Author's Unimportant Notes: Okay, okay . . . I know I've been avoiding posting anything lately. Now, now! I have a very good reason! I, erm . . . Well, I just have felt a little inadequate as a writer, so I haven't posted any of my writing. **hears crickets chirp** I, uh . . . Well, that isn't to say anyone cares, because I doubt if anyone has really missed me, but I thought I owed whoever DOES care an explanation, you know? Anyway, anyway . . . Here's a little piece that has been sitting on my PC collecting dust. **looks at the twenty or so other files also collecting dust** Uhhh . . . I'll, er, post those another time! I have enough on my hands already, no need to go begging for more responsibility.

Enjoy!

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(Prologue)

(Crystal Tokyo, 10:54 P.M.)

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Our friend Tsukino Usagi disappeared Tuesday, but we aren't going to put up any "missing person" signs. We know exactly where she is. There is no search party necessary. The rest of the kingdom isn't in a frenzy of panic yet. They don't even know she's gone . . . . After one long day of prolonging it, we have resolved to notify the public in a universal television, radio and computer broadcast, which will be short and frank. We will calmly reassure Crystal Tokyo of Usagi's immediate return. Ami feels a twinge of guilt for lying, for telling Crystal Tokyo half-truths and hiding the important information from them. We all do. The public has a right, and yet not a right, to know.

"Well, that's it then," Ami had said. "Usagi has a greater right to her own happiness, an uninterrupted period of leisure. We will tell Crystal Tokyo neither where she has gone, nor why." And so it remains.

I currently sit in one of the many armchairs of Her Highness's abandoned chambers. It has been two days since Usagi's disappearance. We are worrying over recent events in Crystal Tokyo--our queen's absence naturally our biggest focus--but strangely confident that everything will run more smoothly as we adapt. The extravagant pearl fireplace carved into the wall has a merry fire crackling, which is the only source of light and has cast the room into dark orange and brown shades. Upon the fireplace's mantel sit several framed photographs of Usagi, Mamoru (here my eyes pause sadly) and Chibi-usa. One shows Usagi, the girls, and myself all smiling into the camera. Again I look hard at Mamoru in one of the photographs. We all miss His Highness. If he hadn't died, if only he hadn't died, I know Usagi and the rest of us wouldn't have been so hard put and stressed to efficiently run Crystal Tokyo. I sigh, relaxing my shoulders and leaning further back into the soft upholstery of the satin armchair. The quiet, minutely turning of pages to my left is a continuous reminder of Makoto's presence. I can tell she is not as absorbed in her book as she pretends. In reality, her mind is with Usagi. Minako and Ami are out of my sight. They're probably on the balcony together, conversing quietly and urgently about Usagi, about where she's gone and when she will return.

And me? Well, I just observe the fire in a mild state of meditation. Let me tell you, meditation has been a big help to me lately. Although meditation and several other things have occupied me, and although I have flagrantly disregarded my worries and, sometimes, when they've become persistent and surfaced, hid them from reporters and the general public alike under a veil of forced calm, I find myself more and more restless by the moment. I feel coldly isolated, somehow. I can't completely--but I can still mostly--deny sharing Makoto's uneasiness about Usagi's disappearance, but I can't, not even a little bit, deny missing her.

"Rei?" says a choked voice from far away. Is that Makoto?

I hesitate to pry my eyes away from the fire's intensity for a moment. Its light blinds me, seeming to consume me. All I hear is the roar of the burning fire, all I see are its licking flames. I feel safe there in the brightness and heat, but why? Always I feel safe in fire, and always I wonder why . . . Wait . . . Makoto's calling me. Right. Pulling myself out of my own little world and raising my eyes I find Makoto staring at me from her seat on the couch. Her eyes, so dark they look black, are shining with unshed tears. "Er, yes, Makoto?"

Makoto hesitates before saying, "I miss her, Rei, I"--here her voice cracks- -"miss her so much."

"Yeah," I agree quietly.

"She'll come back soon . . . won't she?" Makoto is leaning so far forward she's on the very edge of her seat, her expression one of hope.

I look away. Will Usagi soon come back to us? I know she wants her "vacation," and I won't blame her or resent her for it, only respect her. Though she loves us, she has stood up to us, up to her kingdom. She knows what she needs and she's seizing it. Usagi is so perfect, so beautiful you want to bottle her. Maybe that is what we have been doing every second between now and the second she touched the henshin broach Luna gave her. We have cherished her and loved her, and have on many an occasion watched her as she has saved the world from certain doom, yet if we have truly loved her and cherished her and watched her closely, why haven't we given her her space until now? Why has she run away from us in order to "relax" if we haven't been overlooking something grimly important concerning her happiness? I know that now is the time to allow Usagi, dear Usagi, her space.

"Do you want her to?" I parry. I'm almost irritated with Makoto. Doesn't she see what we've done to our queen, to our wonderful Usagi? "Don't you think she deserves a vacation for once? Haven't we--hasn't this KINGDOM-- demanded her constant attention and energies long enough?"

"Well," Makoto begins, and as she talks, her voice gets quieter and quieter, until she's almost whispering, "I think we have. I think she deserves some rest and relaxation. I know she's been denied a vacation for, well, probably ninety-three years, but . . . I just miss her, I just want her to be here with us. We've never done this job without her."

"I know," I say as I attempt to smile, if only for Makoto's sake. "I know."

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(somewhere out in space, time unknown)

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I have spent the past couple days watching the stars wander by through the transparent filmy substance of my unique transportation device. I bet I look like a bubble, cast way, way out into space. Which, of course, is not far from the truth. But I do not reside in a bubble; any normal bubble would have popped before it reached the earth's atmosphere. This thing is more so an energy ball, just large enough that I can stretch my legs while sitting and touch the "ceiling" with my head when in a squatting position. The warm weight of the Ginzuishou--which is now on a necklace around my neck, hanging down against my chest--is comforting. I know it will not abandon me. Wherever I go, it follows. In a sense it is a part of me. Speaking of parts, wasn't ruling Crystal Tokyo a part of me and a part of my duty? Was I right in leaving Crystal Tokyo and my guardians, even for a short time? What if something goes wrong? All these questions are worrying me . . .

But it's only a vacation, I remind myself. I've been apart from them much longer before. I know they can manage goings-on in Crystal Tokyo until I return, which hopefully will be shortly. I might stay but a few days. If I find I'm enjoying myself immensely, I might stay as long as a week, who knows?

All I know is I'm positively anxious to have my feet firmly on real soil again. I'm hungry, too. The Ginzuishou has been sustaining me via its energy, but eventually I'll need food and water. I can just now see a glowing blue orb very much akin to Earth suspended in the distance. If only this "bubble" in which I travel would go faster . . . Eventually the planet's gravitational force begins reeling me inward. First, the speed at which the bubble and I are moving is so gradual, almost unnoticeable, then steady and finally we're descending at breakneck speed. Right now I really wish my friends were here to reassure me. I bury my face in my lap, my hands clasped over my head. I scream as we continue to accelerate frighteningly fast and the bubble grows hot around me. My knees are knocking together painfully, the bubble having obviously encountered some turbulence. But the Ginzuishou's power slows my bubble down only fifty meters from the ground. I open one teary eye. By this time I'm safely landed, my bum nestled upon something soft but very solid. The bubble has disappeared, my white and pearl-embroidered gown fluttering softly down around me.

Cool, prickly blades of grass are beneath my fingertips. A throbbing excitement fills me. I am free. I don't even care where I am! I don't care at all! I just want to get up and go places, meet people! Explore! Maybe get an ice-cream sundae . . . But unfortunately my happy excitement is short-lived, to be replaced with a very, very different kind of excitement. Now, I don't know much about guns . . . But I know when the safety of a gun is off, and I know that when I'm staring up the barrel of a gun, the person aiming is aiming to kill. A man shouts at me to stand up. I obey, though slowly. My legs are somewhat weak due to lack of use. Behind the concealment of my collar, the Ginzuishou is cold on its necklace. I hope he doesn't discover it. If he's a thief he'll try to take it, but somehow I don't think he's such an unsavory character as a thief. I think perhaps he is a different kind of unsavory . . . .

"Who are you? Who do you work for?" he demands viciously. Gulping, I glance worriedly at his gun at my forehead, almost having to go cross-eyed in the process, all the while wishing he wouldn't be so loud.

"I . . ."

Furious at me for stalling (I'm not intentionally stalling, he just thinks I am, I guess), he suddenly slaps me hard across the left cheek and with one leg swipes my legs from beneath me. I land on my back on the hard ground with a nasty thud. He kneels beside me and, with the same hand he used to slap me, applies more than enough pressure to my throat to totally deprive me of air and effectively pin me down. "I repeat, who are you and who do you work for?" He is shaking with barely suppressed rage. I realize I'm fortunate that he speaks Japanese, my native language. What would be happening to me right now if I couldn't understand him? I want to speak, I want to answer him, but his hand at my throat is preventing me . . . I can feel a smarting at my eyes. I leave Crystal Tokyo on vacation only to be strangled when I reach my destination? How unfair is that?

I hate to have to do this, but . . . . I reach for the necklace around my neck. Feeling around for it with trembling fingers, my heartbeat quickens as my mind tries harder and harder to deny what I subconsciously know is true: The necklace and the Ginzuishou aren't there. Somehow, the necklace must have snapped when he slapped me! Indeed, as I turn my head to the side- -slowly, ever so slowly, as if I'm in slow-motion--there, glaring back at me in the sunlight six feet away is the crystal Ginzuishou, the string of my necklace coiled like a serpent on the ground around it. My heart skips two or three beats.

I look up at the man. "Please!" I wheeze out, helplessly struggling against his binding hand. ". . Let . .go . . . ." The pressure in my lungs is so great I feel like I'm going to explode. ". . . Please . ." Through the blur of tears--am I really crying?--I can see his angry expression, his jaw set in stone. Isn't he going to let me go? If only I could reach the Ginzuishou . . . Seconds pass that seem like minutes, during which his grip remains relentless and does not loosen. My vision begins darkening. The stunning blue sky above us grows somehow less and less stunning, grows darker, grows . . . darker . . .

Is he . . . really going to kill me like this? But I . . . No, Crystal Tokyo! . . . I need . . . to live . . . . Let me live, please just . . . let . . . me . . . .

I find that my thoughts and concerns are also directed toward Chibi-usa, my daughter. In this pivotal moment, I see her smiling face, her cheeks pink with laughter. Her pink hair is just chin-length and curves inward at the tips, framing her heart-shaped face. I know she'll grow up to be a fine young queen and prominent political figure. All the loose ends are hers to tie, all the countries are hers to rule, all the people in those countries are hers to love. If I die here . . . I have faith in my dear daughter. I have faith in Crystal Tokyo.

Distantly I feel my eyes rolling into the back of my head. I feel my thoughts slipping away, my consciousness forsaking me, something I need to fight back. He can much more easily strangle me in unconsciousness. I will myself to continue struggling, I try to keep my eyes from rolling back and my vision intact, but my chest is practically bursting, screaming for oxygen and . . . Suddenly the iron fingers constricting my throat are gone, leaving the hot, irritated skin where they were now exposed and extremely sensitive to the cool breeze blowing past. I struggle to a sitting position, coughing and hacking violently, gulping lungful after greedy lungful of sweet, sweet air. My hands are at my throat, gently assessing whatever damage he might have inflicted. Though in a frenzied state, I glance several times out of the corner of my eye at the man who nearly strangled me, wary lest he should assault me again. My body is shaking and my face is wet with tears, but finally my coughing and gagging subside. I'm still hunched over, gasping, wondering whether or not he was trying to kill me and, if so, why he released me.

I'm frightened, yes, and angry. As I sit four feet away from him my temper steadily rises, as if it has been boiling just near the surface for years, as if it has been waiting and ticking like a bomb and the man has ignorantly pushed the detonator. He choked me and I did nothing to provoke him! I said nothing and did NOTHING! He risked Crystal Tokyo's well-being, the futures of my friends and daughter . . . . My fingers, no longer at my neck, are digging into the earth, the moist soil and dewy grass bunching up under my fingernails, and my chest is heaving. Angry, frustrated tears prick my eyes and sting my cheeks. I know the pain will linger on my neck for days to come. I'll be lucky if the bruises fade before I return home, which might be within the next couple days, because I'm not staying here any longer in this horrible place!

I turn to him furiously, my mouth open and ready to speak, but the words die in my throat as he makes a leap for me. Before I know it, he's got me pulled backwards tightly to his chest, one strong arm encircling my midriff, so that both my arms are pinned at my sides. His free hand is pressed firmly over my mouth, silencing me.

I'm tempted to use the Ginzuishou, which is just a short meter away, but I don't think I can--quite--reach it, and even if I can, I'll be lucky to reach it before he notices. I can't even believe this is happening, what is he doing? Growling low in my throat and wriggling earns me tighter bondage and a savage little shake. Through the fabric of my gown, I feel his rippling muscles, hard and tense. They're uncomfortable to be held against, if you ask me. "Quiet," he grunts in my ear. I'd rather obey than retaliate and face consequences, such as another strangling. There's a certain tension in the air, like suspense. But what are we waiting for? I feel his hot breath tickling my right ear. Deep in my chest something stirs, something not unlike cold dread mixed with burning anticipation. My instincts as a warrior, as Sailor Moon, are as taut as the strings of a harp. I shift slightly and strain my ears to detect any unusual noises. Wait, what's that? There's no . . . no sound at all. Where are the birds that were chirping, what happened to the sound of rustling trees? The man whose arms I am so "snug" within must have noticed it long ago. Why didn't I? A part of me says it's because I haven't been paying enough attention, but another part, the stubborn part, says it's because he keeps distracting me.

I feel trapped--I'm wary of both the person detaining me, who is definitely a danger to me, and the unknown, lurking danger, which is so close I can smell it in the air. So close . . . I struggle a little in my keeper's arms, and this feeble attempt bears unexpected results. His steely grip of me relaxes and, dare I believe it, loosens. Perhaps he is just realizing what an uncomfortable position he forced me into? For a moment he seems to want to pull me back, as if debating whether or not it's a good idea to let me go. My breath quickens as he whispers gravely in my ear, "Run." Finally, he completely releases me with a harsh shove of urgency and, no sooner do I stumble forward to my feet--and, in the process, have just enough time to grab the Ginzuishou up from the ground--than a new man, his handgun blazing and a savage war-cry on his lips, leaps out of a clump of bushes not six feet away. Gunshots rap through the air, some nearly hitting me, but I know I am not the main target. I try to turn around, I want to turn around, if only to check that the first man isn't injured, but in the thrill and panic, my feet carry me farther and farther away from the scene, not pausing once to glance back.

I realize, as I finally slow to a dazed stop some thirty yards away from where my bubble and I landed not ten minutes ago, that my thought processes aren't comprehending my--no, our--situation properly. Why am I running? I need to fight! I have to HELP him! Dear Lord, I'm Sailor Moon! Quickly I decide to double-back. Turning around, the sight before my eyes causes my stomach to do flip-flops. It's a distance, but I can still see what's happening clearly. The first man is on one knee on the ground, his right arm brought across his stomach and cradling a wound at his left side that I can't see. His pained expression confirms my guilty fear: He's been shot. Something like bile rises in my throat and I feel a jolt of adrenaline sweep through me and fade, quivering from toes to eyes. The muscles all over my body are burning, desiring to be used. I feel as though I've eaten an eel and it's wriggling, cold and slippery, in the pit of my stomach. "No!" I cry. Mentally I'm willing the man who's been shot to run, find cover . . . But he just kneels there and it occurs to me that he has no intention of running. My heart plummets. Bringing the Ginzuishou up to my chest and clasping it in both hands, I let out a long, shaky breath. Please, Ginzuishou, I have to save him . . . I have to save him . . . .

Flinging caution to the wind, with no holds barred and total abandon, I resolutely raise the Ginzuishou on its necklace over my head and into the air. I am determined to save a life here today. As I whisper the henshin words used to transform me into my alter-ego, I feel familiar sensations stir within me, sensations I haven't felt in over 200 years. Starting at the very tips of my fingers and coursing down to my toes through my blood like molten energy, the power of the moon washes over me and fills me, enfolding me in its loving, almost motherly embrace. For a split-second I see my mother's porcelain face before my mind's eye, dazzling in the pale moonlight, before it is gone, along with all sense of reality. The ground no longer exists beneath me as I am lifted into the air, the Eternal Sailor Moon garb closing over my body in a sea of pink ribbons and feathers.

I feel a pressure on my skin, an unusual sort of all-over pressure. The Ginzuishou is pushing energy into my body, pushing it into me through the very pores of my skin. My insides are tingling, my heart pumping so wildly against my ribcage I warrant its leaping into my throat and bursting past my lips. I feel my blood rushing in my ears, blocking out all other sound, so that I am in my own intense world. I'm spiraling, spiraling, spiraling through sparkles and heat. Too abruptly the rushing, the tingling, and the heat are gone. Everything stops.

I am once again on the ground, my two long streamers of hair and the red ribbons of my skirt blowing around me in the magical wind. I can't very well see myself, but I feel as if I am standing in all my glory, the afterglow of my transformation alive on my skin, the sun brilliant on my golden hair. A black and red and yellow, silken, many-layered skirt. Gleaming white boots lined at the knees with strips of red. Long white gloves of silk lined just above the elbows with two red rings. Pearly- white, beaded feathers in my hair, three on each side of my head. A red choker with a single, gold crescent moon symbol in the center. Gold earrings in the shape of crescent moons. Four white angel wings sprouting from my lower back, two bigger and pointing toward the sky, two much smaller and pointing toward the ground. On my forehead, white-hot and glittering golden, is my crescent moon mark. By now, I have drawn the attention of both men. Instinctively, as they have done so many times in the distant past, my arms and hands dance around me in a series of threatening poses, ending with my right index finger pointing at the enemy. My eyes are condescending, staring at the second man calmly but with conviction. "I am Sailor Moon . . . Prepare yourself, for in the name of the moon, I will punish you!"

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(End of prologue)

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Author's Even Less Important Notes: Can you guess who the first man is, huh, huh? Can you, can you, huh, huh, can you? Well, don't count your chicks before they hatch! I might surprise you . . . . Also, I hope you like(d) the first-person perspective. I've been growing more and more fond of it.

AUTHOR'S SEMI-IMPORTANT NOTES: I'm looking for a muse/beta reader (or more than one, it all depends on whether or not more than one person applies for the job). I'd love to share my ideas and hear someone else's when developing plots and characters and the like. I would really, really appreciate it if someone could help me out a bit, almost like a personal consultant. If anyone is interested, please e-mail me at mepmsinghavefun@yahoo.com OR KondoItsuAeru@netscape.net. I appreciate that you've read thus far, thanks for taking the time! ^_~