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Chapter 3: Opening Moves…

-Eyecatch of the day

~Fade In~

(Ranma running away "Roadrunner" style from the normal mob of girls trying to get a piece of him.)

Ranma: “AARRRGGGH!!!”

(The chase goes back and forth through the streets of Nerima/Juuban/Osaka/insert Japanese province of choice)

Ranma: “I've gotta find a way to get away from them!!”

(A light bulb pops up over his head)

(Ranma runs into the nearest phone booth and pulls a curtain down)

*Sounds of frantic changing of clothes*

(Door opens and out pops Oogumi Ichirou [Sakura Wars])

Ranma/Oogumi: “Heh, they'll never spot me in this getup!”

(True to his words, the girls pass him by, completely fooled)

Ranma/Oogumi: “Yes! Free at last!!”


Ranma/Oogumi: “OH, NO!! NOT THEM!!!”

(Several beautiful women with assorted weapons and a cute twelve-year-old surround him)

Members of the Hanagumi: “Hold it right there! You have to decide which one of us you really like the most!!”

Ranma/Oogumi: “Uh, can I get back to you on that?”

Sakura/ Orihime/ Kanna/ Sumire/ Kohran/ Maria/ Iris: “NO!!”

Ranma/Oogumi: “In that case…RUN AWAY!!!”

(A second chase ensues)

Ranma/Oogumi: “Let's try that again!”

(He runs, hides, and switches appearances again)

Ranma: “Ta da!”

(Trouble Contracter Kane Blueriver [Lost Universe] steps out)

(The Imperial Flower Division passes him by)

Ranma/Kane: “Whew! Finally ditched all them.”

(An ominous rumbling overhead seems to contradict that)

Ranma: “It can't be…”

(Four girls pop up)

Milly: “There you are!!”

(Milly pulls out her trusty oversized energy pistol)

Melrina: “How dare you try to run out on us!!”

(Melrina also pulls out a gun)

Karin: “Little lion, it's time to play.”

(Karin pulls out her energy whip and charges it up)


Canal: “You've been a very bad boy!”

(The Sword Breaker starts aiming all of its 200+ guns at him)

Ranma/Kane: “Help me…”

~Fade Out~

Part 3-I: Portents & Omens

A Ranma ½ crossover story
by Shade

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. Oh, My Goddess © Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. Rifts and Phase World are owned by Palladium. Other references belong to their respective owners.

Setsuna Meiou collapsed onto her bedroom floor as soon as her teleport finished.

While not the most powerful of the Senshi, she was unquestionably the most experienced. Pluto had never been reborn like the others, and so retained full awareness of her powers.

Normally she would have known better then to tap into that power while in civilian form. The strain it placed on her body made such an act impractical except for the most dire of emergencies. But after seeing the replay of the first few minutes of the first battle, she'd gone into shock.

{Impossible. It's impossible…}

Her first instinct had been to run and hide.

{I've finally gone completely mad.}

It was the only explanation her tormented soul could come up with. Rationality was submerged beneath the need to keep her deepest secret from the others. They would never understand, and the shame of them finding out was unthinkable.

Because she recognized that fighting style.

Setsuna had held some suspicions during their battle earlier, but the way he had been holding back (and she realized now that he had not been engaging them seriously at all) had prevented her from confirming the uneasy feeling of familiarity that had plagued her during the brief melee.

But now there was no mistaking that graceful, and utterly lethal, dance of quicksilver strikes and teasing dodges that defied any attempt to define a pattern.


She had thought that any remaining feelings for him had died long ago. It shocked her then, the maelstrom of conflicting emotions that now arose from the possibility that somehow he had survived the Silver Millennium’s destruction.

"I hate him! I…hate him. I…"

Confusion ran rampant through her mind. She wasn't sure about anything anymore.

How? How could he have survived?

And then she realized…

{I attacked him. I hurt him…maybe even killed him. Wasn't that what I always wanted? But…}

She recalled with stark clarity using her Chrono-Trigger technique against the Knight. She had dreamed of making Ran pay for his crimes, wanting to hurt him as much as he had done to her. But now the satisfaction that she had always expected to feel was not there. Instead there was a simply an aching emptiness within her breast.

"What's wrong with me?! I thought revenge would make the pain finally go away… Why? Why won't it stop?!"

An unexpected voice answered her.

"Perhaps it is time you started listening to your heart instead of burying yourself within your duties, Puu-chan."

Setsuna froze as that familar regal tone penetrated through the haze of despair and bitter loneliness. She turned to see a tiny spark of silvery white light pass through the bedroom window. It hovered for a moment at eye level and then slowly coalesced into a figure the Guardian of Time had not seen since that dark day over a thousand years ago.

Barely a foot tall, the spirit of the former monarch might have been mistaken for a fairy queen. Her silver hair and translucent wings shimmered with a faint unearthly light that gave her tiny form an almost tangible presence of undisputed authority.

"Queen Serenity!"

Setsuna hastily knelt before her beloved ruler.

"Your Majesty."

A brief look of mild irritation crossed Serenity's features.

"Stop that, Setsuna. You know I always hated going through the formalities in the Moon Kingdom. I didn't put up with it then and I won't put up with it now."

The Guardian of Time scrambled back to her feet. She was pale from the multiple shocks to her system but still managed to hold herself steady in the face of her Queen.

"But, Serenity-sama… How? Why? I don't…"

Serenity gave her a small sad smile.

"Hush. My time here is short. I have delayed my final journey long enough. This will be the last time I will ever be able visit this world again and I have no intention of wasting this opportunity."

Setsuna was left in a stunned silence.

"Much better."

The spirit nodded in approval even as her eyes softened.

"I know that these past centuries have been hard, but it is long past time that you stopped blaming yourself for what happened."

Setsuna's head came up in protest.

"But Highness, it was my fault that Beryl managed to launch her surprise attack! I neglected my duty by letting my feelings interfere with the oaths sworn to you and the entire kingdom. I let my guard down…"

Nothing could have softened the anguish in her voice.

"…And the Silver Millennium paid the price for my failure."

Serenity shook her head.

"No. All you did was fall in love. There is no crime in that."

Setsuna laughed dryly, a small hateful sound full of self-condemnation and loathing for her sheer stupidity.

"I loved him…and in return, he sabotaged our defenses, killed the Senshi of Uranus and Neptune, and banished me to the Gates of Time… I should have killed him when I had the chance."

The Queen's eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"Do not judge what you have yet to understand."


Confusion was writ on the Setsuna's face.

"Let it go, Puu-chan."

Serenity was not indifferent to her friend's plight. There was so much that Pluto didn't know, and though the spirit wanted to comfort her, she also knew that she could not. Indeed, she dared not. Serenity was only one tiny thread in the tapestry of Destiny. She understood the necessity of the final grand pattern, but that didn't mean she had to like it.

{If it were possible I would spare you the pain you must soon face. But life has never been very fair to you, old friend.}

Her face revealed none of the sympathy she longed to give, leaving only the steel will of the Queen for all to see.

"Heed my words, Guardian of the Gate."

The green haired woman stiffened as she heard herself being addressed by her full formal station.

"Between the Darkness and the Light stands the sleeping knight,
He will be known by the Blood of two Worlds,
Heir to the Dragon's Sword,
Marked by the Wings of the Endless Storm,
A Promise of Life that might or Death that will,"

Suddenly there was a tugging sensation on her remaining energy, one that grew stronger by the second.

{No! It's too soon!! I need more time!}

"Past and Future will soon come full circle,
The Destined are called to fulfill past vows yet to be sworn,
Old Enemies will meet again,
Opposing sides of the Coin,
Hope and Curse intertwined,
Two Students inherit their shared Legacy,
But only One shall claim their Destiny,"

Setsuna started to move as she saw her liege's image begin to fade but was halted by the warning look on her face.

With an almost visible effort of concentration the Queen managed to briefly stabilize her vanishing form.

But only for a moment.

"Beware of the Beast that hides within the Man,
Beware of the Deceiver that lives in the Shadows,
Beware of the Coveting Heart that shuns the day,
For only a Blade of Truth will be their End,
Seek out the Soul that holds no Lies,
Heal the Void within the Child the Stars,
Return the Key of Life to the Soul of Origin,
To Unlock the Seeds of the Past,
And Open the Gates of the Future."

The spirit's nearly transparent form started to shiver weakly as she fought to stay there just a little bit longer.

{I owe her this much at least!}

"Remember this well, Pluto. Those who choose to challenge their destiny… do… not… always… lose…"

And then she was gone.

-What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A certain news broadcast hit the international community of Earth with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

The repercussions were immediate, although most of them would not be discovered by Ranma until much later…

-Amazon Village, China

"<Elder, come quick! You have to see this!>"

Cologne blinked. After 300 years there weren't much left capable of surprising her.

This was one of those memorable moments.

The video feed was shaky and of poor quality due to interference from the surrounding mountains but the image was unmistakable.

"<The Rising Dragon Ascension?!>"

HOW had that person gotten his hands on such an advanced Amazon special technique?!

Only the village elders were supposed to possess them; the techniques were so difficult to master, that of the entire village only Cologne and a few other grandmasters were able to do more then just remember the names of those ancient special attacks anymore.

Even Happi, the only outsider to ever gain access to the original scrolls, had never been able to fully comprehend their workings.

"<Something strange is going on here.>"


Comb, Lorekeeper and one of the more liberal elders of the village, joined her in the hut.

"<Things have certainly become more lively in recent days.>"

Despite her light tone, the eccentric mystic knew that this situation required further investigation.

She had been sensing powerful forces in motion lately. Now it looked like a quick excursion to Japan was in order. For when elephants clashed, it was always the grass that suffered.

{I can feel the Lines of Destiny shifting. Whether it is for good or ill is impossible to tell. But there are Old Powers involved, and they could very well tear this entire planet apart if they engage in open conflict.}

Then Comb smiled.

As Lorekeeper for the tribe it was her responsibility to keep record of unusual events for the benefit of future generations.

And this promised to be anything but boring.

Cologne felt a sudden cold chill run down her spine as she caught a glimpse of that telltale grin.

{Goddess preserve us, every time Comb gets excited about something we always seem to find ourselves in a hell of a lot of trouble!}

The younger Amazons, who didn't really care about silly Japanese magical girl shows and just wanted to go out and track down their beloved pigtailed soon-to-be-husband, were already packed and ready to go.

It was going to be an interesting trip.

-Interpol HQ

"Mother! How could you engage me to some kid?!"

Chun-Li Zang shouted angrily at the hapless phone, her fingers wrapping hard around the cord in an attempt to strangle it. Was there some unwritten Universal Law that said mothers had to embarrass their daughters for the rest of their natural lives?

"You bought him from his father in exchange for a WHAT?!"

The Chinese Interpol agent had dealt with some pretty strange and traumatic things in her life, but this one took the cake, complete with icing on top!

"No way! Absolutely out of the question!!"

She was not going to marry some snot-nosed little punk just because her mother was desperate for grandkids to spoil! There were limits to what she'd do in the name of filial piety, and this was definitely one of them.

"This is not the Dark Ages!"

Unfortunately her mother didn't seem to agree with her.

"Fine!! I'll just have to find the jerk and get this stupid deal annulled from his side!!"

Chun-Li slammed her phone back down onto its cradle with a barely restrained snarl that boded ill for her “fiancé”.

Her fellow agents suddenly found that they had pressing business elsewhere.

All except for one unfortunate secretary who was just a tad too slow in realizing her peril.

The Interpol agent loomed over the rapidly paling woman.

"Book me on the first flight to Japan… NOW."

-The Diggers…


Gina Diggers had a familar feverish gleam in her eyes. Her passion for exploration, knowledge, and (most importantly) treasure was well known to family, friends and rivals alike.

"I've got to get that sword!!"

Brittany and Brianna sighed in unison. Both knew their sister's routine by heart now.

"Here we go again…"

… And Co.

"C'mon Charlotte, we're going to go and one-up little Miss Golddigger by getting to that artifact before she does."

Penny, eternal and (sorta) friendly rival of Gina Golddigger had that look on her face again.

"Um, okay. But won't the person who owns the sword have something to say about that?"

Her winged bodyguard wasn't so sure about this.

"Leave that to me. Warm up the jet, Ace."

Her other companion put a hand to his head.

"I just know I'm gonna regret this."

-London, England

"Hello Moneypenny."

The long-suffering secretary didn't even bother looking up from her work.

"M is waiting inside."

She winced; the old battle-axe probably couldn't wait to chew her out for her last assignment if Moneypenny's reaction was anything to judge by.

{Maybe it's time to start thinking about another line of work.}

She shook her head as a very un-agently giggle threatened to escape.

{Yeah, and maybe Daddy will finally settle down with just one woman.}

Her features resumed their normal composure the moment she stepped into M's office.

"We have a potential situation 003."

{Uh, oh.}

M nodded toward the digital screen on the wall behind her.

"This was picked up on one of Tokyo's satellite broadcasts two hours ago."

Agent 003 raised a single perfect eyebrow.

"Um… I wasn't aware that we were in the habit of investigating tabloid special effects."

M gave her an annoyed look.

"This is a serious matter, 003. Obviously there's something beyond the ordinary going on. And Her Majesty's Government doesn't like to be kept in the dark. Take the next plane to Japan and find out exactly what or who that is and report your findings back here A.S.A.P."

003 nodded, resigned to the inevitable.

"And one more thing, Melissa, do try not to behave like 007 while you're there."

It was all Melissa Bond could do not to roll her eyes at that. Nobody could possibly get into as much trouble as her father.

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind."


"Looks like we're in for quite a show."

Shadow wasn't the type to rub his hands together with glee, but only because it would have made him look silly.

The Bard had no such reservations.

"Oh, yeah!"


Rowan had his own private concerns, but he was beginning to get an inkling of what Zora was up to. It was no secret that the CosmoKnights had been trying to deal with certain problems in their respective galaxy, but the odds had always been skewed against them. Too many beings found the easiness of being evil an irresistible option.

But if what he suspected was true, the balance of power was about to take a major hit.

"I hope you know what you're doing."

She nodded back at him.

"I do too."

-We Now Resume the Fanfic Already in Progress-

-The Melva (Flagship of the Raalgon Empire)

Empress Azalyn Goza the 16th banged her royal scepter against the floor and issued her command in a suitably sounding voice, equal to the importance she placed on this task.

"You know the drill. Now go out and find Paco-Paco!"

"Yes, your Highness."

With all the cheer of a man condemned to a fate worse then death, Captain Dom of the Raalgon Naval Forces bowed and left the Throne Room.

{Not again! Damn you, Tylor!!}

Ru Baraba Dom feared no man.

But Justie Ueki Tylor was no ordinary man.

Tylor was an enigma. His superiors wanted to kill him, his enemies wanted to kill him, and more often than not his loyal crew wanted to kill him, too. Simply surviving so much enmity directed toward him was incredible, but prospering under such adverse conditions was nothing short of the kind of luck that made a person believe in miracles.

And yet somehow Captain Tylor managed to do just that.

Which was why the Raalgon Empire's military was so afraid of him. The guy simply wasn't human! And while Dom admired Tylor's incredible streak of good luck, he did not like the captain's current relationship with the Empress.

Especially since said relationship involved the removal of royal garments, suspicious giggling noises, even more suspicious moaning, and the Empress yelling "Faster, Paco-Paco!! Don't Stop!!" loud enough to shatter the listening equipment that had been secretly placed in the royal quarters for her safety.

-Get Up And Go!

Morning. On a planet with two suns, this event was usually regarded by the locals as having all the charm of a bunch of Homicidal Incarnations of Lost Technology.

Of course, not everyone felt that way.


Meryl Stryfe of the Bernardeli Insurance Agency pulled the sheets closer around her deliciously tired body as she luxuriated in the warm kiss of the dawning day.

For once all was right in the world for her. At last, after months of stress and hardship, she had finally, FINALLY gotten her hands on that idiot Vash, and after several hours of enjoyable persuasion managed to get those three magic little words out of him.

Now all that was left was to tie him up, drag her man to the nearest preacher, and then get the two of them hitched before Milly or one of the other girls got wind of her plans.

A questing hand reached over toward the other side of the bed in search of her future husband. Unfortunately the warm body that Meryl found snoring beside her was not Vash the Stampede.

For one thing, it was much too large. And the figure had breasts, large ones, which narrowed the possibilities down to…


Milly "Stungun" Thompson, fellow agent for Bernardeli Insurance and Meryl's exasperating sidekick, awoke from her pleasant dreams of the previous night.

"… Uhn? Oh! Good morning, Sempai!"

All of a sudden, the stress was back.


Meryl's outraged scream shattered every glass object in a six-block radius. A slightly tired looking young blonde man, with a spiky hairdo and a red trench coat, seven blocks away, started running even faster.

"Uh, oh. Looks like she finally woke up."

Unfortunately for Vash, and the city of “Jackpot” in general, a marshal that bore a striking resemblance to a certain ditzy Galaxy Policewoman and several ladies that had once tried to kill him were walking down that exact same street.

Random destruction and lots of gunfire started almost immediately.

Jackpot City ceased to exist an hour later.

-RIFTS Earth

The outskirts of the City Fortresses were some of the most wretched and violent areas of the Coalition States. Here the poor and desperate gathered, hoping for a better life inside the heavily armored and fanatically guarded bastions of the human race.

Many of them found only death. Others managed to scrabble out a miserable existence under the ever-watchful eyes of the Coalition Armed Forces. And for a rare few, these slums were the stepping stone to the kind of wealth and power that most people were only able to dream of.

Unfortunately these areas were also the best places in North America for certain people to find information that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

From one of the countless seedy bars on the outskirts of Chi-Town, the Coalition's capital, came the panicked cries of a bartender.

"No Blasters! No Blasters!!"

It was followed by the sound of a fist meeting flesh.

Shortly thereafter the main entrance of the slumping building exploded in a spray of rotten woodchips and rusty nails as a limp body went crashing through it to smack heavily onto the muddy street.

"All I wanted was some information, dirtbag."

Janet Braddock stepped across the shattered door and made her way to the unconscious idiot who'd made the mistake of underestimating her determination to find her man. And if that took shaking down every lead on the planet, she was prepared to do just that. Even if Ran didn't know that he was hers yet, she'd fix that when she finally found him. Especially since things were getting more urgent. Janet had been hearing “rumors” that she wasn't the only merc out to stake a claim on her “Ran-chan”. If the leader of the former "Robot Control" outfit wanted to get in the way, Braddock would be more then happy to kick Chen's scrawny ass across the Atlantic.

Hefting the groaning city rat to his feet, the mercenary slapped him across the face until he was semi-coherent.

"You could've just said no. Now you're going to spill your guts, or we'll have to do this…"

Her thin smile would have given a glacier frostbite.

"… the hard way."

-Speaking Of Strange

Katrina was screaming like there was no tomorrow.


Because if Croaker lost control over their ride, there wouldn't be a future for either of them.

Nick grimaced as the hoverbike screamed barely a dozen meters over the streets of Spacetown. He'd been correct about knowing how to fly this oversized monster, but controlling the damn thing was an entirely different story!


The engine was at least five times beyond street legal, even for the very loose laws of the Center. And the speed crazy idiot that owned it had apparently taken out all of the mandatory safety interlocks.


He cursed as a stray rooftop holographic billboard projector got a little too close for comfort. Sparks flew as the bottom of the bike scraped briefly along the solid metallic structure. The initial impact nearly unseated them both, and it also had the added effect of making their already shaky flight even more unstable. But at least there was some good coming out of this. They weren't being followed. Even Imps weren't stupid enough to try and copy the flight path of an obviously suicidal lunatic.


Several hair-raising minutes later, they finally cleared Spacetown and entered the Shipyards. Now all they had to worry about was trying to avoid smashing into any of the hundreds of light starships and shuttles docked here. At least most of the spacecraft here were slightly smaller then the buildings they'd already passed. Which wouldn't make crashing into one at their current reckless speed any less fatal, but at least now they had more room to dodge out of the way.

At least in theory, anyway.


-Down Comes The Hammer

Skythe was talking with Sharra when the first alarm went off.

"What the hell?"

It was coming from the gravitational satellite array.

Hsi-Feng started cursing a blue streak as she dashed for toward the console and slid into the seat in front of it.

The array consisted of an enormous network of sensor drones that monitored the gravitational distortions of interstellar vessels. These distortions were generated by the FTL drive, any ship equipped with Faster Then Light technology generated a gravitational “bubble” that sent “eddies” through the local space-time continuum, similar to the ripples that resulted from throwing a stone into a still body of water.

As a result, starships not equipped with military-class stealth systems could be detected by modern sensors as far as 10 light-years away. Even ships with stealth systems couldn't hide themselves completely from detection. The betraying gravity signature was too distinct. All that stealth systems actually did was weaken the detectable effects of the gravitational distortion to a less noticeable level. And even then, that normally only worked against civilian sensors.

The satellite array had been put in place by the Empire for inner system defense coordination, and that meant it was a military design.

"The Forge preserve us…"

Dear Gods, they couldn't be seeing what they were seeing. It wasn't possible. It simply wasn't possible!

But the uncaring screen continued to display its horrifying data.

"They knew. Somehow the Empire knew we were coming."

Skythe felt the blood run from his face as he stared in shock at the screen from where he stood behind his granddaughter. His mind grappled with the enormity of the catastrophe that the Alliance had blindly walked into.

And what it meant not only for the fleet in orbit above, but the people here on the planet as well. His people. They had followed him here, trusted in his leadership, and believed that their planet would be free once more.

They'd come so close… so goddamn close.

Only to see defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

He wanted to do something, anything, to break free from the paralysis that held him. But to his shame, he could not. The shock to his system was too great. It felt like he was drowning in quicksand; the more he struggled to move, the more he was held fast by the terrifying certainty that anything they did now would only be an act of futility.

Sharra was not so hampered.

She went to the last remaining operational command comm-unit and prepared to send a message out to the rest of their forces.

"We have to warn the Fleet before it's too late."

{If we can transmit the coordinates that the Imps are coming in from to the Fleet, then they'll have a few seconds of opportunity fire while the enemy is still reorienting from coming out of hyperspace. If they can hit the bastards hard enough as they jump in, then we might just have a chan-…}

The searing red brightness of a laser beam flashed through the room, cutting the woman down before her hands even got close to the controls.

"It already is too late."

-Danger Zone

The Falcon's pilot, and squadron leader of the Untamed Stallion's fighters, was Lt. Commander Meia. A Fleet brat, both of her parents had been killed in action shortly after her enrollment into the Alliance Armed Forces. As a result, Meia had been considered a “cold fish” by every crew she'd worked with before finally being dumped onto a glitch-ridden experimental warship and its crew of misfits, hardcases, and the newly promoted Captain Ranma. (4)

The first few weeks had been… difficult.

Especially once Meia had learned that the Fleet had neglected to assign any fighters to their ship. Which had meant that her position as squadron leader had been totally meaningless… at first.

She'd handled that discovery rather badly at the time. It had seemed back then that her entire world was going down the tubes, left to rot on a dinky little ship that wasn't even part of the regular Naval command anymore.

But the Captain had changed all of that.

The Falcon and her sister Hornet were Black Eagle Space Superiority Starfighters. Their design was a relatively new one, barely twenty standard years old. Armed with two heavy lasers, a contra-grav rail cannon, and a large selection of missiles, they were also one of the smallest craft in the Three Galaxies ever equipped with FTL capability. These fighters were supposed to be available only to the Consortium Armed Forces and its members' planetary defense forces.

A few dozen production models had managed over the past few years to slip through to the Black Market, but even then they were so rare as to make them all but impossible to obtain under normal circumstances.

However, nobody had remembered to tell Ranma that fact.

Because he had paid an arm and a leg (figuratively speaking) a few months later to surprise Meia and her other pilot, Lt. Teleri, with two Eagles so new that their paint schemes hadn't even finished drying.

His actions had shocked her to her very core.

She had treated him with nothing but cold contempt from their very first encounter, having been warned well in advance by the Fleet's rumor mill about the new captain's womanizing ways, and also about how his glory chasing had led to promotion after promotion while ignoring the costs that were shouldered by the people who really deserved the credit.

Even before she had met her new commanding officer, Meia had been determined that she would not become just another notch on Saotome's bed frame. She had been certain that the new captain would prove to be either an arrogant pigheaded Casanova, or a cold-blooded opportunist who used his rank to take advantage of his subordinates.

She'd been wrong on all counts.

Because Ranma Saotome had turned out to be like nothing she could have possibly imagined.

And heaven help her, he'd managed to do the one thing that she'd believed would never happen to her. Without even meaning to, he had broken through the shield of ice that had protected her heart for so long. Ranma had discovered a soul that still cried for her parents, who let no one else get close because losing those she cared for hurt too much. A woman afraid of love, because she knew that the universe was cruel and uncaring.

But he had cared. Truly. Unconditionally. Absolutely.

And with that realization her entire world had shattered.

Because if this universe allowed such cruelty and suffering, then there also had to be an equal possibility of someone as good as the Empire was evil. Someone like Ranma.

{My love… but it took your departure to finally admit the truth, to say the words out loud to myself. I pretended that it was only simple lust, which would eventually pass with enough time. And now… Now I may never get a chance to tell you my real feelings.}

"Eagle 1, report in."

Meia snapped out of her brief reminiscence.

"This is Eagle 1, my sector is clean."

But the bittersweet ache within her heart remained.

"Roger that, Eagle 1. Form up with the rest of the other squadrons and prepare for new mission objectives."

"I'm on my way."

Her radar registered a sudden brief hit at the very edge of its range.

A few seconds later, there was a second nearly insubstantial ping in the same general area.

Meia's brow creased as she tried to confirm whether the contact was real or just a trick of the atmosphere.

"Hold on Control, I'm picking up a sensor ghost near the Geo-Hunter range."

She frowned, puzzled by this anomaly.

High concentrations of heavy metals in those mountains rendered most sensors useless for ground and low altitude detection. But they shouldn't have been interfering this far above the planet.

She began a focused scan over the range.

{Okay, Silvia, time to see if your work on my sensor array was more then just idle boasting.}

And then the unknown contact's faint white signal abruptly changed to bright angry red.

For what seemed like an endless moment, Meia's conscious mind didn't register the change. But her reflexes, honed through years of combat flying where even a fraction of a second's delay could mean the difference between life and certain death, were already in play.

A flick of the wrist brought up the Falcon's ECM from standby to active and switched her comm system to the all-squadron frequency. She diverted power to strengthen her forward shields and sent her fighter plunging into a steep dive even as she cried out a warning to the others.

"Bandits at 6 o'clock!"

A swarm of enemy fighters erupted from the clouds below even before the last syllable was spoken.

"All wings, engage at will!!"

Squadron formations disintegrated as shocked Rebel pilots desperately tried to avoid getting killed as the upper atmosphere erupted into a snarling knife-range dogfight.

Suddenly, there were only the quick and the dead.

-Too Little, Too Late

Alarm claxons started screaming on the command deck of the Super Dreadnought HopeBringer.

"Admiral, Imperial ships are coming out of hyperspace in Sector 12!"

Splotches of red icons identifying enemy warships began to appear on the tactical display of the system.

Hundreds of them. Frigates, Destroyers, Cruisers, Battlecruisers, Carriers, and worst of all…

"Enemy Super Dreadnoughts have entered the system!!"

The Hopebringer's captain turned toward Admiral Iblis, his eyes wide with sudden horrified understanding.

"It's a trap!!"


It seemed to take an eternity to complete the final move.


The Forge was silent. It had known that this moment was inevitable, but an attempt to try and change what was to come had to be made.

And It had failed.

Now the Chosen One would have to face the greatest challenge of his life before he was ready. There was no more time left. The Forge could only hope that the training he had been nudged toward was enough.

It would have to be.

Or else they were both doomed.

"It seems that your side has lost. Like that archaic human term, what is it again? Oh yes, I remember now. Game over."

[No. Not yet.]

"What do you mean?"

But when he turned around again Thoth found himself addressing an empty room. He scratched the feathers on his forehead and sighed.

"I really hate it when you do that."

There was no longer any point staying here. His friend would be back when it wanted to return. And the Ibis God still had a book of technowizardry to finish anyway.

"Oh well, it was rather nice to finally win after losing so many times in a row."


Just for a second he thought that he saw the Forge reappear out of the corner of his eye. But when he looked directly in that direction there was nothing there. Whatever that sound was, it had been too soft for even his keen sense of hearing to make it out.

It might have been just the whisper of a stray breeze.

But his workshop was climate controlled.

[Now the real game begins…]

-End of Chapter III. To be continued… in Chapter IV.

Author's notes:

(1) The ever-reliable Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire Fist

(2) A familar Breaking Point

(3) Water Blossom Strike

(4) What, you thought they'd given him a normal crew of women to start with? Perish the thought!

-Stuff to know-

Note: Terms and People from other sources such as the Palladium RPG system and various Anime series.

PPE (Potential Psychic Energy):

This is the most common type of energy associated with the supernatural in Palladium RPGs. PPE is the "fuel" of all magic, also called Mana/Manna.
(Note: This is not Ki/Chi! That's an entirely different type of energy with similar properties) Although normally found in living creatures, it can also occur in certain areas where the fabric of space-time has been weakened to such an extent that the boundaries between the dimensions are blurred (i.e. the infamous "Ley lines").

ISP (Inner Strength Points):

Psionic Energy, a.k.a. the power of the mind; used for stuff like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, telepathy, empathy, telemechanics, etcetera.

Rune Weapons (RIFTS: Atlantis):

Powerful enchanted weapons usually created through a forbidden magical process that binds a living soul to the device forever. These souls are what give the weapons their power. The stronger the soul, the more powerful the weapon. Very rare and highly coveted by most beings, in addition to being highly destructive against living creatures they are also usually indestructible and often intelligent and self-aware.

The Nightlords (Nightbane):

Ancient evil sorcerers of human origin, who made a pact with the Forces of Darkness to become supernatural PPE vampires with an unbelievable amount of power. They can shape/reshape matter & energy at will! Their powers are so advanced that they don't need to cast spells. Add to that their personal armies ranging from thousands to tens of millions of monstrous troops, not to mention a hit point count that's just plain insane, and you have a race that could give the Old Ones a run for their money.

The Coalition (RIFTS):

North America's largest surviving human population after a nuclear holocaust and decades of invasion by demons and monsters. Unfortunately, due to their evil leaders the Coalition has become a twisted nightmare rather then the dream for reestablishing humanity that was its original intention. Total technocrats, they HATE anything related to magic or the supernatural. Closest equivalent for comparison would be the Nazis during WW II.

Vash the Stampede (Trigun):

A mysterious outlaw/ reluctant hero who has a $$10,000,000,000 bounty on his head. Inhuman reflexes and kinesthic sense (has been known to dodge bullets at point blank range). Occasionally acts serious but normally just a goofball personality. Called the "Humanoid Typhoon" for the damage he inadvertently causes to any and all property when bounty hunters try to kill him. And as you might guess, that happens quite often.

A Taste of Things to Come in Chapter IV:

-What's Cooking?

"Uh… what are these things anyway?"

He poked curiously at the dish in front of him with his chopsticks.

It looked… strange.

"It's my home cooking!"

He blinked.

Why had the other girls turned so pale all of a sudden?

"Is it supposed to look like that?"


Yeesh! There was no need to get so touchy about it!

"Well if you're going to put it that way, I guess a little bit won't hurt."

"No! Don't do it!! You'll die!!"

Nabiki and Kasumi leaped desperately at him, trying to save Ranma from the terrible fate that he faced.

-It Must Be Fate

"You booby trap your own weapons?!"

Brianna Diggers stared at him with an expression akin to awe. This was too good to be true!

"Doesn't everyone?"

-Always Keep the Original Packaging

"Harkle, this ring your folks gave me is defective."

"Really? Did you follow the instructions in the manual?"

Ranma blinked.

"There was a manual?"


To be continued.

Part 4-A
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