Chapter One

"I have arrived as requested, your Majesty."

A stunned silence fell over the ballroom and all eyes turned to the slender figure by the doors. Saturn stood there with her violet eyes narrowed slightly, the rest of her expression one of carefully managed calm. Small flakes of what looked to be ash were dappled lightly through her normally pristine hair and uniform.

"It has been too long, Lady Saturn."

"Perhaps." Saturn's gaze swept over the ballroom and though it never lingered for more than a moment on any of the revellers, still a collective shudder swept through them all. "Or perhaps not long enough."

Her Majesty chuckled and beckoned Saturn forward with one imperious sweep of her gloved right hand. "You are always welcome within these halls, Lady Saturn. But come, speak, was your mission successful?"

Saturn strode forward and her boots fell with jarring loudness on the marble floors of the ballroom. On either side of her the revellers inched backwards, the tense hush broken only by the occasional fervently whispered prayer.

"My mission, your Majesty?"

"Of course, Lady Saturn, your mission."

A tight smile crossed the dark-haired woman's face. "It was successful, your Majesty. The problem has been dealt with."

"I see." Her Majesty inclined her head at her guests and smiled apologetically. "I am afraid that I must leave you all for a few moments. Lady Saturn and I have matters of some import to discuss."

Before she followed Her Majesty out of the ballroom, Saturn chanced one last look at the ballroom. It was at once strangely satisfying, yet utterly depressing that not one of the revellers dared to meet her gaze. Indeed most did quite the opposite and one even went so far as to make a gesture that she remembered as being his culture's equivalent of warding off the evil eye.

A few moments later, when she was alone with Her Majesty in one of the palace's many drawing rooms, Saturn turned to her beloved sovereign with a look that could charitably have been described as 'mild annoyance'. A less charitable description for her expression might have been 'death glare'. But of course one did not 'death glare' at one's Queen. Maybe.

"Do you care to explain what just happened in the ballroom, your Majesty?" There was a painful amount of emphasis on the last word.

"Oh…" Her Majesty's royal intonation became less regal and decidedly more wheedling. "Don't be like that, Hotaru!"

"Like what, your Majesty?" Again there was emphasis on the last word, and none of it pleasant.

"Like that!" Her Royal Majesty Queen Serenity of Crystal Tokyo put on her best puppy dog eyes. "I always know when you're upset with me when you use my title and not my name."

"But it suits you so well." A pause. "Your Majesty."

"Hotaru!"

"Well how exactly do you expect me to react?" Saturn folded her arms over her chest and glared (not a death glare, for one does not direct a death glare towards one's beloved sovereign). "Put yourself in my shoes. I'm in one of the largest hospitals in Crystal Tokyo helping to renovate when I get an urgent missive from my Queen asking me to go immediately to the palace. Naturally I drop everything, assuming the worst, only to arrive and find your Majesty in the middle of hosting a diplomatic ball."

"Well, when you put it like that, it does sound a little bad."

"Sound bad? It was terrible. I arrived covered in little bits of paint in the middle of a ball. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was?"

"Um… a little?"

"Try a lot." Saturn's eye twitched. "So do you care to explain yourself? Or were you just so bored with the ball that you thought you'd have me come around to liven things up?" The twitch in her eye grew bigger, not quite medically threatening, but close.

"Hey!" Her Majesty drew herself up to her full height and did her best to throw a suitably imperious and condescending look at Saturn. Saturn, of course, was utterly unimpressed. "I did not call you just because I was bored. I had a very good reason, you know."

"A good reason?" A feeling of vague unease settled over Saturn. "What sort of reason?" Memories of other hair-brained schemes her beloved sovereign had thought up flashed like so many train wrecks through her mind.

"Well…"

Something clicked in Saturn's mind and horror set in. "You didn't!" She pointed one accusatory finger at the Queen. "Please tell me you didn't just call me in during the middle of the diplomatic ball so that you could intimidate some of the more hostile diplomats!"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Her Majesty had the good sense to look aggrieved. Indeed anyone else would have been fooled, but Saturn had known her for far too long and looked anything but sympathetic. On the contrary Saturn looked about one step from strangling her, and the Queen surreptitiously made sure the button to call for assistance was well within reach.

"Really?" Saturn rounded on Her Majesty. "Then would you care to explain why the ambassador to the Falendran Empire looked so horrified to see me? Or why the Prince of Valked looked like he was about to pass out?"

"Would you believe me if I said that they were both anaemic?"

"No." Saturn's eyes narrowed to little more than turbulent slits of vengeful purple as another, altogether more troubling thought occurred to her. "Calling me in was bad enough, but please, please, please tell me that you didn't give them 'the speech'."

Her Majesty smiled nervously and inched her finger towards the button for assistance. "I may have given them 'the speech', I can't really recall."

"You can't really recall?" The eye twitch was now back and definitely life-threatening. "Do you mean to tell me that before you called me in, that before you called in the only Senshi capable of destroying a planet in the span of about five seconds, you had the audacity to give a ballroom full of potentially hostile diplomats a talk about the willingness of Crystal Tokyo to use absolute force in the defence of its citizens and territory?"

"I may have." Her Majesty had her finger on the button but decided to make one last attempt to deflect the blame. "But Setsuna was the one who suggested it."

"Did she now?"

Her Majesty breathed a sigh of relief as Saturn stopped her advance. Did the purple haired woman have any idea how creepy it was to watch her strangle the air? She could only hope that Saturn was imagining strangling Setsuna and not her. Although, if the way she had her hands spread apart was any indication, she could easily be imagining how enjoyable it would be to strangle both of them at once.

"I did nothing of the sort."

Her Majesty shrieked and cast a scathing look at the woman who had just appeared behind her. "Don't do that, Setsuna!"

"I apologise." The mirth in the crimson-eyed woman's gaze was anything but apologetic. "But it is simply unacceptable for a ruler of Her Majesty's stature to descend to mere deception."

"Oh?" Saturn looked carefully from Her Majesty to Pluto. "Do tell."

"All I did was suggest that a show of force might be suitable. After all, those who desire peace must prepare for war." Pluto smiled thinly. "The exact show of force was entirely up to Her Majesty's discretion."

"Setsunsa!" The Queen resorted once more to her puppy dog eyes. Naturally Pluto was utterly impervious. "You're supposed to do anything to protect your Queen, aren't you?"

"Of course." Pluto said. "But there are times when to protect the ones we love, we must let them suffer."

"Traitor!"

Pluto smiled beatifically and regarded Saturn with a thoughtful look. "You know, Saturn, you look just like you've been in a battle of some kind."

"What?" Saturn reached up and shook the flecks of paint from her hair. "This? That's just paint."

"Oh, that makes sense." Ignoring the frantic gestures from her Queen, Pluto continued. "Still, it looks quite a bit like ash. It really does look like you might have been quite near something that was either burned quite thoroughly or disintegrated." She paused. "It must be a coincidence."

For a moment the only sound in the room was the frantic button pressing from Her Majesty.

"Oh, I see. You didn't just give them 'the talk' did you, your Majesty? You had to make it look like I'd just come from a battle as well. And that talk about my 'mission', you weren't interested in the renovations at all, you wanted them to think that I'd just come back from blowing up a planet or two, didn't you?"

Her Majesty said nothing and Pluto had the decency to cough politely and draw her attention to the small device she held in her hand. "I've disconnected that button, your Majesty."

"Well, your Majesty, care to speak up?"

Her Majesty shook herself and once again assumed her regal air. With a look of confident authority she replied, "What I have done, Saturn, I have done for the good of the kingdom."

Saturn's rejoinder was delivered swiftly. "And what I do, I do for the good of well, me," she replied, advancing on the Queen.

"Now, now, Saturn. You know I can't let you actually strangle the Queen." Her Majesty turned to Pluto with star-struck eyes. "Yet. Perhaps when the Princess is ready to replace her…" The Queen levelled her best death glare at her chief advisor (because, after all, Queen's can death glare at their beloved subjects, even if the reverse does not hold true).

"Fine." Saturn scowled. "But don't think I'm letting you off the hook, Usagi." Saturn's smile was anything but reassuring, despite the change of address. "We will talk about this later."

Her Majest gulped nervously and nodded. "Well… uh… in that case I really should be getting back to the ball. Things to do, you know, people to meet, treaties to sign." It would after all, be much harder for Saturn to strangle her at the ball and with any luck Minako or Rei would be there to help her deal with both the violet eyed would-be murderess and her obnoxious green-haired advisor as well.

"Of course, your Majesty, we'll leave you to it."

After Her Majesty had left, Saturn turned to Pluto. "Don't think you've got me fooled, Setsuna. She may think she came up with the idea herself, but I know you."

Pluto feigned shock and reached up dramatically to cover her face with one hand. "My, what a suspicious young lady you've become Hotaru. Whatever became of that innocent little girl I helped raise?"

"Young lady?" Saturn laughed. "By what definition am I a young lady?"

Pluto smiled. "Fair enough." She glanced at the door. "Still, now that you've been roped into our little scheme, you could have a little fun with it you know."

"Oh, so you admit your involvement?" Saturn grinned. "And don't worry I fully intend to 'have a little fun' as you put it."

The tone of Saturn's voice had Pluto taking a nervous step towards the door. "What are you going to do, Saturn?"

The wattage of Saturn's smile had the power of a thermonuclear weapon and the glimmer in her eyes promised just as much destruction. "Oh, I was just thinking about how to play up the whole 'dangerous Senshi of Destruction' angle. I mean, what could be more dangerous than a Senshi so deranged she'd even go after her own comrades, and at a diplomatic ball no less?" The air around her shimmered darkly and the Silence Glaive appeared.

"Now, now, Hotaru." Pluto took a slow step back towards the door, her hands held up in front of her placatingly. Casting a quick look behind her, she realised the only door left unlocked led back to the ballroom. "Let's not go too far."

"Too far?" Saturn chuckled and took one step forward. "You've got five seconds, Setsuna."

"Five seconds till what?"

"Five."

"Hotaru, are you joking?"

"Four."

"You can't be serious about this!"

"Three."

Pluto looked from her grinning fellow Senshi to the door. Surely she was joking.

"Two."

Or was she?

"One"

Pluto turned and ran.

"Zero. Ready or not, here I come!" Saturn chased Pluto down the hall back toward the ballroom laughing all the way and if her laugh sounded a little bit demented well, that was only because she wanted it to sound that way. It was just an act, to maximise her effect on the hostile diplomats. Really.

X X X

Author's Notes

As always, I neither own Sailor Moon, nor make a profit off this story.

Well, what can I say? This story just popped into my today and I thought I'd try and get it onto paper while the idea was still fresh in my mind. It's a welcome break from the darker tone set by some of my other stories and it was a great bit of fun to write. After all, the future isn't always bleak and thoroughly depressing. I'd like to write a couple more of these, not all of them cheerful perhaps, but set in the future all the same.

As always, drop me a line and review. I'm open to feedback and I'd love to hear from you.