Birds chirped happily in the trees, heralding another dawn as the sun sent shining fingers of rose and gold into the morning sky. Everything was peaceful and quiet. One particular bird landed on a slender branch overhanging an open window. It let out one especially loud chirp. With a start Serena sat bolt upright in bed and peered at her alarm clock.
"Ohmigosh! I am so late!" she shrieked.
In a panicked frenzy she wrestled herself out from under the covers and stumbled onto the floor. She yelped as her feet touched the cold floor and she scrambled desperately for her socks. "Why... didn't... the alarm... go off?" she grumbled under her breath as she hopped on one foot, struggling to pull her stubborn sock on. As she finally got it on she lost her balance and crashed to the floor. She angrily got her other sock on and got up off the floor. Then she threw her school uniform on, took the pink bows out of her hair, and dashed into the kitchen. To her surprise, no one else was in it. She wasn't that late. As she stood in the middle of the floor, panting, with a slightly confused look on her face, her mother strolled in, still in her robe, with her hair slightly rumpled. As Serena watched, her mother slowly walked over to the counter and made a cup of instant coffee. She took a sip. She sighed and her eyes slowly blinked open.
"Well, good morning Serena. What on earth? It's Saturday! What are you doing in your school uniform?"
"Saturday? Saturday?!" Serena turned around, threw her arms into the air with disgust, and stomped back to her room, mumbling.
Serena threw open her bedroom door with a bang. "Luna," she whined as she reentered her room to change into some more casual clothes, "Why didn't you tell me today is Saturday?" Her voice was muffled as she pulled her school uniform off. "Here I am, in a complete panic, and you can't even bring yourself to tell me?" She waited expectantly for an indignant disclaimer, but it never came. She pulled her shirt on over her head and looked at the bed. Luna lay curled in a small black ball at the foot of it, still asleep. Concerned, Serena knelt next to her and shook her gently. Luna opened one eye with a moan.
"What?" she asked softly.
"Luna? Are you okay?"
Luna opened her other ruby eye slowly. "Actually, I'm feeling a little under the weather," she responded with a sneeze. "I think I'll just sleep today." She put her head back on her paws and closed her eyes. Just before Serena tiptoed out of the room she opened one eye tiredly. "Give my excuses at the Sailor Scout meeting at Rei's in fifteen minutes."
Serena blushed. "I almost forgot. Thanks for reminding me Luna!" she shot behind her back as she dashed out of the room.
As Serena ran towards the temple she passed Darien's apartment. She slowed to a jog as she looked up, but shook her head and determinedly began to run again. She had a duty to the Scouts. It would be wrong to let them down-again.
Darien glanced at his window a second time. He thought he'd seen Serena a moment ago, but she was gone now. He puttered around for a few minutes, half expecting her to knock at his door, but after five minutes passed without incident, he shrugged and went back to his computer.
Serena trotted up the slate gray stairs to the temple, trying to catch her breath. She leaned against a cold stone pillar and tried to stop gasping. As soon as she did, she strolled casually into the courtyard. Amy, Lita, and Rei were already talking animatedly. She saw with pleasure that Mina wasn't there yet. So she wasn't the last to arrive after all!
"So, you're not the last to arrive after all!" Rei commented when she noticed Serena, "Though it's not terribly impressive to beat Mina. She's late as often as you." Lita rolled her eyes and Amy daintily covered a smile with her hand.
"Well, at least I don't nag!" Serena retorted, glad to have a quarrel-she was still vaguely worried about Luna and a good argument would take her mind off of her. Mina ran up the walk to the temple steps just before everything degenerated into shouting and rude faces.
"Where's Artemis?" Amy asked, stepping between Serena and Rei, effectively ending their quarrel.
"That's why...I'm so...late," Mina replied. She was bent over with her hands on her knees. Her long, loose blonde hair hung over one shoulder. When she stopped wheezing she stood up straight and continued.
"He's sleeping right now. He's never been sick before! Have you ever heard a cat sneeze? He sounds ridiculous!"
"Is it serious?" Amy asked, worried.
"I don't know," Mina shook her head. "I called the vet but my appointment's not until Monday. I'm a little worried about taking him, though. What if they realize there's something different about him?"
Lita's eyes widened. "I'd never thought of that!" she exclaimed. "Let's hope it's not a problem."
"Hey, where's Luna? We can't have a meeting with one of the cats missing, let alone both!" Mina said as she looked around.
"I haven't had time to tell you guys yet, but Luna's sick too. I haven't had a chance to set up an appointment for her, though. She said she'd be fine..." Serena's voice trailed of slowly. "Maybe I can bring Luna to the vet when you bring Artemis."
Mina shrugged, "You can try. So what should we do now?"
"You probably didn't even think of making a vet appointment for Luna, Serena. I swear, you are so irresponsible." Rei turned to the other girls just before Serena could thumb her nose at her. "Maybe we should go see Luna," she suggested.
"I don't know, she could barely talk."
"Maybe we should ask each of them to explain their symptoms, and then we can compare them. I find it very suspicious that both Luna and Artemis get sick at the same time, when neither of them have ever been sick before."
Lita nodded. "I think so too, Amy. It's too unusual. Just think about how much we depend on them-we can't have a meeting without them! It could be an attack of the Negaverse!" Her eyes narrowed slightly.
Mina smiled, "Well, we're having a meeting right now, but I agree with Amy as well. Artemis was talkative when I left. Let's go talk to him first!" Serena nodded smartly, and they all took off toward Mina's.
"Artemis? Are you feeling any better?" Mina sat down next to him and began petting his white fur gently, with a concerned expression on her face.
He cracked open his eyes. Bright blue met light blue as he looked at Mina. "Not really."
"Oh! Poor Artemis! Do you want me to cook you something?"
He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. Lita chuckled quietly and have a Mina a friendly punch on her shoulder.
"Of course he doesn't! Your cooking is as bad as Serena's! She leaned in close to Artemis. "I'll cook you something, Artemis, if you're hungry."
He whispered, "I'm not hungry. I just want to sleep..." He buried his nose under his curled tail.
"Can you tell us what's wrong? Do you have a headache or stomach ache? Do you have a cold?"
"Just tired..." he mumbled and fell silent again.
Rei touched Mina's shoulder with a finger. "Let's let him rest. We should go see Luna now."
Mina nodded in agreement, but Rei and Serena had to lead her out.
Serena knelt next to her bed and began to pet Luna. She set one arm on the bed and rested her chin on it so her eyes were level with Luna's. "How are you feeling?" she asked softly.
Luna didn't respond at first. Serena was about to shake her when she sighed and asked, "What?"
"Luna! What's wrong?! Can you tell me what is making you ill?" The other Scouts crowded closer.
"I'm just tired-after a nap I'm sure I'll feel better."
"Okay, Luna, we'll leave you alone now," Amy said and herded Serena and the other worried girls out.
A subdued group sat down around Serena's living room table. Serena put her chin in both hands and looked down at the table.
"Well, I guess there's nothing to do about this until Monday," she said.
Rei looked up. "I can consult the fire and look for a cause," she looked around the table, "but if they're just sick, the fire isn't going to tell us anything."
Lita's eyes sparked. "It has to be a Negaverse plot-Luna and Artemis wouldn't get sick at the same time." Her lip curled slightly.
"They don't seem sick..." Amy mused softly.
"It seems odd that a Negaverse attack would start like this," Mina protested. She tossed a long strand of blond hair out of her face. "They've never used a tactic like this before."
They were all silent for a second. Mina noticed Amy staring off into space, distracted. Her eyes lit up.
"What'd you say, Amy?"
Amy smiled at Mina. "You see it too?"
"I missed something."
"What are you-wait, I understand!" Rei cried. "I should have seen it sooner." She looked all around the table. "They both said they weren't sick, just tired. My guess is that their energy has been drained and that implies-"
"The Negaverse!" Lita snarled. She slammed a tightened fist into her open palm.
"Wait!" Serena cried, "If they knew enough to find Luna and Artemis, why haven't they attacked Mina and I?"
Amy nodded. "That's why I didn't say anything-I can't answer that question. I'm still trying to figure this all out."
"Well, if we all agree it's probably the Negaverse, I think we should consult the fire. Maybe it will give us some answers." Mina shrugged.
"Are you all right, Serena? You seem distracted." Darien leaned in close and whispered in her ear, "Any troubles a certain masked man can help with?"
Serena looked up at him with wide eyes. "I wasn't going to tell you," she began with a small shake of her head, "but both Luna and Artemis are sick. Amy and Mina thought it was a Negaverse attack." She looked back down and her feet and wiggled her toes. Her long hair obscured her face.
"What make them think that?"
"They said that they weren't ill, just tired and weak. It looked like their energy had been drained. We went back to the temple and Rei inquired of the fire, but all she got was that Artemis and Luna were being attacked somehow, and that there's more trouble coming." She shivered and clung to Darien. "I'm so worried. I'm supposed to be in charge, and I feel so helpless without Luna or Artemis to turn to."
Darien lifted her chin with one finger until she looked up at him. "You underestimate yourself and your friends." He smiled, "And me. We're all aware something's up, and now we're all on our guard."
Serena blinked the doubt out of her eyes and smiled back. "Mmm-hmm," she nodded sharply, and they both turned to gaze up at the Moon's pale face.