I claim no ownership rights to any of the works of Rumiko Takahashi or Naoko Takeuchi.

This is a sequel to Chained World: The Fall of the House of Kuno. If you haven't read that story you'll need to, you'll be lost if you don't; it's available at Your Fanfiction (author name Anduril). Also, I will be posting this story there, and there will be a few lemons—but not here. So a few chapters here will be a little short, and maybe choppy. When I post one of those chapters, I'll let you know.


"If liberty, with us, is yet but a name, our citizenship is but a sham, and our suffrage thus far only a cruel mockery, we may yet congratulate ourselves upon the fact, that the laws and institutions of the country are sound, just and liberal. There is hope for a people when their laws are righteous, whether for the moment they conform to their requirements or not. But until this nation shall make its practice accord with its Constitution and its righteous laws, it will not do to reproach the colored people of this country with keeping up the colored line — for that people would prove themselves scarcely worthy of even theoretical freedom, to say nothing of practical freedom, if they settled down in silent, servile and cowardly submission to their wrongs, from fear of making their color visible...

"Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow."

— Frederick Douglass, speech at the National Convention of Colored People, 1883


The muggy heat and insects buzzing around him when they weren't crawling on him weren't much like the American Southwest desert he knew and loved (okay, the presence of insects was the same, though there seemed to be a lot more of them), but Juan de Oro grinned savagely as he carefully observed the Sumatran plantation house from the undergrowth — undergrowth that was much too close to the buildings. Sumatra was the westernmost island in the province that the Empire of Japan called Daerah Selatan ("Southern Territories" in one of the native languages) and English maps labeled Indonesia. It was also the furthest east that Islam had reached, and the only majority Muslim territory not currently under the official control of Dar al-Islam and so of prime interest to the Sultan. Especially since it wasn't as Muslim as it had been, thanks in part to the efforts of Shinto Christian missionaries and in part to the suspicious attention of the Imperial authorities to Muslims of all stripes.

But apparently that wasn't cause for concern for the manager of this particular rubber plantation, whatever the Shogun's mandate that the Clans controlling territory in the province maintain an effective military presence for its defense. Dar al-Islam seemed to be more interested in its west — Europe and Africa — strengthening the defenses and building up the military there, and it had been a long time since Daerah Selatan's last internal revolt. Yes, a massive power realignment had recently convulsed the Empire and the new laws everyone knew the Emperor had forced the Shogun to institute — whatever the official line — interfered with the multi-generational debt slavery used by the Clans in Daerah Selatan to provide cheap labor. But in spite of that times were still good and the upper management that had gotten fat, lazy, and careless hadn't changed in the few months since, not in less than a year.

Time to wake them all up, de Oro thought. The American — more so than most, half Spanish, half the ethnic mélange called the Apache — had arrived in Sumatra shortly after what had come to be known as the Nerima Blowout (a safe name, one not including words like "uprising" or "rebellion" — something that made everyone happy, especially the Imperial authorities). He had been cautiously optimistic that the "fellow traveler" in the Underground Railroad, one that agreed with the Children of Israel's goals but felt personally called to a more … peaceful … ministry, had been right, that the province was ripe for his type of crusade. He had found that, if anything, his informant had understated the situation. The way that most of the Clans with holdings in Daerah Selatan had promptly started twisting the Empire's new slave laws to maintain their power had many in the populace ready for open revolt if they were properly led, and Juan de Oro was ready to provide that leadership. He had spent the following almost nine months preparing bases hidden in the jungle, opening lines of supply and communication independent of the pacifistic Underground Railroad, and recruiting and training the first of his rebels (mostly runaway slaves already living hand-to-mouth in the jungle).

But all the groundwork had finally been completed, at least well enough to open the dance, and all he had needed was the right example to get things started on the proper foot. A murderously abusive overseer and a manager eager to hide the crime had provided that opportunity — and best of all, the plantation belonged to Clan Meioh (if you could call a woman, a girl, and a young man/woman and his wife a "clan").

Then a soft click sounded in his earbug, followed by the voice of Ismail ibn Manzoor, one of the scouts he had watching the road leading to the plantation. "Incoming vehicles."

De Oro sighed. "Trained well enough" was not the same as "well-trained." He pressed the switch to broadcast in his scrambled channel. "Scout Two, you're supposed to identify yourself and the intended target of your report. How many vehicles?"

"Sorry, Strike One," Ismallah replied, his embarrassment clear even through the distortion caused by the scrambling. "Three vehicles, the first and last armed with mounted machine guns."

"Understood, Scout One, three vehicles." That sounded promisingly like the usual self-important parade Sugiyama Kenichi, the Meioh manager, liked to indulge in. It wasn't exactly safe to be walking along the road when Sugiyama made his little expeditions to town — the guards in the lead and tail armored cars liked to use the mounted machine guns to shoot up stray dogs they passed, and since that was pretty much the only practice they got it was usually safer to be the dogs than anything else in the vicinity.

God only knows how they've avoided killing anyone, de Oro thought grimly. He should be happy that his enemies were so incompetent, but that kind of arrogant disregard for others just made him feel sick. With a little luck, at least these arrogant pricks won't ever terrorize anyone again.

Then the three vehicles (not trucks but too big and heavy to be cars, not even considering the two with machine guns mounted on reinforced roofs) roared into the circle in front of the plantation house's veranda. They circled to stop in front, and a large, muscular man stepped out of the middle vehicle. Sugiyama had been an overseer before he'd moved up to management, and he'd kept himself in shape — something common in Daerah Selatan, where majority of the population stuck in debt slavery kept their "betters" from sleeping easy at night, however much they like to put on a show of unconcern. He waited for a moment as a bodyguard stepped out of the other side of his vehicle and walked around to join him, then headed up the low steps and into the house as all three vehicles roared away, around the back of the plantation house to the garage.

De Oro sensed Lesmana, the new recruit beside him tensing up (but then, they were almost all new recruits). "Easy, wait for it," he murmured, then thought that his overeager newbie probably wasn't the only one and clicked on his mike, murmuring, "All points, Strike One. Wait for my signal, people, don't jump the gun."

Then a couple of large, burly men walked around the house, laughing, military-grade assault rifles slung over their shoulders. More bodyguards, coming from the garage where they'd parked the vehicles. They walked up onto the veranda, leaned their rifles against the wall, and sat in chairs on each side of the large door. Perfect.

"Overview, Strike One. Lock them out."

A few minutes later, Jason Davidson's response came back: "Strike One, Overview. The target is locked out. I repeat, the target is locked out."

De Oro's grin turned shark-lethal — the plantation had just had its communications with the rest of the world cut: landline, wireless, all of it. "Overview, Strike One, acknowledged." Switching to the all-points band, he snarled, "All points, Strike One. Go! Go! Go!"

Even as he shouted his order he was bouncing to his feet with his own assault rifle in hand, and the two lounging guards on the veranda jerked erect as six men and one woman exploded out of the undergrowth to charge straight at them, screaming like banshees and every one carrying an assault rifle of his or her own.

One of the guards was as stunned as de Oro had hoped but the other recovered almost instantly, grabbing his rifle and springing to his feet. De Oro slid to a halt and raised his rifle to his shoulder to walk a quick three-round burst across the man's torso from hip to shoulder, knocking him back into his seat and spraying the wall behind him with blood.

That finally shook the second guard free from his shock, and he twisted to reach for his rifle. De Oro tracked him, finger ready on the trigger. Wait for it, wait for it... And then the guard went down as a hail of bullets from the rifles of de Oro's six compatriots on full auto slammed into the area around him, splinters from the floor and wall filling the air and his blood coating the wall as his rifle spun away.

Yes, I knew it would work! de Oro exulted. The Empire's mental Adjustment of its slaves to make them incapable of attacking anyone and violence against their masters under any circumstances had a major hole that, so far as he could tell, he was the first to exploit: the general Adjustment didn't cover defensive violence except from attacks by the slaves' owners, and it didn't care why the slaves were being attacked. So as soon as the guards had become threats by reaching for their rifles, the lock on the six still-Adjusted runaway slaves had ceased to apply. The fact that the slaves in question were carrying rifles while charging the guards screaming at the top of their lungs didn't matter at all.

At least, that had been the theory. It was nice to see it prove out in practice.

"Places, people!" he snapped as the shooting he could now hear from the other side of the house ended with the crash of the back door being kicked in, to an accompaniment of screams from the plantation's all-female house slaves. The woman and man at opposite ends of his ragged line turned around to scan the area behind them for threats while the three men in the middle leveled their guns at the house. De Oro glanced over the two corpses, frowning at the one whose blood had liberally coated the wall and chair behind him. "And switch out your magazines." Now I just need to get the lessons on using short, targeted bursts instead of spray and pray to stick, he thought wryly, as the now shamefaced rebels obeyed.

Satisfied that his own piece of the action was under control, he clicked on his mike. "Overview, Strike One. Have the other strikes reported in yet?

"Reporting now, boss, hold on." A few minute's silence, and Jason continued, "They've both reported successful missions, though Strike Three had three casualties, one dead — the guards at the lab were actually semi-alert. They are delivering their targets now."

De Oro winced at the report of the death, but brightened up again with a grin as the house's front door swung open and the plantation manager was pushed out to stumble across the veranda and roll down the low steps to land sprawling in the driveway. Considering how green most of his people were only one death was actually good news, and shortly the world would again learn that there were limits. "And one of my targets just arrived. Strike One out."

/\

Though his calm exterior didn't change when the last, late strike group came around the house, pushing along a stumbling man wearing a lab coat with his hands handcuffed behind his back, de Oro felt himself relax — except for the scouts he'd stationed on the roads leading to the plantation to intercept anyone trying to leave, everyone was gathered together again where he could keep an eye on them. Then he tightened up again when he realized that the squad leader, a black man named George Washington who claimed to be descended from one of the slaves of the Great Man whose name he bore, one of the men that had accompanied him from the United States, was carrying someone wrapped in a blanket in his arms and walking so carefully he was almost tiptoeing.

"Take your places," George ordered. He walked over to de Oro as one of the squad shoved their captive, Dr. Okuda Keiso, over to the wall and forced him down onto his knees beside the plantation manager, the doctor that had been in the plantation house, and the overseer the second squad had brought in earlier. Another of the squad joined the line of rebels facing the prisoners while the rest spread out and vanished into the undergrowth.

"Miiko?" de Oro asked when George and his blanket-wrapped bundle joined him.

"Her master had another 'session' with her last night, she can't walk yet," George replied, face tight with anger.

De Oro gusted out a sigh of relief — at least she was still alive. He asked, "Did Doc verify everything?"

George jerked a nod. "Yeah, she was raped. Her owner didn't leave any genetic material inside her, but Doc was able to identify him by the bite marks he left on her breasts."

The bundle in Miiko's arms twitched, and de Oro suddenly wished that they'd switched to English instead of sticking to the Japanese everyone had in common. He sighed, then slowly pulled the blanket back from Miiko's face. She had the eyes of a wounded animal, but managed to whisper, "H-Hi."

"Hey, chica," he replied softly, "give us a little time and we'll get you safe, if we have to carry you all the way to China." De Oro doubted she'd know what 'chica' meant, but it would not have been among whatever endearments her master might have used. He waited until she gave him a shaky smile, then asked, "Did George explain what we need?"

She jerked a nod. "Y-Y-Yes," she stammered out, "b-b-but couldn't you just u-use the m-m-movies?"

"Movies?" He looked up at George.

"That motherless bastard like to taped his 'playtime'," George explained. "He had them stored under a password lock, but Miiko saw him type it in a few times and remembered it."

It was a long minute before de Oro trusted his voice to stay steady. "No, chica, we don't want to use those, not even with your face blanked out," he said. "Just a walk-around with a video camera recording what he did to you, too low to show your face is enough. Can you do that? Are you strong enough to stand for a few minutes?" She jerked a nod, and he whispered, "Brave girl."

He reached out to gently run his fingers through her hair, cupping the back of her head, and paused. There was something there, hard, plastic. And from its immovability, it was attached to the base of her skull and not her skin. "Chica, what's this on the back of your head?" he asked.

"What's w-w-what?"

De Oro stiffened. "You can't feel this?" he asked, running his finger around rectangular piece of plastic.

"Y-y-yes, I can f-feel your finger," Miiko replied, her voice rising. "What's wrong?"

"Shhh, nothing's wrong," he replied soothingly. "Just let George take you to get that video shot while I finish up out here, and we can head for safety."

"I want to watch."

No, you don't. "We don't have time, every minute we're here puts lives at risk. But we're recording it, you can watch the video later," he soothed again, then nodded to George. As his subordinate carefully walked around the back of the house, de Oro watched them go for a moment, really hoping that he'd manage to distract Miiko enough that she never saw the executions. He'd learned over the years that ugly memories were just that — ugly memories — and enjoying the experience just made it worse looking back. Worry about that later, we have to finish up here, get the recordings uploaded to Jason for distribution, and get out as fast as possible, he thought as he turned back to the executions he was about to order.

/oOo\

Nabiki yawned as she watched the attractive news anchor of her favorite American news report on her desktop computer's monitor before taking a sip of her first morning cup of coffee, one she'd actually brewed herself rather than waiting for Kasumi, thanks to the early hour. She had found that she enjoyed watching the news out of the United States, the different culture often giving an offbeat slant to familiar stories and even occasionally information outsiders with a tradition of wide-open press freedom felt safe reporting. Even when it didn't, the sheer cheerfulness of the young, often female, always telegenic newscasters as they gleefully reported the most horrendous of stories was an entertaining change from the older, usually male, always sober and serious newscasters of the Empire. Besides, listening to the news in English helped provide more privacy — she suspected she was the only one in the house that understood the language of the eastern "barbarians."

Of course, she usually recorded the morning news programs to watch them at a more civilized hour (like, noon), but this morning was different and she listened to Janice Henderson without her usual wry humor engaged. {The workers at the La'a-kea Plantation on the island of Maui awoke to a gruesome sight yesterday morning. The plantation manager, two of the plantation's overseers, and five co-workers were gagged and crucified to an outside wall of the plantation headquarters, pinned to the wall with knives and spears. While it is early yet, our inside sources report that the initial investigation into the latest and most horrific of a string of attacks on plantation slaves and employees has failed to uncover any leads or even a motive for the crime —}

Nabiki turned off the news program and slouched down in her chair, eyes cold. So far, so good, the public doesn't have a clue and the police are as lost on this, at least officially, as they were about the attacks on my people. Well, Ranma's people, really, or rather Tendo Ranko's, I'm just the head manager, but who's quibbling? But for the people that matter, the message should be clear — complain about Tendo Agriculture's gentle handling of and high wages for its debt slaves and free laborers all you want, engage in petty harassment if it makes you feel better, but killing any of us means ending your life pinned to a wall with knives and a spear through the heart.

Yet again, she wondered whether she should tell Ranma of the lengths she'd had to go to in defense of "Ranko's" bonanza from the fallout of the Nerima Blowout, but reluctantly deciding yet again that it would be a bad idea. When "Ranko" was finally recovered enough to take an actual interest in "her" corporation would be soon enough.

Unfortunately, it didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon. The days of being seriously worried that Ranma would take his own life had ended half a year earlier, when Xian Pu had returned from Nyucheizu with an agreement to provide mercenaries for Clan Meioh (making them allies of the Clan and a part of the Empire, in essence if not officially) along with the ingredients needed to unlock Ranma's curse. The days of being even faintly worried had ended a week before, and the pageboy-haired young woman felt her mouth curve into a soft smile she never let anyone see as she remembered the way Ranma's eyes had lit up the first time he held his newborn daughter. Still, the only times the raven-haired young man she'd come to respect seemed to really come alive now were when he was holding little Ukyo or sparring with Ryoga during the Lost Boy's infrequent visits, perhaps because those were the only two he cared about that he didn't feel he'd utterly failed. And then there was the way that he insisted on shifting to his busty, redheaded female form whenever he left the dojo —

The musical chime of an incoming call interrupted her ruminations, and Nabiki bolted upright at the sound — that particular piece of music signaled a scrambled live call from one of the most dangerous men in the world (in her opinion, at least, and certainly one of the most dangerous to know) and she hadn't been expecting it, or even had the faintest clue why he might be taking what little risk there was in contacting her directly.

She hastily rose to lock her door (and thank whoever for the inspiration to have more soundproofing added when the upper story of the Tendo home had been practically rebuilt after its Nerima Blowout damage, especially Ryoga's contribution), then sat back down as the chime sounded again and put on her headset before clicking on the button to accept the call. As she'd expected, the new window that opened up revealed the sharp-featured, lightly-tanned-by-inheritance face she'd come to know well over the past nine months, though the view behind him was of night-shrouded lush foliage rather than the usual rough-hewn wooden walls of his hidden base. "De Oro-san, this is a surprise," she greeted him, tone questioning.

De Oro smiled thinly. "Yes, I thought it would be," he replied, and Nabiki believed him; he'd helped sharpen her already serious paranoia with his lessons on operational security before he'd left Japan, after all. "So how is Edo's youngest oyabun, did you get the packet I sent yesterday?"

"I'm fine, thanks, and yes, I did, and already forwarded it on after a quick look-through. The executions will certainly make people sit up and take notice, and the original doctor's report on the slave that was beaten to death, the falsified report that replaced it, and the recordings he'd made of the manager's demands that he replace the first with the second will make it clear they deserved it to any but the most closeminded. But it's your medic's report on the lab assistant that's really going to get people's attention — both because she was just a university graduate paying off her loans, not a multi-generational field hand, and the video you took of what that monster did to her."

She shuddered as she remembered the camera panning around a girl's naked body, from her thighs to her collarbone, showing a stomach, back, breasts and buttocks so crisscrossed with thin scars and fresh, bleeding welts that she didn't think a finger could fit between them, along with the red bite marks on her breasts. "I suspect the reaction of most people is going to be to thank you for taking out the trash, and isn't that going to make some people in high places nervous? But was it smart to tell the men you were about to execute that they were about to die for violations of both God and the Empire? And what are those scripture references your people spray painted above the bodies? I was too busy yesterday to look them up."

De Oro grinned. "Deuteronomy nineteen, eighteen and nineteen: 'If the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.' Exodus twenty-one, twenty: 'If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.' " He shrugged. "Mentioning both the laws of God and the laws of the Empire is important; I need people to see me as a religious fanatic to be taken seriously and as someone with limits and not just a mad dog that needs to be hunted down — it means they're more likely to take my beliefs seriously rather than dismiss them out of hand. What about Meioh-dono? Do you still think she'll react as hoped?"

It was Nabiki's turn to shrug, wondering why he was wasting time calling her to rehash everything when he hadn't even reached safety yet. "As I told you Setsuna's a hard woman to read, but from the hints I've picked up she's eager to cleanse the Meioh plantation management and just waiting for the excuse to do so without appearing like a crusading reformer—we don't do 'crusading reformers' in the Empire, the nail that sticks up and all that. Well, you've certainly given her one hell of an excuse."

"I did that," de Oro agreed with a grin, before sobering. "But I didn't call you just to discuss the ins and outs of our strategy. When we pulled Miiko out of her master's lair, we found something embedded at the base of her skull, a plastic flesh-colored plug. When we removed it, we found ... I'm not sure what, something like a computer jack, right into her head. I've never seen anything like it. Do you have any idea what it might be?"

"A computer jack?" Nabiki repeated, nonplussed. "No, I haven't a clue. Do you have any pictures?"

"Yes, sending them now. I wanted to make sure they didn't get mixed in with the original packet, and didn't have time to explain yesterday." He leaned forward to reach down out of sight of his laptop's camera, and moment later Nabiki's desktop pinged to let her know the folder had arrived and been checked for booby traps and found safe. A few seconds later she had opened up the photos of the back of Miiko's neck. She frowned thoughtfully, staring at the pictures of the oddity embedded in the girl's skull, both with the plug in place and removed to reveal what certainly looked like a port for a computer. There was something familiar about what she was seeing, some haunting memory ... She froze as she remembered the report she'd seen just before the Blowout. "Oh. My. God." I've been around Christians too much, she thought whimsically even through her shock.

From the smile that flickered across de Oro's face the same thought had occurred to him, if undoubtedly from a slightly different angle. "What? What is it?" he demanded.

"I think … maybe … that looks …" Nabiki paused and took a deep breath. "That looks like the neural links I read about almost a year ago."

"What's a neural link?"

Nabiki raised an eyebrow, leaning back in her chair. "You don't know? They're being developed in America, after all."

"I have more important things to do than keep up with every bit of bleeding edge technology that might or might not pan out," de Oro said patiently. "So what's a neural link?"

It was Nabiki's turn to grin for a moment at her successful poke, before again turning serious. "A neural link is an implant that allows you to hook a computer directly into your brain.

"Why in God's name would anyone want to do that?" de Oro asked, face going a little green.

Nabiki shrugged. "Speed. Convenience. From what I read, the link uses your optic nerves to place images in front of your eyes that no one else can see, and you can give your computer a limited set of orders at the speed of thought." She chuckled at his dubious expression. "I know, it doesn't seem like much in return for letting someone crack your skull open and play with your brain; but believe me, there are a lot of hackers that will give their left arms for one of those once they're sure there aren't any bugs. And this is just the beginning, the tech is only going to get better!"

De Oro frowned thoughtfully, ignoring his young ally's growing enthusiasm. "And someone placed one of these implants in Miiko's head," he mused. "Why?"

"I don't know," Nabiki replied. "What did she say?"

"She doesn't know either, didn't know it was there. In fact, she still doesn't know. She can't feel the implant with or without the plug, put her finger right on it and she says it feels like skin. And every time we've told her about it, she's forgotten everything within seconds."

Nabiki froze. "She's been Adjusted?"

"That's my guess. If so, what was done to her breaks every law concerning Adjustments the Empire has on the books — even with her consent."

Nabiki's mind raced over the resources needed to install the implant, the fortune it would cost, and then the added costs of a rogue Adjuster. And in the back of beyond in the middle of a jungle? And her owner had been a geneticist, he wouldn't have had an interest in neural links, might not even have known about them! "What have we stumbled into?" she whispered.

"I don't know, but I intend to find out," de Oro replied, voice cold as the Arctic.

Nabiki straightened in her seat, nodding her agreement. "Agreed. But we aren't going to find out more without having someone examine her that would know what he was looking at, and at the moment I don't know of anyone like that, not that I trust that much. Do you?" When de Oro shook his head, she continued. "Until I do find someone like that, Miiko is probably safer at your base camp. Sure, the Imperial Army may be looking for you, but whoever did this will be looking for her, and I doubt they have the army's freedom of action. Is that a problem?"

"Not at all. After the way we pulled her out of hell on Earth, I doubt you could pry her out of my camp with a crowbar … once we get there, that is. I've seen it before, she'll be as fixated on us as newly-hatched goslings."

"All right, send me everything you can find out as soon as you can, and I'll start setting things up on my end."

"Will do, once we reach the camp." De Oro nodded and leaned forward and the screen went blank, leaving a suddenly very worried Nabiki to start her own plans.

/oOo\

Konishi Masuhiro finished strapping his pack closed and glanced around the small room that had been home for the past five years to see if he'd missed anything important. He had enjoyed his time on the plantation as an overseer, the chance to inflict the occasional punishment had been appreciated and what some of the female slaves were willing to do to avoid punishment even more so. But he suspected that whoever had been paying him for the last two years to keep an eye on Dr. Okuda and the lab assistant he'd bought wasn't going to be happy that the scientist was dead and the slave vanished into the jungle.

Yes, definitely time to seek my fortunes elsewhere, he thought as he decided that he hadn't overlooked anything and strode out the door into the pre-dawn. Everything had been a mess since the massacre the previous day so he doubted anyone would miss him for hours, or the car he intended to "borrow," but an early start was best — he wanted as much distance as he could get by the time the reporters showed up. It was a good thing that he'd stored his extra paycheck in a separate account under a false ID, he'd have a clean break to start over.

Maybe Hawaii? There're plenty of plantations on the islands, I'm sure someone can use an experienced overseer, and the women on TV are lovely.


The story title is from the song by Everlast, and the chapter title comes from Bruce Springsteen's latest album. Neither is a perfect fit, but tangentially related.

The Japanese name here for Indonesia, Daerah Selatan,was what they used after capturing the territory during WWII.