Continuing Tales

Trials and Errors

A Sailor Moon Story
by Sean Gaffney

Part 1 of 1

Trials and Errors

Hotaru walked slowly down the street, idly watching the winter day pass by. The world was gray this day, it seemed, with little color and activity. It matched her mood since Galaxia's defeat.

Pluto had said that Galaxia's reformation marked the end of the Sailor Wars and that it was the last major confrontation Sailor Moon would face before the coming of the Black Moon. Peace had come at last and all their struggles were over.

She sighed. Her life had become drab. It was like the focus had moved away from her, once Mistress Nine was defeated. She, the second most powerful of the Senshi, with command of life and death, had contributed almost nothing to the battles against Galaxia. Did she matter? Was there any point to her existence?

Then a shadow fell over her. She looked up. Her eyes widened and for a moment turned as red as molten pools. Then it faded. A small smile crossed her face as she regarded the person in front of her.

"It's time, isn't it?" she asked.

"Yes," the figure with the scythe-like weapon said quietly.


Ten'ou Haruka looked over her shoulder, scanning the crowded street. There were students, salary men, wives, mothers, kids and old folks. Her eyes narrowed as one man in a black trench coat seemed to be watching her, but he turned away after a moment.

Hurrying, her boots clopping against the sidewalk, she got to her bike. Then she stared at it, cursing. Someone had keyed it. A long scratch ran along the gas tank, a twisting streak of paint-free metal. She rubbed at it with her glove, in a vain hope it was just a mark, but the metal merely reflected the pale winter sunlight back at her.

Growling under her breath, she mounted her bike and revved the engine, listening to the hum of its tuned perfection. At least the creep hadn't messed with the engine. If he had, she would have hunted him down and used her socket wrench in every way she could imagine on any orifice that came handy.

She pulled out onto the street, and was just gunning it when another bike, a white one, came out of nowhere and nearly clipped her.

That was the last straw. She had been on edge all day, feeling unseen eyes on her. She never saw anyone watching her, but the feeling had persisted, making the hackles on the back of her neck rise. She knew better than to ignore such feelings. But all her evasions, doubling backs, and maneuvers had netted no stalker. Then her bike, one of her most precious possessions had been defaced. This final affront was too much.

She roared off after the offender, determined to run his bike into the ground. The biker was still in sight, and no one, no matter how good, could shake her once she had them in their sight.

This proved true, but she found to her amazement that she could not gain on the punk. Every trick she tried, every short cut, seemed to make no difference. The biker matched her, stunt for stunt. She threw legality to the winds and roared down the space between cars, weaving in and out of the downtown traffic, nearly slamming into a red Toyota that tried to cut off a white Subaru.

The biker looked back and gave her the finger, then tore up an on-ramp to the highway. So, Haruka thought, he wants to really try for speed. Well, his loss.

Haruka cut across a lane and gunned it, shifting smoothly through the gears. Driving by instinct, she swerved in and around the traffic, keeping the white bike in sight. The white biker seemed to have the same casual disregard for life and safety as she and again, no matter how much she pushed her engine, even redlining it, she gained nothing!

Suddenly, the biker cut across four lanes of traffic, causing a blue Honda to lose control and almost smash into a semi. Chaos suddenly reigned on the highway as cars slammed on their brakes, somehow miraculously avoiding an accident. Haruka couldn't match it and had to pull over into the shoulder and use it to go back to the exit, ignoring the cursing drivers who shook their fists at her. One, a young college student, even threw a soft drink that came nowhere near her. She flipped him the bird, on the principle of the thing.

She drove down the exit, having no real hope of finding her quarry, but was surprised almost instantly. The white biker sat at gas station, watching her through his dark-visored helmet.

With great deliberation, Haruka pulled into the station and parked in front of the white bike. She took off her helmet, pulled off her gloves and walked over to the biker.

"You think you're hot shit, don't you?" she asked.

The biker pushed up the dark visor. Haruka stared.

"Tokyo Tower, three AM. Be there."

Then the white biker revved the engine and took off, leaving Haruka slack-jawed. The biker casually reached over and gave her bike a push as he passed it. Haruka paid no attention to the crash it made, nor the little tinkling sound of something breaking.


Meiou Setsuna sipped slowly at her tea as she considered the wintery landscape beyond her tea shop window. As she watched the pale shadows cast like faded stains across the city by the watery sunlight, she noticed a tea leaf rise to the top of her drink. A good omen, most thought. She believed in no fortune.

Then someone sat down across from her, uninvited.

"You will not succeed," she said calmly, settling her cup down. The tea leaf fell back into the murky depths of her cup.

"Screw you," her guest replied cheerfully.


The empty concert hall resonated with the lonely notes of a single violin. Mellow, yet full, they filled the vast empty space as Kaiou Michiru practiced, listening after each stanza to how the echoes died. Then she moved a few feet and tried it again.

Suddenly, her private concert was interrupted as another violin, this one speaking from the darkness, filled the air with its notes. The song it played was dirge-like, haunting, but then it picked up, growing more complicated and intricate, note following note in one long rip, blending so fast she could barely discern them. The song ended abruptly, on a challenging note.

Picking up her violin, Michiru copied her antagonist's tune, note for note, playing as fast as could to duplicate the complicated song. Then she continued beyond the end, improvising and spinning her music out like a net, hoping like a fisherman to snare her prey.

Finally, sweating and breathing quickly, she ended with a flourish and waited for her opponent's answer.

A soft click was her answer. Click. Click. Click. The sound of heels on the stage. Turning, she faced a woman who had a violin in hand.

Michiru's violin fell from nerveless hands, to land with a crunch of shattered wood.


Tokyo Tower in the dead of the night. Across town, clocks suddenly hit 3:00 AM. The soft click could almost be heard as hands moved and digits changed. And then there were three figures, standing on the roof of the Tower's observation deck.

The winds ruffled their short skirts and the long green hair of one of them. The one with long hair held a staff in hand, a red orb mounted on the top. The other two held a sword and a mirror.

"It's time," Sailor Pluto said.

"What if they don't show?" Sailor Neptune asked.

"No fear of that, creeps," came a voice from behind them.

Turning around, they faced their tormentors. The biker, the violinist, and the tea shop customer all stood there. They all were female, and also wore short-skirted uniforms and were wielding weapons. They also looked familiar.

"Well, shall we dance?" said the Sailor Uranus who had driven the white bike earlier.

***** A little earlier, or over a thousand years later, take your pick.

Yurika Tenoh-Kaioh was bored out of her mind.

When she'd first heard that Sean and Hotaru were going to be throwing a party for their daughter Bridget's tenth birthday, she'd been very excited. She loved parties.

Unfortunately, this party was proving to be anything but fun. The birthday girl was being doted over by Sailor Venus, and once Venus got a hold of you, there was no hope of getting away. The others were all adults. Yurika had asked why there hadn't been more kids at the party, and her parents had said that since Queen Serenity would be there, they weren't inviting anyone but the Senshi and their families.

Yurika got up out of her chair and walked out of the room. No one really noticed her, they were all too busy talking.

Therefore, Yurika decided that now was the perfect time to play detective. She often did this when she was bored, though more often than not it got her in trouble with her parents. But she'd always try again. She KNEW she had to find the treasure, and that it was hidden somewhere in this house.

She crept silently through the hallway, opening various doors. One of them was especially tempting, as she knew it was Sean and Hotaru's bedroom. Her parents would REALLY freak out if they knew she was even thinking of going in there.

With a giggle, she quickly opened the door and sneaked into the room. It was a typically dull adult room, though at least Sean had a stereo system here. Looking around, she was about to leave again when she noticed another door, presumably to the closet.

Her imagination kicked into overdrive. This is where I finally find the treasure. It's got to be here! Then I'll become Sailor Earth and save everyone!

Unfortunately, opening the door just revealed a bunch of old clothes, and a few boxes that just had dull grownup books in them. She did see another box that looked interesting...if she could only get to it. It was up on the top shelf, and she was just too short.

She looked around to find a chair to stand on...


The party was a big success on the adult level. It was rare that the Senshi got to let their hair down like this. Even Serenity was giggling as she listened to a joke of Setsuna's, and seemed to show a little bit of her old self. Off in another corner, her daughter Usagi (once known as Chibi-Usa or Small Lady) was blushing furiously, as the Asteroid Senshi continued to have a contest to see who could embarrass her the most. Even Rei had let her guard down a little, and was chatting with Hotaru about her execrable taste in men.

That was why the wail from outside the room took them all by surprise.

Haruka and Michiru bolted down the hall, with Rei right behind them. When the rest of the party got to Sean and Hotaru's room, they were relieved to see that it looked like Yurika had only bruised her arm. Haruka was still livid, however.

"What have I told you about poking around other people's houses?" she hissed at her daughter. However, Hotaru reached out and grabbed her shoulder, stopping her.

"Haruka...later," she said. Haruka looked at Hotaru for a moment, then sighed in acquiescence. Hotaru reached out her hands, using a tiny fraction of her healing power to take care of Yurika's injury.

The little girl had stopped crying, and was now looking around at the carnage she'd caused. The box she wanted to get was now on the floor, with most of its contents spilled out before her. Sean was crawling around on his hands and knees, trying to stuff the contents of the box back in.

Curious, Yurika picked up one of the things that had fallen. "Hey, it's Queen Serenity!"

Sean winced, and tried to grab the tape away from her. "No, no, that's nothing. Nothing to worry about, just a product of a time long since gone."

A hand reached out and grabbed the video before Sean could get it; turning, he saw that it belonged to Serenity. Well, I am now officially dead, he thought.

She frowned as she read the label. "Sailor Moon S, Episodes 90-93. Sean, what is this?" The look in her eyes was mostly amusement; she knew what she was doing to him.

Sean lowered his head, defeated. "Hell, you know about the manga based on your lives. And there are the fanfics people wrote about you. Well, this is the anime. It ran for five seasons, which at the time was pretty damn good."

For once, the others did not look uncomfortable. Presumably they had finally gotten used to Sean springing these surprises on them. In fact...Minako's eyes were gleaming. Sean HATED it when that happened.

She got down and started rooting through the box. "Are there any in here with me?"

Sean sighed. "Yep. The one where your heart crystal is taken is my favorite episode featuring you..."

Minako frowned. "My what?"

Sean blinked, then REALLY began to sweat, as he realized what was about to happen. "Well... um... there were a FEW differences between the anime and the manga..."


Sean had never seen Haruka and Michiru look angrier. Even Yurika backed away from them a bit.

"We killed them. We killed Hotaru and Setsuna just so we could get to Galaxia. And in the end, it didn't even WORK? It was all for NOTHING?" Sean could have swore that steam was coming out of Haruka's ears.

"Well, yeah. In the anime, that is kind of what defined you two. You were always concerned about putting ends before means, and Usagi was the opposite. And she always proved to be right. Hell, it was her show."

Looking around the room, he noted varying degrees of anger. The Outers, with the exception of his wife, all seemed livid. Endymion and Usagi were also looking outraged. The others seemed a little more in control, though he did notice a crease in Serenity's forehead, which scared him more than any of the others.

He tried to reason with them. "Look, it doesn't MATTER. This is a fictional anime. It didn't really happen, you know that."

Setsuna just gazed at him. "As this world is just a fictional manga, Sean?"

Sean coughed. "Point," he muttered.

Michiru interrupted. "There is a point to this, yes. We never betrayed our friends. Originally yes, we were egotistical to think that we could save the world alone. The Silence taught us differently." She pointed at the TV screen. "But they didn't learn anything. That's what I saw. A Haruka and Michiru who were so proud of themselves that they had lost their humanity."

Setsuna interrupted. "Just like Pluto. I'll admit that my old incarnation wasn't as emotional as I am, but..."

Endymion spoke up. "The fact that this world exists somewhere is enough. We feel...responsible." He took his wife's hand and squeezed it gently. He had had to leave the room after seeing some of the things Mamoru had done on the screen.

Feeling a need to bring this conversation to a close, Sean spoke up again. "Look, unless Setsuna's going to take you on a field trip to beat on them, I don't see what can be done. There is a reason I didn't show this to you, you know."

After about ten seconds, Sean noticed that the pause in the conversation had gotten ominous. He turned to Setsuna, and noticed a crafty look on her face. Oh dear God, he thought.

"Why not?" said Setsuna finally. "I can find the dimension where that exists with little trouble. And it's not as if we're going to be changing the past. Just...teaching them a little lesson."

Serenity got up and looked around. "As long as you do not hurt them permanently."

Haruka and Michiru looked down for a moment, ashamed. That vanished when Serenity then grinned. "I'll come along as well. It should be fun!"

After about five minutes it was apparent that all the Senshi wanted to join in on this, even if only to watch their counterparts. They quickly arranged a plan to arrive back only five seconds after they left, so as not to disturb Crystal Tokyo's rule. The Asteroid Senshi would stay behind just in case; they weren't in the anime anyway.

Sean felt as if he was suddenly the only voice of reason in the room. " you have to do this right now?" he asked desperately as they went out the door.

Haruka called over her head. "Take care of Yurika while we're gone, Sean. Make sure she doesn't get into trouble."

That girl is a walking disaster area! How am I supposed to watch over her? he thought. But he found himself merely nodding mutely.

Hotaru gave him a kiss as she left, but Rei was the last one out the door. She threw something at him as she left. "Guess what else was in that box, Gaffney."

Sean looked down at the book in his hands. LUNATIC PARTY 3.

Rei smiled cruelly at him. "We'll chat later."

As she left the house, she was extremely pleased to hear a loud thunk behind her as Sean's body hit the floor.


"Let's," the first Sailor Uranus answered her counterpart. She smacked one fist into her palm and then proceeded to crack her knuckles. "I've been waiting to wipe the floor with you impostors all evening."

The new Sailor Neptune merely shook her head sadly. "If anyone is a fake, it is you three. Sad, pale caricatures, never changing or learning from your mistakes."

"Yeah. Were you born stupid or did you study to become as dumb as you are?" the new Pluto asked.

"You do not understand our reasons--" began the first Sailor Pluto.

"Boy, you'd think they'd catch on to your little schtick, sister," Pluto-2 said. "Fess up! You DON'T KNOW SQUAT!"

The first Pluto said nothing, drawing concerned glances from her comrades.

"Oh, you have a little dream that SEEMS better than the alternatives and it SEEMS to promise happiness for everyone, but that's all. It's not even the likeliest future. But you can't have that. No, not the High-and-Mighty Mistress of Time. You can't have this AWESOME power without there being some purpose to it." Pluto-2 twirled her Time Staff around. "You think 'I can see the future and so I must make sure that the RIGHT future happens.' Well, there IS no 'right future.' There is no 'happily ever after.' And from what I can tell, none of your actions have done ANYTHING to bring about Crystal Tokyo."

"The time stream--"

"BUGGER the time stream!"

The others could only watch in amazement as Pluto-2 screamed at her counterpart. Neither side could believe it, frozen in shock as the Mistresses of Time argued like schoolgirls or guests on the Jerry Springer show.

"I do what I can to assure the time stream will remain intact--"

"Have not."

"I have too!"

"Have NOT!"

"Have--" Pluto-1 got a visible hold on herself. "You are behaving childishly."

"And you're not? Listen, sister, all power has its price and you're too chicken to pay it."

"I paid the price. I did that which is forbidden to me."

"Right, stopping time. The big forbidden act. What price did you pay?"

"I... I cannot speak of it."

"Nothing happened, did it? Well, I stopped time too, and I DIED for it."

The first Pluto turned pale.

"Wondering how you dodged the bullet, aren't you? Well nothing happens to you if you stop time. I died because I had to, to stop Black Lady. You have no restrictions on yourself, no destiny to fulfill... but you're too scared to take the bull by the horns and DO something."

Pluto-1 put her hands over her ears. Her mouth opened and closed, like a landed fish and her eyes were wide and staring. Pluto-2 grabbed her double's hands and pulled them away.

"Look at me!" she screamed. "Your great big sacrifice accomplished NOTHING. Oh, yeah, you got Uranus and Neptune to the scene, but they accomplished squat! It was Hotaru and Usagi who saved the day!"

Then Pluto-2 was shoved out of the way. "Get away from her!" The first Uranus yelled, pulling Pluto-1 back. "You fakes have no right to judge us!"

"We do what we have to do," Neptune-1 said. "We do not like the sacrifices we must make, but--"

"--to prevent the Silence, to prevent the end of all that is good, all that is decent and noble, all that is life, we will do whatever is required," Neptune-2 finished. She stared earnestly at her duplicate. "I understand, sister. Oh, do we understand. We faced the Silence as well. It is terrifying to look into the face of death, to see the end of everything. Haruka and I would have done anything to stop that... but we didn't have to."

Her voice grew soft. "Usagi defeated the Silence without sacrificing any ideals, and moral principles... don't you see? There is no need for you to sell your souls so cheaply... you just have to trust your Princess."

A long moment of silence stretched out. The first trio of Outer Senshi stared at their duplicates. Pluto-1 was still dazed, staring at the ground and trembling slightly. She leaned hard on her staff, her eyes only reflecting the private hell that Pluto-2's words had opened up to her.

The first Neptune met the gaze of the second, a yearning visible deep in her eyes. The yearning of a soul to be clean once again, but despairing of ever achieving that absolution. The hope kindling in her gaze and the answering soft smile on Neptune-2's face dawned slowly, like the moment when the first hint of dawn touches the eastern sky.

Then, the first Uranus spoke. She had been looking between her two friends, and then at her duplicate. As the second Neptune spoke, the same yearning appeared on her face. But as the words sunk in, as the realization of what they meant reached her, disgust welled up. She and Michiru had KILLED to achieve their ends. It didn't matter that Setsuna and Hotaru had come back. The stain of those deaths could not be erased. If it meant nothing--

"SHUT UP!" she screamed. "You guys are fakes! Impostors! We'd NEVER say such things! We did what we HAD to do and you're just trying to confuse us! I'd do it ALL again if I had to." Energy began to gather around her Space Sword. "I don't know who you are or why you're doing this, but you won't succeed. SPACE SWORD BLASTER!"

The new Outers leaped away from the blast of energy that tore through the night. Landing lightly on their feet, they faced their counterparts grimly.

"OK," the second Uranus said. "We tried talking... now we get to pound the lesson home. Frankly, I'm glad you chose this. Talking just wouldn't have been as satisfying to me." She slapped a fist down on the top of the Observation Deck. "WORLD SHAKING!"

The second Pluto sighed as she watched the Outers pair off, her counterpart approaching her with new determination evident on her face. "Gee, I wonder if we really are all that different from them..."


"I should really--"

"No. It'll be all right. Remember what I told you, they're not going to come to any real harm. If it looks as if anything like that is happening, I'LL be the one going in there to stop it."

"...all right."

"Everything will work out. You'll see."

About twelve hours earlier.

Hotaru had quickly transformed, and now stood in her Senshi form. Despite that, she still felt inadequate. The Saturn that stood before her was a head taller than her, and had a confidence and strength in her that was absent in Hotaru.

They stared at each other for almost five minutes until Hotaru finally broke the silence.

"Are we going to have to fight?"

Saturn smiled back at her. "I don't know, are we? We don't have to, you know. The others came here in order to fight, even if they don't admit that. But I'm here to talk." She waved her glaive away, but still kept her Senshi form. "If you want to fight, we'll do it with the others. Do you?"

Hotaru thought about it for only a second or two. "No. I don't want to fight." She too made her glaive disappear.

Saturn grinned. "Good. I really didn't want to fight you. I like you a lot." Hotaru flushed, but managed to smile back.

"Is there somewhere we can talk?" Saturn asked. "I don't think going back to Haruka and Michiru's place would be a very good idea at the moment, so-- "

Hotaru interrupted her. "I was going home anyway, let's talk there. Poppa won't mind, he's used to Senshi popping in at odd times. I'll just tell him that..."

Hotaru ground to a halt as she noticed the expression on Saturn's face. She had only seen that much pain in a person's face once or twice in her life, and she never wanted to see it again. Tears were forming at the edge of Saturn's eyes, and she had to put a hand out to a nearby wall to steady herself.

"That's right, I forgot," she whispered almost inaudibly. Then she seemed to get a hold of herself, and tried to smile once more. "I think perhaps we might be better off going to a tea house or someplace like that."

Hotaru wanted desperately to ask what was the matter, but she could see that Saturn was not yet prepared to talk. Instead she merely nodded, and led the Elder Senshi down the street towards the coffee bar that Setsuna was usually found at.

After a moment, however, another thought occurred to her. "We'd better de-transform. Seeing Senshi running around town still tends to cause panic of one sort or another."

To Hotaru's relief, the other Saturn giggled briefly, then quickly de-transformed. Hotaru did likewise, and they set out once again.


They sat down, each nursing a small cup of tea. This time, it was Saturn who broke the silence. "You didn't seem very surprised to see me."

Hotaru shrugged. "I suspected something was going to happen today, but I wasn't quite sure what." She looked up at her other self. They still looked incredibly similar, despite the differences in age. The elder Saturn still kept her hair cut in the same straight, shoulder-length cut she'd worn it in most of her life. In fact, Hotaru had never seen ANY of the Senshi change their hairstyles. Perhaps it was another thing that Setsuna had told them was fated.

Hotaru still felt a little overwhelmed being faced with an older, more confident version of herself. Still, she needed to know why they were here. "Are the others here? Your Senshi?"

Saturn's smiled slipped a bit. "Yes. They're much less confident about resolving any conflict through just talking, so they're just setting up a time to meet. You don't have to worry about Usagi; this has nothing to do with her or her friends."

Hotaru relaxed a bit, knowing that there wasn't going to be a threat to the Princess. For some reason, she felt like she could trust this alternate version of herself. "Why are you doing this?"

Saturn sighed. "We recently had occasion to see what your world was like, and some of us didn't like what we saw. I wasn't among them. I like you, Hotaru. You show a kindness and trusting nature that Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto lack. In fact, one of your big problems might be that you look up to them a little too much."

Hotaru's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

Saturn sighed. "You and the other Senshi of the outer planets are far more powerful than the others, except for Moon, of course. You can see it in the eyes of Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna. They're better, and they know it. And you have more power than even they do. It's an easy trap to fall into."

"You're saying that they aren't better?" Hotaru mused.

Her companion giggled. "While they might be more powerful, I don't think they're better, no. Let me ask you: if a new enemy appeared, one more powerful than any you'd previously seen, would you trust Usagi to be able to stop it?"

Hotaru blinked, unsure where the question was leading. "Yes."

Saturn smiled wryly. "The others wouldn't."

"What do you mean?" Hotaru asked, a touch of anger coming to her voice. "They love Usagi just as much as I do."

"I'm sure they do," replied Saturn. "But they don't trust her. They can only trust themselves. And that's why we're having this fight. Because Uranus and Neptune refuse to believe that there can be someone with such a capacity for love and forgiveness as Usagi. Because Pluto reveals only half- truths, preferring to wrap herself in her cozy blanket of secrecy. They don't believe in her, even after she has proven herself time and again."

Hotaru was still unsure as to exactly why Saturn and her Senshi were here. "And you're going to show them the error of their ways?"

Laughing, Saturn nodded. "Sorta. When my Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna saw the attitudes of their alternates, they were rather angry. This is their way of blowing off steam. But I'm hoping it'll do something else."

Saturn moved closer to Hotaru, taking her hand. "I'm not telling you that your friends are bad people, Hotaru. They all have some wonderful qualities, as all people do. But they're carrying around some excess baggage, and refuse to let it go. And it's making them more and hard and unyielding. I think they can change their ways. I think they NEED to. For their own sakes, more than anything else."

Hotaru thought about this. "I want to be at this fight, in case something happens."

Saturn nodded. "Fine by me, I'll be there for the same reason. Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna have promised not to do anything permanent to their other selves."

The conversation had seemed to reach a close, yet neither of them really wanted to leave. "Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?" Hotaru asked.

Saturn remained quiet for a moment, and a flicker of the pain Hotaru had seen earlier flashed across her face. Then it vanished, and she smiled once more.

"Tell me about your father."


"What do you mean she's not here?!"

"She's back in the thirtieth century. Where she belongs, don't forget."

"But I want to beat her up!"




Uranus-1 swung her Space Sword as hard as she could at her opponent. The mystical weapons met with a mighty clang, but Uranus-2 merely smiled and performed a tricky little twist that nearly disarmed the first Sailor of the Wind.

"Give it up," Uranus-2 said. "I've got centuries on you."

Uranus-1 growled an obscenity or two. "What gives you the right to judge us?" she asked angrily. "You're no better than us! You chickened out, that's all!" She backed off, swinging madly to keep the second sailor back. "You were afraid to do the things we had to do! You didn't have the stomach for it!"

"Didn't... have... the stomach for it?" Usanus-2 asked incredulously. "You think YOU'VE had it tough?" Her Sword lashed out angrily, mirroring her emotions. This young upstart had NO idea what sacrifice meant. She hadn't spent centuries slaughtering innocent children, all so that Hotaru could come back one day. She hadn't... hadn't... oh, all those young faces... those trusting purple eyes, so like Hotaru's... staring at her as she--

Uranus-1 didn't have any idea what she had said that made an impact, but her opponent's attacks paused in mid-swing. It wasn't much, but they weren't that out-matched. Uranus-2 did have an edge in skill, but they both had the same heightened reflexes and speed that was theirs as Sailor Senshi. In fact, Uranus-1 thought she had the slight edge in speed. She moved to capitalize on her opponent's distraction.

Uranus-2 didn't hesitate for long... just enough to be too late.


Pluto-1 stared at her counterpart. "You are that determined to go through with this, then?"

Pluto-2 smirked. "Damn straight. I'll even let you go first. Go ahead." She lowered her guard, letting her arms fall to her side. "Take your best shot."

For a moment the first Pluto considered just refusing to fight. This was not the way she did things, after all. She wasn't supposed to get involved. She was there to guide the others, to direct them onto the correct path that fate had in store. She couldn't let such petty things as emotions get in the way of her duty.

That did not mean that she didn't have them, however. And staring into the other Pluto's taunting face, daring her to attack, she could feel the anger welling up within her. The hell with it, she thought.

Raising her garnet rod, she pointed it at her counterpart. "dead scream," she whispered almost savagely.

The energies swirled around the end of the staff and flew out in a ball towards Pluto-2. She tried to brace herself against the attack, but that proved to be futile. The energy picked her up and threw her across the roof, flinging her into a somersault. She ended up against a wall, her legs splayed in the air in a most unseemly fashion. Pluto-1 lowered her rod and smiled.

Then she frowned, as the other Pluto got up slowly and dusted herself off, seeming to be none the worse for wear. She grabbed her Time Staff from where it had fallen and walked back towards the center of the roof.

"Not bad," she said, looking at Pluto-1 with a glint in her eye. "Good choice of attack. But you know, it works even better if you shout it."

Pluto-1 looked up in surprise and alarm, but Pluto-2 was already halfway through the attack. "DEAD SCREAM!" she shouted.

It felt like a giant hand had suddenly reached out and slapped her. She felt the energy lift her body up off the ground and propel it backwards, almost in a straight line. She wondered how far she would go after she flew off of the roof.

Then she stopped wondering, as her body impacted with another wall, the counterpart to the one where Pluto-2 had ended up. She smacked into it with such force that the brickwork cracked, and she almost lost consciousness.

When she could finally focus clearly again, she noted that she was now lying on the ground by the wall, with the other Pluto looking at her with no small measure of amusement in her eyes. "Go ahead," she said, "you can say ouch. I know you want to."

Pluto-1's eyes narrowed, but before she could retort they were both brought up short by a scream.


Neptune-2 watched her opponent warily. They were circling each other defensively, trying to get a feel for their opponent before attacking and at the same time hoping to 'psych them out'. In so many subtle ways, their wills clashed. A slight wrinkle of the forehead, a twitch of the eye... the signs of it varied, but the tension remained the same.

"We don't have to do this," she said calmly to her counterpart.

"I think we've gone beyond choice in this matter," Neptune- 1 replied.

"Fighting doesn't really solve anything."

"A strange attitude from a Senshi."

Neptune-2 sighed and was about to rebut when her opponent took advantage of her distraction.


Neptune-2 screamed as the blast of water slammed into her. She had never been on the receiving end of her own attack, and hadn't realized that it hurt THIS much. Water filled her mouth, choking her. Then she fell onto a support girder and wrenched her back. It had been too long since she and the other Senshi had practiced. The peaceful nature of Crystal Tokyo, demands on her time as a mother... Yurika, she thought dazedly.


Neptune-2 looked up at her attacker. "What?" she asked, between coughs as she tried to get the water out of her lungs.

"That name?" Disbelief, anger, and pain filled Neptune-1's voice. "You can't be me. Who is this Yurika? Your lover? Someone you left Haruka for?"

Neptune-2 stared at her counterpart. Had she ever been so insecure in her love for Haruka? Perhaps. Oh, how afraid she had been when they first met, afraid of rejection, that Haruka would not fight along side her... that the link she felt between them would never be fulfilled. The tension as Haruka flirted with other girls. But their love had never wavered. For this... this child to break off a fight... this murderer of friends to be so concerned about something so pointless that she would give her enemy a chance to recover...

Neptune-2 began to laugh. She laughed so hard her sides felt like they would burst. The laugh quickly changed to coughs as her much abused lungs protested.

Neptune-1 was taken aback. "What's so funny?"

"Yurika... Yurika is--" Neptune-2 tried to explain...

Then Haruka, HER Haruka, screamed.

Both Neptunes turned and stared in shock as Uranus-1's Space Sword plunged into Uranus-2's side.

Their battle forgotten, they could all only watch as the Uranuses stood there, transfixed... then Uranus-1 pulled back. As the weapon left its victim's side, blood began to spurt from the wound. It was dark in the poor lighting of the Tower, almost black. Uranus-2 slumped to her knees. One hand went to the wound and came away bloody. Uranus-2 stared at it dumbly. Then, she turned to Neptune... the love of her life and said, as blood began to spill from her mouth, "Oh, crap--"

"HARUKA!" Neptune-2 screamed, running over to her soulmate.

Uranus-1 tried not to look at the blood staining her blade. As far as she knew, the Space Sword had never tasted human blood. She didn't like how black it looked against the golden blade. She reached out with one gloved hand and tried to wipe it off... but the stain would not come. Some things, once tarnished, never come clean.

"I--I thought she'd be better than that..." Uranus-1 said, stuttering. "I mean, how did she expect to fight us...?"

"Because she had help," came a soft voice. It was almost gentle, but there was pain and anger, terrible anger, in it.

Everyone looked up. Neo-Queen Serenity stood there, surrounded by her Senshi. All of them were glaring angrily at Uranus-1, but Serenity was the worse. There was anger, yes, but also pain... a look that cried out WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TERRIBLE THING?

Uranus wanted to look away from this beautiful, terrible sight, but she couldn't. The Silver Crystal glowed brightly in Serenity's hand.

"This ends NOW," Serenity said. She stepped over to Uranus. "Saturn! Come!" she commanded. In an instant, both Saturns appeared in mid-motion, as if they had been running a second earlier. Hotaru stopped and looked around in confusion. The elder Saturn, however, swiftly knelt by Haruka, her hands outstretched to heal.

Serenity turned to look at the Outers. "This will teach me," she said sadly, "to view the lives of others as a game. I am sorry," she said to the Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus of this universe. "We placed you in an untenable situation, all because of OUR egos. We fell into the same trap that a friend of ours had, reducing you to characters in a story because that was how we learned of you.

"But you are not." Serenity took a deep breath. "You are people, and we should have realized that from the start. We had no right to pass judgment, or leave our world for yours, simply because we did not approve of your methods. Now we must ask for YOUR forgiveness..."

"Serenity-sama..." Saturn said in a choked voice.

Serenity closed her eyes. Slowly, one tear fell down her cheek. "I know, Hotaru-chan..."

Neptune cradled Haruka's body in her arms, tears running down her cheeks. Awful, choking sobs were being torn from her throat as she clutched her lover to her. One hand gently stroked Haruka's short blonde hair.


Pluto-2 stood off to one side, disbelief etched on her face. She couldn't believe she'd been so stupid. She'd believed that if it came to a fight, it would stop before someone could get hurt. She'd convinced herself that she'd be able to stop it if it came to that. And now Haruka was paying the price.

She had to do something now; she couldn't let this happen. She quickly raised her Garnet Orb and decided that it was only right that she pay the price for her own folly.

But before she could do anything, a hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist, holding it in a grip that was one step away from breaking it. She turned to see Pluto-1 staring at her, the anger in her eyes replaced by disgust.

"Oh, no you don't," Pluto-1 said. "You're not going to get away that easily. This has become a far greater issue than just Haruka's death."

Pluto-2 bristled at that comment. "What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting that you have shown yourself too irresponsible to function. You can't just kill yourself and expect to reincarnate to atone for your sins. You'll have to pay a higher price than that."

Pluto-2's eyes widened. "You can't be serious!" she whispered.

Instead of answering, Pluto-1 took the butt of her Time Staff and slammed it down onto the ground. There was a blinding red flash. When it cleared, the entire rooftop was deserted.

(or a reasonable facsimile thereof :)

The sky was a perfect shade of blue, one that you would have to live a lifetime to see. The sea was only slightly darker, and the foam was a startling contrast against it. The beaches were covered with fine white sand that the wind and waves had contoured into pleasing lines. It was not too hot, not too cold. It was just right.

It was always like that here.

In the middle of this perfect beach, someone had set up a beach chair and was lying back, soaking up the sun and doing absolutely nothing. She didn't move at all, she barely breathed. She was very good at doing nothing, but then again she was very good at many things.

She was very beautiful, with legs that went to THERE and pleasing curves. Long green hair streamed down her shoulders in perfect waves and a pair of mirrorshades covered her eyes. Nary a thought crossed her mind as she strove for a near-impossible state of mind: relaxation.

She was Sailor Pluto, and as a rule, Sailor Pluto didn't get vacations.

This place was an exception to a lot of rules.

She was JUST beginning to enjoy the idea of doing nothing when, of course, it all went wrong.


Sliding her mirrorshades down her nose, she stared at the newcomers. She knew who they were, of course. She had to deal with them all the time. She was not used to seeing more than one set of them at a time, however. They all looked pretty confused, except for the two other Sailor Plutos. Oh, well, it wasn't her problem.

"Move, you're blocking the sun," she snapped.

The Neo-Queen Serenity in the group boggled slightly. "Setsuna?"

"Not YOUR Setsuna," the sunbather said. "I'm off-duty, anyway, so you're not my problem. Go bother some other Pluto, like the two you've got over there."

Serenity bowed, looked confused, and moved toward the other two Plutos. One of them was currently kicking sand over the other's boots, the sunbathing Pluto noticed. Well, at least she wasn't as childish as SOME Plutos. Then she went back to worshipping the sun, which thoughtfully moved to give her the best access to its rays.


"Now, you're going to face the Council," Pluto-1 snapped.

"They have no right to interfere--" the sand-kicking Pluto said.

"YOU are the one who had no right to--"

"Ano--" began Queen Serenity.

"You just knew I was going to beat you," Pluto-2 said, sticking out her tongue.

"You were N--would you PLEASE stop it with the childish displays!"

"Make me!"

"Excuse me--" Serenity tried again.

"You are being immature."

"Yup, annoying, isn't it?" Pluto-2 said with a smile.

Pluto-1 grasped her Time Staff. "I'm going to--"

A shrill piercing whistle interrupted both of them. They both looked over a Neo-Queen Serenity, who had two fingers jammed in her mouth. When she noticed she had their attention, she put her hand down and looked a little embarrassed. She recovered quickly, however. "Pluto, ONE of you, please explain what's going on? Where are we?"

Pluto-1 was the first to speak. She pointed to Pluto-2. "We are here, Your Majesty, because of HER carelessness. Her reckless disregard got Uranus killed." Pluto-1 looked over at the still sobbing form of Neptune. She held Uranus's body, rocking it back and forth. "Enough of that, we need her to testify." With a wave of her hand, Pluto-1 willed Uranus's wound to close.

Uranus coughed.

Everyone, except for Pluto-2 and sunbather (who was studiously ignoring everything) gasped. Neptune clutched the revived Uranus.

Both Hotarus turned toward Pluto-1. "How did you do that?" asked the younger one.

"She was dead," said the older one. "Nothing could heal her."

"We are in subspace, Hotaru-chan," Pluto-1 said. "This place is not bound by the rules of time and space. When we came here, a small spark of Uranus's life force remained. I merely willed her mortal shell to function. When we leave, all that I've done will disappear... unless the Council rules in my favor."

"They won't interfere," Pluto-2 said sullenly. "This is all a waste of time."

"I'll make them interfere. You had no right infringing on my territory."

"There, you see? It's because you're such a tight-ass that you can't get a date to save your life!"

Serenity interrupted them before another argument could begin. "WHERE are we, though? Why is there another Pluto here?"

Both Plutos stopped in their tracks and actually looked a little embarrassed. The others watched in amazement.

"Well, it's sort of a vacation-spot for all the Sailor Plutos," Pluto-2 said.

"It is the headquarters of the Council of Chronos," Pluto-1 corrected. "An informal organization of Sailor Plutos from across the multiverse that has banded together--"

"--like a sorority, really," intrjected Pluto-2.

"It is MORE than a sorority," Pluto-1 snapped.

"It wishes. I only come here to unwind."

"You have NO concept of responsibility or--"

"I'm rubber and you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. Nyah!"

Pluto-1 turned purple with rage, but whatever reply she might have made was cut off abruptly by a loud boom. Suddenly, another Sailor Pluto hovered over their heads. She was only identifiable by her sailor fuku, however, as this Pluto had pale blue hair, even paler skin, and her time staff was shaped more like an ornate key. Her eyes were a dark, solid blue that matched the sea almost exactly.

As everyone stared at this newcomer, she spoke, each word clear and utterly inflectionless, as if a robot were speaking. "You are summoned to Council," she said, raising her Key-staff. With a flash of light, everyone was suddenly someplace else.


It was a cathedral.

At least, that's what most of the visiting party thought as they arrived at the council chamber. It may have had the trappings of a courtroom, but the sheer extravagance and attention to detail made it impossible to think of it as one. It was dimly lit, with shadows falling in just the right places to give a proper gothic feel. No present-day designer could have possibly created something this perfect.

All of the senshi were speechless.

Well, almost all of the senshi.

"This is sooo COOL!!!" Venus was running around, peeking around all of the cloisters and behind the large dock that stood in the center (with a rather annoyed Pluto-2 standing in it). "It's just like Perry Mason with a billion-dollar budget! Or maybe even Matlock or Night Court!" She strode to the front and posed. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I stand before you--"

"If you don't mind, could we get started?"

It took a lot to stop Sailor Venus once she got on a roll, but hearing her own voice did the trick. Turning, she noticed the group behind the bench for the first time. Six women, all wearing the sailor fuku that signified Pluto. Five of them looked like Setsuna, but it was the sixth that made Venus shiver.

It was herself. A Minako stared back at her, with eyes so sad and wanting that Venus couldn't look at them for very long. She lowered her arms. "Um... yes'm, sorry." She managed to slink back to the others, and barely noticed Mars whacking her in the back of the head.

The others had already been examining what appeared to be the judges here. Despite the fact that five of the women had the basic looks of Setsuna Meiou, none of them were exactly the same.

The one on the far left was wearing a metal sash, much like the ones Venus and Jupiter had seen on the Klingons in Star Trek. This one, though, crackled with energy every few seconds.

The one next to her was missing an eye, and seemed to be seething with a compressed rage. Her fingers jumped across the wood, tapping out an intricate pattern of some kind. A bandolier covered the front of her chest, filled with wooden stakes, and a sword hilt extended over her shoulder.

The third Pluto was perhaps the most normal looking, if you ignored the fact that she didn't seem to blink or move. She just sat there, staring at Pluto-2, who was busy sticking her tongue out at Pluto-1.

The fourth Pluto was rather disturbing. She had a certain madness in her eyes, and was busy throwing a knife into the air and catching it. Occasionally she would let it thunk into the wood, and then retrieve it. None of the other Plutos looked at her.

The Pluto next to Minako was perhaps the oddest, if only because she was smiling. She also had her hair cut short, to the point where it resembled Uranus'. She gave a little wave to the other senshi.

The last Pluto, the Minako look-alike spoke again, this time to Pluto-1. "Why have you called this meeting?"

Pluto-1 had been staring at the Pluto holding the knife with a certain amount of fear and loathing, and had to snap herself out of it. "I wish to call a meeting of the Council to judge this Pluto, on the grounds that she has been willfully negligent in her duties and has crossed dimensions in order to interfere with mine. Furthermore, her folly has led to the near-death of the Uranus of her world, who will die as soon as they are returned." Neptune-2, who had finally seemed to have recovered from the experience of watching Haruka die, twitched in Uranus-2's arms and held her tight.

The third Pluto spoke, though she still did not seem to move. "What would you have us do if this is found to be true?"

Pluto-1 took a deep breath, and steeled herself. "I ask that this Pluto be stripped of her powers, and all of her work undone. A new Pluto will rise to fill the need."

Almost all of the senshi gasped, even the ones who knew Pluto-1. Saturn-2 took this time to step forward.

"It was because of the actions of our Pluto that I did not destroy our world in 3001. If you remove her, that is exactly what will happen." And I'll lose my husband and my daughter, she added silently to herself.

Pluto-1 didn't look back. "If that is what is to be, then that is what is to be."

Pluto-2 finally spoke up. "That's EXACTLY why your world has turned out the way it has! You don't have the will to change things, to bring about a better future, to not just sit back and let things happen! How can you -- ?"

The Pluto with pale blue hair was immediately in front of her, staring at her with cold eyes. "Be silent while we judge you."

Pluto-2 gulped, and backed away. "Yes, Ifurita-san."

The second Pluto behind the bench spoke up. "Which universe is the accused's?"

Pluto-2 spoke again. "6472."

"Oh, THAT one." Several of the Plutos straightened up. "About time we got to judge this. Fine, you will be allowed twenty-four hours to assemble your evidence, and then we'll hear the case." A gleam seemed to have entered the eye of the second Pluto on the bench. "You want to prosecute her yourself, I presume."

"Of course," Pluto-1 said.

The first Pluto spoke up. "And presumably, you will want to defend yourself." She looked towards the dock.

Pluto-2 looked back, not speaking for a time, just staring at the six who sat behind the dock. "No... no, I don't think that would be a very good idea. I ask that a defender be chosen for me." The last words were spat out; obviously, this decision did not sit well with her.

The first Pluto on the bench nodded. "Does anyone here wish to volunteer to be her defense counsel, or will it be chosen randomly?"

The fifth Pluto spoke up for the first time. "I'll defend her," she said, brushing her hand through her short hair. Pluto-2 looked ready to object, but said nothing.

The Minako-Pluto spoke up. "All, right, it's decided. We will begin the hearing in exactly twenty-four hours from now." She turned to Pluto-2. "You are free to move about, but please don't try and return to your own universe or anyone else's." She then turned to the rest of the senshi. "Are all these witnesses really necessary? We can just send them back, can't we?"

"No!" Neptune-2 cried out, and hugged Uranus-2 protectively to her.

"I'll not only need them, but I'll need to bring more outsiders here." Pluto-1 said. "I'm sorry, but this is a very complex case, and I want to be able to demonstrate--"

Minako-Pluto waved her hand. "Fine, fine. Gather everyone you need. Before you do that, though, why not get everyone here settled? Give them a small tour, find a place for them to stay for a day or two. You two can work that out between yourselves," she added, noting Pluto-1 and Pluto-2 glaring at each other.

Pluto-1 turned to argue, but suddenly they were alone in the chamber, the other Plutos having vanished. Pluto-2 sighed, and came down off of the dock, looking at the large assortment of Senshi before her.

"Since we have a bit of free time, why not do as she asks? You can take... lessee... your Outers plus Serenity, Jupiter and Saturn, and I'll take the rest of my people. Show them the pool, the sauna, the tennis courts, y'know, the tourist run."

Pluto-1 glared. "We don't have tourists."

Shrugging, Pluto-2 continued. "I wasn't the one that brought them here. In any case, we can let them stay at the Ritz. It's right next to here, and will be convenient for this... hearing." Again, the last word was almost spat out.

The other senshi still looked confused. Pluto-2 gathered her charge into a small group. "We'll start out going east. Try not to run into me if you can. Your Majesty, you'll be all right with her, I promise." While she said those words, she looked to Jupiter, who gave a small nod. Jupiter would make SURE that Serenity was all right in case of any 'accidents'.

Pluto-1 clutched her head for a moment, then sighed. "Fine. Let's go." She headed out towards the door in the corner, her group of Senshi following along behind.

Pluto-2 turned to those remaining. "Well, why not get you introduced to The Pluto Holiday Camp? Follow me."

"Pluto." It was Mars that had spoken up. "How serious is this hearing?"

Pluto-2 turned back, and a shadow fell across her face. "It's nightmarishly serious. I can't believe she's doing this. Moreover, the people who are judging me... might not be sympathetic. I'm trying not to think about it until I have to."

Mars wasn't buying that. "Would they really erase everything that you'd done and start over? That would mean... "

Pluto-2 finished for her. "That would mean that Sean would not be brought to Crystal Tokyo, and that Saturn would not be confident enough to win the fight against the darkness within her. It would mean, in all probability, a nightmare worse than the Silence descending upon our world."

Mercury gasped. "They would never do that to us!"

"They would," Pluto-2 corrected. "They would, because it would be 'the way things are meant to be'. The timeline must remain as it is, nothing can be changed." She shuddered. "It's the worst part of being a Pluto, and I've never believed in it myself. And now that might come back to haunt me. I apologize to all of you if it does."

She moved silently out the door. After a moment, the others followed.


"Basically, this place is either as fun and silly or as serious and controlling as you want to make it. Each Pluto treats it differently, of course." Pluto was leading her group down a long boulevard dotted with video arcades, mini-putts and bingo parlors, stopping every few feet or so to drag Venus out of them. The others seemed to finally be getting used to a place like this. Gad, I hope they don't want me bringing them here all the time now. That WOULD cause a scene..., she thought.

Mars spoke up. "Why don't we talk about that? What is up with this place?"

Pluto collected her thoughts for a few moments before she spoke. "There are, in the multiverse, an almost infinite number of universes. Three- quarters of them don't have the senshi at all, so The Council doesn't concern itself with them. Sean came from one of those."

"I thought you said that the Council--" Moon began.

"Chibi-Usa... sorry, Usagi," she added after a death glare from the aforementioned senshi, "that is the point. I haven't been doing things the way the Council would, that's why there's a trial."

Mercury frowned. "But surely you aren't alone. Didn't you say other Plutos regarded this place as a... a vacation spot?"

Pluto smiled. "Yep. And you're right. But I got caught, and the other Pluto is trying to make an example of me. Actually, this could be one of the most important cases the Council has ever ruled on. If they get their way, and I'm stripped of my powers, it will give them a LOT more clout to go after other Plutos." She paused. "Another reason why we need to win."

She turned a corner, heading down what appeared to be Restaurant Row. This time it was Moon who had to be dragged out of every establishment.

"In any event, being Sailor Pluto doesn't really give one much time off. There's watching the time gate, making sure things go smoothly, guarding against tentacled horrors from beyond, that sort of thing. After a while--and remember, we're talking millennia--it gets rather trying. More Plutos go insane than any other senshi."

The others did not like to think of the concept of a Sailor Pluto going insane. Venus changed the subject.

"Are they mostly Setsunas? I mean, y'know, tall, dark, green hair..."

"About 75% of us have Setsuna as our basic template, yes," Pluto said. "It's actually very linear in a mathematical sense. 75% of the multiverse doesn't have the senshi, 75% of Plutos are Setsunas, 75% of the Setsunas have the long, straight, green hair, that sort of thing. There are exceptions."

As if to illustrate her point, a short-haired Pluto walked out of the Arby's they were passing. "Hi, you kids enjoying the tour?"

With a start, they realized it was the Pluto they'd seen on the Council, the one who had taken up the job of defending their Pluto. "Um... it's lovely..." Mars began.

"Great! Have fun! And I'll see you later," she added, pointing to their Pluto with a wry grin. She walked off down the street.

Pluto stared after her, a grumpy expression on her face.

Venus blinked. "What's wrong?"

Pluto sighed. "She USED to be one of the worst of us. Angstful, self- loathing, the works. After talking to her for a few minutes, I always felt better."

"Well, what happened?"

Pluto glared in the direction her counterpart had gone. "She got laid, damn her."

Moon giggled and blushed. "Surely that can't be it?"

Pluto shrugged. "It's not as if any of the Plutos have a fabulous success rate with men. But you're right, that's not it. She's one of the worst at telling others that the timeline must not be tampered with. She tends to use herself as an example. Very hands-off approach, didn't change the future at all, no matter how painful it was for her. And now she's happy, her world hasn't destroyed itself, Crystal Tokyo will exist, AND she has a hunky boyfriend. I have no idea why she's defending me, and I don't trust her."

Mercury decided to steer Pluto's mind back to a more cheerful attitude. She'd also noticed that Uranus and Neptune hadn't spoken since they left, and was getting worried about them. "So, in order to fight off the mental trauma associated with being Pluto, a number of you created this place."

Pluto nodded, and set off again. "Right. It was deliberately made to be almost perfect. Gorgeous weather, Club Med-type atmosphere... a place to RELAX. It was built in subspace, so it doesn't exist on any of our personal timelines. Some Plutos are here almost every weekend, or the equivalent thereof. Others come once a year or so. Some never come. They don't like the idea of relaxing. Did you see the Pluto playing with the knife up there?"

Mars coughed. "Yeah... she looked a bit distracted, to be honest."

"She's fucking nuts," Pluto said. "She simply cannot figure out a way to be relaxed and happy. It goes totally against the grain of her Pluto-ness. And her world won't let her die. Believe me, she's tried. There's a Haruka- Pluto around here from the same universe (long story), equally insane. An Usagi-Pluto as well, ditto. We call them 'The Three Loonies'."

She noticed the disapproving stares the others gave her. "Oh, come on. If I were to start psychoanalysing every Pluto coming through here with a mental problem, I'd never leave."

Neptune spoke up for the first time. "Why do you?"

Pluto started. "What?"

"Why do you leave? This place looks like a paradise. You have no duties, no worries. You've said yourself that there are some Plutos who have trouble holding it together. Do they stay here all the time?"

Pluto continued to walk along the boulevard (which seemed to go on forever), but didn't speak for a few minutes. When she did, she was very quiet. "No, no one stays here permanently. It's the one rule that EVERYONE enforces. Even me, even the major rule-breaking Plutos. You cannot abandon your own world."

She breathed in, and it sounded like she was fighting back tears. "One Pluto came here almost dead. The Silence had occurred in her universe. Everyone was dead. EVERYONE. She'd avoided death at the last minute by teleporting to here, and asked for sanctuary.

"We treated her wounds, healed her as best we could. We talked with her, asked her about her world and what had happened. We nursed her back to physical and mental health. And then we sent her back. To die. And by that time, she agreed with us.

"I may arrange things so that my own world will end up with its best possible future. I don't deny that. But that's all part of my duty. The duty of all Plutos. And that's something I'll never abandon. This place is a paradise, but it will never become a refuge."

She stopped suddenly, realizing she had lost half her audience. Trailing back, she saw Moon, Mars, and Venus staring into a window, their mouths open. Inside, two Plutos sat drinking a strawberry soda with two straws. Occasionally one of them would sigh. The first reached out to brush a stray lock of hair off the other's forehead, and ended up touching her cheek instead.

Pluto then stormed up and batted them away. "That is NOT part of this tour!" she shouted. Voyeurs, she thought to herself.

Inside, the first Pluto looked out the window for a moment. "Did you hear someone out there?"

"No, I didn't hear anything. I'm sorry, I was too busy drinking in your eyes... "

The first Pluto blushed. "Setsuna, you always say the sweetest things..."


Pluto led her Outers and the Sailors from Crystal Tokyo down a wide boulevard flanked by palm trees and tried not to let her annoyance show. Unlike her irresponsible counterpart, she had always taken the Council and its business seriously. They were Sailor Pluto, and had duties and responsibilities that far exceeded all the other senshi.

Being a tour guide was NOT one of those duties.

She glanced back again to make sure everyone was still following her. Uranus and Neptune still looked a little shaken and were holding each other's hand like their lives depended on it. Serenity and Jupiter were gawking at the Plutos they passed on the street. The Saturns... she frowned. The two Sailor Saturns seemed to be getting along well, perhaps too well... Still, she couldn't hold it against her Hotaru, who was probably too nice a young girl for all the plotting that they would have to do in the upcoming days.

"This is part of our Recreation area," she said, more to keep the group listening and following her than to actually tell them about this world. "We have swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, you name it. There's even an amusement park at the end of the stret."

"Wow," her Saturn said. "Could we--?"

"Hotaru, you'll get sick, and we're not here for you to go on a roller coaster," Pluto said matter-of-factly.

The younger Saturn started to protest, but one look from Pluto silenced her. The older Saturn watched this with a scowl on her face, but Pluto ignored her.

A group of Plutos passed them, all dressed for the pool. Most of them were Setsunas, but they varied greatly in their tastes in swimsuit, from sedate one-pieces to daring thong bikins. A few Plutos were different, including one who looked like Osaka Naru, and another who had short blond hair and looked like a tomboy.

"Naru-chan?" Serenity whispered. She hadn't thought of her old friend in a long time, and to see her suddenly brought back memories both happy and sad.

Naru looked over at her and smiled slightly, partly with the warmth of an old friend and partly the all-knowing enigmatic smile of Sailor Pluto. She moved over to the Queen of Crystal Tokyo. "Don't worry, Usagi... your Naru knew how much you valued her friendship. Your destinies were different, that's all."

"How do you know--?"

"Well, duh, maybe we're Sailor Pluto?" the blonde tomboy said, with a wise-ass grin. "Well, Younger Plutos, at least. My name is Hime-chan. First time here?"

"Um, yes," Serenity said. "Younger Plutos?"

"Younger Pluto, Pluto Junior, Apprentice Plutos... call us what you will. In some universes, we exist to one day take the job held by Sailor Pluto, who usually is a Setsuna. Kinda like how your daughter has replaced you as Sailor Moon," Hime-chan said.

Pluto stepped in at this point. "If you would excuse us," she began frostily, "we are on Council business."

"Chill out, we were just talking," Hime-chan said. "I thought this was a place to relax--"

"Hime-chan!" a voice called out. Another Pluto stepped up, holding hands with a white-haired man. Both Saturns blanched.

"Oh, here she comes now. The High and Mighty Mistress of Time--" She was interrupted as the new Pluto bopped her on the head with her Time Staff.

"I told you to behave yourself," the new Pluto said, grabbing Hime- chan's arm and dragging her away. "I don't want you embarrassing me again--"

"If you had let me bring Daichi along like I wanted, I wouldn't be bored out of my mind! But no, you get to bring YOUR fiancee," she said, pointing at the white-haired man, "but--OW!"

Pluto moved the group along as a crowd began to gather to watch the two Plutos get into a hair-pulling contest (in which Hime-chan had an advantage, her hair being so short.) "When did this become a tourist trap?" Pluto muttered to herself.

"That... that was--" the older Saturn sputtered.

"--Poppa!" the younger Saturn completed.

"It was neither of your fathers," Pluto reminded them. "In that universe, Tomoe Souichi married Sailor Pluto. It has nothing to do with either of our time lines."

Neptune and Uranus had been snapped out of their funk by the little altercation. "So, why do you spend so much time over at Hotaru's house, Setsuna?" Neptune asked teasingly.

Pluto's look could have frozen helium. "It is for Hotaru's benefit, nothing else."

"Um...Pluto?" Jupiter interrupted, to forestall another fight.

"Yes, Jupiter?"

"Everyone here seems to have a Pluto variant but me." Jupiter pointed around. There were Ami-Plutos, Rei-Plutos, Minako-Plutos... almost every Sailor. "Is there a reason we haven't seen a version of me as Pluto yet?"



"Makoto, do you REALLY want to know the answer to that?"

"Um...yeah. Yes, I do."



"There have never been any Makotos who survived as Sailor Pluto. We don't know why. Something deep within you, that defines what you are... refuses to let you be one of us."


"Personally... I would consider it a blessing. We envy you."

A young-looking Sailor Pluto with long silky black hair ran by, obviously in a hurry. As they watched, her body shimmered and transformed into a familiar black cat who bounded away.

"Luna, too?" Jupiter asked, watching in amazement. "Why not me?"

"It is a mystery. You could try talking to some of the Plutos who have a more philosophical bent about it. Mostly the Rei and Michiru-Plutos. Now, come on, we don't have all day to- -" Pluto looked around. "Where are Hotaru and Sailor Saturn?"

Everyone looked around, but the Saturns were gone.

"Oh, fuck," Pluto breathed, sounding very much like the Pluto from Crystal Tokyo.


Elsewhere in the subspace pocket that served the Council, a pair of deep blue eyes opened.

Ifurita had never intended to become Sailor Pluto, but it had been, she knew now, inevitable on her world. Her master's plans had brought her into conflict with the Sailor Senshi and she and Sailor Pluto had fought. She had absorbed and duplicated all of their attacks, one by one. Sailor Pluto had been the last.

She could remember it clearly, the unconscious bodies of the Sailor Senshi surrounding her, the city of Tokyo in flames, and Pluto, bloody and battered, shielding her princess from the Bugrom invasion forces. The Senshi of Time had put up a good fight, making it necessary for Ifurita to intervene again. Her master had been husbanding her carefully, the better to guard his own worthless hide, but each time it seemed the defenders of Tokyo had gone down, new ones had popped up. First those four young ones, then the blonde and green-haired duo, then the black-haired girl with the polearm. Each had made her Master call her away from mopping up the Self Defense Forces and back to battle these foes.

She looked emotionlessly at the Time Staff in her hand, merged with her own Power Key Staff. The Garnet Orb had gone colorless on the death of its previous owner and had stayed that way ever since.

For she had to kill Sailor Pluto. The others were inexperienced, lacked the killer edge, or simply made mistakes. Sailor Pluto had been none of those things, fighting desperately to give her Princess time to revive the others. Ifurita had not wanted to kill the Senshi of Time, since she had no orders to do so, but self-preservation carried its own directives. Sailor Pluto had fallen, atomized by Sailor Saturn's attack which Ifurita had learned only minutes before.

Then Princess Serenity had entered into the battle, with her friends supporting her.

The Silver Crystal's power... Ifurita could still remember the horrible agony it had caused her as her systems tried to duplicate the irreproducible. When it had passed, the Bugrom and her master were gone, banished back whence they had come. Pluto was gone, however, beyond even Serenity's power to recall, so a replacement was needed. Serenity had felt pity for Ifurita, pity for the friendless life of an automaton, and had given her the job after freeing her from her servitude.

Now she served as Sailor Pluto and was, arguably, the most powerful of them all. As such, she had been asked to serve as the Enforcer of the Council, to keep the peace among the many strong-willed individuals who often were called to take on the mantle of the Senshi of Time.

Now, something was wrong in this world. She had been using her powers to keep an eye on the participants in this trial that was forthcoming and, as she had expected, there would be trouble from them.

Silently, she flew off into the sky.


"Should we REALLY be doing this?" the younger Hotaru asked.

"Yes," the older one said. "Pluto had no right to slap you down like that. I don't care if she is the Mistress of Time on your world, you just wanted to have some fun, like a normal girl. And we're going to do that."

"It's just... I don't want to cause trouble. Pluto means well--"

"Hmph!" was all the older Hotaru would say. "Look, we're just going to ride a few rides, then we'll find her again. It's not like we're doing anything involved with the trial right now, anyway." She looked down at her younger self fondly. She was so reminded of how she had been when she was young, shy and timid, unwilling to make a fuss, yet yearning to have some fun. Well, she would have her fun.

They entered the amusement park section of the Plutos' world. There were some Plutos about, but not too many, and those that were there seemed to be having too much fun to comment on the Saturns. To be on the safe side, they transformed back to their civilian clothes, so that maybe, at first glance, they would be mistaken for Hotaru-Plutos.

"So, what do you want to do first?"

The younger Hotaru looked up at a towering roller coaster with a mixture of fear and desire.

"Should have known. Bridget likes scaring herself silly, too."


"My daughter."

Hotaru blinked.

The elder Hotaru giggled. "What, did you think we would never date and marry? Granted, my relationship with Sean was not the most normal one in the world, but don't worry, I'm sure there is a guy out there for you."

The younger Hotaru blushed. Together they walked to the roller coaster. Once getting up to the cars, the elder Hotaru went over to the control booth and began looking at all the buttons.

"Now, how do I start this?" she muttered to herself.

"Just hit the red button and then get in the car quickly," came a very familiar voice.

Both Hotarus turned and looked apprehensively at the newcomer. She had shoulder-length black hair, deep violet eyes, and was wearing the uniform of Sailor Pluto. In her right hand she held a Time Staff with a multi-colored orb on top of it, an orb of fluorite, the elder Hotaru realized, recognizing her favorite stone. Which only stood to reason.

"Now, how did YOU two get here?" asked Tomoe Hotaru, Sailor Pluto.


Setsuna walked down the hall towards her room (she had her own apartment, but wanted to stay near the others). She'd been up for about 20 hours now, and was very tired. She had not had the best of days.

Luckily, she'd finally managed to get free of her fellow senshi, though that was mostly Hotaru's doing. Apparently the two Saturns had decided to sneak away from the other Pluto's tour and disappear. The other group was busy scouring the entire area looking for them, and Moon, Mercury, and Mars had gone to help. Venus, Uranus, and Neptune had stayed behind, going to their rooms rather quietly.

Normally Setsuna would have been more concerned. Minako hadn't been herself since they arrived, and Michiru was still terrified that her partner would die. She should go and comfort them, talk to them, be a friend.

Unfortunately she was just too wrapped up in her own problems to care. She had made a stupid, childish error, and now her entire world was falling apart. If she lost the trial, then she lost everything. The world she'd striven to protect would be destroyed by a Saturn who thought she had nothing to live for. The Silence, forever.

If she won...they'd go back. And Haruka would die. Yes, Sailor Uranus would be reincarnated, but she'd be different. Just as Setsuna was different from her past self, and Hotaru was different from the girl she'd been in the 20th century. Michiru would be devastated. She didn't have any idea how Yurika would react.

Both scenarios were unpleasant. But Setsuna couldn't stop thinking about how all this was her fault. The fact that this entire situation could have been prevented if she'd been a little more mature and thought things through. But no, she'd let her childish self run rampant. Quite frankly, if she was only one being punished, she'd go gladly. But since it involved her friends...

It hadn't used to be like this. She used to be much cooler, outgoing and friendly, yet also calm. Before she... died. Her past incarnation would never have let this happen. She still felt the woman's shadow on her whenever she made a decision. Her previous self, both like and unlike. And yet it seems that when I was reincarnated, only the impetuous, mistake- prone part of her came to me, Setsuna thought sourly.

She went into the room and threw herself down onto the couch. She really wished she could stop this cycle of self-pity she was getting into, but knowing you're being pathetic and doing something about it were two very different things. And right now she didn't really feel like doing anything about it.

She wracked her brain, trying to remember anything that might be able to help her. It was hard, as her memories from before her birth were extremely vague and unreliable. Certain things she remembered with as much clarity as if she'd lived them herself, whereas other moments, whole decades of life, were still totally lost to her.

Small Lady was the one who'd really driven the point home, the first time they'd met. Small Lady had just come back from the twentieth century, and met the new Pluto for the first time. And... she knew. It was like a veil being drawn across her face. Oh, there was still the outward happiness and hugging, and Small Lady still called her Pu, even now that she wasn't small any more. But they were friends now. Not best friends.

It still hurt.

Why does this sound familiar, Setsuna thought. She strained to recall where she'd heard those words before...


"It's not the same. They won't treat me like a fellow senshi, but at the same time they refuse to be just friends with me like they were before. It's like they don't know what I am anymore."

Setsuna sat and sipped her Coke, looking at the woman standing across the counter. Beans was one of the newest Plutos. It had been intended that she be reincarnated with the others, but her world's Setsuna didn't die after the cataclysm, leaving no powers to reincarnate into her. When that Setsuna finally allowed herself to pass on, the power awoke in a 21- year-old Beans all at once.

Unfortunately, she wasn't a very willing Pluto. This was leading to problems on her home world, problems that had been getting worse and worse. To prevent things from being irreparably damaged, Beans had elected to come here and speak to a few Plutos, trying to get their advice.

Beans grabbed another slice of pizza. "I know it's my fault, but it seems every time I try to fix things they just get worse. Hotaru thinks I killed her mama myself, Haruka won't even speak to me, and Michiru's getting more and more distant..."

Setsuna sighed. "What about the others? I can't imagine Usagi turning you away..."

Beans shrugged. "I always feel awkward around the Inners. I dunno, maybe it's a Pluto thing..."

Having heard the metaphorical last straw, Setsuna slammed her glass down. "Would you stop saying that? Why are you treating the position of Pluto as something that requires all of these sacrifices?! Just because most Plutos are losers doesn't mean you have to be one!"

Beans' eyebrow twitched. "I am *not* trying to be a loser..."

"Of course you are," Setsuna countered. "You're treating this as a burden that's been forced upon you, and thinking you're some square peg that needs to be slammed into a round hole! There are no pegs! There are no holes! The whole point of the multiverse is that each world is different. There is no absolute Pluto that everyone needs to conform to."

Beans snorted. "Then why did I get handed this rulebook when I arrived here?"

Setsuna shrugged. "Rip it up. I threw mine away. Trying to get Plutos to behave like little automated drones is something that the Council is fond of. It gives them more power. The only rules Plutos should follow are ones they think they should."

Beans blinked at her, clearly confused. Setsuna tried another tack. "Now that you're Pluto, what do you feel you have to do?"

"Um... well, I'm a senshi. Fight with the others to protect our world..."

"Not a rule," Setsuna countered. "It's not necessarily part of the job. Some Plutos never leave the Time Gate. Some only show up to be obscure and cryptic before vanishing again."

"Now wait a minute," Beans yelled. "I don't want to shut myself away! I want to help them!"

Setsuna grinned. "Good. But please, remember that it's *you* that wants to do it, not Pluto. Your world doesn't seem to have anthropomorphic personifications of your planets like some do. Your powers aren't a force in and of themselves. It's what you do with them that matters."

Beans slumped back into her booth. "I can't use my powers in the first place. 'Don't come with us, you'll only be hurt.' 'You're not ready to fight with us yet'. You know what they're really saying? That they can't count on me. That they don't trust me."

"What have you done to earn their trust?"

"Nothing! They won't let me into any situation where I can!"

"So you think you can only get them to trust you by defeating a monster in some big battle? Do you think that being Pluto is all about firing Dead Screams?"

Beans squirmed. "Well, no... but I tried to be Pluto-like once, and they ended up laughing."

"Probably because you're not very Pluto-like. At least not the way you see Plutos. And I think until you get the image of the cool, collected all- knowing Mistress of Time out of your head, you're never going to gain their trust. Because you aren't allowing your true self to come out. They aren't speaking to you because *you're* the one acting weird. You're trying to be distant, and mysterious, and it's not you."

"Great, now you're saying it *is* all my fault, that makes me feel so much better..." Beans grumbled.

Setsuna was starting to get annoyed. "Would you stop whining! Get over it! You have to deal with this, not moan about it to me! Don't go crazy, do something to gain the others' trust! And I don't mean defeating monsters! I mean let them into your life again, talk about what's bothering you. Be their friend. Get close to them again! For God's sake, stop acting like such a PLUTO!"

Beans stared at her for a moment, then giggled. "That's cute, I'll have to remember that."

Setsuna calmed down again. "I can help you train yourself. Not merely the Dead Scream and other such offensive weapons, but teach you how to work with time. To move within it, and to understand it's wants and needs."

"You make it sound like I'm time's 'other woman'," Beans noted wryly.

"Now you're getting it. 'Time's Mistress', some call us. Not in the sense of Master and servant, but in the sense that we are closer to time than others who merely live in it. We know its secrets. We are intimate with it, in a certain way."

"Gaaaah... berf," Beans mumbled. "I don't see how you can expect me to swallow all this and yet still manage to be myself. That sounds nothing like me."

"And who says you have to remain the way you were?"


"Just because I said it should be you making these decisions and not Pluto doesn't mean it needs to be the woman you are *now*. We all grow up, change, adapt. We do it all our lives, and it has nothing to do with being a senshi. Are you the same person that you were five years ago?"

"Thank the Lord, no."

"How did you deal with finding out that Haruka was a girl? Or that she and Michiru were senshi?"

Beans was slumping deeper into the booth. "Um... I pretty much rolled with it, I guess."

"Are you worried you'll lose yourself?"

By now only Beans' head was visible above the table. "Um... maybe a little."

Setsuna waved a hand at her. "You're stronger than that. Trust me. Sailor Plutos may succeed and fail. Our sanity rating is not always 100%. But the powers NEVER go to someone too weak to handle them. The weakness has to come from elsewhere. Don't let this beat you down, Beans. Work with it. Go back and chat with the others. Tell them your problems. They've all gone through it before, remember. They weren't born as senshi."

Beans sighed, and straightened up. "Thanks," she said.

Setsuna smiled. "Berf," she replied.


OK, maybe we weren't *that* different, Setsuna mused. Still, it felt good to have recovered another memory from her previous incarnation.

Caught up in her old memories, Setsuna didn't notice the other Pluto sitting in a chair across from her.

"About time you got here," she said with a smirk.

Setsuna growled. She didn't need this. She was already far too busy feeling sorry for yourself. "Go away, Setsuna."

"Ferine, please. And we're not going to play that game." The short- haired Pluto got up and walked over to Setsuna, staring her down. "I know you'd rather go sit in the bath and feel sorry for yourself right now, but we really don't have time for that. This trial starts in less than twenty hours, and before that happens, you and I are going to put together a workable defense in order to save your world and your friends. Do I make myself clear?"

The look on her counterpart's face was quite serious, and served to momentarily snap Setsuna out of her depressed funk. There was one thing she had to know first, though. "Why?"

"Why what?" Ferine asked, even though her eyes showed that she knew what Setsuna meant.

"Why are you defending me? It's not as if the two of us have a common bond. Our worlds are very different, and as long as I've known you, you've nagged at me. I change things to make my world better. You don't. Therefore your defending me seems... inexplicable." Setsuna sat on the couch and stared, trying to force Ferine to give in and leave by sheer will.

Instead, much to her annoyance, Ferine laughed. It started as a giggle, then progressed all the way to slapping her fists against the couch and bent double.

After about a minute of this, she calmed herself, then turned towards Setsuna, her face serious once more.

"Do you know, if I told the Sailor Mars of my world that I 'did nothing,' she would laugh in my face, if not try to rip it off. Doing nothing is just as firm a decision as doing something. You choose not to act. And you live and die by the action that you don't take. Why is that different from what you did?"

Setsuna paused for a moment. Was Ferine trying to trick her? Was this all a setup by the Council? She then shook her head, telling herself not to be paranoid. "It's different because I saw a future where my world was destroyed. It was the most likely future. And I altered events to stop it. I went beyond the bounds of my duties, and--"

"What bounds?!" Ferine said, incredulously. "The only bounds a Pluto needs to conform to are the ones she sets herself."

Setsuna blinked. "But the Council... " She trailed off, beginning to see the other's point.

"We are talking about your world. You are one of its protectors. You know it better than anyone else. Therefore, it's your decision as to how to protect it."

She got up and began pacing around the room, Setsuna watchinq her like a tennis spectator.

"This is going to be our defense. The Pluto who accused you made what I consider a serious error in judgment. She expanded the bounds of the case. If this was simply about you taking your senshi to another world to beat them up, and getting one killed in the process, then there would be very little that we could do. But it's not. She's trying to challenge everything you've done in your world, from bringing in that gaijin to sacrificing yourself to save Small Lady. She's trying to call into question the rules that Plutos have to abide by. And that's where we'll hit her. If she wins, this could be a very bad precedent. Plutos calling others to trial for crimes, Pluto fighting Pluto. It was bad enough you two were stupid enough to do it. We don't want anyone else getting the idea."

Setsuna gaped, beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time since arriving, she smiled slightly. Then a thought occured to her. "Um... if this is your opinion, why are YOU on the Council?"

Ferine smiled enigmatically. "Ah," she said. "That... is a secret."


"Michiru, we have to talk."

Haruka opened the door to the room she and Michiru had been assigned, and immediately moved towards the bathroom door to blockade it. Unfortunately, she wasn't quick enough; Michiru had already ducked under her arm and into the room, closing the door behind her. Haruka smacked her fist against the door.

"Michiru, we need to talk!"

The only response she received was a retching noise.

Haruka turned and kicked the wastebasket across the room, then went to flop down on the couch, face towards the ceiling. Dammit, she didn't need to make it this hard! Haruka was already having enough trouble coming to terms with the fact that she was... that she was dead. She needed Michiru to understand, to comfort her. She wanted love. She wouldn't get it when she was gone, and she needed it now.

Michiru, however, had gone from tears to a sort of pale denial. Whenever Haruka tried to bring the subject up, her partner would grow queasy and hide in the bathroom..

Haruka knew they had a close relationship. Hotaru had suggested at one point that they were 'too close'. Haruka could see her point now. If she couldn't talk to Michiru about this, then... then what would happen after she died? How would Michiru go on, take care of Yurika, resume a happy life? They had once pledged to each other that if one of them died, the other would take their own life. That pledge scared her to death now.

Suddenly Michiru's face appeared in her vision, happy and smiling. For a moment Haruka almost jumped up with joy, but then she took a closer look. The smile seemed more sardonic than anything else, and something about the demeanor...

Haruka sat up slowly, scowling. "Who are you?"

The not-Michiru laughed, using Michiru's musical tones. Haruka flinched when she heard that. Michiru's laugh was a great pleasure to her; it hurt to see another person use it.

"You're very quick," she said, a smile remaining on her face. "I thought I might be able to get away with a kiss before you found me out. My name is Kaiou Michiru, and I am Sailor Pluto."

A voice sounded from the other side of the room. "And I am Kaioh Michiru, Sailor Neptune, and you will get the hell away from Haruka. Now."

Michiru-Pluto (as Haruka had begun to think of the other woman) didn't turn to look at her counterpart, but she got up and moved across the room just the same, coming down in an armchair directly across from Haruka. Every single movement she made was with grace and beauty. It was hard for Haruka to draw her eyes away...

Until Michiru planted herself down on Haruka's lap. Hard. That brought Haruka back to reality, and she chuckled nervously at her lover.

Michiru-Pluto smiled. "You two looked to be having trouble, so I thought I'd stop by and see if I could help. Sometimes talking to an uninterested third party is the best thing for these sorts of arguments."

Haruka found her voice, and tried to put some force behind it. "We're fine, thanks."

"Really?" the other Michiru asked. "So you've fully come to terms with the fact that you're going to die? And your partner has too?"

Michiru put a hand to her mouth, and made as if to go towards the bathroom again, but Haruka grabbed her arm. "No," she said quietly.

Michiru turned, fighting back nausea, and looked into Haruka's eyes. And then her walls broke, and she clutched at her lover, her breath coming in great, heaving sobs. Haruka comforted her as best she could, holding on to her tightly and whispering soothing words.

After a few minutes, Michiru's sobs had quieted to soft hiccups, though her iron grip on Haruka remained. Across the room, the Michiru-Pluto was cocking her head at Haruka, her smile gone.

"You have accepted it, haven't you? I can tell by the way you are with her. You know you're going to die."

For a long time Haruka didn't say anything. She listened to Michiru cry on her shoulder, watched the other Michiru stare at her, not moving her gaze. When she finally spoke, she chose her words carefully.

"I've accepted it as much as I can. I don't think it's fair. For over a thousand years Michiru and I couldn't be happy, because we knew that the time would come where we'd have to be killers again. Where we'd have to slaughter another baby for the sake of the world. We were dead then, walking corpses moving from day to day.

"Then Hotaru survived, and Pluto managed to avoid having her destroy everything. And we could live again. Michiru got pregnant, and it was the happiest day of my life. Then I watched her have Yurika, and I was even happier. These past ten years have been..."

Haruka broke off for a moment, and turned away. She felt the tears coursing down her cheeks, but wouldn't give in to them. "It's not fair."

She looked back, and the Michiru-Pluto had straightened up, leaning forward in your chair. "Not fair for you, or not fair for her?"

Haruka blinked. She wanted to say the obvious answer, that it wasn't fair for either of them, but something was preventing her. She remembered reading in a book somewhere that death contracts the mind wonderfully. Perhaps that was the case, as suddenly she saw the answer clearer than she ever had.

"Not fair for her. It doesn't matter what I feel, as long as Michiru's happy. And Yurika now, too. I need them to be happy."

Now Michiru had quieted down, and was raising her head to look at Haruka in amazement. Haruka looked at her lover, and the tears came again. "God, Michiru, I'm so scared that you'll die."

And this time the avalanche was her own, as all the pain and anger and dank, cold fear she'd been holding in from the moment she'd been stabbed came out of her in a wash. She didn't sob like Michiru, but the tears simply refused to stop coming down her cheeks, and she pulled her head to Michiru's breast, seeking to hear the beat of her heart, knowing her life was still going on.

They'd almost forgotten the other Michiru was there until she spoke.

"That is both the most romantic and the most horrifying thing about your relationship. That the two of you would endure unending suffering, have done for years, in fact, just so that the other can be happy. Never thinking of yourself, always of the other."

Neither Haruka or Michiru looked up. They continued to hold each other.

"And now it's killing you, because you've come to a situation that is too final for you to do anything about. You talk about being a walking corpse, Haruka, but I can tell you that the difference between that and real death is huge. Even in your world, where you can be sure that the Senshi of Uranus will reincarnate. Your Saturn and Pluto have already done so, right? Is either of them the same as they were in their previous life?"

Silence. Clutching each other. Reassurance.

"Of course not. Their environment has changed them. So even if Uranus is reborn, it won't be Haruka Tenoh. True death. So you're both scared. Michiru is terrified that she won't be able to go on without Haruka there beside her. Haruka is afraid of the exact same thing. And the two of you have spent so long being strong for the other's sake that you can't be strong for yourself."

They released each other now, looking up. Looking into each other's faces and seeing the truth there.

"And there's something else, something that you would never admit to each other. You're both afraid that you could be strong enough. That Michiru could go on without Haruka. That despite everything, she could pick up the pieces and move on with her life. But Michiru, you would never say that to Haruka. And Haruka wouldn't dare be selfish enough to say it to Michiru."

Truth. Try to deny, try to look away, the truth will always come back to you. They heard Michiru-Pluto get up and move towards them.

"I won't be presumptuous enough to try and give advice. You two will have to work it out by yourselves. I just thought I would put things in perspective."

They could hear her footsteps heading for the door. Haruka wrenched herself away from Michiru's gaze. "I... um... thank you."

Michiru-Pluto turned back, and the twinkle was back in her eyes. "Oh, God, the others would never forgive me if I didn't do this." And with that, she walked briskly over towards the couple, winked, and then bent over to give a surprised Haruka a long, deep kiss.

For a moment, nobody moved. Both Haruka and Michiru were too shocked to do anything. Then Michiru-Pluto straightened once more and gave a little chuckle at the surprise she saw on her counterpart's face. Then, slowly, she leaned forward and kissed Michiru on the lips. It was far more gentle than the kiss she gave Haruka, almost sisterly, but there was a roguish gleam in her eye. "Just so you two won't have anything to be jealous about... hmmm, I'm a good kisser," she said with a wink to Michiru. Then she left while they could only stare silently at her.

Haruka and Michiru stared at where she'd been for a few moments, then looked back at each other. After a few moments, Haruka was amazed to see Michiru giggle.

Michiru covered her mouth with her hand, and pointed. "You... you have some lipstick on your..."

There was another pause, and then both of them were cracking up, the laughter breaking the tension just as much as the tears had. Michiru fell back onto the couch, holding her stomach, still pointing at Haruka's face. Haruka was turning red from laughter.

Eventually, this outburst calmed down, and they were once again sitting on the couch holding each other. Only this time there was a peace. A knowledge and acceptance that hadn't been there before.

Michiru stood up, and offered her hand to Haruka. Haruka took it. And together, the pair of them moved to the bed, where they would spend the next few hours reaffirming their love for the last time.


Outside, Michiru-Pluto leaned up against the wall, giggling to herself. She really shouldn't have done that to the two of them, but she couldn't resist.

She then sighed as she thought of what they were going through. She was going to watch the trial with interest. If their Pluto lost, well, then she'd have too many problems of her own to worry about those two. But if she won...

She walked down the hall, trying not to laugh out loud. She'd need to talk to some of the others about this...


When the others had gone off to search for the wayward Saturns, Minako had begged off, saying that she had some things to think about. The others immediately nodded, not questioning her. They'd known her for a thousand years now, and knew that when Minako thought, she thought HARD.

Back in the twentieth century, she had once suffered a small breakdown in class. The senshi had been battling a particularly tough enemy, and several of the victims were still in hospital, including two of her friends. Sitting in class and seeing the two empty desks in front of her had set Minako off, and she began to shiver uncontrollably.

After going to the nurse's office, the school asked that she see a therapist. Reluctantly, she had agreed, knowing if she refused they'd tell her parents, and perhaps even look into her private life.

After a few sessions, the therapist had diagnosed her with a slight case of manic depression. It was one of those things that Minako might have joked about with her friends once, in a wry effort to explain her mood swings. Waving her arms around and singing the song by Jimi Hendrix. But here, in the therapist's office, there was only the cold words of reality. Manic depression. She was disturbed, however mild it might be.

She'd talked with the therapist some more, and agreed that she did not need any sort of drugs. For the most part, being aware of the facts and some continued therapy would be his recommendation.

She didn't tell the others for years. Well, not entirely true. She told Ami, just in case there was a situation in which something needed to be done. But to tell Usagi... she didn't dare. She was deathly afraid that Usagi might prevent Minako from fulfilling her duties as Sailor Venus. For her own good. Ami told her that Usagi would never do that, and Minako knew she was right, but she still wouldn't do it.

She continued her therapy right up till the end of the world and the creation of Crystal Tokyo. They all knew it was coming, and had prepared as best they could. She told her therapist that she wouldn't be coming any more, and could see that he was worried. So she decided to tell him everything. Her entire life, everything she'd been keeping from him. Meeting Artemis, the Kingdom on the Moon and her past reincarnation, posing as Sailor V in England to draw attention from the others. Dying, not once, but twice for her Princess. The future they knew was coming. The world they knew was ending.

After she'd finished, he stared at her for a few moments, not moving. Finally he spoke up. "Venus, if I recall correctly, is the personification of love."

Minako nodded. "That's right. I even call myself the Senshi of Love."

He smiled at her warmly, which for some reason made her feel very good. "No wonder you're susceptible to mood swings. You're almost a model for the emotion, Minako. Your highs are those of a person who is so much in love that the world doesn't matter. And your lows are those of someone who is so much in love that betrayal and hurt are visceral. I can't imagine a more perfect Senshi of Love."

She'd gaped at him for a moment, taking in his revelation. Then she smiled, a smile so big it almost hurt her mouth. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you. For everything."

He nodded. "Good luck to you all, Minako. May you one day find the happiness you have given to others."

In a few more days the enemy had come, and the world had been nearly destroyed. Serenity, with the help of the others, had managed to save Tokyo and the surrounding area, creating the vision they had carried with them for years. Crystal Tokyo. Even then, the deaths were numerous.

She'd gone to look for him as soon as she was able to get away, but the entire block had been destroyed.

Since then Ami had filled in as a substitute for her therapist. Someone to talk to, someone to have listen. Someone to whom she could say the things she'd never be able to tell anyone else. Ami was good like that, Minako knew any secrets were safe.

But this was something more than just a slight depression. Minako had suffered a shock in the courtroom when they arrived. A Pluto that looked just like her. Eyes that told of knowing far too many things, and not being able to do much about them. A Minako with a face filled with sadness. It was exactly the person she feared she would become back when she'd first been diagnosed.

She needed to find her again. So she scoured the streets of this Pluto world, looking for her telltale blonde hair. She had made a couple of mistakes already - there were a few other Minakos who were Plutos, though not many. None of them were the one she was looking for, though.

Finally, just as she was about to give up and head back for the hotel, she thought of one other place she could try.


The arcade was a surprise. Strangely, the place seemed to contain only twentieth-century arcade games, the kind Minako spent her youth trying to beat. There were a few Plutos around, but for the most part the place was empty.

Minako considered. If she were depressed, and happened to wander in here, which game would she go for?

There was only one answer.

Looking around, she spotted the Pole Position game almost immediately, and noted with both satisfaction and trepidation that there was a blonde head to be seen over the seat.

She walked over slowly, and stood beside the machine for a few minutes. The other Minako (who she knew from a glance was the one she had been looking for) was racking up a truly phenomenal score, driving with a grace and speed that Minako herself had never been able to accomplish, even after years of practice.

The spectacle was ruined, however, by the expression on the Minako- Pluto's face. It was completely blank. She wasn't enjoying doing this, wasn't reacting to the other cars or the sheer exuberance of the experience. She was just turning a wheel, and watching what happened. It was heartbreaking.

Suddenly she spun the wheel in a tight curve, driving her car into the wall. It exploded into a fireball, something which the other Minako found fascinating. She continued to watch the screen as the fire raged, finally dying out into a scrapheap of twisted metal. GAME OVER flashed onto the screen.

Minako-Pluto sighed and looked up at her alternate for the first time. As before, there was a sadness in her eyes that Minako just didn't ever want to imagine could be there.

"Do you know, I hadn't done that in years," Minako-Pluto began. "Not since I first took up the post of Pluto. Seeing you, though, brought back a few memories, and I thought...I thought playing this might bring back some others. But it didn't. I can still play it, all right...I can even rack up higher scores than my old self could have dreamed of. But the passion for it is gone. The passion for anything is gone. Leeched right out of me."

For a moment Minako just stared, not being able to believe that these words were coming from her...well, almost her lips. Then she grabbed Minako- Pluto's hand, dragging her out of the game center.

She spoke over her shoulder as they walked. "I just cannot BELIEVE you! I mean, I thought that I got depressed at times, but you just take the candy from the baby! What could possibly be so bad that you end up like this? I mean, other Minakos are here, and they seem fine!"

They had ended up in a small hot dog place, and before Minako-Pluto could do anything Minako had ordered up two jumbo dogs with everything and two large Jolt Colas. While waiting for their order Minako-Pluto stood stoically, not looking at anything in particular. Finally, after getting their order and sitting in a corner table, Minako fixed her other self with a stare that she tended to use in order to terrify people into telling her what was wrong with them. The "Do you know how close to the edge I really am?" stare.

It didn't seem to faze Minako-Pluto, but she began to speak nevertheless.

"I spent the first thousand years of my life as Sailor Venus. I fought criminals in England, went back to Japan to protect my Princess, and died for her. Met the other Senshi, including Pluto. Helped to set up Crystal Tokyo, and fought the Black Moon War there in the Thirtieth Century, as a living battery for the city."

Minako blinked. "Wow, all I did was lie on a crypt in a coma." She shook her head, mentally slapping herself. "Sorry, go on."

Minako-Pluto smiled, as if thinking of old memories. "A few years after that crisis, Sailor Pluto approached me. She said that the time was coming when she would be gone, and that a new Pluto would have to be trained. And that it would have to be me.

"It took a while to explain WHY it had to be me. Pluto kept talking about paradoxes and circles of time until my head spun. But I finally accepted it. After all it was my duty as a senshi. And if this would help to protect my world and my Princess, then no sacrifice was too great." Minako- Pluto's face twisted as she spoke those words, as if they left a sour taste in her mouth.

"So I trained in Pluto's powers and duties. I was actually a quick study, once I managed to accept it. After about ten years, I looked and acted the part of Sailor Pluto. I WAS Pluto, for better or worse. And so I went off to fulfill my duty. I went back in time to help raise Chibi-Usa, so that they would know who I was when she returned to the twentieth century. I helped to bring the senshi of that period forward, to help destroy Wiseman. Then came the hard part. I traveled through time again to tell Sailor Venus that she would have to train to be Pluto."

Minako massaged her temples. " the one who told you that you needed to become Pluto to fulfill destiny was yourself?!"

Minako-Puto nodded. "So you see, I really have no one else I can blame."

Minako had nothing she could say to that, so Minako-Pluto continued her story.

"Even after that, I wasn't finished. I went back to the twentieth century, and helped to fight Galaxia. Went back even further, to destroy Pharaoh 90. And that was it. Pluto was 'killed' in a helicopter explosion, and I had fulfilled my duty. I could return to Crystal Tokyo and everything would be all right."

Again, Minako sensed the unspoken 'but' in this monologue. "You couldn't become Venus again?"

This time Minako actually showed some emotion. A bitter laugh escaped her lips. "Of course not! After all, there were still new threats that needed to be fought against. Sailor Pluto was the senshi of Time, and far more powerful. All Venus could offer was love."

Minako-Pluto sat back in her chair, looking up at Minako with the hint of a tear in her eye.

"And in the end, love just isn't good enough, is it?"

Minako continued to stare at her counterpart, but it was clear she'd finished her story. And now it seemed that she was expecting something from Minako. Sympathy? Pity? Forgiveness? Absolution? Or something else?

And then it hit Minako. She wanted to know how to be happy again. The old Minako may have had mood swings, but there was always that core of joy, the essence of rapture that was Minako Aino, Sailor Venus. And this Minako, in trying to do her best to fulfill her future, had forgotten that.

Minako racked her brain. What could she say? At first she thought of talking about love, like her old therapist had once done. But that probably wouldn't work. This Minako was not going to be allowed to return to Sailor Venus. She was Minako Aino, Sailor Pluto. So she needed an argument to appeal to a Pluto.

When she finally spoke, it was slowly and with care, very much unlike her usual chatter.

"You say that you learned everything about being Sailor Pluto. All of the attacks, and the duties, and how to act. How to protect the timestream and your friends. Guarding against chaos."

Minako-Pluto nodded.

"But you forgot something. Something that all Plutos are born with, and you still haven't learned yet. And that's what's eating you up inside, and making you unable to come to terms with what you are and be happy again."

The other girl gripped Minako's hand tightly. She was pleading now. "What?"

Minako smiled, a small smile that nonetheless lit up the entire restaurant. It had nothing to do with Sailor Venus this smile. This was a smile that all Minakos were born with throughout the multiverse, and it could conquer worlds.


Minako-Pluto blinked. Minako tried to phrase it better.

"I mean, hope is something all Plutos have to have, right? The hope for something better. For a good future. For happiness. That's why you do what you do. You guard the timestream and help the others in order to bring about Crystal Tokyo. I think you need to accept that you're now Sailor Pluto. It may not be what you wanted to be, or even what should have been. But you're Pluto, and Plutos can be happy. Look around you. You just need to be happy as a true Pluto, rather than as a Venus playing at Pluto. You can do it! After all, even more than Venus, or Pluto, you're Aino Minako."

For a moment nothing was said. Then slowly the other Minako began to smile. It was a hesitant one, as if the facial muscles hadn't been used in a while, but the instinct was still there. More importantly, it was one of the most beautiful things Minako had ever seen.

"C'mon. Let's go out and shop or something. We still have a lot to talk about," Minako said. And once again she gripped the other woman's hand in hers and zipped off down the street, only now her counterpart kept up with her, the smile still etched on her face.

After all, they had the whole night ahead of them.


Sailor Mars wearily forced herself to open the door to her hotel room. She hated it. It looked exactly like a hotel room from an up-scale Hilton from the 20th Century. Spacious, tidy, comfortable. And that was why she hated it. It had all the soul of a padded room. She didn't think she could meditate there to save her life.

At least it had a bath, she thought to herself. She needed a good hot soak. She started the hot water running and then returned to main room. Without barely a thought she transformed back to Hino Rei and stripped off her clothes, leaving them on her bed. Then she went and soaked her sore muscles for over a half hour.

Now, she had just been out searching this strange world for Saturn with no luck, on top of which it had been a long and tiring day for all the Senshi, so perhaps she could be forgiven for not realizing anyone was in her room when she finally left the bathroom, clad only in a towel around her body and another around her hair. Still, tired or not, her transformation pen was in her hand before the other could blink... but that was enough time for her to realize who she was looking at.

Long, raven-black hair. A black and white sailor fuku. A Time Staff topped by a ruby. She was looking at an image of herself cast by a mirror darkly, except for a small band of white cloth covering her counterpart's eyes.

"Let me guess, you're Hino Rei, Sailor Pluto, right?" Rei asked. "How did you get into my room?"

"All places are the same, only perception differs," The Rei-Pluto whispered. She sounded disappointed. "What you would call senses are merely limitations on the infinite."

Rei blinked. "What?"

"If you ask 'how' you seek knowledge. If you ask 'why' you seek wisdom. Asking questions brings only answers. Seeking answers brings enlightenment."

Rei felt her temper begin to boil. She got the definite impression that this Pluto was making fun of her. "Look, just say what you want to say then beat it!"

"Why are you angry?" Rei-Pluto whispered patiently.

"Why? Because someone has barged into my room without asking to spout fortune cookie gibberish at me after I've had a long day and want nothing more than a good night's sleep!"

Rei-Pluto shook her head. "WHY are you angry?"

Rei began reciting Hail Marys in her head, one thing from her Catholic upbringing that she still found useful for containing her temper. "Why are YOU here?" she asked between clenched teeth.

"To see."

"Kinda hard to do that with a blindfold on."

Rei-Pluto reached up and removed her blindfold to reveal... nothing. Instead of eyes, all she had were hollow sockets, long ago scarred and gutted.

"I now see the infinite," Rei-Pluto continued in that same whisper, "far better than I ever saw the world."

"What... what happened to your eyes?"

"An accident. An event. A destiny. A small thing in the vastness of the infinite. What happened to yours, that you do not see?"

"I see just fine!"

"You may see, but you lack vision."

Rei wanted to scream at her 'guest's' obtuseness. "I don't understand you!"

"You will."

Rei looked up at the scarred face of her counterpart. She suspected that there was something wrong with her voice as well as her eyes, for she never raised it above that awful whisper. No song could come from that throat, she was certain. "I don't want to understand you," she said in her own pained whisper.

Rei-Pluto held out her hand, palm upward, and a ball of flame appeared. "Watch and understand."

She looked into the flame... and Rei Saw. Worse, she Understood. It was like how you felt when, after struggling with it all night, a school problem suddenly makes sense, but infinitely greater. And worse. For she saw the answers (and questions) to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Beyond the Hows and Whats, beyond even the Whys... there was just the Universe and Hino Rei and she saw how she fit into EVERYTHING.

Shrieking, her mind shattered into a million pieces.

After an eternity of shattered nothingness, her eyes opened again to see Rei-Pluto standing over her. "You are not ready," the Senshi of Time whispered sadly, removing a healing hand from Rei's tortured brow.

Rei opened her mouth... and screamed. Still screaming, she scuttled as far away from... herself as she could get, then tore open her door, ripping it off one hinge with mad strength, and fled down the hallway.


Sean Gaffney-Tomoe was having a fweird day, as some of his one-time net acquaintances would say. First, the Senshi find his hidden collection of tapes, then they go off half-cocked to beat themselves up... and the next thing he knows, a Sailor Pluto with pale blue hair and a VERY menacing attitude, showed up with a SUBPOENA of all things, summoning him to some place called the Council of Chronos. Even worse, he had to bring Bridget and Yurika along. (The pale-haired Pluto had looked very puzzled when he tried to explain babysitters.)

At least the terrible twosome were finally asleep in his hotel room... now if this place had a vending machine that dispensed...

A half-naked Hino Rei?

Rei, clad only in two towels suddenly turned a corner and slammed into him. (The towels, of course, weren't really big enough to do their job. It's a rule. NO hotel towel is ever as big as it needs to be.) As might be expected, Sean and Rei went down in a heap.

Now, Sean had never gotten along well with Rei. It was a function of their personalities. He was what she called obnoxious and she was what he called a bitch. Simple, right? So, while as hormone-ridden as the next specimen of XY chromosomes, he had never really though of Hino Rei as a woman. A senshi, yes. A person who was fun to tease, yes. An occasional threat to his continued existence, yes. But as a woman, not really. He wanted to live too much.

But, when a wet Hino Rei clad only in towels slams into you, you're bound to notice a few things you never noticed before. For a split moment before life-threatening panic set in, Sean's hormones reached up and throttled his brain. Then he started fearing for his life, which put things back to normal.

At least until Rei spoke.

"Oh, good, Sean. That means I must be dreaming. Because you wouldn't be here, right? Why am I asking you, you're just a figment of my imagination here. Not that this is a place, mind you. It's no place. Get it? No Place. It doesn't exist. It's an illusion! Everything's an illusion! Except maybe ice cream. That's too good to be an illusion. Why don't they make fugu ice cream? The two great tastes that go great together, right? Unless you die. But LIFE is an illusion, so we can't die, unless we stop dreaming. I've had dreams after eating too much ice cream, like the one where Serenity is naked in a pool of shark-infested rice pudding--"

"W-what?" Sean stammered.

Rei looked at him with wild eyes that showed too much white. "Of course you don't understand... we're not SUPPOSED to understand. But I understood. I don't now, she took it back, but I did understand... now I don't, so I'm sane. If you understand, you're insane, but if you don't understand, you're sane, understand?"

"Um, no--"

"Good! Then you're sane. I can see why Hotaru married you. Sanity is a good feature. I think it's cute in a guy... but of course, you're just a figment of my imagination, so of course you're sane, because I'm sane, even if I'm talking to a figment. But that's not a sign of insanity... unless this was the real world, but it's not, so I'm sane here, but I wouldn't be there, because I understood, you see."

"Maybe I should go find Serenity--"

"Yes! Right! Good idea! Serenity is a good idea. We all need Serenity! She doesn't understand anything, she just knows, so she's the sanest of us all. We'd all fly apart without her! Setsuna... now, Setsuna understands! That's DANGEROUS. You're safe, though, because you don't understand anything. It's cute. But we're all figments, so nothing matters, nothing matters, nothing matters." Rei suddenly kissed him "See? If this was real, I wouldn't--"

Sean pulled her up and slapped her. It may not have been the smartest thing to do, but it was the only thing he could think of... it may have been inspired more by having seen 'Airplane!' than sound medical advice, but Rei was obviously hysterical and anything was better than another kiss (ESPECIALLY if she ever regained her wits.) She was still babbling after the first slap, so he did it again, on the other cheek. Then he stopped, suddenly aghast as Rei bent over and clutched her cheek.

Then Rei slapped him. "GAFFNEY YOU JERK! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" she screeched.

THAT was the Hino Rei he knew.

"It was the only way I could think of stopping you from kissing me!" he protested, the old fear-for-his-life instincts kicking in belatedly... but not before they could remove his foot from his mouth.

Rei's eyes narrowed, then she looked down at what she was wearing... or barely wearing. "PERVERT!" she screamed.

The slap that followed woke half the inhabitants of the hotel.


Sailor Moon ran down another of the monotonous streets that filled this strange not-world. They seemed to be laid out in a simple criss-cross pattern, but when she looked at some of the taller buildings, like the hotel, it seemed that she was following a curve. She couldn't see how that was possible, and it annoyed her. She pulled irritatedly at one of her pink odangoes. She had to find Hotaru-chan before something bad happened to her! Let everyone else give up, but she wouldn't stop until she dropped.

It wasn't just duty or responsibility that made her search. Hotaru was her best friend. Nothing would change that. Oh, the others kept talking about how Hotaru and Pu had changed from being reincarnated. Sailor Moon snorted. Of course they were different. They had gone through a lot. But they were also the same. People never stayed the same. To expect them to would be silly. She had changed since she went back to the Twentieth Century.

She remembered when she had talked to her mother and Aunt Rei about this, before Hotaru had married... she still didn't understand the sad looks they had exchanged.

It was growing dark out, Sailor Moon noted. The sun, which had stayed in pretty much the same spot all 'day' was now moving swiftly toward the horizon. The shadows were lengthening ominously and she began to wonder if she should get back to the hotel.

"Out late, aren't you, Usagi-chan?" came a throaty voice from a nearby alleyway.

Sailor Moon turned an tried to make out the figure in the shadows. She was holding a Time Staff and had long hair, but the swiftly encroaching darkness made it difficult to make out any details.

"Who's there?"

A soft chuckle answered her. "If I said Sailor Pluto, would that help?" The voice had a strange, husky quality that reminded her for some reason of when Haruka and Michiru flirted with each other.

"Not particularly."

"You should get indoors, koneko-chan," the Sailor Pluto said, still staying in the shadows. "Strange things come out in the Dark here."

"I'm a Sailor Senshi. I can take care of myself."

Another soft chuckle. The figure moved a little further out into the street, letting Sailor Moon see that she had long green hair. Another Setsuna? "Surely you've noticed that being a Sailor Senshi means different things on different worlds?"

"Kinda hard not to, isn't it?"

"Yes, and you know that this world responds to will, ne?"

"Something like that..."

"Night falls here when the majority of its visitors are asleep... and then the nightmares come out to play. You don't want to be here."

"What about you?"

The Pluto stepped out into the fading light. Like Setsuna, she had long green hair, but there the similarity ended. Her body was lusher, more voluptuous, her costume skimpier, with a low neckline the delved to her bow and a diamond cut out of the fabric covering her stomach Stiletto-heeled boots covered her feet. From her head and back sprouted two pairs of bat wings, small and large. She smiled.

"Perhaps I am one of the nightmares..."

Sailor Moon screamed.

The bat-winged Pluto took a step back as the piercing shrieks filled the night air, but anything she might have done was cut short when a crossbow bolt slammed into the asphalt at her feet.

"Hold it right there, Aenslad!" came a voice from the rooftop above them. Sailor Moon looked up and saw one of the Plutos from the Council, the one with the eyepatch and wooden stakes.

The bat-winged Pluto sighed at the interruption. "Not you again... why are you always here when I try to take a vacation?"


"--Abomination. Yeah, right, whatever." The bat-winged Pluto raised her hands and settled into a fighting stance. "Well, if you're going to fight, let's do it! But try to make it a challenge this time."

Sailor Moon decided to run.


"Make yourself at home," Hotaru-Pluto told her 'sisters.'

The younger Saturn looked around the apartment curiously. After riding everything in the amusement park twice, it had started to get dark, so Hotaru-Pluto had offered to let them come over to her place. She had muttered something about it not being safe to be out at night.

The apartment was simple, but far from empty. Lamps of every description filled the room, some on, some off. Other than the lamps, however, there was little in the room. Just a bed, a dresser, and a desk.

"Oh, sorry," Hotaru-Pluto said, noticing their looks. She waved her hand and half the lamps disappeared. "If I'm not careful, they tend to multiply out of control."

"How do they do that?" the younger Hotaru asked.

"Subspace answers to will and desires... I get nostalgic sometimes and my mind wanders. The lamps are the result."

Hotaru-Pluto sat down at the desk and gestured them over to the bed. "Now, why don't you tell me a little more about how you got here? Your Pluto is on trial?"

"Yes, though I don't see how what she did was that wrong," the elder Hotaru said.

The younger Hotaru blushed. "My friends can be a bit stubborn."

"Oh, I believe that," Pluto said. "Unless I miss my guess, things happened pretty much the same in my world as yours... Where Sailor Saturn is concerned, there are few variables. In my world, however, Setsuna is the one saddled with the awful burden. I and the Outers tried to stop her from becoming what was destined. We failed, but perhaps that was for the best."

The older Hotaru giggled. "Sorry, it's just imagining Setsuna in my place..."

"It probably does seem strange to you."

"Will we get into trouble... for running off, I mean?" the younger Hotaru asked nervously.

"I don't see how, just so long as you show up for the trial."

The outer wall of the apartment suddenly exploded outward, to reveal a Sailor Pluto with pale blue hair floating outside.

"Sailor Saturn, Sailor Saturn, you will come with me," Ifurita-Pluto said.

"Then again, I could be wrong," Hotaru-Pluto said weakly.


Michiru-Pluto walked down the street chuckling to herself. The meeting with her fellow Plutos had gone well, and several of them agreed that something had to be done. They'd wait until after the trial though, both to assure that they would be able to get away with what they were planning and to make it more dramatic. No sense in achieving the impossible if you were blase about it.

She was so busy congratulating herself on her little plan that she ran straight into Makoto Kino coming out of one of the fancier restaurants maintained here. After recovering her footing, Michiru was surprised to see that Makoto had detransformed, and did not wear the uniform of Sailor Jupiter. Didn't she come from Crystal Tokyo? Michiru had thought that by that time the Senshi just stayed in their more powerful forms all the time.

She reached down to help Makoto up. "I'm sorry, it was my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going. Are you all right?"

Makoto looked up at her. "Michiru?"

"Yes, that's right."

The girl's face fell, and she pulled away. "Oh, a Pluto. Great, you can be one too. Everyone can except me."

Michiru blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"Never mind. Sorry to bump into you like this." She turned and started to leave, but Michiru took her shoulder, turning her back around.

"Please, I'd like to know. Why are you so upset at the idea of me being a Pluto?"

She still seemed reticent. "Um..."

"We don't have to stand in the middle of the sidewalk if that's what you're worried about. We can always go back to my place."

That might not have been the wisest thing to say; Makoto jumped back and stared at her suspiciously. Michiru laughed, realizing what she was thinking.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to try to seduce you. I have my own relationship and am perfectly happy."

Makoto relaxed somewhat, but still felt the need to give a warning. "I'm married, all right? So no funny business."

Michiru's smile grew wider. "Congratulations! Who is she?"

"She?" Makoto gaped.

Down, girl, Michiru though to herself. Remember that your world is a minority. "Look, I really don't want to stand out here chatting all evening. Why don't we go back to my apartment? No one's there at the moment, and you can relax and tell me what's bothering you."

Makoto still looked wary, but followed the older woman down the street. "Um...try not to take this the wrong way, but why are you curious about me? I mean, I'm used to Pluto just kinda being mysterious and inaccessible. Even our new Pluto, who's a lot more outgoing, still doesn't really stop by to chat that often."

"She's a Setsuna, right?" Michiru asked.

Makoto nodded.

"They're like that, for the most part. All Plutos are not alike, I imagine you've been able to tell that by now. I'm Sailor Pluto, but I'm also Kaiou Michiru. That means I care more about what happens to the others, even if I can't always do anything about it. Well, I phrased that badly. All Plutos care, in some way. But I can show it better."

They'd arrived at her apartment, a luxury high-rise (of course). She pushed the button for the penthouse, trying not to take her eyes off of Makoto's confused face.

"I never really thought about that. So how a world's Pluto behaves depends on who they are? Like, are Minakos who are Pluto ditzy and accident- prone?"

Michiru laughed. "Some of them are. It's not a mathematical science, no matter how much the Setsunas and Amis want to make it one. Each world is different, therefore each Pluto is slightly different. There are hundreds of Setsunas here. None of them are exactly the same. I'm more openly emotional than most Setsunas, but on the other hand, some might say I'm more mischievous as well."

The elevator opened, and Michiru got out her key. The other girl remained silent until they'd gone into her living room and sat down.

"But all of you are able to fulfill your duty as Sailor Pluto?" she finally asked.

Michiru began to get a good idea as to what was bothering the girl. "Yes, we do. We have to. Most senshi are allowed to grow into responsibility for their world. We are not. We have to be good, right away."

Makoto looked down. "And I'm the only one who doesn't have the strength to be able to do that. I'm too weak to have what it takes to be a Pluto."

Michiru sighed and sat back. She'd have to handle this carefully. If Makoto was anything like her world's, then this could be leading to a major depression. She walked over to the picture window overlooking the area, considering her words carefully.

"You remember what I told you about all Plutos being a combination of not just the duty and responsibility that comes with the position, but also the essence of their own personality?"

Makoto nodded, still looking miserable.

"That applies to the other senshi as well, not just Pluto. There are Amis who are Sailor Mars, and have a very different outlook on that position. I once heard about an Usagi who was Sailor Saturn. There was strength for you. She managed to defeat Pharoah Ninety with almost no help at all. It was all she could do to convince the others that Sailor Moon was still their future. They wanted her to lead them."

The young senshi boggled at the thought of their twentieth- century equivalents begging Usagi to lead them. "What was I in that world?"

"Jupiter," Michiru replied.

Makoto flopped back on the couch. "I feel like I'm in a rut."

Michiru walked up and sat down next to her, though with some distance so that the girl didn't get uncomfortable. "Despite what I told you earlier about not paying attention to mathematical progressions, I'm going to use some to make my point. About 75% of Sailor Plutos are essentially Setsunas. Some totals are higher. 90% of Moons are Usagi, for instance."

She took a deep breath. "Almost 100% of Sailor Jupiters are patterned after yourself. I think I've only seen one or two worlds where they weren't." And even in those, she was Sailor Uranus, Michiru mused.

Makoto blinked. "This is supposed to make me feel better? The fact that everyone else is apparently capable of filling any senshi position, but I can only be Jupiter?"

"What's wrong with Jupiter?" Michiru asked, raising her voice a little. "I had no idea that Jupiter was so valueless to the senshi team."

"That's not what I meant!" Makoto shouted.

Michiru looked her in the eye. "Then what do you mean?"

Makoto was silent for a moment. "I don't know, I guess."

After a pause, Michiru continued. "The Jupiters I've known, to a woman, have had one priority above all others: protecting Serenity. Be she Sailor Moon, the Princess, or the Neo-Queen. You are her protector, Mako-chan. Her protector and her shield. It's why Jupiter is so grounded in earth-based powers. Earth and Moon, just like Endymion."

Again, Michiru tried to think of an argument that would convince her. "If you were Pluto, or an equivalent, and you knew that something horrible was going to have to happen to your Queen, something that none of the others could prevent, and something that HAD to happen to protect your future. Would you try to save her?"

"Yes." Makoto didn't even have to pause. "Always."

Michiru grinned, moving her face right next to Makoto's. "And you regard this as a BAD thing?"

Feeling that Makoto needed some time to think this over, Michiru got up and went to the kitchen to find them something to eat. When she returned, she was happy to see that Makoto smiled back at her.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been so upset about this."

Michiru cocked her head. "Is this really just about you wanting to be a Pluto?"

"No, not really. I guess... Pluto's strong, you know. One of the strongest, after Moon and Saturn. Back home, you see, I'm Serenity's bodyguard. It's something I take very seriously. For almost a thousand years, after the creation of Crystal Tokyo, I did my job. I did it well, too. Nothing ever got close enough to attempt to harm her."

She paused to sip at the drink Michiru had handed her. "But recently... in the past twenty years, two people have gotten close enough to almost kill her. First Demand in the Black Moon War, and then that Lina Inverse girl... twice that I needed to protect Serenity, and couldn't."

Michiru sighed, and sat back down. "Makoto, listen to me. First of all, the Black Moon War is something that every world with the Senshi in it must face eventually. My world hasn't reached that point yet, but when it does, I know what will happen. Serenity will be frozen in crystal. And there is nothing I can do about it. It is a nexus point in all universes."

Makoto looked startled for a second, and then nodded, realization coming to her face. "I guess I'm still getting used to the idea of other universes. Geez, you'd think that with Sean hanging around Crystal Tokyo, the concept of alternate dimensions would come easily to me."

Michiru nodded, then continued. "And the Lina Inverse debacle was something that affected not just your universe, but countless others. Serenities with an almost ungodly amount of power were defeated by her. And besides, the girl who eventually stopped her had one very important factor that gave her the strength to do it."

"What was that?" Makoto asked.

"She was raised by Sailor Jupiter."

Makoto didn't know how to respond to that. Michiru pressed her point home.

"Now, ask yourself another question: Would you still give your life to save your Queen?"

The answer, again, was immediate. "In a heartbeat."

Michiru smiled. "That's what's important. And that is what makes you Sailor Jupiter. Your stubborn caring, your putting others before yourself, your need to see them safe... all of that is what makes you Makoto Kino. Together, they are an almost unbeatable combination. So much so that almost no universe has ever tried."

She could see the girl thinking about that for a moment, and then a shy grin came across her face. "Thanks. Thanks a lot."

"Anytime, Mako-chan."

Makoto sipped at her drink, finally looking around the apartment. "I guess my analogue in your world must be very similar, huh?"

Michiru coughed slightly. "Well, there are a few differences."

Now Makoto was the curious one. "Like what?"

"My world is very different from most of the ones here. Setsuna is Uranus, Hotaru is Neptune, and Haruka is Saturn."

That got her attention. "You're kidding?!"

Michiru smiled. "No, I'm not. There are pictures over on the desk if you want to prove it."

Makoto walked over and grabbed a picture, her eyes almost bugging out. If Michiru recalled correctly, that had been the day they'd all spent the night at the beach front, and had to share the same room. A lot had come from that evening.

"Um...ah..." Makoto seemed to be having trouble taking her eyes off the picture. "So, in your world, Setsuna and Hotaru"

"Yes. Though recently we've...well, reached an understanding. It was inevitable, really, considering the rest of the senshi."

"Huh?" Michiru debated keeping it from her, and then decided to just try and roll with it. "In my world, the senshi are lovers. Not just Uranus and Neptune, as on most worlds. All of us. Mercury and Venus are lovers, as are Mars and Jupiter. Until recently, the pairings among the Outers were similar, but things happened one night, and now the four of us think of ourselves as equal partners."

If Makoto's eyes got any bigger, they'd pop off of her face and onto the couch. "Wait...Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask must be an exception."

Michiru laughed. "Well, she does wear a tuxedo, but that's about the only similarity between Yuriko and her counterparts."

She amused herself by watching Makoto's eyebrows twitch. God, I wish I had a camera, she thought. After a while she decided she'd better try to make up for shocking the poor girl so badly. Besides, she needed to tell *someone* who wasn't a Pluto.

"I'm sorry. That's a fault of mine, I enjoy shocking people. I'm planning on really shocking your friends Uranus and Neptune later on."

Makoto looked up. "What? What more are you planning to do to them?"

Michiru giggles. "Oh, don't worry, this is good. You see, we're planning on..."

After a few minutes, Makoto started giggling as well.


Ami sat in the library, leafing through yet another history, hoping she could find something that would help their Pluto win.

She admitted privately to herself that it wasn't looking good. Setsuna was guilty. Unfortunately, the consequences of that guilt were going to be horrible for everyone. Setsuna had admitted to Ami that if she had not done what she did, Hotaru would never have been able to control Saturn's reawakening. Their world would end.

So Ami came here, hoping to research the history and rules of this place and find some sort of loophole they could use. It galled her to resort to such tactics, but needs must as the devil drives.

Besides, researching gave her an excuse to avoid thinking about this place. She'd met a number of Plutos who resembled herself while Setsuna gave their tour. Apparently, after Setsuna and Hotaru, she was the most popular template. She didn't quite know what to think about that.

Admittedly she and Setsuna's earlier self had always shared a certain rapport. Ami found that, unlike some of the others, she could understand a few of the murky reasons behind what Pluto did. Less so with this new incarnation, though, who seemed much... perkier than her predecessor.

The library was unmonitored, surprisingly enough. I suppose a Pluto isn't likely to steal library books, she thought. Then again, if I've learned anything today, it's that there can be all types of Plutos.

She wondered what she would have done differently if she had been Sailor Pluto in her own world. Trying to stop Saturn from rising in the twentieth century, bringing Sean into their universe to prevent its fall, sacrificing herself to stop Demand... she reluctantly concluded that she probably wouldn't have done things much differently at all. All of Pluto's actions made sense in hindsight, and if she had been Pluto, hindsight would have been what she used.

Unfortunately, it didn't look as if any sort of temporal miracle was going to be able to save Setsuna. There was one copy of the 'Rules to Abide By' in the library, which Ami had read three times through. They were good rules. They were also ironclad rules, and no matter how many times she read them, they wouldn't reveal anything to help her.

Now she was reading the one history of this place, the Council Headquarters (or Club Pluto, depending on who was asked). For all that the library contained the great works of literature for all the multiverses, there was almost nothing on the place that contained it.

A loud crash and a muffled curse brought her out of her reverie. Odd, she could have sworn she was alone in the library. She got up to investigate.

It turned out to be a good thing, as a large shelf of books smashed onto the floor where she had been sitting not a moment ago. Ami noted with dismay that the volume she had been studying was now buried beneath a large pile of literature.

Standing behind the pile was a girl wearing the uniform of Sailor Pluto, but that was the only thing similar to her and the Setsuna Ami knew. For one she appeared to only be about 11 years old, wearing her reddish-brown hair in two pigtails on the sides of her head. She currently had a book in her hand, as if she had just removed it from the offending shelves, and an 'oops' expression that Ami recognized from Usagi and Minako's faces over the years.

For a few seconds she just stood there unmoving. That didn't last, though. She threw the book on the floor and proceeded to half stalk, half-leap around the library, pulling at her braids.

"I don't BELIEVE this! Hayama, you devil, this is all your fault!" She then fell to the floor and started rooting through the books, and her screaming turned to annoyed muttering. "Stupid jerk, I know he did that to me somehow. He's always turning up just when I don't want him to, and doing stupid things like being ecchi and trying feel me up and--" her monologue paused as she pulled a long elastic cord from the stack of books she was searching through, and she looked momentarily puzzled. "How did that get there?" she murmured. Then she threw it away and was back to the pile, as if nothing had happened. "Stupid jerk, and now he's out with Fuuka, not that I care, if she likes that devil she can HAVE him, why should I care if he likes her better than me, it's not as if I need him or anything, I can always go talk to Naozumi, and dammit, where is that winning friends and influencing people thing I -- what are you doing here?"

Ami was so caught up in the girl's rant that she didn't even realize at first that she was being addressed. She snapped out of her trance when the girl produced a time staff, topped with a blue sapphire.

"You... you're a PLUTO?!?!" Ami's jaw was close to hitting the floor.

The girl growled and made the staff disappear. "Don't you start. I get enough of that from all the OTHER Plutos here. Youth brings an open mind, y'know. I'm ten times more talented than some of the other excuses for Plutos you see here." She stuck out her hand. "Sana Kurata. Twelve-year-old actress in the Kowamari theater troupe, star of stage and screen, and secretly Sailor Pluto. Are you one of the group that arrived? For the trial?"

Ami was beginning to feel a little dizzy. Too much information, as Sean or Hotaru might say. "Um... hai. Ami Mizuno, Sailor Mercury."

The girl grabbed her hand and shook it vigorously, almost taking the arm off. "Well, if you're from that universe you shouldn't have any problems with my age. I mean, a few years ago your Pluto was exactly the same, and I didn't hear anyone complaining. By the way, good luck to your group with the trial. I really hope things go your way."

The trial, Ami thought guiltily, realizing that she'd gotten distracted. She looked back to where her book had been, now buried under a huge pile of volumes. I wonder why it isn't computerized? she wondered idly.

Sana seemed to misread her reaction. "Oh, don't worry about the books. They're just waiting for us to leave so that they can sort themselves out. C'mon, this was built by Plutos. You gotta figure it's all cool and stuff."

"Oh." She looked down at the pile again. For some reason, she really didn't want to get back to her research. It was depressing her. "Um... what were you looking for?"

Now it was Sana's turn to look guilty. Well, guilty bordering on frenzied. She started bouncing up and down and waving her arms. "Nothing, really! Ha ha ha ha ha! Honestly, I was just looking around here, I do that, you know, I'm not your average pretty television and theater star with millions of adoring fans, I have a mind too! I read a lot! And get good grades, despite my missing lots of classes for film shoots or commercials, and it's prolly a good thing Principal Naru-Naru is so nice about it, I mean, Mama didn't have to talk to him or anything, and are you OK, you seem really dazed, not that I'm insinuating anything, but you're sorta swaying back and forth, and I'm wondering if that's a Mercury thing, cause the other Amis that are Plutos are really cool and logical and stuff, and I can't relate to them at ALL, but you seem OK, must be a Mercury thing, or maybe you're not as old as them, no, wait, that's wrong, you're from Crystal Tokyo, so you've gotta be a thousand years old, so I dunno, um, should you really be flickering your eyelids that rapidly?"

After a few moments, Ami realized that Sana had stopped, and now seemed to be waving her hands in front of Ami. "Um, hello? Moshi moshi?" Ami quickly sat down in a chair and put her head between her legs, taking deep breaths.

After a few minutes, she felt confident enough to look back up, and found that Sana was looking at her with a concerned expression. It was hard to tell that this was the same girl that had been talking at such a clip only a minute or two earlier.

"Sana, please don't take this poorly, but I must admit I find it difficult to believe that you can be Sailor Pluto."

Sana's eyebrow twitched; apparently this wasn't the first time this had been pointed out. After a moment, however, Sana calmed herself and sighed. She pulled up another chair and sat down on it backwards, leaning against the back.

"I know what you must be thinking. Plutos are so responsible. They're all level-headed, cool, secretive women who cannot interfere with the fabric of time. But I'm sorry, Ami, that's not true. Look around you. Not all Plutos are Setsuna. Not all Setsunas are alike. And responsibility doesn't always mean being cool and reserved."

Ami looked down, feeling ashamed about her earlier question. "I apologize, Kurata-san."

Sana laughed and scratched the back of her head. "Gyaa, don't call me that! Sana, Sana!"

I wonder if she's related to Minako somehow, Ami mused.

Sana sighed, and leaned her chin on the chair. "It's so hard sometimes. I found out I was Sailor Pluto two years ago. You know what that's like. You want a normal life, but you can't have it. Destiny is calling you."

Ami found herself nodding. She knew only too well how difficult it was to make that choice to become a senshi.

"It was even worse for me. From what I've heard from the other Plutos, most senshi like you were just average high school students. You could go off and do senshi things and the only people worried would be your parents. But I've got a lot more than just school. I have a schedule. Being Pluto is a real pain."

Ami felt herself feeling for this girl now. Their Pluto had grown up in Crystal Tokyo, where such things were completely accepted. What must it be like for Sana, who has a life and career of her own, to have to sacrifice it for the good of the world. She remembered her own dreams of being a doctor and following in her mother's footsteps, and how they had to be put aside when she realized what she was.

"Do the others help you?" she asked quietly.

To her surprise, Sana laughed. "What others?" There was a bitter tone to her voice. "Luna isn't due to wake up for seven years. That's when things will begin to happen. Even then, let's get real. How often does Pluto really get to talk with the others?"

"I talk with Pluto a lot," Ami said. At least I did, she thought privately. Before she died. Her new persona is... different. I just don't feel comfortable around her now.

Sana went on anyway, shoving the chair closer to Ami. "And did you talk to her a lot back in the twentieth century? Back when you were a high school student?"

"No," Ami said quietly. She was beginning to realize that this girl's problems were a lot bigger than she'd anticipated.

Sana appeared to notice this, because she took Ami's hand and smiled. "It's all right, it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be. I worked out a schedule with Mama, so we have some sort of excuse or explanation if I need to do something or attack some monster. And we discussed the fact that I'll probably have to retire for a bit when the rest of the senshi are reborn..."

Ami blinked. "You TOLD your mother you were a senshi?!?!"

Sana seemed to find this puzzling. "You didn't?"

Leaving that point aside for now, Ami asked, "Does this Hayama know about you?"

The effect on Sana was instantaneous. She rose out of her seat and backpedaled about 20 feet into a nearby wall, knocking over another stack of books. "What?! Why would I tell that devil about me?! As if I care what he thinks! He's always insulting me, and trying to feel me up, and okay, he's always been there for me when I've needed someone, and he can be nice when he wants to, but... BUT THAT DOESN'T EXCUSE HIM GOING EVERYWHERE WITH FUUKA! What's so special about HER, anyway? I admit I haven't been seeing as much of them as I should, but it's hard, I mean I have to watch the time gates and destroy any odd monsters that might show up, and wait a minute, that must be it! He's thinking that I'm hiding something! Well, I mean, I am hiding something, but I think that's why... yes, of course! He wouldn't be doing this because he likes her better! He's just hurt because he thinks I don't care about him anymore!"

Ami could feel herself getting confused. "I thought you said you hated him...?"

Sana waved her off. "Shut up, I'm on a roll. OK, so I've gotta tell Hayama everything. But can I do that? I mean, I know Mama won't tell anyone, because she's Mama, but Hayama's different. Of course, he's kept my secrets before... though usually he's been better at understanding when I say that I can't tell him! AAARGH! I can't figure this out!"

Ami needed to get out of here. She could empathize with the girl, but her switching from serious to abnormally hyper behavior was worse than Minako on her worst days. "Um... I can see that you've got a lot to think about, and I need to figure out what we can do about the trial, so I really should be going..."

Suddenly, Sana was leaping across the room, grabbing Ami by the shoulders. "That's it! You can help me! Amis are supposed to be smart, and you're not an Ami Pluto, so you won't be as devious! I can show you what things are like, and you can give me a fresh, unbiased opinion!" She threw out her arm, and suddenly the time staff was in her hand again. It began to glow.

Eyes widening, Ami tried in vain to pull away. "Um... isn't this forbidden? I mean, that's what the trial is about..."

Sana snorted. "They don't know what they're talking about! Besides, the universes aren't on the same timestream, that's the whole point! I'll have you back before you know it, no one will even know we're gone!"

The staff glowed brighter and brighter, and Ami had to close her eyes to avoid being blinded. "Help," she whimpered.

Then the two of them vanished. After a few seconds, the books floated in the air and began to arrange themselves neatly on the shelves.


Two Silence Glaives were aimed at Ifurita.

"Hey! Not in my room!" Hotaru-Pluto exclaimed.

Typically, Ifurita paid her fellow Pluto no mind. "You will accompany me back to the Council Chambers," she said to the two Saturns.

"Why?" asked the younger Saturn.

Everyone else looked at her in amazement. No one EVER asked Ifurita that. Even Ifurita seemed a little shaken.

"You are to return with me..." Ifurita said, staring at the young Saturn disbelievingly.

"Why? We aren't missing the trial. Why can't we stay here for now?"

Ifurita blinked with surprise.

"Amazing," Hotaru-Pluto said. "You know, I think that's the first time anyone has defied her."

Ifurita was at a loss for words. The elder Hotaru studied her for a moment.

"You don't know the answer to it, do you?" she asked sympathetically.

"I am the Enforcer," Ifurita said. "It is my duty."

Both Saturns exchanged a look.

"How long have you been doing this?" the elder Hotaru asked.

Ifurita looked puzzled as she considered the question. "It is my duty to Serenity-sama. She freed me from my former master."

"Master?" the younger Hotaru asked.

"I am from the world of El Hazard," Ifurita answered, not sure why she bothered to answer their questions. "I was awakened from a long sleep by a human from Earth named Jinnai Katsuhiko. He ordered me to lead an invasion of Earth. I defeated and absorbed all the powers of the Sailor Senshi, but Serenity-sama freed me from Jinnai. She is the holder of the Power Key Staff."

"But that doesn't mean you have to be a mindless automaton, just following orders!" younger Hotaru exclaimed. "Serenity- sama would never allow that!"

"She... she made me Sailor Pluto. I must fulfill my duty."

"Did SHE tell you to do what these bitches say without question?"

"No... the obedience circuit... it is gone... but I must have... I killed. I must have a purpose." Ifurita held a hand to her face. In truth, the job of Sailor Pluto was a quiet one. She guarded the gate and did not have to interact much with the others. Serenity was so confusing, always trying to... to... "I don't understand. Obedience is all I have. I must obey someone."

"Ano, what's an obedience circuit?" younger Hotaru asked.

Hotaru-Pluto spoke up. "Ifurita was created as a weapon on her world. Her Serenity destroyed the systems that forced her to obey her master. Teaching Ifurita to be human, however..." She shook her head. "We don't even know if it's possible."

"Right! We're going to teach her what it means to be human!" elder Hotaru said.

Sweatdrops appeared behind Hotaru-Pluto and younger Hotaru's heads, showing that they watch too much anime in the real world.

"Enough!" Ifurita-Pluto snapped. "I must bring you to the Council." With that, she raised her Time Key Staff.

The elder Hotaru reached over and touched the tip of the staff. Both she and Ifurita froze as a faint glow surrounded them.

Hotaru-Pluto watched this with a frown. "I wish she hadn't done that."

"They're not in any danger, right?" the younger Hotaru asked worriedly.

"I hope not."


Serenity sighed, sitting back in a lounge chair and sipping her Coke. First the Hotarus and now everyone else seemed to be missing. So she was sitting here quietly, waiting for everyone to get back to the hotel. She'd even traded her white gown for a simple blouse and slacks, the first time she'd been able to do so in years.

It would have felt better to relax if she didn't have to worry about the trial. There didn't seem to be anything they could do except rely on the Pluto who was defending Setsuna to be able to argue on her behalf. Certainly, if looked at in the cold light of law, Setsuna's actions seemed inexcusable. But the consequences of those actions, on the other hand, seemed totally over the top.

Serenity wished she could talk about this with someone. Unfortunately, no one was around. Endymion had asked the permission of the Council to go back to their universe and inform the Asteroid Senshi what was happening. Haruka and Michiru were in their room, saying goodbye to each other. Loudly. Bridget and Yurika were asleep in Sean's room, after spending a number of hours trying to see how much mischief they could make.

Suddenly a shout brought Serenity to her feet. It was followed by a familiar yelp, however, and the scuffling after that was even more familiar. Serenity relaxed and sat back down.

After a few moments Rei came stomping through the lounge, adjusting a towel that was not quite big enough for her and muttering. Serenity would have passed it off as normal if she hadn't noticed Rei's eyes, which seemed almost fearful. Had Sean...? No, he couldn't have.

"Rei, are you alright?"

Rei gave a startled yip and jumped a few inches into the air. "Um... no! No, nothing's wrong. Um... Serenity, there's a problem with my room. The... um... air. Is bad. And there's a water problem. The bath flooded. And the bed. Um, burst. So I can't use it. So I need someplace to stay. And I was gonna go ask Minako, but I thought that she would be thinking. You know she likes to be alone when she does that. And so, um..."

Serenity got up and walked over to her friend. "Rei, would you like to stay in my room for the night?" She lay a hand on Rei's shoulder, sensing she needed reassurance.

It seemed to achieve the opposite. Rei backed away a few feet, laughing nervously and tightening her grip on her towel. "Um... yes! Yes, that would be fine. Just two friends, sharing a room. Nothing wrong there. Just like a sleepover. I'll take the couch. Or the floor. The floor would be better. I'll take the floor."

Serenity was genuinely puzzled now. "Rei, it's OK. You can sleep in the same bed with me. We've been friends for a thousand years. Why are you so shy?"

Rei put her hand to the back of her neck and giggled again, a sure sign that she was hiding something. "Nervous? Me? I'm never nervous! No, that sounds OK. So, um, I'll just go and see if I can find your room, and then I'll take a bath. Yeah. Bath is good."

"But didn't you just have a bath?" asked Serenity.

Rei started, and looked down at herself, as if noticing the towel for the first time. She then muttered something under her breath and headed off towards Serenity's room.

That was strange, Serenity thought. After a few moments she heard a scuffling behind her, and turned to see Sean peeking into the lounge. "Is it safe?" he asked.

She frowned at him. He was sporting a black eye, as well as a large red slap mark on his face. That indicated he'd had a run in with Rei. Serenity had worked out a private scoreboard. Facial bruises and black eyes were arguments or misunderstandings with Rei, lumps on the head (usually from a glaive) meant Hotaru had gotten mad at him, and any limping or shin bruises would show Bridget had taken offense at some parental decision.

"Sean, did you say something to Rei?"

"No!" He denied it immediately, a sure sign he was telling the truth. "Look, I'm getting a Coke when she comes screaming down the hall, slamming into me, and waving her assets right in front of my face, not giving a damn about how that may make ME feel, and then she starts babbling to me about how this is all a dream and she can taste the color blue and then she... um... was getting really weird. So I tried to snap her out of it."

She sighed and massaged her temples. "By slapping her."

"Look, I wasn't in the best frame of mind, either. Anyway, it seemed to work, because she stopped, and realized where she was, and then... well, she beat me up. Again. It was almost reassuring."

Serenity just stared at him. After a few moments he began to wriggle and try to sidle his way towards his hotel room. "Look, whatever made her get all weird, it wasn't me. I swear. And I should really be checking on the kids. Right. So I'll just be going now. Here I go. Bye!" And with that he turned and tried to stroll nonchalantly towards his room, an effect ruined by his constant glancing over his shoulder at her.

After he was out of sight she giggled, and returned to her seat. It was obvious that Sean was NOT the cause of Rei's distress. She'd have to find out more tonight. Those two are a lot more alike than they'd like to believe, she mused.

She perked up as Makoto came into the lounge, sitting down in a chaise across from Serenity. She seemed to be over her depression... in fact, she seemed to be having a giggle fit. "Mako-chan, you're feeling better?" she ventured.

Makoto grinned. "Much better, thank you. I talked with one of the Plutos, and she was able to remind me of a few things about myself that I'd forgotten." She then snickered again.

"Something funny, Mako-chan?" Serenity was getting more and more confused at the behavior of her friends.

"Oh, just thinking about things. Life. How it can surprise you sometimes. Bwahahahahahaha!!"

Serenity began to move from relieved to concerned for her friend. Before she could ask anything else, though, Minako walked in. Well, skipped, to be more accurate. She was beaming from ear to ear, and paused to spin around a pillar before landing face first on a couch.

"Ah, life is good!" she sighed.

Serenity smiled. At least someone was acting normally. "Did you find your counterpart, Mi..."


Serenity massaged her temples again, feeling the edge of a headache coming on. "Mako-chan, have you noticed anyone acting weird lately?"


"Guess not."

Suddenly another scream brought her to her feet again, and running towards the source. She recognized that scream very well. It was her daughter.

Usagi came barreling down the hallway and slammed into Serenity, sending her staggering back a few paces. She seemed to be gibbering, and her pupils were slightly dilated.

Serenity hugged her daughter close, and then pulled back, holding her by the shoulders. "Usagi, can you hear me? What's wrong?"

Usagi was shaking. "Gerehaghad!"

Serenity blinked. "What?"

Usagi stared closely at her mother, as if questioning her existence. "Geheraghlafen! Nergafel!"

That did it. Serenity had finally had enough. "It's alright, Small Lady. I'll take you back to our room, you can stay with me and Rei. It'll be fine, just relax."

Usagi merely nodded and continued to shiver. Serenity wrapped her arm around her and began to lead her back out of the lounge. Makoto, she was relieved to note, had stopped giggling and was looking concerned. "Serenity..."

Serenity smiled. "We'll be fine."

Her reassurance was interrupted by a squelch. She and Makoto turned to see what at first glance appeared to be some sort of mire beast. It moved forward, and resolved itself into a drenched, filthy Sailor Mercury. Her hair had some sort of straw embedded in it, and there was a tear in her skirt in a very inconvenient place.

Even Usagi seemed to come out of her trance to stare at the senshi.

For a few moments, nobody moved. Then Mercury stalked past, apparently heading for her room.

"DON'T...EVEN...ASK," she growled as she moved by Serenity.

Something seemed to snap in Serenity's head. "That does it," she said quietly. She turned to Makoto. "Get Minako to her room, then go there yourself. This night is over for all of us, by royal decree. Do I make myself clear?"

Makoto blinked, but answered straight away. "Yes, Your Majesty."

Serenity nodded curtly. "Good." She then wrapped her arms around her daughter, who had lapsed back into her fugue state, and headed for her own room.

I can't believe I was considering asking Pluto if we could come here for vacations, she thought.


Elsewhere, Setsuna lay staring at the ceiling. Her thought were simple.

Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit.


The next "morning" the Senshi found themselves whisked away to the cathedral-like Council chamber. It was quite different from the austere, almost sterile setting they had last seen. It was still imposing and filled with a sense of its own dignity, but now it was filled with something else, as well.


Hundreds of Sailor Plutos of every description filled the galleries to watch the trial that might have a vast impact, for good or bad, on their duties. There were Plutos of almost any description, though most of them were Setsuna-like, there were some major deviations from the norm. Sailor Mars spotted a blindfolded Pluto and tried to resist the urge to hide behind Serenity. Sailor Moon had no such compunctions when a bat- winged Pluto smiled at her.

Sean, who had not seen the Council Chamber before, found himself gawking like a tourist and hoping that this didn't mean he was in trouble.

There was a flash and the Council Members appeared. For a moment Sean's mind tried to shut down at the idea of Minako as Pluto, but the rest of him reminded it that they had seen much worse... maybe.

"Council is now in session," Minako-Pluto said solemnly. "We are gathered here to try one of our own on the charge that she willfully and maliciously attempted to alter the timeline of another universe and that by doing so has shown culpable negligence and is unfit to be Sailor Pluto." She gave the crowd a slow, appraising glance before continuing. "The maximum punishment for these crimes is temporal erasure."

The silence that followed was overpowering. The Senshi only had a vague idea of what was meant by temporal erasure, but all the Plutos seemed very chastened by the thought of it.

"The Council will now hear the opening arguments. Prosecution?"

Pluto-1, the Prosecutor, walked over to stand before the Council. "Thank you, members of the Council," she said. "It is the Prosecution's intent to show that the Defendant not only transgressed the bounds of her duty this one time, but that her deed is part of a history of willful actions exceeding the scope of her duties. This was not an isolated incident but rather just one symptom of a larger pattern, a pattern that will show that the accused is unworthy of her position among us. Thank you." She sat back down at her place and looked smugly over at Setsuna.

Ferine, the Defender, now stood. "My fellow Plutos, I come to defend my client, not to praise her. It is the Defense's position that she did not, at any point, violate her responsibilities and duties as Sailor Pluto. Also, we intend to prove that the Prosecution is a bag of hot air and that these proceedings are a farce."

There was some commotion from the galleries at that, including a rousing cheer (complete with pom-poms) from Sana- Pluto and a few "Right on!" "You tell them, girl!" and "Power to the People!" from those Plutos still stuck in the Sixties. A spasm of irritation crossed Setsuna's face as her Defender gave her a thumb's up before sitting back down.

"Silence!" shouted the Council-Pluto with the metal sash. The Pluto with the sword and bandolier of stakes added a glare that silenced the chambers once more. A few Plutos looked around, as if expecting someone to appear, but the Council's Enforcer was conspicuously absent.

"Defendant, how do you plead?" Minako-Pluto asked.

Setsuna rose. "Not guilty," she said, her voice breaking slightly, "on all counts."

Minako-Pluto nodded and turned back to the Prosecutor. "You may call your first witness."

"I call Sean Patrick Gaffney-Tomoe, if it please the court."

NOW Sean began to understand how much trouble he was in.

With a few pokes and prods from various Plutos, Sean found himself seated in a very uncomfortable chair at right angles to the Council seats. The Prosecutor stood before him while a Rei- Pluto wearing a blindfold (who reminded him of the statue of Justice) swore him in.

"Do you swear by the Infinite to tell the truth as you are capable of perceiving it?" she asked in a whisper.

Sean blinked. "Yes?" he hazarded.

That seemed to satisfy her and she stepped away, leaving him pinned beneath the gaze of the Prosecutor.

"Mr. Gaffney, are you aware that you are well known to us?"

"Huh? I mean, I am?"

"Yes. Your inclusion in the Defendant's timeline raised quite a stir here. It was perhaps the first time that any of us raided another universe for raw materials."

The Defendant looked at her counsel, expectantly, but Ferine said nothing.

"Raw materials?" Sean asked.

"You are not a native of your current home dimension, correct?"


"The Pluto of your current home played a part in bringing you to Crystal Tokyo, did she not?"

"Well, I guess... she actually seemed pretty pissed that I was there, but if I hadn't been--"

"If you hadn't been, then Saturn would have destroyed everything, correct?"

"Hey! Hotaru's not--!"

"Answer the question, Mr. Gaffney."

Again, the Defendant looked at her counsel, who seemed to be doodling on a piece of scrap paper.

Sean took a deep breath. "Yes, I guess so... but it would have been an evil thing that did it, not Hota--"

"Did anyone ask you if you wanted to live in a world which, until then, had just been the dream of an animator?"

"No, but it was an accident that--"

"Do you believe that a Pluto allows accidents such as this?"


"Did you ask the Defendant to send you home after you arrived?"

"Yes, but--"

"But what?"

"She said she wouldn't."

"Wouldn't... not can't or couldn't... she would not do it?"

"She did let me email my friends..."

"So, she had the ability to return you to your home?"

Sean began to squirm. He was beginning to get an inkling as to where this was going. "I guess..."

"So, do you still think it was an accident that you were trapped in Crystal Tokyo?"

Sean's shoulders slumped. "No, I guess not."

The Prosecutor turned to the Council. "You can see, my fellow Plutos, how the Defendant has once before callously disregarded the boundaries of space and time to achieve her ends. Thank you." With that, she sat down at her chair.

"Can I go now?" Sean asked quietly.

"Your witness, Defense," said the Minako-Pluto. The Defender now stood.

Sean gulped.

Ferine stared at the witness, pondering what she was about to do. She really wished that his wife was here, because she'd feel a lot less guilty.

"Mr. Gaffney, I wonder if you could describe for us, as much as you can recollect, what your life was like before the defendant allegedly brought you to her universe."

Sean paused, presumably attempting to see where she was going with the question. "Um... well, I'd graduated from college, and was temping at various jobs while I tried to earn enough money to move to New York City. In my spare time I wrote and talked online. That's about it."

Ferine nodded. "So, you weren't exactly doing something that benefitted all of mankind."

Sean's eyes began to narrow. Good, she was getting on his nerves; maybe he'd show a little more grit up on the stand.

"No, I wasn't."

Ferine nodded, and then walked towards the judges. "I spent some time doing a little research into Mr. Gaffney's original universe, and would like to present the results as Exhibit A."

The Prosecutor leapt to her feet. "Objection! I haven't reviewed this exhibit in advance!"

Ferine turned back to her colleague. "Yes you have. I gave you a complete copy of the evidence I was going to use yesterday. If you chose not to read it or to ignore it, that's your own fault."

The Prosecutor glared. "You sent me a collection of comic books, trashy romance novels, anime tapes, and pop albums."

Ferine grinned. "Indeed I did. The first trashy novel is Exhibit A. It's an accurate rendering of what Sean's life in his original universe would have been like if he had not been snatched away by the Ginzuishou's power."

The Prosecutor turned beet red, while Sean turned pale. "You're kidding, I hope."

Ferine shook her head. "Why not? There are several universes where the story of how you met Hotaru is available as a story on the Internet. I simply broadened my search to find a universe where someone wrote a story that featured your alternate future."

Minako spoke up from the bench. "How did you manage this in less than 24 hours, Ferine?"

"It's a sec..." Ferine began, but paused as she saw the steel in Minako's eyes. She decided to change her tack. "It's a technique for gaining information I've been researching for quite some time. The Amis have been helping me."

Minako looked puzzled. "Why?"

Ferine shrugged. "In case a situation like this came up. To be honest, Minako, this situation has been bubbling up for quite some time."

The Prosecutor walked over and stood right next to her. "I'd like to know exactly what you're implying."

Ferine shrugged and turned her back. "It didn't necessarily have to be you. But we knew that the rules were going to be challenged eventually. That's what this trial is about. You're merely an attractive decoration in a bigger picture."

Ferine turned back to Sean, about to move on with her questioning, when she was struck across the face. The blow wasn't particularly hard, but it took her by surprise, and she staggered against the witness stand.

The Prosecutor stood behind her, arm still raised. "HOW DARE YOU?" she snarled.

Minako leaped to her feet. "Setsuna, stop!" Another Setsuna was also rising, pulling out what appeared to be a weapon.

"Ex-CUSE me?! I leave for two seconds and this is what happens?"

In an impressive display of solidarity, every single face in the courtroom turned to stare at the woman who had just walked in. She seemed, at first, to be the same Enforcer they knew. The Icy blue gaze, the large and powerful Key Staff she carried in her right hand. All of these combined to give a reassuring portrait of The Law.

The whip was new. It dangled from her left hand, which was subtly playing back and forth, letting the end slowly travel around her. Behind her, three Hotarus stood, giving a sort of Gladys Knight and the Pips effect to the whole thing.

Ifurita walked to the center of the room, giving a glance to all of the eyes on her. She ended up locking gazes with the Prosecutor, who was looking far less sure of herself now that Ifurita was here.

Ifurita smiled. It wasn't like any smile they had ever seen on her before. It wasn't forced, or false-looking. It was a genuine, 100% authentic evil grin. It was the most disturbing thing the Prosecutor had ever seen.


The Prosecutor blinked. "What?"

Ifurita cocked her head to one side. "You just hit Ferine in an open court. If I wanted to, I could easily have you tried for assault. After all, we're setting precedents here. Now: APOLOGIZE." Her voice had changed from a light airy tone to a cold steel. The Prosecutor shuddered.

"I'm sorry. I was caught up in the moment. I shouldn't have done that."

Ifurita smiled. "That'll do. I'd ask you to apologize to Ferine, but we'd be here all day. Carry on." And with a toss of her hair, she glided over to her position at the head of the court, ignoring the murmurs that ran through the crowd.

Even Ferine seemed to have lost her momentary poise, staring back at Ifurita for a moment. She shook her head to clear it and then turned back to her witness... who appared to be quietly conversing with his wife.

"Mr. Gaffney? Ahem?" She tried to get the right annoyed yet polite-sounding tone in her voice. In reality she was amused by the whole thing.

Sean coughed and sat back, allowing his wife to take her seat next to their world's senshi. "Sorry," he muttered.

Ferine nodded. She then picked up the book from where it had been left, on top of the judges' bench. "This book has been found to be an almost exact prediction of what Sean's life would have been like had he remained in his original world. And it shows that it was a totally normal, uninspiring life. He got a job at an insurance company, where he moved up through the ranks. He married late in life, to a young woman from Canada. On the morning of July 27, 2016, he and his wife were killed in a hit-and-run accident involving a drunk driver. Their son went to stay with his grandmother. He went on to a career as a journalist, but never married."

Ferine sighed. "It might sound harsh, but these are the facts. Taking Sean out of his universe caused no major changes at all. Without him, it continued on its normal course of events as if he'd still been there."

She turned to face the judges. "My client, even if she had been somehow involved in Mr. Gaffney's being snatched from his original timeline, was not involved in any way with interfering in the events of another universe. Sean's presence affected her own universe. It didn't affect his. And, as a Pluto, we all have to make decisions to protect our worlds as best we can."

She turned to Sean, who was looking vaguely depressed again. Hopefully his wife would be able to cheer him up a bit. "Thank you, Mr. Gaffney."

The Prosecutor sighed, looking through the other merchandise Ferine had given her that might turn out to be 'evidence'. "No further questions."

Minako smiled. "You may step down, Mr. Gaffney."

Sean smiled nervously. "Thank you." He quickly moved down from the stand and headed back to Hotaru and Bridget, giving each of them a quick kiss.

Ferine stood back. All in all, not bad for a first salvo. The Prosecutor was obviously a lot more flustered than she'd first thought, she could work with that.

This next one would be much harder.

The Prosecutor stood up. "As my second witness, I call Miss Lina Inverse."


Elsewhere, on another world, a Pluto stood before two large cylinders. Inside the cylinders floated people, one a short redhead, the other a well-endowed woman with dark hair.

I hope this isn't a mistake, Sailor Pluto thought.

There was a flash of light and both she and the occupants of the cylinders were gone.


Sean came back to his seat looking like he'd just eaten something nasty. Hotaru sidled up next to him and whispered, "What's wrong?"

"What do you think," he said. "Finding out that if I'd stayed in my world, my life would have been drab and boring and affect no one isn't exactly a big happy Montclaire moment."

Hotaru snorted. "It wasn't a bad life, just normal. Besides, are you living that life?"

Sean considered this. "No."

"Are you living happily with me and our daughter in Crystal Tokyo?"

"Well, yeah..."

"So do you have any reason to be depressed?"

Sean pouted. "I still can't find that CD of Neil Young's _Hawks and Doves_."

Hotaru's eyelashes fluttered. "Poor baby."

Sean's gaze flicked back to the trial, and particularly the Enforcer, who was sitting on the side with her legs leaning against the wall, playing with her new toy. "So what's with Ann-Margret over there?"

Hotaru sighed. "I was trying to cheer the other Hotaru up, and she came by to drag us back to the trial. I reached out to grab her staff to stop her, and... well... things happened."

Sean blinked. "And these things would be... ?"

"I interfaced with her memories."

This came as a mild surprise to Sean, who still had a tendency to think of life as fictional if he wasn't careful. "Was this the talent you got when you arrived at El Hazard?"

"Smartass," Hotaru replied with a grin. "I don't know how it happened, but it did. Maybe it had something to do with my healing powers. She's had a rough life, Sean... first as Ifurita and then as Pluto. I had to do something."

"What did you do?"

"Well, I gave her a lot of my memories."

"Oh, good," Sean breathed out. "So, she's going to be happy and mellow, with a side order of mischievous and horny?"

"Essentially," Hotaru grinned. "She's also got a side order of paranoia, a love of anarchy and disorder, and a taste for the bizarre. Three guesses where *that* came from."

Sean sweated. "Um... the memories you gave her were--"

"--were mostly the memories you gave me when I was being reborn. So she doesn't just have my memories, but yours as well."

Sean looked around, panicking. "If you tell anyone, there'll be a riot."

"Relax. All of us talked with her for a long time after this, and aside from certain peculiarities--"

"--like the whip--"

"--right, she's absolutely fine. Nothing to worry about."

Sean looked back at Ifurita, who was flying up towards the top of the room, and seemed to be running the hilt of the whip across her lips.

"Uh huh."


A hush fell over the collected Plutos as the next witness entered the Council Chamber. She was not very threatening in appearance, a diminutive redhead, missing one arm, and moving slowly through the room. She was very young, but she walked with the tread of an old woman on her way to the gallows. Her eyes were haunted, moving from one Pluto to the next without really seeing anything.

Next to the redhead stood a tall, statuesque woman with long dark hair and wearing a very skimpy costume consisting of leather and skulls -- typical evil sorceress fare if a bit taken to extremes. She held onto her companion's arm gently, nudging her along the path she had to go and glared fiercely at the surrounding Plutos, like a lioness protecting her cub.

"Lina Inverse and her companion, Naga the Serpent," Ifurita-Pluto announced, sounding quite bored. She was currently floating over the proceedings, polishing her Time Key Staff. A tense hush fell over the crowd as everyone realized that they were in the presence of a sorceress who had almost destroyed several universes in her lust for power.

The Rei-Pluto who swore Sean in stepped next to Lina. "Do you swear by the Infinite to tell the truth as you are capable of perceiving it?" she asked again in a whisper.

Lina looked up. For the first time, she seemed to realize where she was and her situation. She slowly looked over at Naga, who gave her companion a warm smile (which would have shocked those who knew her and Lina) and nodded. Everyone listened closely as Lina opened her mouth to speak. It was one of those situations where a dropped pin would have made a deafening sound.

Therefore, the scream that broke the stillness was all the more shocking.

"AAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHH! Ican'ttakeitantmore! TechniqueIDefinitely- Didn'tLearnAtKowamari--DEADSCREAM!" came a high pitched voice from the crowd.

Gale-force winds tore through the crowd, sending Plutos flying like tumbleweed. Each reacted differently to the crisis. Some went flying with all the coordination of a rock. Others created mystical shields that protected them from the attack. But some Plutos, either too far from the front to see what was really going on, or too disconnected from reality to care, struck back, adding to the chaos.

The Inner Senshi dogpiled onto Serenity and Sailor Moon at the first sign of trouble, shielding them with their bodies. The Outer Senshi took positions around their monarch, with Saturn holding her Glaive high.

"Silence Glaive WALL!" she yelled, creating a powerful mystical defense against the chaos in the room.

At the Council Table, Minako-Pluto watched helplessly as everything degenerated into chaos. For the millionth time she cursed the unique nature of this subspace pocket that kept the gathered Plutos from foreseeing the future in this place. She looked up at arguably the most powerful Pluto.

"Do something, Enforcer!" she yelled at Ifurita-Pluto.

Ifurita-Pluto cocked her head, as if considering it. Minako-Pluto could only watch in horror as she finally shook her head.

"Nah," the Enforcer said. "It'll do them some good if they get it out of their system... as long as they don't hurt anyone." At that, she aimed her Time Key Staff at two Plutos, one of whom was about to bury a knife into the chest of the other.


The knife disintegrated.

"Play nice now," Ifurita-Pluto said, then added, with a smile, "Boot to the head," and unleashed a flying (literally) kick at the offending Pluto. She went down with a crash. "Yeah! That was fun!"


"We've got to get out of here!" Sailor Mars screamed into her Queen's ear, as that was the only way to make sure she was heard. "They've all gone mad!"

Looking out at the sea of chaos that had engulfed the Council Chambers, Serenity found it hard to disagree. "Sailor Teleport?"

"If it'll work!"

"Do it."

The Inner Senshi quickly grasped hands... then everything became quiet as a red glow began to fill the room.

"Heed me, oh spirits darker than dusk," spoke a small, quiet voice. But when that voice and especially those words came from Lina Inverse, everyone listened. "Red beyond crimson flow like blood. In the name of those reduced to dust, I pray to the shadows." Naga took cover among some stone columns behind Lina. Plutos started running for the door in a mass panic. "Mark ye these villains that bar our way and to my small strength thine own ally, to deliver doom, folly repay, come judgment from the grave..." The red glow reached its peak.

Minako-Pluto voiced the heartfelt feelings of all the Plutos at that moment. "Oh, shit."


The Council Building exploded. A huge, fiery dragon rose high into the sky over the rubble, screaming in victory, then it dispersed.

Only two figures were still standing when the dust cleared: Lina Inverse and Ifurita-Pluto.

"Cool!" the Enforcer said. "I FINALLY got the Dragon Slave! Just wait till I see that Tennis Warrior Pluto again. Hmph, thinks she's so superior because she got memories from that boy. This'll show her!"

Lina just collapsed. Naga, who had been generally well- protected by her magic and from long experience with being blasted by Lina, was at her side in a moment.

"How could you?" she yelled at the blue-haired Pluto. "You're supposed to protect others. How could you let them all die?"

Ifurita-Pluto snorted. "Oh, none of them are dead. I shielded them from the worst of it. They deserved a roof or two being dropped on their heads for the way they were acting." Seeing Naga still looked unconvinced, she pointed. "Look."

Naga looked around and saw Plutos of all descriptions wearily dragging themselves out of the rubble. To a woman, they all appeared dirty, bedraggled, and scorched, but aside from a few scrapes and bruises, they seemed fine.

"Man, I tell you, this job is getting to be a real drag," Ifurita-Pluto complained. She reached over and tossed the remains of the Council table off of the Council of Chronos. "Hey," she asked Minako-Pluto, "what's my severance package like?"

"Severance package?" Minako-Pluto asked, still shell- shocked.

"Yeah, perks and bennies. Whadda I get?"


Everyone looked over to see Serenity and Sailor Moon digging through the rubble. "Pu!" Sailor Moon called.

But it soon became apparent that the Defendant was missing.


Setsuna wasn't sure when she decided to run. Throughout the trial she had stood still in the dock, not batting an eye as her prosecutor revealed her outlandish charges and her defense counsel set out to disprove them in the most embarrassing way possible. Bringing in Lina Inverse was what made her realize what was actually happening.

Ferine had done all of this deliberately, trying to create seeds of dissent in an effort to turn her trial into a madhouse. She had used Setsuna to further her own little political agenda, as seen with the 'evidence' she'd presented when Sean was on the stand.

Setsuna hated being a pawn. Bad enough that she had made a mistake that was going to cost Haruka her life, but now her punishment was being decided in some Pluto circus, with fairness and justice having gone out the window. So she fled in the midst of the chaos, wanting to just get away and go somewhere where she could decide on a plan of action in case all of this ended in disaster, a course looking more and more likely.

The streets were deserted at the moment, not a surprise as all the denizens were back at the trial. Pluto stopped in the middle of the food court and went into one of the eateries, hoping to find a corner where she could relax.

"Hey, Setsuna, what's up?"

Startled, Setsuna looked up. Across the counter was a face she knew well, short blonde hair framing her pixie-like face, and anachronistic glasses over her eyes. She grinned and held out a plate to Setsuna, on which sat a delicious smelling slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza.

"Beans? What are you doing here? Everyone's at the trial!" Setsuna said, while quickly snatching the pizza from her colleague's hand.

Beans grinned and leaned back against the counter. "Not everyone's at the trial. Believe it or not, some of us aren't interested in the huge political maneuvering that goes on here day-in day-out. Ferine, Setsuna, Setsuna, Setsuna, and Minako all have some big agenda involved here. Your screw up just gave them a good excuse."

At the mention of 'screw up', Setsuna's face crumpled a bit and she slipped onto a stool. "Oh God, Beans, what am I gonna do?"

Beans shrugged. "Wait for this to die down, go back to your universe, and deal with the consequences."

Setsuna looked back up, her eyes clouding. "And Haruka will die."

"Yep," said Beans.

"You aren't helping." Setsuna tried to give Beans a cold glare, but her heart wasn't really in it.

Beans shrugged. "Sugar-coating won't solve anything. You messed up big time, and now you've got to pay the price. Maybe it'll help you grow up."

"Hey!" Now Setsuna was starting to get mad. "I've been a senshi about 10,000 years longer than you have, Missie!"

"No you haven't," Beans replied, still not batting an eyelash. "You got reincarnated. Weren't you telling me a while back that you were tired of people treating you like your predecessor? You can't have it both ways. Eat your pizza, it's getting cold."

Setsuna deflated again and sat down. "Dammit, I want to be mad!"

"No, you want to be miserable, you just *think* you want to be mad."

Sighing, Setsuna muched on her pizza. "When did I become such a loser?"

Beans shrugged. "You're not. You just buy into the myth that all Plutos are wise, all-knowing and perfect, and then regard yourself as a failure when you aren't. You told me about it often enough when I was starting out..."

"Mmm," Setsuna said. "I tried to be different, you know, Beans? I gave myself a childhood, when so many other Plutos never were allowed to have one."

"Yes, you did. And it means that you were a child, and grew up being raised as a child. And do you know what that means?"

Setsuna raised an eyebrow. "Yes, all-knowing one?"

Beans snorted. "Just because you had a childhood doesn't mean you can still be childish. Growing up is a process. It doesn't happen overnight or at the snap of a finger. When you grow up, you lose your child-like innocence in favor of maturity."

Setsuna just stared at her friend, who had stated everything so bluntly.

"Berf," Beans replied after a few moments of silence. Setsuna giggled.

After a moment, she slid back into melancholy. "Why does someone else have to pay for my mistake?"

Beans thought about that for a moment. "Maybe because it takes more of a shock to the system. What would you say is the biggest defining characteristic of Plutos?"

Setsuna pondered. "Fashion sense?"

"Arrogance," Beans responded, flicking her finger against Setsuna's forehead. "The idea that they are the true Mistresses of Time, with the power of the world theirs to command. They know their job doesn't tolerate mistakes, so they convince themselves they don't *make* them. You thought you were going over to another universe to beat some sense into a Pluto who annoyed you. It didn't really occur to you that something could go wrong."

Setsuna got up and spun around, eyes watering. "Why is it Plutos are so fucked up? We go crazy, we get people killed... hell, most of us don't even have boyfriends!"

Beans was starting to get annoyed. "Would you stop whining! Get over it! You have to deal with this, not moan about it to me! Don't go crazy, do something to make up to the others! Apologize to Haruka! Maybe help Michiru with her grief! Get a boyfriend, your Crystal Tokyo has lots of people! For God's sake, stop acting like such a PLUTO!"

Setsuna stared at Beans, and recalled her memory from the other night. "We've had this conversation before..."

Beans flushed suddenly. "Um... you said the same thing to me right after I became Pluto."

Setsuna laughed. After a moment, she said, "I guess I should head back to that travesty of a trial."

"Yeah," Beans nodded. "C'mon, I'll go with. Just in case they decide to make you duel to the death or something." She reached behind the counter and pulled out a small portable oven.

Setsuna blinked. "What's that for?"

"Selling pizza. Duels to the death always get appetites flowing."

Setsuna groaned. "I feel pathetic again."

The blonde senshi grinned. "Cheer up. Think of the perks of being Pluto."

"Like what?"

"We get serviced more than Saturn does."

"Feh," Setsuna muttered as they walked out the door. "*My* Saturn's already got a guy."

"Yeah, but you were the one who got him for her..."



The Prosecutor glared up at the Enforcer.

"How could you let her get away?" she asked angrily. This trial was not the way she had envisioned it. Nothing about this trial was going right.

"Excuse me?" the Enforcer said. "How was losing her MY fault? I'm not the one who caused a riot and blew up the building."

"You should have stopped it!"

"Enough!" Minako-Pluto said, cutting through their argument. The Council Chamber was slowly reforming, the damage magically fixing itself as subspace reacted to the wishes of the Plutos. Minako-Pluto took her seat and looked at all the assembled Plutos.

"This trial has gone on long enough," she said. "I see now that by allowing the Prosecution and the Defense to make such a big production of this case, it has become a farce. The Council will pass its decision as soon as the Defendent is found. You," she said, pointing to a Pluto, "return Inverse and Naga to where you took them from."

The Pluto nodded and went over to the sorceresses. Naga was crouched protectively over a semi-conscious Lina, resting the red-haired girl's head on her lap.

"Come," the Pluto said, offering her hand to Naga. "It is time to return to the dream."

Naga looked up and nodded, taking the Pluto's hand. With that, the three of them vanished.

"Now, we must find the Defendant," Minako-Pluto said. Beside her, the other Plutos of the Council took their seats.

"I'm here," a faint voice said from the back of the room.

Everyone turned to look at the doors to the chamber, and saw an apologetic Setsuna, accompanied by a pizza-toting Beans.

"I'm sorry," the Defendant said. "I got a little lost there for a moment." She looked over at Beans.

"Take your place," Minako-Pluto said coldly.

Setsuna did so.

Minako looked around, her gaze taking in the assembled Plutos and her fellow Council members. "We convened this trial for two reasons. First, because of the seriousness of one Pluto interfering with another Pluto's universe and, second, because the Council saw a means of furthering its power."

Everyone started muttering at that, including a few of the Council members.

"But, I think we can all agree that continuing this trial will only present more opportunities for chaos."

At this, the other Council Members nodded.

"I think there can be no question of the facts in this case. The Defendant did knowing enter the Prosecution's universe and interfere with the time stream. The only question is whether or not this is a crime, yes?"

Again, there were nods. A few seemed about to interject their own comments, but Minako-Pluto gestured to the Enforcer, who raised her whip. She seemed eager to put it to use. Minako-Pluto nodded to her in thanks.

"Very well, I think that it is something that should be stopped, if just out of simple sense of courtesy. You do not go over to a neighbor's house and mess things up for kicks." She looked at her fellow Council members, who slowly nodded in agreement "Defendant, step forward."

Setsuna swallowed and took a step forward.

"Because of the lack of good sense and common courtesy, we, the Council of Chronos, find you guilty of willfully entering another Pluto's territory with malicious intent. You are hereby sentenced--" She paused for a moment, seeming to take special pleasure from the rising tension in the room. "--to serve as an instructor to all new Plutos for the next 100 subjective years."

The Defendant swayed slightly, though it was difficult to tell if it was from relief or horror. Behind her, her fellow Senshi hugged each other and swapped enormously relieved grins. The Council members looked at each other, confused, but none made any move to argue with their Chair-Pluto. It seemed that acting as an instructor was quite enough of a punishment for them.

But not for the Prosecution. "I object!" she said. "That is not enough to punish her for her crimes!"

Minako-Pluto looked at her slowly. "I was just getting to you," she said ominously.

"Me?" the Prosecution said in a suddenly small voice.

"You showed remarkably poor judgment in bringing this to our attention. All of the chaos that has followed since this trial began can be laid at your door. This place is supposed to be a haven for Plutos, not a madhouse."

"I was merely--"

"Enough! As punishment for your lack of judgment--" Minako- Pluto began. Everyone tensed, waiting for the other shoe to drop. "--I sentence you to take my place on the Council!"

Everyone stared at her. A few, like Sana, facefaulted.

Minako-Pluto stood up, cackling madly. "Free at last!" she crowed, grabbing an obviously prepared satchel from behind her chair. With that in hand, she ran for the door, laughing all the way.

Everyone stared after her, sweat-dropping, except for Sailor Venus, who cheered her counterpart on.

"Can she do that?" the Pluto with the sword and stakes asked.

"It is irregular," the emotionless Pluto said.

"I don't WANT to be on the Council!" the Prosecutor wailed.

That got the attention of everyone, including the unwelcome attention of the other Council Members (except Ferine, who seemed to be trying to keep herself from bursting out laughing).

"We will... talk about this," the Pluto with the sword said. With that, the Council and the Prosecutor vanished.

Ferine took Setsuna aside and grinned at her. "Went pretty well, don't you think?"

Setsuna stared at her, not showing anything in her facial expression. "Now that we're done, answer my question?"

The short-haired senshi tried to look innocent (something Plutos have never been able to pull off). "What question do you mean, Setsuna?"

"What did you get out of this? Why did you decide to defend me? It can't be simply because you wanted to help me."

"Why not?" Ferine's eyebrow twitched, and she moved closer to Setsuna. "Why would it not be surprising that I'd want to help you? Our situations aren't that different, you know. We both have made enormous sacrifices to help our worlds survive, and both have made horrendous mistakes in doing so. Just because I have a boyfriend doesn't mean things are all happy and wonderful in my world. The Black Moon War is coming up. Sailor Mars still despises me with every fibre of her being. And the Queen's child has only one friend in her life... me. It affects me. I hurt. So don't tell me I have to have some ulterior motive. I see a lot of you in me, and don't want you making the same mistakes I did."

Setsuna looked away. "I apologize," she said quietly.

Ferine smiled. "Thank you."

"So did you have an ulterior motive?"

"Yes," Ferine shrugged. "But it doesn't mean I wasn't looking out for you. You heard what I said in your defense. This trial was a lot more important than just a bitch-slapping contest between two senshi."

Setsuna sighed. "Yes, yes, the whole 'too much justice' thing."

"Don't treat it so lightly. You came close, very close. The only reason your punishment wasn't much harsher is because your Minako opened up the heart of her Pluto equivalent after so many years. You might want to thank her."

"I will," Setsuna said thoughtfully. "But she quit the Council, and appointed my opponent in her place. Won't that make things worse?"

Ferine frowned. "Yes, that was unexpected. So was Ifurita leaving... though I'm glad she's over her guilt. It certainly leaves a bit of a power vacuum on the Council."

Setsuna's eyes narrowed. "A vacuum you intend to fill?"

The other woman laughed. "Hardly. I don't want a position of power. I want to advise, nudge, adjust. Tilt the scales a bit. I'm on the Council, but I'll never run it. Still, there's potential to be worked with here. Your counterpart isn't as bad as she appears, she just dislikes dealing with her other selves. A few years on the Council will do her good."

The idea of the woman who tried to have her killed obtaining a position on the Council of Plutos as her 'punishment' still didn't sit well with Setsuna, but she merely grumbled a bit and dropped the subject. "So that's why you defended me?"

"Well, one of the reasons. Life is rarely clear-cut, Setsuna. Learn to deal with the fact that we don't know everything. Accept your ignorance!" Ferine was positively beaming.

"Ferine... why did you defend me?" Setsuna growled once more.

Ferine grinned. "That... is a secret."


Hotaru sat back, watching her friends talk quietly between themselves. Pluto had been spirited off at the end of the trial, so they were a little confused about what to do next.

"Hi? You okay?"

Looking up, she saw the Saturn from the other world smiling down at her. She made an attempt to smile. "I'm fine."

It must not have looked genuine, because Saturn shoved her over a bit and sat down on the bench. "What's got you down? C'mon, you can't keep secrets from me!"

Hotaru sighed. "We really don't see enough of Pluto as it is. And now she's going to be doing this Council thing..."

Saturn shrugged. "Shouldn't matter. This is a different dimension, time isn't flowing back in our universes."

Hotaru grimaced, feeling stupid. "Oh, right."

"That's not to say that she won't use it as an excuse. But it isn't. If you see less of Setsuna, it's because she wants to, not any Council stuff."

Noting Hotaru slouching further, Saturn sighed. "She's really got you submissive, hasn't she?"

Hotaru tried to look defensive, but failed. "It's not her, it's everyone. I mean, I'm thirteen years old..."

"Which means you're a teenager. Perfect. What better time to rebel?"

"I don't want to rebel!" Hotaru added hotly.

"I don't mean turn against your friends... not that kind of rebellion," Saturn added quickly. "But you should stand up for yourself. Look at the Plutos here. There are so many who feel they should be all-knowing, mysterious and alone, when that's not the case at all. They make themselves unhappy. I think you're doing that. You see yourself as useless, existing only to be told what to do by your father and the Outers. Well, you're bringing that on yourself. Question them. Not just randomly, but think. Do you like what they're trying to make you do? If not, tell them! Grow up, live a little! Just because you're Saturn doesn't mean you can't be a normal teenager."

Hotaru was still a little unnerved at the idea. "So... I can have ice cream after school if I want?"

"Exactly," Saturn grinned. "I'm not trying to get you to set fire to public buildings or anything. But you can take the sullen young Goth girl too far."

"But I like looking Goth..."

The conversation continued for a while, just normal chat between two girls who felt they knew each other very well, despite being universes apart.


Rei stopped outside the door and sighed. What had started out as a meeting to discuss Haruka's fate and how to deal with it ended up becoming more of a slumber party than anything else. Haruka seemed strangely calm about her impending death. Even weirder, Makoto was positively gleeful, saying things would work out, and acting like a giggling imbecile. That wasn't like her, and it made Rei worry.

Unfortunately, that meant she hadn't been paying attention when they all decided who was going to go get the Cokes, and she'd been unanimously 'elected'. So here she was armed with a handful of yen. Still, it gave her time to think.

This entire catastrophic trip had shown her that she wasn't nearly as together and prepared as she had assumed. Most of her bravado had been burned away by that other Rei, the blind Sailor Pluto. It wasn't merely her handicap that bothered Rei, it was her inner peace. Something that Rei, with all her years as a shrine maiden, had never been able to achieve.

Rei knew she had a temper, and it had nothing to do with Sailor Mars. She just found annoyance in almost every aspect of life, and treated it as if it was an affront to her. Peace was just not an option in her turmoiled mind.

Unless she was around her queen.

For reasons that she only admitted to herself late at night when she was alone, she felt a sense of well-being and happiness around Serenity. The woman made her feel wanted, as if she wasn't merely there as a jumped-up police officer and traffic controller. She cared about what Rei felt, what she believed. And Rei cared for her.

Oh, did Rei ever care for her.

She paused in her inner monologue to dump yen in the slots of the machine, then froze as she heard footsteps behind her. Loud, thumping, obvious footsteps.

"Ah! Um... I can come back. I'll wait a few minutes. Bye!"

"Freeze, Gaffney. We need to talk."

This was the other thing Rei was dreading, even as she spoke the words. After her... encounter with her other self, she'd run into Sean. Literally. The stream of babble that erupted from her lips at that point was enough to make her turn beet red, especially since she seemed to remember some of it being certain fantasies she'd had that no one was *EVER* supposed to know about.

And worst of all, *he* was the one that heard it. She'd never gotten along with Sean and his self-righteous 'a little bit of anarchy will be good for this city' attitude. He didn't really like her much, either. Which meant she needed to do some damage control before he could spread any stories. Especially on the air.

Rei opened her mouth to speak, but Sean beat her to it. "Look, I'm not saying anything to anyone about that incident the other night. Trust me, it wasn't exactly a wonderful happening for me, either. So don't worry."

This had the effect of derailing Rei a bit, who was ready to go into one of her full-blown rants. She glared at him. "I bet you told your wife."

Sean rubbed the back of his head. "Well, yeah, but only to make sure that if they found my body in a ditch or anything... but moving on," he murmured, seeing Rei turning red again, "she's not the type to go gossiping. She said she wouldn't even tell Serenity. OK?"

"...OK. I accept that. Thank you. We'll just pretend the past few days never happened."

Sean nodded. "Sounds good to me." He quickly went to get sodas for him and the two children. "Um... about those Lunatic Parties..."

Rei stopped, her fists clenching. She knew he'd try to get something out of this, the bastard. Still, she did feel a need to pay him back somehow. "What Lunatic Parties?" she said, as quietly as she could.

"Thank you," Sean said with apparent sincerity. She nodded without looking at him and moved on.

A few doors away from Serenity's, she heard a familiar giggling. Setsuna had begged off from the meeting, saying she had to confer with a few Plutos on some matters. Rei had suspected at the time that she was going off to get wasted with her compatriots, and now she suspected she was right. She quickly creaked open the door a fraction and looked in.

She could barely see anything, but the voices got louder.

"Setsuna, please remove your ass from my face."

"Well, your face makes a convenient resting place, sorry."

"I need to pee."

"Should have thought of that before you twisted into that position."

And then a loud THUMP, puncuated by laughter and groans.

Rei's eyes widened. She closed the door quietly, grabbed the sodas, and ran back to Serenity's room as fast as she possibly could. There were some things that mere mortals were just not meant to know.

Back at the room, the conversation continued. "Try again, folks. Right hand RED!"


Haruka and Michiru sighed, relaxing by the beachfront as they waited for Setsuna to finish up affairs here and take them back to their world. Truth to tell, they couldn't wait to get back. This whole escapade had brought home to them how little they knew Setsuna, and also showed them a side of her that wasn't the 'all-knowing and powerful Mistress of Time' that they were used to.

"May I speak to you for a few minutes?"

Turning, both of them took a step back. "S-Serenity..." Haruka stammered.

The queen shook her head. "I'm not your Serenity, I'm not even from your world, so don't show me any unnecessary formality."

Michiru gave her a pointed look. "Are you here to punish us for killing your senshi?"

Serenity shook her head. "No. We shouldn't have been there, it was a stupid idea in the first place. I'm as much at fault as anyone is. Besides, I know that both of you already feel horrible for what happened."

Haruka and Michiru looked down. "Gomen," Haruka said.

Serenity went on as if the woman hadn't spoken. "I want to ask you something. Why do you fight the way you do? I truly don't understand it. You isolate yourselves, trusting no one but each other. Do you truly see this as the best way?"

Haruka opened her mouth, but no words came out. Michiru answered, though, a crease on her forehead. "It's the best way for us. We have different goals, the others know this."

Serenity nodded. "You think Usagi is too caring to accomplish what sometimes has to be done, even if the cost is the loss of an innocent."

Both nodded, though for some reason they still couldn't meet Serenity's eyes. "Yes."

Serenity nodded. "I remember. There was a time that our Haruka and Michiru thought the same way." She paused, trying to find the proper words to say. "I can't tell you to do anything. But please listen to what I have to say. You're still teenagers. You have so much of your life left to life, so much joy and happiness to experience. Don't close it off because of a 'need' to be cold."

The duo didn't reply, so she continued. "Usagi was a very happy, innocent person in my world. She held those twenty years she had as dearly as anything else." She looked up, and there were tears in her eyes. "But Usagi's dead now. There's only me. I have her friends, and her husband and daughter. But I can never have her innocence. And that's why I'm Neo-Queen Serenity, and not Tsukino Usagi."

The tears stopped, and Serenity was looking serene and unflappable again. "Please give your Usagi a chance to get to know you. Otherwise she may spend the rest of her life regretting not knowing the two of you."

Then she bowed and left, leaving the two senshi staring after her, speechless.


The senshi stood on the beach, ready to head back to their own universe. All eyes were on Haruka, who had her arms around Michiru and Yurika and was trying to look noble and brave.

"I just wanna say... the years I've had have been the best I could ever hope for. Even with all the... troubles," she glanced at Hotaru, who smiled sympathetically, "I wouldn't trade my life for anything." She stopped, choking up for a while, then smiled. "I'm ready now."

Setsuna wasn't even bothering to hide her tears. She nodded sadly, then raised her staff. But a glance around brought her up short. "Where's Jupiter?"

A quick glance by the others showed that Makoto had disappeared. "I don't understand," Minako said. "She was with the rest of us a minute ago..."


Spinning round, they saw a crowd of Plutos behind them. The one that looked like Michiru was in the lead. Also recognizable was Sana, who waved at Ami brightly, and two of the Setsunas, who had arms around one another.

Michiru-Pluto smiled sweetly, and turned to Setsuna. "We were in the audience when we saw you get sentenced. Training Plutos for the next hundred years... that's actually pretty stiff."

Setsuna growled. "Thank you, I know."

The other Pluto cut Setsuna off. "In fact, it's *such* a harsh punishment that it almost seems cruel to have to add to it, right?"

Sana was bouncing up and down. "RIGHT!"

Michiru-Pluto held out a hand, gesturing to the others. "We were having a discussion a little earlier, some of us. See, we're a little bit like you. We want our worlds to be happy, and sometimes take... exceptional means to ensure that happiness."

She sighed theatrically. "But I can't just make that decision myself. I'm biased, after all, because this is Haruka we're talking about. And the rest of us all have, for one reason or another, something that prevents us from doing this. Playing God is not something you do lightly, after all," she said, giggling.

"What we *need*," she said, gesturing dramatically once more, "is someone from that world who can try to present an unbiased opinion on whether or not we should take such extreme actions. Hmm..."

Suddenly Makoto appeared in front of the other senshi, a serious expression on her face. "I can help you," she said. She then walked all around Haruka and Michiru, hands folded behind her back, studying them intently. "Hmmm..." She then turned back to Michiru-Pluto and made an 'OK' sign. "Go for it!"

Everyone by now was looking totally puzzled, except Setsuna, who was angry and upset. Michiru-Pluto dropped the cute act and walked up to her.

"You want to do this, but can't gather the courage to. So we're going to help you. There's no reason why Haruka has to suffer for your mistake, regardless of how much it will teach you in the future. Reality isn't about hypotheticals, it's about people."

Setsuna's brow wrinkled. "You were listening to my conversation with Beans!"

"Actually, they kinda got to me after the trial and browbeat it out of me," came a voice from behind her. Setsuna turned to see a very embarrassed Beans rubbing the back of her neck and grimacing. Next to her, Sean and Hotaru turned to each other, mouthed the name 'Beans?', then shook their heads.

"Setsuna," came Michiru-Pluto's voice from next to her ear, "will you let us do this? Please?"

Setsuna closed her eyes for a moment, then nodded.

Makoto had turned serious as well, and walked up to Haruka. "Haruka, they say they can heal you. I trust them, and I think you can too. Will you let them try?"

Haruka shivered, then looked down at Yurika and over to Michiru, who nodded at her. "Hai," Haruka said quietly.

The group of Plutos gathered around Haruka, who reluctantly separated from her partner and their daughter. Almost immediately the area shone with a bright light, and the others had to avert their eyes. When it faded, everything seemed to be exactly the same, except that many of the Plutos were quite tired.

Haruka felt her body, noticing no difference. "Did... did it work?"

Michiru-Pluto smiled tiredly. "It worked. Congratulations, you have your life back. Make the most of it."

Haruka was struck in a two way tackle by Michiru and Yurika, and therefore didn't respond to that. Michiru-Pluto smiled and turned back to Setsuna.

Setsuna was looking down, a flush across her cheeks. "Thank you," she whispered.

Michiru-Pluto nodded. "You'd do the same for us."

"Now this *is* interesting." Michiru-Pluto spun around to see a familiar blonde woman smirking at them. Minako-Pluto had a satchel over one shoulder, and was regarding the whole affair with a considerable amount of amusement.

For a second, Michiru-Pluto couldn't think of a thing to say, but then she remembered something important. "You aren't on the Council anymore. You can't hurt us now."

"Well, I *could* report it to the current Setsuna... after all, we all know how much she loves this little group..." She smiled sweetly as sweatdrops formed on the back of everyone's head. "But I won't."

Michiru-Pluto was looking puzzled now. "Why not?"

Minako-Pluto grinned openly now. "Because if there's one thing I learned from this little escapade, it's that sometimes, even if it bends a few rules, you need to let love win." And she winked at her fellow Minako for a moment before turning and walking back down towards the city.

Setsuna stared after her for a moment, then she smiled as well. "Let's go home."


Pluto-1, the Prosecutor no longer, tried not to yawn. It felt like it had been hours since the other Council Members had taken her away to deliberate her fate. Most of that time had been spent listening to the emotionless Pluto drone on. The other Plutos had made their own points, however.

The Pluto wearing the sash and the looney were in favor of more 'creative' methods of punishment than Council membership. The emotionless Pluto claimed that Minako had the right to choose a replacement, and the blade-wielding Pluto agreed with her. Ferine, once she actually shown up, had spent most of the time just listening to the bickering in amusement while working with a palm computer.

Pluto-1 felt disillusioned. THIS was how the Council acted behind closed doors? She was starting to understand Minako's reasons for leaving.

Ferine noticed the look on Pluto-1's face and decided it was time to cast her vote. She paused her Tetris game and cleared her throat.

"Since you four seem deadlocked, I'll throw in my vote. I think we can keep her... but I also think she should not be able to be Chair for, oh, a hundred subjective years."

There were grudging nods all around.

Ferine grinned at Pluto-1. "Congratulations, you are now a member of the Council. Hope you enjoy it!"

Emotionless Pluto spoke. "Now that that is settled, we must elect a new Chair. I will now read the appropriate by- laws. First--"

Three voices spoke as one. "I nominate myself!"

Ferine giggled as the looney, the sash-wearer, and the blade-wielder began to argue vociferously about their relative merits (or lack thereof) for Chair. The emotionless Pluto merely spoke louder as she recited the by-laws from memory.

Pluto-1 just sat there, aghast.

"And after this," Ferine whispered to her, "we get to vote on a new Enforcer. Won't THAT be fun?"

Pluto-1 qroaned.

Amazing how long a century can be, Ferine thought to herself as she returned to her game.


Ifurita-Pluto, no longer the Enforcer, looked almost nervous as she held her Time Key Staff before her. She was no longer an automaton, a doll whose only purpose in life was to follow orders.

But what was she to do NOW?

That was the real stumper, an irreverent voice in the back of her head spoke. She knew whose voice it was. She and Hotaru had a long talk after she had received her memories. She knew which memories and beliefs were Sean's, and that their influence would fade eventually, even if they never would quite leave.

In the end, the decision of what to do next, however, was entirely hers. It frightened her, and that was another new sensation. She wasn't sure that she liked it.

She knew that she could no longer be the Enforcer. She had enough of following orders, and she was uncertain now that the Council's aims were ones she could agree with. She definitely could not serve it while Sean's feelings were influencing her. She didn't know if she could ever serve it again.

There was one person she thought she might serve... though serve was not the correct term. She could swear allegiance to that person, however. In a way, she already had. But that was an allegiance born of her need to obey a master. Now, she could willingly offer her service.

But did she want to do that? She was finally completely free....

There was, however, such a thing as too much freedom. Anarchy was not to her tastes. She needed time to learn how to explore her freedom, to become comfortable with it. And while she was doing that, she needed the right sort of people around her. People who could support and encourage her, not simply order her around.

There was only one choice... and, ironically, it was the same action she would have taken if there were no choice.

She activated her Time Key Staff and the passage between universes was opened. She stepped through it into the Court of Serenity.

Bowing before her Queen, Ifurita spoke. "Your Majesty, I have recently come into the possession of true human emotions and memories. What you strove to do for me so long ago has finally happened." She looked up at her Queen, her face full of need. "I do not know how to deal with these things yet. I ask... could you help me?"

Neo-Queen Serenity looked upon her newest Senshi and smiled. "Welcome home, Ifurita, at last."


After arriving back, and confirming that Haruka was indeed alive and lacking a large hole in her chest, the initial idea had been to return to Sean and Hotaru's for a quick nightcap and to discuss what they'd seen. Setsuna had started to explain what the other Plutos had done, a long rambling monologue involving life force and inner harmonics. But it became apparent after a few minutes that everyone was simply too tired to respond much, so it broke up fairly quickly. Bridget was already fast asleep, and Sean picked her up and put her in her room before joining Hotaru.

Hotaru was showing Setsuna out. "Be careful; Sean'll want those back!"

Sean paled. "Um... you weren't giving her Lunatic Party, were you? I already discussed that with Rei..."

"Hardly," Hotaru replied. "She said she wanted to borrow a few fanfics that you had read out on the air. Sailor Moon Z, Secrets, College Life. Something about better research."

"Weird. You'd think she could get enough Pluto research at that Catskills they hang out at."

Hotaru was frowning. "She had a funny look in her eyes, too... kept asking me how you and I got along."

"Uh oh," Sean replied. "Um... she's not trying to tell us something using her subtle Pluto wiles, is she?"

"Doubt it... she may have been referring to my being pregnant again, but I only found out a few days ago myself, how would she know?"

There was a *thunk* from behind Hotaru, and she turned to see Sean lying flat on his back on the floor, a dazed smile on his face.

Hotaru grinned sheepishly. "Whoops."


Jeff was so busy plotting the latest wacky caper in Sailor Moon Z 20 that he missed the doorbell the first time. He sighed and headed back downstairs.

The doorbell rang a third time as he headed towards the door, grumbling. "Coming, coming..."

Opening the door, he was rather surprised to find a tall, busty woman in a dark green business suit smiling at him. "Mr. Hosmer?" she asked.

"Yeeees," he said warily.

She grinned. "I've heard that you're looking for work at the moment."

Jeff's eyes narrowed as he got more suspicious of the stranger. "Where did you hear this?"

"I have my sources." She reached into her breast pocket and pulled out an envelope. "Now, the position I'm willing to offer you *would* involve a bit of travel..."

Trials and Errors

A Sailor Moon Story
by Sean Gaffney

Part 1 of 1