Title: The Change of Time
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: None of the characters and properties of Sailor Moon and Ranma ½ belong to me. The idea for this plot is also not mine; it was borrowed off of Nighthawk
A.N.: Wow. I was not planning for it to take so long to get this chapter up, but I was bowled over by Real Life. I unexpectedly had troubles with my registration into college, and my computer threw a tantrum on me. Bleh. But things are looking up now, as long as I can survive the boredom of having chemistry and biology right after the other. Oh, by the way, I always follow the manga version of BSSM, so...just to clear things up.
The Gate of Time existed outside of Time's influence. Despite the name, it wasn't truly a gate, more like a doorway, albeit a large and ornate one; the doorway could lead to any point in time, to any place in the world. Time travelers needed a special key, programmed by the recognized Guardian of the Gate, to be able to go where they wished, and the Guardian had to program the key to lead to a specific place.
When the Gate was not ordered where to go, it simply led to the entirety of the Time Stream, instead of a specific point. The Time Stream, all of it put together, was exactly what its name implied: a moving, writing mass of threads that wove in and out of each other, coming together, separating, and even splitting or shredding at some points.
At least, that was how it appeared to the appointed Guardian.
Travelers did not see the Stream, for they did not have the blood of Chronos flowing through their veins, and only saw a foggy darkness. Which was a good thing; if, by some miracle, the traveler managed to get by the Guardian, they would step unknowingly into their own doom, for the Stream did not take kindly to unsanctioned intrusion.
Thus, the Guardian of the Gate was more than a little shocked to see the ripple of change that befell the Stream. The change began from the very depths of the Stream, far beyond even where her blessed eyes could see.
Well, that was no particular obstacle in itself.
Swinging her Garnet Rod into both hands, Sailor Pluto touched her staff to the doorway - and concentrated.
On command, the Stream began to move.
Or, to be more precise, the part of the Stream she could see was moving, almost like rewinding a video.
Sailor Pluto sent another mental command humming through the Rod and into the Gate; in response, the 'rewinding' slowed, and then stopped at the catalyst point of the change.
It took a moment for what she was seeing to sink in.
Her heart pounding, Sailor Pluto commanded the Stream to 'fast-forward,' as it were, to see the scope of the change. The Stream moved, showing its Guardian that the initially small ripple had grown into a tidal wave. One change had caused a catastrophic domino effect, and nothing was spared. She kept the Stream moving, until she was at the point where Crystal Tokyo should have been - and in place, there was a crumbling ruin heavy with the stench of death and evil.
"By the gods," Sailor Pluto breathed, and went back again to see exactly what the change had been.
Peering into the Stream, it only took her a minute to read the signs. Some misbegotten fool of a human had gone into the past and changed it!
Despite misconceptions, time travel was possible without accessing the Gate, though so near impossible to accomplish that it was not common knowledge. The Dark Moon family had bypassed the Gate, ripping a hole into the past with their deadly combination of science and dark magic.
It seemed that this person had done something similar, though there was no taint of dark magic in the exit point. Sailor Pluto zoomed in closer to the change, to pinpoint the exact action that had caused all of this trouble.
Her eyes widened.
The fool had intended good! He had gone into the past with the intention to assassinate Beryl before her joining with Metallia, no doubt to spare the destruction of the Silver Alliance and the Moon Kingdom. But, as the old saying went, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.
Yes, Beryl had died before Metallia could take her as an avatar. Yes, Metallia had been unable to attack the Moon Kingdom for years yet. But without an avatar to spread her darkness subtly, Metallia had resorted to brutality, turning scores of people into youma, that, in turn, drained dozens of villages and cities within hours.
Then, Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion had proceeded to make their love known. The results had been disastrous. Factions had developed all over the Kingdom, some planets supporting the obvious love between the young couple, and others scoffing at the thought of barbaric Earth joining the Silver Alliance. Conflict ran amok, unchecked, even as Earth slowly fell to the youma army; indeed, the people opposing the union of Serenity and Endymion used the descent of Earth to push their cause. Earth was not even powerful enough to defend its own borders, how could an Earthling become their King?
Eventually, the strife became so bad that the Alliance fell apart. The planets demanded the return of their Senshi, deciding that they could not trust the minds of their princesses to remain uncorrupted by the Earthling barbarians that the Moon so openly welcomed. Thus, the Inners, sworn protectors of the Princess, were forced back to the planets of their birth, separated from each other and their charge.
And finally, around five years after Beryl's death, Metallia's youma had drained all of the Earthlings that had not already fled to the Moon's sanctuary. Their power was sufficient enough to release their mistress, who emerged from the Negaverse in her own form, no shadow, just as powerful as ever before, terrible and vengeful. From Earth, she launched a surprise attack on the Moon, killing Queen Serenity personally before the queen could make use of the Ginzuishou. Princess Serenity fell easily, her only protection coming from her beloved and his Kings, all of whom also fell to the might of Metallia; from the Moon, she moved on to each of the planets, crushing their futile resistance with her ancient powers.
Metallia's return had taken five years.
Her destruction of the Silver Millennium hadn't even taken five hours.
The next few millennia were filled with guerilla wars, one stubborn pocket of resistence that persisted to fight against Metallia's empire despite all odds. Centuries passed, and the resistance remained, though whittled down through the ages, until there was success.
That one bright, shining day, around the same time as when the Senshi would have defeated Galaxia in the unchanged world, when an assassin managed to do the impossible.
He killed Metallia.
Though her physical form had made her vulnerable to death caused by wounds, her powers had made it impossible for anyone to catch her off guard. Until she was betrayed by one of her most trusted Generals - a spy, raised from childhood for the sole task of assassinating the evil entity, who posed and labored sincerely under Metallia for years. He had done all that she had asked of him with no remorse, with no tricks to save the innocents he had been ordered to eliminate.
That, perhaps, had been the reason for his success.
Metallia would have known, had he tried such a trickery. But he hadn't, and she, who had always faced enemies who were epitomes of goodness, had never expected such a man of grey. Metallia had only known foes who had been just as white as she had been black, and could not fathom a man who was perfectly willing to kill countless of innocents just to accomplish one task of killing her. In her experience, "Good" did not sacrifice children and women for the world - "Good" did foolish things, such as surrendering when a hostage was taken. "Good" did not believe that the end justified the means.
Except...in a world where darkness had triumphed for centuries, humans, as all humans tend to do, had adapted. That concept of good, acting on such an ideal, was as foreign to them as it was to Metallia. Over the course of the centuries, only one goal had survived to be passed on: to kill the Metallia-bitch. The resistance had seen her evil, seen her actions against humanity, and had recorded it for their followers in blood. The blood had been read, understood, and it had come to a point where everything and everyone was expendable for the cause.
A mirror of the past, to right wrongs that they hadn't even known were wrong. And yet, though the future looked brighter without the presence of Metallia, there was still the matter of her servants. And it would take centuries more to forget the blood and the tears of the resistance, to remember in their hearts the pure goodness of their ancestors.
And so it would continue, forever, if unchecked.
But Sailor Pluto had no intentions of letting it go unchecked, unchanged. Some fool, well meaning though he had been, had mucked in the way of things. It was her duty to counteract his ripple of change with her own.
The rules imposed on her stated that she could never travel through time herself, and so she could not simply go to the past and eliminate the man.
But that did not mean she couldn't send someone else.
It did not take her long to decide who it would be. The selections were pathetic, to be truthful, and she really hadn't had much choice. Everyone was tainted by darkness in some way, in this changed world; dark magic, dark experiences, dark thoughts, dark souls - these people experienced them all. At least the one she had chosen was powerful enough, tainted by all of the above though he was, and she was assured of which side he stood on the cause.
After all, he had been the one to kill Metallia.
The second problem she encountered was on how to inform him of the matter at hand.
Sailor Pluto could not go to him - the moment she stepped into that world, she would be contaminated by the change. Her memories of the other world had been unchanged only by her place outside of space and time, but that protection would not extend if she rejoined the real world. Her memories would be displaced by the memories of a Sailor Pluto that had watched the entire ordeal without any idea that a change had taken place, and that simply would not do.
So, she would have to bring him to the Gate.
From the belt looped around her waist, Sailor Pluto selected a single key. With her will, and the powers of Chronos in her veins, she programmed it for a specific purpose. At her mental command, the Gate opened a portal to just after Metallia's death, when the assassin/spy was making his way out of the Complex, and she tossed the key in for him to stumble upon.
Then, she waited for natural curiosity to take its course.
Pluto knew that the man she had chosen was a cautious man, who would never directly touch any suspicious item. And anything inside Metallia's Complex was considered suspicious. But the key had been programmed to activate on contact, any kind of contact, and bring along whatever was attached.
Of course, she had not expected the man to step on the key, slip, and send up sprawled on the ground.
He immediately flipped to his feet, and there was a momentary impasse where they both stared at each other, wide-eyed. She, at his unexpected clumsiness, and he, at, well, at everything in general.
"Where am I?" he asked finally, cautiously, but with the air of a man who knew that he could not be beaten. "And who the hell are you?"
Sailor Pluto smiled at his arrogance; he had been a high powered General for a very long time, and the arrogant demeanor had been expected of him. Not that he'd been particularly fighting against gaining that personality trait.
"I need your help, Ranma," she said simply.
"Personally, I don't understand what the big deal is," Ranma said casually. "Or what this has to do with me."
The woman who had brought him to his vast plane of emptiness sighed in frustration, "I told you, if you stop the - "
"Yeah, yeah," he cut her off without a second thought. For a moment, it looked like she would take a swing at him with her staff, but she seemed to think better of it. "If I stop the guy from killing the girl, my life would be better, blah, blah, blah. But why should I trust anything you say?"
She floundered, "What?"
"Why should I believe that you're telling the truth?" Ranma repeated. "For all I know, you could be lying and if I stopped the assassination, everything would be worse. Maybe I wouldn't even be born."
It was a large possibility. His parents had met through the resistance; if the world was supposed to be a paradise (at least, compared to the one he had known), how would they meet? How would he be born?
The skin between her brows puckered as a troubled look crossed her exotic features, "No, that won't happen. I can make sure that you're born."
Ranma narrowed his eyes.
"Even if I am born, I won't be the same," he told her flatly. "I could turn out some weakling coward."
Perhaps it was selfish, but to change the world from the past would delete everything he had done. His entire life had been dedicated to killing Metallia; all the years of training, of pretending, of sacrificing innocents for the cause...all of it would have been a waste. His life, the cause, all of it...worth nothing, if this was done.
The woman remained silent.
"What, nothing to say, Senshi?" Ranma asked sarcasitcally.
He smirked, "I was one of Metallia's top Generals. Unlike the general public, I had access to the uncensored history books. I'm sure they were biased, as most history books are, but they were very informative. Of course, they weren't so detailed that I know which one you are. One of the Outer Senshi, yeah?"
"Pluto," she said finally. "I am Sailor Pluto, Guardian of the Time Gate."
"Right. Well, okay, Sailor Pluto, tell me why I should go on a mission that would make everything I worked for meaningless," Ranma smiled darkly.
Her lips thinned, and Pluto slammed her staff on the floor in obvious anger, "You fool! You would condemn the entire world to this hell because it gives your life meaning?"
Well, when she put it like that...
Ranma crossed his arms, "Fine. Give me one good reason."
"You'd save billions of people thousands of years of hell," Sailor Pluto said simply.
He made a noise of disgust. Nobility. It was a concept foreign to him, because of the very world he lived in.
...and perhaps that was a good reason to accept.
"So, I just stop the guy, right? And then what do I do? Hang around in the past?" Ranma asked.
"No, of course not," Sailor Pluto smiled, relieved. "The time key I will give you will also let you come back. And once you re-enter the world in your time, your memories will be rewritten to fit with the life you would have lived."
"So I won't even remember saving the world, and twice, to boot," he said dryly. "Well, that's awesome. Gotta be some kind of record. Well, what're you waiting for, lady? Get on with it."
She shot him an offended look at being called 'lady,' but nonetheless reprogrammed the key Ranma had tripped on. This time, it was a two-way link, but, she warned him, it only worked once.
"One way back, and one way forward," Pluto said gravely. "Make sure you've put everything right before coming back."
Impatiently, Ranma nodded and gestured for the key. Scowling slightly in annoyance at his flippant attitude, Sailor Pluto tossed him the silver key, and took a small step to the side. He walked up to the Gate, eyed it, then the key in his hand, for a brief moment; then, he inserted the key into doorway.
Pluto covered her eyes as a brilliant light shone from the Time Gate, and, when she lowered it, Ranma was gone.
"Good luck, traveler," she whispered into the abyss.
In a flash of light, Ranma appeared about thirty feet above a small forest.
Gravity took over, and he fell like a rock - until he reached the trees. Twigs snapped at his clothes, at his skin; he ignored these in favor of a solid branch, grabbing onto the first one he saw. The skin of his palms scraped painfully against the bark as he took hold, and his momentum ripped the branch out of his grasp, but the action had slowed his fall. He hit the next branch feet-first, and grunted at the impact that jolted through him.
Stupid Senshi, not warning him that he would appear in the ai - "Shit!"
Ranma flailed his arms in an attempt to keep his balance, as his feet slipped on the generous amount of moss that had taken over the tree. It was futile, and he was falling again, bigger twigs slapping his face and arms, leaving welts and one pissed off Ranma.
"That is IT!"
His eyes began to glow an unholy black, and his descent slowed, then stopped alltogether. Ranma hovered there for a moment, only three feet from the ground, where he would have hit very hard and very painfully had he not stopped his fall.
A terrified, soul-wrenching scream pierced the air.
Eyes still glowing black, Ranma's head snapped around as he pinpointed the source of the scream; a ripple of air passed over his form, and he disappeared.
The shadow that was Metallia seemed to blur foward and burst through the screaming man, who did not stop screaming. She writhed and rolled all around him, inside him, changing his form from the inside out, burning away his innate human nature and replacing it with her Negaverse essence.
Soon, the screams turned into a screeching roar, and Metallia moved back to take in her creature. It still had the basic shape of a man, with the head, torso, and limbs in the proper place; but its skin was a leathery black, eyes an eery yellow. Its hands and feet ended in vicious claws strong enough to rip through magically-enhanced stone.
Welcome, my slave, Metallia hissed.
The youma that had been a well-meaning man screeched again, bowing as best as it could; its mouth opened enough to display sharp, carnivorous teeth, and a forked tongue flickered out, tasting, not air, but magic. With a snuffling roar, it whirled around to glare balefully at the shadows of a tree.
Metallia hissed, Show yourself.
The air rippled, and a man appeared, dressed in a black army uniform lined with silver piping that identified him as a ranking General. He was tall, handsome by human standards, long black hair tied back into a ponytail, blue-grey eyes taking in Beryl's body, the youma, and the shadow-Metallia.
A grim sort of smile passed over his face briefly.
Who are you? Metallia demanded. He was an Earthling, to be sure - his aura told him so. But the magic he used was not the Earth magic that only a select few on the planet could access. The magic he used was as Dark as she was. Who do you serve?
To her surprise, he knelt on one knee, bowing his head, one hand fisted over his heart, the other sweeping out to the side. "My name is Ranma, my Empress. And I serve you."