. . .she weakly pulled herself to her feet. She was so tired . . .she looked around, but a grey mist obscured her sight . . . the dank, heavy air was difficult to breathe-it had a musty smell to it . . . movement . . . a nightmarish form appeared out of nowhere . . . pain . . . darkness . . .
Serena tried to blink the stars out of her eyes, but failed. There were just too many of them. She sighed as she looked at Darien. Sure, he seemed cold and withdrawn, but she was sure it was because he was a deep person. Besides, he had that gorgeous black hair, and those fabulous blue eyes!
The air of mystery that surrounded him didn't hurt either. She'd wasted many an hour wondering about his various odd habits. How he shuddered whenever he saw a tuxedo, how long blonde hair, especially when worn up, brought a look of pain into his eyes, how he never talked of his past, and how he always pulled out that strange star locket. He obviously had a deep, important secret, and she was determined to ferret it out. She worked with him, after all. She was just doing it for the good of the computer store. Pure motives were always important.
She strolled casually over in his direction. He stood leaning on a counter, holding that locket in his hands. She strained her ears. He was mumbling something. It was in Japanese again. She should really learn to understand it. She turned away, disappointed.
Darien stroked the cool gold of the star, then the circle in the middle. It remained silent, as it had for two years.
"Usagi-" he stopped, his voice blocked by tears. He swallowed them. "Usako, I miss you. Come back to me. . ." He put his head down and fought to contain the sobs that struggled to come out. <Usako. . .>
. . .a thick, heavy, fog rolls over her . . . she weakly pulls herself to her feet, and sways unsteadily . . . she's so tired . . . the grey mist obscures her sight as she turns her head and scans intently with her eyes, trying to see . . . her chest heaves as she struggles to draw in the still, dead air around her . . . her nostrils flare as the musty smells of death and decay intrude upon her . . . the fog parts! A giant looming form-armored and frightening-appears before her . . . its mouth opens, it says something, but her beating heart-THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!-deafens her . . . it moves . . . PAIN! . . . stars of pain flash before her eyes . . . an anguished young man with black hair and blue eyes . . . LIGHT! . . .Blinding light seeps through her fluttering eyelashes . . .
Her eyes moved under her eyelids. Her heart beat faster, and one finger twitched every few seconds. A sound forced itself between her dry lips, but long disuse of her voice made her desperate utterance unrecognizable to anyone but herself. "Minna!" she croaked weakly. "Minna!"
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
The nurse put down the paperwork she was filling out. Something-she wasn't sure what-had caught her attention. She rubbed her tired eyes. She hated the night shift. It always made her start to imagine things. She looked around the room anyway and noticed what had caught her attention. The heart monitor for one of the coma patients was beeping more quickly. She glanced over at the patient's bed and gasped. She was moving! The nurse ran to her desk and looked up the patient's info. She picked up the phone and began to dial the phone number written in the patient's file.
The students jerked up in surprise. They were all good students, but Amy outshone them all. Needless to say, they were all competitive-and slightly jealous. She was usually so quiet, but suddenly, in the middle of class, she stood up with a shout, overturning her desk and chair.
"Usagi-chan!" she screamed, her eyes wide open, but glassy. She didn't see the shocked expressions or wide open mouths of her fellow students. Rather, she brought shaking hands up to cover her closing eyes with a groan. Then she collapsed into a limp heap.
No one openly watched the heated argument as they left the school grounds, but students walking toward the busses or their cars suddenly found a particularly interesting tree or patch of sidewalk. Conversations stopped and people cocked their heads to listen to the two shouting girls. No one, but no one messed with Rachel, acknowledged queen of the high school. One tight knot of girls talked in low whispers and laughed-obviously Rachel's toadies. They pointed occasionally at the new girl who stood directly in front of Rachel, giving as good as she got. Another group-the outsiders-silently watched the raven haired girl yell. One of the giggling toadies nudged a friend.
"Wow! Do you think it'll come to blows?" she asked excitedly. Her companion turned and opened her mouth to answer her.
A high pitched, drawn out shriek came from the direction of the bickering girls. Rachel stood dumbfounded as the raven-haired girl sank to her knees. She seemed to be buffeted by an unseen force. Abruptly she stopped screaming.
"Usagi-Usagi lives!" she whispered so softly that only Rachel heard her. Rachel heard, but didn't understand, as it had been said in Japanese. With a soft sigh the other girl slowly closed her eyes and fell the rest of the way to the ground. Every last student stood stock still-unable to move. Teachers-who would respond to a scream but otherwise ignore disturbances between students-came running in response to the new girl's cry. One knelt next to the girl's prone body and picked up a limp wrist.
"Are you all right," the teacher patted the girl's hand, "Raye?"
The heat was oppressive. The chef reached up and wiped the sweat off his brow. He looked over at the girl who was concentrating on chopping various vegetables for his stir-fry. He shook his head ruefully. If she were two years older, he'd be cutting vegetables for her-she already cooked better than he did, but sixteen year olds weren't really supposed to be chefs, so she wasn't one-officially. He put a cut a pat of butter off the stick, and was about to put the butter in the wok when a strangled cry emerged from the girl's lips. Her knife dropped from a limp hand, and the chef dropped his butter knife and the butter with a clatter as he snatched at the falling knife before it hurt anybody.
"What's wrong, Lita?" he asked, concerned. The girl's knuckles turned white as her knees gave way, and only her hands seemed to hold her up. She shook her head as if she was trying to clear it.
"Usagi. . ." she whispered, then her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed.
Sirens shrieked as police responded to the bank alarm. One of the tellers ran out to them. She pointed down the street. "It was that sailor girl that's been on the news. She knocked one out, and then ran after the others. They went that way!" One police car remained behind, and others shot off in the direction the woman had pointed. Officer O'Brian called into the police station on her radio.
"It's another sighting of the sailor suited vigilante-she stopped the bank robbery, and we are now in pursuit of her and at least one of the robbers!"
"Roger. Apprehend all suspects."
"Over and out." She hooked the radio back up and stepped on the gas.
"Do you think we'll find them?" her partner asked curiously. "We've only had a few disjointed reports of this girl."
"If I'm not mistaken," O'Brian said as she stepped on the brake, "that pretty well fits all the descriptions we got of her." She pointed at a teenaged girl wearing giant glasses, a private school, sailor type uniform, elbow length gloves, and amazingly, high heels. She had long blonde hair that made her look pretty and vulnerable, until she attacked.
"Sailor V Kick!" she yelled.
"We have to stop her-look at how she's hitting them!" It seems that two bank robbers had escaped from the bank, and one was already unconscious on the ground. With a shout the girl jumped into the air and aimed another nasty kick at the remaining man.
"Freeze!" Officer O'Brian shouted, not really expecting it to work. The girl's foot connected with the robber's forehead, and he fell down unconscious. The girl whirled to face the two officers, and the other police cars now pulling to a halt around her. She tensed to do something-only God knew what-and then she suddenly straightened with an anguished cry.
"Usagi-chan!" Sailor V fell to her knees weakly while the police watched warily. Her hands covered her face and she began to sob softly. "Usagi . . . you're still alive!" Joy lit up her face, then it darkened as she fell the rest of the way to the ground with a sigh. The cops moved in slowly to arrest them.
Artemis sat down on Mina's bed with a disgusted snort. It was a surprisingly difficult noise for him to make, as a cat. In the last few months Mina had gotten more and more careless, and here was just another example. Not only had she run off to fight crime without him, but she had locked him up in her room. He was listening to the radio, hoping for some news of what had happened to her.
"We bring you this special bulletin, live from our reporter Pamela Carlson. Pamela?" Artemis stood up. This sounded interesting. He listened more closely to the radio.
"Thank you, Frank. I'm standing at the corner of State Street and James, watching an amazing drama unfold. Everyone has heard of the sailor-suited vigilante, but almost no reports of her have been confirmed-until now. I am looking at her right now with my own eyes. She stopped a bank robbery at First Town Bank a few blocks from where I am standing, and chased two of the perpetrators to this point. She has already knocked one out, and is going after the next one now. Wow! The police are on the scene, you can probably hear their sirens, Frank. One of the officers just ordered everyone to freeze. The sailor vigilante didn't listen! She has taken out the other bank robber! Wait! What's this?" Artemis' hair stood on end. What was Mina thinking? She should leave, and let the police handle things! At the surprised exclamation of the commentator, Artemis listened even more closely. He heard a sound like a shrill scream. "The girl is screaming! She's passed out! The police are closing in to arrest all three people, it seems. . ." Artemis ignored what she said next. Mina was going to be arrested! What else could happen?
He shouldn't have wondered. All of a sudden a wave of energy overwhelmed his senses. He was only able to get a faint impression-Princess Serenity?-before he passed out.
Mrs. Mizuno leaned down and picked up the soft black cat. She smiled.
"I don't know what it is about you, Luna, but I always feel like I can talk to you. I wonder how much you really understand. You know, Ami-chan really worries me sometimes. I think since that friend of hers disappeared, something important has been missing in her life. I don't know-it's been over two years. You'd think it would have passed by now-but Ami's always been a serious girl. . ."
Luna didn't feel like hearing this right now. Not only Amy was still affected by Usagi's disappearance. Luna missed her terribly. They'd grown quite close during those adventures they'd all had. . .As if her musings on Usagi had triggered something, Usagi's face flashed through her mind. Lights flashed before her eyes as her brain was overloaded. Then the light dissipated, and all went dark.
Darien gathered himself together and pushed off of the counter as he put the locket back in his coat pocket. That girl Serena jumped back. He flushed in annoyance. She was watching him again. He spotted a customer that looked confused and turned to walk in that direction. Suddenly he stopped. <What is that noise?> Eagerly he reached into his pocket and brought out the locket. It was playing! That could only mean . . .
The force of Usagi's awakening crashed into his mind and pushed him to his knees. The realization that she was still alive washed over his consciousness with the force of a tidal wave, and it swept his consciousness away. He fell face down on the ground, unconscious.
The dragon looked over at his master. He blew a few puffs of inky black smoke out of his scaled nostrils. They'd only been stopped here, outside this backwater planetary system, for a little while. The outer planets hadn't even orbited the central star once. It didn't matter to the dragon. He was still bored. This was such a dull part of the galaxy. They hadn't run into so much as a black hole in light years! He didn't even know why his master had ordered that they stop. He'd been in such a hurry to get here, and then he'd stopped, obviously disappointed about something, but he wouldn't tell his dragon about it. It snorted in disgust. The masters never told anyone anything. Bored, the dragon turned its head to watch the third planet-the pretty blue one-continue its third orbit since they'd arrived, so he missed it when his master's closed eyes suddenly snapped open.
<It's back!> The dark figure opened his eyes as he felt the surge of energy return to the area. He checked his chronometer. According to this system's time clocks, it'd been two years. He snorted. Imagine telling time by your home planet's orbiting period. Things had definitely gone down hill here. He smiled to himself behind his black suit of armor. That was just all the better for him. He sat up and turned to his mount.
"Pay attention!" He cuffed the shiny, black head of the dragon. <Stupid thing!> "We're going to the third planet. Orbit above the atmosphere for a while-we don't want any artificial satellites to spot us." He climbed on the beast's back, and they took off with a flap of leathery black wings.