Categories > Anime/Manga > Sailor Moon > A General Time Paradox

Chapter 10: Divided and Conquered

by Nidoking 0 Reviews

The Sailor Scouts are forced to split up to escape their enemies, but the enemies have some problems of their own.

Category: Sailor Moon - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Crossover - Characters: Ami (Mercury), Beryl, Haruka (Uranus), Makoto (Jupiter), Michiru (Neptune), Minako (Venus), Pluto, Rei (Mars), Tuxedo Kamen, Usagi (Moon) - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2007/05/03 - Updated: 2007/05/04 - 7721 words

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A General Time Paradox
Chapter 10: Divided and Conquered

Sailor Uranus opened her eyes and shook her head, trying without success to relieve her pounding headache. She was lying on a flat surface beneath a sky that was a swirl of colors, none of which she could identify. She groaned. "I don't remember having anything to drink last night...."
"You're not hung over, Uranus," said Sailor Neptune from beside her. "We got hit by a powerful blast just as Sailor Pluto pulled us into the Gate of Time."
"Is that where this is?" asked Uranus. Now that she thought about it, the place was familiar. "Then, Sailor Pluto..."
"... is right here," finished Sailor Pluto. Uranus sat up, holding her forehead, to see Sailor Pluto standing vigilantly over both herself and Neptune. "You took most of the energy from the blast, I'm afraid. Fortunately, you were more here than there when it struck, or it would have killed you."
"In other words, you saved us both," summarized Uranus.
"Did you see where the blast came from?" Neptune asked Pluto.
Pluto nodded. "The being that attacked you came from a world where humans live together with creatures known as Pokémon. Pokémon come in many shapes and sizes, but most of them have elemental powers with which to battle other Pokémon, or in some cases, humans. What you saw was the result of an experiment conducted by scientists seeking to generate a clone of a very powerful extinct Pokémon known as Mew. The scientists tried to make the clone superior to the original, but their efforts merely mutated it into the form you saw, known as Mewtwo. It has been a willing servant of a criminal mastermind for years, but Chronite has led Mewtwo to believe that if it can kill the Sailor Scouts, it will earn its freedom from its master."
"Who cares where it came from?" snapped Uranus. "How do we stop it?"
"I'm afraid that even our powers will not be enough to break through Mewtwo's psychic shield," Pluto said sadly. "It has the ability to project a barrier that will stop any physical or elemental attack."
"But what kind of attack isn't physical or elemental?" asked Neptune.
"I can think of none," replied Pluto. "There is one way that the Sailor Scouts of the Inner Planets might be able to break through the shield... but it would be too risky to put that power into their hands."
"You have a better idea?" asked Uranus.
Pluto bit her lip and shook her head. "No, I do not. But it must not come to that. The risk is too great! We cannot afford to create a paradox while trying to prevent one!"
Uranus stood up, counting each muscle that ached as she did so. "Well, if we can't give them the power to win, then we're going to have to fight that thing ourselves."
"Are you ready to fight it?" Neptune asked, her face and voice edged with concern.
"Of course," Uranus lied. "I'm in a little pain, but nothing I can't walk off."
"The best you can hope to do is distract Mewtwo from attacking the Inner Scouts," said Pluto. "But the Inner Scouts already know too much. You must not let them discover any more about you than they already know!"
"We know the drill," Uranus said bitterly. "We have to stay hidden, the Inner Scouts have to live, we can't use our powerful attacks, they can't learn their powerful attacks... have I forgotten anything?"
Neptune put her hand on Uranus' shoulder. "Calm down, Uranus. You're letting the tension get to you. We should wait until you're feeling up to going back -"
"No," Uranus interrupted. "We're going back now. We've wasted enough time." She took a step toward the Door of Time and winced at the pain in her legs.
Neptune slid her arm around Uranus' back to support her. "We're not going anywhere until you're ready," she insisted.
"Let go of me," spat Uranus.
Neptune did so, stepping back in surprise. "Uranus?"
"You stay here if you want," said Uranus. "But the Inner Scouts are out there fighting for their lives, and I'm not going to sit around here and let that monster attack them any more."
"But Uranus," Neptune tried again.
"Go with her," Pluto commanded. "She has a point. The Inner Scouts cannot survive this battle without your help."
Neptune nodded. "I understand. We'll do our best, Sailor Pluto."
"Be very careful," warned Pluto. "Do not attempt to fight Mewtwo directly. Provide a distraction if you can, but do no more than that. I will try to think of a way to defeat it without risking a paradox."
"And what if you can't think of anything in time?" asked Uranus.
Pluto smiled. "If I do not think of a solution, someone else will."
Uranus turned back to the Door of Time in disgust. "Blind optimism.... I'm glad she's so cocky, because I'm really not looking forward to this."
"This time, it will be my turn to protect you," said Neptune, supporting Uranus again as they both walked toward the Door of Time.
"Don't," returned Uranus. "We're both protecting the Inner Scouts. Do whatever you have to to keep them safe. If that means leaving me behind...."
Neptune nodded. "I've heard that order before."
"Promise me you'll follow it," Uranus requested.
Neptune nodded again. "I'll do what I think is right."
"That's not what I -" Uranus began. Then the Door of Time opened, and the light pulled them through.
Pluto closed her eyes and held her staff in front of herself. "Inner Scouts... it is all up to you."
*****************
Sailor Jupiter shrank back from the figure before her. "What the heck is that thing?" she asked. "Is it alive, or is it a machine?"
Sailor Mercury tapped at the keys of her computer. "I can't tell... the reading says that it's electronic, but it's also alive!"
"Maybe there's something alive under all of that machinery," offered Jupiter.
Mercury nodded. "It's wearing computerized armor... but the being underneath is both electronic and living."
"It doesn't matter what it is," said Sailor Moon. "We're going to beat it!" She grabbed the Crescent Moon Wand and held it in both hands, as if hugging a stuffed animal to her chest.
The creature took a step forward. A blue light glowed in the visor of its helmet. "You are Sailor Scouts," said a deep, resounding voice in the head of each Sailor Scout.
Sailor Moon dropped the wand. "Who said that?"
"It's communicating via telepathy," replied Mercury.
Sailor Moon nodded knowingly. "Ah...." She turned to Mercury. "What's telepathy?"
Before Mercury could answer her, all three Sailor Scouts floated upward, several feet into the air. Sailor Moon screamed and flailed her arms and legs at the air. "Put me down!" she screamed. "What's going on? What happened to that gravity stuff that's supposed to keep us on the ground?"
"I don't -" Mercury began, before she flew toward the brick wall behind her, slamming into it nearly hard enough to leave an indentation. Sailor Jupiter followed her in short order, leaving Sailor Moon the only Sailor Scout still floating.
"You're an interesting one," said the voice in her head. "Your mind is different from the others', somehow. Your power is of a different kind."
Her power.... Sailor Moon straightened up defiantly, standing at a slight angle in midair. "That's right! Whoever or whatever you are, prepare to be struck down by the power of the Moon!" She pulled her tiara from her forehead and threw it at the creature. "MOON TIARA MAGIC!"
The glowing discus spun through the air toward the creature until it bounced off of an invisible shield three feet in front of its body. The creature looked down at the tiara in disgust. "That is it? That is the special power you possess?"
Sailor Moon yelped. "My tiara didn't even touch him! What do I do now?"
"All you humans do is throw roses and pieces of jewelry?" asked the creature disdainfully. "You're not even worth the effort!" It swung its arm to the side and sent Sailor Moon flying toward the brick wall.
"JUPITER THUNDER CRASH!" shouted Sailor Jupiter, sending a bolt of lightning at the creature while it was distracted. The lightning struck the shield with no effect as Sailor Moon hit the wall face first. Sailor Jupiter caught Sailor Moon as she fell to the ground. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Sailor Moon raised her arm to wipe some of the blood from her nose. "My face hurts..." she whined.
"That shield seems to block all of our attacks," announced Mercury. "We'll have to find some way to break through it."
"Well, don't look at us," said Sailor Moon. "You're the genius! You think of something!"
"We need to buy some time," said Mercury. "MERCURY BUBBLES SPLASH!" Sailor Mercury's bubbles filled the air and burst, covering the street in a blanket of fog.
Lina sighed in exasperation. "The same old trick again...." She raised her hand to cast the Diem Wing spell. As she concentrated her energy, however, she felt a static buildup in the fog around her. She had no time to react before the electricity surged through her body, conducted through the condensing droplets of fog on her skin and clothing. Her muscles spasmed as the charge filled her from head to toe, frying her from the inside out. The last thought to cross her mind was that the Sailor Scouts really made a great team, when they used their powers together... and then she collapsed.
*****************
The rocking sensation of rapid movement awoke Mina from a nightmare of being betrayed by a trusted friend who she hadn't quite been able to identify. The aches all over her body quickly reminded her of the truth behind the nightmare. Amelia... a true friend; a deadly enemy. Yet she hadn't seen the evil in her former friend's heart, even after Amelia - no, Lina Inverse - had revealed her true nature. The story that she had told Mina seemed believable enough... but then there was that armored creature that had tossed both Mina and Tuxedo Mask around like paper dolls. Why would someone who was so reluctant to fight ally herself with such an evil creature?
Wait... movement? Why was she moving? Judging by the spine that she could feel her chest resting on, the arms crooked under her knees, and the bony shoulders over which her arms were draped, she was being carried on someone's back. But whose? Certainly not Tuxedo Mask's - she'd have been able to feel his cape. No, this person was wearing a single layer of thin fabric and had very soft hair which made a nice pillow. Mina tried to open her eyes to see whose back she was riding on, but they burned so much that she decided to leave them closed. She relaxed and let her head roll sideways until it bumped into what felt like a small ball of yarn, about the size of... a meatball....
"Are you awake now, Mina?" asked her carrier, in a voice that sounded slurred to Mina's tired ears, but still carried a familiar warmth.
"S'rena..." mumbled Mina. "Izzat you?"
"I'm Sailor Moon at the moment," replied Sailor Moon, "but otherwise, you're right."
"Whyre you carrin' me?" asked Mina. She cringed at the sound of her voice. Why was she speaking like she was drunk?
"We had to run away," said Sailor Moon. "Even Sailor Mercury didn't know any way to fight that monster that attacked you."
"Wherzz Merc'ry?" asked Mina. She swallowed a mouthful of saliva and tried again, focusing on each word. "Where... a-are... the others?"
"Hold on. I need to rest for a bit." Sailor Moon stopped and slowly bent down to deposit Mina in a sitting position on the ground. Mina leaned back and felt a brick wall behind her. She gratefully let the wall support her weight and relaxed her weary muscles. Sailor Moon sat down next to her. "We had to split up," she explained. "Mercury used her fog to cover our escape, and Jupiter shocked Lina Inverse with her electricity so that she couldn't blow the fog away."
Mina started to let her head droop, but a dull pain rose as she moved it, so she let it rest against the wall. Her eyes still burned too much to try to open them. "Where are we?" she asked.
There was an awkward pause before Sailor Moon answered. "I don't really know," she said at last. "I was so worried about getting away that I forgot to watch WHERE I was going." She let out an embarrassed laugh. "I've never seen this alley before."
Mina started to groan in exasperation, but it turned into a groan of pain halfway through as her right arm gave a twinge. "Mina, are you okay?" Sailor Moon asked worriedly. "I was so worried about getting away that I forgot to ask how you were feeling!"
Mina sighed. "I think my arm took a beating when I got slammed into that wall. Other than that, it's all just one big blur of pain. I can't tell one part of me from the next."
A comforting warmth broke through the pain in Mina's shoulders, accompanied by a slight pressure. Sailor Moon had wrapped her arms around Mina in a hug. "You'll be okay, Mina. I won't let anything happen to you," she whispered.
"I know," Mina whispered back. She felt tears coming to her eyes, and welcomed them. The salty water relieved the burning enough to allow her to open her eyes at last, although her tears still blurred her vision beyond the point of utility. She blinked them away and looked around for signs of where they might be, but the featureless walls of the alley told her nothing. However, the echo of sobs off those walls spoke volumes. Mina's arms rose to encircle Sailor Moon, returning her embrace. "Don't cry over me," urged Mina. "You said it yourself. I'll be fine."
"I know," said Sailor Moon, sniffing in her tears. "But it hurts to see my friends in so much pain... sometimes, I wish I could take it all for myself. I wish I could suffer in your place...."
"Hey, what's with the sudden angst?" asked Mina, trying to be as cheerful as possible. "I haven't seen you this down since Tuxedo Mask went to work for Queen Beryl."
"I don't know... what's wrong with me," said Sailor Moon. "Maybe it's the sudden pressure. Even with our fight against Beryl coming up, things were still going pretty well until a few days ago. Now we're fighting all these new enemies, and more keep showing up every day. I just can't help but feel overwhelmed by... well, everything that's going on now." She straightened up, letting Mina see her face for the first time since waking up. Between the tears in her eyes and the drying blood crusting under her nose, she hardly looked like the same Sailor Moon. "Do you think I'm giving up too easily?" she asked Mina.
Mina tried not to stare. "What do you mean, giving up?" she asked.
"I'm supposed to be you guys' leader," replied Sailor Moon, turning away. "But I'm scared and helpless, and if that thing were to come here right now, I'd just run away again. We're not supposed to run away, are we? We're the Sailor Scouts, and we're the only ones who can fight the Negaverse. If we don't do it, who will, right?"
"Maybe it's time to admit that this problem really is bigger than the five of us, Sailor Moon," said Mina, patting Sailor Moon reassuringly on the back. "Maybe Queen Beryl really has found a way to beat us. Maybe there really isn't any way we can fight that monster."
"You think so?" asked Sailor Moon.
"I said 'maybe,'" Mina reiterated. "But even if we can't win, what good will it do us to just sit here and whine about it? If we at least try, and give it our all, then if there IS a way to win, we're sure to find it. And if not, then at least we went down fighting the good fight. But if we don't even try to fight, then we'll die no matter what."
Sailor Moon blinked in surprise. "You know something... that makes a lot of sense!"
Mina nodded. "It's like Pascal's Wager. When the only way good things will happen is if you believe in them, then there's no reason not to believe."
"Then why didn't you turn into Sailor Venus to fight them?" asked Sailor Moon.
Mina lowered her eyes. "I... well, it's because...." She sighed. She'd have to admit it eventually. "I didn't want to hurt Lina."
To Mina's surprise, Sailor Moon nodded. "I know what you mean. It's hard enough fighting people who have turned into monsters, but when we're fighting other human beings...." She swallowed. "I just get this awful feeling inside, like our powers were never meant to be used that way. I can almost feel Queen Serenity urging me not to hurt anyone every time I try to fight back."
"That's not the reason," explained Mina. "I don't know about the new enemy, but Lina and the others... don't really want to have to hurt us, either. They're only fighting to save the lives of their friends."
"What makes you think that?" asked Sailor Moon, not entirely willing to believe her, but trusting her friend's judgment.
"Amelia... I mean Lina, told me about her partner in her own world. She said she was in love with him, but Queen Beryl kidnapped him and threatened to kill him if she didn't kill us first. And she was telling the truth. I could feel it in my heart."
"Well, you have been friends for a few days," Sailor Moon pointed out. "Maybe you just wanted her to be telling the truth so much that you thought -"
"No, I could feel it," repeated Mina. "You know how we all have some of the characteristics of our Sailor Scout forms even when we're not transformed? Like, Amy's really smart, Lita's a good fighter, and Raye's got a strong spirit?"
"I guess so," said Sailor Moon, nodding weakly.
"Well, I'm really sensitive to other people's emotions," Mina continued. "When Lina told me about her partner, she was really sad. I could feel how much she missed him... and when she tried to attack me, I could feel how much she hated having to do it."
"No kidding...." Sailor Moon rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "So they're really not our enemies?"
Mina shook her head. "I don't think so. Only the new one, the one that looks more machine than alive, actually wants to hurt us."
"We tried to fight it," said Sailor Moon. "It's got some kind of shield that blocks all of our attacks."
"Did you see the car that hit its shield?" asked Mina. "It didn't even flinch at that."
Sailor Moon's eyes flew wide open. "What? A whole car couldn't break through that shield?"
Mina nodded. "I don't think there's anything strong enough to get through."
Sailor Moon sighed. "It's times like these when I wish I didn't have to be the leader." She put her hand on her forehead. "Mina... what would you do, if you were me?"
Mina smiled. "That's easy." She stood up, pausing every few inches as a new muscle cried out in pain. Despite the pain, she managed to keep a straight face as she pulled out her transformation wand. "VENUS POWER!" She twirled and spun her way through the transformation while Sailor Moon watched. When the light faded, she held her final pose, doing her best to tune out the growing aches in her body. Her right arm felt like it was going to split in two at any second, but the rest of the pain was bearable. She sucked it up and smiled. "What would I do?" she repeated rhetorically. "I'd fight to the end, that's what I'd do!" She punched the air emphatically - with her good hand, of course.
Sailor Moon leapt to her feet as well. "That's right! We can't run away just when we're needed most!" She pointed to the mouth of the alley. "Let's go!"
"Didn't we come from that way?" asked Sailor Venus, pointing the other direction.
Sailor Moon looked at the other end of the alley and rubbed her head sheepishly. "Well, I guess I'm off to a pretty lousy start, huh?"
Venus couldn't help laughing despite her growing apprehension. No matter how stressful the situation, Sailor Moon was still, and always would be, Sailor Moon. Still, even considering the exacerbation of the aches as her body shook, it felt good to laugh a bit. After all, with such powerful new enemies, this would probably be her last chance.
*****************
Buildings whizzed by as Sailor Jupiter fled the scene of the confrontation with the unconscious Tuxedo Mask on her shoulders. Her thoughts were racing just as quickly. 'What was that thing?' she asked herself again and again. 'Electronic, AND alive? That's impossible! Sailor Mercury's computer can't have been right!' She shook her head in disbelief. 'Whatever it was, it was powerful! If it can just pick us up and throw us without touching us.... How are we supposed to beat that?'
The only answer she received was a low moan from Tuxedo Mask as he began to come to. Jupiter tightened her grip to prevent him from falling off her back. "Just sit tight a sec, okay? I'll find a place to stop and set you down."
"What's going on?" Tuxedo Mask asked groggily. "What happened to me?"
"I didn't see it myself," replied Jupiter, "but we were fighting a new enemy that could slam us into walls with only the power of its mind. That's probably what happened to you, too."
Tuxedo Mask shook his head. "No, I remember now. I saw that enemy you're talking about. It pointed at me, and threw... something. I felt it hit me, and that's the last thing I can remember."
"Something? What kind of something?" asked Jupiter.
"I don't know," replied Tuxedo Mask. "I didn't see anything at all. It must have been invisible."
"Or maybe it wasn't a thing at all..." Jupiter speculated. "Maybe it was attacking you with telekinesis." She turned a corner into an alley and stopped to let Tuxedo Mask to the ground. He stood unsteadily, clinging to a wall for support with the hand that wasn't clutching his stomach. Concern crossed Jupiter's mind as she realized that she hadn't yet made sure he was all right. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Not good," he groaned. "My insides are in knots."
"Do you think you can make it on your own?" she asked, quite sure that the answer would be a negative.
Tuxedo Mask stepped away from the wall, groaning with the exertion. "I feel dizzy...."
Jupiter caught him as he collapsed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, supporting as much of his weight as she could. "Just take it easy," she advised. "Wait until you feel strong enough to move."
"Where is it?" he asked suddenly, his voice still raspy and breathless.
"Where's what?"
"The enemy," spat Tuxedo Mask.
"I don't know," replied Jupiter. "We split up to confuse it. I guess it must have followed Sailor Mercury or Sailor Moon."
"It could come after you at any time," said Tuxedo Mask. "You'd better get out of here."
"I'm not going to leave you behind," Jupiter replied forcefully.
"If it catches us, it'll kill us both," Tuxedo Mask reminded her. "And I can't fight in this condition. You need to find the other Scouts. If you combine your powers, you'll find a way to win."
"And what good will winning do if it requires sacrificing innocent lives?" countered Jupiter. "We don't fight just for the sake of fighting. We fight because we're the only ones who can protect those who can't protect themselves. Right now, that includes you."
"This time, you're fighting to protect yourselves," said Tuxedo Mask. "You can't do that and protect me at the same time."
"Darien..." Jupiter reprimanded him, catching his full attention by using his real name. "How do you think Serena would feel if I let anything happen to you?"
It didn't take much mental effort on Tuxedo Mask's part to picture Serena drowning in a pool of her own tears. "Good point. She doesn't always keep her head in the battle if she's worried about me, does she?" He sighed. "Still, I'm the one who's supposed to protect the Sailor Scouts with my powers, not the other way around."
"Everyone needs someone to protect them sometimes," Jupiter pointed out.
"The other Scouts need your help more than I do," said Tuxedo Mask. "You should go to them, right away. Just forget about me and go!" He pulled his arm away from Jupiter and stepped away, heroically pushing her away, urging her to leave. But without her to hold him up, he collapsed to his knees, muting his heroism with his simple frailty. Jupiter turned back to help him to his feet, but he waved her off. "Just go!" he shouted. "GO!"
Jupiter took a step back and stood square with her hands on her hips. "I'm not leaving you alone," she said firmly. "That means that either you let me take you someplace safe, or we're both going to be here a while."
Tuxedo Mask sighed in defeat. "You're not going to back down, are you?"
Jupiter stepped forward and grabbed him by the shoulders. "Of course not. The Sailor Scouts depend on me for their strength. I can't afford to back down, ever."
Tuxedo Mask looked up at her and smiled as he let himself be hauled to his feet. "All right. Let's hurry, then. You need to get back to the others quickly."
Jupiter smiled back. "Don't worry. They wouldn't dare die before I get there!" She took a first careful step, waited for Tuxedo Mask to move with her, and then took another step, setting a slow pace as the pair moved out of the alley toward shelter... not that any place would provide much shelter if their pursuer found them, but at least they might be able to make themselves harder to find.
*****************
Pain.
At first, it was a sudden sensation, in an instant passing from the habitual, calm workings of life to alien waves of electricity wracking Lina's body, filling her from the top of her skull to the soles of her feet, as if sharp pins were poking not only into every inch of her skin, but every inch within her body as well. Pain filled her so completely that it replaced all of her senses. Her body was pain; her world was pain. Within moments, there was nothing else. The juxtaposition between pain and not-pain vanished; the barrier shattered, and the pain filled the spaces where it hadn't been before. Every cell in her body screamed, but Lina could not. Already, her mind had stopped functioning, stopped thinking; but still she could feel, every tiny jolt as a nerve ending fired its report toward her dying brain, billions upon billions of pinpricks summing to a cocoon that surrounded her and filled her and violated her. The torture went on as if it would never end, the pain growing even though it was already greater than any single sensation she had ever felt, greater even than her brain could comprehend, a pain that shadowed the Universe itself... and then, abruptly, it stopped. Everything stopped.
Death.
Lina could feel nothing in the emptiness that failed to fill the space where her body had been. And still was, probably. It wasn't as if electrocution could disintegrate a human body. But whether her body was still intact or not, she could no longer feel its presence. There was a hole in the sightless universe of her senses where her body had always been. Not that she could sense anything around her body, either... but after having learned to take her body's existence for granted over the course of her life, its sudden absence stood out in the void, a senselessness beyond senselessness. Lina suddenly found herself longing for the pain that had torn through her only moments before, willing to accept an eternity of torment rather than this total deprivation of everything, this emptiness, this loneliness.... Loneliness couldn't begin to describe such a state. Loneliness meant that you had only yourself for company. Lina didn't even have herself anymore....
Warmth.
It was a spark of life, seemingly a universe in itself until she felt the space around it and realized that it was merely a tiny spot of heat, deep within her. Yet, tiny as it was, it was still a sensation, and she clung to it like a drifting log on a hostile tide, hoping that it would pull her back to the world of sense. The miniscule point grew as she focused on it, slowly taking on the familiar size and shape of her own body. A body made of warmth, of pure life energy. She no longer cared that her senses were dead. The warmth, the one sensation that she could feel, was all that mattered. Having grown to fill her body, it grew now in intensity, becoming a raging fire within her that rivaled the heat of the sun, or even a powerful fire elemental spell. Yet for all that it should have burned, the flame within her was not the least bit uncomfortable. It was much more like an incredibly hot blush... or, now that she came to think about it, almost exactly like the feeling she'd had when Ranma had held her the night before as she cried over memories of her past. A warmth powerful enough to devour her, but she felt completely safe in its embrace. Somehow, she knew that as long as the delicious heat enveloped her, no harm could come to her.
Cold.
It felt like an eternity before the warmth faded, but it was still far too soon that it began to ebb. As the fire left Lina's body, a damp chill took its place. At first, Lina thought it was merely an overreaction to the sudden removal of such an intense heat, but as her senses returned, she could feel tiny droplets of water on her skin. The sound of her heartbeat echoed within her, and she took a deep breath that smelled of the aftermath of a heavy rainstorm. The air was so thick with water vapor that she coughed it up immediately, her tired muscles forcing her to roll onto her side on the rough asphalt. The jarring pain of coughing was uncomfortable, but as much as it hurt, Lina embraced it gratefully; even pain could be a blessing when the alternative was the emptiness of death. She pressed her arm against the surface of the road, pushing herself up into a sitting position, surprised at how little exertion it took. Once her head was comfortably off the ground, she opened her eyes, but a dense fog prevented her from seeing her surroundings.
"Are you well?" asked a deep voice that seemed to come from inside her head.
"I think so," she mumbled. "I feel kind of woozy, but it doesn't really hurt anywhere."
"Can you stand?" asked the voice. "Can you use your magic?"
"I don't know. Let me try." Lina got to her feet with little trouble and raised her arms. "DIEM WING!" A warm wind blew past Lina, blowing the cold fog away and clearing the air. "Seems to work fine," she announced as she got her first glimpse of her surroundings. She quickly took in the deserted park and the line of empty cars before turning to the mass of machinery and glowing fur that stood beside her. Something seemed familiar about it, but she couldn't quite place it. "Do I know you?" she asked.
"I am Mew Two," it responded. "We are allies in this fight against the Sailor Scouts."
Lina cradled her head in her hands as it began to throb with dull pain. The spell had taken more out of her than she'd thought. "Mewtwo?" she repeated. "So you're the one who helped me?"
"As I said, we are allies," replied Mewtwo. "I thought you would be of more assistance to my cause alive than dead."
Lina's heart nearly froze again. "Dead? You mean, I was...."
Mewtwo nodded. "Your life functions had stopped. I revived them."
"But, how did you... you can bring people back from the dead? That takes incredibly powerful white magic! How can something so -" She broke off, hesitant to use the word 'evil' to describe someone who had just saved her life.
"I do not understand my own power completely yet," answered Mewtwo. "This body, and these powers, truly belong to another."
"Huh?" Lina scratched her head. "You're borrowing your powers from someone else, like a monster? How can you do that if you don't even know how to use them?"
"I seem to have confused you," said Mewtwo. "I am but a clone of an ancient Pokémon known as Mew, created from genetic material found in one of its fossils in a modern scientific laboratory. The scientists in charge of the project sought to create an advanced version of the Mew, and I was the result. According to their estimates, I have all of the powers and abilities of the original Mew, but a stronger mind and body. However, they did not seem to know the true nature of Mew's power well enough for an accurate comparison."
"So you're trying to prove that you're better than the original?" asked Lina. "Well, isn't THAT a familiar story...."
Mewtwo's eyes seemed to narrow behind the visor. "Why would I wish to prove myself better than Mew? What purpose would such actions serve?"
Lina shrugged. "It's what the last clone I met wanted to do. Maybe you're not as evil as I thought you were...."
"Evil?" Mewtwo shook its head. "I am not evil. I merely follow the commands of my master."
"Yeah, I've heard that line before, too. Everyone's just doing their evil master's bidding."
"You do not believe that I am innocent of wrongdoing," said Mewtwo. After a pause, it continued. "I see. You also hold your own wrongdoings against yourself, even when you are coerced. You believe that it would be noble to sacrifice yourself in order to protect the innocent, rather than having to destroy them in order to preserve your own existence. Yet you still act as you are ordered."
"And I hate having to do it," said Lina. "I take it you don't?"
Mewtwo shook its head. "There is nothing wrong with fulfilling one's will to survive. It is all that I have. You have desires, dreams, emotions.... I have life, and nothing more. No purpose, other than to exist." It turned its head to stare into the sky. "And what is a life without purpose? A meaningless existence, worthless both to itself and the world. But to serve one with purpose, and to become an integral part of fulfilling that purpose.... That is a purpose that I can fulfill. Only then do I become useful."
Lina hummed thoughtfully. "That's an interesting way of looking at it. So you're just following orders because you have nothing better to do?"
The glow in Mewtwo's visor disappeared. "You trivialize my situation."
Lina quickly shook her head. "Not at all! What I don't understand is, if you're supposed to be following orders, why are you talking to me instead of killing the Sailor Scouts?"
"Your condition took priority," replied Mewtwo. "I had to make sure that your death and subsequent resurrection did not have any serious side effects on your physical health or mental condition. Besides, I have kept careful track of the locations of the four Sailor Scouts who fled this location. I can proceed with their destruction at any time."
"Really?" Lina rubbed her cheek with a finger. "So, where are they now?"
"Yeah," agreed Ryoko, "where'd they go?"
Lina whirled to face the space pirate and Ranma, while Mewtwo didn't move a muscle at their surprise appearance. "When did you two get here?" Lina demanded.
Ryoko shrugged innocently. "Well, I just happened to be in the neighborhood...."
"Are you okay, Lina?" asked Ranma. "You look a little... burnt."
"Yeah, getting electrocuted tends to do that," Lina replied flippantly. "But thanks to Mewtwo, I'm fine now."
"Mewtwo?" repeated Ranma, staring at the feline Pokémon uncertainly. "Uh...."
"I believe the words you're searching for are 'thank you,'" supplied Mewtwo.
Ranma's eyes darted from side to side, searching for the source of the voice, before he decided that it really wasn't important. "Yeah, thanks," he said.
Ryoko cleared her throat impatiently. "If you guys are finished with the etiquette lessons, I believe we have a job to finish?"
"Yes," agreed Mewtwo. It pointed into the park. "Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus are currently in that direction, about three minutes' flight from this location. I suggest that Ranma accompany Lina to fight them." It raised its other arm to point toward a building across the street. "Sailor Jupiter and the man in the cape are in a warehouse nearly four minutes' flight in that direction. Ryoko, you should deal with them." Finally, it swung its arm slightly to the left. "I will deal with Sailor Mercury myself. She is trying to devise a strategy for defeating us, and I cannot afford to allow her time to finish her work."
"A strategy?" asked Ryoko. "You think it'd work?"
"It might," replied Mewtwo. "It certainly has promise. But it will never come to fruition." With that, it vanished.
Ryoko hummed. "Weird... it talked like it knew what her plan was."
"I think it did," said Lina. "It's some kind of mind reader, among whatever else it can do."
"Can we trust that thing?" asked Ranma. "It gave me the creeps."
"It gave us directions," corrected Ryoko. "I don't care what it is or what it can do; if it can lead me to the Sailor Scouts, I'll follow it straight to Jurai and back if that's what it takes!" She rose into the sky and took off in the direction Mewtwo had indicated as Sailor Jupiter's location.
"I don't care what she thinks," Ranma said to Lina. "I still don't trust that Mewtwo thing."
"Mewtwo saved my life," Lina informed him. "Whatever it is, it's not really evil. It just... doesn't really know what to do with itself."
Ranma chuckled inwardly. "Yeah, but it doesn't turn into a girl when it gets wet," he muttered.
Lina selectively ignored the comment. "Ready to go?" she asked.
Ranma sighed. "Sure. Let's go," he said, looping his arm around her shoulders. Lina nearly jumped at the sudden contact, but once the initial shock was over, she felt her heart racing for a different reason. "Is something wrong?" asked Ranma, concerned.
"No, I'm fine," said Lina. 'It's business,' she reminded herself, wrapping her own arm around Ranma's waist. "LEVITATION!" she shouted. A sharp pang of pain shot through her brain, drawing a cry from her lips before she could bite it back; but aside from the pain, the spell activated as she had expected, and a wave of air lifted her and Ranma slowly off of the ground.
"Something's wrong," said Ranma. "You're having trouble with your magic, aren't you?"
"It's nothing," replied Lina. "I'm just a little tired, that's all."
"That's not what it sounded like to me," said Ranma. "You'd better land. I don't think you should be using your magic for anything dangerous, like flying."
"I'm fine," she repeated. "It only hurt for a second. I can't even feel anything now."
Ranma sighed and tightened his grip on Lina. "All right. Just don't lose it when we're up in the air. I don't want to fall to my death because you can't keep the spell up."
"If you just relax, I'll have a lot less trouble staying up," Lina snapped irritatedly. She easily soared into the sky above Tokyo and flew toward the place where she would meet Sailor Moon and - if she had transformed yet - Sailor Venus. It wasn't an encounter she was looking forward to... but the past days had seen precious few of those anyway. At least, if Mewtwo was as powerful as it seemed, this one would be over quickly.
*****************
Sailor Mars took another excruciating step, clenching her teeth against the wrenching in her side as she lifted and dropped her foot for the umpteenth time. She had been walking for an eternity; yet she still had an eternity to go. The vision was still there, still burning a spiritual arrow into her heart, pointing the way to her destination; that direction was all she could feel through the numbing pain. Oblivion lingered on the edge of her consciousness, waiting for the tiniest lapse in her concentration through which it could claim her, but the flame within her heart kept it away... for the time being, at least. But that protection would not last much longer. She had long since felt the last of her life energy ebb away to nothing. It was all she could do to remain conscious and hold on to the power of Mars as her lifeless body struggled to remain on its feet and moving ahead. The Planet Power running through her veins was the only thing keeping her alive now. If she let it go, she would die.
The wound in her side had long since stopped bleeding, but she still clutched it with her left hand as if to prevent what little of her life remained from escaping through the same portal. Her right hand clung to the walls of the buildings she passed, holding her upright against gravity's deadly pull; if she fell now, she would not rise again. Yet in spite of all the strength she could muster, her body was tiring quickly. Her vision was so hazy that she couldn't even see her own hands, or the hair that fell in front of her face every time she lowered her head to take a few breaths before continuing. She couldn't tell anymore whether the beads of water on her cheeks were tears, or simply more of the sweat that poured from her like a waterfall, leaving a trail in her wake that showed traces of blood as early as two blocks back. She didn't know where she was or how far she had left to go - it could be one more step, or one more mile. She couldn't even remember where she was going... only that she had very little time to get there, and if she failed, the Sailor Scouts would be destroyed by a power that she could barely begin to imagine.
One more step, and she slid her hand forward along the wall to find another handhold. Tragically, all she found was the corner of the building. She would have no wall to lean on for the next few steps, requiring her to draw even further from her already depleted supply of energy to cross the - street? alley? There was no way to tell how far it would be to the next wall except to press on until she reached it. Sucking in a deep breath, she pressed harder on her wound and lifted a high-heeled foot, wheezing with the exertion. One step, another step, each one more dizzying than the last. Only two steps from the wall, and already her brain felt like a brick inside her skull. Bent over forwards at nearly a right angle, Sailor Mars lost her balance and fell, quickly taking another step forward to catch herself. Her heel came down on the edge of the curb, and the sidewalk fell away under her toes, dumping her on her face in the street. She heard brakes screeching, and the rush of air passed mere inches from her head as the car swerved to avoid her. She steeled her stomach and rolled to the side, pulling herself onto the curb before another car was forced to attempt the same maneuver.
As she lay there on a sidewalk somewhere in the middle of Tokyo, Sailor Mars heard her breath come out in strangled gasps as her throat closed up, as much from the shock of the near death experience as from having used far too much energy that she didn't have to begin with. The world turned to a swirl of tan-and-navy plaid before her eyes as she began to pass out from lack of oxygen. The endless darkness of oblivion surrounded her, pressing against her, trying to overwhelm and consume her, and she had to fight to keep it away. "Stay... awake!" she croaked, forcing the words out in an effort to stave off unconsciousness. Unfortunately, the world continued to slip away as the power of Mars within her lost its solidity. She stretched out her hands, clasping her fingers as if to hold Planet Power in them, but the energy oozed right through them and out of her body; and through the gap, the blackness poured in, filling her with its horrible taint. She fought to push the darkness back out of herself, but it was like trying to move a giant water balloon with her hands - every time she pushed it away from one part of herself, it bulged into the surrounding areas and continued flooding into her. Her soul cowered in the center of the flood, completely engulfed by the void except for the tiny thread that connected her to Planet Power - her final lifeline.
Then, the darkness grabbed that thread and began to pull on it, and Raye's grip began to slip as the thread slid through her fingers as if it had been greased. 'Somebody, please help me!' she begged as she clung to Planet Power with all of her fading strength. 'Mars... Queen Serenity... anybody! I can't... hold on... forever....'
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