A gentle breeze blew through the sacred precincts of the Shinto temple, rustling the leaves of the bushy cherry trees that graced the temple's grounds. High up on the top crossbar of the spirit gate, a pair of sleek, glossy-black ravens peered down at the walkway below, their keen eyes following the movements of the teen-aged girl below.
She stood on the paving stones, broom in hand, as she watched in frustration as the breeze scattered the debris she'd been sweeping back over the area she'd just cleaned. Isn't that just grand, she growled to herself as that same wind blew through her unbound, knee-length black hair and ruffled her loose-fitting, red and white temple uniform. They're gonna be here any minute and I'm not done. Darn breeze.
Just then, the pair of ravens began to caw, making sounds that the violet-eyed girl recognized as an enthusiastic greeting.
The priestess frowned. Well, they're here. Phobos and Deimos only sound that happy when they show up. They know how important Sailor business is to me. Looking up, the raven-haired teen smiled as the group of girls walked through the gateway that marked the entrance to the temple grounds.
She was about to call out a greeting when another voice sounded. "Hello there, girls! Come on in. Good to see ya again!" From seemingly out of nowhere, a new figure appeared, zooming past the young priestess. Stopping in front of the crowd, the diminutive man sketched a quick, respectful bow, then smiled up at the teens.
All of the girls smiled back, including Lita, who was still a bit miffed from the events of earlier that day. Callie, however, had to go the extra step and keep herself from giggling. Having been to the Cherry Hill Temple only a couple of other times, she still found the short, squinty-eyed, bald-headed, gregarious priest rather amusing.
"Are you here for my super-duper blessing with all the bells and whistles? Or maybe a self-defense class? I'd love to be able to put the moves on you," the short, elderly man continued.
"Grandpa!" the raven-haired girl barked. "Really!"
"Actually, we're here to see Raye," Amy replied.
"Well, okay," the priest said, sounding a touch disappointed. "Just remember to come see me if there's anything I can do for you."
"We will," the short-haired teen-ager acknowledged as the spry old man dashed off to somewhere else.
Raye rolled her violet eyes heavenward a moment, then looked over at the others. "You don't mind if I try finishing my sweeping while we wait for Mina, Luna and Artemis, do you?"
"Not at all," Amy said. "We'll go sit on the temple steps so that we'll be out of the way."
"Thanks." As the gang of girls found places on the stone stairs leading up to the temple's main door, the young priestess went back to sweeping up what the wind had scattered.
It didn't take long, and she was just finishing up when Phobos and Deimos cawed out another greeting. As one, the five teen-agers glanced over at the gateway that lead to the road.
The newcomer was another teen-aged girl, her willowy figure clad in a blue-and-white, sailor-like school uniform. Sunshine-blond hair fell loose to her knees, but the shiny locks around her pretty face were pulled back with a large, bright-red bow. She gave the five girls a huge, sunny smile, her nose crinkling upward in a cute gesture characteristic of her as she did so. At her feet were a pair of cats-- one white, one black, and both marked with a spot of fur on the forehead that looked just like an upward-pointing crescent moon.
"Hi everyone!" the new blond called out. "Hope we're not too late, but I had a test today and the teacher wouldn't let anyone go until the last one was turned in."
"That's okay, Mina," the blue-haired girl reassured. "Raye had a job to finish as well, so you haven't missed anything."
"So what's up, Amy?" the sunny teen asked as she strode up to the temple steps. "It must be somethin' important since you asked us all to get together right after school."
"Oh, Amy's goin' on some bugaboo about this new kid at school bein' really weird," Serena sighed. "So what if he claims to be Maxfield Stanton's nephew and kinda looks like him?"
"What?" Raye exclaimed, staring at the ponytailed blond. "And you don't find that the least bit suspicious?"
The slender girl shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe there really is a Maxfield Stanton and always has been? For all we know, Nephrite coulda just stolen someone's identity instead of making it totally up."
"I admit that that's a possibility since there's still the mansion up on the hill and all of his companies checked out as legit, but I have some serious doubts," the intellectual teen responded. "There was just something about that guy that's convinced me it's him."
"But that's not possible!" Serena shot back.
"Uh, excuse me, but he who?" Mina asked, confusion all over her pretty face. "I think I've missed something somewhere."
The tall, ponytailed brunette growled, "Isn't Nephrite that Negaverse warrior that you told us Molly fell for? The one Zoisite's creeps did in?"
"That's correct," Amy confirmed. "And that's one reason why I'm so suspicious. You saw what he did to Molly."
"He who?" Mina asked again, frowning slightly.
"Oh, sorry. You and Raye weren't there," Callie jumped in. "The new kid at our school. He's a transfer student from Europe who calls himself Nathan Sanford and says he's Stanton's nephew."
"I don't care what he said," the athletic brunette groused, her expression still as dark as a thundercloud. "He's a complete jerk."
The sunny blond glanced over at the others, a questioning look on her face.
The shorter brunette gave Mina a strained smile. "Lita's got another crush. She saw Nathan and flipped for him, but it looks like he's interested in someone else."
"She shared her lunch with him, but when she brought him over to introduce him to us, he actually knelt down and kissed Molly's hand," the ponytailed blond added. "It was so romantic, just like in the movies. He even said that it was a pleasure meeting such sweet loveliness."
The raven-haired teen fixed the other girl with her piercing violet gaze. "He says he's related to Stanton and does that when he meets Molly? And you don't think that's suspicious?"
"Lay off, Raye," Serena growled. "I never said I didn't think it was weird. I just said that it couldn't be Nephrite."
"And the way he insulted poor Melvin," the blue-haired girl sighed. "I really felt sorry for him. He's such a sweet guy deep inside and he's been a loyal friend to Molly. Even if Nathan turns out to be just another human, I'm afraid the new guy's going to mean trouble for Melvin."
"If he's really Nephrite, then he may also mean trouble for Molly," Raye cut in. "Who knows what he's up to this time or what he's got in mind for her."
A worried look on her pretty face, the sunny blond asked, "Do you really think so? I mean, it sounds like this Nathan guy cares about her. Other than acting like a complete boor to everyone else, what else has he done so far?"
"Nothing that I know of," Amy replied. "Today was his first day at our school. But I swear he was deliberately challenging us."
"Come on, Amy," Serena sighed. "You're imagining things. Nephrite's dead. We watched him die. The bad guys don't come back."
"And just where's that written in stone?" Raye sniped.
As the ponytailed blond and the raven-haired teen glared at one another, Mina glanced down at the felines at her feet. "What do you guys think we should do?"
"That's a toughie," the white cat replied in a human-sounding, male voice. Looking at the black cat, the feline asked, "What's your opinion, Luna?"
The black-furred cat sat down for a moment, her ears flattened in thought. "I agree with Amy in that the whole thing sounds fishy, but I think the most prudent course of action is to wait and see what happens. If Nathan's just a normal human, then we wouldn't want to give ourselves away to him. And if he's really Nephrite somehow back from the dead, then we'll find out what he's up to soon enough."
"But you girls'll need to keep an eye on both this Nathan guy and Molly," the white cat added. "If Amy's misgivings are right, then Serena's friend may end up in a lot of trouble again."
"Raye?" Callie spoke up, getting the priestess's attention. "Would it be possible for you to do a fire-reading? Maybe we can find out something definite that way."
The violet-eyed girl scowled. "I just can't snap my fingers and see a vision, you know. A fire-reading takes time and preparation."
Callie frowned back. "I know, but if there's any way we can get to the truth of the matter, then we should." For just a second, the short brunette's posture became one of someone used to having her orders followed. "If we have a former Negaverse warrior back, then there may be trouble ahead. We need to be prepared."
"Well then, we should just march up to this Nathan guy and make him tell us what's going on," Lita replied. She then added, muttering under her breath, "I shoulda decked him in the schoolyard."
"That's really using your head," Callie sarcastically said. "We'd find out for sure what he's up to then."
As the tall brown-haired girl stared at the shorter teen, the raven-haired priestess sighed. "Okay, I'll do it. I had things ready to go anyway." Looking at the five other teen-agers, she continued, "I had a bad feeling all day yesterday, so I was planning on doing one until Amy called on the communicator saying that we needed to get together. However, I'm going to need total quiet from all of you." Raye then walked up the temple steps toward the building's main doors.
As the others followed the priestess, the white cat strode next to the tall brunette. "Lita, I want you to promise me that you won't confront Nathan by yourself."
The ponytailed girl looked down, her expression crestfallen. "Aw, Artemis! Don't make me promise that. I know I can get to the bottom of what's going on--"
"I want that promise, Lita! We don't know what we're getting into just yet. We need to go easy," the light-furred feline interrupted.
Lita gave Artemis a dark frown. "All right, I promise. I won't go after him and ask him if he's really a Negaverse warrior by myself. But I am going to keep an eye on him."
Artemis smiled, his tail straight up in the air in satisfaction. "I can live with that. Come on, let's see what the fire's got to say to Raye."
The dark-haired priestess waited by the doorway until the last person strode through the huge double doors. Just as she was tugging them closed, Phobos and Deimos flew through, winging their way across the room and into the inner sanctum.
One by one, the girls knelt down on the floor a respectful distance from the sacred hearth, the pair of cats near their charges. Coming to a landing, the glossy ravens each stood at a corner of the hearth, looking over at Raye as she slowly walked past the kneeling teens. A serene expression on her pretty face, the priestess was already centered and beginning to slide into a meditative state as she bowed before the hearth then knelt down in front of it. Her mind clear of all thought, she slipped deeper into her trance as her body performed the intricate moves of the lighting ceremony by rote, each precise movement drilled into her very flesh through unending practice.
Once the ceremony was complete and the sacred fire was burning brightly, Raye set aside her props and began staring into the heart of the flames. Sacred fire, hear my call, she thought, beginning a litany that would hopefully gring her the visions she sought. Someone from the past may be here again and I'm worried about Molly and my friends. Show me the truth behind this Nathan Sanford. Why is he here? Concentrating on those thoughts, the priestess continued to gaze within the flames.
Around her, silence permeated the sanctuary as the small crowd of girls watched. For a long time, no one moved, and the only sound to be heard was the crackling of the fire. Finally, however, the black cat next to Serena stood and stalked over to where Raye knelt before the hearth. As the brace of ravens gave her the evil eye, Luna asked, her voice barely above a whisper, "What do you see?"
The black-haired priestess kept her violet eyes on the fire, the eerie orangish glow reflecting off the sheen of perspiration that covered her face from her effort in concentration. "I can't quite pull the images in," she said, her voice sounding far-off and distracted. "It's almost as if there's something screening out my ability to see. All I'm getting are symbols. I see a green square eclipsed by the symbol of the planet Earth and a star shining in a heart of darkness. I can see the Wheel of Karma spinning full circle and feel the winds of change. The Wheel keeps spinning, getting bigger with each turn, and now I see more symbols within it.
"I see a double-armed spiral encased in ice, submerged within a pool of dark water. Now there's a compass-star, a pair of symbols linked together at each of the cardinal points and surrounded by three Zodiac glyphs. To the East, the symbol of Mars lies within a circle and is surrounded by Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. To the South, the symbol of Venus lies within a diamond and is surrounded by Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. To the West, the symbol of Mercury lies within a triangle and is surrounded by Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. To the North, the symbol of Jupiter lies within a square and is surrounded by Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. In the center, the crescent moon floats above while its reflection shimmers in the dark water below. Yet throughout it all, there's an undercurrent of frigid darkness, something clawing at the Wheel of Karma, trying to make it stop..." The raven-haired girl's voice trailed off.
For a few moments more, Raye stared silently into the fire. Finally, however, she took a deep breath, letting it out in a long sigh as she bowed again to the sacred flames. Turning a bit and looking at the others, she said, "That's it. I couldn't see anything more." Frowning slightly, she added, "I'm sorry if it didn't help much, but it felt like something was blocking my sight. I'm lucky to have gotten anything at all."
"That's okay, Raye," the sunny blond reassured, smiling. "You did your best. That's what counts."
"I still think we should just take the direct approach," Lita growled.
"Remember your promise," Artemis admonished.
The tall brunette gave the white cat a dirty look. "Don't worry. I'll keep it. But six on one's good odds, even against a Negaverse warrior."
"Hey, leave me outta this," Callie said. "I'm supposed to use my powers only to back up yours, and that's after the situation's gotten beyond your control."
"Fine, then" Lita shot right back. "Five on one. We can still do it."
"I don't know," Raye thoughtfully said. "I think Luna's right."
Everyone stared at the fiery priestess in surprise. "You're usually all hot to tackle the problem head-on," Serena pointed out.
"I know, but I don't like what the fire showed me. I've got the sense that there's a lot of karma tied up in this. And whenever there's karma involved, we all need to watch our step."
"Then it's agreed? We just watch and wait, keeping an eye on both Molly and Nathan?" Amy asked.
"Fine by me," Mina replied. Glancing around, the sunny blond saw all of the others--save Lita--nodding their heads. The tall brunette just continued to frown. "Lita?"
Looking around and finding that the others were staring at her in expectation, the athletic girl sighed. "Oh, all right. I suppose I shouldn't have let that bother me. But I was so nice to him and he was such a jerk." Lita sighed again, her forest-green eyes filled with a far-off expression. "But what a dreamy jerk!"
Serena giggled. "I suppose that means you won't mind keeping an eye on him, huh?"
"Uh, uh. Not at all . . ."
That got everyone in the temple laughing.
A lone figure walked rapidly along the city's sidewalk, her brisk pace shielding her from the breeze of the blustery afternoon. Another gust of wind was channeled down the street, ruffling the short girl's shoulder-blade-length golden-brown hair and the knee-length dark-blue pleated skirt of her school uniform. The teen-ager shivered slightly at that one and frowned in annoyance, her green eyes taking on a bluish hue. Honestly, Callista Summers, she thought to herself, you can be a real ditz sometimes. I just hope they'll let me back into school so I can get my jacket. Sighing, she shook her head, bouncing the small ponytail in which the hair around her pretty face was caught. The rest of her hair-- including the pair of long, thin locks just in front of her ears-- danced in the afternoon breeze. Then again, who can blame me for forgetting my jacket, what with Lita practically dragging me off to the temple right after school to discuss what happened.
Callie smiled then, her eyes changing back to predominantly green. At least we got Lita to calm down. And the others aren't going to do anything drastic just yet. I'd rather avoid a confrontation then fight any day.
High above on a rooftop, a tall figure stared down at the brunette teen walking along the street at a brisk pace. As the wind blew his long silver hair into his face and made his lavender-pink cloak billow, he narrowed his eyes in a wolfish manner as he gazed down at his prey. She's just a mere child, he thought in mild disgust. Shrugging slightly, he continued, But it's not my place to question my orders.
Down below, Callie glanced at the watch on her wrist. Oh man! Look at the time! I've got so much stuff to do! Eyes turning bluish again in frustration, she picked up her pace even more. Why couldn't they make these uniforms with pockets? she groused. My keys, my money, my everything's in my coat. Looking off to the side, the short girl saw that she was striding next to a park. If I cut through here and go down that alley on the other side, I'll come out just down the street from the school. With that, she left the sidewalk and plunged into the grass-covered space.
Up on the rooftop, the tall figure continued to watch his target with pale-lavender eyes.
Callie sprinted through the park--skillfully and gracefully dodging the skateboarders, bicyclists, kids and other people enjoying the brisk yet sunny day--using her haste in collecting her jacket as an excuse to stretch her legs. The lithe teen-ager loved to run. It was the closest thing she could do to actually flying.
Emerging from the far side of the green space, her bluish-green eyes having undertones of violet from the pure exhilaration of life, Callie paused long enough to see if there was any traffic traveling along the street. Seeing none, she dashed across the asphalt and into the alley. Had she looked skyward as well, she would've seen a tall, cloaked figure on the roof overlooking the narrow lane.
She was jogging down the alley, still thrilling in the feel of the speed, when a sudden, overwhelming sense of something wrong hit her. Stopping dead in her tracks, her eyes instantly changing to grayish-green in fright, she quickly glanced around. She didn't have long to wait. Within seconds, a tall figure appeared out of thin air right in front of her.
With his arms stretched out to either side and his cloak billowing in the wind that blew down between the buildings, the newcomer seemed to fill up the entire space in front of the momentarily-terrified Callie. Despite his new, vaguely medieval-appearing outfit, his face was the same coldly-handsome one that sometimes haunted her nightmares. He was looking at her now as he had then, an arrogantly confident look in his pale-lavender eyes.
Callie stood frozen--staring up at the silver-haired man--until he reached out to grab the agile teen. Acting on pure instinct, the golden-brown-haired girl danced back and to the side of his reach, then spun on her heel and ran. Desperation adding to her speed, she fairly flew back down the narrow street, fully expecting an energy blast or something to be tossed her way. Much to her surprise, nothing happened as she turned the corner and zipped through the nearest door she could find.
Looking around as she leaned up against the door and tried to catch her breath, the short brunette found herself in a small bookstore. Knowing that she'd be safe as long as she stayed near other people, Callie made her way to the back of the store, keeping a wary eye out just in case she was wrong. Reaching up and randomly pulling a book off a shelf up against the back wall, she opened it to no page in particular and pretended to browse. However, her mind was on other things now that she could start thinking again.
By all the powers of the Galaxy, what is Kunzite doing here? He's supposed to be dead! I watched Sailor Moon turn his own weapon against him before she and the Scouts took on Beryl herself. Callie couldn't help shuddering. First that Nathan guy, and now this? What in the name of the Silver Crystal is going on around here? She closed her eyes, now blue-gray with worry and stress. For over a thousand years, his image has haunted me, taunting me about that day when I saw friends turn traitor and destroy nearly everything I held dear. My duty was to guard the Princesses, to augment their powers with mine, but because I was caught off-guard, I failed. And ever since, I've been afraid to fight, fearing that I would fail again.
But when I sensed that the Princesses might have returned and went back home to find them reborn and fighting the Negaforce anew, I rejoiced in getting a second chance. Yes, I held back and watched their battles, not interfering like I was originally bidden to do, but then I wanted to get involved. So when those other attacks began, I revealed myself to the Scouts and fought with them. With every confrontation, my self-esteem became repaired just that much more. But now--
She opened her eyes, now beginning to be tinged with violet, and glanced down at the book she held. Startled to find that not only was it a handbook on minerals and precious stones but that she had also somehow unerringly turned it to the page featuring the beautiful purplish-pink variety of spodumene called kunzite, she frowned. It always seems to come back to him, doesn't it? she asked herself, thinking about the stern, silver-haired warrior.
Just then, a short, elderly man with thinning gray hair and cold, ice-blue eyes walked up to the golden-brown-haired teen. "Either buy something or go somewhere else," he growled.
With a decisive snap, Callie shut the mineral book and replaced it on the shelf. Smiling and giving the man a slight bow of apology, she replied, "Forgive me, I didn't mean to annoy you. It's just that I didn't find what I was looking for here." Her pretty face set in determination and her eyes violet-aqua with confidence, she silently said, I'm tired of a millenium of running. If I'm truly going to be the Guardian of the Princesses again, I must confront my fears.
She strode through the bookstore, the elderly proprietor glaring at her as she went. The lithe girl hesitated a moment at the front door, her hand on the doorknob, then she took the plunge and stepped back outside. Carefully searching around, she saw no sign of the lavender-cloaked man; however, she could sense that he was still around. She frowned. Is he after me or Andromeda? I need to be careful . . .
She stalked back down the alleyway, every nerve at the ready. Even then, she was still caught by surprise. She had almost made it to the other end of the lane when a cold wind stirred behind her and a heavy hand grabbed her by her right shoulder. Worst of all, she could feel her energy being sucked into that hand the moment it touched her.
Biting back her shout of surprise, Callie escaped the energy-sapping hold by nimbly twisting down and away. Jumping back and whirling around, the agile teen stood in a ready stance, the wind rustling the sailor-like collar and blue skirt of her school uniform.
With the fluid gracefulness she remembered so well, Kunzite stepped back into a fighting stance also, his pale eyes narrowing in contempt. His deep voice harsh, he said, "You're no match for me, child, should you choose to fight. And don't think you can get away should you choose to flee."
Callie's own expression became one of grim defiance, her eyes turning violet-blue with her determination. He's right. Like this, I don't have a chance. A snarl on her pretty face, she scornfully spat, "Just watch me!" With a quick spin, she was gone, running down the alley as fast as she could go.
She sprinted down the sidewalk, her longish hair flying, heading for the campus of the near-by junior high. Somewhere in there I should find a secluded enough spot. Making it to her school with no further incidents, she darted between a couple of buildings, then looked around the small courtyard in which she'd ended up. This time, she glanced skyward as well, remembering the silver-haired warrior's fondness for high places. Seeing him nowhere in sight, she threw up a hand. "This time, he's gonna pay. Andromeda Power!"
The transformation was as swift as it was beautiful. A swirl of glittering-yellow light enveloped her, obscuring her form and stripping away the school uniform. In its place was a white, sailor-like suit with a royal-purple pleated mini-skirt fastened in the back with a large dark-blue bow, a royal-purple collar also with a dark-blue bow--a golden, star-shaped locket pinned to its center--and a long dark-blue cape fastened to the shoulders with golden, star-shaped brooches. Dark-blue knee-high boots appeared on Callie's feet and legs while elbow-length white gloves with royal-purple trim covered her arms and hands. Around her slender neck appeared a dark-blue velvet choker with a glittering, golden star and on her forehead formed a golden tiara, an oval-shaped deep-purple cabochon stone shining in the center. When the swirl of glittering, golden light faded away, Sailor Andromeda stood at the ready.
A low chuckle filled the air. "Well, well. What do we have here? I guess Obsidian knew what he was doing after all."
Eyes now violet with courage and determination, Sailor Andromeda glanced upward again. This time, the silver-haired warrior's form silhouetted the sky.
Slowly, carefully, hoping that he wouldn't notice what she was doing, the sailor-suited Scout reached a hand up toward the star-locket on her front bow. "We have a score to settle, traitor."
In reply, Kunzite leaped off the roof, using his ability to levitate to float gracefully down to the ground. Bracing himself in a battle-ready stance, he stared past his upraised hands at the female warrior, cold amusement in his pale-lavender eyes. "We must've hashed you Outer Senshi pretty bad that day," he said.
The brunette girl glared back, the fingers of her right hand subtly unfastening the piece of golden jewelry from the bow's dark-blue fabric. "Whatever gave you that idea, Kunzite?" she spat.
The tall warrior gave his opponent a smirk that was as frosty as the color of his hair. "This is the first time I've seen any of you since that day we trashed the Moon Kingdom. The Inners have been active again for quite a while now."
They continued to stare at one another, each one ready for the other's move.
A scene from over a millennium ago: The infinite silence of space, millions of stars glittering like jewels in the darkness. In the distance, the white-swirled blue globe of the Earth can be seen, a strange, dark shadow sucking up the planet's usually bright reflection. Five figures float in the silence, each one a grim-faced, sailor-suited warrior of the Silver Millennium. Arranged in a line--their backs to the Moon--the mini-skirted girls stare down at the darkened Earth.
Sailor Andromeda is among them, positioned just to the right of the line's center between a stern Senshi with shoulder-length, straight, black hair wielding a formidable pole-arm-style weapon and a mysteriously-beautiful Scout with long, flowing, deep-green hair holding a key-like staff. "What in the name of the Silver Crystal is going on down there?" the golden-brown-haired warrior asks, frowning at the shadow-shrouded planet.
The Scout with the straight, black hair points to the darkened globe with the double-bladed head of her pole-arm. "A force of great destruction has been awakened. Even now, it gathers its minions."
On the far left of the line of warriors, a tall, athletic Scout with close-cropped, straight, dark-golden-blond hair swings a curved, jewel-adorned sword in practice. "How in the Galaxy did it manage to get here without us sensing it? That's what I'd like to know."
The warrior on the opposite end of the line frowns, her deep-green hair flowing in the solar wind. "I believe it may have had help. I sense the powers of the Elements in this."
Sailor Andromeda looks at the Scout to her right. "Are you sure about that, Pluto?" When the Guardian of Time only gives her a mysterious smile in response, the blue-and-purple-uniformed Senshi scowls. "But that would mean--"
"That may explain why we lost Lithos first, then," a new voice speaks. Its source is the Scout between the glaive-wielding warrior in the center and the sword-bearing Senshi on the left end. Her shoulder-length, wavy, sea-green hair stirring in the solar wind, she continues, "I'd heard rumors that they weren't happy with their latest assignment. Those poor Gemlords on Lithos. Do you think any of them survived?"
The stern Scout in the center gets an even colder expression on her pretty face. "At least the Great Mirror remains free of the destruction's influence. If nothing else, the Guardian of the Gateways did his job this day."
"What in the moons of Uranus was Lord Obsidian thinking when he assigned that job to them?" the short-haired, sword-bearing warrior growls. "Like us, their duties are to patrol the far reaches of Space. Ordering them to stay put on one little planet and guard a prisoner goes contrary to every duty they're supposed to do."
Sailor Andromeda's dark expression becomes darker. "Ours is not the place to question the choices of the Guardian of Space, Uranus," she snarls back. "Besides, they always seemed so happy whenever they were with the inner-planet Princesses."
"Behold!" the somber Scout in the center shouts, getting the attention of the others. Pointing at the Earth again with her wicked-looking glaive, she adds, "The destruction comes!"
As one, the five Senshi watch, expressions of trepidation and anticipation on their pretty faces, as the dark shadow peels itself from the blue planet and leaps into space, forming a tidal wave of blackness that blots out the stars. Thousands of armed warriors march within the darkness, the Seven Shadows leading the way with the gray-clad Gemlords escorting them. In the heart of the swirling blackness, the demonic-appearing Queen Beryl urges her army on while the enormous presence of the Negaforce itself looms over the rushing force.
Noticing just how rapidly the dark army's advancing, Sailor Andromeda turns to the somber Senshi in the center of their formation. "Now, Saturn!" she shouts. "They're almost on us!"
Without a sound or even an acknowledgment of Sailor Andromeda's words, Sailor Saturn glides forward and brandishes her glaive. "Silence Wall!" she commands.
The instant her words were out, however, the quartet of gray-uniformed Gemlord warriors disappear, the Seven Shadows with them. As a thick energy wall materializes in front of the oncoming army, Sailor Uranus readies her sword and looks around. "Power up, Senshi!" she yells. "The Elementals teleported past the Wall!"
Meanwhile, Sailor Saturn shudders as the dark army slams into her energy barrier. Her face even more stern from her effort in concentration, she pours more power into the Wall, attempting to completely surround the force of darkness within the impenetrable barrier.
As the four remaining Scouts scan the area warily, the generals reappear with the Seven Shadows right in front of Sailor Pluto. The Shadows rush the deep-green-haired Guardian of Time while the gray-clad generals disappear again.
"Cowards!" Sailor Uranus spits, watching the quartet blink out. Facing towards Sailor Pluto, she takes aim with her sword.
Quickly moving to find a better angle of attack, the sea-green-haired Scout also takes aim at the Shadows harassing the Senshi of Time.
Soaring upwards out of the line of fire of the other two warriors, Sailor Andromeda holds her hands outward, preparing an attack as well.
Just as the short-haired Senshi prepares to release the energy humming within her sword, a gray-clad figure appears right in front of her and just to the side, slamming down hard on the bejeweled blade with a shimmering, nearly-invisible sword of his own. As the energy harmlessly explodes outward between them, the Gemlord with the short, curly, light-blond hair snarls, "Better watch your mouth, Uranus," his amber eyes cold.
The athletic Scout narrows her eyes in anger. She moves forward and swings back at Jadeite, only to have her blade crash up against the Elemental warrior's semi-transparent shield. Startled, fully expecting her Space Sword to cut through the Gemlord's defenses, Sailor Uranus barely blocks Jadeite's next attack.
With a battle cry of "Jei!" the gray-clad warrior presses his attacks. The sword fight is on.
Still aiming at a Shadow viciously attacking the Guardian of Time, the sea-green-haired Scout shouts, "Deep Submerge!" As her power locks in and a tunnel of swirling sea-water begins to form around her, a whirl of cherry-blossom petals suddenly appears. From the center of the twirling petals comes a strident, feminine voice, "Ice-Surround Crystalize!" The Scout watches in mild horror as her attack of swirling water freezes into a tunnel of solid ice that frames the gray-clad form of a slender, golden-blond-haired woman. Floating before the Senshi, her left leg curled up tight and her right leg straight down with pointed toes, Zoisite gives the other warrior a catty look.
As the sailor-suited Scout glares and extends a hand, a hand-mirror materializing out of nowhere, the slender Gemlord thrusts her own arm forward. Shouting "Zoi!" she lets loose with a telekinetic blast that shatters the ice, sending thousands of razor-sharp crystals hurtling toward the sea-green-haired Senshi.
Acting on pure instinct, the pretty Scout holds up her mirror in front of her face as a shield and looks away from the flying ice. The sharp crystals rip through her hair and sailor-like suit, leaving her tattered and bloodied. Before the Scout can recover, Zoisite materializes a wicked-looking ice sword and zooms in, pressing her advantage.
Meanwhile, Sailor Saturn continues to grimly concentrate on holding back the enemy with her Wall. With the full power of the Negaforce pushing against it, trying to break its way through, the somber Scout has virtually no attention to spare to focus on the gray-clad, dark-haired warrior that appears nearby.
His long, auburn hair flowing in the solar wind, Nephrite looks up toward the pinpoints of light that sparkle in the darkness. "I call upon the full power of the stars!" he shouts, raising a hand. "Aries the Ram! Taurus the Bull! Leo the Lion! Sagittarius the Archer! Aquila the Eagle! Canis Major the Great Dog! Centaurus the Centaur! Corvus the Raven! Draco the Dragon! Hydra the Water-Serpent! Lupus the Wolf! Lynx the Lynx! Serpens the Serpent! Orion the Hunter! Ursa Major the Great Bear! Constellation Energize!" As he calls their names, the star patterns begin to glow with an eerie light, solidifying into fearsome spirit warriors with the characteristics of the constellation from which they were formed.
The stern Senshi of Destruction gives the Elemental warrior a cold smile. With her powers and her focus split between holding back the Negaforce and its army from their advance to the Moon and defending herself against the star-born creatures and Nephrite himself, she knows she faces a losing battle.
On the far right of the Scouts' faltering line, Sailor Pluto continues to gracefully dodge and block the continual assault of the Seven Shadows, having time enough to only occasionally connect with a blow from her key-shaped staff. To her consternation, her hits seem to have little effect on the red-eyed Shadows.
"Andromeda Stars--" the fifth Senshi begins, determined to help Sailor Pluto, only to stop as a tall form materializes right in front of her. His silver hair and white cloak billowing in the solar wind, Kunzite stands at the ready, giving Sailor Andromeda a cold, contemptuous stare. The brunette Scout's expression of surprise and dismay quickly changes to indignant rage. "Traitor!" she yells. "How could you? Why did you join this scum against Queen Serenity? What about Princess Venus?"
The Elemental warrior laughs, frosty and harsh. "I've found someone much better than that simpering wimp," he snaps. "As for Queen Serenity and her Silver Millennium, they mean less than nothing to me. They're only insignificant insects that'll be crushed by the might of the Negaforce. After today, we will rule the Cosmos."
"You're insane," Sailor Andromeda gasps. The reality of the situation settling in, she whispers to herself, "Forgive me, Princess Venus, but he must be stopped." With that, the sailor-suited warrior finishes her trigger-phrase, sending the energy of her attack at the gray-clad figure. "Strike!"
With a fluid movement, Kunzite grabs a corner of his cloak and wraps the white cloth around his tall form. The twin spheres of glittering-yellow light slam into him but do nothing as their energy is absorbed. Tossing aside the cloak, the silver-haired warrior then holds his hands out to either side. "Fireblade Slice!" he intones, causing a wicked-looking, boomerang-shaped blade of purplish-pink energy to form in each hand. With a shout of "Zai!" he flings the slicers at the Scout.
The blue-caped Senshi leaps aside in an attempt to dodge the whirling blades, only to feel their sting as they swarm around her when Kunzite telekinetically directs them to her new position. Despite the numerous shallow slashes in her hair, uniform and skin, Sailor Andromeda grits her teeth and keeps her concentration. Holding up a hand, she shouts, "Starshield Protect!" Her slender form becomes enveloped in a soft glow of glittering-yellow light, creating a barrier through which the slicers could no longer reach her.
With a snarl on his handsome face, the gray-clad warrior recalls the slicers to his hands, realizing that their power was no longer effective. At the same moment, Sailor Andromeda takes the opportunity to launch another attack. "Star Power Destroy!" she shouts, throwing her hands forward.
Kunzite, who had momentarily shut his eyes in order to concentrate more power into his slicers, suddenly looks up at the Scout at the sound of her voice--and sees the brilliant beam of highly-concentrated energy speeding his way. A look of pure shock forms on his face as his form abruptly disappears, leaving the beam of energy to travel onward and strike one of the Shadows fighting Sailor Pluto.
Although disappointed at missing her target, Sailor Andromeda smiles in grim triumph as she watches the deep-green-haired Senshi follow through on a vicious swing to the Shadow she'd just hit. Visibly weakened, the Shadow pulls back, allowing the Guardian of Time room to escape the circle of Shadows and retreat to a better position of attack.
However, it becomes Sailor Andromeda's turn to be surprised as she hears Kunzite's deep voice snarl from behind her, "Dark Energy Electrify!" Spinning around, her long blue cape flying, she sees the silver-haired warrior floating there--his hands outstretched and pointing to either side with his slicers and a cold smirk on his face--while a sphere of black energy forms around her.
Glaring through the dark barrier at the Elemental warrior, Sailor Andromeda sets up her attack again. "Star Power Destroy!" To her dismay, the intense beam of glittering-yellow light gets sucked into the dark sphere, making the barrier a deeper shade of black. Suddenly frightened, for she didn't remember any of the Elementals being quite this powerful, the golden-brown-haired Sailor lets her Starshield fade away. For her next attempt, she would need all her energy.
"Go ahead and try again," Kunzite taunts the trapped Scout. "I promise you, you won't break the sphere." Still concentrating on the globe, the silver-haired warrior casually tosses the slicer in his left hand up in a graceful arc. Catching it in his right hand, the twin slicers blend into a single, larger violet-pink blade.
Crossing her arms in front of her blue-bowed chest and pulling her legs up tight, the sailor-suited warrior tapped into her full power. "Andromeda Supernova--" she begins, her form glowing with a steadily-increasing, bright, glittering-yellow light. When her slender figure shines with the intensity of a small sun, she throws herself into a spread-eagled position, shouting the end of her trigger, "Explode!" The energy erupts outward in all directions, slamming hard against the dark sphere.
Kunzite narrows his eyes and grits his teeth, fighting to maintain the globe as Sailor Andromeda's power hits it. Beneath the pressure, the black sphere expands outward and becomes semi-transparent, forcing the silver-haired warrior to reach deep within his reserves to keep the barrier intact.
When the light of her attack fades away, the Scout is horrified to find that the dark sphere held. Quickly glancing at Kunzite, she notices that maintaining the globe must have cost him dearly; his face is almost as pale as his hair and glimmers with a sheen of sweat. Realizing that it wouldn't take much more to break the barrier, the Senshi prepares another assault.
But the gray-clad warrior is quicker. "Dark Energy Shrink!" he snaps, and the globe collapses in on the Scout.
Finding herself suddenly unable to move, the black energy of the globe slowly crushing her slender form, Sailor Andromeda knows that she's lost the battle. Looking around the best she can, she tries to see how the others are doing.
Far in the distance, she could see Sailor Uranus and Jadeite battling it out with swords. With slash and parry, thrust and dodge, the Scout and the Gemlord appear equally matched, although to Sailor Andromeda it looks as if Jadeite's been forced to take a more defensive stance in his movements. However, she could also see that he had managed to push Sailor Uranus back a fair distance, creating a huge gap between her and the other Senshi.
Also in the distance, the sea-green-haired Scout and Zoisite are still struggling as well, the slender Gemlord having pushed the sailor-suited warrior back from the Wall and away from Sailor Uranus. The gray-clad woman continues to viciously hack away, occasionally attempting to blind the Senshi with a blast of cherry-blossom petals. To her credit, the sea-green-haired Scout is able to gracefully dance away from the other's attacks and close for a few retaliatory hits of her own. As Sailor Andromeda watches, the other Senshi connects, slapping Zoisite hard across the face with the back of her hand-mirror. As the female Elemental is sent flying, the sea-green-haired warrior pauses, looking first over at Sailor Uranus and then Sailor Saturn, obviously at a loss as to whom she should go help.
Following the other's gaze, the trapped Scout quickly glances over to where Sailor Saturn still holds the Silence Wall against the power of the Negaforce. With one hand held up as a focus for maintaining the Wall, the grim, black-haired Scout swings her deadly glaive around single-handed, trying her best to fend off the crowd of star-born monsters that encircle her. Under Nephrite's command, the star-monsters charge in groups--coming in fast, slashing away and retreating before the Silence Glaive could connect.
Although able to destroy about half of the constellations with the wicked edge of her Glaive, Sailor Saturn can't keep all of the star-monsters' attacks from hitting their mark. Mauled and bloody, her energy fading fast from both holding back the dark army and her wounds, the stern Scout bows her head, beginning to power up what energy she had left into her weapon of last resort.
The dark-haired Elemental quickly orders all of the remaining star-monsters to the attack, then bows his own head and crosses his arms over his chest. "Powers of the Negaforce, help me unleash the full fury of the stars!" he yells as Sailor Saturn, her body beginning to glow with an awesome violet aura, disappears beneath the pile of clawing, hacking, slashing, biting and ripping star-monsters. Sailor Andromeda stares in horror as the circling orbits of a pair of miniature planets appear before the auburn-haired Gemlord's hands. With a war-cry of "Nei!" the Elemental warrior throws his hands outward. The speeding miniature planets spiral off together, forming a huge beam of intense, shimmering, greenish-silver starlight that then crashes into the pile of star-born creatures. When the blinding explosion fades away, all that remains is Sailor Saturn's still body floating in space, the Silence Glaive slowly spinning off into the darkness.
"Saturn!" the entrapped Scout shouts in shocked disbelief as the weapon of the ringed planet vanishes and the Silence Wall crumbles before the might of the Negaforce. The dark army begins its rush toward the Moon once again and Sailor Andromeda hears a low chuckle. "You should worry about yourself. You're going to join her very soon." Turning her attention back to the silver-haired warrior, she just looks at Kunzite, tears forming in her eyes now colored gray from sorrow. Forgive me, my Princesses, my Queen. We did the best we could, she thinks as she watches the traitorous Gemlord reach back with his right hand, preparing to throw his violet-pink blade.
With another shout of "Zai!" Kunzite flings the slicer. The spinning boomerang-shaped energy blade blasts through the dark sphere, burying itself in Sailor Andromeda's chest deep enough that the far point extends from her back. A single tear streaks down her pretty cheek as the light dims in her grayish eyes.
Giving an imperious gesture to his slicer, which rips itself from the body of its victim and returns to his hand, Kunzite looks down at the fallen Senshi for a moment, a cold expression on his handsome face, before he glances around to see what else was going on.
Gazing past the floating, broken body, he can see the Seven Shadows pressing their attack against Sailor Pluto. Frowning as he realizes that somehow the Guardian of Time had escaped the Shadows' deadly circle, he watches as the deep-green-haired Scout blasts an impressive sphere of deep red energy at the group of ruby-eyed monsters by swinging her staff around in a graceful circle. The seven black figures scatter, but one gets caught by the sphere. Although not destroyed, the Shadow appears severely weakened to Kunzite. The frown on his face turns to a snarl. Readying his violet-pink slicer, he yells, "Nephrite!"
In an instant, the auburn-haired warrior is at his side. "Sir?" he queries.
But the Gemlord's call has another effect as well. Her attention caught by the other's deep voice, the Senshi of Time scans the battlefield, taking in the grim scene. The huge army of the Negaforce continues its rush to the Moon. The Seven Shadows regroup for another attack. A pair of the traitorous warriors are obviously joining the struggle of the Shadows against her. The unmoving forms of her two fallen comrades are floating in space. Sailor Uranus and another Gemlord traitor slash away at one another with glowing blades. Sailor Neptune is streaking to the rescue of her partner, the fourth Elemental in hot pursuit and attempting to impale the sea-green-haired Scout with her thrown spears of ice. Focusing once more on the enormous army dashing toward Queen Serenity's capitol, Sailor Pluto whispers to herself, "The first duty of a Senshi is the welfare of the Kingdom." Holding up her silver, key-shaped staff, she intones words she was never meant to say. "Dark Dome Close!"
All at once, the weapon begins to glow with a deep-red light, a shockwave of garnet-colored energy erupting outward in all directions. As the energy passes over the participants of the conflict, everything stops, becoming frozen in Time.
On the other side of the battlefield, Sailor Uranus hisses in pain as another slash from Jadeite's sword connects. Although able to drive the traitor back to nearly the same point in space where they'd begun their duel, the short-haired Scout has to admit that the Gemlord's ability to analyze her attacks and parries--thereby finding a weakness to exploit--is superior to her own. She's just about to strike back when she senses a wave of energy wash over her--and stares in astonishment as the light-blond Elemental freezes in place.
"What in the name of Neptune is going on?" another voice asks, equally surprised. Turning slightly, Sailor Uranus sees the sea-green-haired Senshi rush up next to her. Glancing beyond the newcomer's willowy form, the athletic Scout notices that the fourth turncoat, who had been chasing Sailor Neptune, is frozen as well--an ice spear she'd just launched hanging in space.
Concentrating once again on the sword-bearing Elemental, the Senshi of the Sky growls, "I don't know, but I'm not going to miss this opportunity to rid ourselves of a traitor." Raising her arm high above her head, Sailor Uranus is about to launch an attack against the immobile Jadeite when she hears Sailor Pluto's voice.
"The first duty of a warrior is the well-being of the Kingdom."
"What do you think I'm doing?" the dark-golden-haired Scout snarls. "The Kingdom's better off if none of this traitorous scum survives."
"The army of destruction has a clear path to the Moon. Her Serene Majesty and the rest must be warned. I cannot keep the Gate of Time closed for long."
A frown crosses Sailor Neptune's pretty face. "I didn't know you could stop Time, Pluto."
When the mysterious Senshi speaks again, her quiet voice is melancholy. "It is a power forbidden to me, but the need is great. Go! Use this opportunity to reach Her Serene Majesty before the invaders do."
"But what about you?" the sea-green-haired Scout asks.
"Fear not for me. Go warn Her Serene Majesty! We will meet again, in Time."
For a moment Sailor Uranus hesitates, the urge to blast her Space Sword at the helpless renegade nearly overwhelming. Reluctantly, she turns away and dematerializes her Sword as she faces Sailor Neptune. "Let's go."
But the Senshi of the Ocean just continues to stare at the carnage around them. Her uniform tattered, her skin bloodied by numerous slashes and cuts and her sea-green hair a complete wreck, Sailor Neptune's pretty, still-unmarked face is filled with an expression of compassion. "We can't just leave them out here in the coldness of space."
The athletic Scout isn't in any better shape. Also slashed and cut by the various successful hits from the Gemlord's telekinetic blade, she stands there with a frown on her good-looking face, wondering just what was in her partner's mind. "Who?"
"Saturn and Andromeda. It just isn't right."
The short-haired Scout sighs, recognizing the sweetly-stubborn look in the other Senshi's eyes. "Fine, but we've got to make it quick." She then dashes over to where Sailor Saturn's mangled body lies and carefully cradles it in her arms. "And we'll need to leave them the moment we reach the Moon."
"I know," Sailor Neptune responds as she picks up Sailor Andromeda's slender form. "At least they'll be on the ground with us instead of floating forever into the infinity of the Universe." Noticing that the boyish Scout is ready, the compassionate warrior gives her partner a nod.
Together they streak through the darkness, rushing to the surface of Earth's single satellite as fast as their powers would allow. Touching down on the lunar soil not too far from Queen Serenity's city, the pair of tattered warriors take a quick moment to gently set their fallen comrades on the planet of the ruler they had served. Without a word or any other sign of sorrow, the two Senshi then begin running for all they were worth. Grief would come later; for now, their duty must be carried out.
Meanwhile, back in space where the great army remains frozen, the shimmering garnet light around Sailor Pluto's staff begins to fade. "Farewell, my friends, my Queen. I have done what I can. May Fortune smile on all your endeavors until we are able to meet again," the mysterious beauty whispers to the stars as her graceful form fades out with the deep-red light. The moment her tall figure disappears, the frozen participants on the battlefield begin to move again.
Jadeite parries a now non-existent blow, then has to abruptly dive to the right--swearing all the way--in order to avoid being impailed by a sharp spear of ice. Glaring at his fellow gray-clad warrior, he hisses, "Watch it, Zoe! Do I look like a Senshi to you?"
"I don't get it," the boyishly-slender, female Gemlord whines. "I was aiming at that green-haired witch." Rubbing her cheek, which already has the look of a bruise on it, Zoisite snarls, "I'm gonna make her pay for that! Where'd they go anyway?"
The amber-eyed warrior merely shrugs in reply, then begins looking around.
On the other side of the battle site, Nephrite watches in confusion as Kunzite starts scanning the area, his pale-lavender eyes narrowed in thought. "Sir?" the jade-green-eyed man tries again, still wondering why he'd been called over.
"A moment," the silver-haired warrior replies, letting his slicer fade away. Still searching, Kunzite frowns. "What's missing, Nephrite?"
Startled, the auburn-haired Gemlord begins staring at the battlefield as well. For a moment, his gaze focuses on the rear of the advancing army--the Seven Shadows streaking off to join their Queen and the mighty Negaforce--and a twinge of something stirs in his heart. But the emotion is quickly crushed, and Nephrite coldly analyzes the battle site. "No Senshi, not even the ones we've killed," he responds. "Strange."
Kunzite shakes his head, his silver hair swirling. "No, not strange. Seems like dear Sailor Pluto's kept one talent of hers a secret from everyone else. Have you recovered from that blast you gave Saturn?"
"Are you questioning my competence?" the dark-haired Gemlord snaps, his handsome face in a snarl.
The tall Elemental fixes his underling with a frosty glare. "No, but I will if you continue to challenge my authority. You know you can't fool me, not with the bond we four share. That blast nearly drained you of everything you had, just as containing Andromeda's power nearly consumed mine. I merely asked to see if you can use your power right now."
Nephrite stares angrily at his leader for a second, then gives him a barely-noticeable bow. "I can. The might of the Negaforce has already replaced what I've lost, just as it has done for you."
"Then find those Outers!" Kunzite snaps.
The other gray-clad warrior shoots his commander an irate glare, then bows his head and closes his eyes. Letting his ire seep away, Nephrite's still becoming centered when two more gray-uniformed figures suddenly appear behind Kunzite's tall form.
"It's not fair!" the female warrior complains. "I had that witch and she somehow disappeared. Look at what she did to my face!"
The light-blond-haired Gemlord gives the ponytailed woman a dirty look. "Stop your incessant whining, Zoisite! No one wants to hear it."
"Enough!" the silver-haired leader barks, spinning around to face the newcomers. Noticing the expression of shock on Jadeite's face and the wounded look on Zoisite's, the tall warrior takes a deep breath. In a calmer voice, he adds, "We need to give Nephrite a chance to concentrate. He'll find where they went." Holding out a hand and giving her a slight smile, he gently commands, "Come here, Zoe. Let me see."
As Jadeite watches in mild disgust, his amber eyes narrowed in disapproval, Kunzite inspects Zoisite's cheek, carefully rubbing a white-gloved thumb over the bruising skin. Mindful of the fourth Commander's attempt at concentration behind him, the white-cloaked Gemlord telepaths to the golden-blond woman. **Hush, love. I fear that the only thing truly outraged is your vanity. Wear your wound with pride; you've proven yourself a true warrior this day. Should we both survive, I'll think you even more beautiful with the bruise than not, for a warrior is more dear to me than a coward.** He then slides his hand under her chin, leans forward and gives her a gentle kiss on her wounded cheek. As Zoisite sighs in pleasure and snuggles up against the silver-haired Elemental's tall form, Jadeite turns his gaze to Nephrite, outrage at the pair's behavior glowing in his amber eyes.
In the meantime, Nephrite continues to focus his power, a miniature model of the solar system appearing between his upheld hands. The stars know everything; their movements are the heartbeat of the Universe. Help me, you who control the destinies of everything. I seek the guidance of your knowledge. He opens his eyes, focusing on that part of the model displaying the furthest orbits of the system. "Show me the glyphs of those outer planets whose Senshi are still active," he orders.
Kunzite, an arm around Zoisite's slender waist, then turns them both around so that they can see what the auburn-haired Gemlord is doing. While the three gray-clad warriors watch, glowing symbols suddenly appear above two of the four planets shown within the miniature Orrery that spins in front of Nephrite.
With a nod, the dark-haired warrior acknowledges that Saturn and Pluto are dark, then sweeps his hand through the vision, capturing the dark-blue glyph of Uranus and the aquamarine glyph of Neptune. Opening his white-gloved fist, he concentrates his energy on the symbols lying in the palm of his hand. "By the power of the stars, show me the location of your warriors," he commands the glittering glyphs. As his eyes glow with the greenish-silver light of his energy, a scene forms within his mind. In a flash, he knows where the missing Scouts are and what they're doing. "They're on the Moon!" he shouts. "They're trying to warn the palace."
"Do you have a clear fix on them?" Kunzite sharply inquires.
With an affirmative nod, Nephrite telepaths what he sees to the others.
In an instant, the quartet disappears, Zoisite in a whirl of petals.
On the lunar surface, the pair of sailor-suited warriors are sprinting up the side of a crater, near the outskirts of the inhabited area of the Moon. "Not much farther," Sailor Uranus encourages the other. "Up over this rise, across the flats, and we'll be there."
Behind the athletic Scout, Sailor Neptune is beginning the ascent when she glances up beyond her partner--who is already halfway up the rise--and stops with a gasp as three energy auras and a whirl of cherry petals suddenly appear at the top of the ridge. "Watch out!"
Hearing the warning and looking up, Sailor Uranus skids to a halt when she sees the four gray-uniformed traitors lined up at the peak of the crater. Absolutely furious, she raises a hand in the air. "Space Sword--" she calls, materializing her dreaded blade. She's just about to sling the energy at the center of the line of Gemlords when a hand on her shoulder interrupts her.
"Don't waste your power in anger," the sea-green-haired Scout cautions. "I'll draw their fire and keep them busy. You're the faster of the two of us; you go on and warn the Queen."
"No! the short-haired Senshi snarls. "We stay together."
"But our duty!" Sailor Neptune protests. "One of us has to get through with the warning. You've a better chance than I to make it."
Staring up at the traitors as they slowly stalk down the hillside, the athletic Scout gives her partner a bitter laugh. "I may be as swift as the wind, but I'm not as fast as one who can teleport. They won't all fight just you; they'll send at least half their number after me as well. No matter how fast I go, they'll be able to teleport in front of me and keep me from my goal." Taking a step backwards so that her tall form was up against the other's willowy body, she adds, "We've lost, dear one. But we gave it our best. We've lived together, laughed together, and loved together. Since I can't outrun the enemy, grant me this last wish. I want to share this fate with you--to fight this last battle together and either live or die with you by my side."
Sailor Neptune turns so that the pair of sailor-suited warriors were back-to-back. Materializing her hand-mirror, she smiles. "I wouldn't have it any other way," she responds as she watches the quartet teleport once more, this time reappearing in a ring that surrounds the two Senshi.
Taking up positions that correspond to the compass directions under their respective commands, the four gray-clad Gemlords confront the Scouts. Kunzite remains near the top of the ridge, with Zoisite to his left and Jadeite to his right. Nephrite stands opposite the silver-haired leader at the foot of the crater's rim.
Seeing the Senshi taking up defensive stances, Zoisite laughs. "I'm gonna enjoy flaying you alive, Neptune," she gloats, an ice-sword appearing in her right hand. "You're gonna pay for smacking my face!"
"And I've still got a score to settle with you, Uranus," Jadeite snarls.
The short-haired Scout gives the light-blond-haired traitor a self-satisfied smile, running her eyes over his roughed-up form. Looking as worked-over as the athletic Senshi, his once snappy-looking uniform is now slashed in numerous places--many of them stained with blood where Uranus's Sword had cut his skin. "Grow up and get a life, Jadeite," she taunts.
"At least I'll still have one," the short-haired Gemlord growls back. "That's more than I can say for you, Sailor trash, when I get done with you." He creates a new telekinetic sword and shield and is about to rush the boyish Scout when Kunzite's voice rips through the site.
"Hold!" Realizing that he had everyone's attention, friend and foe alike, he points at Zoisite. "Our orders were to eliminate the threat of the Outer Senshi, not torture them. A warrior does his best to carry out his orders in the most efficient manner possible. Don't let your pettiness interfere with your job." He then glares at Jadeite, adding, "Teamwork! How many times must I remind you that we work together as a unit?"
"Can the speech, slime!" Sailor Uranus barks. Slinging her Sword, which still contains its charge of energy, she shouts, "Blaster!" and flings the golden light at the tall, white-cloaked warrior.
Kunzite teleports, causing the spinning energy to miss.
At the same instant, Zoisite shouts, "Zoi!"and unleashes a blast of petal-laden wind that's strong enough to force the two Senshi to duck and protect their faces.
"Fire Energy Electrify!" the tall Gemlord snarls as soon as he reappears a few feet from where he'd been standing. A violet-pink force field is already surrounding the Scouts by the time they recover from the ponytailed blond's Petal Wind.
Jadeite steps forward and raises his sword. "Air Electrify!" he calls. A ray of orangish-yellow light hits the globe, visibly fortifying it.
"Water Electrify!" Zoisite responds, shooting the sphere with a beam of violet-blue light from her ice-blade.
Nephrite raises a hand. "Earth Electrify!" he commands. His ray of greenish-silver light finishes the Elemental Shield around the Senshi.
Still standing back-to-back, the pair of Scouts let their talismans dematerialize, knowing in their hearts that they were now truly doomed. No one had ever had the strength to break the Commanders' Elemental Shield. With defiantly brave expressions on their pretty faces, each Senshi reaches a hand back toward the other. Locking their fingers together in one last gesture of unity and love, they courageously face their fate.
Jadeite's weaponry vanishes as he holds his hands out to either side. "By the intellect of Air," he chants, an orangish-yellow aura surrounding him.
"By the passion of Fire," Kunzite intones, his tall form beginning to glow with a violet-pink light.
Sailor Neptune swallows in fear, having an idea what the quartet of turncoats were doing. "Thank you," she whispers to the other Scout.
"For what?" Sailor Uranus quietly asks, also somewhat nervous about what would happen next.
"By the emotion of Water," Zoisite's strident voice calls as her sword disappears and her slender body becomes wrapped in a violet-blue aura.
"For sharing your life with me. If there's a way, I'll find you again," the sea-green-haired Senshi replies.
"Not if I find you first," the dark-gold-haired Scout responds, a grim smile on her face. "And thanks for sharing your life with me."
"By the foundation of Earth," Nephrite says while he starts to glow with greenish-silver light.
As one, the quartet raises their hands to the sky, each one's aura becoming brighter and sparkling silver in color. With every movement synchronized through their telepathic bond, they swiftly point their white-gloved hands at the Senshi, their four voices simultaneously chanting, "Elemental Annihilation!"
When the blindingly brilliant silver light finally fades, the gray-clad Gemlords teleport away, leaving behind the blasted bodies of the sailor-suited warriors lying in the gray dust of the Moon, their hands still intertwined in that last gesture of togetherness.
"Well, I'm back, and this time I won't be so easily defeated," Sailor Andromeda snarled. Grabbing her star-shaped locket, she quickly shouted the trigger, "Space Locket Shatter!" and swung her arm in a sideways arc.
As the violet-eyed Scout had expected, the silver-haired warrior disappeared. Still holding onto her locket, having pretended to throw it, Sailor Andromeda used her momentum to spin around on one foot. She then hurled the powered-up piece of jewelry in the opposite direction from where she'd originally aimed.
Kunzite teleported back in behind the sailor-suited girl just in time to catch the full force of the locket's blow square in the chest. The resulting explosion of glittering-yellow energy blasted the lavender-cloaked Gemlord off his feet, slamming him into the wall behind him.
Raising an arm to grab her returning locket, the blue-caped Scout couldn't help smiling in smug satisfaction as she watched her opponent collapse into a crumpled heap at the foot of the school building. Knowing that she'd have no better opportunity, the brunette Senshi hastily stabbed the star-locket back onto the center of her dark-blue bow, then threw her hands forward. "Star Power Destroy!"
Just as the intense beam of sparkling-yellow light streaked toward him, Kunzite launched himself up into the air, reacting almost on pure instinct. The golden energy skimmed the air right under his dark-brown boot--hitting the building near the ground--and blew a fair-sized hole in the wall.
While the tall Gemlord hovered in the air and started to shake off the stunning effects of the Senshi's successful hit, the sailor-suited warrior was momentarily distracted by the consequences of her second strike. Oh man! Miss Haruna isn't going to like that, she thought, her violet eyes staring at the smoking hole. Glancing skyward, she spotted Kunzite levatating at least a couple of stories up, his metallic-silver-lined cloak fanned out around him like wings and his hands arranged in an attitude of attack.
With a cry of "Zai!" the Elemental warrior slung an arm in a sideways arc, unleashing a concentrated burst of violet-pink energy, only to growl in frustration as the golden-brown-haired Scout leaped out of the way and soared into the air.
A quick glance down below showed Sailor Andromeda the crater blasted into the schoolyard. The groundskeeper's not going to be happy either, she sighed as she flew higher.
His pale-lavender eyes narrowed in both concentration and determination, Kunzite glided higher as well, matching the blue-and-purple-clad warrior's speed. "You're certainly full of surprises today," he snarled.
"I told you it wouldn't be that easy," Sailor Andromeda shot back. Deciding that they were high enough to keep their fight from endangering innocent bystanders or destroying property down on the ground, the blue-caped Senshi halted her ascent and hovered, warily watching as the silver-haired Elemental floated up to her level.
The pair of warriors faced off again, their visages grim and their hair blowing in the wind. As Kunzite raised his hands in a gesture Sailor Andromeda recognized as one of his ways of silently preparing an attack, the purple-skirted Scout decided to try to stop him by striking first. "Space Locket Shatter!" she shouted, ripping the golden star from her dark-blue bow and hurling it once more at the Elemental.
Carefully watching the miniature comet of glittering-yellow light as it streaked toward him, the tall Gemlord calmly floated in the sky, his cloak unfurled around him. In an almost bored tone, he said, "Energy Absorption," raising a hand to intercept the glowing, spinning locket. Just as it approached his waiting grasp, a shield of pinkish-violet light flashed around him, sucking up the bright golden glow of the piece of jewelry. He then caught the de-energized weapon.
Violet eyes wide and becoming tinged with gray in fright, Sailor Andromeda stared in momentary shock as the silver-haired warrior gave her a cold smirk. "You can't do that!" the blue-caped Senshi protested. "It's mine! Give it back, you bleach-blond Negacreep!"
His pale-lavender eyes narrowed and his fist clenched around the locket in anger, the Gemlord roared, "I don't serve the Negaforce anymore!" While a bright, violet-pink aura began to glow around his hand, he yelled, "You want it back? Fine! Here, take it!" and flung the newly-charged locket at its owner.
With an involuntary shriek, Sailor Andromeda dove to the side, feeling the heat of the locket's concentrated energy as it zinged past her shoulder. Her grayish-violet eyes watching the rose-colored fireball as it soared through the air and began its graceful arc back to the one who threw it, she spun around to face her hijacked weapon. Flying toward it on an intercept course and concentrating her control, the sailor-suited warrior commanded, "Locket De-energize!" At first, she didn't think her attempt had succeeded--the fireball had continued to race back toward the silver-haired Elemental right after she'd shouted her order--but then the violet-pink energy around the star-shaped piece of jewelry faded away, leaving the locket quietly hovering. Heaving a sigh of relief, the purple-skirted Senshi grabbed her weapon and turned to face her opponent--just in time to have to dodge another bolt of rose-colored energy fired from the Gemlord.
Her violet eyes now tinged blue with anger, Sailor Andromeda scowled at her foe. As she flew closer in order to better her aim, she shouted, "You're really starting to get on my nerves, Kunzite!"
"Not half as much as you're starting to annoy me, Sailor brat!" the lavender-cloaked warrior shot back.
I've had it! the brunette Senshi thought as she prepared her next attack. Throwing her hands forward, she started her trigger. "Star Power--"
"Crystal Freeze!" interrupted a new voice, one which came from behind the blue-caped Scout and wasn't quite as deep as the silver-haired warrior's.
Astounded, Sailor Andromeda spun around. There before her floated a tall man dressed all in black--his long, dark-brown hair and gold-lined black cloak fanned out around him--and a rapidly-growing ball of blackish-green energy was speeding her way. She had time enough to think, Not again! before the sphere struck her slender form.
Kunzite watched dispassionately as the blackish-green globe engulfing the purple-skirted Senshi solidified into a crystal of deep-green glass. A shimmering aura of blackish-green light then surrounded the vitreous prison, keeping it from falling to the ground below. Glancing over at the newcomer, the Gemlord growled, "It's about time, my lord."
Obsidian gave his warrior a cold smile. "You looked like you were having too much fun to quit. Besides, I thought you could handle a single Senshi, not the other way around."
Although angered by the dark lord's words, Kunzite lowered his head and kept a respectful tone in his voice. "You should've informed me better, my lord. I should've known that I was to face--"
"A Senshi instead of a lowly human?" Obsidian cut in, his baritone voice harsh. "I would've thought that after our first conversation you'd have had the brains to figure that out on your own. I expected you to perhaps be upset that it was Sailor Andromeda instead of one of the Inner-planet Senshi, but to not have known at all?" The Guardian of Space shook his dark-brown head. "At least your compassion and your sense of fair play have returned if not your brains. Perhaps there's hope for you yet."
Despite his ire at the other Gemlord's insulting tone, Kunzite kept his composure. The only outward sign of his displeasure was a gradual tightening of his jaw.
Obsidian stared at the lavender-cloaked man a moment longer, picking up the other's indignation through his psychic senses. Good, Kunzite's passed the test. Maybe I will be able to trust him again. Concentrating instead on expanding the influence of his power to include both the glass crystal encasing Sailor Andromeda and his fellow Gemlord, the dark Guardian closed his deep-brown eyes and commanded, "Obsidian Mirror Return!" As one, the three shimmering forms disappeared in a flash of deep-green light, leaving behind an empty sky.