__________
/ \
| Red Moon |
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Thanks to my pre-readers:
Ben
aevan http://aevan.virtualave.net/
Kevin D. Hammel http://www.anime.sobhrach.com/~khammel/
Mike Rever
Anna Aebersold

Visit my website at
dzillman@ozemail.com.au
http://www.members.ozemail.com.au/~dzillman/fire/


"Here, take this broach and put it on." Usagi blinked in amazement a couple of times as the taking cat pushed the bright pink and yellow broach across the bed towards her.

Slowly, in evident confusion, Usagi took the ornament and then attached it to the front of the school blouse that she was still wearing. She was, quite simply, too stunned by the occurrences to object or even form any rational chain of thought. She had never believed that cats could speak, but now the small, black feline that she had rescued from some boys this morning was talking to her. The blonde could have sworn that this was not normal behaviour for a cat, and none of her mentors or friends had ever suggested what to do in such a situation.

"Now, say the words 'Moon prism power, make up.'"

Dutifully doing so, Usagi felt the most incredible transformation come over her. This was to be the first of many times she would become Sailor Moon, but each time hereafter would seem just as grand as this first instance, with the magnificence of the event never dulling no matter how often it was repeated.

"Aaack! My school uniform's shrunk! Momma's going to kill me!"

"No, no, Usagi. That's not your uniform any more, that's the attire of Sailor Moon. You are now the sailor suited defender of the Moon Kingdom. It is now your mission to find the Moon Princess so that she can bring peace and prosperity back."

Looking down, the blonde girl gave a sigh of relief as she realised the talking cat - who called herself Luna - was right. Superficially her attire as Sailor Moon was almost identical to that of normal school girl Tsukino Usagi, but on closer inspection there were differences. Not only had her skirt shrunk and her shirt become so tight that it might have been sprayed on, she was now wearing knee high red boots. Which while they might look very nice, certainly did not see right for doing any of that defending the cat had mentioned. And on that subject...

"What's this about a princess I'm supposed to be rescuing? I'm not sure that... Hey! Can you hear that?"

Luna tilted her head to one side. "Hear what?"

"Screams... I can hear... Wait! That's Naru!"

Luna nodded as though understanding had reached her. "That's one of your powers. When someone is in distress, you can hear their pleas for help. She must be under attack by the Dark Kingdom. You have to hurry and save her, Sailor Moon."

The Senshi nodded, a stern expression on her face. "The Dark Kingdom, eh? I'd better do something about that. They can't just pick on my friends like some antiquated monarchist oppressor right out of the fifteenth century!"

Opening her bedroom door, Sailor Moon headed out onto the landing so she could leave the house. She barely managed to put a foot outside the room when Luna's hushed voice held her up. "Wait! If you go that way, someone might see you! You have to keep your identity a secret. Come here and go out the window."

Frowning slightly, Moon shook her head in negation. "Don't worry about that, Luna. My family respects me enough to understand what I do. Mind you... you might want to stay quiet if you're going to follow me. I don't think they've ever met a talking cat before."

So saying, the blonde Senshi descended to the living room then out to her home's main entrance. As she passed through the room, her father was reading the newspaper while her mother watched TV. "I'm going out to save Naru from being oppressed by aggressive imperialist forces. I'll be back a bit later."

Not turning her head at all, Usagi's mother nodded. "That's nice, dear. Just make sure you're back in time to do your homework."

Sailor Moon grimaced but said OK and headed out. Running through the night air, her two long pony-tails trailed behind her like rivers of gold. She had thought that running in high heels would be difficult, but she moved with a speed and grace she had never managed before. Perhaps this was part of the magic that made her Sailor Moon? It just went to show that even a recidivist culture could produce the occasional great work.

Reaching Naru's mother's jewellery store in record time, Sailor Moon charged inside to see her best friend being strangled by something that looked like a reject from the late, late horror movie show. All around the grey skinned woman customers lay drained of their energy, unconscious on the floor.

"Halt! The people of this city require that energy to be able to work, and until the means of production are in the hands of the workers, society shall never be equal! I am Sailor Moon, and in the name of the working class, I shall punish you!"

Blinking in confusion a couple of times, the Dark Kingdom youma dropped the comatose form of Naru to the floor. "Ha! You shall never defeat me!"

So saying, the youma raced forwards charging to engage the new Senshi in combat. Striking once, twice, three times, the youma missed as Moon back-pedalled as fast as her legs would carry her. Stumbling slightly, Sailor Moon fell onto her bottom, narrowly avoiding having her head removed by a swipe of the youma's clawed hand.

All seemed over when a rose embedded itself in the floor between Sailor Moon and the youma, fortuitously distracting it. Girl and monster both looked towards the window from which it came to see a tall, noble looking man in a formal suit, hat and costume mask.

"Have faith in yourself Sailor Moon, and you can defeat this enemy!"

While the youma concentrated on the masked interloper, Sailor Moon recovered her feet and grumbled to herself. "I _have_ got faith in myself. What I don't have is any sort of weapon..."

As though summoned by her words, the small black moon cat briefly leaped onto her head, patting the tiara that adorned her brow. "Use this, Sailor Moon. Call out the words 'Moon Frisbee' and you will be able to destroy the youma and release everyone's energy."

"Right!" A sharp nod, and Sailor Moon pulled the tiara from her forehead. Although she had to admit that it was very pretty, with a large clear crystal of some sort inlaid into a simple gold ornament, she could not deny that it was obviously a symbol of decadent power and an inappropriate way to represent the people of this long dead nation on the moon. Regardless of its political implications, Moon rationalised that even small evils sometimes needed to be tolerated for the sake of the People.

"MOON FRISBEE!"

So saying, the tiara turned into a glowing golden disc that arced through the room and into the nonplussed youma. Just moments before it had had Sailor Moon on the run, and was ready to add that girl's energy to the supplies it had already gathered. Now... Now the youma was screaming in pain vanishing into dust and streamers of energy that returned to its earlier victims.

"Moon dusted!" A quick search showed that no one was really hurt, and the condescending, male chauvinist in the tuxedo had escaped without feeling her ire.

It was not until the next afternoon that Usagi was able to corner her self-appointed four legged advisor and have some serious discussions on what had been bothering her. Sitting on her bed, the blonde locked eyes with Luna and tried to maintain as open a mind as possible so that she could try and argue rationally rather than just resorting to rhetoric...

Which her schoolmates had accused her of, from time-to-time.

"All right, Luna. I think it's time you told me what is really going on. Right from the beginning."

"I'll tell you what I can. Unfortunately, I've been in suspended animation for a very, very long time, and I'm afraid my memory is not quite what it used to be."

"That's OK. Just start with what you know, and we can firm up the minor ideological differences as we go along."

A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of Luna's head. Somehow, she got this feeling that dealing with the reincarnated Sailor Moon might not be quite as easy as she had hoped. "You are Sailor Moon, the sailor suited champion of love and justice. That creature you faced last night was a youma. Youma are the... I imagine you could call them the foot soldiers of the Dark Kingdom. You see, Queen Beryl needs to gather energy so that she can break free of her prison. That's why she has her four, or is it five? I really can't remember any more... That's why she has her Generals sending out these youma. They'll keep on attacking people unless you can stop them like you did last night."

All along Usagi kept nodding, understanding and determination clear on her face. "Let me see if I have this straight. This Queen Beryl is the ruler of the Dark Kingdom. I assume I can take it for granted that they are imperialist oppressors that are seeking to subjugate everyone in the world under the boot-heels of their tyranny?"

"Well... You could look at it that way..."

"And these Generals... They would be the militaristic junta that operates without accountability to the populations they protect, thereby seeking to reinforce the totalitarian regime that gave them birth?"

"I'm not sure if they see it like that, but... If you insist, I suppose..."

"And to take matter back to their most basic, Beryl and her running-dog lackeys are seeking to regress the political advancement of Japan by seeking to impose a feudalistic style of government over the more highly evolved democracy we currently enjoy."

Luna's eyes glazed over that that statements, but she nodded slightly anyway, which was enough for Usagi to continue. "Right. So, other than the actions of any decent, concerned citizen with a modicum of political acumen, where do I fit in?"

"We covered this already. You are Sailor Moon. As well as defeating Beryl, you have to search for the Moon Princess, because only she has the power to bring the glory Moon Kingdom back."

Usagi sucked on her lower lip and nodded her head with a pained expression. "I thought so. I thought you mentioned something like that before I left to help Naru yesterday."

"And... Err... What's wrong with that? I thought all girls liked princesses and would want to help royalty."

"Hah! Only girls that are completely politically unaware! The historical dialectic clearly demonstrates the inevitable evolution of political society through distinct levels. A nepotism based hierarchy typifying the feudalistic government that this Queen Beryl no doubt subscribes to is a predecessor to the quasi-democratic system employed within modern Japan.

"While I would be the first to admit our system is filled with the graft and corruption that is the institutional enemy of true progress and equality, it is a far step above the oppression inherent to any monarchical system. I cannot for the life of me understand why you would be trying to restore another Kingdom to power in this day and age."

Luna sat there with an open mouth. "Can... Can I get that again in plain Japanese, please. I'm afraid I didn't understand a word of what you said."

Of course, Usagi was only too happy to oblige. The education and political awareness of the masses was one of the key steps necessary to achieving the sort of worker's paradise that the revolutionary idealists had written of so long ago, back in those dark ages of the early nineteen hundreds, years and years before she was born.

After going over her ideology for a good two hours - complete with pictures and references to countless books - the recently promoted super-heroine managed to make her advisor understand.

"You're telling me you _don't_ want to bring back the Moon Kingdom?! The Senshi were rulers of the planets in our solar system, reporting directly back to her majesty the queen!"

"That's exactly it, Luna." Usagi explained patiently. She had to be patient. Most people just did not understand how lofty her real goals were. "We would be defending a democracy from a militarised monarchy only to replace it with our own version as soon as our enemy was defeated. How can you say that is any better?"

"But... But the Moon Kingdom was a paradise!" To Luna, Usagi's words were almost sacrilegious.

"I'm sure it was, for the people on top. And what were you, Luna? Queen's advisor, or something like that? It must have been a pretty comfy position, or else they would not have trusted you enough to try and secure their future through your unswerving loyalty, no doubt brought on by years of indoctrination and subtle brainwashing."

"Well I never!"

Silence reigned for a while. Eventually Usagi sighed and began to put away the books and things. "I'll tell you what, Luna. We both agree the Dark Kingdom has to be stopped. There's no reason we can't co-operate on that one, right?"

"That's true. If we just wait, neither of us will win."

"Exactly. Now, as with all ideological class struggles in history, this one is likely to be rather long. How about we both try and persuade each other? You can try and change my mind, so that I believe a totalitarian government based on matriarchal power and inheritance without regard to individual merit is somehow better than a utopia were all people are respected and everyone can reach their personal best surrounded by an environment of support and consideration."

Luna was torn. She needed this girl's help. Not only because she was a Senshi, but also because it was clear that she was considerate and intelligent, both requisite quantities for a future leader. But could Luna possibly survive the lectures she was certain to be subjected to if she agreed to this? There was really only one answer to that question.

"Yes."

Oh! The sacrifices Luna made for her queen!

* * *

Days passed as they were wont to do. Each day brining Usagi closer to achieving her goal of establishing a viable worker's paradise in Japan... Or at least she hoped so. So often hope and the unswerving knowledge that what she was doing was right were the only things that kept her going.

She had been up late last night discussing doctrine with Luna, so consequentially she had slept in and been late for school again. That bothered her, since she could not help but feel getting a good education was part of her duty to society. Well, her parents didn't mind her having a pet cat that she talked to; it spared them for endless rhetoric on the allegedly inevitable revolution that was coming.

"Do you see that new girl? Everyone's saying she's supposed to be incredibly smart." That was Usagi's best friend Naru. Naru was a nice girl. She was not exactly converted to Usagi's way of thinking, but she no longer laughed at her when they discussed it. The fact that Naru spoke with a strong Osaka accent gave the blonde hope that she might start to understand better in time. Osaka was a good manufacturing city, solid members of the proletariat, and a far cry from the den of capitalist iniquity that Tokyo had become.

"She has an IQ of 300, blood type A, and her birthday is the 10th of September."

That was Umino. He was a bit odd... He was also Naru's not-my-boyfriend. The sort of person who was always hanging around, and you needed to explain to everyone when you met them that "no, he's just a good friend. He's not my boyfriend." Umino and Naru were like that. They had been ever since Usagi had known them, and that was a long time (especially for fourteen year olds).

"Wow, 300... She must be so clever."

"Probably because of all the books she reads too."

The three of them nodded at that. Even as she was walking down the hallway, the new student had her head in a book, somehow managing to dodge students going the other way even as she concentrated on her reading. Usagi was really impressed; she bumped into people even when she was watching where she was going.

"Someone that smart... She must be able to understand what I keep trying to teach people!"

Naru and Umino shared a look, but forbore comment. For the last three years, Usagi had managed to find a justification why each and every new student that she met at school deserved a personal meeting to discuss politics with her. Regrettably, most Japanese teenagers were as politically aware as your average lump of granite. That did not even slow Usagi, and her faith never wavered. That, and her unfailing good cheer and friendship were the key reasons that kept Naru as her friend. As for Umino... No one really knew why he did any of the things he did.

That afternoon Usagi contrived to meet up with the new girl. More accurately, she chased after her and began walking along beside the girl, introducing herself while the blue haired genius continued to read. "Hi! My name's Usagi! Welcome to Juuban Middle School! It's a really great place to go to school. I bet you're going to enjoy it a lot."

When Usagi finally paused for breath, the target of her triad blinked a couple of times then gave a small smile. "Hello. My name is Ami. Mizuno Ami."

"Please to meet you, Ami. I'm really hoping we can be friends. I know what it is like going to a new school and not having any friends. Actually, I don't know, but I can imagine. I have to you see, I've never even changed schools, and all my friends from primary school came here too."

"Err..."

"Say, Ami. I'm planning a rally for political awareness. Do you want to come?" The blonde produced a small red flyer and handed it over.

"A rally? Are you on the student council? Do you get many people to attend?"

"Hmmm... Well, my cat will be there, which means I won't have to talk to myself this time if it is like the rest of them. I've booked the school's gymnasium again for this Saturday, just in case a few hundred students turn up this time, but I'll probably end up going back to my place for some cookies and juice if no one else arrives. You could come too!"

"Well... I was going to be studying this Saturday afternoon, but I can probably spare some time..."

Usagi's eyes shimmered with unadulterated love and hope. Not even Naru had ever come to one of her rallies before. "R-Really? You'll really come?"

Ami offered a kind smile. "Of course I'll come. I can hardly refuse the first time a new friend asks me to go out with them."

"That's... That's so nice of you, Ami." Usagi emotionally choked back a few tears of joy. "You know, Marx recognised that the intelligencia was a vital stratum of any successful society, and that intellect should be nurtured and promoted for the good of everyone."

"You've read Marx?"

"Not in Austrian. Just the Japanese translation. What truly politically active citizen could get by without reading Marx's 'Communist Manifesto'? I'm trying to learn Austrian so I can read the original, but it's soooo hard."

Ami nodded. "Learning other languages can be really hard. I only speak Chinese and Latin fluently. I was going to learn classical Greek too, but I switched to English so I could read some of the more modern works."

"You... You read Chinese?!"

Looking down, Ami bashfully looked away. "I'm not all that fast. Not as well as someone who lived there of course."

"That's great! Can you help me with this?" With a flourish, Usagi pulled out a pair of small red books, one being the Japanese version of the other.

Taking the book, Ami gently turned the first page. "This... This is Chairman Mao's little red book! I never expected to see a genuine copy. This must be very valuable."

Usagi nodded seriously. "The true value of a book can be measured in the worth of the words and wisdom contained. _This_ book would be cheap at any price, unlike some I've read."

A firm believer in the value of all books and learning, Ami raised an eyebrow at that one. She did not want to come out and contradict this girl who had offered to befriend her, but she wanted to hear her opinion.

"All right, how about Adam Smith's 'The Wealth Of Nations'? Garbage! Complete garbage. His proposals for a lassie faire form of government is completely preposterous and a work or arrant fiction. I can't believe that people believe that sort of thing. People need an organised and caring form of central government keyed towards the betterment of all of the State, else individuals will be neglected. Smith said so himself, but somehow contrived to argue that the wealth of some individuals was more important that the health of society as a whole. What value has a human life, Ami, that you could weigh it in a balance and say it is worth so many dollars?"

"Oh my." Briefly, Ami was dumbfounded. Usagi did not come across as a well read girl. From snippets she had heard in the classroom, the girl seemed like a typical teenager uninterested in anything other than ice- cream. "Do you like to read a lot? I love reading. I read everything I can."

When Ami held up the cover of her book, Usagi grimaced. She could respect Ami for reading about 'N-Dimensional Integrals In Non- Orthogonal Co-Ordinate Systems', but she could not muster the same interest.

"Not really. The only thing I tend to read is books about politics and political systems. Ever since I was a little girl, I've had this dream of saving Tokyo, and creating a paradise that everyone can share. Almost as soon as I could start to read, I began borrowing books about politics. I just know that someday I'm going to crack the shell of the world and bring about the world revolution... Or something like that."

"What else have you read?"

"Oh, all sorts of things. I really liked Lincoln's memoirs on slavery and freedom. Machiavelli's 'The Prince' was fairly good, but obviously outdated compared to Karl Marx' works on modern communism. Hmmm... "Mein Kampf" had some interesting ideas, but they were overshadowed by too many direct and indirect references to racial intolerance for me to give it a good review."

"But... But 'Mein Kampf' was Adolf Hitler's book! He started the Second World War!"

"True, but he also wrote what many people consider a definitive work on fascism. As any student of the historical dialectic can tell you, fascism is a necessary step in the political evolution of mankind. The important thing is not to confuse the ideology with its historical implementation. I might believe in most of the ideas that Marx conveyed, but I can hardly call Iosef Stalin a good example of how to establish a nation, can I?"

Stunned by the girl's words, Ami could only nod slowly, as she tried to adjust to the words pouring through her mind. Talking to Usagi about politics was like trying to discuss religion with a dozen Muslim fundamentalists. Not that she necessarily had the knowledge of a dozen people, it was more that she could speak as fast as twelve preachers and had just as much faith and fervour.

While Ami digested what she had been told, Usagi led them to a nearby ice-cream parlour. She always found that good intellectual discussion on the future of their nation was improved by a health dose of choc- chip. When Ami had finally taken a couple of bites of her passion fruit ice-cream - its miraculous and well documented restorative powers worked on everyone - she took up the conversation again.

When the two girls finally left the store - lighter by most of their week's allowance - it was slightly after closing time. Ami waved goodbye, promising to see Usagi at school the next day. The blonde girl nodded and went off to her own home, firmly convinced that this was one of the best days in her life by the time she finally made it to bed. Not only had she made a new friend, but the girl was also politically sensitive and was actually capable of meeting Usagi on a level footing on the topic in a conversion. Just to cap things off, she had gotten to transform into Sailor Moon that night, and put an end to another imperialist incursion by the counter-revolutionary forces of Queen Beryl.

* * *

"I'm telling you, Usagi, there is something strange about that new girl, and this disk of her proves it."

"I can't believe that Ami is an agent of the Dark Kingdom. Intellectuals are typically persecuted under the oppressive regimes typified by feudal / monarchic societies. People like Beryl and her militaristic, low-brow, jack-booted enforcers cannot survive against intelligence and rational thought. Naturally this leads them to fear and attack people like Ami. I think that makes it perfectly obvious she can't be one of them."

The cat scowled. "I think you just like her because she doesn't run away whenever you start discussing this plan you have for your 'Crystal Tokyo'. Humph! An improved communist utopia running Japan. I'll believe that when I see it."

"Better than your Moon Kingdom, silly cat!"

Hissing, Luna extended her claws. "Just you try and say something bad about Queen Serenity again. Just you try it!"

The other day when Usagi had made thinly veiled references to the evils associated with the rulers of any form of inherited power system, had almost been the straw that broke the camels back. If Luna had found another Senshi by then, she might have walked out there and then. For now, Usagi was her only hope for the future she desired, and that kept them together, even if Luna was beginning to hate her host's lectures.

"I... Hey! Those are screams!"

True enough, as they approached the Crystal Seminars building where Ami was taking her after school computer studies course, the pair could hear screams. If they had not been arguing, they may have heard them earlier, but for now there was work to do.

"Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"

Raising her Henshin stick to the sky, Usagi transformed into Sailor Moon. Rather than considering her fuku the uniform of an imperialist oppressor, she began to wonder whether it instead could become a symbol of hope and liberation. Surely she could use these powers to advance the future of the people of her country. Perhaps once the Dark Kingdom was defeated, she could continue on to forge a brighter future for the workers of her nation as a sailor suited soldier for equality and equity.

Transformation complete, Sailor Moon ran down the corridor and into the room that was serving as Ami's classroom. Bursting in, she was horrified by the sight of most of the students collapsed at their desks, drained of energy. Equally bad - though in some ways it vindicated her earlier statements to Luna - Ami was being simultaneously strangled and drained of her energy by the hideously mutated teacher. Obviously another youma lackey for the expansionist aggressors.

Assuming an intimidating pose - arms loosely crossed with a finger pointed at the youma - Usagi pontificated. "People like these provide the intellectual capital for our nation, capital that should be in the hands of the workers, not some elitist minority. By attacking this centre of learning, you are denying their futures and attacking the State as a whole. In the name of the People, I shall punish you!"

Halfway through the battle - just as Sailor Moon was proving her sexual equality in combat to Tuxedo Mask by politely declining his offer for assistance - Luna spotted the symbol for Mercury glowing on Ami's brow. Giving a fancy roll, she produced a new Henshin stick. "Ami, take this! You're Sailor Mercury, destined to fight beside Sailor Moon."

Naturally Ami took the pen and transformed, soon joining the other heroine in vital combat against the Dark Kingdom. As the Moon Kingdom's first two chosen warriors fought away, Luna mulled over the ramifications. They were both nice girls at heart, but given the way Ami seemed to be swayed by Usagi's strange, revolutionary ideals, Luna was not sure if she could not have found two _worse_ people to try and resurrect the Moon Kingdom if she had tried.

* * *

"Religion is the opiate of the masses, Rei."

Usagi gave the brunette a flat, level stare which the temple maiden returned with equanimity. "Organised, institutionalised religion might be, but Shinto isn't."

"Oh, reeeeeally? So just how would you describe it, then?"

Hino Rei pondered that one. This was the first time someone had had the audacity to challenge both her lifestyle and her religion, let alone do it on temple grounds. In other circumstances, she would have unleashed her well known temper, but this was simply too important to resort to mindless shouting. If she could not justify her presence here, it was an acknowledgement that her life was a waste.

"Shinto is more... the green tea of the masses. We're not about absolution or heaven and hell... Shinto is contemplative. It moves you to find you place in the universe. It is about discovering within yourself how to be, both within and without."

"Humph! It seems to me that religion is more just an historical means for the upper classes to maintain their control over the lower classes and establishing a caste system that cannot be defeated or refuted. As soon as you see you King as the direct appointment of god (q.v. Church of England), or if you claim your Emperor actually is the son of heaven (as in our very own Japan!), you immediately get an unassailable ruling elite, whose threat continues from this life into the next."

Rei rolled her eyes. This girl was so stupid if she honestly believed Shinto was like that. "Well, duh, Meatball Head. Of course that's the case. That sort of thing always happens when you institutionalise religion. Mind you, it's that very formalisation and regimentation of worship that reverts it from a true religion for the betterment of the people to a clandestine form of subtle political control. Only by the acknowledgement of the individual and their unique requirements can religion hope to attain anything approaching a true form of enlightenment."

Sitting beside Usagi's foot as she talked with Rei, Luna was getting a horrible sinking feeling in her stomach. The first Senshi she had found was a political animal of the highest order. Only Sailor Moon's youth, innocence and resolute refusal to give in to any concession that would reduce the perfection of her vision kept her from being the leader of any modern government she chose.

Next they had met Ami, and while she seemed quite normal by most standards, she was as willing to pontificate as Usagi, but Ami would do it on any subject you could get her started on. She might not have been as opinionated and forthright as Usagi, but she could coldly and logically debate any point of view you chose until you either gave in or collapsed from exhaustion.

All they would need now would be to have a religious nutter join them. She could just imagine the arguments that the three girls would get into. No, she did not have to imagine, it was taking place in front of her.

"The requirements for a distinct separation between the church and the state are obvious to everyone, Meatball Head. Just look at the Spanish Inquisition. As religious figureheads gained a dominant position in European society, they managed to establish a reign of oppression and terror unequalled in history other than the Jewish Holocaust during the Second World War, and the destruction of the dominant southern American cultures during the initial European invasion and colonisation."

"That's was a good point, Rei," Ami chipped in happily. "I didn't expect you to mention the Spanish Inquisition."

"Of course. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. Surprise and fear that is the main weapon of the Spanish Inquisition... Actually---"

Usagi held up her hand. "I don't think we need to do that joke, Rei."

The temple maiden coughed into her hand and had the good grace to look away in embarrassment. It was a cheap take-off from Monty Python, and they all knew it. It might have been funny originally, but now was neither the time nor the place.

"Honestly, Rei, I'd love to stay here and discuss the shortcomings of your religious beliefs, but I've got a bus to catch." Wiggling her fingers, Usagi turned and started to run down the stairs. That was the reason they had come here initially, having a theological discussion with the local representative of Japan's most popular religion (other than Pokémon, if that counted as a religion) was simply a distraction.

Over the last few days, the 4:38 bus stopping at the Hikawa Jinja had been vanishing, and taking the passengers with it. That was why Usagi and Ami were there. They hoped that if they were on the bus, they might be able to do something to prevent what was probably the latest of the Dark Kingdom's nefarious schemes.

Unwilling to let the two girls get the last word in their argument, Rei pursued them down the stairs, wide red pants flapping in the breeze. Usagi and Ami may have made it on board, but Rei was still just getting in as the bus began moving. That flagrant defiance of both safety and politeness would have been enough to earn the bus drive a nasty tongue lashing from Rei, but soon events drove all thought of that from her mind.

Beginning as a wavering shadow suspended above the road, the dimensional rip widened into a pitch coloured window into another world, large enough for the bus to drive into. Whatever magic had been used to bring the bus here was still in action, since soon everyone barring the heroines were fast asleep, their energy drained away to the service of Queen Beryl.

The bus driver was just shaking off an increasingly drowsy - and irate - Rei when a voice came from the back oof his vehicle...

"Public transport is the veins through which the lifeblood of a nation flows. By attacking this system, you have sought to bring low the co- operative dreams and labours of all the People. For your counter revolutionary activities, I am Sailor Moon, and in the name of the State, I shall punish you!"

The youma was not a great threat. Mercury and Moon alone could have handled him, but evidently his close proximity to Rei was enough to provoke a reaction when he began to transform from his disguise as a bus driver. The symbol of Mars appeared on her forehead, which in turn lead Luna to produce a new Henshin stick and roll it towards her new charge.

And so there were three...

Luna could feel the headache getting worse.

* * *

With an open mouth, Usagi watched Shinji limp into the classroom. Shinji was one of the local toughs, always picking on anyone he could find that was weaker than him, constantly trying to get money from them.

Under other circumstances, Ami would have been prime prey for his attentions, since no one would expect the genius to defend herself, but since she associated with Usagi, Shinji left her alone.

Usagi's freedom from harassment did not come from any sense of respect Shinji had for her fighting prowess, indeed he held her abilities in more contempt than just about anyone at the school. What kept her free from oppression was her resolute dedication to that same ideal. The American president that had freed their slaves - Lincoln - stated that "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance", and it was a belief Usagi held to with all her usual fervour. Shinji could knock her down or beat her up, but she would never give in.

The first time he tried to intimidate her for her lunch money, she had steadfastly refused, eventually forcing the boy to concede defeat as they returned to class. The second day, he had resorted to violence, but even that was not enough to scare her; a few pushes, shoves and a couple of light punches were not enough to bend her resolution one micron. The next day he and his friends had pulled her out the back of the school and had knocked her to the ground.

When she had gotten back up, they did it again. And again. And again. No matter how many times they knocked her down, she refused to give in. To surrender on one thing was tantamount to surrender on all. If she expected to bring Tokyo into a new age of enlightenment and equality, surely she needed to be able to defend her own personal ideals first.

Thus for a two week period Shinji and company picked on the small blonde girl, only to give it up as a waste of time and effort when she refused to hand over the money. They might have continued longer, but her incessant lecturing on the futility of the use of violence in converting a person to a different point of view was just as maddening as her failure to capitulate.

Now, years later, Shinji seemed to have met his match. The toughest bully in the school looked like he had had his face and body used as training aids in a week long boxing convention. While the rest of the class watched the ex-tough-guy take his seat with unusual slowness, Haruna-sensei took her place at the front of the room and gave a quiet cough to get everyone's attention.

"Everyone, we have a new student joining us today. I would like you to welcome Kino Makoto." So saying, a very tall girl with rich, chocolate coloured hair walked into the room. She was not dressed in Juuban's uniform, but that was not much of a surprise; Usagi could not remember ever seeing a girl that tall in the school, they probably did not make uniforms in her size.

As Makoto introduced herself, Usagi found herself starting to frown. From the way the new girl occasionally sent annoyed glares in Shinji's direction, the blonde was willing to bet money that Makoto was the person that had beaten up her classmate. She did not object to him getting a good thrashing - he honestly deserved it - but this was not the way to get him to change his ways. That could only come through education, and by him learning the advantages accrued by working within the framework of an enlightened political system.

After class ended and lunch started, Usagi walked up to the new girl's desk, closely followed by Ami. "Hi there! My name's Usagi, and this is my friend Ami. The teacher said your name was Makoto. Can I call you Mako-chan?"

Makoto smiled. So often when she changed schools, she went for long periods without making new friends. "Mako-chan would be great. All my friends call me that. Say, when I made my bento this morning I packed too much. Do you want some?"

Usagi's eyes shimmered. "See, Ami? A little friendship can go such a long way to establishing the sort of communal support that is lacking in corporate society."

So saying, Usagi dived head first into the offered food, pig-tails flying. For a while, contented munching sounds were all that could be heard. Grinning sheepishly, Ami tried to apologise for her friend's rudeness, but Makoto would hear none of it. "It's so rare to find someone who appreciates food that much. Watching how much she enjoys it is all the thanks I need."

When Usagi had finished all her own food, half of Makoto's, and a little bit that Ami was able to spare, she sighed contentedly and leaned back in her seat. "Was it you that beat up Shinji this morning, Mako-chan?"

"Yeah, it was. He was picking on one of the little kids out the front. He's not your boyfriend or something, is he?"

"That recidivist thug? Never. You did the right thing by protecting whoever he was attacking, but that's not the right way to solve the problem."

"Not the right way? He sure ain't going to get any money from that kid this morning, and he knows he better not try anything like that with me."

"That's just the point. Even if he's learnt that much - and with Shinji I wouldn't guarantee it - he'll just go off in search of easier prey."

Makoto scowled and clenched a fist. "Then I just need to keep an eye on him and 'convince' him otherwise."

"That's not the answer. It's never the answer." Usagi sighed. This was the hardest part to make people understand. "You'll never win against him unless you can change the way he thinks."

"You're not one of these people that says 'violence never solves anything', are you?"

Usagi nodded.

"Bah. My grandparents used to live in Hiroshima, try telling them that force never solves anything. The Americans sure solved a lot of people that day."

"No, don't you see? The war might have ended, but the hatred was still there. The anger, the aggression stayed just the same."

Makoto pointed to a red haired foreign girl sitting with some friends across the room. "What do you call that, then? I see a whole lot of your anger and aggression in that group, don't you?"

"The healing only truly started after the war. We've had fifty years to learn since then. At the end of World War Two, the American's dragged us kicking and screaming from our self imposed mire of a government under a single totalitarian ruler. True, the democracy that has replaced it is only a short step along the journey to political completion, but you have to begin somewhere."

"Maybe, maybe not. I still believe that anyone who goes around picking on people just because they can, deserves to get their head beaten in."

"Can't you see? All you're doing is perpetuating the cycle of hatred, violence and aggression that begat the process in the first place. Only by actualising the potentialities within each of us and abiding by a dogma emphasising mutual respect and camaraderie can we hope to change things."

With crossed arms, Makoto shook her head. "The difference between me and him is he enjoys it. I do it because it needs being done. I fight for love and justice, Usagi. Never forget that. I fight to preserve the rules, not to break them."

Now there was something they could all agree on. "'War is the continuation of politics by other means'", quoted Usagi. "If the military is a tool of the State and used for the People, not against them, then even armies can have their place in society."

"I knew you'd be able to understand. That's it exactly. When you fight for what is right, you end up doing much less fighting than if you fight because you enjoy it."

"So many classic military dictatorships have come about for the failure to follow exactly those words, Mako-chan. Warriors love war. Its what they're good at, so why shouldn't they? Ami loves science because she is good at it, why shouldn't you enjoy fighting? I think the American Civil War General Robert E. Lee phrased it perfectly when he said 'it is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow to like it too much'.

"When the military industrial complex is ruled by the State, you can have warriors without war. When the military rules the country you create a juggernaut like the Germany of 1939 that can only exist by bleeding itself and others to death. Then, when the military industrial complex holds unlimited sway over a government as capitalistic and imperialistic as the United States, you get a constant quest for 'justifiable' wars, like their invasions of Kuwait."

Makoto's eyes held that glazed, thousand mile stare that indicated she had only caught about one word in ten. "Hang on, didn't the American's rescue Kuwait?"

Usagi looked at Makoto like she was the most naive person on the planet. "You don't really believe that, do you? The American president at the time was the ex-director of their CIA, and a major investor in the oil cartels that are destroying our environment. Add to that the cumulative advantages of reduced fuel prices for 'allied' nations and the influence of their own internal weapons developers, and there was never any question going in to 'free' Kuwait. They just wanted to replace one dictatorship with one that was more closely allied with their hip pockets."

"You know, you've got a lot of opinions for someone who won't fight."

Before Usagi could answer, Ami stepped in, hoping to stop the two from arguing. "She never said she would not fight. She just doesn't like fighting. Sometimes, when all else fails, fighting is the only answer. Now come on, we're all friends here now. There's no need for us to fight amongst ourselves."

The tall, strong brunette laughed. Like so many people, she underestimated Usagi's fighting ability because she looked and acted weak and uncoordinated. She _was_ weak and clumsy, but her devotion and dedication kept her going in all situations, conceding defeat was just as alien to her as imposing injustice or tyranny, and just as likely to happen.

Changing topics for the remainder of lunch, Usagi was delighted by the fact that Makoto was willing to teach her the recipe she had used for today's lunch. She was even more delighted when the taller girl offered to make her some for tomorrow also. It was unfortunate, but Usagi's quest for political enlightenment had meant that her cooking skills had suffered. Sometimes people said you need to make sacrifices to get things done, but that was a platitude Usagi only accepted when it was yourself who was sacrificing something. Forcing sacrifice on someone else hardly seemed equitable.

Their pleasant conversation was inevitably interrupted by the return of the teacher at the end of lunch. Lunch became dinner; dinner to breakfast and so on. Unaffected by the occasional presence of youma, the days passed with the same inevitability that the historically dialectic promised for the ascendancy of world communism.

With the same ponderous force that rolled the sun from one horizon to the other on a daily basis, destiny drew Kino Makoto into her chosen fate. She had been walking along a street in Minato-ku when a youma transformed out of its human disguise, having finally drained a fair portion of energy through their usual underhanded schemes. Without concern for personal safety, the tall, brown-haired girl ran in to engage it in hand to hand combat.

Makoto was fast and strong, a better fighter than anyone else at Juuban middle school. However, against a youma she was seriously out-matched since she was only human. That did not matter to her since - as she had told Usagi - she fought for what was right. She did not simply seek battles she could win, she fought when the cause was just, even if meant she would lose.

The youma had just clamped a hand around Makoto's throat and was preparing to drain her of what little energy she still had when one of Mars' charged ofuda stuck to its arm. The piece of paper was filled with spiritual power to drive away evil, and it caused the monster to release the girl, who lay gasping at its feet.

"The eternal class struggle is a quest for workers and the oppressed lower-classes to throw off the chains that bind them to the rich and the enslaving. I hold that it is manifestly true that all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and by your actions, you are seeking to take away those rights. In the name of the revolution, I shall punish you!"

Although Kino Makoto had much to remember that day for - not least of which was the point where a talking black cat made her into Sailor Jupiter. She would never forget Sailor Moon's speech; it was not particularly clear or coherent, but it was meaningful. Those words that came just as she was saved rang in her head forever, seeming to summarise why she fought as she did. She fought for Sailor Moon, and they all fought for the greater good.

* * *

Luna sat brooding in the warehouse. She had been doing more and more of this recently. The weeks were rolling by, and while the four Senshi were doing well against the Dark Kingdom, she could not help but feel they were losing ground. They had not yet found Sailor Venus, and they had not even started looking for the Moon Princess; that weighed terribly against the evidence that they had only faced the weakest of the Dark Kingdom's generals.

Luna had initially hoped that although Usagi had those strange ideas that biased her against a Princess, there was still a chance that the rest of the Senshi would see wisdom. Regrettably, that was not to be. Usagi had won over Ami with the insidious cajolery of her honeyed words and logical arguments. Luna was not a student of politics, she was a political advisor. Nine times out of ten - or even better - she could suggest the right course of action in a given situation. That experience and learning had served her poorly when trying to explain how the Moon Kingdom was a paradise that Usagi's proposed communist "Crystal Tokyo" could never hope to be.

Faint hope had come with the arrival of Hino Rei. If there was anyone that disagreed with Usagi, it was the raven haired girl. No matter what it was, Rei and Usagi would find a way to fight over it. Politics, religion, sport, manga, ice cream, boys... Anything and everything was fair game. Naturally Luna thought she might be able to effect a change in the way the Senshi worked if she backed Rei, but the outcome of their meeting was far from what she expected.

"I respect her too much as a leader." Was Rei's response when Luna offered her the position of the team's leader. The priestess had gone on to explain that while Rei found Usagi the most irritating person she had ever met - on a personal level - she was also the most honest, forthright and genuinely caring person she had ever met. Usagi could find a hundred different ways to annoy Rei before breakfast, but her honest sympathy for the ordinary man on the street proved ample justification not to strangle her; no matter what the temptation might be at the time.

Like Rei, the mighty Sailor Jupiter also did not want to search for the Princess out of respect for Usagi. "Respect and power must be earned, not given." While the blonde Senshi felt that a hereditary ruling class did not necessarily imply any inherent skill or genetic disposition for good leadership, Kino Makoto had other arguments. Any person that was going to boss around the tough, fiercely independent girl needed to be worthy of her respect. As far as Makoto was concerned, if the Princess could find herself and do a better job of leading their team and saving Tokyo than Sailor Moon, she would change her allegiance. If some reincarnated floozy from ten thousand years ago expected her to bow for no better reason than who her mother was, she had another thing coming.

Mournfully putting her head on her paws, Luna wondered where she had gone wrong. It had all seemed so simple in the beginning. Find a group of five idealistic - but slightly gullible girls - and then have them resurrect one ancient kingdom to defeat another. When Queen Serenity had instructed her on this so long ago, they had not considered any of the problems they had run into. Oh, the Dark Kingdom constantly gave them a run for their money, but who could have anticipated a bouncy blonde running around going "Power to the People!" or "Enemies of the State must be punished!" or even "I shall destroy your recidivist imperialistic Kingdom and institute government of the People, by the People and for the People."

Sinking even lower into her pit of self pity and despair, Luna woefully wondered how anyone could produce opening speeches like Usagi. Closing her eyes, the black cat let out a long sigh. She should probably be watching the Senshi fight. They were fighting one of the generals tonight on the docks, and you never knew when they would get into trouble... 'Who was she kidding? Everybody's hero Sailor Moon would never get into trouble', Luna thought with more than just a trace of sarcasm.

"Wellll, hello there, good lookin'. What's a nice cat like you doing in a place like this?"

"Artemis, if you ever use that pick up line on me again I'll..." Luna's eyes snapped open, and she sprang to her feet as though someone had touched a high voltage power line to her. "ARTEMIS! It's you! It's you! It's you! Oh, Artemis! I'm so glad to see you!"

Much to the white moon cat's surprise - and just a touch of dismay - the cat who had long disdained his affections leaped into his arms and held him close, sobbing against his shoulder.

"Oh, Artemis. You wouldn't believe how hard it has been. Girls these days are nothing like they used to be."

"There, there, Luna. Things can't be that bad, right? I mean, we've been watching you on the news, and you guys seem to be doing a great job kicking those Dark Kingdom goons around."

Luna nodded, tears still coming from her eyes. She was about to launch into a long and whining description of each and every one of the many woes that beset her when something he said finally sank in. "'We'... You said 'we'. Does this mean you've found the Princess? Or even Sailor Venus?"

"Sorry. No glory on the Princess yet, but I have got Sailor Venus. We actually got together a year or so back, but we had to head to England for a while. This will be the girl's first chance to meet up with the other Senshi. She's outside, waiting for a good moment to drop in. I hope she'll get along with them."

"Is she a raving loony with delusions of grandeur?" Luna's tone was drier than most deserts.

"Err... No, not really."

"Well, she won't fit in with that crowd. The Senshi are all a bunch of complete nutters, especially Sailor Moon. How on earth she can believe in this idea of a worker's paradise is completely beyond me. I swear. Say... Sailor Venus wouldn't happen to have room for another cat at her house, would she? If she's been around for a year, we should have no problem persuading her to be the leader. Maybe we can finally start making some progress on the search for the Princess."

"Err..." Now it was Artemis' turn to look nervous.

"You're not going to tell me that Venus is a fruitcake like my Usagi, are you? Please say no. There couldn't possibly be two girls that have such strong politics in the whole world, let alone Tokyo."

"Nooo..." Artemis said slowly and reluctantly. "Not... _political_ beliefs... Actually, she's very... err... broad minded..."

Before Luna could begin to grill him on what he meant, a voice came through the thin walls of the warehouse. It was a voice Luna did not recognise, and that meant it had to be Sailor Venus.

"VENUS WHIP!"

Immediately, there were several whip-cracks in rapid succession, followed by a yelp of pain. "'Venus Whip'? I don't remember that as being one of Sailor Venus' attacks."

"No... Not really... Minako just thought it seemed more appropriate. After she learned the Venus Love Chain she... err... made a few... modifications..." For some reason, Artemis seemed rather reluctant to talk.

Moving closer to the window, Luna was just in time to see Sailor Venus strike a pose and make her first speech to the Dark Kingdom General that had been just about to kill the other Senshi.

"Trapping and torturing pretty young girls might be all well and good in a sane and consensual environment, but to kill four as pretty and innocent as these is a crime, and for that, I'm going to _punish_ you!"

Luna and Artemis gulped simultaneously, and the Senshi backed off slightly. The General was not quite that wise, and he sought to gloat for a moment before Venus acted.

"VENUS LOVE BONDGE!"

Raising one hand to her lips, she blew a kiss and drew a stream of gold hearts out. Bringing that hand down and around, she drew the glowing chain in a circle around her waist, then sent it arcing off towards the man in grey. Before he could teleport away, lines of golden hearts encircled him, lacing themselves around his arms and legs before flying off to convenient sections of wall to attach themselves.

As soon as the chain had itself anchored, the glowing hearts fused themselves into continuous glowing rope. The poor general had his hands bound behind his back, with ropes across his chest and thighs, each leading off into the distance, holding him suspended above the ground. Other ropes captured his ankles, ensuring that his legs were spread and he was kept vulnerable for Venus' ministrations. To complete his discomfort - and possibly to silence him, but that was not guaranteed - a golden gag kept his mouth stuffed and prevented him from complaining.

Walking closer, Venus brought forth her glowing whip once again and tapped it against the side of her leg. "First I'll teach you to call me Queen. Then I'll _really_ start to punish you for what you've done. They call me 'Venus', like the goddess of love, but you've been a very bad boy, so I don't think you'll get to feel any of that love today."

With that, the blonde Senshi started striking out with the whip. Each time it hit, she ripped a hole in his uniform and drew a line of bruised or torn flesh. The general's cries of pain and anguish were muffled into inarticulate moans, and each time he sobbed it seemed to drive Venus into greater levels of passionate anger.

Initially the other girls stood watching, but after a time, Sailor Moon went to stand beside Venus and cheered her on. "Yes! Now you can begin to feel the pain and suffering your counter-revolutionary actions would have brought upon others! How does it feel to have the whip of oppression wielded against you? Not so nice is it? Go on, Sailor Venus! Hit him again! Make him understand the suffering of the People. Make him know what it would be like to grovel in the dirt before a Queen."

Seeing the holy fire of idealism burning in Sailor Moon's eyes, Luna backed away from the window and beckoned Artemis with her. "This is bad, very bad."

"You're telling me? I was hoping that by getting Minako together with a group of normal girls I might be able to get her away from this S&M kick she is on. 'Call me Queen' my furry butt!"

"Oh, it gets worse, Artemis, much worse. I could see it in her eyes too. That same respect the other girls have for Sailor Moon. They see this 'communism' of hers to be some sort of glorified arcadia. By this time tomorrow, Sailor Venus will be in her thrall, and before we know it, all five of them will be working towards making Usagi's Crystal Tokyo come true. A better and fairer world for everyone, indeed!"

"Well... That doesn't sound too bad..."

Bap! Luna knocked her companion across the nose. "You silly cat! We're supposed to be bringing back the Moon Kingdom. How are we supposed to do that if they refuse to find the Princess?"

"Minako does make a pretty good Queen, you know. Especially when she wears that tight leather number, the one with the really high heels and ---"

"No! We have to find the right Queen, not just any girl off the street that might do a good job. She has to have breeding and style. Class and sophistication. All this talk of equality for the peasants... I just don't know what Queen Serenity would have made of it."

Artemis shrugged. "I don't know. She might have liked it actually. She always had a soft spot for poor people, you know."

"But... But... But..." Luna sounded like a two-stroke engine trying to start on a cold day.

"Come on, Luna. Give it a go. If the girls can't make it work, then they'll be happy to get help from a real Princess. And if they can make it work... Hey, you never know. Stranger things have happened." Artemis sighed and contemplated what the future might be like if Usagi's dream came true. "Besides, I wouldn't mind seeing Sailor Mercury in that red latex suit Minako has."

"Ahh! You traitor! How could you? We were sent here to bring the Senshi back so they could find the Princess. Then, once they had defeated the Dark Kingdom, we could restore paradise on earth."

"Oh, come on, Luna. Lighten up. Besides three out of four goals wouldn't be too bad. Would it?"

---
End of story.