The Return

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple

 

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

 

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

 

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

http://jtemple.florestica.com/

 

Temporary Backup Site.

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

 

 

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C is appreciated.

 

Book 4:  Capital Offense

Chapter 4:  Breach and Hide.

Formerly:  Reserve and Release Part 1ii

 


            The briefing room had been converted into a dispatch annex. A good part of the long table had been covered in computers and communications equipment. Maps, aerial feeds, and sensor data has been projected on the long wall adjacent to the door. The room was also linked up with the main operations control at the downtown Company facility.


            The Senshi waited on one side of the room while the brood waited on the other. The one closer to the door. In between, several company agents manned the communications stations.


            Eve crossed her arms and glared at the screen. "ETA for JTF2?"


            "Their birds have lifted off," Kasumi said from her workstation. "What about us?"


            "The Commander is keeping local assets in reserve," Eve stated evenly.


            "Ma'am," Lieutenant Tendo nodded her head.


            Kiri's attention was split between the display screens and watching Usagi.


            "You disagree, Auntie," Misako grinned widely.


            Eve sniffed and turned away from her niece.


            "Don't get her mad or we'll get punishment duty," Ukyou whispered into her mate's ear.


            "Worse than princess-sitting?" Misako asked.


            Nabiki looked up from her knives. "Do you really want to challenge an officer to come up with an imaginative punishment. A demonic, German officer?"


            The orange-haired succubus wilted a bit. "Fine."


            "We will do what we're ordered to; we will all do our best," Nariko gently reminded with a core of steel behind her soft words.


            The other broodlings nodded.


            Nariko leaned in and kissed her mate. "Make sure our sisters behave."


            Akane nodded.


            Nariko stood up; one hand automatically tapped the butt of her SSP to ensure the pistol was still secured while another did the same for ScarletBane, her katana.


            From across the room, Rei watched the red-eyed demon glide over to Captain Jarvis. Nariko was tall for a succubus, but the blonde-haired demoness still towered over her.


            As the two quietly talked, Rei watched their tails. Nariko's was thinner and a bit shorter, but it had broader fins on the end and moved with a nervous animation that contrasted with her quiet even voice. Eve's thicker tail simply hung back and occasionally gave an idle swish.


            Rei sighed. There was little else to do: Makoto was trying to read a book while Luna napped on her lap, Usagi was pacing while Kiri tried to calm her down, and Minako, to Rei's surprise, was also asleep.


            "You're winding yourself up," Kiri said from where she was sitting.


            "Of course! You pulled me away from the news. You said that was making me too nervous." Usagi rubbed her stomach. "And then you brought me in here!"


            "Sometimes, you have to wait."


            "They also serve, who only stand in wait," Kiri muttered. In her more melancholy moments, Milton's sonnets tended to be particularly fitting. Especially ones like "On His Blindness."  They were also old enough to have something approaching permanence in her view.


            "Which was why it was so urgent for the Company to find Mako-chan and I," Rei grumbled.


            Blinking, Kiri cocked her head. A shiver went through her body as she swallowed and flexed her hands.


            "Hurry up and wait," Makoto said, not looking up from her novel. It was some mindless dross about an Albertan bounty-hunter, but it was distracting.


            Kiri nodded. Her head began to swim and her temples pounded.


            Usagi bit her lip. "If I gave the order..." She stumbled and Kiri jumped out of her seat. For a moment the blonde leaned against the smaller Senshi.


            "Yes... if you gave the order I'd get you out," the green-haired girl said. She then paused and coughed.


            Usagi nodded and stood up.


            "But please... don't be rash." Kiri then frowned. She looked at her gloves, and her armor. The obsidian material flashed with an almost pearlescent iridescence. The pounding in her head increased but she pushed it aside.


             "Thank you I..." Usagi swallowed. Bile rising, Usagi fell to her knees. Her gold and silver armor clattered against the floor. Pain blossomed between her eyes as she felt her gorge rise up.


            The princess retched. It was an ugly, hacking noise as watery, phlegmy material was expelled from her empty stomach.


            Kneeling down, Kiri was at her side. She patted Usagi's shoulder. "It's okay. It's okay." Kiri paused; there was another sensation like static electricity.


            Minako's eyes snapped open and the golden Senshi was immediately kneeling down opposite Kiri. Flashing red, the blonde's pupils burned with intensity. Luna also woke up; the cat jumping down from Makoto.


            "Medical to Miss Tsukino in briefing room Beta!" Eve shouted.


            "No, it's okay, she's just wound up. Mako-chan get her some water. Rei grab a rag."


            Makoto pulled a canteen off the table while Rei took two of the giant green and grey handkerchiefs that the Company seemed to have ordered in bulk and seemed to use whenever they needed a rag, wipe, or wrap. One was handed to Usagi and the other was dropped on the floor.


            "Help her up," Kiri said to Minako who immediately obliged. "How you feeling?" she asked Usagi.


            Leaping to the table, Luna leaned forward and sniffed Usagi. Worry crossed the cat's face.


            Kiri looked to Luna. "Well?"


            The cat frowned. "I... I remember the Queen mentioning some problems like this. But Usagi's not using any far-seeing powers. And it's not the menses part of her cycle."


            Nariko and Eve looked thoughtful at that comment.


            Yeah, menstruation can hurt your concentration, especially when trying to clear your mind for a fire reading, Rei thought. But that's not something you two have ever had to deal with is it? She added a bit bitterly.


            The blonde princess glared at the cat before swallowing some water. "Really?" She handed the canteen back to Makoto.


            "Icky," Usagi took the offered cloth and awkwardly wiped at her face. The thing was almost the size of a tablecloth.


            "Wanna go to the bathroom? Just to settle things down?" Kiri forced a smile. There would be a mirror on the bathroom. Even the Company was not paranoid enough to remove all reflective surfaces.


            "We can have a medic look at her."


            "It was just a bit of... sick," Usagi admitted. "I'm fine." She tried to wipe at her chest bows and frowned.


            "After I get her cleaned up you can look at her."


            Eve stepped forward. Her nostrils flared. The blonde demon frowned.


            Usagi gave a weak smile. "Please? I just want to use the bathroom."


            Eve nodded.


            "Thanks Minako, help us," Kiri said as the trio started walking to the door. "Luna, keep an eye on things here."


            The cat nodded.


            "JTF2 is reporting an Inter-Dim spike!" Agent Maya Iverson said with forced calmness.


            "What? Source that!" Eve's heartbeat sped up. Ranma's last check-in had mentioned that the Canadian Spooks were particularly jumpy; they were worried that the other shoe was going to drop.


            "It's from their picket sensors. Our sensors are seeing it... now," Maya said as more icons on her screen flashed indigo.


            "Damn! Well that confirms it. Shest is there," Eve gave Kiri a pointed glance.


            "It isn't me this time," Kiri said as she pulled Usagi across the threshold.


            Usagi nodded and wiped her mouth.


            Kasumi watched as Maya put the readings from the spike on the main display. "Breakout?"


            Eve nodded. "What's the status on their Jammer?"


            "JTF2's not..." Maya hesitated.


            "Come on Princess, let's get you cleaned up," Kiri said as she and Minako took her out of the room. Minako stopped for a moment to grab the canteen from Makoto and one of the rags Rei had.


            Eve looked to Nariko and Kasumi. Both nodded. The Lieutenant switched to the surveillance system and radioed the rest of her team. The demoness pointed to Nabiki and Akane and motioned for them to follow her.

 
            Entering the bathroom, Usagi went straight to the sink. Minako wordlessly offered the canteen while Kiri watched. Usagi filled her mouth, swished, spat into the sink, and repeated.


            She then wetted the rag and started to wipe down her uniform. "Puu, what do you know about this?"


            Kiri Meiou looked at Usagi's reflection. She sighed and nodded to herself. "The attack, the Pulse, or you getting sick?"


            "The one you've got a secret about." Usagi gripped the sink. "You were acting pretty nervous after I retched all over the floor." She took another drink. This time she swallowed some of the water before spitting out the rest.


            Minako took the canteen and began refilling it.


            Meiou put a hand on Usagi's shoulder and gave a little laugh. "Someone wants to talk to you."


            Usagi slowly turned away from the mirror and stared at the shorter girl.


            Minako's eyes narrowed. "Who?"


            Meiou's eyes darted towards the cameras bolted on the ceiling.
           


            "Right." Minako's hand went to the hilt of her sword.


            "No. You won't get them all," Kiri lifted up her hand, palm up. A collection of iridescent black spheres bubbled up and went to the cameras. A few went to some more innocuous places including an outlet by the toilet, and a crack in the wall-tile next to the sink.


            "Mina... if you'll be a dear, go outside and tell the demons that we just need a moment of privacy."


            Venus frowned but Usagi nodded to her.


            "And make sure they don't come in," Kiri added as she summoned more orbs.


            Putting the canteen down next to the sink, Minako bowed and stepped out of the room. After the door closed, Kiri lifted her hand and glowing spheres began to bubble into existence above her palm.


            "Those are the little balls you use for our training, right?" Usagi asked.


            "They do other things," Kiri tightly said as a cloud of the little iridescent spheres flew out and began covering the walls and ceiling and floor with a shimmering almost pearlescent sheet.


            "I saw how you ordered Luna to stay behind with the others." Usagi crossed her arms and glared down at Kiri. "And now you've gotten rid of Minako too."


            Kiri nodded.


            "Why am I feeling sick? Who's trying to use my head like a radio?" The blonde ran her tongue over her teeth. Her mouth still felt a bit gummy. "Is that it?"


            The green haired girl nodded again.


            "Well?"


            "Who showed up the last time something went wrong inter-dimensionally?"

            "You mean that creepy field Ranma was investigating..." Usagi blinked. "Oh. Her."


            "Yes, her"

            "Nuit."


            Kiri winced. "It's a shame she doesn't have a Love-coda alias," she said technically not lying. While Nuit herself was not in the Love-coda several of her relatives were.


            "Yes, because memorizing a secret name for a secret goddess is so much simpler," Usagi rolled her eyes. "She's the one that broke into the Time-Space Door isn't she?"


            "Not exactly," Kiri admitted. "But yes, she was there," the green-haired girl lied.


            "Why didn't she talk to me last time?"

            "Last time you were asleep while using Minako as a suit of armor."


            Looking down, Usagi rubbed her forehead. Her stomach gurgled again.


            "It's happening again," Kiri's tone was flat.


            Usagi coughed. "What should I do?" she asked spinning back to the sink. Her hands gripped the sides.


            "I can stop it, block the... signal."


            "Or you can answer it?" Usagi breathed deeply, steadily. "Right? That's why you knocked out the cameras and sent Minako out. So I could have a little chat?"


            "You don't have to talk with her."


            "Then why'd you set this up?"


            "You deserve the choice." Kiri squeezed her right wrist with her left hand. "I can deal with Nuit or you can face her yourself."


            "Meaning? You're not going to summon her in here? I think that'd get Eve pretty angry."


            Kiri laughed. "No, no summoning."


            "No danger then?"


            "She'll just show up as an illusion," Kiri gestured to the mirror. "I'll be able to sever the connection any time.


            "Oh, okay." Usagi squared her shoulders. "Let's see what she wants then."


            Nodding, Kiri slowly reached out and put a hand on each of Usagi's shoulders.


            The blonde felt her stomach lurch again. She leaned forward towards the sink, but this time she kept it down. After coughing she pulled herself back up and... stared.


            A strange woman stood on the opposite side of the mirror. Her golden hair was cut into a slick-looking pageboy. It was actual gold, thousands of fine threads that reminded Usagi of the golden golem form Ami had forced Minako into.


            Her skin was dark, and embedded with sharp points of cold starlight. It was like the night sky had been cut down and carved into a feminine figure. Golden ankh earring hung from ears made of literal darkness.


           The woman wore a crisp-white top that bore a gold bow with a pearlescent milky-white gem in the center. Surprised, Usagi took a step back. The figure in the mirror did not move.


            Usagi then looked down. The woman wore a pleated white skirt. It had gold trim and jewel encrusted piping on the top hem, but it was obviously a Seifuku. Usagi looked back up.


            The woman, Nuit, wore a silver tiara. In the center was a ruby and sapphire encrusted cobra rearing up ready to strike. Surrounded by intricate golden makeup, her eyes drew Usagi in. Golden "whites" surrounded deep maroon irises, and her pupils were bottomless shafts that twinkled with the ghost-light of galaxies that had been dead for eons.


            "This is her?" Usagi asked staring at the image. She could see the rest of the room in the reflection. Even Kiri was there, save in the mirror world she was holding Nuit's shoulders.


            Kiri nodded as she pulled a hand away, and switched hands to that her left hand was now on Usagi's right shoulder.


            "Well?"


            "My apologies," Nuit assured as her gold lips curled into a satisfied smile. She lifted her arms and clasped her gold-gloved hands. Heavy gold bracelets set with lapis lazuli and rubies clinked with the impact. She then bowed. "I wish to convey with the utmost sincerity that I had no role in these unfortunate events."


            "That seems a bit much. Yeah, it was embarrassing to puke in front of the demons and mercenaries but..."


            Nuit's smile vanished. She tilted her gaze and looked to Kiri. "Truly?"


            "The Pulse or the Attack?"


            "Yes." Nuit tilted her head, and looked at Kiri as if for the first time. "Ah you're still wearing that little sleeve?"


            Kiri's grip suddenly tightened.


            Usagi frowned.


            The youthened Sailor Pluto eyed the dark goddess. "Yes."


            "Shame, I preferred your real body," Nuit gave a dismissive shrug.


            "You mean her older form?" Usagi's frown grew. "Yeah, it has been a while since the Russians –um- killed you. Can't you go into another one?"


            "We can discuss my physical age later," Kiri assured. "I doubt that's why Nuit called."


            "This is about the fight." Usagi nodded and looked to Nuit. "Yeah... the Russians got a cultist. He working for you?"


            Covering her mouth with her hand, Nuit giggled. "Oh my. No. I'm not the object of his worship. Though, regrettably, some of my followers are about to become a problem."


            "And why are you dressed up as a Senshi?" Usagi demanded.


            "It seemed appropriate. Everyone else is pretending."

            "I'm Sailor Moon."


            Nuit shook her head. "No. No, you're Serenity's daughter," the dark goddess sharply replied, her voice laced with jealous venom. "You're the Princess who got to play at being a magical girl. You got to ignore your bloodline. Got to ignore your responsibilities. Ignore your parents' gifts."


            Usagi's eyes smoldered. "Better people than you said a lot worse."


            "You mean Ami?" Nuit's smile returned. "How is Mistress Lyra's star pupil doing?"


            Usagi stared. "That was something Ami made up, a fake villain to get us to follow."


            "Oh? Your mother never did figure out what happened to Mistress Lyra. And she did help design so many of Serenity's wonderful toys; she even helped design the Queen's greatest creation." Nuit smirked at Lady Pluto.


            "The Silver Crystal? What about it?"


            "You don't know?  My, do you even know yourself?" The dark goddess chuckled.


            "Nuit!" Kiri's voice cut across the small room. "You are a guest here, and you will behave like one."


            "Of course." Nuit bowed her head.


            "You didn't just call to mock me did you?"


            "Well, I'll admit some avaricious venting was part of my goal," Nuit sighed. It was a strangely humanizing gesture for the dark goddess. "But I did want to apologize. What's happening is not my fault."

            "And what is happening? Why are these worshipers coming? Who are they?"


            Kiri's grip tightened and, feeling it through her armor, Usagi yelped


            The green-haired woman's eyes widened. "Your worshipers, the pulse called them."


            "The Mad Seer rang the dinner bell. The voyeurs had already peered through the windows. They know I'm home." Nuit gave another sigh. "And they will come."


            "The Wakeup Call? That was them?" Kiri asked. The last time Nuit had appeared was during that incident.


            Nuit nodded. "They were taking a peek. They would have moved on but..."


            "Someone drew their attention," Usagi said.


            "What strength? How many?"

            Nuit looked away. "I can't say."


            "Wait..." Usagi exhaled. "This summoning, what does it have to do with me?"


            "I am unaware of the plans of your enemies, Princess."


            "But, the Russians and their hired goon break into a Canadian base and summon some creepy crawlies, but..." Usagi gave a bitter laugh. "But de Veste doesn't worship you does he?"


            "He does not," Nuit hissed glaring at Kiri.


            "Right, so not your summoning?"


            "Correct. I am the last person that wants Them here."


            "Can you stop them?"


            "They are not of this universe, and the barriers are too thin for me to stop them." Nuit lifted her chin. "Especially not when malformed witches are pounding holes into reality."


            "You really did do all this just to tell me that this isn't your fault?"


            Nuit turned to Kiri. "I was not lying when I expressed interest in a relationship."


            Usagi's lips parted and she slowly turned to the shorter green-haired girl.


            "She wanted to make friends."


            Usagi shook her head. "Right. Uh... so these things... they're coming pretty soon?"


            "I'd imagine they're already staging their forces. Soon, they'll breach the veils." Nuit folded her hands and bowed her head.


            "We have to tell Eve."


            "I'm sure the Brood Mother already knows. Doubtless her spawn are trying to convince your automaton to stand aside. And won't this be a fun meeting for them to burst into?"

 

            Kiri grit her teeth.


            "I do apologize for any inconvenience." Nuit chuckled. "As a bit of advice, this universe is quite hostile to them. Close the door and they should be susceptible to your reality strengthening devices."


            "Why? Why tell us this?"


            "I'm trying to show some civility." Nuit raised her head. Bright blue eyes locked onto deep maroon as the two glared at each other.


            Usagi found herself smirking. "These invaders, they worship you. Why don't you get off your jeweled butt and stop them yourself?"

            "Because it's not an invasion. It's a rescue mission." Nuit leaned forward and pressed her palms against the glass.


            Eyeing the golden gloves, Usagi stepped back.


             "They want you," Kiri said, her voice haunted.


            Nuit nodded.


            "You're hiding!" The Princess' smile grew. She walked up to the sink and leaned forward. "So the big scary star-goddess who mocks me for hiding from my responsibilities is hiding from her own?"


             "We don't get to choose who worship us," Nuit muttered. "Are we automatically bound by obligations just because someone chooses to kneel before us?"


            Kiri's grip on Usagi's shoulder shifted slightly.


            "And what? Now you'll be rid of them?"


            "Just the ones your contractor and her comrades catch." Still keeping one hand pressing against the mirror, Nuit absently tugged at an earring. "I had hoped to find friendship here." She looked to Kiri. "I had hoped to find redemption here." She looked to Usagi.


            The Princess' eyes narrowed.


            "She is being civil," Kiri reminded.


            "She's some weird inter-dimensional dark goddess. That's all kinds of suspicious and wrong."


            "The Court of Serenity has had diplomatic relations with worse," Lady Pluto stated.


            Nuit's smile grew. "Listen to your advisor. She's thoroughly versed on her Queen and Mistress."


            Usagi sighed. "Ranma, BlackSky, Lyra. Is there anyone who didn't know my mother?"


            Nuit pulled her hand back and covered her mouth. She looked down. "I'm afraid I never had the pleasure; the woman couldn't stand my father."


            Usagi looked to Kiri.


            "The Queen courted many during the Unification War; not every alliance proved to be fruitful."


            "Or wise. And it's not like she stopped after the war ended," Nuit sharply added.


            "My mother tried to make an alliance with a dark god from another dimension?"

            "She made an alliance with a demon queen from another dimension. An alliance you've continued."


            "That's different! Ranma's one of us."


            "Sailor DarkStar or Sailor Earth?"


            "What difference does it make?"


            Nuit looked thoughtful. "Right. Did you make this decision before or after she started the cute little pink and blonde demon girl act?"


            Usagi's eyes narrowed. "What's it to you?"


            "Peace," Nuit raised her hands. "Don't get mad. If anything I'm trying to help."


            "Help?"


            "She's a succubus. They're empathic mimics. She knows what you want, knows which heartstrings to pull. Are you really sure you're not being played?"

            "No way! I hired her."

 

            "Yes," Nuit gave a vulpine grin, her teeth flashing momentarily as her gold lips parted. "Fascinating that, the rest of your Senshi just fall into line. But she's different."


            "We're not forcing her." Usagi looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure that's possible."


            "Perhaps you should talk with her employers for some advice," Puu remarked.


            "I didn't force Ami or Makoto or any of the others. They volunteered."


            "Reincarnation." Nuit shrugged. "People are creatures of habit; they fell into doing the same thing over again"


            "We pledged our lives to the kingdom. And we paid up in full. Only in Death does duty end." Kiri stated, flexing her grip on Usagi's shoulder.


            "Pretty words. But they don't apply to your ilk do they?" Nuit sympathetically asked. She looked to Usagi. "The Silver Court does own their souls," the dark goddess stated as it if were a basic fact.


            Usagi glared but remained silent.


            "Thus your Senshi habitually serving you is... worrying. Even your traitors, ultimately, think they're serving the throne."


            "Puu? Is this true?"


            "Serenity was a stickler about securing consent." Kiri turned her head to the side and the iridescent of the walls reflected in her eyes, making them look black and glossy. "Why, I remember well how she recruited me..."


            Usagi lowered her head slightly at Nuit and leveled her gaze. "You're really trying to paint my mother in a negative light."


            "No more than the people that knew her." Nuit tilted her head and gave a sad sigh. "And now you're following in her footsteps. Hiring demons to do your dirty work." She raised a gold eyebrow. "For what I wonder."


            Usagi looked down. "None of your business."


            "Finally, some sense," Nuit smirked.


            Kiri gently shook the blonde's shoulder. "Usagi, we really need to go."


            "I've detained you long enough," Nuit added.


            "Right." Usagi glanced back at Kiri. "End it."


            "With pleasure."

            "Hey!" Nuit groused as Meiou raised her hand from Usagi's shoulder. The dark goddess vanished. The princess' reflection returned.


            As Usagi stared at her blue eyes, the glossy iridescence covering the walls faded and normality returned to the bathroom. "You didn't like her either?" she asked turning away from the mirror.


            Kiri's hand went to the doorknob. "Pardon?"


            "Nuit; you seemed more disturbed by her than me," Usagi said as the green-haired girl opened the door.


            "She was... playing nice this time. You don't know what she's really like," Kiri said, technically not lying. She stepped into the hallway and saw Venus standing off against Nariko, Nabiki, and Akane. Both Nariko and Venus had their hands on the hilts of their swords. Nabiki was also holding the handle of one of her blades while the shadows around Akane squirmed.


            Both Nariko and Venus turned to Usagi. The Princess stepped back at the twin pairs of nearly identical cold, red eyes.


            "Per contract, subverting surveillance measures during emergency procedures is punishable by Section Three, Clause One," Nariko recited. "Failure to comply will be a breach of contract."


            Akane smiled. "You're lovely when you get all commanding, Dear."


            Usagi swallowed. "What?"

            "Usagi, next time a demon gives you a contract to sign, read it first," Venus stated, her eyes turning blue for a moment. A golden sheen flashed across her face as she returned to staring down the black-haired succubus.


            Nariko's grip tightened and she started to draw her blade.


            "Stop!" Kiri waved her hand. "Fine. We'll negotiate terms. I'm willing to consent to a series of medical tests including the extraction of tissue samples."


            "Puu!"


            "It's not important, Usagi. We'll make arrangements later." Kiri walked past Nariko and Venus. "She turned and waved. "Come on! We've got a Beachhead Scenario."


            Nariko's eyes widened. She let her katana slip back into its scabbard. "Source? Location? Size?"


            "What the hell were you doing in there then?" Akane demanded.


            "Talking with an intelligence asset, obviously," Nabiki remarked. The powder-blue-haired little succubus eyed the similarly diminutive Kiri. "An asset they don't want us to know about."


            Frowning, Venus fell into step at Usagi's side.


            "That's broadly correct. More details will follow. Right now, tell the Canadians to get jammers back online at their HQ. If they're not too late."


            "A Beachhead? In Ottawa? Why the hell do the Cyborgs want an alien invasion?" Akane asked.


            "They did bring their pet cultist, and it'll certainly draw JTF2's attention," Nabiki said.


            "Not to mention, it'll keep mother up there," Nariko added nodding to the guards to the briefing room.


            Usagi stepped inside. If anything, the room's quiet intensity had thickened. The agents manning the radios and computers were talking in clipped, terse phrases, and both groups of Senshi, demonic and guardian, were tense, taut.


            Once the door clicked closed behind Usagi and the others, Eve pushed down the microphone to her headset. The tall demon strode forward, her eyes cold and business-like "Miss Tsukino, you get sick, we get an Inter-Dim spike. Then you go off for a secret chat. And now I'm to learn that we might have little Beachhead Scenario?"


            Usagi squared her shoulders. "That's right. I, well, to be honest I don't know if I'd trust the source but that's what she said."


            "Who?"


            "Nuit. She said, she said they're aliens from another dimension; de Veste summoned them."


            Kiri kept her face neutral at Usagi's lies. She did not want to betray her. It might be that Usagi had made the assumption that de Veste had intended to summon Nuit's worshipers; it might be that Usagi wanted the Company to think so. However, Kiri was certain that Usagi was deliberately omitting the fact that said invaders were devotees of Nuit.


            Luna stared. "She talked with Nuit? Directly?"


            Kiri nodded. "It was necessary."


            The cat's ears folded back.


           Eve exhaled. She pulled her headset back up. "Sir, we've got a Beachhead Scenario. I repeat a Beachhead Scenario. Yes Sir."


            The demon turned to one of the communications agents. "Maya! Get in line with JTF2. They'll want to deploy whatever jamming assets they have. Immediately."


            "Ma'am," Maya said as she swapped radio channels.


            Nodding, Eve went back to her command line. "Sir, JTF2 will be first on scene. If this really is a Beachhead, I recommend deploying the Fifth and the Silvers." The demoness' tail twitched as she got her orders. "Understood. Very good, Sir."


            "Finally!" Cradling her grenade launcher, Misako's grin grew until it nearly bisected her face.


            Eve pointed to Nariko. "Go, get ready. Meredith and her sisters should have a full set of extra ammo and equipment already staged. Coordinate with my girls. They'll provide close support."


            The demons began to rise.


            "Tendo, get your team up too. Secure their spearhead."


            Smiling, Kasumi pulled her headset off. She stood and saluted.


            Returning the salute, Eve turned to the Senshi.


            "What's going on? You weren't really sick were you?" Rei asked Usagi, a bit of anger leaking into her voice.


            "I was," Usagi said.


            "Side effect of a mental 'phone call'," Kiri explained.


            "Right. So Miss Creepy Dream Invader comes to warn you about freaky aliens And now suddenly everyone's willing to throw us into battle? What happened to waiting for the Cyborg counter attack?"


            "That was before we got this bit of intelligence," Eve bowed her head to Usagi, briefly presenting her horns.


            Usagi blinked.


            "I know you're missing a member but if you had to can you teleport?" Eve's voice gained an insistent edge.


            "You mean to Ottawa?" Usagi asked.

            "It's closer than Antarctica," Rei dryly remarked.


            "Regrettably this is something that should been have practiced. However-"


            Kiri cut off the blonde demoness. "You didn't want to punch holes in reality and risk losing your Ace in the Hole."


            Eve nodded. Though she knew that her sister was the Company's real "Hole-Card", and Ranma was already being deployed.


            "Wait, now you want to risk having us teleport without Ami?" Makoto asked.


            Eve held up a hand. "Yes. As a contingency. The Canadians might be able to close it themselves... if not, we should have enough time but..."


            "You want to be prepared." Kiri paused then slowly shook her head. "I'd recommend against it. The same worries you had about them training are even worse now."


            Eve raised an eyebrow.


            "If there's no other choice, and we have to teleport in... It can't be into the city." Kiri's eyes narrowed. "It'd be like parachuting into quicksand."


            "We can arrange pickup at a safe location."


            "Really? Where?" Rei demanded. "Because between cyborgs, cultists, and nameless invading horrors I'm not seeing much safety."


            Eve gave a thin smile. "Yes."


            "Oh good. Glad Kiri's got a creepy friend willing to sell out her enemies."
           

            "She's not my friend," Kiri petulantly said, for once actually looking like her physical age.


            "Handy that." Eve frowned. "It looks like Gagnon and his spooks were right. We'll have to see what CSIS knows."


            "Who?" Makoto asked.


            "Canadian Intelligence," Eve waved her hand. "Somehow they got the same info that Miss Tsukino just acquired."


            "Right, so based on what they've said, and a conversation Usagi had with Puu's dream-friend you're worried that a cultist and a cyborg attack could morph into what... an alien invasion?" Makoto asked.


            "An alien invasion in my country's capital city." Kasumi clarified. "Centered at our military headquarters. This is on par with flying saucers strafing JSDF headquarters in Shinjuku-ku, or Mole-Men hitting the Pentagon."


            "Oh, so this attack is more than just a distraction so the Numbers could get to Usagi?" Makoto asked.


            "It'd be a hell of a diversion!" Misako grinned.


            "If it really is a Beachhead Scenario," Kasumi reminded.


            "The Numbers aren't known for doing things halfway," Nabiki countered.


            Eve looked at Usagi. "Miss Tsukino, I know you Pattern Silvers have not seen eye to eye with us, especially against the Cyborgs."


            "That's an understatement," Rei muttered.


            Nariko gave her an innocent-looking smile.


            "Starting with calling us Pattern Silvers," Usagi narrowed her eyes.


            "I'm a Pattern D. Endure." The blonde brood mother's expression softened. "But Miss Tsukino.... Usagi, this could get very bad very fast," Eve took her hand.


            Usagi looked up and saw worry in the demon's eyes. She told half a step back in shock.


            "Miss Tsukino, if we can't stop this, if the Canadians can't stop this..." Eve lowered her head. "It'll be up to you: containing a Beachhead Scenario is exactly why you're here."

 

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

 


            A hand gripped Mal de Veste's shoulder and pushed him forward. The barrel and slide of his CZ 52 reached the door and... slipped through. Walking, the rest of the gun and his arms passed through. Vision returning, the cultist stepped forward. A former utility space, the room had been converted into a server room several years ago. It was full of twin rows of boxy server racks and connecting cables and the hum of ventilation and coolant systems.


            However, the computers had been stripped out. The racks were mostly empty. Their insides were exposed with thick bundles of cut cabling spilling out. And yet, the coolant and backup battery systems had remained.


            Mal's eyes went to one of the metal boxes. It had the same drab grey frame as the handful of remaining computers, but it was free of dust and had a thicker power cable snaking into the side. A stream of blue-silver smoke was also lazily rising out of the vents near the top. He glanced around the room and grim certainty fell upon him.


            From below came a heavy thump followed by a lurching, metallic squeal that reverberated through the building. Mal smiled thinly. Visiting the fourth floor was not a total waste then. At least the Canadians were unable to defuse the charges he had left in that electrical room.


            There was another thud followed by a deep gurgling, almost liquid noise, as if a massive pipe had been punctured. Pausing at his work, Mal's fingers went cold, especially his ring finger. He shook his head and disconnected the power cables. It was redundant, the breakers had already been tripped, but he felt some caution was warranted. Even if it was too late.


            Slipping through the door, Shest saw the hulking assassin remove a sheet metal plate. Peering inside, his flashlight turned on. "Finally!" the cyborg walked up and peered over the man's shoulder. "Did we get it?"


            "Most certainly," de Veste sighed as he reached in with his left arm and released the clamps holding the jammer's core to the metal frame. Still using just one hand he pulled the ribbon cable off the device's controller circuit.


            Roughly the size of a loaf of bread, the core's outer surface was made out of a rounded, somewhat gritty looking metal-ceramic composite. The whole thing looked like it was somehow cast as a single unit with various fittings and connectors that had been smoothly extruded from the surface.


            This included cooling pipes. Built into the composite surface, coolant conduits wound around the mid-span of the core. Mal popped off the flex hoses on the input and output of the cooling system.


            Shest watched as the man pulled a wrench from his briefcase, loosened some bolts and then rotated out the power supply interlocks. Finally, he unscrewed the retaining rings that held the two thick braided cables from the hemispherical ends of the lozenge-shaped core. Both braids bent upward and twisted to where they connected to a pair of long antennae that ran the full length of the box.


            Moving his flashlight, Mal then inspected the core. It had been fully disconnected. Frowning, the cyborg noted that Mal had yet to directly touch the rounded-lozenge shaped jammer core. Satisfied, the bulky man then stepped back.


            Shest noted his pained frown and stepped forward to inspect the device.


             A long, splintering crack ran from the top and down a side in a diagonal gash. It terminated a couple centimeters short of the cooling bands. In the middle, blue smoke hissed out from the widest part. This gap gave the only clue to the interior workings of the device: polished curved plates that gave off a twinkling blue light.


            "Damn." Shest shook her head. "Can it be fixed?"


            Mal's frown grew. Even after being overloaded, even after having the power cut off, even after being physically disconnected the device still radiated its power. "Maybe. It probably won't last long."


            "How long?" Opening her haversack, Shest eyed the cultist. Here was a man willing to attack a military facility with just one person for backup. Here was a man who openly worshiped cosmic horrors. Here was a man willing to work for Galina. And he was afraid of the jammer core.


            Mal shrugged. "These things are supposed to have months of continuous uptime." He paused to watch Shest pull the core out and place it into her bag. "We'll have to run tests but... has the supporting machinery even been built?"


            "Desyat has finished the antennas, power supply, and cooling system. She still needs to finalize the controllers, but for that she'll need the core."


            Mal gave a vaguely satisfied grunt.


            "After we get it plugged in how long will it last?"


            "I'd be surprised if we get more than twenty hours cumulative. I wouldn't leave it on."


            Shest shouldered the bag. "Right." The building shook as another explosion went off. This time on the floor immediately below them. She immediately gave Mal a withering look.


            The man seemed unsurprised by the explosion. "What? I didn't put anything on the sixth floor."


            Shest looked pensive. She could feel a buzzing noise welling up around her. It was not like the signal from the jammer, in many ways it was the opposite of the pressure that device had given off.


            "We leave. Now."


            The cyborg nodded. "Agreed, at least the plan's finally starting to go smooth."


             Mal gave her a flat look. He exhaled and offered his hand. "Smooth. Right."


            With a grimace, Shest took it. "Remember, we go down and we get out. If we separate-"


            "I'll make my way to the Beta site," he interrupted pulling her close. The cyborg's stronger grip pulled him into a cold embrace.


            Shest activated her Deep Diver system and the two sank at an oblique angle, first through a wall then through the floor.


            Mal's body tingled; his vision blacked out. It returned once his head cleared the ceiling.


            The cyborg's breath caught and her grip nearly slipped. The pair hung over a ravaged analysis office. One end of the room held computer servers and a series of secure file cabinets. The other had a group of cheap cubicles and workstations.


            The room's bare institutional carpet was room covered by twisting plaid smoke, and there were two dead analysts sprawled out. One had fallen against a desk, her nearly decapitated head flopped over a computer monitor.


            The other lay spread-eagled on the floor, surrounded by several masses of writhing tendrils. The gunshot wound in his chest was still visible. Covered in a navy blue and matte-black material, the ropey tendrils fanned around small barrel-shaped bodies.


            Each tendril was tipped in a various sleek little blades, clamps, needles, and probes. The soldier's body was flayed open. The cut through the abdominal cavity cleanly went through armor, uniform and skin. The writhing congregation busily and silently tore the body down. Bits of flesh, cloth, and even the front half of a boot were gingerly ferried into a collection of rounded cylindrical pods made out of the same matte material.


            On the other side of the room were more of the tentacled creatures. Each had two rings of tentacles. A ring of thicker ropey ones that encircled the midsection and a line of longer thinner tendrils that surmounted the creatures "heads".


            One of the cabinets had been pulled apart and a wide wave of documents had been pulled out. Another flock surrounded that pile and was going through it with just as much interest as the one disassembling the body.


            Between the two was a larger creature, this one twice the size of the others. There were wing-like membranes, also encased in the matte-black material, that spread from three slots along the length of its body. It occasionally exchanged waves of its tendrils with members of the other groups. This was the being that lifted its tendrils at Mal and Shest when they descended into the room.  It carried a rounded white-grey pod that Mal assumed was some kind of weapon.


            Mal's eyes swept the room. "Pull us out. Now."


            Angry, Shest complied and pulled them through a wall and into a bare hallway "Is this what happens when your clouds get hungry?" Shest hissed as her Deep Diver cut out and her boots hit the ground.


            "This isn't me," Mal stated as he pulled back the bolt on his stolen rifle. It was still loaded. He then did s a similar check on his handgun, and patted the grenades he had pocketed.


            "Right. I just happen to work with a cultist and we just happen to run into a mess of many-angled tentacle things having a meal."


            "You call that feeding?" Irritation crossed Mal's heavy features. "You're not that unobservant. Think."


            "Fine. Maybe they were harvesting snacks."


            "Oh? I didn't realize that squid monsters ate paper and optical disks."


            Shest frowned. The secure cabinets had been cut apart. Her eyes narrowed slightly. Some of the papers were being held up before being discarded. Some had been placed into the... specimen jars.


            "Reconnaissance?" Shest asked.


            "It looks like we're not the only ones robbing the Canadians today."


            There was another almost-liquid grinding noise. They could hear a few angry shouts down a bend in their corridor. The pair tensed. In the distance gunfire erupted. There were the familiar scream of men being set aflame and meaty thumps and the wump of an under-barrel launched grenade going off.


            Mal chuckled. "Unlike us, they're not doing this on a skeleton crew."


            "Right," Shest nodded. "We've still got to get out. Plan's the same."

 

End Chapter 4

 

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

For reference chapter 32 is already written and so is almost all of ch33.

 

 

Revision Notes:  There's a reason the Company and the Brood went through so much trouble to warn the Combat Cyborgs not to mess around with reality.