A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Josh Temple
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. However the concept for Calash, templates, imprinting and such is mine.
Chapter 8: Thorn of the Rose
"Uh… are you okay, Ran-man?" Dan asked his half-cousin.
"Yes," Ranma said as he slowly, deliberately ate his toast.
"I don't think you are," Allison noted. "You're all twitchy and staring off into space."
"Dan looks like this every day and you don't notice," Sarah grumbled.
"Exactly," the psychotic blonde pointed out. "This is new for Ranma!"
"Come to think of it, right after he woke up, he turned back into a guy. Why'd you do that, bro?" Sarah asked.
"It wasn't me that did that! I had no idea that the wand had a vibrate setting! It made me use it! I'm not a magic princess!" Ranma shouted, mostly at his toast.
The others stayed silent for a few seconds.
"So, how's your truck doing?" Allison asked her boyfriend.
Ranma finished his breakfast in silence. He then got up and left the room.
"Uh… I'll make sure he's okay," Sarah said as she got up.
"Ranma, you okay?" Sarah asked as she knocked on the door to the room she shared with her brother.
"Gimme a moment!" Ranma cried from inside the bedroom, in her girl-mode's voice.
Sarah paused remembering Ranma's outburst from earlier in the morning "Uh… okay…." The younger redhead waited outside the door for a few seconds.
"This isn't gonna work. Sis! Come in here! Maybe you can help," Ranma shouted.
"I don't want to interrupt your special time… Sis."
"It's not like that!" Ranma screamed in frustration.
"Okay, okay." Sarah relented. "But you better be decent." She opened the door and froze. She was immediately able to determine what Ranma's problem was.
Ranma was wearing a glittery light amethyst skirt that ended just above her knees, purple high heels, thin lacy white knee-socks in a pink rose pattern, and a frilly ruffled white blouse with pink rose embroidery. In the small of her back and on her chest were big light green bows covered in little yellow roses.
The silver ring on her finger with the tiny scrimshawed rose was normal, but the dangling gold rose earrings and gold chain necklace with a small teardrop-shaped crystal pendant containing a tiny pink rose were a bit much. Though they paled before the bright emerald-green semicircular hair comb that was placed from the backside of her ears to the top of her head.
Though in Sarah's opinion the worst part was Ranma's hair. That it was curled and fell to somewhere between her hips and knees did not seem that bad. That it was sparkling and highlighted in pink made it nightmarish.
"What happened to you? We've gotta get you cleaned up," Sarah said after regaining her voice. She almost wished she had walked in on a naked Ranma.
"What do you think I've been trying to do? Stupid template! It dressed me like this, you know."
"Really," Sarah raised an eyebrow. "Well, this isn't that strange. You normally wear something rose-themed and girly when you first go into girl-form now."
Ranma glared at her sister.
"What? I mean, it's strange that you turned yourself into a girl…."
"I didn't! I was just getting ready for school when I accidentally shifted. And it dressed me like this!"
"Well… I suppose what you're wearing is a school uniform… of some type… Wait. Accidentally shifted? How the heck do you accidentally turn yourself into a girl?"
Ranma looked down at her skirt and tugged at the purple fabric. "It's sensitive. Stupid thing seems to want to make me a girl whenever it gets the chance."
"Uncontrolled shifting… that's not good not at all. Things are getting worse."
"Yeah," Ranma sighed.
"The dreams… this…." Sarah leaned onto the doorway.
"Any luck with that list of suspects?" Ranma asked, hope crossing her overly made-up face.
"Sorry Bro, even that creepy old girlfriend of Allison's, Rebecca, seems clean."
"Damn." Ranma inhaled. "I can't go on like this. I mean, it's not even my own body anymore. I'm not in control. I'm just someone else's dress-up doll and experiment."
"So, what are you gonna do? We don't know who's doing this."
"We're gonna do something," Ranma said sternly, her serious expression clashing with her clothing and hair.
Sarah nodded. "Maybe we can somehow jam the hacker's signals into you."
"That's a start," Ranma allowed. "Call Gos. I wouldn't be surprised if he's not holding something back. This is all his code that's in me after all."
"I'll call them over," Sarah said as she walked into her room to get her phone.
The holographic projection that represented Gos looked around the room nervously as his solid girlfriend carried a laptop. "Calm down, dear, I'm sure Ranma just wants to talk," the blue-haired artificial intelligence reassured.
"I guess so… It's just sudden," Gos said.
"There you two are!" Ranma shouted as she came down the stairs to see them.
"Uh… nice skirt," Erika said, before cracking a small smile.
Gos' face remained neutral. Ranma being dressed like that could not be a good sign.
"We need to talk, all three of us," the redhead stated, her voice straining to stay even.
"About your template, I presume," Gos stated.
"Yes, something has to be done. This is unacceptable," Ranma said as she pulled at one of her bows. Her hand twitched, as if she was deciding whether or not she should try cutting the thing off. Ripping and pulling certainly did not work.
"Yeah, that looks as bad as your pink Senshi seifuku," Erika agreed.
Ranma slumped down into a living room chair and motioned for her two guests to sit down. "Right now I don't want this damn hacker bitch messing with my mind. Get me a way to do that."
Gos and Erika exchanged a brief glance. "Your… mind. What's she doing to you?" Gos asked. He feared that his predictions about the template and its organic technology might be coming true.
"I have nightmares every night. One's where I'm being turned into a princess… her princess," Ranma clenched her fists.
Erika's face paled. "That's horrible. She's changing you… into what? I mean, what can we do?" Erica asked. "She's the one who has the codes to get into your template. Gos made the template. It would take way too long for us to force our way in. And from the sound of it, you might not have that much time."
Gos sighed. He had to come clean. "Erika honey, switch with me."
Erika raised an eyebrow but shrugged. Her form shifted into that of Gos' and the hologram changed into an image of Erika.
"Okay," Gos said as he turned on his laptop. "This is only a theory of mine."
"What?" Ranma asked, glaring at the pale teen.
"It's a guess at what she's up to. I mean, with the organic tech she's put in you," Gos said as he pulled up a series of images. He then turned the laptop to face Ranma.
"Hey! That's me! You've been spying on me, yah perv!" Ranma shouted.
"Only to confirm something. You see…" Gos said as he pulled up a few diagrams that were connected to the image and highlighted a few portions of the image. "You're changing."
"Into what?" Ranma growled.
"My guess? A being that is the true merger of Calash template magic and its human host. The organic technology is very adaptive."
"Well… it's what I would do, if I had a testbed like you," Gos froze under the redhead's withering glare. "I mean, if I were a monster like this hacker bitch."
"So I really am turning into a princess. Wonderful," Ranma sighed.
"Umm… I'd worry more about the risk of turning into her obedient little puppet than how you're dressed."
"You think she wants to control me?"
"Unless she's a complete moron, she's not gonna let you develop such powers without a way to control you." Gos smiled unpleasantly. "Besides, didn't you say that she was messing with your mind?"
"Oh no…. you're right. In all the dreams there's this wand… and it controls my… everything I do. It forces me to do… things, horrible things," Ranma shuddered. "Why didn't you tell me this?" the redhead demanded.
"I was still compiling my data. Besides, it's just a theory. I had no idea you were having dreams like that," Gos defended.
"So now what? We have to act fast! I mean, she's turning me into her doll, isn't she?"
"Yes, something has to be done," Gos agreed.
"If I'm changing, how is she still able to control me? I mean if my… code's been altering. How does she have total control?"
"It doesn't work quite that way. The changes are too slow, for one. Look, the hacker is taking her time. She's gotta be pruning your changes every time she checks on you. She's shaping you as she wants, and while she does that she's making sure her control will still work."
"So we have to remove her control," Ranma muttered. "And she needs it to go slowly. Hmm."
"No. No, Ranma, that's a very bad idea!"
"It's worth a shot. If I force it to work faster, I can take control, right?" Ranma proposed.
"No! It's madness!"
"What's going on in here?" Sarah said as she stuck her head into the room.
"Ranma's got some damn fool idea," Gos sighed.
"What? If the hacker bitch needs slow changes for her to keep her control on the template, what if I just take that away?" Ranma shrugged.
Sarah blinked. "That's… insane. You want to make your changes faster? The same stuff you've being fighting against since day one?"
"Wonderful job it's been doing so far," Ranma said, pointing to her blouse.
"Technically speaking," Erika spoke up, "it's not that crazy. I mean, if the template changes enough that the hacker can no longer log in, that could lock her out. If Ranma's lucky, it might even register the hacker bitch as a foreign intruder."
"See! It might not be insane," Ranma said.
"Of course she probably wouldn't be Ranma after this. I mean she'd be… her template… I guess," Erika concluded.
"Wait… the template or me would be how I want it to be, right?" Ranma asked.
"I have no idea," Gos said. "Maybe, maybe not."
"Thanks for being your ever-so-helpful self. Still, it's worth a shot then," Ranma nodded.
"Aren't you worried that this will turn you into a princess?" Sarah stated.
"Maybe, but if I'm the one in control, it might not be so bad. I mean, there are worse things than being a princess."
"What if it just accelerates things and you turn into the hacker bitch's puppet?" Sarah asked.
"Then you guys will have to take me down," Ranma stated.
"It's not a bad idea," Dan added finally speaking up.
"Yeah, it'll force the issue to a head," Allison agreed.
"Look who thinks this is a good idea!" Sarah yelled.
"Agreement by insane slackers aside, maybe this isn't the stupidest thing Ranma could do," Gos allowed. "Ranma could become more powerful, and has a chance of getting free from the hacker."
"Why didn't you suggest this earlier, then?" Ranma demanded.
"Let's see." Gos started ticking off on his fingers, "I didn't know the hacker was messing with your brain. I thought we might have been able to find her and get you free that way. Oh yeah, I didn't think you would want to become one with a template that turns you into a pink-rose-themed Angel-Senshi, who's apparently also a princess."
"So it seemed like a longshot that had no way of working, and you dismissed it?" Ranma surmised.
"When you put it that way. It kinda does seem up your alley," Gos admitted.
"Hmm. So, one with my template. Ick. Well I'd be able to change things, right? I'd have control?"
"You… might," Gos shrugged.
"You can assume you'd have more control than you do now," Erika guessed.
"Good enough! Let's do it!" Ranma said. She looked around the room. "Um… one of you guys does know how to do this, right?"
"I guess I can help. I did come up with the organic tech idea. But I never got to use it much," Erika said, thinking over what would have to be done.
"One last warning, Ranma: you, merge, angel, rose, Senshi, princess. Understand?" Gos stated.
"Like you have any idea what'll happen," Ranma replied as she leaned back in her chair.
"That's the whole point! None of us have any idea!"
"Screw it. If bro thinks this will save him, let him give it a shot," Sarah sighed.
"I'll make the popcorn. This'll be fun," Allison said as she scampered off to the kitchen.
"I'll set up the video camera," Dan said before going to his room.
"Actually, recording this isn't a bad idea," Gos agreed.
"Okay, I'm gonna need an I/O sphere and… that's about it," Erika admitted.
"Plug it into your laptop?" Sarah asked after she brought one out.
Erika nodded as she looked over Ranma.
"Don't you want to use the real body?" Gos asked.
"And risk damaging our squishy vessel? Nope. What if something happened?"
"Given that you're just a projection…?" Dan said as he setup a video camera.
"You guys are making a big production out of this." Ranma was getting a bit nervous.
"You are thinking of making Calash history, you know," Sarah stated.
"Full integration with your magic template is a huge step," Gos said as he checked the connection to the computer.
"Full? I just wanted to speed things up."
"And that's what it will do," Gos agreed.
"Okay, Ranma," Erika said. "Now this is gonna feel a bit weird, but it's normal… -ish."
"Wait!" Allison shouted as she ran into the room. "I almost didn't get a chance to salt it," the blonde said, carrying a large bowl of popcorn.
Ranma shook her head. "Okay, do it."
"Not gonna say anything profound for the record books?" Dan asked after setting up another laptop and connecting it to a second I/O sphere.
"I just want control of my life, that's all," Ranma said.
"Good enough," Erika said as she activated the program she had spent the last couple minutes writing and ran it through the I/O sphere.
Immediately Ranma's world went pink, and the only thing she could hear was Erika's voice. However, the redhead could still feel the chair she was sitting in.
"Okay, let's start this. I'll just begin telling you what to do," Erika started.
"Why did my vision blank out?" Ranma asked.
"Oh, that… you're gonna want to be able to see what's going on inside you."
"Huh? But I thought I could only change certain little things. And that was with an I/O sphere."
"You are connected to an I/O sphere. And you're not changing anything. At least not yet."
"Oh-kay," Ranma said. "What do you want me to do?"
"Nothing yet. Let me pull up the right status window," Erika said as a complicated flowchart appeared in Ranma's vision.
"What the heck is that?"
"That's you. Hmm… Kinda strange for a human," Erika's voice explained. "Those green boxes are your mental functions, the pink stuff's your template, and those orange things are your physical parts. See, there's information that I can select on each one. Hmm. You’ve already started to integrate more than normal for a template user. Look at how close they are to the pink stuff. This is good."
"Makes your job a bit easier. Now I'll need you to activate your template, and watch what happens."
Ranma nodded and concentrated. She did not notice her clothing shift as she was concentrating on the display. A tendril from the green blocks shot out to the pink template parts, causing the pinkness to glow brightly. The template then lit up white lines that connected it to the rest of the diagram. The pinkness seemed to spread, augmenting various sections of the rest of the diagram.
"What the hell? Is this what happens to my mind every time I activate my template?" Ranma asked, horror creeping into her voice.
"Yup. It's a pretty normal setup. Though it seems a bit closer to your host body. Good. This might actually not kill you," Erika happily noted.
"Okay… now the next step's a doozy. You remember all those lines that started glowing when you activated?"
"Good. I'm gonna need you to find them, one by one, and open the connection fully."
"What? How am I supposed to change that? I can't edit my template!"
"Not from the template side, I mean go into your mind and find it from that side. Once you open it from your side, the organic tech will take care of it from the template side, and a good thing too. If you didn't have such adaptive code, opening fully like this would have a hundred percent chance of frying your brain."
"What's the percentage now?"
"You don't want to know."
"You're sure of this, right?" Ranma asked.
"Yeah, sure I am," Erika's voice was cautious.
"How do I even find these mind things?"
"It's like your mental trigger to activate your template, but more specific. Think of how you can activate your weapons or sensor systems."
"I normally do that by calling out a stupid phrase."
Erika sighed. "Let me pull up another screen then," Erika said as she put another diagnostic display in Ranma's vision. "This one will show you what mental triggers you're pulling, and it's cross-indexed to the master display. It should help things."
"Let's get started then," Ranma said as she concentrated on finding the first trigger.
"Why did Erika disappear?" Allison asked as she watched the show. It was rather boring. So far, all that had happened was Ranma closed her eyes, shifted into Senshi form, and started twitching her eyes.
"She doesn't want to waste her attention on maintaining the projection," Gos explained as he maintained careful watch over his girlfriend's and Ranma's status. "She's helping Ranma with some delicate work."
"Whatever they're doing, Ranma's power is increasing bit by bit." Dan said as he watched the passive sensor feed from his I/O sphere. "What is Ran-man doing?"
"What better way to merge than by fully opening the mental links?" Gos asked.
Sarah's eyes widened. "But there's a reason the connection between a template and a human mind is limited like that!"
"If Ranma's gonna merge, there can't be a separation like this. He's gonna have to force it," Gos stated.
"I see," Sarah nodded. "Ranma opens it all the way on her side, the organic tech responds on its side, and the hacker can't do shit later."
"Yup, provided this all works and doesn't melt Ranma's brain. Okay, they're almost done opening the links. Now things get interesting."
"The hell? The power's spiking? Wait… no… It’s getting more intense and pulsing?" Dan asked as he watched the sensor output.
"Umm… Just look at her," Sarah stated.
"Pretty," Allison remarked on the pinkish-white aura that had sprung up around Ranma.
"That's… new," Gos stammered.
The glow intensified and lost its pinkness, turning pure white. Soon Ranma's form was obstructed by the now opaque energy.
"No more pink. That's a good sign," Dan noted.
"Okay! Erika's broken her connection to him. She's done all she can!" Gos announced, glad that she was safe for now.
The envelope of energy shifted to a bright red. "That's not a good sign," Dan noted.
"Anything on sensors?"
"Oh, this piece of junk started giving overload errors just after the glowing stuff happened," Dan sourly noted.
Tendrils of green started working into the red aura. The energy then segmented into a series of petal-like shapes and was pulled into the green lines which then retreated into the person sitting in the chair.
High-heeled sandals with rose clips adorned the young woman's simply-pedicured feet. A very long green dress with white trim was fitted perfectly to her body. It was just slightly too informal and simple to be called a gown. It had rose accents to it and simple sleeves that stopped at her elbows. Spiraling up the length of it was a white vine with red roses that matched the trim. Its neckline was a "u" trimmed in white lace, that showed just a hint of cleavage. Her fingernails were shaped with a slight overhang and were glossed.
She was wearing the same ring, pendant, and earrings as before, though this time they seemed to match the rest of her. She wore a pair of silver bracelets carved in runes that looked like smaller versions of her Senshi form's bracers. A gold tiara with an emerald stone was on her forehead and her face was lightly made up in a way that emphasized her considerable natural beauty.
The young woman's long crimson hair was pulled back with a large green bow at the base of her neck save for some bangs that were cut to frame her face. From the bow it tumbled down her back and seemed to go almost to her waist.
Most importantly, there was not a trace of sparkles, glitter, or pink anywhere on her.
"Ranma?" Sarah asked.
"Ranma doesn't like that girly stuff, though she's not too girly," Allison said.
"For a princess," Gos sighed.
Dan blinked and moved a hand into his trench coat.
"That's one fine a welcome you guys give," the redhead in the chair sighed. "Guys, come on it's me, Princess Rose. Er… Ranma. Sorry…."
"Wonderful, she's a princess now," Gos sighed.
"Hey! I was right; there are worse things than being a princess. And Dan, don't pull out a gun. You never did have a chance against me," the princess stated.
"Okay," Dan pouted.
"You think the hacker can get in?" Erika asked after restarting her projection.
"Are you in control?" Gos asked.
"Were you able to change the password?"
The magic princess laughed. "There is no password now."
"Hmm? So how is access granted?" Dan asked.
"You just ask permission, and if the magic likes you she might just give you permission."
"She?" Allison asked.
"Oh, I get it! Switch with me," Erika told her boyfriend. "Finally! Another magical computer-tech life form!" Erika said hugging the well-dressed redhead after she got a solid body.
"Well, this is all sweet, but Ranma did call herself a princess," Sarah pointed out.
"That's because I am, sis," the sandal-wearing girl said as she hugged Erika. "You were right about that. Part of the merger was me accepting being a Magical Princess, but I'm still Ranma; I'm just a princess too," Ranma assured.
"Princess of what?" Dan inquired.
"Roses, of course. Probably some other stuff too," Ranma shrugged.
"And you're like Erika now too?" Allison asked.
"Well, I'm a combination of living magic and a human body, so pretty close," Ranma said as she adjusted her pendant.
"Living magic?" Erika said after getting out of Ranma's lap. "You mean that my theories worked? I mean, the magical stuff is an integral part of your body now, right?"
The Rose Princess nodded.
"What was it like?" Sarah asked.
Ranma thought for a bit before she smiled. "Sarah, remember back when I first got here and you taught me to tap into the energy surrounding me and that of my curse and use it to try to change?"
"Uh, yeah?" Sarah hesitantly asked.
"Well, this is like if the entire local magic grid went right into my mind."
"I guess we can call this a win," Gos said slowly.
"You're so right," Ranma said as she stood up.
"Is this the dress from your nightmares that you've muttered about?" Dan asked. "Because this looks really good on you."
Ranma looked down at her almost-a-gown and started laughing. "No, that thing was horribly stuffy and tacky. It really was a nightmare. I picked this one. Oh, and you're very lucky you complimented my dress. Otherwise you'd be wearing my old gown."
"With a fashion sense like this, I wonder if she's really a princess. I thought they had really good taste," Allison remarked.
"Are you insulting my gown?" Ranma glared. She walked over to the blonde and reached out, tapping a finger on the girl's forehead, enveloping Allison in a white light. When it died down, Allison was in the gown from Ranma's nightmares. It was puffy, formal, and glittery. Even Allison's hair had been mangled and formed into the bun that accompanied that dress.
"What did you do to me?" Allison screamed.
"This…" Princess Rose said, pointing with her hand. "…is the kind of nightmare that I've had to deal with. This was the magic princess that the hacker-girl wanted."
"Ouch… that is bad," Dan nodded.
"Sorry, Ranma." Sarah then turned to Allison. "Hah! Serves you right for those uniform stunts you've pulled on me."
"You think I should give her the wand that goes with it?" Ranma asked her sister.
"No! That's a bit much there, Ranma. She would probably enjoy that part any way," Sarah disagreed.
"I'm going to change," Allison sighed. "And fix my hair. Well played, Princess. I see we'll have some fun together." The blonde laughed manically before going upstairs.
"The wand! Use the wand! Please give her the wand!" Dan pleaded after remembering what Ranma said at breakfast.
"You sure about that?" Sarah asked. "She's just as likely to use it on you."
Dan's face paled and his eyes widened in horror.
"I see Allison hasn't broken Diana in fully, has she?" Sarah teased.
"Do I even want to know what this wand does?" Gos asked.
"No, you really don't." Ranma sighed. "I need a practical wand."
"So how's being a Princess… living magic… thing?" Dan asked. "Sure you look spiffy, but what's going on under the hood?"
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "It's a good thing I know you're just a clueless young man and didn't actually suggest I disrobe."
"Fancy-talk," Dan teased.
"I am a magic princess now, you know," Ranma narrowed her eyes.
"Calm down. I think we're all curious as to what you can do. Aside from tormenting insane blondes," Gos stated.
"I guess I can show you some of my stuff," Ranma said as she sat back down, careful to smooth out her gown as she did so. She closed her eyes and a series of white and red lines swirled in her lap. Almost immediately they coalesced into a thin box shape.
"Wow," Sarah said as she looked at the glossy white laptop that formed. In the center of the top was an embossed red rose logo.
"It looks like a Mac," Dan sighed.
"No, it doesn't!" Ranma cried. "See? It's much better," the redhead said as she opened the laptop. Inside the white with red for accent and lettering theme continued.
"Yeah, it's much cooler looking than any Apple," Gos agreed.
As soon as Ranma had opened the laptop its screen had activated and it started showing rotating displays of Ranma's princess mode.
"Very pretty," Erika nodded. "Does it actually compute things? Or is it just a display and input device that connects to your internal systems?"
"Its default is just a peripheral device. I mean, I don't have a CD player or a printer in me, but with this I do. Though at a range I suppose it could compute on its own."
"Did you just say 'default is a peripheral device'?" Dan asked. "That's kinda strange for you to say."
"Magic princess, remember?" Ranma sighed. "We've been over this."
"Yeah, I bet you've got a thesaurus and dictionary built right into you," Dan said.
"Interesting." Erika said as she examined the laptop. "Can other people operate it?"
"Of course. I've got keyed into it accounts for all of you guys so you can use it if I let you. Of course, your accounts are limited in what you can do and what you can see," Ranma apologized.
"I presume you use some sensors and biometrics to grant access?"
"Yes, the built in I/O sphere is most handy in that regard. These things have great sensor capacity. Shame they're not used more."
"Cool. So we can use your lappy sometimes? Nice," Dan added.
"To be fair, they're hard to acquire and only a handful of people can even make them," Erika said. "Wait…"
"I'm sorry to interrupt computer-girl chit-chat, but you made an I/O sphere?" Sarah asked, shaking her head.
"Yeah. It wasn't that hard. I mean, I just went into the one that I was connected to and acquired its blueprints and Calash code. Then it was a simple mater of adding it to my laptop's design. Of course, there's also one inside of me."
"Wow… That's another revolution to Calash magic you've just done," Sarah said.
"You mean my laptop's even more special?" Ranma gleefully asked. She blinked. "Nuts, dang princessness."
"Ranma herself is already enough of a revolution in magic as we know it," Gos noted.
"Herself? Ran-man, is that true?" Dan asked.
"Gos is right. I'm a magic princess. That means accepting being female. It's part of the price I pay for being like this," Ranma sighed.
"You're taking all of this very calmly," Sarah asked as she sat down next to her… sister.
"I've had a lot of time to think about it," Ranma shrugged as she started typing on her laptop.
Erika raised an eyebrow until she realized that she was using it to talk to her via text on the screen while she talked to her sister. "You do realize that you don't have to type, right? You can just think and the words will show up," Erika smiled.
"Yeah, but this helps me practice typing with nails," Ranma typed. "Oh I see. That is a good idea. You can type into the laptop while I can just transmit text. Okay." Ranma then handed her laptop to Erika.
"A lot of time?" Sarah asked. "What, you think faster than the rest of us?"
"Not Erika," Ranma said as she simultaneously went over her laptop's abilities with said girl.
"Because she's all computer?"
"Yeah, she was built to think, where I was grown to fight, mostly."
"You're a genius?" Sarah asked.
"Nope. I can think faster, but it's not like I'm any smarter. It's like I have a lot more time to think."
"So you're stuck on simple problems for that much longer?" Dan joked
Ranma smiled sweetly and held up a finger. "I think it's gown time for you."
"I'll be good," Dan said as he backed up. "Wait… that's it! That's how you can use big words and sound more careful. You have plenty of time to look up and choose what you're going to say, don't you?"
Ranma smiled and nodded.
"Speaking of gowns, do you have to wear yours all the time? I mean, is it part of the Princess union?" Sarah asked.
"You don't like my gown? But I put so much thought into it. I had to make sure it matched my hair, shoes and accessories," Ranma pouted.
"I was just curious." Sarah rolled her eyes.
"Sure, I can put on something more casual." Ranma closed her eyes and her clothing shifted, but her hair remained the same. Her tiara vanished but the rest of her jewelry remained as did her high-heeled sandals. She was now wearing a tailored white rose-trimmed blouse and a knee-length red skirt with green accents. Her nails were still manicured with a simple gloss, but her makeup was a bit less, down to only some eye-shading and what might just be lip-gloss.
"Girly, but nice," Sarah complimented.
"I'm not girly. I'm princessy," Ranma pointed as she resumed talking to Erika through her laptop.
"There's a difference? Well, I guess for you there is." Sarah sighed. "I'm just saying you're more feminine looking than me," Sarah said, showing off her t-shirt, jeans and boots. "Look at how different our hair styles are. Though yours is kept that way by magic."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"Wow, I expected you to be angry at me saying that."
"We're sisters? No way!" Ranma happily exclaimed.
"What? Are you talking to me?" Sarah asked, quite confused.
"Oh I was talking to Erika using my laptop, and she told me how she used a lot of her AI protocols and tailored them to the task of template upgrading."
"You were talking to Erika and me," Sarah sighed.
"I can handle it. I was talking to you in person," Ranma explained.
"So how does this make you sisters?"
"Since a lot of Ranma's code is based on my own, we're pretty close," Erika said to Sarah.
"That's why you were so happy when Ranma came out of her… transformation," Sarah said.
"I had to be sure at just what Ranma was using in herself as critical functions," Erika smiled at her sister.
"Um… welcome to the family?" Sarah said.
"Yeah, we're not too normal," Ranma grinned.
Erika calmly closed Ranma's laptop and put it on the table. "Sisters!" she cried as she hugged the two redheads.
"Wow… This sure beats another boring day," Dan said to Gos.
"Tell me about it," Gos agreed. He leaned over to Dan and smiled. "I can feel everything Erika can right now."
"You know your boyfriend's a real pervert, right?" Ranma quietly asked Erika.
"Yeah, but I like him. That's not to say he won't be punished," Erika said as she swiveled to face him.
"Gotta go," Gos said as he vanished.
"So you're Ranma, but you're not," Dan observed.
"Dan!" Sarah said.
"No, he's right. There were a lot of changes. Before, I would never feel happy dressing like this, or calling myself a princess. I know it's my template telling me those things, but the difference is that now my template is me. There's no separation between me and my code, or my magic."
"If you knew it cost this much, would you do it again?" Dan asked.
"You're being awfully serious," Sarah noted.
"He's just asking what the rest of you guys want to know," Ranma said.
"Having no tact has its benefits." Dan shrugged.
"I'm not sure. I am different enough from that Ranma where it's hard to tell. Right now, I'm free and a magic princess on my own terms. If I hadn't done this. I would have been one on her terms. I had a few seconds just after I had merged to think this over. It was the best choice available."
"So you are free? No chance of her getting control?" Dan asked.
"She has a better chance of hacking into your template than me," Ranma said.
"What about becoming male?" Dan asked.
Ranma closed her eyes and sighed. "Not right now. I'm still stabilizing from the change. I'm still getting used to a lot of… me."
"Oh, yeah. I can see how you'd want to wait a bit." As someone who turned into the other gender regularly, Dan could sympathize a bit.
She sighed. "Even though my choices were very limited. You're right. I'm sorta Ranma. Ranma wasn't a magical princess with living magic as an integral part of her. I am. I guess you could call me Rose, but I'd rather you call me Ranma. I am, was, him."
Dan nodded appearing to be deep in thought. "Wow. That is interesting. So who's up for pizza?"
"Hey! I was having a dramatic moment here!" Ranma pouted.
"And I let you have it, but come on. You're not the only orphan here who's not quite human anymore. I'm a cyborg, you know. Sure, my brain's still all mundane, but I've got plenty of metal on the inside."
"I think it's a bit early to get pizza," Sarah interjected. "How about some nice waffles?"
"Dan's right. I'm not human and I never had parents," Erika said. "But I now have a sister," she said as she smiled at Ranma.
"Good idea! The diner has some good waffles. We can go now!" Dan agreed.
"Let's make sure Allison's okay. She's been upstairs for a while," Sarah said.
"She's probably just trying to get her hair back to normal," Ranma said as she resumed fiddling with her laptop.
"It can get back to normal, right?" Dan asked.
"Yeah, it just takes a bit of time in the shower," Ranma smiled as she pulled up a pink angel Senshi on her laptop's display. "Eww…. that has to be fixed."
"I guess pink and glitter aren't your thing anymore," Sarah said as she looked at the display.
"It never was," Ranma sighed.
"But roses are?" Dan asked.
"It's my theme. I am Princess Rose," Ranma shrugged.
"Fair enough," Dan said, before going upstairs to check on his girlfriend.
"Well, I guess this is one way to move things forward," Sarah said as she washed her hands in the bathroom sink at the local diner.
"I'm a bit worried. I mean, Ranma's taking this too well." Allison stood next to Sarah and was checking her blonde hair.
"She might still be in shock," Sarah sighed. She was referring to Ranma as a she now, though in light of this transformation….
"At least now we don't have to worry about the hacker bitch messing with her anymore. If we can believe her," Allison said.
"Hi, girls," Ranma cheerfully greeted as she slid into the bathroom, walking at total ease in her high-heeled sandals. "What are you talking about?"
"Uh… that hacker," Sarah said as she dried her hands.
"I guess it makes sense for her to use this bathroom now," Allison said.
"You're not still mad about the gown thing?" Ranma asked as she stepped up to the sink that Sarah had just finished using. The princess smiled at her reflection and adjusted the bow in her hair.
"Not really," Allison muttered.
"Oh! I was just talking with Erika, and we're pretty sure we can integrate wireless communication between us. Erika will come up with the design, and when she's done I'll install it in myself. I'm pretty sure we can get something similar for you guys too," Ranma nearly gushed.
"This is what's wrong," Allison told Sarah. "Before this transformation, Ranma felt the very idea of a template being creepy and horrible, and now this little princess is practically bursting at all the cool stuff and fancy features she has now."
Ranma's face darkened. "You're right. I am being very upbeat over all these changes. I'll tell you why. During my transformation, I had to make a lot of choices. One of them was how I'd handle all my… inhumanity. Instead of being horrified, I decided it would be better to be amazed and pleased with it."
"You were able to make those kinds of choices?" Allison asked.
"Yes, that's what the merger was. I had to rebuild everything." Ranma flicked one of her dangling earrings. "Everything I am now is what I choose to be."
"Okay," Sarah stated slowly.
"Remember girls, from my perspective I had plenty of time to look at all my options and think over everything. This wasn't just something I've thrown together. I mean, this is me. I put some thought into… well… myself."
"All right, Ranma. Sorry, I'm just worried about you," Sarah said as she looked over the other redhead. "You did change a lot."
Ranma smiled. "Isn't the first time. There was when I was cursed at Jusenkyou, when I was imprinted with my template when I first got here, and today. So far, this hasn't been too bad."
"Okay," Dan said after he finished his second waffle. "Magical princess transformations aside, how does this change things for us?"
"Well, we still need to find out who this hacker bitch is," Allison said as she and Sarah returned to the table.
"Does Ranma know anything now?" Sarah asked.
"Nope. I asked her if she had any data from the hacker logged into her memory," Erika stated as she happily ate her pancakes. Food was still a pleasant novelty for her.
"Sorry. While Ranma now knows all the times the hacker logged into her and what the hacker did, she doesn't know anything else about her. Ranma did figure out her password, not that that matters." Erika grinned at that.
"So we don't know who she is, but we can guess what she wanted to do with Ranma," Gos surmised.
"She's gonna be really pissed when she finds herself locked out of her toy." Allison laughed.
"We could use that. Maybe Ranma can trace the hacker the next time she tries to get into her," Sarah proposed as she refilled her juice glass from the carafe.
"Might work," Erika admitted. "We'll ask Ranma when she gets back."
"We don't have so much of an urgency anymore," Sarah said.
"And we don't have to worry about Ranma. At least not about the hacker controlling her."
"I think she's going to be okay," Sarah stated. "At least as okay as the rest of us."
"That's good. After this, I guess Erika and I will go back home. We'll call if we get anything new."
"I might just call Ranma to talk," Erika added.
"Come on! Activate your template. It'll be fun!" Ranma pleaded to her sister.
"You just want to show off your new uniform, don't you?" Sarah sighed as she stood out on the range behind their house.
"And maybe spar a bit," Ranma grinned. "I've got all these new things for me to try. I want to get some experience with using this thing."
"You're preparing to fight the hacker, aren't you?" Sarah guessed.
"Of course. I want to pay her back. I think she deserves to see the results of her experiment." Ranma laughed. "Now activate your template. I'm gonna be linking with Erika in an hour."
"Oh, I'll be connecting to Erika via the phone line. She's gonna be helping me with my mental stuff. Right now, I am running mostly on… instinct, you'd call it. Apparently, I can streamline a bunch of things."
"Uh… Well, make sure you're encrypted so no one eavesdrops on you two."
"We exchanged encoding stuff at the diner." Ranma rolled her eyes. "Now activate your template, please."
"Fine. You go first, though."
Ranma nodded and closed her eyes. Green and white light enveloped her. When it retracted, she was wearing knee-high green leather boots with white trim that were embroidered in roses and vines. She wore a tiny, pleated red miniskirt and a top resembling a schoolgirl's uniform that exposed some cleavage. She had a large red collar with white piping. The long bows on her chest and back were the same green as the bow in her hair.
Her choker was white lace that was done to resemble several intertwined roses. The girl's makeup was the same as that in her princess mode. The engravings in her metal bracers were even more complicated and seemed to glow a faint red. A pair of little white angel wings had formed on her back, and her earrings were little rose studs.
"Aside from the color change, it looks about the same," Sarah noted before orange light shifted her into her power armor.
"Hey! I changed my choker. That hunk of glass around my neck hurt!" Sailor Rose said as she fingered the delicate lace around her neck. "Besides. Most of the changes are under the skin," the Sailor Senshi said as she extended her wings into their full size.
"Really?" Sarah activated her scanner and looked over her sister's internal structure. The skeletal and muscular systems looked mostly normal, though they were supplemented by some other internal connections. Her organs were the most changed. Sarah wished she had been more versed in anatomy so she could tell exactly what was different.
"Are those tiny missile launchers on your arms?" Ranma asked as she eyed her sister's armor.
"You're not the only one that's been working on upgrades," Sarah said as she un-slung the large gun she had stored on her back.
Sailor Rose flared her bracers. "Your weapons do have a stun setting, right?"
"Of course," Sarah fired her engines and aimed her gun. "All high-explosive tipped rockets come with stun settings."
Sailor Rose nodded. "Wait… what?"
Sarah laughed. "Of course I'm using weaker stuff. We're just practicing."
"That's the popcorn you made before Ran-man's transformation, isn't it?" Dan asked as he and Allison watched the two redheads spar.
"Of course. I didn't get a chance to eat all of it," the blonde said before handing the bowl to Dan, who declined.
High above them, Sarah released a volley of little missiles. The flying Senshi twisted in midair and released a stream of thin red beams from her hands that intercepted half of the missiles. The few remaining fell forward and hit a white spherical shield that appeared around her.
When it died down, Sailor Rose was hovering in midair holding a small wand. The end of the wand was a small white rosebud that connected to a green shaft. The Senshi flipped her hand, and the wand vanished.
She flapped her wings and shot forward towards her sister, while firing a pair of impressive-looking but harmless beams. Sarah responded by cutting her engines and firing her main gun at the Senshi.
Rose then adjusted her aim to intercept the incoming shots. She then walked the beams forward until she hit the gun and knocked it out of Sarah's armored hands. The weapon tumbled to the ground, where it shattered and vanished.
Sarah powered her jets up again and released another volley of missiles. Her eyes widened when Rose spread her beams and used them to try to plow through the incoming fire. Most of the missiles were destroyed,, but a few managed to hit the Senshi.
Sailor Rose grabbed her sister's left arm and Sarah, much to her surprise, found herself overpowered by the magical girl. With her free hand she pointed the missile launcher at her sister's head.
"I got you!" Sarah said triumphantly. She then looked down to see that Rose had a glowing fist pointed at her chest. "Oh nuts," Sarah said before cutting her engines again, and disconnecting the armor on her left arm, she slipped out.
Sailor Rose crushed the empty armor she was holding and pursued. She dodged another batch of micro-missiles. This time, she knew their pattern of attack and intercepted all of them.
With her unarmored arm, Sarah grabbed a sidearm attached to her belt and managed to get off one shot before a red beam knocked it out of her hand. The younger redhead growled and launched one more volley of missiles.
Rose narrowed her eyes and with one arm she intercepted most of the missiles, while with the other she plucked a few out of the air, temporarily disabled their fuses, and flipped them back at Sarah.
"Oh, crap," Sarah said, as she used her armored hand to block her own weapons. Her altitude was already low, and she used this as an opportunity to make landfall. "Okay, how the hell did you do that?" she shouted to her airborne sister.
Sailor Rose gently landed on her high-heeled boots. "Your missiles are impressive. It took me a few rounds to find a good countermeasure to them. once I could catch them, though, it was pretty easy to use them against you."
"Okay, so you can do more than just brute force your way in," Sarah noted.
"That would have been too easy," Sailor Rose said as she summoned her wand.
"That's what you used to make your shield?"
"Yeah, and what the hacker-girl gave me nightmares about," Rose frowned as she looked at her wand. "But this thing can also do some other wild stuff. It's kinda like my laptop, but for my higher fighting stuff. Like an extra set of power focusing."
"So, what else does it do?"
"Well, I could twirl, spin, give a magic girl pose and then blast something with a huge purification blast."
"Purification?" Sarah asked as she shifted out of her template.
"Yup! It'll fry just about anything it touches," Sailor Rose smiled. She then closed her eyes and in a flash she had returned to her blouse and skirt.
"How the hell is that purification?"
"The leftover atoms would be really clean, and on its lower settings it can remove dark taints, possession, and stuff like that," Ranma added.
"Oh-kay. And what about that strength you had back there? I mean, you overpowered my armor."
"Oh, that? I had the chance to get stronger. I think it will be useful if I ever have to fight a mech again." Ranma's expression turned serious. "We should start upgrading you guys. You could probably do with just some new weapons, maybe a shield or two. Dan… Poor guy needs regeneration. Maybe something based off of one of those newer Terminators."
Ranma summoned a white palmtop and started making notes with a green stylus. The device had the same red rose logo on the back and ergonomic style as her laptop. "Allison… her invisibility is good, but we have to do something with the side effects of the chemical she uses. I mean, we can't have her going crazy. Well, worse. And that's just the start. She's the weakest of all of us." The redhead paused to think, tapping the stylus on her lips. "Well… that's pretty out there, but it might work."
"You're thinking of upgrades for all of us?" Sarah asked. "What are you planning?"
"The hacker-girl's not going to be happy now that she can't control me. We have to be ready. She'll probably attack with all she has."
"And it's not like any of us are adverse to upgrading ourselves." Sarah nodded. She then noticed what Ranma was writing into. "Did you just make a palmtop?"
"It wasn't much." Ranma blushed. "I mean, it's just an input device and display. It can't do any of the more advanced stuff that my laptop can. I know I don't need to take notes this way, but it helps me think."
"So instead of just recording the notes all internally, you just write them down onto a computer that's really just another part of you?" Sarah asked. She then noticed that the stylus was the same green color as Ranma's wand and that its white tip looked an awful lot like a rosebud. That much made sense. All this stuff had the same theme, and was just different parts of Ranma.
"I know, I know."
Sarah's father, Sheriff Jack O'Neil, slumped down into the living room recliner. It had been another hard day at the station. Confusion crossed his face when he saw a redhead glide into the room wearing a formal green dress and carefully maintained hair. "Ranma? Is something wrong?" the law officer asked.
"Well… I decided to solve my hacker problem, and there were some side effects," Ranma sighed.
"Side effects?" Jack asked. "So, what happened?"
"I guess it is a good thing Dan taped it," Ranma said as she summoned her laptop and played the recording of her transformation. As it happened she explained the steps of the transformation.
"So… you merged with your template, and are now a magic princess?" Jack asked. He felt a fairly strong desire to have a drink.
"It was a gamble. On the one hand, I'm in control of myself now. On the other, I'm like this," Ranma said as she rubbed her right hand over her left bracelet.
"Well, it's good that you're in control, and it's good you told me about this," Jack said as he got up and went to the kitchen. "Of course, the Town Fathers would have wondered about this. I mean… living magic? Organic technology? That's something," Jack said as he poured himself a double-shot, drank it and refilled the glass. He then returned to the living room.
"You okay?" Ranma asked after making her laptop disappear.
"Oh, yes, it's just that there's some girl in this town who was using you as an experiment in new advances in Calash magic. I just hope this doesn't erupt into a big fight."
Ranma recalled her own plans for upgrading her friends. "I hope it doesn't, too. Don't you care that I'm a magic princess now?"
Jack paused in thought for a bit. "Magic princess of what is the question."
"Since I'm Princess Rose, my guess would be something to do with roses or plants in general."
"So you've got weird plant magic now? Fits." Jack sat back down into his chair.
"I can try some stuff later, but right now there's other things to take care of," Ranma agreed
"I see. Oh, the stuff you're wearing, I think your mother would have liked very much. She had her share of jeans and shirts, but she liked looking nice too."
"Thanks," Ranma blushed.
"Well, the garden has been abandoned since your mother died. It could use some work," Jack proposed mostly in jest.
"Really? Thanks!" Ranma ran over and hugged Jack.
As a manically giggling Ranma ran out of the room, Jack consumed the drink he had been holding. When he went back to work tomorrow, he would find the necessary forms. It was time for him to act like a father… for both of his children.
"And what are you up to?" Sarah asked as she looked at Ranma. The princess was sitting on her legs with her knees together with her laptop in front of her. Two stacks of compact discs were next to her.
"I'm installing a few things," Ranma said as she ejected a disc and replaced it with another.
Sarah looked over some of the titles. There were some music discs, some games, a few CAD discs, a couple programming languages, and various other applications. "I see you raided my and Dan's collections."
Ranma nodded. "Yeah, I felt that my laptop was lacking a few things."
"You are your laptop," Sarah remarked dryly.
"That's true," Ranma agreed. She swapped discs again. "So what's up?"
"I was wondering if you were ready to try going back to male."
"Oh yeah! Thanks for reminding me, Sis. Just let me finish up." Ranma quickly transferred the remaining data.
"So, you think you're stable enough?" Sarah asked as Ranma closed her laptop and made it disappear.
"Yeah, I think so," Ranma said as she jumped up to a standing position.
"You need water?"
"Nope!" Ranma smiled as she closed her eyes. Her form glowed and shifted. "Wow! That worked," Ranma said as he flexed his arm. He was dressed in his normal black pants and red shirt.
"So everything worked out?" Sarah asked. "You can even go male?" The redhead looked at her brother's distant expression. "What's wrong?"
"I… I… can't feel it," Ranma flexed his arm again. "My mind's empty," he slowly said as look of horror crossed his face.
"What's wrong?" Sarah repeated. "Oh no…."
"I should have known," Ranma sighed, leaning against the bed frame. He closed his eyes, glowed, and shifted back into female form and into her full princess mode. She smiled at the sensation. She was whole again.
"I was worried about this," she sighed as she flipped one of her bangs. "That living magic's a part of me, and when I'm male….."
"It's missing," Sarah completed. "I'm sorry, bro."
Ranma shifted into slightly more casual clothes. "It's okay. Even if there weren't any side effects, I still would have been a girl that turned into a guy."
"So your manhood?"
"Again, part of the price for being free."
Sarah put her hand on the other redhead's shoulder. "Sis… we're going to get the bitch that did this to you. We're going to make her pay."
Ranma smiled in return. "Of course we will. We're the ones in control now. She'll have to start reacting to us."
"Wild Rose School?" Dan asked as he put his truck into park and turned off the turbojet engine he had installed in it.
"I am a martial artist," Ranma shrugged from the backseat.
"I thought you were a princess," Allison teased.
Ranma narrowed her made-up eyes. "I can be both."
"So, Wild Rose? Yeah that fits you," Sarah said, next to Ranma.
"Technically, it will be the Wild Rose branch of Anything Goes," Ranma explained. "It's gonna be too different from my… father's style." The redhead frowned.
"So it's gonna use all your living magic stuff, then?" Dan asked before getting out of the truck.
"That'll narrow down who you can teach it to," Allison remarked.
Ranma got out of the truck after Sarah did. "Don't worry about that. It's way too early for students anyway," the princess said as she smoothed her long dress and checked her bow.
"You look nice," Allison asked. "Bit more than your normal blouse and skirt."
"I've only been like this for twenty-four hours."
"Still, you spent a bunch of time this morning standing in front of a mirror deciding what to wear," Sarah sighed.
"I wanted to make a good impression. It's my first day here as… you know," Ranma quietly said.
"Wow, vain, and vacillating over first appearances. Yeah, you're a real girl," Allison laughed.
"Girl?" Ranma asked. "I'm not that mundane."
"There's that strong ego!"
"Well, how were your dreams last night?" Sarah asked.
Ranma smiled, her eyes seeming to sparkle. "It was great. I was in my pretty gown and I had hunted down the hacker girl and had blasted her with my wand. I then demolished her base and plowed it over into a giant garden."
"That sounds nice." Allison nodded in approval. "And don't worry about your clothes. You did good. Sure your dress is a bit formal, but that's kinda your thing, I guess."
"Thanks!" Ranma beamed as she posed in her knee-length dress. It was white with red trim. A red belt patterned in white roses cinched it in slightly. She was wearing just a bit less makeup than in her princess mode, and had on her normal pendant, hanging earrings and ring. The large bow in the back of her neck was white.
Sarah initially wanted to say something like "Don't encourage her", but when she saw her sister's pleased expression decided against it. Instead she asked something else as they walked from the parking lot to the school. "So, no purse or backpack?"
"Why would I need those?" Ranma shrugged. "I've already scanned the books we use."
Sarah sighed in embarrassment. "And with your laptop, palm, and stylus you don't need to carry anything."
"So you've learned everything in those textbooks?" Dan asked.
Ranma laughed. "Why waste the time on all that? The data's just stored in my memory. I don't understand anything I haven't learned yet, but I guess I can spend class time figuring it out, though."
"Well, let's get this first impression over with. Though I don't know how many people will care that you're a girl now, Ran-man. I mean, they didn't care about the curse." Dan had heard from Sarah what had happened when Ranma had tried to go male.
"I think they'll be more worried by what their I/O spheres show them," Sarah stated. "Ranma does have this living magic in her, after all."
"Oh, that? Erika helped me find a way to give off fake signals. Anyone who passively scans me will just get a girl with a powerful but normal template."
"And an active scan or if someone tried to log into you?" Sarah asked.
"Then they get a nasty little surprise," Ranma smiled darkly.
"You think you can trace back to the I/O sphere tracking you?"
"I was able to do it yesterday during my transformation," Ranma shrugged.
"What will you do?" Allison asked.
"To start with, I'll do to them what I did to you, but much harder to get out of. Then, I'll destroy every piece of equipment I can connect to. Of course, I'll trace out their location if possible."
"Harsh." Dan smiled.
"No one is violating my mind ever again," Ranma swore. "I am the magic. The template is me. Any hacker will be fighting me if they tried."
Ned Winston sighed as he sipped his coffee in the student lounge. On the second floor, it overlooked the main entranceway to the school. He had his laptop and I/O sphere out and was working on some of his mech plans when something caught his attention. He normally kept his sphere in passive scan. It was a handy way to keep on tabs with his classmate's templates.
"Oh, Ranma and her friends are here," Ned absently noted when he got their feed. "That's… strange." He examined the signal feed from Ranma. It was a good template, but hardly seemed powerful enough to take down that mech back then.
Ned's confusion grew when he pulled up a previous scan of Ranma's. "That's strange. It's different. I thought she was locked. I guess that hacker could have changed it." He then looked down to the second floor and caught sight of the redhead in question.
She cleans up pretty well, Ned thought to himself as he packed up his equipment. He felt it was a good idea to talk to them. Something was up. He hoped that they had found a way to get control of Ranma's template. That would nicely resolve this whole Rebecca thing, or at least his responsibility.
He adjusted his jacket and climbed down the stairs and caught up with them. The more femininely dressed redhead was happily chatting with Ned's sister's friend Abby. The others in Ranma's group seemed a bit nervous and… confused.
"It was nice talking to you," Ranma smiled as she finished talking to Sarah's childhood friend.
"Great! And Ranma, I don't think you'll have too many problems here. Most people don't care that you're a girl now, and those that do are jerks like Brad, anyway," Abby reassured.
Ranma blushed slightly. "Thanks."
Abby waved and walked off to her own class.
"Thank goodness for apathy," Ranma smiled.
"It's comes in handy," Ned interjected. "So, what's new?"
Ranma turned to face him and Ned froze. Piercing blue eyes instantly turned from amused to calculating. For a brief instant her gaze had gotten even fiercer than the last time they had met. Ned was about to step back when her expression warmed. "Hi, Ned. I'm doing fine. Well… I am now. I had to do some drastic things to deal with the hacker girl, but I'm in control now." Her lips formed a playful smirk.
"That's good," Ned said, guarding his expression. Rebecca's control had been defeated. That was interesting. He stole another glance at Ranma. Her face looked open but there was something there. Those blue eyes were still tracking him.
"Oh, by the way." The redhead stepped closer to Ned with a cute look on her face and leaned next to him. "If you've learned anything new about the hacker-girl, I'd really… appreciate it," she said, running her fingers through his hair.
Ned blinked; the physical contact seemed to tingle. "Uh…. There's a few leads I've been chasing. On those stolen designs of mine. Might be another dead end but… might not," he stated. It was hard to think. Her eyes still looked like they were taking him apart piece by piece.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Ranma smiled. "Do tell me if you get anything useful." She briefly fluttered her eyelashes.
"Um… okay," Ned said as he stepped back. "I'll do my best. See you later." After hearing Ranma say goodbye, he turned away. As this happened, he caught a series of horrified, confused, and puzzled glances from Ranma's friends.
"What the hell was that?" Sarah asked.
"I guess you could do worse than Ned," Allison stated. "Well, welcome to the team," the blonde laughed.
"Hey! It's not like that!" Ranma defended. "I did it all the time back in Nerima."
"Huh?" Sarah asked.
"The cute act's a great way to get people to do stuff for you."
"Really?" Dan asked. "Hmm…."
"Oh no, you don't," Allison said to her boyfriend.
"What? You're worried of this?" Dan said before shifting into girl-form. "Why can't you trust me?" Dan pouted as she clung to the blonde girl.
Allison's eye twitched as she looked at the red-eyed, dark-makeup-and-black wearing girl. "Must… resist… cute Goth…."
"Ranma! You're corrupting my cousin!" Sarah paused to think over what she just said. "Impressive. Good job."
"Are you going to cling to me all day?" Allison asked.
Dan nodded before leaning her head back onto her girlfriend's shoulder.
"Okay," the blonde sighed as she wrapped her arm around the girl leaning on her.
"You do know you're not punishing her at all, right?" Sarah asked her cousin.
"Let them have their fun," Ranma added.
"Looking good," Sarah said as she studied the list on Ranma's laptop.
"It's just a few suggestions for improvement."
"Well, some of your weapons require too much power to use, and that shield you have in mind is a bit much…."
"Sis, you need a solid shield. It's your biggest weakness. That, and you're sorely lacking some long-range heavy weapons," Ranma said as she ate the lunch she purchased.
"Heh… you couldn't summon food, could you?" Allison teased.
"I forgot, okay?" Ranma glared. "At least I had a purse I could summon."
"Well, maybe we can fit this stuff in," Sarah said as she looked over the proposed designs.
"Great!" Ranma beamed. "We can get started on Dan's next."
"Oh dear…." Dan said from next to Allison.
"It's just an idea," Ranma proposed. Her face suddenly turned dark, before an amused smile crossed her face.
"Sis?" Sarah asked.
"Hacker's trying to get in! I found her!" Ranma gleefully said.
From the bedroom of her house, Rebecca Langley narrowed her eyes. She was planning on checking in on her test subject yesterday, but she had failed to show up at school. The I/O sphere she had stashed in the school had picked up on the test subject and that's when the trouble started.
It looked like the template had accepted her password, but that when things started to get strange. The connection to the computer she had plugged into the I/O sphere started to act up.
A shock seemed to come out of her laptop and her arms were suddenly encased in silk and lace and her clothing had blossomed out into some glittery monstrosity. She gasped as her chest was constricted by a corset and her hair seemed to restyle itself into an upswept bridal nightmare.
Before Rebecca could freak out at what had been done to her, a series of warnings flashed onto her computer's screen. "This can't be…." Rebecca muttered as she grabbed the cables connecting her laptop to the rest of her system with a gloved hand and yanked.
Ignoring her state of dress, she started to work. The hacker watched in horror as the intruder managed to counteract everything she did. It was futile. Rebecca snarled in anger and pulled the power and batteries out of the laptop.
She looked at her reflection on the dead screen and finally noticed what had been done to her. "How did… God! Look at this makeup!" She then looked closer at the gown she had been stuffed into.
"No… It can't be. She did this to me?" Rebecca stated. "How did my test subject get away from me? She's this powerful?" she asked as she tried to peel off one of the gloves. It was slow going.
"This…. isn't good." Rebecca sighed. "The experiment has escaped my control. It's time to put it down. Oh God! What happened to my hair? Why can't this move?"
Ranma walked down from the range with a smile on her face. She made her way back to the house quickly.
"Nice threads," Sarah said, pausing her searching of the kitchen cabinets.
"Thanks," Ranma said as she showed off her white silk gi. It had dark red trim and green kanji on the back that said "Wild Rose".
"So, having fun training?" Sarah asked as she resumed rummaging. "Yes! Here's the cereal. Why can't Dan just keep it in the same place?"
"Yup," Ranma smiled. "I've got a few things in mind."
"Sorry to hear that you didn't get anything from the hacker."
"The hacker-girl managed to isolate and shut down her stuff. At least I got some of her programs and managed to stick her into that gown." Ranma giggled at that.
"I don't get that. Didn't you have to see her to dress her that way?" Sarah asked.
"Not much. Technically, I didn't dress her like that. A little program of mine did. I know for sure she's a female, but that's about it. Maybe if I blindly dressed our suspects, I'd figure it out."
"I think that's a bit far."
"But this hacker-girl's a wily one, and annoyingly half of our suspect list is absent from school. There was nothing identifying in her own computer. I'm sure she kept it that way as a precaution."
After she poured herself a bowl of cereal, Sarah looked at her sister again. "Do you always wear that bow?"
"Hey! I like it, okay? It reminds me of an old friend."
"Sorry, sis. It's okay," Sarah defused. "It does look good."
"It's all right." Ranma smiled. "I'm still getting used to all this." She then closed her eyes and her clothing shifted to a green tank top and a pair of white shorts. She only wore her ring and a pair of simple silver rose-stud earrings. Her feet were bare as well.
"That's a bit casual for you," Sarah noted.
"I'm going to be gardening, silly," Ranma laughed.
"You're going to work on Mom's old garden?"
"Yup!" Ranma nodded.
"The tools are still in the shed."
"Why would I use tools? I want to feel the dirt myself. Besides, I'm strong enough."
Sarah smiled. "That's really good. Some flowers would cheer this place up. Going for roses, I bet."
"Of course." Ranma blushed.
After her sister left, Sarah dropped her smile. Something had to be done. They had to talk.
Jack O'Neil walked around the back of his house carrying a small folder. He turned the corner to see a redhead clearing an overgrown and wild garden with her bare hands. They were glowing a soft white, but they were still bare. She had already cleared more than half of the large, meandering hillside garden.
As O'Neil walked up, he looked over the ground that had been cleared. It looked like freshly tilled potting soil, instead of the thin soil-over-clay that was natural to the area. As he watched, he could see the soil changing under the effects of the girl's energy.
"Impressive," he said when the redhead finally looked up at him.
"Hello, Jack," Ranma greeted, banishing the glow in her hands.
"That's something that I wanted to talk about," the lawman said as he handed the folder over to the girl.
Ranma opened the folder and read the papers. "What's this for?"
"I've treated my wife's child lousy. I know I'm not here much for Sarah, but I wasn't here for you at all. You made a huge decision on your own. I understand if you don't want to do this."
"I'd be honored… dad." Ranma smiled as she hugged her new father.
"Welcome to the family," Jack said as he returned the hug.
After it was over, Ranma went back to the paperwork. "Uh, dad…" The redhead smiled. It was good to be able to say that again. "You left my name blank at the end of this and my gender at the start."
"Well, I didn't know if you wanted to have my last name, or change your first, and with your transformation…." Jack explained while waving his hand.
"Your name was good enough for Mom." Ranma smiled as she summoned her green stylus which quickly changed into a pen. She then filled out the name line, checked a gender box, signed the paperwork, and handed it back to Jack.
"Ranma Rose O'Neil," Jack said reading the new name. "It's a fine name. I like how it rolls of the tongue. Nice." The gender the new O'Neil had checked was what the officer expected it to be.
"Thanks. Wow, that was easy."
"Things are done casually around here." Jack shrugged. "So, what are you planning to do here?" he asked, taking a closer look at the garden.
Jack knew by the size of his new daughter's grin, that he was going to be here for a while.
As she got ready for bed, Sarah narrowed her eyes as she watched her sister shift into just wearing her underwear. The other redhead was wearing a modest white bra and panties set. Of course they were rose patterned. "What's wrong, sis?"
Ranma frowned at her dresser and her section of the closet. "I'm torn. I mean, I could leave this stuff here, but it's a reminder of what I can't do anymore. I don't want to toss it out either."
"Maybe you can just point your hand and turn all of Ranma's stuff into yours, Rose," Sarah evenly stated.
"Sis? I am Ranma," the older redhead stated.
"Yes, you told us at dinner. You're now Ranma Rose O'Neil. You're also female. Of course, you're the Rose Princess. Which one is it? I'd like to know whether or not my brother survived yesterday."
"Sis? Why are you doing this…? Can't you accept me…? I'm… afraid." Tears started to form into the magical princess's eyes.
Sarah reached over and cupped her sister's chin in her hand. "Next time, tell me what's got you worried. Don't just hide behind some happy facade."
Ranma blinked. Her expression rapidly shifting. "What… this was a test?"
"Before you say anything, I'll accept you even if the only remnants of Ranma in you are his memories. No matter what, you're still family and I still love you."
"So you… knew…" Ranma sighed.
"That you were being a tad more happy than you were? A bit. You slipped up a little in the bathroom of the diner."
Ranma nodded. "First. I really am happy. That's still true. I'm choosing to be happy with what I am, but… I'm also scared. This is still very new for me, and I'm not even sure what I am," Ranma sighed. "Sorry for trying to hide this. I thought I'd be all sorted out once I got a chance to coalesce more."
"Wow. For someone who thinks a lot faster than us normal humans, that's a lot of pauses," Sarah joked.
Ranma formed a small smile at that.
"Look, even a magical, artificially enhanced life-form can get scared. Just remember you have a family that can help you," Sarah said as she hugged Ranma.
"I know. I know," Ranma said as a few more tears escaped her eyes.
"So, anything you want to talk about?" Sarah asked after they had finished hugging.
"Well, one thing worried me," Ranma's eyes darted around the room and her voice became quiet. "I'm a princess. I accept that. Honestly, I really like it. However, princesses almost always have one thing…."
"They have a lot of things, sis: magical powers, curses, Senshi, castles, evil witches…."
"You overlooked the obvious." Ranma sighed. "Princess. For every princess there's usually a prince."
To be continued.
Author's notes: Well, guess some of you though you'd never see anymore of this story. ^_^ Special thanks to PyroRaven for getting me interested in this story again.
Thanks to my prereaders: PyroRaven, Jerry Starfire, Wray, Patrick, Truk, and Mondu.
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