"There's no going back. You've changed things…forever."

- Heath Ledger's Joker, The Dark Knight


Concussion…

Four broken ribs…

Two fractured ribs…

Whiplash…

Potential Spinal Compression…

Minor Pulmonary Edema…

Torn Rotator Cuff…

That was the final list of injuries Washu rattled off in annoyance as Sailor Mercury carefully inspected the symptoms I'd been exhibiting. Half of them, I had noted, were the result of one single event. Getting bitchslapped by a fifteen hundred-pound monster... The others had been split up amongst a number of events during the course of the battle.

Turns out that the reason my neck had been bothering me during the fight was because of the power jumps. Or rather, the way the Senshi had been carrying me during those jumps. Predictably, having my body subjected to such numerous and sudden G-forces had not been good for it. The number of landings had repeatedly whipped my head backwards and forwards and really screwed it up. If I felt any tingling or numbness in my limbs or other extremities, I was to report it immediately and find a place to lie down.

Of course, thanks to the whiplash I'd received, the Senshi were now forbidden from taking me as a passenger on any more rides. Honestly? I'm not really going to complain. That shit HURT.

Spinal compression was also suspected. I had been repeatedly subjected to high-G accelerations, not too different from an ejection seat. However, chances of that were slim since I had been held perpendicular to the direction of force. Washu didn't want to take any chances though, so she decided that until she could give me a proper examination, we might as well say it happened.

My ribs? Well, Washu was impressed and shocked I'd received that kind of injury. It was one of the places her suit had been reinforced to withstand heavier impacts. Had I not been wearing it, the blow would have been instantly fatal. As it stood, the suit absorbed a tremendous amount of force when I was hit and was just not designed to handle the magnitude. Bakane had been literally shattering tree trunks. I'd managed to walk away with only some busted ribs, and some bruising to my lungs.

The bruising was the reason I'd been tasting copper. I really was coughing up blood. Luckily, the trauma was minor, and my nanomachine injection was doing its job.

Of course, none of those injuries held a candle to what could have happened… Well, aside from being dead. When Bakane struck me, I didn't just take a blow to the chest. The monster's hand was almost as big as my upper torso. I'd taken a blow to both the chest and my face at the same time. Had I not been wearing a helmet, the monster's claws would have literally ripped my face off.

The helmet had the marks to prove it. I didn't learn about it until we'd made it safely to Makoto's apartment. But the helmet had been cracked almost in half like a walnut. And the faceplate, as I'd noted, had a gouge in it right across the nose, with a hole where one claw punctured it. If I hadn't had that faceplate, chances are the claw would have ripped my nose off, and tore my eyes from their sockets. Washu's glasses or no….

My shoulder, while no real fault of my own, was still just the result of an error in judgment. Attempting a full throwing motion at four times the strength and speed the body was built for will quickly lead to all kinds of physical damage. I was actually kind of lucky, having no prior injury to that arm. So the damage was limited to just a small tear.

Overall, the Prognosis was good. If I was alert enough to feel the pain, chances are I would be fine.

Of course, that was assuming I didn't make anything worse. So she left me with some rather simple instructions:

DON'T.

DO.

JACK.

SHIT.

Bed rest would normally be what was prescribed in a case like mine. Several weeks of it in fact… I was so physically beat up that no doctor in their right mind would let me go anywhere in my condition. Of course, we all knew that was physically impossible to prevent. So I was to do as little of nothing as I could possibly manage.

And of course, Eat.

Washu made it clear.

Eat, eat, EAT…

After the beating I took, even with throttle back, the nanomachines were going to be powering through my bloodstream to heal my injuries. This meant they would be burning through a lot of my body fat and producing excess heat. So I was given a diet of any and all food I could possibly scarf down, lots of water, and strangely, Cranberry Juice. If I could get my hands on any…

If I didn't, I really did run the risk of starving to death, or becoming jaundice, or overheating. At which point there would be nothing Washu could do for me remotely short of breaking the 'rules'. And she made it quite clear that if she had to break the rules, I WOULD live to regret it.

Washu expected that due to the extent of my injuries, that it would probably take me two to three days to heal. The concussion was the only thing that might take longer. Due to the delicate nature of the human brain, the Nanomachines would not work as fast as they would with the simpler structures in my body.

The concussion also had her a touch worried. Having two injuries of that nature in such a short time span could cause problems for me later. And being unable to simply slap down some brain scans or give me any comprehensive psychological tests, she had to settle with the old fashioned method of checking. That being: staying awake for a few hours to see if anything abnormal occurs.

So she asked Mercury to monitor me for a while.

So there you have it. By doctor's orders, I have to do as little as physically possible without falling asleep, while trying to eat as much as possible.

Did I mention I still don't have an appetite?

"It still amazes that you managed to keep going in this condition," Luna frowned. "For a second I really thought you were dead. I never expected to see a regular human put up that kind of fight."

I was sitting in the Living room of Makoto's apartment, my suit partially stripped down to my waist. I'd been instructed to do so while Mercury was checking my ribs. The bruising I could see from a mirror, oh god it was ugly. Luna sat across from me in her humanoid form, dabbing my face with a cotton swab and some peroxide. The little burst of heat I'd felt through the hole in my mask had been more than just a little heat. A small patch of my face was pink with a first degree burn. Nothing really worth reporting to Washu, but enough to get a response from the other girls once I'd taken my helmet off.

It was kind of funny though. Aside from Luna and myself, everyone was still in a transformed state, right down to the miniskirts and tiaras despite the fact that we were safe from prying eyes. The reason of course, was because Tuxedo Kamen was standing in the room. He'd been broodingly quiet the whole time, but nobody wanted to be the one to blow their secret Identity. I might know everyone, but they don't yet know each other.

"After being stuck with me for a week," I began. "You didn't expect that?"

Luna blinked at me for a second.

"I don't mean it like that," she continued. "It's just, well. I hadn't actually seen you fight anyone. You just kind of weaseled your way around fights."

Luna dabbed the burn on my face, causing me to wince, which made me to shudder because of my ribs.

"And then out there," she continued. "During that battle this evening, I watched something change in you. One minute, you were just like you've always been. The next you were…"

Luna leaned back, brow furrowed in confusion.

"I don't know what to say," she continued. "You were… were…"

"Scary," Mars nodded from nearby. "I think that's the right thing to say."

"Scary," Luna nodded. "I wasn't expecting that."

Then she frowned again at me.

"But that was reckless," she chided. "I know you know better."

"Honestly," Jupiter piped in with some grit in her voice. She was sitting nearby in a chair while Mercury carefully triple checked a book she had, pressing my Crab Tooth into her ear. "I'm just happy you're on our side. When you attacked Kunzite, you didn't mess around. I thought you'd flipped out."

"Okay," Mercury commented suddenly. "Hold still Jupiter, this is going to hurt."

The Ice senshi reached down and carefully picked up Jupiter's deformed arm.

"Okay, but I doubt it'll hurt more than-"

CRACK!

"YEEEOOW… OW!"

"Sorry," Mercury whimpered.

"It's okay," Jupiter hissed from between her teeth.

"Okay," Mercury continued off into space. "I've almost got the break reset, what else was there?"

"Anyway," Jupiter continued. I could see her eyes watering through the way she'd set her jaw. "I thought you'd flipped out. And then when you opened fire and Kunzite started scrambling… Well, scary's one way to put it. But there was something else to it. I figured, if you can do it and actually make those pretty-boys run for their lives…"

"That's how a soldier fights," I sighed. "We don't stand around telling the enemy how evil they are. We kick down doors, blow shit up, and then go home."

Well, that's what soldiers are technically supposed to do. I was just SATCOMM… Satcomm's job was supposed to be sit in chairs and make sure all the people blowing shit up could talk about it to all the people telling them what shit to blow up from the other side of the planet. But I guess at this point it doesn't matter. We're all soldiers now. I'm a trans-dimensional soldier, and they're soldiers in miniskirts.

Strange how that sounds when you mean it…

I admit, it was kinda' cool seeing them in action as an actual working, coherent unit. However novice they were at it. Between the scary parts, just thinking about how shocked Kunzite looked when I explained to Mars exactly what I wanted her to do after she managed that high intensity attack the first time… That was almost worth the beating Bakane gave me. You don't get to see a normally smug high level bad guy look that completely out of place very often. Usually that kind of thing only happens right before he's defeated by the good guys… Usually shouting about how it should be impossible.

Kunzite was just straight up silent.

Poke.

"GAH!" I gasped.

"What-cha thinking about?" Luna asked. "You've got the biggest grin on your face…"

"Nothing much," I winced as the pain continued to throb. "Just thinking about how much ass the girls kicked today. Even if it ended a little sour..."

I turned as best as I could to the others and stuck my thumb up.

"That was awesome," I smirked. "Every last damn second of it."

"I take it I missed the best parts?" Luna asked.

"Mars the living artillery piece," I began on my fingers. "Jupiter unleashing some massive thunderbolts-"

Despite the pained look on her face, the latter managed to crack a grin.

"Mercury's fogs were a pain in the ass," I continued. "But they worked better than advertised."

Mercury stopped chatting with Washu for a second and looked at me.

"I'm sorry, did you need something?" She asked. I just ignored her and kept on going.

"And I think 'Lazy Bones' found what she was good at in a fight," I finished.

"Lazy Bones?" Tuxedo Kamen blurted out.

"It SPEAKS!" I turned again, trying to ignore my ribs. Unfortunately I was wracked by a copper flavored cough. I guess that wasn't quite under control yet. Pain followed and I regretted the move even more when Luna put a hand on my shoulder.

"You really need to slow down and take it easy," the catgirl reprimanded me. "You're horribly banged up."

"Yeah, yeah…" I grimaced.

"Why's he here anyway?" Mars indicated the masked prince. "Normally he just pops up, saves one of us, then takes off."

"If he wants to hang around, you'll hear no complaints from me!" Sailor Moon grinned. She was all but latched to Kamen's arm, looking like a kid who just found out she was going to the candy store.

"I was promised answers," Kamen replied. He didn't seem too inclined one way or the other to the Senshi that had claimed property rights to his arm. "So I'm just waiting on you."

Answers?

Answers… What answers did I-?

"Did I promise him some answers?" I turned to Luna. The felis sapien just looked at me confused before Kamen took a step forward.

"You better not be trying to back out of this." He began. "Because if you are I'm-"

"Whoa, whoa… CHILL!" I cut him off, raising my hands in a 'time out' signal. "Sheesh… I just finished getting the sense knocked out of me by a three-quarter ton ball of rip and tear. I've got a few screws loose, okay?"

Tuxedo Kamen relaxed a bit, but didn't show any signs of stepping back. What answer did I promise him? What was it? Dammit…

"Refresh my concussed memory," I instructed. "Which answers did I say I was going to give you?"

"You were rather vague," Kamen responded. "If it helps, you seemed to know what I've been dreaming about lately."

His dreams?

Dreams… Kamen was having those recurring dreams about-

Oh… OH!

"OH!" I exclaimed. "Yeah, yeah! There we go. I remember now. I was going to explain how I knew your secrets."

Kamen just continued to look at me expectantly. Sheesh, he really isn't in the best of moods is he?

"How can I explain this?" I leaned back into the couch. Oh, that felt good. I could almost pass out like this. "How…"

What did I tell him again? Oh, this concussion's played all kinds of havoc with the details. I had to, what? Keep him in the fight? And he'd only stay if…

Oh, that's right. I all but drew him a picture.

"Okay," I announced. "We'll do it like this."

I waited for everyone to be giving me their full attention, even Mercury. Then I stuck one finger in the air.

"Everyone who wants to know who the Moon Princess is, raise your hand."

Moon all but jumped at the invitation.

"Oh!" she stuck her hand in the air. "I want to know!"

"Wait!" Luna interjected. "I thought didn't want to tell anyone yet!"

"Wha-" Mars was next, looking between us a little confused. "I thought you said you didn't even know."

Newsflash…

"I lied."

"You…" the fire Senshi just blinked, looking hurt. Oh boy… "You lied to me? Wha- Why?"

"Because," Luna began. "He's just-"

"I got this," I interrupted the felis sapien. Luna just stopped and nodded.

"Look," I continued. "Let me ask you this. Do you know temporal mechanics?"

"Temporal…" Mars began.

"Do you?" I continued.

Mars just stood there, looking dumbfounded by the big words I'd just used. Technically I don't know temporal mechanics either, but you know? I don't care. I've got a better grasp on things than she does, and I'm not going to sit here while everyone gets emotional over stupid shit.

After a few seconds pause, Mars finally started to shake her head.

"Then you don't EVEN want to go there," I continued. "It gets confusing. Really, really fast."

"Are you talking about that whole bit where you don't want to mess up the timeline?" Jupiter asked.

"Yes," I nodded.

"So you were just trying not to cause too much damage," she continued. "Information we shouldn't know and such…"

"Yes," I nodded again.

"Okay," Jupiter shrugged. "That makes sense. It's a weird kind of sense, but it makes sense."

Mars just continued to look a touch hurt, but otherwise said nothing.

"So who is the Moon Princess?" Sailor Moon jumped in. Despite the loaded exchange, she was practically on the edge of her seat, if not oblivious.

"You are."

We all turned. Well, they turned; I tried to turn and failed painfully as they all cast a gaze to Mercury.

"Sailor Moon is the princess," she continued.

Silence…

"How did you-?" I began.

"It's obvious," she shrugged. "I noticed you've been talking to her a little differently than everyone else."

I blinked. I really did. I mean… That's all? That's all it took for her to figure it out? You've GOT to be kidding me. I didn't think I was treating her any more differently than the rest of the girls. Well, maybe I was exercising more patience to get past her naivete, but beyond that…

"Oh," she continued. "And there was the fact that you mentioned her using the crystal earlier. If it's hers, then she's the princess. Not to mention the box you were showing us. Makes sense that she's the princess if she's the lead character…"

She paused. Then furrowed her brow...

"And now that I think about it… She's the sailor senshi of the moon, and we're all representatives of planets. That's kind of odd. I'm surprised I didn't realize it sooner. It's like she was deliberately being hidden in plain sight."

Okay…

New rule: Ami is Sherlock Holmes.

"So," Sailor Moon's voice grabbed our attention. "I… I'm the princess?"

Eyes turned to me. No doubt they believed Mercury, but they wanted me to confirm it. After all, it was pretty much common knowledge that I knew everything at this point. Whatever I say goes. I wanted to nod, but any head motion at this point was brutally painful. So I just stuck my arm up and gave her a Thumbs Up.

"Cool…"

That was different. I was expecting her to spaz out the moment it clicked. Or maybe shout in excitement.

Instead, she just asked the most off the cuff question.

"So does that make Tuxedo Kamen my prince?"

This resulted in the silence continuing for several more seconds before it was broken by a chuckle of laughter. My eyes were drawn to Luna, who was steadily getting louder until she almost fell over in her mirth.

"Wh-What's so funny?" the princess asked.

"It's," the felis sapien began, but was interrupted by another series of giggles. "It's just, how you said that…"

Luna quickly turned to me, then started laughing again.

"Why am I laughing so hard?" she managed to gasp out. "It's not THAT funny…"

I would have shrugged if it didn't hurt, so I just opted with an 'I don't know,' instead. Luna was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes at this point. Turning as best as I could back to the inadvertent couple, a thought struck me.

"Maybe it's because you don't know how right you are," I stated.

That got a bunch of blank stares while Luna got herself under control.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I indicated Tuxedo Kamen with one hand. "Prince Endymion."

THAT got Sailor Moon to spaz.

"REALLY!" she all but shrieked. Both Kamen and I winced at the volume. Sheesh...

"Yes," I scrunched my face up. "He is. Chill out."

"What?" The masked prince looked around confused after he recovered from the noise. "Endy… What?"

"It makes more sense in context," I commented. "There's a whole bunch of reincarnation and memories from a past life involved. I'll just skip the long version and say that all the confusion you've been going through is a result of those past-life memories. You're Prince Endymion. She's princess Serenity. The mighty morphin' power Senshi over here are part of her royal court, and the whole situation we're stuck in is a result of a jealous bitch making a deal with an Eldritch Abomination just to get into your pants."

Blank stares...

"Plus a minor case of total genocide…" I added as an afterthought.

"That…" Luna began after a moment, and then paused. "That sums everything up surprisingly well. But I have one question."

"What?" I asked.

"What's an… Eldritch Abomination?"

I really need to explain my personal geek phrases before I use them more often.

"The best way I can describe Metallia," I remembered not to shrug just in time. "What better way to describe an amorphous spirit of hate and death?"

Luna nodded and sat back. She was obviously still confused, but wasn't going to inquire more.

"So that's the short version," I sighed. "What it all boils down to is that you're all on the same side. So you can go ahead and drop the transformation disguises."

The assembled Senshi glanced at each other briefly, looking unsure before Jupiter spoke up.

"After seeing what I've seen today," she began. "I'm inclined to trust what you say… But there's no way I'm just going to drop the only disguise I have on your say so."

There was a round of nods from the other Senshi save Moon.

"I agree," Kamen nodded. "I don't know who they are either. Even if we're on the same side…"

"Oh for fuck's sake," I muttered in English. "Chiba Mamouru, get with the program."

Moon froze.

"Sailor Mars is Hino Rei," I continued in irritation before anyone could cut in. "Kino Makoto's Sailor Jupiter, Muzino Ami for Mercury, and of course, everyone's favorite moon princess is also known as the lovable spaz, Tsukino Usagi."

Kamen froze this time.

"Aino Minako isn't here, or I'd introduce you to Sailor Venus, also known as Sailor V. Got it? Easy. Now everyone knows everyone. Of course, you knew each other in real life anyway. Questions? No. Good. NEXT ISSUE!"

"Sheesh, tell the whole world why don't you," Rei complained as she let her Senshi transformation drop. There was a slight hiss and a pop as she did so, and the familiar gray-brown uniform she'd been wearing to school earlier that day replaced the red and white Fuku she had.

"I don't exactly feel like trying to talk everybody into agreeing right now," I snapped back defensively. Almost a little too defensively... "You're all on the same side, and you already know each other. And I don't have time to sort out the drama. So can we skip it?"

"Wait!"

All eyes turned to Sailor Moon.

"You mean to tell me, that my Tuxedo Kamen is that meanie, Chiba Mamouru?" she asked.

"Meanie?" He scoffed. "That really is you, isn't it dumpling head?"

Oh boy…

"Yes, MEANIE," she snapped. "And stop calling me that. I never gave you permission to."

"I thought there was something familiar about the way you acted," he chuckled. "So you're supposed to be the moon princess? You sure don't act like it."

"If he says I'm the princess," Moon shot back. "Then I'm the princess. What about you? You're supposed to be the prince? YOU sure don't act like it."

"Hey," Tuxedo Kamen crossed his arms. "I've been pulling your butt out of the fire for the past six months. Doesn't that count for anything?"

God, it's like watching an internet debate go down in real life. They're just going at it with her getting all mad at comments that shouldn't even matter, and he's just pushing her buttons with ease. Almost like-

Like he's doing that on purpose?

SONUVA!

"Are you sure he's the prince?" Sailor Moon suddenly turned to me. "Maybe getting hit in the head messed up your memory? Because he can't be the prince... He's too much of a jerk to be a prince."

Oh… NOW it all makes sense. I don't fucking believe it…

Tuxedo Kamen cut in before I could open my mouth.

"If he says I'm the prince," he commented in a mocking tone. "Then I guess I must be the prince. Or maybe his memory is messed up from hitting his head, and you aren't the princess…"

"You take that back!"

Ugh… Mod's gotta' Mod.

"CHIBA!" I snapped. Note to self, drill tone and broken ribs do not mix.

Everyone paused while I fixed the masked prince with a glare.

"Quit trolling her…" I continued in a softer tone. "I don't think she gets it."

"Troll is a perfect name," Moon snapped, glaring at the prince. Oy vey… Do I have to spell it out?

"Usagi," I sighed, using her real name in order to get her full attention. "To troll someone means to bait them in order to get an emotional rise out of them. He's been doing it from day one."

I can't believe I never noticed that sooner.

"Well it's WORKING," she snapped.

At about that moment, there was a bright blue-white flash of light from behind the curtains leading the balcony. It was followed about half a second later by an enormous 'CRACK!' and a rolling boom. Sailor Moon shrieked at the top of her lungs in response, diving right into Tuxedo Kamen's chest.

"Damn that hurt…" I mumbled. The sound had startled me and caused me to jump in my spot. As if I weren't hurting badly enough… Kamen, in the mean time, just blinked down at the formerly hostile princess.

"Don't like thunder?" he asked. Sailor Moon's only response was to clutch the tuxedo he was wearing tighter and whimper.

I can sympathize with her there. I used to be afraid of thunder. Hell, I still plug my ears during a storm. But these days, that's more due to the fact that I HATE nearly having the piss startled out of me when I'm half asleep. I mean, fuck. You're just about dozed off and 'BOOM!' Good luck getting back to sleep. It takes ten minutes just for the adrenaline to wear off. I'd rather just skip it.

I'll tell you what though… Your arms get SORE like that real quick. Maybe I should invest in ear plugs…

"Oh come on," Rei turned to Sailor Moon. "Makoto was dropping bolts just as loud out there earlier. My ears were ringing the whole time. How come you weren't so scared then?"

"It's not the same," moon replied.

"It's exactly the same," Rei snapped.

"Rei," this time it was Kamen. The young miko just looked up from her best friend.

"We should just drop it," he continued in a softer tone. "I don't think you can win an argument like that with dumpling head."

"I thought told you not to call me that," Moon mumbled from where her face was buried.

"And I thought you hated my guts," Kamen replied with a chuckle.

"You smell good," she stated softly before finally stepping back. There was a brief pause where I swear it looked like she was measuring him up.

"I guess I can forgive you," she continued. "You ARE Tuxedo Kamen, so you can't be all that bad…"

"Really?" he asked with a hint of incredulity in his voice. "All THAT bad?"

"Just a little," Moon crossed her arms and pouted. "You WERE deliberately messing with me just to get me mad. Don't think I'm just going to forget that."

"Well," Kamen put his hand behind his head. "I admit it. It was funny watching you get all bent out of shape. But I'm sorry. I didn't realize it upset you THAT much. Forgive me for being bored?"

"I'll tell you what," the princess uncrossed her arms and walked up to him again. The masked prince easily towered over her at that point. Funny just how much of a height difference they really have…

"Buy me a chocolate parfait, and we'll call it even." Then she stretched herself out, standing on the tips of her boots, and gave Tuxedo Kamen a peck on the cheek.

I blinked. I can honestly say that even though I know how fast young girls can go through mood swings, I'd never seen anyone do a full one-eighty that quickly before. Let alone the total three-sixty Usagi just pulled.

"Okay…" Jupiter finally commented. "What just happened?"

"I think Usagi just stole my boyfriend," Rei replied in a confused tone. I guess I wasn't the only one who was surprised.

"Eh… Not like you were using him for anything besides a glorified shopping cart anyway," the lightning Senshi poked in fun.

"Hey!" Rei turned and shot a glare at Jupiter.

"I'm just calling it how I see it," Jupiter raised her arms defensively. Then she grit her teeth and dropped them. "Okay, that hurts…"

"Oh!" Moon turned around quickly at the sound. "Is Ami done yet? I want to give this a shot."

"Not if she does stuff like that," the latter commented, coming out of what had to be a fascinating conversation with Washu. "I set the bone, but it's not secured. Now I have to check it- Yeah, she moved. No, actually he's been staying rather still."

A little detail on this bit of discussion: Almost from the very moment she'd found out Jupiter was hurt, Sailor Moon had been absolutely DYING to try her new found 'skill' of healing out in full. I don't blame her. The girl had 'discovered', or should I say 'realized', the power she was best at. Considering how many different things she's tried on impulse. The fads, the tantalizing hooks the generals had used in their plots… All these things she just hadn't been good at. To try something and achieve results in it so perfectly. I know how that feels. It just 'clicks'... Even if it's hard; when it clicks, something about it just drives you to attack it with everything you have. Your esteem skyrockets, and nothing can dissuade you. It's motivation, pure and simple.

And watching Sailor Moon's enthusiasm, I realized that in pointing out to her the power she was so good at and spelling it out, it had clicked with her. The results she'd had in the fight had given her a positive feedback loop of encouragement. And in that, she discovered something that motivated her.

Anyway, long story short, Sailor Moon was practically begging to try out healing on an actual injury. Mercury, being more grounded and skeptical, wanted to get at least a second opinion somehow before Moon tried anything she didn't fully understand.

Since we'd contacted Washu about my injuries anyway, she just became the Go-To person.

Aside from my strict 'don't do jack shit' instructions, Washu suggested that before Sailor Moon attempted to heal Jupiter's broken arm, that the bone at least be set so that there was no possibility of it healing incorrectly. The agreement was unanimous, especially Jupiter, who's arm this little stunt would be tried on.

'It's my arm after all…'

Indeed. Better safe than sorry.

Mercury lifted the taller Senshi's arm up and probed the break a few more times, causing Jupiter, tough as she was, to wince in pain before setting it down gently.

"Sorry…" the ice senshi apologized once more.

"No problem," Jupiter grit out.

"Alright," Mercury commented with a turn. "Looks like its okay. Sailor Moon, you're up."

"Okay!" Moon snapped with more enthusiasm than I could ever produce. She was practically drooling as she brought her moon wand out from… SOMEWHERE with an overly flamboyant twirl.

I mean, seriously. People call her the klutz, but like I pointed out before, a klutz couldn't do half the stuff she did such as jumping from roof to roof without making a spectacular display of turning into street pizza.

"Okay," she took a calming breath while changing her stance. "Are you ready?"

"Give me a zap," Jupiter nodded. "Let's see what happens."

"Alright, here it goes." Moon raised her magical stick. "Moon, healing… ESCALATION!"

The first thing I noticed, was the 'dance'… or rather. The lack thereof. Sailor Moon completely forewent what I would guess you could call the 'stock footage'. No spinning, no fairy dust, no tracing circles in the air. She just stuck the item out, exclaimed her words of power, and aimed it at Jupiter.

The next thing I noticed was the magic itself. After what little direct magic I'd seen up to this point, I really wanted to get a good clear look at something that was most certainly pure magic, and not something like a fireball, or exploding knives.

It was… Enlightening.

I'm not to say I'm disappointed. Far from it. But what you see in the anime stock footage and what we got here were completely different animals. Just like how Ami's hair was a very dark shade of blue instead of the bright blue she was drawn with.

The magic stick started to glow. Then the air around it. It wasn't the distinct sparkly glow, but an eerie kind of glow that seemed like it wasn't quite there. It reminded me of those pictures of nuclear reactors. Only instead of a blue glow, it had a pink color. What was it? Cerenkov radiation.

The other thing was the sound. No jingles, no twinkles. Instead, there was a rather low, bass like hum. Almost like a sixty cycle hum you'd get on the phone from being too close to power lines. Except this hum seemed to fill the room and was joined by the slightest ringing sound.

The glow and the hum continued to gain intensity until it was plainly audible to anyone in the room. It didn't make too much noise as to make us afraid someone would notice, but the glow did get bright enough that I had to squint.

Then, with a faint 'fwip', it stopped.

"Well?" Luna asked. Jupiter glanced at the catgirl then scanned the rest of us.

"I feel better," she began. "That much is for certain."

Then she cautiously lifted her arm and gave it a test bend. Her smile broadened and she whipped the appendage around a few times.

"Feels a lot better," she added. "Like I never even busted it."

Then Sailor Jupiter brought her arm up and formed a fist, which she smacked into the palm of her other hand with a 'pop!'

"Oh yeah!" she grinned dangerously. "It's healed."

"It worked?" Moon grinned to the point of absurdity. "It worked! YES! YES! YES! I did it! I did it!"

Laughing hurt, but seeing the spastic princess so excited was worth it.

"This is awesome!" she continued to crow. "I'm a white mage... I'm a white mage!"

"So," Tuxedo Kamen turned to me. "That's what she's supposed to be good at?"

"Yea-ow," I forgot not to nod.

"Okay," Moon turned with a grin. "Your turn!"

Eh?

"Huh?" I voiced.

"Ne, Usagi-chan?" Luna voiced. "I don't think that's really going to work on him."

"It's at least worth a shot," Sailor Moon replied. "He's really hurt. If I can help him even a little-"

"Don't waste your time," I would have shaken my head, but couldn't. "You already know it'll go right through me."

"But Mercury could partially detect you," she objected. "That means that SOMETHING works, right? Even a little bit."

"That-" I stopped. She did kind of have a point. If Mercury could detect me even partially, that means that part of me is compatible with magic. But then again, there's no telling what might happen.

"It's probably still not a good idea," I began again. "We're guessing here. "

"It's a magical healing ray," Sailor Moon admonished with a flat deadpan look on her face. "Somehow I don't think it's going to hurt you."

"I…" But the statement fell flat. Of all the- Did she just say what I thought she did?

"Fine," I sighed. "Do what you want. I don't care."

The disguised princess just grinned and took her 'casting stance'.

"Moon healing…"

Mentally, I braced, just in case something DID happen.

"ESCALATION!"

Now, I would be the first person to say that I never expected to be on the end of a Sailor Moon magical 'attack'. Well, I don't think anyone would expect that. Not at home anyway, where she's just a cell shaded drawing. What I really mean is that even with everything that's happened, I never would have expected to be a guinea pig for Usagi testing her magical healing prowess.

But now that she was actually giving me a zap, I can describe it a little.

Yes, that's right. There was actually something to feel. It might just be the suit, but when the pink 'Cerenkov' beam hit me, the first thing I noticed was that it felt like warm sunlight on a cold morning.

That's not all too unpleasant an experience if I do say so myself. Just warm enough to push away the chills, but not so warm as to be uncomfortable.

Even more interesting, is that it wasn't just my skin, but rather it felt like my entire body was being gently warmed up. Slowly, the pain I'd been stuck with since the fight faded, and was replaced with a kind of numb warmth, like relaxing in a big chair on a warm afternoon. It was enough that I almost cracked a yawn right there.

'fwip!'

The sunlight cut off and the cold returned.

"Hey," I looked up at Moon. "Don't stop now, I was just getting used to it."

Sailor Moon staggered a step back, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Tuxedo Kamen caught her gently by the shoulders.

"Sheesh," Jupiter began, but was interrupted by Rei.

"Don't overdo it," she admonished. "Two minutes was WAY more than enough."

Two minutes?

"I- I'm fine Rei," Moon huffed. Then she took a deep breath and straightened herself out before inquiring.

"So? How do you feel? Did it work?"

Actually thinking about it… Well.

"The pain stopped," I began. "That actually felt really good. Maybe it did work and-"

I turned my head to glance at Luna, and every nerve in my body caught fire and screamed.

"URGH!" I choked. "Never mind… Still broken."

Sailor Moon just bit her lip and made ready to give it another go. However my hand came up before she could finish.

"Don't," I managed to say. "If it didn't work the first time, it's not going to work."

"And it looks like all it does is act like a pain killer anyway," Luna added. "That won't really help him much."

No, by all means, I could take all the pain-killer I could get right now. Anyone got any Ibuprofen?

"Well it did something," Mercury pointed out. "Not much but-"

She stopped to listen to Washu for several seconds.

"Really? I see… Yes, water percentage makes perfect sense."

Then she turned her attention back to us.

"Let's not waste our time trying that anymore," she instructed. "All you're really 'healing' is some of the water in his body."

Sailor Moon just sighed, seeming to fizzle out like wet match. She twirled the moon wand idly for several seconds before deciding to put it away.

"Hey," I interrupted. Sailor Moon stopped to look at me curiously. I simply raised my good hand and motioned at the magic stick.

"Mind letting me see that?" I asked. "I've never seen that thing up close."

"This?" she held the item in question up, and then glanced at the others as if to ask if it were okay. After a few seconds, and no objections, she turned and gave it a light toss.

I was unprepared to have to catch the thing, so I jerked back painfully. And even less prepared for it to nearly jam my fingers when I missed and it thumped to the floor with a loud 'clack!'.

"OW!" I snapped, then paused. "Holy SHIT! That thing's heavy!"

"What do you mean?" Luna blinked in confusion as she reached down to pick it up. "It's not that heavy…"

The Felis Sapien sat up and gently laid the magical item in my hand. After a few seconds, I knew I hadn't been in error. The moon wand WAS heavy. I was expecting maybe something that weighed no more than a children's toy. Something made out of plastic, like the sound it made when it hit the floor just now.

But instead, the wand was very solid, probably weighing more than a decent Maglight flashlight. And Maglights are essentially stainless steel tubes.

"You TWIRL this?" I looked at Sailor Moon incredulously. "Jeeze…"

It had to weigh what, four, five pounds? I could get a workout with this thing.

"What?" Moon asked. "What's so special about that?"

"Don't let anyone tell you you're a total klutz," I continued, giving the wand another weight test. It was a little crescent-heavy. Center of gravity felt like it was a little above where I had it in my hand, somewhere around the little bobble where the crescent connects to the handle.

"Anyone who can juggle this thing as effortlessly as you do…" I added, carefully switching it from my left hand, to my right hand. It really was substantial to the touch, with some kind of polished wood finish. It was pink, but not plastic or pink paint. That much was easy to tell.

"Push comes to shove," I twisted it so that I was holding it with the bobble, and then raised the handle in a bashing motion. My arm started to protest so I didn't go beyond that. "If you're in a fix, you can always club the shit out of a youma with it. I'm sure they'd love that. Cosmic Moon Bludgeon Atta-IEK!"

That last part came out as a yelp as I dropped the wand.

"Fuck that's HOT!" I snapped in English. "What the hell!"

"What happened?" Luna asked worriedly.

"That damn thing nearly burned me!" I indicated the wand with my good hand. "Fuck!"

The Felis Sapien reached down to recover the wand again, but just as she was about to grab it, jerked her hand back.

"That IS hot!" she exclaimed. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," I admitted, then turned my hand over, looking at the palm of the glove. The Wand had gotten so hot that it had burned the image of the jewels it had on it into the material. And considering what this glove was made for, that was saying something.

"Maybe it's that glove," Luna pointed out. "It's been causing you trouble almost from the moment you got it. Why are you still wearing it anyway?"

"Too lazy to take it off I guess," I shrugged. Honestly, I'd just been hurting too much to give it a go. It was a bit of a pain in the ass to pull off my hand, especially with any yank causing my shoulder to scream. "But if it is, that's the second time it's done something weird. Earlier when I was fighting Kunzite, it acted like it shorted one his attacks. Damn thing made my hand go numb."

"Can that happen?" Jupiter asked. "Shorting magic that is…"

"Hell if I know," I responded, working to fish the glove off without yanking it painfully. "But I better get this thing off before it decides to do something else I don't like. Like summon C'thulu. The last thing we need with all the shit I've already caused is to have a giant eldritch tentacle monster stomping through a universe dominated by girls in miniskirts."

Somewhere, a fanboy is imagining that and drooling… I just know it.

I finally managed to yank the glove off, biting my lip to keep from yelping at the spike of pain that shot not just through my arm, but my chest. When I looked up, I noticed both Sailor Moon and Rei had looks on their faces that reminded me of someone desperately trying to pretend they had a poker face when they obviously didn't. Sailor Moon was slowly failing, her face fighting not to turn red…

Oh HELL what have those girls been reading?

Wait... Who am I kidding? SOMEONE had to give Luna access to manga like Berserk… From there it's simple deduction. Judging how both Rei AND Usagi have the same look on their face, they must have gotten their hands on some pretty questionable material. Though to even get what I meant a moment ago they must have been readi-

Why am I even thinking about this?

"I'm not even going to ask…" I sighed. What I really need is a break from this group. And I've had a lot more water than normal. I've got to pee…

"Ugh… Bathroom," I grunted more to myself, and tried my best to stand up. That of course, failed spectacularly almost immediately. My ribs were so sore, and my neck was so bad, it was almost impossible to bend.

"Help…" I grunted.

Luna quickly stood and wrapped my good arm over her shoulder, leveraging my body until I could get my legs under me.

Once on my feet, it was a little easier to move, though I had to hold the loose part of my suit to keep from getting tangled up in it. Makoto's apartment wasn't anything too fancy. Just a small, single-bedroom affair. So the bathroom was easy enough to find. There was just one minor difficulty.

"What are you doing?" I managed to turn my whole body so as to face Luna. Rather than sitting back down once I was up, she'd opted to follow me.

"I'm making sure you'll be okay," she stated matter-of-factly. "Why?"

"I'm just going to the bathroom," I pointed out. "I don't need to be followed."

"You couldn't even stand up," she reciprocated.

"I'm going to STAY standing up," I added. "Really not that hard… Male, remember?"

"And?" she asked. "You're still hurt."

"Luna," I sighed. I'm not in the mood for this. "I have to practically undress out of this suit to go to the bathroom. I would like at least a little privacy while I do so."

Why Washu hadn't designed this thing to 'accommodate' me a little better in that department is beyond me…

"I don't see what you're fussing about" she crossed her arms. "I've already seen your naked body. And you've seen mine."

Everything went dead quiet.

Luna froze in place, her face a thinly veiled mask of shock. In response, I carefully managed to tilt at the waist to look past her into the other room, where everyone was looking right at us.

When I straightened myself out, her face was quickly taking on the hue of a ripe apple.

"I… I walked right into that one, didn't I?" she asked.

"Yeah." I agreed after a moment. "You did."

"Right," Luna took a deep, calming breath. "I should have thought about that before I said it…"

"Probably," I agreed once more.

"I…" Luna began and paused for several seconds. The color in her face got even darker. Absentmindedly, I reached out with my good hand and grasped the bathroom door.

"I must be tired," she concluded suddenly. "Maybe I should go take a nap."

"That sounds like an excellent idea," I replied as I slowly backed up and closed the door. As soon as I did so, I let my own composure fail. Sheesh, talk about saying the wrong thing. If that was a comedy gag going off, it was a good one. If I didn't know any better, I could almost see that being blurted out naturally.

Then I frowned.

When exactly did Luna see me without any clothes?

Another rumble of thunder indicated that the weather hadn't let up. Ever since we'd left the park, it had all but started coming down in buckets. Thanks to the speed at which the Senshi could bound across rooftops, we managed to get back to this apartment only slightly soaked. Still, water is wet. And as I examined the bathroom, the pile of towels everyone had used to dry off stood out amongst Makoto's otherwise nearly obsessive compulsive cleanliness.

I had noticed that about the rest of the place as well. Aside from the mess we made coming in through the balcony, the place was all but spotless. I have to wonder just how exactly she gets away with living in her own place at age fourteen when her parents are deceased. In fact, I have to wonder how this girl gets by at all. Tokyo is not cheap, and she goes to school, with no apparent job. I understand that from a writing standpoint that could just be a case of 'the author never thought about it', but when you're talking about a fully functioning reality, there has to be SOMETHING keeping this girl afloat.

Glancing around I spotted what I thought might be at least part of the answer. There was a small magazine perched in the corner. It looked like one of those deal magazines you picked up at the local supermarket. No doubt the thing had about a metric fuckton of coupons in it.

That's one part, but that still doesn't explain where she comes up with the money to start with. How does this girl pay for rent and utilities? I mean, she's not old enough to sign a lease agreement, so… Who?

Oh, stop it! It's none of your business. Look, the more you touch, the more you fuck things up around here. Given your track record, asking how Makoto manages to pay rent could very well result in her eviction. Want to have THAT on your hands next? Just go with it, it works, end of story. You're not just investigating fictional characters anymore. These are REAL people, with real lives, who don't need you poking your nose into every aspect of their existence.

Honestly, I'm not even sure if I'm real anymore. The 'What-The-Fuck' Factor busted the meter long ago…

Sighing and returning to my own business, I tried to put my mind back on track. Which is rather difficult when you've got a concussion.

Then again, I just survived a fight with a monster.

Scratch that… I WON a fight with a monster. And not just a monster, but a Dark General. Despite fucking everything up, that's a pretty good resume in retrospect. I BEAT Kunzite… I didn't kill him, but pretty much sent him home humbled to hell and back again. And the guy had been ready for a fight too. He probably really thought he'd gone up against the 'Jedi' I'd been bullshitting about. Not to mention he was probably shitting himself the whole time when the Senshi started giving him a run for his money…

Now, were that me, I'd be trying to come up with a way to win against that. If Beryl doesn't render his ass a grease stain for 'failing', he probably will too. Which means he'll come to the next fight prepared for something like this fight. Which means the next one will be an even bigger, nastier fight.

Given what happened earlier, and what happened to me, I'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

So we're probably going to need a way to one-shot his ass… Quickly… Preferably at a distance. But then, I hit the guy with a god damned antimatter round. I slapped his ass down with a fucking nuclear weapon! …When he was already tired from fighting the senshi! And he STILL got up from it.

What could I use to-?

My thoughts were interrupted by a sudden knock at the door.

"Are you okay in there?" it was Mercury's voice.

"Still alive," I returned. Sheesh, I haven't even been here three minutes.

"Just checking," the voice on the other side continued. "Washu says we need to get your chest bandaged up soon to help the healing process. So when you're done, I can take care of that, okay?"

"Got it," I replied. "I'll be out in a moment."

Mostly, what was taking me longer than normal was fighting with the suit. With one arm arguing with any attempts to move it, that wasn't quite as easy as I was used to. But I won eventually…

Returning to the living room, I discovered that everyone had dropped their transformation. Even Mamouru was now sitting down in a chair…

Usagi seemed to have staked her claim as well, seeing as she was now occupying his lap. I'll tell you what, when that girl finds something she wants, she takes over.

The moon wand had been recovered at some point, the floor where it had been sitting now empty. I still wonder what the hell was with that. Sheesh… Good thing it was the glove and not my hand. I like this hand.

"Over here," Ami motioned to a chair she'd set out. "Sit down, and put your arms up on the table."

"Should I have my suit on or off?" I asked. There was the little fact that it required direct skin contact.

"Washu?" she began. "Does his suit need to be on or off?"

There was a pause before she looked up, nodding more to herself than to me.

"We'll wrap with the suit on," she indicated. "It'll provide extra chest support."

I nodded and grit my teeth. Considering it hurt just to move, imagine how bad it was getting this thing on and off again. With the rotation of my right arm rather limited, it even came down to Ami stopping her chat with Washu to give me a hand. Not that I asked... That little bit of stubborn pride I still had... You know, complain about the little shit, and downplay real injuries? Still applies.

But then again, it was rather obvious that I wasn't going to manage on my own.

"S-OH!" I jumped when the suit gave me its sync-zap. "What are you talking to Washu about?"

"We're discussing that bullet you used," Ami replied turning to grab a roll of adhesive tape. "You really did scare me when you said it was a nuke... Hands on the table please."

I complied before continuing with another question.

"What's the yield on that thing anyway?" I asked. "She never did tell me."

"Two-hundred and twenty seven kilograms," Ami commented. Then she paused. "Oh... yeah. He wouldn't."

A quick snip to cut the tape...

"Five hundred pounds," she continued after a moment. "Since you don't know kilograms that well."

Five hundr-?

"She said it was a tank round or artillery strike," I replied. "Five hundred... Five hundred's a large bomb... Five hundred's a flippin AIR STRIKE!"

"HOLD STILL!" Ami snapped.

I froze at the command.

"Rei, can you help me get this around his side please?" she asked.

The Shinto priestess nodded and quickly moved over to assist Ami with the bandage. Now, guys... Some of you out there I'm sure would do just about anything to get a bunch of pretty girls doting all over you over some injuries. It's that whole female attention thing. We males crave it, do we not? Well, I have the solution to your problem. All you have to do is nearly get killed. That's all, I swear. Just withstand bone crushing impacts and give yourself a good concussion, and I can almost guarantee it.

I cannot however, guarantee the quality of the said situation. Given that the two females in question are only fourteen, I'm just a touch above the compatible age range. Sure, they're cute when they're just fictional characters. But honestly, even though Washu pointed out that I liked the attention, every time I'm near one of them, part of my brain has been going 'Jailbait! Jailbait! Jailbait! Jailbait!'

I'm already naturally up-tight about female attention. That just makes me even more uncomfortable.

On top of this, fourteen year olds do not have surgeon's hands!

"GRCHT!"

"Quit whining!" Rei snapped after pulling the bandage just a little too tightly.

"S-rry!" I managed to squeeze some sarcasm into my voice behind clenched teeth. "B't m-ribs 'er brok'n... It kind'r hurts!"

"Such a big baby," she shook her head. "I'm amazed you managed to fight through all this pain if this is how you act."

"Actually," Ami cut in. "He probably couldn't even feel it. The adrenaline in his system would have numbed him to pain..."

"Oh..." Rei blinked. "Really? Even after that?"

"Even that," the blue-haired senshi confirmed. "So be a little bit more careful with the bandages. This number of broken ribs is normally considered a life-threatening emergency. And I'm still not sure how we're going to immobilize his neck. He really should be looked over by professionals."

Despite the rough treatment, the two of them finished rather quickly. My chest was a little tight, but Ami had made sure that I was still able to breathe and double checked with Washu before calling it done.

"Now, about that neck…" she continued.

"I think I could come up with something to immobilize it," Makoto spoke up from her spot on the couch. I did find it kind of odd that the room was so quiet despite how many people were here. "He's about my size, so I think we could use one of my turtlenecks and brace it with something."

Another flash of lightning from behind the curtain, and a few seconds later, a rumble of thunder. Out of the corner of my vision, I could see Usagi tense up, causing Mamouru to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"It's really coming down out there isn't it?" Rei asked, moving over to the curtain while Ami and Makoto disappeared into the bedroom. She pushed it back and glanced out into the night, body being silhouetted by another flash from the sky beyond.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when she shrieked and stumbled back, tripping over Makoto's coffee table and landing with a thump, almost hitting her head.

"What?" I found myself snapping.

A moment later, Ami, Makoto, as well as Luna came dashing out of the bedroom, the latter in feline form.

"What happened?" Makoto snapped, the threat of bodily harm plainly audible in her voice.

"Something's out there!" Rei blinked. "Right out there!"

"What?" Makoto looked. "We're several stories up… what could-"

'Tic-tic-tic-tic-tic…' It sounded like someone taking a penny and tapping it on glass. That made the lightning Senshi stop in mid sentence and stare curiously out the window. Rei, with Ami's help, managed to get back on her feet.

"Whatever it is," Rei continued, fishing out an Ofuda. "It's evil, overwhelmingly ev-"

She stopped. Then stuffed her Ofuda back where she'd pulled it and quickly moved over, pushing the curtain back. On the other side of the glass illuminated by the glow of the room, was a thoroughly drenched, and rather unamused looking Senbei. The demon god, waved to us, briefly backlit again by another, more distant flash of lightning.

I can see how that would scare a person.

Rei pulled the sliding glass door open, a gust of cold air accompanying the action.

"Inside!" she instructed. The little demon god didn't have to be told twice, flitting through the entrance almost before Rei could finish talking.

"Thank you," Senbei commented. "It wasn't easy tracking you in that mess…"

"What were you doing out there?" I asked. Senbei glanced at me with a puzzled look on his face as he floated down to the coffee table and took off his doll-sized green jacket.

"You left me behind." There wasn't the slightest hint of his usual flamboyance in his voice. "I was buried in a tree and I had to come find you. Lucky for you, I'm just that good."

"Sorry man," I did my best to shrug, ignoring his minor boasting. "I got pretty messed up when that critter hit me… And we had to run rather suddenly."

"Is in the past," Senbei shrugged in response, wringing out his jacket. Then he teleported about a foot to the right with two small pops. Water splashed onto the table where he had formerly been.

"However, don't expect me to play decoy twice," the now dry demon god continued. "Next time I'll just deal with it my way."

"Yeah," I sighed. "Sure…"

Nobody likes being the decoy after all.

"Anyway," Senbei continued as he slipped his jacket back on. "You may wish to turn on the TV. The things I saw before I found you… well, you need to see yourself."

Oh boy… Here it comes.

"I've got it…" Makoto turned and grabbed a remote from near where she was sitting.

'Click!'

The screen blinked to life, showing a field reporter in a rain coat standing in the downpour.

"-ncluding three fatal crashes. One at the five-way intersection of Sakurada and Gaienhigashi, the other two on the south Toshin Loop westbound. Where a truck jackknifed and lost control, slamming at least two vehicles into the wall and causing a twelve car pileup. Three people are confirmed to have died on the scene, while six more have been rushed to Mita Hospital, three in critical condition. Right now, Authorities can't say for sure what exactly happened. Only that the driver reported seeing several flashes before a man in gray clothing came flying out of nowhere. The driver claims he swerved to miss the man, and lost control of his vehicle…"

Rei's hand shot to her mouth in horror. At the same time, the Senshi quickly huddled around the TV.

"And the carnage doesn't end there," there reporter continued. "A number of smaller explosions, strange electrical phenomena, and gunfire had been reported several minutes prior to the incident along the Mita number one block. Witnesses told authorities that they saw several people apparently exchanging what appeared to be 'fireballs', 'lightning bolts', and 'death beams'. Other witnesses reported a mysterious fog appearing so suddenly they had to stop what they were doing. The full details have yet to emerge. But right now, swat teams and military units are combing the area looking for survivors and additional witnesses."

The screen cut back to the news anchor, who nodded to his field reporter.

"Thank you Hasegawa-san. And for those of you just tuning in, we are continuing our live coverage of a massive explosion in Shiba Park near the Tokyo Tower, as well as reports of what appeared to be some kind of firefight occurring in the surrounding area. Authorities are unsure what has occurred at this time, but the incident's proximity to several embassies as well as the severity of the fighting prompted the response of the self defense force. Including a pair of F-15s being scrambled from Hyakuri just minutes after the blast. Reports are continuing to pour in from the area of dozens, perhaps even hundreds injured, with twelve confirmed fatalities and an estimated six more from a building that was severely damaged by a smaller blast. Rescue workers are continuing to comb the structure in an effort to find any survivors in what they are starting to call a 'war zone'. Officials have yet to confir-"

There was a choking sound coming from Rei around that moment. And I managed to lean just well enough to see how pale she'd become. The Senshi continued to stare at the screen, seeming to convulse as she made a sound distinctly like… Like…

Oh boy.

"Rei," I began. "Rei!"

The fire senshi's face turned slightly toward me, her eyes looking empty as she stared back almost expressionless.

"I-"she choked. "I kill… killed."

She shuddered again. Ah man, she's losing it…

"Mako…" I did my best to turn. "MAKO!"

The lightning Senshi turned; her face haunted as well, but nowhere near as bad.

"Wha-"she began.

"REI!" I pointed with my good arm.

Makoto's gaze drifted over to Rei, who was now trying to steady herself on the couch as she fought between the onset of hyperventilation and the complete loss of the contents of her stomach. In an instant, the brunet's eyes regained that alert focus as she realized what was going on.

"Oh… no no no no…" she began, quickly moving over to help her friend. "Come on, it's okay… Breathe slowly, slow now."

"I…" Rei tried to choke out again. "I killed… thr-three people."

"No," Makoto soothed, pulling Rei away from the couch. "You didn't kill anyone."

The lightning senshi guided the priestess towards the kitchen.

"You didn't kill anyone," she restated. "Kunzite killed those people."

"But I-"

I couldn't see from this angle, but I could hear the gurgling as she lost control. Hopefully over the sink.

"I… I fired that attack," she continued after a pause. "I-I…"

"You nothing," Makoto stated in a more firm tone. "Kunzite is the one who got those people killed, and he'll kill everyone if we just let him have is way. Come on girl, get a hold of yourself. You know who's at fault here, and it's not yourself."

Another gurgling sound, followed by choked, ragged coughing from Rei indicated she wasn't quite done yet. That crash must have been bugging her more than I thought. I mean, it bugged me of course, but I was a little busy at the time just being full of RAGE and took it all out on Kunzite… with a nuke.

"-new reports that several witnesses reported seeing a man with a gun." The anchor continued undaunted. "Eye witnesses at Akenobashi reported seeing what they say was a man in dark clothing and a helmet, running along the street below the fighting with what one described as a shotgun."

The anchor abruptly cut to field footage of the reporter, Hasegawa, interviewing several people.

"He was shouting 'Get out of the way! Run!' at us. I don't know who he was, I couldn't see his face. He wore a helmet with a mask and some kind of black suit. For a moment, I thought we were looking at some Kamen Rider filming… But that couldn't be right. Then the glass on the building next to us shattered when something hit it. I don't know what it was, but that's when I ran. I knew it wasn't safe."

The report jumped immediately to another interview.

"He came into our building," I vaguely recognized the face but couldn't place it. "He shouted at us 'Get down! Get down! Get in the middle of the building!' I was terrified. The windows had been shattered; there was so much noise…"

Was that one of those people in…?

"It's the Sailor Senshi," another young woman stated. "I saw them, several girls in miniskirts. I didn't believe it at first; I thought they were just someone's idea of a Sailor V joke, but I saw at least two of them. They jumped across a gap in a building, moving too fast to be movie wirework. They were after some guy… He wore all gray. I didn't see any more because I decided it wasn't safe when a car crashed right in front of me."

Another cut.

"Everyone was screaming," this particular witness had several cuts on her face. "I heard a loud bang, and suddenly I found myself on the ground… It was raining glass. My husband pulled me under the entrance to a building, but some of it still got me. I'm not sure what happened. There were people, jumping on the buildings above like grasshoppers. One was flying… I thought maybe I'd hit my head."

As the TV cut back to the anchor, my eyes drifted to the others. While Makoto was still helping Rei to steady herself, Usagi was practically fixated on the screen, her expression blank, and eyes wide. Several videos were appearing in a sub-picture on the screen, showing footage of burning holes blasted into the sides of buildings. Ambulances and firefighters scrambling all over the place amidst pouring rain. Ami seemed fixated as well, but she had a sterner, analytical look on her face as if she were assessing the damage. Mamouru had a look distinctly like he was most displeased.

"Damage totals continue to climb," the anchor continued, grimly unaware of the reactions of any of his invisible audience. "Estimates are now exceeding five hundred-million yen. The death toll stands at fourteen after two more bodies were pulled from the rubble of the severely damaged building-"

I found myself clenching my teeth this time. I remember that particular blast. That was the one where Mars had tackled me out of the way. That one had been meant for me. Instead, two random people had to die. Fucking Kunzite…

"The number of injured is innumerable as more reports come in of minor injuries from the emergency shutdown of the JR East and JR central lines. Incidentally, all JR lines in and around Tokyo have been halted for safety reasons. Bus lines have also been halted for the time being until officials can make an accurate assessment of the situation. Tokyo Haneda has had all air traffic redirected to Kansai International for the time being. All other flights for the evening have been cancelled."

Usagi suddenly stood up from the TV and started making a bee-line for the door. It took a second before anyone noticed she was on the move, but the utterance of 'Moon Prism Power' as she prepared to transform again, snapped our attention to her so fast it wasn't even funny.

"What are you doing?" Luna was the first to beat us to the punch just as Usagi said 'MAKE UP!'… Sailor Moon walked out of the, rather surprisingly brief flash of light, her eyes still big as saucers.

"Hey!" Makoto saw the transformation and quickly jumped in front of the door. "What are you doing? Don't go out there right now!"

"There are people hurt out there Sailor Moon responded with a shaky, but solid voice. "I have to help them."

"You go out there right now," Makoto continued. "You'll just get arrested."

"I don't care!" the disguised princess snapped back. "What about the people who are in the hospital because of this? At the very least I could heal them. It wouldn't take me but a minute for each person. I wouldn't be there long enough for the cops to even catch me."

"It's not the cops you need to worry about," I found myself saying. "There are soldiers out there looking for you, or me, or kunzite. You go out there; you're not going to get arrested… You're gonna' get SHOT. A lot of good you'll do then…"

"But…" Sailor Moon looked between us, even so much as looking at Mamouru for some kind of support. Technically, she was in the right. I mean, she has the ability to pretty much flash heal anyone, it would only take a few seconds at best. And it's not like the cops could keep up with her.

The problem is, with the city in a paranoid uproar, she's likely to bounce right across a soldier's field of fire and draw in a few dozen rounds. Or hell, if there's any armored fighting vehicles out there, one magic flash and she'd have the attention of a bushmaster thirty millimeter cannon. Personally, I don't think she'd like that kind of attention. I know I wouldn't.

"Let it go…" It was Rei's raggedy voice, partially horse from her recent bout of coughing and vomiting. "Just let it go. We'll help everyone more by defeating the Dark Kingdom once and for all."

Sailor Moon just looked back and forth between us a little longer. Her face was screaming 'please', but she made no move to force anything. After a brief silence where the only thing anyone heard was the continuing grim news reported by the anchor, her eyes dropped to the floor, tears in the corners of them as she let her transformation drop.

Honestly, she thinks she's hurting? Rei's upset? I understand what they're thinking. But there's something I wasn't saying to them.

It's my fault.

Sure, Kunzite was the one who did the actual killing… I know that. I'm not stupid. But he was reacting to a scenario I had cooked up for him.

Fourteen people were dead because I did something stupid.

It never really hit home until I simplified it like that…

Fourteen… Fourteen people, killed, by my own carelessness.

"GOD DAMMIT!" I snarled, scaring everyone as I lifted my good hand into a fist and smacked the table, making it go numb in the process. I had to fight to urge to breathe heavily myself considering the state my chest was in.

"What?" Luna was looking at me with shock written all over her face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I let my eyes drop to glare at the ground. "I'm just irritated…"

I swear that I saw Luna narrow her eyes from the corner of my vision, but she didn't say anything else about it. Instead, opting to change the topic.

"Your hands are shaking," she pointed out. "How's your blood sugar?"

"Blood Sugar?" Ami's voice jumped in, her head whipping around. "He's diabetic too?"

"No," I began, but didn't get very far.

"He needs to eat every four or five hours," Luna commented. "Or he starts to get these weird shakes, and he can't think straight…"

"He's hypoglycemic!" Ami realized. "Why didn't you say something sooner?"

"He said it wasn't very bad," the feline commented.

"They always down play it," Ami walked over and bent down to look me dead in the eyes as if searching for something.

"When was the last time you ate?" she asked.

"He hasn't been eating very well today," Luna continued for me, jumping up on the arm of the couch. "He's been sick so he couldn't keep breakfast down, and he barely touched lunch…"

"And Washu wants him to eat," Ami stood up straight and walked away.

"So he's tired," Makoto started counting off. "Injured, mal nourished, AND sick?"

The lightning Senshi laughed. A single scoff-like bark as she turned and pulled one of her sleeves up.

"I guess I could whip us all up something to eat. It's been a long day… How's curry sound? I can slap that together in no time."

"That sounds good," Ami nodded. "I need to get back to finding a way to brace his neck…"

Makoto nodded, rolling up her other sleeve as she wandered into the kitchen.

"I just remembered," Mamouru spoke up. "Try a towel. Wrap a towel around his neck, it's an old trick but it works."

Ami paused, thinking about that the formerly masked prince said. Then she nodded and made a bee-line for the bathroom.

"Yeah… I saw the bloke."

The use of English caught my attention. My eyes darted back to the screen where the news report was showing an interview with… I think... Yeah! That looked like that guy who tried to stop me in the park. The voice was a little confusing with a British or Australian echoing with the translator's Japanese dubbing, but it was definitely him.

"I saw him running across the parking lot at the Prince Tower, opposite everyone else. I thought he must be mad to go running headlong into what I'd seen. He had a shotgun, so I thought he might be security for one of the other embassies or something like that. Whatever he was wearing looked close enough to a uniform that I didn't think anything of it at the time. When I tried to stop him, he told me to worry about myself and run. I wasn't about to seriously try and stop a guy armed like that, so I let him go. About a minute later, there was that big explosion in the park. I'm not sure what exactly happened, but I swear for a second I thought someone had set off a nuke, it was so bright…"

"Did you manage to see his face?" the reporter asked.

"Well," the, I'm going to call him The Aussie, he sounds more Australian than British… The Aussie shook his head. "As I told the police, I didn't get a clear view of his face. But he was definitely American. I know how they sound."

"Do you think maybe he was part of an American Special Forces group?"

"I couldn't really tell you," The Aussie replied. "He might be, he might not be. I just hope the bloke's alive. He must have some story to tell."

Heh… If he only KNEW.

"Alright," Ami's voice announced. "Let's get this neck braced. Mamouru-san, could you help me?"

"Okay," the prince stood up and moved over to help Ami. Between the two of them, the towel turned into a neck brace in no time flat. I never realized you could use one like this. It's kind of clever really… Just roll it tight, wrap it firmly, and your head will more or less stay put. I say more or less because a towel's not perfect. But, compared to how much free motion had been hurting, it was kind of nice.

When the ice Senshi stood back to admire her handiwork, she blinked a few times.

"Wow," she commented at last. "Now that we can see it, you really do look all banged up."

"No kidding," I replied sarcastically. "I told you guys those power jumps were a bad idea…"

"My fault!" came a reply from the kitchen. "We've never had that kind of problem, ever… So I never really thought it could hurt you."

"Don't worry about it," I waved it away with my good hand. "It's not like universe hopping dopes are a common occurrence around here."

Of course, it's not out of the question...

"We'll get'cha better," Makoto replied. "You'll like what I'm fixing here. We'll get you fed, let those nanothingies do their job, and you'll be all fixed up in no time."

"Wish I could be that optimistic," I muttered, half to myself. "My next stop is a martial arts comedy worl-"

I blanched…

"Oh god," I continued. "I'm practically crippled and my next stop is a girl with the mentality of a bulldozer…"

"Oh!" Luna frowned. "Shampoo right? That's the one who turns into a cat when you splash her with cold water?"

Rei let out a sharp chirp of a laugh and quickly bottled it up. Her face was still puffy, but she didn't sound as bad as earlier.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing," she tried to maintain a straight face. "But, who exactly names their child that? It sounds like a name right out of a manga."

No shit Sherlock…

I said nothing, opting instead to just stare at her.

"Oh," she blinked after a moment. "Right…"

"It certainly does sound funny," Luna nodded. "But that young lady is no laughing matter. I'm willing to bet she could take a youma all by herself. And her grandmother… That woman can put a person to sleep with a touch, she's really, REALLY good."

Luna paused for a moment, and then her ears perked up.

"I wonder if I can get her to teach me a few tricks like you had me do with Junpei," she continued.

"What do you mean?" I asked the feline. "Aren't you staying here?"

"Don't be absurd!" Luna snapped almost immediately. "We still have to recover that crystal, and as much as I'd like to just head home and take a nice long catnap, you need my help. So I'm going with you."

I opened my mouth to argue, but then shut it. Anyone who was even partially concerned for her would be trying to prevent her coming along because of how dangerous some situations were. But honestly, I didn't have a leg to stand on. If I screwed up, she's just as dead here as being with me. So yeah, Luna was right. End of Story.

So I didn't argue.

"Okay," I nodded. Luna just smiled.

"Here," Ami handed me a glass of water. "Doctor's orders."

"Thank you," I took the water and started to sip, then started downing it much faster. I was already much thirstier than expected.

"You also might want to look at the TV again," she commented.

I directed my attention to the television, where the news anchor had been replaced by what appeared to be a view of the city somewhere. Only it wasn't pouring down rain. There was a street with a wide intersection to the right, and a park area with a tow- OH.

OH!

I realized what it was just before a flash of lightning lit up the screen. A second flash appeared close to the first as the bolts tried to dance in the park. There were also small bursts of orange to accompany it.

"Wow," a distinctly male voice commented in English. "That's just amazing…"

"What's going on," another, female voice asked. More orange bolts and brilliant lightning strikes continued to rain down in the park. About one second after every bolt of lightning, the windows rattled from the thunderclap.

"I'm not sure," the male voice continued. "It's like the weather suddenly lost its mind. Look at that lightning."

"Did the forecast say anything about thunderstorms today?" the female voice asked.

"It wasn't supposed to be here for another hour at least," the male replied. "But this isn't any storm I've ever seen. Just look at it. It's all clumped together in the park over there lik-"

The camera went white, then static haywire.

"UAGH!" the male shouted through hissing in the audio. "MY-

'TOOM!' The sound was distorted, but it was clear enough to recognize as a loud boom against the glass of the building the video was being recorded in. Sounds of terrified screams could be heard through the distortion as the picture started to clear. However, though the static cleared up, the visuals were horribly distorted and poorly colored. From the looks of things, it seemed that the camera was now on the floor.

"-can't see!" The woman's voice broke through the static. "Honey! Where are you?"

"Here," the male's voice called. "I've got a good eye still! God damn! Are you okay?"

"What happened?"

"I don't know," the male continued. "I… I don't know. Was that a nuke? Did someone set off a nuke? My God… the PARK! Someone's blown up the park! Jesus Christ! Come on!"

The camera moved, though the distortions made it too difficult to make anything out.

"Camera's still working," the male continued, though now his voice was starting to sound more labored. "But the picture's trash… dammit. Come on honey. Let's get out of here. Right now, com o-"

The audio cut off, and the screen returned to the news anchor, whose Japanese jarred me for a second as he went back to reporting.

"That was footage taken from the lower observation deck of the Tokyo Tower by an American couple who were on vacation," he stated. "Shortly after the blast, reports of temporary blindness were among the most numerous of the injuries sustained around the Shiba Park area. Miraculously, no major injuries have been linked directly to it at this time. While rumors of a nuclear attack continue to spread throughout the area, authorities have stated that they have not detected any form of radioactive fallout. Just minutes ago, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi released this statement…"

The image cut to that of an official looking podium, an older Japanese man in a suit standing behind it harboring a look of grim determination.

"At this time," he began. "The nature of the explosion has yet to be fully determined. We can neither confirm, nor deny, any rumors that this explosion was nuclear in nature. While many witnesses reported effects consistent with that of a nuclear detonation, experts sent to the site have not detected any form of radiological contamination. Military advisors have also expressed to me, that the size of the blast, which was almost completely contained within' Shiba Park, was far below even the smallest known nuclear device. It is based on this information, that I ask you to remain calm, be patient, and cooperate with police and military forces."

There was a brief pause as he glanced at some notes on the podium.

"However, while the nature of the blast is still unknown, there is strong evidence that combative action has been taken by several parties. We do not know who it is, what, or why they did it. What we do know is that this incident has already cost the lives of a dozen of our own, and endangered countless more in the immediate Minato area. While it appears that the fighting has been halted for the time being, I urge residents to remain indoors and to be alert for any signs of suspicious activity. And to report it to the authorities so that they may take appropriate action."

Another pause, allowing for a few dozen camera flashes

"In order to help facilitate the emergency response effort going on in Roppongi, and to prevent chaos in the immediate area. An overnight curfew will be imposed for the Minato Ward. Effective immediately, all JR Lines in and out of Minato will be shut down until noon tomorrow. Tokyo Metro, and Toei Subway lines will also be on hold for all Minato stations. Sakurada Dori at Gaienhigashi Dori will be closed until noon. Hibiya Dori at Shiba Park will be closed until further notice pending a full investigation of the Shiba Park blast. The C1 Toshin Loop will reopen at seven AM. However, commuters are urged to find alternate routes. For those living or working in the areas affected by these closures, I urge you to stay put. If you are at home, stay at home. If you are at work, stay there. Give emergency crews the space they need to do their jobs. Transportation will begin resuming operations in Minato starting at twelve noon tomorrow as permitted. Military forces may continue to patrol the area along side police until it is determined safe to recall them. I urge everyone to cooperate fully with them until that time so as to help speed up the pending investigation."

Miyazawa paused a third time, looking up from his notes.

"The incident that occurred in Minato has been frightening. However, I am confident that with everyone's cooperation, we can get through this crisis and bring those responsible to justice. Thank you."

The video cut back to the anchor.

"The curfew will be in effect until seven AM," he began. "Violators in the Minato area will be detained and questioned by authorities. Parents whose children may be out are urged to be understanding of the situation. Children are also urged to contact their parents as soon as possible-"

"I better call mom," Usagi suddenly voiced up. There was this strange tone in her voice. "She's probably worried sick. And there's no telling what Dad's going to be like..."

"Just make sure you tell her we're all at Makoto's studying," Ami added.

Usagi paused, but said nothing and made her way over to the telephone.

"I still can't believe that fight stirred up so much trouble," Makoto's voice commented from the kitchen. "After all the stuff that's happened, we haven't had so much as a newspaper article, let alone made national television..."

"Well, you've never blown up a park before," Mamouru commented, just a hint of irony in his voice. "And honestly, those fights never got that out of control."

"Come to think of it," Ami cut in. "We've never really had a fight that BIG with any of them before. Jadeite came close, but even then, that was in an empty area at the airport. Its like they haven't been taking us seriously at all."

"They haven't," Rei commented. "And rightly so. After seeing what I could do today... They've been treating us like minor annoyances. If they really thought we were a threat, any one of them could have gone all out like Kunzite did today."

There was a collective silence as that sank in.

"But why haven't they?" Makoto asked. "You'd figure after beating two generals, they'd have stepped things up."

Isn't it obvious?

"Because they don't want to blow their cover," I joined the conversation. "Think about it. They have all this power, but have a devil of a time just dealing with you guys when you're playing at guessing what to do. If the world's military caught on..."

"That's why they want the crystals," Luna cut me off. "That's why they want life force energy. They can't win conventionally. There just aren't enough of them who can take the field to challenge a mobilized military force."

"So they want a super weapon so they can take us all out in one shot," Mercury frowned. "That's why they're so power obsessed."

Luna nodded.

"Hey," Makoto piped up. "Maybe... Maybe if we can draw them out into the open, we can get the military to take them out!"

"Yeah," Rei agreed. "We force the Dark Kingdom into the open, and let the military handle the rest."

"And when they go down," Ami frowned. "They take hundreds or thousands with them. Kunzite just took the firepower equivalent to a two hundred and thirty-kilogram bomb. AFTER we exhausted him. And he survived. How many people got hurt or killed in that fight? If they know they're going down, and decide they want to try and take as many people as they can with them when they do... how many do you think they're going to kill?"

Rei squeezed her eyes shut and turned away.

"We have to take him out DECISIVELY," Ami continued. "I just don't know how. Hitting him that hard is an order of magnitude beyond anything I've ever seen."

Ami's talk of strategy got me thinking. The asshole tanked five hundred pound equivalent explosive power. He tanked it after being exhausted from fighting out-numbered. But he was in such a sorry state... if it had been just a little bit more.

What if, instead of the five hundred-pound bomb, he got hit with a thousand pounds? Like a thousand-pound JDAM? That's twice the boom; it would have probably smeared him. But he was weakened... If he was at full strength, it's possible he could shrug that off. Double it again? Two thousand pound bomb?

But where would I get a two-thousand-pound bomb, let alone a JDAM in nineteen ninety-one? I can't just walk into the nearest military base and ask for that. I know Washu won't give it to me, and I doubt Ritsuko keeps THAT MUCH ordinance inside Mike...

I could try to trick the military into bringing a bomber to bear on a pre-planned target. But let's get realistic, there's no fucking way in hell I could pull off that level of planning. I couldn't get that pulled off in real life, let alone a universe where it's practically a law of physics to screw plans up.

Usagi suddenly slammed the phone down in frustration.

"What's wrong?" Luna asked.

"I can't get through," she looked down at the floor. "The phones are jammed."

"Keep trying," the feline advised. "You'll get through eventually."

Usagi looked up and nodded before picking the phone back up and dialing again.

I relaxed into the chair I was in and stared straight ahead. There had to be SOME way to get my hands on enough explosive power to drop a building on Kunzite. If random psychopaths back home can come up with ways to-

Of course! I just need to- Ah... DAMMIT!

"Hey Ami?" I began.

"Yes?" she turned.

"Can you set that computer of yours to English?" I asked.

The Senshi blinked, surprised at what I was asking.

"Ye-yeah," she continued. "I found I can put it in French, Dutch, German, and several other languages. English too... Why?"

"Can it get on the internet?" I asked.

"Uh..." she began. "I've never really tried that before. I can intercept signals, transmit signals... It can process information really fast... But-"

"It can transmit and receive?" I asked.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I was intercepting encrypted military broadcasts earlier. That's how I knew what the jets were doing..."

It can break military encryptions? Wow… That's no mean feat.

Respect for boring looking computer: Rising.

"Get on the net for me then," I stated. "See if you can get me to a search engine. I want to look something up."

At least, I hope I can look something up. This is nineteen ninety-one, not twenty-ten. The internet is a shallow proto-husk of its future self.

The young girl nodded and brought her computer out, fiddle-farting around with it for several minutes as I turned my eyes back to the now repeating newscast. Usagi continued to fight with the phone.

"Got it," Ami nodded at last. "The phones are so jammed I had to use an alternate path. There are some dedicated military transmission bands that are always active. I've looked at them before... Usually just some text from time to time... But they connect to the internet."

She knows about flash traffic? Girl's been playing around.

"Can they trace this?" I asked. I don't want the military tracking us down...

"They won't even know someone's connected beyond a slowdown," the Senshi grinned. "And even that's all but invisible in this weather."

Plus Two Respect for magic computer...

It didn't take long. With the internet being more or less in its infancy, it was actually easier despite the connection being slower than molasses to find the relevant info without the billions of gigs of useless junk that had since cluttered it. Still, I had to get a bit creative with the search system, and Ami had to make her computer assist. In this manner, I was starting to miss Google, and Wikipedia. But if Umino can find random Sailor V posters on the Net, I can find more relevant things.

My notebook came out... Mamouru seemed a bit surprised by the hole, but relaxed after Ami explained it to him. For what I wanted to do, I needed to know a few things, so I had to write the proportions down and then make a calculator estimate.

"So what are you doing?" Rei asked.

"Science," I commented, taking my sheet of paper and folding it up. A glance at her noted she was a bit too curious. I didn't want interference. This could work... Assuming I don't let anyone start getting ideas to try and 'help'. If everyone starts planning, then we run the risk of plans screwing up plans, screwing up plans... That's why I'd burned that note back when I was making my Motoko plan. Nobody is to know anything, otherwise they start trying to 'adjust' things, thinking they're making 'improvements'... Hilarity ensues shortly thereafter. Followed by pain.

Pain hurts… Much like my hand did. Much like my ribs and neck do now.

My hand went into my pocket to stuff the note away, and I realized about that moment that I'd forgotten something.

"Oh," I continued, pulling a familiar pen-like object out. "By the way... "

I thumbed it once, depositing a BB-sized pellet into my hand.

"Washu's having me drop these wherever I go," I continued. "They're little beacons she's using to record data on my jumps."

I reached out and placed the tiny pellet into the younger Hino's hand.

"Put it somewhere safe," I continued. "Near your bed so Washu can get the most accurate reading."

Rei looked down at the tiny pellet, her mouth open in confusion.

"She's trying to figure out why he jumps to YOU," Luna cut in. "It needs to be where he shows up."

Rei glanced at Luna, then nodded, closing her hand on the pellet.

"Yeah, mom?" Usagi's voice piped up. "Yeah. I'm okay. Yeah, we're at Mako-chan's. I've seen the news… Okay, I will. Love you too, bye."

The princess hung up the phone.

"Well," Luna tilted her head to the side. "That didn't take long."

"What did you expect?" Usagi gave a weak smile to her feline friend.

Luna just gave a human-like shrug and turned back to me. Her eyes narrowed for a second, and she gave a sidelong glance at Usagi.

Yeah, something's wrong with her. And it doesn't take an idiot to figure it out. Nine out of ten brain cells says it's the same thing that's bothering everyone else here… That newscast.

"Okay," Makoto signaled from the kitchen. "Everybody wash up, I'm almost done."

"What are we eating?" Ami asked.

"I told you already," Makoto replied. "It's curry. Just something quick and easy."

"It's not spicy curry is it?" the ice Senshi continued. "If his stomach has been upset, that might not-"

"Not spicy at all," Makoto chided. "I know how an upset stomach can get. This is a nice, mild curry."

At that moment, everyone stood up and started making bee lines towards the nearest sink. The girls went first, some unspoken agreement floating in the air that made both Mamouru and me hang back for the sake of courtesy. Once the girls finished, we took our turn. For a moment, it was just him and me, the perfect opportunity.

"Hey," I began quietly while he was rinsing his hands. "Think you can do me a favor?"

Chiba turned, shutting the sink off in the process.

"What is it?" he began.

I froze for a moment, then quickly reached out and yanked the knob, turning the water back on. The prince just blinked in confusion until I raised a finger up to my lips, indicating 'quiet'.

Nodding in understanding, he reached out and pushed the door so it swung almost closed.

"I need you to deliver this for me," I continued quietly, pulling the note I'd written down earlier. "As soon as you can, get it to Rei's grandfather."

"What is it?" he asked, eying it curiously.

"Don't worry about that," I stated in slightly stronger tone. "If something about this goes wrong, you'll be better off knowing nothing about it."

Chiba hesitated, then gently reached out and took the folded paper.

"Why not have Rei do it?" he asked, indicating the other room.

"Because I don't want her to know either," I replied. "I don't want any of them to know. And He doesn't want them to know either. So get this note to him, don't let Rei find out. And if he asks, tell him the Egg Man sent it. He'll understand."

Chiba nodded, stuffing the sheet of paper into his pocket.

"This too," I popped open my pocket and fished my gold bag out. After a few seconds, I dropped three coins into his hand. "That should be more than enough to cover the expenses. Anything extra, he can keep, got it?"

"Got it," he replied quietly.

"And DON'T forget," I emphasized. "If we want to take out kunzite, Hino needs that."

The prince nodded again. "I'll get it to hi-"

"HEY!" Rei's voice approached the door. In response, I turned and stuck one hand in the water while stuffing the gold bag into a pants pocket, acting as if I had been washing the whole time. Chiba stuck his hand into the towel he'd been using.

"What's taking you two so long?" she asked, some edge returning to her voice. "And people say girls take too long?"

Rei pushed the door open with her foot and glared at us across the mirror.

"Come on prince charming," she grabbed Mamouru by the shoulder and pulled him around. "Your princess wants some attention. Go give her some."

After a second, she turned back around, a slightly regretful look on her face before she hardened it and walked over to me.

"And you need to EAT," she chided. "Come on, hurry up."

Rei quickly latched onto my (thankfully) good arm and gave a tug. I had little choice in this shape but to let myself be hauled away from the sink. I only barely just managed to shut the water off before I was out of reach.

"Alright!" Makoto smirked as I was hauled into the main room. "Time to eat. I've got more water ready for you as well, so just sit down and let me take care of this."

"Right here," Rei directed me to what I guess was now my spot.

There was a pop, and Luna plopped into a spot along side me, smirking as she did so. The group just stared.

"What?" she asked. "Am I not allowed to eat? I get hungry too you know."

Senbei landed on the table a moment later and wandered over to a small loose plate where he sat down.

"She eats even more in that form too," he informed them, earning a sharp glare from the felis sapien. "In contrast, you will find that I require only a small tribute to satisfy."

"What's he mean that she eats even more?" Mercury blinked.

"It takes a lot more energy for Luna to run her humanoid form," I answered. "She's probably starving, and she ate two meals at lunch.

"Whoa…" Makoto looked down at the rice pot she was dishing out, then back up again. "If that's true… I might need to make another batch.

"Wait and see if you need to first," Ami suggested. "I'm not really all that hungry myself.

"Neither am I," Mamouru admitted. "I actually had something to eat right before that fight started."

Makoto made a face as if to mull it over, then proceeded to dish out the food to those who were seated. Rei sat down across from me, while Usagi plopped down over on the right, still unusually quiet.

After serving everyone, Makoto sat down on her end.

"ITADAKIMASU!" the group crowed, honestly catching me off guard. Rei just rolled her eyes at my reaction.

The curry smelled good; Junpei would be jealous. But even now, my appetite just wasn't picking up. Whatever had made me sick from that water yesterday still had my stomach in its grip. But I was able to keep a few bites of burger and some fries down at lunch… And if I didn't eat… Well, let's not go there.

I forced myself to eat, relying on my taste buds to override my appetite. It worked, sorta'. Unable to turn my head, I found that actually getting my food from my plate to my mouth was a bit of a challenge. I couldn't even look down at my plate correctly to even see it, which made for very slow going.

I wasn't the only one having trouble with their plate either. Usagi, for all her gusto when it came to food, seemed to be eating more as an afterthought, her eyes glazed as if her mind were a million miles away. It didn't take long for the others to notice.

"Hey," Rei poked her friend. "You okay dumpling head?"

The princess' eyes came back into focus as she looked up.

"Yeah…" she sighed. "I'm just upset I can't help those people…"

"Don't worry," the fire Senshi responded. "We'll pay them back… Somehow."

"Yeah," Usagi nodded, her eyes starting to glaze over again. "Somehow…"

There was silence for several minutes, broken only by an errant crack of thunder that Usagi didn't even seem to notice. It was so unnaturally quiet that part of me wanted to crack a joke of some kind just to break the somber mood. It was almost depressing.

Thankfully, I didn't have to try and murder them with my terrible morbid humor when Usagi suddenly sat up straight, slamming her fist on the table.

"NO!" she snapped, making everyone jump. (Including myself, which was as painful as you could expect.) "I won't HAVE IT!"

"Whoa whoa," Makoto waved her arms in the air. "Time out, have what?"

"First," Usagi glared daggers across the table. "They toy with people's lives and treat them like CATTLE to feed… whatever it is they feed. Then, they hurt my best friend Naru-chan just to get at me, and then kill Nephrite when he just wanted to leave. Now they're just going to murder and hurt people as they see fit?"

If it were possible for Usagi to look any more self righteous than she already did, the strange cross of sad and angry on her face took it to a whole new level. It had that same look that could curdle fresh milk Belldandy had sported for just a few scary moments.

"I won't STAND for that!" she snapped, I could see a tear running down her face that she quickly brushed away. "Not any more, not this time. I don't want to see anyone else get hurt."

Usagi squeezed her eyes shut for a second and took a shuddering breath, then opened them a fresh 'Belldandy-glare' coming down the table.

"Ami," she continued. "Do you still have that book by that Sue guy?"

"Sue?" Ami blinked. "Uh…-"

"The one about war art or whatever it was," the princess reiterated.

"Wait," Ami's face betrayed her disbelieve. "Sun Tzu's: The Art of War?"

"Yeah, that one!" Usagi nodded. "Do you still have it?"

"Yes," Ami continued to look thunderstruck at her friend. "Why."

"I want it."

Silence…

"Usagi," Rei began. "That book is a little-"

"Silence Mars," Usagi snapped without so much as turning her head. Rei snapped her mouth shut with an audible click. The tone in Usagi's voice was enough to make me stop fighting with my own food. Either I'm hearing things, or in the last two minutes, Usagi just grew the biggest pair of brass ones…

"Ami," Usagi continued, her breath was coming out slightly labored. "Can I have that book?"

"What are you planning to do?" the bookworm asked. "I offered that book before and you couldn't even get past the table of contents."

"I'm going to learn about what the dark kingdom is doing," Usagi frowned. "And then I'm going to return the favor…"

"You're going to declare WAR on them?" Makoto's eyes would have bugged out if they could.

"Don't be a dummy!" Rei jumped to her feet.

"MARS," Usagi's tone had a level of 'Don't Fuck With Me' I'd never heard out of her before. Instinctively, I did my best to hunch down and resume eating.

"I'm not going to be quiet," the fire Senshi replied. "You're over reacting to this situation and-"

"REI, DROP IT!" Luna snapped in a regal tone from next to me. "Do NOT argue with the princess."

Rei froze, her mouth working for a rebuttal. She'd probably never been scolded by Luna like that, ever. Her eyes met mine, and the best I could do was screw my face up in a way that said 'sit down, it's safer there'.

"You will not change her mind," Luna continued. "Not like this… I remember this."

"What?" Makoto looked back and forth between them. "What are you-"

"I've seen that look before," Luna glanced at the thunder Senshi. "She looks just like her mother when she made up her mind. Just like Serenity. Just drop it."

My eyes did their best to glance around despite my immobile neck. I felt like I'd suddenly been thrust into a situation that I was at best, completely at its mercy… Despite the fact that it was just a group of fourteen year old girls. I wasn't alone. Chiba seemed to have found a spot in the corner of the room to retreat to and seemed to be trying to find a way not to draw attention to himself.

"So," Usagi continued, letting disarming smile typical of her normal temperament cross her features. "Can you bring me that book Ami-Chan?"

"Uh…" Ami looked around, unsure of how to respond. Nobody said anything. "Sure. Usagi… chan."

"Thank you Ami-Chan!" Usagi all but bubbled. That was a little more like it. Serious Usagi really is creepy after all. I don't think I like it.

"Ne…" Luna began. "Are you really planning to go to WAR with the Dark Kingdom?"

Usagi's smile dropped. Dammit Luna! As much as I want Usagi to take things seriously as you do, I do not like this… Not one bit. Don't make her have that face!

"No," Usagi pouted. "Soldiers make war… I'm not a soldier."

I thought that's what a Senshi was… A soldier, you know, of love and justice? Just what is she-?

"I am Sailor Moon," she glared that Belldandy look at us again. "I am a white mage. White mages do not make war, we love… We tolerate."

"Then what are-" Rei began, but Usagi cut her off with a glare so cold that could have put the sun out.

"I am going to LOVE… and TOLERATE, the SHIT out of them."

Usagi smiled again, and attacked her curry with her normal gusto.