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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.

3-E: Life Just Isn’t Fair Sometimes

-Phaseworld Center, Free Trade Zone (Naruni Enterprise's Headquarters)

Trader Smythers paced nervously. Even within the relative security of his own office, he didn't dare let his guard down. Being on the Board of Directors for Naruni meant that he had to not only worry about rivals such as the Splugorth, but threats from within the company as well. There were far too many ambitious beings surrounding him for Smythers to ever totally relax, no matter how well he was protected. Especially now; the current operation that was on his authorization was both risky and potentially dangerous to the company itself. If any of the other members were to find out about this, there was a more then likely chance that Smythers would be "retired" from the Board. Such a retirement usually involved an NE 20mm plasma cartridge at point-blank range.

Yes, the risks of taking action were great. But the dangers of not doing anything at all were much, much greater. The information Saotome possessed couldn't destroy the company, but it would give Naruni's public reputation one heck of a black eye if it were ever made public. Yet Smythers had been unable to take any direct action against the troublesome officer while friends and connections had surrounded him. There would have been too many questions raised. Questions with dangerous answers, answers that might lead to old secrets that the Trader intended to keep buried at all costs. But now that the irritating flea had foolishly disconnected himself from his support network, there was an opportunity here to finally get rid of the pest once and for all. Separated from his allies, Saotome would simply quietly disappear, never to be heard from again.

Smythers had no intention of wasting this chance he had been given. Any remaining trace of the botched M'kri affair would finally be eliminated. And if his agents could get their hands on the disc as well, so much the better.

"Do you understand your orders? I want no mistakes this time."

The dark metallic form that stood at attention nodded once.

"Make absolutely sure that we can't be traced in any way to this."

It nodded again with a trace of impatience. This briefing was unnecessary. It knew what had to be done. The orders had already been directly uploaded into its system. But Smythers was the one in charge, so it had to humor him.

Thankfully, the director soon finished and dismissed the subordinate. It left the office quickly. This kind of business always left a bad taste in its internal receptors. In a way, it was a pity, really.

Kehal Redge was a shrewd negotiator: one of the company's finest. But he was also a very efficient enforcer and downright lethal (though reluctant) assassin. Although he maintained a healthy professional respect for Ranma, that wouldn't stop him nor would it sway from his duty. Naruni Repo-bots served the company with no exceptions, no excuses, and no mercy.

-The planet Ristmoth

The capital was in a state of revolt, as Imperial garrisons battled the rioting citizens for control of the city. Rebel warships bombarded any detected signs of military fortification from high orbit, paving the way for the descending transports. Meanwhile, armed with Naruni plasma rifles and portable missile launchers provided by the Alliance months before, the locals threw themselves against their long-hated oppressors with a vengeance.

Blood ran rampant in the streets as they clashed with seasoned Kreeghor shock troopers. Humans and D-bees alike died by the score against the well entrenched Imperial forces, but inch by costly inch they clawed their way forward. Civilian hovercars, with hastily added armaments and portable force fields, faced off against hovertanks and military class powered armors. Only sheer numbers gave them any sort of edge against the superior army weaponry.

It was a terrible slaughter that went on and on beyond any standard of sanity. Men and women who had lost their weapons earlier were clawing and biting at their foes where the fighting had broken down into chaotic close combat. Against the natural armoring of the Kreeghor and Machine People troopers, all their efforts were usually for naught and death usually followed swiftly. The rebels fared a tad better against the Human, Wolfen, and Silhouette troops. The sight of fellow soldiers being literally torn to shreds by wild-eyed rioters sent military morale plunging to new depths.

Then someone came up with the bright idea of improvising weapons from the high tech construction equipment that lay across the city, abandoned by their owners at the beginning of the attack. Laser torches, plasma drills, and construction bots soon joined the general melee, and this time it was the Kreeghor’s turn to do the dying.

Bodies and pieces of bodies went flying everywhere as weapons and heavy explosives found their mark. Even after centuries of refinement, the business of warfare was still quite messy, and especially now it showed. Corpses started to quickly pile knee-high in the streets, the smoking remains quickly growing rank under the putrefying heat of the glaring sun. More were pulped under the treads of high-tech armored killing machines that crushed enemy and ally alike, indiscriminately.

After a hundred years of pain and suffering under the iron foot of the Kreeghor Empire, it was all finally being repaid in the work of a single brutal day. High Governor K’tarthkl’ppe Ryga had earned a special hatred in the hearts of the planet’s people for his harsh rule and exploitation of those lacking enough funds to bribe him and his administration.

Millions had died working as forced laborers in the most hazardous and ill-equipped areas of the industrial areas. Thousands more had been seized and sold into slavery on the slightest excuse or whim. The depravities that those poor souls were forced to endure made the slow lingering deaths of the workers by starvation, radiation poisoning, asphyxiation, and disease seem like a blessing.

Ryga had grown fat while the populace starved to death just a few yards beyond his diamond gates. The rebellion had no intention of taking him alive; the sadistic monster had been responsible for too many outrages, had sent too many good people to their death. They would bring out his head on a pike to be paraded across the entire planet.

Dennis Skythe let loose a blistering oath as he picked off a sniper defending the governor’s palace, before ducking back down to avoid the return fire from the other troops defending the tyrant’s stronghold.

"Damn, I’m gettin’ too old for this crap."

Though his hair had gone completely milky white in the last few years, and his body wasn’t as strong as it had been, the general of the Resistance was still a formidable trooper. He signaled back to one of the soldiers in his squad. Within moments, a disposable one shot heavy rocket launcher was hauled up to his position behind one of the many fortified buildings that surrounded the decadent estate of the planetary tyrant. The cleverly designed Naruni weapon allowed Dennis to use the built in targeting to lock onto a heavy Dreadguard Tank defending the main entrance without exposing any part of himself to the enemy.

A moment later a heavy armor-piercing warhead came shooting down the street, penetrating deeply into the hard outer shell before exploding violently in the soft electrical innards of the machine. The thick blast armor actually increased the destruction caused, by containing the explosion inside of the tank.

With its propulsion system gone, there was nothing to keep gravity from asserting itself. The enormous hulk keeled over with a groan, squashing three troopers that weren’t fast enough to get out of the way in time. Whoops and cheers erupted from the other rebels as they renewed their assault on the now rapidly weakening Imperial position. The high pitched whine of balls of energized particles being fired from Imperial rifles mingled with the roar of plasma discharges from the freedom fighter’s own weapons.

Skythe turned to see that the leaders of the revolt were making their way to him, despite his insistence that they remain back at a safer distance from the front lines. But there wasn’t much he could do; this was their planet. He was just here as an advisor from the Free Worlds. The real leaders of this planet’s rebellion were an unusual lot, two humans, a machine person, and a Silhouette. But they had all rallied under the cause of freedom, so now it was Skythe’s job to keep them alive so that their dream would succeed. He sighed and wiped the sweat off of a brow that had the consistency of dried leather. Those civilian leader types were going to be the death of him. He just knew it. Then the grizzled old rebel looked up toward the clear blue sky where flashes of light still appeared every few moments.

"I wager those fleet boys are having a peach of a time right now."

-Above the planet

<BGM: Irresponsible Captain Tylor: The Soyokaze battle theme>
(Yes, it does have one!)

"All hands, brace for impact!!"

Alarm klaxons sounded as the corvette made an abrupt right turn and rolled 90 degrees in a desperate attempt to either dodge, or failing that, to minimize the blast damage of the incoming bundles of high-powered death.

Though the Shadowstar prototype was fast and heavily armed, it had one major flaw. The ship’s engines, no matter how advanced and powerful they were, could not supply the necessary power for all of the energy hungry systems onboard. Especially when in a combat situation, the ship’s guns and force field simply required too much power in active mode, which meant that sacrifices among the nonessential systems had to be made. So in exchange for an armament that outgunned anything smaller then a good-sized battleship, the crew was forced to put up with some rather trying inconveniences.

One of the biggest of which had been the inertial dampener. The device that kept the people onboard from being squashed to the thickness of a pancake every time the Untamed Stallion changed her velocity or direction. During non-combat operations, it was set at the normal rate for a vessel of her size. But in battle the dampeners were reduced to their lowest possible safety setting to keep the enormous drain on the engines down, and the strain of acceleration was so rough that the normal humans and D-bees were required to wear full environmental body armor to their stations.

Sammy, the Untamed Stallion’s navigator and helmsman, was nearly thrown from her seat despite her safety harness as the force of inertia tried to smash her into the ceiling. She was forced to hang onto the guidance controls for dear life to prevent the ship from slipping out of her control. The plan had worked to a "T"; the cruise missiles were currently doing their best to kill them instead of the transports. Now, all they had to do survive their success long enough to deal with the stubborn warheads before they were blown to kingdom come. Point defense managed to take out one more before the rest closed in.

One of the nine remaining missiles actually skidded off of the ship’s shields before detonating, thanks to Sammy’s amazing maneuvering. Only part of the blast caught the protective barrier. The bluish green energy bubble flickered momentarily, as the damage was absorbed and dispersed across the entire facing side, but stabilized quickly as more power was drawn from the shield generators.

The next three overshot their target and came around for another pass, but hot on their heels was the return fire from the corvette’s guns.

One of the missiles was winged, but not badly enough to cause it to self-destruct. The other two went into preprogrammed evasive maneuvers that were only partially successful. A lucky laser beam sliced off a stabilizer, sending the rocket careening wildly away from the ship and back into the planet’s atmosphere where it impacted and detonated harmlessly. Another missile impacted against the Untamed Stallion’s shield, which still held though the force field’s color dimmed and became almost totally transparent as it was exposed to the full destructive fury of an uncontrolled antimatter reaction. Yet another missile was intercepted by point defense, but the last five came as a volley and there was no chance to dodge this time. The ensuing chain of explosions engulfed the intrepid vessel.

Eyecatch #5

(Fade in)

(Caption: Washuu's guaranteed way to decide whom Ranma ends up with!)

(Overhead shot of a spinning roulette wheel, instead of numbers on the panels there are the names and pictures of various interested ladies.)

(A SD version of Ranma’s head is thrown in as a roulette ball. It goes bouncing along inside the spinning circle.)

(SD Ranma Head: "Ouch! Oof! Hey! Doh!")

(The little head passes several dozen names before it lands in Washuu's panel and sticks there.)

(Washuu: "Oh my! It looks like the one Ranma is destined to be with is me!!")

(The other girls: "Oh no you don’t!!!")

(Mihoshi: "Um… Washuu, why is your panel coated with superglue?")

(Washuu: "Mihoshi!! *Sees that the girls aren’t taking this development very well* Uh, oh….")

The SD head takes matters into its own hands and manages to free itself with some difficulty.)


SD Ranma Head: "Owww!! You girls are all nuts!! I’m outta here!!!"

(It bounces out of the wheel and starts to escape.)

(Washuu: "Wait for me!!")

(Washuu runs after the bouncing head)

(A moment later all the girls start chasing after them, telling SD Ranma to be a man and pick one of them. The strength of their argument is hampered by the fact that most of them are also packing several blunt instruments to persuade him who to pick.)

(The real Ranma is shown to be hanging overhead with a resigned expression on his face. He’s wrapped up in so many chains that it looks like he’s in a metal cocoon.)

(Ranma: "Would someone please untie me now?")



Urd walked straight up to Ranma. The fact that the Knight was bigger then she was didn’t seem to deter her aggressive stance at all as she poked a manicured finger against his breastplate. It felt like she was tapping against a brick wall. That almost gave her pause for thought.


"Okay, you. I want some answers."


Ranma stayed silent.

This whole situation was rapidly spiraling out of his control, and he didn’t like it. But before he got himself into even more trouble than he probably was in already, he needed to know what in the Nine Bleedin’ Hells he was dealing with here!

{Damn, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use this again. But I can’t keep plunging around blindly anymore, all the power in the universe won’t save me if I don’t have any idea of what (or who) I have to watch out for. So far the score is Murphy’s Law: "Way too many to count"- Saotome: "Zero".}

A small unobtrusive brush of his left hand against his right forearm, and an infusion of mystic energy from his internal reserves, and Ranma’s vision suddenly changed as his eyes now saw into a medium beyond the spectrum of visible light or conventional instruments. It simultaneously expanded and narrowed his focus, and opened his awareness to a realm of sensitivity where he was normally blind as a bat. The darkening surroundings now glowed softly with occasional blue flares, marking the swirling eddies of power that fed the hungry storm brewing overhead. A second look at Urd was enough to cause Ranma to tense up involuntarily and take a wary step back.

This was bad.

This was very bad.

This was "The Universe is using me as its personal chamber pot" bad.

Most normal people tended to have auras that were little more then blobs of gray, with the occasional streak of red, blue, black, green, yellow, or pink to determine alignment. Those who were either naturally strong in the supernatural or had trained themselves in the way of magic had auras that were rough approximations of their natural form and were usually a mixture of one or more of the basic colors. Adult dragons and the like had auras that were even more impressive. Those who could see it could often make out individual details, peculiar to the being in question.

The auras overlaying this exotic woman's physical body were very realistic. That's right, "auras", as in plural. The first one was almost perfect replica of the original body, right down to the individual strands of hair cascading down her neck. It was the second one that towered over the first that sent a shiver down his spine. Seeing the true form of a kami tends to have that effect on anyone that's not one of them. Even a CosmoKnight wasn't immune from the effect. It also didn't help Ranma's confidence any that both auras looked a lot more substantial then the 'real' form.

The other little thing was the telling lack of any garments on those images. Not that Ranma really noticed this. Since it didn't have any tactical significance, that little observation was shuffled off to a far distant corner of his otherwise preoccupied mind, where it would be filed away with all those other little things that Saotome either didn't think were important or just didn't understand. While this dusty little corner wasn't as big as it used to be, it still maintained a respectable amount of volume.

What he did know was:

1.) This lady wasn't human.

2.) She was much more intimidating than an adult dragon.

3.) Judging from the way the intensity of the colors kept constantly shifting from one extreme to another, while she had oodles and oodles of power she almost certainly lacked control.

That was both a good thing and a bad thing, good because it meant that she probably wouldn’t be able to cast any of those really nasty high level spells that required discipline and focus. Bad, because if things came down to a fight there was absolutely nothing more dangerous then an unpredictable female. Well… except perhaps a group of jealous unpredictable females… (ahem) getting back to the current crisis at hand…

Reflexively he looked over his shoulder for a way out. No dice, eight pairs of eyes were looking right back at him.

{Wait a second. Eight?}

You could almost see those little gears turning in his head come screeching to a halt. Now that Ranma could actually 'see' them, he was getting quite an eyeful.

The tall girl in the green fuku was mostly a mixture of medium green and blue, with green holding dominance. No surprise there. What was a surprise was that instead of manifesting as a person or creature like most beings, her inner self was projected as a tree. A tall majestic oak tree to be precise. Ranma had heard stories about this kind of thing. It was rumored that occasionally those with strong ties to nature and the natural order reflected that bond in their auras. There was also a small red stain that ran into the very heart of the tree that looked an old emotional wound that had never fully healed. He prayed that the light pink tint on the very fringes was a mistake. That kinda thing was only supposed to plague his human form.

The girl in the blue fuku was slightly more normal. 'Slightly' being the key word, here. A standard 'real-form' projection, while not as luminous as the others it was remarkably well structured. Almost completely ocean blue, her aura was a textbook example of calm and tranquility. This would be a good person to cover his back in a fight, someone that could remain cool under fire. It didn't hurt matters any that she wasn't hard on the eyes, either. She looked like his best chance to talk things out later if he ever ran into these girls again, a possibility that he was finding more and more likely with every passing moment.

Now, the cute blonde in the orange fuku wasn't what he'd expected. Her colors were much richer in tone then her companions, but the very fringes were worn and lacked a certain vibrancy that the others had. This one wasn't a stranger to battle, definitely some combat experience there. She looked pretty good (nowhere near his level, of course), but there seemed to be some kind of block that was keeping most of her potential locked up. It required some pretty heavy-duty magic to accomplish something like that, but for what reason? Uh oh, that pink showing was definitely there and getting more solid every minute. Definitely not good!

The quiet one in the violet fuku seemed normal enough, but a little too normal. Despite the fact that it was exactly what he'd expect from someone her age with some minor psychic ability it just didn't seem to fit with the person he saw before him. But try as he might, Ranma couldn't find anything else. She had a benevolent alignment and possessed a small amount of supernatural talent and that was it. But still, something about her aura bothered him…

Now, Mr. Fashion Embarrassment wasn't much to look at. Ranma had seen imps with more impressive fighting spirit. With such a weak aura, challenging even a minor supernatural fiend would be an automatic death sentence. This guy was either really brave, really stupid, or just plain nuts. Judging from his earlier actions, Ranma was willing to lay money on the latter theory. But maybe, just maybe, by the smallest, most remote margins of possibilities, that little spark of power within his soul might actually amount to something worthwhile under the right circumstances.

The little girl he'd rescued was another story all together. In all his years adventuring he had never seen anything even remotely like this. A natural living Power Nexus, and untrained to boot. No wonder those things had been after her. She was a walking battery of potential psychic energy! Although unable to use the power that they generated for themselves, with the proper training these incredibly rare talents could temporarily boost another person's personal power. This would allow a magic user to cast spells and attempt rituals normally only possible during solstices and solar eclipses, special times when magic was at its strongest. But it normally took decades of training to achieve the abilities of a Nexus, and only a dedicated few had ever accomplished it, to the best of Ranma's knowledge.

{What's going on here?!}

He almost missed the news crew. Compared to everyone else there, they were like weak shadows on the wall, eclipsed by the brilliant lights shining around them. In fact he would have missed them entirely if the one holding the camera hadn't come closer for a better angle. The sudden movement in his direction caused him to instinctively focus his attention on them, but he quickly determined that they were no threat.

Out of curiosity Ranma did a quick scan of the girl that was still unconscious.

She was a Godling as he'd guessed earlier. The signs were unmistakable now.

His effort was also rewarded with a fascinating discovery; yet another double aura! Not anywhere near as strong as that mystery woman's, but remarkable nonetheless. There was even a faint resemblance to the other aura. Were they siblings? If so, that might explain the woman's agitation.

That little nagging feeling that something was wrong was back…

{Wait a second. A news crew?}

The full impact finally started to sink in.

{… A NEWS CREW?!!}

The equation was simple, but not at all comforting.

Media + CosmoKnight = A whole lotta trouble.

And that also meant…

… Uh oh.

"Hey! Are you hard of hearing or something?"

Seeing that no response was forthcoming, Urd decided to change her tactics. The buxom goddess stalked forward until she was practically in the poor guy’s faceplate. Her voice took on a sultry tone, and her body started to move in ways that made it quite clear that she was very much a woman.

"Well? I’m waiting for an explanation."

She emphasized her point by somehow getting even closer. You could now slip one, maybe even two sheets of paper between their respective forms, but no more.

The Inner Senshi glared.

The news crew started drooling.

Ranma was suddenly very grateful for his armor's ability to automatically adjust itself to fit his form, thereby avoiding a potentially embarrassing predicament. Of course, given the circumstances he would have had to be dead as a doornail not to be affected.

{Well, at least it can't get any worse.}

"So are we."

… Ah, damn.

{Just had to think it, didn't I?}

The rest of the Outer Senshi were here.

-<BGM: Space Lonely Soldier: Megumi Hayashibara>

With a resigned sense of dread Ranma looked up.

"I am the protector of a new age, Sailor Uranus!"

"I am the soldier of elegance, Sailor Neptune."

{Oh boy…}

The other girls he could understand. They were still young enough to get away with the whole fuku thing. He might not approve of their choice of combat apparel, but at least it wasn't tacky. The same could not be said of these new arrivals.

The shorthaired blonde could have passed for a good-looking guy, at least until you looked below the neck. Not exactly his type, but she was a looker in her own right. Of course, her attractiveness was dimmed a bit by the dark looks she was giving him. Talk about hostility. This one was just oozing bad vibes. Nice legs though.

The girl with sea-green hair was a bit nicer to look at, but still seemed out of place in the fuku. She was harder to read; her expression was as cool as ice. But it was a safe guess to say that her intentions were not friendly. One did not make a dramatic entrance from a strategically advantageous spot in order to invite someone to tea and crumpets.

Unfortunately these two had the power to back up their pretty speeches. One of them alone he could have handled with little worry, but dealing with both at once would probably require more then he was willing to use in a heavily populated area. His ethical and moral code would not allow him to risk such an action unless it was a real emergency. This hadn't reached that point of no return yet, but it was getting there.

Their psychic energy signatures were each about half as strong as his own, which meant that they were about twice as powerful as the fuku wearing girls who were already here. Unfortunately, their higher level of experience also meant that they could partially shield their auras from his detection. There was no telling what other kind of nasty surprises they might be hiding. He'd have to treat it as a worse case scenario until he knew otherwise. Ranma especially did not like the look of that sword. It had to be magical; nobody in their right mind would ever use such a silly looking weapon unless it was enchanted with some heavy-duty power-ups. Too bad that his tattoo didn't allow him to check items. It only worked on living things.

The third member of their troop was a whole different story altogether. Not only was she the best looking of the three, but also her power level was…

{Oh, shit.}


To be continued.

Part 3-F
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