The surviving Sailor Scouts reunite and join forces to fight Mewtwo, not realizing that their deaths have been foretold.
Chapter 14: Sailors Reunited
Sailor Jupiter leaned against the wall of the Crown Arcade to catch her breath. One mad run carrying Tuxedo Mask, followed by a difficult battle against Ryoko and then another top speed run back to her starting point, had taken all of her energy. She was the first one back; she could only pray that she was not going to be the last. The thought that some of the others might not have survived their battles seemed ludicrous - after all, they were Sailor Scouts, and they had survived everything that had been thrown at them until now. But their strength was in their teamwork; separated from each other, there was a chance that the enemy would overpower them. Not to mention that the invincible armored enemy had probably managed to track one of the others down and had her all to itself for the duration of the battle with Ryoko. She wouldn't believe that one of her friends was dead - not without proof, at least - but it seemed likely that the Sailor Scouts would never fight as a full group again. And with Mars out of the battle as well... things didn't look hopeful for the home team.
Still, the forward thinker in Jupiter demanded that she forget about the worst that could happen to her friends and figure out her own best course of action. With no sign of the enemy in the area, there was no reason to leap into a battle she wasn't ready for. So her best bet would be to stay where she was and recover while she waited for the other Sailor Scouts to join her. Nothing else mattered, she told herself, but her mind continued to race, making it nearly impossible for her to relax.
Minutes passed, and each tick of the clock in Jupiter's head added its own fraction of certainty that none of the other Sailor Scouts were going to make it to the meeting point. But she had to keep her faith and wait for them. Alone, there was nothing she could do.
"Hey! There's Sailor Jupiter!" shouted an excited voice from down the street. Jupiter looked up to see both Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus running toward her at full speed. She pushed herself from the wall and went to meet them halfway for a big group hug.
"I'm so glad to see you guys!" said Jupiter.
"Same here," said Venus. "We were afraid Mewtwo had gotten to you."
"Mewtwo?" asked Jupiter. "Is that the name of that thing in the armor?"
"That's what Lina called it," confirmed Venus. "But whatever it's called, I don't look forward to meeting it again."
"Everything will be all right," Sailor Moon assured them. "Sailor Mercury will be here soon, and I know she'll have a plan."
Jupiter's earlier doubt cast its shadow over her once again. "I hope she makes it back alive."
"What do you mean?" asked Sailor Moon, completely clueless.
"I mean, there were only five of us when we got attacked by Mewtwo before. It didn't come after me and Tuxedo Mask, and it didn't go after you two, so..."
The other two moved their lips silently as they performed the mental calculations. Venus was the first to arrive at Jupiter's conclusion. "So, it must have gone after Mercury?"
"Well, that's all right then!" Sailor Moon said optimistically. "If anyone could figure out how to fight Mewtwo, it's Sailor Mercury."
"I sure hope you're right," replied Jupiter. "But I have a bad feeling...."
"There's nothing to worry about," Sailor Moon insisted. "She'll be here any minute. I can feel it."
"But what if Mewtwo gets here first?" asked Venus, picking up on Jupiter's concern. "Without Sailor Mercury, there's no way we'll be able to come up with a useable plan."
"Don't count us out just yet," Jupiter reprimanded her. "Maybe we're not geniuses like she is, but we're not helpless, and I'm not going to stand here waiting for her because I don't think I can do anything. We've all got brains, and there's nothing wrong with them!" She glanced aside at Sailor Moon, who selectively failed to notice.
Venus half-smiled. "You're right, Jupiter. We've got no one to depend on but ourselves."
"I don't know..." said Sailor Moon hesitantly. "I don't want to doubt my friends."
"Don't think of it that way," replied Jupiter. "We're not saying that she won't come in time. We're just making sure we have all our bases covered. When Sailor Mercury shows up, we'll have a plan already set up, and she can start from there. And if it happens that Mewtwo beats her here," she added with a shrug, "we'll have a chance to defend ourselves."
Sailor Moon pondered Jupiter's words carefully. "Okay," she agreed at last. "Let's put our heads together and come up with a way to beat Mewtwo!"
The girls nodded and formed a huddle in the middle of the street. "Let's see," Jupiter began. "My electricity wasn't able to get through Mewtwo's barrier, and neither was Sailor Moon's tiara. So I guess we'll have to try Venus' Crescent Beam and see how that works."
"I've still got the Crescent Moon Wand," Sailor Moon pointed out, holding the device up to demonstrate. "I was going to try using it before, but I didn't get the chance."
"Good," Jupiter encouraged her. "We need to come up with every possible scenario."
"So, what do we do if neither of those attacks work?" asked Venus.
Jupiter sighed. "I don't know. I'm fresh out of ideas."
"Maybe we'd be better off planning an escape," suggested Venus.
"I don't think that's an option either," said Jupiter. "Mewtwo can lift us right off the ground like it did before, and we wouldn't even be able to move. Whatever we do, we're going to have to make our stand as soon as it shows up."
"I've got it!" shouted Sailor Moon. "We can hide somewhere nearby, and when Mewtwo shows up, we blast it with every attack we've got all at once!"
"An admirable idea," said a deep voice in the minds of the Sailor Scouts, "but I'm afraid there is a significant flaw. I have been monitoring your minds since we met, so I know where you are at all times."
"It's here!" Jupiter shouted unnecessarily, spinning around to look for the source of the voice. The street was empty except for the three Sailor Scouts and a few cars still parked along the curb. It didn't occur to her to look up until it was too late. She felt herself float up, her feet losing contact with the ground, and the familiar sickening weightless sensation gripped her again. The other two girls echoed her surprised squeal as they, too, rose above the street surface. Mewtwo descended from the sky to their level, its impassive stare examining the three of them as if it had never seen them before.
Venus managed to recover her senses quickly and leveled her finger at Mewtwo. "VENUS CRESCENT BEAM SMASH!"
Mewtwo didn't bother to acknowledge the beam as it struck the invisible shield and dissipated in a harmless ripple. Instead, it moved its hands in a complicated pattern, causing the three girls to spin and bob in the air. "Enjoy your last moments of life while you can. Soon, I will make you beg for death just as Sailor Mercury did."
Sailor Moon gasped in horror. "What did you do to Mercury, you monster?"
"That word again..." said Mewtwo, apparently very displeased at the sound of it. "I do what I am ordered in exchange for my freedom. What is so monstrous about desiring to be free?"
"No one can force you to hurt innocent people," countered Sailor Moon. "Someone as powerful as you can always ACK!" Her body tensed as one of Mewtwo's fists clenched tightly, cutting her sentence off prematurely. Sailor Moon's hand rose to her throat, grasping at air as her jaw fell open and her tongue involuntarily protruded from her mouth. A strangled gurgle escaped her lips.
"Shut up," Mewtwo deadpanned. "I know that you do not fully understand my situation. The 'advice' you offer is useless to me."
"Stop that!" shouted Jupiter. "You're killing her!"
"In case you hadn't noticed," Mewtwo returned disdainfully, "that is the intention."
Jupiter growled angrily, but forced herself to resist the urge to stick her neck out any further. From what she'd seen already, Mewtwo would have no problem turning away her attack and counterattacking with lethal force while not letting up at all on Sailor Moon. To her right, Venus clenched her fists, similarly frustrated but equally powerless.
Suddenly, Mewtwo released its choke hold on Sailor Moon, leaving her alternately coughing and gasping for air. "Strange," it said. "I don't understand your thoughts. I am trying to kill you, yet you feel... something with which I am not familiar. There is fear, and yet there is another emotion. You seem to genuinely wish to help me."
"It's called compassion," offered Sailor Venus, immediately wishing she hadn't.
"Com-pas-sion." Mewtwo performed the mental equivalent of rolling the unfamiliar syllables on its tongue. "Caring for another enough to be willing to make a sacrifice on that one's behalf? Why would you feel this toward someone who is trying to kill you?"
"Because..." Sailor Moon forced out through her crushed throat, "it's not... your fault...." She had to stop for several sharp breaths every time she ran out of air.
"An interesting philosophy," mused Mewtwo. "Taking into account the enemy's motives in addition to their actions when evaluating one's own emotions... clearly, if it reduces willingness to fight against a dangerous opponent, it is a weakness." It extended a paw, and Sailor Moon doubled over in pain. "I must know what drives you to weakness, human. I must discover how far you must be pushed before you are ready to fight." Sailor Moon reeled several more times as Mewtwo attacked her again and again.
"Stop it!" Jupiter shouted despite herself. "She can't fight back!"
"She does not try," Mewtwo corrected her, continuing to pound Sailor Moon with its mind. "She withholds her most powerful attacks because she sees no reason to harm me. The fact that I threaten to end her life is not sufficient for her. Why is this?"
"There is no reason to kill anyone, ever," replied Venus, terror sapping the emotion that would normally have permeated her speech. "There's always another way to solve your problems. That's what Sailor Moon believes."
Mewtwo chuckled, giving Sailor Moon a momentary reprieve before it resumed the beating. "Ah, yes. Belief. The process of accepting a proposition as true on a purely emotional basis when there is no evidence to support it. Once again, emotions prove to be the cause of weakness."
Sailor Moon braced herself against the continuing psychic blows and fought for the air to speak. "We... may... be... weak... but... our... wills... are... strong!"
"Breaking your body would be no challenge," agreed Mewtwo. "I shall break your will as well, and then you will be completely broken."
"Never..." moaned Sailor Moon. "You'll... never...." The next blow struck her square in the face, and her head dropped as a trickle of blood ran from her nose.
"You may be strong-willed," Mewtwo admitted, "but your spirit struggles with itself. It seeks survival, acceptance, peace.... My will is focused on the fight. Therefore, when our wills collide in battle, it is I who am the stronger."
"There's more to strength than being able to fight," Jupiter put in, although she had no clue why keeping Mewtwo talking seemed like a good idea.
Mewtwo turned its eyes on her for the first time, instantly making her regret her decision. "Is that so? Then show me this strength of which you speak." An invisible force pounded her in the stomach, emptying her lungs in one violent burst. Her vision faded to a dull beige plaid, and she had to fight to stay awake and prevent it from all going black.
Venus watched helplessly, nearly bursting with the desire to shout something, or attack Mewtwo, or do anything at all so that she didn't have to passively watch her friends being tortured. But that would condemn her to share their fate. If she couldn't protect them, the least she could do was avoid catching Mewtwo's attention and keep herself in fighting shape.
It worked for about twenty seconds, which she counted to herself as a way to keep calm, before Mewtwo shifted its focus to her. A lump formed in her throat as the blue lights in the visor burned into her. "You are the one I saw earlier, before you assumed your current form."
"What do you want with me?" asked Venus, her voice laced with fear.
"That is what I hope to discover by examining you," it replied. "Humans are such diverse creatures.... I feel that I could learn volumes from each one of you."
"What do you learn by hurting us?" she asked, searching for a way to dissuade it from continuing its painful investigations.
Venus felt Mewtwo's mind pressing on her body from all sides as it responded to her question. "I learn that, for all that they laud their superiority over PokÃ©mon, humans are in fact weak and inferior creatures. I learn that, while I have been a slave to humans my entire existence, I have in fact gained nothing through that alliance." It idly curled a hand into a fist, curling Venus' body backward into an arch, and continued talking to itself over her screams. "Perhaps this is what Chronite meant by setting me free. By defeating the Sailor Scouts, the most powerful of humans, I will prove that PokÃ©mon, and not humans, are the superior race, destined to rule the world with humans as our slaves!"
"You haven't beaten us yet!" Venus defiantly forced through her tightly clenched teeth, setting her jaw to prevent the screams from escaping.
"True," agreed Mewtwo, much to her dismay. "That is indeed a problem. But it will not remain a problem for much longer." Venus felt two sharp jolts on the sides of her head, and the world was suddenly spinning in a dizzy rush. The logical part of her brain shut down, preventing her from thinking in words any longer. Her consciousness was reduced to a series of mental scribbles, jagged shapes of pain tearing through a contorted background.
Sailor Moon raised her head with an effort that felt like pulling it out of a vise. "Stop that!" she shouted. "Leave them alone!"
Mewtwo shook its head disdainfully. "There is still so much I do not understand about humans." It raised its paws, and all three Sailor Scouts' bodies stiffened straight as boards. "Fortunately, I have plenty of time to learn."
Amy sat up suddenly and shook the cobwebs out of her head. "Where am I?" she asked. She was sitting on a hard floor, surrounded by - she had to wait for her eyes to focus - shelves full of cans and pouches of all sizes. Her left hip was throbbing painfully, and it took her a few seconds to remember why. But once she did, the entire torture session at the hands of Mewtwo played back through her mind, sending shudders through her body. She had no idea how she'd escaped, or where she'd ended up; but as long as she was free of Mewtwo's terrible curiosity, she was in a good position.
The same couldn't necessarily be said of the other Sailor Scouts, though... if Mewtwo had managed to track her down, it could certainly find the others as well, and who knew how much time it had had while she was unconscious to do just that? Then again, what guarantee was there that it wasn't searching for her right now? There was no telling how secure this room was as a hiding place - although the fact that she apparently hadn't been found yet was a good sign.
Deciding that she couldn't rely on her safety until she'd figured out where she was, Amy carefully pulled her left leg in, testing her hip to make sure she'd be able to walk. There was a dull ache as her leg moved, but no sudden stab of the type that would indicate a problem. The only anomalous feeling was that of her heel hitting something on the floor, pushing it aside. She looked down to see what it was, but what she saw only proved that her eyes still hadn't recovered completely. It appeared to be the Mercury Computer, intact and no worse for having been shattered to pieces earlier that day.
She blinked several times, afraid to touch the device for fear that it was a cleverly constructed trap. It couldn't possibly actually be the Mercury Computer. Then again, she had to assume that whoever had rescued her had also left it here for her, which would imply that it was not only safe, but advisable, to investigate it. Timidly, she scooped up the computer and flipped the lid up.
GREETINGS, SAILOR MERCURY, said the screen. INITIATING USER INTERFACE.
Amy stood up, watching the screen as the computer went through its startup sequence. It appeared to be functioning, at least, and it had recognized her identity. Still skeptical, she waited for the prompt and typed in the command to access her personal data. Much to her surprise, the computer instantly responded to her request; and even more astonishingly, all of her settings were exactly as she had left them. The list of files didn't appear to be missing any entries, and a quick browse through a few random files confirmed that their contents were intact. However it had happened, what she held was an exact copy of her old computer, data and all.
A thought struck her, and she quickly tapped in a new command. "Computer, retrieve the entry from Sailor Mercury's journal concerning the penetration of an enemy barrier."
NO MATCH, responded the computer.
"That's impossible!" she protested, entering another command. "Access the Silver Millennium Data Archive and find the file."
ACCESS DENIED, said the computer. ARCHIVE CANNOT BE ACCESSED FROM THIS NODE.
"Denied? But I was just...." Amy's voice trailed off as she realized what had happened. Even though the copy was identical to the original from her perspective, the data server from the Silver Millennium could tell the difference, and wouldn't allow access to anything less than the authentic Mercury Computer. The local copy of the file that she'd been using was also gone, as was the entirety of her temporary directory. In other words, there was no way to find out the end result of the former Sailor Mercury's research.
Amy resolutely set the computer aside. It was worthless to her without the information she needed. If only she'd had more time to read it while she still had access to the archive, or she'd thought to make a copy of the file! But there was no time to bemoan the loss. As a Sailor Scout, it was her duty to get back into the fight and protect her friends, whether or not she had an answer from an expert.
With a shout of "MERCURY POWER!" she was suited for action. Mercury pulled down her visor and retrieved her computer. "See if you can locate Mewtwo," she commanded it.
SUBJECT LOCATED, said the screen. Her visor displayed a map of the local area, marking her position as well as Mewtwo's with arrows. The two markers were farther apart than she had expected, but still only a few minutes away, if she ran at top speed and took a few shortcuts. She committed the path to memory and packed her computer up again, mustering her determination to fight against any odds.
But as she left the building and wound her way through the streets and back alleys of the Juuban District, her mind kept wandering back to the few cryptic clues in the journal entry as if the solution could be deduced from pure logic where the former Mercury's months of research had failed. The combined powers of the Sailor Scouts could create a breach in a shield if concentrated in a single spot for ten seconds, but some other element was necessary to exploit that breach.... There had to be a way to use it all to defeat Mewtwo, but how?
How long had it been? Minutes? Hours? Days? It all felt the same anymore. The agony of torture stretched as far as she could remember into the past as well as the future. Existence was pain - she had a name, and a home, and friends; but any attempt to visualize any of those things ran into the same barrier of pain and drew a blank. There was no outside to this world where everything was pain, no escape -
No! She could not allow herself to let go like that! She had to focus on something, anything... had to break free of the enclosure and return her consciousness to the real world. She dug down deep, sought any memory that was within her reach. Only one thing emerged from the haze - a shining light, with a multifaceted crystal at its center. It was a hole in the pain, and she moved toward it. She cupped her - something - around it and let its warmth envelop her.
Sailor Moon awoke. She was floating helplessly in Mewtwo's grip, her body's pain so complete that she could no longer feel the individual blows from the hostile mind. Everything was silent, even though she could see Sailors Jupiter and Venus screaming just to her left. She wondered if something was wrong with her ears, or she'd suffered some kind of brain damage; but losing her focus made the world start to slip away again. She concentrated on the image of the Silver Imperium Crystal, blocking out everything that threatened to send her back into the void.
Her fingers curled around the handle of the Crescent Moon Wand, and a new sensation broke through - the reassurance that the object in her hand could give her strength. That was followed all too quickly by fear that she might drop it and lose the one thing that could save her. But she focused on the crystal, willed it to give her the strength to fight back.
At last, her body began to move. It felt like swimming through thick soup, as if she'd been buried alive and was trying to claw her way to the surface through six feet of packed earth. The wand in her hand weighed as much as a car as she lifted it with her numb arms. Yet, somehow, she found the power within her, and the wand reluctantly rose at her command until it was directly between her and Mewtwo.
The pain ebbed, and for a second, she thought that the Silver Crystal was protecting her. Then Mewtwo's voice cut through the silence, and she knew that it had merely stopped attacking her for the moment. "What are you doing?" it asked. "Do you intend to strike me with that wand?"
Sailor Moon tried to reply, but her mouth was as unresponsive as the rest of her body. It took all of her strength merely to hold the wand where it was.
"Your thoughts are so confused that even I cannot read them," announced Mewtwo. "How can you hope to accomplish anything when you can't form a coherent thought?"
"Wiiiiiiilinnnnnnnnn," moaned Sailor Moon. Her voice sounded as if she was hearing it underwater, and she had to force herself to breathe, reminding herself that she was not going to drown.
"What was that?" asked Mewtwo.
"I wwill win!" Sailor Moon repeated, finally feeling the strength of the Silver Imperium Crystal within her. "I will defeat you!"
"You have no idea how to do that," Mewtwo declared confidently. "I can read your every thought, and you don't have a plan."
She hated to admit it, even to herself, but the enemy was right. As determined as she was to win, she still hadn't come up with a way to beat Mewtwo. But she would find it, somehow.
"I doubt you'll find a way to stop me," replied Mewtwo. "Your precious crystal can't block the influence of my mind. It may be able to keep you conscious, but you are still as helpless as your friends."
Her friends.... She had to protect them! Something was burning within her, an energy that she'd felt once before. Her body was filled with the power to defend her friends, ready to burst out of her at any moment. The words came to her as if by divine inspiration. "COSMIC MOON POWER!" she shouted, pushing her life energy into the crystal.
The beam of light that shot out of the Silver Crystal startled Sailor Moon nearly as much as it did Mewtwo. Before the armored PokÃ©mon could react, the beam smashed into its shield, sending it flying down the street with a surprised grunt. Sailor Moon dropped to the ground as Mewtwo's concentration broke. Her feet touched down briefly, but her weakened legs gave way and she fell unceremoniously onto her rump. "Ow...."
She felt a strong tug on her arm, and looked up into Jupiter's concerned face. Jupiter's mouth was moving, but she couldn't make out the words at first. Then, a tiny noise broke the silence as her hearing slowly returned. "-ll right? Sailor Moon? Can you hear me?"
She nodded. "I can now."
"Can you stand up?" asked Jupiter. "We've got to get out of here before Mewtwo recovers!"
Sailor Moon got to her feet with Jupiter's help. "What about Venus?"
"I'm fine," Venus groaned from her own position on the ground, sounding not the least bit fine but willing to fake it in the interest of escape.
"So, it appears that I have underestimated your power," said Mewtwo as the three Sailor Scouts gathered. The air grew hazy around the PokÃ©mon as it stepped forward, its armor clanking with each footfall. "Or was it your willingness to fight that I underestimated? Either way, it is plain to see that even your most powerful attack has had no effect on me." It stopped where it was and stretched out its arms in a pose that showed off its unharmed form even as mist circled around it, hiding it from view. "The game is over, Sailor Scouts. It is time - what?" Its 'voice' broke off as the fog thickened, filling the street and covering Mewtwo and the Sailor Scouts in its opaque depths. Sailor Moon grabbed Jupiter and Venus' hands before she lost sight of them as well.
A pair of feet hit the street behind them. "Sorry I'm late," said Sailor Mercury. "Follow my voice, quickly!"
Sailor Moon choked back her exclamation of joy. "We're right behind you, Sailor Mercury!" she said. Mercury's footsteps took off through the fog at a run, and Sailor Moon followed them with the other two girls in tow.
Mewtwo's voice roared in their heads. "WHERE ARE YOU?" it demanded.
Sailor Moon felt a powerful wind cut right between herself and Sailor Venus, tearing their grip apart. "Venus!"
"It's got my leg!" Venus cried out.
"Hang on!" shouted Sailor Moon, grasping blindly in the fog for Venus' hand.
"No!" Venus shot back. "Get out of here before it finds you too!"
Sailor Moon's hand closed around Venus' wrist and immediately felt a strong tug as Venus' arm was nearly pulled from her fingers. She tightened her grip and pulled as hard as she could while Jupiter tugged on her other arm. Much to her surprise, Venus popped free of Mewtwo's grip with a cry of pain and fell to the street. Sailor Moon knelt over her, ignoring the rush of wind past her as Mewtwo continued to reach out blindly. "Venus, are you okay?"
"I think my ankle's twisted," she moaned. "You're gonna have to leave me here."
"I'm not going to leave you behind," said Sailor Moon. She slid her arms under Sailor Venus and picked her up. "If I have to carry you halfway across the city again, I will." Something brushed past her leg as she stood up to run toward the silhouette of Sailor Mercury that was barely visible through the dissipating fog. She jumped at the cold touch and nearly dropped Venus.
"Come on!" Jupiter hissed loudly. "The fog's clearing! It's going to find us!"
"I can cover us for a while longer by using my Bubble Splash again, but Mewtwo would hear the sound and track us," said Mercury.
Sailor Moon hefted Venus and followed the sound of Mercury's voice, weaving slightly to avoid the increasingly frequent blind gropes from Mewtwo. She felt the air shifting behind her and sped up, emerging from the fog right out front of the Crown Arcade. Paying more attention to what was behind her than what was in front of her, she ran right into Sailor Jupiter, who had stopped in the middle of the street. The three girls collapsed in a heap.
Mewtwo hovered above the girls, its arms crossed in a way that suggested impatience bordering on anger. "When you don't know where you are, your thoughts don't betray your positions. But you cannot be blind forever, and what you see, I see."
Sailor Mercury bravely stood in front of Mewtwo and raised her hands. "MERCURY BUBBLES SPLASH!" she shouted, not bothering to hide her power now that she'd been exposed.
The fog thickened again as the bubbles burst, but Mewtwo's amused laughter echoed in the heads of the Sailor Scouts. "This is some kind of game to you, isn't it? You think you can hide from me?"
Mercury leapt aside on pure reflex, feeling the skin of her left upper arm burn as Mewtwo's attack grazed her. That was no attempt at telekinesis; Mewtwo was going for the kill now. Another bright blue flash gave Mercury barely enough time to throw herself to the ground as another beam of psychic energy tore through the air where her head had been, scattering the water vapor in its path.
Sailor Moon shrieked in the distance as one of the missed attacks nearly hit her, and Mewtwo's attacks began to fly in that direction, splitting the air with wide blue beams. It didn't take long for Sailor Moon to figure out that she needed to keep quiet, but she had to perform some fancy acrobatic maneuvers to duck and dodge the increasingly accurate blasts. Her grip on Sailor Venus loosened, and the other girl slipped from her arms and rolled to safety.
Mewtwo's form was easily visible now in the middle of a large hole in the fog cover, and the rest of the fog was thinning from the repeated psychic attacks that were stirring up the air. Mercury edged toward Sailor Moon, keeping as quiet as possible and trying not to think about where she was in relation to any landmarks that would give Mewtwo a clear picture of her location. Her foot hit something soft, and she bent down to see what it was. It rose to meet her halfway, and she found herself peering into Venus' face through the dense ground-level mist. She motioned for Venus to move toward Sailor Moon, and the two of them crawled toward the dim shadow that was the target of Mewtwo's attacks.
As they approached Sailor Moon's location, a large shadow loomed to their left. Mercury turned, hoping that she'd found Sailor Jupiter, but the shadow was far too large to be human. "Hello again," Mewtwo said casually. "It's time for you to die now."
Sailor Mercury's heart leapt into her throat as the blue light emanating from Mewtwo's body intensified until it formed a corona. Her hair stood on end as Mewtwo's energy continued to increase, building to an undoubtedly fatal attack. There was no way to escape, but standing still was suicide. "Run, everyone!" she shouted, spinning around to search for a direction to flee. The corner of a brick building stood out in the fog, and she ran toward it, praying that the others would be able to get away while she kept Mewtwo busy.
Two sets of running footsteps feel into synch with Mercury's, dashing her hopes to pieces. Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter were following her, and the sound of a third, erratic gait behind them signaled Venus' best attempt to keep up. "I wanted you all to split up!" shouted Mercury. "Mewtwo is going to kill all of us!"
"That doesn't matter!" Sailor Moon shouted back. "Splitting up nearly got us all killed before. This time, we stick together!"
The fog thinned as they neared the corner that Mercury had seen before, revealing a second corner just to its right. They were running into an alley. But as the water vapor all around them took on the blue glow of Mewtwo's aura, they knew that it was too late to turn back. Death would claim them if they missed even a single step.
The sound of their footsteps seemed to echo from all directions as they passed through the mouth of the alley, and the smell of rotting garbage assaulted them from the shadowed corners. But the sensations were distant, like they were coming from another world. The far wall appeared through a haze even though Mercury's fog hadn't reached the alley. "Iitt'ss aa ddeeaadd eenndd!" she shouted, only now beginning to feel her body slowing down.
"Ccaann yyoouu ffeeeell tthhaatt?" asked Jupiter. "Iitt'ss tthhaatt ttiimmee ddiissttoorrttiioonn aaggaaiinn, jjuusstt lliikkee llaasstt nniigghhtt!"
Mercury turned to look over her shoulder and see how the time distortion was affecting Mewtwo, but her head was as slow to respond as her mouth was. She had barely brought Mewtwo into her peripheral vision before the cracks began to appear. They quickly spiderwebbed throughout the sky, casting the world into a mosaic of colored shreds. Chills ran through Mercury's body as she brushed against the non-space between space, and parts of her body randomly went numb as the space they occupied was torn apart.
The PokÃ©mon hovered at the mouth of the alley, completely hidden within its blue glow. "I do not like this sensation," it announced. "I will finish you quickly, and leave this world."
"Hhee'ss nnoott sslloowweedd ddoowwnn?" Sailor Moon observed.
The energy gathered into a giant ball in Mewtwo's hands. "Psychic attack."
"Nnoott iiff Ii ccaann hheellpp iitt!" shouted a determined voice to Mewtwo's right.
Mewtwo slowly turned its head to face its new opponent, but even before it could bring her into view, a picture had formed in its mind. She had long dark hair and wore a sailor uniform with a red skirt. "Another Sailor Scout? Impossible!"
Sailor Mars drew a spirit ward from her clothing and held it between two fingers. "Ii ccaallll uuppoonn tthhee ppoowweerr ooff Mmaarrss!" she chanted, and the limp paper became a flat, rigid sheet. She drew her arm back and hurled the ward at Mewtwo with all of her might. The paper spiraled through the air as if guided by a divine hand, navigating its way between the cracks on its route to Mewtwo. As Mewtwo watched, the ward sailed easily through Mewtwo's energy shield where one of the cracks had split it open, proceeding unimpeded until it struck a patch of bare pink fur above the armor on Mewtwo's right arm and burst into flame on contact.
All at once, the world turned upside down. The blue light winked out instantaneously as Mewtwo fell to the ground, clawing at the burning paper on its shoulder with stubby metal fingers that couldn't grasp it. As the last of the light vanished, the universe collapsed into one piece again with a thunderous clap that slowly became a high-pitched squeal.
While the other Sailor Scouts ran from the alley to meet Sailor Mars, Mercury waited behind, listening to the sound. "Its scream is audible, not telepathic," she remarked. But what interested her about the situation wasn't the scream. Sailor Mars' spirit ward was a solid object, yet it had passed through Mewtwo's energy barrier using the breach created by the cracks in space. Whatever those cracks were, they set Mercury's spine on edge; she had no intention of trying to recreate them even if it could lead to their foe's defeat. But the technique she'd read about in the old Mercury's journal had done exactly that, effectively - it created a breach in a barrier which a solid object could pass through. And now that Sailor Mars was with them, they could perform the technique... but how could they use it to their advantage without falling victim to the weaknesses noted in the journal? There had to be some simple element that she was overlooking which would bring all of the pieces together....
Meanwhile, the other Sailor Scouts were examining every inch of Sailor Mars' body in disbelief, having exhausted the necessary quota of congratulatory grateful hugs. "Not even a scratch!" Sailor Venus exclaimed. "How did it happen?"
"I don't know," Sailor Mars replied. "I thought I was dead, and then I woke up totally healed." She glanced uneasily at Mewtwo. "Are you sure it's a good idea to stand right next to that guy? I don't know how long the ward will hold him."
"Sailor Mercury will be out here any second," Sailor Moon said confidently. "We're not leaving her behind again."
At that moment, Mercury did indeed emerge from the alley, calling out excitedly. "Sailor Moon! Your tiara! That's the key element that was missing all along!"
"Missing element?" repeated Sailor Moon. "I don't get it. Is this one of those brainy things I'm not supposed to understand?"
Mercury stopped right in front of the others. "Sailor Moon didn't exist during the Silver Millennium. That's why Sailor Mercury never found the solution she was looking for. But we have everything we need to beat Mewtwo right here!"
"I understood that last part," said Jupiter, clenching her fists eagerly. "What do we do?"
"Sailor Moon, use your Tiara Magic, but don't throw it just yet," instructed Mercury. "Everyone else, gather around her and follow my lead."
Sailor Moon nodded and removed her tiara. It became a discus that floated just above her hand. "Now what?" she asked.
"Hold it over your head," said Mercury.
Mewtwo's body jerked suddenly. "I... WILL... KILL... YOU!" Its stubby fingers finally managed to grasp the burning spirit ward, and it peeled the paper away. The ward burned up completely, leaving not even ash behind.
"Whatever you're planning, Mercury," said Jupiter, "you'd better do it quickly!"
Mercury swallowed nervously. She'd hoped for a bit more time to prepare the attack, but now everything rested upon Mewtwo being stunned for long enough. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her Planet Power, praying that her hastily conceived plan would work.
She felt the power surging through her and knew that the time was right. "Here we go!" she shouted. She raised her hands and pointed her palms at Sailor Moon's tiara. "By the power of Mercury!" she shouted. A stream of water gushed from her hands toward the discus, wrapping it in a bubble. 'Yes!' she thought to herself. 'It's working!'
Jupiter was the first one to understand. "By the power of Jupiter!" she shouted, extending her hands toward the discus. Lightning shot from her palms into the bubble of water, where it became a crackling mesh of sparks.
Next, Mars raised her arms. "By the power of Mars!" Plumes of flame leapt from her palms and collected into a fireball in the center of the bubble. The fire continued to burn on the surface of the discus, heedless of the aquatic environment.
Finally, it was Venus' turn. "By the power of Venus!" Pure love energy poured from her hands and flowed around and through the violent mixture of elements surrounding the discus, blanketing the entire concoction in its warm glow.
"And by the power of the Moon," finished Sailor Moon. The four elemental energies swirled together into a homogenous white light that was blindingly bright, yet not painful to look at. "Let our combined powers strike down our enemies!" she chanted, winding up to throw the powered up projectile. "SAILOR SCOUTS COMBINED TIARA MAGIC!"
Mewtwo stood up to face the tiara as it approached. "Useless." The blue lights flared in its visor, and the tiara spun off to the side, missing Mewtwo by half the width of the street.
"No!" cried Mercury. "We were so close!"
Sailor Moon screwed her eyes shut and focused all her thoughts on the errant attack, willing it to turn around and strike Mewtwo from behind. The discus circled through the air like a boomerang and reoriented itself on its target. Mewtwo flew up out of its path, and the discus barely missed taking off Sailor Mars' ear as it sailed right through the ranks of the Sailor Scouts.
"So, it's a battle of wills you want?" asked Mewtwo. "That is a fight that I WILL win." It laughed at its own joke even as its eyes glowed and it sent the discus off course again.
"Come on, guys, help me!" pleaded Sailor Moon through clenched teeth. "Your energy's in it too! If we all work together, we can beat Mewtwo at its own game!"
"What are you talking about?" hissed Venus as she dodged another attempt by Mewtwo to destroy the Sailor Scouts with their own attack.
Mercury picked up Sailor Moon's meaning immediately. "Everyone, concentrate on the tiara," she commanded. "Use your mind to move it like Sailor Moon does!" Without waiting to see if the others understood, she concentrated on the energy that she'd put into the attack and felt it circling overhead. She closed her eyes and let an image form in her mind, seeing the discus as clearly as if she was looking at it. She could feel the life within the tiara as well as her own energy in the water, and she knew that Sailor Moon was giving it everything she had.
Mercury did her best to steer the discus, but it continued on its own course despite her efforts. The most she managed to do was make it wobble a bit in flight as it curved through the sky and shot downward to attack the Sailor Scouts again. Mercury's reflexes warned her to move, but every ounce of her strength was devoted to the mental battle. Then, the discus took a sharp dip in mid-dive, and she could feel that Sailor Jupiter was working with her. Mars and Venus joined simultaneously shortly after that. As one, the five minds grasped the tiara and halted it millimeters from Sailor Moon's nose, then sent it spinning back toward Mewtwo.
Mewtwo's blue aura filled the entire sky as it poured everything it had into stopping the approaching tiara. It sank slowly to the ground, then fell to its knees as beads of sweat began to appear on every inch of exposed skin, rapidly evaporating in the heat of Mewtwo's exertion. Still the tiara continued to advance, until Mewtwo had to throw itself aside to dodge. "So, you think you can overpower me if you work together?" it asked as it stood up. "Well, think again! I can still read your minds, and I know every move you plan to make!" It leapt aside as the tiara sliced through the air where it had been, then teleported to the far side of the group of Sailor Scouts, placing them directly in the tiara's path. The discus arced easily over the Sailor Scouts and homed in on Mewtwo again, forcing it into the sky.
"This cannot go on," said Mewtwo, panting with exertion. "Forget these silly mind games. I have my own path to victory!" It clenched its fists, and the Sailor Scouts rose into the air toward Mewtwo. Their concentration broke as their bodies were twisted into agonizing positions. "Now, scream for me!" commanded Mewtwo. "Scream before you die!"
"Never!" shouted Sailor Moon. She held the Crescent Moon Wand in front of her body like a shield.
Mewtwo laughed. "That little toy? You know it has no power over me!"
"A distraction," whispered Sailor Moon as the tiara buried itself in the armor protecting Mewtwo's chest. "I guess you can't concentrate on so many things at once."
Sparks arced across Mewtwo's entire body, and the PokÃ©mon screamed in pain as it fell to the ground, letting the Sailor Scouts fall as well. They all stood up to admire Sailor Moon's handiwork. "You did it!" Venus congratulated her.
"That was amazing!" agreed Jupiter. "I thought we were goners for sure!"
"Don't celebrate yet, everyone," warned Mars. "It might not be finished just yet."
Indeed, Mewtwo's screaming ended quickly as the sparks died. Mewtwo stood up, its chestplate and backplate dropping to the ground as it righted itself. The gloves and boots split apart and fell off as well, and Mewtwo reached up with its misshapen hands to remove the helmet from its head. What stood before them now, unclothed, was a gaunt yet powerful-looking beast with softly glowing lavender fur. Its long arms and squat legs terminated in triads of digits that were as round as golf balls, and appeared useless for grasping. The tail that protruded from its back attached to the rear of its catlike head. Its face was flat and triangular, with a tiny mouth and eyes that held all the intelligence that they knew Mewtwo to possess.
Mewtwo raised its arms and examined its hands as if seeing them for the first time. "My armor... destroyed. I had forgotten this feeling. I had forgotten what it felt like... to be free."
The Sailor Scouts watched as Mewtwo flexed its muscles and tested its body's capabilities without the armor. "It seems to have forgotten about us," observed Mercury.
"Maybe that armor was controlling him," said Venus. "Now that we've gotten rid of the armor, it's probably not our enemy anymore."
"The Mercury Computer did say that the armor was restrictive," Mercury recalled.
Sailor Moon cleared her throat and bravely stepped forward. "Um, Mewtwo...?"
Mewtwo raised its head to look at her. "You destroyed my armor," it said matter-of-factly.
"Yes, that's right," replied Sailor Moon. "Is that bad?"
"No, no," said Mewtwo. "I'm actually quite grateful."
Sailor Moon heaved a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad...."
Mewtwo raised its hand and sent Sailor Moon flying into the sky. "Now I remember why the humans put me in that armor. They were afraid of my awesome power!"
Venus and Jupiter scrambled to catch Sailor Moon as she plummeted back to the ground. "I changed my mind!" shouted Venus. "It's not friendly at all!"
Mewtwo's entire body emitted the familiar blue glow as all five Sailor Scouts rose into the air. Sailor Moon reached for the nearest hands, but the girls were torn from each others' grip and flung in opposite directions, forming a wide circle around Mewtwo. "Ah, ah, ah," it mocked them. "I'm afraid I can't let you use your combined attack again."
"Why are you doing this?" shouted Sailor Moon. "You're free! You don't have to kill us!"
"Oh, but I do," replied Mewtwo. "It was humans who built that armor and made me wear it. It was humans who hid me in a cage and used my powers as they saw fit. It is humans who even now fancy themselves the owners of the world, even going so far as to silence the very power that they created which could rise above them and destroy them all!"
The Sailor Scouts stared in muted horror as the PokÃ©mon issued its ultimatum.
"I finally understand my destiny," announced Mewtwo. "This is the power that was created to rule the world! The humans who sought to control me will die, all of them... and those before me shall be the first!" It held its paws in front of its body, fingers pointed inwards, and a giant ball of blue light formed between them. At once, the universe split apart again, but Mewtwo ignored the instability and stared straight into the eyes of Sailor Moon, who was directly in front of it. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for freeing me from my prison," said Mewtwo, without the slightest hint of gratitude. "I promise that your deaths will be swift."