|Shadow of the Sun: The Dark Side of the Moon
Author: Almech Alfarion PM
While the Nobility of the Moon Kingdom and a select few elites among society sit in luxury, the rest of the people live in poverty and fear of their masters. All things change in time however, and a pair of orphans on the streets are the key...Rated: Fiction M - English - Setsuna M./Sailor Pluto & Ranma - Chapters: 4 - Words: 43,399 - Reviews: 74 - Favs: 135 - Follows: 161 - Updated: 02-20-13 - Published: 05-31-10 - id: 6013291
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
1) The Characters and Stories of Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon are Copyright © Rumiko Takahashi and Naoko Takeuchi respectively, and are used here without permission or license.
2) No claims to the above copyrights are made by the author of this work.
3) This is a work written for non-commercial use ONLY, and is written for the purpose of the enjoyment of fans.
4) This work is the expression of the author, and the depictions of the characters and stories of Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon herein are in no way represented to be a part of Ranma ½ or Sailor Moon as depicted by the original authors and copyright holders.
Beginning Notes: Well, here it is... Chapter three... You know, I find it somewhat interesting that the hardest part about writing these fics isn't that I only seem to be able to write descent narrative when I'm in a certain mindset, but that I'm attempting to explain technology, concepts, ideas and ideals in a manner such that the people who read it can understand the world that they're reading about without needing to have it all explained in mind numbing detail...
Maybe I'm over-thinking things...
Once again, thanks go to Wyrd42, Torgamous and CaedesPlerique for their help on plot and storyline, as well as to everyone who left a review. I enjoy reading them and the input helps keep me on track. For those who are interested, I've put up a poll asking whether I should drop writing Dragonfly and start on one of the "ideas" projects laid out in my profile.
The Dark Side of the Moon
By: Almech Alfarion (Child of Fire)
Chapter III: Cronus
"So... that's how it is?"
"They have been informed of the situation."
"... Well... Things just got that much harder..."
"Not really... Just remember; Keep your heads down..."
Cronus City loomed into view through the storm clouds of Saturn as the transport circled around, waiting for clearance to land. The run-down hull would give anyone the impression of a once prosperous floating megalopolis gone very far to seed. Lightning danced around the skeletal remains of abandoned sections, no longer protected from the planet's hostile environment by the station's wards, while the gutted husks of ships no longer fit for service found themselves attached haphazardly to the hulking superstructure, repurposed to serve its needs.
This and more Ranma observed as she looked out the window next to her seat. This was far from her first trip to Cronus, but it was her first time seeing it from this perspective. Most of her other trips had required her and Nabiki to quickly insert and extract themselves without raising any alarms. That usually either meant a H.A.L.O. drop from their ship and various... creative... means of extraction that left little time to appreciate the scenery, or teleporting in and out. None of them required her to take a public transport, sitting in seats that seemed to be designed with the discomfort of the occupant specifically in mind, all the way from Pluto.
The ship rocked slightly in the turbulence as it angled itself towards its final destination, shaking her from her thoughts. The nap she had somehow snuck in during the seven hour flight from Pluto, despite the discomfort, helped keep the edge off of the exhaustion she still felt from pushing her Senshi-magic's limits to their breaking point, and right now she needed to concentrate on getting through customs without raising any red flags. Dressed casually in a white blouse and knee-length black pleated skirt she looked like someone's personal assistant returning from off-world and wasn't going to attract very much attention. On top of that the identity Setsuna had created for her was sure to pass muster for now, but the news that inquisitors were going to be going from planet to planet for the next year worried her. The Time Senshi was good, but the fine toothed comb the Queen's agents would run through the records could cause problems.
Thankfully for Nabiki, being on Terra put her outside their reach so long as she didn't do anything foolish, but Ranma would need to watch her step while on Saturn.
The soft jerking motion of docking clamps attaching themselves to the hull prompted the other occupants of the vessel to stand and begin removing their carry-on luggage from the overhead compartments, but Ranma remained seated until she heard the telltale hiss of the airlock depressurizing before following suit.
Somehow moving with the motion of the disembarking crowd instead of being pushed along by it the redhead reached the arrivals terminal with no incident and placed her hand case on the scanner. The imposing figures of armed security teams loitering around the lobby didn't even faze the redhead as a stern, yet seemingly bored woman looked at her from behind the terminal kiosk as she fished out her passport. Everything here was a known quantity to her, and so long as she didn't make a scene Ranma knew she would be fine.
"Name...?" she was asked in a disinterested tone.
Ranma gave the woman her best smile as she handed over a dark red crystal visa-log the size of her thumb. "Ranma Saotome..."
She may have never gotten a good look at the station from the outside before earlier in the day but Ranma was already intimately familiar with the shabby appearance of the interior of Cronus station's outer wards. Smaller rusted ships and discarded bulkheads found themselves recycled into homes and business all along the once cavernous interior of the superstructure. A truly massive network of interconnected bridges and platforms wove its way between the structures that found footholds on more vertical plains while somehow managing to leave space around the tracks for the many trams that provided transportation to other sections of the station. No natural light was to be seen, and the myriad of flood lamps and holo-signs cast everything into a blend of deep shadows and colored light.
Thousands of people could be seen from the entrance of the port, going about their daily lives with the occasional guard patrol to supplement the police drones. Millions more called this dirty, stinking, rat infested slum home. That thought alone was enough to make Ranma slightly sick as she remembered what the place had apparently been like in its hay-day from her history lessons.
All in all, the sight always gave Ranma the impression of a massive, rusty hive welded and bolted together as it barely held on to what little structural integrity there was...
Shaking her thoughts away from the days when the station hadn't been a cesspit Ranma concentrated instead on the task of catching a tram to her new place of residence. This would be the first time either her or Nabiki would have a safe-house on this particular station on Saturn, and it always fell on her shoulders to break in the new ones.
Scanning a local newsfeed station with her data-pad and charging the fee to her credit-chit, she mounted the steps of the tram platform outside the port terminal and scanned over the headlines while waiting for a transport to arrive. Ranma was only slightly surprised to see that she and Nabiki were still making priority news after a week, but that was to be expected. It wasn't every day that rouge mages operated so openly and still got away with it after all.
The telltale hum of a vehicle levitating over tracks alerted her of an approaching tram and after cross-checking a schedule with the time Ranma realized that this one would be traveling to the area of the city she needed. Closing out of the news feed and slipping her data-pad back into her bag the redhead paid the boarding fee and prepared to embark.
The ride itself was more or less uneventful as Ranma waited for her stop, with the only thing of interest being that she was slowly leaving the poorer districts behind. Rusty bulkheads steadily gave way to more uniform structures. Older, yet better maintained architecture replaced the newer haphazard construction of the outer wards as the tram approached the political heart of Saturn.
Looking out the window for a moment Ranma saw brief glimpses of where she would be working for the next several months through the gaps between buildings. She didn't need a very good view to know what was there. She had already seen it on several occasions...
A soft tone alerting passengers to the tram's arrival at a station shook Ranma from her thoughts. Her stop was up. She needed to get ready...
It never ceased to amaze Setsuna that no matter how many sewers she had had the misfortune of visiting in her long years the aroma that permeated each and every one of them never varied in the slightest. Rotting waste, piles of refuse and the odors of the creatures that called them home combined together to create a particularly foul stench that made her wonder how the people she was going to meet could stand to live down here.
The service lights lining the walls provided just enough illumination to see by and the Time Senshi tried not to think about what she had seen floating in the "water" as she walked down the dank corridor. Up ahead she could see one of the lights was out and thanked the Old Gods that she had finally reached her destination. Turning off at an intersection made all but invisible by the broken fixture Setsuna sighed in relief when she stepped out of the ankle deep semi-liquid and onto the slightly elevated grating of the service corridor before approaching the doorway at its end and knocking, thanking all that was good and holy that her Sailor Fuku's fields kept her boots clean.
The scrape of a metal plate on the door sliding open was heard and Setsuna could just make out a pair of beady, slightly luminescent eyes peering at her through the darkness.
"Password?" asked a rough but high toned voice belonging to the owner of the eyes.
"Folly for many, fortune of us." was her reply. She had to shield her eyes momentarily as a light was shined at her through the opening.
"Ah, Mistress Meiou, we were not expecting you to come for several more months." Said the pair of eyes before the opening slid shut. The noise of something heavy being dragged was heard a moment later, followed by the sound of numerous bolts being dragged out of their catches before the door swung inward.
The dark room on the other side was now lit by a small lamp, its green flame casting flickering light across the walls. She could see an unusually short table shoved against the opposite wall, but otherwise the small space appeared to be empty before she entered, the door swinging shut behind her.
"Master Thravith is at the far end, discussing matters with the other Primes." said the door's guard as he relocked it before coming around from behind her. Most people would have classified him a 'monster' and run in the other direction as fast as possible, but the stooped figure, pale gray skin, long pointy ears and hooked nose of the goblin didn't faze Setsuna in the slightest. The little man-kin was barely half as tall as her but she knew from experience not to underestimate him because of that.
"Thank you, master Grinsol. May fortune favor you." The reply was a bit formal, but the occupants of this charming little hole held onto such things for their own reasons and she didn't want to be insulting.
Grinsol just nodded as he began moving the table back against the door and the Time Senshi left things at that as she entered a downward sloping passage mined out of the wall of the checkpoint. Down the rough cut passage she went for several minutes before it leveled off and opened up into a large natural cavern.
Groups of individuals, none of which stood taller than a meter at the most, went about their business or sat around fires in the cave. She saw no less than twelve rats the size of wolf hounds roasting on spits as well as the occasional giant insect or arachnid as she walked across the space. To her left she could hear the ringing of a hammer on metal. The short, yet stout, bearded man working at the anvil seemed to be mending a pot and was quite absorbed in his work. Children, both goblin and dwarven ran around playing games while being chased by their mothers and Setsuna stopped occasionally to allow right-of-way to those that crossed her path.
These were the castoffs of the over-worlds...
The advent of magic at the beginning of the Lunar Kingdom had been a wonderful thing but it wasn't without its consequences. Magic had strange effects on the human body before it adapted, and in the early days they hadn't understood what was going on. For roughly the first millennia, children of strongly magical parentage would be born with odd physical mutations on occasion and were more often than not seen as freaks by the rest of society. Those with similar features would often band together for a sense of solidarity and thus the passage of generations gave birth to various offshoots of humanity. The group of sub-races classified as 'fey' were generally more tolerated by normal human society, but those less fortunate in the realms of physical appearance were shunned and oftentimes outright feared.
It was places like this that they ended up. Dark, smelly holes in the ground where they could be forgotten...
Setsuna's absent thoughts were derailed when she heard the deep, arguing voice of the man she needed to speak to steadily growing in volume the closer she got, and not entirely due to the Doppler Effect.
"- if ye' wants to take yer clan and go out there an' get yerselves killed then I won't stop ya! But mark my words master Oglat, Stars help me children's children if I be the daft fool to support this exodus idea of yers!"
"And I'm telling you, master Thravith, that unless we find a new home soon our food stores will not be able to support our society in two years time! We will all starve and die!" spoke the high pitched, nasally voice of master Oglat.
The argument was originating from a crack in the cave wall just ahead of her. Normally a meeting of the Primes wasn't something to be disturbed, but she had earned enough respect to be considered an equal among them. It was in large part thanks to her that they had remained hidden for as long as they had after all...
Ignoring the pull-string for the announcement bell the Time Senshi simply opened the wooden-plank door in front of her. Nine heads immediately turned towards her and everyone in the room reached for weapons before realizing who she was.
"Ah, mistress Meiou. We wern't expectin' ye." said the barrel-chested dwarf sitting at the head of a long table, putting his rune-covered hammer on its surface. "What brings ye' to Darro-den this fine evenin'?" The four other dwarves in the room lowered their weapons as well and were followed a moment later by their goblin counterparts.
"Greetings and good fortune gathered primes." She replied in the proper formal manner, "I apologize for my interruption of your meeting but events above are progressing more quickly than anticipated..."
Ranma stretched as she sat up on the couch at her new public address, sighing in relief when a crick in her back loudly righted itself. She had returned here the previous evening after inspecting the layout and locations of the other four safe-houses she had at her disposal on Cronus, and was looking forward to a productive day. To a casual observer on the outside it would have seemed as though she had never left the one room studio apartment thanks to her untraceable ability to travel through shadows.
And there were a lot of shadows to jump to on Cronus Station...
Blinking the, admittedly much needed, sleep out of her eyes she decided to take a more superficial look at her present appointments than her exhaustion addled mind of the previous day had afforded her, having only allowed her to focus on confirming the residence was secure. The beige carpet and not-quite-white walls of the upscale housing were bare of any decoration and the spartan, more or less generic, furniture was nothing noteworthy either. The couch she sat on was of the Mercurian "Futon" design and folded down in the middle to double as a bed and the only other pieces of furniture that weren't integrated into the small bathroom off to the side or the 'kitchen' were the floating crystal desk and equally floating cushion chair shoved into a corner.
The only redeeming quality to the room was the one way window that took up an entire wall and overlooked the Central Park and Cronus Tower from thirty seven levels up. The extensive park grounds surrounded the immense structure and constituted the only arboreal facility on the entire station. The ceiling several kilometers overhead was currently giving a wonderful view of the storm-clouds presently surrounding the station despite the several meters worth of insulation and reactive plating separating them from the station's interior. The tower itself was a soaring mass of crystal and alloy that extended high above the rest of the station and constituted both the political and academic center for the entire planet.
'Typical Setsuna to pay top Luna for the view and then cheep out on the furniture...' Ranma thought with a wry smile as she looked over the vista below, watching for a moment as a patrol left the tower and began making rounds through the park.
Sighing at the fickleness of the Time Guardian the redhead decided that now was as good a time as any to get to work. Moving over to the desk, still wearing nothing more than the underwear she had worn the day before, the redhead picked the wafer thin frame of her data-pad and sat down heavily in the floating chair. Pausing a moment for it to readjust to the sudden change in weight she proceeded to unlock the device's first security encryption level and scan over the day's local and system wide headlines, noting the events and filtering out the propaganda with a pragmatic zeal reserved for those well acquainted with the process, before proceeding through the various higher encryption levels necessary to access her mission dossier.
She frowned in thought as she compiled a mental checklist of do's and don'ts as she scanned over the myriad of documents. The data was comprehensive; exhaustively covering everything from favorite foods to just about anyone who even looked funny at the youngest daughter of Hayate Tomoe, Princess Heir to the Cronian throne. The real question was how to get direct access to young Hotaru. Setsuna may have been good, but she was no miracle worker and between the Time Senshi's reputation in the Courts and the security that surrounded the Royal Families, infiltrating the facility through either political subterfuge or stealth, though entirely possible for a remote level of observation, was far too dangerous for the proximity necessary for her mission...
Those were only her most direct options, however. Thinking over everything she knew about her target and the environment that surrounded the youngest Cronian Princess, Ranma discarded several of the options that presented themselves before the germ of an idea began to take root. It was a long shot, but it was more likely to succeed without raising undue suspicion than anything else she could think of.
'Better to let her find me than to risk approaching her directly' the redhead thought with a frown...
If there was one thing Nabiki was certain of at the moment, it was that Atlantis' Lower Industrial Quarter stank.
She moved as silently as a wraith, using the barest amount of mana necessary to enhance herself as she moved through the maze of damp service corridors, slightly rusty gantries and dilapidated warehouse spaces deep in the bowls of the Terran arcology. Her cloaking magic and ZERO suit hid her presence from the security cameras for the moment, but she was still taking every precaution drilled into her during training to remain as hidden as possible. For the hundredth time she cursed the fact that her Armour just had to manifest itself in a bright shiny white and gold motif. Sure Ranma's wasn't much less shiny, but at least hers was mostly Black...
'Ah, well...' she thought with a mental sigh as she ghosted past yet another guard patrol that most certainly wasn't the normal security detail for this part of the massive complex, 'I suppose it wouldn't be appropriate for the primary color of the Solar Senshi's Armour to be the one normally associated with Darkness. That's Ranma's thing after all...' Sending a mental command to her helmet's HUD she brought up her area-map and marked the location of the patrol in red, along with their most probable routes. She would need to more thoroughly scout them out when she had the time.
It had taken some digging to find this place, but the lead her contact provided had borne fruit. Between her and Amaterasu they had been able to track down the various shipping manifests and monetary transactions beginning with the infamous "Dealer" to this place.
'My first day in three weeks where I don't have to sit through hours of listening to Beryl's latest rant on the evils of the "Lunar Regime",' the brunette thought with no small amount of sarcasm, 'and I get to spend it scouting out this dump... Lucky me...'
Nabiki mentally sighed again, turning her thoughts to the event that had instigated this unexpected time off from her mission's usual duties.
The Queen herself had arrived for a planned visit, with her usual entourage of guards and self-important nobles in tow, to pay her respects to the late King Endymion XXIII. All things considered with the tension between the two governments, security was the tightest it had ever been at Atlantis' Palace Complex and when added to the presence of the Inner Scouts and Magi-scanners carried by the Queen's Guard detail more direct involvement on the Solar Senshi's part would have been both superfluous and perilous.
That isn't to say that the King wasn't being watched. After all, Amaterasu was entirely capable of keeping her eye on the hacked camera feeds while Nabiki tracked down leads.
Another patrol of five 'non-standard' guards approaching from ahead of her position brought her back to her present task. The hall she was presently in was unusually tall for this area of the arcology, but too narrow to allow them to pass without noticing her regardless of her current invisibility, and upon a quick assessment she realized that there were no convenient alcoves or side-halls that she could duck into. That only left one direction she could go...
Silently jumping straight up the Spy expertly pivoted a full one hundred eighty degrees vertically before the momentum of her power-armor assisted leap carried her the three meters to the ceiling. Applying a thin layer of mana to the soles of her boots, the brunette mentally cursed the need to limit her magical output further as the blood started rushing to her head and her long hair fell down into the corridor. In a supreme effort to limit her profile as much as possible the last scion of the Solar Kingdom 'leaned' back as far as she could with her ankles as her pivot point so that her body was nearly flush with the ceiling. Her legs burned at the exertion, but thanks to her training she knew it would be at least several minutes before she would need to release her prone position.
Watching silently from her over-head vantage point Nabiki once again examined the equipment that these rouge elements' seemed to be using, turning her suit's scanners to just above passive and overlaying the readings on her helmet's HUD. Their body armor was outmoded Terran Military surplus, consisting of grey armor plating of varying thickness attached over layers of insulation, mesh and webbing. All of them wore helmets that curved smoothly around their entire heads, the glowing red line that provided their optics feeds and boxlike antenna positioned off the right side being the only deviations.
There weaponry was another thing altogether. Four of the five carried old-fashioned powder based assault rifles that after her recent research into Terra's underground the brunette now realized were all too common among the planet's criminal element, while the fifth, and only woman if the feminine profile of her armor were any indication, carried only a pistol sized SMG along with a large pack on her back that Nabiki was sure would deploy into a mobile turret of some kind from what her ZERO Armour's scanners were picking up.
Seeing a small light flashing in the upper corner of her HUD the Spy sent a mental command to her suit to scan and tap in to any local communications signals. Waiting a few moments for the decryption software to crack the signals she listened to the low drone of static before an oddly distorted female voice crackled over her speakers as the patrol passed directly below her.
"- don't care what you idiots think. We have our orders. Interference will not be tolerated."
"Yeah, sure," came an equally distorted male voice, "but what are the odds of one of them actually being here?"
"It doesn't Matter." Came the female voice again, "With the Bitch and her sycophants here we need to be extra careful that we aren't discovered. Th–k Miss– wo–..."
Mentally cursing, static once again filled Nabiki's ears before she killed the feed as the group moved further away from her. Waiting for a few moments for them to move further down the passage, the Spy released the mana holding her boots to the ceiling, expertly righting herself as she fell and landing in a silent crouch through a practiced ease despite the weight of her armour. Something about the brief conversation she overheard wasn't sitting right with her and she was preparing to follow the group to find out more when another light began flashing on her HUD in a distinctive pattern. Amaterasu was sending her the all-clear to return to base and that there was something they needed to discuss.
If she hadn't needed to maintain silence the air around her would have begun turning blue with the string of explicatives that ran through her mind, looking back in the direction the patrol had gone briefly before beginning to make her way back to base while setting what little information she had gained from this trip aside for the time being.
'Whatever the fur-ball is on about had better be good.' she thought with a growl as the corridors blazed past...
Ranma quickly made her way through the cramped and crowded market nearest her "public residence", picking out the best she could find of the various substandard goods and sundry that she would need while internally cringing at the way-too-high prices. Today she was dressed in a simple, but slightly worn, pale green sleeveless summer robe fashioned after the styles that were popular on Venus roughly a year before with her long hair tied up in a high ponytail. She hated wearing the long dress-like garment on general principle, but had to admit that she didn't stand out in the slightest among the of equally chromatic masses of raiment and hair color surrounding her.
In truth, this trip served three purposes. First and foremost was that even though her regular safe-houses were already stocked with the basic necessities, her cover and daily residence necessitated that she actually be seen in public once in a while. The second was related to the first in that as a "new resident" in her apartment the cupboards and stasis box were quite barren in addition to the distinct lack of toiletries.
The third was completely unrelated to her mission, in that while she could easily survive on the MREs stocked in the other safe houses, the redhead took a slightly guilty pleasure from preparing a well cooked meal for herself.
Surveying the wilted vegetables and suspect looking meats displayed among the vendors hawking their wares she couldn't help but long for her private garden back at Charon Castle. Pluto's desert climate wasn't particularly suited to raising all but the hardiest plant life, but through the use of a special greenhouse and a bit of effort she got by...
Sighing to herself once again, Ranma simply settled for picking through the available produce for something edible at the very least. 'Hmmm...' She thought as she spied a descent looking melon on the stand she was passing before snatching it up and paying the vendor's extortionist prices, 'I wonder if I can find the right ingredients to make that Uranian dish I read about...'
Slowly moving with the crowd around her the redhead avoided bumping into anyone, deftly making her way through the dimly lit environment. Suddenly loud yells as well as cheers and jeers drew her attention further ahead where she saw the press of bodies become nearly impassable. Approaching partly out of annoyance for the obstruction and partly out of curiosity the redhead began to hear the telltale sounds of flesh striking against flesh.
'Who the hell would be stupid enough to start a fight here of all places?' she thought incredulously as she surreptitiously wove her way to the front without disturbing the other onlookers. What she saw only served to increase her sense of disbelief. In the middle of the circle of bystanders was a woman with purple hair done up in a tight bun wearing the dark-purple and black camo-pattern jacket and fatigues of the Saturn Royal Marine Corp's duty uniform, proudly displaying the bars signifying her rank of lieutenant on her shoulders. She appeared to be unhurt, though there were a few strands of hair coming loose from her bun.
The two men lying prone and unconscious to either side of her weren't so fortunate, as each displayed a magnificent black eye in addition to the slowly swelling collection of lumps on their faces while one had a split lip and the other what appeared to be a broken nose. Closer observation of both revealed that their knuckles were slightly bruised, leading Ranma to believe that they had been the ones fighting with the officer stepping in just before she reached the scene.
Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd across from the redhead's position that quickly spread through everyone before the sea of people parted and bowed to reveal six of the Cronian Royal Guardsmen dressed in their telltale black and silver armor over dark purple robes. Each man carried a polearm reminiscent of the famed Silence Glaive, but with only a single blade curving smoothly from the shaft.
Walking between them was someone that Ranma instantly recognized from her own acquiescent bow. The young woman of seventeen years was wearing a dark purple robe patterned with silver stars sweeping from her left hip up to her right shoulder and tied at the waist by a black sash. Hair, black as the void of space, hung nearly to the ground as her violet eyes scanned the scene before her, emotion barely kept in check swirling behind them.
"What is the meaning of this?" Princess Hotaru addressed the Marine Officer in a calm voice that seemed to barely hide a deep sadness to Ranma's trained ears, even as she knelt down, hands glowing white as she began healing the injuries of the men on the ground. The Lieutenant had snapped into a crisp salute as soon as she saw her liege, and the Royal Guardsmen looked distinctly uncomfortable at their charge's actions as they formed a perimeter inside the circle.
"I was walking through the market while off duty, Mam, when I heard a disturbance." The Officer said in a concise, but respectful tone. "Upon inspecting what the matter was I saw these two men fighting one-another and took actions to end the hostilities under the recent Peace-keeper Protocols." Everyone but those standing in the circle flinched at the mention of the Lunar Queens most recent edict concerning public disturbances, though the purple haired Marine did look a little embarrassed and ashamed as she continued in a slightly lower voice "I had not yet discovered the reason for their engaging in physical hostilities when Her Majesty and her escort arrived on the scene."
Ranma noted the barely visible emotions coming from the officer and decided she would inform Setsuna about possible agent recruitment within Saturn's military, noting the nametag reading "Xian-Puu" on the officer's breast. At the same time she couldn't help but feel a little guilty for being one of the reasons for the "Peace-keeper Protocols" thanks to the actions taken during the Terra/Luna Treaty Gala. Her thoughts were cut short when her target spoke again.
"That won't be necessary." the young woman said in a quiet voice as she moved from first man to the second. The crowd let out an almost imperceptible sigh of relief as she continued, "The reason will likely be little more than a misunderstanding. These are trying times for us all..." she trailed off, as though actually saying the words aloud were a painful admission and the emotion now visible in her eyes were anything if not honest. Ranma was considering this small conformation of the Princess' sympathetic nature when the girl in question finished healing the second man and stood up to address the crowd.
"You are all dismissed." She said, even as the guard detail formed ranks around her once more, "Lieutenant Xian-Puu, please make sure that these two are attended to and reach their homes safely. I shall be returning to the tower."
And with those words, the gathered crowd began to break up and resume their earlier tasks as though there had been no disturbance, save for the reverent and grateful glances sent in the Princess' direction and Lieutenant Xian-Puu moving the two unconscious men into a shop along the market corridor, presumably to find out where they lived so she could send them home...
Meanwhile, Ranma had ghosted the princess' group, visible yet unnoticed, until they stepped off the main path and onto a vehicle-pad where a transport waited to take them back to Cronus Tower. Even as she watched the sleek, silver-finned vehicle rise and smoothly move off into the twisting honeycomb of passageways that made up the station's interior she couldn't help but wonder at her unsuspecting charge...
- End Chapter III -
End Notes: Ok... Short chapter this time...
The setting of Cronus Station was one detail I had marked out even before I really got into writing this chapter. I've read way too-many fic that take place during the Silver Millennium that have the Gas Giants with either a completely breathable atmosphere, a terrestrial surface, or both, and I've always found that to be a bit ridiculous... So, in my story all of the Gas Worlds will have Station-Cities, instead. Think Bespin-Cloud City from Star Wars, only completely self contained for atmosphere, for the general idea... As for the actual appearance of Cronus Station, I drew reference from Omega of Mass Effect and combined it with a bit of "Drifter Colony" from Titan A.E. for the outer wards, while things are a little cleaner and better taken-care-of the closer you get to Cronus Tower.
It's really sad that it's been over a year again for this fic and I only have this much to show for it. As I said in my notes above, but in different context down here, "I think I'm over-thinking things". I spent I-don't-know how many hours reading and re-reading through what I'd written, and I still don't have everything I wanted to get done happening in this chapter, especially in regards to the Ranma/Hotaru Plot. There's actually three "Main Characters" for this story for those who aren't paying attention (Ranma, Nabiki and Setsuna), and giving them all enough screen-time while keeping everything in balance and maintaining timeline continuity is frustrating. The former is tied directly to the latter because things can't happen before they happen, as that would get very confusing very quickly, and aside from a few things, not a lot is happening on Setsuna's end at the moment...
Don't get me wrong, this isn't a "Chapter 2" or anything. I happen to like the way this chapter came out, so I won't be rewriting this one any-time soon. It's just... a lot of work for a chapter half as long as I'm used to writing...
And on that note, I bid you adieu, and humbly implore you to leave a review. Input and opinions are always welcome so long as they aren't deliberately hurtful. For this chapter I'm especially interested in your opinions on how long the chapter is. Is it too short, or do you like the shorter chapter?