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://fukufics.com

 

C&C as always is wanted.

 

Chapter 16 Retrograde and Remade Part 2

 

 


            "Did you know about Ami and Naru?" Usagi carefully asked.


            "Well, no not as such," Setsuna demurred, she made sure to keep her eyes on the road. Last night she had returned from an unproductive interview to find four irate and shocked Senshi. Setsuna was shocked herself once the situation was explained to her.


            "You didn't find anything odd about their secret meetings, all the time they spent with each other?" Usagi stretched in the passenger seat of the Dodge Charger.


            "None of you saw anything too odd about it. You just thought they were sneaking off to study, try to date boys, and finally date each other." Setsuna glowered. It was a wonderful cover. A lesbian relationship nicely explained Janet and Ami being secretive and any nervousness when questioned about their nighttime activities.


            "You're supposed to know better than us. We're just teenagers."


            "I was cautious about Janet, but I cleared her, and she was an exemplary Senshi. You and the rest liked her, and Ami said she was clean."


            "That's because she was Naru." Usagi sighed sadly. "Damn Murdock! First he kills my boyfriend and then he corrupts my friends. Look at what he did to Naru and Ami."


            "We're going to find him. He will be punished." Setsuna promised. They had all been violated. Getting Ami was quite the coup.


            "So, how did you miss this?" Usagi asked again.


            Setsuna hesitated before speaking. "I watched Janet at the start, checked her out. Reviewed it when Ami and Janet started to bond. There was nothing. Janet was clean. She seemed as legitimate as the rest of you." She sighed. "I can't watch everyone."


            "How'd he do this then? How do we get them back?"


            "Murdock is patient, remember that. He had Naru living as Janet at least as far back as Mamoru's death, and then think of the months that Naru was among us. Slow and deliberate."


            "Why? Wasn't DarkStar his first plan?"


            "This might have been his backup, or maybe Sailor DarkStar was just misdirection. Some flash to draw attention from the real culprit."


            "So how do we get them back?"


            Setsuna smiled weakly. "That's your department. You're the best at saving and healing people."


            "I just..." Usagi stared out the window at the passing buildings. "At least with Ami I know I can reach her. It's not as bad as when the others went bad."


            "That's actually worse," Setsuna corrected.


            "But she still cares for me. She doesn't hate me."


            "Do you really want the affection of a dark Senshi?" Setsuna asked.


            Usagi's mind briefly flashed to Mercury and Ranma with herself in the middle.


            "Princess?"


            "Huh?" A blush crept up on Usagi's face as she cleared her head.

"Ami's dangerous. Naru by her own admission was turned by Murdock, and Naru then got to Ami. They want you."


            "It won't work. Ami won't be some puppet," Usagi promised.


            "I wasn't there last night, but you were." Setsuna slowed to a stop at a red light. She looked around with some nervousness. "Were those the actions of the Ami you know?"


            "Well, Ami always complained about my schoolwork or being late, and recently she'd been harping about our training." Usagi laughed bitterly.


            "It's different now. You shouldn't be alone, any of you." Setsuna sighed. It was good advice, but Ami had proven it ineffective last night, though they were surprised. It was troubling. If they had followed Ami's advice they would have been training and maybe the girls would be getting more skilled.


            All under Ami's guidance of course. Ami could do research and come up with the best plans, maybe even a few magical spells to help unlock the next stage of their Senshi powers. Setsuna shook her head; it was paranoid, but it made sense. If Ami was going to corrupt and control the Senshi from the inside, the guise of training did the job.


            "At least you've warmed up to Ranma," Usagi allowed.


            "I'm approving of this meeting because you've been too distant from her. Ranma's made her own friends and alliances and is self-sufficient."


            "Is that bad?"


            Setsuna shifted gears and changed lanes before responding. "It shows good initiative. She can be a powerful ally, but remember last night. You said Ami and her were very chummy."


            "Ranma is a demon, and they didn't try to fight each other."


            "Yes." Setsuna noticed Usagi's incomprehension. "Take it this way. Do you want Mercury to get closer to Ranma? What if she convinces Ranma that you are weak and you do need to be trained?"


            Usagi looked down. "She already thinks that about us. She called us amateurs."


            Setsuna snorted. "Even though you've been doing this longer, saved the world more times, and faced hardships she can't even begin to understand."


            Usagi slumped further into her seat. "That's what makes Ami so hard. She was with me since the start. She knows we've gotten much better but..."


            "But nothing. Ami's been manipulated ever since Janet showed up. You can't trust what she says."


            "It's not that simple." Usagi felt the anxiety from last night return. "Ami's made sure of that."

 

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

 


            "I just think that Nabiki should make her own decision," Ranma said to her fiancee as the two window-shopped.


            "All I'm saying is that she can handle high school. Her mind's the same, by treating her like the youngest you're making her the youngest," Kasumi explained.


            "She is the youngest. Alexia turned her last," Ranma pointedly stated.


            "Yes, but she needs to recover. Encouraging this juvenile cutesiness, it's not Nabiki."


            Ranma raised an eyebrow. "It's not the Nabiki you remember, but it's who she is now."


            "Akane came back."


             The redhead stared at the dark blue leather gown on display. "Her age wasn't reduced and if anything she's more aggressive."


            "And there were lesbian rumors back when she was human too," Kasumi deadpanned.


            "Must run in the family," Ranma gave Kasumi's butt a playful touch before wrapping her arm around the taller woman's waist. "And don't think I'm mad, I really like that you're getting interested in our girls."


            Kasumi looked down and mulled over the demon's last two words. "Yes, I do care about my sisters," she clarified.


            "I've been working with Ukyou to find out what her Senshi powers are." Ranma leaned onto the taller woman.


            "Any luck?" Kasumi asked, surprised at the increased weight Ranma was putting on her.


            "Maybe, it's odd. Something keeps her from using it in practice. I know it's there. She knows it too, but she won't cast it."


            "How are the others shaping up?"


            Ranma shrugged. "Getting more accuracy and speed. Nariko's got some control issues."


            "I noticed. She's still burning more than one tree."


            Ranma nodded. "And Nabiki's really tires her out, but it does use a lot to cast."


            "Worried about this Mizuno thing?"


            "Nope." Ranma then nuzzled her head onto Kasumi's side and chest.


            Blushing, Kasumi coughed, but after finding that ineffective at dislodging the demon, she sighed. "Why not?"


            "I don't think she's a threat to me," Ranma murmured.


            "Don't you have a plan?" Kasumi decided to put a hand around the redhead's shoulder. At least then they would not be so lopsided.


            "Yeah, slowly getting you used to public displays of affection."


            Kasumi sniffed and turned her head.


            "Women," Ranma muttered.


            "Oh don't play that card." Kasumi taunted. "Who's the one wearing pants instead of a dress? We won't even discuss hairstyles, makeup or jewelry."


            "I wear pants."


            "That aren't shiny sprayed-on leather?"


            "I've gotta look good."


            "You're a succubus," Kasumi quietly said. "You'd look good in anything."


            Ranma laughed. "So you think Usagi'll blow me off? Is she even gonna bother coming?"


            Kasumi maintained a straight face and wondered if she was reading too much into what Ranma had just said. "Observation teams did see Setsuna pick her up not too long ago."


            "Mercury could already have attacked and taken them," Ranma walked over to the next display for the store and looked at a selection of leather boots.


            "Possible, we don't know what kind of style Mizuno will use." Kasumi looked at the shiny glass.


            "I'm curious. She has a lot of options for 'evil schemes'." Ranma's smile increased slightly.


            "They're here," Kasumi tried to pull herself away.


            "Spotted their reflection?" Ranma released her hold on the officer's waist to slide herself up against Setsuna, who had just walked up on the pair. "Oh nice Usagi," she purred as she eyed the blonde. "You brought a friend."


            "Don't you have a girlfriend now?" Setsuna eyed the short demon inches from her.


            "Oh her, she's cool." Ranma cooed.


            "Yeah, got the suit and dark sunglasses and everything." Kasumi flatly said.


            Usagi tilted her head. "That's not a suit. Sure the blouse and pants count, but your jacket is too casual, and your glasses are on your head."


            Kasumi sighed. "Not all secret agents wear black suits, trench coats and fedoras or slinky dresses."


            "Your girlfriend does," Setsuna said while staring at Ranma.


            Ranma winked. "Come on, have a taste, you know you want to."


            "I think you're more effective when you're not so blatant," Kasumi commented wryly.


            "Yeah, that's how I got you." Ranma winked at her, and then turned to Usagi. "So what do you want to talk about? You set this meeting up before the Ami and Janet stuff."


            "Naru," Usagi forcefully corrected.


            "Sorry," Ranma's eyes flicked to Setsuna's harsh gaze before returning to the blonde. "So what do you want to talk about?"


            "Maybe... we should... private?" Usagi's stumbling sequence of words appeared to end in a question.


            "Uh, let's try the store," Ranma said.


            Usagi's eyes caught the skimpy black leather gown on display. "Yeah..."


            Before entering Ranma turned to Kasumi. "I'm sure you and Setsy can have some fun."


            "Don't worry, I'll be safe with Ranma," Usagi assured.


            "Uh... right," Setsuna said to the retreating Senshi. "So, how is it, being mated to Ranma?" she then asked Kasumi.


            "We're not mates," Lieutenant Tendo firmly said.


            "Oh," Setsuna coughed and looked ahead. She never could relate to common soldier; they were too practical. Lords and ladies, especially those with hereditary military titles, were so much easier to handle.


            Kasumi kept watch and made sure her earpiece was working. Whiz-kids like Meiou were nothing but trouble. They loved overcomplicated plans that showed how clever they were.

 

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

 


            "Well?" Ranma asked as she tried on a set of gloves.


            "I think we need to work together." Usagi flinched, expecting the demon to laugh her off.


            "I'm listening," Ranma said in an apathetic tone that made Usagi flex her hands in frustration.


            "We should work together. You've got a team of Senshi, I've got a team of Senshi," Usagi quietly explained.


            "Yours is smaller now. Got any plans to fix that?" Ranma slipped the gloves off and then looked at another pair.


            Usagi's eyes hardened. "I'm going to free them and punish Murdock." Her tone promised pain and justice.


            "That's a goal, but I asked you about plans." Ranma picked up another set of gloves and sighed. "Really, metal studs in gloves. That'll chafe and look really dumb."


            "Yeah, that is stupid." Usagi frowned. "Anyway, that is my plan."


            Ranma rubbed the bridge of her nose. "No... you need more than that. You just can't count on stumbling onto the enemy or waiting for them to find you."


            "It's worked before, and we've managed to find enemy bases before." Usagi's voice became despondent. "Of course Ami was a big help on that stuff; we can't count on her now."


            "Sure you can," Ranma chuckled. "Ami seemed plenty sharp last night."


            "She knew we needed her," Usagi looked to Ranma.


            "At least you still have Setsuna," Ranma mirthfully offered.


            Usagi became quiet and watched as Ranma tried on some boots. "It's all because of you," the blonde said.


            Ranma looked up from the shin-high motorcycle boots. "Oh? Ain't my fault. You guys would have eventually figured it out." She started unbuckling the boots. "Or not."


            "You're wrong," Usagi's voice had once again hardened.


            Ranma looked up.


            "We wouldn't have figured it out. You saw it. Setsuna's paranoia's to the outside, and the rest of us rely on Ami."


            Ranma shrugged.


            "Ami could have strung us along on that Mistress Lyra scheme. Rei still thinks Ami's being controlled by Lyra." Usagi's voice became frantic. "Don't you see? If you hadn't seen Virgo...."


            "Ami would still be your friend, and you would be spending today figuring out how to fight a nonexistent enemy," Ranma said without making eye contact as she slipped the boots off. "I'd expect Ami to carefully and steadily draw you girls in. Maybe into an ambush where you could be neutralized, maybe just corrupted over time, or maybe even take all of you out while you sleep."


            Usagi shivered. "She was our roommate. She would often sneak in late at night. We were used to it. You saved us all." Her voice was hardly a whisper.


            "I was just following a lead. Minako was the one that connected Ami to a super villain." Ranma put her own boots back on. "And it was Ami who said 'Hell with this' and revealed herself."


            "Well, thank you anyway." Usagi hesitated. Overcoming the fear and indecision, she then gently hugged the startled demon. The blonde expected an apprehensive response, not an enthused and engaged one.


            Adding her arms to the hug, Ranma eased into Usagi's embrace. She was on the brink of purring when she got interrupted.


            "Awww, that's adorable," a taunting voice behind Usagi said.


            Ranma's eyes widened. "I didn't expect you here." She then smirked. "And you brought your friend too."


            Usagi froze. The voice did not sound like Ami or Naru. The blonde turned her head and saw only a Japanese brunette and a Caucasian blonde with short hair.


            "Hi Sam! Hey Naoko!" Ranma enthusiastically greeted while she still hugged Usagi. "You girls finally get the courage to shop here?"


            Naoko blushed. "Uh, no. We were just walking past when we noticed your old girlfriend standing next to Akane's older sister."


            "Old girlfriend?" Usagi asked, before she pulled her arms back and escaped the hug.


            Ranma laughed. "There's this rumor that Setsuna stood me up on a few dates or something."


            "Yes, poor Sunny had her delicate heart torn from her chest." Sam said with a hint of sarcasm.


            "Figuratively of course," Naoko added.


            Sam appraised her pale friend. "I'd imagine it's the other way when it comes to literally though."


            Ranma blushed.


            Usagi blinked. "No... Setsuna never dated Sunshine. She's dating Kasumi."


            "Kasumi? Nice going." Sam gave Ranma a friendly nudge. "I never knew she was into the lipstick lesbians."


            Sam laughed. "Why not? You've seen Akane and her new girlfriend."


            "Yeah, I guess the Tendo's really like sweet, gentle, and feminine Goth girls."


            "I thought I was brooding and dark," Ranma pouted.


            "Oh no, you're cuddly and sensitive." Sam eyed Ranma's leather skirt. "You just dress like the main squeeze to a Hell's Angel."


            "Oh careful. You don't want to get Kasumi mad," Naoko teased.


            "Now, now, she's very nice."


            "Makes sense that you'd like strong women," Sam appraised. "She seemed stern and a bit scary."


            "So when are you going back to school?" Naoko asked.


            "You still have those family issues?" Sam added.


            Ranma looked down. "No my... cousin's... gone."


            "I'm sorry, I didn't know. Did she at least die peacefully."


            "Nope." Ranma tried very hard and managed to conceal her smirk.


            "Are you okay, Sunny?" Naoko put her hand to Ranma's shoulder, and drew her friend into a hug. Sam quickly joined.


            "Yeah, but it hit some of the family pretty hard. We're only now... ready."


            "Will you be back into school tomorrow?" Sam asked after the hug finished.


            Ranma nodded.


            "What about Nabiki? I know it was a family thing, as she was out too." Sam noticed that Nariko was out too, but that made some sense. The Kunos were close to both the Saotomes and Tendos.


            "She's transferred. Different school."


            "The same one that Tatewaki transferred too?" Sam asked with a hint of skepticism.


            "Uh, I think so." Ranma hated lying to her fiends, especially when they were poor lies.


            "So how are you doing?" Naoko asked Usagi, purposefully ignoring Ranma's questionable statements.


            "Well... I..." Usagi was at a loss. How come a predatory brood mother could relate to these girls, but someone as straightforward as a magical princess could not?


            "One of her friends is being a real pain." Ranma verbally stepped in. "There's also some problems with another old friend of Usagi's. She really feels betrayed by the whole thing."


            "Mind if we ask who?" Sam inquired.


            "I can trust you two on this?"


            "Of course," Sam said, not bothering to hide her hurt.


            "Sorry," Ranma looked to Usagi who gave a vague motion that might have been consent. "It's Ami. Ami Mizuno."


            Naoko thought for a bit while Sam looked at something that was suspiciously similar to a whip. "It's about Janet too, isn't it?"


            "Naoko, you can't think every essentially inseparable pair of girls that are friends is a lesbian couple. That's how rumors start," Sam reprimanded. "I'll admit, if they were lesbians I wouldn't be shocked at all."


            Usagi blinked.


            Sam turned her attention back to Ranma. "We should really hang out more."


            "You and all your Gothy friends," Naoko teased.


            "Sure, we could go to a bar or a club. I'd be fun." Ranma gave a saucy smile. She noticed the amused blushes on her friends and recalled exactly what she said.. "Oh! It!  I meant to say "It" would be fun!"


            "I'm sure you would be fun," Sam teased.


            "Maybe we should pick something out for you girls to wear?" Ranma asked with a blush. "This is the perfect store for making an impression."


            "I bet Ami shops here now too," Usagi muttered.


            Ranma laughed. "This is a classy place," she said as she looked through the leather bikini tops.


            "You could get us into a bar?" Naoko asked.


            "Sure. It's easy." Ranma held up the bikini. The metal chains connecting the cups and providing straps seemed far too gaudy.


            "Hmm, okay." Sam assumed that Sunshine got in using her charms and her "mature" physique.


            "Do you wanna come too?" Naoko asked a dejected looking Usagi.


            "I, well, I've got to get things straightened out with Ami first."


            Naoko shrugged.


            "Sorry to hear that, maybe next time," Sam said.


            "What about our thing?" Usagi asked Ranma, irritation entering her depressed voice.


            "Oh yeah, I'll help you with Ami when you want," Ranma said as she picked out a set of leather pants and handed them to an embarrassed Naoko. "Just remember the kind of help that I'll give."


            "Er, yeah." Usagi hesitated. "I just, I need to save her." She looked at Ranma's two friends. "From herself."


            Naoko looked at Usagi with an unreadable expression on her face for a brief moment. "If you say so."


            Sam leaned in close and whispered into Ranma's ear. "I think you should help her," she looked at her fellow blonde briefly. "She's in a sorry state, just help her. I'll find something risque for Naoko to wear while you do it."


            Ranma nodded and lead Usagi to the opposite side of the store.


            "They know?" Usagi asked.


            Ranma rolled her eyes. "They know that you want my advice, and that it's something private. Look you actually need a plan." She held up her hand, cutting Usagi off. "And I don't mean wishing to free them. How long has Ami been on your team?"


            "She was the first, before her-" Usagi's voice turned maudlin. "- it was just Naru. Then more Senshi came, and we drifted apart."


            "Then Ami knows exactly how you fight." Ranma looked into Usagi's eyes. "You've got to take the fight to her, you have to be proactive." The redhead paused to recall the last word.


            "You mean hunt her down?"


            Ranma smiled. "I knew you could figure it out. Setsuna has her sources and the Company can help some. Track her down by whatever means you can."


            "Maybe Rei can get a vision on her," Usagi pondered.


            "And this time Ami won't be there to interpret it for you."


            "What about fights?"


            Ranma paused. She was not sure what to make about Usagi's tone. It was still depressed, but seemed somehow expectant. "Those are chances to beat her, but she knows what you can do, and she has that book."


            "Maybe I should take out Murdock first. Break the control." Usagi's hands clenched.


            "Looks like the princess has some anger in her after all." Ranma smirked. "And that's a great idea. Take him out and the rest would be easier."


            Usagi looked up and for a few seconds they were clear and decisive. "You know what he did to me, to you. He uses people, destroys their lives, warps their minds and bodies, kills them. He will be punished," she echoed her words but this time with decisive conviction.


            "Sometimes you really are your mother's daughter."


            Usagi's gaze softened. "I know. I'm afraid."


            "Really? Why?" Ranma stretched. "Things are going to be difficult. Accept that and move on. Getting all worried will just waste time, time you can spend doing stuff."


            "I know Ami's not wasting her time." Usagi laughed bitterly. "Not then and not now."


            "Then you should make sure your girls don't waste their time." Ranma then looked to see Naoko trying to get Sam a bright red PVC cat-suit. "That thing won't fit her."


            "I'm sorry I'm boring you," Usagi grumbled.


            "Well do you have anything new to say?" Ranma turned back to the blonde. "I like this assertive side you're starting to show. Hell, you are their commander, act like it."


            Usagi nodded slowly. "Well, I should go. Setsuna wants to talk with the others. I'll tell them my plan then. Thanks for the help." She gave the demoness a quick hug before leaving the store and reuniting with Setsuna.


            "You're welcome," Ranma said as she watched the two Senshi leave. She wagered it would take more to get Usagi to really learn, but she was starting to come around. Ranma shrugged and returned to her friends.

 

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

 


            "And here's where Silva explains the parts of the succubus body," Nodoka said to the sleepy succubae who lounged around her. The succubus reading primer had a cute picture of Silva succubus pointing to a diagram of another succubus who had various parts of her body labeled. Nodoka ran through the list of bodyparts: cornu, caput, mamae, arma, cubitum, secus, femur, crus, and pes.


            "Are you sure that's the right pronunciation?" Nabiki asked as she nuzzled her grandmother's shoulder.


            "I took some Latin in university and the start of this book has a pretty good pronunciation guide." Nodoka shrugged. "But you really can't learn to pronounce a language from books. At least you'll learn to recognize the symbols and be able to read."


            "That will let us read the books Great-grandma gave us," Ukyou said. She then nudged Misako who had started to doze off.


            The green-eyed succubus mumbled sleepily and tried to put her attention back to the book.


            "There will be a quiz when we're done," Nodoka reminded.


            Misako pouted.


            "At least it's not grammar, well today." Akane corrected herself.


            Nariko's red eyes perked up.


            "But I thought you two wanted to be proper succubae?" Nabiki innocently asked Akane and Misako. "Learning our family's language and culture is a big part of that."


            "That's right," Nodoka beamed as she turned to the next page. She was interrupted before she could read the text that accompanied Silva standing with a larger and older-looking demoness.


            "Hi Mom!" Nariko happily greeted.


            Ranma froze and studied the tableau. Her mother was in the middle of a pile of succubae as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The redhead smirked, stripped, sat down, and slid in. Moving off Nodoka's side to allow Ranma in, Akane then put her head on her mother's lap.


            "How was the meeting?" Nodoka asked, as she hugged her daughter hello.


            "Pretty good really." Ranma stretched her arms. "There might actually be some hope for Usagi - she was kinda decisive. Plus Sam and Naoko showed up, so I got to help them shop."


            "They pick out anything fun?" Akane asked.


            "Nothing too wild I'm afraid, but it should look fun when they go out with us."


            "We're going out?" Misako's eyes twinkled. She had not visited a good club in a while. "When?"


            "Dunno, we can talk to them at school. Work out the details. Maybe the Red Turtle. Though that place can be a bit too mellow."


            "Not on Wednesdays and Fridays. They have live music those days. Ayanami says some of the acts are pretty good." Nodoka said.


            "Neat, that could work then."


            "What about me?" Nabiki asked.


            "What? You'll come of course."


            "Uh Mom, look at me. I don't think I'll pass as nineteen as easily as the rest of you," Nabiki dryly reminded.


            "So? You've done the bar thing before with Alexia."


            "Don't remind me," Nabiki frowned.


            "Sorry Honey," Ranma reached over to comfort her. "I was just trying to say it's not something to worry about."


            "Well, what about Naoko and Sam? They knew me from before, and I'm not like Akane. I can't just be explained away by becoming a Goth-lesbian-punk-girl."


            "Yeah, you're more of a Gothic-Lolita-pink-lace-lesbian," Akane evaluated.


            "Gee, thanks sis."


            "Well, you're about half a foot shorter, have a much more youthful face and a more slender physique, save for your breasts. There's also how you dress and carry yourself now." Ranma shrugged. "People will see a resemblance, but no one would think you're Nabiki."


            "I am Nabiki."


            "You know what I mean," Ranma could tell the hurt in her daughter's voice was feigned. "You're still Yuki too. Your Senshi name is Sailor Yuki. Your fashion style is like hers and you're trying to give me the puppy-dog eyes while making your lower lip quiver."


            "Our saccharine succubus mom is supposed to submit to saturated sweetness," Nabiki remarked.


            Ranma crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You're as bad as Nari-chan, you know?"


            "Given that she's the reason you're the Mom you are today, that's a compliment."


            "Cute," Ranma's resistance crumbled and she scooped Nabiki in close, displacing Akane to her side.


            "We'll figure out something for Sam and Naoko." Ranma put her arms around Nabiki. "Though, I think they're pretty on the ball. They knew that Ami and Janet were together."


            "We should really find them ourselves." Misako proposed as she snuggled onto Ukyou's chest.


            "You just want to see her corset in person," the blonde accused her mate.


            "Yup!"


            "I'm amazed that a human Senshi could actually come up with a uniform that wasn't a fashion disaster. Though all that ice over her crotch and ass can't be fun."


            "You mean her secus and pyga?" Nabiki teased.


            "She probably likes the cold," Ranma said as she slid more from her mother's side to her front.


            "Should we go back to the book?" Nodoka asked as she patted her daughter on the head, careful to avoid her horns.


            Despite this, Ranma still purred and nuzzled her head. The motion caused Nodoka's bra to get out of position.


            "Sure, I think we're ready," Nabiki said.


            "Yeah," Nariko agreed as she slid in behind Nodoka.


            "Okay." As Nodoka reopened the book and flipped to the next page she found herself easing backwards. She then paused. "Nari-chan dear, can you please move your tail. The tickling is distracting."


            "Sorry," Nariko blushed and adjusted herself.


            "It's fine," Nodoka tried to adjust her bra but found her daughter's head in the way.


            "I can unhook it for you?" Nariko helpfully offered. "Or give you a nice backrub?"


            Nodoka considered. This morning had been full of stressful hassles. Acquiring the necessary machining equipment had been a pain. "Yes, that would be nice." She smiled as Nariko went to work, and then resumed the reading.

 

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

 


            "Mistress," Orion gently interrupted the blue-haired Senshi, with her head bowed.


            "Yes?" Mercury said looking up from the display next to her. She then waved for Orion to rise to her full height.


            "It's about the meeting between the Princess and DarkStar," Orion said.


            "You weren't spotted."


            Orion was not sure whether her Mistress had asked a question or made a statement. "Not that I know," she said, opting for the safe response.


            Mercury's eyes darted back to the display. She then typed in a few commands and leaned back in her, modest, throne. "You placed the probe before they had arrived."


            "Yes," Orion eyed the comfortable and unadorned high-backed chair. She had expected a more foreboding structure, but upon reflection Orion reevaluated her view. Mistress Mercury would never be one to rely on some piece of furniture to prove her status. Similarly her hair was up in a simple bun, and her jewelry was Spartan silver with ice gems.


            "It's an interesting challenge," Mercury mused. "How to make devices that are invisible to Setsuna's meddling and to those human... observers."


            "There's also the demons and their senses," Orion respectfully added. This time it was easy to bug. Mercury knew about the meeting and its location ahead of time.


            Mercury smiled thinly. "Yes, we must not forget them. So what do you think of their conversation?"


            "The Princess aims to forge an alliance. I think she's resolved to take action against us." Orion said carefully. She had seen what her Mistress was capable of, but knew that a sycophantic evaluation would not be wise.


            Mercury laughed and re-crossed her legs. She idly adjusted the skirting to her dark blue silk evening dress. "Interesting. She's making a plan, good. I would be very disappointed in the Princess if she just sat back and took it."


            Orion studied her mistress. She swore that today's corset was a bit tighter, but more important was the bust increase. Her eyes slid over to the statuary next to the throne. Unsurprisingly, the detail was amazing.


            Mercury started tapping her manicured nails with deliberate impatience. "Are you enjoying your view?"


            "Oh yes Mistress," Orion blushed and bowed.


            "I appreciate it, but don't be too servile." Mercury cautioned. "So the Princess aims to fight? Good. I want her to learn from this."


            "I would assume you'd want the Princess to move into her chambers here sooner rather than later," Orion stated. The townhouse they were currently inhabiting, generously funded by their backer, had ample room for all the Senshi.


            "If things had gone better last night she would have moved in here within a fortnight." Mercury glowered. Her original plan was to leverage the Mistress Lyra threat to get them to move into this newly acquired place.


            Convincing Setsuna to make the purchase would have been the hard part, but Mercury was sure that the others would find this place irresistible. Once the Senshi were moved in she could have initiated the next phase. Mercury sighed. Things would not be that easy. She thanked her foresight in making contingency plans.


            "The Princess will be living here soon enough," Mercury promised.


            "She is the most sympathetic to our cause," Orion laughed.


            "Maybe not," Mercury said as she looked at her display again. "Maybe the Princess's new ally would be more open to us." She turned to the statue and smiled.


            "I think DarkStar would approve," Orion remarked. Virgo did make a good objet d'art. The icy glaze that kept the presentation in position added a new layer to the piece.


            "Are you sure?" Mercury frowned. "She prefers more... visceral punishments." She stood up and walked the short distance, her heels clicking on the floor.


            "Visceral?" Orion asked, puzzling over the term's use. "She does like organs and is a more emotional and instinctual creature."


            Mercury smiled thinly. "That and her enemies have the pleasure of being eviscerated as they're being eaten, of course."


            "Of course," Orion agreed.


            She caressed the frozen cheek and smirked at the smoldering eyes. "I am not nearly so exuberant or emotional in my desires. Physical pain is only part of it, and it would be such a shame to ruin these nice hardwood floors."


            "I think DarkStar would understand that," Orion ventured as she walked closer to her mistress.


            "I suppose," Mercury looked Virgo up and down, her eyes lingering on Virgo's chest. She smirked. "Have you learned your lesson?" she asked the purple-haired statue.


            Virgo tried with all her will to escape the icy prison. Physical strength proved ineffective, and her powers had been controlled by Mercury. Her face could not even change its position. She was stuck in an alluring pout.


            Mercury put a gloved hand to her lip in thought. "If not, I suppose I can start freezing your limbs. Would that make things clear enough for you?"


            "Would you like to resume training or have dinner?" Orion asked, turning away from the icy statue.


            "Well, Virgo is currently indisposed, and will be for a while," Mercury frowned. Virgo was a good trainer and a fair cook too.


            "We could train with the caster. I had just finished testing the room's shielding," Orion offered. Before she planted the bug she had been working in that basement room. "There won't be any magical leakage."


            "While it was nice of our benefactor to furnish us with that facility, I am disappointed by the capabilities it had," Ami said as she smiled inwardly. Just a few short months ago the caster was nearly impossible, and now...


            "We did just finish upgrading the caster's power," Orion reminded.


            "Yes," Mercury turned to Orion. "Are you sure about the shielding?"


            "Planning to go all out tonight?" Orion asked with a smirk. "And yes, it's checked out and ready."


            "Good, I don't want anybody to sniff out my efforts," Mercury laughed.


            "Would you like dinner before hand? I could cook if you desire."


            Mercury gave a noncommittal shrug.


            "At least the wine cellar is well stocked," Orion weakly offered.


            "And how are your skills as a sommelier?" Mercury asked.


            "A what?" Orion delicately asked.


            Mercury contained her disappointment. "You should have been able to figure that out via context."


            "I'm sorry Mistress," Orion tried to kneel down but found herself being held up. She looked to see Mercury's cold features gently thaw.


            "Thank you," Orion said as she fell onto Mercury's cold, but loving, embrace.


            Mercury pulled Orion back to her feet, and kissed her. "I am eternally thankful for the changes you brought within me. Never forget that."


            "I won't," Orion said with a secret smile.

 

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

 


            "Hello, my name's Nabiki Saotome," the girl dressed in her Saint Helena uniform introduced herself to her new classmates.


            "Maybe you could tell us more about yourself?" Miss Agnew asked the eager and young student.


            "I'm the youngest of five sisters." Nabiki paused and wondered how exactly to play this. Glancing at the bored students before her, she made her decision. "My favorite color's pink. I'm studying my family history now. Many mark my mother as a monster. Mainly malevolent misfits that must meet their maker."


            "Clever wordplay," Miss Agnew pleasantly offered. Her new student's transcripts indicated a very bright and driven student.


            Nabiki smiled. Fun was definitely the better way to go. "Thank you. I think I'll find this experience informative."


            "Uh, that's very nice." Miss Agnew hesitated. She was reminded by "Village of the Damned" Those children were pale and gifted too. She pointed an empty seat for Nabiki to take.


            The powder-blue-haired girl sat down and opened her backpack. She closed her eyes and briefly smiled at the bare connection. Mother was trying her best and actually managed to connect to her. Nabiki's thoughts on how long her mom could keep it up were interrupted however.


            "Wow, you're pretty dolled up," A girl with her hair in a ponytail to the side remarked.


            Nabiki looked over her thin, frameless, and nonfunctional reading glasses. The girl would be pretty, if not for the overdone eyeliner. "I like pink and am cute. What's your excuse?"


            "Your makeup makes you look fourteen," the girl shot back.


            "I am," Nabiki then gave an adorable smile. "And I suppose you're really the malodorous corpse of a prostitute that serviced circus folk."


            The overly made-up girl's face reddened in anger and she prepared a retort, but there was something about the innocent face that was... upsetting.


            Nabiki smirked inwardly and turned her attention to the teacher. Maybe this could be fun.

 

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

 


            "You guys like being back in school?" Naoko asked Sunshine and her... friends


            "Things feel a bit more normal," Nariko admitted as she picked at her lunch.


            "I can see that," Sam stated. Their table had suddenly gotten much fuller. She turned to the new addition to the group. She was apparently another cousin or something to Sunshine. Though she was awfully familiar with Sunny's other cousin Ukyou. "What do you think Misako?"


            "The uniforms aren't bad, I guess." Misako frowned. At least they were not jumpers.


            "I still think we should all wear ones like... Sunny's old uniform," Akane grumbled.


            "I don't know about that," Ranma shrugged.


            "There's enough of us now to make a good set."


            "You know that old uniform of mine still has a skirt," Ranma reminded.


            "Better than this one," Akane said fingering the hem of hers.


            Naoko looked over to the table that Sunshine's other acquaintances sat at. The decreased number was not unexpected. She and Sam did learn about the falling out yesterday, but it did remind her. "Huh, so anyone know what happen to Ami and Janet? They're not in school today."


            "Nope." Ranma then went back to her food. She concentrated to sense Nabiki. Despite the distance the connection remained strong.


            "Must be related to their fight with Usagi," Sam guessed.


            "Yeah, probably that."


            "So uniforms then?" Misako asked.


            "We could vote on it," Nariko offered.


            "What about you guys?" Ukyou asked Naoko and Sam. "You want darker uniforms with fishnets? I'm sure we can make something in your size."


            Naoko blushed while Sam was contemplative.


            Ranma looked at the others. "I don't even think we need a vote. I mean do any of you want the normal uniform?"


            Naoko sipped her juice. "Well, maybe not every day."


            "Oh that's not part of the fun," Sam pouted.


            "I er... I guess," Naoko pulled back from the others slightly. "So any idea on us going out?"


            "There's the Red Turtle; they'll have some live music on Wednesday," Ranma offered.


            "You've been there?" Sam asked.


            "What's it like?" Naoko inquired.


            "Nice, mellow. I've never been there when they have music, but if it's bad we can do something else." Ranma went back to her lunch.


            "And don't worry about the age thing," Ukyou added.


            "Especially if you wear anything Sunny helped you buy," Nariko reminded.


            "That reminds me," Ranma pushed around some of her lunch. "Someone else will be coming with us."


            "Another cousin of yours?" Sam asked.


            "Uh yeah," Ranma coughed.


            "You'll like Yuki-chan," Misako assured.


            "I'm sure she'll be great; she's a part of your family," Sam said as she looked at each of the pale girls in turn.


            "Thanks," Ranma said blushing with pride.


            Naoko nodded in agreement. She vaguely wondered why this new friend of Ranma's was not in school, but she let it slide. There were plenty of reasons: Yuki doesn't live around here, she goes to a different school, or the like. Regardless, she trusted Sunshine.

 

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

 


            Nabiki frowned as she walked down the hall. This was not fun. "Yes, I am developed," she said to a boy. "You know, if you want to be lewd you might as well give a good shot at it."


            "What?" the short-haired boy asked. "You're just a big bimbo."


            Nabiki sighed. "You impotent little moron. That doesn't make any sense. I'm clearly smarter than all of you and I'm not big; I'm short."


            "Girly little brain," he sniffed and walked off.


            "That's actually better, though not an insult," Nabiki yelled to his retreating back. She growled and resumed walking down the hallway.


            "Are you alright?" Miss Agnew asked after approaching the pale girl. She felt apprehensive, but it was part of the job.


            Nabiki looked up to the teacher. "Yes."


            "Are you sure? I've seen your performance today."


            "Performance?" Nabiki idly played with the pair of the bows in her hair.


            Miss Agnew felt that something was amiss. She remained silent as her student moved from her hair to checking her too cute makeup.


            "Yes, your performance. You're a brilliant student, but you're not good at making friends." Miss Agnew explained.


            Nabiki put away her compact. "I'm not that interested in making friends with children like this."


            "Aren't you younger than the other students?"


            "Disappointing isn't it," Nabiki sighed.


            Miss Agnew shivered slightly. "Yes, that is bad, but the class work will get better."


            "I doubt it." Nabiki then noticed the hurt on her teacher's face. "You're a fine teacher, but...." She shrugged.


            "You've been advanced a year already," Miss Agnew cautioned. "Maybe you need to grow your social skills some, keep a bit of pace with your academic ones."


            "That would make the fools around me even more insufferable," Nabiki replied.


            Miss Agnew frowned. "Are you sure? That's awfully cynical of an attitude. You sound almost like a teacher."


            Nabiki laughed. She was sure Yuki would have been happy here. Accommodatingly cute was a great way to make friends, but Mother had to be supportive and nurture her dreams. "I guess we just have to make the most of our situation."


            "So you'll try to be less brash with your classmates?" Miss Agnew asked as they neared the front doors.


            "Not exactly," Nabiki opened the doors and noticed her ride.


            Miss Agnew frowned at the pair of people leaning on an idling van that Nabiki ran to. The male one was casually nondescript. He had short black hair and wore clothes that made him look like any white collar drone. The dark sunglasses and stance added a bit too much "forced coolness" for Agnew's tastes.


            The other person waiting was something else. She looked like a biker babe that had settled down enough to have kids and a permanent address. The woman's sinfully teased crimson tresses induced pangs of envy in the teacher. The way the leather pants, coat, and silk blouse hung from the woman's body caused another pang.


            Agnew then watched the redhead happily scoop up Nabiki and pull the younger girl off her feet. After the warm embrace, Nabiki and her mother, it had to be a mother, went into the van. The relation was obvious, both had the same complexion, and Agnew could see where Nabiki got her assets from.


            The nondescript man lingered just long enough to give Miss Agnew a funny salute with his thumb and pointer finger connected, held over his eye, and then tipped foreword and out.


            It was only after he had slipped into the front passenger seat of the van and it had driven off that Agnew realized something. The redhead who had easily lifted Nabiki off her feet was almost the exact same height as her daughter.


           

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

 


            "So you're not so sure about that school?" Ranma asked her daughter. She and Nabiki were at the kitchen table. On the ride home, Nabiki had explained her day.


            "Well maybe," Nabiki looked down at her Saint Helena uniform. "I don't know if high school would be that much better."


            "Oh?"


            "Well, I'm not sure things will be better if I'm a freshmen. Then the ages will be even more apparent, but they will be older."


            "And high schoolers are supposed to be tragically jaded and sarcastic," Ranma sweetly reminded.


            "Thanks Mom," Nabiki laughed. "It was a bit of a shock, I didn't think it would be so..." She shook her head. "I'm just too damn cute."


            Misako had entered the room and poured herself some juice. "Sure you don't want to go to high school just because the stock's a bit more mature?"


            Ranma turned to Misako. "What did I say about draining horny teenage boys?"


            "That it's way too easy and none of those pathetic meat-bags are worthy to touch the glorious flesh of someone from this family?"


            "Close enough. Interesting choice of words too." She said with deliberate delicateness.


            Misako stood very still. "Yes, Mother." She said slowly as she replaced the juice bottle.


            Nabiki saw her sister falter and stepped in. "It's not like she's calling all humans meat-bags. Just those ones at school."


            Misako coughed. "Yes, the humans we work with are great people." She stepped from her mother.


            "Yes, they are," Ranma continued, seemingly ignoring her daughter's fear. "But those boys at school, they're just teenagers. It's their nature."


            "Yes, you're right." Misako said before quickly leaving the room.


            "That was mean," Nabiki quietly and told her mother.


            "Was it?" Ranma shrugged. "So you'll be changing the type of fools you have to deal with." She shook her head. There was a slight buzzing in the back of her head. It faded and she dismissed it.


            "But I'll be with my big sisters, and you."


            "I know." Ranma knew that it would be more secure too. Nabiki would not be alone. The surveillance teams would also be consolidated. "It's your choice." She frowned the sensation had returned.


            Nabiki looked down. "I think I'll know by tomorrow. I mean, I kind of want to fit in more, and what if moving doesn't help?"


            "That sounds fine, Honey," Ranma reassured as she activated her phone.


            "Yes, Maya?" Ranma asked, recognizing the voice. "Is there anything going on?"


            Maya blinked,  she was just about to call her. "Yes, we just detected a body in the dojo. No pattern picked up, looks like a short man, just standing there. Were you expecting a visitor?" Agent Maya Iverson asked.


            "No," Ranma said her voice growing cold. Akane and Ukyou were going to train in a few minutes but there was nothing now. "So no pattern?"


            "No, nothing. Maybe human."


            Ranma stood up. "Nabiki bring the others down. It looks like we have another trespasser." She then put her head back to the phone. "Maya any idea how this happened?" Ranma asked as she unfolded her senses.


            "There was some electrical interference. We're getting more information," Maya apologized. "Do you want support?"


            "Have them on standby," Ranma focused on the dojo and picked out its occupant. It was human, but... She was reminded of the Senshi or Assemblymen. Both were modified human, but this person was... different, and he was staying in the same spot.


            Ranma shrugged and casually walked over to the dojo. She slid the door open and prepared herself. What she found was a diminutive old man standing in front of the shrine. His hands were clasped behind his back and he looked like he was in an art gallery.


            "You wouldn't happen to be a relative of mine?" Ranma asked in jest as shadows started to build and pool around her.


            "I was really worried. I was afraid my lousy students would be lousy teachers, but here's their dojo and it's full of such... fascinating smells. You girls have been very busy in here." The man slowly turned to face her. He froze with an amazed look.


            "You taught my father? Soun too? Oh dear," Ranma sighed. Even if this coot were telling the truth things could be a pain.


            "I see Nodoka's influence," the old man noted, appraisingly.


            "And the horns?" Ranma asked walking over to him. "You have no idea how dumb you've been."


            "Oh?" He looked the woman over. "Well you only live once," he blurred and pounced at Ranma. He made contact with the demoness and just before he could get a grope in felt a hand slide between him and her chest. There was a flash of pain and he released and bounded away.


            His robe had a series of horizontal slashes that had blood oozing through in a few spots. "Still worth it."


            Ranma blinked. "You... you tried to drain me? What?"


            "I like pretty ladies," the old man shrugged.

            "Succubae drain human males, not the other way around," Ranma lectured watching him carefully.


            "You're not going to keep an old man from having his fun." He then sobbed.


            "Fun?" Ranma asked.


            "You want us to bring in the old guys?" Ukyou shouted from the back door to the house.


            "Uh, sure," Ranma said rubbing her chest with one hand.


            "Oh good, so they are home," the old man laughed. He then watched as five smirking women in a box formation led his two students into the dojo. He felt that he had died and gone to... well someplace that had very nice women who were no doubt amenable to an old man's simple wishes.


            "Explain," Ranma ordered pointing to the old man.


            "You're looking well, Master," Genma said as he used a move Ranma immediately recognized: The Crouch of the Wild Tiger.


            "Yes, it's good to see you Master Happosai," Soun said, entering a similarly submissive position.


            "So, he really is your teacher?" Ranma asked.


            "He is the founder and grandmaster of our school," Genma said.


            "At least the new generation seems better," Happosai noted.


            "Was he always... into breasts?" Ranma asked


            "The Master is a virile man and enjoys the pleasures of the flesh," Soun said, hedging his words.


            "Meaning?" Ranma asked impatiently as she looked at her father's teacher.


            "He likes to grope women and take their underwear. He had an impressive collection," Genma admitted.


            "That's no doubt moth-ridden, thanks to you," Happosai grumbled.


            "So, he's a grizzled martial arts master, that likes a quick fondle and a souvenir?"


            "Don't you try to ruin my fun."


            "Uh, I've got a grandma who invaded Earth with a demonic army. If you get your kicks by having some hardly even dirty fun. I ain't gonna care."


            "Oh you've made me so happy!" Happosai beamed.


            "Course if you touch my kids, there won't even be any bones left." Ranma smiled warmly.


            "Kids?" Happosai asked.


            "Yes, they're mine. What's it too you?"


            The old man pulled out a pipe. "That explains the scents and ki in here. It's all related and so very strong."


            "So what? You just dropping in?"


            "Well, I had to escape that little cave-in that those two -" the old man pointed to Genma and Soun. "- setup. It took a few years, but I managed."


            Ranma smirked. "You actually tried to kill your master, Pops?" She laughed. "Figures you wouldn't make sure the body was good and dead."


            "Pitiful isn't it?" Happosai agreed. "They got me drunk enough to pass out. They could have ended me then, but they didn't have the stone to do it themselves."


            "So they just left you to die in a cave," Misako surmised.


            Happosai looked forlornly at the green-eyed demonesses. "You sure they're your kids?"


            "Yes, their age from birth is... I mean I turned them, well turned them to my brood." Ranma coughed. "They're mine."


            Happosai waved it off. "I know about succubae. It's only natural given my hobby." He grinned lecherously. "I remember that Genma had a son for one."


            "Yeah, well things changed."


            "And now you're a sexy succubus."


            "This must be some kinda dream for you right?" Ranma asked.


            Happosai paused. "Well, you don't mind the bras. You're not weak like your father. Killer body that's oh so snuggly. Kids that at least seem competent. It's getting there."


            He then walked over to the corner of the dojo and tugged at a large sack. After nearly a minute of rummaging he then bounded to Ranma. "Here," he said handing a violet object over.


            The redhead held the bra up. It was silk and was a bit overwrought in its lace detailing. "Not bad, it's the right size. Good eye on that."


            Happosai looked contemplative. "So you're a demon, and you do martial arts."


            "Yeah, had to modify the school." Ranma said with pride. "New balance, extra limbs, flying, and that stuff."


            "I'd like to see that. So are you going to try it on?" Happosai asked leeringly.


            Ranma shrugged and slipped out of her shirt and pulled off her bra. She smirked at the old man's reaction and quickly pulled on the new one. "Geeze, they're just boobs. Chill out."


            "Oh you've made an old man so very happy," he sobbed. Noticing Ranma's old bra, Happosai ran up to it. "Such silky bliss," he said, rubbing the undergarment to his face.


            "Wow, you really are a dirty old man," Ranma said fascinated and amused. The draining was interesting; it was like he learned some demonic biology. She then smirked when the summoned clothing started to disintegrate.


            "No!" Happosai cried as the bra started to dissolve. He tried to hold onto it, but the garment decayed, eventually becoming insubstantial wisps. "Why did you do that?" he asked pitifully.


            "It's just how things work." Clothing summoned by a succubus tended to fade when separated from its creator. Though the rate of decay can be controlled.


            "Does it happen with all your clothes?"


            Ranma smiled evilly.


            "Oh that just sucks," Happosai pouted. "I hope your girls aren't as plainly dressed as you."


            Misako smiled. "Finally, someone who agrees with me."


            "I'm not that fond of frilly stuff," Ranma said crossing her arms over he chest.


            "Yes, you're more of a sexy functional," Happosai said appraisingly. "So what's are these modified moves like?"


            "That a challenge?" Ranma asked, shifting into her violet Lycra unitard.


            "Oh I like spunk," Happosai smirked.

 

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

 


            The first thing Major Saotome noticed was the jagged hole in the dojo's roof. It was above the front entrance and quite large. Nodoka then caught a glimpse of the sparring. The visuals from base did not do it justice.


            She silently watched as two figures danced around each other. Fast, predatory grace defined her daughter's powerful moves, but her diminutive opponent was even nimbler and difficult to track with the naked eye. Nodoka also noticed four of her granddaughters were also watching.


            He noticed Nodoka's presence and bounded over to her. "Hi No-chan. Long time no see."


            Ranma used the opportunity and tried to grapple him to the ground, but the old master wormed out of her grip.


            "Attacking while my back was turned," Happosai shook his head.


            Ranma smirked, and wiped her brow.


            "Nice touch that." Happosai turned back to Nodoka. "You've got a good kid. Spirited, but she's not too respectful of her elders."


            "Groping old goat," Ranma grumbled as she caught her breath. "You still kept goin' after my boobs."


            "You were free to stop me," Happosai smirked.


            "I see you haven't changed much," Nodoka remarked.


            Happosai smiled broadly. "So what's with the soldier getup? You with these other guys?"


            "Yes, I wanted to find my daughter and they offered to help," Nodoka explained. There was also the pride of her work, knowing how it helped agents, but there was no need to tell him that.


            "Ranma was a girl that long ago?"


            "Nope." Ranma adjusted her unitard.


            "So Genma did take you on that training trip," Happosai remarked. He looked the sweaty succubus over. "Didn't do to badly with that at least."


            Ranma beamed. "You're not to shabby yourself. Been a long time since I sparred like that."


            "You were holding back, though," Happosai remarked.


            "Yeah, I didn't use my claws, tail spines, or fireballs. Would be a shame to shorten the fun," Ranma smiled toothily.


            "Fun? You call me hitting you mercilessly as you lumbered around fun?"


            "Feh, it wasn't that bad."


            "You were sent flying through the roof," Happosai remarked.


            "So? I came right back."


            Happosai nodded. "It is handy having a student that won't get worn down, not like that pair of idiots."


            "I have tea," Nariko said as she walked up to the dojo carrying a tray.


            "Ranma's a very serious student," Nodoka said.


            "Yes it shows. She's a lot like you," Happosai blurred and then latched onto her chest. "Oh I've missed this, such-" He was cut off as a pair of red beams hit his body and knocked him off.


            "I know you're happy to see grandma, but it's impolite to be grabby," Nariko gently chastised as she put down the tea set. She idly rubbed her eyes.


            "Thank you Nari-chan," Nodoka complimented.


            "That's great, Honey," Ranma said hugging her daughter. "How long have you been able to do this?"


            Nariko blushed. "Just now. I wanted to stop him from touching Grandma."


            Happosai shook his head and pulled himself back to his feet. "Ouch... why didn't you use that on me?" he asked Ranma as he patted the burn marks on his clothes.


            "Because my eyebeams would burn right through you," Ranma smiled at Nariko. "We'll have to strengthen up your own beams, Honey."


            "Fine, ruin all my fun," Happosai pouted.


            Ranma rolled her eyes. "Oh please, we're not a bunch of prudes."


            "I wouldn't want to be touched by a wrinkled old man," Akane commented.  The old man disturbed her in unnatural ways.


            Ranma tilted her head. "You know Happi, I think Akane volunteered for the next sparring match."


            Happosai smirked. "I like the way you think, Red."


            "Training shouldn't be a cakewalk. So you decided to track Genma down? What'd you do, find out where Drake was living?"


            "Not exactly," Happosai said as he sized up Akane.


            "Mom?" Akane asked. She did not want to be touched by this... unnatural thing. Succubae were supposed to be the dominant ones not humans.


            "You'll be fine," Ranma waved a hand. "So how did you find us?"


            "It was weird. I was enjoying the generous donations of some very lovely ladies when a gaijin priest sat down next to me." Happosai smiled fondly.


            "Priest?" Nodoka asked.


            Ranma coughed.


            "We got to talking and it turns out he was a friend of The Drake. Crazy third wheel to my idiot students."


            "And of course he knew where to find the Drake," Ranma sighed. How predictable.


            "And where Soun lived too, funny guy. Was really loose for a priest." Happosai shrugged.


            "Pardon?" Nodoka then exchanged a glance with Ranma.


            "Describe him," Ranma asked.


            "Average enough guy. Grey eyes I guess. Fidgeted a bit. You know, just a guy." Happosai paused.


            "Nothing more specific?"


            "I don't pay attention to guys. Not my thing," Happosai shrugged.


            "He give a name?" Ranma asked guessing who it was.


            "Minister Prembrose."


            "First name Murdock by any chance?"


            "He didn't give it, but maybe."


            "We have some pictures of Murdock you can look at," Nodoka offered.


            "It's probably him," Ranma sighed. "So why would he do that?"


            Happosai gave a measured look. "He wanted me here. That's obvious. So you know this guy? What's his deal?"


            "He's just some mook that likes causin' trouble," Ranma explained.


            "We believe he is trying to orchestrate events," Nodoka said.


            "Take over the world, dark conspiracies, back room dealings," Ranma's tone was disdainful and bored.


            "Aren't you a demon that's working with some sort of secret military thing?" Happosai asked.


            "I've got a good thing with them."


            "Now who to train," Happosai pondered. "My lousy students or your kids?"


            "You never did properly greet them," Ranma smirked.


            "And they haven't left yet," Nodoka helpfully added. "They're still in the den drinking."

 

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

 


            "I can't believe there wasn't anything in Ami's room," Makoto said as she looked at the cold beverages.


            "What, you expect her to have an 'I heart Mistress Lyra' poster in her room?" Rei asked as she looked around the convenience store. She saw the two blondes over by the frozen foods aisle looking morose.


            "There could have been some notes or plans," Makoto defended.


            "Why? She kept everything on her computer," Rei pulled a bottle of pop out. "I'm disappointed that Janet's mom didn't have any info."


            "What? Setsuna talked to her. Doctor Fraiser thinks her daughter is at space camp or something out in Colorado," Makoto frowned.


            "Clearly, they got to her, messed with her mind," Rei scowled.


            "Had to have. Janet couldn't have been around for what, couple of years?"


            "But Doc Fraiser thought she adopted Janet a long time ago," Rei smirked. "We still have to watch her. Janet's mom is either a patsy or another minion."


            "That's not a nice thing to say about my mom," Orion lazily remarked as she entered from the back hallway that led to the bathrooms. She held her double-bladed staff with one end resting on her shoulder.


            "Traitor!" Rei shouted as she immediately transformed.


            Makoto turned to the front and was dismayed and unsurprised to see Virgo and Mercury walk in through the front door.


            "Don't give me a reason to punish you again," Mercury icily said to Virgo. The former Amazon angrily nodded and turned towards the blondes.


            "What's this a costume contest?" the half-stoned clerk asked. The flashy lights were a shock.


            "Something like that," Mercury smirked as she stood in front of him.


            He smiled vaguely. "You're sure to win dressed like that."


            "Thank you," Mercury said and snapped her fingers in front of his face.


            "Huh?" the clerk mumbled as he collapsed to the ground.


            "You monster!" Rei accused.


            Mercury sighed and turned to the Senshi. "Only one of you had the sense to transform?"


            "So this is Virgo?" Minako asked. She looked between Virgo's ample chest and Mercury's corseted bosom contemplatively.


            Mercury raised an eyebrow.


            "I'm going to save you," Usagi's face as stern and she grabbed for her broach.


            "Let's see," Mercury smirked as she sauntered over to the blondes.


            There was a pair of flashes and Venus stepped in between Mercury and her Princess. Mercury smiled thinly as she rapped a folded tessen against Venus' head. The blonde dodged but was then attacked by Virgo.


            "Should have summoned your sword," Mercury laughed


            "No!" Jupiter shouted as tried to jump over to Moon.


            Orion slipped her staff between Jupiter's legs and then twisted it. The brunette tumbled to the ground and her left leg was sliced when Orion pulled her staff out.


            "Don't kill her," Mercury ordered Virgo. "I have plans for Venus."


            "Yes Mistress," Virgo sighed.


            "You can stop this," Mercury stepped closer to her princess.


            Moon narrowed her eyes. "Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss." The brilliant flash bloomed enveloped Mercury and then died down.


            "Tingly," Mercury laughed and adjusted her corset. "I'm not some phage, but it's good to see you had the stone to at least try."


            "You save the princess, I'll take care of Naru," Jupiter said as she stood back up. The bleeding from her cut had slowed down.


            Mars nodded and took aim. "Mars Flame Sniper!" She then ran down the aisle.


            Mercury twisted and flipped open a fan and intercepted the burning arrow. The other tessen she pointed towards the floor at the head of the aisle.


            Mars ignored that her attack missed and put her heel down... and lost her footing. The patch of ice was thin but large enough. Slamming into the counter at the front of the store Mars groaned in pain.


            "Girls who wear high heels to a fight should watch where they walk," Mercury sermonized. She turned to see Virgo dodging around Venus' chain.


            "Quit playing with her, and just knock her out." Mercury ordered.


            Virgo nodded and caught the end of the Love Me chain with one sword and then used the flat of the other to sweep Venus's left foot out from under her. Pulling the chain, Virgo toppled the unbalanced Senshi and proceeded to chain her up.


            "This is all a game to you, you sick bitch," Mars growled as she stood back up, careful to avoid the ice patch.


            "No, this is deadly serious to me." For the first time Mercury sounded genuinely insulted.


            Mars snarled and tried to shoot another arrow. Blocking with her tessen, Mercury closed in. She flipped her fans over and launched a barrage of icicles at Mars. The black-haired Senshi shrieked as thin icicles punctured her arms.


            "Rei!" Jupiter and Moon cried. Jupiter then yelped when Orion trusted forward with her staff.


            Orion's smirk died when Jupiter fired a blast at her. Orion dodged on the inside and spun the staff around and hit Jupiter on the head just under the blades. She leaned over Jupiter with a slight smirk. "Learn to fight in close."


            Jupiter's left hand shot up and grabbed Orion's neck while her right held the staff away. "Same for you," she said as she squeezed Orion's neck.


            Orion struggled and pulled her neck out of the grip, but Jupiter responded by holding her staff with two hands. Orion kept her face neutral as the two struggled over the long, bladed weapon.


            Jupiter leveraged the staff over the shorter girl and pressed her against the wall. Orion growled and tried to kick the brunette but Jupiter easily evaded. "Forgot that I'm actually a martial artist."


            "Oh I didn't," Orion smirked. "I was just stalling."


            Jupiter frowned and then twisted away and jumped when Virgo charged her with a pair of swords.


            "Damn your goons," Mars said as she pulled some of the icicles out of her arms.


            "At least mine can act like a team," Mercury smirked as she iced the ground under Mars' feet.


            Mars jumped up and landed on the counter. "Nice try." The weakened surface creaked and broke apart in a cloud of ice and frost. Mars fell into a heap with the passed out clerk.


            "I thought so," Mercury smirked. It was satisfying to see a plan come together.


            Mars swore and clawed her way over the broken counter. She landed on the iced tile carefully and took a step forward, or tried to. She looked down to see the ice creeping over her heels. Swearing again she slipped out of her shoes and landed on some clear tile.


            Mercury frowned at the bare feet. "Why didn't you just flash your power? You control fire."


            Rage contorting her face, Mars glared. Flames sprung up around her gloves and she charged forward.


            "Excellent," Mercury said as she blocked the flaming fists with her tessen. Behind her smirk she worried. The fans should hold up; they were designed to take much more than this.


            "Damn you!" Mars punched down and connected with Mercury's ice skirt, shattering some of the frozen pleats. Mars could have sworn she saw fear in the traitor's eyes, but it was quickly replaced by bored disdain.


            "Dirty," Mercury noted, inwardly relieved that the armor of her skirt absorbed the blow. "Feels good doesn't it?" she smarmily asked. Getting Mars mad was easy, and it negated her advantages. Rei's attacks were accurate and quick, at range. Close quarters was another issue.


            "Shut up," Rei hissed, as she blindly dove forward.


            Unsummoning her tessen, Mercury reached out and grabbed Mars' hands and for a few seconds ice and fire battled. Steam started to billow through the room. The ice crystal on Mercury's tiara flared, and the steam died down, as did the flames. Mars tried to pull out when the crystalline water started to creep up her arms.


            Mars' eyes and arms flared and the ice shattered. "I won't go down that easily."


            "Good," Mercury smirked unpleasantly. Inwardly her mind raced, Rei was putting up more of a fight than she predicted. Her smirk grew into an evil grin as she recalled Virgo's lessons.


            Mars grinned as the flames strengthened, she then nearly stumbled as Mercury suddenly pulled her down and closer. Mars' confusion was short lived as Mercury suddenly rammed her knee into Mars' chin.


            Mars fell to the ground in a groaning heap. Still laughing, Mercury looked down at her broken skirt. "Easily enough fixed," she said as her skirt grew back to its full size. She also stepped back discretely.


            "You bitch," Mars swore as she pulled herself back up and her flames sprung back.


            Mercury smiled as she recalled her tessen. She spread the fans and flicked two arcs of icicles at Mars. "It's just a few puncture wounds," Mercury remarked to the fallen Mars.


            Mars got up, and felt the shards of ice start to melt. Several large splashes of watery blood fell to the ground. After shouting out, she clasped her hands and a lance of fire burst out.


            Mercury twisted her tessen in front of her; the sheets of ice composing them expanding to shield her from the blast. Immediately after it died down she lunged forward.


            Mars was knocked full to the ground and found the edge of a spread fan pushed to her neck. Mars gasped and tried to rip the tessen away.


            "Naughty Rei," Mercury mocked as she used the other tessen as a bludgeon. She shook some blood off the end of the fan. "Least your thick head was good enough for something."


            "What did you do?" Moon demanded as she marched forward. She had regained enough strength to confront Ami again.


            Mercury looked down at the unconscious woman. "Don't worry, it's not that bad. I know what I'm doing." She smiled coldly.


            Moon looked around. Minako was tied up. Rei was knocked out and Makoto was down with multiple sharp implements pressing into her chest and neck. "You think you've won?" she asked, her voice depressed and angered.


            "I'd hardly call defeating girls like this a victory." Mercury sighed.


            "You haven't beaten me yet," Moon stepped forward.


            Mercury laughed. "That's not how it works. No, the villain takes out all the princess's guards and then when it's darkest she wins." She leaned in close and whispered. "And I'm sorry Princess, but this isn't even close to darkest."


            Moon pulled back and gasped. "You are a monster."


            "Monster?" Mercury smiled widely. "Do you want that? It'll speed things up. One word and Orion and Virgo will plunge their blades into Makoto."


            "No..."


            "And don't think you could bring her back. You couldn't bring Mamoru back. You couldn't bring the woman and child the Will killed. You won't bring Makoto back."


            "What's wrong with you! You have to fight this! This isn't you!" Usagi pleaded.


            "You're right. That isn't me." Mercury paced over to Mars. "I could kill her too. Be so easy, too easy."


            The corseted Senshi chuckled and then walked to Venus. "Bondage does suit her," she said kneeling down.


            "Gonna threaten to kill her too?" Moon asked.


            "Oh no, I have plans for Minako." Mercury laughed. "You've all forgotten her potential. Shame."


            "No."


            "What?" Mercury asked.


            "No." Moon's eyes focused on Mercury's. "You won't take her. This ends now."


            Mercury clenched her teeth.


            "I want my friend back," Moon stated. "And I won't let you hurt them."


            "Really now?" Mercury's smirk was short lived as a kick caught the crouching girl in the chin.


            "Moon Kick!" Moon shouted as Mercury flew back and crashed into a few shelves of bread.


            Mercury shook he head and looked at the vengeful blonde. "You hit me," she said wiping some blood off her lips. "Wonderful."


            "Even though I've ended up fighting enemies alone, it's the love of my friends that keeps me going," Moon said as she confidently strode forward.


            "You don't have to be alone," Mercury said as she stood up. Her eyes briefly darted around to make sure that Virgo and Orion were covering Makoto and that Rei and Minako were still out of action.


            "Stop." Moon ordered.


            Mercury's eyes immediately returned to the princess.


            "You're going to stop your madness. I'm your Princess and you will not defy me." Moon balled her hands.


            "That's how you're gonna play it?" Mercury asked through her teeth.


            Moon glared at the spilled blood and hurt friends. "Yes. I'll do whatever it takes."


            "Just like me," Mercury laughed. "So do you want me to leave?"


            "You're not going to let me try and purify you?" Usagi inquired.


            "Like it'll work the second time," Mercury rolled her eyes. "I've got things to do, Virgo, grab Minako when we leave. Orion destroy the security tapes from the back room."


            "You're not taking Minako." Moon's voice was forceful and her body hummed with power.


            Mercury narrowed her eyes. "Fine be that way." She wandered towards the back of the store.


            While Orion covered, Virgo forcefully rolled Makoto over and stepped back so Mercury could hogtie her with ice. "Orion, I still want you to take care of those tapes now."


            Orion nodded and broke into the back room.


            "I'm going to defeat you," Moon promised as Mercury returned to the front of the store.


            "Of course you will." Mercury stepped over Mars, careful not to get any blood on her heels. "I wouldn't expect any less from you."


            "You're not a monster, I'm gonna save you," Moon pulled her hands up and after saying the magic words a beam of purifying magic flared out and hit Mercury square in the chest.


            Mercury cleared her throat. "Are you done?"


            Moon's arms fell to her sides. It was easier when Mercury was being violent, egotistical, and prideful. When she showed pity, it was hard.


            Mercury stepped in and hugged the depressed Princess. "Don't worry, I'll make sure you have people worthy of you." Her hand slipped just inside Moon's skirt and caressed the area where thigh became butt.


            "Huh?" Moon asked as her body blushed at the physical contact.


            "Come with me," Mercury whispered. "I promise you'll like it."


            Moon's eye widened. She gasped and tried to squirm away. "Let go of me," she asked her voice hardly a whisper.


            Mercury kept holding her. "Are you sure?"


            "Got the tapes, Mistress," Orion said as she and Virgo came to the front of the store.


            "Last chance." Mercury offered as she largely succeeded at smiling warmly.


            Despite her blush, Usagi looked serious. "No."


            Mercury ended the embrace. "Maybe later then." She smirked at Venus' fearful expression. "Let's go girls."


            As the trio made their way to the door, Moon took half a step forward. She hesitated and then stepped backwards. The last she heard from Mercury was her thanking Virgo for her work. The blonde then fell to the floor and with twitching fingers managed to call Setsuna on her communicator.


           

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


           


            "These are great uniforms," Sam remarked as she adjusted the black blouse to her new uniform. She smiled at her reflection.


            "I think the fishnets may be a bit much," Naoko said, looking at herself in the mirror.


            Ranma left the stall and took a sink next to her friends.


            "Thanks for the uniforms, Sunny," Sam complimented.


            "Yeah, it's great that you could make them so quick," Naoko added.


            "It was nothing, the others helped." Ranma looked up as she washed her hands. It did feel nice to be back in this uniform.


            "Did Nabiki help?" Sam playfully asked.


            Ranma blinked. After her second day at Saint Helena Nabiki had made up her mind. The redhead smiled at her friends. "Nabiki Saotome, Misako's little sister or Nabiki Tendo, Akane's big sister?"


            Naoko laughed. "I don't see Nabiki Tendo ever helping sew some skirts."


            "Now little Yuki-chan. She'd do it." Sam evaluated.


            "It's also great to see a brainiac that's not some meek eager to please pushover."


            "Definite improvement in Nabikis," Naoko remarked. "She's half Tendo's size, and half the smirking con artist."


            "Though the pink is a bit much," Sam considered.


            "I think it works for her. She is fourteen."


            "You don't find her odd?" Ranma asked. Nabiki had said no one would be able to connect Nabiki Tendo with Nabiki Saotome. Ranma's suggestion that she go as Nabiki seemed fair enough.


            "Oh she's strange, but so what? Normal people are boring." Sam pulled out a compact and touched up her makeup.


            "Shame Tendo already left, we never got to see how she would react to 'Yuki-chan'." Naoko smiled. Misako's pet name for her little sister was cute. Though the circle that could use it was even smaller than the people who could call Sunshine Sunny. So far only Sunshine or Misako had called her Yuki, but it was only the first day.


            Sam rolled her eyes. "Like Tendo would care about some cute and smart girl with the same first name as her. She didn't care about Nabiki Sato."


            "What do you think Sunny?" Naoko closed her compact.


            "Of course I like Nabiki. She's family."


            "Yes you do dote over your cousins." Naoko smiled.


            "Heck, you dote over all your friends." Sam put on some lipstick. "You're like a mom to all of us."


            Ranma blushed. "Thanks guys."


            "So you looking forward to going out tonight?" Sam asked as they left the bathroom.


            "Of course," Ranma smiled.


            "We should get back to class," Naoko reminded.

            "We've got time. It's still lunch period." Sam smiled at the shocked looks at their uniforms. That was still a blast.


            "Wanna go back to the table?" Naoko asked.


            "Sure, eight girls dressed like this at one table's bound to make quite the scene"


            "Yes," Ranma stuck her tongue out. "We found that out just a few minutes ago. People were whispering all around us."


            Sam smiled toothily. "Well, let's give them an encore."


           

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

 


            "This is nice," Naoko said from a corner booth to the Red Turtle. She sipped her beer. She was pleased to find that she was not the only one nursing their drink. At every other party she went to the kids would drink themselves stupid.


            "But what happened to the music?" Sam asked.


            "Ukyou's asking the bartender," Ranma said as she looked at her beer. Part of her wanted a Scotch but she did not want to tempt the others with hard liquor.


            "Good dresses, you two," Misako complimented.


            "Thanks, Sunny picked them out for us," Sam blushed. Leather did feel a bit odd but the black dress did look good on her.


            "Sunny has good fashion sense," Nabiki smirked.


            "And you look much older," Naoko tried to compliment.


            Nabiki sipped her pop. "It's easy when you normally go for the cute and pink look."


            "There's still pink trim on that cheongsam," Sam pointed out.


            "I think removing her hair ribbons does more to make her look older," Akane remarked as she snuggled onto Nariko.


            "Yeah, she could even pass for sixteen, maybe seventeen." Sam then looked down to her beer in thought.


            "Oh no, I'm not that old," Nabiki blushed. "Sunny was the one to get me in."


            "Yeah, she just talked to those coworkers of Kasumi's," Naoko said.


            "How's things going with Kasumi?" Sam asked the girl she knew as Sunshine.


            "Great," Ranma said a bit dreamily. "She's very strong, decisive, and really good in bed."


            "Heh, of course you'd think of that," Sam said. Under her gruff exterior, Sunshine really was a soft and sensitive girl.


            "So yeah there's no band tonight," Ukyou sighed as she slid back into the booth. "The drummer found out that the bass player was sleeping with his girlfriend, the lead singer."


            "Isn't tonight's band the Discount Auto Parts?" Sam asked.


            "Yeah."


            "Well the bass player's a girl too."


            "So?" Misako asked.


            Sam chuckled. "Right, forgot that you're all lesbians."


            "You don't know that I'm one," Nabiki pouted.


            "Well the rest your family..." Naoko countered.


            Nabiki laughed. "I guess that's a requirement of wearing the special uniform."


            Naoko looked to Sam and blushed.


            "So there's no music?" Sam sighed.


            "Sunny could sing," Nariko offered.


            Ranma's eyes widened. "Well, I'm not that good." She hesitated; it did move the subject away from her family.


            "Yes you are; you sing all the time," Ukyou teased. "Ever since Auntie Saotome got you that book and then those tapes."


            "They've got a karaoke machine." Misako added. "So it'll be easy."


            "Yeah, do it Sunny!" Akane added.


            Ranma's face valiantly tried to pale.


            "You know you want to," Misako smirked.


            "I'm not gonna get out of this?" Ranma looked to see that even the off-duty agents in the bar were, subtly of course, watching.

            As one the girls smirked.


            "Fine," Ranma sighed and motioned for the girls to let her out of the booth.

 

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

 


            Inspector Rebus sat at his desk. It was late but he had switched shifts with Rawlings. He looked up from the papers and photographs to see his partner standing above him.


            "Something wrong, Rich?" Inspector Henderson asked. "Last night's case?"


            "Yeah, It's that convenience store... fight," Rebus shrugged.


            "Damn strange. There was ice and blood. We know at least two women had been hurt, but there wasn't enough for a mortal injury."


            "And the clerk said there was a mess of girls in funny skirts and bows attacking some other girls. 'Course he was stoned out of his mind and passed out," Rebus grumbled as he got up and walked to the coffee machine.


            "The security tapes were fried, but nothing was stolen." Henderson followed. "And some of the items were burnt."


            "Don't forget that dent in the floor. Looks like something was bashed with a hammer. We're checking to see if any women went missing yesterday, but I'm not holding my breath." Rebus cringed at the poor quality coffee, at least it had caffeine.


            "What? You think this is related to those rumors of skirted vigilante-girls?"


            Rebus laughed. "I thought that stuff was misdirection. Maybe I still do." He sipped some more of the awful, warm beverage. "But the police weren't the first ones on scene."


            "You mean those consulting guys? They arrived with forensics." Despite his better judgment Henderson poured himself a cup.


            "Sure. Still it's odd that an anti-terrorism consultant group helping our department's Emergency Task Force would be at a nominally simple convenience store robbery."


            "I thought Willard International Consulting was helping the RMCP's Emergency Response Team."


            "My mistake." Inspector Rebus put down his mug. "You have to admit. Something's odd about that fight. All that ice, passed out clerk, nonsense about girls in corsets and ice, blood, fire damage, and nosey company."


            "Things are getting strange," Henderson agreed.


            Rebus nodded. "We'll keep at it. Someone had to have seen something, or someone will show up missing. We've got blood samples to match."

 

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

 


            Setsuna opened the door to the bar and immediately heard a seductive siren's call. Unconsciously smiling, she entered. An agent by the door nodded as she walked past. It was then that Setsuna caught full view of the singer.


            From the tiny raised stage, the leather-clad redhead gave a saucy wink to the visitor. Setsuna stared at the singing succubus. "Wow, she can really hit the low notes."


            "She's a natural," Maya Iverson remarked from the bar, next to Setsuna.


            Setsuna raised an eyebrow at the agent and turned back to the stage. The smile grew and she could almost feel the sounds vibrating in her chest. For such a small woman, the redhead really knew how to project her voice.


            Ranma finished her song and bowed to the applauding bar. She blushed at the calls for an encore, which did not entirely come from the her friends' table. "I'll be back for another song in a few minutes," she said into her microphone. She sauntered off the table and went straight to Setsuna.


            "You like what you heard?" Ranma smiled suggestively.


            "Should have known you'd have been able to sing like that," Setsuna shook her head.


            Ranma smirked. "So what do you want? I wanna get back to my friends."


            "Have you seen Ami or any of her minions?" Setsuna asked after ordering a martini.


            "Not since the day Ami freaked out. I did hear about the convenience store thing." Ranma winced. "They really got stomped. Mostly because of those 'minions' as you call them."


            "Yes, Mercury is good at leveraging her resources and knowledge."


            "Of course, Shampoo's probably a better marital artist than all of you combined tenacious too. Then there's Janet, bright girl."


            "Troubling." Setsuna gulped down nearly half of her drink.


            "That's an understatement, from what Usagi told me they would switch off. Janet would do the magical deflection while Shampoo would be the muscle."


            Setsuna nodded.


            "So are you digging for info or just giving it away?" Ranma looked at her watch pointedly.


            Setsuna glared and finished off her drink. "Look, if Ami approaches you, don't help her. Call us."


            "Oh, you actually got a plan for her?" Ranma asked, chuckling.


            "Oddly enough, she was obeying Usagi's orders at the end. Maybe we can use that." Setsuna then ordered another drink. It was what kept Ami from taking Minako.


            "Yeah, Ami hasn't found a way to work around that," Ranma shook her head. "Careful, Usagi sounded pretty tempted by her offer."


            Setsuna glared. "I have hope for our Princess."


            "She was the only one that got a hit in." Ranma nodded. "But that's not enough and the other's aren't enough either. At least you seem to know that."


            "Yes." Setsuna sipped her refilled glass. "In a way I'm glad Mercury did this to them. Now they'll take it seriously."


            Ranma blinked. "That's blunt."


            "We're beyond banal pleasantries," Setsuna put her glass down and left her tip.


            "Good luck I guess," Ranma looked to the stage again.


            "Oh? You don't want Ami to win?"


            "Usagi'll make the right choice." Ranma smirked. "Or not."


            Setsuna shook her head and walked out of the bar.


            "That was your old girlfriend, right? What was that about?" Sam asked after easing up next to her friend.


            Ranma shrugged. "She was just asking me about Ami."


            "She knows Ami too? Strange."


            "Nah, she's in charge of the exchange group."


            "Okay," Sam was impressed that excuse might even be real, not that it mattered "So gonna go back to your singing?"


            Ranma looked at the expectant friends and agents. "Yeah, I guess so." She then sauntered her way back to the stage.


            "So what do you think of her ass?" Naoko asked when Sam returned to the booth.


            "Shhh, Sunny's started." Sam then smiled and watched her friend begin to sing. "And it's quite nice, she's a lucky girl, Kasumi too."

 

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

 


            During the walk through the corridors, Kodachi steeled herself. She then exited the building and walked across the grass to the range. She grumbled at the sight. It was somehow wrong, for non-agents to get such latitude.


            She knew the Company would employ NH contractors but this seemed to be taking things too far. She caught herself. Colonel Edwards and Commander Stillwater were overseeing this project. They knew what they were doing.


            "Yes, Cadet?" Major Saotome asked when Kodachi got close enough. The officer then handed what had to be a custom handgun to one of the broodlings.


            "I just want to speak with my sister, Ma'am." Kodachi automatically saluted and waited for Nodoka to return.


            "That's fine." Nodoka saluted back and resumed talking with Ukyou.


            Nariko walked to Kodachi. "Yes, sister?"


            Kodachi frowned at the harshness in the last word. "I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have been like that with you."


            "No you shouldn't," Nariko replied flatly.


            Kodachi shifted her feet. "So, how's things with you?"


            "Fine, Grandma's been making some very interesting things," Nariko looked over her shoulder.


            Kodachi was distracted by seeing Misako fire what should be a crew-served weapon at her shoulder.


            "Sister?" Nariko coughed over the noise.


            "Uh, yes, well I wanted to tell you that I'm going back to my training."


            "That should help make you into a proper agent," Nariko wryly remarked.


            Kodachi glared.


            "Good then," Nariko laughed.


            "So that's it?" Kodachi asked.


            "Not quite," Nariko smirked and pounced.


            Kodachi stepped back but was still caught in a strong hug.


            "When you can stop flinching like this, we'll be better," Nariko whispered into Kodachi's ear.


            Kodachi nodded and with considerable concentration wrapped her arms around her sister. "You haven't really changed. You're still the type of person to toss severed heads at frightened people."


            "This time they're not just from fish," Nariko smirked. She had already apologized to Akane for doing that, and it was really funny.
           


            Kodachi sniffed and broke out of the hug. "I suppose that's it."


            Nariko rolled her eyes. "Well, you're trying to be more pleasant."


            Kodachi looked over to see Captain Jarvis stride over to Ranma. The two conversed briefly.

 

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

 


            "Really? So what are they doing?" Ranma asked.


            "We don't know. So far we've only picked up one pattern spike," Jarvis shrugged.


            "And they're too far out of range to get more info?" Ranma bit her lip.


            "The Assembly either screwed up or they're trying to get our attention."


            "So, just giving me a heads up?"


            Jarvis smirked. "The Commander's sending a helicopter to investigate."


            "And I bet there'll be room." Ranma turned to Nodoka. "Hey Mom, what do you say to a field test of your guns?"


            "Can we?" Misako enthusiastically asked as she cradled her gun. She relished the chance to show it off to her former comrades.


            "So you're asking to be sent off to fight an unknown amount of Assemblymen?" Nodoka asked as she inspected the gun that Ukyou had just fired.


            "It's recon. We'll see what's going on before doing anything," Ranma suggested.


            "I'll inform the Commander," Jarvis pulled out a phone. "You take your girls and get ready by the warming helicopter." He said before talking to Stillwater.


            "I guess these are ready to go." Nodoka opened a second storage case and handed a holster, some magazines, and a set of belts to Ukyou.


            "Oooo... Leather nice," Ukyou appraised as she shifted into her Senshi uniform and slipped on the gun belt. At least she had some edge, especially since she had no idea what her Senshi powers were.


            "What about me?" Misako pouted.


            Nodoka smiled and handed a pair of ammunition boxes over.


            "You don't go halfway," Kodachi noted with a tinge of jealousy.


            "Accessories are easy," Nodoka shrugged.


            "You can go," Jarvis said as he closed his phone.


            "Right, let's go girls," Ranma ordered.


            Kodachi watched the demons run off to the helicopter. She looked to the two officers and sighed. She walked back to the building. She had thirty minutes before the flight back to the Operations Centre.


           

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

 


            "Starting to see something," Ensign Lindemann said from the co-pilot's seat of the helicopter. "Yes, display's showing a smattering of Pattern A, about five klicks out ."


            Ranma nodded to the sound coming into her headset.


            "Slowing down approach," Lieutenant Hilbert, the pilot, stated.


            "We're getting more of them, looks like a couple squads. Levels are murky." Lindemann pause. "We've got a bloom! It's two klicks out."


            Hilbert's eyes widened. "Shit!" he swore as a small smoke trail shot up from the forest below. He jerked on the cyclic and pitched the helicopter up.


            "Releasing countermeasures." Lindemann released flares and chaff. "Base we're under attack by AOM forces." The missile was evaded but then a bright yellow beam came up from the ground.


            The source of the beam moved to try to connect with the helicopter. It was then joined by a second beam that reached up and just missed the cockpit. Another pair of missiles shot up as well. The helicopter twisted to evade but was hit in the transmission case. The titanium armor quickly burned through. The two missiles hit chaff and exploded, but a bit too close to the helicopter.


            "Can you get us down safe?" Ranma shouted.


            Hilbert worked at the controls. "Transmission's shot Ma'am. It's not good. I think I can get this thing down with no power, though." Within the right domain of velocity and altitude a helicopter can glide and land with some survivability. The decent turns the unpowered rotor blades which generate enough lift to slow the fall to what can be safe levels. The turning of the main rotor also turns the tail rotor which maintains stability. The line bounding this domain was affectionately known as the "Curve of Death".


            "We're sitting ducks," Lindemann said as the attacks continued. The ability to evade dramatically fell with the helicopter.


            "It's time for that thing we trained for!" Ranma shouted.


            Hilbert shuddered. There was not even a clearing below; it was all forest. He sighed and unhooked his harness. Lindemann followed.


            Ranma grabbed the door gunner next to her. "Nariko take the pilot. Misako take the co-pilot. Akane other gunner."


            The sextet of succubae jumped out of the helicopter. Initially their wings were folded back, allowing them to fall faster than the rotor-gliding helicopter. Once they had fallen enough the succubae extended their wings and pulled out and away.


            Ranma gritted her teeth as she rolled away from a yellow beam and increased the rate of her descent. The brood had practiced this maneuver before, but not under live fire. She hit the ground and maintained enough balance to not drop Morrison. The agent gasped and landed on the HOG that he had been clutching to his chest.


            Ranma could feel all her spawn but her thoughts were interrupted by hearing the helicopter lumbering down to the ground. She hit the ground over Morrison and felt the impact in the distance.


            The agent and the succubus rose. Ranma tapped his shoulder and pointed to the right. The two crept through the forest. Shortly, the redhead looked over to see Nabiki and Ukyou silently move towards her. Ranma's expression turned predatory when she heard gunfire and explosions to the east.

 

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

 


            Sailor Aurora smiled happily as she depressed the trigger on her Individual Grenade Machine Gun. A MK 19 crew served weapon modified to be shoulder fired, the weapon was too ungainly for a human to use, but Misako did not have that problem.


            A series of 40mm high explosive dual purpose grenades made short work of the flanking group of acolytes.


            "Shit," Lindemann whispered as he held his sidearm. He managed to shoot the first Assemblyman in the head but the rest.... He gasped as he put some weight on his broken ankle.


            Misako slapped him on the back before getting up. "Sorry about the landing," she blushed. Mother was going to yell at her for being sloppy.


            Lindemann nodded.


            "Thanks for ruining our surprise," Nariko hissed from what seemed like Misako's ear.


            "You see anyone?" Misako asked.


            "Some dumb kid," Nariko frowned. "Pulled a gun on Hilbert." She shrugged.


            Hilbert paused as he took position to the rear of the group and looked to the South. As soon as the acolyte started to raise his weapon, Nariko was on him. It was gruesome but efficient. "I see Akane and Stevenson!" he said quietly.


            He crouched down and ran over to the limping pair. Misako had followed, holding up her monstrous weapon.


            Akane frowned and handed the nearly unconscious Stevenson over to the officer. She growled as pain shot up her damaged foot.


            "Bad landing?" Misako asked.


            Akane nodded. She avoided the missile well enough, nearly hit a tree, and then went into the ground. "His arm's bad, I dunno about the rest."


            "I should have guessed you were this easy to find," Ranma smirked. She did a headcount and was relieved with the result. "Anyone raise base?"


            "I did," Lindemann whispered. "I'll tell them we got everyone."


            Ranma nodded as she looked at Akane's leg. "It's okay dear," she said before yanking her foot straight. There was a loud crack followed by a flood of Ranma's energy that was readily absorbed.


            "So far we've seen some scouts. It's gonna get worse," Hilbert shook his head. It was insane, but the training worked. He could smell the burning wreckage.


            "Misako, stay with these guys, give them some cover," Ranma ordered.


            Frowning, Misako nodded.


            Hilbert boggled at the covering fire that offered. "We'll make sure no one gets in behind you," he promised.


            "I getting better," Stevenson groggily said He winced when Morrison looked at his arm.


            "Try to go around them, a bit to the North-west," Hilbert advised.


            Ranma smiled. More distance between them would be better. She motioned to the rest of her spawn and they slid into the forest gloom. "That's good, we'll have to fan out and do a full sweep anyway."


            "Lucky guys," Misako smirked as she extended her senses and began to unfold her aura.


           

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

 


            Wendell Holmes held his dagger-like blades out but he hesitated; a tiny demon in a pastel uniform of some kind stepped out into his vision. His hesitation came not out of any reluctance to kill a young girl, but from caution that came with experience.


            He looked her over and checked with his senses and concluded that she was no great threat. A blue aurora formed over him as he ran to attack her. His men would hold back, until the other demons that were certainly out there attacked.


            Nabiki smirked and snapped her hands together. The mocking look on the Assemblyman's face was worth waiting for. "Icicle Parade."


            Wendell laughed and put his right arm up to block the ice barrage. He screamed when some of the shards punctured through his aura. The number penetrating grew tremendously after the first shards exploded. His right arm hung uselessly at his side, nothing more than a broken, bleeding mass of meat. Aura flaring even brighter, he pushed forward with the blade in his remaining hand.


            Nabiki dodged back and parried the blow with her claws. Getting inside the weapon, she pushed it aside and slammed the her other hand into his neck.


            Wendell's head snapped back and he tried to slash with his short sword again. The tiny demon's attacks railed uselessly against his shield. He stepped forward and found his footing taken away.


            He was then flipped over and hit the ground. Glaring at the succubus standing over him, he stabbed forward with his sword. It solidly stabbed somewhere in the demon and he felt assured of his victory.


            Wendell's acolytes' attentions were drawn by a series of fireballs. The men hesitated. Wendell's face reddened. "I can handle this little girl! Go after them!" he shouted to the men as they turned and started shooting at the other demon.


            Thanks to their cover the fireballs from the demon failed to hit them and the sustained fire from their guns kept her from getting too close. They were missing her but it was enough to keep her from nearing. Most of the demon's attacks were close range.


            Hearing his men engage the demon trying to flank them, Wendell hastened to end this fight. He made a stab for what he knew to be a vital area. Swearing as the blade hit her, Nabiki sidestepped and managed to keep the wound from getting deep. Wendell smiled, but his satisfaction was short lived as she repeated those stupid words.


            "Icicle Parade!" A blast of frozen flammables shot forward. Few of the shards actually made it though his shield, and into his head, but not many were needed.


            Nabiki arched her back and her eyes flared as she dodged a handful of shots. Some of the Acolytes had noticed what had happened to their leader, and were starting to fire on her. She slid out her claws and leapt toward the acolytes who were still engaged in a firefight. The three within ten feet of where she landed were doomed.


            The rest of the squad were further out and until now had focused their attention on the other demon, but now there was another threat.... One took a shot and hit a teammate who was being eviscerated. He swore at the interference and tried to shoot the heavy gun again but a blue and white fireball ended his efforts.


            His partner was a bit more clearheaded and took careful aim. Unfortunately, that caused him to miss a group of shadows slide up and make contact with the one cast by his gun. However he did not miss it when the weapon exploded in his hands.


            Akane glared and adjusted her shadows to the next target.


            Aura flaring, Nabiki stepped back and dodged under a burst of gunfire. She concentrated and launched a pair of fireballs. She shook her head and slit the throats of the writhing flame-consumed bodies.


            "You shouldn't have gone out like that," Akane admonished after impaling the last acolyte with her tail.


            "Yeah," Nabiki agreed as she cracked open Holmes' chest. She then sliced out his heart and tossed half of it to Akane.


            Akane thoughtfully chewed the organ as she sniffed the air. "Not bad. Shame we don't have time to sample more." At least their uniforms worked well enough in combat, even if the leather mini-skirts were too girly.


            "I'm guessing this fool was the one that sent those scouts out." Nabiki shrugged. She then spoke into her headset. "Nabiki here, got one of the Priests, and a smattering of goons. Pretty good eating."

 

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

 


            "We're ready," Ukyou quietly groused.


            Nariko shrugged. They had to wait for everyone to be in position. Simultaneous attacks would minimize the potential for reinforcements. She could sense something ahead but was not sure. They eased their way further and stopped. She smiled thinly at the group of acolytes.


            "Mortars," Ukyou whispered as she pointed. She radioed in her ready status, and thankfully only had to wait a bit before getting the order. She then moved her finger to a man that wore better armor than the others.


            Nariko shook her head at the stupidity. It was not just the armor, but the choice of heavy weapons. The terrain was all wrong, and seemed ineffective at fast, highly mobile targets. Maybe it could would work better against a swarm of minion-grade demons. Shrugging, she circled around and kept an eye on the formation. She sniffed and approached an idle sentry. Before his lifeless and heartless body could hit the ground, she concentrated and shouted: "Lightning Devastation". Several electric arcs came from her hands and hit the closer of the two mortar crews.


            Several of the rounds exploded, which further mangled the corpses that were once the crew. The other mortar group was far enough to escape the explosion. They changed the position of the small tube and started firing. The ammunition-handler from that crew started to raise his shotgun...


            Ukyou drew her weapon, and took careful aim with the enlarged semi-automatic. It was a bit clunky but Grandma was not taking any chances with the .500 Smith and Wesson round. The blonde easily and messily killed the two men at the mortar.


            Ukyou moved her aim to their leader but as soon as Nariko attacked he had dived down behind a hillock. There was a brief pause and she then looked to see a squad of acolytes approach her while running between trees and trying to use cover. She smirked; it looked like he had called in some backup.


            Her smirk died when she saw a yellow beam fire from behind the hillock. She spotted the priest using some kind of staff as covering fire. Heartened, the acolytes carefully went forward. Father Holmes could not hit the demoness, but his fire kept her from coming out into the open.


            Ukyou swore, the bastard was too concealed and too far away to hit. Besides she had more immediate targets. Trying to flank her, the acolytes moved in; their assault weapons were raised. She could smell the fear and hatred in them... she then realized that there was more. She could smell more of their minds. She could touch them.


            The squad shuddered and hesitated in their advance. It was enough. From their varied positions, they shot at her but they were far too low and off their mark. Ukyou's firing was precise and devastating; she gasped, panicking that many people was exhausting.


            She then advanced on the two remaining personnel. Idly reloading she looked at the shivering acolyte. The man gasped and as he looked at the approaching demon and reached for one of his grenades. Immediately reacting, Ukyou pulled iron and shot him between the eyes.


            "Foul monster!" the man shouted wondering what had happened to the father's covering fire. The other one used the opportunity to take a shot. He hit Ukyou just under her left shoulder and then got shot in the neck and stomach. Screaming in pain, the blonde dug into her shoulder to pull out the bullet. While not as caustic as the special rounds Assembly snipers used, the bullet was not something she wanted to leave in even for an extra second. She growled as the wound painfully and slowly began to close.  After that she lunged onto him and began to feed. 


            She stood back up and smiled at the sight of Nariko gleefully frying her assemblymen. Ukyou frowned and looked at the two bodies as she released the empty magazine and reloaded. At least Franklin died quickly, he was not too bad of a guy. Hamilton on the other hand... She felt she should have shot him in the crotch first.


            Ukyou mumbled something about pinching jerks that did not know the meaning of 'not interested' when she spotted the priest. Father Karol Adams had emerged from the hillock


            "Hello Ukyou," the short and solid man greeted her with a forcefully calm face. He cradled a wooden staff in his arms. He had called for more support and Oslo promised it, he just needed to stall her. More men would come.


            Ukyou smirked and spit out some blood and gristle so she could talk. "Still being Oslo's whipping boy I see."


            Karol sighed as he looked at the corpses. "You had such promise: clever enough to realize the truth yet smart enough to keep your mouth shut about it."


            "I defected as a human," Ukyou reminded him as her grip strengthened on her gun. Father Adams was one of the less fanatical and more approachable.


            "Exactly," Karol shrugged. That was his entire point. It was a shame, the Assembly needed more people like Ukyou, not faithful dolts like Wendell. Karol flipped his staff over and the prongs at the end began to glow. A thick yellow beam burst from the tip and he tried to steer it towards the blonde.


            Concentrating her fearsome aura, Ukyou dropped to the ground to dodge under the beam. She aimed. Karol reacted and turned the staff so the large bullet hit the middle when it was shot. After it smashed through the weapon, there was a blue flash of the slowed bullet impacting with his shield.


            "Not so sure about your aura?" Ukyou taunted.


            "What about yours? I'm no weak fearful acolyte," Karol dropped the lower half of the staff and fired again from the prongs, it was thinner and not as bright.


            Ukyou tried to dodge but the yellow beam hit her side, fortunately it ricocheted off of her flaming aura. Aside from knocking her down the only damage was that the left side of her back bow had been torn.


            "Lightning Devastation!" Nariko shouted. Bolts of electricity scattered over the Assemblyman's shield and she pounced.


            Karol turned and fired a shot from his staff. It hit the center of her body, sending the succubus tumbling. "Looks like my men actually slowed you down," he commented noticing the handful bullet holes and slices in her uniform. It was amazing that she was still standing. There was a lot of blood too, but he had no idea how much of it was hers.


            There was a pair of shots and Karol felt his back get torn open. Even as his wounds started to heal, he spun around. He had a feeling about her gun, and since it had penetrated his shield and his armor...


            Nariko immediately popped back up and launched a fireball. It burst harmlessly on his shield, but her attention was on the ragged wounds on his back.


            Ukyou grimaced and aimed at the prongs at the end of the truncated staff. The wood and metal weapon exploded nicely, but as she fired again he had closed the range.


            Karol dropped the broken pieces and flicked his wrists drawing out a pair of short blades from his sleeves. The edges glowed and he jabbed forward. His right blade was blocked by Ukyou's claws while his left was parried by the edge of her gun.


            As the blade started to cut into the slide of the gun, Karol pushed forward. He twisted his right arm and tried to jab his other blade into the succubus. A tail tried to cut his legs out but bounced off his aura.


            "Lightning Devastation!" Nariko shouted. Karol's aura flickered and she fired a pair of eyebeams into wounds that had been healing rapidly.


            Karol tried to twist out and get to the side to avoid being flanked between a pair of demons. He lifted his left hand off the gun and jabbed the dagger forward. Ukyou rotated ninety decrees and rammed the gun forward. It met resistance on the blue aura just over his head, until she depressed the trigger.


            "Regenerate from that," Ukyou said as she pushed the headless corpse to the ground. "Thanks, Nari-chan," she gasped kneeling down over the body.


            "Just save me some liver," Nariko said, a smile gracing her bloodied face.


           

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

 


            Ranma eased forward. She could sense an assemblyman and could smell the rest of his goons. She looked forward and saw a small foxhole with a pair manning a machine-gun. There were two more similar positions that made a rough perimeter. She guessed that this was some kind of redoubt: a place for the Assembly to retreat to. The redhead checked and told her girls that she was in place and that they could start their attacks.


            She concentrated and silently released a pair of DarkStar bursts at the two far foxholes. The gunner manning the center one had his heart cut out by a pair of eyebeams. As the spheres killed the other two crews Ranma flew in and slaughtered the gunner's partner.


            Before she could get up and move forward she saw a pair of men with tubes rise slightly and fire. A pair of rockets shot out and raced towards Ranma. She concentrated and the unexploded DarkStar bursts raced in and intercepted the rockets.


            Once the explosion died down Ranma looked to see another pair of rockets launch at her. She flicked her hands out and hoped that they were cheap munitions. With beyond split second precision and taking care to not touch the nosecones, she grabbed the rockets at their midsection and knocked them aside.


            One of the rockets spiraled about and flopped onto the ground, exploding. The other, despite Ranma's efforts, detonated a few feet away from her. More shrapnel went towards her enemies, but her aura still spiked as some of it hit.


            The closer pair had already reloaded their rockets but the demoness was too close. Ranma grabbed one of the men by his neck and launch tube. Only twenty feet away, his partner swiveled his aim and shot at them.


            As the rocket launched, Ranma manhandled the bleeding acolyte so his body was between her and his partner. She threw him right into the rocket's trajectory as her aura bloomed in violet shadows.


            The acolyte had dropped his launch tube and taken a few paces back. Four men ran up to him confused and fearful. Streamers of intestine and gore littered the trees and ground.


             As they fired at the demon she released a pair of orbs before running to the side. Some of the squad went to the ground, two others scattered. Both of the pair that ran were followed by the orbs, which rapidly closed the distance.


            Ranma smiled at the pleasure the energy the kills gave her and rushed into the three men who had held their ground. She kept her aura and shadows up. Men with automatic weapons were more of a threat to her than rockets. She could take out a handful of attacks, but a concentrated and sustained volley of fire would be troubling.


            "Shoot it!" A lanky man shouted from the distance as he ran to the battle. Father Oslo was dismayed at how fast the demon worked. In the few short minutes it took to relieve himself, the slaughter of his men had begun. It was sad what a full bladder cost.


            The demon pounced while they fired. The missile-man, who was still hugging the ground, was easily taken with her tail. The closer of the two who remained was unceremoniously gutted while the other was fried with a more conventional fireball.


            "Damn," Ranma swore as she felt her aura perforate and the ribs on her left side shatter. She growled as the healing began. Lung wounds were not fun. She pulled herself back up, only to drop right back to the ground to dodge a yellow energy beam.


            Oslo groaned. His men had ample chances to fire on the monster, especially when she was distracted by slaughtering the outermost barriers. "At least they managed to do some damage," he hissed.


            "Treat your men like bait and that's all they'll be," Ranma said as she fired a DarkStar Burst at the man while retreating behind a tree.


            Oslo took aim with his staff and swore when the black and violet orb bobbed down and avoided the beam. Concentrating on the sphere, he did not see the pair of violet beams that glanced off of the pronged end of his staff, which then blew apart weakly and died down in intensity. He stole a glance and realized that all his men were dead. He radioed his other teams for reinforcements, and the reliable Pinktree said he was coming. The longer the fight lasted the better his odds got; he was the one getting reinforcements.


            The priest tossed the inert staff to the ground and immediately grabbed a pair of long blades that were slung under his coat. He held the blades up at ninety degrees with each other, vertical and horizontal, and intercepted the DarkStar burst. The shards failed to slice though the shield generated between the two blades


            Oslo shifted to the side and stabbed forward against the attacking demon. Ranma dodged under the blades and closed in. She growled when he stepped back and parried her claws.


                  He leaned forward and slashed at her while Ranma went down and grabbed him by his the knee and yanked him over. While Oslo tumbled backwards he tried to slash at her waist but was parried by her tail, which was nicked on its left fin.


            As Ranma sidestepped the tumbling man, she grabbed his left wrist, breaking it, and flicked his sword away. Oslo stabbed forward with his other hand. Ranma freed up both her hands. The end of the blade was caught between her claws, which sliced the sword apart when it was yanked form her grip.


            Oslo dropped the handle and shot a blade out from within his sleeve. Before he could throw the knife it was plucked from his hand and tossed aside. Ranma sighed and blocked a punch sloppily thrown from his broken left hand.


            Pulling himself up, Oslo kicked high and found his leg captured by her claws. The aura prevented him from being sliced apart, but not from having his knee broken. Trying to step back, Oslo pulled out a grenade which was shot out of his hand by a pair of eyebeams.


            "Already seen that trick," Ranma remarked. Flipping out another set of blades, Oslo charged forward and was easily dodged. She frowned, he was nimble, but not enough.


            When he started an incantation, Ranma readied herself. Reaching into his coat, Oslo smirked and produced an array of blades, one held between each finger. They were then flicked out and jabbed into the succubus. Ranma twisted and was shocked to find that all the flying blades adjusted their trajectory and had still hit her. She groaned and slumped back.


            Oslo chuckled as the succubus coughed up blood, and curled up. He smirked, his aim was still good. "You got me worried for a bit there, but there's now two blessed blades where your heart should be. Not to mention the others piercing the rest of your body," he said as he pulled out another set of longer blades. After depleting most of his aura in that move, he was relieved to see that the chemicals coating the surface of the blades was retarding her regeneration.


            To his surprise, the succubus jerkily rose and ripped the blades out of her body. She darkly smiled as blood oozed out of the numerous wounds. It was clear that there was little pressure in her major arteries. Oslo reacted and launched another barrage that was then blocked by the blades she held. "Don't group me with those other weak succubae you kill," she gasped as the shadows around her grew. She then trusted the blades she held and tried to stab them into Oslo's body.


            Dodging the attack so that only two of the blades hit him, Oslo stared as black and violet fluid started to pulsate within her chest cavity. The demoness gasped and ran in and slashed at him. Her hair bounced up and seemed to hang before slowly falling back down. The aura gave a bit of brief resistance but was easily overcome. Oslo tried to stab forward but found his wrist grabbed and broken for a second time. Ranma sighed and extended her claws and crushed through his aura. She felt her body grow distant, but focused on the battle. Already her circulatory system was trying to repair itself.


            Screaming, Oslo drew his sliced up right hand back. When his aura flickered, Ranma smiled. She reached out and nearly touching his body, fired a DarkStar Burst. The orb shattered onto his aura which blanked out. Shards sliced through his armor and exploded in his abdomen.


            Oslo lurched forward and stabbed with a blade held in his good hand. The clumsy effort was blocked and ripped away. Ranma was disappointed: he was not even pulling out the blades.


            Gasping, Oslo stepped back. He could still heal, and she was damaged too. He concentrated and gave his shield one last push. Careful to protect his left arm, he made a grab for another grenade. The demon attacked but his body and shield blocked her. After pulling the pin, he tossed the grenade and was dismayed to find it kicked away in midair. The split second he spent watching it sail across the forests was enough, and he soon found his left arm sliced off at the elbow. Oslo extended his neck and bit the grip of one of the blades stuck high in his chest. Straining, he pulled it out and charged at Ranma.


            "Oh please," Ranma sighed as she grabbed his head with one hand, his shoulder with the other and twisted. Ranma chuckled darkly. His heartbeat was still strong. She pushed the body down and began to feed. As her body cooled down she almost slumped. Her chest was in dire need of healing, fortunately she had plenty of energy and food.


            The shadows in the forest grew long as she chewed and drained.

 

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

 


            Father Randy Pinktree ran through the forest. He sensed his comrade's fates and knew what he had to do. Before he could get to Oslo, the man was killed. After feeling that, he took his men and looped around the forest. Getting his men out was more important. He could catch hell from the Bishop, but he did not care. He did not even care about the risk of dealing with the Inquisitorial branch. Avoiding the three groups of demons, he then switched direction to head south. Surrender did not even enter his mind; his men would never accept it, and neither would he.


            It was all a mess. Oslo had assured them that these demons were too young and too small in number to be a risk, especially when they were outnumbered ten to one. Their plan was simple, taking out the helicopter was the hard part. Mopping up the demons was supposed to be easy. The problems started when the spotters started being picked off. It got worse when the fighting started.


            His thoughts were interrupted by an explosion that blew apart the men on his right flank. Pinktree ducked down and motioned for his rocket crew to the front. As that happened he eased back and made for his blades.


            A steady stream of explosions pounded the ground, this time it was more towards the center of his men, who, in the panic of their flight, had made the mistake of bunching up. One of his rocket teams was cut down in the barrage. His men scrambled back.


            "There's a whole Company platoon there," one of the acolytes at the front shouted as he tried to drag back a wounded man. There was a large hole in his chest.


            Pinktree swore, he had hoped to wheel around the company reinforcements. His eyes widened when he noticed a dull green aura shoot out and envelope the two scouts. They screamed and slumped over. Unlike Oslo, he did not intend to use his men as bait.


            Randy turned away from the shriveling bodies to see a shadowy and winged figure raise an enormous gun. "Percy take her out!" he shouted to his remaining missile-man.


            Before Acolyte Percival Blank could fire he was shot in the head by a tight grouping of 7.62 mm bullets. Randy shouted for his men to get down as another volley came at them.


            Ordering his remaining men forward, Randy glowered at how things had gone. Things were supposed to be easy. The enemy was not supposed to counterattack, not right away.


            Misako stepped back and fired at the still distant men. She smirked, the fools just kept getting closer. She knew the Assembly, they hardly ever fought... professionals, so they felt the need to think like them.


            The remaining acolytes did make good use of cover and advanced in a pretty good leapfrog maneuver, but they completely missed the slight concavity in the wooded hill they were climbing up.


            Only two of the WIC agents had HOGs but combined with Misako's beast the sum of heavy weapons fire was a fine hammer for the kill zone. After a couple bursts from the men on her flanks the firing stopped and Misako advanced. She unfolded her aura and the green tendrils spread, seeking those that were still alive.


            Randy's men screamed even louder before gurgling and finally falling silent. Gazing at the crumbled and desiccated bodies, he flared his shield and retreated. He pulled back and found some cover. He considered his options: fight or retreat.


            The Bishop had to know. The demons were much stronger than expected. Randy sighed and listened for the approaching monster. Retreating could be tricky, the bishop would likely punish him for his failure.


            "Come out," Misako taunted as she fired her gun a couple of times.
           


            Randy threw a grenade, but its range was nothing compared to those the demon was using


            Misako caught a glimpse of him and laughed. "Hey Father Pinktree! I've got a question," she bellowed. "There are two types of Assemblyman. Those that believe the stupid shit and the cynical bastards just do it to advance."


            "There's also the poor fools that go into the Inquisition branch."


            "Don't tell me Porter got his promotion?"  Misako snickered. "He always was a special kind of useful idiot."


            Despite himself Randy darkly laughed." I always took you for a true believer, Hibiki!"


            Misako chuckled. "I got better. What about you?"


            Randy got up and ran to a different bit of cover. He knew Misako was playing with him, but he could use it.


            "Come on, I've got a bet with Ukyou." Misako eased forward. "She's more of the cynical type, but she has a point. It's not like you guys would be dumb enough to actually believe that stuff right?"


            Randy shivered. She had a point. The Assembly had all the theological expertise of a delicatessen.


            Misako knew this was getting tiresome, and mother did stress the importance of minimizing banter with your enemy... even if the enemy was an old teacher. She took aim and fired a barrage at him and immediately rushed.


            Disappointingly, Randy had a huge gash in his left leg. There were wounds on his face and torso but they were not affecting his mobility. He hopped up and brandished a blade.


            "Want me to wait for you to regenerate that?" Misako sincerely asked.


            Randy looked back and then down at his leg. He threw a few long knifes, which surprisingly almost hit. "No, it might as well end now." He defiantly glared and was subsequently shot. Misako widened her eyes at the jump Pinktree made; he evaded enough of the blast radius to live.


            "You're getting cocky, you always did," Randy gasped, now that both his legs were hideously damaged.


            "Yes sir," Misako nodded solemnly as her aura unfolded. "Thanks for the last lesson." The green waves shot out and started to envelop him. Weakened legs failed and the body was sucked dry. The orange haired succubus stood over the desiccated body and set it ablaze. After it was reduced to ash, she returned back to the agents.

 

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

 


            "Hi Mom!" Akane beamed when she sensed her mother striding forward. She then blinked. "Wow... new look?"


            "I like it," Nabiki complimented. She watched the redheaded demoness stride out of the shadows, or try to. The shadows seemed to hang about her, especially around her hair. The succubus' hair was now a very rich and deep shade of red and fell to her butt in a very full bodied and almost animated wave. Her tresses seemed to move to conflicting eddies of wind and force.


            "Huh?" Ranma asked.


            "It looks like you were at the salon," Nabiki dryly said. There was a lot of blood on Mother, but that was expected.


            Ranma pulled back some of her hair and was surprised at the length and shine. "Well, that's almost worth the damage," she said as she fluffed her hair.


            Nabiki smiled. "I called the other groups. And they're done. It's now cleanup," she said wiping some blood off her chin.


            "Looks like you girls are done here." The proud mother looked over the cleaned bodies. "Let's get Ukyou and Nariko." The trio carefully walked through the forest until they found a dead body that was surprisingly whole.


            "Don't," Ukyou said to Akane who was eyeing the corpse. "Franklin was okay," she sighed an pointed to another body. "You can eat him. He was a prick."


            Nariko looked at Akane and frowned. "Where're your manners?"


            Akane blinked.


            "We're not savage monsters," Nariko waggled a finger disapprovingly. "We have more class than that."


            Ukyou rolled her eyes. "Yes, she insisted that we eat neatly." After pausing to look at her mother's hair, she shrugged- she had come to expect stuff like that from Mother.


            "I like your hair," Nariko said as they walked back to where the brood left Misako and the agents.


            'Thanks," Ranma smiled.


            "Cute powerup."


            "Yes I see that," Ukyou smirked. "So her powerup was better hair?"


            Ranma laughed as they walked. "Girls, I'm not a video game character."


            "Least, I'll have plenty of meat for those recipes, right Mom?" Ukyou asked. Many of the recipes in BlackSky's cookbook required... exotic ingredients.


            "Uh, sure. We'll just have to make sure Dr. Tofu doesn't want any specimens of his own.," Ranma shrugged.


            "Nice," Akane smiled.


            "Mom!" Misako said as she bounded over, her gun slung across her back.


            "Well, you're happy," Ranma said as she hugged her.


            Misako happily nuzzled her. She thought about Pinktree and frowned briefly.


            Ranma laughed at her girls' energy and waved to the group of agents that had congregated.


            "Good to see you girls," Lieutenant Hilbert said as he sipped some water. He shook his head at the gore that covered the girls.


            "Impressive work," Captain Jarvis said as he came up a hill that Misako had used for an ambush.


            "How's the perimeter?" Ranma asked as she sipped from an offered canteen.


            "A couple of acolytes may have escaped before we came, but it's secure now."


            Ranma shrugged. "How's Stevenson?"


            "He's resting in an APC. Medic thinks he'll be okay." Jarvis shook his head. The results were impressive, but he had come to expect this level of performance.


            "Any other AOM on the scanners?" Ranma tried to dust some of the blood from her chest.


            Jarvis smirked and deliberately looked past Ranma. "Nope. They could have planned something, but our reinforcements only took out a handful people trying to flee. We tried to capture some, but those few we got close to killed themselves instead. Guess they were afraid we'd feed them to you."


            "Yeah, you'd have thought they would have helped their own men." Ranma smirked sarcastically. She had seen first hand the kind of teamwork the Assembly had.

 

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

 


            "What did you do?" Kasumi asked as she hosed off her fiance. Both were behind the house. The brood was driven straight back home. She let the others go in and shower inside the house, but the redheaded mom was far too messy.


            "Some guy exploded right next to me," Ranma said as she scrubbed down her nude body.


            "You should have cleaned up at base, instead of coming over here first." Kasumi admonished.


            Ranma shrugged.


            "You also got hit in the heart," Nodoka noted from the deck. She was examining Ukyou's gun. The damage to the slide was a pain, but that part could be replaced. Right now she was more interested in the prototype's overall performance and wear.


            "Yeah, yeah," Ranma sighed and turned so her hair could be washed. "Hope the guys on cleanup are gonna be okay."


            "You helped get most of the bodies," Kasumi stated. She was off duty and by the time she had been alerted, there was just mop up.


            "I meant the helicopter. It'll be a pain to get the wreckage," Ranma shivered at the chill.


            "Expensive too," Nodoka put down Ukyou's gun and then slid Misako's monster closer. "The Assembly made a huge mistake." She smiled at the large case on the deck. A very exuberant batch of broodlings had given it to her. There were more at base. Nodoka would normally get all the captured weapons from a fight like this, but the personal touch was really nice. And those staffs the Assembly used should be fascinating.


            Ranma laughed. "Losing fifty-one men will do that." The count was impressive, not just in her girl's proficiency, but how scattered the Assembly was. Looking down she shrugged. It was a shame, but those idiots attacked her family and friends.


            "There's another thing," Kasumi smirked. "They just gave the Company a reason."


            "Good," Ranma smiled darkly and took the offered towel. She then brushed a few snarls out of her hair.


            Nodoka smiled her daughter's new style was quite lovely. "You two going to have fun?"


            Kasumi nodded as Ranma nuzzled the taller teen.


            "Have a good time you two," Nodoka smiled. She called the agents in the APC to help her load the weapons. Her daughter would not be the only one with a busy night.

 

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

 


            Ranma happily draped herself over Kasumi's chest and purred while her tail happily swished back and forth. Kasumi wiped some sweat off of her forehead and then massaged the succubus. "So you split up and attacked at once?" She asked the redhead


            Not wanting to talk, the demoness simply nodded.


            "You divided your forces, but you hampered their ability to reinforce and counter attack." Kasumi pondered as she held the demon.


            Ranma nuzzled Kasumi's chest. "That's about right."


            "Misako worked well with the guys. I'm surprised." Kasumi then kissed the succubus.


            Purring Ranma continued and then broke off. "They fought well. She likes them, especially Morrison."


            Kasumi blinked. "Because he killed that minion with his knife."


            Ranma nodded. "That and he signed up for the D program."


            "Oh?" Kasumi asked, flatly. Establishing a procedure like that was logical but disturbing.


            Ranma laughed. "Yeah, Misako thinks he'd make a great succubus."


            "So do you," Kasumi noted. No longer stroking Ranma.


            "Yeah, I respect him, that's why I let him in." Ranma's voice was distant.


            "He's a good guy," Kasumi allowed.


            "Have you made your decision?" Ranma asked, pulling her head off Kasumi's chest.


            Kasumi looked to the ceiling for a long moment, and the demon began to fidget during the awkward silence. "No."


            "Well..."


            "Going to go back to your kids?" Kasumi asked with deliberate casualness.


            Ranma eased out of Kasumi's bed. "Yeah I should," she leaned over and kissed her fiancee. With a perplexed glance she slipped out of the room.

 

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

 


            Genma noticed Ranma enter the kitchen. His child seemed distant. "Did things go alright last night?"


            "You know what we did," Ranma grumped as she poured some juice in her "World's Greatest Mother" mug.


            "You seemed happy enough after the... fight," Genma shuddered. The master was training him, but he saw the happy succubae arrive home.


            "Hmm?" Ranma asked.


            The older martial artist's eyes flickered around the room. Happosai's return had heightened his danger sense. He could almost see the irritation roll off of the redhead. "It happened after you and your fiance..."


            "Had wild sex? What of it? She's my mate." Ranma glared at her father. She carefully lowered her mug to the table, and started looking in the cabinet for some breakfast.


            Genma sighed and steeled himself. She was just like her mother. She was at her maddest when she was controlled and calm. "Daughter... please, just don't... Don't make the same mistake I did."


            Ranma spun around and stared at her father. "Daughter?" she asked with confusion.


            Genma stepped back, eyeing the door. "I'm sorry."


            "What got you?" she asked, picking up her mug again.


            Genma looked around, and then quietly whispered. "The Master."


            Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Old man Happosai?"


            "Don't say his name!" Genma's eyes widened and he looked about to bolt to the door.


            "Good morning!" Happosai said as he bounded into the room and landed on Ranma's chest.


            "Says you," Ranma sighed and sipped her drink.


            "Now this is a student," Happosai said as he fondled her breasts. He then allowed himself to be swatted aside.


            "Yah had your fun," Ranma half heartedly grumbled.


            "Aww, but I just want to see how my lovely gifts fit on you," the diminutive old man's eyes started to tear up and his lip quivered.


            "The bra and panties fit great," Ranma rolled her eyes. "And Kasumi really liked the black negligee you got me."


            "Yes I heard," Happosai gave a saucy grin. "Though are you always so morose at the end?"


            "It's none of your business," Ranma sniffed. "We're just having fun."


            "Yeah, casual sex should be easy for a succubus," Happosai lit his pipe. "But is it casual?"


            "Yeah, the Master's right." Genma blinked.


            "See? Even this bumbling oaf figured it out. And his marriage fell apart." Happosai knowingly puffed on the long pipe.


            "Things are fine, we're still casual enough," Ranma shook her head and left out the back door and headed to the dojo.


            "There might be hope for you yet," Happosai said to Genma.


            Genma tried to ease his way out of the room.


            Happosai seemed to not notice. "Well, your daughter and her spawn are going to have the dojo. Guess I'll have to teach you the old fashioned way." He slapped Genma on the back. "Come on! It's half an hour past sunrise! The day's a wasting."

 

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



            Without a pause in her singing, Ranma caught the motion Morrison made. The agent was sitting at the bar and had a cell phone in his ear. Ranma smirked. Like a few others in the bar, the new woman did not look away from the singing seductress. Ranma flashed a sultry smile at the visitor and added in a saucy wink. Almost ruining the song, she suppressed laughter at the newcomer's uncomfortable fidgeting.


            After finishing her set, Ranma slid off of the tiny stage and eased up to the wayward Senshi. "You've got a lot of guts waltzing in here." Ranma then ordered a drink. "Your mistress give you the night off?" she mockingly asked while sipping.


            Mercury narrowed her eyes and tried to keep from blushing.


            "Oh, lighten up. You had to know you'd have been watched."


            "Yes, you actually keep competent security," Mercury stated. She knew how exposed she was. It was a public place, but it was controlled by Ranma and her Company allies.


            "So why are you here?" Ranma asked as she motioned for Mercury to sit in a secluded corner booth.


            "I heard about this great redheaded singer who was dominating karaoke night," Mercury idly stated.


            "The Red Turtle doesn't do karaoke on Friday, you should know that, Akumi," Ranma sipped at her scotch and ordered one for the blue-haired girl.


            Mercury watched the waitress leave. "Akumi? Cute." Shoving Aku into her name was not quite the impression she wanted to give, but it was a lot better than Dark Mercury.


            "It fits... and you're dressed adorably," Ranma smiled at Mercury's glare.


            "Figures." Mercury should have expected that a succubus would find her commanding black, with blue accents, evening dress adorable. "And is my hair cute too?"


            "It's no pigtails, but there's something to be said for the elegance of a nice bun." Ranma ran a hand through her own teased, fluffed, and spiked mane.


            "We can't all look like eighties hair band members," Mercury dryly remarked. She looked at the liquor placed before her. She was fairly sure that the succubus' hair was longer and fuller than she remembered, but that was not too unexpected.


            "I'm not the one in a nice corset." Ranma smirked. "Don't be a pansy, drink up. You sneak into a bar looking classy, you gotta do something with it."


            "And you're a mother," Mercury shook her head


            "And you're supposed to be some evil and dread Mistress to a powerful queen." Ranma sighed. "So what do you want?"


            Mercury sniffed her Scotch. She coughed after trying to drink some of it down.


            Ranma smiled thinly. "Warm isn't it?"


            Mercury nodded. "I'm asking about your plans for... Usagi," she said as she played with her glass.


            Ranma sipped her drink and studied Mercury's face. It was clear and controlled but fear still radiated from her. "Oh, I dunno." Ranma smiled warmly at the memory of Usagi's bloody visage. The princess had potential. That hug was really good too.


            Mercury glared.


            "Well, what do you plan to do with her?" Ranma asked as she put her glass down. "You're a bit too cold to be a consort," she teased. The redhead grinned at the other girl's narrowed eyes. "You're taking this far too seriously."


            Blinking, Mercury took another sip. "I serve the Princess. We need to be worthy of her."


            Ranma sniffed her drink. It was not as good as what Stillwater had, but it did the job. "And that you had the perfect little honey-pot to encourage your... blooming was just a happy coincidence?"


            "Yes, that was helpful." Mercury smirked. "So what are your plans for her?"


            Ranma scratched her neck. "Nothing much. It's not like I have some despicable agenda in all this."


            "Right," Mercury chuckled. There was no way Ranma could have just fallen into the network of alliances that she had.


            "So where's your minions? Didn't want to bring them to such a risque show?" Ranma teased.


            "They're training," Mercury said flatly. "Virgo is a useful asset but..."


            "You need to keep her on a short leash." Ranma offered.


            "She's still learning what it means to be a Senshi, one of my Senshi," Mercury emphasized.


            "Don't have that problem with Orion," Ranma took another sip. "No, she taught you."


            "Well, having a lover that understands you completely is good, don't you agree?" Mercury pointedly asked.


            "Yeah," Ranma absently noted. "So you're already dressing darkly and doing the new makeup and such, standard teenage rebellion. What next? Tattoos?


            Despite herself, Mercury blushed ever so slightly.


            "Ah ha! So what did you get? Mark your territory? Or maybe a more even exchange."


            "It's personal," Mercury said, demurely.


            Ranma laughed. "I didn't see anything on your battle uniform, but I would expect you to be discrete and elegant."


            "That a compliment?"


            "Sure why not," Ranma shrugged.


            Mercury frowned.


            "What? Were you expecting more cloak and dagger? We are in a dark bar with plenty of armed men and demons about."


            "And we are discussing massive conspiracies over drinks," Mercury added with a ghost of a smile.


            "That's the spirit!" Ranma stretched her shoulders. "I mean what's the point of having it and not have fun with it?"


            Mercury paused. "You're encouraging me?"


            "You look like you've got potential," Ranma smirked.


            Behind her slight smile Mercury's mind raced. DarkStar was really quite cunning and she exuded a casual and almost bumbling sense. Mercury could see why so many could make the mistake of underestimating her.

 
            "Attempting to discern my nefarious machinations regarding you, are we?" Ranma asked, recalling some of the words her youngest daughter used.


            "Not at all." Mercury said carefully.


            "This is exactly what I mean. You're starting to get there, but anyone with training can read your emotions plain as day." Ranma leaned closer to Ami. "You're still green. Some experience will help you."


            Mercury stared into the demon's violet eyes. She pulled herself back.


            Ranma sniffed at the slight spike in fear. "Oh come on. If I really thought you were a threat I wouldn't be chatting with you. You know that."


            "You don't play with your food." Mercury flatly stated.


            Ranma ran a finger over the rim of her glass


            "I heard what happened two nights ago." Mercury said, in almost a whisper.


            The redhead cocked her head; there was something else in her voice. "You're jealous?"


            "Shouldn't I be? You're the real deal, got the full dark aura, squad of dedicated and trained Senshi, connections, and plenty of experience. You took out an army of trained demon hunters."


            "It was more like a platoon and they were prepared to fight minion grade demons."


            Mercury gritted her teeth. The humility was the annoying part.


             "Temper." Ranma noted. "You're not the first brooding, dark-power-using teenage girl I've seen."


            "You don't think I've been brainwashed and manipulated?" Mercury flatly asked.


            "I've dealt with that too," Ranma shrugged. "No big deal."


            "Too mellow," Mercury muttered.


            "No one respects a jittery and anxious dark mistress." Ranma leaned back and sipped. "From what I hear you kept yourself together in that little fight of yours."


            "They were less incompetent than I feared."


            "I suppose that's good," Ranma allowed.


            "So, you're suggesting that I keep my cool? Like that time? That would match with me being the proactive one. I'm the one determining the tempo of events."


            "Of course that means you have to make the first move every time." Ranma's eyes glowed slightly.


            Staring into those eyes, Mercury froze. She suddenly imagined the demon sweeping across the booth with her claws out. Mercury knew she could parry the first blow, but not whatever came next. The demon would immediately follow up with any number of varied attacks.


            "Something wrong?" Ranma idly asked as she flicked a bit of lint off of her dress.


            "No," Mercury stated, as she managed to keep from shivering.


            "It worked?" Ranma's face brightened. "So how was it?" the succubus excitedly asked.


            Mercury's face blanked. "You..."


            "Yeah, demons can put out fear. Now Ucchan's got a great knack for it, but... it's easier to make someone already frightened of you scared-shitless. These little tricks would never work on a Company officer."


            "You're toying with me." Mercury grumbled. "No, you're training."


            "Everything is training," Ranma stated. "You hid it pretty well. Didn't even try to fight back or pull a weapon."


            Mercury smiled thinly and raised her glass. "You would never warn someone just before attacking. It'd be sudden, brutal, and vicious."


            "Bright girl," Ranma laughed.


            "One has to watch for the slightest sign." Mercury surmised.


            "Pretty much."


            The blue-haired girl's eyes scanned about the bar. "So how's things been going with your lesbian lover?"


            "She's not a lesbian." Ranma stated.


            "Right," Mercury smirked. "Me neither."


            "You used to be straight."


            "I guess it is different with succubae, with being all female, but you do seem to have that effect on other women."


            "Like the Princess?" Ranma mirthfully asked.


            Once again, Mercury attempted to forestall a blush.
           


            "Has she always had an eye for the ladies?"


            "You've already got a fiancee," Mercury pointed before taking another drink.


            Ranma frowned slightly. "Just teasing. It's not like she'd be interested anyway."


            "Yes, she's still waiting for her prince to return," Mercury frustratingly said.


            "So you feel better?" Ranma asked. "I'll tell you. It took some guts."


            "To walk into a bar and chat with a lounge singer?" Mercury asked. "Look, I don't want there to be any bad blood between us."


            "You mean you don't want me to interfere with your plans for the Senshi." Ranma mirthfully surmised.


            Mercury finished her drink. "You haven't so far. You were right there at the start. You could have ended it then and there, but you let me go."


            "Makes you think, doesn't it?" Ranma asked as she finished her own drink.


            "You have your own plans, and I'm a part of them."


            Ranma laughed. "I'm just a single mom doing her best."


            Mercury stood up. "It was pleasant talking with you. Thanks for the drink."


            "My pleasure," Ranma nodded. "Oh, don't do anything too rash, kid. I don't think you want to push Usagi to the edge."


            "Don't worry I know exactly what I'm doing," Mercury laughed gently and turned around. She walked out of the bar and passed an orange-haired demon who simply glared amusingly at her.


            "Are you sure you don't want me to take care of her?" Misako asked as she slid into the booth with her Mother.


            Ranma smiled. Misako's concern for her was cute. "Nah, we'll let the Company track her." the redhead crunched an ice cube.


            "She's arrogant, Mother. It'll be her downfall," Misako evaluated.


            "Maybe, but I think she's trying to overcome that."

 

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

 


            "What's wrong?" Ranma calmly asked when she entered Kasumi's room. There was nothing obvious, but the atmosphere felt dampened emotionally. Something was amiss.


            Kasumi inhaled slightly raggedly and stood up.


            The redhead noticed the object on the night-stand and eased over to Kasumi. "Did you have a bad day at work?" she asked hugging the officer.


            Kasumi hesitated but put her hands on the demon's shoulders, and gently pushed her away so they were face to face.


            Furrowing her brow, Ranma paused; something was definitely up. Kasumi only took her gun off when they were about to have sex, and she did not look like she was anywhere near the mood for that. "What happened?"


            "I didn't have work tonight." Kasumi looked at her fiance briefly.


            "Then why did you lie?" Ranma pulled her arms away and stared more closely at Kasumi's face. "You could have told me that you didn't want to listen to me sing."


            "This is too much," Kasumi closed her eyes.


            "What?" Ranma's tone was confused.


            "We're not seeing eye to eye on this."


            "Yeah, you keep looking away from me, and not explaining things. This isn't how mates are supposed to talk," Ranma grumbled.


            "There! That's what I mean," Kasumi bitterly laughed.


            "What? We're engaged."


            Kasumi backed to the nightstand and looked at her sidearm, and focused her mind. "I don't know how to say this."


            "What?" Ranma asked; the shadows around her starting to frantically shift.


            Kasumi kept her back to the redhead. "This isn't working out. You want more than I can give."


            At those words, Ranma's heart froze for a moment before it resumed beating. She swallowed hard. "Go on."


            "You want a mate, someone to help raise your daughters."


            "They're your sisters, too."


            Kasumi's shoulders sagged and she turned and sat on the edge of her bed. "Exactly. I can't become their mother. It's..." She stared at the wall. She felt selfish, but that was the truth. She was all that was left, her father was ineffectual and could not face the reality of events. The Company brass did not care either way. She had no guide.


            Ranma froze. "So...."


            Kasumi turned to face Ranma. "I didn't mean to... Well, I meant to have sex with you. We had fun as a couple, but I can't be the mate you want. I'm sorry." Her voice had the careful modulation and pace of a practiced delivery.


            "We'll try to be casual again, I can-" Ranma's tone carried an undertone of desperation.


            Kasumi cut her off. "No, you can't. You're a sappy demon Mommy. You don't do casual."


            Ranma stared; she could not think of anything to say that would refute that.


            Staring at her hands Kasumi collected herself. "I know you'd try. You'd keep it just physical." She smiled. "But it would just hurt you. Your heart would break every time we had sex, everytime you wanted to connect to me, but couldn't out of fear of losing what little relationship you had."


            "How, nice of you," Ranma half-cried; she paused to keep her emotions under control. "I guess... it's good that you don't want to string me along."


            "I'm sorry." Kasumi kept staring at her hands. "I should have ended this earlier."


            "Yes, you should have," Ranma stepped back and looked at the door.


            "Sorry," Kasumi repeated.


            Staring at Kasumi, Ranma stepped out of the room. Once in the hallway she looked at her, and the brood's, bedroom and then at the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs she looked into the living room to find her father sitting alone. He was drinking from a glass and was not surprised to see her emotional state.


            Genma looked up. "I'm sorry, daughter."


            Ranma controlled her hurt and forced a smile. "You warned me, Pops. You tried."


            "Go back to your girls. They'll cheer you up," Genma advised.


            Ranma looked up from her own sorrow and saw her father for who he truly was: a misguided, greedy, and lazy man, but he was not a monster. He was a sad man. "I..."


            "Or maybe you need to talk to your mother." Genma sighed. That was a chasm he could never cross. He wanted to help her, but he had no idea how to comfort her or express it, but he knew someone who did.


            "Thanks," Ranma smiled weakly. "If my girls wake up, tell them I just went to see Mom."


            Genma nodded and looked back to his bottle.


            "Good luck with the Master," Ranma pulled out a phone and called up an escort. She was in no mood to fly.


            Shortly, a group of Company vans arrived Ranma eased into one. Thankfully the agent sitting next to her did not try to make small talk. Ranma supposed they already knew, she forgot that her shadowy glower made her even more unapproachable.


            The van pulled into the underground garage above the WIC base and Ranma stepped out. She silently walked through the security checkpoints and made her way to the elevators.


            Ranma leaned on the back of the elevator and closed her eye as it descended into the earth. The doors opened and she meandered through the corridors. She followed the route without thought.


            The door to the lab was open and Nodoka looked up from the monitor as soon as she heard footsteps. While superfluous, it was positive that Genma had called himself. The scientist got up and before she could cross the room was embraced by her daughter.


            "Kasumi?" Nodoka gently asked the sobbing redhead.


            Ranma nodded and leaned into her mother's embrace.


            "It'll be okay," Nodoka said as she eased the succubus back to a couch on the side of the lab. They sat down and Ranma immediately rested her head on Nodoka. She held the succubus and gently rocked her. Nodoka hugged her daughter tighter. Looking at a brush on the table, she ran a hand through Ranma's deep and luscious hair.


            After hearing her daughter's crying lessen, Nodoka picked up the brush and went to work. She was surprised to find the hair... responding to the contact. Almost expectantly, it moved into the brushing. Nodoka smiled and resumed the strokes.

 

 

End ch16

 

I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They're the ones that made sure this story was readable. Trimatter, DGC, Questara, Solara, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, and Jerry Starfire.

 

Special thank Tri for his tenacity in improving the fight scenes (the man was like a bulldog and did not let me be complacent or "phone in" sub par scenes) and to J St C Patrick for giving this his full attention even though he was very, very busy at work.

 

DGC(PyroRaven) deserves special attention too.  He's always been there and the time he puts into my work and tweaking dialog and giving ideas cannot be understated.

 

Thanks to all of you for putting in the time and effort in this for me. I'm humbled by the effort leveled towards a hobby of mine.

 

Its wonderful to have a group like you guys.  You've been helping me fix my work for years and I want to repeat how much that means to me.  Means a lot to have that level of trust with my ideas and the time you put into helping them.

 

To my main readers thank you guys for your reviewing. I've always preferred quality over quantity and your comments simply are the best. It's a great gauge for how the story is going and finding mistakes.