*** Earth 0.000, 0.000

Kinnosuke Kashuoh watched the snow falling outside the window of his room as he leaned against it, his breath fogging the glass for a moment with each exhalation. A discarded book of substantial thickness rested on the desk immediately to his right, one of his many textbooks from the Imperial Academy. He had been lost in the author's words for the past few hours, studying his favorite subject matter, recombinant genetics. He enjoyed the inherent intricacies of it, but he was also expected to have a firm grounding in it, as future inheritor of the Kashuoh Family fortune. After all, said fortune had been built upon exploiting the rearrangement of the building blocks of life, providing tools, toys, and weapons to the Empire. Some of the most popular were even made in a semblance of mankind's own image.

The past few decades had seen that fortune grow, almost exponentially, propelling the Kashuoh Family to the forefront of the Minor Families of the Empire's nobility. As the majority stockholders in Genom, itself arguably the largest provider of biotechnological marvels in the world today, money and power had become their birthright. Once they might have been known only as con artists and thieves, but those days were past. Now they played for far higher stakes in the realms of politics and high finance. The Kashuoh Family was well-known for using Genom's resources to acquire significant segments in many areas of industry, beyond its initial zone of control in biotechnical products. Wealth had brought with it a hunger for ever more power and influence.

Kinnosuke possessed that hunger in abundance, but he chose to hide it behind a quiet exterior, biding his time as he carefully planned out his future path with meticulous detail. He kept to himself at the Academy, and he had no friends to speak of. But he was aware of what went on around him. He had quickly noticed a very intricate web of commerce and information exchange that flowed around him, and he was quite astonished to learn that it was orchestrated by one girl, Nabiki Tendo.

He had spent the past few months surreptitiously watching her every move from afar, growing ever more fascinated by her tactical acumen in governing over her power base as it expanded. The upperclassmen had gradually (and in most cases, reluctantly) ceded control of all their enterprises to her, some even joining her ranks. Even the instructors were not beyond her abilities to control, but she used her influence there sparingly. She quietly ruled from the shadows, cold, mercenary, ruthless, and apparently without moral qualms. While studying her from a safe distance, Kinnosuke had come to an inescapable conclusion.

She was perfect for him.

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A Midwinter Night's Gift

A Quantum Destinies Side-Story

A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic

By S. Thesken aka Jurai Knight (qd_)

Ranma 1/2 and its characters are owned by Rumiko Takahashi. This story is inspired by her works and the stories from some of my fellow fanfic authors. Among these are D.B. Sommer's "Shampoo 1/2", Jim Bader's "A Very Scary Thought -aka- Nabiki 1/2", and John Biles' Elseworlds series. All C&C is welcome.

Other chapters of this story may be found at this website, or you can email the author for them:

.net/u/3764932/

This story takes place before Chapter One of Quantum Destinies. It is a prologue of sorts, and a kind of Christmas story.

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Kinnosuke turned away from the window when he became aware of his name being called. It was a familiar voice, and he smiled when he saw its source. Once, she had only held a designation in Genom's database of active units, as a Puma-class replicant, serial number 9815-PS2-1138. But for Kinnosuke's entire life, she had been known by another name.

"Good evening, Nana," said Kinnosuke pleasantly. He regarded her, an impressive female humanoid almost two meters in height. Like all of her kind, she was broad of shoulder, well-endowed, and possessed of an athletic build. Her dark blue hair fell down her back like a mane, almost drawing attention away from the catlike ears atop her head and her slit-pupiled eyes. She was dressed in traditional garb, a pale green kimono and golden obi.

She bowed and said, "Dinner is prepared, Kashuoh-san." She smiled at him as she lifted her head back up.

"I am feeling hungry," he realized out loud, hearing a faint rumbling from his stomach. He paced across the room and out the door, and the blue-haired Puma fell into place two steps behind him.

"Your grandfather will not be joining us for dinner."

Kinnosuke was not surprised, but he was disappointed. The old man rarely spent any time with him, leaving his only grandson's care to the synthetic humanoids that made up the entirety of the manor's servants. Nana was the only mother he had ever known, his parents having both died in some sort of accident when he was still an infant. Each of their portraits hung in one of the manor's galleries, and he wondered sometimes what sort of people they had been.

Entering the dining room, he hardly noticed the two servants bowing to him. He swept by them, two pretty young women of Nordic appearance, their faces identical, even down to the vacuous smiles on their faces. They were each dressed in a pale blue kimono, and their teal-colored hair was worn up in a traditional hairstyle. A bar code was tattooed across the nape of each girl's neck, signifying their origins in one of Genom's inception facilities.

He and Nana sat down to eat, and platters of food began appearing on the table before them, brought by the two ever-smiling young women. Kinnosuke regarded them idly, as one might a pet that temporarily drew attention to itself. He saw the cheerful looks on their faces as they served the food, and he knew that they would appear equally contented performing any household task, from doing laundry to scrubbing floors.

A female replicant was commonly known as a Lilith to consumers around the world, named after the mythical figure, while male replicants had become known as Samaels. The two units currently serving dinner to Kinnosuke were standard Genom-manufactured household servant models, possessing lower-end human intelligence as well as rigid personality governors that rendered them content with their lot and even happy to serve. The Puma-class replicant more familiarly known to Kinnosuke as Nana was another sort of lilith, designed to function as a personal bodyguard. But many other types also existed, ranging from servants to inhumanly attractive consorts for the wealthy and powerful. Samaels were more often sold to be personal bodyguards and soldiers, but Genom also produced a few versions that could act as servants and companions.

Nana watched her young charge out of the corner of her vision as she quietly ate her dinner. She could sense his disappointment, and it saddened her. Her ears flattened slightly, reflecting her mood, as she took a bite of her dinner. But then her mood immediately brightened.

She savored the taste of fresh fish. Rainbow trout, she noticed with pleasure, taken from one of the household's private breeding ponds in the North American Prefectures and flown in several times a month. It distracted her from her young charge for several moments, before she returned her attention to him.

The replicant smiled wistfully as she observed him, briefly recalling random memories acquired over the years, of the little boy he had once been, and of the toddler he had been before that. She remembered him taking his first steps towards her, as well as the first time he had called her 'Nana.'

She even remembered when she had first laid eyes on her young charge, a nurse-model lilith handing this cloth-wrapped bundle to her. She had been amazed at the sight of him, so tiny and helpless in her arms, yet he was also the future Lord of House Kashuoh. Now, he was almost fully grown into a man. She had done her duty, and she felt a quiver of satisfaction at a job well done.

"You seem distracted, Nana," observed Kinnosuke between bites of food. A hint of concern rested in his voice and glinted in his gaze.

"Pardon me, Kashuoh-san. I fear I was lost in thought."

"You were smiling, so I guess they were happy memories."

Nana smiled more broadly, and then she said, "Yes, they were quite happy ones." She paused a moment, noticing that he was nearly done with dinner. "We should get ready to leave, if you are done with your meal."

"Go? Go where?" Kinnosuke set down his chopsticks and dabbed at his mouth with a napkin. "I still have some studying to do." That last was a small lie, for he had memorized the chapters assigned in class weeks ago.

"Your grandfather has instructed me to bring you to Genom," replied Nana. "There is a surprise for you tonight, a gift for you."

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The snow was falling more heavily as the limousine pulled up to the gates of Genom's Tokyo operation, a sprawling facility on the edge of Nerima. It was fairly nondescript in appearance, especially at night, yet it extended over a large tract of land. The guard at the gate stepped out of his little booth and slowly trudged over, a carbine unslung and in his hands. Another guard waited inside, watching the proceedings.

Kinnosuke's driver, another replicant, stopped the car and waited as the boy lowered his window. The guard approached, and he handed over his identity card to be run through a portable scanner, receiving it back a moment later. He saw the guard lazily wave at his companion in the booth, and the gate slid open with heavy, ratcheting clicks of the drive chain.

A short drive later, the car stopped once more and the driver got out, stamping his feet slightly in his boots as he came around to open the door for Kinnosuke and Nana. The pair got out, and Kinnosuke led the way inside, for he immediately recognized the building they had stopped in front of. It was Building Eight, Research and Development.

"Wait in the car until we return," Kinnosuke ordered the driver, who bowed in reply.

Kinnosuke felt a quiver of excitement run through him as he trudged through the slushy snow leading to the door, Nana following along behind him. Upon reaching it, he swiped his identity card through the magnetic reader and tapped in a quick series of numbers. The red light on the lock changed from red to green, and there was a clicking sound from the door. He pulled it open, and he walked inside, holding the door open for the Puma to follow.

The temperature inside the building was a pleasant relief from the cold outside. Nana was especially grateful for the warmth. Even though she could tolerate a wider temperature range than a normal human, she still preferred to avoid cold weather.

Kinnosuke smiled at her for a moment when he saw the look on her face after they stepped inside. He shrugged off his coat when the door closed behind them, hanging it up on a nearby hook that held a number of other coats.

"We are to proceed to Laboratory Four, Kashuoh-san," said Nana as she was removing her own coat. Beneath it, she had changed her usual household outfit to a rather paramilitary-looking armorcloth jumpsuit in dark green, emblazoned on one shoulder with Genom's symbol. It was zipped up to her neck, but it hugged her body snugly. A heavy pistol rested in a holster, slung low on her hip. She looked much like any other Puma-class replicant bodyguard.

A short walk brought them to the correct lab, and Kinnosuke repeated the same procedure he had used to get into the outside door. There was an electronic buzzing sound, and he quickly pulled it open. Inside was a darkened chamber, only lit by a few scattered computer monitors. The air was filled with the faint humming of electrical pumps, but the room was otherwise silent.

"Come in, boy," wheezed a frail voice from somewhere inside the room.

"Grandfather?"

"Hurry it up, boy," said the wizened voice with dry amusement. "I'm not getting any younger while you stand in that open doorway like a ninny."

Kinnosuke stepped into the room, and the lights snapped on. He blinked for a moment at the brightness, seeing his grandfather, Kado Kashuoh, seated in one of the technician chairs. The old man blinked owlishly back at him, a smile on his face. He stood up when Kinnosuke entered the room, still followed by a silent Nana.

"About time you got here," wheezed Kado in a semblance of a chuckle. A twinkle appeared in his ancient eyes. "I was thinking of keeping your present for myself." He studied the boy before him, feeling a surge of pride run through his withered frame. Kinnosuke was a handsome lad, a tribute to genetic engineering. Kado laughed aloud for a few moments, looking forward to the day he presented the boy to those fools now in charge of the Empire's pathetic excuse for a eugenics project. He would show them humanity's future, the ultimate man. All of the risks he had undertaken, the deals he had entered into, and every one of the many sacrifices he had made, would be worth it for that day.

Kinnosuke looked around the lab space, briefly ignoring the wheezing laughter of his grandfather, noting three large cylinders in the back of the chamber. They appeared to be standard inception tanks for the creation of new replicant units, judging from the equipment he saw. Was that all this was about? He walked over to study one of the units more closely.

"Can't wait to see my surprise, eh?" chuckled Kado. He sat back down and tapped a few keys on the console. "Then let me show you what I've gotten you."

Kinnosuke watched the steel covering slide down flush into the floor, revealing a cylindrical tank made of a clear substance that reflected no light. Within the unit was a girl, suspended in an artificial, heavily-oxygenated form of amniotic fluid. Her eyes were closed as her naked body floated in the liquid, peaceful in repose. Red hair floated around her head like a halo, and her cat-like ears twitched now and then as she slumbered.

"Behold the prototype for the first of Genom's newest lilith models, a new catgirl somatype, the Tiger," intoned Kado. "She's faster and more intelligent than the earlier Puma, with a greater degree of self-will and a wider knowledge base." He tapped a few more keys, and the next steel cylinder dropped down, revealing a leggy catgirl with dark hair.

"The Lynx, the second of Genom's next generation of replicants. Her neuro-reflexes have been boosted to the limits allowed us by current biotechnology, requiring a slight sacrifice in physical strength to avoid tearing her frame apart from the stresses. Her brain has also been hardwired with an experimental ability at tactical analysis." A last sequence of keys was struck, and the final cylinder fell to rest flush with the floor. Within it was a statuesque blonde catgirl, taller than the other two by a couple of centimeters, and a little heavier framed.

"The last of Genom's newest prototypes," said Kado with pride. "The Panther, built for strength and physical endurance. While marginally slower than either the Lynx or the Tiger, her musculature will be capable of lifting over a metric ton when she reaches full maturity."

Kinnosuke studied the three naked girls, peacefully sleeping in their artificial wombs. He had noticed that they appeared young, only in late adolescence. He turned back to face Kado, only to see the old man nodding at his unspoken questions.

"They are my gift to you, my boy," said Kado with a smile. "Your very own personal servants and bodyguards, a trio of adolescent catgirls to be your companions. Of course, this is also an opportunity for Genom to test out these three prototype models under field conditions. So, Merry Christmas, boy."

He tossed a small spraycan to Kinnosuke, which the teenager snagged out of midair with ease. Then, after standing up from the chair he had been seated in, he began hobbling towards the door. Nana moved to assist the old man, feeling his hand quickly move to fondle her rump as she did so. He cackled lecherously as she smiled affectionately at him.

At the door, Kado paused and looked backwards at Kinnosuke, saying, "I'll leave you alone to get acquainted with your new pets now. A quick spray of the neurophage compound you're holding will prepare them to imprint upon you as their new master." He fondly patted Nana's backside once more, even as his gaze roved over the rest of her body. "Take your time."

The door shut behind the departing pair, leaving Kinnosuke alone with the three slumbering figures. He stepped over to the main console, but his attention kept drifting back to the trio. He smiled as he took some time to study them, his gaze roving across each one.

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Kado led the Puma to a nearby room he had prepared for this special occasion. A comfortable chair sat before a bank of monitors, all of which were currently blank. He picked up a remote control unit and activated them all, as well as starting up the recorders. He wanted to preserve every one of these moments for posterity.

"You've done a fine job raising the boy, my dear," he said, sitting down in the chair with a sigh.

"It was my pleasure to serve, Kashuoh-sama," replied Nana with a smile. She knelt down and rested her head against the old man's knee. "The task was an enjoyable one."

Kado reached down and stroked Nana's hair affectionately, hearing her respond with a faint purring. The path that led to this moment had been a risky one, but the future of the Kashuoh Family appeared bright. Through Kado's efforts, a new era for humanity would soon be ushered in, and Kinnosuke's three gifts were the doorway.

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Kinnosuke briefly wondered if the old man had forgotten to provide any clothing for the three catgirls, but a nearby locker dispelled that notion. Inside were three Genom-issued armorcloth jumpsuits, similar to the one that Nana had been wearing, as well as three pairs of boots. Since he had only seen his grandfather in the building, it probably meant that the sets of cold-weather garb he had noticed when he had hung up his own were for them as well.

Sitting down at the console, he flipped a switch, activating a pump that quickly began draining the amniotic suspension fluid from the tank of the first catgirl. For simplicity's sake, he had decided to name each of them after their series designation. As the substance bled from the tank, her body remained in a semi-standing position, held up by a lightweight armature that rose from the floor of the cylinder as the liquid was evacuated. A slight sheen of slime remained behind on her skin and in her hair.

Flipping another switch, Kinnosuke watched as warm water sluiced down from a spray nozzle in the top of the tank, rinsing away the remnants of the suspension fluid from the catgirl's body. A quick check of the monitors showed that her vitals were good, and her cerebral activity was slowly rising up from sleep mode. He walked the short distance to the cylinder, watching as the seals parted with a faint puff of air, and then the front portion slid forward a couple of centimeters and down into the floor. The can of neurophage in hand, he sprayed a dose of it into her face, knowing that it would absorb into her bloodstream directly through her skin.

The catgirl blinked her eyelids open lazily, revealing green eyes that held a momentary confusion within them. She coughed out a gout of fluid that narrowly missed Kinnosuke's boots. When the brief bout of coughing had finally purged her lungs, she saw an unfamiliar figure standing in front of her, and her confusion immediately cleared. A powerful wave of emotion coursed through her entire being: pure love. She stepped forward on slightly unsteady legs, even as subliminal programs within her brain came online. Her stance firmed, and she stood up straight. She now knew who she was and her purpose for being.

"Hello, Master," said the catgirl with a smile. "I am a Genom Tiger, serial number 0001-TX1-1, the prototype unit for this series. I am programmed to act as a bodyguard and personal companion, as well as to provide security for any premises that I am stationed at. How may I serve you, Master?"

"You can start by calling me by name," he replied with a smile, his gaze briefly roving over her body. "I am Kinnosuke Kashuoh."

"Yes, Kashuoh-san." The catgirl bowed. "I am at your command." She gazed lovingly at her new master, savoring the tender feelings she felt within her in his presence.

"There are clothes in the locker over there," Kinnosuke said, his finger pointing. "Dress yourself and wait quietly while I awaken the others."

"Yes, Kashuoh-san." Tiger walked across the room, somehow combining elements of both a march and a strut into her stride. She rummaged through the locker, finally pulling out one of the greenish jumpsuits and snugging it on over her frame.

While Tiger dressed, Kinnosuke moved back to the main control panel and repeated the procedure he had just done with the next tank. He watched as fluid drained from Lynx's chamber, and her body was sprayed clean with warm water, briefly admiring the coltish grace of her long legs. He spared a moment from his lechery to thank his grandfather for such fine gifts. All three catgirls were magnificent creatures.

As the second chamber opened, he sprayed the catgirl's face with a dose of neurophage. Her expression mirrored Tiger's upon first awakening, Lynx's blue eyes holding a momentary confusion before she coughed her lungs clean of fluid. When they finally focused on him, it was like a light appeared within her and her gaze softened as she smiled at him. She appeared startled when he took her hand and helped her out of the chamber, and her step was demure.

"Hello, Master," she said with a bright smile. "I am a Genom Lynx, serial number 0001-LX1-1, the prototype unit for this series. I am programmed to act as a bodyguard and personal companion, as well as to provide security for any premises that I am stationed at. How may I serve you, Master?"

Kinnosuke repeated similar instructions to what he had told Tiger, and watched for a moment as the dark-haired Lynx smiled and bowed before hurrying to obey. He then turned his attention to releasing the blonde catgirl. The procedure so far had been oddly fascinating, a high-tech version of birth.

Lynx pulled on one of the jumpsuits, but her eyes remained fixed on her new master. She felt another surge of love run through her at the mere sight of him. After slipping her arms into the sleeves, she reached down and carefully pulled the zipper up from her waist to the high-neck collar, feeling the material hug to her body like a second skin. She then pulled on a pair of boots and stood silently, waiting for her next orders.

The third chamber cycled open, and Kinnosuke sprayed the blonde-haired occupant's face with some of the neurophage compound. He waited as she opened steel-colored eyes, momentary confusion that led to a brief fit of coughing. When she finally straightened back up, her eyes met his, and her expression softened ever so slightly. She stepped forth from the chamber with boldness, and her stance was almost mannish.

"Hello, Master," said the blonde catgirl with a smile. "I am a Genom Panther, serial number 0001-PX1-1, the prototype unit for this series. I am programmed to act as a bodyguard and personal companion, as well as to provide security for any premises that I am stationed at. How may I serve you, Master?"

Kinnosuke was caught a little off-guard by the differences between the three catgirls, even right out of the inception tank. The Lynx-class prototype was rather demurely coquettish, and the Panther-class unit was distinctly tomboyish. Tiger fell into place somewhere in between.

Kinnosuke gave the same orders to the blonde catgirl as he had to the first two, and she marched over to get dressed. When she was through, she took her place alongside the other two catgirls, and their gazes remained firmly on him as they stood at attention. He was already making plans. Having such a capable-looking trio at his command would make his planned conquests much easier. He smiled at the catgirls.

Tiger broke the silence first by asking, "What is your desire, Master?"

All three catgirls waited expectantly for his response.

Kinnosuke thought about it for a moment, and then he broke out into a smile and said, "Let me show you your new home."

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This was a little idea that came to me a couple of days ago while I was working on Chapter 16 of Quantum Destinies and demanded to be written. It is a brief glimpse at some of the characters used in my story, an origin piece of sorts done in a few scenes. Lilith and Samael are mythical characters from rabbinic folklore, but they fit surprisingly well in this context to describe replicants, beings of human-like form that are not human. I also plan on expanding upon this theme in future chapters of QD.

Merry Christmas,

Jurai Knight

December 25, 2000