A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer
Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C is appreciated.
Book 4: Capital Offense
Chapter 10: Cost of Acquisition
Formerly: Reserve and Release Part 4ii
Looking up, Makoto could see dirty light streaming down into the burned room from a ragged hole in the concrete ceiling. Sirens and the rumble of mechanized vehicles also drifted down, intruding on the hushed quietude of the room.
Battered squid-like corpses, bits of their armor, and equipment had been pulled off to one side. Helmed by a smiling tall man with fine brown hair and round glasses, a team of WIC agents in grey armor and thick blue gloves was carefully stripping the creatures of their armor, and organs.
The brunette in her brown suit and emerald blouse watched as a team of JTF2 soldiers solemnly removed one of their dead while another team was marking off unexpended munitions.
She exhaled through her mouth. The atrium was bad, but at least the casualties had been low.
Still more soldiers were working with the Company agents examining several glossy black columns that lay toppled and broken across the dripping burnt floor. Like the forensic team, they had set up portable halogen lamps. Their harsh light cutting into the dimness of the room. They had also unpacked crates of sensors and a large tripod mounted machine gun. Makoto noted that the science teams only worked from one side and made sure to keep a clear line of fire for the support weapon and the agents, soldiers, and succubae on guard.
In her heart, the brunette could hardly fault their paranoia. The atmosphere was bad enough on the campus, but at least that university building had an airy atrium. Until Makoto had destroyed it.
The smooth featureless columns before the brunette had a fluted, twisting ovid cross section that hurt Makoto's eyes when she looked to closely at them. One upside of the alien artifacts was that the tooth-rattling, temple pressing hum of the multiple jammers the Canadians and mercenaries had brought in felt much less irritating.
Heels clicked, crunched, and splashed as Makoto stepped closer to the broken pillars. Adjusting her jacket, she was once again glad that she had specified pants for her disguise, unlike the skirts the others had chosen. Looking at where their bases had been punched into the concrete floor she could see they were originally laid in an oval pattern.
With a familiar overlay of semi-rancid mint, the room itself stank of burnt plastic, spent powder, and sulfur. There were also the undertones of blood, offal, and dank water, with the occasional cloud of concrete dust being kicked up.
She walked up to a smaller Senshi, this one in gleaming black coat and skirt with green pinstripes and maroon accents. A petite black cat paced around the outside of the oval and periodically sniffed the air. Makoto could swear she saw bit of gold flash on the cat's forehead, but then it was gone, suppressed by the disguise field.
The cat's companion wore a deep red blouse with a black kerchief knotted around the throat. To Makoto's disquiet, the young-appearing woman was intently staring at one of the most intact pillars. Dark red eyes stared at it while a black gloved hand was held above the glossy, twisting surface.
For a moment, Makoto thought she saw the a rainbow of iridescent slip from the pillar, to the green-haired Senshi's clothes, which seemed to flicker, and then back again. Blinking, Makoto's hand unconsciously went to the wound the Senshi had healed. She then blinked, and realized that the room was either too dim to show those kinds of reflections, or had such harsh lights that they would be burned out.
"Puu?" Makoto asked, unsure if she was disturbing the woman. She was also unsure of her purpose here. She was supposed to be a guard... well making sure Meiou was okay surely counted. Given the enemy they had just faced, Makoto could agree with that.
But she was also supposed to be in disguise. To pretend she was part of an engineering firm; here to make sure the building was structurally sound. Another level of masquerade made the brunette feel ill-at-ease.
The diminutive Senshi slowly lifted her head. "Yes?" she asked dark red eyes briefly meeting Makoto's before returning back to the pillar.
"Have you and Luna figured anything out?" Makoto asked before glancing back at the WIC science team a couple meters away. She could see the a thin young man with buzzed short black hair checking the readout on a scanner before taking out a pair of forceps.
Next to him was an older woman with blue eyes and short auburn hair. Despite wearing a WIC combat armor, Makoto had a hard time seeing the woman in something other than a lab coat. A bright green-haired demoness stood near as the scientist unlocked a small case.
The same height as Makoto, the demon was tall for a succubus and had striking features. Makoto looked back at the broodling. Like those of DarkStar's lineage, including her sister, she had epicanthic folds on the corners of her upper eyelids, but uniquely she had neither Caucasian nor Asiatic features. Instead she had a having fuller lips and a slightly broader more upturned nose.
The cat stopped her pacing and looked up at the brunette. "Something wrong Makoto?" Luna asked.
Makoto looked back and glanced between the demoness and one of her sisters, a smaller succubus with black hair. The difference in height, and shoulder width was readily apparent. Of course both were dwarfed by the blonde brood mother.
Catching Makoto's eye, the black-haired succubus whispered to her mother and excused herself.
"Will you quit staring at the demons," Pluto stated, not looking up from her work. "You can thank them for their help later."
"Uh..." Makoto coughed.
Ears folding back, Luna pouted and gave a little sigh. "It was bad enough when we just had to worry about the Senshi being attracted to one species."
Morrison smiled and idly brushed back a strand of green hair. She then knelt down, the armored pleating of her skirt armor shifting as she held a container stable for her aunt. The succubus gave the brunette a quick opaque glance, but her tail swished back and forth.
Makoto blinked and then gave a gasp, having totally missed that Sophie's approach.
"How are you feeling?" the young succubus asked, eying Makoto's neck and chest.
"Pretty much healed. Shoulder's still a bit sore," Makoto looked over to Pluto, who had pointedly stepped aside.
"And- uh- you?" Makoto asked. She then winced. "Sorry about..."
"I'm healed too." A little smile crossed Sophie's lips. "But we'll have to work on our coordination. Compatible comms averted disaster, at the very least."
Makoto found herself blushing nervously.
Sophie blinked. "Well, it's good to talk to you again." Frowning slightly, she stepped back towards her mother.
Makoto quickly looked away, focused her attention on one of the shattered pillars, and regretted it. "So... have you... uh found anything?" she asked Pluto
"At the very least it's not the Dark Kingdom's work. Or anything from the Silver Millennium," Luna said.
"And the mercenaries are correct," Lady Pluto said.
One of the agents glanced up from his equipment.
"They are?" Makoto asked.
"Yes." Impatience colored Kiri's face "However, think stabilizers more than beacons. First, they were drawn here. Then they opened the way. Finally, they placed these to wedge the door open."
Luna darted a paw out and batted the fractured foundation where one of the shards had been rooted into the floor. "And, it looks like all the energy needed to sustain the portal came from the other side. I'm not seeing anything energy storage around here."
"Lovely." Makoto sighed. "Once again we're dealing with something that's got a boatload of inter-dimensional technology?"
Pluto smiled. "Is it that surprising?"
"Not really" Makoto refrained from kicking one of the shards. "There's even the sinister black crystals."
"They're more of a ceramic than a crystal," Pluto murmured as she pulled her hand back and started at her glove.
"What gets me is why'd these... things even bother with us."
"Yes, normally inter-dimensional invaders need a reason," Luna sniffed. "Even if it's just 'take energy' or 'kill princess'. "
"They also don't start out throwing giant monsters at us," Makoto added.
"There was the warning we received," Pluto stated.
"And you believe some shadow mistress?"
The green-haired Senshi made a fist and exhaled.
"You tell me that Nu-"
"Don't say her name," Pluto ordered. "Not here."
Makoto huffed and looked away. "Fine. You tell me that she won't be trouble later on?"
Pluto's expression softened, and for a moment she actually looked at ease in her own body. "I can guarantee it."
"Well, that's good." Makoto frowned a moment later, wondering what exactly Pluto was guaranteeing.
The brunette sighed. "This place gives me the creeps. At least where we fought wasn't so cramped."
"It's no sylvan glen," Pluto said.
This time Makoto did kick a shard. The chunk of pillar scratched against the floor and rolled to its side.
The brunette frowned and wriggled her toes in pain. The material was much denser than it looked.
"Careful, this isn't a place you'd want to set down roots," Pluto absently said.
Luna tittered as the cat slunk around the green-haired girl.
Makoto tilted her head. "I don't think there's any risk of that," the brunette slowly stated.
The small green-haired girl rolled her shoulders and went back to inspecting the pillar.
Makoto knelt down. "Do you know anything about Them? Was what your... friend told Usagi true?" she quietly asked.
Pluto withdrew her arm and, scooping up Luna, stood up. With the cat in her arms and Makoto at her heel, she went over to the dissection team.
Under the harsh bright light one of the creatures was spread out over some plastic sheeting. Makoto had fought plenty of them a couple hours ago but this was the first clear and detailed view of the enemy.
It had been flayed in separate layers. First the armor, then environmental suit, then bubbling, rubbery skin, and finally hissing ropy muscles and pulpy mint and sulfur-reeking organs. The creature's barrel-shaped body had also been sectioned and several of its tentacles had been neatly cut off and put into storage containers.
Wordlessly, Section Chief Tofu Ono shifted to the side and began sterilizing the long-handled knives and forceps. Pulling down his mask, he then took a step to the side and looked over the camera feed. After a few seconds he paused the playback and looked up.
"These aliens; have you captured any alive?" Pluto asked stroking the black cat that lounged in her arms.
"Classically isn't it supposed to be a white longhair?" Morrison asked.
"Well, I had a mate who was a white cat," Luna hissed, her eyes narrowed to slits.
Tail drooping, Morrison bowed her head.
"Yes, some Russians got the last of ours," Pluto said scratching behind Luna's ears while the cat grumbled about golden golems and body-snatching red-eyed Lolitas.
"Any survivors would be Captain Jarvis' department," Ono stiffly replied.
The blonde succubus looked up. "Apologies Sir. Our various allies were most..." she caught Makoto's eye, "exuberant."
"Even if we'd got one alive, it'd need a lot of environmental containment," Pluto murmured peering down at the decaying body.
"Suicide watch would be hard too, given all they need to do is pop a suit and they'll be dead," Eve noted.
Absently nodding, Pluto's attention was on the putrefying flesh to the armor and containment suit. "Have you found out what their atmospheric conditions were?" she asked leaning over to look at a pair of curved glassy metal tanks.
"We've taken samples, but still need to run an analysis. It's at a higher pressure and we think has more sulfides and a much larger argon component." Ono exhaled.
"And their flesh?"
"Fortunately, we think we've got a good idea on how to preserve enough organic samples, or at least prevent further decay. But that's just the start," Tofu stated. "I've sent a team to look at the samples you all produced, but if anything you girls damaged them worse than the Canadians."
Pluto raised an eyebrow. "Well, what do you know?"
The scientist sighed. "First guess. Based on similarities to preserved Pattern O remains, we're looking at organosulfur compounds. There's also some very interesting differences. For one, they've got a more angled buildup to their internals."
Tofu pointed to some rigid, bone-like structural members.
Makoto frowned. Nore than alien, they looked wrong. Looking more like something that was extruded than grown, the creatures were built up of straight lines and kinked angles. there was none of the organic curves and arcs she had come to expect from living things.
Pluto narrowed her eyes but nodded.
"We've also found similarities in their accouterments and artifacts. Frankly, these are what will help us place these creatures relative to previous finds," he said using, the long forceps to point to a knurled flask, with a hinged socket top that could plug into the containment suit.
"What are those?" Makoto asked, once more trying to breathe through her mouth.
"We have records of similar tanks found in the Antarctic dig site. Those contained denser organosulfur compounds, and protein equivalents suspended in a thiol solution: carbon-bonded sulfhydryl," he clarified.
Pluto nodded while Makoto and Luna blinked.
Ono coughed. "The sulfur analogue of alcohols."
"They were drinking it?" Makoto blinked then looked down at the ropy and flayed corpse.
"Yes, it seemed to be a nutrition supplement. Possibly with a recreational aspect too."
"That might be taking too much of an analogy to human biology," Pluto cautioned.
"Of course," Ono agreed.
"Oh," the brunette frowned. The idea that these creatures had food and... drinks disquieted her. Of course if humans had made the same kind of attack... she glanced back at the demons and shook her head.
The auburn haired officer had approached the group. She was carrying a couple secured cases while the succubus at her heel carried another.
Ono turned. "Ah, Major Saotome, I've got some of the armor sections off and ready for storage."
"Excellent, Sir." Nodoka pulled up her mask, connecting it to her goggles and knelt in to the pieces of armor. She knelt down and took out a magnifier from her vest and began to study the flexible material. Her camera clicked off occasionally as she made some notes.
"Huh, different weave and liner design. Even the fittings are different. I'll have to run a full materials analysis to compare with the Pattern O samples from Survey 418, but..."
"It's different?" Ono prompted.
"Sir, I'll need to do a full study to be sure. It could just be that this is a newer, much newer, version of their armor. Or maybe it's because this is combat armor," Nodoka frowned.
"I'm guessing what you found in Antarctica wasn't a military facility of Them?" Pluto asked.
Luna's ears perked at the mention of Antarctica. That had been another big mess for the Senshi.
Nodoka glanced to Ono who gave a slight nod.
"It was an outpost. We don't think it was military in nature," Nodoka explained.
"We're also not sure they're the same creatures. Yes we've got the same limb count and the internals seem analogous but there's key differences in the neurological structures and sense organs."
"Could be evolutionary drift," Pluto looked down at the glossy white armor. "I'm guessing that dig site's old."
"Would it be possible to loan me a sample container?" Pluto asked her gaze shifting between Nodoka and Morrison. The green haired succubus looked to her grandmother.
"For what?" Nodoka frowned.
"Just some of the pillar material. I've got my own tests. I'll also want to examine the creature that was killed on the bridge," Pluto explained as Luna tried to conceal a quizzical expression.
"In addition to the one you all killed?" Ono asked.
"As you said, " Pluto smiled. "We damaged ours worse than the Canadians."
"I'll ask for authorization," Ono assured as he stepped aside and keyed on his radio.
"What do you know about their armor?" Pluto asked, shifting back to Major Saotome's area of expertise.
"It is definitely military in nature, there's a whole layer that's been added in addition to the environmental suit." Nodoka flipped out a multi-tool and poked some latches. "See how the armor can be replaced without removing the whole suit. We'll need to check the after-action reports. See how much damage these things could take."
"Later we can give a good report on what our attacks can do," Pluto said.
"Rather effective, and I'm sure your daughter can help with that," Makoto added.
Nodoka set her jaw. "Yes Miss Kino, I'm looking forward to talking with my daughter once my duty here's done," she said her voice tight and strained.
The brunette winced. "I'm sorry," she said
Major Saotome gave a curt nod as she returned to her work.
Returning, Ono handed Pluto a locking storage container, after she let the cat down from her arms. "You're authorized to take samples." He paused. "Please don't punch another hole through reality. When you're ready to go topside, Lieutenant Tendo will escort you to the bridge."
Makoto noticed the officer had given Pluto one of the smaller containers.
Pluto gave a bitter little laugh that contrasted with her youthful body. "Believe me, that's the last thing I want," she said before turning on her heel and walking back to the broken pillars.
As Makoto followed, she glanced over and saw that the green-haired succubus had slipped up next to her. She noticed that the demon was about equal in height to her, though her sheer presence made her feel larger. The armor, harnesses, magazine pouches, and slung rifle also helped, not to mention the folded wings or the swishing tail.
"Apologies if Major Saotome came off as curt," Morrison assured, eying the brunette. "And I'm sorry for accidentally making light of your loss," she then bowed to Luna.
"She has a lot on her mind," Makoto admitted.
Stopping, Makoto angled her torso to face the demon. "What did I do wrong now?" she asked with exasperation. "I'm maintaining eye contact. I haven't accidentally touched you. I'm not getting in the way. We even bonded over the corpses of our enemies! What did I do wrong?"
Morrison frowned. "We really are a finicky lot," she admitted.
The brunette snorted.
"It's just the issue with Aunt Ranma is… sensitive."
Makoto stared. "How badly did she get hurt?" she asked. As far as she knew the redheaded could just soak up damage and bounce back.
The demon looked down; she did not like being here, instead of with the rest of the brood. But her being out here freed Ranma's daughters to comfort her. "It's not just the damage," she eventually said. "It's the lack of food; she was starving."
Confusion colored Makoto's face until she looked around the room and spotted the dead squid creatures. Sulfur compounds, or whatever that scientist said they were made out of, must not be compatible with demonic biology.
The succubus nodded at the brunette's dawning realization. "She's recovering but..."
"Things are sensitive right now?" Makoto guessed.
Makoto thought of the other Senshi; they were being held in reserve across the canal. Depending on how severe things were for DarkStar the two groups might even be at the same location.
Morrison raised an eyebrow at the other girl's little wince, but shrugged and walked back off to watch over her grandmother.
Bearing a little frown, Makoto went back to the pillars and found Pluto kneeling over the shattered remains. Luna sniffed around until she found a somewhat clear patch and sat down to the side, her tail swishing back behind her.
"You shouldn't let them get to you," Pluto quietly said, adjusting the pair of obsidian gloves she wore.
"It wasn't that bad; she's just worried about DarkStar."
The green haired Senshi nodded. "Good."
"That she didn't get to you," Pluto clarified as she lifted a split piece of pillar into the waiting case. She made a thoughtful noise before adding a couple more shards.
"Get to me?"
Snapping the case's lid shut, the green haired girl gave Makoto a dumbfounded gaze. "She is a succubus."
Jumping up to Pluto's shoulder, Luna shook her head in sympathy with the younger-looking Senshi.
"What's that... Oh," the brunette frowned. "When did that become a concern?"
Standing up, Pluto help the case one-handed like a wide briefcase or a large lunchbox. "It isn't? My mistake then," the maroon-eyed Senshi said mirthfully. She patted the cat. "Isn't it good we don't have to worry about fraternization between sex demons and our teenaged warriors?"
Makoto's footing slipped a bit in surprise. "Funny joke."
Pluto gave a thin smile. "Come on then," she said before walking towards one of the hallways out of the scarred chamber.
"That's it then?"
"We have what we need."
"What about another invasion?" Makoto demanded.
"I'm sure it's only a matter of time," Luna shrugged. The cat's nose twitched. "Oh you meant right now."
"There's enough Jammers to lock things down here." Pluto's hand drummed against the case. "Though that's a bit like locking the barn after the horse has escaped."
"Before or after it mutated into an inky monster with acid sprays and gone on a rampage in a major city."
"A national capital." Pluto held her free hand up in correction.
"Much better," Makoto rolled her eyes. "At least we got some early warning this time."
"Last night's intrusion?" Pluto asked.
"I was thinking the meeting you and Usagi had."
The young-looking girl's face clouded. "I wouldn't put much stock in what she has to say. She does not look upon the Silver Millennium with fondness nor would she approve of Crystal Tokyo."
Makoto looked back at the blasted room. The corridor they were in was little better. In fact it had more water pooled along the floor and the closer-in burned-out walls were covered in streaks of gore from two realities. "But why?" she asked in a low voice. "Why is... Nuit so hostile to us, to Serenity?"
Pluto frowned at the name being uttered. She slowly rolled the locked case in her hands. "Serenity, Usagi's mother, brokered a peace deal with our hostile friend's father." Regret colored the girl's face. "It did not last."
Luna's face clouded. She did not remember much about Nuit nor her father. Unfortunately, that was not particularly informative given her continuing memory issues.
"Oh," Makoto rubbed her neck. It made sense. Serenity had made deals with demons and had conquered planets. "Was there a war?"
"No," Luna shook her head; she could remember that much.
"But it was a near thing," Pluto added. "And a sense of betrayal colored... relations ever since."
"She sounds like quite the 'daddy's girl' to carry a grudge so long after the Queen's death."
"You've faced immortal beings from those days. Do you recall any of them to be particularly forgiving?" Pluto asked as they resumed walking. She found she had to hasten herself to keep ahead of Makoto's longer stride.
Luna snorted. "By those standards Queen Nehellenia was one of the less obsessive ones."
The brunette shuddered. The mirror queen had tried to usurp Serenity in the past, and the Senshi had defeated her before, only for her to come back. In fact, her final defeat had come before Mamoru died and everything went wrong. "Not before Usagi healed them," Makoto admitted.
Nodding, Pluto spread out her hand. She frowned at her diminutive fingers.
"Maybe Usagi should do that with Nuit."
Stopping in her tracks, the green-haired girl nearly doubled over with laugher. The locked metal case fell to the ground in a clatter.
Unsure of how to react, Makoto helped the shorter girl up and handed her the case.
Smoothing her dark jacket and blouse and making sure Luna was draped over a shoulder, Pluto quickly regained her composure.
"I'm guessing she's not actually evil."
"Would Queen Serenity have brokered a peace with someone like that?"
For a moment Makoto was mollified. "Wait. What about BlackSky?"
"Just because you're a dark alien invader doesn't mean you're evil," Pluto smiled as she scratched under Luna's chin, quieting a potential protest from the cat.
"What about these things then?" Makoto asked as she kicked the arm of an eviscerated Squid that had died near the stairwell.
A pair of Company agents in their grey armor and heavy double-barreled rifle grenade launcher combo weapons continued to watch the two girls.
"That's different," Pluto said as she started on the steps. Being short was a frustration; times like this she missed her old body. Well, an old body, she mentally amended.
"Why did the Russians have de Veste summon Them?" Makoto asked as they rounded the landing in the middle of the stairwell.
Kiri exhaled. "He wanted to impress."
"Oh yes, big and flashy. Very showy." Reaching the head of the stairs Kiri gave an encompassing sweep with her arms. Luna lifted her head and stabilized her grip.
Before the three was the battered and mangled elevator lobby. The hulking corpse of a giant armored squid dominated the room. Its shredded rubbery body and peeled, shattered, armor laying between the torn elevator doors.
The two girls slipped past the stinking corpse and its flock of smaller bodies and made their way to a burnt barricade. Again the smells of blood, cooked hair and flesh, spoiled milk and crushed milk, and smoke filled Makoto's nostrils. The brunette took some comfort in the lack of the rubbery stench of charred Servitor. Luna's whiskers rustled as her nose wrinkled in distaste.
The brunette gagged slightly. Despite it all, the odor was better than that in the basement. Glancing over she noted that the green-haired girl hardly seemed to notice.
Makoto frowned. "Showy? That doesn't seem their style."
Giving a little smile, Kiri cocked an eyebrow as their shoes crunched across the room. She paused and then sidestepped a large blood smear surrounded by scattered packaging from bandages and other bits of medical kit.
"The Combat Cyborgs took out a helicopter and engaged in a running gun battle... in downtown Toronto. And that was after assaulting and burning down our previous headquarters," she explained her red eyes dancing. "Surely you remember that battle?"
Both Makoto and Luna narrowed their eyes.
"Are you saying this is their style or not?" Makoto demanded.
Kiri's smile grew fractionally.
"Look, what happened down south was a mess but this is a disaster. It's worse than Jadeite's last stand at the airport."
"A lot of planes were destroyed at Haneda, not to mention that terminal building," Pluto conceded.
"Even so, this is a lot more visible," Makoto swept her hands at the canal and city that could be seen beyond the bank of broken windows. To the east she could see wisps of smoke coming out of the University of Ottawa building they had fought in.
A security station had been setup in the entrance room as armed groups of Canadian and Company personnel walked around the deactivated metal detectors. Most were moving crates of equipment through a some were doing cleanup work and a somber men working graves detail were logging bodybags.
Kiri sniffed. "Yes, yes it was. Do note that what I said earlier."
Makoto bowered her head.
"Wait..." Luna's tail flicked. "You said he wanted to impress. Not they wanted to impress."
Smiling, Kiri nodded.
"The Russians didn't want all this?" Makoto asked.
"Hardly, this... extravagance-" Disgust filled Kiri's face. "-was one man's indulgence. I fear the cyborgs have not realized what they've hired."
The relatively pristine equipment, some of which looked like it had been pulled straight from the depot contrasted with the rest of the room's stripped, bombed out look. Constant sirens, the drone of helicopters, the rumble of heavy trucks and armor came in through the windows.
Makoto frowned. Schemes within schemes, factions within factions. "But who did he want to impress then?"
"Please, the man is a cultist. Draw your own conclusion."
"A sacrifice then? Was all this some sort of sick offering?"
Pluto held up a hand to silence the brunette.
Several of the soldiers looked up at the pair of civilian-dressed women, one of which had a cat, though there were intercepted by a pair of JTF2 troopers followed by a female Company officer with short brown hair.
Makoto inhaled; there was a rather strong cross breeze. The air was fresher but that simply highlighted the rank smell of burnt powder, smoke, offal and spoiled milk, mint from within the building. It did not help that the incoming air was also heavily scented with engine fumes and exhaust.
Looking across at the slightly shorter fellow brunette, Makoto stepped aside.
Lieutenant Kasumi Tendo nodded to her before going to Kiri. Her brown eyes fell over the case the green-haired girl carried and the cat draped over a shoulder. "Here to see the Servitor? Apparently, it was bigger than yours."
"I'm afraid the tank did a number on it; what's left isn't very impressive."
"It wasn't electrocuted, burned and then magically shredded." Kiri shrugged. "Maybe I can learn more about what kind of Servitor this one was."
"Are you sure you don't want to see the third one?" Kasumi offered.
"The one the tank actually shot point-blank and the brood finished?" Kiri asked. "I'd presume there's even less of that one left than ours."
"This way," Kasumi nodded. "The other bodies have been bagged, but we're still scooping the thing off the bridge and into containment. The military propped up a frame and dropped a tarp over most of the stuff, but it's all terribly exposed," she explained as they towards a door on the eastern side of the building.
At the doors was set of ambulances, a coroner van, and another armed detail.
"Bringing in a lot of people." Makoto frowned. "I thought the Jammers had things locked down. They worried the enemy will be back?"
"Always," Kasumi gave a conspiratorial little smile. "But this is recovery and graves detail." There was a distant edge to her voice.
Luna tightly closed her eyes as the cat gave a nervous, pained purr.
"The medics logged all the cadavers when they and security swept the building?" Kiri asked.
The company officer nodded.
As they went down the sidewalk, the engine noise increased and the air became slightly more palatable. Makoto looked out over the canal bridge. A large snow removal backhoe had been scrounged up from a garage. With flashing lights, the orange vehicle drove into a hastily constructed tent, and then with beeping as it reversed drove out with a bucket-load of black ichor.
A team of soldiers and agents, half of them armed with flamethrowers tensely watched as the hydraulics extended and the bucket lifted and a pile of gelatinous inky matter slumped into a steel dumpster bolted onto a waiting flatbed truck.
Passing a mechanic team working on one of the idling Leopard tanks, the group made their way to the canal-spanning bridge. Makoto's disquiet grew as she looked around and took care to keep to one side of the scarred bridge.
"Something wrong?" Kiri paused after her question.
"We're watching them scoop black alien sludge into a dumpster," Luna dryly stated. "Oh look there's a cluster of eyeballs and some tentacles."
"I mean something else wrong?" she quietly appended.
"Oh nothing, it's just..." the brunette magical girl sighed. "It's all this." Makoto gestured to the idling tank and the helicopters flying overhead.
Kiri raised an eyebrow.
"How many years have we been alone?" Makoto exhaled. "And I wasn't even around for the bad old days. Back when it was just Minako and Artemis or Usagi and Luna."
"It got better when we found Ami," Luna said with a sigh.
"This wasn't our home or even a Company base that got attacked. This was a military headquarters," Kiri reminded.
"Because of our enemies," Makoto added.
"Not every otherworldly invader can have the restraint of Pharaoh 90."
Makoto eyed the short red-eyed Senshi. "Maybe it's because unlike the JSDF the Canadians are willing to send tanks into their capital city," Kiri shrugged.
"It would not be the first time." Kasumi snickered.
"What?" Makoto asked. "Aliens have attacked before?"
The lieutenant shook her head. "Humans. October 1970. Quebecos separatists started kidnapping government officials and the Governor General implemented the War Measures Act. The army rolled tanks right on the lawn of Parliament. There's probably one or two there now. But in '70 after that, they secured other governmental buildings another force marched on Montreal."
"Oh." Makoto blinked. She knew Japan had some unrest during the 60's and 70's but was surprised to hear that the Canadians had similar... if more extreme issues. "Well at least none of the secrets about monsters and magic got out."
Kasumi shrugged. "After years of working in the shadows, being seen at best as an unpleasant necessity that 'important' people don't talk about, someone that's called when their toilet backs up or when deep ones start eating too many constituents. it is nice to see your warnings taken seriously for once. And have them do more than pay lip service to the idea of sinister invaders from beyond the moon. Especially if that they're willing to bring in the big guns."
Eying the armor on the bridge, the Company officer gave a fond little smile. "Though I will confess, the idea of throwing tanks at a Shoggoth did swell my national pride."
Bearing a pensive face Lady Mars turned from the... overt display to the broodlings. At least not all of them seemed as enrapt by their mother's actions. Ironically, the platinum blonde daughter seemed the most concerned. Her smile was more guarded than the other daughters'.
Minako slipped up to Mars' shoulder. "Troubled?" she asked in a low voice, her blue eyes slipping to their queen before back to the raven-haired priestess.
"Is it that obvious?" Mars whispered back as she watched the broodlings circle around their mother and the queen, including Ukyou.
The blonde took Mars' gauntleted arm and drew her towards the food-laden table, and away from the others.
"Jealous?" Minako asked, despite her serious expression a playful lilt still entered her voice.
Mars looked over the table. There was plenty of food. However not much that was non-meat. She picked up a bottle of water from a half opened box. Her glass was back at the table, and she did not want to... intrude. "Interesting that you would suggest jealous."
Minako gave a serene smile.
"Don't you wish you were on Usagi's lap?"
"Who doesn't?" Minako brushed some of Mars' hair back.
Ignoring the gesture, Mars laughed and opened the cheap plastic bottle. "It's so crude."
"Would you have preferred a more subtle seduction?" Minako leaned in, her little smile still affixed to her face.
Mars thought back to Meredith; she had offered to be a supportive ear for Rei. And the girl's the blue-green eyes with little emerald flecks were so very deep.
"Maybe you're insulted that such a... simple approach is working."
Mars nodded. "I mean sexing herself up and squirming into her lap."
"And all the blood. I didn't realize our Queen's tastes were so... sharp. Perhaps if I had gone with more teeth..." Minako mused.
"This isn't about your attempt to get into Usagi's skirt, Mina!" Mars' voice was sharp before she regained control.
Some of the broodlings glanced over towards her. Misako even gave a snort.
"Get into her skirt? Please dear Lady Mars, I was her skirt." Minako shook her head and ran her hands down the twin ponytails she worse before passing them over the blue skirting of her Sailor Moon disguise. "But now... yes, I'm wearing it."
"This attraction..." Mars shook her head. "You and Ami."
Minako's face clouded, and her smile... slipped. "Yes... she made sure we had so much in common," she hissed through clenched teeth.
"Maybe that's it," Mars muttered to herself, ignoring Minako's comment. "Straightforward is her style. We are dealing with simple creatures here."
"The demons or our queen?"
The strain eased from Minako's face as her smile grew.
Taking a sip of water, Mars glanced over her shoulder. "How about you?" she asked turning back to Minako. "How are you taking all this?"
"It's surprisingly cute... in a blood and iron queen with her minion of war way."
"I meant in general," Mars narrowed her eyes. "I mean you've lost the most. With your... changes. And the other thing," she added awkwardly.
"I know Luna's not taking it well, you were almost as close as her." Mars stated not noticing that the blonde had stopped breathing. "Artemis was your longest friend right?"
Her lips still frozen in a now-forced smile, Minako slowly swiveled her head. "Yes."
"At least you're taking it... well." Mars exhaled. "When mother died. Well, I had my rage at my father. Did you know he abandoned her?"
Minako simply stared. She knew about the "great" Takashi Hino. The rising start of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the man that despite his wife's tragic illness secured a critical Non-Proliferation agreement. One that was violated two years later via a botched nuclear test under the western side of the Sea of Japan.
"I had a... focus for my mourning," Mars gave a tiny bitter laugh.
"Well Rei, of all the violations Ami did to me, deadening my ability to mourn will be the hardest to forgive," the blonde's voice was flat, cold.
"Oh... so we're not so different?" Mars reached out, Minako's upper arm was surprisingly cool, and worryingly stiff. In that moment it was hard to pretend that Minako was still human. "But Ami didn't kill him. The Russians did."
Minako's eyes flashed red. "I know."
The arm Mars held seemed to ripple. The cool flesh chilled and felt smooth... slick. "Mina..."
The stiff blonde looked to Mars. Her smile grew; it was an awkward halting motion as her lips curled unnervingly.
Mars' heart sank. Minako's natural, effortless joy seemed slipping away.
"Yes?" Minako crisply asked. The blonde's eyes languidly drifted between crimson and blue in a slow, blending oscillation.
The blonde waited.
Still, the blonde stood quietly.
The dark-haired girl noticed a lack of rise and fall in the other girl's chest. That her blinking seemed infrequent, perfunctory. As seconds drew out Mars realized that her friend's newfound patience was more eerie than the other changes, including the increasingly metallic cast her skin was getting. "I..." Mars swallowed. "Uh, can you hold it together?" Mars quietly asked. "You seemed fine in the fight..."
Minako's eyes flashed over, and bright ruby irises stared back at Mars. "What kind of question is that?" she levelly asked, her voice a monotone.
"Our queen's been very lonely. After the loss of her Prince."
Minako stared, but her eyes burned less bright.
"I don't think you're jealous of the demon, of Ranma. You did seem pretty proud based on having been Usagi's 'skirt'." Mars found she couldn't help but grin. "Maybe that's it... you want to get between them. I mean literally between them. A gold gown for the queen. Or maybe some shining armor for-"
Still smiling, Minako put her finger to Mars' lips and pressed. "How would you know?" the blonde asked as she withdrew her finger.
"I was... tempted. Back at the base. Mako-chan and I ran into some succubae. And... "
Minako chuckled, her smile turning genuine. "Not Ranma and her girls by my guess."
Mars glanced to one side. Catching a glimpse of her queen, she turned further.
Still nuzzling and curled in her lap, the demon had a large, very large, smile as she chewed on a chunk of steak.
"No, not one of hers."
Minako leaned in. "Which of Cecilia's darling girls was it?" she asked, her flat voice gaining a teasing undercurrent.
Blushing slightly, a tiny orange flame sparked from Mars' bangs. "How did?"
"A guess, Eve doesn't have many spawn, and they seem a bit... cold," Minako idly brushed Mars' hair, "for your taste."
"I wasn't attracted to her!" Mars hissed, her voice almost rising.
Minako pulled back and tilted her head slightly at the darker haired girl. She waited.
"I wasn't," Mars repeated.
"Tempted?" Minako asked a teasing lilt, momentarily, breaking her monotone.
Lady Mars closed her eyes; she inhaled. On her exhale her body shook, her fists clenched and tiny sparks lifted from her hair.
Idly catching one of the tiny motes of flame, Minako's smile slipped off her face. "I see."
"For a moment... a moment. It felt like Meredith could... That she would understand. Or at least listen. That I wouldn't be... or that I wouldn't be rejected not for what I'm... becoming." Mars opened her eyes.
"And now you're wondering if that's what it's like for me? If this is how the loneliness works for me?"
Mars gave a tiny nod. "And how Usagi can stand up to their affections."
Minako looked over Mars' shoulder. The queen had dropped a slab of raw meat into the demon's waiting maw and then clapped as it was snatched and swallowed in one quick chomp.
Mars looked over her shoulder. "It helps that Ranma's far more... straightforward in her methods."
Still watching the near gluttonous display, Minako smile returned. "There is a certain sweetness in being so blunt. An innocence."
"Innocent," Mars laughed. "Well, it's a matter of degrees. We've all got blood on our hands. At least Mercury didn't make you kill anyone."
Minako's face clouded.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Mars released the blonde's arm and automatically drew her into a hug.
Minako leaned on her friend, and for a moment Mars realized the full weight of the blonde. "It's so hard," Minako whispered, her whisper once more completely monotone.
"What?" Mars put her other arm into the hug.
"Remembering that Ami's a victim too." Minako returned the hug and sighed.
Mars froze at the little sigh, her friend's warm breath on her neck. It was such a little thing, such a human thing. However part of her wondered if Mercury had given Minako that capability, for this exact scenario. "We will save her. She's afraid of Usagi healing her."
The faux-Sailor Moon gave a melancholy laugh. "True, she saved me."
Mars frowned and at a loss for what to say simply renewed the hug.
Leaning into the embrace, Minako lifted her head.
The antics of her queen and the demon continued. Now Serenity had a large bowl thick with a meaty stew. The glossy silver succubus blinked and paused in her chewing. Expression turning quizzical, Minako watched as the platinum blonde demoness approached her mother and whispered into her ear.
The brood mother brightened, her large mouth splitting into a broad grin. Meanwhile the queen gave a little frown.
"Mina? Something up?" Loosening the hug, Mars turned back and looked at the others. The demons had shifted their stances and looked expectant.
"Yes," Minako murmured.
Ukyou walked up to the pair. She politely coughed and looked aside until two Senshi separated.
Mars glanced at the demon in her grey-green uniform with its bodysuit, ceramic inset vest and skirt. The armor was functional, and in its way understated, but it was also undeniably a Sailor Senshi uniform. A bit of jealousy colored the priestess' face as her bangs lifted slightly.
Smelling a hint of something like wood-smoke, Ukyou paused and bowed her head. "Miss Hino, Miss... Tsukino," the demon's pause was deliberate as she bowed to Minako. "We're having some guests in here, and it would be best if you returned to your disguises."
"What about her?" Rei pointed to the silver succubus, now drinking deeply from a bowl of stew.
"And what about you?" Minako waved towards Ukyou's neatly folded wings.
The blonde demoness gave a bright toothy grin. "These gentlemen are, ah, friends of mother's."
Minako nodded. "Right. They know about demon mercenaries, but not about magical girls."
"Right, can't let that secret get out," Mars rubbed her neck in irritation. "I'm guessing they weren't anywhere near the University."
"Let's not presume they were. Every bit helps," Ukyou then turned to Minako and nodded. "You are right, it probably would be best for her to not be so ostentatious."
"Trust?" Minako asked as Serenity pulled out her disguise pen. The queen's form wavered and her pristine armor shifted into a dark blue suit and pinstripe skirt equally lacking in any blood drops of stains. She peeled off the windbreaker that came with the disguise and draped it over a spar chair.
Mars briefly wondered how Usagi had managed to stay so clean, despite messily feeding a brood queen. However her attention was diverted by a rising pressure and heat from the demon right next to her. The diversion was made moreseo by how familiar it was to Rei herself.
Eyes flashing, Ukyou controlled her breathing. "They fought alongside mother."
"It is still a risk. Infiltration, replacement, subversion, mind control," Minako stated.
Ukyou allowed a little nod. "Which is why we will still be in the room," she explained.
Walking back to her queen, Mars rolled her shoulders. "I suppose you're right," she said to the demon following at her side.
"You have argued that there's too much paranoia and security around her," Minako teased.
"Says the woman that literally became her armor."
Minako gave a little, and quite deliberate, cough.
"No, refreshments?" Serenity playfully asked her returning Senshi.
"It's not like they were making out in the corner," Ranma noted, lifting her head of the taller woman's chest.
"True," Serenity said almost regretfully, then tapped her disguise pen against her lips.
Rolling her eyes, Mars held out her hand.
After kissing the ruby tip, Serenity dropped the pink pen into Mars' waiting hand.
Shaking her head, Mars used the device and shifted into a maroon suit and dark windbreaker. She then handed the pen to Minako who also reverted to her structural engineer disguise.
"What about her?" Mars gestured to the silver succubus.
A pout crossed the glossy-redhead's velvety soft features. "I've indulged myself enough," she gave Serenity's cheek a kiss and slowly unwound her tail. The demoness then held her crystal choker. There was a flash and silver and ruby started to boil and run. Glossy white armor and long blue pleats began to smolder and evaporate. Accents and accessories withered as embellishments withered and the demon's hair became unbound and reverted to individual strands.
Stepping back, Mars looked away while Ukyou started talking into her headset.
Several seconds latter, the doors opened and a group of soldiers entered, heralded by a smiling pale woman with a perky green ponytail. Despite the lack of visible wings, horns, and tail, she was clearly a demon. Especially when one compared the slight-looking short woman with the more muscular and mostly male group of Canadian soldiers.
They had uniforms very similar to the JTF2 troops. However, their armor was lighter than the Black Devils'. They also lacked grenades, and their rifles were lighter looking and of a smaller caliber.
At the head of the group, next to the young demoness, was a young officer with a thin moustache under a hawkish nose. His dark eyes were prideful but vaguely haunted. He spotted the cluster of demons and well-dressed women and immediately strode towards them.
The green-haired succubus slipped off to one side and walked towards Mars. She gave a slightly apprehensive wave as she slipped up next to the black-haired women.
"Ma'am," the demon nodded.
"Priscilla," Mars bowed her head in return, wondering if she heard a tremble in the succubus' voice, and if so, whether or not it as an affectation. Cecilia's girls honestly seemed afraid of them, but that was when they were alone with two magical girls. Here Pricilla had her aunt and her more powerful cousins.
"Meredith hopes you're doing well," Priscilla said with a warm wink before slipping out of the room and locking the doors behind her.
A still thin succubus with stark greyish cheekbones wearing a crisp grey-green Kevlar vest and armored skirt over a dark green bodysuit that matched her daughters' uniforms pushed off of Serenity's lap. She was taller and had regained the sheer presence of a mature brood mother.
Mars looked over the pair and blinked. She knew the Serenity disguise was older, but the silver haired woman looked even more mature and actually filled out her blouse and jacket with more grace.
There was also more... gravity to the brood mother. Her deep crimson hair was unbound and tumbled back, but other than a choker, obsidian earrings, and a glossy holster her Senshi uniform was now crisp, professional, almost drab. The black-haired Senshi exhaled; maybe it was hard to slouch with a succubus in your lap.
Jumping up onto silver hooves Ranma stood. Thick armor-like spats were laced over the leg cuffs of her Kevlar bodysuit and formed something like shin-guards, despite being below her higher ankles. Unlike her daughters' looser bodysuits, Ranma's seemed almost stretched along her arms and down her legs. There the woven armor almost looked like some type of especially thick stocking.
As the brood mother clopped forward, Nariko slipped into place at her side. It was not the tanker crew, but these were men she wanted to thank as well.
"Lieutenant Borgne, how wonderful to see you." Ranma beamed, her metallic purple lips smiling broadly as her dark red hair fanned behind her. "You and your men did a wonderful job." She strove over to him and took his hand in hers. She nodded to the two of his troop that she readily recognized. "Peck, Simone. How was the fight?"
Borgne gave a Gallic shrug. "Really, after you and the sangfroid Lieutenant La Tour showed up things became much smoother."
Nodding, Ranma neatly turned on a hoof and walked back to the table. "We don't have as much to eat in this room."
Ranma glanced at her daughter. "But my girls can get more" There was the barest hint of a tremor in her gait.
Watching the way the demon's armored skirting swayed Serenity noted that Nariko hovered at the brood mother's side, seemingly ready to catch her.
Mars adjusted her jacket and went to the depleted refreshment table. As she picked up a bottle of water, Minako slipped up next to her and gave a sidelong grin.
"That's the second bottle of water you've gotten," Minako whispered as she grabbed a bottle of her own and carried it to her queen.
The redhead looked relived as she circled the table and sat down. There was a flash of silver as she lapped up a bit of blood that had pooled in the bottom of a bowl. "That's real good. No surprises?" she asked glancing over as the tall silver-haired woman took a long drink.
"Alas we were on the opposite side of the building from the Enemy's little escape attempt." Borgne looked at the table. "I see JTF2 was not kidding about bringing in more support. Demons? Same uniform as Red? A whole unit then. My, my."
"Yes, they're also my daughters." A tinge of a blush colored Ranma's pale cheeks.
To Serenity's eyes, it did more to liven up and fill in her face than a several platters full of red meat. A spark of jealousy popped and fluttered within the queen.
"A lovely family," Borgne took a moment to look over the broodlings before he turned to Serenity and her girls. "And more allies? Hmm." He looked at the uniform of Ranma's then at the suits the Senshi wore.
"You're not JTF2 are you?" Minako asked.
Borgne gave a sardonic laugh. "Not today no."
Peck, Simone and the other men shifted a bit uncomfortably.
"Girls, could you please get the Lieutenant and his men some refreshment," Ranma happily offered.
Borgne, well aware of "suggestions" watched the gaggle of pale girls get to their feet. A blonde and one with blue hair left the room, presumably, to get more supplies, while the other two started procuring bottles and other odds and ends.
"No this is Lieutenant Bornge, he held the line before JTF2 showed up," Serenity said recalling what Ranma had mentioned earlier.
"Ah, my reputation precedes me." Borgne turned to his men. "Go on, get some food in you, then you can chat with our new friends."
"Regular army?" Serenity asked.
"You're taking all this pretty calmly," Mars said after Borgne nodded.
"My Dear, the day started out with a break in by superhuman people who summoned clouds of smoke, were immune to bullets, and could pass through walls. Then came the alien invasion. Right now I'm running on adrenaline, caffeine, shock and some little helpers a medic we... procured gave us," Borgne's voice became more jovial, but it was obviously forced.
He looked and saw he was alone, the rest of his group had been pulled off to be fed and entertained by the demon's girls. His voice lowered. "I lost half of my men to Them, then lost every officer above me until I was in charge. All this before this lovely woman and her friends the Black Devils showed up."
"Ah," Mars nodded, jealousy coloring her neck and cheeks despite herself. The Senshi should have been among that list...
"No, I'm not to concerned about how many demons my government has secretly hired, or if you and your friends are actually structural engineers," Borgne said tapping a NORR Systems hardhat that had been left on the table.
The lieutenant sighed and pulled a cigarette pack out of a pocket. He looked at it before putting it away. "In fact, I'm stunned by the level of foresight this has shown. Shocking that we actually had a plan."
Serenity looked up at the officer. "I wish we could have gotten here earlier."
Borgne raised an eyebrow. His curiosity as to what these young women in their stiff starched suits really rose then fell. There was enough weirdness for the day, he concluded with a shrug. "It happens."
"What brings you here? It's great that Major Sifton's decided to bring you and your men in but..." Ranma's pupils dilated. "Oh."
"It would seem that some positions have opened up in JTF2."
"And since you've already been exposed to..."
Borgne nodded. "Yes, a Mr. Gagnon and his friends in matching black suits gave me a lovely debriefing."
"It'd be good to have you," Ranma said as she stood up.
Glancing down at the demon's hooves, the lieutenant chuckled; it was a dry noise. "Not to mention get some revenge." He turned and saw that his men had started to disperse, with some of them going back to the other room. "Until later." He bowed his head.
Taking his hand, Ranma returned the gesture. After a split second's consideration, she bowed her head deeper, bent her knees further, raised her tail and curled the tip up, and stuck one leg forward, her hoof ringing on the floor.
While Borgne blinked, Misako slipped up and gave the officer a cup of warm tea before he left.
As she handed out some sandwiches, Ukyou gave a little whistle. "His men were really the ones holding things before you got there?"
"Yes." Looking at the closed door, the redhead smiled and started to filter through the room. Trotting about in a slow rolling gait, she warmly chatted with the soldiers and wished them well.
"I like him, he's got a good handle on his hate." Misako proudly said when she caught up to her mother, and then returned to she passing out more drinks as the other soldiers slowly filtered out of the room.
As the room cleared, Serenity stood up and stretched her legs. Her thighs were a bit sore. She took an indirect route, that just happened to give a glimpses of the backside of the brood mother's legs where they emerged from the bottom hem of the armored pleats of her skirt. Gliding over to the refreshment table, she noticed her disguise meant that steps had to be taken with a bit more swing. She liked how the trim on her heels matched her hair..
And as Serenity watched her demon Senshi, Mars watched her queen. The dark-haired girl frowned at the deep blue heels. However, it was not the rich glossy, almost metallic, color or elegant silver chasing on the shoes that got Mars' attention. Instead, it was the four inch heel and how easily the Queen carried herself in them.
Soon the guests were down to Nariko quietly talking to Corporal Peck. The red-eyed demon gave him a quick hug, and holding his hand thanked the man before he stepped out of the room.
The silence that fell over the conference room was short lived
As Ukyou and Nariko received new calls on their headsets, Ranma's nostrils flared. Tail swishing, the brood mother looked expectantly at the door. One of her hooves tapped impatiently on the tile.
Serenity slipped up to her, the soft silk side of her suit-skirt brushing against the redhead's ceramic armored skirt. "Your mother?"
The demoness smiled. "If it were her do you think I'd be this contained?"
Serenity nodded, and grinned as she imagined the brood mother skipping from leg to leg. Her gaze went down and she looked down at her shoes and then glanced over to the demon. After a moment's though, the queen decided she also liked how the silver trim on her heels matched her demon's hooves,
The doors were opened by the WIC troops on guard and a weary Canadian officer paused to shake hands with Lieutenant Borgne before passing through. A somewhat tall man with a brawny physique, he had a heavy rifle with an under-barrel grenade launcher slung over his broad shoulders.
The officer's eyes were haunted, tired, sorrowful, but flashed with pride. The doors closed behind him and demons and Senshi parted as he strode straight towards the brood mother.
Beaming, the young demoness clopped up to him. "Major Wellwood Sifton," she purred. "You are a delightfully resourceful man."
"It does help that you brought such resourceful friends," the officer nodded to Serenity.
The queen frowned at the loss of contact, but the redhead turned back and with a quick wink pointed at the queen's chair.
The major waited for the demon's attention to return. "Miss Saotome, it's wonderful to see you looking well. I heard you over exerted yourself helping my men," Sifton understated as he took note of the different cut of her uniform, the sharp gauntness of her cheeks, and the gleaming hooves.
"Thank you for your concern. It was my pleasure." Ranma's tail swished as she took his hand in both hers and drew down deeply bending at the waist and actually straightening the customary bend of her knees. "As would be anything else you require," she added in playful whisper.
Serenity watched as the demon's skirt rode up and how the bow put the succubus at about waist height to the officer.
Sifton looked down.
The demoness idly tapped a hoof and slowly exhaled, her lips parting. Feeling his fatigue fating, Sifton's eyes calmed.. When he opened them the demoness was rising up and drawing closer.
Her tail going limp, the brood mother slipped an arm around the side of his shoulder. Her silvery forked tongue licked her lips and she drew herself to where she stood on the tips of her hooves and put her lips to his.
The kiss broke and Sifton exhaled and squared his shoulders. He felt fresh, energetic, and a bit hungry. He rolled his lips, straightened his uniform, and made sure his gun was still hung properly. There was an almost professional smattering of clapping from the broodlings.
Sparks lazily popped off Mars' hair. Watching the demon's display, she gave an irritated sigh. And to think that this woman lectured them on professionalism. Mars' sigh deepened. She expected naked voyeurism from Minako, but the hungry, almost jealous expression from her queen was worrying.
Cantering back to Serenity, she gave a leggy twist and flipped onto the queen's lap. There she crossed her legs ad the knee rocking one hoof over the other. "Sorry for kissing you so quick like that," Ranma teased.
"Well, physical contact like that is against regulations."
The demoness flexed an ankle. "It was just a bit of post-battle celebration," the demoness purred with a wink.
Feeling heady, Serenity tried to process the display, and the demon squirming in her lap. It did not help that she had resumed winding her tail around Serenity's legs. Only this time the tail was winding up, from Serenity's shins towards her thighs.
Sifton snorted and shook his head. "Well, I've had worse R&R."
"High praise!" Misako semi-sarcastically cheered.
Ranma glared at her daughter before going back to the officer. "You did manage to get those tanks in position. Impressive bit of paranoia."
Eying the demon's legs, Serenity nodded.
"There was some difficulties with the museum staff, but they did agree to the display. And they are a war museum. But turns out a tank platoon wasn't enough, nor were they able to block all the quarantine breaches. My thanks." Sifton's smirk waned at the end as he bowed to Serenity and the Senshi.
He then frowned at his watch and slipped his headset back in. "Just wanted to check in on you and your girls, and thank you for your help. I'm sure we'll have a more thorough debriefing."
The demoness smiled. "Oh yes."
"Until then," Smiling, Sifton bowed his head and marched out of the room.
"He really hid tanks at a museum?" Serenity asked.
Ranma nodded, "Yeah, a display of modern armor for the Canadian War Museum. There just was a little detail that some of the 'extra' pieces in the storage shed with some more kit."
The queen whistled. "I can see why you like him," Serenity said, a bit of jealousy in her voice again.
"Aww, don't be that way," Ranma said as she snaked her tail a bit higher and slipped the fins between skirt and stocking.
The queen gave an eep and knocked her knees together.
The demon in her lap raised an eyebrow and Serenity slowly separated her knees and then crossed her legs at the ankle. After shifting in her seat she exchanged a conspiratorial smile with her demon and then wrapped her arms around the smaller girl's shoulders. Idly wondering if the disguise pen changed her underwear too, she let her thighs part a bit more and leaned in to give the demoness a kiss.
Minako glanced at the tableau and tried to remember how long the demon's tail was. It was hard given how much of it was hidden by wrapping behind the queen's legs and skirt.
Finishing her bottle, Mars smiled thinly. "Well.. we gonna talk about the looming alien invasion? The one that just got broadcast live on TV? Or should we talk about how everyone has a crush on the Queen."
"It's hardly the first time we had to deal with an alien invasion," Minako said.
Misako ignored the blonde. "So, you admit it," the green-eyed succubus smirked at the black-haired girl.
Mars rolled her eyes.
"This is related to..." Serenity lowered her voice. "Her."
"Your special bathroom friend?" Nariko asked.
Wriggling in her "seat", Ranma tilted her head. "You talked to her... in the bathroom?"
Serenity's composure cracked and for a moment she looked her age. "I was feeling sick, and there was a mirror that Puu used to make the connection, with you know, the visitor from the dreams."
"Ah," the redhead nodded as she rotated her shoulders and looked Serenity in the eye. "And nice, keeping the name on the down-low. It probably doesn't matter. I mean I am openly demon right now, but it's a good habit to get into."
"Puu told me as much," Serenity sighed.
"Little Miss spooky Meiou would know," Mars muttered.
"I'll have to talk with her when she gets back," Serenity flexed her fingers. "I feel like a spy."
Leaning herself on Serenity's chest, Ranma gave a fanged grin that stretched over sharp cheeks. "You get used to it."
Four months previously, in late-summer, the Shade Tree garden center moved to a new facility. About ten kilometers north east of downtown Toronto, the former location lay on Allen road across from Viewmont Park.
Banners advertising the property was up for lease by Dagon-Fields Property Management had been pasted over the windows of the main building and a couple of the semi-circular greenhouses.
In a storeroom, several old bags of fertilizer had been pushed aside clearing a patch of old hardwood floor. A large man happily whistled as he swept the workspace clean of debris. Next he hammered a steel punch into a spot in the center of cleared area. He worked precisely, but jovially.
He was a man with purpose and vigor. Finding the summons waiting for him in the safe house replaced the annoyance of explaining events to his employers with a bright enthusiasm.
The large man took out a giant wooden drawing compass. The legs were over twenty centimeters each. The nail on one leg went into the divot he had hammered into the aged oak. Two swipes of the chalk on the other leg inscribed a thick walled circle nearly a meter and a half in diameter.
Still smiling, he worked carefully and measured the diameter of the circle, both the inner line and the outer. Satisfied he took out a calculator and a tape measure and began marking points on the circumference of the circle.
Nails were pounded into the spots and a chalk lines were strung between. Thick fingers moved with nimbleness as the lines were snapped against the wood. The man was careful not to smudge or mar the guide lines.
The man allowed a smile. His employers thought he was a thug, a mad-dog, a simple killer. It was an image that he enjoyed cultivating. Let them dismiss his gifts. He tried. He thought the Mad-Seer would understand, but pride blinded her.
Satisfied, he picked up the compass and started marking smaller arcs at some of the points where the inscribed lines intersected within the circle. The man stood up, and dusted his hands, making sure to keep chalk dust away from the figure.
He gave a satisfied grunt and opened up a can of silver-doped paint. Taking a fine badger-hair brush he resumed his whistling. The hard part was done. The rest was just filling in the lines.
Soon the silver paint had been laid down revealing the design; his design. Her Design. A five pointed star had been inscribed within the circle. Overlaying that was a triangular figure that ended with strange arcing hooks and little whorls. The whole thing looked like a pentagram merged with the curving cloud chamber tracks from an old cyclotron.
The man sealed the paint bucket closed and moved his tools away from the circle. A spill would cause a big mess. He slipped his suit coat on and straightened his tie. The brutish man crouched down. The obsidian gem on his ring tapped the edge of the silver paint.
He released his power, his god's power. The conductive paint flared with an iridescence and the viscous fluid began to bubble even as it heated and dried. Standing back up he used a paisley handkerchief to clean his ring.
Silver and green fumes began to rise from the circle. He glanced at his watch. He knew the time but he knew that you always double-checked your measurements. As symbols went this one was powerful. It was not for nothing that the Company itself had adopted it as one of the three glyphs they used as part of their logo.
Anything less would be insulting, anything more would be presumptuous. Mal de Veste grinned. If he wanted to get technical, this was something more in the purview of a High Priest, but after today... his heartbeat quickened. Not since he had first taken his oaths, not since he had seen his first vistas, not since he had gotten his summons today had he felt quite like this.
Mal cleared his throat. "Hear me Keeper of the Keys! Hear me Guardian of the Threshold! Portcullis of the Ways. Protector of the Beyond One! Bearer of the All-in-One! Hear me Harbinger of the One-In-All!"
The air shimmered above the circle. Twisting globes of shadow began to float up. The spots of wood between the silver paint began to glow with a shimmering pearlescence.
"Mistress of the Gates! Holder of the Silver Key hear me! I have done as you bid. I present myself!" The shadows over the circle began to solidify and de Veste dropped to his knees. His drew his gun and placed it before him and bowed in supplication.
The room's pressure increased and there was the sound of heels clicking on the wood.
"Rise," a female voice said impatiently.
Mal lifted his head.
Standing over the ugly-suited man was a short, young woman with dark features and maroon, almost red, eyes. Mal swallowed. She wore the skirt, ribbon, and bow of his employer's enemies.
And yet, the great silver key she carried like a staff of office, made her position undeniable. "Mistress," he gasped. He knew she would be a worshiper too; he had once bragged to head of the Thracian Union about his "insurance". His grin grew, more than ever he realized how small a part he was of a much, much vaster machine.
"Oh, get up." the green-haired woman sighed as she stepped out of the circle. Her eyes darkened. All color, all differentiation was overwhelmed; they became deep black orbs that flickered with iridescence. She frowned at the silver paint that had gotten onto her slim, obsidian boots.
Mal holstered his weapon, and rose to his feet. "This is about my offering, right? The All-In-One knows, yes? Do you think Yog Sothoth will like it?" he babbled, an almost boyish blush coloring his cheeks.
Sailor Pluto put her staff in the crook of her left arm. Iridescent bubbles floated off the garnet orb toping weapon. Fully a head shorter than him, she had to look up. Her black, unblinking eyes studied the man's rough features.
Staring into those twin voids, Mal's blood surged. There were depths in there that transcended time, that made a mockery of the idea of an ordered universe. This was the purity, the Truth, he worshiped.
An ebony-gloved hand raised towards de Veste's pinking cheeks. It halted, drew back, and then slapped with the sound of snapping an oaken beam.
Mal's head whipped to the side and he stumbled to the floor with a groan. He fell onto his tools, breaking the wooden rods of the compass and crushing paint can splashing silver paint on his suit.
Black eyes utterly impassive, Lady Pluto stared down at the man. "No. Priest. I do not like your offering."
End chapter 10
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: Milanda Anza, Mahou Sensou, J St C Patrick, Crimson Vixen, DCG, Pale Wolf and Kevin Hammel.
And hopefully with this battle, finally, over the story can advance further.
Username for the fanart is sunny-temple so just put that in front of the deviantart com
Revision Notes: And there we are. I still have to go and give Blood Debts a once over to get it up to date. But other than that... the Return has been updated. It went from 34 large chapters and an unwieldy and uncomplete narrative, to 50 chapters split over for distinct arcs. (Again not counting Blood Debts). But now Blood Debts fits in as another "book".
I'd like to thank everyone who helped me with the revision process, DCG, Ellf, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick. And thank everyone who commented on this. I know it's not new material, but next week I'll post the first chapter of Bonding Allure.
I'll also be posting updated chapters of Blood Debts next week, but since those are minor fixes they'll all be done at once.
Thanks again everyone!