Sailor Moon Expanded

Dark Kingdom Renegades/Sailor Moon : Thy Kingdom Come
by Mark Latus

Part 9 : Showtime!

     Not that long ago the Sydney Opera House had been derided by some 
Australian critics as an architectural monstrosity.  Had anyone asked them
how it compared to the monolithic gray stone castle that had replaced it 
they'd all have praised the former without hesitation.  Not because they 
thought the towering structure was ugly (some did, some found the slab-like
flat topped pyramid striking) but because of what it represented.  Known 
simply as the Fortress it was the abode of Lord Magnesite.  Duly appointed
ruler of Australia, New Zealand, The South Pole and various small islands. 
It was not a happy domain.  Magnesite felt that compared to the rest of the 
Circle his territory was pathetic.  Mostly ice and desert, unpleasant before
the conquest and in rough shape after the ecological upheavals.  The surviving
humans had to bear the brunt of his anger.  The only fortunate thing was the
heavy loss of life before the occupation meant he couldn't afford mass 
demonstrations of his displeasure.  After all somebody had to be left to do 
the dirty work and be bossed around.  So, while the human servants in the 
Fortress were badly treated they were at least far less likely to suffer a 
painful and/or lethal whim of their master's than Princess Titanite's.  This 
was definitely a mixed blessing.  Though there were those who felt something 
else the youma did was far more terrible.  The youma were firm believers in 
equal rights when it came to humans.  To them all humans were equally inferior 
regardless of whatever variations there were between them.  Which were minor
compared to the variations within their own kind.  So the youma saw no 
difference between the humans descended from the aboriginal inhabitants and 
those descended from the later colonists.  In both groups many considered this 
an insult.
     Still the palace servants had learned to put aside their differences in
the face of their common oppressors.  Right now the word had spread to be
extra cautious in the presence of the governor.  It seemed Lord Bogie was in  
a very bad mood for reasons unknown and God help anyone who displeased him.
     Unaware and uninterested in his servants' fears Lord Magnesite sat within 
his private chambers and brooded.  His glass empty he reached for the bottle 
automatically then scowled at the level within.  Almost empty already, he was 
drinking far too much of late.  He deliberately corked it and rose to his 
feet stalking to the map room.  
     In the center of the room floated a globe as tall as him which completed
a rotation every minute unless ordered to hold still.  All the landmasses  
displayed of one of five colours.  Black for the Overlord's personal holdings,
green for Titanite's, blue for Azurite's, yellow for Pyrite's and (he grit his
teeth as Australia came into view) pink for his territories.  It was just one 
of many small insults that were inflicted on him.  As it was so petty and
childish he suspected Titanite was responsible.
     "Freeze!"  Obligingly the globe stopped turning and Magnesite glared at 
the bright pink areas.  He reached out a hand to run his fingers over his
Dominion and sighed.  Throughout his childhood he'd dreamed (as all youma did)
of becoming a General.  As he'd grown older and more realistic he'd settled
for the territories he could hold in the regions too poor for the Generals
to bother claiming.  But he'd never given up his dreams.  Like all the other  
youma lords he'd watched the Generals and waited for them to earn Beryl's
displeasure.  Or for an opportunity to become the fifth general.  Still he'd
given up any serious hopes of attaining either goal long ago.  Now he had
more than he'd ever dreamed.  The old order was gone and the Kingdom was more
powerful than it had ever been.  He commanded more youma and territory than 
he'd thought possible and held rank equivalent to a General's.  Probably 
greater than a General's for he'd acquired his share of a race of servants.
He had more than he'd dreamed possible.
     It had seemed so much sweeter in his imagination.
     Once again he silently cursed the rest of the Circle.  For all Pyrite
had claimed the Kingdom's hierarchy would continue much as it always had there
was one major difference.  It wasn't four generals under a supreme monarch
competing against one another anymore.  It was three General equivalents 
working with their ruler.  He was the only loner among them which made his       
position very insecure.  Oh it was true Kunzite and Zoisite had cooperated
but you always got the feeling Kunzite would ditch Zoisite if things went 
wrong.  Which had been correct.  Kunzite hadn't put up much fuss when Beryl 
destroyed Zoisite for incompetence.  This was different.  There was a bond
between the others he couldn't fathom.  If he didn't know better he'd swear
it resembled the human concept of loyalty.  It was almost as if ... but no, 
that was pure madness.  Calcite had wreaked havoc on a scale unheard of 
since the destruction of Silver Millennium and ruled with an iron fist.  How 
could he even imagine any of the others to be one of those weakling freaks? 
     He ordered the globe to resume and studied the rich territories of the
others with envious eyes.  While their teamwork was very untraditional there  
was no denying it was very effective.  Truth was what he really wanted was to 
be accepted as one of them.  He gave a sour laugh.  It wasn't as if they'd 
invited him to join their conspiracy.  He'd been shanghaied.  They had 
promised him that in exchange for his obedience he'd gain power and no harm 
would come to him.  At least not from them.  So far they'd kept their word.
So far.
     He wasn't deaf, he'd heard the whispers among those who waited for his
downfall.  But it seemed the Circle wouldn't remove him as long as he kept
his end of the bargain.  That was why despite all the provocations he 
swallowed his pride and quashed all thoughts of rebellion.  When the day
came he could bear it no longer then and only then would he turn on them.  
And die in the attempt. 
     But that day wasn't today.  For now he bided his time and quietly 
watched for a weakness he could exploit.  It seemed impossible but so had
the thought of Beryl being usurped and he'd witnessed that.  If it could 
happen to her, why not to Calcite?
     He put aside the thought and watched South America roll by.  Azurite's
domain, Calcite's right hand.  The bitch who'd ensnared him into becoming  
her master's puppet.  Once again his thought rolled back to the fateful
incident five years ago.
     She'd caught his eye some time back but he'd refrained from approaching
her other than with orders.  She had a reputation of treating unwanted 
advances as a fight to the death.  He didn't doubt he could overpower her but
it had become obvious that she didn't bluff.  She would die fighting before
giving in which made it something of a waste of time.  Add to that the fact
she was bouncing between Calcite and Pyrite and the problem was compounded.
They were both possessive and he couldn't afford to lose either.
     Then the day came that he heard his Calcite and his two lieutenants 
locked in an a very vocal disagreement.  Showing a remarkable and imaginative
command of obscenity Azurite had told both his chief hatchet man and head
researcher that she was sick of both of them and any attempt to renew their 
relationship would be considered a challenge.  Neither had liked her attitude 
and both had informed her there were no shortage of females who'd be eager to 
replace her.  Things had been tense the following week.  She'd followed 
Calcite's orders to the letter but their mutual dislike was apparent to 
everyone.  During this time Magnesite had first noticed her watching him 
speculatively.  The reasons were obvious, should Calcite take insult at her 
contempt she'd better be ready to fight.  As she'd probably lose she could use 
powerful protection.  He was the ideal candidate but he was hardly about to 
extend it for nothing.  Azurite had got the implied message and approached 
him.  After letting her stew for a while he'd agreed to let her demonstrate 
the value of protecting her.
     Magnesite's scowl deepened and he pounded a fist against the globe.  It
didn't dent which worsened his mood.  How could he have been so stupid?  He'd
been so sure he was the master manipulator that he hadn't seen what was really
going on.  Damn Azurite!  Being caught off guard like that was the act of a
fool.  He hadn't even felt her slip the thin chain around his neck or it 
bonding to his skin.  He'd simply felt the bed shift and seen her reaching 
for her clothes.  While it might have been perfectly innocent he'd reacted
automatically and raised his shield.  It did nothing to stop the signal from
the small device she'd retrieved.  The pain had been incredible.  He'd barely 
managed to shift his shield from kinetic to radiant energy blocking.  Only to 
discover it didn't make any difference.
     During this Azurite had dressed quickly, swiftly located and disabled his
quarters' teleport blockers then vanished.  She had returned carrying Calcite 
and Pyrite.  The pain had vanished and he'd spent a few seconds gasping before 
he attempted to kill them.  They swiftly demonstrated that any of them could 
inflict the agony.  During the next respite he'd become aware of the charm
fused to his neck.  Willing to lose a little skin if it freed him he had
reached up to tear it loose.  Then froze as Calcite raised one of the 
trigger transmitters.  At a nod from Calcite Pyrite had removed a pack from
his back and taken out several bust of Magnesite with identical collars.  He
had then proceeded to demonstrate several features of his invention.  It
swiftly became apparent that the collar would detonate if tampered with.  The
explosion would be more than sufficient to decapitate him.  In addition the
collar required a code input at varying intervals.  If it didn't receive the
code at the appropriate time it would explode shortly afterwards.  Possibly
this was a bluff but Magnesite knew Calcite well enough to take it seriously.
He wasn't one for empty threats.
     With a sickening feeling Magnesite realized he was at Calcite's mercy.
Such as it was.  His one hope was the fact that Calcite preferred certainty
to gloating.  Had Calcite wanted him dead he'd be dead.  So they needed him
alive.  He'd explained his reasoning out loud and Calcite had nodded.
     "You're correct, I'd prefer you to stay alive and well.  You see this
isn't precisely a coup.  Far as anyone outside this room knows you're still
in charge and we're your servants."
     "But in reality you'll be pulling my strings?"  Calcite nodded.  "Why?
Why not just kill me and take over?"  Calcite looked amused but Magnesite
had found no comfort in that.
     "I ... we have big plans.  Problem is they may not work out and someone
will have to go down for them.  If that happens ..."
     "You jump ship and I'm the one Beryl seals in crystal."
     Calcite had nodded and commented to Azurite, "There, you see.  I told you 
he'd follow it easily enough."  Azurite had snorted and muttered a slur on
his intelligence.  Reminded that she'd got him into this mess Magnesite had
made several comments about her.  Pyrite had become furious and started 
towards him before Calcite had blocked him.  He'd looked Magnesite in the eye
and said, "It's not a good idea to insult Azurite like that.  Particularly as
she's the one holding the pain controller."  Magnesite had immediately looked 
at Azurite.  As soon as he did she'd turned it on.
     When he became capable of coherent thought again Calcite had informed him
that he'd be rewarded if he followed orders without question.  If he disobeyed
they'd lock the pain controller on until his heart stopped.  Or until he
triggered the self destruct by clawing at his neck in hopes of stopping the 
agony.  Azurite had added a few comments of her own.  "Two things to keep in 
mind.  Never, never talk about this night to anyone.  And if you ever touch
me again I'll kill you."  She also didn't make idle threats so he'd swallowed
his retort.  After which Calcite had advised him not to think of himself as
indispensable.  While it would complicate things if necessary he'd take 
Magnesite's place.  The only reason he hadn't was in case their plans 
miscarried.  Magnesite had agreed to their terms seeing little choice.  He was
already planning his vengeance, sure that he'd find a way to turn the tables.
     Pyrite and Azurite had departed together.  Azurite's face was unreadable
but Pyrite had given him a very dark look.  It was dawning on Magnesite that
pissing off the builder of the damned collar was a very bad idea when Calcite
handed him a sheaf of papers and gave him his first orders.  Strangely he 
hadn't gloated, merely gone over what they'd be doing the next little while.
There was something, be it resource or eldritch artifact, in the neighbouring
independent boss's territory.  Calcite was planning a hostile takeover.  
Magnesite had to marvel at the plans.  He'd been right about Calcite, the
youngster had more potential than he'd dreamed.   However bringing him into 
the fold five years ago now appeared to be something of a mixed blessing.
     Lord Magnesite's thoughts returned to the present.  Five years had passed
and he'd failed to find a way from under Calcite's thumb.  Oh the collar was
gone, Calcite had kept his word about that.  Why shouldn't he?  He had no need
of such a crude tool.  Now the Circle ran the Kingdom there was no  need to 
use him as a front man.  So he'd be elevated to one of the Overlord's
deputies.  Where it quickly became apparent that he was the only one without
a firm grasp on his position.  Meaning a lot of youma were keeping an eye on
him and waiting for his fall from grace.  How could anyone think it was lonely
at the top?
     As he often did he massaged his neck where the collar had been bonded.
No, no more collar.  But Calcite still held the power of life and death over 
him.  As indeed he held it over all the youma.  Magnesite still didn't know 
why Calcite kept his word but it was a useful trait.  Of course that meant the 
other members of the Circle were trying to nudge him towards breaking his own
word so they could remove him and bring in the candidate of their choice.  
Which, he thought gloomily, was probably the only reason Titanite had 
propositioned him.  After Azurite he really should have known better.  On the 
bright side at least he hadn't suffered any mystic mishaps.
     His thoughts returned to the attack on Titanite's Palace.  Name of the
Abyss who was Sailor Polaris and why did she sound and look like Titanite?  
He frowned as inspiration struck.  Perhaps Calcite and Titanite were really 
triplets and he'd just encountered the third member of the brood.  Except why
would she be working with the senshi?  And where did all the extras come from?
The triplet theory was possible but didn't answer any of the other questions.
It didn't explain why did Hermes and Zeus looked unscarred or who those other 
senshi lookalikes were.  Not to mention how they'd kept breaching security as  
if it didn't exist.  For that matter why had Titanite's pet demon blasted five
of the intruders without hesitation then frozen up when it went for Polaris?
What in Darkness had he just survived?
     There were no reports of the attack circulating so it was a good guess 
that Azurite had been doing damage control.  Which meant no answers and no 
hopes of finding any unless Calcite decided to let him know.  All of which 
added to his buried frustrations.
     He was still mulling this over and getting nowhere when the call arrived
from Pyrite.  The message was brief, "Calcite wants the whole Circle assembled
in the Citadel and to remain there until further notice.  Believe me, I have 
no more desire to be in close proximity to you than you have to me.  But those
are direct orders from the Overlord so get moving!"
     Magnesite frowned.  Perhaps he was about to receive the answers he 
craved.  Or perhaps he'd outlived his usefulness.  Regardless he was going
to the Citadel.  It wasn't as if he had a choice.
     "There are only two things that matter in this life.  Survival and 
protecting those you care about at all costs.  All else is illusion.  Once 
you truly understand this there are no limits anymore."
     "Everything I have done was to serve these goals.  A matter of
     Vaguely disquieted Overlord Calcite looked up from the journal.  He knew 
the words by heart, after all he had written them.  It had seemed profound at 
the time but now ...  He shook his head.  It read like empty self 
justification.  But who had he been trying to justify himself too?
     Posterity?  That made no sense, when the future happened he'd still be
here.  He'd gifted himself and the others with immortality.  Worrying about
heirs to the empire wasn't a concern.  Beryl had ruled the Dark Kingdom for 
over two thousand of its years.  Or (discounting the time differential 
between the two realms) about 12,000 Terran years.  There was no reason to 
think he couldn't better that.
     He shook his head again and closed the journal running his hand over the 
supple binding.  Bound with the tanned skin of an enemy in the best youma
traditions.  Once that had seemed another of his people's barbaric traditions.
Later merely inconvenient because of the problems of preserving the remains 
for skinning.  An illustration of how he'd changed.  Yet he'd always thought      
there was an inevitability in that change.  Now he'd learned that wasn't true
and it disturbed him.
     Calcite poured himself another bloodwine and picked up the journal.  He
could called for a servant do both tasks but why bother?  When it came to a 
contest between expediency and royal dignity he knew which he'd chose.  He 
glanced idly around the library, the towering shelves lined with musty scrolls 
and leather bound books from his homeland intermingled with human works that 
had seemed either useful or interesting.  The perfect ambiance for reading.  
     He'd come here bearing the journal to look over his old words
and try to decipher the puzzle of the other Calcite.  To find the point at
which they might have diverged.  Besides it had been getting loud in the 
throne room once the senshi awoke and began loudly telling him he wouldn't 
get away with this.  Along with ordering him to free them, return Venus to 
them and basically filling the air with cliches.  He could have just blasted
them unconscious again or begun corroborating Moon's (or rather Tsukino's)
story but he found it more satisfying to leave them shouting in the empty,
soundproofed chamber.  Once their initial bravado wore off they'd begin to 
see just how much trouble they were in.  He should have been looking forward
to enjoying that but he found himself feeling troubled.     
     He glanced back at the journal lying by the decanter.  His record of  
the inevitability of what he had done.  The only other option had been cower
until the day they were found and killed.  All he'd wanted was for their 
little tribe to survive.  Whatever it took.  There had been no alternatives.
He'd been sure of that.
     He'd been wrong.  There were a lot of gaps in Tsukino's account but he 
could fill in the blanks.  Their counterparts had created an escape route and
waited for the Senshi to launch their final assault.  Then the day came that
the senshi arrived.  While events within the Kingdom had already taken 
different paths now they began to radically diverge outside as well.  After 
the senshi had clashed with the Kingdom's defenders Sailor Moon had been the 
sole survivor.  Possibly the absence of Trenchcoat Mask had altered things.    
There he had not had a fatal run in with Azurite and encountered the Senshi 
at D-point as Beryl unleashed her first line of defence.  A copy of the power 
dampeners that had proved so effective during assault on the Moon Kingdom.  
There he'd died destroying it.  Here his absence hadn't apparently changed   
things as the dampener hadn't functioned.  Calcite chuckled softly.  Here the
Senshi had destroyed the dampner with ease.  Just as he'd intended.  
     After all the device's ancestors had been most effective against the 
senshi's predecessors.  So he couldn't take the chance history would repeat.  
He needed the Senshi alive and fighting as long as possible.  Distracting 
Beryl's attention from Metallia's Temple.  His sabotage had worked perfectly.
Once he'd learned of the dampner's construction he'd arranged to conceal a
little invention of Pyrite's within it.  Pyrite's device had let the dampner 
appear fully functional when tested while being completely useless in the 
field.  The device's luckless builders had been the last youma to suffer
Beryl's wrath though Pyrite felt they'd been no loss.  His cousin had 
commented that they'd simply dug through the archives and copied the original
dampners.  With the resources they had available he could have easily built
one half the size and at least three times as powerful.  In his opinion lazy 
designers were a disgrace and no loss.
     Calcite had to smile, Pyrite wasn't mild all the time.  There were some
things which got his dander up.  His thoughts turned back to that fateful day.
Did the absence of Trenchcoat Mask somehow skew things in this world so that
two of the Senshi survived?  Or was it seeing him die in the other world which
lead all the senshi to die fighting?  Or was it all related to the power
dampners?  Harmless here but functional there?  There could be other factors
he wasn't considering which caused the variations on the ice plains of 
D-point.  Maybe a combination of many things.  Who could say?  
     He shook his head and sipped his drink.  It was unwise to ask yourself
unanswerable questions.  However it had happened events had unfolded 
differently though some similarities remained.  Both there and here Sailor 
Moon had been drawn into the Kingdom by Beryl to face the possessed Endymion. 
At which point things diverged radically.  Without his intervention Sailor
Moon had survived though Endymion had not.  Mortally wounded Beryl had sought
aid from Metallia.  From the girl's description Metallia had taken Beryl as a
host and was consuming her.  Metallia needed to finish healing within Beryl's
body.  That she'd devour Beryl body and soul in the process was undoubtably
irrelevant.  His close association with Metallia had given him an excellent 
grasp on how she thought.  At any rate using the full power of the Silver
Crystal Sailor Moon had obliterated not only the merged Beryl and Metallia but
the entire Dark Kingdom.  Evidently as soon they were sure the Dark Kingdom
was history his counterpart (and the others' replicas) had fled to Tokyo.   
What was truly fascinating about this account was the implications.  If 
Tsukino was to be believed she had used the Crystal to manipulate reality so 
the others had either not died or been restored to life.  Incredible!  He'd
heard the legends of the Silver Crystal but all it functioned as for his
sister was a concentrated mana source.  A great boost to her innate powers but 
scarcely the ultimate weapon of legend.  He'd felt no signs of that when he'd
initially examined it.  Sailor Moon's body hadn't finished cooling when he 
gave it to his sister having seen nothing but a power source inferior to his
own.  Nor had there been signs it could function as more than that.  Was there
some sort of failsafe so only the Lunar Senshi could unlock it's full powers?
If so it might be worth preserving her for ...  He shook of the thought.  Too
risky.  If the Silver Crystal became fully active again he'd face his first
true threat.  Besides the power of the Silver Crystal bore a greater price
than Metallia's.  All Metallia needed was human sacrifice.  The Silver Crystal 
needed the wielder to sacrifice his or her lifeforce as a catalyst.  It was
a lot safer to throw Metallia the lives of others.
     But should he be in this position in the first place?  Throwing death 
and suffering to the Demon Queen as though it was the most natural thing in 
creation?  Once again his thoughts returned to his counterpart.  They hadn't
chosen conquest as the only route to survival.  Instead they lived among the
humans, concealing their differences much as they'd hidden in the Kingdom.
The last of their kind, alone among a hostile world.  But they'd survived
which was what their creed taught.  His counterpart hadn't had to alter their
Titanite!  She remained the same bright spirit his sister had been once.   
Before he crushed it and made her hard enough to survive the Kingdom.  An old
guilt and a memory of terrified crying arose before he banished it.  Betraying   
the trust of someone you love wasn't an easy thing.  But sometimes it was a
necessary thing.
     The thought hardened his resolve.  It had been necessary, all of it!  
His counterpart was a fool!  Yes he'd ensured his own Circle's survival but
what of the next generation?  Youma and humans couldn't interbreed and even
for a race as hardy as theirs four individuals was an insufficient number to 
maintain genetic diversity.  In the other world the youma had reached an 
evolutionary dead end.  The race was doomed to extinction.  Admittedly the 
youma hadn't actually evolved, rather they been genetically engineered from a 
human base population, but the principle remained.  The prime goal of every 
species was to survive and reproduce.  What did it matter if Metallia had 
created them as "macro bio-weapons", to quote his cousin.  However their race 
had arisen it was their duty to survive!  Oh, he had no love for the 
non-Renegades but for now he needed them.  Someday he'd be able to do his own 
genetic engineering.  When that happened the common youma could join humanity 
on the evolutionary scrapheap.  And a new race, their kind, would step forward 
to claim both Earth and the Kingdom.  
     Alas that day would be a long time in coming.  But he had eternity to 
wait and he was patient.  All things in their time.  In the meantime he had to 
worry about the more immediate threat posed by their counterparts.  Calcite 
sighed then remembered the days bit of good news.  On the brighter side at 
least those two irritating Senshi were dead.  As an unexpected bonus the world 
next door had lost most of its defenders.  Giving plenty of room for future
expansion.  So all in all things were looking good.
     When Stonehenge still stood there had been little built here except a 
highway running across the grassy moors.  Now the grass had vanished like
the ancient monoliths and ochre moss spread in all directions.  The only
artifact in view was the massive castle which towered above the plain.
Nothing stood to compete with it but even in the most crowded city on Earth 
it would have dominated the landscape.  The Citadel rose from Salisbury
Plain like a black nightmare.  A dark mass of towers, twisted spines and 
walls carved with grotesques.  The massive entrance way was carved in the 
shape of a gardinel's mouth in a grim jest.  Every stone comprising it seemed
to scream, "This is no mere Dark Lord's dwelling, this is the abode of Evil
Incarnate!"  Youma architects have heard of subtlety, they simply don't 
believe in it.
     Flattened to the moss 5 kilometres away Azurite murmured softly, "So 
what do you think?"
     Calcite whispered back, "Bad taste in architecture is the least of his 
crimes."  The quiet voices were unnecessary, Pyrite had told them that with 
Hermes aid he was shielding them from magical long range detection while her
scan hadn't pick up any technological alarm sensors this far out.  But old
habits die hard and when things are truly nerve wracking anything that gives
the slightest sense of additional security is seized on.
     "The entrance must be purely symbolic because I don't see any roads.
Apart from what's left of the old highway and the moss is overgrowing that."
     Azurite nodded, "Must be relying purely on large-scale teleportation for 
transport and cargo.  So no ground traffic coming and going.  Which is a plus 
for staying hidden but could complicate infiltration."
     Calcite studied the structure again looking hopelessly for a good, quiet
access point.  Something hopeful occurred to him, "That place is consuming one
hell of a lot of mana.  Even with the worldwide increase caused by the 
blackout ..."  He nodded towards the sky, "... There's nowhere near enough to
supply its needs.  Since they haven't sucked the landscape dry they must be 
leaching off the Overlord.  So whenever he departs there's got to be major
mana shortages and defences shutting down or on low power.  That gives a 
window ..."
     "Sorry Cal but it's sitting on a mana well.  Big one at that."  Pyrite 
looked apologetic at the bad news.  "That's the real source of the Citadel's 
     "A major mana well?  There was higher background mana radiation around 
here.  Enough of which had irradiated the surrounding countryside to make it 
temporarily survivable but that was all.  While there was a well around here
we were never able to detect it so it must have been puny!"
     "That's certainly true for our Wiltshire.  So either this is another 
difference between the universes or ..."  Pyrite's eyes flicked back to his 
tools.  Calcite had to smile, even in a situation this grim he was still the
quintessential researcher.  Solving the riddles came before all other
     "Or it's confirmation of the mana containment theory."  Pyrite took a
moment to marshal his thoughts then continued.  "Due to the highly limited
amount of magic available on our Earth and the very small area it's confined
too I've theorized that when Serenity banished Beryl she either destroyed or
contained most of the Earth's available mana.  Containment through the 
sealing of the existing mana wells seemed the most likely explanation as I 
couldn't see how she'd neutralize the planetary generation of mana.  Though 
if the Silver Crystal truly can alter reality on a planetary scale it couldn't
be ruled out.  Regardless of which occurred we know magical based civilization 
crumbled in the wake of the Moon Kingdom's obliteration and Earth fell back 
into barbarism.  Leading to the eventual birth of technology based 
     "The problem with merely sealing the wells would be the disastrous 
long-term consequences.  Energy would continuing to accumulate without release 
until after centuries of buildup the seals would overload and rupture.  
Unleashing massive waves of charged mana with catastrophic consequences.  So,
I theorize, the mana well under Tokyo was used as a pressure release valve.
Mana pours through the well's 'valves' and is directed into space in streams
rather than being released into the terrestrial environment.  But there's 
enough leakage from the streams to make Tokyo the most magically potent place
on the planet.  This is also responsible for the synchronous zone effect we're 
all too familiar with."
     "Pyr, while this would be fascinating under calmer conditions we're under
the gun right now.  So if you could cut to the chase?"
     "Right, sorry about ... I know!  Don't apologise, explain.  Quite simply
there was a sealed well under Stonehenge all along.  After however many 
centuries since Silver Millenium was destroyed ..."  He glanced at Hermes who 
shook her head, " ... the seals weakened and mana began leaking around here.
Small amounts compared to the Tokyo well but enough for you to get here and
con Sailor V ... who I guess was Sailor A around here?"  Zeus nodded.  "Now
the seals do a great job of masking the well and themselves.  I can't even
detect the damned things back home, just theorize that they exist.  But I'm
betting if you did find them you'd need a lot to crack them.  It seems the
Overlord can manage that, perhaps simply by sheer raw power.  He doesn't need 
the wells open having the Abyss at his beck and call but it gives a great
auxiliary powersource.  So if something goes wrong with his link to Metallia
he can retreat back here ..."
     "...And have no shortage of power for defenses while he tries to work out
what went wrong.  So he could sit in there indefinitely and hold off the
entire youma race until he's ready to counterattack."  Margrave gave a fanged
grin.  "Thinks like a Calcite alright, making contingency plans when's he's on
top instead of just saying, 'Nothing can possibly go wrong'!  I could get to  
like him."  She noticed Hermes eyes narrow and snagged Calcite's arm thankful
she was next to him.  "But better to stick to the one I know.  The other's
probably got his own harem and fighting my way through its rank is apt to be 
a mite too dangerous."  Hermes' glowered at her for a moment, her face 
promised death for defection.  Then the look was gone as she returned her
attention to the male youmas.  Margrave suppressed a snarl and moved her free 
hand up to massage her forehead.  The damned headache was back but she was 
still able to think clearly.  What she kept thinking was that getting away 
from these lunatics before they got themselves slaughtered seemed like a 
better and better idea.  Only problem was how to accomplish that without 
getting killed by either side.  Hmm if she could somehow find her counterpart 
and replace her ...
     Meanwhile Zeus looked from the Citadel to the figure beside her.  Sailor
Polaris (easier to think of her as that than Titanite) gave her a cheerful
grin and a thumbs up.  Makoto sighed and shook her head.  It was still a big
adventure to her.  The other Senshi who'd accompanied her had thought the 
same.  Now they were imprisoned within the Citadel awaiting who knows what 
fate.  "If you're done with the theorizing how about doing something a little
more practical and finding us a way in?"
     "We're working on it."  Ami sounded cool as ever but Makoto knew her 
better than that.  Despite the calm exterior Ami had been deeply shaken by 
the loss of their only safe haven.  Nor was she alone.  The thought of no 
refuge to retreat to made Makoto shiver.  But it was probably meaningless
wasn't it?  They were about to attempt an assault upon the toughest youma 
stronghold on the planet.  Worrying about where to hide afterwards was a waste
of time.  Somewhere inside a small voice screamed that she was too young to
throw her life away and if it took surrender to survive then so be it.  She
ignored it.  There was nowhere to run that the youma couldn't follow nor any
chance the youma would show mercy.  After what happened to Heaven and Poseidon 
there was no way she was letting them take her alive.  No retreat, no
surrender, no escape.  All her options were gone save one. Fight and triumph!
She managed a grim smile.  Ami would approve the sentiment.  So goodbye to
Makoto Kino, school girl who'd have grown up to be the most famous chef in the
world and Senshi who'd been sure they'd put everything right somehow.  She'd 
had a short life but done more with it than most did if they lived a century.  
Adventure, true friends, love, tragedy, she'd had them all.  It was enough,
not that she had any choice.  She was Sailor Zeus, warrior of storm and 
tempest and she had her duty to fulfill.
     Titanite was getting antsy.  They'd been hunched down on the ground 
covered by illusion and sensor invisibility for way too long.  It was past
time they got in there and rescued the senshi but everyone was moving so
slowly.  Still, there was a hint of action.  Pyrite and Hermes had moved 
back behind the group to confer about something.  Hermes was hard to read but 
Pyrite seemed hopeful about whatever he was pointing out to her.  So maybe 
action time was coming.  Or maybe there'd be more delays.  She sighed.  This
must be the boring background material they always edit out of the action
shows.  If they ever made an anime version of Sailor Polaris's adventures 
she'd insist they stick to the highlights.  She pulled a piece of the moss  
free and idly crumbled it between her fingers.  As she did so she remembered
a few recipes it could be used in when powdered.  Hmmm that hadn't occurred to 
her before.  This was the perfect opportunity to pick up the ingredients for
some of their favourite dishes.  She tore a fresh piece of the moss loose and    
wondered where to store it.  Then shook her head and dropped it.  There was
no shortage of the moss and this wasn't the time to gather it.  Restocking
her spice rack could wait until after they'd beaten the Overlord and her 
creepy counterpart.
     Far less confident of their inevitable victory Sailor Hermes was busy 
checking Pyrite's findings.  Or trying to at any rate.  The unfortunate truth
was that brilliant as she was she lacked both experience and background in
youma magic.  Her computer had proven to be of limited usefulness to the task.
Limited information in the database combined with the youma's divergence from
their origins.  She'd given herself a crash course in magic this past year but 
there were limits to what she could deduce and translate.  But she had a 
reputation for having all the answers so she couldn't let anyone know that.  
If Makoto had any idea how lucky they'd been ... how many times she'd guessed 
right ...  It suddenly occurred to her Makoto probably did know.  Makoto had 
got very good at reading her so odds were she knew how much of Ami's skill 
with youma systems was mainly pure bluff and lucky guesses.  Despite which 
Makoto had kept following her anyway!  Ami felt a sudden wave of love fill her 
heart and the urge to hug her friend telling her how much she depended on her 
strength to keep going.  She squashed it and focused on the image in the 
youma's crystal ball.  The facade had to remain, if it crumbled she'd crumble 
with it  She couldn't afford warmth anymore.  She was Hermes, senshi of winter 
and ice.  Cold as death and just as implacable.  When all the youma were dead 
she could allow her heart to thaw.  But not before.
     "It certainly seems you've found a hole in the teleport interdiction 
field but is that really the only potential arrival point?"
     Pyrite was impressed how quickly she'd worked that out.  "You're quite
correct it isn't the only one.  There are three other good rematerialization
points but from the minimal interior detail we've been able to deduce those  
are far too public.  We need somewhere with as few youma as possible.  So
this is the only one that fits the bill.  I'd be happier if there were fewer
human life signs in this area but that's probably why there's a minimal youma 
presence.  Still the alternative to blind jumping is going in on the 
authorized teleport stages and that's a good recipe for suicide."  Hermes
nodded.  Pyrite noted that while she might have accepted his explanation she 
definitely wasn't happy about it.  Still from what he'd observed she was
rarely happy about anything.  
     "WHOA!  HOLD IT!"  Everyone turned to look at Margrave.  She seemed 
somewhere between shock and disbelief.  "Did you just mentioned teleporting
blind into that thing!"  She gestured at the ominous bulk of the Citadel.
"Excuse me, I realize I'm just a dumb youma but I'm pretty sure jumping blind
is a good way to get yourself killed!  Along with anyone nearby when you
materialize inside something too big and massive to displace!  If you think
I'm letting you drag me along on some kamikaze mission ..."  She trailed off
as Hermes expression registered.  Jumping ship was just as likely to get her
killed.  She suppressed a curse at the mess she'd got herself into.  Darkness
Unbound!  Why hadn't she stayed in Tokyo and taken her chances with the Outer
Senshi?  There was some reason besides fear of them but it was hazy and hard
to recall.  Her headache was back and wasn't helping her think any clearer.
Damn it!  Here she was the only member of this clique who could survive 
without any problem in this world but she'd be killed for desertion if she
tried to take her rightful place!  Admittedly she'd be fair game again without
a protector but that was a lot more attractive than getting slaughtered while
trying to break into the Overlord's headquarters.  Besides she wouldn't be 
lowest of the low anymore, there's be humans to boss around.  The unfairness
of this situation was helping her temper.  With an effort she pushed down the
rage.  Going into a youma frenzy would get her just as dead as running away.
Ignoring her bubbling anger she forced herself to listen to what Pyrite was 
     "Normally that would be quite true however I possess certain unique
abilities that will make this situation survivable.  As you are aware I am
somewhat lacking in offensive capability as my powers are more orientated 
towards sensory ends.  However I don't think you've ever quite grasped the
full implications of that."  
     "Maybe not but what's that got to do with anything."
     "I have ... how to explain this ... a better rapport with these scanning
crystals than you do.  All you get is raw data while I can truly interface
with them ... I see I'm not making myself clear."  After a momentary pause he
tried again.  "One of my unique abilities is I can find safe teleport points 
in places I've never been."  Margrave was staring at him, so was Ti.  He'd
better qualify that.  "Admittedly it only works at short range and is of 
limited usefulness.  I mean materializing anywhere in a crowded city like 
Tokyo would be bound to draw comment.  Back in the Dark Kingdom it would have
been more use to someone better orientated to combat or espionage but ..."
He shrugged.  "So I don't use it much.  Last time I really used it was during
our time in MegaTokyo when I ... I foolishly decided to depart the group in
a hurry."  He looked embarrassed, so did Azurite as she took his free hand.
Ti noticed Cal looked little guilty though it hadn't really been his fault.
Neither of them had realized Azurite had been infatuated with him for years.
That could have fractured the group permanently.  Instead they'd emerged from
it stronger once the hidden tensions were exposed.  Just in time to get 
pulverised by Jadeite.  Sort of a mixed blessing but they had won.  She was
rather grateful to have missed the end of the fight not being overly fond of
bloodshed no matter how necessary.  As always happened when she remembered 
that battle she got the funny feeling she'd forgotten something.  Something
that hovered on the edge of her consciousness.
     Ti's concentration was broken by Margrave's snort.  "Yeah right, I've
heard about your little dustup.  The whole thing was a scam start to finish!
Wasn't it?  If you hadn't wanted her to follow you you'd have done untraceable
teleports, right?"  She'd rarely heard Margrave sound so cynical.  "Azzie fell
for it hook, line and sinker!"  Azurite began to seethe but Pyrite kept his  
     "I'm flattered you think me capable of being so calculating in dire 
circumstances but I'm afraid I'm just not that resourceful.  I was operating
purely on instinct, all I wanted to be was get away.  I thought I'd just lost 
the woman I loved and couldn't bear to stay there.  In my state of mind I
couldn't blank my jumps, I just needed to flee and my powers obliged.  Perhaps
unconsciously I wanted her to follow but there was no intent to do anything
but run.  It was extremely foolish of me and it's fortunate Jadeite didn't  
detect us."
     Margrave obviously didn't believe him.  "Yeah, right.  If Azzie's dumb 
enough to buy that then I've lost what little regard I had for her 
     Azurite's eyes narrowed but she kept her cool.  "I believe him and I've
never given a damn what you think.  You're such an emotionally stunted 
creature incapable of feeling love let alone understanding it.  All you know 
is lust and self gratification and why a decent man like Calcite puts up with 
you is beyond me."
     Margrave sniffed.  "That's fine by me.  If love can screw you up that
much then it's a weakness I'm happy to lack.  As for Calcite we both know why
he sticks with me.  Because no human woman could accept a youma as a mate. 
Humans are as xenophobic as we are!  Hell they're worse!  Look at the 
importance they attach to minor variations in physique.  Plus a union like 
that would be a dead end.  No children possible and human females value having 
those irritating squalling little brats!  Not to mention relations with a
youma would be a crime in all human cultures.  They've got taboos about sex 
with nonhumans.  Bestiality isn't it? All of which means human and youma are
never going to get together either casually or long term.  Only way it would 
work is if Calcite pretended to be human but he'd never accept living behind a 
mask his whole life.  So it's me or nothing and that's no alternative.  Not
to mention a waste.  Besides his Renegade sentimentality lets him delude 
himself that I care about him which makes him happy."  The two glared at each 
other and Pyrite hesitated to interrupt.  From the look on his face Calcite 
didn't appreciate being talked about as if he wasn't even present but the 
standoff was broken by another's voice.
     "ENOUGH!"  Everyone looked at Hermes automatically.  "I ... we have no 
interest in the squabbles within your group.  If you want a fight I'll be
happy to oblige as I have no use for youma who'd rather bicker than fulfill  
the mission."  Azurite nodded and relaxed.  Margrave paled (it was difficult 
to tell with the fur but she did) and stepped back.  What was getting into 
her?  She hadn't felt this hostile towards Azurite in a long time.  Malicious
yes but that amused her.  This was actual hatred and she hadn't felt that
since ... well since the Dark Kingdom when Azurite was lusting after her 
protector.  Much of that came from the helpless fury at knowing if Azurite
chose to take her out there was no way she could defend herself.  The rest 
was pure possessiveness.  No one touched what was hers and that included
Calcite.  Had she really mellowed so much?  What in the Abyss had been wrong 
with her and why hadn't she noticed?  A puzzle she'd have to solve.  Assuming
she survived this mission which was taking a lot for granted.  Hermes was 
still talking like she was in charge.
     ".. If there are no challenges then I want the rest of his explanation
concerning this jump.  Continue."
     Fearing Azurite might dispute Hermes assumption of leadership and cause 
a clash Pyrite resumed talking immediately.  "As I was saying my innate 
abilities allow me to teleport with minimal risk to anyplace within the two 
kilometre radius I can sense.  By the use of scanners that increases to a 
radius of thirty kilometres.  Now while this is of limited use to me as I'm 
lacking in combat and espionage skills it does mean that if I visualize a 
teleport point in that area any other teleporter can link to me and use that 
entry point.  There have been occasions this has been very useful.  For 
example, returning to MegaTokyo, Azure and Cal needed to investigate an energy 
drain in a highway tunnel none of us had visited.  I found a good warp point 
by interfacing with my scanner then they linked to me and travelled to the 
     "Couldn't you just have jumped there carrying them?"
     Pyrite coughed, "I ... er ... I can be something of a liability in combat
situations so they prefer me to stay clear unless absolutely necessary."
     Hermes accepted this without comment though Zeus muttered, "Great, we
finally run into a wimp youma but he's on our side."
     "So I can get us in and we should be able stay initially undetected but 
how long that will last ..."  He shrugged.
     Hermes looked unconcerned and sounded cold as ever.  "Just get us in 
there.  We'll take care of the rest."
     "I'm ready anytime.  So if you'd all like to make any last preparations
we can get moving."  With that he withdrew a few steps drawing Azurite with 
him.  Margrave saw Calcite give her an unreadable look then turn to give his
sister some last minute advise.  It seemed everyone except her was in a pair.
Which was as it should be.  She could hear all three clearly enough.  She 
sniffed at the sentimental rubbish Azurite and Pyrite were exchanging.  
Calcite's advice was good but Ti wasn't really listening.  Cal must know that
but he kept trying anyway.  Why?  As for the Senshi ...  
     "Ami, I ... I just wanted to say ..."
     "Are you about to say something socially complicating?"
     "NO! ...  Was that a joke?"
     "Evidently not, you're not laughing."
     "Sheesh.  Just when I think you've wiped out the old you ... Look I just
wanted to say ... We've been through a lot but things have never looked this
bad before ... I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say ..."
     "Then think about it and tell me when it's all over.  So don't get 
     "Right.  You do the same."
     "Of course."
     Margrave snorted.  My, the bravado is thick around here.  This is suicide
and we all know it!  Why am I here?  How did I get myself into this mess?
The thought was interrupted by the hands on her shoulders.  How the hell had 
Calcite got so close without her noticing?  Why was she so distracted?
     "'Grave ..."
     "Save it.  We both know I don't reciprocate your feelings.  I can't! 
There's no way I can be what you want so you have to accept me as I am.    
Learn to live with it.  I promise not to get myself killed stupidly.  Though 
the best way to do that would be not go in there!"
     "If that's what you want it can be arranged."
     "We'll leave you a crystal so the sensors can't detect you.  There's no
need for you to accompany us."
     "Hermes will never ..."
     "Hermes need us to get inside.  To make sure you can't betray us 
immediately I'll render you unconscious for a few hours.  When you wake up
just make your way to the nearest youma settlement and blend in.  You'll be 
free to live as you please."
     "Yeah, right!  You'd like to ditch me and grab the Overlord's harem but
forget it!  Not a chance mister, you're mine!  I'll kill anyone who disputes
that!  Besides someone's got to keep Ti from getting herself killed and you'll
have your hands full.  So there's no way you're ditching me on this blasted 
     "I was rather hoping you'd say that."  With that he kissed her before 
striding over to talk to Hermes.  Margrave felt smug, he was still hers.  As 
it should be.  Then her jaw dropped as what she'd just done penetrated.  She'd
just thrown away her only chance of getting away.  What in the Abyss had she
been thinking?
     Following Pyrite's lead the seven materialized silently.  Calcite and 
Hermes to the front, Azurite and Zeus to the rear, Margrave and Titanite 
materialized in the middle along with Pyrite.  No one spoke and they moved
cautiously in the direction Pyrite indicated.  He signed the number of humans 
and youma he could sense.  Lots of humans and few youma.  Good as it was going 
to get.  Once they'd had a quiet look they would know if they could pull off
the Dark Circle gambit again.  Azurite felt puzzled as she studied their 
surroundings.  Thick sheaths of cables running along the floor, dangling ropes 
of unknown purpose everywhere, lights, racks of clothing and what appeared to
be scenery and backdrops.  All this reminded her of behind the scenes on the
soundstages where she'd done the Sailor Arcturus movie.  Pity it had bombed 
but that was hardly her fault.  Before she could relay this observation Cal
and Hermes signalled back that someone was approaching and everyone tried to 
merge with the walls.  Footsteps approached the lighted area ahead and 
everyone prepared to fight.  Except for Ti who tried to whisper a query about
what was going on and got a furry hand clamped over her mouth.  The source of 
the sound was almost upon them.  Many possibilities but everyone was 
concentrating on the ones that concerned violence.  
     Without a glance in their direction Nephrite strode past the corridor.
The underlying tension was replaced by astonishment.  Calcite turned back to
Pyrite who looked as amazed as he felt.  His cousin obviously hadn't sensed 
anything.  Nephrite could be shielding his aura but why should he in a youma
stronghold?  Obviously this was another variation between the worlds but why
hadn't the Senshi mentioned it?  At which point he realized Hermes looked 
truly shocked.  She wasn't of devoid of emotion as she acted.  She leaned 
close enough to whisper, "It's impossible!  I was there, I saw him die!"
     It seemed it wasn't a point of variance but it raised some serious 
questions.  Had the youma somehow resurrected the Generals?  If so the odds
were a lot worse than they'd thought.  They had to know which meant risking a 
closer look.
     The group advanced cautiously.  Margrave figured before long they'd 
become aware of the odd fruity scent permeating this place.  Sure enough she
saw Hermes pause to sniff suspiciously.  The odour was sweet and reminiscent 
of oranges except it was far too strong.  What was it coming from and did it 
indicate a hazard?  They might have their answer soon.  There were voices up
ahead and soon as they turned the corner they'd be visible.  Pyrite eased up 
to the front and removed a green crystal rod from his pack.  Activating the
SEP field he moved around the corner to see Nephrite and Zoisite talking.  
Both glanced his direction then away as the "Someone Else's Problem" effect
made them ignore him.  Behind him the group rounded the corner.  Pyrite was 
getting a funny feeling about all this.  A cheap trick like an SEP field 
shouldn't fool a General (at least not for very long, they all had a history 
of incredible blunders) but these showed no signs of awareness.  Which raised
suspicions in his mind.  These were abruptly confirmed as Nephrite removed his 
hair and dropped it on a nearby chair.  Zoisite showed no signs of surprise 
at the exposure of short cropped red hair.  All he said was, "I'd kill for a 
cigarette."  The voice was wrong, not high pitched enough and the words were
in English.  Humans.  But why were they dressed as Generals?
     "Nephrite" shrugged.  "Glad I quit.  Guess tobacco farming's as dead as
every other kind."
     "Thanks a hell of a lot.  You're all heart."
     "If that's your only worry then you're doing all right."  He nodded 
towards the large open area ahead of them.  "What I'm worried about is if our
esteemed director throws another fit.  I mean I've worked for some prima 
donnas in my time but he had half the frigging cast shot because they weren't 
living up to his vision."
     "Zoisite" shivered.  "So I've heard.  Still you must be doing something
right if you lived through that."
     He nodded then turned to greet one of the DD Girls.  Calcite grabbed   
Hermes arm as she aimed her hand at the youma automatically.   She looked
furious but the delay let her realize it was a human in a costume rather than
one of the quintet that had mutilated her.
     Without preamble the faux youma muttered, "I hate these anti gravity
harnesses.  It's murder concentrating on lines, let alone singing when you 
have to worry about hitting the damn walls.  Why the hell do we have to use 
them?  Haven't they heard of guyropes.  Why can't we use them for the flying 
     "They've probably heard of them they just don't use them.  Same as
positive reinforcement, courtesy and a hundred other things.  Just remember 
they're the ones making the rules these days."  The fake Nephrite seemed the 
veteran of the trio.   An impression reinforced when he said, "Now for God's
sake keep your voices down!  He's showing some bigwig around and you really
don't want to stand out.  Their ideas about hammering down the nail that 
stands up are a little too literal."
    Secure behind the SEP screen everyone's attention turned in the direction
he indicated.  Past the threesome they could see a large stage currently 
supported with scenery reminiscent of the Great Chamber.  In the center 
"Beryl" was watching one of her Generals performing a dance routine.  He was 
singing something about tap your troubles away in a strong baritone.  They
were being watched by a small crowd of humans in youma costume arrayed around
the throne.  So they were standing just offstage in the left wing.  On the 
opposite side they could see a crowd in senshi and youma costumes milling
around stage right.  Before the stage was a large array on varied seating for
a variety of shapes and sizes along with ones with holes for those who had 
tails.  Currently it was empty except for the three youma occupying the front 
row and a number of very bored youma guards.  None of whom were needed but
policy was all large public gathering of humans were to be watched just in 
case.  A holdover from the days of active resistance which they all hoped 
would be repealed soon.  Onstage the dance finished and the youma in the   
middle spoke.
     "And, like cut man."  The actors froze and the director turned to his 
right.  Pyrite frowned, he'd seen that green and big eared visage somewhere
before.  Besides affecting a red beret and a monocle the youma had wrapped
himself in a thick fur coat.  "So, like what do you think Varis?  Brilliant
isn't it?"  He'd reverted from English back to Youma'shak.
     "That's 'Chamberlain to his Excellency the Overlord' to you Dobbs!"
     "Hey man I know that.  It just takes too long to say that.  So you ready
to get us on the main man's schedule yet?"
     "I don't know."  Varis scratched his snout.  This whole thing seemed 
disrespectful to the old order.  On the other hand the Dark Circle always 
enjoyed that.  Still the old guard had their partisans and it could mean 
trouble.  "Do we really need the tap dancing Jadeite?"
     "Hey man, the tap dancing Jadeite is essential to the central vision of 
the whole piece!"
     "S'right!"  This exclamation came from the two metre tall purple tusked 
fellow to Dobbs''s left.  He reached up to scratch at the strap of the bazooka  
sized energy cannon slung over his shoulder exposing the yellow spots running
up his arm.  Pyrite snapped his fingers and whispered, "Dobbs and Quinch, 
the Hardlands boys!"  This earned him a few hostile looks but Calcite nodded.
Hermes decided to risk leaning close enough to whisper, "Who?"  Calcite
answered just as softly. 
     "A partnership of two youma psycho even by Dark Kingdom standards.  They
weren't interested in anything except tearing around the Hardlands in their
vehicle shooting anything that moved while drinking themselves insensible.
Actually they'd also go girl hunting every now and again.  Anyway even for 
youma they were excessive.  They were too violent and anarchic to ever get 
recruited by anyone.  Dobbs was the brains of the pair, he built their weapons 
and hovercar.  Brilliant but crazy.  While antisocial he was good with 
weapons so as long as they were willing to trade them for supplies, mainly
alcohol, they were left to roam free.  Quinch is the muscle, abysmally stupid 
and prone to extreme violence.  He's at least smart enough to realize he 
needs someone to think for him which is how he hooked up with Dobbs.  I guess
Dobbs thought it useful to have a violent psychopath who'd do anything he'd
say handy.  They fit together perfectly having similar tastes and they've been
firm partners since they first met.  Perhaps useful as guerillas but a 
disaster in any kind of organized force.  None of which explains why they're 
here and what they're doing."
      Providently the Chamberlain answered that.  "Don't try to push me
around Dobbs.  You'll play for the Overlord when, and only when, I say you're
ready to go.  The only reason you've got this job is Lord Pyrite thinks you've
got potential.  Brilliant if antisocial as I recall his appraisal.  You   
convinced him you're going to produce a great play so you'd better live up to
that.  Oh and in case you've forgotten you were supposed to be ready to go
before Ascension Day.  But thanks to you wiping out most of the cast in a fit of
pique we had to reschedule at the last minute!"
     "Hey man it was necessary!"
     "Those losers were spoiling my whole conception.  I had no choice but to
have Quinch hose 'em with napalm!"
     Varis looked unconvinced.  "You are on thin ice.  We've given you 
everything you asked for and what do we have to show for it?  I mean, what is 
that?"  He pointed at a large opaque forceshield covered mound.  Dobbs fiddled
with a controller and the shield became transparent.  
     "I thought it was kinda obvious man.  It's a pile of 16,000 oranges."
     "Drawn from our stasis storehouses and brought here because Lord Pyrite 
authorized you for any supplies you'd require.  But what's the point?  It's
left a shortage in our supplies and there are those among us who've developed
a taste for them.  Not least of who is the Overlord himself.  Remember it'll 
be years before the greenhouses are producing since they can't grow wild
anymore.  Why do you need them?"
     "It's symbolic!"  Dobbs seemed confident but Varis didn't give up.
     "Symbolic of what?"  The Overlord's triumph over human climate and
agriculture perhaps?  There was a certain logic to that.
      "Symbolism!"  No there wasn't.
      "Symbolic of symbolism?"
      "Absolutely"  Varis just stared at him for a minute before speaking.
      "You're making it all up as you go along aren't you?"
      "Hey man what leads you to such an erroneous conclusion?"
      The Chamberlain sighed and wondered what had lead his Lordship to think
this fool was salvageable.  Regardless the Overlord set great store by his 
cousin so he wasn't to be dismissed.  "I'll put you on his Highness's schedule 
for ten days from now.  I advise you to use the time perfecting your 
      "Hey man we're ready now!"
      "The Overlord is currently occupied with important matters of state."  
What those were Varis had no idea but it looked to be something major.  It
was equally obvious that breathing a word about them might be fatal.  Whatever
currently concerned his master Varis judged that thing would settle down 
within a week.  Either it would all end abruptly or it would become a long 
term concern and the tension would fade.  All of which added up to fact that 
the Overlord might welcome some diversion in a few days time.  "I would advise 
you to use the remaining time to perfect your performance."  
     With that Varis strode off down the aisle.  The guards at the main door 
saluted as they unsealed it to allow his departure.  Soon as the door closed 
Dobbs cursed the old fart and started waving a beamer around.  The assembled 
humans started sweating but didn't move.  Dobbs growled at them then sighed 
and spoke in English, "Okay, like relax."  Everyone on stage slumped out 
of the poses they'd frozen in.  Dobbs held out a hand and his partner handed 
him a dogeared script.  He thumbed through it then announced, "Okay let's like 
do Act 2 scene 2.  Get the D Point set in place!"  
      As a backdrop of glaciers was lowered into place the actress in the 
DD girl costume crossed the stage to join four other similarly attired
women.  Behind the SEP screen most people were still staring in disbelief at
the sheer weirdness of all this.  The exception was Hermes who was working 
out lines of attack.  The youma were all in the auditorium proper so they 
wouldn't be blocking any attacks.  The problem was that the youma were few
and widely dispersed.  Getting them all with the initial attack would be 
unlikely.  Which meant some would survive to counterattack turning the stage
into a shooting gallery.  So they were looking at civilian casualties.  
Unfortunate but it couldn't be helped.  Calcite must have been thinking the
same thing as he leaned close enough to whisper, "Since there's no sign of 
anyone detecting us why don't we just try to walk out of here?  At the least 
it'll get us clear of the bystanders."  Hermes might have replied negatively
but she was startled by the sudden appearance of Senshi.
      The two girls were the right build and hair colour for Sailors Ares and 
and Aphrodite but that was where the resemblance ended.  While Rei's portrayer 
was Asian she wasn't Japanese.  As for the actress taking Minako's part she
was Caucasian.  Since the senshi's true appearances had been masked by the
distraction aura Dobbs had evidently decided exact resemblance wasn't
necessary.  Unlike the Generals who's been known to all in the Kingdom.  A 
swarm of makeup artists descended on them to swiftly examine their costumes 
then reported that the bloodbags were functional.  A similar swarm of 
technicians had descended on the DD girls to check the antigravity units and 
wing action.  From the orchestra pit came the sound of hasty warming up.  Soon 
as the tech staff signalled everything was working and cleared off the stage 
Dobbs got directorial.
     "Okay like in this scene we do a poignant portrayal of the death of Ares
and Aphrodite along with a contrast of their methods of fighting and ours.
It'll break hearts even though they were the enemy!"  A single tear rolled  
down his green cheek.  "It's incredibly touching man."
     Dobbs wiped his eyes and addressed the two senshi attired actresses 
before him.  "So like you two sing, 'All you need is Love' while the DD girls
swoop down and cut you to ribbons.  Remember you're supposed to be bleeding 
to death throughout the song so you do the final chorus in a faint voice
while lying in a pool of blood."  He paused to blow his nose.  "It's so  
significant, man."
     "Ares" simply said, "Yes sir" betraying a London accent.  "Aphrodite"
raised a hand,  "Excuse me sir ..."  She sounded Californian and showed no
apparent fear.  "Ares" began easing away from her and behind her the rest of
the cast sidled out of the line of fire.
     "You're the new understudy aren't you.  So, like, what's the problem?"
     "Well it's the whole character of this Sailor Aphrodite.  I'm trying to
get inside her head and it's just not working.  I mean ... she was willing
to throw her life away and die tragically at the North Pole and I can't get a
handle on why.  I mean, what's my motivation?"
     Dobbs looked at her for a moment then vaulted onto the stage.  Quinch
followed with surprising grace for one of his bulk though the stage groaned
as he landed.  "Your motivation?"  Dobbs looked thoughtful and threw an arm 
over her shoulders.  "Well if you don't follow my script exactly my barely 
sentient friend here will peel off your skin and rub you with salt."
     "That good enough for you?"  The blonde's complexion had paled 
     "Uh yeah .... that's perfect."
     "Glad we see eye to eye.  Some directors think you can't reason with 
actors but I've never had a problem.  Okay places people and let's ..." 
Dobbs was interrupted by Quinch suddenly unslinging his cannon and firing 
into the wings.
      Quinch was far from the brightest youma in the Dark Kingdom.  In fact
they didn't come much stupider but his ignorance gave him a single mindedness
that unwittingly shielded him.  Dobbs had glanced to stage left but his mind
had only registered the two pseudo generals.  While he'd seen the figures 
behind them he'd automatically dismissed it as he had other concerns.  Being
incapable of holding more than one thought at once and not being distracted by 
food or violence Quinch had registered their presence and not been distracted.  
Without thinking as soon as he'd recognised the one in the front as Sailor 
Hermes he'd opened fire.  A brighter youma would have realized the Overlord 
was standing behind her and hesitated.  But then a brighter youma wouldn't
have noticed them at all.  Fortunately for the two men in the General costumes 
they weren't standing in the line of fire or they'd have been incinerated.
Instead "Zoisite" dove for the floor dragging "Nephrite" with him.  It was his 
quick reflexes that got them out of the way as all hell broke loose above 
and behind them.
     Quinch's first shot tore through the center of the group without hitting 
anyone.  Fast as he'd been Calcite and Hermes had recognised a grab for a 
weapon and thrown themselves to the side crying warnings.  There hadn't been 
time for the warnings to register but those behind had instinctively followed
their motions.  Azurite had dragged Pyrite to the side while Margrave dragged  
the startled Titanite down.  Zeus followed the others but was nearly clipped 
by the energy bolt.  Instead it struck the wall behind her and ignited it.
     The heat from the roaring fire was abruptly reduced as a thick cold fog 
blanketed everything.  Hermes first instinct had been to freeze their attacker 
but those damn actresses were in the way so the next best thing was confuse 
the youma.  She was already moving out of the confined area as the big youma 
blazed away at where they had been.  She could hear the DKR cursing as they  
moved and realized the fog still blinded everyone except for her and Makoto.  
Too damn bad!  
     The smirk vanished as abruptly as the fog.  Both Pyrite and the youma 
named Dobbs were holding unknown artifacts though which (if either) had 
banished it she didn't know and didn't care.  What mattered was that she was 
in full view on the stage and the agitated youma had all drawn their weapons 
while they searched for a target.  Public enemy number one would do nicely.
Dobbs was aiming his beamer at her and Quinch was bringing his to bear.  
Thankfully in the confusion "Ares" had dragged "Aphrodite" away so she had a  
clear shot.  Without the muffling fogs the air was filled with human screams,
youma curses and the crackle of energy weapons.
      Lightning struck first and the two youma lit up before toppling into
the orchestra pit where they began to smolder.  Not that Hermes had time to 
worry about this as the youma in the auditorium opened fire.  She blasted 
the nearest who seemed to resist.  It struggled momentarily to draw a bead on 
her before his shield overloaded under the onslaught and collapsed.  She 
didn't waste an instant on gloating over the ice statue.  She was already 
looking for her next target.  She heard Makoto swear as a youma she'd blasted
got up again.  Damned energy shields!  Still the shields were definitely a
mixed blessing as was demonstrated by the grinning youma abruptly becoming
a stain on the wall.  With everyone shielding against radiant energy Calcite
and Azurite were finding their kinetic attacks highly effective.  Add to that
the guards were hesitating as they realized who they were shooting at.  Or at
least who it looked like they were about to blast. This understandable 
reluctance to fire upon their rulers made them easy targets and the volume
of weapons fire decreased rapidly.
     Meanwhile Margrave had her own problems.  She was on top of Titanite 
yelling at her to raise her bloody forceshield with little success.  It seemed
she'd caught Ti off guard when she knocked her out of the line of fire.  The
young youma had struck her head on the floor and seemed dazed.  Sticking
around hadn't seemed an option a few moments earlier.  The backstage area had 
been on its way to becoming an inferno but with the damned fog muffling sight 
and sound it was impossible to tell the best way to go to keep her hide 
intact.  She'd been debating if she should carry Ti with her when she fled
when the point became moot.  Both fire and fog had blinked out abruptly as the 
auditorium's fire neutralization magicks activated, assumed the fog was smoke 
and banished it along with the flames and real smoke.  Her senses operating 
again Margrave saw Pyrite holding something aloft which she truly hoped was 
keeping the guards from calling for reinforcements.  Meanwhile the restoration
of visibility cut both ways so they were now potential targets.
     Abruptly Margrave sensed a forceshield form which enclosed her as well
thanks to her very close proximity.  Her sigh of relief was abruptly 
interrupted as Ti surged to her feet and started forward.  Margrave was thrown 
aside and slipped through Ti's shield unnoticed as the dazed girl headed for 
the firefight.  Sailor Polaris was needed, at least that's what she assumed 
in her slightly addled state.  Margrave's temper wasn't helped by losing her 
footing on ice splashed across the stage by one of Hermes attacks.  Cursing 
Sailor Senshi, Renegades and herself for getting her into this mess Margrave 
skidded off the stage.  She landed nimbly enough on the auditorium's floor but 
found she had a bigger problem.  
     The two guards hidden by the lip of the stage had no idea what was going 
but suspected that the Overlord had decided to personally destroy Dobbs for 
producing this abomination of a play.  Their critical judgement was perhaps 
biased by having sat through hours of rehearsals while they watched in vain
for subversive material.  Armed angry critics are a definite menace.  While 
they weren't about to blast at the Overlord their youma combat instincts were 
screaming at them to kill something.  At which point Margrave landed in front
of them.  An unknown and unarmed youma.  They both fired at once and kept 
blazing away.  Margrave's agility kept her alive as she dodged the beams
pouring from the weapons.  What neither she nor her would be killers realized
was where the beams were striking.  Behind them a ridiculously large pile of 
oranges shifted as the forceshield enclosing it flickered.  A glowing sign
in English and youma'shak reading, "Danger! Do not touch these monstrously 
hazardous citrus fruits, man!" blinked out followed by the shield generator.
The massive pile began to topple.
     Titanite, her head clearing as her healing factor took care of the 
concussion, was wondering where Margrave had got to when she caught a glimpse
of the wave overshadowing the catwoman.  "MIND THE ORANGES MARGRAVE!!"  
Margrave didn't stop to consider what that meant, instead she leapt towards Ti
and the stage.  The youma kept trying to blast her intent on naught but 
killing Margrave.  Ignoring the shout until it was far too late.  They caught 
a momentary horrified glimpse of onrushing vitamin C laden death but by then
it was far too late to escape.  Their shields set to repel radiant energy they 
had no chance as they were crushed under by the citric avalanche.  The rumble
of rolling oranges died away leaving a profound silence and the heavy scent of
orange juice.  At length Pyrite looked down at where the guards had stood and 
shook his head.
     "What a horrible, yet strangely humorous, way to go."
     Hermes and Zeus were looking for more targets but finding none while
Azurite stood guard for the Renegades.  Calcite watched the terrified actors
who had no idea what had just happened.  There was only one evident casualty.
The Californian who'd been playing Sailor Venus ... Sailor Aphrodite had 
been caught in the crossfire.  Human anatomy wasn't his strongpoint it was
pretty obvious she wasn't going to be getting up again.  Some of them had
noticed his attention and were looking apprehensive.  Pyrite's little gizmo 
was still giving him a black aura so to a casual observer he was hopefully
indistinguishable from the Overlord.  With that in mind he spoke in the lofty
and disdainful tone of a Lord required to speak to his inferiors.
     "You have been honoured to witness the purging of a nest of traitors.
But I prefer that you not speak of this at present as there are others to be
dealt with.  I could simply eliminate you all ..."  He noticed a quintet at 
the back who were obviously intended to be the Dark Circle.  "But as you are
training to amuse me that would be a waste.  So remove yourselves to your
quarters taking these remains with you and I will be merciful.  This mercy
will be forfeit should any of you leave your quarters without my permission."
The cringing gratitude that followed was depressing.  He'd seen youma act this
way towards him in his homeland but this was the first time he'd seen humans
grovel like this.  So much for the indomitable spirit of man.  The youma had
ground it out of these people.  
     He gave them leave to depart and they scurried away, several of the 
generals bearing the corpse.  Did any of them have the spirit left to wonder
why the two remaining senshi stood shoulder to shoulder with their bitterest
enemies.  Perhaps they were too shell shocked to speak.  Or they simply thought
the senshi had sold out and surrendered.  Soon as they were gone Hermes 
hissed, "Why are you messing around?  There's no time for subtlety!  By now
there's a horde of youma on the way and we're in an exposed position ..."
     "Uh Ami, Pyrite says we're okay."  Hermes glanced from Makoto to the 
golden eyed youma who nodded and display the mysterious artifact.
     "None of the guards had the opportunity to call for help prior to their
demise.  A bigger worry was the fire control system sounding an alarm but I 
managed to block that."
     That explained what he'd been waving around.  Except ... "Why were you
expecting a fire control system?"  He shrugged and waved at the auditorium.
     "Because if I was designing an Auditorium to hold a lot of youma I'd put 
one in.  Actually it's a bit more versatile that just fire suppression.  Given
youma tempers at any large public gathering you need something to suppress
magic used in haste.  Though it's more traditional to have guards handy to
kill troublemakers I take the approach that's it's better to neutralize the
side effects."
     "Which is what happened to my 'Shabon Spray'?"
     "Yes.  The spells powering it are very strong.  With all the mana 
available here they can afford to err on the side of caution."  He looked
fondly at the hand held pyramid he gripped.  "Fortunately for all its power
the alarm signal wasn't complicated and fairly easy to block."  He chuckled.
"Careless of me but I guess I didn't anticipate anyone trying to deliberately
block it ..."  Pyrite frowned as he sensed something on the fringe of his
consciousness.  What was it?  He concentrated and the answer became clear.
Then the significance hit him and he blurted out, "DOBBS!  He's still alive!"
     In the orchestra pit on top of a hastily abandoned piano the dying Dobbs 
gurgled, "Think we're Abyss Fodder, Quinch."
     From the crushed drum set came a weak reply of, "S'right!"  Quinch had 
taken the brunt of the blast which was the only reason Dobbs had lasted this
long.  As for Quinch even someone as near mindless as him could feel death 
approaching.  He was rather annoyed but couldn't summon the strength to get
     "This is really irritating and I feel like some random and mindless act
of carnage."
     "So it's time to use the big one!"  With that Dobbs reached into his 
charred coat for his spoilsport device.  As it had to be used in very close 
proximity to his body and activation would kill him it was a weapon of last
resort.  But being the vindictive sort he'd always been a firm believer in
taking the other bastards with you.  He thumbed the latch open and rested his
finger on the trigger.  "We've killed a lotta people.  So now let's kill a
few more!"  From somewhere overhead he hear Pyrite shout something.  He 
pushed the button just as Hermes and Zeus reached the edge of the pit.  "Eat
space/time disruption you disgusting alien weirdos!"  Their hands glowed and
the last thing he heard was Quinch's final words.
     Margrave gave a howl as light flooded everywhere.  She couldn't see a
thing but whatever was happening was unlikely to be good.  And as the weakest
person in here she was the most vulnerable.  Heedless of sounding dependent
she demanded the others tell her if they'd been blinded.  No one answered.
In fact she didn't hear anyone moving about.  Were they all frozen in place?
She moved an arm experimentally and felt no resistance.  So much for that
theory.  But why was it so quiet?  She sniffed the air but the stink of 
oranges overrode everything.  There was no shortage of scents but ... but they
didn't seem right this moment fresh.  Of course whatever just happened could 
have scrambled her senses but she didn't think so.  Her vision began to come
back rapidly.  At first dim shapes everything rapidly gained definition.
Which was when she realized she was alone on the stage.  The two senshi
were gone from the lip of the pit where they'd stood to finish off Dobbs.  The
damn fools had been so confident of their power they hadn't made sure!  Or 
rather Zeus had, Margrave suspected Hermes would taken more care.  She glanced
into the pit to see two bodies crumbling to ash.  The guards' remains were 
already gone.  Probably why Zeus made her mistake.  If you see them fall and
look back to see nothing then you know you got them.  She saw Dobbs and Quinch
go down and not get up again.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Except this time
they were just out of sight though hurt, possibly dying.  Unfortunately Dobbs
lived long enough to pull that stunt.  Whatever it was.
     Okay, no immediate danger so she could think about this.  Why was 
everyone gone except her?  Distance obviously wasn't a factor.  Calcite had 
been behind her and he was gone.  Could it be it whatever it was only affected 
Senshi and Renegades?  Not a chance, magic couldn't distinguish any difference
between Renegades and standard youma.  So what was so different about her and 
everyone else?  Well power level obviously but that didn't seem sufficient.
     Wait a minute.  Power level!  Refine that thought.  Dobbs shouted 
something about Space/Time disruption.  Kunzite's ultimate attack was 
something along those lines.  That was how the Senshi got to the moon in the 
first place.  Perhaps Dobbs somehow duplicated the effect.  Interesting but it 
didn't explain a whole lot.  Besides why would she not be affected ... yes!
That had to be it!  Everyone who'd vanished had innate or artificially 
enhanced teleporting capabilities!  Which made them exceptionally vulnerable 
to disruptions in the local space/time continuum.  Brilliant!
     She was still congratulating herself when the implications hit her.  The
others could be scattered anywhere in the world.  The world?  The senshi wound
up on the moon!  The others could have materialized anywhere at all.  It was
quite possible they were dead and she was on her own.  Shit!  Ordering herself
not to panic she tried planning for a worst case scenario.  First thing to do
was get out of her before anyone came to investigate.  The second thing?  
Reconnoitre and try to look like she belonged here.  It would be a good idea 
to find herself someone for cover while she worked it out.  Luckily she never
had a problem attracting men.  On that thought she dived over the citric
swimming pool that had formed before the stage and headed for the main doors.
Lucky Pyrite had unlocked them before his unfortunate disappearance.  Where
was he now?  Where were Calcite and Titanite?  And why was she concerned 
anyway?  Puzzled and fearful the catwoman slipped out the door to explore her
new world.
     The detonation of the bomb didn't go unnoticed.  A side-effect of 
Overlord Calcite's merger with Metallia was an increase in her perceptual 
abilities.  But while he could sense many things he had once been incapable of
perceiving his new senses did not come with an instruction manual.  So while 
he sensed the disturbance he had no idea what it meant.  After trying and 
failing to identify it he decided to talk to the one person in the Citadel who 
might also have sensed it.
     "Pyrite!"  A window opened in the air before him showing Azurite and
Pyrite talking.  The conversation ceased and Pyrite turned to face him.  
     "What is it, cousin?"  He sounded concerned rather than angered by the
interruption.  But then Pyrite knew he wasn't prone to butt in without reason. 
     "Didn't you sense that disturbance just now?"
     Lord Pyrite raised his hand displaying the ginzuishou.  "With this thing
nearby?  It's like your aura, it completely screws my sensory abilities.
Right now I'm down to the standard five senses.  So what's wrong?"
     "I'm not sure.  Come take a look." Pyrite nodded and the window expanded
into a doorway.  He bid a quick farewell to the troubled Azurite and stepped 
through into the Library.  She waved then walked away as the warpgate shrank
and faded away.
     Pyrite tossed the ginzuishou to Calcite.  "Azurite won't need this for
a while so Titanite can have her toy back.  Mind blocking it?  As I said it
throws my perceptions off."  Calcite nodded and a black sphere surrounded
the stone.  It hung in the air as he lowered his hand.  Now there was 
something else he needed to do.
     Without being asked the Overlord reined in his aura.  Pyrite's 
perceptions expanded as he reached out mentally trying to sense anything out 
of order.  He filtered out the static caused by the mana but couldn't feel
anything amiss.  Whatever Calcite had sensed hadn't been powerful enough to 
leave residual echoes.  At least none that could be detected at a distance.  
"Got a reconstruct?"
     "Here."  A ball formed between Calcite's hands.  Colours shifted across 
the surface like rainbows on oily water.  Pyrite reached out and touched it 
feeling his cousin's memory of the event.  He stood transfixed for a few 
moments then announced, "A spacial disturbance.  Brief and highly localized.
I probably wouldn't have sensed it more than 100 metres away."
     Calcite smiled.  "Maybe not but when you sense things you know what they
are.  I keep picking up things without having a clue what they mean."
     "Life is full of frustrations.  It'll take me a few minutes to locate
the origin."
     "Go ahead.  Since I haven't sensed anything further I don't think we've
got a problem."
     "Probably a warper self destructing."
     "A what?"
     "There's a few youma with space/time casting para-abilities but they're 
something of a rarity.  The reason they're a rarity is they inevitably lose 
control of them and scatter themselves several places at once.  Or send 
themselves on a one way trip to infinity.  It's not like teleporting where 
you're born with the instincts of how to handle it.  Moving yourself and 
moving other things are very different abilities despite superficial 
similarities.  It seems anyone with less than Jadeite's powerlevel can't 
handle it.  The power turns inward and consumes them.  The smarter ones use 
their powers as little as possible but sooner or later the urge to cut loose 
hits and boom!  Not one of Metallia's more successful experiments." 
     "Probably intended them to open the initial gateway between Earth and
the Kingdom."  His cousin nodded.
     "That's my guess but even the Generals couldn't do that.  If it hadn't   
been for that wizard handing Beryl the key to the seal we'd still be stuck in 
Serenity's dumping ground."
     "Whatever happened to him anyway?"
     "No idea but I suspect he went into the ocean along with California."
     The Overlord nodded, "Probably for the best.  Means I didn't have to 
agonize over rewarding or killing him."  Pyrite nodded and returned his
attention to the sphere.  To break the silence and because he was curious
Calcite asked, "Why did Azurite look so down?"
     "She's a bit worried by her performance in the practice room."
     "Azurite?  She always scores highly."
     "Not this time.  Her efforts to destroy the simulacra were ... 
inefficient.  She delayed attack on all four targets, two of those hesitations 
were potentially fatal."
     "I see ... well I suppose I should have anticipated that.  Any of us 
would have reacted the same way."
     Lord Pyrite nodded.  "She's nowhere near ready to lead the mission yet.
Fortunately that isn't necessary as we don't have a gateway yet so she's got 
time to practice.  But you know Azurite.  If she can't give it 100% she feels
she's letting us down."
     "You should talk to her.  Cheer her up and remind her she's got plenty of
time to practice.  You can also tell her I'd been more concerned if she could
kill us all without a qualm."
     Pyrite's reply was dry.  "I was doing that but someone interrupted us."  
     "Ah!  Sorry about that."  Pyrite shrugged and smiled.
     "You didn't know as you're far from omniscient.  Which makes me happy as
I like solving puzzles.  If you had all the answers I'd feel rather cheated.
Speaking of answers I've found your disturbance.  It's in the main 
auditorium and I'll bet I know who's responsible."  That damn Dobbs has messed
up again.  It's time to get rid of the little creep.  "I'd teleport down
myself and investigate but with the interdiction field in place ..."
     "... I'd better handle the transportation.  If you're ready let's go!"  
With that Calcite snapped his fingers and they disappeared.  The enveloped 
guinzuishou travelled with them.  Calcite wasn't foolish enough to leave an 
artifact that powerful unattended.  
     The two cousins materialized in the auditorium.  They were both more than 
a little surprised at what they found.  For a time both simply stood there 
taking it all in until the Overlord broke the silence.
     "Cousin, why are we standing ankle deep in orange juice?"
     "I have no idea.  I can't even begin to speculate."  Calcite grunted and 
they levitated out of the pool.  In response to Pyrite's directions he floated
them over the stage for a gentle touchdown.   Pyrite studied the dissipating
ash heaps and nodded, "Dobbs and Quinch.  Recently deceased and both at the
focal point of the disturbance.  I'll bet I can guess what happened."
     "Enlighten me."  Calcite spotted an orange stained crumpled script and it 
flew into his hand.  He paged through it while his cousin's attention stayed 
fixed on the remains in the pit.
     "I gave Dobbs this job because I though he had potential.  He was 
undeniably brilliant, not in my class of course, but still a genius.  It 
seemed a waste of that talent not to utilize it so I though that by 
rechannelling it to artistic ends we might make him a more sociable creature.
Even if it produced a bomb it would be an interesting experiment in youma
psychology.  He actually seemed to like the idea and claimed he'd always 
wanted to share his vision with the rest of us.  Apparently if you look at 
those craters he's been gouging in the Hardlands from a miles up they form
the characters of a poem.  A fairly insipid one but it showed an artistic
bent.  What I hadn't counted on was how integral violence was to his 
personality.  You've heard about production being set back because he wiped 
out half the cast?"
     "He was a bit too perfectionist and couldn't distinguish between human 
limitations and rebellion.  After the smoke cleared I explained to him that 
if he did that again he was deadwalker chow.  He didn't like it but promised
no more wasting lives.  So I thought everything was under control.  But I was 
getting concerned how close they were to opening so I asked your Chamberlain 
to have a look.  Probably Varis told Dobbs he'd have to delay opening because
you're busy right now.  Looks like Dobbs didn't take that well.  The artistic 
temperament and all that.  It also looks like he blew his stack in more ways 
than one." 
     "Care to elaborate further?"
     "Dobbs had nascent space/time abilities.  Fortunately for him they never
manifested so he wasn't in danger of blowing himself up.  Unfortunately Dobbs
liked explosions.  He must have been trying to artificially boost them so he 
could use them as a weapon.  Like that disruption spell of Kunzite's."
     "The one that got rid of the senshi for an hour tops following which he 
got himself killed by them soon as they reappeared?"
     "Well yes but theoretically it's a killer move.  If I had to speculate 
I'd say Dobbs went berserk and cast a spacial disruption spell on everyone 
handy.  They disappeared but he didn't get to enjoy it.  The backlash fried 
him and his moronic buddy while anyone left ran off in panic."
     "Bravo.  A concise explanation that explains almost everything."
     "What did I miss?"
     "The oranges."
     "Ah! ... I'm still working on that.  Anyway it looks like the show is
delayed indefinitely."  
     Overlord Calcite tossed the script to his cousin.  "Pity, it looks like 
it would have been fun.  Although I'm not sure about the title."
     Pyrite looked a little abashed, "Well it was the best we could come up
     "'Overlord Calcite, Superstar'?"  He shook his head and Pyrite quoted 
the rest of it.
     "'A musical comedy about one youma's rise to greatness, the conquest of 
the earth, the destruction of the Sailor Senshi and most of the human race.'"
     "That part's all right but the main title's a little inappropriate.  I
have no intention of suffering for anyone else's sins and I intend to enjoy
my own.  Virtue may be it's own reward ..."
     "... but so is vice.  Indeed.  Still I doubt any other youma have heard 
of Andrew Lloyd Webber let alone know the historical figure it refers to so
there's no harm done.  But it's all a little irrelevant after Dobbs tantrum."
     "True.  Well I'll order the place cleaned up and see how many survivors
there are.  It might be possible to salvage the production and we could all
use a diversion."  Pyrite nodded and tossed the script on top of what had been
Dobbs.  "Think I'll head back to the throne room and have a word with Varis.
Besides it's traditional to gloat over captured enemies and I've been working
on my Overlord laugh.  Care to join me?"  Pyrite shook his head.
      "No, I'd rather catch up with Azurite.  Drop me back at the practice
hall would you?"
     "I can locate her and drop you right next to her."
     "No thanks.  Right now she wants to be alone for a while.  I'd prefer to
follow her until she's ready to let me catch up."
     "If you say so."  Just before initiating the teleports something occurred 
to Calcite.  "Just where is everyone Dobbs displaced?"
      "Not too far, the spell wasn't that powerful.  Though the odds of 
surviving unplanned transition are minimal."  At least for powerless humans.  
Youma equipped with teleport abilities would have a better chance of survival.
Pyrite automatically thought this but saw no reason to add it.  Why should he?  
There hadn't been any teleporters involved with Dobbs' fiasco.  Calcite had 
just asked out of idle curiosity so Pyrite dismissed the matter and the 
cousins disappeared.  Much later Lord Pyrite would remember this and curse 
himself.  But that was later and he had no way of knowing how rapidly things 
would happen.
     Jorel was one of the elite Citadel guards and proud of it.  She had 
littermates among the low rankers who watched the humans but felt no real
kinship with them.  If they were worth anything they'd be on duty with her.
Only the cream of the crop got selected for duty within the Citadel proper.
Lethal but discrete, that was what they wanted.  Most youma warriors crashed
around obtrusive as a zuggernaut which was not appreciated by the Lords and
Ladies.  As this inappreciation could be lethal unsuitable candidates were
swiftly weeded out.  Secure in her own importance she strolled quietly along 
the gallery looking for signs of disorder.  She rounded a corner to see a
girl sprawled a short distance down the corridor.  A human from the looks of 
her and dressed in something like a senshi costume.  Probably for the 
amusement of one of the upper echelon.  She'd probably been staggering back to 
the servant's quarters when she collapsed from the rough treatment she'd 
received.  Which was her problem, Jorel's was getting her out of the way. She 
wasn't about to carry the girl if there was any way around it.  The weight 
would be slight but it would crease her uniform.  Besides why should she have 
to haul humans around like some common drudge?  That was a last resort only
so she'd see if she could wake her.  Jorel drew the neural whip from it's
holster and flicked it to life.  She'd started to aim it when the hair colour
registered.  Green!  It could be dye but it was also possible ...  Jorel felt
ice form in her stomach as she realized the youth of the dazed figure.  Sweet
Darkness had she been about to whip her?!  Jorel started sweating, it would 
have taken her weeks to die for a blunder like that!  Then with a groan  
Princess Titanite sat up.
     Feeling groggy again Titanite reached up to massage her forehead and felt
her mask come loose.  The adhesive must be weakening, she'd better renew it.
What had happened and where was she?
     "Your Highness ...?"  Ti looked up to see a serpentwoman in a red and 
gold uniform looking down on her with concern.  She gasped and flattened 
herself against the wall forming a Polaris Missile.  
     Jorel started sweating again which she could do despite her snakelike
exterior.  Had the Princess seen her brandishing a whip or was she just not
a morning person.  If the latter than she had a chance of survival.  After all
why couldn't members of the Dark Circle nap wherever they chose?  Doing her
best to appear unthreatening she spoke placatingly, "All is well Princess, is
there anything I can do to serve you?"
     Ti had been about to release the missile when the youma spread its 
hands before it and looked submissive.  The words suddenly clicked and she
realized who the youma thought she was.  "Wait!"  She looked around but saw
no signs of the others.  Her aura reading ability was next to useless with 
all the mana around here so she couldn't sense them that way.  Trying her best
to sound imperious (think B-Ko, Ti!) she demanded, "Where are the other 
members of the Circle?"
     "I have not seen any of them lately, your Highness.  I can find out ..."  
She reached for something Ti guessed was a communicator.
     "NO!  I mean, it was only idle curiosity."  Wonderful!  She was on her 
own in the heart of youma territory ... at least she assumed she was still in 
the same place.
     "This is the Citadel, right?"
     Jorel nodded to herself, the Princess must have been experimenting 
with drink or drugs.  Powerful as she was she was she still had little 
tolerance for either.  "Yes, your Highness."
     One less worry.  But what the heck should she do now?  Okay, the snake
didn't seem too surprised at her presence so maybe her counterpart was in
residence.  A plan started to form.
     "You know where my quarters are?"
     "Yes, Highness."
     "Fine, then you can escort me to them."  Jorel nodded inside, obviously
too disorientated to find her own way.
     "It is an honour to serve."
     "I know."  Ti hoped she sounded pompous enough.  Or was she be overdoing
it?  No way to tell.  She'd just have to hope they didn't run into anyone who
knew Princess Titanite well.
     Feeling her heart rate return to normal Jorel risked saying, "It would be
best if were not unaccompanied while in your current attire.  There could be 
a ... security error."  Ti barely repressed an "Eep!" of surprise.  She was
still in her Polaris costume.  Okay, don't panic Ti!  She obviously doesn't
recognise it so you're okay.  But just to be on the safe side ...
     Jorel was startled when the Princess's body was suddenly covered by a 
glowing aura.  It disappeared and she was wearing different clothes.  Rather
more restrained than the Princess's normal choices and a change from her 
usual black but Jorel wasn't about to critique her.  "If you're satisfied
then we'd better get going."
     Fearing she'd pay for this later Jorel lead the way.  Ti followed trying
to look bored.  She stifled the urge to gawk reminding herself that she was 
supposed to have seen all this many times before.  Instead she tried to work 
out her plan.  Okay once she was in "her" quarters she'd ambush the Princess
somehow, knock her out and dump her in a closet somehow then take her place.
Once she didn't have to worry about running into her counterpart it would be
safe to impersonate her.  Then ... It was after that the plan got a little 
vague.  Okay, very vague.  Somehow she'd find the senshi and free them was 
about as far as she'd got.  Or she'd find the others and let them work out 
what to do next.  She ignored the youma who bowed as she passed.  Evil queen
types don't acknowledge underlings unless they've screwed up big time.  What
other etiquette tips could she draw from anime?  As she reviewed various
shows for hints she reminded herself to reactivate the Polaris costume in the 
privacy of "her" quarters.  Last thing she needed was for Hermes and Zeus to
break in and mistake her for Princess Titanite.  Those two wouldn't stop to
listen before firing.
     Meanwhile Hermes and Zeus had their own problems.  Neither had any idea 
what had happened.  One moment they'd been about to finish off those youma, 
the next they were somewhere else.  Ami's computer wasn't much help, the 
local energy flux seemed to be messing up its scans.  Still she thought they
were still in the Citadel.  Probably.  So they were kami knows where in a
castle packed with the mightiest youma to walk the Earth and separated from
Pyrite and his "magic bullet".  Ami's attempts to get him to part with it had  
been futile.  She'd given in with bad grace though she'd known as it's creator
he was the better choice to deploy it.  The plan had been simple.  Get close 
to the Overlord then everyone shields Pyrite long enough for him to use his
gizmo on the Overlord.  Which would hopefully work and they'd all live happily
ever after.  So much for fairy tales.
     Right now Ami was regretting ditching the disguises they'd used in the
Dark Kingdom.  Since one way or another it was going to end here it seemed   
only appropriate to go in uniforms unconcealed.  However until they managed
to sort out what had just happened and found the others a little protective 
colouration was in order.  Makoto was thinking the same thing.
     "We find a couple of maids and grab their clothes then we have a look
around!"  Her voice was intense but quiet.  There was no one around but that
could change anytime.
     "It won't be that simple.  Initially yes but for the deception to succeed
we'll need to acquire clothing close to our own size ..."  In the distance she
heard the rumble of youma'shak.  They could undoubtable kill whoever it was 
but that would expose them.  It was still possible their presence remained 
unknown.  "This way."  Makoto followed her lead as they sped away.  This 
section looked seldom used so it might offer them concealment while she tried
to plot their next move.  Unfortunately that also meant no servants handy to
furnish them disguises.  All quiet ahead.  Ami flung open the door before
them.  Then immediately wished that either her scanner had been working  
properly or that she'd considered the door being soundproofed.
     Five of the Seven Legendary Youma stared back at her in surprise.  There
was no sign of the Felinus, the cat youma, in the hastily converted storeroom.
As for Boxer they'd killed him in an earlier clash.  For an instant the 
tableau held.  Then both Senshi dived into the room and the door slammed shut
behind them.  The soundproofing was exceptional.  A few metres away you 
couldn't hear all hell breaking loose inside.
     Felinus was stalking through the hallways some distance away in defiance
of orders.  Lady Azurite had called the Seven ... or rather the Six in 
abruptly and told them they were relieved of Senshi hunting Duty.  They'd all
taken that to mean that someone else had got Zeus and Hermes which was a grave
disappointment.  They needed a good flashy kill to bolster their sagging 
reputation.  But Lady Azurite had said she had another mission for them.  But 
they'd need special training and weren't to breath a word of it.  So saying
she'd bundled them into a dark corner of the Citadel and told them to stay
put until she came for them.  The others had obeyed but Felinus was catlike
in more than appearance.  He needed to roam and wasn't about to stay cooped
up in some corner.  The others had tried to dissuade him but not very 
forcefully.  They well knew he cared little about consequences and possessed 
a fierce temper.   So let him go and earn Lady Azurite's displeasure.  They 
didn't need him and it meant more glory for them.  Felinus was aware of all
this abstractly but it didn't matter to him.  All that concerned him was the 
scent he'd caught.  Almost there, ahhh.  He purred.
     The white catwoman was half his size and gave a low whistle as she
appraised him.  Then gave a grin exposing razor sharp fangs and purred back.
She looked rather startled when without any further ado he grabbed her and 
pulled her down onto the floor.  But he'd never been one for smalltalk.
     The silence of the dungeon was broken by a steady, repeating shout of,
"Crescent Beam!"  The slumped figure of Haruka Ten'ou shook her head yet again 
as her new cellmate again failed to blast herself free.  She'd told her it
wouldn't work but it seemed the girl wouldn't accept it until she had 
experienced it for herself.  Stubborn but she'd been the same way.  She 
remember shouting herself hoarse, sure that the next "World Shaking" would 
overload the restraints and burn them out.  Michi had matched her every step 
of the way but even combining their powers had failed.  She felt fresh tears 
form at the memory of her lover and tried to burn them away with anger.  What 
the hell did this second rater think she could accomplish that the Outer 
Senshi couldn't?  Just how stupid was she?  Another cough shook her and she 
felt blood spatter her chest.  She didn't know what was wrong but she was sure 
that her time was fast running out.
      Minako heard the hacking cough and called, "Are you all right?"
      There was a wheezing gurgle followed by a weak answer of, "Why is it 
when people get sick some idiot always asks them how they feel?  I feel like 
death warmed over and that's on my good days.  I haven't been all right since 
the day that bastard threw us in this hole!"
     Minako sighed.  This version of Haruka was a lot nastier than the one she
knew.  Though she seemed to have no shortage of reasons.  Minako shivered as 
she remembered waking up in this cell.  
     There had been a nightmare that had faded on awakening, something about
creatures that lived in mirrors that she'd been fighting as Sailor V.  Except 
she'd been losing and they were dragging her into the glass.  She'd snapped 
awake to discover that unpleasant as it was she'd have been better off asleep.  
She'd attempted to turn the alarm off and roll over only to find she couldn't
move.  A panicky period had followed as she'd opened her eyes to find herself
restrained.  Her frenzied struggles to break free had been interrupted by a
voice saying, "You're wasting your time.  Michiru couldn't break them and 
neither can you."  The voice had been familiar and she'd stared at the slumped
figure opposite her.
     "You know me?  That's odd because I don't know you."  There had been a 
little interest but mostly Haruka had sounded weary.  She'd raised her 
balding head to expose her face and Minako had gasped.  
     "Calcite."  Her remaining eye had looked steadily into Minako's.  "I 
don't know you but I know of you.  Sailor Aphrodite by the uniform.  I'd 
heard you were dead."
     Minako's scattered wits had reassembled enough for her to put the pieces
together.  "Aphrodite?!  Oh, I get it!  You're the Haruka of this world!  I'm
not Sailor Aphrodite, I'm Sailor Venus.  And you're uhh... they told me your
new name ... what was it again?"
     "Sailor Heaven."
     "Right, that's it!"  She'd looked around but there was no one else.  "So
if you're here Michiru must be around somewhere.  Sailor whatever you call her 
round here."
     "Sailor Poseidon.  You're occupying her place.  If you look down you can 
see the bloodstain she left."  Minako had automatically glanced down and seen
the dark colour on the concrete.
     "Overlord Calcite.  He cut her throat yesterday ... or was it a few days
ago?  It's hard to keep track of time in here."
     "Calcite ... Calcite killed her!  You're joking right?"  Sure she'd heard
the story but even so ...  "Okay so he's a two faced liar, a conniving sneak
and an all around bastard but he's not completely honourless."
     Haruka had just stared at her for a moment then, with a trace of her old
fire, snarled, "Are we talking about the same Calcite?!"
     "Uhm ... well actually, no."
     Haruka's face had gone from angry to puzzled then back to weary.  Her 
energy gone she'd slumped back in her chains.  "Why don't you explain that.
We've got plenty of time.  At least I hope he won't be back again soon but
maybe he'll want to break in his new playmate."
     Minako hadn't known what that meant but suspected she didn't want to
know.  So she'd talked for ages explaining who she was and where she'd come
from.  At length Haruka or rather Heaven had told her a few things which 
rather upset her.  Since then she'd been trying without success to break free.
Which is why she was rather upset when the door creaked open (it had been
specially designed to open with an ominous creak) and Overlord Calcite
strode in.  He paused to look down on his captives then without looking 
thrust a hand towards the captain who'd accompanied him.  The officer placed
two cards in his hand and bowed himself out.  The Overlord sauntered down the
stairs looking amused.  He took a leisurely look round the dungeon and seemed
in no hurry to speak.  Minako cringed a little as his gaze turned to her   
but he was distracted by Heaven.
     "You're not Calcite."
     His grin froze but he sounded unruffled, "What are you babbling about?"
     "As I said you're not Calcite.  Oh you look like him but you don't feel
like him.  His aura reeks of evil and foulness.  You don't just see it, you 
feel it.  I know it intimately after all these months.  Whoever or whatever 
you are it's not the Overlord."
     Calcite seemed about to deny this when something in his clothes beeped.
He pulled out something that looked like a pager then seemed to relax a bit.
"According to my little friend there's no active surveillance in here.  Guess 
the Overlord doesn't like being spied on.  But you're wrong when you say I'm 
not Calcite."
     Her eye narrowed as she studied him.  "You're the other one aren't you?
Her enemy, not the monster who raped my world!"  He nodded.  "Interesting ...
by the way your scar is fading."  He reached up to feel his cheek then turned
and crossed to the opposite side.  Minako was almost happy to see him.
     "Get me out of this thing, NOW!"  
     "In a moment.  We have a truce and it's still on, right."  She hesitated
a moment then nodded.  "Good.  Now I've somehow got separated from the rest
of my group.  Lucky I materialized nearby and the guards though I was the
Overlord looking to amuse himself.  Bottom line is I'm seriously out powered 
and I need backup.  That's where you come in.  You help me and you get loose.  
Otherwise you stay here until it's over.  One way or another."
     "This isn't exactly a rescue mission, is it?"
     "Right.  It's a kill the Overlord mission.  If we pull that off then 
rescuing everyone gets a whole lot simpler."
     "I'm in!"  Heaven's apathy had vanished, replaced by a chilling
intensity.  "I'd sell my soul for another shot at the Overlord."  The chill
was broken by a sudden coughing fit.  Blood flecked her uniform and Haruka
gave a mirthless grin.  "Besides I'm dying anyway.  I've got nothing left to
     Minako couldn't believe what she'd just heard.  "You're not dying!"
     "Bullshit!  I'm coughing up blood more and more frequently, there's 
sores Calcite didn't inflict all over my body and my hairs falling out.  I
don't know what he did but it seems pretty terminal.  Got an answer Mr. Sorta
     "If I had to guess I'd say radiation poisoning."
     "It's a long story but he must have been trying to find out how much
exposure it took to beat Senshi tolerance for biohazards."
     "Looks like he found out.  I feel like shit."
     Minako couldn't believe it.  They weren't kidding, they both thought 
Haruka was dying!  Wait!  The Ginzuishou!  That could cure anything.  If they  
found it then all their problems were over.  "Okay, get me down and you've got 
my help."  He looked at her for a moment then nodded and slotted a card into a
slot above her head.  The restraints sprang open and Minako stepped free then
began massaging her wrists.  Which was interrupted by Calcite thrusting a 
mirror into her hands.
     "Hold this."  Bewildered (where did this come from?) she obeyed.  Calcite
studied his reflection then raised a hand to his face.  When it reached it he 
was holding a blade, the edge poised just over his cheek.  He sighed then 
began cutting downwards.  Horrified Minako dropped the mirror which bounced 
off her big toe.  This distracted her and she said a few unladylike things.
When she looked back at Calcite she saw the blue blood had stopped flowing.
he had his eyes closed and seemed to be concentrating.  
     "Didn't that hurt?"  Minako never had got the hang of when not to butt 
in.  She also didn't notice the mirror melting into nothingness.
     "Quite a bit.  Strangely slashing your cheek open is painful."
     "Why does everyone get sarcastic when I get concerned?"
     "No comment."  Minako rolled her eyes
     "So why'd you do it anyway?  Is this some sort of youma ritual thing?" 
     "No, it's a youma impersonation thing.  Overlord Calcite has a scar.  I
don't scar because of my healing factor.  At least not permanently.  It takes
some doing but I've found I can interfere with my regeneration on small 
wounds.  So I can replicate his scar temporarily.  Problem is letting it heal 
to the right point then holding it there.  Add to that I can only slow down
regeneration and I have to keep renewing the damned thing."
     "Couldn't you just fake it?"
     "We tried makeup but it looked phoney.  As for glamour there's too many 
ways to sense that so I couldn't use that.
     "Oh ... Hey what about Haruka ... I mean Sailor Heaven ... Well she is
Haruka but not the Haruka ... or I should say our Haruka ..."  She trailed
off.  Calcite hadn't moved.
     "I am a little loath to free her.  She's done a lot of suffering at the
hands of someone who looks a lot like me so she might do something rash."
     "I'm not so far gone that I can't tell one from the other and I'm not 
about to blow my only shot at vengeance.  I swear by Michiru's soul that I
will not turn on you."  Calcite had no idea who she'd sworn by but her eyes 
had a fanatical sincerity burning in them.  He reached up and slid the key
in the lock.
     Sailor Heaven stepped free without an exaggerated display.  Instead she
just asked, "So what's the plan?"
     "As Plan A is worthless until I find Pyrite it's time to switch to
Plan B."  Which was an even longer shot than the first plan but why mention 
that?  "We acquire the Silver Crystal of this world and either use it 
ourselves or reunite it with Sailor Moon."
     "How do we do that?"
     "It's in the possession of Princess Titanite so I'll approach her 
pretending to be her brother.  The problem is finding her while avoiding 
tipping off my counterpart I'm around."  Heaven snorted.
     "And it's not going to be suspicious that you've got two senshi with 
     This could be a sticking point.  "Two free Senshi would ring a lot of
alarm bells.  But Overlord Calcite amusing himself by dragging his prisoners
around his domain to humiliate them should seem more credible."  He raised 
his hands, each carried chains sculpted from psychoplasm.  "So if you two will
slip these on we can get going."  He wasn't at all surprised when Sailor Venus
starting telling him to forget it and there was no way she'd let herself be
chained again.  Heaven studied then them trying to work out how much the 
shackles would restrict her movement.
     "If anything goes wrong I can dissolve them instantaneously."
     "So you say."  Then she sighed.  "I hate to say it but I can see this is 
necessary."  Her voice hardened.  "Bear in mind these won't block my power so 
I'll be able to break free.  Doublecrossing me would be the last thing you 
ever do."
     "I understand."
     "I hope so.  Now get these damn things secured."  Minako stared open 
mouthed as Heaven assisted Calcite in shackling her.  Heaven saw her staring
and growled, "What are you waiting for?  Christmas?  Get those chains on!"
     Minako shook her head, "Great, the only allies I've got in this world
are my Arch Enemy and a Senshi who's into B&D.  Could it get any worse?"
     Calcite shrugged, "It's been my experience that things can always get
     "Thanks.  That's very reassuring."
     Meanwhile Jorel was rather surprised to encounter Princess Titanite 
again.  She'd changed into black and brief clothing as was her custom but why 
she'd left her quarters by teleporting only to head back to them was something 
of a mystery.  Perhaps her disorientation had worsened.  Jorel snapped to 
attention but the Princess didn't really notice her as her mind was clearly
elsewhere.  At least she didn't notice Jorel until she spoke.  
     "Highness, do you require an escort again?"
     The Princess stopped to smile at her but her voice was far from friendly.  
"Hasn't anyone ever taught you not to bother Princesses?"  Then she frowned,
"Again?  When did you ever escort me anywhere?"
     She seemed to be getting worse.  Still there might be a reward for 
handling this discretely.  "With respect I escorted you to your quarters just
a few minutes ago."
     The Princess had laughed, "You are out of your mind!  I've been wandering
the Citadel for the past few hours.  If you escorted anyone it wasn't me ..."
The voice trailed away as her face blanked.  Then she grabbed Jorel by the
collar and hauled her down putting their faces on the same level.  "You really
just escorted me to my quarters?"
     Understandably startled Jorel stuttered, "Y ... Yeah ... I mean yes, your 
     "What was I wearing?"
     "Uh ... initially something like a senshi costume though it matched none
of them.  Then you changed it to ..."
     "Never mind!  And this just happened so I'm still in my quarters?!"
     "Uh ... you are here, talking to me, your Highness!"
     Titanite released her grip.  "Right, of course I am.  Don't forget that!"
     "Yes your Highness!"  Jorel resisted the urge to massage her throat, that
could be considered disrespectful.  Something suddenly occurred to her.  Had
the Princess got shorter?
     "Speak of this to no one.  You'll be rewarded for your silence."  With
that Princess Titanite tore off down the corridor.  She obviously didn't want
company.  Jorel tried to work out what had just happened.  That last bit 
sounded good except there were two kinds of rewards to ensure silence.  More
than a little nervous she resumed her patrol.  Mixing with the high youma was
riskier than she'd thought.  Why hadn't she become a common guard like her
siblings?  No responsibilities other than keeping the humans in line.  Now
that was the easy life.
     Princess Titanite had already forgotten about Jorel.  All she cared about
was the intruder.  Impersonate me again will you?  I'll show you nobody wrecks
my home and walks away scot free!
     Like the Princess, Lady Azurite was also wandering the halls of the 
Citadel.  Not to get anywhere in particular, if she had a destination she'd       
simply hop on one of the internal teleport stages, but simply to think.  Her
performance in the combat simulator worried her.  When Calcite gave her this
assignment she'd protested she was incapable of doing a good job.  She was 
being asked to kill the only youma in the world she couldn't.  Calcite had
agreed but told her as they'd already purged all the youma who were willing 
to take a shot at the Dark Circle it was up to her.  Besides it wasn't as if
she'd really be trying to kill her family.  Which, when you got right down to
it, was what the Circle (excluding Magnesite) meant to them all.  Family in 
the human sense of the word rather then the youma.
     She'd acknowledged that then Pyrite had given her a bit of good news.  
She wasn't expected to go do it today, they both knew she'd need time to 
prepare for such an unexpected turn of events.  Pyrite had no idea how long it 
would be until he could open a gate to the other Earth but he estimated a 
couple of weeks at a minimum.  So she'd have time to practice for the mission.
As an added bonus there might only be three targets as the other Titanite 
might have died with the Senshi.  She'd got him to admit they had no way of
knowing that had happened and it was equally possible she'd split from the
senshi and returned to her homeworld.  In fact it was also possible that in 
the interval between the attack on the Palace and the creation of the barrier 
that the other alternate versions had crossed into this world.  At which point
everyone had got worried.  Honestly, Men!
     Fortunately the two of them had already taken some precautions against  
their counterparts getting their hands on the Circle's more lethal resources. 
But the situation remained a security nightmare.  Keeping this quiet was 
vital or they'd have worldwide rebellion with underlings claiming their 
rulers were fakes.  Not to mention they could hardly order the youma to refuse
to obey members of the Circle let alone turn on them.  Calcite's strategy 
seemed wisest though it was going to complicate administering the Dominions.
If you ran matters at long range underlings would inevitably take advantage.
It was the nature of the beast.  But she couldn't improve on Calcite's plan.
Confine the Circle to the Citadel and listen for reports of members showing
up elsewhere.  In a few weeks if they weren't ever two places at once they
could return to their homes and forget the matter until Pyrite opened the 
gateway.  Except for her, she had to train to kill people who looked exactly
like those few she cared about.
     She'd considered proposing they simply find a way to shut out 
extradimensional intrusion and forget about the other world.  But she'd 
rejected it.  If the other Calcite was anything like theirs he'd be coming for
them before the Circle came for him.  And her counterpart would be with him
every step of the way.  She couldn't leave a threat so major alone so neither
would her other self.  Add to that their other selves already possessed
dimensional travel techniques and they had a problem.  Supposedly the other
worlders were limited to a single place to arrive but that could simply be 
something they'd told Sailor Moon.  Besides even if it was true what was to
stop them finding a second gatepoint?  Or a third?  Or a hundredth?  She shook  
her head.  It got worse and worse the more she thought about it.  The only
bright spot was as long as they had Calcite they couldn't lose.  But they
could be set back for years or even centuries by disruptions from this mess.
Not to mention Calcite was the only indestructible one.  The rest of the 
Circle was tough but far from invincible.  Luckily the same could be said of
their counterparts.
     Her thoughts returned to the other Azurite.  Hearing she sometimes went
around dressed as a senshi was a real surprise.  It was a shame she'd have to
kill her the first time they met.  There were many things she'd like to ask
her.  Like if she'd managed to make things work with Calcite.  Not that she
regretted Pyrite catching her on the rebound but ... she'd been so sure they
were fated to be together.  She snorted, yes well first love was always the
one and only wasn't it?  Silly of her to fall for romantic mush like that.
Besides Pyrite was the better choice.  Calcite ... he didn't doubt he loved
her in a way but he'd loved his grand vision more.  He couldn't afford 
anything that might distract him from that.  Which included her.  And there
was no denying he'd been right to be so fanatical.  They'd won!  What else
really mattered?
     Enough of this!  The sentimentality was clouding her mind, time to get
back to the practical.  Practically speaking she was nowhere near ready to
lead a killteam against their alternates.  Her practice session had been
     She'd had Pyrite fashion four practice drones into simulacra of the 
Circle.  Even with her powers enhanced by the ginzuishou she'd performed 
miserably.  It had been easiest to kill her own lookalike though there had 
been a definite hesitation.  Destroying the Calcite replica had been made 
easier by the lack of the familiar scar and the knowledge of how lethal he 
was in battle.  Still she had hesitated giving him a opportunity to kill her.  
She'd dodged but you could hardly count on managing that in actual combat.  A 
real Calcite would be a lot more dangerous.  The other two ... she shook her 
head.  She'd barely managed to destroy the Titanite and if it hadn't been 
firing back it would have been impossible.  She truly hoped the girl had died 
with the senshi as it would break her heart to kill her.  As for the Pyrite 
duplicate ... total failure.  It had scored three kill shots while she stood 
there like a fool.  There was no way she could learn to kill him!
     Fortunately there was an alternative.  She'd train the Six specifically
to take out Pyrite and Titanite.  It would certainly make her life easier
if they did the dirty work.  Naturally if they succeeded and survived she'd
have them executed.  Last thing they needed was youma around who could kill
members of the Dark Circle.  Brightening up she rounded a corner to see a
mirror ahead of her.  Except it wasn't a mirror because the clothes were
     For a heartbeat the two Azurites stared at one another.  Then the 
corridor exploded into plasma flame.
     Makoto cursed as Jiji's claws nicked her shoulder.  Cramped quarters for     
a fight which meant she couldn't cut loose without electrocuting Ami.  Ami 
had the same problem which meant Jiji's could get close enough for hand to
claw combat.  Ami was dodging Rikoukeida's test tube bombs as Banbou tracked
Ami.  He hadn't attacked yet but Makoto wasn't taking any bets on that 
lasting.  Makoto dodged Jiji's leap but stumbled over Vena's body.  Gesen
smiled and flung his cables around her.   Perfect, now he'd avenge his defeat
at her hands by crushing her!  The cables tightened and the youma grinned.
Then stopped as he realized she was smiling too.
     "Sucker!"  Electricity coursed down the cables and into Gesen's body.  
The youma shook and began to smoke.  Jiji froze and shielded his eyes from 
the glow.  There was an explosion and smoke filled the room.  Makoto tore
free of the shredded cables and scrambled to her feet.  A part of her mind
shouted that Gesen had been human once.  In fact she'd been attracted to him
and his first transformation had lead to her becoming Sailor Zeus.  She 
ignored it and looked for another target.
     Ami had been caught by the blast and her head was ringing.  Where was   
everyone?  She staggered upright trying to focus ...  The daze was snapped by 
the sight of Banbou looming over her.  For an instant she stared at him.  Was 
there a hint of Ryo in his eyes?  His mouth abruptly snapped open and spat one 
of his razor discs.  Her reaction was automatic.  The iceblast caught the 
youma squarely in the chest and froze his heart.  Hermes was smiling savagely
when she heard the gurgle behind her.  She whirled to see Rikoukeida behind
her, the youma's arm was still upraised with the tube of vitriol she'd been
about to shatter on Ami's skull.  Half a razor disc stuck out of her forehead.
The tube slipped from the youma's nerveless fingers and shattered.  Its 
contents began eating through the floor and Rikoukeida's feet.  Ami didn't
wait to see the dying youma topple.  Heedless of any surviving youma she spun 
back to face Banbou.  He tried to speak but his lungs were frozen solid.  He
fell forward and the room shook at the crash.  With a cry she knelt down to
look into the watching eyes.  A pincer inched forward and she seized it.  She
held it as the light in the eyes faded away and the pincer began to soften in
her grasp.  She didn't even hear the sounds of combat cease or Jiji's death 
     "Ami?"  Makoto strode over to where Ami knelt, head bowed, before the
big youma.  Oh hell, she'd had to kill her boyfriend!  Damn, she hadn't  
realized that until now.  She should have been the one to take him out but
things had happened too fast.  Not that Ami would have had a choice after he
tried to kill her but it couldn't have been easy.  "Ami that's not Ryo.  The
youma killed him when they changed him back."  She put a hand on her friend's
shoulder, "Meantime we'd better get out of here ..."
     "DON'T TOUCH ME!"  Makoto recoiled at the ice in her voice.  Looked like
Ami had taken it worse than she'd thought ... were those tears?  This was not  
good but she could hardly abandon her.  With that thought Makoto turned to 
watch the door and waited for Ami to get up.
      Ami felt the pincher crumbling.  Youma decayed slower than they used to,
in the old days he'd be gone in seconds not minutes.  The dust poured out of
her hand until she was holding nothing but air.  She sat a moment more then 
wiped her eyes and rose, turning her back on the heaped dust.  She saw 
something glimmer in the dust that had been Rikoukeida and reached down.  The
disc that had killed the youma filled her palm.  Makoto watched her staring
at it but didn't dare interrupt.  Then Ami raised her head, her face colder
then ever.
     "Ami ... are you all right."
     "No.  No, I'll never be all right.  But I have a promise to keep to Ryo
so let's go."
     "You've got a plan?"
     Ami's smile was mirthless.  "Oh yes, it's very simple.  We are going to  
kill every youma in the Citadel and wade through blood until we reach the
Overlord.  And when I get to him I'm going to shove this disc through his eye
and not stop until it comes out the back of his skull.  That's the plan!" 
     "Oh good, I was afraid it was something suicidal."
     Ami bared her teeth.  "Got an alternative?"  
     Makoto shrugged, "Not really.  Hell I expected this to be a one way trip
from the start.  Besides wading in blood sounds better than wading in orange 
     "Then let's get moving!"
     Makoto followed Ami out.  Well so much for the emotional speeches before
the final battle.  But she'd never been much on adlibbing.  Besides what 
could they say to each other that they didn't already know?
     Princess Titanite paused at the door to her quarters.  She couldn't sense
anyone in there except the copy.  Good, that would save her having to wipe
out the servants.  Her first instinct was to charge in an destroy the intruder
but she made herself hesitate.  One thing her brother had taught her was that 
she was far too impulsive.  Perhaps it would be wisest to call the others 
rather than handling this herself.  Yes, no question.  Except it hadn't been 
her brother's palace that got wrecked!   Nobody waltzed into her home, wrecked
it and walked away scot free!  It was payback time!  Besides there was no 
risk.  If she could hold off seven Senshi one second-rate copy in a fuku would 
be a cinch.  She generated a forcesphere in one hand and forged a sword in the 
other.  She slapped the doorplate with the hilt and burst into the room.  
"CATCH!"  The forcesphere shrieked towards her dumbfounded replica.
     It bounced off her forceshield and took out a bookcase.  Princess 
Titanite's jaw dropped.  It wasn't possible!  How could Polaris deflect an 
attack boosted by the ...  Princess Titanite suddenly remembered she wasn't 
wearing the ginzuishou.  It had become so second nature that she took it for
granted.  Her own shield shivered under two spheres slamming into it as 
Polaris counterattacked.  Rage exploded through her body.  This second-rate 
copy thought she could beat her?  How dare she!  Forcespheres howled back and 
forth reducing the furnishings to rubble.  
     Princess Titanite smiled.  Her counterpart was shielding against kinetic 
attacks and while she didn't have a beam attack she had something just as 
good.  The sword in her hand crackled with power.  Let her block it with her
shield.  That wouldn't stop the energy that would flow through her shield and
bake her to a crisp.  She ducked another "Polaris Missile"? and charged.  
There was her opening!  The sword cut towards her counterpart's side.
     A sudden "thunk" and she realized the sword was embedded in a large
wooden mallet.  She flicked her own shield to energy blocking before her 
counterpart could pulse power through her creation and fry her.  She 
frantically generated a forcesphere.  At point blank range this should breach
... Then something struck her head very hard.
     Instinct guided her hand and she vaguely heard a squawk.  Seeing double
and her ears ringing she staggered to her feet.  Sailor Polaris was down.
Thankfully her shield hadn't been able to handle a TK sphere at such short 
range and had overloaded.  Being thrown shieldless into the wall had finished 
the job.  The concussed girl groaned faintly but didn't move.  Princess 
Titanite tripped over the second mallet's handle and hit the floor again.  
Woozily she wondered why her counterpart hadn't used an edged weapon.  If 
Polaris had she'd be crumbling to dust instead of finishing the fight.   
Light gleamed on pseudo steel and the Princess scrabbled around on the floor 
until she grabbed her sword.  She couldn't forge another in her current state 
but this should suffice.  She levered herself to upright and staggered towards 
her stunned counterpart.  Sailor Polaris was defenceless which meant there 
was time for a little gloating.  Good, she felt like a quick gloat.
     "You're not quite as pathetic as I expected.  If you'd had a bit more 
killing instinct you'd be the one standing.  But mercy leads to weakness and 
that's why I'm the winner.  You, you're about to be dust in the wind!"  She 
raised the sword over her unconscious foe and prepared for the killing blow.
     Then hesitated.  There was a lot they needed to know about their 
counterparts and this loser would have a lot of the answers.  Except that 
meant suffering this freak to live a little longer when her instincts were
shrieking, "Kill"!  The urge to dispose of this insult to the name of Titanite 
was almost overpowering.  But her reason kept reminding her of her duty to 
the Dark Circle.  The two waged a brief war in her mind as she kept a wary 
eye on her fallen foe.  At length she sighed and lowered the sword.  
     Her duty had to come first.  Otherwise how could Calcite rely on her?
She'd already screwed up by charging in here without either backup or the
ginzuishou.  That was more than enough idiocy for one day.  No need to 
compound her folly by killing her other self prematurely.  She could wait a
little longer.  
    In the meantime she'd better take a few precautions before the replica 
awoke.  First she'd better restrain her then work out getting this copy to   
her brother without anyone noticing.  Last thing she needed was starting 
rumours about two Titanites circulating after Azurite had covered things up so
effectively.  Sure she could just call her brother but where was the fun in
that?  She'd much rather surprise him if she could do it without complicating
things.  That could wait, right now her prime concern was making sure Sailor
Polaris couldn't cause anymore problems.  Currently her shaping abilities
inaccessible until this damned headache cleared and she could focus again.  
So it would be a few minutes before she could create any chains ... 
     Suddenly something occurred to her.  When all was said and done this was 
another version of her.  So maybe Polaris could unmake anything she created.  
Which meant psychoplasm restraints wouldn't be worth a damn.  Abyss!  One 
damned thing after another!  Whatever she was going to do she'd better do it 
fast.  Polaris (it was easier to think of her as that) seemed to be stirring.
Either her opponent hadn't struck her head as hard she'd thought or she could
speedheal.  That last thought puzzled the Princess.  She had a confused memory
of having had that ability when she was younger but she lost it when ... the
memory was cloudy.  Sometime towards the end of her wimp days perhaps?  Could
there be a connection?  It might explain why the other still had it.  Come to
think of it the others had possessed regeneration abilities but they'd all
lost them.  Why?  She'd have to ask her cousin, he knew all the technical
details.  She'd also have to ask him to return her gem.  With its power it 
would be easy to fix herself up again.  She shook her head violently which 
didn't help her headache.  Thinking about the old days always distracted her.
She had problems here and now to worry about.  Get your brain in gear, 
     A moment's thought then she grabbed the dissolving mallet and slammed it
down on her counterpart.  That would give her healing factor something 
nonlethal to work on until she had a solution.  Inspiration struck, that 
would do the trick!  Now if she could just find it in all this mess.  Let's
see ... she thought the chest was stored over there.  Her servants would know
but her counterpart must have told them to get out.  Of course after their
little fracas everything was scattered.  Something else she owed her for.
Pausing briefly to kick Polaris she began searching through the rubble that
had been her furnishings.  Ah, here it was.  The toychest was battered but not
cracked.  It took a little effort to force the bent lid open but nothing 
major.  She began rummaging through it.  Let's see ... stuffed toys, various
whips, a few battered CDS, clamps and needles, something she couldn't 
identify, a model of Tokyo tower and a few other souvenirs her brother had 
picked up for her up in Tokyo and all the other junk she'd thought worth
taking with her when they packed up and moved out of the Dark Kingdom.  She'd
dumped all this junk in out of her old possessions then left it behind in her 
Citadel quarters when her brother's power built her own palace.  After all
why take all that old trash?  Still she'd been a little too sentimental to
junk it all.  She'd also dumped a few new toys in it.  So somewhere in here
there should also be ... Aha!
     The chains clinked in her hand.  Now that she'd learned to use the 
ginzuishou to boost her latent shaping abilities she could create whatever
suited the mood with her current paramour.  But when she'd started amusing
herself with humans it had been simplest to have a full range of equipment 
available.  True these wouldn't hold a youma for very long but it would slow 
her detestable counterpart down long enough to stun her again.  As well the 
sound of breaking chains would give plenty of warning her counterpart had
recovered.  Pleased by her insight she quickly bound the pseudo senshi before
wrapping a blanket around her.  There, no way to identify her.  With that she
crossed to the door which covered her private teleport stage and began 
disarming the boobytrap.  A little precaution she had added against anyone who 
could fool the system into thinking it was her arriving.  Which wasn't so much
paranoia as precaution.
     The task done she set the destination for the stage nearest the 
throne room.  It was one of Calcite's quirks that nobody, save him, could 
teleport directly into the throne room.  Everyone had to go through the main
doors.  Which, to her way of thinking, was as it should be.  You don't want 
every Xark, Klern or Freson able to drop in whenever they feel like it.  She
swung the bundled figure onto her shoulder and strode for the stage.  She had
to smile.  The guards outside the throne room wouldn't be able to identify 
its contents.  While they'd be a little surprised at her carrying it with her 
into her brother's presence with her reputation it wouldn't seem odd that 
she'd be lugging bound playmates around.  Still giggling she vanished.
     Pyrite hurried through the corridors passing for his counterpart while
hoping he wouldn't run into anyone who wanted to talk.  He had a theory about
what had happened but confirming that was secondary to finding everyone.  He
could sense Azure nearby but was concerned by the fact he seemed to be sensing
two of them.  A concern that was justified as he turned a corner to see two
Azurites trying to kill one another.
     Azurite was peripherally aware of the spectator but couldn't spare any 
attention for him.  Right now she was too concerned with kill or be killed. 
Pyrite shielded his eyes as howling winds threw dust from the shattered walls
in all directions.  All he could make out were two figures in blue locked in a 
desperate hand to hand struggle.  Neither sight nor his other senses could
tell them apart.  Both wearing similar loose sweatsuits so that was no help.
Exactly what hue had Azure been wearing?  In the best cliche traditions they
should be shouting for him to blast the other so he could figure it out that
way.  But neither could spare the breath.
     Azurite grappled with her opponent looking for the opening to crack her
shield aware the other was doing likewise.  So far they had stalemated one
another but that wouldn't last.  Distantly she speculated she'd be the first
to fall.  The flames Lady Azurite created hadn't lasted long in the gales that
followed.  The intent had been to make her block the heat leaving her wide 
open to getting mashed by a hurricane.  If she hadn't borne the heat and kept
her shield kinetic it would have worked.  But that had been enough to show her
counterpart was the more powerful.  She couldn't match plasma generation like
that, hell the odd fireball was her limit!  So she had to keep it kinetic and 
hand to hand.  This close if the other used flame she'd have to shield herself
against energy.  Which would make her vulnerable to having her skull crushed 
against the wall.  The corridor rang with the sound of Azurites slamming one  
another into solid objects and the shriek of air vortexes as each struggled
to overload the other's kinetic shield.  Whatever minor differences existed
between the two couldn't be distinguished as the two blurs hammered at each 
other.  Azurite caught a brief glimpse of Pyrite shielding against the wind
as he fiddled with one of his pulse crystals.  He wouldn't fire unless he
was sure of the target so he wasn't a factor.
     Or was he?  The thought was acted upon instinctively.  She let Lady 
Azurite slam her backwards putting another hole in the wall.  As she did her
fingers brushed the bracelet that had been driven to the base of her wrist.
The glow of Pyrite's modesty aura as her clothing reconfigured itself startled
her counterpart for an instant giving her the opening to drive the other to 
the center of the passage.  She sweated as she tried to hold the other still.
She couldn't hold the other in place for long, hopefully the sight of the 
Arcturus costume would confuse her long enough for Pyrite ...
     An energy beam seared over Lady Azurite's head as Pyrite figured out 
which was which.  Instinctively she flipped her shield to repel radiant 
energy.  Azurite struck the instant she did.  Lady Azurite had a fraction of
a second to realize her error and try to correct it before she hit the 
unyielding wall.  Pyrite lowered the beamer in shock.  He'd fired high  
deliberately, unable to hurt any version of Azurite.  A qualm she hadn't 
shared.  Azurite had been about to strike a second time when she realized it
wasn't necessary.  Now Azurite stood frozen as she watched her counterpart 
slide down the wall leaving a green stain behind.
     Azurite shivered as she looked into the dying woman's eyes.  The horror
struck expression had vanished, replaced by pain.  Now that was gone and all 
she saw in the face was confusion.  She'd lost and she couldn't comprehend how
that could be.  Azurite felt her blood grow cold as she watched the other 
slide into death.  Was that how she'd look someday?  Spending her last moments 
unable to understand, struggling to ask, "Why?" with a crushed throat.  She 
finally had time to consider the enormity of this.  She'd just killed herself!  
     No, not herself.  Just a woman who looked a lot like her.  There was 
probably no other similarities between them.  There couldn't be!  How could 
she possibly follow a Calcite as twisted as this world's version?  She 
couldn't!  She wasn't blind, if he'd been evil she wouldn't have followed him.  
No chance.  She was her own woman not some puppet following a leader 
mindlessly.  She was never going to claim she was only following orders.  Not 
her!  Never!  There was nothing of her in those softening features!  So why 
was it so damned hard to look away?
     "Azure ..."  Pyrite's hand on her shoulder broke the spell.  He was 
carefully avoiding looking at the body.  He was also careful to rest his 
hand lightly so he didn't scrape himself on her spiked shoulder pads.  She let 
him turn her away from the body and tried to focus on what he was saying.
"... I realize this has got to be hard to deal with but you've got to put it 
aside for now.  Everyone in the Citadel must have heard your little
altercation which means there's company coming.   In fact ..."
     Azurite got her brain back in gear.  "Damn, you're right!  We got to 
get out of OUCH!"  The last was added as Pyrite tore her Arcturus mask off.
     "Remember you're Lady Azurite!"  With that he knelt by the body and 
set a glamour over it.  It wouldn't fool anyone with true sight but it was 
better than nothing.
     Azurite managed to comprehend his words just as the security detachment 
charged into view.  Remembering these were supposed to be her troops she
choked her impulse to fire a hurricane into them.  Recognising two of the
Circle the youma hastily lowered their weapons and prayed she wouldn't take
offense.  Fortunately her Arcturus attire was close enough to standard kinky
femme fatale dress to pass either unnoticed or as a parody of the senshi fuku.
The latter was what she'd had in mind when she initially created it.  She
came up with a quick story about thwarting an assassination attempt and 
swore unholy vengeance on those who had dared do such a thing within the 
Citadel.  Along with a vow that she would find everyone involved and make
them suffer.  Pyrite chipped in by advising her to have the area sealed off
and bring in specialists to examine the remains.  He claimed the spells used
to mask reading the deceased's fading aura for prior associations would 
require experimental equipment currently in her possession.  Picking up the 
cue Azurite ordered the youma guards to clear from the scene before they 
messed up the latents and get busy sealing off the corridor.  Eager to get out
of the presence of angry Circle members the security officers leapt to obey.
     Soon as they were gone Azurite risked a smile and whispered, "That was a
truly inspired line of bullshit."
     "Thank you, I have my moments."
     She had a dozen questions to ask about how they'd all been separated but
focused on their current problems.  "It was a good bluff but it'll only last 
until they realize the specialists aren't coming.  What the hell were you 
doing anyway?"
     "Establishing a temporary stasis field over the remains.  A little
     "Right, there has to be something left to examine."  This was no time for 
smalltalk.  The clock was ticking.  "Any way to find the others?"
     "No.  I suspect they're relatively nearby but ..."
     "Stick to what we know.  Still got the psi bomb?"  He nodded.  "Okay, I 
don't see any option but to head for the Overlord and bluff our way close 
enough to use it.  Security may well have reported the disturbance to him and
he'll be expecting his Azurite and Pyrite to report.  Let's just hope Lord
Pyrite isn't with him when he hears about this mess."  She couldn't think of 
anything inspiring to say and time was running out.  "How do we find the 
     "Jump on one of the teleport stages and set it for the throne room.  It's
perfectly natural around here and won't trip any alarm bells."  At least I
hope not, he added silently.  But she must know that.  Azure looked like she 
might say something else but merely nodded and stalked east.  As soon as they 
passed the guards a warning ward was fixed across the corridor.  Hopefully 
that would keep anyone from investigating more closely before it was too late.
The one bright spot about all this was the Overlord couldn't sense everything
within the Citadel or they'd never have got this far.
     Overlord Calcite would be the first to admit he could be surprised.  His
sister had just accomplished that.  He returned to the throne room intending
to have a few words with the now revived Senshi as soon as he entranced them.
He hadn't begun yet as he was still enjoying the novelty value of such naive
defiance.  Mars had been the most strident in demanding he release them and
return Usagi to her right mind (such as it was) or else.  Jupiter the most
vocal in threatening dire consequences as soon as they got loose.  Mercury 
seemed primarily concerned with the whereabouts of Venus and their own future.
She was such a contrast to Hermes it was hard to believe they were different
aspects of the same girl.  So the noise level had been rather intense when his
sister strode into the throne room.  
     She'd ignored his query why she was here and what she was carrying.  
Merely grinned and marched over to his Senshi collection.  She'd eyed Mars
speculatively while waiting for the doors to close.  So as they had she'd 
shouted, "TA DA!" and tossed the bundle into the air whipping off the blanket.
The chain wrapped Titanite hit the floor with a bonerattling thud.
     Titanite groaned as the shock of impact began fading and she began 
feeling all her aches and pains.  Her healing factor was getting a real 
workout.  This was definitely not one of her better days and she'd just taken 
a chunk out of her tongue when her teeth crashed together.  Somewhat dazedly
she turned her head and realized she was surrounded by Senshi.  Unfortunately
they looked worse off than her.  She tried to think of something reassuring 
to say, "Uh ... hi everyone.  The rescue mission is experiencing a few 
technical difficulties so hang in there a little longer!"  Rei heaved against
her pillar and glared at Ti.
     "As if we have a choice?!"
     Ignoring the sarcasm Ti tried to think.  The haze was fading from her 
mind as she healed.  Okay, first order of business was getting loose.  She 
heaved and felt the chains creak.  Maybe she could break them!  She started 
to strain then froze as she realized the point of a sword hovered near her
eyeball.  Sweetly her counterpart said, "I can have this through your eye and
into your brain long before the chains give way.  Can you heal from that?"
     Resisting the urge to shake her head Titanite forced herself to relax.
Her counterpart's smile never wavered and Ti had the sick feeling even driving
the sword in she'd have kept smiling.  The sword flickered out of existence 
leaving Princess Titanite with a free hand.  The other held the ginzuishou.
     "Sister, please keep the stone away from Sailor Moon.  It's unlikely but
it might react to her.  I'll keep an eye on your counterpart."  The Princess 
nodded and stepped back from the Senshi.  Titanite heard approaching footsteps 
and rolled over to get her first real look at Overlord Calcite.
     The recordings in the Kingdom hadn't lied.  If not for the scar and that
black aura this man could be her brother.  She'd thought that after conquering 
the world and enslaving humanity he'd have degenerated somehow.  Come to look 
like some sort of monster.  Instead he looked just like Cal in one of his more
serious moods.  "You spoke of a rescue mission?"  Titanite had the sudden 
terrible feeling her dazed flippancy had just doomed everyone.  She tried 
feverishly to improvise.
     "That's right.  Soon as Zeus and Hermes get here you're through!  They've
got stuff on their homebase you wouldn't believe!"  Somewhat more hesitantly
she added, "At least that's what they told me.  They wouldn't let me go with
them."  The Overlord nodded.
     "Those two undoubtably feel the only good youma is a dead youma no matter
how helpful you were.  But why are you here without them?"
     "Uhm ... well they were taking so long and Hermes had said their way in 
would close in about half an hour back so I ... sorta came in to replace ...
her before it became impossible."  Princess Titanite snorted.
     "And you blew it yet again."
     "Hey, I almost took you out!"
     "Only because I forgot my little trinket ..."  She trailed off as her 
brother turned to her.  "I suspect sister that you have a few things to tell
me.  As for you young lady ..."  His gaze turned back to Titanite, "... You 
will have a very long wait for the senshi to arrive!"
     "Wh ... what do you mean?"  Ti wondered if she was overdoing the brave
     "We found and destroyed their base a few hours ago.  Neither of them 
managed to escape."
watered, a fairly easy trick with all her pains.  She kept crying and 
shouting hysterically.  She kind of doubted he'd buy her act but it was the 
only thing she could think of trying.  Unfortunately her brother had got very 
sharp at seeing through her.  So she was rather surprised by the look of 
discomfort on his face as he turned his back.  Gruffly he announced, "Weep as
much as you like.  It won't change a thing!" and walked away.  Ti started 
tapering her hysteria down to loud sobs, her mind whirling.  Either she was a
better actress than she thought or the Overlord had never had to learn the
same lessons Cal had.  There was something very disturbing in the thought that
her evil counterpart might be better behaved than her.  Or perhaps he was just 
flustered by the sight of a crying Titanite for some reason.  Her counterpart 
didn't seem to have the same qualms and was watching her suspiciously.  After 
a moment's thought she tossed the ginzuishou to her brother and stalked over.
     Ti caught a glimpse of her counterpart's shoe arcing back before he kick 
caught her in the side and rolled her against the pillar holding Rei.  She was
gasping for air as the Princess told her, "My brother's a little sensitive
about certain things.  Crying Titanites is one of them.  It upsets him 
and that upsets me.  Now I don't cry anymore so there's no problem there.  As 
for you, you'd better cut the waterworks.  Or I will hurt you so much you 
won't even be able to cry.  Calcite might be squeamish about hurting you but 
I'm not."  She smiled.  "Matter of fact I'm rather looking forward to it!  
Soon as Cal's composed himself he's going to probe your mind and get us a few 
answers.  Once we've done that you cease to have any value."  Her chuckle was 
very unpleasant.  "Actually that's not true, I'll bet there's a few biological 
mysteries you could clear up.  Why you have a healing factor and I lost mine
for a start.  Maybe I can talk Pyrite into dissecting you.  Alive and without
anaesthesia of course.  He won't like it but when I point out we don't know 
how much damage a regenerator can take and survive ..."  She shrugged.  
"... You know Pyrite.  Anything for science!"  Ti felt her blood turn to ice.  
Princess Titanite wasn't joking!
     "Leave her alone!"  The Princess looked up to meet the furious Rei's 
eyes.  Then smirked.
     "Ah yes, in all the excitement I'd forgotten you'd revived.  It's Rei 
isn't it?"  The Senshi didn't answer which didn't particularly concern her.
"Well, no matter.  We'll have plenty of time to get know each other.  See my
brother promised me a pet senshi to do as I please with.  Guess who I get?"  
Rei continued ignoring her which made her frown.  An instant later the tip of 
a sword was pricking Rei's throat.  "I don't like being ignored.  It makes me
     "Get away from her or I'll break every bone in your body!"  Unperturbed
and still holding the sword in place Princess Titanite turned to face Makoto.
     "Sailor ... Jupiter wasn't it?  Maybe there's a bit of Sailor Zeus in  
you after all.  Except she doesn't threaten, she simply strikes!  You talk 
pretty big for a girl fused to a post.  Aren't you scared what I could do to
     "Somewhat.  But I really hate bullies.  That's all you are!  You're no 
     "You must have a pretty odd idea what a Princess is like.  Human 
princesses may have become just some inbred idiot born in the right family
but did you ever think how those families got going?  They got to be royalty 
because their ancestors were vicious and ruthless enough to cow everyone else
and make themselves the leaders.  Humans may have forgotten that but the youma
haven't.  We have created a new dynasty by right of conquest!  I'm more a
princess than that pigtailed idiot of yours will ever be.  Not that she's 
ever going to have the opportunity to rule anything.  This is the end of the
line girls."  Her laugh was interrupted by her own voice.
     She glanced down at her counterpart.  Apart from wincing at the tightness 
of the restraints Polaris seemed to have recovered.  She lowered her sword and 
turned her full attention to her counterpart.  "Why what?"
     "Why are you doing this?  We're both Renegades, you can't deny that!  If 
you weren't you wouldn't give a damn about your brother.  Why are you acting
like a regular youma.  You don't have to be like this.  What happened to you?"
     For a moment the Princess stared down at her counterpart.  Then shook her
head.  "Reasons ... You've been too long among humans sister-self.  You've
picked up their delusions that everything has reasons.  Let's see ..."  Her
voice became singsong, "My parents didn't love me, I was abused as a child,  I
was raised by my brother, he didn't nurture me, I saw my mother murdered in 
front of me,  I grew up in an oppressive regime, I had too be cruel to  
survive, all I ever wanted was for someone to love me ..."  He voice trailed
off and bowed her head.  
     Mercury ventured, "You've had a rough life ..." but was interrupted by
Princess Titanite bursting into laughter.  
     "Those good enough for you?"  She broke up again but continued a moment  
later.  "You still don't get it, do you?  There's nothing wrong with me.  I'm
a youma!"  She waved an arm trying to indicate the world at large.  "This is
what we do!  I'm the normal one, you're the freak!"
     Ti shook her head.  "It doesn't have to be like that!  You can still 
change!  You could ..."
     "Wind up chained at the feet of a violent psychopath waiting to get 
sliced into ribbons?  Yes, that's certainly attractive isn't it?  Face facts!
We're the ones who picked the right path.  You?  You're just going to be a 
minor footnote in the chronicles of our triumph!"  The doors to the throne 
room opened again.  "But right now I want to ask Azurite how she liked using 
the ginzuishou.  We'll talk later.  Or I'll talk, you'll probably just 
     She walked away catching the ginzuishou as her brother tossed it.  Ti
muttered, "She's not possessed, we're nothing alike!  Same name and face but 
that's it!  Just some weird coincidence!"  On to more practical worries.  If
she broke free she'd be vastly out powered but maybe, just maybe, she could 
free the senshi and even things up a bit.   Her counterpart glanced back and 
she tried to look innocent.  Hoping Mars would hear she whispered, "Soon as
these chains break I'll try to shatter that pillar."
      "Can you do that?"  Mars' lips barely moved.  
      "Without taking my hands and feet off?"
      "Uhm ... maybe ... I've never tried anything like this before ... maybe
I shouldn't ..."
      Rei sighed, "That's really encouraging.  But the alternative is a lot 
worse so do it."
      "Will do.  I just need a distraction long enough to break free."  
Something struck her about the newcomers.  "And I think it's just arrived."
Ti managed to keep the hope of her face as Lord Pyrite and Lady Azurite 
marvelled at the sight of a second Titanite.  Until it was interrupted by  
the warble of a priority message followed by Pyrite's barely coherent scream 
     Winds howled through the chamber and the Overlord automatically raised
an arm to shield his eyes.  Ti clamped hers shut and flexed her muscles.
Links pinged as metal stretched and tore.  She couldn't see a thing but she
imagined Pyrite lunging at the Overlord.  The chains gave way as vertigo, 
claustrophobia and motion sickness struck simultaneously.  Ti forced her eyes
open to see Pyrite holding something the size and shape of an easteregg before
the Overlord.  He stood there scared but determined like a man holding a cross 
against a vampire.  He was just clear of the aura which was growing as 
writhing tendrils of energy lashed out.  The Overlord's face was twisted in 
pain and he seemed frozen.  Azurite was trying to pulverise Princess Titanite
but she'd automatically raised a forceshield.  She wasn't counterattacking,
she just clutched her head and whined.  But distracted or not the shield 
remained firm.  Tears rolled down the Princess's cheek but whether from pain
or the apparent betrayal it was impossible to say.  Titanite staggered to
her feet and tried to generate a Polaris Missile.  Hit the pillar in the 
center and hope that shatters it or at least takes out the power neutralizer
and Mars can take it from there.  It worked for Venus in Magnesite's lair!
Perhaps it would have worked for her but the Overlord's eyes opened.
     The psi bomb tore out of Pyrite's hands and he slammed backwards into
the wall.  Azurite spun hoping his defences were down.  She seemed to slow as
thought the air had turned to treacle then froze in place.  Titanite fired her 
missile only to see it pass through the pillar as if it were insubstantial
then fade away entirely.  She tried to move and found she couldn't.  Ignoring
both her and Azurite the Overlord looked at the sprawled Pyrite.  He struggled
to reach for a weapon then froze.  At the Overlord's gesture the crushed oval
rose into his hand.  He held it a moment then dropped it letting it bounce
     "That actually hurt."  He sounded more surprised than angry.  "Good thing
Pyrite warned me psi attack was my major vulnerability so I'd better increase 
my defences.  If he hadn't you might have broken the wards instead of giving  
me one hell of a migraine."  
     "Brother?"  His sister was looking very confused.  She'd been close 
enough to be caught in the mindstorm.  So had his attackers but they'd at 
least expected it to happen.  
     "Relax sister, this is not betrayal but an attack by Pyrite and Azurite's
alternates."  He sighed, "It seems Azurite was right to suspect they'd already
crossed over."  Calcite turned to look at the Azurite caught in the holding
field he'd generated.  She glared back still defiant and ready to kill despite 
the mental battering.  The same fire as their Azurite ... his smile slipped as 
he remembered his cousin's hysterical warning.  Had he really said ...?  There
was the faint hum of disruptors followed by the doors opening.  He turned
expecting a new attack to see his cousin stumble in past the smoldering bodies
of the guards.
     Lord Pyrite was still wearing his armour.  The duplicate hadn't but
Calcite had assumed after finding Azurite he'd returned to his quarters to  
change.  The covers were sliding over the disruptors built into the black
crystal shoulderpads.  The guards must have heard the commotion inside and  
tried to deny him entry.  Pyrite was in no mood to be trifled with.  Between
his gauntleted hands he clutched a stasis field.  The figure frozen inside was
faded but still recognisable.  It looked like his cousin had found Azurite
but not the way he'd intended.  Overlord Calcite felt a tremendous numbness
strike him.  Beside him he heard his sister gasp.  It didn't seem possible.
How could Azurite be dead?
     Pyrite was still weeping as he entered, seemingly blind to everything 
except grief.  But he glimpsed the immobilized alternates and cursed with a 
fire Calcite had never witnessed before.  Weapon systems hummed to life and he 
prepared to vaporise the other Pyrite.  Overlord Calcite shook himself out
of the numbness and moved to block his cousin.  "Hold cousin, I share your
grief but I want to know what happened!"  Hopefully he added, "Perhaps this
is the alternate and that's our Azurite."
     For a moment he thought Pyrite might fire through him the way his eyes 
burned gold.  But Pyrite looked away and ground out, "That's the alternate.
She killed ..."  He broke down again and fell to his knees, armour and stasis 
field crashing to the floor.  Titanite looked like she wanted to either cry
herself or try and comfort her cousin but didn't know how.  He gave her a push
in Pyrite's direction and hoped she'd figure it out.  Calcite's heart went out 
to his cousin but he had to be practical first.  If Azurite and Pyrite's
counterparts were here then he had to assume his was as well.  He summoned 
power and spoke, his voice that echoed throughout the entire Citadel.
     "There is an imposter pretending to be me somewhere in the Citadel.  I am
in my throne room, any Overlords encountered elsewhere are fakes.  Kill him!
He has a fraction of my power and any of you can beat him."  This would mean
guards taking shots at him but no one in the Citadel had the ability to harm
him.  He'd lied, his counterpart could cut quite a swath through the guards.
But numbers and weaponry would overwhelm and destroy him.  This was no time
for playing games, he didn't need another distraction right now.  Right now
his cousin needed him.  He felt something tear in his own heart as the loss
began to sink in.  Azurite gone ... he still couldn't accept that.  Maybe he
wouldn't have to, maybe they could restore her.  But right now Pyrite needed
help.  His cousin was clutching the stasis field and crying while his very
uncomfortable looking sister reached out to him.  The Overlord banked his aura 
and knelt down by his cousin giving him a shoulder to cry on.  Titanite made
a decision and joined him.  Unnoticed by the surviving Circle the Senshi and
Renegades struggled in vain to free themselves.
     Overlord Calcite's announcement came at a very bad time for Calcite, 
Venus and Heaven.  Though it turned out to be a worse one for the security
squad.  After scaring the location out of passing youma Calcite had walked his 
"pets" to the central monitoring room.  It had occurred to him after they
left the dungeon that explaining Minako's existence would be a problem.  After
all she was supposed to be dead in this world.  Fortunately either the story 
about pseudo senshi had spread, his counterpart had a well known obsession
with Sailor Aphrodite or no one dared to question the Overlord.  Possibly all
three explanations were true. Rumours were undoubtably spreading but hopefully 
this would all be over with before they reached the wrong ears.
     He had been inquiring about "his" sister's whereabouts with suitably 
lordlike distain while covertly studying a floor plan.  Time was of the 
essence.  He didn't know how long it would take anyone to realize there were 
two Overlords but he wasn't counting on this deception lasting much longer.
If the others were still in here somewhere that was going to accelerate things
because all their counterparts were present.  Right now he was fighting the
urge to scratch at his cheek.  The itch as his healing factor tussled with
his mind over erasing it was getting worse.  Instead he concentrated on 
looking a tad impatient, a man who didn't suffer fools gladly.  He could tell  
the youma present were wondering why he didn't use his own powers to locate
the Princess.  But as that might indicate weakness he wouldn't want exposed
asking could be terminal.  Instead they sought the Princess through the
Citadel's monitors.
     The threesome were quietly praying that they didn't spot a second Calcite
when the Overlord's message blasted through the room.  For a fraction of an 
instant everyone froze.  Then the youma grabbed for their personal weapons and     
turned to face the trio.  The chains were already dissolving, both Calcite and
Minako preparing to defend themselves.  But they never got the chance.
     Haruka exploded into action as a year of pent up hate erupted.  The room
became a slaughterhouse as multi-hued blood sprayed everywhere.  Minako 
watched the carnage aghast while Calcite dared not attract her attention by 
moving.  It was one of the scariest things he'd ever seen in a life far from 
devoid of fearsome sights.  It was over in seconds, the youma never had a 
chance.  Haruka spun around searching for something else to kill.  She almost 
blasted Calcite but either remembered he was an ally or realized Minako was 
standing too close to him.  She let her hands fall and her mask of bestial 
fury was replaced by satisfaction.  Then her face paled and she toppled over.  
The other two vaulted over the wreckage to reach her only to find there wasn't
anything they could do.
      In normal condition she'd have just worked up a sweat and emerged
unscathed.  But she'd been pushing her weakening body past its limits and
its speed couldn't match her intentions.  She hadn't even felt the wounds in
the frenzy but several of the youma had scored hits before they perished.
Add to that she'd used up most of her remaining strength and the outcome was
inevitable.  She managed to gurgle, "Michiru always ... always told me I  
overdid it ..."  She coughed up blood again then managed to say, "I'm dying
... aren't I?"
     "What!  No of course you're not ..."
     "Yes."  Minako's jaw dropped as Calcite cut through her optimism.  "Your
lifeglow's fading fast."  
     "Ah!"  She nodded and slumped back.  Minako hissed savagely in Calcite's
ear, "What the hell are you saying!"
     "The truth, she is dying."
     "Would you shut up!  Even if it's true you never tell them that!"
     "I'm dying not deaf so whispering doesn't work."  Haruka had dredged up
the last of her strength.  She reached up and grabbed Calcite's hand.  "Looks
like I don't get my final showdown after all.  Sorry Michiru ... I tried ..."
Her grip tightened.  "It's down to you two ... damn it ... Swear you'll 
destroy your other self.  I'll be waiting in hell for the first Calcite to 
arrive.  You don't want that to be you!"
     "I'll kill him.  I swear by my life and honour!"  Minako felt a bit  
affronted at Sailor Heaven not asking her to swear an oath.  But Haruka had
known who was a killer and who was a champion.  She'd been both but Venus
wasn't.  She slumped back and chuckled, "I have to trust a youma's honour ..."
The laugh ceased abruptly as something broke inside.  She slumped back no 
longer breathing.  Despite Minako's frantic efforts to revive her she was 
gone.  Calcite didn't bother telling her it was futile.  There was a man he
needed to kill and he had to figure out how.
     Minako dried her eyes and glared at her one time foe.  "You've got a
promise to keep, Calcite!  So how are you going to do that?"
     Calcite glared back.  "Plan B is out, we'll never find the ginzuishou
before someone discovers this mess.  We have to work fast or pray for a
miracle.  And miracles seem in short supply around here."  Fighting off the
urge to keep the argument going he got serious.  "Time to try Plan C!" 
     "Which is?"
     "I'm working on it."
     "If you've got a suggestion I'd love to ..."  Calcite trailed off and
Minako wondered why he was staring at her so intently.  Then he asked, 
"Can you still access your Sailor V costume?"
     "Huh?  Why ask that?"  He was still watching her, "Okay, yes!"
     "This is a real longshot but maybe, just maybe ..."  He tried to think 
of an alternative but nothing came to mind.  Ignoring all that common sense
told him could go wrong he began, "Now here's my plan ..."
     Back in the throne room Lord Pyrite had managed to pull himself together 
enough to tell his cousins what had happened.  He'd stopped weeping and sat
slumped by the stasis field with his headed bowed.  Princess Titanite had 
nearly berserked and the Overlord had been forced to block her from destroying
the alternates.  Not from any wish to preserve them but out of justice.  Their 
deaths belonged to Pyrite.  At least one of them certainly did, the other   
might be salvageable.
     Pyrite's story was simple enough.  He'd been following Azurite when he'd 
encountered sealing wards over the corridor.  His senses indicated Azurite was 
ahead yet he was getting an odd doppler effect.  Concerned he'd used his 
armour to breach the seal.  The youma standing on guard hadn't dared challenge 
him and he had strode up the corridor getting more and more confused as the 
doppler effect worsened.  He'd sensed a death flare had begun then frozen 
while Azurite's trace returned to a single signal but he'd taken no comfort in 
this.  Something felt very wrong.  Finding the combat trashed hall hadn't 
helped his peace of mind.    
     The stasis field over the unidentified body had an odd signature that 
seemed familiar yet he couldn't place.  He would realize why later.  While
aware of his own aura he always filtered it out so it wouldn't get in the way.  
After all did ur-prawn notice water?  But there was something he could 
identify.  Someone had placed a glamour over the body and unless the field
was disrupted sight was the only way to identify the body.  So someone was 
covering up something but who had done it and why?  There could be a hundred 
reasons but he'd felt a terrible foreboding grow.  Fighting his dread he'd
used his true sight to peer through the glamour.  Then screamed.
     Events blurred after that.  He had a vague memory of putting the pieces 
together and calling Calcite.  That and lumbering through the corridors 
carrying Azurite's body.  He might have killed some youma who'd got in the 
way.  It wasn't clear and he didn't really care.  He'd run out of tears 
though grief hadn't abated.  Currently he was hovering somewhere between
sinking into the apathy of despair or exploding in a towering rage.
     "Cousin?"  He realized Calcite was talking to him and raised his head. 
"About these replicas ..."
     "Kill them."  His voice was flat and without emphasis.  "Kill them all."
     "That is the intention but ... perhaps we shouldn't waste that one."
He glanced at the paralysed Azurite hearing the other Pyrite curse and 
struggle futilely against the holding field.  Ignoring him he continued, "If
this is a different aspect of our Azurite then perhaps we can reshape her to
     "To be a second-rate copy of the woman I loved?"  He wiped his eyes then
looked back to the corpse.  "Azure's dead!  We don't get reincarnation so
it's impossible to track her soul down and put it in that body.  If there was 
any chance I'd have already done it.  But her body's already breaking down,
it would already be dust if not for the stasis.  Her soul's already been 
devoured by the Abyss.  She's gone forever ... AND IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT!"
The roar caught everyone off guard as Lord Pyrite surged to his feet and took 
aim at his counterpart.  His armour generated a choice of deaths and held them
waiting.  For a few heartbeats he stood snarling then lowered his hands.
     "No ... not like this.  Not quickly."  He locked eyes with Pyrite.  "I
have never had a taste for torment.  Until today.  You have cost me ... cost
us all someone very special.  I swear that you will suffer for that as no one
has before!"  He glanced at Azurite but looked away swiftly.  "I should treat
you the same but you look too much like her ... cousin, I leave her 
disposition in your hands."
     The Overlord didn't particularly relish that prospect either.  "If that
is truly your wish very well ... but perhaps you need time to think it over."
The Dark Circle would be diminished by her loss and if they could turn his
sister into what she'd become there was no doubt he could reshape this Azurite
to be like theirs.  He could dump her stasis temporarily and announce Lady
Azurite was sick or pregnant which would account for her absence.  Once 
Pyrite's grief had faded he could try and talk him into accepting the  
replacement.  After they were sure the personality rewriting had taken Lady
Azurite would resume her post.  Pyrite would be unlikely to resume their 
relationship for quite some time but time wouldn't touch them.  Eventually 
it seemed inevitable they'd become lovers again.  After all in both universes
they had pairbonded.  It seemed to be destined.  So it would be a shame to
waste her.  The impression was reinforced as Azurite snarled at him.
     "You'd better kill me too.  Because if anything happens to Pyrite I swear 
that no matter what you do to me I'll kill you all!"  The same fire, the same
determination ... she was Azurite.  But how had she become so tragically 
twisted?  The Overlord suspected his counterpart had a lot to answer for.
That thought him very angry.  His mood wasn't improved by the doors to the 
throne room suddenly chilling to near absolute zero then shattering inward.
     Automatically he shielded himself and the others.  Their counterparts in 
the holding fields lucked out as these served to shield them from the
shrapnel.  As for the senshi the razor edged fragments sped by them without
striking anyone.  Possibly another example of their occasionally miraculous 
luck or it might have been a complete coincidence.  Besides were they truly 
lucky they would never get captured in the first place.
     Neither Zeus nor Hermes had any idea how lucky they had been.  Lord 
Pyrite's removal of the guards outside combined with the havoc Sailor Heaven
wrecked in the security department had helped them get so close.
Unfortunately their luck was about to run out.  They blurred inward at top
senshi speed unaware and uninterested in any bystanders.  They were intent on
nothing except killing the Overlord.  Despite knowing his power both were
surprised to suddenly slow in midair.  They immediately tried to raze their 
surroundings but their attacks seemed to be absorbed before they struck 
anything.  In defiance of gravity they were hanging immobile in mid air.  They
ignored this as they continued to throw everything they had against the 
Overlord without effect.  
     Calcite was not amused.  His eyes glowed and he snarled, "This is the
worst possible time to bother me!"  He didn't question how they had survived
nor remember his promise to grant them a merciful death.  Instead he poured
energy into the Senshi that tore through their nervous systems.  Zeus began 
screaming while Hermes clenched her teeth and gasped for air determined not 
to show weakness.  Calcite's eyes narrowed as her attempted stoicism irritated
him.  He wanted to hear them scream and redoubled his efforts.  His sister 
giggled at the spectacle while Pyrite sat down by his dead lover again caring
about nothing else.
     In the ante-chamber of the throne room Margrave listened to the senshi's
screams without sympathy.  She'd been trailing them silently for a while now 
as she tried to sort out what to do.  As she saw it her options were help them
or shoot them in the back and try for a reward from the Circle.  She'd been 
unable to decide which was the more attractive.  The migraine didn't help, it 
felt like her head was splitting in two.  Why she was torn between two courses
of action she couldn't understand.  She was youma, killing Senshi was only
natural.  Yet so was killing Renegades and that raised qualms.  What was wrong
with her.  Youma didn't have scruples, might makes right was the prime rule 
they lived by.  Of course if she really believed that why had she killed
     She was still pondering that.  It had happened in the aftermath of their
lovemaking.  He was content while she felt like she'd assaulted by industrial
machinery.  Part of her mind mocked her for forgetting what it was like to be
a low class youma without a protector.  Another for getting too used to 
Calcite's gentleness.  She'd been through this before many times but after so
many years with Calcite to watch out for her she had forgotten how it felt to 
be prey not predator.  Welcome home Margrave, she had thought bitterly.  It
didn't seem right and yet what could be righter?  The strong preyed on the 
weak, the weak on the weaker.  That's how a hierarchy works.  Plus she'd be 
far better off, this time round there would be humans to prey on.  So it was 
a raw deal for her, that's life.  Dignity was for those who could afford it.
She knew all this but the anger had exploded anyway.  
     She'd acted without thinking.  The catman was stretched out half dozing 
and purring after his exertions.  His guard was down, perhaps it had never 
occurred to him she could be a threat.  Her claws had slashed a line across
his throat then she'd leapt away hurriedly.  He'd awoken with a roar, intent 
on killing her.  She had dodged away as he slashed at her gouging chunks from 
the wall.  He was at least ten times her strength and probably twice as fast.
None of which did him more good with his throat sliced open.  He seemed 
puzzled rather than pained as his strength and speed faded.  He finally 
realized his life was draining away but it was too late for him.  Felinus had
sunk to his knees trying to staunch the flow but it was too little, too late.
He'd looked at her, the anger gone and replaced by confusion.  If he could 
have talked she thought he'd have asked her why.  She couldn't have answered,
she didn't know.
     He had collapsed to the floor and she'd thought simply, "Served the 
bastard right!"  Followed by immediately by a panicky, "What have I done?"
There were reasons you grinned and bore it.  Bastards tended to have allies 
who didn't like it when their partners got sliced up.  She'd killed one of the
Seven!  There were going to be six high youma screaming for her blood!  
Instinct took over and she fled.  She had found herself a corner to hide in 
while she considered her options.  
     Hiding wouldn't work, any half decent mage would be able to do a vision 
from the death flare.  Not to mention tracking the killer.  So she had two 
real options.  The first was do something that would delight the Overlord so
much he'd overlook her little transgression and give her his protection.  The
second ...?  She had just graphically demonstrated that the weak could take
out the strong with the element of surprise.  So maybe the Overlord wasn't 
unbeatable in which case her missing frien... partners were the ones to stick
with.  Except they were who know where so that left option one.  Unfortunately
nothing particularly came to mind.
     She'd been still wrestling with the problem when her luck improved.  
Hermes and Zeus had zoomed by in one hell of a hurry.  Instinctively she'd 
started following them thinking she had a solution as long as they didn't 
spot her.  If they won she was on their side.  If they ran into problems she 
shot them from behind with the gun she'd grabbed from Felinus and claimed a 
reward.  Perfect.  Moving with speed and stealth she'd followed in their wake.
     All of which brought her to here and now.  The senshi had blown it and
it was game over.  So what now?  Trying to decide she moved a little closer.
To see Ti wearing her senshi costume paralysed and helpless.   Everyone was  
there except Calcite.  Looked like the Dark Circle won.  Except with the
Overlord's attention fixed on the senshi ... this might be the only shot she
got.  But why should she stick her neck out?  She was already in deep shit.
In which case she might as well take her shot.  Risk her life for a Renegade?
Only friend you've got!  Why die with her?  Rather be alone, running  and 
victimized the rest of your life?  At least I'd be alive.  For how long?  a
short miserable life is the best you can hope for!  Better than nothing!  
Save her!  Save yourself!  DO SOMETHING!
     The voices in her head reached a crescendo and Margrave acted.  She dived
to Ti's side raising the bazooka sized and shaped weapon as she did so wishing
she'd stolen it from someone more her size.  She blasted the Overlord who 
still hadn't noticed her.
     At least she tried to but nothing happened.  Frantically she fiddled with 
it but nothing happened.  As the muzzle twitched so the Overlord was no longer
in the line of fire it blazed to life.  Triumphant she swung it around only to
see the beam blink out again.  What the hell was going on?  Then she had 
bigger worries as the Overlord and his sister noticed her.  The vicious 
looking Titanite raised her crystal but stopped at a gesture from her brother.
Overlord Calcite was staring at her in wonder.  Margrave allowed herself the
brief hope that she was the counterpart to this Calcite's tragic long lost 
love.  Which vanished as he raised his hand to his cheek and touched his scar.
Margrave had the sudden sickening feeling she knew exactly how he'd got it and
what had happened to the Margrave of this dimension.  As he seemed distracted
she tried to shoot him again. 
     Once more the gun didn't fire.  Somewhat pityingly the Overlord had said,
"You didn't really think we'd let the youma have weapons that would work on 
us?"  She swore as that penetrated.  Not if they could help it!  Probably 
they'd built in a safety lock so none of their mass produced weapons would 
work on someone with their auras.  Then the gun rippled in her hands and 
flowed like liquid around her limbs and body.  She tried to shake it off 
automatically but it wouldn't budge and oozed through her fingers.  Then it 
hardened again leaving her bound in a bodywrapping cage.  Unable to move and 
unable to stay balanced (she'd been whirling around trying to scrap off the 
slime) she crashed to the ground at Ti's feet.
     Figuring that there was no way to weasel out of this one Margrave sighed
then tried to sound nonchalant.  "Hang in there kid, it's all part of the 
plan!"  Boosting Ti's morale was about all that was left she could do.  She'd
definitely made the wrong choice.  Yet the headache and the competing voices
seemed to have faded to a dull roar.  She wondered why.  Then she heard the
Overlord approach.  He smelled curious rather than angry.  Pity, it might have
been better for her if he'd kept tormenting the senshi.
     "I am extremely surprised to see you again.  And to learn you were a
     Margrave bristled, "I resent that, I'm pure youma.  This is just a basic
ambitious underling assassination attempt!"
     "Then it was a pretty poor one.  A child should have known better than to
try turning our own weapons against us."
     "Yeah well, I'm not from around here."
     "Indeed.  I will have to investigate this matter further.  But first I
have to put my house in order and find my own counterpart ..."  He frowned as
running footsteps approached.  Yet another nuisance to swat.  Margrave caught 
a familiar scent and fought to keep the hope off her face.  Which was rapidly
replaced by surprise.
     In blind panic Lord Magnesite tore into the throne room.  He didn't even  
notice he was seeing double just screamed, "SHE'S BACK FROM THE DEAD!"
     Overlord Calcite had just about used up all his patience.  They'd lost
Azurite but they still had this fool?  It seemed very unjust.  "What are you
babbling about?"
VENGEANCE!"  Something had clearly terrified him but what?  Princess Titanite 
sniffed in disdain while her cousin ignored the whole pathetic spectacle.
Anyone who could panic like that was a waste of space.  But he had distracted
them enough that they didn't see the newcomer before she posed in the doorway.
     "The Angel of Light has returned to clean up her unfinished business.
She's slipped out of heaven to take out the trash she left behind.  She's
here once more, the Senshi of love and beauty.  Calcite, once again Sailor A
will punish you!"  Magnesite yelped and sped to cringe behind the Overlord.
For a moment Calcite seemed thunderstruck.  For a moment.  Then he grinned and 
Sailor A suddenly found she couldn't move.  He chuckled as she struggled.
     "Nice try Sailor A ... though I suppose it's Sailor V where you come 
from.  Play on my superstitions and use the opening to take me out.  You've
got smarter.  A pity you didn't know I've got Sailor Aphrodite's soul on ice.
Or that I'm not more like Magnesite."  Behind him he could practically hear 
Magnesite's eyes bug out as he took in the scene.  As he hadn't briefed  
Magnesite yet his confusion at all the doubles was understandable.
     "Wha ... wha ... what the hell ..."
     Amused he turned to his old boss and indulgently said, "Try to show a
little backbone Magnesite.  Even for you this show of blatant cowardice is
..."  His voice trailed off as their eyes locked.  Contact.
     Princess Titanite had been looking forward to watching her brother 
humiliate Magnesite.  She was rather surprised he suddenly found himself at a 
loss for words.  The silence stretched and she had the sudden feeling 
something was wrong.  What was going on.  Could Magnesite be doing something?
Impossible!  He didn't have that kind of power!  And yet ...  
     Pyrite roused himself from his apathy as he registered the silence.  He
frowned at the scene then swore as he focused.  Titanite was about to ask
what he'd seen when the second Magnesite walked in.
     The newcomer was gawking at everything as he tried to assimilate what the
hell was going on.  There was Sailor Polaris and she was still a dead ringer 
for Titanite.  But why were there two Pyrites ... AND WHY WAS HE STANDING 
BEFORE THE OVERLORD?!  Then suddenly it was no longer him but the mystery only
     The glamour blinked out, Calcite could no longer spare the energy to
maintain it.  All his concentration was needed elsewhere.  He had never used
his psychic abilities like this before.  His telepathic abilities were so
limited that he'd never fought a psychic duel.  He hadn't even used a mindlink
in months.  Not since he'd helped Azurite unlock her flame powers.  
     He couldn't just invade minds.  To link with another required a long 
time rapport with them.  The gamble that he was enough like the Overlord to 
be able to link to him seemed ridiculous.  But physical force was hopeless.  
Pyrite had been right, psychic attack was the only thing that might work.
He hadn't told Venus what the odds against this were but there had been 
nothing else to try.  Her distraction got the Overlord off guard and him
close enough to try.  Amazingly he'd somehow managed to establish the link.  
Now he just had to sidestep the other's psi defences.  They were far tougher 
than his own, he just wasn't strong enough to break through them.  His one 
chance was to sidestep them and keep getting deeper.  His one edge here was 
the similarity to his own defences.  The implications of the similarities were 
ignored.  So was the thought that his body was vulnerable in reality.  All 
that mattered was getting inside the Overlord's mind.
     Suddenly he was through the defences!  Later he would wonder if the shock
of Azurite's death combined with the psi bomb weakened them enough to allow
him access.  He didn't have time to wonder or to enjoy his victory.  Two 
similar minds were now meeting without barriers.  Memories exploded through
both brains.
     Back on the physical plain Princess Titanite had grasped enough to take 
action.  Her forcesphere was about to take the new Calcite's head off when 
her cousin seized her arm.
     "LOOK!  THE AURA!"  What the hell was Pyrite babbling about ...?  
Suddenly it all clicked and Titanite saw what he meant.  Her brother's aura 
had spread.  It now lapped around the other Calcite.  It wasn't as thick as 
her brother's but it was there.  Unbidden her cousin added, "Remember the 
aura defends him automatically unless he suppresses it!  If you'd thrown that
missile ..."
     "I could have been torched!  Thanks, only ... we've got to do something!"
     Pyrite smiled for the first time since he'd found Azurite.  "There's no
worry.  That novice can't possibly hold a candle to Calcite.  Anyone who can
learn to do psi wards isn't going to be beaten by a cheap trick like this.
It'll all be over in a few minutes."  He knew everything he had said was true.
So why the disquieting thought that he'd overlooked something.  Beside them
Lord Magnesite tried to figure out what the hell was going on.  He had several
theories but none of them made much sense.
     Unaware of all this Calcite was caught in a flood of memories.  Dimly he 
was aware the Overlord was seeing his but it didn't seem urgent.  So much 
flowed by it was swamping him.  Individual moments stood out but so much of 
the early stuff seemed the same.  That wasn't possible!  The Overlord was an
aberration!  Same name, same face but no other connection.  There was no
similarity, he couldn't have become like him.
     FLASH: Five years old; his arm is broken.  The other youma children 
            taunt him for his weakness in crying.  The rage explodes and they
            run away shrieking as his powers flare.  There's a tremendous
            satisfaction in their fear.
     FLASH: Eight years old; He knows he is different.  Not just his 
            appearance but what he's like inside.  He's learned what that's
            called and what that means.  Two emotions roil within.  Fear of
            discovery and anger at those who would kill him merely for being
     FLASH: Nine years old; His cousin is like him, he can tell by the way 
            Pyrite reacts to his baby sister.  He's not alone anymore.
     FLASH: Eleven years old; His sister is going to be one of them.  With
            hindsight he can see the same signs he showed.  It's rare enough
            that no one can identify them this young.  His mother has handed
            responsibility to raising Ti to him and he's accepted gratefully.
            Despite the love he feels for her and his determination to protect
            her the rage and fear remain.  Fear for her and anger she will
            suffer if discovered.  He will never let that happen.  He plays
            by their rules and fools them all.  Why doesn't he do more than
            that?  Live by their rules and triumph?  He can do anything they
            can and better.  Show them all there's nothing weak about his 
            kind!  <Yes ... I remember.  I thought like that a lot.  But I 
            wouldn't sink to their level>  His prime duty is to survive and
            protect the others!  <Yes, that's what I thought.  But there were
            limits ... weren't there?>
     FLASH: Twelve years old; He's told Pyrite survival is their highest 
            ideal.  Power will help accomplish that and Pyrite has some ideas 
            about using demonology.  His first impulse is to reject them.  Yet 
            something intrigues him.  It will require much study but there
            may be something they can use here.  If they do it this will have 
            to proceed very careful.  Not only are there inherent risks but
            unauthorised summonings are punished severely.  <Pyrite thought 
            about it but rejected it.  Far too risky to mess with demons> 
     FLASH: This is it.  Within the warding circle the minor spirit watches 
            him hungrily.  He steps within and it surges into him laughing 
            over a victim who offers himself for possession.  Its amusement 
            turns to confusion as it fails to find a grip on his mind.  Then 
            to fear as it feels itself seized and its power consumed.  Its 
            voice fading to a shrill peeping as he reaches out to crush its 
     FLASH: The tests are complete, his soul is unchanged and there's no sign
            of mental aberration.  He feels no sympathy to the demon, it was
            worse than any youma.  What concerns him is he has both gained and
            lost.  His powers are increased but he can no longer regenerate.
            Perhaps from using dark mana but why would that matter?  No matter, 
            the increase will compensate.  He is a lot harder to injury so it
            all balances out.
     FLASH: Thirteen years old; His mother has been murdered, his sister is 
            crying.  He must take vengeance or he'll be seen as weak.  He also 
            doesn't like seeing his sister cry and he does retain feelings for 
            his mother.  Those responsible will pay!  The attack must be 
            planned  carefully and executed without mercy.  <That's wrong ... 
            too cold ... I was raging>
     FLASH: His cheek stings from the slash the catgirl cut in it.  What the
            hell was her problem?  He saved her from those thugs so she 
            belonged to him!  Those are the rules, if he can follow them why
            can't the regular youma?  It should be second nature!  Why did she 
            freak like that?  Maybe pushed around one time too many so she hit
            her personal breaking point?  He might feel sympathy if it didn't
            hurt so much.  Her remains are crumbling as he swears from the 
            pain.  A little lower and she'd have opened his throat!  Hell, if 
            she'd been a bit faster she'd have done it!  The thought is 
            sobering.  A low class youma and she nearly killed a superior 
            because he was unprepared.  The thought is chilling yet inspiring.  
            This wound is a sign!  He makes a decision.  He'll let it heal
            naturally and keep the scar as a reminder against carelessness.
            As well as so he'll remember to be sure before he strikes.
     FLASH: Fourteen years old; Azurite is one of them and the Circle is 
            formed.  Should they find others they will add them but that is
            unlikely and they cannot expose themselves to search for them.
            He tells them, "We are different and they would kill us for that.
            We have each other and that is all.  We can rely on no one but
            ourselves but that is more than sufficient.  They are divided 
            while we are united.  That is our strength and why we will win.  
            And win we must for we cannot be safe until we stand over them 
            all.  It will take years but it can be done.  It must be done!  
            Will you follow where I lead?"  Azurite and Pyrite swear they 
            will.  Titanite doesn't, she simply doesn't understand.  She is 
            innocent but they cannot afford that much longer.  Something must 
            be done to strengthen her.  It's for her own good.  She's the only 
            one who hasn't stolen strength from spirits.  Perhaps they can ...

     Things became jumbled as though the Overlord had tried to forget what       
followed.  When the images cleared Titanite had her Princess Titanite  
personality and her brother watched with her shame and regret.  But overriding
it all was the conviction that he'd been right.  If he hadn't been would the  
others have followed him?  Of course not!  He can trust them to tell him if
he goes too far.
     The memories poured on as Calcite tried to wrestle free of their grip.
He couldn't stay here.  He had to find the Overlord's ego and crush it.  
There!  Visualizing the other's mind he flew towards him.  The Overlord tore
free of the mire of his memories and readied to meet him.  Their minds clashed
together.  Searching for weakness, shielding against probes, both trying to 
dominate the other.  The Overlord felt himself hardpressed.  He could have
won easily if not weakened by everything else that had happened.  Instead he
was losing ground!  He snarled in defiance.   He would not lose!  He couldn't
afford to lose.  They depended on him!  Recklessly he drew strength from 
elsewhere in his mind throwing everything he had into the psychic battle.  
Things he had always focussed on slipped from his attention.  Deep inside 
his subconscious something watched its bars fading and waited.  It watched 
the two minds battling and licked its metaphorical lips.  Patience, it had 
to wait until the way was clear and both were unable to see it coming.  Any 
second ... NOW!  The black cloud of hate roared forth to envelope both 
     The first anyone knew what had happened was when the Calcites suddenly 
broke eye contact.  Despite which the aura still surrounded both figures.
Neither seemed interested in continuing the fight on the physical plane.  
Instead both seemed more interested in staring at their hands then flexing
their fingers.  Both smiled in unison as Calcite turned then stepped back to
stand beside Overlord Calcite.  They suddenly laughed in unison, their 
movements synchronized.  Lord Pyrite had a sudden sinking feeling he knew 
what was happening.  If Calcite used all his psi abilities in the mental 
battle then there was nothing to restrain ....
     Beside him Titanite called, "Brother?"  While Polaris shouted, "Cal?  Are
you all right?"
     Still wearing that same fixed smile Calcite answered, "We are fine ..."
     The Overlord continued, "We have waited for this day ..."
     "... For a very long time."  The conversation passed between the Calcites
without a pause.  The scarred Calcite resumed with, "We are not Calcite ..."
     Both nodded in unison, "We are Metallia!"
     "And at long last ..."
     "We ... I am free!"  
     "Bow before me little ones!"
     "For the one true Goddess has returned!"
     Princess Titanite grabbed her cousin's arm, "What in the Abyss is 
     Sounding calm he replied, "I believe the excretory material has impacted
the rotating blades."
     She took a moment to work this out then said in a small voice, "Oh!  
That's what I was afraid of!"

End of part 9


     If you think I pulled Calcite's psychic abilities out of nowhere go
reread "Bad Moon Rising" the second DKR story.  They're fully detailed so 
everything you just read was foreshadowed.   
     Walter "D.R." Dobbs and Ernest Erroll Quinch stolen from Alan Moore and 
Alan Davis's "DR and Quinch" strips about two funloving, heavily armed 
and sociopathic alien college students.  Specifically the "Mind The Oranges
Marlon" episode of "DR & Quinch go to Hollywood" during which they 
accidentally crush a major film star.  It initially appeared in Fleetway's
2000 AD comic (Which seemed a futuristic title back in '77 but is now looking
a little dated) but it's been reprinted several times.  
     As for the references to a California wizard you'll have to wait for the
E.M. Lurker to write, "An American Wizard in Queen Beryl's Court".  All of us
at SME like what we've seen so far.

Next: At long last the final episode.

Part 10 : Darkness Falls

On to part 10
Back to part 8

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