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by Shade

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and affiliates are the property of Rumiko Takahashi, Rifts and Phase World are owned by Palladium. Other references belong to their respective owners.

1-B: Some things never change

One Galactic Standard Year later…

"Good of you to come on such quick notice, Commodore.  I've been meaning to talk to you about that officer of yours."

"You mean Commander Saotome?"

"That's the one. Bit of a loose cannon, so I've heard."

"He gets the job done, sir.  That maverick streak of his has saved our bacon on more then one occasion."

"I take it you're talking about that incident with that alien intelligence infiltrator. Messy business, that."

"We'd never have found it without him. He's got to be the most damn lucky person I have ever met."

"Luck is all well and good, but it seems he's fighting with our troops almost as much as he does with the Kreeghor. There's also the matter of the complaints from our provision department. Saotome eats enough supplies to feed two whole divisions, and that's just breakfast! I'd swear that he was a transformed dragon if the tests hadn't come back negative."

"Well, he does work hard.  If I had a hundred like him, we'd whip the Empire in no time."

"If we had a hundred more like him, we'd all starve to death."

"… Sir, exactly what is the real problem?"

"… *Sigh*… Sit down."


"I won't argue that Saotome hasn't proven himself a fine and loyal officer, because he has. However his continued presence here is becoming detrimental to both morale and property values."

"I'm aware of the commander's tendency to put his foot in his mouth, but isn't that going a bit far?"

"Commodore, half of the troops love him. The other half would love to kill him."

"So what are you suggesting I do about it? I wish I knew what it was that attracted women to Commander Ranma. It's unnatural how they just seem to fall for him, almost as mysterious as how the heck he manages to get on the bad side of every male soldier he meets within five seconds of running into them."

"We've recently acquired a new experimental corvette from some friends on Phaseworld. The Free Worlds could use another privateer; don't you agree, Commodore?"

"Ah, I see. But what about the crew?"

"Entirely female, of course. It simply wouldn't do for the captain of the ship to be lynched by his own people."

"Somehow I doubt Saotome will be grateful for that. I suspect a lynching would have been kinder."

Ranma relaxed in his quarters, one of the few remaining places he could find any privacy anymore. He didn't understand women at all. Ranma doubted that he ever would.

It had been bad enough back home when it was just human girls. Even though he hadn't had much contact with them, he had still wondered about the looks they would give him more and more often as he'd gotten older.

Here he had to deal with Dragons, Elves, Nymphs, and females from half a dozen other races that all wanted one thing…

Ranma blushed bright red. Even after a crash course in reproduction six months ago he still got embarrassed thinking about IT.

{Me and my big mouth. I should never have accepted that challenge. But I thought she was talking about Martial Arts, not Marital Arts!}

On the bright side after a month of intense studying and training he had won the match. Of course that victory had brought him a whole new set of problems. Not the least of which had been the discovery that the match had been recorded and broadcast on a minor interstellar network. His women troubles had increased tenfold after that incident. Then there were the side effects of his training…

Right now he was off duty, which was good since it would give the bruises he'd gotten from this morning's brawl some time to heal. Just why had that chef attacked him anyway? All he had been doing was asking for his 273rd helping of breakfast. It wasn't his fault that the portions were so small.

He sighed.  Life had been so much simpler when he was just a martial artist back home. No legions of amorous women after him, no bounties on his head— and various other choice portions of his anatomy— and no bizarre advanced technology. A place where a giant interstellar battle between the Rebellion and the Empire was just a movie, and psychotic tentacled aliens from another dimension were just the product of quickly forgotten nightmares.

Absently, Ranma checked the date as he relaxed in his bed. This precious freedom from the "command bunnies" was worth its weight in credits. He fully intended to take advantage of it to the fullest.

Had it really only been a year since he had arrived in this strange dimension?

Even as his eyes closed Ranma's mind wandered back to those hectic weeks and months earlier.

Ranma Saotome had found himself stranded on a strange and very hostile alien world in the middle of a very brutal and bloody war. The Rebellion forces were outnumbered, outgunned and outclassed on almost every military level. The Kreeghor Empire had been playing for keeps, even now Ranma could only wonder how he had survived through those first two months of sheer hell.

A daring strike had cut off the ground forces from the fleet, stranding thousands of Rebel troops on the surface of the planet as the Kreeghor blockade bombarded the planet on an hourly basis.

Left with no other alternative, he'd hooked up with the remnants of the Rebel army. It had been two months of running and guerrilla combat along with endless lessons that crammed the basics of survival in this universe into his thick head.

He hadn't wanted to learn at first. Always the confident martial artist, contemptuous of the "crutches" of advanced weaponry. Getting most of his shoulder vaporized by an enemy’s plasma bolt made him change his mind very fast.

Ranma flexed his right hand again, the reassuring feel telling him that his arm was still there.

Thank the kami that Livia had been nearby and that she had a spell of Restoration ready. Without it he would most likely have died.  With only some field med-kits available to treat an injury of that magnitude, his chances of making it would been practically zero.

After that nearly fatal battle, he'd lost a lot of his cockiness and soaked up everything he was taught eagerly.  There's nothing quite like confronting your own mortality to get you motivated. Ranma had quickly become the proud inventor of Anything Goes Speed Reading, Anything Goes Computer Hacking, Anything Goes Power Armor Combat and a dozen other new side branches to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. Nor did Ranma ignore his original training either; his unique style of martial arts was unknown in this universe and it gave him a crucial advantage over most of his opponents, who tended to underestimate a "mere human".

By the time the Rebel fleet broke the blockade, Ranma had already reached the rank of master sergeant via battlefield promotions. And he'd earned each and every one of them.

After escaping from the planet (whose name, he had learned later, was Ristmoth) Ranma had intended to just leave and look for a way back home. As luck would have it, things didn't turn out that way. Instead, Ranma found himself entangled in the middle of a conspiracy to assassinate the leader of the Free Worlds. Along the way he had also literally stumbled across an undercover Kreeghor agent, one that turned to be part of an unknown alien intelligence. For his role in thwarting the assassins they had promoted him to officer status, and he'd known at that moment that for better or worse he was stuck here.

There were worse fates, he figured.

His last promotion had been only four months ago to his current rank of commander. He had been ashamed to receive it; in his opinion, he didn't deserve it. It had been a fluke and an embarrassing one at that.

Ranma and a small group of fellow Rebellion officers had been betrayed and captured at Phaseworld by the Imperial Fleet. They were taken onboard the dreadnought that served as the flagship, to serve as "examples" to worlds that resisted the might of the Empire. Somehow, a cat had got on board the ship during docking and when their captors had discovered that Ranma was scared to death of it, they decided to have a little fun before they killed him.

The last coherent image he could remember had been the tawny furball clutching to his face in feline aggravation.

When he woke up later, he was being congratulated for single-handedly capturing the Dreadnought virtually intact, a major coup for the Rebellion.

It wasn't until he reviewed the records that Ranma learned of what he had done. The cat triggered the Nekoken.  Neko-Ranma found himself in an enclosed space full of many enemies and few friends.

The feral beast cut loose. By the time the alarms sounded every Imperial troop within 100 feet had been shredded into unrecognizable kitty litter. The Kreeghor found out the hard way that Neko-Ranma could SWIPE their blasts aside with absolutely no difficulty.

A surprise attack by local Rebellion forces increased the confusion; by the time the Kreeghor finally figured out what had happened, their forces were crippled and every one of their personnel on the dreadnought was dead.

Things had rather quiet since then. Besides the normal battles going on in contested territory, there was no new fighting between the Rebellion and the Kreeghor. It was almost… boring.

Well, besides the legion of WARS (Women After Ranma Saotome).

Sleep descended on the weary officer.

But this time his dreams were different.

[Greetings, Ranma Saotome]

{Who are you?}

[Transcendence, Connection, Life, Light, Hope.]

{Which one?}

[All and none… I am the Cosmic Forge.]

{What do you want with me?}

[I will show you.]

And so a hero was born…


To be continued.

Part 1-C
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