Ranmazoku Special By PansutoTarou5925

DISCLAIMER - I do not own the rights to Slayers nor do I own the rights to Ranma «. Long live the rightful owners of these two fine anime. This work is non-commercial and is done only in imitation of Rumiko Takahashi and Hajime Kanzaka.
Imitation is the sincerest flattery, no? US rights owned by Viz and Software Sculptors. If I mention the Senshi, Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi(Sp, anyone?) and.. and.. I dunno who has the US rights, but it's theirs not mine. (I'm drawing a blank)

Author's note - This story originated from an idea on Nighthawk's page and is some guy named NesTea's fault. If he's reading this, I'm curious to know what he thinks of all this.
Questioning me would be like questioning Xellos if you ask when the next section comes out, because it's a secret.

characters and the like may not resemble canon. People who are rabid canon-thumpers beware! (and eat a Dragon Slave while you're at it)

SPECIAL WARNING - The previous events were the first arc of Ranmazoku, chapters 1-10. This is an intermission period between the events of Ranmazoku and Ranmazoku Next.

NOTE - [...] indicates telepathic communication between Ranma and Hotaru in the Astral plane.

Nabiki sighed in contentment. The beach here was just fantastic.
And her campaign of 'liberation' had met with great success. Of course, she could credit Ranma's considerable magical assistance in that regard. Her magically enhanced army had ripped right through the Red Army, and were now consolidating their gains. Her timetables called for a tighter hold on China before making her stab to the southwest, and the lynchpin of the world.

Of course, the war with the Senshi was started and nasty, as well. They were tougher than her troops - but only in their home. Once they started teleporting, they weren't so tough.
The problem was that they tended to teleport in those damn Musk and Amazons. Fortunately, she managed to exercise some restraint on their activities. It wasn't that hard to have a few sailor-suited girls pumped up with black magic cause enough random destruction in Tokyo to get the authorities on their cases. Of course, blackmailing the Senshi into leaving her alone had been harder. Not in that they didn't fold immediately, but more in the fact that they had a distressing tendency to kill the messenger. It was only when she phoned them directly from the Chinese embassy to their home that they took her seriously.

She wondered why Ranma wasn't letting her simply eliminate them. He had just replied "Orders from the top." Which just begged the question of who Ranma reported to.

Nabiki ignored that. Problems were so easy to push away when you had a pina colada on the beach.

The legion of Nannichuan-cursed soldiers who would do anything she asked didn't hurt either. Nabiki smiled. Every
world leader should build a capitol beach house...

Ranma and Hotaru left the first Mazoku Lord's mansion. While Dolphin's place would be annoying - though far less than it would have been prior to Ranma having control over the curses of Jusenkyo - Dynast's place was still a frozen hell. Dynast had been rather shocked, to say the least, when Ranma had teleported directly into his innermost chambers. That had spoken of a power level on the order of Zelas, or Dolphin, or Dynast himself... in other words, that one of the two vacancies for the position of Mazoku Lord was now filled. Ranma thought back to their conversation.

"Sherra will be disappointed." the master general noted. "She wanted so much to deny any child of Xellos even life, never mind such power." He laughed lightly. "She's still after enough power to claim the other seat. So you may have a rival."

Ranma shrugged. "That's her problem, not mine."

"I see you have a general," Dynast said, glancing at Hotaru,
"but I do not detect in her the powers of a priest. Do you have a candidate in mind, or have you already gotten one?" A sly smile crossed his face. If he were lucky the answer would reveal much about this great unknown with the Metallium name.

"Her name is Nabiki. I acquired her recently in the Desert of Destruction." Ranma said, smoothly deceiving his fellow lord with the truth. Let him turn over every sun bleached rock in the desert; no clues would be found to Nabiki's whereabouts.

"In the Desert?" Dynast said, raising an eyebrow. "The desert tribes are quite tough."

"Oh, of course, they make excellent servants." The chatter had gone downhill from there, until Ranma had gotten bored and left suddenly.

"Why did we leave?" Hotaru asked, jolting him out of his reverie.

Ranma turned around. "Look, my name means Chaos Demon,
doesn't it?"

Hotaru nodded. "Yeah, I've always wondered that, given your mother -"

"That means I'm allowed to be unpredictable, Hotaru." Ranma said, interrupting her. Ranma turned back around, then suddenly whirled back, causing Hotaru to walk into him. "As for my mother..." He trailed off.

"Yes?" Hotaru prompted.

"I don't know either." Hotaru slowly toppled, losing her grip on the Silence Glaive in surprise.

Farther away, Lina Inverse was busy pillaging the table of catered food at Martina's wedding. Sausages, breads splashed with olive oil, rare cheeses, and sliced fruit all disappeared before her mighty assault. Beside her was her valiant comrade-
at-arms, Gourry Gabriev, valiantly doing battle against a platter of turkey.

All other guest had fled the field of combat and were observing the spectacle. Usually with comments like, "Have you ever seen such atrocious manners?" and, "What pigs!", but most of all, "They're not leaving any for me!" They were about to be saved, however. And not by any heavenly source.

As night had fallen and the party raged on, so to had Ranma and Hotaru continued their trip to visit the other lords of the mazoku, to confirm Ranma's new position. It was as the moon was rising that Ranma and Hotaru had begun their visit with Zelas, his grandmother, and the new order of things was set in stone. It was a change that would alter forever the world.

The moon went black, and an earthquake shook the ground.
This got Lina's attention, although Gourry was still stuffing his face. The mild quake wasn't enough to cause damage, but it certainly got the attention of the crowd. Once they noticed the blackened moon, however, the guests started to panic. "It's the end of the world!" one man shouted. Overhead the stars themselves moved, some exploding, some dimming, others brightening, as the heavens made war upon themselves.

"Incredible!" Lina said, awestruck. "Hey, Gourry, check this out!" she said, staring at the constellations in tumult. When no response was forthcoming she clouted Gourry upside the head with her mug.

"Mmmggh?" Gourry said, his face stuffed. He then saw the fireworks in the sky and his jaw dropped, spilling half-eaten turkey on the ground.

A patch of stars in the east where before had been the glow of Gaav's symbol, a ring of red stars, now glowed two stars, one bright and shining blue, the other deeper, darker, and nearly purple, at the head of what seemed a serpentine coil of stars.
The star-dragon fought, driving back the lesser stars, until it cleared a space about it, and its head looked west to the Wolves, symbol of Zelas.

"Gourry! Do you know that this means?" Lina asked excitedly.
Normally she'd have to smack Gourry for not knowing, but today she was too excited, and simply continued on. "There must be a new mazoku lord, one to replace the ones we've killed. There's going to be whole new realms of black magic opened up!" Lina looked into the sky at the two stars that seemed to be a path to destiny. If she learned and developed the first spells from this new source, her name would live among sorcerers for all time.

The food forgotten - by Lina, at least - the two paid the newlyweds their respects and left, immediately seeking Xellos.
If anyone could tell them about the new force in the world, he could.

"New Mazoku Lord?" Xellos asked, curious. He peered over the table, his eyes still closed. "Whatever are you talking about,

Lina rolled her eyes. "A week ago. Stars falling from the skies,
earthquakes, portentous signs of doom in the heavens. That sort of thing. A new constellation appearing in the sky where Gaav's was. You know, that new Mazoku Lord." The two companions watched as Xellos downed another mug of ale. The bastard was eating on their bill and still wasn't telling them anything useful.

"Ahh! You're talking about that little event!" Xellos rubbed his chin thoughtfully, as if it were something that required deep thought. "I might know something about that.. then again, I might not."

Lina's face clouded over. In a remarkably accurate imitation of Xellos's voice, she mocked him. "I might shove a Dragon Slave up your butt... then again, I might not."

Xellos laughed. "In that case, I guess I can't refuse. The new Mazoku Lord is named Ranma. He's said to be quite the warrior. He's already engaged in some fights with Sherra, in fact. He's the mazoku the rumors have been talking about who battled her near the northern mountains."

"Ranma, eh?" Lina said thoughtfully. "I thought I knew of every powerful mazoku around, but that's a new one to me."

"It's a new one to a lot of mazoku. You see, Ranma is just a child. An infant, by mazoku standards. But a very powerful and ambitious infant." Xellos said, smiling. He was quite proud of his son's achievement. Of course, he couldn't let the fact that Ranma was his son slip to Lina. It would give them the wrong impression of him.

Lina blinked incredulously. "So, every powerful mazoku is out killing each other for the power, and the one who gets the power is an infant?" Xellos nodded, then took another drink from his mug. "That's insane!"

"Quite so." Xellos agreed. "However, because he was so young, no one had any reason to hate him - or fear him. That gave young Ranma a lot more freedom than for some older mazoku. He's already gathered to himself some like minded young mazoku and will doubtless stir up a lot of trouble.

"Sounds like a barrel of fun." Lina stated dourly. There's a child demon running around with enough power to rearrange a few continents. Life sucked. They'd be fighting him within the year,
she wagered.

Xellos, however, chuckled. Lina figured it was because of her discomfort. Or maybe it was the thought of some kid wreaking havoc. Or maybe it was that he had picked this crummy dive and found perverse joy in forcing her to drink this swill and pay for it. There were far too many potential sources of joy for the mazoku. Best to get away from him. "OK, Xellos. Drop dead,
will ya?"

Xellos laughed and waved at Lina and Gourry. "See you again Lina. And you too, Gourry." He chuckled for a while, then left.
He wasn't paying for the crappy drinks here. The waitress cursed, noting that the purple haired bastard hadn't left a tip.

Outside the restaurant, Lina ripped the tape off Gourry's mouth that had prevented him from making a fool of himself. Well,
more of a fool; pouring that mug of ale down his shirt because he forgot about the tape was one of the most boneheaded things she had ever seen. "OK, Gourry. We're off to the northern mountains." Left unsaid was her desire to avoid Zefelia and her sister, something that would be marginally complicated by going to the mountains. "We're going to find clues to help us find this Ranma kid."

Gourry had a spaced out look. He raised one finger. "One thing.
If this mazoku is a child..."

"Yes?" Lina asked.

"Does that mean he'll look like Phibrizzo?" Gourry finished cluelessly. Lina staggered back as if stricken, then recovered herself.

"NO HE WON'T, YOU EEEDIOT!" she yelled, punching him in the head. Grumbling, she walked off towards their 'liberated'
horses. At least on horseback Gourry had fewer chances to annoy her. The horse did that well enough alone.

Ranma sneezed, wondering if someone was talking about him.
Hotaru had an answer for that. "Of course you're being talked about. Look at the fireworks that went off because of you. That whole damn world probably knows about you now. All they know is 'Ranma.. who the hell is Ranma?' but they certainly know about you."

Ranma ignored Hotaru's comments. She had been kind of bitchy the last few days. Ranma chalked it up to it being 'that time of month', although the real reason was currently thirty feet away in a barely-there bikini. Namely, Nabiki.

"You've done real good for such a short period of time."
Ranma said, for what had to be the hundredth time.

"Oh, please," Nabiki said, still lying on the sand, "you've only said that a hundred times already. A little magic, a few million soldiers, and it's simple, really. "

"How modest and unlike the Nabiki we all know and love."
Hotaru grumbled. Her armored outfit didn't really fit in at the beach, but she'd be damned if she was going to look like part of Nabiki's side of operations. Unfortunately, that meant sweating in black leather.

Ranma chuckled. "Awww, does little Hotaru-chan want an army of her own? Fine, you need some action anyhow. I'll give you everything you need to form your own army of destruction tonight. You've got priority over Russia. Deal?"

"Only if I get Europe after." Hotaru said, still grumbling, but only because Ranma was more likely to give her that important theater as well.

"Deal. I'll handle India and Southeast Asia. Nabiki, how goes the battle in Korea?" Ranma asked, switching his attention again.

Nabiki flipped up her shades to take a better look at Ranma. "It goes alright, I suppose. It's a real pain pretending to be democratic and peaceful, and that my troops in the North are local rebels that I'm just supporting. But, on the other hand,"
she chuckled, "the whole notion of Communism being overthrown is something that the West wants to desperately believe. So they fool themselves, too."

Ranma blinked. "You mean they believe our front government in Shanghai?"

Nabiki nodded. "The Senshi and their assorted allies in Japan have raised a fuss, and they're propping up the Commies with magical aid, a kind of common front against the demons sort of thing. But they're mostly ignored, even in Japan. Heck, the Japanese government wanted to deport them, but they made noises about being political refugees. They aren't exactly welcome."

"So they're trying to deport the Amazons, Musk, and the people of Phoenix Mountain, huh?" Ranma said. He then thought of something. "I bet the people of Phoenix Mountain are having a REAL fun time. Those wings probably are attracting scientists like a magnet."

Nabiki grinned. "Got it in one. Though several of them are lying low by using Jusenkyo curses."

"So how goes the family, Nabiki?" Ranma asked, curious. He wasn't too unhappy about leaving Nerima, as his home had always been the road, but he was kind of curious about what was going on in the old neighborhood. He felt he could drop by and exult in his victory over the others. After all, there wasn't anything they could do about his presence - yet. If L-sama's plans continued the way they were supposed to, the Senshi would eventually develop enough power to at least inconvenience him.

"They're doing well. I've been teaching Akane some black magic. Simple stuff, really, but it's caused the Senshi to raise a fuss." Nabiki said. "I've disabused them of the notion that Akane is one of us."

Ranma and Hotaru turned around at that. "Oh? And how did you do that?" Ranma asked. "Those clowns haven't shown too much of an acceptance of anything resembling reality yet."

Nabiki smirked. "Normally, I would say yes. However, I sent a few weak minions over there to be trashed by Akane. They can tell Akane is human, ergo, by their incredibly simplistic view of the world, she must be one of the good guys."

"Strictly speaking, she's not one of us." Hotaru was quick to point out. Anything that Nabiki did to attempt to increase her share of power in relation to her and Ranma was by nature to be suspected. At least in Hotaru's eyes, anyhow, Nabiki was untrustworthy.

As for Ranma, who knew whom Ranma trusted? Hotaru,

"Have we located either of the others?" Ranma asked, dropping the conversation about Akane.

Nabiki sat up and took off her sunglasses. Finally, they got to the important stuff. "We've located Rouge. Pantyhose-"

"Refer to him as Tarou only." Ranma interjected.

"OK, Tarou is currently unlocated. We have no idea where he is."

"Where's Rouge?" Ranma asked. It would be nice to expand his 'Dark Senshi', and, besides, he had an angle for recruiting her.

"Would you believe in Shanghai?" Nabiki said. "Convenient,
no?" Ranma nodded.

"Hotaru." he said, getting his general's attention. He brought her aside to give her private instructions. "I want you to go to Nerima. Quietly. Don't raise a fuss until I'm there to support you. I'd not tell you that except I know how much you want to smash the Outers. Remember that if you wait until later, you'll be able to get your revenge multiple times after they start cloning Senshi." She nodded. "I'm going to head to Shanghai and recruit a new member. I think you will agree that you don't need to play bodyguard in our own territory."

"This area is not fully pacified." Hotaru quickly pointed out.

Ranma shrugged dismissively. "What are they going to do, nuke me? They don't have any way of hurting me." Hotaru conceded the point and vanished, teleporting away to Japan. Ranma jogged off to the city.

Hotaru arrived in Tokyo within seconds of leaving China. The Senshi would inevitably detect her arrival, so she summoned a few of the simple Brass Demons that they had been using as shock troops and left. They'd provide a simple distraction.

She smiled as she left the scene. Unlike the sloppy Senshi and their allies, Ranma, Nabiki and she were disciplined and well prepared. They didn't waste their time with the elaborate and foolish plans that most of the Senshi's enemies had used. Even as she was not yet two blocks from where she appeared, the Senshi arrived and began fighting the demons. They had been doing this every few days, and Nabiki had carefully and methodically tracked each of the Senshi home. They knew where each one lived, and their true identities. They knew what they liked, disliked, how badly they did in school - the whole nine yards. Nabiki was collecting quite a dossier on each of them in Shanghai. That would assist with battle plans greatly.
Of course, it also meant that Nabiki was becoming important in her intelligence gathering activities.

Hotaru believed that for Ranma to become too dependent on any one person - except herself, as she was completely loyal to the cause - was dangerous. Hence her decision to develop her own network of spies. Hence her destination. The Kuno mansion.

Hotaru arrived and simply floated over the grounds, avoiding the many traps and dangerous creatures that lined the grounds.
She phased through the walls and started searching.

All of the people were garbed in black. While to a great degree this was because ninety percent of them were ninja, one needed only to look at Principal Kuno, dressed in a tacky black Hawaiian shirt with black rose lei, to realize that they were still mourning the death of Tatewaki Kuno. She ignored them and continued on, attracting notice from the many ninja. Since it was her intention to be noticed, she ignored them, and smashed through the door to the gymnasium.

Inside, Kodachi Kuno was practicing, an activity brought to a screeching halt by the appearance of the tall Dark Senshi.
"Greetings, Lady Kuno." she said, remembering what she had learned of their madness from Ranma.

"You are one of those wretched Dark Senshi that have vexed our defenders." Kodachi said, ignoring her politeness.

"Perhaps." Hotaru said. "Defenders they might be, but they can't help you. I can." At least she could now that Ranma, and hence she, had more power.

"And what possible help could you be?" Kodachi said, absently twirling a club. "You can't bring my brother back. And as much as I dislike him, it pains me to have my father moping about the house so."

"I can bring him back." Hotaru said. The words struck Kodachi as if she had been shot. Behind her she could hear several of the ninja scurrying off to fetch Principal Kuno. that was fine with her. It would indebt more people to her.

"Explain." Kodachi said, having practically teleported in front of Hotaru after recovering from her shock.

"I can bring him back to life. In return, all I need is for you to keep me informed of a few things around town." Hotaru said.

"You want us to be your spies." Kodachi said, disgusted.

"You've already got spies. I just want you to pass along what you learn. Perhaps once or twice we'll have a special task for you - but we'll reward you separately for those." Hotaru said smoothly.

Kodachi licked her lips. Nervously, she summoned the nerve to ask this.. creature.. something near and dear to her heart. "You don't suppose you could bring back.. Mother.. could you?" Her heart stopped, hoping against hope.

Hotaru cocked her head to the side, thinking. 'I have no idea whether I can bring people back from the dead once they've been gone so long. Maybe Ranma can - but then I'd have to reveal this to him. Well, I can always justify it as me developing my own intel network...' Hotaru straightened and pulled down the edge of her dress. "I'll see what can be done. But your debt will be great, I assure you."

Kodachi ignored her, turning instead to the small shrine of her mother in the gymnasium. Her mother had instilled in her her twin loves of botany and gymnastics. "I am sure you will be able to help us." Kodachi said, regaining a touch of her normal pridefulness. Hotaru smiled. This combination of arrogance and pride would prove helpful in getting them to spy. It was as her instructors on Saturn had told her, so many millennia ago. The best spies were those who worked for you because of ego and conscience.

Hotaru faded out of sight. "Expect your brother back by sundown," she said as she faded from sight. Flying invisibly through the walls and out of the trap-infested Kuno compound,
she headed swiftly to the empty lot that was currently being walled off from the public and paved over. The location of the Spring of Drowned Kuno.

Principal Kuno rushed into the gymnasium, followed by Sasuke and the other high level ninja retainers. "What dey say, wahine?
Dey gonna bring mah boy back?" Kodachi continued to look at the shrine of her mother. She did not reply.

Ranma walked into Shanghai. The city that had been the jewel of China's economy under the Communists was somewhat subdued, confused at the sudden shift of governments. There was some celebrating going on and a political rally going on in a park. They really believed - at least some of them - that a true democratic system would be put in place. Most weren't so enthusiastic. They figured that leaders came and leaders went,
but life went pretty much the same as always - that is, badly.
Ranma snorted. If they knew what he really had planned they'd be stunned at its sheer audacity. But then again, no one had ever had the sheer power and willingness to see through his ideals. Ranma knew. He had spent the last few days looking through books searching for ways to not sound like a complete ass when talking about politics. After all, one of them needed to go up in front of CNN or NHK or whatever and give a little speech. Already they were harassing Nabiki's troops. It was his personal opinion that they needed to get Tarou for dealing with reporters. Having him give speeches to anyone would be pretty damn funny (although Ranma was privately worried that he'd start a war because of his big mouth. Actually, that's why Ranma was hiding from the cameras, too. The only people he seemed to never screw up with were other mazoku.) and he was Chinese to boot, so they wouldn't wonder what the heck a Japanese national was doing in charge of the revolution.
Besides, Tarou had declared his plans for political power before anyhow.

Ranma shook his head. Politics gave him a headache. He just wanted to be left alone to do his own thing. Of course, it was never that easy...

Ranma found the girl he was seeking in a restaurant. She was singing karaoke. Nabiki had informed him of her existence after getting a list of current curse victims from the Guide. Given his now complete control over the curses of Jusenkyo, able to lock,
alter, or remove curses at will, as well as bestow them on the unwary, Ranma felt that he had the perfect offers to both Tarou and this young Chinese lady. If he gave Tarou conscious control over his curse, removing the triggers of hot and cold water, he felt the multiply-cursed boy would swear himself to his service.
Especially if the promise of power and conquest came with it.
Rouge he had a different approach planned for.

He knew much about the different curses now. The Spring of Drowned Asura affected not merely the body but also the mind of the person afflicted. It was almost an entirely different person. Ranma felt that if he toned down the personality change - just a tiny bit more aggressive, and enhanced the mazoku characteristics of the cursed form - and gave her conscious control as well, that she would join them as well.

Ranma's mental reviewing of his plans almost caused him to miss the end of her singing. Quickly he walked over to the girl.
"Hello. I believe your name is Rouge?" he said in his heavily accented Chinese.

The girl in question blinked at him. The distinctive taint of Jusenkyo told him that this was indeed the girl, though he wondered if she was going to deny her identity here. "Yes, I am. Who are you?" She began to drink a beer, ignoring Ranma for the most part. She probably thought he was just another guy hitting on her.

Ranma shrugged. "Just someone who can help. You're cursed by Jusenkyo, aren't you?" Immediately Rouge chocked on her beer and started to cough. "I'll take that as a yes." Ranma said dryly. "Anyhow, I know how crazy everything is right now. We could use someone with your unique... skills. In return, we can offer some control over the curse - remove the problems with water and.. the ever so slight personality shift you might have noticed." Ranma smirked slightly at the last.

"And what would this job entail?" Rouge said, having recovered somewhat from inhaling her beer.

"Oh, several things, but mostly the use of your cursed form..."
Ranma said, leading her to a corner booth as he continued his pitch.

Hotaru had easily smashed through the concrete that the government had put over the Kuno 'spring'. She sympathized with them; she wouldn't want random passerby turned into obsessed morons either. Sighing, as she was about to bring back the archetype of said morons, she held her hand over the waters of the pool.

Her hand glowed dark and began to pull tendrils of water upwards, as the water splashed and churned in agitation. More and more thin lines of water came from the disturbed surface of the pool. Drawn up to her hand along magical lines of force, the water began to glow the same color as her hand. Hotaru began then to shape the water she was pulling up, forming it into the shape of a kendoist she had only heard the name of. She didn't know what he looked like, but that was alright.

The waters of Jusenkyo always remembered. Even if they were in an empty lot in Japan.

Kuno's shape was growing more and more distinct. Bringing back someone who had been drowned in a spring was easy.
There was no doubt in her mind that Ranma could go hunting for the spirit of Mrs. Kuno, as well, but it wouldn't be so easy.
Not only was the human body largely water anyhow, but the springs themselves retained the shape and mind of the person who drowned there, as well as their spirit.

Kuno's new body, kendo outfit and all, flopped onto the ground.

"Get up." Hotaru commanded, then gave him a kick to the ribs.
Kuno grunted and got up.

Kuno's eyes lit up, and Hotaru had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Ahh, my dark angel, you have rescued me from the waters. But wait, where is the vile sorcerer?" Kuno asked,
placing his hand over his eyes in a comical pantomime of searching.

"He's in China." Hotaru said truthfully. "Listen -"

"Aha!" Kuno said, taking a triumphant pose. "No doubt he fears my wrath!"

"Actually, he thinks you're dead." Hotaru grumbled, highly annoyed. "Hey, look, there's a few things you need to know..."
Hotaru trailed off as a bouquet of flowers was shoved in her face. She took them, looking over them as if she had been handed several large, disgusting snakes.

"Allow me to give you a small token of my gratitude." Kuno rambled, ignoring her. "It is my duty as a samurai to repay you for saving my life, dark angel. So.. I will date with thee!"
Hotaru smashed him over the head with the Silence Glaive.
Damn fool.

She grabbed a piece of paper that had been on the concrete wall and burned a message on the back with magic. 'You WERE dead. Ask your sister. I've brought you back. Have a few strange powers now. Find out about them on your own. Jerk.
Without love, your "Dark Angel"' Rolling up the note, she jammed it in his mouth and left. With any luck the Senshi would sense the magic, see this moron, jump to conclusions, and kick his ass.

It was unlikely, but she could always hope.

Ranma sighed and decided to leave for Japan. Rouge had finally agreed, but only on one condition: that Ranma give her a better singing voice. That was a sufficiently weird request, and Jusenkyo unfortunately did not have a spring of drowned idol singer, but that was an easy one to fix. A little silent command to Nabiki, a little magic, one almost-drowned idol singer later,

He was very happy to be clear of the karaoke bar now.
Despite her power and abilities, Rouge's love of singing was somehow very annoying. She was.. cheerful. Happy. Not things that were normally associated with the allies of mazoku. Maybe it would throw off their enemies. It wasn't like Ranma was going to dismiss people just because they annoyed him. If that were true he'd have never recruited Nabiki.

Ranma walked into an alley and teleported straight to Nerima.
Which quite surprised the muggers who had planned on robbing him.

Ranma appeared over Furinkan High as the sun set. Jumping easily off the roof, Ranma sprinted off towards the Ucchan's.
He expected the Senshi to show up en route. He was not disappointed.

"Halt, evildoer! For being a beacon of such evil on a beautiful sunset, which could be spent far better cuddling with a boyfriend, we, the Sailor Suited.. hey! Don't yawn!" Sailor Moon said, insulted that this mazoku thingy was taking her so casually.

"Hey! It's that guy again!" Jupiter said. "Saturn's boyfriend."
Ranma stumbled at hearing that description.

"It's purely a working relationship, I assure ya." Ranma snarled.
"Now scram before I blast you into next week."

"We will never run from the forces of darkness, villain!" Sailor Moon proclaimed.

"Speak for us all, will you, meatball head" Sailor Mars muttered.

"As nice as it would be to chat with you, I simply don't have the time." Ranma aimed high and blasted the shadowy figure of Tuxedo Mask with a blast of energy. That guy annoyed the hell out of him anyhow. Roses....

"TUXEDO MASK!" Moon yelled, running over to the crater where their backup had fallen. "Are you OK? You're.

"groan.." the slightly dazed Tuxedo Mask mumbled. "I fell.

"you're.." Moon said, still in shock at what she saw. The others ran up behind her as Ranma began to chuckle.

"I don't know what you're laughing about, but we'll get you for it!" Venus said, shaking her fist. She turned around. "What's .
oh my god..."

"Tuxedo Mask is.." Rei said, gasping in shock.

"A GIRL!" Moon said, finally snapping out of her shock.

"WAAAH!" The feminized Mamoru felt her new body with increasing horror.

Ranma just laughed evilly and vanished.

The Senshi were currently having an emergency meeting at the Shrine. While this had been occurring more often of late,
especially with the mazoku stirring up trouble so far away,
where they couldn't easily fight, and dealing with their newfound allies and their problems fitting in to Japanese society, they were usually fruitless arguments on how to deal with the subversive monsters or how to get the Metropolitan Police to stop chasing Phoenix People, not arguments over female clothing.

They certainly felt weird when the person being argued over was Mamoru Chiba, future King of the Earth. The general bizzareness was definitely contributing to the tense atmosphere in the Shrine.

The fact that the rarely seen Outers were around and kept snickering about Mamoru's misfortune wasn't helping. That and Mamoru's own foul mood as she kept tripping over her feet in the clothes Usagi had currently picked for her. Usagi and company were arguing rather loudly over the next horror she'd be forced to wear.

"Oh, Mamoru-chan," Haruka said, eliciting a fresh round of giggles from Michiru. "If you want, you can stay at our house for a few days. We'll be happy to tell you how to treat Usagi."
Then she joined her partner in a fresh round of giggles.

Mamoru flushed with anger, the redness going nicely with the dark pink hair she had somehow gotten as a girl. "You two aren't helping any."

"What do you think we were offering to do?" Michiru snickered.

"At least we know where Chibi-Usa gets her hair from."
Haruka whispered loudly. The two broke into a fresh round of laughter and moved outside, letting Mamoru fume over her condition in solitude.

Mamoru prowled the hallways for a while, hoping to avoid the attention of the girls. A faint "Mamo-chan!' wafting down the hallway told her she had failed.

Hotaru smiled fiercely and surveyed her troops. She had gone for more of the demons and less of the Jusenkyo-cursed ants that Nabiki had favored, and had added her own specialty -
mass destruction via the Silence Glaive. Teleporting hordes of her loyal troops into the main cities, then blasting the defending armies away with the wonderous power of her Silence Glaive Surprise had allowed her to oversweep the arid steppes of Kazakstan.

She watched as the grim order she had given out were obeyed,
as the offices and buildings that knit together this land were systematically razed. To chaos and anarchy was she sworn, and under its black banner she would bring all nations. She glanced eastward and sneered. Nabiki claimed she needed to keep some central governance in place in order to fool the UN and keep the Senshi at bay. Hotaru thought it was more her love of control. In her eyes, that was a betrayal of their mission of freedom.

Her hand tightened around the Glaive. She had carried out this strike with efficiency and forethought, and struck with complete surprise When she headed north, she would not have that last advantage. As she faded back to Nerima, to meet up with Ranma again, she stopped worrying about the Russians. The Russians knew something was up. On the other hand...

Just because they knew it was coming didn't mean they could stop it.

Nabiki sneezed lightly and shook her head. Someone was thinking about her, she idly thought, most likely Ranma's pet Nazi in the leather skirt. She snorted and took another sip of her daiquiri. Ranma kept that lunatic out of her hair, and that was fine enough for her. All she cared about was the power, after all. She wasn't the kind of fanatically loyal lieutenant that Hotaru was, and she thought that was for the better. It meant her counsel was more calm. Rational. Evenhanded. That made her spies and intrigue all the more effective, in her opinion.

She lifted the dossier for one Aino Minako up and flipped through it absently. She had thought up a half-dozen plans for subverting or distracting the various Senshi from being a threat.
Each and every plan had been nixed by Ranma though. He seemed to want the Senshi to grow in power for some reason.
That didn't mean that she didn't send a little grief their way now and again. Ranma had thought her plan to get the formidible Hinako Ninomiya transferred to the same school as Usagi to be a stroke of genius. Her chronic lateness would mean daily chi-drainings, and, as a bonus, several of the other Senshi were in her class and could reasonably expect to be drained as well. The only drawback in the plan was that the Senshi might kill Hinako if they decided she was a youma. In which case Ranma could always bring her back and add her to the pack.

Nabiki smirked. She kind of hoped that happened; another pretty face would give Little Miss Fanatic an aneurysm. She was so obviously chasing Ranma it wasn't even funny. Of course, as usual, Ranma was completely oblivious. The situation almost made her nostalgic. It reminded her so much of the endless warring that Akane and the other fiancees would do to catch Ranma's heart.

Nabiki waved to one of her troops - more like a personal servant in this one's case - and signalled for another drink.

For the third time this week Ranma walked through the doors of the Ucchan's. For the first time this week, it was empty enough to talk to his friend.. "Hey, Ucchan. How's business?"

The okonomiyaki chef in question turned around, smiling.
"Doing good, Ranchan. There's a whole bunch of new customers nowadays. Amazons, Musk, even those weird Phoenix People. That and normal Chinese people. They've been kinda frightened lately, what with the government falling and all." She winked at him, and slid over one of her specials, which vanished with familiar speed. "Now, you wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

Ranma burped slightly, then smirked. Why not tell Ucchan? "Of course. It's got nothing at all to do with me. The Amazons and everyone running away from me and the government collapses.
Had nothing to do with it" Ukyou nodded and served up another handful of steaming goodness, which vanished nearly as fast as the first. "What are people going to do about it, anyhow?
No one's got the kind of magic I have to toss around, not even the Senshi, and do they really care that I knocked over a bunch of Communists anyhow? They're into this peace and justice BS,
they should have done it ages ago."

"So what's next on your list?" Ukyou wondered. First China,
and now Kazakstan had mysteriously disappeared into a storm of anarchy and disorder. There was even less news out of Central Asia than China; no one knew what was going on there.

"Touching base with all my old friends in Nerima. There's a few people I wouldn't mind seeing, yourself not the least among them. I wanna talk to the old freak too. I got some stuff Happousai would really want, you know? Kasumi, Akane, a few other people." Ranma quickly drank a Coke and sighed. He then smiled mischeviously and shifted to female. The slight thump of a customer falling out of their seat in shock was ignored by the two friends. "And Ryouga. I've got an old debt to pay back to the little pig." Ukyou looked at her friend with shock.

"You did it without the water?" Ukyou asked, shocked.

Ranma flexed her arm. "I got some serious powers , here.
Anything you want to turn into? I can give you complete

Ukyou laughed. "Maybe I'll take you up on the offer some day.
But I'd have to think about it."

Ranma snorted and got up. "Anyhow, I'll see you later. It's more fun to pound on the freak when I'm like this anyhow."
She walked out, and Ukyou immediately turned back to cleaning dishes.

Umino quickly got out of his seat and flipped off his tape recorder. One of the Sailor Senshi had been asking him to do all sorts of stuff for her in this district - taking pictures,
interviewing people - but this had been the weirdest assignment.
He had been on the lookout for this.. erm.. guy.. for a while,
staking out this restaurant and waiting with the little Pressman in his pocket.

He hurried to a library near his school and slipped the tape behind a copy of Robert's Rules of Order. It was the usual dropoff, and no person with a life would ever check it out. He had wondered if Sailor Mercury came to pick it up herself, and had lurked around the corner, but apparently she had gotten Ami to pick them up. He whistled, he hadn't thought the Senshi would be any good at this kind of cloak and dagger stuff.

A very unhappy Mamoru stumbled back into the shrine. Still in her damned "Sailor Earth" fuku, at that. With a groan of long suffering, she dismissed the stupid costume and collapsed noisily on the floor. "Damn those monsters." This time, eight of the demons had been sent and were hijacking trucks. There didn't seem to be any purpose to it, but it had made their night a lot more interesting, racing along in Haruka's car and exchanging fire with the enemy in a high speed chase. It also meant that the police would be looking for Haruka because of her car being taken for a joyride by the Senshi, except that they had obliterated the car with her magical lava and a few World Shakings.

It also meant that only a few Senshi had been driving in the car.
The rest detransformed and had wandered off to meet here after they killed the demons. Meaning that, while she, Usagi, Haruka,
Michiru, and Rei had been jammed into a car and doing a very good imitation of some demented action flick, the others had been able to goof off here. The world wasn't fair.

"Oh, Mamoru!" Ami said, waving at the injured girl. "I've got some good news about your transformation." Mamoru's head perked up.

"What could possibly be good news?" she asked.

"It can be reversed somehow. Something to do with water."
Mamoru practically vanished into the bathroom as Usagi and the other battle-weary Senshi trooped into the Shrine. She started up everything and anything that had to do with water. It had to be something this simple, especially when her apartment's water heater was all messed up, didn't it?
Eventually she tried jumping into the furo and let loose a shout of triumph.

"That was a GUY!" Rei said, alarmed. "In the bath - Mamoru!"
She quickly grabbed a broom, followed closely by her friends as they prepared to teach the pervert a lesson and save poor Mamo-chan. Just before they entered the door opened and a naked, jubilant guy ran out.

"EEEEK!" they all shouted, and promptly beat the crap out of him.

"...urk..." the freshly pounded Mamoru muttered. The fact that all the girls were now apologizing profusely wasn't helping.
This sucked.

Hotaru reappeared in Nerima, summoning another swarm of demons - this time sending them into the subway. Sending them to steal that truck had been fairly entertaining too,but she wanted to see how the Senshi would handle this situation. She hustled across the district to meet Ranma as he left the Ucchan's.

"So, boss, where are we off to now?" Hotaru said, shifting her distinctive outfit to something a little less flashy - a nice, plain black dress.

"Actually, I have no idea. Little piggy never was one to be found easy."

"What are you going to have to do with the Lost One?" Hotaru said, wrinkling up her nose. "He's a dishonorable bastard. Good source of depression, though, but I don't think you're in the mood for a meal."

"I owe him." Ranma said, shrugging. "I did knock the damn fool into that pool."

"You're going to cure him? That's... nice of you." Hotaru said.
She remained conspicuously silent as they walked down the street, sneaking glances at him.

Ranma smiled after a minute's silence. "Oh, don't worry, it's not all I'm going to do to him."

"That's better." The two of them laughed lightly, continuing on their mostly random walk around Nerima. Given Ryouga's obsession with Akane, he should be somewhere nearby.

Several hours passed with no sign of Ryouga.

Ranma and Hotaru stopped under a tree, noting that the Tokyo Subway was down. "You had something to do with this, didn't you?" Hotaru nodded with a who-me? smile plastered on her face. "Well... that would mean the Senshi are probably finished with whatever fun you sent their way. Look, I'm going to continue to look for Ryouga... you can take the opportunity to beat up the Outers, OK?"

Hotaru snapped her fingers and saluted sloppily as Ranma left.
"Gotcha, boss." She happily ran in the direction of Juuban.

Setsuna Meiou was not a happy camper. For the past few weeks she had been cut off from her powers while a mazoku, an enemy only thought a rumor even in the Silver Millenium, had come out of nowhere to derail the promise of Crystal Tokyo -
possibly irretrievably. And still, she hadn't been able to talk to the Princess, because she hadn't had the necessary proof of her identity yet. That was about to change, though.

Setsuna adjusted the handkerchief tied around her head and carefully climbed up the drainpipe of the Tsukino home. The little black cat in the window miya'd loudly and ran into her target's room. "Hope the door's closed," she muttered. Talking some sense into that damn cat would be difficult.

With a final grunt, Setsuna flipped herself over the windowsill and fell with a thump to the floor. She froze for a second,
listening to hear if anyone noticed the sound. She breathed a sigh of relief.

The cat miyah'ed again. "Dammit, Luna, shut up." she whispered harshly. "I need to speak to you." The cat stared at her, slightly confused, then backed away. "Ah, hell," Setsuna grumbled, then grabbed a pillowcase from Usagi's bed. She quickly scooped up the cat and stuffed it in the pillowcase before it could do anything, and lightly slid down the drainpipe,
which came loose and fell off the house noisily. Setsuna landed on Luna.

"YOOOWWWWLLL!" the cat screeched, and clawed Setsuna.

"Ow! Damnit!" she yelled, then saw Mrs. Tsukino opening the door.

"Ahh! Thief!" the woman yelled, chasing Setsuna off with a broomstick. "Thief! Thief!" Setsuna ran as only the mortally embarrassed can.

Ami finished listening to the tape for the fourth time, and began to write. 'Happousai. Kasumi. Akane. Ryouga. Check. We could also squeeze this 'Ukyou' for information, or bug her shop. It would be easier to keep tabs on this 'Ranma' than having Umino spend every day after school there.' She set down the pencil and sighed. This was not how the fights were supposed to go. Enemies hadn't attacked in groups, or employed spies, they sure as heck hadn't subverted the Senshi -
the thought of Saturn being on their side was frightening, and Pluto was an unknown, having vanished around the same time Saturn showed up on the wrong side. If both of them had been turned...

Ami shuddered.

On the other hand, this was her kind of fight. She had always been weak in combat, but her information gathering skills were second to none. Or at least, second to none among the good guys. These enemies had somehow found out their home phone numbers... which meant they had their addresses. From that point on every Senshi slept with their eyes half-open. So Ami had to built a information net just as good, and fast.

That meant putting a spy in the bad guy's camp. But who? Ami shook her head. That would be a tough one.

'Now to review what I know of the Enemy,' she thought.
'Goal: apparently to take over the Earth. Power: very strong magic - possibly Ginshizhou level? Methods - organized group assaults, preplanned, suprise, ambush, unconventional tactics'
Ami reflected on that. The Senshi had been having a hard time with just the grunt level troops, because of that. They knew that the higher level enemies were far stronger - Mamoru had been protected by all kinds of Silver Millenium magical shields, yet he had switched genders without any resistance whatsoever from those shields.

The Senshi should be dead, then, if that was their target. So why weren't they? Ami considered that very carefully. 'Are they just pinning us down?' That seemed the most likely explanation.
But if they were really after world domination, then they'd want to take the Senshi off the playing field first. So they weren't after the world domination... unless...

Ami picked up her pen again. 'Possible allies? Beyond Amazons/Musk/Phoenix People? Enemy does not want us to find, and is keeping us separate?' That would have to be looked in to.

The other possibility was that they weren't after world domination at all, just either control of part of the world for some reason, or were searching for something. If it was the latter, the Senshi would have to find out what and destroy it.
She didn't hold any illusions of being able to take it and keep it away from these enemies.

Ami tapped her fingers on her desk, then pulled out a fresh sheet of paper. Carefully clipping letters from her magazines,
she began to compose a letter to Ukyou.

Nabiki continued to laze on the beach, waited on hand and foot,
and brought reports by her crawling army of informers. Life was good, and her magic powerful enough to keep Shanghai permanently warm and sunny.

Hotaru walked up to the front door of Haruka and Michiru's house, still in her normal-looking black dress, and rapped on the door. She stood slightly out of the way of the peephole, so they couldn't see her face.

The door opened. "Hello!" the green-haired girl cheerfully said,
before noticing their visitor. "You look-" WHAM.

Hotaru cracked her knuckles as Michiru flew limply back into the house. "You aren't much without your magic, are you?"
Haruka came running, shouting angrily.

"Hey! You'll pay for that, you maniac!" She drew back one fist,
which fired out at the face of their surprise assailant. The fist met one finger in midair and stopped as if it had hit a wall.

"You don't know what you're dealing with, do you?" Hotaru said, grinning. Her 'Dark Senshi' outfit, unlike Ranma's, was just an alteration of the real thing, and still had the disguise field. She was throwing away that advantage now, but she really didn't care. This was fun.

"Huh?" Haruka said. Hotaru's hand closed over Haruka's and her hand shot out, covering Haruka's face and holding it in an iron grip. "Murrggr!" Hotaru walked Haruka out of the room,
looking like it was some bizzare waltz.

"This is payback, one thousand years delayed," Hotaru said,
conversationally, as she pushed Haruka back towards the bathroom. "I remember the Silver Millennium very well. There wasn't a whole lot going for it.. but you and Little Miss Neptune over there were the worst of the lot."

Haruka's eyes popped open. "Mmm! Sttrn!" Her hand started poking through her pockets, trying to find something. Hotaru's leg shot through a quick arc and blasted into her gut, however,
putting an end to that. With the wind thoroughly blasted out of her lungs, Haruka collapsed onto the floor, gasping.

Hotaru picked up Haruka and shoved her head in the toilet,
then flushed. Michiru stumbled into the bathroom, holding a baseball bat in one hand and her broken nose in the other. She shot Hotaru a murderous glare. Hotaru just smirked back.

Michiru came in, baseball bat held overhead in a manner that suggested the violinist had taken some kendo lessons once upon a time.Hotaru met the bat with a hard right - a foolish move, if she were human - and splintered the bat. Again her leg swung out, lightning fast, and blasted the air out of a Senshi.

"Whooof!" Michiru grunted, as she was thrown backwards through the door. Hotaru grabbed one of their decorative vases and clouted her over the head with it, sending pieces of expensive pottery everywhere and Michiru into dreamland.

"WORLD SHAKING!" was cried out from behind, at about the same time that a ball of magical force jumped from the ground and sent Hotaru flying. Hotaru moved with the blast,
summoning her own powers and adding them to the blow,
flying through a wall like a human missile. It shattered into pieces of drywall and wood, dumping junk across the motorcycle Hotaru slammed into. Quickly jumping to her feet,
she hefted the Yamaha and chucked it back trough the hole she just made.

As Sailor Uranus deftly avoided the flying motorcycle, Hotaru waved her hand, summoning up the spell a lesser sorcerer would need to name: Diem Wind. Caught in midair, Haruka turned into a human missile as well, destroying another wall and ending up back in the toilet. She shakily got up from the smashed porcelain, as water gurgled everywhere. 'Damn,
there's no way...' she thought, and quickly activated the communicator as she dodged into the shower. "Usagi!" she hissed. "Drop whatever you're doing and get the others here.
One of those damn mazoku is trashing my house. Neptune's down. Over." She clicked it shut, then glanced out into the wrecked bathroom. She saw Hotaru kick Michiru in the ribs,
making sure she was really unconscious.

Hotaru gave Michiru one more kick, just for meanness's sake,
and walked confidently towards the bathroom. The other Senshi should know something was up, by now; pretty soon she'd have a major battle on her hands. She was pretty sure she could knock out Uranus and leave the Senshi a pretty unmistakeable message before they arrived, though.

Haruka timed her jump well, flying at Hotaru with a flawless jump kick that was rendered irrelevant by the fact that hitting Hotaru was like hitting a steel statue, except Hotaru hit back.
Hotaru summoned the Silence Glaive, swatted another Earth Shaking aside, blowing up the sink and sending two more fountains to help the swiftly growing lake they were fighting in,
and blocked the Space Sword with the staff of the Glaive,
forcing Haruka back with her superior strength. "You're not going to win this fight." Hotaru stated, giving Haruka a stiff shove and pushing her back into the shower. Hotaru kicked the Space Sword out of her hand before she could bring it to bear again, then slammed the girl into the wall, choking her with the Glaive.

Hotaru smiled as Haruka was pinned to the shower wall, trying to loosen the pressure on her neck. Hotaru relaxed a little when she saw Haruka's smile and attempt to speak, out of curiousity.
Haruka gave a weak grin. "Normally.. I'd like it.. if a pretty girl.. pinned me to the shower wall.." Hotaru's face quickly clouded over. 'That was the best blow I've landed all fight'
Haruka thought, just before a fist sent her head through the wall and blackness overtook her.

The Senshi arrived to the Outer's home to find the door still open and the place ominously quiet, except for the burble of water. They walked in carefully through the open door.
"Michiru! Haruka!" Moon yelled, seeing them tied up in the middle of the room. They tried untying the knots, which didn't quite work, as they had been pulled inhumanly tight. Makoto found the Space Sword, however, and that made short work of the ropes.

The Outers still slumped to the floor, out cold. "Concussions."
Mercury said, checking the two of them. "Broken nose on Michiru, going to be some bruising on Haruka, though not as bad - she was in her Senshi form for most of it, I think. Let's get them upstairs." Mercury then froze the water leaking out from the bathroom. It was a temporary fix, but it would stop the water from completely ruining the carpets.

"What about the enemy?" Rei asked crossly.

"Nothing picked up on the Mercury computer. Whoever did this is gone." Mercury answered crisply. 'Damn, this is exactly what I feared. They know where we live, and they have all the advantages of surprise. We're going to need to talk about this'
Trouble was, she couldn't handle all the thinking by herself,
and... Usagi was just too much of a meatball head to understand.

Setsuna was on the roof of a shop in Juuban, talking to a cat,
explaining why she was a sailor suited warrior of love and justice, and not a thief as she appeared at first glance. "Do you understand now?" Setsuna said, exasperated.

"How do I know you're not an enemy?" Luna asked suspiciously, for about the thousandth time.

Setsuna repressed the urge to strangle the cat. Barely. "I am not an enemy! I've described the Silver Millennium in detail to you, you lousy piece of flea bait!"

The cat's tail flicked to the side. "Perhaps, but the Enemy," -
the capitalization was audible - "has captured Hotaru. They would know all about the Silver Millennium as well."

Setsuna counted to ten, then tried a different tack. "Then have Usagi use the crystal to give my powers back. If nothing happens, you'll know I'm not Sailor Pluto."

Luna pointed out what seemed to be a hole in that argument.
"But if you're with the enemy, then we'll be giving you your powers back."

Setsuna was momentarily stunned by the colossal illogic of that statement. This time, she didn't resist the urge to throttle the cat. "THEN WHY THE HELL WOULD THEY LOCK MY POWERS?" she yelled, blasting Luna's fur back as if she were in a hurricane.

"...I'll see what I can do." Luna meekly answered.

Ranma smiled as he saw the subject of his search come in to view. Ryouga was hard to find; he'd have even considered calling him impossible to find, except for the obvious fact that he had found him. Well, stumbled across him, at any rate.
Ryouga had backtracked often, made random, impossible to predict turns and had generally navigated like blind hikers with a GPS on the fritz. While Ryouga at times appeared to be attempting to head towards Nerima, it was only the fact that Ranma knew it was the only place Ryouga would want to go that revealed Ryouga's destination.

Currently, Ryouga was on Shikoku, having somehow managed to avoid activating his curse on the way to the island. It was only the magical signature of that curse, his rather impressive aura of despair, and not a small amount of luck that had led Ranma to this small campfire in the wilds. Ranma watched Ryouga start to cook his dinner, and silently melted into the shadows, becoming insubstantial. He crept closer to the flame,
tripping Ryouga's danger senses, but Ryouga didn't see him as he glanced around. Human eyes were made for seeing people,
not insubstantial shadows.

Ryouga shifted uneasily and started looking for the stars -
whether for navigation or just gathering his thoughts, Ranma didn't know - but the canopy of brancehes overhead only let the light of a few stars through. The pig-cursed boy turned back to the fire with a sigh.

"Akane.. if only I could be with you..." he said, tinging his words with a tasty shot of depression. "Damn Ranma! He showed himself to be the demon I always thought he was! Until I learn a new move, some new secret that will let me kill the demon and free you..." Ryouga stopped his righteous declaration and hit himself in the head. "Baka baka baka! I sounded like Kuno there..." A sharp hiss reminded him of his food. "Hey, it looks about ready."

Ranma coiled towards Ryouga, rising from the ground in an impressive and unnecessary display. The jumping shadows from the campfire leapt around the rising blackness and faded out,
revealing the smirking, hovering form of Ranma Metallium. 'I am just too cool.' he thought to himself with a smirk.

"Smells good, P-chan. What's cooking?" he said, exchanging the smug smirk for a truly insufferable grin.

"RANMA!" Ryouga shouted angrily. He jumped up and yanked his umbrella off the top of his pack, readying himself for combat.

"Oh please." Ranma snickered. "What could you possibly do to me? Fighting you would be an incredible bore right now. Wait,
I've got an idea. Usually you'd burst into my room and try to kill me for some stupid reason, and I'd easily defeat your clumsy attempt. Let's see what happens if you're the one on the defensive." Ranma said, seeming to dismiss Ryouga as he talked to the air.

"Ahh.." Ryouga said, perplexed.

Ranma suddenly reversed himself, flying at Ryouga at impossible speed. "Ryouga! Prepare to DIE!"

"Gah!" Ryouga siad, flinching aside at the last second. Ranma's fist shot by at about Warp 5, creating a small sonic boom and tearing several bandannas off his head by the force of the breeze it generated. 'He's even MORE powerful now!' Ryouga thought, panicking. He and everyone else hadn't been able to beat up Ranma before. How the heck was he supposed to get rid of him now?

Ranma smirked again, causing this question to fly out of Ryouga's mind. Instead, he wordlessly screamed and thrust his umbrella straight ahead, only to hit air as Ranma vanished completely milliseconds before the umbrella hit. Ryouga stumbled forwards and looked around for his vanished opponent. His eyes locked onto another lightning fast punch just before it impacted his head.

Ranma punched Ryouga into a tree as if he were a rag doll,
causing the tree to shudder and dump a load of leaves on the fighters. An angry squirrel bounced off of Ryouga's head and chattered as it searched for safer ground. Ranma smiled as Ryouga got up. "You overextended yourself! Stupid student!"
Ranma sternly said, mocking Ryouga.

Ryouga shook his head, focusing on Ranma. He dimly heard Ranma's words, which further enraged him. "I'm not your student, you dishonorable rat!" Ryouga dropped his umbrella and charged Ranma, who stood his ground this time. Every time he launched a punch or kick, a hand lazily reached out and flicked it away. Ranma's smile never vanished as he danced around Ryouga, impossible to hit and just out of reach. Ryouga eventually stopped to take a breath. Ranma assumed his midair meditative pose.

"Ranma.." Ryouga said, earning a more attentive look from the pigtailed boy, "since when have you been this good?"

Ranma smiled. "Simple. My whole life I've been taught the Art.
A good deal of the Art involves making use of one's ki."
Ryouga nodded; no one human could do what they did and not use ki. "Mazoku don't have ki."

"Then how could you..?" Ryouga asked, jerking in surprise.

"Mazoku are far more powerful than mere humans. Mazoku are energy. It's just that I have a lot more nowadays. With every little bit of power, I grow faster. Stronger. Better. While you will grow old and shrivelled, even as you gain greater mastery over your ki."Ryouga growled and glowed with anger. "Yeah,
go ahead and get mad. Give me more power."

The aura snapped out of existence around Ryouga. "So I don't have any chance to beat you." Ryouga stared at Ranma. "That doesn't change anything, Ranma! If I can't kill you, I'll die trying!" He rushed at Ranma again, this time without his trademark berserk fury. Again Ranma taunted him with that cruel little smirk, but he restrained himself. He and Ranma danced around the fire again, without a single punch landing like last time. "Dammit Ranma! Fight me for real!" he shouted,
his voice betraying the anger he wasn't showing.

"That's Akane's line, P-chan. Better not tell her you used it or she might cook you dinner!" Ranma taunted. Sure enough,
Ryouga's barely-there restraint broke once again. "Pitiful."
Ranma summed up, losing his smile. He grabbed Ryouga's next punch and pulled him forward. A fist slammed into Ryouga's gut with the force of hundreds of his old punches.

Ryouga staggered back, coughing up blood. "You can't rely on your toughness anymore, pig. Get up." Ranma punctuated his command with a kick to the chin, whipping in so fast that Ryouga didn't even have time to block. "Your defenses are nonexistent!" Ranma shouted as he leapt in to rain punches upon Ryouga's face. He ducked under one of Ryouga's punches and threw him over his shoulder. "You overcommit to your attacks!" Ryouga jumped up to his feet only to be swept off them again. "Your balance sucks!" With a feral roar,
Ryouga jumped up to tackle Ranma, who easily caught him in midair. "And most of all, you have no style!" Ranma threw him in the fire.

Ryouga screamed and jumped out, rolling around on the ground. "C'mon, student, the fun's just begun!"

"I'm not your student!" the battered and burnt Ryouga snarled from the ground.

"Oh? Then why am I taking you to school?" Ranma inquired.
Ryouga growled again and sprung back up. He charged at Ranma and the fight was rejoined.

Ami walked into the Okonomiyaki Ucchan's in her senshi uniform. It was hidden under the trench coat and hat she was wearing, but the powerful disguise field was a happy tool for her to have, even if the rest of her 'disguise' made her look like an escapee from a bad detective movie. She sat at the counter and smiled at the chef. She was the only customer in at the moment.

Ukyou shot her a hard look, one full of unhappy powerlessness.
Apparently, her friend had neglected to provide her with magical power, unlike that Akane girl down the street. That was a lucky omission on the part of their enemy. "You know why I'm here." Ami said, conversationally.

"Yes." Cold. Hateful.

"You know what I'll do if you decline my offer." Ami stated.
She didn't even bother pretending it was a question.


Ami smiled. It was not a nice smile. It should have never graced the lips of a Senshi - unless that Senshi were the enigmatic Pluto or the rogue Saturn. "Then you are prepared to cooperate with us on this matter?"

Uykou glared at Ami with a fiery hatred. "Yes."

"Good, then. I would like you to start by telling me everything you know about.. Ranma." She pulled a tape recorder out of her pocket briefly to turn it on - just enough of a glimpse to let her know she was being recorded. "If you answer untruthfully, I will find out."

Ukyou sighed and mentally travelled back to those long ago years of her youth, and a pigtailed little boy named Ranma.

At the Hiwaka Shrine, the Senshi were assembled in their fukus.
Confronting them was a green-haired woman in casual clothing standing behind Luna. Even Mamoru was in her new fuku state,
the Senshi deciding that they would need the extra power,
especially as Ami was skipping on them, citing 'important unavoidable business'.

Sailor Moon stepped forward, even as the other Senshi fanned out to be further apart to prevent multiple Senshi from being hit if the woman was hostile. They also were standing so as to not interfere with one another.

Losing is the most effective teacher of them all.

"You really have nothing to fear." their guest said, remaining remarkably calm and confident in the face of this sort of firepower. Too calm, in fact, for one Senshi.

The still-hurting Sailor Uranus raised her hands in preparation for an attack. "She's too calm! She has to be an enemy!"

Sailor Moon held up a hand to quiet her. "Maybe, maybe not.
We have to give her that chance."

"She'll kill us all!" Uranus said, sounding not entirely in her right mind.

"Just hold your fire." Sailor Moon said, then summoned up her healing powers. "Moon.. Healing.. Escalation!" she shouted,
swirling around and gesturing with her wand. A bright, blinding light briefly dazzled the Senshi before their vision returned.

"AHHHH!!!" screamed the voice of their guest, now spasming as a war between white and black lighting seared across her body. She was now dressed in the familiar fuku of Pluto,

"Well, she was Pluto after all." Luna murmered, watching the twitching Senshi.

"What's going on? What's happening?" Sailor Moon shrieked,
not understanding at all what was going on with Setsuna. She started to reach forward when a loud BANG sounded and Setsuna's body jumped on the floor. Tendrils of smoke wafted from the now ominously still Senshi, as if she were a robot that had shorted out.

"Is she dead?" Minako said tentatively.

"Of all the nights for Ami to skip out on us!" Rei groused,
before taking Setsuna's pulse. "She's out cold but alive."

"I wonder what that was, then?" Jupiter asked. No one had a good answer.

Ranma felt a jolt of pain as he sat down, waiting for the currently unconscious Ryouga to revive so he could kick his ass again. "Shit, seems someone found Pluto again. P-chan will have to wait." It would be a while before he woke up anyhow.
Ranma vanished onto the Astral plane, instantly moving back to Tokyo and following the thin tendril of power connecting Pluto to the Gates of Time. Using his not inconsiderable power, he began the arduous task of severing the link. He was soon joined by Hotaru, whom he summoned, in this task. Still, it would be nearly an hour before they finished the task. They could only hope that Pluto had gotten help from the Senshi and not Cologne or some other force. Ranma might be immune to the effects of the Gates, but they would still be an unacceptable tool for the Senshi to possess.

Ami walked out of the Ucchan's, satisfied that she had received an accurate account of Ranma's activities - at least everything that Ukyou knew of, anyhow. She began walking towards the Tendo dojo. With the confirmation of the identity of Ranma's other lieutenant, she felt it was more important than ever to have an ear or two in the Tendo home.

Strand after strand of the spells that bound Sailor Pluto to the Time Gate came loose under the relentless assault of Ranma and Hotaru. It was a literal race against the clock, and the clock - Sailor Pluto - could pop back to the time gate and mess up their plans royally at any moment. It wasn't through manipulating the timestream, although Ranma and Hotaru wouldn't rule out the possibility of her breaking the rules about time travel in their cases. It was the fact that the unpredictability would be removed from their actions and those of the senshi.
That was in direct contradiction to their orders.

Hotaru, unlike Nabiki, you see, knew the whole story behind Ranma's orders. She had beaten it out of him after his reappearance for giving her such a scare.

Even now, as the strands connecting Pluto to the Gates of Time were halfway severed, they could feel the connection becoming more active.

"Oww..." Sailor Pluto said, grabbing her head. She cradled it gently, as if it were made of glass and might fall and shatter if she let go. "My HEAD..."

"I'll get some asprin!" Minako said cheefully, and fairly ran to the medicine cabinet. They had painkillers in all varieties these days.

Sailor Moon held up three fingers in front of Pluto. "How many fingers am I holding up?" she asked.

Sailor Pluto looked blearily in Moon's general direction. "I can't see. Everything's all bright and flashy."

"She acts like she has a concussion." Sailor Jupiter said,
thinking of an incident when she was training.

"She acts like she had a hangover." Rei sniped. Everyone looked at her. "What?"

The Senshi shook their heads in unison and turned back to Setsuna, leaving Rei to sweat a little in embarrassment.

Ranma and Hotaru quickly redoubled their efforts, ripping through the pulsing strands of magic like nitro-boosted chainsaws.

Pluto's headache worsened, even after the asprin. They had laid her down on a spare futon and turned off the lights. Only a flashlight with a rag thrown over it provided dim light in the room.

"What do you suppose is wrong?" Minako asked Usagi before remembering to keep it down. A pained moan escaped Pluto's lips as her head pounded from the sudden noise. The Senshi had detransformed earlier, deeming Pluto a good guy. The resulting light show had nearly knocked Pluto out again.

"I don't know." Usagi whispered back, very softly. "I really REALLY wish Ami were here. She's the one who knows about this kind of thing."

"But she's got a headache in her Senshi form. I don't know about you, but usually if I have a headache and transform, it goes away." Rei whispered, joining the conversation.

The Senshi returned to their troubled watch of their reclaimed Senshi.

With one last effort, the two mazoku severed the last little bit of energy connecting Sailor Pluto to the Gates of Time. Mentally giving each other a high five, the two returned to the material plane, Hotaru following Ranma back to Ryouga's campsite.

"He's gone. We should go find him again. After all, he has a role in my plan to fulfill."

"That of practice dummy?" Hotaru said, smirking.

"No, just dummy. And wipe that smirk off your face. I'm going to teach you, too."

Hotaru grumbled at that one. "Why? I'm pretty skilled at martial arts myself, you know. I still remember the Saturn Star-
Fist school from the Silver Millenium, you know."

"I know. I can still beat you easy in a fight, though. And I don't want that."

"You want me to be able to beat you?" Saturn said,

"I just want a sparring partner." Ranma said, shrugging.


"I'm not asking you to abandon your school, just to practice with me." Ranma said, as they followed the path of bad intentions Ryouga had blazed.

As if the suffering were shut off by a switch, Sailor Pluto convulsed once, then had a peaceful look come over her face.
"Now is she dead?" Rei asked, fearfully.

A snore answered her from the bed. "No, she's asleep."
Mamoru said, still female and slightly angry. She grabbed Pluto's shoulder. "Wake up!"

Pluto's eyes opened slowly, as if she were awakening from a long slumber. She looked at each of the Senshi, one after the other. "Where am I?"

"Do you have any idea how he does this?" Hotaru asked, as they passed a ramen hut for the second time. According to the stars, their maps, and the fact that Ryouga had apparently simply smashed through all obstacles in a straight line, they hadn't walked in a circle or even deviated from a heading of due west. Yet they were passing the same ramen hut.

"I dunno. This directional curse goes a bit deeper than I thought it did. It's like he's warping space or something." Ranma deftly snagged two bowls of ramen and tossed some money. They didn't need the ramen, but it was sort of comforting in a way, a reminder of their past existence.

"I hope we run into the jerk soon." Hotaru grumbled. Beating the snot out of Ryouga would be highly entertaining for a while.
Playing conqueror, on the other hand, wasn't. "What are we going to do after we get the ball rolling?"

"Well, we need to shore up the Senshi and stuff. They're all still being stupid and relying on their magic. It's really slow going with them. We're going to have to up the pressure on them, or something, and force them to make changes, it looks like."
Ranma slurped up the rest of his ramen and wiped his mouth off on his sleeve. "That's why we're chasing Ryouga, after all. I want to drive home the fact that he can't win without magic home. Hopefully he'll catch the hint and go track down.. er.
run into the Senshi."

Hotaru blinked. "So you're saying that you're chasing one of the most dense people on earth, to beat him up and get a point through his skull, so he can find some other incredibly dense people, when he can't find his ass with both hands and a mirror,
so he can convince them to abandon their current tactics?"

"Ah, yeah, that's about the size of it." Ranma said. Put that way, it did sound kind of stupid.

"I thought alcohol didn't affect mazoku." Hotaru said lightly,
rolling her eyes.

"Well, I didn't hear you give any suggestions, and I'm kind of short on ideas. Nothing seems to faze them." Ranma said,
gloomily. He loathed feeling dumb, but he hadn't a clue what to do with the senshi.

Hotaru and Ranma walked in silence for a while longer. "I've got an idea!" Hotaru said, snapping her fingers.

"What?" Ranma said. He could almost see the light bulb pop into place over Hotaru's head.

Hotaru clicked her nails on her teeth for a second as she thought of how to start her plan. With anyone else, the question would be insane, but... "Ranma, do you know Martial Arts Stenography?"

Ranma blinked. "Yeah. Once Genma got busted for public intoxication and I got challenged by the court reporter-" Hotaru held up a hand.

"I don't want the whole story. OK, we need to get a typewriter..." They picked up a typewriter in the next town and started writing.

It was a few days later that Ami was walking around in a newly opened bookstore. She was amazed at how fast the bookstore had been completed; one night, it was an empty warehouse, the next morning, it was a giant bookstore. It was apparently run by those Amazon refugees from China. As such, she figured they weren't going to be helping the bad guys.

A book caught her eye. It was titled, "Tactics and Strategy for Dummies", written by one Hotaru Tomoe. Ami picked it up.
Emblazoned on the cover was 'Don't be a Senshi! Fight smart'
She turned beet red. The book went in her basket, though.

'How dare they make such accusations against us!' she fumed.
'Though, now that I think about it, I was complaining last week that we weren't thinking things through enough. Still! They have NO RIGHT to criticize us!'

Ami walked through the store, ignoring the other books on her way to the counter. She'd have to buy the book so she could rip it to shreds in front of the others. "I'd like to buy this, please."
she asked of the counter clerk. She had the weirdest orange hair and her name.. Floss? Who named their kid Floss? Maybe her father was a demented dentist.

"Nihao! Welcome to Amazon Bookstore, how Floss help?"

Ami slapped down a wad of bills - exact change, plus tax. "I'd like to buy this book-"

"Blue-hair girl have Amazon Bookstore Book Club Card?"
Floss asked, streaming rays of uber-kawaii from her smile. Ami was mentally staggered by the sheer cuteness.

"Um, no, I-"

"Club Card only 1,000 yen! Is good price, yes?"

"Ah, I'm really not-"

The girl pulled a really big sword out of nowhere. "Floss think blue-hair girl really want Club Card. Is Floss right?" Ami smiled nervously and shoved 1,000 more yen at the cashier. The girl handed her a book club card, which she signed. She grabbed her book and fled the store before she ended up buying anything else.

Floss waved to the fleeing girl. "Bai-bai, honor customer! Come back again!"

Nabiki rested in her private, luxurious plane. It had - before she got creative with her magic - been a Boeing, freshly delivered from Seattle, which she had intercepted before it reached the airline. Now, it was a flying palace, opulently appointed, and her current headquarters. She drummed her fingers nervously.
Taking out China and sweeping into Central Asia had made people nervous. Pyongyang's fall made them noisy. Strike at the Persian Gulf and those rattling sabers might be drawn. Of course, she had unlimited numbers of soldiers, and her troops were tougher, more loyal, and more vicious than their opponents, but the weapons of modern war weren't free.

Currently, the mess in Afghanistan was distracting much of the world's attention. She had that going for her, at least. And Iran and Iraq had the advantages of being unloved states. But still...

It might be the lynchpin of the world, and a plum assignment,
but stealing the world's oil supplies would be difficult. Unless...

Nabiki popped open one of the books on black magic Ranma had lent her and started looking for methods of transmuting materials. She might need some help on this one, too. Rouge and Tarou - whom she had, in contradiction to Ranma's orders,
extended the pledge of immortality to, not killed and turned him into a mazoku - might be needed to help. Tarou's studies were coming along nicely in black magic anyhow. That, and he seemed to revel in the thought of cursing Happousai.

Nabiki's fingers slid over the pages, searching for the right kind of spell. There were so many of them...

"Serenity-sama!" Setsuna called out, running up to Usagi, then kneeling. "What would you command your humble servant to do?" The former Guardian of Time and now full time Sailor Suited Warrior of Love and Justice, Setsuna Meiou, waited patiently for Usagi's reply.

Usaig sweated. This was weird. "Er.. I was just dropping by to see how you were doing."

Setsuna answered, still not looking up. "I feel fine, Serentity-

"Um. Don't call me that. Talk to me like you would.. your sister!" Usagi said, brightening.

"I feel fine, My Sister!" (1)

"Er.. on second thought, don't do that."

"As you wish, Serenity-sama!" she replied ferverently.

"Uh.. so.." Usagi sweated some more. How was she to get Setsuna to act.. normal?

Ami laid back in her Lay-Z-Boy recliner and wrapped up the new book she had purchased. Another empty box of Pocky landed on the floor, next to several of its close friends and relatives. There was so much stuff she had never thought of here.

Ami slipped on a coat and returned to the Amazon bookstore,
returning with a copy of the Prince, a few books on modern international relations, and an armload of junk the cashier had forced on her. "Damn book nazi." she muttered as she returned home, now reloaded for another round of studying.

Ryouga was finally found swimming in a stream. His pack,
clothes, and a steaming kettle of water waited at the edge of the stream. Ranma picked up the kettle and started to pour it into the stream. "Damn pigs, leaving their trash everywhere!" he called out, as Hotaru grinned mischeviously and started to ball up the Lost Boy's clothes. The outraged squeal from a swimming piglet sounded from the water, and a ferocious,
angry, tiny piglet flew out of the water to be spiked into the gravel by Ranma. Ranma threw the rest of the hot water on him.

"Gleep!" Ryouga said, noticing Hotaru for the first time. He covered himself. Ranma took his clothes out of Hotaru's hands and tossed them to the mortally embarrassed boy. He pulled his pants on with lightning speed.

"He's smaller than you." Hotaru said. Ranma blinked for a moment before blushing bright red. Ryouga got red too, but for a different reason.

"Ranma!" he shouted, only to get cut off by Ranma.

"Oh no! You aren't blaming me at all for this one!" Ranma shouted back. He then turned to Hotaru. "And how do you know? You.. you spied on me!"

Ryouga growled, a bass rumble that shook bones. "Ranma-"

"Quiet, you."

"Actually, I just bought pictures from Nabiki."

"Nabiki? Nabiki!"


Both mazoku turned on him. "Shut up!" Ryouga stumbled back to fall on his ass.

"She's selling pictures of me?" Ranma asked, annoyed. "Still?"
Hotaru nodded. "Man! Why me?" Ranma stomped in circles, as Ryouga and Hotaru silently watched. "I'm going to get her for that. I really am. I have just the spell for it too. But revenge is a dish best served cold."

"No it isn't!" Ryouga yelled, determined to fight Ranma about SOMETHING.

"How would you know? You're an object lesson, hothead."
Ranma snarled back.

Ryouga leapt to his feet, somehow getting the setting sun to gleam painfully over his shoulder, and pointed dramatically.
"No man has truly tasted venegance until he has quenched the fires of hate in the cooling entrails of his opponent!" Ranma blinked for a second. "Ha! Top that!"

Hotaru applauded from the side. Ranma shot her a look.
"Who's side are you on anyhow?"

"Hey, that was pretty cool, you have to admit."

Ranma racked his brains for a more dramatic reply, but failed to come up with anything. "I give up. I'm still a better martial artist, P-chan." Ryouga glowed again. "Heh, I'll wipe that off your face soon enough." They took up stances again. Hotaru stepped forward and slashed down with one hand.

Sailor Mercury slipped silently across the rooftops of Nerima.
She stared long at the oft-patched roof of the Tendo Dojo. This had been the last home of one enemy, and the current home of another. She fingered a small bug in one hand. It had been suprisingly easy to build with the help of the Mercury computer and a local electronics store. She idly wondered why they had all the necessary parts in bulk and the help winked when she bought them. Who would be building bugs in Nerima?

Her original plan had been to confront the inhabitants about the evil demons they associated with, and squeeze them for information. She had discarded that after reading the book.
They knew where the Senshi lived and could 'squeeze' them as well. So she had decided on this path.

Wrapping a bandanna over her head, the newly sneaky Sailor Suited Warrior of Love and Justice slipped through an open upstairs window. Melted pile of plastic and metal apparently fused to a wooden floor, check. This was their enemy Nabiki's room. She silently stepped over to the closet and carefully rummaged through it, looking for useful things to steal. A book on black magic fell down; Mercury caught it before it hit the ground. Silently she began scanning pages into the Mercury Computer.

'This thing is going to be so useful when I get to college'
Mercury thought, smirking. She slipped one bug into a crack in the wall. It looked like the result of a poor patching job. 'Just what happened in this house anyhow?' Mercury silently finished her scanning job - the book wasn't that thick, and every page was thick, heavy parchment - and carefully placed the book back just as it had been. There was no way she would be detected.

Half a world away, Nabiki idly looked up and noted that someone had entered her room. Probably Kasumi again. She had told her sister that she'd clean the mess out of her room herself, but Kasumi had given her five false alarms this week alone. She glanced at the clock and nodded, then returned to reading.

Mercury found an entire boxful of bugs in the closet. 'Jackpot'
she thought, then started wondering where they had been placed. 'I'm going to have to search everyone's house, or tell them to, at any rate. Wonderful.' She carefully snipped certain important wires in the bugs anyhow, in case they hadn't gotten around to bugging the Senshi's houses yet.

Mercury slipped back out the window and onto the roof. Let's see, youngest daughter in dojo, oldest in kitchen, old men on porch. Time to bug another bedroom. A cane rapped on her shoulder.

Mercury started violently and dropped a few bugs on the roof.
"Startled you, didn't I?" a small, shrivelled little man said.
"What are you doing? Planting bugs for Nabiki?" he added.

"Well, no..." Mercury said, uncertain of what do do. Happousai was a renowned pervert and panty thief. Would he give her away?

Happousai looked at the frozen girl and raised an eyebrow.
"Planting bugs on Nabiki, eh? Well, I like your sense of style.
So I'll forgive you if you let me have a nice cry in your bosom!"
The pervert jumped towards her with a lecherous grin.

"Ack! Die!" Mercury said, her blood running cold. She held up her hand and froze the little creep in a huge block of ice. She looked at her hand in wonder. "I didn't use an attack.. how did I...?" She quickly glanced at the pervert. "I wonder?" Picking up the iced pervert, she quickly vanished across the rooftops of Nerima.

Ranma looked at the flattened body of Ryouga with disdain.
"Pathetic." he said, kicking Ryouga against a large rock.
Ryouga slumped over, his body propped up so he could still look at Ranma.

"Shut up." Ryouga answered feebly. Ranma laughed.

"I'd have Hotaru heal you, but I don't feel that nice." Ranma said, turning away from him. His eyes were closed and an insufferably smug grin was plastered on his face. "I'll tell you what. I'll cure your curse if you admit I'm the better martial artist."

"You'll what?" Ryouga said, then the rest of what Ranma said caught up to him. "What? Never!" he said stubbornly.

"Heh, have it your way, then." Ranma said, shrugging as he turned to Hotaru. "Maybe he doesn't mind his curse after all. I guess he doesn't care about Akane much either."

Ryouga stopped cold. "What do you mean?" he asked,
growling ferally.

"I mean those Senshi girls roughed her up and might try it again."

"They what?" Ryouga said, now in a towering rage.

"They roughed her up some. You should go protect her. You're obviously incapable of getting your revenge on me as you are now anyhow. If you can defeat the Senshi, you might be able to actually hurt me."

"Hey! You can't have me run off and fight your battles for you!" Ryouga yelled, as Ranma turned around.

"Who's fighting? Either one of us could squash them like the roaches they are. " Hotaru said, smiling. Ryouga stared at her.

"They bug us, so we bug them. But Akane's not as tough as we are, is she?" Ryouga clenched his fists in rage.

"Fine. Which way is the Tendo Dojo?" Ryouga asked. The walk would give his bruises time to heal.

"It's thataway." Ranma said, pointing across the stream. Ranma walked over to it and into it. "Of course it's over the stream.
You're cursed, aren't you. What a foolish question." Ryouga growled again before noticing something.

'He IS cured!' Ryouga thought, watching Ranma walk off with his little sidekick. 'Damn you, Ranma! I'll find out your cure and use it myself! There will be a reckoning!'

Mercury rushed back to the shrine in her shock at the new and unexpected way her powers had responded. "Instant, effortless attack," she thought, wondering at the instantaneous use of her powers. "No need for a complicated routine, just snap off an attack?" If she could replicate the feat - and the other Senshi could too - then they'd be able to concentrate more on running and ducking than they currently could. Against the mazoku, that might give them an edge. "Well, it will reduce our disadvantages some." Mercury said sourly.

She leapt over the back wall and decided to test it out, as well as play a joke on Rei. Sneaking up on the raven-haired senshi,
she concentrated and tried to visualize herself using a Shabon Spray. Nothing.

Mercury concentrated for a moment, then began replaying the encounter with the old pervert. He had jumped, she had panicked, and frozen him into a ball of ice. Mercury nodded.
She hadn't used any specific attack, merely summoned the appropriate element and shaped it to her panicked will.
Summoning all the resolve and force of personality she could,
Mercury forced her determination into her hand. A thick layer of ice quickly accumulated, and the air misted around the supercooled ice. Smiling, Ami walked forward, noticing how the mist vanished and the ice began to hurt whenever she lost concentration on maintaining the icy grip. But when she did concentrate and force it to bend to her will, the ice flexed and moved like a leather glove, and her hand was untouched by the intense cold. She smiled impishly and grabbed Rei's shoulder.

"EEEEYAAAGH!" Rei screamed, managing to leap three feet in the air from a sitting position. Mercury detransformed and crossed her arms, willing the ice to vanish.

"Hi Rei, how are you doing? A little cold out?" she teased.

"You!" Rei yelled, fuming. Then she looked at Ami's face.
"Why are you smiling like that? You've got the kind of smile that says I know something you don't, not a laughing smile."
Rei's eyes dared Ami to contradict her.

"I do know something you don't." Ami said, still smiling her secret smile.

"Don't do that, you remind me of Setsuna." Rei said, slightly freaked out by the new Ami. "The old Setsuna, anyhow. The current one is too much of a sycophant to be such a secretive bitch."

Ami cocked her head to the side, trying to think of a place safe enough to show Rei her new tricks. "Follow me." The two left for the empty school grounds.

When they reached the school, Ami transformed and again exerted her will, forming a perfect sphere of ice in her hand.
"That's neat." Rei said, watching it. "But what's the use?" Ami smiled again and then threw the ball at a convenient tree, willing it to explode.

A muffled bang and sharp crack filled the schoolyard; swirling,
concealing snow obscured their vision. When it cleared, the tree had cracked and split, obviously the work of ice and the source of the loud crack they had heard, and everything in a ten foot radius of the impact point was glazed in ice. "More impressive than I thought." Mercury mumbled.

Rei didn't wait for an explanation. She immediately transformed and stared at her hand. After a few seconds the stare became a glare, then she started cursing and shaking her hand. "You can't just think it into existence. You have to force it to appear."

And force it Mars did. Fuelled by anger and frustration, her hand caught fire with such force and fury as to drive Mercury back away from the scorching flames. Winding up as if for a softball pitch, Mars screamed and let the flames shoot out in a tight little ball, which exploded with far more force than Mercury's. The explosion knocked the two of them off their feet, blew the windows out of that side of the school, and set the top part of the tree and some of the grass - the stuff unprotected by a sacrificial layer of ice - began to burn. "Er.."
Mars said, sheepishly. "We might want to get out of here."
Mercury heartily agreed.

Ranma and Hotaru stood at a crossroads in Japan. While walking along the road was a mere throwback to their mortal days, now that they could teleport, it was still something that Ranma had fond memories of doing. The road, after all, was his home. He had grown up here. For Hotaru, the open road was a symbol of freedom and adventure, having spent much of this life and the last cooped up and under guard. They were content to walk. They needed to kill time anyhow.

"We've set things in motion so the Senshi should be kept busy anyhow, no matter where we are." Ranma said, reviewing his plans. They were simple, but the best plans were simple, he figured. "Now we need to paralyze the rest of the world and finish crumbling society into a perfect anarchy." Anarchy, after all, was analogous to the formless power mazoku craved; he would prefer it even ifhe didn't have merely personal reasons to hate one person controlling another. "Got any ideas?" Ranma asked, wondering what his lieutenant would come up with.

"Build up our forces and teleport them everywhere. Just have them spread havoc, no front, no armies, just bands of destruction causing trouble. Smash everything; anything that survives is good, anything that doesn't was crap anyhow."
Hotaru said, showing her faith in the destruction that was her birthright.

"Feh, that's going too far." Ranma said, closing his eyes and looking smug. Hotaru frowned suddenly and wanted to slug the jerk. Her fingers tightened on her glaive, ready to brain him for his insensitivity. He had asked for her opinion; he could have declined it politely. Ranma, though, continued on, oblivious to the almost encounter with the wrong end of the Silence Glaive. "Once you rampage through an area, you just need to leave enough mindless goons in the area to prevent anyone else from taking over. Smashing everything would result in too much random death. Besides, then there wouldn't be much fun in the fight with the Senshi. They'd be trying to simply hang on,
not attack us."

Hotaru nodded, schooling her face. "We've got to step up production of Brass Demons, then." Ranma nodded. "How are we going to do it? No offense, but with only a handful of mazoku, how can we get enough?" Ranma smiled playfully.
"You've got an idea?" she asked.

"I've got an idea. Dunno if it will work." Ranma said. "We take a demon and dunk it in the Twins Spring. If that works, we start making more twins springs and multiply them. We'd have plenty of them that way."

Hotaru's eyes widened as she thought of the geometric growth they'd have. Her campaign in Kazahkstan had used most of the Brass Demons they had at the time and were mostly tied up in the area. Nabiki's Nannichaun ants were numerous but vulnerable. Combine the numbers with power and...

"I think you might be on to something." Hotaru breathed.

"First things first, though. We've got to get the Senshi in power in Japan. I'm assigning the details of that to you, though don't'
think I'm not going to stick around and help. I'll bring Rouge and Nabiki as well, later. It wouldn't help for the Senshi to get lucky and kill one of my team now, would it? Those two will wait in reserve until the Senshi react."

"I'm all over it, Ranma." Hotaru said, snapping off a salute. She smiled wryly and relaxed. "I wonder how ironic the Senshi would find it if they knew we wanted them to build a Crystal Tokyo of a sort?"

"Ironic?" Ranma snorted. "They'd probably find it horrifying."

Setsuna and Usagi sat together, watching the news at Haruka and Michiru's house. The damage had been repaired, and they were holding a party to celebrate it. Ever since Mercury's new discovery about their magic, there was a new hope in the Senshi. Even if Usagi couldn't use her old attacks normally, she could now using the new method. Luna had said that was due to some kind of magical something or other that she had largely tuned out. Still, it gave them an advantage over the occasional demon attack.

Usagi and Setsuna were watching the news for a simple reason:
the rest of the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Hordes of demons had simply appeared out of nowhere and were ravaging vast stretches of the Earth. "I wish there were something we could do," Usagi said, plaintively, "but they're everywhere, even here in Japan."

Setsuna nodded, watching the TV. "Yes, my queen. Even if they were rebels agaisnt the true authority of House Serenity and the Moon Kingdom, to see the Earth overrun by demons is distressing."

"We need reinforcements. Good reinforcements." Ami said,
making a point she had made all week. "We can't rely on the Amazons to help. They're far too weak magically, and magic is the only thing that really helps. All they're good for is fighting that Ryouga guy. The Musk at least have a bit of magic in them,
but they can only assist us, not truly fight the things on their own. And the people of Phoenix Mountain, while more powerful and more numerous, aren't enough to even cover the Tokyo area. We can fight off the demons fair enough, but there's only nine of us, and I hesitate to say that we can take on the bosses of those things. We've tried it and got hammered before."

The other Senshi, having heard versions of this speech all week,
tuned it out. There wasn't anything they could do about it. Ami was the one with all the bright ideas. "If there were more of us,
great. But there aren't." Jupiter said.

Luna looked up. "More of you? Well.." Luna said, then shut up,
apparently realizing something.

Ami noticed it and bounded over to the black cat in a snap.
Scooping up the moon cat, she glared at Luna. "Tell us."

"It's quite dangerous, and led to all kinds of-"

"Tell us!" Ami yelled. Luna's fur was blasted back by the yell,
and she shuddered. Falling limp in Ami's hands, Luna explained.

"Back in the Silver Millennium, there was worry about what would happen if a Senshi were to die before a replacement was available. While Queen Serenity could appoint someone else in their place, they wouldn't have the training or experience of an established Senshi. Believing this to be an unacceptable risk in case of war, Her Majesty ordered her scientists to come up with a method of providing extra senshi should the need ever arise,
fully trained and with acceptable experience, on moment's notice."

Ami digested this, then looked at Luna again. "And what was this method?"

"I don't know." Luna answered. Ami only resisted the urge to strangle the cat by millimeters. All week she had been trying to come up with a solution to their problem and none had presented itself; now, when something useful was finally brought up, it was just a tantalizing hint and no more. Ami put Luna down and began to pace around.

"This method was implemented?" Ami said, thinking as she walked.

"Well," Luna said, a preamble to a ramble if Ami ever heard one.

"Yes or no." Ami snapped, still walking. The other Senshi were now paying complete attention to Mercury's tense behavior;
even hordes of demons sacking CNN headquarters was stale compared to this.

"Yes." Luna said.

"It was for instant replacement at any time." Ami said, not asking a question but rather just talking to herself. "So it wasn't just to have an understudy of sorts, they wouldn't have the experience mentioned. Was this a mechanical Senshi?" Ami asked, a smile lighting up her face at the absurd thought of a robot Sailor Moon, metal odangos dangling.

"I don't know." Luna said.

"Where was it located? The moon?" Mercury said.

"Maybe. As I said, I don't know..."

Ami stopped suddenly. "It would have been on Mercury." She nodded, now certain of it. "Mercury is a central location in the Solar System; most of the top scientists were there. And what better way to bury a top secret project than among all of the other research projects there? Mercury had endless deserted,
uninhabited land even then. No place was better for hiding things." She frowned. "But how would we find the place? Even if I'm right, that's still a lot of land." Ami now sat down on a barstool, assuming a classical thinker pose.

Makoto shrugged. "If this thing is a Senshi on ice, we should be able to locate it pretty easy. The magic would stand out if it still existed."

Ami thumped the palm of her hand on her forehead. "Ami no baka. Of course. Makoto, you and I will go to Mercury and find this thing, if it's there to be found. " Almost as an afterthought she turned to Usagi. "That OK, Princess?"

Usagi nodded. The two transformed and left, and a sudden silence descended on the room. All eyes swung back to the TV,
and the grim horror stories it reported.

Hotaru smiled as she walked through Tokyo. The city's mood was grim and scared, though many citizens, when safely inside,
were proud of their city so far. After all, unlike every other city around the globe, it had not descended into madness and chaos.
Unbeknownst to them, that was because Ranma and Hotaru had planned it that way, rather than any other reason. And several of the groups she did teleport here were specifically gunning for Nabiki's spy network. She was fairly sure she had punctured holes in it faster than that witch could fix them. She continued on, planning to meet her double agent in a nearby park.

Briefly she considered a jaunt over to the Outers' house again and this time burning it to the ground, but dismissed it. She was still weak from the sheer number of teleports they had been doing. Even with Ranma shadowing her movements, it didn't pay to buy trouble.

Her contact was waiting as she walked into the lengthening shadows of the park. "Ah, Ukyo, so good to see you." she said,

Ukyo didn't smile back. She still fancied herself Ranma's fiancee, Hotaru knew, but that didn't change her merely mortal nature. Of course, Ukyo knew that and schemed to become a mazoku herself. That made playing these games with her dangerous, not because of any threat from even an Ukyo turned mazoku, but rather from the danger Nabiki would pose if she caught wind of this. Just having the Senshi dealing with her was bad enough; Ukyo wanted Hotaru out of the way.

"Where's Ranma?" she asked, the same question she always opened with.

"He's around." Hotaru said, waving airily to show he was hiding offplane. "He'd rather be a surprise in any fight with the Senshi."

Ukyo waved to the air and blew a kiss. "We love you too,
Ranchan!" she said, then turned back to Hotaru. Hotaru noted the use of 'we' and wondered what Ukyo meant by it.

Maybe she was unstable? She ignored it; wasn't anything she could do about it.

"Have you passed on the knowledge I told you to?" Hotaru asked, wanting to confrim that this part of the plan was carried out.

"Yes. They think Ranma is going to launch a full invasion of Japan any day. They're going nuts and want me to find out where." Ukyo reported.

Hotaru chewed her lip for a second and pondered what misinformation to pass to the Senshi. "Tell them you know there's going to be a major push for Kyoto in three days."
Hotaru and Ranma would be sure to send a huge force to Kyoto to let the Senshi fight while they prepared for a raid on Tokyo itself. If they could crumble the government of Japan itself, then the Senshi and allies would undoubtedly take over that role, and L-sama's plan would be fulfilled.

"No problem. Just tell Ranma-honey he's got an okonomiyaki with his name on it waiting for him, OK?" Ukyo said, cheered.

"I'll do that." Hotaru said, with a slight smile of her own, as she faded into the shadows.

"So this is Mercury." Jupiter said, her voice sounding odd and dead on the lifeless, airless world. Save for the power of her Senshi magic, she would be as dead as this world was. The first thing she noticed, though, was why it was so scarred. "Damn,
someone worked this place over good."

That qualified for understatement of the year, so Sailor Mercury didn't directly comment on it. "It doesn't surprise me. Mercury was the innermost planet of the solar system and therefore the most central location. It was also the home of most of the Silver Millennium's greatest scientists and engineers, and it's the richest of the planets in terms of metals. That made it a natural place to store weapons and troops, ready to go off and die for the Moon Kingdom." She looked around the smashed, cratered landscape; bits and pieces of obviously military equipment were everywhere, the dead, still preserved (and well baked) remains of Silver Millennium soldiers scattered across the landscape. In the airless landscape of Mercury, they would remain unchanging for billions of years, most likely. "We must have hit the Dark Kingdom with everything we had." Mercury said, a slight smile of pride in her homeland of a past life creeping into her voice.

"I'll say." Jupiter said. The battlefield creeped her out, to be honest. "Have you got a lock on that energy reading?" she asked.

Mercury quickly turned from the battlefield to her computer.
She looked up. "It's about a third of the way around the world.
We'll have to teleport again." Jupiter nodded, and they vanished once again.

The sun was in a different place, and this area was obviously the remains of a city, even though not a single building remained standing. The sheer amount of rubble was mind boggling to the two of them, and even more bodies and equipment were buried here. "I thought we were the defenders of the Moon Kingdom."
Jupiter said, looking at the smashed vehicles and slagged remains of the city.

Mercury started picking through the rubble, heading for where the readings were coming from. Unstable beams and concrete supports fell slowly in the lesser gravity, letting her move with some assurance. "We were the Princess's guardians, Jupiter.
And the Outers dealt with extrasolar monsters. Besides, there's only nine of us; how are we supposed to hold off hordes of enemies?" she asked, picking up another beam.

"Isn't that what we're doing now?" Jupiter asked, following Mercury through the rubble.

Mercury let the beam she was lifting drop from nerveless fingers. "Of course! We don't need something to take out the top mazoku - well, actually, we do, but we also need raw numbers, too."

Jupiter looked quizzically at Mercury. "Well, yes, but we already know the Musk and the Phoenix and the Amazons can't handle even the lesser mazoku." she said, wondering why Mercury chose now to have a blinding flash of the obvious.

"But they wouldn't be able to stand up to the weak youma the Dark Kingdom used as foot troops either, would they?"
Mercury said, a hint of excitement in her voice.

"Well, no, they're about as strong as those demons the mazoku are using." Jupiter said, still not understanding where Mercury was going with this. "What's your point?"

Mercury smiled. "Look around you."

Jupiter made a show of looking around. "Yes. I see one very dead city, with thousands upon thousands of dead soldiers from the Silver Millenium killed by the Dark Kingdom. Only the senshi can take on bruisers like that."

"You don't see." Mercury said, now smirking. "They didn't die from the youma, or this city wouldn't be so smashed up. They died from the Generals, from the fleet of the Dark Kingdom,
and from Metallia." Mercury pointed to a dead soldier holding some kind of weapon. "Don't you see, Jupiter? They had weapons that could defeat the lesser youma - they died because WE failed them. The Senshi couldn't destroy the strong enemies for them."

Jupiter still saw a flaw in that. "But we don't have those kinds of powerful weapons."

Mercury picked up the dead Mercurian's weapon and looked at it. It was silvery and about two and a half feet long, with two hand grips and a trigger in front of the forward handgrip. There was a strap hanging from it to assist carrying it. Mercury was reminded a little of a rfile without a stock, except it felt so light,
like it was a toy. Intellectually, she knew it was the lighter gravity, but she couldn't help but feel it was a toy, even if it was apparently powerful enough to let normal humans fight youma on even grounds. She pointed it at the facade of a mostly destroyed building and squeezed the trigger. A burst of light shot almost instantaneously through the airless city, silently slaming into the reinforced concrete and causing it to crumble slightly. "We do now." Mercury told Jupiter over her shoulder,
walking towards where the reading was coming from. She slung her gun over her shoulder. Jupiter gave a brief look at the crumbled wall, then pried her own rifle out from under a broken slab of concrete and hurried after her friend.

It was several hours of picking their way through the concrete and steel junkyard that used to be a Mercurian city and arrived where the signal was. Or rather... "It's coming from underneath." Mercury said.

"Under?" Jupiter groaned. "I sure hope that building is as intact inside as it is out." Sure enough, the building they were next to was still fairly intact, even though the top however many floors had been blown off somehow and were mixed in with the other rubble a block north. There was even a large tracked thing that looked sort of like a tank, but had no turret next to it, and several other vehicles that looked nonmilitary. All were covered in a half foot of gray concrete dust. "If that's a tank that kills youma, we're finding a way to bring it to Japan." Jupiter said,
pointing to it. They had seen vehicles before, but most were crushed beyond any hope of recognition.

Dragging Jupiter behind her, Mercury entered the partially intact building and looked around. As a general rule there were less bodies and more intact things on this side of the town rather than the other; Mercury theorized that the battle must have therefore taken place mostly on the other side of the city.
That meant that whatever this project was, it was likely still intact. Suppressing a shudder, Mercury then realized that the reason this city had been so thoroughly fought over was probably the very thing they were looking for. If the Silver Millenium were to have had any hope, it was left in that room.
Serenity's troops had defended it to the very end, even after Serenity herself had given up on the Moon Kingdom. "Come on. There's got to be some stairs somewhere."

"Somewhere" was right off the wide main corridor and heading down an equally wide set of stairs. A stray memory of Mercury's resurfaced, remembering Mercury during the golden days of the Silver Millenium. All the buildings in Mercury extended deep underground so people could take shelter from the strong radiation of a solar flare. The wide staircases were so everyone could get under the surface quickly. And under the city... "We would have been able to get in anyhow. There are tunnels under the whole city. Maybe beyond." Mercury said,
trying to remember. They went down several flights of stairs,
perhaps four floors underground, before the signal the Mercury computer was tracking leveled off. "It's on this level."

When they found it, they couldn't find a way in. Giant steel doors held it shut, the doors loudly proclaiming that they were a part of the Undercity Sewage Control Plant System. Mercury sighed. That was one way to convince everyone not to poke around. Still, they had no idea how to open the huge doors.
Every other wall around the thing was thick concrete.

"How do we open this thing?" Mercury grumbled after an hour of fruitless searching. "There's no door controls or anything I can recognize."

Jupiter stood in front of the door and suddenly spread out her arms as if she were about to hug the door. "Open Sesame!" she yelled, then held her ridiculous pose for a few seconds. The two of them burst out laughing. Jupiter gave the door a few shots from her scavenged enrgy rifle, to no effect.

"Maybe we can shoot through the side wall." Mercury mused.
The two of them circled around to the side and opened fire on piece of graffiti on the wall. Chunks of concrete dust were blown out of the way, but they quickly saw that steel bars and wire mesh were set into the concrete, and the rifles weren't as good in breaking those up. It did, however, let them see into a room full of large, upright coffinlike tubes and computer screens.

"If that's processing sewage, Usagi is the poster child for Weight Watchers." Jupiter breathed. "This has to be what we're looking for."

"Or it's some other project," Mercury said, trying to keep Jupiter's hopes down, just in case they were wrong. "Besides,
we still need to get through this wall."

The two of them thought for a while before a small smile crept across Jupiter's face. "Hey, Ami."

Mercury didn't bother telling her not to use her name; no one was here to hear it anyhow. "Yes?"

Jupiter smiled more widely now. "Will that tank fit down the stairs?"

"Sure, why do you - ... oh NO." Mercury said.

It was big. It was gray and dirty, a big ugly wart on the surface of Mercury. It was an alien looking vehicle with two hatches in the top and a pair of big fat treads down below. It was, in Jupiter's estimation, quite cool. "I get to drive!" she said, this being the first exciting thing that had happened since they got on Mercury. She quickly clambered on top of the vehicle and popped open one of the hatches, then took a look around inside.

It was really cramped; a constellation of small screens surrounded one of the two seats, while a bunch of small switches and levers surrounded the other one. Squeezing through the mess of wires, conduits, and pipes running along the inside of the thick armor, Sailor Jupiter wormed around all of the equipment and settled into the lower, forward seat in the tank. The other hatch was right above her head. "Ami! Get in the hatch!" she yelled. She heard Mercury's scrambling over the dusty side of the tank and saw her legs descend into the cramped interior of the tank. Mercury got herself into the other seat and looked around.

"It's dark in here," she said, hitting random buttons and switches by her station. "Try to turn on the lights." One of the switches Mercury hit brought a bunch of screens online.Another caused the entire world to shakewith a sound like thunder. She couldn't see what happened when it fired, but apparently Jupiter could.

"Awesome!" she whooped, as debris rained down on the tank.
Mercury shut the hatch above her head. No sense letting any more of the dust in than necessary. Jupiter started fiddling with her controls, finally getting her screens to light up. Two side sticks and a third, smaller lever popped out from the sides of her seat.

"Those must be the controls." Mercury said unecessarily, as the tank's engine rumbled to life behind her. "Try to move forward."

Jupiter nodded and pushed the sticks forward, causing the engine to rev up, but they remained sitting still. "Maybe the third lever is for shifting gears?" she wondered, and slid it forward a notch. Then she shoved the two sidesticks forward again.

The tank's engine rumbled to powerful life, and then they suddenly pitched forward, as the thing backed up, running into the pile of debris behind them. "Go FORWARD!" Ami yelled over the cacaphonous din. Jupiter nodded again and pulled back on the sidesticks, then pushed the gear lever forward again. This time, the tank rumbled forward, and Jupiter smoothly guided it towards the door, not quite able to make the turn in time and taking the tank through part of the wall. The two senshi smashed through long dead office plants, desks, some sort of kiosk, and several walls before getting the tanks to the stairs.
"Go slowly." Mercury commanded, not wanting to send the tank flying down the stairs.

Creeping forward, Jupiter got the tank mostly onto the stairs when the tank began sliding, smahing the corners of every step and turning the stairs into a ramp. Turning as it slid, the two Senshi screamed in a panic as their vehicle slid crazily down the steps before slamming into the wall of one of the landings.
Jupiter automatically pulled back on both sidesticks,

"That was.. er.. let's... uh.." Mercury said, momentarily at a loss. "Well, I'd say let's go up, but we've kinda removed that option." The floor under them buckled slightly. "Uh.. floor it?"
Mercury said, just before the landing collapsed.

Dropping twenty feet straight down, only to land with a weighty crash at street level in the underground parkway, the two Senshi groaned and clutched their injured bodies. Mercury had whacked her head against one of the consoles, and Jupiter had smashed her knees and left elbow in the jarring landing. She grimaced and got the tank rolling again. "That lab you want to get in is to the right, Mercury?" she asked, pretty sure but slightly disoriented.

Mercury was disoriented too, but she wasn't about to admit it.
"Correct! Just smash through the wall." Jupiter's driving was a lot smoother; adrenaline was making her react quicker to the way the tank tended to lurch as it ran over things. Jupiter saw the wall in question and pushed the gear lever again, hoping that the gears were arranged like on an earthly vehicle. The tank started to reach higher speeds. "Brace yourself!" Mercury said,
just before impact.

WHAAAAAAM. There is an unmistakeable sound a heavy metal object makes as it smashes into a building. Anyone who has ever seen a wrecking ball in action knows this. To be in the wrecking ball is another thing entirely. Both Senshi were thrown forward by the impact, catching themselves only because they were prepared this time. Jupiter backed up a few meters, then ran into the wall again at low speed, knocking down the section of the wall they had mosty smashed with the first impact. Then she opened her hatch.

Mercury opened her own hatch, then looked at her fellow Senshi. "You look like a mess!" she laughed, pointing at Jupiter's bruised face.

 She then clutched her head; the sudden
motion having upset her injured head.

Jupiter laughed back at her. "I bet your face is even more of a
mess. I don't think either of us managed to look this bad even in
our nastiest fights."

"Memo to self. Install padding in the tank." Mercury said, then
lightly hopped down to the ground. She felt her head; then saw
the blood on her fingers. 'No wonder my head hurts.' she
thought. Turning to Jupiter, she elbowed her teammate. "Let's
see what we've dug up."

The two picked their way through the rubble that used to be a
wall and entered the chamber. Softly glowing pink tubes were
embedded in the wall to their left, a gentle light washing over
the room from their frosted surfaces. Scattered notebooks and
paper among the rubble told them that they had wiped out a
nest of red tape when they went through the wall. The rest of
the room was filled with silent machines standing sentry for all
these centuries over the secrets of this room.

Mercury picked up a random notebook which had been
dislodged by their arrival and began thumbing through it. Her
eyes widened. "What? What's in that?" Jupiter said, seeing
Mercury's eyes. If she hadn't turned to talk to Mercury, she
might have seen the lightly glowing eyes blinking to life behind

Mercury rapidly flicked her eyes across the pages, snapping
through section after section of handwritten notes too fast for
Jupiter to follow. Her breathing sped up as she realized the full
extent of what the Mercurian scientists had been planning. It
kept her mind completely on the enormity of what she had
found, and not the sounds of shifting rubble. "It's what they
were doing here. They weren't just designing some sort of
Senshi backups, they were designing- "

"Intruders!" a flat voice yelled, interrupting Mercury. "You are
not authorized! You will die!"

Ranma stood on the mountain peak overlooking the Jusendo
valley. It had previously been the second tallest such mountain;
after his battle with Saffron, however, it was now the king of
the valley of chaos magics, just as Ranma would be king of all
the chaos of this world. He had no rivals, as his mentor
Phibrizzo did; no one to question his view of the obligations of
a mazoku. To be a mazoku was to be born to chaos - his life
had shown that - and it was his duty to spread that chaos to
everyone. Lightning crashed around him as he overlooked the
valley, uncounted numbers of torches lighting the land on this
dismal, storm-threatened day.

"This is going to his head, isn't it?" Nabiki asked, sipping a cup
of tea by the Guide's hut. This was technically her turf, anyhow,
so she had an excuse for watching Ranma build the army he was
building for his raid on Japan.

Hotaru snorted. "I'm going to have to kick the shit out of him
in practice today."

"Are you sure you can do that?" Nabiki asked, wide eyed.
Generally, Ranma was unbeatable after a few rounds of fighting
with someone.

"I know what you're talking about. We couldn't go full out in a
fight anyhow, this planet couldn't take that kind of abuse."
Hotaru looked at her Glaive for a few moments while Nabiki let
the concept of that level of power soak in. "But I used to be a
pretty good fighter, too."

Nabiki blinked in confusion. "Weren't you some sickly little
girl?" Hotaru gave her a murderous glare. Nabiki grinned
weakly. "Eh heh.."

Hotaru's face went from anger to a sneer, as if Nabiki was a
bug not worth staining her shoes on. "Before that. I have my
memories of my previous life."

"Oh." Nabiki filed that away. She knew Hotaru was the
reincarnation of some magical warrior from the past, but didn't
know she knew everything from back then, either. They
returned to watching the endless lines of minor demons walking
into the Twins spring, over and over, until they formed a swarm
that stretched as far as the eye can see. They also watched
Ranma melodramatically survey the Jusendo Valley from his
perch on the mountain.

"Sometimes he can be such an overconfident prick. Sometimes I
just feel like slapping him." Hotaru said. "The rest of the time, I
remember why I'd follow him to the ends of the earth."

"Why? The power, the immortality? His good looks?" Nabiki
was rewarded with another murderous glare, which brought a
smirk from Nabiki this time. "Or the big fights?"

"I'd say the fights. Life around Ranma is a lot of things - dull is
not one of them." Hotaru said, smiling herself. She then turned
to Nabiki and changed her smile unpleasantly. "Ranma wants
you to accompany us on the raid."

Nabiki spit her tea out in surprise, hitting one of the demons
who swarmed over the place. It growled, until it saw who had
hit it. It then swiftly slunk away. "M-m-me? I'm not a fighter!"
Nabiki blurted. What the hell did Ranma want her barging into a
fight for?

Hotaru nodded. "Fighter or no, you're very tough, with all the
power Ranma has placed in you. He wants everything in this
raid. No sense in doing it halfassed."

"I hate fighting." Nabiki grumbled.

"What the Senshi do isn't fighting." Tarou said, swaggering as
he pushed his way through the crowd. "They wouldn't last one
second without their cheap-ass pansy magic." Hotaru slammed
her Glaive through his leg one handed, knocking him over.
"Damnit, bitch, that hurt!" he yelled, grabbing his leg. With the
pledge of immortality, the leg would regenerate, but that just
meant this sadist could just lop it off again. "What the hell is
your problem?"

"You don't watch your tongue." Hotaru said, then leaned over.
"Perhaps I should cut it off as well. Or didn't you remember
that I happen to have their 'cheap-ass pansy magic' as well?"

Tarou sat up and ran a hand through his hair. "Hey, it's all part
of my charm."

"What charm?" Nabiki asked.

"I like having him around. He reminds me that some people let
things go to their heads more than Ranma." Hotaru told her.
Tarou crossed his arms and sniffed haughtily. "I'm going to
practice with Ranma." she said, then teleported.

"She really is a Nazi in a leather skirt, Tarou, or at least acts
like one." Nabiki said. This wasn't the first time Tarou had
gotten smacked around by Hotaru.

"I don't see what femboy sees in her." Tarou grumbled.

"With that outfit, it's more a question of what he doesn't see."
Nabiki quipped. "You won't need to work with her much more
anyhow; once Ranma gets everything set up with the Senshi the
way he wants to, he'll just let you run your corner of the world.
Africa is far enough from Hotaru's sphere of influence."

Tarou stilled and looked off to the west. "You're right about
that. I can put up with anything - for a little while."

Mercury and Jupiter froze and turned slowly. Behind them,
rising up from its tube, was a familiar, hated face. "Saturn,"
Mercury whispered.

The face was the same, but the costume was different - not the
hateful black of the turncoat Sailor Saturn, but the white and
purple that was rightfully hers. This Saturn seemed off, though,
with a flat, emotionless expression. 'Of course,' Mercury
realized, 'this is the first time she's ever been aware!'

The strange Saturn moved forward, revealing mechanical joints.
"You are intruders here. Identify yourselves or be destroyed."

"It's some kind of robot," Mercury whispered to Jupiter, then
turned to the fake Saturn and raised her hands. "I am Sailor
Mercury. You should be able to verify that. This is Sailor

"Your ages are incorrect. You are probably lying," the robot
said, pausing for a moment. "Energy confirmed. Silver
Millenium magical signatures matching parameters of Sailor
Mercury and Jupiter."

And that's all I wrote. I've still got the notes on where I had
planned to go from there, though, so it's all good. It's just
that I've lost interest in the story... however, for all those
who liked it, I thank you.

- Comrade Taro, aka the "RedMenace"