A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.
By Josh Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer
Ranma 1/2 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.
C&C is appreciated.
Chapter 1- Reunions and Recalls
A woman looked to the horizon. Her red eyes strained to see land where the sky met the water, but she knew the futility of it. The elevation here was too low to see that far. She had grown up with the ocean and the sea of stars, but there was something distinctly wrong about this particular body of water.
She feared it because it was fairly small. She feared it because west of here there were other, larger, bodies of water. She feared it because this chain of immensity was surrounded by what amounted to a single culture, a culture that was not part of her plans.
She feared it most of all because this freshwater sea represented a failure on her part. More than the reserved, regretful interference from Murdock, more than the plane crash, and even more than the DarkStar incident, it represented her inability to control events.
Turning abruptly, her long green hair caught in the wind that the water seemed to constantly generate. Sighing, she left the balcony and returned to her apartment.
Another woman, this one much younger, drove her silver sedan down the QEW. She was traveling east with Lake Ontario to her right. As she approached the city, the highway ran in a sunken trench. Bizarre frescos made of colored blocks of concrete formed the retaining walls. In the distance, she could see skyscrapers and one thin, innocent-looking spire. It only appeared to be a hair taller than the surrounding towers, but as she drove on, the concrete needle grew taller and the two round bulges on it gained definition.
As her car entered the city proper, the road rose on a procession of cylindrical pillars. For the first time she was able to get a good view of the city. Under her, the suburbs coalesced and the buildings grew.
It was a clean city, almost eerily so. While working for the Company, she had been to a dozen cities in eight countries. A smile played on her lips as she remembered the time she spent in Budapest. Amazing how one can have fond memories of struggling to decipher a frustratingly alien language.
She had now passed into the core of the city. The QEW maintained its parallel course to the shoreline, making the right side of the road a waterfront district filled with marinas and high rise apartments. A largish barrier island sporting cottages, docks, and surprisingly enough a small airport, protected the city's harbor from the great inland sea.
The woman glanced disinterestedly at the horizon hugging structure. She had grown up around the Great Lakes and took the gray weather they constantly created in stride. She laughed at the bittersweet sentiment. No matter what she did or where she went, this place would always be a part of her.
Her path had taken her to the city's stadium… and that thing. She managed to keep her vehicle in control as she drove up to and then past the monolithic creation. The point of the needle was actually in the clouds. It was not concealed by them, but was actually slicing whatever hit it, like the prow of an icebreaker.
She felt a wave of relief when the cyclopean monstrosity passed out of her view, though it was still visible in the corner of the rearview mirror. She was now in the city's financial district. The buildings on her left were of sane dimensions, actually possessing workable floor space. The jagged and toothed Canada Trust Tower caught her eye. The Company had offices there and it would be prudent of her to explore that area soon.
As she left the city center behind, she shifted lanes, preparing for her exit, route 404. From there, it was just a small distance to route 407. Once on that road, she felt a distinct nervousness. She was no longer just passing through an anonymous city. She was heading for Markham, the town where she grew up.
The silver car exited the off-ramp and entered the suburban sprawl. Weaving along the blacktop roads, she passed through acres of banal sameness. However, the further she went, the more the houses slid further and further from the street and the distance between them increased, until she was driving past almost entirely wooded land with plots measured in the dozens of acres. Unceremoniously, the silver vehicle pulled into a driveway. The woman killed the engine.
As the woman got out of the car, she put her sunglasses up on her forehead, pushing back her center-parted, fairly short hair. She would have preferred it to be longer, but company regulations prohibited it.
Unconsciously, she locked her vehicle while checking to make sure that all of her gear was properly holstered. Quickly and efficiently, she felt to make sure that her flashlight was in her right pants pocket along with her wallet, that her keys were put in the left one next to her company-issue pocket knife, that her palmtop and cell phone were in their belt-mounted holders, and that the docker's clutch was secured and weighted properly.
She walked around to the back of the car, humming a little tune as her boots crunched on the gravel. Flipping out her keys, she unlocked her trunk and pulled out one of two large, black duffel bags. Looking calmly at the remaining bag, she closed the trunk, locking it inside.
There was the remote possibility that the police might search her car, but considering her company's relation with local officials, it would be a minor inconvenience at worst. Carrying the bag by its shoulder strap, she walked up to the front door. Kasumi Tendo had come home.
Across the city in the same bay that Kasumi had passed, two people were standing on a pier. Their backs were to the giant lake, and they were looking at the city ahead of them, paying particular attention to the gigantic spire directly in front of them.
The pair maintained their silence for a minute, entertaining entirely different thoughts. Finally the younger of the two spoke. "So, Pop, what brings us to Canada?" he asked in quite passable English, speaking the last word with definite puzzlement.
"Not thinking about going back?" the older of the two asked, quite surprised.
"Considering what's on the other side of the world, and that our ship left a half an hour ago… Nope."
"Good. Perhaps you're learning, boy."
The younger man smiled darkly. "You still haven't answered me. Why are we here?"
"To visit an old friend of mine," the other replied, visibly unnerved. Gods how he hated it when the boy looked at him like that.
"Well, he didn't always live here. No, about nineteen years ago he was convinced to move here. This guy we called The Drake had this crazy land scheme that he worked out."
"So it failed," he observed, turning his attention to the disturbingly sluggish water of the harbor.
"No, it worked marvelously. They both managed to get quite a sum off of it," the elder said, hoping that the boy would not do anything too rash. Well, as long as he got to his friend's house, things should work out.
"Oh," the one who wasn't quite a man said. Was this why his father dragged him all the way to Canada? Just to mooch off of an old friend? No — there had to be more to this.
Kasumi had reached the front steps. Before climbing up them, she got one last glimpse of her car. The thought of getting behind the wheel and driving into the city crossed her mind. She could easily have the Company find an apartment for her. She did not have to return. It would be a shorter commute.
However, there was one thing that Kasumi did not do; quit. So she walked up the steps. Standing in front of the door, she looked over at the bench swing. About five years ago, she had sat there while her father signed her over to the Company.
Kasumi hardly blamed him for it. The Company was one of the best things that happened to her. It was a terrible shame that it took an event of such a magnitude for her to be recruited. She could still remember the sound of her father's voice coming through the screen door.
Soun looked at his old friend and sighed. "Drake? Are you sure there's no other way?"
"Of course there are other ways," the Drake said, giving a rather unbalanced smile. He then regained his composure. "But I think Willard is the best option for her."
"Are you sure? It seems a bit drastic," Soun replied.
"She wouldn't be the first teen I've recommended to them."
"You trust them?"
"Absolutely," the Drake replied, leaning back into his chair.
"What about your own kids?"
"They're both a bit too young right now, but my daughter has been reading their brochures as of late."
Soun looked down at the coffee table. "You're sure of this," he said looking up.
The Drake nodded, "The Company will send someone over if I make the call."
Soun returned his gaze to the table, looking past the police and medical reports on the table. The Drake always had these outlandish propositions, but the reality of it was that they usually worked. Soun trusted the man. Granted, he had a strange sense of humor, but he was ultimately responsible for the financial independence Soun had. The Drake had introduced him to his wife, and short of Genma, was his best friend. Calling Genma and asking for his advice briefly occurred to him, but was dismissed. While Genma did have a child, Ranma was not a girl, and Genma's wife was still alive.
"I'd like to speak to them," he said finally.
The Drake nodded, picking up the cordless phone. The stack of papers pinned under it moved slightly with the removal of the impromptu paperweight. After dialing the number, he spoke briefly before hanging up, "Yes, he's agreed to see you. You have the address? Good."
"That was short," Soun observed sourly.
"Obviously, I gave the Company all her records. How else would they be able to determine it she was acceptable for the program?"
"When did you do this?"
"As soon as I was able to get a full appraisal of the incident," The Drake said, returning the phone to its place on the table. "It did happen in my sphere of influence," he appended.
Soun sighed, then looked at his old friend sitting across from him.
The Drake looked at his watch. Even under the best of circumstances, it would take several minutes for the recruiter from the Company to arrive. In an effort to pass the time, the Drake tried to engage his friend and former business partner in small talk.
Soun himself was essentially retired; his teaching more of a hobby than anything else. While the Drake had a full time job, he attacked his responsibilities with a gusto that some called outright insanity. This was not technically true. Granted, he was eccentric and enjoyed rather unusual jokes, but this did not mean that he was not in full possession of his faculties. It just looked that way.
So they discussed their jobs, hobbies, and families. In true small talk fashion, the pertinent topics were avoided, although Drake could see Soun's eyes regularly dart back to person sitting on the porch.
The Drake had passed the girl when he entered the house. She was sitting in one of those swinging benches. Gently rocking and staring down the driveway, the girl was humming a little song to herself. When the Drake tired to talk to her, she seemed amiable enough. She was responsive, pleasant, even friendly, but something was amiss. It was as if he were talking to a particularly well designed artificial personality. A construct, a cutout, a simulation. The girl on front of him simply did not seem real.
When he left, the girl resumed her rocking, happily fingering the collection of struts and bars that encased her right forearm. Kasumi smiled as she felt the pressure her left hand placed on the metal transfer into the flesh of her right arm.
For the first time since her mother's death Kasumi could feel something. She rocked back and forth, absorbed in reality. She felt the pain, the light, the darkness. She had awakened, and considered that simple fact worth any price. As she contently watched a strange silver car pull up into the driveway, she had no idea how high the price would be, or how long it would take to pay off.
"As you know, Kasumi is a very sweet, intelligent, and caring girl," the man from the Company said. In his mid-thirties, he wore a conservative suit that practically screamed "government agent". Introducing himself as Jacob Edwards, he said that he was a psychological consultant specializing in brilliant but troubled teens. The dark humor came in how close this description was to the truth, and how the few deviations made the deception all the more horrid.
"Unfortunately, this is what caused her problem," Jacob continued. "After her mother died, she reacted by caring more about others, becoming very helpful, showing extreme empathy. This in and of itself is hardly a bad thing. It's a sign of good character. Unfortunately, she had put too much on herself, trying to take on the troubles of everyone around her, while all the time maintaining a cheerful, happy façade. It could not last forever," Jacob concluded.
"In a way, it was fortunate that her break happened now, instead of two years form now, or five, or ten. The longer she spent keeping up this charade, the worse the eventual break would be."
The Drake shuddered involuntary. Kasumi's little incident left two people hooked up to machines, three in the burn ward, and another in the morgue. The fact that the chemistry lab had been mostly empty only illustrated how bad things could have been. Technically, it was not Kasumi's fault, but that hardly changed things.
"And your company's program can help solve her problems?" Soun asked.
"In a way, yes. As long as she doesn't backslide into her old ways by becoming a cheery automaton, waiting for the chance to blow again, she will be fine. Under normal circumstances, she would recover on her own."
"Then why do you think she needs your program?"
"Do you honestly think that she'll have normality here? Do you honestly want her going back to that school? And while it's incredibly doubtful that she'd be convicted, do you want to risk it? Willard International Consulting can give her a fresh start, real world training and experience, a college education… a second chance. Don't let a rash decision haunt you for the rest of your, and their, lives," Jacob concluded, morbidly amused at the irony of it all.
"Why would your company do this? What's in it for you?"
"Aside from the benefit of helping someone, there is an economic reason for this too. Kasumi is exceptionally bright and resourceful. Our company is a bit of a think tank. We sell our ability to find solutions to complex problems to companies and governments around the world. She would be taught by these great minds, gaining invaluable experience, and, hopefully once her schooling is over, decide to work for us for a year or two. Think of it as a boarding school."
"So she won't be able to stay home?"
"No. Unfortunately, our nearest research facility is in Des Moines," Jacob said.
"So she'll be unable to stay close to home?"
Soun considered the pros and the cons. On the one hand, The Drake trusted this program, they seemed to have logical reasons for taking in these kids (not only did they get assistants and underlings, but they got potential recruits), Kasumi would recover, and be practically guaranteed a job. On the other hand, she'd be moving away, gone for months at a time.
"But what if the charges aren't dropped?"
"You'll have access to the Company's legal resources. Considering the circumstances of the case, there is no way she would be convicted, let alone have to enter a courtroom," Jacob simply said.
"I have to discuss this with my daughter."
"Take all the time you need," Jacob said, pulling out a card from his briefcase and handed it to Soun.
Kasumi remembered the discussion she had with her father. For once, she'd actually agreed with him. There were several more meetings with Jacob. There were preparations, tests, and exams, right up until she boarded the plane. Then real training began.
She reached out to the door and knocked lightly.
Kasumi was in the kitchen, humming happily. She was wearing an apron over her blouse and slacks, her well-worn boots locking onto the hardwood floors. Two years ago, when asked why she always wore the heavy-duty boots, she had simply replied that she enjoyed the traction and ankle support that they gave. There were other reasons, but they would only have lead to more questions.
She was greeted by a surprisingly exuberant family. Granted, she hadn't been home for over ten months, and even then it was just for a couple of days. Almost as soon as she had dropped her bag, the questions had started. How was Melbourne? How was work? Was she going to find a place in the city?
Kasumi gave a fairly detailed description of the Australian city, leaving out only some of its more unpleasant aspects. Kasumi talked about her coworkers, her bosses, her office, but not about what she actually did. She repeated the simple statement, that because her company worked with such sensitive information, she could not reveal anything that might compromise a client.
The eldest daughter resumed her work. It was sad that the kitchen got so little use when she was gone. Though that made sense. Nabiki was usually busy, and Akane was… Well… Akane. Kasumi shuddered when she remembered the question her little sister asked. On the surface, it was innocent enough. Kasumi had returned home, she was a rather good cook, there were things that she was better at (not that she could tell her family about them), and Akane was willing to learn.
Kasumi supposed that her cheery but flat-out refusal was a bit harsh, especially considering what her father had announced today. Kasumi sighed as she resumed her cooking. Sometimes that man could be such a fool. Even if he was serious with his plans, they were hardly applicable to her. Kasumi's obligations to the Company would cause too many conflicts.
About an hour later, Kasumi heard a knock at the door, followed by several confused sounds. Correctly assuming that her father's friends had arrived, she left the kitchen to meet with them, and for one of the few times in her life, was genuinely surprised.
The foreign girl looked around the room. She sat down and crossed her legs, causing her leather mini-dress to creak. She did not want to have to do it, but considering how short her skirt was, there was no other choice.
Sighing, she swept a hand through her long, full, red hair. There was no way she would have worn this dress had she any choice in the matter. Well… She did have a choice, but that was three months ago, and she had obviously made the wrong decision. The sad part was that after almost an entire month of wearing nothing but leather skirts and such, she'd actually gotten used to them. There was a sort of comfort to the constricting nature of the material, the security and solidarity of it.
No, the devastatingly beautiful redhead corrected, she did not have to wear her little leather dress. She could go about naked, or turn back into her birth sex, and while there was another style of garment, it carried with it other problems. The second choice was the preferable option; however, the requisite material was always hard to find. She shuddered slightly as she remembered a time when changing back was not even an option.
The worst part of it was not the fact that she turned into a gorgeous girl, not that she seemed to be, despite her best efforts, getting used to the curse (well, technically the bit with the dress and the other stuff was a different curse), not that she had to wear those damn high-heeled boots, but that her father gave no indication of caring. Here she was in a garment that could have been sprayed on, and her father was trying to get her engaged.
Finally, her father was getting to the curse. The redhead groaned at such stupidity.
Soun looked skeptically at his old friend. Why was Genma trying to pass off this girl as his son? It was obvious that this beautiful, albeit pale, girl was not male, especially considering how she was dressed. The strange part was not that Genma was not rabidly insisting this, but simply stated, it was as if it were a fact despite all proof to the contrary.
When Kasumi saw the girl enter the house, she immediately knew something was off. That the girl's father, a bandana-wearing oaf of a man, maintained that this was his son was irrelevant to her. What mattered was the small twinge she received when she met this girl. Naturally, she pulled her palmtop out of its case. Once the correct program was activated, she was rewarded with a very disturbing pattern. The procedure for such an event was clear enough. Entering the corresponding password, her palmtop sent out the coded message.
Genma's explanations were interrupted by a shrill ringing. He looked over to see the eldest of Soun's daughter's pull a small cell phone out. She apologized and took the call on the other side of the room, talking softly. "What was that?" he asked.
"Kasumi's a technical consultant for Willard International Consulting. She just got transferred back to the city," Soun responded with pride. Both the Drake and Jacob were correct. The program had done wonders for the girl.
"So she's a viable option too," Genma proposed.
"What's going on here?" Nabiki interrupted. "I mean trying to engage us to some guy we've never met is one thing, but Ranma is a girl," she said pointing to the redhead.
"Just show them," Ranma sighed.
Kasumi had described the situation as best she could. Being unable to say specific words had limited what she could get across, but the Company employee on the other end was able to figure out the situation. Her call had been transferred, and she was now getting her orders. An operation was already being put together.
Akane sat, glaring at the redheaded bimbo across from her. It was not really this girl's fault that her father was an amazingly inept moron. Akane remembered how she felt when her own father made the announcement, that an old friend of his was bringing his son to be engaged to Akane or one of her sisters. Her irritation grew as the spectacled oaf weaved his lies — cursed training grounds, chaotic magic, and what was worse was that her father seemed to be taking this man seriously.
Soun looked over at his friend. His friend's request was simple enough. Soun hoped that after proving that this girl was not Ranma, Genma would fess up and tell him what really did happen to the boy.
Akane walked to the kitchen grumbling to herself. Why did she have to be a part of these delusional fantasies? Leaning to one side of the entranceway between the two rooms was Kasumi, still talking on her phone. The woman muttered something about a crisis involving a new client. Akane let the issue fall, the older girl did sound rather strained at the news and was busy trying to get things straightened out.
When she returned with the glass of hot tap water. Kasumi had her keys out and was fiddling with them. "Poor girl. She's way too attached to her job," she thought, remembering just how Kasumi got her job.
Ranma looked quizzically as the youngest daughter slammed the glass down on the coffee table. Ranma was getting weird vibes from all of these girls. The youngest was looking for reasons to hate her, the middle was appraising her like a piece of meat, and the eldest took one look at Ranma and backed off. Although in the case of Kasumi, she did receive a phone call, but why did she have a little palmtop out just before she was called? While the redhead did have a way to learn more about them, it was not something she wished to use just yet.
The redhead shrugged off her misgivings and used the water. She felt the familiar transformation. Every time Ranma changed back, he gave a sigh of relief in that not only was he able to change back, but that he returned to his original clothes. He looked around to see the shock evident on everyone's faces. There was Mr. Tendo with a hint of depression and regret. Akane with some revulsion and disgust thrown in. Nabiki, quickly regaining her composure, gave a tight little smile. Meanwhile, Kasumi had stopped talking and was looking at him, not quite with shock, but with an almost expectant dread.
Soun looked at Genma. "So it's true."
Genma nodded solemnly, then brightened, "Don't worry, the boy has handled it remarkably well."
"So the engagement can continue?"
"Well, son, you've seen my daughters. Akane sixteen, Nabiki seventeen, and Kasumi nineteen; choose one and she'll be your wife."
Ranma froze, he knew this was what his father was trying to do, but he had completely forgotten that eventually he would have to do something.
"Oh, he definitely wants Akane, right, Kasumi?" Nabiki started.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Kasumi said, closing her phone. "Don't you think that's a bit too hasty? We shouldn't commit ourselves without careful considerations," she said, walking up to the rest of the family.
"You saying that you might want Ranma?"
Kasumi looked the young man over. It really was quite a shame, but she had her orders. "That depends on a several factors." She looked at her watch. "I have to take a quick drive over to the office, and on the way back I can stop at the grocery and get some decent food. Ranma could come with me," she proposed.
"Looking to get some private time with him?" Nabiki smirked.
"Yes, that would be the idea," Kasumi said, smiling.
Ranma was riding shotgun in Kasumi's sedan. She was driving the car with remarkable speed and control down the twisting avenues. Ranma was surprised as to how much forested land there was this close to a major city, though he had heard that the Canadians liked their trees. He also found the conversation pleasant if a bit impersonal with Kasumi. She seemed a very nice, but distant girl. In the back of his mind, he was still mulling over what she did when they first met.
Ranma looked in confusion as the silver sedan slowed to a stop He looked over to see a grey van pulled off to the side of the road. The vehicle's four-way blinkers were lazily flashing. He could make out a twenty-something man standing under the raised hood, staring at the engine. A slightly younger girl was sitting in the driver's seat, her legs sticking out the open door.
Ranma could see that the girl had extended her pinky and thumb, raising the hand to her ear in the universal phone gesture. He turned to see Kasumi nod, unbuckle her belt, and start to open the door.
Ranma turned his head back to the van to see the man pull a blocky assault rifle from somewhere out of sight behind the hood, the girl pull a similar weapon from the interior of the van, followed by another man stepping out of the van carrying a handgun. Ranma looked back to Kasumi to see an empty driver's seat and an open door.
Kasumi had slipped out of the car, drawing her sidearm while turning to face the target. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that Aram, Gabriel, and Sophie were in position.
Ranma gauged the situation. Kasumi was forward and to his left, the man from the hood was in front of him, the girl was a bit closer and more to the right, and the other man was between them near the van. Each had their weapons properly seated with fingers at the ready. Ranma slumped down. Like this, there was nothing he could do. At this range, he could be hit sixty times before getting the passenger door open. He was fast, but not that fast.
Ranma looked to see the man with the handgun pull out a surprisingly complex electronic device out of his coat. Pointing it in the same direction as his sidearm, he looked at its small but detailed viewscreen
Kasumi saw Gabriel's slight shrug. So in this form, the target had only residual energy. Nothing too unique or special, but entirely disturbing in its implications. Keeping her weapon aimed, she gave her order.
Ranma looked down to see a plastic water bottle between the front two seats. He looked up to see Kasumi's neutral face. The girl repeated her order in an inappropriately sweet and pleasant voice.
Kasumi saw the transformation for the second time. There was that redheaded anomaly. Although her weapon did not wavier she found this target easier to lock onto. The leather-clad girl was not human.
Gabriel managed to keep his composure as he watched black-haired guy turn into a voluptuous redhead in a leather mini-dress. The readings on his scanner jumped from nearly background levels to an intense pattern that left little doubt as to the nature of the target. There was an anomalous variance, but it seemed to be immaterial. "Pattern D, Class 7," he spoke in a grave voice.
"She's a class seven?" Aram gravely, making sure to keep his gun on target.
"Lucky," Sophie continued.
"She arrived at my house today," Kasumi said simply.
"Could the opposition know about us?"
"They could," Gabriel said, watching the readings as much as he could while keeping lock on the target. He had never intended to see a live D7 this close before.
"The roadblocks holding up?" Aram asked about teams that were ensuring their privacy and would provide backup if necessary.
"The longer we wait…."
"Let's do this," Kasumi said flatly.
"Yes. Why the fuck not?" a new voice interjected.
Ranma's moods had gone from confused, to started, to despondent, finally stopping at indifferent rage. It did not matter what she said from this point on, if they got tired of her ranting, they could try to shut her up.
"First Pluto cons me using this 'save the world' scam, then she makes my curse infinitely worse. I end up getting trapped like this, and it isn't until this Murdock guy comes along that I can change back. I then try to move on with my life only to find that my moronic father tried to engage me to a pack of loons, and now I'm going to be gunned down on some deserted road in the middle of Canada. So just kill me now. I don't fucking care."
Kasumi narrowed her eyes. "How do you know those names?"
"They're the ones responsible for this," Ranma said pointing to her dress, her eyes starting to glow.
"We have a spike!" Gabriel shouted, reading his scanner.
"Go?" Sophie asked.
"Wait," Kasumi ordered, thinking over what the redhead said.
Sophie was puzzled, this was a confirmed D7; immediate termination of the target was the only sane course of action.
Kasumi watched as the glowing eyes shifted in color. "What've you got, Gabe?"
"Not sure. It looks like we have a divergence here," Gabriel said, looking at the conflicting readings.
"If you're gonna do something, do it now," Kasumi said to the redhead
Ranma hit the activation sequence. Her body became wrapped in bands of red, amethyst, and black energy.
Gabriel watched as the divergence grew. He still had a definite pattern D, but it was overlaid with something else. He refused to accept what it looked like until the scanner made a positive ID. "Pattern Silver and Pattern D, Class 10," he finally said.
The rest of the team looked at the redhead. It was obvious that she was a combination of both patterns. How this could be possible was unknown.
"Confirmation?" Kasumi asked. Gabriel gave a definite nod. "Weapons safe," she then said, lowering her sidearm, shortly follow by the rest of the team.
"Now what?" Aram asked, still keeping his eye on the target.
"We were given orders in the event of meeting a Silver."
"But a pattern D?"
"Irrelevant," Kasumi said, holstering her weapon.
"What about her?" Gabriel asked.
"I'll do the debriefing," she said, walking to back to her car. "You guys go back to base."
The three Company employees shrugged, and after closing up their van, gave the roadblock and backup teams the mission scrub command.
"Please change back. I don't want you to wreck my seats," Kasumi said, climbing onto the driver's seat.
Ranma looked over to see the black van pull off the side of the road in front of Kasumi's car. "So you're not gonna try to kill me?" Ranma said, reverting to just her leather-clad girl form.
"If we don't want to be up against the opposition as well as Pattern Silvers," Kasumi said putting her car in drive.
"The energy signature your team uses."
"The group of girls Murdock told us about," Kasumi said keeping her eyes on the road.
"I'm not with them. I was tricked."
"That's a shame, that was the only thing that kept us from trying to kill you," Kasumi said rather happily.
"But you're not now," Ranma asked relived but puzzled.
"We're good, but not Silver-D-10 good."
"So now what?" Ranma asked adjusting her skirt. One would think something so small could not possibly ride up at all.
"You tell me how you became what you are, and we'll take if from there."
Ranma was perplexed. Kasumi was calmly, pleasantly talking to her, where five minutes ago she had a gun pointed at her head.
"You'd think Murdock would tell us that you were coming to my house first. He'd have to know how I'd react to seeing a pattern D."
"Have you actually met Murdock?" Ranma inquired.
"Trust me. This is exactly the kind of thing he'd pull," Ranma said, leaning back.
"I take it you don't like the man?"
"Unlike other people, he's never lied to me, but I do find his methods tiring."
"So how did you get caught up in all this?"
"Well, what my dad said was true, inasmuch as I did pick up a curse in China. That just turned me into a girl. There was no leather, no patterns Silver or D; all I did was turn onto a girl. Eventually we went to Seattle to train, learning from some schools to the South of the city. While we were there, I was given a proposition by a certain woman."
"You accepted," Kasumi remarked.
"Going in, I knew there would be strings attached, but I thought I would be saving the world, not stuck in skintight leather." Ranma sighed. "You ever have a situation like that? You know you have to do it and that it's gonna be bad, but you didn't know just how bad?"
Kasumi gave an amused bitter laugh.
"This has to do with your job?'
Kasumi simply grinned.
The redhead looked over at the girl and shrugged. What did she have to lose? Sighing, she began her story. Ranma still remembered walking into the vast warehouse. The marital artist was surprised to find the center of the floor covered in an intricate collection of symbols and shapes, and in the center of it all was a woman carefully examining the last few designs.
Setsuna Meiou watched the progress of the transference. The subject was in place at the center of the focusing glyphs. The now unbound line of reincarnation was summoned. All she had to do was make sure that it met up with the teen standing in the center.
She smiled as she felt the energy of a thousand generations converging on the center of the massive mural. It was almost there when Setsuna heard the sound of tearing metal. She looked up to see a large, ceiling-mounted pipe break.
"Ah, nuts," the soaked redhead muttered. "Can we stop? I don't think it'll work too well with me like this."
The time mage ignored the girl's surprisingly accurate assessment as she attempted to do just that. It was too late. The line of transfer was already upon what was now a girl. Setsuna gave an angered yell as she watched the confused energy begin its work. She then gave a self-deprecating laugh. Why would she have even dared to assume that this would work out well?
The mere fact that she had to resort to this procedure was evidence that someone was actively trying to mess with things, and that she was forced to use this particular person was the kicker. There was also the fact that, instead of being able to talk to her future self (as annoying as she was, at least Setsuna could trust herself), she was assigned some other mage.
The energy was what remained of the Earth Kingdom's royal family. The Silver Millennium energy was most dismayed when its current avatar died. Fortunately, it was an accidental death and the energy was able to be freed. That the last avatar died without leaving an heir was a considerable snag.
The energy was considerably relieved when it was summoned to enter a new host. As it coalesced into the girl, the energy paused. Girl? But all the previous avatars had been male. Except for one. Ah, yes… Her. She was another recruited to fill in for a terminated family tree. The energy looked at its new host. Yes — there was quite the resemblance, except that this girl was human, or close enough. So that's why she was chosen, the energy concluded as it made the necessary changes.
Ranma felt a strange power enveloping her. She tried to get away, but found herself immobilized as the power did its work. She felt her height increase a few inches, the power stretching her body while making other changes to her proportions. She could not tell that she was going from cute to devastatingly beautiful, except that the fact was being blasted into her mind. Her skin went from being fair to a perfect alabaster that went beyond pale. Her hair lengthened until it reached the middle of her back, becoming feathered, turning a deeper shade of red, and gaining dark purple highlights as it went.
She then felt a different set of physical changes. She felt her canines grow, becoming sharp and pointed. A pair of surprisingly cute little black horns grew on her forehead. There was a rustling sound as a spade-ended tail snaked its way out of her pants. It was three feet long, with a red body and had amethyst colored fins at its end. Her shirt then ripped as a pair of large, dragon-like wings grew out of her back. The inside membranes were blood-red while the outside was dark purple.
The energy had done a good job of calming its new avatar, for the only reaction Ranma had to the changes was irritation as to having to replace her shirt. This thought stopped as her clothing dissolved, to be replaced with something else.
The reincarnated girl Ranma was becoming was no more a Senshi than the male users of the power had been. Five hundred years before the fall of the Silver Millennium, she fought alongside the Senshi, ensuring peace and helping the Earth Kingdom through a difficult time when its lineage had all but disappeared. Granted, her teammates had reservations about working with a demon, even one that had converted to the forces of good, but they eventually learned to trust and rely on her.
This explained the modifications a young demon girl made to her uniform when she took up the defense of the Earth Kingdom.
Ranma felt her heels lift up as her legs and feet became encased in black leather knee-high boots with five-inch heels. A dark purple thong replaced her underwear and was surrounded by a tiny little leather skirt. It was black with red trim, and styled off of a traditional Senshi uniform.
Her black top could have been called a bikini except for the dark red and purple ribbons on the abbreviated, bosom-hugging, cleavage-accentuating garment. Its minimal straps avoided her wings while keeping the top snugly in place.
A simple black choker formed around her neck. A golden tiara with a single jet-black stone formed just under her horns. Dangling earrings with similar stones came into place. Her finger nails became blood-red and lengthened into feminine talons. Her makeup then formed. The red lipstick made an amazing contrast to her pale skin, and the eyeliner-shaped eyebrows and lashes complimented her eyes perfectly.
The energy, satisfied with the reproduction, did the last step. Her eyes changed from their normal blue to a glowing, deep amethyst. The transfer of power done, the energy dissipated back to the realm where it originated.
Setsuna looked up to see the demon girl exit her trance. Her glowing eyes looked around in shock as she took in what had happened to her. "My gods. It's like I'm naked," she said, one hand tugging at her skirt, another at one of the ribbons on her top. "I feel so free," she then said in a much silkier, higher voice. Her hands traveling around her body. Her fanged smile grew as she went, taking special notice of her "additions".
"Gods… What's happening…?" she then said in a lower, rougher voice, her hands freezing. She then noticed Setsuna. "You!" she snarled, her eyes glowing even brighter. "You said I would be free of the curse! That I could help save the world! Instead, you turn me into THIS!"
She started walking over to the time mage, but noticed that in her raised footwear, she had to walk in a very feminine gait, and that as her hips swung, her tail followed, swishing back and forth, but with a slight delay so that her tail swung in the opposite direction as her hips. She then noticed how her breasts swung too, along with her earrings. Even her hair bounced as she walked.
"Oh, yes. I'm going to have to thank you for this," she said in a seductive, powerful voice. She then smiled, showing her fangs, and licked her lips. The demon then flapped her wings and took off at the other girl.
"Damn! I'd forgotten what she's like," Setsuna thought as she teleported just in the nick of time, leaving a confused demon girl alone in the warehouse. She would have a "talk" with Murdock once she got back. At least Setsuna had figured out why he had selected her as the replacement.
After watching Pluto disappear, Sailor DarkStar, the only formerly-evil honorary Senshi, took stock of her life. She now remembered her alter ego, Ranma. Hmm, looked like things would be very amusing this time around.
"Murdock filled you in?" Kasumi asked pulling off the road.
"Yup. I guess Pluto had a little talk with him after the incident."
"He wasn't there?"
"Nope," Ranma said once again being both entirely correct and still quite wrong.
Kasumi maintained her silence as she maneuvered her car off the road.
"What the…." Ranma said as she looked at her surroundings.
"I said we were going to go to the store," Kasumi said, after parking the car.
Ranma considered her statement. "You also said you had to go to the office."
"Yes, I did," Kasumi said getting out of the car.
After Ranma stepped out, she looked across the roof in confusion. After an attempted assassination, the leader of the hit squad usually does not go grocery shopping with the intended target. Ranma watched as Kasumi pulled out her palmtop and started reading some text on the screen.
Ranma was carrying the last load of groceries into the house when he heard Kasumi make her proposal. Standing at the entranceway he became the center of attention.
"I'm glad to see that you've finally grown some backbone, boy. I was afraid that the decision would have to be made for you," Genma said approvingly. Granted, Kasumi was not a martial artist, but she did know how to cook, clean, and already possessed an independent source of income. Ranma would be able to spend more time on the Art. Combined with Soun's assurances that certain events will not be repeated, it made her a rather good prospect. Genma certainly knew enough about letting the past stay in the past.
"Why?" Akane asked. They hardly knew anything about this boy. Aside from some curse that turned him into a leather-clad hussy, and the rumors spread by Ranma's rather questionable father, the boy was a complete stranger. Yet somehow after their little drive, Kasumi decided to take up the engagement. What could someone possibly learn in a couple hours that would change her mind like that?
"Someone should at least try to make this work, and after our little talk, I've found that Ranma may have a few things to offer," Kasumi said, giving a strange little smile that seemed to only unnerve Ranma.
"Better you than me," Nabiki allowed. It was odd that Kasumi would take on extra responsibility like this. She was just as attached to her job as she was her family. That could be the connection — Kasumi was doing this out of obligation to family.
"As you say," Kasumi said, then turning to Ranma, "Come on. I'll show you where to put these."
"Right," Ranma said. As he crossed the front room to get to the kitchen, his father stood up, meeting him in the middle of the den.
Walking next to his son, Genma asked in a low voice, "Tell me, boy, why'd you choose her?"
Ranma looked at his father's grinning face, then into the kitchen to see Kasumi happily unloading the foodstuffs. With a second glance, Ranma realized that in she was not simply shelving the items, but was placing them in some sort of precise, exacting pattern. There seemed to be some subdivision based on container type, but that was all Ranma could readily discern.
"Already watching her," Genma nearly whispered, quite amused, "So she's the one that persuaded you. A few errands, indeed."
Ranma considered the kind of conversation you have with a person when guns are pointed at your head. Then he recalled what happed in the supermarket. Under the painfully bright florescent lights, where the only sounds were the dry rattling of improperly oiled shopping cart bearings, air being blown through a surprisingly noisy ventilation system, and groggy motions of the night crew restocking the shelves, they made their agreement. It was all very businesslike, practical and logical. Given what Kasumi's job was and what terms were discussed, made the tone it was done in all the more creepy.
"I don't see why you're so freaked. It's not like he died in the plane crash," the girl said, trying to comfort the tweaked blonde sitting to her left.
"Wow, Mina! That really helps!" another girl to the right of the blonde remarked sarcastically.
"What, Rei? It's technically true. He didn't die until he boarded the fishing trawler that came to rescue them," remarked the girl one row behind them in the aisle seat.
"Ami, that doesn't help things," Rei replied, shaking her head.
"Don't knock the spaz around. For Gods' sakes, she lost her boyfriend. He's dead and he's not coming back," the fifth girl remarked, this one sitting in the window seat behind Rei.
"You guys wonder what's up with Pluto?" the unusually quiet blonde asked.
"You mean aside from shipping us off to Canada?" Makoto asked looking out the window. According to the Captain, they were about to make landfall any minute now, and the sky under them was fairly cloudless, so she had a good chance of seeing the British Columbian coast, unless they were far enough north to cross Alaska.
"Yes, when she talked to us, she seemed uneasy and nervous."
"Almost human?" Minako suggested.
"That's it. She seems unsure. Even during the worst days of the war, she managed to keep her calm."
"That's because she's got access. It's easy to be confident and cryptic when you know what's coming around the corner," Makoto said, watching with interest as the ocean began to lighten.
"And that's changing," Usagi said simply. "Remember how she told the outers to stay in Japan?"
"You don't think this is another 'I can't tell myself what's happening in the future because it will corrupt the timeline?' " Rei asked.
"That boat has already sailed," Makoto said as she watched the plane make landfall over the Pacific Rim archipelago.
"He was an integral part of Crystal Tokyo," Ami stated.
"Pluto's stuck with damage control."
Setsuna glared at the average-looking man sitting on her couch. Spread out in front of him on the coffee table was a dozen or so textbooks, and a wild array of papers. Most of them were scribbled with what appeared to be archaic runes. It was only after a second glance that she noticed that they were simply graphs containing hundreds of little arrows, sets of lines and curves, or stranger, more convoluted geometric shapes.
"Oh. Hey, Pluto-chan. Sorry about the mess. I was at that university a few blocks east, and after my workshop was over, I decided to wander around the lecture halls for a while. After sampling a few, well, rather dull ones, I found a winner."
"What does this have to do with you breaking into my apartment?"
"I didn't break in. You gave me a key."
"No, I did not."
"Well, that's what I told the building Super and Security," he said, shrugging before going back to his pile of scribbles.
"Why the hell would they believe you?" Meiou grumbled. "I gave them your description solely to prevent you from getting in."
"You told them to look for a short, fair-skinned, clean-shaven, short brown-haired, white male of medium build. Now how would they think that person was me?" he smiled as he continued his calculations.
She ignored the conversational trap he laid and simply sat down on the couch across from him. "Why are you here?"
"One moment," Murdock said as he, jotted down a few lines. Finishing with graph that resembled a sideways pitchfork, he looked up. "Ah, yes. Why am I here? I guessing that you're a bit angry with my actions as of late."
Her left eye twitched as she made a fist. Setsuna thought she was over this interloper's interference. She thought that she had accepted that there was nothing she could do about it, but no, Murdock had to play "Captain Obvious".
"Judging by that vein in your forehead, I'd have to say yes," Murdock said, sorting his work. "I would like to apologize for my actions and say that I regretted my part in this ghastly business. Especially the bit about the plane, and then the incident with the boiler room."
"You crashed a Boeing 747 into the Bearing Straight," the green haired woman stated in an almost completely even voice.
"All I did was ensured that he boarded a specific flight," Murdock pointed out. "Hell! The boy didn't even die in the crash. The pilot did a beautiful water landing. Thank goodness the seas were calm for once, and that there was a ship nearby."
"You were the one that put him on that fishing trawler. You might as well have killed him yourself."
"Ahhhh! Ethics in applied causality. If anyone has authority on that subject, I'm sure you do."
"What I do is for a greater purpose."
"Spare me that glorious future crap. You're just like me — an officer carrying out orders."
"I hardly think you're acting under official sanctioning. No, you're just a rogue agent." They both knew that her last statement was a complete lie. If Murdock truly was acing on his own, he would already be dead. It was only by the grace of whoever he was working for that he managed to stay alive. Setsuna had given up on trying to eliminate him. Somehow, someway, things never worked out and only tended to complicate matters.
"You're quite right," Murdock said finally dropping the humor in his voice. It was not an overly pleasant tone. Rather like the one a bombardier for Strategic Air Command would have after receiving that final go code. "While the Rune Order disagrees with Crystal Tokyo in principle — we've had enough with exile and purification — we are sufficiently distant that we need not interfere."
"You jeopardized thousands of years of work."
"By ensuring the death of one person," Murdock replied gravely.
"So you admit that the Order has not sanctioned your hobby."
"You think that this Machiavellian scheming is my hobby?" Murdock said sickeningly. "This is my hobby," he said pointing at the hideous pile of paper. "You should know what my job is."
""Supposedly, you're some type of ambassador."
"Right, I'm a go-between for the Order and various other organizations. Although sometimes I'm sent out on loan."
"So who are you working for?"
"Now, you know better than to ask that. But the answer is right in front of you."
Setsuna replayed the details of their conversation.
"You're not going to figure it out that way," Murdock said, sorting his mess into disheveled stacks. "At least this particular job is simple enough that I can concentrate on my personal work."
"And that is?" she asked, hoping that Murdock would actually have useful information.
"Amazing things these mundanes can do, isn't it? Already their technology is making impressive scratches on the pillars of reality. Like this," he said, pointing to the math equations and charts.
"So it's differential equations and multivariable calculus."
"Ahh, but of a special order; chaos complexity, bifurcations, resonance, null clines, Jacobian transformations, and other such fun stuff."
She cataloged the equations yet remained silent.
Murdock shook his head. "You don't see it, do you? You of all people, too blind to its implications. Points where a minute shift can cause drastic changes later on, cycles that can repeat endlessly, varying each time, yet having the same bounds and limits, methods to map out even the most complex geometries as simple planes. Consider it."
Setsuna looked over past Murdock, through the sliding doors of her apartment balcony.
"I see you're unwilling to accept that more variables could emerge," he said, putting most of the papers and books into a briefcase. Closing the case, he stood up. "I should be going. Even now, there is much that needs to be done." At the door, he turned back to the other mage. "That's why you hate me, isn't it? I have no personal interest in all this. No elaborate, festering vengeance, no emotional scarring of past betrayal. To me, it's just a job," Murdock said, leaving the apartment.
Setsuna gritted her teeth after he left. That was not quite it all of it; she hated him because he was more level-headed, more cryptic, and more in control than she ever was. Although she hated herself even more for having such petty feelings. Fully aware of how she felt, Murdock naturally never mentioned it. Once again, it was he who subtly proved who was in control.
She looked down at her table to see a small stack of papers, held together with four binder clips running down the left side. The first page was covered with his narrow precise handwriting. Ignoring the manuscript, she walked across the room and out onto the balcony.
She sighed as she looked out at the lazily moving water, buffeted by the constant wind. Murdock was right; there was still much to do. The girls' plane would be landing in a couple hours, and she had to be ready for them. As she walked back into the apartment, Setsuna could hear the distant drone of helicopters.
End Chapter 1
Special Thanks to my prereaders: The Jak, Joe Fenton, Jerry Starfire, and Jakub. They make this fic much better than it should be