I claim no ownership rights to any of the works of Rumiko Takahashi, or anything I've borrowed and modified from the Champions and Dark Champions settings published by Hero Games.

In her 'master's' bed, Deborah jerked when the alarm blared, instantly awake — and instantly aware. She'd fallen asleep! Had she lost her best chance? What was happening?!

Beside her, Morita jerked upright and swore (at least, she assumed he swore — she didn't understand a single word, but the tone was right). Even as the alarm cut off, he threw the covers back and rolled out of bed. He hastily pulled on a shirt and trousers before unlocking and opening one of the cases he'd brought with him, a plain metal box unlike the others of inlaid lacquered wood, to pull out an automatic pistol. He pressed the release for the magazine, caught it as it dropped, made sure it was fully loaded, then slapped it back into place, chambered a round, and grabbed a handful of extra magazines out of the box. "Stay here," he commanded, and hurried from the room, pausing only long enough to close the door. She heard the click of the door's lock before his footsteps raced down the hall.

Well, damn! Deborah hurried to the window, and her heart sank at the bright light shining down on the snow-white lawn that surrounded the mansion. The floodlights must have gone on at the same time the alarm went off, and she couldn't imagine that with those lights there weren't also alert eyes watching over the landscaping they'd revealed with guns to back them up. Her chance of quietly slipping away was gone.

She stared out the window for a long moment before shivering, goosebumps running the length of her naked body, then turned back to the room to stride to the case Morita had just opened. If that opportunity is gone, let's see if a new one has opened up. She pushed up on the lid, and grinned as it opened easily; she'd thought she hadn't heard a latching click when Morita had closed it. And if it had held extra magazines, maybe ... Yes! she exulted, barely suppressing a happy shout as the rising lid revealed a second pistol and several magazines that Morita had left behind in his haste. Whatever happens, I am not going alone.

Plucking the pistol from its molded seat, she frowned at the empty hole at the seat of the grip. Thankfully, though, her 'master' had just shown her what to do. A few fumbled seconds had the magazine shoved up into position, and she slapped the base, just like the action heroes in the movies some of her more stupid dates had taken her to. Why an ostensibly intelligent man would think a girl he hardly knew would like action movies, she had no idea. But this isn't an action movie, or I'd have been rescued on the first night, before he raped me, she thought bitterly. So, since I'm not going to have a hero charging to my rescue or an infinite supply of bullets, how do you get this thing out of that hole? She fumbled with the various switches and buttons until the magazine dropped out to land on the carpet with a soft thud.

She knelt to pick up the magazine, slapped it back into place, chambered a round (again, just like those action heroes), then rose to grab the extra magazine and close the box before looking around. Now what? I can shoot the lock, get out at any time, but ... She paused, listening. Nothing. But how good was the room's soundproofing? Best to wait for a bit until things got noisy enough to cover the sound of the shot, or at least enough that the sound would be lost in the chaos.

And if my so-called 'master' comes back first, I can always just shoot him and take my chances with the window. But until then, I'd better get out of sight.

She glanced around the room. The closet's too obvious. The bathroom has nowhere to hide, I'll be instantly seen by anyone that opens the door. The space under the bed is just too cliché, anyone looking for me is bound to check and it would leave me helpless besides, no way to get out fast. Then her eyes fell on a pair of tiny doors under the wooden bookcase affixed to the wall. She hurried over and pulled them open, and smiled at what she found — a shelf splitting the limited space in half, blankets both below and above. She thought, just barely enough space. A quick test showed the shelf was sitting on studs, not fixed in place. Perfect.

A few minutes' work had the shelf out and underneath the bed, blocked from sight by the blankets that had occupied the cubbyhole, and then she was curled on her side within the newly-emptied space with a blanket as a pillow, the doors closed and gun in hand, waiting.


When the alarm sounded, Ryu opened his eyes and grinned briefly before sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of his bed. He was pleased that Ranma wasn't going to make him wait.

Rising, he quickly pulled on his clothes and strode from his room even as he fitted in an earbug with an attached wire mic. "Kumon Ryu, here," he said in his native Japanese, "Where's the Nakamua-san, and what's the situation?"

"The mansion is under attack by vigilantes," the lucky soul currently in charge of the mansion's security center replied. "The oyabun is in no danger, they came through the front, but he is waiting for you to join him before leaving his room."

"Excellent," Ryu said with a smile — it was always nice to have a principle that actually had some common sense. "Have the attackers been identified?"

"One of them is the Answer, a fairly new nonlethal vigilante. The other is an unknown woman."

Ryu paused outside the door to the oyabun's bedroom. He asked, "Unknown? You don't recognize her costume?"

"She isn't wearing one."

"I see." Ryu frowned, disappointed that Ranma wasn't one of the attackers but curious about the unknown woman, then stiffened as the sound of gunshots echoed through the mansion. He waited a long moment, then shrugged when the security center didn't say anything before knocking on the door and identifying himself. A moment later, after the guard inside verified that he was who he claimed, they were on their way to the security center, an armed guard in front and behind while Ryu walked beside the oyabun.

Then Morita came around the corner of the hallway ahead of them, and his bare feet skidded on the wood floor as he instantly stopped. His eyes went cross-eyed as he stared at the pistol barrel pressed against his nose, then he slowly opened his hand and let his pistol drop onto his foot. He glanced over the guard's shoulder at the rest of the party, and said, "Nakamura-sama, I am here to serve."

The older man gazed at him for a long moment, face expressionless, then nodded. "You may join us," he said.

Morita swallowed a sigh of relief, bent to retrieve his pistol, then at Ryu's motioned direction joined the guard at the front.


The security center was tense, but calm — though the tension ratcheted up considerably when the oyabun and his guards came through the door, Morita peeling off to one side. Nakamura accepted his underlings' acknowledgement of his presence and waved them back to their posts, except for his chief of security. "Tanaka, what are the dispositions of your men?" he asked.

"The intruders rolled over the first responders to the alarm without breaking stride, so I've pulled men from ..."

Ryu listened to the report with half an ear as he focused on the wall of monitors, eyes searching. He quickly found the Answer that he'd read about before coming to Hudson City in his black suit and trenchcoat but just as quickly moved on. The man moved well, but was not a major threat; soon enough Security would set up a roadblock he couldn't get through, and he would withdraw, perhaps even be trapped. Where was ... there! A downward angled camera showed a masked woman in a luxurious hallway, easily dealing with several men. She was dressed in mottled dark clothing, covered so thoroughly not even her hair could be seen. If that was a superhero costume, it was an unusually drab one, neither formfitting, brightly colored nor based on a theme. Of course, not all of the heroes went the bright, splashy route, and the more lethal vigilantes of Hudson City didn't wear costumes of any sort. She could simply be another newcomer, but Ryu frowned as she bounced the only man still standing off a wall, then yanked his gun out of his hand (probably breaking fingers in the process) and broke his jaw with a spinning backfist. There was something in the way she moved...


"What was that?" Nakamura demanded. Tanaka broke off his report as the oyabun turned to his bodyguard, an irritated edge to his voice.

She'd moved out of sight of the camera, but Ryu quickly found her on another monitor and pointed at the screen. "The woman is Chrysanthemum of the Tokyo Super Squad."

Nakamura instantly focused on the figure, all trace of irritation gone. He asked, "How certain are you?"

"Absolutely. She may be able to disguise her appearance, but not her style, the way she moves. It's Chrysanthemum."

Nakamura frowned thoughtfully as he watched Chrysanthemum demolish several unarmed underlings — not guards, simply members of the Clan doing what they could under their oyabun's eye. "The Americans are touchy about their sovereignty," he mused, "so it is unlikely that she has official permission to be here, or that the rest of the Tokyo Super Squad is with her. Except perhaps Zodiac, but the shapechanger isn't a frontline fighter."

Ryu shrugged. "Maybe, that would explain the lack of her usual costume, but she doesn't need the rest of her team," he said. "Unless someone gets in a very lucky shot, none of your men are going to be able to do more than slow her down."

"Can you deal with her?"

Ryu snorted. "Yes, of course. She's a mongrel, dependent on her magic toys to make up for her lack of skill in the true Art. But the property damage would be extensive."

"Property damage does not concern me. Do it."

Ryu nodded with a grin. "Great! Let me borrow Tanaka-san for a few minutes." The Oyabun lifted an eyebrow but nodded, and Ryu and Tanaka stepped over to a screen with a map of the mansion for several whispered minutes before Ryu strode from the room.

Nakamura had spent those minutes watching Chrysanthemum's progress as it shifted to another monitor, a thoughtful frown on his face, and as soon as Tanaka rejoined him, he said, "The police are unlikely to ignore this disturbance, and there is no guarantee that those that respond will be in our employ. Correct?"

Tanaka reluctantly nodded. "Yes, sir. And even if the first responders were on our payroll, they would almost certainly be quickly followed by members of the special unit tasked with investigating us. The police assigned to that unit have proven incorruptible."

"So I remembered. But if there is nothing for them to find, then this becomes no more than another vigilante assault in the abundance this city produces. Kill the slaves on the property and dispose of the bodies."

Tanaka grimaced at the waste, but had to agree that they had no choice. He nodded to one of his subordinates at a nearby desk, and the man picked up his phone to pass the word.

"Sir! We have more intruders!"

Tanaka's head whipped around, and two quick steps had him standing beside his subordinate's chair. "Where? Who?" he demanded.

"On the third floor, the back of the mansion. Monitor C-14, sir."

Tanaka search the bank of monitors … there! The screen displayed the blonde DarkAngel in her black bodysuit and black red-trimmed cape moving so smoothly she seemed to practically glide down the hallway. "DarkAngel," he snarled even as he noticed the second figure behind her, a young male in a dark blue costume.

Beside him, Nakamura chuckled. "And that must be our errant Ranma. Kumon-san will be so disappointed he missed him."


Jacqueline Houseman, Jacky to her friends, jerked awake at the sound of an alarm shrilling in the hallway. The blonde winced slightly at the sudden glare of floodlights coming through her window as she sat up in bed — her own bed for a change, for once she hadn't been tapped as a bedwarmer for one of the thugs that infested this mansion like cockroaches.

But you've been such an enthusiastic bedwarmer, haven't you? she thought bitterly. Of course they've been taking turns at you. Jacky's stomach roiled at the thought, but she sternly suppressed her nausea. True, the acting she'd been doing wasn't what she'd expected when the talent agency she'd signed up with had called her in for an interview. But her performance had been appreciated enough by her 'audience' that she'd been kept at the mansion for months while girl after girl had cycled through, staying for a few weeks, sometimes only days, before being sent on to brothels in Japan. And while she suspected her current life wasn't all that different from the brothels, just less sex and more cleaning, at least it was still in the United States. Not that that had stopped her from considering diving headfirst from one of the third story windows over the driveway a few times.

"Wha's goin' on?"

The sleep-bleary voice belonged to Moira Anderson, her current roommate. Jacky looked over to find the redhead, dressed in the practically-not-there lingerie all the girls were given for night wear, levering herself up on an elbow as she rubbed at her eyes. (Jacky had noticed over the months that blondes and redheads were seriously oversampled, maybe they fetched better prices in Japan?) "I don't know," Jacky said. "It's something big, though, this hasn't happened before."

"It hasn't?" Moira rolled out of bed and dashed to the window to stare out across the brightly lit snow-covered lawn. "I can't see anyone out there," she said excitedly, "maybe this is our chance! Out the window and across the lawn, help each other over the wall, and we're gone!"

Jacky grabbed her hand just as she was reaching for the window latch. "Wait! Not yet, it too soon, we need to wait," she urged when the other girl turned to stare at her incredulously as she tugged, trying to get Jackie to let go of her. "Whatever's happening, it's just barely started. Let's wait for a little bit until everyone's attention is focused on whatever's going on, see if we can figure out where it is and go the opposite direction."

Moira stopped tugging as she briefly considered Jackie's suggestion, then nodded. "Smart thinking. But how will we know?"

Jacky shrugged. "I don't know. If nothing happens after a bit we can always go. And let's put on something warmer while we're waiting, it's cold out there." She frowned. The maid uniforms they wore while cleaning weren't all that much better than their lingerie, in case any of the men felt like interrupting their assigned household tasks for a quickie, and the girls had never been given bathrobes. But maybe they could wrap themselves in the blankets...

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