There were three homemade banners strung above the table, each in a
different language. The first was in kanji, the second in English (supposedly
the native language of those present) while the third was a pictographic
script almost unknown on Earth. The only five people in the world who could
read it were gathered in this room. All three said the same thing, "Celebrating
two years free from the Dark Kingdom", and were written in the same
The table was almost a literal groaning board under the weight of the packed buffet. To say it was excessive for a party consisting of five people was to radically understate the case. Azurite tried to work out how long it had taken Titanite to prepare this bounty.
"You're going to be eating leftovers for a month."
Calcite seemed resigned to it. "At least. Just how much room do you have in your fridge?"
"Why do I suddenly have the funny feeling I'm leaving here with a garbage bag full of food? Seriously what the hell's got into her. Last year she didn't do anything this excessive?" She nodded towards Pyrite. "Maybe we don't live here anymore but it's not like you never see us!" Pyrite didn't notice her nod being deep in conversation with Margrave. This might have worried her had she not overheard the names Picard and Kirk and caught enough to know they were debating which had been the best captain. Probably just learned treklore so she'd have some way to catch his attention and get me worked up. Nice try. Something alarming suddenly occurred to her.
"Ti didn't do anything crazy like invite the Senshi?" Shit, that was just the sort of thing she might do. She glanced over to the entertainment centre where Titanite was fiddling with the karioke machine. She looked frustrated for a moment then was suddenly holding a medium sized mallet. Calcite winced as his sister pounded it three times against the casing with a determined expression then beamed as the indicators blinked on. She dropped the mallet and it faded as it fell, vanishing entirely on the first bounce.
"My sister, the technical expert." Ti headed over to the table and began fiddling with the burner under a fondue pot.
"So Cal, was that machine a rental?"
"It was, but I think I just bought it. Anyway getting back to your other question, no it's just the five of us. Not that she wouldn't have invited them if I'd let her, but she knows when I'm really adamant."
"Good thing you gave her back all her junk or you couldn't threaten to confiscate it again." Calcite sighed and nodded.
"I didn't have any choice after she managed to create psychoplasm artifacts. Make anything stable and you get your cartoon stuff back, I told her. Now if she could just learn to make something besides hammers ... Anyway the reason we've got so much food is Ti decided to throw herself into this get-together as a way of working off some steam."
"Boyfriend trouble at school."
"She told you that? Cause if you heard it from Margrave I'd take it with a grain of salt."
"She hasn't said anything about the matter to either of us."
"So how do you know that's what bothering her?"
"My keen sense of observation coupled with an intimate knowledge of my sister. Also two days back when she got home she nearly tore the door off its' hinges, slammed it loudly enough to wake the dead, announced that all boys were scum and then barricaded herself in her room."
"Ah. Try to talking to her?"
"The wall opposite her bedroom is covered in mallet dents. Should have bounced them off my shield instead of ducking. She calmed down but she was refusing to talk to either of us about whatever happened. Margrave's not even trying, says this isn't her field of expertise."
"That's a relief. Her advice for boy trouble is probably, 'rip his throat out!'"
"She's not quite that extreme. Break his legs maybe but ... Anyway I've made it clear to Ti if she wants to talk I'm ready to listen. But I think she's uncomfortable with the idea."
"Besides being her brother you're the closest thing she's got to a father figure. Ti thinks a lot like a human teenage girl and I've observed there are things they won't tell their parents."
Calcite's reply was dry. "I've noticed. You're something of a sister figure to her..."
"And to you or you'd have noticed me a few years back." Calcite flushed. "Just teasing. Try not to take everything so seriously. It all worked out okay ... " She glanced over at Margrave, "... more or less." She didn't add the rest out loud. "You're a smart guy Cal, but your judgement tends to shut down when it involves women. Is it your karma to keep screwing yourself up romantically? Well at least it can't get worse." As she thought this Calcite continued.
"Getting back to Ti, you might have better luck. Want to have a word with her? See if she needs a shoulder to cry on?"
Azurite considered. "I'm not sure that's a good idea. If she just wants a sympathetic listener I'm willing but if she's looking for advice ... I doubt any of my teenage experiences parallel hers or are at all relevant. We matured a lot faster, we had no choice. I mean before I was her age ..." She nodded at Pyrite. "Ti's growing up under radically different standards from us. It's not just the four of us vs the world anymore thankfully. Frankly I can't really advise her ... she still has those two friends?"
"Ikeda and Hayashi? Sure. She's got others but she's closest to them."
"They might be the better choice to help her get over whatever happened. At least you can be sure it wasn't physical abuse. Any boy who tries anything she doesn't like would regret it very quickly."
"And as there haven't been any reports of boys turning up with massive mallet induced trauma we can rule that out."
Across the room Margrave's ears twitched. "Lucky girl. I would have enjoyed being able to hammer a lot of scum during my youth. Except I'd have used a spiked steel one instead of those wooden things."
"Sorry I didn't catch that." Pyrite looked politely baffled. Partly because he had no idea what she'd just muttered but mainly because they were actually having a conversation without her attempting to seduce him. With Azurite just on the opposite side of the room where she could watch them both easily that was a real surprise.
"Hmmm ... Sorry just woolgathering. Anyway my point was Kirk had the cojones you need to build a galaxy spanning empire. Anyone threatened his people and the prime directive went out the window. Picard's a sensitive new age wimp. If the old generation hadn't pacified the galaxy so thoroughly Picard wouldn't be able to get away with being such a wuss." Margrave actually did watch a bit of Star Trek though she preferred to cheer on the Klingons. The original versions from before they'd needed reasons to cause trouble. Pity they always lost.
"I have to disagree. Kirk's tactics would have worked in the short term but in the longer view you'd get buried anger and hate which would inevitably explode."
Margrave snorted. "Perhaps, but does the long term really matter to us? We've got ... I don't know ... another forty years maximum left. Ironic, the humans are so much weaker and disease prone than us. But it's been centuries since any youma lived much past sixty. Even considering the competition element we aren't a long lived race. Azurite's made it clear she won't burden children with being the last of the youma, I have no maternal instincts and Ti'll never find a male youma so it's just the five of us. Assuming the Senshi don't decide to finish what they started another fifty years and we're extinct as a species. Who cares what happens on this world after that?" Pyrite twitched slightly as he stopped himself answering.
Margrave picked up the jump in Pyrite's apprehension. Like Humans Renegades had no idea what they gave away on the olfactory level. Or perhaps Pyrite did know but what could he do about it? You can't control your scent. Still what did it mean? Sudden contemplation of his own mortality? Inability to counter her argument? Fear Azurite was jumping to the wrong conclusions about their conversation? Sometimes her heightened senses generated more questions than they answered.
Pyrite kept his face blank while he wondered if he'd given his findings away somehow. No, she'd never been in his new lab or his old one in this house while it was still operating. He hadn't even told Azurite yet. Unless Margrave had turned mind reader she couldn't know. She was just stating her worldview, that's all. One depressingly widespread among humanity which was why they were wrecking their, and our, biosphere. If they knew they'd be living in their own filth for centuries they might take a longer view. As everyone here except Margrave will have to learn, he thought. But not now, the bombshell would wait until it was just Azure, Cal and him.
"So what's up?" His younger cousin's voice jolted Pyrite out of his brief introspection.
"Just talking Star Trek and youma philosophy."
Ti rolled her eyes. "Figures. Why does everyone think I'm the obsessed one in this group?"
"Can you create anything except mallets yet?" She stuck her tongue out at him. "I'll take that as a no. Incidentally, get the karioke machine working again?"
"Matter of fact yes. Got a song picked?" Quickly, "Humming that theme doesn't count."
"I can't sing. So I'll do 'Lucy in the Sky with diamonds'. I can't possibly do worse than Shatner."
"'Bad to the Bone'. Ah our illustrious leader rejoins us. By the way if you're going to set up an affair with Azurite don't do it when I can overhear."
Pyrite just smiled and Azurite didn't even twitch. "Not even close."
"I've been convinced to take it easy today so you can enjoy your celebration of our homeland's sorry end."
"You're not celebrating?"
"Not its destruction. In case you've forgotten I was right at home in the Dark Kingdom. I positively thrived."
"Hadn't realized you were such a patriot. Sorry we spoiled your plans to die with the place."
"Don't get me wrong I have no regrets about surviving. My point is I didn't have to worry about exposure and it was an ideal environment for youma."
"Absolutely!" After a moment Margrave conceded, "Except for the hidebehinds, them I can do without. Okay I don't miss the dire butterflies either ... or the deadwalkers ... not to mention the mimic fungus ... I can live without the burrower eels ... Then there were the ..." She kept on in this vein for a few minutes. "Okay apart from 90% of the wildlife and most of the youma the place was perfect. What's so funny?"
"Perfect except for everything and everyone in it?"
The catwoman scowled. "It's the principle of the thing! You know what I mean!"
Azurite nodded. "Yeah, you feel some perverse need to stick up for the place despite hating it as much as the rest of us."
Margrave hissed and Ti decided she'd better break this up before it escalated. "Cal, how about a toast?"
"Well it's a little early but why not?" Hopefully Margrave wouldn't drink as much as she had the previous year. During that first anniversary celebration she'd sulked all evening while emptying his liquor cabinet. Which had lead to her becoming extremely maudlin over losing the Kingdom before challenging Azurite to a fight. Azurite had ignored her as Margrave could barely stand by this point. This seemed to infuriate her and she charged Azurite. At least she tried to. Staggered forward with purpose was a better description. At which point she'd caught a toeclaw on the carpet, tripped and gone down hard then started snoring like a rusty saw. They'd left her to sleep it off, stepped around her the rest of the night. Azurite said it was purely by chance she spilled the chocolate fondue while clearing up the dessert dishes. Not that she was going to lose any sleep over it. At any rate it didn't wake Margrave up though her mood the next day was fairly foul faced with both a hangover and having to cut off the matted fur. The following few days had been more chaotic than usual.
Things had been much quieter since Azurite and Pyrite moved out a few months ago and the feuding became mainly long distance. Though never dull. Things never seemed to quiet down in Tokyo these days. Though most of the more bizarre events were dismissed as urban myths throughout the rest of Japan and would be totally unknown in the rest of the world if not for the internet. Cynics might say the large number of webpages devoted to the Senshi had less to do with a belief in their existence than in the brevity of their attire. Regardless of how many people truly believed in them there was a large market for anything bearing their image. This was particularly attractive to toy companies due to the lack of copyright on their images. Resulting in the mass merchandising of all the Sailor Senshi, including the pseudo Senshi Polaris & Arcturus. Which was how the laser discs which comprised tonight's entertainment had come to be made.
Titanite had managed to make Calcite agree to sit through the animated Sailor V movie. It had been a bit harder to get Azurite to agree to watch the Sailor Arcturus movie again as she was heartily sick of it. But she'd agreed to it just this once. Margrave was looking forward to the chance to heckle Azurite's performance yet again.
There was a pop and a cork sailed across the room. Margrave idly slashed out as it passed and bisected it. Half of it angled off and just missed Azurite's face. She didn't flinch and Margrave shrugged mentally. As the Dom Perigon bubbled out Calcite filled the glasses. Titanite was under the age to drink but it would take a lot more than this to get past her renegade metabolism so where was the harm?
Calcite paused for a moment to make a toast. He'd meant to scribble down a few thoughts but he'd never got around to it. Have to ad-lib. "Well here we are again. Two years ago we ... most of us, bid a farewell to the Dark Kingdom and we've never looked back. While things didn't work quite as planned and we still find ourselves unable to leave Tokyo we don't regret our new lives. While we've been doing our best to live quietly we have had a few adventures. Some of which could have been avoided." Titanite blushed. "Still what's done is done so let's not dwell on that. Quite a few remarkable things happened in the past year. Margrave and Azurite actually spent an evening being nice to one another." Azurite scowled and Calcite dodged a cuff from Margrave. He continued without pausing. "Titanite unlocked her psychoplasm shaping abilities and has proven girls with mallets are indeed very dangerous to cross." Titanite blushed again. "Pyrite ... well thanks to Ti we've confirmed that your dimensional absorption theory is right. As for me ... I've learned that migrating to another version of Tokyo is not an option. Unless I ever decide I want to become a demented martial artist or a girl crazed gun for hire. And I think I'm screwed already up enough." Everyone laughed. "So a toast to the start of our third year on Earth. And the hope that life will begin to make sense."
They were draining their glasses when the beeping started. Everyone looked at the coatrack. Pyrite strode over and withdrew a pager from his jacket. He studied it for a moment then swore quietly.
"I'm afraid we aren't off to a very good start."
"What's wrong?" Azurite was looking edgy. She knew when he was really rattled.
"Remember the gatepoint? Sorry, stupid question. According to this the gate's been activated. Something's coming through from outside."
Calcite tensed. "And we're the only ones who know it?"
"Probably. The sensors have never picked Senshi activity around that area so I don't think they know it exists. Right now all I can tell you is there's two entities. Their gate seems unstable so it's screwing up the sensors."
"Which means go have a look for ourselves." Azurite caught his look and nodded. There was a flicker to his side and he saw Ti wearing her Sailor Polaris costume. Before she could speak he said, "If I forbid you to come you'll just teleport there yourself. So you'll be safer if you come with us." She stood there with her mouth open. Azurite frowned but couldn't disagree with his logic. Calcite vanished, reappearing in his bedroom. He opened a dresser drawer and slid on the wristband. Downstairs Azurite retrieved her purse, withdrawing her transmuter bracelet and activated it. Her clothing shifted into the Sailor Arcturus pattern. A moment's thought and she activated the bracelet's second pattern. Her boots morphed to a flat heel design, otherwise the costume was unchanged. It was too icy outside for messing around on stilettos no matter how good her balance. Calcite reappeared wearing his grey body armour. His face flickered as he activated his glamour and became the taciturn English superhero Gray. Azurite was about to link to Calcite's jump initialization when she saw Pyrite's clothing morph. It shifted to become an ST : Next Generation Captain's uniform, minus the insignia and with the black and red reversed. His face shifted as he activated a glamour of his own design.
"What the hell are you playing at?"
"On site inspection. Whatever's going on might need me on the scene."
Azurite choked off the protest she was about to make. "Just hit the ground and shield if any shooting starts." He nodded. "What's with the face? It look sort of familiar."
"You and Ti are masked Senshi but I decided it wasn't my style so I designed this glamour to conceal my identity. Picard's face with Kirk's eyes and hairline." She sighed, she'd had to ask. At which point Margrave ducked back into the room wearing a transmuter bracelet. Pyrite recognised it as Ti's original. Months ago he'd replaced them with a design keyed to the wearer alone. He'd done that to prevent accidental activation in case the transmuter was lost or stolen.
"Not leaving me behind are you." She tapped the bracelet and the minimal clothing she'd been wearing melted and reshaped itself. Her new outfit was reminiscent of the playboy bunny attire except cat ears and a two foot long furry tail substituted for the bunny ears and powderpuff on the backside.
"There we go, one secret identity. In case this is trouble I'd like to know what we're up against. Then I can decide whether to run or fight." Margrave wasn't actually that keen to find a fight. But in case the renegades never came back she'd want to know what did it and why. Instead of cowering here waiting for it to find her. Besides this might not be a threat and could be interesting.
Azurite smiled faintly. "Curiosity killed the cat."
Calcite just looked at her. "You don't leave here looking nonhuman. And you're not going to blow the Catharine identity by using that!"
Margrave just grinned. "Not a problem." Her features shifted and she became a familiar looking blond as the glamour overlaid her body. Calcite sighed. Pyrite studied her in puzzlement. Why did he recognise her? He'd never seen Margrave use this glamour before.
Azurite muttered, "Michelle Pfeiffer."
That was why she looked familiar. "But why ....?"
"Catwoman." Of course. That explained it.
Margrave wrapped herself around Calcite as the Renegades linked their teleport. A flare of light and the house was empty.
Like many January days in Tokyo it was bitterly cold outside. So it wasn't surprising that the park was deserted. Not that there was any reason to be here, the flowerbeds and trees were bare, the walkways were slippery and the ground covered with a thin dusting of snow. So there was no one to hear the howl as the black whirlpool opened in midair. It expanded to a diameter of seven feet, the last six inches cutting into the ground. It suddenly contracted to a six feet circle then pulsed and resumed the larger size. Its size slipped again and an observer would have noted the pulsations were irregular in occupance. This same hypothetical observer staring into the vortex would have seen two bright figures within. Two figures either growing in size or getting closer.
The detached feeling filling Makoto Kino's mind vanished abruptly as she slammed headfirst into cold concrete. Reality returned in a hurry and she reached for her stinging cheek. Then froze. For a moment her glove appeared to waver as if the transformation was deactivating. Then it was as solid it had always been, though still far from its' once pristine white. What the hell was she doing staring at her glove? She had to take the lay of the land immediately! Get up and ... why was it so bright? It couldn't be! She looked up into the sky. It was darkening as dusk approached but it was almost cloudless. There was no denying that the sky was blue! She felt her eyes running. She was surprised, she hadn't thought she had any tears left.
"It's so beautiful." She forgot all her hard learned combat experience and just gazed upwards. No thought of ambush or studying the terrain for cover. Then the sound of Ami swearing penetrated.
Ami was frantically punching commands into her terminal with her free hand. The other arm cradled the assemblage of crystal rods it was linked into. Even to Makoto's untrained eye something looked very wrong. The gateway was fluctuating wildly, faster and faster. There was a sound like sheet metal tearing and it collapsed inward. Within a second it was gone. Ami slammed the crystalline machine to the ground and screamed, "Lousy piece of youma junk!" The crystals had lost their yellow glow and were now either merely transparent or a dull white. She kicked the hapless device, it slammed across the park and impacted a tree resulting in a small shower of snow as the branches shook. Makoto reached a hand towards her friend. "Easy Ami. We made it!" She hesitated then looked around. "At least we're somewhere else. That much went perfect." Ami looked as if she was about to slap her but she regained enough self control to stop herself. Her voice was low and angry.
"You don't understand. The gateway has completely collapsed! That alone wouldn't be a disaster but the warpgenerator has burned out!"
"Well if you repair it ...."
"How! It's magic not technology based! It's not even human magic. I was barely able to integrate my computer into it and gain control its functions. Twisting it to our specifications was nearly impossible. An 80% chance of success was the best I could manage!"
"80%?!" Makoto was staring at her. "You mean there was a 20% chance it wouldn't work." She was hoping Ami would nod but she shook her head.
"No. I mean once I got it working there was a 20% chance we wouldn't make it through the gateway."
"Well great. Thanks for sharing that with me!" Makoto was looking angry herself. "Why the hell didn't you tell me."
Ami met her gaze. "I couldn't take the chance you'd refuse."
Makoto managed to choke down her angry denial. Quietly she said, "I am not a coward. I would not have hesitated." She ignored the voice inside which jeered she'd run at the North Pole. That had been different. She'd sworn never to fail like that again. And what if I hadn't? We'd both have died there Ami. I saved your life but I don't think you thank me for it. All it meant to you was you've had to watch the world crumble around you. Well I've had to suffer that too. You think you're the only one smart enough to be torn apart? I know what's happened, how everyone suffered. I've known its hopeless for months but I've kept going. Why can't you trust me?
"Sorry." The curt voice broke through her self pity.
"I said I'm sorry. You're right, I should have told you the risks. I ... I was afraid you'd say no. A failure of will on my part."
Just when she'd decide Ami had become a heartless bitch she'd do something like this. Hesitantly, "Well, I guess you've had reasons to doubt me ..."
"Don't be stupid we'd all have been slaughtered back then even if you hadn't been hurt. Now, question is where are we?"
Back to business. Makoto collected her thought. "Well I've been looking around and the skyline looks like Tokyo before ..."
Ami nodded. "We've travelled dimensions but there's no way to be certain this is the right one. Now that I stop to think about it if this is the world we were aiming for then we should be okay." Makoto looked puzzled. "Our mystery senshi must have had her own method of travelling dimensions. If she's on this world we can have her open the gate back home."
"So all we have to do is find her."
Ami smiled mirthlessly. "I wouldn't worry. Senshi seem to be drawn together either by fate or chance. If there's Senshi on this world it's inevitable that we'll meet them." She sighed. "The only real question is if there's a Sailor Moon or equivalent on this world. If there is and she's got the ginzuishou we've got a chance." She didn't speak her next thoughts aloud.
"If there isn't and it's hopeless do we look for a way back or stay here? Whatever problems this world has it can't compare to the nightmare ours has become. Dammit I didn't choose this life, it was chosen for me before I was born. Why do we have to keep fighting? Haven't we sacrificed enough? If I stay here then I don't have to kill Ryo. What did we do that was so terrible in first lives that we were damned like this. I want my life back!"
"Ami!" She felt Makoto's hand on her shoulder. "You were zoning out again."
Ami brushed her hand off. "I'll have to watch that." Makoto took no insult. Ami seemed to have decided that showing any chink in her icy shell meant weakness. Being cold and logical was how Ami kept going. As for me, I guess I keep going because I'm too stupid to accept we're beaten. She shook her head at the thought. A lousy reason, but it's all I've got left apart from Ami. Without each other to keep us going we'd fold up and die.
Ami had crossed over to where she'd kicked the device. She punched in a command and the computer retracted the probes it had linked into the device. She had no real idea of this machine's capabilities. It came with no manual and she'd have to puzzle it out. A lot of times she'd just say "do this" and it would. Then she'd have to figure out how and try to deduce principles from that action so she'd learn other functions. It was obviously part of a larger whole but it refused to provide any information about the main system. Some sort of security lockout. But who'd established it and why? Luna hadn't known, Artemis she'd never asked. If he'd known the knowledge died with him.
The air shimmered and five figures materialized behind them. Makoto stared at them in wonder. The men she didn't know, she'd got an indistinct look at two of the three figures who'd passed through. Perhaps the local equivalents of Tuxedo Kamen. The third she recognised, the unknown Senshi. Standard senshi uniform with a yellow skirt and bow. Wearing a yellow mask similar to the one Minako had worn in her days as Sailor A. The woman in the playboy-kitty getup looked oddly familiar but it was the final figure who caught her attention. She looked to be in her early twenties. Instead of white her bodysuit and gloves were a bright red. The rest of her outfit seemed a bit heavy on the black leather and spikes. What kind of Senshi did they have around here anyway?
Titanite was very surprised that the Senshi had got here before them. She was even more surprised by the appearance of Sailors Mercury and Jupiter. Both looked like they'd been through rough times. The most minor change was their hair. Jupiter's was cropped back into a bowl cut shorter than Mercury's had been. Mercury's was cut even further back into a severe crewcut. A little shorter and she'd look like Sinead O'Conner. The costumes of both had obviously seen better days. The skirts and ribbons were frayed, patched and stitched. Instead of white the bodysuits and gloves of both were grey with miscellaneous stains. Their boots were travelworn and tattered.
On top of that were the physical marks on both. Jupiter had a large white scar running the length of her left thigh. Mercury's bodysuit was obviously still skintight but no longer smooth. Instead it showed bulges and lines all over her torso and breasts. Which hinted at injury underneath. Both looked thinner than she remembered, almost gaunt. What in the name of whatever gods there were had happened to them?
Makoto watched the Senshi in yellow carefully. There seemed to be recognition in her eyes. Yet she didn't call her name or act like a close friend. What did that mean? Rival Senshi like those other two, Poseidon and Heaven? Arrogant pair of ... They'd brushed her and Ami off as useless then tackled the Overlord themselves. She shook the distain off, no one should suffer a fate like theirs.
Pyrite hadn't been idle during this period. How the Senshi had got here first he didn't know but he was ignoring them to concentrate on scanning the area. The readings were clearing with the disappearance of the unstable gate but he was unable to pick up any alien presence in the vicinity. As there were no teleport signatures he had to assume the entities had left on foot. In which case they must have been extremely fast as he wasn't picking anything up.
Then it struck him. Two entities, two Senshi! What if they were the interdimensional intruders! He had to tell the others! He was about to speak when he realized how Azurite, Calcite and Margrave were watching the Senshi. Being more practical they'd drawn the inference almost immediately. Well they were all standing here staring at each other. Someone should say something. He was about to speak when he heard a shocked exclamation from the Sailor Mercury variant.
She was looking down at the computer in her hand in horror. At her feet was what appeared to be a warpfield generator. Groups of those them had been used to punch the gateways between Earth and the Kingdom. Like most of the devices created by Beryl's pet scientists they were inefficient, bulky and used magics that should have been obsolete centuries earlier. Good grief, he'd produced hand held units with much greater range that could open an existing gatepoint. Admittedly it was easier to travel from Earth than the Kingdom and vast banks of the generators had been needed to create the initial gate to Tokyo. But give him the same resources and he'd have it done in half the time, with a tenth as many generators and created a much more versatile gateway. You'd have to be crazy or desperate to try crossing to another universe with one of those. The Kingdom had been part of Earth's overall continuum and it was still nigh impossible to get anywhere with one of those. That's when reality penetrated his technical assessment. The Mercury lookalike screamed "Youma!" and the Jupiter replica looked to her in confusion.
"They're youma! The Dark Circle itself!" While her comrade was trying to digest this she dropped her computer which promptly vanished and raised her hands. Then everything went crazy.
Azurite shoved him hard sending him flying backwards. Calcite was about to toss Titanite aside when Margrave grabbed her and dashed away. Calcite and Azurite leapt away in opposite directions as the bolt of focused cold tore through the space the group had occupied. The battlecry that accompanied this didn't contain the words "Shabon" or "Mercury". It sounded a lot more like, "DIE YOU [unintelligible, possibly obscene] BASTARDS!"
Makoto was still trying to make sense of what Ami had just said when she opened fire on the group. Makoto's combat instincts kicked in and she summoned power, turning to help her friend. Ami spun to fire on the Senshi in red then danced aside as something tore down and shattered the concrete in front of her. Makoto aimed a lightning strike at the landing red Senshi which went wild as the man in grey hit her with a shockwave. She hit the ground rolling and fired off a swarm of small ball lightning in his direction. While he was dodging she snapped to her feet and got moving. Ami and the red Senshi were still duelling. Ami had shut up and was fighting in her methodical and lethal pattern. Except it wasn't working and Ami was having to dodge windbursts which snapped limbs off the trees. They didn't look strong enough to kill, just disable. Looked like the youma wanted them alive for torture.
Watching from ground level Pyrite was getting worried. The Senshi were fighting to kill while Cal and Azure were still trying for a capture. A ball charged with a stunning burst of energy tore towards the Jupiter clone. She dodged aside and answered it with a lethal bolt of electricity. Calcite had already shifted positions. Pyrite cursed. They must think killing these Senshi would bring the others hunting for them. In fact they still didn't know for sure these weren't the Senshi who belonged here. They could have left this dimension by a different gate (if there were now any other gatepoints in the world) and returned through this one. Neither of the Senshi were giving their attack cries. They were fighting silently with a ferocity that could match a youma's.
Margrave was huddled low, keeping Titanite under her. She must be trying to keep herself within Titanite's shield. Titanite broke Margrave's grip and dashed towards the fighting. Pyrite started to rise then thought better of it. Last thing Azurite needed was another distraction. A Polaris Missile screamed towards the Mercury duplicate as she threw a mallet at the Jupiter lookalike. Her cry of "Polaris Hammer!" warned the latter so she dodged that but got caught by the fringe of Calcite's shockwave. This wasn't good. Ti was distracting the Senshi for now but that also gave them another target. If Cal and Azure couldn't take the Senshi down immediately they'd switch to fighting to kill to protect Ti.
Margrave scuttled over to join him. "Pyrite, how about you teleport us out of here?"
"I have this habit of dying when I'm struck by lightning or my body temperature drops to minus 100 degrees."
"Run out on everyone?!"
"Be sensible damnit! We're out of our league with those power levels. Your shield won't last a second against their attacks. We're just a distraction to them."
"I'm not abandoning them."
"I'm not asking you to, this will help them. I grab Ti, race back here, then you teleport the three of us home. Without any of us to worry about Cal and Azzie will mop the floor with these lunatics."
"It won't work!"
"Sure it will!"
"That's not what I mean. We drag Ti out of here and she'll teleport herself back immediately. Which means she'll jump blind into a warzone."
Margrave swore. He was right. Have to get to Ti, knock her out or daze her at least then get back to Pyrite. He could come with me ... No, that'll distract Azurite and this is the wrong time to do that. Right now we can't afford to lose her. How the hell do I get to Ti without being flash frozen or electrocuted?
She was wondering this and Calcite was distracted lightning lady from Titanite when she heard footsteps approaching rapidly. Shit, were those reinforcements for the Senshi?
The answer to that could be found a few minutes earlier not far away. Despite the cold a group of five girls was wandering the streets. Usagi Tsukino was shivering the most and looking for someplace warm and with food to duck into. If only Mamoru-chan had been around, they should be together on this day of all days. But he'd had to leave town suddenly. A distant aunt in Kyoto, one of his few remaining relatives had taken sick. She was unlikely to recover. They weren't particularly close but he'd felt a family obligation to see her before the end. It would have been difficult to explain Usagi's presence to his cousins (not to mention to her parents) so she'd had to stay behind. Despite what today meant.
Last year, same as this year they'd all met at the shrine. They hadn't talked about the events of exactly a year ago but they'd all felt they had to be together. The same thing had happened this year. At least she'd managed to ditch Chibi-Usa. Her daughter to be had taken a look outside and said only an idiot would go out on a day this cold. So Usagi had better hurry up and kept going.
After the inevitable tussle she'd got going. Luna had chosen to stay behind in the warm house and relax as there were no crisis currently. When she'd got to the shrine Makoto, Ami and Minako (sans Artemis, same reason as Luna) were already there. They'd talked, eaten the snacks Makoto brought along (which lead to the inevitable scuffle between Usagi and Rei), and avoided all mention of what this date meant.
Two years ago they'd won their first major victory. In many ways it was also their greatest defeat. Today they were more powerful, things would be different if it happened again. But back then ...
The attack on the Dark Kingdom was in many ways a debacle. Only Sailor Moon survived to enter the Kingdom. She freed Mamoru from Beryl's control but almost immediately had to watch him die to protect her. What she'd done next was not done for vengeance but to protect the Earth. She'd unleashed the full power of the Ginzuishou and destroyed both Queen Metallia (who'd merged with Beryl) and the world of the youma before dying having burned out her life force to power the attack. That should have been the end of it. Instead it was a new beginning.
Somehow the six of them had been reborn without any memory of what they'd become in the preceding year. The Ginzuisho had acted on Usagi's final wish for a normal life for herself and her friends. But normality was no longer possible for them and a few months later they'd regained their memories. They never spoke about their final moments at the North Pole. But they never forgot them.
Today they'd all felt restless and had gone out walking despite the cold. Usagi had gone along with this at first but was now approaching her whining threshold. She felt her teeth chatter and was about to suggest a retreat when Minako spoke.
"Y'know I ran into that youma girl about a week back." That broke the silence. Minako had been trying to think of something to say. They'd been walking quietly for a few minutes which turned her thoughts places she didn't want them to go. She'd been reminded of the matter by seeing the discarded box of a Sailor Arcturus doll stuffed in a trashbin. According to the wrapper this doll was equipped with "Power arm for special whip cracking action. Authentic Arcturus design whip included". A slight addition on the part of the toy manufacturers as Azurite's costume lacked that accessory.
At any rate this reminder of Sailor Arcturus had lead to remembering Sailor Polaris which triggered the recollection of the recent meeting."
"What youma girl?" Makoto looked puzzled.
"Sailor Polaris! The one who was in my school? Sister of my old enemy Lord Calcite."
Rei nodded, "I remember her. That was about a year ... year and a half ago. Lotta stuff's happened since then."
Ami chimed in, "Chibi-Usa, the Black Moon, the Deathbusters, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto and Saturn ..."
Makoto picked it up, "Also Fiore and all the other stuff. No shortage of things. Haven't really thought about the youma Senshi in ages. I knew they were out there but ..."
That reminded Usagi of something. "I remember now, Haruka-san asked me a few months ago if we were friends with Sailor Arcturus. I said yes and I'd thought Polaris seemed nice. Shame they decided to avoid us."
Rei frowned. "First I've heard about that."
"I forgot to mention it."
"Figures. You'd forget your head if it was nailed on."
"Take that back."
"Why should I?"
A brief razzing duel began but stopped almost immediately as it was too cold to expose your tongue for long.
Minako was feeling rather ignored. "Hey! I was the one with the story!"
"Sorry, go ahead Mina-chan."
"That's more like it. This was a little over a week ago and I was out on my own for a change." She decided not to mention that was because her date had stood her up. What she didn't know was the boy in question had a morbid fear of cats and had seen Artemis riding on her shoulder as he approached from behind. He'd turned around and left sure he could never get on with a girl who liked cats. "Now I was walking down the street when I saw these three girls approaching ..."
Fuming over having been stood up Minako stalked along the street. Just let the some supernatural idiot cause trouble tonight. She wasn't looking where she was going so it took Artemis's frantic hiss to make her look up and see she was about to walk into a trio of girls. She immediately turned, as though she'd sighted her destination and had never been going to hit them, and walked straight into the street's retaining wall.
Artemis had jumped away just before impact and shook his head as Minako went down. The middle girl asked Minako, "Are you all right?" and reached down to help her to her feet. The dazed Minako reached out automatically then saw her rescuer grin with recognition. "Aino-san. It's been a while."
Minako let the brunette help her to her feet as she tried to work out who she was. Suddenly she knew. She was about to address her as Sailor Polaris when she realized they had company. The two girls on either side of the pseudo Senshi. She got lucky and remembered the names. "Hobbes-san"
"Titania. Though I prefer Ti."
"Ti-chan, you know her?" The girl on the right sounded a little unfriendly. As though she suspected Minako was here to steal her friend. She was a little on the chubby side but still pounds away from being fat. Being bundled up against the cold made her look heavier than she really was. Short black hair, about three inches smaller than Minako. The girl on the left was just a little shorter than Makoto but a lot slenderer. She wore round frame glasses and seemed to be sheltering behind Polaris. Definitely the shy type.
"Indeed I do Meiko-chan. This is Minako Aino. We were in the same school for about six months. But then we moved and I had to transfer. As I met you guys when I did that everything worked out. Aino-san these are my friends Meiko and Kaori ... Sorry I should say Ikeda and Hayashi. I still keep getting that 'give your family name except to close friends' bit wrong."
"Guess it comes from not being born around here."
"I guess." She seemed naturally bubbly. Not as much as Usagi but more like Minako herself under normal circumstances. Minako felt herself cheering up a bit until something occurred to her. Somewhat coldly she asked, "How's your brother."
She didn't seem to notice the tone. "Oh he's fine. Still takes things way to serious but there's times that's a very good thing. I can get a little ... what a cute kitty." She kneeled down to pet Artemis. He purred as she rubbed his ears. There was an odd faint scent clinging to her. Like cat and yet ...
"May I ... may I pet him?" It was the shy girl, Kaori. She looked embarrassed at asking. Minako nodded and Titanite (that was her real name, Minako recalled) relinquished her place. Kaori mumbled something about her parents not letting her have any pets. Titanite asked Minako a few questions about school and seemed glad to hear Saito-sensei was doing well. Minako repeated the gossip that she'd be getting married soon.
"So your brother got over her. Get anyone else?" That got a snort from Meiko and a headshaking.
"Yes. She's living with us actually. Meiko thinks Margrave ... full name's Catharine Margrave, is a character."
"Well she's a free spirit. But she's never dull and a lot of fun."
Kaori straightened up and handed Artemis back to Minako. "Thank you."
"No problem, he likes attention. Just don't preen so much or Luna will kick you out again." The last was directed to Artemis.
Meiko decided to try a friendly overture. If Ti-chan liked this girl she must be okay. But then Ti got on with everybody in school. Except the bad girl types and they went out of their way to avoid Ti. She'd originally hung around with Ti for protection. Then found she really liked the English girl and they had a lot of common interests. Ti had been the one to bring Kaori into their little circle and she'd gained a friend she wouldn't have had otherwise due to the other girl's shyness.
"So was Ti-chan the softball ace at your school?"
Minako looked surprised and Kaori chimed in. "Ti-chan's great. She can hit a ball farther than anyone. She's got more home runs than the rest of the team combined. She's a great catcher too. If she could just pitch better she'd be a perfect all round player. But she's getting much better!" Kaori suddenly went red, embarrassed at gushing on at a total stranger. Titanite looked a little embarrassed herself. She tried not to overdo it but even holding herself back she was a better athlete than anyone else in the school. If they ever saw what she could really do they'd totally freak.
Minako shook her head. "No. At least not as far as I remember. I don't really follow softball. It's not a proper sport." Before Meiko could take offense Ti asked, "So what is a proper sport?"
"Volleyball! And I'm number one at that!" Minako spent the next few minutes going over her accomplishments. Ti noticed her friends eyes' glazing over and as politely as possible suggested they had to be going. With an exchange of goodbyes the trio continued on their way. Minako looked after them. Everything seemed okay and yet ... Artemis suddenly jumped to the top of the wall and raced after the girls. Minako ducked into a bus shelter and waited for his return. Ten minutes later he was back.
Artemis shrugged. At least to the extent a cat could. "Well nobody suddenly turned into a demon queen and said, 'Hah, we fooled Sailor Venus!' Far as I can tell the others are just ordinary girls."
"Far as you can tell?"
"According to everything my senses tell me Titania, or Titanite which I believe is her real name, is also a normal girl."
"Ah. So what were they talking about?"
"Well about if she liked her current school better than the old. Which she does. Then your name came up."
"What'd they say?"
"Well I don't want to gossip ..." He caught the look Minako gave him, "... But I'll make an exception. The heavy one asked why you kept asking about her brother. She looked around for passersby. There were none and she didn't spot me. Then she said, 'Well keep it to yourselves but when we were in the same school she had a major crush on him.' Then the shy one said she could understand that because he's very handsome. Then she blushed, guess she's got a crush on him. With that the talk turned to boys and I left."
Minako scowled. "She told them I had a crush on him!"
Artemis eased his left rear leg up to scratch behind his ear. "Well I guess she could have told them the truth. Something like, 'Well back when Minako was Sailor V my brother was her Arch Nemesis, Lord Calcite.' Course that wouldn't exactly help matters."
"Okay, I get the point. Let's go home."
Usagi looked at Minako in surprise. "You had a crush on your arch enemy? Like Romeo and Juliet. How romantic."
Minako felt one of those giant sweat drops forming and it was far too cold for that. "I didn't have a crush on him! She just made that up to satisfy their curiosity!"
Usagi didn't seem to notice. "And I thought you said you were fighting him over in England. How about that!"
Makoto grinned and poked her, "You slacker."
Rei glared. "Never date the enemy!"
Ami gave her a look of mock sorrow. "I'm really disappointed in you Mina-chan."
Minako begin to heat up which would have kept the teasing going a lot longer. Except suddenly the stillness of the day was shattered by the howl of powerful wind and the crackle of electricity.
It was coming from the nearby park. Coincidentally enough the place they'd first met Sailor Arcturus and the fake Zoisite. Usagi took everyone by surprise by saying, "Let's transform and check it out!"
Rei stared at her in disbelief. "Are you feverish?"
"No. I've just realized I'll be a lot warmer as Sailor Moon. If I could survive the North Pole then a Tokyo winter will be a cinch." Everyone else face faulted. While they were doing that Usagi invoked the change.
"Moon Cosmic Power Make Up!"
She felt the familiar transformation. The cold receded to a minor annoyance despite now wearing a lot less in the way of clothing. Everyone else decided to follow suit.
"Mars Star Power, Make Up!"
"Mercury Star Power, Make Up!"
"Jupiter Star Power, Make Up!"
"Venus Star Power, Make Up!"
As soon as the change was complete Mercury took out her computer and scanned the park. She frowned. "There are four ... correction five entities throwing a lot of power around in there. It's identifying three of them as Gray, Sailor Arcturus and Sailor Polaris. The other two are unidentified." In fact the computer was signalling scanning error regarding the other two. She'd never seen it do that before.
"Let's go!" With that they followed Venus into the park. Easily leaping the fence bearing the sign. "Park closed. No Winter Maintenance."
Inside the park the fighting continued unabated. Ami countered her opponent's fireball with an ice burst. It blinked out immediately and she realized it was a decoy. She was slammed backwards towards a tree by a very localized gale. Ami spun in the air and managed to hit it feet first. She bounced away throwing another cold burst towards her enemy. This wasn't good. These youma seemed tougher than the others they'd faced. Only natural if they were this universe's version of the Dark Circle. Thankfully none were displaying Overlord level power. She'd tried to blind them with her fog attack but it hadn't worked. These youma didn't have to depend on visual contact, they must have aura sensing powers. Maybe those were more widespread than she'd thought.
Makoto was feeling tired. Minimal food and rough living were bound to take their toll. She had the terrible feeling the grey man could have killed her by now had that been his intention. The Senshi she'd first seen three months back had seemed to be more distraction than danger. At least before she'd run into one of those spheres. She was at bay and preparing to go down fighting. At least until someone she'd never expected to see again arrived unexpectedly.
Minako dropped out of the sky and surveyed the situation. At which point her jaw dropped and she glanced behind her. Rei landed beside her and did the same. Another Ami landed on Minako's right and gasped at the sight of her counterpart. Makoto saw her Ami smile. The odds had just shifted their way. Makoto saw an unscarred version of herself land by Ami's side and stare at her. At which point Sailor Moon made her entrance landing dramatically by Rei's side. Her feet immediately went out from under her and she did a pratfall. As she went down she knocked Rei's feet from under her. Rei fell onto Minako, Minako onto Ami and Ami onto Makoto. The entire group went down like a row of dominoes.
This provided a momentary distraction which Ami seized advantage of. She had an unobstructed shot at the youma senshi in yellow. The man in gray spun to blast Ami as the Senshi in red took aim for a kill shot. A blur slammed into the girl and knocked her out of the blast's path.
Margrave barrelled into Titanite sending the two of them flying. The landing wasn't one of her best. Her skull rang as her head hit the pavement. She swore loudly. That bitch in blue was going to pay for this headache. "You all right Ti?"
Ti seemed a little dazed. "Fine but why ...? MARGRAVE!" Ti sounded shocked, something was very wrong! Was she bleeding? Margrave raised a hand toward her head and probed. Suddenly she realized the arm was covered with white fur. She'd lost her glamour when her head hit. OH shit! Right in front of the Senshi! They were on their feet and looking this way (except for Mars who was glaring at Sailor Moon). She felt herself panicking. She'd been revealed before the worst possible people. Ti squeezed her hand and whispered, "Use the cute scenario." She regained enough presence of mind to nod. Think like an anime catgirl.
Sailor Moon goggled at the catwoman then remembered the other Senshi. Pointing at the fake Mercury she intoned. "How dare you impersonate Ami-chan. Oops I mean Sailor Mercury and how dare you impersonate Sailor Jupiter. We may not have copyrighted these identities but no one else is allowed to use them! I am the one and only Sailor Moon and on behalf of our trademarks I will punish you!"
"What!?" The fake Mercury looked astonished. "Usagi have you lost your mind. I'll explain who we are later. Right now we have to kill these youma."
"That reminds me. How dare you try to kill the only youma to adapt peacefully to life on Earth. Even if Sailor Arcturus's dosinji are outselling mine. Besides I liked Sailor Polaris when I met her and Minako's got a truce with Calcite so ... hey how did you know who I am? I mean why did you call me Usagi, I'm Sailor Moon!"
Makoto felt the world slipping out from under her. "What ... what are you talking about?" Then she heard her own voice.
"I'm the one and only Sailor Jupiter. If you were going to copy me you could have at least got it right. You make me look like some sort of slob. And you got the hair wrong!" She was going to add the I will punish you part but stopped at the look of total confusion on her ... on the fake's face.
Ami had pulled her computer from its dimensional pocket and was looking from it to her battered doupleganger. The other Ami just stared at her for a moment, then she began to laugh. It wasn't amused laughter it was the laugh of a woman who's been the victim of the ultimate practical joke.
"Hahahah ... they're siding with the youma ... hahaha ... they're probably allies ... Hahaha it was all for nothing ... I ..." The hysterical laughter became a sobbing fit and the tattered Ami folded over and wept. No one seemed to know how to respond to this and they just stared at her. The Senshi with confusion and the Renegades with hostility as they suspected a trick.
Makoto dashed over to her friend's side. Ami was curling up against a tree. There was a semicircle of people around them. Too many to watch. "Come on Ami don't do this too me." She pleaded with Ami while trying to keep her eye on everyone. "You can't fall apart now. Not after all we've been through. I need you. We can still fight our way out ..." There was a light touch at her throat. She reached up and touched a metal collar.
The man in grey glided from behind her. He was holding an identical collar which he flung into the air. It detonated about twenty feet up.
"You can either surrender immediately or I can blow your head off. After your friend tried to kill my sister I have to say I'm not too fussy."
Makoto took her hand from the collar and looked him in the eye. Then you'd better kill me because I'll die before I let you take me alive!"
"In case you've forgotten you two started all this."
"Excuse me." Sailor Moon looked confused. Not a particularly unusual occurance but she had reason. "What is going on?"
"We don't really know." Calcite indicated the two senshi, one standing defiant, one weeping uncontrollably. "These two warped in, took one look at us, screamed "Dark Circle" then tried to kill us all.
"But where'd these imposters come from?"
"They aren't exactly imposters." When the shooting stopped Pyrite had got to his feet. He'd remained largely unnoticed during recent events. "They arrived here from an alternate universe." He pointed to Mercury and Jupiter. "I believe these are your counterparts from another dimension. Why they came here and why they want us dead we don't know yet."
Now Jupiter looked confused but Ami nodded as though everything suddenly made sense. "That explains why she has my DNA and the computer was indicating anomalies. It couldn't explain there being two of us."
Jupiter looked at her scarred counterpart. "You're Sailor Jupiter too?"
"Then who are you?"
"Makoto Kino, Sailor Zeus." She looked down at her friend who'd fallen silent. "This is ..."
"Ami Mizuno, Sailor Hermes." The other Ami uncurled herself. She wiped her eyes and studied the group then looked back to Makoto. "Sorry I let you down Makoto."
"I understand. We can't be strong forever." She reached down and took Ami's hand. "End of the line."
"Inevitable I guess but we did our best." She looked out at the circle of watchers. "Thanks for letting me collect myself. Now let's get it over with."
"Get what over with?"
"Kill us because we're not going to surrender to you!"
The two stood and waited for the end. All was silent for a minute. Then Calcite broke the puzzled silence. "I think there's been some sort of misunderstanding."
"Don't play with me I saw the readings. You're Calcite!"
He looked around. "I guess everyone here knows that." His glamour dissolved and the two shuddered. Hermes glanced over to the Senshi in yellow.
"I know who you are!"
Titanite looked confused. "Everyone knows that as well. I'm Sailor Polaris, that's Sailor Arcturus."
"BULLSHIT!" Sailor Zeus glared at them. "I just figured out who you'd look like without those masks! You're Princess Titanite and she's Lady Azurite!"
Sailor Moon frowned at Titanite. "You're a princess too? You never mentioned!"
"First I've heard of it."
Azurite looked at her accuser. "Yes, I'm Azurite. But I'm no lady!"
"Margrave already know that."
"Stay out of this!"
Zeus was about to bellow again when Hermes cut her off. "Wait Makoto. Perhaps I acted prematurely." She looked to the other man. "You're Pyrite?" He nodded and dissolved his glamour. This was the first time the Senshi had seen him.
After a moment Jupiter began, "You look like ..." before Azurite took his arm.
"He's already taken."
Throughout this Calcite had kept watch on Zeus and Hermes. If either made a move to attack he was going to detonate the collar. Neither seemed about to, the hostile looks of both were dissolving into confusion.
"You're friends with the youma?!" Hermes looked at the in disbelief.
Minako glanced at Calcite. "Friends, no. But we're no longer enemies."
"You're at peace with the Dark Kingdom?"
Usagi looked confused. "The Dark Kingdom? That's long gone."
Grudgingly Rei added, "The turtle destroyed it two years ago."
Zeus just gaped while Ami struggled to understand. "But these youma ...? How ... ?"
Calcite answered. "We fled just before the end. We're all that's left."
"But that's not possible!"
"That's what happened."
Zeus found her voice. "But in our world you ruled the Kingdom. And you went on from there to conquer the Earth!"
"That's ridiculous. Beryl was the Queen. Anyone who challenged her died. Usually not as soon as they'd have preferred."
Hermes looked him in the eye. "The Calcite we know merged with Metallia, killed Beryl, then took over the world. But not before he'd killed Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon."
Calcite returned her stare. "You are out of your mind, I'm a renegade. I wouldn't do anything like that. None of us would!"
There was another moment's silence broken by Pyrite. "I would say we've just found the divergence point between the two worlds. Here the Kingdom was destroyed two years ago today and the youma race reduced to five ... well six individuals.
Hermes studied him coldly. "In our world one year ago the Senshi tried to attack the Dark Kingdom before Metallia resurrected. Only Makoto and I escaped the North Pole alive. After that the youma took over. We came to this world looking for assistance in fighting them."
"I'd like to suggest we hold a truce until we've gotten to the bottom of this."
Hermes considered the overwhelming opposition, the condition of this world and the fact that she'd started the fight. "Very well until I know more I will refrain from hostilities as will my partner."
Zeus nodded. "Okay, I want some answers." A pause. "Uhh ... about this ring ..."
Calcite smiled faintly. "I have a paranoid streak so I'm leaving it in place until I'm sure you won't shoot us in the back."
Usagi seemed about to say something then remembered the Renegades hadn't started the fight. "Well I guess that's it for now. I didn't get to punish anybody!"
Azurite jerked a thumb at Margrave (who'd been overlooked in the recent confusion). "Well you could punish her, she'll probably enjoy it."
"Margrave resent that. She no like being punished!" She glanced at Calcite. "Well ... maybe sometimes but ..." She realized Sailor Moon was staring at her.
Polaris quickly strode over to Margrave. "That's Margrave, she's our ... pet. We found her in another dimension." Which was true if not the whole truth. Margrave quickly dropped to her haunches and leaned against Titanite's leg. She began to purr and Ti scratched her head.
Sailor Moon beamed. "She's so cute!" She rushed over and began petting the cat. Margrave kept purring even when Usagi stroked her the wrong way. Mars, Jupiter and Mercury shook their heads at the sight. Azurite muttered, "I don't believe this" and kept watching Hermes and Zeus. Calcite did the same while Venus kept an eye on him.
Pyrite cleared his throat. "I'd like to suggest we go somewhere warm to figure out what's going. Or does everyone plan to stand around this freezing cold park indefinitely?"
Sailor Moon stopped petting the catwoman. "Yeah. It's cold and I'm getting hungry."
Inspiration struck Titanite. "We could go to my place. It's warm and there's a ton of food that needs eating!"
"Really!" It sounded like she'd just become Sailor Moon's lifelong friend."
Calcite winced and raised a hand to his brow. Then groaned aloud.
End of part 1