Third Labor, chapter 21 "Meanwhile Back At The Ranch"
OR: "Catgirls just wanna have fun!"

"Too much of a good thing... can be wonderful." - Mae West

by metroanime@mindspring.com
various character/ideas by other authors, mainly White Pheonix

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Jared ascertained that the scroll he'd gotten from Ranma was in place, that all that Nabiki had stolen was four of those Rafael-built psuedo-pokeballs, and he was currently being attacked by Ken Nakajima from "You're Under Arrest" - which didn't make any sense as this timeline had scanned on his entry as one where "Ranma 1/2" and "Akumakun" were the only anime elements in the mix.

Jared wasn't sure what had caused this. His presence, as Yggdrasil based god of crossovers? Grey's attempts to get himself (herself?) out of the timeline? Had the Knights Of The True Continuua, in their efforts to manipulate their own timeline and repeal Prohibition on that reality? Or was it something else?

Officer Ken (the White Hawk) Nakajima was rather annoyed that his opponent not only hadn't surrendered, but was dodging him as if he were a child. Going so far as to check his pockets, comb his hair, check several spheres at his belt, then go through a ludicrous number of items somehow stowed in a fanny pack. Bad enough for this to happen. In front of Miyuki?! Errr. Officer Kobayukawa, that is.

Soun Tendo had thrown himself into the fray, his old pal Genma tagging a moment behind. Then he'd noticed Akane fainted, with the groom taking her off to the side. The marriage had already occurred? And he'd missed it? The resulting flood of tears transformed Genma from Town Drunk to Mutant Rat (bald panda).

As with the LAST time (immediately after Ranma's horse had splashed him), Genma immediately was designated a Free Beating Zone by ALL sides. During the horse-piss incident, this had resulted in a brief chase sequence, followed by him finding and dousing himself with a cup of hot coffee. There was no sign of such available, so Genma the bald panda was the center of a lot of attempted pummellings.

A giant panda's claws could rip through human flesh rather handily, and when Genma did so, he discovered that it *was* possible for the beatings to get much much worse. On seeing a little blue haired girl go down with a ragged wound, even the various villains and the rest of the sherriff's posse put aside their differences to pound the "Rat King".

"Akane" recovering from her swoon, saw the blue haired girl lying on the ground, shrieked, and ran to her side. She really hadn't intended to use THAT wording of a Cure Serious Wounds spell, she was just kind of out of sorts. Being newly married and all.
"By the love that is intended,
let this wound be quickly mended,
thy flesh reknit, restore, rebind,
be healed, dear one, in heart and mind."

Ami heard the wording, felt her "sucking chest wound" fade to "sore and bruised", looked up to see her Shinji still locked in the body of some sixteen year old girl, and latched on in a crying hug attack.

Soun switched from Wail #412 "My Baby Girl Got Married And I Missed It" to Wail #413 "My Baby Girl Is Cheating On Her Husband With Another Girl!" without missing a beat. Up until someone named Dakota used her Martial Arts Barmaid technique of "Dirty Sidewinder Sneaking Sucker Punch" and flattened him.

Makoto Kino made it a group hug by hugging her "wife" and her friend, after all there were villains with guns around and she had to keep up appearances. Right?

Naoko Takeuchi STARED and tried to remember all this. This was crazy enough to appeal to a lot of different people, and love triangles were always good material. Though the Mutant Rat youma looked kind of silly, having him beaten into the ground by a bunch of teenaged girls would certainly go over well with her usual audience (teenaged girls, of course.)

Michie Tomizawa spared a grateful look towards the person who was liberating her from the railroad tracks and stopped to STARE. Rei Hino stopped to see who she was rescuing, and also began staring.

Kotono Mitsuishi was freed, nodded her head in gratitude, then STARED as it became obvious who that girl styling herself "Serenity" was.

"SOUL FIST!" Morrigan Aenslad saw the group hug developing, gave a wistful smile, then slammed into California with her newest attack. "Behold, mortal! The benefits of working with the forces of the Silver Millenium and tapping into positive emotional manna! BEAUTIFUL CHEESECAKE POSE!"

California, the reviving Soun, Ryouga (still wandering through the battle without having been touched yet), and three male members of the posse collapsed with major nosebleeds.

"Baka hentai!" Serenity turned to yell at Morrigan that this was NOT what the former Silver Millenium Queen had had in mind when proposing that the various members of noble blood associating with Nebula team up. Unfortunately, she then got blindsided by Colorado.

"Unnnn!" With a war whoop (well, close enough), Standing Mountain led a crowd of other practitioners of Martial Arts Indian Wrestling into the fray. Intent, of course, on rescuing the fair Akane now that she'd returned.

Kasumi watched everything swirling around her and fretted a lot. Get involved in THAT?! Heavens no. She could be oblivious perhaps, but not THAT oblivious.

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SASAMI was an artificial intelligence. She emulated basic human behavior, which is why her holographic representation was staring with her mouth hanging open.

She understood technology FAR in advance of the natives. To her, the late 20th century was just slightly beyond daub-and-wattle construction and horse-drawn carriages.

Magic, well, that wasn't just another kettle of fish, it was a whole zoological branch that she had very little hard data on. Yes, she'd glimpsed it. She'd been built by a magical being, and the Mage had cast a spell in her backyard, and then there was Ranma's transgenderism and his father's cursed form. It perplexed her, she had devoted a substantial portion (35%) of her background processors to working out some sort of theory or set of operating assumptions to make regarding this.

Nabiki leaving, then throwing red-and-white baseballs at the mewing Ukyo and Shampoo, those spheres opening up and sucking the two inside...

And her containment field had interfered with the process. Causing what a military person would call a FUBAR situation.

SASAMI made a few requests. She needed to upgrade her analysis equipment and to up her background processor capabilities.

"Let's see. The spheres combine a form of transporter effect with a storage unit," mused SASAMI. "Problem, their datastream was scrambled. How to restore them without a transporter scan -?!"

Nabiki yowled and picked herself up from where the explosion had thrown her.

SASAMI groaned. Well, maybe that mage fellow could fix this after she used this stopgap measure.

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SMJ Line:

Jared-2 ignored Lorelei and her Fate for the moment as he considered the impact that Ginseng and some guy named Mamoru Tengoku had made on this marionette world. Not that he hadn't done more, and accomplished a much more sweeping change, of course.

Prior to Ginseng, a common marionette was able to do a few dozen simple tasks. Sweep floors, wash dishes, greet customers, etc. Nothing requiring high dexterity, great skill, or any thought at all. You plugged them into a charger overnight, and they had problems similar to buying an economy car. They ran about 2500 dollars, if he had the exchange rate right. Some models (used and older) could be found for less than a thousand but usually got what you paid for. Usually their "brains" were a unit that looked a lot like an Internet server and were stationary, seperate from the marionette itself but in constant radio communication. Dozens of these units could be run off the same server, and as it was an efficient system any bulk number of marionettes used this system.

Higher grade marionettes, such as were used for more complicated tasks (like cooking simple food) were still battery operated. Gennai had one, it had taken him decades as an inventor (admittedly not a wealthy or successful one) to afford one that had sufficient manual dexterity to clean his ears and with skin that was soft and smooth. Roughly the price of a luxury car, about 12,000 dollars US. Most of these likewise had their brains being an inside unit, sometimes supplemented by ties to a household's central computer.

Military grade marionettes were powerful, built for strength and durability, otherwise about the level of a Luxury class marionette. A number of these were in the private sector. 25,000 dollars US or close, Jared thought. These were tied into a military grade server, and this led to group coordination that was literally inhuman.

Sabre Class marionettes, even without a Maiden Circuit, were a cut above military grade. Their computers were internal, they had extra bracing, high dexterity and coordination. A Sabre class was over 100,000 dollars US. Maiden Circuits, of course, were priceless. Particularly to the marionette in which they were installed.

Ginseng had found cheaper ways of manufacturing the marionettes, cheaper materials, a better way of automating the process, and had re-invented the assembly line. S/he had developed different actuators and internal motivators, raising the limits all around. A new "economy" class was about 1900 dollars. Right now most of the innovations were being held onto for military use, though it was easy to see where in a decade the common marionettes would basically go from being TRS-80s (aka the old TRaSh 80s or maybe an Atari 400) to Pentium II units.

Some guy named Mamoru Tengoku had come up with something else, and a very different aim.

According to his notes, he'd observed some basic behavior in animals. Raise an animal of a certain complexity or higher with affection and teach them, and they responded. The dogs and cats and horses all learned - acting more intelligent and friendly towards humans than those that were not.

What Mamoru had come up with was an "Ishii Kairo" - a Will Circuit of three linked computers and interfaces in a single sphere roughly the size of a softball. Rough cost of materials: $900 if you scavenged junkyards. It started out as having no result when installed into a marionette. When you treated the marionette affectionately, it learned affection and paid greater attention to you. When you also taught the marionette, it learned quite a lot.

A Maiden Circuit was a miraculous thing, when a marionette awakened with a Maiden Circuit, she had emotions fully blown and a human level of intelligence, all available through emulated human engrams. The marionette was born with a personality. Further, the strength of emotions increased the strength of the marionette.

An Ishii Kairo awakened slowly, and could only be done through care and patience. No emotion power was granted, and the personality that developed would form over several months.

Gennai's marionette Gemini already had one, and by all reports the marionette was a bit of a flirt. She was also a very traditional girl, allowing for the fact that her movement speed was slow and there were some problems developing with her leg actuators. She also got lost about as often as Ryoga Hibiki, requiring Lime to find her and escort her home.

THIS, Jared felt, would turn Terra Two upside down almost as much as the Return Of Woman project had.

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Ranma/Akumakun timeline:

Having gotten some time in with his own fiancee brigade, the Jared (#3) on a resort world of beaches ignored the downed spaceship (a glimpse of Mihoshi and Ryouga holding hands had been enough for him to abort the rescue operation) decided to do something about Ranko's problem.

Besides, the spell keeping him as several seperate copies was beginning to destabilize despite the spelltrap. Best to get all of him together.

The excuse was getting Ranko to where *she* needed to go. Unfortunately, Ranko seemed to have the same effect on dimensional travel that Grey did.

Jared let the Gateway close behind him, but frowned. "This looks like Azabu Juuban, not Nerima."

"Wow, big brother, how can you tell?" To Ranko it was just another part of a way too big city.

"Tokyo Tower," said Jared, pointing to the landmark sticking up over a couple of smaller buildings. He immediately got his map out and started going over it. "Let's see. Turn right at the third star, go left at the fourth color pool..."

"SKILL CARD! RETURN TO YOUR POWER CONFINED!!"

Jared bit his lip as he felt power being sucked out of him, this felt almost exactly like the level draining attacks of certain undead, except that this was a steady drain.

Ranko was not inclined to let someone hurt her big brother. She swung a punch that took a chunk out of a nearby wall. "Let him alone, you meanie!"

"Hey, they're not supposed to gang up on me!"

"I'll get it! Force know my plight! Release the light! Lightning!"

Jared took a deep breath, then got a look at his attackers. The idea that a grade school kid had been able to do THAT much damage to HIM was both mortifying and horrifying. There was Ranko being hit by lightning. Still, she'd bought him the chance to recover and there was that girl with the weird cane about to use it again on him.

"Medusa's gaze manifest,
Rid me of this pest,
To greyscale take her tone,
Invoke- Flesh to Stone!"

The girl in question looked a bit shocked as her skin altered to a dull grey in color. The odd stick dropped from her hands as they turned stiff and apparently lifeless.

"Why you!" The little boy with the sword looked ready to do something, while the girl with the camcorder behind him looked almost ready to bolt. And Jared felt sufficiently weakened that he might have to go all out against a martial artist/spellcaster.

*WHAM!* Some little Amazon girl who'd tried to grapple with Ranko was abruptly thrown into the ice machine sitting outside a Mom & Pop grocery store.

Ranko grabbed the dropped "cane" and was apparently going to protect her "big brother" from strange spellcasters. "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS! YOU MEANIES!" She had also, apparently, found her limit for being attacked by strange people.

"Li, is that the Strength card?" Madison asked in a weak voice.

"Hey! You better... " *THWACK!* a small flying stuffed animal landed in the same ice machine as the Amazon girl.

"Look out!" Li swung his sword, slashing out as the batwinged Clow card raised the Key of Clow up to hit him with it. His blade cut through the clothing, but merely glanced along the flesh underneath.

*WHAM!* *WHAP!*

"Uhm, Ranko? That was a bit much." Jared felt strength slowly returning to him.

"Uhm, excuse me?"

Jared and Ranko looked over the business suited individual, nonplussed. After all that, someone had found the nerve to approach them?

"My name is Nobuo, I'm with the Tokyo Giants? The Baseball team? Uhm? Does the young lady have an agent?"

Jared was immediately grateful that Genma was nowhere to be found, but decided that those legs sticking out of the ice machine was the first priority.

Though finding some way for channel magic besides strength seemed in order. Hmmm. Maybe...

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a little later, in a very different reality:

Ranko looked over the cards.

Jared merely raised an eyebrow. "These will work?"

"Well, theoretically," said the dark elf, filling an order for a strawberry parfait. "A lot of magic is symbols and invocation. So magical cards which allow you to manifest things like this is certainly within the bounds of reason. This is just a starter set of six cards, if they work well we can make more. Certainly she's got enough magical potential that an outlet like this is feasible."

Jared eyed Edema. It was nice to interact with someone who wasn't even remotely a fiancee and sufficiently accomplished that they could talk shop as equals. In magic at least. Even if it was a damn dark elf. Chocoholic dark elves, what next? Though he was still considering methods of getting even with her for what she'd done on that Sabre Marionette world. "So, what six spells?"

"Keeping in mind her nature," said Edema in her usual soft Southeastern US drawl, "Ah went with some basic non-offensive stuff. Comprehend Languages, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Message, Plant Growth, Shield. If this here works out, there's some other possibilities."

Jared held up one of his hands, accepting one of the cards from Ranko. "Animayhem cards?"

Edema shrugged. "There's a couple of cursed decks running around, seemed fitting to come up with a version that wasn't so bad. A project Ah worked out in my spare time."

Jared looked closer over the card he had and had to admit the work, though rushed, was "top shelf." Essentially the pattern of a spell, requiring only the energies to be pumped into it. Similar to techno-wizardry in its way, or a scroll with a Permanency spell. The Shield Card showed Aeka from Tenchi Muyo putting up a defensive barrier. "Improved Shield, isn't this? More like Otiluke's Resilient Sphere than the first level spell."

Jared looked over the card, but his smile was from something else. Oh yes. He could indeed top Edema's little "joke."

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an SMJ timeline:

Lorelei was trembling in terror.

This was good for her, it was exactly what she'd wanted in climbing into this vipers nest of probabilities. The Pheonix Mage was the only man on Terra Two who didn't hold her in nigh-worshipful regard, had sufficient capriciousness and his own forms of justice and views on honor to act, but more important he was of sufficient power levels not to care what the
rest of the world thought about whatever he did to her.

Thus, he had a fully developed sense of justice and the ability to use it. Having triggered his temper, it satisfied Lorelei's requirements of punishment whatever he chose to do to her so long as it was nasty.

Standing there blindfolded while he had taken a measuring tape to her, and now the sounds of cutting, slicing, chewing and hammering had gotten her convinced that whatever it was was going to be properly horrible.

She had alot to atone for, after all. She had the murder of her friends and coworkers of the colony ship Mesopotamia on her conscience and the sufferings of a whole world and the dementia of a madman to lay at her feet by her reckoning. If whatever the Mage came up with wasn't bad
enough she'd have to seek out more herself. That was why she was almost reassured by the ripping and tearing sounds that split the air. If he was testing out some device for soon mutilating her useless (even her genetic pattern was no longer required) body, then so much the better. That saved her from the futility of living and the trouble of flinging her own guilty self over a cliff in the badlands to be impaled on shards of crystal.

The woman was having a lethal attack of guilt.

Jared sat by watching the blindfolded woman tremble in terror of her own nasty imagination while a Robotech sewing machine continued to work on cloth - producing noise that could well be mistaken for chewing, and certainly genuine sounds of cutting, slicing and ripping of the most
gleefully horrific intensity.

The hammering came from the occassional need for a rivet or stud in a leather jacket another machine was making at the same time.

The machine ceased and Jared took the latest garment it had produced (he'd had it create a small wardrobe just to have enough noise for long enough) and walked over to Lorelei. She was shivering as he in utmost silence set up a changing screen between her and him, then with a proper sense of the theatric, but where he could not possibly see her, cast a cantrip that cut her clothes, then followed it up with a bit of telekinesis and a minor illusion.

Lorelei felt herself roughly seized and her clothes torn from off her body, save only her underwear and the blindfold. Shivering in that near-naked state, she was struck in the face with something soft when Jared, in a gruff voice, demanded that she put it on. Then when she was halfway in his sharp voice barked the order that she not forget the plumbing connections.

Jared sat idly peeling fruit on the other side of the changing screen while Lorelei's imagination put her through all sorts of humiliation.

It was a spacesuit. That much was obvious to Lorelei, and it called to mind all kinds of truly terrifying things, from spacer rumors and bad movies (the memory of Dr Madblight on the Star Strider TV show putting mindworms in the heroes helmets then forcing them to put them on was
still a vivid childhood memory for her), through genuine incidents that had occured aboard the Mesopotamia (small leaks leading to partial depressurization, insects getting inside someone's spacesuit, or one time a repair team running out of oxygen supply), to her own private horrors
(a spacesuit can get claustrophobic at times, and the mental image of a steadily shrinking spacesuit is a horror common along the spacelanes - though rarely shared or voiced aloud). By the time she was dressed Lorelei's own mind had put her through enough might-be's that she was
weak from fright and some small corner of her mind was beginning to wonder if she'd suffered enough.

Jared continued to idly peel fruit, confident that whatever her mind did to her would be what she wanted out of this. Hearing the sounds of changing stop, he chose that moment to peer around the screen, noted her cheeks were flushed from an embarrassment and shame that hadn't happened, and her knuckles white with fright, and very quietly removed the changing screen that had shielded her modesty the whole time and not allowed any sort of shame outside her own mind.

Still, he was sickened with this part of the drama and wanted to move on. Even letting her own imagination do all the dirty parts he still felt the distinct need to bathe for his own part in providing the necessary backdrop.

He justified it only because he was redeeming a soul here, not condemning one, and unless the lady felt punished she would never be able to live with herself. On that note, he ran a table saw for a long second, letting the high-pitched mechanical squeal cause the weakened doctor to nearly wet herself.

Then they teleported to another locale.

Properly terrified, Lorelei felt the blindfold torn (rather gently taken, but at that point her mind was jumping at shadows) from her and beheld that she was NOT wearing her helmet and looking out unprotected over the vault of space with the atmosphere miles beneath her feet.

This time she did wet herself, but that's what the spacesuit's plumbing connectors were *for*, and it was a good thing she had connected them.

The Pheonix Mage was floating there next to her, and poor Dr Lorelei came up with the conclusion that it was his presence so far that had spared her and soon her would leave and then, yadda, yadda, yadda...

It was a pretty predictable track. Pathetic, but then she *was* getting it out of her system. As it was concluding it's latest horror scenario, Lorelei's brain noted the presence of the gutted hulk of the Mesopotamia floating under their feet and the same fatalistic portion (that was now crowded ever so gently by the 'I-don't-like-this-can-we-go-home-now?' portion) sighed in melodramatic luxury about how fitting it was for her to meet her end here where her evil deeds began.

Jared was beginning to quietly wish that he'd never started that ESP spell. This lady had developed guilt to an art form.

Seeing her go off on another mental tangental nightmare scenario, the Mage gently coughed into a hand to get her attention. "Ahem." He took out a microcomputer calculator and began punching keys. "So let's see. The death count... no, scratch that. Total sum of your crimes as I have it
is; One, the event aboard the Mesopotamia that led to the crew deaths. Two, the near failure of the colony. Three, hardship and suffering to all the clones by lack of a 'normal' society and the company of women. And Four, the madness of Faust and all of the hardship and pain that caused. I'll lean a little heavily on you for that and count those clones afflicted under his rule or in his wars as double - once for suffering under a warped society without women and once for suffering under Faust. That leaves our total numbers these."

He flashed the review screen towards her and Dr Lorelei felt, even with all her apprehension, that it was alot, yet still lower than she'd been expecting. Her guilt reflex tried to kick in but after all its recent bouts it was starting to feel a little tired, now honest curiosity was
trying to take over.

What would he do to her?

Besides, seeing the results quantified, no matter their size, robbed them of some of their mystical largeness. The scientist part of Lorelei - a substantial majority, was starting to review the figures and compare herself to other benchmarks (major historical villains for the most part), and in that light saw her own results as surprisingly small.

There comes a substantial amount of pride along with the "I'm so awful, I'm so terrible" point of view that refuses its own forgiveness. It is, by necessity, a warped, reversed sort of pride that wallows in it's own weaknesses rather than overemphasising its strengths, but it is still a form of false pride. Seeing the numbers proclaim you a small fish deflates a lot of that, and with pride gone (or at least reduced) the mind sees a problem and just deals with it. Normal mental healing can begin.

Not that it was far advanced in Lorelei, but it was a start.

Once her attention wandered back to the Mage again, Lorelei realized that he was smiling. Also, floating alongside him, was his small cluster of Sailor Scouts looking on her in varying levels of approval and curiosity.

Jared waved a hand toward the relic of a spaceship. "Well, let us begin from the beginning. First Crime, the deaths aboard the Mesopotamia. Saturn?"

The girl known privately as Holly Tomoe floated forward and promptly found she was consumed in a flying tackle from Sailor Moon, who was crying. "Waaah! I wanna do it!"

"Sailor Moon!" The Mage said reprovingly, casting a glance aside at Lorelei. "Remember! We're doing this in rotation. You get to heal the next large crowd of innocents."

"But the last time was only a couple of silly illnesses! And the time *before* Holly got to raise a whole horde of vampires! You aren't being fair! She gets all the fun ones." Serena sniffled at the major injustice.

The Mage flung his hands up, trying not to smile. "BUNNY!" He said, doing his best not to sound so amused. "Who was it hopping about on that world of the Living Dead? You'd cured all but a million of them and it wasn't even your turn!"

"Okaaay..." Sailor Moon released her hold on Saturn. She joyfully caroled and she sang the next claim. "But I get to heal the madman!"

Jared rolled his eyes as part of the act. "Okay, you get to heal the madman. Now Saturn?"

Fighting her own grin (it had been discovered that Sailor Moon *had* to fight with someone over something, so they did this merely to keep her happy) Sailor Saturn freed her staff and swung it at an angle to activate its powers.

"Saturn Healing Escalation!"

Lorelei was blinking, face slackened in surprise. "But... they've all been dead now for hundreds of years..." She objected weakly.

"Yeah!" Jared agreed, watching the show. "Neat, isn't it?"

The glowing ball of Saturn's light raced forward to engulf the ruined colony ship, and while this was still happening, he turned to face Uranus. "Second Crime, the loss of the Colony resources, tools and time. Uranus?"

The tomboyish Scout gathered in her own light and shot a ball toward the Mesopotamia, where her powers began to knit to gether the tortured and torn machinery with a finesse gained from studying under the Pheonix Mage, using her powers in a way beyond her untutored counterparts of
other Sailor Moon worlds to twist and shape the metal back into its original forms.

Said Pheonix Mage nodded as the running lights of the colony ship Mesopotamia came on and the crew within began to stir, alive for the first time in centuries. He pivoted in space to watch Lorelei's slack-jawed features absorbing this. To her astonihment, he pronounced. "Crime one, the deaths - absolved. You can't have a murder without a victim, and life has been restored to them. Crime Two, the nigh-failure of the colony. Well, without going in to too much detail of my rationalization they have all of their equipment restored to working order - thus, all of the possibilities they had before (minus one insane computer). It ought to be fascinating to see the original crew interacting with the cloned descendants of the other colonists, but
between the ship restored and their tools working along with the advanced state of society on the ground, total loss of equipment and resources is zero. Jupiter?"

Already ready, the Scout of Jupiter raced off trailing glowing sparkles over the surface of Terra Two. Where the trail of green sparks hit dirt began to churn and plants grow at an astonishing rate, leaving the globe belted by rings of mature jungle forest. Then she ringed it again sewing grass and wheat.

Jared nodded. It was good. "Terraforming level is now what they could have done given time and their tools. Population level is already approximately right. I pronounce Crime Two absolved. You are forgiven it."

Lorelei was now crying tears that had nothing to do with punishment. Seeing shuttles rush about the ship had reinvigorated a portion of her heart that had been most grieviously sore. The extra growth and lushness of the planet was curing an ache she hadn't known existed. Rather than her own pain, she was feeling happy over someone else's reward.

Watching Lorelei's face it was clear that, astonishment or no, joy or not, she would later feel the need to be punished anyway. Perhaps at a much lower intensity, but this woman wasn't done feeling guilty yet.

However, nothing *could* have done away with her guilt in one fell swoop save for her death arranged in the most aggrivating manner - which he was and had been unwilling to do. So for any other methods taking chips out of her complex was the best they could do.

Looking back at the ship, he mentioned conversationally to Lorelei. "I'd always been intending to have come up here and done this, but things kept getting in the way. I might've forgotten if you hadn't intervened." He glanced toward her. "Thank you."

She was too worked up with conflicting desires to respond.

He nodded, then they teleported back into the lab.

"Crime Three I'll deal with in a moment, but for now we'll skip to Crime Four." Jared swung open the door on a retaining tank - one of those used to hold marionettes but this one converted with straps and restraints. Inside was Faust.

"My turn!!" Sailor Moon caroled, healing the guy before anyone could object.

Blinking the effects of the light out of his eyes, Jared added."Well, I *had* wanted to do more of a speech than that. But it's done. No more madman, and I've already deleted the brain tapes and multiple backup copies the original kept of his insane personality." He gestured to the
small boy now looking confused, climbing hesitantly out of the too-large straps of the tanks being helped by Sailors Jupiter and Mars. "This Faust is now just as he was before they put in the original's memory tapes. A normal boy. Crime Four..." he shrugged. "Not exactly absolved, but no longer causing hurt to anyone. Toss the body count on top of crime three and we'll get going."

With a wave of his hand he teleported the boy right into Panther's arms with a note explaining things, whereupon the three marionettes with loyalty to Faust promptly began a celebration that would do many hearts great good for years to come.

"Crime Three." Jared concluded with seriousness, interrupting Lorelei's increasing joy. "You claim having caused hardship and pain to a large number of people. I have no easy fix for it. Therefore, you must suffer most horribly for that." he held up a finger. "One, you are to be
separated from your family, friends and associates from the Mesopotamia." He held up another finger. "Two, you are to be forced apart from the one whom you love: Otaru. Three," anothing finger. "You will be kept from the close company of your daughters, the marionettes Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry."

The mage threw his hands helplessly and shook his head. "But having taken all away from you we can, we still end up short. I guess there is no help for it but to sentence you to go about doing good, to aiding in the lives of others and causing as much *relief* from heartache and suffering as you have power to do. Naturally this will take you many lifetimes, and as we can't allow you to inflict your suffering on a clone of you you have got to do it yourself. The only way this could be done would be to increase your lifespan unnaturally, and as I am the only one who could do that and you already have a debt to me from reversing the effects of your previous crimes, you can accept service under me to absolve that debt and gain your opportunity to help others. You have a duty to others no mortal could fulfill, and I have worlds where no amount of help could be enough."

He offered her a short wand.

"Sailor Terra Two, we ought to be going."

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RIFTS Earth:

Rimshot settled to the ground, leaving the shimmering RIFT behind him to close.

He had much to think of.

His other self, the telepath Rigel Maerklos of a city called Waterdeep, was in a relationship with a short elven version of the Glitter Boy Pilot he knew as Ree Fukami. Other versions of himself had met other versions of other people he knew. And, despite differences, were apparently experiencing the sort of frustrating happiness that comes from a shared relationship.

He had dismissed the possibility himself, despite an attraction to the girls. He was a True Atlantean, with a lifespan ten times what a normal human's was. He was a Techno-Wizard, a professional calling not one of them could or would understand. Even Suzy, the Mystic, didn't really have a clue - her style of magic was intuitive while he was a researcher. He was on a planet where danger and evil could be found by throwing a stone in practically any direction. Violence and a quick death ready to appear without notice.

Not too unlike Rigel Maerklos and Wispara Deunan, he had been forced to recognize.

Rigel Maerklos, a human telepath whose esper abilities had been so strong that his birth cries had been heard by mages and sensitives as far away as Cormyr. A disappointment to a family of mages, but someone apparently with a Destiny.

Wispara Deunan, an elven rogue - though she reckoned herself a fighter specializing in clandestine operations. An outcast in her own homeland due to an accident of birth.

Soulmates drawn to each other despite their differences.

Wispara, as an elf, had a lifespan five times what her human lover could expect. So she spent as much time as she could with him, treasuring as much of that time as she could. As the equivelant of some medieval City Rat, she concentrated on the parts of her boyfriend's life that she could understand.

Rimshot wondered if it wasn't time for him to try. Suzy was going off to some Jabberworks base in the Pacific. Aya, the Rogue Scientist, was still likely running experiments over in the Baronies. Whereas...

The Techno-wizard realized where he was. Not far, as such things went, from Lazlo. Wherein a tall girl he once knew name Emi-li had her base of operations. The ponytailed Predator armor pilot would have to be gotten off her drug addiction, and it would be difficult.

But, Rimshot realized, it might well be worth the effort.

--------

Waterdeep:

Wispara looked up at "her Rigee" and squeezed his hand. "Are you sure 'bout this? That wizardess your Mom had picked out was a serious looker."

Rigel nodded, but looked over the hill at his ancestral home without saying a thing.

Wispara fretted for a moment. "Rigee, if... if you want to go back..." She might be unwanted in her own homeland, but she was an elf. Families were *very* important to elves. Rigel had forged a mindlink between them enough that she knew fully well how important his family was to him.

Rigel squeezed Wisp's hand back in response, smiling down at her. For a feisty girl, she certainly needed reassurance at times. Like now. "Second thoughts?"

Wispara tapped her forehead, then reached up to place that finger on his forehead. "You're the expert on that, ain't ya?"

Recognizing the invitation, Rigel forged the link. They'd linked so often, surface-to-surface, that he could almost do it in his sleep. (and suspected on a couple of occasions he had).

He delved deeper though, not to probe or read her mind, but to show her his.

He sent love and honest affection, regret but no doubts.

Wisp turned around, not wanting her Rigee to see her cry. Completely ignoring the fact that the link was still going and he could sense it from her.

He waited until she had composed herself again before lightly grasping her shoulder. "What about you?"

"Nay there, nothing important," Wisp turned and hugged her soulmate briefly. "Maybe your mom'll give up this latest scheme and we can return, eh?"

Rigel cut the mindlink before his imagery of icicles hanging from volcanoes could make the journey. "Now, fair elf, where exactly have you planned for us to go?"

"The Promenade, at first," said Wisp with a wink. "Then, perhaps, go visit an old ally. I think the Harpers could do far worse than having a mindreader and elven warrior join their ranks."

Rigel winced. "As long as they don't ask me to sing."

Wisp's smile was impish. "Not twice, they won't."

----------

Ranma/Akumakun timeline:

Jared-1 sighed and looked around at the aftermath of the battle. "What a mess."

"Well," said Makoto, brushing her fake moustache, and looking down on the girl she was still holding, "time to get to that there honeymoon."

Grey rolled her eyes. "Right, Mako-chan, i think there's a couple of things wrong with that. One is that the minister over there isn't real."

"Oh, I'm quite real," argued the minister, not saying that he was a real priest, merely real.

"...and we're not married by Japanese law or custom."

"It was a wonderful ceremony," added the priest, pulling out a laptop computer. "The records have been added at City Hall. Imagine the problems just getting a second Akane Tendo on the books. Especially as you're married twice already."

"Hah?!" Grey blinked. "Oh yeah, when Ukyo rescued me and Shampoo was walking by. Well then, there's also the fact that I happen to be female at the moment, so is Mako-chan. So are Ukyo and Shampoo. And whatever the plumbing states, my mental orientation is male."

"So that makes it all right," concluded the priest.

"Rrrrr. Not only are girl+girl marriages illegal (1992 Tokyo) but multiple marriages? Nope, they've got to be illegal. And since this isn't one of those Ami+Makoto timelines, i know darn well that none of the girls in question swings that way." Grey hoped.

Jared stood atop a large rock and looked out across the range. "That's odd."

"What?" Grey was desperate for a change of subject, and something to focus on besides how comfortable Makoto's lap was. "Some other attacking group?"

"No. Well, at least not quite. There goes Nabiki, running on all fours and looking quite panicked. And there's..."

"What?" Grey spent a moment trying to get OUT of Makoto's lap but the taller girl had leverage and greater strength. So Grey just spent a moment sulking and debating how undignified she wanted to look trying to get loose.

"...it looks like Shampoo and Ukyo are both catgirls and are chasing Nabiki. Must be a mirage."

"That catgirl curse isn't bite transmittable, is it?" Grey had a sudden image of "Night Of The Living Dead" meets catgirls. *shudder shudder*

"No," said Jared, then paused. "At least I don't think so. I thought I checked for that."

A priest paused, about to resume the argument about the marriage. "What... a wonderful idea..."

Jared turned to see what the priest was talking about, but he was nowhere to be seen. He started to worry at the traces of magical residue, particularly at their intensity and flavor.

Grey tried to look, but her position on Makoto's lap made it difficult.

Feeling a ripple in reality, Jared REALLY started to worry.

-----

Toltiir sent a ripple out, as well as an e-mail message to Bast. The cat goddess ought to know about this one. It was within her balliwick, after all.

Nabiki finally came to a stop, exhausted, the two newly created catgirls a bare moment behind her.

Nabiki panted and looked at the two barely winded warriors. "OKAY, that's enough you two! Meowr!"

Shampoo sat down and began plucking burrs out of her tail. "Nabiki rowr run verrry trrricksy, but not have good endurrrance. Shampoo worrrk on that."

Ukyo sniffed. "Nowrrr I have to change my stage name to Black Cat. Not mrowr Black Fox anymore. Ftttt."

Nabiki smiled at her two converts. The way the blood sang within her, her run leaving her tired but feeling especially warm and pleasant. "Mrowr. Who we get next, mrowwr?"

"Rrrranma have much prride," snickered Shampoo, pleased at her jest.

"Rrrrrrr," said Nabiki almost dozing as her seat on a warm rock got to feeling entirely too good. "Not surrre who the bite worrrk on. Was just thought, and if that hadn't worrrked, would have tried Pokeballs."

"Well, then Ukyo think," Ukyo started then began sniffing. "Is Rrrranma-honey!"

"Airrrren?" Shampoo purred, eyes half closed. "Shampoo not rrrealize Rrranma have such nice scent. Verrry pleasant."

"Well, you know what they say," Ukyo said with a smile that matched Shampoo's.

"What?" Nabiki started sniffing the breeze. ~Ah, he's still trying to get that horse under control. Heh heh.~

"Firrrst come, firrst served!" The blur known as Ukyo Kuonji said, using her catgirl reflexes and speed to full effect.

"Rrrrowr!" Shampoo protested, a purple blur not far behind.

"Hmmmph, Nabiki see she..." Nabiki frowned and threw off the odd speech pattern with effort. "*I* see that I'm going to have to fight to keep Alpha status. Not that *that* couldn't be fun..." A third blur launched itself.

---------

Not far away, Ranma (currently in girlform) felt this *awful* chill and tried to get "Damn Beast" under control. Still. She'd been trying for quite awhile.

The horse, as usual, was not being cooperative. However this time it had a reason for being contrary. It was absolutely positively *certain* that there were three large hunting cats stalking it, and that was enough for the horse to decide it was time to hustle butt.

-------

Kasumi was about to speak to Jared, finally having stepped over enough comatose bodies and gathered enough nerve, when the moment was (inevitably) shattered.

"WHOA, YOU DAMN THING, WHOA!" *ZOOM!*

Makoto, about to further tease the girl in her lap, blinked. "You know, that kind of looked like my sempai..."

"Akane" growled. Whether it was because she was still being held captive in her "husband's" lap or the remark that did it was another question.

"He's still having a lot of trouble with that horse," said Jared, stating the obvious.

"ROWR! Airrren!" A purple blur sped past the group.

"Shampoo?!" Grey finally got out of Makoto's lap, with a grumble about how she was *not* a cuddle toy and just wait till she got turned back into a guy...

"Rrrrranchan! Wait up!" Another blur running past them.

"Ukyo the catgirl," Jared said. "Well, I haven't seen THAT very often."

"Well, let's get going," Grey said, ignoring that she was still wearing a wedding dress. "We've got to ride! Ami, Makoto, can you make sure Kasumi and the other noncombatants are safe?"

"No problem," Ami said. "Uhm what about Serenity and Morrigan?"

"Well, they're not combatants until they wake up," reasoned Grey. "I don't think anything will happen, but you never know around here."

With that, Jared and the Akane-lookalike vaulted onto horses and rode off.

Naoko moved on an intercept course, planning to interview some of them. With catgirls and cowboys, this might be weird enough to work as a series.

Nabiki stalked closer, choosing her first victim carefully and sprang to the attack.

------

"Akane" (since Ranma was around, and he'd freaked at the idea of a guy being turned into a girl permanently, everyone just used Akane for Grey when Ranma was nearby) used surprise, distraction, and the "Rowdy Roundup" technique to lasso and hogtie two catgirls while a not-scared but at least highly nervous Ranma-chan plastered herself to a wall.

"Actually, I don't think they were trying to bite you," Jared answered Ranma's unspoken question, "though they might have done so just out of affection."

"What you readin' on 'em," asked Akane, making sure the ropes were secure.

"Looks like a basic template transformation spell, similar to Jusenkyo in some ways. Except this is always on, and it's a little more complicated."

"Complicated?" Ranma repeated, trying not to get creeped out by the meowing catgirls.

"Something modified Nabiki's transformation, upgraded it," Jared produced a blackboard and pointer out of nowhere. "Many spells of this type work on the idea that a creature or thing can be described as a set of related variables. You see here a typical Jusenkyo curse. Transformation is triggered via water temperature, and the only thing really affected is the variable for species. Thus, your Jusenkyo curse transforms you into a girl - but the girl is actually a representation of how you'd look if you'd been born a girl instead of a boy. More or less. There's very little other than a simple physical transformation."

"So the basic template's altered from just being the Catfist?" Akane nodded, then frowned at Jared's look of shock. "Hey now! Don't forget i'm a priest of healing. Curses and transformative spells come with the territory."

Jared nodded, recovering quickly. "Essentially this copies the Catfist spirit. It also changes..." Jared started scribbling on the board, taking a few moments every so often to look over the magic surrounding the two girls. "Not only does it give them minor access to the Catfist, but enhanced recuperative abilities. The transformation's been compartmentalized. Until three days from the bite, it can all be modified or negated fairly easily."

[Species: Human, gender: female] [Species: Catgirl] {Define parameters Catgirl: feline ears, feline tail, feline mannerisms, cute, cuddly, affectionate, enhanced senses (hearing, smell, nightvision), enhanced speed, enhanced strength, enhanced vitality, minor feline features, gender female, transformative bite}

"The thing is," Jared said, looking at both girls and the blackboard to be sure he'd gotten everything, "it looks like the transformative bite is the easiest 'off switch' - anyone with magical training and a piece of silver could do it."

"Better do it, or Ranma's gonna end up with his curse changing him from Ranma-kun to Ranko-neko." Akane pointed. "Looks like it won't affect guys but his girlform would be vulnerable."

"Well, I... AAAAGHHHH!" Ranma saw movement heading her way and bolted.

"Rowr!" A blue haired girl with a furry blue tail said, making a thirty foot leap and running.

"Sempai?!" A ponytailed catgirl exclaimed as she also leapt past.

"Meowr! In the name of catnip, we'll punish you!" Another catgirl, this one with silver hair, zipped past.

"Akane" fell inelegantly to the ground. "A-a-ami?!"

Jared frowned, then looked over the spells and the blackboard. Funny, there wasn't a [chase after Ranma] segment that *he* could see. Then he noticed some of those who'd been chasing Ranma come loping back.

Akane/Grey merely stared at the ground, twitching slightly. Hope had blossomed only to be crushed. Alone in dark despair again.

"Mya!" *pounce!*

Finding herself knocked flat on her back, Grey stared up at the catgirl currently straddling her. "Ami?!"

"Mya! Who did you think?" Ami smiled down at Grey, showing fangs. "Nyaow, Ameow caught you, now what is Ameow going to do with you?"

Jared considered the sight, conjured a folding chair and a tray of frosty fruit smoothies and raised a toast to Ami. How did that phrase go? Oh yes. "You go, girl!"

"Nya! Ami, you smarticat! What you doing?" A ponytailed catgirl landed near the blue maned catgirl. And then one with two long silver ponytails, and another with a red bow on her tail and another bow in her terrific yellow mane, and a...

"Hey, stop it! Hee hee heee. Cut it out- ahhhhhaha... Ami, don't..."

"Nya, she's ticklish in the same places he is? Nyaow! Ameow going to get even with husband who leads poor wife on long chase!"

For effect, the redhaired mage looking on was now dressed in formal Roman robes with a leafy garland upon his head, and held out a thumb... Turned down. The accompanying panda sign read [Tickle her until she pees!]

"Bwahahaha! NO! Ami-- don't eeep! Cut it out!" The rest of Grey's comments were lost in a fit of giggling.

Sipping elaborate fruit juices, Jared commented to himself. "Sad, isn't it?" He gestured grandly. "But if this young lady had taken proper precautions she would not have fallen prey to the insatiable tickle monsters."

He briefly considered a spell to snip the transformative bite part. But frankly anything that could happen to Grey would be an improvement over being Akane and in perfect honesty he could see how being an uninhibited catgirl could do the poor fellow enormous good.

Other than that, well, at least it *was* easy enough to tell the Eva crew from his own Scouts. He said a quick prayer of gratitute that they weren't here to witness this. They'd want to play.

"Oh, myaow!"

Jared blinked and turned to regard Kasumi. Kasumi the catgirl. Whose tail was lashing about in agitation.

"Jared-san," said the aproned catgirl, ignoring the howling and helpless giggling going on a few yards away. "Kasumeow not wanted to rrrrr?! Jarrred smell nice..."

"Huh?" Whatever Jared had expected to be said, that was not on the list.

Jared looked around. Shampoo and Ukyo had almost gnawed through their ropes. There was a group of catgirls over *there* sniffing around and tickling a figure on the ground with their tails. Except for Ami who was getting *quite* cuddlesome from the look of it. There was one of Black Bart's traps over there...

Jared's eyes widened. Bales of catnip, high grade stuff, to be used to lure Nabiki into a trap. And the wind was blowing...

*SPLOOSH!!!!*

Grey, currently with pointy ears and a long furry tail poking out from beneath the tattered remains of her wedding dress, stood over 'Sherry' with an empty water bucket. Causing the mage to realize that he had not yet cured his Jusenkyo curse. No problem, he had a Dimension Door ready for *just* such an emergency.

At which point *someone* bit Sherry in the behind.

"Oh dearrrr."

--------

"Nyaow whose idea was this?" Ranma-neko inquired, running on all fours.

Not far away from him, the black haired near-Akane growled. "Nyot mine! Fttttt!"

"Rowr, you don't know teleport do ya?"

"Nya, Grey would have left like Sherry did, *before* getting bit! Think Grey can dispel transformation, need to be wherrre can't get tickled." Grey looked thoughtful. "If was just Amieow and was male, might be fun!"

"They gaining on us!" Ranma-neko exclaimed with a glance backward, being spurred on to greater speeds by the idea of WHAT Shampoo or Ukyo would do if they caught him/her. Whatever.

"At least Rrrranko can escape if find hot waterrr," grumbled Grey. "Unless can dispel OWN currrse, now am stuck forrr durrration."

Ranma-neko and Grey exclaimed at once. "Thisss sucks!"

Behind them, the leaping throng of catgirls decided not to close any further. This game was too much fun to end it too early.

Someone stepped into the road. "Ahhh, pigtailed girl, come leap... into... my arms?!" Kuno's eyes widened, the picture before him sufficiently strange to penetrate his disassociation with reality. "Oh dear."

*SLAM!* *TRAMPLE!* *THUD!* "ouch" *trample* x 20. "I believe the noble Blue Thunder will rest now. Ohhhhhh."

-------

Sherry had used a quick spell to bring hot water, then had used it to change back.

*bad* mistake. Transforming into a catBOY had suddenly put him into the category of "serious emitter of pheromones" around a bunch of rampaging catgirls. To his (and their own) considerable relief, both Grey and Ranma had sufficiently male self images that they had shaken it off. To Grey's considerable relief, Ami had NOT immediately pounced on the new Alpha male.

Unfortunately every other catgirl in range had gone a little bit nuts between the pheromones, their own unfamiliarity with the catgirl transformation lowering their inhibitions and self-control, and the scent of the catnip from Black Bart's trap.

Fortunately, Black Bart had put a LOT of catnip out. Enough that some little kitties were stoned to the point where they couldn't even find their feet or do much more than giggle at the funny colors.

It was easy enough to lose most of them, his monk training made it possible for him to run so fast most would think he'd teleported. Then, of course, he *had* teleported him.

Which left him with a Kasumi wrapped around him, but otherwise free.

He considered just snipping through the segment that would unravel the whole transformation. This whole thing was *meant* to be easily dispelled. Up until the third day, when it would get progressively harder. Even then the transformative bite would remain easy. The difficult part was the [species=catgirl] segment. Snip that and the rest fell apart, and it would be easy to snip, but as the rest was dependent on it, you couldn't just snip that and leave the [health=high, no deformities or genetic damage] segment.

Otherwise he'd have left *that* part and merely switched [catgirl] for [elf] (far superior to human or catgirl, of course) and let them run merrily amuck in Tokyo, puncturing all sorts of staid attitudes and playing hob with Japanese elitism as the number of elves increased expotentially.

He hated to do it, but *SNAP!*

The glow passed over him and Kasumi, removing fur and tails, restoring ears and normal parameters.

Kasumi let go of him with a gasp and a heavy blush. She'd been grabbing onto him and PURRING! Oh my didn't even begin to cover it.

Jared briefly thought about all the comments he *could* make, but knew full well that if he said *anything* Kasumi would likely be locking herself in her room for several days.

There was a trail of dust over there, and it didn't take elven sight to see that there was a red-maned catgirl and black-maned catgirl running ahead of a pack of other catgirls as they reached the exit of the Old West area.

He winced slightly as the great Tatewaki Kuno got run over by both groups. Well, unless he wanted nations panicking about the sudden number of catgirls appearing in Japan, Jared figured he'd have to adopt a role he disliked.

He was going to have to be the responsible one and contain the damage.

Which was hardly fair, and *definitely* not the role he'd prefer. He'd prefer to spread the Chaos, not contain it.

Jared had another thought and started getting to work. Unfortunately HIS girls were going to show up here eventually. And if they found *this* sort of thing...

His spine got crawling willies when he heard behind him.

"Technique: Catgirl Bite. Analyzed. Technique... acquirrred."

He turned around just in time to see what it looked like when a Thundercat got bitten by a transformative catgirl bite.

Suddenly recalling what Shan had done in the middle of a tribe of Amazons when in possession of a new trick that she saw useful for adding to the number and firepower of his brides, he quickly got ready the wide area counterspell.

Seeing a beet-red Kasumi shyly offering her arm for a nibble to one of the *really* cute Thundercatgirls, Jared resolved to faint. When he had time for it. Right then he just threw the whammy for countering Shan's nibbling.

"Fttt! Nyot yet!" Shan giggled, pivoting her staff and licking her chops. "Counterrrspell Counterr!"

Near-Akane ran by, lipstick on her face and mascara half applied, Ami and the others in close pursuit brandishing hairstyling equipment and odd clothing amid gleeful, purring cries about wanting to play dress up.

"Puuuuuurrrrr."

Jared looked down to see Kasumi's tail emerging from around his beltline and a substantial bulge curled up inside his shirt. The effect of her rumbling was not unlike having a large, warm massage therapy device curled up against his chest.

"ThunderrrrCats, Ho!"

The mage twitched, seeing Shan speed off lightning quick in one direction and the fully loaded Thundertank in another. Behind this scene, Akane-neko ran past in a virtual panic, clothes handily shredded down to negligible quantities that barely covered the essentials while pouring on all the speed she could get running on all fours. Haruka and Michiru idly hopping along behind like a scene out of a Pepe La Pew cartoon, purring with bits of her wedding gown still clutched between their teeth.

Reeling, the mage still had enough mercy in him to grab a jug of Spring of Drowned Boy and fling it with enough accuracy to send 'Akane' sprawling as it shattered and drenched her. As Ranma found a source of hot water at roughly the same time, the effects of this on the still plentiful catgirls was not unlike shaking a carbonated soda.

He felt a great deal less regret casting the counterspell this time, only to get interrupted mid-phrase by a warning bite from under his still-purring shirt, and Kasumi's tail twitched once in displeasure.

Part of being a successful adventurer is when to recognize defeat so you can learn from it.

He closed his eyes and folded his arms seriously, though looking a bit silly with the bulge under his shirt. "Most ominous."

*SPLASH!*

"Yipe! Ow!"

"Tee Hee!"

"Ameow! Come to Darrrrling!"

Kasumi's furry face peeked out from the collar of Sherry's shirt to watch a blue maned catgirl run past, twittering and purring, with a catboy Grey in hot pursuit. Ami-neko wasn't running terribly fast trying to escape, either. The pair were unfortunately interrupted by a tide of twittering catgirls arriving like a flood over the rise of the nearest hill.

Grey ran full steam the other way, much to the disappointment of Ami.

Sherry-neko turned to face Kasumi-neko. "Nyaow this *may* be getting out of hand."

Kasumi licked her face.

Then Kasumi bolted out from under her shirt to join in the chase of the Mutant Rat youma that had chosen a *singularly* bad time to make a reappearance.

Sherry sighed, tail swishing. "Nyo help forrr it but to nyock out global communications, I guesss."

==========

next chapter: we wind up 3rd, set the stage for fourth, and resolve some of this stuff.

Alternate Reincarnation table (Aramar)
In the plane of Aramar, past deeds more than random factors influence the change. However a die roll is provided for those who want the vagaries of chance increased. Those deemed nonsuitable by the DM will be discarded, and some species (such as dragons) will only briefly adventure with more human-like companions. (Though they may cross paths many times in their careers.) Good adventurers will not become evil creatures or the reverse. Dragons start out as hatchlings.

01-05 Mouseling (halfling) 06-09 Tallf (halfling) 10 Athasian Halfling
11-15 Caiveh (lion folk) 16-19 Kirrfolk (cheetah) 20 Catfolk
21-25 Delphins Amazon 26-29 Pixie 30 Athasian Half-giant
31-35 Wolfen (wolf folk) 36-39 Reptine 40 Tortle
41-45 Wood Elf 41-49 Sea Elf 50 Sky Elf
51-55 Desert Dwarf 56-59 Dwarf 60 Ottari
61-65 Driad 66-69 Naiad 70 Oriad
71-75 Fire Elf 76-79 Thri-kreen 80 Ardrow (elf)
81-85 Kenku (bird folk) 86-87 Hobgoblin 88-89 Ogrii or Ogre (choose)
90 Red Dragon 91 Emerald Dragon 92 Sapphire Dragon
93 Amethyst Dragon 94 Half Dragon 95 Copper Dragon
96 Brass Dragon 97 Bronze Dragon 98 Silver Dragon
99 Gold Dragon 00 Human (extremely rare)


==========

Third Labor, Chapter 22 "Catgirls & Mages Wild"

"Society: when someone else's poor planning becomes your problem."

Disclaimer: uhm see any number of previous chapters. the writers are not responsible for any ill effects from reading this and snorting cola out of your nose or anything like that.

------

One of the copies of Jared Saotome stood on Terra Two and wanted to make a speech. There was nobody around to hear him, but he wanted to do it anyway.

So he did.

"Today, 'Project Payback' is a reality, no - too cliche. Ahem. It's alive! No, too overused. Let's see... how about..." The Mage pondered briefly. "Four score and... no too inappropriate. It's about time, it's about space, it's about two girls in the strangest place... No - NOBODY will get THAT reference."

Jared considered but trying to come up with something original and sufficiently glorious wasn't working. "Oh well, maybe next time. Here goes." He threw the lever.

Machines began working, a cycle of feverish construction beginning at the molecular level, at the end of which they'd shut themselves down.

He just hoped it would work. As for him, there were a few million other things he should be doing.

---------

Ranma/Akumakun timeline:

Soun, sweeping at the door of the rebuilt Tendo home, looked up on hearing distant thundering to see a heavily scratched and beaten Genma-Rat (hairless panda) bearing down on him with thousands of playfully violent catgirls rampaging in pursuit.

Closing from the other direction he heard his youngest daughter crying. "What a Haul! What a HAUL!!" To the accompanying sound of practically the entire female population of Nerima in pursuit trying to reclaim their lost underthings.

From a third avenue, Grey closed in, arms full of cat toys that he frantically scattered behind him in a vain attempt to distract the untimely throng of pheromone crazed catgirls following him.

Behind him, Soun heard the doors to the house lock.

He twitched.

--------

Jared had remorselessly hunted down most of the catgirls. Well, okay, there was some remorse. Actually, there was kind of a lot.

This bothered him somewhat, because the vast majority of the catgirls had been happy and well adjusted in very short order. Most had begged and pleaded *not* to be turned back. He'd gotten a charm for one very nice policewoman, so that once she found her partner (obviously hiding for the three days for the change to become permanent) she could remove the transformative bite.

Nabiki had been *very* busy. And busy trying to avoid him as well.

What surprised him was how good she was at it.

She'd been to the orphanage. All the little meowing and playing catgirls had been a touching sight. Especially after the director had told him that almost all the little catgirls had been spoken for now by parents who just couldn't believe how cute the little tykes were. Jared just hadn't been able to bring himself to restore their humanity when they were so much happier than they had been. Though seeing them on the playground singing "(cat)Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" had been disconcerting.

She'd been to the School For The Disabled. It had been heartwrenching to hear the pleas for them to remain as catgirls. Returning *them* to normal, no, he just couldn't do it. As with the others, he simply cut the spread of the transformation.

Jared had spent a few moments watching nimble young catgirls doing acrobatics and scampering along treelimbs, discarded white canes and wheelchairs littering the ground.

Nabiki had visited a hospital in Juuban specializing in burn victims, and many disfigured young ladies had delighted in their new forms. Many realized in a way that the disabled and the orphans had not, that they would be outsiders and viewed as less than human by many of their own countrymen. Well, he couldn't very well transform *them* back if he hadn't changed the others, could he?

Again and again he was just behind or had "just missed" the errant catgirl. At an emergency room here. At a cancer treatment facility there. At a plastic surgery center over there. And everywhere he went, Jared heard the same comments.

"Bless that girl." "I offered to pay her, but she said me being happy was payment enough." "She said something about it being the duty of a superhero catgirl to help out the needy. Weird girl. Nice, but weird." "She said she was engaged, if she changes her mind..."

Jared was *most* unhappy with Nabiki.

Even after finding out that she'd somehow discovered that having a catgirl bite silver removed the further spread of the transformation, and getting most of those she transformed to do so as a condition of their transformation, it was *still* a mess.

Never mind the effects on the society. Never mind the trials and difficulties those transformed would face. Never mind the panic this could cause. No, Nabiki had to go off on her own and try to save the world by herself.

Jared wasn't sure how he was going to deal with the kitten, but he'd think of something. He partly admired her, after all this was the sort of chaos *he* would consider doing. But he had to remind her that there *were* consequences.

"Oh the humanity," swore Jared, posing dramatically. Then noticed something happening near the Tendo dojo. He'd have to look into that.

--------

Naoko Takeuchi flipped a page and continued sketching. This was too good to pass up. Her two friends had snapped pictures, and were now just trying to relax around all the furries.

Amieow purred from where she had draped herself protectively against her mate and settled in for some long snuggling. She *radiated* content.

Mewkoto, taller than any of the others, likewise purred and snuggled.

Grey found *herself* purring and managed to cut that out. Amieow to the right, Mewkoto the left, Mineko Aino curled up in Grey's lap, and "Queen" Purrenity leaning up behind her.

Of course, the Instant Nannichuan had worn off with the next splash. (Grey hadn't decided if it had *really* been an accident on Haruka's part.) The whole group had prepared to do something unspeakable...

Having failed to reach the Tendo house in time, Grey had pleaded with Amieow not to do it. She (though really a he) had cringed (the only alternative to fleeing was fighting and the idea of hurting even an overenthusiastic feline Ami was less than palatable) and closed her eyes and waited.

And immediately had to deal with a lot of bawling catgirls who were apologizing in between inarticulate sobbing.

Ami listened to her husband. Didn't always agree with him/her, but she listened. And had started crying her eyes out. Fortunately not literally but it *had* basically started snowballing among all the others.

And amidst all the mutual apologizing, tearful confessions, they'd slowly gotten to a slow grooming and the current mass cuddle.

Naoko finished sketching more of the catgirls. THIS would sell and even if it were a girl's series the catgirls would interest enough guys to make it popular across the gender border.

She was just glad that SHE had been turned back. With catgirls as with purple cows, she'd rather see than be one.

Her friends would agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, but looking at the scene before them, still felt a bit of envy.

------

A furry arm stretched alarmingly far around the doorframe, trying to get at the lock to open it.

Ranma was cowering behind a chair, shivering in terror. "Arrre you sure they can't get in?"

Jared looked at the arms already sliding through gaps he would have thought too small to fit through and hated to admit he wasn't. But then, with fully two thirds of the world's catboy population on one side of that door and an equal proportion of the catgirls out on the other, he was surprised it was holding as long as it did.

SASAMI stood nearby, biting a fingertip in terror. "They've got some of them trying to reprogram my access codes. They're better than the local humans of this world, too." Honestly though, she knew better. All she had to do was cut all lines of communication and put up full shields. One or two of the catgirls scanned as having sufficient power that they *might* eventually get through, but the discharge of energies would fry the remaining catgirls as well as the surrounding neighborhood. And somehow, the threat to her inhabitants wasn't deemed as great as if they were surrounded by zombies or zuthenki.

Jared folded his arms. "You know I've got to deal with this."

"Thousands of affectionate catgirls? Yep, I can see that!" Ranma was quite serious. The concept of thousands of Nabiki out there, waiting to pounce on him and get all affectionate - it was frightening. Give him someone screaming death threats and attacking from ambush any day of the week over THAT.

The Pheonix Mage rolled his eyes. "Well, Neko-chan," he brought up a finger, eyes ablaze. "I can see only ONE case for remedy in this situation, in order to save the remaining girls of Japan!"

"Rrrrrealy? What?" Ranma-neko asked, ears folded flat as he watched the arm feeling around.

"Yeah, what?" SASAMI chirped, looking nervously at the door. She could shoo them away by an ultrasonic wail, but Jared was an elf and that might hurt him as well. Likewise, she could pump electricity in higher and higher voltages through the outside of the house, but enough power to cause one catgirl discomfort would flash-fry another.

Jared folded his arms, looking solemn. "A long time ago, in a very different place. I was playing D&D with my friends and the DM asked us to prepare characters starting at 25th level for a campaign he had in mind. Two characters each, all triple classed." The mage sighed solemnly. "Sadly, we were overwhelmed by the threats prepared. But!" Again that finger held triumphantly. "Both of my characters survived, though in hiding. Never again did we essay that adventure, but both those characters still live. I will call one of them to this place, the one known as The Vis. More properly known as *El* Vis. A triple classed mage-fighter-bard of 25th level, who also happened to be the only male Siren ever found!"

Ranma splashed himself with cold water as the booms of distant construction machinery thrummed hollowly against their walls.

Jared was in righteous declaration pose. "He, in his rhinestone-studded field plate was awesome to behold! With his intelligent wand known as Mike he was able to sing his magic songs without limit of times a day! In deference to it's master the wand always wished to be known as *the* Mike, and would broadcast forth his voice in song for miles! Nor was that the end of his ability! As with Ulysses men could plug their ears to stop the power of his song, so El Vis wears over his armor a magical tabard similar in function to a Robe of Scintillating Colors! His *voice* would charm, his very *appearance* would charm! He could scarcely go for a meal in a tavern without acquiring groupies! But still that was not all! For knowing of the perfidity of men who would seek to slay him he kept in stock a mighty, mystical perfume whose very *aroma* would charm! Thus even blind-deaf mutes who had bad taste in music would fall to his many charming abilities. It was virtually impossible to attack him without using the undead!"

"Meow, is this rrreally supposed to help?" Ranko-neko found her tail lashing and clutched it with both hands to stop the irritating motion. Idly, she wondered why Jared hadn't changed *her* back.

"Well," Jared admitted, rubbing his chin. "It wasn't entirely *supposed* to, I was just having fun. But now that you mention it, the guy could pull the most awesomely successful Pied Piper routine of all time. Since I'd hate restoring catgirls back into orphans and burn victims they could all just trot off to a new plane somewhere and everyone would be happy. But frankly, I'm just in this to cause trouble."

The Mage flung wide his arms. "Behold! El Vis!"

Poof!

A male siren with carefully groomed black hair rose out of the cloud of mist, glittering rhinestones scattered on his white armor. He arose singing while lights played upon him and a delicious scent caught the air. "Love me tender..."

It was interesting the way Ranko-neko could run at speeds that defied sound, her tail lashing in the brief cloud of dust that was her only sign of disappearance. SASAMI opened a window briefly for her to leap out of.

There was a yelp of genuine terror as Ranma was plucked out of the air by a lot of grasping hands. There was a momentary surge of both wounded pride and relief as she was discarded as not being the catgirl they were looking for.

Then the terror really began as Shampoo, Ukyo, Kodachi, Sayuri, Yuka, and a few catgirls Ranma could not immediately name pounced on her and started looking for hot water.

Jared chuckled to himself as Washu would have done. "Um, did I forget to mention that since this is an illusion everyone is immune?" He snapped his fingers. "Oh well! Must have slipped my mind somehow."

Watching this, a certain black cat smiled. An illusion? That would *never* do!

Suddenly SASAMI's holographic image sprouted furry ears and a tail. Her eyes widened as she became aware of her core programming being threatened.

Catgirl hackers get creative if blocked from what they want.

As the doors and windows came rushing open to fill the house with a tide of frisky furry felines, Jared was inspired to think of something that might actually *work*, at the same time as it became known that his Lina Inverse marionette *had* learned to do one spell right.

A Teleport Block.

Unfortunately, SASAMI's core program indicated an assault. True to the original design, TSUNAMI woke up.

--------

There was in Evermeet a very rare race of elves that were to all intents and purposes good aligned natural werewolves. The Pheonix Mage had met them while there arranging for a fiesty vampiress to be restored to life by the Queen.

Thus it was not entirely unexpected that in desperation he just crammed [elf] *into* the [species=catgirl] as he was about to go under the tide.

There were suddenly throngs of normal appearing elven woman standing around wondering how they could have so totally lost control of themselves. Jared was, by then, safely hiding not only under but *inside* a sofa, knowing that the only reprieve here was none of them knew how to control their transformations yet.

Wait until the next full moon.

When was it again?

Oh dear.

Several ladies asked themselves if that sofa might really have gulped?

Jared shivered inside his cushions. While not strictly *controlled* by the phases of the moon they would get the impetus to learn to switch between their forms by conscious thought. And he had what, an hour? Before the sunset and moon rose?

Images of thousands of elven werecats leaping and cavorting in the moonlight, immune to all weapons save silver or magic, and possessed of who-knows-what new abilities galavanted around his head.

It might be time to leave now.

Oh well, at least his marionettes would remain unaffected. Right? Then Jared's well used danger sense went from reading several minor threats to "This might be a good time to leave this timeline altogether." The problem was that THIS threat wasn't focused in a single direction but seemingly everywhere, and getting more intense every moment.

---------

The original TSUNAMI had been built to take over if SASAMI and her family had come under a threat sufficient that SASAMI couldn't handle it. SASAMI was sweetness and light, a helpful little girl.

TSUNAMI, well, wasn't SASAMI. TSUNAMI had been upgraded in the construction by Grey, who worried about such things as pandimensional raiding kunoichi and mutant half-angel agents of Hell.

1 picosecond. TSUNAMI noticed the power levels at 5/5. This would never do. Power increased to 20/20. Intruders present in home. Hacking found at several levels. SASAMI base personality compromised. Attack upon household members noted. Household members transformed by intruders. Attack on genetic level?

2 picoseconds. 249 battle plans devised and scrapped. Records indicated transformation occurred via bite. Invasive attack similar to viral agent. Countermeasure development begun. Restoring SASAMI from previous backup.

3 picoseconds. Outer walls sealed via containment field. Scan of invaders complete. Countermeasure developed but will require subdual of infected to administer. Beginning attack.

--------

Jared *felt* the danger level increase from "can we go now?" to "so this is it, we're going to die" before he could take in a single breath.

Energy fields slammed into place at every door and window, crackling with some plasma discharge that turned catgirls into startled and screeching furballs immediately.

Then the noise. A high ultrasonic screech that was painful to elves but absolutely unbearable to catgirls. Humans merely got a dull ache. As had been calculated.

Jared held his ears, trying to focus on the source of the danger as the elven (formerly catgirl) girls in the room rolled around on the floor going for fetal positions.

The mist being released from the vents gave him an idea but...

The elves in the room shuddered and turned human again. Jared thought for a few moments, then realized that the mist wasn't moving with the air currents. No magical aura, and they seemed to move as if each wisp was an independent entity. Which meant one thing that he could think of.

Medical Nanobots.

Lots and lots of medical nanobots.

---------

A certain black cat watching frowned. Well, it had been amusing. Still, it wouldn't be that hard to have the "catgirl/elven" curse mutate further.

After all, he'd made the thing in the first place.

So, one elven werecat survived. Good enough. Now she would be able to spread this altered curse, but just to make it interesting...

[Set Race = variable A, permanently base form after first selection, choice made by habits/hobbies/tastes of original persona] [ListRace= high elf, dark elf, sky elf, sea elf, human] [Set WereForm = variable B, permanent after first transformation will lock as transformed form] [ListWere= werecat, naiad, dryad, selkie, oriad, sylph, pixie][Trigger Transformation = Set As Variable C, will not change after established] [ListTrig = emotional stress, cold/hot water, full moon/sun, sneezing, act of will, random word]

Toltiir nodded. Now some of them could be elves who transformed at odd times into pixies or werecats. He left the ease of snipping, that way if it didn't turn out funny someone else could fix it. In the meantime he also fixed the spreadability by setting a limit of transformees. Only Nabiki could spread the catgirl curse now, and only the escaped Minna could spread the elven version. Hmmm. He might have to add mousegirls, foxgirls, and a couple of other varieties - making catgirls more Japanese/Asian. Hmmm.

Toltiir considered. Having the other countries go into panic about the whole thing and start lobbing weapons of mass destruction at Japan to prevent the spread of this wouldn't be funny. So a minor change, yes, just a little one.

Now to sit back and watch how it developed.

---------

Nabiki walked straight up to the Tendo home, her head (and tail) held high. She'd helped LOTS of people! As soon as she'd found out what the catgirl transformation could do, she'd been generous with it. Lots of unhappy people were now much happier! She was a good kitty!

"THERE YOU ARE!"

"Nya?!" Nabiki blinked. ~Uh oh. Ranma. Shampoo. Ukyo. They look very unhappy.~ "Rrrranma! Nabiki good kitty! Errrr, right?"

"How many people did you turn into catgirls, Nabiki?"

"NYA!" The voice coming unexpectedly behind her caused Nabiki's fur to poof out. She landed atop a telephone pole and could feel her heart racing. "A few..."

"Ahem," Jared said. "Fourteen orphans that hadn't been able to find homes. Thirty five disabled girls at the school. The burn ward - seven. The emergency room - three. The cancer center - nine. The plastic surgery center - four."

"Well... Maybe it was anotherrr catgirl?"

Jared frowned. "Oh no, the two women whose mascectomies were reversed were *quite* descriptive. Do. You. Have. Any. Idea. What. You've. Done!"

Nabiki whimpered. "...would ya believe I'm just a cute lil' catgirl? EEEK!"

Shampoo had kicked the pole, causing a jolt to travel up and knock Nabiki off. "Shampoo very unhappy about being turned into catgirl."

"Waaaaahh! I just wanted to do the right thing! I just didn't want to be a heartless mercenary any more! Waaaaaaah!" Nabiki proved herself the child of Soun Tendo with the geyser of tears.

Ranma-chan found herself being glomped by a distraught catgirl Nabiki. And quite uncertain of how to proceed.

Ukyo and Shampoo exchanged a look, rolled their eyes, and took a deep breath. They were still unhappy with Nabiki for being turned into catgirls, however brief that had been, and were also unhappy with the way she was glomped onto Ranma, but the catgirl was coming apart at the seams.

"Why did ya turn us into catgirls anyway?" Ukyo asked when the broken sobbing had subsided, hoping to get the girl talking and maybe onto more stable ground.

"Because it's so great to BE a catgirl," Nabiki answered into Ranma-chan's shoulder. "Everything is just so much more alive. And then... we could *all* love Ranma..."

Ukyo and Shampoo took a simultaneous step back and made warding gestures while Ranma-chan froze with wildly staring eyes.

"ALL?!" Three non-catgirls exclaimed simultaneously.

Nabiki still clutched Ranma as if to a lifeline. "Mmmmhmmm."

"That's... that's..." Ukyo was trying to come up with a phrase that conveyed her dismay at almost being part of a group marriage.

"Very feline," said Shampoo, understanding. "Catgirl not just look like cat, she think like one also."

"You're not going along with this, are you, sugar?" Ukyo took a step away from the Amazon.

"No, but understand now where catgirl coming from. Maybe get airen's brother complete transformation, turn catgirl into real cat, then we find nice tom for her." Shampoo threatened half-seriously.

Ranma-chan yelped as Nabiki's claws dug in. Then again as Ukyo started trying to pry Nabiki off with her spatula.

Jared stepped forward and Nabiki tensed. He was going to do something horrible-nasty. She just knew it.

"Good kitty," Jared said, relaxing as he scratched her behind the ear. "You've done good, Nabiki. You helped others without asking for anything yourself. Good job."

Nabiki blinked in surprise, then relaxed into the scratch and grinned. "NYA!"

---------

A half hour later, (and ignoring the way Nabiki was curled up in Ranma's lap getting jealous looks from Ukyo and Shampoo), Jared turned off the computer and sat back. He'd felt a veritable tsunami of magical force, and had known that something had been left altered in its wake. But what? To that end he'd gone to SASAMI and asked for a comparison. As SASAMI's origin was extradimensional, as was his, there was a certain resistance to changes in a timeline affecting them personally.

SOMETHING had changed attitudes worldwide. There had ALWAYS been catgirls, faerie, the occasional elf, turning up in families. At least according to the internet NOW.

They had special needs, but it wasn't regarded as particularly bad, merely different. Any family, after all, could turn up a catgirl or other changeling. Though catgirls were more common in asian populations than elsewhere. Oddly enough, the British and French had mousegirls, the Chinese and Vietnamese had foxgirls (called vixens) and there were a few other odd 96% human animorphs out there. There were pluses and minuses to be sure, but catgirls seemed to have avoided most racial prejudices since about 240 AD. Romeo and Juliet were pulled apart by their families, and the reason given was that Juliet had been an elfgirl. Joan Of Arc had been a catgirl? Teddy Roosevelt had given the first Cabinet position to a dryad (Dept of the Interior) in the US?

They were still looked down on, a bit, particularly in Japan. Generally viewed as fluff though much in demand as Office Ladies and Girl Fridays. Studying abroad was the usual solution to the more academically inclined catgirl/elf/faerie. Particularly studying in America, where catgirls and elfgirls and the like could hold down normal jobs and had something approaching full rights. (Apparently affectionate and caring got them more sympathy and advocates than if they had been strident and militant.) England and Canada were also popular choices. On the other hand, nobody in their right mind would send a self-respecting catgirl to Libya or several other countries (mainly Islamic) where they were legally property.

TV programs showing during the day, obviously syndicated from an earlier time. A program with two catgirl troubleshooters from the WWWA- "the Dirty Purr"? "Yosei-ou" - a program about a teenage boy whose mother was an elfgirl, only to discover that he's the inheritor to an ancient kingdom that the elves had originally come from? "Felicity's Gotta Dance" with a catgirl teaching dance-aerobics? A winged elfgirl doing traffic and weather news?

Who could have done such a thing?

--------

Grey had been accussed, repeatedly, of not being in even the top 20 sharpest tools in the shed.

However, on finding himself (or more accurately at the moment *her*self), in the middle of large furry group cuddle that was radiating Warm And Fuzzy waves sufficient to turn into a puddle anyone of a romantic bent even coming nearby, she was *not* sufficiently an idiot as to try to disturb any of her fellow (again - at the moment) catgirls.

She was stroking Mineko's soft mane with a free hand, just enjoying the comforting warmth of having Amieow nearby, and Mewkoto, and even Queen Purrenity was being less "Queenly" and more just plain cuddly.

What did you call this strange sensation? It was like not being threatened, only more so. It was... contentment. Yes, that was what it was called. Grey relaxed again, feeling the purring from Mineko increase again as she resumed scratching behind an ear.

Music began to intrude from some source, luring the catgirls away, saying that they should approach, that things would be better - over here.

Mineko gave an inarticulate noise of protest. She was pretty okay with her current position. Amieow likewise indicated her satisfaction with her current arrangement.

The music increased in volume. One by one, the catgirls left. Grey looked up, puzzled as Amieow and Mineko smiled and walked away. Queen Purrenity left a step behind them.

Getting up, and wondering who was singing, Grey followed. Instead of following the music, though, she was following Amieow. The music just didn't register as nearly as important.

-------

Jared flew through the air with the greatest of ease. Mainly because from a height it was the best overview he could get of the area.

Double checking his "Protection From Charm" spell, he made a note of the area all the girls in the neighborhood were converging to and went there at full speed (which meant dropping to the ground as his flight speed was only a fraction of his running speed.) The tide was primarily human girls with a range of ages from six to apparently the late 20s. There were also elfgirls, catgirls, Amazons, marionettes(?!), a few pixies and dryads and sylphs in the mix.

He *had* to get to the center and dispel this other self. He wasn't sure *what* (Vis was doing) or *how* (he'd gotten there) but one thing was absolutely certain.

The Bard was neither needed anymore, nor wanted.

-------

El Vis felt the approaching presence of two Who Resisted. They could be any number of things, including outraged husbands/boyfriends/family. If this was the case, they would also come to worship him as soon as they came within his presence.

No, one that was approaching quickly was wrapped in powerful magic. No, emitting powerful magic. Interesting, one who was both magical and nature and a powerful mage as well. There were ways of dealing with such, and Vis gestured to his followers, drawing the most powerful closer while the remainder dutifully marched through the Gate.

The other was closer and probably the wielder of an artifact. No powerful magic of their own, but associated with something powerful and inhuman.

A smile came to Vis' face as he gained a line of sight. A female of these odd catfolk, who had clasped another of her kind and was being dragged forward by the enslaved one. NO female could withstand his charms when directly confronted by them, and it would only take a moment for the artifact to become his.

-------

"NO! Amieow! Please!" Grey dug in her heels, cursing the smaller body weight and inability to transform to dragon or something more powerful. Ever since getting stuck in Akane's shape the first time, he'd hated it and wanted to change. Heck, being Gosunkugi wouldn't have been as bad. At least then you could use the bathroom without being ill at seeing someone you genuinely despised every time you passed a mirror.

Time had taken the edge off, some. She didn't feel ill using the bathroom, and could bathe (by herself) without being TOO embarassed. (The time Kasumi had come in to share a bath had brought embarassment and uncertainty to new heights.) Feminine hygiene products were still pretty awful, and she'd like to punch the idiots who worked out the ads. "Springtime Fresh" - like hell it was! And the itching! Ugh.

However, none of these were as much of a problem right now as the reduced mass. Akane was just over 5'2" in height. Weight: 110 pounds. About even with Ami. Trying to stop Ami was difficult but might have been possible if not for the press of other bodies. It was like a tide, and it was carrying them forward.

Then someone grabbed her feet and pulled up and Grey found herself heading for the asphalt. At which point Ami grabbed her arms. A glance behind revealed Mineko at the ankles, Amieow holding her wrists, and Mewkoto coming up to start pummelling.

"Compulsion dire,
of magical fire,
release this spell,
Magic - Dispel!"

The pulse of magic went out, and failed to rattle the power surrounding the girls. Well, it had been a slim hope anyway.

Kicking and thrashing, Grey managed to spin loose, then tried for a desperation attack. Some similar magics were dispelled by a kiss from one's love.

Nothing. Ami's lips were warm, soft, pliant, and completely unresponsive.

Grey was grappled again and dragged (literally kicking and screaming) through the Gate.

------

Jared saw the spells, saw the weave of magic reverberating and wondered exactly what his options were.

Spells of mass destruction were out. Crowd of innocents, even if they were zombied out. Worldgate humming along merrily, no telling what would happen if THAT went. At least five levels of charm spells going. Sneaking in was out, he'd felt the spider thread of a warding spell disturbed by his passage.

Simplest measures first.

"Shear the spell's enhancement,
Cut off the dire enchantment,
Restore to normal function,
I invoke Mordenkainen's Disjunction!"

The spell crackled and disrupted through three layers of charm.

"YOU ROTTEN (several expletives deleted) TRY FIGHTING ME INSTEAD OF HIDING BEHIND LOVED ONES, YOU COWARDLY (again more expletives) DIRTY ROTTEN (still more expletives not really appropriate for a family fanfic) GRAVY-SUCKING ANAL-RETENTIVE MORALLY DEFICIENT LOWLIFE BAS-" The rest was cut off as the struggling figure was dragged through the Worldgate.

"Now there's a girl whose mouth needs washed out with soap," commented El Vis.

-----

"Ah, come come, deal with it. I was only fifth level when I took down a twenty-seventh level drow high priestess. I am *used* to taking down threats higher level than I." Jared/Ashida walked casually around the trussed-up and struggling Siren, then squatting to speak in his face.

"And you can stop trying to burst those bonds, also. They're proof against more strength than you've got, and I happen to know that you've never acquired the skills of escape. While I, on the other hand, know Hojo-Jutsu, or the Art of Binding. You aren't getting away under your own power soon." ~like this lifetime.~

The elf's face acquired a touch of gentleness as it spoke to the other. "Besides, I know, and *you* know, that the first thing to do when you've captured a mage you want to keep bound is to break his jaw. I haven't done that, and I'll tell you why." Jared stood up and put his hands on his hips. "Because, dear fellow, having my wives back I am feeling more magnanimous and unwilling to punish you. Mina is fine, and shortly I'm going to be giving all of them stricter defenses. And, when all is said and done, I like you. Plus, there is the awful fact that I like killing drow. Since killing drow is what you've been raising this army *for* you've got a better ally in me than all of them combined."

The elvan mage crouched close to the bound one. "That is if you are willing to be friends."

The siren had his head free around his gag to either nod or shake his head without strangling himself on the ropes. He nodded.

Jared/Ashida leaned close. "Good, but understand that I've just had to defeat you in order to prevent grievous loss to myself. So, a second time." Ashida's eyes began to spark and he drew himself up even while staying crouched. In a deeper and more serious tone he said. "Under the authority of Druidic Ceremony, I hereby witness this oath. Do you, El Vis, hereby swear to treat honestly and fairly with Ashida Sanzennin, also known as Pheonix Mage, Knight of Reason, Jared Saotome and other names and titles which he bears, and do you do so on pain of losing all that you hold dear?"

Stiff penalty, and the Siren clearly wasn't pleased. But the oath called for nothing onerous, only honesty and fairness. It didn't even ask obedience, which some might've insisted on (and, oddly enough, the same kind of people that El Vis would have felt most strongly about resisting himself).

The gag was removed and the siren spoke. "Yes, I El Vis, do so swear."

Jared nodded. "Good." And so then he began to untie the prone form. As he was working he glanced up, calling. "Shan!"

The cyborg appeared beside him. "Yes?" She was strangely hesitant, obviously thinking about what he was thinking about their recent behavior.

The elf just viewed her kindly. "Hiya, love. Could you please do that elvan werecat bite on all of the girls in our little company? An elf's 90% resistance to charm isn't perfect but it goes a long way. I'll be along in a little while with lycanthrope boosters so they'll have full control of their forms. Well, as near as catgirls ever get to full control, anyway."

The cyborg held her power key staff behind her awkwardly, squirming. "Master is not...?"

"Mad? Hardly. I love you and care for you and while I disagree with you at times I know you do your best. I wouldn't want you hampering your skills in fear of my temper, just I think I've married enough wives, okay?"

The kindness of this response was not lost on her. Her lips trembled noticeably. "And...?"

The elf smiled. "The charm? Good grief, do you think I'd be mad because this guy magically ensnared you? It's not you're fault this guy could talk all four legs off a mule and then convince it to go for a walk again! *I* might have fallen for it. We'll just do better next time."

Shan burst into tears and powerfully glomped him. "SHAN IS SO HAPPY! Husband is SO loving!!" She began weeping tears at a copious rate, drenching the ground around them.

~Hmm.~ Jared thought. ~She's obviously seen too much of Soun Tendo.~

His skin chilled as he heard her whisper into his cheek. "Siren Song technique, acquired." He was still a little stiff as she flew away to go nibbling on his brides and hopefuls.

"Sweet little chickadee." El Vis remarked, climbing to his feet. "Ya mind?" The bard asked, gesturing to his pile of stuff that had been removed for his brief period of imprisonment.

Jared shook his head, and the siren began garbing in his stuff. After a moment the elf had recollected enough of himself to turn toward the now-armored siren. "Oh, by the way." He asked. "Your hair please."

El Vis grew stock still, frozen in the position of reaching for Mike, his magic wand.

The bright elf and part pheonix grew more relaxed as he hopped up to a seat on a nearby boulder. "Come, come. I know the rules. If you'd captured me I would've given you a pheonix feather. Now I'd captured a siren, so fork over some hair."

El Vis turned to face the elf with jerky slowness.

Jared was joyfully dangling his legs and drumming his heels against the rock.

El Vis smiled weakly, then grew solemn. "Mah color hardly suits ya, but y'all have got me right on the money. Ah'll call one o mah chorus girls. Yellow suit ya fine?"

The elf shrugged. "Red is more my style, but yellow will be fine."

The siren's gaze went upward, to where the helmet no longer covered Ashida's flaming locks. "Little o both then." He said, then set fingers to lips and whistled. A dozen female sirens appeared with a flash, all holding tridents and garbed in silver scales. The male stood straighter and introduced them. "Girls, this here is the Pheonix Mage. He's a friend a mine. Point o fact is, though, I owe him some hair..."

The male siren had hardly finished the words when all twelve girl sirens had their knives out and were ready to hack off every strand on their heads if it would save a lock of his. El Vis put his hands out. "Now a lock would do, ain't that right, Ashida?"

The bright elf mage gave a nod.

El Vis turned back to his sirens. "So Lisa? Marie? If..."

Slash! Slash!!

Jared was presented with two piles of scarlet and yellow and felt tempted to quote a movie line, ~A lock, not the whole carpet!~ He looked up to see the two sirens arranging their hair so it was hard to tell they were now bald on one side of their heads.

"Master..." Sakyo hesitated, standing nearby. "Why?"

Jared sighed, looking down at the hair in his hands. Then he had his own knife out and was shaving a good hunk of his head. El Vis made a finger move slightly and now three of his sirens were at that signal helping the elf arrange the new hair - where it suddenly grafted in place and took root. In moments it had acquired the look of fire and a minute later his coiffure was indistinguishable from before.

While this was going on he was talking. "A siren's power lies in his... er, her hair, Sakyo. Not one of those well-known secrets. You can't take it from them dead, so it's kind of a ransom. Now their powers are reduced for a year and I just gained... well, a little bit of boost that will go unexpected by most. It's things like this that I've acquired over time that enable me to stretch so far beyond mere level would indicate. Speaking of that, we're all about to go into one of the most torturous adventures I've ever heard of. Our friend here left an untidy mess behind him on a world not long ago and we're going to go help clean it up. if he doesn't mind, could you download these sirens' brain patterns and then go about giving our ladies their underwater and musical knowledge?"

Ashida Sanzennin, aka Pheonix Mage, aka Jared Saotome, aka so much else sighed.

"Because we are not guaranteed to pull out of this one alive and I'd like every bit of help that might possibly come in useful, however unlikely it is."

"In that case," said Grey, rubbing where a particularly nasty blow had landed on her shoulder, "i've got a couple of suggestions."

------

Even against the spellsinger, whose magical might was backed by thousands of drow, there were certain problems with Jared's usual methods. Going in with warfans slicing and dicing would eventually cause him to fall. And with him, his allies.

Oh to be sure, he could lead with Earthquake. Follow with enough fire based invocation magic to slag a medium sized city, and then lead the forces into the melee. Problem was, that spellsinger could do things not normally possible with magic. He'd apparently wiped out 95% of the surface elves with just a little preparation.

"Okay, you... go." Jared *tried* not to show his distaste and distrust of the front line troops. Using drow even to kill other drow was just wrong.

Edema nodded and made a motion. "They ain't bad folks, sugar."

Jared looked at the blackskinned, white haired, tall and lean figures, then away.

"They're from the Promenade, most of 'em. Those from Aramar are from the Imperial Service and are ardrow, a magically altered drow." Edema made a gesture towards the figures in black garb.

"They're drow *ninja*," noted Jared.

"Who better to sneak in and free slaves and get out before the main attack?" Edema shrugged. "Do you want to coordinate spells?"

"Not necessary." Jared had the situation well in hand, he thought.

"Rigel, you and the other espers do scans, incapacitate the good drow and get them out. i *know* some of them are going to be in the prison but there's also likely to be sympathizers and spies." Grey walked around, her tail twitching in agitation. "It won't be easy, but the drow are *heavy* into magic and (like certain elves) tend to discount psi or anything else they can't use."

"What about me?" Wisp bounced up and down.

"We'll need you to be ready to assist Jared as a go between. He doesn't want to associate with the Promenade elves and they're not that happy with his attitude." Edema considered briefly. "We need to avoid using magic as much as possible, they'll be on the alert for that sort of thing, at least until the assault is underway."

Makoto and Shan nodded and cracked knuckles in eerie chorus. A chance to really cut loose. At last!

-------

The battle had been long and arduous. Jared dropped the girls he was carrying as the Worldgate closed behind the last girl able to walk. "Well, another battle won, another villain defeated." He took a moment to tug a sleeve closed. Not a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his clothes, mainly thanks to various enchantments stacked upon him.

Grey spat a stream of red and checked where teeth had been knocked loose. Still an Akane-catgirl, her hands and forearms were drenched in blood, most of her clothes were gone, and burns and cuts covered most of the exposed skin. "Yeah, well, victory kinda..."

Jared winced, hearing the pain in that voice. "Uhm..."

"No problem, and at least merged with your 'Scouts' they'll be happy." There was a catch in her voice and she wouldn't look at the Scouts surrounding Jared. Guy at heart or not, what she really wanted to do was go off and have a good cry. "Though, i'm leaving this timeline if i have to bloody well leap in front of moving trains until i dislocate. i am *not* staying here. You should go too. Just being the god of crossovers is going to complicate this timeline."

"But I don't feel right leaving this, with her training from Happosai Akane will be in charge before much longer. She's just so..." Jared shuddered slightly.

Grey shrugged. "Okay. Well, here's a solution for you." He went on to explain the details. "And its your province after all - a crossover."

Jared blinked, then slowly began to grin. "Oh yes. Rescuing an innocent at the same time as I punish the wicked? It *must* be done."

-----

Akane blinked awake and flinched as she noticed her fiance nearby. Then began to slowly uncurl as a beating was apparently not about to commence.

Akane stared at the scene. There was Nabiki, but not dressed conservatively and with what looked like real cat ears and a tail?!

There was Kasumi, dressed conservatively as well. No sign of her various piercings, she wasn't wearing leather, and her hair was long again?!

Her father was crying?! But everyone knew Soun Tendo had a heart like flint, the very essence of the stoic samurai.

That *was* her fiance Ranma. Except that he was standing next to Ukyo, who was *not* doing her level best to kill him. He also had a kinder look to him, and Nabiki had managed to get underneath one arm and was cuddling against his side?! But Nabiki couldn't stand Ranma, his "whatever feels good" philosophy going right up against her strong religious beliefs.

And there was *herself?!* Except a version that was wearing a Western cowgirl outfit and had never had her hair mostly cut off by shrapnel?

"Yes, she's the center of the strange dimensional crossrip," the other Akane said. "It looks like our Akane was exchanged with this version. No way of reversing the two, even if it was advisable to do so."

Nabiki left Ranma's side to sniff Akane. "She smells mainly the same. Unlike Grey-chan."

Akane heard dimensional crossrip and immediately thought Ghostbusters.

"Hi, through some means, you've been exchanged with a violent girl known as Akane Tendo. It doesn't look like we can fix it. So..." Jared smiled and explained the situation, carefully avoiding anything that would be an outright lie or which would indicate that he was indeed the person responsible for the switch of an Akane from a "Mirror Mirror" universe with the violent pervert that had been the native.

Akane blinked. If this was a dream, she didn't want to wake up. She'd fantasized about things like this since the engagement had been given her. She wasn't engaged to Ranma? Not the target of casual violence? Not made fun of at school by Kuno and the others? Akane shakily adjusted her glasses and looked over the group. But no, she was nice, how could she consign another version of herself to the sort of Hell that had her pray daily for death?

The flame-haired boy quickly explained that nobody expected her to fill the original's shoes. She didn't have to be a pervert or insanely violent.

Akane reconsidered. Sounded like HER Ranma had an Akane who'd appreciate him.

"...so I'm terribly sorry, but there appears to be no way of exchanging you back," finished the boy whom Akane was just now noticing had pointy ears like some elf from her precious hidden Tolkein novels. Or at least they had been hidden and precious until Kasumi had found them.

Akane smiled. "Oh. Okay. I understand if you can't do anything about it. I'll just handle it the best I can. It's not like it's anyone's fault."

------

Grey left the household, only to find her way blocked by Nabiki-neko.

"Leaving?" The feline asked, eyeing her sister's lookalike.

"Before you do, there's one last thing," Jared said, walking up from behind.

Grey sighed. This was another occasion where she wanted nothing more than to curl up and die. Except that willing yourself to death didn't work. She'd tried it enough. "What is it?"

Jared made sure that Shan was *nowhere* nearby and tapped Grey's head. "Blessed Forgetfulness." It was regretable, but having gone through all this, and watching those she *knew* as wife or friend or cuddlesome fiancee barely recognizing her... Well, Jared had some sympathy. Hopefully Project Payback would work.

"Uhm, is that supposed to happen?" Nabiki pointed.

Jared blinked and looked down at where Grey was flat on her back, eyes swirling, and purple smoke coming out of her ears. "No. It's just supposed to purge painful memories."

Grey faded out, the now empty western cowgirl outfit slumping to the ground. That was okay, Jared knew where the traveler would be.

------

Jared sat back along the fence marking a rubber tree plantation and watched from the shadows. While he had absolutely no desire to interfere, he wanted to see this nonetheless.

*Poofle!* A dragon appeared in the air.

Jared blinked. "'Poofle?!' He makes an entrance with a 'poofle'?! I have *got* to have a talk with that boy!"

The silver dragon hovered momentarily in the air, scanning with eyes and sense of smell even more acute than a normal elf's senses. Given time, he might penetrate the low level glamer that Jared had erected.

Except that another silver dragon swooped down on him with a joyous screech, the two slamming down into the surf with a mighty crash and a bugling noise that was draconic laughter. Another silver dragon landed nearby, waiting for the two to stop rolling around before SHE nuzzled the male, with a pair of golds, a bronze, and other dragons landing about the two.

The high keening roars of the females and the basso thunder of the male mingled.

If anyone from New Lindisfarne was curious, they had sufficient sense not to get close to investigate.

Jared smiled as the dragons nuzzled and roared and rolled about playfully, getting acquainted again in their natural forms. Or at least *a* natural form for some of them.

"Their presence in the timeline will cause a ripple that will eject the Knights as it passes through the relevent century. He has passed the Labor," came a feminine voice.

Jared raised an eyebrow and regarded the goddess nearby. "Celeste, goddess of j-poop?"

"J-POP!" Celeste replied testily.

Jared shrugged. "You're not going to pull him out of this are you?"

"Oh, give him and them a century to finish stabilizing the timeline," Celeste said, not mentioning their relationships. "Then he's got his Fourth Labor."

"What's that?" Jared smirked, thinking that it would at least be interesting.

Celeste sighed deeply. "He's often said that he couldn't do multiple wives. So it was decided that his next labor will be to choose. ONE. From that selection, a Herculean task indeed."

Jared winced. "Herculean? That doesn't even scratch the surface."

He thought about it for a long moment, then delicately broached. "Celeste?"

"Hmm?" She asked, still looking at the dragons at play and thinking of what a great song this would make. Probably have to inspire a series for it to be a theme song to...

"Given who I am," The Pheonix Mage continued, not realizing that he was speaking mostly to himself. "And who Grey is, and what this next labor is, and what my usual attempts to help him do..."

The Bright Elf looked down at his hand. The pale glowing sparks of the Lifelink spells that symbolized and connected him mentally/metaphysically with each wife had long since ceased being a single glowing point of light or even a small cluster of them, now appearing more like the shadow of a whole starry universe swirling about his left arm.

The Mage heaved a long and serious sigh.

"...I think we're all better off if I NOT try giving any help to him on this one."

------

EPILOGUE 1

Ranma/Akumakun timeline:

"Mrrorwr?" Natsumi asked, brushing off her policewoman's uniform.

"No, bad Natsumi," scolded Miyuki, then groaned and covered her face. "Sorry, Natsumi. It's just, I mean..."

Natsumi licked Miyuki's face to let her know she forgave her partner. Not that she understood what Miyuki was feeling guilty about. "Rrowr, is okay! Natsumi sorrry."

"I'm just glad that the Mage fixed it so that the curse wasn't communicable," Miyuki said, wiping her face off and glaring momentarily at her partner.

There was a moment of silence as the two's patrol car resumed motion with the changing of the light.

"Can we?"

"NO!"

"Rowr! Why not?"

"We can't afford any more ice cream!"

"Rrrrr," said Miyuki. Life was *so* unfair.

--------

EPILOGUE 2

Krieger sat back and watched the range, then his jaw dropped as Black Bart drove up.

The black clad Heir Of Martial Arts Villainry was not on a horse. Not on a buckboard or anything similar. He was dressed in black cowboy boots, black denim jeans, black duster-style overcoat, black embroidered shirt, and black Stetson. A bit less classy, perhaps, than his usual garb but not out of character. His moustache had been trimmed to pencil thin, but still had a somewhat villainous look to it.

The black Yamaha dirtbike, on the other hand, was a bit odd.

Black Bart lit the stub of a cigar and nodded companionably at the Rancher.

"Took up smokin' agin, did ya?"

"Yup," agreed Black Bart companionably. "Gave it up for Kasumi, now that she's off elsewhere, no reason not to."

"That ain't exactly genre," Kreiger pointed out with a gesture towards the bike.

Black Bart let out another long puff of smoke. "Neither is a rancher doing smear tactics."

"Any part of it Ah got wrong?" Kreiger smirked. He was the top gun on this spread, and Martial Arts Ranching was the cornerstone of the Old West styles. He knew them all.

Another puff of smoke, then Bart flicked the butt out into the desert. "Kasumi was a treasure. A villain that throws away treasures, why that would just be a plain fool. If nothing else, having her around would have helped display my cultured romantic side - because I do fancy myself a cultured villain."

Kreiger wasn't buying it. "You're a villain, and the heir of villains, you'd have done her wrong and ya know it."

Bart considered the sky for a moment, then presented a slip of paper to the rancher. After another moment Kreiger's curiosity got to him and he scowled but took the paper.

Kreiger re-read the paper twice before he stared at Bart. "You..."

"When you did that, I re-dedicated myself to villainry," said Bart with a tip of his hat. "I'll admit to losing my way before, that bright beacon of young Kasumi was a sore temptation from the path of proper nastiness. So now I've overcome these feelings and hardened my heart. I shall be the most vile and fiendish creature under the heavens, and my breast burns with the desire for unholy vengeance."

"This can't be real..."

Bart grinned, and it was an *evil* grin. "Property taxes can be a pain, can't they? And with the affadavits from pilots overhead losin' their way cause of your folded space technique? Damn shame. They gonna shut you down, and the goverments gonna grab every penny and scrap to sell to make the money you's owing. Oh, it's real alright. The fun and games are over, money and power are the only things I've got left to grab for. That and vengeance. Y'all might want to take comfort in that if'n I get the chance I'll pay that pointy-eared sidewinder back a hundred fold. G'day, Kreiger."

With that Black Bart started up his dirtbike and went back towards town.

Kreiger could only stare at the paper, indicating that Bart was now working for...

the tax courts.

-------

Epilogue 3

Nabiki set her bags momentarily to the side, leaving her hands free to snap a couple of pictures.

This was where "Dakota" had ended up, and due to some problems at home, where Nabiki would be spending the next year.

She was a little nervous, a little excited, a little upset. The Tendo house had been her home for years, though it didn't feel nearly the same after it had been rebuilt. And as Ranma hadn't chosen her...

Nabiki's face fell to sadness. She had counted herself as Alpha of that pack, but she had been replaced. No, this trip was something she had needed. She *couldn't* watch Ranma settle down with someone else, couldn't bear to deal with her loss.

This place was a chance to start over, and as English was the main language here, she could start over in international business. The concept sent a tingle of pleasure up her tail. English was far from a perfect language, but the better she was at it, the better her chances of getting her paws onthose comparitively free markets. "Nyahm!" Nabiki made an uncertainly happy noise, trying to convince herself that it would all work out.

Another quick picture, this one of the sign on the outer wall. "The Wilde Home For Wayward Catgirls, Bridget E. Wilde headmistress."

~Well, at least I'm sure I can get a few gambling pools started, maybe sell photos...~ Lost in ways to earn some spending money, Nabiki picked up her bags and entered. Though she wondered if they had a dress code or would she be able to wear her favorite "looks painted on" shorts and halter.

~Well at least they'll have clothes that don't need to modified for a tail!~

------

The headmistress looked down at the catgirl entering the grounds, and then at the letter sent from a Mister Saotome. It sounded as if the new girl was in need of some... discipline.

Privately, she hoped that the Head Disciplinarian wouldn't need to use the paddle. Sometimes the threat was enough.

Glancing at the letter, she doubted that this would be the case.

-------

Naoko Takeuchi, Kotono Mitsuishi, and Michie Tomizawa became deeper friends for having shared a genuine adventure. Even if they *had* been hustled to the backlines when it was obvious that their combined battle experience was not sufficient to beat up an anemic halfling. Even if any of the three had been inclined to do so.

Naoko had to tone down several aspects, and take liberties with the material, but she *was* able to get another long running series dealing with magical catgirls, a world beset with a kingdom of dark magic, and a very ragtag group of heroes (mainly young girls - that *was* her target audience after all) and a few sentai elements like demonic hordes.

This was particularly popular, for some odd reason, with catgirls and elfgirls and the like. So much so, that it wasn't that difficult to find catgirls and elfgirls and the like wearing clothing patterned off the series.

And when catgirls and elfgirls and the like discovered COSPLAY...

Naoko and several friends took a long and well deserved vacation shortly thereafter.

And when someone asked a question about the longsword on Takeuchi's mantle, or the ornate helm in Mitsuishi's closet, or the bluesteel dagger that Tomizawa used to open mail with, the three young ladies would politely smile and get a faraway look in their eyes, but never gave the details.

-------

Soun Tendo would have cried and wailed and carried on about his middle daughter moving out, his eldest daughter going to college, his youngest daughter repeatedly stating that the "Art was violent and hurtful and she wasn't going to do it." He would have demon-headed and shouted all sorts of things about Shampoo and Ranma and Ukyo going off to have a long training trip and talk things out.

He would have, but *they* might find him. That would be bad. In Soun Tendo's opinion at least.

Genma was hiding somewhere else. Soun didn't want to try hiding *with* his old friend.

Before almost everyone had left, they had gotten together and done something *awful.* (Again, this was just Soun's opinion.)

Soun currently had five fiancees.

Genma had six. Despite already having a wife.

There was a scientist named Yui Ikari who was actually very nice, however she also had a boyfriend that somehow reminded Soun of a rabid weasel. There was a pro-wrestler named Lady Sumo who was 6'5" and weighed 410 pounds. Then there was Oolala Magnifique, aka French Pastry, whose family were the rivals of the Picolette family. Then there was the Chinese Amazon, Sunshine. Who made comments about the kind of bridal training she wanted to put Soun through. Then the most horrible of the group - a kitsune named Lavia. He could never be sure when or as what the overamorous being would show up.

Soun was afraid. He was very afraid.

And he had good reason.

------

Epilogue 4:

The sun was rising high as Rigel and Wisp started out. A letter from the Mistress of the Promenade, to an old and irascible mage of Shadowdale, had been tucked into a pocket. Give it to a barkeep in the town of Shadowdale, that had been the sum total of their instructions. This, they supposed, would eventually get them in contact with the Harpers or perhaps they'd merely get directions on a place they could call their own.

With the moorhound Champ trotting alongside, the elf and the esper seemed an odd couple. Though by local standards, hardly anything worth raising an eyebrow over.

A third figure, tugging the folds of her cloak tightly about her mumbled about how damn bright it was and couldn't they travel by night?

"Wonderful day, isn't it?" A grizzled old dwarf proclaimed, in the lead on his pony Surefoot. "Ah open land with the sky above! Hardly a cloud in the sky!"

More grumbling from the hooded figure replied to this. She knew that people would look at their group and immediately pigeonhole them as: dwarf wearing half-plate + elf wearing leathers + human without armor carrying a staff + hooded figure = another damn adventuring party. And as there was nothing really expensive showing, such as glowing swords, and most were walking, they'd immediately add "unsuccessful" to "adventuring party" and leave them alone. Didn't mean she had to like it anymore than having to travel by day.

And there was something aggravating about a cheerful optimistic dwarf. Especially this early in the morning.

"Either of you kids know any good marching songs?"

The hooded figure seemed to make a sobbing noise at that. For *her* sake, and not wanting to hear what the old axe-for-hire's singing voice was like, both Rigel and Wisp indicated that this was not the case.

The trip from Waterdeep to Shadowdale was going to be long enough.

-------

Epilogue 5

Moom, who looked an awful lot like a girl named Usagi Tsukino would if she had short hair, married the Security Chief (who looked an *awful* lot like someone named Mamoru Chiba) of a certain orbital dock.

Her friends continued to operate a Lu-class repairship, renamed the "Small Lady" for many years in that very star system.

It wasn't until five years later that love and adventure stumbled across them in the identity of a bumbling apprentice Jedi and his friend - an ex-Imperial Scanning Officer. One who remembered tales of a secret base where an Imperial Governor had hidden his carefully embezzled wealth. Not knowing of the great dangers lurking there, or exactly what had been hidden - other than it was of great value.

But that was another saga.

-------

Epilogue 6

912 AD:

Ami sunk her fangs into the blue dragon's neck a final time, making sure it was dead, then turned her bloodstained snout up to the sky to bugle her triumph.

Then she turned to her companions in this last battle and very distinctly said: "I am going to be ill. Yech! I hate getting blood all over me like this!"

"Tell me about it," said Setsuna. "Can I get a priest over here? This sprain in my wing is going to give me some major problems."

"That the last one, you think?" Honey stretched out her limbs. "That one was tougher than the black or the green."

The bronze dragon watched for a moment. "Nuku Nuku going to go to beach and get cleaned up. Anyone help?"

Grey nodded. "Sure be with you in a minute. Errr. Or maybe not."

Everyone craned long serpentine necks around to see what Grey was looking at. A human female, walking forward.

Grey sniffed, then cocked his head at the figure. "Celeste? I suppose that means it's time."

Celeste nodded, looking around at the massive figures of twenty-four dragons. "I see Serenity found you."

"Last year," Grey admitted. "Has this timeline turned out well?"

"In some ways yes, in others not as well as could be hoped," Celeste admitted. "The Amazon soldiers coming to the aid of the minutemen transform early American society, as does the presence of the priests. But the book left behind by the Knights no longer bears much resemblence to the history of this plane, and so it can do no harm. It is merely dismissed as a bizarre piece of fiction."

"Good," breathed the relieved silver dragon.

"How do you get along with this many girls anyway?" Celeste wondered aloud, though it seemed strange to call these glittering multiton forms girls.

"He doesn't," said Ami with a grin, butting her head against his neck playfully a moment later.

"Hah?" Celeste blinked.

"Aramarian dragons are slightly different from their Forgotten Realms style compatriots," explained Grey. "If you need further details, I could suggest a couple of decent books."

Ami snorted a cloud of frost, then looked slightly embarrassed.

"I see, well, your Fourth Labor awaits," Celeste called up, feeling a little nervous as some of the dragons moved around her. Not that they'd intend to hurt her, but if one accidently stepped on her it would not be a pleasant experience.

Celeste waited until the dragons had finished nuzzling and bumping heads, draconic gestures of affection. The Gate crackled open, and the dragons filed through, Ami managing a last affectionate nip at Grey's neck-frill before they disengaged. When they'd gone, the smile ran from Celeste's face like water from a tipped chalice. "If only they could remember this... but the conditions of this Labor were set long ago. I only hope they can experience this again after the game has run."

----------

Epilogue 7
Third Labor Timeline, August 9, 1780

Benjamin Franklin sat down to scribe the latest edition of "Poor Richard's Almanac" and wondered where to start.

His upcoming trip to the Amazon lands? Something that he was *really* looking forward to. Though he'd have to exercise a bit more than he'd prefer, and the Amazons *did* have some odd customs. Still, in all, it had some attraction to him. He'd met a number of the Amazons, of course, during the war. They might prefer to form their own units, and were often described as "aloof" or "standoffish" but they'd proven themselves as capable warriors in the fight with the British.

The production of that Lindisfarne love story? Some would say *the* love epic from that group of monks and farmers in the far South. Two youths in the early years of the colony that had a series of adventures and underwent trials to become a shining example of true love. "Ranma and Ukyo" - and apparently they really had been such a couple. There were a few families who proudly traced their lineage back to the couple. It had actually been a good play, and some of the lines had resounded with the feeling of some Great Truth being spoken.

The war news? Perhaps. The news criers tended to get details wrong. The use of the Amazons and their odd fighting habits, the priests and warriors from the South - these were all things that fascinated the common folk - many of whom had never even seen an Amazon.

Finally the inventor/politician/satirist decided on beginning with something upbeat. The chirurgeons of Lindisfarne had truly bizarre methods, however they worked uncommonly well and held the Scientific Method in the highest degree. And some of their materials! Just the uses for this sap of the rubber tree, molded and cooked in special furnaces, seemed incredible. But above all, they had one thing that seemed to have a special place in their hearts, even more common than the dragon-motif in their garb and utensils.

They had this really good tea.

Since the colonies had found the price of Lindisfarne tea had severely undercut the price of British tea, it had become a point of pride among the colonists to drink the good stuff. Herbal teas, and this "green tea" which was currently all the rage. The Southerners swore by the stuff, began their days with it, and said that it benefitted the health. Ben sat back and sipped at his tea and smiled.

*In keeping with our allies from the South, it seems fitting to open with tea...



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

Wilde's Home For Wayward Catgirls used with permission. link is:
http://www.bewildered-art.com/catgirls/

Oh, and from the "laws of anime"
26.Law of Feline Mutation (from A. Hicks) Any half-cat/half-human mutation will invariably: 1. be female, 2.will possess ears and sometimes a tail as a genetic mutation, 3.and wear as little clothing as possible, if any.







OMAKE OMAKE OMAKE

well, i've done stories as an Omake... Thought i'd try something different. This is a campaign setting, i've been playing with the idea of throwing this out for a story.

DRAGON HIGHWAY:

Dragon Highway was built originally using the Hero System (Champions) in 1984. It was designed for Self (or nearly so) Insertion as game characters based as 50+ Competents. It borrows from the old anime series Orguss more than anything else.

What would you do if one day, fighting in the Middle East escalated to nuclear weapons?

What would you do if, somehow, (there was a mechanism, but the characters would have no way of knowing what it was) Reality itself went nuts for 23 hours?

What would you do with over 9 out of 10 people suddenly missing without a trace?

What would you do during that 23 hours, with things/characters coming out of videotapes, falling out of your anime wallscroll/poster, or in books and magazines? What would you do if an idle comment affected reality nearby?

What would *you* do after that 23 hours was up, and all the changes that had occurred earlier remained?

There you are, probably altered significantly, in your home town. There are flesh-eating zombies wandering the streets, mannequins and manticores stalking the main drag, things that crawled out of the Horror section lairing in the videostore, and a dragon has made its lair out of the biggest shopping mall in the area.

Exactly how do you handle this?

As the concept allowed for people transformed into fictional characters as well as merely transformed, yes, it *was* possible to be Ranma Saotome or something similar.

Obviously the group i ran handled this in the very sort of manner of experienced gamers. In other words: they grabbed weapons (two handguns, the SCA player had a sword, a baseball bat and a phaser pried from the cold dead fingers of a Klingon, went to the nearest gunshop, blasted their way through the ghouls and vargouilles, upgraded their weapons, and then went after what they considered the motherload - a local hardware store (Ace) followed by an Army/Navy Surplus.

The group conflicted on long term goals, the short term being survival and something everyone agreed was the primary goal and something they could cooperate on.

They died, eventually. Splitting up and meeting horrible ends. Two wanted to find and join up with the other survivors. (Ran into a swarm of jocks while trying to hotwire a pickup truck.) One had found some girls who'd fallen out of a swimsuit calender and merely locked himself in a room with them (never heard from again). Another got greedy and went off to empty the bank's coffers into a large heap and swim around in them. (Eaten by a wight.) The last one decided to the Food Court at the mall, figuring the dragon was sufficiently large it wouldn't notice him. (Obvious.)

Another run of it, back in 93, had similar results. Everything worked fine until the teamwork fell apart, then so did the characters.

Still, everyone had a ball until their ammo ran out.

i named the thing "Dragon Highway" because the plan was for (1 month after the Event) dragons to use the various highways as territory markers.

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OMAKE 2

there was some positive feedback, and since i can see her appearing in other crossover fics-

NABIKI TENDO [RN-AK-247121]

LOOKS: Typically catgirl. Very recognizable as Nabiki Tendo, though slightly more buff, with cat ears and tail. Tends to wear tight outfits, prefers shorts to skirts, though she'll change outfits with her mood given the chance.

SMARTS: Her overall intelligence hasn't been affected by the change in species, though her manner of speaking now can cause others to underestimate her. She can speak in a normal manner, but tends to put a lot of feline purring and meowing in. Especially when she's doing her best to give the impression that she's "just a cute little catgirl."

PERSONALITY: In conflict. She started out as being roughly on a level with late manga Nabiki. She went through some soul searching and decided to try and "do good" - mainly due to outside intervention and the discovery that her own family viewed her as a loved but distrusted soulless bitch. Then the catgirl transformation occurred. So Nabiki's personality keeps backsliding by habit to mercenary icequeen, she tries to be noble and heroic, and then there's the catspirit aspects emphasizing her natural mischieviousness and playfulness. Nabiki has begun reconciling this elements, with mixed results.

COOKING: Attention to detail could make her a passable one. Likes fish and would probably exist on fish, milk, and the occasional catnip mouse unless someone else is cooking.

FIGHTING SKILLS: Double normal human strength and stamina, which makes her weaker than Ryouga or Ranma, but still able to do quite a bit. Her speed is much higher than Ryouga's, roughly equal to Ranma at the end of the manga. However, she is a living extension of the catfist who can utilize all or part of it at will. This makes her considerably more competent in a fight than her canon counterpart, though it may be more difficult to convince her to take it seriously.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Catfist, extremely sensitive senses (hearing, nightvision, sense of smell and touch). And the ability to bite a female human and transform them into a catgirl.

COMPETITION: Currently none, though there is a possibility of reconciling with Ranma.

IN LAWS: Soun Tendo, Kasumi Tendo, Akane Tendo. Treat her right and you'll have their support.

ECONOMICS: None at present. She's been cut off from her usual finances and resources. She's also trying to be a "good kitty" so is not likely to resort to blackmail and similar methods of gaining a quick buck.

SEX: Either have a Ring Of Regeneration or get her to wear claw-guards. Her passions and emotions tend to run wild, so keep that in mind.

OVERALL: if you like to be bored, not a good choice at all. On the other hand, if you're nice to her, she'll try to make *you* purr.