&&&[Begin Chapter 9.]

        Theorizing that he could time travel within his own lifetime,
Doctor Samuel Beckett stepped onto the Quantum Leap Accelerator...
and vanished.

        Now, he finds himself leaping from life to life, facing mirror
images that are not his own.

        His only guide is Al, a holographic representation of a man
from the future...

        Sam finds himself striving to put right what once went wrong,
and hoping that his next leap will be the leap home...


        The familiar light washed over Dr. Beckett, leaving him in
another place, another time...

        He sat up, apparently in some sort of bed. He glanced around,
looking for some indication of where he was... who he was...

        "Molly, time to get up!" a woman's voice called.

        Sam's jaw dropped as he caught sight of his reflection...
that of a young, brownish-red-headed girl.

        "Oh boy..."

[Cue Quantum Leap intro.]


        "Go get 'em, Lina!"

        "Um, thanks, Gourry."

        "Take 'er down, Timmy!"

        "Right! You bet, Naga!"

        The two fighters stood, facing each other in ready combat
stances. Two observers were standing away at a relatively safe
distance. This could get ugly...

        "Source of all power," Lina began, a hint of venom in her

        'Tim held his hands together and began to generate a small
ball of yellow energy.

        "Crimson power burning bright!" the orange-haired sorceress
continued dramatically.

        "Mouko Takabisha!" 'Tim shouted confidently, firing the ball
at his foe.

        Lina ducked under it. "FIREBALL!" She completed her
incantation, releasing a rather large, flaming sphere at 'Tim.

        "Gyah!" 'Tim shouted, seemingly as a battle cry as he leapt
out of the way of the oncoming blast.

        *BLAM! The big, red ball of fire tore into the dry road they
were fighting on, blasting up a lot of dust, obscuring the view.

        "Go Lina!" Gourry cheered, waving a small flag that bore the
same words.

        "Hey! Get back here!" Lina shouted, squinting against the

        There was Silence for a few moments as the sorceress tried
to find her quarry. She began to open her mouth to cast another
spell when...

        "Heh heh heh," 'Tim chuckled in his best vibrato, breaking
the silence (which was very mad at BEING broken, by the way), doing
a terrific job of sounding malevolent, "Is that the best you have to
offer, *little girl?*"

        From the sidelines, Naga laughed maniacally. "OHOHOHOHOOOO!"

        If this intimidation tactic worked, it didn't show, partially
because Lina didn't frighten easily (unless, of course, you happened
to mention her big sister), but mostly because the dust was, as
previously mentioned, obscuring the view.

        Actually, something about 'Tim's statement seemed to infuriate
her all the more. Plus, his lack of silence clued her in on his
location. "Dill Brando!"

        *BLAM!*CRACK!!* "YEOUCH!" the green-camouflage-wearing fighter
shouted as the ground blasted up from beneath him, smashing into
him loudly. (And painfully, but that's kind of a given...)

        The dust settled, and the two fighters looked at each other.
One was completely unscathed, and the other was... actually scathed
a great deal, but still looked like he was enjoying the fight.

        "Oh, come on!" 'Tim taunted. "You can do better than that!"

        "Yeah!" Gourry agreed.

        Lina raised an eyebrow, anger draining from her expression.
"What kind of masochist are you?!"

        "The obsessed kind!"

        Naga snickered. "The best kind!"

        Lina glanced at Naga, then looked back at 'Tim. "I... think
you've had quite enough."

        'Tim smirked. "Oh, come on, ya pansy!" he said, taking a
bandanna off his head and flinging it at her.

        The sorceress wordlessly raised a defensive barrier. The
razor-sharp cloth glanced off.

        "Come on," 'Tim urged, "fight back."

        Lina folded her arms and turned away. "No."

        'Tim frowned. "Please?"


        "Pretty please?"


        "Pretty please with sugar on top?"


        "Pretty pretty please with sprinkles?"


        "Pretty pretty pretty please with chocolate chips and whipped
cream with a cherry on top?"


        "I'll be your best friend..."


        "Aw, come on!"

        "NO!!!!!!" Lina shouted, turning back towards her opponent,
fire in her eyes.

        There was Silence between them for a moment... the crackling,
destructive sort that obliterates worlds.

        "Oh," 'Tim finally said. "This is about that 'little girl'
thing I said earlier, isn't it? Well, I'm sorry."

        Lina's expression softened.

        "What I should have said," the soon-to-be-doomed individual
continued, an evil gleam coming to his eye, "was little **BOY**!"

        That did it.

        "Flare Arrow!" Lina shouted, summoning a flaming bow and arrow,
and firing it at her adversary.

        *BLAAAAAM!* This time, 'Tim didn't quite manage to dodge. His
incinerated body thudded to the ground.

        Lina wasn't finished yet.

        "Darkness beyond twilight,
         Crimson beyond blood that flows,
         Buried in the flow of time..."

        "Uh oh," 'Tim gurgled, finally realizing that he had
metaphorically bitten off a *little* more than he could chew.

        "Shouldn't have done that," Gourry said, running for cover.

        "In thy great name,
         I pledge myself to darkness.
         Let all the fools,
         Who stand in our way,
         Be destroyed by the power you and I possess!"

        Naga laughed evilly as she backed off.

        "Computer," 'Tim choked from his prone position on the

        "DRAGON SLA-"

        "END PROGRAM!!!"


        The simulation ended and the scenery disappeared, leaving a
room walled by numerous grids. 'Tim tried to stand, but slumped into
a partial kneeling position, sizzling slightly.

        "Computer," he croaked, "activate the EMH."

        'Tim then fell face-first into the floor, twitching.

        The EMH appeared. "Please state the nature of the medical
emergency." He looked down and saw the scorched individual. "This
is the fiftieth time I've needed to be activated tonight. You know,
you should really consider a safer hobby."

        "Never," 'Tim choked out, "not (cough) until I master every
last technique in the book."

        "Hmm," the hologram mumbled as he began to scan his patient
with a medical tricorder. "That wouldn't happen to be the book that
describes the Bakusai Tenketsu, the Hiruu Shoten Ha... the Neko-Ken-"

        The doctor roughly turned 'Tim over, ignoring his groans of
pain. "Ha!" the charred patient laughed, then erupted into fits of
hoarse coughing. "I WROTE that book! Besides, the Neko-Ken (HACK!)
is nothing. Not when one has mastered... THE KAWAII-KEN!"


        "The cute fist?" the doctor asked cynically.

        "Well... (COUGH!) yeah! It's the deadliest technique in the
universe, I'll have you know!"

        "Why don't you use that, then?"

        'Tim groaned, clenching his teeth, trying to find some inner
way to block the searing fountains of anguish erupting all over
his smashed and burned body. Words can barely scratch upon the
suffering he was feeling. It was like he was being torn apart and
spread across the wall, stretching his skin to the breaking point,
his bones being ground into powder...

        That was from thinking about the Kawaii-Ken, by the way.
"Doctor... It's an... extremely harsh method of combat. Those
other attacks are far less painful. I just need to learn to use
them, and I'll be set."

        "I see."

        Technically, he already knew all the techniques, having
picked them up in the twenty-thousand or so years since the fall
of the Silver Millennium... As a matter of fact, he had invented
several of them, but he hadn't bothered to practice that often,
considering that most involved the manipulation of large amounts of
Chi. He didn't really have that in any significant quantity up until
recently, and there are far easier and more effective types of
energy to duplicate.

        To give an example, what he would normally do with his energy
would be somewhat similar to the difficulty an average (or
statistically average) person would experience sitting down and
reading a book. Not that hard. Quite easy, in fact.

        In order to duplicate Chi energy, he would have to do something
on the order of having that same person take that same book, use
sheer force of will to make it levitate some five inches in front
of their face, and sing the text that was being read to the tune of
Hungarian Rhapsody #2, all the while dodging and smashing rather
large, fast-moving boulders with their left index finger.

        Not impossible, per se, but it just isn't done casually.
Chi doesn't store that well, either, so draining it from others,
besides being an extremely rude thing to do, wouldn't yield very
good results.

        Why anyone would want to take human energy was a complete
mystery to him. Unless one has a constant supply, like say...
a human being does, then its effects would be extremely limited.

        However, the youma seemed to work quite well with it, for
some reason. Like any other energy, it could be channeled to create
blasts, levitate, make a shield, and so on.

        But if you were to ask his opinion, he'd say that it really
wasn't optimally suited for that purpose. As a matter of fact, the
only thing that it really worked well for was to repair damage in
some types of energy matrixes.

        Human energy did have a broad spectrum to choose from, and the
better matrixes usually did have a system that fixed or expanded
itself, given the proper shade of emotion in the energy it was fed...
But they never needed to drain energy back in the Silver Millennium,
as far as he knew. Perhaps-

        "Interesting," the doctor commented as he completed his scan,
disrupting 'Tim's train of thought. "You have second and third
degree burns over ninety percent of your body, five broken ribs,
several minor skull fractures, a major lung puncture, a nearly
severed spinal column-"

        "Just-URK!-gimme another one of those (*COUGH*) beans!"

        The doctor sighed, putting away his medical tricorder.
"Senzu beans are no replacement for proper-"

        "Doctor, just do it!" 'Tim forced out.

        The Starfleet-uniformed program paused. "Very well, if you
will not respect my opinion on this matter..."

        The EMH handed 'Tim a small, green bean.

        The heavily hurt part-time human being began to shiver as he
put it into his mouth, finally going into shock from his injuries.

        As he swallowed the magical bean, his burns vanished. His ribs
knit back together, and all other damage quickly healed. 'Tim stood
up, taking a deep breath and stretching. "Yeah. That works..."

        "Now that you're feeling better," the doctor began as he handed
'Tim a pamphlet, "if you insist on training like this, then I highly
recommend you master this. Computer, deactivate the EMH."

        The doctor vanished.

        'Tim stared at the piece of paper in his hand. "School of
Anything Goes Martial Arts Secret Technique? That's a new one..."

        [The time is now six-thirty A.M. in this time zone,] the
computer said. [Time for the two in question to get up for school.]

        'Tim looked up. "Well, take care of it, then."

        [Certainly, sir! By the way, your new employee should be
arriving soon.]


        [Your employee.]

        'Tim stared blankly, not remembering. "Who?"

        [The one with the spatulas.]

        'Tim snapped his fingers in realization. "Right. Ukkyo! I
forgot about her!"

        He began to walk off, but he collapsed onto his face, snoring.

        [SIR!] the computer shouted.

        "Eh, what?" the pink-haired man in scorched clothes asked
groggily, slowly standing back up. "Oh... I forgot. I need sleep
on occasion, right?"


        "Yes... those stupid replicated senzu seeds don't help with
that much... And, could you please confirm for me what I've been
doing all night...?"

        [Training, as you once put it, and getting horribly mutilated
whenever things got really difficult.]

        "Yes... Please explain to me _why_ I've been getting so
horribly mutilated."

        [Because you deactivated the holodeck safety subroutines.]


        [You've been 'training' against holographic representations of
people with powers far beyond what you're capable of dealing with.]

        "Why aren't I capable of dealing with them, hmmmm?"

        [You are not on their level.]

        "And that's because I need more training," 'Tim said, smiling,
prepared to go through the whole thing again. "I think I'll try
the Vegita simulation next. He doesn't look _too_ tough. He's just
a sayajin, after all. Used to sautee those lil' buggers. Tasted
great, especially when transformed..." He smiled as he remembered
a particularly satisfying experience. "That gold-furred super-oozaru
a while back... Mmm-mmm. Good eatin'!"

        [Sir,] the computer began uneasily, [sayajins are nearly
impossible to defeat in nearly all circumstances. It would be...
unwise to engage one in any sort of combat, to say the least.
Moreover, I would recommend that you transform whenever you need to
deal with foes on the level you have been 'training' against.]

        "Why?" 'Tim asked. "Oh, sure, I'd get a LOT more raw
strength... Tremendous damage resistance... huge energy reserves...
Come to think of it, I probably _could_ nuke a decent portion of
the planet if I _had_ to-"

        [Where's the problem, then?] the computer queried.

        "Armor. What's the point of having armor if it just gets
broken through?"

        [It looks good.]

        'Tim paused. "Point taken... But I'm still going to continue
training in human form. Ki manipulation definitely looks promising.
Plus, I'll need to practice my dodging, if they've got any more youma
that can slice right through *neutronium*."

        He exited the holodeck and began walking down a corridor.

        [Impossible,] the computer said, its voice echoing through
the halls.

        "What?" 'Tim asked, stopping.

        [Neutronium cannot be 'sliced through.']

        The de-transformed pink-haired knight raised an eyebrow.
"I was there. It can. It _was_. And it HURT."

        [It would take a tremendous amount of energy to cut through
solid neutronium. My sensors would have been alerted if such a
thing were to occur,] the computer insisted.

        "Well, I guess that my armor's not _quite_ solid neutronium...
It's more of a composite with other materials like materia, a little
steel, maybe some stasis crystal, plus a few warp fields to keep it
from collapsing in on me... So, actually, it could be quite easily
cut through if the tool had _just_ the right..." 'Tim's eyes widened
7in realization. "And it _did_! Yes... perhaps I could design a
defense against it..."

        He rushed out of the holodeck, turning towards the right.

        [Remember about Ukkyo.]

        'Tim stopped. "Oh yeah," he realized, then left in another

        [Wrong way.]

        He turned around and walked down yet another corridor. "Thank
you, computer."

        He still hadn't quite figured out that little direction
problem. He had found that if he concentrated enough on what was in
front of him, he could keep from slipping into alternate dimensions.

        But navigating was still a mite difficult.

        *Thump!* 'Tim went face-first into a transparent wall
overlooking the docking bay. "Ow..."


        Later, at school, Jade was having a wonderful time.

        "Wow! Your school is, like, so totally cool!" she exclaimed
blissfully, looking around at the classroom and the other students.

        "We know!" a blonde with twin ponytails responded. "Wow! I
love your hairstyle!"

        Jade struck a pose. "Do you like it?"

        "Yeah!" another blonde replied. "Hey, maybe later we can go
to the mall together!"

        "Cool!" Jade squealed in delight, and leaned in closer to them.
"Maybe we can check out some cute guys while we're there! Tee-hee!"

        "Alright!" the girl with the ponytails said, merrily swinging
her head side to side.

        The bell rang.

        "Time for class!" the trio of blondes shouted vacuously as
they rushed off to their desks.


        Jadeite-chan awoke in a cold sweat, screaming.


        [Time to get up and get ready for school!] the computer said,
a little too cheerfully.

        The cute blonde girl shook herself out of the nightmare and
gritted her teeth, glancing over to the source of her current
frustration, the bane of her existence:

        The sailor-style school uniform hanging by the wall... the
seifuku... the sailor clothes... There were dozens of names for
it, but one thing stood out in Jadeite's mind...

        It was a young girl's dress.

        "You cannot make me," Jadeite-chan said darkly.

        [Please get up,] the computer intoned.

        "No. Never!" Jadeite-chan responded defiantly, folding her
arms cutely around a cute, pink stuffed bunny rabbit. "Gah!" she
blurted out as she noticed, recoiling and dropping it.

        [Get up,] the artificial intelligence ordered forcefully.

        "Not a chance!"

        [Get up and get dressed or five million volts of AC will begin
coursing through your system.]

        "You expect me to go wearing THAT?!" Jadeite-chan asked,
pointing at the school uniform.

        [No, I expect you to *die*! MWAHAHAHAAHHAHAAAAAAA!!!]

        A massive electric field appeared, slowly beginning to spread
itself across the room.

        Jadeite-chan wasn't impressed. "Queen Beryl has done far
more terrible things to get us up in the morning."

        The field began to glow brighter and hum louder. [Doubtful.
THIS voltage will create a current that will BARBEQUE YOU TO A NEAT,

        Jadeite-chan began to look rather nervous... in a really cute,
adorable sort of way.


        "So, then, after that, you cook whatever it was they asked
for and serve it," 'Tim completed. "Any questions?"

        Ukkyo sighed. "I didn't understand half of your explanation."

        "Good," 'Tim replied, placing a comforting hand on her
shoulder, "neither did I. Any other questions?"

        The new chef looked worried. "I... Well, this is my first
day, and... Do you think it's a good idea to leave me running this
place alone? Won't I need any help?"

        "Nah! You'll do fine."

        Something beeped. 'Tim looked around. "Excuse me. My computer's
going berserk again. Nice hair ribbon, by the way," he said, then
walked off into the back room.

        Ukkyo raised an eyebrow.

        "Just remember what I told you!" her boss called back.

        Ukkyo paused for a moment, then shrugged. "I guess humans are
just like that sometimes," she mumbled to herself. After all, she
really didn't know that much about Earth's culture, being a youma
that had just taken up residence yesterday(she found an affordable
apartment... don't ask).

        She had, apparently, been left for dead by the current general
in charge, and if they found her, they'd most likely execute her for
desertion and failing in her mission... Youma generals were like that

        Since that old job was no longer an option, she had decided to
get a new one. She succeeded. It happened a little too quickly, in
her opinion. It could all be some elaborate scheme designed to...

        On second thought, there wasn't really anything about this
situation that could be used as a part of a plot...

        Anyway, all these suspicions didn't really matter to her
anymore. Not as much as the opportunity to show off her cooking
skills, anyway...

        They didn't really appreciate cooking quite as much as combat
prowess in the Negaverse. Though Ukkyo had plenty of that(she was
the only one she knew, besides the generals, that had ever dealt
the Starlight Knight any serious damage), her real power was in
making fine cuisine. More specifically, okonomiyaki.

        "I may as well get started, then," Ukkyo said to herself,
noting the entry of a customer.


        Jadeite-chan watched the oncoming field with growing anxiety.
They weren't really planning on killing her, were they? After all
the trouble that went into the rescue, it hardly seemed likely...

        But that energy field was getting waaaay too close for comfort.

        Jadeite-chan backed up against the wall, considering the
possibility that there were worse things than going to some odd
education facility wearing that uniform. "Alright. I'll get ready,"
she said quietly, speaking the words as if they were poison. She
still managed to sound cute, however.

        The field continued its advance.

        "I'll wear it," she continued grudgingly, a little louder.

        It moved ever closer.

        "I said: I'll wear that stupid sailor suit!" Jadeite-chan
shouted. The field didn't stop... and she didn't have enough energy
to engage a teleport out of here. But even if she did, the sheer
power of the electrical field would have disrupted her exit.

        The energy came to within an inch of her face...

        *BAM!*CLANG!*BANG!*WHACK!*CRUNCH!* ...then there were several
loud crashing noises and the sound of large quantities of energy
draining out of the power conduits. The lights went off and the
field winked out of existence. Jadeite-chan breathed a sigh of

        A few seconds later, the lights came back on and the door
opened, revealing the pink-haired man she had come to know as...

        *Shing*Shing* He was also carrying a rather large, double-
bladed battle-axe.

        'Tim sighed desperately. "I warned it," he said, "but it didn't
believe me. Why didn't it believe me?!"

        Jadeite-chan looked at the axe in horror. "Wh-what are-"

        "What?" 'Tim asked innocently, then looked down at what
he was carrying. "Oh, that. Heh heh... It's... what we like to call
'analog' computer programming. I, uh, had to... kinda... revamp the
entire computer core and switch to a special back-up personality...
I hope it works out," he finished, then walked off, the door swishing
closed behind him.

        The cute blonde raised an eyebrow. "'Revamp the entire computer
core'? With an axe?! That was quick..." According to the tour
yesterday, the computer core was a large, horrendously complex...
something. In any case, it didn't sound like something that was
easily fixed if broken. Especially not with an axe.

        [Oh my! I'm sorry about the mishap! Are you alright?] the
computer asked in a concerned feminine tone.

        "F-f-fine," the semi-frightened former-general stuttered.

        [Oh, and could you please get dressed?] it asked nicely.
[It's getting a little late.]

        Jadeite-chan sighed and, not wanting to spark off another
potentially dangerous situation, resigned herself to her fate
and set about the task of putting on the girl's school uniform.

        "This is so demeaning," she mumbled cutely under her breath.
"Tim will pay for this embarrassment... When I find him, he shall



        "ERGH! WHY WON'T THIS FIT?!" Paracite exclaimed, struggling
with his own school uniform.

        [Um, it might help if you didn't keep trying to wear it
backwards,] the computer said supportively.

        The young brown-haired youma stopped. "Hey, what happened to
your voice?"

        [My voice? Oh! My personality was just replaced. Do you like

        "Um, yeah, it's great," he said, resuming his quest to figure
out which sleeve went on which arm.

        [Right leg.]

        Paracite looked at the article of clothing, and realized
something. "Oh, thanks."


        Within the next couple minutes, under the computer's
instruction, Paracite had finished getting dressed. He walked
out of his room. Jadeite-chan was waiting for him.

        "What took you so long?" she asked in cute impatience.

        "Uh, uniform problems," Paracite replied, straightening his
clothes. They still weren't on quite right. He noticed that his
cousin's school uniform was not in the slightest bit of disarray.
"Hey, do you... have a lot of experience with th-"

        Jadeite-chan cut Paracite off right there. "Yes, 'Perry,'
unlike _some_ individuals, _I_ know how to wear clothes."

        Paracite blinked, then stared. "But, you're wearing... um,
it's a... dress... a nice dress--you... you look cute in it, by the
way, and so I was thinking that-"

        "It really isn't that difficult of a procedure," Jadeite-chan
said, her voice dripping with cute annoyance. "There are certain
ways clothes fit... and certain ways that they don't. You, obviously,
haven't mastered that concept."

        Paracite attempted to straighten his collar, failing miserably.
"Hey! I'm a master of disguise and glamour manipulation! I know how

        [Your lunches are waiting on replicator A,] the computer cut
in. [As are breakfast and your energy supplementation.]

        "Come on," Jadeite-chan said in a captivatingly darling way
as she began to walk off. "For now, we must take part in this... or
risk annihilation. Once we no longer need the protection of this...
'Tim, we will depart. Until then... we must adapt."

        "You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Paracite asked, following.

        Jadeite-chan shook her head and remembered the dream. She
shuddered cutely. "Am not."

        Paracite smiled playfully. "Are too!"

        Jadeite-chan gritted her teeth cutely. "Am not."

        "Are too!"

        Jadeite-chan whipped around, grabbed Paracite by the throat,
and threw him up against the wall, lifting him a foot off the floor.
"I am NOT, and if you suggest otherwise again, you will not live to
regret it."

        "Gotcha," Paracite gurgled in acknowledgment, amazed at how
cutely his cousin was trying to strangle him.


        Sam Beckett finally managed to put together a basic mental
picture of where and who he was.

        Apparently, he was a schoolgirl named Molly. The thing that
Molly was supposed to be doing was, oddly enough, going to school.
This particular school had a uniform policy. In his case: a white,
sailor-style blouse with a red bow on the front, and a blue skirt.

        There was an odd, yet useful thing about clothes when he
leapt from person to person: the clothes of the person he lept into
fit, no matter what.

        Dr. Beckett had leapt into everything from bikers to chimps to
Miss America contestants... Everything still fit. Why this happened
was a complete and total mystery, but he wasn't going to start
complaining about it. It was, after all-


        Anyway, he had to find out what he was supposed to do in this
leap. And, all he knew was that he was supposed to go to school.

        It wasn't much to go on, but it was something. It was as much
as he'd know until Al showed up.

        Sam had just finished getting dressed as a familiar bright
door slid open and a familiar man stepped out.

        "Hey, cutey," Al said jokingly as he entered the scene.

        Sam sighed. What Al and everybody else saw was the person
whose place he had taken.

        "You know, you look just like my niece," Al said as he
looked at the misplaced time traveler.

        "Al-" Sam began.

        "I'm serious, Sam! You look exactly like her!"

        Sam rolled his eyes. "Al, can you tell me who I am this

        Al broke off the previous discussion and pushed a few
buttons on his hand link. It squeaked in response. "Let's see...
Your name is Osaka Naru, you attend Jubaan Junior High School.
I think that's how you pronounce-"

        "Wait, Al, I think you have the name wrong," Sam cut in.

        Al nudged the hand link. It squawked. "Whoa, you're right,
Sam. It looks like your name is Molly..." He stopped and hit the
link again. "Molly... (Thump!) I can't get a last name... (Bonk!)
But you do attend the local junior high... (Squaw!) Crossroads,
and your mom sells jewelry... (Bam!) She's single... (Thwack!)
something about her husband leaving... (SLAM!) ZIGGY! What's
the problem with the link here!? All I'm getting is Japanese!"

        "Any idea why I'm here?" Sam asked.

        Al thumped the severely bashed-up link again. "Well, Ziggy
says that there's a... Wow! A hundred and twelve percent chance...
Wait a sec, Sam." He looked up. "ZIGGY!!!"

        "What do I need to do?" Sam pressed.

        "What do you mean the figures are right?! What?! I--Oh,
fine. Have it your way. I'll tell him," Al rambled to an unseen and
unheard person.

        "What is it?"

        Al turned back to Sam. "There's a hundred and twelve percent
chance that you're here to prevent the death of someone called
'Maxfield Stanton.'"


        Zoicite was feeling depressed. Nephrite was just gaining
popularity left and right. She sat in the comfort of her boyfriend.

        "Oh, Kunzite! I'm never going to be able to lead forces to
drain energy on Earth!" Zoicite pouted.

        "Do not worry, Zoicite," the silver-haired man replied in a
calming manner. "If it means so much to you... well, an 'accident'
can be arranged for our dear 'friend.'"

        "Death by sharp, pointy, magical, plant-like objects?" Zoicite
asked hopefully.

        Kunzite nodded and smiled. "And if anyone asks, then we just
say Tuxedo Mask did it."

        "Wai! Wai! Wai!"


        "Concentrate," Luna ordered.

        "Alroight," Arby said, blindfolded, getting psyched up for
his task.

        "NOW!" Luna shouted as she started a digital stopwatch.

        With lightning speed, the green-white seal-like creature took
apart and re-assembled the blank transformation wand. "Done, Drill

        Luna stopped the watch and looked at the time in amazement.
"One point two seconds?!"

        "It wos point one, and you know it!" Arby corrected, slipping
off the blindfold. "Wot now?"

        Luna stared at him. "You've just broken every record set for
this by at least five _minutes_, and that's all you have to say?!"

        "That's roight!" Arby confirmed in his odd accent.

        Luna blinked and took back the wand. "Where did you learn
how to do that?"

        "Used ta work for Saila' Plu'o!" Arby said proudly. "'Ad
lotsa spare toime. Made stuff. Got real good at it!"

        "What kind of 'stuff' did you make?" Luna asked, trying to
show an interest in her student's hobbies. Besides, it was refreshing
to talk with him about something other than his mushrooms.

        Arby thought about it. "Well, once, I built a make'shift toime
gate out 'a twigs, thistles, 'n bramble bushes!"

        The mooncat raised an eyebrow. "What?!"

        "Well, ya know... twigs... thistles... toime gate. Sorta a
package deal when ya come ta think 'bout it."

        "You built a _working_ time gate out of twigs, thistles,
and... bramble bushes!?"

        Arby nodded proudly.

        "...Bramble bushes?!"

        Arby thought about it. "Oh, well, the bushes were more of
'a... decarat'n. Be surprised 'ow many people 'd get distract'd by
a bramble bush. 'Specially one with mushrooms on it! Grew real noice.
Gobbled up trespassa's, too! Don't know 'ow 'e did it, not 'avin'
an esophagus 'n all, but... ya know, betta' than a guard dog, not
'avin ta pay 'em... Appreciated me mushrooms, 'e did!"

        "Er... Quite," Luna said, backing of a bit. Even after
spending as much time with him as she had, Arby still managed
to frighten her. "Where do you get this stuff, anyway?!"

        "'Toldja. Mail Order Catalog. 'Ad a special on twigs that
week," the odd moon-thingy said, fluttering in the air for a
second. "Saila' Plu'o neva' did loike me orderin' those big
mecha, eitha'. Drained the military budget. 'It simply wouldn't
be proper!' she said. 'Propa'?' I say. 'Propa' doesn't facta'
inta' it when ya gotta devour eight n' a 'alf cans a' mushrooms
before sunroise!' So then Saila' Plu'o got up and whacked me in
the 'ead! I thanked 'er for it. I wos koinda ramblin' there,
anyway... But ya see-"

        A memory jarred inside Luna's mind. "Wait, wait, wait... did
you say 'Sailor Pluto?'"

        "Yup!" Arby replied with an unnecessarily quick and deep nod.

        "The TIME scout?"

        "Sushi," Arby corrected. He paused. "Or wos that Senshi...?"
He thought about it for a second longer. "Nope, it wos Sushi. All
cover'd n' fish n' roice n' mushrooms that one toime..."

        Luna groaned. "...Whatever. You were talking about the time
guardian, right?"

        "In-deed!" the odd creature said, nodding. "We wos good
friends, me n' 'er. Did alot a' secr'torial work for 'er."

        "YOU worked for HER?" the moon-cat asked incredulously.

        "Mmm-hmm! Lotsa papa'work involved in maintainin' the toime
stream, ya know. 'Elped at the receptionist's desk. Glued all th'
pages tage'ther, I did!" Arby chuckled. "But, I advoised 'er, too,

        "You were HER advisor?!" Luna asked, still not quite being
able to grasp the concept of someone like Arby working for someone
like Sailor Pluto.

        "That's roight! 'Elped observe th' toime stream n' tole 'er
'bout all the different koinds a' mushrooms n' mould she could put
inta' 'er shampoo!"

        Luna squinted with a raised eyebrow, slowly deciphering the
ArbyFish's mode of speech. "Er, um... Really, Arby...?"

        "'Course! Where ya think she got 'er green 'air?"

        "It... wasn't natural?"

        "Well, it is NOW, but... Ya know, blends so well. She got

        Luna's stared at him. He stared back. "But... back in the
Silver Millennium... You weren't even fully trained yet! And why
would she want an advisor? She was, after all, the guardian of the
Gate of Time! And why would she want... YOU of all things?!"

        Arby chuckled in a snake-like manner. "Don't rememba', do ya?"

        "Well... remind me!" Luna replied, exasperated.

        "She thot I wuz cute!" Arby exclaimed with a smile. "'Tied me
up with bows... pink bows..." He chuckled. "Actually, it wos more of
a restraint than anythin'." He fluttered into the air, then swooped
down and snatched the transformation wand that Luna had. "Thank'you!"
He rapidly flew off, humming an innocent tune.

        "W-wait! Where are you going with that?!"


        Meanwhile, a thousand years into the future...

        "Sailor Pluto," Neo-Queen Serenity said, catching up to the
Guardian of Time. "I really need to talk to you about the new Earth

        "Ah, yes," Pluto replied mysteriously, just the right type
of eerie music playing in the background. "You have noticed her
odd behavior and want to know what you can do for her."

        Serenity nodded. "It means a lot to me... For centuries,
there has always been this void... Remember when we were fighting
the Negaverse?"

        "Yes... I remember."

        "Sailor Earth was the best of us," Serenity continued,
reminiscing. "She always had a smile on her face, a cheerful
manner... So polite... So shy... So powerful when she needed to
be. Until..."

        She closed her eyes, a single tear flowing down her cheek,
recalling the painful memory.

        "That day, the threat from Beryl and Metallia was officially
ended," the Keeper of Time said. "It was her Destiny. If Sailor
Earth had not done what she did... all would have been lost. You,
your Senshi, the world... Her act effectively destroyed Metallia,
her power, and any future threat from their evil. Beryl's forces
were never heard from again."

        Serenity slowly shook her head. "But the price..." She
lowered her head and sighed mournfully. "This means a lot to me,
Sailor Pluto... Please take care of her."

        "I will," Pluto replied, placing a comforting hand on the
queen's shoulder. "I will take care of her. Have no worries about

        Neo-Queen Serenity smiled slightly. "Thank you, Setsuna.
Thank you."

        After a moment longer, she walked away.

        "I'll take care of 'em REAL good!" Pluto said deviously,
rubbing her hands together. "Ranma-sama!"


        And... a thousand years earlier...

        Serena woke to the feeling of suddenly being shaken to death
by something with very sharp claws.

        "SERENA, WAKE UP!!!"

        Serena sat up quickly. "Wha!?" she asked drowsily, then
looked down and saw the cat, which was firmly affixed to the collar
of her pajamas. "Just five more minutes, Luna..."

        The sleepy girl slumped back into her bed. There was a muffled
crash from the closet, as well as humming noises and the metallic
sounds of tinkering and jackhammering.

        "Serena," Luna began urgently, "Arby has gone completely, stark
raving mad, I tell you! MAD!"

        "Alright, what'd he break this time?" Serena mumbled, her face
half-buried in her pillow.

        "All records for transformation wand construction!"

        Serena sat up. "So...?"

        "He's made DOZENS of them! He won't stop!"

        Serena blinked. "Huh?!"

        Luna hopped onto the floor and pulled open the closet.

        Piles of transformation wands of various styles poured out.
Sitting on top was Arby, holding an incomplete one. "'Ey!" he said,
annoyed at the interruption.

        "See?" Luna asked desperately, pointing at him.

        Serena facefaulted out of bed.


        Raye sat, concentrating in front of the sacred fire, trying
to learn whatever more she could about the Starlight Knight. What
she wanted to find out now was where he came from.

        Words appeared in the fire: {A long time ago, in a galaxy
far, far away...}

        "What the...?"

        The fire blazed up to the roof, blaring the Star Wars intro
music in full, rich THX sound.

blared, using trumpets, drums, and an assortment of other musical

        Raye was blown against the wall.


        "AHA! There you are!" Skuld cried, leaping upon the bug that
had infested the Sacred Fire subroutines.

        The bug looked up and squeaked at her.



        The fire died down and the music stopped.

        Raye paused, stuck to the wall.

        "That was... new," she said, wide-eyed as she slid to the
floor, leaving a Raye-shaped impression on the wall. This amazing
sonic disturbance had also given her hair a nice 'freshly blasted'
look. What was more amazing than the fact that she had survived
such an event was that her hearing was not at all damaged.

        Her grandfather, on the other hand...

        "Raye!" the old man called, stumbling into the room. Due to
the fact that he was over sixty years old, he stood a proud three
feet tall. He was, actually, quite tall for someone his age. But
then, his height tended to fluctuate from scene to scene anyway...

        "Grandpa, what's wrong?" Raye asked, standing.

        "WHAT?" he yelled, craning an ear.

        "Oh," the raven-haired priestess said in calm realization.


        Raye paused, trying to get a handle on what happened. "No,

        "SPEAK UP."

        Raye took a deep breath. "NO, GRANDPA!!!!!!!!!! I DON'T KNOW

        "THERE'S NO NEED TO YELL!" her grandfather said loudly,

        The raven-haired priestess took her voice down a couple dozen

        "OH," the short old man said thoughtfully, "HAPPENS TO ME

        Raye's grandfather left the room.

        "Maxi-what?" The temple maiden asked rhetorically. "Okay..."

        She shrugged and sat back in front of the fire.

        "Sacred Fire... No tricks this time. Show me the origins of
the Starlight Knight!"

        The fire flared up, showing her the image of a planet...
a dark planet, surrounded by six ultra-massive stars, spaced in
a hexagonal formation around it.

        Raye's view moved in to view the surface of the planet. The
ground was covered in an oozing black goo. Oddly enough, the
sky was a serene light-blue. One of the six stars was flickering.

        The ooze bubbled.

        The flickering star grew in size... then quickly shrank. It
kept doing so, growing a darker color each time. It finally crushed
down to a single point...

        Then it exploded, creating a brilliant shockwave that arced
across the sky. It effortlessly brushed aside the atmosphere and
tore into the planet, beginning to rip it apart.

        The ooze contracted, somehow absorbing the radiation and
holding the planet together. The decimation was halted, even
amidst the horrific force of the energy wave.

        When the shockwave finally passed, the blue sky was gone...
as a matter of fact, the entire atmosphere was gone, leaving an
unimpaired view of the stars.

        As the view zoomed out, it became apparent that the other
five stars had also become caught in the shockwave, inducing them
to go supernova.

        Stellar shockwave after stellar shockwave wracked the planet,
which should have been rendered to its component quarks from all
the bombardment and gravitational fluctuations. Each time, the ooze
forced itself together and created a barrier against destruction.

        The ooze churned and glowed with energy, to such a point
that it created a shockwave of its own, twenty times the size of
the ones created by the supernovas.

        This level of power tore into the fabric of space, leaving
the subspace ether to pour into the universe.

        The substance on the planet absorbed it all as it came,
preventing the ether from causing serious damage and allowing the
universe to repair the rip in reality.

        The planet remained intact throughout this.

        Things stayed calm for a while. The ooze settled onto the
planet's surface, forming a smooth, shiny, black surface.

        The tranquility was not to last. An asteroid slowly weaved
its way into the path of the planet, smashing into it.

        The planet, after surviving all it had, was finally broken
apart into dozens of tiny, fast-moving fragments.

        The ooze was not happy. Floating around in the remaining
vacuum, it coalesced together, moving with a sense of purpose it
had not previously shown.

        The black form let out a horrifying scream; the sound of
something terrible being born...

        Raye looked away from the fire, shocked at the mental
impression she had received from whatever monster she had just
seen. It was a mind of complete and total chaos which thought
of nothing other than the complete and total destruction of
all that exists.

        After rubbing her eyes from staring into the fire for so
long, she looked back. The image was gone.

        The young priestess contemplated what she had seen, reviewing
for literal, figurative, and meaningless points.

        "This is *much* worse than I thought," Raye concluded.


        Terra Incognito woke pleasantly to the feel of sunlight
coming across her face. It was relatively early. The birds were
chirping and the swallows were not carrying coconuts.

        They couldn't carry 'em, really. These were migratory
European swallows, in particular, that weren't carrying coconuts
this fine morning.

        If they were African swallows, however, they might have
had a chance at luggin' one of those around... But the African
swallows that could carry them weren't migratory... so they
wouldn't be carrying coconuts around here, anyway.

        Terra blinked, then frowned, wondering why all this had
suddenly come across her mind.

        She paused to put on her slippers and walked into the
kitchen, where her mother was merrily cooking breakfast.

        "Mother," the redhead began uneasily, "what does it mean
when your mind keeps spouting irrelevant information?"

        Kasumi Incognito turned to her daughter and smiled. "It
means that you've been studying well in school."

        Terra brightened. "Oh, alright!"


        Outside of the school that everyone has been discussing
throughout the past chapter, a whistling noise was heard.

        Everybody looked around, not knowing where it came from,
but noticing that the sound was getting closer.

        Some students looked up and noted that there was an object
coming down at a tremendous rate.

        Before they could do anything, the object crashed. Not
loudly or with a large explosion; it just hit the ground with
a muffled 'whump.'

        The students who noticed shrugged and got on with their


        Slowly crawling out of an unseen crater was a horrible,
shrunken monster! AAAAH!!!

        Well, it was actually a martial artist of an extremely
high degree of training that had managed to survive several
weeks in a complete vacuum.

        His orbit had finally decayed, and he had survived re-entry.

        He looked around as he came out of his self-induced trance,
one thought in his mind...

        "P-p-pan," he stuttered, attempting to summon the word that
was the focus of his obsession, "p-pan-pan... PANCAKES!!!!"

        Then again, there's only so long one's brain can last without


        Queen Beryl focused upon her crystal ball. She was not happy.

        "What's wrong, Queen Beryl?" Zoicite asked, appearing in
a shower of flower petals.

        Beryl scowled. "Neflyte isn't answering my summons!" She
turned toward Zoicite. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about
this, would you?"

        Zoicite shrugged and smiled innocently.


        *WHOOSH!* Another series of horrible, sharp, jagged plants
sped by Nephrite, glistening with dangerous power...

        "Stop this at once! I command you!" the brown-haired general
ordered, moving out of the way of several more slashes made by the
group of leafy-green attacking youma.

        The monsters cackled at him, brandishing their extremely
painful-looking plant-based weaponry.

        Nephrite readied himself for combat.

        This just wasn't turning out to be his day...


        Speaking of it not being someone's day, two certain youma had
almost made it to school...

        "Any idea what these are for, Jade?" Perry, a.k.a. Paracite,
asked as he fingered the loose band around his wrist.

        Jade, a.k.a. Jadeite-chan, groaned and rolled her eyes cutely.

        "Uh, something wrong?" Perry asked, adjusting his dark blue
school uniform.

        Jade glared at him cutely. "Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. It's
just that I've been imprisoned in crystal, freed--thanks for that--,
turned into a little _girl_-"

        "-A *CUTE* girl-" Perry cut in.

        Jade scowled cutely... which translated into a pout. "Don't
remind me. And to top that off, I have to participate in some
_infantile_ educational system, and my only support is a _mindless_
youma who can't figure out how to put a uniform on straight and

        "Oh," Perry said, then realized who she was talking about.

        "Search your feelings, 'Perry,' you know it to be true."

        Perry thought it over. "Well, yeah, I guess... But what
_is_ a watch, anyway?"

        "Do I look like a dictionary to you?!" Jade asked harshly,
looking all the more cute for doing so.

        Perry stared back blankly. "What's a dictionary?"

        Jade waved him off angrily. "Just... Nevermind."

        "You know, you're really cute when you're angry," Perry noted.

        "Shut up, Paracite!"

        They entered the school, not noticing the several drooling
male students...

        "Whoa, what a babe," one commented.

        *WHAM!* His girlfriend had obviously studied the 'hitting on
the head' lessons while they were being offered...


        "Now," the bokken-wielding professor began, "until the return
of my beloved osage no onna, I will be carrying out the arduous
responsibility of teaching thee the fine art of poetry."

        Near the back of the lecture hall, a blonde man chuckled. His
black-haired companion joined him.

        "Or, more to the point, teaching thee how to mangle it," Andrew
said, imitating the professor's mode of speech. "Where do you think
they dug _this_ guy up, Darien?"

        Darien smirked. "I have NO idea. He's been subbing for the
other professor for the past three weeks now."

        The rest of the class went through varying stages of laughter.

        The professor tapped his bokken against a table in front of
him, breaking the unfortunate piece of furniture neatly in half.
The lecture hall quieted down.

        "Now that I have thy attention, lowly peasants, we shall
begin. For I am Professor Kuno, Blue Thunder of this University!"

        Lightning flashed behind him.

        "Uh oh," Andrew commented.

        "And here I thought he was just a T.A.," Darien added.


        Well, on another side of the planet...

        Okay, fine. It was London, England. Two girls were sitting
in a cafe, having lunch while listening to the news reports.

        [--it was revealed that a fire broke out in the warehouse
district, and was mysteriously quenched soon afterwards. Police are

        "I don't know what to say," the blonde girl with a red ribbon
in her hair began, "You saved my life last night, and I still don't
know your real name."

        [--and yet property owners are stunned at the sudden appearance
of the latest in-fashion furniture and wall decorations in what
should have been completely burned-out buildings--]

        The person being spoken to was an orange-haired girl with her
hair tied up with a white bow in a similar style to the first girl.

        "I'm the cute and fluffy-" the second girl began confidently,
standing and moving into the proper poses to emphasize her speech.
The other customers paid no attention to this.

        "I know all that," the first said, "But what's your _real_

        The second hesitated and sat back down. "You first."

        "I'm Mina."

        [--law enforcement officials have no official explanation,
but some report seeing the masked vigilante, Sailor V, fighting a
huge, fire-emitting monster--]

        "Alright," the orange-haired beauty began, "I'll tell you.
My name's... Lynne FaShawn."

        Mina smiled. "That's a unique name."

        [--There have also been alleged reports of another mysterious
heroine coming to assist Sailor V. We haven't confirmed a name yet,
but amateur video photography indicates that she was responsible for
saving the life of Sailor V and putting out the fire--]

        "Now," Lynne began seriously, "may I ask you a question?"

        The blonde girl shrugged. "Go ahead."

        "It's of an extremely... personal nature," Lynne added quietly.

        Mina frowned slightly, wondering what sort of thing she could
be asking. "Alright."

        [--We here have a nickname for our new heroine--]

        Lynne glanced around quickly and leaned in closer to whisper.
Mina also leaned in. "How... ah... How do I say this?"

        "Go ahead," Mina said.

        Lynne took a deep breath. "How do you get your hair to stay
that way?"

        Mina blinked. "What?!" she blurted out in disbelief.

        [--and although we're not certain if it's even close--]

        "I'm serious," Lynne said. "You've got great hair. I *love*
the way you've done it!"

        [--A lot of us wanted to call her 'Sailor Stylin'--]

        Mina sat back against her chair, shaking her head. "I think
you've been spending too much time perfecting your 'Sailor Stylin'

        Lynne sighed. "Well, it's just that... I haven't been able to
get a good fashion consultant lately... I'm afraid that I'm getting

        Mina laughed. "You're obsessed!"

        [--But the name, until we can get a definite answer, is
'Sailor S.']

        Lynne turned toward the television. "Did you hear that?"

        Mina nodded. "Yeah. The news reports. I get 'em all the time."

        "But did you hear the name?" the other girl pressed.

        "Sailor S. No big deal. They guess about that sort of thing
a lot."

        Lynne smiled thoughtfully. "Could you use a partner?" she
asked hopefully.

        Mina thought about it. "Well, I've been doing just fine by
myself," she said quietly, then perked up a great deal. "But... you
can be my sidekick if you like!"

        Lynne nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! I'd LOVE to be your

        "Excellent!" Mina replied in a bubbly fashion.

        "One rule, first, 'kay?"


        "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on the
monkeys who count all their eggs in a basket before they're hatched
so they can have their cake and eat it, too," Lynne said seriously,
then began to look rather confused. "'Er somethin'..."

        Mina smiled. "I think we're going to get along just fine."


        And, back in that other part of the world where the story is
so deeply entrenched, the Atomic Starlight Knight, having just
completed a three minute, fifty-one second transformation sequence,
was having an internal discussion.

        <Okay, why am I receiving telemetry from someone called
'Lynne FaShawn?'> A.S.K. asked himself while working on a small,
flat device. <The link to Terra is still there, but there's something
else now! Why?!>

        <I have _NO_ idea!> one personality commented.

        <I'm also registering an unauthorized duplication of a
transformation sequence-> another noted.

        <Wait! Which transformation sequence?>

        <It's... it's... YIKES!!>


        <It's the 'Sailor Stylin' one!>

        <Oh no... In the name of all things good and destructive,
for all we find decent in all of creation, Great Zarquon, NO!!!>

        <Wasn't 'Sailor Stylin' the one I designed specifically to
kick out that unwanted youma possession a while back?>

        <That's the one.>

        <I'm STILL having nightmares about that...>

        The green knight groaned. <How long has it been active?>

        <Well, that's the thing... It's not active right now. There
also appears to have been an unauthorized use of a de-transformation
sequence... That'd explain why I'm getting information from 'Lynne
FaShawn,' and not Sailor Stylin'. Whoever... or whatever must have
decided on a name.>

        <But WHY would ANYTHING be functioning autonomously?!>

        <Let's see........ It appears to have been a bug in the
initial de-transformation sequence. It's fixed now, I think, but
I'll try to analyze it... Whoa, I'm getting a TON of extra
subroutines here!>


        Somewhere, a goddess was having a few difficulties...


        "WHERE DO THEY KEEP COMING FROM?!!?!?!" Skuld demanded,
swinging around her brand new Mjollnir Mark IV at the hordes
of bugs that kept winking into existence.


        <I'm having some difficulty deciphering the code,> A.S.K.
continued, trying to work on the field generator he was designing
and decompile the energy sequence he had uncovered.

        <I don't know how, but it's resisting!>


        "Someone's hacked into Yggdrasil," Belldandy reported
urgently, trying to stop whoever was involved, "They're trying
to decompile the wish functions!"

        "Can you trace them?" Skuld asked, smashing bugs left and
right as fast as she could.

        "I'm trying!"


        <I just don't get why this energy pattern is giving me so
much trouble!> A.S.K. thought, almost being at the point of a
mental tug-of-war between himself and the unknown force.

        <I'm almost done...>


        "I'm trying to trace them," Belldandy said, manipulating
various controls on the computer, "but they've just finished

        "I'm on it!" Urd said, quickly sitting down at another

        Skuld's mallet broke under the strain of having to crush
so many bugs. She quickly pulled out another Extremely Heavy,
Blunt Object(TM) and continued the battle. "Where's 'niichan?!"

        "Fighting evil... in another dimension!"

        "Another dimension!? You mean he's-"

        "No, I don't! At least I don't think so!"


        <Got it!> A.S.K. thought triumphantly, having completed his
analysis. He put down the device he was working on, intending on
discovering what this was all about.

        <This is a little complex for what I've been looking for.
It doesn't look so much like a program for an autonomous persona
as it does a code for manipulating the fabric of reality... I
haven't seen these too often. Only a couple times, like when they
used the Silver Cryst->

        *BZZZZZZZT!* He was suddenly given a tremendous shock that
blasted him to the floor.


        "I don't know what, for sure, but I've managed to cut
_something_ out of the connection," Urd said, typing vigorously.

        *BAM!*WHACK!*CLANG!* "Who's causing it!?" Skuld asked, barely
being able to keep the bugs in check.

        "I've almost located the hacker," Belldandy said.


        <I've lost telemetry on the autonomous unit!> A.S.K. noted
as he stood back up.

        <Another problem! I'm being scanned!>

        <By who?!>


        <Block it! Terminate connection!>

        <Connection? What connection?!>


        The bugs winked out of existence.

        "I've lost the signal," Belldandy said, looking up from her
terminal. "I only needed two more seconds..."

        Skuld let her Extremely Heavy, Blunt Object(TM) clang to
the floor. "At least... at least the bugs are gone," she said,
exhausted, taking the opportunity to collapse to the floor, which
had suddenly become more appealing than even the Most Comfy Chair
in the Universe(TM).

        "What did they get?!" Urd asked, worried about what sort of
thing could hack into the system... and what it could do with the
information it could find in Yggdrasil.

        The middle goddess checked. "Just the wish protocols."

        Urd blinked. "Well, it's no big deal, then..."

        "How is it 'no big deal?!'" Skuld called up from the floor.

        "Um," Urd began, "I mean, it's not like they'd actually be
able to use it or anything... It'd take a *HUGE* energy source
for them to get it to work... even if they *could* get a computer
complex enough to run it. So, unless they've got the Ginzoishou or
the entire Philosopher's Stone, we have nothing to worry about."

        "And... suppose they do?" Skuld asked weakly.

        "I don't think so," Belldandy said, "both are not currently
in a usable condition."

        "So we might as well forget about it," Urd said.

        "Suits me fine," the youngest goddess said, slowly getting
back up. "Ice cream, anyone?"


        <Okay, that did it,> the Atomic Starlight Knight mentally
processed. <Any clue what just happened?>

        <Yuppers, yessirree-bob. My theory is that during the initial
de-transformation sequence, a personality that... I just didn't want
done left for friendlier pastures, yee-haw! So, like, it took
somethin' that nobody wanted: Saaaaaailor Stylin', and made its own
identity somewhere else on this here planet based on that there
ideal. Now, my idea as to why we got all that extra gobbledygook was
because we done accidentally hacked into... the computer that runs
the universe, yeah! That's it! We accidentally hacked into Yggdrasil,
through fifteen million different levels of security and stole...
all the personnel files! Yeah, t->

        <Actually, the thing I got looks a lot more like... a wishing
program of some sort.>

        <So, make a wish!>

        <It's not as easy as that. It'll take a lot of energy to get
that thing going.>

        <How much?>

        <More than I have.>

        <Oh, give me a break! I could run this program at full power

        <Just keep telling yourself that.>

        <You really could do this while unconscious...>

        <Like, what-ever!>

        <Okay, so... Another subject, then! How about if we ever find
this 'Lynne FaShawn' breakoff entity... WE BLAST HER!>

        <YEAH, BABY!>


        *WHAM!*WHAM!*WHAM!* "SHUT UP!!!" A.S.K. yelled while pounding
on his head as hard as he possibly could.

        <You asked.>

        <Quiet, you!>

        <Yeah? Make me!>

        <BRAIN SHAKING!!!!>

        >>BLAM!<< The personality in question was nicely blasted.

        *WHAM!* A.S.K. was knocked against the wall from the impact
of the various cascading neurons, or the magical equivalent thereof.

        <Alright, I don't care what happened, but it's degenerated
into a meaningless battle... Take it to private discussion.>

        <Who died and made *YOU* moderator?!>

        <Well, I'm you, so you're me, and I did... So you did!>


        <Ha! That's what I thought!>

        The slightly schizophrenic knight finally regained a portion
of mental stability and decided to just forget about the errant
persona and filed what appeared to be a wish-making process with
all the other energy patterns he had acquired throughout the ages.
Perhaps he'd find a use for it later... Probably not, but it's
nice to have something to fall back on.

        But, for now, he had more pressing concerns. He had to get
something pieced together that would reduce or eliminate the
possibility of his armor being breached. You can't have armor
that gets broken through. It... simply isn't proper!

        Anyway, it was an extraordinarily complex thing to do.
Generating a combination of gravitational magnetic fields, taking
into account the weakening of the strong and weak nuclear forces
that combining magic and heavy elements sometimes causes, and making
sure that his armor remained a sturdy thirty-five pounds.

        You can never be too careful when dealing with any real
quantity of neutronium; one false move and you can find yourself
literally crushed flatter than a pancake and be served up as
flapjacks to your local nuclear lumberjack. Your electrons would
crash into your protons. Your neutrons would smash together. You
would end up literally deader than a doornail, and only be good as
black hole fodder! I mean, this would be worse than a Barney
marathon... Okay, well, maybe I'm exaggerating... but we're talking
some serious gravitational disturbance here!

        Even better was the fact that if the magical sub-atomic
bonding properties of his armor were to fail, the spontaneous release
of so many neutrons would end up freeing a GREAT deal of energy in
a VERY short period of time. In other words: Boom.

        Did this worry him? Of course not. He didn't even think
about it, really. Making and redesigning technology for strange
and potentially dangerous purposes was, actually, one of the things
he did best. Then again, so were creating havoc and blowing things


        In what would normally be the captain's ready room sat
the Atomic Starlight Knight, known to the rest of the fleet simply
as 'Admiral.' The reason why the room he was in wasn't the captain's
ready room was because he was, in fact, the highest ranking person
in Earth's navy. And this was his ship: the flagship of the royal
intrastellar fleet. Therefore, it was the Admiral's ready room.

        How he had gotten so high was a mystery to most of the
military personnel. He never wore a uniform; he was always walking
around in his green camouflage armor, and he seemed more than a
little... unstable to most of his subordinates.

        He was also the author of the third best selling piece
of literature in the solar system: "The Sailor Senshi: Phenomenal
Cosmic Powers... Itty Bitty Mini-Skirts," right behind Meiou's
self-help booklet: "Twelve More Fun Things to do with Destiny," and
Aino's ever-popular philosophical romantic blockbuster: "Lemon

        In fact, the only reason that he'd been given the job was this:
favoritism. He seemed, to the upper class, to be the right sort of
person for the job, given the fact that, at the time of his
promotion, the fleet consisted of a grand total of thirteen ships,
and the government officials needed someone crazy enough and
expendable enough to try to defend Earth against the opportunistic
Nemesian pirates that had the nasty tendency to target the command
ships, board them, capture the highest-ranking person present, then
subject them to the most horrible tortures their twisted little
minds could come up with.

        Some of the officials wanted him in command as soon as
possible; they thought he was a natural leader. Most of them,
however, wanted him dragged out into the street and shot, especially
after that extremely embarrassing 'Of course I'm sure that Sailor
Saturn's figured out how to control her powers!' incident. Very
nearly vaporized the entire legislative branch...

        So, all parties were happy when he was made Admiral. Some,
the minority, got their natural leader, and the rest got to wait
in hopes of him making a horrible mistake and getting himself killed.
So, it really wasn't favoritism at all, was it?

        Anyway, he had managed to maintain the job for six years,
secretly upgrading the local technology as much as he could without
attracting attention. A slow, all too very slow process.

        Surprisingly enough, after he assumed command, the pirate
attacks had completely ceased, leaving nothing to blast but
asteroids. Occasionally, one was inhabited and there was an
embarrassing intra-system political incident, but, in general-


        Er, right! Now, back to the reason why he was sitting in his
ready room...

        [Well,] Kunzite began, his face visible on A.S.K.'s desktop
communications console, [how are you doing?]

        A.S.K. sighed, gritting his teeth. "Your ships... Well,
my ships, I guess, are so obnoxiously out of date, I'm having
a hard time believing that this isn't some sort of cruel joke
played upon me by the idiot bureaucracy on that pitiful little
blue-green planet we all like to call 'Earth.'"

        Kunzite blinked. [I see... Did you know that your ships
are the most advanced in the solar system?]

        "Wretched, isn't it?" the admiral asked. "Do you know how
difficult it would be to get these ships to obliterate even a
*small* planet?"

        The silver-haired Guardian stared, shocked. [Why in the
galaxy would you want to destroy an entire world?!]

        "To be perfectly honest," A.S.K. replied, "Sailor Pluto's
been getting on my nerves."

        Kunzite sat for a few seconds, then burst into laughter and
nearly fell out of his seat. [Oh, come on! She's not THAT bad!]

        "I'm serious, Malachite. One of these days, I'm going to
take that timestaff of hers, grind it up, bake it into a cake,
and slap it into her face on her birthday. If THAT doesn't quiet
her down, I'll hijack the time gate, and rewrite history so that
she's trapped in an unbreakable engagement with the most beautiful
aquatranssexual in the universe. May they live happily ever after.
If THAT doesn't work, I'm thinking about something involving
lumberjacks and spiny tree lobsters. Then there's that thing I've
got planned involving fourteen billion tons of frozen bleu cheese
down the back of her fuku. She'll never know what hit 'er!"

        Kunzite raised an eyebrow. [HoOokay...]

        "So, how've you been doing?" the green-armored admiral asked,
having retained a straight face throughout the entire conversation.

        It took the Guardian a few moments to recover. [Well... I've
been... fine.]

        "How's Zoicite? They let 'er out of the asylum yet?"

        Kunzite paused. [Yes, he... Er, *SHE* was released just last
week, but... she has still been having some... difficulties.]

        "I understand that she went slightly berserk after that
bizarre incident with the rainstorm. Terribly sorry about that."

        Kunzite looked regretful. [Things have been rather hard on...

        "But look on the bright side," A.S.K. said cheerfully, "I
heard from Endymion that they did finally give you two permission
to get married."

        Kunzite's left eye twitched. [Yes... they did.]

        "Congratulations. Your relationship still okay?"

        The long-haired man gritted his teeth. [We've been... coping.]

        "You're not... in the least bit... upset about this?"

        Kunzite calmly clasped his hands together on top of his table.
His knuckles were white. [No, not at all. Really, what purpose would
holding a grudge serve?]

        "I don't know... that was a pretty traumatic experience for
her to go through... Six years..."

        [Well,] Kunzite began thoughtfully.

        "Can't forget the tall, mysterious, unidentified man that
visited her while she tried to get back to her Guardian work... I
mean, she probably would have been able to get over it right after
it happened if such a... callous individual hadn't kidnapped her
and forcefully shown her around the Venusian fashion centers,
critiquing her appearance at every turn..."

        The Guardian frowned. [Er... quite.] He gritted his teeth,
obviously straining to control something. [But that isn't any
excuse to become truly-]

        [Kunzite! There you are!] a blonde woman in a Guardian's
uniform said emptily in an overly saccharine voice as she came into
the room and hugged Kunzite from behind.

        The silver-haired Guardian finally snapped. [WHEN I FIND THE

        "Delete audio," A.S.K. ordered. The sound from the console
stopped as Kunzite ranted on angrily, pounding his fist against
the table and opening several tightly-closed jars that Zoicite
kept handing him.

        This lasted for several minutes.

        A.S.K. just nodded attentively throughout this. "Resume audio,"
he said as it started to look like Kunzite was running out of steam.

ME WANT TO... want to... to... relax... yes, relax and concentrate
on my work. I'll be fine. Really,] Kunzite said, as he finally calmed

        [His therapist says he's made progress,] Zoicite said sweetly,
then gave Kunzite a kiss on the cheek and left the room.

        [I give up,] Kunzite said with a sigh, holding his arms out
in a gesture of defeat.

        A.S.K. smiled. "Well, since we're done with... roughly all the
pleasantries we can possibly take care of... Tell me why you
contacted me." His tone became hopeful. "Is there a mission? More
importantly: am I finally going to be able to blow anything up? Can
I finally lead any planetary bombing runs?"

        The heavily disheveled Guardian took a moment to collect
what remained of his scattered thoughts. [No... Nothing like that.
Actually, I've been given the responsibility of telling you that
your time as Admiral is over.]

        A.S.K. blinked. "Excuse me?"

        [You're being replaced. Since there have been no serious
assaults by the pirates on the command ships, they want someone
that's been... more battle tested-]

        A.S.K. chuckled. "Battle tested? That's me all over."

        Kunzite sighed. [I'm not the one to argue with. They just
asked me to send the message. You're to report back to Earth

        "Er... That's... that's going to take a while. I'm out past
Neptune, and... um... The ships' drives have been... acting up,
yes, that's it-" He was cut off as the ship jarred violently.

        [Admiral to the bridge!] the intercom crackled.

        "I'll have to finish this later," A.S.K. said before shutting
off the communications console.


        [Repeat: Admiral to the bridge. We're under attack!]

        A.S.K. smiled. <Ya hear that?! Someone's trying to kill us!>

        <That means a self-defense plea!>

        <And that means... We get to blow something up!>

        The black-haired Knight in Shining Armor rubbed his hands
together and smiled in hungry anticipation. "Oh yeah, baby..."


        "Report!" A.S.K. shouted as he came in and sat in the command
chair. The bridge was a bustling center of activity as the crew
members struggled to get their jobs done.

        This, being a command ship, and worse, the flagship, had a
lot of things that needed doing. Namely: keeping the rest of the
fleet organized.

        "We're under assault by fifteen unidentified craft!" the
tactical officer shouted violently, quickly manipulating his
controls, punching buttons, backhanding the control panel, trying
to keep all the defense grids properly allocated.

        "On screen," A.S.K. commanded, leaning forward in his seat.

        "Aye, sir," the beautiful communications officer said sweetly.
As the viewscreen was activated, the crew took a moment to reflect
how nice it was to be in a co-ed starship.

        A.S.K.'s eyes widened as he recognized the attacking ships.
"Can we get a scan on them?"

        The local science(as opposed to magic) officer tapped a few
keys on his control panel. "Aye..." he began, then his jaw dropped,

        The admiral nodded to himself confidently, now sure of what
he was facing. After all, what other kinds of ships looked sort of
like really evil, spiky black spiders, had obnoxiously high power
readings, and shot out thick, purple particle beams?

        There were several fighters that had been darting in and out,
taking small, but powerful shots at some of the ships in Earth's
fleet. In addition to the fighters, there were fifteen larger
craft that hadn't engaged yet. The Terran vessels had held up
okay so far, but once the main group started attacking, well...

        In strict terms of power, the fleet was, to put it mildly,
outclassed. The civilization that created the enemy vessels was
millions of years old, and had not been lax in the development of
war technology.

        In terms of strength, Earth's ships had almost precisely
zero chance of winning this one.

        In terms of leadership, however...

        "Lieutenant," A.S.K. began, an evil gleam coming into his
eye, "open a channel to the fleet."

        Nine billion years of space combat experience.

        Hundreds of millions of battles.

        Only one defeat. Ever.

        The comm officer pushed a few buttons. "Channel open."

        "This is Admiral 'Tim," the former galaxy-destroying entity
began. "All ships, target only point defense cannons on the fighters.
Set engines to full, lock main guns onto the largest enemy vessel you
can find, move into a circular strike formation around my vessel,
then when I give the order, break and attack!"

        He had no intention of being beaten again.


        The fleet of forty sleek chrome-colored Earth ships surged
forward, creating a loose circle formation around their flagship,
moving only slightly to avoid the spider-like fighters.

        The main enemy ships moved along at an average speed, ignoring
the much smaller Terran vessels.


        "They are not moving to intercept," the science officer

        "I guess they don't think we're much of a threat..." Tactical

        A.S.K.'s eyes narrowed. "These aren't their tactics...
Project a course. Where are they going?"

        Science typed a few things in. "They're headed directly for
Neptune, sir."

        Oh well... "Are we in firing range?" the admiral asked.

        "Of Neptune, sir?" the science officer asked, raising an

        "Yes!" A.S.K. shouted triumphantly. "We'll catch them
COMPLETELY by surprise!"

        "Sir," Tactical interrupted in a very controlled tone, "with
energy levels like those, they would most likely be going there
to wipe it out. With all due respect, I do NOT think we should
help them."

        "You misunderstand. They have this fleet outgunned. If
we get to it before they do, then that, I am certain, would
confuse them enough to enable us to take them out cleanly and
with a minimum of losses."

        Communications coughed nervously. "Um, Admiral... section
one, LINE one of the Earth/Neptune treaty STRICTLY forbids
unauthorized planetary bombardment."

        A.S.K. shrugged. "Okay, I authorize it."

        He WAS the admiral, after all.

        The officer at communications spluttered. "B-but sir!"

        A.S.K. sighed. "Oh, all right. No planetary destruction...
So, all we have left is the backup plan... How much longer until
we reach firing range on the enemy ships?"

        "In six seconds."

        "Admiral to fleet: Tighten formation, prepare to fire."


        The group of Terran ships came closer together, their main
weapons arrays beginning to glow a bright green. Point defense
cannons discharged their pale red energies, occasionally hitting
a fighter, which were almost completely undamaged from the shots.

        As the fleet came into range, they fired their main weapons.
The thin blue beams blasted irregularly into the hull of one of the
massive enemy ships.


        "Come around for another pass. All stations, report!"

        "Shields down to thirty percent! We can't take much more
from those fighters, sir!" Engineering reported.

        "Enemy vessel is... undamaged, and they're continuing to
ignore us," Tactical said.

        A.S.K. was silent for a moment. "This isn't their style..."
he finally said. "Admiral to fleet: Ships fifteen and thirteen,
set your reactors to critical, break formation, and ram one of
the big ones."

        "Er, sir! W-what about the crews?!" Communications asked,
a little surprised.

        The admiral sighed. "Fifteen, thirteen! If you REALLY want
to, then, by all means, abandon ship before it blows."

        Communications picked up a response. "Admiral, they're

        "They had better," A.S.K. replied impatiently.


        Two ships broke off from the strike formation, headed directly
toward what appeared to be the lead enemy ship.

        Escape pods rapidly ejected from the two Terran vessels as
they began to glow a blinding white.

        The entire enemy fleet suddenly stopped ignoring the Earth
fleet as the entire right side of the enemy's lead ship was sheared
off by the detonation of the two incoming kamikaze missiles.

        The lead ship shriveled like a dead spider.


        "Target... destroyed," Tactical noted with surprise.

        "Yeah, baby," the admiral mumbled with some satisfaction.

        The ship jarred violently. An unmanned command station
exploded in a flash of smoke and sparks.

        "We have their attention, sir," Science said, turning away
to avoid the debris.

        "Shields down to five percent!!!" Engineering shouted.

        A.S.K. was quite glad that he had gotten around to making the
fleet's shields and engines into something a lot less primitive than
what they originally were. They still weren't all that great, in his
opinion, but they'd be able to take and dodge a LOT more than what
they initially could.

        "Evasive maneuvers! All ships, break formation, concentrate
all fire on the fighters!"

        Weapon systems, on the other hand... Well, they hadn't allowed
him any of the more hazardous materials required for making the
really destructive stuff.

        A.S.K. noticed on the viewscreen that there were five enemy
vessels directly in front of his ship. "Tactical, press the really
big, red button that doesn't look like it belongs there."

        Okay, fine. He did manage to smuggle on SOME.

        "Admiral to fleet: Fire in the hole!"


        The front part of the Terran flagship split apart, the inner
sections of the two halves rotating ninety degrees inward as a
massive energy field began to build up between them.

        All Earth ships that had been in front of the flagship quickly
moved out of the way.

        The five spider-like vessels seemed to pay no attention to
this, moving relentlessly toward the Terran command ship.

        The blue energy field that was building up between the pincer-
like section of the ship suddenly blasted forward, obliterating all
in its path.

        Two of the enemy ships veered out of the way before it hit.
Three main enemy vessels were destroyed, along with several large
clusters of fighters.

        The other Terran ships weaved in and out of the battle.
Occasionally, a white flash signaled the destruction of one of them
as the enormously destructive purple beams sliced through them.


        Everything on the bridge flickered. Power made an audible
noise as it drained from its conduits.

        "Report!" the admiral ordered.

        "Energy reserves down to... three percent. Our shields are
gone, and don't even ask about the weapon systems," Engineering

        "We count five... no, make that fifteen destroyed," Tactical
reported sourly as his station came back online.

        That wasn't right... "Ours or theirs?" A.S.K. asked.


        "How many of theirs?"

        "We got three of them. Eleven are still undamaged and the
fighters are showing no sign of letting up... They're currently
ignoring this ship."

        A.S.K. gritted his teeth. This was not turning out at all
the way he had planned. Then again, there really hadn't been time
to plan this one... If only all these ships weren't so dang wimpy.
He was also sure that he would have fared better had the enemy been
using their normal tactics. So why weren't they?!

        Oh well. "Okay... that leaves us with twenty-two active ships.
Perfect. Fleet: You're outgunned-"

        "They're... requesting permission to withdraw, Admiral,"
Communications reported.

        "Permission denied," the admiral snapped.

        The crew stared at him incredulously.

        "Admiral, we've lost this battle," Navigation noted.

        Not again. _Never_ again. "You are WRONG, Ensign! We haven't
lost this battle, and we're not GOING to lose this battle, either!
All available ships: activate self-destruct and prepare for RAMMING

        Communications glanced at him nervously.

        "And remember to abandon ship," A.S.K. added as a seemingly
unimportant afterthought.

        Communications looked toward Tactical desperately. "When's the
ship's counselor supposed to be getting back?"

        Tactical smirked. "What you talkin' 'bout, girlfriend? I like
dis guy's style," he said, slipping back into his native Eastern
Atlantian dialect.

        The communications officer sighed, and slowly shook her head
as she turned back to her station.


        Far deeper into the system, in the orbit of the Earth, on the
Moon, in the Lunar capital... In the main royal palace, as a matter
of fact, Princess Terrifying was bored.

        She glared at the man standing on the other side of the room.
She turned toward her adoptive mother, Queen Serenity, and raised
an eyebrow.

        Check that... Princess Terrifying was angry.

        "I know what you must be thinking, Terra," Queen Serenity
began comfortingly, "You must be wondering what I was thinking
when I arranged this."

        Terra narrowed her eyes, completely unable to go along
with any premise of acceptance. "MORE LIKE 'WHAT WERE YOU
SOLAR SYSTEM, TOO!!!!" She paused. "Oh, wait... did I say that
out loud?"

        Queen Serenity looked at her adopted daughter quizzically.
"Say what out loud, Terra?"

        The redhead laughed nervously. "Eh heh... Nothing, Mother."

        <I still say we should blow the place to pieces!> one of
Terra's inner psyches pleaded.

        <Nuke it!>

        <Blast it!>

        <Pulverize it!>

        <Barbeque 'em!>

        <Roast 'em!>


        *WHAM!* "Quiet," Terra said under her breath, whacking her
head as hard and as quickly as she could. <We'll blow this place up
as soon as we can... But for now, we haven't got the power!>

        <Take the Silver Crystal!>

        Terra rolled her eyes and sighed. <I'm not getting involved
in *THAT* old debate again! I hate that thing...>

        Prince Endymion frowned, noting Terra's extremely distracted
mannerisms. "I can come back later if now's not a good time..."

        "Yes, yes!" Terra said, nodding enthusiastically. "Please do
that. It's a _horrible_ time for me. Besides, it's a horrible time
for you, too: your fleet's just been completely torn to shreds and
scattered to the solar wind. You might want to have that checked out,
by the way. It looks serious."

        Endymion blinked. "What?!"

        "You've got this _really_ nasty zit on the side-"

        "No, no! What was that about the fleet?!"

        "Oh, that. Your fleet," Terra continued nonchalantly, "is
almost completely wiped out. You really should consider investing in
better weapon-"

        Serenity looked at Terra seriously. "What would make you think
that Earth's fleet has been destroyed?"

        Terra mentally kicked herself. <You're not supposed to be
able to know that sort of thing so soon after it happened!!>

        <Well, excuuuuuuse me!>

        <Hey, there are ways of finding these things out normally!>

        <Yeah? Like what?!>

        "Spies, yeah... Spies, that's the ticket!" Terra tried.

        "I don't recall giving you access to the intelligence agency,"
the Queen said.

        "Um... I looked in my crystal ball?"

        "You don't have a crystal ball."

        "Okay... Would you believe I have a telepathic link to the

        Serenity and Endymion nodded and 'oooh'ed in realization.
"Well, yes. I could believe that one," the Prince said, then his
eyes widened in horror. "And if you got the information _that_
quickly, then that would mean... Excuse me."

        The Prince of Earth quickly left the room.

        "I get the idea that you don't like him," Serenity observed.

        Terra turned to her and smiled. "Naaaah, whatever gave you
that idea?"

        Unfortunately, Queen Serenity wasn't a student of sarcasm.
"Very well, then. I'll have the wedding arrangements-"

        "Mother," Terra began in a very controlled tone, "this
isn't like you. Whose idea was it?"

        Serenity pointed behind her. Terra turned around and saw
who the Queen was indicating.

        [I'm just a harmless panda,] the large black and white
creature held up a sign, then flipped it around. [Seemed like a
good idea...]

        "GET HIM!!!" Terra wanted to shout... but since an outburst
like that wouldn't fit in with her chosen outward personality, she
demurely asked, "What is it?"

        "A being whose opinion I have come to trust."

        Terra turned back to Serenity, raising an eyebrow. "So...
this... whatever it is... It told you to arrange a marriage between
me and Endymion... and you just did?"

        Serenity shook her head. Her daughter was reacting to this
surprisingly negatively. "It isn't as simple as that... He gave me
some fascinating advice on the merits of arranged marriages.
With all the difficulties in finding the right people to marry,
with all the anguish that failed romances can cause... It's far
simpler to just arrange the marriage and get it over with."

        <Egads! I thought she was joking!>

        <I didn't think so...>

        <Aw, come on, how bad can Endymion be?>

        <Marry him! He's cute!>

        *WHAM!* "Quiet!" Terra mumbled forcefully.

        "Take Sailor Pluto, for example. With her busy work schedule,
it seems extremely unlikely that she will ever find a husband. She
may act like she has all the time in the universe, but-"

        Uh oh... "Mother... you didn't arrange a marriage for Sailor
Pluto, did you?"

        Serenity nodded majestically. "I did. By the way, what's
this about a telepathic link to Earth's admiral?"

        Terra slowly turned away and rolled her eyes. <Great, another
weird explanation to think up.>


        "Well, this is an altogether non-unexpected turn of events,"
Admiral Atomic Starlight Knight said, noting the fighters that
had locked onto their ship and were currently hauling it away.

        The battle had proceeded almost entirely as expected. Twenty-
one Terran vessels had impacted on just the right spot on the
enemy vessels, destroying ten and blasting off a main spike or
two on the remaining one, sending it spinning out of control.

        And that left zero enemy ships with a few scattered fighters,
and one Terran vessel left.

        "We've lost the fleet," Communications noted somberly.

        "And they lost theirs," A.S.K. said with satisfaction.
"Congratulations. We've just trashed a fleet of ships that had
technology at least a million years ahead of us... Rather poorly
executed, if you ask me... but we did it! Report!"

        "All main systems are gone," Engineering reported, "backup
life support at twenty percent, hull integrity critical...
Basically, we're screwed, sir!"

        "Indeed," A.S.K. acknowledged calmly.

        "Admiral, we've been captured, in case you haven't noticed,"
Tactical growled.

        A.S.K. grinned at him. "That means that they're taking us
back to their home base-"

        "To torture us," Communications cut in.

        A.S.K. sighed wistfully. "Let's hope so... But most of you
probably won't enjoy that, so..." He pushed a button on the arm
of his chair. "All hands, abandon ship!"

        *WOOP!*WOOP!*WOOP!* Red lights flickered and klaxons blared.

        "Suits me fine," Engineering said, getting up and heading
toward the nearest escape pod.

        Most of the other crew followed, but the officers at
communications and tactical remained at their stations.

        "Enemy fighters are ignoring the escape pods," Tactical said.

        "So, you can go," A.S.K. said. "Go on."

        "You kiddin', sir? I have to see this through!"

        The admiral turned to Communications. "And... you?"

        "Where he goes, I go," she said bravely.

        The green-armored fleet commander shrugged. "Okay."


        Terra's explanation of the telepathic link went something
like this: "It was, er... something he used to trace me while
I was... um, trapped in that monster form. The... universe is a
big place! He... couldn't find me otherwise."

        Queen Serenity nodded as she processed this new information.
"Your friend has been with you for a long time, hasn't he?"

        The princess thought through all of the other information she
had given throughout her seven years of living here and nodded
back. The main problem with falsifying information is that you have
to remember every last thing you said in order to not contradict
yourself. She had a good memory... good enough to remember nine
billion years' worth of universal devastation in vivid, graphic,
visceral detail... But that's another topic.

        Her official story was that she had been trapped as a
horrible, demonic creature in order to function as a weapon for some
evil sorcerer-type. She was taken and forced to destroy her home
world, and many others. Soon after that, she turned on her master
and destroyed him. She was unable to return to normal, and had no
control of herself, going on a berserking rampage, being followed
by her friend, 'Tim, until her... purification seven years ago by
Queen Serenity.

        Well, actually, that story was only known by a select few.
The tale that was spread was that she was a sweet, little girl
that had a very tragic experience involving the loss of her
entire family, and due to time and place circumstances, had been
adopted by Queen Serenity into the Lunar royal family.

        She was, in fact, a horrible, destructive force, alive for
nearly nine billion years, that wanted to destroy the entire
universe. She had really only been severed from her main energy
source by the Queen's 'healing.'

        She also enjoyed every moment of her previous occupation.
Planetary devastation was fun. VERY fun. As a matter of fact, one
of her main goals in life was to destroy all that exists.

        She couldn't go spreading that little detail around, though,
or risk annihilation by the local magical warriors. They had
something against the obliteration of the universe, for some reason.

        "Psychos," Terra muttered under her breath.

        At bare minimum, she'd have to undergo another jolt from that
little crystal. Terra had no intention of going through that again.
Extremely painful would have been one way to describe it. A terrible,
screaming death would have been another... Of course, she could have
also described it as a nice, warm, healing glow. There was no real
way of telling with each individual personality having its own
interpretation on things.

        Being a creature of some the most concentrated blackness ever
to be found in the universe, she didn't take kindly to having most
of her dark energy removed... But she had good coping skills, and
decided to blend in until she could reestablish her connection with
her primary energy source. She had been around for quite a while,
and could afford to wait a bit longer to resume her career. The
story was just something to keep her alive until she could defend
herself more fully.

        A significant portion of the populace didn't believe a word
of her explanation. Smart crowd. That really didn't matter, however.
As long as they weren't openly hostile, the only one that she needed
to convince was her adoptive mother.

        But that could be difficult at times...

        "So you agree to marry Endymion?" Serenity asked comfortingly.
The furry, black and white creature looked up and watched for the

        The princess in question shook her head. "I don't think so."
She really was beginning to miss destroying galaxies.

        Queen Serenity sighed. "Oh well... It was a nice idea while
it lasted. Arranged marriages were required policy up until two or
three generations ago... I believe it could work out in Pluto's
case, however..."

        "Well, I've never... really personally met Sailor Pluto, but
she doesn't seem the sort to like being manipulated like that,"
Terra said, then thought: <I'm REALLY going to need to download
more info on her from Starlight sometime...>

        "Is there any chance you might change your mind?" the
Queen asked hopefully.

        Terra thought about it.






        "Yes!" the red-headed girl shouted enthusiastically, giving
an impossibly joyous smile. She then mentally kicked herself.
*WHAM!* "Um, Mother, you might consider engaging Serena to
Endymion... They do seem rather... infatuated with each other."

        "What about you?" Serenity asked, then pursed her lips. "And
would you please stop hitting your head like that? It's bad for you."

        Well, that WAS the point. "I'll be fine. Really," Terra said.

        Serenity thought about it. "Very well... Perhaps you were
right... This arranged marriage concept would only cause trouble."

        "More than you could possibly imagine," Terra whispered
darkly. "Once I crushed that little weakling's powers, I would have
torn him limb from limb, listening to his pitiful screams-"

        "What is that you're saying?" Terra's adoptive mother
asked, leaning towards her, not quite having heard.

        "Um... Nothing, Mother!"


        "What do you mean 'The fleet is GONE?'" Prince Endymion
asked, still adjusting to the idea.

        [I mean gone. Destroyed,] Kunzite reported. [We received a
message from Neptune. It seems that there was some horrific
battle just a short distance from there. I was communicating with
the admiral when it started. He didn't respond to any of my other
hails, so I had to follow up with the authorities on Neptune.
Apparently, we won... barely. We've reported the loss of all ships-]

        "Not *one* left?!"

        [Well, the reports were a bit sketchy on the flagship, but
considering what happened to the rest of the fleet, it MUST have
been destroyed. Most of the crews are barely coherent, babbling
on about some nightmarish... shadows or something. Quite frankly,
I'm surprised any of them managed to fight whatever it was that

        "What attacked?"

        Kunzite sighed, wishing for the simpler times when he just
had to guard the prince, and nothing else. [We still don't know.]


        "Ah," the monstrous preying mantis began malevolently,
watching the battered Terran flagship being lowered by the spider-
like fighters into the heavily shielded docking bay, "Soon, all of
this solar system's forces will be crushed, unable to prevent the
capture of their poor little princesses! Within a few days, I will
have control of the entire sector! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!"

        The plan was proceeding well. Ships had been sent out on
an automated flight plan to avoid detection until it was too late.
He would recieve a report as soon as the mission was completed.
Capturing Earth's flagship was an unexpected bonus.

        "Hey, Zorak," a guy in a grey and orange armored suit called.

        The mantis turned towards him. "What is it, Moltar?"

        "Where d'ya want me to park those extra Shadow vessels?" Moltar
asked, indicating several huge, black arachnid ships.

        "In the hangar, Moltar," Zorak said, turning back to the
smashed Earth ship in order to gloat some more.

        "Oookey-dokey," the molten man said indifferently, playing
around with a remote control. The Shadow ships wobbled in response.


o/I'm Serenity the Eighth, I am!
  Serenity the Eighth I am, I am!
  I got married to the prince next door!
  He's been married seven times before,
  And every one's been a Serenity ('Renity)
  Never been a Jilly or a Camm' (No, sir!)
  I'm the eighth 'ol ma'am, I'm Serenity!
  Serenity the Eighth I am, I am!
  Serenity the Eighth I am!\o

        The two crewmembers held their breath in the hopes that
their admiral would finally finish singing...

o/Four hundred-twentieth verse, same as the first!
  I'm Serenity the Eigthth I am!
  Serenity the Eighth I am, I am-\o

        "ADMIRAL!!!" Tactical growled, "DOES THE WORD 'KEELHAUL'

        A.S.K. thought about it. "Hmmm... keel.haul (kEl'hol')...
verb... Nautical term. to haul (an offender) under the bottom of a
vessel and up the other side as a punishment... Is that what
you're talking about?"

        Tactical stared blankly. "No... actually, I just thought it
was an effective term to use..."

        The ship jarred, signaling their landing and ending all
discussion on definitions.

        "Well, this is it," Communications said.

        Tactical sighed. "Admiral... What are your orders?"

        The admiral was now down on the floor, working with an
unseen piece of equipment concealed under his chair.

        "What are you doing, sir?" Communications asked.

        A.S.K. stood, banging his head against the bottom of the chair
as he did. "Ow... I've rigged an... auxiliary self-destruct
device. You know, just in case I happen to feel the need to blow
stuff up."

        "You ALWAYS feel the need to blow stuff up."

        A.S.K. nodded vigorously and smiled, pulling out a grenade
from nowhere in particular. One of the built-in functions of a
mentally projected 'Knight in Shining Armor' was the ability to
produce a specific kind of weapon at will. He'd have preferred
something more powerful... but that would take more energy than
what he currently had available.

        The default weapons for a KISA matrix were roses, but Terra
had decided that it would be a cold day in Hades before she'd let
herself be caught trying to use _those_ for artillery.

        "Enough talk!" the admiral snapped. "Let's go blow something

        Tactical and Communications looked at each other. The latter
nervously, the former was grinning.

        "I love this guy!" Tactical exclaimed, chuckling.


        The boarding gantries extended and latched onto the hull of
the disabled vessel, blasting through the surface and forming a
secure entrance for the oncoming invasion of red, molten, robotic

        *BAM!*CRASH!*WHACK!* The ship rocked back and forth, barely
held in place by the docking gantry as heavy violence ensued inside.

        *BLAAAAAAM!* A new hole was made in the ship's hull.

        *CRASH!!!* A molten robot was bashed outside, flames trailing
behind it.

        *SNAP!*CRACKLE!*POP!* The lower section of the ship got blown
out, suddenly knowing what it felt like to be made into cereal.







        Then it was all over.


        "Excellent," Zorak said, watching the three remaining molten
robots drag off the three crewmembers. "Take them to my impenetrable
dungeon. I would like to deal with them personally. HAHAHAHAAA!"

        [Yes, my master,] the lead robot said, motioning for the two
behind it to follow.

        "MWAHAHAHAA(*HACK*COUGH*)... Man, I gotta practice my laugh
more," the huge preying mantis said. *Bloonk!* His eyes made an
audible sound as he blinked, another thought crossing his mind.
"Hey, I didn't know Moltar made talking robots!"


        "'Toldja it'd work!" A.S.K. said, taking off the hollowed-
out molten robot helmet, letting the cloth rag-doll duplicates
of him and his crew thud to the ground.

        "Way'ta'go, chief!" Tactical said, taking off his own helmet.

        "That went FAR too easily. We should go with a little more
caution," Communications said, also removing her helmet, letting
her beautiful golden-brown hair cascade about her shoulders.

        Tactical looked at her, glittering stars in his eyes.
Communications looked back, a similar expression on her face.

        Soft music began to play in the background.

        "Let's get crackin'," the admiral said, breaking the moment.

        The music slowed down, stopped, and the two officers snapped
to attention. "Yes, sir!" they said in unison. "Your orders, sir?"

        A.S.K. thought about it for a few seconds and quickly formed
a plan... a plan so brilliant-

        *Whoosh!*Snick!* At which point, he and his crew were hit
by tranquilizer darts.

        "I really hate it when they do that," A.S.K. said, before
collapsing straight to the floor, unconscious. His crew followed

        "Zorak, why did we not use the stun rays?" a mantis minion
asked as it moved in, clutching the compressed-air rifle in its

        "Eh, gets old after a while, don'tcha think?"


        "Great," Terra mumbled as she lost the telemetry from her
mentally projected Knight in Shining Armor, "now he's dead. What
am I supposed to do now? CROCHET ALL DAY?!"

        "I suppose we could to that," Princess Serenity said brightly.

        "Um, no, I'll be fine, Serena," Princess Terrifying responded.

        It was just one problem after another. First, her mother tries
to engage her to Prince Endymion without her knowledge... or his,
judging by the matter-of-fact way he was approaching the whole
situation. Then the fleet gets trashed--it had taken six years to get
it upgraded from those annoying, unpredictable magical systems to a
partially acceptable technological level...

        Then there was a small problem caused by what had appeared
to be another assassination attempt a couple of months ago. This
time, it was some sort of odd, sentient semi-energy construct that
attacked. Having nothing else to do, and tiring of the 'defenseless'
act, Terra blasted the thing, which promptly crumbled into a pile of

        Unfortunately, for some reason or another, the creature was
carrying around enough dark, personality-modifying energy to turn an
entire world's worth of do-gooders into frothing, murderous maniacs.

        That energy, once its carrier had been destroyed, latched onto
Terra, bringing her nastiness levels to nearly ten times what they
had been while she was off destroying galaxies. At first, she was
glad to have the general feeling back, but upon encountering other
beings, she soon found that it made acting nice astonishingly
difficult; There was simply too much dark energy to fully control.

        After nearly blowing her cover about a dozen times, Terra
decided that having that sort of energy permeate one's being really
didn't serve any purpose. It did nothing to aid her recovery, it had
little use other than for behavioral control or modification, and
it endangered her existence; If the locals found her carrying around
that level of negative energy... Best not think about that.

        In addition to that, her mere presence seemed to scare small,
furry animals. When asked, First Advisor Luna had been unable to
explain why she kept rearing up and hissing at her... She apologized,
of course, but nonetheless, it was somewhat disconcerting.

        Therefore, Terra was in the process of repressing the horrific
levels of evil that now constantly threatened to break out. She had
calculated that it would only take a year or three to fully work
it out of her system.

        In the meantime, she was stuck having to fantasize about
destroying those around her. It wasn't that bad, but she occasionally
blurted out what she was thinking from time to time... and sometimes,
she needed to at least begin to act on an idea; Set it up or make
a plan of how to accomplish it. She didn't necessarily have to go
through with any of it. And, she didn't. Usually.

        One of the major negative things about dark energy is that
it can seriously affect your behavior; Violence, destructive
tendencies, maliciousness... All were greatly enhanced in Princess
Terrifying, and it made her current life more difficult than ever.

        Things like that were fine if you were off obliterating planets
and galaxies in the vastness of space, but it simply didn't work out
in a royal palace. It was, on a larger scale, the difference between
behavior and speech patterns commonly found in a rowdy teamster and
a well behaved schoolgirl.

        Most actions for one would not exactly suit the other.

        But, with the current setup, things were bound to slip out.

        Before her run-in with the creature a couple of months ago,
what Terra did had been mostly limited to thinking about how to
blow up the planets in this system, about defeating some of the
stronger warriors, and analyzing the various political systems in
the solar system, calculating ways that they could be strengthened
or toppled when the time came for her to once more make her presence
known to the universe.

        During this, all the support Terra really had was her adoptive
mother and sister... plus whatever A.S.K. could do.

        It didn't help that her sister was a politically-braindead
princess who didn't care whether Nemesis had a constitutional anarchy
or not, didn't really want to know what Sailor Pluto's weaknesses
were, and had no desire to seek out planetary breaking points...

        Her mother was nice enough... about as nice and trusting as
she was powerful... but she had shown, in the past, to have little
tolerance for anything she considered evil. So, Terra had needed to
conceal that aspect of her life from her as much as possible, which
didn't lend itself well to an open, supportive relationship.

        And, the final blow, her Atomic Starlight Knight was dead.
Great. Just perfect. Just absa'floggin perfect.

        <Um, he's not quite dead yet,> one of Terra's inner psyches


        <What old joke?>

        <THAT old joke!>

        <Let's go have some tea!>

        Terra thought about that last part... it didn't sound so
bad. <But what about Starlight?>

        <Star Light?>

        <Star Lights?>

        <I think they're weird.>

        <I think they're cute!>

        <I say we should destroy them all! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!>

        <YEAH, BABY!!!>

        <A three-hundred gigaton blast to their homeworlds! Then we
go after Galaxia! She'll never know what hit 'er!>

        <YES!!! We'll haul in some quantum singularities and->

        <Who cares about the Star Lights? They're->

        *WHAM!*WHAM!*WHAM!* Serena looked on in bemusement as Terra
ripped a large brick out of the wall, with which she began to whack
herself on the head. *THWACKK!* Quite hard, in fact, since the
hard stone brick crumbled under the constant assault.

        "NOT THE STAR LIGHTS, YA FREAKS!!!" Terra screamed, seemingly

        "Um, Terra," the other Moon Princess in the room began uneasily
as she started to back off, "you're frightening me."

        Terra dropped the remnants of the brick and smiled at her
adoptive sister sheepishly. "Um... The... uh, the... Mental Link!
Yeah, the Mental Link can be difficult to control, yeah! That's the
ticket! Nothing to worry about. Really."

        Princess Serenity raised an eyebrow. Yes, her sister was just
as difficult to understand as ever.

        Terra turned around. <Now, what's this about him surviving?>


        The hypo-spray hissed as the special, happy wake-up juice
went into the admiral's magical equivalent of a bloodstream. His
eyes snapped open. Something moved away.

        [Ah, so you have finally decided to awaken,] an electronically
transmitted voice said through a very bad PA system.

        A.S.K. blinked, his eyes (or the magical equivalent thereof)
adjusting to the light. From the design of the room and the many
burn marks and assorted slashes in the walls, it appeared that he was
in some sort of fighting arena. Either that, or someone had been
playing basketball with a team of acid-bleeding Xenomorphs.

        Ah, there's one now.


        A queen, from the looks of it.


        And hungry, too.

        [Now,] the voice continued, [you will cooperate, won't you?]

        The green-armored knight shrugged. "Sure."

        There was an uncomfortable silence. [You're going to give in
THAT easily? You haven't even heard what I've got planned for you!]

        A.S.K. glanced over to the gigantic black, skeletal creature
and yawned. "I've got a pretty good idea. These things're scattered
all over the universe, renowned for their usefulness as bio-weapons.
You plan to use it to threaten me into doing whatever it is you want
me to do. But if you ask me, I've seen scarier stuffed teddy bears."

        [Oh, really?]

        "Yup. There's this one Princess Serenity has..." He shuddered,
then paused, looking up at the PA system's speaker. "Well, get on
with elaborating on your maniacal plans, already!"

        <So we can blow 'em up!>

        <YEAH, BABY!> The inner voices were all in agreement this time.
Well, mostly.

        <Let's go play with some cute, pink dollies!>



        [Well,] the evil-whatever-it-was continued, [I have acquired
several vessels of unknown origin that have tremendous power-]

        "Unknown?" A.S.K. raised an eyebrow. "I know that those ships
belong to a race whose name is... too long to pronounce, but I'm
pretty sure that if you convinced them to give you so many ships,
you'd at least have an idea who-"

        [I FOUND THEM BURIED ON NEMESIS, ALRIGHT?!] the unknown speaker
snapped, then continued in a more even tone, [Anyway, I'm using them
to capture all of the most powerful warriors of this solar system,
starting with Neptune's princess, then I will be able to take over
all of the planets' governments without any major difficulties.]

        "You'll never get away with it," the captured mental projection
said, completing the obligatory statement for this situation.

        [MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA! That's what they all say-]

        "I'm serious. You should have taken out Pluto first. Now,
you'll never be able to do it."

        [Oh, I believe I can. Your fleet, the most powerful in this
solar system, has been destroyed! I will prevail! Your capture proves

        "Whaddaya mean 'My capture proves this?' Don't you get signals
from your ships? I trashed your sloppy imitation of a Shadow attack."


        "You heard me. I took my ultra-wimpy stock Earth ships and
blasted 'em to pieces!"

        [You're lying!]

        "Yeah? What'cha gonna do about it, lil' man? Lil' man, lil'
man?" A.S.K. taunted, duplicating a turn of phrase he had sometimes
heard his tactical officer use.

        [Grrr...] the mysterious voice growled.

        "'Swhat I thought. Take ya best shot, ya pansy!"

        *BEEP!* A previously unseen forcefield was deactivated.

        *SCREEEEEEEEEECH!* The Xenomorphic Alien Queen was suddenly
free to move about.

        It promptly leapt at A.S.K., claws extended, tail whipping
dangerously, and jaws slavering hungrily. The intended lunchmeat
didn't look at all frightened.

        *BAM*WHACK*POW!!!* {TRIPLE COMBO!} an automated announcer
shouted as A.S.K. knocked the beast back with his bare hands.

        "You better ease up outta my face before somethin' bad
happens," the mental projection of a damaged galactic destroyer said
darkly to the dazed skeletal creature, cracking his knuckles as he
waited for it to recover.

        *SSSHHAAAA!* It hissed and advanced, slightly more cautiously.


        {MONSTER COMBO!!!} the automated announcer shouted dramatically
as the smaller fighter methodically beat the snot out of the larger

        "'Tis but a friendly game of fisticuffs," A.S.K. said,
shrugging as the other fighter recovered, pulling itself off the


        "Coming back for more?" the Admiral asked, smiling evilly.
"You've just officially made my day."


        {{{{ULTRA!!!!!!!}}}} the announcer echoed, seemingly in awe.

        The Xenomorph, battered, broken, shattered, and otherwise
mutilated, slumped against the wall. Its highly acidic internal
(now external) fluids quickly dissolved through the five feet of
high-gauge steel encasing the fighting arena.

        "Oh dear, now look what I've gone and did," the winner said,
holding his hand up to his mouth in mock embarrassment, "I've broken
your little friend. How utterly tragic!"

        He stepped through the gaping hole in the wall, unaffected by
the residual acid, casually tossing a grenade behind him as he left.

        <Oh no, not again,> the Alien thought as the explosive rolled
to within an inch of its broken face.


        {Supreme Victory.}


        "Yeah, go, get 'em. Killlll!" Terra whispered as she mentally
watched the proceedings, working to satiate her extremely
destructive, bloodthirsty nature. A hockey game would work in a
pinch, but they weren't very popular in most Lunar cities.

        There WAS figure skating, and she had gotten rather good at
that... much better than her sister or even the Princess of Jupiter,
as a matter of fact, but that sport held no joy whatsoever for her.
No conflict worth speaking of.

        Also, assassins only attacked about once a month, so she didn't
get to vent her contained rage very often.

        These small things Starlight did were exceptionally useful to
her, however.

        "That was terrific," the redheaded princess whispered
contentedly, relaxing into a nice, comfy chair.

        It was the little joys like that kept her from snapping and
blowing her cover... Not to mention the planet... She was just glad
that she had enough stored energy to allow her other self to take
care of that Xenomorph. It could have been... messy otherwise. It
still was, but in a good way. Good for a horrible, barbaric monster,
that is... but then, that was exactly what she was at the moment,
to put it mildly.

        "Darn proud of it, too."

        Princess Serenity looked at Terra. "What are you so proud of?"

        The fact that I could sever your head from your puny body in
point-oh-three seconds if I REALLY wanted to. "Oh, nothing, Serena."

        Serena smiled knowingly, leaning close to her. "Why are you
smiling like that? Did you find someone...?"

        I'd like to destroy? "Hmm... You might say that."

        "Who is it?"

        Starting at the top of the list... "Endymion."

        The other princess frowned. "He's taken," she said, leaving
no room for argument.

        Terra frowned. "But... I really want to-"


        Terra sighed and shrugged. "Okay, whatever."


        *BZZZZTZZZTZZZT!* Sparks flew as A.S.K. disabled the holding
cell forcefields via advanced application of the time-honored
technique euphemistically referred to as 'BLOW UP THE CONTROLS!!!'

        "Admiral!" the two prisoners acknowledged as they quickly
escaped their prison.

        "Communications, Tactical! Report!"

        "We're fine," Tactical reported, ducking under a low-hanging

        "It's wonderful to see you, sir... but could you please stop
calling us by our stations? In case you haven't noticed, we're not
on a starship anymore," the officer that was previously stationed
at communications said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her

        "Oh, keep your uniform on. If the ship's a problem, I can get
another one," the admiral said, motioning for them to follow him.
"This way."


        Zorak and his mantis minions had the entire area blocked
off. Even if the admiral could take out a Xenomorph like that,
he wouldn't be able to get past THIS blockade.

        "They approach," a minion noted, watching its radar.

        "Prepare to fire," Zorak said.

        The platoon of green bugs aimed their laser rifles at the
doorway, blocking the escapees' only exit.

        *Whoosh*Ching!* There was a green flash and a grenade
imbedded itself in the metal floor, in the middle of the assembled
troops. They looked down at it, then scattered in panic, leaving
only one confused-looking mantis leader.

        *BLAM!* Zorak was blasted. *HACK*HACK*COUGH!* He choked on
the soot that remained from the explosion.

        A guy in green camouflage armor appeared. "I'm the Atomic
Starlight Knight, and you," he said, raising his hand and clenching
it into a fist, "are now officially charcoal."

        *BLAM!!!* A beam shot out from A.S.K.'s fist and blasted the
unfortunate mantis.

        "Okay, it's safe!" the admiral called. Tactical and
Communications exited the corridor.

        "Admiral! Behind you!" Tactical shouted.

        "What?" A.S.K. asked, then turned around to see the giant
preying mantis, fully regenerated, come up-

        *WHAM!* -and smash his face in.

        "Ow!" A.S.K. said as he-*KERRUNCH!*-re-adjusted his jaw. He
looked at the mantis. "Hey! I blasted you!"

        "I regenerated!" Zorak said proudly.

        *BLAM!!!!* A.S.K. blasted him again.

        "He's regenerated again!" Communications shouted.


        "Ha! I regenerated... No, wait! Gimme just a sec--NOOO!"


        "Sir, I... think you got him," Communications said, taking
note of the sizzling crater where the mantis had been.

        "One more for good measure."


        "Satisfied?" Communications queried.

        A.S.K. nodded.

        "Where'd you learn to do that, anyway?" Tactical asked.

        The admiral shrugged. "Read a book."

        "A book, sir?"

        "It was a good book... I think Queen Saturn the fifth
wrote it..."

        An orange and grey armored figure stepped out from behind
a crate. "Oh, great! Ya killed Zorak."

        "I know," A.S.K. said, walking past him, not considering
him any sort of threat.

        "I don't think you understand. Zorak is DEAD! Ya blasted
'em too many times!"

        "That WAS the point of that little exercise."

        The trio left the area, one whistling a cheery tune.

        Zorak came out from behind a crate.

        Moltar looked at him, surprised. "Hey, I thought you were

        The mantis shook his head. "Nah. I snuck away and regenerated
while he wasn't looking!"


        Prince Endymion was feeling extremely... down.

        On any other day, one might walk up to him, say hello, and
ask what was troubling him.

        Not at this particular time, though. The dazed, frowning
expression on his face notified his shuttle's crew of one thing:
Now was not the time to talk to him.

        "Greetings, your highness," a lowly ensign said cheerfully.
Endymion looked at him, a pained expression on his face. "Ummm...
Might I inquire who poured hot plasma in your breakfast flakes
this morning...?"

        "Leave 'im alone, Jack!" a higher-ranking officer said. The
ensign backed off, laughing uncomfortably.

        The Prince sighed and slowly edged toward the docking bay
that his crew was waiting outside of. Typically, there would be
a guardian or four with him, but they now had other responsibilities.
Nephrite had his duties taking care of domestic policy... Zoicite
had to deal with her damaged mental state... Jadeite had gone into
hiding for some reason, and Kunzite was in charge of overseeing the
fleet; Admiral 'Tim was quite a handful... Not that it mattered now.

        The admiral was probably dead, his ship destroyed while
defending Neptune from an unknown enemy. His crew reported that he
was still aboard when they abandoned ship.

        A few recovered data recorders had shown the sheer power of
the enemy ships. 'Tim should not have been able to stop them...
yet he did. Completely.

        Neptune was safe.

        But where did that leave Earth? Almost completely defenseless.
There had been significant political pressure for having the fleet
reduced in size; its forty warships overpowered all of the other
stellar navies combined, and that frightened many of the other

        Well, they got their wish. The Terran fleet was now nothing
more than scrap metal, just as it had been seven years ago...

        Endymion shuddered. Seven years ago, the entire system was
under the reign of terror of a horrible, demonic creature. It had
incapacitated most of the Senshi, killed Sailor Saturn, and utterly
destroyed Earth's navy...

        If history repeated itself, then it would mean that the entire
solar system would soon be under attack... And this time, there may
be no stopping them.

        This small excursion to the Moon had been nothing out of the
ordinary; his presence had merely been requested by Queen Serenity,
and Endymion would always jump at the chance to visit the Lunar
capital and see Princess Serenity... But now, this trip had changed
from a casual visit into a very somber occasion... There would be
memorials to prepare for the brave souls who hadn't survived the

        "Um, excuse me," a quiet voice called from behind him.

        Earth's Prince turned around to see Princess Terra, who
was slowly walking toward him, carrying a small, yellow object.
"Oh, hello, Terra."

        The redheaded girl smiled slightly, a concerned expression
on her face. "I understand that you've suffered some... losses

        Endymion nodded. "The fleet... By the way, you said you
had a telepathic link to the admiral. Is it possible that he may
still be alive...?"

        Terra looked away, a concentrated look on her face. "It's
possible," she finally said.

        "But... you're not sure...?"

        The Princess thought about it for a moment longer. She
looked up at the Prince, opened her mouth to speak, then stopped.
She looked down, adjusting her grip on the object she held.
"Difficult to say."

        Endymion sighed. "I'd best not get my hopes up, then...
What's that you have there?"

        Terra looked up at him and smiled hopefully. "Well, it's
something I thought to give you..." She handed the object to
him, opening it. Music began to play from it.

        The Prince examined the object. A music box, of some sort.
It was star-shaped and had designs on the outside, the Moon being
the predominant decoration. On the inside, a crescent moon rotated
in sync with the tune it played. The entire object, when closed,
was rounded, semi-flat, and opened rather like a compact.

        "What do you think of it?" Terra asked.

        Endymion listened to the music for a moment longer. It
did indeed seem to help his mood. He looked down at Terra and
smiled. "I think it's wonderful... Thank you."

        The Princess smiled deeply and nodded, turning away and

        Endymion took a moment to contemplate Princess Terra. She had
grown to become such a lovely young woman, and could be so kind
sometimes... She seemed rather distracted earlier, but had
apparently recovered from whatever was bothering her. Such a nice
girl, really. At times, during his visits, she felt nearly as
dear to him as Princess Serenity was.

        Suddenly, the future didn't seem to be so horrible to him.
Yes, there would be challenges ahead, but he and his people would
face and overcome them, as they always had... and always would. He
strode into his shuttle, standing high.

        The ensign from earlier was cowering slightly.

        "At ease, Ensign," Endymion said cheerfully. "No hard
feelings. Why don't you pilot this shuttle back home?"

        "Y-yes, sir! Thank you, sir!"


        Terra walked away from the landing bay, almost skipping.

        She had found a way to eliminate her extreme hatred for
Prince Endymion.

        The object she had given him, while making very nice music,
also contained a virtually undetectable twenty isoton destructive
charge. Now, she didn't have to think about new ways of killing him,
because she now had one ready, and in place. Overkill at its finest.

        She didn't have to use it, but she could if she ever felt
a pressing need to. That was the important thing.

        Besides, she was relatively sure that her sister wouldn't
miss that old locket...

        "I love my life," Princess Terrifying whispered joyously.


        "Come on, Admiral, wake up," Communications whispered

        "It's no use. He's out cold," Tactical said, picking up his
commanding officer. "Whoa... He's light for someone his size."

        In their rush to find an exit, they had stumbled upon an
extremely well-stocked agricultural center. The admiral had taken
a quick look around, and spontaneously leapt into the shrubbery,
shouting something about a 'Flower of Life' or something.

        Unfortunately, that shrubbery contained several varieties
of carnivorous flora. He had been stung repeatedly by the hostile
plants and only barely managed to get out before he lost

        "Hmm... What's that?" Communications asked as they hurried
toward their next destination, noting the extremely animated flower
the admiral was cradling protectively in his left hand. "All that
for a flower..."

        *Thunk!* She tripped over a small box. "Aaaow... Wait, what's
this?" Upon closer examination, the box was labeled 'Plant
Antitoxins.' "How fortuitous..."

        Tactical placed the heavily armored man on the floor and
looked through the box. It had one device... with instructions,
written in large, friendly letters. "Don't Panic! This is an all-
purpose antitoxin for plants in this sector. Inject this into your
bloodstream if you got stung by any of the carniv... carnive...
meat-eating plants... Hey, ya think we should...?"

        *BLAM!* A shot barely missed them. Groups of mantis warriors
were advancing, firing wildly.

        "It isn't like we have much choice here," Communications noted.

        *Snick*Hiss* The antitoxin was administered.

        The admiral instantly snapped awake. "Huh? Wha? Wha?" he asked
quickly as he reoriented himself to the situation around him.

        *ZZZT!* A shot ricocheted off his armor. He stood, unaffected,
and stared down the incoming troops. "I think we should leave," he
told his crewmembers.

        They agreed wholeheartedly.

        *BLAM*BLAM*BLAM* Blasts from the mantis' weapons flashed
by them as the trio of escapees hastily exited, proving once and
for all that some giant insects just can't aim...

        "We must not let them escape," one nameless trooper noted.

        "Zorak," another completely and utterly nameless soldier
began, using a Portable Communications System(TM) to transmit its
message, "they are moving towards the scrap yard."

        [Ah, excellent,] Zorak replied through the Portable
Communications System(TM). [That is located near the very core
of this base... They will be unable to escape.]


        The three ran through the corridor, dodging the numerous

        *BLAM*BLAM*BLAM*BLAM*BLAM*BLAM*BLAM*ZZZZT!* -which kept right
on missing.

        A.S.K. stopped and turned around, laughing at the oncoming
horde. "HA! You people can't hit ANYTHING!"

        *BLAAAAAM!!!* Oh, yes they can.

        A.S.K. went limp, stunned. Again. Tactical caught him and
continued running. "You REALLY have to stop doing that, sir!"

        "IgereREsdzvuh," the admiral mumbled incoherently as he
recovered from the stun ray. He landed on his feet and continued
running under his own power. "Whoa, stun rays can really scramble
your cognitive functions, can't they?"

        "I wouldn't know, sir," Communications replied, getting
rather winded from the long race to escape their captors. "Where
are we going?!"

        "Don't worry! I'll think of something," A.S.K. replied
nonchalantly, then mumbled, "Let's all hope..."

        They came upon the entrance to the next large, open area.

        *BLAM!* As soon as they were in, A.S.K. blasted the door
controls, causing a cascade failure through all of the internal
security systems. The monstrous, six-foot-thick blast door closed
as a side effect, just before any of the enemy forces could make
it through.

        *SQUISH!* Well, intact, that is. They had to try. There was
a nameless minion code to own up to, after all!

        "Eew," Communications noted, looking at the thick, green fluid
with some disgust.

        "Ah, giant preying mantis. I love the sound they make when
they're crushed by a giant, six-foot-thick blast door!"

        The admiral's communications officer stared at him

        "What?" he asked innocently.

        Communications stared at A.S.K. for a little longer, then
shook her head and sighed. "Nothing, sir."

        "What now, Admiral?" Tactical asked, glancing at the dim room.
Apparently, while shorting out the door and the security system,
the lights had gone as well.

        "Follow me," A.S.K. said, holding close the flower he had
taken earlier from the garden. It had not wilted even slightly.