A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon crossover story
by Josh Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
C&C requested as always.
Chapter 11: Reclamation and Restitution
Ranma shifted her body in response to the blonde demon's snuggling. The redhead reached over and pulled the blanket up to cover the newborn succubus more. She smiled as she watched her child sleep. Leaning over, the mother slid a few strands of hair away from the girl's face. The napping demon clutched onto her mother and steadily nursed energy.
The death of a… friend and the conversion of another were pushed back in the brood mother's mind. What was important to her now were her children… especially her youngest.
She gently hugged her daughter again and continued watching the demon sleep. They were so delicate and vulnerable when they were this age. Ranma turned her head and flared her eyes at the sound of someone approaching her room. Her expression shifted into a grin as she sensed who it was.
Lieutenant Tendo almost smiled at the sight before her. After many years of absence, a mother comforting her daughter had become a common scene in this household. "Can I ask you a few questions?" Kasumi inquired as she sat down on a chair that she turned to face the bed.
"Didn't you already talk to Akane and Nariko?" Ranma asked.
"Yes, I talked to them while Nariko made us sandwiches. I brought up some if you're hungry." Kasumi held the plate she had carried in.
Ranma absently nodded as she watched Ukyou stir. "Mommy," the platinum-blonde haired girl beamed, hugging Ranma. She paused, blinking. "I'm alive. I'm…" her eyes dropped slightly.
"It's okay, honey," Ranma hugged her daughter.
"I should have known she'd get another kid," Nabiki grumbled as she ate her sandwich.
"Sis… Mother did what she had to do. Ucchan wanted this." Akane sighed as she returned to washing the dishes.
"Who was that girl, anyway? We know she's from that redhead's past, but that's not saying much." Nabiki's tone had turned sour. "Look what's happened to us since she's gotten here!" She had turned to see that Nariko had silently slid right next to her. The middle Tendo sister looked past the glaring red eyes. What captured her attention were the tiny smears of blood speckling the girl's face. Nariko only had a couple minutes to wash up and she only got to change and wash major stains off her skin.
"Don't talk about my Mommy like that," Nariko said slowly, keeping her gaze level. The succubus' stance had changed slightly and she flexed her fingers.
"I didn't say anything bad…." Nabiki stated, backing up a step. Nariko had gotten uncomfortably close; feeling the heat of the girl's breath was not terribly pleasant.
"Sis… Ucchan's one of us now. She could use all of our help." Akane had walked over to Nariko and was standing next to her lover.
"Well, you've got some blood right there" Nabiki pointed to Nariko's face before walking out of the room while the demons were distracted cleaning each other.
A blonde succubus studied her reflection. The platinum tresses were the most noticeable change, though the girl was not fixated on them. Instead, she was studying her eyes.
A redheaded demon slid up to her and wrapped her arm around the blonde's shoulder. "What's the matter, Ucchan?"
"I don't know, Mommy. I guess it's a good color for them, but…." Ukyou blinked.
"That happens, too, but orange looks good," Ranma hugged her new daughter. Hair and eye color usually changed when someone was turned.
"And what's with my hair… I know it changes, but blonde?"
"What's wrong with blonde? I like it," Ranma admitted.
"So I've noticed," Kasumi joked as she went over the notes she had taken.
Ranma's smile at the joke died when she turned to look at Kasumi. "I'm sorry. About Aram. He was a good guy."
"He died doing his job." Kasumi's voice was flat.
Ranma hugged her daughter. "Ucchan, go downstairs and let your sisters introduce you to the rest of the family."
"Okay, Mommy," Ukyou said as she got dressed.
"Oh, and honey, don't damage Pops too much,"
The blonde demon paused. "Yes, Mommy," she sighed before walking out of the room.
After the door closed Ranma walked over to the edge of the bed where Kasumi was sitting. She sat down and wrapped an arm around the agent and was pleased when the lieutenant did not pull away. "He saved Ucchan. That's… that's something," the succubus said.
Kasumi maintained her silence.
"It's not your fault."
"Yes, it is." Kasumi sighed and leaned into Ranma's hug. "I was the one that ordered him to go. I decided whether he or Gabriel would be the one with you."
Ranma nodded and hugged her fiancée.
"I'm not guilty, but I am responsible."
"We are going to get Alexia. There's that much," the young mother offered.
Kasumi nodded and returned the gesture, putting her own arm around Ranma.
"We can safely assume that the missing Assembly acolyte is now one of Alexia's brood," Jacob said to the WIC officers in the conference room.
"Apparently, she's going by the name Aurora now," Stillwater flipped through the gathered reports.
"Sir, I would recommend more caution when dealing with a demon matching her appearance. Apparently this Aurora is a special minion to Alexia," Kasumi stated.
"What is your opinion of this latest batch of demons, doctor?" Stillwater asked his head of Forensic Pathology.
"Well, those that I've dissected so far seem younger and weaker than par for Alexia, sir. However there are many bodies, and parts of bodies, that were too mangled for me to get an accurate reading on the power level," Tofu stated.
"That may be promising," Jacob noted.
"Yes, though I am concerned about Alexia's overall goals, and how they affect our own." Stillwater glanced at Jacob. "Colonel Edwards and myself are going to relay this information to General Anderson. There is also Agent First Class Kowalski's service."
"Sir, Ranma and her children would like to know when it is happening," Kasumi stated.
Jacob easily suppressed a small smile. It looked like the brood mother truly cared for the fallen agent. "Sir, I think it would be best to allow the young lady to bring her family."
"Agreed," Stillwater nodded.
"Hi, Mom," Ranma greeted with a hug as she let her mother into the house. "Ready to go?"
"The girls back from school?" Nodoka asked as they sat down on the living room couch.
"Kasumi's picking up Akane and Nariko. Ukyou's upstairs getting dressed," Ranma said as she adjusted her blouse. At least her pants fit well.
"She needs a few more days to get used to things?"
Ranma nodded. "Today's outing should be good for her."
"It also gives me the chance to give you this," Nodoka said as she opened her briefcase and pulled something out.
"What's this?" Ranma asked as she looked at the book that her mother had handed her.
"I was really pleased with the gift you gave me," Nodoka said as she fingered the small silver necklace that was on her neck. She suspected that even if her daughter had bought it on sale, it had to have cost her a good amount. "And you've been through so much. You've even got a new daughter." She reached out, resting her hand on the redhead's knee.
The redhead blushed slightly. "But this… I mean…." Ranma turned the book over in her hands.
"I know you like to sing to your children." The Company officer stated the sentence plainly enough. Her child was a mother. This was how things were now.
"It's… for them," Ranma looked down.
"I know," Nodoka squeezed her daughter's knee. "And they really love it when their mother sings to them. I know you like it, too."
The redhead smiled slightly, remembering Ukyou's reaction to her first lullaby the previous night. "Well…. it is kinda fun."
"I heard that you had run out of songs, and I decided you would like this." Nodoka pointed to the book. "It's a beginner's book about singing, how to read music, has songs in it, things of that nature."
"Well… a hobby would be nice," Ranma admitted.
"Grandma!" Ukyou shouted as she ran into the room.
"Hi, Ucchan," Nodoka said as she hugged her granddaughter back.
"Ooohh… you got Mommy a new book," Ukyou said while she nuzzled Nodoka.
Ranma looked up when she heard the front door open, though she sensed the two of the three people arriving as soon as they got on the property.
"Hey! Leave us some room!" Akane and Nariko bounded into the room.
"Interesting." Kasumi picked up Ranma's new book. "Are we going to have do deal with more demonic caterwauling?"
"Hey! Mom's good at singing!" Akane defended from her position next to Ukyou.
"Yeah, Mommy puts me right to sleep," Nariko agreed.
"That's not helping, Nari-chan," Ranma said as she blushed, almost reaching human levels.
"I guess we can go then," Kasumi remarked, getting up.
"Mommy, after… after we get the… clothing for the… funeral, can we…?" Nariko stammered.
Ranma smiled as her face returned to its normal tone. "Don't be embarrassed, honey. We can get your ears pierced."
"School? Tomorrow?" Ukyou asked as she sipped her glass of water. The succubus had her blonde hair pulled back into a pony-tail and was wearing an orange Lycra training unitard of the same style as her mother and sisters.
"Yeah, I think you're ready for it," Ranma said as she drank from her new mug.
"But… I haven't been in a while… I mean… the Assembly." Ukyou absently wiped some sweat from her brow. "What about my training? I still need to work more on my flying."
"Yes, and only today did you learn to balance with your tail properly, and your fireball forming is still too slow," Ranma noted as she ran her pointer finger over the raised lettering on her mug. "But I can't train you while I'm at school."
Ukyou pouted. "Will I have to wear a uniform?"
"Sorry, Ucchan." Ranma let a small smile form on her face. It was not so long ago that one of her parents was forcing her to adhere to the school's uniform policy.
"Okay, Mommy, I guess it won't be too bad," Ukyou said before getting up to refill her glass from the faucet. As she returned to the kitchen table, she looked at Nariko's gift to their mother. It was a very sweet sentiment, and one that was completely correct.
"Well… it has its good points. The work's bad and some of the people there are real jerks, but there are some nice people there, too," Ranma said as she took another sip from her "World's Greatest Mother" mug.
Shampoo maintained her silence as she watched the courier bow to her great-grandmother and leave.
After the messenger left, Cologne made her way back to her great-granddaughter. She had inspected the seal before accepting the envelope, but now broke the pressed wax. The matriarch unfolded the letter contained within and began reading.
"What's wrong, Great-Grandmother?" Shampoo asked, noticing the minor twinge in Cologne's expression.
"I remember when you first tried to convince me that there was something wrong with that redhead. That your description of her matched a succubus perfectly helped too," Cologne sighed and looked out the window. This was the farthest from the village she had been in decades. "Your tracking is impressive, and you fought her alone and this far from home."
"I almost had her," Shampoo replied.
"You are not showing the proper conviction in your response for an Amazon warrior, granddaughter. And 'almost' only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades. Though things had just become more complicated, too," Cologne handed the letter over to her great-granddaughter.
"She… came back? And what's WIC?" Shampoo asked after finishing the letter.
"That's the puzzling part. They're mercenaries that seem to hunt demons and other monsters. Over thirty years ago they even visited the village and surrounding area. Why they were escorting a demon…."
"Helicopters, with their logo… they must have money, then, and some power. Will this be a problem?" Shampoo asked.
"Yes, they have a far reach. They will complicate things."
"I won't stop," Shampoo swore.
"I know, but more training can't hurt. There is one thing I have in mind, something special. We'll make sure the next time you meet this demon, you'll win."
"Who's that?" Rei asked, pointing to the new girl sitting at the lunch table preferred by the demons.
"Take a guess. I mean look at how pale she is, and look at her hair color." Ami remarked, as she disdainfully looked over the meal she purchased. Ami reminded herself to take up Janet's next offer to make lunch for the both of them.
"She's in our class, her name's Ukyou Saotome," Janet added.
"I see." Rei narrowed her eyes.
"Standard gossip is that she's another 'girl of questionable morals' that's related to Sunshine somehow, and of course there's plenty of rumors that she's… playing for the other team," Janet said with a small smile.
"I don't believe her hair's natural," Minako grumbled as the girls sat down at their customary table.
"You spent enough class time staring at her today," Ami laughed.
"Yeah, people are gonna start to wonder about you," Janet teased.
"Hey!" Minako shouted.
"It's not like you have a place to talk, Mina-chan." Makoto paused to sip her drink. "We do share a room; I've seen all of your hygiene products."
"Oh, come on! Look at Ami! At least mine's within the realm of possibility!" the blonde glared at Ami. Minako then blinked. "Er… not that I do anything." The blonde sighed.
"If the new girl's one of Ranma's, then it's natural. Look at her other girls," Usagi said before getting up. The blonde magical girl narrowed her eyes at the blonde succubus. She expected this new demon to be another one of Ranma's daughters, and hoped that her assumption was correct.
"Hi, Sunshine!" Usagi chirped as she walked up to the succubus table. Her gaze fell onto the platinum blonde and how she was leaning onto the redhead.
"Hello, Usagi," Ranma replied. "This is Ukyou Saotome my… step-sister."
"Really?" Usagi asked.
"Uh… yeah," the redhead sighed. Sometimes she wondered about just how thick this Moon princess was.
"You can blame Sunny's father, Genma, for that," Ukyou grumbled as she cut her lunch.
"It was funny how you made him cry like that, Ucchan," Akane laughed.
"I don't think he'll look at the gardening hose the same way," Nariko said as she tugged at her ears.
"Ohhh… you got your ears pierced. How cute! Lemme get Mina-chan so she can see." Usagi walked back to her table to retrieve the other blonde.
"Step-sister, eh?" Samantha quietly inquired as soon as Usagi was out of earshot. She looked her friend over. Ukyou was pale like the girl she knew as Sunshine.
"Like Ucchan said, it was my Pop's fault," Ranma shrugged, hoping that her friends would not pry any further.
"Don't worry, Sam, you know how private Sunny is. She'll tell us all the dirty secrets when she's ready… or done teasing us with them," Naoko joked, in part.
"At least she's finally wearing a normal uniform," Sam observed.
"Much to the disappointment of the boys who miss the micro-mini and the fishnets." Naoko's reply was followed by three demons giggling and one blushing slightly.
"Hey, I thought I was going to help you get your ears pierced," Minako pouted when she saw the blackish-violet-haired girl.
"I'm sorry, but we were already at the mall and Sunny promised she'd take me," Nariko said as she tugged at her left earring.
"You…" Sam said pointing at the redhead. "You were at a mall." The brunette gave a short laugh. "Oh, that's rich."
"Huh?" Ranma blinked in confusion.
"Sorry Sunny, but aside from picking up material for those special uniforms of yours you don't strike me as the mall-rat type."
"I can see her going into one of those specialty boutiques," Naoko turned to Sam. "Remember that one near the food court with all the skimpy leather and stuff in the display window?"
"Yeah, that sounds exactly Sunshine's style," Minako laughed. She then poked Usagi in the ribs. "Remember that one skirt she was wearing last week?"
The blonde in question hung her head while most of the other girls laughed.
"Hey, we weren't at that shop! Okay?" Ranma indignantly shouted.
"At least not yesterday," Akane giggled while winking at Nariko.
"We go there all the time," Akane's mate laughed.
Samantha blinked. "Really? I should have known."
"And you didn't tell us? That's it, we're coming with you next time," Naoko stated, despite Ranma's warding gestures.
"You just want an excuse to go in there."
"Well… it would be a good way to see what Sunny wears when she's not in her uniform," Samantha noted.
"I know Usagi'd like to see more of her," Minako teased. Usagi and Ranma both blushed at this.
"Well, let's try to set up a time, then," Naoko said before returning to the first subject. "So what were you doing in the mall, then?"
"Buying funeral clothes," Ranma sighed.
"Oh…" Sam quietly said.
"Were you close?" Naoko asked.
"He saved my life," Ukyou admitted as she softly hugged her mother.
"It's okay, Ucchan," Ranma reassured.
Usagi wondered who had died and what his relation was to the new demon, but this was the wrong place to ask. "Well… I guess we can talk later. Sorry for what happened." Usagi then went back to her own table. She was quickly followed by Minako who had given her own quick condolences.
"Hello, Nabiki," Nodoka said as the teen entered the kitchen.
"Yes… Mrs. Saotome?" Nabiki paused. Talking to the woman was always a bit awkward. Akane could call her grandma, and Kasumi always called her ma'am or major, but Nabiki was not sure what to say.
"I have a proposition for you, young lady. It concerns some photos you took of my granddaughter, your little sister."
"Go on," Nabiki coolly stated while her eyes went to the gun that rested on the scientist's hip. She knew she had nothing to worry about. The pictures were taken using a Polaroid and Nariko had the only copies.
"They were quite good. Tasteful in fact. Something I'd think would be difficult, given the subject." Nodoka smiled slightly. "This is something that my daughter would probably be against—"
Nabiki nodded, noting the woman's lack of hesitation at the use of "daughter", and wondering what the woman wanted.
"—but I would like a family photo of her and her kids. Likely be best for them to look human in that one." The agent sighed. "And one of all of us, if possible. It is nice to have a photographer in the family."
"Oh, that's easy enough, biggest problem will be scheduling everyone," Nabiki stated. "There is the matter of my fee."
Nodoka's small smile returned. "I'm sure we can work something out."
"I guess that was a good service," Ranma said as she re-crossed her legs and adjusted the hem of her black silk dress. The redhead and her children had been the only ones wearing black; everyone else there was an agent.
"It was okay," Kasumi said, mirroring the redhead's action as the WIC convoy pulled up to their destination.
"Heh, guess you're not used to wearing a skirt, are ya?"
"You should know, Mom. Kasumi never wears skirts or dresses," Akane noted.
"Except when in her dress uniform," Sophie interjected from the front passenger seat of the WIC van. Once the vehicle came to a stop, she opened the door
"Yeah, yeah," Ranma grumbled, waiting for her daughters to get out first.
"It's funny, Mom wears skirts more often than Grandma or her fiancée," Ukyou laughed lightly as she got out of the van.
"Like you can talk," Akane grumbled, smoothing her dress after her own exit. "Remember what you told us about the clothing you used to wear, Sis?"
"You sure about taking your kids here?" Kasumi asked.
"It's just a bar. Sure, Mom didn't want to go because it reminded her about Pops and his drinking, but there was that time that I was with Aram and Gabe…." Ranma explained after getting out of the van. "Anyway, didn't Jacob reserve the whole place for just agents and us?"
"The Colonel did do that, yes," Kasumi admitted as one of the two plainclothes agents on guard duty opened the heavy oak door and allowed them to enter the Red Turtle.
One of Toronto's streetcars stopped at the corner of Dundas and Saint Patrick street. A relatively tall woman with long green hair used this opportunity to gingerly step off the tracked mass transit. The night darkened slightly as the waxing half-moon slid behind clouds. She then made her way down Saint Patrick street. Her progress was watched through the field glasses of a high-rise observer, others in Company vans and trucks, and the staff at WIC Toronto-A.
Her likeness was a match. It and her progress were relayed to both the agents manning the door and to the ranking officers inside the pub. After a brief conversation, the two agents pulling guard duty were told to let the woman in if she tried to enter.
Setsuna approached the Red Turtle. The Senshi had a second to scowl at the "Closed for Private Party" sign before the door opened.
A reserved man with graying brown hair held the door open. "Miss Setsuna Meiou, I presume?" he asked, his dull green eyes carefully looking the woman over.
"Colonel Jacob Edwards, WIC," Setsuna absently noted as she appraised the man. Despite his formal uniform and sidearm, he looked unassuming and disarming. She paused, unsure where to proceed.
"Please come in," Jacob said, opening the door a bit further. "I'm afraid there won't be any business discussed tonight," the agent apologized after he guided her inside. He fixed his eyes on the Pattern Silver. "As I'm sure you know, we lost a man recently. We're having something of a wake now for him."
"I'm sorry for your loss. This increases my puzzlement on your letting me in."
"As if we could stop you from knowing what we were doing here," Jacob waved his hand around the bar and his tone was cordial enough, but his eyes were challenging.
Setsuna sighed, and prepared her excuse to leave. She had wanted to get a drink to try and avoid these kinds of politics. Why does all this nonsense happen at the one bar I like? I really should stop coming here, she morosely thought.
Ranma smiled and leaned back in the large corner booth. "And that's when Jacob sat down and — get this — snatched one of Gabe's beers."
"No… he didn't," Sophie shook her head. "This is Colonel Edwards, the Executor, the Gunslinger. He'd never."
"Oh, he did," Gabriel said. "I was right there. Scared me for a bit."
"I don't know why you guys are so weirded out by him," Ranma shook her head. "Anyway, he starts asking us what we did to those robbers."
"Of course neither me or Aram mentioned the more racier parts," Gabriel interrupted.
"Actually, I'm pretty sure he overheard Aram joke about me eating them."
"Same diff," the agent dismissed as he took another sip of his beer.
Ranma shook her head and continued her story, pausing every few sentences to nurse her own drink.
"So you didn't actually hurt any of them? Not even a little fireball? I'm a bit disappointed, Mom," Ukyou joked.
"Nah… but Aram came close. What did he say?" The redhead paused to think about it. "Oh yes, he was talking about the driver of the robber's van, and he said something like, 'Annoyingly, his window was closed. So I smashed it and pulled him out.' "
"And then the Colonel dryly replies, 'You almost strangled him to death.' To which Aram looks him in the eye and says one word: Yes." Gabriel laughed, almost spilling his beer as he tried to take another drink.
"You put that on his tombstone and he'll rest easy," Sophie darkly joked. Everyone at the table knew that no such epitaph would be inscribed, and that no one in Aram's family would know how he had died or why.
Even Kasumi cracked a smile at that, "That's our Aram," her smile increased as she raised her glass, the others in the booth quickly followed, "To Aram Kowalski."
"Least this had a better post-funeral thing than Captain Chase's," Gabriel noted.
"To be fair, none of us really knew him," Sophie countered.
"Chase?" Ranma asked, the name sounded a little familiar, like it was from school. "Oh… he was the agent that died in the school attack?"
Sophie nodded. "He was undercover. None of us grunts had much contact with him."
Ukyou finished her drink and put it down with a pout. Mother had told her that she was allowed only one more. "I'm telling you, if the Assembly had marksmen half as good as Aram, they'd be…." the blonde succubus paused.
"Yeah, he shot them right out of the sky," Nariko said as she twirled the pretty little umbrella in her glass. "I was a bit scared at first, but he kept shooting the right demons. He was real good."
"He did his job," Kasumi stated.
"Yeah, but a couple of his shots went right past my head to hit other… demons…." Ranma's speech slowed down as a familiar scent reached her. The brood mother stopped entirely when she saw who Jacob had let in. A dark smile formed on her face as she excused herself and slid out from between her daughters and exited the booth.
"Anyway, I should really get going," Setsuna said. Her body stiffened when she caught some red movement out of the corner of her eye.
"At least stay for one drink. I insist," Jacob smiled, stalling as he positioned himself between her and the door.
"I've taken up too much of your time." For the first half of the sentence Setsuna was standing upright. For the other she was being tackled to the floor.
"Hello, Puu," Ranma smiled, showing her fangs, as she sat straddling the green haired-woman. "I remember promising to get back at you for all this a few months ago."
"Please don't make too much of a mess, Miss Saotome. I'd hate to lose the deposit for this place," Jacob advised before turning away and walking back to the far end of the bar.
"You're right," Ranma admitted. "Besides, there's more fun and slightly less messy things we can do," the redhead purred.
Setsuna's eyes widened. "You've got to be kidding."
"Hey, you're the one that made a succubus Senshi," Ranma said as she dragged Setsuna off to an empty and small booth.
"That was all Murdock's fault," the Senshi of Pluto said as she was pushed into the booth seat.
"Meh, you're much cuter than him," the redhead said as she latched onto the other Pattern Silver.
"Yay! Go Mommy!" Nariko shouted, standing up so she could see those two.
"Good catch, Mom!" Ukyou loudly agreed, saluting with her new beer.
"Thanks, girls," Ranma smiled as she increased her grip on Setsuna.
"I just hope Kasumi doesn't get jealous," Akane whispered to Nariko.
"Now why would I be jealous?" Kasumi smiled darkly. "Ranma's obviously toying with that woman, probably to embarrass her and get revenge. Do you really think I want to be fondled by some succubus?"
Much to Kasumi's chagrin, Akane and the other broodlings nodded enthusiastically.
"So, what is it that you want?" Setsuna asked, wondering how to dislodge the demon attached to her without losing an arm or blowing up the bar. If she tried to teleport now she would just take the demon with her.
The redhead thought as she nuzzled Setsuna's arm. "It's really how much are you willing to tell me?" the demon asked as her grip suddenly tightened. "You seem to know what's going on here. It would clear a lot of things up." Ranma's voice had lost its teasing tone.
Setsuna stiffened. The redhead was going to start asking questions; questions that she could not answer even if she wanted to. But it was worse than that. Even if DarkStar were to believe that she did not know something; that lack of omniscience would ruin her reputation.
"Come on, Puu… it's not like demons are known for holding grudges." Ranma sarcastically stated. " 'Course, I am a demon because of you," she said as she leaned her head onto the other woman.
Setsuna sighed. She could at least set one thing straight, tonight. "Look. I didn't want you to be DarkStar. I wanted a nice, normal replacement for Mamoru. Armor or tuxedo, I didn't care. But a demon was not in the plans."
"Murdock's not the boogeyman you make him out to be," Ranma said, keeping close.
"Yes, he is." Setsuna focused her gaze on the succubus clinging to her. She found that she had to concentrate to keep her emotions under control. "Don't you see? He's manipulating events to get the results he wants!"
Ranma simply raised an eyebrow and incredulously looked at the other woman.
"Fine. You have a point." Setsuna sighed. "We've all got our schemes. So tell me, what did he do to get some trust out of you?"
"Trust?" Ranma laughed. "That's a good one. But he at least looks like he's being open, and honestly answering my questions helps."
"Why can't you feel up some WIC officer and ask them what they want?" Setsuna asked.
"Well… there's one…." The succubus pondered for a moment. "But right now I've got you." She then stretched up and whispered into the woman's ear. "Remember ditching me in that warehouse back when this started? Scared, new body, new urges, and you just ran off." The redhead then briefly nibbled on Setsuna's ear. "Just think of the missed opportunities," she said coyly, before kissing the other woman deeply on the lips.
Setsuna's mind was nearly at its breaking point, but when both the demon's hands started to roam….
"Hey! No fair passing out!" Ranma cried after dislodging herself from the green-haired woman.
"She got forcedly French-kissed and groped by a sex-demon," Kasumi stated her face being carefully neutral.
"Yeah, yeah. Gimme a break. It was my first time doing this. Besides, you should be happy I'm practicing my skills," the succubus winked.
"I think I liked it better when you were sexually repressed."
"Anyway, it looks like your date's waking up," Kasumi pointed.
Ranma blinked and leapt back onto Setsuna. "Now are you gonna play nice or will I have to do that again?" the demon asked, straddling Setsuna.
"That's not how interrogations are supposed to work," Kasumi sighed.
"There's more than just the creepy stuff Jarvis does, ya know!"
"You know… maybe a Dead Scream wouldn't be such a bad idea right now," Setsuna interjected.
"Do you blast everyone that's interested in you, Puu? That explains a few things." Ranma rolled over so that she was back to sitting next to, and clinging to, Setsuna, "Now Puu… are you going to be a good girl and tell me what I want? Or will I have to punish you in the name of Love and Justice?"
"You did not just say that," Setsuna groaned. That did put some of the speeches the other Senshi said in a new light.
Ranma shook her head and began her questioning.
Nariko was watching her mother's antics with a contemplative look. Eventually, she got up and walked over to Kasumi. "Hey Kasumi, is this being taped? Could I get some pictures?" the succubus quietly asked, leaning close to the agent. She figured it was pretty likely; WIC had a habit of recording everything.
Kasumi blinked a couple times. She looked around the ceiling scanning for cameras. "I think I'll be able to. I don't know how good the quality is," she stated after spotting a couple of security cameras. "But why?"
"I wanted some pictures of Mommy's first date," Nariko cheerfully said.
"I suppose that's fine," Kasumi said, letting the issue slide. She would have to talk to Ranma about it later.
Back in her booth Ranma was getting disappointed. "Is that all you know about those youma?"
"That they're a group of youma left over from Beryl's group. They were set up in a sleeper cell years ago. I believe their weapons were bought as illegal Russian surplus. Their ammunition was enhanced with dark energy. Given their power level, it must have taken them a long time to do that. They also somehow had a gateway. That their the cell had such connections is a bit worrisome, but if their arms were given to them by the same person who sent them here…." Setsuna trailed off.
"Yeah, I'm sure it was Murdock who sent them to attack the school. Because that makes a lot of sense."
"It got you to fight and feed, didn't it? You also got your first child," Setsuna pointed out. "Also, if the attack had captured one or more of the Senshi, who knows what his plan was for them?"
"Right. He planned all that?" Ranma kept her grip on the other woman, but was starting to question if Setsuna knew anything useful.
"Probably not," Setsuna admitted. "But I'm sure he had a rough idea what would happen once you started using your demon powers."
Setsuna sipped the drink that had finally been served to her. "That's what makes his schemes so frustrating. It's not like we can choose not to fight whatever monsters he drags up."
"Like Alexia?" Ranma asked her, voice still skeptical.
"Maybe. Maybe not. She could just have something personal against you. The original DarkStar was killed by her fellow demons."
Ranma glared, but eventually responded. "But really, you don't actually know why Murdock is doing all this stuff you're blaming him for?"
"Nothing conclusive. I know the Senshi are critical to it, but not what exactly he's planning."
The succubus studied the Senshi's face. The woman did look nervous and ashamed at her own lack of knowledge. If she was as clueless as she said she was. "Hmm… maybe you simply are incompetent," Ranma allowed.
Setsuna quickly composed herself and shot a frigid gaze at the redhead clinging to her.
"It's that, or you're competent and hiding what you know." The redhead used her free hand to stroke her chin. "I suppose I could use more forceful methods."
Setsuna eyed the demon who was now licking her fangs. "Okay, I think it's time for me to go," she said as she gingerly put her glass down. Setsuna smiled at the succubus. "What? Are you going to force me to stay?"
A small growl escaped from the redhead.
"I know you have more tricks that could get me to talk, but you're not going to use them," Setsuna stated as she looked over at the other demons in the bar.
Ranma grumbled as she let go of Setsuna.
"Don't pout. There's still plenty of agents for you to try to interrogate," Setsuna teased.
"Let her go, Ranma," Kasumi said as she walked up to the now-standing Senshi of Pluto. "She's just angry that you got past her defenses tonight."
"Yes, listen to your fiancée, Ranma. She is a good little agent, after all. I wonder if you're as critical to this company as you are to me? Do you even know what these people think of you and your kind?"
Ranma's eyes flared brightly. "Yes, yes, I do." The demon looked around the room at the assembled agents. "You don't even know why we're here, do you?"
Setsuna maintained her silence.
"What am I thinking?" Ranma laughed. "It's not like you did anything when Mamoru died. Usagi said the most you gave them was a slide show."
"I've heard enough." Setsuna turned on her heel and left the building. Her exit was watched by several eyes and through at least one gunsight.
"Is it wrong to regret not gutting her?" Ranma asked once the door had slammed shut.
Kasumi was standing next to Ranma. "Want to get rid of her? A team's probably tracking her already."
Kasumi raised an eyebrow.
"I would like her to be watched. Not like that's possible."
"What's wrong, Mom?" Ukyou asked, noticing her mother's expression. She still held the empty bottles she was going to exchange for new ones.
"She just gets on my nerves, Ucchan," Ranma sighed, her eyes flaring slightly.
Ukyou hugged the redhead. "It's okay, Mom. You can take care of us."
Ranma stepped out into the night. Traffic was surprisingly sparse given the relatively early hour. She paused to look around, her eyes seeing down the street with inhuman clarity. The men watching the bar all looked like Company men, but still….
"Okay, now something's wrong," Ukyou said, from her position next to the redhead.
"You sense something?" Kasumi said after exiting the bar and noticing the broodmother's posture.
"I'm…. not sure." The succubus seemed to be looking upward, off into the distance.
"Green Team, boost your scanners. Something may be up," Kasumi ordered, after flipping open her phone and inputting the corresponding speed dial.
What happened next only Specialist Agent Sophie Addison was able to see clearly, and only because she was examining the matching black dresses the succubae wore.
A brilliant purple aura with black undertones burst around the redheaded demon as she manifested her true form and sidestepped closer to Ukyou. Suddenly, the portions of her aura around the left part of her ribcage flashed to where it hurt the agent's eyes before vanishing. In that place was a gaping void of shattered ribs and mashed organs.
Before the redhead's blood and flesh had a chance to spatter onto the sidewalk, the destruction touched the blonde succubus. The damage to her stomach was much less spectacular, but nonetheless she fell over with a large bleeding wound.
It was only after all this that Sophie, and everyone else, heard the rifle shot.
"Get down! Sniper!" several agents shouted at once. All the WIC personnel drew their weapons and went into more defensive positions.
Ignoring the large portion of herself that was missing, the redhead spread her wings. "Girls, protect Ukyou," the broodmother snarled, her voice sounding strange and gurgling, eyes burning brilliantly. "He's mine," the demoness growled, her words almost unintelligible, before taking to the air.
"Get her back inside!" Kasumi shouted as she crept over.
"What about Red?" Sophie asked, briefly glancing up to see that the flying demon was still bleeding.
"We'll get a team to follow her." Kasumi helped her sister drag Ukyou back into the bar.
Jacob nodded when he saw that the wounded demon had made it to the relative safety of the bar. "Have Green Team follow DarkStar! That's what they're there for!" the officer shouted into his hastily equipped headset.
"Colonel, request permission to go with Green Team. I think Ranma might do something… drastic," Kasumi said simply while she looked over Ukyou's wound.
The colonel paused briefly before nodding. It would not do to ruin things. Not this far in. "Hurry up. I'll have their van pull up to the door," Jacob said, giving the required orders into his headset.
"Yes, sir." Kasumi turned to Sophie. "Addison, take care of her," the junior officer ordered as she ran to the waiting van.
The agent nodded and went to work on Ukyou, and got her first glimpse at the wound. "What the hell…?"
"Mommy…" the succubus whimpered as the flesh around the entrance wound started to turn grey and separate into little chunks. She was then hugged by her sisters.
"That's an Assembly Demon Bane bullet," Jacob said as he leaned over the succubus. It was mildly interesting to see such a munition in action. "Remove it. Immediately." He then went back to his headset. "I want all observational teams to scan for Assembly signatures, and all available teams ready to back them up. There might be more of them out there."
"Yes sir," Sophie said as she drew a Leatherman from a belt pouch. It had a slim blade and it could be opened into a full-sized pair of pliers. "Sorry, honey," Sophie said as she ran her hand over the blonde demon's forehead. "Hold her down, this is going to hurt," she then said to Nariko and Akane.
The Assembly of Man paladin, Earl Winters, automatically worked the rifle's bolt as he watched, disbelieving. No one, not even a demon, could be that fast. The hellspawn had to have been alerted to his presence. That was the only explanation for what he had seen.
"I will save Acolyte Kuonji," the man promised as he reacquired the blonde succubus who had taken over her body. That demon was hit, but he wanted to make sure. With the prone demoness in the center of his crosshairs, he increased the pressure on the trigger.
He stopped the progression when the redheaded demon looked up and flashed her eyes… right at him. "Oh no…" Earl muttered as he changed targets. The redhead was clearly the more dangerous succubus. He swiveled the firearm to keep track of the now-airborne succubus.
Squeezing the trigger to his gun, Earl fired his second shot. He smiled ruefully as the succubus folded her wings up. Her body dropped several feet, the round still hit, but this time it merely tore apart the membrane of her left wing.
Winters worked the action of his weapon. He wanted to take another shot, but his training told him otherwise. His position had been made, the demon could not be stopped at range. He had to alert Father Oslo and get a more defensible spot.
He picked up his weapon and backed out of the darkened, half built room. If he could get into a section of the incomplete high-rise that was just loadbearing walls, he would have a better line of sight. He pressed the speed dial to his cell phone, and began to speak into the headset that connected to it. "Father, my position has been compromised. Yes, it is the redheaded demon. I understand."
Earl backed up past a stairwell near the center of the building, and side-stepped into an alcove in a partially sheet-rocked hallway. He readied his weapon, knowing that when the demon came he might only get one more shot.
The paladin turned his head; he could feel the demon now. He concentrated, trying to see if he could narrow down the location. After a few seconds it seemed as if the demon would do it for him.
The crisp sound of boot clicking on tile neared the sniper. Under that he could hear a steady drip. He sighed slightly with relief; the monster was still wounded. He had a chance.
Winters had not disconnected, and from his inexpensive hotel room, Father Oslo listened carefully to the phone. For several seconds the priest only heard the sound of the other man's breathing. Then the roar of gunfire came through the speaker, reducing its true resonance. The brief mechanical noises of the action being worked preceded a follow-up shot.
This was followed by a splashing sound that quickly gave way to screaming. The cries of pain grew louder as they were joined by noises of tearing, ripping, and chewing. Disgust clearly marked on his face, Oslo started praying.
"Go with God, my son," he finished, disconnecting his phone. It was a miracle the device had lasted as long as it did, especially considering how gleeful that monster sounded with its… meal.
Kasumi felt ridiculous. She was about to do something she never thought she would. As she slipped on an armored vest and web gear, a part of her understood what the Senshi had to go through. At least she was just wearing a skirt and not ribbons or high heels. WIC did require its agents to always wear boots and carry a sidearm.
"Ok, men, follow my point and do not target DarkStar. I repeat. Do not give her reason to attack," Kasumi said as she put on her helmet and adjusted her goggles and heads-up display.
"Ma'am, I've got a fix on a Pattern D-Silver. It's about fifteen floors up. I'm not picking anything else up, though," the agent manning the van's pattern scanner said after checking the coordinates and doing some division.
Lieutenant Tendo nodded as she opened the door to the van. The agents approached the lobby, where they found the security post in the lobby manned by a clueless guard. Currently, he was being babysat by Agent Henderson until someone from Public Relations section could arrive to take care of him.
Agent Morrison stopped the procession of ascending agents with a raised hand. This was the floor. Kasumi nodded and motioned for them to leave the stairwell. The hallway was darkened, and the team made their way forward.
Kasumi's eyes narrowed, there was only one thing the viscous fluid that had spilled around the corner of the hallway could be. She paused and gave the hold fire hand signal. Keeping her weapon pointed to the ground, she prepared to round the corner. "Ranma! It's Kasumi." Her only response was a pause in the loud mastication.
The agent exhaled and slipped around the corner and into the other hallway. The first thing she noticed were the streaks of blood that decorated the walls and ceiling in long arcs. Moving her technologically-assisted gaze to the floor she caught scattered fragments of bone, lengths of cloth, and chunks of flesh.
The tile floor itself was covered in a glaze of blood that the grout had absorbed faster than the tile, forming a grid. Laying in the extensive pool was an immense scoped rifle. Threaded through the trigger guard and clutching the grip were several fingers attached to the far half of a palm.
In the center of this tableau was a lump, of thin curved bones, incomplete organs, and streamers of intestines. Leaning over this, with a thin contemplative smile was a red demon. Skin, horns, hair, clothes, even the bow over her chest were splattered in blood and little chunks. Her tail happily swished back and forth, and her wings were raised up and folded back in an attempt to keep them off the damp floor.
The succubus turned her head to Kasumi and her smile grew. She quickly sliced the last piece of liver and presented it to the agent. Kasumi tightened her grip on her weapon. The succubus looked so earnest and pleased with herself.
"Ma'am?" Stevenson asked.
"It's okay, men." Kasumi then turned to the succubus. "Ranma, Ukyou's at the bar. Sophie's patching her up, but…."
"Ucchan…." the succubus' eyes widened. She gingerly placed her offering onto the relatively clean remnants of an armored vest, and bolted out of the hallway by running in between the assembled agents. She quickly found a window and made a noisy exit.
"That was… fast," Morrison remarked as he looked down to see that his left side had a smeared bloodstain transferred to it.
"Oh God… what did she do to his head?" Stevenson asked, after he found the cleaved and mostly-missing item.
Kasumi ignored the side comments and called Colonel Edwards to alert him that DarkStar was returning to the bar and update him on the situation. "Men, you secure this place and wait for Forensic Pathology Section. I'm going back to the bar." Before she left Kasumi looked back at the neatly cut piece of liver and sighed.
"Yeah… they're gonna just love cleaning this mess up," Stevenson sighed as he turned away from the mangled remains.
"Yeah, we've just gotta baby-sit a demon's leftovers. They're the ones that have to make sense of it," Morrison agreed. He did not envy the job of the team that had to catalogue this.
"Fucking thing," Sophie grunted as she extracted the bullet. The malformed thing looked almost as big as one of the 20mm rounds her HOG used. At least the eroding of the surrounding flesh made that job easier, though the smell and the jellied texture of the affected flesh was quite nauseating. The bullet itself looked strangely shiny and appeared to have a hollow structure within it.
"Mommy…." Ukyou weakly cried as she clutched onto Akane.
"Nariko, help me clean up her wound. I think we should remove the damaged areas," Sophie ordered as she delicately cleaned up the saucer-sized zone.
Nariko helped, wiping up the damaged tissue.
"We just have to hope she can heal herself now," Sophie said.
"Mom's coming," Akane reassured Ukyou.
The blonde succubus smiled and nodded.
"I feel her, too, now," Nariko agreed.
A red and purple blur landed in front of the bar. The succubus folded her wings, and ran inside. She made a direct line for her stricken young, and embraced her.
Ukyou smiled and snuggled closer as she started taking in energy from her mother. The brood mother scowled as she surveyed her daughter's injury. It was healing now, but slowly.
Sailor DarkStar glanced over at the bullet laying next to Sophie. "That was inside her?"
"Yes, what I pulled out was coated in something that rots demonic flesh. The material itself is probably something demons are allergic to."
The mother frowned. "Maybe I shouldn't have blocked as much… let it go through her."
"If that had happened it would have done to her what it did to you: punch a huge hole in your side." Sophie's eyes widened. There was no trace of damage the redhead had taken. The agent had thought such a rate of regeneration was beyond a demon at Ranma's level, and now, the demon had energy to spare to nurse to her daughter.
"I guess slowing it down was better," the redhead hugged Ukyou again. "You're gonna be okay. This nice lady helped save you." Ranma gently put Ukyou down, spun around and embraced Sophie.
"Uh…" Sophie froze. Being hugged by a bloody demon was not something she had planned for tonight.
"Sorry," DarkStar blushed in the succubus style and reverted out of her Senshi form. The blood and gore-splattered skin, hair, and Senshi uniform disappeared, and was replaced by a black silk dress with a large hole in the side. The demon concentrated, and the dress shimmered, and gave the impression of repair.
Murdock sighed from the roof of an apartment building. With his preferred bar being reserved by the most interesting of people, he decided to spend the night watching the events within that establishment at a distance. Besides, it was a rather lovely night.
He had no idea just how entertaining things would get. The mage should have expected such ineptitude from the Assembly. This would have been a very positive development for him, too… if not for the fact that the demon was no longer under his influence. He wondered if Setsuna would blame him for this.
A grin formed on the man's face. In a way, it was a testament to how much she feared him and overestimated his skills that the independent actions of others and random coincidence was assumed to be all his doing. Of course, that he was not behind events such as this did not prevent him from capitalizing on them.
Turning his head between the two relevant buildings, Murdock silently watched the entertainment die down. He still had a job to do, and he still had backup plans. The mage fingered the final trio of envelopes in his jacket pocket. His preparations were not done yet, but once the final piece arrived he could move to the next step.
"You see anything during your patrol?" Kasumi asked as Ranma slumped down next to her on the couch.
The demon shook her head as she made her wings disappear. "No, I didn't sense any of those Assembly bastards." She looked over to her fiancée. "I trust you guys, but… I can sense them better than you."
"Yeah, you did get enough warning to protect Ukyou."
"I'm happy she's okay." The succubus extended her senses to make sure her daughters were still together and sleeping safely. "I… I… oh damn. What am I? You know what I did tonight?"
"You took a bullet for your daughter, and slowed it down enough."
"After that," Ranma glared.
"Yes, I know. When I found you, you offered me part of your meal." Kasumi forced herself to put her arm around the demon. "It was kind of sweet. In a predatory way."
"Yeah, I'm a monster."
"A monster that's a loving mother, a good friend, and a good person." Kasumi squeezed the girl closer to her. "That's not much of a monster."
Ranma did not resist. "I'm not supposed to…."
"Cram it. You didn't think you'd become a teenage mother. It's too late to do anything about that. But you make the best of it. Look, you'd have tried to protect Ukyou if even if you were human, right?"
"And what would have happened?"
"Yeah…." The redhead's eyes flared in anger. "I would have died and that bastard sniper would have been able to take out the rest of my girls."
"We're going to get through this. You don't know how happy I am that Akane has a mother and is alive and happy."
Ranma leaned her head on the larger girl and wrapped her arm around Kasumi's back. "Thanks. I couldn't have done a lot of this…."
Kasumi bent her head forward to look into the subtly inhuman eyes of her fiancé. The agent could tell that the purple had increased tonight. "We'll get through this. We'll make them pay."
Ranma let herself be held by the other girl. For them, there were no nuances to the situation. The Assembly had declared war on their family, their friends, their organizations; and the Assembly of Man would get their due.
The two stayed like that for a few minutes until a gentle knocking came from the door. The redhead's eyes brightened when she sensed who it was.
"Major," Kasumi said, giving a brief salute.
"Sorry for interrupting… the Colonel just briefed me," Nodoka stepped closer to the two young women. "You okay, honey?" The scientist asked as she knelt in front of her daughter.
Ranma slid out from her fiancée’s grip and latched onto her mother. Nodoka was almost knocked over. The officer looked into her daughter's eyes and saw true fear in them. It was a fear of rejection. The situation was reversed for the young demon. Now, she was the daughter in dire need of support from her mother.
After Kasumi politely excused herself and left the room, Nodoka slipped onto the now-available couch seat. The grandmother sat there with her daughter's head on her chest and her own arms hugging the girl.
"Do you want to talk about it, honey?" Nodoka asked as she felt around her daughter's side. It was amazing how quickly Ranma had healed.
The young succubus shuddered briefly and nuzzled closer to her mother.
"It's okay. If you want to talk, I'll be right here," Nodoka reassured with a smile. Her daughter's breathing was starting to even out. She hoped Ranma would be willing to talk, but was happy just holding her.
"This troubles me greatly. The Assembly has attacked a place where our agents were," Stillwater grumbled. Once more, he and his executive officer had retired to his office to go over the recent events.
"I'm sure they blame Miss Saotome for the loss of their acolytes, and that we're helping her would seem to confirm their paranoid delusions," Jacob offered.
"Wonderful. We have to worry about a collection of fanatics. At least Miss Saotome dealt with that paladin effectively enough."
"You're not angry that we couldn't hand him over to Jarvis? Or what our little demon friend just did to a human being?" Jacob was surprised. Normally, Stillwater was the more cautious of them when dealing with this brood.
"She killed someone who was trying to kill her children. I understand that perfectly. Besides, we need the Pattern Silvers to get through this. We don't need the Assembly. Frankly, my only hesitation to killing them all would be the manpower and equipment cost," Stillwater laughed slightly.
"Quite right, sir." Jacob agreed. It made sense for Stillwater to feel that way, when put into the context of a parent protecting their children. "I find it interesting that they just had one operative out. I suppose they were testing the waters."
"The others probably held back and then retreated when they realized the first attempt had failed and that they would only get killed if they proceeded. Or it was a test and this paladin was a sacrifice." Stillwater smiled darkly. "At least Miss Saotome was nice enough to leave that man's cell phone intact. It's going to prove quite useful."
"She does seem to be bright enough at things like this." Jacob nodded as he scratched the scar on the back of his right hand. He had underestimated and mishandled one flying predator in his youth. Back then all he got was a wound and a lecture from his father, now…. The agent sighed. A lot was riding on the Pattern Silvers, especially Miss Saotome.
"I'm having our men analyze all of tonight's footage. According to Agent Addison, she removed the bullet in the broodling and Miss Saotome had taken considerable damage. In her own words 'Sir, she flew off missing her left side. Fuck. Sorry, sir, but she didn't even notice it was gone.' And yet, after feeding, she had it healed completely. I saw that much myself."
"She was more powerful than we estimated?"
"Or she's grown more powerful," Jacob shrugged. "Our limited knowledge of the Pattern Silvers only talks of the effect of that power in a human body. On a brighter note, we do have a couple gallons worth of 'samples' that have been collected from her."
"Speaking of Pattern Silvers… why did Meiou show up? According to Murdock, she is the intelligence branch of the Senshi."
"It is a bar, maybe she was just getting a drink." Jacob joked. "She did seem reluctant to stay when I greeted her. It was as if she did not expect Miss Saotome, or us, to be there."
"Hmm…." Stillwater paused to think. "Why was this bar chosen? How did the Assembly find out about it?"
"This was a bar that Gold Team liked to frequent when they were off duty. They suggested it for Agent Kowalski's wake."
"Bring in Gold Team. I'll talk to them myself." Stillwater's voice had a slight edge. He was going to give the men a fair chance, but he had to be sure.
"We should interview the entire staff, then. A leak for something this mundane could have happened anywhere."
"That's what I'm worried about. It might have been good intelligence or sensors on the part of the Assembly, but if it was a traitor…."
"Then the Assembly is the least of our worries."
"Sunny!" Usagi waved from the opposite side of the food court with a mischievous smile. She and Minako had been waiting for the other girls for a few minutes.
"Are you sure about this? I mean. Setsuna told us… I mean, eating…." Minako started.
"She had to have been exaggerating. Do you really think Sunshine's capable of that?" Usagi asked as the two walked toward the other girls.
"It does seem far-fetched, but she's not prone to exaggerate," Minako was a little bit worried. The redhead was a demon, but she was also a Sailor Senshi. She had also not seen the girl do anything wrong.
"Well, they're here," Usagi warned as they got closer to the others.
"Yeah, hi, Usagi, Minako," Ranma greeted with a grumble. The 'Sunshine' thing was the only problem with her friends Samantha and Naoko, who had also tagged along with the brood. To them, Ranma Saotome was the brother to their friend Sunshine Saotome.
"I can't believe we're going to go to this shop," Naoko remarked to Samantha.
"Why not? It sounds like a real fun place," Ukyou said from next to Ranma. The blonde demon idly fingered the area where she had been shot. That there was not even a scar disturbed her a bit.
"Well… look at what it did to Akane," Naoko joked, causing Akane's eyes to widen.
"Nah… we all knew Akane was in the closet. It just took the right girl to bring it out." Samantha laughed. She was mildly disappointed that her redheaded friend was wearing a plain blouse and a pair of leather pants. It was not as wild an outfit as she had expected Sunshine to wear.
It was a good thing they were going to this store. She and Naoko would have to pick out something special for their friend. At least Sunshine's hair was good. Instead of the ponytail with a pair of antennae-like bangs, that the two girls were used to seeing, the redhead wore her hair loose in a wild and somewhat spiky fall.
"Don't knock it until you try it," Akane smiled as she put her arm around Nariko.
"It's amazing that you go to this mall," Usagi smiled.
"Huh?" Ranma blinked.
"This is where I hang out with my friends. There's an ice-cream parlor and a good arcade just around the corner. Wonder why we never met up?" Usagi smiled.
"It's not like I go the mall that much," Ranma defended.
"Whatever you say," Minako teased.
"I should have stayed home," Ranma mumbled as she scanned her surroundings. She did not want to let her kids go out alone, not after what had happened that night, but she knew they could not just hide at home or on base. "I guess we can go to the store, now."
"Are you okay?" Usagi asked as the group of girls walked down the mall.
"Not really. I bet your green-haired friend told you all about what happened," Ranma remarked.
Usagi slowly nodded.
"It wasn't all bad," Nariko butted in. "Sunny had fun with Setsuna."
The humans in the group paused and turned their heads.
"I guess Setsuna didn't tell you about that," Ukyou dryly remarked.
"I can show you," Nariko said as she reached into her purse.
"Uh… Nari-chan…." Ranma warned, but it was too late.
"Wow… that can't be real," Minako said as she grabbed the photos Nariko had started to ease out of her purse. The assembled girls stopped to investigate the find.
"Well… that answers that question about Sunny's tastes," Samantha said as she looked over a picture of a redhead straddling a tanned, green-haired woman, while groping and kissing her.
Ranma's face reddened. "Nariko…."
"Yes?" the red-eyed succubus innocently asked.
"Sunshine… Setsuna… but…." Usagi locked up. Making out with a succubus did not seem like something Setsuna would do.
"So, is this Setsuna your girlfriend?" Naoko asked, smiling.
"No, she's too stuck-up," Ranma defended.
Samantha grinned. "Is that denial or was that just a one night stand?"
"Sunny's known Setsuna for a couple months now," Nariko helpfully added.
"That is true," Minako admitted.
"Oh, really?" Naoko noted.
"It's not like that!" Ranma growled.
"It's okay, Sunny; we don't mind it you prefer girls over guys," Samantha reassured, putting her hand on her friend's shoulder.
"Yeah, We guessed you were like that the first day we met," Naoko added as she looked over the pictures. "At least you got a real looker, there. I just love her hair."
Ranma sighed. "Let's just go to the leather shop."
"Say, Nari-chan… can I have a couple of those pics?" Minako asked.
Nariko nodded and handed some over. She could always get more copies from Kasumi.
A tanned, orange-haired teenager standing at the upper floor of the mall watched a group of girls on the lower level at the other end carefully. The traitor was awfully familiar with those humans. She sighed as she resumed her concentration. It was difficult to hold back her powers, but Mother's training had been very helpful.
As long as she prevented any demonic energy from leaking out, the traitor would only be able to detect her by scent and sight. The succubus sighed as she watched the group of girls. Despite her mother's orders to keep most of her attention on the habits of the traitor, Aurora found her attention on the platinum blonde-haired succubus.
Her green eyes warmed slightly. Ukyou was the one good thing to come from… before. Aurora briefly glanced down at the manicured hands that held the railing overlooking the rest of the mall. Her act of desperation had yielded unexpected and amazing results. Her partner was like her now.
There was just one problem. She was enslaved to the traitor, just like her sister. Aurora swore that she would do something about this injustice. It was the right thing to do. Mother would approve.
"No way," Ranma said as she eyed the garment Samantha was offering to her.
"Come on, we want to see you in something interesting," Naoko smiled. "I mean, lately you've been dressing almost normally."
"That's not a good thing?" the redhead asked.
"It's not bad. I've seen you wear worse," Ukyou added before going back to looking at a zippered leather vest.
"See! Your own step-sister agrees," Samantha said, as she forced the dress into her friend's hands. "We just want to see what it's like on you. You don't have to buy it!"
"Fine, fine." Ranma took the dress and made her way to the dressing rooms in the back of the shop. On her way, she saw the other half of their group. It seemed that Minako and Usagi were trying to get each other to wear some sort of getup while Akane and Nariko alternated between fanning the flames and doing their own shopping.
Once inside a changing room, Ranma slipped off her pants and shirt. She paused at the draped garments. There was a time when being able to dress as she wished in demon form would have been impossible. She paused at the other recent things she had done that she used to think of as impossible.
The brood mother's thoughts were interrupted by an adjacent dressing stall's door opening and closing. "Usagi?" the redhead rhetorically asked. From the scent it was obvious who it was.
"Yeah, you won't believe the thing Mina-chan found for me," the blonde princess sighed. "And your girls weren't any help."
"They're like that," Ranma absently noted as she slipped the dress on. She frowned as she put the attached choker around her neck and adjusted the straps that connected it to the rest of the dress. She did not want the front of the dress to slip off and reveal her assets, especially since she could not wear a bra with this dress.
Ranma opened the door to the changing room and stepped out. Unsurprisingly, the other girls had circled around the changing rooms. "Yeah, this isn't really my style," Ranma said as she adjusted the dark purple dress.
The front had a deep V in between her breasts that went down to just above her belly button. The tops of the front were strips that just barely covered her chest and were held up by two pairs of thin leather cables that connected to her choker. The crotch of the front V was crisscrossed by another set of cables.
Backless, the dress was split on either side from the knee-length hem all the way up to her waist and two more sets of leather cables reigned in the upper half of these slits and offered some modestly.
"Yes, it is!" Samantha said. "It fits your hair and eyes, shows off those killer legs, too! Guess all those years of training with your dad paid off."
"Hey, you forgot the sleeves," Naoko pouted. Accompanying the dress and choker were a pair of decorative sleeves that went from wrist to just above her elbow, that would have been held up by another set of leather cables that attached to her choker.
"That was too much." Ranma lifted her arms. It would be a real pain to deal with such things on her arms.
"Yeah, why wear more than necessary? I think it would clutter her look," Akane agreed.
"Either way this is the coolest thing ever!" Naoko said as she examined her friend. She wished she had the body to pull off such a daring outfit.
"Come on, Sunny, ever since you started wearing the normal uniform we've been bored," Samantha added.
Responding to a noise behind her, Ranma spun around suddenly, causing the forward and back flaps that made her dress's lower half to flare up. "Wow…." the redhead uttered after seeing what Usagi was dressed in. White leather, the dress was a simple enough affair. The dress was nothing more than a leather dress that went to mid-thigh.
"That is so you!" Samantha cried.
"Yeah…." Minako agreed after a pause. She did not expect Usagi to wear that dress so well.
"See, I told you Usagi would look good in that," Nariko smiled to Minako.
"Thanks," Usagi said slowly. She was still in shock from seeing Ranma's state of dress. That Ranma's skirting had flared up giving her a little show was also affecting the princess.
"Heh, Usagi could almost pass for a succubus," Minako joked.
Ukyou groaned; Akane and Nariko's eyes widened. While, Usagi blushed nervously and Ranma forced a laugh.
"I don't think so," Naoko smiled.
"Yeah, you've got a long way before you're as seductive as old Sunshine here," Samantha added in between her own laughter.
"Hey!" Ranma blushed slightly despite herself.
"We have photos of you making out with Setsuna, Sunny," Minako reminded the demon.
Ranma glared intensely at the blonde, who started to subtly quiver with fear. It was a good thing Naoko and Samantha were friends, but still… that was a bit close.
"I'm… sorry." Minako's eyes were downcast. Before today, she did not believe the stuff that Setsuna told them about Ranma. There was no way a girl like Sunshine, demon or not, could do that, not to a human. Now, though, after seeing the redheaded demon's glare, Minako was certain it was true.
"It's okay." Ranma walked over to the mirror and, despite barely brushing Usagi, almost knocked the blonde girl over. "Maybe you two are right," the redhead said as she posed a few times. "I do look good in this getup. What do you think, Usagi?" the succubus asked with a toothy grin as she bent over just right… to test the leather cabling holding up her dress.
Usagi blushed and looked at her own dress. "Uh…. yeah, it's really good." Usagi hoped that the tickling in her nose was not what she feared it to be.
"Thanks!" Ranma smiled. "Your dress is really good, too." The redhead's grin increased as she read the changes to the blonde's scent. "But it's not on straight," the demon pouted as she stepped closer to the princess.
"Come on, Naoko, I think there's some skirts that I thought you'd like," Samantha said as she dragged her best friend off.
"Nari-chan, I found some earrings that you'd love," Minako commented before she and Nariko left for another part of the store.
"Have fun, you two!" Akane smiled while Ukyou gave the thumbs up. Both quickly left to give their mother some privacy.
Usagi blushed as she caught a glimpse of the redhead's violet and blue eyes. It was incredibly hard for her to attach the image before her to the man-eating demon that Setsuna had described. The Senshi of Pluto's slightly panicked description was detailed and supposedly lifted from the Time Gates. While the Gates were all but useless for an accurate prediction of the future, they were still mostly reliable for present and near-present viewing.
"I wouldn't think you could pull off leather, but you can," Ranma said looking over Usagi before returning to studying her own dress. It was far too expensive to purchase but she would be able to replicate a reasonable facsimile. The redhead smiled, she would have to thank Nariko again for this little trick.
"Uh… yeah…." Usagi stated.
"What's wrong?" Ranma asked. The blonde's scent was still confused and… interested, but there was something else in there.
"It's about that night…."
Ranma turned away from her reflection and back to the princess. The demon was careful not to stare too much at the human.
"I mean… you first make out with Setsuna and then you… I don't know what to think of that."
Ranma briefly checked to make sure they still had some semblance of privacy. "You do know what my… kind does in a fight? We feed afterwards," the demoness gave a lazy shrug.
"But… he was human, wasn't he?"
Ranma's eyes flared angrily. "This human," the word came out like a profanity, "specifically went after my youngest child. I did what I had to, to protect her."
"You still… I mean, Setsuna said…."
"I was hungry; I did lose half my guts." Ranma narrowed her eyes. "Look, you weren't there. Neither was Puu, but bitch that she is, she only told you part of the story, didn't she?"
Usagi paused. The photographs were proof that there was more to that night than Setsuna had said. As for what happened to that man… Usagi recalled some of the things she had done to save her own daughter, it was still a far cry from what Ranma had done.
The blonde paused, unsure of how to interpret that.
"I wasn't too trusting of what she said. I mean… she's been flaking out," Usagi admitted.
"She's scared. Things aren't going in the predictable pattern she's used to. It's scary when you're forced to make decisions like that," Ranma said with a hint of sympathy. However, Setsuna was not responsible for the Senshis' minds and souls, and she did not have to sacrifice her species and gender to do it.
Usagi nodded. She had had to make difficult choices, too.
"I am curious… what did she tell you about me? Did she mention that WIC filled a whole bucket with bits of me? Or the blood of me and my child had to be power-washed off the sidewalk?" Ranma inquired. It was only after she had made sure Ukyou was safe and okay, that she had noticed exactly what had happened… and seen the cleanup crew.
The blonde adjusted her dress.
"I betcha there's a tape of it. I mean, these Company guys record everything." Ranma briefly wondered how Nariko got those photos. She then smiled in realization. Knowing her daughter, Nariko simply asked for them. The mother's grin widened even more when she thought about why Nariko had gotten such images, and more importantly who ended up seeing them.
Usagi almost whimpered when she saw the amused smile on the demon's face.
"Oh, snap out of it!" Ranma chastised, her grin vanishing. The redhead's glare increased when Usagi stepped back. "I don't like it when someone makes me sound like a monster that ate some poor random guy."
"I… guess," Usagi blushed. The incongruity disturbed her. She tried to picture the very healthy girl in front of her doing the things Pluto told her about, but could not quite make the connection. She could imagine the redhead covered in the blood of her kill, but that was as far as she could get, and even that mental image disturbed her, not for the gore but for how it made her feel… it was thrilling in some way that was primal and alien.
"Look, don't worry about me," Ranma drawled as she leaned into the blonde's personal space. "There's actual monsters out there, and I'm not even close to them." The redhead winked again. "Now, let's find the other girls."
"I won't be too long," Ukyou told her sisters as she walked couple a dozen yards down the length of the mall before turning and stepping into the bathroom. The demon's orange eyes flared in surprise at the familiar scent in the florescent room. The blonde extended her claws and started to back out.
"Wait… I just want to talk," a familiar female voice said.
"You tried to kill me!" Ukyou spat.
"You can hear where I am, Ucchan. You really think I'm a threat from this position?" the other girl laughed from within her stall.
Ukyou narrowed her eyes. The truth was that the other demon was still a threat, though her position did give the blonde demon the advantage. "What are you doing here, Aurora?" The blonde paused. "I mean here, in the mall. Why are you here?"
"I guess you won't buy that I'm just here to get my hair done," Aurora grumbled.
Ukyou laughed, slightly. It looked like Alexia's flunky had made the mistake of taking her eyes off her target, allowing her to be caught off-guard. "You're still a lousy spy, aren't you? You're damn lucky it was me. Anyone else in my family would have killed you."
Aurora froze. She could not fail, especially in such undignified circumstances. "Why aren't you then? You should at least be calling for their help. The traitor would just love having my head."
"You did try to kill one of her friends," Ukyou sighed. Her curiosity was starting to get to her. "Well, wipe up and come out. I wanna see you when you're not trying to kill me."
Aurora laughed as she finished up. "I seem to recall that you were shooting at me then too," the orange-haired succubus pointed out as she pulled up her underwear. She got up, fixed her dress, and stepped out of the stall.
The two succubae froze as they studied each other.
"Not bad, Ryoga. At least you make a good-looking demon. Heck, I can hardly tell that your tan came out of a bottle," Ukyou noted approvingly.
"It's Aurora! Not Ryoga!" the green-eyed succubus hissed.
"And I'm still Ukyou. You see the problem, partner?"
"Mother saved me. She made me what I am."
"The second part's true," Ukyou sighed. "Look, I think I can get Mom to not kill you. We could…."
"No!" Aurora screamed. It took every ounce of her self control to hold back her powers. If she started radiating demonic energy, the traitor would rush in and kill her, or worse.
"What? We could be… together," Ukyou said as she tried not to blush. It looked like a lot of her partner survived, only now in a very sexy and good-looking body. The platinum blonde shook her head.
"Why don't you come with me to see Alexia. We could even kill that redhead like we originally planned," Aurora offered with a smile.
"Kill Ranchan?" Ukyou sighed. "Yeah, how well's that been going for you?"
"At least I've fought the Traitor! She hasn't even found Mother," Aurora grumbled.
"That's because Alexia's run or hid every time my Mother's shown up."
"That's not true!"
"How come you're not fighting by Alexia's side then?"
Aurora looked down at the tile just in front of her high heels.
"I guess we're not gonna convince the other to defect then," Ukyou sighed. "And I don't want to fight you."
"Huh?" Aurora's expression brightened. The chance to get out and return to Mother appealed to her.
"You may be a soul-sucking demon, but so am I." The blonde shrugged. "Right now you haven't done anything stupid."
"Same here," the green-eyed girl agreed. Next time they met, Aurora promised to bring Mother with her. That would settle things nicely.
"Well…. take care," Ukyou said giving a slight wave. She wanted to hug her old partner, but it was too much of a risk. Even if Aurora did not use the opportunity to attack her, the physical contact could… cloud the blonde's judgment.
"You too." Aurora's smile was bittersweet.
"I'm gonna go now. Don't do anything stupid, okay?"
"Like what? Follow you and attack?"
Ukyou grinned. "Nah, you'd probably just get lost. After all, it was the Assembly that cured that problem of yours," she stated before slipping out of the restroom.
Aurora looked around the washroom and whimpered slightly. Retracing her steps and getting back to Mother should not be that difficult.
"So she used her powers to wear the dress right out of the store without paying for it?" Chibi-Usa asked her mother from half a world away.
"No, Spore! She made a copy of the dress later in the day." It had only taken only a few seconds for Usagi to remind herself why she so rarely called her daughter. She wondered why her daughter could not be more like one of Ranma's, minus the whole demon thing.
"Oh I see! Yeah, stealing doesn't seem like something Auntie Ranma would do," Chibi-Usa cheerfully remarked.
"Auntie?" Usagi asked her hands gripping the phone tighter.
"Well, she did inherit Mamoru's powers," the red-eyed girl sadly remarked. "But there's more to it than that."
"There is? What… does it have to do with me?"
"Sorry, can't tell you," Chibi-Usa laughed.
"Why you little pink-haired monster…." Usagi nearly growled as she shook her phone.
"Sorry… it's nothing. You two become best friends," Chibi-Usa said. She had to be careful. She did not want to lie to Usagi now, but she could not tell her too much.
Usagi paused to digest that information. "Usa…. is Sunshine… er, Ranma… in your future?"
"I told you when you called last week, meatball head," Chibi-Usa sighed.
"No, you didn't! You pretended not to know about this demons in Canada thing."
"Well… I didn't know all of her past. It's not something you or any of the Senshi talk about too much," Chibi-Usa said carefully.
"But she's in the future?"
"But… why didn't you tell us? You had to have known that Mamoru wouldn't be around."
Chibi-Usa gave an annoyed sigh. "You've been to the future too, you know. What was that like?"
"No succubae, that's for sure; and Mamoru was there."
"And do you think it can be the same now?"
"I know it has to have changed! I'm asking you what happened!"
"There has to be more than one future. Puu gave a good example using train tracks."
"Oh yeah… I remember that," Usagi recalled her first night in Canada, and that briefing Setsuna had given them. "So tell me more about it. Did your timeline shift or something? Is there even a future for you to go back to?"
"I'm sorry; I've said way too much already. I had to promise not to tell," the pink-haired girl looked over to Hotaru and that girl's parents. Michiru was looking out the window of their apartment. They had not taken the news of the demon attacks in Canada well, especially since nothing had yet to happen in Japan. They were all waiting.
Chibi-Usa giggled. "You did, of course. You made me promise to not say anything."
"Good, that means you can tell me. This is important. I have to know."
"No, you don't. You made me promise this for a reason. Look, this is something that Puu's right about. I can't tell you anything. You need to care more about the present than the future."
"But…" Usagi paused. "You're right. I have to pay attention to things that are happening now."
"Yes. So did you have fun with Auntie Ranma and her kids?" Chibi-Usa's amusement was palatable.
"That's good," Chibi-Usa teased. She had a pretty good idea that the blonde was blushing on the other end of the line.
"So how are you guys doing?"
"Well, Hotaru-chan and I are doing great. Haruka almost broke some agent's nose a few days ago, though she got a broken ankle when the WIC officer caught the kick that followed her punch."
"Well… you know how Haruka and Michiru are. They're getting kinda… tweaked waiting for an attack to start up here."
"But why'd she attack an agent?"
"She didn't like that they were watching us in the park. Though they didn't know they were being watched, until two of them walked up to us and introduced themselves. That's when Haruka got angry."
"I told them to not jump to conclusions with those guys," Usagi groaned. "They didn't do any serious damage, did they?"
"Nope. Me and Hotaru broke them up," Chibi-Usa proudly said.
"How?" Usagi asked. From her room she heard a knock on the front door to her apartment. Assuming that Minako or Rei had ordered takeout, she made a note of it.
"It helps being cute," the pink-haired girl stated, technically not answering the question.
"Huh?" Usagi wondering how being cute would defuse a fight between WIC agents and the Outers.
"We got in between them and stopped the fight," Chibi-Usa said, simply
"Oh… okay," Usagi shook her head. "I was thinking… maybe… would you like to visit?"
"Well…" Chibi-Usa paused. "It is a busy time in school, and Puu did say I should stay back here with the Outers."
Usagi briefly imagined herself shielding Chibi-Usa from gunfire with her body. "Yeah… it is dangerous out here. But I'm not so sure about Setsuna. I mean…." Usagi paused wondering what was taking so long with the front door. "Guys, what's up?" she asked opening the door to her room.
"Oh, I see," Usagi said when she saw a pair of business-casual wearing twenty-something's at the door. One was an athletic-looking woman with short chestnut brown hair, she was pretty enough but she looked very nondescript. The only notable thing about her companion was his olive-green eyes, the rest of him was rather bland. He looked somewhat familiar and Usagi supposed that she could have met him somewhere else, but she had a hard time telling agents apart.
"Hello, Miss Tsukino," the woman nodded. "I'm Sophie Addison and this is Gabriel Smith."
"Gabriel…." Usagi recalled, still holding the phone. "You are the one that came here before. You and that other guy… Oh… I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Gabriel said sincerity edged into his flat voice.
"She's pretty swift when she wants to be," Sophie smiled. Maybe the Silvers had a decent leader after all.
"What's going on?" Minako asked.
"It's pretty simple. Usagi figured out that agent, who died, had visited us before with him," Ami explained from the kitchen table, waving a hand at Gabriel.
"Yes, though this isn't about that," Gabriel said as he closed the front door and locked it.
Sophie nodded. "We're here on a favor for Red. You know, Ranma. She wanted to make sure you knew more about what happened that night than Setsuna told you."
"That crazy stuff about eating that Assembly goon?" Janet asked, sitting opposite the table from Ami.
"Yes, though there was some truth to it," Sophie said as she pulled a disc out of her jacket pocket. "I trust your DVD player works?"
"Chibi-Usa… I've gotta go," Usagi said before saying her goodbyes to her daughter. She hung up her phone and walked back into the main room.
"One of our security teams had a camera on the front of the bar where we were having the wake," Gabriel explained as Sophie loaded the disk.
On the television screen a black and white feed was fixed on the large glass windows of a bar. People occasionally walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the establishment.
Despite having a fair idea of what might happen, the monotony of the pedestrian traffic lulled the girls' attention. The only thing that was remotely interesting was the banter between the agents in the security team that the camera's microphone picked up.
A group of black-garbed, pale teenage girls and dress-uniform-wearing agents exited the bar and were about to enter a waiting van that had pulled up. One of the pale girls looked around, blurred, and was suddenly protectively covering another one.
Immediately, the side of this girl flared brightly and burst apart in a shower of blood and organs. The girl she was standing over fared better, but still had a very nasty wound.
The video was paused at this point. Despite being off to one corner, a still image of one girl with large portions of her torso missing protectively holding a gut-shot girl dominated the screen.
"Anyone miss that? You need us to replay it?" Sophie asked as she studied the Pattern Silvers.
"No… I got it," Ami said as she studied the screen.
"Oh…" Usagi said. Her mental picture of herself protecting Chibi-Usa suddenly became more graphic.
"I can see her spine," Minako horrifically uttered. At least that's what she assumed it was. The video feed was a bit fuzzy.
The other girls in the room absently nodded.
"Good," Sophie said as she hit play.
The damaged brood mother motioned to her uninjured daughter and instantly took to the air. The people on the screen, demon and human alike, rapidly went into motion to take care of the injured demon.
The audio pickup from the camera provided more information.
"Oh, fuck! What the hell was that!" shouted one of the voices heard earlier.
"This is Green Team! We've got a sniper! Man down!" one of the other voices from the van shouted.
There was a lull in the audio. During this, the injured demon was moved back into the bar and agents had drawn their weapons and were starting to take defensive positions.
The scene stopped again. "There's really nothing more," Gabriel said after he pressed the stop button, and ejected the disk.
"So…. questions?" Sophie asked.
"Uh… why'd you show us this?" Rei asked.
"To give some context to why Red did what she did," Sophie explained.
Makoto noted the nickname but stayed silent.
"Given the amount of damage she took, I'd imagine DarkStar was very hungry," Ami noted.
"Yes. She also had to take in enough energy to help her daughter, too." Sophie remembered operating on the trembling blonde demon.
"The sniper's first target was Ukyou? Isn't she the youngest?" Janet asked.
"Ukyou used to be in the Assembly of Man, same organization that the sniper was from. He probably thought he was doing Ukyou a favor by 'freeing' her first."
"Oh. That sucks," Janet remarked.
"DarkStar still killed and ate a human," Rei sourly noted.
"Yes, she did. It's normal for her kind to consume in battle," Sophie shrugged.
"So that's it?" Usagi asked. "You just came here to show us the tape?"
"And answer any questions you had from it," Sophie shrugged.
"This, 'Assembly', what are they? Setsuna mentioned them as another demon-hunting organization."
"They are. They just think they're on a mission from God," Gabriel smiled thinly.
"Oh, that doesn't sound too bad," Rei suggested.
"They're dangerous fanatics," Sophie said sharply.
"Coming from a secret agent?" Minako laughed.
"Laugh all you want. Just remember, if they decide you don't fit into God's plan, that will be you in a sniper scope," Sophie stated, brusquely.
I think Crystal Tokyo would qualify for not being part of "God's plan" for them, Usagi thought.
"Don't forget, you turned us down when we made our offer. Unlike Red, who's made quite the impression on a lot of us," Gabriel added.
Makoto narrowed her eyes. There was that nickname again.
"If there's nothing else, we should get going," Gabriel said as he adjusted his coat.
"You girls still know how to contact us?" Sophie asked.
"That's it? That's your whole attempt to try to show us that DarkStar's not so bad?" Rei asked.
"That was never our intention," Sophie smiled darkly. "After Usagi upset Red, she just wanted you girls to know the whole story, so we did her this little favor. You guys can make up your own minds."
"What about these?" Minako said after running out of the room to grab the pictures of Ranma and Setsuna. "I mean… Sunny… Setsuna… and Usagi?"
"Oh, her," Sophie smirked slightly. "I have no idea what Red saw in that woman, but right after she came into the bar Red had her in a booth for some private attention. Looked pretty intense for a while there."
The Senshi paused. The shock at Setsuna actually having a sex drive and with a demoness no less kept failing to dissipate.
"Yeah, I really shouldn't have made that bet with Morrison. Lost twenty bucks and it looked like a sure thing," Gabriel sighed, following Sophie's lead.
"What kind of bet?" Ami inquired.
"Oh, I bet that Red would have her out of the bar and on the way to a room in under ten minutes," Gabriel shook his head theatrically. It was not even a lie really. He had made such a bet, just not for money.
"Oh… wow," Usagi said. "No wonder Ranma was so pissed at the stunt Setsuna pulled then."
"I guess that's it," Gabriel said. The two agents paused briefly to allow for some final questions. Receiving none, they left the Pattern Silvers with their thoughts.
"So what do you think, Mother?" Aurora asked as she knelt before Alexia. She had just explained her plan. After telling her mother about her meeting with Ukyou, Aurora had spent all her free time thinking of her former partner… and her sisters.
"It has… potential," Alexia allowed.
"Really?" Aurora joyously said, looking up to face her mother.
"Yes. You will have her back." Alexia thinly smiled. This would be a prime opportunity to hurt the Traitor. It was only fair. The Traitor had taken one of Alexia's children.
"Thank you, mother!" Aurora gushed. "What will you have me do?
"Patience, dear," Alexia said as she walked over to her daughter and rubbed her horns. "We now know a place they go, thanks to you. I've been watching them freely." The blonde demoness smiled. Cattle that they were, the humans did have their clever moments. The cameras in that mall were quite useful, and it was easy enough to get access to them after Aurora had seduced the proper guards.
Aurora happily purred.
"This is only the first step. Soon, the Traitor will be all alone. And then we will destroy her," Alexia laughed.
"I don't want you to come with me!" Akane cried as she peeled off her training unitard.
"You're not going alone, young lady." Ranma's tail straightened in frustration.
"I won't be alone," Akane growled.
"Ukyou's too young."
"But I've been training really well, Mom," Ukyou pointed out, as she finished changing out of her own unitard.
"I know, but it's still too dangerous," Ranma sighed.
"So, that's it? We're just going to hide here and only go out in one big group? You know, Mom, I'm sure Kasumi could provide some more agents to escort us if you're still afraid," Akane grumbled.
Ranma's eyes briefly flashed violet as they narrowed. "Have you forgotten all that's happened to us? Aram died, Ucchan nearly did. We've been attacked a few times, and there is still Alexia's brood and the Assembly. I mean Ucchan met Aurora there!"
"I'm pretty sure we're always going to have enemies, Mom. It's a part of what we are. Besides, Ukyou told us that Aurora was being peaceful," Akane said meeting her mother's gaze. "Look at the Senshi. They've had enemies since day one, and they don't hide in one group."
"That's different. And they really should," Ranma added. "Why is it even so important that you go alone?"
"I want to have some time to myself. You won't always be here to protect us, Mom."
Nariko disrobed and put on street clothes in silence. This argument made her feel awkward and nervous. She also did not know exactly who to side with. Mommy was right, but Akane had good points, too. She knew that today would make an interesting entry in her journal.
Ranma's face darkened. For a few seconds she regretted that Akane had regained her independence and stubbornness. "I should have expected this. You are growing up," Ranma sighed.
"So can I go?"
"Can't we do this another time?" Ranma asked.
"It's been almost two weeks since Ukyou was been attacked. Things have been quiet all that time," Akane explained. "That's why I waited until today."
"It's not a good idea. At least have Kasumi or some agents with you," Ranma suggested.
"I might as well have you come, then."
"Yes. What's wrong with that?"
"Please, Mom, just trust me," Akane pleaded.
"How are you even getting to the mall?"
Akane smiled slightly. "I'll have Nabiki drop us off, and I'll call when it's time to pick us up."
"I can't stop you, can I?" Ranma sighed
"Oh you can, easily. You're my mother. You can control me if you want," Akane said as she retracted her horns. "Why do you think I'm asking for permission?"
Ranma's gaze hardened. "That's not funny, and you know it! It hurts that you would even think like that. Have I ever tried to control you?"
"I'm sorry… I was just…."
"Save it. If going out there without me is that important to you, then…" Ranma waved her hand dismissively. "Just be safe, don't do anything stupid and if you get in trouble, get help."
"Really? Thanks, Mom!" Akane hugged Ranma before grabbing Ukyou and taking her to Nabiki's room.
"Are you okay, Mommy?" Nariko said speaking for the first time.
Ranma dabbed at her eyes slightly. "Yes, I am. Nari-chan, be a dear and bring me the phone. I need to talk to Grandma."
Aurora apathetically nibbled on the hot pretzel she had procured. After over a week this collection of screeching, humanity was starting to wear very thin on the demon. The novelty of what she could purchase did help things. The number of beauty aides, dresses, and fashion accessories seemed inexhaustible. Thanks to her nightly feedings she had a bit of pocket money to spend on baubles that caught her eye.
Though her shopping time was limited. She was here for a reason. She was Mother's eyes and ears. She was the one who would spring the trap. The demon smiled in anticipation. Once again, the green-eyed demon reassured herself that they had to come sometime.
Once that happened, the hard part would come. Mother's plan required getting the Traitor's brood to split up, and the success of everything else needed them to be divided. That was where things would become delicate.
"Well, this is something I haven't seen in a while." Kasumi smiled as she looked over Ranma. The agent then maneuvered her car into an open parking spot.
"Yeah, yeah… So I've been in girl-form a lot," Ranma grumbled as he got out of the front passenger seat. "I have had to take care of Ukyou, you know."
"Yes, and all the extra training you've been giving them, plus school, and hanging out with your friends. It must be hard to find a few minutes to turn into a guy," Kasumi stated.
"What are you getting at?" Ranma asked.
"Nothing, really. Guess you're just getting used to your life. Which is for the best," Kasumi stated.
"What's that supposed to mean? It's better like this?" Ranma stopped walking toward the mall and glared at the agent.
"No," Kasumi sighed. "I mean it's good that you're putting the needs of those important to you first, and that you're not full of angst."
"I'm happy you didn't end up some prissy drama queen bemoaning her fate. Clear enough?" Kasumi cracked a smile. "Of course we had plans set up, just in case that happened."
"Let's just make sure my girls are okay."
"Don't blame me, it was the Major's idea that you bring me, and you're the one that wanted to be male so they wouldn't sense you as easily." Kasumi looked at her watch. Hopefully this would not take too long, and she could get back to range practice.
"I just want to make sure they're okay."
"Man, even when male, you're such a mom," Kasumi observed as she opened a door to the mall.
"What do you think of this one?" Akane asked her sister as she held up a dress.
"You in a skirt?" Ukyou grinned.
"Like you can talk."
"Hey, I'm wearing a skirt," Ukyou pouted.
"Denim doesn't count," Akane laughed as she walked to the changing rooms in the back of the store.
Ukyou sighed as she watched the front of the store. It had been a quiet afternoon. She was a bit worried at the precedent this would set. After today, Akane might want to do bolder things.
The blonde-demon's eyes widened with recognition at the beautiful girl who was tapping on the glass of the front shop window. Hesitantly, Ukyou walked out of the clothing boutique.
"What are you doing here? I don't think we should meet," Ukyou said to the other girl.
"We shop at the same mall, Ucchan. That much is pretty clear," Aurora smiled.
"Ick," Ukyou said when she looked over her old partner. The only thing marring the nice silk dress, designer heels, perfectly maintained hair, and subtle makeup was the garish pink cell phone that hung around her neck like some tiny charm.
"Yeah," Aurora agreed. "I don't like it either, but Mother gave it to me."
Ukyou raised an eyebrow. Aurora almost made it sound like Alexia was a real mother and not some controlling monster. Though the blonde did wonder why Aurora had it around her neck instead of buried in the little leather purse the other demon had slung over her shoulder.
"I'm being good, see…?" Aurora said as she held up her hands. Her gaze briefly drifted over Ukyou's shoulder down the length of the mall.
"So far," Ukyou allowed. "Look… I can't really be your… friend. I mean, your mom wants to kill my mom."
"Likewise," Aurora agreed.
"We shouldn't be on opposite sides. We used to be partners."
Aurora smiled as her eyes briefly flicked to somewhere behind Ukyou. "My offer still stands. We could be… together again," Aurora said as her hand darted out to caress Ukyou's hand. All she had to do was distract Ukyou's sense of smell. Mother was more than capable of masking her energy signature. After all, she was the one who taught Aurora how to do it.
"I'm sorry," Ukyou said as she reveled in the physical contact. She could feel Aurora's energy. There was also something else. Something familiar that tugged at the back of her mind. The blonde demon pushed that thought aside as Aurora stroked her hand again, and even ignored the tanned blonde that entered the store right behind her.
"Why can't you come with my family? I mean, we are going to beat Alexia," Ukyou offered.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Aurora said giving a fanged smile.
"What?" Ukyou said… as she extended her demonic senses. She sensed something powerful, familiar, and malevolent inside the shop. She had been tricked.
"You fucking bitch!" Ukyou spat as she punched Aurora in the face. As the green-eyed demon tilted backwards, shock on her face that was now missing a couple of teeth, Ukyou made a grab for the cellular phone around Aurora's neck. She had to call for help. Akane was in serious trouble.
"No… no… No!" Ranma shouted once he recognized who his youngest daughter was talking to. The martial artist and his fiancée had been walking along the upper floor of the mall keeping an eye on the two succubae.
"Oh, fucking hell," Kasumi said when she saw Ukyou throw a punch at the orange-haired demon.
"Screw this," Ranma said as he opened the bottle of water he was carrying and poured it over himself. There was no time for subtlety. The succubus jumped over the guardrail, landed on the roof of a lower-level shop that jutted out and then finally on the first floor.
"At least she didn't show her wings… yet," Kasumi noted as she drew her gun and called for backup.
Aurora's eyes slammed into focus as the cord around her neck snapped. Alexia's daughter looked up to see Ukyou straddling her, murder in her eyes. "You traitorous little whore," Ukyou spat, holding Aurora's pink phone in her hand like a prize.
The green-eyed demon's fear turned into confusion when Ukyou's face suddenly burst into predatory glee. The connection was back, Mother was here. The blonde followed the link up to the second story of the mall where the demonic redhead was standing.
"Mom! I'm so glad you're here!" Ukyo shouted. "Alexia's in the shop with Akane!"
Fear flooded back into Aurora. She had to get to Mother. A drawn-out fight was not part of their plans. Aurora flared her aura and knocked Ukyou off her, and scrambled back to her feet. Hardly noticing the damage to her face or the missing pieces of her head, Aurora ran towards the shop.
A primeval scream came from behind her and suddenly pain bloomed in the upper right of her chest. Aurora looked down to see a hole the size of a silver-dollar bored through her, just above her breast.
She stumbled slightly but managed to turn into the clothing stop. She had to get to Mother. Mother would make everything better.
Inside the tiny dressing cubicle, Akane looked at her reflection. Looking back at her was a sexy, confident succubus. Akane smiled. This was the dress.
The young demoness frowned, something was not right. She was then hit with a wave of demonic energy and suddenly, she was back in that warehouse in Vaughan. Back to the last time she was human.
"Oh no…." Akane whimpered as the door opened.
Standing before her with a cold smile was a tanned, tall woman with long curly blonde hair. "Hello, dear, Mother's back," Alexia smiled as she reached out to Akane.
Akane, for her part managed to snarl, and extend her claws, but her hand fell short of Alexia's arm.
"I'm sorry dear, but you can't harm me," Alexia laughed. "I'm the one who made you, daughter. You are mine." This time, when the brood mother reached out to caress Akane's face, the blue-haired demon only shuddered in revulsion.
"Whatever did that Traitor do to you?" Alexia sighed as she looked over the younger demon.
"You sent me off to die," Akane spat, forcing out the words with what willpower remained.
Alexia smiled. "Good. You admit what you really are. An excellent first step."
"Mother! We have to go! She's here!" Aurora interrupted.
Turning to see her daughter sporting a couple holes, Alexia snarled. They might not have secured a mate for Aurora, but they had the more important demon. Alexia wrapped an arm around Akane. "Hurry up, unless you want to be left behind!"
Aurora lunged at her Mother and grabbed onto the taller demon.
Holding a demon on each arm, Alexia smiled at the Traitor before vanishing in a pillar of yellow and green fire.
Eyes glowing with rage, the redheaded succubus released her fireball at the spot where Alexia was before Alexia teleported out. The orb exploded in the far end of the dressing cubicle and started consuming the contents of the small room.
As she screamed a guttural howl of rage, the redhead slammed her fist into the ground. It powdered the tile floor at the point of impact, made a sizable dent, and spread deep cracks throughout concrete slab.
She slowly pulled her hand back up, not noticing the damage to her digits. They would heal anyway.
Kasumi had not seen the teleportation, but Ukyou had filled her in. She had secured herself at the entrance of the store and was on her phone. "Sir, there is a situation here. I need backup, and people from PR section. That's right sir. We had a public display. We also need strike teams ready. It's Alexia. The bitch took my sister. Yes sir, bringing the Major is highly recommended."
Lieutenant Tendo turned to look at her fiancé, who was holding her remaining daughter. Realization dawned on her "Oh no… Have the observation team get Nariko immediately, sir! Alexia might not be done."
Kasumi then described the day's events. She was almost at the end when Jacob interrupted her. The junior officer sighed with relief. "Ranma! Nariko's okay. She and your mother are being brought here. Under heavy guard," Kasumi added.
"Thank you, sir," Kasumi said into her phone. "I'll tell Captain Jarvis to take over here when he arrives."
Ukyou kept herself close to her mother. The redhead's eyes were flashing in a strange pulsating pattern. Ukyou looked down at the pink phone she was still clutching. "Kasumi! I think we have something!" she cried holding up the phone.
"That's Aurora's, isn't it?" Kasumi said. "Sir, I think we've got our first break. Make sure there's someone from Comm and Crypt coming."
"The little whore was using this to talk to Alexia," Ukyou said as she carefully handed it to Kasumi.
The agent smiled as she held the phone. They had their lead. Finding Alexia was now possible. "Don't worry, Ranma, we've got the bitch. We can get Akane back and deal with her."
Ranma slowly turned her head to face Kasumi's. The demon then gave an unpleasant fanged smile and licked her lips.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: It was a long one. Part of the reason it took so much time to write.
I'd like to thank Kevin Hammel and PyroRaven especially for the help they've given in this chapter and some of the upcoming stuff. For some stuff they've gone above and beyond the call. You guys know what you did thanks.
Of course my other prereaders have done their usual work Thanks to Wray Lofin, PyroRaven, Jerry Starfire, Mondu, J St C Patrick, Mike Koos, Truk, and Joe Fenton
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