A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon crossover story
by Josh Temple
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Chapter 6: Requirements and Reactivations
A green-eyed young man with a shaggy mop of black hair sighed as he looked out the window of his hotel room. Coincidently, the window faced the jagged concrete and glass building of the Canada Trust Tower. It had been a long journey, but he had arrived.
The enemy was here. His thoughts of vengeance were carefully muted. There were other dangers. Caution had to be taken; the foe had become stronger and more vile than he had thought possible
Fortunately, he had the experience and the abilities to prevail. He looked at his watch. His partner should be returning shortly that is, if her ride were not delayed.
The UH-60L version of the Black Hawk has an "External Stores Support System". It consists of a pair of removable four-station pylons. These can carry weapons pods or external fuel tanks. These tanks can extend the range of the Black Hawk to 1,150 nautical miles. Given a start at the Company site to the south of Dalandzadgad, Mongolia, this placed nearly the entire Qinghai province within an acceptable distance.
A pair of low-flying helicopters crossed the Mongolian border and entered the People's Republic of China. Still before sunrise, the passage of the twin aircraft was only seen as a pair of faded radar blips. The Chinese soldiers in that section had been given specific orders. They were not questioned. The two echoes were allowed to enter their country.
Inside one of the helicopters, Jacob worried about what the Company had done to get such access, but if they were going to try to cure Ranma, they had to go to Jusenkyou. All he knew was that the helicopters were required to have the Company logo affixed to their aft sides. Having obvious identification on Operations vehicles was not a preferred tactic, but apparently the Chinese Government insisted. Jacob was suspicious of this, but he had his orders.
Anything else would eat away at the teen, causing his suspicion and paranoia to grow. There were other ways to get him to Jusenkyou, but this was by far the fastest, and time was very critical.
Jacob sighed and leaned back, listening to the drone of the engines and the rotor blades. Dressed in the standard operations armor, Jacob's goggles were pulled up onto his helmet and the bottom of his balaclava was pulled below his chin. Most of the other agents in the transport were dressed similarly. The pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and the two gunners had their goggles pulled down and set to lowlight enhancement.
Ranma was looking out the darkened window. In three hours he would be there. The Company was making good on its promise. He worried whether or not the pools would actually cure him. He would find out soon enough.
"Arrival in seven," the pilot of the lead helicopter said into his headset.
Ranma, who still refused to wear a communications device, was told when Kasumi tapped his arm. She then showed him her left hand. Her ring finger was tucked under her thumb and her other fingers were extended. She then pointed to the door on the side of the helicopter.
Ranma nodded in understanding. For the last few minutes the rolling countryside has started to look rather familiar. He was almost there.
By now the pilot could see the landing zone. It was a roughly flat clearing. More interestingly was the smallish valley to the east of the LZ. In the early morning light, it looked picturesque, hundreds of small pools partially shrouded in wisps of fog.
The agent also knew what this place really was. It was an H-Type location. Those tiny ponds of water possessed some sort of Pattern-altering ability. The pilots were under strict orders to not fly too close to them.
Their scanners showed that the area was clear, although Jusenkyou itself was generating some interference. The lead helicopter then nosed down to the LZ while the other Black Hawk provided cover. Inside, the agents pulled down their goggles and checked their weapons.
The gunners watched the field as the helicopter neared the earth. When it was a couple of feet above the ground, the Black Hawk stopped and hovered. Kasumi was the first one off. She jumped over, ran forward several feet, and then took a prone position. Five other agents, Kasumi's three plus two who were proficient in Mandarin and Cantonese, exited and set up a perimeter.
Ranma then jumped out followed by the Kuno girl. After walking a few feet, the powerful downdraft intensified before slowly reducing. Ranma turned to see the helicopter lift off.
"Don't. It's bad luck," the demon said as she looked at Ranma.
"Let's go!" Kasumi ordered.
As Jacob watched as the squad made its way to the rally point, he thanked the engineers behind the Talent Keyhole programs. They were the ones that developed Corona, the world's first overhead satellite imagery system.
Things had advanced much since the early sixties. Back then, the satellites had Kodak cameras that deorbited and returned to earth when they ran out of film. Now essentially imagery was available to private businesses, although the Company itself never bothered with such issues. As a think tank with several contracts with the defense and intelligence sector, Willard International Consulting enjoyed certain fringe benefits.
However, Jacob did not rely solely on such reconnaissance. Procedure was to check the area with scanners and visual reconnaissance before deploying ground troops. The original Company survey of the area indicated that here were several unstable and potentially violent factions at work in the immediate area.
Lieutenant Tendo stopped at the ridgeline that overlooked the valley. She scanned the target area. Finding it clear, the agent gave her orders. Gabriel, Aram, Sophie, and Shigeru, one of the translators from WIC Japan, stayed behind to secure the ridgeline while Kasumi, Ranma, Kuno, and Hyuga, the other translator, walked down the slope into the valley itself.
Ranma smirked. He had been cursed for nearly half a year, and now he would get rid of it. The water in the Company had in storage did not work, but it was almost thirty years old. Here it was fresh and still potent. Ranma looked at his companions and sighed.
"You're not coming all the way with me?"
"Personally, I'd rather not," Kasumi stated as she looked at the pools.
"Then why are you here?"
"Escort, and in case a translator is needed."
"I told you the guide speaks Japanese."
"Doesn't hurt to be prepared," Kasumi responded.
The warrior watched as the two soldiers escorted a pair of teenagers into the cursed valley. The uniforms were unfamiliar to her. She gave a quizzical glance to her partner who shook her head in negation. Neither recognized any in the group.
Ever since they heard the approaching aircraft, they had been wary. The two other members of their patrol had run back to alert the village. Overflights were a rare enough occurrence that they warranted observation.
They saw the dark helicopter land and deposit a squad of soldiers. The grey symbols on the side of the machine were quickly memorized. She watched the machine lift back up into the air. The young woman then motioned to her partner that it was time to go back to Jusenkyou.
What she saw was quite familiar. One of the teenagers was talking to the valley's caretaker while the girl and the two soldiers watched. After a brief conversation the guide pointed to a specific pool. As the man led the two teens towards it, he kept warily glancing back at the two following soldiers.
The warrior noted that they were maintaining their distance from the springs. She then curiously watched as the two teens entered the Nannichuan. The boy did it with great enthusiasm while the girl did it with some reluctance.
The reaction was particularly strange, especially for the spring-of-drowned-man. The girl remained a girl, and the boy turned into a girl. She then watched as the two teenaged girls exited the pool. The raven-haired girl simply shrugged. The redhead's reaction was quite different.
The warrior observed the crimson-tressed girl's rage rise. She also noticed that the girl's clothing had changed. She was now wearing a very tight black leather dress. As the Amazon watched the redhead angrily converse with the guide, she knew something else was amiss. To start with, the girl looked oddly dry for someone who had just been immersed in water.
When she got a look at the furious redhead's eyes it became somewhat clearer. They were burning with a bluish-violet light. She and her partner watched as the guide had the two girls immerse themselves again.
There was no effect. Something else became clearer to the warrior. They were not trying to pick up a curse but instead trying to cure one, and it was not working. The warrior knew that some creatures were immune to the effects of the waters. She also knew that many of those creatures were not particularly kind to humans.
The situation here was most strange. The girl hoped that the rest of her team would return with reinforcements, and more importantly, orders about what exactly she should do.
By the time they arrived, the pair of strange teenage girls, the soldiers, and their helicopters had left. Naturally, the Guide was interviewed, but his story, while informative, did not answer any real questions.
On an abandoned airstrip to the South of Dalandzadgad, Mongolia, was a WIC Field Command Base. A collection of rather ugly mobile buildings, the facility provided housing and workspace for a couple dozen agents. The command building was made from three interconnected boxes that had some resemblance to shipping containers.
Inside the building was a room that doubled as both mess hall and briefing room. Sulking at one of the tables was Ranma Saotome. The martial artist was staring down at the table in front of him.
Across from him sat another teenage girl. "I'm sorry, Mistress," she apologized in a quiet voice.
"Dear lord, now what did you do?" Ranma groaned.
Confusion clouded the girl's face, "Nothing, you just seem unhappy that you're still a demon."
"What? You couldn't understand why I preferred to be human," Ranma stated.
"I don't, but I know that you do want to be fully human," the young demoness admitted. "And I'm sorry that you didn't get your wish."
"Oh, thanks," Ranma replied looking up. Kuno was actually doing something nice, and more importantly, normal. He decided to try some apologizing of his own. "I know how hard it is. I've had to deal with being turned into a female demon too. It's not permanent for me, but--"
"If you want, I can help cheer you up," the girl offered as she licked her lips and leaned across the table.
“No! You sick freak! Damn it!" Ranma cried as he pulled back in revulsion. "I try to do one nice thing, and look what happens! Gahh!" He then got up and left the room, nearly running into the Company agent that was posted on the outside of the door.
The girl looked down at the table and sighed.
Ami carried the mostly-empty laundry bag down the basement hallway. According to the fire escape map, the apartment building's laundry room should be just a little further down and to the left. The room was in the expected location. She opened the door to find the lights on in the room and one of the washers in operation.
Sitting at the table in the center of the drab basement room was one of her classmates. Ami immediately recognized the Seifuku-clad girl who appeared to be doing homework. She had dark auburn hair and greenish-grey eyes. "Hi, Janet," Ami cautiously greeted as she entered the room. Ever since Usagi's brush with Murdock, they had been slightly on edge.
"Oh, hi, Ami," Janet Fraiser said cheerily as she looked up from her work. "You live here too? And you've already run out of clothes?" she then asked with some surprise.
"Yeah, I do," Ami said, she then looked at her diminutive cloth bag and sighed. "I mean live here. Not that I'm out of clothes. One of my roommates spilled something on a blouse she was borrowing, and I have to wash it before the stain sets in." She said with some irritation. The other inner Senshi were her friends, but she wondered if they could stand living with each other. Ami then went to one of the unused washing machines and started to pretreat the stained blouse.
"Ahh," Janet stated in understanding.
"Why are you down here? I mean, you transferred the same day as I did," Ami asked as she loaded the blouse and the rest of her dirty laundry into the machine. She was going to have to do the wash anyway, might as well get some other clothes clean as well.
"Simple," Janet replied as she wrote another line of equations in her notebook. "The freight movers that my mother contracted lost our stuff," the girl said as she shook her head. "We're stuck with what was in our carry-on and stuff we bought here. Hell, that's why I'm in this thing," Janet said, pointing to the schoolgirl uniform she was wearing.
"Oh, that's a shame."
Janet simply shrugged and drew a sketch to accompany the equations she had previously written.
"What are you doing? School's still closed," the sapphire-haired girl inquired as she walked over to get a better look at what the other girl was doing. To the Janet's left was a stack of three large textbooks. From her position Ami read their spines. They were all from the Jane's series of technical and military texts. The top one was a soft-cover and the thinnest. The middle and bottom were hard cover and were twice and three times the thickness of the uppermost.
The top was titled "Jane's Military Training Systems 1990." The middle was "Jane's All the World's Aircraft." And the bottom, a volume thicker than a phonebook, was simply called "International Defense Directory." Each had numerous Post-It notes bookmarking various pages.
To Janet's right was a pair of large black three-ring binders. Neatly labeled dividers separated the reams of paper. The one on the top was open. The current page was that of a Drag Coefficient Table.
Ami looked at the books and then at Janet. From the couple of days of classes that they had shared, Ami knew that the other girl was very strong in her math, science, and surprisingly history, but somewhat weak in English. It was not that she was incapable of doing the work. It was just that she did not seem to care about the finer points of literature.
"It's just a personal project," Janet said flipping to a previous page. She then turned her notebook around so Ami could see it. The page was covered with several neat and precise mechanical sketches. They appeared to be the components to a helicopter of some kind. A miniature remote-controlled one if the scale on the drawings were right.
"Interesting," Ami said, looking over the diagrams.
"Yeah. Shame I can't build it for a while," Janet wistfully said. "I had to leave most of my workshop back home in Cheyenne, and what I did bring is lost with the rest of our stuff."
"That is a shame," Ami agreed as she turned to another page.
"What are you going to do?" Janet shrugged as she got up and checked her washing machine. As she turned away and bent down to pick up her clothes and transfer it to a dryer, Janet's jacket rode up slightly, exposing a weapon's tip.
However, this was missed by Ami. Her eyes were on the readout of her recently activated Mercury computer. After confirming that Janet was human, the blue-haired girl reflected on her paranoia. Was she going to scan everyone that she met? Well, it was quite the coincidence that they lived in the same apartment building, but Janet seemed just as surprised as she was.
"When do you think school's going to resume?" Janet asked after she had activated the dryer.
"I guess in a couple of days. It's not like those terrorists blew anything up," Ami answered, carefully looking at the other girl. She remembered that Janet was with them that day, as well as that Rod Ferris.
After Ranma asked how much time was left before their flight landed in Toronto, he thought about that second meeting he had with his mother. She seemed disappointed that the water did not work, but not that surprised at it. There was also something rather strange about the way she said goodbye to him.
Through the window, Ranma looked questioningly at the noonday sky. Apparently it was almost noon Eastern Standard Time. He had left on this trip at three p.m. two days ago. By his estimation, he had spent over twenty-eight hours in planes of one kind or another, excluding the seven hours he had spent in that helicopter. The rest of the time, some eleven hours, was spent waiting for his flights in various Company facilities, and visiting his mother.
Looking at his traveling companions, Ranma noticed that the Company agents were not showing any signs of jetlag. He supposed that that was all a part of the training they went under. It made sense given that the Company seemed to train its agents to be prepared for just about any situation, and to reduce as many of their human weaknesses as possible.
Remarkably, Ranma felt fine as well. He supposed that it was due to his own sleep deprivation training. He did not know enough about jetlag to be sure of this.
In under an hour, the Company Learjet made contact with the northern runway of Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport. It taxied and its passengers disembarked. Ranma went with Kasumi to the lot where her sedan had been parked. As he left, he saw the Kuno girl walking with two of Kasumi's flunkies. Ranma assumed that they were taking her home too.
"Sorry you didn't get cured," Kasumi said as she unlocked her car. She then popped open the trunk and they both deposited their bags inside it.
"Like you really care," Ranma responded after opening the passenger door.
"You would be much happier without it," the Company agent simply stated while she turned the car's ignition.
"Let me guess; bad morale causes poor performance?" Ranma inquired.
Kasumi nodded. She then put the car into gear and drove it out of the airport lot. The drive home was done in silence. They arrived to find an empty house. Furinkan was still closed, so neither Akane nor Nabiki could be at school. Kasumi noted that both Nabiki's and her father's cars were missing. It was likely that they were simply out doing errands or such.
After dropping off his bags in the guest room he was using, Ranma went out to the back yard to practice. Martial arts were difficult at best to do in a passenger plane.
The Drake looked around the plain grey room he was in. Earlier today, he had been at his school overseeing the repairs. The day before, the Company agents from Forensic Pathology section had finished with their analysis and had pulled out. They were replaced by agents from Construction and Maintenance section and Communications and Cryptography section.
They were repairing the damaged walls and floors, upgrading the security systems, and cleaning up the mess. The Drake was glad that his insurance policy was comprehensive enough to cover "acts of mass violence". One advantage of being associated with the Company was a heightened sense of paranoia.
However, now more paranoia was not a benefit. He had been escorted from his office to this room within WIC Toronto-A by a pair of silent Company agents. The school administrator felt an almost prophetic sense of foreboding. He knew what WIC was capable of, and for the first time in his life, he was afraid of them. The Drake looked up to see the heavy metal door open.
"Hello, Drake," Jacob sighed as he entered the small room. He sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the table from the other man.
"What's going on? Did something happen to my boy?" the Drake asked.
"Your son's still a female Pattern D, if that's what you mean," Jacob replied. "I'm sorry, but this meeting is about something else."
The Drake sighed with resignation.
"Why?" Jacob asked. "You knew Genma was here and you knew we were looking for him. Why didn't you tell us?"
The principal looked at the brushed steel of the table. He had to tell the truth. As much as it shamed him, he owed the Company that much.
Jacob patiently waited as the Drake composed his thoughts. The agent concealed his disappointment and worry. Removing and replacing the Drake was a simple enough task, but it still weighed on his conscience. The elder Kuno had been a useful associate to the Company. He had helped recruit over a dozen agents. It was a shame for a man to be brought down like this.
But the Company does not take betrayal lightly, Jacob reminded himself. He would also allow the Drake to explain his actions. He deserved that much.
Ranma looked at the grandfather clock in the den again. It was now almost a quarter of eight. He eased back into the recliner he was sitting in. There was still time.
"You should be happy that school's closed 'til Monday," Nabiki stated as she came into the room.
"I guess," Ranma replied. After the events of two days ago, going back to Furinkan as a student seemed most strange.
"You should be happy. It's less time as Sunshine," Nabiki stated.
Ranma wanted to make a comment about how much he hated that monumentally moronic name, or about the sickness inherent in being happy at getting a vacation just because your school had been held hostage. Instead he shook his head and looked at the clock again. He did not want to be late.
"Okay, at least you got to spend some time with your fiancée," Nabiki tried. She found Kasumi's interest in Ranma puzzling. It was strange. The elder Tendo sister did not seem to have a romantic or a professional interest in Ranma, but some slight hybrid of the two.
"Yeah, I should go talk to her," Ranma said before getting up. It was still early, but maybe he could get some help from Kasumi.
"Okay," Nabiki said as she watched Ranma leave the room. She then heard him go up the stairs. She was slightly hurt and jealous. Kasumi seemed quite reluctant to talk about her work, let alone help Nabiki get an interview, and now this guy that she'd just met was being whisked away to special corporate workshops.
She had the distinct feeling of being in the dark. It was a vertigo-like foreboding sensation. Something was going on, and she was going to find out what it was.
"So where do you want me to drive you?" Kasumi asked in an even voice. She was sitting on her bed, working on her laptop.
"Just a mile or so away from here. Someplace secluded, ideally," Ranma said.
"Why?" Her eyes were still on the computer screen.
"I have some personal business to attend to."
"And you don't want to have the people here wonder where you went?"
"Okay. When do you want to go?"
"That's it? You're not curious as who I'm meeting with?" Ranma was somewhat surprised. He expected her to cooperate — she was under orders to help him — but he thought that the agent would be more inquisitive.
"If you wanted to tell me, you would have," Kasumi stated as she continued to type. She would not pry into Ranma's personal affairs, but she would alert the Company about what Ranma was doing.
"Okay then. You mind taking me now?"
"No problem," Kasumi said simply.
On their way out, Kasumi told her father that Ranma had left some of his stuff at the office and that she was driving him back to pick it up. She then drove him to a tract housing construction site in the outskirts of Carrville, a town eight miles west of the Tendo residence in Markham.
"Where and when should I pick you up?"
Ranma got out of the car and turned back to Kasumi. "I'll just go to your little base downtown when it's over," Ranma stated as he closed his eyes and activated his transformation. His form wavered to that of his female form before the violet, black, and red lightshow turned her into Sailor DarkStar.
As the demon stretched her wings and took to the air and flew off, Agent Tendo pulled out her cell phone.
DarkStar's flight path was on a southerly course. She went for about ten miles until she reached Sunnybrook Park and made her landing. It was rather dark and her approach was seen by only one man.
The redhead then shifted out of her pseudo-Senshi form and into her human-looking form. "At least it's not a fuku," the teenaged demon said as she looked at her little black leather dress.
"Hello, Ranma," the man who had watched her landing greeted.
The redhead simply glared at the man. While he did not call her Sunshine, he did arrange for their meeting at Sunnybrook Park. "What's so urgent?" she asked. The letter that had been placed inside her upper drawer had simply listed the time, location, and name.
"Pluto's getting more and more desperate," the man stated as put his hands in his coat.
"What's she up to now?" Ranma asked, her eyes narrowing.
"If your lack of cooperation continues, she might have to take more drastic measures," Murdock warned.
"That blonde's magic rock is quite powerful. It would be more than enough to make you 'get with the program.' " His voice was dangerously even.
"Fuck," Ranma swore. "What about the Company?"
"As long as you kill those monsters, WIC's happy. Just be careful. If they consider you a threat, they will try and eliminate you. But I doubt you'll start indiscriminately killing people," Murdock said as he began to lead Ranma down one of the park's paths. Two people standing in the same spot while they talked was a bit too suspicious.
"Good. Those clowns are at least accommodating. I still think they're up to something," Ranma said as she scanned the smallish glen they had entered. Her night vision, while not as good as when she's DarkStar, was still quite good.
"Undoubtedly," Murdock admitted. "However, they did try very hard to cure you."
"Yeah, they did that, but I still can't trust them," Ranma said. "Hell, how do I know you haven't been working for them all along?"
"I met you a few days after Pluto turned you into this. If I had been working for the Company, I would have told them all about you."
"No, instead you omitted that fact, knowing full well that I'd meet an agent," Ranma indignantly responded.
"You asked me to keep your secret! And now you're angry that I didn't break that promise to some creepy organization," Murdock countered, his voice finally sounding not amused. "Your father had run off, and the woman that had stolen your humanity had disappeared into thin air. Who helped you after Pluto tricked you? Who was the one that showed you how to stay sane? Who helped you through that month when you were locked? You were alone. I helped you, and I risked my life to keep your secret.
"How was I to know that your father was going to take you here? Are you taking Pluto's side in all this? You know me. Do you really think that I've been orchestrating all this? For god's sake! I'm not some all powerful chess master! I'm just a runic mage."
"I'd like to believe that," Ranma said while looking at her feet. It was hard not to believe him. The only people who thought he was a monster had never met the man and had only learned about him second hand from Pluto. The Company simply considered his motives questionable, but they said that about everyone.
"Look, I'm not asking you to trust me. I'm just here to warn you about Pluto." Murdock shook his head
"What about the other Senshi?"
"They're good girls. A bit naive and overly trusting, though."
"That's what I thought. Can you tell me where Pluto lives?"
Murdock blinked. "You're not thinking of going after her? That's exactly the kind of thing that'll convince Moon to try and purify you."
"I'd like to know where she lives," Ranma repeated, making eye direct eye contact with Murdock. Violet flecked blue eyes locked onto watery grey ones.
"Fine," Murdock stated, looking off to the side. "You know those oval-shaped buildings down by the Skydome? She lives in building three. It's on forty-two Wellington Street, apartment number ten twenty-nine. It's the same number as her birthday," Murdock added smiling slightly.
"Thanks," the redheaded demon stated after she repeated the numbers to herself a couple of times.
"Least I could do," Murdock stated. "Is there anything else I could do for you?"
"Nothing now. I just wish there was a way out of this," Ranma sighed.
"You could always leave. Pack up and go on the road," Murdock suggested as he adjusted his silver tie clasp.
"I can't do that. I can't just run away," Ranma said, mostly to herself.
"The problem of ethics, eh?" Murdock said. He then laughed. His voice then turned grave. "Your morals are what keep you from being a monster. Not your body. Just remember one thing, though: don't allow yourself to be manipulated by them. By anyone."
Ranma nodded. She had strong suspicions as to why Murdock was telling her this. "But what do they want?"
The man smiled. "Victory."
"Thanks, Murdock, that really cleared things up," Ranma sighed. It was the kind of answer she'd grown to expect from him.
He was ready. The years of preparation, the innumerable sacrifices, the grueling training, it was all going to pay off. Tonight he will slay the demon Saotome. He gave his equipment and weapons one last check.
The young man closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He then felt the gentle pull to his right. Thanks to the Assembly's help, his curse was no longer a liability; indeed, it had become a most useful tool. Before he refined it, his sensitivity to certain energies would cause a form of disorientation and confusion. Now, he would never lose focus, never drift off course.
He smiled slightly as he followed the trail. Soon his target was in visual range. The monster matched the description he had been given earlier today. He noticed that there was a bystander in close proximity to the target.
"Someone's coming," Murdock said as he turned to face the person approaching from the southwest.
Ranma looked over to see the dark shape of a large, tall man running towards them. "Damn," she muttered knowing no good could come from this.
"Filthy monster! Your havoc ends now!" the man declared in a bellow.
"Fuck, not again," Murdock sighed, under his breath. "You should get out of the way," he advised Ranma.
Confusion crossed the man's face. "I'm not after you. You're not in need of destruction, human," he said to Murdock, who smiled faintly at this. "I'm after her."
"Damn," Ranma said as she looked at the man. He looked to be a year of so older than she was, and while his face was somewhat familiar, his eyes were completely alien. Ranma would remember someone with eyes in that bright shade of green.
"Damnation is correct, demon. I will be the one to send you back to hell." His eyes narrowed and for a second Ranma could swear that they had flashed brighter.
The mage appraised the intruder before speaking. "I think you can handle this," Murdock laughed to Ranma. He then turned to the teenaged boy. "So this is the caliber of the Assembly's latest crop of acolytes? Let's see if you'll handle this better than the Company." He then tipped his fedora to Ranma before walking off.
"The Company! Hah! Those faithless fools! They're nothing more than mercenaries with fancy toys," the teen responded to Murdock's back.
Ranma smiled slightly at this.
"I wouldn't underestimate them," Murdock said as he continued to depart.
"Now that the bystander has gone, we can get to business," he sneered as he pulled a weapon out of his cloak.
Ranma's eyes widened as she noticed the man's teeth, more specifically the canines that were longer than the ones she had now but shorter than DarkStar's, and the weapon he was wielding. "Ryoga? What the hell's going on? What's with your eyes?" the girl asked. The last time she had seen him was years ago, but she remembered that his eyes were dark brown.
"What's the matter Ranma? Surprised that you're not the only one to have changed? Although unlike you, I have not betrayed humanity," Ryoga taunted as he gripped the handle of his weapon. "My long hunt ends now. Tonight this ends!" He then dove towards his opponent swinging the long blunt object at the redhead.
Ranma dodged to the side and grabbed the ludicrous weapon. As she tried to twist the oddly heavy black umbrella out of his left hand, Ryoga made a move with his right. It was a small silver spray bottle, whose contents were propelled into the demon's face.
The girl sometimes known as Sunshine Saotome had a fraction of a second to chastise herself for falling for such obvious misdirection. After that the skin on her face started to burn off. She fell to the ground as the substance ate through her flesh.
"Do you really think I'd fight a demon without preparing myself?" Ryoga taunted, as he sprayed the dissolving flesh again. "Sadly, holy water alone is not enough to vanquish your vile kind, but the other ingredients can be found with enough effort," he lamented as ribbons of muscle peeled off her skull and burned away. Among the ingredients were holy items such as the blood of an innocent, and chemical ones such as a several powerful acids.
With her last bit of energy Ranma gathered her will. Ryoga saw the mutilated girl's eyes flare a brilliant violet and instinctively stepped back. Bands of black, crimson, and purple energy began to wrap around her. Ryoga responded by trying to crush her skull.
His weapon was blasted away by a violet beam that came from where the girl's eyes would have been. Another hit him in the chest, knocking him back several feet. Ryoga quickly got back to his feet and ran to retrieve his weapon. As he grabbed the hardwood handle of his umbrella, he turned to his foe.
The redhead was standing again, her face no longer being eaten away by blessed fluid. She was now wearing a violet-bowed bikini top, a miniskirt that barely covered her bottom, and black leather knee-high boots with five-inch heels. These were not what he noticed first, not to say that he did not notice them. It did require most of his training to keep his concentration in spite of the nearly naked female in front of him. Knowing her true nature was a dramatic help. Most of his attention was on her fangs, wings, spade-ended tail, and glowing violet eyes.
"I've had to deal with magical girls, secretive corporations, overly-affectionate minions, and monsters with bad Californian accents. I will not accept jilted and revenge-bent demon hunters!" Sailor DarkStar shouted as she summoned a violet orb in each hand. They glowed slightly and were wreathed in white flames. The demonic magical girl then lobbed one of them at her attacker.
Ryoga pushed a button on the handle of his weapon and placed it to block. The material of the umbrella was reinforced to act as a shield against most melee weapons. Magical napalm was not something it had been designed to take. When he saw the orb burst on the surface of the umbrella and ignite, Ryoga pressed the other button on the handle.
As he sidestepped the other orb, he flicked his wrist. The burning umbrella slid off a long metal spar that was concealed within the unusually large central spar. The acolyte had just unsheathed a thin and relatively long oddly-hilted sword. He then trusted forward with the slivery blade.
DarkStar smiled as she saw it approach. Partially-translucent red claws appeared on her fingers, extending several inches beyond her nails. Shock hit her face when her claws met his sword. Instead of neatly cutting through it, the blade's edge began to glow in a sickly green light. Her ethereal claws met resistance.
This did not slow her down; she twisted the blade with one hand while blasting at her enemy with the other. Her tail then snaked around her body and rammed its way into his stomach above the belly button. The minimal armor under his shirt provided next to no resistance. Dozens of razor-sharp filaments from within her tail sprung out and reduced several of his organs to an undifferentiated mush.
His eyes unfocused and his grip lessened. His body fell to the ground, and the demon's tail pulled itself out of him with a sound reminiscent of removing a ladle out of a partially thick stew. This caused blobs of tissue and somewhat firmer pieces of organs to splash out of the gapping wound. Ryoga's blood and chunks of his body slowly dripped off the fins of her tail.
"Stupid fucker," the redhead breathed. "You just had to try to come after me," she then said looking expectantly at the corpse. Something was wrong. She was not getting anything from the body. Unlike those pathetic youma, this was a nice juicy human. "What a ripoff!" the demon grumbled. It was a guilt-free kill, and nothing to show for it.
"The hell?" she mumbled as she noticed something strange going on with the cadaver. Her demonic senses could detect an external energy entering the body and she could visually see the gaping hole in his chest reseal, and the burnt chunk of meat that was his left shoulder regenerate.
The body's eyes flipped open, revealing a pair of glowing orbs. DarkStar growled and lobbed a sphere of napalm at him. With exceptional speed, especially considering that Ryoga's condition, he grabbed his sword and intercepted the round. This caused it to burst with predicable results.
"Let's see you regenerate when you're just a pile of ash," DarkStar taunted the blazing body. She then noticed that the flames were changing color they went from violet and white to a greenish color before sputtering out.
Ryoga then flipped to an upright position. His grey cloak was in tatters and much of his clothing had burned off, revealing armor that resembled a modern version of plate-mail. The burns on his skin, some of them quite severe, were in the process of healing. "Filthy demon, you think I would go down that easily?" Ryoga then asked as he readied his sword. Its blade was shimmering in a green light.
"It would have been nice," DarkStar admitted.
"This is one soul you're not getting," Ryoga said as his body became surrounded in a green light. It took a lot of concentration to do this, but his opponent had proven herself to be quite dangerous.
"Hey!" the redhead cried indignantly. Her eyes then flared and she fired a volley of napalm filled spheres at her enemy. Ryoga did not even move. They hit him, burst, ignited, and burned on his body before turning green and going dead.
Ryoga smiled as he charged at the demon. He then came in from the upper left and slashed down. As DarkStar dodged she noted that the demon hunter was noticeably faster.
Using her claws, she blocked and met his blade. This continued until he overextended his blade in an attempt to pierce her heart. The demon then pushed the blade aside with one hand while her tail made for his crotch.
Ryoga's other hand reached out and grabbed the tail. He did it behind the spade-shaped end, and out of its filaments' reach. Sailor DarkStar responded by pulling her tail back. The acolyte dared not lessen his grip. He could easily regenerate his hand, but it would cost him precious seconds.
As she drew him closer, Ryoga twisted his weapons out of her grip. As he then tried to stab it into her side, DarkStar used her other hand to grab the soft flesh of his neck. Her crimson claws sunk into the green energy that rested above Ryoga's skin.
He watched as a sadistic smirk grew on her blood-colored lips. The acolyte felt the power protecting him wane. He knew what he had to do. Stabbing at her tail with his sword he forced her to move that lethal appendage. When that happened, he released his grip on it. He then used his now free hand to grab a small object he had clipped to the back of his belt. As he pulled the pin and released the spoon, he hopped that the fire had not damaged the mechanism.
Ryoga then positioned the grenade so that it was between him and the demon. The explosion served its purpose. Ryoga and DarkStar were torn apart from each other. The acolyte looked down to see that several pieces of shrapnel had gone through him, causing what would be lethal levels of damage in a normal human. The shrapnel had no supplemental effect on him. It simply tore through his body causing extensive but repairable trauma. He was broken and bleeding, but he would recover. A demonic entity, however, would find the specially engraved and treated metal most unpleasant.
As he picked up his sword he felt his neck. There were several deep and oozing scratches on it. Their healing rate was alarmingly slow. Before he left he gave a brief glance at the demon thrashing on the ground. She was extremely injured too, but seemed much livelier than him.
Even with her right leg bent in several unnatural places, he knew that she could still kill him if he tried to finish her off. Without his full protection, he was quite vulnerable to her attacks. He had to make his decision quickly. She seemed to heal even faster than he did, and in his weakened state he would be quite vulnerable to her fire attacks.
With a sigh he closed his eyes and recalled the rendezvous point. He was loath to do this, but he had no choice. He needed time to heal and rearm. The acolyte also acknowledged that he could not kill the demon alone. He would need help.
The young brunette nervously scanned the area around her car. Her darkened car was parked on a road that bordered the park where the target was. The woman kept her indignation controlled.
Her partner had refused to let her accompany him on this mission. She shook her head at the man's poor judgment. It was foolhardy to go alone against a demon of that power, especially for a lone male to go against one of that type.
She also worried that her partner was keeping things hidden from her. During the pre-mission planning, he was unusually quiet and focused. She looked with some care as a pair of silver sedans and a large black van drove past her.
She only caught a glimpse of who was in them, but it was enough. The Company had arrived on the scene. She felt a shudder go through her spine. Their presence complicated things.
A few minutes later, the women gave a sigh of relief as she saw the large form of her partner. "I told you I should have gone with you!" she reprimanded as he slumped into the passenger seat.
Her partner looked like hell. His clothing and armor was burnt, cut, smashed, and drenched in his own blood. Despite his healing abilities, he was covered in hideous wounds. As he placed his sword in the space between the passenger seat and the center console, she noticed that it was missing its umbrella scabbard.
"Did you at least kill that little demon?" she asked after making sure that none of his wounds were mortal to him.
"No," Ryoga admitted as he concentrated on letting his body heal.
She nearly drove off the road at this "What? What happened? Did she fly off?"
Ryoga simply nodded. He had already concealed so much from her, what did a little more matter?
"Goddamn it!" DarkStar screamed as her shattered leg bones finished knitting back together. She then stood on her somewhat shaky feet. The rest of her wounds had healed, but her clothing, boots, and skin were still covered in blood and gore. Annoyingly, some of it was hers. That damn grenade had to have been designed to be more hurtful to demons. The pieces of it that had embedded in her had burned quite fiercely and left angry wounds that healed slower and with greater pain. She closed her eyes and a brief purple flash cascaded over her, restoring her uniform to its post-transformation condition.
The demon barely noticed this as she took to the air. To a lesser scale, the grenade had damaged her opponent as well. Her extended senses allowed her to follow his blood trail, both literally and metaphorically. She landed at the side of a road that made the southern edge of the park.
Her eyes flared as she looked down either side of the road. Ryoga had obviously gotten into a vehicle of some kind. In the couple minutes it took her to heal, he could have gone miles in any direction. Sailor DarkStar growled as she flexed her fingers. She was so close. In the moment before the grenade went off, she'd felt his shield sputter out and her claws begin to carve into his flesh.
The presence of a pair of humans behind her caused the demon to swivel around. "Oh, it's you guys," the demon said to the Company agents. They were both twenty-something males that were dressed in the expected Company fatigues and armor. They had night vision equipment attached to their goggle assemblies and had good sized rifles pointed at the ground.
"Hey, Gabe. Hey, Aram," she then greeted, looking at both of them as she said their names. She recognized them by their scent, but did not know which one was which.
"What happened out here?" the one on the left asked.
"Yeah, base picked up a pretty big pattern bloom on the remotes," the other stated.
"Some guy who I knew came after me seeking revenge. It's over now," Ranma explained after transforming out of her DarkStar form. With some annoyance she found herself in Sunshine's school uniform.
"Oh, I see," the one on the right replied while the other talked into his headset. "This is Gabriel. Signature has been identified. Situation has been explained. Returning to base."
"Good seeing you," Aram replied as he and his partner turned around.
"You guys mind giving me a ride?" the redheaded schoolgirl inquired. "I'm supposed to meet with Kasumi."
"Sure thing," Aram responded.
The trio quickly crossed the park. Ranma looked over to see that the area where she had fought Ryoga had been marked off, and a pair of agents was guarding the position. The demoness knew that a team from Forensic Pathology section would arrive soon enough. They would then photograph the scene and collect everything of interest from the site. No doubt Ryoga's trick umbrella would eventually end up in some obscure WIC warehouse among other oddities.
They emerged in a parking lot positioned on the park's north side. The lot was splashed with blue and red in slowly rotating patterns. The two grayish-silver sedans with their pulsing headlights taillights and partially hidden grill lights looked remarkably like unmarked police cars. The large black van with its roof mounted lights also bore a strong resemblance to a SWAT vehicle. However, Ranma knew better.
She followed Aram and Gabriel as they commandeered one of the sedans. Ranma found herself in the front passenger seat. After he sat down in the driver's seat, Gabriel handed his rifle to Aram who was sitting in the back. Both agents then pulled their goggles up onto their helmets.
A young man who was tall with broad shoulders and had a dusky complexion observed the proceedings from a distance. He wanted to get closer, but there was a plainclothes agent who was watching the small crowd. The teen did not want to be recognized by the Company. It was bad enough that they were monitoring the school. It would be rather counterproductive to attract this much attention, at least this early in the game.
Ranma walked down the corridors of WIC Toronto-A. She was finally starting to get the hang of the layout of the underground structure. An agent was still providing escort. This time it was in the form of Aram following three paces behind the redhead. Apparently, Gabriel had been called to appear before Jacob or something.
It was a rather amusing -- a lone schoolgirl in a seifuku and a soldier in battledress walking down the grey hallways of what looked to be some type of governmental installation. Soon enough they reached a lounge that was positioned near the main briefing room and the Command and Communications Center.
Entering the room, Ranma was surprised to see Kasumi sitting in the room's couch reading a worn paperback. The woman looked up at Ranma and her subordinate, looked back at her book, and then placed it on an endtable.
"I heard your meeting ended poorly," Kasumi observed as she got up to refill her mug.
"There was an intrusion at the end," Ranma said evenly. She turned around to see that Aram had left and closed the door behind himself, giving the simulation of privacy.
"Someone from your past, you said," Kasumi stated before taking a sip of her coffee.
"Yeah, stupid bastard Ryoga," Ranma remarked as she went to the kitchenette's sink. The fluid from the hot water tap quickly restored the martial artist's birth gender. "What do you know about a group called the Assembly?"
"Their full name is the Assembly of Man. They’re a small, rather fanatical group that hunts demons," Kasumi stated with some distaste. She did not mention that they had a quasi-Christian ideology of purity, one that most Christians would find downright repugnant, and students of history would find worryingly familiar.
"So they're like the Company, then?" Ranma asked as he dried his hands. They felt strangely dirty.
"Not in the slightest. Willard International Consulting is a paramilitary organization. We're organized in a military fashion. We use highly-trained and well-equipped teams to kill our targets. This requires three things: personnel; infrastructure to recruit, train, equip, deploy and command the personnel; and lots of capital to pay for infrastructure, equipment, and personnel."
"And the Assembly can't afford things like helicopters, jets, and giant underground complexes," Ranma surmised. He remembered that Ryoga said that the Company was "nothing more than mercenaries with fancy toys".
"Exactly. But they still want to fight rather powerful Pattern Registering Entities. Small groups of normal humans cannot fight such monsters and hope to survive. Fortunately for the Assembly, they had a solution. It was hard to control, dangerous to their own people, and insanely risky."
"They found a way to make their hunters acolytes whatever, regenerate," Ranma said with realization. This was the exact kind of procedure that Ryoga would take up. Given that the original animosity had never been resolved, three days was a long enough wait. Ryoga would obsess over it until thoughts of revenge consumed his mind.
That his childhood nemesis would turn out to be a demon would greatly compliment Ryoga's quest for revenge. The vengeance was no longer something personal and petty, it was something holy. Ryoga now had a duty to slay the demon.
Ranma wondered how long Ryoga had been a member of this Assembly; if he had joined before or after he had learned of DarkStar.
"Yes, they did," Kasumi answered, interrupting Ranma's thoughts. "We don't exactly know how they did it. Obviously the process is a closely held secret. We do know that it allows them to rapidly recover from injury. Some of their more advanced personnel can even generate something close to a protective aura."
"Yeah, he had that."
"How old is this Ryoga?" Kasumi asked, recalling the name.
"About my age."
"And he's still an acolyte?" Kasumi asked. Ranma nodded. "Then he's something of a prodigy."
"Well, that's just great," Ranma grumbled.
"There's also the issue of how he found you and when he'll come after you again. Clearly, he knows of the curse and DarkStar."
"Don't worry. I can take care of him," Ranma flatly stated.
Kasumi simply nodded.
"Well, this is just what we need," Jacob observed after he watched the conversation between Lieutenant Tendo and Ranma Saotome for the second time. He and Stillwater were in the Commander's office.
"I find it interesting that this acolyte was able to survive a Pattern D-Silver Class 10," Stillwater remarked.
"That is their specialty. I'm sure he had plenty of demon juice and holy handgrenades," Jacob replied using Company slang for holy water that was mostly very caustic acids, and grenades that had various lines of Scripture on them and special chemicals that were quite unpleasant to demons. The effectiveness of the religious aspects was a matter of some debate among Science and Technology section.
Jacob continued. "What I find interesting is that this Ryoga was an associate of Ranma's."
"What's one more coincidence with him? Lord knows he's got enough of them," Stillwater observed as he scratched his goatee.
"You think Murdock's involved?" Jacob asked in a statement that was only half a question.
"When isn't he?"
"Ranma did go to the park with the intention of meeting someone."
Stillwater nodded. "And because we're respecting his privacy somewhat, we don't know who it was or what they said."
"You're still worried that Murdock's playing us all against each other."
"Yes," Stillwater agreed.
Jacob nodded. "What should we do about the Assembly? It's a shame we can't just convince them that DarkStar's not something they have to worry about."
"That would be just great. Finally give those lunatics the proof that we're in league with dark forces. Even if they did call it off, there's still a chance that their hunter might not listen. After all, it is personal to him. Especially after tonight."
"And what if they respond by sending more of their people?"
"If these upstarts want to cross us, I have no problem with putting them in their place."
"There aren't too many of them," Jacob confirmed.
"What about the Drake?"
"You haven't watched the tape?" Jacob asked with some puzzlement
"Yes, I have. It's just that I'd like to get your take on what he said. Do you really believe his explanation?"
"As insane as it sounds. There is some credence to it. A team just found the old school surveillance tape he hid."
"So the blackmail part was true at least," Stillwater observed.
"Any guesses as to who else is with him on that tape?" Jacob said smiling slightly.
Usagi wandered what should have been familiar crystal corridors of the palace. She was wearing the white gown she would later wear as Neo Princess Serenity. That is, if Crystal Tokyo was still a viable future. Her dress did not fit quite right, especially around her waist, but she discounted that.
The formally-dressed blonde eventually found a doorway that lead to a large overhanging balcony. From it she could see the terrain. The first thing she noticed was the sun rising over a body of water that stretched to the horizon. Looking down she could see that the central complex of spires she was in was surrounded by a series of gardens, grass, and paths. These inner courtyards were then bounded by an immense crystal wall. On one side, this wall met the water. On the other sides, buildings had been removed and grass had been planted to provide clear lines of approach.
She could see one impressively solid-looking gatehouse complex. On the road approaching it were a pair of black armored vehicles, and around them were groups of armed black-and-gray-clad soldiers. Looking at the courtyards and the wall again she could see groups of them patrolling the castle complex. When she strained her eyes, she could just barely see the orange of their visors or goggles.
Usagi could also hear the waves smashing onto that one wall, but she did not smell salt in the air. With that piece of knowledge she knew what city she was in. A brief glance at the other building she could see quickly confirmed this.
The royal then turned when she heard someone approach. She looked to see a trio of nubile demons in a protective detail. Each was wearing black low-cut skintight tops with thin armor paneling. The garments had red trim and were open in the back to allow for their wings. They also wore tight little dark-violet skirts that barely went to mid-thigh, red leather belts, violet-trimmed fingerless gloves that went to the middle of their forearms, and heavy boots with two-inch heels.
The blonde looked briefly looked at the demon in the front of the procession. She had a lithe attractive form. Her long black violet-highlighted hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail. Her eyes were a deep blood-red color. She had the expected physical attributes. The horns on her forehead were red, her tail was violet with black fins, and her wings were black with violet tips. Usagi found this demon particularly familiar.
She then turned her attention to who they were escorting. It was a woman in a high-corseted, petticoated, lacy dark-violet ball gown. Her deep-crimson hair was pulled up, then down her back and between her wings through the use of dozens of spiraled black ribbons. Usagi also noted that there was a discrete hole for the woman's spade-shaped tail.
As she walked, Usagi could just barely see the demoness' six-inch high violet high-heeled pumps. The blonde could see the sparkle of jewels on the woman's footwear. Fixed on them were tiny rubies and amethysts that formed strange patterns. Similar gems were on the woman's black elbow length gloves. On these the patterns were clearer but no more comprehensible.
The young woman wore a golden crown that was set under her horns. It was set with a black orb in the center, with a large ruby on either side of it and an amethyst on either side of that. She had a silver necklace with a large ruby gem and multiple pairs of hanging earrings. She also wore the Silver Millennium era ring that was only to be worn by the sovereign of Earth. Made out of gold, it had the Terran seal on it.
Her makeup was in a very elegant and regal style that perfectly set her deep violet eyes that looked simultaneously seductive and commanding. "Greetings, my queen," the woman said in a feminine and courtly voice.
"DarkStar? What's going on?" Usagi asked with uncertainty. Things were quite confusing. The only way she kept herself from losing it was by locking onto those beautiful violet eyes.
Worry crossed the redhead's face. "Nariko, can you and your girls please step out for a minute?" the queen of Earth asked to the demon with the red eyes and black hair. The demon nodded and then had the two other demon-girls march out of sight.
DarkStar then turned to the blonde magical girl. "I know how troubling this is for you. You were supposed to rule the world with my predecessor," the demon said in a soothing voice as she walked closer to Usagi. "But in spite of those setbacks, we are triumphant. Murdock has been defeated. The world is safe and at peace. We won," as she said this, DarkStar gently grasped Usagi's hands. She then pulled the other girl in close, and hugged her.
Usagi responded to the embrace. She felt secure, safe. "So Crystal Tokyo happened?" Usagi asked as she leaned her head on the taller girl's chest.
Sorrow darkened the redhead's face. "I'm sorry. We lost Tokyo. The resistance managed to smuggle a bomb into the city. The palace's shields protected us, but everyone else in the city ."
Usagi blinked unsure of how to take that piece of information. Tokyo destroyed. A resistance that was willing to wipe cities off the map to stop them. She started sniffled and her eyes started to tear up.
DarkStar saw this and held the blonde's face close to hers. "Don’t worry, my love. I will always protect you," she said staring into the blonde's eyes. Once again Usagi held onto those wonderful amethyst eyes. When the demon moved in to kiss her, Usagi leaned in to meet her lips.
The two girls pulled each other closer. They crushed their gowns into each other as they continued to kiss. Usagi felt the redhead's tail wrap around her legs. Eventually they broke apart.
The demon then took on a wistful look. "I've always been fond of humans. My time as one of them has only reinforced this. I would never be cruel to these sweet and useful people, but regretfully they do need to be controlled. After all, we need them as much as they need us," Queen DarkStar stated with a smile as she looked over at the animals she stewarded.
"We?" Usagi asked with definite dread.
DarkStar turned to her mate. "Don't you remember? You decided that you wanted to be converted."
Usagi shook her head. That made no sense. She would never sign off her humanity… but a part of her knew that she was more than human. She was a being of great power. One that was destined to live for centuries and to rule all of humanity.
Usagi then turned to one of the rather reflective crystal walls and looked carefully at her mirrored image. Her eyes were still the same. So were her teeth, although her gaze did linger on her canines for a rather long time. She still had a pair of large white wings, but they were no longer puffy and made of feathers. What was even more damning was a pair of little horns that poked their way out of her hair. That they were a pure white in color only seemed to make it worse, like a cruel, cruel joke. With dread realization she knew why the back of her gown did not fit quite right. Undoubtedly, there was a white spade-ended tail hidden within her dress.
Screaming in revulsion, horror, and a bit of desire and anticipation, the blonde girl forced herself out of this dream. She then found herself awake in her apartment, unsure of what to do next.
Janet Frasier knew a thing or two about dreams. She knew that while some dreams could be prophetic, most of them were not. She also knew that some dreams were not created solely by the dreamer; instead they were sent by others. Her training had taught her to control and protect her dreams. For some, sleep was when they were most vulnerable.
Last night was the first night since moving to Toronto when she had been able to sleep undisturbed. The girl feared what she had she had to do. There was some dread at the tasks ahead.
Janet pushed those thoughts aside and concentrated on finishing getting dressed. She carefully scrutinized her uniform. Her white blouse was properly pressed, buttoned, and tucked in to her purple skirt, and that there was no noticeable bulge in the small of her back where her weapon was kept. She then checked that the skirt was straight and that the pleats hung properly.
She then carefully tied her blue ribbon tie, and put on her jacket. The girl then put on her Mary-Janes. She would have preferred boots, but her mother insisted that she wear something more feminine. As she secured the buckles on them, she reflected that at least they were a nice shade of blue and that the heel on them was rather low.
After applying her makeup, the girl then brushed out her rich shoulder-length auburn hair into a light center part. Her uniform also came with a blue beret, but that went into her backpack. It was the one part of the uniform that really annoyed her. Fortunately, wearing them was not heavily enforced.
Janet then put her notebooks, textbooks, and purse in her backpack. The girl then walked over to the mirror on her closet door and appraised her reflection one last time. Her lightly made-up lips smiled slightly. She did clean up nice, she had to admit. Her thin eyebrows then raised in surprise at the familiarity of the Seifuku. It was a frustrating sense of deja-vu. One that she fully understood.
Janet then walked out of her room and into the main room of the apartment. She looked to see her mother cleaning up the breakfast they had finished ten minutes ago. The teen then exchanged pleasantries with the woman in the white lab coat and nametag that read "Dr. Nadine Fraiser (Radiology)", and had a logo for North York General Hospital on it. The logo consisted of a blue semi-circle. Inside of it was a white N who's second vertical spar became the vertical spar of a Y that had a strange echoing repeat on it's right side. A dot that was placed in the cup of the Y gave the impression of a line of stick figures with their arms raised.
The girl understood her mother's worry. Today was the first school day since the incident, but she was confident that it would be okay. And even if things went sour, she could take care of herself. She hated keeping secrets from her mother, but certain things had to be done.
Janet then left her apartment, went down the hallway, and took the stairs to the ground floor lobby. She checked her watch to confirm that she would have more than enough time to walk the few blocks to Furinkan and take care of something.
"You okay?" Minako asked the other blonde. The quintet of girls was walking to school. The Monday morning was unusually clear and had a slight wind that made it bright yet brisk.
"What?" Usagi asked with some confusion. "Oh yeah, I'm fine. It's just nothing."
Rei studied the girl's face before speaking. "No, there's something. You've been acting weird ever since that night you woke up screaming with that 'Charley Horse'." The girl's tone indicated that she did not believe Usagi's excuse.
"Yeah, I mean, normally she's the one with the freaky dreams," Makoto said pointing to Rei.
"Thanks," Rei deadpanned before turning to Usagi. "Seriously, is anything wrong? Is it something we need to be worried about?"
Usagi stared at the sky for a few seconds. She assured herself was just a dream, and it was far, far into the future. "No nothing. At least for a while," the girl stated.
"If you say so," Rei responded.
"Was Setsuna able to get the cats out of quarantine?" Ami asked, interjecting into the conversation.
"Yeah. After school she's going to take me and Usagi to get them," Minako replied.
"Maybe they can help," Usagi supposed.
"I doubt it. They can hardly remember the end of the Silver Millennium, let alone something that happened five hundred years before that, and don't get me started about this Murdock business or the Company."
"Still they might be of some use," Usagi stated before changing the subject to something a bit more inane. They walked for a few minutes until a salutation from behind caused them to stop.
Strolling out of the entrance of the convenience store the girls had just walked past was a Furinkan High School student. She was reading from a magazine that she had just purchased.
Minako's face lit up with recognition at the neatly dressed girl. It was the other new kid in the morning classes she had with Ami. Her name started with a "J".
"Hi, Janet," Ami greeted her classmate.
The auburn-haired girl smiled as she put her magazine down. "Hey, Ami. So, these are your roommates, then?" she asked.
"Yeah," Ami confirmed with a slight twinge of nervousness.
"So which one stained your blouse?" Janet asked as she briefly studied the other four girls. One of the blondes was in several of her classes.
"Ami, who's your friend?" Usagi asked as she looked between the two girls.
"This is Janet Fraiser. We share some classes together," Ami introduced.
Janet transferred her magazine to her left hand and shook hands with Usagi. The blonde looked into the other girls gray-green eyes and saw nothing amiss. "Hey, how's it going? Yeah, I just moved here with my mother," Janet explained. She then turned to Ami. "Oh, the moving company finally found where they shipped all our stuff."
"Toronto." Janet then paused, "But Toronto, Ohio. Fortunately it's only three, four hundred miles away. We should have it by tomorrow."
"Good for you," Ami said.
"So how did you meet?" Makoto asked she had turned her head to read the title of the magazine. It had a futuristic plane of some kind on the cover and was entitled Popular Mechanics. Strange reading for a teenage girl.
"In the laundry room. When you were cleaning the blouse I stained. That would mean you live in the same building as us," Usagi stated.
"Not too shabby," Janet observed. "You're right. Because the movers lost our stuff, me and mom were short on clothes. Good to see a blonde whose brains aren’t mush."
"She just got lucky," Makoto teased.
"American, right?" Minako asked the girl.
"Yup, and you guys are a group of Japanese exchange students, if I'm not mistaken."
"Was it our accents?" Minako inquired. She had spent time in England and hers could be harder to detect.
"That, and how at ease you are in these things," Janet said as she lightly tugged at her uniform's collar. She was careful not to mess it up.
"This is great and all, but we should start walking to school. Unless you guys want to be late to school?" Rei interrupted.
Ranma picked at her lunch in the Furinkan cafeteria. While tasty, the bowl of beef stroganoff was disturbingly familiar. The redhead sighed and idly tugged at her left earring. She stopped when the back to the stud post started to dig into her earlobe.
"What's wrong?" Naoko asked, concern on her face.
"Oh, I'm okay. Just distracted," the crimson-haired demon said in a distant voice.
"You sure?" Samantha inquired as she put her left hand on Ranma's right. “If something's wrong you can talk to us. Is it about the attack? To tell you the truth, I'm still weirded out by it."
The martial artist smiled faintly at this. It was kinda nice to have some normal people to talk to. Her smile then died. These were not Ranma Saotome's new friends, but Sunshine Saotome's. They only knew her as another schoolgirl who had a stupid name and rebelled against it by dressing darkly, to such an extent that she found the normal Furinkan uniform too cheery and made a set of custom ones. They knew a girl that favored purple, black, and red. To them, Ranma Saotome was her brother, and to Sunshine's great discomfort, someone that they asked if they could date.
Given all this, Sunshine knew that she could not tell them the truth. That the real reason she was out of it did not have to do with the attack, at least not directly. Destroying those youma had been fun and satisfying. The real reason was that the last time she was in this room, she had turned Tatewaki Kuno into a female demon.
There was also the fight with Ryoga. She remembered the sense of frustration at being unable to take his soul. She had no qualms about trying to kill him; the bastard burned off her face, tried to skewer her with that stupid umbrella-sword, and then he used a grenade on her. Lethal force was more than justified. Wanting to devour his soul afterwards, however .
"Sunshine!" Samantha stated as she waved a hand in front of the redhead's face.
"Sorry. I guess I am out of it today," the Saotome girl admitted as she looked at her blonde friend.
"That's all right," Naoko reassured.
Sunshine nodded and resumed her attempts to eat. She was interrupted by an enthusiastic greeting by a familiar voice. The girl turned to see another teenage girl. She had black hair with violet highlights, skin that was slightly less pale than Sunshine's, and eyes that were a deep crimson. Her appearance was quite human, though the redhead knew better.
"Hi, Sunshine! I've missed you," the girl repeated in a gushingly sugary voice as she sat down next to the other demon-girl.
"You're here!" Sunshine cried angrily. Her tone then became more morose. "Of course you'd be here. It's not like it'd be hard for you to get enrolled."
"My uncle is the principal," the girl countered.
Sunshine's brow furrowed in puzzlement, but she kept silent. If her identity was being kept secret by the Drake, the same thing would likely be done for his "son".
"So you're the Principal Kuno's niece?" Samantha asked.
"Yup. I'm Nariko Kuno," the girl smiled while trying to lean on Sunshine, who pushed her aside. She then spoke in a conspiratorial tone, "I transferred here because I got kicked out of my previous school. They said I was a troublemaker."
"And with a relative in charge they think you'll be under control?" Naoko asked.
"I guess," Nariko shrugged.
"You know where Tatewaki is?" Naoko asked the girl. He had a crush on Sunshine and would normally pester her, but he was nowhere to be found.
"He finally got accepted to that military academy," Nariko replied after a slight pause.
"The one in Ottawa he always babbled about?" Samantha asked.
"That's the one."
"Look's like you have another friend here," Naoko said to Sunshine.
"Woo-hoo," the redhead deadpanned.
"She's just kidding," Nariko smiled. "You know how Sunshine is. Can't let anyone see her happy or smile," the red-eyed girl joked, causing Samantha and Naoko to laugh and Sunshine to groan.
Usagi had reentered the cafeteria after using the bathroom. As she passed the table that Sunshine was at, she stared at the three girls that sat with her. She had a sickening sense of vertigo as she looked at them. There was a disturbing correlation between the quartet of demonesses in her dream and the four schoolgirls sitting at the table.
Usagi stopped when she heard the name Nariko come up. She then looked at the red-eyed girl more closely. Save for a lack of the extra anatomy, she was identical to the demon that had lead Queen DarkStar's security detail in her dream.
"Um, Sunshine? Can I talk to you?" Usagi asked eyeing the redhead.
"Let me guess -- it's in private again," Sunshine asked as she stood up. She then lead Usagi out of the cafeteria and into the bathroom that, coincidentally, Usagi had just left. There was undoubtedly some form of camera surveillance, but the redhead just wanted privacy from the other students. "Okay. So what do you want?" Sunshine asked as she studied her reflection. It looked like Ryoga's attack had left no permanent damage to her face.
Usagi blinked. For someone who was really a guy, she really spent a lot of time checking her makeup. "What's your relationship with that Nariko?" the blonde asked. She half expected Sunshine to open her purse and start rummaging around in it.
The redhead made eye contact with the other girl. "Look, I just saved her life, that's all!" Sunshine stated, sternly.
"Oh, I see. Look, just don't do anything to her," Usagi warned. The dream may have foretold that girl's name and physical description, but that was all it was going to do.
Sunshine paused, her face darkening. "Good lord, no! What the hell's wrong with you! I'd never do anything with her!"
"Thank god," Usagi said with relief.
"And what's this all about?" Sunshine asked.
"I had a dream with you and her in it," Usagi admitted as she looked down at the floor.
"That's disgusting," Sunshine responded.
The redhead grumbled as she got out of Nabiki's Ford. School had definitely gone downhill after lunch. Despite being a year older than her, Kuno had decided to go back a year and be in all the same classes as her.
At least during class Nariko was quiet enough and did not try anything weird, but it was still creepy. As she walked up the driveway, she saw that Kasumi was sitting in the swinging bench on the front porch. She was reading a book while her left hand idly scratched her right forearm. She then put her book down and greeted her two sisters and her currently female fiancé.
As she passed the Company agent, the aqua-transsexual saw something that made her stop. Kasumi turned to the redhead, smiled, and winked. She then went back to her book.
The demon blinked and continued into the house. She was trying to figure what that meant, and almost ran into Soun, who was standing in the foyer. The elder Tendo cleared this throat. "Akane, Nabiki, could you to please go upstairs?" he asked his daughters before leading the Saotome girl into the kitchen.
"Why, hello, Sunshine," Nodoka said from the kitchen table, while Genma sat somewhat stunned at the other side.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Prereaders for this chapter are Starfire, Joe Fenton, Black Dragon, and Wray.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F