Sailor Moon Expanded : First Contact by Mark Latus ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Continuity note - This story takes place shortly after the events of "Crystal Renegades" part 9 and Azurite's decision to join the Outer Senshi's Golden Millennium Project. The flashback takes place during the early episodes of SMS while Neptune and Uranus were showing up just long enough to temporarily incapacitate the monster of the day, check the heart crystal wasn't a talisman then vanish, leaving the Inner Senshi to destroy the diamon. This period also precedes the DKR story, "Girls' Night Out" ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2981 AD - Site of the former Uranian Lunar Embassy Azurite's return and announcement that she was joining the Golden Millennium project was a great relief to everyone in the hidden Lunar base. Particularly Haruka and Michiru. Why Azurite was essential to their plans they had no idea but after decades of visions about the Blue Haired One her role must be somehow crucial. Especially as all other details of the dreams had been 100% accurate to date. For the time being they were still holding off on telling her how vital she was to their success. Getting told she was expected to do some unknown but possibly messianic thing could induce Azurite to change her mind. Who would want to learn they have the fate of worlds resting on their shoulders? Look at how long it had taken Sailor Moon to accept the idea. Instead they had decided to gradually build up to it over time and instructed the Youngers to keep quiet on the subject. Everyone had agreed, even Vicky. But then she could sympathize with someone getting stuck with a destiny they really didn't want. They had settled for telling Azurite that the dreams that had lead them to the others had now brought them to her. She wasn't the last member expected, the visions had lead them to expect two more Younger Senshi. Princess Usagi, the Younger Moon would be recruited when she was older. However Younger Nemesis was a bit of a puzzle. The Nemesians had only recently revealed their existence and little was known about them or their planet. Or rather the four interconnected planetoids that made up the Nemesian subsystem. Which had every astrophysicist on Earth tearing their hair out over the sheer impossibility of their existence coupled with the undeniableness that they and their linking columns did. But what was known contradicted the expectations on the Golden Millennialists. Naturally enough while in Crystal Tokyo the Nemesian delegation had been asked if there was a Sailor Nemesis. They had claimed that while ancient records indicated there had been one millennia ago no such individual had manifested since the Fall. In her place they had the Four Sisters, each of whom was the avatar of one of the Nemesian Planetoids but bore about as much resemblance to a true senshi as Endymion did to being Sailor Earth. It was possible the Nemesians were lying and concealing their senshi's existence but that didn't help them much. For that would mean the Younger Nemesis would, like her Elder, be born upon one of the Sisters and remain inaccessible to them. If this was the case their only real hope was that the Younger Nemesis would turn out to be one of the members of the embassy Demand was establishing in Crystal Tokyo. Which, given the number of coincidences that happened in that city, was a lot more likely than pure probability indicated. The Youngers welcome to Azurite was a sharp contrast to their more formal introductions on her initial visit. Haruka and Michiru had requested them to relax and make it a social occasion. While Younger Mars remained shy and deferential Hitomi was the only one not able to put aside her awe. After all the others had already spent years or even decades under the tutelage of living legends and had learned to become blase about the fact. Fiona was delighted to have another trained archaeologist around, finally there was someone she could discuss her lunar explorations with and not violate her oath of secrecy. Sakuya was curious how Azurite had invested her incomes from her multitude of occupations over the centuries along with any inside information on Pyrite's upcoming magisci patents. This last hope would be dashed by the news of Pyrite's unfortunate accident that had forced him to enter seclusion. As for the others; Vicky had a few questions about her ancestors that she hadn't asked during her sole meeting with her multi great grandfather. Mayuki and Jeanne were both glad to see a new face. Any diversion from their decades of voluntary confinement was welcome. The only member of the group not present was RH. Both Elder Senshi had decided that it was far too early to introduce her to Sakuya's perverted pet. If anything could convince Azurite to change her mind and go home it would be him. During the welcoming party Hitomi managed to put aside her shyness long enough to ask Azurite a question. As Neptune-sensei had mentioned earlier meetings with Lady Azurite when had these occurred? Azurite had gently reminded Hitomi that the only title she could claim was Doctor as she had never held any sort of rank in Crystal Tokyo. Waving off Hitomi's apology she was about to answer the question when Haruka jumped in. "First time we officially met would have been while you and Pyrite were hanging around the Palace trying to decide if you were staying or not. I have to admit I was very sceptical of Serenity's plan to add youma to the roster back then but I got over it when I got to know Polaris and Calcite. We've had our disagreements but I can't deny their commitment to Serenity. But our first actual meeting was back in the twentieth when we stumbled across you and Margrave carving up that diamon." Azurite nodded, "We first worked together during that vampire mess in England thirty or so years after we ducked out of CT. But you're right, our first meeting was that night Ti conned me into spending an evening trying to get on with Margrave. Thank Serenity she gave up on that idea centuries ago." Mayuki frowned, "I thought vampires were mythical?" "They are but you can do a good imitation by misusing magic. Long story, sometime I'll have to tell you the highlights of my vigilante career in my days as an active lesser senshi." Which, she thought, I expect to resume soon once this Nemesis disaster kicks into high gear. What a mess, I just hope I won't be facing a tangle of loyalties. I've sworn to discuss Pluto's message of impending war and time travel with no one outside of CT's inner circle. Most of whom have known this was coming for almost a millennium. Now, as if one oath of secrecy wasn't enough, I've sworn to mention this place to no outsider except Serenity. The only one not here who knows the whole truth about both stories. I could wind up walking a very thin line. Centuries of practice kept her face from reflecting any concern. Instead Azurite pushed the worries aside and cast her mind back to that night long ago and considered how to tell the story. But before she could begin Michiru cut in with a surprise. "I hate to contradict you but you're both wrong. Our first meeting was some months before the night you two are remembering." Both Azurite and Haruka threw her matching looks of confusion. "What in the world are you talking about, Michi?" "I am talking about a spring afternoon a very long time ago." Seeing she had everyone's attention she began her tale. "This was back before anyone knew there were Outer Senshi. At the time the only ones known were the Inner Senshi and they were largely believed to be either urban myths or a well orchestrated merchandising scheme by a conglomeration of toy companies." She hid a smile at the perplexed expressions on the Youngers' faces. They just couldn't imagine a world in which people didn't accept senshi as a fact of life. "This was during the very early days of our battle against the Death Busters. The Inner Senshi knew nothing of us apart from our names. Our origins and intentions were a mystery to them and we were avoiding them as much as possible. With hindsight that was foolish but it made sense to both of us at the time. Neither we nor they realized we had all recently met in our civilian guises though it was nigh inevitable in a synchronous zone like Tokyo. But its existence was something else we learned later. At any rate on the day in question ... **************************************************************************** Chrystine Phobos, owner and operator of the Silkworm Book Shoppe, looked up from her manga to see one of her best customers. "How's it going, Ti." "Great, it's a beautiful day and it's time for 'Operation Sisterhood'." Chrys raised an eyebrow. "Haven't I heard that before?" Ti's attempts to reconcile the two women she thought of as her older sisters seemed an exercise in futility to Chrys. She had met both (in Azure's case they had met thanks to a practical joke by Margrave) and it was obvious that while both liked Ti they also shared a strong mutual dislike. Still she had to give Ti credit for boundless optimism. Sure enough Ti was sure that this time she could at least start them on the road to friendship. She had managed to convince each of them to come shopping with her this afternoon following school. As of yet she hadn't mentioned to them that both of them would be meeting her for that reason. It seemed doomed from the start to Chrys but she admired the girl's perseverance. "Well good luck anyway." "Thanks ... say is that a new Sailor Arcturus doujinshi? You know I collect those." Chrys glanced down and hurriedly closed it. "Uhhh ... you don't want this one. It's kind of etchi." "Oh." Ti decided Chrys was right, that wasn't the sort of thing she could take home. If Margrave found it that would give her something else to torment Azure with. Not that she didn't do fine on her own without using the fruits of some hentai otaku's imagination. Out of curiosity she asked, "Do you have that sort of thing for the other senshi?" Chrys shook her head. "I don't traffic in that sort of thing. Nobody who has seen the other senshi can agree on any detail apart from costume, hair colour and measurements. All the photographs are similarly blurred but one thing everyone agrees on is they're young. Too young to be fantasised over in my opinion!" Ti looked a little puzzled by this declaration. "Really? Then why do you have that Jupiter one under the Arcturus one?" Chrys sweatdropped. "Oh that ... hahaha ... uh ... Well she's a lot taller so she's probably older than the others." Chrys kept justifying herself then realized Ti's attention had wandered. Eager to change the subject she brought the item that interested Ti nearer. "You like it?" Ti nodded, "It's cute." The stuffed toy looked something like a fat oval rabbit with a jewel in its forehead. "It's Mokona, isn't it?" "Spot on. Toys aren't my usual line but I'm a big CLAMP fan ..." "I know, you're the one who turned me onto Rayearth." "I remember ... anyway I picked up a few of these to see how they sell. Interested? I can give you a discount as a regular." Ti quickly worked out how much she had, how much she'd need and how long until allowance day. Then decided to throw caution to the wind and hope she could wheedle an advance out of Cal when she got home. "I'll take it." "Great. Well long as you're here let me show you a few things I just managed to acquire with a bit of wheeling and dealing." Chrys didn't expect Ti to buy any of it, it wasn't to her taste. But she liked showing her collectibles to someone who would appreciate them. "Sure, what have you got?" "Well for starters ..." The two moved to the back of the store leaving the counter unmanned. Chrys wasn't worried about doing that, the local punks had spread the word that things happened to people who shoplifted at Silkworm. But that meant neither were present to see the diamon egg approach the window and phase through to merge with the Mokona toy sitting by the till. Or at least it tried to but soon as it touched the glass it was bounced away by a warding spell. Chrys Phobos (whose real name was Chrysolite) had installed the wards almost without thinking about it. It was a natural habit for those brought up in the Dark Kingdom. If they kept Hidebehinds from entering dwellings nobody knew but nobody took any unneccessary risks where the invisible death was concerned. So as a matter of course all youma dwellings were plastered with the wards. It was such a standard precaution that after intallation most youma never gave them a second thought. Much like lightning rods. However in the back of the store both youmas felt something happen with the paranormal senses neither knew the other possessed. They looked at each other knowing something had happened but with no idea what. Puzzled, Ti asked, "Did you feel a cold draft or something?" "Funny, I was just thinking the same thing. I'd better check the air conditioner isn't cranked too high." Ti nodded and forgot about it but Chrys couldn't shake a feeling of unease. Maybe it was time to check the Star Wheel and see if the immediate future held any unpleasant surprises. If she could. Unfortunately while the stars knew all they didn't tell all. A little later Chrys waved as she watched Ti depart cuddling the latest addition to her stuffed animal collection. She still felt that vague sense of disquiet but it seemed to be fading ... as Ti got further away. Was that just coincidence or was whatever disturbed her following Ti? Probably the former, she was just imagining things and finding patterns where none existed. Probably and yet ... It would just take a minute to flip the sign to "Closed", lock the door and follow Ti. She liked the girl and wouldn't want to see anything happen to her. Except that she was jumping at shadows. Why would any supernatural disturbance center on Titania? By one of the skewed probability fluctuations common to Synchronistic Zones (that would subsequently be discovered and codified as "The Law of Dramatic Irony") Chrys had met every other survivor of the Dark Kingdom and recognised none of them as members of her species. Nor had they identified her as anything more than a pleasant if slightly eccentric shop owner. There was nothing about her to concern them. Ti liked her and since she showed no interest in Ti beyond friendship her sexual preferences were irrelevant. Except to Margrave and then only as a source of potential amusement by tricking Chrys and Azure on a date. But that's another story. What matters for this one is that it would be a very, very long time before Chrysolite and Titanite learned each others true natures and their blood relationship. Meanwhile after giving the matter a little more thought Chrys shook her head. She couldn't go running off half cocked every time she got a spooky feeling. That was just plain over-reaction. She would stop watching Ti disappearing down the street and get back to work on those order forms. Any second now. Skipping down the street Ti was wondering if she should give her toy a new name or stick to Mokona. It did look very rabbit like ... maybe she should call her Usagi-chan. Giggling to herself she headed for the rendezvous in high spirits. She had a feeling this was going to a good afternoon. Something else was not having a good afternoon. To the extent that it could feel anything the Diamon egg was pissed. First it had attempted to infiltrate the target's house and been repelled, now it had just suffered the same setback a second time. Translated into human terms it was not a happy camper. It was however even more determined to accomplish its mission. Lurking behind a nearby vending machine it sensed the target passing and carrying a possessible item. A decision was made. It would follow unobtrusively and merge with the doll the moment the opportunity presented itself. Had she been older and more experienced Titanite might have sensed she was being followed. Unfortunately all her attention was on Mokona and her plans for the afternoon. Not far away two high schools students were sitting on a bench watching the people pass by with more than casual interest. Still wearing her boy's uniform Haruka amused herself trying to attract any junior high girls who passed by. Michiru didn't seem to notice, she was too busy waiting for the next target. She didn't know who it was or even what he or she looked like. But she knew she'd recognise whoever it was when they passed. Haruka saw Michiru's gaze lock onto a passing brunette. The girl hadn't noticed her, evidently intent on some errand of her own. Something pleasant from her humming and the way she held that stuffed animal. Michiru said simply, "Her", and got up. Haruka nodded, she was already on her feet and ready to follow. "Looks like a prime candidate ... shame the talismans aren't found in impure hearts. It'd make this a lot easier." "If wishes were horses ..." Michiru didn't bother finishing. They'd been over this so many times before. They had to face the way things were without flinching, wishing things were different wouldn't help anyone. Three lives were a small price to pay to save three billion. They might not like sacrificing the carriers but they would do it without flinching or hesitation. The girl didn't notice them following, all her attention seemed to be fixed on her pudgy rabbit doll. Still she wove though the other pedestrians without bumping into anyone or showing any signs of exertion. She must be in good shape despite an evident fondness for chocolate bars. Haruka guessed she was on her way to meet someone, perhaps a boyfriend, which could mean another idiot getting in the way. As if it wasn't bad enough putting up with Sailor Moon and her gang of second raters complicating things. So far they hadn't prevented the diamons from extracting any heart crystals but that remained a definite threat. In which case she and Michiru would be forced to prevent their interference. By any means necessary. The girl slowed down and waved to two women waiting by a crossroads. They stopped glaring at each other and waved back but kept a wary eye on one another. Michiru took a moment to study the twosome. Like the girl both were foreigners, very attractive and in their early twenties. Beyond that their appearance was a sharp contrast. The redhead was tall, not far shy of six feet and dressed in an immaculate white blouse with a light purple skirt and jacket. Not a hair out of place, poised and collected ... at least when she wasn't watching the other woman. The platinum blonde beside her was a little shorter but sported a bigger bust. Which wasn't hard to tell as she was dressed for the height of summer in a skintight halter top and hip hugging shorts. It was nowhere near that hot but she showed no sign of discomfort and preened at the attention she received from the passers by. Both would probably have been surrounded by admirers were they not radiating hostility so openly. "Sorry I'm a little late ..." Both looked at her, then jerked a thumb at the other and began speaking in unison. "WHAT IS SHE DOING HERE?" "Oh, you both agreed to go shopping with me so you're both supposed to be here." "YOU DIDN'T TELL ME SHE WAS COMING!" "Well you didn't ask." The girl sounded cheerful as ever despite the almost palpable dislike between the two. "Beside if I'd told you that you were both coming neither of you would have shown up. But you did and you promised so here we are." Still looking innocent she asked, "So where shall we go first?" The redhead looked as though she was going to protest again but sighed and gave a rueful smile, "I should know to check the fine print. Okay, I'm in ..." She turned to the blonde, "Feel free to go find a nice warm bed to crawl into." The blonde started to hiss something but it became a nasty smile, "Think I'll stick around for a while. Could be fun, Azzie." A muscle twitched in the other's jaw but she gave no other reaction. The girl didn't seem to notice. Instead she clapped her hands together and beamed. "Great, everything's settled. I've got a few ideas where we should start but first let me introduce you to Mokona ..." Keeping their guise as innocent passers-by Haruka couldn't get close enough to hear what followed but she got the gist. It was obvious that while neither woman liked the other both unwound considerably in the girl's presence. She had heard the girl call them "older sisters" but this might be merely a term of endearment as none of the three bore any family resemblance. Feeling a little mischievous she was about to comment to Michiru on the desirability of older women when she noticed Michiru's attention fixed on the redhead. Irrationally she felt a sudden twinge of anger and jealousy and demanded, "Hey, watch the girl. We've got a job to do." "Hmmm ... oh sorry, Haruka." She didn't sound particularly sorry to Haruka and she would have responded a bit louder if Michiru hadn't suddenly said, "It's just that I could swear I've seen her before somewhere. I wonder where?" Haruka's, "How should I know?", was a bit on the gruff side. "Wonder later, they're on the move and I'll bet whatever shows up this time won't take too long to manifest." Michiru nodded and they resumed tailing their quarry. Ahead of them Ti was taking point as she lead the trio's way and kept up a running explanation of what a Mokona was (which had somehow segued into a summary of Rayearth proper). Behind her Azurite hesitated then whispered in youma'shak, "You do know we're being followed?" Margrave snorted quietly. "I wondered how long it'd take you to spot them. You're getting soft Azzie ..." She waited for a reaction but there was none. Slightly annoyed she continued, "Think we should duck into the nearest alley, grab them as they pass, break their legs then ask them politely to stop bothering us?" "Once again the voice of reason speaks!" Margrave muttered something about sarcastic bitches then more clearly, "So what do we do?" "Are you getting anything unusual off them?" "They smell human if that's what you're asking. Picking up weird auras?" "No." "Except they're following us for some reason." "They could be following me." Margrave snorted again but Azurite ignored it. "I do have a certain amount of celebrity. They could be fans ..." "Or stalkers. Probably stalkers. Why don't you confront them and see it they're planning some ritualistic lesbian murder-suicide cult thing? If they're not maybe you can talk her into doing one." "Ha ha. Well so far they haven't done anything threatening and they may lose interest and wander off. If they keep following us then we'll have to have a few words and find out what their game is. But for the moment we're going to wait and see what happens. Leave the next move to them." "We are?" "Yes." "Fine by me, Azzie." "Stop calling me that." Margrave just grinned. Ti's voice cut in, "What are you talking about." "This and that." "Just trying to get along." Ti looked sceptical. While that was the outcome she wanted she doubted it would happen that quickly. But she'd let it go and hope for the best. "That's good, okay first on the agenda ..." About two hours later Haruka was beginning to wonder if Michiru had them following the wrong girl. Or if whichever of her belongings had been possessed was still at her own home waiting for her return to activate. Michiru had no way to answer the latter but was sure this was the next target. Haruka had to admit she seemed to fit the criteria. Despite a strong dislike both women seemed fond of the girl and put aside their mutual antagonism in her presence. A real peacemaker ... somewhat unfortunate for her since it meant a demon would rip out her heart crystal. If she was really unlucky her crystal would be one of the three talismans and they would take it from the creature and keep it. Which meant she would die shortly afterwards. Like the saying said, "No good deed goes unpunished." This was something of a private joke between the two Outer Senshi. Haruka figured as long as they weren't desensitised enough to find it funny they were doing all right. The trio split up as the girl spotted an ice cream store. There was a brief discussion followed by the group splitting up. The girl handed her rabbit toy to the blonde and her packages to the redhead then crossed the street. Without arguing the two women took a seat on a bench by the retaining wall and exchanged a few quiet words. Haruka decided to try getting closer to the girl. If her booby trapped possession was at home then knowing where she lived would be handy in case they lost track of her. She mentioned this to Michiru then headed for the ice cream store herself. She didn't see the blonde hiss and start to rise nor the redhead seize her arm and prevent her from following. Nor did she see the redhead turn to the tree that shielded Michiru or hear her speak. "Young lady, I think it's time you told us why you've been following us." Haruka also missed the blonde adding, "Your friend had better just be going for ice cream. We don't like it when people hassle the kid." Michiru held her place so both women rose from the bench to confront her. Both left the merchandise Ti had left with them sitting on the bench as they went to give Michiru an unfriendly stare. Unfortunately this meant neither of them was there to see the diamon egg emerge from a gutter drain and merge into the doll. Azurite's latent danger sensing ability might have picked it up had her irritation with Margrave not been filling her mind. Margrave's own heightened senses were similarly affected so she didn't register the Diamon's presence. If Michiru saw it happen she kept it to herself. Across the street Ti was studying the list of flavours. Margrave wanted chocolate, Azure had asked for low fat yogurt which just left her to make up her mind. The girl behind the counter looked to be a high school student with an after school job. She had recognised Ti's indecision and was recommending a few flavours. The somewhat sullen looking guy beside her was doing a good statue imitation but came to life as the door opened. "Welcome." The new customer ignored him and strode up to Ti. "What's a pretty girl like you doing alone on a day like this?" "Oh, I'm not alone. I've got two friends across the street ..." Then Ti took a good look at her questioner and her cheerful expression was replaced by a quizzical one. "Excuse me, that's a high school uniform you're wearing?" "Yes, Mugen Gakuen, a very exclusive academy." The name impressed those who knew of it but this girl didn't seem the type to be interested in academics. Still, whatever worked. "I thought so only ... don't you get in trouble for wearing a boy's uniform?" "What?" Haruka felt a little taken aback. Oblivious to her confusion Ti continued, "At my school they're very strict about girls wearing ... you are a girl, right?" "Ah, yeah. Haruka Ten'ou." The girl behind the counter stared at her with very big eyes. "Titania Hobbes though I normally go by Ti ..." "Call me Haruka." "Sure." Ti remembered Azure and Margrave were waiting and returned her attention to the menu. Offhandedly she remarked, "This is going to sound silly but for a moment there I thought you were a boy. Crazy, huh." "Right, how could anyone make that mistake?" Ti completely missed her tone of voice. "One yogurt, one chocolate ... make that two chocolate cones please." The guy nodded and got to work, his coworker was still bugeyed and frozen in place. Ti looked back at Haruka and gestured at the window. "Sorry for the interruption but my friends are waiting and ... now who's that they're talking to?" Haruka turned to see Michiru conversing with the two older women. What was she playing at? "You know her?" Haruka realized her face was giving away everything and marshalled her thought. "She's a friend of mine." "Seems to be getting on with my big sisters." "Uh ..." Haruka wasn't so sure. Yes, Michiru was talking to them but it didn't look that warm and friendly to her. "They're your sisters?" "Well, not really, that's just what I call them. I grew up calling Azure big sister and since Marg ... Cathy started living with us I've been trying to get her used to it. She likes it better than 'auntie' though that's not saying much but it's a bit too ... domestic for her. So I normally just use her name but when they're both together like this I figure I should address them the same way. I don't want to play favourites." Ti paid for the three ice creams and suggested, "If you hurry up and get your cones I can introduce you to them and you can introduce me to your friend. Looks like they're all waiting for us." Sure enough the three across the road were looking this way. Remembering she was supposed to be here just as a customer Haruka ordered the two vanilla, first thing that came to mind. As soon as she was handed them she remembered Michiru preferred strawberry but it was too late. She followed Titania out wondering what the hell Michiru was playing at! They had agreed to avoid contact with them! Behind her the guy asked his still bugeyed coworker, "You all right, Miki?" Michiru was acting a lot giddier than usual which just added to Haruka's confusion. Sounding innocent and bubbly she told her, "Haruka, I told you I recognised this lady from somewhere. This is Azure DeWitt ..." The name meant absolutely nothing to Haruka but it seemed important to Michiru. "She's that model in that layout I was admiring the other day. Ms. DeWitt was wondering why we were following her so I introduced myself and explained how I was curious who she was. When she told me her name I realized who she was and ..." Michiru prattled on but Haruka had got the gist. They hadn't been as careful as they thought in following the trio. Ironic considering she had herself noticed those two other blondes following her the other day. Luckily the redhead had some celebrity and they could claim to be following her rather than the girl. She seemed to have accepted the story, it was probably an old annoyance. Michiru would probably face the same problem when she became a famous violinist. Assuming she lived long enough and that was far from certain. Meanwhile Michiru had run out of steam and Titania was making the introductions. "I guess you three have been getting to know each other already so hi Michiru, I'm Titania but everyone calls me Ti. Margrave, Azure this is Michiru's friend Haruka. Haruka this is Catharine Margrave my brother's girlfriend and this is my honorary big sister ..." "Azzie." Azure glared at Margrave. "Azure, as you well know I don't care for that nickname." "Sorry Azzie, I forgot." Ti decided a quick change of subject was in order. "Uhm, well like Michiru-san said this is Azure, popular model and soon to be a film star." "Assuming they ever release the 'Sailor Arcturus' movie. We wrapped up weeks ago but the studio's still messing around with the release date." Azure looked mildly exasperated but not overly troubled. Haruka frowned, "This is an anime, like that 'Sailor V' film a while back and you're doing one of the voices?" "No, it's live. The studio figured they're already cashing in on the kid market with Sailor Senshi stuff but a live film might grab the adult audience. Especially with a more adult orientated senshi like Arcturus. It's basically 50% cashing in on a hot phenomenon and 50% merchandising." "And you play the title role?" "Nope, you don't give the main role to an inexperienced actress/model. I was lucky to get the main villainess rather than a bit part." "If you call it luck." Margrave was grinning again. "Now everyone gets to see you can't act ... though that's a little unfair. After all you've always managed to convince Pyr that it was wonderful. Still any man who thinks Shatner can act is no judge of sincerity ..." Azurite was giving her a very cold look and Margrave was wondering if she'd pushed her to far. But she'd said a lot worse to Azzie so why ... ? Suddenly she realized Ti was present and she was violating their unspoken, "not in front of the kid" rule of engagement. Luckily Ti was looking puzzled rather than shocked but she'd better back off. Her voice cold Azure told her, "I don't put up any sort of pretense with Pyr nor he with me. I'd suggest you remember that!" Then she showed a fraction of a smile. "As for my acting skills I seem to remember a routine of mine that you bought without question for years." Now it was Margrave's turn to look angry. She hated being reminded of having swallowed the Renegades' hardcase act hook, line and sinker. Michiru's voice broke the glaring contest. "DeWitt-san, Ti-chan called you her honorary older sister. What did she mean?" "I'm an old friend of Calvin, Ti's older brother so she grew up seeing me a lot. Also I've been involved with their cousin, Piram for years. Some years ago she started calling me older sister and I like that. If I had a younger sister I'd want her to be like Ti. Currently I'm living with Pyr and we're sharing a house with Cal and Ti so we are something like a family." Ti chipped in, "Cal's my guardian as my closest living relative so that's why I'm living with him. It's great having everyone together, like Azure said we're like a family. It was just the four of us for most of our first year in Japan but Margrave came over and moved in with Cal about six months back." Azurite sighed. "Unfortunately every household has its problems. You're looking at the source of all ours." Margrave chuckled, "No one's forcing you to stay, Azzie." Azure's reply was largely unintelligible to Haruka, something about better pets if they were declawed. Whatever it was Margrave heard it and didn't like it. Then her gaze flickered between Haruka and Michiru as her nose twitched. Ti forced a smile and addressed Haruka and Michiru. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea about Azure and Margrave. Sure they fight a lot but if the chips were down and one of them was in real trouble ..." Ti realized both of her fellow youma were staring at her. "... the other would watch them sink into the slime without lifting a finger." Both nodded, agreeing with each other for the first time all day. However the irony was lost on them. Meanwhile having sorted through the scents the two human girls were giving off and comparing them to her mental library Margrave had a new way to cause trouble. She addressed Michiru while jerking a thumb at Azure. "You're really a fan of Azure's?" "Yes. Is that so surprising?" "Not in the least." Margrave turned back to Azure and grinned, "See, I told you you've got a big lesbian following." Haruka paled and Azure sighed. "Subtle as a bulldozer." "I call them like I see them." "Bull, you're just trying to see if you can rattle me. Try and remember a lot of people don't like some idiot savant telling the world their ..." A glance at Ti, "... choice of partners." Haruka was rather taken aback by all this but Michiru kept her cool. It seemed their sexual orientation bothered neither woman though Margrave had obviously hoped for that effect by outing them. Two things puzzled her, there were no overt clues that she was more than friends with Haruka (most just considered Haruka a tomboy from her manner of dress) so how had Margrave known? Was it just a lucky guess? The other thing was that Azure had accepted the assessment of a woman she clearly detested without question. Why? She was wondering if she should ask about the matter when an electronic beeping started. Azure opened her handbag and studied her pager. Then sighed and put it away. "Ti, I'm going to have to take off and find a phone. Looks like they're maybe pushing up the film release date and planning a premier event I'll be stuck hosting under my contract. They want yet another damn meeting." "Oh, that's okay, You've got to do it, right? Don't forget to a few tickets for me and my friends if it's on. Especially for Meiko, you know you're her idol." Ti's friend had her own dreams of modelling but was locked in a continual battle with her weight. She kept losing the engagements. "Sure thing. I'll see you later." She turned to Haruka and Michiru and excused herself then looked at Margrave. "I realize it's nigh impossible but don't cause any trouble." Margrave stuck her tongue out and Azure remembered one of Ti's A-ko videos. But she resisted the urge to grab it and pull hard. She was the civilized one, she had to remember that. Instead she turned and headed off to look for a phone booth. Ti gazed at Margrave and looked a little annoyed. "Why can't you at least try to get along? I mean it's not like you're fighting over Cal anymore." Margrave shrugged. "Because we simply don't like each other. I guess we're natural enemies and Cal was just the trigger. Besides she doesn't have anything good to say about me. She thinks I'm a greedy self centred nymphomaniac with the morals of an alley cat who doesn't give a damn about anyone else." An opinion like that seemed a good reason for Margrave to dislike her housemate, at least to Haruka and Michiru. Strangely Titania just looked puzzled. "But Margrave, that's pretty close to how you describe yourself." "Yeah, but she makes it sound bad." Both Outer Senshi sweatdropped. Ti just shook her head, "This is going to take a bit longer than I thought." She finished her cone and balled up the napkin. "If you'll give me your trash I'll drop it all in the bin other there." She considered tossing it all in from here but decided that might be a little extreme. She was supposed to be a normal girl. So she made the short walk over. As soon as Ti was out of earshot Margrave turned back to Haruka. She still had that look of amused maliciousness but her voice was had a serious edge. "A word to the wise, girl. Don't pick on Ti, she's not sexually attracted to girls." Michiru wasn't too surprised to see Haruka turn red. While she'd play around with implication she got edgy when anyone got specific about their relationship and had frequently denied Michiru was her girlfriend. Haruka started to sputter something but Margrave overrode her. "Right now she's not dating but when she does it'll be boys. Thanks to an isolated childhood she's a little behind. Socially she's learned to fit in just fine but sexuality remains terra incognito. Now she's starting to come out of her shell. Right now she's getting obsessed with anime and manga boys. Easier to deal with than the real thing and aren't going to cause any trouble ..." A few months later Margrave would have a different opinion on the matter. "... but she's going to get interested in the real thing before too long and find out how much fun she's been missing. However right now she's kind of vulnerable and a smooth operator could mess her up by bringing into an affair that would only screw her up and not satisfy her needs. I don't like that idea." Haruka was obviously struggling to put together a coherent sentence but Michiru kept her cool. "You have a rather blunt manner." Margrave just shrugged. "I call them like I see them. Actually Azzie would tell you the same thing but she'd dress it up a lot more. I've never seen the point of that ... well, not unless I'm trying to seduce some guy and he likes dancing around. But the direct approach works on most." "That's ... interesting. I'm a little curious why you're so protective of Titania? Do you think of her as a sister, too?" Margrave snorted. "That's Azzie's hangup. She's got this thing about Ti getting the kind of childhood she wanted herself but couldn't have. Oh and don't let the smooth exterior fool you, she's one cold bitch. Though I'd say you know something about that." Haruka looked outraged but Michiru's expression didn't change. "Anyway some years back Azzie started thinking of Ti as her little sister ... heh, that made her feelings for Cal kinda incestuous, didn't it? She didn't laugh either. Me, I'm not like that but I like the kid the way she is now. Ti ... amuses me and if she gets into something self destructive she'll be no fun to watch. Oh, there would be a certain novelty value but that would pall when she got all weepy." "It sounds like you think she's your pet." Margrave nodded. "Yes, and I find her a constant source of amusement." She shrugged, "Not really my style but that's how I feel. I put it down to not having a pet as a child. Mum figured only weaklings kept them. I remember this pup followed me home once and I asked if I could keep him. But she said they grew up to be big dangerous bastards and cooked it." "Cooked it!" "Yeah. Though it did make a pretty good stew." Haruka was looking a little glassy though all Michiru did was comment, "You must have had a very practical mother." "That's one way of looking at it." Margrave frowned slightly. "Maybe I took more after the old cow than I think." Ti passed them to retrieve her toy from the bench and Margrave decided a more innocuous topic was in order (such as if they wanted nude photos of Azzie or some souvenir or other) when things got crazy yet again. Ti felt something she couldn't define then realized the doll she had just tucked under her arm was glowing. The glowing Mokona tore out of her grip and flew several metres away to hang in the air momentarily before the light flared and it grew. Standing between her and Margrave was a ... well it looked something like the Mokona equivalent of a playboy bunny. It was covered with short white fuzz and wore a red thong. Its upper torso was largely concealed behind an abbreviated third stage red, blue and green striped Magic Knight chest plate and shoulder armour. The oval jewel on the forehead had been replaced by a five pointed black star. It was a bit pudgier than the senshi's average female adversaries. Perhaps because of the source, though the arms and legs had increased to human proportions. Its ears waved as though there was a strong breeze but the air was still. It began making Mokona-like noises but it looked nowhere near as happy-go-lucky as the Rayearth mascot. Given past events Ti figured it was safe to assume it was hostile. Time for Sailor Polaris to spring into action! Ti grabbed for her bracelet then realized Haruka and Michiru would see her transform. She froze in indecision then lost her chance as the diamon got to work. The star on its forehead had started to glow and an energy beam shot out and struck her where her heart should have been. Haruka winced slightly as the black star on the diamon's forehead shone its light on the girl and fought the familiar urge to turn away. This was the part she hated, the agonized screaming that preceded the manifestation of the heart crystal. Not like Michiru, she always watched it without turning a hair. It sometimes seemed like nothing could break her composure. Haruka sometimes wondered if that meant she was stronger of simply colder than her. It troubled her to think the latter might be the case. Except this time Michiru's calm did break. Not much, she just gave a muffled exclamation but she had never done that during any other attack. That was when Haruka realized how quiet it was. The girl wasn't screaming, the beam was striking her chest squarely but nothing was happening. She couldn't see the baffled expression on the diamon's face but she saw the beam intensify in strength. Still Titania showed no sign of discomfort though her face showed her caught between fight or flight. Locked in place with no idea what to do. What in hell was going on here and what were they supposed to do about it? While Haruka and Michiru remained frozen watching the tableau of Ti and the Diamon, Margrave wasn't wasting time. Still trying to work out why its beam wasn't producing Ti's heart crystal the Mokona diamon didn't notice her approaching. At least until Margrave stopped behind her and tapped on her shoulder. The distracted diamon turned and Margrave's fingers slashed towards her face. With an unearthly scream both of the diamon's hands covered where its eyes had been. The black energy beam vanished as the blinded creature cried in pain. "Sorry, my hand slipped." With that Margrave viciously elbowed it in the stomach and sidestepped as the screaming creature hit the ground. "Ti, let's go!" "But ...!" Before the gaping Ti could make any further protest Margrave grabbed Ti and slung the girl over her shoulder. Margrave took a moment to shout over the diamon's screams. Telling Haruka and Michiru, "If I were you, I'd run away!", before taking her own advice and leaving in a hurry carrying her unwilling passenger. Neither moved, both were still trying to work out the unprecedented chain of events. The shocked Haruka muttered, "No effect at all. Not only does she not have a pure heart she must be completely depraved if it couldn't latch on to any speck of good ... she seemed so ... so cute!" Still staring at the writhing diamon Michiru mumbled, "Appearances deceive. Who should know that better than you?" At which point she realized creature's moans were weakening and fluid had ceased to bubble through its clenched fingers. ***************************************************************************** "Sailor Polaris is some sort of deviant? Then why did Serenity let her into the senshi?" Vicky was the one to ask the question but all the Young Senshi looked confused. Haruka looked a little embarrassed. "Well that's what I thought at the time. I remember the incident now but I didn't make the connection between Polaris and the girl." Defensively she added, "Why would I? She was an adult and not wearing her glamour when she joined the court and we met for what I thought was the first time ... how do you know all this Michi-chan?" "Polaris reminded me of the incident and filled in the details some years after she joined Serenity's Court. By then we had accepted her and she had learned our birth names and made the connections." Azure frowned, "She's never told me all the hidden details of this story even though I was there. I mean I had no idea I had met you before that mess with Margrave." Michiru nodded, "Because you met us as Haruka Ten'ou and Michiru Kaiou. Not Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. When you met as the Outer Senshi our distraction aura kept you from recognising us as the girls you'd met earlier. Since we've never made our birth names public you wouldn't make the connection on your own. As for Ti she, and all the other senshi, are honour bound not to reveal our names to anyone outside the court until we choose to make them known. As you're not a member if she told you the story ..." "... She'd blow your secret identities. Makes sense." Haruka still looked confused, "That still leaves the question of why the diamon's beam didn't affect her." Michiru was looking sphinxlike which meant she was expected to work it out for herself. "Maybe those beams don't work on youma ... no, wait ... if it affected Margrave that's not it ... uh ..." Azurite took pity on her. "Actually it's pretty simple. Ti's first impulse when the ... 'diamon?' ... the diamon appeared was to change to Sailor Polaris and blast it. But she couldn't do that as there were ... hah, innocent bystanders watching. Namely you two. But that didn't mean she couldn't defend herself. The thing to remember is that for Ti and me transforming is just a matter of putting on a costume. Our powers are part of us and always there and ready. We had been training Ti so soon as the creature manifested she erected a force shield. Invisible to the naked eye there was nothing to show it was there and give her away while providing a defence against attack. When she saw that glowing star she spun her shield to energy blocking and the beam washed over it without making contact. Simple." "..." Haruka looked like she could kick herself for not seeing that immediately. "Excuse me Neptune-sensei but thinking about what you have told us it sounds as though you made no effort to defend a girl you thought of as normal and defenceless against an attacking monster." Everyone looked at Hitomi. The Younger Mars blushed but didn't back down. "You're quite correct. We were waiting for the Diamon to expose her heart crystal. As soon as it did we were going to grab it and see if it was one of the three talismans we sought. If it was we would have kept it despite the consequences to the victim." "Isn't that ... unethical?" "We thought the sacrifice of three individuals was a small price to pay to save the world. If we had it to do over again then we'd still use that philosophy. Though we wouldn't be as cold blooded about it." Hitomi and a few of the others looked troubled by the answer though both Sakuya and Jeanne nodded. Azurite decide to give an outsider's opinion. "I'd probably use the same logic. I've always felt the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That's how I'd answer the Kobayashi Maru scenario ..." Everyone looked at her with puzzled expressions having no idea what that was supposed to mean. Azurite thought about what she had said and winced. "Live a thousand years with a trekkie and the trivia seeps into your bones ... anyway the point is I can't fault your decision. What I can fault is your methodology." "What do you mean?" "Look all you knew is that somewhere in Tokyo there were three pure hearted people with the right heart crystals and both you and the bad guys had to find them. So you followed the bad guys, right?" "Yes. So?" "So they were obviously scrabbling around blindly, zapping everyone who seemed to fit the criteria. Now let's get cynical and say only 1% of the people in Tokyo qualify as pure hearted, okay?" Haruka nodded. "Tokyo had about ten million people back then. That was the stongest point and it fell off fast outside the city but if you expand it to the very fringes of the zone you'd take in another twenty million people. Thirty million people and one in every hundred is purehearted. That's 300,000 candidates. Factor in the fact that they were zapping one person a day max ...?" Michiru chuckled having seen where this was going, "Probably less but call it that ..." "So that's 365 victims a year tops. Each has a 3 in 300,000 of being a carrier. Not only would it take ..." She paused to calculate and Mayuki chipped in, "822 years." "Really?" Azurite glanced at the Younger Mercury, she hadn't even seemed to concentrate. "Really." "Okay, so not only would it take 822 years to check everyone the odds against stumbling on the right one on any day in that first year are staggering!" "0.001%, improving slightly each day. To even have a 0.0015% chance they would have to eliminate one third of the candidates, 274 years worth." Everyone started to work out the math then decided they would take Mayuki's word for it. She continued, "Perhaps better odds than the average national lottery but that's not saying much. Naturally the odds change if pure chance lets them stumble across a candidate but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen." Azurite didn't question Mayuki's figures this time. "Even if it's only in Tokyo so there's only 100,000 candidates it's still 274 years to run through them all. So it's a good thing Sailor Moon got involved or both you and the Death Busters could have died of old age looking for the talismans." "Okay, we get the idea!" Haruka looked more that a little embarrassed while Michiru was amused. "It's worse than you think. We were two of the carriers but we never considered that for an instant." "Then perhaps you underestimated the Death Busters." Everyone looked back at Mayuki who had produced her computer and was retrieving something. She turned the terminal so everyone could read the screen. Michiru frowned. "'Synchronicity and Probability : A study of the Laws of Dramatic Coincidence within Synchronous Zones' by Mizuno, Maxwell and Pyrite? What has that to do with anything?" "From the records it appears several of the Death Busters practised an early form of magisci so they may have been aware of Tokyo's status as a Synchronous Zone. So they might not have been searching blindly for the Talisman carriers but counting on the skewed probability laws of the zones to guide their diamons to the carriers. Which they did as the diamons consistently encountered two of the three carriers." Michiru and Haruka stared at each other. Never in the past thousand years had that ever occurred to them. Oblivious to their shock Mayuki added, "Fortunately for us all the Death Busters were unaware of the equally active Law of Dramatic Irony also prevalent in Synchronous Zones. There is a case study on Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask ..." She noticed the stricken expressions, "Perhaps later." Azurite recognised that look, Haruka and Michiru were reviewing all the weird coincidences that had occurred over their centuries in Tokyo. Including, she now realized, their own first encounter. As that could take hours (or days) she decided a diversion was in order. "So, if you two were carrying these talismans that must mean you qualify as pure hearted?" Haruka shook herself out of the fog of introspection, "Uh, yeah." "A variety of sarcastic comments spring to mind but we'll let it pass." Haruka glowered but Michiru chuckled again. It had truly been a real surprise to learn that despite some of the things they had done. But intentions were the real deciding factor. Azurite continued, "Go on with the story. As I recall events Margrave had just run off with Ti. So, by my recollection, someone else was about to make an entrance." Michiru nodded, "That's right. Just when we thought things couldn't get any weirder ... **************************************************************************** The Diamon stopped covering its eyes and rose to its feet. One eye was whole again while the lid hung loosely over the other socket and dribbled a clear fluid. It looked very angry. It raised its paws and hidden talons slid out to gleam in the sunlight. Michiru had a sudden premonition that staying here had been a tactical error. The feeling was reinforced when the creature abandoned its cute sound speech pattern and hissed, "I'll tear all your hearts out!" giving a fanged grin to the spectators. It coiled to spring and Haruka grabbed for her transformation wand feeling sacrificing her secret preferable to sacrificing her life. But before she could invoke the change there was the sudden howl of wind and something unseen slammed the creature face first into the pavement very hard. "Congratulations, you just overrode whatever qualms I had about shooting you in the back in cold blood." Haruka turned to see a woman in an outfit somewhat reminiscent of a senshi's but with a red and black colour scheme and a tinge of S&M chic. In a much quieter tone Haruka overheard the newcomer mutter, "Great, killing bunny girls again. Why me?" Beside her Michiru murmured, "There really is a Sailor Arcturus? I assumed they just made her up for marketing reasons." "She looks pretty real to me. Looks like we're not the oldest senshi in town after all." Meanwhile the diamon possessed Mokona had scrambled upright. Its face looked a lot more battered but it seemed angrier rather than pained. There was a popping noise as its broken nose straightened out. "Not good enough!" The diamon's mood was growing fouler by the second. It raised its claws intending to gather and test hearts by more direct means. First it would carve the heart out of this annoyance then do the same to all the slack jawed spectators. "Ready to die?" It wasn't waiting for an answer but it got one. "Lechpaw w lech ber kwturph shyrshachph." Before it could either ask for a translation or spring to attack Arcturus raised both palms towards it. The gale slammed the diamon backwards until its flight was abruptly halted by a retaining wall. Its screech as it crunched cut off as the very localized hurricane pushed its chest plate inwards. It struggled to draw air into its lungs as the winds crucified it to the wall a metre above the sidewalk. Azurite's eyes narrowed, it was still holding together. This thing was definitely a lot tougher than the last batch of monsters. But not tough enough to tear free meaning she had time to do a bit of Arcturus style tough girl dialogue while she waited for it to be crushed. After all she did have an image to maintain. "On your way back to the pit stop by your masters' dwelling and tell them to stay out of my way. Or Sailor Arcturus is going to tear them a new one. Now go to hell!" There, that should do nicely. Azurite focused more energy and increased the air pressure. The concrete around the pinned creature began cracking. Good, just a little more and it would go squelch and the fight would be over ... a flicker and it was gone leaving an outline in the wall. Azurite reacted instinctively and dropped. Behind her something slashed though the space her neck had occupied. She kicked backward, her foot driving for the white face. With a squawk it threw itself to the side so her heel just grazed its cheek. Being blinded once today must have made it especially sensitive to the possibility of eye injury. Azurite rolled to her feet thinking maybe it was just as well she had missed. There wasn't much traction in stilettos at the best of times and eyeballs always made the heels greasy. With some distance between them Azurite could see what had slashed at her. The creature's ears had increased to at least ten times their old length and were weaving above its head like tentacles. Strength and full extension unknown plus the damn thing could teleport so pinning it long enough to mash it could be a problem ... The right ear grabbed for her. Shit, it was fast! She barely sidestepped the ear tentacle but grabbed it as it passed and wrenched. The ear tore, the attached section writhed away while the severed end began to melt. Where was the other ear? She dropped the dissolving tendril and raised her hands as the left ear slashed down from above gripping a mailbox like a mallet. No time to knock it aside with a windburst! The box slammed down on her upraised arms and exploded in a spray of mail and shattered metal. The diamon smiled and commented, "Oo popoo", sounded very cheerful. The cheer slipped as Sailor Arcturus tossed aside the wrecked mailbox looking none the worse for wear. "Not even close!" Azurite gave the diamon one of her, "time to die" smiles and stepped forward radiating confidence. If this thing could be rattled she didn't know but it was worth a try. Besides she did have a reputation to uphold. Okay, they had a stalemate. Her shield could block its strikes but it could regenerate damaged parts in seconds. It had already regrown the ear. Plus it was tough enough to withstand windstrikes long enough to teleport. Definitely tougher than the last bunny creature she'd run into. This was going to be harder than she'd thought. Two solutions, do enough damage that it runs dry repairing it or get in close and hit it hard enough that being able to heal won't make any difference. It seemed to be running off internal power rather than tapping into outside sources so it had finite resources. Unfortunately that worked both ways. She was using up mana faster than she could replenish her reserves from the environment and had no way of telling how much power it was packing. Pyrite could tell her but she couldn't get him without risking leaving a teleport trail it could follow. Crap! If she'd called Cal before ... To hell with "if", she was on her own so she'd have to make do. Except suddenly she wasn't on her own anymore. But it might not be an advantage. "Manga and anime merchandising should promote the artists' vision not make people fearful. For those who prey upon the dreams of their fans there can be no forgiveness! On behalf of CLAMP, Sailor Polaris will punish you!" The puzzled diamon turned to face the second senshi which was a serious mistake as an air vortex caught it in the small of the back. "Don't take your eyes off me, bitch!" The prone diamon snarled and its ears tore through the air like whips slashing at but missing Arcturus. Somewhat put out at suddenly being ignored Titanite called over to Azurite, "I wasn't done confronting it yet!" Despite most of her attention being on dodging Azurite managed to respond "Polaris there is a time to make speeches and a time to punch them in the kidneys while they aren't looking. This is the latter!" An ear pinged off her shoulder, just a glancing blow on her shield but a sign it was starting to track her. She had to abandon the defensive and retake the initiative but this was taking all her concentration. She had a strategy now she just needed a distraction ... She saw Ti creating a "Polaris Missile" and knew there was no way she was going to stay out of the fight. Hoping she wasn't making a very big mistake she called, "Polaris, cluster fire!" Ti nodded and the energy sphere in her hands was suddenly composed of golfball sized pieces. She gave a cry of "Polaris Cluster Bomblets" and the micro missiles spread out then swarmed towards the diamon hitting it from all directions. It howled and the creature's ears flicked away from Sailor Arcturus as they began battering away spheres to block Polaris's attack. Off to the side Haruka was asking Michiru, "When exactly did we lose control of this situation?" "Hard to say, I'm beginning to wonder if we ever had it ... what is she doing?" Sailor Arcturus had used the diamon's distraction to reach for her throat and unclasp her collar. Removing it from her neck she snapped it shut again then made a minor adjustment to the transmuter on her wrist. She felt the band of the spiked collar stiffen and grow rigid in her hand. So far so good, now to see how this move worked in real combat. While Azurite's sense of humour and style had been a major factor in creating the Sailor Arcturus guise she hadn't neglected the practical aspects. Early in life she had learned that her winds could be made more devastating with a few additions. Which was why she had once been in the habit of carrying a bag filled with small fragments of razor sharp obsidian at all times. Those days were gone, however ... the collar floated over her upturned hand and began to turn. It span faster and faster, the spikes becoming an indistinct blur just as the diamon batted away the last of the spheres and grabbed for Polaris with its ear tentacles. They never reached her, something tore through the air and severed both ears very close to its skull. Almost before it had time to feel that the blur had shifted course and slashed across its belly. What followed was rather unpleasant as Arcturus used her weapon (which Titanite would subsequently christen the "Arcturus Razor Frisbee" but be unable to convince Azurite to say) to cut the Diamon apart faster than it could regenerate. Constant attack kept it too distracted to teleport. All things considered its was having a very rotten day. Azurite had her own concerns. The major problem with this attack was the degree of concentration it required to manipulate the collar. Plus while she was hurting it she wasn't inflicting enough damage. Time to see how much of her training Ti remembered. "Polaris, go atomic." With that she focused on slicing up the bunny sparing as much attention as she dared for any new adversaries showing up. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed Titanite generating a brighter than usual energy sphere. The diamon didn't notice, it was too busy constantly putting itself back together. Titanite held the sphere as long as she dared. She could neither make it any stronger nor hold it any longer. She caught Azurite's eye and saw the collar veer back towards Arcturus. It slowed and she caught it between thumb and forefinger avoiding the spikes. It was a safe bet that the diamon had forgotten her. It didn't even react when she shouted, "POLARIS NUCLEAR MISSILE!" and threw it at her. Dully it had started to turn when the missile caught it and flared. Ti's jaw dropped when the light faded and the creature was still standing. Arcturus was amazed it was still on its feet but didn't let that slow her down. The diamon had definitely seen better days, a score of wounds still bled with no sign of healing, bones protruded through the skin and there were bends in its limbs that shouldn't have been there. Staying upright by sheer stubbornness it managed to gasp, "Rip ... out ... hearts ..." There was a faint flicker in the black star that swiftly vanished. Azurite's right hand touched its chest as her left grabbed its shoulder. "That's my line!" With that she fired the air vortex into its chest at point blank range. Braced by her grip the diamon was held in place instead of tossed away and the micro hurricane tore through it. Its back exploded and something like jelly sprayed outwards. Forcibly separated from its host the diamon began coalescing and spun a shell around itself returning to its egg form. Hovering in place it began to rise drawn by instinct to return to its birthplace for restructuring. At least it would have if a localized wind hadn't caught it and swept it into Arcturus's outstretched hand. Azurite was currently favouring her right arm. The creature's form had begun to melt as soon as that thing had emerged from it. In fact it was returning to the shape of Ti's stuffed animal except that it now looked like it had been run though a shredder. Hardly surprising as half the spikes on her collar were either bent or broken. She had gratefully released it as soon as the meltdown began. It felt like she'd pulled half the muscles in her left arm holding the creature in place. She was going to need a hot soak and one of Pyrite's massages ASAP. But first she had to decide what to do with this thing she was holding. The one worrying thing about all this was this thing had been a lot tougher than the last batch of creatures they had encountered. When they had arrived in this world they could match the senshi in power and had an edge in experience. Now both the senshi and their adversaries were getting tougher while they hadn't changed much since arrival. This was a worrying trend. If matters continued in this vein then before too long they'd be unable to defend themselves and as helpless as the humans against the new waves of invaders. To make matters worse they'd be in the same boat as the humans. Depending on the senshi to bail them out when there was trouble. This was not a desirable state of affairs to the proud warrior woman. But that was a worry for another time. Right now she could still protect herself and had a decision to make. Ti joined her, fortunately she was either security conscious enough to ignore the torn toy. Either that or she was to intrigued by the whatever it was that Arcturus held to identify the shredded Mokona as hers. "What is that?" "No idea but it's a definite change from those black gemstones." "Yeah ... kinda looks like an egg." Most girls wouldn't have thought that but Ti's Dark Kingdom culinary experience gave her a broader view of what qualified. Nearby Michiru was contemplating the pair. A young girl and a woman in her early twenties. Different hair and voices but both had appeared just after ... then she saw Margrave peek from round the corner. Michiru shrugged, so much for that theory. She was going to comment on it to Haruka when she realized Haruka's attention was fixed on the pair. Or, to be more precise, on the ovoid in Sailor Arcturus's grasp. Before she could ask why she was so fascinated Sailor Polaris echoed Haruka's thoughts out loud. "That thing's still intact, this is great! We can use it to trace the route back to where it came from and take out the guys behind it." Arcturus nodded, "Yes, we could do that, couldn't we." She studied the diamon egg intently for a moment, her face unreadable. Then she tightened her grip and the egg shattered. Something black and smoke-like emerged and gave a weird cry as it dissipated. Haruka swore under her breath and slid her wand back into her pocket. The perplexed Polaris was asking her partner,"Why did you do that?" "Two reasons. First, because tracing can be a two way street. If we could find them then they could find us. Which is the last thing we need. Second and most important it's not our job. We just take care of the weirdness we run into. Looking for trouble and protecting everyone is the responsibility of Sailor Moon and the rest of her brat pack. It's not our concern." "But ..." "This isn't a debate ..." Arcturus suddenly glanced to the right. No one there. Strange, she could have sworn she'd caught a glimpse of someone wearing black with a touch of red. A reflection? In any event she could hear the wail of approaching sirens so an exit was in order. "Time to go." Polaris looked like she might protest but she didn't get the chance. Arcturus grabbed Polaris with her good arm and sprang upward. Haruka lost sight of her though that wasn't really surprising considering how fast leaping senshi could move. She heard a minor commotion and saw Ti push her way past Margrave heading for her ruined toy. The scowling Margrave trailed her. "Poor Mokona-chan." The doll dribbled stuffing as Ti picked it up. "Yeah well, we'll get you another. Now let's get out of here before we get stuck spending the evening filling out police reports." "Just a moment, I think I can patch her up. Give me a hand, will you?" Margrave looked about to yell but sighed and swiftly scooped up every bit of the doll's insides and outsides she could find. They dumped it all into one of Margrave's bags then pushed their way through the thickening crowd. Stories about senshi sightings always drew spectators and while there was nothing to see here save an outline on a wall and a wrecked mailbox they stayed to swap highly exaggerated stories about what had happened. Ti waved a quick goodbye to Haruka and Michiru then vanished in the throng. Haruka muttered, "Not too upset about her toy turning into a monster." Michiru shrugged, "They never are, around here people accept the weird. Two months ago a giant black crystal tower grew in the middle of Juban. A couple of months before that a giant spaceship hovered over the place. When was the last time you heard anyone mention either?" "I though those were some sort of mass hallucinations ... hey if there really was a spaceship wasn't that our responsibility?" "Evidently not as we didn't wake up until later." "Ah." Michiru frowned, Haruka looked very distracted. Something was bothering her but what? This had been another wild goose chase, a little annoying but par for the course. Nothing to get worked up about. Nearby someone who didn't know the evil that lurked in the hearts of men but was very capable of clouding their minds so they couldn't see them was appraising recent events. If Ti managed to put that toy back together so it didn't look like Frankenstein she'd be very impressed by her needlework. Chance had put her in the neighbourhood but it had been so close to over by the time she arrived that there was no point in uncloaking. She'd missed the main action but at least she knew the source of the spooky feeling earlier. Ti had simply been the latest victim of a random monster attack but she'd come through it okay so that was fine. A little unnerving sure but every city had it's problems. L.A. had drive-by shootings while Tokyo had creatures from the pit popping up and zapping people at random. All part of life's rich pageantry. Twilight shrugged, regardless she wasn't needed here and at least she had got to see Sailor Arcturus in the flesh. Not too shabby but she still preferred Jupiter-chan. On that thought the woman who believed herself the last survivor of the Dark Kingdom departed. Nobody noticed, hidden behind her cloaking shield no one even realized she was ever there. Certainly Michiru didn't as she asked Haruka, "What's on your mind." "Just thinking about Arcturus ..." Michiru sighed. "Another woman again! Why am I surprised?" "No! That's not ... I was just thinking about what she said. About having their own worries and not caring about protecting everyone. How that's a job for the other senshi ..." "Yes?" "I though that sounded so cold. Then I realized that's exactly how we must sound." "Your point being?" "Well ... we're doing this to protect everyone but the way we're doing it ... people are getting hurt and by definition everyone who does is somebody good-hearted ... there's got to be a better way of finding the talismans ... then there's the other senshi ... it wouldn't be that hard to wreck the monsters permanently instead of just dazing them. We think we're so much more than them but I just wonder sometimes if we really know what we're doing. Don't you ever have doubts?" "No." There was absolute certainty in Michiru's voice. "A few traumatised people is a small price to pay if it leads us to the talismans. As for the other senshi while I don't doubt their power they don't know how to use it effectively. More importantly they lack our hardness. We need a callous edge, otherwise we won't be able to carry out the necessary sacrifices. They couldn't handle it. As for destroying the monsters that's the worst thing we could do to them. They need to learn to handle them on their own, not to depend on us. It's already bad enough Sailor Moon can't fight unless that twit in the tuxedo shows up to help out. Last thing we want is to reduce the others to that. Understand?" Haruka nodded. "Good, then let's go. We need to find the next target and we've wasted enough time here." With that Michiru turned and slid through the crowd like water. Haruka, following in the wake had to use a bit of elbow work to get clear. Her doubts were assuaged, as always Michiru gave her the strength to keep going with her unwavering belief in what they did. It wasn't that she didn't care but what she card for was for everyone rather than individuals. She couldn't afford to let herself care for specific people or it would get so much harder. That raised a worry but Haruka dismissed it. Or tried to but at the edge of her consciousness a little voice wondered if Michiru considered her a weakness. Could she sacrifice her if the mission made it necessary? Haruka couldn't decide if she'd be happier with a yes or a no. Or would she resent either answer? Trying to ignore the question she followed her partner. *************************************************************************** "You thought Margrave was Sailor Arcturus!?" Azurite looked utterly amazed. How anyone could ever come to that conclusion? Michiru shrugged, "It was a reasonable assumption at the time. Until I saw you both at once. Then when Ti appeared from the opposite direction to Sailor Polaris it was obvious they weren't connected." Haruka frowned, "So how'd you work that anyway?" "Easy. The jump was cover for a teleport. Soon as we were in the air I took us to our underground practice site. Ti reverted to her ordinary clothes, restored her glamour and teleported back to where she'd left Margrave. Good thinking on her part to muddy the waters." "It worked." Jean suddenly chipped in, "Did she manage to get her stuffed animal back together? I know how hard it is on a kid to lose a toy to senshi induced damage." Sakuya snorted and shook her head. "Some people never let anything go! I replaced the damn thing didn't I?" "Just kidding, you really need to unwind big sister. But seriously what happened to the whatsit? Did she manage to repair it?" Azurite shook her head. "She never got the chance. I contacted Pyrite and he intercepted them and stuck a warding spell on it to get rid of residual influences. Then he tore it apart in his lab looking for any sign of magical taint. He couldn't find any but there was no way it was going to fit back together again. Luckily there were still some in stock at the store she'd got it from so Cal got her a new one. Far as I know it never did anything abnormal." Vicky chipped in, "Cute story, so is that it? No moral or long term consequences?" Azurite shrugged, "You'll have to find your own moral, I'm sure there's at least one in there somewhere. As for long term consequences one thing did come out of that mess." "Oh?" "Yes. When the cops arrived we were long gone and the only guy there with a camera had just got some blurry photos. But there were plenty of people saying Sailor Arcturus was there so there was going to be the usual senshi sighting blurb in the papers. The movie producers heard it and figured with her name back in the news it was free publicity. So they supplied pictures of their Sailor Arcturus to the papers and that got the story a lot more space than it would have otherwise. As it was a slow news day it also made the TV news. So striking while the iron was hot they tried to release the Arcturus movie immediately. Unfortunately distribution tie ups held it up for a few weeks by which time she'd been forgotten again and it sank like a stone. Vanishing forever into utter obscurity." That last part was a lie. Pyrite had a copy somewhere around the house and Ti had one as part of her senshi memorabilia collection. But she'd just as soon forget it. Unfortunately the younger Jupiter gave an evil grin and produced a small disc case. "Guess what's on this." "Oh no!" "Oh yes!" After Azurite's initial departure Sakuya had checked RH's senshi directories for any information on Sailor Arcturus. She had found quite a bit including a movie file. RH was something of a connoisseur of videos about the senshi though he preferred the more hardcore material that was banned in Crystal Tokyo. Still considering he didn't worry too much about the lesser senshi he had a lot of Arcturus related material. A little odd considering that while she had a career stretching almost 150 years she hadn't been seen in the past 800. RH claimed it was a legacy from his mysterious creator who had been an Arcturus otaku. Besides he liked her looks and would love to see Michiru in that costume someday. He also had the hots for the actress who played the evil queen in the Arcturus movie. No big surprise as he had the hots for every good looking woman in creation. Meanwhile the former actress who had played the queen was saying, "My is that the time? I really should be going." "Grab her." It was an excellent demonstration of the teamwork that existed among the group. Sakuya tossed the disc into the player and flicked on the wall screen. Then settled down besides the giggling pack and the struggling Azurite to watch the movie. Azurite quieted down after the credits rolled apart from the odd groan at her long ago performance. Vicky produced popcorn from somewhere and lead the noisemaking during the film's cheesier moments. Of which there were no shortage. Ninety minutes later the lights came back on and Azurite rested her head on her hands. "That was so embarrassing." Haruka patted her on the shoulder, "It wasn't that bad." "Yes it was!" "Quiet, Jeannie. Look at it this way, in this one Arcturus comes off as competent. In those Dark World films she's an airhead who Sailor Polaris has to keep hauling out of trouble." She grinned, "Come to think of it in those films Sailor Polaris always saves the day." "Dramatic license. Which is another way of saying Ti was the star so they took a few liberties with the facts." Michiru patted Azurite on the knee, "Look on the bright side, you made a great evil queen. If you'd come after me I might have surrendered without a fight." Haruka shot her a look and Michiru looked innocent. "I liked you better when you were serious all the time!" "Why should you be the only one to flirt?" That had the feel of a long familiar routine between them. Much like a few things she could think of between Pyrite and herself. She chuckled softly, looked like she'd have to get used to fending off a few not-serious seduction attempts from both of them. Immortals got very set in their ways. "Azurite-sensei ..." Azurite turned to see the Younger Mars addressing her. "... your performance was excellent given the limitations of the script." "Thanks, it wasn't that bad for a first role but really it was pretty raw. I got better later on." Hitomi's eyes widened, "You were in other films?" "Quite a few though not as Azure DeWitt. During my century outside CT I did quite a bit of work as an actress under a variety of names." "Really?" "Really." There was the sound of rapid typing as Mayuki did something with her terminal. Suddenly the blank wall screen began scrolling a list of titles. "Okay these are films made in the appropriate period. Point out the ones you were in and we'll see if anyone here has seen them. If so let's see if they can point you out. If not I'll display the characters from each and we'll play spot the youma." "What the hell, okay up top there, 'Whisper their love' ..." "You were in that? That's one of Haruka's favourites ..." "Wait a minute, I'm crazy about the 23rd century remake ..." With that the trivia contest got underway and Azurite felt herself relaxing. Everyone was getting used to her and she felt more at home here herself. Before too long she'd be one of the group instead of a visiting outsider. One of the family and looking at Haruka and Michiru that was obviously how they felt about this group. No longer just the two of them against the universe. They had never really fit into Crystal Tokyo try as they might nor had they been comfortable in the old world. But at long last, after all those centuries, they had finally found a place they belonged. With their adopted "children" they had finally found themselves a home and a purpose. For home was where the heart was. End Original character credits : Chrysolite/Twilight created by Berk Watkins. The Young Senshi concept and Hitomi/Y. Mars created by Andy Combs Sakuya/Y. Jupiter & RH created by Douglas Helm Mayuki/Y. Mercury created by Chris Gadeken (Hopefully he'll finish her origin someday) Fiona/Y. Neptune created by Ben Harrison Jeanne/Y Uranus created by Sheryln Lim Li Ping Vicky/Y. Venus created by Frank Barr Thanks to Sam Ashley for pointing out how the law of dramatic irony applied to Haruka and Michiru. As well as the proofreading. Thanks to Aponar for the youma'shak rendering of the traditional youma battle cry, "It's a good day for someone else to die" that Azurite used in the heat of the moment. Along with a big thank you for all the other work he's done on youma linguistics and the unsolicited odds calculations. The Golden Millennium crew will be appearing in a variety of forthcoming stories from SME. Watch for "Sisters in Arms" & "Space 2999" along with the stories of their exploits in the war with Nemesis. Check the SME page for updates. All the SME stories can be found at: http://www.texas.net/~android/sme_main.html If you have any comments on this story please E-mail: Mark.Latus@MSVU.Ca All my fanfics can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Temple/1810 Now back to work on Bubblegum Crisis Mark Latus, Oct. 1 1997 Revision Oct. 18 '97 - Thanks to Andy Combs for spotting the glitch in the original version.