Sailor Ranko - Tunnel vision: Chapter 31 Sidestory, But it's what we make... The ongoing saga of "Sailor Ranko", set after "Sailor Ranko: Twice in a Millennium"

Based on "Sailor Ranko" by Fire and "Twice in a Millennium" by Kevin D. Hammel and acknowledging "Black Moon - Eclipse of the Sun" by Arthur Hansen By Bill Heineman

I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me, kill me or make me deliver a few megatons at your doorstep.

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Sailor Jupiter stood against a shattered stone wall using her outstretched arm for support. Breathing heavily from sheer exhaustion, she summoned all of her will to keep from falling down onto the burnt gravel below. All around her, sounds of plasma fire and machine guns constantly reminded her that her job was far from complete. In the distance, a flash of red fire lit up the night sky as another magic attack was successfully launched. Jupiter wearily lifted her head and sadly witnessed the spectacle before her.

Sailor Io darted between two giant Hunter Killer battle tanks, death machines that moved on massive silver tractor belts. Supported high above each tank at the apex of a glimmering metal tower, were two quad barrel phased plasma cannons, one on each side of the tank. The cannons tried to match her movements but they couldn't aim fast enough to blast the fast moving yellow skirted Senshi. Synchronizing their attack, the two tanks spread their fire to create a large kill zone where they thought the girl would appear next. A plume of debris, fire, and smoke obscured the machines' vision and the Senshi ran in a circle around the newly created maelstrom. A moment later, they realized their tactical error and stopped firing their energy weapons.

Jupiter smiled at what she knew was what to come. The Senshi of one of her moons was making the Jovian princess proud. "You go get 'em, Sailor Io."

Hearing the sound of an electric motor from behind and above her, the green skirted Senshi aimed her finger at the flying Hunter Killer machine as it flew over a wrecked building. The sleek silver craft had two electric turbofans holding it aloft and a single plasma cannon nestled on the undercarriage. The weapon locked onto the girl but it was not fast enough. The angry girl cried out. "Supreme Thunder!"

A bolt of lightning cast out from her finger and directly hit the left engine, knocking the flyer into a burnt out school bus. The load of kerosene that fueled the internal generator exploded in a huge fireball, sending bus and machine parts everywhere.

The Senshi's smile for her small victory instantly vanished as a smoking human skull hit the ground in front of her. It bounced, rolled, and stopped, facing it's lifeless eye sockets at her as if it wanted to ask the question that everyone wanted to know. Why did its owner's life had to be cut short? What did he do that warranted his death?

Sailor Jupiter paused at the sight and tearfully returned the gaze upon noting the small size of the skull. Shedding a single drop of water for the fallen child, she regained the courage she had momentarily lost in the seemingly hopeless war she had been fighting for the last two decades. Behind her, the loud noise of the tornado formed from Io's Hiryu Shoten Ha told her that two more battle tanks would be added to the growing pile of wreckage that was all that remained of Tokyo.

Once upon a time, Jupiter had a life. She had many friends and she wasn't running for her life every waking moment. During this lull in the battle, she closed her eyes to think of what had brought her here to this terrible moment, if but to escape the present for a little while.

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Walking past the small lake in a secluded park, Makoto set the picnic basket on the wooden table and called out to her traveling companion. "Akane, c'mon, we haven't got all day."

"I know, I know." Akane shook her head and stood beside her friend. She rubbed her hands together in happy expectation of a private cooking lesson with Makoto. "I'm ready to start."

Miss Kino was pleased that her first culinary student was eager to learn how to prepare an edible meal. The campsite she had picked to practice was many kilometers away from civilization. It was the ideal spot Makoto thought. If Akane somehow set the meal on fire, the damage would be controllable and the city wouldn't be placed in danger. It took three days for the tall girl to clean and repair her kitchen in the aftermath of Akane's last cooking lesson. Going down her mental checklist, she got to work. "Let me check the barbecue."

Akane lifted the lid of the outdoor barbecue grill near the table and shrugged. "Looks fine to me." Some ash fell from the sides of the dusty grill from its last use, making a small gritty mess on the metal base.

Eyebrows twitching, the Senshi of Jupiter reached for a spray can of oven cleaner that was in the basket. She asked disapprovingly, "You think that that looks fine?" She sprayed the cleaner on the grill and with a paper towel, began to scrub away the grime. "Akane, the first thing you've got to do is make sure all of the cooking surfaces are clean. It's the only way that the flavor of the previous meal doesn't mix with what you're cooking now."

A light came on in Akane's head as logic actually made its way into the seldom used portions of her mind. "Really? I just thought that Ukyou was just a neatness freak."

Sighing, Makoto tossed the filthy paper towel into a nearby trashcan. "No, it's because each food order she prepares is different from the last. All good cooks do this, doesn't Kasumi clean the stove at home?"

Meekly, Akane answered. "Well, yeah, she's always cleaning the kitchen."

Wiping away the last of the grime with another paper towel, Makoto sighed again. "So, Kasumi cleans the kitchen, I clean my kitchen and every restaurant that I know of keeps their kitchen spic and span. Doesn't that say something to you?"

"I'm sorry." Akane bowed her head low in shame.

Tossing another paper towel in the trash and putting the lid back on the can of oven cleaner, she stood aside to show off her work. "Look at the grill now."

Ranma Saotome's wife had to avert her eyes for a moment from the bright gleam that the metal reflected from the sun. Upon seeing the difference a little elbow grease had done, she felt even more shame at the thought that the grill was suitable for cooking in its previous filthy form. A chill ran down her spine from her martial arts sense and Akane spun around into a defensive stance, worriedly facing the direction of Tokyo.

Makoto got nervous at Akane's sudden change in demeanor. "What's wrong?"

Agitated at what appeared to be nothing in particular, Akane searched with her eyes for her wayward husband, Amazons, a relentless okonomiyaki chef, a three hundred year old pervert or a brown furred pantyhose wielding yeti. Blinking at seeing no threat, she scanned the horizon for whatever else could have given her the feeling of dread. Deep down inside, her senses were telling her to make a break for it. "I don't know. Something just doesn't seem right."

"Could it be a youma?" Makoto produced her henshin wand in preparation for a quick change, only to stow it back in subspace as she noticed several other people in the park who would have had a front row seat to a Senshi transformation.

The short haired girl shook her head. "I guess it's nothing." She lowered her arms while still fixated on the horizon, accidentally knocking over a salt shaker off the table. It hit the hard ground and broke in two. Attracted to the noise, the girl whimpered another apology. "I'm so sorry! I hope that wasn't expensive." She bent down to pick up the pieces.

Makoto also felt something eerie, but stopped worrying and laughed at Akane's little goof. "Nah, I got it at a thrift store. With my budget, you have to watch ev... AAAAAAHHHH!!" Makoto screamed as a bright light filled the southern horizon. An intense wave of heat blanketed the area setting everything on fire. An instant later, a huge orb lifted into the sky surrounded by a black cloud trimmed with a yellow white glow. It silently moved upwards, quickly pushing the white cottony clouds that surrounded it into oblivion.

Akane covered her head with one hand and made her wand appear in the other. Partially shielded by a flaming table with concrete legs, she was able to call out her transformation with little difficulty. "Io Lumina Power, Make Up!" In a second, she was wearing her uniform as the Avatar of moon of Jupiter, Io. Even in Senshi garb, the overpowering heat from the fireball made breathing difficult. Using her Senshi magic, she was able to better withstand the increasing temperature around her, however, her friend didn't have such protection. She stood up and knocked aside the flaming basket to get a better look where Makoto was and nearly gagged at the sight of her friend twitching on the ground. Conscious thought ceased and Io reacted solely on instinct. Io lunged forward to grab the fallen girl. Lifting the flaming screaming body, she thought of a plan quickly. Io darted as fast as she could to the small lake in the center of the park.

Too numb from the events of the past few seconds to notice or even care about the dozens of other people nearby, all in various states of combustion, the Senshi of Io dived into the water. The yellow skirted girl didn't even worry if the water was too deep and she couldn't swim; she had to extinguish the flames before Makoto lost her life. The water was unusually warm and for a brief instant, it reminded Io of a nice bath in the furo back home. She lifted her head out of the water and positioned herself to lift Makoto out of the lake before either girl could drown when the shock wave hit.

Sound achieved a new meaning as the roar overpowered all senses. Everything flew northward, carried by an unholy wind powered by the equivalent of one megaton of TNT, taking the pair of girls into the air at high speed. The massive thunderclap drowned out all other sound and Io thought that perhaps her eardrums had popped as silence replaced noise. She held tightly onto Makoto, not wanting to lose her a second time. Remembering her training in Anything Goes Martial Arts, she guided her flight path. Avoiding chunks of flaming debris, she rode the currents, deftly bouncing away from the larger pieces. After a terrifying minute of surfing the sky, the wind subsided and Io steered the two of them to a crash landing on a grassy hillside, many kilometers away from the park.

Io wanted to faint from exhaustion and her injuries, but she had just one more task to do. Her friend was clinging to life and there was only one option left to save her. She sat down on the soft earth and held Makoto's head in her lap. Io blinked as her hearing magically was restored and the world went from silence to a demonic low pitched rumble. She patted her friend on the cheek, trying to wake her. "Mako-chan, can you hear me?"

Makoto's face was covered in burns and her clothes were held together only by the grace of the kami. The girl was barely alive and there was no doubt that death was coming to pay her a visit. She lay silent, waiting for her suffering to blissfully end.

"Transform!" Io shook her, hoping that what was happening was just some nightmare that was caused by eating another failed attempt at cooking. "You've got to transform! You can't heal unless you're Sailor Jupiter!"

"Uhhh..." The formerly brown haired girl groaned as she slipped back into a conscious state. "Ooooohhh..." She moaned again in agony as the pain took hold and attempted to drag her into a coma, or worse.

"Please transform..." Io's attention was diverted as a large burning object landed only twenty meters away. It shattered, sending pieces of metal and concrete down the hill. She looked up at the sky to the south and gasped at the sight of millions of objects littering the clouds, each a small flaming meteor waiting for its turn to come down everywhere. She shook her friend again, desperately trying to wake her. "We don't have much time. You've got to transform."

A wand appeared in her nearly dead hand. She summoned all of her strength to moan out a word. "Jupiter..."

"That's it, say the rest." Io cried as another object hit the ground ninety meters away.

"Star..." She coughed, loosening her grip on her wand, almost causing it to fall from her hand.

Io grabbed Makoto's hand, tightening her gloved fingers around it to keep the wand in place. "You're almost there." Hopefully, she egged her on. "Please don't stop..."

"P-power..." Her head limply fell backwards as the pain took its toll.

Sailor Io shouted, "You've only got to say Make Up! Ranma can do it and he hates that part." She sobbed. "Ranma? Oh, no." She looked away from her companion, staring in horror up the hillside at the mushroom cloud that hovered over what was once downtown Tokyo. "Ranma..."

"M-ake up," came more as a whimper than as a transformation phrase. The spell worked its magic. In a shimmer of light, Makoto changed from a almost dead girl into an almost dead Senshi. "Aaaaahhhh...." She gasped as the healing magic began its long task of rebuilding her body.

Crying tears of joy and renewed hope, Io hugged Jupiter. "You did it!" Jupiter emitted a squeak before falling unconscious.

Another meteor hit the ground, even closer than before, showering the pair with red hot particles. "I gotta get us out of here."

Io tossed Jupiter over her shoulder and ran down the hillside hoping to find some shelter. She dashed across the slope for an entire minute, searching for anything that could offer some sort of protection. A hailstorm began and thousands of tiny flaming pieces of debris rained everywhere, setting anything flammable on fire. Io finally spotted a rock outcropping and hoped for the best. Darting under it, she paused and watched in morbid fascination at the mockery of a spring rain that fell all around her.

The rumbling and explosions lasted for half an hour, but it seemed like weeks. Io desperately wanted to leave the safety of her hiding place and run as fast as she could to Nerima. She couldn't get the thought of Ranma's fate out of her mind. "Ranma... Oh, Ranma... I hope you're safe."

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Jupiter opened her eyes as only a few seconds of real time had elapsed. Taking a deep breath, she charged in as they had planned. The funnel cloud that Io created threw up tons of concrete rubble that mercilessly hammered the tanks, rendering their guns useless. All of the flyers had turned tail, since SkyNet learned that they were no match for the tornado. She readied herself for the expected counterattack.

Io spun around in midair, performing an aerial ballet and guided her vortex away from the tanks and toward the group of T-800 terminators. The 800s, machines that looked like metallic human skeletons, ran as fast as they could away from Io's fury. Once the first tank was outside of the windstorm, Jupiter aimed and fired her magic lightning, overloading the microprocessors that controlled the machine and turned it into scrap. She leapt and spun using her Anything Goes training, waiting for something to pop out of nowhere and take a pot shot at her. Satisfied that she was safe for the moment, Jupiter fired a second attack that converted the other tank into worthless junk.

The sparking wreckage wasn't completely without some value; once the current task force was neutralized, the resistance would send a salvage team and remove power cells, ammo packs and other items that would help arm the people and aid in the eventual destruction of the enemy of the human race. But that moment would have to wait. Jupiter ran over the crest of a small hill made of broken metal, glass, concrete and watched another all too familiar sight.

SkyNet was playing for keeps this time, just as John Connor said it would. Visions of Sailor Pluto danced in her mind as Connor laid out the battle plans for the last few weeks of combat. He had knowledge of things to come and it gave the troops hope. Hope that grew as each death camp was destroyed, each Terminator factory was blown up and slowly, the humans regained ground lost to these terrible metal men all controlled by a single crazed supercomputer.

The plan, Jupiter pondered. Would it work? She ducked as thousands of killer robots fired their plasma rifles both at Jupiter and at Io's tornado. Jupiter rolled down the far side of the hill and ran for cover. Her task was done. They took the bait and she knew the machines would chase her. She ran at superhuman speed, leading her enemies into a trap.

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The Senshi of Io lost herself in the intoxicating euphoria of winning a battle. Flying on the air, held aloft by her cold ki and the warm tornado wind, she gave a warrior's grin as she sucked the T-800 machines into the maelstrom like a vacuum cleaner. They tried to shoot their energy weapons at her, but the beams harmlessly dispersed in the dirt encrusted gases. She was safe for the moment and she added these factory rejects to her ever growing tally of machines that paid the ultimate price for taking her husband away from her.

A long time ago, when the flying girl was once known as Akane Saotome, before she lost her old self and became Sailor Io permanently, she was happy. She had a home, a husband and a future. True, her marriage had its problems, but she was with the man she loved and gave her heart to. That terrible day, a lifetime ago, she lost her name, her family and a piece of her soul.

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Sailor Io ran back to the rock outcropping where Sailor Jupiter had lay under for weeks. The healing magic was working nicely and the Senshi of Jupiter would be up and about in only a few more days. Soon, Io would no longer have to stop by from time to time to check up on Jupiter, distracting Io from her real work. She was on a quest, a mission, a journey to find the part of her that she had lost. Somewhere out there, in the smoldering ruins of Nerima, was Ranma. Io kept telling herself that Ranma never lost a fight and that there was no way he could possibly have lost his battle to stay alive. She just had to find him and mallet his sorry head for making her worry so much about him.

Days turned into weeks, and Jupiter joined in the search for someone, anyone that they knew. They searched the crater that was once home to millions of people and all they found were the dead, or the soon to be dead. Furinkan High School was nothing but a burnt out shell and Juuban High had ceased to exist. They found the remains of the sign of Juuban Hospital kilometers away from where they knew it should have been. Usagi's home was never found and the foundation of the Hikawa Shrine marked the only location in Juuban that could be positively identified.

Weeks turned into months. Io spent many days sitting in the center of where the Tendo dojo used to be. The hardwood floor had long since turned to ash and swept away by the firestorm of Judgment Day and the following acid rain. Daily, she found the time to weep. Her Senshi sense told her that her family had been swept away but she chose to ignore it. Kasumi couldn't be dead. Nabiki was too smart to be caught. Even Happosai she felt, was destined to outlive them all. To accept their loss meant she had to accept that her existence was beyond hope and hope was the only thing that kept her from the tanto. Ranma had to be alive, he just had to be.

Months turned into years. Japan was a desolate landscape. Acid rain wiped out the rice fields and the few survivors long had since turned on each other for what little scraps of food that somehow lasted for the last year.

In time, the people saw hope in the two remaining Sailor Senshi. After a lot of persuasion and begging from the townspeople of the remaining centers of Japanese civilization, Io accepted the role of leader of the southern area of Japan, while Jupiter led the citizens of the north. A living Senshi was the only thing that kept the populace from taking their way of life back to warring states era, where human life meant little to nothing at all. Each night, Io would take her wrist communicator and talk to Jupiter, the only person who reminded her of what life of like before the world went to hell. They sent messages back and forth for families looking for lost ones and the pair kept the channel open at all times in the faint hope that another team member would finally come on the line and let them know that the two weren't alone.

Once a week, Io would visit the remnants of the Tendo compound. She would stay and sleep on the ground directly under where her bedroom used to be. She would rather have slept where her apartment in Juuban was, but there was no trace of where the building existed, if it ever did at all. At least one could recognize the outline of the Tendo property by tracing the fragments of the outer wall. Ranma would come someday. He would be drawn here, and Io knew it. She restlessly slept, always waiting, hoping and crying for her lost husband to come home and take her away from this nightmare.

Years turned into decades and the news began to spread of something terrifying. Rumors of a war waging across the sea of Japan in China scared the citizens of the reborn Japan. People who came by boat from Hawaii had told stories of machines that slaughtered everyone and no one wanted to believe them. How could anyone want to start a war when mankind was just beginning to come back from the brink of extinction? The acid rain was subsiding, the darkened sky allowed the sun to shine through and the daylight brought life back to the once dead land. The darkness finally lifted.

Then they came. The machines arrived, first landing on the island of Sapporo and rendering it void of human life in a month. Soon, the human resistance arrived, first by plane, then en-masse by boat, bringing sorely needed medicine and food. With the first beachhead secured, they brought a special radio. Hacking into the satellite network, the resistance had a system of communication that linked Japan to the outside world and the Japanese finally knew what happened and why. The truth was far more horrifying that anything anyone could imagine.

Starting from bases in America and Western Europe, the machines rose up from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to wipe out mankind had already raged for over a decade. The only thing the prevented the total annihilation of mankind was a single man, John Connor. He taught the people how to fight back, how to smash the machines into junk and turned the tide of the war from a futile battle, into a war that could actually turn out in favor of the resistance.

At first Sailor Io didn't trust this John Connor person. She spoke with him at great length but didn't believe his story of a rogue computer trying to destroy the human race. It was too far fetched. Once Sapporo was attacked, she accepted his word as gospel as she saw firsthand the army of machines and what they did to the people of the island. The loss of Sapporo haunted her dreams, adding the failure to her collection of personal demons. Making her ask 'what if' so many times that she could list them in her sleep. What if Ranma went with her to the park? What if she believed John Connor when he predicted the fall of Sapporo? What if she stayed home and died in the arms of her lover?

One thing was for certain, John Connor had an air of trust to him. His predictions of things to come were spot on and it was what made his soldiers fight against seemingly impossible odds. Now, only weeks ago, the final battle was laid out and put into motion.

Io and Jupiter listened on the encrypted radio broadcast of their role in the battle plan. Their job was actually simple. On a specific date and time, they were to engage a massive force and keep it busy. Connor was to carry out other operations and if successful, SkyNet would be no more. He would be able to prevent his own death.

It was that statement when Sailor Io realized that there was something more to Connor than he was telling. Things just didn't add up. His foreknowledge of the future, his ability to have countermeasures in place only days after a new weapon surfaced. Then it clicked in the Senshi's mind.

Time travel; John Connor somehow moved through time. It was a chance for her to find him, to see him, to hold him. Ranma.

That was when the arguments started, Io would shout and scream, demanding that she be allowed to go to America. She wanted to be the one to go back in time and set things right. Connor refused to disclose that a time machine even existed or any possible location it could reside at. Sailor Io knew better. She had to find out its location and come hell or high water, she was going to jump through. She had to see him. She had to see Ranma just one more time.

It was only three weeks ago when Io finally stopped begging to go back in time. She remembered that moment well and prayed daily that the decision was the right one.

Sitting on folding chairs in the command tent, two Senshi sat at a table waiting for the satellite to move into position for their broadcast to Connor's command base. Jupiter tried to reason with Io so that she wouldn't go ballistic again at John's refusal for her request to journey to the what was once the United States. "Io, we still don't have any proof that he's got a time machine. You'll only look silly if you keep asking."

Io tried to explain her point of view. "It's the only thing that makes sense. How do you explain how he knows so much about the enemy?"

"He's a hacker. You know his mother taught him all those tricks about computers when he was a kid. Then what was it? Oh yeah, she got locked up then killed in an insane asylum and he ran off to South America with a bodyguard."

"And just who was that guy? Everybody said he stuck to him like glue for years until he died a decade ago, or so they say. John really didn't want to talk about him. If he wasn't such a great General, I wouldn't follow his orders. I still can't trust the guy. He keeps too many secrets."

Jupiter glanced at the time. They had about ten minutes before transmission. "He has to. This is a war, remember. We don't know if the radio is bugged or if SkyNet cracked the encryption."

Io sighed. "Don't remind me, I still think he knows what he knows by jumping through time. I..."

"Don't think that, you know that it's forbidden to travel through time. Pluto was punished for stopping time once. Just think what could happen to us if we actually went back and changed history."

"I don't care!" Shouted Io. "This is our chance to set things right! Look around and tell me that this was the future you saw. The one that you told me about with Crystal Tokyo."

The green skirted girl slumped in her chair. "No, this isn't the future I was expecting. But what can we do? We can't go to the gates of time. We've tried." She wanted to sob. "We've really tried."

Io tapped her fingers, trying to think things through. A skill she had to learn in order to adapt to the new world order. "We're missing something. There's got to be an answer. I mean, how in the world did General Connor build a time machine?"

"Let it go."

"He doesn't have the manpower or the technology to make sure a thing. And he sure can't cast magic. Look at us, we can't get enough decent weapons for our troops and what we do have doesn't work against the new machines that we've seen. Their armor is too strong. What's the matter with you?"

The tall Senshi laughed at some private joke. She giggled, then slammed her fist on the table. "Why didn't I think it of it before." She dropped her head down on the table and set her gloved fists alongside to release her anger by softly pummeling the tabletop. "How the heck did I miss that?"

Io's right eyebrow raised a little as she sat back thinking the table was going to collapse from Jupiter's face fault. "Miss what?"

The Senshi of Jupiter raised her head from the table and smiled. "The time machine! Who said that Connor built it?"

"If not Connor then... Oh, my god."

"Yes, it makes sense. Everything."

Io growled. "Why that rotten, lying, sneaky bastard. He knew. He knew all along and he kept it a secret."

"SkyNet!" They shouted together.

Io tried to come up with the answers, but Jupiter beat her to the punch. "Don't you get it? It wasn't John at all! We're winning and SkyNet is going to go back in time to fix things in it's favor."

Io gasped. "And John..."

Jupiter nodded. "Needs to get to the time machine..."

"Before it does..."

"Exactly!" Jupiter rubbed her chin with her gloved fingers. "And that means we can change things."

"Huh?" Io eyes crossed as temporal physics worked wonders at scrambling her brain as she tried to grasp at the nuances of time paradoxes.

"Don't you see? If SkyNet thought that time couldn't be changed, why build a time machine in the first place?"

"And if it CAN be changed?"

"Then you go back in time and wait a minute..." Jupiter stopped talking as a horrid thought entered her mind. "Oh, great."

"What now? I thought we had the answer."

Leaning back in her folding chair, the Jovian Princess went limp. "What if he DID go back in time, and this is the fixed timeline?"

Scared at this new line of thought, Io asked, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, the bodyguard. Could that be one of Connor's men sent back in time? He would know how things went and gave the General knowledge of the future."

"I've got a headache."

The radio came to life as the signal came through. "Base one to Base six. Come in Base six."

Jupiter held out an open palm. "It's for you."

"Gee, thanks." Io pressed the transmit button. "Base six to Base one, we read you, over."

"Sending message. Pattern Haiku." A carrier tone sounded on the speaker then it went silent.

Jupiter flipped the pages on the cipher sheet and found the long string of random characters that made up the decryption key. "Great, I love typing this in." She slid out the keyboard next to the radio and began typing. A small flat screen on the side of the device echoed the keystrokes.

Soon the speaker came back on, "Message sent. Receipt acknowledged."

Io read the display. It said that the file came across with no errors. "Base six to Base one, requesting mother goose."

"Base one, source of request."

Io gritted her teeth, John had a warped sense of humor. "Source Fairy Godmother."

Jupiter kept up her typing. "He's gonna tell you to get lost. I know it."

"I gotta give it one more try."

The radio crackled and another voice came on. "Mother goose here."

Io shuddered. He came online. "John, we know about the soldier you sent back. Change his orders, make things different, we can't accept this fate."

The only sound was Jupiter pressing keys. "Oh, that was diplomatic. Why don't you just tell SkyNet our plans while you're at it."

"We've got to do something." She thought of Ranma. "I've got to do something."

The radio spoke. "Message received. Will take under advisement. End transmission."

The two girls looked at each other for a long moment.

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Moving above the battlefield, Io swept away dozens of machines to their doom. Io and Jupiter had no idea why John wanted a massive diversion, but such was the duty of a soldier. You followed orders, no matter how stupid or pointless they seemed. The last few days saw the deaths of six hundred men and in another week, their entire task force would be wiped out.

The last of the Terminators flew into the sky and gravity finished the job, as the machines folded into unnatural positions on contact with the ground. Io landed just as Jupiter sent waves of electricity across the battlefield, rendering any surviving computer components into molten slag.

Io pointed to the east. "I saw another force over there. Ready?"

"Ready."

The pair jumped into the air onto another battle.

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John Connor stood before his destiny. A giant machine made of three concentric circles floating in mid air. He had already sent back through time Kyle Reese, his second-in-command and unknown to Kyle, John's father.

Secure in the knowledge that his birth was assured, a T-800 was brought forward for inspection. He looked it over, remembering every detail of it in his youth. The machine had the look of a strong man of Austrian descent, tall, muscular, he would easily find work as a soldier of fortune. This was the right machine for the job.

John thought about his past. When the T-800 appeared at the shopping mall and saved him from the machine made of liquid metal, the T-1000, it took him out of the country to safety.

He heard the news much later that his mother was found dead at Atescadero hospital from stab wounds. The wounds were also found on a murdered fat security guard. The T-1000 had indeed tracked his mother down and terminated her in an attempt to kill his younger self.

He was about to give the Terminator his orders when he remembered the words of that odd girl from Japan. "We can't accept this fate."

John's mother said something like that all the time. He tried to remember the exact phrase. It was when they were in Nicaragua when she rambled about, "There's no fate but what we make for ourselves."

What if?

"Unit 101291, activate."

The machines eyes clicked on. The red glow issued a demonic aura from it's gaze. "Unit 101291, ready for programming."

"Orders, Locate John Connor, Protect John Connor." He thought for another moment; the robot refused to help him save his mother. Maybe a little modification was in order. "Obey John Connor."

He turned to a technician, "Upload the historic and tactical databases."

"You sure?"

Reaching into his pocket, John extracted an aged, worn Terminator CPU chip. "I'm sure. Make sure the CPU is in read only mode when we send him through. I don't want him to get any funny ideas."

Looking back at his past protector, he smiled. "Let's see if mom was right all along. Maybe we can make a new fate for ourselves."

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Io and Jupiter hid behind the ruins of a highway overpass. The concrete column offered some protection to the intense volley of plasma fire.

"Great plan." Jupiter sarcastically remarked. "Just jump in you said, it'll be the same as before you said."

"How was I supposed to know that they would mount four swivel cannons on these tanks?" A rocket flew by and detonated at a building across the street.

Io summoned her magic and formed a large ball of lava in her hand. "Ready?"

The smell of ozone surrounded the gas giant Senshi. "Let's do it."

They jumped out and cast their magic attacks. Both spells hit home and two more battle tanks erupted in spark and flames. Instantly, all of the flyer's engines shut off and they all fell to the ground at the same time. Io threw a fireball, blasting another tank into bits.

Jupiter effortlessly short circuited a fourth tank then saw that something was amiss.

The army had stopped shooting back.

Taking advantage of the situation, the pair blew up everything in sight in less than a minute. They both danced in the air like figure skaters on angelic wings trying to avoid the nonexistent incoming fire.

Io and Jupiter stood back-to-back in the center of destruction, wondering why they won so easily.

"What happened?" Asked Io.

"He couldn't have? Could he?"

Io opened her communicator. "Only one way to be sure. Base Six, this is..." She sighed. "Fairy Godmother."

An excited voice came on the line. "Thank god you're there! We won!! Base One reports that SkyNet's destroyed. The machines have stopped. We've got confirmation everywhere. Do you copy?"

"Why that son of a..." Io plopped to the scorched ground. "He did it."

"Yeah." Jupiter didn't feel like celebrating.

Io curled her legs up, placing her knees to her chest. Jupiter sat down and did the same.

"Do you think they'll come back? Usagi? Ami?" Jupiter asked.

"I hope so." Io's eyes filled with tears. "Because this was all for nothing if Ranma isn't reborn someday."

"Don't say that. This wasn't for nothing. Think of all the people we've saved."

"There was only one I wanted to save." Io looked into the night sky. "Wherever you are Ranma, I hope..."

========================================

"Hope what?" Ranma stood in front of his wife in a defensive pose. His gi bore the symbol of the Saotome-Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Around the pair were two dozen students kneeling at attention, watching the demonstration match.

Akane blinked. Had she been daydreaming? "I.. Uh... I hope that I don't beat you too badly this time." Smirking, she raised her arms into a fighting pose.

"In the last twenty years, you hadn't beaten me once." Ranma spoke with his trademark confidence, selective memory does that to a person.

"Hyah!" Akane lunged forward and Ranma took the bait, she hopped to the side and planted the heel of her foot right in the middle of his groin. Ranma went down in a flash. Triumphant, Akane basked in her moment of glory. "Next time, do it in girl form."

"U.. Uncute. Bleh." He staggered a bit until he recovered from the pain that only men were privileged to experience. "Let's try..." Her voice raised an octave. "That again. Okay, who did that?"

Their daughter held an empty bucket and laughed, "One girl form, as ordered."

"Thanks, dear." Akane smiled then stopped. She reached into her pocket and pressed the button on her Senshi communicator. "I'll be right back."

Ranko and her daughter both reached into their pockets, checking to see if their communicators had given a signal. They both shrugged after finding no call had been made. Ranko faced and addressed her students. "It looks like there's a change in plans. We'll move up the katana demonstration. No-chan, get ready."

"Yes, teacher." The tall girl who looked like she was fourteen years of age unsheathed a weapon that appeared to be more like a work of art instead of an instrument of war.

Ranko began the demonstration with a bow, first to her students, then to her daughter. "Now I'll show you the techniques of fighting someone with a sword without a weapon of my own."

========================================

Outside, Akane looked at the skyline of Tokyo. Everything was normal, yet something didn't seem right. She opened her communicator and pressed the call button. Makoto's voice came on, "Akane?"

"Yes, what's up?"

"Are you okay?"

Nonplussed at the question, she thought about it. She turned around to look at her daughter trying to slice up her female father and as usual, the sword wielding girl wasn't having any luck connecting a blow. "Everything's fine." Mrs. Saotome closed the lid of her communicator. "Yes, everything's fine."

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Author's Notes: Please review my story. It makes me feel oh so happy and keeps me writing chapters of fan fiction.

Pre-reading by Cory Rose and Kevin D. Hammel.

Bill Heineman March 9th, 2004 ======================================== burger@contrabandent.com http://www.burgerbill.com ========================================