Sailor Mars couldn't believe what she was seeing. The number of youma involved in this incident was staggering; she couldn't even begin to imagine how they could fight off this many. Were there only dozens of youma there, or could they be counted in the hundreds by now? Mercury could probably have given her an accurate count, but she doubted the girl would even show up to help. It was a shame too, because the Senshi of Water's fog field would have been ever so useful in a battle like this one...
"Mars? What are you doing here?"
She turned to see Sailor Venus just recovering from her landing on the little roof she had been using as a lookout point. "That's a stupid question. I got Moon's message, and I AM a senshi," she replied. She wanted to thank Venus for showing up even after she threw her out of the group, but what came out instead was, "The better question is, what are you doing here? I thought I told you that you weren't with us anymore." What was she saying? Apologize! Apologize!
Venus just scowled at her and pointed to where Moon was fighting. "Flower-chan's in there. If you think I'm going to sit this one out, you're crazy."
Was she stupid or something? She needed to apologize, but she just couldn't find the words. Venus was here to help, and Kami knew they were going to need all the help they could get. Why was she so stubborn?
She heard the impact of someone else landing on the roof beside them, and Sailor Jupiter joined in the conversation. "What are you two doing up here arguing?" she asked, angrily. "We've got a war to fight. Settle your differences afterward."
Mars felt relief at that. Someone else was going to take charge, and keep her from making things even worse. She nodded. "Alright. We'll settle this later," she said, and jumped down to join the fray.
Sailor Moon was getting frustrated. These youma weren't all that tough individually, but they were fast, and their coordination was excellent. Any time she tried to charge up for a Moon Tiara Action, one of them would attack her, and she'd have to give up the attack in favor of augmenting her speed. But charged with magic, she couldn't release it in any kind of attack that would actually hurt these youma. The fight was mostly a stalemate at this point; although every once in a while she could actually get an attack off and kill one of the youma, it seemed there was an endless supply of them, and she wasn't killing them nearly fast enough to make a difference.
The stalemate couldn't last much longer, though. She was starting to feel the strain from her efforts wearing on her; while it seemed she had an endless amount of that magic energy to work with, there also seemed to be a limit to the amount she could use before she tired. Was it a time limit or a capacity limit? Could she extend that limit with practice? That was an idea for her to examine at some point when she wasn't fighting for her life. Her few memories of magical training during the Silver Millennium were no help; she'd mostly slacked off, unless she was making crystal flowers.
She came to the realization that she was losing this fight. She had a limit to the amount of magic she could actually use, and she was burning it away using it to augment herself so these youma couldn't mob her. There were still far too many youma for her to deal with, and Pluto was busy supporting the police forces. At some point, she was going to need to rest, and with the number of youma still surrounding her she doubted she could break from the combat long enough to get even a short breather. Was this how it was going to end?
She firmed her resolve. Magic or no magic, she was going to make her presence here count. If she went down, she was going to bring as many youma as she could down with her. But she was sure she wouldn't go down this easily. She was Princess Ranma-Serenity Saotome, and she wasn't going to lose.
Several youma around her screamed as they were hit by the attacks, and one unfortunate youma that had been in exactly the wrong place and hit by all three of them was reduced to dust. Moments later, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter landed in the circle of youma with her. The youma backed off a little, surprised by the addition of three new senshi, and Moon got her first real rest. "Boy, am I glad to see you girls," she said.
"I couldn't leave my sister to fight this horde," replied Venus.
"It would be inappropriate for me to leave our Princess to fight alone," noted Mars.
"It got me out of doing homework," said Jupiter.
Mars and Venus almost face-faulted at that. Moon just chuckled a little and turned her attention to the youma circling them, which seemed to have gotten over their surprise and were closing in again. "Here they come," she said, and the battle was back on.
Nephrite chuckled as he faced down his two human opponents, both in a combat ready stance. "You know, I was human, once. The Dark Kingdom has made me so much more. Feel the power of the Dark Kingdom, and know your place," he said, drawing a longsword seemingly from thin air. Neither of the humans seemed intimidated by the live steel, but that was fine; it meant that they would attempt to defend against him head-on. Raising his blade into a classic earth-kingdom military attack stance, he struck.
The fight was short, and horribly one-sided. Sure, he could heal anything the two humans did to him as fast as they could harm him, but Riggs countered anything he tried to do with potentially crippling hits, while Murtaugh covered his partner's back and prevented him from capitalizing on any openings the smaller man left. After some minutes of embarrassingly being thrown around like a rag doll, Nephrite broke off the fight. He scowled at his two opponents, who had both fallen back into a ready stance. "You cannot oppose us. Skilled you may be in close combat, but I am Nephrite, one of the Four Dark Generals."
"Hmm... I think we're doing a pretty good job of opposing him. What do you think?" Riggs asked, turning his head slightly toward Murtaugh, while still keeping Nephrite in sight.
"Speak for yourself," the older man replied. "I'm getting too old for this shit."
Nephrite chuckled. He was several orders of magnitude older than the human, but Dark Kingdom magic had kept him in the prime of his life. Another advantage over the weak humans of this period. "Well, I think I've played with you long enough." He held out a hand, and the space in front of it started to glow with power, the glow resolving itself into the shape of several small points of light rapidly orbiting a larger one. "Die!"
Riggs reacted quickly, drawing a gun from under his jacket with the ease of long practice and snapping off two quick shots. Nephrite's eyes widened as he saw what Riggs had drawn, abandoning his attack and putting up a shield, but it wasn't quite quick enough. The first shot, snapped off as the gun came up, shattered his knee just as his shield solidified. The second one, aimed at his chest, was blocked by the shield. Nephrite broke into a cold sweat at that, even as he fell to one knee. He wasn't sure if he could survive a shot to the heart. His knee was rapidly healing, but it would be more than a week before he could walk right. Several more bullets splattered against his shield, seemingly aimed at his head. He scowled at the human. "Insolent fool," he said, readying a teleportation. "My youma will take care of you. You'll never leave this place alive." He cast his spell, and faded from the two humans' sight.
Riggs watched his opponent fade away, and shook his head. "Such a cliché line. You'd think we were in the middle of a bad movie," he said.
Murtaugh just looked at him with a mixture of confusion and horror on his face. "Where the hell did you get that?"
"Oh, this?" Riggs replied, as he holstered the gun. "It's my service weapon."
Murtaugh paled. "How did you..." he started, then shook his head. "No, don't tell me how you got that past customs. I don't want to know. Do you even know how many laws we've violated, just today?"
"At least one less than I intend to. Come on, let's find the senshi," Riggs replied, and headed for the door.
Outside the file room, they found the Juuban Police Chief blocking the route to the exit. "Do you boys know how much trouble you're in? Sneaking into Police headquarters, breaking into secure records, and discharging a deadly weapon," he said, as he seemed to grow. Muscles boiled out from under his clothes, shredding them in the process, as his body twisted into some misshapen parody of a human form. "It's the death penalty for you!" it exclaimed.
Riggs's roundhouse kick took it completely by surprise, spinning its head around, and its body reluctantly followed. His follow-up sent it flying into a desk cubicle. "What is this, cliché central?" he asked. Murtaugh just shrugged, but then started as the youma started to get up.
"Now assaulting an officer of the peace," it said as it stood. Its head sat at an odd angle. "That'll get you the electric chair."
Riggs and Murtaugh looked at each other, came to some unspoken consensus, and ran for the back of the building. The youma tried to follow, but rammed into a wall before stopping to right its head. By the time it had achieved that, the detectives were well ahead of it.
Riggs had the presence of mind to question why every door was left wide open as he ran into what should have been the secure wing of the police building, but he wasn't complaining. He and Murtaugh closed the barred entrance door behind them, and the pursuing youma crashed into it. Snarling, it tried to reach through the bars at them, clawed at the bars, and tried to rip the door off its frame, but the tempered steel held. Riggs and Murtaugh sagged against a wall in relief. "I said it before, but it's worth repeating," noted Murtaugh. "I'm too old for this shit."
"If you're so old you can't keep up, why don't you just retire," Riggs said, straightening and heading past the second barred door into the secure wing. He stopped as he heard something from a nearby room. Was that... a phone ringing?
"Someone's got to keep you out of trouble," Murtaugh said, but Riggs wasn't listening. He opened the door to the evidence room, and followed the noise to a locker. He realized that the sound was not just one, but three distinctive ring tones. He took the sheet of paper out of his pocket, compared its contents to the locker number, and nodded.
"Sounds like the senshi's friends are trying to get a hold of them," he said, using the combination on the paper to open the lock. He frowned as he saw the communicators and wands. He didn't know what he was expecting from magical weapons and gear, but he did not expect it to seem so... normal, almost. The wands could almost be mistaken for writing utensils... however unnecessarily decorated. The noisily ringing communicators could be mistaken for cell phones. Again, unnecessarily decorated, but not any more so than what some girls' phones he'd seen looked like. It almost seemed like someone had taken great pains to make these items as innocuous as possible, but then someone else had gone to great lengths to decorate them.
He opened one communicator, which promptly stopped ringing and showed an emergency notice with a symbol of a crescent moon with its ends pointed upward. Shrugging, he opened the other two communicators to quiet them, seeing the same alert.
He examined one of them. The devices looked like standard clam shell cellphones, with a somewhat larger than normal screen on the upper part and the lower part having several more keys than usual. He touched one of them at random, and the top screen changed to show "Calling" and a symbol of a letter P with an extra line running underneath it. Several seconds later, the screen changed again, to show the face of a dark green haired beauty. "Pluto here. Saturn, how did you... You're not Saturn," she said, and Riggs realized there must be a two-way video function built into the devices.
"No, I'm not," he replied. "You're one of the Sailor Senshi?"
"You can call me Sailor Pluto," she said. "Who are you, and how did you end up with Saturn's communicator?"
"It's complicated," Riggs hedged. "You could call me and my partner secret admirers, but we're trapped in the Police headquarters secure wing by one of those monsters."
Pluto frowned and took a moment to process that. "If you free the Senshi imprisoned there, they will be able to take care of the youma," she said. "But don't take too long about it, because the Dark Kingdom has agents that can teleport."
"Already chased one of 'em off," Riggs said, and Pluto's eyes widened. "Plugged him in the knee before he put a shield up, and he ran away."
Pluto made a face. "Guns" she said with distaste, and shook her head. "Still, please hurry. When you free the other senshi, we could use their help as well."
"Got it," he said, and the screen cut out. He turned to his partner. "Good news. The Senshi are still fighting."
"How is that good news?" the older man asked.
"That means they're not dead. Have you seen any keys around? At this point, I'm pretty sure freeing the senshi has become our only way of getting out of here alive," he said.
"You were going to do that anyway," Murtaugh noted.
"Yup," answered Riggs, simply, and went about looking for keys.
Some time later he and Murtaugh stood before a holding cell containing three school-aged girls. This section of the building was just as deserted of officers as the rest, and there were no keys to be found anywhere. The three girls looked up at him suspiciously from their bench across the cell, two of them seeming to take comfort in each other's presence, the third, younger girl seeming to place herself as far from the other two as possible.
"You three are Senshi?" he asked. None of the girls responded, just glaring at him sullenly. He sighed, and pulled out the communicator he'd spoken with Pluto on. "Any of you recognize this?"
The younger girl seemed to startle. "Hey, that's mine!"
"That would make you Saturn, then," Riggs said. The girl clammed up and stared at her feet. He sighed. The girls seemed to be short on trust... not that he blamed them. He tossed the communicator to her, along with the matching wand. She fumbled with the communicator as she caught it, the wand escaped her grasp and skittered along the floor. She quickly snatched that up as well.
That seemed to get the attention of the other two. "Who are you," the short-haired blonde one asked.
"We're friends," he said. "What's your color?"
The girl and her sea-green-haired companion blinked at him. He sighed as he pointed to 'Saturn' "She's obviously purple. It's all over her items. Who are you?"
The green-haired girl seemed to get the question first. "Green," she answered, and Riggs tossed her the matching communicator and wand. He shouldn't have been surprised that the items matched the girl's hair; the younger girl's had as well. If that was how it worked, though, then the blonde wasn't a senshi. Although, if that were the case, why was she in a cell with two of them, and where was the third?
The other girl looked at him expectantly, but he just held his hands in his pockets. "Well, I'm waiting," he said.
"There's only one pair left," she said. "Hand them over."
"Not until you tell me what color they are," Riggs said.
"Why does it matter if I know what color they are? I'm the only one left in here, and there's only one left to give. So give it," she said angrily.
"Ah, but how do I know they're yours? I only have your word to go on. Now, if you were to tell me what color the items I have in my pocket are..." Riggs suggested. After the incident out front, he wanted to be sure this girl wasn't just another shape shifter. He knew that there were still all sorts of ways for an imposter to know what he had in his pocket, but this was the best he could come up with on such short notice.
"...Blue," the girl finally muttered. He tossed her the items.
"Surprising that your stuff doesn't match your hair like theirs does. Do you bleach?" he asked. The girl just glared at him. "Alright. So you're the three sailor senshi. Younger than I expected..." he ventured.
"OK, so now what? You going to just let us out of here, we can go home, just like that?" the angry girl asked.
"Ah, well, there's a bit of a problem with that," Riggs said. "The policemen that were supposed to be keeping an eye on you all left, and I'm afraid they all took their keys with them. I don't know how we're going to get you out of that cell..."
The younger girl flexed the fingers of both her hands, and a weapon appeared between them: a weird blade on the end of a staff. What was it called, a naginata?
The girl swung the weapon once, twice, and several of the cell bars fell away. Riggs dodged away from one that fell in his direction. He examined the end of the bar, and whistled. Cut clean through.
The older girls were looking at the younger one in shock. "Hotaru, what are you doing?" asked the green-haired one. "We can't just break out like that..."
"Yes we can!" the younger girl said, and spared an angry glare at the other two. "Can't you feel it? Something big is happening. I'm going to go help stop it."
Riggs chuckled. The little girl spoke with a quiet voice, but she was a real spitfire. "There's another problem," he said soberly. "There's one of those youma between here and the way out. We're trapped in here as much as you are."
"I'll take care of that," the young girl said, and held up her wand. "Saturn Planet Power, Make Up!" she called out, and in a brilliant flash of light her clothes transformed into what the two officers recognized as the senshi 'uniform'. "You two can stay here if you want. I know the others are fighting. I'm going to go help."
Riggs and Murtaugh looked at each other as the two older girls remained seated on the bench. "Infighting?" Riggs ventured.
Murtaugh shrugged as the girl with the polearm-type weapon squeezed past him, and he nervously kept his distance from the absurdly sharp end. "Wouldn't surprise me. Word on the news was there was some girl that got nearly killed by some senshi. I think we agree that if the girl herself wasn't a senshi, then she's at least close to them."
The two girls still in the cell shifted uncomfortably. "Alright, you've made your point," the blonde said. "Hotaru might be willing to just trust you, but we don't have that luxury. What do you want?"
"There's a fight out there that's more important than whatever infighting's going on in your group. Go out and win it," Murtaugh said.
The blonde frowned at him. "So you're blackmailing us into setting aside our differences and fighting along with the imposter and the other senshi? Why? What's it to you?"
Murtaugh shook his head. "You're asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking yourself, is 'Why should he have to blackmail me into doing the right thing?'. Now you've got a job to do. Get to it."
Moon felt exhausted. The other senshi covering her made it easier for her to get her attacks off, and they had their own attacks to throw into the fracas as well, but they didn't seem to be making any progress in culling the herd of combat youma. With each one that died, another arrived to take its place... in fact, the number of youma they were facing seemed to have grown. Meanwhile, she had to dig deeper and deeper into her energy reserves to keep fighting, and every spell she cast cut out a large chunk of what was left. She'd already long since stopped boosting her ki with her magic, since that only seemed to hasten the progress of her exhaustion. The weirdest thing was that it wasn't a physical strain. Her body felt fine, and she could probably keep fighting on a physical level as long as her normal ki reserves held out. But ki was demonstrably useless against the youma, and she was sure that even if she did somehow miraculously figure out a way to project her ki, whatever youma she hit with it would quite literally just eat the attack.
The other girls were faring better than her, as they hadn't been fighting nearly as long, but they too seemed to be getting tired. None of them, except maybe Jupiter, was a skilled fighter, and she'd seen Mars and Venus take some bad hits. If they survived this battle, she was definitely going to have to give the other senshi some training.
She dodged to the side of a youma's strike, grabbed it, and threw it into the path of a Crescent Beam that had missed its intended target. The youma disintegrated into dust; apparently that one had already taken a few attacks. A group of youma dove out of the way of a Fire Soul, which exploded harmlessly on the pavement. Distantly, a Dead Scream exploded. Were they getting closer? At least it seemed Pluto was making progress.
Suddenly Pluto appeared in the midst of their fight, hitting a youma nearly point blank with another Dead Scream just before it managed to hit Jupiter. The attack blasted it back and into a couple other youma, who all exploded into dust when it detonated. "Tired, Princess?" she asked Moon.
Moon nodded. She was pretty sure using any more magic would finish her off. "I don't know how you're still going. I need a break."
"Well, I have good news and bad news then," said Pluto, as a swing of her staff sent a youma that attacked her flying, and she sent a Dead Scream after it. The attack detonated just as the youma landed, reducing it to dust before it could recover.
Neat trick. It was dirty fighting, but who was counting? She'd have to remember that one. "Bad news first," she said, simultaneously annoyed that in the short time Pluto had joined in the fight with the inners she'd already proven to be the most effective of the group of them, and relieved that maybe they'd be able to finally make some progress.
"The bad news is that the youma that were attacking the police barricades have all turned back, and are coming this way. We're going to be swarmed with about fifty more very shortly. They are not combat youma, so there's no telling what other abilities they might have," Pluto stated, as she did her little trick with her staff and the following Dead Scream again. "You're not going to be getting that rest anytime soon."
"Fun," Moon said sarcastically, as she used a Judo throw to send another youma flying into the Dead Scream's blast radius. That attack was certainly more effective than the other girls'. Maybe they'd all need to train their magic as well, somehow. She'd have to remember to ask Pluto about that later. "So what's the good news then?"
The attack seemed to come from nowhere, catching an entire group of youma by surprise as it exploded in their midst, sending any that survived it flying and instantly dusting the ones caught closest to its center. The other youma in the area had barely had time to register this new threat, when another group was likewise hit by an attack out of nowhere.
This new attack seemed to catch all of the youma in its blast radius in a field of something that looked like water. It lasted for several seconds while the youma within writhed, most of them dissolving into dust before the effect ended. Those that were left seemed to need some time to recover, which left them easy pickings for a well-placed Fire Soul or Supreme Thunder.
Pluto gave Moon a small smile as Neptune and Uranus landed in the midst of the melee, Uranus putting the Space Sword to immediate and good use. "The outer senshi are here," Pluto finally answered.
Saturn had landed next to Moon, and a dome of energy surrounded the inner senshi as she shouted. Any youma caught within, cut off from their reinforcements, quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the inner senshi's attacks, and very soon the dome was cleared of enemies. Nodding, Saturn moved the glave so that the blade pointed off to her left, and the dome seemed to vanish into its tip, a small area of purplish distorted space growing there. When she swung the glaive across her body, the energy released in a horizontal shock wave that utterly annihilated anything caught in its path: youma, light posts, a traffic light, garbage cans and everything in them, and a section of concrete divider that separated the two sides of the road. Then she leapt into a group of youma her attack had missed, the blade itself proving just as effective as the wave, slicing youma into dust on any clean hit.
Relief flooded through Moon as she watched how effective the outer senshi were in this fight. The inner senshi regrouped around her, and she realized that the four Outers had set up a perimeter around them. There were still a couple dozen more youma around to be dealt with, and the Outers were energetically doing so. But Moon realized that the Outers were the real heavy hitters of the group, and were better suited to dealing with the stronger youma. Hell, even Pluto had been having more effect on the fight against the dozens of combat youma than the group of inner senshi combined.
Unfortunately, that still left the fifty or so weaker youma coming to join the fight. She could see them starting to gather some distance away. "Alright, the fight's not over yet. There's a bunch more youma coming, but they're small fry. The Outers will take care of the big threats here. We just have to keep the weaker ones off their backs."
"Pluto!" she called out, and the older senshi stopped her fighting and joined the inner group. "Think you could go back to supporting the police barricades? Just make sure that none of the small fry escape." Pluto nodded. "Alright, let's go," she said, and the four girls ran to engage the horde of weaker youma before they could attack the Outer senshi.
Or rather, three of them did. A strong hand on Moon's shoulder kept her from joining them. "Not so fast, Princess," Pluto said. "Those three can still fight. You, on the other hand, are one Moon Tiara Action away from losing your transformation. Kami help us if you try to use that juiced up Moon Wave again."
Moon wave, huh? She filed that one away for future consideration. "Let go, Pluto," she said, before realizing her surroundings had changed. She was now standing on a nearby rooftop. "Hey! Take me back!"
Pluto shook her head. "You're far too exhausted to fight. You need to rest. Now."
"I can still fight!" Moon insisted. "I don't need magic to be an effective fighter." Pluto just gave her a pointed look, and she glared back. "Well, I don't!"
"And what happens if one of them takes a bad hit and you're not close enough to cover them? What are you going to do?" Pluto asked.
"I'd…" Moon started, then hesitated. She blew out a sigh as Pluto's point sunk in. "I'd probably use my magic. Fine, I get the idea."
"Please don't drive yourself to death, Princess. We just got you back, we... I don't want to lose you again," said Pluto.
Moon looked down to where Venus and the other inners had engaged the group of weaker youma. "But what if Venus-"
"Princess, if you try to leave this rooftop, I am going to take you to the Gates and leave you there until we've finished here," Pluto threatened, interrupting whatever Moon was going to say. "Venus, Mars, and Jupiter can handle the non-combat youma long enough for the Outer Senshi to finish up with the combat ones, and then the Outers can help clean up. It's over. We've won."
Moon glared back at Pluto angrily. "Fine, have it your way. But we're going to have words about this later."
Jadeite snarled at his view of what was going on above ground. Everything had been going swimmingly, the remaining senshi had been weakening, and victory had been in his grasp. Aside from the absence of the Senshi of Water, everything had gone exactly to plan. Then the three senshi Nephrite was supposed to be keeping imprisoned joined the fight, and everything went to hell.
He should have known better than to trust Nephrite to do something so simple as keeping three prisoners contained. Now he was glad he'd toyed with the senshi rather than simply sending his whole force to crush them at once. Doing so would have left his forces out in the open and sitting ducks for one of the released Senshi of Destruction's wide area attacks. At least here, in the subway, she couldn't release such attacks or she'd risk collapsing the tunnel on them all.
"Call all our remaining youma on the ground back here," he told a youma at his side. He still had over a hundred and fifty combat youma in reserve. It was almost triple the force he had committed to the fight above ground, and he'd meant to use them as shock troops to conquer the city after he'd dealt with the senshi. Now, with his other forces routed, they would be his last stand. He could NOT fail here.
Another chapter, so soon? Well, I had this chapter finished, and it had been so long since Chapter 9 before I posted Chapter 10, and it IS the holiday season, so...
Happy holidays everyone. Enjoy a new chapter of Millennial Panic early. This one landed at around 5400 words. I'm getting back into the swing of things here, so expect the next chapter during January.