Continuing Tales

Dark Kingdom Renegades 9: Thy Kingdom Come

A Sailor Moon Story
by Mark Latus

Part 7 of 12

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Thy Kingdom Come

It was still early morning and freezing cold so it was hardly surprising there were no witnesses in the park to see Sailor Hermes appear from an invisible doorway. Automatically scanning for nonexistent enemies she stepped away from the unseen gateway allowing Sailor Polaris to walk through without obstruction. Titanite immediately stepped aside, barely avoiding Sailor Zeus. As soon as Zeus appeared Polaris's fingers flew over the key's controls. To Zeus there was no sign that anything had changed but Polaris declared, "It's closed!" and Ami nodded in confirmation. Ami deactivated her visor and turned her attention to her terminal. Makoto waved her arm through the space they'd emerged from without incident. She couldn't help thinking that their second passage to this world was a lot smoother than the first.

"Looks like dawn's about to break. It was hard to tell the time in the other place." Makoto looked to the brightening sky and thought how long it had been since she saw a sunrise.

"It's 6:18 am." Both Titanite and Zeus turned to Ami but she seemed to have said her piece and was immersed in her terminal again. Makoto shook her head and muttered, "Not much over three hours. How did it fall apart so quickly?"

"Okay, so what's the plan?"

"Huh?" Zeus snapped out of her brooding to find she was facing a determined Titanite. "I said what's the plan? Now that we're through with running away ..."

"We didn't run away ..." Hermes snapped her computer closed and folded in back into the overpocket. "... we were confronted with overwhelming force and strategically withdrew!"

"It sure felt like running away."

Before Ami could retort Zeus snorted and said, "We never retreat, we just advance rapidly in the other direction." Both of them stared at her, "Huh?"

"Military joke. She's right, we bugged out fast and left everyone else. Dressing it up in fancy jargon doesn't change the facts."

Ami simply shrugged. "There was no time to take any of the others. Polaris wasn't sure she could teleport with more than two people so it would have been foolhardy to attempt a rescue. Also we had to escape quickly before that creature ..."

"My other ... uhm ... the princess called it Shadow."

"... before Shadow was able to find a way to shoot past Polaris."

Titanite frowned, in all the excitement she'd forgotten a few things. "Yeah, that's right! Not only did I get slung around like luggage you used me as a shield! Now that I think of it I resent that!"

Sailor Hermes didn't seem particularly worried by an irate Titanite (at least not this version), "It was obvious that Shadow was conditioned not to attack Princess Titanite. It couldn't tell you from her so you were in no danger from it. Had you been smart enough to figure it out for yourself you could have shielded the other senshi."

"Oh no you don't! You're not putting the blame for this fiasco on me. You didn't tell us enough about what we were going to be up against. It's amazing we got as far as we did! Anyway that doesn't matter. What matters is how do we free the senshi and bring them back home?!" The youma girl glared at Ami and waited for her answer. For her part Ami looked a little taken aback.

"Uhhh ... !"

Amazingly Ami seemed at a loss for words. Makoto could hardly believe it, Ami always had an answer! Even if it was wrong she always had an answer. In one of her rare good moods Ami had joked that one of the vital abilities of a commander was to be able to make decisions instantly. If they turned out to be right afterwards then so much the better. With Ami currently clueless Makoto decided she'd better fill in. "I think it would be better to continue this conversation somewhere a little more private. Three Senshi yelling at each other might attract attention. Besides while I can tolerate the cold I'd prefer to be warm."

Titanite's gaze turned towards the breaking dawn. She hesitated then nodded, "Got anywhere in mind? Cause I can tell you that my place is out of bounds."

"Matter of fact I do. My ... that is Sailor Jupiter's apartment should be perfect!" Then Makoto hesitated, "At least assuming she hasn't moved in the past year or picked up a roommate."

"Nope, same place and she's still living alone."

Makoto frowned at Titanite's confident reassurance. "How do you know that?"

She shrugged, "I keep unofficial tabs on the senshi. Nothing too overt as I didn't want to upset Cal. Just the odd check on if they're still in the same homes, attending the same schools and so on. That's how I know that while that Chibi-Moon character's staying with the Tsukinos she's not really Usagi's cousin."

"Who is she then?"

"No idea."

"Leaving that question for the moment ..." Both Ti and Makoto turned to Sailor Hermes, "... we are left with the problem of getting to the apartment unnoticed. We're about two kilometres away. While it's still early the city is stirring and the way we dress always attracts attention. Especially in the dead of winter" Then Ami looked speculatively at Titanite. "Or do you already have a teleport point nearby?"

"Weeeeell ... actually I have teleport points picked out near all the senshi's residences. Just in case."

Hermes nodded. "I thought as much." Then she shook her head. "I am beginning to believe your story. You're not a menace, merely an senshi otaku with paranormal abilities." From her expression otaku were only slightly below youma in loathsomeness. So a youma otaku was doubly damned.

Titanite shook her head. "I prefer to be called a Senshi Wannabe. I want to join them not idolize them. Anyway we should get going before it's really light. If you'll take my hands we'll get out of here." Makoto reached out and clasped her left. Ami studied her a moment then took her right. Titanite closed her eyes and ran through her list of locations. Yep, there it was, clear as anything. She summoned the power, automatically noting that her reserves were way down. She'd used up a lot of juice recently with all the Polaris Missiles, mallets and teleporting. A few days of mana inactivity would replenish her stores. Unfortunately that was fairly unlikely given current circumstances. She'd worry about that later. First priority was working out how to rescue the senshi. Her mind focused and the trio disappeared.

A few minutes later they were standing before the door to the other Makoto's apartment. They'd scrambled from Titanite's arrival point in a nearby alley to the fire stairs unnoticed. Ami's computer had unlatched the electronic lock somehow and they'd dashed up to the right floor. Which was where they'd run into the first problem. The lock was an old fashioned deadbolt so Ami couldn't unlock it. Feeling around on the doorjamb Makoto had learned that her counterpart didn't leave a spare key in the first place. Or if she did someone else had it. Makoto frowned and tried to think where else she might have hidden a key. Then she saw Ami reach for the door and grabbed her wrist before she could snap the lock.

While the two senshi had a low voiced but energetic argument about breaking in vs discovery in the hallway Titanite remembered a trick her brother had told her. Summoning a little psychoplasm (which took more effort than usual) she didn't cast it into a form but held it in it's mutable, pseudo matter state. She pressed the palm holding the psychoplasm over the lock and let it flow into the keyhole filling the space. A moment's concentration and it became solid. Before it could melt away she turned her hand and the lock clicked open. Both senshi stopped squabbling and looked at her on hearing the noise. Trying not to look to smug she pushed the door open and made an "after you" gesture. Ami stalked in with no sign of gratitude but Makoto murmured "Thanks." Titanite closed the door behind her and wondered if she should thank Cal for showing her that trick. Or would that just raise tricky questions?

Inside Titanite looked around the apartment. It had a pleasant, middle class sort of flavour. Nothing ostentatious but everything neatly arranged, all the furniture polished and without signs of wear (though a closer examination would reveal a few neat repairs and near invisible stitching). Not a speck of dust or sign of disorder in sight. On an impulse Titanite peaked into the bedroom. Despite the occupant being roused in the middle of the night on a senshi emergency the bed was made and showed no signs of being a rush job..

Ami had found a chair and was brooding. Makoto stood in the center of the living room looking around and talking to herself. "... now that couch used to be on the opposite wall and I don't recognise that picture. That wallpaper's new ... not a bad shade but I preferred the old one ..." She began checking for dust and nodded approvingly when she didn't find any. Her inspection tour was interrupted by Ami.

"While I realise this ... homecoming must be fascinating for you we have other things to discuss."

Makoto's train of thought derailed. "Huh? ... Oh yeah, right. Sorry. It's just ... I never expected to see this place again and ... well it's a little overwhelming." She turned to Titanite. "Sorry, I'm being a lousy host. Of course it's not exactly my place but ... well please take a seat." Titanite thought a second then took the sofa opposite Ami. Makoto grabbed a chair from the dining table and placed it halfway between the chair and the couch so she faced them both, giving the seating a triangular arrangement.

As soon as she sat down Titanite demanded, "So what do we do now?" Makoto looked at Ami, Ami just shrugged. Terrific. Makoto sighed and said, "Frankly I don't know that there's a lot we can do."


"Please don't yell, these walls aren't that thick."

"To hell with that, what do you mean there's nothing you can do!" She wasn't as loud but the same intensity was there. Makoto couldn't think of anything to say. This time it was her turn to stutter, "Uhhhhh ..." So it was up to Ami to try to answer.

Looking as cold as ever Ami said, "There comes a time when heroism becomes empty sacrifice. Any attempt to rescue them would accomplish nothing except our own deaths. If eight of us could not succeed then what can three of us realistically accomplish?" Her voice showed no trace of emotion. By contrast Titanite sounded aghast.

"I don't believe this! It's youma that are supposed to betray their allies and run away when things get serious! My God! You're seriously talking about leaving them behind. You dragged them into this mess in the first place!"

"AND WE COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU! REMEMBER THAT YOUMA!" Both Makoto and Titanite cringed as Ami exploded. "You think I want to abandon them? My first impulse was to charge back to the Palace and break them free. But I'm smart enough to realize that would be suicide! I don't know why but the ginzuishou didn't work and that was the only real weapon we had against the Overlord. Without that it's hopeless before we even start! That was the last chance we had and it failed! The senshi are lost and there's not a damned thing we can do about it. At least nothing that won't get us all killed without accomplishing anything! It's over and the Dark Circle won! If there was any justice in the universe it wouldn't have happened like this! But there isn't and it did so we, all of us, have to live with the consequences of our actions!"

There was a moment of silence then Titanite shook her head. "One thing you're right about, what happened was the result of our actions. You came here to recruit the senshi to fight in your war and I gave you a way to do it. So we're all responsible for what happened over there. But we aren't the ones who are going to pay for it. They are! We got them into this mess and we are going to get them out of it. End of discussion."

"You stupid youma ..."

"Stop calling me that! That's what I am but that's not why you use it. If it's a youma talking then it's the enemy and you can ignore it. Well you're not weasling out of this mess that easily!" Ami made a choking noise and started to rise. Automatically Titanite activated her forceshield and her hand curled around the handle of an imaginary mallet. Makoto rushed between the two. "ENOUGH ALREADY! THIS IS NOT THE TIME OR PLACE. AMI! SIT DOWN!" Ami blinked as though amazed at Makoto giving her orders and stood locked in place for a few moments. Makoto met her gaze and didn't even quiver. With ill grace Ami sank back into her chair. Makoto turned to Titanite but the other had already forced herself to settle down. Makoto took a deep breath then continued.

"Now Polaris, you're right this whole mess is the fault of all of us in this room though Ami and I bear the greatest responsibility. We dragged five ... six unprepared girls into our war and hoped everything would work out. So we shouldn't be surprised it all blew up in our faces."

"That's what I've been saying ..." Titanite trailed off at Makoto's raised palm. Makoto sighed and continued.

"The problem is that Ami's right too. Going back now would be suicidal. We'd get to die knowing we were getting killed doing the right thing but it wouldn't change anything! Realistically what can the three of us accomplish? Everything hinged on the Sailor Moon and the ginzuishou but it didn't work. I don't know why ... maybe only one at a time can work so Titanite ... the Princess was using all the available power ..." She saw Polaris shaking her head.

"That doesn't make sense. I got a glimpse of what it's really capable of when the Dark Kingdom got obliterated and there's no way she was throwing around that kind of power. The ginzuishou not only wiped out Queen Metallia it resurrected the senshi and ..."

"WHAT!" Makoto sounded shocked ... right, she hadn't believed Jupiter when she was told the story. She was about to start yelling when Ami cut her off. "Perhaps you should explain that a little further." It wasn't a question, it was a demand.

"Ah ... well I don't know how much the senshi told you about what happened when they attacked our Dark Kingdom ..."

"Very little. Just give us an overview."

"Okay ... well you have to understand I got this second hand. I didn't see the actual attack cause I'd done something stupid and snuck away from our warpgate. That almost got me killed by Magnesite ... in fact if it hadn't been for Cal he would have killed me." She shivered remembering the youma in bed with her counterpart. How could she! Shaking off the growing nausea she continued. "Anyway it went something like this, the Senshi teleported to the North Pole and met Trenchcoat Mask. He died destroying the first line of defence, this power absorbing globe that was sucking up the senshi's attacks ..."

Makoto looked at Ami, "We never met Trenchcoat Mask after we teleported!"

She nodded, "And the globe exploded first time you blasted it. Looks like we have a variation point. I wonder if that changed everything that followed. Go on."

"Only if Zeus promises not to interrupt until I'm done."


Zeus glared at Ami then threw up her hands. "Okay, fine! I'll keep my mouth shut!" Ami turned back to Titanite.


"Okay. After the globe blew Beryl decided to send out champions. She picked the DD Girls and they attacked using illusions as cover. Well like Jupiter told you she was the first to fall. She took out two of the DD Girls but died doing it." Makoto was about to say something but fell silent at Ami's glare. "Mercury separated from the others to try and knock out the illusion generator. She did but she didn't survive her injuries." Ami unconsciously ran a hand over her chest. "Next Venus was ambushed but she managed to take one of the girls with her. Mars finished off the last two but didn't survive the fight. So Sailor Moon had to finish it alone. Beryl pulled her into the Kingdom intending to finish her off personally. From then on it gets kind of conjectural. Pyrite couldn't set up any way to monitor the Great Chamber so no one got to see what happened. Only Sailor Moon could give you the full story. Far as we can tell Beryl tried to use the brainwashed Endymion to kill her. She liked cruel stuff like that. Sailor Moon broke the spell but Beryl killed him, except he fatally wounded her before he died. Far as we can tell Beryl merged with Metallia ... or maybe Metallia used Beryl as a host as she wasn't ready to exist outside the healing cocoon. Either way you wound up with this creature with godlike abilities. Sailor Moon started throwing around incredible amounts of power, I think she'd become Princess Serenity, anyway she destroyed Beryl and this massive wave of power began ... well ... erasing everything. Our little group warped out of the Kingdom and materialized in Tokyo. We weren't staying, Cal had set up fake identities and we were heading for England the next day. To simplify things we were going by plane. We got a real shock when we started dying of mana deprivation ..." She stopped as Mercury broke in.

"That doesn't make sense. Calcite would not be stupid enough to leave Tokyo when it's the source of the mana radiation you need to survive!"

"He was well aware of the problem. Thing is he thought we didn't have to worry anymore. See the gate Pyrite set up was a special one. It wasn't just going to materialize us in Tokyo. It was also going to establish a subspace link between us and the mana fountain under Tokyo. Don't ask me how. All I know is that it was incredibly complex. And supposedly it had worked, at least according to Pyrite's tests. But things had changed ... later Pyrite described it as reality having flickered when the ginzuishou was used. See suddenly the senshi were alive again ... or maybe reality had changed so they'd never died in the first place ... actually I think it's like they all appeared where they would have been if they hadn't gone to the North Pole and didn't know they were Senshi. Maybe ... truth is no one seems to know exactly what happened. None of them remembered being senshi or anything that had happened while they'd been senshi. As they'd all become friends after becoming senshi that vanished too. At least until Luna restored their memories about three months later when those aliens showed up."

"That fits in with what my counterpart told me." Ami paused, "What was that about aliens? My counterpart started to say something but I didn't have the time to hear the whole story."

"Again I heard about this after the fact. Back in July of '93 Magnesite showed up alive and looking for revenge on the Renegades and the Senshi. He nearly beat Pyrite to death, abducted everyone else except Calcite and Sailor Venus then tried to manipulate them into killing each other. Anyway during time we were ... uh hanging around his hideout I got to ask the senshi what had been going on the past couple of months. It passed the time and was better than wondering what Magnesite was planning to do to us. Anyway it cleared up a few things I'd been wondering; like was the Moonshadow Knight really Tuxedo Mask in Arabian nights' getup? Who was that ninja guy anyway? And just who the heck had they been fighting the past couple of months? The short version is it was a pair of aliens who were more misguided than evil. Sailor Moon was able to save them from themselves and they left Earth."

Ami decided that answer raised a lot more questions but they were getting sidetracked enough. "Don't bother explaining all that, I doubt it's relevant to your story about the ginzuishou. Obviously Magnesite lost and wound up as a trophy of your brother's. Get back to telling us what happened after you discovered you were stuck in Tokyo."

"Well there's not much more to say. Without the conditions that existed in the Dark Kingdom to start from Pyrite hasn't be able to find a way to create the mana link. So we're stuck in Tokyo for the foreseeable future. There's no sign that the pocket dimension the Kingdom existed in was ever there. It's like reality blinked that day and everything was undone. Don't ask me how but that's the sort of thing the ginzuishou's really capable of doing. So there's no way Princess Titanite was using all its' power. Besides which I got the impression using it at full strength taps into the wielder's life force." Titanite couldn't think of anything more to say and took a look at her audience. Sailor Hermes looked thoughtful and was pondering her tale. By contrast Sailor Zeus's face seemed drained of blood. Her expression hovering somewhere between shock and shame. She spoke suddenly, her voice was close a whisper.

"You mean ... you mean she wasn't kidding. She ... Sailor Jupiter really did die and come back."

"Uhm ... well ... yeah. Or reality altered so she never actually died but she remembers what happened in the old reality. I don't think they knew exactly what had happened either. But she wasn't just making up a story when she talked to you if that's what you're asking."

From the stricken look on Makoto's face that was exactly what she was asking. "Oh my god! I thought ... It was such a crazy story ... how was I supposed to know she was telling the truth!" Tears glistened in her eyes. "I treated her like dirt and she was just telling me what she'd been through. I thought we had it bad but dying and coming back ..." She looked like she was spiralling towards a breakdown so Titanite decided intervene.

"It's not like you had any way of knowing. Besides you've had it a lot worse. Okay so she died but it was over quickly and then everything was all right again ..." Makoto didn't look convinced. Suddenly Titanite felt a tremendous exasperation. "Oh the heck with it! If you really want to wallow in guilt then go ahead. But right now you're a helluva lot better off than Jupiter! She's in the hands of the youma and you've taken her place. If anyone needs pity now it's them not you!" Makoto spun around to shout at Titanite then froze with her mouth half open. The shock vanished from her face to be replaced by wonder.

"You're right. My God, you're right!" She hadn't considered the implications until now but Titanite was absolutely right. It was impossible to free the senshi, even assuming they were still alive which was far from certain. So the other Makoto wasn't coming home again. Which meant there was now a vacant place in this world which Makoto Kino had occupied. A space she could fill perfectly! Incredible as it seemed she'd been wrong about things never being the same again. She could take her counterpart's place with ease. The second chance she'd prayed for was here. No more hopeless fighting! She could have her old life back! She began to grin from ear to ear and Titanite had the sudden feeling she'd just said the worst possible thing. Then Ami's voice intruded.

"If the ginzuishou affects reality that could explain its' failure in our world." Makoto still seemed to be locked in her own little world so it was up to Titanite to say, "I don't understand."

"Simply put, it affects reality because it's tied into the basic fabric of the universe, the quantum structure of reality itself. But that's only true for this continuum. Remove it to another reality and it has no link. If the other ginzuishou was brought here it would be equally useless. This also explains why Sailor Moon's transformation shut down. She's the only Senshi who draws upon an artifact she carries with her as the source of her powers. The ginzuishou shut down after she entered our universe and she was drawing on the power she had unknowingly stored. Once that was exhausted she reverted to Usagi. If we hadn't limited her to using her tiara she'd have burned herself out a lot sooner." Ami paused a moment then continued, "I believe the rest of us draw on outside sources ... I suspect that when we crossed into this continuum we lost contact with our own powerlinks but immediately began drawing on the same source as our counterparts. And vice versa when they crossed into our dimension. Though I will admit this is pure speculation on my part."

Titanite took a minute to sort through that. Okay so even if they had the ginzuishou it would be useless. If Mercury ... she meant Hermes ... was such a big genius why didn't she think of that earlier? She managed to stop herself saying that out loud. She didn't need to start another rant she needed to find a way out of this mess. Hermes was studying Sailor Zeus who was still oblivious to the outside world. Zeus was muttering, "I can get it right this time!", which was obviously deeply significant to her. Hermes had a odd expression on her face. Rather than the cold blooded war machine Ti had quickly come to expect Ami seemed to be yearning for something. Whatever it was seemed to both fascinate and scare her. Under her breath she whispered, "Second chance" and shook with either fear or excitement. Titanite had a sudden nasty premonition which she managed to squelch. What they needed to do was come up with a new plan. Something Hermes had said snapped into focus.

"You said that Shadow couldn't tell the difference between me and ... her ... the Princess?" Hermes looked blank for a moment then reestablished contact with reality. She nodded. Titanite took a deep breath, "So if that's the case then I can probably command it the same as her?" She could feel a plan forming. If they went back and she turned Shadow against her other self then ... no wait it can't attack Titanite! Remember dummy? Still she should be able to immobilize it. So with Shadow out of the way maybe a combined surprise attack could break the Princess's forceshield and ... The reality belatedly sunk in.

And what? Kill her? Without Sailor Moon she can't be healed so the only option is to ... Titanite shuddered. No, wait! Okay we take her by surprise, take her ginzuishou from her and try to use it to cleanse her (which was what I wanted to do in the first place) then she'll be like me and will free the senshi. Or if she's out of action then I impersonate her and tell the youma to release the senshi. Claim I'm taking them personally to the Overlord or something. Sailor Moon changes back using the new ginzuishou and we go fix up the Overlord. Yeah, this'll work. I'm a genius. Ignoring the annoying critical voice in the back of her head she began outlining her plan.

She'd barely begun when Hermes interrupted her. "It won't work."

"Why not? What's wrong with it!"

"What isn't? You're assuming we can use the same route again when the entire Palace is full of alerted guards! You can't be that big a fool!" Titanite bristled but kept quiet. "That's in the unlikely event that they haven't got guards and bobby traps all over the receiving dock while they figure out how we overrode their security! There is no way we are getting back in!"

"Are you done?" At Hermes nod Titanite continued politely, "Good. Now why would I do something as suicidal as retrace our old route? I now have a teleport lock on the Princess's personal arrival pad. Remember that, the way we got out? Once we return to your world I can take us directly to her bedroom sidestepping all the guards."

"If she's still there, which I very much doubt."

"Why? She didn't run away while we were storming through the Palace! So why would she leave after she'd already won?" Hermes felt a minor flare of panic. Princess Titanite might still be a viable target, especially with a way to both get close to her and neutralize her personal bodyguard. Which meant she had a duty to return and fight. Except she was feeling less like going back with every moment that passed. She had to distract the youma until she could find the flaws in this plan. And what will you do if you can't find any, Ami? She ignored the inner voice and answered the youma's question in a cynical voice.

"Good point. She might not have been finished with Magnesite yet." She watched Titanite shudder in disgust. Yes she'd touched a definite sore spot. With a bit of effort Titanite pushed down the memory of the couple on the bed.

"Returning to our rescue mission ..."

"So did you have a crush on your Magnesite?" Titanite twitched. "Must have been a blow when he tried to kill you. Assuming any of that happened. Or were you plotting with him to eliminate the Senshi all along?"

"Let it drop Hermes!" There was a definite growl in her voice.

"I suppose from the youma perspective he's what a girl would want. Cold, ruthless, strong ..."

"SHUT UP! All Magnesite was to me was the creep who used my being a Renegade to keep Calcite blackmailed into working for him. I didn't like him and all I was to him was a tool to manipulate my brother. He nearly killed me the day the Kingdom fell! There was never anything between us and there never will be. If he ever gets out of the crystal I'll be the first one in line to blast him! Get it? Now stop getting on my nerves and let's get back to freeing the senshi!" She finished her tirade and glared at Hermes. Hermes glared back with matching hostility. The staring match was broken by Sailor Zeus. She'd been snapped out of her dream world by the yelling.

"Give it a rest, Ami. Her counterpart's love life has no connection to her and even the little I've seen convinces me they're very different people." Ami spun to rebuke Makoto but stopped herself before she said anything she'd regret. Alienating her only friend over a youma was a very bad idea. When she was sure Ami wouldn't interrupt Makoto turned to Titanite. "Sorry about that, Ami's just a little on edge." True enough but Ami wouldn't have had any consideration for a youma's feelings anyway. Still she'd definitely been provoking Titanite. Makoto thought she knew why but wasn't about to say it out loud. Not when she was feeling the same way. But unless she could come up with good reasons not to go back she'd be feeling guilty the rest of her life.

Somewhat insincerely Titanite accepted Makoto's explanation. She was about to renew her call to arms but Makoto preempted her. "Much as we want to free the senshi that's impossible."

"WHAT?!" Somewhat quieter, "Why? A surprise attack could ..."

"No, it can't. We've got a lot more experience in these matters so will you listen?" Titanite hesitated then nodded. "Good. Okay the main problem is we have no idea where either they are or Princess Titanite is by now."

"She'll be at her castle ..."

"Unlikely. After an attack by actual senshi she'll definitely have contacted the Overlord. Odds are he'll have claimed the senshi and taken them for examination. Which means either he's got them or he's turned them over to Lord Pyrite. That's assuming your ... the Princess didn't just kill them then and there. Which definitely can't be ruled out." Titanite blanched. "If they are still alive we have no idea where they've been taken so a rescue is problematic. As for infiltrating the Palace ..." Makoto shook her head, "By now Az ... Lady Azurite and her security divisions will be all over the place."


"The queen bitch herself, Calcite's right hand youma!" They both turned to face Ami. Ami seemed to have brightened up, "A couple of the Dark Circle have other responsibilities apart from ruling dominions. Azurite handles security; tracking down would be assassins, Beryl loyalists, youma plotting against the circle and so on. She's very good at it. Pyrite's his other hand, weapons development and overseeing youma research in addition to his own studies. The point is after an attempt to kill the Princess ..."

"Cleanse the Princess!"

"Call it what you will. Anyway they'll have moved her to somewhere secure, probably the Citadel. By now Azurite's got the palace full of troops and is systematically tearing everything apart to find out how we beat their system. So returning there is a death sentence."

Titanite considered going up against Azurite and shook her head. In the training exercises she'd never beaten her. Azurite could outthink and outmanoeuvre her any day of the week. There was no reason to think her counterpart was any easier to fight. Indeed an Azurite without inhibitions would be a lot harder to fight. Okay, so the simple solution was to avoid her.

"If we go directly to this Citadel place ..." She trailed off as she saw how they were looking at her. Hermes gave a cynical laugh.

"Break in to the Citadel? Just the three of us? We barely made it through the palace and you want to break in to the most heavily defended place on Earth? Not to mention that if the Overlord's home we won't even last long enough for a few last words." Hermes looked thoughtful. "Now that I think of it that's probably where the senshi were taken. He's got Heaven and Poseidon there so he'll probably want to add them to his collection. Which means zero chance of getting them free. Even if we had a working ginzuishou I'd say the odds were against us ...."

"WHOA! HOLD IT! That was the whole idea wasn't it? Your big plan was take on the Overlord with the ginzuishou. What do you mean about the odds being against it?!"

"That was based on a surprise attack using you. Following our recent debacle the youma are going to be very security conscious." She didn't add how much of a longshot it would have been even if everything had gone as planned.

Makoto shuddered as something occurred to her. "Not to mention he's holding the senshi so they'll tell him how we beat security." Images of what he'd done to Heaven and Poseidon filled her mind.

"Maybe they won't talk." Titanite saw the others shake their heads. Hermes said simply, "They'll talk." Makoto nodded in agreement, "There's no way they can hold out for long if he ..." Her voice trailed off and she wondered what the other Makoto was enduring right now. The room went silent.

Titanite broke the silence, "Okay that clinches it. We've got to get them back!"

"Weren't you listening to a thing I said?" Ami's voice was dripping with condescension. Titanite didn't let it rile her and kept going.

"Every word, especially the part about them telling the Overlord everything. Which means he'll know there's another world out there somewhere. Meaning he'll be coming after us 'cause if he doesn't we might come back again someday." Which is exactly what Cal was afraid would happen and another reason we have to rescue the senshi fast! Otherwise I'll have done a lot worse than let him down again. This time I'll have endangered the entire world! Why don't I ever think about the consequences?

She shook off the self-pity. Get a grip Ti! The most important thing now is to save the senshi. Once we've done that we can worry about the Dark Circle breaking through. Though if we can get Sailor Moon and her ginzuishou back then we can hold them off on this world. First things first!

"So we've got no choice, we have to save the senshi. Otherwise we just sit here waiting for the Overlord to come calling!" Zeus looked alarmed but Hermes seemed unperturbed. Why?

"That isn't a real worry." Makoto turned to Ami questioningly. She sounded confident but how could she know that? Ami continued, "Fortunately we took some precautions. I encoded all my data concerning my dimensional experiments and the readings I took that initially lead us to this dimension. I also took the precaution of not downloading that information to Mercury's terminal. So even if the Overlord ... acquires her terminal the data will not be present. Without that ... well there's a lot of other universes out there, the odds that he can possibly find this one out of all the infinite possibilities is minimal. He can either cast out blindly in the hopes of finding us and run the risk of encountering something he can't beat or he can write the whole thing off and be content with the world he's got to rule. He's no fool so he'll realize the risk outweighs the gain. Risking everything to hunt down two senshi just isn't worth it. So searching for us is more trouble than it's worth. Especially if we don't try to come back."

It took Titanite a minute to work out what Hermes was saying. When she did it chilled her to the core. "You ... You're really going to write them off?" Her voice was thick with disbelief. She must have misunderstood. Senshi wouldn't do things like that to each other! But Hermes met her gaze and nodded. Titanite tried to say something coherent but failed.

Makoto tried to fill the silence. "Ami ...", she trailed off as she realized she had no idea what to say. Ami took her hands.

"I know Mako." Ami's voice was quiet but heartfelt. "This isn't a good thing we're doing but we can't accomplish anything by returning except dying pointlessly. This is our fault but we can't make it right by throwing our lives away. I'll weep for them and I'll mourn them but that's all we can do for them. To throw our own lives away needlessly is an act of cowardice. We have to accept the consequences of our actions and live with what we've done."

The solemness of the moment was broken rather abruptly. "EXCUSE ME?! You've got to be kidding right?! There's five girls who aren't coming home if we don't do something. What are we going to tell their families?" Ami turned to face Titanite.

"There are three girls who aren't coming home." Makoto looked at Ami as though to protest but it died unspoken. She nodded. However Titanite didn't get it.


"There are now vacant spaces once occupied by Makoto Kino and Ami Mizuno. It would be foolish not to use them." Ami watched Titanite's look of incomprehension change from realization through to horror.

"You've can't be serious! You're going to steal their lives? This is some sort of sick joke right?" Ami's gaze didn't waver. "My God, you're serious. You want their lives and you're going to take them. That's why you really don't want to go back. This is your big chance so you're going to take it. It's not that you don't think we can succeed, it's because you're afraid that we will!" Ami's face darkened and she was about to roar when Makoto laid a hand on her arm. She whipped round to face her friend and saw Makoto shake her head.

"Don't say anything you'll regret. It's an understandable mistake. In a way I feel the same. But I understand what you mean so I'll explain it to her. Remember there are other people who are going to demand an explanation. When Mamoru returns ..." She didn't finish the sentence but Ami got the point. Ami didn't think it possible to regret anything she said to a youma but she subsided. Makoto released her arm and addressed the furious Titanite.

"Look I realize it appears that we're profiting from the Senshi's misfortune. No, let's be clear, we are taking advantage of the situation. But is it going to improve things if we let Ami and Makoto join the ranks of the disappeared? Ami wasn't making a thing up. Going back is nothing but a recipe for suicide. You'd get to die feeling self righteous but you wouldn't accomplish anything. You saw a small part of what we were up against. Do you honestly feel that the three of us alone can beat them?"

Titanite's face was a study in confusion. Hesitantly she said, "Maybe ... maybe not. But you're ... cheating everyone. You'll be telling everyone you ... she knows that you are Makoto Kino ..."

"I am Makoto Kino. And I won't be telling them that, they'll just assume it." Quieter, "I know what you mean. But will it really improve things if Ami's mother thinks she's lost her daughter?"

"I ... that's not ... uhhh ..." Titanite struggled to think of something to say. Then it hit her. "It won't work! You don't look like them anymore!"

Makoto shook her head sadly. "A new hairstyle and I wear loose clothing until I've put some weight back on." Then she frowned and looked at Ami. Ami understood what she meant.

"It's been a long time since my mother dressed me. With a little care and the right clothes there's no reason I can't keep my scarring hidden." As she said that Ami quailed inside. It had been a year since she'd had to worry about her appearance. Now? Now it was an issue again. Her idea of looking for the Ryo Urawa of this world shattered. Why would he want a girlfriend whose chest looked like a disaster area? Why would any man? Reconstructive surgery could repair some of the damage. But to get it she'd have to explain where she got the scars and how and why she'd kept the injuries secret all this time. What else had her counterpart being doing these past two years? She had her journal entries on the terminal but those were fairly dry. The sheer enormity of taking over another's life, even if it was another version of her was incredible.

"That's not what I mean! You're senshi so you've got disguise magic. Anyone who looks at you isn't going to know who you are!" Titanite sounded triumphant, she'd found the flaw in their scheme. Now they could get back to planning a way to rescue her senshi.

Hermes didn't even blink. "We'll have to untransform, obviously."

Titanite felt her stomach plummet into her feet. "But ... but ... but you don't have your transformation wands anymore. If you change back it's forever!" Which means there's no way you can free the senshi. Hermes nodded and Titanite felt even sicker. She had to stop them before it was too late. "WAIT!" She had their attention, "Please just ... just don't change back until we're sure there's no way of fixing things." After a pause Zeus nodded. the thought of her counterpart suffering as Heaven and Posiedon had while she did nothing was already making her feel guilty. She could wait until Titanite was convinced. She'd been a senshi for months, a little longer wouldn't hurt. Ami also agreed to wait. It was an irreversible step and shouldn't be rushed into. Beside which, it abruptly occurred to her, they had better still be senshi when they encountered Mamoru-san and told him Usagi was lost. Or they might not survive his grief and rage. Yes, practise at convincing people that the senshi were lost forever would be very useful. Not that they were lying, she told herself, the fact was that the senshi were gone for good. It wasn't possible for them to be saved. She knew that for a fact. So why did it feel like she was trying to convince herself?

Titanite marshalled her thoughts and momentarily wished she had her brother's mind control abilities. She shook off the thought. Concentrate Ti! Focus on the situation and what you can do about it rather than the way you want things to be. She took a deep breath and began.

"Okay, you say we can't accomplish anything in your world on our own and you're probably right. So what we need are some allies!" Neither interupted so she kept going, "The obvious choice is Tuxedo Mask ..."

Ami snorted, "Yes, right. I'm sure the Overlord will be overawed by his ability to throw roses and make inspirational speeches." Titanite just stared at her so Makoto pitched in.

"That's a little cynical, Ami. Okay so he didn't fight too much but he was dangerous when he did. Remember he beat me pretty easy while he was under Beryl's control." Ami looked at her friend and said simply, "Do you think he could do the same thing now?"

"Well ... no I guess not. But the point is ... uhm ... well it's not like he's useless."

Titanite chipped in, "I understand he's good with a sword as well. At least he was during his Moonshadow Knight phase." That earned her some blank looks.


"During the alien incident I mentioned earlier he was running around in this white Arabian nights sheikh getup calling himself the Moonshadow Knight."


"I'm not exactly sure. Some sort of sideffect of what happened at the North Pole. Anyway while we were Magnesite's prisoners the senshi confirmed Tuxedo Kamen and the Moonshadow Knight were the same guy. We were running through the list of potential rescuers to see who was left. Short list, the only ones left were Cal, Venus and Tuxedo." Thinking about that reminded her of Magnesite which reminded her what she'd witnessed in the Palace's bedroom. She shuddered again and tried to banish the image with limited success. Ti forced her mind back to the present.

"Okay so he's not enough but he'll be the first to volunteer to go when he returns to Tokyo. Matter of fact he's going to insist on going even if he has to go alone!"

Makoto nodded. "She's right."

"True." Hermes looked thoughtful. "Before we tell him we'd better hide or dismantle the key."

"We? This isn't yours ... or mine." Ami nodded.

"Excellent point. Your elders will be happy to seal it away somewhere inaccessible." Titanite just stared but inside she agreed with Hermes. After a mess like this they'd cut off her access to the key. Heck, the only reason Pyrite had given her the access code was because of the icedancer incident three weeks ago. She pushed the thought aside and continued.

"Okay the next obvious candidates are the Outer Senshi, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. They're supposed to be more powerful than the Inner Senshi. Or maybe they just have better control of their abilities."

Makoto inhaled sharply then reluctantly said, "They might be a lot of use. If we used them to replace the Senshi and went back ..."

Ami seemed unruffled. She looked at Titanite and asked, "Who are they and where would we contact them?"

"Ummm ... well I don't know. Didn't the senshi tell you their real names?"

"No, the subject never arose. Why would it have?"

"It's not in your computer?" Ami's hand moved and she was holding it. She flipped it open and got to work. A few seconds later she snapped it shut and folded it back into the overpocket. "Their true identities aren't recorded. Maybe for security reason, maybe she didn't know."

Titanite wasn't about to let it go that easily. "I'll bet we could attract their attention easily enough. The media's fascinated by Senshi sightings so it would be simple to stage some event and send a message to them that way!"

"That's partially true. But we have no idea how long that would take and our time is limited. If a rescue isn't attempted soon it'll be too late." After a moment she added, "Assuming it's not already too late."

Titanite swallowed hard and tried again, "Well there's supposed to be a Sailor Pluto ... but I know less about her than I do about Uranus and Neptune. She's associated with them so if we can get them we can get her ..." Inspiration struck. "We can contact whatshisname, Tuxedo Mask. I'll bet he can tell us who they really are!" Brilliant, she'd cracked it.

Ami's face froze. Then she asked, "Where is he?"

"Sailor Moon said he's away at a funeral. Somewhere outside Tokyo."

"Yes, but where?"

"Uhm ... well I don't exactly know ..." Hermes hide a smile.

"So we have the same problem as before. No way to contact him and time is running out." As she said this she began thinking how she could use her computer to track him by scanning databases for recent deaths and finding any that had connections to Mamoru. She didn't volunteer the information. Why should she make him throw his life away on a futile quest?

Titanite hadn't given up yet. "Okay there's still Trenchcoat Mask ..."

Makoto shook her head. "He's gone. They told us he never reappeared."

"Really? I guess they don't know yet." And maybe never will.

"Know what?"

"He's back. I met him three weeks ago during the ice dancer incident."

"The what?"

Titanite ordered her thoughts then answered as best she could. "I don't know exactly what it was all about. Only the senshi could tell us. Anyway I was out with a friend of mine one evening when these things ... they looked kind of like women made of ice wearing these long white dresses came flying down and started deep-freezing everything. They'd first been spotted a few weeks earlier but they'd disappeared pretty quickly and hadn't left any evidence. They also weren't as widespread. Now they were everywhere and intent on giving Tokyo its' own iceage. They attacked us so I used my powers." Blowing my secret identity in front of Kaori but that couldn't be helped. "Anyway I zapped a couple of them and that got us some space. That's when Trenchcoat Mask showed up being pursued by a pack of them. He'd used his roses on a couple of them and their friends hadn't liked that. Anyway we wound up fighting together and took out quite a few. Unfortunately that made us enough of a threat for about a hundred of them to come after us. We did our best but we got deep-frozen into our own little glacier."

Hermes frowned, "Wait a minute ..."

"If we'd been deep-frozen we'd have died along with everyone else they zapped, right? That's how the authorities explained it away afterwards. I think they're still looking for a terrorist group that uses a hallucinogenic gas that causes paralysis. All I know is suddenly the ice vanished, whatever spell created it was wiped out and I was free but felt rotten. Most people they froze recovered almost instantaneously. Of course most people didn't have a dozen of the things blasting them. Trench was in worse shape than me, weaker constitution I guess. Anyway Cal ... did I mention the rest of the DKR had found me while I was frozen? Well they had, anyway Cal picked him up and propped him in a nearby coffeeshop and we got out of there. I guess he recovered and went home."

Ami looked thoughtful. "Trenchcoat Mask ... did you find out his real name?" Ti shook her head.

"He didn't tell me. Cal tried to check him for ID but there was something odd about his pockets. Also he didn't have much time to search him. He was busy keeping Margrave from kicking Trench while he was down. Seems she has a grudge against him for some reason, don't ask me why. They must have met somewhere but I can't think when and she wouldn't tell me."

Ami smiled faintly. "The same problem then. We don't know who he is or where to find him." But she would definitely have to search for him though at a more leisurely pace. He'd intrigued her from the moment they'd first met. Or rather her Trenchcoat Mask had, but this dimension's version should be identical. Yes, she'd definitely have to look for him. But wouldn't that mean staying Sailor Hermes and not becoming Ami Mizuno again? She'd have to think about that. Of course with my mother as long as I drop off the odd note at home that I'm out studying I could stay away for a month before she got worried about my absence.

Meanwhile Titanite was saying, "It's only because of that mess I was able to get the warpkey tonight."


"Yeah, see after ... that little mess I got myself into the first time I used it, which incidentally was when I first visited your world, Calcite sealed his key away. Pyrite had one but when he set up his new lab he changed things a little. He gave himself, Azure and Cal full access by just touching the right panel. For me ... well I could open the lab and use it as a refuge but most of the gizmos stayed sealed away. What he didn't tell me then was he'd set up a code phrase that would give me access to everything. Anyway for a while there it looked like the world was coming to an end. Or at the least Tokyo was heading for a permanent iceage. As that's the only place in this world we can survive vacating this dimension was looking like a reasonable option despite the side effects. So he decided in case there was a repeat, which is kinda reasonable with all the weird stuff that happens around here, and something happened to the three of them I'd better have a way out. So he gave me the code." And, she added silently, I promised to only use it in the direst emergency. A promise I kept for almost three weeks. She winced. Sorry Pyr, But I thought I was doing the right thing. Heh, and if we'd succeeded tonight I still would. I'm pretty pathetic really. Then she shook her head. No, I promised no more self pity until the senshi were safe. Focus Ti, focus! She realized Hermes was watching her.

"Do you have anyone else in mind?"

Titanite began grasping at straws. "Well there's still that ninja guy."

"That what?" She had Makoto's attention at least.

"Uhm ... well I never met actually met him. He was only really around while those aliens and their cardians were causing trouble. Before I got the idea to become Sailor Polaris. Let's see he was either the Starhunter or a Starhunter ... I'm not sure which. I also don't really know what he could do ... but I think he was more Tuxedo Mask class than senshi ..." She realized that sounded pretty lame when they were looking for someone capable of storming a castle full of youma. Short of Super Sailor Moon you weren't going to have much luck.

Gently as she could Makoto asked, "You don't have any idea where to find him do you?" Titanite sighed, "Not a clue. All I know was nobody was expecting him to show up and save us from Magnesite so I guess he wasn't even in Tokyo anymore."

"Is there anyone else?"

Titanite carefully avoided mention of a group she knew very well. They'd already refused to get involved and it looked like they had better reasons than she'd thought for doing that. She couldn't involve a child in this so Sailor Chibi-Moon wasn't even a possibility. She looked over to the dimensional key and tried to think of someone she'd met out there who could help her.

The Knight Sabers? No chance. Their world had enough problems to keep them busy and they weren't equipped to fight magic. Jadeite's necromatically charged Boomers had wiped the floor with them. As she remembered that an odd image popped into her mind. Jadeite staring at her in amazement, blood dripping around something embedded in his chest. Just as suddenly it was gone. What the heck did that mean? She'd been out cold when her brother ... ended the battle. She certainly hadn't seen Jadeite expire. Worry about that later Ti, get back to thinking up possible allies!

Cityhunter? Good if you were taking on the yakuza. Next to useless in the current situation. The Overfiend Universe? Forget it! She was never going back there! It made the Dark Kingdom look warm and friendly. That had been the most sickening place she'd ever gone ... at least until her visit to Princess Titanite's bedroom. Returning to that demon infested universe was out of the question! She'd only survived her trip because of a fortuitous possession. That was very unlikely to happen again.

Ranma? Well he always won in the anime, admittedly with the odd setback, but that was against other martial artists. Not to mention she'd zapped him with a Polaris Homing Missile (tm) pretty easily. So martial artists against youma didn't seem to be much of a contest. Unless you were trying to set up a massacre.

That covered all the dimensions she could reach with the key. No help there. Besides which those were parallel universes, bring anyone from them into this or the Dark World and they'd undergo dimensional assimilation. Who knows what you'd wind up with? You might get lucky when they changed but more likely would just screw everything up. So the idea was doomed before she even started. Terrific! What was she going to do now?

Titanite snapped her fingers. Why hadn't she thought of trying that sooner. She answered her own question immediately, "Because it's such a long shot." Still it was worth a try.

She stood up and activated her bracelet morphing her clothes back to slacks and a sweater. Both Senshi were watching her, Makoto curiously, Ami cautiously. "I've got another possibility. I'll be right back. Don't do anything!" She focused on her destination and drew the power she needed. Yes, she was definitely going to have to replenish her reserves. On that thought she teleported.

No one had seen her arrive thankfully. Fortunately it was still early so the stores around here hadn't opened yet. She sprinted from the alleyway but forced herself to stick to a reasonable speed. Just a girl out for an early morning walk, nothing suspicious at all. Her heart was pounding as she approached the address. She almost didn't dare to look but she had to.

It wasn't there! The neat brass nameplate reading, "The Millennium Coffee Shop" was gone. This was a bookstore! She muttered a curse in youma'shak, it was a good language for cursing and very few people would know what you'd said. She calmed herself. The bookstore wasn't new, it had been here for years. To everyone else who'd passed here that's what they'd seen and what they'd entered. Not her. Sometimes when she'd passed there had been a door to somewhere else. Just like one of those weird little stores in those fantasy stories that only appear for certain people.

"Never a transdimensional coffeeshop around when you really need one!", she muttered. No real surprise, it had vanished some time ago. But she'd hoped ... Well it was probably for the best. If it had been here what would she have done anyway? Brought Rhiannon and her fellow senshi through to this world (assuming they'd even come, who knew what was happening in their world?) then crossed them over to the Dark World? Risk depriving another world of its' senshi? Not to mention risking a friend's life for the sake of another world. Using others to fight your own war ... wasn't that exactly what Hermes had done? No, this was probably for the best. She wondered if Rhiannon ever thought of her then forced herself to focus on getting her senshi back. Hopefully Rhi was okay wherever she was but right now she had five girls she knew were in trouble to worry about. With that she teleported back to Makoto's apartment.

"No luck?"

"No." Was she imagining the relief on their faces?

Titanite couldn't think of any other allies to try. She sighed. "Okay, let's see you convince me abandoning them is the best thing to do." She glanced at her bracelet's clock. "But first I have to make a phone call."

Margrave sleepily realised she was awake and opened an eye. According to the digital display it was 7:15 am on Sunday. She closed her eye and sighed. Far too early to get up but her bladder had it's own ideas. At least there wasn't an accompanying headache, she hadn't overdone it as much as she had last year. She'd been really depressed then when she thought about the Kingdom's fall. Losing to humans was intolerable, at least so it had seemed at the time. Fact was she didn't miss the Kingdom the way she once had. While she'd lost her chances to rise through the youma ranks she'd also escaped all the slime who used to push her around. Her life wasn't as exciting as it had been (at least not most of the time) but it was certainly more comfortable and secure. Maybe she was going soft but she was getting used to it. While she'd never admit it Ti was right. Deep down she didn't want to return to the Dark Kingdom ... at least not as a low rank youma. If she could be a queen or hold high rank well that would be a different story. But neither of those senshi had recognised her meaning she was probably just a low ranker in their world. So crossing over and replacing her counterpart wouldn't be worth the effort. She wondered momentarily why the other Kingdom's Margrave had failed to captivate Calcite then dismissed the matter. She'd never know so why speculate. In the meantime she had more immediate matters to worry about.

Half asleep, grumbling and with her eyes closed she started to get up. She felt herself pull against something which flexed then snapped her back to the bed. Confused and alarmed she opened her eyes as she shook off her sleepiness. A tether on her wrist? Correction, on both wrists. Soft cuffs and some give but it felt strong. What in Abyss was going on here? Oh yeah, right! Now she remembered. Well she needed these things off so she'd better wake Calcite. He was still asleep but in some ways he was a very light sleeper. She could wake him easily enough by unsheathing her claws. Of course that would mean a battle ready Calcite exploding out of bed looking for an enemy. Not a good way to start the day and potentially dangerous. Better try something a little less likely to backfire.

"Cal!" He mumbled something but didn't stir. She prodded him but without much force (relatively speaking). "Cal!"

"Hrmm ... urhm ..." His eyes half opened, "Morning. It's Sunday right?"


"Good." His eyes started to close.

"Cal I need to get up but I'm stuck here!"

"Your idea as I recall!" He sounded sleepy and his eyes stayed shut but the psychoplasm restraints dissolved. Margrave purred and stretched, wincing a little in the process. A nice hot bath would be an idea. But later, soon as she'd taken care of business she'd get a little more sleep.

Speaking of which she could tell that Calcite was near dozing but still half awake. He was undoubtably tracking her aura to make sure she wasn't going to sneak off anywhere. He still didn't trust her very much. Good! If Calcite started trusting her then she'd know she was really slipping. There was only room for one dependable person in this relationship and that was him.

A few minutes later on her way back Margrave stopped outside Titanite's room. Something felt wrong ... the scent! It was hours old, nothing fresh! She flung the door open already knowing what she'd find. Racing from the empty room she headed for the stairs. A quick check of the house showed the most recent scent heading out the back door about six hours ago. She hadn't come back! Shit, this was not good. Margrave hissed in frustration then realized she was being watched.

Calcite had felt Margrave stop suddenly then start tearing downstairs. He'd automatically expanded his range then felt a warning bell go off in his mind. The only other presence in the house was Margrave. That woke him up in a hurry and he was out of bed in a flash.

"Margrave, where is my sister?"

Margrave turned around and tried to look innocent. "Errrrr ... It uhm ... it looks like she went out for a walk." It was pretty obvious he didn't buy that for a second. He also didn't look very amused. "This is not a good time to play games. Not with two near psycho senshi wandering the city." Margrave tried to come up with an answer while wondering if she should try the truth for a change. She was saved by the bell when the phone rang. Calcite grabbed it. "Hello? Ti? Where are you and why are you out so early?" "Morning Cal. Look I'm sorry to just zip off but there have been a few complications ... ask Margrave about the Kaori situation. Uhm ... look I'm fine and I'll be home later. Gotta go. Bye."

There was the click of a receiver then just a dial tone. He put the phone down then asked Margrave, "You heard all that?" She nodded. He wasn't surprised, her hearing was exceptional. "What's the Kaori problem? Is it connected to that friend of hers, Kaori Hayashi?"

Margrave looked a little ill at ease. "Uh yeah, that's her ... She only told me about it a little while ago. See ... well when those icewomen were attacking you know she became Sailor Polaris and tried to zap them?" He nodded. "Well what she didn't tell any of us at the time was when they first attacked she had to use her powers in front of Hayashi."

Calcite sighed. "Had to defend her friend. Figures."

"Yeah well, renegade values are bound to screw you up. Saving her own skin would have been the youman thing to do but ... Anyway she changed to Sailor Polaris to make things a little more explicable. So afterwards she found Kaori had a bad case of hero worship for her. I guess Ti was already something of a idol to her but this made it a lot worse. So Ti figured her secret was safe enough but Kaori's been gushing over her every chance she gets which makes her a little uncomfortable. Anyway she told me about it a week ago. I think she's starting to get worried that Kaori's enthusiasm will make her blurt it out. But she didn't want to tell you because you might mess with her mind. You've told her mind blocking an obsession can cause severe psychological effects. So that's out. And since this kid's a friend she doesn't want to use the Dark Queen gambit."

Margrave suddenly snapped her mouth shut. Dammit, Cal wasn't supposed to know about that! But he didn't ask what she meant. He simply nodded and said, "This kid's a friend so she doesn't want to scare her into keeping quiet."

"Wha ... How do you know about that?"

"Azurite asked me about it before the three of you ran that little scam."

"That two faced bitch! She swore to keep quiet about it!"

"So did you."

"Yeah, but I'm a real youma. You can't trust me to keep my word. But Azurite ..." Margrave shook her head but she was grinning. Hah, got you! At least until Calcite said, "She asked me about it before Ti swore you to secrecy. Wanted my opinion on if it would work. As Kobayshi had some psychic ability messing with her mind was very uncertain so I told Azure to go ahead. Far as I can tell it worked perfectly. I checked up afterwards and she goes pale when anyone even mentions the sailor senshi. So she'll keep her mouth shut."

Margrave looked unhappy at Azurite's redemption. "Hrmph. Well that's the situation anyway. I thought everything was under control but maybe something's happened to rattle Kaori. I suggest until we know more that we sit tight and have Ti fill us in when she gets back." Somewhat reluctantly Calcite agreed. Margrave's mind raced as she tried to work this out. Ti had gone out to acquire Pyrite's warpkey and sent the senshi home. So what was going on? How did Kaori fit in to this? Had Ti arranged to meet her after running her little errand. Pretty early for a rendezvous ... Hmm maybe she'd had to promise Kaori a demonstration of her abilities. Which might mean the other girl was starting to blackmail her. That could be a problem. Well if that was happening then Cal would simply have to wipe her memory regardless of the consequences. And if he couldn't or wouldn't ... she looked down at her hand. Her claws remained sheathed but she imagined them unfolding. If Kaori needed to be silenced and no one else would do the job then she'd take care of it. Whatever it took.

Margrave wasn't the only one to explain the Kaori situation that morning. Back in Makoto's apartment as soon as she'd hung up Titanite had been asked what she was talking about. Having heard her explanation Makoto asked, "What has that got to do with us?"

"Absolutely nothing. But I didn't actually say it did. I just mentioned it in passing. If they jump to conclusions that's not my fault!"

"Very sneaky."

"I guess so", Titanite looked a little worried. "Maybe I've been hanging around Margrave too much."

Ami snorted. "Treachery is a natural trait for a youma. Blood will tell!"

Titanite glared at her. "Tell me, does anyone like you?"

Makoto sighed and moved to break up yet another squabble before things escalated.

Azurite awoke swiftly without visible signs. She sensed movement nearby! Almost immediately she identified the source. Beside her Pyrite was pulling on a robe and faintly humming a familiar tune. She relaxed and suppressed a sign. Good old hair trigger reflexes, years of sleeping together and her subconscious was still on the jumpy side. Normally it wasn't this extreme. She didn't generally wake up expecting to encounter an enemy, guess she was more on edge than she'd thought. Azurite opened her eyes long enough to see the clock reading 8:15 am. Far too early, at least after a late night and a trying day. Crazed senshi from another world, virtual immortality plus the anniversary. All in all yesterday had been a very complicated day. No wonder her subconscious was battle ready.

Pyrite leaned over, "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

"The day you can get up without waking me is the day I retire as a warrior. Now come back to bed and let's cuddle."

She wasn't that surprised when he said, "I'm sorry but I've got this new lead I'm investigating. If it works out ..." She tuned out the technical details, it was unlikely anyone other than Pyrite could follow them. Pyrite was something of a workaholic when it came to his projects. Especially correcting his failures. It had always gnawed at him that he'd failed to provide the link he'd promised when they fled the Kingdom. There was no way he could have factored in the ginzuishou's reality warping power and they'd all told him that. But while he might accept that intellectually it was a different matter emotionally. He was determined to deliver a means to survive outside this city as he'd promised. It was his personal quest and he was going to do it by hook or by crook. It was a matter of honour to him which she respected and would be a boon to all of them (though she did wonder that when he succeeded if it should be extended to Margrave as it'd be better for everyone if she remained confined to a senshi patrolled city) so she accepted the hours he slaved away in his lab. Beside she'd learned that it was impossible to distract him when he got like this. Well almost impossible but she wasn't in the right mood to distract him. But she did like to impose a few limits otherwise he might not emerge for a week.

"You've got until noon then we are going out to lunch if I have to drag you out of there."

He nodded, kissed her then headed downstairs. Azurite settled back and wondered if she'd have to carry out her threat. Perhaps, depending on if he really thought he was getting somewhere. But she'd learned how many promising leads turned out to be dead ends so she didn't feel any qualms about interrupting his work. He needed breaks and even if he was getting somewhere they'd already been here two years. A few more hours wouldn't make a difference. Before she tried to doze off Azurite ran through her schedule for the day and was pleasantly surprised to find it was empty. No shoots, no casting calls, no training sessions with Ti. The last, once weekly, had become less frequent. She and Cal weren't trying to turn Ti into a warrior. What they wanted was her able to defend herself and fight if the need arose without encouraging that Sailor Polaris nonsense. Which was proving harder than expected. Ti kept getting the idea she was supposed to go out and fight evil rather than using the identity to cover using her powers if necessary. Okay maybe she'd righted the odd wrong herself when something happened in front of her (as had Calcite) but she didn't go out looking for trouble. Ti didn't quite follow this logic which wasn't good. The prime goal of the elder renegades had been a simple one, survive! Grow up surrounded by those who'd kill you if they knew you were different and it became a very worthy goal. Had they shielded Ti too well from the realities around them? Perhaps, and yet she fit into this world better than any of them. Which was confusing.

Azurite dismissed the speculation and settled down. It was far too early for philosophy. Perhaps she'd call Cal later and see if he wanted to spar (lucky they'd found that abandoned underground tunnel to serve as a training ground), it had been a while and neither of them wanted to go soft. If he was busy she'd teleport there and just do her regular workout. For image reasons she attended an aerobics studio but that wasn't much exercise when you can bench press a tonne. She was drifting off when she realized Pyrite was back and standing over her. A glance at his face woke her in a hurry, he was looking grim. He held up a slip of paper and said, "We have a problem."

"... So my sister hasn't visited your daughter this morning. I see, I must have misunderstood her. My apologies for disturbing you this early, Hayashi-san." In the background Calcite could hear Kaori asking her mother if something had happened to Ti-chan. "No, no, I'm sure everything is fine. If she does visit would you mind asking her to call me. Thank you, I appreciate that. Good day to you." Calcite hung up and turned to the assembled group. "Well that clinches it. Kaori hasn't seen her since Friday. That call was pure misdirection." He shook his head ruefully. "She's got sneakier than I thought. Must be the company she keeps."

Azurite glared at Margrave who protested, "Why is it everyone always thinks I'm involved when something like this happens?" Everyone just looked at her. Nobody answered, nobody had to. "Okay, okay. Look she was going to borrow the key, or try to I don't know how she expected to beat your security system. But I swear I thought she was just going to open a gateway for those nutcases Hermes and Zeus to return home. I didn't think she'd be stupid enough to accompany them. Abyss, she's experienced dimensional assimilation so there was no way she'd be crazy enough to risk turning herself into a regular youma!" She glared at Pyrite, "This is all your fault! If you hadn't told her about alternate vs parallel universes she'd never have risked going. She must have decided they came from an alternate world so she wouldn't be changed." Azurite wasn't about to stand for that and stepped forward. Before she could say or do anything Calcite intervened.

"Let it go Azure!" She hesitated then nodded and subsided. Calcite looked around the hastily assembled group, "We can worry about assigning blame later. Though to me the one most responsible for the current mess is Ti for choosing to intervene. Anyone who covered up for her comes a close second." Margrave started to protest but shut up at Calcite's glare. "Right now we'd better find out just what the hell is going on. Go on Pyr."

"Right. Well as I said as soon as I saw the key was gone I informed Azure, dressed in a hurry and teleported to the park. I arrived just inside the gates and headed for the nexus point on foot to avoid messing up any latent readings. I found a gate had been opened and closed twice within a period of about three hours, the second time about two hours earlier. There was a teleport signature at about the same time but residual energy from the gate's closing messed up both tracking and identifying it specifically. However it seemed characteristic of a youma teleport."

Calcite nodded, "So it could have been Ti, or it could have been a teleport capable youma from the other world that had ... gained possession of the key."

"I ... I'm afraid I can't rule out the second possibility." The room went silent.

Calcite broke the silence. "Our first priority is to find the key. Once we know who has it we'll know our next move." Which'll be either scolding Ti or rescuing her. I pray to whoever's listening that we won't be avenging her. "Cousin, tell me you've got some way of tracking it."

"Well I don't have a tracer built into it but I should be able to throw together something find its' battery signature."

"Do it. Soon as you've got something Azure and I'll go see who's got it." Azurite nodded. Margrave almost volunteered to accompany them but stopped herself. She couldn't contribute much in the way of power and they wouldn't accept her aid. She had landed herself in the ... well not the doghouse and cathouse had the wrong connotations. She was in trouble anyway. Of course with some effort Calcite would forgive her. He knew she was untrustworthy so he expected this sort of thing. Besides volunteering would be wrong. Youma don't aid each other in crisis unless there's some benefit to be had. She was definitely getting soft, hanging around with renegades seemed detrimental to her mental health.

Pyrite was about to teleport home when his eyes suddenly flicked to the ceiling and he called, "Incoming!" Everyone else immediately went into defences stances and activated shields. Pyrite reached out to mentally to scan for auras. Three presences in Ti's rooms. Ti was one, the other two were senshi, Jupiter and Mercury. The group moved onto the landing so they could see the trio at the top of the stairs. Correction, it was Hermes and Zeus rather than Mercury and Jupiter. All three looked ill at ease but the senshi didn't seem to be threatening Titanite. She descended the stairs and handed the key to Pyrite stuttering out an apology. The senshi trailed behind her, looking like they thought this was a very bad idea. They rejoined Titanite and she took a deep breath and turned to face her brother. Calcite was looking stern, hiding all traces of relief at seeing she was all right. She quailed inside but stuck to her resolve.

"Big brother, we've got a bit of a problem." As she outlined recent events Titanite once again wondered if they'd have tried this last resort without that phone call.

The three of them were still arguing in Makoto's apartment when the phone rang. Titanite was feeling extremely gloomy. They weren't convincing her that a rescue mission was impossible but she could tell they were convincing themselves. With every moment that passed the two senshi were eroding their qualms about remaining and taking their counterparts places. Could she really blame them? They'd been through hell and now they had a chance to regain what their lost. Could she honestly say she'd behave any different in their place? Ami was once again recounting her " why die pointlessly" spiel when the bell interrupted.

They all turned to it and just looked at it for a moment. On the third ring Makoto said, "Well this is sort of my apartment so I should get that." With that she grabbed the handset, "Hello?"

"Hi sis, look I know it's still pretty early over there and I'm sorry to call you out of the blue but I've been getting these funny feelings that something's very wrong."

Sister? Who was this? Makoto wondered momentarily if this world's version of Shinozaki-kun called her that. No, the voice was wrong so it wasn't him. Then the obvious answer occurred to her, this was simply a wrong number. Silly of her not to think of that first. "I'm sorry but you must have a wrong number. Goodbye."

"What? Makoto, wait! It's me, Tom! The line's not that bad surely?"

He'd got the name right but ..., "Why did you call me sister?"

"I've always called you that! Since the day we first met. Look if you don't want to call me brother anymore ..."

"You want a different Makoto, I don't have a brother. Goodbye."

"Makoto, WAIT!" She hung up feeling puzzled then looked at Titanite. "Do I ... does Sailor Jupiter have a brother in this world?"

She shook her head, "No. According to Cal's notes you're ... she's an only child. She's got a couple of aunts and uncles plus a few cousins but isn't really close to any of them."

"Same as me then." Makoto frowned, "But why was that guy calling me sister?"

"Honorary title maybe? He's a friend rather than a boyfriend?"

"Something like Shinozaki-kun is ... was ... well still might be here. That makes sense." She eyed the phone, "Guess I'm not up to telling him I'm not who he thinks." Titanite listened attentively. There was definitely guilt in her voice. Maybe she could use that. Before she could say anything the phone rang again.

Makoto just looked at it so Ami reached over for it. "I'll take care of this. Hello?"

"Ami?" The voice on the other end sounded surprised. "What are you doing there?"

"Whoever you I don't see that it's any business of yours where I spend my time." He recognised my voice and he's calling me Ami rather than Mizuno-san. Who is he?

"Ami, wait! Don't hang up. It's Tom!"

"Sorry, I don't know you. You must have a wrong number."

"I ... I don't understand." The voice sounded confused. "Ami, if I've upset you somehow then I'm sorry. But I don't think I've done anything like that. You know I'd never want to hurt you. And if you don't know that then please believe me when I say I'd never make you cry." Whoever he was he sounded sincere. Ami had told her that she'd given up looking for Ryo. What she hadn't said was if she'd found someone else later. Was that who this was? If so what was she supposed to tell him? Sorry I'm not the Ami you know, at this very moment the youma are probably taking her apart piece by piece. So she'd not coming back, but hey shit happens. "I ... I have to go."

She hung up and stepped away from the phone looking troubled. Almost immediately it began to ring again. This time Titanite grabbed it. "Hello?"

There was a pause at the other end. "Ahhh hello? Uhm ... are either Makoto Kino or Ami Mizuno there?"

"Both of them but they don't want to talk right now." That was true enough, even Hermes looked shaken. "Are you guy who's just called twice?"

"Yes, who is this?"

"You go first." Titanite smiled as she saw this phone had a speaker in the base. She punched the button as the boy on the other end answered.

"Toma James Endo-Bradington, but I normally go by Tom."

"Fair enough. I'm Titania Hobbes, but Titania's a bit of a mouthful so I normally go by Ti. I'm a recent acquaintance of Makoto and Ami. By the way is that an American accent?"

"Yes, and I'd say you sound British."

"That's right." She mentally switched her translator then asked, "Would you rather speak English?"

"Are Ami and Makoto listening?"

She glanced over at the senshi. "Hanging on every word."

"Then let's stick to Japanese. Makoto's English was pretty bad."

Titanite switched back, "Fine by me. Okay Tom I'd better clue you in to what's going on around here ..." She needed a story, lucky she'd just had an inspiration. "Ami and Makoto's memories are a little messed up right now."

"WHAT!" Definitely concerned.

"To be a little more specific they've forgotten everything that's happened in the past two years almost to the day. I take it you first met them after January of '93." In a sense this was true. After that day their memories didn't match to what had happened here anymore.

"This time round." That was muttered, in a stronger voice he answered, "Yes, it was a few months after that ... they'd had amnesia shortly before I ran into them ... (that sounded like he was talking to himself) ... How did this happen?"

"Nobody knows and they don't remember. I don't know if you've heard this Tom but around here weird ailments are common. Though it's generally weakness combined with hallucinations about monsters."

"I've heard that. You're a friend of theirs ... Ti was it?"

"More of an acquaintance really, I've met them since the big blackout."

"But you're close enough to be there this early?"

"Well yeah ... I'm hoping we can become closer friends" Hermes looked very affronted. "Though that may take some doing."

"Oh. Uhm do you know if this amnesia affected anyone else?"

It occurred to Titanite that this would be a good way to find out just how much this guy knew. "As a matter of fact it affected three other girls."

"Minako Aino, Rei Hino and Usagi Tsukino?"

Jackpot! This guy knew the senshi. "That's right. You know them?"

"They're close friends of Makoto and Ami so I met them through them."

Nice cover but not quite. "Uhm Tom, I think they'd like to know just who you are and what your connection is to them. Makoto's kinda puzzled by the sister thing. You're not actually related are you?"

"Not by blood ..." He was sounding more cautious now. "It's a ... sort of ... it's ... we're friends ... it's something of a joke between us. Like calling an older family friend uncle or aunt."

Titanite didn't quite buy that but it seemed the best explanation she'd get out of him. "Fair enough, so what about Ami?"

"We're ... we're friends."

"But not brother-sister kinds of friends?"

"Uhm ...", he sounded uncertain (and a little embarrassed), "well I hope not." Sailor Hermes went a little pale.

"I thought so." Titanite sounded cheery. "Well I'm afraid that until they get their memories back they won't know you from Adam."

"You said until?"

Time to start laying it on. "Well the doctors seem to think they could have full recall in a few days." She looked from one senshi to the other, "Or possibly they'll never recover."

"Shimitta. Look I can arrange to come over briefly, maybe I can remind them of ... things. I'll need a few days to set it up, get time off school but ..."

Not quite what she wanted. "Look Tom, unless you're a neurologist there's not a lot you can do." Especially as they've never met you so it's a fools errand.

"I might surprise you. There's things I know and can do that might amaze you."

"More things in heaven and Earth that are than are dreamt of ... etc?"

"Right. Titania ... I take it your parents liked Shakespeare?"

"Yep, lucky I didn't get Desdemona or Ophelia." According to Margrave an amusing lie wasn't a lie but entertainment. After all what was fiction but stories about people who never were doing things that never happened. Catch her in the right mood and the cat woman could be very philosophical but it always had a cynical edge. "Anyway maybe I'll surprise you if we ever meet."

"If you're hanging around with Ami and Makoto then we'll definitely meet. Uh ... could I talk to them?"

"Let's see ..." Ami was staring at the carpet while Makoto was frantically shaking her head. "I'm afraid they don't want to talk to you in their current state. Must be embarrassing when you know them but they've forgotten you."

"I see ..." He sounded unhappy, Ti decided to add a light to the end of this particular tunnel.

"Tom, if you don't mind I'd like to suggest you try again in a day or two. See if their memories are starting to come back. Then you can worry about if you need to make an emergency visit."

There was silence on the other end for a few moments. Then he answered slowly, "Perhaps that would be wisest. I'll try again in a few days. Uhhh if they remember who I am ..."

"If they do I'll have them call. I promise."

"Thank you Titania."

"My pleasure Tom."

"Well goodbye them. Tell them ... tell them my thoughts are with them and I ... I love them both."

"But in different ways?"

"Uhm ...."

"Sorry, it was getting a little too serious. But I'll bet everything will be fine. Just wait and see!"

"I hope so. Goodbye."

"Bye." She put the phone down and turned off the speaker as she studied the senshi. Guilt was written all over Makoto, Ami was harder to read but she thought she could see it. Okay, so using guilt to manipulate people wasn't a nice thing but five girls lives hung on getting these two to help with a rescue. So as far as she was concerned the end justified the means.

"So you're just going to step into their lives and take over. Never mind that they've got people who know and love them. After all they'll never know their real loved ones died in agony at the hands of the Dark Circle. Still that's the breaks and you're the good guys so it must be the right thing to do." She shook her head. "Times like this I'm proud to be a youma 'cause it looks like humans are worse than us." Ami lifted her head and snarled an insult. She was about to step forward when Makoto blocked her.

"Don't do it Ami!" Hermes glowered but settled down. Sailor Zeus massaged her forehead then straightened up. "All right, show me a plan that has a chance of success and I'll go back." Ami stared at her in shock.

"Mako ..."

"Ami, like you told me, you don't have to come. But ... but if there's a chance of getting them back ... well I have to make the attempt."

Hermes met her gaze then cursed. "I'll come with you then. But we only go if there's some possibility, however small, of success!" Zeus nodded and Ami glared at Titanite. "Okay show us a plan and if it's workable we'll make the attempt."

Titanite swallowed. Okay here we go Ti, roll the dice and hope for the best. "I don't have a plan but I do have some allies who'll be a big help."

"Who? There's no one that we can find or we can contact soon enough."

Titanite shook her head. "There's one group left we haven't tried yet. Mine!"

"They already refused to aid us!" Makoto nodded.

"Yeah but things have changed since then. So we'll ask them. If they say no then that's it and I wish you luck in your new lives. But if they say yes ..."

"Very big if."

Titanite almost nodded. It was a very big if indeed. Out loud she said, "It can't hurt to ask again, right. Okay then take my hands and let's go see them. Besides I imagine Pyrite'll want his key back."

All of which had lead her home. She finished her tale and waited. The silence stretched until her brother broke it.

"Well that's very sad and I'm sorry for them but it's nothing to do with us." Margrave gave a sigh of relief. For a moment there she'd been worried that ... But Calcite was too smart to throw their lives away on a hopeless quest.

"But ..." Titanite couldn't believe she was hearing this. Sure she'd known they'd almost certainly say no but she hadn't really believed it.

Gently Azurite told her, "Ti, we're survivors. Not heroes. We don't sacrifice ourselves on behalf of others if we can possibly avoid it." For once Margrave agreed with Azurite's sentiments.

"But ...?"

Pyrite shook his head, "Cousin the senshi followed their path and we follow ours. As Hermes said pointless sacrifice while perhaps noble from an outsiders perspective is meaningless to those who die."

Calcite agreed. "I'm afraid Ti that we'd be up against a power we can't match and fare even worse than the senshi. We'd accomplish nothing except completing the genocide of our race that the senshi began." Titanite sat stunned as they continued on in this vein. Both Hermes and Zeus were looking relieved. At least until Calcite gave a very worldweary sigh.

His demeanour changed and Titanite blinked. She'd never seen her brother look so down. At length he gave a faint smile and asked Azurite, "So how long are we going to keep pretending we're leaving them to rot?"

Azurite sighed and grinned slightly, "Want to give it another five minutes?"

He shook his head. "No, let's get on with it." She nodded and Pyrite whispered, "I was afraid of this." Titanite couldn't believe this sudden reversal. Neither could Margrave, she sat there with her mouth hanging open in sheer disbelief.

Makoto asked, "You ... you're willing to help them?" She sounded very incredulous.

Calcite answered simply, "Yes."

"But ... but why?"

"WHOA, HOLD IT! TIME OUT!" Everyone turned to Margrave. "Excuse me but is this some crazy renegade suicide pact thing? You've heard their story! Go to their world and you get slaughtered. Why the hell would you want to go? It's crazy? Why dammit?"

"A lot of reasons. One of which is if we don't take care of them then we'll be waiting for the day the Dark Circle comes calling."

"But that's ridiculous!" Hermes sounded very agitated. "The odds of them finding this dimension ..."

"Are a lot higher than you think." She turned to Pyrite. "What you forgot is that they've got several artifacts of this dimension to work with, including the senshi themselves."

Calcite cut in. "When Jadeite sent his Boomers against us Pyrite was able to reopen the gateway to the dimension he'd escaped to from a study of the skull of one of the creatures."

Pyrite nodded. "Now Jadeite's gate was active if closed on this end but I could have tracked the dimension given time. Especially once I discovered the Nexus point. Now unless my counterpart isn't my equal ..."

Reluctantly Hermes allowed, "He is ..."

"... then he'll be able to find this world even if the gate is shut."

Calcite took over. "And they'll come. The senshi will tell them who Sailor Polaris is and they'll know their security has major flaws. Besides what if we try to replace them someday? Knowing that we're out here they'll come looking for us. They'll also know there's a world out there that's lost most of its' senshi and is ripe for the plucking. If the Dark Circle uses Kingdom rules then they'll want what youma always want. More!"

Azurite looked at the senshi. "And thanks to you three they'll come through with a ginzuishou that works fine in this world. So we either cower here and wait for them to come for us or we take the fight to them!" She looked at Pyrite. "How long until they have access?"

"Once the senshi tell them where the nexus point is? Three, four days tops." He frowned then added, "But that's with the resources I have here. If my counterpart's running a fifth of the world then he'll have resources I can only dream of. Or to put it another way ..."

"We have very little time left." Calcite nodded then looked at Hermes. "According to your story they're finalizing their control of your Earth. So a full scale invasion will be several months away. Once they have access to this world they'll probably just send assassins through to wipe us out thus eliminating any security risk we pose. Then they'll wait until they're ready to strike and come through in force."

"What makes you think that?" She sounded skeptical. Calcite met her gaze without flinching.

Softly he answered, "It's what I'd do."

Margrave cleared her threat noisily. "Excuse me? Are you expecting me to join this idiotic mission."

Calcite shook his head. "You're free to stay if you'd like." She grinned. At least until Calcite added, "Of course the only two senshi left around here will be Neptune and Uranus. You remember, the two who wanted to blast you but Azurite stopped them? Of course if they realize there's nobody watching you anymore ..."

Margrave stopping grinning and glared at him. "Okay fine, I'm in. But first chance I get of running and keeping my hide intact I'm gone!"

"Welcome aboard comrade."

"Oh shut up!"

Titanite was grinning like an idiot. "I knew you'd do the right thing!"

Her brother looked at her sardonically. "Really? I didn't. And this is pure self interest. Got it?"

"Uh huh." She didn't look convinced. Great! Next she'd be accusing him of heroism. Which was as anti survival as you could get! "So let's get moving!"

"In a little while."

Her grin faltered, "But ..."

"Time is of the essence. True enough but here's another saying for you. 'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.' Going in without planning is indeed suicidal. We need to know what we're up against." His expression turned stern, "Also sister I want to have a little discussion with you concerning your recent actions."

"Uh ... heh, heh, I ... uh ..." Yes, she was in deep this time.

Margrave muttered, "Sauntering in is just as foolish. We're outnumbered a thousand to one, outpowered and our two supposed allies are likely to shoot us in the back first chance they get." She brightened a little, "Well at least it won't be dull." And perhaps, just perhaps, there is an opportunity here.

Meanwhile Calcite and Azurite had sat down and were waiting for the senshi to join them. Calcite was talking to Hermes. "Now we aren't going in as blindly as the senshi. I want details on youma deployment, weaponry, organization and anything else you think might be useful.

It was getting towards evening when they finally stood before the gate. Pyrite had sent through a probe to check for a welcoming committee and Ti was talking a look around. The idea this might be her last time in this world was seeming more real. She shivered as she thought about it. The others hadn't talked about it and they'd been taking precautions as though it would only be a brief absence. But she couldn't help thinking about Magnesite's crystal.

Seeing it as she'd gone to make lunch she'd kicked it into the wall. It had reminded her of the unpleasant scene she'd witnessed (which she'd skipped in her account). Margrave had looked curious and she'd told her, "Just don't even ask!" Hearing the impact Calcite had pried the statue out of the wall and studied it for a few moments then teleported. On his return he'd told Azurite that he'd dropped it in the setting concrete of a tower block-to-be's foundation. That had struck Ti as a precaution against never returning and that had started her thinking. Cal had tried to reassure her that it was just in case but that hadn't been much comfort.

Their other precautions had been more short-term. Ami and Makoto had called Usagi and Minako's parents along with Rei's grandfather. They'd claimed that all five were on a trip together so everything was fine. Usagi's mother had been very easy to convince that her daughter had forgotten to mention the trip and couldn't come to the phone because she was stuffing her face. The only tricky part was convincing her that Usagi had voluntarily got up early and left without a fuss. So they had an alibi for the next three days. Ami had broken into the computer of the ski resort they'd picked and set up reservations, check ins and marked the rooms paid along with adding several postdated and postpaid restaurant bills. That gave them four days grace. If it took longer ... well the senshi probably weren't coming home but their disappearance would seem irrelevant when the youma came calling.

The probe had returned and Pyrite was checking it. He gave the all clear and opened the gate. Five youma and two senshi stepped through and vanished. As soon as the gate closed Sailor Pluto cancelled the time displacement which put her a fraction of a second out of step with the rest of the world. Fortunately Pyrite's pseudo Trek equipment couldn't pick up tachyon field emissions so she'd remained unnoticed. Silently she began setting the equipment as she'd been instructed. It phased itself into the ground and became undetectable. According to its' builder when activated dimensional travel through the nexus would be impossible for the next six months. And who would know more about disrupting this warpgate than him? Now she simply had to wait for the right moment to activate it. And hope the right people returned. For better or worse she had no part to play in what would follow on the other side. It seemed strangely appropriate to quote her favourite line from Hamlet.

"The time is out of joint, oh cursed spite. That ever I was born to put it right." Yes that Klingon playwright certainly knew how to write them. She chuckled briefly then reactivated the displacement and settled down to wait. She was very good at that.

On the other side of the gate Titanite was asking, "So we're heading for the Citadel, right?"

"In due time sister, in due time. But first we need to know more about how my counterpart achieved his power. There's one place that might have some answers." Calcite looked around the assembled group and wondered if it was too late to back out of this. But of course it was, the die was cast. "Next stop the North Pole. From there we're paying a visit to the Dark Kingdom!"

Dark Kingdom Renegades 9: Thy Kingdom Come

A Sailor Moon Story
by Mark Latus

Part 7 of 12

<< Previous     Home     Next >>