The Return

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple

 

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

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

 

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

http://jtemple.florestica.com/

 

Temporary Backup Site.

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

 

 

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C as always is wanted.

 

Chapter 33 Reserve and Release Part 3

 


            Pretty Silver Succubus Sailor Earth danced. Her movements graceful and fluid, she spun and twirled. Her tail arced up and down and spiraled about like a fluttering kite on the end of a gymnastic ribbon. Long, long fingers waved, cutting through the air.


            A purple aura burned around her. Jets of silver flame occasionally flared on her armor repairing some of the damage and burning the accumulated ichor away. Her skirt was loose enough for her to easily make high kicks as she took to the air, but heavy enough to protect her legs.


            Sailor Earth was not dancing alone. A literal mob of squids pressed towards her. Clusters of rockets and incendiary rounds raced across the concrete corridor that led to the power vault. Smiling, the demon dipped down, snagged a blue-armored Squid with her claws, and spun on one leg. The Squid shrieked and screamed as one of the ponytail-encased jammer antennas draped over it.


            An alien, toxic, signal burned into the creature's mind. Pulled by a silver spike adorning the ponytail's end, it curled and tangled with the squid's body.


             The pain would not last long. As incendiaries burned against her armor she lifted her arms so that the missiles hit the impromptu dance partner. As the body disintegrated, she ended the spin and planted her hoof, right onto the midsection of another Squid.


            Constantly moving, she crossed the hallway in a twirling dash. Trying to delay her, the Squids would form up into strongpoints, often centered around the handful of red-armored refrigerator-sized behemoths. One lumbered over her and stabbed at her face. She turned and dodged incoming fire from a different direction. The tentacle hit and a cheek parted in a splash of blood and silver flame.


            Sailor Earth went right at them. The demon crossed the threshold and entered the power vault. The room stored backup generators for the Canadian Defence Headquarters. It was also where the Squids had anchored their invasion. The ceiling had caved in and much of the room had been torn to shreds.


            Broken glossy black columns were scattered across the bare cement floor. The shattered bases formed a pointed oval-shape large enough to allow a pair of the larger red-armored squids to pass though.


            The room itself was scarred with storage pods, weapons racks, and shredded, squished aliens. Ranma only took the above details in passing. Her attention was on the living squids that had been frantically trying to reopen their gateway. Plain black, they were smaller than even the blue-armored ones. They were also waving their tentacles in a vigorous argument with the more militant aliens.


            Armored tentacles met glowing claws, steel-bending kicks, and silver fireballs. A glowing filaments extended out of the folds of her tail and began slashing in a shimmering rainbow of writhing mono-blades.


            Once the Squids broke, she stomped with her hooves and the shadows oozing around the bottom of her gleaming armored skirt finished the job.


            Squids that were further out were harried by machinegun fire and taken out by judicious usage of rifle and hand grenades. The JFT2 troopers kept their distance but they had the advantage of firepower, range, and the ability to pin down troops occupied by the succubus.


            "Arc Light!" MacDowell screamed, his headset transmitting.


            Just beyond the threshold, Sailor Earth did a split, dropped to the ground and lay forward. Minimizing her height. The concussive pressure beat against her.


            Bishop's Carl Gustav barked. As did the two remaining rockets and as many rifle grenades as he could muster. At least Brummet's reinforcements had brought more rounds for that beast. It had taken time to get into position; time Sailor Earth had bought them. The supporting masses of squids in the vault were blown apart.


            Before the smoke could clear, the succubus was up. In a flying leap, she hurtled towards a stunned group of Squids hiding behind a broken bit of rounded obsidian machinery. She landed heavily with both hooves while slicing with her claws and tail. It was quick work.


            MacDowell eyed the demoness. He had to admit she had her second wind back, but he did notice that she was still husbanding her power. There were no eyebeams, no fancy black fireball orbs. No biting either. She was even keeping her sidearm in reserve. "You still good?"


            Standing over a pile of burned and crushed aliens, she nodded. Shadows and silver fire were still being drawn into her. The flaming aura shimmered and her armor flexed as if something rippled beneath.


            A squad of JTF2 troops rushed past her to secure the rest of the vault.


            MacDowell watched as the whites of her eyes were consumed by the deep purple irises. The black slits then grew longer, as if her eyes were somehow larger than they could be.


            "Package has been signed," MacDowell radioed. He looked around the ruined concrete box full of scrap metal and mint-smelling corpses. "Fuck... that's what this was all about?"


            Picking up the sides of her skirt and pulling them up, she almost daintily stepped over the pulped, stripped, bodies. "Great work. I think I'll need one of those recoilless guns for my girls," Ranma said with a bow, her face shimmering slightly.


            When the demon's face returned to view. MacDowell stared. The gauntness, hollowness to her cheeks was gone. Fully silver, her features had grown smoother, almost stylized, like a silvery doll.


             He could see something almost like seams around her chin line and by her ears. He looked down, it was just like the edges on the silver armor protecting her upper arms. On closer look, her face even had the same slightly-woven texture as her silver under-armor.


            Pretty Silver Succubus Sailor Earth released her grip, letting her skirts fall back down. "Yes?" she asked, raising a white-gold eyebrow. Metallic purple lips curled into an amused smile.


            MacDowell looked her over. Her armor was almost... fused. Her gauntlets were a part of her arms, and it was hard to tell where glove ended and claw began. The wraps on her tail and the extra bows had all merged into a fluttering appendage that seemed to have a will of its own. The filaments on the end seemed to glow with a multi-hued shimmer.


            Instead of buckling over her skin, the top of her chest armor was just flush with her silver neck. Her neck was now encircled by a green choker. And in front of that collar was the purple crystal four pointed star over a silver on black company logo which seemed to have grown thinner and less prominent.


            The rounded, fused changes were most obvious with her chest armor. It had doubled in thickness. The armor had become a slick, almost organic-looking sculpture. A rainbow of colors gleamed in the bright polish of her sleek chest armor.


            Multicolor arcs of sapphire, emerald, gold, ruby and silver had grown down from her pauldrons and collar amour. They curved down, edging her sharply curved bosom, giving the illusion of cleavage to the jutting curves.


           The rainbows also accented her narrow torso simulating a slimming bodice. While her chest armor had gotten thicker, her waist had gotten thinner. She was not quite wasp-waisted, but the contrast with the armored skirting and thrusting chest armor readily gave that impression.


            Her hair had not escaped either. Individual strands had blended together forming sculpted bangs. The hair on her scalp had smoothed and merged into a sculpted metal-smooth gloss. Emerald and silver inlay ran down the part on the center of her scalp.


            Similar inlay was set where her hair was divided between the sections that went to her bangs and the parts that went to her buns. Resembling stark chevrons, emerald and silver lines gave the impression of access panels and armored sections.


            Her horn-shaped and horn-covering buns had grown. They now dominated the sides and top of her head. Forming fused curling mountains that added over half a foot to her height. The buns themselves had swelled into curled puffs alternating gold and ruby. Resembling cotton candy the two-tone twin puffs throbbed with power absorbed directly from her horns.


            Finely woven emerald threads formed meshes that strained against the softly luminescent fluffy buns. Energy accumulated up the buns culminating emerald caps that covered the tips of the twin puffy structures. Long ponytails had been extruded out of the two glossy green caps.


            There was not more power, but it was more efficiently integrated and was much less of a drain on Ranma. The demoness idly wondered why the original rig had been so isolated. Doubtless it was a safety precaution.


            Her ponytails had transformed twin long cord-like appendages that constantly swung and twirled. Braids had given way to alternating spiral bands of glossy gold and slick ruby. Ending green bows had turned into faceted emerald bands terminating in stout silver spikes.


            Deep inside the crystal ponytails, MacDowell could see a slight blue shimmer of the jammer antennae at work. Part of him wanted to reach out and see if those ponytails were as smooth as they looked. The twin-tails swayed and swished about, mirroring the motions of the demon's tail.


            A mass of tentacles flailed out as a battered squid began to rise up.


            Smiling beatifically, Sailor Earth stepped to the side and stomped. A polished silver hoof the size of a saucer plate came down with the sound of crane dropping a steel I-beam. Concreted shattered.


            The hoof had razor-sharp gilt armored edges that merged with her crimson leg-guards forming solid ankles. First the squid was cut, then it was crushed as if by a hydraulic ram. Ichor splattered. MacDowell saw her skirt flare as her muscles flexed. She then leaned her weight and crushed the alien a second time.


            He could see that his men were staring at her. He turned to them. "Dress up that line! The squids have nowhere else to run and they can't be happy. I don't want you to be caught with your pants down."


            The demoness smiled.


            "A moment if I may?"


            "Of course you may, my Sergeant," Sailor Earth promised in a smoky, hungry voice. A silver-tinted forked tongue came out and licked metallic lips.


            MacDowell simply stared. He also stared down. Despite her armor, she was almost pixyish in height. More than two heads shorter, she now came up to his chest. She had to be under a meter and a third, not even four and a half feet. At least if one did not count her hair buns.


             The soldier frowned, it was hard to tell given how she kept her knees bent at a slight angle even when standing. She might be taller, but not by much. "Are you contained because you seem to be... leaking."


            A moan slipped past the demon's lips as she closed her eyes. "Oh it's mounting up," Ranma admitted, biting her lip. She turned away, putting her back to him.


            MacDowell looked down. Her hips were wider. The blue material to her skirt had also thickened and seemed to switch between billowing about and being stiff as steel-plate. Combined with her diminutive height, she bore some resemblance to an armored vehicle in miniature.


            This was accentuated by her wings. They had become larger and armored at the joints, especially where they came into her back. However they were neatly folded against her back, but with the folded booms and metal accents, it looked more like something akin to a helicopter rotor growing out of her back than something organic. It did not help that MacDowell could almost swear he saw a geared hinge in there.


            "Are you in control?" He asked, noting the demon's hungry eyes. She had been steadily taking in damage bit by bit, but she had yet to actually eat any... thing.


            "We've both got our clothes on," Sailor Earth said, almost wistfully. She took a step forward, then turned halfway, then walked backwards. Always keeping her eyes on the front, the direction where the enemy was coming from.


            The sergeant for his part was struck by how she moved. There was less of the effortless grace she had earlier. Instead she was boosted, more solid, with a lot more... inertia. It was as if she had switched over from muscle power to heavy hydraulics. He started wondering what was under her skirt...


            Earth gave sultry chuckle at MacDowell's frustrated shout. She tilted her head. The connection to her family was getting stronger.


            Looking around the room, MacDowell started counting. "Skeletons," he muttered.


            Ranma's large, luminous violet eyes blinked. "Yeah what? These clowns don't got any." She kicked a squid; the sharp edge of her hoof slicing open its barrel-shaped body.


            "No, skeleton crew." MacDowell said. "There's at most a few squads here. Seem a bit light for a last stand?"


            The demon narrowed her eyes. "Where'd they go then? This is their only way out."


            "Not with these pulsing about," MacDowell brushed a gloved hand against one of Ranma's ponytails. Glossy, and smooth to the touch, it waved closer to his hand and seemed almost reluctant to let his arm go.


            Slitted pupils dilated into something almost round, as the succubus murmured. "Good point," she breathed.


            MacDowell forced himself to step back. "The question is-"


            "Red, this is Sifton," the Major's voice cut in over the radio.


            "Yes? I know my girls are here." For a moment longing etched Ranma's voice.


            "Landing, yes, but it's not that." Major Sifton paused for a half second.


            Her tone turned more business-like. "We've secured the gate room. Sealed on our end but..."


            "But the creepy monsters bugged-out somewhere else?" Sifton's voice was grim.


            "Situation?"


            "I'm sending the other teams to the other access points and doing a sweep of the sub-levels."


            "We're pretty worn out here, running on empty," MacDowell stressed the last word.


            "And us?" Ranma asked, trying to sound eager.


            Noting the tone of both, Sifton cleared his throat. "You hold position, the Fifth NH will meet you and reinforce."


            "Contact!" Adams screamed in both MacDowell and Sailor Earth's headsets.


            Other soldiers joined in and the screams turned into terrified yells.


            The demon's eyes flared and she sprinted past MacDowell towards the far side of the power vault. The screams were coming though a halfway open set of double-doors that had been sheared apart. Gunfire and dull grenade explosions came from the adjacent room, as well as a slithering, whisking noise.


            "Fall back! Take position behind me!" Ranma shouted into her bone-white headset. Silver and purple flames burst around her and her tail flicked itself forward.


            A trio of JTF2 soldiers rushed past the doorway: Adams, Green, and Giddings. One turned and paused to throw a grenade. He was smashed down when the door flew off its hinges. Bones broke and organs ruptured.


            A churning sable mass vomited across the threshold. It was dotted with writhing tentacles that helped pull it along. Between those were blinking apertures that appeared and disappeared. Some held large glossy eye-like structures. Some were full of rows of ridge-like dull blue teeth. Others were full of delicate, whipping filaments that waved and sampled the air.


            As the thing poured through the doorway a meaty pseudopodium fell onto the soldier. The soldier rolled himself over and let his grenade's spoon go.


            "
Cord!" Ranma cried recognizing the trooper's scent. Bright beams burst from her eyes.


            Sable hide burned and smoldered. Tentacles were charred and teeth were cut apart. Furrows of flesh several inches deep were cut into the rubbery hide. The creature hardly noticed and the primitive appendage slammed down. In his last moment
Corporal Cordell Giddings weakly lobbed the grenade into the circular mouth just above his head.


            There was a meaty splat as blood flew. Then the grenade went off and a yowl of surprised pain came from dozens of churning mouths. Lilly Green helped pull Franz Adams back past the demon.


            "Smithfield get some fucking distance!" Ranma ordered. "Machine guns! I want some rockets. Bishop where's your Gustav!"


             The demoness slammed her armored wrists together and cupped her long talons. A silver-wreathed purple beam shot out from her palms and began to rake across the creature. The yowling increased, and its pace slowed, but it continued to lumber forward.


            By now MacDowell's two machine gun teams had set up and tracers had started to slam into the creature. Eyes and mouths burst apart, only to be replaced by raw-looking new growth.


            The creature pulled itself though the doorway. Flesh rippled as it pulled some fresh sense organs and mouths towards the front and thickened the portions being cut into. The creature logged the damage updated the status of its reserve.


             Once the gateway failed, failsafe orders had been activated. They were simple: Rearguard. As the Servitor advanced previous orders floated to the surface of its mind: Collect samples from the locals. Its eyes focused on the small bilaterally symmetrical creature before it.


           Several eyes burned out. The flaming jet that become annoying. Other attacks were starting to accumulate in damage. Belching, the creature spewed out its acid reserves causing the attackers to draw back as it lumbered further, closer to the small creature. This one was different from the others.


            Another order floated up: Capture the Deviant Sample. The creature reared up, raising much of its bulk above the ground. Stubby tentacles waved on its exposed underside.


            Machine gun and rifle fire continued to hit the creature's "face". Or at least a blank slab of thick-skinned meat that was at the front of the being's inky mass. The occasional 40mm grenade also hit.


            For a moment it seemed to slow down.


            Her flames guttering out, Sailor Earth took a half step back. The creature was still a few meters away. Then she noticed that while the front had stopped, the rest of the creature's mass was still oozing forward. Pressure built, and suddenly like an uncoiled spring the reared front of the beast shot right over the demoness.


            Instead of running, she planted her hooves. Her wings unfurled out fold and then turned forward. Gleaming joints hinged as the long silvery membranes fell in front of her. Gauntleted hands went up and grabbed her wing's armored struts.


            Tonnes of inky, mouthy, writhing flesh fell upon the reinforced membranes. Her elbows, knees, and ankles began to burn as the weight pounded down on her. Her teeth gritted, Sailor Earth drew upon her power. As hooves cut into the concrete, the strength of the Earth was drawn up.


            The silver weave coating over her limbs thickened as the pressure was alleviated from her joints. Less and less of the load was being carried by her muscles. More and more was being carried by the bodysuit. Her knees almost buckled, but she found her footing. Next her elbows almost fell, but she was getting help.


            MacDowell's estimate was, broadly, correct. There was something special at work beneath her skirt. Flexing reservoirs formed along the limbs of the suit. Pulses of Silver energy constricted the bladders anchoring them and giving them strength, and Earth-magic-filled them giving them more and more power.


            Layering grew over her thighs and legs. Channels ran over her joints and formed a load-bearing chain that went from her hips to the tips of her hooves. More grew in place over her torso and connecting to her arms.


            Chest armor clicked tighter as it formed structural arches between her hips and shoulders. Limbs became smoother and less refined as the coverings stiffened to take the load.


             Her upper arms were now flush with her gleaming white gauntlets, and her crimson shin guards had now fused and become integral parts of her hydraulic system. The long blue skirt was even more volumous in order to provide more room.


            Joints locked, power swelled, and the tiny demoness held the load. The creature pulled itself up, over, and to the sides as it tried to drape itself over Sailor Earth and crush her.


            Her body hummed. Silver power and Earth magic was now being drawn up in regular pulses even as the supply of flesh, bone, and blood diminished. Simultaneously starved and engorged, the demoness rose. It was a slow, steady motion, but her knees had begun to straighten. Her arms were rising.


            Looking out past her stretched wings, Sailor Earth set her teeth. She could feel the creature gnawing at her hide. They were nibbles, it seemed to be holding back, merely content at crushing her.


            Her tail shot forward, curved around her tiny waist. Threads and mono-filaments sprung out and like a crimson kite it tumbled through the creature's underbelly. She narrowed her too-large eyes and a pair of purple and silver beams shot out.


            The pressure grew upon her, but her body held. She did wish she had more limbs, given her wing-arms were indisposed. She put more power to her ponytails and was gratified to see their swaying turn into spinning gyrations. Their sharp silver tips slashed against the creature. Like a machine, it mindlessly absorbed the damage.


            Swollen cottony crystal buns atop her hear pressed against the emerald mesh and grew out flaring into foot tall swept ruby and gold structures. The silver weave of her skin thickened smoothing her features into more doll-like proportions.


            Her mind focused on the creature, on drawing in more power, on the pressure, on the connection to her family, on anything but the gnawing hunger that felt like it had consumed even her stomach.


            She concentrated. The creature was immobilized, the Canadians were slowly chipping away at it, and her family had landed. However, it was still pressing down on her. Earth's ponytails joined with her tail and began stabbing. Combined with her eyebeams she was making some headway but...


            The creature seemed almost content to keep her here. Its body elongated over her shielding wings and part of it started to creep along the floor, towards her hooves. Soon she would be enveloped. A vibrating ponytail shot forward; its silver tip slicing through a cluster of sense-organs.


            The creature yowled in pain.


            The demoness focused and stilled her ponytails. The squids hated her jammer. It was toxic to them. Her jammer was already at max output, but it had grown. The signal generating gem had grown and was now rooted in her tiara.


            The jammer antennae were getting a boost from her horns. Pattern Silver energy powered the whole thing. It was a blend of WIC tech, Senshi magic, and demonic power. It was the inspiration for her uniform's modifications.


            Her teeth clenched as she drew up more Earth magic to keep her arms from falling. Inspiration hit. An inter-dim jammer worked by reinforcing reality, this reality. Ranma surmised that the magic from the earth itself would be more of the same.


            The connection was easy to make. Integrating the rig directly over her horns simplified putting in more power. She did wonder why the rig had originally been placed on her chest instead of on a tiara mount. Warnings about red-line limits flickered in the back of her mind.


            Her ponytails began to thrash. The blue glow in the center began to tinge green. The jammer vibration grew until it started to rattle her teeth and ring her hooves. The gold and ruby spirals of her ponytails began to split and blue-green light poured out.


            The creature simply pressed on with more weight.


            Sailor Earth drew up more power and rammed it through. The dull-red gem on her forehead flashed. For a moment it turned a glossy ruby-red. Rays of blue light burned out of the now-translucent jammer core.


            One of her ponytails flailed as the emerald end piece shattered. The silver spike on the end fell to the concrete with a ringing thud. Green-edged blue light poured out of the ponytail's seams as it twisted itself apart.


            Gold and ruby spirals unzipped exposing the burning wire of the antennae itself. Pupils narrowed into thin black lines as her irises burned with purple fire. Wings shuddered as power was rammed into both her limbs and her jammer rig.


            The egg-sized gem cracked. Ranma felt the explosion. Her eyes snapped shut. Crystal shrapnel peppered her armored eyelids, chin, and ears. A split second later there was another burst followed an instant later by a third.


            Yowling, the creature pulled back. Ranma staggered. Pain nearly blinded the demon, the raw nerves of her horns' sense organs were thrashed and ripped apart. Her right delaminating ponytail met the surge of the self-destructing jammer core.


            Odango-shaped magical capacitors had surrounded each of her two rear horns. The right hair bun exploded. The horn itself survived, but it was scoured raw.


            The demoness fell. Silvery blood gushed out of ragged slashes on Ranma's scalp. Parts of her face armor peeled off around her right temple and ear.


            The explosions had halted the creature for a moment, but it was about to resume.


            As she fell, Ranma bent her knees, built up pressure, and at just the right moment kicked off with one hoof. Her wings flipped up in scything motions.


            Her tail fluttering behind her like a streamer, the demoness flew out of the tarry mess of the collapsing creature. She hit the ground with one shoulder. The armor absorbed most of the impact, but the demon then tumbled and her charred horn ground against the concrete before she slammed into a wall.


            "Oh... that's why jammers are isolated," the demoness gasped as her head pounded and her consciousness faltered. Worse she recalled the warnings about overloads and core-burn out. A distant part briefly worried about how much worse she had made things.


            Then warmth filled her; despite the pain she felt a serene warmth.


             Her head pounded but one thought was quite clear: Don't integrate delicate technology, certainly not anything you plan to overpower, with your body.


            The steady background noise of gunfire shifted. In addition to Canadian FALs and C9 machine guns, there was the deeper report of 17 by 65 mm WIC custom. It was then followed by the steady, pneumatic-like, pops of a 40mm grenade launcher firing.


            As rippling explosions began to detonate, Ranma opened her eyes. A pale face with long black hair and bright red eyes was staring at her.


            "Mommy!" Nariko cried. She had her sword out and with a free hand gently cradled Ranma's ravaged horn. "What happened?" she looked up at MacDowell.


            "I have no idea," the sergeant replied. "Red got herself swallowed by that tar-monster, fought it, then blew up."


            "Jammers have a do not exceed redline for a reason," Ranma muttered. It had seemed like a good idea at the time; that time being buried under a writhing inky monster.


            "So, the diversion worked," Ukyou dryly remarked as she helped Nabiki lift her mother.


            MacDowell tilted his head. "Hell of a diversion. What got out?"


            "A bigger one of those, maybe two," the blonde succubus pointed at the creature. "And a lot of... squid things. They're trying to get out of jammer range."


            "Go. Fight." Nariko ordered before glancing down at her mother. "She's starving,"


            Ukyou, Misako, and Akane had gone ahead and were engaging the creature. Misako ran Sasha in steady bursts that blew rippling craters into the inky hide. Ukyou used her PUG to lob heavy 17mm bullets into various mouths and eyes. Shadows burst out from Akane and raced to claw apart and explode the flesh shredded by her sister's attacks.


            Combined with the Canadians' firepower they had managed to halt the creature and were even grinding enough of its flesh to push it back. This did not keep the three fighting succubae from stealing glances back at their mother.


            Nabiki had knelt down next to her mother and took out a trauma kit. "This has been going on a while." She pealed back more of her mother's face armor and pushed some burnt and fused hair aside.


            MacDowell frowned. The demons were wearing drab-grey-green Kevlar and ceramic plate uniforms. It was easy to forget that Ranma's getup had started out looking like theirs. "Yeah, she just kept fighting."


            "Her tail's much longer," Nabiki noted.


            Nariko glared slightly at the non-com.


            Nabiki turned back to her first aid. It was a worrying sign that this was even necessary; mother's normal healing rate made took care of such things.


            "I'm just glad that you girls got here," MacDowell said.


            "That the cavalry finally arrived?" Sergeant Olsen Brummet remarked.


            "Yes, they have," Nariko agreed.


            MacDowell frowned. "There's more? Wh-" His question was cut off by a huge concussive blast going off in the distance followed by a crackling explosion. The thundering noise was unmistakable a tank had entered the fight.


            "Armored cavalry? Hah! I knew the Major and that slimy spook had something held in reserve." Corporal Lily Green laughed. The Royal Canadian Armored Corps were originally the Canadian Cavalry Corps. She loaded another grenade into her rifle's under slung launcher.


            Next to her another soldier lumbered a far heavier, if shorter, 40mm grenade launcher. "What on Earth is Mother wearing?" Misako shouted to her mate.


            After a second Ukyou got the pun. Mother's getup did look just like a battle-tarted version of her Sailor Earth uniform. "That's not funny!"

            "I know, wearing the skins of your defeated enemies?" Misako gave a triumphant grin. "I didn't think Mother had it in her."


            Bristling, Akane used one of her shadows to blow apart an ichor-drenched tear that Ukyou had opened up. "It's not..."


            The platinum haired succubus frowned. The brood had come down in a rush, but the heaps of stripped squid-like aliens were telling. Not to mention the broken white ceramic weapons and torn blue and red bits of armor. "I think it is," her heart ached but she pushed it aside.


            "Poor Mom, she must have been very desperate," Akane wanted to go over to her, wanted to hug her mother but the big space monster that hurt Mother was right in front of her.


            Nabiki took a protein bar out of her harness; the redhead greedily tore into it. "What were you thinking?"


            Violet slitted eyes locked onto the powder-blue haired demon. "That I had to stop an inedible enemy. Also MacDowell's boys have a recoilless gun, they're a bit bashful about using it, but the thing's a lifesaver."


            MacDowell snorted. "Well maybe now that I don't have a friendly trying to dead-lift the damn ink-alien we can get a clear shot."


            Nariko smiled. Once Nabiki had finished checking her mother for sources of major blood loss, she reached out and took her mother's taloned hand. Red eyes briefly took in the polished gauntlets and chest armor. She then lifted the shorter demoness up onto her hooves.


            "We're here now," Nariko assured. She turned and looked at the creature. Wide area attacks with penetration seemed to have the most effect.


            Ranma smiled basking in the love and warmth of her daughters.

           Nariko's grin remained, but her eyes hardened. "Akane, Ukyou, take mother topside. Bring her to Eve. Get her food. Raid the commissary, hit a butcher, whatever it takes." the red-eyed demon ordered in a stern, if warm voice. "Get the status from Auntie Eve."


            Relief was evident on MacDowell's face. "Green, take our wounded and escort Red and her girls out of here. Bring back whoever, whatever you can."


            Ranma stared. Nabiki packed her kit and dashed to the front. The battered Sailor Earth tried to follow.


            Nariko leveled her katana. "Mother..." her voice had a tiny tremble. "No."


            Ukyou and Akane had pulled off the line and flanked their older sister. Looking at their mother they took a half step back.


            Nariko growled and slapped Akane across the butt with the flat of her blade and shoved Ukyou forward with her free hand. "Do it. Mother won't trouble you." She gave that last line staring directly into those luminous purple eyes.


            The platinum blonde demon nodded and worked on her headset.  Her alabaster cheeks stiffened and her eyes widened. "Quarantine breaches! Multiple.  West going to the Canal!  East over Nicolas Street!"


            Ranma glanced around at the scene. The shards from Nabiki's Icicle Parade were slicing right though the creature's hide where they exploded deep within its body. This complemented the concussive and shrapnel damage Misako's attack was doing. Not to mention the steady fire from the Canadian troops.


            Nariko chewed her lip for a second. "Go, take mother up.  Auntie Eve or Major Sifton will give you your next orders."


            The brood mother flexed her hands; the tension eased from her shoulders. The pressure in her bodysuit lessened, but the roiling pain in her stomach continued. "Yes, Daughter." She bowed her head, presenting her horns. The demoness winced as a clotting pad shifted and silvery blood leaked out down the side of her face.


            Ukyou and Akane walked past Nariko and stood on either side of their mother.


            Ranma stepped forward, but nearly stumbled. She was caught by her daughters. Hugging Nariko she rested her head on the taller demon's shoulder.


            Nariko lifted her mother back up and gently pushed her towards Akane and Ukyou. Akane took Ranma's arm and led her back out of the room while Ukyou took point with her rifle at the ready. Lilly Green and the other wounded followed.


            Lightning crackled across the black-haired succubus' katana as she drew her sidearm and rushed the Shoggoth. The heavy fifty caliber bullets tore through many of the creature's eyes, and blew out heavy chunks of ropey gooey flesh, but the damage still paled compare to Misako's and Nariko's attacks.


            The demon-metal katana swung, thick rubbery flesh parted. Nariko screamed" Lightning Devastation!" Electricity arced through the creature's body and it began to shudder and char.


            Nariko pulled back and Misako resumed her barrage.


            MacDowell nodded to Bishop who had reloaded Jones' recoilless rifle. "Hey girls! Get down!" He shouted as John Jones leveled the Carl Gustav at the inky horror.

 

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

 


            A particular suite high in the Grand Hyatt Tokyo had a sweeping view that consisted of Azabu-Juuban below, the Tokyo Tower to the left, and Tokyo Bay in the distance. Only one of the four women in the suite was interested in the view.


            The other three had their attention on an arcing bank, two by four, of slim monitors that had been propped up in the center of the suite's main room. Two women operated a pair of work stations in front of the screens.


            One was a statuesque woman of opaque lavender crystal. Her hair was a sculpted piece of darker, but more translucent purple crystal that took the shape of a large bun in back with smaller twin odango buns on either side that had flexing ponytails


            On her back were a pair of large swords in an X patterned scabbard. Parts of her body took a milky-white coloration to mimic the bodysuit of a Senshi seifuku. The constellation Virgo was a repeated accent mark done in blue gems, the most noteworthy mark being upon the top of the sculpted purple boots on the ends of her legs.


            An ersatz choker made out of an embossed golden mercury mark and inset silver band encircled her neck. Her pleated skirt, ribbons and bows, and sailor collar were made out of stiff, translucent purple cloth. They were the only parts of her uniform that could not be directly shaped out of her crystalline body.


            Eyes that bore gem-cut faceted purple irises scanned the screens as strong gloved-hands danced across the keyboard. The gloves were as much a part of her as her hair, boots, tiara, or silver-inlaid eyebrows.


            Next to her sat another crystalline Senshi. Made out of a warmer light green jade, her face was not quite as stylized as her companion's. There were more human imperfections and details to her construction. She was also less monochromatic. Her bows were the same light green as her body, but her skirt, trim, and collar were a light purple.


            The biggest difference, however, was her hair. Instead of being a single crystal sculpture, it was a collection individual crystalline strands that reflected the light like an auburn tinted bundle of fiber optic cables. The hair itself was styled in a wavy pageboy that resembled a perm and had an emerald hair bow.


            Adorned with the constellation of Orion, she bore the same Mercury mark around her neck. She also had slightly less monomaniacal focus as her companion, and she occasionally paused to take an unneeded breath.


            Virgo made no such motions. She remained strikingly poised as her gloves danced with beautiful, mechanical precision across the keyboard. Both Senshi wore trim black plastic headsets that managed to complement their gem styling.


            Pacing in front of her chair, Mistress Mercury watched the screens. She was a pale young woman with dark blue lipstick and a satin-slick midnight blue dress that clung to her body before tumbling off her thighs and down to the floor.


            Bearing tiny shoulder straps, the dress was low cut and gave glimpses at a tight, almost armored, bodice. Her hair was piled atop her head in a dark blue plaited bun that was almost as glossy and sculpted as Virgo's. A pair of frozen chopsticks was stuck into her bun and on her brow was a heavy silver tiara that bore a mercury-shaped ice crystal as the center gem.


            Mercury paused in her pacing and picked up the wine glass placed on the table next to her chair. Beside the glass was a slim crystal vase holding a single pale pink rose surrounded by fluffy dark violet begonias. Taking a sip she looked at the screens. She had ordered the sound cut off after the first half hour. The prattling of the news casters was bad enough, and she had people to filter through the dross for her. Most of the screens bore footage of the situation in Ottawa. The cameras were shaky and several blocks distant, but it was a live feed.


            Her preference was for direct, live, camera feeds of the building itself. Something that Orion had been most skilled in acquiring for her. She watched the helicopters buzz around for a few seconds. There were several types in use; she briefly wondered if there was a variant unique to the Company. Or if the Princess and the demons would be flown in using Canadian hardware.


            "We're ready to transit." Virgo stated. Her mistress' question unasked.


            Mercury shook her head. "No we're not teleporting yet."


            Virgo glanced at one of her displays. "Safe House Bronze is still reading as secure. It's the closest facility we have."


            Mercury glared. "Really? Are you that eager to drop into a major fight without knowing what's going on?"


            Virgo's unblinking gaze was held steady, but she tilted her head fractionally.


            "Fine, we've 'ported into fights before, but this is bigger. This isn't a bunch of cultist trying to kill Ranma. This is shaping up to be a real invasion."


            Virgo turned back to her workstation.


            "If it is an invasion... wouldn't the Princess show up?" Orion asked as she tracked the video feed. Helicopters buzzed around the smoking building. They occasionally dipped down to allow their door gunners to open fire. Machine guns, and the occasional rocket pod went off and lanced into the building's broken facade.


            "She may already be there," Virgo replied.


            Orion reluctantly nodded. The constellation Senshi idly wondered about the civilian casualties. Clearly, not every shot the Canadians took hit. That the situation was bad enough to allow such weapons freedom in an urban area... that made it all the more likely that the Princess would be summoned…


            If she was not already there, but that begged the question of what she was being held in reserve for.


            "That's why we're watching," Mercury she went back to her chair. Lacquered black, with a high back it almost looked like a throne. "If..." Mercury looked down to her side. "If we're needed we will come."


            "Surely we won't teleport straight in," Orion said.


            Mercury gave a thin smile. "Oh yes, let's punch a hole in reality right atop one already being used to invade." She gave Virgo a sharp look. Mercury wished she had more information. She had no idea if the rift was stabilized, growing, of even if it had been closed.


            The statuesque Amazon simply continued to work, her sparkly fingers dancing across the keys.


            Mercury took a sip of wine. "I'm sure Ranma would love it if we gave them another beachhead to deal with." Still.. she eyed the camera feed, then looked at the sensor output. Their closest scrying rig was at House Bronze, and even at that distance the readings were... worrying.


            Orion saw where Mercury was looking. "Yes, the matches are... manifold: the Raven-Shard Prophecy from the Path of the Will's book, the Angled-Sky Coda from Chronoscopic Travelers, The Broken Map from volume seven of the Revelations of Glaaki, 'The Theft of the Silver Cocoon', from chapter eleven of the Book of Ebon, and finally the Clashing Men described in Unaussprechlichen Kulten."


            "Made worse by the creeping horror those degenerates are said to worship." Mercury looked at her glass, then at the simple bouquet of pink and purple flowers. Its presence was disquieting enough, it meant that their presence was no longer a secret. "The Guardian of the Gate knows where the Old Ones broke through of old. She knows... she's supposed to stop Them from breaking through again."


            Mercury shivered and taking the glass with both hands drained it. She should have had Orion burn the damn things after scanning it for bugs.


            She looked to the side. It was sad that the brood of demons was one of the less dangerous influences her Queen had to face. "Now you see why I required your help. There is only so much the three of us can do."


            Sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chin was the fourth woman of the group. Staring out the window, she was another crystalline Senshi. Attached to her temples via a pronged tiara-like device, were a pair of glassy little silver spheres.


            "And I suppose you've learned enough for now." Mercury leaned over and removed the silvery tiara. "Can't have you to burn out." The spheres came off and the gem girl blinked.


            She was a rich sapphire blue. Hair in a slightly lighter shade had been formed into a glossy pixie cut that was halfway between the individual strands of Orion's hair and the sculpted single piece of Virgo's.


            However, her seifuku was bare of any constellation marks, or any other accents for that matter. Her skirting and bows were a plain, crisp white. Even the center of her tiara was bare and held no gem. The only jewelry she wore, other than, arguably, her body, was the gold Mercury mark around her neck. She looked curiously blank, like an inked drawing ready to be colored and shaded in.


            Her face had been smoothed and idealized, if not as much as Virgo's had been. The resemblance to Mistress Mercury was obvious. The mistress stopped and leaned over the blank Senshi.


            "Mother, you still have to choose a new name. I've indulged your needs, your... adjustment but as you see... time is short."


            The blank nodded, then returned to her pose, continuing to stare out the window. Her gem-cut eyes unblinking. She could feel the carpeting through both the outsoles and heels her feet had been formed into. With similar intimacy, she felt the carved feet of the chair she leaned her back against. She could feel when the air was hot, when it was cold. She had expected this body to be stiff and numb, bit if anything it felt more sensitive and almost... raw.


            "I was thinking Aquarius or maybe Libra, but it's your choice." Mercury placed a gloved hand atop the Senshi's head and gave an affectionate pat. Surprisingly, the crystal hair was soft and yielding to the touch, but was cold under Mercury's hand


            "I'm not human," Saeko Mizuno stated. "I can keep my eyes open. I don't need to blink. Maybe in the morning I can try staring at the sun." She lifted her right hand and clenched her fingers.


            Mercury sighed. "I knew I should have gotten the presidential suite. That one came with a pool. I could have had Virgo hold you under for a good twenty minutes."


            Saeko looked down. "Daughter..."


            "Don't ask me why Mother. You know," Mercury knelt down. "You're brilliant. You're resourceful. And you were wasted. You were being held back. I know what that's like." She cradled her mother by the neck and ran a thumb over the Mercury mark she had cut into the crystal and filled in with gold. A frown flickered across her face, apparently, she was not the only mistress giving out magical chokers.


            Mistress Mercury leaned in and whispered into her ear. "I've seen you looking at my tools, watching the recording of how I made you, then watching me make Orion. The potential you see it... you can't help but think of it. Don't deny it."


            Saeko averted her gaze. There was a hunger within her, one that had grown after her... change.


            Mercury smirked. "We're family. You created me and I... well... you're at least proud to be back to your peak." She closed with another confidential whisper. "I've seen you looking at your reflection. And I must say I'm a bit jealous with how you've turned out, but... we both believe in self improvement. Don't we?"


            Saeko forced herself to blink.


            "You've already got ideas on how to improve the process. Don't you?" Mercury purred.


            She felt Saeko nervously swallow under her thumb. Her hand went up and turned Saeko's chin towards her. Blue lips met blue lips as Mercury gave her a quick kiss. "When the time comes to pick up Father... you can have him."


            Saeko's eyes widened. She felt her heartbeat speed up, which clashed with what she knew of her new internals. She was hit with similar nervous and chemical spikes in her nonexistent endocrine system.


            "You can bring him in... bring him to heel. And he is an artist." Mercury ran a finger down Saeko's shoulder. "And we can use someone with an artistic eye. Though maybe you'll prefer Orion's mother. She's a jeweler and a doctor. Besides, we're family, and a certain redheaded... friend of mine has shown me the value of family."


            Saeko found her cheeks flushing. A hand went up and confirmed that they did feel warmer.


            Mercury chuckled. "I did built in some reactions. I'm not totally heartless."


            "Mistress!" Virgo shouted.


            "What?" Mercury spun around nearly spilling her wine.


            "Something's coming out of the building."


            "Oh? Did DarkStar decide to make a grand exit?

            "Not unless she can turn into a giant loaf-shaped mass of tar," Virgo flatly stated.


            Orion glanced over at Virgo. "You haven't seen her cut loose have you?"


            "I've heard. Demon queen, mass of shadow and blood. But loaf? Has she let herself go?"


            "True, she is prideful." Orion nodded. "The Canadians are readying a counter attack. I'm getting chatter of something coming from the east," Orion stated.


            Saeko's head was turned to the display bank. "What is that?"


            Mercury stood up. A collection of matte-black and blue squid-like creatures had squirmed out of the north corner of the building. Spears of bright phosphorescent light lanced out from them. A sparkling brace of rockets were loosed by one of the larger creatures and sliced through the tailboom of one of the helicopters.


            However, the mistress of ice ignored the smoking spiraling helicopter even as it crashed on the bank of the canal. She hardly noticed, when the soldiers manning the bridge checkpoint had opened up and began exchanging tracer fire from a sandbagged machine gun nest.


            Her focus was on the giant sable mass that lurched and slithered its way at the head of the alien procession. The size of a large truck, it moved in a shuffling, amorphous, lurch like a rolling sack of heaving tumors. Its surface was dotted with writhing tentacles and glossy apertures that formed and opened.


            Mercury stared. Her body chilled and her mind tried cataloging the thing. Some of the vacuoles opened and waved flexing, winking fronds that might be sensory in nature. Some seemed to help with locomotion by gripping the ground as it turned over.


            Lacking ranged weapons it was still formidable as it merely rolled up the bridge, it's writhing bulk bridge shredding sandbag, concrete, and soldier alike. It also had considerable fire support from the smaller creatures using it as cover.


            Seeing her daughter's surprise, Saeko smoothed her gloves against her skirt. "You seem troubled. Are things not going as you thought?"


            Mercury turned and glared at the crystalline woman. She snapped her hand and a dark blue tessen appeared. "Troubled? Do you grasp what this means?" she demanded pointing to the display with the heavy war-fan. " That's a protoplasmic Servitor!"


            Behind her the Canadian forces rallied and from both the quarantine line and the building itself began pounding the alien forces. However, the giant tarry mass seemed immune to the fire being focused on it


            An RPG shot out of a barricade perpendicular to the bridge. It hit the amorphous thing square on. The explosion was muffled. Ichor and goo splashed out in ropey heaps but the creature continued to trundle forward.


            "I suppose the Princess will make her appearance," Mercury noted.


            "DarkStar could still preempt her," Virgo reminded.


            "Contact east!" Orion shouted as she pulled in another camera feed.


            "Oh what now."


            "Reinforcements," the auburn-haired Senshi said.


            Mercury blinked. "Those are tanks. They have tanks." She watched as a vanguard of military and police vehicles cleared the road ahead of a pair of mottled black, green and russet armored tanks. Surprisingly fast, the vehicles raced down the road, their whip antennas bobbing and their gun barrels slightly raised.


            "Yes, armies tend to have those; Canadian Army Leopard 2's by the look," Virgo said with mild reproach. Reaching the quarantine line, the police cars peeled off while the tanks and other armored escorts drove on through.


            "This is their operation," Virgo added. The Mistress had assigned her to collate reports on rival capabilities and assets, but apparently had not bothered to read them. The former Amazon gave an internal sigh. For all her talk, the Mistress had the most curious blind spots. Back in the village they always knew what assets the People's Liberation Army had in the Golog prefecture. And kept up to date on the major movements in the rest of the Qinghai Province.


            Mercury's eyes darted to the screen showing the invading force. Lances of light and black splatter-blisters shot out.


            The lead tank crested the canal bridge. Its gun barked, the barrel recoiled back. An orange smoky plume blew out.


            The shell tore a gaping hole through the tarry beast before continuing on and hitting the corner of the convention center across the street from the Defense Head quarters. The round exploded in a flat grump and the oozing hole began to seal back up.


            "Tough thing," Vrigo noted as she gave Mercury a questioning glance.


            "Quite the opposite," Orion stated. "Through and through, it must have altered its density to keep the fuse from triggering."


            Mercury dismissed both with a wave. She had no intention of teleporting into what was essentially an armor versus armor fight. "That's what they were built for."


            The Squids opened up on the lead tank. The incendiary rounds bounced off the composite hull. Then the larger Squid darted around the reforming Servitor and fired and a brace of rocket pods. The rocket cluster burned out and snapped the tank's right tread.


            "Clever, they know what they're up against," Orion noted as the Servitor surged forward. The fire intensified as the force of Squids split. Half moved with the Servitor to engage the tank while the rest tried to go around the bridge and towards the canal.


            "Or they figured out it needs those to move," Mercury replied. The immobilized tank's coaxial machine gun raked over the advancing... infantry. As the exposed Squids and their armor blew apart, the ones using the Servitor as cover fired their rockets. The fleeing group had come under fire from the remaining Gryphon helicopter and was exchanging more incendiary rounds with it.


            "Could be luck," Virgo frowned. The tank's main gun boomed again and the half of the Servitor was blown away like ripping the top off of a load of moldy bread.


            As that happened the supporting tank had revved its engine and raced down the bridge. Passing its immobilized companion at max acceleration, it slammed into the tarry mess. Treads churned the protoplasmic structure as the tank tried to find purchase. The Leopard reared up then with a heavy thud slammed back down rolling over the creature crushing Servitor and Squid alike.


            The tank alternated reversing its treads and ground down into the bubbling mass and broken encounter suits. Some of the Squids had avoided being crushed and were swarming up on the tank's skirts. They were quickly hosed off by machinegun fire from its immobilized partner.


            Mercury's hand twitched and she paused to put her fan and her wineglass down on the table next to her chair. The heavy fan clinked against the crystal water-filled vase. "Well."


            The tank drove forward , kicking up a rooster tail of black ichor behind it in the process. A tarry substance misted into the air and was joined by dirty smoke ad the remaining mass began to smolder. It finished crossing the bridge and moved in to support the infantry from the side of the canal and air support that had boxed in the remaining Squids.


            "I don't think your Princess will be needed today," Saeko stated.


            "Yes mother," Mercury absently noted. "Orion, are we recording us?"


            "Of course, but..."

            "Yes?"


            "There's something going on to the east of the building, it looks like..." Orion frowned.


            "Another group is trying to escape," Virgo completed. "It looks like the mercenaries are deploying."


            "Keep me appraised," Mercury's eyes narrowed.


            "One more thing, Mistress." Orion blushed, her checks glistening. "We're not the only ones getting these feeds. Hell, these aren't the only cameras on scene."


            Mercury picked up a bottle and began refilling her glass. "Interesting. Well I suppose of all the secrets that could be revealed today that we're at risk of invasion by gibbering horrors is one of the minor ones." She raised the glass then paused as it touched her lips.


            "Right? Don't tell me I missed footage of DarkStar or the Princess fighting out in the open?" Mercury asked as the tank finished crossing the bridge.


            "There battle may not be over," Virgo allowed.  "There are more forces yet to deploy."


            Absently nodding, Mercury watched the tank as it lumbered around the edge of the building. It seemed almost... hungry. Taking a sip she patted Saeko on the head.


            The new Senshi frowned, part of her enjoyed the contact; she even scooted a bit closer to her... Mistress. Saeko shook her head, but she did not scoot away from her mother.


            Mercury did not notice. Her attention was on the tank. It had suddenly sprung into action and raced to the access way that ran beneath the military headquarters. Virgo had to keep switching cameras to keep it in frame. Soldiers and other vehicles pulled back, away from the tank.


            Perplexed, Mercury put the glass to her lips. The tank had stopped and lowered its main gun. It then began to slowly inch backwards until it halted and simply sat there idling. "Huh."


            Mistress Mercury took a sip. The main-gun fired. The concrete half a dozen meters in front of the tank blew apart and began to collapse. A thin plum of greasy black smoke started to rise from the smoldering hole. The main gun fired again. After the fireball dissipated the greasy plume returned.


            "Huh," Mercury repeated.

 

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

 


            A grey Blackhawk helicopter banked towards the University of Ottawa's Tabaret Lawn. Brown and red leaves blew off the maples and oaks that bounded the east side of the campus green as the downwash from the rotors blasted dust and debris.


            Exhaling, Mars held the disguise pen as light flashed over her.  Now wearing a set of fatigues she handed the pen to Jupiter and popped the buckle on her harness.


            Pluto knelt her head down to the black cat she held in her lap. Scratching at the heavy collar she wore, Luna frowned but climbed into the crook of Pluto's arm.


            "Stay behind is, if things go bad...  get in contact with the Company or the military, tell them what's going on," Pluto insisted  tapping the radio slung under the collar, as the cat rested against her torso.


            Holding onto a strap from the ceiling, Mars stood and ripped off the sound dampening headset she had been wearing and slipped on the Company headset. The heavy pulsing noise of the engines and rotor blades assaulted her ears.


             A company agent was helping Jupiter and Serenity to their feet followed by checking their headsets. The brunette in her new illusionary green fatigues gave an expectant grin and followed Serenity to the right side of the helicopter where Pluto stood by the door-gunner.


            Mars went to the left. Minako was already at the open door. Despite the helicopter being five meters up, Pluto and Minako neatly jumped out. Seeing the blonde plummet, Mars exhaled again as her stomach tightened.


            They had jumped from much higher up, frequently. But not from a pitching helicopter. Watching Minako gracefully land on a narrow strip of asphalt, Mars waited. After a few more beats the helicopter had descended a couple more meters.


            With a gasp, Mars leapt. Boots hit the dried, browning grass of the western edge of the campus yard. Wind and air buffeted around her and grew in intensity as the helicopter lifted. Following Minako, she turned and saw Pluto, Serenity, and Makoto taking up positions facing the long three story university building to the west.


            "There!" Pluto shouted as the diminutive Senshi pointed to some smoke rising from the glass dome rising behind the heavy pillared entrance of the blocky stone building. Luna jumped out of her arm and sprinted to the side.


            After completing a sweep behind her, Mars glanced up at the building that loomed above them. Their helicopter had moved off and she could just make out another on approach to the roof of the three story building.  Lines came out and a trio of company agents rappelled down.


            "Go!" Setsuna ordered; the slightly delayed sound in Mars' headset much stronger than the actual shout.


            Despite the tension, the raven-haired girl smiled and glanced down at the green combat uniform she appeared to be wearing. There was something amusing about seeing demons rappel instead of simply flying. Their camouflage was less elaborate than using a magical disguise pen, but it was simple enough.


            Shadowing Minako, Mars bounded across the narrow road that fronted Taberet hall. The empty, evacuated campus gave an eerie sense of abandonment. It was all the more disquieting by the humming, penetrating noise of the helicopter and the beat of flat, crumping explosions to the west that rattled and could be felt in her chest.


            Tension grew as she followed the blonde beyond left side of the broad staircase while the other three magical grills went to the right.


            "We can still cut 'em off!" Minako grinned as the pair paused behind the wide trunk of a broad oak that gave them some cover from the building's silent eyes. As the blonde's hands flexed, Mars could see flashes of gold appear and disappear.


            Fronted by six two-story stone columns the front of the building looked like a prototypical university to Mars' eye. The facade of the building behind the pillars even included mats of creeping, if browning ivy, and a giant stone-carved university crest on the gable above the pillars. A pair of glass-panels wood doors sat between the innermost pillars.


            Blinking, Mars forced her hands to flex.


            "You feel it too?" Glancing back, the blonde's stern face looked bashful for a moment. "Of course you do."


            "It's wrong." Mars' tongue felt oddly stiff, as if the pressure in her mouth was suddenly too high "They're wrong; it-"


            A booming crack assaulted Mars' ears, followed by a shout on her headset.


            "Over the top!" Minako gleefully cried as she rushed out and bounded over the three meters of stairs in a couple steps. "Mars! Hole! Right window!" she screamed as her disguise flickered.


            Waiting a beat, so that she was couple meters behind the other girl, Mars took the stairs. Her disguise shimmered and threatened to peel off as she moved her right hand in a circular motion around her body. As she passed the pillars and fell under the roof overhang, fire sparked around the edge of her hand forming a flickering, burning ring. The ring split turned into eight smaller rings, which then compacted into white hot orbs that race forward. Half slammed through the window itself and they exploded in the room beyond. The rest hit the sides of the window and blew the whole assemblage out of its frame.


            Crystal Wink sword appearing in her hands, Minako jumped though the newly made ingress point. A whispered "Death Scream" to the right created a similar opening.


            Vaulting the shattered windowsill, Mars found herself in a ravaged lounge. Chairs and cheap round tables were knocked over and spotted with smoldering flames. A cloying minty smell tickled her nose.


            The scent spiked. Three paces before Rei, Minako stood over a roiling body with her sword extended. Her disguise had evaporated revealing, shining golden armor and twin blonde ponytails.


            Minako jabbed forward. The gleaming edge of the large grey and gold sword stabbed into a... creature. Bits of white-silver vaguely-ceramic material limply hung from a harness attached to its back. Dark-blue composite armor plates easily parted as did the matt black environmental suit beneath.


            There was a flash of reflected light as the double-bladed curved tip sliced through the underside of the creature's barrel-shaped body and embedded into the tile floor beneath. Thick yellow fluid began to hiss out of the exit wound as the mint scent flared, and almost rancid ammonia undertones rose to prominence.


            Giving a tiny, satisfied, smile, Minako twisted her wrist. Withdrawing, the sword tore apart the wound track. Thick ichor poured out, and steamed, boiling in the air. Armored tentacles writhed and flailed as the Squid tried to pull itself up. A ceramic-edged blade attached to a tentacle flashed and met Minako's sword.


            After blocking the blow, the blonde wheeled the blade around and slashed through the front of the barrel-bodied creature. Half a dozen, sheathed, flailing tendrils plopped to the ground in a messy, heap of seaming yellow ichor.


            "What the hell was that?" Mars demanded gagging at the smell of the thing and hearing the heavy engines of a helicopter in the distance.


            Minako gave her a level look before her eyes darted down to the creature as she flicked her sword.


            "Yeah... one of the invaders," Mars exhaled and flexed her hands. "Damn, they're creepy."


            "Come on, there's sure to be more of Them."


            Mars glanced down at it one last time. "You think it was scouting ahead?" she asked in a whisper.


            Shifting her grip, Minako gave a quick nod.


            The two edged out of the lounge. Beyond the threshold was a north-south running hallway. The floor had more tiles and the walls were painted a soft beige. There were more doors down the corridor, made out of maple paneling. The occasional book-bag was left discarded in the hallway and smoke wafted in from the right. Splotches of blood on the wall showed that the building's evacuation had not gone off cleanly.


            From down the hall came a whisking scuttling noise. Minako stepped forward, and Mars turned. Wondering what one of those things was doing out alone, her eyes swept up the hall then down to the left.


            There was another rustling noise as a bit of white-silver ceramic poked out past a doorway. The weapon lanced out hitting Minako in the side with an incendiary burst the size of a softball. Burning fragments embedded into the blonde's golden armor, sizzling her skin, and marring her skit.


            Off balance, Minako spun and a second shot hit her in the chest. More flaming fragments splashed out. As the squid's weapon cycled and fired yet again.


            "Burn!" Mars screamed as she flicked clasped her hands and with a thrust released an angry orange fire ball. The sphere hit the squid and it made a scrambling, whisking noise as it retreated.


            Eyes narrowing and hair lifting, Mars clenched her hands and a torrent of red flames hosed out burning the doorway and saturating the room within. The squid screamed, or at least a whistling noise screeched out after the creature boiled until the pressure caused it's suit to rupture in a wet steaming mess.


            "Mars!" Minako gently grabbed the raven-haired girl's shoulder.


            Flames gutting out, Sailor Mars shook her head. Stepping to the side she looked into the burned-out room. The occasional flame still flickered in the battered office. Laying in front of the charred desk was a burst open squid. Its armor peeled back and its barrel-body blown apart and oozing steaming yellow ichor.


            "Damn," Mars gagged, turning from the remains.


            "Well, we don't smell too good burnt up either." Minako smiled as the rivulets of molten gold on her chest armor began to smooth and heal. She took Mars' arm. "Thanks."


            Mars gave an appreciative, if disquieted, smile.


            Down the opposite end off the corridor came a barrage of explosions, a screaming flash, and a frizzling electrical discharge followed by thunderous clap.


            The pair raced down the corridor. It abruptly opened up into a broad multi-story atrium enclosed under a glass-pane dome.


            Mars nearly stumbled at the flashing, blasting sight before her.


            Several squads of blue-armored squids were advancing from the far end of the atrium. An incendiary burst arced up from the aliens. Under their cover, three red armored creatures sidled out. Each about the size of a refrigerator, the lumbering tentacles swished as missile racks swiveled on their backs.


            Pluto's head tilted fractionally.  "Down!" she screamed, grabbing the other two girls. At the sight of the diminutive red-eyed girl pulling down the taller brunette and the silver-haired woman, Mars stopped and fell to the floor.


            The black cat slinking in the back of the atrium dived behind a stairwell.


            Clusters of missiles launched, shattering the corridor the trio had emerged from. The hallway was blown apart as the ceiling collapsed and walls shattered. Pressure from the concentrated barrage blew out the windows on the front of the building and caused its stone facade to slough off. One of the broad stone pillars cracked and shed fragments.


            The raven-haired girl thought she saw blood splash up from the collapsing mess. Mars's hands were already in motion as Minako sliced apart the smaller squids on the flank near their side of the atrium.


            One of the creatures rotated its racks and a flight of missiles launched at Mars and Minako. Mars launched her attack. The streaking fireballs and missiles crossed paths and there was a series of detonations.


            It was not a mutual destruction.


            Four fireballs managed to rain down on one of the giant creatures as it tried to slide back. The racks detonated sending missiles exploding and randomly shuddering off. The creature reared and slumped down, to be dragged back by a squad of its smaller compatriots.


            As that happened, a trio of stubby missiles sprinted out. One jerked and blew up in the wall behind Mars raking her back armor with stone fragments, while the other two went towards Minako. One detonated late, ripping a gout in the side of the blonde's thigh while the other blew over her midsection. Polished armor and skirting tore and gobs of golden viscera spurted out as the swordswoman went to her knee.


            Adding to the pandemonium, a shot rang through the atrium. A 25mm grenade exploded through the front part of one of the other red armored squids. Losing its forward tendrils and much of the pulpy flesh around its mouth parts the creature thrashed and spurted yellow ichor.


            Its blue armored guards immediately shifted their guns and started raining incendiary fire up to the atrium ceiling where the shot had originated.


            Mars' headset crackled with a message from the succubae on the roof.


            The sole remaining missile carrier retreated but not before launching a desultory, smoky barrage.


            "Mako-chan!"  Luna cried rushing to the girl.


            Sprinting, Pluto got there first and pulled up the bleeding bronze-armored brunette. Ignoring her own wounds, she checked the damage and gave a sight of relief as she wrenched Jupiter's shoulder back into place and released a flock of shimmering iridescent bubbles over the frothing puncture through the taller girl's chest.


            The brunette screamed with as much surprise and pain. Her yell cutoff when she looked down and saw the roiling iridescence emanating from the smaller girl. Her shoulder burned and the jagged twisting pain in her chest wound became grew in spine-wrenching electric, tingles.


            "You're going to be okay," Luna assured sitting at Makoto's side.


            The brunette reached out and patted the cat.


            Shrugging under her torn, smoldering navy-blue jacket, Serenity stood. The garment's torn gold piping slowly mended as the fire damage and rips slowly healed. Her flat silver gauntlets s were scared and dented.


            Similar damage was on the silver articulated, knee-length armor over her pleated dark blue skirt and gold trimmed cream-colored ankle-length under skirt.


            In contrast, the high collared-beige blouse beneath the jacket was spotless. However, the thin silk bow adorning her chest was halfway undone. The golden crescent moon in the center of her heavy silver tiara shone.


            The mess of her glossy silver hair also slowly repaired as the braids retied themselves restoring the short tight bun and evening the short bangs that framed her face.


            Pale blue eyes glanced over the battlefield. Pausing to look at her bloodied friends, her gaze hardened; her jaw clenched putting the tendons of her long slender neck in sharp relief.


             A long polished ash wood staff was clenched in her hands. Inset along its length was a long shaft of blacked crystal that was tipped with her crescent-mooned scepter. A crescent of golden light flashed off the scepter as she slammed the stock of the staff into the tile floor.


            Trailing a shimmering rainbow, the arc of light cut through the smoke stripping away the concealing cloud.


            Suddenly exposed, the squids paused in their well-ordered retreat to cover. Their tendrils froze and slowly tilted towards the moon queen.


            "In the name of the Moon, I will personally dismember every single one of you!" Serenity promised, her voice low and resonate.


            Helping Jupiter to her feet, Pluto watched the squids wave their tendrils at each other. "Luna... watch out backs," the green-haired girl ordered as the cat nodded.


            Out of the corner of her eye, Pluto watched Serenity's arms tense and her stance shift.
            "Mars! Cover fire! Now" she yelled, pointing a black gauntleted hand and leveling her own garnet-tipped staff.


            Clasping her hands, Mars summoned her flames, and with a flick of her wrists she released a wide sweep of smoldering orange orbs.


            Shouldering her staff, Serenity took off. Spears of golden light stabbed out, pinning the squids tending to the remaining missile-bearing behemoth.


            As the fireballs raced across, Minako grinned and sprinted across the atrium, a slow trickle of gold dribbling down her side.


            Flames sparking along her hair, Mars covered Minako while Pluto and Jupiter loped up in the end.


            Hissing from the ichor-streaming wounds on its tendrils and body, the head-shot red-armored squid reared up. A golden crescent tipped staff was thrust into its "head". As the missile racks swiveled on its back a golden figure came in, crystal sword flashing, cutting the armatures.


            While the rocket pods tumbled to the floor, lightning skittered across the tile and waves of fire hit the retreating group of squids that had coalesced around the remaining red-armored squid. The crescent-tipped staff fired, and the wounded squid squealed.


            "They're running!" Serenity declared. She withdrew her ash wood staff from the smoking boiling corpse and flipped it to the end towards the next squad of squids.


            Arcing rainbow beams shot out as the armored queen charged. Streaks of yellow ichor flew from her armored skirting. Recovering from its shock, a squid in blue flicked out its silvery blades and tried to parry the queen.


            Quickly looking up, Pluto radioed the trio of succubae by the atrium's glass dome. Confirming that the succubae had moved to more secure positions, her stomach twitched. "I'm not sure that's what-"


            Curved blades reached up their inset miroscale ceramic edges catching the ash wood shaft. For an instant, Serenity stared at the writhing creature. The squid's tendrils halted.


            Pale blue eyes darkened to a deep blue. Usagi blinked. A weapon mount slowly swiveled up; the incendiary cannon pointed at the queen.  Then with a quiver, the squid began to pull away. The queen blinked again; her pale gaze narrowing.
           

            A silver gauntleted fist smashed into the Squid's front end. As ichor sprayed up, Serenity wrenched her staff and used the edge of her scepter to sweep out the squid's tentacles.


            As it tumbled to the ground, an armored silver boot stomped down pinning the creature to the tile as the queen pressed her scepter against the squid's side.


            "I'm too slow," Serenity whispered as she aimed her scepter at another retreating squid. Watching the hit she panned around and blinked at the now empty atrium.


            "Hey Princess! Watch out," Luna shouted from her perch halfway up the stairs in the front side of the atrium. "They're up to something!"


            The Squids deeper in the building parted to allow something to pass The black mass was covered in waving fronts, forming eyes and transitory mouths. Lumpy, amorphous, and churning it oozed forward. Much larger than even the red-armored Squids, the being pushed through the corridor and poured into the atrium.


            Flames liking the edges of her bronze skirt and lofty hair, Mars stared at the protoplasmic creature. Despite its amorphous nature and gibbering offices there was something almost... mechanical to its lumbering, extruding motions. The vaguely burnt machine-oil scent that added to the rancid mint smell that filled the room did not help matters.


            "So, that's how they broke past the quarantine," Minako noted as the succubae on the roof opened fire. Roaming, shifting mouths and eyes started to bust as heavy 17mm rounds tore into the tarry hide. Larger 25mm grenade rounds began to knock out vast chunks that oozed ichor and wriggling flesh.


            "A Servitor." Pluto's face paled. She turned to Minako. "Protect the queen."


            The blonde nodded stiffly and sprinted to the silver-haired queen.


            Pluto keyed the radio incongruently pinned to her obsidian armor. "We'll handle this; take out the everything else," she transmitted to the demons.


            Serenity lowered her staff. The crescent on the end began to glow as Lunarian markings on her armor began to flicker into existence.


            Delicate-looking sensor fronds aligned and twitched as the Shoggoth lurched and a vacuole bulged up in the front and swelled until it burst. A stream of buzzing, squamulous gunk spurted out in a messy arc. Where it hit tile it burned and ate through. Where it hit Pattern-Silver armor it sizzled and etched. Jumping in front of the queen, Minako deflected most of it with her sword but a ropy line ran down one arm and sunk into the flesh turning it into a golden runny mass.


            "Jupiter! Mars! Concentrate your fire on it!" Pluto ordered. "The Queen needs a clear shot."


            Eyes tearing, face wincing, Jupiter brought her arms up and snapped her hands down. Copper skirt sparkling, lightning spat forth and arced over the tarry creature.


            Standing beside the brunette, Mars screamed casting her attack. Fed by a stream of fireballs, a wall of fire flared in front of the Shoggoth. A stench like burning rubber rose as the creature compressed, reared and tried to flop over the fire.


            Planting her feet, Mars clenched her jaw and pulled the flames in tighter. The tips of her hair flared behind her like a halo their ends splitting and flickering with firelight.


            The stink intensified as the charring smell grew. Greasy smoke began to belch off the creature's surface as it tried to barrel through the flicking constricting flames.


            The diminutive green-haired Senshi rushed to one side and aimed her staff. The red garnet orb at the top flashed and the vacuoles at the head of the Shoggoth exploded in a burning mess.


            Glancing back, Pluto saw the brunette's eyes flash.  "Take cover!" she yelled into her headset.


            Giving an inarticulate scream, Jupiter slammed her fist to her palm. There was a moment of silence, and then the top third of the dome sheered off shattering all of the remaining windows. Several wide lightning bolts, heralding a deafening thunderclap, stabbed down from the sky pinning the Servitor to the ground.


            Pieces of shattered glass and chunks of steel frame fell to the ground. Shots rang out as the demonic agents retook their positions and resumed firing on the stunned Squids. Thick coils of rubbery, rancid smelling smoke pulsed off the top of the Servitor. Its gelatinous form quivered as the deep red flames corralling it tightened.


            Serenity's staff raised; the black crystal along its length brightened until it glowed a pulsing bright purple. More Lunarian script formed along the queen's armor.


            As the Shoggoth weakly thrashed, the last invader squads rallied. Precision fire rained down from above while Pluto's own staff blasted the squids and Minako took guard of the queen herself.


            "Gorgeous!" Serenity cried as her staff snapped down. A blinding corona formed around the crescent tip. "Meditation!" A searing blast of energy full of shards resembling vibrating, shining shards of glass slammed into the shoggoth in a torrent of rainbow light that lit the atrium.


            Dozens of malformed mouths screamed under the deluge. For a second, creature's thick hide bent and deformed. Then with a shrieking hiss, the thick skin failed as hundreds of magical shards sliced through the amorphous mass. A moment later the Servitor fell silent as a ragged ash-filled hole bored through its side


            Sweat beading under the rim of her tiara, Serenity raked her staff dousing the smoldering creature. Shredded, fried, and burned, the tarry matter boiled into ashen dust. The light died off and Serenity's hand twitched as she lowered the staff, its crystal crescent tip almost hitting the floor.


            Blinking, she looked around the suddenly darkened atrium. The squids had been dispatched with Minako slicing one in half while another, twitching and bleeding from a gunshot wound was burned by Mars.


            Looking up, Serenity saw the demonic trio descent from the roof, their wings arresting their falls. Blinking she turned to the giant stinking corpse before her. "Oh... we won?"


            Luna bounded down the stairs and her nose immediately wrinkled.


            Favoring a shoulder, Jupiter walked up. Bits of static discharges still came off her skirt with every step. "I think so..." she coughed, gagging on the malodorous odors.


            "How's your wounded?" the taller succubus with pale-green hair asked as her black haired sister went straight to Jupiter.


            A diminutive succubus with short red hair held back. She carried a heavy-barreled sniper rifle longer than she was tall.


            Exhaling, Mars withdrew her power and the flames died down revealing more of the damage and ashen shoggoth remains. Her hair also cooled hanging down her back armor in a sweaty limp mass.


            "Uh..." Serenity shook her head, trying to get the ringing out. "How are we?"


            "I'm okay," Luna said as she circled Serenity.  "And none of the... blood on you is yours."

            "Yes, you seem fine," Minako stated after running her hands down Serenity's arms, torso armor, and briefing checking up her skirt.


            "Mina!" Serenity blushed.


            "She's checking your for wounds," Sophie noted with amusement. "And you're not alone," the black-haired succubus pointed to Mars who was grudgingly letting herself be examine by Pluto and then to Jupiter who seemed to be more accepting of Morrison's attention. "With the adrenaline up, sometimes people don't even realize they're hit."


            "Speak for yourself," Morgan smirked as she refilled one of her rifle's giant blocky magazines.


            After bending down to pick up the black cat, Serenity looked at the stern-looking young succubus. The top vest of her armor was torn, her neck had been bandaged, and the jammer antennae-bow was slightly melted. "What?"


            "Oh nothing..."


            "I warned them before your attack," Pluto reassured.


            Worry crossed, Jupiter's face. "It wasn't-"


            Sophie cut the brunette off. "Friendly fire happens. And we've been too close to artillery before."


            "And you needed to stop that thing," Morgan said reassuringly stroking the side of her rifle.


            "Besides, the time for going over our mistakes will come later," Morrison stated as her light green gaze held each of her sisters in turn before returning her attention to Serenity. "After the fight's over."


            "Can we get out of here?" Serenity hesitantly asked  lifting Luna to a shoulder so she could inspect her staff.


            "I'll arrange for transportation, there might still be more of the enemy," Morrison said before stepping to the side and keying her radio.


            Giving a little cough, Minako rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand. Eying the golden discharge she sighed.


            "And how are you taking this?" Sophie quietly asked.


            "It's good to have a victory." Minako paused and slowly sheathed her sword. "To finally fight, especially after being..."


            "Changed?" the newborn succubus asked, a playful lilt to her voice.


            The golem nodded slightly. "And disgusting space squids are better than jumpy Russians."


            Morrison returned to the group. The light-green haired demoness nodded to the short dark-green tressed magical girl. "Status?" Pluto asked.


            "We secure here; JTF2 will relieve us once the quarantine is reestablished." Tail swishing, the demon rubbed her forehead.


            "Will we be in mixed company?" Sophie asked flexing her wings. Her first combat drop with them had been... routine. Which was better than the alternative.


            Morrison nodded. "Yeah, Mother said we'll be going across the canal to meet up with eh others."


            Morgan blinked, she could tell her sister was holding something back, but let it slide. "No wings and tails then."


            Morrison nodded.


            "And us?" Serenity asked. "Use the disguise pen to dressup as soldiers?"


            "A group of all female soldiers with odd hair colors?" Mars asked.


            Sophie coughed.


            "No, I've got another idea." Pluto slowly shook her head. "Besides, we've still got some work to do there."


            Serenity turned and raised an eyebrow.


            Pluto pointed to one of the gutted squids. "I want to see where these things came through."


            Wiping her brow, Serenity then nodded. "You want to find out where they came from? What they're after?"


            "Yes," Pluto lied.

 

End chapter 33

 

I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: Milanda Anza, Mahou Sensou, J St C Patrick, Crimson Vixen, DCG, Pale Wolf and Kevin Hammel.

 

Special thanks to Ckosacranoid for pointing out that Usagi and the Inners had a role to play in this battle.

 

In other good news there's some new fanart. They can be found on the fukufics forum or on my new deviant art page. There's also another piece of art with Nabiki that's in the works.

 

Username for that is sunny-temple so just put that in front of the deviantart com