Disclaimer; This fanfiction uses existing ideas, characters and or worlds, but is an independent work of art. I own nothing, hence the reason for publishing my writings here instead of in real books where I could make some money.
Outwardly, Tokyo had not changed much.
Advertising boards still blotted out large portions of the sky from the ground – only now they were holographic projections rather than giant television screens or wood with paper glued onto them.
The hustle and bustle of the street still offended the ears – but no longer the lungs or noses, most noise was produced by the impatient motorists trying to get those in front of them to hurry up.
Young and old alike could enjoy the clean air again, even in the middle of the city … all thanks to Wild Horse Inc. and their heroic effort to make this world a better place to live.
Koki Ranma stood in his office, looking out on the world he had helped create … a nostalgic gleam in his eyes.
A little over twenty years had passed since his company produced the Suit, the all-purpose protection for use in anything from space travels, uniforms and deep sea exploration to hazmat and radiation protection. Sure, the gaming company responsible for the original design in their most popular game put up a small stink about the similarities, but as it helped promote their products, and with Wild Horse Inc. promising to adapt those games to more formats, they ended their complaints quickly.
Behind Ranma, sitting on his desk, was a small mountain of paperwork and reports. Most notable was the document from the International Board of Health, detailing the revised predicted average life-span of those born within that year.
Over the twenty years since Wild Horse Inc. started branching into the field of medicine and food, the average life-expectancy had steadily risen from eighty years to the figures on Ranma's desk, stating that the new age would be nearly twice that, and with the common ailments associated with old age pushed back more than forty years.
Diseases that had been lethal most of the time, such as AIDS, HIV, Ebola, bird flu and countless others had been reduced to the threat level of the common cold, thanks to treatments developed by Ranma's company.
Ranma was pushing for the monitoring chip to become mandatory all over the world – either implanted into the skin or worn as a permanent accessory. It would monitor the health of the wearer and send an alarm to the nearest hospital if it detected something life-threatening, such as the beginnings of angina, or build-up of anti-bodies when there was no disease present. This device would cut response time down considerably for the emergency personnel, and would allow doctors to nip any potential illness in the bud.
The only reason it had not become internationally used, was that some governments, upset with Wild Horse Inc. for not supplying them with weapons of mass destructions to prepare for possible attacks from outside their countries, raised questions about whether or not those chips could be a threat to security, or be used to invade privacy.
Ranma had at the meeting this was brought up, tampered with his microphone so it loudly reverberated the private conversation held by the representative who brought it up through the man's watch, and used this as an argument that ANYTHING could become an invasion of privacy for those with enough imagination and technological know-how. It had not gone over as well as he had hoped and from that day, Ranma had not set foot in such a hearing again, relying more on hand-picked employees to relay his opinions. He would then watch the video recording of the hearing to stay updated.
Ranma's reverie was broken as the door to his office opened.
"Dad," said the young man that stepped through, the spitting image of his maternal grandfather at that age, not including the moustache. "Aunt Nabiki is waiting for you at the Northern Research Colony, you're already five minutes late!"
"Then I'd better hurry," Ranma sighed. "She's never liked waiting, and especially not lately."
Koki Soun nodded with a grin as his father stuffed some documents into a briefcase – well, more like swept the entire content of his desk into the small receptacle – and elegantly strode around the wooden desk.
Not long after Kasumi had announced that she was pregnant with Soun, BeeBee had announced that she was pregnant as well – Ranma had not wanted more of his children to be born out of wedlock, and had arranged to be married with all his seven girlfriends within a short time. It was the wedding of the decade, and the photos of it were released world wide.
Sweeping down the hallways, Ranma didn't need to look twice as a pregnant BeeBee caught up with them and kept their stride.
Over twenty years, Ranma had become a father ten times divided between his seven wives. BeeBee was carrying her second one – they had not wanted to find out the gender of the baby, wanting to figure out the old-fashioned way.
The Departure room was one of the most heavily guarded areas of the building – as were the other Rings scattered across the universe. But Ranma passed through security without pause, and activated the transportation device.
A few steps later, Ranma strode away from the Ring on red, dusty ground.
Mars hadn't changed much since he was there last a month earlier. The only difference was that the storage building had been expanded on, and the wheel tracks were more pronounced.
Tall walls rose around the main part of the colony, and turrets of automated defences perched atop the wall. Unfortunately, such defensive measures were necessary, and the range of each turret was to the end of the colony land. Shields would activate in a dome over the entire colony in case of an attack, and the farmers around the Research facility would seek shelter in the facility behind the walls.
"You're late," accused the stern voice of Tendo Nabiki.
Turning to the sound, Ranma was confronted with another pregnant woman, tapping her left foot impatiently, waiting for an apology. Nabiki had never married, and likely never would – there were too many gold-digging men out there for her to be sure that whomever she chose wasn't trying to get his hands on the tidy little fortune she had saved up by not paying rent or necessities, or trying to get to the top of the industry through her business connections.
That wasn't to say she hadn't dated anyone – but it was because of those cases that she discovered how lonely her job would make her.
For the past three years, Nabiki had propositioned Ranma about becoming the father of her child – he was the only one she could trust not to use such an advantage against her – well, that and he had excellent genes.
Ranma had turned her down each time, even when she resorted to threats, bribes or seduction.
The breaking point had been when the resourceful Tendo woman had sought out her elder sister, and suggested her proposition to her. Kasumi thought it was an excellent idea, as her sister wouldn't be as lonely any more and it would tie the family together more … some of the younger children were still under the illusion that Aunt Nabiki was the same kind of Aunt the other ones were, since she lived with them. And after getting a baby with him, she almost would be.
After the suggestion had been agreed to by Ranma's wives, he had little choice but to comply, which resulted in Nabiki's current condition – twins. He hadn't liked doing the deed with Nabiki, even if his body enjoyed it, and he swore never to have such relations with anyone but his wives.
"I'm sorry," Ranma surrendered. "I was lost in thought after our latest medical report. Things are steadily improving …"
"You're not old enough to start letting your mind wander," Nabiki insisted crossly, an emotion that quickly switched off as soon as BeeBee came into view.
After Nabiki gave Ranma instruction about where he was needed, the two pregnant women went off to rest their ankles and talk about things – Ranma had learned long ago that sitting in on a gossip session between pregnant women was not a pleasant ordeal, so he was glad he had business to attend to.
Mars was the greatest success of Wild Horse Inc.
When the Suit was a viable protection for the harsh climate on the life-less planet, Ranma called in a favour from the Kryyn, and had them place three Rings on the fourth planet from the sun. One Ring close to each pole and one along the equator. Several satellites had also been deposited in orbit around the planet, bouncing a one-way shield between one another to trap as much oxygen inside as possible, and acting as an artificial greenhouse effect.
The polar ice had been covered in black algae, and other very dark plants – including black roses curtesy of Kuno Kodachi, who had joined Wild Horse Inc. shortly after Ranma's wedding, oddly enough sane enough to realise she could never have him. One Erwin Talon would also join the company a few years later when his working would not be considered child labour … for one reason or another, Ranma had made an impression on him – Kodachi and Erwin got along splendidly.
An excavation team had dug trenches leading away from the poles, and into the natural canals, gorges and depressions already carved into the surface.
The darkness of the flora, which thrived in Mars' atmosphere as long as they weren't torn from their resting place by strong winds, absorbed heat from the sun and helped melt the ice. The water not only nourished the plantlife, but also started flowing along the canals, allowing flora to spread across the planet. This in turn, over a period of five years, made the atmosphere breathable, and the climate more tolerable, though storms still occurred regularly and with more ferocity than on Earth.
Ranma still remembered how he announced to the world that Mars was now ready for colonization …
He had, while still wearing his Suit, walked into the valley where one of the Viking crafts had landed, stopped in front of the mounted camera, which had slowly followed his process until he stood still for about twenty minutes, and held up his company logo, with the message "We came here first" followed by the removal of his helmet.
When he was sure they had been shocked enough, Ranma held up a second sign telling them to recheck their atmospheric readings to verify that this was not a faked transmission.
In five years, and for less than a million yen, Ranma had done something that no government on Earth had managed to even conceive of being possible in less than several decades of hard work and trillions of dollars spent on materials, training and wages.
For almost a year later, Ranma's face was plastered across the news in some way or another, with the moniker of "First Martian Colonist" attached to his name.
Ranma was personally sued by a group of people who had bought property on Mars, for setting up colonies on their land – Ranma won the lawsuit, because the judge decided that as no one had been on the planet to claim it prior to Ranma's company, no other company had any right to sell land on it, and the lawsuit was turned to the online realtors who had sold the land instead.
The UN reluctantly agreed that as Ranma's company was the first ones to put any claim on the planet, he would be the one to decide what to do with it. Out of generosity, Ranma claimed three hundred thousand square kilometres around each Research colony, and allowed the UN to distribute the rest of the planet among the countries of Earth. This almost resulted in World War Three, as the maps used to divide the land were obsolete and had not accounted for the melted water, meaning some countries felt snubbed that large areas of their land was flooded – they had tried to muscle in on their neighbours who did not like this.
Ranma had to step in and threaten to take away their only means of getting to Mars without spending billions of dollars per dozen colonists and several years of preparation, construction and travel.
Shortly after the world was made aware of the terraforming efforts made by Wild Horse Inc. there was an attempted kidnapping of Kasumi and Soun, who had been visiting Soun the elder.
Once Ranma found out, the kidnappers had barely survived the resulting explosion of anger. They had crashed through the doors of the nearest police station, confessing wildly to all sorts of crimes, as long as they made sure they were safe from that animal.
No one attempted to use physical force against Ranma's loved ones again.
Shaking his head of his darkening thoughts, Ranma pushed open the door of the Soil Research Department.
The three Research Colonies specialised on different areas – the Northern Colony focused on farming, environment and such – the Central Colony focused on commercial products, such as games, comfort products and transportation – the Southern Colony focused on weapons and exploration.
The Northern Colony was responsible for the production and improvements to the Fast Food chain run by the company, aptly named "Fast & Healthy" – it had been proven time ans again that anything served from this restaurant chain was not only healthy, but also very good tasty – a combination that was hard to come by.
The Central Colony had spat out many things that twenty years after the Suit was considered household names.
The Spring Car, which was a less advanced version of Ranma's car, meaning it only had the driving mechanisms and comfort additions, but no flying, diving or weapons attachments … Ranma didn't want people to take to the air at the first convenience, because that would drastically increase the number of accidents in vehicles, and equipping everyone with weapons was just begging for a massacre if a traffic jam occurred.
Though, as it was clean, efficient and silent, the Spring Car, once it had an appearance alteration from the large blocky design of Ranma's car to resemble more contemporary cars were sold so fast that to the day, Wild Horse Inc. had hundreds more on backorder when they produced almost a thousand a day, six days a week, three weeks a month – on average.
The console games produced by Wild Horse Inc. also came from the Central Colony, and were among the highest sold games in modern times. Voted most popular console five years in a row, they were capable of creating very life-like artificial environments in the mind of the user, or project very realistic targets in the real world.
Because of the hazard risks of the projected games, none of them would feature mutants, monsters or terrorists of any kind, but were saved for the stationary "VR" console. This was what made the portable console very popular among families with young children – the games aimed at this group were mostly learning games, or "hide and seek" with cute creatures.
Separate versions had been made for the use of training.
A Martial Arts training projection game would project a Martial Arts Instructor – bearing an eery resemblance to Ranma – who would go through kata, and register whether or not the gamer followed those instructions correctly. Appropriate discipline was dispenced if the gamer was unable to perform correctly, which meant the less serious gamers would quit after the first few lessons unless they were very serious and dedicated. Granted, the Martial Arts training games did not exceed a certain point, and recommended to locate the nearest dojo of the style to verify the teachings and skill level.
A Spec-Op "VR" console game would simulate a variety of missions, weapons and complications ranging from extra security to traitors. Similarly, the Aviation version would simulate various engine troubles that needed to be compensated for in order to get a successful landing.
After the five years of awards for these games, other gaming companies did their best to compete by making new consoles with similar features – the only differences were lesser quality of graphics, clumsier appearance and being reliant on batteries or chargers.
The Southern Colony were looking for ways to improve the Suit and existing Ki and Chi Cannons, and were in the process of creating space craft capable of traversing solar systems in a matter of days rather than months or years. The engine was a larger Ki Booster similar to the one in Ranma's car, and its size was large enough that, no matter where one was near the Southern Colony, its growing outline would be visible on the horizon.
The satellites planned for the yet-to-come Moon Prison Colony would be produced in the Southern Research Colony.
Entering the corridor to the many research rooms of the Soil department, Ranma was nearly run down by a pink-haired young woman he knew very well.
"Rei, what have I told you about running over people?" Ranma scolded in a mock upset tone.
"Sorry, Daddy," the woman apologised sheepishly. She had inherited her mother's figure, but thankfully not her claws, wings and talons in human form – and her personality was bubbly at most times, which made it very difficult for most scientists to take her serious, even if she had gotten doctor degrees in Science, Chemistry, Metallurgy, Robotics, Physical Education and Physics by the time she was eighteen – thanks to tutoring by Ranma, BeeBee, Brianna, Gina, Lydia and Sheila since she was old enough to understand them, though Lydia and Sheila had focused more on the Physical Education than anything else.
She now worked as the lead scientist in the Soil Research Department, though she visited the other departments on Mars to offer suggestions and help. Her younger brother had gotten similar degrees, but settled for a less exciting job in Accounting at his Dad's office.
Shaking his head in humour, Ranma gave his first-born a hug.
"It's nice to see you again," he added. "It's been much too long."
"Daaad, I came home to visit two weeks ago," Rei mock whinged. "I spent more time away at a time when I went to College."
"I know, but parents always miss their children when they aren't home," Ranma lectured. "So, what was the horribly important discovery you made?"
The bubbly pink-haired woman grabbed onto her father's arm and almost pulled him along so he looked like a streamer in the wind.
Rei had her very own office in which to do experiments with the soil, and this was their destination.
Despite what people thought or assumed, Ranma did not favour his daughter over his other employees – she had shown her worthiness as lead scientist through her initiative in searching the soil for minerals not found on Earth, and she was able to get the others to work harder than they normally would have bothered to, keeping them from getting lax in their research.
On the middle of the table in the centre of the room, a card deck-sized piece of metal rested.
"This is it!" she announced triumphantly.
Ranma nudged the metal brick with his finger and then picked it up. It was light and strong. It had a reddish colour, and was smooth to the touch.
Turning it around, examining it, Ranma came to the conclusion that this was a metal alloy he hadn't seen before.
"What is it?" Ranma asked, returning the block to his daughter.
"It is an alloy made from three different minerals found exclusively on this planet," Rei explained excitedly. "It's tougher than duralumin, lighter than aluminium and it allows better conductivity for ki and chi tech without bleeding anything off!"
"Which improves the efficiency of our devices," Ranma concluded.
"And it would make it possible to make our Suits in this metal instead of plastic, thus conserving oil and making them naturally more resilient."
"Excellent work," Ranma complimented. "Remind me to add a small bonus to your team's paycheck at the end of the year."
"Of course," Rei agreed.
This was the reason so many scientists were crawling out of the woodworks to get a job at Wild Horse Inc. and why they quickly became so loyal to him – Ranma rewarded excellence, and made sure to only verbally reprimand and encourage a failing team as a whole instead of singling out only one individual. He was tough, but fair, and he wasn't like most Owners or Bosses in that he had no idea what he was talking about – though he got them after having started his company, Ranma had been awarded doctor degrees in several fields, including Robotics, Engineering, Quantum Physics, Mechanics and Metallurgy.
As Ranma went over the plans for applications of the new alloy, which had apparently been made from minerals that were found on the surface rather than underground, he couldn't help but think that even if it was far into the future and he was in excellent health, he would be leaving the children he had raised and bore in his own black paws in a better world than he was born into.
That was the most any father could hope to achieve as their undying legacy.
Author's Notes: I'm actually very irate at the moment. Not long after posting the previous chapter, I had finished the outlines for the Epilogue of this story, the next chapter for CoP and was beginning the next one for WR, when the power went out. Okay, no biggie, I turned the computer back on when the power returned and was about to continue my writing when I discovered a problem … nothing had been saved, even though I repeatedly did so – in fact, I make it a point to save after the end of each sentence or if I look away from the screen for a little while. As it turns out, there was a problem with something called the PRO11.MSI, which was needed to "convert" the files into text … without it, the additional files I had saved the text on would only show a blank page. I went about fixing the problem, and when I did … once again it showed me a blank page instead of the text I had spent days writing (combined, over ten pages of text) and was actually satisfied with how turned out. Thus the reason I am irate. I had to rewrite everything from scratch when I didn't remember half of what I'd written!
And here it is, the last chapter of The Black Paw – a little shorter than I thought it would be, but hopefully acceptable. I will now and again look into rereading the story and post corrected versions. When this happens, I will post a message in my profile.