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The Future's Hope

by Sailor Chronos

Chapter One: Unseen Threat

Journal, April 23rd 2909
This is a wonderful day. Small Lady returned safely from the past and has been regaling everyone with tales of her adventures. "Hotaru-chan", "Pegasus" and "Neherenia" are names that come up frequently. It's all as I remember it. Kurisu and I have been summoned to see Neo-Queen Serenity this afternoon, which is an honour. I rarely have the occasion to visit the palace, since the Senshi come to our home regularly for tea.

The large ornate doors opened before them and they walked into the throne room. Chronos was always amazed by its beauty. Serenity had done an excellent job of recreating her mother's throne room from the old days on the Moon. Beside her, resplendent in his full Knight's armour, Kurisu was just as captivated.

The tapping of a staff on the floor brought their attention to the end of the room where two large thrones dominated a raised dais. Standing in front of them was Neo-Queen Serenity, looking as regal as ever, holding her Moon Tier. "Sailor Chronos. Sir Knight Kurisu. Thank you for coming."

They knelt before her. "Our duty to you, Majesty."

Serenity smiled. "Please rise, my friends. The summons wasn't formal, you need not have gone to the trouble of dressing up. Would you like some tea?" She led them into a dining room where a table was laid out with a silver tea service and a plate of small cakes.

"Majesty, ought not your servants..." Kurisu began in astonishment as the Queen poured tea for them.

"I wouldn't ask them to do something that I can easily do for myself," Serenity replied. "Believe it or not, I'm much less of a klutz than I once was. Even Small Lady has a hard time believing it, after seeing the past as she has." She shook her head ruefully. "What a character I was back then."

Chronos chuckled. "I remember, down to the last detail. But everyone must grow up sometime. We both learned that the hard way."

"Indeed we did, Lia-chan, which is why I asked you here. You're the perfect person for the task that is at hand." The Queen gestured and a holo-ball floated into the room. She passed her hand over it, and an image appeared of four gaudily dressed young girls. "Do you remember them?"

"Yes, they are the Amazoness Quartet. Once minions of the Dead Moon Circus, they were healed and went on to live normal lives. None of the Senshi has seen them since."

"That is true, but I know they still live. You two must find them, for I believe there will come a time when they will be needed."

"Majesty, we wouldn't know where to start looking," Kurisu said, "or even what they look like. They would be grown up by now."

Now Serenity laughed. "I doubt that, Kurisu. Physically mature, yes. Grown up? That remains to be seen. When you find them you are to harbour them in secrecy, and train them as befits Sailor Senshi." She held out her hand and four slender wands appeared, floating in mid-air. They were coloured pink, green, blue and red respectively, and were each topped with a gold crown shape which had a symbol embedded in it.

Chronos stared; she recognized the symbols. "Those are..." She cleared her throat and straightened up. "Surely there are others who could do better."

"The other Senshi have their duties," the Queen said in a tone which brooked no contradiction. "You are currently available, and considering what you have faced in the past, you are the only one who would understand how to proceed."

She sighed, then remembered something. Perhaps this was what her predecessor had meant when she had told her to find a new duty when their Kingdom was reborn. She nodded. "I accept, Queen Serenity."

"As do I," Kurisu added. "We won't let you down."

As they were walking back to their house Kurisu asked, "Are you all right, Lia-chan? When you saw the wands you looked like you had seen a ghost."

"I was surprised, that's all. I hadn't been expecting this quite so soon. But now I have a purpose once again, and I must carry it out."

He put his arm around her shoulders. "This time we'll do it together. We were forced apart once because of our duties; I won't let that happen again."

She kissed him.

"Captain on the bridge!"

The crew snapped to attention as the Second announced the Captain's presence. "At ease," the deep voice said. "Return to your stations." A tall hooded man, dressed in a crisp grey uniform with a navy blue cloak draped about his shoulders, walked across the floor to stand by his Second. "Report."

The man saluted. "Scans show a fertile world; ratio of water to land seventy percent, environmental stability eighty percent. Inhabited, approximate population two billion. We are still trying to pinpoint energy sources that will give us an indication of technology level." He typed a command on a console and a holographic image of the planet appeared in the middle of the room. The Captain regarded it for a few minutes.

"It's perfect."

Journal, June 30th 2917
The day has arrived. Everything that must be done has been done. All that remains is for Small Lady to have best birthday party ever. I only hope that we will eventually be forgiven.

"Happy birthday to you / Happy birthday to you / Happy birthday, dear Serenity / Happy birthday to you!"

Princess Usagi "Small Lady" Serenity brushed happy tears from her eyes as everyone clapped and encouraged her to blow out the fifteen candles on the large two-tiered cake that stood on the table. She actually managed to do so with one breath.

"Did you make a wish?" Venus asked with a wink.

Jupiter teased, "I'll bet it was to find a boyfriend!"

"Right, Jupiter, like that's the only thing on her mind," Mars said, then blushed when Jupiter mock-glared at her.

Mercury giggled.

King Endymion handed his daughter an engraved cake knife. "Cut the cake, dear. Then we can tell the pastry chef how delicious it was."

Slicing carefully, Serenity served six pieces and was cutting a seventh when she hesitated, then put the knife down.

"What's wrong?" her mother asked. "The cake can't be that bad."

"Nothing," she said quickly. "I just feel that Lia-chan ought to be here. We've been going to her house so often lately."

A bell tinkled nearby, then the familiar weight of her feline companion Diana settled on her shoulders. "We did invite her, but she declined, saying she had other duties. She did say to ask you to save her a piece and bring it to her later."

Serenity laughed. "Okay, I'll do that." She finished cutting the cake and set a piece aside before tasting her own. "Wow, this IS yummy! The chef must have been making it for days!" Frowning then, she looked at Jupiter suspiciously. "YOU didn't make this, did you?"

The brown-haired Senshi shook her head with a grin. "Uh-uh. I'm good but not this good. Plus I'm rather out of practice."

"I have offered to excuse all of you from your duties once in a while so you may pursue your favourite pastimes," the Queen remarked, "but more often than not, you refuse, out of loyalty to me and the Princess. We should not be the sole purpose of your existence, my friends."

There were indignant exclamations from the Senshi but Endymion put up a hand. "She's quite right. As the saying goes, you need to get out more."

"Speaking of going out," Mars said, "Serenity, why don't you take that piece of cake to Chronos? We'll help clear this up and catch up with you in a little bit, okay?"

"Okay!" Picking up the plate, the Princess walked out of the dining room with Diana still draped around her neck, her long pink ponytails swirling about.

They all watched her go, then Mars and Neo-Queen Serenity exchanged a grim glance.

The Second saluted. "Sir, you will want to see this." He rotated the planet hologram and zoomed in on a chain of islands off the western coast of the larger ocean. "Our initial survey revealed few energy sources that would be consistent with a technologically advanced species. However we found this." A point of light appeared on one of the islands and statistics began to scroll across the image.

"Amazing," the Captain said, with some reverence. "This could certainly pose a threat. Use the pulse cannon to destroy it. Then transport down a squad of Cyberoids to secure the area."

"Yes, sir."

"Small Lady, what a surprise!" Alyssa exclaimed with a grin. "You brought me a piece of your birthday cake."

"It's the least I could do, since I've eaten enough of yours over the years. Oh, I'm called Serenity now. I'm not so small any more!"

Kurisu chuckled. "I believe it. You're almost as tall as your mother. Please have something to drink."

"Thank you, but I should go back. It's my turn to inspect the gardens today and..."

Thunder rumbled outside, but instead of subsiding in a few seconds, it became louder. They all looked out a window, but there wasn't a cloud to be seen. The noise crescendoed, ripping through the air like a supersonic jet, and from the direction of the Crystal Palace came a light so blindingly bright that it stabbed through hands and arms that were flung up to protect vision. Then... utter silence.

It was several minutes before any of them were able to see with any clarity. Diana had fared the worst, her eyes being more sensitive.

Serenity stumbled out of the house into an afternoon that seemed much darker than it had been. And gasped.

The Palace was gone.