Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI - Part VII - Part VIII - Part IX
INTERN'S TARDIS - TIME INDETERMINATE
As the TARDIS jerked and shuddered, engines straining to put as much distance as they could from 2004 as possible, Cressida clung to a support pylon, yelling, "NIXIE, WHAT'S WRONG?! WHY ARE WE RUNNING LIKE A BAT OUT HELL?!"
Intern, who, for her part, was dashing around the sparking central console, trying to keep the ship from flying itself apart, quickly replied "Because someone is trying to change history!! And if we'd stayed there, we'd have become inexorably part of the perceived sequence of events!"
"I don't understand any of this!" Vermellia protested as the lights in the TARDIS went blood-red and the cloister bell-- an emergency claxon of sorts-- started ringing, indicating the ship was in imminent danger of destruction.
"I think I do!" Paisley, who was clinging onto a railing for dear life, volunteered. "Right now, in this moment in history, something is happening. If we're witness to it, it becomes locked into place for us, and we're unable to change it!"
"Yes!" Intern confirmed as she worked to get the TARDIS stabilized. "it crystallizes more or less into a fixed point. Almost impossible to alter. The lynch pin of a new timeline."
She threw a large lever, and the entire ship jerked and juddered, velocity finally slowing. "I felt such a change coming. And it didn't feel... right."
As the ship's velocity reduced to a safe speed, the interior lighting returned to normal, the cloister bell silenced iself, and Intern took the chance to pull up some archival files from the Divergent Timeline Analysis Department at the Celestial Intervention Agency. She nodded to herself as she quickly took in the information.
After a moment, she spoke again. "...Apparently, in one version of the timeline, a few minutes after we left, Queen Serenity was fatally shot by a sniper... a sniper using a Trans-Planetary Sniper Rifle."
Cressida gasped. Trans-planetary sniper rifles were extremely rare and notoriously difficult items to use. Basically it was the combined equivalent of a sniper rifle and a matter transporter that beamed a projectile across space so that it materialized just in front of its target, already at full velocity, for a guaranteed instant kill. The one problem was that a very complex set of subspace, relativistic and orbital physics calculations had to be made in order for the shot to work. No human could do it, and there was a very short list of beings who could wield such a weapon. In point of fact, there was only one being known who was a guaranteed shot with the thing. A certain psychotic killer android.
"Sakura April," Cressida deduced.
That statement hung in the air for a few moments, with only the omnipresent hum of the TARDIS and the groaning of the Vortex engines with their VWORP sound cutting through the leaden silence.
"What, why?!" Vermellia asked in shock. Sakura April was psychotic yes, but she'd learned to control her impulses in the years since she had first come after Sakura, and there was no reason for her to want to snipe Tsukino Usagi.
"Asking why Sakura April does anything is like asking why a pimple shows up on your face before a hot date," Paisley shot back. "There's no rhyme nor reason to it."
"Well okay, we think we know the who," Cressida interjected, "but what about the where?"
Intern input the information about the assassination into the TARDIS' Galactic Positioning system, and using an angular analysis, came up with a likely location.
"Cydonia Plateau," she pronounced, pointing up to a holographic display on the ceiling, which zoomed in to show a point on Mars that looked suspiciously like a humanoid face.
"Didn't the Ice Warriors have a huge monument there?" Paisley enquired.
"No, that was Osiran," Intern corrected. "but that's irrelevant." She pulled up some footage from an Imperium surveillance satellite. "Here you can see a shuttlepod leaving just minutes after the assassination attempt."
"But if we can see that, doesn't it mean that everything's already set in stone?" Vermellia pondered. "It's too late for us to do anything!" She scrunched her fists in frustration.
The Intern smiled softly. It was time to show the others what she did for a living. "The motto of the Celestial Intervention Agency is 'the story changes, the ending stays the same'."
"But the story ends with Serenity dead," Cressida protested, shaking her head slowly. "There's no way around that."
The Intern chuckled. "No, the story ends with the universe believing that Serenity is dead."
"Hello!" Vermellia chimed in excitedly, looming before The Intern. "The shuttlepod?"
Intern just shook her head. "Perception versus reality, Vermella. What do you see when you look at that picture?"
Vermellia stared at it for a few minutes, making small "hmmm" and "mmmm" noises, tilting her head and biting her lower lip, deep in thought. Finally, she perked up, pointed dramatically at Intern and proudly proclaimed "--A shuttlepod!"
Everyone but Intern facefaulted and hit the floor.
Vermellia sweatdropped and meekly continued, "A shuttlepod carrying away the assassin after they made their hit?"
Intern smirked. "No, you had it the first time, Vermellia, then you got it wrong."
"She did?" Cressida and Paisley chimed in simultanously.
Nodding, Intern pointed to the display. "Facts versus supposition. The only fact is that a shuttlepod departed at that time, as Vermellia correctly stated. Everything else-- who was in it, why they were in it, what they had done before getting inside it-- that's all supposition based on inference. That's all merely possibility. In short... to use a human term, that's our wiggle room."
"In other words," Cressida ventured slowly, "those are the things we can change?"
"Yes." Intern set some co-ordinates on the TARDIS console. "History is a lot like a 'black box'. You only see the exterior of it; the minute factors that all come together to produce the picture on the outside are hidden. We manipulate those factors so while the end result looks the same, the underlying reality has become quite different."
She set course for Mars, a good half hour before the purported sniper would have taken their shot.
"w00t!" Vermellia chirped, pumping her fist in the air! "I can't wait to learn how to mess with history!"
The others gave her a dim look.
"What, Intern does it..." Vermellia protested cutely.
"She's trained to, sis!" Cressida retorted, smacking her lightly in the back of the head.
"Well now I'm being trained too?" she asked hopefully.
"NO!" Everyone else chimed in.
MARS, MARCH 15TH, 3005 - CYDONIA PLATEAU
"This makes absolutely no sense," Intern muttered, looking about at the dusty plains of Mars, triple-checking the orbital calculations her TARDIS had produced. If someone was going to fire a Transplanetary Sniper Rifle, and taking into account the changing positions of the planets and any gravitational adjustments, the spot she and the others were standing on was the only place on Mars one would set up the shot for. But nothing was here-- no shuttlepod, no rifle, no encampment-- just a silent, empty pyramid.
"I went over it again," Cressida exhaled, exasperated, rejoining the group. "Scanned it top to bottom with my Vortex Manipulator. No one's hiding in there unless they've got some severe cloaking tech."
"I checked the Shadow planes," Vermellia added. "Nada." She paused for a moment, thinking. "Maybe they're not here yet? Maybe they want to wait until the last second to set up?"
"It could be," Intern mused. "But most professional assassins want a good deal of lead time to make sure everything is accounted for when they begin operations. There should at least be an encampment."
"Unless they're beaming in from Mars Central," Cressida pointed out.
"Not with a Transplanetary Sniper Rifle," Intern rebutted. "Those things are impossible to conceal. You'd need a shuttlepod to carry one in, even in a broken down state."
Paisley half-listened to the trio and their technobabble. Truth be told, she hated when the future people and the Time Lords got together and started slinging that talk around-- it made her, a 21st century girl, feel rather excluded. She didn't know how she could contribute to the investigation.
Then she remembered-- Admiral Miller's pubes.
Paisley pulled out the hairs she had ripped from Miller in their previous fight. The overly aggressive Blastich Admiral had lost more than a few hairs from his other head in their last encounter, and Paisley had kept them in the hopes of selling them on eBay or something. But, she realized, her unique capabilities coupled with the items might prove very handy.
Pulling out her pipe, which was made of rock from the planet Karn, Paisley lit it up, creating a miniature version of the Sacred Flame of Karn-- basically a fire which partially liquefied the minerals in the stone pipe to produce a liquid that possessed extreme healing powers in large quantities. While the pipe couldn't produce enough elixir to heal wounds, it did make a vapour which Paisley could inhale.
This vapour interacted with Paisley's psychic abilities, allowing her to scry beyond the bounds of space and time, to read backwards and forwards across an object's timeline to see what had happened to it in the past and even a ways into the future.
Taking one of the hairs, Paisley, vaporized it in the flame, looking at the smoke that it produced, her mind subconsciously tracing the four-dimensional contours of the smoke, following them back and forth, until she could make a jump from the timeline of the hairs themselves to the timeline of their unfortunate owner.
Mentally looking over Miller's timeline, she hoped to find an intersection point between his and CiCi's, and from CiCi to the assassin. It was a complex and convoluted procedure that had a small chance of success, but it was worth a shot.
Suddenly, her thoughts were pulled in another direction. This was a peril of the technique-- if a strong mental presence lay along the lines of investigation, they could act like a whirlpool of sorts sucking in the unwary conciousness of the scryer.
Paisley struggled to pull her mind back, and thanks to her extremely powerful mind, she was able to... but not before coming face to face with a strangely blank-faced hooded figure--
"Paisley, are you all right?!"
Paisley blinked, finding herself looking up at the worried faces of Intern, Cressida and Vermellia. She felt a slickness on her face, and instinctively moved to touch it, wiping a smear of blood from under her nose.
She hated moments like these, when she'd get lost in her mind and have no idea what happened to her body.
"I'm fine," Paisley said hoarsely, surprised at how ragged her voice sounded. "But I saw something whilst I was mind-walking Miller's and CiCi's timeline... a strange face. I think it had enough power to block me."
"You just sorta fell down," Vermellia explained worriedly, sitting next to Paisley on the ground.
"Ugh," Paisley muttered, sitting up and instantly regretting it, as vertigo kicked in. "I need to know more about whatever it was I saw," she continued. "There's some kind of vast power behind CiCi."
"Oh, great," Cressida muttered. "Just what we need, someone else to worry about."
"It looks too dangerous," Intern protested, giving Paisley a tissue to wipe her nose.
"This whole thing is too dangerous," Paisley retorted. "We need to know more."
"Clearly, your mind can't handle the strain on its own," Intern replied firmly.
"Then let's do this together," Paisley suggested. "The Sisterhood of Karn usually always works as a group when doing these kinds of things. If we link our minds we can reinforce each other and protect each other on the mental journey. Sit down, form a circle and join hands."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Cressida agreed, sitting next to Paisley cross-legged and taking her hand. She took Intern's hand into her other hand, smiling. Intern linked hands with Vermellia, who completed the chain with Paisley.
"Good," Paisley exhaled under her breath, feeling the mental connections between all their minds. Intern's was strong and focused, even more so than her gentle exterior suggested, as expected of a Time Lord. Vermellia's was brisk and bubbly, filled with an almost irrepressible energy, despite the sadness that lurked beneath as a constant undercurrent. Cressida's was surprisingly placid and calm, almost zen-like, but with a bubbling cauldron of fire underneath waiting to be unleashed. And there was a strong connection to--
Paisley stopped herself from invading Cressida's privacy-- it was just hard, in the immediate rush of a first mental contact to not do that.
"All right," Paisley continued. "We need to focus and align our thoughts. The easiest way is to chant the same word at the same time. You'll feel stupid doing it at first, but it really does quickly establish sync." She began to chant, "See!"
After a few moments of false starts, the others began to chant in unison. "See!"
It felt to the quartet like the world melted away from them, replaced by an inky black void that suddenly filled with streaking stars. Represented by mental avatars of themselves, they found themselves staring at a huge projection of Admiral Miller's face, and then, like passengers on a roller coaster in an amusement park ride, they found themselves rushing up his left nostril. Then, they found themselves face-to-face with a giant-sized Ci-Ci, through whose ear they entered.
"Is mind-tripping always this trippy?" Vermellia asked.
"It can get much worse," Paisley replied, just as the group seemed to emerge into a smoky bar, somewhere in the distant realms of space.
"Where the heck is this?" Cressida asked, sitting on a barstool like a seasoned pro.
"Is this in Admiral Miller's mind?" Intern enquired.
"No, I think it's CiCi's..." Paisley surmised. "And this isn't in their head, per se-- we're viewing a moment in their timeline."
She, Intern and Vermellia also took seats at the bar. Presently, they saw Chibi-Chibi walk in... not the grizzled, chain smoking generalissimo they had encountered prior, but rather a sweet-looking young girl in a sailor-style dress.
"Chibi~" Chibi-chibi intoned sadly, hopping up onto a barstool with a booster seat.
"The usual, huh?" a seedy looking bartender asked, sliding her a glass of milk. Chibi-chibi nodded, replying "Chibi" in a sad, tired tone.
"I know," the Bartender replied. "It sucks that Galaxia forgot all about you when she decided to join that space-hippie commune, but getting your ass handed to you by a naked teenager after conquering 80% of the Galaxy would seriously f[BLEEP]k up anyone's mind."
"Chibi," Chibi-Chibi agreed sourly.
For a while, Chibi-Chibi did nothing more than stare down at her milk, the bartender checking on her from time to time. After what seemed like hours, a mysterious cloaked figure made his way into the bar, selecting a seat near Chibi Chibi.
Looking up to the Bartender, he waved a hand in front of his face. "Leave us," he commanded.
The Bartender's face went blank, and he moved away without another word.
"Whoa," Vermellia whispered. "Who's that guy?"
"Dunno, but he looks like the figure I ran into that booted me out," Paisley replied, adjusting her glasses. "Don't focus too hard on him."
The group turned their attention to the mysterious cloaked figure once more.
The cloaked figure stood by Chibi-Chibi's bar stool, looking down at her. "You have been abandoned, my child. Left behind so that your former host can live her life free of guilt, unfettered by the weight of her past crimes. Left behind for you to carry the taint of all the chaos. The taint of her drive, her ambition, her ceaseless hunger for conquest."
Chibi-Chibi nodded sullenly. but didn't say a word. The cloaked figure leaned in closer, whispering, but somehow his words rang clearly in the air. "You still have that hunger, that ambition, that need-- it has never left you. It gnaws at you, eats at you, suffuses your entire being~"
Chibi-Chibi turned her head and looked into the black, inky void that wad defined by the cloaked figure's hood. She could feel her very soul drawn into that infinite night.
"As I told your predecessor," the figure continued, "the galaxy is ripe for the plucking. All that is required is the will to act."
Chibi-Chibi continued to stare wordlessly, entranced by the yawning chasm of darkness before her. She could feel her heart beating faster, energy pulsing through her body, anger rising, desire rising...
"Will you just sit there as the cosmos laughs at you-- you, the heart and soul of the greatest warrior in the galaxy-- or will you rise? Will you rise and claim the destiny that is your birthright?"
Chibi-Chibi's eyes narrowed, and she reached over to the bar, grabbing a cigar that the bartender had left smouldering in an ashtray. Jamming it into her mouth, she growled and replied "Chibi... motherf[BLEEP]ker!"
"Good," the cloaked figure intoned with obvious pleasure. "Goood~"
Cressida frowned as she looked at the cloaked figure. "Why do I feel like I've seen that person before?" She wracked her memory. "Grandma showed me something once... a long time ago..."
Stepping aide, the Cloaked Figure revealed someone who had been standing behind him. A tall, dark-skinned woman in Sailor Senshi garb, carrying a large key-shaped staff with a glowing garnet orb inset on top.
"Sailor Pluto!?" Vermellia exclaimed. "But... I thought her powers had been stripped!"
"I gave her back her powers," the cloaked figure said to Chibi-Chibi, but for all the world it felt like he was addressing the group directly. "I found her dying of old age, a discarded, forgotten goddess of Time, and I gave her the means to awaken her belief in herself that far outweighed the paltry and fickle beliefs of Humanity. Now, she is reborn, and will serve our great cause."
Chibi-Chibi took a drag on her cigar and coughed a bit before replying hoarsely "So what's the f[BLEEP]king plan-chibi?"
"Revenge," the cloaked figure replied. "Revenge on the woman who made us all what we are." He gestured to Pluto. "The one who abandoned her motherly duties to this woman." He pointed to himself. "The one who exiled me and destroyed my body." He pointed to Chibi-Chibi. "And the one who destroyed your glorious future when she brainwashed your host into living a life of--" he spat-- "peace."
He growled and uttered her name like a curse. "Neo-Queen Serenity of the Crystal Millennium."
Chibi-Chibi kicked the bar in anger. "That s[BLEEP]t-stained motherf[BLEEP]ing c[BLEEP]!" she broke her toe and screamed "F[BLEEEEEEEEEEP]K!!"
The next few minutes were filled with incredible swearing.
The Cloaked Figure stood impassively and waited for Chibi-Chibi to stop. Clearly the chaos within her had chosen an interesting way to manifest.
"Even now, my latest plan-- to turn her daughter into a corrupted minion of Chaos-- was thwarted by the daughter of Venus, Sakura Xadium Aino. The Sailor Senshi united and brought her back to her senses."
Cressida gasped. That was her mom he was talking about... and the incident he was referring to was a famous one-- it was the night Chibiusa (as Serenity III) had been slated to take the throne, but thanks to brainwashing from Ami-- who herself had been brainwashed by Eudial-- Chibiusa had almost assassinated the entire Royal Court and half the Imperial Navy.*
* See Sakura's Tale, Part 3
Just who the hell was this guy!? Had he been the one who kicked that all off?!
"So we kill the b[BLEEP]ch," Chibi-Chibi concluded, puffing on her cigar more expertly.
"No," the cloaked figure replied. "We will do more than kill her. We will destroy her legacy and her legend." He pointed to Chibi-Chibi, a bony, yellowed, hand emerging from the cloak. "Through Sailor Pluto we have access to Time Travel. I will provide you with several minions gathered from history to ransack and destroy the home of her allies, who hold a powerful weapon we will need in order to accomplish our mission-- the Golden Crystal of Elysion."
"The one that got stolen from us!" Paisley realized in frustration.
Chibi-Chibi puffed on her Cigar. "How's a f[BLEEP]ing piece of hippie s[BLEEP]t going to help us?"
The cloaked figure cackled. "It has the power to allow one to enter the dreamlands, and from there, the dreams of others. With that access, I will give the Queen nightmare after nightmare, driving her mad, increasing her paranoia and fear. I will cause her to make mistakes, and unwise decisions. I will make her hated by the people, who will beg for her death. Her instability will ruin her legend, and then the people themselves will ask for her head."
Cressida's eyes widened as she realized... all those "dark years" her Grandmother had spoken of leading to the Nemesis War, when Serenity had started exiling people to the planet Nemesis, and then later holding her own senshi in thrall out of fear of them leaving her like her grandmother did... all of that craziness... this is what caused it?!
Her mind continued to race. The Nemesis War with the Black Moon clan... she'd read the history... there was more to it. Something clicked as she remembered.
"Death Phantom." She muttered the words without even thinking. A criminal who had unleashed massive gas attacks in Crystal Tokyo, who had been exiled to Nemesis, where he had fused with the planet and tried to use Chibiusa against her mother...
She looked back to the cloaked man. That was it! This was Death Phantom! Somehow, he'd survived!
"Can we stop him?" Paisley asked, feeling very guilty she'd let the crystal slip out of her hands.
"This means... he placed himself in the position of being exiled," Cressida realized. "He deliberately created a future where he'd be slighted by the Queen, which starts off the whole vendetta."
"It's a stable paradox loop," Intern realized. "We can't break it without unraveling the entire timeline. Everything from Chibiusa's escape to the past and everything that followed would be nullified, and that act actually has repercussions across several major timelines."
"That's right, Time Lord." Death Phantom stared right at Intern. "You are impotent before my machinations."
"He sees us!" Vermellia shrieked. "How?!"
"Well we are casting our minds out across time," Paisley explained in a bit of panic. "It's like a telepathic link.... which we better break RIGHT NOW! "
A giant skull seemed to fly from the cloaked figure's hood, breathing fire. It rushed at the girls, but Paisley broke the connection just in time, the skull winking into nonexistence just as it reached them.
The scene shifted to some kind of star base hidden in the shadow of Jupiter.
"Where are we now?" Vermellia asked.
"No idea, but that looks like Jupiter up there," Paisley replied. "And there's some kind of ship heading out from that base."
"Can we get closer?" Cressida asked. "There must be a reason we're seeing this."
"Is this the assassin's shuttlepod?" Paisley asked Intern as she directed the group's thoughts towards the shuttle.
"Wrong model entirely," Intern replied. "It doesn't comport with the records I pulled."
Navigating the strands of space-time, the group got a good view of the inside of the shuttle. Inside was none other than Admiral Miller, who was drinking some liquor and singing to himself "It's toime t'kill da Queen~"
Intern checked the instrument panel on the craft. "This is the day of the assassination attempt on Queen Serenity! "
"Miller's the assassin?!" Paisley asked incredulously. "That little gobsh[BLEEP]te?"
"I don't see a transplasmic whatchayhoohickey or whatever you call it in here," Vermellia said, looking around the back of the shuttle. "there's a regular sniper rifle here though."
Intern checked it over. "Hmm... the ammunition is the wrong type altogether..."
"So where's this thing heading, Mars?" Paisley wondered.
Cressida looked at the primitive 31st century controls. She wondered how people got by with buttons on their control panels. Most everything in the 51st century was controlled by thought on some level or another. "It looks like it's set for Lunar orbit... a geosynchronous orbit over the palace."
"There's a portable transporter in here," Intern noted. "He could be trying to shoot her from orbit. Fire off a round in the shuttle, beamed to the surface."
"So wait," Vermellia interjected, completely confused. "Does this mean there are two shooters? Miller and the guy on Mars?"
"How the hell do we deal with this?" Paisley complained. "We can't change the outcome of Miller's mission, can we? We've observed it, we're part of it now!"
Everyone looked to Intern with dismay. The scope of this was too big for them. There was no way they could catch up now.
Intern looked at the co-ordinates on the shuttle's dash and committed them to memory as well as other details. She then memorized the model and layout of the shuttle itself.
A slow grin spread on her face.
CYDONIA PLATEAU, MARS, MARCH 15th 3005
The assassin looked though the scope of her Transplanetary Sniper Rifle, lining up her target. She adjusted the rifle's beam emitter.001 arc seconds... getting the b[BLEEP]ch in her sights. With a smirk, she pulled the trigger and fired...
..the giant rifle SLAMMING back as it accelerated a shot to near light speed...
...a transwarp transporter beam capturing the shell...
...and rematerializing it inside Admiral Miller's shuttle, whose shields had just mysteriously dropped, where it plowed through Miller's skull, getting caught in the transport beam that was beaming in Miller's own shot...
...the ordinance DESTROYING Miller's shot as soon as it rematerialized in the Moon Palace, then self-destructing, sending only a small piece of non-lethal shot at the queen, grazing her skull and bloodying her forehead, caking her blonde hair with blood.
As the queen fell down in shock, a mad bomber burst on the scene, screaming "Free Mars" and detonating a small tactical nuclear weapon in the throne room-- at least according to the sensors.
"The Package has been delivered," Sakura April cackled, monitoring the feed and shutting down the Transplanetary Sniper Rifle.
"That was the goddamn trick shot of the FOREVER!" Vermellia yelled. From Mars. To Space. Through a shuttle, a guy's head, ANOTHER bullet, then to Earth and just NICKING the Queen! I can't believe it!" She high-fived Sakura April.
The Android grinned. "When you little s[BLEEP]ts came to me with the idea I knew I just had to try it," she cackled. "I have my pride as a Grenadier to preserve! It's a good time that Time Lord memorized the exact course, transponder codes and prefix code of that Blastich shuttle. It let me see inside and aim perfectly." Unlike the pure psychopath Cressida had fought earlier, this Sakura April of the future was much more in control of herself, having broken her programming and become her own master.
"So amazeballs," Vermellia exhaled, still overcome with awe. She could work a sniper rifle with deadly accuracy but this was light-years above her level.
"I can't believe WE were the second shooter," Cressida exhaled. When Intern had suddenly come out with the idea to use one sniper to take another out AND simulate killing the queen, everyone had thought her insane. But it had gone flawlessly. Intern had gone ahead with her TARDIS to off a scrambler flash bang to simulate a nuclear explosion in the Palace, and spirit Neo-Queen Serenity away. History's narrative would be preserved, they'd be able to get the Princess back to the past with a chance at a normal life, and now all that was left was CiCi, the Death Phantom and the giant Mudkip.
"That was a masterclass in historical manipulation," Paisley muttered. Jesus, she thought, these Time Lords don't d[BLEEP]k around.
"That's why they pay her the big bucks," Cressida said with a grin. "But now it's up to us to hunt down Death Phantom and CiCi."
"But how?" Paisley enquired. "With Miller dead, how do we find them?"
"I dunno," Cressida mused, crestfallen. He could be anywhere in Time and Space.
Vermellia sat on the ground, cross legged, her fully-unfolded Sniper Scythe leaning on her as she pondered the matter.
"Hmm..." she muttered as she mused.
"Hmmmmmmm....." she continued to murmur.
"Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...." she murmured much more loudly, finger pressed to her forehead in deep thought.
"OH MY GOD WHAT IS IT?!" Cressida and Paisely both yelled simultaneously, snapping her out of her reverie.
"Cosplay." Vermellia replied simply, looking at them like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Cosplay?" they both echoed back in a perfect stereo act.
"Cosplay," Vermellia repeated authoritatively, nodding profoundly.
"You'rrrrrrre gonna have to be a little more specific, sis," Cressida pressed. "How's Cosplay gonna help?"
Vermellia sprang up to her feet--how she did that from the lotus position no one could quite fathom-- and then began rapidly chattering as she explained enthusiastically, "well ya see guys this Death Phantom creep really has a hate-on for the Queen something fierce, I mean he started a war to kill her and got himself exiled to Nemesis just to hate on her some more and then travelled all throughout time and space just to get her dead again and so now if he thinks she died when we made it look like she died then he's gonna be satisfied and go off to do other Death Phantom-y stuff which sucks for us but if he thought she was still around he would definitely come looking for her and then WHAM! we can take him out One Two Three like a surprise run-in in a wrestling match!!"
Cressida and Paisley just looked at her.
"Paise, can you use some of your Block Computation whatchamacallits to make some Princess Clothes for Sis here?" Vermellia looked at Cressida expectantly.
Paisley looked at Cressida and grinned.
"Oh, nnonononononno," Cressida protested, flailing and trying to back away.
Sakura April grinned and pointed her .454 Casull at Cressida with a "this is happening" look on her face.
Cressida sighed as she felt her arm get grabbed.
"Come on, it'll be fun!" Vermellia insisted, dragging her cousin back to the pyramid, finding a room where she could get changed.
A FEW MINUTES AND A FIGHT OR TWO LATER
Cressida emerged from the Pyramid looking like a horrifying parody of Neo-Queen Serenity. Her massive mane of blonde hair had been mercilessly wrapped and tightened and shaped in a herculean attempt to approximate the long twin-tail style favored by the Queen, but it instead looked like two gigantic flaps of hair were cascading from her back. Her bangs were forcibly gelled into place with so much product that they looked like two croissants pasted to her head. Her bust had been taped back with so much duct tape that she couldn't breathe properly, and her dress was literally a tablecloth draped over her with holes cut out of it. The crescent moon symbol of the Crystal Millenium was a badly cut-out piece of construction paper taped to her head.
Sakura April was doubled over on the ground laughing. She would have probably s[BLEEP]t herself laughing as well, if she eliminated any waste rather than just burning it up in her body.
Vermellia made a "ta-dah!" motion, as if this was her greatest cosmetic triumph.
Cressida facepalmed, causing the crescent moon on her forehead to stick on her hand. "Oh god, this is never, ever going to work."
Intern sighed despondently, Vermellia didn't understand the problem, and Sakura April was still rolling with laughter.
Paisley looked over Cressida and grinned. "Oh, this will work perfectly," she declared. "All it needs is the finishing touch."
"The hell you say?" Cressida replied, incredulously. "What could possibly make this ridiculous outfit work?"
Paisley went into the shuttlepod and requested a beverage from the food replicator, coming back out with a faux bottle of vintage Cristal. "Hold this."
Cressida took the bottle of liquor into her hand, and suddenly the entire outfit made sense. For she was no longer cosplaying as the legendary Sailor Moon... she was cosplaying as the post-imperial anime-con boozehound failed nation-state of a leader that was Sailor Moon Cristal.
"Oh god, it's Genius," Cressida realized. "But what now?"
"Simple," Paisley declared. "Drink the entire contents of that bottle."
Cressida sighed and complied. Knowing her friends like she did, being drunk off her butt might be the best state of mind to be in going forward. They said their goodbyes to Sakura April and headed back to Earth-- next stop: an electronics store.
THE YEAR 3005, MARCH 22 -- A WEEK AFTER THE SERENITY ASSASSINATION
Death Phantom sat on the floor, rubbing his giant glass ball. He stared at it, eyeless sockets pointed in its direction. He continued staring. Serenity was dead-- shot in the head and vaporized in a nuclear explosion. Her lackeys were already putting the palace on lockdown, and the Crystal Millennium was in token grieving for the woman whose reputation he had so effectively ruined though his judicious use of the golden crystal. Revenge had been had, and it had been sweet.
The only problem was what to do next. CiCi was still in the future, attacking the Capitol with her giant mutated creature for reasons of her own. Death Phantom considered joining her and sacking the capitol, but, for some odd reason he felt a strong sense of ennui. With the Queen gone, he just felt unmotivated. Sure, he could gas the citizens of the city again, but they were already panicking over the attack on the palace, and so any additional chaos raised would simply be lost in the din of his initial success. The other Sailor Senshi were like motes to him, and were not worth his time.
He pondered what to do. He could retake Nemesis-- the planet had been rebuilt after his last encounter with the Senshi, and served as a colony world for those who wished only minimal contact with Crystal Millennium. But they were simple people living an agrarian lifestyle and blowing up farmers was just too easy.
He rubbed his ball again, staring at it. Staring. Staring. Staring. There had to be something to do. Anything.
In sheer desperation for stimulation, he tuned his Crystal Ball to the Sub-Etha net and decided to check on the latest viral videos of the day. He looked over the titles.
"You won't believe what happens when this Gungan sets foot on Arrakis for the first time!"
"A Vogon poetry recital that will leave you speechless!"
"What this Klingon does with her Bat'leth will shock you!"
"Yot thought she was dead, but this Ex-Queen's drunken rant on almost getting assassinated will have you in stitches."
"What happens when a Starship going Warp 9 hits a--"
Wait a moment.
Death Phantom stroked his ball tenderly and scrolled back to the last video, studying the thumbnail presented. It was hard to tell, but someone looking very much like Neo-Queen Serenity with a bottle of liquor in her hand was shoving her face up to the camera.
Frowning, he pressed play.
"Is this thing on?" Serenity mumbled, waving an empty bottle of Cristal around. "Oh. my. god," she exhaled, pressing her nose to the camera so it gave an amazing shot up her nostril. "I am so glad to be outta that castle," she groaned. "That f[BLEEP]ing sniper did me the best favor evaaa by letting me fake my own death and get out of my job, because who the f[BLEEP]k wants to work anyway~?"
She giggled and snorted, "Whoever hired that guy is like my hero. I mean, now I get to dump all my s[BLEEP]tty responsibilities on other people while I can just chill out and do my handsome man again and again and--"
The queen broke down into a giggling fit. "And I can go to anime cons and cosplay as myself and--" She shoved the camera into her face "--no one will ever know," she whispered conspiratorially, descending into a hysterical snorting gigglefit.
The video carried on in this vein for a few more minutes, with the Queen rolling around on the floor and laughing, huggling her bottle of Cristal and making ridiculous gang signs to the camera.
"She LIVES!" Death Phantom screamed, at once incensed and yet psychologically satisfied. Hurling his Crystal ball across the room, he watched it bounce off the wall and, before he could dodge it, it clocked him in the head, knocking him out.
When he came to, Death Phantom adjusted his hood and then looked at the video again. Thankfully the video hosting service's privacy-violating social sharing features included such helpful features as where and when the footage was taken, and links to the poster's social media profile.
Pulling up the profile, it took about five minutes for Death Phantom to narrow down the exact location of the drunken queen.
"Now I get to kill her all over again," Death Phantom chuckled to himself. And this time he would do it personally, so he could savour her suffering and death firsthand.
MARCH 23, 3005 - FREDDY FAZBEAR'S CRYSTAL PIZZA, 12:25 PM, MILLENNIUM BLVD E. AZABU-JUUBAN
Death Phantom strode into the Pizza Restaurant like a pagan god, throwing the doors open with his dark powers, and making his way in. According to her Spacebook, this is where the queen was slumming, hiding out with her friends and having drunken parties at all hours.
Hands sliding out from within his robes, Death Phantom charged his fists with power and cackled to himself. Had he still been capable of producing saliva, he would have been drooling at the prospect of wrapping his hands around the Queen's neck.
"Welcome to Freddy Fazbear's Crystal Pizza," an employee in a large plush Rabbit suit said cheerily.
Death Phantom blasted the mascot with murderous energy, sending it crashing backwards into a wall.
"Come out, Serenity!" Death Phantom demanded.
"Would... you... like to place... an order...?" the rabbit croaked, staggering back to its feet like a damaged clockwork toy.
Death Phantom turned his head towards the bunny again, realizing it was some kind of animatronic robot. He blasted it again, blowing its head off, again turning his attention to what lay in front of him.
"Misbeha...ving chi...dren will b...e...escorted outside..." the Rabbit spluttered, leaning down and picking its head up, slamming it back on its body.
Death Phantom raised his hand to blast it again, but the robot had suddenly LEAPT forward, clamping down its giant jaws on his arm.
"GRAH!!!" Death Phantom screamed, shaking his arm to try and fling the robot off, and discharging another blast of energy , blowing out the back of the robot's head.
The jaws remained locked in place.
"Yarr! Would ye like some cake!?" A robot pirate fox asked cheerily, JUMPING at Death Phantom and clamping its jaws down on his shoulder.
"RARRHH!! NO!!!" Death Phantom thrashed from left to right, trying to throw off the creatures.
"Candy time!" A female chicken robot chirped, DRIVING its steel beak right into the center of Death Phantom's chest.
"WHAT ARE ALL THESE GODDAMNED ANIMALS?!" Death Phantom screamed, tumbling backwards as the robots pushed him tot he ground, ripping and tearing at him like carrion vultures dissecting their prey.
There was a low bassy hum, and with a BLAST of power, Death Phantom vaporized the robots, staggering to his feet, robes torn, exposing his skeleton in places, ichor and negative energy leaking from his being.
"F[BLEEP]K!" he exclaimed. "What kind of establishment is this!? No child can eat safely here!"
"Would you like to register a complaint?" "Neo-Queen Serenity" asked, popping up from behind a counter and SLAMMING a fist roiling with golden energy into his stomach.
Death Phantom didn't have time to react, just feeling bones break, smashing through several walls and ending up in some kind of security office.
Firing a blast of negative energy from his hand, he attempted to counter, but the Queen just deflected it using a golden gauntlet on her wrist.
"Since when..." he spluttered, "does the Queen fight with her fists... or have armor..."
"Neo-Queen Serenity" shook her head, her hair loosening from its badly-done twintails, poofing back into a wild, semi-unkempt mane of blonde hair. She slammed her fists together, creating a shockwave that blew off her white dress, revealing a fancy vest-and-shorts combination underneath. "Sorry, pal, the Queen's not here~"
Death Phantom would have blinked had he still had, you know, eyes. He shuddered a bit. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded, pulling himself upright and off the desk he had been halfway embedded into.
"The name's Cressida Sumire Xadium-Aino," Cressida replied, her smile turning into a smirking grin. "And you're the Death Phantom, I presume~"
She cracked her knuckles.
"That's right!" Death Phantom yelled, using both hands to BLAST her with intense negative energy.
Cressida narrowed her eyes and batted the blast sideways with her Kinamantine gauntlets, sending the energy careening away through the ceiling, surprising patrons in the Chinese restaurant upstairs.
"You're not the badass you used to be," Cressida remarked, jerking her arm back, causing the gauntlet on her right arm to make a gun-cocking noise. "Without Planet Nemesis, you're really not all that tough." She leveled her arm at Death Phantom.
"Is that... a gun?!" Death Phantom shrieked. "You're some kind of senshi, are you not? Senshi don't use guns!"
"I'm a senshi's daughter, not a senshi" Cressida replied with a grin. "And you got a problem with girls with guns?" She made a punching motion and the gauntlet fired, sending a blast of energy out at Death Phantom.
Rolling sideways to get out of the way, Death Phantom sent another blast of energy out at her legs, causing Cressida to leap up and dive downwards, SMASHING her fist into the ground, shattering the floor and sending Death Phantom flying.
"Man," Cressida remarked with a grin, "for a guy that nearly destroyed the universe not too long ago, you sure have fallen~"
Death Phantom landed in a corner, raising his hands up and pleading "Oh, you're right! I am totally outmatched... Please spare me!"
Cressida instinctively backed up a step, having seen enough pro wrestling with her grandfather to know that someone begging off was usually getting ready to poke your eyes out the minute you got near.
Sure enough, Death Phantom's upraised hands went to his hood, which he began to pull back, revealing a weathered, battered skull... with a blackened Golden Crystal jammed into it.
Cressida's breath caught in her throat.
"Nemesis?" Death Phantom cackled. "who needs that, when I have the power of the entire realm of Elysion at my command!" He grinned and snapped his fingers, his robes and bones healing instantly.
The next instant his hand had blurred forward towards Cressida, and she found herself smashing though several walls and tumbling into the street, where she was hit by a truck and thrown into the air.
As her body hurtled through the air, she grinned. That was possibly the best thing he could have done for her. Due to her genetics, which were an odd combo of Time Lord, Venusian, and high-spirit powered human, unlike the other Venus senshi in her family, her powers didn't manifest in the same way-- the more kinetic punishment her body took, the stronger she became-- and being thrown through two walls and being hit by a Mack truck was about the heaviest combo one could throw at her.
CRASHing into the ground with such force that the ground cratered under, Cressida sprang forward with a massive Senshi leap that cleared the distance back to the pizzeria in one leap, her hair and eyes glowing golden in the night. Charging back inside, she saw Vermellia taking potshots at Death Phantom with her Sniper Scythe in gun mode, using her hyperspeed to zip back and forth around him so quickly he couldn't keep a lock on her position.
Jumping in between the hail of thunderous shots, Cressida took the opportunity to massively punch Death Phantom in the sternum, causing a huge shockwave that basically smashed the entire office, sending her and Vermellia flying back as the building started to collapse and implode.
Vermellia outran the implosion, but both Cressida and Death Phantom were caught under the rubble.
With an explosion of golden fire, Cressida punched her way out, her entire body surrounded by a golden aura.
"Damn, sis, you've gone all Super Saiyan~" Vermellia joked.
Cressida didn't reply, trying to hang onto the power. The one drawback to her ability was that unless she could keep her adrenaline up, the extra energy would begin to disperse rapidly. It was like keeping up a combo chain in a video game, she reflected.
"Did we get him?" Paisley asked, just arriving with Intern from their side mission to get the real Usagi Tsukino back in time to 2007 and safely out of history's way.
A massive explosion from the imploded building and a 40-foot high Death Phantom quickly answered that question.
"Well somebody made his monster grow", Paisley remarked bitterly.
"Fools!" Death Phantom boomed, stretching his arms outward. "Nothing you can do can stop me!"
Vermella jammed the scythe-end of her Sniper Scythe into the ground to anchor her rifle and loaded it with high-explosive ammo, firing massive .50mm shells into Death Phantom, each shot like thunder.
The shots tore through his body, and the damage instantly healed.
"No fair!" Vermellia protested. "He's godmoding!"
Death Phantom turned to gaze at her, and the next second it looked his his skull had rushed from his body and hit her-- but to the others she just seemed to be standing still.
"Vermellia?" Intern asked with worry as Death Phantom's skull hit her, and she froze as well.
"Guys!" Cressida yelled in a panic, before she was thrown to the ground by Paisley hitting her out of the way of another skull.
Throwing up a barrier, Paisley guarded herself and Cressida. "He's using some kind of high powered psychic attack!" Paisley quickly told her. "I saw it coming but with that crystal in his head the most we can do is defend, if I drop this barrier to attack we are f[BLEEP]ed!"
"What's happened to sis and Intern!?" Cressida asked frantically. They were the two most important people in the world to her, and seeing them just standing there frozen--!
Paisley shook her head. "Right now, they're on a mental battlefield fighting for their lives. Death Phantom might be a sh[BLEEP]te hand-to-hand fighter but it looks like he has mad mental powers."
"Any way we can help them?" Cressida asked, frustrated, her excess power fading, hair and eyes returning to normal. "I just feel so powerless!"
Paisley shook her head. "This is something they have to face for themselves."
PLANET ENERGY NEDE 2, OCTOBER 27th 5104 (Earth Relative)
"I'm going out to see father." Vermellia walked out of her home, a small, nondescript building in a busy outskirt of Central City. A young girl of seven, she skipped happily down a side street, pausing only to buy a small fruit from a vending box that was conveniently located down at the end of the alley. She was excited to see her father, who was always busy working at a government research laboratory, spending most of his time away from home. On her back she carried a small weapon-- a prototype sniper-scythe-- that she had forged herself as practice for learning the art of weaponscraft, using her grandmother's scythe and some other weapons she had seen offworlders use as a guide. She was excited to show it to her father, because she had managed to make a triple-mode, foldable, multipurpose weapon all by herself!
Eager to meet him, she strapped the weapon to her back and wrapped a small white cloak around herself to hide it. The Nedeans were highly peace-loving and disapproved of seeing weapons openly brandished in public by civilians, partially due to painful memories of their distant, warlike history and the actions of the Ten Wise Men-- biological weapons who sought to destroy the universe. In fact, the use of weapons outside of the military was basically illegal.
Putting on a burst of hyperspeed, she zoomed through the streets of the city, wending and winding her way through crowds and around vehicles so quickly it looked like she was just a blur of white passing by. Heading out further, she ran all the way to the town of Armlock, where the weaponsmiths there made the most amazing weapons that, ironically could never be used by their purchasers while on-world. Her father worked in the New Armlock Symbological Weapons Laboratory there.
Reaching the lab, she quickly realized something was amiss. The guards that would normally be posted outside were slumped down, sitting against the side of the building as if they were asleep.
The sickly smell of blood, however, wafted past her hyper-sensitive nose.
Father? she thought with worry. Did something happen to father?
She froze. This was a secure lab and she knew they had cameras checking the outside. She couldn't risk being seen!
Quickly, she slipped into the shadow realm and zipped forward to the side of the building, finding the blind spot of the security cameras. Hugging the side of the building, she made her way to the side, where there were some windows. Hopping onto some planters beside the building, she struggled to get high enough to see though the windows. Popping out her claws, she dug them into the walls, climbing up slowly until she could peek in the windows.
Looking in, what she saw horrified her. Scientists lay dead in the lab, blood gushing from their throats. Five men, killing other men. Her father, there with them... knives flashing--
Vermellia felt a sharp stinging headache come on, and for a moment the world went white. Then red. Only one thought filled her mind.
She couldn't allow this!
Without even thinking, her hand reached for the small of her back, pulling out her sniper-scythe. It was a tiny prototype for a tiny girl-- something that could easily have been mistaken for a toy. But it was real, and it could shoot, and it could cut. With one smooth motion she brought the folded scythe forward and unfolded it, jamming the butt into the window, shattering it.
The men with knives saw her. It would be the last thing they ever saw.
Bounding into the room at her best speed, Vermellia twisted in midair, fanning open the Scythe's blade, angling it to meet the throat of the first knife-wielder, whose jugular opened, spraying her face with a wet streak of red. Not stopping, she continued her ballistic course, reversing the blade and taking out the next belligerent by whipsawing around him and taking his head off with the blade, blood spraying out around her in circles as the head spun in the air.
The few remaining scientists who were still alive ran off in terror, grateful for their lives but in mortal fear of the demoness they saw before them.
Landing on her feet, she had the butt of the scythe pointed at the other two men, who, seeing that the blade was pointed away from them, assumed they were safe. Rushing towards her with knives drawn, they were blasted back forcefully as she fired off two thunderous shots that sent her reeling backwards as well.
Then the fifth man attacked her, and instincts on overdrive, she brought her blade back around and cut him down where he stood, his arterial spray covering her as he fell.
Standing there in shock, the enormity of what she had just done sunk in. Vermella's hands began to tremble, and she dropped to her knees, screaming in despair.
That's when even more men came. Men with guns. Wave after wave after vengeful wave.
The light faded from Vermellia's eyes as some kind of primal survival instinct kicked in. She fired a shot from her scythe that sent her tumbling over, but knocked down some of the men. Then she rose, her hooded cape now soaked red with the blood of her enemies. A low, angry cat-like growl rose from her throat and then she charged forward, scythe blade sideways, blocking incoming fire, shooting off rounds to propel her ahead even faster, metal meeting flesh in sick thuds, again and again, the scythe singing as it cut through the air, a barrage of limbs flying forth from the grim dance of death.
Eventually, the men stopped coming. Those innocents who had survived ran, and told tales of the "Red Girl" who had carved a path of blood amongst their fellows.
For her part, Vermellia could not bear to look upon her dead father, and she fled, as far and as fast as she could. Away. Just far away. She knew she could never go home, that she was a murderer--even if for the right reasons-- and that she could never face her mother again.
She stood upon a cliff, Scythe in hand, looking down at Central City. She stood at the edge. All she had to do was...
"Step forward, little murderess. Step forward and disappear."
The voice was Death Phantom's. He was behind her, breathing down her neck, words hot and sinister.
Vermellia gulped. She knew this voice from somewhere. But how...
"One little step and you can pay for your sins," the voice continued.
"My father..." she croaked hoarsely, unable to complete the sentence. "How can I live with what I s--"
"You can't, Vermellia Rosso," the voice continued, almost cheerfully. "You're soaked in the blood of men. You're disgusting, vile, a beast,the lowest of the low, a common murderer."
Vermellia nodded, and made to step forward but something in her soul resisted. Those men she'd killed... she hadn't done it for no reason... they had been killing people... and her father...
"You should die for your crimes," Death Phantom pressed. All he had to do was get her to take one little step, and she would fall, and her mind would believe her dead, and then her body would follow suit.
Vermellia teetered, literally on the precipice of life or death.
"That blood-stained scythe," Death Phantom insisted. "Proof of your heinous evil! See how it is soaked in your sin!"
Vermellia looked at the Scythe, which had been a cute blue-and-white two tone color before her encounter with the killers in the lab. Its crescent blade was soaked totally red with blood.
There was a pang in her mind as the Scythe blade seemed to change-- from a small crescent to a more complicated folding one, a blade which was painted red by design... rather than by blood. A larger blade, for a larger weapon.
Her partner. The Weapon she had dubbed "Crescent Claw".
Vermellia blinked again. The bloodsoaked white shirt she wore was black now, and her sleeves were black. Her arm looked older, stronger. The weapon she held was more dangerous, yet somehow noble.
"Just let yourself die," Death Phantom hissed. "Demon. You deserve to die~ You bring nothing but misery! You revel in carnage!"
Vermellia bristled, a growl rising from her throat. "I... fight... to protect those who CAN'T PROTECT THEMSELVES!" She spun around quickly, her scythe making a SHING noise as it cut through the air and the spectre of Death Phantom, which wavered and reformed. "What I did, I did to save the lives of the other people in that lab! It took me years to come to terms with it, but I have!"
"And what about everything you saw that day~" Death Phantom pressed, a smile in his voice. "Even now, you still deny the darkest truth of all~"
Vermellia felt a sharp pain in her head, and she staggered, holding one side but keeping her Scythe leveled at Death Phantom. "SHUT UP!" she screamed.
Death Phantom laughed. "You can't hold out forever, child~ I will wear you down, tear you down, destroy your mind~"
He waved his arm and the spectres of the dead men Vermellia had just killed in her memories danced before her in a grim fandango.
Vermellia stared at the men she had killed and her eyes widened. But she forced herself to remember the others. The others who cared for her. Her mom. Her aunt. Her cousin who might as well be her sister. All her friends back in Tokyo. They showed up behind her, an army of good and happy memories, all ready and willing to crush the bad ones before her.
Death Phantom laughed again, haughty as ever. "You don't have the will to stop me, girl."
Vermellia scowled. "At the age of 7 I had the will to walk the path of blood and save the ones I could. And... even on the days when I stopped believing in myself... all those people behind me, they kept the faith. They believed in me when even I couldn't. they kept me going, kept me smiling, kept me realizing that I still had a lot to offer the world. They kept me alive... and compared to that... you're a small fry, Skeletor."
Death Phantom simply snapped his fingers and the entire scene shifted to a hellish landscape of fire. The heat was unbearable, and the flames burned Vermellia with such intensity all she could do was scream.
"Speaking of 'Fry'," Death Phantom continued, "Why don't you try doing that. Here in my mental wonderland, my will is absolute. There is no way you can beat me."
"I don't.. have to beat you now," Vermellia forced herself to say, even as her flesh boiled and her vision blurred. "Coz.." She spat superheated blood, unable to speak any longer, dropping to the ground, face sizzling into boiling fat.
"Because what?" Death Phantom asked, slightly urgently, reversing the effects of the illusion enough to give Vermellia her body back, if badly scorched. "Because what, you miserable wretch?" He laughed, wanting to hear her pathetic reply before he let her fry again.
"Because..." Vermellia continued, coughing but grinning, "I already beat you... thirty-five hours ago."
Death Phantom laughed uproariously. "Is that all you have, girl? That weak bluff?"
"Is it a bluff?" Vermellia asked, forcing herself to her feet, staggering. "You're in my head, right? Search my feelings and ask yourself-- am I bluffing?"
Death Phantom paused, searching her thoughts. There was no trace of deception. But... how? There was no way she could beat him. He held the golden crystal of Elysion!
"I see you're confused," Vermellia continued, sounding stronger, her body no longer appearing damaged as Death Phantom's consternation had weakened his hold on her mind. "Allow me to explain."
She then pulled forward her memories, setting the scene in which the two combatants stood.
TEN'OU HOUSE, JUNE 2004
"Hmm," rei.bot muttered, "it looks like someone tried to break into the Time Proof Safe."
"Whoa," Jedite exclaimed in shock at her utterance, "a sentence." The miko usually only spoke in one word sentences or very brief clipped phrases.
"Crossed wire," Doctor Xadium replied dismissively, to rei.bot's ire. "Someone tried to steal the Golden Crystal."
"Did they get it?" Minako asked.
"Yes and no," Xadium replied, possibly somewhat unhelpfully, as Minako just looked at him quizzically.
"It's Time Proof," Xadium explained slowly. "Time does not flow inside, so you can't take anything from it because it isn't in the Time Stream, but you can temporarily take out copies."
"What the f[BLEEP]k use is that?" Jedite asked mockingly.
Xadium sighed. "Well, a Time Lord can extract items from the safe. Others just get temporary copies that will degrade in time as they are from alternate timelines. It's great security."
Vermellia paused for a moment to let that factoid sink in, and then fast-forwarded her recollections.
The Intern knelt by the Time-Proof safe and inputted some master override codes, opening it. "Ooh, lemme see!" Past Vermellia yelled, shoving her aside and peeking in, shoving her hand inside the safe.
"Vermy!" Cressida yelled. "Chill out, what's gotten into you?!"
Past Vermellia grinned. "Sorry, sorry, I'm just so excited!" She fumbled in the safe and pulled something out. "Hey look, is this it?" She held up the Golden Crystal for everyone to see, closing the safe door.
"So that's what it looks like when it's not jammed into Elios' skull, eh?" Paisley remarked, taking the Crystal from Past Vermellia, hefting it, feeling its strange warmth in her hand.
Past Vermellia's left ear twitched as she heard the denizens of the house returning. "Hey, I hear people coming in, we gotta hide!" she whispered, ushering the others to out of the way spots.
At that moment, Chris J. walked in the room slowly, but confidently, musing about his station in life. Unnoticed as he was by anything female, it was a simple matter for him to palm the Golden Crystal from Paisley Pythia Peinforte's hand, as she, like the others, did not even seem capable of seeing him. It was their loss, he consoled himself, in more ways that one as he slid the crystal into the folds of his Kimono and silently made his way away from them, mingling effortlessly with the incoming midnight crowd of Ten'Aino House, none of whom could be bothered to pay him any mind either. With deliberate pace, he at once cursed and celebrated his destined anonymity and melted into the crowd, alone in a sea of many... always alone. Painfully alone. Tragically alone.
Vermellia of the present waited for Death Phantom to make the connection.
"It was... your hand that took the Crystal from the safe... not the Time Lord's..." Death Phantom realized. "Which means..."
"Which means all you've got is a temporary copy!" Vermellia chirped. "Which should be expiring... right abooout...." She looked at her wristwatch and grinned. "Nowish!"
Death Phantom let out a scream of rage as the Blackened crystal in his head just began to boil away, lost to the time winds.
With a POP, Vermellia came back to her senses on the Tokyo street of the year 3005, just in time to see the 40 foot high Death Phantom start shrinking back down to normal size.
"My POWEEEEEER!!!!" he screeched as he shrank back to normal size.
"Don't worry," Cressida quipped, "it happens to every guy sometimes~"
Death Phantom fired a bolt of dark power from his hand, but it was little more than a fart of black wispy smoke.
Unceremoniously, he turned and began running away, tripping on his robes, falling facefirst into the rubble of the Freddy Fazbear's Crystal Pizza as Cressida leapt into the air, driving her fist down into the small of his back so hard a shockwave exploded all around them, liquefying some of the rubble.
Death Phantom passed out as his skeleton was partially pulverized. Paisley wasted no time tying him up, gagging him with a ball gag and restraining him on a plank Hannibal Lecter style.
"Where did you get a ball gag?" Cressida asked curiously, raising an eyebrow.
"You don't want to know," Paisley muttered. "So this just leaves CiCi and that goddamn mudkip."
"We'll take the TARDIS," Intern declared, preparing to go get it. "There's someone we need to collect from 2010."
"Wait," Cressida requested for a moment. "What happened to you when Death Phantom hit you?"
Intern looked at her sadly. "I saw something I really didn't want to." She patted Cressida on the shoulder. "I'll tell you when this is all over." She turned and headed for the TARDIS.
"Everything okay?" Vermellia asked Cressida.
"I... dunno," Cressida replied, getting a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.
The first rule of
POKEMON FIGHT CLUB...
CRYSTAL TOKYO, 3027, CRYSTAL PALACE
"Yeheheheyess... YES!!" CiCi shook her fist in the air as her giant 90-meter high mudkip slowly stomped its way through the Imperial Capitol. Now that the Queen had been assassinated and Death Phantom was off somewhere fapping to his damn Golden Crystal, there was nothing standing between her and her ultimate goal--taking over the Crystal Millennium. Sure she had told Death Phantom it was just a distraction move to get the Senshi out of the past so their minions could get the crystal, but why waste a perfectly good chance? She had the Elemental Senshi on her side keeping Unazuki and Sakura busy, the Imperial Navy's present-day Admiralty senshi were crippled, and all the next-generation allies of justice were still running around in the past willy-nilly.
Then she heard the words.
"ARTEMIS, I CHOOSE YOU!"
CiCi looked in the distance... were those the future kids? With Death Phantom tied up to a board? Uh-oh. And why did they have that white Lunar cat? And that Mountain Dew Vending Machine?
Inside her TARDIS, Intern flipped a lever sending a beam outwards from an emitter located in the bill collection slot of the machine's Vending Machine exterior. The beam struck Artemis, manipulating his dimensional structure, causing him to rapidly grow in size, quickly rising to dwarf the skyscrapers of Tokyo and the Crystal Palace.
"What the S[BLEEP]T is THAT CO[BLEEP]KSUCKING B[BLEEP]LLSHIT!?" CiCi swore, tossing her cigar on the ground and stomping it. How could they just walk in here and MAKE A GIANT-ASS CAT?!!?
Artemis rose above the city, feeling large and strong, bigger than ever before, inside and out. The buildings were so tiny, and the hovercars looked like ants. They moved so quickly-- he was tempted to reach out and grab them-- but in front of him there was something even better... a giant FISH.
The mudkip ceased its advance and turned towards Artemis slowly, giving out a low, bellicose roar.
Artemis licked his lips and pounced, slamming into the side of the giant Pokemon, sending them tumbling into some adjacent buildings.
"Wait! No!" CiCi complained. "You can't just do that! You can't just send in a GODDAMN CAT!"
Down on the ground, Vermellia, Cressida and Paisley looked up and gave play-by-play.
"Artemis used tackle!" Cressida yelled. "It was super effective!"
"Whoa it's picking up a giant boulder!" Vermellia pointed out. "Look out, Artemis!"
The boulder flew through the air, almost hitting Artemis, but he shot a beam from the crescent moon on his forehead, shattering it.
"It doesn't affect Artemis!" Paisley cheered. "How is Artemis going t--"
She doubled over, going green in the face as she saw his feline counterattack..
Cressida winced and looked away, muttering "Artemis used neckbite, wiggle and neckbreak. It was super effective."
Vermellia wondered why the others were all traumatized. "What? He's a cat, it's a fish!" She drooled. "I hope he saves me some of it!!"
"I'm a vegan," Cressida reminded her, nauseated by the sight of Artemis tearing into the mudkip like it was a happy meal, blood, guts and intestines sploshing all over the city.
"I'm part cat so this is all good to me~" Vermellia said with a grin, thinking fishies!
As CiCi watched Artemis tear into the remains of her mudkip like a Berserker Evangelion unit into the fourteenth angel "Tastiel", she knew it was time to
Whistling slowly, she turned and began walking quickly away from the others, hoping to catch up with her Elemental Senshi.
"We got a runner!" Vermellia yelled as she spied CiCi moving off.
"F[BLEEP]k!" CiCi shrieked, running quickly into an alleyway, clambering up to a rooftop and bounding away at a fast clip towards the crystal palace.
Vermellia took off as fast as she could, a blur streaking right for CiCi, but the midget kicked a garbage can in her way right at the last second, sending her crashing into a wall at high speed, temporarily knocked out. Paisley, Cressida and Intern hurried to catch up, but by then the smaller girl had made it back into the palace.
"Elemental Senshi, to me!" CiCi yelled, calling them back from their battle with Sakura and Unazuki, who were just at the point of defeat.
"Yes, CiCi-sama!" Venus saluted and ran for her, then vanished.
CiCi froze. What...
"BAM!" Ten'ou Haruka yelled as Sailor Lead Crow held up a glowing Sailor Crystal she had just retrieved with her Starseed extractor gauntlets.
"YES they finally made it!" Cressida cheered as she, Vermellia, Paisley and Intern ran in.
"Hello~" Haruka said in a low, sultry voice as she noticed Cressida's chest.
"Oh, EWW!" Cressida yelled in disgust. "Aunt Haruka, NO!"
"Aunt what." Haruka locked up as she hit brainfreeze. At that moment, the remaining elemental senshi chose to attack her, as well as Crow, Siren, Jedite, Professor Tomoe, Sakura, and Unazuki.
As Crow and Siren tried to retrieve the sailor crystals of the Elemental Senshi, CiCi leapt for the Time Gate, jumping back in.
"Oh no you don't!" Cressida yelled, following her in.
"You'd think someone would have blocked the bloody door!" Paisley yelled, piling in after them both.
"Wait up!" Vermellia protested, jumping in.
Intern froze momentarily by the door, even as she was surrounded by the fracas of battle around her, remembering what had happened to her when Death Phantom had assaulted her mind.
GALLIFREY - THE UNTEMPERED SCHISM - THE TIME WAR
Intern found herself as a young girl the age of eight-- not yet The Intern, but just a young child named Neminixsonara, staring deep into the heart of the Time Space Vortex, a rite of initiation that all children of Gallifrey underwent. It was here that she would choose the path that would shape her destiny. Currently she was angry, bitter, hateful and filled with rage. Seven years ago, while she was still an infant, her entire House had been exterminated by the Daleks, and ever since she had become sentient she had let a burning hatred for them burn in her hearts.
Looking into the Schism-- a natural rift that connected Gallifrey to the backbone of the causal web that linked the whole of Time and Space, she had sought her answers. What would she become? A vengeful warrior of destruction? Would she go mad as so many others had, incapable of handling the majesty of creation that lay bare before her?
In the past, in this moment that Death Phantom had sent her to in her memories, she had seen great beauty and joy in the universe. She had recognized that no matter how heavy her suffering, there was so much good in the universe that outweighed it. Good that was precious and in need of protection. She had chosen the path of a warrior, but that of a warrior for peace.
In this present, she stood there again, at the precipice of fate.
"You have failed," Death Phantom whispered in her ear. "You can never save the ones you love. You should cast yourself into the time winds and end the farse." He pointed a bony finger at the vortex, pointing to a singular moment.
Intern followed his gaze, seeing the Time Gate of the 31st Century on Earth, and Cressida jumping into it. Then she saw the scene shift to a larger, more Eldritch gate somewhere in the vicinity of Tau Ceti. There, she saw Cressida shatter the gate, and obliterate her own existence in the process, erasing her own timeline, Paisley and the others helpless to stop her.
"You can't protect her. You can't protect any of them," Death Phantom cooed.
"Thank you for the information," Intern replied coldly. "Now get out of my mind."
Before the Death Phantom could protest, she had literally pushed him out of her head by force of will. She'd allowed him in with a sense of curiosity, interested to see what he would attempt... but this... she'd have to stop Cressida when the time came!
* * *
Breaking out of her involuntary memory, Intern leapt through the gate as Haruka and the others continued their battle. Behind her, Sakura was thrown in as well due to an explosion.
AN ASTEROID IN ORBIT OF TAU CETI III , 3027
CiCi skidded to a stop on a dark, blighted asteroid whose ground was composed of a seemingly infinite sea of glassy jagged stone.
Above her, the inky blackness of space loomed, with only the reflected sunlight from Tau Ceti F providing any illumination. Around her, there was nothing but the planet which filled the sky and a door, several hundred feet high-- a door that seemed to have been made for giants, at least fifty feet wide, its borders composed of intertwined skulls and bones, bleached and reddened by exposure to the interstellar elements. A more fanciful observer might have said they were caked with blood. It was covered with inscrutable hieroglyphs no man had ever inscribed.
She knew, deep in her bones that this was not a place anyone should ever be. This was not a place for mortals. The chaos deep in her heart screamed.
Touch it. It's all right to touch it.
No. She stood fast.
CiCi forced herself to stay rooted in place, but as she stood staring at the massive door, its ebonite presence overwhelming her, she felt her arm rise of its own volition. There was a song in her mind... beckoning, calling. A dreamlike song of comfort, of warmth, of acceptance~
Despite herself, CiCi went closer to the door.
"STOP!" Sakura Xadium Aino screamed, hitting the ground running, flanked by Cressida, Paisley, Intern and Vermellia.
"What is this place?," Vermellia asked in awe, staring at the door even as it seemed to stare into her.
"This is... oh my god," Cressida gasped, her breath catching. She'd seen pictures of this damned thing... one of the most fortified positions in the galaxy in her day...
"Apotheosis Bridge," she and Sakura said at the same time, looking at each other in dread terror.
"Help me, please..." CiCi begged, still walking towards the door. "I can't... control my goddamned body..."
"What's an Apothecary bridge?!" Vermellia asked, as she dashed forward and tackled CiCi, trying to pin her to the ground even as the smaller girl struggled to be free of her grip and make it to the door-- all she had to do was touch...
"It's the god-damned gate the Tairon Overfiend used to enter our universe," Cressida replied, hatred dripping from her voice, as Sakura looked at her askance, eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"Cressida--" Intern started to interrupt, but the blonde cut her off.
"In a little over thirty years," Cressida began, not giving a damn about the rules of time travel at this point, "There's going to be another clash at the time gate that affects this door, and allows the Tairon access to two people in the Imperial Capitol." She looked to Sakura significantly.
Sakura looked away. She remembered. She had been one of those two people.
Continuing, Cressida's voice became wracked with sorrow. "Eighty-Five years after that, some damned cult performs a human sacrifice at this gate, casting it open far enough for them to actually enter our universe. What follows next--"
"--is nearly three thousand years of war," Sakura finished.*
"Yeah," Cressida replied. "I never saw Earth when I was growing up. It was a burnt out pit people spoke of only in whispers."
"Who the hell are you?" Sakura asked her angrily.
"Someone who grew up hearing about the pain and suffering those bastards caused every day, even if my family tried to keep me ignorant of it," Cressida forced herself to respond, almost sobbing. "Someone who saw... her mother... constantly eaten up by the pain and memories of that time..." She stamped her foot on the ground in anger.
Sakura looked at her again, this time with fresh eyes. How could she have not noticed the family resemblance?
As Sakura looked at her, Cressida looked back at the portal opened by the Time Door. She cast her throughts towards it, reaching out through space and time to people she both knew and did not know, asking them a simple question that mirrored the one in her thoughts*
* What follows next was an outcome voted upon by the Suburban Senshi fan community.
"Are you--" Sakura began hesitantly.
"Lady Blyledge!" Intern snapped. "You know the first law of time!"
"And if you're lecturing me, kiddo, that means I'm on the right track, so it's pointless telling me!" Sakura snapped, turning back to Cressida. "You're my kid, aren't you."
"My name," she said slowly, "is Cressida Sumire Xadium-Aino, and..." she slammed her fists together, creating a small blast of fiery golden energy. "...and I'm going to destroy this god damned gate."
Sakura's eyes widened. "You can't!" she frantically protested. "It'll seriously damage the timeline! Our history!"
"You just watch me," Cressida said darkly, heading for the door. "Just stay there and watch me!"
"NO!" Sakura yelled. "Please, listen! Don't you think if things were that easy I wouldn't have done that ages ago?!" She pointed to some displaced stones on the ground. "I... found this place too. Years after I'd already sold my soul to the devil to try and stop them."
She looked at Cressida with pleading eyes. "I'd do anything to reverse what I did... but so much more has come out of that..."
"NOTHING came out of that!" Cressida snapped back. "Humanity didn't become stronger. It didn't forge better alliances with other races! It didn't snap back brighter and bolder than ever! The candle of humanity flickered and nearly went out! We entered a dark age that lasted over a thousand years!"
"Cressida..." Intern began gently, sensing how dangerously unstable she'd become, "the web of time is very fragile, and this is a fixed--"
"SHUT UP!" Cressida screamed. "I don't want to hear it! Even if I have to wreck all of history, I'm stopping this!"
"But you might make things worse!" Vermellia pointed out, driving a knee into CiCi's back to keep her down.
"Cressida, if your mom and Intern both tell you this is a bad idea, it probably is," Paisley said very carefully, mentally incanting, trying to create a Block Transfer Construct of a rope or something she could use to hold the girl back.
"You didn't grow up hearing her cry at night. You didn't grow up hearing her wake up screaming from nightmares!"
Sakura put a hand on her shoulder. "Cressida... if this is for me... then forget about it. I accepted my fate the minute I let the Tairon into my mind to try and tackle their Dream. I'm at peace with that."
"Yeah well I'm NOT!" Cressida jerked her shoulder away. "You raised me on the legends of the Suburban Senshi. The people who made the impossible possible. Who laughed in the face of fate and refused to accept any kind of wretched predestiny!"
"Some things... can't be changed..." Sakura replied softly. "No matter how much you want to..."
"Were those stories lies?" Cressida challenged her mother, going eye-to-eye, her purple eyes shifting to a fiery gold as her temper rose.
Sakura's brown eyes, flecked with gold, met hers. "They weren't. But as a famous Earth Philosopher once said, 'a man's got to know his limitations.'"
"Yeah, and ANOTHER famous human philosopher said 'Overcome the impossible and kick reason to the curb!'" Cressida turned away from her. "I'm gonna do this."
Sakura tightened her fist, and began to draw her sword. "And I'm... gonna have to stop you."
Cressida's grim expression suddenly shifted into a cocky grin.
"LIKE HELL!" she declared, and holding absolutely nothing back, SLAMMED Sakura in the stomach with her hardest punch, actually denting the adamantium underplate that Sakura lined her vest with. There was an explosive BLAST of golden energy, and Sakura went flying backwards, soaring around the tiny planetoid at blinding speed.
Cressida stayed exactly where she was, waiting for her mother to complete the forced orbit. Within seconds Sakura screamed towards her... and Cressida let her ram into her at full speed.
The blast was like a thunderclap, but the kinetic energy transfer instantly powered Cressida up to full power, her blonde hair going fiery gold, and golden energy starting to waft from her fists.
Gently shoving Sakura aside, she ran for the gate.
Sakura cursed and pointed two fingers at her, mentally wracked with grief at what she had to do. She aimed for the back of Cressida's head. "CRESCENT BEAM!"
She fired a lethal shot.
"DEFLECTED!" Vermellia yelled, swinging her Scythe around and Batting the shot off into orbit, CiCi having been tied up with the rope Paisley had made for Cressida.
"Vermellia!" Intern screamed in a panic. She had to stop this! Cressida was going to undo her own timeline!
"I got your back, sis!" Vermellia yelled. "Take 'er down!"
Cressida nodded and broke into a full senshi run. She knew the legends, that to touch the gate meant instant death. She wasn't going to be that stupid.
Sakura put her fingers to her lips, kissed them and fired off a huge Venus love-and-beauty shock at Cressida, but watched it shatter against a huge hex barrier Paisley had erected.
"Sorry, Sakura!" Paisley apologized. "But I'm gonna trust that you raised your kid right!"
Sakura froze. What...
""You raised me on the legends of the Suburban Senshi. The people who made the impossible possible. Who laughed in the face of fate and refused to accept any kind of wretched predestiny!"
"Overcome the impossible and kick reason to the curb!"
Yes. She'd obviously done just that. Unlike herself-- an optimist who had become a war-weary pragmatist, she had raised her child on stories of hope, optimism and overcoming the odds... maybe her way of trying to prevent her mistake of the past from ever happening again...
..or indeed, ever having happened at all.
Against all her training as a Time Lord, Sakura opened her mouth and yelled. "CRESSIDA! DO IT!! DO IT!!"
Cressida grinned, leaping into the air. "YOU GOT IT, MOM!!"
"No!" Intern cried. Why was Lady Blyledge allowing this?! Her own daughter would--
With a SMASH, Cressida punched the air in front of the gate with all her might, pouring all her power and hope into the strike, a compression wave forming that SMASHED into the structure with a low basso-profound sound, energy rippling up and down the structure and then seemingly dissipating.
Cressida landed on the ground and dusted off her knees as her mother came over to her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Intern breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like Cressida's best hadn't been good enough, thankfully.
Then, the sound of a crack. And another. And another. A snap. A pop. A rumbling.
The Gate started to vibrate, slowly at first, then faster, as the infrastructure split apart like cracking ice under the heat of the sun.
And then, the trillion-year old gate imploded as the Dream of the Tairon screamed out in rage, the realm of Man forever lost to them, their precognitive dreams of triumph crumbling to dust with their gateway.
A shower of millions of tons of Debris began to fall.
Quickly, Cressida grabbed Intern, leaping away from ground zero with her as Paisley jumped away with CiCi, and Vermellia fired some shots from her Sniper-Scythe, flying away from the scene.
After the collapse, the group stood in front of the rubble.
"This... was a fixed point..." Intern said, voice shaky... "That gate should not have fallen... this isn't going to create a new timeline... it's going to rebound and reshape this one..."
She squeezed Cressida's hand. "And... I saw... you..." tears welled in her eyes.
"I'm not going to make it, am I?" Cressida asked, still wearing a smile. "That's okay." She wiped a tear off Intern's cheek. "Because everyone else will."
History began to rip and shudder, the timeline known to the Time Lords as 1337-B juddering and rewriting. Where there was once pain, there was peace. Mankind rose, unfettered, to a greater destiny. Yes, there were wars, but they were nowhere near as brutal or destructive as the Tairon's hellish machinations.
But at the same time, a lone child of a Sailor Senshi who had been harried to the point of transforming into a Sailor Senshi full time never had that trauma, and never met her full potential. And she fell in one of those minor wars. And with her end, came the end of her line.
Sakura felt herself fading, and saw the same in Cressida...
"I guess we're both going..." Sakura observed dryly, giving her daughter she would never know a hug.
"But..." Cressida began, starting to cry, "I..."
"It's okay," Sakura said with a smile. "Everyone's gonna be okay."
"I won't!" Intern yelled.
"Me neither!" Vermellia yelled too. "We need you both!"
Vermellia herself started to fade. Without Sakura around to take her in as a child when she had run away from home, she would never find a new cause to live, and she would end up dying alone in a neglected corner of Fun City.
Cressida began to panic. Not Vermellia too! This wasn't what she wanted! But she was fading and...
Paisley tried to scry the changes and show Intern the rapidly fluxing timeline but there was too much... history was going haywire and there was no way... no way to fix it... even if they wanted to...
Intern frantically looked over the entire timeline, if only there was some way... but it would only be seconds before Sakura, Cressida and Vermellia were gone forever!
"THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!" she screamed in frustration, dropping to her knees and pounding the ground.
"Then it's time to do the motherf[BLEEP]ing impossible," said a new voice from behind them. Ten'ou Haruka.
"ONIGAY SLIVAR KISTAL!" Chibiusa yelled, fanning out from behind Haruka, sending a blast of energy into the time gate.
Michiru. Tomoe. Jedite. Hotaru. Minako. Elios. Crow. Siren. Ami. Makoto. Rei. Artemis. rei.bot. Even Sakura April. They were behind Chibiusa, who had transformed into an older version of herself wearing the royal dress of the Crystal Millennium, lending her their thoughts and their power, pouring it all into the Time Vortex.
"HEAR OUR WISH!" she commanded.
"We're family!" Haruka declared. "All of us! We're one big f[BLEEP]d up dysfunctional family and we are NOT letting you guys go! Even if we haven't met you yet!"
Intern and Paisley joined them, pouring all their wishes into the Time Vortex, wishing for a way that history could heal without losing Sakura and everyone she touched. Wishing against all odds for a miracle.
As they did that, the ropes Paisley had made dissolved, her concentration having shifted. CiCi saw her chance, broke free from her bonds and leapt into the Time Vortex, a shattered fragment of the Tairon dreaming that had touched her mind when she had first arrived on the planetoid-- the last piece in the universe-- going with her.
And then, history changed again. In 3382, Sakura and CiCi met and battled, the fight so desperate and bloody that Sakura was forced to stay in her Venus form for too long, cementing it into permanence. In that State, Sakura took the Tairon into her mind, and its taint... but this time, defeating and destroying it due to its inability to connect with the rest of its kind.
Cleansed, CiCi fled back into the time vortex before Sakura could arrest her, but Sakura herself had gained full use of her power.
In the present of 3027, Sakura, Cressida, and Vermellia re-solidified.
"We did it!" Minako cheered, clutching her Sailor Crystal which Lead Crow had gotten back for her, and placing it in her cleavage.
"You're supposed to absorb it into your body," Hotaru said dimly.
"It'll melt because of my hotness?" Minako suggested.
"Kami-sama," Hotaru muttered in disgust.
"Hey see if you can transform?" Haruka asked her as Intern and the others hugged. It had been a hard battle with the Elemental Senshi, but eventually they had all been recaptured and rejoined with their proper hosts.
Hotaru shrugged and raised her hand to the sky, transforming into Sailor Saturn. She proudly leaned on her Glaive.
"Yoink!" Haruka said, grabbing the Glaive from her.
"Hey be careful with that!" Saturn protested. "What's wrong with you!?" She leapt up to try and grab it back, but the taller woman easily held it out of her reach.
"Give it back!" Saturn whined as CiCi ran back in from the Time Vortex, fresh off her battle with future Sakura.
Colliding with Saturn, CiCi sent her tumbling into Haruka, who fell foward, clumsily dropping the Glaive forward...
...and slicing CiCi's head clean off.
"Oh... shit." Haruka said, sweatdropping, watching it roll along the regolith.
"Yeah that... that's a thing," Cressida observed.
"We shall never speak of this again." Jedite proclaimed. And no one argued.
"Hmph," Michiru snorted. "For all the trouble she's given us..." she collected the head.
"Wait what why are you touching it!?" Makoto freaked out.
Michiru imperiously took the head back into the Time Gate, declaring "call a Taxidermist."
"Will they be all right?" Paisley asked Intern, nodding over to Cressida, Sakura and Vermellia.
Intern checked over what readings she could. "It's amazing, but yes. The overall story of history had changed... but their outcomes will remain largely the same. "
"Will we still remember the Tairon?" Paisley asked.
"This was a very 'messy' alteration," Intern replied. "Many may remember them subconsciously, or in time-proof records. While they will never menace the future of mankind, who knows what their worshippers in this universe will do?"
Haruka looked over at Cressida and the others. Damn, Minako was already a grandmother of sorts, and here she was still just hanging out in her pajamas playing counterstrike. Oh well, she thought, the future was in good hands.
Turning away from the ruins of the Tairon gate, Haruka and the others made their way back through the time gate. Towards home. Towards a new future.
A Great Disturbance
IN THE FORCE
D-POINT, ANTARCTICA, FORMER HEADQUARTERS OF THE DARK KINGDOM, DECEMBER 25th, 2014
"Well, that's certainly strange," a tall man clad in white wearing a red-trimmed Bowler hat said, reading his latest report. "The Nightmare Clan says they've lost all contact with the Dreamt."
"Well that f[BLEEP]ks things up," A woman in a fashionable beret and designer clothes muttered. "It looks like we're up a creek without a paddle."
"A momentary setback, nothing more," he replied. "We have other resources. Isn't that right, Deathy?"
Death Phantom looked up at the man in the hat. "Please," he whimpered, "Let me go!"
The man in the hat smiled, taking his cane and jamming it right into Death Phantom's eye socket.
"Not. Until. you. Tell. Us. Where. The. Dust. Is~"