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A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Benjamin A. Oliver

Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is owned by Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.

"Twenty-one out of eighteen? Shouldn't we move on to the next chapter yet?"

Whelp, here we go with some more! Step-by-step, inch-by-inch, I'm getting closer to the end of the chapter. Or, at least, where I think the "chapter" should end. Actually, even I'm starting to think of it as an odd thing that I should be calling a currently seven hundred and fifty kilobyte plain text file a single chapter.

It's just that I finished another section, and it's about the right size for another post, so hey, why not?

Oh well. Gotta keep people off-balance, at least for a while. Wouldn't be proper otherwise! I'll welcome any comments or suggestions anyone has to make.


Chapter 10-2N


Terra Incognito knew intuitively that love, of one variety or another, is what optimally forms a family. After all, when she'd been kidnapped by an alien from the planet Vegita, her mother had wasted no time in calling her friends in to help get her back. And afterward, her father had volunteered to take care of any problems that had been left over.

The perky young redhead was sure that everyone in her family loved her a great deal, but for some reason, she did not particularly enjoy how her grandmother was looking at her. "Umm, Gramma Jenova?"

"What is it, child?" Jenova asked in a soft, penetrating, alien voice. Her speech came from perfect lips from a perfect face, which itself was attached to a vaguely human, female body in front of the huge, bulbous sac that Terra never had the heart to ask about. She levitated a little above one of the big, comfy chairs, unable to sit due to her obvious lack of the physical wherewithal that would be necessary for such a feat. "Has my dear, sweet granddaughter grown tired of those that dare seek to 'pick on' her?" One of her long, somewhat arm-shaped tentacles reached over to caress the girl's cheek.

Terra could understand how someone like her mother could fall in love with someone like her father. She held the opinion that her father was quite handsome and strong. He'd never treated her with anything less than love and respect, even though he tended to keep his distance most of the time. It was anyone's guess as to how her mother met her father, and she had never asked. She had once idly fancied them meeting at a dance somewhere and really hitting it off, but that theory did not mesh well with her experience with them.

However, even given her recently enhanced imagination, she could not figure out how someone like her daddy had an ancestry that included someone like Gramma. It was like she was from another planet or something. On the other hand, Terra didn't watch much television, and rarely, if ever, got introduced to her friends' grandparents. For all she knew, ancient gigantic tentacled Cthuloids were fairly common members of any given family tree.

Still, she made a mental note never to introduce Serena or Raye to her beloved grandma.

"N-no," Terra replied cautiously as she tried to shake off the creepy, icky feeling welling up inside of her. "My friends are fine." She looked over at her mother pleadingly. "Aren't they?"

Kasumi nodded as she placed the phone back on the hook. "Oh, yes. Your friend Serena has her powers back and they finished off the last of the youma for now."

"That's good." Terra breathed a sigh of relief.

Jenova floated a bit closer and peered with oddly faceted eyes at Terra. "We cannot have my granddaughter going around helpless, though, can we?"

"I'm not helpless," Terra said quickly. "I have powers!" She pulled out her transformation brooch. "Look at this."

Another one of Grandma's tentacles reached over and snatched the magical piece of jewelry. "Ah, yes. The powers of Sailor Earth, are they?" She held it up and examined it closely. "Barely worth batting an eyelash over, especially when you have part of my genetic background to help you along…"

"Unlike you, 'dear mother'," Sephiroth muttered cynically, sitting beside Terra and holding her hand, "my child is fully human."

"Um, right!" Terra added with a faint, forced smile.

Kasumi looked like she wanted to raise her hand and say something, but in the end, she closed her mouth and sat back down. "No, better not mention it yet…"

"A pity," the monstrous creature sighed, turning away slightly. "Perhaps, if I could inject you with my cells, dear, then you would be able to—"

Terra frowned at her. "Gramma!"

Jenova looked like she wanted to shrug. What sufficed was her shoulders remaining immobile while her tentacles were held up in a gesture mimicking innocence. "Merely a suggestion."

The redhead reached for her brooch. "Can I, um, have it back now?"

"Suit yourself," Jenova replied in a somewhat displeased voice, handing back the magical transformation item in question. She turned toward Sephiroth. "The next thing you know, she'll be dating boys with spiky blond hair with glowing eyes that like to carry large swords around."

Terra thought about that. "That's a very specific description," she noted. "What made you think of that?"

Jenova shrugged again. "Oh, well, you know…"

Sephiroth cleared his throat. "There's nothing wrong with carrying large swords around," the black-clad man insisted, indicating his own sheathed blade.

"No, I don't know," Terra replied to her grandmother, her voice and expression completely devoid of guile. "Could you explain it to me?"

Jenova patted the girl on the shoulder with one of her large tentacles. "Later, dear. Later. Perhaps when you are feeling better."

"All right," Terra replied with a slight nod. She took a deep breath. "Well, I'm feeling better already…"

"That's good!" Kasumi said, smiling.

"Well, look at the time!" Jenova levitated slightly higher, as if to make the impression that she just stood up. "I must be going now."

Terra brightened, perhaps a little more than she should have. "Really? That's wonderful— I mean, I'm so sorry you couldn't stay longer… Um." She blushed, uncertain as to where some of her thought processes were originating.

"I am truly sorry as well, dear," Jenova replied. Her strange body tensed and a smile formed on her ethereally beautiful lips. "But before I go, how about a kiss for your dear old granny?"

Most of the blood in Terra's face chose that moment to flee for deeper, safer locales within her body. "Umm! Of course…"


Atop Tokyo Tower, the Atomic Starlight Knight winced.

Ewwww, icky Grandma kisses!

Where?!

Our core being feels…

Wow! She feels creeped out!

Amazing…

We can sense it too! That must mean the link's steadying!

Finally…

ASK had come to this particular locale to drink in the surroundings and blow off some more steam. He felt the underground base was too crowded, even though there were only three people there. The restaurant was too crowded, even though it had been closed for renovations, as had every other place within a three-block radius.

Can't we learn to control our temper?

No!

*WHAM!*

What?!

Don't say what we think you're going to say!

What's that?

I don't know!

He didn't frequent bars, since his mentally projected body had zero chemical tolerance and the brawls were far too boring. Besides, they were too crowded. Everywhere was too crowded. In fact, so was his head…

We could transform back, if y'like…

No. Too much work to do.

We're just resting now anyway…

No, I'm not!

"Yes, I am," he muttered aloud. "Just looking over the scenery. Hey, I can see Terra's house from here!"

I can see the big crater in the middle of town!

I can see the remnants of the restaurant! Wow, those nanobots almost have the frame back up…

ASK held his throbbing head. "Too loud…"

You could transform back…

No. Way.

Not now.

We could concentrate on one task better…

SILENCE, SCOUNDRELS! I HAVE WORK TO DO!!!

But… but we're so close to a breakthrough!

NEVER MIND THAT!!!

Sheesh…

ASK breathed a long sigh and took out a small palmtop computer, and pulled up an enemy review program he'd devised a few days back. "I know!" he whispered. He leaned on the railing of the observation deck and watched the screen closely.

I can review species in the galaxy and how to kill them!

MWAHA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Now, THAT'S stress relief.

Okay, key the image to switch as soon as I get the right answer…

Got it!

"Subject," ASK said in a clear, eloquent voice, "Dark Kingdom youma. Death is inevitable with slight bodily harm. Energy attacks are most effective, but terminating with physical blows is much more enjoyable. Average time: one-point-five seconds."

Upon hearing this, those visiting Tokyo Tower that night decided to shuffle off to the other side of the observation platform. Some of the smarter ones wisely decided that it was time to head home.

ASK continued. "Subject: Borg Drone. Transphasic blasts or severe physical blows. Time: two seconds."

*Sigh* Aaah, memories!

You know, my very presence here disrupts radio broadcasts for the entire city…

So? Who's listening to the radio at this hour?

People in cars…

We interrupt TV broadcasts, too.

Heh!

"Subject: Elite Sayajin. Surprise attacks or fast overpowering. Preferred: external teleportation of vital organs. Fast: point-oh-seven seconds. Slow: Four hours, thirty minutes, nine seconds."

Slow-roasting makes 'em taste better!

Unless ya flash-fry 'em!

True…

"Juraian Royalty, Elite. Modified energy-breaking point to shatter Light Hawk Wings combined with any sword or critical blow. Target head or heart with projectile or blade. Five minutes."

Didn't take that long the first time we met one…

We had our power source and weren't split up into core being and avatar, remember?

Oh yeah…

"Class Eight Chemical/Energy Vampire. Dodge claws and teeth. Watch the energy blasting; it's heavy-duty. Some have mind-control, so don't bring any friends. Shatter hard palate, death is instant. Twenty minutes, fifteen seconds, clocked."

A smile finally came to ASK's lips. Yeah, this is more like it…

THAT was a tough one. She didn't like the Thor impression one bit.

Not that it matters. Not now.

A trip down memory lane! I wonder if D's still around…

"Vulcan. BWAHA HA HA!!!"

Oh yeah, like they're gonna be a problem!

Heh heh!

"Subject: Advanced Juraian Reaver (Albino). Point singularity weapons and other gravity-based attacks. Preferred: Weapons of Mass Destruction. Hmm, I don't know… Didn't take me long in the simulation. Ummm, two minutes, unless you want the planet intact. A couple hours if you do."

When was the last time I saw a real one?

Been a while…

Maybe they'd be more fun to take out by now…

Some mighty-fine take-out, I'd say!

Next time, we'll use chopsticks instead of claws.

Yeah, manners and refinement and such.

"Galaxia-class Sailor Senshi. Disable weapon arm and target vital organs. Pummel senseless and laugh mockingly. Do not kill. She's one of a kind, heh heh heh! Eight hours."

The experimental KISA2 thing we sent after her that one time did pretty good. Too bad it got munched at the end.

Yeah, and I can't seem to find the matrix template.

We reabsorbed it, right?

Uh-huh, but…

We lost it?

Yeah.

Too bad, could've been fun.

"Subject: Black Magic Advanced Sorceress. Catch on the right day of the month, no contest. Any other day, surprise attacks or overpowering. Three minutes, unless… Nah, that'd never happen."

Lina wasn't that hard.

We never did last long against Luna, though.

I'll never admit to it if you won't!

Deal.

"Subject: Xenomorph. Oh, that's easy. Projectile weapons and flamethrowers, give or take a tac nuke. Five seconds."

Get a whole bunch of 'em in a line and shroomsyeruncle!

Still, that infestation was pretty rough to take care of when we got back to the Jupiter base…

Well, the queens are pretty tough. Not too bad, though.

Pummeled one to death once.

"Subject: Fashion-based Sailor Senshi. Electrical attacks to stun, followed by eight sword-slashes to the midsection and finish off with a grenade or concussive missile. Energy disruption should speed up the process. Total time, seven seconds."

Any news on Sailor Stylin'?

Not unless she's that weird 'Lynne' kid that keeps sending me those illustrated letters and signing them with that name.

Sheesh. I don't know what she's thinking, but I'm nobody's 'daddy'!

Who's yo' daddy?

?!?!?!

Well, write her back, and—

No.

Anyway, she's in England. We'll investigate later. We have more pressing needs now.

Like tea!

I hate tea!

How about Spam?

Spamspamspamspam?

Or—

*WHAM!* Quiet!

Awww!

"Ruler-class Demon Lord, Horrid Chaos Dimension From Whence There Is No Return. Hmm… That's a tough one. Target vital organs? Decapitate?"

*BEEP!* The computer beeped mockingly.

ASK frowned, suddenly placing his full attention on the small screen. "What? Weapons of Mass Destruction?"

*BEEEEEP!*

"Full-blown Overpowering?

*BEEP!*

ASK scratched his head. "You don't mean to say that the only way to beat it is with Peace and Love, do you?!"

*BEEEP!*

"Cocktail party dresses?!"

*BEEEP!*

"No, don't tell me… A Jusenkyou Curse. Drowned slug, then squish it."

*BEEP!*

Ha-ha! You can't do it! ASK told himself, before smashing his fist against his skull again and saying, "Yes, I can!" He paused, then glared at the computer screen. "Okay, you got me! FINE!!! WHAT, then?!!"

Do we even know what this is?

Never seen it…

Horns, claws, red skin, chitinous armor…

Eh, we'll never come across something like that.

"Oh, forget it!" the Atomic Starlight Knight shouted out to the world. He pocketed the device and leapt off the side of the tower. "I'm done blowing off steam. Let's go home and check on Jade."

Works for me.

ASK's short hair flew upwards in the rushing wind as he idly calculated the proper way to land.

Poor youma girl…

ASK landed heavily on his feet, leaving an impression of his metal-shod combat boots in the pavement. He stepped out of the way of a little oncoming traffic and started to take a stroll across town, completely forgetting to activate his invisibility powers. The few people on the street cautiously avoided staring at him as he passed.

Say, Jade looks a lot like Jadeite…

Duh! She IS Jadeite.

ASK froze. "Really?" he asked himself. "I didn't notice. How do I figure that?"

Oh, let's see… All the bioscans indicated a precise match to Jadeite's, other than the obvious lack of a certain key chromosome.

Some of the genes responsible for appearance were affected as well, consistent with the effects of a locked 'Spring of Drowned CUTE Girl' specialized Jusenkyo curse.

Plus the fact that Jadeite looked exactly like her after the bucket of water appeared and fell on his head.

Wait, wait, wait. Didn't Jadeite die?

No, the wreckage from the space-battle indicated no sign of his remains.

But that was a big explosion! He'd have been vaporized!

Still, there would have been a molecule or something left.

"Wait, wait. Stop right there." The tall, dark-haired, green-armored man waved his hand in the air. "Am I saying that 'Jade Cyte' is really Jadeite in disguise?"

That's about the size of it.

ASK processed that for a second. Then he shrugged and whipped out his gunblade, resting it on his shoulder. "Wellp," he beamed, "I guess that means I get to kill 'er."

YEAAAAAAAAAAAH, BABY!!!

Wait, no!

YEAAAAAH!!!

NOOOO!

Armored plates on his back slid away, revealing a rudimentary sort of jetpack. Dual flames burned under his long, useless cape, and he blasted off toward the wreckage of his restaurant. He started reciting Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and firing off missiles into a nearby vacant demolition site. "DAH-DAHN-DA-DA-DAAA-DAAAH!"


After Grandma departed, Terra found herself feeling dazed and vaguely sick to her stomach. It was not so much the act of kissing her beloved 'Gramma' that left her feeling that way. It was more of what her parents had explained to her after the monstrous creature had left.

"What do you mean? Why can't I help out my friends anymore?" Terra asked, her eyes slowly filling with tears.

Kasumi placed her arm around the girl's shoulders. "I'm sorry, Terra. We don't want you getting hurt."

"Besides yesterday, I've never been hurt," Terra said, her voice losing its baseline amount of hope. "My clothes got dirty that one time, but never again after that!"

"They're becoming more dangerous," Terra's father said. "You've made me proud so far— you're very strong, but if this continues, not even you will be safe."

"Can you help them, then?" Terra asked.

Sephiroth shook his head. "I'm not around long enough to do much. I barely have time to visit you and your mother."

"They're doing well enough on their own," Kasumi said brightly. "Sailor Moon should be strong enough to stop anyone that comes along for a while…" She sounded more hopeful than sure of herself. "Mercury's doing well. Mars should be able to master her new magic soon…"

"I want to help them, Mother!" Terra protested.

"You could get hurt," Kasumi said. "I don't want you to get hurt…"

"Neither do I," Sephiroth added, folding his arms, turning his back toward them and facing the window. He was not seated like his wife.

"We can't let you go," Kasumi added. "We're very sorry, but it's for your own good."

"Promise me," Sephiroth said, not looking at her, "that you will not go to fight with them again."

Terra looked down, closed her eyes, and pursed her lips. Subtly, an unfamiliar feeling rose inside her. "I will go," she said in a determined voice that she knew was hers but couldn't recognize the tone, "whether you say I can or not." The girl gasped when she recognized the emotion in question as the ancient force known as 'rebellion'. "I mean," she amended quickly and in a softer voice, "they might need me some day." She trembled and looked short of breath, surprised at herself.

Kasumi held a hand to her cheek, deep in thought. She picked up the phone and went into another room.

"Father," Terra said, "Daddy. I can't promise that. I know I can be a big help— I can feel it!" She held a hand to her heart. "I can be strong enough to help them out, maybe even stronger than Serena's become!"

"I see…" Sephiroth paused in thought. Then he whirled around and unsheathed his sword in a flash.

"DADDY!" The sword went in an arc close to Terra's face. Her head blurred as she moved it out of the way of the blade's path. Dodging backwards to what she considered a safe distance, she discovered that the ribbon that held her ponytail bound had been split in two. "W…why?"

"Do you intend to disobey me?" the white-haired man asked sternly, brandishing his weapon.

Terra took a couple of breaths to get her bearings. "Oh, I see. You knew I'd be able to dodge that."

"Perhaps," Sephiroth replied. "Shall I continue?"

The again-perky girl shook her head. "Oh, no. I know you, Father. You wouldn't kill me."

"If I were to do so," Sephiroth continued, "or allow you to fight alongside the others, the net effect would be the same." He pointed the tip of his exceptionally long blade at the girl's neck. "It would only be a question of time."

Terra tilted her head quizzically at her father. "Wait, is this where I'm supposed to defeat you in a fair battle so that I can prove I won't get hurt out there?"

"Something like that."

Terra scrunched down her face and considered her options. Finally, her expression lit up and she smiled broadly. "All right."

"I will not go easy on you."

"That's all right, Father."

"It will be difficult."

"I understand."

"Are you ready?"

Terra nodded. "Umm-hmm!" She looked around. "So, where's my sword?"

Sephiroth meaningfully adjusted his grip on the handle of his extended katana. "You don't get a sword."

"What?!" Terra frowned, then swiftly ducked under a slash.

"Begin!"

The next few minutes were a blur in her mind. Using reflexes she somehow knew were hers, but couldn't figure out where she had acquired them, Terra avoided everything her father could dish out. This included the sword, the lightning bolts, the flames, and the multiple assaults by strange spirits from another dimension. If asked, she would say that she had no idea how she managed to avoid it all, but some distant part of her seemed to know exactly what was going on, and guided her actions. Plus, at the corner of her eye, sometimes she could see the edge of some weird spherical barrier deflecting some of the more deadly looking forces away.

However, she would be hard-pressed to explain how she, in the tiny, cagelike space of her living room, managed to knock her father down, wrench the sword from his unyielding fingers, and point it at his neck.

Terra gasped, took a step back, and covered her mouth, dropping the sword in shock. For the first time, she noticed the tattered mess that had become of her pajamas. Beneath, her flesh had been left completely unscathed. "Oh my! Excuse me, Father, I must interrupt our battle to clean up and put something proper on." Holding the remains of her clothes together to retain her modesty, she fled for her room. "I'll be right back!"

Kasumi walked back in. "I think I found a way to make everything work out— Oh my!" She covered her mouth in shock when she saw the wreck that had once been the living room. "This could take hours to clean!" She immediately set about setting the broken chairs back up, resetting plastic vases, and sweeping the broken glass. "I heard the noise. Did you challenge Terra to a duel again, dear?"

Every part of Sephiroth's body burned with pain. With eyes wedged shut, he replied, "Possibly. Aaaarrrgghhh…" In his family, hitting like a girl had become rather the opposite of the traditional meaning. "I think she gets it from you."

Kasumi only smiled, humming to herself while she started vacuuming, missing only the sections underneath her fallen husband. A few moments later, she put her apron on and started pleasantly reapplying plaster on the walls.

Soon, Terra came back out. In just a few minutes, she had managed to bathe, wash and brush her hair, and put on a darling white blouse with orange loose-fitting casual slacks. She also had on thin, short white socks with casual shoes. "I'm ready!" she announced, assuming a ready fighting stance.

"This is why we never trained her in martial arts," Sephiroth added, sitting up and holding his head. "I don't think we'd have been able to take it. Speaking of which, I seriously need to start working out more. Too much of your home cooking…" Indeed, his midsection possessed a few more inches than a self-respecting super-soldier ought to have.

"She's only been this strong since we moved here," Kasumi said.

Terra relaxed slightly. "Is the fight over with?"

"Yes," Sephiroth said, gingerly fingering a bruise on his forehead.

"Does that mean I can help Serena and the others?" the redhead asked hopefully.

"Not quite, I'm afraid," Kasumi said.

Terra looked at her. "Why not? Daddy says I can. Right, Daddy?"

"As far as I'm concerned," Sephiroth replied, before his strength failed and he fell on his back again. "Sure."

"Well," Kasumi hesitated, "you can go to help them out, but—"

Terra blinked. "But what?"

"But if you must go, I insist that you take a chaperone."

"Chaperone?" Terra asked, her mind searching for the definition. "But who's someone older that could go with me? Father's busy, isn't he?"

There was a knock at the door.

"Well, there's someone I'd like you to meet," Kasumi said as she went to answer it. "Come along, Terra."

Terra followed her mother to the door. There was another knock.

"Now, be on your best behavior," Kasumi reminded the girl.

Terra nodded.

They opened the door, and on the other side fluttered a small, green and white patterned seal. "G'day," it said, presenting a large tray of tiny, squeaking things. It saluted and added, "Door-ta-door ArbyFish salesman!"

"Arby?" Terra asked, suddenly brightening. "You're alive?"

The ArbyFish shook its head. "No, no, ya'z gots it awl wrong. Oye'z Flanburger, the Second One!"

"You're not Arby?" Terra pressed.

"Nope!" the creature replied. "Oye'z ya door-ta-door ArbyFish salesman." It held its tray higher. "Care for an ArbyFish? Tastes GREAT on a cracker!" It held up an orange thing, vaguely ArbyFish-shaped, which squeaked. "Try an Orange one. They prevent scurvy. Ya can juice 'em or put 'em on a stick and lick 'em!" He tied the little spit to a stick and held it up for them to see.

"You're selling your young?" Kasumi asked, holding her ponytail and trying not to look too taken aback.

"A'course!" Flanburger replied. "Roight propa' business, it is! Gotta sell ya young. Ow'd ya get 'em ta grow up roight if ya didn't? Eh? Eh?"

"When's Arby coming back?" Terra asked. "You know him, right?"

"Ev'ryone knows th' First One," Flanburger replied. "E's roight congealed, 'e iz. 'Ad a ceremony n' a statue on 'Shroom Day, too. It's a Tradition(tm)." He cleared his throat. "So, 'ow 'bout n' ArbyFish? One fer a nickel er two fer a quar'er? A few more n' yew'd 'ave a bushel. N' if ya make it double, Oye'll throw in sum fungus, tew!"

Kasumi simply began to close the door. "No, I think we're fine."

"'Ey!" the ArbyFish said in protest.

"I'm only interested in Pink ones," Kasumi added.

"Yeech!" Flanburger said in disgust, turning his nose up and moving to the next house. "G'day! Door-ta-door ArbyFish salesman!"

Kasumi shut the door.

"That wasn't who you wanted me to meet, was it?" Terra asked, slightly confused by the experience. "Door-to-door ArbyFish salesman? There's not only one of him?"

"No, that wasn't who I wanted you to meet. Hmm, she must have been delayed."

"So I'll need to fight the Negaverse with another woman as a chaperone?" Terra asked. "Can she protect herself in a fight?"

Kasumi nodded, just as there was another knock at the door. This time, when she opened it, a girl in her late teens in a sensible dress with blue-green hair stood before them. "Oh! Please come in."

The woman half-led, half-dragged the new girl into the kitchen and sat everyone down around the table.

"Terra, I'd like you to meet Michiru Kaioh," Kasumi said, "also known as Sailor Neptune, warrior for the New Age and Soldier of the Outer Solar System."

Michiru's jaw dropped. "Ah, I…" She was obviously at a loss for words. She appeared to be thinking that she ought to be offended on some level, but in the end, her expression showed more confusion than anything else. "How did you know about that?"

"A little green fish told me," Kasumi replied. "Anyway, Michiru, this is my daughter, Terra. On the side, she's an honorary Sailor Scout, Sailor Earth."

"Honorary?" Terra whispered with a slightly raised eyebrow.

Michiru stared at the redhead. If she were the sort to have her eyes routinely bug out, they would have done so at this point. "You're Terra?"

"That's right," Terra said, wondering about the cause of the other young woman's distress.

"You're the one I'm supposed to baby-sit?" Michiru asked incredulously.

Terra looked puzzled. "Baby-sit? Mother, you said she'd be my chaperone for when I go out to fight…"

"It's the same thing," Kasumi replied with an encouraging shrug, as if she had been hoping all along that the terminology wouldn't matter.

"When she goes out to fight?" Michiru asked. "All I said I wanted was a part-time job to help me purchase a new violin…"

Kasumi looked at her with mild distress. "So, you won't help a fellow Sailor Soldier to fulfill her duties?"

"I didn't say that," Michiru replied, slowly waving a hand. "It's just that this is hitting me a little too quickly. Could you please give me a minute to think about all this?"

Kasumi nodded and smiled as she stood. "Of course! Why don't you two talk and get to know each other. I need to go take care of something."

"The living room's still a mess," Terra explained.

"Ah, yes, the living room," Kasumi whispered. "Yes, yes. That's it!" She walked out of the room.

Terra tilted her head and sent a strong, closed-eyed smile directly at Michiru. She wrongly decided that a direct, penetrating question would work best to help break the ice. "You look like you're a nice and mature sort of girl. What kind of boys do you like dating?"

Michiru scooted back as if hit in the sternum with a three-pound shot put. "Ahhhh," she began, gasping for breath, "I prefer a strong companion who isn't afraid to voice their opinion."

"Oh, that's nice," Terra beamed.


Jadeite was dreaming— he knew he had to be dreaming. He was a he, for example, and the sparkling bubbles floating in the distance were a dead giveaway. So was the slightly brighter-than-normal edge to his vision. Either that, or he had died, but the Terran Guardian felt sure that someone would take a moment and inform him if such an event had taken place. Or so he liked to think.

His current surroundings were quite familiar. They consisted of the stone architecture found in the Lunar Palace on the Moon. He felt as if only a few scant days had passed since he had gazed upon it last. Yet, at the same time, he knew that the structure had lain in ruins for thousands upon thousands of years and the inhabitants thereof had been slain.

One of the sadder parts of the experience resided in the fact that Jadeite recalled, from a first-person view, how the General slaughtered several of those he considered friends on this very site. It was only a small comfort to know that the one truly responsible and in control when that happened would not likely be heard from again.

"Hello!" he called out. His voice echoed back at him through the corridors. "What now?"

It was a very real dream, no doubt about that. His motion did not feel restrained, and he could see clearly, aside from the odd light effects around him. Looking down at himself, he could see he wore his old grey uniform.

The air was still and quiet. Glancing around, Jadeite could tell that he was very alone. At least, until someone tapped him on the shoulder. He whirled around to face a woman in a long white dress with twin, ankle-length ponytails. It only took a split second for him to recognize her.

"Queen Serenity," Jadeite whispered, bowing deeply.

"Stand tall, Guardian," Serenity replied, motioning for him to rise. "The Moon Kingdom is gone, and I am not your ruler."

"The King is dead," Jadeite replied, slowly getting back up. "I have no idea where the Prince is, my friends are dead or possessed, and I'll die before being forced to kneel before Beryl again." A pleased, yet weary, look came to his eyes. "Besides, you have no idea how good it is to finally see a familiar face!"

The Queen smiled brightly. "I'm happy to see you, too!" She tilted her head at him. "So it's true. You did manage to break free. I can't feel Metallia's power in you anymore."

"It was probably the toughest thing I've ever done in my entire life," Jadeite admitted. "But not as difficult as what I'll have to do to stop the other Guardians…" He paused. "I mean Generals." He spat the last word.

"You're free," Serenity noted, "and Nephrite too has left the Dark Kingdom. With any luck Zoicite and Kunzite will manage to find their way as well."

"You sound slightly different than the Serenity I remember," Jadeite noted.

"A lot of trauma and several thousand years can make a big difference, wouldn't you agree?" Serenity replied. "Furthermore, I'm not the only one that's changed."

Suddenly, their surroundings shifted. They stood in a small room with stuffed toys and curtains all about. In the center was a thin-cushioned bed, upon which lay an absolutely adorable blonde girl, perhaps ten years old. She wore a frilly nightgown and slept soundly on her side.

Serenity reached down and ran her hair through the child's short hair. "Isn't she pretty?" She looked across the bed at Jadeite and said, "I trust you will be able to explain how this happened?" It wasn't so much a question as a suggestion—a rather motherly suggestion that promised a spanking whatever the response might be.

Jadeite grimly recognized the girl. The image had been burned into his mind from the first moment he had gazed into the mirror and seen a face that wasn't his own. Actually, she looked a lot like one of his granddaughters. "Ah, yes… Er." He soundlessly watched her sleep for a moment before looking into the Queen's eyes. "I'm a little unclear as to how it happened myself."

"Doesn't it bother you at all?"

"I always woke up to the same, unwavering appearance for centuries. I'd say a little change was in order by now, wouldn't you agree?" There was more than a hint of irony in Jadeite's voice.

Serenity let out a long sigh. "You're all right with it, then?"

"It sure beats being dead or possessed," Jadeite replied. "Unless, of course, you know the way to change me back…?"

The Queen shook her head. "Your bid for freedom did terrible things to the enchantment placed upon you. Before, it was such a simple and straightforward thing. Now, it's so bent and battered beyond recognition that it would take considerable effort with the Ginzuishou to get rid of it, and I do not have that Crystal with me right now."

"I'm sure I'll get used to it," Jadeite replied sullenly. After all, he had gone into this believing that it was a permanent thing. Simply hearing that there was a way— ANY way— to eliminate the curse was definitely a breath of fresh air. "I take it that my body right now is simply a sort of spiritual projection?"

"Yes," Serenity said. "You are still you, despite whatever might happen to…" She meaningfully placed a hand on the girl's head. "…you. Take comfort in this."

Jadeite considered that. Oddly enough, it did make him feel a bit better.

"Are you ready for the challenges ahead of you?"

"There happen to be several sets I'm worried about. Which challenge might you be referring to?"

"Good question. Where can I begin?"

"How about: is this just a dream, or are you really sending me a message this way?"

"Yes. However, I think we should ask the most immediate question."

"What's that?"

"As such a small child, you have no muscle to speak of and recently drained most of what remained of your powers. How do you intend to rescue Zoicite and Kunzite or even be able to serve your prince when you find him?"

That gave Jadeite pause to think. "That's right, I am sort of weak, outnumbered, out-powered, outgunned…"

"How did you fend off the thing that was in your mind?"

"I drew upon my inner cuteness or something weird like that. I think. Actually, my mind's still sort of a blur."

"Do you think that could work against the rest of the Dark Kingdom?"

"To be perfectly honest, NO."

"Then it would appear that you are out of luck."

Jadeite nodded. "It certainly seems that way, doesn't it? Unless, of course, you have something that I could use until my real powers have a chance to recover."

"I'm afraid," Serenity said, "that I do not have anything that could aid a thousand-year-old Terran Guardian. Your powers are not derived from what I used, such as the Empyrean Silver Crystal."

"Ginzuishou," Jadeite corrected.

"Yes, whatever," Queen Serenity replied, turning slightly red. "But there is something…"

"What is it?"

"I do have an object that could aid a girl, say, nine, ten, eleven years old, blonde, with a desperate need to help her friends."

Jadeite closed his eyes, but only to prevent the woman from seeing that he was rolling them. Breathing out a sigh, he said, "Not a transformation pen…"

"Oh, come on," Serenity urged brightly and mischievously. "You'll look good in a sailor suit! We'll call you Sailor Chibi-Chibi Jadeite!"

"Ah," Jadeite said, looking frantically around for an exit, "on the other hand, maybe the Dead Moon Circus is still has an opening…"

"Don't be such a baby," Serenity prodded, grinning like a maniac. "It'll do you good. Just to make sure you still want to change back when the Sailor Senshi find the Ginzuishou, of course."

"Imperium Silver Crystal," Jadeite corrected.

"Whatever."

"Isn't there anything else you could lend me?"

Queen Serenity sat down beside the young girl. "Well," she said slowly, "there is a slightly less pretty, but more convenient option." She held out her hand, above which a large golden, jewel-encrusted bracelet appeared, shimmering in the soft light. "The Cutie Moon Rock Bracelet. On loan from a friend."

Jadeite also sat down in order to examine the object closer. "What does it do?"

"It can work as a temporary source for your powers."

"Why is it more convenient?"

"Because it lets you use your own skills instead of making you learn new ones."

"Why is it less pretty?"

"Because you might not end up in a sailor fuku when using it," Serenity explained.

"I'm willing to take that risk," Jadeite replied smoothly. "Do you want anything in return?"

"Do what you can to protect the Sailor Senshi," Serenity said, just as the room took on a brighter hue. "Unless something is done, one of them will shortly perish."

"Wait!" Jadeite leaned toward her urgently, taking the hint that the dream would shortly end. "Which one? Which one should I keep an eye on? And how do I use the bracelet?!"

"You'll figure it out."

The brightness went the other direction, fading into shadow.

"How can I know that?!" Jadeite called into the nothingness.

"Because if you do not, you will shortly perish."

"WHAT?!"


Guardian Jadeite's eyes shot open. She rolled aside and fell to the floor, just in time to avoid a massive energy blast that obliterated whatever she had just been lying on.

"Oooh, nice move, General!" an overconfident, mocking voice shouted through the grey smoke. "Glad to hear you've decided to make this a bit more interesting. I'd hate for you to have a boring death."

"Stop it, 'Tim!" a woman cried. "She's just a little girl, not a general!"

"Hah! That's just what he wants you to think!"

"Computer," a third, calm voice said, "activate all sickbay force fields. Maximum power."

Jadeite blinked several times, seeing a slight flash a few feet away. She could feel that her wounds were gone, but she nevertheless remained sore all over. Hanging loosely about her wrist she could feel the bracelet Queen Serenity had given her. She slid it higher up in order to avoid losing it. It fit snugly around her arm. "Good, not just a dream, but what's going on?!"

*BLAM-BLAM-BLAM! * KSSH-KSSH-KSSH!* Three large explosions bounced off the nearby invisible barrier.

Some of the dust cleared, allowing Guardian Jadeite to identify a balding man in a blue and black uniform, a woman wearing tights and a tunic along with a big bow in her hair and a big spatula on her back, and then there was the other guy.

He was six-foot-six, wore green and black camouflage armor, had a really mean, obsessive look in his eye, and he carried a very large particle beam cannon that looked like it ought to be mounted on a battlecruiser.

"Computer," the Atomic Starlight Knight said in an overly cheerful voice, "deactivate the EMH and the force fields."

"But…!" His mouth agape, the doctor vanished and the barrier blinked off.

"The only buts around here are going to be kicked ones." ASK rook a step closer and waved his gun inches from the child's face. "I know I shouldn't do this, but for old time's sake, what do you say I count to ten and THEN fire? One… Two…"

Jadeite's lower jaw literally hit the floor. "GWAAAH!"

*BLAM!!!* "TEN!!!" The Knight in Shining Armor absorbed the massive recoil, his boots digging an inch into the metal deck.

Every last sore muscle in Jadeite's body sprang into action.

*KERBLAAAAAAAAM!!!* The shot went right through the girl's last position and burned away deck after deck behind her, cutting through the walls not entirely unlike Liquid Plumber through a human digestive system.

"Yipe!" Jadeite squeaked, clinging frantically to a support beam on the roof, still trying to get her bearings.

ASK looked up at her. "Hey, you're just making things worse for yourself!" He dropped the huge weapon, which made a noise like an earthquake in Los Angeles, shaking every loose thing off the shelves to shatter on the floor.

"Wait!" Jadeite cried. "I'm not the General!"

"Right," ASK replied levelly as he pulled out his gunblade and pointed it at her, "and I'm not about to blow your head off."

*CHK-CHK! * BLAAAM!!!* The girl tumbled away, just barely missing the shockwave of the blast.

"STOP IT, 'TIM!" Ukkyo cried, grabbing the tall man around the shoulders and yanking his arm down.

*BLAAAM!* This shot barely missed Jadeite by about a foot.

ASK looked at the cook. "Why?"

"Because I know Jadeite, and that's not Jadeite!"

"Yes he is," ASK replied. "I figured it out all by myself. He's just cursed with something. I think I did that, too, but I don't remember how."

Ukkyo put her hands on her hips. "This is what we were talking about! You've gone insane again."

"No, I haven't," ASK affirmed, idly pointing toward the cute young blonde girl with his gunblade. "Sorry, but this is business." He leaned down and kissed Ukkyo on the forehead and pulled the trigger.

*BLAAAM!*

"WAAAAH!" Jadeite cried in fright, crossing her small arms in front of her chest. A flickering green barrier appeared. It was just barely enough to block the shot. She panted hard, looking around for an escape route.

"If you kill her, I'm breaking up with you!" Ukkyo warned.

ASK frowned. He clicked on the safety and put away the sword. Looking quizzically at her, he said, "Why would you go and do a crazy thing like that?" He looked aside, as though someone else was speaking to him.

*WHACK!* The six-foot-six one-man legion brought his fist down heavily on his head. "Quiet," he whispered.

"Because that's just plain wrong!" Ukkyo shouted.

"No it isn't," ASK said. "This is war— sublime war! There must be no retreat! Mwa-hah!" He seemed to really be enjoying this.

Jadeite ran past them in order to reach the door. Not looking at her, ASK snagged the back of her dress and held her up while speaking to Ukkyo.

"AAAH!" screamed Jadeite, her legs dangling in the air. She gripped the bracelet on her arm and tried to think happy thoughts or whatever it took to activate it.

"Okay, let's get this settled," ASK said. "Right here, I have a General of the Negaverse in my grasp, and you want me not to kill it?"

"Don't hurt her," Ukkyo insisted, "she's just a child!"

"Pleeeeeeeeeease don't hurt meeeeeeeeee!" the girl pleaded, tears flowing from her eyes and her hands held together in deep supplication.

ASK glanced at her. "Don't think being cute will help. I know that method better than you possibly could." At Ukkyo, he said, "There you go again. You don't seriously think that this is General Jadeite, do you?"

"Jadeite is a lot older, a lot taller, a LOT more powerful, AND AN AWFUL LOT MORE MALE THAN SHE IS!" Ukkyo added sternly.

"Listen to her! Listen to her!" Jadeite urged.

"Shh!" ASK shushed her.

"At least put her down so we can talk about this," Ukkyo suggested.

"All right," ASK agreed. He looked at the little girl. "You're too overconfident, too unintelligent, and you have a terrible disguise."

"Look who's talking," Ukkyo muttered.

"Okay, FINE," ASK compromised. He placed Jadeite on the floor, thrust a finger at her face and commanded in a voice that left no room for doubt or argument, "Don't move."

Jadeite shakily nodded.

ASK pulled up chairs for the three of them. Ukkyo helped the girl into one before she and the knight also sat down. "Computer! Activate the EMH!"

"Please state the nature of the— what the—?! Not again!!" The hologram gasped at the horrible damage done to sickbay.

"Doctor," ASK said in a calm voice while glaring daggers at Jadeite, "get us some drinks. Orange cream strawberry juice, all around."

"I'm a doctor!" the EMH complained loudly, "not a replicator!"

"So? Check the 'girl' out for more injuries when you give her the drink if it makes you feel better." ASK turned toward Ukkyo. "You like orange cream soda, right?"

The doctor choked a bit, but he complied.

And so it was that the dark knight, the cook, and the ex-general got together and had a nice, calm pre-mortem conference. Each party in question was allowed to argue their point without interference from the other party. As the plaintiff, ASK went first, insisting that the girl was really General Jadeite in disguise and must therefore die in the most messy and excruciating fashion. Ukkyo went next, arguing that it was completely insane to think that such a cute, adorable girl could really be a Dark Kingdom general in disguise— the very idea was ludicrous.

Then came the girl's chance to defend herself.

"First of all," she said, "my name is Jadeite."

ASK nodded. "There, see?"

"SHH!" Ukkyo smacked the man's hands away from his firearm.

"But I am not the General," Jadeite added. Looking straight at them and taking a sip from the odd-tasting drink, she continued, "I am Guardian Jadeite of the now-defunct Earth Kingdom."

"Isn't that the same difference?" ASK cross-examined.

"No," Jadeite replied. "Shortly before we— you and I, Admiral, yes, I do remember you— met, I was taken possession of by an evil force. My will was repressed, and that thing became who you now know as the General."

"So you were the General?" Ukkyo asked, slightly confused.

"After a manner of speaking, sort of." Jadeite managed to ignore the doctor, who continued to medically scan her body.

"But you're not now?" The Atomic Starlight Knight actually started looking a bit disappointed.

"Not a chance," Jadeite said in the voice of one who had just heard the name of an arch-nemesis spoken aloud.

"Have any proof?" ASK requested.

Jadeite thought about that. "Not really." The band on her arm started to warm up, reminding her of it. "Unless you count this. It was just given to me by Queen Serenity herself."

"Let me see that." ASK grabbed her arm and looked at the large bracelet. After a moment of examining it, his expression relaxed. "It's… real. It's hers."

Jadeite slowly took another sip of her beverage. "Do you believe me now?"

ASK smiled broadly. "Sure!" He grabbed the blonde's free hand and started shaking it roughly. "Any friend of Serenity's is a sure-fire friend of mine!" Then he frowned. "Does this mean I don't get to kill you?"

Jadeite relaxed. "I guess not…"

Then the sickbay doors opened and Paracite ran in, his clothes as rumpled as ever. "Cousin Jadeite! Cousin Jadeite!" Short of breath, he ran toward the young girl and wrapped his arms around her waist. "I'm SO glad you're okay! Hey, wait a second." He patted her back and shoulders a little. "You're a little smaller than when I last saw you."

Jadeite frowned. "Er, excuse me, could you remind me who you are…?"

 

To be continued…


Author's notes: There, that wasn't so bad, now, was it?

I only have a few more loose ends to tie up and then I'll be able to advance the story along. I just had to dump so many different plotlines into it, didn't I?

Besides, I've gotta get to the Ranma/Pluto stuff soon. Wouldn't be proper otherwise! Plus, there's the four other series I need to work on as well…

If anybody noticed anything amiss, I would like to hear about it, so that I may take the proper actions and cover it up before anyone else notices, etc. ^_^

Until later, then!

Benjamin A. Oliver boliver@email.arizona.edu

Chapter 10-2o
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