where I won't be observed... you understand." 

 

Nodoka nodded.

 

"How about the restroom?" DarkStar pointed out. "It's roomy and it is empty at the moment." 

 

"Miss Lytle, Mr. Morrison, would you two mind ensuring our privacy?" Nodoka called over to the two surveillance agents. 

 

Sun nodded and rose from her seat. The others mimicked her. "Do you mind if we see you off?" Nodoka asked. "I'm curious as to how you travel between universes." 

 

Sun shrugged her shoulders. "Sure. Why not?" 

 

The three made their way to the back of the cafe. Once inside the restroom, Sun wavered as she her outfit shifted into her Senshi uniform. 

 

"Yep," DarkStar said, "definitely a Senshi."

 

Sun paused and turned to look at the demon. "Could... could I see your uniform?" 

 

DarkStar smiled. "Sure, but remember, it'll show my true form." 

 

"Uh, that's okay," Sun assured. She steeled herself. DarkStar was a sex demon, but that still gave a lot of free range for what her true form could be. 

 

DarkStar closed her eyes and shadows spread from her and transformed her clothes... and body. The demon sighed and stretched her wings or tried too, the room was a much too small to allow for their full span. 

 

Sun blinked. She knew that DarkStar was a demon, but this... She stepped a bit closer and looked her up and down. The tail with its little fins, the tiny horns, the broad wings, the luminous eyes, and the skimpy uniform itself.

 

"Wow," Sun said as she marveled over DarkStar's true form. "You're... you look amazing." 

 

"Really?" DarkStar blushed slightly. That was not the normal reaction to seeing her true form, not by a human at least. 

 

Curiosity getting the better of her, Sun reached out and exploratory touched DarkStar on the shoulder, tracing her hand down the length of her arm; it was smooth and warm - warmer than when she hugged DarkStar earlier.

 

"You're warm."  Sun idly said.

 

"Well of course,  I'm alive." DarkStar dryly remarked. The demon looked at the questing hand with a raised eyebrow. Such childlike wonderment at her form was novel.

 

Sailor Sun's passive scans automatically went deeper before she consciously cut them back; at this point she thought it impolite to scan without permission. Leaving DarkStar's shoulder and arm behind, Sun felt the leathery wings before being drawn back to DarkStar's face.

 

Aside from the obvious changes in skin tone and eye color there were other differences.  DarkStar's face was a bit more severe and seemed almost... sharper - but even with the changes, it was amazing how much they resembled one another.

 

Noting the little black horns that peaked through the tangled locks of hair, Sun could not resist reaching out and touching one of them. DarkStar gave a slight growl and pulled back.  Her eyes became hard and accusatory. 

 

"What... what did I do?" Sun asked quickly pulling back her hand. 

 

"It's okay," Nodoka allowed, while she patted her daughter on the shoulder. "You didn't know any better. Succubae are very sensitive about who touches them." 

 

"But, I was holding her hand and hugging her earlier," Sun stated in confusion. She did not expect sex demons to shy away from physical contact. 

 

DarkStar's expression softened but she still kept some distance. 

 

"She trusted you.... Physical contact for them always means something. Horns are something... more," Nodoka allowed. 

 

Sun nodded. Though she did not exactly understand, she had the impression that she had just made a grab for DarkStar's breasts, or crotch. After, learning of DarkStar's nature, she would probably have been less offended if she had tried to touch one of those areas. "I didn't understand. I'm sorry." Sun bowed deeply. 

 

"It's okay, you couldn't have known." DarkStar offered a smile. Only seven, well six after what Kasumi had done, people were allowed to touch her horns; she supposed she could let someone else. It would show her level of trust.

 

"If... if you really want." DarkStar leaned forward and bowed her head. 

 

Sun froze at the offered horns. On one hand if she declined in an effort to be sensitive to DarkStar's situation, she might offend. If she accepted she might screw it up. She made her decision. 

 

As she reached out she noticed DarkStar's face twitch. On contact the surface was mostly smooth but had some little ridges that ran up the inside arc of the horn. She cautiously and gently ran her finger across the tip and was surprised by the sharpness. What happened next was even more surprising. It was a sound she had never expected to hear emanate from a version of herself. 

 

Sun looked to the demon's eyes, but they were closed tight. She turned to Nodoka. "Am... am I doing this right?" DarkStar kept making the sound deep within herself. 

 

Nodoka nodded. "Yes, you're quite good." 

 

"But... demons... she's..." Sun had only recently learned that demons could be kind and loving, but that they could also... 

 

"Yes, they purr. Normally, it only happens when they're very happy but playing with their horns can do it too." Nodoka's smile indicated that she had much experience with happy succubae. Her expression became serious. "However, abusing their horns is an easy way for a stronger succubus to dominate or even torture a weaker one."

 

Sun removed her hand as gently as she had placed it, and watched as DarkStar stopped purring and opened her eyes. She straightened up and looked the other Senshi in the eye.

 

"Congratulations," DarkStar said. "That's something only my mother and children are allowed to do. Kasumi... maybe it was a bad idea to let her do it in the first place." 

 

"I... I think I understand," Sun said. "I'm not going to lie to you and say I understand completely, but I think I'm starting to grasp a few things." 

 

The demon almost narrowed her eyes, but she assumed that the pun was unintentional. "These things aren't decoration." DarkStar said as she pointed to her horns. Her tone was friendly but her tail had straightened out and was raised slightly. "We're not human. There's some similarity, but..." 

 

Sun noted the change in posture of the demon's tail. She had the impression that she did something wrong again, but was not sure as to what. Internally, Sun wished that she would stop accidentally insulting her new friends or at least get a clue to what she was doing wrong. 

 

"There are some things you have to experience to understand," Nodoka noted somewhat to herself. "Things that only another succubus will get." Her tone had gained a contemplative edge. 

 

DarkStar's posture became more relaxed when it became clear that Sun's pun was unintentional and how clueless her counterpart really was. She found herself envying Sun in a weird sort of way. Even though Sun was six years older and had had her share of hardships in her life - some that she shied away from and didn't want to talk about, she still was very innocent in many ways. 

 

To be that innocent again... 

 

Sun looked at the two and detected that whatever faux pas that she did had passed. She then cocked her head at DarkStar. "So wings. Are you in super form?" Sun asked. "That's what it takes to get mine." 

 

"No... these are natural," DarkStar shrugged. "All succubae have them." 

 

"They're leather," Sun stated eyeing the wings. 

 

"Did you expect me to have feathers?" DarkStar smirked. 

 

"Er, sorta?" Sun coughed. 

 

"Angels are the ones with feathers."

 

"Angels?" Sun asked with a blink of her eyes. DarkStar stared back. "I guess that makes sense." Sun shrugged her shoulders and turned her back to the mother and daughter.

 

"Don't be alarmed," she said over her shoulder. "I need to summon my sword." 

 

Nodoka nodded as Sun did just that. 

 

"Oh... nice flames," DarkStar noted. 

 

"Indeed. I hope we're getting some good scans of this." Nodoka said with awe. She then opened her cellphone.

 

"Yes. Are we reading this?" she asked once she connected with the observation team. "Good." 

 

"Er... that can tell I'm doing this?" Sun asked, holding her sword. 

 

"We did manage to detect your arrival and track you to here," Nodoka reminded. 

 

"Right. Um, just out of curiosity, what are they reading?" 

 

"Any inter-dimensional distortion, interference above ambient. Any pattern registerable energy that you're giving off. That kind of stuff. There's also whatever my daughter's sensing." 

 

"I see," Sun nodded. 

 

Nodoka and DarkStar watched from behind as Sun slashed at the air. A thin glowing line was left in the wake of the sword and it hung there as if the very air itself was cut. 

 

They both watched as Sun used her sword to widened the hole, until it was like a round doorway into another room. Nodoka's attention was divided between what she was seeing and the readings on her scanner. Though the energy that was detected earlier was large, they had now focused their scanners on what was going in the small room. Nodoka schooled her features at the concentrated energy that Sun was offhandedly expending. 

 

DarkStar simply unfolded her senses and blinked a lot at what she was seeing and smelling. She could see the opening and sense the power, but she couldn't smell anything coming from the other side. It was like the opening that also acted as a barrier. 

 

Sun straddled the opening before crossing over to the other side. 

 

"See," she called to the two women. "It's that easy." 

 

*************** 

 

In the open room of the studio apartment, a thin line appeared in mid-air. It widened and a redheaded seifuku-clad young woman stepped into the room.

 

"See," she called into the opening. "It's that easy." 

 

Kind of like a demonic teleport, DarkStar noted to herself. Alexia could do it from one point to another on earth, and BlackSky regularly traveled between the earth and the Succubus Home Plane. DarkStar herself had been toying with the concept too. "But is it the same?" she mused. The difference between different universes and planes of existence was not something she understood. 

 

Two heads poked through the opening that Ranma was holding open. 

 

"This is your apartment?" Nodoka asked. 

 

"Yes," Ranma answered. "Tenchi isn't in right now, but this is where we live." 

 

"Very nice," DarkStar commented. She looked and sniffed around the room from her vantage point and nodded her head. "Lot's of room to work with." 

 

Though half of their bodies were in one universe and the other half in Sun's, there was no sensation of a barrier that been crossed. It was as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. 

 

"Yeah," Sun said with uncertainty followed by an awkward silence. 

 

"I'm am surprised by how - unspectacular - moving between universes is," Nodoka commented. 

 

"That's because your universe and mine are practically neighbors," Sun explained. "If I had traveled further in... creation, moving through the warp would be like... ummm... like sliding through a tube slide." 

 

"Really?" Nodoka said. "I'm surprised our worlds are that close. Not that inter-dimensional physics is my area." 

 

"It's not really my specialty either," Sun admitted. "I just do it by instinct." 

 

While Sun and her mother conversed, DarkStar looked about the room. Studying the sparsely furnished room, she spied something off in one corner and smiled as she recalled something that Sun had mentioned earlier. She looked over the stacks of tapes that were stacked under the TV and was frustrated that she wasn't able to make out any titles clearly. 

 

"Say... are any of those tapes the ones you mentioned earlier?" DarkStar asked in an oh-so-innocent voice. 

 

"Huh?" Sun said in confusion, her train of thought derailed from her conversation with Nodoka. 

 

"Dear, now is not the time to ask such things," Nodoka gently chided her daughter, "she has a meeting to go to." 

 

"Er... right," DarkStar agreed with a slight blush. "Maybe later?" she added hopefully. 

Sun blinked at the two before smiling. "Well, I guess this is goodbye," Sun said with a hint of regret. 

 

"Will you ever visit us again?" Nodoka asked. 

 

Sun pursed her lips in thought. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "Tenchi really doesn't like me bopping around in different universes, but if I explain to him, I'm sure it'll be all right." 

 

"But you'll at least write, right?" DarkStar quipped. 

 

"I'll see what Washu can come up with," Sun replied with a smile.

 

The three stared at one another for a brief moment. As if on cue, the three reached out across the rent in space/time and fell into a group hug.

 

"Thanks," Sun said as she drew away. "I really do hope to see both of you again." 

 

"Here," Nodoka said while handing a card to Sun. "If you do, you'll know where to find us." 

 

Sun looked at the WIC business card and smiled. 

 

"When you do make it back, bring more pictures," DarkStar said with a grin, "and maybe a DVD or two?" She finished with a wag of the eyebrows. 

 

Sun blushed. "Er... right. I'll be sure to," she answered. "Umm, I need you both to step away from the opening. I don't want you to get hurt when I close it." 

 

The mother and daughter stepped back, well away from the opening as it hung in mid-air.

 

"Goodbye," Sun said one final time as the rounded aperture started to close. She was answered by farewell waves from the Saotome women. With a slight, but audible 'pop' the hole sealed itself. 

 

Then Ranma was alone in her apartment. 

 

*************** 

 

In the confines of the restroom, Nodoka and Sailor DarkStar faced one another. 

"Well, that was interesting," Nodoka said. 

 

DarkStar nodded as she shifted into a form that could pass for human. She checked herself in the mirror. "Yes it was..." She cocked head and looked at her mother's reflection. "Do you think she'll ever come back?"

 

"If she is as good at her word as you are with yours, " Nodoka said, "I think we can expect her to show up sometime in the future." 

 

"More crazy family from other dimensions, eh?" Ranma noted as she made one last check of her reflection before facing Nodoka. 

 

"She seems more normal than your grandmother," Nodoka noted as both women headed for the door. 

 

"BlackSky's perfectly normal for who she is, and her gifts are very handy," Ranma said. BlackSky was a vast resource on succubae, especially on how to take care of their young.

The value of her autobiography alone... 

 

"Fair enough," Nodoka said before opening the restroom door and walking over to Andrea and Morrison and informing them of the latest development. 

 

*************** 

 

After Ranma bid goodbye to her newfound friends , she stood in the middle of the living room. Barren of any furniture, the room offered a wide space for her to practice her forms. She smiled at the firm resolution she had set in her mind and began moving into the kata that she had attempted earlier in the day. Unlike earlier, she was able to almost dance through it with great ease without having to force it. 

 

She moved silently in the room, spinning, kicking and jabbing at imaginary opponents before stopping before a large window that streamed sunlight into the room. Her breathing was controlled as stood with her eyes closed, enjoying the sun's warmth and further finding her center. She smiled. 

 

Gathering up her cellphone and placing it in her purse, Ranma opened the creaking front door and looked about the apartment's interior. Yes, she was nervous, but she moved down the stairs with a purpose - her mind made up. She entered the sidewalk and looked about the new day. Exhaling through pursed lips, she muttered softly, "Well today, I face my past." 

 

Heading to the bus stop, she began her journey to a place she hadn't visited in over six years. 

 

*************** 

 

"It will be a few minutes until everyone gets pulled back," Nodoka said as she returned to the table and asked the waitress to clear off the third cup and give them their portion of the bill. 

 

Ranma sat down next to her mother and sighed as she fingered her saucer. 

 

"You feeling any better?" Nodoka asked. 

 

Ranma smiled. "Yeah, yeah I think I am." She reached out and put her hand on her mother's "What about you?" 

 

"I think it's time to finish what I had started ten years ago." Nodoka then ordered another coffee. She would do whatever it took to help her daughter. In that regard, divorcing Genma was an easy decision. It was the easier of the two decisions she faced today. The other was still being considered. 

 

"That's good. You don't know how much having a mother like you means to me." 

 

Nodoka hugged her daughter. "I'm just doing my best. I haven't sacrificed nearly as much as you." 

 

"You accepted me," Ranma assured. "That's more than anyone can ask for." Ranma looked into her mother's eyes. "And I know you would do whatever you needed to." 

 

Nodoka nodded. "How are you going to talk to Usagi?" she asked after getting and paying for the bill. 

 

"Once I figure out what to say. How to even mention this to her," DarkStar finished off her tea and looked to her mother, who, naturally, met her gaze. "You'll make sure I'm not going to put this off?" 

 

"Of course," Nodoka caught the wave from Morrison and looked to see that a van had pulled up to the front door of the shop. "Going to be quite the story to tell your kids," Nodoka noted as they walked out of the store. 

 

"Complete with pictures," Ranma laughed while holding up the digital camera. 

 

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

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Omake by J St C Patrick

 

There you are," a voice called out. "How is everything?"

 

Both Ranmas looked up at the newcomer. She was very familiar to both of them.

 

"Hi Mom," DarkStar said with a smile. "Every thing's fine. We were talking about - stuff."

 

"I see," the older redhead said with a warm smile while eyeing the human-Ranma. "And who do we have here? Our wayward Senshi?"

 

"Um, Mom, I'd like to introduce you to... Ranma," DarkStar said a little nervously. "Er, Ranma this is my mom. Um, Mom, Ranma's from somewhere else."

 

"So I gathered," Nodoka said dryly still maintaining her warm smile as she slid into the seat across from DarkStar and addressed Sun. "So, you're just visiting? Do you have anything to declare? Fruit? Alcohol? Firearms? No? Well then, Welcome to Canada!"

DarkStar and Sun looked and each other, then back at the older women before bursting into a fit of giggles. 

 

Nodoka Saotome, Mother, W.I.C. Scientist, Customs Agent.    
 

End Interlude

 

We'd like to thank our pre-readers. They're the ones that made sure this story was readable. DGC, Questara, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, and Jerry Starfire.  It's great to have a group that we've built years of trust with and will take their time and effort to help us.

Thank you all.

 

Interestingly, this was written well before Strained Harmony was even conceived.

We were talking about our respective characters meeting. The idea stuck and we started writing it out,  last spring.

There was one problem: The Return was nowhere near far enough along to post this.  So it had to wait for more chapters of Return to be written.

 

Revision notes:  This show the ephemeral nature of the internet as it's been a while.  That said, I have talked with Trimatter and he is still around, if not writing.  And it was great to touch base with him again.