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.
Chapter 5: And Then They All Died
In the window of a shop, there was a book, which had a title that reminded Terra about her feelings about the up and coming event that evening. It was a self-help volume entitled, "Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life."
The girl's shoulders slumped as she shook her head and continued on towards the meeting location. Actually, that book didn't remind her at all about her situation, but still, it would have been nice to have something substantial to think about in order to mitigate the surreality of the current circumstances of her life.
Oh yes, she thought to herself, I may look like a normal, run of the mill Japanese middle schoolgirl from Ireland, but when evil from another dimension strikes, I… put on a pink miniskirt and run around in it like a complete idiot while other people fight the invaders. And sometimes, this flying, talking cat-seal named Arby comes and taunts me about it.
In fact, if her mom hadn't been so calm and casual about it when Terra had explained what was going on, the teen probably would have decided that she had gone absolutely bonkers. She still wasn't totally sure. She'd tried to be sensible about the whole thing, using the big bang theory, planetary formation physics, evolution, and societal dynamics to explain how an ArbyFish could exist or what in the heck kind of magic uses abbreviated sailor suits, but she found those theories decidedly lacking when it came to explaining those sorts of things.
The more she thought about it, the more painful it got. Either she was wrong, or thousands of years of scientific experimentation was all for nothing. There were lots of people trying to figure these things out, right? They couldn't be all wrong, could they? No, wait, of course they could. Science was founded on proving that what the last guy said was totally wrong.
All of Terra's answers fell back to her own situation: tonight, a really powerful person from the land of the Negamafoozles was going to attack, and she was going to have to fight.
She blinked as a new idea occurred to her. "Or will I really have to?" she asked herself. "We've got three more Sailor Soldiers. Maybe they really won't need me this time. I don't make any difference anyway."
Terra felt something wet slide down her back. She recoiled and cried out, turning around to see the ArbyFish with a brush and a large can of yellow paint.
"Oh, is yew Curry Chicken, then?" Arby inquired in his usual calm, cheerfully diplomatic manner.
The girl pulled up her collar and checked the back of her blouse. Some of the paint got on her hand. "Arby! You ruined my outfit! Why?!"
Arby saluted. "All part o' the service! G'day." Then he fluttered off.
"Wait! You—" Terra was about to go after him, but decided against it. She was already late for the meeting, despite everyone collectively scheduling the event for the afternoon so Usagi could sleep in. "No, I need to get to that meeting."
It was really odd, though. Just thinking of seeing the fellow members of her Sailor army was starting to fill her with terrible amounts of dread.
The battle with Jadeite was going to be on a Saturday, and for this particular group of adolescent females, that meant there was only a half-day of school beforehand. They had decided on the Hikawa Shrine for a meeting place because of its relative quiet and it was pretty much the same distance from all of the others' homes. However, it would have been nicer if they had, say, a top-secret room hidden in the arcade with all sorts of nifty gadgets and toys to use.
"Luna?" Usagi asked. "Can we build some top secret room in the arcade with all sorts of nifty gadgets and toys?"
"Yeah!" agreed Makoto. "We'll call it… the Sailor Cave! And we can drive around in a limo called the Sailor Mobile, throw crescent-shaped boomerangs, only we'd call them sailorangs—"
"FOR THE LAST TIME, NO!" Luna shouted back. "I'm not some sort of magical wish-granting goddess that can sometimes build you a secret base with a restaurant on top!"
"That's an odd way of phrasing it," noted Ami.
"She's just a magic talking cat with a very important mission to complete," Rei said.
"Er, yes," said Luna.
"Right," Rei continued. "I think we've waited long enough for Terra. Shouldn't we get started?"
"No, no, she'll be here!" protested Usagi.
At that moment, the door slid open, and the redhead in question shuffled in, took a seat, and slumped down onto the table.
"What took you so long?" asked Rei.
Terra didn't look at her. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Why do you have yellow paint down your back?" wondered Makoto.
"It's sort of a strange story, and I don't think you'd believe me."
"You're talking to a flock of magical girls and a cat whose most notable features are her surprisingly good manners and diction," Ami insisted. "There's not really much left that we won't believe."
Terra chewed on that thought for a while and finally said, "All right. Arby the ArbyFish jumped up behind me with a bucket of paint—"
"Arby the ArbyFish lives?!" nearly screamed Luna. "I… I don't believe you! I can't believe you!"
"See?" Terra deadpanned.
Luna ran off into the corner, hid under a pillow, and shivered. Occasionally, she'd mutter something like, "mutant menace," or "hesdeadhesdeadhehastobe!!!"
"What's gotten into your cat?" Rei asked Usagi.
"I don't know," replied the blonde. "And she's usually so calm."
"Should we call the vet?" Makoto suggested. "I know this one foreign guy that has his shop down the street."
"Doctor Murray Kalypso?" asked Ami incredulously. "He keeps getting his license revoked! I don't think it would be such a great idea to ask him."
"What's an ArbyFish?" Rei wanted to know.
"Like I said, I don't want to talk about it." Terra glanced back at Luna and sighed, looking very much like she felt how the quivering cat did right now. "Okay, let's get this meeting over with," she said in a soft voice.
"I agree," said Ami. "We ought not to be late to the airport. It will give the enemy less time to get set up."
"Of course, they've already had longer than a day to get ready to fight us over there," said Makoto.
"Let's not jump to conclusions," Ami cautioned. "Second-guessing ourselves won't help. The best strategy is to stay calm and take the situation as it comes."
Makoto raised her hand. "Did anybody besides me practice how to use your powers?"
"I did," said Ami. "For an hour last night and a few hours this morning."
Rei nodded. "As did I." She turned to ward the two non-talkative girls in the group. "Terra-chan? Usagi-chan?"
Terra shrugged sadly. "I… don't have any powers to practice."
Makoto frowned. "You don't?"
Then Usagi's snoring caught their attention. They hadn't noticed her nod off right about where they had begun discussing strategy.
"Usagi-chan!" Rei whispered stiffly. "Wake up!"
"Huh?" Usagi moaned and lifted her head.
"And you even slept in, too!"
"Hey, I didn't sleep so well!" the blonde whined.
"Hah," Rei laughed. "Staying up late playing video games is more like it."
"But we just got our new Playstation!" Usagi complained. "I couldn't let it go to waste!"
"We're fighting a war, odango-for-brains!"
"Aw, Rei-chan! You're so mean!"
The two squabbled back and forth like true naturals — as if they'd known each other since they were little, and not only since the day before. Makoto got a chuckle out of their antics, while Ami looked on and shook her head in disapproval.
Terra, on the other hand, seemed to be in her own dark little world, suffering a deep secret pain of the heart that no human should have to go through. "Um, ladies?" she began meekly. "Fellow soldiers? Do you mind if I sit this one out?"
Rei froze. "Excuse me?!"
Usagi looked shocked as well. "Huh?!"
"I don't want to go tonight."
"What brought this on?" Ami asked. "The other day, you seemed so set on going into battle with us."
"It's just that," Terra said, "I think you'd all be better off if you didn't have me to drag you down."
"But you've been fighting alongside Sailor Moon for weeks," Rei said. "She didn't seem to think you were a burden." She looked at Usagi. "Did you?"
Before Usagi could respond, Makoto chimed in, saying, "Are you scared or something?"
"Yes, I'm scared," Terra replied quickly with a worried look on her face. "Terrified. Before, we were just fighting youma — relatively weak monsters — and each time, I couldn't do anything and almost didn't make it." She fidgeted. "And now, we're facing one of their leaders. We're going up against a general! I don't know what could happen. But I'm scared. Really scared." She looked at Usagi, pleading tears in her eyes. "Please don't make me fight Jadeite. Please! I don't want to die."
Usagi didn't know what to say. "Terra, I—"
Sobbing, the Irish girl placed her head on Usagi's shoulder, clinging to her for some sense of comfort. "Please, no more."
Usagi sat in stunned silence for a while. She finally said, "It's… okay. You don't have to fight Jadeite if you don't want to. The rest of us can do it by ourselves." She looked at the others. "Can't we?"
Makoto nodded, though she wore a lopsided frown. "Oh, sure, no problem."
"But I thought we were in this together?" whispered Ami.
Rei slapped her hand on the table. "What in the world is this!?" she yelled at Terra. "First, you sign us up to fight the Dark Kingdom, and next, you're chickening out on us!"
"I'm… sorry!" Terra sniffled, getting up. She took the brooch off the front of her blouse and placed it on the table. "Here, keep this. Maybe somebody else will have better luck with it. I'm not strong, like all of you are. I should go."
Still crying somewhat, Terra walked out of the room. From the speed of her steps, they could tell she started to run.
"Terra!" Usagi took the brooch also started to get up, but Makoto held her back.
"No," said the brunette, "let her go. She's scared and doesn't know how to deal with it. She needs time to walk it off and sort it out."
"But maybe if I talked to her," Usagi protested, "I can help her feel better."
"I also think she probably needs time to sort it out," Ami said. "I admit, I'm a little worried as well."
"We're all worried," said Rei. "But either the rest of us are going to face the enemy, or we're not. Which is it?"
Usagi bit her lip. From the way she kept glancing at the door, she was still deeply concerned about Terra, but she sighed, shook her head, and said, "We have to stop Jadeite. If we don't, he'll destroy the city!"
"Agreed," Ami said.
"You're right," added Makoto.
Rei nodded. "Then it's settled."
Usagi looked around. "Now where did Luna get to?" She looked and saw that her pet advisor was still quivering in the corner. "Aw, Luna! Get out here, you scaredy-cat!"
"I'm better now!" the feline insisted as she climbed out from underneath the pillow. "Just some bad memories, is all. What were we talking about again?"
Terra lost track of how far she had run before her legs ran out of strength. Her mind had been a bucket of grief ever since the meeting with her friends. While on the surface she knew she had acted like such a bozo of a retarded child, that didn't change her mind about how she felt.
Frightened, sad, alone, and unwilling to face her fear, she said to herself, "I really don't deserve to be a superheroine, do I?"
No, she told herself. Not with an attitude like that, she didn't.
And she finally understood. "This is why I suck so bad."
Terra clenched her teeth and forced herself to take several slow, deep breaths to calm herself down. Why was she acting like this? Sure, she'd felt scared before, but that was all part of the job when dealing with monsters on a regular basis. She'd even run screaming from the battlefield on a few occasions, but nothing like this.
"No, no, no! This isn't like me! I have to control myself. I can't run forever!" She slipped to her knees and covered her weeping face. She sniffed and wiped her tears with her sleeve. "This is awful. It doesn't get any worse than this, does it?"
Just about then, Arby the ArbyFish popped up, wearing his typical pleased-as-punch grin and saluted. "'Ello, Madam!"
Terra looked up at him with her eyes reddened from crying and said, "Arby, I feel horrible. I just abandoned my friends and ran away crying like a toddler!"
"Well o' course!" Arby shot back in a pleasant businessman-like manner. "Only natural, it is."
The sad girl frowned even more deeply. "Why do you say that?"
"Part o' the plan, y'see."
Arby whipped out his can of yellow paint from earlier in the day. "It's me Mystical Magical Yellow Depression Mushroom Paint. Makes ya Emotionally Unstable!" He said the last couple of words as if they were useful, trademarked and patented processes that people ought to be paying lots and lots of money for. In any case, he seemed rather pleased with the results.
Terra's distraught expression gradually faded into a glare. She slowly clenched her hand into a fist and said, "Arby… you dumped that stuff on my back… to make me… emotionally unstable?!"
"O' course! It got absorbed through your clothes and into your skin. A whole bucket o' the stuff'd throw ya into a Suicidal Rage!" Again, it was one of those expensive, trademarked phrases. He backed up and tilted the bucket, preparing to throw it. "'Ere, look at this!"
But Terra's cry went unheeded. Arby chucked the paint at her. She shuffled frantically backwards to avoid getting hit in the face, but her blouse and skirt get totally covered. The chemical also dripped onto her shoes and socks and made nasty slurping noises as it penetrated the materials.
"AAAH!" Terra screamed in terror of what would happen to her if the paint reached her skin. Just a small swipe down the back of her fuku had made her such an unstoppably depressed bozo. She feared to think what might happen to her if this much got through.
Acting quickly, Terra whipped off her skirt and threw off her blouse. The wind blew them over the edge of the bridge she was on, and they fell into the river below. She looked down and saw her shoes and socks similarly getting affected. She kicked off her shoes and ripped off her socks.
Then she noticed, to her horror, that the paint had penetrated down to her slip. The tight weave was stopping the absorption somewhat, but it wouldn't last. Her mind screaming at her to hurry, she tore it off and discarded it as well.
Nearly hyperventilating in shock Terra checked what was left. Her skin didn't have any yellow paint on it, nor did any of her underwear, so that was a relief. Her quick actions saved her, it seemed.
"Not this time, Mister Fish," Terra retorted, looking back at the creature. "You'll not best me today."
Arby chuckled, which was kind of like a mocking hissing noise, like what one might expect from a laughing cat or rodent. He also had his Mush-Camera out, ready, focused, and with the cap off. "Smoile!" The flash from the halogen mushroom atop the device flashed and temporarily blinded Terra.
The ArbyFish fluttered around her, taking several more photographs from various angles. He shoved her hard in the spine, forcing her to arch her back for a couple of shots. Then he stopped, hovering in front of Terra like some sort of deranged hummingbird who'd had too much nectar to drink.
"Arby! What are you—?"
Terra's sanity finally caught up with her confusion, sucker punched it, and laid it out cold. She quickly realized several very important details.
First of all, she was naked with nothing but her white underwear. Second, Arby had just taken dozens of pictures of her, from all over. Third, she was several few miles from home, having run with her depression to a part of town she really wasn't familiar with. Fourth, Arby was fluttering off, saying, "Alroight! These'll sell great on the open market!"
That shocked her back to reality.
"ARBY!" Terra shrieked in total explosive indubitability. Trying to cover herself in vain, she tried to run after him, but couldn't move quickly barefoot on the sidewalk or asphalt, and lost sight of him. She stopped to catch her breath. She wasn't that great of a runner, especially without shoes.
It took her a few more moments of quiet thought for her to realize the gravity of her situation. She'd had dreams, when she was in elementary school, of accidentally going to class in her underwear. It was one of those primal fears that struck terror into even the most composed of human beings. Being in the same situation while in the middle of the street in an unfamiliar part of town tripled the anxiety.
Terra shivered, and it wasn't because it was cold. She was alone right now, affording her a sort of momentary privacy, but she heard people not too far off. The noises of cars and other city sounds came all the more loudly to her ears. Every place she looked was a potential source of fear.
Maybe, if she could transform, she could create an outfit she could at least wear home.
Then she kicked herself. Maybe that could have worked, she retorted, but NO-O-O, I just HAD to leave my brooch at Rei's place in that stupid paint-induced 'fraidey-cat tantrum, didn't I?!
She couldn't think about what she'd do when she got home and saw Arby. No, that was too far into the future. What she needed now was a way to get there first.
"Alright, mind," she whispered, pounding on her head, "do your stuff and figure out a way to get me out of this mess!"
Fine. All right, then.
The nearly naked teenager looked around. There were some crowds in the distance, blocking the streets she would have to travel to retrace her steps. Busy Tokyo Saturday traffic, as it were. The river below her rushed out to sea, and her home probably wasn't in that direction anyway. There was also a bus stop. She knew some of the routes that passed close to her house, but she didn't know which ones passed by her.
She could knock on a door and try to hide in someone's house… but no, that wouldn't work. This was more of a park area with ornamental bridges, but somehow had a distinctive lack of bushes she could hide behind. But besides, even if there were houses, she still didn't know anyone around here. She might get a stranger willing to help her out, but the odds were slim. Several scenarios ran through her mind, few of them good.
There were a couple of shops in the distance, but they were more like festive corner street shops. Probably some food stands and some goldfish-scooping locations. Not good to hide in and not exactly purveyors of articles of clothing.
The weather was fairly warm, and that meant people wouldn't be wearing coats or anything they could easily lend out. While it meant Terra wouldn't get a cold or die of exposure, it also complicated things.
So, her options seemed to be pressing through the crowd to walk a rather long distance home, or take the bus, which if she got a good route might stop half a block from her house. She thankfully was in a silly enough mood to have brought her bookbag along to the meeting at the Hikawa shrine, and kept some money in it. The container lay just a few feet from her poisoned shoes. She would have enough cash for bus fare, but she probably couldn't pay for a taxi with the pocket change she carried. Of course, if she got home, she could get probably her mom to pay for the ride.
But there were no taxis around, and a bus was just pulling up. It was a route she knew, as well. All in all, taking the public transit system seemed to be the least embarrassing option. She would see fewer people and it would take much less time. She waved to the bus, which stopped. Actually, the driver was male, so it screeched to a halt.
A few people gave her odd looks as she boarded and tried to pay her fee. The driver declined it, telling her not to worry about the fee. Terra didn't like his icky, goofy grin, but she went back and quietly took a seat so as to not cause any more of a scene than necessary.
Act natural, Terra coached herself. If she didn't look like anything was wrong, then many people would simply ignore her. This was a big city, after all. Weird things happened in big cities every day. They probably had laws against indecent exposure, though. They did in Ireland. They sometimes even enforced them. It was best to play it cool from here on out.
The girl took a seat and held her bookbag on her lap to better cover herself, and forced herself to breathe deeply and calmly. Everything is fine, she repeated in her mind. I'm not really running around in my underwear, I'm just part of a new trend. You haven't heard of it? Your loss. It's all the rage in Britain.
Still, she hoped and prayed fervently that nobody she knew would see her.
Sitting beside her was a bespectacled boy Terra faintly recognized from Juuban Junior High. He was one of those nerdy know-it-all types that had hardly dared approach her, but he did talk frequently with Usagi. What was his name… ?
The boy turned towards her and did a double take. "Wow! Incognita Terra-san! I'm so pleased to meet you on such a nice day."
Terra twitched, desperately hoping he wouldn't notice her lack of attire. But of course, she realized, the odds of a nerdy teenage male not noticing a girl when she's near-naked are about the same as a that of a den of starving, wretched hyenas not noticing a plump, juicy zebra when it dives in. "Hello… Gurio?"
"Yeah, that's me. Umino Gurio. But you can call me Gurio, if you like." Then he glanced down and his glasses started fogging up. "Uh, say, why are you naked?"
"Everything's fine," Terra reassured him. "I'm not really running around in my underwear. I'm just part of a new trend. Oh, you haven't heard of it? Well, your loss. It's all the rage in Britain."
"Oh," Umino oohed, snapping his fingers. "Is it some kind of Irish tradition? I hear the Irish like to go around naked in a kilt. It's like doing it properly or something."
Terra wanted to yell, 'No, that's a Scottish tradition!' but her mind grappled with the urge and held her back. She took a calm, natural, slow breath and replied, "Er, yes. Yes, this is an Irish thing. We regularly go out like this to see the sights in town."
"Hah, I knew it!" The nerdy young man looked out the window, not that he could see anything through his steamed-up spectacles. "Oh! This is my stop. Bye-bye, Incognita-san!" He slid past Terra and bumped into things on his way off the bus.
The bus was indeed one that would eventually take Terra home, but it looked like it was going the long way around. In the eternity separating Terra from her stop, she was feeling pretty self-conscious. Well, duh! Who in their right mind wouldn't be?! A more typical fourteen-year-old or younger might not have as much of a problem in her situation. They'd say, "Oh, what a poor girl, someone stripped her down. Why don't I give her my jacket to help her modesty?" or something to that effect.
But, no. The fact of the matter was that Terra was a young teen of well-above-average good looks, and in this context, it meant she had a fair amount to gawk at. Or rather, not just gawk at.
All things considering, perhaps she should have felt insulted if nobody attempted anything while she was in that state of distress… or dis-dress, rather. But she wasn't at all pleased when she reached her stop without other incident, and someone grabbed her on her way out.
Something terrible burned inside her; a blackness beyond blackness of roiling anger spilled across her mind like an unholy fog. Her hand snapped around the wrist of the arm that grabbed her, and she squeezed. As she did so, something in that wrist broke in a very satisfying manner.
Terra gasped when the feeling departed. The power had just built up and left her. A chaotic surge of intense feelings, and someone's bones had cracked under the pressure she applied. Was this what some older women sometimes spoke of? The righteous indignation of a girl who had been wronged in such a manner?
All she knew was she was even more embarrassed than ever when the young man in question fell back, crying out in pain. "G-gomen nasai!" she cried out, her ability to comprehend Japanese flickering in and out. The girl dashed down the bus's steps and hurried along towards her home.
Terra flexed the muscles in her hand. They were very sore, as if working well beyond their breaking point for just an instant.
"OW! OW! OWWWW!" the high school boy continued to yell.
"Grabbing that poor girl like that?!" a woman's voice exclaimed. "DARLING NO BAKA!!!"
Her mind reeling, Terra didn't quite understand the last phrase, but it was obviously something unflattering. A second later, there was a loud crack of electricity and a flash of light. Terra glanced back, but the bus was already leaving. She shook her head and refocused on her goal. She saw her house coming up quick, only about a quarter of a block away.
There was a sudden splash when someone dropped a bucket of water on her from above. Then she heard someone ring a bicycle bell…
… and then was bowled over by a purple-haired Chinese girl who was a couple of years her senior.
Terra didn't know what a glomp was. If asked a month ago, she'd have said it was some kind of really fat African hippo. Nevertheless, a glomp was what was happening to her. Or rather, some reasonably attractive young woman was holding onto her in an uncomfortable manner.
"Airen!!!" the Chinese girl squealed, snuggling close.
"'Husband?'" Terra translated from Chinese. She didn't know any Chinese; she only knew what her mind told her, and apparently her language comprehension skills had just snapped back with a vengeance. "Er, um, I'm sorry, but I really don't swing that way, if you know what I mean." She sighed, exasperated. "Who are you?!"
The Chinese girl stiffened, then released her and moved away a little, looking hurt. "Airen forget Shampoo?" But then she looked at Terra a little closer and said, "Oh! Naked middle school girl not Airen. I sorry. Bai-bai!" She got back on her bicycle and went off.
Now fully mortified, undressed, dripping wet, and bruised from getting run over, Terra fished her key out of her bookbag, unlocked the door, and trudged into her house.
"That," she called out, "was the single most horrible experience of my entire life!"
Terra found her mother in the kitchen, having tea with, of all the things in the world, Arby the ArbyFish. The woman looked shocked at her daughter when she entered. "Oh my! Terra, what happened to you?"
Terra looked at the clock. It had taken her three hours to get home from the Hikawa Shrine. A very, very long time considering the distance, but to her, it felt like longer.
Three hours?! thought Terra, still trembling from her experience. Is that all it's been?!
"What happened to me?" Terra slurred, now shaking with the built-up rage. "I'll tell you what happened to me!" She twitched wildly and pointed at Arby. "THAT THING happened to me! Because of you, Arby, I have seen—"
"Oh my," Kasumi interrupted, looking at the ArbyFish in and accusatorial manner. "Mister Fish, did you strip her down, get her drenched, run her over with a bicycle, and make her walk home naked?"
"Well o' course! Had to contract out for a few bits, but it got the job done. Gotta strip her down, take naked pictures and make her walk home under embarrassing circumstances. How'd we expect her ta grow up roight noice n' proper if we didn't?"
"Arby, did you take embarrassing naked pictures of my daughter?"
"In-deed! Roight noice ones, too, if Oye says so m'self."
"Then give them to me so I can dispose of them."
"Oh, can't do that. They's already been sold!"
"Sold? To who?"
"To the highest bidder. It's Economics!"
"Then get them back."
"Nope! Wouldn't be proper. All sales is final!"
"Arby," Kasumi warned in a firm, motherly way.
"Oh, all roight, here ya go." Arby handed Kasumi a thick sheaf of eight-by-twelve prints. "Made a few copies."
"Are these all of the copies?"
"All that was left. Sold loike 'shroomcakes, they did!"
"That wasn't what I asked — ah, very well. If you're not taking them out of circulation, then at least give Terra her cut of the proceeds."
"But Mom!" Terra protested.
"Modeling is a respectable career choice," Kasumi pacified her daughter. "Given the circumstances, we'll just call this incident a case of unintentional 'modeling'."
Terra shook her head at her mother's spin on things. Apparently, Arby wasn't the only one that liked to play around with terminology to suit his own purposes.
"Commissions, is it?" Arby inquired, stroking his furry chin. "Roight!" He handed Terra a pair of twigs and thistles, as well as a dead swallow. "There ya go! Don't eat it all in one place."
"Ew!" cried Terra, dropping the rotten swallow.
"Ey," Arby complained, "that's a waste of perfectly good mold, it is!"
"Do it in local currency," Kasumi suggested.
"Ey, these was local. Picked 'em up in the back yard, Oye did!"
"ARBY!" Terra yelled at the green creature.
Arby smiled. "It's true."
The redhead gave into her rage and started chasing the ArbyFish around the room. While she did so, Kasumi got around to examining the photographs. Her expression faded from concern to relief, and then to her usual overly pleased smile. "Oh my! These are wonderful!"
Terra froze, having just grabbed a hold of Arby's tail. She turned towards her mother and asked, "They are?!"
"Oh, yes," Kasumi said. "They aren't sleazy or anything. And you'd hardly guess you were just fourteen by looking at them."
"But it's me in my underwear!" Terra protested.
"No, no, look," Kasumi insisted, handing the girl her pictures.
Terra checked them out. While it was embarrassing to see herself in that state of undress, she did have to admit that the lighting was excellent, the angles were superb, and they were comparatively tastefully done. It helped a lot that she did have a reasonably good figure and complexion. The images somehow managed to capture her best sides and expressions, from pouty to cutely uncertain to focused.
Then her built-in reality check smacked her upside the head again. "But… No! This is me in my—"
"You know," Kasumi added, "maybe you really do have a future in modeling after all."
"MOM!" Terra cried, flustered at the way her Kasumi was dealing with the pictures. Obviously, she decided, her mother hadn't fully grasped the gravity of her situation.
The phone rang. Terra's mother reached over and picked it up. "Hello?" She nodded while listening, and then frowned. "What?" She took off her shoe, looked at it, and said, "Six and a half. Hmm? Oh, you would? She's kind of upset right now, but—"
"Who's that?" Terra asked.
Kasumi covered up the receiver and said, "Oh, it's just the CEO of a major modeling company — you know, the one that does the high-grade professional superstar idol singing that you've always dreamed of being a part of since you were little? She says she was very impressed by your agent's presentation and thinks you're great, so she wants to interview you personally for a job next Tuesday. Are you interested?"
"Agent?" Terra had no idea what was going on, but modeling was something she had always thought she wanted to do. "Um. I… I… . Yeah. Is after school on Tuesday okay?"
"She'd love to," Kasumi spoke into the phone. "Will four o'clock be all right? Great!" She looked at Terra. "She says that will be perfect."
The woman said some parting words to the CEO and hung up.
"My agent?" Terra repeated to herself. "Who? Was it Arby?" She turned toward where she had been holding Arby and instead found she was holding a mushroom, which was trying to bite her. She dropped it and it skittered under the couch. "Where did he go?" Looking around, she discovered that Arby had vanished again. "Curiouser and curiouser… ."
"It looks like someone's been doing a little advertising for you," Kasumi noted.
"Uh, yeah," said Terra, still somewhat dazed from the events of the past few hours. She was going to need a lot of time for it all to soak in. In fact, she was probably going to have nightmares about it for weeks. She might even need therapy, she considered as she rubbed the sore mushroom-shaped mark on her neck. "Mom, I'm going upstairs. I'll take a shower — I mean, long soak in the bathtub, er, furo — and then I'm going to relieve my stress by destroying a thousand worlds in one blast — I mean, I'm going to my room to sleep." She thought what she said. It sounded weird, but she was too tired to care. "Or I'll at least lie in bed and stare at the ceiling all night. I've had a rough day."
"All right, sweetie."
The bedraggled girl enjoyed a good, long soak in the hot water. Terra really had been getting too tense lately. She rubbed some of her coarse red hair between her fingers and wondered why it hadn't counted against her when Arby had been showing off her pictures.
Oh, certainly, it hurt to think what kind of people got a hold of them, but in a way, it was kind of comforting — a confirmation that she was growing up very well — that someone high up wanted her to become a model because of how she looked.
After she calmed down and felt like she'd had enough meditation for the time being, she got out, dried off, put on her pajamas, and jumped into bed. She relished the not-naked feeling she never knew she would miss so much.
Terra looked out the window and saw some bright multicolored flashes in the distance, which looked like they occurred near or at the airport. Then she remembered about the battle with Jadeite that must have started right about then. She thought about what her friends must be going through. She herself had sort of been given leave to not go to the fight… but that was while she was drugged. Still, she was tired from the events of the day, and really just wanted to lie down and not do anything for a while. Anyway, it wasn't like she could be much help in a fist- or fire-fight.
Part of her asked if she was going to help. She replied aloud, "No, I've fought my battle for today. They'll be strong enough to win without me."
But then, Terra heard a soft chiming sound coming from her bookbag — the mysterious "Sack of Confusion." She pushed aside her blanket, flipped the sack open, and fished her Sailor Communicator out of one of its many pockets. Pushing the "talk" button, she said, "Hello?"
Sailor Moon's face appeared on the small screen. She was burned and her hair was a mess. Her expression looked desperate and frantic. "CHIBIMOON, HIDE! IT WAS A TRAP! IT WAS A TRAP! THEY'RE GOING TO—"
A bright light flashed on the screen, followed by a loud crack, and then the viewing area went to static. Out the window, Terra saw a tall cloud of dust and concrete fragments rise over the airport.
Terra's eyes went wide. "Oh my!"
While she ran downstairs, her mind was asking her what she planned to do about it. "I have to save them!" It's too late, she told herself, and you have no powers. "I don't care!" It's useless. You're weak! "Shut up!"
When Terra reached the door, Kasumi "ah-hemmed" to draw her attention. She turned around to face her mother.
"And where do you think you're going, small lady?"
Terra took a short panting breath and quickly explained, "Usagi and my new friends… they're in a whole lot of trouble!"
Kasumi shook her head. "No, you're not going anywhere."
Terra's eyes were genuinely desperate. "But Mom!"
Kasumi smiled. "At least, not without this, you're not." She clipped a pink heart-shaped brooch to the front of Terra's pajamas.
"Where did you get this?" Terra wondered. She thought she had abandoned it at the Hikawa Shrine.
"Usagi brought it over when she came to visit you several hours ago," Kasumi explained. "She was surprised you weren't home yet."
Terra nodded solemnly. Usagi must have come over to try to help her feel better. She felt glad to have someone like her as a friend. It was rare to find selfless people nowadays.
"It's a long way to the airport," Kasumi said. "Transform and I'll give you a ride."
"How did you know it was at—?"
"Hurry up, dear. There isn't time to waste!"
"Yes, yes, you're right." Terra raised her hand and said, "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"
When Terra finished her transformation sequence, she dashed out to the car and seatbelted herself in. Kasumi came out, did the same, and started the ignition.
The powerful V8 engine revved to life, purring like a kitten — a giant prehistoric sabertooth kitten just before it eats the frightened primate its mother brought it.
Kasumi smiled. "I love this car." With that, she popped it into reverse, gunned the engine so the vehicle slid out rapidly into the street. She shifted gears and floored the gas pedal.
During the turns, slowdowns, and speedups, Terra carefully went through the breathing exercises Kasumi taught her long ago for staying conscious during high-gee acceleration. Whatever anyone may have said about her mother, she excelled at making use of all the power available to her.
The streets were surprisingly empty, especially near the airport. Kasumi was able to drive straight up to the terminal. As Terra got out, she kissed her daughter on the cheek and said, "Give 'em hell, sweetie. I'll pick you up afterwards. Have fun fighting the Dark Kingdom!"
"Okay, Mom!" Chibimoon said, and dashed into the airport. She didn't stop, but something occurred to her. "I never called it the Dark Kingdom. I called them Negamafoozles."
There wasn't time, however, to embellish the thought. She made it through the empty terminals and vacant security checkpoints to the runway, where there still seemed to be a battle going on.
Farsighted, as she was, she saw the situation. Sailor Moon was still going, as were Mercury and Mars, but Jupiter was down. None of them looked like they were in good shape at all. Energy burns all over, Jupiter's fuku was a little torn, and Tuxedo Kamen was also there. She saw him, high above the ground, dueling personally with Jadeite.
"Tuxedo Kamen," Chibimoon breathed. She hurried down the steps to the runway, and only made it there in time to see General Jadeite smack her wounded protector into the ocean. He didn't come back up. "NO!"
The other girls and Jadeite heard her cry.
"Chibimoon, no! There are too many of them!" Sailor Moon cried. "Run!"
"What's this?" Jadeite asked with a smirk. "So, the pink little coward finally decides to show herself. All right, everyone. It's time to finish them off."
"Get out of here!" Mars shouted at Chibimoon.
"There's still a chance for you if you leave now!" Mercury insisted.
"No, I have to help!" Then Terra saw what the big deal was, and why it was such a desperate, losing struggle. Not only had Jadeite come, but he'd also brought friends. There were three others, dressed similarly to him.
"Kunzite! Nephrite! Zoicite!" Chibimoon shouted without thinking first. She covered her mouth. It had been another one of those cases of ideas and names coming straight from her mind without asking her for permission to think them.
The tall one with silver hair — Kunzite — smiled evilly at her and said, "You know our names. Good! Then we won't waste time with petty introductions."
"Our queen wants you all dead," the shorter effeminate one added. "But since you're here, there's still there's time for a little fun. Now watch your friends die, you powerless little coward."
Jadeite lifted his right hand, and a blue wispy energy glowed around him. Sailor Chibimoon looked around and saw her four friends immobilized and lifted into the air.
Terra's heart pounded frantically when she saw each of the generals take a position in front of each of the trapped girls, hands raised and gathering spheres of energy. "NO!!!"
In front of Sailor Moon, Zoicite cackled madly and threw her attack at the defenseless girl. The resulting explosion blew a hole through Usagi's chest, leaving her quite effectively dead.
Nephrite fired next, leaving Jupiter in much the same state.
Kunzite and Jadeite didn't hesitate, killing the two remaining Sailor Soldiers.
Stunned, Terra gasped and took a step back. Just like that, without fanfare, all her friends now lay dead, and she was powerless to stop it. She shivered, unable to believe her eyes. "No! That can't be! It's not right!"
The four generals now closed in on her.
"Oh, don't cry," laughed Jadeite. "Everyone has to die sometime."
The Dark Kingdom Generals — Terra could no longer think of them in such a playful way as "Negamafoozles" — grouped together for one final attack.
Terra knew she was the target. She fell to her knees and bowed her head. Yes, she deserved to die for not being able to save her friends. She would accept this punishment, for it was just.
The giant combined blast sped towards her, and she made no move to get out of the way. But, when it was just about to reach her, a giant man in green camouflage armor — the Star Light Knight — jumped in front of her.
S.L.K. blocked the blast head-on. It was like it was nothing for him. Then he picked scooped her up like a child and ran off, tossing armloads of grenades behind him.
In the resulting explosions, the four generals were unable to pursue. Terra didn't care what they were shouting in anger about. She didn't resist being held and carried off. Nothing mattered anymore, with her friends gone. Nothing.
To be continued.
And now it's time for… MIND YOUR MANNERS!!! with Sailor Nuke.
(Scene of Terra looking rather embarrassed as she boarded the bus.)
Sailor Nuke: Today, we learned that you shouldn't be cute.
Sailor Kawaii: WHAT?! No, don't listen to her! She's wrong!
(Scene of Ataru Moroboshi grabbing at Terra.)
Sailor Nuke: Oh ho, but I'm so right this time! See, if she wasn't cute, people wouldn't have gone after her like that.
(Scene of Kasumi on the telephone.)
Sailor Kawaii (flustered and frantically waving her arms): You're still wrong! You're wrong, wrong, wrong! If she hadn't been cute, she wouldn't have gotten that interview!
(Terra grabs Ataru's arm and breaks it.)
Sailor Nuke: But she was tough, so she also got back at the guy who came after her. So don't be cute. Be tough! Sailor Nuke sez. BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!
Sailor Kawaii: And if you want to be happy and have a good job, be cute! Sailor Kawaii says. Tee-hee!
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