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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.


2-E: (part 4) … No comment


-Aboard the Untamed Stallion (Don't you just hate when I do this. -_^)

Communications officer Tania sighed.

She'd been doing that a lot lately for the past three weeks. In fact, so much so that it was getting on everyone else's nerves.

"Would you stop that!" Commander Ayla snapped at her. The metamorphosed Dragon's nerves were frayed to the breaking point by that constant irritating sound her Elven subordinate made.

The normally perky girl cringed, cowed by this uncharacteristic display of temper. Usually Ayla was the very model of composure, able to get her point across with a few carefully chosen words or a simple stern look that got even the most rowdy crewmember in line. For her to start behaving this way, something had to be seriously wrong with her. And they all knew what it was; they were all feeling it too.

The force that bound them all together into a unbeatable united team was gone; the one that had smoothed over individual rough edges and friction and been the very heart of the Untamed Stallion was missing.

Reflexively the pretty blonde turned to look at the Captain's chair, a whimsical hope that perhaps he'd be there and everything would go back to normal crossing her mind.

The emptiness that greeted her eyes was a cruel one.

Ranma was gone.

Ayla had refused to sit in that seat even though she was now in command of the ship. It would have felt like a betrayal; that seat belonged to only one person, the true captain of the Untamed Stallion.

She noticed Tania's glance toward the empty seat and her conscience berated her. They were all feeling out-of-sorts, and losing her temper did nothing except lower the crew's already rock-bottom morale. She had a responsibility to them all, the Captain had left her in charge… Ranma…

{Why? Why did you have to leave?!}

It was a question Ayla had been asking herself constantly as each day passed and his absence took its toll on them. Three weeks had gone by without any word from him, after they had taken Ranma to one of the Rim worlds and simply left him there; three quiet, boring, long weeks without even a hint of action to get their minds off worrying about their commander. It was driving them crazy, and things couldn't go on for much longer like this before something gave.

The Chiang-Ku was especially worried about Akiko and Yukio. The twins had become quiet and withdrawn ever since Saotome had left, and that was a bad sign. Distracted fighter pilots usually ended up as dead pilots. No one else onboard could fly those Katanas as well as the Turbo Jockeys, so replacement was not an option.

Even if she simply suspended them from flying until they snapped out of their funk, it would mean cutting their fighter strength in half and reduce the Untamed Stallion's actual combat strength by nearly a third. Without the Katana Starfighters, they had only the Black Eagle Medium Fighters to deliver the giant antimatter cruise missiles that were one of their most important anti-ship weapons.

{Damn it all! We need you, Captain… RANMA, WHERE ARE YOU?!}

Finally something broke the strained atmosphere.

*BEEP**BEEP*

"Incoming transmission!"

Tania's alarmed voice was like a shot of highly concentrated caffeine; the entire bridge snapped into alertness as they took their ready stations.

"Source?"

"Checking now… It's from Fleet Command!"

"The flagship?!" The first officer found herself asking, unable to believe it at first.

"Confirmed! Hyperspace squirt from the HopeBringer! Priority 1, Condition Red, using the full Antilles encryption package! Slicing now…"

{What could they possibly need us for that they'd use a Hyper transmission station?! The cost for those is prohibitive!}

As Ayla read the decoded message, her eyes widened…

{My Gods! They're actually going to do it??!!!}

"Commander?" Lily looked worriedly at the shocked expression on the officer's face.

"Sammy, Bring us about and set course for the Ristmoth System, maximum warp!"

"Acknowledged Commander! Engaging FTL Drive."

The chestnut haired former Imperial Guardsman turned helmswoman swiftly moved to fulfill the order, her hands flashing across the controls that directed the mighty Contragravity Engines. (1)

The sleek warship seemed to briefly stretch into infinity as matter achieved a velocity faster then Einstein's laws of relativity allowed.


-Rifts Earth, North America

Janet Braddock was after a man.

Not just any man, but a very special man. And as the second in command of a large and prominent mercenary company, who also happened to be the daughter of the man who ran the company, she usually got what she was looking for one way or another.

The fact that the mercs had just been hired by Erin Tarn to find the exact same person she wanted to find was an unexpected bonus.

{It's time we settled some things Ran. Then I need to talk to Daddykins about that "No Dating" rule of his.}

Around her neck was a small locket with a photograph of the man that had saved Janet's life from the psychopathic traitor who'd joined the company several years ago. A Braddock never left a debt unpaid, no matter what.

A certain pigtailed young man was going to get the surprise of his life…


-Phase World Center

Katrina Sun looked around inside the giant indestructible structure known as the "Center", where over ten million beings of practically every known race and species could be found as they made deals that either made them or broke them. Even the Dimensional Market of Splynn paled beside this trans-universal business node of the Megaverse. Everything one could desire was available for sale here, and any whim or fancy could be satisfied… for the right price.

There were simply no words capable of describing the giant bustling chaos that was Center. It was an old joke that the only thing harder then seeing Center was surviving it. Crime was not unheard of even in the upper levels, and the lower levels of Center were places only fools and the desperate dared tread. Full-scale battles between bitter rivals occasionally broke out in the many halls, despite the Prometheans' attempts to restrict the presence of combat robot vehicles and other instruments of mass destruction. This was the place for adventure and excitement, with danger lying around every corner, and potential rewards that could boggle the mind.

The Ley Line Walker had no eyes for any of the dazzling sights, though. After weeks of searching, she'd finally gotten a lead to Ranma's whereabouts. The amnesiac Goddess turned adventurer wasn't about to let the noblest man she had ever met just walk out of her life without a fight!

Her contact had mentioned the Free World Council; now all she had to do was find them…

{Soon, Ranma…}


-Planet Playtex, Headquarters for the Legion of W.A.R.S.

The Lusty Lingerie Amazons were not happy. Weeks of searching by their best agents had turned up nothing; even their allied cousins from the secret world of Victoria had been unable to find the one that the legion had been created for.

Ranma Saotome had vanished from the face of the Three Galaxies. The 6.4 billion beautiful girls on the planet were quite ready to start panicking now.

Their race had originally been solely female, reproducing through a giant network of automated cloning machines. Their civilization had never even seen a man, until the day that the Untamed Stallion and the Soyokaze literally stumbled onto their small empire.

Captain Tylor got off lucky; Empress Azalyn had declared him to be under her protection. Though they might desire him, the Amazons were smart enough to know that he was off limits for the moment.

Captain Saotome, on the other hand…

The scary thing was that they were quite willing —and even eager— to share him. The Lingerie Amazons had a saying "Love is something to be enjoyed by all". In Ranma's case they meant that literally, especially since that meant that the other girls after him would be available as well…

They were a passionate people, after all.


-The Tendo Bath (At last)

Time seemed to grind to a halt.

The screen door inched its way open…

The Tendo daughters carried a small towel each, and nothing else. Although it was slightly unusual for all of them to use the bath at once, it wasn't unheard of. They had shared the facilities on occasion during their childhood. So there were no surprises to be found as they disrobed and prepared to get nice and clean.

The surprise awaited them in the bath proper.


Ranma dried his hair. He felt much better now. Even a jealous Rune Weapon couldn't put a damper on his mood. The steaming hot water had felt so good…

His telepathic sparring with Ishtar was pretty much on familiar ground. She was always this way whenever he met a girl, no matter how nice they might be. She was always suspicious of them, worrying about the vile deeds they might commit upon his trusting body. But Ranma now understood why she did that. It had surprised him learn how deep Ishtar's feelings really were the first time they'd touched minds. He'd never imagined that she cared that much about him

Ranma had rescued the enslaved Goddess of Light from a Splugorth Intelligence that had made the fatal mistake of underestimating his newest captured experimental subject. Though normally a CosmoKnight's morals wouldn't allow Ranma to keep a weapon that used the captured soul of another being as its source of power, he'd found himself being asked, even begged, by Ishtar to be wielded in the name of all that was Good. It was a request he'd been unable to refuse, and one he'd never regretted accepting. Her psionic and magical talents had proven invaluable; with Ishtar's help even the most magically gifted opponent could be defeated with a reasonable chance of success. Ranma had tried to find a way to free her, only to discover to his horror that although it was possible to destroy a supposedly invincible Rune Weapon, doing so meant that the soul of the being trapped within it would be forever lost!

So it had remained, with a bond as close as lovers between the sentient weapon and the man who carried her. The only way they could ever meet was while he slept, within the brief paradise of his deepest dreams. It was a bittersweet union between them; the one person who the CosmoKnight trusted absolutely without reservation was also the only one he could never truly be with.

He never heard the door open…

There was a sharp intake of breath as Kasumi, Nabiki and Akane were treated to the sight of glistening, well toned, and very nude prime male flesh.

The angle was just right so that they could get good looks at both his front and part of his lower rear anatomy.

The term "buns of steel" suddenly popped into Kasumi's head for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

With the towel over his face Ranma couldn't see his three unintentional voyeurs, and he kept on drying off.

The girls stared long and hard at his well-muscled frame, their towels dropping unnoticed to the floor. Their gazes roamed up and down his exposed body. They noticed something almost immediately that had been hidden from them before.

Ranma had tattoos.

Nabiki was awestruck by the finely detailed Phoenix arising from flames that lay over the young man's heart, it almost looked… alive. She wondered what it would taste like…

It would have shocked her to find Kasumi was wondering the exact same thing of the armored knight on Ranma's right shoulder.

Akane's eyes caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a tattoo of three eyes just above the inside of his elbow. The other two power tattoos just behind Ranma's wrists went unnoticed for the present. (2)

As if by popular vote the three pairs of curious eyes descended south of the border…


-We interrupt this scene for the following announcement: *CENSORED!!!*

"HEY!" The female participants cried, as a large black dot appeared to cover the entire scene.

"Sorry folks, we're not allowed to show this in mainstream." The Bard had his best "used car salesman" act on.

"Thank goodness." Shadow whispered to the Guardian who nodded in agreement.

Rowan hit the fast-forward.

Zora just smiled, a mischievous gleam in her eye.


-Too bad, you missed it.

{MINE!!!} Nabiki's first rational thought was almost violent in its intensity.

{EEP!!!} As if transfixed by a cobra Akane's wide-eyed stare fixed on a particular portion of Ranma's body. Her mouth kept opening like a fish out of water, and about as much came out. Her face was threatening to explode from all the blood rushing into her cheeks.

{Oh my… this is most improper… I shouldn't be doing this… I'll just turn around and… turn around… turn… and… um… another minute shouldn't hurt…}

Kasumi found herself unable to tear her eyes away.

Just as things were about to get interesting, Akane noticed her older sister starting to head toward Ranma with a eerie, determined gleam in her eye and panicked. Her arms reached out to snag both of the other girls, and yanked them back to the safety that lay behind the doorway before slamming the door shut.

*BANG*

"Huh?" Ranma looked toward the doorway after removing the towel. He thought he'd heard someone, but there wasn't anyone there…

{What was that all about?}

[*Snicker* Looks like someone just got a free peep show to me.]

{What?!}

He couldn't get another answer out of her. Ishtar was too busy laughing.


-Elsewhere in the house

Genma and Soun were plotting. (3)

"Genma! The houses MUST be joined!!"

"I know old friend, but the boy is stubborn. We can't simply force him into this; somehow he's become too strong and independent for such measures. We need a subtle plan to make him marry one of your daughters. By the way, who is going to marry him, anyway?"

"Uh…."

{Think of something Soun!}

"Akane! Yes, Akane shall marry him!! He's a martial artist, she's a martial artist; it's a match made with heaven's blessings!!"

Common Sense groaned in disgust and went off to sulk.

"Well then, all we need to do is get them together and let Nature take its course!"

"Alright then!! It's Soun and Genma's…"

They shouted out together much to the dismay of the neighbors.

"… Operation: Get Them Hitched!!!"


-Where Real-Space and Other-Space Meet

The Cosmic Forge lay hidden, always watching but never interfering directly…

Right now it was having a good laugh. Even ultra powerful, nearly omniscient artifacts can have a sense of humor.

Its chosen one just seemed to attract chaos wherever he went, but of all the beings that it had selected over countless millennia, this boy Ranma had come the closest to achieving the necessary qualities that the Forge had been searching for. The Knights were a test. They had been given the first hints of the gift, but none had ever been able to move on to the next step. After so many failures the ancient creation had begun to despair of ever being able to find the One, but now…

For the first time in nearly a millennia, the Forge knew hope. This chosen one had constantly pushed the boundaries of his gift and discovered new ways to use it, ways that went beyond anything any other CosmoKnight had been ever able to achieve. Right now, he was at crucial point. If he was able to actually take the next step to the level beyond…

The Cosmic Forge, Guardian of the Three Galaxies, laughed…

… and prayed.


-Somewhere

Ryouga the donkey was running as if the entire population of the Nine Hells were after him.

"Git back here, Bessie! I got needs to be relieved!!!"

If anything, Ryouga ran faster after hearing that. It was bad enough being used as a pack animal, but that…

That was a fate worst then death!!!!

{DAMN YOU RANMA!!! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!}

Ryouga kept on running long after he lost the grizzly old man that was chasing him. He didn't pay any attention to where he was going.

Say, didn't that bunch of pools up ahead look familiar?

That stray thought took awhile to get the occupied jackass's attention.

{AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!}

*SPLASH*

It was going to be a long night.

 

To be continued.


Author's notes:

  1. Contragravity involves using anti-graviton particles to neutralize the effects of gravity on an object. This technology is the basis for anti-gravity systems and the primary method for achieving speeds greater then light.
  2. Tattoo Magic: each tattoo can be activated to give Ranma a specific power for a limited amount of time. All use up a lot of power since Ranma has to pay twice the amount of energy they normally require because he has only five tattoos.
  • (Chest) Phoenix arising from flames: Super Healing & Resurrection (Restricted) —Can revive a person who has been dead for no more then six hours, but doing so requires the tattoo bearer to permanently sacrifice a part of their life-force and power in the process. Extremely costly to activate.
  • (Shoulder) Knight in Armor: Magical Armor —Chosen armor style is chain mail, the armor is transparent.
  • Three Eyes within a Pyramid: Special Enhanced Supernatural Vision (Includes see invisible & detect magic) (Behind wrist)
  • Heart in Chains: Limited Invincibility (Ditto)
  • —Magical Blue Aura that absorbs most damage, aura gets dimmer as the protection fades.
  • Eye between two lines with Rune Mark:
  • *Special* Mage Sight (Able to recognize all magical items and symbols plus can also use scrolls)
  1. You didn't really think they'd give up that easily did you?
Part 2-F
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