Heyo! Chapter time.

Gotta publish 'em all!

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SAILOR MOON: BANISHED
CHAPTER NINE

By Doctor-T

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As Sailor Pluto and Sailor Saturn exited the ancient control room, neither noticed the lightless ventilation shaft overhead that led up to the next level, or the eyeless terror suspended inside it, leering down at them from only a few meters above their heads.

And then a long string of saliva unexpectedly dripped from the serrated mouth of the alien queen, to splatter down in a viscous string across Sailor Saturn's white-gloved right hand. Coming to an abrupt halt, she stared at the sticky mess with surprise. Then a look of disgust appeared on her face and she began to vigorously shake the offending substance from her soiled glove.

"Mama, what's this yucky stuff-?" she asked her just-as-startled older companion. "It just dripped down on me-!"

Is that a goblet of spittle-? Instantly Pluto became conscious of the mortal peril they were in. Oh, shit!

"Garnet Ball!"

It was very, very close. Even as Pluto's crackling, red energy shield snapped up into place around the alarmed pair, a ton of angry xenomorph smashed down upon her emergent force field, to slide off the curved surface and impact with a chitin-jarring thump onto the corridor floor in front of them.

"Get back, Hotaru-chan," Pluto cried out as the six-meter tall apparition regained its feet, banging its crested head against the corridor ceiling as it did so. Totally unhurt, the giant xenomorph immediately lunged down at the shocked sailor senshi, both pairs of chest arms scrabbled at the smooth outer surface of the 'garnet ball' in a futile effort to tear both it and them apart.

The vastly experienced M-di-H'dlak was nothing if not prepared for any foreseeable eventuality that might disrupt his attack upon this most dangerous quarry. So, even as Sailor Pluto's force field unexpectedly materialized in front of him, his helmet gkinmaru analyzed the composition of the protective barrier and automatically initiated the proper countermeasure. In less than a split-second, the energy field being emitted by his protective armor had changed its frequency. This had the unfortunate side effect of rendering the hunt master fully visible again, but the fact that his outstretched arms could now penetrate the globe of translucent red energy shielding his prey more than made up for that minor inconvenience.

Even as he leapt forward in his silent, deadly attack, the hyped up predator leader received an almighty shock of his own. The distinctive outline of the xenomorph queen suddenly dropped into his field of vision, her totally unexpected appearance distracting him from making his wrist blade strike on the tallest of the unprepared sailor senshi for a vital second.

Luckily for her and Sailor Pluto both, as Sailor Saturn flinched away from the of the xenomorph bouncing off their force field, she caught sight of the uncloaked predator, in shockingly close proximity to them, out of the corner of her eye. She instantly screamed out a warning.

"Watch out, Mama! Yautja behind you!"

The alien queen sprang forward like a nightmarish, dinosaur-sized black grasshopper to the attack once again, just as Pluto was warned by her frantic daughter of the new and exceedingly dangerous threat from their rear. Trusting in her force field to hold the attacking xenomorph off long enough for her to deal with this new enemy, she whirled around, dropping her garnet rod as she flung her arms upwards to grapple with the predator whom was somehow stepping through her activated force field.

This was now a test of brute strength between her and the two-and–a-half meter tall headhunter, with instant death the prize for the loser.

"Uff! I've got this under control, Hotaru-chan," Pluto gasped out, straining to keep the wickedly serrated blades protruding from the killer alien's left wrist from her throat. "You watch that giant xenomorph – uhh – I won't be long here!"

Feeling his wrists seized from below, the predator leader received a second shock. Although not expecting an easy victory by any means, he was taken by surprise at the sheer strength of his diminutive adversary. Unknown to him, Sailor Pluto was many times stronger than a normal human in her senshi form. So it was most disconcerting to see that she was actually preventing him with one tiny hand from completing his wrist blade strike on her! Nor could he strike at Sailor Pluto with his right hand, for it was also being held in an equally powerful grip.

In fact, judging by her iron grasp on both of his now immobilized wrists, she seemed to be either very near to – or maybe even his equal - in physical strength-!

An Ooman as strong as me? Never!

Still, even if that unpalatable fact would prove to be true, M-di-H'dlak possessed more than one means to bring down this most tenacious prey. And he didn't even need his hands to do it, either.

The trio of crimson targeting lasers stabbed down from his helmet, locking on the upper body of the most formidable female in his grasp, just below her neck.

No sense in obliterating that fine trophy skull. Die!

To her horror, Sailor Pluto saw the pencil-thin laser beams and the stubby barrel of the yautja's shoulder-mounted plasmacaster simultaneously swiveling downwards in a synchronized motion towards her well-endowed chest!

Realizing all-too-well the danger she was in, Sailor Pluto lashed out with her right foot, catching her seven-and-a-half foot tall adversary in the lower stomach with a stamping side kick.

M-di-H'dlak was no raw, untested novice, he was already braced for such an attack. However, the sheer power of the kick unbalanced him for a split-second. And that was all the time that Sailor Pluto needed to exploit her momentary advantage.

Pivoting under the huntmaster's outstretched arms, and bending one thick and muscular appendage up against the other, she pulled off a perfect side throw on her giant adversary. M-di-H'dlak felt himself going off his feet and thrust sideways. As he hit the floor and slid out through the energy wall into the control room again, his plasmacaster discharged a second too late, the plasma bolt striking the ceiling above him in a shower of white-hot fragments.

C'jit!

Despite her terror, little Sailor Saturn had somehow resisted the urge to glance behind her to see what was transpiring between her foster mother and the killer alien, instead keeping her frightened eyes and huge weapon leveled on the titanic, skeletal monster in the hallway. As it landed on top of the 'garnet ball' once again, double jaws snapping fruitlessly at its all-but-impervious surface, she stabbed upwards through the energy field with her Silence glaive, its huge, razor-sharp blade slicing into the underbelly of the enormous alien horror. Unable to gain any purchase on the frictionless surface for a second time, the angrily screeching, now injured queen slid completely over the top of the protective barrier, to crash in a thrashing heap onto the floor of the control room to their rear.

Rolling back up onto his clawed feet as the infuriated xenomorph just missed landing directly on top of him, the startled yautja leader took in this new and highly dangerous situation at a glance. Trapped between the towering alien queen and the once more intact globe of protective energy, and with no time to use the twin blades attached to his left wrist, M-di-H'dlak instantly brought into play the fully charged power gauntlet encasing his right hand. Punching upwards with all of his might, his metal-enclosed knuckles impacted solidly into the armored chin of the queen's crested, bathtub-sized head as the hive mother lunged down at him, double jaws agape, the device releasing its concussive charge of stored energy as it made contact.

Despite her vast size, the alien queen was not only brought to a halt by the greatly enhanced impact of the chitin-shattering blow, but was also sent reeling backwards in a spray of acidic blood to crash back first down onto the low platform surrounding the energy dome in the exact center of the musty room. As she did so, her yellowish-green, highly toxic and corrosive blood splashed from her freshly inflicted wounds onto the alien machinery that regulated the siphoned flow of Hawking radiation from the black hole power source at the core of the moonlet.

And, after millions of years of fault-free operation, something finally gave.

As a wise precaution, the outer casings of most 'Space Jockey' technology had originally been designed by their makers in the dim and distant past to be proof against accidental or deliberate contact with xenomorph blood. But, after several eons without maintenance of any kind, a hairline crack had finally formed in the normally impervious casing of the power regulator - a crack just wide enough to admit a couple of droplets of acid.

The protective dome of energy abruptly collapsed, causing the instantaneous decompression of the control room. And a howling gale of cold air immediately began to rush into the now-open shaft, streaming down into oblivion inside the micro black hole at the core of the miniature world!

Taken totally by surprise by the explosive decompression caused by the failure of the dome behind her, the alien queen had no chance of even attempting to save herself. In far less than a split-second, the black armored nightmare plunged from sight and vanished into the singularity, her despairing howl cut off in mid-cry as her acceleration surpassed the speed of sound, then, a microsecond later, reached a fraction under the speed of light.

With no chance to brace themselves against the ferocious current of air, both sailor senshi and M-di-H'dlak were also swept off their feet and sucked into the now exposed shaft like dust motes into a vacuum cleaner. However, their fate was to be far less gruesome than that of the doomed hive mother. Twisting in mid-air even as she was pulled into the yawning opening below her, Sailor Pluto dematerialized her garnet rod and managed to hook an arm over one of the many horizontal bands of alien piping that ringed the inside of the well. She gasped out in pain as the abrupt deceleration of her fall almost pulled her arm from its socket! Then, to her overwhelming relief, she saw that her sailor senshi companion was dangling slightly above and to the right hand side of her own position. Even as she fell, Hotaru had somehow managed to wedge her Silence glaive between a rung and the smooth wall of the vertical duct, and was now hanging on with both hands for dear life to her trapped artifact, her slender body swaying back and forth over the endless abyss below them!

"Aaaah! Hotaru-chan – just hang on! Use your levitation to help you out!"

"But Mama, I can't!" Saturn wailed back, terror in her eyes and voice at what was soon to happen to them. "It's not working!"

"Try to use it anyway! Our levitation ability won't get us out of this, but it'll help to lessen the g-force on our bodies! Using it, we should be able to hang on for long enough for me to maybe figure out a way for us to get out of this mess!"

"Uuuh! Okay, I'll try to…yes, that's…a bit better. Mama! Where's that big monster gone?"

"There's no need to worry about it, Hotaru-chan! I saw it fall over the edge and into the singularity below us!"

"Thank Kami-sama! But, what about the yautja? Did it fall in, too?"

"I don't know for certain," Pluto admitted, "but I think that it did as well! If so, at least we don't have to worry about either of them any more!"

But the older of the two sailor senshi was wrong with her supposition of the demise of their second opponent. The once again cloaked M-di-H'dlak was in fact still alive, also clinging tightly to a lower railing, albeit on the far side of the death shaft from his erstwhile prey.

And the yautja was cursing his bad luck. Not so much for his own precarious position, but for the loss of one of his prized objectives. For the alien queen had fallen into oblivion below him. What a waste of a prime, status-enhancing trophy head!

However, it was a huge consolation to the bitterly disappointed hunt master as he just then realized that the two sailor senshi hadn't also plummeted to their deaths alongside the unlucky xenomorph queen. For there they were, on the opposite side of the shaft, several rungs above his own position. Just as importantly, both were seemingly in no imminent danger of being torn from their handholds by the endless gale streaming past them down into the all-consuming singularity below.

M-di-H'dlak felt his spirts instantly rise at the sight of his trapped quarry. He still had an excellent chance to make a very notable pair of kills, after all!

If he could make it up out of the gravitational death trap he had fallen into, of course? And then best them both in combat after that.

Behind his breath mask, M-di-H'dlak's mandibled mouth widened with anticipation. A worthy trio of challenges for him, indeed!

I shall not fail!

This far down into the unending shaft, no human could have escaped the relentless pull of the bottomless gravity well. Luckily for him, M-di-H'dlak wasn't human. Massive muscles bulging and straining with the effort, nok-by-nok, the hunt master pulled himself back up the rings of pipes, through the rushing torrent of falling air, out of the gravity well, to the comparative safety of the ancient control room above him.

Once he was safely over the top railing again, the all-but-invisible yautja leader spared a look across the shaft at the sailor senshi, both still dangling helplessly over the abyss, hanging on for grim death to their handholds.

With an electronic whining sound, the helmet mounted triangle of targeting lasers for his plasmacaster once more zoomed in and locked on the largest of the pair, the green haired Sailor Pluto. This was a golden opportunity for an easy kill, and a lesser yautja than he would have almost certainly have taken it. But then the hunt master stayed his hand, and for one very good reason.

To a leader of M-di-H'dlak's stature, it would be unsporting to kill a worthy enemy in this manner. After all, any s'yuit-de (coward) could shoot a helpless adversary in the back, thereby avoiding an honorable face-to-face confrontation with hand weapons. And dangerous though both sailor senshi undoubtedly were, there was zero honor to be gained by him by committing such a cowardly act.

Besides, if he fired, his prey would fall, and her prize head would be lost to him. Just like the head of the xenomorph queen had been. To shoot would be to lose a second invaluable trophy.

This was a most unprecedented situation he now found himself in. So, what best to do now?

For a second or two, the confounded hunt master even considered attempting to save both sailor senshi, one at a time, challenging each in turn to hand-to-hand single combat. This would be the honorable thing for him to do, and the better warrior in each death match would be the deserved victor. But before he could come to a firm decision on the practicality of this course of action, he suddenly received an urgent transmission from Kujhade in their fortuitously still surviving starship. The gist of the message was as follows:

Hish warship disabled, but not destroyed. Adversary is a 'Thei-de-Nagara'–class Battlecruiser. Recommend immediate evacuation of hunting party during this window of opportunity, before the main weapons of the Hish warship come back online and they begin targeting this moon. Request permission to hover at extraction site to re-embark our hunting party.

That last bit made up M-di-H'dlak's mind for him in a hurry. Earlier on in the fierce engagement, he had picked up Hish transmissions from their expeditionary force to their hidden vessel, so with regards to the previously unsuspected presence of his yautja hunting party in the underground labyrinth of tunnels by the Hish mother ship, the cat was now well and truly out of the bag.

Even though M-di-H'dlak was sure that he and his few remaining hunters could dispatch any still surviving remnants of the Hish ground force forthwith, to spend precious time doing so would be to invite their own almost certain death at the hands of the damaged but still partially operational Hish Battlecruiser. And since there was definitely no honor in being massacred by hostile heavy weapons being fired down upon them from space, the best course of action was for them to carry out a tactical withdrawal back to their own ship, while they still could.

Regretfully turning away from the almost certainly doomed Oomans, the frustrated M-di-H'dlak braced himself against the howling gale and set off as fast as he could manage towards the surface again. Even as he powered his way through the endless cataract of doomed air, the huntmaster simultaneously gave his permission for the pickup, and then sent a coded transmission to Guan-thei-de and any other yautja survivors to meet up with him at the access shaft that had been their point of entry. Once back in their own speedy stealth vessel, perhaps they could engage in battle with the Hish once more, this time on more even terms.

And maybe even encounter one or both of the sailor senshi again, as well. If they somehow managed to escape the gravitational death trap they had fallen into, that was. M-di-H'dlak fervently prayed that this would indeed be the case. His currently thwarted plans for a giant leap up to the top of the yautja social scale depended upon it.

Yautja could move very fast when they needed to. In less than two earth minutes, all four remaining hunters had made their way safely to their evacuation point at the base of the narrow shaft they had used to descend into the moonlet's interior. Ten seconds later, the quartet had scrambled up into their invisible ship that was hovering in place over the exit point.

The instant that the four survivers were safely on board, Kujhade gunned the engines, sending the invisible scout ship rocketing skyward once again, the sudden rush of displaced air whipping up another whirling cloud of shattered alien foliage in their wake.

And, as it turned out, they had vacated the war-torn planetoid only just in the nick of time.