Dammit! Callisto growled as the Mirror Dagger slashed nothing but frilly lace. The Hiver was either quicker or smarter than the others, sidestepping the flame-haired woman's initial thrust, then parrying her following slash with the makeshift sling. Feeling the raking of claws across her upper right thigh, the red-suited Senshi hissed in pain, then slammed her athletic body into the bug, planting her shoulder into the insectoid's thorax. Knocked off-balance, the Hiver staggered back, latching onto Callisto with a clawed hand in its sudden desperation and dragging the Soldier with it. They slammed into a free-standing display rack of matched sets of women's underwear. When the whole mess tipped beneath their combined weight, the crimson-curled warrior just knew she was going to land hard. Twisting the Dagger to a position she knew would capitalize on her momentum, Callisto braced herself for the impact-- then mentally froze in horror when she realized that the two of them and the rack of underwear were about to land on a little girl cowering just under the nightgowns of another rack, obviously terrified by the whole mess. No! the fiery warrior screamed, but to no avail. Callisto and the Hiver were already on their way down.
Zoisite watched the entire conflict between the very attractive redhead and the Negabug impassively, the rising tide of power and emotion beginning to manifest in one hell of a rage. Anger crept over her icy, beautiful face as her big, violet-blue eyes followed the Senshi's and the insect's forms while they crashed into the Victoria's Secret store at the corner of the mall's intersection. Then her gaze suddenly locked on an unexpected figure--she had somehow managed to end up at just the right angle to clearly see the dark-haired toddler--and all that emotion welling up within her suddenly lurched in another direction as something, long buried within Zoisite's psyche, surged to the fore. She disappeared in a whirling frenzy of pink petals.
More cherry petals appeared around the little girl, and a dark-clad form rolled them both out of the way just before the rack, the bug and Sailor Callisto slammed into the store's floor. Her aim true, the Mirror Dagger sank deeply and fatally, driven in hard by the redhead's fall. As the Hiver faded away like all other slain Negaverse creatures, the red-clad Soldier's dark-jade eyes scanned the area frantically, wondering if the child was okay. Disentangling herself from the frilly sets of lingerie, Callisto stood, then sighed in relief when she spied the toddler apparently safe. Amazingly, the ponytailed stranger was holding the cute little tyke.
Sensing the other woman's eyes on her, Zoisite met the flame-haired Senshi's gaze. Seeing the questioning, skeptical look, the Gemlord simply said, "The little ones are never pathetic."
Astounded to find an ocean of compassion and caring within the other's large, violet-blue eyes at that instant of time--where before there had only been icy contempt--the Sailor Soldier frowned slightly. "You coulda blasted some poor kid with the wall," Callisto pointedly remarked.
The Gemlord scowled back, the fiery woman's words striking home. The Senshi was right, and Zoisite knew that she'd been too impulsive for her own good. Kunzite would be very disappointed to find me battling this emotionally and undisciplined. I need a calmer frame of mind. Should be simple enough, though it's been a very long time . . .
The other woman watched, curious but also on the alert, as the blond stranger holding the little girl seemed to momentarily shimmer deep blue. Then Callisto blinked. The Sailor Soldiers had their own term for what she suddenly felt. Just as mentally frozen for a moment in shocked surprise as a certain wild pig abruptly psionically hypnotized in a particular comic book back home, the flame-haired warrior found herself thoroughly roinked by what she saw. The golden-haired stranger was now rather noticeably male despite his still-gorgeous, slightly feminine looks.
Hearing him say, "You're right, I could've. I need to be more careful," cinched it. His voice was now a melodic tenor a number of shades deeper than his originally strident mezzosoprano. The crimson-curled Soldier blinked again. Issit my imagination, or does he suddenly seem calmer somehow? Abruptly aware of a loud banging sound further in the store, Callisto shoved aside all thoughts of the other person's unexpected talent and dashed off to investigate.
Zoisite frowned slightly as the redhead ran down the negligee-lined aisle, then turned and glanced back out into the mall proper. Ignoring the tight clinging of the child he held, the slender Gemlord took stock of the situation. The remaining shoppers had managed to clear out of the candy-covered area, and the rest of the Senshi had advanced a bit to take on the few Negabugs still around. Gracefully striding to the storefront, he scowled at the rainbow-colored hazard. Just then, he felt a sharp yank on his hair. Wincing, he stifled a swear word, then looked at the kid-- and giggled. The sweet little tyke had pulled a piece of candy out of his wavy, golden locks and was happily popping her new-won treasure into her mouth. Rolling his long-lashed eyes, Zoisite glanced back out into the mall's concourse. I oughtta help out and do something about the sweets.
With the threat of injury to innocent shoppers gone in at least this area of the mall, the three Sailor Soldiers stood their ground in the treacherous footing and resorted to ranged attacks as the few remaining Hivers heaved more blades from the cutlery shop at them. Luckily for the Senshi, the bugs were bad shots. Unluckily for the insectoid monsters, the Soldiers were not.
As the eerily-glowing Trident slashed through the air on one side and ice crystals flew on the other, the black-clad leader called his own attack into play. "Luna Light Blade!" Glimmering moonlight shone around his hand, strengthening into a gleaming crescent of silver energy. Then, with an expert flick of the wrist, the spinning slice of moonlight raced through the air, burying itself into another Hiver. Two others vaporized as well, the ice and Trident hitting their marks. The last three bugs in the area spun and fled down the main concourse of the mall.
The trio of Soldiers hesitated. Though they all wanted to break into hot pursuit, the continuing hazard of the candy remained something to reckon with. Weapon in hand once again, its neon-blue glow fading away, the blue-clad Senshi sighed. "Where's some insulin when you really need it? I hate letting them bug out like that."
"Can't be helped. Let's get going before they get a real head start on us," Luna replied, his crescent-moon blade shimmering into nothingness.
"Hold a moment. I can clear the floor for you."
At the sound of the unfamiliar voice, the trio of Soldiers scanned the area for its source--and found themselves looking at what had to be the ponytailed stranger. The ultramarine-trimmed black uniform, the cloud of copper-highlighted, pizza- and candy-adorned hair, and the large, long-lashed, violet-blue eyes were all the same. Though still gorgeous, slender and graceful, the person standing there at the entrance to Victoria's Secret holding a dark-haired toddler was--rather unexpectedly--a man.
Needless to say, there were now three more thoroughly roinked Sailor Soldiers.
Gathering together his telekinetic power, Zoisite suppressed a giggle. The three Senshi had nearly priceless expressions on their good-looking faces: the same look of astonishment and disbelief that most people got when they realized that the person they had first seen as one sex was now the other. It was usually the reaction after that that ended up hurting Zoisite's feelings--he was well aware that most people found his sex-shifting ability bizarre and disturbing--but even the rejection he usually faced didn't detract from the amusement he got from the initial reaction itself. Holding tight his focus despite the sharp yank he felt as the child he held claimed another sweet out of his hair, the sudden ripping-crashing-bashing sound he heard coming from the back of the store where the red-clad Senshi had disappeared, and the laughter that wanted to burst out of him, the slender Gemlord executed a gracefully sweeping gesture with his free, white-gloved hand.
In response, the sea of candy began to retreat apparently on its own, the brightly-colored pieces rolling along the white-tiled floor as the gentle wave of telekinetic power pushed them all back toward the busted-up candy store. In a matter of seconds, the wayward sweets were efficiently swept up into one huge pile within the shop, now out of the way. Pleased with his effort, Zoisite grinned as he shut down his telekinesis.
"Oh, thank you so much!"
The ponytailed warrior had been anticipating some sort of gratitude, but the excited, feminine voice came from an unexpected direction. Turning slightly, his cape swirling softly around him, Zoisite was nearly mobbed by a pretty, brunette woman. Finding himself in a fiercely enthusiastic hug, the woman's ecstatic relief shining brightly in his empathic senses, the Gemlord gritted his teeth, forced himself to smile and looked skyward. However, the human's gush of obvious joy quickly became apparent when the shopper took the little girl from him and hugged her tight.
"Oh God, Katie! I thought those things had gotten you. Thank heavens you're all right."
Her mother, the golden-blond man thought, a bright smile gracing his pretty face. How sweet.
"See? Told ya she's okay." Sailor Callisto grinned as she strode up to the joyful reunion. The mother had been trapped in a dressing room, the bugs' rampage having completely blocked the door after the toddler had slipped out from under the gap between door and floor. The banging sound that the flame-haired Soldier had heard and investigated had been the shopper hitting the door in desperation. "But you'd better get outta here, Mary. There's more bugs around."
The brunette shopper nodded, still holding her now-giggling daughter tight. "I don't know how to thank you, Sailor Callisto. Or you either . . . uh . . ." The woman looked expectantly at the slender man that had been holding Katie.
At her hesitation, the Gemlord paused a moment. "You can call me Zoey," he answered, then gave her a beatific smile, feeling thrilled at being the center of such clear appreciation.
"Zoey? Interesting name." Mary smiled, beaming brightly. "And thank you so much." Then she suddenly gasped as she saw the gorgeous guy's smile. In that moment, he looked downright angelic--beyond beautiful.
Callisto blinked, then shook her head, forcing herself to remain focused. Damn. Too pretty for his own good. Concentrating instead on the shopper and her kid, the crimson-curled Soldier urged, "Thank me by getting outta here. Go on!"
Mary nodded again. With one last smile of gratitude, the brunette dashed out of the store.
The ponytailed warrior blinked in mild surprise as both the human and the Senshi suddenly seemed to be astonished by something. Realizing that he must be unconsciously projecting his happiness at being thanked by the grateful Terran through his empathy, Zoisite tightened his mental shields. Screwing with someone's emotions through magic was one deception that he'd always found despicable and dishonorable, even during his time in the Negaverse. Doing so had always made him feel . . . dirty, somehow. And he was one that didn't like being dirty at all.
As the young Terran mother ran off in the direction of the food court, the black-uniformed warrior stepped back out into the mall. Though the white-clad Polaris and the male Senshi in dark blue had already gone in pursuit--as Callisto was in the process of doing, Zoisite noticed, watching the flame-haired woman's athletic form turn the corner and disappear down the concourse--the brunette man in the black bodysuit remained behind, keeping an eye on the retreating humans.
Satisfied that the shopper and her daughter were on their way to safety, Sailor Luna gazed at the now-masculine stranger. Though the uniform still made his figure ambiguous and the differences in his appearance were very subtle, his voice and the aura around him made it obvious. Luna knew he wasn't imagining things; the ponytailed blond had somehow gone from being a woman to a man. Accepting that fact with a mental nod, the leader of the Sailor Soldiers spoke. "There's probably more Hivers causing trouble elsewhere in here. Still willing to help us out?"
The slender Gemlord thought it over, looking at the remains of the chaos around them. Sure, it had been a hell of a day off so far--he'd been insulted, attacked, horribly embarrassed and had had his lunch stolen right out from under his nose--but like this, where his negative emotions weren't so close to the surface, he was beginning to see the humor of the situation. Giggling slightly, he answered, "Why not? Who knows? I might get to see more stuffed animals get launched by lingerie."
Luna grinned in reply, relieved to see the stranger actually amused by the incident now. "Then let's do it!"
Together, the Soldier and the Gemlord dashed off down the main concourse of the mall.
This just isn't my day, Sailor Sirius thought, despite his desperate circumstances. Laid out on the floor, his back flat against the white tiles from the weight of his assailant, the pale-blue-haired Senshi was pinned. Clawed hands held his wrists down against the floor, while the insectoid's second pair were slowly throttling him. Unable to move his hands, or even concentrate enough to attempt to use an unguided attack sequence, Sirius cursed himself once more. He should've known better, should've paid more attention to the bugs around him as he fried one of their number. Having been blindsided, he was now paying the price.
Just as the world was starting to go dark, he unexpectedly felt the irresistible pull of the Star Stone on his silver circlet as it reacted to something that hadn't been there a moment ago. A sudden phantom chill in the air, a flash of ghostly light, and the bug relentlessly strangling him dissolved in a cloud of black mist. Focusing on the source of the pull--a slim figure in pale gray adorned with a flowing cloak of white feathers and wielding a naginata limed in ghostly flame--Sirius stared in silent awe as the other Senshi gracefully danced her follow-through, the polearm effortlessly eradicating three more insectoids that weren't quite fast enough to escape its reach. By Sothis, he said, scrambling to his feet. She's just as ravishingly deadly as I remember . . .
Sailor Cygnus's almond-shaped, mallow-green eyes flicked over the tall, slenderly-athletic form of the man she rescued. Though obviously a Senshi--his costume attested to that, being nearly identical to those of the Soldiers--and the bearer of another artifact from the ancient times--as the Swan Cloak was making quite plain to her--the ebon-haired woman realized that he was a complete stranger. Unlike the others, this one sparked no memories within her mind.
Pushing aside the puzzle of the unknown Senshi for the moment, the exotically-beautiful Soldier turned her attention back to the Hivers. As her quick reconnaissance trip in Wraith Form throughout the mall had shown, the entire structure was crawling with the insectoids. She had been about to return to the others with her observations when the stranger's plight had caught her attention. Now that she was solid again, she could feel the drain of energy the Wraith Form had consumed. Use it much longer, and the cravings would start anew--a situation she'd much rather avoid. Grim-faced, she stood at the other Senshi's back, confronting the Hivers determined to harass him.
Silver-gray eyes scanning his immediate area, Sailor Sirius realized that he and Cygnus were surrounded. He frowned. For some reason, the bugs seemed determined to keep him well occupied. Almost as if they know-- He broke off his thought as one of the monsters suddenly rushed him. Concentrating his power and raising a hand, he called his basic attack yet again. "Sirius Star Laser!"
As the star-shaped aura and then the beam of intense starlight smoked another insectoid, Sailor Cygnus thrusted and slashed in a graceful dance of death, the naginata's silent song bringing eternal stillness to those unable to escape its deadly touch. Standing back to back, the pair of Senshi--one silvery-blue, the other phantom-gray--made short work of the Hivers that, moments ago, were almost successful in taking out Sailor Sirius.
Deep in the shadows of a near-by storefront, his ability to blend perfectly into shade hiding him further, a man watched the warriors in quiet, near-solitude. Had someone been able to see him, they would've noticed a striking resemblance between this figure with shoulder-length, sapphire-blue hair and sapphire-blue eyes, and the male Senshi fighting with Cygnus. Clad in Negaverse gray with midnight-blue trim, he continued his vigil, a look of amusement crossing his handsome face. Seems as if his guardian found him some playmates.
By now, most of the mall patrons had scattered away from the freaky situation, though a few brave or morbidly curious souls hung around in sheltered spots, hoping to catch more of the conflict. One of those humans, in a place not as well-sheltered as he'd thought, quickly became the target of a Hiver. Chittering to itself, the bug raised up the red rubber playground ball, prepared to launch its spherical missile in a double-clawed throw.
Their immediate area cleared of insectoids, the pair of Senshi broke from their defensive formation. Sirius pulled together his concentration, attempting yet again to execute a particular attack. Having spied the bug-eyed monster getting ready to play dodgeball with a hapless human, Cygnus lept and slashed. The maroon ball made a distinctive boing, boing as it bounced on the mall floor, its wielder suddenly dark mist.
With a whining, buzzing sound, something slammed hard into the male warrior's foot, breaking his focus. Looking down, he watched as a radio-controlled racecar backed up, then came at him again. Cursing under his breath and completely unimpressed, Sirius kicked the annoying toy away. As it went flying to crash and tumble, the sky-blue-clad Senshi scanned the area with silver-gray eyes. Spotting the bug responsible among a small group of other toy-wielding monsters, Sirius smiled grimly and called a new attack. "Sirius Star Shatter!"
In response, a controlled spray of transparent, pale-blue crystals suddenly erupted into being from his outstretched hand and zoomed through the air. The razor-sharp stone shards tore through the group, sending them all to oblivion.
In a swirl of white feathers, the female warrior elegantly spun and focused on a few other Hivers in the immediate area. Gracefully dodging the insectoids' missiles of tossed anime tapes from a nearby video store, she forcefully threw the ghostly naginata. The glowing weapon unerringly speared its target, then turned as it continued to fly when its wielder made a stately gesture. The polearm silently glided on to tear through another pair of Hivers that were rearming themselves with more blockbuster movies.
The figure in the shadows frowned. The natives of this world were proving themselves to be as resourceful as those from whence he came. Already the authorities of this pathetic little town were getting the upper hand on the one group of Hivers he'd sent out to menace the general citizenry. Annoyed, he turned his mental focus to the group of bug-monsters still within the mall--and silently growled. The Soldiers, Sailor Sirius and the black-uniformed warrior, who was ironically quite familiar in appearance if not spirit, had managed to destroy most of the group of Hivers here. A somewhat expensive loss, as it hadn't been easy to wrest psychic control of the youma from either their Queen or the one who controlled her. All in all, not a very productive exercise, but at least it's been educational.
The shadowy figure's sapphire-blue eyes narrowed in piqued annoyance as the Senshi duo teamed up to eradicate the few remaining Hivers. While toy swords and guns, plastic shields and helms all hit the white tiled floor in their wake, the pair of warriors dashed off toward the center of the mall. He ought to call off the insanity and salvage what was left of his commandeered troublemakers before they were caught in the pincer of Soldier-punks, but he was in a particularly foul mood at the moment. Having taken control of a group of Hivers once, he knew he could do so again, even if the up-and-coming Negastar who originally controlled them took countermeasures against the shadow-figure's next attempt. If there was a way, he'd find it. He softly chuckled as he shifted from one set of shadows to another overlooking the center of the mall. He, Seti, always did find the way.
Let's face it, Zoey, the slender Gemlord told himself as he "Zoi!"-ed another Negabug out of existence, the ice crystals glittering prettily as they tore through the youma. You're looking for this mysterious person Sid wants found in a loony bin. After all, he'd seen all kinds of unusual things as he and the strangely-dressed Senshi worked together to rid the mall of the pests.
There had been the group of bugs trying to figure out the sophisticated workings of a point-and-shoot camera. The ponytailed warrior couldn't help but mentally sneer, Tourists . . . at the insectoids as a Polaris Ice Shatter got rid of them.
Then there had been the pair fighting over a stuffed-critter doll that had incessantly giggled due to the motion of the tug-of-war being inflicted upon it. Thankfully Triton's Laser Trident had ended both the youma's and Zoisite's misery. That thing had a giggle more annoying than my own.
The compact disc-digital video disc battle halfway down the main concourse had been intriguing as well, with two groups of the monsters squaring off against one another and lobbing shining discs filled with music, movies and computer programs like a demented frisbee tournament. When the group of warriors had approached, they'd become targets as well. Though he and the Senshi had managed to do in the Negabugs flinging discs, they'd also taken a few hits from the Top Forty list as they'd exterminated the pests. Even now, Zoisite could feel the slight burning sensation along his right temple where he'd been grazed by a rock album. That bug had gone down in flames, having been smoked by the Elemental's fireball--a move which had earned him a dirty look from the Senshi, most notably the white-clad woman with the amazing ebony-colored hair and the flame-clad female he'd kept finding fascinating to watch for some reason. He'd been able to mollify them somewhat with both a hasty apology and promise to better watch his powers. And though he'd gone back to using attacks less prone to creating property damage, he really hadn't been that sorry he'd toasted the bug like a marshmallow. Damn, that still hurts.
However, nothing in his millenia-long life had quite prepared him for the sight that greeted him and his make-shift allies when they reached the center of the mall. For Zoisite, that was saying something; he'd already experienced quite a lot in his life.
It was an all-out free-for-all, a bizarre melding of bumper cars and water fight. For some reason beyond comprehension, the bug-eyed monsters in the area had commandeered the rental baby strollers as well as an arsenal of pump-powered toy water-guns. Pairs of Negabugs were teamed up, with one insectoid pushing around a water-gun-wielding partner in a stroller, and each team was determined to spray and slam anyone else around--including the other teams.
The scene was enough to give the Senshi pause as well, Zoisite noticed. The slender Gemlord mentally snickered a bit as each of the other warriors hesitated, looking somewhat astonished. But then duty reasserted itself a fraction of a second later, and the Senshi fanned out, getting down to business once more.
Sailor Luna took a quick look around, scanning for innocent bystanders in the middle of the chaos. There was a trio of either brave or foolish shoppers standing against the wall--out of the way for the moment--but no one else. The curly-haired brunette grimly smiled. Ranged weapons would be acceptable.
Off to his left, he caught a glimpse of the azure, neon light of Triton's Trident as the weapon flared to life and soared through the air. Concentrating his own energy, Luna called his Light Blade into being once more, then expertly flung the silver crescent at a pair of Hivers reloading their water-gun in the mall's fountain. The insectoids were moon-dusted before they even knew they'd been hit.
Meanwhile, the female Senshi fanned out, Polaris dashing off along the left side of the center court while Callisto ran along the right, not too far from where the three shoppers were hanging out watching the scene. As an Ice Shatter and the Mirror Dagger each ripped through Hiver victims, the trio flashed the warriors a thumbs-up. Of course, the blond woman, the younger brunette-curled man--both of whom wore glasses--and the taller, darker-haired man sporting a beard were all ignored as Callisto rushed on to eliminate another bug.
"Impressive," the plump, blond woman said in a low voice, running a hand through her shoulder-length hair. Glancing over at the two men, she grinned, "Y'know, I never believed ya when y'said that the only happenin' things around here were at th'mall. Shows ya what I know."
The taller, darker of the pair of men, a guy reminiscent of a huge teddy bear, silently grinned, still watching as the Trident sailed back to the blue-clad Soldier for another run and the Light Blade spun through the air to claim another youma kill.
"Well, it's not normally this exciting," the other man replied, shrugging, a smirk of satisfaction on his face as he saw the flame-clad Senshi ram a shoulder into another Hiver, then slash away with the glittering Dagger as the insectoid went down.
The woman giggled, then turned her gaze to where the black-uniformed Gemlord was floating in the air, his cape and ponytail fanned out around him.
From his vantage point up in the air, having leapt there and hovered a moment ago, Zoisite gazed down on the fountain's court below, taking in the sights. Triton launched his glowing pitchfork yet again, spearing a pair of bugs that were on a collision course with Polaris. That limber warrior easily spun away from both the threatened attack and the Laser Trident, her long raven-colored hair flying, then set herself up to launch another Ice Shatter at a Hiver. Meanwhile, Luna's spinning weapon was returning to the thin Soldier's hand and Callisto was making a mad dash to plow her athletic form into an insectoid aiming a stroller at Triton.
And throughout it all, other Negabugs were taking aim with their high-powered water-guns at both other insect teams and the warriors themselves. Zoisite giggled. Water was his Element to command; he had a bit of a surprise for the Negatrash. With a moment's concentration, he opened himself to the flow of energy from the Western Quarter. The power of Water filling his awareness, the tanzanite on his golden circlet shining with an aquamarine triangle deep in its heart, Zoisite whispered an order to the jets of liquid emerging from the guns.
Grabbing his Trident out of the air, Sailor Triton felt a subtle warping of the aether around him. Again able to compensate for the slight change in his patron moon's energy, he glanced at where he sensed the change had come--and found himself looking up at the ponytailed stranger yet again. Whoever--whatever--he is, he's gotta helluva pull on Water. Focusing again on his intended targets--a pair of Hivers racing to the fountain, intent on a refill--the blue-clad Senshi sent his weapon shimmering through the air--then blinked in surprise.
Every single jet fired from a gun suddenly bent in mid-flight, doubling back to douse each toy-wielding bug in its compound eyes.
Zoisite giggled, rather amused.
The Trident deftly eliminated its targets. Shrugging off his surprise, the black-haired, male warrior called his artifact back with a mental command and accompanying gesture.
The other Soldiers also quickly recovered from seeing the laws of physics broken, taking the opportunity to hit the Hivers hard and fast.
The youma themselves had a mixed reaction. While some tossed their guns aside--a few actually hurling them at a convenient foe--a number of others fired their toys again. The result was the same; the water curved back to splash the wielder in the face. That was enough to convince most of the rest to toss their water-guns away.
The blond Gemlord grinned as he gracefully executed a gliding dodge to avoid being hit by a few day-glo-orange water-guns. He answered that with an ice dagger; the speeding, razor-sharp crystal skillfully buried itself in a bug's eye, making that youma disappear in a black mist.
Polaris also elegantly ducked under the flight of some water-guns, having eliminated yet another Hiver a moment before. However, as she took aim to send off still another Ice Shatter, she caught some movement out of the corner of her ice-blue eyes. Glancing at the source, she spied an insectoid furiously rushing her with a rental stroller. Spinning away, her magnificent mane of hair fanning out with the movement, she sidestepped, then helped the Hiver along with a well-placed, ice-blue boot to the rear. The stroller hit the side of the fountain hard, launching the monster over it. The insectoid landed in the pool of water with a splash. Seizing her opportunity, the white-clad warrior barked out a call. "Polaris Frost Shackle!"
The fountain froze--just enough to entrap the water-logged Hiver as well as a couple more of the juvenile insectoids that had been bucking their brethern's trend and had decided to start frolicking in the fountain--but not enough to damage the plumbing. Sailor Polaris couldn't help but smirk in self-satisfaction. That had been a fine piece of power control.
Noticing the monsters on ice, Luna threw back an arm to send the Light Blade off at them. As Triton's electric-blue artifact sped through the air to deliver oblivion to another Hiver, the black-clad Soldier took aim.
From his vantage point in the air, Zoisite spotted a stroller-wielding Negabug rushing the moon-powered Senshi from the side. With barely any time to shout a warning, the Gemlord took a different course of action. Thrusting a white-gloved hand upwards, he shouted, "Zoi!"
The sudden eruption of telekinetic wind and cherry petals almost next to him caught Sailor Luna's attention. Realizing that there was a Hiver in the midst of the flowery explosion, he spun and slashed with the Blade. To his astonishment, the Light Blade changed form--curving sharply, it now looked more like a sickle. The glowing weapon easily decapitated the monster, its vicious, hooking shape making the job that much easier. The bug disappeared as so much dark light while the last of the cherry petals faded away.
At the same time as Luna looked at his now normal-shaped Light Blade in surprise and Sailor Triton's glowing weapon returned to the blue-bodysuited Senshi for another strike, Callisto snagged--in an awkward, one-handed catch--a stroller that was thrown at her. Hastily slapping the Mirror Dagger to her waist, where the reflective artifact adhered its hilt to her golden belt, the flame-curled Soldier grabbed her prize in a two-handed grip. She then threw the baby-buggy right back in the insectoid's ugly face. Bug and stroller hit the white-tiled floor hard. Pulling the Dagger easily from her belt, Callisto leapt on the Hiver and stabbed as she straddled it. Scratch another pest.
Just then, the three Soldiers from the distant past each felt the tell-tale pull of another, unknown artifact. As one, they all paused the skirmishing long enough to look at where the sensation told them to search.
Rushing up to the mall's center court was a tall figure with pale-blue hair and a sky-blue bodysuited outfit reminiscent of the Soldiers' own. This, then, was the person drawing the artifacts. A male Senshi that none of them recognized.
Taking in the scene before him, Sailor Sirius skidded to a stop. There they were, his old acquaintances--plus two others he didn't know at all--kicking butt just like in the good old days. Smiling slightly, knowing that Cygnus was around somewhere--she had phased out again into her Wraith Form when the two of them had encountered very few insectoids in their run toward the mall's center--he had to admit that it was good seeing them all again. Now to give them a hand, though they look like they had it well-handled.
Well-hidden in the shadows of a store-front overlooking the fountain court, Seti frowned slightly as he spotted the caped Senshi. None of the Hivers were close enough to harrass Sirius out of the attack sequence sure to come. "Game over, for now," the sapphire-eyed Negaverse warrior growled to himself. "However, nephew, I'll not let you stay long to enjoy the victory." With that, Seti melted away into the shadows.
Hovering in the aether of the Astral Plane, her naginata in her hands limed with ghostly flame, Sailor Cygnus was startled to catch movement nearby. Turning her mallow-green eyes from the shadowy scene of the Physical Plane, she found herself looking at a sapphire-blue-haired man dressed in what was obviously a Negaverse uniform of gray and midnight-blue. For a heartbeat, the pair stared at one another. Then Cygnus expertly threw her Lance.
The Negawarrior just smirked and faded out, disappearing right before the spirit weapon flew through his location. Eyes narrowed and even more on the alert, the lithe Soldier recalled her naginata to her hand. To have an enemy able to be phased out into the Astral was unexpected. She would know better next time. Casting about with all her senses, she resumed her monitoring of the conflict below.
By the power and light of Sirius, guide of hope, give me strength, my patron star. Feeling the comforting presence of the silvery-blue energy and concentrating his focus, the Senshi extended a silver-gloved hand and called the sequence that he'd been trying to use all this time. "Sirius Star Shimmer!" His turquoise-bordered, silver cape and long ponytail stirring in a psychic wind, ropes of a glittering, silvery fog began to pour from around his body.
In a matter of seconds, the entire area was filled with the fog, effectively putting a stop to the fight since no one could see past the length of an arm. Holding his focus, Sirius mentally commanded the fog to continue to form until the whole of the mall was filled. That was accomplished in a few minutes' time.
One by one, the other warriors powered down slightly, warily watching as best they could for more trouble as they waited for the fog to dissipate. Zoisite shivered, not because the strange mist was cold--that would never be a problem for the Western Commander--but because something in the silvery cloud was trying to pull at his energy, drawn by the few Negaverse ties he had left.
A stumbling figure in the swirling mist caught Polaris's eye. Turning to face the possible threat, her power once more at the ready, she watched, amazed, as a Hiver tumbled to the floor near her feet, twitched a few times, then faded to nothingness. At least I seem to be unaffected by this stuff, other than not being able to see very far.
When the cloudy attack faded away, there wasn't a Hiver in sight. All that remained were the Senshi, the Gemlord--and the three human onlookers, who were now huddled piles on the floor. Spotting them, Callisto, Luna and Triton all headed over there to see if they were all right.
Noticing what the others were doing, Sirius reassured them. "You'll find that they're just asleep. That's what the Shimmer does to regular people."
While the other two male Soldiers stopped and stared at the sky-blue-clad man, the flame-haired woman shot the stranger a look and knelt down to check it out for herself. Sure enough, the trio were all right--just dozing away.
So that's what he looks like when he means business, Zoisite thought to himself, recognizing the new Senshi from his pale-blue hair, though again the confusion magic made it a challenge. Gliding gracefully to the ground, the black-uniformed Gemlord placed a hand over his heart. As the other warriors gathered together to talk to the one that had ended the conflict, Zoisite held the Dark Crystal in his hands once again. Let's see . . . He's not it, nor are the females. What about the other men?
Sirius couldn't help but smile as the three familiar Soldiers approached. Nodding to each, though he was a bit bothered by their apparent lack of recognition, the caped Sailor then looked at the one he didn't know--and was startled to see the crystal crescent on the circlet. The Moon, Luna . . . Lunar royalty?
The black-bodysuited leader of the Sailor Soldiers caught the stranger's momentary confusion, and took the opportunity to extend a hand in greeting. "Thanks for the assist. I'm Sailor Luna."
The taller man grinned, giving the other silver-gloved man's hand a firm shake. "Sailor Sirius. No prob. After all, it wasn't quite what I'd call a fair fight."
"A couple thousand bugs and us, now that's a fair fight," the Trident-bearing warrior next to Luna quipped.
The other Soldiers groaned slightly while their leader silently sighed. "And these are Sailors--"
"Triton, Callisto and Polaris," Sirius responded, interrupting Luna. Fixing each one with his sunlit-fog gaze, the caped Soldier smiled, a few scattered memories coming to mind. "Nereus, the wise-cracking jokester that was as strong as an ox. Brighid, the courageous hothead whose fiery temper was her infamous trait. And Freya . . ." He trailed off, gazing at the white-clad Senshi for a long moment, ignoring the startled looks everyone was giving him. Closing his eyes and shaking his head, Sirius added, "But that was long ago and we're different people now."
Off to the side, Zoisite quietly listened to the conversation as he focused on the Dark Crystal, trying to get a reading off the stone.
The trio of Soldiers from the ancient times all stared at the blue-haired man in utter confusion. Though he acted as if he knew them from before, none of them could recall a memory with him in it. And though Sirius himself didn't spark any memories, the names he called them did. In a sudden flash, they knew what they'd been called in that lifetime claimed by the Oblivion Wyvern. Another piece of the puzzle had fallen in place, though its messenger was a complete blank.
A thousand questions flooded each Sailor's mind, but before anyone could ask anything, a shimmer of starlight appeared next to Sirius. Fading away, it revealed the figure of a large, solid-black greyhound. "Fun time's over. You're needed elsewhere, Sirius," the dog spoke, his voice a deeper, more commanding tone than one would expect from a greyhound that could talk.
"Dammit, Anpu, not now," the ponytailed Sailor growled, looking down at the dog. Though he said Anpu, the translation magic gave the others another name--Anubis. "Not when I've finally found them all."
"You found them once, you can find them again," the ebony-coated canine replied. "But right now, the Embassy's being broken into."
Sirius frowned, then gave the others an apologetic look. "I'm sorry to have to run out on you like this, but duty calls." Taking a step back, he gazed at his old acquaintances one last time, eyes lingering on Callisto for a moment, then even longer on Polaris. "But I'll do my best to return soon." Closing his eyes and raising a hand, he murmured, silvery-blue starlight surrounding him, "Sirius, light of hope, heed my call. Transport me through your power to the Sirian Embassy."
The starlight flared, then faded away. When it was gone, so were Sailor Sirius and Anubis.
While the startled Sailor Soldiers all stood there staring at where the other Senshi had been, Zoisite frowned slightly. Could it be? Gazing down at the Dark Crystal, he could see the aquamarine shimmer in the heart of the stone with an intensity that indicated that one could be whom Lord Obsidian had in mind. A subtle shift of the crystal, then the violet-blue eyes looked up and narrowed. He could be the one . . . Cupping his slender hand back over his chest, he made the double-pointed prism disappear.
Looking over the group of odd-uniformed warriors, the Gemlord gave them a wry smile. "Well, it's been fun, but I must be going."
As one, the Senshi all looked at him, their puzzled expressions quickly turning to outright hostility. It was Polaris that spoke first. "That's it? You're leaving? What about the poor merchants who're gonna end up paying for your damage?"
Zoisite blinked, taken by surprise. The words, For Cosmos's sake, it's only a wall, sounded in his mind, but he kept quiet. Instead, he merely gave the others an icy look.
Callisto growled. "I oughtta kick your pretty little ass up between your shoulderblades."
As Triton glared, brown eyes shining with a furious light, Luna just shook his brunette-curled head slightly. In a quiet voice, the Soldiers' leader sighed, "Just what we need. Guilt by association."
Playing with the end of his ponytail, running the silky golden hair thoughtfully over his expressive lips, Zoisite carefully studied them. He'd had some fun whacking the Negabugs, even if he'd been humiliated a few times in the process, and something inside him wanted to leave this group of Senshi with a favorable impression. His violet-blue gaze fixing on the furious redhead--once more drawn to stare at her for Cosmos knew what reason--he suddenly acted on pure impulse. Flipping back his ponytail, he looked at the Moon-powered warrior meaningfully. "Meet me at the wall." Then, before the firebrand could react, Zoisite grabbed her around a golden-gloved wrist.
Startled, Callisto blinked her dark-jade eyes a moment, staring at the stranger's slender hand locked around her. Then she tried yanking herself loose, instantly angry. He was stronger than he looked, and held on. She was so involved in trying to pull free, she never noticed that the air was suddenly filled with glittering blue sparkles.
The other Soldiers watched in shock as the black-uniformed stranger vanished in a whirl of violet-blue light, taking their friend with him. As Triton spat a swear word, Luna glanced at the remaining Sailors, knowing somehow that the stranger had spoken the truth. "Come on! Back to the food court!"
Taking off at a dead run, the trio of warriors sped back to where the conflict had started.
Her face grim, exotic green eyes cold, Sailor Cygnus watched them go from her phased-out location in the Astral Plane. Spinning her deadly, phantom-flamed naginata in her hands, she glided as fast as thought, heading for the same destination. Should the ponytailed warrior try anything nasty with Callisto, Cygnus was determined to be an unpleasant surprise.
The fiery, red-haired Soldier stared daggers at the effeminate stranger, absently rubbing her wrist where he'd grabbed her. Teleporting sucks. As she watched the ponytailed blond take up a graceful stance near the shattered wall through narrowed eyes, she couldn't decide which was worse: the gradual unraveling and reweaving of reality accompanied by a huge power drain, or the shockingly abrupt plunge into absolute nothingness she'd just undergone. Though it seemed as if the stranger had taken the entire energy drain of the teleport himself, being dragged through a place where the only sensation she could feel was her own heartbeat was bad enough.
Taking a chance that the fuming firebrand would only glare at him, Zoisite raised a white-gloved hand and closed his violet-blue eyes. As he opened himself up to the energy of his Element, an aquamarine triangle began to glow in the heart of the gemstone in the center of his golden circlet. A shimmering aura of violet-blue flowed around him as he murmured a quiet invocation. "Creature of Water, hear my call. The Lord of the Western Gate summons thee."
In response, the water-covered pieces of the shattered wall began to glimmer with ultramarine auras of their own.
Callisto watched, wide-eyed now, as Zoisite continued his soft words. "Remember the pattern of that which existed; show me how things were when you touched the wall."
The pieces shone slightly brighter, as, in his mind's eye, the Gemlord could suddenly see where each piece had originally been. Guided by the psychic signatures reflected back to him through the water, he knew he could reconstruct the wall as if it had been a giant jigsaw puzzle. Holding in his mind the image of the completed wall, he murmured the order. "Creature of Water, unite thyself, bearing with you the pieces you enclose. Make whole again that which thou hast shattered."
All Callisto could do was stare, mouth hanging slightly open, as the glimmering pieces of the food court wall abruptly flew through the air all at once. Behind the pair of warriors, the three Soldiers skidded to a halt, looking in awe as the broken structure pulled itself together. Within moments, the steel and glass structure was there as it had been before, its surface still glowing with an ultramarine light.
A thin sheen of sweat covered Zoisite's beautiful face as he kept together the structure, the concentration needed to keep the task formidable, even for himself. The triangle still shining in the heart of the tanzanite on his brow, he gave out one last command. "Bind thy body to the wall, blend the pieces together to make it whole once more. Then thou mayst return to the fountain of thy birth, thy service done."
With a final, brilliant flare of blue light, the broken wall was fixed, once again the way it was before the black-uniformed warrior's attack crashed into it. The gleaming auras now gone from both the food court structure and the blond man's slender form, Zoisite wearily sank to one knee, head bowed.
The Sailor Soldiers just stared at the stranger and the fixed wall, still too startled to say a word. Callisto took a step forward, then halted as the kneeling man abruptly looked up, large eyes focused on a particular spot. With another shimmer of deep blue, the ponytailed blond returned to being a woman, smiling up at that point in space. Puzzled, the redheaded Senshi flicked her own gaze to that same place.
As Zoisite stood once again, a tall figure suddenly appeared, floating in the air. A regal-looking man with long, straight, silver-blond hair tinged lavender stood in the air, arms crossed, his long black cape flowing around him. The Soldiers all instantly noticed that he wore much the same uniform, only lined in lavender and trimmed in silver. A silver circlet bearing a shimmering pink jewel encircled the newcomer's brow. Gazing down at the ebony-clad woman, he spoke, his voice a low rumble. "Return home, Zoisite. You are needed."
The Gemlord nodded. "As you wish, Kunzite," she replied. While the silver-haired warrior faded into nothingness, Zoisite turned to the fascinating Senshi with the flame-colored hair. "At least I fixed the wall. That ought to make you happy."
Behind her, Triton and Luna shot each other looks of both dread and anger. Kunzite . . . Zoisite . . . Those were names from a past they shared, names which sounded mental alarms to them both. Next to them, Polaris frowned, not liking the expressions on her teammates' faces. Apparently the stranger's name meant something to the guys--something not good at all.
Meanwhile, Callisto merely continued to gaze silently at the woman addressed as Zoisite.
Discouraged by a lack of response, the ponytailed blond frowned and glanced at the wall once more. "Perhaps our paths shall cross again." Then she was gone, disappearing in the midst of a swirling cloud of what looked like cherry-blossom petals.
Acting on a sudden impulse, the red-clad Senshi reached out
with a golden glove and caught a pink petal before the rest faded
away. Shaking her curly head at the day's strange events,
Callisto wandered over to where the others stood as Cygnus phased
back in next to the trio.