Awakening, part 1 {1/1}


A Sailor Moon story by Tim Nolan
e-mail: nomad@cyberverse.com

Please see comments following the story.

Awakening

part 1


" Yes, Lieutenant?"
" Azarite reporting, sir."
Kunzite put aside the reports he was reading and leaned back
in his favorite couch in the quarters he shared with Zoisite while
he studied the younger man. He knew Zoisite didn't like his doing
business in their quarters, but he refused to do any serious work
in the spy infested military compounds.
Azarite looked more like a clerk than a warrior, with his
short brown hair and serious expression. His only concession to
fashion or individuality was the well-tailored uniform with a
smart looking black half-cloak that saved him from looking too
plain. The lieutenant was one of the few survivors of the attack
on the Moon Kingdom and one of the rising stars among Kunzite's
sub-commanders since the emergence of his abilities as a mage
a few centuries ago. That's probably because he learned to
survive by thinking instead of relying on any powers, he
thought to himself. I wish I had more who did that than being
barely one step better than the youma.
" I have just received an assignment from Queen Beryl,"
Kunzite said with a wry smile. " The magi in the research branch
have finally managed to stabilize a portal to Earth."
" You mean it only took them 13 years, sir," Azarite
responded with a tight grin. " I'm still glad you pulled me
out of there after my abilities began to manifest. I'd have
died of shame being in an outfit that took that long to do
such a simple task."
" They had the Queens' favor at that time and were
able to swing what they thought was a soft assignment that
would leave them covered in glory. The only swinging that they
will be doing soon is from the end of a rope. Her Majesty was
not pleased with their lack of progress," Kunzite replied,
grinning at the thought of those pompous asses in Research
getting their just rewards. " Remember this in regards with the
Queen; don't volunteer and then fail her. Pass this tale on
to the other lieutenants. Maybe they will learn something from it.
" Her Majesty has commanded me to begin scouting operations
on Earth. They are to concentrate on two locations. The islands
the inhabitants call England and Japan. You've read the information
packet that was sent to you. Tell me why she chose those areas."
Azarite thought for a few moments, recalling the facts he
had gleaned from the initial contact reports. " Those two
islands are small enough in size for the gate spells to be accurate
as the accuracy depends on the size of the targeted land mass. If
we tried to hit one of the large continents, we could be tens to
hundreds of their kilometers off target.
" Second, they have a large enough population base to
support mass energy draining operations once those operations
get under way; and their military forces are small enough
for us to deal with using conventional weapons if our normal
tactics and strategies don't work. I assume the third is the
scans for magic resources, although my packet did not have
that," he finished, fishing for a third good reason to impress
the general. The four of them knew far more about the situation
regarding Earth and volumes more on strategy and deception than
the junior officers under them. There was a good reason that there
were so few captains serving the generals. The four were
perfectionists about their staffs and were notorious for promoting
only for ability, and not connections or bribes. That was
also why they ran so many important operations themselves.
Kunzite watched the lieutenant for a few more moments
calculated to make the other just begin to sweat. " Short and
accurate, Lt. Azarite. The magic resources are the deciding
point on this." He pulled out a chart and handed it over. " There
are two major concentrations of magic present on the planet. Queen
Beryl would much prefer taking those two over the slower process of
the mass draining. Either source should just be about enough
to awaken Queen Metallia and allow Beryl to smash her way out of
here like the bindings placed by Serenity were so much wet paper.
" The sources in England are concentrated in two major
points. The other, in Japan, is the more difficult to pinpoint.
It doesn't seem as to be concentrated, instead it seems to be a
very high level of background energy. I don't think Japan will
be of much use, so I want you to work the area of England. Send
your second to Japan with a smaller force to see if they can get
any results."
Kunzite then gave the younger man the grin Azarite had
hoped to avoid. " I plan on making this an interesting assignment
for you, Azarite. You have a simple mission: get information and
energy samples from the local humans. Just to make it more
challenging, I'm sending Drake along with your squad. If we can
ever get him to start thinking before smashing things, he will be
a valuable resource. You get to give it a try.
" Your other interesting factor is that Zoisite is
insisting on sending one of his 2nd Lieutenants along so he can
be represented in this and not miss out on the action. He
has assigned Beld to the mission. She is a telepath and telekinetic,
so her abilities should be useful in Japan if there is something
hidden there. The problem, according to Zoisite, is that she is a
sadist who enjoys inflicting pain with her gifts just because
she can. Show me you can handle this bunch and complete the
assignment to Beryl's satisfaction, and I just might bump you
up to captain," Kunzite finished. " If nothing else, you will
be on the fast track for that position. Dismissed."

**********************************************************

Azarite walked into the briefing room as the occupants
rose and saluted with crisp efficiency. They all wore the
simple gray tunics and trousers of the military forces, along
with brown boots made from hides. Most kept the personalized
adornments to a minimum as they were only second lieutenants.
The only real exception was the strikingly exotic young woman
with long, braided blue hair and the insignia of Zoisite's forces.
Her uniform was set off by a bright red sash and gold in place
of the metals that normally made the buckles and snaps. This must
be Beld, Azarite said to himself. She's beautiful, but just
doesn't look right, he decided from the cruel cast of her
features. Sort of blighted, like a rose grown in poor
conditions and harsh environs. He also realized that she
would be a tough one to control on this mission from that
look on her face, nor would it do any good to tell her of
her problems. Besides, he thought wryly to himself, she isn't
old enough to remember roses. He did.
" At ease, troopers. We have been assigned to a recon
and information gathering mission by Lord Kunzite. These
operations will be conducted on the Earth in two
locations. We will traverse the dimensional gate to the base
camp set up in the polar regions. From there, we will be using
regular gates to reach the operation area. You will be dropped
off and pick up will be several hours later by gates. We are
not able to keep these up for the length of the missions, so
do not miss the pick-up. The exact assignments and schedules
will be given to you later.
" These are not difficult tasks. All you will be
doing is going to your target area and wandering around
for several hours. The crystals you will be given will handle
the sampling of energies in your area. They can also be
used to drain energy from the humans. You are not to use
them as such. Your job is to not, I repeat, not get involved
with the inhabitants in any way that might alarm them. We
still don't know enough about them to risk any engagements
right now. All you have to do is observe and write up your
findings later on. The translation pendants will facilitate
your work with the language."
" Sir, wouldn't it be more effective for me to probe
some of the locals for information?" Beld interjected. " It
would be far more effective and quick than this cautious
approach."
Azarite took a breath to keep his temper from flaring
up and decided to nip this in the bud at once. He did not
want her challenge to have a chance to even linger in
the mind of his squad.
" These orders came directly from Lord Kunzite, who
was given them By Her Majesty, Queen Beryl. Perhaps you
would like to discuss these issues with her, Second Lieutenant
Beld?" he said, laying on what he thought was just enough
sarcasm to back her down but not outright antagonize her. He
for one did not want a telepath too angry with him.
" No, Sir," she replied, somewhat chastened.
Azarite surveyed the group for any other signs of
dissent or disagreement, aside for Drake's look of boredom.
That one was just waiting for an opportunity for a good
fight and was hoping an earthling could give it to him, he
decided.
" All right, then. We form up for the first gate at the
barracks in two hours. Standard equipment packs will not be
required for this mission, so you all have a few moments to
prepare for this. That is all."
He saluted, turned sharply, and left the room.

*********************************************************

Beld was still furious as she stalked through the streets
of Tokyo, ignoring the stares from passers-by as they looked at
the distinctive figure she cut among them. I'll show that bastard
of a lieutenant, she swore to herself. Nobody puts me down like
that and lives. I'll rip out his soul piece by piece and feed it
to a youma as he watches.
After several more minutes of cursing where she only
repeated herself once, she finally started thinking about her
assignment here. She still had to do it right so she would not
get in trouble while she plotted and enacted her vengeance on
Azarite. She looked about for a few minutes, studying the
crowds and looking for a good target.
There, she thought to herself. She slashed into the young
man's mind with her talent and seized the sections regarding the
surrounding area and the concept of charts and maps. She then tore
her way out and made her way to a nearby store that dealt in maps
and tourism information. Behind her, the young man collapsed onto
the ground as his mind went into shock from the breakage of memory
chains in his mind.
She went into the shop and browsed through it for a few
minutes and selected several good atlases of Japan and England,
as well as the rest of the world. She threw in a stack of
information books on the two countries as well that were designed
for tourists. These ought to show him up, she thought. Let him try
to give me a hassle when I'm getting all of this information abut
the target area.
It only took a moments work to brush her mind across that
of the cashier and convince her that she had paid for these items.
She also made her ignore the fact that several small stacks of
currency floated out of the register and into Belds' hand,
and with another touch of her mind the cashier was kind enough
to throw in an expensive book bag to carry all of her items in.
Now for a bit of fun, she decided.

*********************************************************

Something had happened, she decided. Something had happened
about twenty one orbits ago. She was not as fast at analyzing
things as her swifter sibling who was first out from the center,
but she had a truer picture of their minds, and more importantly,
their hearts.
She had been born a very long time ago by any standards,
in a system far removed from the galactic core. She was second
out from the center and had nine other siblings who came into
being around the same time as her, so to speak. She had come to
a limited form of awareness, but had never even thought that there
were others like her. They felt the same way, she later found out.
It was the cries of suffering from one of her sisters that
alerted them to each other. In her pain, she reached the conclusion
that there _may_ be something besides herself. She had tried to
form too close to her largest brother, and the mistake had
proved fatal. There was nothing they could do except watch her
slow, painful death as she was ripped apart by his mere presence.
This did not make them sad, however. They had learned of
each other from this, and promised the dying one that she would
be remembered forever for giving them the glorious gift of
togetherness that they now shared. They continued their contemplation,
but now conversed with each other and remembered their sister.
Her sister who was third out brought them surprising news
after more time had passed. She had discovered new things upon
her. Small things that died soon after their birth, but made
copies of themselves before their death. They marveled at this
and celebrated the diversity of this thing called life.
Even more pleasing was the form of life called humans
that became predominant.The humans did something they had not
expected. The humans slowly spread to the other siblings after
reaching the child of the third one out from the center. The
siblings came to love the humans and grew protective of them.
They all agreed to hide their presence from the humans
and only let them see their physical forms so as to not hinder
their growth. They instead successively empowered a small group
of humans to be their avatars and help guide and protect their
humans. The only exception to this was the third one out. She
had so much life in abundance on her that she could not choose
to help one type over the others.
The siblings were happy for a brief time. Suddenly, in a
struggle between the humans, they suddenly lost contact with all
the avatars, save one. Much of their essence had gone into their
avatars, and they lacked the power to protect the humans who were
not on the third one out.
The loss of their inhabitants troubled them. The furthest
one out then spoke up. The others listened, for he was wise and
patient. He counseled them to wait for a time. His avatar still
lived, and might restore the others. They agreed to bide their time,
and dropped into a deep slumber to conserve their dwindled energies.
This was some 1600 orbits ago for her. Something had happened
recently. It had been so long since she had stirred that she
had been very slow to wake and realize what she thought she
had felt. Her sleep would be lighter now. She had to listen
for something. It was for only the tiniest fraction of a
moment, but she thought she had heard her avatar.

*********************************************************

It took her an hour of wandering around and searching
for a suitable candidate while she entertained herself with
a few minor tricks of telekinesis and telepathy. A dropped
and broken package here, a choice thought suddenly vocalized
against a person's will there, and dissension ruled in her
wake. Her new prey, however, was easily going to be far more
entertaining and satisfying.
The new mother practically radiated her uncertainty in
dealing with her infant. It was so strong she couldn't tell
why the natives couldn't pick it up, even at their lack of
talent. It was a simple mental nudge of a leg that caused the
mother to trip and sent the stroller out into the busy traffic.
The results were predictable. Screams of alarm and anguish rang
out and the sound of several cars colliding resounded in the air.
Beld had long since established a link to the woman
and rejoiced in the feelings of guilt and despair she had
caused. This was far better than the finest wines, in
her opinion. Nothing could compare to feeling this from her.
She didn't even have to try and make the sobbing woman feel
that it was her fault; her sense of shame and grief were
already doing a wonderful job of convincing her subconscious.
She studied the mind she was linked to for a few moments
more to fix the pattern in her mind. She then severed the link
so gently as to not even make the slightest disturbance. She
simply would have to return later and see what the results of her
handiwork were. But for now, she left and walked back to the
recall site, humming contentedly to herself.

************************************************************

Damn, the young woman said to herself. She turned away
from the tragic scene so quickly her hair flared about her, a
green so dark as to practically be black. She studied the face
and odd gray clothing of the only person to walk away from the
sight of the accident with a smile on her face as the blue-haired
woman walked past her and into the distance.
After several more minutes had passed, she went to a
coffee shop that had opened recently. The waitress brought her
order over after a few minutes and she relaxed into the cushions
of the booth. The sounds from the arcade downstairs were barely
noticed as she thought about the situation. She didn't have time
for this. There were too many things that required her personal
attentions right now. The sight of the gray clothing was a sign
to her that she was correct in her earlier assumptions. The problem
was in how to deal with it. She could not deal with it by
herself, as much as she would have liked to. I can't have
too many irons in the fire at once, she said to herself.
An hour was spent juggling the possibilities, and then
a course of action was decided on. She reached out to her
right and took hold of a staff that suddenly was there, although
none in the cafe seemed to notice it. The red orb at the top of
the staff glowed faintly as she visualized two objects in her
mind. They still had not fully adjusted to this time and would
still be traceable for about another year at the most. One was
still moving towards this area, but the other was still in the
same general physical location that it had occupied for about
four years. It looked like one of the hunters had found prey. It
was time to give it a nudge.

************************************************************

The two figures emerged from the thick fog of a London
night. One was of medium height and build. The other looked
more like a giant than a man, standing slightly over two meters
with broad shoulders and powerful limbs. As he stumbled
out of a pub and looked blearily at the two, a half-drunken patron
of said establishment called out to the large man.
" Let me know what football team your rooting for in
the match 'tween Arsenal and Manchester, mate. I'd hate to
be wearing the wrong colors if your team lost."
A deep voice rumbled back. " Arsenal. They have a better
sounding name. Now, leave us and get out of here." The larger
of the two took a step towards the drunk, who went pale and
quickly left the two alone as he hurried back to the pub. He
turned back to the smaller man as they returned to their walking.
" Would you mind if I stuck around for this 'match' that
he mentioned, Lieutenant? It sounds like there might be a fight
as a result of it and it could give me a chance to get some first
hand experiences of how these people fight each other."
"Sorry, Drake, but I think you are just looking for a
fight and coming up with an excuse," Azarite responded with
a chuckle. " Besides, I don' think that this planet offers a
person who could give you a real workout. I don't even know
anyone in the Dark Kingdom who could challenge you in a physical
fight short of the Four."
After thinking about this for a few moments, Drake pushed
back his coarse red hair, now dampened by the fog. " I still don't
get it, Lieutenant. The other officers I've had over me treat me
as a little more than a weapon to be used and discarded. Why do
you and the general keep on trying to get me to do more? Ever
since he pulled me out of Nephrite's corps in the exchange
program, it's been nothing but books and lessons."
" Well, Drake," Azarite replied. " The reason is what
I just told you. I don't know of any besides the Four who
could beat you in a physical match. If the general
and I can teach you to think before using your fists, we'll
gain a valuable commodity for our use. You benefit by becoming
a better soldier, and we benefit by having you become better.
" The general is also looking forward to the challenge
you may pose to him later on. If you become a more skilled
officer and learn to use your skills more effectively, you
may become a challenge to him, and that keeps him sharp. At
least, that's what he told me when he gave me my training as a
mage. He said he wanted me to become better so as to make him
better."
Drake mulled this over for a few minutes as they approached
the point were they would separate for their patrols. " So that's
why you keep on working with me to learn how to fight you as a
mage and not just as another combatant?"
" Exactly. If I just went against you with my fists, you'd
beat me ten falls out of ten every day. Instead, I use my abilities
to counteract yours. You leap to the attack and I simply use a
little bit of energy to give you a push that will change the
angle of your leap. You charge, I use that groundshaker spell."
The big man laughed harshly at the memory of that one. He'd
been surprised when Azarite challenged him to a bout as part of
his training. He had expected to tear the smaller man apart. The
ground seemed to fall out from under his feet as he charged in
to attack and he ended up with a lump on his head, a bruised
backside, and a rage that would have made him try to kill his
adversary if he was being laughed at. Instead, the lieutenant
had simply explained what he had done to him and that this was
a lesson in not underestimating your opponents. No gloating,
no boasting. This was nothing like his previous commanders.
" We're here, Drake." Azarite said, breaking him out of his
reverie. " I'll take the route to the left. You go right, into the
upper class areas. There are probably going to be less unruly
'football' fans there, whatever it is."

*************************************************************

The white cat pulled himself up onto his favorite branch
in the tree by the house. It wasn't his house, but he thought of
it that way. This spot gave him some very good options for watching
the residents, jumping to the balcony for attention, escape and
comfort. The latter was a requirement, after all. He examined his
thoughts while he settled himself down for a nap in the
mid-afternoon sun.
It was almost four years since he had spotted her. She didn't
look quite the same at the time, but the memories that had burst
into his mind upon seeing her convinced him that he had found her.
The sight of her long, blonde hair, blue eyes, and the red
ribbon holding her hair back had been a wonderful surprise to
him. It had been what... eight, nine years he had been searching
for them. Some he had to find. One he had to protect.
Why the stasis capsules, Serenity? he asked himself bitterly.
I don't have any unusual powers. I can't do any heroic, last minute
rescues. Why did you have to mess with my memories. They're my only
weapon here. I've spent four years looking for the other senshi, and
I haven't found them. Or worse, I couldn't recognize them if I did.
At least he had found one of them. It was a good thing she
was here in Tokyo. If she was in America or Europe, he might not
have even noticed her due to her hair. In Japan, she stood out in
the crowd. He was so shocked by seeing her, he nearly fell out
of the tree. After that encounter, he followed her home
closely enough to be her shadow. This area became his new
home, at least after he drove off the other cats and the
dogs. There's only one other cat he wanted prowling around
here, and he wished he could find her.
The worst of it was the fear of the decision he may have to
make. What if he did it and turned out to be wrong? Could he condemn
her to a life without her real friends? A life that may go on
forever without any need for her, or anyone who would understand
what she truly is, except for the stupid cat who did such a
terrible thing to her? What if she hates me so much for it she
leaves me? He didn't think he could handle that.
Then there were the last words from Queen Serenity. She had
wanted the children of the Moon Kingdom to be happy. To know
peace and not be burdened by the memories of their past. He had
promised to try and achieve that. How could he do it and still
hold true to that promise?
He began to make a list in his head concerning the
issue, but gave it up after a few moments. The only thing on
the other side was that he felt uneasy and the dreams. He had
bad ones every several days starting about six moons ago that
he could not remember but left him shaking and snarling when
he woke. More importantly, he thought that she was beginning
to have them also.
He had watched with concern as her lifestyle began to
change. She had always been able to juggle her schooling,
training and friends before. She'd go to school and then to
one of several different masters she had been studying under
since her sudden interest in martial arts a couple of years ago.
She hadn't stayed with any one for a long period but had gathered
a lot of basics from several different styles. After her workout,
she'd return home to spend time with her family and friends and
was the terror of the local mall and arcade on the weekends. This
all changed after his dreams began. Her contacts with her school
friends had dwindled down to a few quick gatherings every couple of
weekends. Her sleep was not as good as it once was, for he had
watched the lights go on in her room in the middle of the night
and stay on far too many times to be simple insomnia.
Something was up. It had to be. It was the only option
that fit the available information. He was a strategist; a tactician.
He could tell that something was going to happen. He should be able
to make this decision as easily as the other ones in the past. It
should be as easy for him as when he was teaching tactics at the
Guard Academy in the days of the Silver Millennium. He just
studied the situation and moved the pieces accordingly. Could
he ask this piece to pay such a price?

**********************************************************

The girl winced as she pulled on a bathrobe after her
shower. The movements caused the sore muscles in her arms to
complain to her of the work they did today. Her sensei had
decided she needed more strength and flexibility in her arms
and had worked her harder than usual. She walked through a
quiet house and into her room. Her parents were at the theater
tonight, courtesy of the tickets she had bought with most of her
savings from her allowance. The play was a favorite of her
parents and they had been so happy to get another chance to
see it. They had tickets for the opening night, but her father
had been called away for an emergency situation at his job at
the last minute. Their smiles this morning when she gave them
the tickets had been worth the effort. Luckily for her, the
daughter of a previous sensei had lived up to her promises and
found the tickets.
She eased herself into the seat in front of the mirror in
her room and began to brush her long hair as the late afternoon
sun turned her room to a golden red. It took a lot of work to
maintain her hair and she was more than willing to do it. Blondes
were rare in Japan and it was almost like a magnet for the boys
at her school. She had started noticing them a couple of years
ago and liked being the center of their attentions. She just
wished she had more time for that. For the last several months,
she had been throwing herself into her studies at school and the
dojo with a vengeance. Her last outing with her friends had been
two weeks ago, and that had just been for a movie and ice cream. She
hadn't been shopping at the mall for a month.
Something was driving her with an increasing sense of urgency.
It felt like she somehow knew the calm moments before the storm were
running out. The anxiety was stretching her thin between her
preparations and her lack of sleep recently. Something was
going to happen. Something had to happen, or she would go crazy
from the waiting. If she wasn't so tired, she thought as she put
the brush down and tied her hair back, she could think about it
for a while.

***********************************************************

The woman stepped out of the doorway to the roof access
several rooftops away from the now sleeping cat. She was
dressed differently now, in a white blouse and short skirt
and carried the staff openly as a dim light from the red orb
lit her way through the early evening darkness. I just have
enough time to do this before my appointment, she thought.
What she intended was not as difficult as a full portal, but
it did still require her full concentration. She took a seat
on the chair she had put on the roof earlier in the day and
closed her eyes.
Images of the Silver Millennium filled her mind. The
joyous memories of the happiness there still tugged at her
heart after all this time. The balls held every night for
celebrating the peace and progress around them. The fireworks
shattering the darkness for a moment, bringing murmurs of
appreciation from the crowds and causing lovers to seek their
sanctuary deeper in the luxurious gardens of the palace. The
libraries that held the knowledge that was the cornerstone of
their progress. The colonies on the other planets that had
thrived and were prosperous centers of culture on their own.
It made the images of the destruction all the worse as it passed
away in scenes of poignant sorrows and sacrifices as an era died.
Fleeting thoughts of those lost quickly followed. The Queen,
with gentle eyes and a look of youth that belied her wisdom. Her
councilors, skilled and benevolent diplomats, who held the
darkness of war away with their combined talents. The nobles
of the court, who administered their sprawling estates with a
tender concern for all in their care. The skilled artisans and
craftsmen whose joy was creating beauty, and the commoners who
strove to pay back the care given to them with their utmost
efforts and glad hearts.
The sadness was especially sharp when the thoughts
concerned several young woman wearing outfits similar to what
she now wore. They were all of high birth and would be royalty
except for their decision to sacrifice that life of ease so as
to protect the people they loved. I miss you, my friends, she
thought, even if I was not there as often as I would have liked.
Our duties may have been different, but our purpose was the same.
All of these images and feelings were tied into the
matching eddies and currents of the time stream and directed
gently towards the cat. He was about to have a dream he would
never forget, she thought. It will be like he was right there,
because in a sense he will be.
" I'm sorry, Artemis," she said softly. " I wish there
was another way." She reverted to her regular clothing and looked
at the ticket in her pocket. She had just enough time to make the
classical music recital at Mugen Gakuen High School.

*************************************************************

The one who was sixth out from the center stirred in
his sleep and woke briefly to consider his worries again. Long
ago, before the growth of life, something had troubled him. He
spent a long time comtemplating it, but to no avail.
It was only after the humans had begun to prosper on his
siblings that he realized what it was. He confererred with his
brothers who were further out than he. The largest brother was
busy in his care for the humans, as he considered this his
atonement for his part in the death of their sister long ago,
and would not discuss it with them. The others closer in were
also similarly pre-occupied. The ringed one was concerned that
something meant to harm the humans, or even the siblings themselves.
He could not determine what the threat was, however, but felt it
came from further from the center than even the outermost of the
brothers.
The outer four considered this issue for a while. The one
furthest out suggested that this may be an event yet to come, as
the siblings did not journey through time like the humans did. The
ringed one may be foreseeing a problem that was to occur. The four
decided to watch for this threat, and to set their avatars to guard
against any harm from beyond.
He who was sixth out thought about the decision made long
ago. The siblings involved had not found any threat, nor had their
avatars when they were present. He couldn't be totally sure,
but he thought he had a better idea of what concerned him. The
unease now centered on the fact that something seemed to be very
interested in his avatar. This confused him; however, as his
avatar was missing like the others.

**********************************************************


A lucky swing of a paw caught a branch and stopped
Artemis just before he hit the ground.
" What the hell was that," he said aloud, disregarding
years of training in keeping himself from talking in the
wrong circumstances. Then he heard the screaming from inside
the house. That's it, he thought to himself as he almost flew
through the branches and flung himself into a leap impossible
for an ordinary cat. If her dreams can do this to me, imagine
what it's like for her. He would have to do it. It must be
about to start if she's getting dreams this strong, he decided. It
was as clear as if he was there, although the images were so fast
he could barely recognize any of them. They were clear images,
however, unlike his earlier nightmares and shocking enough to
cause him to fall out of his tree.
He landed lightly on the railing of the balcony outside
her window and looked in. She was sitting in front of her mirror
where she had apparently fallen asleep while at the desk. She
had a wild look to her eyes and was breathing large gasps of air in
response to her sudden awakening. Sweat had matted her hair
down and she got up and took the ribbon off. She then walked
out of the room and into the hallway. Artemis heard the sound
of a bath being drawn a few moments later.
" That's good," he said. "It will help her relax." After
she is done, he'd have a talk with her. He began to groom himself.
The act was as much to make himself more presentable as it was
to have the familiar routine relax himself.

*************************************************************

Minako came out of the nightmare screaming. It took
her several moments to realize she wasn't at the place in her
dream. The sensation of loss was like a knife in her belly,
it hurt so much. Her home and her friends were gone, destroyed.
No, she thought savagely to herself. That was just the dream.
She was in her house. No, her home, she emphasized. This was
her home, not some fairy tale castle with a blue moon far bigger
than it had any right to be.
But why did that place feel so right? The deeper parts
of her mind still screamed at her that what she saw in the
nightmare was the proper place for her. The people she had
glimpsed so briefly felt like old and familiar acquaintances.
Her heart almost broke from the pain at the memory of a certain
group of young women whose images had a strong emotional context
to them.
She concentrated on evening out her breathing and soon
felt her heart slow to a more normal rate. She'd have the shakes
soon from coming down after all that adrenaline in her system.
After getting up, she removed the ribbon from her hair and went
down the hall to draw a hot bath. It was the only way she'd
relax after waking up like that. Maybe I'll have a sundae
later on, she thought. I probably won't get any more sleep tonight.

************************************************************

The applause thundered out in the auditorium as the
violinist finished her piece with a flourish. This had easily
been the most skilled performer of the evening and her talent
was more on a level with a professional than a high school student.
It was a welcome relief to the usual caliber of players at school
recitals. She did an elegant bow to the appreciative crowd and
smiled as several bouquets came out of the audience to land on
the stage. Red roses for the most part, mainly from some of the
boys at school who were infatuated with her. She did find the
flower she was looking for, a yellow rose in a simple yet
deceptively elegant arrangement. This was the one she picked
up as she bowed again to the audience and flashed a smile that
was only meant for one person in the crowd.
The violinist left the stage to let the next performer
on and walked towards the small dressing room that was hers
for this night. The privacy after performing for an audience
was valuable to her and she knew she would be left alone for
a few minutes by her friend so she could wind down from the
high of her work on stage. She paused briefly before a full
length mirror to check that her hair was in order. The turquoise
color of her hair was nicely set off by the black dress. She had
a date later on and wanted to look her best. She closed the door
behind her and then gasped as she realized she was not alone.
The woman with the long dark green hair stood and warmly
smiled at her.
" You play very well, Michiru. My name is Setsuna Meiou. I'd
like to talk with you for a few moments."

***********************************************************

Minako felt much better after soaking in hot water for
a couple of hours and making a quick snack for herself. She
returned to her room and sat in front of her mirror again. She
didn't believe in superstition and doubted that sitting there
would cause another nightmare. The routine of brushing her hair
relaxed her as she let her thoughts wander to anything but what she
dreamed of earlier. A soft voice woke her from her reverie.
" Venus?"
She turned slowly, not realizing who had spoken. There
was nobody in the room except for herself. Then she noticed the
white stray cat who had taken over their yard. He had somehow
gotten into her room and was sitting in a patch of light from
the rising moon. He almost looked like a transparent statue. She
knew he was friendly, although the cat has always been very
reserved, almost shy around her. This was the first time she
could think of where he had gotten into the house. He was normally
content with staying in the yard and accepting handouts on rare
occasions. She began to get up to let him out and started to
dismiss the notion that someone said anything. I'm just hearing
things, she thought.
Then she noticed what was different. There was something
on the cat's forehead. Some kind of half-circle, she thought. No,
wait. It's a crescent shape. A golden crescent, like the moon
when it was low in the sky. She wondered where the cat had gotten
it or why she had not seen it before when it began to glow a faint,
warm gold that seemed to grow until it occupied her entire field
of vision.
Suddenly, her world twisted and fell out from underneath
her as a word reverberated through her soul.
" Remember."

***********************************************************

That's enough time, the young woman thought to herself. If
we don't get started soon, we'll be late and I worked so long at
the track to have time for this evening. She got up and looked at
the stage where a custodian was picking up a few scattered roses
from the bouquets thrown earlier in the program. A tear or two
threatened to form in her eyes as she considered the situation. My
rose, she picked up my rose and no others. Such romantics the two
of them were.
With a smile, she spun to her right and walked to the aisle.
The sudden movement caused her short, golden hair to twirl around
her head and settle back into it's normal position. She reached into
a pocket and took out a gold loop earring that was a gift from
her friend and put it in her left ear as she walked up the aisle and
into the lobby of the auditorium, steering her way through
the few remaining knots of people gathered there.
An older man made to intercept her, attracted by her good
looks and slim figure, no doubt. He wasn't even put off by the
fact she wore a suit more appropriate for a man than a woman. Old
pervert, she thought and fixed him in his tracks with a steely-eyed
stare that made him blink and remember the wife he had left a few
paces behind him.
After that, it was only a few more steps and she was through
the door and into the area where the dressing rooms for the
performers were. She was excited about the prospects she had for
the evening ahead of her. She was even a bit nervous. Driving a
car at 350 kilometers an hour didn't even phase her, and here
she was, nervous at what was to come.
Well, she thought to herself as she straightened her
slender tie, here is her room. It was showtime. Tonight was a
night they would never forget. She licked her lips once in a
brief surrender to her nerves as she reached for the door.

************************************************************

She felt like she was slowly rising through a thick, clear
liquid as she fought her way to consciousness. Her heart was
racing at the edge of her control and she fought that down as
well while she opened her eyes. It was still there.
The cat remained were he had been, the golden crescent
moon and his large blue eyes shining in the gentle moonlight. Was
he the cause of this, she wondered. What is with the mark on
his head? I never saw it before. I know it hadn't been there
before. These and many other questions about what had happened
raced through her mind at a frantic rate.
The third major shock of the evening came in and hit her
like the proverbial freight train. The cat looked at her for
a few moments with what seemed like concern, and then he spoke.
" I'm sorry, Venus. I truly am sorry to have had to do
this."
" Venus," she exclaimed. " Who is Venus? I'm Minako. Why
are you calling me Venus? You're a cat. How can you talk? Am I
still asleep or am I crazy?" she finished in a rush, panting for
breath.
The cat sat there and waited for her to catch her
breath. " I know, you are Minako Aino," he said calmly. " You
are also someone else. Please sit down and I'll try to explain
it to you."
She numbly moved back and sat on the bed. The cat jumped
up and sat on the desk by the window, next to one of her many
stuffed animals. This was too much, she thought. I'm talking to a
cat. A talking cat. I've flipped, she thought, almost in hysterics.
I'm going to scream soon and wake up from this. It has to be a
dream.
" This must be a dream," she told the cat. " A dream, or
that crazy American TV show with the hidden cameras. Cats can't
talk. I'm barely thirteen; I'm too young for a nervous breakdown.
Where is the speaker hidden, or is there a ventriloquist hiding in
here? Where is the camera?" she yelled at the cat, her nerves
starting to go.
The cat studied her for a moment, noting the growing
hysteria in her voice and the strain she seemed to be under.
Her muscles were taught and she was starting to tremble. The
sigil of Venus shone on her forehead, but it wasn't the clear
glow he had expected. The light was flickering and wavering. This
isn't going right, he thought to himself. He had only one other ace
to play.
" I have to ask something of you before I can explain
it," he said to girl in a soothing tone. You will need to do
something before I can really explain it to you properly." He
looked down at the table and concentrated for a moment. The
moonlight at his feet seemed to grow brighter and brighter and
something appeared.
" Please come here," he said to the girl, using a touch
of command in his voice to ensure her response. If she ran right
now, I may not be able to undo the damage. Her memory blockage
seems to be worse than mine.
Minako slowly stood and walked over to the desk. A short
wand lay there. Maybe it was a pen. It had an orange body and a
gold cap, like a pen, but there was a symbol on the end. A
heart with a cross coming off of the base. For some reason
it was familiar, but she couldn't remember ever seeing it before.
Her mind, her whole body felt numb. Why am I doing this? she
screamed at herself.
" Take the pen and hold it up over your head," the cat
said in the same calm voice that made her keep on going and pick
up the pen. It was something that seemed stable as everything
around her seemed ready to spin away.
" Now, say the words, Minako. I know you know them. They're
just hidden away from you, just like your past has been. Say the
words. Say the words and you can remember."
She slowly raised the pen to just over her head. Part of
her screamed at what was going to happen. You'll lose yourself,
that part cried in fear. No, another part sang in exultation. You
will be whole again. The siren call of the latter proved to be
more temptation than she could take. It was a hope of inner peace,
an end to the pain and uncertainty she felt for the last two years.
She took a deep breath and shoved her right arm to it's full length
over her head.
" VENUS POWER, MAKE UP!"
The world exploded around her.

**************************************************************

Artemis leaped clear as she yelled. He was away just
in time as gold and orange lights fountained up behind him
and surrounded her form. He was still seeing spots and stars
before his eyes as he landed on the bed at the other side of
the room. It worked! It worked, you lucky fool. I've got her
back! He turned around to see the welcome sight as relief
washed over him.

**************************************************************

There. There it was, again. She rejoiced inside and
sang her pleasure in a hymn of joy. She could be whole
again, and so could her beloved siblings. It had only been
a tiny flash, and not very bright, but it was there. It was
unmistakable.
She basked for a short time in her joy, enjoying her
pleasure after the ending of so much pain and uncertainty.
They had suffered due to the loss of their humans, but that
paled in comparison to the heights they could feel because
of them. They had learned so much because of them, and now
the siblings could begin to repay the debt once again.

*************************************************************

Everything suddenly felt right within her. All of
the myriad small differences were gone. This is how she
was meant to be. Tension faded away as long-clenched muscles
relaxed and the worries of two years were swept away from her
mind. I'm who I am supposed to be. I'm whole, not a small part
hiding from the rest.
She turned to look at the other occupant of the room
and stopped as she caught sight of herself in the mirror.
Her hair descended in a beautiful golden cascade around her
shoulders. A tiara, gold with an orange stone in the center
graces her forehead. An orange ribbon was around her neck like
a choker. She wore a white, sleeveless blouse with a dark blue
bow in the front held by a yellow broach. Her skirt was orange
with a yellow bow at the back of her waist. Orange trim on her
long white gloves and orange sandals completed her outfit.
" This is me?" she gasped in surprise. This wasn't a
slightly insecure 13 year old. The image before her was someone
to be reckoned with. She giggled, " Wow. Wait 'till the boys see
me now."
After admiring her image a moment more to make sure
she wasn't dreaming, she turned to the cat and engulfed him
in an embrace. " Artemis," she said, her voice thick with emotion.
She held the cat a few moments more and then the tears
came. She started sobbing as the effects of the losses she
had suffered in the past came back to her. She now knew she
had lost something very important to her and could now mourn
that loss. All of the images from the nightmare of earlier
flashed before her again, this time with an air of familiarity
to it. She could still not make out many names and places, or
understand what they were, but now she knew she was a part of it.
After several minutes, the tears stopped. She reached
out from her seat on the bed where she must have sat down
while she was crying and took a tissue from the box on the
desk. She wiped her eyes and cheeks, and then realized the
cat was in far worse shape than her face. He was partially
soaked from her tears and wore a bemused expression.
" I'm sorry, Artemis. I didn't mean to do that to you.
It's just... I finally remembered who I was and then what I
lost. What we lost. The Silver Millennium is over, isn't it?"
" I'm afraid so, Venus. It is gone, but not forgotten.
I remember it, and now you do also. As long as it is not
forgotten, it will still exist, at least in our hearts. Don't
worry about the fur, either. I'm probably due for a real bath,
anyway."
She smiled at the joke and thought for a few moments. " I've
seen you around here for several years," she said. " Why did you
wait for so long to wake me up?"
" Serenity wanted you to have a peaceful, normal life. She
wanted that for all of the children of the Moon. You were
reincarnated into this body. I assume that the others from the
Moon have also been returning."
" Artemis, it's not 'this body'. I'm Minako Aino. I'm
also Venus," she said, almost testily. She continued in a more
gentle voice. 'Please, call me Minako. I don't know if I can fill
the shoes...uhm, sandals of Venus."
He laughed at the joke. " Certainly, Minako Aino."
How long had it been since he had laughed, he wondered.

**********************************************************

They resumed their conversation after he showed her
how to change her clothes back and had dunked himself in a
bathtub filled with warm water and suffered through a
shampooing from her. He did draw the line when she pulled
out the hair dryer and mousse.
They went back to her room after a quick snack and
kept the lights off to keep her parents from being suspicious.
They were due back at any time now. Minako got under the covers
of her bed and Artemis curled up near her on the other pillow.
" How much do you remember, Minako? Tell me what you
recall of the past."
She slowly told him, pausing for a few moments here
and there to search her mind for things that felt like they
should be there but she couldn't recall. The gaps were of
some concern to her as she started to realize that she was
missing much of the information of her distant past.
" Don't worry too much, Minako" he responded to soothe
her fears. " I didn't fare much better. Let me start from
the beginning.
" There was an era of peace and prosperity for this
system starting a little over two thousand years ago. The
Moon Kingdom had spread it's influence and quitely helped
the people on Earth. They had established colonies on the
other planets. The cavern cities on Mercury were designed by
their princess and hewn from rock deep beneath the surface
there. There were the domed cities on Venus, and the great
canals built on Mars to bring water down to the cities from
the icecap. The moons of Jupiter were settled and the Floating
Palace there was truly a sight to behold. The other planets
were also settled and grew into prosperity.
" In honor of the works of those before them, and in
honor of their goals in the upcoming years, the Queen of
the Moon Kingdom proclaimed that a new age had begun. It
was to be called the Silver Millennium. This was just over
a thousand years ago. It looked to truly be a great thing.
The arts and sciences flourished. People were happy and
knew peace.
" This was all possible because of the Queen of the
Moon. Her name was Serenity. She was a good, wise ruler. Her
daughter was raised to follow in her footsteps. The people
loved and revered them.
" Unfortunately, there are always people who will
spoil this kind of happiness. A Queen on Earth grew to
despise the Moon Kingdom and coveted their position and
power. She gathered evil people from Earth around her
and attacked the Moon by surprise."
" That was Beryl, right? I seem to remember hating
that name," Minako said. The name caused her skin to crawl.
Artemis nodded and continued.
" The Moon Kingdom had it's protectors, however. The
Guard was never large but they were very capable. They lay
down their lives to give the other protectors a chance. The
others were the Sailor Senshi, Minako. As Sailor Venus, you
were one of them. Do you remember the images of the other
young women from the dream? They were royalty from the colonies
on the planets. They gave that up to become the Sailor Senshi
and be the last line of defense for the Moon Kingdom."
" Royalty," she said. " Me, royalty? What was I, a
princess?"
Artemis nodded. " Yes, a princess. Your parents
there were the rulers of the domed cities on the planet
Venus. That's where you got your name; it's from the planet
you came from." He broke off at her giggling.
" What's so funny?"
" All girls want to be princesses, Artemis. I did
when I was little and now I just found out that not only
was I a real princess, but I gave it up."
" You're not being too serious about this, Minako
Aino." the cat replied. " It is very important for you to
know this."
" I'll try to be more serious, sensei," she replied
with a wink. " Why was it Sailor Senshi?"
" I'm not really sure about that. Why do you ask?"
" I just realized the clothes look a lot like a school
uniform."
Artemis sighed and hung his head for a moment. He
looked back into her eyes and continued.
" They were able to defeat the rest of the army of
Queen Beryl, but fell before the power Beryl herself wielded.
Beryl destroyed the Moon Kingdom in her wrath and faced Serenity."
" What happened to the other planets. Where they
attacked? "
" Yes, Beryl attacked them also. The power of
the Imperial Silver Crystal was the only thing enabling
the colonies to exist. The Queen chose to sacrifice herself
by using the Crystal and giving up her life to save the
children of the Moon Kingdom and seal Beryl and the rest of
her forces away forever. Without that, the colonies were
destoyed. The environmental conditions were too severe without
the power of the Crystal.
" The spirits of the Sailor Senshi, along with those
of the Moon Princess and the children of the Moon, were sent
ahead by Serenity to a time where they could be reincarnated
and know peace like they did in the Moon Kingdom. The Senshi
were to protect them if Beryl somehow returned."
Minako thought about this for a few minutes as Artemis
paused to give his voice a chance to recover. It had been out
of practice for several years, after all. Minako got him a
drink of water and then asked him a question.
" What was your part in all of this? I remember that
you were an advisor, but nothing else is very clear."
" I was one of the advisors to Queen Serenity." he said
with a degree of pride, but Minako caught the slight bitterness
behind his tone of voice. " She sent me to
Earth in a stasis capsule since I was one of the few survivors
when Beryl destroyed everything. That's why my memories are not
perfectly clear. The stasis affected them. I was hoping that yours
would be better, since you were reincarnated here."
" Something you said bothered you."
The cat considered his feelings for a few moments before
responding. " I feel that I should have seen the attack coming
when it did. We had an idea that something was up on Earth, but
Beryl surprised us. I still sometimes feel like it's my fault for
not seeing it. I know better than that. I know it's not my fault,
but I still can't help feeling it."
" Beryl wasn't quite...sane, was she? She seemed twisted,
turned in on herself. How can you expect to anticipate a sick
mind? From what I recall, nobody thought it would happen like
that. All I remember is the surprise of the attack."
She quickly changed the conversation away from what was
obviously a tender subject for him. " Our job is to protect
the Moon Princess, from what you said." Minako said to him. " How
many others of the Sailor Senshi have you found and woken up?"
" None," he replied. " You're the only one I found or could
recognize."
" What about the Moon Princess? Surely you've found her."
" No, I haven't found her either."
" Any of the children from the Moon Kingdom?"
" No," he said sheepishly. " It's just the two of us,
I'm afraid."
Minako hit him gently with a pillow before yawning and
closing her eyes to go to sleep.
" Some wise advisor you are."

******************************************************

" That was good work getting the maps of the target area,
Beld."
" Thank you, Sir." she replied to the lieutenant in front
of her. After sketching a brief salute, she returned to studying
her briefing notes as he moved away. She was sure he was being
condescending to her. He had to be, to be so calm. She wished
she could scan him, but he always had his mindscreen up, like any
competent mage.
The squad was in an small chamber near the gate to Earth,
preparing for the next mission. It would be daylight at her
insertion time, on what was generally a day of rest for the
humans in Tokyo. They called it a weekend and it was generally
looked forward to, she recalled from her notes.
The mission was going to be another milk run like the
first. Wander around, let the crystal gather energy samples,
and watch the stupid humans. At least she would be able to
check in on her plaything and see how she was doing. The memory
of the anguish she had caused a shiver of pleasure to run down
her spine. Then she would look for an even larger canvas to work
on. It was a big city, after all.

*************************************************************

Azarite walked away from Beld and started getting the gear he
needed ready. He carried a few specialized pieces of equipment that
his squad didn't. He used this as a cover to observe the telepath out
of the corner of his eye. She looked far too happy about something
for his liking. She's up to something, he thought to himself.
Azarite may not have been the most powerful mage in the Dark
Kingdom, but he was one of the best at getting the full use of what
he had. Subtlety was the key, not raw power. Kunzite had worked
long and hard with him to prove that point. He quickly wove
together a few strands of energy from a crystal he carried in
his pocket that was one of his stored reserves of power. These
were looped together and then sent towards the telepath. The
strands settled about her without her noticing.
It's such a low power spell, she didn't even feel it. Now,
if she tried using her power on Earth, she's be as loud as an
explosion to anyone looking for a magical disturbance. One of
the troopers also going to Tokyo had a minor talent. He couldn't
cast any spells, but he could 'hear' them if they were sufficiently
'loud.' This would definitely be loud. The trooper was also
squarely in Azarite's camp. This way, he'd have proof of
her disobeying his orders if she acted up.

***************************************************************

The dawn was particularly nice today, Artemis thought to
himself. He had let himself out the window a bit before sunrise to
make quick patrol of his territory. A brief chat with one of the
local tomcats had assured him that there had been no sign of the
cat that he had been looking for, at least not in this area. Once
he had assured them that he was not trying to claim any territory
except the one house, his relationships with the local cats had
improved and they were often a good source of information about new
cats in the surrounding area. The appearance of a sharp-clawed and
sharp-tongued new female in the area would be noticed by the other
cats and he would eventually hear of her arrival. I was drawn here
by something, so I would assume she would be, also.
It may not be the best logic, but it's the only hope he had on
this. I need her help. She was always with the Queen and the Senshi.
She'd know more about how to handle things here. I guess I'll have
to teach Minako the basics on my own. He got up and stretched
lazily in the clear sunlight of the early morning. He had slept
well last night, he thought. I just may be able to face this day.
" Once more into the breach," he whispered to the wind, and
left to find his new pupil.

**************************************************************

Minako took the stairs at her usual three-at-a-time pace
and the last several in one leap, landing lightly in the hallway
and startled her mother, who was headed for the stairs.
" Good morning, dear," her mother said, after getting her
breath. She embraced her daughter warmly and continued
speaking. " Your father and I would both like to thank you
very much for getting those tickets. We had a wonderful time,
thanks to you."
" Any time, mom. I knew you both had wanted to see that
show and that it a big disappointment to have had to miss it.
I'm glad you had a good time. Where's Dad?"
" He's in the garage packing up the car. We decided last
night after the show to go out for a picnic today in the forest.
You know, the camping site by the old shrine we sometimes go to.
We both realized how much fun we had last night and how some
things had been keeping us apart lately. We are going to go up
there and spend a little time together today. We'll be back later
on, at about seven or eight. Think you can handle a day on your
own, sunshine?"
" I think so, mom. I'm glad I could play matchmaker for the
two of you. Have fun up there."
" That's good. Here, go to the mall and have some fun today
or get out for a bit." Her mother pressed several bills into her
hand. " It's too nice a day to stay inside."
Her mother studied her for a few moments. " You look like
you're in good spirits today. I hope that you're over whatever had
been keeping you down lately"
" I think I am. I got a good night's sleep and I think I
could take on the world! Tell Dad I said hi and I hope you both
have a great time," she said as she slipped around her mother
and into the kitchen to take care of her growling stomach.

************************************************************

The young man who walked into the mens clothing shop was a
real hunk, the saleswoman thought. With those looks and eyes,
she'd be surprised if he wasn't a model. She kept her eye on him
as he browsed around the shop while she finished setting up the
register for the day ahead. Saturdays were always busy, and the
first of the boys coming in for suits for graduation and the
proms should be starting soon.
The young man had finished looking over the casual clothes
and business suits without really finding anything that
interested him, she thought. She saw him go over into the
formal wear section and took her chance. She walked over to
him while considering what she thought he should be wearing.
" Can I help you, sir?" she said in a sweet voice. She
didn't want to frighten him off by being too pushy or
insistent. " Are you looking for anything in particular?"
His eyes narrowed for a few moments as he was obviously
thinking about something. " I don't have anything coming up
that I need it for, but I thought I'd get a new suit today." he
replied to her. She helped him take off the green jacket he was
wearing which left him in a black shirt. " Let me take some
measurements," she said. " Then I'll bring out a few things
in the right size and we can see what you would like." After
measuring him and resisting the temptation of a quick feel,
she spent about an hour with him trying on several different
suits.
She had just returned from briefly helping another
customer while he was considering one her latest choices. The
tuxedo looked wonderful on him, and she decided to tell him
so. She took a rose from a vase and handed it to him as
he stood before a full length mirror.
" You look great in that. The girls will be all over
you. "
He smiled back at her.
" Thank you. I think I'll take it."
He turned back to the image in the mirror. The sight
of himself in the elegant formal wear with the rose in one
hand just seemed so... so right.

*************************************************************

She finished the last of her breakfast and let the cat in.
" Here, I saved you some."
The cat thanked her and began to eat. She finished cleaning
up and waited for him to finish.
"What happened to your parents, Minako? I haven't seen them
around here this morning."
" They left to take a trip up to the mountains today. Dad's
job has been keeping him busy lately and they haven't had much
time together recently. I was hoping that the show last night
would help bring them a little closer together. It worked, so
when it comes to love, Venus knows all," she said with a wink
at him.
" Congratulations. That will give us plenty of time to
work on some things today. You'll have to start practicing to
learn more about yourself."
" More practice!" she cried in dismay. " I'm still sore from
the other night."
" Are you really?" he replied.
She thought about it for a moment and flexed her arms around
in a very conservative motion, expecting a jolt of pain. It didn't
come. She swung her arms about her, reveling in the lack of the pain
she had from her workout yesterday.
" What happened? I should be so sore I shouldn't be able to
move."
" I think there may have been some changes in you due to the
transformation. The senshi were all very strong and tough for their
size. Maybe your body is changing. Do you have a scale for measuring
with?"
" Yes, in the bathroom. Why?"
" We need to check something out. " He indicated for her to
lead the way, and they went into the other room.
" Try weighing yourself, Minako." The cat turned away and sat
with his back to her.
" Don't peek, Artemis," she teased him as she slipped off the
robe and stepped on the scale.
" What?!?" she exclaimed, and got off the scale and back on
a few times. " I don't believe this. I put on five pounds between
yesterday and today. I barely ate anything. It's not fair," she
finished with a pout as she put the robe back on.
Artemis glanced over his shoulder at sound of cloth on skin
and verified it was safe. He turned to her and said, " It may not
be your fault. Come on, let's go up to your room and check
something out. I think I know what happened."
In her room, he directed her to try on several items
of clothes while he resolutely kept his back turned. After
she had finished and put on a pair of white shorts and a
shirt, they discussed the results.
" Minako, you gained about five pounds and grew about
a half inch overnight. It's either one sudden growth spurt
or there have been a few changes made by the transformation
process. Now, you should start practicing using that pen. Change
back and forth several times."
She complied by switching to Venus and back as directed.
She hated the changing back part, she decided. It felt like
she was somehow lessened by taking her normal form. After he
was satisfied by that, he had her spend a couple of hours as
Venus. This was, he explained, to let her get to know the
differences in her bodies. He had her go through several of
her martial arts drills as part of her practice.
" What were you doing, following me to my workouts?" she
complained after several repetitions of a difficult maneuver.
She was starting to get sore from all the exercise he was putting
her through. This cat was a worse taskmaster than her current
sensei.
" No, but you did spend a lot of time working out in the
yard in the summer." he replied. " I just watched you here
at the house while you were outside. Karate, kendo, indiscriminate
grappling, kung fu, hapkido, and now jujitsu, if I recall."
" How do you know so much about what I was practicing?" she
questioned him a few moments later.
" One of my duties was as a strategist. To do that
properly, I had to have a very good grounding in a lot of
different things concerning warfare and politics. I was able
to notice the different styles you used. "
" That's another thing I thing I wanted to ask, Artemis.
You've been around here for about 4 years. How come we didn't
notice the crescent on your forehead before?"
" Of the few things that I can do, one of them is to hide
the crescent moon from people seeing it. From what I've been
able to figure out, it just seems unremarkable and is forgotten
about. This is a low level enchantment that affect everyone who
sees it. I can concentrate on a specific person and make them
forget they ever saw it, if the other ability doesn't work."
" Did you ever do that to me?" she said.
He thought for a moment and sighed. " No, Minako Aino.
I did not. I would never do anything like that to you." She
thought about the implications in his statement and how he
had worded it. The cat continued.
" Now, I think that's enough practice for the day. I've
got one other thing to show you. You need to have the pen
to be able to transform, to the best of my knowledge. This
is how you access your storage space for keeping it in when
you're not using it."

*********************************************************

The bells of a clock tower tolling noon found them in one
her favorite outdoor malls. She already had picked a new dress to
buy later on and was looking for some accessories to go with it.
Artemis was currently riding on her shoulders as he found it safer
than trying to avoid the feet of so many people.
Minako had already spent about a half an hour talking to
some of her school friends she had ran into. He had to play at
being a normal cat during that time, and was glad when she
seemed to notice his plight and had left the group with a promise
to see them at school.
" I'm sorry about that. I haven't seen them for a while
and got to talking to them about a few things. You know, I feel
really good today, Artemis. I don't think I've enjoyed going out
and shopping and seeing people for a few months. I feel like I'm
floating." she said a she stepped up onto the rim of a fountain
and walked around on the narrow rim while pirouetting. " Let's get
some ice cream! There's a good shop up ahead."
From her vantage point on the fountain, she could see a
crowd of people gathering up ahead. Sensing something amiss,
she jumped down and raced through the crowd and elbowed her
way to the front.
The scene in front of her was one of confusion. A young
man lay unmoving on the pavement. Several other young men,
wearing similar shirts to their fallen companion, were gathered
around the fallen figure and a tall, pale man in a gray uniform
of some sorts. They were arguing about something.
She felt the hair on her neck rising as a chill swept
over her. The cat had arched his back and dug his claws into
her shoulder. He hissed at the memories the uniform brought
to the surface of his mind.
" Minako, get back out of here, now!" he said in her
ear. " That is the uniform of a soldier of the Dark Kingdom." She
had worked her way out of most of the crowd when a mass of black
tendrils rushed through the front rows of people and dropped them
in their tracks. The pale man stood there, clenching a black crystal
and speaking in a strange tongue. She backpedaled and cut into a
side walkway as the mass of people behind her broke and ran in
panic, narrowly missing her in their flight.
" Artemis, get down." she barked as the cat leaped away
from her. She reached behind her and concentrated on the
transformation pen. She surged forward towards the main walkway,
the cat in close pursuit.
" Venus power, make up!" she cried and changed while she
turned the corner and looked at her adversary while charging him.
He looked surprised and confused already by what had been
happening. I hope he's up to another shock.
Her leap had been planned to just clear a person who had
fallen and had partially risen. She landed behind the pale man,
who had gone even whiter upon seeing her.
" It can't be! You're dead. We killed you back-"
She whirled and snapped out a kick to his stomach that
robbed him of his words and breath. This was followed up by a
chop to the neck that caused a sickening crunch of bone when it
landed. He crumpled and fell to the ground.
Venus looked at the body with a sense of grim satisfaction.
Minako looked at him in horror. She'd just killed a man. She
didn't know why, but she'd just came in at him and everything
she had learned the past two years had clicked together and she
had used lethal force. This was against all her training, all
her convictions she had learned when she was growing up. Killing
is wrong, she cried out to herself. Why did you make me do this,
she shouted at a part of her mind. Why did you make-
" Minako!" Artemis yelled at her and smacked her in the
leg with a paw. " The roof, now. Jump!" The cat leaped up to
her shoulder as part of her realized that getting away from
the scene might be a good idea. She looked up and leaped, not
really believing she could make it.
Her feet came to rest on the top of the ledge surrounding
the roof of the two-story building she had been in front of. How,
she thought to herself. How can I do that. The cat nudged the
side of her face.
" Turn around, Minako. You need to see this."
The body on the ground was starting to disappear, turning
into a mound of dust that seemed to melt away. Some of the people
on the ground were beginning to stir. She stepped back away from
the ledge.
" Are they going to be all right?"
" I think so. Those tendrils were draining energy from
them. Their life energy. They'll probably just need a few days
rest to recover." Artemis caught her eyes and held them on his. He
needed to make her understand the next part or self doubt would
start to cripple her.
" Minako, I recognize that look on your face. You were blaming
yourself. You did not kill a man. You killed a monster who would've
preyed on these people and destroyed them if he had the chance. You
are not to blame here. You did not do anything wrong."
Minako stood there on the verge of tears for a few moments.
Then she gathered her self control and calmed herself. " I think I
know that now. It just scared me how part of me killed him
so... casually. So easily. I never thought I could do anything
like that. Venus did it without a second thought. I was thinking
that being Venus was going to be a breeze. I didn't realize that
there would side effects like this."
" Venus had been a warrior for some time, Minako." the cat
replied. " She has fought these things before. I think you can
trust that part of you. She was never, never malicious or dishonest.
I don't think you have anything to worry about there. Look, the
crowds starting to wake up down there. Let's go check them out
and make sure they are all right. Then, I want to try that ice
cream." he said with a plaintive voice that brought a little smile
to her.
She moved to the back of the roof and leaped down after
making sure it was clear. She put the cat down and reverted. Then
they went to take a look at the real victims of this engagement.

***********************************************************

Azarite was growing concerned. He had already returned from
his mission in England. The scans he was making of the two primary
magic sources were complete. He would be able to go and directly
investigate the two sites on his next mission.
His problem had to do with the group going to Tokyo. Aside
from Beld, two of the three lieutenants had already reported
back in. The one who was missing was his spy. This is not good,
he thought to himself. She must have done something to him, the
mage thought. My agent was too good to have provoked her.
The gate flared into life behind him. He turned with
anticipation that faded as the blue haired telepath stepped
through and sketched him a quick salute. She handed him her
crystal and spoke.
" Sir, I believe that something happened in Tokyo that was
unusual. The crystal grew very warm around midday for a few
moments. Then it seemed to vibrate and then settled down. I
could not track anything down in the limited time I had
remaining without using my other abilities, sir. I'm sorry
I could not determine what had happened."
Azarite gritted his teeth and collected the crystals from
the other two who were in Tokyo. They denied feeling anything
unusual. He cast a few spells, openly this time, and studied
the sampling crystals. There was a sharp spike in the background
emanations, all at the same time index and all about the same
power in relation to it. The three others would have had to be
all at the source or all at the same distance away from it at
the time of the surge to have that kind of information. This
isn't helping determine what happened.
" Beld, keep watch here until they close the gate. Report
back to me if the lieutenant comes through. Please also be here
when the gate is open tonight when they try for a delayed pick up.
In the meantime, I think we have just about enough information
on Tokyo. I'll send you in for one more recon in a few days.
I'll have more orders on it for you tomorrow." He swiftly went
out of the room and to his office, where he sprawled in a
chair to think about the events that had just occurred. This
time, she had dodged his thrust.

**************************************************************

The girl sat in front of the roaring fire and contemplated
what she had seen there earlier. In spite of the warmth, she wore
a red robe with a white shirt over that. She kept the concentration
up that enabled her to continue her rapport with the flames.
She had seen something. A blurred outline of a man in dark
clothing, attacking a group of people with some kind of energy.
The feelings she got from the man were bad enough, but the black
tendrils chilled her to the bone with the evil she sensed from them.
Then, almost too quick for her to see, a shadow swept by the man
and he fell and faded away just before her visions did.
With a thought, she banked the fire in the ceremonial pit and
returned to the coolness of her rooms. This was not just a simple
matter of finding a lost key for someone, she had mastered that
years ago. This was the first time the fire had given her a
premonition of danger like this. The other warnings had only
the vaguest feeling of danger to them. This one seemed serious.
Just to be on the safe side, she went to the storage room
and got some writing parchments and brushes and an inkstone. The
very old inkstone, the one that had been at the shrine since
the time before the gaijin came. These were the best in the
shrine, and her grandfather would have a fit if he found her
using them. She returned to her room and began the laborious
rituals for making her wards against evil. If anything did
happen, she would have a brand new set at the height of
their power.


***********************************************************

" Why did you let me eat so much? I think I'm going to die."
" You insisted that you could handle it."
" Yes, but why did you believe me? "
" I figured that you would know your limitations."
Artemis groaned and collapsed on the bed in Minako's room. He
never had thought that it was that rich, before. That shop must be
using some really good cream.
The day had gone better than he expected. They had checked out
the victims of the attack and found them to be all right, but very
tired. The police had been talking about mass hysteria and UFO's
when they left to hit the ice cream shop. They had seen the
crystal, or the remains of it once they got around to looking for
it. Something had broken it, perhaps the fall when the man had
flung it away due to Minako's kick. It had been disintegrating
like the corpse had. After a few moments, it was gone.
" Minako, I've got an idea."
She looked up from her reading of the late edition of the
paper.
" Yes?"
" He seemed to recognize you, at the last moment."
" You're right, he did."
" I think that we could get around that. If the Dark Kingdom
knows one of the Sailor Senshi is here, they might attack in force
right way. I don't think you're up to dealing with a small horde on
your own, just yet. I also think it would be a good idea to have
someone for them to see doing things that they will notice. They
will probably stop and investigate. It just might give us more
time to find the other senshi or the princess. How do you feel
about becoming a super-heroine?"
" A what! Did that ice cream go to your head? " she said
with a little smile, teasing him about his overdoing it earlier.
She sighed and thought about it for a moment. " You mean hiding
in plain sight? I could still fight the Dark Kingdom, but they
wouldn't recognize the enemy as one of their hated foes. I
recall they didn't like us very much there."
" I should say so. There was a nice bounty on the heads of
the senshi if a Dark Kingdom warrior could collect it. If we change
the costume, we can confuse them. A few emblems of the Moon Kingdom
thrown in will make them believe they're facing someone from
there, but their intelligence won't have any up to date
information. They must have only broken out recently, or we
would have heard of them before. We make a new costume, and
Bingo!, an enemy who looks like a Sailor Senshi but isn't like
any of the ones they know. I like it!" the cat finished, his
stomach forgotten. " I know that none of them used a color
scheme of white, blue and red. That'll be our motif. Open up
the closets, girl, and pull out that transformation pen. We
have a senshi to create."

***********************************************************

" All right, hand over the cash! Now!" the young man yelled.
He emphasized the point by waving the wicked looking knife in
the face of the bank teller and shoved a bag at her. " Do it
quickly, and you won't get hurt. Hurry!" he yelled at her
again.
She had finally put the money in and he took off for the door
with the bag. As he ran out, he saw a pair of policeman running
towards the bank from the nearby substation.
They must have gotten to the silent alarm, he thought. In
desperation, he looked around for a diversion or distraction.
There! He raced towards a group of children and grabbed a small
girl and waved the knife in front of her face. I just have to
hold 'em a few more seconds and I'll be at my ride.
" Back off, man! I'll cut her if you don't!" he shrieked at
the police. He started backing away from them, with the child
being dragged along while crying. Just a few more feet.
Something whipped past him and hit the knife, sending it
flying away to land near the police officers. A woman stood there,
looking at him with disdain. She had long blonde hair and wore a
short blue skirt. Her white shirt was cut short, exposing her
waist and a red ribbon was tied in a bow in the front. Sort of
like a schoolgirl, he thought, except for the red mask. He
relaxed a little at the sight of the pretty girl, and eased
his grip on his hostage. It proved his undoing. Her high kick
slammed into his chest, safely above the child's head. He flew
back onto his car and barely saw his partner there, with his
hands tied to passenger side door, before he blacked out.
She posed briefly for the mini-cam she pretended she didn't
notice being run by a concerned onlooker. " Don't worry, little
girl," she said to the youngster, who had stopped crying. " I'm
Sailor V. I'm here to protect all of you." She flashed a V sign
with her fingers at the camera and gave it a quick, dazzling smile
before jumping down the street and up onto a building. She
continued for a few blocks, going from rooftop to rooftop. She
finally jumped down, changed back and scooped up the white cat.
" Just like clockwork, Artemis. It couldn't go better if we
had planned it. There was even a camera. I bet we get on the news
tonight."
" That's great, Minako. Sailor V is off to a good start.
Let's make the most of this holiday you have this week. "

************************************************************

The evening news on Monday led off with a feature about the
mysterious heroine who had foiled a bank robbery in the morning and
was full of eyewitness accounts and the amateur footage from the
scene. She watched it with her parents and did a good job of
being impressed by it. She then went in to help her mother fix
dinner. Her father continued to watch the news program. He left
to come to the table just before the sports segment.
" The auto racing world was stunned yesterday by the sudden
retirement of racing sensation Haruka Ten'ou, last years rookie
champion. Personal reasons were cited by the driver. This puts the
trophy in anyone's hands, as Ten'ou had a commanding lead in the
standings on the circuit. More sports and business, after these
messages..."
Minako walked into the room to turn off the television. She
thought the boy in the picture was real cute, although she
only saw him for a moment before the commercials started.

*************************************************************

Azarite finished the reports concerning the missing soldier.
There was no sign of him or the crystal. He would have to send Beld
there one more time to complete the survey properly. He couldn't do
it himself, as much as he wanted to. He did not like losing any of
his men and would have liked to find out what had happened. The
results on England were just too important to ignore.
The power sources there were gigantic. A small portion of
either would be enough to make him as powerful as Kunzite, at least
in terms of raw power. He still didn't think he was ready for that
challenge, yet. Maybe after a few more centuries of my studying
him and Zoisite's meddling, he thought. He still wasn't impressed
by the nature of the other general. He gets too involved in things,
Azarite said to himself. He can't keep business separate from
personal issues.
Still, there was much he could do in England before he turned
in his final, doctored reports. They should keep anyone from
noticing what I'm up to. The chance to work with a power source
of that magnitude was not one to be passed up. The experience
would give him a great advantage over his rivals here. The rivals
he had now and the ones to come. If he could somehow fully tap
one or both sources, that list could include anyone he could
think of. Even Beryl herself.

***********************************************************

Beld stepped through the gate to Tokyo. The alley she used
for her entry point was nice and secluded. There had been no
problems with anyone finding it during several jumps. She walked
to a park and read the notes her spy in Azarite's group had
written for her. The lieutenant had been pre-occupied and used
one of his troopers to deliver his reports to Kunzite. She had
him briefly read it and give her a summary of the contents.
He seems to think he can get away with this, she thought to
herself. He's got access to something with almost as much power as
Metallia and he's going to play with it. Beryl will have his head
on a pike, she thought with a happy smile at the image. She would
never let anyone get used to working with something like that. The
Queen liked to keep her advantages, and one of them was that she was
the only one who dealt with Metallia.
I've got to leak this out, she thought. That will be a
beautiful revenge on him, she thought. Beryl will probably keep
him alive on that pike for a while, too. She got up and left to
finish her assignment.
She had refrained from using her powers on her last assignment.
This would be her last time here, so she decided to check on her toy.
She fixed the image of the young mother in her mind and gently
reached towards it. The chaos and suffering that her target was
going through was sheer bliss to her. She savored it while
walking throughout the city streets, looking for a fitting event
to mark her last visit here for the near future.
She didn't even notice the activation of the spell that
Azarite had cast a few days earlier.

***********************************************************

Tuesday had been a boring day for the new darling of the
media. The consensus was that the heroine was from America,
according to the press. She still wondered why she let Artemis
get that side of the bet. She was sure she would have been
considered an alien princess. The only things she helped out
with on Tuesday were a few accidents and getting cats out of
trees.
Wednesday had been a far different story. The morning had a
fire in an apartment complex and she had rescued a firefighter
from being trapped by the blaze. She was still astonished by
how fast she could run when she was Venus. As Minako, she was
a fast runner. Venus could move like the wind. She was considering
what other differences there might be when she felt her skin crawl.
She turned and looked at the cat next to her. " You felt it,
also?"
" Yes," Artemis replied. He scanned the skyline from their
vantage point up on a building. He finally stopped when looking in
the direction of the Tokyo Tower. " There, I think. It seems to be
coming from that direction. I wish I could figure it out. As soon
as I start to notice it, it's gone."
She put the cat on her shoulder and headed towards the tower.

************************************************************

" Yes, Mother?"
The young girl sat and looked at her mother. She wished she
looked more like her mother. She was feeling slightly awkward at
this age and would have loved to trade in her blue hair for the
lustrous black her mother had. Besides, she had explored the family
tree as far back as she could and found no mention or record of
blue hair. Genetics was an interesting thing but there was no valid
reason she could find for the color. She returned her attention to
her mother.
" I told you a few weeks ago that I had applied for a
position at the hospital near the Juban region. I just received
word from them today. I've been accepted for the pediatrics
position there."
" That's nice, Mother. I'm glad you were accepted. You were
really looking forward to it."
" Yes, dear. I was."
After a few moments, the girl continued. " I guess this
means we will be moving again?"
" I'm afraid so. We won't have to go for about six months to
a year, however. The hospital has already lined up a deal on a
wonderful house very close to the hospital, so I'll have more time
to spend with you there. I'm sorry it has been so difficult for you
here, Ami. Please bear with it for a little longer."
She gave her mother a faint, sad smile. " It's all right,
Mother. At least I'll be able to have a chance to say good bye to
some of my friends this time."
She turned and left the room to continue her studies.

***********************************************************

Now, this has possibilities, Beld decided. Busy traffic and
a crowded park. She spent several minutes looking for a suitable
approach. Her last work had come out just fine, but the artist in
her did not want to do a mere repeat performance.
She sat on a bench and moved the bag to her side. Another
clerk had been more than happy to give her duplicates of the maps
she had obtained earlier on her first mission here. These joined
the notes from her spy in the bag, obtained in much the same
manner as the first.
Decisions, decisions, she thought to herself. Hoping that
inspiration would strike her in a way as satisfying as it had
before, she steered a child away from the now dozing mother in
front of her. The child could walk relatively well, and gamely
trundled along at the top speed his short legs would sustain.
She almost had him into traffic when someone raced in and
snatched up the child and put him on the grass near his mother.
" Afraid to pick on someone your own size, witch?" the
figure before her said. " Going after poor, defenseless children
is pretty low. I'm Sailor V! On behalf of mothers everywhere,
I'll punish you for that."
The cat hiding behind the park bench the gray-clad menace
sat on winced at her choice of words and delivery.
" So you're the Sailor V I heard people talking about this
morning," Beld said as she rose to her feet, letting the bag
slip from her shoulder. There would be time to return for it
after she dealt with this nuisance. She whipped out the crystal
and shouted the command for it to drain everyone in the zone of
effect except for her.
The tendrils started to shoot out, but her primary target
had moved as soon as she had. The crystal was smashed out her
grip by a white-gloved hand. She heard the crystal break on
the concrete as Sailor V smashed into her and the two went
flying from the collision.
" You'll pay for that one, maggot." Beld hissed as
she struggled to her feet. That shoulder in her chest had
hurt. She lashed out with her mind at her opponent, who had
also just risen. She clamped down on her assailant to keep
her from moving. It was not an easy struggle, for her opponent
had a resilient and stubborn mind. This was her turf, however.
Few of the operatives in the psi-branch of the Dark Kingdom
could even best her at this. That is how she stayed out the
organization; it had proven to be too expensive for them to
continue trying to bring her in.
" I've got you now. You can squirm all you want, but
I've got you. Your mind is nothing compared to mine. You'll
wish you were dead when I get through with you."
She sent a lash of white hot pain through the link and
was rewarded by a scream of agony. Several more followed as
she explored how much this one could take. This promised to
be a very fun time for her. Then, she saw the right hand
begin to rise.
Her mind bore down in a furious assault on the one
in her mental grasp. Still, the hand slowly continued to
rise until it was pointed at her, the thumb and index finger
pointed at her and the rest clenched. She could barely contain
the seething maelstrom of raging fury in front of her, but
she_still_could_contain_it.
Pain?!? What happened? Her concentration slipped for a
moment as she looked down at the white cat who stood by her
leg and fastidiously examined the claws it had just removed
from the holes in the sensitive skin at the back of her left
knee.
" Crescent Beam!"
A blast of light tore across the space between
the two as it punched through the gray uniform.

**********************************************************

Minako sank to her knees as both of them collapsed.
The other fell full-length on the grass of the park and
began to turn to dust. The pain in her head was unbearable
and the light was causing more waves of pain. From somewhere,
she gathered her strength and forced herself to stand.
" Meow?"
This caused her to open her eyes. This had to be Artemis,
she thought. If he wasn't speaking, it had to mean something was
going on. She spotted him on the park bench, standing on the bag
the telepath had dropped with his eyes full of concern. He
couldn't say anything as there was a crowd forming around her.
" Who is she?"
" It's that girl who's been on the news."
" Is it Sailor V? She's so cool?"
" Sailor V! Where?!?"
" Hey, everybody. It's her!"
The crowd started to gather in around her, cutting off
her from her intended path to the cat and the bench. People
started to grab at her and a multitude of questions were shouted
at her over the din of the throng. She couldn't move without
hitting someone. This was getting bad, she thought over the rising
panic.
A man in front of her reached out and took a firm hold on her
wrist. She didn't like the look on his face and instinctively
pulled her arm back a little bit. It was enough to cause him
to react by unconsciously pulling his arm back. This was the
opening she needed, as she remembered one of her lessons. His
center of gravity shifted back when he tried to withdraw his arm
and she turned her wrist slightly, yanked it free and shoved him.
Her push combined with his shift caused him to fall back, taking a
few others with him.
Freedom, she thought, and desperately leaped clear of the
pack. She landed near the cat and scooped him and the bag up as
she tore out of the park at her fastest speed. A few blocks
later, she jumped up to her new, private walkway that the city
roofs had become. She stumbled to a halt and put the cat down.
" What did I do?" she asked the cat. " What was that?"
" One of your abilities, I guess. Now that I've seen you do
it, it doesn't seem strange. I must have forgotten about it," the
cat responded with another look of concern in his eyes. " You were
really spooked there."
" That wasn't good. I didn't think people would react like
that. Oh, gods, I never thought I'd be afraid of a crowd."
" That wasn't a crowd, Minako. That was a mob. Are you all
right? You were really screaming back there."
" I think so. Beld was really messing me up, until you
distracted her. Thanks, Artemis. You saved my life there."
" Beld? What, do you know her?" he said in surprise.
" No, we were still in rapport when her concentration
lapsed and the words came to me out of nowhere. It must have
been Venus again. I think we're starting to learn how to work
together, finally. When Beld died, I got a flash of images
from her."
" What about Beld? Who was she, where was she from? This
could be the break we need to stop the Dark Kingdom." Artemis
replied, excitedly.
" She was a telepath in the armies of the Dark Kingdom.
She was here on a scouting mission. They're planning something.
I just can't make it out."
Minako walked around in a circle for a few moments, and
then reverted back to her normal self. It didn't feel so bad,
today. She opened the bag and started to look through the
contents as the cat looked on. The bag was full of maps.
There were maps of Tokyo. These she recognized right
away. The others were of an island she did not easily
recognize, with several small circles in some areas. She
looked at the characters on the map and translated them.
" England? Why would she have maps of England?" she
said to her companion. " I can understand Japan and Tokyo.
Why England if she was here?"
" Look! That page there. It's handwritten, not printed.
Open it up so I can see it."
Minako opened the note and held it so both could look
at it. The characters were unfamiliar to her, but Artemis
had swung both his ears forward and tensed. He looked just
like a cat concentrating on a mouse.
" That looks like writing from an Old Earth language.
It hasn't been used since the end of the Silver Millennium."
" How do you know that?"
" Atlantis sank, silly. That's were Beryl had her
staging area. I can make out a few words. The language
must have changed over the intervening years. These symbols
mean 'magic' and this one modifies it to mean large or
great. This is 'hero' and this translates out to 'rock.' " He
paused as he thought about the others. " I think this one is
'blade' and this is 'ring.' The others I'm not too sure about.
I wasn't up on my Atlantean."
She thought about it for a few moments when something
started nagging at her. She searched her memories for a few
moments and came up blank.
" What is magic? I know it seems a foolish question
right now, but what is it?"
The cat sighed and put on his best instructor's
demeanor. " Magic is energy. It comes from all living
beings and has to do with their being alive. This type
is normally the stronger. The other has to do with what
people believe in. This type has to do with faith. If someone
believes in something, a portion of their energy is instilled
in it. It is normally not as strong as the first, but if enough
people believe in the same thing-"
" Wait!" She interjected. " Faith, like religion? Or is
it just 'faith' in something. What if a bunch of people believed
in the same story? Could that be a concentration of energy?"
He nodded to her. " I don't see where you're taking this,
though."
Minako pulled out the map of England. She stabbed her
finger at one of several spots that were circled. " Rock.
Ring. Stonehenge."
Artemis frowned. " But what is the other? Blade. Hero.
What's the connection?"
Minako snapped her fingers in triumph.
" Arthur!"
He looked up at her and sat down on his haunches,
clearly startled. " They still believe in that old story?
After all these years? This is real bad. Minako, we have to
go there. Now! If they can tap that kind of power, the combined
faith of a nation that has built up for that long, they'll be
able to break Serenity's seal and take over the Earth. They'll
be unstoppable."

***********************************************************

The two had raced back to her house in order to figure
out what to do next. Minako used the stairs while Artemis took
his shortcut through a tree, and they met in her bedroom.
" How are we ever going to get to England, Artemis.
I don't have that kind of money. I'm just a kid to most people.
They won't let me go there alone."
He paced back and forth on the desk, his tail switching as
he considered the alternatives. He looked at the computer she had
at the far wall and a plan began to form.
First the computer, and now the excuse.
" Minako, is your father still at work? Can we get there
before he leaves?"
She looked at the clock and nodded. It was only three
o'clock. " I don't think the buses can, but I can, if you don't
mind being carried. He only works a few miles away."
" Good. First, I want you to turn on that computer. Then I
want you to go make a snack of some sort and pack it to go. We're
going to go visit your father."

**************************************************************

" Hi, Miss Aino! What brings you here today?" the secretary
said to her with a smile. Mr. Aino's daughter was always a welcome
visitor due to her cheerful disposition and the sweets she sent in
for her father's co-workers.
Minako set her bags down to give the cat a chance to get out.
She saw him scamper off around the corner and smiled back at the
woman after giving her a short, impulsive bow. " I thought I'd
surprise him today. Is he in his office?"
" Yes, go right on in. He's not in a meeting or on the
phone right now."
" Thanks! " she replied and picked up the now-lighter load
and went further into the maze of corridors on the second floor.
She took the familiar path to her dad's office and smiled at
the greetings she got.
" Hi, Dad! " she said as she opened the door. " Surprise!"
" Hi, sweetheart. What brings you in here today? " He sat
back and looked around conspiratorially. " Did your mother say
no to a raise in your allowance?"
" Dad! Stop it. I just wanted to surprise you today." She
took out a package from one of her bags and handed it to him. Here
are a bunch of cookies for you and your friends here. What are
you designing today?" she said, indicating the computer in front
of him. " I know that's a CAD program."
He laughed and made some room in front of the terminal for
her.
He tapped in the save command and then spent several minutes
showing her the portion of a building he was working on. A knock
on the door interrupted them.
" Mr. Aino. I'm glad you're here. Hello, Minako," her
father's supervisor said warmly as he came in and took a seat.
Minako stood, bowed respectfully, and made to leave.
" No, please stay, Miss Aino. This will only take a
moment. Get ready to pack your bags, little girl. There is
a company in England that we've been dealing with that wants
an engineer to consult with on a project. I'm sending your
father there for this assignment. He's done great work here
for us here and I think that he's the best person we have for
the job."
She giggled to herself. So that's what he was up to. She
smiled eagerly and turned to her father. " That's great, Daddy.
Can we go, please? I've been wanting to go there for so long.
We've been studying about it in school"
Her father nodded and spoke to his supervisor. " How
long of an assignment are we talking about here? This is very
sudden."
" It should be about three months. The firm in England
contacted me a few days ago and I just made my final decision.
They will be covering the expense of the visit. We have a hotel
lined up for now, and they are looking into a house for you to
stay in and a tutor for your daughter to help cover her missed
schooling here.
" They do need you right away, however. The plane leaves
tomorrow evening at around eight. What do you say?"
" I'd be glad to, sir. It sounds like a good assignment.
Thank you for the opportunity." her father replied.
" That's good, very good. My secretary, Kimiko, has the
tickets being sent over and the paperwork being drawn up. Check
with her when you leave today for them. You'll need tomorrow to
pack, so don't bother coming in."
He turned and left after snagging a cookie as she
congratulated her father. She was excited about the trip, even
though the prospects of what she might face there scared her.
She barely heard her father's supervisor speaking to someone
outside.
" -and one other thing. That cat got up on my windowsill
again somehow. Please go get him down, and give him some milk
or fish or something."

***********************************************************

" Good evening." the girl said cheerfully with a forced
smile on her face as the door opened. The older man stepped
back in surprise at the cloth covered plate she pushed into
his hands.
" What's this for?" he questioned her.
" My cousin decided to rent the apartment you showed
to me last weekend." She piled several pieces of paper and
an envelope filled with currency on top of the cloth as
she continued. " Here is the rental agreement and information
forms he picked up last night, the first and last month's rent,
and a plate of cookies for you."
She smiled at him again and bowed quickly, the brown hair
in her ponytail bobbing up and down. Please say yes, she thought
desperately. I couldn't take it in that foster home and I think
I'll go crazy or kill somebody if they try the orphanage again.
The man frowned for a moment and then relented with a
smile at her hopeful expression. " All right, we'll do it. I
was expecting to see your cousin, however. I had thought he
would be handling this."
" I'm sorry, sir, but he had to take on a second job
because of me. My parents died several months ago and he was
the only one of my family who would take me in." Actually, none
of them had, she thought bitterly. Her 'cousin' had been a close
friend of hers. Both her parent's families had been against the
marriage and she was treated as an outcast by both branches. She
forced herself to continue past the sudden tightness in her throat
at the memory of her parents.
"His old apartment was too small for two people, so he got
a second job to cover the new expenses and he's looking for a
new job closer to this area. He'll be around on some of the
weekends, however. Sometimes the commute is tough enough for him
to rent out a coffin near work, sometimes. I handle keeping up
the house so he won't have to do that also. He's pretty exhausted
doing this and it's very sweet of him."
The weekends were the only time her friend could come over
and pretend to be her cousin. She was tall enough to put on a
guys clothing and come and go a few times at night to help keep
up the illusion of two people staying there. As long as the
insurance checks continued to come, she'd be all right.
The man turned and rummaged through a drawer near him. He
took out a set of keys which he put down while he signed the
forms and counted the cash and made her a receipt. Then he
handed her the keys.
" Here you go, Miss Kino. I'm very sorry about your parents
and I hope that you enjoy your stay here."
" Please, call me Mako-chan. Everybody does," she said back
with another smile, this one not as forced.

****************************************************************

" There is a danger here, master." the boy said. He looked
at the old man before him. The years had not been kind to one who
had eluded their touch for so long. The master's face was deeply
lined by the sudden onset of old age in the last several years. He
wished all the others who slept could be here to help the three of
them. The only other person in the room dozed before the fireplace,
his broad shoulders blocking most of the light.
" I know, young one. It is our job to face it." he paused to
cough a few times, hoarse dry coughs that brought him no relief
from the fluid in his lungs. " We have to protect the realm, but
only if someone in the realm defends it first. If nobody does, then
the dream is dead and the realm is not worth protecting. Those are
the rules the dreamer gave us."
The boy thought about this for a few minutes. The particulars
about this case that confronted them were slightly different from
the normal emergencies. " Master, what if the threat is one who
should defend the realm, like in this case?"
The old man smiled at the eagerness that the boy approached
the problem with. The lad wasn't sure of himself yet, but he will
be someday. He'll make a fine successor for him to pass the reins
to. " Then, someone will come from outside the realm to protect it,
just like the legends say."

**************************************************************

The old place doesn't look the same, he thought to himself
with a touch of homesickness. The fields that were his were now
tracts of housing on the outskirts of London. He shrugged off the
emotion. It was a luxury for him that he could not afford.
He had come a long way since he had last left his fields.
He had been a successful and prosperous farmer at one time, with
an eye for opportunity. He had convinced several farmers near him
to cooperate with him and pool their crops together, which he sold
in nearby Londonium, as the Romans had called it. Some of the
natives had still called it that in his time.
The profits he had made were split up among the other
farmers, with his getting a double share for his work in selling
it. This had enabled him to own and have several farms operated
for him by the time he was thirty. Then he heard the siren call
of power. The attack on the Moon Kingdom promised much in the way
of spoils and power if it succeeded. While most considered it a
myth, he knew better. He had spent much of his free time in the
libraries the Romans had left and consulting with the traders who
visited the growing city. There was a kingdom up there, and it was
rich beyond his wildest dreams.
He sold off his farms and that of his partners, as they had
made him the manager of their affairs. He used that money to
outfit enough troops to give him a position of rank in the armies
that were forming up on Atlantis as Beryl readied her attack on the
Moon Kingdom.
The ensuing battle was a nightmare. Most of his troops were
unskilled farmers eager for the glory he had promised them to lure
them to his side. They died to a man in the first clash with the
Guard on the moon. He had barely escaped his death there, but the
press of numbers had prevailed and the Guard had been defeated.
Then the nightmare got worse. Several women in strange
costumes slashed in from all sides at Beryl's forces. They were
unstoppable, going through ranks of armed men like he had once
gone through rows of wheat with his scythe. The elements
themselves seemed to conspire against them as the women bested
the remainder of Beryl's mercenaries. He had seen a bird made of
fire rise from the legends he had read. Others told tales of
wondrous and terrible sights; ice that fell from the sky,
waves without oceans, shafts of sunlight that burned, a shrieking
madwoman with a sword that went through iron and flesh without
seeming to notice the difference, and lightning that fell from
the cloudless skies of the moon.
Later, after he had learned of the personalities of those
involved and the powers used, he was able to piece together what
had happened after he somehow had made it to the rallying point
around Beryl. She had her agents preparing long and well for this.
The mercenaries had all just been cannon fodder to exhaust the
Guard and slow down the Sailor Senshi. On Earth, monasteries and
churches were ransacked and libraries plundered all over what
was to be known as Europe. Priceless works of art, rare and
valuable tomes, people and the whole kingdom of Atlantis were
sacrificed to gain power for Beryl, and those times truly became
the Dark Ages. The 'sacrifice' spells gave power based on the
value of what was sacrificed. She had used this to annihilate
the senshi in one blast and destroy the Moon Kingdom. She was
sure she had her triumph, for her enemy did nothing to resist
her destruction.
Serenity; however, did the one thing Beryl could not
anticipate and would never consider. Her hired mages would not
do it, either. The sacrifice spell gives one power in relation
to the value of the item to the one who sacrificed it.
Serenity sacrificed her life. In one awesome blast of white
light, the scales were tipped. The remaining several hundred troops
loyal to Beryl who had made it to her standard were sealed away in
the darkness, sealed away from the Earth. Metallia was comatose,
and Beryl not much better for several years. The generals who
Beryl had bewitched took over running the remaining troops and
exploring this new land that they were in. None of their efforts
could break the seal. They learned to support themselves and eke
out an existence in the darkness.
They used their tactics to carve a kingdom from the monsters
around them. The more intelligent and humanoid of the monsters were
subjugated. Some could cross breed with the refugees from Earth and
those children became the hideous youma. They would be the cannon
fodder of the next war. The remaining troops became the officer
corps for the growing armies. As the survivors grew older, they
made a startling discovery. Whatever happened on the moon had
changed them in one way. They were not aging as fast as their
children, and would enjoy a life that was long enough to give
them a hope of getting revenge on the ones who had banished
them here.

************************************************************

He returned to the problems of the present. If he could
manage to pull off his plans here, he could get his revenge on
Beryl for using him like that. He went to a public garden near
his old home and stretched out under a tree there. The smell of
the roses reminded him of all he had lost here and had to go
through in the past thousand years. The flowers and the other
growing things were the things he had missed most of all in the
Dark Kingdom.
The two power sources were of different kinds. Stonehenge
was a node, a rare gathering point of magical energies. When he
was younger, he had wondered why the druids had put the stones
there. Now, he knew. It was a great source of power, but tricky
to work because of the sheer magnitude.
He had worked with the small node in the Dark Kingdom that
sat under Beryl's castle. This one was not really that much
different except for the sheer size. His mage sight had told him
that much during his studies. It would be his first goal, as he
was confident he could control it.
The other had truly surprised him. He had heard the stories
when he was a youngster. There were still bards in those times, and
he had thrilled to the exploits of the boy who became king and drove
invaders from his land. The tale had persisted over the years and
spread and grew, until many besides those from England truly
believed the tale that he still rested, waiting to protect it.
Glastonbury Abbey was the supposed resting site of King
Arthur. He knew better from the stories of his time. They were
not distorted by a millennia of artisans exploiting it for their
own gain. The bards of his days were honored and revered, and
held true to the tradition of passing down stories without change.
Glastonbury Tor was his point of attack. That was the place
where Arthur was supposed to rest in. According to his mage sight,
the hill was the focal point of this power, not the Abbey. That
building was just an attempt by the followers of the Christ to
absorb a pagan legend.
It was too soon to try anything, however. He decided to
stop operations in Tokyo and concentrate on England. This would
give him more time to study the situation here and keep him away
from the Dark Kingdom where he would be observed more readily. The
moon was full right now and he did not want to challenge these
places at the peak of their power. He would wait until the new
moon in a few weeks and do it then. The power he would gain if he
was successful would still be more than enough for his purpose. He
considered the irony of it. A Briton was about to steal the
power from the ultimate protector of Britain.
He stood and stretched as he walked over to the rose garden
and chose two of the best there. One was for his quarters so he
could remember his home and the place he was about to try and
conquer. The other was for his commander. He'd take it and give
it to Zoisite, and the two would be too smitten to think straight
for a week or more. That should keep Kunzite from realizing what
was between the lines in his reports long enough for him to make
his play.

***************************************************************

Minako was frantically packing her clothes and trying to
figure out what she really needed for an extended stay in another
country and possibly saving the world. She looked over at the cat
who slept contentedly in the sun. He'd done his work earlier in
the day.
With her permission, he had gently altered the memories of
her parents to make him seem like a pet they had for several years.
She had her misgivings, but his arguments were correct. He had to
go to England with her. It would take him too long on his own to
get there, and sneak through customs to avoid the quarantine they
put on animals traveling from one country to another. That was
worse than a prison to him. He could handle customs with her
help.
Last night, he had explained what he had done to her
father's supervisor.
" I told you before that I would never use my mind to
do anything to you, Minako.The reason you never saw much of me
was that eventually I have to change someone's memories if they see
me too many times. The spell I use that masks me will only affect
a person for so long. After that, they'll start to notice the
crescent mark. I never wanted to have to do that to you or your
parents, so I stayed away from you most of the time. I stayed out
of sight, and therefore out of mind.
" The same doesn't apply to anyone else. What we are doing
is far too important. I changed your father's supervisor's
decision on this project. He was going to give it the son of
a business partner of his in a company he has stock in as a
gift to keep his partner happy. I kept him from sending your
father away to a position in Hokkaido two years ago, and made
him give your father the promotion he deserved and got last
Christmas. Your father deserved it, and I saw that he got it.
" It also insured that you would not be moved away from
this area. I found you here after searching all over the world.
I think I woke up about when you were born, Minako. I roamed all
over Europe, and when I didn't find anyone I recognized, I went
west to the United States. I still didn't find anyone that I knew.
When I arrived in Tokyo a year before I found you, something felt
right about it. When I did find you, I decided that I would not
lose you.
" Furthermore, I found you here. If any of the other Sailor
Senshi are to be found, it will probably be here. I will not lose
you again, Minako. I will sacrifice anything, including my life,
to be able to find the Moon Princess and protect both you and her."
She sat down suddenly, overwhelmed by the force of his
convictions. Then, she realized something. " You said again.
When did you lose me before? "
The cat replied in a quiet, sad voice. " I lost you when
the Moon Kingdom was destroyed. I know you're Minako Aino, but
you're also Sailor Venus. I was friends with the Sailor Senshi,
and the pain I suffered when Beryl destroyed them was nothing I
plan on going through again."
She picked him up and held him to her as he shook from the
pain of the emotions he was remembering. She recalled him saying
that there was a bond between them. If the pain she was feeling
was part of that, he must be in anguish right now.
She thought she was having problems with adjusting to being
Venus. He'd been alone for at least thirteen years, with nobody to
talk to or relate to and had a mission to fulfill while not even
knowing what to do to accomplish it. She'd held him until he had
gone to sleep, and then gently put him on pillow to let him rest.

************************************************************


Minako slipped out of her room and walked to the stairs at
the end of the hallway. The separate rooms that Artemis had
arranged through her computer had been very welcome. She couldn't
have been doing this every night if she was in the same room as
her parents.
England was a very different place than Japan. Gray and
gloomy, she thought. The only bright spot was what she was learning.
Her skill with the language had been improving steadily since her
arrival a week and a half ago.
True to his word, customs had been a breeze for Artemis
with her help. She had simply stuck him in a bag and he had suffered
through the long flight with her in the passenger compartment. At
customs, he merely made himself 'unremarkable' for a moment and the
customs agent had merely thought it was a stuffed animal the girl
had in there. She had kept the vacant look and sweet smile up for
as long as she could and he was busier looking at her than her bags.
Sailor V had been making appearances in England with a great
deal of success and the press was now fully into the swing. She even
could be a princess again, if the stories in the tabloids were
correct. The older of the two young princes was apparently head
over heels in love with her, and one was even running a story
that she was meeting him for romantic trysts at night on the
castle grounds. Her real nightly excursions had been into a
different world than what her textbooks told her about England.
She had stayed in the worst areas of town and broken up several
fights and robberies, and rescued a few others.
There had been no signs of the gray uniforms. There weren't
any magical disturbances, either. At least, none they could detect.
She had gone on a tour of several tourist spots on their second day
there, including Stonehenge and Glastonbury with her mother and a cat
hiding in a bag. There was nothing unusual about what was going on
there. She had returned to the hotel with her mind full of questions.
They had discussed it on the night after the tour and decided
Sailor V needed to generate some publicity to turn up the heat
and see if anything was flushed from it's cover.

*******************************************************

" It's better than we could have dreamed about, sir," the
younger man said to his supervisor. " She's was seen here for
about a week and now she's in London. It's perfect. We've got a
super-heroine who travels the globe and fights crime. No licensing
fees. Free advertising from the press."
" I know. The staff in the model department has been working
overtime on this since the word broke out she was spotted in London
on last Monday. We expect to have the lawyers' decision tomorrow.
" In the meantime, get some people to start on designs for
buttons, patches and anything else we can put her likeness on. Then
go see the video game people. Tell them to drop whatever they are
working on and adapt their engines for games with her. We'll ride
this wave as far as we can. The profits could be remarkable on this
one."
" And then I'll go check on the animation studio, sir," the
younger man said with a predatory smile.

*********************************************************

This couldn't be going better than if I planned it, Azarite
thought to himself. The situation in the Dark Kingdom was one of
chaos. General Nephrite had led a campaign to have himself made
the commander of the armies that would attack the Earth. Kunzite
held that position and was not about to give it up for anything.
Zoisite, who was Kunzite's biggest supporter, had gotten mad at
Kunzite due to something Nephrite had said to him and he had turned
on Kunzite and belittled him in public before the throne. Jadeite
simply stood out of the way. Nobody knew where Nephrite got his
information, but Azarite thanked several deities for the timing.
The day after tomorrow, he would make his move. The uproar
in the ranks of the generals had kept them from their normal
duties and no concerns had been raised at his recommending that
Tokyo was to be disregarded as a source of energy. Two agents had
been lost there, and no information had been gained on the magic
there. He had reported that there were too many variables there,
and suggested that operations be halted while he concentrated on
the delicate situation in England.
The prospect of the power available in England had blinded
Beryl to his machinations, thanks to the distractions the generals
had provided. He had not mentioned anything of the problem that
this Sailor V person might represent. That would cause the generals
and Beryl to drop everything to concentrate on what appeared to be
an old enemy who had returned. His curtailing of many of the
scouting missions, and the misdirection of the others into the
uninhabited areas had worked. He didn't think that any of his
troopers had even heard of her or seen any of the papers that
covered her exploits.
He'd have to be careful, of course. She could show up at
any time, but he had a defense against her. Drake had been thrilled
at the prospect of combat with one of these legendary enemies, and
had sworn an oath of loyalty to Azarite in exchange for the chance
to hunt her down. He hadn't seen Drake for a couple of days, but he
was not too concerned. Drake was not bright, but he was extremely
cunning. He'd figure out a way to flush her out and then he would
destroy her.

************************************************************

" Don't these kids do anything but fight," she remarked to
her companion as they perched on a roof. " Arsenal this, Manchester
that, and the next thing you know there is a brawl going on that the
bobbies don't even want to break up because they're arguing it out
among themselves."
" Don't be too harsh, Minako," the cat laughed. " I saw the
look on you're face when that pop star showed up at the hotel the
other night. You were ready to turn into Venus just to get up
there for an autograph. I saw you start to reach for _the_ pen,
and it wasn't for him to sign something with."
" I did not!" she exclaimed in her defense. " That girl in
front me of had sent my other pen flying with her elbow. That big
cow did it on purpose."
" Now, now," the cat said, trying to placate his partner.
As the fight before them began to calm down, a large figure
walked up from out of an alley. " It looks like I'm almost too
late for the fun, lads." He wore a green, white and orange flag
draped over his shoulders. He looked at the apparent winners and
sneered at them. " You Manchester fans are a bunch of poofters.
Arsenal isn't any better. The lads over in Dublin would eat 'em
alive if you weren't afraid to play in the same league."
This was too much for the group of young men. With a roar
of outrage, enemies became allies as they staggered up and rushed
the newcomer. He awaited them with a smile. The flag was flung
into the face of the first victim as he delivered a powerful
forward kick that sent the young man flying to the accompaniment
of several broken ribs.
The rest didn't even stop. They piled onto the large man,
but the pair observing the fight from the roof top had seen
enough. The antagonist had been wearing a gray uniform under
the Irish flag. As they leaped down to the street, the man was
laying about him with a passion and sending bodies flying. The
last of the toughs fell to the ground as Minako came running up.
The giant turned to her.
She gasped in surprise. From a distance, he had not looked
so big. Up close, she could see he was a monster. About a foot
and a half taller, and probably twice or more her weight. She'd
have to be careful here. She'd already made the mistake of
getting in too close for her crescent beam, she chided herself
as she slid her feet into a combat position. She wouldn't have
the time to fire it off before he could hit her.
He looked at her for a moment and then spoke in a deep
rumble. " You're that girl in the papers. They taught us about
you. The Sailor Senshi were supposed to be the best the Moon
Kingdom had to offer. I've always wanted to fight one of you." A
savage grin spread across his face. " My name is Drake. Your head
will make a worthy trophy!"
He darted forward and swung a roundhouse at her. It was fast,
but not fast enough. She ducked under the punch and stepped slightly
to her left and forward so she was facing the side he had left open
as his punch went past. She hammered two short, quick punches into
his kidneys. He didn't even notice.
A backhand slap came in, far faster than the original punch.
It struck her squarely in the face, staggering her and sending her
mask flying. She tried to move out of the way of what was next, but
to no avail. That first punch had been designed to throw her off
her guard and make her think he was slow. He wasn't.
The man turned to face her and then planted his left foot
forward and to _her_ left. She struggled and raised her arms up
to try and block. This was going to hurt. The spinning kick
smashed through her guard like it wasn't there. She felt
several things break inside as she impacted against the wall
that was several feet behind her.
Before she even had the time to slide down the wall, a
massive fist slammed into her stomach. She collapsed over it
from the force of the blow and lost her breath. She could taste
blood. She must be bleeding internally from one of those hits.
Artemis stood in shock at the sight before him. It had
happened so quickly he hadn't been able to do anything. She crumpled
to the ground after the last hit and managed to roll over onto her
back. He could see the blood staining her clothes. Not again, he
cried to himself. Not again. I won't lose her again. He snarled
and rushed the Dark Kingdom warrior. At the last moment, he darted
to the side and leaped, hoping to avoid a counter-attack.
The hope was futile. The man quickly pivoted out of the
way and swatted the cat halfway to the end of the street. Artemis
landed and skidded into a ball that did not move. Minako bit back a
cry as the pain from trying to call his name hit her. She could
barely draw a breath. She watched as he walked over to her and
noticed she was alive.
" You're tougher than you look. That should have killed you.
You'd have made a good opponent with some training." He put one
massive boot on her chest and applied a small amount of
pressure. " Unfortunately, you won't get that training. I have
to kill you now."
She winced at the pain and looked up at him. She knew that
she would probably die here. She couldn't see any way out. Why now,
after she had just found out who she was? She wouldn't be able to
see her sisters-in-arms. Her parents. Artemis. They had gone through
so much for her. She wouldn't see them again. Her duty would not
be finished. Venus, Minako thought, I need you now. I can't do it
on my own. We can do it, together. I know now that this is the way
it must be. We are one and the same now, not two different people
in the same body. I was wrong to think that.
Something moved in her, something old and hard, and she felt
the energy gather in her. She looked up at the monster above her,
who was clearly enjoying her pain and suffering. " They never told
you what happened to Beld, did they?" she rasped out in harsh
whisper. She reached up and took hold of the man's leg with her
left hand and closed her fist on the fabric around his knee. She
pulled herself up slightly so she could see him clearly through
the red haze obscuring her vision. He bent down to look at her,
expecting another statement from her.
Now, she thought to herself. The sigil on her forehead shone
with orange fire as she forced the words past the pain of her
broken ribs. " Crescent..." It hurt so much to say it, the pressure
in her chest was so bad. She flung her right arm up and pointed it
at his face. " ...Beam."
The pain coursed through her as the energy did. She fell
into the blackness of oblivion.

**************************************************************

The black cat dragged herself up into the tree. Traveling
all through the night had exhausted her, but she had been so near
her goal she was compelled to reach it as soon as possible. The
noises outside had died down as the flood of children going to
school dropped off to a trickle and then stopped.
This place finally felt right. For years, she had been driven
to find a certain place. This was it. Now, she could really rest.
The tree promised to be a good spot for a long sleep. There was a
wide flat branch to rest on, and the leaves would let in enough
sunlight to keep her pleasantly warm but not overheat her due to
her black coat. She stretched lazily and curled up into a ball,
with the tip of her tail covering her nose.
In a few moments, she was sound asleep. The ending of the
world would probably not even wake her up. Only one of her ears
barely gave the hint of twitching as a young girl ran by underneath
the tree with a piece of toast in one hand.
" Why didn't they get me up sooner?!? I'm going to be so
late!!" she cried as she ran past, her long blonde hair fanning
out behind her in twin streams that descended from the two small
odango on her head.

**************************************************************

" There, lad. What did I tell you?"
" It's just like the legends said, Master. Can we help them
now?"
He smiled again at the boy's eagerness. His heart was truly
in the right place. The old man felt much better now. The prospect
of action seemed to ease his old pains, even if the only thing he
would be doing was sitting here and giving orders. Well, almost
the only thing.
" Yes. Go and get your things ready."
The boy dashed off with all the eagerness of youth that
the old man wished he had now. He turned to the other man, who
was sitting in the far corner and putting an edge on a wicked
looking lochaber axe.
" Percy?"
The other looked up, happy to hear the familiar banter
once again. The old man had been inactive for too long and it
had worried him.
" You know that isn't my name, you old fool. What is
it now?"
" Please go and dig up that casket I had you bury back
when we started here. Be very careful with the contents, as
the container is bound to have gotten a bit fragile over the
years."
" I go to all that work to get it and now you think I'll
drop it or use it to water the daisies. You're impossible, old
man. Of course I'll be careful. I know better than you what is
in there." He left to get a shovel and a pick. They would have
to be there soon and time was important.
The old man looked at him as he left and softly replied to
the empty room. " Thank you, Percival."

************************************************************

She was hurt. Badly. She could tell that much, even as
she drifted in the darkness. There had to be a couple of ribs
damaged, if not outright broken. Probably some internal organs,
also. She could still taste blood in her mouth, and her breathing
was labored and had a bubbly feel to it that she did not like at all.
I'm dying, she thought. Is this what it is like? I thought
it would hurt more. Everything seems to be sort of detached from
me, like it really isn't happening to me.
Voices seemed to come to her, but they seemed far away,
distant.
" Over here. She's badly hurt." A young voice, clear and
even. He'd make a wonderful singer, she thought. An older
voice, deep and gravelly, responded.
" Don't be in such a hurry. If she is still breathing,
we can take care of her with it. Will you look at those
clothes? I thought they had gotten funny the last time I was
here during the real Great War. How is the other one?"
" You mean the cat?"
" No, I mean the one without a head who's dissolving.
Yes, I mean the cat."
" Badly bruised and unconscious, but he'll live. He's
made of sterner stuff than he looks. About a drop, I think.
She'll need more."
Artemis must be alive, she thought. She could let go
now. He could still finish the mission. The princess would
be safe. She felt herself start to slip further away from what
was happening. She didn't mind dying so much now. She felt
something out there that called to her, and she longed to
join it in the blackness.
" She's going, Percival. Get it, quickly."
" Don't worry, lad. This here is mighty potent. She'll
be all right after a sip."
Something cold was pressed against her lips. She
swallowed the water by reflex. It seemed to help. The pain
inside her seemed to recede away. She felt parts of her
insides seem to churn a moment and then agony as her broken
bones set themselves back together. She screamed once, softly,
and then began to sob as the pain was suddenly gone.
" That wasn't what it was like the first time," the older
voice commented.
" His soul was sick, and he drank straight from it," the
younger replied as he showed off his learning to the older
man. " Her injuries are physical, and she is one step removed.
Look, the sign on her forehead is glowing. The master said that
she would be all right when that happened."
Minako opened her eyes and looked around her. She still
lay on the street, but her body was blissfully free of the
pain. She looked up to her two benefactors. They made a strange
pair. The boy was only about seven or eight, but had a fierce
intensity to his gaze and couldn't seem to sit still for a
moment. The man was almost as big as the beast that she had
just fought, but had a look of gentleness to him that was a
distinct contrast to the axe slung over his back.
" Who are you?" she said to the pair. " What happened?"
The boy sat next to her and helped her to sit up. " I'm
one of the Merlin. My friend there is Percy. We came here to
help you. Your friend will be all right." he said, indicating
the cat next to her. Artemis had been moved and put on top of
a blanket.
" We call him the sprout, lassie. One minute he was
barely up to my knee, and look at him now. I figure he's
decided to become a tree, from the way he's growing up so
fast." Percy said to her. " Don't let him fool you with that
'Merlin' stuff. It will be a long time till he's one of them."
The boy looked slightly crestfallen. Minako gave him a
smile of gratitude and he perked right up. She giggled softly,
just for a moment, to spare him too much embarrassment at his
reaction to her smile. " Thank you. What was that you gave me?"
" Percy was the one who found the Holy Grail," the boy
said.
" What!" she cried out.
" He's Percival; the Percival in the legend." the boy
patiently explained. " When he gave Arthur a drink from it,
the king was healed, as was the land. The Merlin who was there
took the remaining water and hid it away from the curious and
the evil-doers. We gave you just a little bit to heal you. You
were starting to die."
" This is a little hard to believe," she said. She looked
closely at the youth before her. " Aren't you a little short to
be Merlin? He's taller, with white hair and a long white beard."
The man answered her. " It's _the_ Merlin, lass. It's a
title, not a name. The bards erred and turned it into a name.
The sprout here will be one of the Merlin someday, if he keeps
his learning up." He took a deep breath and conjured up some old
and painful memories. " I came back to the battle after returning
Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Merlin took the few surviving
knights with him to guard England, just as Arthur had wanted us
to. It was the King's dream to have a land where doing the right
thing was important, not how strong you were or how big an army
you could raise. Me and the knights had sworn an oath to fulfill
that dream, and Arthur's death wouldn't stop us from obeying it.
" The Merlin put most of 'em to sleep to wait until they
would be needed. They've kept me alive to help them stand guard.
We watch over England from the realm of Faerie, and if need be,
we'll awaken the King." He took a small stone jar from inside
his shirt. After working the stopper out, he carefully put one
tiny drop of a liquid that glowed like sunlight onto Artemis'
tongue. The cat's eyes started to open, and he blinked a few
times as he took in his surroundings.
" That should be good enough for credentials, lass. Tell
her, sprout. We can't stay all night here."
" He's right, Mistress Venus. We have to be getting back
to help my master. He's the Merlin right now. He told me of the
stories of the Moon and of who you were and what you had done.
I'm sorry your kingdom was lost also. It sounded like it was as
glorious as Camelot in some ways."
The boy stood up and gave her a warm smile. " We would
like to thank you for your help in defending England. That is
why we helped you. The one you seek is a traitor to his land. We
cannot stop him, but my master can close off the place of power
to him. He will go to usurp the power of the dreamer. You must
protect the King, Mistress. The traitor will come to Glastonbury
Tor soon and try to ruin the dream for everyone." Tears were running
down his face as he continued to plead his case.
" Please stop him, Mistress. More than this realm will suffer
if he succeeds. The king never could imagine betrayal like this,
my master said. We can only protect England from threats from the
outside. The traitor was once an Englishman, and we can only hope
that you will protect England from one of her sons gone astray."
The two seemed to blur for a moment, and then faded away.

*************************************************************

They had somehow managed to make it back to the
hotel after she collected her mask. She was still in a
daze at the events of the evening and probably overpaid
the cab driver by a large margin. She didn't care right
now. All she could manage was to drag herself up the
stairs to her room and make it to the bed. She put him
on it and collapsed next to the already sleeping cat.
Morning found them still asleep. At around noon,
they both woke to a knock at her door.
" Minako?" her mother called softly.
She sat up in surprise, realizing the hour and
dove under the covers. " Yes, Mom?"
Her mother opened the door and looked in on her
daughter. " Are you feeling better, dear? You sounded
awfully tired this morning. We're back from looking at
some houses. Will you join us for lunch?"
" Lunch sounds great. I'll be over in about fifteen
minutes."
" We'll see you then, dear."
Minako rushed into the bathroom to get changed and
cleaned up after the door closed. When she swept past him
fifteen minutes later, she paused for a moment.
" What would you like for lunch, Artemis?"
" Anything but what they do to a poor fish over here."
" Right. You should see what they try to pass off
as curry. One order of fish and chips, coming up!" she said
brightly and scurried out the door. Artemis sighed and returned
to his spot on the bed. Maybe room service would consider
letting a cat sign for the bill.

***********************************************************

He's late, Azarite thought. Drake should have checked
in by now. I think the girl got him. Drake knew that Azarite
was going to do something on this date and would have checked
in by now. This Sailor V was a problem he wished he did not
have to face.
He was about to make his play for power. If it worked,
he would probably end up controlling the Dark Kingdom and the
Earth. He had to handle the details correctly, or his bid
would fail. He decided to deploy several troopers at the
newer church in Glastonbury. The tor was the real focus of
power, but the presence of several targets may tempt his
enemy into striking at his decoys instead of himself. He had
cut his group to the bare minimum for a scouting expedition
and could not send these back. He'd have to make use of them,
and it might as well be as cannon fodder.
It would have to be tonight. It was a new moon, and all
the parts were in place for him. He would strike at Stonehenge
first. With the resulting power, the old king would be easy. If
Stonehenge didn't work, he'd try Glastonbury Tor or he'd be
dead. He knew the problems the node held as he had some
experience with them in the past
The power around the legend was a thornier problem.
He still didn't know what kind of defenses it had, so he
planned on that as his second choice. The place hadn't reacted
to him or his mage sight when he was there, so he might get
lucky. He didn't believe in luck and knew better than to plan
on it, though.
His preparations were complete. He had taken every crystal
he had stored power in and had drained it to add to his personal
supply. He had even siphoned enough power from the small node
that Beryl controlled to fully charge his own energy. The crystals
were nice for the long term, but I can't get the power from them
quickly enough. The day had been spent in meditation and refreshing
his memory from his books on spells and the abilities of the
Sailor Senshi. He may have to face one tonight and he wanted to
be ready for anything.
The images of the slaughter on the moon came back to him
for a moment and a chill ran down his back. He had remembered
what the Sailor Senshi did to Beryl's army. He may have to face
one of the demons from his dreams. The memory of that battle
always gave him a healthy dose of respect. I can't underestimate
her, or my life will be lost. I can't afford that right now, not
when I'm so close.

*************************************************************

Minako bustled into the room, her arms full with a pair
of grocery bags. She plopped these down on the bed and sorted
through the contents. Three bottles of mineral water, enough
brown sugar to make the clerk think she was crazy, several boxes
of gelatin mix, an assortment of various pins, and a pair of
pliers. She had some cooking to do, she thought with a grin.
" It all looks good, Minako. What's for dinner?"
" A mechanic's nightmare, " she replied with a grin that
totally confused the cat. She had discussed the situation with
Artemis and they had concocted a plan. She hadn't told him what
she would do to the bus. She was going to have to spend the
night at Glastonbury Tor. Her parents probably would not let
her go camping alone, so they would have to resort to subterfuge.
The ticket had been booked for the last tour that would arrive
at her destination that night. The bus was going to make it
there, but nothing short of a mechanical miracle would enable
it to get back that night.
That would cover the problem with her parents. They liked the
fact she was so interested in this place and did not mind her going
off with the tours. She got up and began heating water in the small
electric range the thoughtful staff put in every room for making
tea. She was very glad of the English love for the drink right
now. When the water began boiling, she began to add the brown
sugar and cooked it enough to make an easy pouring syrup. This
went into the now emptied bottles after it had cooled down a ways.
Artemis seemed somewhat surprised when she sat down
with the pliers and started bending the pins into several
odd looking shapes. " What are those, Minako?" he said after
jumping up onto the table next to her work.
" Lock picks," she replied as she worked. Artemis
started in surprise and nearly fell off the table. She
laughed softly at the surprised look on his face.
" What are you doing with those?" the cat questioned
her. " How do you even know how to use them?"
" When I was in school during the last couple of years,
something made me...no, I decided to start learning as much as
I could about a lot of different things. I have to remember
I'm really one person now. It takes some time to adjust. Anyway,
I studied anything I could that I thought might be useful. One
was how locks worked. Another was internal combustion engines
and how they worked on automobiles."
" What do automobiles have to do with this?" Artemis
queried her. He was still slightly puzzled.
" The bus is going to make it to Glastonbury. It will
not leave there." She stood and reached behind her and pulled
out her transformation pen and a knife from her dimensional
pocket. This really startled the cat.
" Minako! What are you doing with that?"
" This is a war, Artemis. I'm making sure I'm ready for
it. I realize now that it isn't a game."
" This is a surprise. I never would have thought
that you would carry something like that."
" I just look like a dumb blonde, Artemis. I hope
my enemies make the same mistake." She put the lock picks
into a small bag and put them along with the other two
items into her storage. The bottles of syrup went into her
pack along with the gelatin and a few other odds and ends.
She indicated the pack to the cat.
" Your chariot awaits. Hop in, my friend. This is it."

*************************************************************

Azarite put his hands down and swore. Then he hit the
stone he stood in front of and considered having a childish
tantrum. It wouldn't solve anything, he thought to himself
and sighed instead. It would feel good, though.
The access should have been open to him. He'd followed
the steps properly and hadn't made any mistakes. He should have
the nigh-unimaginable power from the node flowing through him and
be ready to rule the worlds.
The node was closed to him. This should have not happened.
Nothing was out of the ordinary to regular or mage sight. The
node appeared as it should, a large gathering of power like a
lake is a gathering of water. It was just that he couldn't take
the power that was right in front of him. Nor could he figure
out why.
Several minutes were spent in consideration of the factors.
He made his decision. He had not made a mistake. Therefore, this
was a defense he did not know about. It was the only thing that
made sense. Breaking into a run, he dashed back to the portal
point to the Dark Kingdom to gate over to Glastonbury Tor. He
hadn't a moment to lose. The defenses here might trigger something
else at his secondary objective.

***********************************************************

The bus pulled to a stop at the foot of the path
leading to the newer buildings at Glastonbury Abbey. It
disgorged a group of tourists eager to catch the sights
before the oncoming sunset ruined the light. One was a girl
with long blond hair who took advantage of the room to walk
around the bus to stretch her legs and confirm the location
of the fuel tanks and where they were filled from. A white
cat sat in her backpack and observed everything from inside
the concealing veil of her hair.
The last stop had worked out well. The rest of the tour had
gone into a small church on the way as part of a short break
during the trip. She had convinced the driver to take a break
himself and go to a local shop for a quick cup of tea to warm
his bones against the chill that was hitting so late in the
season. He had left, reassured by her promise to watch the bus
while he was gone. She thanked the turn the weather was taking
as she went to the engine compartment and carefully removed the
radiator cap with a towel to avoid being scalded. She then poured
several packs of the gelatin into the water of the radiator
and recapped it. The operating temperatures would boil the gelatin
quite well. After the engine cooled down at the stop at their
destination and the temperature had dropped, they'd have
anti-freeze flavored orange gelatin.
The tour left the bus for the trip through Glastonbury
Abbey. She tagged along for a few minutes and then left the
group without being noticed. She returned to the bus and
removed her knife from her pocket and slashed all the tire
stems while the cat stood guard. She replaced the knife and used
the lock picks to open the locked caps of the fuel tanks. A bottle
of the sugar syrup went into each.
She wasn't sure if the brown sugar would affect the
diesel fuel, but her other two measures would work. The bus
would be lucky to get more than a few miles before the flats
would occur or the engine died. By the time they got someone
out to fix these, the water in the radiator would be a block
of gelatin. They wouldn't be able to get that solved easily
and the tour would be stranded. The tour company might be able
to make some arrangements, but would probably have to put the
tour up for the night. They'd contact her parents to let her
know what happened and that would allay their suspicions if
she survived the night.
Minako snuck into the bushes and made her way to small
clearing in the shrubs surrounding the newer buildings. She
turned into Sailor V and pulled out a thick gray blanket which
she wrapped around herself and pulled the cat in afterwards.
It was going to be a while yet before the fireworks began and
it was starting to get cold.

***************************************************************

After the bus left a few hours later, Minako was sure
that one part of her plan had worked. The tires looked low
and the engine sounded very labored. One part down, she thought.
She was much stronger and faster now than when she was
just Minako Aino. These were things she could only be as
Sailor Venus or Sailor V. She also only had her ability to
attack at range with her 'Crescent Beam' when she was
transformed. She'd keep this fight at range. She did not
want to close in if she could help it. There might be things
like Drake that could hurt her here. Her early success with
her martial arts and the way she could now integrate it all
had made her make a mistake in choosing to close with Drake
and Beld. She's stick with a sniping match, if she could help it.
" ...That's it exactly." The voice came to her out of
nowhere from the deep recesses of memory. " Stay with what
you know you can do. You can't beat her up close so stay..."
She started in surprise at the memories that she just recalled.
They were only distant voices, like she was remembering a
lecture from a long time ago.
The cat hadn't even noticed as he half-drowsed on her
lap. It was time for her to get moving, she thought. She folded
up the blanket and hid her pack after a quick drink of water.
She then glided out into the night to see what her enemy was up
to.
She found several of the gray uniforms near the newer
buildings. Two were on guard at the entrance to the actual
church. The rest were clumped together around what appeared to
be a small fire under the protecting roof of a two level parking
garage. Something was in the darkness behind them, but it seemed
to be darker than the shadows themselves.
Her best firing position would be to one side of the
two and moved so she until was on a line with the two of them and
away from the group at the structure. She took a deep breath
and began to let the energy accumulate inside her. She'd need
just a little more than normal here.
" Crescent Beam!" she cried, sending a shaft of light
that speared through the two on guard. As the two fell with a
hole in each, she turned and sent the small surplus she saved
from the first blast into the barrel that contained the
fire. As the light flared up around the group, she melted
back into the bushes and began to circle back towards the
parking structure.
They behaved predictably, she thought. Step on the
anthill and out come the ants. One ran back into the gloom
towards the darkness and disappeared into it. The others
took up a defensive perimeter around that area, but all within
a few feet of the structure.
Foolish, she thought, bunching up like that. They hadn't
spotted her new position yet. She concentrated and gathered in
energy. When she was to the bursting point from the strain of
holding it, she cried her mantra again and released the attack,
not at any of the guards, but at the patch of blackness in the
gloom behind them.
The results were satisfactory. The blackness shone white
for a moment, then wavered and exploded out in a ball of white
light. The building collapsed in on itself as nearby windows
broke in the church and dust billowed up in massive clouds around
her that the breeze started to clear away.

*****************************************************************

Azarite finished the gate spell and appeared at his
destination near the new buildings. The scene there was
appalling. The parking structure had collapsed and several
tell tale piles of dust were dissolving away. She must have
done this, he thought. That must have been why he couldn't
use the gate to travel back to the Dark Kingdom.
He had been forced to create his own gate and it had
taken much out of him to do so. He'd need to recharge soon
if he was to stand a chance against his foe. She was a clever
one, all right. Most of the fading energy signatures from his
troopers were still inside the rubble.
The rookies had made a terrible mistake for night duty.
They had clustered around the fire, he thought. They were
used to the near perpetual gloom of the Dark Kingdom and
were as attracted to a fire as a moth to a candle. She must
have taken advantage of this easy target after disposing of
the other two who were on guard where they were supposed to be.
Enough, he thought. He was stranded here unless he
could steal the power from the sleeping king. The gate to
the Dark Kingdom was destroyed and there was no way he could
open it up. He had to succeed here or there was no going home.
He set off at a run to the old abbey and the path to the tor.

***************************************************************

Artemis felt something. A split second 'feel' of something
tearing. A gate, he believed. Queen Serenity had instructed him
on some of the things magic could do and the gates she created
felt something like this. Hers, however, did not have the same
intrusive quality to them.
" Over there," he indicated to Sailor V, pointing a paw
into the cloud of dust that was settling. They saw a dim outline
of a person in dark clothing running along the path towards the
old church buildings.

****************************************************************

Azarite paused on the path and quickly wove a strand of
power between two shrubs at just above ankle height. A low
powered fireburst was all he had the power for and it was tied
into the strand. That should give me a few moments more. It won't
hurt her, but she'll have to be on guard for more traps.
In a few minutes, he reached the old abbey. It was mainly
closed to the public for restoration and preservation right now,
but fortune seemed to smile on him. There were a few people there,
probably tourists from their garb. They'd have had to sneak out
here to be here this late. The gates were closed for the evening
at the entrance to the abbey grounds.
He reached into his tunic and pulled out his energy draining
crystal. His was not a cheap knock-off like those issued to his
troops. It was far more durable and capable. Theirs would knock
someone out from the draining of power. His could kill from the
power it could draw. He intoned the command words as he ran up
to them and took their lives. The energy was channeled through
the crystal and into him as he dashed past, not even looking at
the corpses. Back at full power, he said to himself. He didn't
like doing this to non-combatants, but his life was at stake
here and far more important than theirs.

****************************************************************

The flames washed around her as she cried out in surprise
when something tangled her feet and she went down in a heap on
the path. Nothing seemed to be hurt, she thought. It certainly
was a surprise, though.
" Minako! Are you all right?" the cat cried as he brought
up the rear. He was not as suited for long distance running and
was struggling to keep up and was breathing heavily from the effort.
" Yes, Artemis," she replied with a sigh as she stood up. " It
wasn't a strong attack. I think it was just a warning and something
to slow me down. I'll have to keep my pace down to look for any
others. He's a smart one, he is."
" Don't rush off on me like that, Minako. I can sometimes be
of use, you know." he said, slightly testy at being left behind
by her pace. " I'm not just an advisor. I might be able to sense
any more traps up ahead"
" I didn't know you could sense magic."
" I can't, except for some really strong spells. He does
have to stop to set these, and I can smell him. He's sweating
and slightly afraid. I should be able to notice when he does."
She scooped the cat up and set out at a walk while looking
around her for more traps. He was doing the same. After several
minutes, they came to the old abbey buildings.
" Oh, no," she cried softly. " We're too late for them." Four
bodies lay lifeless on the gravel path. They were quite young,
she thought. A family that had just started out. The parents
were only in their mid twenties, and the two children hadn't
even hit six at the most. The youngest was dressed in a cowboy
outfit, complete with hat and toy pistols.
Tears began to roll down her face. " That...bastard!" she
growled. " He's dead, Artemis. I'm going to kill him. They must
have snuck in here to see the old buildings that had been closed.
This is too high a price for them to pay." She wiped the tears
from her eyes and ran towards the tor. That was where he would
be. That is where he would die.

*************************************************************

Azarite made it to the top of the low hill. The top was
relatively flat from years of pilgrims walking on it. They
probably even took the larger rocks away until the others built
the church below and started to convert the local population. The
hill was the only noticeable landmark near the old battle a long
time ago. When the king fell, he was taken here for burial.
This is it, he thought. I betray my own here. His efforts
enabled me to have the life I had when I was young. If not for
the king, he would have probably died after being pressed into
service to fight the roving tribes of savages the king had put
down.
It wasn't a contest, he decided after a few minutes. His
life was too important to him to care for a dream dead for over
a thousand years. His vengeance was more important, as was his
survival. He started a small fire with a bundle of branches he
had left at the foot of the hill a few days ago. He raised his
arms and prepared to begin the chant. It died on his lips as he
saw who stood on the other side of the flames. A nightmare,
dressed in blue, white and red with a white cat at her side.
" You must be Azarite," she said as the breeze caused
her long blonde hair to billow out to one side.
" I'm Sailor V. I'm here to stop you."

***************************************************************

She looked at the man opposite her. He was not especially
imposing. The only thing that set him off from the others was
a half-cloak about his shoulders and the air of command about
the man. That, and the look of intelligence in his eyes. He
was of a different breed than the others. This one's most
dangerous weapon was between his ears.
Startle him, she thought. Put him on the defensive.
She reached up and removed the red mask and let the wind
carry it away. " You're dressed in the uniform of the Dark
Kingdom. After what you did to the Silver Millennium, it's
only fair I show you who I really am. " She reached into her
space and removed the pen. She pulled in the energy around her
and said the words as her sigil burst into light on her
forehead with the symbol of Venus.
" Venus Power, Make-up." she said. No shouting, just
the utterly calm words of her new found confidence. She had
truly made peace with herself. Light flared around her as her
opponent stood in shock.
" I am Sailor Venus." she said. " In the name of Venus,
for your actions in the past, and for killing that poor family
today, I will kill you." She took advantage of his confusion
to focus her mind and gathered her energy for her opening move.
He brought his hands up and a darkness formed about
them. She darted to the side and just avoided a blast of chill,
evil malevolence that tore through the spot where she had
stood. " Crescent Beam! Crescent Beam!" She cried as she sent
two blasts of light at him. Neither was as strong as her normal
attack, but this was designed to test his defenses and keep him
off balance. A quickly erected mage shield sprang up and just
blocked the bolts inches from him, to his obvious relief.
She swept her hand around behind her as she took
advantage of his lack of movement while casting to close
in. That's one thing she had over him, she thought. I can
do things while moving and he apparently can't. The knife
slashed through his tunic, creating a thin line of blood as
she jumped out of the reach of any counterstroke.

*****************************************************************

Magnificent, he thought. Her tactics matched her beauty.
First, she'd thrown him off by revealing herself as one of his
nightmares come to life. That had caused him to react with a
powerful but slow 'soul fire' spell which she had avoided. He
barely managed to parry her counterattack with a shield. Then,
she kept switching her tactics to keep him off guard and guessing.
She closed in and feinted, then stood off and let fly
with her attack. She only seemed to have one, but it was dangerous
enough. He had missed getting beheaded by inches a few minutes ago
as a blast tore through his shields. He then changed his defenses
to lower powered ones that moved with him and were angled to
deflect rather than block. That should protect him from the
worst if another hit.
He tried to gain the offensive with a variety of low
powered, quick spells that would distract or disable her
instead of killing. He couldn't take the time to set up a big
one that would kill her as she'd be on him before he could
finish. His only hope was to distract or stun her for the few
moments he'd need.

*****************************************************************

This was a tricky one, she thought. He was moving too much
for Artemis to sneak in and distract him, and his attacks were
keeping her from the coup-de-grace. He countered every attack
with a new one, and some of these were coming perilously close
to hitting her. She'd barely avoided the cloud of burning
smoke and a lucky dodge had avoided the glowing lightning that came
out from it. Her counterattack with a crescent beam had moved
him back, as they had both discovered she could punch through
his defenses. He circled around the dissipating smoke as she
moved in for a melee attack and she saw a band of sickly yellow
light flow up his body from his feet to his upraised hand-
Suddenly, she was somewhere else. She was sitting on the
ground again, in a clearing in the middle of a fair garden. Her
hair was pulled back in a braid to keep it out of the way. There
was no blue sky above her, only the massive blue orb of the earth.
It seemed she had been doing a lot of sitting or falling, as her
backside was very sore. She looked at the figure who stood and
faced away from her, with a hand brushing her short golden hair
back. A familiar voice scolded her gently.
" You're going to learn it before we leave here." One of
her 'sisters', she thought. The one with the temper who insisted
on their constant training as a precaution. They did work with
her, but liked to gently tease her about -
The man's hand slashed down and the ball of light smashed
into the ground. The memory was gone, but that did not concern
her now. She knew what this was. More importantly, she had learned
the counter on that day long ago.
She dove over the ball of light as she gathered her energy
for an attack. Her body went limp as she got herself over and
rolled out of the landing on her shoulder and came to her feet
in the same smooth motion. She sprang, startling Azarite by her
survival and her jump. Both fell to the ground with her on top of
her enemy. She jammed her fingers into the soft skin under his jaw
and screamed, " Crescent Beam!"

****************************************************************

He was shocked. She'd somehow evaded his ground shaker
spell. It had even fooled Kunzite once during training. He saw
her dive and roll over it and spring forward while the tell-tale
crescents appeared around her hand that signaled her attack. He
dropped all of his other spells and defenses and quickly put
everything he had into an angled shield over his throat as her
fingers jabbed into it, and he wished he had learned Kunzite's
spell of attack reflection. Everything, that is, except a tendril
of energy that he flung into the heart of the power below him.
He didn't have the time for the rituals or the careful
analysis that he would need. His fear drove him as she cried
out and the light and heat began to tear through his shields.
Protect your countryman, he implored. One of the outlanders
seeks to harm me.

******************************************************************

She felt the panic in him as her attack punched through
his shields and into him. She rolled off of the body and got up.
He was a corpse now, she thought. It is done.
" We did it, Artemis. It's safe now."
The cat's eyes got very large in response. She spun
around to see a truly horrible sight. Azarite was standing. He
didn't even have a mark on him. Behind the Dark Kingdom warrior
stood a figure in tattered chain mail with a dragon on the
bloodstained tabard. A thin circlet of silver sat on his brow
and a shining sword was in his hand. His graying hair and manner
of standing reminded her of the glimpses of the Guard members
from her dreams of the moon. He had the same aura of familiarity
with battle.
She sighed and got herself in position again. Artemis
jumped to her side, as if ready to square off against this
new foe. There were now two to fight. Azarite was seemingly
unhurt and now the newcomer. The older man spoke. The words
chilled her soul.
" Who seeks to destroy Britian? I stand by her sons in the
hour of their need."
His identity came to her. " King Arthur?" she said in
disbelief. " I'm here to save it. He's the one who seeks to steal
your power and enslave the land."
He strode around the intervening fire and brandished his
sword. Excalibur, she thought. She was now fighting two legends,
not just the king. " He is a Briton. He has the blood of my
country. Blood that you tried to spill. Prepare to meet your doom,
for I am Arthur Pendragon and I wield Excalibur. You will fall
before me, for I have only lost to one other and he died a long
time ago."
He leaped forward with blinding speed and slashed out with
the mighty sword. It was all she could do to get out of the way
as the sword trimmed a lock of her hair that got in the way. She
could see why he had such a reputation. This was an older man,
slowed by the years since his youth. He must have been an
unstoppable force when young.
Several more attacks followed as she tried to work up the
courage to fight back. She couldn't. This was too much to
consider attacking. How could she fight him? Did she even have
the ability to hurt him, let alone the right to try? She
continued to dodge and evade while trying to work up the
nerve to attack.
Her luck finally ran out. Her sandal caught on a gouge in
the turf from someone's foot earlier in the fight and she fell. He
was on her in a moment. His battle hardened reflexes seized upon
her stumble and he leaped with the blade held high. She was
going to die-
"Stop, my lord! " A bellow resounded through the night
air. She opened her eyes and looked to the side. Percival stood
there, in shining full armor with his helm in one hand and an
old man supported with the other. " If that blow lands, Arthur,
you will have made an error as grave as when you banished Lancelot
and Guenevere. This girl is the one who protected the realm."
The king looked at the knight and the old man. " Percival?
Merlin? What is going on here? She was attacking a Briton. I
heard his cries for help and appeared to give him aid. It was the
first time any pleas had reached me. I had though something had
happened to you."
The old man painfully drew himself up straight, bowed and
looked at Arthur. " I am not the Merlin you knew, my lord. There
have been several of us over the years. I have the stories the
Merlin of your time passed on. Look closely at this man, Arthur.
He is the evil here. The lass is innocent. She is the one who
stood forth to protect your dream. She drank the same draught that
healed you. Evil could not survive that."
Arthur moved towards Azarite and looked at him for several
long moments before speaking. " Gods preserve me. I fear I was about
to make a terrible mistake." He held forth the sword and a sphere of
energy surrounded the lieutenant. After this he turned back to the
pair of men who were slowly walking forward. " Am I truly needed at
this time? Is the dream still alive?" he asked them.
" The dream lives, Arthur. We continue our watch and will wake
you if you are needed. Return to your slumber after this is
resolved." Percival said, his eyes sad. He waited for a moment
more and addressed his king again in a different tone of voice.
This was not a subject to his master, this was an old friend to
another when speaking about a source of great pain.
" You did them wrong, Arthur. They died of broken hearts
shortly after you died on the battlefield. Can you see it in your
heart to forgive them? Gwen and Lance did not mean to harm you,
Arthur. They were weak, as are we all. They did not do it with the
intention of hurting you. The banishment was a harsh punishment.
Will you forgive them, after all this time?"
The king seemed to get several years older as pain crossed
his face. A tear worked it's way down one side of his face. " Yes,
Percival. I've had little to do except think. Say a prayer for me,
and let them know they are forgiven. Let them have their peace." the
king said and turned to the girl and her cat.
" Thank you. Thank you for keeping me from truly doing
something foolish. If you had attacked me, I'd have probably gone
into a battle-rage and would have played into the hands of our
enemy. What are your names?" He drew himself to his full height
and drew the sword again.
" Minako Aino, Sailor Venus."
" Artemis."
Arthur saluted the two with his sword. " We thank
you. You will be remembered, after all this is done. A
song will be sung in your honor."
Minako curtsied in response to his salute. It seemed
more appropriate to use a response from her past to reply to
the salute that was from his. Artemis respectfully inclined
his head to the king.
Arthur indicated the trapped warrior from the Dark
Kingdom. Azarite was watching the exchange with a wild look
in his eyes and was still pushing at the globe, trying to
break free. " I will take this one with me. I could never
understand treachery and wish to discuss it with him. If you
see him again, I will have released him because he has reformed
his ways."
With a last look at his two old friends, the king sunk back
down into the hill, followed by the sphere with Azarite. The
remaining four stood for several seconds, absorbing the events
that had just occurred.
" This place is safe now, Sailor Venus," the old Merlin
said. " I have sealed away the power collected at Stonehenge and
the king guards this one now. He will not let any get to this
power after the events of tonight. England is safe, thanks to
the two of you.
" I have studied the invaders since they appeared. They
will target your home next. Go there and protect it as you have
protected ours. I only wish that there was something we could
do to repay you, but we are constrained to stay here. We
consider ourselves in your debt." The old man inclined his
head respectfully. He couldn't manage anther bow like he gave
his king due to the pain.
Minako looked at the two and thought for a few moments.
" There may be something you can do. Artemis and I are
seeking the Moon Princess so we can protect her. After we find
her, if she is in a danger that we cannot protect her from, I
want you to hide her away and protect her."
The Merlin thought for a few moments and then nodded. " You
are a strange one. Most would ask for something for themselves.
This duty must weigh heavily on your shoulders."
" I have friends to help me with my duty." She reached down
and briefly gave the cat a scratch between his ears. " Someone
gave their life to save us from the destruction of the Moon
Kingdom. How can I not respond to that? I've only now come to
realize how important that duty is, and that I may not be around
to fulfill it. I need to make precautions so that it is done,
even if I fall in the struggle."
" You are wise, child." the Merlin responded with a
smile. " We will protect her if it comes to that. I will also
try to locate her and inform you if we find any sign of her.
We must leave now. We cannot tarry long in the realm of man."
Percival saluted her, took the arm of the old man and
guided him off into the darkness. She reverted her clothing
back to the more sensible garb that Minako was wearing. The
uniform of Venus was nice, but it was lacking in this weather.
She went to get her pack from her hiding place and to begin the
long walk to the village. She'd have to see what happened to the
bus tour when she got there.

*******************************************************************

" Kunzite. We are not pleased with your performance in
this matter. It will be three to six months for the gates to
Earth to be re-established and stabilized. You are fortunate
that the attack on the gate chamber did not destroy both gate
crystals and it only damaged the one to the region called Japan.
" Because of the incompetence of your troops and the loss
of the gate to England, We have decided that a new commander will
lead the first forays into Japan." Beryl paused for the right
effect. She wanted all of the generals thinking here. She could
see the barely concealed grin on Nephrite's face. He had
misinterpreted the stars in this case, she thought.
" This petty squabble that you three were involved in
has displeased us," she announced while pointing to Kunzite,
Zoisite and Nephrite. " Jadeite will be the new commander of
the first attack. These attacks will be using the youma for
the most part, Jadeite. The loss of that many officers, even
if they are junior grade, cannot be allowed to happen again.
We cannot jeopardize the structure of our armies due to the
loss of so many officers. Do you understand us?" she said in
a quiet tone.
The four were suitably wary at this. Beryl was at her
worst when she was quiet. The normal routine was the grand
pronouncements in a loud voice. The quiet voice was the one
she used when she was going to banish someone to an eternity in
crystal.
The Queen gave her generals another long look and dismissed
them, ending the audiences for the day. She walked into her
private chambers with a very angry look on her face. The four
gathered together in a small group that the others in the chamber
left alone. The matter at hand was important enough for them to put
aside their differences for the moment.
" Are you sure, Kunzite?" Nephrite asked.
Jadeite looked at the white haired general. " Is it true?"
Kunzite stood still for a few moments and reached into his
tunic and pulled out a scrying crystal. He waved his hand over it
and it projected an image into the air above it. The image was a
composite of what the sole survivor of Azarite's squad
remembered and what an intelligence operative had obtained
in Japan before the gate there was damaged.
A young woman looked out at them. Her long blond hair was
tied back with a ribbon and a red mask hid her identity. The rest
of the outfit was not precisely familiar to the four, but it was
close enough to cause concern. It was too much in the style of an
old enemy to be a coincidence. The uniform was like one of the
Sailor Senshi, the defenders of the Moon Kingdom.
" This is the enemy, gentleman." Kunzite said. " This is the
reason the Queen is so upset. It appears that one of our ancient
enemies may have returned." He looked at the other three carefully.
" We have survived much. We will need our wits about us to
save ourselves from Beryl here. She is working herself into a rage
over this. She banished the only survivor of the mission to England,
even though he followed his orders about reporting if anything
occurred. She decided he was to be punished because his unit
failed.
"Over the next months, she will be a raving madwoman due
to the sighting of this 'Sailor V'. Even the name is close to
the ones of her old enemies. You all must remember her actions
when she first woke after the banishing. She killed or banished
many who had simply looked like or reminded her of Serenity
or the Sailor Senshi."
They let this sink during several long moments while
each thought at a furious pace. Nephrite spoke up. " I propose
a truce during this time. I will support the rest of you to
save us all from her. The stars have shown me many strange
things that may be occurring. The Queen is not quite sane in
some of them. Do you all agree?"
The four nodded. These were to be dangerous times for
them. Their enemy on Earth was no laughing matter. They knew
of the training Kunzite had invested in Azarite and that this
'Sailor V' was not someone to be taken lightly. There was also
Beryl to deal with here. They had to survive this, if their
plans from long ago could continue. Atlantis had to be reborn,
and one other matter remained unresolved. If one of the
Sailor Senshi survived, there was a chance that Prince Endymion
lived. They had a score to settle with the one who had forsaken
his duty and betrayed their home.

**************************************************************

" I'm all right, mom," she said to her mother. " The
bus had some mechanical problems up at the church and the
tour company is putting us up for the night at a bed and
breakfast here. They'll have another bus here in the morning.
I should be back by mid-morning. I'll be all right."
Her mother continued to make a fuss about the situation
while she looked at the cat and shrugged her shoulders. When
her mother paused for a breath, she cut in and interrupted
her. " Mom? Someone here has to use the phone. There's only
one. I'll see you in the morning. I love you both. Bye!"
She put the phone back down on the cradle in her room
and stretched out on the bed. The cat came over and curled up
on the pillow next to her.
" They found a nice house, Mom said. We should be
moving our things in next week. Dad says the job should only
be another 3 months. We'll be back home sooner than I thought."
The cat let out a yawn that threatened to dislocate his
jaw. " Excuse me. I'm more tired than I thought. That's good,
Minako. With the business here finished, I think that the next
attacks will be back at home. Remember the maps? They had the
same symbols on them for strong magic that the one of England
had."
" Yes, but why weren't there any circles there like the
England map?" She responded. The thought of these monsters
loose in her home was unsettling. " What if the princess
appears? Unless I run away from my parents, we won't be back
there for 3 months. What should we do?"
" I don't know yet, Minako. I do think it would be a
good idea for Sailor V to keep on working here. If the Dark
Kingdom is still operating here, it may cause them to concentrate
on this area. Hopefully, they'll see you as a threat and
concentrate their efforts here and that might take some
pressure off the Moon Princess or the other Sailor Senshi if
they show up."
" Thanks. Should I paint a big, fat target on my back
while I'm at it?" she said dryly. " I just love being the center
of their attentions. Artemis, did I offend you in some way you
never told me about?"
" Yes. I hate deep fried fish and that's what you brought
me for what could have been my last meal."
They both laughed and settled down for the night. Their
next three months would be interesting times, as the ancient
curse went.

*************************************************************

The boy slipped around the side of the hill and
continued to look around the area. After another hour
of searching, he found it. He picked up the red mask
and carefully wrapped a soft cloth around it. He'd take
the time to store it properly when he got home.
He knew, when their labors were over, that the
knights would gather around their table again and
remember the stories of those who had helped the cause.
She did as much as any of them, he thought. Actually, she did
a lot more, he decided after remembering the stories. Her
tale deserved to be told. He'd keep the mask and put it
with the few mementos his master showed him. He walked to
the top of the hill in one world and then down it in another
world and entered the house that was built in front of the
mouth of a cave.


The End.

************************************************************

All characters are copyrights of the respective holders.
Please send comments, etc. to the above e-mail address.

Special thanks to the following...

Naoko Takeuchi, of course.

Luna and Artemis for kind words and support.
check out their page at
http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/9897/

Chris Davies for inspiring me to continue.
check out his page at
http://www/ualberta.ca/~cdavies/hmpage.html

Jackie Chiang for being the sage I turned to for knowledge.
check out her page at
http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/3741/

Chi Ming Cheung for keeping me laughing.

Rav Dhiraj for reading and thoughtful comments.

Jupiter Knight for reading and thoughtful comments.

Also, special mention must be made of the following.

Ake Rosenius has drawn some wonderful fan art
based on this story. Please, go check it out at

http://www.ies.luth.se/~akeros92/fanart_e.html