The Return

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Josh 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/

 

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://www.fukufics.com

 

C&C as always is wanted.

 

Chapter 14 Respect and Reliability

 

 Willard International Consulting Cadet Kuno bit her lip as she read the briefing report again. The document fell to the tray in front of her seat after she finished. Sighing, she looked out the window of the Company 717 jet. She had read the document twice during the Northbound flight, and had been briefed in person by a blank-faced Colonel before leaving the 14th Training and Development Grounds.

 The young woman unconsciously shifted in her seat. After sixteen months of constant, daily use her sidearm had become an extension of her body. She flipped over to the second item in the briefing packet. Unlike the terse text of the WIC document, this was a personal letter. The handwriting was feminine and a bit sloppy, but it was familiar. The attached photographs were even more disheartening.

 After reading that letter again, she turned her attention to the others on the plane. It seemed a more solid activity than worrying about her... family. Normally, she spent her leave time on base training or studying, but this... this warranted returning home. She then got up and made her way to the bathroom.

 Unlike her experience at the 14th, no one had the brown uniform trim of Recruitment and Training Section. In this plane the black of Operations dominated, though she could make out a few agents wearing the green of Science and Technology Section. In the last couple rows were a couple agents with dark violet trim, marking them as Communications and Cryptography. Kodachi's eyes caught a lone officer with the orange trim of Historical Research at the last row near the cramped bathroom.

 He looked up with curiosity, which she fully understood. She was the only cadet on the plane, by far the most junior member here. The others on the plane had to wonder why someone like her was on this flight.

 She smirked at her reflection after she finished her business. She was certain that some of the Operations officers had to know why she was here. After all, they had to be briefed on the Pattern D... situation, too.

 

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

 

 "What's wrong, honey?" Ranma asked as she sat down next to her youngest daughter. The brood mother saw the young demon fingering a set of keys and guessed what the problem was. Her first guess was bad dreams. She was having her own... odd dreams.

 "I've been trying; I really have," the powder-blue haired demon assured.

 "You can tell me, Nabiki." Ranma assured. She automatically wrapped her arm around her daughter's waist.

 The young teen gave a fanged smile. "I am Nabiki." She looked down at her pink skirt and pink accented white-blouse. "Aren't I?"

 "You're who you want to be," Ranma said with a smile.

 "I want to be..." Nabiki closed her blue eyes.

 "You can drive your car. Sure, you'll have to move the seat way up, but you can do it, and the Company can take care of the paperwork."

 "Put my age back to seventeen then. Yeah I look that old," Nabiki laughed. "Will fit right in with me going back to school."

 Ranma raised an eyebrow.

 "I can't even reach the pedals! I had to move my seat to use my own car. As for school, I don't even look fifteen!"

 "We'll work around it. I don't look nineteen but I go into bars," Ranma reminded.

 The sad succubus gave her mother a sardonic look. "Mom, when you wear your leathers you look like a twenty-something biker babe."

 "Maybe that's the solution to your problems. A nice motorcycle. That way you won't have to worry about pedals as much" Ranma joked.

 "Can I get it in pink?" Nabiki smirked back.

 "Err... talk to your father."

 "He did make plenty off of those land deals with the Drake." Nabiki nodded..

 "You're not serious are you?"

 "Whatever do you mean?" Nabiki said innocently.

 Ranma sighed, her youngest was taking lessons from her oldest again. "You know what I mean, young lady. You're adorable, smart, and manipulative."

 "Of course I am. I’m a succubus!"

 "Feeling better?" Ranma asked with a little grin.

 "Hey..." Nabiki blinked. "I guess so. I'm still worried about school and stuff."

 "You have time. The others are still recovering," Ranma hugged.

 "Yeah, Aurora and Akane –well- they've got mates to help them."

 "I think you're being premature on Ucchan and Aurora," Ranma said, noting the jealousy in Nabiki's voice.

 "Just because they haven't had sex yet doesn't mean they're not going to. They're not the only couple being bashful." Nabiki dryly remarked.

 "Yeah," Ranma coughed. "So what about school?"

 Nabiki sighed. "If you don't want me to get a pink hog just tell me."

 Ranma narrowed her eyes. "Maybe later."

 "Fine," Nabiki then fidgeted with her hair bows. "I can't go back to school as Nabiki Tendo. I'm also a bit too young."

 "You don't want to go to high school?"

 Nabiki nervously fidgeted and leaned onto her mother.

 Ranma looked at her unsure daughter. Nabiki was getting better, but her confidence was still fragile.

 "I do... but junior high may be easier," Nabiki confessed.

 Ranma smiled thinly. "You're not one to take the easy way. If you were I'd be talking to Yuki."

 "I'm still sweet and cute," the young demon reminded.

 "Sweet? You're a manipulative, devious little demon who did what she had to do to survive and hold onto herself."

 Nabiki blinked. "You... sound... proud."

 "Well of course I do." Ranma gave a fanged grin to her daughter. "Your little scam put Alexia just where I wanted her."

 "All I did was make sure the best mother would win." Nabiki's smirk seemed too malevolent for her makeup and hairstyle. She was then hugged by her purring mother. "Mom, I wasn't trying to be cute!"

 "Oh, sorry." Ranma blushed. She then paused at the ringing sound coming out of her pants. She then pulled out a slim piece of metal and plastic. She flipped it open and scowled at the device.

 Nabiki was curious as to how her mother had managed to fit the cell-phone in there. The pockets in Ranma's leather pants were largely decorative.

 "Really? She's coming back on leave. Yes, I'm sure Nariko will be very happy," Ranma paused. "Jacob... you did brief her right? No, I know you'd give her a bunch of files or something, but did you actually give her any pictures? Something to drive home that her big brother's now a succubus." Ranma then listened to Jacob's explanations. "I see."

 "Kodachi's coming back?" Nabiki asked with wide eyes.

 Still holding her company phone to her ear, Ranma turned to Nabiki. "Yes she is. Why? You know something about her?"

 "Spoiled, haughty brat. Unstable too," Nabiki stated.

 "The Company really knows how to pick 'em." Ranma muttered.

 "Well, I guess she's probably gotten better. WIC training did help Kasumi, after all."

 "I can see Kasumi scowling at that," Ranma remarked.

 "Kodachi never did blow up a science lab, though there were plenty of rumors about what she did to win that gymnastics tournament."

 "Oh dear," Ranma turned back to her phone. "Jacob, you sure Kodachi can handle this? Right. I'll let her meet Nariko first then."

 "Mom, talk to Nariko first," Nabiki advised. "Tatewaki did not get along with his sister."

 "Good idea," Ranma said as she looked at her daughter's concerned face. "Jacob, I'm going to call back after I talk to Nariko. Okay, good." She then hung up the phone and slipped it back into her pants.

 Ranma then left out the back door of the house and, with Nabiki following her, walked to the dojo. Inside she found her other kids training in their normal Lycra unitards.

 "Hi Mom!" Nariko said while her sisters gave similar greetings. Ukyou and Aurora stopped their sparring and looked over at their mother.

 "Is something wrong?" Nariko's mate asked. She noticed the odd expression on her mother's face too.

 "Nariko... your sister is on leave, would you like to see her?"

 "My sister?" Nariko blinked. "Oh yes... her." She bit her lower lip. "I sent her a letter. That's why she's coming. I also put in some photos."

 "Nari-chan, you didn't put any... racy photo in it?" Ranma asked as delicately as she could.

 "I wanted to but Akane advised against it," Nariko blushed.

 "Really?" Ranma blinked and turned to Akane with a raised eyebrow.

 "I am trying to be nice," Eclipse said. "Is that so unbelievable?"

 "A little bit," Aurora noted, while Nabiki coughed.

 "No, it's great that you're being a good girl," Ranma reassured.

 "This is Nariko's little human sister?" Ukyou asked.

 "Yes, she's a cadet with the Company," Ranma replied.

 "I wonder what the Company does to it's new recruits," Ukyo said.

 "Couldn't be worse than what we went though. We could have some fun," Aurora muttered with a sly gin.

 "Don't you even think about starting that again," Ukyou sighed.

 "Oh come on, it would be fun."

 "Fun? A demoness shouldn't call the hazing the Assembly of Man gives to it's new acolytes fun."

 "No picking on my little sister," Nariko growled.

 "Yes Nariko," Aurora said with her head slightly bowed.

 "I guess you're ready. I mean you sent that letter, without telling me," Ranma said.

 "Sorry Mommy, I thought you wouldn't be interested. Like when I talk to my father," Nariko softly said.

 "So it's fine if she comes over today?" Ranma steeled herself. She knew her daughter was trying to be cute. Nariko only called her Mommy now when she wanted something.

 A smile that was quite out of place on Nariko's face momentarily appeared before being replaced by her normally sweet expression. "Yeah, it'll be fun."

 

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

 

 A pale man morosely looked down the aisles as he made his way through the store. He felt honored that the Master had given him this task. The Path of the Will was depending on him to memorize the layout of the building.

 He stopped his cart with a confused expression and wandered into the storage section. One of the workers politely ushered him back into the store proper. The teenage girl helpfully suggested that the disheveled man check out aisle five. That was where the store kept it's selection of board games.

 The pale man smiled at the young woman. He sincerely hoped that she was not working tomorrow, but that would be a Saturday. As he pretended to look through board games he replayed the prophecy in his head.

 Innocence would be their lure, and with it they would capture Her. Numbers were irrelevant. If they did nothing billions would die. Compared to that, the patrons of a single toy store were....

 He blinked and added a board game to his cart. They would not be insignificant. Their sacrifice would stop the greatest threat to humanity. A monster that wreathed herself in the form of an angel. She truly was a queen of lies. She was no savior.

 Once again, the pale man thanked the Master for providing him with the clarity to see the truth. He also thanked the book that had revealed the truth to them all. It was of no consequence what the world thought of them. Their mission was to save humanity, not be loved by it.

 

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

 

 Kodachi controlled her breathing as she knocked on the door. Flanking her were two operations agents that kept giving each other knowing smiles. The cadet was getting worried. Her briefing said that the... brood her sister was in was friendly enough.

 However, Colonel Edwards, the Colonel Jacob "Executor" Edwards, himself had very sternly given a set of rules when dealing with these demons. Kodachi wondered what these demons had done to warrant such treatment. This was beyond what was normally done with Registered Non-Humans, even with those that worked as Company Freelancers.

 This brood, including her former brother, had to be very valuable to the Company. Kodachi knocked again and the door opened, revealing the red-eyed demon that multiple briefings asserted was her sibling. The cadet studied the Pattern-D. The pale skin, envious proportions, and strange eyes hinted at the girl's true nature. Kodachi flinched when she noticed the expression change on the demon's face.

 "Sis!" Nariko happily cried as she jumped forward and embraced the startled agent.

 Kodachi's arms were pinned to her sides. As the unexpectedly warm and soft body constricted the cadet's body, her hand automatically tried to reach for her sidearm.

 "Now, now sis, play nice," Nariko mischievously whispered into her sister's ear before breaking the hug. She knew all about her sister's tricks.

 To the amusement of the pair of agents that escorted her, Kodachi shuddered at the contact. "So you claim to be my... sister?" she asked after quickly regaining her composure.

 "Can you please come in before getting all snooty?" Nariko asked keeping her tone pleasant.

 "Father's not here? I'm not surprised. You don't even live with him anymore, not like he'd want to help." Kodachi said as she entered the spacious Tendo house.

 Nariko slowly turned to face her sister again. The serene innocence was gone from her face, and when she spoke it was flat and direct. "Insult father again, and you will regret it."

 "What? Did he suddenly become father of the year?"

 "Yes," Nariko stated. "He saved me. When no one else would help me he was there." Her voice wavered at this last part.

 "How ironic." Kodachi sighed. "I screw up and get shipped off to military school, but his golden boy becomes a succubus, and suddenly father becomes perfect and supportive. Lovely. Does he still see harlots that resemble mother or does he simply bed your new mother?"

 Kodachi suddenly found her legs swept out from under her. Training kicked in and she tried to keep her balance and make for her sidearm. Her gun was ripped out of her hands as she was simply knocked over. Her head slammed onto the floor jarring her vision for a second. When it refocused, she found all of her limbs pinned and a spade-ended tail hovering over her torso.

 Pity marked Nariko's face as it loomed over her sister's. "You're a terrible agent."

 "Whorish bitch!" Kodachi spat.

 "Wonder if Red's got any beer here," Gabriel said as he walked by the fighting sisters.

 "I'm not sure I want to look in that fridge," Sophie cautioned as she followed her partner to the kitchen. "Cleanup hasn't recovered many complete bodies these last few missions."

 "What's going on?" Kasumi asked stopping her troops before they could open the refrigerator.

 "Just some sibling rivalry, Ma'am," Gabriel replied.

 "I see." Kasumi then walked over to the foyer and told the two sisters to go outside if they were going to make a mess.

 Nariko nodded and then dragged her sister, who unsuccessfully tried to get her gun back, to the back yard.

 Kodachi finally freed her wrist from Nariko's grip, and scowled at the redhead lounging on a loveseat on the back porch. "So you're the brood mother."

 "At least you can figure out that much," Nariko sniffed.

 "Nari-chan, you said you wanted to meet your sister alone," Ranma said rising from her seat.

 "First impressions are very important," Nariko agreed.

 "I suppose so. When I first met Kasumi she was planning to kill me," Ranma said.

 "When is father coming?" Nariko asked.

 "He should be on his way," Ranma replied.

 Kodachi frowned at the lack of weight in her holster. She tried to keep her face neutral, but in addition to that failing her hand flexed.

 "I guess you've got a ways before graduation," Ranma noted.

 Kodachi's gaze hardened. It became even colder when the redhead started walking around her with a critical eye.

 "You lost your weapon. That's just shameful," Ranma said. "You're alert, that's good, but you're still too excitable."
 "Good eye, Red," Kasumi smirked as she held Kodachi's sidearm in her hands. "Our cadet here is still more in the academic part of her training. She needs more field experience."

 "She does have the cold and still body language down though," Ranma laughed.

 "Indeed." Kasumi then handed the gun back to Kodachi.

 "You're Lieutenant Tendo aren't you, Ma-am?" Kodachi asked after holstering her weapon.

 "Yes, and you should be grateful for this opportunity. Most cadet's don't get to have a nice chat with an NH. You might learn something."

 "Nice? With her?" Nariko smirked.

 Ranma should have expected this. She remembered another introverted succubus that got out of her shell... when around the right personalities.

 "Yes cadet, nice. As in all your limbs are still attached and they're not eating your liver," Kasumi explained.

 For a brief moment Kodachi wondered if this was all some twisted Company test. The older cadets had told her that the examinations got harder and more elaborate.

 "Maybe Sister can be introduced to the rest of the family?" Nariko asked with a smile.

 "I suppose so," Ranma allowed.

 "Finally!" a voice from above said. It was followed by a scrambling noise on the roof of the porch and a pair of succubae landing on the lawn just in front of the porch.

 "Yes, quite green," Aurora smiled.

 "All cadets really are the same," Ukyou remarked.

 "And what would you know of that?"

 "Former, Assembly of Man Acolyte Hibiki, student of Father Oslo," Aurora smirked as she summoned her green aura.

 Ukyou rolled her eyes.

 "You've got quite the collection don't you?" Kodachi said to Ranma.

 "You haven't seen half of it." Ranma then shouted at the dojo.

 Kodachi blinked at the two figures that exited. She had a passing familiarity with the two youngest Tendos. "At least Akane finally came out of her prudish shell and admitted her deviancy," she said looking the toned and nearly naked succubus over.

 "Deviant? You do know the basics about succubae right?" Ukyou asked. Having been both a brunette and a blonde, she could say that hair color did not influence intelligence, and while it was nice to see dense people with dark hair she wished she knew more smart people with blonde hair.

 "You're still an arrogant little human, I see," Eclipse growled before hugging her mate.

 "Give her a chance, guys," Nabiki said. "She can redeem herself."

 "You're...." Kodachi fumbled unable to articulate her point.

 "Cute? Adorable? Petite?"

 "Nabiki," Kodachi corrected.

 "Yes that too."
 "Nabiki never wears pink."

 "She's also not under 5 feet tall, nor is she the younger sister. Of course she was also not a succubus either." Nabiki's amusement was betrayed by the twinkling in her sky blue eyes.

 "But you still have your quick wit," Kodachi remarked dryly.

 "There's the, 'thought she was above the rules', haughty priss I loathed," Nabiki smiled.

 "And are you the amoral grifter who would take the fillings from a dead man?" Kodachi asked with a similar expression.

 "I'm now a predator that can seduce, drain, eat, and loot said man's body."

 "Call me when she's proven herself useful," Aurora dismissed. "Come on Ucchan, you can show me some of those moves Nariko and Eclipse were teaching us."

 Ukyou laughed. "Good idea," she said as she followed Aurora to the dojo.

 "Remember to clean up when you're done," Ranma reminded.

 "And try not to scream that loudly," Eclipse grumbled. She gave a pleading look to her mate.

 Nariko moved her hand to her mate's waist and shook her head. "Sorry, you're still on no sex for two more days."

 "But I've been real good to my sisters." Eclipse whined.

 "You're withholding sex from Akane," Kodachi said.

 "She was mean to her little sisters," Nariko explained.

 "Akane wants to have sex with you, and you're saying no."

 "Yeah..."

 "The same Akane you lusted after... is the one who's begging you for sex."

 Nariko rolled her eyes.

 "Maybe you should tell her about your crush on Sunshine too?" Nabiki reminded.

 "I did fall in love with Mother when I first laid eyes on her," Nariko said.

 "Of course, she's a top notch seductress."

 "Hey!" Ranma said.

 "You did look very attractive in your Goth school girl uniform, mother," Nariko said.

 "Yeah, maybe we can all wear that when we go back to school." Akane proposed. It was better than the normal uniform.

 "Maybe," Ranma sighed.

 Kodachi cocked her head. Interesting sounds were coming from the outbuilding that the blonde and orange haired demons had retreated to "Those two... girls. They're..."

 "Training?" Eclipse asked, her voice full of innuendo.

 "Ucchan is very attached to her partner," Ranma smiled.

 "Matches the documentation on succubae," Kodachi muttered.

 "Well of course it would," Nabiki remarked. "I'm surprised there isn't a boring presentation that deals with us."

 "There is. It was part of the briefing."

 "They show any of our fights?" Ranma asked.

 "There's not much video record of you in combat. There is plenty of the aftermath though," Kasumi explained.

 Kodachi looked around. The agents and demons were casual, and her sister seemed to be calming down "So... you and Akane are mates. How's that going?" she asked Nariko.

 "Really good, Nariko's sweet and lethal and damn sexy," Eclipse commented. "She saved me, twice. Didn't care about the odds." She leaned onto her mate again.

 "So you got what you wanted, eh, Tachi?" Kodachi asked. "You're even a real warrior."

 Nariko blushed.

 "And you're even acceptable at being a girl. I wouldn't use that shade of eye makeup, not with that complexion at least. Don't you want to draw attention away from those bright red eyes?"

 Nariko narrowed said eyes. "I would be more than willing to take cosmetics advice from you. Unlike fashion advice."

 "This is regulation!"

 "Maybe we should have let Aurora and Ucchan, haze her," Nabiki muttered.

 "Not now, Honey," Ranma hushed. There was progress. Slight progress, but at least they were not fighting... physically.

 

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

 

 "News again?" Minako whined.

 "I like being informed. We are here for a reason," Ami glared, not taking her eyes away from the television screen.

 "I'm amazed she's not using some type of internet thing to get her news," Rei commented as she got some leftovers out of their apartment's fridge.

 "That would let me watch my show," Minako grumbled.

 "It's a rerun on syndication anyway," Ami sighed. "And I want some fast and local news, besides I've already got the good weblogs for the area bookmarked."

 "You can always go to Janet's and watch TV at her place," Minako offered.

 "Can't. Her mom is over."

 Rei coughed at that comment. Last night she told Usagi about the concerns she had with all the time Ami was spending with Janet. The princess had dismissed her claims, which had just made Rei more concerned.

 Ami blinked at the screen. She knew something like this would happen. It was a matter of time. "Get Usagi in here," she said in horror after finding her voice.

 "What?" Minako asked.

 "Get the damn Princess in here, now!" Ami shouted, while pointing to the television.

 Rei looked at the television. On it was a jerky camera feed showing the outside of some large store. A newscaster was babbling something about a hostage situation. Her attention was to a large carpet that had been unfurled on the blacktop in front of the entrance. It was white with a simple golden symbol in the center. The camera angle was oblique to the carpet but it was still easy to make out.

 "What's going on?" Usagi asked as Minako pushed the princess from her bedroom into the living room. As Ami directed Usagi to the television, the phone started to ring.

 Rei picked it up before the second ring. "Yes Janet, we're watching the news too."

 "Good, Janet knows. Rei, tell her to hang-up and get up here now. Minako, wake up Makoto too," Ami ordered as she started writing down information up.

 "You can't give us orders." Rei started.

 "Do it," Usagi ordered as she stared at the large golden crescent moon.

 The inane chatter from the newscaster increased dramatically, but no one in the room was listening. They were transfixed by the two people that suddenly burst out of the front of the store. One was a brown-haired woman with long hair and a sundress. She was protectively carrying the other. A little girl no older than ten, who was in a green jumper.

 The blue haired teen watched as the little girl and her presumed mother ran from the store and right to the white carpeting. "Oh God, that's too obvious," Ami uttered "We have to teleport, now!"

 There was no time. Whomever had taken over the toy-store and used everyone inside as hostages were not skilled. Shooting the girl and her mother in the back proved challenging, for them. It was messy.

 Usagi trembled as tears welled in her eyes. She had seen death before. She had watched everyone in this room die, but they were... soldiers. This was something else. A righteous coldness passed over her. The babbling of the newscaster was ignored. The response of the police was ignored, not that she could see what they were doing. She was focused on the crescent moon, now splattered with blood and other organic bits.

 

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

 

 "Sir, there's no response from the Silvers' apartment," agent Maya Iverson said while listening to the phone ring in her headset.

 Jacob nodded as he paced in the Command and Control facility. "At least we got the brood notified. When will they arrive?"

 "Seven minutes," another technician said as he consulted the display.

 "Sir! There was an inter-dim spike on the Silver apartment! Forward watch confirms a matching spike at the target building," Iverson shouted. She disconnected the phone call and put her attention to the pair of agents that had first arrived on scene and were coordinating with local police. Initially the situation seemed mundane, horrible but mundane. A group of armed men took a toy store hostage and immediately called a news station which just happened to be two blocks away. The police arrived after the news crew.

 "Anything else showing up on the forward scanners?" Stillwater asked.

 "Just... six Pattern Silvers, Sir" Iverson said.

 

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

 

 The pale man stumbled back in surprise. He and two others had been assigned to guard the loading docks and storage room. His gun nearly slipped out of his sweaty palms. The Master had said their actions would summon the queen. In his foolishness, the pale man had assumed the master was not being literal. "Master! She is here!" he shouted pointing to the group of girls that had appeared in a flash.

 Unsteadily he raised his weapon, and was pleased when brothers Peclet and Courant did the same. They had no illusions but they might be able to slow them down, give the Master more time to prepare.

 "The Path of Will shall prevent your reign of ice," Peclet stated, his voice wavering.

 Sailor Moon froze as she noticed the trio of men holding guns. A slight smile crossed Peclet's face that grew when a scream of terror rang out from deeper within the store. It was very shrill and high. Fortunately it gently quieted down instead of abruptly cutting off.

 "We are more than willing to do what it takes to summon you," Courant stated.

 "No more," Sailor Moon promised mostly to herself and stepped forward. Her voice became forceful and righteous. "Toy stores are for the amusement of children, not for... murdering innocents. In the name of the Moon you will be punished."

 After sentencing, she aimed her weapon. At this moment the trio were targets, nothing more, nothing less.

 "Like you care, your ascension would have killed them anyway." Peclet aimed his weapon.

 "They're just human!" Venus shouted at the same moment, but the thick beam had already erupted from Sailor Moon's kaleidoscope.

 "They're monsters," Sailor Moon said as she stepped past the remains. She as about to speak again but the smell made her choke on some bile she coughed up.

 "They had weapons too." Orion tightened the grip on her bladed staff. She was still slightly disoriented from the teleport. Ami said that adding her was risky, but she wanted to help.

 "Princess, I'm only detecting humans and some minor magic," Mercury said as she checked the display on her visor. The comment about "reign of ice" was filed away for later. "Most of them are in the front of the store. I think those are the hostages."

 "What's the plan?" Mars asked as she looked at the bloodied remains.

 "They want me. I'll draw their attention while Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury rescue the hostages." She turned to the other blonde. "I'm counting on you for this, Mina."

 "I'll take Orion and Mars," Moon said with a little smile.

 Venus nodded. Taking Mercury made sense. She could fog up the whole area, and then they could... take out the bad guys and rescue the hostages.

 

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

 

 Master Kronecker, founder and prophet to the Path of the Will smiled thinly as his men fell. He and his most devout members were in the tiny office that contained the few things that needed to be secured for this store. There was a safe undoubtedly full of currency, a few file cabinets, a couple desks for the laughable security of this store (who while being the first to be cleansed, were not deemed innocent enough to summon Her), and a few televisions that displayed the closed circuit security camera feed.

 Unlike the false priests or those mercenaries his order was more for infiltration and research, their weapons training was secondary. It was regrettable, but his men knew no amount of training would stop Her.

 He watched as the blonde fiend sheared down his men, her expression soulless and blank. To a being like her killing these men must be no more than crushing bugs. Kroneker reflected on this as he continued the incantation from the book before him.

 It was an old tome, one that had been rebound and expanded several times. Discovering the book had changed his life. As he learned of the contents he had gone from a meek linguist and bibliophile to something more.

 He frowned when She and her two servants made it to the second group of men. The angle was poor, but he was able to tell one of his men managed to fire first, before being cut apart by a bladed pole-arm. The other three men died screaming as they burst into flames.

 Once again the queen stepped over bodies to get to her goal. The Master smiled as he gave another incantation. Her ego had been challenged, and now She would not think. She would not realize that she was being funneled right into a trap.

 His eyes briefly flicked to where the hostages were being held. That screen was full off fog and the occasional flash. It was of no consequence. The master's only interest in the hostages was as tokens to summon Her. Now that She was here, they had no use, other than reducing the number of servants at Her side.

 

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

 

 "You! You're in charge of all this!" Sailor Moon shouted as she stepped into the room. Orion and Mars were just behind her. This was the only one she'd seen not wearing street clothes or carrying a gun. Though he might have something hidden in those black robes.

 "Of course I am," Master Kronecker said as he tapped a rune on the table just above the book. The eight corners of the room glowed and encased the room in 6 panels of golden light. He nodded to the two men at his sides. "And now we save the world from your evil. You will not enslave humanity."

 "Enslave?" Sailor Moon asked. That seemed rather like what the Black Moon clan talked about. "You're wrong, Crystal Tokyo's-" the blonde closed her mouth when she saw the gleeful, perverse pride on the man's face at her mentioning that name.

 She stepped forward, and for the first time in a year wobbled when her heel did not land square. She briefly shook her head as a buzzing sound came and then vanished.

 "Kill her," the master said to the last remaining members of the Path of the Will. Both fired their shotguns. At this range even these men did not miss.

 Sailor Moon was pushed back to the doorway and hit the shimmering barrier, which neither Orion's blades nor Mars' wards or fire had penetrated. The buckshot had damaged her uniform, but it did not do much else.

 Master Kronecker frowned for a split second. It was too much to hope for Her to be weakened enough to be killed right out. Fortunately, his men shot again. The queen was knocked down but She raised her improbable weapon and fired, rather she tried...

 The kaleidoscope fizzled and fell out of the battered princess' hand. Her eyes hardened on these monsters. It had all been a trap. They used innocents as bait, knowing she would come to rescue them. The two minions stepped closer until they seemed loom over her. Moon put her hand to her forehead.

 "Moon Tiara Action!" she screamed as she flipped the golden object at the man to the left. It hit him on an upward angle and destroyed much of his heart and neck. The head flew backwards but the body fell towards her. As blood from the decapitation rained on her, she gave the other minion a Moon Kick that broke his leg. After he fell to the ground another broke his neck.

 Kronecker froze. The blood of Brother Schumann had soaked the blonde. "And the blood of the wicked shall be the bathwater for Her coronation," he quoted.

 Sailor Moon was caught in the moment. Love and Justice were not mere words to her; she felt them. For all these years it was what kept her fighting; it kept her leading friends into danger.

 "You're a disgrace," Moon coldly said as she stepped forward and grabbed the surprisingly light man. A blade flipped out of his voluminous sleeve.

 The master chanted as he stabbed forward. Moon grunted as the buzzing filled her mind. She reacted and pushed the threat away. Kronecker hit the wall with a thud; he charged again.

 This time she put her palm to his nose and didn't stop pushing when his head cracked on the concrete of the wall. His skull cracked and the master stopped moving. She did not notice this, and kept slamming the head into the wall. More bones crunched and blood splattered. She only stopped when someone gently put their hand on her shoulder.

 "Stop it Usagi! It's over. It's over," Mars pleaded. As soon as the last guy was... dispatched the barrier dropped and she and Orion ran in. Mars stepped back when her princess turned to face her. Bits of hair and blood were on her white gloves, and the only clean parts of her face were the tracks her tears made.

 "I failed!" Moon cried balling her hands into fists. "The bastard... " Moon looked around the charnel house the room had become. "I did this.... I'm a...." she stumbled and unceremoniously vomited.

 

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

 

 Ranma stood in the storeroom. The scent of fresh blood filled her nostrils. She smiled, watching her children pout as agents from Forensic Pathology section investigated the bodies on the floor.

 "We're too late and now we missed out on feeding," Aurora petulantly said.

 "This was the Senshi's fight." Ranma then walked past the bodies and into the toy store itself. Her eyes widened and she ran over to the dazed blonde.

 "Princess, are you okay?" Ranma asked, being half sarcastic with the name. She then studied the blood-soaked magical girl. "Wait... that's not your blood is it."

 Sailor Moon stepped back from the sexy succubus. She wobbled and was caught by Orion, who was at her side supporting her. "Back! Monster!"

 "Eh?" Ranma blinked. She had not done anything even remotely monstrous today.

 "You heard the princess," Mars warned. Usagi had a bad enough day and did not need a demon rubbing her face in it.

 "No! I'm... I'm a monster!" Moon tried to fall to her knees but was held up by Orion.

 "You did what you had to," Mercury reassured. She held the master's book. This was not something she wanted the Company to get, and it could have answers to what this was all about.

 "I..." Moon looked down and watched as a few drops of blood fall from her ponytails and onto the tile floor. She found her chin pulled up and her eyes drawn into a pair of violet ones.

 "You are not a monster. Monsters don't feel remorse for what they do," Ranma stated.

 "Like you're one to talk." Mars glared.

 "I think she's uniquely qualified to talk," Mercury remarked.

 "I'm supposed to be a good guy! Good guys don't kill people!" Moon sobbed.

 "Did you act like this in your last fight?" Ranma asked.

 "That was different!" Usagi sniffed and tried to wipe her face. "Demons don't count."

 Nabiki, who had quietly followed, had been watching, and had a retort ready, but decided this was Mother's job.

 Ranma narrowed her eyes. "Shut your trap you spoiled bigot. You're a soldier.... hell you're an officer. Act like it. What about your troops? How do they feel?"

 "Lay off! Do you even know what she did!" Venus said.

 "I do," Orion quietly said. "And she's sorta right."

 "I'm not fit... I failed. They killed..."

 Ranma's face softened. "You got here as fast as you could. You stopped them, and your girls rescued everyone else."
 "I'm supposed to protect everyone! I couldn't even bring them back!" Moon wanted to curl into a ball to escape. After the... fight, Moon had tried to heal the innocent victims, but there was no resurrection; they were gone.

 "You can't save the whole world," Ranma said.

 "I'm supposed to!" Moon sobbed. "Crystal Tokyo's supposed to..."

 "Now isn't the time, princess." Mercury was wondering if Setsuna knew a psychiatrist. She guessed the Company had some, but they could not be trusted.

 "But that's what they were here to stop!"

 "It's not the first time someone tried to stop us from saving the world," Jupiter remarked.

 "They thought they were saving it! From me!"

 "So? None of these evil bastards think they're the bad guys." Ranma shrugged.

 "Terrorists have always been romantics and idealists." Nabiki remarked. "People that believe in a pure vision, some asinine utopia that they're willing to do anything to get, because in the end that's all that matters."

 Sailor Moon froze "That's Me!" she said before collapsing into a sobbing heap.

 Ranma crouched down. "Did you ever kill an innocent to make this Crystal City just happen? You know, break a few eggs to make your omelet?"

 "No." Moon wiped her nose, now runny with both snot and blood. "I never," she said with more strength and indignation.

 "Then you're not like them. They would have rejoiced if the tables had turned."

 "And you would have eaten them if it was up to you," Mars remarked. Images of the day's deaths appeared in her mind. "On second thought, that's actually pretty fitting. Maybe we should have saved one of them to give to you."

 "They still got justice from a mother," Ranma smirked.

 "I went too far." Moon stared off into the distance. "I know! I was influenced!"

 "I'm not detecting anything. The only magic here was from this thing," Mercury said as she hefted the book. It was useful being the main sensor of the Senshi, though Rei's visions could spot things her computer could not, which was important to note.

 "It was all me?" Moon sighed and again tired to curl into a ball, only to be pulled back up by Orion.

 "So why aren't you attacking us?" Mercury asked the succubae. "You girls don't like being insulted."

 "There's also all those bodies that they're not eating," Venus commented.

 "Nice one Mina," Mercury sighed.

 "Eh, they're your kills." Ranma wondered exactly what Usagi had done. There had to be more than merely blasting her enemies, something traumatized her, and covered her in blood, fragrant sensual blood. The redhead shook her head. Now was not the time to let her desires get the better of her.

 Ranma cleared her mind. "Look, Usagi. A hot shower will do wonders, and there's some nice agents that can drive you to where you can clean up." She looked at the other Senshi. "All of you."

 "The princess might want to wallow more next to the Erector sets," Nabiki remarked.

 Mars looked down the aisle to see a pair of agents in battledress uniforms. If not for the succubus wearing a parody of a Sailor Senshi uniform their presence would be disquieting.

 "Come on, let's go." Ranma sighed, before gently tugging on Moon's hand. With Orion's help the two girls managed to pull the princess back to her feet.

 "When we go back to civilian mode we should get cleaned. Right?" Makoto asked.

 "Sure, but trust me, she'll want a real shower," Ranma said of Moon before handing her back to Orion.

 The agents parted and watched as the demons and magical girls went into waiting Company vehicles.

 

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

 

 Inspector Richard Rebus leaned on a Toronto Police Service cruiser. He watched as a small group of commandos left the building and returned to their vehicles. He wondered what cover story the media would be told. They might be billed as Emergency Task Force TPS's version of SWAT or maybe the excuse would be that it was a federal issue. The Emergency Response Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police could just as easily get the credit.

 Rebus was privy to something closer to the truth. There was a "consulting firm" at work here. He did wonder how they had entered the building.

 "Sick isn't it, Inspector?" Rawlings, a junior member of homicide, asked.

 "There's been a rash of this sickness," Henderson muttered.

 "Yeah, there's enough terrorism for everyone." Rawlings left unsaid who everyone was. There was the conventional terrorism, the one that craved to be in the news. They struck visibly and were using fear to cow resistance. Transportation infrastructure was commonly exploited, and then there was the other type... One that, amazingly, was even more frightening and brutal.

 Rebus nodded. That was true, something made this special. This was more than the ETF raiding a cache of fertilizer or a holy building being used to store weapons or a ransom scam gone awry. "That crescent's at the center of it."

 "Cult nuts. And the first thing they did was get the media in," Rawlings snorted.

 "Terrorists do want attention, but... this seems wrong. It doesn't fit."

 "Like we're going to learn anything more about this."

 Rebus watched a group of young women get into a van at the loading dock. The angle was poor, and the contractor commandos had kept their distance.

 Noticing his superiors interests Rawlings spoke up. "More hostages I'd guess."

 "I see, and will their statements be as nonsensical as the other hostages?" Henderson asked. So far the hostages had come out in one group out the front door. Officers at the scene reported a lot of fog.

 "The media will love it."

 "More reports on vigilantes dressed as figure skaters? It's misdirection."

 "Of course it is, Sir."

 

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

 

 "You're not going to see her naked," Rei stated as she bared the entrance to the Company locker room.

 "It's not like I'd see anything new," Ranma looked at Usagi slowly washing herself. "I won't even be nude." She shifted into a red bathing suit. "See? Nothing naughty."

 "Let her in," Usagi weakly said.

 "Feeling any better?" Ranma asked as she handed a wash towel to the blonde. She looked over the nude form, and filed the sight for later.

 "Yeah, nothing like a long shower after murder," Usagi sourly noted. "No funny business."

 "You did what you had to do," Ranma comforted.

 Usagi glared at the redhead. "That's no justification. I really am a monster. I'm going to destroy the world."

 Ranma chuckled.

 "What's so funny?"

 "So you're saying you’re a monster. You're a loving mother, a good friend and a good person." Ranma washed some of the blood out of Usagi's hair. "That's not much of a monster."

 "Maybe, I'm not a good person then," Usagi sighed.

 "That's not how its supposed to go." Ranma frowned.

 "What?"
 "That was something Kasumi told me after my first human kill. It helped."
 Usagi slowly washed her face before responding. "So, something an agent used to cheer up a budding demon, you thought would work for me?"

 "Well, yeah."

 "You don't mind killing," Usagi said coolly. "I can't become like you."

 Ranma paused staring at the indignant princess.

 "I'm a good guy," Usagi said. "I was a good guy."

 "You still are," Ranma stated as if she were explaining something very simple.

 Usagi tried to stare down the demon, but broke away. "Maybe I should go back home, I don't belong here," she whispered looking down at her feet.

 "Yeah, none of us do. Deal with it. This is where the fight is." Ranma gave a thin smile. "You think you won't get problems in Japan? And what kind of hero runs away?"

 "I'm not running away! I'm going somewhere where I can think and then come back."

 Ranma tilted her head.

 Usagi continued. "There's nothing wrong with going back to Japan to work this one out. Besides, I wanna see my family, and normal people for a while."

 "Quite the luxury you're demanding," Ranma noted.

 "It's not to much to ask for," Usagi's voice had gained an edge.

 "Not my decision. What if they attack again? What do you know about this group? Your family could make a nice target."

 "They...."

 "Why not? They killed a random woman and her child just to get to you."

 "What the hell am I supposed to do then?" Usagi clenched her hand over the soap. "So, it's okay for me to kill humans now? I'm not like you... I don't want to think like that. I told you, I'm not like you."

 Usagi's head suddenly snapped back. The sting from the slap was minor compared to the disgusted look on Ranma's face.

 "You want to run away. You know how many people those guys would have killed if you were in Japan? That was their goal right? Kill until you show up."

 Usagi scowled at her.

 "You can't handle getting your pretty hands dirty, but you're okay with innocents dying as long as you don't see it."

 "It's not like that! I wouldn't..." Usagi stepped back

 "What? You're a mother. How about if someone went after your daughter?"

 Usagi's back hit the wall. "I can't deal with this... I can't. Not right now." She rubbed her temples.

 Ranma adjusted the shower-head so water once again sprayed over the blonde's form. "You are dealing with it. Did you think all your enemies would be inhuman?"

 "Some were once human... long ago," Usagi confessed.

 "Look Princess, you've killed plenty of my kind."

 "That was different! They were monsters out to kill innocent people! It's not like..." Usagi slid down the wall crying.

 "At least your mother knew how to get the job done to save people," Ranma said crouching down to the blonde's level.

 "What do you know of her?"

 "Serenity took DarkStar under her wing long before you were born," Ranma explained. "I'm starting to remember now. Now that was a woman that could get things done. A real... professional."

 Usagi stared. The demon's wistful expression held so much sorrow. "You're her? But..."

 "Reincarnation," Ranma shrugged. "Serenity tried to help... but that just meant I was born male and human this time around too. I was always DarkStar; Setsuna just changed my body back. Before you get all weepy about killing as the Moon Princess maybe you should study what your own mother did to get her kingdom."

 "Are you calling Queen Serenity-" Usagi was cut off.

 "A ruthless commander that killed without batting an eye?" Ranma gave a fanged grin. "Definitely. You know why your little fling with Endymion was so scandalous? In my day Earth was the last independent planet in the system, and it was being invaded by demons."

 "Huh? And you're related to those invaders..."

 "Naturally, my grandmother BlackSky was in charge of one of the invading Demonic Houses.

 "But I was just trying to survive. Serenity –well- she had plans." Ranma let the statement hang and watched Usagi's reaction. After a few seconds of no reaction, Ranma continued. "So the Terran nobles resented that they had to be saved by the Moon Kingdom. A place that used to be a colony of theirs, but one that had grown until it had become the greater power. 'Course I didn't care about the larger politics then and still don't care now."

 Usagi stared at Ranma. She did not even react to the spray of water on her nude form.

 "Your mother wasn't a monster either. How is killing the one kind of monster different from another?" Ranma gently asked.

 Usagi broke down again. "I don't know. I don't know! I don't want to think about this... please..."

 "No. You can't avoid this. You're going to have to face this."

 "How... how do you deal with this? How can anyone... deal with this?"

 Ranma sighed and slid next to Usagi and started washing her hair. "Now that's a loaded question."

 Usagi turned and looked pleadingly at Ranma. "Fighting... killing was bad before, but I always knew my enemies weren't human... or if they were I could purify them but... now you're saying... if humans can be monsters... and demons aren't all monsters... then was... how many have I murdered then?"

 "Oh get off it. Did you ever fight anyone that wasn't doing evil stuff, hurting innocents that kind of stuff?"

 "Of course not but..." Usagi paused and pulled herself back up. Her hair fell behind her in a loose fall. "Why are you being so pushy? Are you like this with your kids?"

 "You need this, and your girls need this. How do you think they're handling it? Especially when their leader's so out of it she can't even bathe herself."

 "So I'm just going to magically be okay with what I did?" Usagi's hands spasmed as the memory slammed into her mind.

 "Not at all," Ranma said as she lathered Usagi's hair. "But you'll have to face what you did, and what it really means to be a Sailor Soldier."

 Usagi looked down again.

 "Stop!" Ranma growled. "You're sickening."

 "What? I'm in pain here..." Usagi weakly defended.

 "Big deal. You have responsibilities. You can't just put them aside because of this. People need you."

 "Why are you so insulted?" Usagi asked as she stared ahead.

 "Yah know, I know all about sacrifice too," Ranma glared. "Can you even comprehend what I had to give up?"

 Usagi turned to look at Ranma. "I'm a mother too."

 "Talk to me when you've had to give up your gender and species as the price for your daughter's well being," Ranma stated simply.

 "I'm not giving up. I just need... time. Please... I need more time."

 "That's not my decision," Ranma's tone became softer. "And if you take too long... you will hurt people."

 "I never wanted this power, this responsibility." It was a statement of fact, not a whine.

 "Me neither." Ranma broke a slight smile.

 "You know... I don't even know their names, and I couldn't even save them...."

 "That's a start. I'm sure Setsuna or someone at WIC can find out for you." Ranma started to realize that waiting for Usagi to finish might have been better. The girl had far too much hair.

 Ranma ran her slender fingers through the blondes hair, feeling a trace of excitement as the silky threads flowed through her hands. Ranma could smell the minute traces of blood than lingered behind. Massaging the soap further into the leader of the Senshi's scalp, Ranma smelt more slight traces of blood. She had to pause to regain her emotional equilibrium; the combination of scents was very heady.

 

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

 

 Father Oslo turned off the television with disgust. The media had somehow gotten the names of those involved in that sloppy and laughable operation. It had to be the Path of the Will. What that group lacked in size and resources they made up for in secrecy.

 They were the one of the few groups that the Assembly of Man had not penetrated. They were the exact kind of selfless fanatics that worried Oslo. They would not appeal to reason or sense, but it looked like their dogma had finally eliminated them. If the news reports could be believed, a highly questionable proposition as those corporate mercenaries had their tentacles everywhere, the Path had lost most of its members and nearly all of it's leadership.

 The loss of their man inside WIC Toronto was a difficulty. Such things were to be expected. Those mercenaries were as ruthless as they were pragmatic. That worried the priest. The Company had to feel that there was some... profit in cultivating a brood of demons.

 It did not make sense. Even ignoring the moral issues, demons were not reliable or controllable. They had to be planning something worth these immense risks. None of the possibilities, Oslo could think of were pleasant.

 He would have to call this in. Bishop Fortson needed to know. There was more here than just destroying a nest of demons that had corrupted two acolytes.

 

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

 

 "So what's the story on that book?" Minako asked. It was a couple days after the toy store and things seemed quiet... for now.

 Ami looked at the assembled Senshi. Her eyes briefly narrowed at Setsuna before turning to Usagi. "I think I figured out what the book is. You'll see that sections of it are written in many, many different languages." She flipped through sections of the large tome.

 Ami gently closed the book. "It's also been rebound a several times. It looks like this is a living text. One that is translated and retranslated as it's passed down. What's unique is that some passages are in their original text. My computer had some issues decoding the symbols, some of them were copied poorly, but the language clearly dates back to the Silver Millennium."

 "I thought nothing survived." Minako asked.

 "The Downfall and ensuing centuries destroyed almost all of the evidence, all but a few trinkets like this," Setsuna explained.

 "And the only reason this book is relevant is because enterprising scholars kept translating it throughout history. It's actually fascinating. The meaning has drifted with each century, but the whole thing acts as a Rosetta Stone." Ami sighed, once again only Janet and Setsuna got what she said. "This book allowed those creeps to read Silver Millennium era texts. Things like spells."

 "So that's how he put up the barrier." Usagi nodded.

 "And muted your powers," Ami said. "That's probably why your healing spells didn't work. One of the sections, full of margin notes and with a few gaps has information about your crystal."

 "Spells to block purification?" Rei asked.

 "Essentially," Ami shrugged. She then sagged. "It's hard to tell. There's so much text here one could go mad trying to decode it all."

 "Why bother with the translations then? You said there was original text." Setsuna wondered just how much sleep Ami was getting.

 "Because some of the original passages were lost. Others only have fragments of the original text. However, the most important thing is the new information. Some of the translators...." Ami rubbed her eyes.

 "Some of the translations had extra information," Janet interjected.

 "Like what?"

 "Crystal Tokyo, and passages about a reborn princess. 'And soon the queen shall return in a body of unnatural birth. Her will shall purify the wicked and innocent alike.' " Ami paused after the quotation.

 "How does an old book predict stuff about me now?" Usagi asked. If those... men had been using ancient writings as their guide... then they could have been wrong.

 "I have no idea. Setsuna, what do you know about the group?" Ami asked.

 "My research came up with only a bit. The Path of the Will is a small secretive cult. Their leader was Carl Kronecker. He had a middling career as a rare book historian and restorer at a major university. He vanished one day, along with several books being cataloged."

 Setsuna snickered. "Clearly this book was among the items he stole. From there he sprouted up at the periphery of some cults, got a small following, and then vanished. He was afraid of being watched, especially by us."

 "We never heard of them," Usagi cried.

 "The book paints you as a wrathful goddess. He knew what your crystal could do, and was afraid to get your attention, until the time was right of course," Ami laughed bitterly.

 "Will there be any more of them?" Usagi asked. She would ask about Crystal Tokyo in private. There were new concerns about that place.

 "And why didn't you see this coming?" Minako looked at Setsuna.

 "I'm not omnipotent," Setsuna said tersely. Out of the action, and only doing information gathering she felt impotent and frustrated.

 "So will there be anymore?" Usagi asked again. Meeting the Senshi's, her Senshi's, gaze.

 "They were a weak and small group, and you... eliminated almost all of them." Setsuna delicately stated. Her information was accurate on that count but...

 "Still, they were just a bunch of goobers. Really, how hard is it to take some hostages?" Makoto's question matched Setsuna's fears.

 "How many cults are there?" Rei asked. She was... hesitant. She was more stable than Usagi, but she needed her time alone. She did burn people to death after all. She glanced over at Janet, who seemed the most stable.

 "I don't want to do that again," Janet quietly said. Rei noticed that the newest Senshi got reassuring squeezes of the hand from Makoto and Ami. Makoto made sense, after a fashion. They were both orphans, and had some bonding at that. Ami, on the other hand, well Rei had always wondered about the blue-haired girl's luck with boys.

 "It's going to get worse." Ami cast a sideways glance at the book. She blinked and shook her head again.

 "Are there anymore of those things floating around?" Usagi asked, while reminding herself to talk to Ami. She seemed very stressed.

 "I... I don't know. It's a book. It could be copied. The book itself is mostly a copy itself so..." Ami's looked down with embarrassment.

 "It's okay Ami. You did great," Usagi reassured.

 "Thanks," Ami replied. She knew Usagi did not mean to sound as patronizing as she did.

 "So anybody have anything else to add?" Usagi asked the assembled Senshi.

 "What about the Outers?" Minako asked.

 "Nothing is happening on their end. Everything seems fine."

 "I talked to my daughter. She's doing okay." Usagi stated.

 Rei wondered who their princess was talking to, her senshi... or herself.

 "I guess this is why Sunshine's like that," Minako noted.

 "Her name's Ranma," Usagi said a bit sharply.

 "And why's she not here?" Makoto asked. "She is a Senshi, too. Right?"

 "She would be too distracting," Usagi smiled a bit at Setsuna's shock. "Besides, I already talked with her."

 "You know she'll just tell everything to those Company goons," Rei remarked.

 "Or maybe Puu tells her girlfriend everything," Minako teased.

 "That's enough. And don't be fooled into thinking she's their pet demon," Setsuna smirked. "Their relationship is more complex. There's also what WIC wants"

 "They're comrades," Ami stated. She knew that the Company could be watching them this very moment. Setsuna assured them that the magic she was using could beat any surveillance WIC tried... but Ami was starting to lose her faith in that kind of magic.

 "Ranma trusts the Company grunts," Janet added.

 "They have been working together," Usagi agreed.

 "What do they even want?" Rei asked. The girls turned to Setsuna who looked to their princess. The pregnant pause that followed lasted for a few moments.

 "We're in over our heads," Minako finally admitted. "This isn't like before."

 "There's too many sides, and we don't know who the real big enemy is," Makoto added.

 "Senshi aren't supposed to be spies." Makoto's comment drew a snicker from Setsuna.

 "What's so funny?" Usagi asked.

 "Back in the Silver Millennium espionage was a main part of the Senshi's work."

 "Flunkies for the queen," Ami dryly remarked.

 "That's about right," Setsuna sighed. She then silently slid a folder to Usagi.

 The blonde opened the folder and read a few lines before closing it. Ignoring the other's commentary she stared at the folder. It was not fair. "Thank you," she quietly said.

 Setsuna nodded. She did not like Usagi's request. Knowing more about the pair that died was counterproductive in her eyes, but it was an order from the princess.

 "I think that's it." Usagi stood and told Setsuna to follow her to her room.

 "Wonder what they're going to do in there?" Minako asked.

 "There are plenty of rumors about a certain Senshi being a lesbian," Rei remarked.

 "I'll put this thing back in storage." As Ami got up with the book she carefully avoided eye contact with Rei.

 "I'll help," Janet said as she followed Ami into the blue-haired girl's room.

 In Usagi's room, Setsuna stood and looked at her princess with increasing awkwardness. Usagi was sitting on her bed and slowly reading the file that Setsuna had prepared.

 Blinking away a couple tears, Usagi closed the folder and looked up at Setsuna. "They said I was going to destroy humanity. Is that true? How much does Crystal Tokyo cost?"

 Setsuna closed her eyes. "That's... well it depends."

 "You're evading."
 "It's the future." Setsuna frowned. "There are many ways to Crystal Tokyo, because... well... there are many possible futures."

 "The great freeze?"

 "You did not cause that." Setsuna promised. "That was a disaster, one that we may yet prevent."

 "But they said...."

 "Their book is wrong. Ami said as much. Mistranslations and deluded prophecy," Setsuna assured as she walked over to the bed.

 "You better be right. Crystal Tokyo won't be founded on a lie."

 Setsuna smiled. Usagi sounded like a leader now. The Senshi of Pluto refrained from reminding Usagi about the Nemesis debacle though. "Is there anything else?"

 Usagi thought for a few seconds. "There is something you should know about Ranma."

 "What?"

 For the first time in several days Usagi truly smiled. "You were tricked when you gave Ranma those powers, but not by who you think."

 "Pardon?"
 "Ranma always was DarkStar. Well... DarkStar reincarnated as Ranma. There was no possession."

 "That means that..." Setsuna stopped in shock. "Serenity was always very fond of her," she finally admitted. Usagi was right, she (and Murdock) had been played, after a fashion, by the Queen.

 "Yup, really should have looked deeper into Ranma."

 "I see why Ranma made such a good replacement for...." Setsuna coughed nervously.

 "It's okay, I know he's dead," Usagi said harshly.

 

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

 

 "What's wrong?" Nariko asked her little sister.

 Aurora closed the front door. "Well, it's complicated." She looked at the other succubus. "Actually this might be right up your alley."

 "Okay. Is this about school?" Nariko wondered what could make Aurora so nervous.

 "Not really." Aurora smirked, but her face became more neutral. School was not something she cared for. Neither the Assembly or Alexia made her go, but her new mother...

 "What then?"

 Aurora shrugged and explained the situation and the solution she had come up with.

 Nariko nodded, seeing why Aurora thought that this would be up her alley. "I think you should go talk to Mom. She should be out back training with Nabiki."

 "Good idea," Aurora smiled. She might be able to get some training of her own put in.

 Aurora made her way to the dojo. She briefly studied her mother. Part of her wanted to utter a battle cry and dive in, but she decided on something a bit more subtle.

 Ranma smirked at the arrival of her daughter. The stalk Aurora did was very nice, quiet but quick. She even approached from downwind. However, demons had other senses, and Aurora had not masked her presence fully.

 The brood mother appreciated Aurora's mode of attack. A fireball would be a more logical opening, but it would be very damaging, and might put Nabiki at risk. Ranma slid down and spun to intercept the attack. She grabbed her daughter's outstretched arm, and careful to avoid claws that were not extended, and deflected.

 Aurora rolled back and countered with her tail to her mother's legs. When Ranma stepped back, Aurora pressed forward. She sidestepped when Ranma lunged at her, but it was a feint.

 The redhead extended one of her wings and using a limb that was strong enough to lift her body off the ground to hit Aurora. She fell to the ground and made a grab for her mother's leg. Ranma tapped the outstretched arm with her tail.

 Aurora briefly frowned, for the rest of this match she would not be able to use that arm. She rolled up and extending her other hand managed to draw a finger across her mother's thigh.

 Ranma immediately slid her knee out from under her and fell onto her daughter. Aurora caught her with her tail and remaining arm. Ranma had responded in kind.

 "Good match," Ranma laughed as she untangled herself. She then helped Aurora to her feet. "Going for a softer attack?"

 "You soak up bruises, and any broken bones will just heal. Cutting you apart seemed like the best way to defeat you in close quarters," Aurora said after catching her breath.

 "But you ended up just as damaged," Nabiki reminded.

 "You could probably mix in some of your heavier moves too. A solid hit can give some distance. Also when you stalk... remember that your prey may have sensed you and is preparing a counter," Ranma advised. She then smiled with pride. "You did do good today."

 Aurora nodded. She always knew she had the ability, and was gratified to have a teacher that could actually help hone her skills...

 "So what's up?" Ranma asked as she adjusted her unitard. "Or did you just want to spar?"

 "I was thinking about my name. I want -" Aurora closed her eyes. It felt like betraying Alexia, but Alexia did not give her a choice... neither did the Assembly. It was time to see what this mother would do. "I want to change it."

 "Okay. We can call the Company and have them make new paperwork."

 "That's it? Don't you even want to approve what I picked?"

 "Approve? Not really, but I am curious." Ranma was pretty sure that she would not go back to Ryoga.

 "Misako."

 "I suppose you are a saved child," Nabiki said.

 "It is a lovely name," Ranma agreed.

 "That's it?" Misako blinked.

 "What? Did you expect my eyes to glow and do some kind of ritual?" Ranma asked.

 "Uh.... nope." Misako coughed.

 "So, what are you using for a last name?" Nabiki asked, with a tiny smirk

 "I guess Saotome's good enough." Misako shrugged.

 "Anyway... why the name change?" Ranma asked.

 Misako looked down. "It's just that Yuki and Eclipse...."

 "You don't want to be left behind?" Ranma's question was followed by her putting an arm around Misako. For the first time the green-eyed girl did not resist the gesture.

 "I still... Alexia was my mother. I still love her." Misako leaned onto her new mother.

 Nabiki swallowed. She could relate. Alexia was a selfish monster, but... she was still their Mother. Having Ranma as their mother now helped things, but the feelings were still there. Of her three mothers, Alexia was the low point. Her birth mother had the most memories but they were distant, but there were similarities between her and Ranma. Both had the seemly unlimited well of affection for their children.

 "She wasn't a good succubus," Misako grumbled. "If she had any smarts she would have won. She deserved her fate." She closed her eyes in shame.

 "Yes, she did," Ranma simply held her daughter.

 "What are your plans?" Misako asked.

 Ranma blinked. "Plans? For what?"

 "The future," Misako's voice dripped with incredulity.

 Nabiki paused wondering why Aurora, no Misako, of all people would ask about that.

 "I haven't really thought about it. Why?" Ranma asked.

 "Oh, come on. Even Alexia had a plan." Misako shook her head.

 "Killing Mom isn't exactly a plan," Nabiki dryly stated.

 "You should know, little sis. Helping her plan was your job." Misako smirked and turned back to Mother. "Well? What are your plans?"
 Ranma ran a hand through her hair. "Well... uh... there's helping you girls."

 "That's it? Nothing for when you get older?"

 Ranma hugged Misako. "I never thought much about the future. Not back when I was human, and now... I'm a mother now."

 "Just because you're a mom doesn't mean, you have to abandon your dreams," Nabiki said.

 "Yeah, look at all the training you're doing. A whole new set of moves," Misako said.

 Ranma shrugged. Her life was a mix of training, mothering, and combat. Though at the heart of it all three were ultimately the same.

 "You never were one for long term planning," Nabiki said snidely.

 "What about your singing Mom? That's a good hobby," Misako offered.

 "Yeah, but... I like my life." Ranma wondered when she started liking this life. It was hard for her to think of life without her family, her daughters. "Well, what about you girls? What are your plans?"

 "You got me, Mom," Nabiki sighed as she snuck her way under her mother's free arm.

 Ranma hugged both girls. "It's school right?"

 Nabiki nodded. "I'm not even sure if I should go back to High School. I am about thirteen-fourteen now. Maybe..."

 "It's okay," Ranma reassured. "What about you Misa-chan?"

 Misako coughed. "I've always been Ucchan's partner." She leaned forward to see if Nabiki was snickering. "She never gave up hope in... saving me. I'll follow her."

 "She serious about joining them?" Ranma asked.

 Misako shrugged.

 "Succubus agents? Weird." Nabiki knew that the brood was close to the agents, but there was always a bit of a line between the Company and the WIC. Though it was thinner than the line between the brood and the Sailor Senshi. Nabiki blinked. "But Mom's a Senshi too isn't she?"

 "Uh... yeah, I am. Why?" Ranma wondered what brought this up.

 "Oh it's nothing... yet," Nabiki got an evil little smile. Mother was proof that it was possible and the leader of the Senshi had shown the level of communicability.

 "Nabiki..." Ranma started.

 After Nabiki explained her idea Misako and Ranma blinked. Her daughters smelled normal, but she was their mother. "I am nursing you girls, maybe that energy could be transferred"

 "Wait? You want us to become more like them?" Misako asked.

 "You were just talking about joining the Company. Besides, we might as well beat the Senshi at their own game."

 Misako smirked. "You have a point there Sis. Mom's shown that a demon can be a better leader. If we could be a better team..."

 "And be better magical-girls than them," Nabiki laughed.

 "Usagi's not that bad... she's just..." Ranma stopped and tried to articulate her point.

 "I have no idea how someone with as much experience fighting as her could be so naïve," Misako said.

 "She's getting better," Ranma stated.

 Misako shrugged.

 "Careful there, you and Ukyou might be the first succubus agent Senshi," Nabiki smirked.

 "If 'mother's milk' works," Misako leaned onto Ranma. "At least we'll be the first agent succubae."

 "Not if one of our agent friends goes first," Nabiki said.

 "Nah, they've all turned Mom down," Misako replied.

 "We haven't seen anyone wounded enough... eventually someone will want it."

 "They are warriors," Misako mused.

 Ranma blinked and patted her girls on the head. "That would make the family bigger."

 "So?" Misako and Nabiki asked.

 

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

 

 "Are you okay, honey?" Haruka asked her daughter.

 Hotaru looked up from her work and beamed happily. "Yup!" she said before going back to her work.

 "Is there going to be a fight?" Michiru questioned.

 "Nope!" Hotaru said as she carefully moved the leather strap.

 The two elder lesbian Senshi looked at each other before looking back at their daughter. "So why are you doing this?"

 Hotaru looked at her guardians as if they were slow. "You have to maintain the edge." She then returned to listening to the sound leather made against metal.

 Chibi-Usa tried to keep from snickering.

 "And that's why you're sharpening your glaive?" Michiru asked.

 The disappointed expression returned in the Hotaru's face. "I finished sharpening half an hour ago," she carefully explained pointing to three stones. "Traditional waterstones, are softer than Western oilstones, but they don't glaze or get loaded. Though it was a pain finding a good store that had them.

 "I didn't like the ara-to they had, but that was just the rough stone. Their naka-to was okay, but their shiage-to was divine," Hotaru continued as she held up the white finishing stone.

 "But you're using a piece of leather." Michiru said.

 Hotaru sighed. "Of course, I told you I'm not sharpening. I finished that. I'm honing, now."

 "What?" Haruka asked.

 Chibi-Usa put her head in her hands and started shaking. It was getting hard to contain herself.

 "You ever watch a Western movie? Know whenever they showed a barbershop the barber would slide his straight razors against a leather strap?" Hotaru's tone had become that of a teacher lecturing slow students.

 "Uh... yes?" Michiru asked.

 "They weren't doing that because it was cool," Hotaru paused. "Well they were, those were just movies, but this is how you get a razor-edge."

 "So you are sharpening then?"

 "Yes, Momma I am." Hotaru sighed in defeat. "Papa do you want me to put a good edge on your sword?"

 "It’s a magic sword. I thought it didn't need to be sharpened," Haruka said.

 Hotaru shook her head and went back to work. She started humming a little tune.

 It was too much for Usa, who started laughing.

 "So where did you learn to sharpen and um... hone blades?" Michiru asked.

 Hotaru paused in her humming. "We're Senshi, maintaining our equipment is part of our training," she said without looking up.

 "Uh... well have a good time," Michiru said.

 "Yes, don't cut yourself," Haruka added. The two older girls left the room.

 "You know they're talking about you?" Chibi-Usa quietly asked.

 "Better they be worried about me than you." Hotaru said. She could hear her parents quietly arguing in the kitchen.

 "Don't be so hard on them. They're stressed out. They find out they're being spied on and then they hear what's happening with the Inners," Usa sighed.

 "I'm sorry that had to happen to your mother. First she loses... Mamoru and then she sees that," Hotaru said taking a break from her honing.

 "Family tradition, the future's..." Usa raised her hand in a disheartened gesture.

 "Yeah, it'll get worse."

 "That's why Mom ordered us to stay in Japan. We'll be needed here," Usa flipped one of her ponytails.

 Hotaru nodded. "Least your mom ordered Momma and Papa to leave those agents alone."

 "We need all the allies we can get." Usa shrugged.

 

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

 

 "You must be happy to have your daughter back," Soun then flagged the waitress and ordered another drink.

 "I suppose." Principal Kuno sighed. "She's jealous though. I should have known she'd be jealous of Nariko."

 Genma scowled. He wanted to make a comment, that eager halfwit was why his son... He downed the remainder of his sake. He had learned not to insult Drake's child. It was clear that both his friends had become soft, obviously because of their daughters.

 "I guess I should have been more sensitive to Kodachi... but she seemed to be going down a dark path, and the Company worked so well for Kasumi." And her issues, the Drake did not say aloud. "She even wanted to go, I was proud of it."

 "Yes, it worked perfectly," Soun grumbled. "That smarmy man with his suit. He conned me out of my daughter and returned someone else."

 "It's no wonder you feel so distant to your other daughters then," Drake observed as he sipped his drink.

 Soun looked down. He only spoke after a fresh drink was put down in front of him. "I'm glad they're... back, but they're not the same are they?"

 "At least yours are still the same gender" Drake glanced at Genma to see his reaction.

 "I don't understand the... boy." Genma said before ordering another drink

 "At least Kasumi and Ranma seem to be getting closer, that's good," Drake offered.

 "That's not joining the houses." Genma's tone was stiff.

 "I am fairly certain Kasumi would never give up her humanity." Soun wondered how it could have come to this. His family had been changed before his eyes, and he could do nothing. His daughters looked to others and went out and did Lord knows what.

 "At least you have that much. I swear, it's like my son's mind was rotted by his... affliction, and his mother's not helping in the least," Genma said.

 "That affliction saved the lives and souls of one of my daughters and two of Soun's, not to mention all the others she has saved. Ranma is using your school as the base for her new style. Shouldn't that make you happy?" Drake asked.

 "Ranma should be a man."

 "We don't always get what we want. It's part of growing up. We have to deal with things as they are." Drake sighed. It was sad that he had to be the voice of reason.

 "You are right. We cannot pine over things and how we wish them to be," Soun nodded.

 "We have been idle for too long," Genma agreed.

 "Yeah, you can't just sit back and hope things magically turn around. Your kids looked to you for help... and you failed them." Drake did not want to be this frank, but there was no way to sugarcoat it. "That's why they all turned to maternal figures."

 "So Soun's why my son's a sappy mother?" Genma asked, the last word spat out.

 "Uh... not exactly. It's more complicated than that." Drake sipped his drink and feared that it would be a long night.

 

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

 

 "I wonder what moronic plan our dads are hatching," Ranma asked Kasumi. The pair were sitting on the back porch of the Tendo house.

 "We could tap into the audio of the surveillance team," Kasumi offered.

 "Eh, not unless they're doing something really stupid –well- dangerous," Ranma corrected herself. She had gotten used to and understood the need for this level of surveillance, but she did not like it.

 "Yes, we'll do that." Kasumi looked unto the darkened forest.

 "Did you have a good time with Akane and Nabiki today?"

 "Nabiki's worried about school," Kasumi noted.

 "At least you know that yourself now," Ranma grumbled.

 "I am spending time with them, I'm not like my father."

 "Good, they need human contact. Especially after what Alexia did."

 Kasumi nodded. She had initiated contact before, the second time should be easier. She turned to Ranma and smiled.

 The redhead tilted her head. She hardly had time to catch the change in the human's scent before Kasumi was onto her. The contact was gentle, more of a caress, but abruptly ended when the officer retreated her hand.

 Wordlessly, Kasumi stood and walked away.

 Eyes-wide and cheeks flushed, Ranma put her hand to her breast. Despite the surprise, the corners of her lips turned upward. Her mind flashed with the image of a nude Kasumi drenched in blood. The agent's face was neutral but her eyes were...

 "You two can come out now," Ranma said to the two kids she could sense.

 "You should have felt her back. Kasumi was grabbing your goods," Nariko's mate suggested.

 "It was a test, Akane," Nariko said. "To see if Mom could control herself or fall into mindless lust."

 "You're going by Akane now?" Ranma asked, her daughter's lack of reaction at that name, piercing her euphoric haze.

 Akane shrugged. Her name did not seem that important. She had been a succubus as both Akane and Eclipse.

 "What are you going to do about Kasumi?" Nariko asked.

 "You should test her back," Akane offered.

 "Oooh! Use your violet negligee," Nariko suggested.

 "Yes, the one that Misako gave you!" Akane supposed that Misako was a good name. It was better than Aurora at least.

 "Yes, I think that's a good idea," Ranma said as she stood up.

 "No Mom, you should wait." Akane said. "Big Sis is expecting you now."

 "Yeah, wait until after tonight's training mission." Nariko smiled evilly. "Then let her have it."

 

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

 

 A woman strolled down a forest path, humming a little song as she made her way. The shadows from the trees played across her form until they reached her hair where they seemed to merge with the black tresses.

 Dark blue eyes sparkled in the gloom. It had taken time for word to travel. Her family was connected, but the distances were astronomical. It was a shame what had happened, a real tragedy, but the woman was prepared to make things better.

 Her shoulders slumped. She promised herself to not screw up again. The woman had lived long enough to know that history repeating itself was simply another chance to get things right.

 A thin smile appeared on her face. Patience was virtue that came with age, but even she found herself eager for what was about to happen. She maintained her steady pace; relatively speaking, a few more minutes was nothing.

 

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

 

 "Hard night sis? You look like something a demon dragged in." Nabiki said while she ate her breakfast. At least her big sister seemed to fare better than her father and Mr. Saotome, those two were still at the Drake's place dealing with their hangovers.

 "Meh... coffee," Kasumi mumbled after staggering into the room

 "I thought you agents are trained to last without sleep?" Misako asked half jokingly. The Assembly had plenty of rumors about the Company, most of which appeared to be true.

 "It wasn't a lack of sleep that did her in." Ukyou sipped her juice.

 "Got a pot of coffee made," Nabiki said as she poured some into Kasumi's black WIC mug.

 Ranma snickered at the fatigued agent.

 Kasumi sipped the beverage "Hmmm?"

 "Oh, nothing." Ranma smiled and crossed her legs.

 "I suppose I deserve what you did to me last night," Kasumi admitted. She sighed when the brood ceased eating and leaned forward with knowing smiles. "Oh knock it off. If I really had sex with your Mom, you girls would know it."

 "Someone's prideful of her sexual skills," Ranma said as she sipped out of her "World's Greatest Mother" mug. Ranma knew she had let some of her power slip. Her intention was not to seduce Kasumi, but unsettle her.

 "You have no room to talk, virgin," Kasumi said as she refilled her cup.

 "That's me. As pure as the freshly fallen snow." The redhead laughed.

 "Someone's grumpy," Nabiki remarked.

 "I came back from a midnight training mission to find a succubus trying to screw my brains out. Kept me up all night."

 "Now you know what it's like." Ranma said.

 "Did you get any further than you did with Setsuna?" Nariko asked after looking up from her breakfast.

 "Yeah, I got far enough," Ranma said.

 Kasumi slowly refilled her mug again. "You'd have gotten further if you had given me a chance to breathe." Kasumi then left the room. She was starting to feel the beginnings of a good caffeine buzz.

 "She's bluffing," Ranma said once Kasumi was out of earshot, and had gotten into her car and driven back to base.

 "I'm sure she is, Mom," Nabiki remarked.

 "Yeah, yeah," Ranma tilted her head and looked out the window to the kitchen. "Huh... that's odd," she got up and with a better view tracked a darker shadow moving amongst the shadows of the forest bordering the back yard.

 "What's wrong mom?" Nabiki asked.

 "Someone's coming, human... I guess." Ranma's senses were at a loss.

 "I'll call the perimeter agents," Ukyou said as she walked to the phone.

 Ranma nodded and motioned for her girls to get into position. She then walked to the door. The scent hit her before the figure completely emerged from the shadows. Her other senses could not detect any... power, but the smell was familiar.

 "Just who the hell are you?" Ranma shouted to the shadowed figure. It was odd, as if the shadows of the forest had obediently followed the person out into the open.

 The shadows retreated from the figure's body, but not her hair or dress, where they seemed to quiver. "Funny words to give family, dear DarkStar," the woman laughed, her blue eyes twinkling.

 "Maybe I didn't make myself clear the first time." Ranma formed a fireball in her hand. "Who are you?"

 The woman strutted forward and took Ranma's hand, snuffing out the fire. "That's no way to talk to your grandma."

 "What?" Ranma asked as she pulled her hand free. "Now who are..." Ranma's voice drifted as memories started to assert themselves. She had already accessed them once, when comforting Usagi. "BlackSky?"

 The woman smiled. "I see you're doing better this time around DarkStar."

 Ranma blinked. "You're from before." She noticed that the person had gotten closer.

 "We do live a long time, Dear," BlackSky reached out and ran her hand down Ranma's face. She frowned at the slight recoil in the young demon. "Lovely family," she said looking at the assembled broodlings.

 Ranma stepped back. She could see her... grandmother, but there was no feeling. There was a familiar mundane scent, but no energy signature. It was a void, a disconcerting absence. She should be able to sense her grandmother, but there was nothing.

 BlackSky sighed. "I suppose I'll need to jog your memory." Shadows grew from her inky ankle-length hair and snug black dress and danced across her form. She smirked as her power released.

 Ranma's senses where overwhelmed, the presence of BlackSky impacted her. She could feel the pressure and nearly tangible form of the elder succubus' power. The presence quickly retreated, dying down to a reasonable level. Instead of a void, Ranma sensed a succubus that was only a few times greater in power than her.

 "Grandma?" Ranma asked.

The rest of the brood was similarly stunned. The sensations were overpowering. They knew mother and Alexia's power, but this was otherworldly. As a group they had moved further behind their mother.

 BlackSky nodded and found herself being embraced by the little redhead.

 "So... she's good family then?" Ukyou asked. She shrugged when instead of replying Ranma and BlackSky purred. She then pulled out her phone and alerted the perimeter agents.

 "These are your girls?" BlackSky asked after putting Ranma back down onto her feet.

 "Of course," Ranma said with pride as she lined up her daughters.

 "Alexia mentioned you," Misako said with wonderment.

 BlackSky nodded. "I had hoped that her exile would force her to mature. Instead... I'm sorry she came after you," she apologized to Ranma.

 "You know about that?" Ranma asked.

 "One of my daughters informed me about what happened." BlackSky shook her head. "It's a shame. Alexia was always jealous of you... I guess finding you alive... but she deserved her fate."

 "I converted or killed her spawn, ripped her apart, and ate her while she was still alive."

 "She deserved that. She was stupid, and used tactics... it was like she was from House Vephar," BlackSky spat

 "Vephar?" Misako asked.

 "Back when I was in the Silver Millennium there were two invading demon armies. One was lead by grandma over there," Ranma pointed. "The other was led by Vephar. She had the larger army. Twenty-nine legions I think, but while Grandma didn't have the numbers, she had skill."

 "Yes, Vephar would have her family turn everyone they got, but you girls know how effective newborn succubae are in battle. Such a waste of our own kind," BlackSky sagged.

 "Didn't you raid earth's magical universities for new blood?" Ranma asked.

 "And their royal family," BlackSky smiled as she patted Ranma on the head.

 "Mom's royalty?" Misako asked.

 "So Mommy was a princess in her past life?" Nariko asked.

 "Prince actually," BlackSky clarified.

 "Not surprised at that," Akane sighed.

 "Makes a strange sort of sense," Nabiki commented.

 "This is why I didn't want to tell you girls this," Ranma sighed as she massaged the bridge of her nose.

 "To be fair you did end up being queen of Earth," BlackSky reminded.

 "Yeah, a demon ruling humanity in the middle of a demonic invasion." Ranma turned to her daughters. "This is what keeps me sane, as bad as this life gets... it can't come close to sucking nearly as bad as my last one."

 "Both times you started out as a guy and ended up as a succubus Sailor Senshi," Ukyou stated.

 "Yeah, but this time around I got to have kids."

 "Family makes a world of difference doesn't it," Nodoka walked up and pocketed the cell phone she had just used. Surprised at the lack of combat, she reported the situation to base.

 "Ah, you're her human mother," BlackSky surmised. "Must have been shocking to find your son transformed into this."

 "Yes, quite shocking." Nodoka's face remained neutral. "It was more shocking to find that she was a negligent mother. I had to encourage her to take care of her young and be a good brood mother for them."

 "You helped your son become this?" BlackSky asked, pointing to the leather-clad redhead.

 "I was thinking about my granddaughters health," Nodoka stated.

 "How reasoned," BlackSky remarked.

 "I am a doctorate holding scientist," Nodoka said.

 "Don't forget the Company commission," Nariko added.

 "Mom, you really should introduce grandma," Nabiki whispered to Ranma.

 Ranma blushed. "Yeah, grandma this is my mom, Doctor... and Major Nodoka Saotome."

 "Ahh Company, so that's why you're so business-like," BlackSky smiled. "DarkStar, not only did you get involved with the Senshi again, but also with human hunters."

 "Yeah, well it seems like I'm closer with the Company than with the Senshi. At least the agents get me." Ranma said.

 BlackSky noticed how the human had slid next to DarkStar and was holding the girl's hand. "Please, I'm just here to see how DarkStar's doing. I'm not here to take your little girl. I'm a mother too."

 "I know how succubus moms are," Nodoka's tone had thawed slightly, and she kept eye contact with the elder demon.

 "Damn Alexia," BlackSky swore, but she had to smile at the way Nodoka stared her down. Not many beings, demon or otherwise were able or willing to do that.

 "Would you like to come inside?" Nodoka asked.

 

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

 

 "Here comes the granddame of the succubae," Jacob said as he watched the feed. He stood with Stillwater on the upper level of the command and control room of the WIC base. The alarms had been switched off. They were only distracting. The revelation their sensors brought was enough to hold everyone's attention.

 "This surprise could have been worse," Stillwater remarked before confirming the targeting data for the M270 battery under his command. The new Pattern D, unregistered, seemed to be amiable.

 "Content?" Jacob asked a communications tech.

 "Standard succubus banter sir," Maya Inversion replied as she put the microphone pickup on speaker.

 Jacob nodded and listened to the conversation for a bit. He then walked back to Stillwater. "It looks like a normal family visit."

 "With a power spike that went off the chart. You remember the last time we faced a demon like this," Stillwater sighed. BlackSky's unveiling had burnt out a few of the more sensitive scanners, and their backups had to be activated. The officer suspected that that was not even her full potential. She had proven able to defeat their scanners and human observers.

 "This is Miss Saotome's grandmother; you know how old that would make her," Jacob replied. "Besides, we succeeded against that demon fifteen years ago."

 "She was drunk on power, and the Company was lucky. We can't afford to count on that this time," Stillwater said stiffly. They also owed their survival to the... innovative strategy of – then - Captain Anderson.

 "I'd be more concerned about the Heir to Serenity than this demon," Jacob reminded.

 Stillwater nodded. At least with this BlackSky there was the option of fighting her. They had troopers and artillery ready. Knowing full well the slim odds, this was a scenario they had trained for. Serenity's heir on the other hand... The full potential of her power was what they were counting on. In the hands of an unstable person...

 "I think we can both guess at the true purpose of the attempt on Miss Tsukino's life," Jacob stated. Many knew, or suspected, the power of Miss Tsukino and sought to control or destroy her.

 "This is not the time to worry about her," Stillwater said.

 

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

 

 "So the Company is treating you well?" BlackSky asked as she sipped her chocolate. She had a fondness for the beverage that dated to when she first got some cocoa along with a few new family members. She remembered the excursion vaguely, it involved going to a London Chocolate House followed by a pub and a few other locations. She knew that that the warmer parts of her territory had cacao cultivation for at least a few hundred years. "Lovely marshmallows, so very small," she commented.

 "They just come in the packet, grandma." Ranma remarked. "Uh yeah, they're not dumb. They'd rather have me as an ally than an enemy."

 BlackSky nodded approvingly. "And the Senshi?"

 "Not so smart."

 "But Mom has the hots for a couple of them." Nabiki smirked.

 "Nabiki!"

 BlackSky shook her head. "You're setting yourself up for heartbreak, dear. Those girls are too uppity for their own good."

 "It's not like that! I was just teasing Pluto!" Ranma defended.

 "Pluto?" BlackSky smiled in recollection. "Yes, you did enjoy teasing the one from your day."

 "They're not all bad. You do owe Serenity for my return," Ranma reminded. "And Usagi's pretty nice."

 BlackSky grinned as she sipped her hot chocolate; she was still fascinated by the tiny, little marshmallows. "She did keep up her end of the deal," she said after licking her lips, revealing the expected fangs.

 "You let her take over earth, instead of you?" Ranma asked.

 "She promised me she'd bring you back. Took her long enough," BlackSky grumbled. "So who's Usagi?"

 "Queen Serenity's daughter," Ranma said.

 "So that's that broad's kid. Big shoes for Usagi to fill, something her mother didn't help her with," BlackSky noted sourly.

 "You have no idea."

 "So are you still trying to take over the world?" Nodoka asked.

 "No, that's a job for the young and idealistic succubae," BlackSky smiled fondly at her granddaughter. "Though, I suppose this Usagi is gonna try it too."

 "I don't wanna take over. Too much work." Ranma said.

 BlackSky smiled. "My thoughts exactly."

 "Yeah, but you control a whole continent on the home plane," Misako said excitedly.

 "That's more than I remember," Ranma blinked. Her own memories of the home plane were very hazy. As DarkStar she had never been there, and only heard secondhand from BlackSky

 "Destroying House Vephar did add to my holdings greatly," BlackSky smiled.

 "Home plane? The dimension native to demons?" Ukyou asked.

 "Succubae actually," BlackSky explained.

 "Legend says that the creator of our species, the first succubus, took the home plane and made it into a haven for our kind. A place where we could grow and not be enslaved by other demons. Then the home plane became full and some of us immigrated to a place with plenty of unclaimed hunting territory," Nabiki explained.

 "Or were banished," BlackSky added.

 "Who told you that?" Ranma asked Nabiki.

 "Not everything Alexia told me was bad fashion advice or her gloating."

 "So that's why you tried to take Earth back then," Nodoka stated.

 "I'm a demon," BlackSky shrugged.

 "So you're not going to try to takeover?" Misako asked, trying to sound hopeful.

 " 'Fraid not kiddo."

 "Something for the younger demons do to?" Misako rhetorically asked in thought.

 BlackSky nodded and turned to Nodoka. "Do you live with your daughter?"

 "Essentially, though I do often sleep in the lab," Nodoka said, noticing BlackSky's use of "your daughter" instead of "my granddaughter".

 "Attached to your work?"

 "Materials science, I make armor and weapons for the Company. Us humans have to use our wits and other tricks." Nodoka baited.

 "Have you ever made anything for your family? Or is it just business?"

 "They haven't asked yet." Nodoka frowned at her daughter and granddaughters. "Though some of them are thinking of joining."

 Ukyou coughed after Misako poked her in the ribs.

 "It's not that Mom," Ranma said. "It's just that normal weapons and armor aren't... not that what you make is normal... I mean it's saved..." The redhead continued to nervously babble.

 She was saved by BlackSky. "Materials science... so you're good with metallurgy?" After receiving a nod, she marked off the first name on her mental list.

 Nodoka wondered what the demon across from her was thinking. BlackSky was... an example of what the succubus species was capable of, controlled power and refinement. Nodoka put her hand over her daughter's hand and wondered about Ranma's future.

 BlackSky smiled. The ability to read emotions came from reading body language and sensing pheromones and other cues. It was a necessary survival trait for a species that had to mimic humans enough to blend in, and one that increased with experience. The interplay between this human and... her family was fascinating. "I've never seen such pure devotion. If I didn't know better..." BlackSky paused. "No, this is a case where species doesn't matter."

 Nodoka raised an eyebrow, and put her hands in front of her on the table. "Is this your roundabout way of complimenting me?"

 "You're unique." BlackSky reached out and touched Nodoka's hands with her own. "Despite your species, you're a part of DarkStar's, of Ranma's, brood. Her daughters look to you. Ranma looks to you. She sleeps in your lap doesn't she?"

 Nodoka pulled her hands back and hugged Ranma with one arm. "She's my daughter. I'll do whatever it takes."

 "By encouraging me to accept Nariko you did save me, and my girls." Ranma quietly said. She did not want to think what her life would be like without Nariko. Ranma still wondered what would have happened during the Alexia situation if she didn't have a family to draw strength and purpose from. She did not need to wonder what would have happened to Nariko, and with other daughter's it was more a question of death of body versus corruption of soul.

 "You are in good hands," BlackSky commented to Ranma. "So what are these agents like? We know your mother here, but what about the others?"

 Ranma traced her hand over the lettering of her mug. There was a lot she could say. There were even more agents. "I guess there's one story that stands out, Aram Kowalski's. He wasn't an officer or anythin' like that. He was... my friend. At first he was just some anonymous guy in dark sunglasses. I then started talking to him, he was still just a guy."

 The corners of the redhead's lips raised. "Things didn't really start to... change until the bank robbery." Ranma then explained how she, Aram, and Gabriel, another agent stopped the robbers. She reminisced happily on the bar scene that followed.

 Misako had lowered her head. She knew where this story was going, and her own part.

 Ranma's voice choked when she described the next event. A battle on a lonely stretch of road. "He did his job, probably killed more of Alexia's minions then I did. He went down fighting."

 "I'm sorry, Mother," Misako weakly said, her eyes still downcast.

 Ranma got up and walked across the living room and hugged her daughter. "I know you are."

 "How?" Misako whimpered as she tried to bury her head onto her mother's shoulder. "I liked serving Alexia. We all did."

 "She used you, made you into what she wanted. Ryoga was nothing like Aurora, and you're more than just Aurora now," Ranma reassured.

 "I'm more Aurora than Ryoga," Misako reminded. "And you wouldn't have thought twice about killing either."

 Ranma gently pushed Misako off of her and rotated the younger demon so they were eye to eye. "That's a lie. I had a weak and traumatized Aurora at my feet. Ucchan saved you."

 Misako leaned her head back onto the brood mother. "I still helped kill your friend."

 "You also helped abduct two of my daughters and aide in several plots to steal the rest." Ranma smirked. She motioned for Akane to slide down and sat down on the couch still holding Misako. "We were invited to the funeral. It was a good ceremony I suppose," Ranma softly said.

 BlackSky nodded and cataloged several things. Her daughter's unhesitating support to her children was one thing, but the approving posture of DarkStar's mother was another. Lastly came the observation that WIC seemed to understand the nature of succubae. Their species was not a uniform whole, but a collection of separate broods.

 "The real part was the wake. It's funny. The Senshi think of me as a demon, a fluke, Setsuna's mistake. Most of the people at school think I'm an uptight cliquey slut. I do have a couple friends, but they don't know what I am. The agents however.... they've seen me fight and I'm still encouraged to drink with them, mourn with them. They are scary secret agents, and they do some... creepy stuff, maybe that's why they can get a demon not being all evil, or something. I'm rambling." Ranma apologized.

 Nodoka smiled. Her daughter could be deep, in her own inarticulate way.

 "No, it makes sense," BlackSky reassured. Things were already vastly different this time. Humanity actually seemed to be mounting a defense worthy of what they had.

 "So what's your story?" Nabiki asked BlackSky. "You seem pretty up to date with humans. Have anymore insights onto what's happening? Or maybe the Senshi, you were in their past too?"

 "Like your mother, I was around well before the fall of the Serenity's Empire. The Senshi you know were born well after I left Earth."

 "I doubt you stayed entirely in the dark. I'm guessing Serenity helped destroy Vephar's legions. A person like that you'd stay informed on." Nabiki said.

 BlackSky sipped her cocoa and crossed off another name on her list. She liked the inquisitive spunk this one had. "I may have kept informed on a few things. We do have our ways of getting men, and women, to loosen their lips."

 "Obviously," Nabiki dryly remarked. "What do you know about Serenity's kid?" she asked recalling the crying fit that Usagi had.

 "She seemed to take after her father," BlackSky said a she delicately put her cup down. "Her mother, Serenity, was capable and ruthless. I respected her, until I found out the caliber of mother she was. Her daughter was spoiled, and when things counted most... the brat took her own life."

 "Was it after Mamoru died the first time?" Ranma asked.

 "I'm assuming that's the Earth Prince Endymion," BlackSky sighed. "That new royal family really doesn't compare to the one you came from, DarkStar."

 "She's doing better now at least. This time she didn't kill herself after Mamoru died again."

 "Good. Tell me, can Lady Venus bring herself to use her sword now?"

 "Nope," Ukyou said.

 "Figures, if Serenity's daughter kept that up the other Senshi would run out of weapons." BlackSky turned to Nabiki "So Little One, do you have other questions?"

 "Not just now," Nabiki smirked.

 "I'd like to know how you get your hair like that," Misako asked.

 "Oh this?" BlackSky asked as she fingered a strand from the black hair that pooled around her.

 "What about her makeup?" Ukyou teased.

 "It's like Mom's," Misako said. "She's already teaching me about that."

 "It still seems odd that you're teaching your daughters about makeup," Nodoka said.

 "Misa-chan was born a guy, and anything is better than what she wore back under Alexia," Ranma shrugged. "Well maybe not what Akane was tricked into."

 Akane grumbled.

 "So how do you get your hair to do that?" Misako asked again, eyes gleaming with interest.

 "You make it sound like there's more to it than just being long and flat black." BlackSky chuckled.

 "Mom can you give me a hand in the kitchen?" Ranma asked as she got up.

 "Sure Dear," Nodoka agreed as she followed her daughter.

 "I'll keep the kids entertained," BlackSky said from the living room

 "What is it?" Nodoka quietly asked in Japanese, as she helped Ranma brew more tea. Ranma could not be worried about BlackSky, not if she just left the demon alone with her children.

 "Are you okay, Mom?" Ranma asked in the same language and volume.

 "It is shocking. To see the rest of your... family."

 Ranma nodded as she fussed over a teapot. "I know my other life... but it still didn't feel quite real. It was so far in the past. I should have known she'd show up."

 "She was the only one to survive?" Nodoka asked. Ranma once told her the gist of her past life.

 "Pretty much. She's a tough old-demon, but she does love her spawn. Family is everything to her. She can't hurt them." Ranma sighed. "That's why she let that tanned moron live."

 "Couldn't your grandmother have... reprogrammed her?"

 "She could have, but she banished her instead."

 "I see."

 "So what else is wrong?" Ranma asked looking up at her mother.

 "Nothing." Nodoka's response was as sharp as the volume limitations could allow.

 Ranma smiled slightly. Her mother could keep her cool in the face of a demon thousands of years old but not in front of her young demonic daughter. "I'm not going to leave you," Ranma whispered as she hugged her mother.

 Nodoka put her arms around the smaller woman and remained silent.

 "You know who helped me the most in my previous life? It wasn't my grandma. Sure she was a neat relative, but it was my mom that was there for me the most. More so than Serenity."

 "I know. It's just creepy what she thinks of me," Nodoka admitted before breaking the hug.

 "But she admires you," Ranma said quizzically. "She doesn't think humans are capable of being like..."

 "Like a demon mother?" Nodoka asked with a contained smile.

 "I did learn from you," Ranma laughed. She then looked at the serving tray. "Is there more we should talk about?"

 "No, I think we're good," Nodoka said before the two women returned to the living room. The officer switched to English. "It is nice to have you over BlackSky. Given Ranma's cousin, I was getting worried about Ranma's ancestry."

 "Alexia was always jealous and never did think things through," BlackSky said coldly.

 "I guess she took the wrong lesson from your stories of conquest and destruction," Misako noted.

 "See Misa-chan I told you reducing the amount of hairspray would clear your mind," Akane smirked.

 "At least I'm trying to be nicer," Misako sniffed.

 BlackSky smiled, they were lively broodlings, and she had marked off all the names from her list, save one. "You're being very quiet dear," she said to Nariko.

 Nariko looked to her mother then back to BlackSky. "Yes, I am," she said.

 "What's wrong, Honey?" Ranma asked moving closer to her eldest.

 "I don't want to be mean." Nariko blushed. Why did she have to be the one to see that something was wrong. She steeled herself. "It feels a bit odd that Great-grandma comes right after Alexia's gone. It's not that she let Alexia roam free. Alexia's sins are her own fault, but..." Nariko looked BlackSky over. "If you really were waiting for so long and dreamed of Mom's return, why did it take you so long to come?"

 BlackSky frowned. "I heard that the Senshi were back, but after a few years of them all being reincarnated and no signs of a redheaded demon among them... I'm sorry, I sort of gave up hope."

 "You thought Serenity had betrayed you?" Nabiki asked.

 "She turned out to be a lousy mother, what reason did I have to trust her?"

 Nodoka nodded. Trust for her was entirely about how good of a mother one was. It seemed a fair way to judge someone's character. Nodoka had noticed her daughter had taken that to heart as well.

 "You gave up hope," Nariko stated.

 "It was several millennia of waiting, and I never did fully. Killing Alexia brought enough attention to you."

 "That loser?" Ranma asked.

 "Yeah, she wasn't a good mother either. So very selfish. Even other succubae from less reputable houses were wary of her," BlackSky explained.

 "Would have fit right in House Vephar," Ranma grumbled, recalling Alexia's habit of using masses of young untrained succubae.

 "For that, I'm quite glad you killed her in an appropriate way," BlackSky admitted.

 Misako sighed. As Aurora she thought that Ranma was the aberration. That succubae were supposed to be like Alexia, but BlackSky.... Misako could see which brood mother BlackSky was more like.

 "So what do you like?" BlackSky gently asked Nariko.

 Nariko shrugged. "I like mother's singing." There was no harm in saying that much.

 BlackSky turned to Ranma and practically beamed. "You sing now?"

 "It just sorta happened," Ranma blushed. "My girls like it... and Mom got me a couple books."

 "Books are very handy," BlackSky nodded knowingly. "So how is your singing voice?"

 "Mother's very good," Akane interjected.

 "Really? You're getting me interested," BlackSky teased.

 "Yeah, even Kasumi stops in to listen now and then," Nabiki said.

 "Your older and still human sister, the agent?" BlackSky asked.

 "That's her, but I don't think she'll ever go demon," Akane sighed.

 "Some people like staying human." BlackSky knew that any real relationship her granddaughter would require her partner to become demonic.

 "And some people don't get a choice," Misako muttered.

 "Would you rather go back to the way you were?" Ukyou asked her... partner.

 "No," Misako pouted.

 "Yeah, you're only now starting to get good enough to beat your archrival and mother," Nabiki teased.

 "Mother is good at that type of stuff," Misako admitted

 "The fighting style that you're teaching your spawn?" BlackSky asked. Her great-granddaughters had told her about that.

 "Yeah, it's my family style adapted to succubae." Ranma's tone revealed the pride she had in the concept.

 "Fascinating." BlackSky was intrigued by the stories the broodlings had told her when DarkStar and her mother were talking in the kitchen. "Our family is quite old; there might be some notes that could help you. Is there any aspect that is troubling you?"

 Ranma paused and wondered why BlackSky was offering books instead of personal lessons. It might be due to limited time on BlackSky's part. "Well there's what happens when you're close in with another succubus. I mean real close, rolling on the ground close. It seems to get down to just two demons trying to tear each other apart."

 As BlackSky listened, she sipped her cocoa – she was really enjoying the marshmallows; she knew that her gift idea would be on the right track. "That is a problem, but there are a few moves that can help."

 "Yeah?" Ranma asked. "There's also teleporting. It's a real pain when your enemies can run away whenever they want or when they pop up and surprise you."

 "It's a good thing you killed Alexia in the proper way then." BlackSky concentrated on the good that had come out of Alexia's rampage. It had expanded Ranma's brood, and given her an impressive maternal drive.

 "Oh," Ranma blinked. "I'm not going to start tanning my skin am I?"

 "Every morning we do check you for bad makeup and fashion sense," Nariko helpfully reminded.

 "Good," Ranma shrugged.

 "You are what you eat, Mother," Misako said mischievously before licking one of her fangs

 "Thanks Misa-chan, thanks," Ranma sarcastically, sighed.

 "She has a point. You did do that evil laugh and shadow show thing after you ate Alexia," Ukyou said.

 Ranma coughed nervously as she worried if it was a hint of something darker.

 "That's perfectly normal for a young brood mother," BlackSky said.

 "You are a demon, Dear," Nodoka added in understanding.

 "Does that mean Mommy will have to practice her evil laugh now?" Nariko asked. "She didn't do to well last time."

 "I was missing a lung at the time," Ranma grumbled.

"Excuses, excuses," quipped Misako.

Ranma rolled her eyes.

 "Will you be staying for dinner?" Nodoka asked the houseguest.

 "I'll have to stop back home for a bit, but I should be back in a few hours," BlackSky offered.

 "Business?" Nodoka guessed.

 BlackSky nodded. "I do have a fair-sized family to look over."

 "Fair enough," Nodoka remarked. It was still mid-morning. There was plenty of time to prepare a proper early dinner.

 BlackSky stood and looked at a clock mounted on the living-room wall. "I'll be back at about four."

 "It'll be our pleasure," Nodoka's smile actually met her eyes.

 "Yeah, uh... see you then," Ranma added.

 BlackSky waved and stepped out of the room and made her way to the back porch. She then walked across the backyard and into the surrounding woods.

 Nodoka called base and updated them on the situation. "Yes Sir, I think a dinner is perfectly proper, or should we not extend that courtesy to my daughter's relative?"

 At the other end of the line Stillwater paused. BlackSky was being civil, provoking her was foolish, and BlackSky's granddaughter was already integrated into their operations. "There is no reason to snub her. Approved." The conversation continued but that was the only real decision for the Commander, and even that was a perfunctory one at best.

 "We could use better relations with the more civilized broods," Jacob said after Stillwater closed the communication.

 "Oh? I suppose it could be beneficial to have relations with Pattern D's 'over there', " Stillwater allowed as he watched the tracking on BlackSky. The slight reading she gave off on the house was quickly snuffed out and she was only being tracked by conventional means.

 "That we can still see her means she doesn't care about us," Jacob remarked. "Though why would she? Her granddaughter's here and global domination's a game for the young."

 Stillwater nodded and leaned back on the wall at the far end of the command room. "Miss Tsukino is about that age too."

 "I had Historical Research to look into our copy of book that the Pattern Silvers retrieved from the Path of the Will incident, Sir." Jacob laughed lightly. "It was a good stroke to have Miss Saotome offer our facilities for their cleanup afterwards."

 "It should be a short search." Stillwater knew that the vast WIC archives had been combed for any information relating to the Pattern Silvers.

 "Yes, the report is on your desk. It looks like the copy the Silvers have is more complete. Ours is just a collection of fragmentary prophecies and other nonsense."

 "While theirs allowed them to do something to Pattern Silver energy," Stillwater shook his head.

 "Sirs, BlackSky just vanished," Maya Iverson said.

 "Investigate her last position and keep the troops deployed," Stillwater ordered, he and Jacob then went to Stillwater's office.

 "This was an interesting development." Stillwater then poured two glasses of scotch.

 "Of course demons like this would be immune to our scanners. BlackSky's like a black hole," Jacob sipped his drink.

 Stillwater smiled slightly. "And how does one detect a black hole?"

 "From the way they affect the orbits of nearby stars? There's also the X-ray emissions  matter falling into them gives off." Jacob shrugged.

 "We talked about over reliance on our gadgetry," Stillwater leaned back in his chair. "She's not completely invisible. Though I'm sure she can get as close to that as she needs."

 "But as we said, BlackSky isn't the main issue."

 "Of course not. She doesn't need to fight us; we're already infiltrated by her spawn. Especially if we approve Ukyou Saotome's request."

 "Furthering our alliance makes sense," Jacob shrugged.

 "I now see what 'too much success' means. We wanted Miss Saotome to trust us."

 "And now she's expecting us to trust her. We do constantly spy on her brood. Something she's most accepting of."

 "Unlike the other Pattern Silvers." Stillwater frowned and took a sip.

 " Miss Saotome may eventually prove to have ulterior machinations, but we know for a fact that Miss Meioh has several."

 "That's why the Path's attack was so traumatic to them," Stillwater added.

 "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. They put doubt into Miss Tsukino's mind. She's no longer certain that she's the good guy."

 "It's a good thing we don't have to worry about that," Stillwater chuckled.

 

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

 

 BlackSky walked down the wooded path. She carried two large leather satchels and hummed to herself. She hoped she was not too early. As she walked she could sense several humans around her. They were silent and camouflaged, they even had reduced their odor, but BlackSky could still sense them.

 She was not worried. Her granddaughter trusted these humans, and they seemed respectful enough. BlackSky observed the agents out of curiosity. Even when they moved it was concise and silent. She could see why DarkStar would respect these men.

 The demon stopped and turned around to see an older human leaning on a tree on the same path. "I'm guessing you're one of the higher WIC officers," BlackSky said as she doubled back. "Hmm... too old for the Jarvis one and you don't look dour enough to be Stillwater. Jacob I presume?"

 "I see our reputations precede us," Jacob smiled. He wondered what Marvin would think of being called dour by an elder a few thousand years older than him. He then shrugged "But I must assure you that in person Commander Stillwater is not dour. He's more of a saturnine."

 BlackSky laughed. "Yes, the stories my granddaughter told about you scaring those two young men was most amusing." BlackSky shifted her bags. "I must compliment you on the caliber of your officers. I did not expect someone in your organization to be so... enlightened about her daughter's situation."

 "Major Saotome is quite the woman," Jacob agreed, as he started walking next to BlackSky. "Would you like some help carrying those?"

 "Such a polite young man." BlackSky stopped walking and handed the longer of the leather bags over. "Now be careful, with this. The metal in there is a bit dangerous to humans. It's in another case but you can't be too careful."

 "Oh?" Jacob asked as he held the bag from the strap.

 "Oh yes, DarkStar's mother seemed put out that her broodlings didn't request her services. So I brought her some new materials to work with." BlackSky had some difficulty finding the right vault to find these shards. It would take a skilled hand to work the material, especially given the dangers, but it would be a good challenge for DarkStar's mother.

 "Demonic metal?" Jacob asked. "Are there actual dark powers, or does it merely facilitate normal demonic abilities?"

 "I'm certainly not going to give anything dangerous to my family," BlackSky assured.

 "Its effect on humans?"

 "Raw it will draw energy from just about anyone; in a finished form it will need a demon wielding it to actively drain," BlackSky explained as they walked.

 "Requires bonding to a specific user during processing then?"

 BlackSky laughed. "Have experience with demonic weapons have you?"

 "Nothing as direct as what you're proposing," Jacob allowed.

 "Could you please keep it a secret? I want to surprise Ranma's mother," BlackSky said.

 Jacob nodded and made a note on the number of times BlackSky referred to Major Saotome as Miss Saotome's mother.

 "Will you be joining us for dinner?" BlackSky asked her blue eyes twinkling.

 "Oh, I couldn't impose," Jacob ignored the alternative interpretation of that question.

 "Now, now, I won't let you melt back into the shadows," the demoness said with a tiny grin. "I'm sure the doctor can add a place setting for her boss."

 "Likely," Jacob allowed.

 "You do want to do more than just talk to me for a couple minutes. I imagine you didg some work to setup this meeting," BlackSky smiled. She could guess the real reason for the troopers watching them. They were not there to kill her, as much as they were there to watch and make sure she could not get any information out of their officer.

 

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

 

 "She's back," Nabiki said looking out a back window.

 "Good, that's in enough time," Nodoka said as she put down another covered serving tray.

 Misako looked up from her place setting and tried to lift the cover. She found her knuckles rapped by the side of a large knife.

 "I know you can smell what's in there," Nodoka said to the pouting demon, "but I would like a few surprises with this meal."

 "It's okay grandma, I had to hit her a few times myself," Ukyou said as she idly held a spatula.

 "Well we all know what you're making," Misako reminded. The purchase and setup of a larger griddle over the range did narrow down what the blonde demon would be cooking.

 "Ucchan, Mom, you two should be amazed you kept it a secret this long. We're a hungry species," Ranma shrugged. She was also glad that the Drake was keeping an eye on her father and Soun. She did not want those two to stumble in on this.

 "Well, I sent you girls out to go shopping for the proper accessories and ingredients. That pretty much confirmed what I was planning," Nodoka admitted.

 "It was pretty funny when we cornered that fishmonger," Ranma said.

 "He nearly fainted," Misako smirked as she resumed setting up the table.

 "And he did faint when you started playing with your boobs," Nabiki reminded. She noticed that BlackSky was not arriving alone. "Hmm... set another place. It looks like Jacob's coming too."

 "I was just scratching an itch." Misako shouted as she went to the kitchen.

 "Well, this should be interesting," Ranma said as she opened the door to let in their guests.

 "Evening, Sir," Nodoka said, saluting.

 "At ease." Jacob returned the salute. "Do you mind if I stay for dinner? Your guest was quite insistent."

 "Of course, Sir," Nodoka smiled.

 "What's in the bags?" Ranma asked.

 "I'm glad you asked," BlackSky said with amusement.

 "Presents?" Misako keenly asked.

 "Why yes," BlackSky remarked

 "How did you know?" Ranma asked.

 "Well... what else would she be bringing back with her?" Nabiki shrugged.

 "It could be dessert," Ukyou remarked.

 "But it's not; it's presents," Misako's eyes gleamed.

 Nariko shook her head. "You better give it to her. Before she explodes."

 Ranma watched BlackSky reach into the leather satchel she was carrying and wondered exactly what her grandmother was up to. The elder demon pulled out a small wooden box and handed it to Misako.

 Misako opened it and paused, before squealing in delight. "Oh, so pretty," she said as she pulled out a pair of earrings. They were dark red stones that started to glow slightly when she slid them into her palm.

 "Some kind of demonic jewelry?" Ranma asked.

 "They're like yours," BlackSky explained.

 "Mine?" Ranma reached up to her ears and felt the obsidian stud earrings.

 Misako sighed. "Mom's like that. She hardly notices that she wears makeup all the time."

 "Only because you started begging me to teach you how to wear it properly." Ranma turned to BlackSky. "So I'm wearing magical jewelry? Damn I really am a magical girl."

 "You go around at night as Sailor DarkStar," Nabiki reminded.

 "She eats people, that makes up for it," Misako reminded as she put on her new earrings.

 "And her uniform's a lot cooler," Akane added.

 "So what do these things do?" Ranma asked.

 "They help you store and hold power. Like now when you don't need it," BlackSky explained.

 "So Misako got fashionable batteries?" Nabiki asked, her voice tinged with jealousy.

 "An experienced succubus can make her own, like your mother did," BlackSky said as she put her hand in the satchel to get Nabiki's gift.

 "I did that? I thought they... you know... just came with the transformation," Ranma said.

 BlackSky laughed and handed a thick leather-bound volume to Nabiki. "Here, for my great-granddaughter who was so full of questions."

 "Thanks," Nabiki then frowned at the writing on the cover. "What language is this?

 "Looks like Latin," Nodoka remarked. Some of the letters looked funny, but she could make out something close to:

 

HISTORIA SVCCVBARVM

VITA MEVM

AterCaela

 

 "AlterCaela... that's close to BlackSky. Is this your diary?" Nodoka asked.

 "My life is tied to the history of our House." BlackSky smiled. This one had real promise.

 "Why do you write in Latin?" Nabiki asked as she opened the book and found more of the same language.

 "We didn't originally have a written language, and a few thousand years ago we battled this group of soldiers.  Their army stumbled onto us. Their writing was really handy," BlackSky explained. "Eventually it became the spoken word for my family too."

 "So... you turned a Roman legion and took their language?" Nabiki asked with disbelief. She knew BlackSky was old... but this seemed ridiculous.

 "They were very bright, disciplined, and had a good martial tradition. They had an architect with them too. She was a real help when rebuilding the lair and helping with our water supply," BlackSky said

 "I'm guessing your architect wasn't born a woman," Nabiki remarked.

 "Yup, it's in that book, chapter eleven I think," BlackSky said.

 "So how do I read this? Learn Latin?"

 "I don't think that's enough," Nodoka said as she tried to read some of the text in the open book. She had taken Latin in college and still had some ability with the language. "I'm amazed that it drifted as little as it did from Imperial Latin."

 "Having people still alive from that first group will do that, but there's a lot of new words in there. We are demons after all."

 "So you gave me a book I couldn't read?" Nabiki asked as she closed the thick tome.

 "Of course not," BlackSky frowned. "I brought reading primers too." She then pulled out a couple, thinner books, and handed them to Nabiki.

 "Ahh... a dictionary?" Nabiki asked as she opened the first of the books.

 BlackSky nodded.

 Nabiki then opened the smallest book and blinked. She went though a couple pages to make sure. Each page had full illustrations, and varying amounts of color, red was predominant. They scenes were full of objects, animals, and succubae. Each item was labeled in the same demonic script. Each page seemed to have a specific theme, like clothing, plants, organs. At the bottom of the picture was a couple sentences, likely describing the scene.

 "This... this is a children's book," Nabiki remarked.

 "That little succubus in all the pictures looks cute," Nariko said.

 "Yes, she's Silva succubus. A little character to make reading fun," BlackSky said.

 "This is pretty... graphic," Nabiki said as she flipped to a pair of pages. The first was on hunting and the following seemed to be on dressing game.

 "It is for succubae," Ranma reminded.

 BlackSky nodded. "Languages are important."

 "Yeah, and now all the demonic I knew from back then is useless," Ranma's tone was mostly apathetic. It was hard to remember all the languages she knew as DarkStar anyway.

 "Yes, it's a pain keeping up with languages." BlackSky could sympathize. Every couple hundred years she had to brush up on her skills.

 "Now you required some thought to pick a gift for." BlackSky had turned to Nariko and was pulling out another item from her satchel. She handed out a wooden cube, the size of both of Nariko's palms.

 "Pretty," Nariko said as she felt the heft of the box. Five of the six sides had ivory panels that were scrimshawed. The colors used were black, blue, green, and of course red. The top was an intricate mesh of geometric and floral figures. The four carvings on the sides seemed to tell a story.

 Nariko guessed that the images were cyclic. One of the sides showed a homey room. The fine paint-filled-scratches showed a detailed lair with a larder, kitchen area, entranceway, and sleeping chamber filled with furs. Detailed in the image was a nursing brood mother watching the rest of her family feed.

 The next one was more graphic. It only had two succubae and they were caught in the middle of mating. Nariko blushed at the skill that had gone into rendering their forms and the thought that had gone into their positioning.

 After that was a rugged mountain meadow where the same brood mother was watching as her spawn played. The last image was on a similar field, and the positioning was nearly identical too. Only now the broodlings were a bit older and their "play" was much more serious.

 Red was also used more in this last image. It was present in all of them. Each individual strand of the brood mother's hair seemed to be carved and then filled with that color.

 Eyeing a seam that ran around the circumference of the box, Nariko opened the thick top and smiled slightly at the melancholy, but hopeful, music that emanated from it. The music player only took up a portion of the interior, the rest of it was lined with soft velvet. Nestled on the center was a little brass key. Closing the box, Nariko inspected the surface, until she found an area of the upper portion where a carved flower could be pushed down and slide aside to reveal a keyhole, to lock and unlock the box.

 Nariko smiled and put a finger over the familiar image on the lair side. "Is she?"

 BlackSky nodded. "I had it built a while back. I wanted a reminder of..." BlackSky paused. "Of what might have been. It gave me some hope, but I don't need it anymore."

 "You only envisioned me having three kids?" Ranma tried to ask in a joking tone. Her smile faltered as she looked over the box. Her eyes darted to BlackSky and tears formed. It had been ages, but she still cared. Ranma almost stumbled over to her grandmother and practically fell into her arms.

 "It's okay. It's okay," BlackSky said cradling the purring and crying woman. "You've got a family that truly loves you right here."

 Nodoka smiled thinly and moved to her daughter. BlackSky transferred the redhead over and the doctor continued comforting her.

 Ranma sniffled for a bit and then composed herself. "Thanks," she said, straightening her hair.

 "So why give me this?" Nariko asked, holding the box.

 "You're the eldest. You're what got Ranma to accept herself," BlackSky explained.

 "You picked well then," Nabiki smirked as she eyed the music box. She was a bit jealous. The book was more her style, and would be a treasure trove of information once she learned the language. On the other hand, the music box was pretty.

 "Now I remember you musing about our cooking style, and I felt this was perfect," BlackSky said as she handed another book to Ukyou.

 "It's a cookbook?" Ukyou asked as she flipped through the pages. The format certainly seemed to be ingredients, cooking directions, and serving information.

 "Mostly family recipes. You may have to substitute for some of the meats though," BlackSky apologized.

 "And I'll have to learn that crazy Latin too."

 "Demonic is an important thing to know. Yes, we do speak human languages when on Earth, but all our knowledge is kept in something more accessible to us."

 "At least you have a printing press," Nodoka remarked. It was clear that the books were not written by hand.

 "Movable type is an old invention," BlackSky shrugged.

 "So what have I got?" Akane asked. She had patiently waited, but was still eager.

 "You were very excited when talking about the fire powers you've seen in battle so..." BlackSky handed yet another book over. "Pyromancy is the closest word in English."

 Akane grinned and opened the book. She grumbled quietly when struck by the same demonic text.

 "Way to trick my girls into learning how to read," Ranma laughed.

 "Oh it's not just them," BlackSky smiled as she gave the last item in her satchel to Ranma.

 Ranma opened the slim volume and flipped it. Most of the pages were full figures featuring two succubae grappling with each other. "This is either a guide to some... imaginative foreplay or instructions for close-quarter combat."

 BlackSky chuckled. "My, you are a bright one."

 "This is... useful," Ranma tilted the book sideways to get a better view, to try to determine the nature of the book, of course.

 "I do hope it helps you with your Art," BlackSky said, clarifying the book's contents. It was a fascinating idea, and could unlock a lot of potential. BlackSky knew that it is the application of force and not the magnitude that matters. More power just meant more options.

 "So what's in the other bag?" Misako asked, pointing to the leather case the Jacob had put down on an end table.

 "That's for your grandma," BlackSky said before opening the other satchel. Before she could finish lifting the long box out, Ranma has put herself between it and her mother.

 "What is that?" Ranma asked. The scent seemed worrisome.

 "It's something for her to work with." BlackSky calmly opened the large wooden case. Inside were the metal shards that seemed to be pieces of a broken sword

 "My, that is a lot. It must be at least half of the fragments," Jacob noted. The sheen on the metal was distinctive.

 "It can't be..." Nodoka leaned forward, making sure to keep her hands behind her back, and inspected the shards. "I'd have to run some tests." She looked to BlackSky. "Where did you get this? When?"

 "What is it?" Ranma asked. "Is it some kind of broken magical sword?"

 "Some kind," Nodoka remarked, noticing the soft pinkish shine the metal gave off. She knew that it was not too dangerous; it was not radioactive. Extended physical contact was very bad and inhalation of any fine particles was disastrous, but the other properties made up for the... risks.

 BlackSky put the box down. "You can guess how we got it. Some people think that a magical sword will make them invincible. The fool didn't even have a decent blade. It was a mash of this and some filler alloys."

 "Interesting," Nodoka said as she pulled out a pocket knife and opened it's magnifying lens. The surface was streaked with tiny veins that gave an almost laminated appearance.  Nodoka knew the structure would be even more impressive under a microscope.

 BlackSky noted the care that the scientist used not to touch the pieces. "You've seen shards of this before?"

 "We have come across a few samples on various excavations, yes," Jacob allowed.

 "Good, then you'll know what precautions to take."

 "What is this stuff?" Akane asked.

 "It's pieces from a magic sword," Nabiki sighed. She never thought she would be saying that seriously, but then she also never thought she would end up liking pink, being cute and with Akane as the older sister.

 "So what's so special about it?" Akane smirked.

 "The metal is... aligned for certain types of energy. Some mages use small pieces of it in their weapons. We're not sure, but we know it helps in some abilities, and it's not good for humans to use it." Nodoka explained.

 "What does it do to humans?" Misako asked.

 "Prolonged usage seems to give –well- madness, though the one cadaver we examined did have a... strange brain tumor." Nodoka frowned as she looked at the metal. "It's not radioactive, or give any emissions, unless you try to use it."

 "You guys are pretty sharp," BlackSky nodded. "My family's had to deal with humans driven crazy by pieces of this thing at least half a dozen times."

 "Most of the really good stuff does induce madness in humans," Jacob remarked.

 "And what does exposure do to succubae?" Nodoka asked. She remembered the mission report detailing a succubus that used a spear tipped with a sample of this metal. The accompanying interrogation report said she was quite sane.

 "The metal is infused with demonic energies. The demon queen that made it designed it for our kind to use and channel it," BlackSky explained.

 "So why don't you use it then?" Nodoka asked.

 The elder demoness shrugged. "Frankly, it's a bit beneath me. I was saving them to give to family that could use it and to give to someone that could craft it into something worthy."

 "Makes sense," Nodoka allowed. As she closed the box, she glanced at Jacob. The both knew the regulations. There will be a full battery of tests. The demonic metal was the primary suspect, but everything else would be examined too. It was only prudent.

 "So, we can't be corrupted by dark powers?" Ukyou suspiciously asked.

 "We're already demons, Ucchan." Misako said as she waved her spade-finned tail in front of her partner.

 Akane smirked. "The only way we could get more evil would be to start wearing pink."

 "Hey!" Nabiki exclaimed.

 "Just because we're demonic doesn't mean we have to be evil," Ranma explained.

 Nabiki blinked. "Technically..."

 "So? Your oldest sister is a scary secret agent. Your grandma's an officer too. You girls all know what my friend Jarvis does for a living, and then there's Colonel Spooky over there." Ranma said pointing to Jacob.

 "I'm hurt Miss Saotome." Jacob laughed. "I've been very friendly and completely honest with you."

 "And that isn't a spooky thing for someone with your job?"

 "That helps," Jacob nodded.

 "Sir, you're showing human emotions," Nodoka said.

 "Miss Saotome will have a good story the next time she goes drinking with the men then."

 "I guess." Somehow, Ranma forgot that Jacob had to know all about the stories that the agents told about him.

 "Daughter, I think it's time for our surprise," Nodoka reminded.

 "Are we going to finally eat?" Misako asked.

 "The other surprise," Nodoka said.

 "Ah, yeah. That surprise," Ranma walked into the kitchen and pulled something out of a cabinet. "We were planning to give this to you before you left, but since you just gave us presents," Ranma explained after she walked back. She then handed over a binder with a small paper bag on top

 "Hot chocolate, with little marshmallows!" BlackSky cried happily in a most girlish manner after looking in the paper bag. After putting the bag full of cocoa packets down, she inspected the binder. It was only an inch thick, but it was full of pictures slid into plastic inserts.

 "Yes, we're a Japanese family," Nabiki joked, as BlackSky looked through the photographs.

 "Pardon?" BlackSky asked, while looking at a grainy picture of Ranma in some Sailor Senshi's lap.

 Nabiki sighed. "Just a joke about a cultural thing. Japanese families take a lot of photographs."

 "This is Canada though." BlackSky turned the page and smiled at the photo of a sleepy brood. Next to that picture was one of Ranma curled up with her head on Nodoka's lap. The scientist was running her hand though her daughter's hair.

 "But we're ethnically Japanese," Nabiki said, blushing with embarrassment.

 "We're succubae actually," Misako corrected.

 "Your girls are very photogenic," BlackSky complimented.

 "I guess we can get to dinner then," Ranma shrugged. The officers and succubae went to the dining room. Instead of the head of the table, the redheaded brood mother sat at the middle of one of the long sides. Nodoka claimed the seat across from her and the broodlings took remaining spots as close to their mother. Jacob and BlackSky ended up on the far ends of the table.

 "I'll have to restart the griddle," Ukyou frowned as she got up. She sat back down when Nodoka entered the room with a large serving tray.

 BlackSky smiled, as she looked at the delicately sliced portions. The scent of the meat was subtle, yet intoxicating. "It's raw; minimal spicing too," BlackSky sounded quite impressed. "It's fish right?"

 "Yup, try some," Misako used her chopsticks to put a piece of Spanish mackerel sashimi on BlackSky's plate.

 BlackSky slipped the sliver of meat into her mouth and purred with delight. "Oh my... and it's just raw, isn't it? Nothing but flesh?"

 "It's surprising isn't it," Nodoka agreed. "But yes, it's only fish. It's very high grade and fresh fish that's precisely cut."

 "I see," BlackSky said as she served herself more fish. The others soon followed and started eating. All seemed quite pleased with the meal, but BlackSky seemed to be getting the most pleasure.

 "You don't have fish where you come from?" Ranma asked.

 "Oh yes, there is some fishing in our rivers and oceans, but it's mostly smoked or salted," BlackSky explained after eating some pieces of sushi. She had eased back and was letting Ranma's daughters have more.

 "That's ironic," Nabiki noted.

 BlackSky smiled. "We do prefer raw meat, but food does have to be preserved." She dipped some of her salmon and then ate the piece of meat and rice.

 "I must compliment you on encouraging me to come," Jacob said with a salute of his glass.

 "Not worried about the food?" Ranma asked.

 "It's fish."

 "I guess, I'll have to cook my course then," Ukyou had some more sushi before getting up and going to the kitchen.

 "Well, that sounds suspicious," Jacob said.

 "Are you a Senshi this time around, too?" BlackSky asked Ranma.

 "Yup, silly uniform and everything."

 "I think it's cool," Akane said as she mixed more wasabi into her sauce.

 "The midriff and leather is an improvement," Nabiki agreed.

 "I have been thinking about that stuff," Ranma said. "Serenity passed her powers to Usagi, and Usagi's kid is a Senshi too."

 "Serenity's daughter has a child?" BlackSky asked. "How good of a mother is she?"

 Ranma picked at her fish before replying. "Well... she's getting better."

 "Figures." BlackSky sighed. "So, what have you been thinking about?"

 "Well, if Usagi's kid can be a Senshi, why can't mine?"

 Jacob smiled faintly. Stillwater would certainly consider this another example of "too much success".

 "It's possible," BlackSky said.

 "Recent scans have detected slight Pattern anomalies in your kids," Nodoka reminded.

 Ranma nodded. "I was thinking of them nursing Pattern Silver energy from me."

 "Pattern Silver?" BlackSky asked then thought for a second. "Ahh I see, clever name. Yes that could work."

 "We'll beat those magical girls at their own game," Misako smiled.

 BlackSky smirked.

 "It's a shame, Kodachi didn't come." Nariko's voice sounded depressed, but she had an amused little smile too.

 "Honey, I make her nervous. Who knows what great-grandma would make her do," Ranma said.

 "Is that why Kasumi's not here?" Akane asked.

 "She's working," Nodoka explained.

 "I know, but she could have gotten off early." Ranma frowned at her plate.

 "Am I that intimidating?" BlackSky innocently asked. She sniffed the air; whatever her blonde great-granddaughter was cooking smelled intriguing.

 "Nah, I think it's because I tried to sleep with her last night," Ranma shrugged.

 "Oh? Thinking of a mate?"

 "Kasumi'd never go for that, but she teases me enough. So I thought... well..."

 "You'd tease her back?" Misako offered.

 "So that's why she's not here," BlackSky remarked.

 "I made sure to put a Polaroid of Mom in her negligee in the photo album we gave you," Nabiki helpfully reminded.

 Ranma blushed to nearly human levels of reddening. "How's it going, Ucchan?"

 "Almost done," Ukyou shouted as she worked on the griddle.

 "The meat she's using smells interesting," BlackSky said conspiratorially.

 "I don't know what you're implying," Ranma was deadpan.

 "Me neither, frankly." Jacob raised an eyebrow. "You girls haven't had a mission in a while." He also knew that the rumors of the brood bringing home snacks were largely that- rumors. The officer did suspect that Ukyou's new book would increase things.

 "It works out well; the family gets food and money for doing something we'd already do," Nabiki explained.

 "You're doing this while also being 'open and honest' and encouraging camaraderie between the demons and your own soldiers. It's nice to seem some intelligent demon hunters for once."

 "We're pragmatic," Jacob said simply.

 "Fitting euphemism," Ranma remarked. She then scowled when the others turned to her. "What, I can't use big words?"

 "It is odd. How do you choose your inhuman allies?"

 "There are some we have to fight, some that simply want to coexist, and others that want to fight with us."

 "Some even drop in unannounced," Nabiki dryly remarked.

 Ranma coughed. She had said she was sorry on that first day she and her father moved in.

 "You're quite cynical for someone so young and cute," BlackSky said.

 "All thanks to my second mother."

 "You were sarcastic and amoral before Alexia," Akane corrected.

 "And I was a revenge-obsessed fanatic." Misako's face darkened. "Who had horrible fashion sense and wasted all of his kills."

 "Okay, I'm done," Ukyou said as she entered the room. The first of the grilled batter and meat foods was put onto BlackSky's plate.

 "Since you were complimenting the fish I used some in this batch," Ukyou explained as she served the others.

 BlackSky nodded and began to happily eat.

 "I can't believe you kept up on this," Ranma remarked as she dug in.

 "Okonomiyaki was a big part of my life," Ukyou explained.

 "Until you went into the Assembly to get your revenge," Misako reminded.

 "I still cooked back then!"

 "I know. You did have some of your spatula-themed weapons blessed."

 "Yeah." Ukyou turned to BlackSky. "Well, what do you think?"

 "Very complicated flavor," BlackSky said between bites. "It's kinda like something we do. Though only the batter is cooked and is used to wrap the meat and vegetables."

 "That sounds more like a pita or a burrito," Ukyou said.

 "Close, that book I gave you has the recipe for making them."

 "Great," Ukyou said after sitting down and eating her own okonomiyaki.

 "How is yours, Sir?" Nodoka asked.

 "Good," Jacob said. He preferred the sushi more, but he had learned the value of diplomacy.

 "What are you doing?" Ukyou asked Misako.

 "Adding more fish to mine," Misako explained as she put more sashimi slices on her okonomiyaki.

 Ukyou glared at her partner then went back to the others. "So what do the rest of you guys want on your next one?" After the blonde took the orders she went back into the kitchen. She was followed by Nodoka who quickly returned with more raw fish.

 "I'm glad you stopped by," Ranma told her grandmother.

 "I had to. I just wished I stopped by earlier," BlackSky's voice had filled with regret.

 "Don't worry. It's not like Alexia would have told you until after she killed me," Ranma reassured.

 BlackSky frowned before eating some salmon. "I'm sure she would have waited until she could present your body to me, and the corrupted forms of your spawn." She sighed. She had underestimated Alexia's problems; the woman was deranged. BlackSky won't make the same mistake twice; no more banishments.

 "Yeah, probably," Ranma said.

 "I'm quite happy to find you in good hands." BlackSky looked at Nodoka. "You're much happier in this life than your last one."

 "I know," Ranma smiled. "There were some rough parts and some hard choices, but we made it."

 "Do you think Serenity's daughter is ready for what's coming?" BlackSky asked.

"I honestly don't know. Sometimes they seem on the ball... but other times... it's like they're just normal girls." Ranma looked down. "You know about this doom and gloom crap too?" Ranma asked.

 "Something's certainly brewing around here" BlackSky smiled encouragingly. "I know you girls can handle it."

 "We'd better; it doesn't look like the Senshi can," Ranma sighed and slid back so Ukyou could serve her. "So what is brewing?"

Jacob wondered what BlackSky's answer would be. He knew why Miss Saotome never stormed into his office and demanded the whole story. She simply did not care.  She was concerned with the welfare of her family, not the machinations of mages and magical girls.

"Clearly Serenity's daughter is the key. She's probably what's attracting these groups; I'd bet they want her," BlackSky ventured.

"That cult was trying to kill her to prevent her from taking over the world." Ranma shook her head. "I'm not sure they're ready for real enemies."

 "They've survived this long, Ranma." Nodoka reminded. She turned to Ukyou, who had finished serving the okonomiyaki "Thank you, Dear."

 BlackSky waited for the others to eat for a bit longer before going with her next question. "You mentioned this Kasumi woman. You said she wasn't willing to become your mate?"

 Ranma swallowed. "Well... I haven't even done anything with her. It's too early to even date..."

 "You didn't answer my question," BlackSky delicately said. "That's okay. Being turned is a big decision. Especially if you actually have a real choice and not just between demonhood and death."

 "Well, it's too early. Right now we're just friends," Ranma repeated.

 "Friends that tease each other," Nabiki happily added.

 "Oh, a human sexually tempting a succubus? How unique." BlackSky laughed.

 Ranma grumbled and returned to her food.

 "I'm sorry. It's just so odd. Don't worry; I know you'll find someone," BlackSky assured.

 "Uh, okay," Ranma was apprehensive at the smile her grandmother sported.

 The conversation lulled as the last bits of food were consumed. The pace had slowed down and most of the food was being eaten for its novelty and flavor.

 Jacob got up and went to the kitchen. He busied himself with the coffee maker and put a teapot on the stove for cocoa and tea. He briefly wondered what Stillwater would be thinking of this. WIC had some experience with NH diplomacy, but never this informally.

 "I do regret that the dessert isn't going to be as good as the main course," Nodoka said. Ukyou, Misako, and Nariko then took that queue to start clearing off the table and resetting the places.

 "It seemed that you liked chocolate," Nodoka said returning form the kitchen. "I'm sorry to say that the cake was bought at a bakery."

 After getting after-dinner beverages in order, Jacob had returned to his seat. He smirked at the pure pleasure the ancient demon queen had at something as simple as a triple-chocolate cake.

 "It's alright. I did just drop in." BlackSky eyed the slice in front of her but waited for the others to be served.

 "So how often are you going to come over?" Ranma asked, in-between bites.

 BlackSky put another piece of the moist cake in her mouth as she considered her reply. "Not too often I'm afraid."

 "Makes sense, you do have that whole empire of yours to run."

 BlackSky nodded. "The cake is very good," she reassured Nodoka.

 Jacob nodded in agreement. He then sipped his coffee. It was remarkable the kind of calm that could happen under a literal sword of Damocles. He knew BlackSky was bright. She had to know what would happen if she misbehaved. She would most likely survive the initial onslaught, and perhaps all subsequent ones, but her beloved granddaughter would not.

 Jacob guessed it was moot anyway. BlackSky would stand aside. It seemed, she would let her clever granddaughter helm things this time. Jacob knew his policy of getting Miss Saotome's trust would have side effects. Trust was a two way street, but he was a Company officer, paranoia came with the job.

 "It really has been wonderful," BlackSky said putting her fork down onto her plate.

 "It's time for you to leave? Already? But you haven't even told us any stories," Misako whined.

 "Oh, there's plenty of those in the book I gave your little sister."

 "Maybe Mom can read us some of them," Nabiki suggested.

 "Great, another language to learn," Ranma sighed.

 "It's part of our heritage," Akane said after she finished her cake.

 Ranma shrugged. That language came after DarkStar's time, but all the books her family had been given were written in that demonic Latin. She then got up to follow BlackSky out to the back porch.

 Nodoka and Jacob held back and allowed for the succubae to hug. BlackSky hugged her great-granddaughters first. She then embraced Ranma. "I was always proud of you, DarkStar. You always get into such.... complicated situations," the demoness hugged Ranma tighter as tears dribbled down her cheeks. "I'm so happy to see that this time you've gotten a better life."

 Ranma simply nodded and held onto her grandmother.

 After the hug, BlackSky leveled her gaze at Nodoka. "I spent this whole time thinking of advice to give you. All I could come up with was encouraging you to stay the course. You're exactly the mother that DarkStar needs.."

 "She's my child," Nodoka said simply.

 BlackSky smiled, and picked up her photo album and instant cocoa. With a final wave back to her family she walked out the front door and into the forest.

 Jacob was already talking into his cell phone. He wanted to make sure as much of her departure was recorded as possible. All information on her was valuable, especially any that might lead to predicting her arrival.

 "Well, now what?" Akane asked.

 "There's a mess of dishes that need washing," Ranma said as she corralled her daughters to the kitchen. "Come on, with six of us, we'll get this place cleaned in no time."
 Jacob finished giving his orders. He and Nodoka were now alone on the back porch. "Yes Major?" he asked cordially.

 "It's just amazing how normal of a family they can be, Sir." Nodoka adjusted her lab coat. "Though I suppose people like us aren't too good of a gauge of normality."

 "You did a good job with Miss Saotome."

 "Thank you, Sir. I know BlackSky encouraged you to come but it was good having you here tonight."

 "This job isn't without its perks," Jacob smirked.

 

End Chapter 14

 

Author's Notes:

 

First chapter of the Third Arc of The Return.

 

Interlude Two will follow this chapter.

I'd like to thank my prereaders for helping me: Trimatter, PyroRaven, Questara, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick, Wray, Mondu Quiambao, and Jerry Starfire.