It's easy to lose yourself in the speed. To let the car's driving purr and roaring engine steal away your soul. Things are easier like that. All that matters is the next corner. All that you care about is feathering the clutch and shifting up a gear.
I take the next corner a little too fast and the car wobbles, on the verge of a spin. I knock it down a gear and the car steadies. I can't help but grin. At any other time of the day I would've caused an accident by now, but even Juuban is fairly free of traffic this early in the morning, when only the first, faint glimmers of gold can be seen on the horizon.
I find myself on a long, empty straight and let the car stretch its legs, almost laughing when the sidewalk becomes a blur. At this speed each moment seems to last forever, each little shift of the steering wheel seems to take a lifetime. Einstein called it time dilation I call it paradise. It gives me time to think, time to plan. Time to worry.
There was something odd going on. Setsuna had been acting odd, even more so than usual, which said a lot. She'd quieter as well, if that was even possible. Then there was Hotaru. My daughter…
Never once had I ever seen Hotaru retaliate when people teased her. It was comforting in a way, to know that someone who could obliterate entire planets wasn't easily provoked, but some part of me had always wanted her to fight back. But not like this. It took me a while, but when I calmed down I spoke to Setsuna about the injuries the other girl had received.
I almost threw up. I just couldn't see it, my little Hotaru, her small hands pummelling someone else, smashing flesh and bone in a frenzy of rage. Rage and Hotaru… those two words just didn't fit, at least they never did before.
The highway is up ahead, a long, winding section of concrete raised high above the road. It's one of my favourite spots. If you park up there then you can see the whole city. I like to watch the sun rise from there, to feel the wind on my face and see the whole sky light up. Beautiful.
A few minutes later I pull the car to a stop and climb out. It's perfect, absolutely perfect. I can see everything here, and the wind kicks up nice and strong, so strong that I feel almost like if I jump that it will lift me up and carry me away. Wouldn't that be nice?
I take a few steps before I feel it, a low, almost rhythmic rumble. An earthquake? The highway shakes and I hear the deep, bass shudder as concrete and steel tremble and bend. Wait… why aren't any of the buildings nearby moving…
A fissure several feet wide ripples across the middle of the highway as the entire structure begins to sway. Damn it, I need to get out of here, I need to get back to the car and-
But the car is gone, as is about half the highway, as the fissure spreads and widens, tearing off entire chunks of concrete, and toppling to the ground. Without even thinking I reach into my jacket for the one thing I always have, my henshin wand.
The transformation hits me with a rush and for a second I am pure power, pure strength, pure speed. I am the wind, the sky and the stars. I am Sailor Uranus once again and now, now there is nothing for me to fear. I am untouchable.
I follow the slabs of concrete down, nimbly dodging between them until I hit the ground and sprint clear of the collapsing wreck. Before I can get far though, a second tremor hits and I look down at the ground to see another spider web of fissures branching out.
Wait… the cracks, they're not like the ones on the highway. They're too regular, too symmetrical. It's almost as if… as they're a part of a pattern…
From deep below the earth, I hear it, an indescribable sound. Like the sound of screaming meal and weeping earth, a cry like the sound of thunder in the sky. It comes again, building and building until the whole ground is shaking.
Something rips out of the ground at the centre of the fissures, something that looks almost like a hand. Only this hand is two metres long…
"Impossible…" I don't even realise that I've spoken the words aloud as the hand turns into a claw and starts to pull the dirt away. A second later another hand appears before the arms and finally the head of an enormous dirt covered monstrosity appear.
It's eyes meet mine for a split second and I can't help but take a step back. They are like stars, twin orbs of emerald flame. Within them I catch a glimpse of something inhuman, something old and dark and deadly. Something evil.
"Reports have just arrived of some kind of battle going on in downtown Juuban between one of the Sailor Senshi and some kind of monster."
I turn to look at the television and almost drop my teacup when the reporter disappears to be replaced with footage of what looks to be the highway. It's a mess, almost totally destroyed with enormous clouds of dust billowing outwards, lit every now and then with flashes of yellow light… yellow light – Haruka.
How could I not have sensed this? Wait, what exactly is she fighting? The image of the television shifts to a shaky camera shot of something… oh no. My stomach tightens and for a moment I am overwhelmed with nausea. Please no.
"Setsuna," It's Michiru. "We need to get over there."
Trying to keep my concern off my face I reply, as coolly as I can. "Call the others and get there as fast as you can."
Damn I wish I'd dodged that last attack. That thing that blasted dirt-covered piece of garbage is fast, way too fast for something of its size. It's already clipped me a couple of times and damn, damn, I think I might have fractured a rib or something because it's getting harder to breathe.
I hear it let out another one of those bone-shattering roars as it rumbles towards me again. It takes all my strength just to get up and leap clear as its fist turns another portion of the pavement into a crater.
The blast of tightly focused air smashes into it with the force of a freight train, only it doesn't seem too bothered by that. All the attack does is knock some more of the dirt covering it away and push it back for a second.
I need to get some distance, some separation so that I can call the others otherwise, I smile grimly, broken ribs will be the least of my worries.
A sphere of crimson light rushes past me and slams into the giant. Clumps of dirt and rock topple from its frame as it growls and begins to tear at the rest of the debris coating its body.
"Are you all right?"
I look up to find Pluto beside me, with Neptune not far away and I manage to smile, although I wince.
"What is it doing?"
I turn from Neptune, who asked the question, to the giant as it tears the dirt from its body.
"It is revealing its true form." Pluto's voice is cold, almost glacially so, and I can hear the crackle of power in the air as she lifts her staff and readies another, much stronger attack.
"Stunning…" I hear Neptune say as the giant's true form finally becomes clear.
Where flesh should be there is crystal, pure and clear, that catches the rays of the rising sun and hurls them in every direction. Where veins and arteries would be are streaks of black and red, like ebony and ruby imbedded within quartz. It turns towards us with a low growl, a sound that even from several hundred metres away is as loud as thunder.
"Ready yourselves," Pluto says softly. "We need to fire together, aiming for its chest."
"Right," I say as I grit my teeth and call my own power.
"Uranus you're hurt-," Neptune begins but I cut her off.
"I'll be fine," I say. "Let's just get this over with."
Pluto's smiles then, one of those cold, utterly humourless smiles. "Indeed."
I wake up to the deep, bass boom of a distant explosion. I'm upright almost immediately, even though the pain in my chest still hasn't gone. As quickly as I can manage, I stumble my way over to the window and look out. Far off, I can see it, flashes of light, and plumes of smoke, the signs of battle.
Out of the corner of my eye I see the small television resting on a table in the corner of a room. Perfect. I turn it on and flick to one of the all day news channels.
"Yes," the reporter is saying. "There is a battle going on downtown between three of the sailor senshi and some kind of crystal thing. Residents are advised to steer clear of the area for their own safety."
Behind the reporter I can see more plumes of smoke and burst of crimson, yellow and blue light. Neptune, I think, Uranus and Pluto are fighting it, whatever it is. The image shifts and suddenly I'm seeing everything from above, through the jittery lens of a helicopter-mounted camera.
Watching the scene unfold I feel my gut tighten. I know I should stay here, I know I need to heal first but I can't… I can't just leave them to fight on their own. I need to get out there.
The giant doesn't even bother to come any closer to me. It picks a car up and hurls about a tonne of solid metal my way. I lash out with my power, the power of time itself. Strands of crimson light flicker out and the passage of time around the car bends and distorts, accelerating the natural decay of the metal thousands of times over. It's child's play then to blast the rusting, rotted wreck to pieces before it can hit me.
"How long till the Inners get here?"
I turn to face Neptune. "They should be here soon."
"I hope so." Uranus has seen better days. Of the three of us, she has been the least able to dodge the giant's attacks, even with Neptune's support. Her breath has become shallow and irregular. I am certain she's broken a rib, probably two or three. She needs to get out of here.
"Neptune," I say as calmly as I can whilst still dodging the cars and other debris that the giant is throwing. "Take Uranus and go, she needs to get her wounds treated."
"I will be fine," I say firmly. "Now go."
She stares at me a moment longer before she finally nods and stumbles off, Uranus leaning heavily against her. I wait till they are gone before I turn to face the giant. Later they will want to know why I asked them to aim for the chest, why I've been having more success against it than they have. It is not necessarily a matter of power, but of knowledge. I have fought its kind before.
"Come," I say, knowing that my tone, more than my words will reach the giant. "I haven't all day."
High above me a pair of emerald star-eyes narrow. Playtime is over. We move almost together. I take to the rooftops, unleashing a hail of crimson power not at the giant, but at the ground at its feet. The concrete ruptures and gives way, and the giant stumbles even as it lurches forward.
Its fist smashes the building I am standing on into kindling and there is a moment where I am simply flying, hurtling through the air. I land gracefully, centuries of practise coming to the fore.
It smashes its fist into the ground and I roll desperately to one side as huge spikes of rock rip upwards from the ground, tearing apart the pavement and sending cars flying off in every direction. A four-wheel drive goes over my head and I whip my staff forward, pulling as much magic as I can towards me.
The fabric of magic bends and shifts, and I can hear its scream in my head, as I form the power not into a sphere but a lance, a lance of tightly focused magic, tinged with my own power. I thrust my staff forward and a spear of crimson light ripples out. It strikes the giant square in the chest and the air is suddenly filled with the sound of cracking crystal.
Fuelled by as much magic as I can muster, the lance is imbued with my own, very specific, powers as well. More than just a sharp edge, its point is distorting the flow of time, weakening the crystal, condensing thousands of years of wear and tear into the span of a few seconds. Still the crystal will not give and I wince, trying, trying, trying to keep it up.
With a groan like the snapping of a tree trunk, followed by the sweet tinkle of breaking glass, the giant stumbles backward. Its chest has been torn open, crimson and ebony liquid trickling from a crater the size of a table in its chest. As the flow of liquid slows to a stop I see my target, a pulsing, beating heart of carefully crafted gold.
The giant growls and raised a hand to its chest. The crystal fingers tightened ominously as it turned to face me once again. Before I can muster another attack it moved, faster than I could have imagined.
The impact takes my breath, and almost my consciousness, away. Had it not been for my staff interceding I'd probably be dead. As it is, I go flying, absolutely flying, backwards. A scream almost tears itself from my lips as I cannon through a phone box and several lampposts before coming to a rest in a wall about a hundred metres away.
My staff drops from my suddenly limps fingers. Somehow, it's not been dented, it doesn't even have a scratch. But the world is spinning crazily before me now, and I can feel the sharp stabs of pain from what are probably going to be enormous bruises all over my back, arms and legs. I may also be joining Haruka in the broken ribs department.
I need to get up and by some miracle I manage that. But I can't seem to focus. I call for my magic, for my power, but for some reason nothing will come to me, nothing. The giant is only about fifty metres away, walking slowly and calmly towards me. It can see that I can barely stand.
At the edges of my awareness I feel something else, something besides the crystal giant, something old and ancient and terrible. Something familiar. Hotaru.
The giant pauses as well, turning its emerald eyes to the surrounding area. It picks out slender violet haired figure on one of the nearby rooftops and reaches down to pick up a car.
"Saturn," I scream, wildly, uncontrollably. "Saturn, get away."
But she doesn't hear me, or maybe she doesn't care. She takes another flying leap across the rooftops but she lands awkwardly on the next roof. I can see her fragile form tremble and she raises one hand to her chest. Her injuries…
The giant needs no further cue and hurls the car with as much force as it can muster. I scream again, willing my magic to stop the car. Strands of crimson light arc outwards and they catch the car halfway. The metal structure corrodes in a heartbeat, rusting and fraying and coming apart but it's too far and going too fast, I'll never stop it in time.
I see Saturn look up just in time to see the car. It hits her with a wet thump and explodes, a ball of searing flame engulfing the entire rooftop.
Heh. Sorry for the really long delay between updates. Real life has been a bit busy lately. So… where to start? If you're curious, the point of view change from Haruka to Setsuna to Haruka to Hotaru to Setsuna. Wow. So, as I promised, there was a bit of action and for those of you interested in Hotaru's past, don't worry, this is entirely relevant. Till next time.
As always, let me say, I live off feedback. So tell what you think, good, bad, get another job? Heh. Drop me a line.