Disclaimer: "Sailor Moon" and all associated characters are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and an assortment of media corporations. Any original characters are mine, but who really cares about that, honestly?

"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly..."

Being a Holiday Story in Several Parts, in which Tsukino Usagi and Chiba Mamoru undergo a serious threat to their Miracle Romance, Criminal Elements make themselves known, Sailor Pluto meddles with the flow of Time and History, a new Villain is unleashed, and various characters undergo Trials and Tribulations of diverse kinds.

by Sophia Prester

Rated PG-13 for suggestive language and duct tape.

Part Thirteen: Genuine Smoke Flavoring

At the beginning of this appropriately numbered section, Mamoru's eyes fluttered open. His head was killing him, and everything seemed to have gone blurry. He blinked a few times, hoping that would help, but it only highlighted the fact that it felt like his eyeballs had been curried.

His shoulders were also quite stiff, but when he tried to roll them about to loosen them up, he felt rope digging in at his wrists and arms. Even though his thinking was still a little fuzzy, he was quick to figure out that this was not a good thing. Chances were, this was ~not~ just a hangover brought on by too much holiday egg-nog. He tried shifting around only to find that his legs and body were similarly restrained. As best as he could figure, he had been tied--and rather securely at that--to a chair.

A few seconds later, his brain had cleared enough for him to remember where he'd been before waking up in this condition. He also remembered who had been with him at the time.

"Usa-ko?" he rasped. Had he swallowed something caustic? His throat felt rather raw. The stinging feeling in his eyes wasn't going away either. "Usa- ko? Are you there?"

Something whacked him on the back of the head, and a sterophonic "ow!" rang through the room.

"Mamo-chan? I just hit my head on something..."

"Me, I think." He felt something moving behind him, and he turned his head as best as he could without setting off the crew of pickaxe wielding gnomes that seemed to have taken up residence in his skull. He caught a glimpse of blonde ponytail and Usagi-shoulder. "You're tied up right behind me."

"Why are we tied up?" she asked groggily.

"Remember those nice men at the butcher shop? I think they were just a little upset when you figured out they were smuggling jewels."

From the look of things, he and Usa-ko had been put in cold storage--closer to eighty degrees and rising storage, really--until the criminals could figure out what to do with them.

He tried not to think of phrases like 'hiding the bodies' or 'sleeping with the fishes.' At least they were conscious, and could work on getting out of this situation before the men returned to finish the job.

Usagi was now a little more awake. At least, she was awake enough to panic. "We can't be tied up now! We have to go get the turkey or Mako-chan'll be all mad!"

Honestly, there were times when Usagi was so dense that light rays would bend around her. Mamoru sighed in exasperation and tried to wiggle his wrists free of the rope. "We ~did~ go to get the turkey, and that's why..."

"We did?"

Mamoru started to say 'of course we did, don't you remember?' or somethine else equally snippy, when something stopped the words dead in his throat. "Usa-ko, how are you feeling?" he asked.

"My head hurts," she said, "and I'm feeling kind of urpy. I think I'll go back to sleep for a while, okay?"

"No! Not okay!" he yelled. "Don't you dare go to sleep on me!"

"Why are you always so mean to me?" she whined. "I'm ~sleepy~, and it's so hot in here!"

Rei often accused Usagi of being thick-skulled, but that didn't mean that getting smacked in the head with a large cut of frozen meat wouldn't give her a nasty concussion.

"I'm not being mean," he snapped. His eyes still hurt, and his vision wasn't clearing up any. In fact, the room seemed to be getting foggier. He couldn't be sure that ~he~ wasn't concussed. So much for waiting for the others to get worried and come to looking for them on their own. He had to get Usagi to Hotaru or to a doctor as soon as possible.

"We need to get out of here, and I need you awake for that." No point in scaring Usagi with what could happen if she fell asleep. "Can you move your arms or legs?"

"No."

"You keep your communicator in your pocket, right? Is there any way you can wiggle your hand around...hey, watch where you're groping!"

He honestly didn't mind what she'd been doing just then, but he couldn't afford to be distracted just now.

"Sorry. I can't get to my pocket. Are you sure I can't go to sleep? Not even for just a little bit?"

"Positive." Mamoru looked around, but things were still hazy. It was also uncomfortably warm. The acrid smell in the air spoke of various industrial materials catching fire and emitting fumes that would probably have an adverse effect on his health...assuming he wasn't burnt to a crisp first. Oh, yes. He'd finally figured it out.

They'd been knocked out, tied up, and left in a burning warehouse to die*.

It was turning out to be a ~wonderful~ holiday season.

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* This was not entirely true. The jewel thieves were not the murderous type. Like the rest of us, they simply wanted to become very, very rich without having to work too hard for it. Unfortunately, when they left the warehouse, one of them tossed a live cigarette butt into a bucket of greasy rags. This is usually considered a bad idea, even when you're not stashing your hostages in a warehouse belonging to Mitsumoto and Son, Distributors of Japan's finest Kerosene, Propane, and Lighter Fluid, and Purveyors of Novelty Matchbooks for Every Occasion.



Part Fourteen: Liquid Filling

Sailor Pluto ground her teeth in frustration and near-panic. Who would have expected that industrial sabotage would be so ~difficult~? Pouring chloroform through the air valve of a tire was a lot trickier than they'd made it look on last week's episode of C.S.I.

She wished she could have taken care of this earlier in the day, but the timing of certain chemical reactions had to be just so. At least fiddling with the seals and gaskets on the truck hadn't been too difficult. Vigorous application of a nail file and a few good whacks with the Time Staff had been sufficient for the task.

After another minute, she was done. She straightened up, and surveyed the factory parking lot. No one was around. Good.

With a burst of Senshi speed, she was gone and halfway home well before the truck's driver came out of the main office.

By the time the tanker truck made it out of the parking lot, Setsuna was home and working on the next phase of her plan.



Part Fifteen: Shake Well Before Opening

If his hands had been free, Mamoru would have slapped himself on the forehead. He was an idiot! He knew ~exactly~ how they could get out of this situation. The only question was, why hadn't he thought of it earlier?

"Usa-ko! Can you transform without actually touching your brooch?"

"Why...oh! Yes, of course I can! Why didn't I think of that earlier?"

He felt a gentle tug in his heart at hearing Usagi echo his very own thoughts. At the same time, the part of him that was resisting a thousand- plus years of blissful togetherness was about to gnaw its own leg off in a desperate attempt to escape.

Escape. Right. Time to concentrate.

"Okay. On three, then. One... Two... Three!"

Usagi shouted out her cry of "Moon Crystal Power, make up!" while Mamoru...well, did whatever it was he did to turn into Tuxedo Kamen.

It should have been a simple, elegant solution which meant, of course, that everything went completely wrong.

First, Mamoru let out a few choice curse words as one of Eternal Sailor Moon's wings clouted him on the ear.

Usagi then shrieked in panic, but the sound was rather muffled, since Tuxedo Kamen's cape had materialized behind him as usual, which meant that it was wrapped around Usagi.

Mamoru spit a couple of feathers out of his mouth and started to transform back in order to free Usagi. It was a nice thought, but unfortunately for him, the ribbons that appeared during Usagi's transformation started winding around her, and by extension, Mamoru.

"Undo it! Undo it!" Mamoru yelled. It came out a little bit strangled, what with the pretty pink ribbons crushing his chest.

"I'm try--eek!"

It should be noted at this point that the usual spinning motion that accompanies a Senshi transformation is not designed to compensate for the fact that the Senshi in question might be bound hand and foot to approximately fifteen pounds worth of metal chairs and one hundred sixty pounds of reincarnated Earth prince. It does, however, possess more than enough power to launch the entire assemblage several feet into the air and spin it around rather violently.

Thus, the two of them tumbled tail over teakettle across the room, wings, ribbons, masks and so on fading away a little more each time they bounced against the floor, until they came to a stop in a twisted and dizzy heap of rope, metal, and aching limbs.

"Let's ~not~ try that again," Usagi said groggily.

"That's a very good idea." Mamoru tried to see if the ropes had come loose. Of course not. If anything, his arms and legs were twisted into a more uncomfortable position. Nice things ~never~ happened to him this time of year.

On the plus side, Usagi's communicator had slipped out of her pocket and had landed about three feet away from them. He could just barely see it through the smoke.

"Okay, I've got another idea..."

"There won't be spinning, will there?"

"No. I promise. No spinning." He could still feel his brain sloshing around inside his skull. More spinning was the last thing he wanted to do. "Just give me a moment to throw up, and then we'll give it a try."



Part Sixteen: In a Small Bowl, Mix Wet Ingredients Thoroughly

Setsuna had her laptop set up in the kitchen, along with an array of measuring cups, spoons, and a non-reactive bowl. The instructions on the laptop screen had been very specific about non-reactivity.

Carefully following the instructions she had downloaded from the internet, she mixed the called-for ingredients together in the bowl. She stared dubiously at the oily, chili-colored mixture, wondering if this was really going to work.

Not for the first time that day, she questioned the sanity of what she was doing. It was all so...improbable. Even so, she told herself firmly, she couldn't afford to indulge in a pity-party right now. There was very little time left, and no guarantee that any of this would work.

Her little job at the truck yard had taken much longer than she expected, and she was more conscious than usual of the way time kept slip, slip, slipping away from her. Normally, she could stretch time a bit to buy herself some breathing room, but with the Cord of Inevitability holding sway over this section of the timestream, she couldn't afford to take that risk*.

The syringe she took out of her bag looked like something that might normally be used to vaccinate an elephant. She drew the contents of the bowl into the syringe, being careful not to spill a single drop. She didn't want Haruka, Michiru, or Hotaru to wonder what she was doing. There was no way she could explain that wouldn't serve to make matters worse.

Once the first syringe was filled, she took out a second, and then a third. The loaded syringes were then sealed into a Ziploc baggie. She'd need to take the bag with her when the call came. Everything else she would need had already been stashed in the appropriate place.

Setsuna checked her watch and was delighted to find that she had finished the job with five minutes to spare. That would give her a chance to sit down, catch her breath, and practice her 'surprised' face.

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* 'Couldn't afford to take the risk' meaning, in this instance, 'didn't want to end up turned inside-out the hard way while passing through fifty dimensions at once.'



Part Seventeen: Roasting on an Open Fire

Rei just happened to be doing a fire reading at that particular moment*.

Things were going peacefully for a while, and then, with no warning, she was nearly battered down by a hail of images, coming one after another so quickly that she could barely tell where one ended and another began.

What little she could see was terrifying. Fire. Smoke. She nearly gagged when she saw a graphic image of entrails being strewn along the streets of Tokyo. She didn't want to think of ~whose~ entrails they might be. She saw Neptune struck down, and then Pluto. She saw Uranus screaming, with tears running down her face.

No. Nonononono. This was as bad as the visions she received before Saturn's awakening.

Rei stared at the fire, willing the images to come again. Visions of disasters were only warnings, she thought desperately, trying to make herself believe it. If she studied the visions, she could learn how to keep them from coming true.

The vision returned, bringing with it the same images of fire and smoke, guts and injured Senshi. This time, she also got strong indications of a flood and freezing.

Lovely. As if there wasn't ~enough~ to worry about already.

At last, the vision faded, leaving Rei with one final image. She blinked a couple of times, but there was no mistaking what she'd seen.

"Celery? What does ~celery~ have to do with anything?"

Enigmatic vegetables aside, Rei knew she couldn't ignore the seriousness of this vision. It was time to assemble the troops.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Being psychic, Rei had an innate ability to know just ~when~ to be conducting a fire reading and therefore receive truly important messages. Doing fire readings at other times merely resulted in her receiving the psychic equivalent of late-night infomercials.



Part Eighteen: Proper Storage Ensures Freshness

Meanwhile, in the depths of a plastic shopping bag, a daimon awoke within its egg.

Normally, the daimon would have remained dormant for a very long time, but it was being carted through the heart of the Juuban shopping district on the last weekend before Christmas.

The spirit of the season had descended upon Tokyo. Animatronic displays, choral music, and free-floating seasonal guilt had inclined many people's thoughts towards peace, charity, and goodwill. Children everywhere were doing their best to be good little boys and girls*. Others were going about their holiday shopping with planning and determination that made Napoleon look like a slacker.

In other words, the entire city had become an all-you-can-eat buffet of pure hearts.

The egg trembled in reaction to all of this pure-heart energy. It didn't take long for it to pick up enough ambient energy to sink its tendrils into the nearest object it could find. The daimon had hatched, and it was ready to start collecting.

Makoto was only two blocks from the burning warehouse when her shopping bag exploded.

For a second or two, she and Ami could only watch in horror as the new monster took form.

"This is ~not~ happening!" Makoto groaned.

"I'm afraid it is," Ami said, her voice shaking. "We...we'd better...eheh...call...call the others."

"Ami, you'd better not be laughing!"

"Sorry."

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* You know that jolly old man with the red suit and white beard? The one who ~knows~ whether you've been naughty or nice? Whatever their religious or cultural inclinations, frazzled parents throughout the world have always been quick to take advantage of the more Orwellian aspects of Christmas.



Part Nineteen: Kitchen Timer

Setsuna's communicator lit up like the control panel at Chernobyl. It was Rei with her dire portents and Ami babbling hysterically about a monster in the middle of the shopping district.

Right on schedule.

She looked suitably surprised, then told the others she'd be there as quickly as she could.

It never occurred to anyone that no one had had a chance to tell Setsuna where 'there' was.



Part Twenty: Poultry Seasoning

"The others are on their way," Jupiter said. She and Mercury had ducked into a convenient alleyway* to transform, even though it was unlikely that anyone would have noticed them transforming even if they had climbed up on top of a newspaper kiosk and let off a blast from an air horn to announce the event.

At the moment, most of the shoppers on Juuban's main street were a little bit more worried about getting out of the way of the fifty-foot tall raw turkey lurching down the middle of the road.

As the turkey-daimon stalked along, it stopped to trap fleeing citizens in avalanches of stuffing, or to asphyxiate them in clouds of savory herbs and spices, making it all the easier to steal their pure hearts. The smells of the beast's attacks were overwhelming. A good many of the people who were cowering in the shops or deep within other convenient alleyways were drooling like Pavlov's dogs at the smell of rosemary, sage, and gravy.

Others were vowing to never again eat poultry or any other kind of fowl ~ever~ again. It was admittedly a little disconcerting to see food items going on a homicidal rampage, especially if you were one of the homis liable to be cided.

Then, as if the scene weren't surreal enough already, there was the matter of the beast's outfit. Butchers sometimes talked about 'dressing' a bird or a cut of meat, but they surely didn't intend the term to include a red waistcoat with brass buttons. It also wore a jolly polka-dot bowtie. This was an unfortunate fashion decision in the first place, but it looked even worse than normal on a creature that was currently without a head.

Mercury's computer blipped and blooped its way through a series of calculations. "That can't be right!" she said. "According to my computer, that creature's a daimon!"

"It was ~supposed~ to be dinner," Jupiter snarled.

"I thought all the daimons were destroyed," said Mercury, oblivious to Jupiter's rising anger. Now that she was faced with an interesting problem, the more pedestrian cares of the world faded to the background, along with the screams of terror and cries of panic coming from just outside the alley. "Of course, it's entirely possible that something might have survived in the ruins of Tomoe's lab. Statistically speaking--"

Whatever she was going to say next was cut short by the unmistakable sound of a Tokyo taxicab being pulverized by a rampaging monster.

When the two Senshi rushed out to confront the monster, they were greeted by a horrible sight. Dozens of people had collapsed in the streets. Their heart crystals had been ripped from their chests, and they now hovered and drifted about, mixing in with the Christmas lights that were festooned everywhere. Twinkly lights, fallen bodies, smoking wreckage--it was like something out of Quentin Tarantino's Nutcracker Suite.

"It's not as humanoid as many of the other daimons we've seen," said Mercury. Jupiter was too busy staring in stupefied rage to even come up with the traditional trounce-the-enemy speech, let alone listen to Mercury's analysis of the situation. "It's extracting pure hearts, but it doesn't seem to know what to do with them."

Meanwhile, the daimon itself stumped towards them on the ends of its drumsticks. The dark pentagram at the base of the breastbone flickered with pulses of deepest black as the creature stalked the streets of Juuban like the Star-Bellied Sneetch from Hell.

"I'm guessing that it was just a leftover," Mercury said. "I'd imagine it shouldn't be too difficult to defeat.

"Oh, I'll reduce this thing to leftovers, all right!" Jupiter, galvanized by anger, leapt in front of the daimon.

"Supreme Thunder..."

The high-pressure jet of giblet gravy knocked her through a store window before she could finish preparing her attack.

Seeing (even though it had no eyes) that its foe had been vanquished, the monster cried out (even though it had no mouth), shrieking out its name in triumph.

"GIBLETS!"

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* In any universe populated by magical girls, caped crusaders, champions of justice, or anyone else who wears brightly colored spandex as part of their crime-fighting duties, there will ~always~ be a convenient (and unoccupied) alley, phone booth, or closet whenever the hero or heroine needs to change to a secret identity.**

** Code of Fictional Regulations, Title 17: Parts 1-25 (Sec. 25.001- 25.299): Loopholes and Plot Devices



Part Twenty-One: Out of the Frying Pan, into the Pressure Cooker

By variously twisting, contorting, and stretching themselves, Usagi and Mamoru were able to inch themselves across the warehouse floor. Given that they were both down on their sides and tied back-to-back, navigation was somewhat difficult.

It also didn't help that Usagi was still disoriented, thanks to the concussion. The rising smoke and heat was also sapping what little strength she had left.

As for Mamoru, the spinning of Usagi's transformation had left him feeling like he'd taken a trip through a cement mixer.

It may have only been a three-foot crawl across an open space, but to Mamoru, it felt like an epic journey. It would have been easy just to stop moving, to stop encouraging Usagi to stay awake, but he refused to give up.

Epic journey, he thought as he wriggled forward. He could do epic journey. Unfortunately, this thought failed to motivate him.*

"Usa-ko, can you see the communicator? Can you get to it?"

With her hands tied, there was no way that Usagi could give the communicator any specific commands. Even so, she could probably manage to whack some of the buttons with her head and then start screaming her lungs out. It wasn't much of a plan, but it would get the others' attention. He didn't see any way it could fail.

"It slid under a cabinet, Mamo-chan! I can't reach it!" Usagi wailed. "What are we going to do now?"

Well, maybe there was ~one~ way it could fail.

Mamoru let himself go limp. This wasn't the way things were supposed to go! They'd escaped incredible odds, insanely powerful monsters, and diabolical villains. They weren't supposed to be roasted to death by a bunch of ordinary criminals.

Funny, how in times like these, his future didn't seem quite so inevitable. In fact, his future seemed to be shrinking quite rapidly. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth together to keep from screaming in frustration. When he'd thought about living out the rest of his days by Usa-ko's side, he'd never thought that it would be like this. He'd never thought that he wouldn't be able to look her in the eyes one last time.

For a moment, he thought that he'd let that scream of frustration out, but then he realized that his voice didn't go beep-beep-beep, at least not the last time he'd checked.

"Mamo-chan! The communicator's working! They're trying to call us!"

"Answer them!"

They yelled and hollered until their already-raw throats could stand no more.

"Do you think they heard us?"

"I don't know," Usagi whispered. Her voice was fading fast. "I don't think so."

"Usa-ko, if the communicator is going off like that, it means that the others are trying to call ~you~, right?"

The smoke was making it harder to see anything. At least by flinging themselves to the ground, they had kept themselves closer to the good air for a little while longer. Even so, his eyes and nose stung with the acrid smoke.

"If you ~don't~ answer the call, then the others will figure out pretty quickly that something is wrong. That should bring them running. You know how protective Mars and Uranus are," he said, trying to reassure himself as well as her.

"They won't abandon us," he went on. "You'll see. In fact, they'll probably be here any minute."

Silence.

"Usa-ko, are you all right?"

No answer.

"Usa-ko?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - * As it turns out, Mamoru, whose natural pessimism was enhanced by the growing heat, could only recall the following epic journeys: Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1847 while spectacularly failing to find the fabled Northwest Passage; George Mallory, who presumably plummeted off something in 1924 while attempting to scale Mt. Everest; Robert Falcon Scott, who froze to death in a blizzard in January of 1912, after failing to be the first person to reach the South Pole; Sir Gerald Farnsworth- Houghton, who in 1902 attempted to find the North Pole, and was later declared missing, presumed eaten by sled-dogs.



Twenty-Two: Food Fight

Venus frantically pushed every button on her communicator. "She isn't answering! She isn't answering!"

"If she's at the arcade, she won't be able to hear her communicator over the machines!" Jupiter moaned.

Giblets roared in fury and launched another salvo.

"Incoming!" Uranus shouted. Everyone ducked. Mercury prayed it wouldn't be another barrage of spice-bombs, or worse, that super-dense stuffing. Poor Neptune had nearly been suffocated.

Thousands of small objects rocketed up from Giblets' neck, then fell from the sky, striking the pavement with a distinctly unappetizing 'splap!' Many of these objects exploded wetly upon impact.

"Ewwww! Gross!" Venus whined. Her skirt and bodice were covered with chunky pinkish-liverish slop. Neptune, who had just divested herself of the last of the cornbread and celery, was shaking with rage as she wiped an assortment of gizzards from her face.

"Well, at least we know why he calls himself 'Giblets'," Mercury observed. She and Jupiter were lucky enough to have been shielded by Saturn's Silence Wall. Fragments of raw turkey guts stuck to the Wall like bugs on a windshield.

Mars picked something unidentifiable and slimy out of her hair, and spit a piece of overcooked celery out of her mouth. "I think we can handle this by ourselves. After the whole Galaxia thing, the meatball-head deserves a break, don't you think?"

"Good idea. She's probably off having fun..." Mercury said.

"Or making out with 'Mamo-chan,'" Venus grumbled.

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"Well, not in so many words, you didn't."

Somewhere off to their left, Uranus shrieked in pain.

"What's wrong?" Mercury gasped. "Uranus! Are you all right?"

Jupiter shook her head and patted Mercury on the shoulder. "She'll be okay. It's just that she got hit by one of those Cajun spice-bombs a little while back. You know, you really need to be careful about rubbing your eyes after handling that stuff."



Twenty-Three: Done to a Turn

"USA-KO!"

The scream that rang inside his head was far louder than anything his throat could produce.

For a moment, all he could hear was the crackle of the approaching flames. The communicator had stopped beeping. No one was coming to get them.

He told himself that his link with Usa-ko would tell him if she was...was anything more than unconscious. Wouldn't it?

When Usa-ko mumbled something about being tired and hot, Mamoru nearly cried with relief.

There were thousands of things he wanted to say to her, things he thought he would be able to say one by one over the centuries. Now, the question was which few he would be able to say in the little time they had left.

In particular, he wanted a chance to ask her the question he'd never been able to finish all those months ago.

"Usa-ko? Will you..." he coughed, and tried to take a deep breath. This only got him a lungful of smoke. "Will you..."

It should surprise no one that Mamoru would pass out at just that moment.



Twenty-Four: Meat Tenderizer

The Senshi were still cleaning up from the gizzard attack when Sailor Pluto finally joined the fray. She came up from behind and unloaded the first of the three syringes right into Giblets' rear. The daimon roared in pain and kicked backwards, knocking Pluto into the air. Venus caught her before she could hit the ground.

"Glad you could make it," she panted. "This thing is tough!"

"Good heavens, I hope not!" Pluto exclaimed. "By the way, would you mind moving about, oh, two feet to your right? Thanks. Now turn so you're facing a little more to your left. No, your *other* left. Perfect!"

While a thoroughly confused Venus did as she was told, Pluto checked to make sure that the other two syringes were in good shape. "Now, I want you to stay ~right~ where you are for a while, but I need you to distract the tur- I mean daimon for me. I need to get up close to it again."

"Sure. I'll just... Hey! Where's your Time Staff?"

"I took it in for cleaning. Now, on the count of three, start distracting! And remember, don't move! One...two...three!"

Venus summoned up her chain even as Pluto ran straight for the daimon- possessed bird. She whipped the chain through the air, drawing Giblets' eye. This gave Pluto the chance to jab syringe number two right into the meaty part of Giblets' breast, distracting it just as it was about to drown a semi-conscious Mercury in steaming gravy.

Unfortunately, the next jab didn't go so well. Pluto was able to unload the last syringe, but Giblets smacked her with its stubby little wing and sent her flying into a nearby alley.

She hit the back wall of the alley hard, her 'oof!' of pain underscored by the traditional crash of metal trashcans and yowl of an irate alley cat.*

Ignoring the pain shooting down her leg, she retrieved her carefully- modified Time Staff from its hiding place in the alley. She knew she would end up in the alley, but she wasn't expecting to land quite so hard. Otherwise, she would have stashed a mattress there as well.

Leaving the others to continue the fight as best they could, Pluto clambered up a nearby fire escape. Once she reached the rooftops, she took off at top speed. She had only a few seconds to cover three blocks and get in position. Even with her Senshi speed, it was going to be a close one. She ran towards the burning warehouse, made a brief and silent apology to the duo dying within, and ran right past it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - * It should be noted that using "irate" and "cat" in the same sentence is somewhat redundant.



Twenty-Five: Movie Popcorn

Were the next few scenes to have been filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, things might have unfolded more or less as follows in an attempt to build suspense:

A truck driver is sitting in his cab at a red light. Some rock and roll is playing on the stereo. From time to time, the driver looks up at a photo of his wife, dog, and two children. From the sentimental smile on the driver's face, the audience gathers that this man loves his family very much. The audience starts to get worried.

Once this establishing shot has had time to sink in, the light turns green and the truck lurches forward. The camera then pans to the large valve on the back of the truck. It zooms in so that the audience can see that the valve has sustained some sort of damage--perhaps from being repeatedly whacked by a large, key-shaped staff with a garnet orb at one end. Smarter audience members figure out that something is going to go wrong with this valve in the near future.

The camera then pulls back to a long shot of the truck pulling onto a highway. The exit sign tells the audience that the truck is headed towards Juuban. Various audience members start eating their popcorn at increased speed. Something is going to happen with this truck and the fight!

The next shot is once again of the driver. He is on his cell phone, telling his boss that he hears some strange noises and feels an odd pull in the steering wheel. The audience sighs with relief--perhaps disaster will be avoided. The sighs turn into gasps of dismay as the driver says: "It's probably nothing. I'll check into it after I've delivered this load." Oh, no! Disaster has ~not~ been avoided!

A subsequent long shot tells the audience that the tanker truck is carrying some sort of oil. Uh-oh...

Back to the driver. He is on his cell phone, telling his wife how much he loves her, how much he misses seeing his children, how much he's looking forward to the retirement he'll be able to take after only two more weeks of driving... The audience watches as the driver essentially signs his own cinematic death warrant, and they settle back to enjoy the upcoming carnage.

In the last shot before the film cuts back to the fight, the audience gets a good look at a tire that's about to blow out at any second. People scoot forward in their seats.

This is going to be ~good~.



Twenty-Six: Flambe

Giblets was fading fast. Normally, they'd call on Sailor Moon to deliver the coup de grace, but as she wasn't there, the best they could do was to hit Giblets as hard and often as they could. It seemed to be working.

"Burning Mandala!"

"Sparkling Wide Pressure!"

"Say, isn't that warehouse on fire?"

"World Shaking!"

"I'm ~serious~! Can't you see the smoke?"

The trio of attacks quite literally knocked the stuffing out of Giblets. The daimon egg fell to the ground and disappeared in a puff of smoke. As for the formerly daimon-possessed turkey...



Twenty-Seven: Grease Pan Thoroughly

At precisely the same time that the Senshi launched their final attack on Giblets, the chloroform that Setsuna had put in the truck tire finished its work just as the truck was crossing an overpass a half-block from Juuban's main shopping street.

The truck lurched to the left, the driver quickly steered to the right, but overcompensated, sending the rear section of the tanker truck fishtailing violently back and forth. He braked, but the back of the truck still had too much momentum. The rear axle smashed into the guard rail of the overpass and crashed through.*

The impact finished what Setsuna had started, and knocked open the valve on the back of the truck.

Thousands of gallons of premium-grade peanut oil sprayed out in a greasy rainbow over the battle zone below.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - * The driver only sustained a mild back injury. It was bad enough that his boss let him take retirement two weeks earlier than expected, but not so bad that it kept him from enjoying being pampered by his loving wife and doting children as he recovered in the comfort of his own home. This was all part of Setsuna's plan--when push came to shove, she was just a big softy at heart.



Twenty-Seven: A Moveable Feast

It was just as well that Mamoru and Usagi had attempted to transform into their superpowered alter-egos. Even though it was rather uncomfortable to be tied up and twisted together on the floor with a couple of metal chairs along for the ride, it was better than the alternative.

For, if they had ~not~ knocked themselves to the ground, it was likely that one or both of them would have been killed by the impact of a flaming, twenty-five pound turkey which was traveling in excess of seventy miles an hour as it hurtled through the wreckage of the warehouse.



Twenty-Eight: Catch of the Day

Its passage through the burning warehouse slowed the turkey down considerably, but still it continued its flaming arc across the Tokyo skyline.

With one final, frantic leap, Setsuna reached her destination. She held the Time Staff over her head, closed her eyes, and hoped for the best.

The threads of the Time Gate said this would work, she told herself over and over, willing it to be true.

It wasn't until she felt the turkey 'thwap!' into the fishing net she'd duct-taped to the end of the Time Staff that she finally believed it. Things were almost over, but she didn't dare think that, not even in the quietest of thoughts.

Venus should have spotted the fire by now. She was in the right place to do so, thanks to Pluto's careful maneuvering, but the final rescue still had to occur. Pluto wasn't about to say or think anything that might invoke the laws of Dramatic Irony*.

She had to remove a sliver of broken glass it had picked up while crashing through the warehouse, but other than that, the bird had suffered little damage. The injected marinade and repeated World Shakings had tenderized the bird. The combination of an oil bath, Jupiter's and Mars's attacks, and a trip through a burning building had crisped the skin to a perfect golden brown. All it required was another forty-five minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven, and it would be done.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Unlike other Senshi we could name, Setsuna had paid attention in literature class.



Twenty-nine: Chill and Serve

"You're right, Venus! It ~is~ on fire!"

"Told you so."

Mercury and Neptune, who were pretty much the brain trust of the group, were also the two best equipped to take care of the fire. They acted almost as one.

"Shabon Spray Freezing!"

"Deep Submerge!"

The fire was extinguished almost instantly. The impact of Neptune's mini- tsunami also managed to knock away much of the front wall of the building.

Once the smoke and steam cleared, the Senshi were quite surprised to see a cold, wet, soot-covered, and ~extremely~ traumatized Usagi and Mamoru tied up together in a rather compromising position.



Thirty: A Toast to the Lightly Toasted

"We're alive! We're alive!" Usagi gasped. The cold water had shocked her back into consciousness.

"I love you, Usa-ko!" Mamoru rasped out. "Will you marry me?"

This wasn't how or when he had planned to propose, but there was nothing else he could say. There was nothing else that would show his gratitude for not losing her, and his regret for taking her for granted as he had. If he could have found a minister, he would have married her on the spot, rope, chairs, soot, and all.

Usagi nearly sprained her neck trying to look at him in disbelief. "Your timing could have been better...I mean yes! Yes, I'll marry you!"

"Soon. Say you'll marry me soon..."

"Anything you want! Anything!"

"Wonderful!" Mamoru took a deep breath. The moment he had been dreading had come and gone, and he had no regrets. That left him with only one thing to ask:

"Usa-ko, will you..."

"Yes?"

"...will you please move your foot? I think your heel is digging into my kidneys."

And thus the world is saved.



Post Script: A Feast for the Ages

Setsuna was pleased with the way her day's work had turned out, and she had every right to be.

Despite being concussed, shaken about, nearly roasted, flash-frozen, and drowned, Usagi and Mamoru were in good spirits, and everyone could see the new closeness that had come about after their little adventure. It helped that Hotaru's healing powers had been able to deal with their abrasions, contusions, concussions, lacerations, inflammations, smoke inhalation, and a whole host of other things ending with '-ion.' In anticipation of certain future events, however, it should be noted that Hotaru's abilities were not capable of dealing with a) viruses or b) certain interesting strains of bacteria.

Thanks to Setsuna's efforts the timing of Serenity and Endymion's reign would be absolutely perfect. The knowledge and perspective the two of them had gained from their near-death experience would help them to become even ~better~ rulers than they would have been otherwise. Also, now that they had seen just how fragile even a foreordained future could be, they would be more active in ~creating~ the paradise of Crystal Tokyo rather than waiting for it to be built in reaction to war or disaster.

In just a few years' time, Usagi would give birth to her only child* and take on the mantle of Neo Queen Serenity.

Those few years were very important, for even though they had had a picture- perfect epiphany, both Usagi and Mamoru still had a lot to learn. A crucial side effect of the day's hectic events was that the combination of extreme stress, heat, soaking and freezing had left both Usagi and Mamoru with the beginnings of a horrible, horrible cold. This would force them to put off their celebratory love-making session for a few days, and delay Usagi's getting pregnant until the right time. It was an odd form of birth control, but if it worked, it worked.

At first Makoto was upset that her dinner would be going to waste, but Setsuna told her to bring all of the side-dishes and desserts she had prepared to the Outer Senshi's house, and not to worry about the main course.

Just as they were sitting down to dinner, the phone rang. Haruka picked it up. She didn't get much farther than "hello," when her eyes flew open in shock. She listened intently, occasionally throwing in a "uh-huh" or "you're kidding me!" or "that's horrible!" At one point, she asked "They found ~how~ many in the crawl space?" Eventually, she thanked whoever it was for calling and hung up the phone.

"You're never going to believe this," she told the others, "but you know that guy who lives a couple of houses down from us?"

"You mean that creepy old man?" Hotaru asked. She shuddered.

"Yeah," Haruka said. "That was Mrs. Hasegawa from next door. She said that the police just came and hauled him away. It turns out that he's a serial- killer who's wanted for murder in five different prefectures."

There was a moment or two of awed silence.

Michiru shook her head. "I always thought he was just lonely and misunderstood. I guess it's a good thing we didn't invite him over for dinner after all." She stifled a small, almost lady-like belch. "Pardon me!"

Makoto brought out all of the side dishes she had so lovingly prepared. Deep orange sweet potatoes with white clouds of marshmallow and glistening caramelized sugar. Fluffy mashed potatoes, and bowls of cranberry sauce that shone like rubies. Piping hot rolls fresh from the oven. Butter-crusted dressing that smelled wonderfully of sage, apple, and onion.

Last, but hardly least, a magnificent array of pies stood waiting on the sideboard along with a silver bowl full of freshly whipped cream. The room was filled with murmurs of delight and anticipation as platters, bowls, and casseroles were passed around the table. A few of the souls at that table had been shaken enough by the day's events that they decided to have their dessert ~with~ dinner, rather than after. Life, they had learned that day, was uncertain, and it was better not to put certain things off until the last minute.

At last, Setsuna brought forth the ~pi├Ęce de resistance~--a twenty-five pound turkey that had been injected with marinade and deep-fat fried so that its skin was crispy and brown and the meat was perfectly tender and flavored. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared as the mahogany- colored bird was carried to the table on one of Michiru's Royal Copenhagen platters.

Setsuna smiled beatifically at the others. Although they didn't know it, this dinner symbolized much more than a Western holiday. It meant that they had hope for the future. She picked up the carving knife and fork. Sharing this meal together was in its way, the first royal ceremony of Crystal Tokyo.

"Everyone pass your plates and I'll serve up the turkey. Be sure to tell me if you want white or dark meat."

No one moved. No plates were passed. Michiru's face became almost ghastly pale.

"The meat will get cold, so someone has to start. Mamoru-kun? Usagi-chan?"

The future king and queen looked at her miserably. Their plates were unusually empty. Usagi sneezed.

Setsuna bit her lips together. So they had colds and weren't hungry. Too bad. She started to ask Makoto if she would like some turkey when Haruka spoke up.

"It smells like that spice I got all over me. I'll pass."

"I'm still getting over being gut-bombed," said Minako. "I think I'd ralph if I ate any turkey."

Michiru--who was by now looking more than a little queasy--turned down any turkey before rushing from the room, her hand clamped to her mouth.

"I'll be seeing that stupid turkey-monster in my dreams for weeks," Makoto complained. "I wish I'd gone the roast beef route, you know?"

"Wait a minute!" Haruka said. "I ~know~ we didn't have a turkey in the refrigerator this morning. Setsuna, please tell me that you didn't...salvage...it from the fight this afternoon!"

"It doesn't seem right, eating a former enemy," Ami said. "Doesn't it strike anyone else as...disrespectful?"

Rei just glared at the turkey as if she wanted to slap a spirit ward on it.

The conversation went on in this vein while Setsuna stood dumbfounded, holding the knife and fork poised over the turkey.

"You saw the battle. Who knows where that thing's ~been~? It's totally unsanitary."

"I think there's some ham in the fridge if anyone's really craving some meat."

"I'll be happy if I never have to eat turkey again."

"I'm still finding bits of liver in my hair."

"There's also some leftover kung pao beef. We could always just nuke that..."

"This is the sort of thing that could turn me vegetarian."

"We could do scrambled eggs..."

"Please! Nothing to do with poultry. Hey, where's Michiru?"

"Communing with the toilet, from the sound of things."

"...or I could fire up the grill and throw on some hamburgers and hot dogs..."

"My hair ~still~ smells like raw liver, even after I washed it three times! Here, ~you~ smell it!"

"I'm happy with stuffing, potatoes, and pie. What about you?"

"Less turkey, more dessert. Sounds like a winner to me!"

The clatter of the carving knife and fork as they fell to the floor grabbed everyone's attention. As one, they all turned to stare at a shaking, bright- eyed Setsuna.

"You...you have ~no~ idea how ~hard~ I worked to make this all work out all right!" Setsuna cried, her voice breaking and catching on the words. "I...I always try and try ~so~ hard to...to make everything nice for everyone...and..."

With one last sob, she turned and ran upstairs, leaving behind a room full of delicious food and embarrassed silence.

Haruka sighed, then pulled the platter over to her place. She picked up the carving knife and fork.

"So...who wants a drumstick?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Namely, that there was no avoiding the eventual birth of a certain pink- haired child no matter ~how~ hard one tried. As your grandmother always told you, you have to take the good with the bad.



Post-Post Script: "Sailor Moon Says..."

SCENE OPENS on SAILOR MOON, SAILOR NEPTUNE, and SAILOR MERCURY sitting at the dining table used during the last scene.

SAILOR MOON: We've faced weird enemies in the past, but few have been quite as weird as Giblets.

FLASHBACK to the fight with GIBLETS and the moment when SAILOR NEPTUNE is hit with a barrage of gizzards.

SAILOR MOON (VOICE OVER): Besides being just plain disgusting, raw turkey parts can be ~very~ dangerous. Just ask Sailor Neptune!

MEDIUM SHOT of NEPTUNE, who smiles wanly and waves at the camera. Her face is unpleasantly pale.

MERCURY pulls down a roller-blind diagram of some single celled creatures.

MERCURY: Despite its tiny size, salmonella bacteria can be a formidable enemy. Just look at the havoc it can wreak in the human digestive tract.

A series of CLOSE-UPS of the HUMAN DIGESTIVE TRACT flash across the screen.

MERCURY (VOICE OVER): Fever, nausea, diarrhea, projectile vomiting, aches, pains, more vomiting, cold sweats, hot sweats, and a general feeling of wanting to curl up and die are all typical symptoms of acute salmonella poisoning.

REVERSE SHOT of NEPTUNE, whose face now coordinates rather nicely with her hair.

MERCURY: The most common means of exposure to this tiny yet powerful adversary is through unsafe food handling practices. Handling raw meat or eggs-- even in cases of hand-to-hand combat!--can be especially risky.

SAILOR MOON: So, remember! Sailor Moon says... *Always* wash your hands after battling raw poultry!

In the background, NEPTUNE dashes for the exit, knocking over her chair in the process.

FADE OUT over a series of unpleasant noises.



SAILOR MOON (VOICE OVER): Um, could someone get a bucket? And a mop?



~~~fin~~~