"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

- Gone with the Wind


I now know what an ejection seat feels like.

Or at least, a very close approximation...

Aside from the 'awesome' factor involved in watching the Sailor Senshi jump from solid ground, three to five stories straight up to the top of a building, I don't think anyone's ever really thought about it. And I mean REALLY, thought about it.

The act of power jumping I mean.

Let me take you back to your physics class, once upon a time.

Breaking it down, the act of jumping consists of four universal laws. The first three are Sir Isaac Newton's laws of motion. You know those little rascals, they pretty much dictate how everything you know about basic mechanics works. From how your car moves, to how YOU move.

The fourth belongs to either Einstein, or Gallileo... Or maybe it was Newton here again, but my mind's been a bit too occupied to remember the whose who of historical science. Needless to say I kind of made it obvious I'm talking about Gravity. Let's just go with it.

In this particular case, you might want to look up a more accurate section known as Ballistics.

See, it works like this: Thanks to our long deceased scientific experts, we know that gravity exerts its force on all objects at all times. If you're the type to suddenly have it all come flooding back to you, you should remember that on the surface of the Earth, this results in a never ending pull towards the ground at exactly nine point eight one meters a second squared.

Now, as one might have guessed where this was going, in order to jump onto the roof of a building, one must first overcome the force of gravity. That's pretty simple, since any reasonably fit person can do so with even the smallest jump. Except when someone jumps they get, what, two feet of air? Gravity slows their ascent down, and reverses their direction to bring them back down to Earth.

The obvious solution to this is simple enough. To go higher, you need to go up, faster, so by the time you slow down, you're as high as you want to be.

Now, how fast do you have to go to get on top of a five-story building? I don't know. My physics class was something like eight years ago, and my lackluster math skills did not really contribute to my full understanding of vectors in relation to ballistics.

But you give me a concept, and I can dig it.

In order to jump high, you must go fast. In order to go fast enough, you need a lot of power. For that, you need to be strong.

I know what you're thinking. 'What an absurdly long winded way to point out that in order to jump on top of a building, the Senshi must have REALLY strong legs.'

Now, while true, I'm not done yet.

Recall our buddy Newton. Just because the Senshi have magically boosted leg strength, doesn't mean his laws take a break. See: Newton's third law states that for every action, there is an equal yet opposite reaction.

Brain awake yet?

Okay, so what does this have to do with the Senshi?

Well, in order to do this sort of power jump, you need to push off the ground, HARD. All fine and dandy. But remember that third law. In order to go UP, they have to push DOWN... Except here's the thing. Once your feet leave the ground in a jump, you no longer have anything to push against. This means that in order to power jump, the Senshi must produce all the speed necessary in that first fraction of a second as they push off the ground.

Do you see the problem yet?

It might seem like such a little thing to miss, but the act of jumping on anything resembling the scale these girls can pull off is like going from naught, to a hundred miles per hour in a second. Going back to Newton: His first law states that objects in motion (or at rest) will remain in motion (at rest) unless acted upon by an outside force. We call this wonderful little gem of information 'inertia'. And if you noticed, the value of 'in motion', and 'at rest' are completely interchangeable...

What this tells you in simplified form, is that going from naught to a hundred, is exactly the same thing as going from a hundred to naught. I don't know about you, but going from one hundred miles per hour to a dead stop in under a second is not the most pleasant experience ever known. Anyone been in a head-on car collision at fifty miles per hour? Cumulative speed from the two vehicles equals one hundred miles per hour... And the cars don't come out looking so hot.

The people come out even less so at times.

So you're probably asking what any of this have to do with me?

Well, after I took my 'borderline overdose' of Ritalin, we spent at least an hour and a half, maybe two hours deciding exactly how to go about Luna's plan. Ami watched me like a hawk the entire time, probably expecting me to go into convulsions or something. In the back of my mind, I made a mental note to never take any more of those things in a full dose. Maybe half, or quarter doses.

Luna's plan was absurdly simple, which probably meant it was going to go all kinds of wrong, but from a logical perspective, it was sound. OTL, or 'Original Timeline', the entire situation revolved around Luna having what had to be the worst possible day EVER... Being chased by what had to be every alley cat in Roppongi. Rhett Butler then performed a rescue not unlike the typical flare Tuxedo Kamen did with his concrete cracking roses... Except with fish bones. I'm not sure how that would look to see it actually happen, but I'm sure it would be at least worth the price of admission to watch.

Luna's idea was simple enough. We can't find Rhett, but Rhett can find Luna, and was in fact BOUND to find her if my comments on coincidences around here were accurate.

Confident in the information between the two of us, Luna decided that she would act as bait for this little operation. She was of course, not the least bit worried about getting hurt since, if it really came down to it, and she had no other choice... Well, they were all just cats, and she was a superhuman transforming catgirl.

My gut told me this was too easy. After what I experienced at Hinata and in the woods of TWHE the last few days, I didn't trust this plan in the least. But we had nothing else to go on but wild guesses. Tokyo was just too densely populated for us to go wandering around, hoping our random encounter tables were set up favorably.

Between Luna and myself, we spent the better part of an hour just figuring out what exactly could go wrong, and why it would go wrong that way. It was an exercise in madness, until Ami had the bright idea of having Senbei calculate the probability of certain situations.

I had broken in my new clipboard rather quick, determined to figure out a way to ensure that we didn't end up screwed by 'plot mechanics'. Ultimately, I ended up with a clipboard full of my chicken scratch abbreviated notes listing the most probable, as well as the most insane situations we could think up.

Usagi tossed in 'random meteor impact' to add to the list of things that can go wrong. I really wish she hadn't, because every five minutes or so after that, I caught myself looking at the sky, and the low-hanging clouds. I mean really, where the fuck did the bunny manage to come up with that one? I'd expect that from the guys on Spacebattles, not her.

Ultimately, it fell into a discernible pattern. While the circumstances were varied, each problem centered on one of three factors:

- Rhett Gets Away.

- Kunzite gets to Rhett First.

- Outside Interference.

In order to mitigate these, I conspired with Ami on selecting a location we could draw Rhett to that would give us more or less a clear vantage, while still being able to draw him into a more or less confined space, away from people. A space that would allow us to see Kunzite first and hit him, preferably from outside, and above. Picking a vantage in a place the size of Tokyo that fit all the criteria at the same time was pretty much an exercise in futility, but we had to work with something.

My other contribution to Luna's plan was to guarantee her safety. Usagi and Ami would follow her from the rooftops at a reasonable distance. While she was now more than capable of fending off a few hundred alley cats, I didn't trust everything to go so smoothly as to leave her alone. If there was outside interference, or if Kunzite made his move before Luna got to the, I dubbed it the 'Killzone'... If anything happened ahead of time, we at least were prepared to backpedal.

I wasn't going to get my hopes up though. Hinata was like a closed system with a limited number of failure modes I could predict. This was an entirely different animal.

No matter what though, it was this, or a dice roll followed by scrambling to put something together.

I'll take my chances with a plan.

After spending, in my opinion, way too much time putting the, I don't want to call it a plan... After spending way too much time putting the 'operation' together, we set out. Luna took off to antagonize as many local alley cats as she possibly could. Usagi and Ami followed shortly after that, leaving me with Rei and Makoto to go set up the killzone.

Simple enough in theory, but execution wasn't so easy. The vantage I wanted was on top of a twelve-story building about a mile away from the shrine. And it was quickly apparent that for all my capabilities, I was only human, and could only move so fast.

I wanted them to go on ahead and I'd just catch up. But Rei pointed out that I'd probably get lost. I was about to argue when Makoto decided to just cut to the chase. Being the largest Senshi in the group, she had no second thoughts about scooping me right off my feet and taking off for the nearest rooftop.

It was that very moment that I realized I was in for a really rough ride.

The first bounce had been to a two-story building. I'd barely finished grunting from the shock of the takeoff when we landed, sending a jolt right to my bones. No sooner did I get over that then did little miss lightning bolt shoot into her next jump, aiming for a four-story building.

Between the high G jumps, and the equally rough landings, it was like getting repeatedly slammed around like some twisted game of destruction bumper cars. Consider me glad she didn't make any jumps higher than two or three stories.

This quickly fell into a pattern until we were hauling ass at a pretty good clip. I noticed at some point, that while she was running on a solid rooftop, her speed wasn't all that much better than any other person. But the moment she jumped, it was like being shot out of a canon. Or ejected from a jet fighter... I had to close my eyes for it. Not from the fear of heights, but instead, from the stinging of the wind on my face and the near-crushing sensation of acceleration. I wish I'd put my helmet on before she grabbed me...

The bounding was not very helpful on my stomach either. While it had mellowed out quite a bit since this morning, I was still technically sick, and had not really been able to hold anything more substantial than a few bites of burger down. The horrible amount of start/stop motion I had experienced by the time we reached the destination building had left it so upset. That when Jupiter finally put me down, I had to go stick my head over the side and wait to see if I was going to vomit up what little I had in me.

Luckily, I didn't. But to make things more miserable, my body was absolutely aching from the jolts. Cool as the jumping was, it was brutal. I don't know what magic function the Senshi had to make them immune to such forces, but they can essentially ignore the kind of accelerations that normally leave fighter pilots with compressed spines for a month. I cannot. And I made sure to let Makoto know it as soon as I could speak properly.

She just called me a big baby. I replied with some irritation that I might as well be a baby with how fragile my body was in comparison to her magic enforced super-jumps. The Senshi, unfortunately, just did not yet seem to grasp the depth at which the mechanics of Medium Transfer Principle altered the interaction between them, and myself.

For god's sake, I'm wearing a suit of skin-mimicking, strength enhancing body armor just to keep from getting accidentally killed by a high five! Is that SO hard to grasp?

Know what? Fuck it... Ami can explain it to her; I'm tired of repeating myself.

After we 'set up shop' as I called it, which was really just a fancy way of saying 'started waiting', we kept contact with Usagi and Ami via their communicators. There wasn't much to report, just the occasional commentary on Luna's rounds.

That left us with virtually nothing to do but kill time. There wasn't much to do on the roof of an apartment building really. I could stand around, maybe stare at the cityscape around me. But it was all just rows upon rows of buildings to me. My 'big city' experience was not all that good, even with Luna's guiding earlier in the morning. About the only thing worth looking at was the Tokyo Tower off to my right. And even that was kind of 'meh' after a while. It's a TV broadcast tower with observation decks.

Rei and Makoto, who knew the area like the back of their hand, weren't so preoccupied with their surroundings. Instead, the two of them grew fidgety from the waiting. When Rei finally complained to me about how this was taking an absurd amount of time, my response was 'Welcome to the Army' without even skipping a beat, which only worked to draw an irritated look from the younger girl.

Ah, hurry up and wait... Rei has absolutely no idea what it really means. We used to stand in formation longer than this just because the Drills had nothing better for us to do. Fidgeting around on a rooftop with a cool wind blowing just doesn't compare to standing in the heat and humidity with your feet going numb. And hey, given the alternative to waiting around is fighting for our very lives, I think I can handle some waiting.

Not that I wasn't at least partially sentimental to her complaint. Luna's plan was taking a bit of time to execute. And waiting always makes you imagine the things that could go wrong. And I have a horribly vivid imagination...

I was also getting hungry again. Upset stomach or no upset stomach, I was running on virtually crumbs. The longer this took, the more likely I was going to break into that chocolate bar Luna had the brilliance to grab for me. The last thing I need is low blood sugar in the middle of what could very quickly become a raging firefight.

All and all, I was secretly miserable. I wasn't about to show it, seeing as I was trying to project an air of 'know what the fuck I'm doing' to the girls. But honestly, if anyone was more nervous about what was about to go down, it was me.

In order to take my mind off it, I began chatting with the two Senshi. It started with a basic explanation of what we were doing here on the roof. Nervous as I was getting, it was the only thing I could really keep my mind settled on that I could speak without sounding like an express train.

Both girls seemed to get the idea of the 'kill zone' easily enough. The concept is simple to understand. You want the enemy you're attacking in the middle. This way, he can only turn and attack one person at a time, while everyone can fire inwards at him at once. Ideally, you concentrate massive amounts of firepower into a very small space.

When Rei inquired me more directly if this is what I'd tried a week ago, my response had been simple. If we actually had anything like a 'kill zone' in that fight, it would have been over in less than twenty seconds. A kill zone is a nasty piece of work. Most modern maneuver warfare is essentially methods of putting the enemy into a kill zone so you could hammer him. Sniper in a building? He's an air strike away from toast. Infantry fight stalling? A radio call for artillery is like summoning the fist of an angry god. Armored cavalry caught in the open by air support? Carnage, but always from the outside.

On top of a kill zone, the idea of clustering together was also on my list of things to comment on. I let Mars know that at NO POINT should she, or Jupiter ... Or any of them in fact, group together during a fight. Kunzite has this little dark shield bubble-dome trick he does. If everyone clumps together, it only takes him a second to fling it up.

I had to check myself to keep from going overboard. As much as there were so many things I personally considered to be 'WRONG' with that they were doing, they were still essentially just children. And I didn't want to sound like I was harping on them. I also didn't want to get on to them considering that for everything I saw 'wrong', they still managed to win originally. So somehow, something worked for them.

And I'd rather not come across as some kind of obnoxious know-it-all. I mean, I know more about fighting than they do, but let's face it. I'm at best, a satcomm terminal trainee with three months of 'sit in a field and pretend you're going to fight something'. Before Motoko, before Zoicite, I hadn't seen anything even remotely resembling real action. There are literally hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the world, each more qualified than I am at this kind of thing...

But I'm the one standing here giving Rei a basic combat training lecture, not them.

And this isn't the OTL...

So that was the long and short of it. I spent another hour trying to give Rei and Makoto a lecture in modern military tactics without trying to sound like I was lecturing them in modern military tactics. That honestly makes no sense to me, but it's the closest way I could describe it.

The communication from Ami stating that they were heading our way was almost too welcome at this point.

"Okay," I nodded as soon as Rei was done talking. "Just like we talked about. When Luna draws the swarm in, wait for Rhett. Once that cat shows up, Moon will jump down to snag him. Got it?"

Rei nodded as I stepped away from the retainer wall to open my portal.

"What about you?" Makoto asked.

"I, or rather WE, will cover them," I commented as I drew out Jail's glove. I have a glove, helmet, strength enhancing protective suit... Much better than what I started with. But if only I had something better... like Master Chief's armor, shields and all. Then maybe I wouldn't feel so naked.

The next item out of the portal was my Mossberg. Makoto did a double take as I opened the action and inspected the chamber. Ritsuko had cleaned it meticulously, but never reloaded it from the looks of things.

"Whoa," Makoto commented. "Is that a gun?"

I glanced at Jupiter, tempted to make a sarcastic comment. But instead bit it back in favor of something a little less hostile.

"Yeah..." I nodded. "You have thunderbolts, I have a thunder-stick."

"You don't really think it's going to get that bad?" Rei asked me cautiously.

"Mars," I addressed her by her Senshi title. "I'm not only expecting it to get bad, I'm expecting everything to go to hell in a hand basket."

"You don't think Luna's plan is flawed do you?" Jupiter asked.

I laughed unsteadily.

"What?" she asked.

"That's just it," I commented. "Luna's plan is practically perfect."

I stopped to take a deep breath and fish the ammo case Washu had packed all my special rounds into.

"Which is why we're so screwed..."

Mars glanced at me in confusion.

"I'm afraid I don't follow," Jupiter crossed her arms before the fire senshi could comment.

"I'm not going to try and explain it right now," I shook my head. "All I can say at the moment is that whatever is about to happen, something is going to go wrong. Big time."

"Are you serious?" Jupiter asked.

I closed my portal and looked at her, letting a frown cross my face

"Does this look like my joking face to you?" I asked.

The lightning Senshi put her hands up as if to apologize for asking.

"Okay," she stated. "Okay. You're serious."

"How bad?" Rei asked abruptly.

"I wish I knew," I shook my head, glancing down at my shells.

"Well," Jupiter continued a moment later. "If that's the case, I'm going to go ahead and head over to my spot with Senbei. I can't wait to see what kind of tricks he can pull off."

Jupiter turned and hopped up on the retainer wall then bent only just the slightest at the knees before taking off in almost complete silence like she'd been strapped to a rocket.

I stared after her for a few seconds, pondering just how exactly their magic worked to give them that ability. Was it some kind of inertia suppression, or something that gave them limited flight? I don't know, and I wish I did. And knowing was half the battle.

Speaking of battles...

Turning back to my weapon, I placed physics questions in the back of my mind. Right now, for better or worse, things were about to go down. If I want to come out of this alive, with things in my favor, I need to be ready to do it...

And my hands are shaking. Dammit, I'm scared again. Fuckin...

Focus.

Of course I'm scared though. I'm about to willingly start a firefight. Not just get dragged into one, but actually be the source, trigger, and primary motivation of one. I'd be nervous doing that with normal humans. And I'm about to start one with a flying, teleporting, energy blast-throwing, dark general supervillain. Just look at the description, I'm deliberately starting a fight with a SUPER-VILLAIN.

I closed my eyes and heaved a deep breath. Calm DOWN.

"You okay?" I heard Rei ask.

"I'm fine," I replied.

"You're shaking..."

"I'm Fine." I stated more assertively, causing Rei to glare at me.

Yes, I'm fine. I defeated Zoicite; I fought a monster, and won. I bargained face to face with Hild, I faced a room packed full of combat cyborgs. These girls, these CHILDREN can face this guy down and come out on top, which means I can too.

So STOP, SHAKING.

Damn adrenaline...

Better focus on how I want to direct this fight, uh...

Ammo!

Yeah, don't want to start a fight with an empty weapon do I?

How do I want to fight?

That's simple, as far away as possible. That would mean sitting half a continent away directing air strikes or something. But I can't call in air strikes, so I guess sniping is my best bet. Which means the round in the chamber will definitely be a backlash. I want the first shot to be the only shot if I can help it.

I quickly extracted one of the black, single-striped rounds and shoved it into Mossy's chamber.

Now, if I miss the first shot, he'll probably teleport. Which means I won't get two shots at range unless I'm lucky.

And I don't think my special skill is luck, that's Senbei's skill.

Much as I'm loath to think about it, I'll probably be fighting Kunzite up close if I miss. And up close, the backlash rounds won't work so well. On top of that, if I miss, they'll go through concrete buildings like a hot knife through butter. But I still want a lot of stopping power.

I could go with regular buckshot. I still have something like twenty left. But it took a lot to bring Zoicite down, and Kunzite's even worse.

That pretty much narrows it down.

I quickly tubed five Yellow Jacket rounds and set about placing two more backlash and three 'jackets on my stock ammo holder. If I do get the opportunity to take a second or third ranged shot, I'll want those rounds where I can get to them quickly.

The rest of my loadout was pretty much just loading more Yellows on my strap. I ended up having to quickly dismantle it from my backpack before I could more effectively put it on. I didn't need the pack on me anymore, why wear it?

"Are you sure you're okay?" Rei asked one more time.

'Tink!'

My hand twitched, causing me to drop one of the fancy shotgun rounds on the ground. A flash of anger shot through my body, causing me to involuntarily flex my now empty hand into a fist for just a moment. I had to remind myself not to snap at the girl. She was just trying to be helpful.

Inhale...

Exhale.

Let the anger evaporate. Sarcasm, not anger...

"I'm, FINE." I continued one more time. "I'm just doped up on Ritalin, sick from bad water, tired, hungry, and I'm about to commit to combat with a living artillery piece..."

Rei blanched as I looked at her deadpan.

"How has your day been?"

"Jeez," Rei sighed and glanced away. "I'm sorry for asking."

"I'm sorry for answering," I replied. "But I don't like nagging."

"I'm not nagging you," she snapped defensively, her head whipping around.

"You've asked me the same question three times," I continued. "And I gave you the same answer three times. The answer isn't going to change if you ask me a fourth."

"You said you're fine," she snapped. I nodded.

"But you don't look fine," she continued. "You're shaking."

"It's called adrenaline," I had to work to keep my voice level. "I'm nervous. It's a natural reaction. And pointing it out to me is only making it worse... so please STOP before I snap at you."

"Okay," she turned away again. "Okay. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," I replied. "I'm just not so friendly under pressure. Now let's focus on something else before I come unglued. See them yet?"

Rei turned and scanned the rooftops. Yeah, keep my mind busy; focus on the task. Back to inventory. Weapons...

'CLICK.' Safety off...

Check.

Protection... Uh, glove, suit...

Helmet.

I carefully laid my weapon flat on the rooftop I was on and slipped my brand new fancy helmet on. It took a second to get it right. But after a moment, I was able to pull the entire forward mask up.

Check...

"Over that way," Mars piped up, tapping me on my shoulder. In response, I quickly stepped back, fished my binoculars out, and went to scanning.

After a few seconds, I managed to spot Princess Dumpling Head and her twin spaghetti strand locks of hair, bounding effortlessly over the rooftops. People can say what they want about her clumsiness. But there was nothing clumsy about successfully making fifteen-meter bounds across open gaps between buildings. The girl had the potential. Just nobody noticed.

"I see her," I replied. "Picking anything up on your evil detector?"

"My what?" Rei asked.

I lowered my binoculars and glanced at her.

"Feel any evil presence?" I restated.

"I can't tell," she shook her head, "Senbei's too close to us."

"Damn..." I muttered. Though I should have expected that. On the other hand, Senbei was to be our Decoy. Should, or rather, when Kunzite shows up, Senbei's presence should draw his attention. I say SHOULD, no guarantees. I just want his eyes off me long enough to do the job.

Sailor Moon reached one of the nearby rooftops. Then took a running start before catapulting in our direction. I calmly stepped back as the girl hit the rooftop with a minor click of her boots and took a few steps to slow down. Mercury tagged in right behind he, landing right on the retaining wall and hopping down.

"How's she doing?" I asked.

"A little tired," Mercury immediately responded. "But she'll be here in just a second."

"It's crazy!" Moon cut in. "I've never seen so many cats!"

You better believe it. And chances are, nobody's ever seen what's about to happen.

"Here they come!" Mars cut in. "Up the road!"

We all turned, my binos coming up to my face again in the indicated direction.

Luna, nothing but a small black splotch at this distance, came sprinting down the sidewalk at full tilt, waiting just long enough for a car to pass before breaking and shooting across the road into the parking lot below us.

And then, it came.

Even expecting it, I can honestly say I was not prepared to see something like this in the flesh.

I mean, weird things and all, but you know, life just keeps throwing me new ones.

A proverbial wall of cats came streaming after Luna. Ten, twenty, thirty? No, more than that. I couldn't count the numbers. Was this a joke? Surely the show had exaggerated this image, right? Then again, maybe it wasn't.

"Hol-eeeee SHIT." I drew out my curse in English. "That, is a LOT of cats."

"I know right?" Moon commented, only recognizing the latter half of my comment. "Luna sure is popular."

"No way," I heard Mars half-whisper to herself. "That has to be every cat in Tokyo."

Probably, or at least, every cat in this area. But still, for Luna to actually manage to get them all grouped up like this. What did she do? Dip herself in pheromones and catnip? Or did she give them all the cat version of a yo-mamma joke?

"Well," Moon's voice interrupted my thoughts. "Are we going to stare all day?"

My binos came down fast as I shot a quick look at her, then set them on the retainer wall.

"Okay," I quickly continued. "We've got work to do. Take your positions and get ready."

Mercury nodded, turned, and launched herself down to a rooftop on the right. I recovered my weapon and leaned myself into the retaining wall, stopping to turn my suit power up to two-X. Rei quickly picked up my binoculars since they were free and quickly found Luna now almost directly below us. The noise from all the cats mewling constantly was getting loud.

"Know what to look for?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"What about you?" I turned to Moon.

"A big fat kitty of course," she shrugged. "Can't be too hard."

"Good," I turned back. "Just keep your eyes on the sky. Kunzite likes to hover."

"Gotcha!" she chirped, then quickly jumped to follow Mercury.

Luna was backing into a corner now, the wall of felines moving to circle her in.

"You know," I commented idly at Mars. "It's kind of funny."

"What is?" she asked.

"I didn't expect to find myself directing you girls like this."

"Like what?" she asked.

"Like I'm in charge," I shrugged. "Call me weird, but I didn't expect to walk in here and start running the place. Or to do it so easily. You get what I mean?"

"Well, Luna trusts you," she replied matter-of-factly. "And you know what you're doing better than we do. Sailor Moon doesn't... Well... I wouldn't call plans her thing."

"Yeah, well I wouldn't call plans my thing either," I replied a moment later. "I already accelerated this whole mess by trying something stupid. Lord only knows what's going to happen here."

"We'll see what happens," she stated. "Wait! What's-"

I followed where she was looking to the top of a van in the parking lot. Something on top of it made a twitching motion and I managed to spot a blur in the air. There was a loud crack, like the sound of a tree branch snapping. And like that, the cacophony of noise below went dead quiet.

"Did that cat just throw a FISHBONE?" the girl asked in disbelief.

I angled the Mossberg down to look better over the reflex sight. It was a little hard to tell from up here, but there was a large blob. Blue, blue-gray... I assumed it must be the cat we were after. I mean, I didn't know what this critter would really look like, but whatever. How many moving blue-gray blobs could it possibly be?

Don't answer that question…

"Bingo..." I commented quietly. "That's him."

"I've got this," Mars commented. The senshi then quickly turned and waved her arms wildly at each building where the other senshi were. I didn't see the response, keeping my eyes strictly on the target.

Below, Rhett was making a showing of being the Alpha Male, looking big and intimidating from the top of the van he was perched on. The hoard of cats started to slowly back away from Luna. Jeez that's a lot of cats.

"So what do we-" Mars began. I just silenced her with a hand.

"Wait for it," I replied.

Below, Rhett bounded off the van as the other felines began to disperse. I had to practically lean half way over the retaining wall to check on Luna. She was doing her best to hold still.

"Wait for it..." I commented again, more to myself than to her.

Rhett was now close enough to Luna that I couldn't really tell them apart too well. All I was waiting for was-

'Pop!'

Even from twelve stories up, I knew the sound of Luna's transformation at this point as she jumped Rhett, scooping him up with ease.

"Go!" I snapped.

Rei turned again and waved a second time. Out of the corners of my vision, I spotted Moon and Mercury jump off the nearby rooftop, landing on the van Rhett had occupied. Even from here, I could tell Usagi had botched it slightly on her landing from the loud bang of aluminum and a sharp complaint from her.

I guess even if she was more impressive than people thought. She couldn't get it perfect all the time. I wonder how much she tears up on a regular basis. Five bucks says insurance companies hate her.

The remains of the mob of cats scattered at the sound, and the girls quickly rushed over to Luna. As they did so my eyes drifted up to scan the buildings nearby. Any time now…

"Check your fields," I commented quietly. "See anyone?"

There was a brief pause.

"No one," Mars returned at last.

"Keep your eyes open," I continued. "If anything's going to go wrong, now's the perfect time."

We stood there in silence as I kept my weapon trained below us. In retrospect, I should have chosen a slightly lower building as my perch. Now that I think about it, when sniping, you don't want the highest perch. It's the most obvious perch. It's the first place I'd look if I were looking for a sniper. But it wasn't the only issue. I was practically looking straight down, which was not the best shooting angle if I had to fire.

"Senbei's moving," Mars commented quietly.

"Where?" I asked.

"I think he teleported," she replied. "He just jumped to another building."

I let my eyes drift up and scanned. Nothing but rooftops and clouds as far as I could tell see. Oh wait, some street lamps are on now. Meh…

"He jumped back," the fire senshi suddenly commented. "I wonder what that was about."

"So do I," I replied. Eyes back on the killzone. "But don't drop your guard."

"Right," Mars nodded as she stepped up to the retaining wall. "I wish they're hurry up though. What's taking Dumpling Head so long?"

I tried to shrug the best I could around my weapon. But she asked a pertinent question. What WAS taking Moon so long? It can't take that long to extract a crystal and preemptively purify a critter, can it? How long does a Moon Healing Escalation actually take anyway? First time around I didn't exactly get to see anyone in action for real save Mars.

Another few seconds of silence and my frown deepened as I glanced down at the group below.

Something's not right… That much was obvious. I'm fully prepared for things to go wrong. But at the same time, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm thinking should go wrong. Anything outside of that is… well, bad.

"Something's wrong," I leaned back from firing position and turned to Mars. "I don't think this should take this long. And no enemy… You sure you don't feel anyone other than Senbei?"

"I can't tell you," she frowned and shook her head. "Maybe you're wrong about that whole coincidental thing."

"I hope so," I muttered, turning back to the retaining wall and glancing at the other nearby buildings. It's too quiet. "Then again, when I'm right, it's bad, and when I'm wrong, its worse. So at the same time, I'd rather be-"

"HEY!"

If I hadn't had the presence of mind to keep my finger out of the trigger well as I had been trained, I'd have blown a hole right through Sailor Moon's midsection as she landed on the retaining wall right in front of me with a snap.

"JESUS FUCKING-" I began in English at a shout, but cut myself off. "Don't EVER do that! I almost blew your head off!"

Moon flinched at the reprimand as I snarled. But before I could continue my tirade, Mars cut in.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "What'd you screw up this time?"

"Hey!" the incognito princess replied. "It's not my fault!"

"What's not your fault?" Mars accused.

"Well," she began; shrinking slightly as her friend bristled. "We kind of ran into a slight snag…"

Snag?

"Out with it," I sighed. "What's the problem?"

"Well," Moon continued. "I know we're supposed to get that crystal out of the cat. But…"

"But what?" Mars asked in irritation.

"Well," Moon continued. "There's a slight problem with that."

"Like?" I asked.

"Well," Moon shrunk again. "I, kinda, sorta, don't know how."

"You don't know how," I began after a second. Moon nodded.

"To extract the crystal?" I continued. Moon continued to nod.

"Mercury doesn't know?"

Another nod.

"Luna doesn't know?"

More nodding.

"Okay," I stated. "Okay. So you mean to tell me that you girls have been trying all this time to get ahead of the Dark Kingdom in the crystal gathering game, but..."

I paused and looked at Mars, shaking my head.

"But you don't even know how to get the crystals once you have the victim?"

Sailor Moon hung her head, trying to hide her eyes from my glare while she pressed her index fingers together.

"No," I shook my head. "No, I mean, that's just… How do you not know something that basic?"

"But-" Moon began. "How am I supposed to know what to do?"

"All your other abilities came pretty much pre-programmed," I replied. "All your attacks, all your skills. You just 'knew' them."

"But," she replied. "I don't know this one… Why?"

Mars just sighed next to me and placed her hand on her face.

"Sometimes…" she grumbled in exasperation.

I turned my glance at her.

"I don't think you know either," I commented.

Mars shook her head.

"You don't happen to know do you?" she asked.

"'Fraid not," I shook my head.

"You don't?" Moon asked.

"No!" I snapped back. "Of course I don't! On my DVDs you girls never once got there first to try it! I can only tell you what I've SEEN."

"So what should I do?" Moon asked.

"I don't know!" I turned and paced in a circle. "Stop and think about what works. Try zapping him with your healing rays, see if it does anything! Start using your head for something besides holding that tiara."

"But what if that hurts him?" Moon almost whimpered.

UGH…

I turned, letting my irritation evaporate as I fixed her with an emotionally dead face.

"It's a magical healing ray," I stated deadpan. "Somehow I don't think it'll hurt him."

"But-" she began.

"Go," I snapped. "Hurry up."

"But-," she continued again.

"NOW!" I thundered, inflecting my 'drill' tone. I don't have time for this.

To her credit, Sailor Moon is extremely quick when she's motivated. And considering the fact that I'm an adult using my most intimidating voice, and she's just a child. Well, suffice to say you could have mistaken me for her father for a second. At least, the way she spun with a slight panicked look on her face and quickly bounded back to the ground below.

"She will learn…" I commented to myself once she was out of sight.

Mars snorted and shook her head.

"Don't scoff at her," I turned. "She's smarter than anyone gives her credit for."

"HER?" the fire senshi asked. "You're kidding."

"I'm not," I replied. "She might not be a walking book report like Mercury, but she's not a moron."

"I," Mars stuttered. "I don't mean it like THAT. But she's not exactly… what I'm trying to say…"

"That she's naïve and childish," I filled in. "Like a kid. But then again, you guys are what, fourteen? "

Mars opened her mouth to speak, but before the fire senshi could so much as utter a syllable, there was a shout from below. Kicking myself for being distracted by the conversation, I turned and readied Mossy.

"What's going on?" Mars quickly bent over the retaining wall to look down.

I scanned, looking for Kunzite but didn't find anyone who shouldn't be there. Below seemed to be in chaos though. I was really starting to regret my choice of spots. Being so far up made it hard to tell, but it looked like the girls below were running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

"I can't tell from here," I complained as the senshi grabbed up my binoculars. "I don't see any dark genera-"

I stopped when I noticed something dark and blue-gray zip away from the three ladies below. Only thing I know of that could match that was-

"No no no NO NO NO!" I began as uselessly at the ground below as someone watching their favorite team screw up a play during the Superbowl. "Don't let him get away! Catch him! CATCH HIM!"

Cohesion on the ground below continued to dwindle until finally, despite being a rather poor specimen for a feline, the gray blob that was Rhett managed to slip right between Sailor Moon's legs and bolt into the open space of the parking lot.

"FUCK!" I swore. "He's getting away!"

Just for a second, I was tempted to take a shot at him, even to scare him. But then the other part of my mind, that responsible part, reminded me that weapons are for killing. And I don't want to kill some little girl's pet. Now matter how ugly.

After all, that would make her cry.

"Don't just stand there!" I turned to Mars, who was still staring at the situation through my binos. "After him!"

"Wha- Right!" she snapped, slapping my optics on the retainer wall and hauling herself up to a jumping position.

"Don't lose sight of him," I added in afterthought. "If he gets away, it's over."

Mars hesitated as she looked down at me, then nodded and jumped clear. I might have overstated the drama a bit, but then again. If Rhett gets away, I'll have exhausted all my 'strategically useful' knowledge of the first season. Rhett was the last of the group who we knew for certain was going to attract the enemy. Outside of that, I might was well take my chances winning the lottery. Of course, the coincidences might still work, but that doesn't mean jack shit without the missing plot crystal.

Cornering and taking out Kunzite was just to buy time...

Glancing down to the lot below, I was at least partially relieved to see that Mercury and Moon were already starting to give chase. Perfect, this is exactly what I didn't want. Situation gone wrong number one. I expected it but...

If they could only catch up with Rhett quickly enough to try again before Kunzite inevitably showed up. In a situation like this the perfect time for him to get the jump on them would be in the chaos of chasi-

In that instant everything became crystal clear.

Fuck...

FUCK!

I spun from the retaining wall, suddenly despising my choice of perches as I trotted quickly to the door of the roof access. Of COURSE! From the perspective of someone watching or reading, the moment Kunzite would choose to attack would be at the moment everyone got split up. As one could say, it doesn't rain, it pours. And things always like to get worse before they get better.

"Dammit," I swore again. "Please be wrong... Please be wrong."

Checking the door to the roof access, I quickly discovered it was locked.

God dammit... I'm getting more right by the second. I don't WANT to be right. Being right is very bad right now.

Pounding the door with my fist once, I frowned as I remembered my suit. Now, doors are not so easy to break down as in the movies. But the strength of eight or sixteen of me?

On second thought, after the lesson I learned with my fist, busting down doors, while possible, might not be good for whichever body part I decide to use. Even if I am wearing a glove this time. I don't want to test which is more durable.

I just HAD to go and choose a spot that left me stranded... Just like that, I was left alone while crazy shit was no doubt about to go down. It's amazing how fast it can happen.

I practically danced in place trying to think. Man, I hate pressure. Come on idiot, use your head, you've got a shotgun. USE IT.

Looking down at mossy, I smirked and gave the action a pump, ejecting the WAY overkill backlash round and scooping it up while chambering a yellow jacket. I'd seen this done... A military exercise using an entry shotgun technique. Just line the weapon up with the hinges, and blow them off. Actually, it was Gunny's show if I remember correctly. Not the best source of info for me, but at least it wasn't a movie.

Placing the barrel against the middle of the door, I grit my teeth. I really hope nobody is dumb enough to be randomly standing on the other side of this. I have no idea how far the jacket rounds will over penetrate something like this.

'BAM!'

I cringed at the sound of the report and paused. No blood curdling screams of agony... But I'm sure SOMEBODY knew I was up here now... The spot where I'd blasted the hinge was all but gone. Pumping the action again, I quickly lined up with the top hinge.

'BAM!'

It disintegrated without incident.

My confidence in this action began to rise as I pumped my weapon again and crouched down for the bottom hinge. You know... This was kind of easy.

'BAM!'

The lower hinge blew out, and the whole door swung inwards before it fell right out of its frame, off its latch.

Ignoring the final bang of the door, I quickly moved into the building, stopping only to re-chamber my backlash and fish some more yellows to stock my tube. Don't want to get caught with a half-empty tube like I did with the Numbers now do I?

As I did that, a glance at the 'watch' on my left hand reminded me blatantly about one other feature of my suit I'd momentarily forgotten about. I had a portal that could cut through ANYTHING. And I just wasted three rounds to blow a door open. That was enough to make me growl in irritation.

But I don't really have time to kick myself for misallocating my resources at the moment.

Fresh rounds in the tube, I made a quick dash to the end of the hall to find the emergency stairs. As I did so, I could hear someone else coming over from a nearby room, probably to find out what the loud bangs were. Almost as an afterthought, I quickly reached up and smacked the facemask of my helmet down into place. The last thing I need is some random guy to get a good look at my face when I'm running around with a fucking SHOTGUN.

When the guy, it was a guy, finally saw me. The results were predictable. He seemed a bit surprised to find an armed guy and a little undecided on what to do. In short, he froze up.

"Stairs," I asked curtly. I was kind of in a hurry. The guy quickly pointed me in the direction I was already going.

"Thanks," I nodded and moved on, leaving him to gawk.

The emergency stairs weren't too much of a problem. Twelve flights of stairs to the ground, and I was out in the parking lot.

And I swore, heartily.

In my rush to get to the ground, I'd completely lost track of everyone. Which way did they go? WHICH WAY DID THEY GO?

God dammit! This is getting worse by the second.

The only thing that made me put that thought on hold was the distinct sound of something traveling through the air at high speed when Jupiter landed a dozen feet away.

"There you are!" she snapped. "I was going to grab you but you'd already vanished. Need a lift?"

"Yeah," I replied. "And step on it! I think I know what's about to happen."

The lightning senshi nodded and scooped me up almost effortlessly. Like before, the shock of acceleration was damn near painful as she immediately bounded to the roof of a two-story building.

"I'm not getting any less fragile!" I grunted after the landing.

"Make up your mind," she snapped and made another bound.

"Gah! Just watch the Gs! I'm not superpowered."

I need to find a better method of getting around. The Jupiter Jump Drive is going to kill me.

"So what's about to happen?" she continued after another bound.

"Kunzite's going to attack right now," I replied.

"How do you know?" she asked.

"It's the setup," I replied. "This is the best time to do it. Trust me. If he's ever going to attack, it'll be right now."

"I got it," she replied. "There's Luna, I'll let you off here."

"On the GROUND," I snapped hastily. "I just wasted three rounds for no good reason."

"Got it!"

We hit the ground with another painful thud, leaving me to cringe at the bruises that were no doubt forming all over my body at this point.

"They're over there," Luna commented quickly when she saw me stagger out of Jupiter's arms.

"What happened?" I asked.

"She tried to heal him," the Felis Sapien replied. "He panicked, and I couldn't hold on to him."

"We've got bigger problems," I snapped.

"Like what?" she asked.

Like a cue from Murphy Himself, there was a deep, echoing chuckle that seemed to come from everywhere at once. There was a distortion in the air ahead and above.

"That!" I hissed, grabbing her and Jupiter and pulling them back and around the corner. From the brief glimpse I caught as I did so, I noticed nothing but cape. The guy wasn't facing us.

"What are you-" Jupiter began, but I just stuck my finger in front of my mouth.

"So nice of you to do my work FOR me Sailor Moon," his voice boomed from around the corner. "Pity I don't have time to play games with you today."

I blinked. I seriously stopped to blink. When did his voice go from girly man to demon overlor-?

MOTHER FUCKER!

He's projecting! The little shit's magically enhancing his voice to be more intimidating.

Which is actually, pretty fucking brilliant… I'm going to have to steal that one.

Somehow...

Around the corner, Moon's voice came back with her typical righteous fare a moment later. In comparison to that magically boosted vocal, it sounded rather weak. I know, I'll learn how to do that omnivoice projection, then teach to her. Heheh...

But first things first.

Maybe I can tag Kunzite from behind with a round while she keeps him occupied.

"I don't have time for this!" his voice boomed again. "So die and be done with it!"

Nix that...

There was a thump, followed by the sound of something made of glass shattering, and panicked yelping sounds. In that instant I reassessed the situation. Kunzite was definitely in a hurry today if he was skipping the typical villain discourse.

"He's attacking!" Jupiter hissed. "We have to fight b-"

"Shutup and pay attention," I stated, earning yet another in a never-ending series of glares. "You can't just rush him, or he'll swat you down like a mosquito. Luna."

"Yes?" The catgirl asked.

"Get to Mercury, tell her to start using her bubble attack until the fog's so thick you could cut it with a knife. Jupiter, get to Mars. Tell her I said to provide covering fire. LOTS of covering fire. She'll know what I mean. After that, just follow her example."

"What about you?" Luna asked.

"I need a good shot." I held up my weapon. "But I have to be careful I don't earn a wall shattering force blast or something. I can't dodge it, so try and keep him looking UP."

"Okay," Luna nodded, and during another series of thumps and cracks, returned to her feline form with a pop and took off at a dead sprint. Jupiter took off at the same time in a power jump right onto the rooftop above us.

Time to take the fucker out.

I checked around the corner again, looking for my enemy. Kunzite had moved to the attack and was scattering the Senshi in an attempt to get at Rhett. The cat seemed to be on the ground convulsing like some five-year-old having an epileptic seizure.

He probably started zapping the cat in an attempt to retrieve the crystal. If he's going to go for the crystal, then he'll have to come down to get it. That'll be when I take my shot.

"BE GONE!" he boomed again. There was another thump in the air, followed by a louder crack, enough to pop my ears.

Okay, he's playing for keeps. I might have to stick my neck out a bit and give him something to be afraid of.

Just take a shot at him from behind like Zoicite...

...

Only without forgetting the safety...

...

Come on now.

...

They could use the hand.

...

God DAMMIT! Stop standing here being a bundle nerves and ENGAGE!

While I stood there trying to fight with the fact that my brain was saying go and my body wasn't going, I could hear the noise around the corner intensifying as Kunzite made another attempt to 'dark force blast' the girls. There was some whining from Usagi about not being fair, to which the general replied with an angry tone.

"Quit complaining."

Now I wish I knew why my body was refusing to move when I was more than willing to flank and blast Zoicite's fucking head off. Am I really that scared of Kunzite? Or am I just over thinking this whole thing?

"Fire Soul!"

Finally, someone's on the attack.

"USELESS!" Kunzite roared.

There was a pause; I could hear something that sounded like Usagi's voice.

"It didn't work?"

Not if he used a shield.

"Looks like it worked to me," I heard Mars' voice comment haughtily.

"What?"

"I'll explain," I heard her declare. Then she suddenly shouted. "Its called covering fire!"

"Covering wha-"

"FIRE SOUL!"

I dared to peak from behind my cover, just in time to see the first blast of what looked like a cross between a flame thrower and napalm zipping through the air at Kunzite. The general, of course, threw a full shield up on the spot.

"What are you trying to-"

"FIRE SOUL!"

He kept the shield up as the attack repeated almost instantly. And again, the general remained completely unharmed but seemed to hesitate lowering his shield to attack.

"He can either defend or attack," Mercury's voice suddenly jumped in, sounding excited. "Not both at once!"

Now you girls are thinking. Come on, get'im! Toast him!

"SUPREME THUNDER!"

There was a crack, like an exploding transformer. Kunzite stepped back. It wasn't the most impressive 'lightning bolt' I'd ever seen. Looked more like one of those bolts off a Tesla Coil really. Jupiter was standing on a rooftop directly across from me, having moved to try and flank the general. The concept of a killzone must have struck her as a good idea.

More fire souls, and more supreme thunders continued to rain down, forcing the General to turn so as to face them evenly.

"Just what do you hope to accomplish with these childish antics?" he asked.

He did have a point. Unless we put more firepower to him than he could handle, he'd probably just soak up those attacks until the girls got exhausted. And if his 'absorb energy' trick worked outside his evil dome as well as it did inside, he'd fricassee them with the total energy they unleashed in a flash.

I started to creep forward. About time... I guess I just needed a little reassurance that I wasn't the only one with my head in the Game.

The barrage repeated again, further irritating the general as he backed up.

"Fine," he snapped. "I'M GAME!"

Kunzite threw his arms wide, and the next thing I knew, his shield expanded outwards like a shockwave. I had just enough time to suck in a breath before the semi-transparent dark whatever-it-was slammed into me.

Unlike the hit I'd taken from Zoicite, I actually felt this one. In an instant, it felt like I'd been hit with a bucket of freezing cold water combined with the prickly sensation of my foot being asleep and sprinkled with the thump of slamming face first into a swimming pool.

God damned Omni-directional forcefield blast trick! Add that one to the list of crazy stunts he can pull off. It was enough to cause me to stumble back, but since the main force of the blast was directed forward, It didn't really hurt.

So that's what a dark force blast feels like.

The girls weren't so fortunate, the windows around them having been shattered into a hail of glass fragments by the force. No doubt they'd been hit with the concussive force of a small bomb with environmental effects like that.

"Now you see what happens when you get in my way," he continued with his booming projection voice as he floated to the ground near Rhett.

Okay... Time to do this. He's making it easy. And with Senbei out there somewhere fogging up the area with his 'presence,' he won't feel me approach.

I gathered myself up and stalked forward, weapon coming up as I did my best to creep quietly up behind him. Safety confirmed off... Glanced and check. Round? Backlash. Brace for the shot like Washu taught you.

I anchored my back foot and leaned into my weapon. My suit's been on two X for the last five or ten minutes now.

Standard shooting procedure.

Sight picture, aim, target, breathing...

I went through the mental checklist in an instant; not really needing to do it seriously considering the range I was at... I'd have to be in a coma to miss.

It was almost too easy.

Trigger squeeze...

The alleyway or whatever this was lit up with the first thunderous report of a Backlash round being used in anger as I completely blindsided Kunzite in the back. My brain practically took a snapshot of the moment.

Despite my having total surprise, he actually still had an omni-directional shield up. He really must have been paranoid from this morning. It held, but only just. The energy transfer of the small armor piercing round actually caused him to stumble; the shield itself spontaneously sprouted a spider web of fracture lines around the impact point. Interestingly enough, while the shield itself looked like a bubble tinted glass suspended in empty space, the fracture lines themselves were white. Not, bright white, but like glow-stick level.

Kunzite managed to stagger around, his face crossed with a genuine expression of total shock as he turned to face his new assailant.

I can only imagine what he saw when our eyes met. Because his expression didn't change for several seconds. No fear, no anger, no indignation, just total shock. I was only a dozen feet away, weapon still at the ready. I probably looked like I meant business.

I guess he'd never experienced a true ambush before. At least, Not one that would have straight up taken him out if he hadn't already had his shield up.

I pumped Mossy.

Kunzite took a step back.

Actually, took, a step, BACK.

Mossy barked. A flash of light from the muzzle punctuated by another loud report, forcing the dark general to stumble back again. The Yellowjacket round wasn't as powerful as the Backlash, but it still increased the fracture level of his defense barrier.

Maybe, just maybe…

I pumped again, and fired. That's three away, three to go. The fracturing increased.

Another pump, another report…

Progress…

Wash, rinse, and repeat. I advanced behind another shot, intending to get closer so as to put more kinetic energy into the hit. I could see the girls collecting themselves and watching as I slowly ate at his shield.

I pumped again and fired, last round.

I was hoping against all hope the shot would breach the shield so I could try to club the ever-loving shit out of him. And it seriously looked like that might have done it. But despite being heavily fractured, it held. If only I had loaded a few more backlashes into the tube. I'm sure that would have done it easily

There were a few seconds of silence as I continued to stare down the end of my barrel.

Now what?

In front of me, the fractures stopped spreading and slowly began to fade away as the stress on the shield subsided. Kunzite blinked for a few seconds as I just continued to stand there. Suddenly I realized that I hadn't quite thought this attack through in case it didn't work.

That might be a problem.

Kunzite narrowed his eyes in a glare. Uh oh…

His hand came up, the transparency of his shield increasing. Out of a lack of any other ideas, I pumped Mossy. Kunzite visibly flinched and ducked back, expecting another report. That was all I needed to spin on the ball of my foot and run.

"Why you-" I heard from behind me. "DI-"

"FIRE SOUL!"

A flash of heat behind me.

"SUPREME THUNDER!"

A crack of noise, and the sensation of all the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

I heard the general swear as the Senshi tried their best to jump him. It's nice to know they're watching my back here. Really it is.

"SHABON SPRAY!"

The temperature dropped perceptibly as I reached the corner of the building, and visibility dropped almost instantly to mere feet. Damn that really IS a fog of war. And it took her long enough.

Pressing against the wall, I fished all my Backlashes off the stock and rammed them into the tube. If I remembered correctly, the Senshi could somehow see through Mercury's fog, while enemies couldn't.

Of course, neither could I, but that's probably just because they're magic, and I'm not.

Kunzite was swearing somewhere around the corner as I heard more attacks hit the area. Good timing on Mercury's part. If she had done that early, I wouldn't have been able to try that. It failed, but I learned something from it. Kunzite's shield wasn't as powerful as I thought. That, which can be stressed, can be broken. And I almost managed it. Without the shield, he's just as easy to kill as anyone else is.

Of course, easy is relative.

The Senshi's attacks were barely making a scratch though. And I think I knew why. Mercury's attack all but didn't qualify as an attack. Mars' attack was more like a glorified magical flame-thrower, and Jupiter's lightning was barely a spark.

To get through that shield was going to take military level direct force... Concentrated force.

Idea!

I pumped Mossy, chambering a round, turned, and peeked into the fog. Their attacks didn't lack lethal power, that much I knew. But the power was too widely dispersed. I didn't have much more destructive force with a shotgun filled with glorified ammo and got better results than the entire stream of attacks Mars launched that could bake a man alive.

It's not how much power we have, it's how much power we can deliver to as small a point as we can, in as short a time as we can. Overwhelm a single point, and break through before the shielding can compensate.

Something small and black came dashing through the fog, and I flinched, but managed not to instantly kill her when I realized it was just Luna.

"Okay!" she stated in a huff as I yanked my barrel to the side. "That was close. You okay?"

"I'm good," I replied to the feline. "Cut it a little close with that stunt, but I've got an idea."

"I hope it's a good one," she replied, glancing into the fog as if she could see just fine. "He's really pissed off now."

"I have to get to Mars," I replied. "Where is she? I can't see in this fog."

"She's on the roof to the left," Luna nodded in silent understanding of my situation. "Why hasn't he run yet? Usually they retreat as soon as things start screwing up for them..."

"He probably doesn't have the crystal yet," I replied. "I doubt he'll leave without it this time so long as he can fight. Did he finish extracting it?"

"I'm not sure," Luna stated. "Rhett's over there, and he doesn't look so good. I think we interrupted Kunzite before he could finish."

"New plan then," I stated. "Get to the girls, tell them to draw Kunzite away from here. I'll check Rhett."

"Got it," Luna snapped, and bolted back into the fog.

I moved out on her tail, even as I heard another utterance of Mercury's fog attack, which redoubled the intensity of their fog of war. It was so thick that just walking could be a hazard. All I had to do was wander out into the street in this, and I'd be hit by a truck before I knew it was coming. At the very least, it meant Kunzite couldn't see me either. Which was good.

The direction of the Senshi's attacks shifted as I crept forward, listening where I couldn't see. Things seemed to be coming from the right now, muffled by the building I had seen there before the fog had obscured it. I think that was a street on the other side. Though it's easy to get turned around in here.

Luckily, the space was small enough that I didn't have to flail about blindly in the fog for very long before I found Rhett, partly by the horrid sound the feline was making.

Now that I was close enough to get a look at him, well... Yeesh. Rhett was a rather fat looking Maine Coon. At least, I think it was Maine Coon, it's the only breed I recognize. And the guy was huge, and a mess.

"Alright buddy," I commented quietly as I walked up. "You still with us?"

To his credit, the fat cat convulsed violently like a kitten thrashing at a toy in response to my question, indicating that he either understood what I was saying (which is freaky, but I'm learning to ignore that), or was reacting to my voice.

"Easy..." I continued. "I'm not here to hurt you."

I checked around on the ground for the crystal. If Kunzite zapped it out already, it would be nearby.

My search turned up nothing however, which meant that it was still inside Rhett's body. How am I supposed to get that thing out? At the very least, I'd need to get the cat clear of the battlefield.

Dropping to a knee to try and lift Rhett up, I was almost surprised by the feeling of something small and sharp jabbing into my shin. I rolled back to remove the offending rock, when I noticed what it really was.

"This is either pure luck, or more fucking coincidences," I growled, reaching down to pick the object up. There was no mistaking it. About the size of a marker, made of smooth crystal. It was the Star Crystal Nephrite had crafted. The one Zoicite backstabbed him over in order to start hunting down the crystals.

Kunzite probably dropped it when I shot him. But what was really important was that it was the thing that extracted the rainbow crystals from their carriers.

The question was: How did it work?

I swung Mossy over my left shoulder and examined it carefully. Either it just reacted to the carriers and zapped them, or you had to give it a magical start command. Given the way things looked from the show, the latter was probably true.

If only I could zap out the crystal myself. Then I could destroy the star Crystal and be done with that sub-plot.

As if in response to my thoughts, I noticed the crystal start to glow, like a small yellow glow stick. Was it..?

SCORE!

"Hold tight," I turned to Rhett, "This is probably going to hurt a bit."

I turned to aim the crystal at the kitty; the glow becoming brighter in my hand before it began to emit an odd hum. Rhett thrashed more than ever as the crystal worked its magic... Literally.

"Just a bit more buddy," I continued, sympathizing with the critter's pain.

As I watched, the beam from the crystal slowly pushed back the cat's flesh as if separating it with ease. No wonder everyone looked like they were in agony. I swear it must be brute forcing the issue.

"Just a few more seconds," I continued gently as I noticed something shiny emerge amidst what looked like a magically contained open-heart surgery. A moment later, the Rainbow Crystal emerged from the animal's body, looking as if it had never been encased in flesh and gently floated into the air.

"Done," I commented, dropping the Star Crystal and reaching for the more important one.

That's about the moment I heard the whistling sound, about a half a second before something bright red smacked across the back of my hand. There was a cracking sound in the ground next to me at almost the same time.

"Whoa!" I snapped my hand back. It was just a glancing blow, but it felt like my hand had been struck with a hammer. Luckily, I had Jail's glove to prevent anything more serious than that.

The ground next to me had a rose embedded in it. Realizing what that meant, I quickly pushed to my feet and turned to find Tuxedo Kamen already jumping off the roof.

"I'll be taking that crystal if you don't mind," he snapped as he landed and reached down to scoop it up.

Normally, his foes would be all kinds of stunned after taking his armor piercing rose across their hands. Which allowed him to get away with grabbing things out from right at their feet. Unfortunately for him, armored gloves are real good at preventing just that kind of issue, and I'm not prone to being distracted by roses for ten seconds straight.

"Actually," I began, swinging Mossy up off my shoulder. I caught the weapon in my free hand and took a bayonet stance as he started to stand up. He WAS a good guy after all; I can't just shoot him. But he really needs to learn to be a team player.

I stepped in, planting my foot firmly around behind his, and pushed the weapon into his chest quickly, and forcibly. Unprepared for such a quick counter, Mask tripped on my hooked foot and fell flat on his ass.

"I do mind," I finished in a warning tone. "Nice of you to finally show up. What kept you, Chiba?"

He froze, looking up at me as I stood there.

"Wha-" he began. "How do you? Who are you?"

"Later," I shook my head. "Right now, we need to help the girls, and your armor piercing roses would be really useful."

"Why should I do that?" he asked. "I don't know you. Tell me who you are."

"I'm just well informed," I replied. "Look, we're all on the same side here."

"Prove it," he snapped.

"I'd love to," I shrugged. "By killing a mutual enemy, Kunzite."

"Listen," he started pushing himself to his feet. "I don't know who you are, or who you THINK you are. But I'm just here for the crystal. That's all."

"So is everyone else," I shook my head. "Cry me a river, and take five minutes out of your day to help me take out Kunzite. Then our lives will get easier."

"Sorry," he turned to leave. "But I have my own things to do."

I rolled my eyes. Chiba was a bit of a stick in the mud in the show.

"If you're looking for your princess," I sighed, waving in the direction of the fight. "She's over there getting shot at by the guy I'd really like to neutralize."

Tuxedo Kamen turned around to face me again.

"What?" he asked.

"Sailor Moon," I sighed. "You don't think you compulsively save her constantly because you're OCD do you?"

"What?" he asked again.

"Oh for the love of-" I began. "Do I have to spell it out for you 'Endymion'? Sailor Moon, Princess. Princess, Sailor Moon. I could go into detail, but this is kind of the middle of a fight."

Tuxedo Kamen fully turned and walked up to me, getting in my face.

"Who, are you?" he asked again, this time more assertively. "How do you know so much?"

"If you stick around," I continued. "You'll find out. But like I said, this is a battle. I'd LOVE to talk, but there are four girls and a cat trying to fight a guy capable of lobbing around attacks that can smash small buildings."

I turned towards the direction of the road where the fight was continuing, to which Kamen grabbed my by the shoulder.

"And she IS the princess?" he asked, stopping me. "You're certain?"

"The same one you dream about," I replied.

He blinked. Yes Chiba, I am very well informed. Really well fucking informed. So take the bait and-

"YEEK!"

My head spun as Sailor Moon herself came sprinting around the corner, just avoiding a blast Kunzite had thrown. I then realized that Mercury's fog had lifted considerably since I had started. A few random fireballs and static bolts lanced into sight before Kunzite himself backed into view, firing blasts rapidly.

"I WILL get that Crystal," he boomed in that intimidating projection voice. "Then I'm going to finish you off once and for all!"

As his eyes came up to notice Tuxedo Kamen and myself standing over Rhett, Kamen with the rainbow crystal plainly visible in his hand. My mind quickly went 'oh shit' over the fact that the concealment had dissipated, and that we were wide open in a narrow space.

"Moon DOWN!" I snapped, reacting the best way I could. Offense is the best defense. Mossy came up, my stance locking up as I took aim right through her to Kunzite beyond. Even though it was only for an instant. I saw her eyes dilate at the sight of the barrel leveling on her. Her expression was almost priceless the way she grit her teeth as if silently shouting 'OH SHIT!'

As she dove aside, my finger slipped into the trigger well. Suppressive fire... I shoot first, he can't shoot back. Then we can-

"MREOW!"

My finger yanked back out of the trigger well as Luna emerged from a shadow and dove at Kunzite. He spun to react to the feline, intending to swat her down. When with a pop, she was in her human form, slamming into him and causing the dark general to stumble back.

What's she doing?

Stupid kitty! She doesn't seriously think she can match him with just a day's martial arts training does she?

Kunzite struggled with her as she did her best to beat on him and knock him down. Unfortunately, with human form, comes human size, and it's easier to get a grip on something that's not the size of a shoebox. The dark general brought his elbow in and checked her in the face, causing her to stumble, then hit her with a hasty blast at point blank range, which drove her into the wall.

"That HURT!" he snarled. And then did something I didn't expect. He took a step forward and drove his foot into her stomach in a vicious kick. Luna screamed in pain and balled up.

...

He didn't...

The fucking asshole didn't...

The fucker just kicked Luna while she was down. Not just to beat her, maybe kill her. But to cause her pain!

Suddenly, all my tension, all my stress, all the fear... It was suddenly so trivial.

There was no reason to fear Kunzite, no matter how tough he might be.

Because I was going to kill him.

Right here.

Right now.

"SENBEI!"

My voice echoed in the alley, Kunzite's eyes shot up as I raised my weapon. There was a pop of air near my head, and something was spoken, but I didn't register what it was.

"HIT HIM," I ordered.

"NOW!"