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 17 Reconstitution and Reincarnation Part 1

 

 


            Mercury sighed at the bound figure. She crouched down and got a bit closer to the blonde. "I've got to compliment you. You actually hurt Virgo," she smiled thinly and looked to the former Amazon in the back of the room. The cut from Minako's chain on her arm was not terribly deep, but it would make things difficult for Virgo.


            "You won't win," Minako said staring down the renegade.


            "Not even going to try to break free?" Mercury raised an eyebrow. She shook her head and sat down on a chair across from the metal frame that held down Minako. It was built out of bolted and then welded steel bars attached to a series of chains and metal loops. A series of softly glowing runes showed that there was more than mere metallurgy in the bonds. The careful inscriptions in the floor were also helpful.


            Minako kept looking at Mercury. Her eyes briefly went to Orion who discretely deposited a glass of wine on the table next to her mistress.


            "I'm guessing you're thinking about what I plan to do with you," Mercury remarked before taking a sip. Orion's abilities were improving. A dry red with a subdued bouquet and rich undertones from nut-tree barrels, went well with what she had planned.


            Putting the glass down, Mercury sighed. She knew DarkStar would scoff at her selection. She was certain the demon preferred blood, but drinking it out of a goblet would be too tacky. No, DarkStar would probably be sipping Scotch. Of course the demon would have scoffed at this entire operation as being too dramatic.


            Mercury's attention returned to her old teammate. "You know I can't be asking about information. If I was going for that I'd have taken Setsuna." She allowed a small smile to form. "You know this Mina-chan. So you're wondering what I want with you."


            To Mercury's disappointment, Minako closed her eyes.


            "You don't want to make this more difficult," Mercury lazily warned as she motioned to Orion. There was a slight chink of metal parts as a leather case was put on the table and opened, revealing a dense collection of gleaming tools.


            Curiosity getting the better of her, Minako opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of case's contents before shifting back to Mercury's face. The traitor was grinning widely now.


            "I don't want this to be more difficult. It might... change you." She laughed and gave a wink to Orion. "Who knows you might start liking it." Behind her winning smile Mercury cursed. She hated these dramatic tricks, but she had to establish herself in their eyes.


            "Monster," Minako hissed as her neck strained against the constraints binding her.


            Mistress Mercury nodded. It was a start. "She warned you," Mercury said after a moment's reflection.


            "Setsuna?" Minako asked as the metal bounds holding her waist chaffed her.


            Mercury sighed theatrically. "No, not her. I'm talking about the one Senshi that knows what I'm really up to."


            Minako looked to Orion with a raised eyebrow.


            "I don't know why people think blondes are dumb." Mercury contemplatively sipped from her glass. She was glad she had tested the rack's design on Virgo ahead of time, the new chest restraints were most complementary. "But no, it's not Orion I'm talking about. Good guess though."


            "Sunny?"


            "You're nowhere near close enough to her to call her by that name." Mercury picked up a small metal rod. She tapped it and some of the humidity from the basement room started to freeze. "So have you figured out what I want with you?"


            "I'm a Senshi."


            Mercury tilted her head. "No, you inherited the powers of one. You're not anything. Not yet at least." She walked forward and ran the end of the rod along Minako's torso and then down her left arm. "You know what you are?"


            Shivering, Minako stared at the wall. There was more than the temperature of the probe; it penetrated her flesh and felt... wrong.


            "Potential." Mercury said as she ran the probe down the length of Minako's spine. "That's what you are."


            "And what? You plan to release it?" Minako had to grit her teeth to keep them from chattering.


            "You were close," Mercury whispered to her ear while holding the probe on Minako's right cheek. "You should have done it before me. You've been active before me, before the queen."


            Mercury pulled back and withdrew the metal rod. "I don't know why you stopped developing." She turned her back to Minako. "I won't insult you by tempting your loyalties. If I was going that route you can be sure I wouldn't have picked you."


            "Thanks." Minako noticed that the sharp chill from the probe had reduced to a cold numbness that had spread throughout her body.


            "However, I'm still a scientist," Mercury pulled out a pair of spherical crystals. "This is important, do you know what these are?" she asked holding them up to the bound-girl.


            The blond could see a pair of little marbles that seemed to be full of silvery tracery and tiny sparks. "Those little stress balls you try to spin in your hands?"


            "I could have used those when I made these things." Mercury laughed. "Unfortunately, since you don't remember what these are, I've got to use them on you." She strode over and slapped a sphere to each temple. The clear casing broke and the silver wires spread along her skin and started burrowing in.


            The blonde screamed at the intrusion. The numbness took care of the pain, but there was still a crawling sensation.


            "I warned you," Mercury sighed and summoned a holographic display. Images flashed on the display. "My... your mind is quite a mess."


            "Get out of my brain!" Minako shouted as she broke and started struggling against the bonds holding her.


            "I warned you," Mercury shook her head and started searching through Minako's mind. She smirked slightly at some of the images. "Naughty girl."


            Minako screeched and struggled against the bonds holding her. Images flashed through her mind in a disjointed sequence. The rapid shuttering continued to pound at her mind. Soon it was joined by scents and sounds immersing her fully and ceasing her struggles.


            Cities and people that were alien to her grabbed at her mind and vied for her attention. Memories of growing up on a large villa overlooking a beach rose up to dominance and were then eroded by training with dour men in green and tan uniforms.


            The sensations stabilized and slowly became more familiar. Sailor Seifukus and crystals became more apparent and gave her something to hold onto. It was not the uniform that held her attention, but who she wore it for. On this there was no disagreement between the memories. The specific life of hers did not matter, it would always belong to her princess, and she would always swear it to Usagi.


            Mercury smiled as Minako's eyes widened and focused on something that was only a memory. "Yes, Queen Serenity really was something, but you already know how it ends. Let's give you something a bit less depressing."


            The visions shifted away from the elder Serenity and focused onto someone younger. With the scent of flowers, wet dirt, and freshly trimmed grass blooming in her memory, Minako saw herself bowing before her princess. She took the oath in one of the gardens to the West of the central palace, it had rained earlier in the morning and the walkways were still damp.


            As suddenly as they came the pressure retreated. Minako twitched has her mind emptied. Soon the displaced memories returned, but they were not alone. The blonde slowly opened her eyes and started at Mercury.


            Inwardly Mercury smiled at the change in Venus' eyes. "Feeling more yourself?"


            "You psychotic bitch," Minako growled.


            "Yes," Mercury sighed. "You of all people should know what I'm trying to do," Mercury powered down the metal probe. "You used to be the leader of the Inners. You used to be someone. Even Sailor V was more than a blonde ditz. What happened to you?"


            Minako looked down. "That's not going to happen again."


            "Oh?" Mercury picked up her wine glass. "Were you helpfully reminded on what had happened?"


            "Shut up." Minako glared at the smirking senshi. "You have no right to talk, traitor."


            Mercury coldly put down her glass. "You know better than to say nonsense like that. I'm the only one doing anything to save her."


            "Save her? You're fighting her and going against her." Minako scoffed.


            "So you think we should mindlessly obey her? All the time?" Mercury sighed. "You remember how it all ended right?"


            Minako glared.


            "If you knew what Usagi was going to do with your sword would you still have given it to her?"


            Minako bristled. "Of course not! I thought she was going to fight not... She held out her hand. What was I supposed to do?" Her great failure replayed in her mind. She was supposed to protect the Princess.

            "So you're saying that sometimes it's okay to disobey our queen?" Mercury calmly asked.

            Minako's mouth dried. "Only... only if it's to protect her..."

            "Even if it's from herself?"


            "I'm not going to let history repeat itself," Minako promised as she closed her eyes.


            "Oh? Endymion's dead again, and there's a demon queen on the rise," Mercury reminded. She raised an eyebrow as the symbols inscribed on the floor began to flare brighter and brighter.


            Minako kept her eyes closed as power poured into the bonds holding her. She felt it drain away from her but kept the pace up and pushed more into the frame. "It's not going to happen again!"


            Noticing the fracturing on the steel frame, Mercury summoned an ice shield that was soon pelted by a few metal fragments. The majority of the frame came apart around the blonde and fell about her feet.


            From behind her shield Mercury sighed. "You know.. you could have simply asked to be released. Runic seals are not an easy thing to make these days."


            "Like you would have just let me go," Minako grumbled as she tore the metal band off her neck.


            Mercury raised an eyebrow.


            "Yeah, you would have wouldn't you," Minako sighed, reached out, and found a handle behind her shoulder. She pulled and a large sword slid out of a scabbard that appeared as she reached. A shimmering translucent silver blade appeared. Given that it was the same type of crystal as the Ginzuishou, the sword's last use was ironic. The grip fit perfectly into her hands, but she wanted to feel it, not have a pair of gloves in the way.


            The blonde watched as her gloves split and shifted to become gold plating on the back of her palm and reinforcing her wrists. For the first time she felt the welcoming cool metal of the hilt with her own skin. Gauntlets also formed around her forearms.


            The changes to her uniform continued as golden plates formed around her ankles and buckled into place. Her skirt lengthened and grew into overlapping gold plates of armor. Her top shifted and became a molded golden plate. Everything was then engraved in flowing patterns.


            Her golden hair was pulled back by a dark red bow and fell behind her almost obscuring her giant scabbard. She shifted to a more stable stance as her shoes became reinforced boots. All the armor looked thin and ornamental. Especially if one missed when the script around the armor flashed red as it formed.


            Mercury smirked as Princess Venus gripped the blade. "Silver, blessed, crystal, and poisoned if I recall. A fitting weapon for Serenity's left hand. Don't you think?"


            "You know why I stopped using this thing," Venus stated. She noticed that her chest still had a big bow, as did the back of her armored skirt. Though now they were both the same dark red of the hair bow. Her choker felt more restrictive, but it was now wider and metallic.


            Mercury raised an eyebrow. "Yes, the Princess killed herself on it."


            Princess Venus examined the length of the blade. "Well, that's not going to happen again."


            "I know exactly what you mean," Mercury smiled. "So no bare midriff?"


            The blonde raised an eyebrow. "You always did have an eye for the ladies Merc."


            Mercury shrugged. "It's good to have you back."


            "I wonder if what you've got cooking is really best for the queen," Venus remarked as she flourished her sword. She looked to see Virgo tracking the blade's path.


            "I told you: I'm not going to disrespect you with tempts and trinkets," Mercury promised.


            "The Crystal Wink Sword is no mere trinket," Princess Venus said coolly.


            "And it was never mine to give you," Mercury assured.


            Princess Venus stepped towards the door. "Oh," she said without turning to face her former teammate. "If you do try to stop me, please let Virgo go first." Princess Venus smiled hungrily at the purple-haired girl.


            "How come this stuff turns Senshi into lesbians?" Orion half-jokingly asked.


            "That's not a sexual look," Mercury said as she waved for Virgo to stand down. Venus was quite interested in males. It was one constant no matter the life she lived. Her blonde friend wanted blood, but if she attacked Virgo... well skill was more important than the sword's power. Mercury was just the catalyst. Becoming more than just potential was still up to Venus.


            "I'm not going to be tempted by some sleeper spy," Venus remarked.


            "Of course not. You should be made of sterner stuff. After all, you're the Queen's executive officer." Mercury walked over and patted Venus on the shoulder. At the contact the pair vanished in a sparkle of ice shards.


            The instant they reappeared Venus slid away from Mercury and raised her sword. The blonde looked around briefly to see where they had landed. Trees, groomed grass, and benches indicated some kind of park. Mercury thinly smiled at the blonde's stance. "I'm sorry, but I felt you could use a lift back home."


            "It also keeps me from telling her where your hideout is," Venus glared as she leveled her sword.


            "If you want to fight we can, but you see, I'm at a disadvantage," Mercury said gesturing to her evening dress.


            "Yes, no battle corset or ice skirt." Venus smirked. She could swear that Mercury had more hair in that bun of hers, and guessed that she was still wearing some kind of support under that dress. Though the slinky dark blue material looked to hug her body without any interference from undergarments.


            "Our uniforms change whenever we upgrade," Mercury shrugged. She dusted off her hands. "My offer still stands."


            "To work with you? End up like Virgo?" Venus shook her head.


            Mercury smiled coldly "I think we could work something more... subtle out."


            "No thanks," Venus said as she idly swayed her sword around.


            "Don't worry about trying to find me if you change your mind," Mercury assured. "I'll know," she said before vanishing again in another shower of ice.


            Venus looked around to make sure she really was alone before sheathing her sword and finally shifting out of her armor. Mercury was getting stronger, she no longer needed other Senshi to teleport. The blonde added it to the list of things she learned. The princess needed to be told.


            In her townhouse, Mercury reappeared in a shower of ice. She stepped forward and tried to steady herself when her high heels started to slip out from under her. Orion stepped in and held her arms. "I guess taking a passenger was too much just now," she respectfully said.


           

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

 


            "Feeling any better?" Jarvis asked Ranma as she sat down in the commissary.


            "I suppose," Ranma shrugged as she poked at her stew. "Talking about it with.. that... other me helped, but..."


            "You still need time to heal?" Jarvis asked in a questioning voice.


            The redhead "You don't get that do you?"


            The blond officer frowned.


            "You're worse with emotions than I am," Ranma stated.


            "You? A mushy overly-emotional mom?" Jarvis smirked.


            Ranma pouted. "I can still be brash and thoughtless. So, seriously? What gives?"


            "You know how I said my childhood was... different?"


            "I know what you mean."


            "No, you don't. Your father..." Jarvis paused. "Do you know what your grandparents did in the war?"


            Ranma blinked. "The Second Sino-Japanese War? I dunno. Mom and Pops never talked about it. Might have even been before their parents' time." She noticed new emotions in her friend. "Why?" What could make Jarvis nervous or ashamed. What remaining skeletons could a person who readily admits to being highly skilled at torturing have?


            Jarvis sighed. "You can guess my heritage."


            "You're worried about what I think about something your grandparents did?" Ranma took his hand and patted it. "What do you think about what they did?"


            The officer smiled slightly. "The reason why I joined WIC was because grandfather Konig was stopped by Army Special Investigative teams. Company agents on the army payroll during the war," Jarvis clarified. "My mother told me the stories, but she never expected me to identify with the GI's instead of her father. I never told her. She was proud about my... interest in him though."


            "Of course the Company knows all this."


            "My background checks were especially thorough," Jarvis admitted.


            "So is that why you're so... intense?"


            Jarvis smirked. "I had motivation."


            "Doesn't the D Program hurt that?"


            He smirked unpleasantly. "Actually, no... people..."


            "Expect it?" Ranma asked as she stirred her stew. "Do people really think that of you?"


            Jarvis gave Ranma an even stare.


            "Okay, fine." The redhead sighed. She had agreed to Jarvis being in the D Program, among a few other agents. "I think you need to tell me more."


            "Both of my grandfathers were in the Luftwaffe. One was a pilot, he was... amazing. The Luftwaffe had a different philosophy towards their pilots; they were used in combat until they died. The very best..." Jarvis shook his head. "The top hundred pilots during the war were all German, and they all had over one hundred kills. Seventeen had more than two hundred.


            "Let me guess, yours was one of the ones to break three?"


            Jarvis shook his head. "Nope, and that's something Gerhard Barkhorn always teased him on. It really tweaked grandpa-Konrad when Gerhard got to be Bubi's best man."


            "Who?"


            "The two aces that got more than three hundred kills, though Gerhard got his by the skin of his teeth and not until '45. No, grandpa and Gerhard were always the little brothers to Bubi."


            "That doesn't sound too bad." Ranma tilted her head. "So he was a really good pilot. Sure, I've just killed maybe..." Ranma paused to think. "Maybe a third of that, but that's war."


            "I don't think you broke a hundred," Jarvis skeptically said.


            "Really? There's been plenty of AOM and minions of Alexia. Don't forget that mess of youma."

            "I could pull up your stats."


            "No thanks, I don't want to see any nice pie charts breaking down my kills by species or whatever." Ranma smirked, delicately declining the offer. "Okay, so what is the story? What's the real dark Nazi secret to your family?"


            "It's my other grandfather. He was a paratrooper," Jarvis sighed. "His unit... high command was quite desperate and that government had no scruples or morals to get in the way."


            "Sir, Ma'am," Maya Iverson said after walking up to the two. "Surveillance just reported that Miss Aino has returned home.


            "So Akumi really did abduct her?" Ranma asked with slight interest.


            "She's still playing games," Jarvis sighed.


            "Maybe. Maybe there's more to this," Ranma tapped her chin. "I think we should keep a closer eye on Minako. If she really was taken by Akumi then there's two options: Minako fought her way free, which, in that case, the Senshi should be setting up a counter attack, or Akumi let her go."


             "That could be a clever plan. Though Miss Tsukino should be wary of that tactic again."


            "I'll keep you two abreast of developments," Maya assured. "If the Senshi make a move you'll be the first to know."


            Ranma watched her go. "So what's this really about? Why are you telling me about this."


            "I want..." He sighed.


            Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Out with it." She looked at the unusually nervous man. This was completely new.


            Jarvis cleared his throat. "Can you turn me early?"


            The redhead leaned back. "You mean just because?"


            Jarvis nodded stiffly, his face back to its cold facade.


            Ranma scooped up the last of her stew and stood up. "Come on, your office should give us some privacy." She knew that would not be true, but it would give more of an illusion of privacy.


            The pair walked out of the commissary and down a few corridors until they came to an unassuming door. Jarvis opened it and Ranma blinked at the room's contents. A simple desk with two chairs in front of it and one behind dominated the room, though behind it she could make out a cot with a blanket neatly folded on it. Under the cot was a trunk and a few shirts hung in an alcove in the back of the room.


            "This is where you live?" Ranma asked as she sat down in a seat.


            "I see no reason to spend money on a place off base."


            Ranma shook her head at the bare room. She had made her decision. "If you say so. So what's the full story about this paratrooper father of yours?"


            "It started with a bunch of racists. They were dead set on proving, scientifically, their superiority," Jarvis smirked. "Of course they made up plenty of information, but... they did find a few things. Things that were more useful than roundabout propaganda. Granted, to use the knowledge they learned required a total absence of morality, but once you've committed to liquidating millions of undesirables, what's a few more?"

 

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

 


            The purifying light died down and Minako sighed in relief. "Thanks," she said to Usagi.


            "What did Ami do to you?" Usagi asked.


            "And why did you want to be purified first thing?" Rei suspiciously asked.


            "To be safe." Minako shuddered. "Ami's... really twisted. She might have put a bug on me or maybe a spell."
           


            "But what did she do?" Makoto asked after coming out of their apartment's small kitchen.


            "She tied me up and made me remember." Minako clenched her fist.


            "What, your past life? Why?" Rei asked.


            "She was hoping that the me from the Silver Millennium would agree with her plans." Minako scoffed.


            "And... which Sailor Venus are you?" Rei's tone had an edge to it.


            "We're all the same," Minako said, rolling her eyes. "Look, Ami awakened my memories, but it backfired. I was able to break out and then she teleported us out of her lair."


            "She can teleport? By herself?" Makoto asked.


            "Yes, she can, and she didn't want me to find out where she was hiding out."


            "What do you remember of it?"


            "I was in a nicely furnished room. A basement I think. I was just in the one room."


            "Teleporting? That's not good," Usagi interjected.


            "We've faced enemies that could teleport before," Rei reminded.


            "None of them were as smart as Ami though." Minako rubbed her temples. "You just know she's gonna do something... clever with that."


            "So your memories were awakened and you learned enough to escape," Makoto surmised. "What did you learn?"


            "This," Minako smirked, before being enveloped in a golden light. Rei stepped back and transformed as well. Sailor Mars blinked in shock when she saw the changes in Venus' uniform.


            "You've got armor." Makoto stated. "That's... new... I think."


            Princess Venus flexed her armored hands. "I guess. Our uniforms do change whenever we increase in power."


            "That's good," Rei allowed as she hid her worry. Usagi had purified Minako, but Ami knew how to block that, and Minako might have been... changed.


            Recognizing the hilt of the sword on Venus' back, Usagi froze.


            "Don't worry. You have nothing to fear from this sword," Venus promised.


            "Ami just let you go? I don't buy it," Sailor Mars walked up to the blonde. "Something's up."


            "Yes," Venus agreed flatly. "She seemed surprised, but it could have easily been faked."


            "Either way it fits Ami. She wants us stronger," Makoto looked at the armored seifuku. "I guess she got tired of waiting for us to get better on our own."


            Princess Venus adjusted her chest armor slightly. "Well unless you girls want her to violate your minds too, get better. Get better now."


           

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

 


            "Captain Jarvis really wants to be a succubus?" Major Saotome asked as she inspected the long steel prototype.


            "Yup." Ranma said as she looked at two smaller prototypes. "Nothing for Akane?"


            "She didn't want a weapon," Nodoka said with slight embarrassment. "She's a lot like her mother in that."


            Ranma coughed. "Well... my style. I don't..."


            "It's okay," Nodoka reassured the blushing demon with a hug.


            The redhead purred happily. "These look nice," she said after breaking the hug and resuming her inspection of two long folding knives. Their frames and grips were solid steel, making them rather heavy. "Foot long blade should be handy. Not sure about the balance."


            "Yes, Nishina warned me about that. I'm going to need to have the girls come in and test them out."


            "These have the same weight as the demon metal?"


            "Yes, this steel has the exact same density. I used the proposed methods to make this. Of course it's not a perfect simulation of the planned material," Nodoka said as she inspected the edge of the rather plain katana. She was happy that the laser cutting was satisfactory, at least for the initial shaping. Of course Nishina disapproved of such methods, but even he agreed that traditional methods would not do with the given material.


            Ranma nodded. "Can be good practice, until they get the real things. I get the katana, but why these for Nabiki?"


            "Personally, I was surprised when Nariko suggested such a.. traditional sword. I offered to make her a matching wakizashi, but she insisted that not all the metal be used on her."


            "And since Misako and Ukyou have their own weapons and Akane declined-"


            "Yes, I talked to Nabiki," Nodoka smiled. "At the very least, the girls can start practicing on these. Though they are just martensite and pearlite. Ah, that should be Nishina," the officer said standing up and opening the door to her lab.


            "Hello Master Nishina," she said with a slight bow. "This is my daughter, Ranma. Ranma this is Oskar Nishina."


            "Your first name's German?" Ranma asked after hearing the inflection. She was reminded of Jarvis. The elderly balding man's eyes were piercing and exacting too.


            "No, I was named after a friend of my uncle's, Oskar Klein a Swede," Nishina explained bowing to Ranma, who quickly returned the bow.


            Nodoka nodded. She knew about Nishina's family. They seemed to have an affinity towards weapons, though Oskar's craft was much more precise than Yoshio's.


            "You don't have a problem with me being a demon?"


            "Your daughters would not be the first demons on Company payroll that I've given my services towards. Though with your mother heading this project, I feel superfluous." He allowed a light smile that almost softened his eyes.


            "No false modesty here," Nodoka gently reprimanded. "You're the best we have on contract. The only sane human to have worked with this material. These blades will be perfect."


            "It was only an insert on the tip." Nishina walked over to the workbench and started looking over the sword. It was the same as yesterday: a soulless weapon, punched out by a machine. The precision and edge were admirable, but it was not a real weapon. The balance was wrong and its strength was in the wrong places.


            "You don't like it," Ranma noted.


            Nishina frowned. "It's a good start, but the Major makes guns, not blades."


            "Actually I have the most experience in armor and composites. I've spent much less time on metallurgy," Nodoka reminded.


            "Yes, we'll need at least another batch of prototypes," Nishina said as he worked the action on the large folding knives. It was unconventional, but should work well for little hands and served as an effective dagger. "Nice locking mechanism. Very robust."


            "Things need to be soldier-proof," Nodoka shrugged.


            Nishina nodded and ran a calloused finder down the side of the blade. The forging had at least made a good piece to work more precisely. "Of course, I'll need to see the girls using these weapons."


            Ranma nodded. "So what have you made for other demons?"


            "This one succubus had her soul sword shattered. 'course legend said those things could never be broken. Shows what legends know." He chuckled darkly. "Poor dear was very broken up about it. So I made her a new one. Only got a sliver of the metal for that one, but it helped so she could imbue it with recall and other powers she wanted," he smiled fondly at her enthusiasm.


            "Really? So the Company really does hire other succubae." Ranma said, pondering.


            "Yes, I've even made weapons for her daughters. Cute kids." Nishina shrugged. He liked that his weapons were being used to kill monsters, but he was more interested in the process, the creation.


            "So the recall you mentioned. That's when someone can summon the blade back to their hand right?" She walked over and hefted one of the knives by the handle and started rotating it


            "Yes, that's what that power is."


            Ranma smiled wickedly. "Make sure these things have the right balance to be thrown."


            "My dear, that's a monstrous idea." With a slight bit of effort, Nishina picked up the other knife and looked at the actual weapon. Not the steel test-piece, but the actual refined blade that came from his experience and the Major's technically impressive designs. "Yes, this will work."

 

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

 


            Jacob looked up from the typed pages. The blond captain stared back at him blankly. "You're certainly being... thorough with this," Jacob said flipping the stapled pages closed. "I see you've been accepted into the program."


            "Of course, Sir. I would not even suggest this if I had not," Captain Jarvis replied with what Jacob could swear was a hint of nervousness.


            "Yes, and your proposal clearly demonstrates that what you suggest would be no more of a risk than the program we already have in place." Colonel Edwards pretended to look to his page and chuckled. "Oh, you even state that it could be more secure than the current program."


            "It would be under controlled conditions and I would not be under duress," Jarvis agreed.


            Jacob looked levelly at the German officer. "Son, you think this is a wise move? Given your family history? You getting into the D program has made enough waves. Some have even reached the general."


            "Yes, my family has a... notable history in the Luftwaffe"


            "It's amazing that they were never transferred to the Schutzstaffel." Jacob remarked with a slight sigh.


            "Not really Sir, I suppose Oberst Konrad Jarvis could have been transferred, but he was competing with Erich Hartmann. Shame, he almost got within fifty kills." Jarvis explained, knowing full well which relative his commander was talking about. Konrad was just as famous, or perhaps infamous, as his contemporaries. "Now Oberstleutnant Konig, his group would have been transferred. All the researches were..." Jarvis waved his hand. "But Kurt Student had enough clout to keep the group under his command. The Fallschirmjager were still reeling after the heliofly debacle, and he was not going to let some arrogant black-uniformed twits with more fascism than battle experience pick him clean."


            Jacob noted how talkative Jarvis was being, but kept silent. He knew the story, but Jarvis did give a unique insight. The heliofly was a personal helicopter that a soldier could wear on his back. At first glance, and by those concerned with big ideas and neglectful of details it sounded like a wonderful advantage. A desperate mad-cap renaissance in bizarre science at the time also allowed inventor Paul Baumgartl to peruse the idea.


            It turned out that having a pair of quickly rotating blades above a man's head that would break-off in a lethal shower if he landed wrong was not the best war machine. That the device was too weak to allow true flying and only enabled soldiers to make hundred yard "hops" was another detriment.


            An entire regiment of Fallschirmjager were equipped with these devices. The elite paratroopers took the designs and used them effectively, or at least as effectively as possible. They won the battle against the Soviets but to a man were wiped out, especially after the Russians got over the initial shock of flying soldiers and started merely shooting them out of the sky.


            In less pressing times it would have served as an example to avoid such schemes and stick with more proven technologies, but Fallschirmjager head, Kurt Student, was as desperate as his colleagues, and was open to new developments. His once elite and superbly equipped troops were being watered down and were not even being trained as airborne troopers. He had a desire to once again give them the edge and turn them into elite and feared troops that could suddenly appear behind enemy lines, and if German science was unable to deliver...


            "Sir?" Jarvis politely asked.


            "I'm thinking over your request," Jacob explained. The parallels were disquieting. Kurt had not originally intended to make a subgroup within his command that possessed... upgraded bodies. Jacob sighed. The situation with Miss Saotome had given them no choice but accept the D program. He wondered if Kurt had felt the same way when that smiling Schutzstaffel professor gave his presentation.


            "We are different from them, Sir." Jarvis assured.


            "Yes, Kurt's approach was more systematic. Though the initial results were... messy."


            "At least he had the sense to wait until the process was stabilized before administering it to volunteers from within his ranks," Jarvis dryly stated.


            "Of course Miss Saotome simply wants to help her friends," Jacob leaned back. "And I think she'd take issue with such comparisons. Does she know about your family?"


            "I've explained it to her."


            "Good. The documents the US Army Special Investigative team captured at that Luftwaffe base outside Mihla, support the conventional conclusion in relation to Project A, but there are still unanswered questions."


            "Yes, some members of the Ahnenerbe Society were not satisfied with merely proving that the master race once existed," Jarvis chuckled at that nonsense. Most of the society went on expeditions that proved the superiority of the master race, and faked artifacts as needed.


             Of course once the society's practical arm, the Institute for Military Scientific Research started making real tangible results, the focus shifted from gleefully slaughtering concentration camp prisoners to something that had as much chance of winning the war as any other wonder weapon.


            "Naturally, institutional paranoia prevents the Company from closing the book on Project A," Jacob reminded.


            "It is believed on the Eastern-Front some of the... prototypes were not destroyed by the NKVD's special branch'." Jarvis' tone betrayed a bit of his dislike for their Russian counterparts. The current incarnation as the Seventh Directorate of the FSB was marginally better than the swaggering chekists from the Soviet era.

 

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

 


            "So have you made a decision with Jarvis?" Nabiki asked as she threw the heavy knife end over end. The weapon tumbled over and embedded itself slightly off target. The little demon smiled slightly.


            "I guess," Ranma shrugged as she flipped the other blade open and closed. "So the grips are really okay with you? Grandma can change them."


            "Yes they're fine. That old guy, Nishina showed me the proper way to hold them." Nabiki assured as she walked down the groomed grass and pulled out the blade.


            "Good, we can start a more advanced range soon enough," Ranma promised with an evil smile. "Of course this is just a side exercise. You also need to be trained in using these as melee weapons.


            "Yes, yes, and I need to build up endurance so I can cast Icicle Parade more frequently too." Nabiki sighed and then flicked the blade back at the target.


            "Mom's still evading the Jarvis question?" Nariko said with a katana prototype in her hands. She was in her leotard and was followed by Nishina who had changed into a traditional hakama and gi, though his kamon was rather unusual. It consisted of a horizontal wavy line that came from the left and suddenly bent and went up to the right at an angle. At the corner was a small circle that had a straight line coming out of it that terminated in an arrowhead.


            "She'll do," Nishina said tersely sheathing his own sword. "Of course I can only teach her the basics. She'll need training from someone that can fight at her level."


            "I know," Ranma sighed; she had an idea on how to train Nariko. It would be risky, but it could pay off. After she got the basics down of course.


            "So have you made a decision with Jarvis?" Nariko repeated.


            "Oh? Well... he's asking Jacob for permission."


            "If you'll excuse me. I've got to go back to the major and help her with your real weapons."


            "Akane's still with Misako and Ukyou at the gun range?" Ranma asked.


            "Yes Mom," Nariko agreed. "So why are you stalling?"


            Ranma sighed. "He convinced me. Okay?"


            "His family?" Nabiki asked as she threw both her weapons at once. She grimaced when the one from her left hand missed.


            "Kinda. It's how he handles it. The guy doesn't have anything. He lives for his work; he's not working to live. There's nothing but the captain to him." Ranma scratched her nose. "It was painfully clear in his office. He's just got the Company, and he wants more."


            "But he feels guilty? That he doesn't deserve anything?" Nariko guessed.


            "Maybe. Hell, I'm his first friend."


            "Mom, he's not being forced or dying. Is this enough to take away his humanity?"


            Ranma raised an eyebrow. "What humanity? You've seen his life."


            "He does seem to get us," Nabiki allowed.


            "That's not very hard, sis. You didn't get us when you were human," Nariko reminded.


            "Like you should talk, Tachi."


            Nariko pouted. "Mean little sister," she sniffed and stuck out her tongue.


            "Come on girls. Let's get the others. It's time for group maneuvers."

 

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

 


            "See anything about Minako?" Setsuna asked after Rei opened her eyes. The two women were sitting in the same shrine that Rei had gotten her visions about Mistress Lyra or more accurately Mistress Mercury.


            Rei inhaled and kept her eyes closed. "She's golden, and her armor shines." She groaned and then opened her eyes. "I dunno."


            "Try it again," Setsuna ordered.


            "Do you know what this is like? You can't just force visions."


            "I watch the Gates. I've got more idea than you can imagine." Setsuna's expression softened. "The key is that you can't force it."


            "But you were just telling me to press against the fire."


            "Not the fire, you have to open your mind to what it's trying to tell you."


            Rei turned to the older woman. "Look, I didn't see anything bad with Mina. She was in her new uniform, fighting..." Rei frowned. "I don't know, but I sensed... she was protecting Usagi." She glanced at the flames. "What about you? Are your powers still useless?"


            Setsuna's red eyes hardened. "It's hard. I can't reduce it down to just one-" She stopped. "Murdock must know how my powers work, and how to, well, jam them." Her shoulders sagged slightly. She did not like to admit it, but if Murdock knew enough to stop her powers, then he had to know the rest of the story.


            "So that's why you're pushing me?" Rei sighed. "Do you think Minako's been corrupted? That she's another Janet?"


            Setsuna shook her head. "Ami's trying something different here."


            "Is Minako telling the truth then? You were around back then? Is she like the old Venus?" Rei blinked to see Setsuna chew her lower lip.


            "Yes, she's similar. Especially about training."


            "And Ami?"


            "No, the past Mercury was never a domineering and cold lesbian." Setsuna sighed. Rei did not know how lucky she was to still be connected to her powers. "So, please, try again."


            "Fine," Rei turned back to the fire. She concentrated and her eyes focused through the fire as the rest of the world slipped away. She easily fell into the groove and watched images form within the flame.


            The image coalesced into a blonde demoness. Her face was vague but long blonde hair and black horns were clear and her cold blue eyes were obvious. They twinkled and came alive as she eviscerated a kneeling man. A laughing redhead put her hand on the blonde's shoulder and encouraged the blonde to feed.


            Rei's body shivered and her nails cut into her palms but she pushed closer and tried to make out more details. Before the blonde's face could become clearer the redhead looked up. Rei recognized those purple eyes and was pulled into their depths. The priestess screamed when her shoulder was wrenched back and was roughly pulled onto her back.


            Her eyes flipped open and she looked into angry red eyes. "Don't you know anything? When you look into the abyss it can look right back at you!" Setsuna lectured.


            "It was DarkStar!" Rei straightened her fingers and winced at the cuts in her palms. "She saw me. It was... Call Usagi now!"


            Setsuna pulled out her phone and immediately dialed the Senshi's apartment. "What did DarkStar do?"


            "I saw her with a blonde and blue-eyed succubus," Rei said flatly.


            Amazingly, some color drained from Setsuna's face. "Hello? Minako, thank goodness. Has anything happened with you girls?"


            "No, it's been quiet here. What's wrong? Rei saw something bad?" Minako was worried at how rattled Setsuna sounded, but at least it was not a bad vision about her, probably.


            "Don't let Ranma near Usagi. Rei saw... Rei saw a demon." Setsuna turned to Rei. "Did you get a look at her face? What did you see?"


            "Just the eyes... and fangs. Not clear," Rei said as she frowned at her palms. At least the cuts were not as deep as she had originally thought. They were already clotting.


            "It's not definite, but it might have been her," Setsuna said into the phone.


            Minako sighed. "Well, that's just great. More crap that Ami was right about. Thanks for telling me this, I'll get Usagi." The blonde then yelled for Usagi to pick up the phone.


            "Yes? What's wrong Puu?" Usagi asked, earning a wince from Setsuna.


            "You need to stay away from DarkStar," Setsuna warned.


            "You girls keep telling me that, but not why. What did Rei see?" Usagi asked.


            Minako tapped on Usagi's shoulder. "They think she's going to attack you and convert you into a demon."


            "What?" Usagi's face reddened. "Is this true?" she asked Pluto.


            "Rei had a vision of DarkStar you as a demon." Setsuna said.


            Usagi's face stayed flushed but her heart sank. "How.. how did you know it was me?"


            Pluto handed the phone to Rei. "Your blue eyes, and long blonde hair with black horns sticking out of it."


            Usagi blinked and her cheeks returned to their normal color. "Oh you guys. That's not me, my horns will be white."


            There was silence over the phone and in the apartment.


            "What?" Rei screamed.


            "I told you guys this," Usagi sighed. "I had a nightmare where I was a demon. That's all."


            "And you're using how you looked in this nightmare to debunk Rei's vision?" Minako delicately asked.


            "I'll ask Ranma about this, I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding." Usagi shrugged. "Did you actually see the face of this blonde demon?" she asked Rei.


            "Well, no. I... DarkStar spotted me."


            "She saw you? How's that a future vision then? Maybe she's with some blonde demon right now. She is a succubus."


            "Well, I dunno. It's not like my fire," Rei looked to Setsuna. "How could DarkStar see me? If it was a future vision."


            "That is true, a fire that you've worked with in a shrine you've warded yourself would be better, but time isn't as linear as you think of it," Setsuna said in a strangely wistful voice.


            "Oh, so it could have been the future?"


            "It could be any time really. These are just visions in a fire," Setsuna reminded. "Of course looking a demon in the eye is a sure way to get her attention too."


            "Yeah," Rei handed the phone to Setsuna.


            "Just be careful, Usagi." The Senshi of Pluto stated. "That's the most specific threat of Rei's visions so far. So far Minako seems clean, but... these visions are just that."


            "Pick us up for training after you're done?"


            "Of course," Setsuna chuckled. "Don't eat too much you girls, and be safe."


            "You seem amused," Rei said after Setsuna hung up her cell phone. "You never seemed that interested in training us before."


            "Usagi ordered me too, and I won't fail her on that." Setsuna said, wondering if her plan would work. She had never taught before.


            "So what're you going to do to us? We've been working on our powers more. Minako, especially," Rei shook her head as she sat back down and looked at her fire. "She's something with that sword."


            "She's getting some skill back. I'll try, but I don't know how you girls learn." Setsuna did know one way to get the Senshi to practice their maneuvering and dodging.

 

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

 


            "So how is Ranma?" Lieutenant Tendo asked the two demons sitting across from her.


            "You could ask her yourself." Akane said without looking up from her breakfast.


            "It hasn't even been two weeks, do you think she's ready to talk?" Kasumi inquired. They had exchanged words amiably enough on missions, training, and just walking down the corridors. It was succinct, but Kasumi never was one for small talk.


            "Are you, Sis?" Nabiki looked around the B-base commissary. The room was surprisingly empty for this early morning hour.


            Staring at her mug. Kasumi shrugged. Talking emotions out was alien to her. She had been taught to internalize and properly vent them. It was standard training for agents.


            "Do you even know how much you hurt Mom?" Akane demanded. "She opened herself up to you... and you...."


            "I broke it off when she started to think there was more to the relationship than there was. I wasn't going to lead her on just because the sex was great." Kasumi closed her eyes. "I didn't want to hurt her; I wanted to minimize it."


            "At least that much worked out," Nabiki remarked while she stirred her oatmeal.


            "Ranma does seem better," Kasumi offered.


            "Mother's been getting a lot of help," Akane stiffly replied.


            "Especially from Jarvis," Nabiki said with a smirk.


            "Yes, the Captain has been interesting lately."


            "What do you know about him?" Akane asked.


            "There's his family."


            "We already know," Nabiki dismissed. "I mean what else? Is there anything more to him, other than some insanely-terse super-agent? Why is he so interested in being one of us?"


            Kasumi drank some coffee and thought. "It's because he doesn't have anything else. He's a Company officer, end of story. Now I guess he's found something more," she explained.


            "So what? Did you have just enough in your life to not make you want to change? Not even for us?" Akane glared.


            "You're not going to guilt me into demonhood. Don't you see? You think I'm cold and emotionless, that I don't have any life other than for the Company? I'm a joke compared to Captain Jarvis." Her hand gripped the mug as her eyes tried to lock onto both of her demonic sisters. "He doesn't care about losing his humanity; he gave up being human decades ago."

 

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

 


            "So, we're all here," Usagi said as she looked around the cavernous room. She was starting to get cold feet. Setsuna seemed almost... giddy at this.


            "A warehouse?" Rei asked. "Isn't that a bit... cliché?"


            "It's private and large enough," Minako paced a bit in the open space. "It's expensive as hell though. Especially if we damage anything."


            "Depends on the training," Makoto added.


            "Very good." Sailor Pluto clapped as she walked in from the shadows. "No skirts and no high heels. Good."


            Rei raised an eyebrow.


            "So you're going to train us without our powers?" Makoto asked, while Usagi studied Pluto. There was something different about Setsuna.


            "Nope," Pluto cheerfully said.


            "Huh?" Rei asked.


            "I've never trained anyone. Until recently my work's always been alone" Pluto started walking around the Inners in a wide circle. "So I can't give too much help on that, but I have my strengths."


            Usagi realized what was different. Setsuna stood out, normally she was unassuming and would vanish in a crowd, that was different now. Turning her head to match Pluto's motions, the blonde found it hard to look away.


            "Murdock, and, from him, Mercury know how to block my powers, but observation is only part of it." She sighed. "It turns out DarkStar was right. The Company is right. Mercury is right." Pluto rubbed her forehead. "Murdock was right."


            "What?" Rei tilted her head and wondered if there were any sane and untainted Senshi left.


            "Please don't interrupt, I'm doing a soliloquy." Pluto sweetly cautioned. "They're not entirely right of course. If they were we would be the bad guys, but we are weak. It's doctrine, simple as that. The Company is largely nonmagical, and yet they would win in a fight. They have the advantage of numbers and organization. They know their weaknesses, but more importantly they know the weaknesses of their enemies."


            Minako smiled. At least Setsuna understood.


            "And the brood... magically they're weaker than us. Your magical attacks are much more powerful, but you know what? That doesn't mater.  Overwhelming firepower is only good if you get the chance to use it. Mercury knows that. Do you girls know why she's so powerful?"


            "Because she knows our weaknesses," Makoto flatly stated.


            "Yes, she tailored herself to fight Senshi. It's all about initiative." Pluto's eyes gleamed, and she looked to Minako. "This is what it's about. We can't just react to Mercury and Murdock. That'll just end up with us being knocked off one by one."


            Usagi bit her lip. "That's what Mercury wants. She thinks she can get me to... I don't know what."


            "So what's the plan?" Rei asked.


            "And why wait so long?" Minako inquired in a wary tone.


            "It's simple. Usagi never asked; I would never start this without permission, and... I didn't think we needed it. You girls were getting better, and then Ami... you four don't know how much that's destroyed you as a team. Don't worry, I'm here to help fix that." Setsuna assured with a well-intentioned but alien smile.


            "Your powers aren't your problems, and you're growing those on your own," Pluto said meaningfully looking at Rei and Makoto. "Besides, that's something I'm even less skilled at teaching. The first rule is no transforming. You're going to be doing this in civilian form."


            "So what are you teaching us?" Makoto asked, glad that she and the others had worn pants and sneakers, both of which were more practical than anything their uniforms offered.


            "Teamwork, dodging, and tactics. First you have to avoid these." Pluto grinned as the darkened warehouse lit up with a thousand tiny suns. "After you can do that for five minutes, we'll go onto the next stage," Setsuna explained as small golf-ball sized glowing orbs started to lazily move about the building.


            "Oh you've got to be kidding me," Minako said, blinking at the vast field of spheres.


            "They're insubstantial, harmless, but you'll know it if you get hit," Setsuna said as she flicked her hand down and the orbs swarmed in.


            "Damn, get down!" Makoto shouted.

 

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

 


            Ukyou gently landed on the roof and tilted her head. The scent of the pattern Silvers was hardly present. She made a motion and another succubus dropped down to the roof. With Misako watching her back, Ukyou eased to a skylight and peered in. Her eyes widened at the unbelievable sight.


            Four girls were trying to run away from a swarm of what looked like ball-lightning. They managed to get some distance and would occasionally knock one of the spheres away, but the swarm would simply envelope them.


            Quickly boring of that, Ukyou turned and found Setsuna standing off to the side. The orbs seemed to be completely ignoring her. The orbs themselves gave off no scent and seemed not even there. The demon suspected illusions or holograms, but something about them still seemed odd.


             "This is Ukyou, it looks like a training exercise. No danger," she whispered into her radio. The blonde succubus shrugged and started placing the modular surveillance devices from a side-bag she carried.. The image quality was low, but their tiny size was more important.


            After finishing setting up the scanners, Misako eased up to her mate. She frowned at the collection of orbs. She could just imagine mother using a training technique like that.


            Ukyou looked to Misako and
            with a nod the two climbed off the roof and placed a few more surveillance taps on the walls. The pair then landed on an adjacent building, where they rendezvoused with a prone figure under a rough tarp that served as an urban Ghillie suit. "What kind of training?" Sergeant Graham asked while still keeping his rifle trained on the building.


            "Something mother would think up," Misako muttered.


            "Setsuna's using some kind of glowing balls to hound the other girls," Ukyou explained.


            "That explain the strange readings?"


            "Maybe," Ukyou said, still crouched down in the shadows. She was still worrying over what Misako had said. Mother would find that a very interesting training method, with the right changes of course.


            "We didn't get close enough to really smell any of them. Girls didn't seem in trouble though." Misako said to the sergeant and into her headset.


            "Well something strange had been going on in there," Ukyou said recalling when the long range scanners picked up the pattern Silver signature. It was a pain to triangulate but it had only taken an hour to narrow it down to this building.

 
            "Situation's clear," Graham said after receiving the order via his headset. He then quickly and silently packed up his tarp and rifle. The trio made it down from the roof and into a waiting Company van.

 

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

 


            Setsuna paced around the gasping quartet of teenagers. Her spheres had stopped moving and hovered around them in a large dome. "It's a start," she eventually admitted in a forcefully dour tone.


            "What kind of training was that?" Rei demanded.


            "Well, how much longer did you last when you started working together?"


            "It wasn't fair! We still didn't get anywhere. We couldn't stop them," Usagi whined after catching her breath.


            "Why?"


            Usagi blinked and wiped some sweat off of her brow. "We had no weapons, we couldn't transform. There was no way to win."


            Setsuna clapped her hands together. "Excellent observation."


            "Huh?"


            "You couldn't win. The best you could hope for was to delay losing." Almost bouncing excitedly Setsuna leaned closer to Usagi. "So what should you have done? What do you do if the rules won't let you win?"


            "You cheat?" Makoto ventured.


            "Yes! That's how I beat you four, and that's how Ami beat you those times."


            "No, Mercury beat us because she knows how we fight and uses her resources more efficiently." Minako corrected as she massaged a knot in her thigh.


            Setsuna sighed. "When one side thinks that normal magical girl tactics are okay, and the other... doesn't... that's the cheating I'm talking about."


            "So how do we beat Ami then? We can't just change the rules on her." Rei paused. "Can we?"


            "We won't beat her fighting her the way we've been trying," Minako agreed as she pondered what Mistress Mercury had told her. "She doesn't expect us to change. Well, not without her being the one to do it."


            "Yeah, she did give you the standard villain spiel didn't she?" Setsuna asked. "So, what can you girls change? Any ideas on how to get the initiative back, take the fight to them?"

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

 


            Jarvis handed the signed documents over to Ranma. The redhead glanced at them and put them down on the table. "I've already talked with Jacob," she looked at the blond's eyes. "Are you really sure about this?"


            "Of course," Jarvis said sounding a bit offended.


            "Sorry, I just... I had to ask." Ranma shrugged and sat down on the couch next to the officer. "I've never done this before."


            "Do you know what to do?"


            Ranma smirked slightly. "You don't know? You're the one that's gonna be doing it. You didn't want to be a daughter remember?"


            "So.. so what do I do?" Jarvis hesitated in his words but his eyes stayed locked onto Ranma's.


            "You know the normal turning method right?"


            "Yes, the mother succubus forces her will and power into another being and restructures the body based on a combination of the mother's form and the host body. The new succubus is very fragile as her mind and body are not fully developed. Nursing off of the mother is required for optimal growth." Jarvis automatically replied.


            "And the other method?" Ranma asked, recalling the pages from the Silva reading primer.


            "That's used to make mates and sisters. Demons that are peers to the mother succubus, not children. That requires above all else a willing and uninjured host."


            "I kick start it, but the rest of the change is up to you." Ranma then stood up. "I'm gonna give you quite a bit, so tell me now if you don't want this."

 
            "No, I'm ready," Jarvis stood up and looked to the redhead.


            "Yeah, we're not doing this in the living room," Ranma laughed as she led Jarvis upstairs to her bedroom.


            "I suppose she'll do," Misako said with a smirk from the hallway.


            "Don't be that way," Ukyou grumbled as she pushed her mate aside.


            "Misa's right, I'm sure Auntie Jarvis will be lovely," Nabiki teased as she opened the door to the bedroom. Inside Akane and Nariko looked up from their work.


            "I'm sure you'll be right at home," Akane said a bit distantly as she fluffed a pillow.


            "Yeah," Nariko nodded as she finished spreading out a quilt.


            "Yes, thank you," Jarvis stiffly replied. He looked to Ranma and stepped into the bedroom.


            Nariko warmly smiled at the blond as she and Akane left the room, closing the door behind them.


            "Get undressed," Ranma said as she stripped herself. "Good you're not bashful about that," she remarked looking at Jarvis' nude form.


            "I'm German," Jarvis stated, standing with his hands clasped behind himself.


            "Yes, well do you want a last moment to savor being male?"


            "Did you?"


            Ranma coughed. "I guess not," she sat down on the bed and motioned for Jarvis. A deep purple aura formed around her body and started to creep along the bed.


            Jarvis sat down and felt the aura snake around him and start coiling around his limbs. He looked to see Ranma's hair starting to undulate and wave with the energy.


            "This is your last chance to back out," Ranma said as her eyes throbbed a deep violet.


            Jarvis nodded and was immediately hit as the aura constricted over him and started to permeate his flesh. Power filled his body but it was directionless and meandered through limbs and organs that began to feel disturbingly.. fluid. The charged sensations went to the officer's mind.


            "You need to change now," Ranma gently reminded as she poured more into the increasingly malleable form and extended her wings and wrapped them around Jarvis.


            The captain concentrated and felt his body contort and ripple. Concentration replaced trepidation and more effort was exerted. With every shift the end state became clearer and the omnipresent embrace became more reassuring.


            Soon a threshold was passed and the changes became easier, the quivering and shifting masses were falling into place and forms were taking shape. The process had a momentum all its own and with the urging of the host would not, could not stop. There was less trailblazing and more filling in. Transmutations increased, and the supplied energy, finding not resistance but an eager will that pulled it further along, flowed deeper and penetrated everywhere.

 

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

 


            Mercury frowned at the display in front of her. She restarted the feed and watched the video again. The quality was barely acceptable but it showed enough. With a deep sigh she reached out and took the wine glass that Orion had obediently refilled.


            "At least you found out that Pluto is training them," Orion offered looking at the hundreds of glowing spheres that danced around the warehouse interior.


            "I suppose that's a bright spot," Mercury said a bit too petulantly for Orion's taste.


            "It certainly means your work on that armor won't be going to waste," Orion reminded.


            Mercury smiled at the thought of armoring the sword mistress Senshi. "We have been neglecting her, haven't we?"


            "She is on our team," Orion agreed.


            "Still, I don't like this from Setsuna. I should be the one training her. Setsuna... she doesn't know how to teach." Mercury glowered and pulled out the ice spikes pinning her hair back. A cascade of blue tresses fell around her, spilling all the way down her back.


            Orion thinly smiled at her lover and mistress. "Yes, someone that has never taught before does not come up with an intensely magical training aide. Obviously it's retrofitted from some other purpose."


            Mercury nodded. "It worries me. These spheres could just be holograms; they certainly don't give much of a magical signature but... " She replayed the video and pointed to one of the spheres.


            Orion watched as Rei crept to Setsuna, only to be harassed by an orb that zeroed right in on her. "Yes Pluto's back was to Mars, but there are other ways to track someone. Do you mean to suggest that the orbs are more than projections?" Orion was more concerned about the improvements in the tactics. Rei did fail to get Setsuna, but her distraction did allow Makoto and Minako to launch a coordinated attack that cleared the way for Usagi to land a finishing move.


            "It's not an unheard of ability. DarkStar can do it, but with much fewer orbs." Mercury ran her hand over the rim of her glass. "Of course there have to be limitations to Setsuna's power."


            "Our benefactor has shown us how to shield our presence from her."


            "Yes, though I suppose it could all be a ruse. Maybe Setsuna knows exactly where we are, and what we plan."


            "You suppose we're really pawns of her?" Orion reigned in her skepticism; she did not want to offend her mistress.


            "It's possible. It would be easy to dismiss Setsuna as a plodding bumbler, a women that's had her edge worn down by years and years of waiting." Mercury chuckled. " Failing to notice and stop us.. it's a perfect cover for her."


            "What makes you think there's more to her?" Orion asked.


            "Serenity would not have placed someone so... fallible in charge of an artifact like the gates."


            "She could have slowly declined over the years," Orion said playing devil's advocate.


            "Perhaps, but I've been decoding the protection our benefactor-" Mercury paused to laugh. "- has given us. What little I've found out makes me suspicious, but I need more information."

 
            "So maybe we should take a trip," Orion suggested.


            "I am getting stronger on teleportation," Mercury mused as a small smile formed on her lips. "Yes, that's got some real potential."


            "What if we run into her?"


            Mercury laughed again. "I can make sure she'll be appropriately distracted."

 

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

 


            For the first time Jarvis did not wake up alone. The officer's eyes did not open.  The sense of touch and smell was more than enough. Several warm bodies weighed down on Jarvis and were mixed with an intoxicatingly deep collection of odors.


            More impressive than the rich collection of scents was the... presence. Weighing in the officer's mind was a connection to.... Jarvis' eyes opened and looked happily at the sleeping redhead. With a slight nudge the brood mother woke up with a tired but exuberant smile.


            "Wow," Ranma smirked as she looked over the... blonde. "How do you feel?" she asked as she sat up and got a better look at the new demoness' prone body.


            "It's..." Jarvis blinked and pulled a few strands of hair and looked at them. "Longer?"


            Ranma shrugged and helped the officer to her feet. "It happens."


            Jarvis nodded and looked down at her nude frame. Her chest obscured much of the view, but what she could see was pleasant enough. "Acceptable," she said smiling down at the shorter succubus.


            "Nice to see that you're more emotional," Ranma laughed as she opened a drawer and started rummaging around. "I don't think we've got anything in your size," she said stealing a glance at the blonde.


            "Oh?" Jarvis asked as she concentrated on getting her senses to calm down. She walked up and put a hand on Ranma's shoulder. "I'm not that big?"


            The redhead looked up. "Yes, you are. You've lost maybe an inch or two. You're a big succubus," she said with an amused grin.


            Jarvis stiffly nodded.


            "What's wrong?"


            The blonde's lip quivered and she slowly sat back down on the bed. Her eyes locked onto Ranma and stared. "You love me," she said in a whisper.


            "Yeah... I did agree to turn you," Ranma said bending over slightly to look her in the eye. "What's wrong?"


            Jarvis' eyes blinked away some tears as she lunged forward and wrapped her arms around Ranma.


            "It's okay," Ranma automatically comforted while she returned the hug. She was surprised to find the blonde summon her wings and then fold those over her. "I love you," she said to the new succubus who was now purring more than crying. From within the taller demon's large wings Ranma kept hugging her.


            Rubbing her nose, Jarvis pulled back her wings and smiled thinly at Ranma. "Thanks, Sis."


            "It's about time you had a real one," Ranma agreed and kissed Jarvis. She almost laughed at the surprise that soon melted to contentment in her sister. "You can't avoid it; the power these feelings give us."


            "That's what it's all about?" Jarvis asked as she got up and pulled one of Misako's mirrors and started looking at her body. "I guess you really didn't have any choice. Not with a body like this," she stated turning back to Ranma.


            "You know how cute you look when you're sounding serious?"


            Jarvis smiled and her pale skin took on a hint of rose color.


            "You're going to have to get a bit more control if you want to look scary?" Ranma teased.


            "Oh?" As Jarvis narrowed her eyes they began to glow blue. Shadows appeared over her form and she was soon dressed in a dark grey Company Dress uniform. "I don't know why the women agents don't like these things," the Captain posed with a fanged smile.


            "It does look good on you," Ranma appraised after summoning a blouse and leather pants for herself. "Bit darker than normal, and are the skirts supposed to be that short?"


            "It's regulation length," Jarvis stated. She had picked up the mirror again and was frowning at her reflection. The black horns were fine, but her hair was well above the max length.


            "Yes, your legs are just that long. Don't think they had succubae in mind when they came up with the uniforms," Ranma laughed.


            "Maybe they can be changed," Jarvis said as she pushed her hair up, strangely it managed to follow her intuition and eagerly twisted into a severe bun. A Company beret with her unit pin formed in place just behind her horns. "How do I look?"


            Ranma chewed on her lip in thought. "You're missing one thing," she said pulling a case out of the closet. She opened it and handed a holstered semi-automatic to the blonde.


            Jarvis smiled as she drew the weapon. "I knew the Major was building another but I thought it was for-"


            Ranma cut her off. "Ukyou said you could have it. Mom'll be making more SSP's."


            Jarvis nodded, undid her belt, threaded it through the holster, adjusted it onto her hip and slid a few magazines from the box into her coat. The WM 500 or Standard Succubus Pistol was a logical investment given the potential of the D Program. She then readjusted the belt a bit.


            Ranma raised an eyebrow at the low placement.. The leather holster actually extended an inch lower than the hem of her skirt. "Are you sure that's right?"

 
            Jarvis' hand blurred and in a smooth motion drew rotated to level and raised to aim. "A bit slow. I'll have to get used to the bigger grips," she admitted with a small frown. "The major really built a beast with this thing," she said while gauging how much lighter it felt. Her previous forty-five sidearm felt heavier.


            "So, what are you going to do for a first name?" Ranma asked closing the case.


            The blonde had drawn her weapon again and was inspecting the slide. "I've been thinking on Eve," she shrugged.


            "Works."


            The captain smiled. "Good, I'll use that for the paperwork."


            "Don't bother Eve, I'm sure the surveillance people are telling personnel," Ranma teased as she tested out the new name.


            "A total lack of privacy? I've got no secrets." Eve smirked a bit. She turned and waited for the door to open. She would have heard the person walking in the hallway outside before, but the slight scent and connection were new.


            "Another blonde?" Ukyou asked with a mock sigh. This new tall succubus smelled oddly like Mom.


            "Eve was already blonde," Ranma explained.


            "Well come on Auntie," Ukyou said grabbing Eve's hand. "We've got to get you trained."

 

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

 


            "I think it's time to get worried about our success," Jacob said with excessive seriousness.


            Stillwater leaned back in his chair. "Captain Jarvis' arguments were persuasive. We've now got a solid liaison officer for the D program."


            "Yes, we should have expected... Eve to make this choice." Jacob shook his head and sipped his drink. She did seem quite at home with the Major's new weapons. "Should we be worried that the General allowed this?"


            "You mean that after getting an audit we're suddenly being given a blank check in regards to the brood and turning our officers into demons?" Stillwater chuckled. "Oh no, we don't need to worry at all."


            Jacob eased back into his chair and waved to the live feed of Eve and Ranma in the dojo. After Happosai's arrival the surveillance systems were upgraded.


            "Good, keep her training." Stillwater knew the benefits of training on a young soldier. It kept them busy while sharpening their edge. He looked to the feed with a thin smile. "She fights dirty doesn't she?"


            Jacob watched and saw Jarvis punch Ranma in a spot that was painful even in women. The redhead almost laughed and lunged back at the blonde. "Company doctrine is to use any available advantage against a physically superior enemy. That's still valid here. Of course Miss Saotome is holding back."


            "Yes."


            "You do know the caliber of our organization is on the line here?" Jacob asked.


            Stillwater turned to see a unitard-clad Eve take a hit to the side and roll with the kick and still be able to block the following punch. "If we weren't good enough, Miss Saotome would never have accepted any of this."


            "And what does that say about us?"

 

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

 


            Eve sat on the floor breathing heavily. She looked up to see Nariko handing her a glass of water. The blonde smiled and accepted the drink. "Mom's impressed," Nariko appraised.


            Nodding, Eve then took a sip. She stretched her arms. "Where did Ranma go?"


            "Grandma's arrived," Nariko explained with a little smile. She patted Eve on the shoulder and left the dojo.


            Eve had enough time to finish her glass and stand up and shift into her uniform before the Major arrived.


            "Hello, Captain." Nodoka said as she entered. "Have you tried out your new weapon?"


            "No, Ma'am," Jarvis replied, as she reflexively snapped off a salute.


            "Still being formal? We are family," Nodoka said as she reached around and hugged the shocked blonde. "You get my daughter's heart broken again and I'll take care of you myself," she flatly and nearly mutely whispered into the demon's ear.


            Eve did not react as she felt that Ranma was euphoric and looked over to Ranma who was beaming happily to confirm it.


            "Now hug your mother back," Nodoka stated.


            "Mom?"


            "You are my daughter's sister right?"


            Eve paused in thought and looked to Ranma again. "Ja," she said weakly as she tentatively put her arms around Nodoka. She then saw Ranma run over to her and hug both older women. Eve responded to the tighter embrace by freeing her wings and wrapping them around them.


            Ranma purred. Eve was a newborn demon. The extra bit of her power that the blonde took during the turning gave her a head start, but she was still very young. It was still nice to be protected.

 

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

 


            Setsuna stretched on the couch and tapped on a notepad with her pen. She looked up and smiled at the blond entering the room. "Hello Minako," she idly said before going back to her work.


            "Planning more danmaku games for us?" Minako sighed.


            "You're starting to last pretty well," Setsuna allowed.


            "Ok, it helps, but it's not realistic. How many fights will we have full of hundreds of orbs?"


            "More than you'd think," Setsuna stated. "Remember, I told you that you girls don't lack power, but you needed more teamwork." She closed her notebook. "And that's what you're getting."


            "Sure, we still can't beat you," Minako grumbled.


            "And you won't."


            "So we've gotta find the right way to 'cheat'," Minako smirked.


            "You're getting better with your sword," Setsuna offered.


            "Yeah, it's like riding a bike." Minako stated as she wondered on Setsuna's certainty of invulnerability. She knew that Setsuna was always aloof and distant, only deferring to Serenity.


            Setsuna studied Minako's eyes. "Maybe, Ami should awaken the other Senshi then."


            "No, that's a horrible idea."


            "What if I could awaken them?" Setsuna asked.


            Minako shrugged. "If they agree to it. I'm not sure it would help. Look at what Usagi was like."


            "You think she's better now?"


            "Her fiance is dead but she hasn't killed herself yet," Minako stated.


            "Interesting measure of improvement."


            "Motherhood was not Queen Serenity's strong suit."


            "Yes, that was surprising. Serenity had waited so long before she had kids." Setsuna frowned. It was a major disappointment a woman that had helped so many...


           "She did spoil the Princess," Minako stated as she tried to pick up the notebook only to have Setsuna snatch it away.


            "Serenity built her empire and made it secure; everyone expected it to stay that way." Setsuna opened the book and made a few notes. "Even when things became... painfully obvious, everyone expected things to be okay."


            "Yes, we all know that Serenity can not be beaten, of course, the rest of us often die before that happens."


            "She was looking at the long term; Serenity had planned out what would happen if things went to hell. She knew what to do," Setsuna assured.


            "Yes, that's why we're back here, and I'm living another life."


            "Second chances are good. So are you girls going to be ready for tonight?"


            "Sure, it'll be fun." Minako coughed.

 

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

 


            Captain Jarvis frowned as she straightened her skirt. Urinating in this body was a novel experience. Methodically washing her hands, she figured that it was a small price to pay for... her frown deepened. There was no regret, that much was obvious. Jarvis was not terribly attached to his body as Adam. She shrugged and left the bathroom and crossed the hall and entered the bedroom.


            Nariko looked up from her diary with a warm smile. "So mother insisted you sleep here tonight?"


            "Yes, she was quite upset at me returning to my office," Eve said sitting down on the bed. Her eyes went to the bookcase next to the dresser. Most of the titles were the expected demonic books. Though one, the slimmest text caught the blonde's attention. Its spine was so small that there was no room for text on it.


            "Well, you shouldn't be alone, not at your age," Nariko said sternly.


            "Yes," Eve agreed as she reached out to the book.


            "Good idea," Nariko noted. "BlackSky is your grandmother too now."


            "Yeah." Eve took the book and was not surprised at what she found. On the cover a young dog curiously watched a lizard of some kind. "The Poky Little Puppy?" she asked reading the title.


            Nariko pocketed her pen and closed her diary. "Yes, that's mine."


            Eve turned and opened the small children's book. After a brief pause she decided on the more pertinent question. "When?"


            "It was the family's, back when Kodachi and myself were in grade school. I found it again when I was... young," Nariko smiled a bit at the memory. She had decided to move out of... Tatewaki's old room and was clearing boxes out of a spare bedroom. Several children's books had fallen out but the playful puppy had sparked her memories the most.


            Nodding, Eve had already started reading. She smiled at the story. It was the standard fare warning against disobedience and straying from home, but it mostly was a little puppy being a puppy.


            Nariko noticed the amusement grow on the taller woman's face. She was actually pausing to study the illustrations before moving onto the next page, and seemed oddly delighted in the very simple pleasures of the story. Nariko sighed when Eve got to the end of the story and her face fell.


            "The puppy missed her mother," Eve softly said, closing the book. "She came and looked for her child, but that poky puppy was..." The blonde trailed off. "What kind of story does that? It ends with a sad puppy feeling sorry and alone?"


            Nariko slid closer to Eve. "I didn't really like it," she rubbed her eyes. "It was really scary to me. I was... I don't like to remember much about that time, but that poor puppy," she put a hand to Eve's shoulders.


            The blonde initially recoiled from the contact, but sighed and leaned on the other woman. "We really are simple creatures aren't we?"


            Nariko raised an eyebrow and watched Eve falter.


            The blonde closed her eyes and with a bit of a growl forced a neutral expression. "It's a good book to keep," she admitted her voice carefully stated to not appear strained.


            Nariko tightened her grip on Eve's shoulder and remained silent. She knew prying would not work; Eve seemed to be as stubborn as Akane or Misako or Mother.


            "I should go," Eve started to rise but relented against Nariko's grip and sat back down. She stared at the book's cover.


            "You can't escape." Nariko smirked. "You're right we are simple creatures. We're emotional, passionate."


            Eve sighed.


            "You don't have to bottle it up," Nariko whispered. "Not around us."


            Hesitant blue eyes blinked at Nariko, and Eve struggled to contain herself.


            "You can't do this alone. None of us can." Nariko undid Eve's bun and brushed some of her hair.


            Eve purred but her eyes flared. "It's not supposed to be this way," she blinking back some excess moisture.


            "It's up to you," Nariko reassured as she kept brushing. "You have a choice. Do you want your past?"


            Tears leaked down Eve's cheeks. "Why should I?" she cried. "It's just a family of monsters and cold childhood and an empty adulthood." Whimpering she leaned onto Nariko as tears freely fell.


            "Then what's the problem?"


            "I won't let go of it!" Steel had returned to her voice and she wiped at her eyes. "I can't let it go that easily."


            "It's okay," Nariko reassured as Eve kept crying. She turned to the door and smiled as it burst open and Ranma rushed in. She immediately went down and hugged Eve.


            "What happened?" Ranma asked reassuring her sister. Before Nariko could answer she spotted the book.


            Purring, Eve wiped her cheeks and straightened up. She looked at Ranma with an embarrassed grin. "I was chatting with Nariko."


            Ranma laughed. "You're gonna have to accept this side of us."


            "Being an emotionally overloaded empath?"


            "Don't worry," Ranma smirked. "It's real easy for us to be scary."


            Eve looked down to the floor and hugged both Nariko and Ranma, first with her arms and then with her wings. "I don't know if you'll ever truly understand my past." Eve hugged them tighter to silence the two. "That is immaterial. You will know the strength of my word. You've seen what I've done for the Company. Just imagine what I will do for this family."

 

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

 


            Careful to not touch the blade, Oskar Nishina picked up the sword and studied it. "I suppose the laser cutting is adequate," he said after tapping the length of the blade with a tiny hammer.


            "It was honed more conventionally," Nodoka reminded as she made sure her lab assistants quarantined the sharpening instruments properly. It would be next to impossible to guarantee that no particles remained, especially on the sharpening stones.  Also hey would be needed again,  for when Nabiki's blades were made, and periodic maintenance. It was simply easier to isolate and secure.


            "As was the construction of the grips and guard," Ensuring his hand did not touch the surface, Oskar ran a bit of light oil over the blade using some rice paper and then sheathed the sword. The niobium-titanium sheath had been constructed earlier and was used on the second steel prototype. Adding niobium had been his idea. Dr. Saotome had leapt at the high temperature resistance and strength that the alloy would provide. It was a somewhat dangerous metal; in chip and powder form it was a skin and eye irritant and a fire hazard. It was still less dangerous than the primary metal in the blade. He was amused given the other uses of niobium.


            "What do you think, Master Nishina?" Nodoka asked.


            "I'm suspicious about the grip pattern, but Nariko prefers them." Oskar wondered about the cross-pattern cut grips, but it was a part which if Nariko did not like them, it could be changed out fairly easily. He fully accepted the reason to keep them metal.


            Nodoka gave a final inspection to Ayami and Adia's work before turning to the table Nishina was at. With a bit of effort, she picked up the weapon and carefully drew the oddly shimmering sword. "Well?"


            "You tested its strength, flexibility, and hardness," Nishina stated.


            "Yes, it's positive on my measures; what about yours?" Nodoka asked resheathing the blade. She smiled at the light purple-red color of the sheath. The anodizing provided more than color, it also gave damage protection.


            "It will work," Nishina stated modestly.


            "Good, I'll call my daughter and Nariko," Nodoka said as she pulled out her phone. "We can arrange a full test." She had some concrete and steel targets at the B base already built, and there was the armored transmission case for their downed helicopter.

 

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

 


            Mike Stevedore wiped his brow as he looked at his notepad. Cramped stanzas of text written in a hurried and emotional hand, combined with his long stringy hair, ratty goatee and ill-kempt but dark and ironic t-shirt he was as innocuous as any other youth.


            He smiled as he watched another large van exit from the underground garage. He added another couple lines to his poem finishing that stanza. Afterward he looked back at the rest of the deli and its mix of patrons. Most were his age and ran the gambit from being dressed even rattier than he was to business casual and full suits. His eyes lingered on the latter class, he had been briefed on the enemy's plainclothes procedures. Women, especially those with pale skin, were also suspect.


            One of the more casually dressed business people was standing in line, ostensibly fiddling with his phone. His eyes scanned the other patrons and frowned at one ratty kid who suddenly started scribbling in his notebook. The scraggily beard was reminiscent of a kid that grew up down the block from the young business man.


            Mike leaned back and relaxed. There were too many people and the enemy could not spy on everyone, this was only his second time watching and he would leave in an hour anyway. He noted a van slow and pull up to the garage and was caught with some inspiration.


            "See, it happened again," Gabriel said as he fiddled with his phone. He and his commanding officer had put their drinks on a bar that ran along the back of the deli as they waited for their lunches to be made.


            "Yes, you told me while we were in line, let me see it," Kasumi said as she took the ostensibly broken phone. She held it so the poet was in the edge of her view on the other side of the cafe. The kid was human, so that narrowed it down somewhat. "That's strange. It only cuts out when you dial the office?"


            Gabriel shook his head. "It does it when I call home sometimes, but..." He shrugged and caught another instance of their poet writing whenever something happened at the company motor-pool entrance.


            Kasumi nodded and pointed to the deli counter. Their order was ready. As she picked up their sandwiches she mulled over the situation. "Wanna eat here?"


            Gabriel looked around the deli. "Sure, it's not so crowded today." He smiled honestly. "Anything to get away from the paperwork."


            Kasumi nodded and the two took an open table and sat down. By the time she was halfway through her lunch she had been convinced. She answered her phone with annoyance. "Yes, but... fine boss. I'll have the budget done by tomorrow." There was a long pause and her face brightened. "Really? We got the deal. That's good."


            "That's reassuring," Gabriel said not needing to act. Actual work was a good distraction for Lieutenant Tendo, especially given what had happened with Captain Jarvis. Something was definitely up with that kid, his tradecraft was okay enough, until you noticed the correlation. The signal to noise ratio was far too high. If only he had put in the effort to constantly be scribbling in his notebook, or had simply bothered to just memorize it.


            "Life's funny. We never would have gotten that contract if not for our boss bumping into the client at a conference." Kasumi smiled wistfully.


            Gabriel nodded. After a few minutes, he spotted two workmen in coveralls enter the deli as the amiably chatted. Their construction truck parked on the street across from the Company garage. He wondered where they got the vehicle from, it certainly was not from A base, and even the B base might have been under surveillance.


            The agent shrugged and finished his sandwich. Undercover work was risky. One was safe only until you were spotted. All your tradecraft was to keep that from happening, or at least give you some advanced warning that your was blown. Luck was a big factor, but that was what tradecraft was for, to stack the deck as much in one's favor as one could. Right now, the kid was already a write-off.

 

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

 


            "Useful idiots," Eve muttered as she and Ranma walked across University of Toronto campus. She was dressed leather pants and bustier similar to her sister's. Their surveillance had taken them to an open-air fair of some type.


            Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Because they're into conspiracy theories?"


            Eve laughed. "There's nothing wrong with conspiracies. People really were seeing strange lights out in Nevada. 'Course they were really secret airplanes and not reptaloid aliens landing their invasion scouts. I guess secret essentially invisible aircraft that can strike anywhere wasn't juicy enough for them."


            "Huh?" Ranma blinked and looked over some books in a kiosk. She looked up briefly to keep an eye on their target, but his scent was still strong.


            "It's like people that doubt the moon landing," Eve explained pointing to one of the books. "You either have to think that all those forty-story spaceships were faked, not counting the thousands and thousands of people that worked on it, or that they really were launched and then just left in orbit, instead of going that extra bit to the Moon itself." She smirked at the way the young men and woman looked at her.


            "You don't really buy into that stuff, Miss?" the pipe-smoking man in the kiosk said. "Buying NASA's official line."


            "Of course not." Eve smiled sweetly, but her eyes gave a hint of amusement. "It's plainly obvious that the Moon landings were real. They just took place on a different Moon: Ganymede. Ja, NASA took us all for rubes," Eve shook her head as she let her accent strengthen. "They knew people wouldn't notice that the gravity was too strong. All the common sheep saw was bouncing buzz-cut flyboys," she truly loved irony. Those lacking any initiative or real independence were always the most eager to prove how maverick they were.


            "Ganymede. One of Jupiter's moons?" the man asked pulling out his pipe.


            "You don't abduct Nazi scientists, spend billions, and only plant a flag on a moon you can see every night. It's obvious when you look at the time delays that the astronauts were much, much further away." Eve scoffed and caught another glimpse of her target.


            The man gave a measured nod. "Maybe. That does explain why Kennedy was killed."


            The blonde nodded. "Just remember to keep asking questions," Eve smiled as she and Ranma left.


            "Is any of that true?" Ranma asked.


            "No," Eve said quietly. "You see, these people are poseurs. They're in it for the drama, because they like seeming important. Real spooks don't go to self-congratulatory fairs. They watch and worry. The need for ego gratification dwindles when you start to see what's really going on.."


            "Yeah is real silly… and stinky too," Ranma frowned. "I don't get it. There really are conspiracies. The government is covering up a secret war but... to hear these guys you'd think they were total crackpots."


            "That's because they are." Eve smirked thinly. "That's the shame of it all. They're not looking for the truth, they're looking for supporting evidence." She frowned their quarry as he browsed hats.


            "And anything that doesn't follow their theory… is evidence of the cover-up?"


            "Now you get it." Eve nodded. "This is all on faith really. Facts don't matter, sincerity does. Evidence becomes set dressing, what's important is how they feel." The blonde laughed. "As if people like this could change the world just by wishing it were so."


            "Is that bad?" Ranma looked around the crowd walking around them. "We could tell these goobers everything... and who would believe them?"


            Eve hugged the redhead. "That's the helpful part. Of course..." She looked around the fair and her gaze happened to pass over Mike. "Even fools have their uses in large enough numbers."


            "That why we're here?" Ranma asked though the pronoun she really meant was "he's".


            "It's also just a crowd. Even we could miss a brush pass."


            "I'm amazed he missed us hugging," Ranma said smirking at the people around that were trying not to stare at their embrace.


            "He's focused on looking inconspicuous. He might have spotted the enemy out hunting."


            "If he's got any skills he should," Ranma grumbled.


            "Should he smell like anything special?" Eve asked, still amazed at how powerful her senses were now.


            "Nope, there's no Assembly scent from him," Ranma frowned. "A ringer? Or just a really low acolyte?"


            "Well there are plenty of wannabes that can be recruited for simple tasks," Eve shrugged, as they meandered through the crowd. "Of course, someone that still smells perfectly human is useful too."


            "Recruited?" Ranma raised an eyebrow. "These guys don't seem the kind to join some goobers pretending to be a religious order."
           


            "Really? What about them?" Eve pointed to one table. "They support regimes that where their sexuality is a capital offence, but that's minor to them. What matters is vitriolic protest against the status quo in a country where protest goes without note or censure." Eve snickered. "How brave these modern day White Roses are."


            "White Rose?"


            "The White Rose was a group of students at the University of Munich during the war. They were non-violent and distributed pamphlets urging resistance against the government. This was '42, so they knew what would happen if they were caught."


            Ranma eyed the young students and older burnouts around her. "They were caught weren't they?"


            "Oh yes, they were the first to fall to Freisler's Volksgerichtshof, means People's Court," Eve clarified.


            "Odd name," Ranma said as she turned to look at the whole of the crowd her eyes passing over their target.


            "Standard for propaganda purposes." Eve shrugged.


            "Guess so," Ranma shrugged. "So what do you want to do to him?" she asked as they passed a booth exposing the importance of resisting the tyrannical rule and documentation of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.


            "Oh? It's my choice?" Eve had to resist licking her lip. "He's a small fish, let's use him to get something better."

 

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

 


            Jacob looked over the surveillance dossier. "So they're playing spies now."


            "The AOM appears to be watching our facilities. Using non-patterned acolytes. Clever enough," Stillwater allowed.


            "Meanwhile they keep a small force of more powerful operatives outside of the city." Captain Jarvis added. "Provoking their stringer worked well enough. That burned three more agents and revealed their safe-house." Part of her would have preferred to have disposed of the poser, but that would have turned a nervous neophyte calling his handlers asking for a security blanket into a genuine alarm. The wannabe could not vanish, not yet at least.


            "Unless it's all a false flag. They have to know we would conduct counter-surveillance," Jacob frowned.


            "That is a possibility, Sir." Eve shrugged. "I don't like that they've changed modus operandi on us."


            "They think they can pretend their little slaughter didn't happen. Those bastards shot down one of our helicopters and now they think they can play spies? They asked for this war, they'll get it. We know where that safehouse is?" Stillwater's voice only raised slightly at the last question.


            "Yes, Sir." Eve smiled slightly.


            "Things have been on their terms for too long. Set up the mission and dispatch them as you see fit, tonight. Leave enough to interrogate and dispose." Stillwater smirked. "I guess losing sixty men wasn't enough, I want you to send a clear message."


            "Sir, we'll find out what their plan was," Eve assured, already planning the mission.


            "Dismissed," Stillwater said.


            Jacob waited for the captain to leave. "Interesting choice for a first mission on regular duty."


            Keeping the rest of his fingers steepled and interlaced, Stillwater straightened his pointer fingers and rested the bridge of his nose on them. "Even before, it's an appropriate mission for Jarvis. Studying the changes will be interesting."


            "Of course we're now playing into the Assembly's paranoia."


            "They think we're building an unholy army to destroy them?" Stillwater laughed. "We can accommodate that."

 

End Chapter 17

 

Once again, I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They're the ones that made sure this story was readable., DGC, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, Trimatter, Solara, Questara, Kevin Hammel, Ikarus, and Jerry Starfire.