Sailor Moon Expanded : The Next Generation presents
Version 2.0 by Mark Latus

Part 8 : Sailor Power, Make Up! 4 Weeks Later ... It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... well perhaps not but there were quite a few people living in interesting times. Sylvite was still finding it unusual, if pleasant, to be able to enter school unopposed. The unexpected consequence of her date with Alan had been her challengers jumping to a very erroneous conclusion. Convinced that Alan had defeated her in combat, thereby winning her love, the more martially inclined of her suitors had rededicated themselves to redirecting that love by showing they were the better choice. Namely by defeating Alan in single or group combat. Their challenges had ranged from prearranged contests to sneak attacks. The outcome had been the same in all cases but as Alan was always careful to use minimal force and inflict only temporarily disabling injuries they kept coming back. Alan had been rather amused by this as the gulf in skills meant that none of the contenders qualified as a serious challenge. He was also happy to learn Sylvite was grateful for the cessation of the early morning nuisance the fights had caused her. Another step on the path to winning her love. Things were going his way slowly but surely, when she told him to bug off it no longer sounded as though she really meant it. From Alan's point of view life was good, even with idiots attempting to ambush him on a daily basis. Besides their numbers had begun declining. There were reasons for the decreasing numbers of Alan's attackers. Several of the challengers had been forced to either give up the contest or limited in their choice of battlegrounds. While Alan had never considered legal action against his challengers some of the more overzealous ones had been arrested during the aftermath by campus security. An understandable consequence (though they always seemed surprised) of attacking him while he was on the university grounds. Alan might be willing to ignore the matter but the CTU authorities had a different opinion. They took a dim view of attempted assault on campus grounds against any of their students, no matter how futile. Besides the disruptions were annoying. The lucky ones got misdemeanour citations (temporary magics that would socially embarrass them should they set foot on campus before the parole period ended) and booted off university grounds. The really unlucky ones (those who had caused the most ruckus) got to meet Sailor Mercury. During these meetings she was invariably polite and always sounded as if she spoke more in sorrow than anger. Nevertheless they all emerged from these talks shaking in quiet terror. Absolutely convinced that the next time they caused trouble at her university she'd reduce their body temperature by 200 degrees. For her part Mara wouldn't have been surprised to see Luke joining the challengers. While there hadn't been anything as shocking as that first date Sylvite seemed a lot more at ease around Alan. Her requests for him to go away had lost their old fire. In fact Luke was developing something of an obsession when it came to Alan. This had given Mara a new way to tweak her brother. All she had to do was mention Alan's name and he'd start to seethe. However she suspected Luke wouldn't be taking on Alan anytime soon. Not because of the very strong possibility of losing but more because of how things would appear to Sylvite. He'd be simultaneously telling both her that he was in love with her and considered her a prize to be won. While he couldn't articulate the former but wanted to let her know how he felt the second part was absolutely the last message he wanted to send. At least Luke had been able to content himself with getting to spend more time with Sylvite of late. With her friendship with Kodachi on the rocks she'd been hanging around with him and his sisters more than usual. The split between the two senshi wannabes was common knowledge, it would have been hard to miss the way they were acting. Not that they were fighting or acting at all hostile to one another. Instead they just quietly avoided noticing each other. Of course everyone in school knew the reason why the longtime best friends had broken up. It was over Alan. Once Sylvite had fallen for her despised big brother naturally Kodachi had lost it. At least that was the majority view, those who knew them better didn't buy it. Mara considered it a blow to her reputation as the school's font of all wisdom that she'd been unable to learn what was really behind it. Sylvite refused to talk about it to either her, Luke or Leia. She'd have even less luck getting answers from Kodachi, these days they never saw her outside of class. Kodachi's abrupt absence from all after school activities had initially caused some rumours. Especially when it was learned her mother was the one who was behind it. Kodachi had refused to discuss the matter and school authorities weren't about to stand in the way of a Sailor Senshi. Speculation had grown until word came leaked from somewhere about Kodachi's adoption of the Sailor V identity. Suddenly it was all clear. Of all her daughters Kodachi was the one Sailor Venus had selected to assume her original costumed role. Naturally she was intensely training the girl to the exacting standards being the new Sailor V would require. Had this view been known in the Palace it would have caused a lot of hilarity among those had known Minako way back when. Though not in front of her as Minako was a bit touchy these days. The reason for this was known only to a select few but everyone who worked with her had noticed something was wrong. Nobody knew what but the Protocol Office had quietly rescheduled a few planned goodwill visits for fear of unintentionally provoking diplomatic incidents. Minako still presented her usual appearance of cheerful determination to the world but under closer scrutiny there was a definite brittle edge to it. While she acted blithely unconcerned around those who knew the whole story it was a different matter in private. Of late when it was just two of them Minako had been crying on Calcite's shoulder over their daughter's stubbornness (which was all his fault anyway), the lack of sympathy from her friends to her efforts, and his damned acceptance of this whole mess. Calcite would just hold her and let her get it out of her system. He saw this as a good sign, Minako's enthusiastic frenzy had peaked. Having failed to achieve immediate success she would soon adopt a more low key approach and wait for Kodachi to see the light. Secure in the knowledge that time would make their daughter see the error of her ways. Eventually if (as he rather expected) Kodachi's interests didn't change she would come to accept it. A few years after that she wouldn't remember it ever being an issue unless reminded. Time healed and that was one thing they didn't lack. Much as she might dislike it Kodachi had settled into her new routine of school followed by a boy watching/chasing excursion controlled by her mother. It wasn't as if it had been totally unpleasant, she'd seen a lot more of the world and gained several new wardrobes as her mother kept outfitting her for their varied trips. Today was no exception and after school she found herself trying on clothes for tonight's excursion. At least this time they were staying in Japan so she didn't have to worry about time differences. Nothing too fancy as it was an idol concert tonight, just upscale versions of what the other kids would be wearing. Having never heard anything by the group Kodachi was wondering if they were any good. She shrugged, she'd find out soon enough. Right now her main worry was assembling a good outfit. Noticing Kodachi's enthusiasm Minako congratulated herself on a brilliant change in strategy. She'd overreacted by pushing Ko-chan towards the studly type forgetting how she'd been as a teenager. While she had always fallen for hunks she'd also been attracted to good looking androgynous guys. That was the right way to do this, get Ko-chan hooked on the effeminate type and work from there. Tonight's group, "Bronze" fit the bill perfectly. All of them answered to that description, from the gossip sheets several, if not all, were heterosexual and the majority of their fans were young and female. She was counting on Kodachi getting caught up in the enthusiasm of the girls around her. This time it was going to work. One possible way it could backfire had occurred to her so she had checked with Rei. Who had rolled her eyes and told her that there was no evidence of alien gender shifting senshi anywhere on earth, let alone another three of them running singing careers. After a few reminiscences about the Three Lights, if their music had been any good with hindsight and if a thousand year long idol singing career really qualified one as an expert Minako had arranged for tickets. She wasn't going to think negative thoughts about this plan. She even managed to ignore Rei's jib about it being too bad if Kodachi fell for one of the other girl's attending. However that had reminded her there was some unfinished business her daughter needed to take care of so she'd made a few calls. Now as they emerged from the store she decided it was time to tell Ko-chan what she'd arranged. Though on second thoughts they should get something to eat first. Kodachi was a little surprised when her mother picked up take-out chicken and lead the way into a nearby park. As it was a few hours until the show she'd rather expected they'd snack at home while her mother spent the evening making her look beautiful. Which, protest as she might, she actually found an enjoyable contrast to her normal cute appearance. Though it was a bit wasted as she had no one to be beautiful for. Finishing her chicken wiped her hands then waved the nearest collector droid over. It stuck around after she dumped her garbage, it must have been able to tell Mom was almost finished. Sure enough a few moments later she had ditched the bones and packaging then dismissed the droid. It hummed off to dump its load and Minako began gathering up their purchases. Getting ready to follow Kodachi asked, "So where do we go from here?" "I am going home. You'll join me there a bit later in plenty of time to get changed and ready for the concert. But first you have an appointment right here to keep." "I do?" Kodachi was more than a little mystified by this development. Her mother nodded. "Sylvite's going to be here in ten minutes." "WHAT!" "Well, eleven minutes, fifteen seconds according to my watch but ..." "MOTHER! What have you done this time?" Unruffled, Minako told her, "I called Azurite this morning and we agreed it's past time you two sorted things out. It's been a month and that's long enough. There's no need to let this drag on any further." "But ..." "Ko-chan, just listen a moment." Minako took a moment to calm herself and began, "Kodachi ... while I don't like it I can't avoid the possibility that you won't change. If so I'll have to learn to accept that." Kodachi blinked, uncertain if she'd really heard that. "But you have to accept that Sylvite doesn't love you except as a friend. That's all she can ever be to you and that'll have to be enough." Kodachi slumped back on the bench and stared at the ground. She was silent for a while before speaking very softly. "I guess ... I guess I already knew that. I just didn't want to face it." She sighed and raised a hand to her eyes, they were damp but there were no actual tears. "It's not fair." Minako gave a sad smile and hugged her daughter. "It isn't, is it? If you love someone then it's only right that they should love you. But it doesn't always work like that. Believe me, I know. I went through plenty of one-sided love affairs in my time." They sat like that for a while then Minako released her and got to her feet. Picking up the bags again she asked, "So are you going to stay here and talk to her?" "I ... yeah. I'll be here if she shows up." Minako nodded. "Good." After a moment she added, "Senshi have to able to stand their ground when things get tough and face things most people would run from. You're definitely my daughter, you've got the right stuff to be a senshi." "Thanks Mom ... Mom?" Minako paused on the verge of turning to go. "What is it, Ko-chan." "Mom, I've said a few things to you lately that I didn't really mean ... I still love you, it's just that you're kinda irritating me these days." Minako chuckled, "Funny, I was thinking the same thing. I'll be going ... and remember the show starts at nine." Kodachi blinked. "You didn't think you were getting off the hook that easily, did you?" "MOTHER!" Minako smirked and walked off leaving Kodachi muttering vague statements about how she should have known and expected this from her. She was still doing it two minutes later when Sylvite materialized by the pond and spotted her. After a brief hesitation she began to wander over. There wasn't a mirror handy but Kodachi would have bet she looked as ill at ease as Sylvite. She wasn't any more relaxed by the time her former friend joined her. For a while the two just stared at one another in an awkward silence until Kodachi ventured, "So ... how have you been?" "Fine, fine ... you?" "Can't complain." "Ah." The silence resumed as both tried to think of what to say without causing trouble. Until Kodachi bit her lip then threw up her hands, "Oh, this is stupid. We've known each other basically since we were born and we're standing here like two total strangers meeting for some sort of blind date ... oh crap! I didn't mean this is like a date! I meant uhm ..." Kodachi mentally berated herself, why did she say things without thinking them through? She'd just blown it yet again. "It's okay, I know what you mean." Kodachi realized Sylvite didn't look offended, instead she had a faint smile. "You're right, it's idiotic to act like this and there's a lot I want to say." She took a deep breath, hesitated then shook her head and began, "First of all I should apologise for blowing up at you the way I did. I really overreacted. It's just ... there's so many guys who claim they just want to be friends when they really want is me. So when you suddenly declared you were in love with me I sort of lost it." "I can ... sort of see why you were so worked up. It's not like I ever hinted how I felt ... heck, I only just figured it out myself. Sort of a lot to dump on you at once." "Yeah ... Yeah, it was." A pause. "When did ... no, that doesn't matter." Sylvite hesitated as she tried to pick the right words. "Kodi ... we were friends for years and I miss you but ... but that's as much as far as it goes. I'm sorry but what you want I can't ... I mean ..." "I know ... I don't like it but I understand. It still hurts ... but broken hearts heal, I guess. Or so everyone says." "I've heard that ... I guess it's true. Your dad and my parents were in this love triangle and everything worked out all right in the end." "You're kidding?!" For the first time since they'd met Kodachi brightened up. "I swear, Mom told me and Dad confirmed it." "Wow! I've gotta ask Dad about that ... preferably when Mom's nearby. Could get interesting!" They both giggled with an easy familiarity which trailed off as they looked at one other. Softly Kodachi added, "I've missed you too." Before things could degenerate into another awkward silence Sylvite spoke up. "Look Kodi I know things can't really go back to the way they were, it'll always be a bit different but ... would you settle for being my friend?" Kodachi nodded almost immediately. "I'd like that ..." She grinned, "Besides if we team up again we were can tell Aunt Ti we're ready to resume training. Not only was that a lot of fun, it'll give me a great excuse to get out of some of Mom's crackpot excursions!" "Huh?" "Long story. I'll give you the lowdown in exchange for that story about Dad and your Mom." "Deal!" "Alright. So Sailor V and Sailor Arcturus are back in town!" "That reminds me, Mom redesigned my costume. No more heels so I won't fall over so much." "That'll be a change." "Excuse me Ms. Barber." "Hey, who helped me do it? Besides accidents happen!" Sylvite giggled. "Tell Aunt Ti that." "I'd rather just tell her we're ready to pick up where we were left off. So what do you say, partner?" Without hesitation Sylvite took Kodachi's hand and the two girls solemnly shook hands. That lasted until the handshake ended and Kodachi grinned at Sylvite. "Congratulations, you didn't flinch." Sylvite grinned back, "I'm a youma, we're tough." "I can believe it, I've seen what dad eats. If it doesn't scream you guys won't swallow it." They both laughed and felt the last of the tension fade. Still Sylvite hesitated a moment before asking, "If I'm prying just tell me it's none of my business but the way your Mom's been acting I've been wondering what's going on and ... well, how are your parents dealing with ... everything?" "Dad's no problem, he explained a few things about the Dark Kingdom that rather surprised me. I guess having two of the five immortals who ruled for centuries gay forced the youma to develop a culture of tolerance. Well that and the fact everyone looked different so they had to get used to variation. According to Dad physical and sexual differences were irrelevant, what they hated and punished was mental variation." Sylvite nodded. "Mom said something similar. So Uncle Cal is cool with it, that's good. But how about ...?" Kodachi sighed. "Mom is ... she thinks I'm going through a phase and she's doing her best to break me out of it." She shuddered. "I swear if she drags me off to one more beach or bodybuilding contest I'm gonna lose it ..." "Ah ... uh, couldn't Uncle Cal do something?" Kodachi shook her head. "According to Dad when Mom goes into one of these manic phases she's unstoppable. All you can do is batten down the hatches and ride out the storm until it uses up all its energy." "Really?" "Well I get the feeling Dad might be able to stop her but it would cause a rift between them so he'd rather not. He's promised me I'm past the worst of it and that if I just hold on a little longer Mom will give up trying to force me to like boys and settle down to wait for me to grow out of liking girls. Eventually she'll come to accept the way I am." Sylvite frowned, "I'm a bit surprised to find her so ... close minded." Kodachi pondered this a moment before shaking her head. "She isn't ... not exactly. See if I was anyone else's kid there wouldn't be a problem. But I'm an Aino and she's got definite idea of what behaviour she expects from her daughters. I guess after a thousand years and twenty-three daughters that's sorta inevitable. It's not exactly like she's rejecting me, more like she's ... kinda disappointed." "Sorry." Kodachi shrugged, "Immortals tend to get set in their ways." Then she seemed to brighten up, "Besides like she tells everyone she's the Senshi of Love. She'll come around sooner or later. I'm sure of it, more than ever." "I hope so for your sake." "That makes two of us." After that talk turned to older parental weirdness as Sylvite recounted the tale of the triangle that had ensnared her mother and their fathers. From there they switched to discussing more minor matters as each caught the other up on the local gossip about them. Nothing profound but it restored a sense of equilibrium. Things had changed between them but they remained friends and there were no more secrets to cause problems between them. Sylvite could see traces of pain in Kodachi's eyes but it wasn't threatening to overwhelm her. At length Kodachi glanced at her watch and realized if she didn't get home her mother would come looking for her. Not wanting to inflict that on Sylvite she explained she had to leave. She turned down Sylvite's offer of transport and the other girl nodded. "Okay, think I'll stay a while." She gestured upward, "Do a little star gazing and think over a few things." Kodachi smiled. "You think too much. Keep it up and you'll wind up brooding all the time." Sylvite shrugged. "Maybe. But you're the exact opposite. You charge into situations without any clear idea what you'll do once you get there. Sure you can just wing it." Kodachi grinned and nodded. Thoughtfully Sylvite added, "Maybe you're a lot more like your mother than either of you realize." For a moment Kodachi just stared at her then burst out laughing. The laughter ended and she asked, "See you tomorrow?" "You got it, partner." Feeling a lot less broken hearted than she had expected Kodachi headed for home. A short distance away she turned back and saw Sylvite sprawled on a bench staring up at the sky. She hesitated and thought about going back but shook off the idea. While it looked like Sylvite needed someone to talk to she didn't fit the bill. It wasn't her Sylvite needed right now. She knew what she had to do and resolved to look for a phone. Sylvite studied the stars and murmured, "The stars know everything, all answers can be found among them ... who said that anyway?" Whoever it had been she wasn't seeing any. She sighed and closed her eyes, her thoughts whirling. She wondered about Kodi and how things would work out for her. She also wondered about herself. One thing she had learned from this was she wasn't interested in girls. Of course since she didn't like boys either that kind of limited the possibilities. Which lead her to thinking about Alan, the man everyone at school was convinced was her a boyfriend. She sighed, trying to remember how that thing about weaving tangled webs of deceit went. Then chuckled, it seemed just thinking about Alan brought on attacks of quotation. Sylvite lost track of time as she stared into the night sky. She wasn't sure how long it was before she heard footsteps approaching. Despite the darkness and being alone in the park it didn't occur to her to be worried. Even without her powers this was Crystal Tokyo. Without looking she called, "I'm really not in the mood for any nonsense, Alan." "Uh ... sorry if I'm bothering you but ..." Her eye's snapped open, the voice was very familiar but not Alan's. "Luke? what are you doing here?" The only boy she considered a buddy looked a little uneasy. "Well, Kodachi called my place and said she thought you might need to talk to someone." Sylvite blinked. "You came here all the way from your place? Did you get one your older sisters to teleport you." "Uh, actually I was already in town. I was over at the library doing a special school project with Mara." Sylvite felt a new worry. "I never heard about any special projects! When's it due?" "Relax, it's just me and Mara." He sighed, "See we were got into another fight at school so the teacher decided to make us work together to promote cooperation." He hoped she wouldn't ask what caused it and got his wish. "Oh ... is it working?" "Not noticeably. Anyway Leia was home so she figured one of us was best placed to talk to you. So she paged us and I took the call. I figured if you needed someone to talk to you'd be better talking to me than my ill tempered, mercenary and uncontrollably violent brat of a sister." Sylvite was about to protest the characterization when she noticed Luke was signing for silence and listening intently. All she heard was the wind. Luke looked relieved and answered her unasked question. "Sorry, but I was afraid Mara might have followed me when I sneaked away from the library so I thought I'd try and flush her out." Sylvite frowned, "That sounds kind of paranoid." "Believe me around Mara you can't get too paranoid. But it looks all clear." Some distance away Mara seethed silently and mentally muttered, "Don't blow it! Don't blow it!", over and over again. Trying to keep her temper under control she started setting up her camera next to the long range mike. Meanwhile Sylvite straightened up a bit and gestured for Luke to join her on the bench. He sat down a little awkwardly and asked, "So what exactly is going on? Kodachi didn't tell Leia but we've all noticed you two haven't been hanging around the way you used to. Actually you've been actively avoiding each other far as we were can tell." "You're right." "So what happened? Was there some argument and you need a go-between to straighten things out?" Sylvite sighed. "It's a long story. Do you have a while?" "Sure, I was nearly done that project anyway. Besides what are friends for?" "Okay you asked for it." With that Sylvite began recounting the story to Luke and (though neither knew it) to Mara. It took some time and there was a break in the middle to get some soda from a nearby vending machine. At last she finished and looked to Luke for his reaction. "Wow." After a pause he added, "I don't know how I'd handle it if some boy suddenly declared himself in love with me. But it's okay now?" "Well it won't be quite the same as it was before but I think we've patched things up. Though I guess I won't feel totally at ease until I'm sure she's really over her crush on me." "How'll you know that?" "I guess when she finds a girlfriend. Though that won't happen any time soon." "Why ever not?" "Because while Kodi's kind of exasperated with her mother she knows Aunt Mina's having a tough enough time as it is dealing with this without making her blow a gasket. So publicly for the next little while I'll bet Kodi keeps her interests ... what's that phrase?" "In the closet?" "Right." Sylvite turned introspective briefly then sighed and said, "This whole thing got me thinking. I'm at the age when everyone expects me to look for someone and it'll only get worse as I get older. I can say without fear of contradiction I'm now sure I've not interested in girls that way. But all the boys who come after me are these stupid macho jerks who think they can win me through combat. Or weasels looking to take advantage of me. It's depressing. I keep thinking despite all my old protests that it'd never happen I might wind up Alan's girlfriend. Everyone thinks I already am, I've gotten used to him, and it'll take the pressure off. Besides I do kind of like him. Of course he still feels more like a big brother or something but I guess I can learn to live with that." "You're not serious!" "Not in the immediate future but if things stay as they are then what's the alternative?" She didn't notice Luke pale as she was staring at the sky while brooding on the unfairness of it all. Then chiding herself for forgetting about Luke she asked, "What about you? I haven't heard about you having a girlfriend." "I don't." For some reason she felt a little relieved. Still she asked, "Well is there some girl you like?" There was a length pause. At last Luke said simply, "Yes." Sylvite felt a pang and wondered who it was. She guessed from the answer that Luke's shyness would keep him from identifying her but maybe she could figure it out. "So what's she like." Luke swallowed and began, "Well she's clever and cheerful, kind, looks out for her friends, fun to be around ..." Sylvite cut in, "Is she pretty?" "Yes ... beautiful really ... at least I think so." Sylvite still didn't know who it was but whoever it was she disliked her for some reason. "So what about her bad points?" Luke looked very hesitant to answer. "Come on, everyone's got some or is she some sort of paragon?" Very reluctantly Luke said, "Well ... she can be kind of stubborn about things, once she's made a decision it takes a lot to make her change her mind." Sylvite nodded. "Good, what else?" "Well she can make these sweeping generalisations about how everyone's like this or that." "I hate people who do that. Anything else?" "That's about it really." Sylvite felt disappointed, she had hoped for something much worse. Feeling an odd disquiet she asked, "So what does she think about you?" "I ... I don't she's ever thought of me as boyfriend material." "Oh. Uhm, but you don't know?" "I ... I haven't told her yet." Sylvite felt confused. She should tell Luke to go talk to this girl but she felt oddly reluctant to do so. It must be the thought that they'd have less time to hang around once he had a girlfriend. So instead she asked, "Why not?" "I ... uhm ... I ... that is ... uhh ..." "You're not ready yet or you don't think she's ready to hear it?" "Both." Luke looked glad to have a way out and Sylvite decided to let the subject drop. "Well I guess Mara must be wondering where you got to by now." Luke blinked and checked his watch. "Oh no, the library's just closed!" Sylvite felt a wave of guilt, "Oh geez and I'm sorta responsible for dragging you out here." "That's okay. I copied my half of the research while I was doing it so Mara can't accidentally lose it all. We'll just pull an all nighter at home to put everything together." "I still feel sort of responsible. Want me to teleport you home?" Luke shook his head. "It'll take Mara a while to get back by transit so there's no hurry. Meanwhile it's a nice night and I'm feeling a little hungry. Want to join me for a burger?" "Love to." Luke got up and extended a hand to Sylvite. She took and rose from the bench. For a moment they stood there holding hands then both blushed and released their grip. Looking a little embarrassed though (far as they knew) no one watched them they headed down the path side by side but taking care to keep a little distance between them. In the bushes Mara shook her head and muttered, "Gutless wimp! He had a perfect opportunity to tell her he loved her and her blew it!" Mara nearly jumped out of her skin when a quiet voice behind her commented, "His judgement may be better than you think." She whirled around trying to remember the correct defensive posture. "Who's there! Oh, it's you, I might of known." Alan gave her a slight bow, "Indeed it is and I see you yet have much to learn from my elder brother." Irritated Mara demanded, "What are you doing here?" "I was curious who would spy upon my beloved and your brother." "Hah! You're one to talk!" Alan raised an eyebrow. "I merely chanced to be in the neighbourhood." "Yeah, right. Funny how you always happen to be around when Sylvite's in the vicinity." "Think what you like, it does not diminish me in the slightest." Her anger cooling Mara asked, "So what did you mean about Luke maybe having good judgement?" "Simply that after that unfortunate affair with my sister the last thing fair Sylvite needs is another old friend declaring his love. The timing would have been most unfortunate." More thoughtfully he added, "I was unaware of your brother's feelings until you mentioned them but that does explain the mystery of the dartboard." Mara waited for him to explain that but Alan seemed to have said his piece. She decided to try needling him. "Looks like you didn't cut the competition down as much as you hoped." Alan sniffed dismissively, "If your brother cannot voice his feelings then he is no obstacle to the course of true love. Besides he is naught but a friend to Sylvite and t'would seem he will never dare tell her otherwise. As for my sister she was never a serious contender for Sylvite's hand." Mara frowned, "Then why expose ...?" "Because secrets like that can fester and poison a friendship. The longer it went on the more difficult to reconcile and it would hurt Sylvite greatly to lose her best friend over such a foolish passion. Now my sister is free from her obsession and can find a more suitable love while Sylvite is spared needless hurt by the matter being nipped in the bud. At this stage it was simple to salvage their friendship so the split endured a mere handful of weeks. Which was as good a resolution as one could hope to achieve." Mara frowned. "That almost sounds noble. It also almost sounds like you care about Kodachi's welfare." "Interpret it however you like. For now I will bid you a good night." With that Alan stepped backwards and vanished into the shadow. Mara tried but failed to spot him. Yes, she definitely had a lot left to learn from Dasiuke. In the meantime she should dismantle her equipment, head home and act outraged that Luke had ducked out on her when he showed up. As she packed her surveillance equipment away she reflected that this had been a most worthwhile excursion. She had a recording of Sylvite telling Kodachi's big secret that would be useful blackmail if Kodachi wanted to keep it under wraps a while longer. She grinned as she thought that she could also just show it to her older sister Artoo and see what kind of trouble that caused. Money or trouble, which would she rather raise? She'd definitely have to think about it. But that could wait until tomorrow, there was no hurry. Knowing everyone the way she did she would bet things would stay stable for the next little while. So there was no rush to do anything. In her opinion that was why so many people screwed up. Too much haste, not enough thought. It was a mistake to use information unwisely. Information was power, it told you where to find people's strings and how to pull them. Not that she manipulated people as much as those who knew her assumed but she preferred to be able to just in case. It gave one a definite advantage in life and with advantage came attitude. You had to guard your attitude, in Crystal Tokyo rough edges got ground off if you didn't watch yourself. Look at Margrave, centuries of self indulgence and she develops a heart of gold. If it could happen to her it could happen to anyone. A scary thought. Mara knew she was exaggerating but that was just her style. In her opinion Crystal Tokyo needed a few more cynics just to keep things balanced. She loved the city and would hate to see anything happen to it. With that her thoughts turned to more mundane matters and she began the trudge to catch a ride home. She wondered if Alan was right and Luke would never be able to tell Sylvite how he felt. She grinned, just like her brother to fall for the only girl in town who couldn't figure it out for herself. Maybe she could try playing matchmaker, that might be fun. It was something to consider, but for now she'd just watch and wait. One thing she was absolutely certain of was that even in an city of immortals life was never in stasis. Things were always changing. Which was what made it so interesting. Humming a tune from an ancient musical her mother had helped revive Mara continued on her way. There was an even older Chinese curse which translated simply as, "May you live in interesting times". Recent events certainly qualified but Mara had never been able to understand why that qualified as a curse. After all, who would really want to live in dull times? She'd take all the excitement she could get. That was what made life worth living. End Afterword Stories can change quite a bit between the original conception and the written version. For example I originally came up with the concept for "Version 2.0" back in July of 1996. This was shortly after Andy Combs had proposed combining his "Rabbit Test" and my "Refugees" into a single universe. It didn't have an official name back then. It wasn't until later, after Frank Barr, Doug Helm and Sam Ashley joined that Andy would coin the title, Sailor Moon Expanded. Anyway with a defined future ahead I started trying to come up with stories set in Crystal Tokyo and came up with two ideas. The first, "The Babe Wore Blue" would eventually be written more or less as I had conceived it. However as for "Version 2.0" here's the original proposal: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Version 2.0" Main characters - Ti/Polaris, Princess Usagi/Sailor Moon, Sylvite(born at end of "Descendants", daughter of Azurite and Pyrite)/Sailor Arcturus. Synopsis: 14-15 years after "Descendants" Princess Usagi is bored, there's no evil to fight in CT. So with her sidekick Sailor Arcturus (mark II) she steals a time machine and heads back to the 20th century. Problem one, Titanite is caught in the vortex. Problem two, they've gone sideways in time and arrived in the DiC universe. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ In short the idea was they'd wind up running around the English dubbed SM universe worrying about changing history and afraid it had already happened as everyone in the 20th century had different names. Also since at the time I wrote that it didn't look likely DiC would complete the R series I could give my own weird spin on a wrap up. For a number of reasons it wouldn't work and I largely abandoned it. But somewhere in there was the seed of an idea, Sylvite the second Sailor Arcturus. I wondered if the Senshi had kids who grew up wanting to emulate their mothers and things grew from there. Originally it was going to be a short, light piece about a pair of powerful though inept senshi wannabes climaxing in the malleting scene in part three. But I couldn't leave well enough alone and kept adding stuff. Including Becky Malsin's triplets, Luke, Leia and Mara who helped flesh things out. Speaking of Becky you'll see more of the Version 2.0 cast in her "Things Always Come In Threes" which picks up on events in Crystal Tokyo a few months later. There may also be a sidestory by Berk Watkins covering Sylvite and Kodachi's training after Ti decides to have Chrysolite give her a hand. As for me it's time to get on with other projects so it'll be awhile before I come back to the Crystal Tokyo Bratpack. Sooner or later I'm bound to but emphasis is on the later. Thanks to everyone on the SME list and Austin Loomis for feedback and filling in the blanks but it's time to say, "That's All Folks!" Mark
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