Thump, thump, thump, thump . . .

The sounds of rapid footfalls on the sidewalk seemed unusually loud, adding a rhythm to the urgency of the moment. Her long legs eating up the distance with each jogging stride, her topknot ponytail of brunette hair swaying with each step, Lita's mind focused on one thing: there must have been another attack. Perhaps even now, another one of them was robbed of her powers.

Guilt tore at her, yet she knew she was partially in the right. After all, she had confirmed two things: Nathan Stanford had once been the Negaverse general known as Nephrite and he wasn't involved in the attacks on the Senshi. Not only that, but he seemed to know about the man that was involved.

She loped across an intersection, there being virtually no traffic at all on the night-shrouded, residential street. Looking ahead, she saw the local cemetery, and frowned at the reminder. Zoisite was out there, somewhere, somehow back from the dead to plague them once again. It was here on the grounds of this very same place that the vicious little general had attempted to take the Orange Rainbow Crystal from the priest and had attacked Molly. Lita remembered the cemetery well, having been the only Scout willing to come to Serena's aid at that time. It was a slightly creepy place, filled with old, elaborate headstones; on a night like this, she could almost believe that a ghost or three haunted it as well.

A wrought-iron fence enclosed the grounds, standing about four-foot high save for the posts which rose about half a foot taller. Topped off by small spheres instead of dangerous points, the black metal fence was more of a polite reminder that the land within was holy ground than it was intended to keep people out. This was even more apparent by the fact that at the corner that abutted the intersection, a rose-covered gazebo made something of an open gateway for foot traffic to step into the cemetery from the street.

Emerald eyes focused on the flower-adorned entrance, Lita swallowed hard and veered toward the gazebo. So what if it's a creepy place and it's dark out? You've got to get to the temple in a hurry, Lita, the brunette teen told herself, gathering up her determination and courage. Taking a path through the cemetery would certainly shorten her time. A second more and she was past the point of no return; as she had done months ago but under very different circumstances, the tall, athletic girl dashed and weaved her way among the various headstones, memorials and statues that littered the sacred precincts of the cemetery grounds.

Back out at the residential street, another figure jogged down the sidewalk, waiting for a lone car to drive by before darting across the street. Jade-green eyes remaining focused on the wooden structure ahead, the moonlight making the roses covering it seemingly glow with a pale light--they were white, the color of death, he noted--Nathan continued following the fleeing girl. He owed her; maybe helping her out with whatever problem it was she was having would be a start toward paying her back for what he had done to her at the end of the Silver Millennium. Trying not to lose sight of her among the many memorials there in the graveyard, the athletic boy picked a path through the graves that would at least keep up with the running brunette.

She always did like cherry trees, though it was Kunzite's love of the falling petals that had inspired her to shift her feminine form's teleport field to display a flurry of the pretty things. Sitting perched up on a sturdy branch of a cherry tree--one of many surrounding a small fountain in the center of the old cemetery--Zoisite gleefully smiled a predatory grin as her violet-blue gaze followed the progress of the running girl. Just a matter of moments and I'll bag myself that child that dared punch me in the face . . . The Water Warrior couldn't help but feel thrilled at the concept.

Waiting for the tall brunette jogging down the gravel path to pass under her, Zoisite gracefully stood, balancing herself easily on the gently swaying branch. This was going to be so easy . . .

The boy was proving to be something of an annoyance, but in a good way, Sonya decided. Apparently whatever had happened to him hadn't robbed him of a thousand years of experience, though she could tell that he wasn't even seriously considering the possibility that he was being followed. She smiled to herself at that; she didn't want him to know just yet that he was.

If she had still been unsure, she wouldn't be now. In just watching him as he ran after the girl that had been interrogating him, Sonya could see so many little mannerisms in the youth that gave him away to one that had known him intimately. The way he moved, the manner in which he paused for a moment to regain his bearings, the characteristic tilt of his head as he watched his quarry before running after her again--all of them bespoke of the man he had been in the Negaverse's control. That he seemed to be free of that dark control only further heightened her internal elation.

Leaning back against the corner of a residence, antique-gold eyes narrowed slightly as she observed her target dash through the plant-enshrouded gazebo, her mood deflating a bit. For some reason, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was watching her precious Nephrite--young and defenseless now--plunge back into the endless night of that unforgiving realm. No, I won't let that happen again, Sonya grimly thought. I won't let anything mess with him anymore.

Antique-gold eyes filled with a determined light, the black-clad redhead pushed herself away from the house's siding and crossed the road in an easy, graceful lope. No way was she going to lose sight of him a second time.

Three . . . Two . . . One . . . Violet-blue eyes narrowed in concentration as each running step took the ponytailed girl just that much closer to where Zoisite waited. Now! The Western Commander stepped off the cherry tree branch and into the air, revealing herself to her prey with a mocking laugh.

"Zoisite!" Lita hissed, instantly recognizing that sound. Looking up into the night sky, her forest green eyes grew wide as sight confirmed what sound and Raye had told her. The golden-blond Negaverse witch was back, though Lita instantly noticed that her foe wasn't wearing the expected gray uniform. Still, that wasn't a detail to be dwelling on. No, she had to get under cover and transform so that she could kick the floating woman's skinny little butt. No way was she going to go down without a fight.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" Zoisite purred, a smirk on her pretty face. "Guess what, Senshi? Now I have time to play with little girls." Her face suddenly taking on a furious expression, the ponytailed Gemlord raised her hand and pointed at her target in a characteristic gesture. "Zoi!"

Figures the little sneak would do something like that, the athletic brunette thought to herself as a burst of energy and a leap to the side kept her from being blasted by the telekinetic wind and cherry blossom assault. Already well aware of the other woman's knowledge that she was one of the Scouts, Lita fumbled around in her pocket for her transformation pen. A quick glance upward showed the teenager that Zoisite was preparing for another attack. "I'll show you, Negadweeb!" she shouted as she held the gold topped green pen high.

"No, I think I'd rather show you!" the slender Gemlord retorted, gliding down fast, feet first. Hovering in the air, Zoisite aimed and kicked out with a violet-blue boot, connecting with the pen.

Lita gasped, feeling her hold on her transformational item broken. A swift look was all she needed to see the Jupiter pen fall to the ground a few paces away. Furious, she leapt upward, latched onto Zoisite's slender leg and let gravity pull the two of them back down.

Utterly shocked, the Water Warrior let out a shriek of surprise and indignation as she felt herself be yanked down. "Let go, you Terran brute!"

"Oh, I'll let go, all right. I'll let you go right into the ground!" Lita shot back, bracing herself the moment her feet were firmly on the earth again. Using her foe's momentum to advantage, the tall brunette executed a flawless flip, one that slammed Zoisite straight into the gravel at Lita's feet.

What in the name of the Cosmos . . . ? Nathan thought to himself, hearing feminine shouting up ahead. Redoubling his efforts, he ran between graves and headstones. Sounds like Lita might be in trouble! I need to help her!

The blue-clad Gemlord's slender body bounced off the unforgiving land before coming to rest against the gravel pathway. Ignoring the pain and trying to shake off the slightly stunned sensation that filled her, Zoisite rolled over and pointed a hand in the direction she could feel her foe's psychic presence. Again she shouted her cry; this time the telekinetic blast was filled with cherry petals that morphed into deadly little shards of ice.

Once more Lita had been expecting something like that. Seems as if having being dead didn't change Zoisite's tactics much at all. Leaping to the side--unfortunately in a direction that took her away from the Jupiter pen lying there glittering in the grass--the tall Senshi growled under her breath, then covered the distance between herself and the downed warrioress in a couple of long-limbed strides. Even as the golden-blonde woman was attempting to get back to her feet, Lita tossed a punch that took Zoisite straight in the gut. With a whoof of suddenly-lost breath, the slender Western Commander ended up a doubled-up heap of gold and violet-blue on the ground once more. Hoping she had enough time before Zoisite recovered to grab her pen and transform, Lita planted her foot to come to a sudden stop, then spun and ran in the opposite direction. Have to get my pen and finish the job on her . . .

Nathan skidded to a halt, jade-green eyes wide in amazement. To his left, the familiar figure of the Water Warrior--now dressed in what appeared to be ordinary, everyday Lithosian clothing--was pulling herself up from being a heap on the ground, while to his right, he could see Lita running up to a certain spot and then dropping to her knees, obviously looking for something. Cosmos! Lord Obsidian must have given the order for an attack on Jupiter.

By all rights, he should be dashing in to help his fellow Elemental. Nathan rejected that idea on the spot. He wasn't a Gemlord now, merely a human, and his quest to redeem himself was more important than anything else. Despite it being the Guardian of Space himself that was ordering this, it was wrong--and not like the Lord Obsidian that he'd long known.

Even as the auburn haired boy continued to watch the altercation from a short distance away, Zoisite got shakily to her feet, a low growl sounding from her. The Senshi was over there, on her hands and knees, probably looking for her transformation pen. "You're going to pay for that," the furious Gemlord muttered to herself, calling to her hand a wicked-looking sword formed of an ice crystal. Silent and deadly, Zoisite leapt into action, running toward the brunette girl.

"Lita! Look out!" Nathan took off in a shot, dashing forward in trajectory that would take him to the ponytailed human.

Gasping in surprise at the new voice, Lita looked up, then froze in momentary shock, seeing Zoisite sprinting toward her with a coldly glittering sword in hand.

"I've got you now, Terran!" the Western Commander shouted, too intent on her prey to see the other person closing the distance from the side. Bracing herself and lunging forward, Zoisite was determined to skewer the Senshi, but in a non-vital spot. She knew Lord Obsidian wouldn't be overly forgiving if she should happen to kill the key he needed to get into the sacred chamber of Io Castle.

"No!" The shout was a long, drawn-out sound of desperation issued by a male voice. Lita closed her eyes and turned her head, bracing, expecting to feel the searing pain from the sword. Zoisite felt the blade connect with flesh, the force of the strike shuddering up her arm, then grate against bone, the sudden weight added to her weapon almost making her lose her hold. Startled at hearing a boy's voice, the Water Warrior looked down the length of her ice crystal--and into a pair of pain-filled, jade-green eyes. A shudder ran through her as she felt her Elemental powers stirring, reaching out, making a connection to this auburn-haired human transfixed on her sword. To her utter astonishment, Zoisite watched as a green square mystically glowed on the center of the youth's forehead, and she knew without looking that the tanzanite in the center of her circlet was responding with the blue triangle in its depths.

So that's what happened to Nephrite . . .

She was only a step or two away from the gazebo when she heard the desperate shout; the fact that it was the boy's voice spurred her like nothing else could. Sonya crossed the floor of the gazebo in a few quick strides, emerging into the open air again just in time to see Nathan take the strike that had been meant for Lita.

No! Her own cry was internalized, yet no softer or less desperate than the boy's. After so long, the habit of silence was ingrained in her, even in a situation like this; such a cry would only warn her enemy.

It didn't hurt as much as he had thought it would. The youma thorns had been far worse than this. Even so, sweat beaded on Nathan's forehead as he stared back at the obviously shocked Gemlord. The ice crystal sword, as deadly as ever he silently noted, at least numbed out some of the pain from the sheer coldness of the blade sticking completely through his left shoulder. Strangely enough, he also noted that his hands were cold. He must be grabbing the sword . . .

Oh God, he's hurt, was all that Lita's mind could focus on. Startled by the turn of events, she continued to kneel dumbfounded in the grass to the side of the gravel pathway, her transformation pen momentarily forgotten.

She recognized Zoisite instantly, of course. She had hated the spoiled blonde general before, but that hate doubled at the sight of the other woman's ice blade sunk into the auburn haired boy. Sonya's mouth went dry and her gut clenched with the sheer force of her rage.

Nephrite, the Western Commander's mind repeated, and with the name came the memories. Thousands of years of listening to the stargazing Earth Warrior telling her that she was too young or too inexperienced to take on a task or a mission, the knowledge that he had tried to convince Kunzite to delay accepting her into the Elemental Guard because of her youth, the many times in the training arena he had turned cold and callous, pushing her beyond her limits. Nephrite had always disliked her, from the very beginning, and that animosity had turned vicious in the Negaverse. The hatred came flooding back, and Zoisite's expression swiftly turned to one of cold fury and triumph. Looks like I'll be able to dish out twice the payback . . .

Her approach was silent and inhumanly fast; the tableau still hadn't broken--Zoisite staring at Nathan, who clutched at the sword through him, while Lita, kneeling on the grass, stared in shock--by the time she was within range. The only warning she gave was a faint snarl, a sound that could easily be lost in the wind that sighed among the tombstones.

Sonya's leaping kick landed perfectly, her heel taking the slender warrior in the solar plexus, throwing the smaller woman back. Zoisite managed to retain her grip on the ice sword, but the force of the blow along with the sudden loss of focus caused the blade to weaken. With a resounding crack, the crystal broke in two, part of it remaining in Zoisite's grip and the other part still impaled through the auburn haired boy's shoulder. Nathan screamed in agony as the torque against the breaking weapon stretched out the through and through wound, making the bones of his shoulder girdle grind against one another. Suddenly on the verge of fainting, the youth staggered to the side. Next to him, Sonya landed and whirled to catch him before he could fall.

The way she held him wasn't like a simple rescuer supporting a victim; it was unmistakably the manner in which a lover holds the beloved one. That was the one thing Lita immediately noticed as she scrambled to her feet, broken from her shock by the abrupt attack against her assailant and Nathan's ungodly cry.

"Take him and get out of here," Sonya snapped at the brunette girl. "I'll take care of her."

"Just a minute--" Lita started, frowning, instantly annoyed by the imperious tone barked at her by the redheaded stranger.

"Do as I say!" the black-clad woman roared in reply. It was so hard to make herself do it, but she released Nathan, letting the teenaged girl take hold of him.

"I need my--" Lita tried again.

Cosmos . . . Got to get . . . Senshi . . . Zoisite groaned, shaking off the effects of the blow from seemingly nowhere. Obsidian was going to be so angry. Keeping her mission foremost in her mind, doing her best to just ignore the pain wracking her petite form, the Western Commander gathered herself up and rose from being a heap on the ground for the third time that night.

Sonya glanced once at the blonde woman, who was struggling to her feet, then flicked her gaze to the grass around Lita, Nathan and herself. A glint of green and gold caught her eye; she snagged the small object with the toe of one soft boot and kicked it unerringly up to her hand. Shoving it at Lita, she growled to the girl, "Here! Now go!"

The ponytailed brunette took one look at the stranger's fierce, dragon-like eyes and decided not to argue with the formidable-appearing woman, especially not with a wounded Nathan in her grasp. A Scout's job was to protect those that couldn't protect themselves, and whatever the auburn haired youth had been before, he didn't look very capable at the moment. "You got it," Lita acknowledged, tugging on Nathan while she took a couple of steps back, preparing to make a swift retreat. Her plan at the moment was to get the wounded boy to safety, then transform and help the other take on Zoisite.

Seeing the girl start to leave with Nathan, the redheaded warrioress turned her full attention to the one that started this entire mess. She was going to make Zoisite pay dearly for what she did to the boy. However, Sonya only had enough time to get her sights focused on her prey--the slender blonde was standing now, swaying just a bit and trying to concentrate again--before a sudden blow from out of the blue struck Sonya full in the back hard enough to shove the redhead into a nearby memorial. Even the black-clad woman's extraordinarily tough body had a hard time shaking off the effects of being slammed face first into the cold, unforgiving and unyielding marble tombstone. She bounced off the stone and fell heavily to the ground.

"Zoisite! Get the Senshi! Now!" came a shout from behind where Sonya had been standing. The new voice was deep, masculine, commanding.

Heart leaping into her throat, the Water Warrior looked over at the source of the order, newfound hope rising up within her. Kunzite! Gracefully spinning on a dainty, booted foot, the ponytailed Gemlord rushed after the fleeing pair as well as she could. Letting go of the energy used to keep her broken ice sword manifested, Zoisite redoubled her efforts to catch up to the Senshi, still too rattled to effectively teleport.

As the one half of the crystal blade disappeared into thin air, the other half did as well. Nathan gasped as the cold hardness stabbed through his shoulder faded away; though the pain lessened as the tortured bone and flesh could return to their normal positions, he could now feel the slide of his warm blood dripping down both front and back at an alarming rate.

The Fire Warrior stood perched atop a tall memorial, hands held at the ready to let loose another devastating telekinetic blast, white cape and silver-blond hair ruffled by the gentle night breeze that blew among the graves. Pale lavender eyes narrowed wolfishly as he watched the one that attacked Zoisite start to recover from his blast.

Sonya feigned a dazed sluggishness, pushing herself slowly up with one hand and shaking her head. She caught sight of something in the grass next to her--the top corner of the weathered marble tombstone, probably snapped off from the violent impact of her inhuman body. Her eyes flicked sideways, toward her assailant, and then narrowed coldly as she recognized Kunzite and the aggressive stance he held. With a loud groan that suggested she'd been hurt considerably by the attack, Sonya brought her other hand up to support her--and curled her fingers around the chunk of marble. Its weight was comforting.

She timed it well, as usual. She waited for a few seconds longer--a length of time that, combined with her pretense of injury, was just enough to make Kunzite flick his pale-lavender gaze away to reassure himself that the other Gemlord was running off in the direction Lita had gone with Nathan. Then Sonya's lithe, athletic body snapped around, an arm hurling the stone in the same motion, directly at Kunzite's head.

The tall man reacted just as quickly as Sonya remembered he should; his telekinetic blast engulfed the stone, reducing it to bits of gravel. He reoriented swiftly on her, but she was already on her feet and taking action, a liquid rush of movement. There was a single gleam of light from around her hands as she came within two steps of the marble obelisk upon which Kunzite stood.

The silver rings on her fingers, and the bracelets and chains joined to them, changed. Instead of the simple jewelry, Sonya now wore a pair of gauntlets formed by a band passing around the palms of her hands and her arms just above the wrist, with narrow, flexible ribs connecting the two bands. The skeletal gauntlets supported a set of four curving talons, made from no Terran metal, that arched out over her fingers.

Those metallic claws cut through the slender spire of marble like hot knives through butter; then she grabbed the stone rod and thrust upward before Kunzite could teleport or levitate himself out of range. With vicious accuracy, she aimed to strike him in the location where Gemlord males, like human males, were exceedingly vulnerable.

Running for all she was worth, practically dragging the hurt and weakening boy with her, Lita made her way toward the other side of the cemetery. A swift look at Nathan's pale face, stark in the silvery light of the moon, was enough to make her realize that she might not be able to get him to safety after all. "Come on, Nephrite. Keep going. Just a little farther . . ." the brunette teen encouraged, though her expression remained grim. What am I going to do? The nearest hospital's too far away to run there . . .

The redheaded woman's thrust hit true; the Southern Commander dropped very inelegantly from his perch to hit the ground hard, hands clutched protectively over his crotch while writhing in agony. Regardless of the obvious hurt, Sonya knew better. Kunzite's one tough bastard; she couldn't count on even that stopping him for too long. All she really needed, however, was long enough.

Racing after Zoisite on silent feet, she was determined to keep the little brat occupied in order to facilitate Lita's escape with Nathan. Sonya could have simply taken him to safety herself and abandoned the girl to whatever Zoisite planned for her, but despite everything--the destruction of her home, the time in the Negaverse, the soul-numbing pain of loss, and the years spent here on Terra--the red-haired woman still felt the sting of honor, the need for justice, the urge to protect the helpless.

Whatever Zoisite was up to, Sonya was going to see to it that the brat didn't get it.

Garnet leaned back against the cool stone wall, wondering just what to do now. Much as he wanted to rush in there and ask his friend just what the hell was he doing, something about the Guardian of Space's body language warned him off. There was something just not quite right with Lord Obsidian, and until he could figure out what that something could be, the redheaded spy would need to tread carefully. Sighing almost soundlessly, he ran the fingers of a hand through his wine red colored hair. Steeling himself, he leaned forward again, once more letting his violet gaze peer out into the sacred Hall of the Mirror.

Seemingly lost in his own world, Obsidian turned away from the Mirror's disconcertingly reflective surface and slowly made his way over to that long, low table that had become some sort of a focus for the attentions of the few Gemlords Garnet knew were alive.

What is he doing now? the young male asked himself, keeping his cloaking ability tight around his presence. As far as any of them knew, he was still sleeping; it would be to his advantage at the moment to have Obsidian continue to assume that. And just what is on that table, anyway?

He'd noticed it, just in passing, however, when he had come roaring off the three-stepped dais and lit into the elegant Fire Warrior for all those long years of pain and suffering brought about by the Negaverse. That Zoisite had been prompted to usher him off swiftly after that hadn't given Garnet enough time to figure out what was going on over there. Now, however, his curiosity came to the fore as he watched the dark lord take up a position next to the piece of furniture and stare down at what must be its top.

Obsidian reached down, picking something up. For a moment, the spy couldn't make out what it was--then he wished he hadn't been able to realize what the object was that his lord was holding.

A soulstone.

Garnet felt a sudden, queasy lurch in his stomach. The Guardian of Space was holding the forlorn remains of some hapless, dead Gemlord, staring at it as if it somehow held the answer to something. Were they all there? Is that why Kunzite had been so focused on that low table when he'd come blithely through the Mirror, not sure what he'd find?

It seemed a particularly sad, pathetic fate for the proud race that had spent so long helping their lord watch over the Balance of the Cosmos.

With a faint sound of rustling cloth, the dark haired Guardian stepped away from the disconcerting display, taking a couple of steps toward the Mirror. Closing his eyes, Obsidian cupped his hands around the grayish-yellow stone. It was time to bring in the next player even as the other two were out gathering the key needed to get the Emerald of Forests.

At the entryway on the opposite side of the circular Hall, Garnet watched in fascination as the black-clad lord of the Tower obviously concentrated on the soulstone cupped carefully in his hands. The sensation of power tingled on the very edges of the spy's awareness as the seconds ticked by, the atmosphere in the round chamber becoming steadily heavier.

Then, suddenly, the power was gone; the surrounding air abruptly lighter.

Even as the unobserved watcher blinked his violet eyes in surprise, Obsidian's voice grumbled, breaking the silence of the Hall. "Damn."

Still cloaked by his aura of concealment, the spy's violet eyes stayed focused on Lord Obsidian as the Guardian of Space apparently thought over his options. Whatever he had been trying to do to the pathetic remains of one of their people, it apparently hadn't worked out, judging from the older Gemlord's reaction.

"Not quite enough power . . ." Obsidian slowly turned, hand holding the dead soulstone coming up to rest against his chest over his heart. At first gazing sadly at the mystic Mirror, he then shook his head slightly. "A development not anticipated. Forgive me."

He crossed the remaining distance between himself and the Vortex Mirror, then lovingly caressed the smooth, glassy surface of the Symbol of Space, the one hand clutching the gray jewel remaining against his breast. "I didn't realize pulling you into the Vortex itself would insulate you from gathering energy. So slow . . ."

Obsidian's quiet soliloquy abruptly broke off. To Garnet, continuing to watch from the shelter of the vestibule across the Hall from the dais, it looked as if he ruler had just thought of something. The dark lord's expression was clearly visible in the uncannily reflective surface of the Symbol he served.

"Ah, yes . . . The Senshi . . ."

Dark eyes narrowing in an almost predatory gaze, Obsidian's gold-trimmed sable cloak flared out slightly as he suddenly whirled to stare at the vitreous prison in which he'd trapped Sailor Andromeda. "Just as I and mine are agents of Matter, so are the Senshi agents of Energy. With the whole of a galaxy to draw from . . ."

Hand still clutching the yellow-toned, dead-gray stone, the regal Gemlord stalked over to the crystal of glass the color of deepest green. Holding out his free hand, the golden signet ring--the seal of his office as the Guardian of Space--glittering coolly in the light of the illumination crystals, Obsidian laid a palm against the room-warmed glass. Bowing his head, he seemed once again lost in concentration--but only for a moment.

The chuckle voiced by his lord made the hairs on the back of Garnet's neck rise. Continuing to gaze upon the unfolding scene in slight, but ever increasing horror, the redheaded sneak soundlessly gasped as he realized just what his friend was doing.

It can't be . . . He wouldn't stoop to that . . . But he was. Lord Obsidian was acting no better than some blood-sucking, Chaos-spawned vampire.

Glittering-yellow light began to glow, surrounding the glassy prison, gathering around the Guardian's tall form, but concentrating mostly near the hand pressed against the crystal's side. The sensation of ambient energy filling the Hall returned, making the atmosphere feel charged and heavy to Garnet's Gemlord senses.

It seemed like an eternity to the psionically-cloaked and concealed spy as he witnessed the entire process. By the time the Lord of Lithos stepped away from the hapless Senshi's glass prison, the light was all but gone from the deep green crystal. Conversely, the gleam around Obsidian's hand was bright, lighting up the entire Hall like a miniature sun. Garnet was forced to shield his eyes against the glare, even as the dark lord knelt down on the Zodiac-adorned carpet and reverently set the soulstone down before him. The bright light was suddenly extinguished as Obsidian pressed his glowing hand against the dead, gray jewel, forcing the ill-gotten energy into the stone.

A new light began to shine, one from deep within the forlorn soulstone, one that was a deeper, more orange color than the bright, sunlight-yellow energy stolen from Sailor Andromeda. As Obsidian rose to his feet and stepped back, his cloaked body casting something of a sinister shadow across the carpeted floor, that new light began to pulse with the rhythm of a heartbeat, growing in intensity.

Garnet's violet eyes widened in surprise as he suddenly understood what he was seeing. One more of the fallen Lithosians was being brought back to life, his or her crystallized pattern being energized with enough power to wink back into full existence. This then is what had been done to Kunzite and Zoisite. Looking at the hue of the light being given off by the reawakening soulstone, the intelligent spy was sure he knew who Lord Obsidian had chosen to resurrect this time.

Jadeite . . .

The pulsing, golden-orange light finally reached a brilliant crescendo then abruptly winked out. The effect on the concealed Gemlord's eyes was something analogous to the sudden, drastic silence immediately following an overwhelming cacophony. In the apparent darkness, a figure lay on the Zodiac-decorated carpet, clad in the clothing of an ordinary citizen of Lithos. Garnet immediately noticed that the outfit was composed of shades of yellow, amber, orange and gold.

"You never answered me, my lord . . ." The new voice was low, cracking and rough-sounding from apparent disuse.

"I'm willing to forgive, so long as you obey me from this moment on," Obsidian responded, dark eyes remaining fastened upon the newly resurrected Eastern Commander of Air.

The figure lying on the floor stirred, pulling himself up slowly to finally come to rest in a sitting position. Athletic torso covered by a golden yellow tunic trimmed in metallic gold, a short cape made of a golden orange colored material hanging from his shoulders where it was pinned to the tunic by a pair of twin brooches made of yellow-orange jade cabochons set in yellow gold, and his legs clothed in golden yellow trousers tucked into knee-high, brown leather boots, Jadeite made for a less menacing image at the moment than the last time Garnet had ever seen him. Reaching up to rub his amber-colored eyes, the golden circlet adorned with a yellow-orange jadeite cabochon glittered underneath his blond, relatively short-cropped, wavy hair, the Eastern Commander made a soft, groaning sound. "I'm eternally grateful to you for ending my punishment at Beryl's hands."

"If I didn't need you so much, I would have been very tempted to leave you that way," the Guardian of Space replied.

Jadeite immediately froze, then looked to the dark-clad Lord of Lithos, his own face virtually an expressionless mask.

Frowning to himself, Garnet carefully shifted his weight, his curiosity keeping him in place and observing the exchange. This sure didn't sound at all like the Obsidian he'd known so well. If anything, the Guardian of Space tended to be possessive about those under his rulership. That he'd actually think of leaving one of the Gemlords behind in the cold embrace of the Negaverse seemed very, very wrong. Witness the long centuries of silent agony Obsidian endured--still endures, like I do, Garnet told himself, refusing to believe that he could have given up on ever locating the missing Tanzanite--with one of his precious Gemlords seemingly gone without a trace.

Before the cold hollowness could once more settle within the redheaded spy's heart, the dark lord's next words caught Garnet's attention. "Go get some rest, Commander. The resurrection will swiftly make itself known. I'll need your sharp mind in clear focus so that you can find something for me."

"Find something, my lord?" Jadeite echoed, an expression of sudden curiosity on his handsome face.

"Yes. You'll need the power and database of the Record for what I have in mind. You are one of the best when it comes to computerized systems. I have need of that skill."

"It shall be my pleasure, my lord," the Warrior of Air responded. "By your leave?"

"Of course. I will call you when I need you to begin your search," Obsidian replied, turning his attention back toward the shimmeringly reflective surface of the Vortex Mirror.

The salute came swiftly and easily to Jadeite. Fist clasped over his heart, he bowed slightly in the direction of the tall, black and deep-green clad figure, then turned away. Marching off in a crisp, efficient stride, the blond Gemlord took about two steps before his athletic form faded away in the midst of an orangish-amber glow.

As Garnet continued to watch, Obsidian frowned darkly at his own reflection in the Symbol of Space. "Well, seems as if West and South have run into a little trouble. If you want something done, I swear . . ." Muttering that to himself, the Lord of Lithos held out a hand toward the glimmering Mirror, then stepped through, the surface giving way like a pool of black water.

His body was failing, slowly but surely. He'd felt this before, this sense of lightheadedness, of feeling his energy fading away, but almost always it had been from the perspective of an observer. He probably should be more alarmed than he was, sensing his life trickling away for a second time, but at the moment, Nephrite had other things on his mind.

Zoisite was closing in.

"Get back here, you Terran brat!" the Water Warrior's shrill voice called out.

Lita gritted her teeth, hazarding a glance at the boy struggling along next to her. He's not going to make it, not at this rate, the ponytailed teen told herself. Gonna need to transform. "Nephrite, this isn't going to work! Wait a minute!"

"Huh?" The auburn haired boy stopped in his tracks, pale face turned toward her.

The tall girl winced, noticing just how much blood stained the other teen's now-ruined, once-expensive shirt. The ruddy crimson covered an alarmingly large area.

Good. Just hold still for a bit longer . . . Zoisite leapt up into the air, golden ponytail swirling around her shoulders, her violet-blue eyes narrowing while she raised a hand and took careful aim.

No! I won't let you hurt him again! Sonya inwardly growled, antique-gold eyes focused on the floating miscreant. Abruptly breaking her stride, snapping her legs together and extending her arms down and outwards--to hell with hiding; besides, most mundanes remained clueless due to the nature of the magic, and at the moment, she didn't care if that Negaverse witch found out--the redheaded woman's voice rang out in an almost exultant call--"Draco Celestial Spirit Ascend!"

Three gasps sounded as the words filled the air. Three pairs of eyes--violet-blue, jade green and forest green--scanned the immediate area to search for the source of the roaring shout.

Lita couldn't believe it. Another Scout? Her hand tightening on the Jupiter pen, she knew that there was no longer any doubt about her decision to trigger her own transformation. There was no guarantee that the unknown Scout would be an ally, even if she had returned the younger girl's transformational device to her.

Zoisite outwardly snarled even as she inwardly cringed. Visions of Lord Obsidian blasting her beloved Kunzite to a stone then shattering the helpless gem filled her head, pushing her into further desperation. Not only were there witnesses and interference, one of the damned troublemakers was another accursed Senshi!

Nephrite felt his heart leap into his throat. That voice! He recognized it, even after so long; it sent a thrill of something through him. She really is alive! And a Senshi as well?

Strangely enough, part of him was suddenly outraged that she had dared keep that a secret from him. He felt utterly betrayed, but that sensation quickly faded as he watched the awesome sight of the transformation.

A sudden burst of radiance illuminated the surrounding area of the graveyard. A fountain of light--gold, silver, green--swept upward from Sonya's feet; she raised her arms, throwing back her head, and the light followed the motions, fanning outward from her arms like vast wings, arching above her raised face in a graceful, serpentine neck and wickedly dragonish head, limning her legs with a half-coiled tail.

The ethereal shape tightened around her, its colors changing, wrapping her in a black, skin-tight uniform; the tail twined her calves, becoming emerald-green boots. The wings sheathed her hands and forearms in green, overlaid by the skeletal, clawed gauntlets of the Dragon Claws. A green belt formed around her waist, its buckle a swirl of gold that resembled a flame. Green pauldrons appeared on her shoulders; a pair of heavy golden brooches set with fanglike pieces of ivory pinned a long cloak of a similar golden hue to the pauldrons. The dragonlike head of the radiant apparition descended suddenly, jaws opening, seemingly about to swallow her skull; instead, though, the light dissolved into a golden circlet set with three ivory fangs, points downward, the middle fang reaching a point between her eyebrows, the other two slightly shorter.

The remainder of the brilliant aura dissipated outward in cometlike streaks. Suddenly a lot more menacing than she'd been before, the redheaded woman took a long, slow step forward, a wicked smile on her face. Playtime was over, and the real fight was about to begin.

The moment the draconic transformation was complete, Lita lifted her green and gold pen up toward the sky. "Jupiter Power!"

The glimmering astrological symbol of the planet Jupiter formed within the verdant orb at the apex of the transformational device then began to spin in the depths of the sphere. Lifting a leg by bending her knee and thrusting out her free hand as if to ward off anyone who would come too close, the tall, athletic girl's form began to spin as well while bolts of silvery lightning erupted from the small emerald globe to swirl around her. Forming a sphere of three whirling rings of electrical energy around her, they momentarily looked something like a map of an atom, electrons rotating in an orbit around the core of proton and neutron before collapsing in around her as her body continued to turn. The crackling energy began to solidify against her, turning into her Scout uniform from the feet up. Dark green ankle boots, a white bodysuit decorated with a forest green ruffled miniskirt and sailor-like kerchief, the bows at chest and back being a sugary pink color, elbow-length white gloves lined with forest green and a cloth choker of the same verdant hue made up the Energetic Warrior's Sailor Scout outfit.

Antique-gold eyes scanned over the scene, narrowed in a predatory glare. Noting the brunette kid taking a stance, it was all Draco could do to suppress a growl that threatened to well up from the depths of her chest.

Hand still clasped to the entry wound in his shoulder, his palm slick with his warm, still-flowing blood, Nephrite turned pain-filled, jade green eyes to stare at the figure of a warrior he'd not seen for centuries. Even as he blinked and Jupiter opened her mouth to say something, there was a momentary flash of a memory, of seeing the graceful and noble Princess Jupiter in her sailorfuku firing up at the manifestation of the Negaforce with her most basic power, only to be blasted into oblivion like she was simply little more than an irritating insect.

He'd made that possible. At the time, the death of the Senshi hadn't touched him at all. Now, seeing her again, an intense sense of guilt and regret tore at him deeper than the pain of the wound through his shoulder.

He couldn't let anything else happen to her, not now. He needed to redeem himself.

"In the name of--" the ponytailed girl began to yell, her body held in an emphatic, aggressive stance.

"Shut the hell up and get him out of here!" Draco shouted as the other Senshi began to spout out some sort of pathetic nonsense. "I've got Zoisite!"

"Like hell you do! Zoi!" Throwing both hands forward, the Water Warrior released a frantic blast of telekinetic wind and cherry blossom petals--petals that almost instantly transformed into razor-sharp ice crystals.

A low growl sounding in her throat, Sailor Draco leapt backwards, away from the glittering, knife-edged rain. Even with her strong, dense musculature and the planet's lighter gravitational field, she wasn't quite fast enough. A few of the little brat's shards struck her, ripping slashes into skin and black bodysuit alike, tinging off the golden pauldrons on her shoulders and lacerating her cheek.

Jumping lightly at the harsh command of the strange Scout, Jupiter decided not to argue with the other Sailor. Scooping up the steadily weakening boy, she breathlessly ordered him to hang on. "Need to get you to the nearest hospital, Nathan," she added as the auburn-haired youth curled his good arm around her neck.

He really couldn't argue with that. Already he was feeling light-headed and a detached part of himself was silently noting that it wouldn't be much longer before he lost consciousness. Doing his best not to hinder the Senshi as she carried him, he closed his eyes as Sailor Jupiter began to run through the cemetery with him.

A dangerous light gleaming in her eyes, Draco watched her prey carefully while the sound of running boots distracted the levitating little brat. Zoisite's head was turned slightly, a look of shock on the exquisite features framed by that floating cloud of golden-blond hair. Reaching up to her stinging cheek and feeling wetness against the palm of her hand, Draco grimly smiled. You're gonna pay for that as well.

"Cosmos damn them," Zoisite muttered, observing her target fleeing with the human the Northern Commander had become. "Come back here, damn you!" she screeched, focusing her mind and feeling her teleportational powers flare up around her.

Soundlessly, the redheaded warrioress jumped up into the air, the power of her non-human body combined with Earth's gravity giving her the ability to leap upwards an impressive amount of height. The first few pink petals were beginning to swirl around the blue-clad woman's slender form when the soles of Draco's green boots connected hard against the upper edges of Zoisite's slender shoulders. A grim smile of triumph graced the Senshi's face as she bent her knees. "Eat dirt, brat," she growled.

No! This can't be happening to me! the Western Commander's stunned mind silently shrieked in that eternally drawn-out moment before she hit the ground--hard--yet again.

Pain blossomed throughout Zoisite's petite body as she was smashed between the unyeilding earth of the graveyard and the unforgiving mass of the dense object that had brought her down. Through the haze of it all--she wasn't overly sure--but she thought she heard a few sickening snaps.

She was still dazed as she felt something tugging on the silken locks of her ponytail. Then came a vicious yank, lifting her head off the ground--and with that came a new agony as her shoulders shifted in ways they were never meant to move. Zoisite lost what little breath she had retained when she let loose of a tortured scream, pain totally engulfing her awareness.

Draco dispassionately watched the play of emotions on her prey's dirt-streaked face, waiting for the brat's shrill outburst to die down into choked sobs. The other warrior had to be hurting badly. From what she remembered about their former encounters, Draco knew that the blond rat would never willingly allow a foe to know how badly hurt she truly was unless the pain was just too much to internalize. "Payback's a bitch, isn't it?" the black- and green-clad Senshi murmured while she continued to hold her downed foe's head by the convenient handle of Zoisite's ponytail.

Despite the searing pain that continued to dominate her--each breath was more torture--the Water Warrior's violet-blue eyes flew open to stare up at the unknown Senshi. That voice! She'd heard that very same line before . . .

Antique-gold eyes, full of a righteous fury, stared back into the smaller female's agony-glazed eyes. "Siolan," Zoisite whispered, swallowing hard. By all that was holy in the Cosmos, Nephrite's pet dragon had come back from the dead to guard him . . .

"Damned straight," Draco acknowledged, roughly shoving her downed prey's head back to the ground of the cemetery as she turned loose of the long hair she'd held in her unrelenting grasp. In her swift assessment, she knew that the annoying little brat was no longer an immediate threat.

Now for Kunzite, she quickly reminded herself, gracefully rising up off the apparently broken woman. Turning slightly, she began to sweep her golden gaze over the surrounding tombstone-scattered area. Where is he?

She had just enough time to see the bolt of violet-pink energy racing toward her before it struck. Acting on pure instinct, Draco leapt to the side, but the energy still caught her across the knees, tossing her further sideways. Pain lanced across her ribs as she crashed into a cold stone monument to some probably long-dead Terran, the white and gray-streaked marble cracking under the force of her impact. Forcing herself to relax and go with the flow of the momentum, the caped Senshi rolled, then scrambled back to stand on her booted feet. Dragon-gold eyes narrowing, she silently snarled as her gaze fell upon a tall, pale-haired form levitating up in the air.

Pale eyes focused wolfishly on his target, Kunzite thrust his hands forward, turning loose of another bolt of violet-pink energy at the bodysuited warrioress. You're really asking for it as well, Whitey, Draco mentally growled as she ducked behind the marble tombstone that had only moments before taken the force of her landing. A soft grunt sounded as the battered stone broke and fell, striking her across the back; for her, the piece of marble's impact was virtually nothing. Shrugging off the stone, Draco rose and braced herself, her feet wide apart, before pointing the deadly Dragon Claws straight at the caped nuisance. "Draco Raking Talons!"

The very second the final syllable of her attack phrase fell from her lips, eight thin lasers of greenish-white light erupted from the points of the talons affixed to the skeletal gauntlets worn over her verdant gloves. Their radiance cast eerie shadows across the graveyard's lawn as they ripped their way through the air toward their intended target.

Oh Cosmos! Oh Cosmos! Zoisite whimpered, truly frightened. Sensing her beloved mentor near and hearing the ensuing sounds of the conflict between the dragon-blooded mercenary and the Fire Warrior, the fallen woman had fought back the pain and had done her best to get up and get the hell out of there to someplace safe enough to regroup. To her absolute horror, she'd discovered that any attempt to move her arms set off even more episodes of an agony so great, she'd hovered a few times on the edge of simply passing out. **Kunzite!** she mentally shrieked, outwardly sobbing in both fear and pain. **I can't move! I can't move!**

His former lover's desperate cry lanced through him. Viciously moving a hand in a gesture of warding, Kunzite flicked his cold gaze to the Western Commander's prostrate form while the greenish-white lasers ineffectively needled themselves against the surface of the translucent sphere of violet-pink energy he'd invoked around himself as a protective shield. The Water Warrior's shoulders were quivering, and her violet-blue-booted feet were restlessly dragging across the ground while her hands fisted and unfisted themselves against the lush green lawn of the sacred ground. But her arms themselves . . .

He had to get her out of there.

A bit of a self-satisfied sneer momentarily crossed the redheaded Senshi's visage. From the grim look on Whitey's face over there, his little bratty playtoy must've become quite broken on impact. Though the lavender-caped warrior's expression hadn't obviously changed, Draco hadn't spent a thousand years studying the most powerful of the Negaverse generals without picking up the subtle shifts of emotion Kunzite allowed himself to show. Good. He cares enough about the little rat that he'll not be an immediate threat either, she thought, stepping behind herself. Golden eyes remaining focused on the pale-haired man, she took another step backwards. No way in hell was she going to turn her back on an enemy, especially not one as potentially dangerous as Kunzite. Even so, Nephrite remained her priority. As frail as a human boy and sorely wounded as well . . . No! He's alive! she mentally hissed. I'd know it if he died again.

Another step back. She had to get to him. Had to get him some help. She would not fail him again.

Draco took yet another step back, the movement of something off to the right catching her immediate attention. A shimmer of deepest-green light suddenly faded into view, bringing with it a figure almost as tall as the pale-haired man she'd been keeping an eye on.

Darkness, as deep and as black as space itself, seemed to be the newcomer's motif. He wore what appeared to be in the silvery light of the moon clothing of an all-black color somewhat similar to the odd outfits that Zoisite and Kunzite both were currently wearing, including a full-cut long cape that billowed around his solid-looking, athletic form. Dark hair framed a face that seemed to be both inhumanly handsome and inhumanly cold. The only relief from the darkness was the glitter of metallic gold that decorated his clothing and his person.

The other thing the retreating Senshi noticed about the newcomer was that he carried himself like one used to being in command. He raised an arm and pointed at Kunzite, even as the stranger's melodic baritone shouted out an order. "Get the Senshi! Now!"

A nod of his head, then a swiftly executed--but elegant, as always--salute and the Fire Warrior disappeared, his tall form momentarily surrounded, then engulfed, by the violet-pink radiance of his teleportational field.

The stranger's dark gaze then turned to the still-prone body of the fallen Water Warrior. The moment the black-clad man took a step toward the hapless Zoisite, Draco knew that it would be safe to turn and run. With the newcomer obviously focusing on the little brat and Whitey apparently sent to fetch Sailor Jupiter like some sort of truant pet, her only thought was to get to the fragile Nephrite and get him the hell out of the way of what Kunzite's master wanted. Green boots digging into the well-tended soil of the graveyard, she took off like a shot in the direction she'd seen the other Senshi flee with the wounded boy.

She had to get him the hell out of there before he got caught in the crossfire.

Other green boots, these ones a shade the color of forest foliage, pounded along the asphalt of an alley that their owner knew would be a more direct route to the hospital nearest to the cemetery where the attack had taken place. Her legs aching, her breathing coming in gulping gasps of the slightly chilled night air, her determination was truly the only thing keeping Jupiter going. The teenaged youth that had once been a Negaverse general was getting heavier by the moment, even with her Jupiter-enhanced strength. That he looked so pale, his eyes closed, didn't help the normally optimistic girl think the best of the situation. "Nephrite!" she gasped, still dashing along the alleyway, the scurrying sounds she caught telling her that her thundering footsteps had disturbed a cat--or worse--poking around in the trash bins. "Still with me?"

"Yeah," he mumbled, his eyes remaining closed. He was beginning to feel colder, the desire to sleep starting to overtake him. Silently, he thanked Jupiter's jostling him with every pounding step of her run. The jarring made it easier to fight off the deadly tiredness. Must stay awake, Nephrite admonished himself.

"Glad to hear it," she panted back, turning on a foot to begin dashing down the rather deserted street underneath the impassionate orangish light of the streetlamps.

"Stop and drop the boy, Senshi!"

Nephrite lifted his head up, jade green eyes flying open. He instantly recognized the deep voice that had barked out that command.

"Kunzite!" Jupiter hissed, abruptly coming to a halt, looking upward in an attempt to locate the Negadweeb. Up there! Spying the oddly-dressed general perched atop the balcony of an apartment across the street, her forest green eyes narrowed slightly as she noted the lavender-cloaked man elegantly poised to let fly with some attack or other.

"Put the boy down, Jupiter, or I'll be forced to hurt him as well," the Fire Warrior commanded, frosty eyes focused on the pair of teenagers.

The athletic girl tightened her mouth slightly. There really wasn't any other choice, not under the current circumstances. Staring daggers at the apparently casually waiting Negajerk, the ponytailed brunette slowly knelt down to lower the ashen-faced youth to the concrete sidewalk beneath her booted feet.

"Don't," Nephrite softly breathed. "He wants you, not me. Keep running."

"I can't!" she harshly whispered back, keeping her gaze locked on the watching male. "It's my fight, not yours. You're hurt enough as it is."

"He'll hesitate as long as you're holding me," Nephrite replied. After all, he'd known the Fire Warrior for centuries, had worked under him for just as long.

"I can't take that chance," Jupiter hissed in reply. Laying the other teen down on the pavement as carefully as possible, she grit her teeth and stood up again, taking a few deliberate steps away from the wounded kid.

Silly fool, the auburn-haired youth mentally grumbled, stifling a cry of agony as he rolled over onto his good side. He knew Kunzite, knew how honorable he truly was beyond the influence of the Negaverse. With Lord Obsidian the one pulling his strings, the idea of the Southern Commander continuing to have his personality perverted by Metallia's obnoxious influence seemed to be a remote possibility indeed.

"Leave him out of it," the ponytailed Scout demanded, taking another few steps away from her wounded schoolmate. Kunzite had proven over and over to be a treacherous bastard, and she'd be damned if a stray shot accidentally hit the fallen boy just because he'd been too close to her.

No! Don't! Jade green eyes widened in desperation as he saw the regal Senshi step even further away. Groaning in pain and struggling to his feet, he could see that damning scene playing out before his mind's eye yet again, the Inner Senshi doing their best to defend royalty and kingdom, only to be slaughtered by a force far beyond their ability to harm.

Jupiter set her feet apart, her arms and hands rising to the position needed to trigger her attack. "Jupiter--"

"Zai!" Kunzite shouted, turning loose of the energy throbbing in his hand. Violet-pink radiance erupted around him, lighting up the balcony, making unnatural shadows race across the pavement.

The auburn-haired boy didn't even make a sound. He had to set things right! He had to prove to them all that he was sorry for what he'd done.

The bolt never hit Jupiter. To her surprise, something got in the way, a something that hadn't been there a second before.

There was a terrible-sounding thud as that something dropped to the concrete at her feet.

"Foolish child," Kunzite growled, flicking back his cape in irritation.

Looking down, the ponytailed girl's forest green eyes widened in silent horror as she realized that something had been Nephrite.

Her dragon-green boots making little sound at all as she rushed along the streets of the night-shrouded Japanese city, her verdant cape flared out behind her and her red hair streaming back in the wake of her rapid passage, Draco followed that sense all Senshi have in the proximity of another of their mystic fraternity. Somewhere out there was Sailor Jupiter, the Jovian energies distinct to her inner senses. And where she is, he'll be there as well.

She almost missed the alleyway, but the moment she darted past it, the feeling of the other Senshi's energies suddenly seemed to be coming from behind her as well as to the right. Coming to an almost immediate halt, Draco turned, her golden gaze searching. Instantly spotting the narrow, one-lane road between buildings reaching upward into the nighttime sky, she mentally nodded to herself and changed direction. The Terran-made structures loomed over her as she ran between them, a cold smile once again coming to her, curving the corners of her mouth upwards, when the younger Senshi's form came into view at the end of the alleyway. The smile got just a bit wider when she next made out her beloved Nephrite's youthful form struggling up to his feet. It had to be one of the most beautiful sights she'd ever seen.

The joy was short-lived. Even as she ran toward the two figures, determined to scoop up the boy into her arms and run with him away from Jupiter, away from whatever it was that Kunzite's master wanted with the younger female, she saw the brunette girl take up an attack stance, saw the area in front of them light up with the distinctive brilliance of the general's energy attack.

Saw her beloved Nephrite, fragile and utterly human now, leap forward, tossing that frail body of his in front of the violet-pink blast. Saw her Nephrite fall to the hard concrete ground and lay far too still at the feet of the girl that had dared punch him.

The Water Warrior was in terrible pain. A corner of Obsidian's mouth turned down as the agony continued to intrude upon his awareness, the entire Western Quarter radiating nothing but the pain that even now kept the slender woman sobbing into the torn-up ground. Something unanticipated had intruded on his plans, something for which Zoisite hadn't been prepared.

Even as he knelt down, a new presence made itself known, red light momentarily painting the surrounding area with a garnet hue. Not overly surprising that, the Guardian of Space silently commented as the younger Gemlord dashed past him to almost literally throw himself to his knees on the ground next to his fallen sibling. "Oh Cosmos, Zo'," Garnet groaned, his face showing his astonishment and panicked concern, a hand reaching down to tenderly touch the golden blond woman lying sobbing and writhing on the verdant grass.

"I can't move my arms, Gar," she replied, her voice cracking and sounding almost hysterical, the sobbing sound making her once again the little sister in need of a protective older brother.

The redheaded spy half turned, his hand moving lower to wrap warm, comforting fingers around one of the hurt Gemlord's hands. Violet eyes glanced upward accusingly at the dark form of his people's lord even as he spoke, his low voice having a hint of steel to it. "We need a Healer, Sir. Now. Or she's going to be useless to you." How dare you send her up against something that could do this to her? he wanted to shout, but he had always known when the right time for such thoughts to be voiced had occurred, and this just wasn't one of those moments.

Obsidian frowned, though Garnet couldn't tell whether it was in thoughtfulness, irritation or something else. For a long, tense moment, those almost fathomless dark brown eyes gazed down at him. Then the Guardian of Space nodded his head once in a gesture of affirmation. "Take her back home, Lord Garnet," he softly spoke. "I shall follow and attend to her."

"Thank you, my lord," the spy responded, his gaze and his attention both shifting back to the golden-blond woman lying on the ground. "Hang in there, kiddo," he gently crooned, leaning forward to carefully wrap his arms around Zoisite's petite form. "I'll take you home. We'll make it all better."

As gently as possible, he started to rise, cradling his sibling in his strong, capable arms. But the moment her upper torso was lifted from the ground, he could feel her shoulders flopping forward in an unnatural direction downward, her arms dragging virtually useless. The scream of agony to which the youngest Gemlord gave voice cut right through Garnet's heart, making him force himself to suppress the hot bolt of pure rage that filled him, rage with which he wanted to lash out at Lord Obsidian.

Both collarbones had to be broken. There was no way he could physically carry her in comfort; any position he tried would cause some sort of torque on the injuries. "Oh Cosmos . . ." he groaned again, lowering her as hastily and carefully as he could.

The frown remained on the dark lord's face as he watched the attempt. "Stand back a moment, Garnet," Obsidian softly commanded, raising a hand toward the young Lithosians.

A glint of pure fury deep within his violet eyes, the redheaded Gemlord did as Obsidian asked, his fingers lingering with a touch meant to give Zoisite some comfort before he broke contact entirely. Even though he was internally furious with his lord for getting his beloved little sibling in a situation that had hurt her so much, some of that anger faded slightly as he realized what the Guardian was doing.

Zoisite's little body began to rise in the air, every inch of her apparently telekinetically supported in a way that allowed no movement save that needed to maintain the Water Warrior's rapid breathing. As soon as she was high enough off the ground--at approximately the very level at which he would have had her were he able to hold her in his embrace, Garnet silently noted--her body began to slowly rotate, eventually coming to a halt when she lay there floating on her back in the air.

"Gather her in your arms and teleport her through the Mirror," Obsidian murmured. "I shall continue to support her so."

"As you wish, Sir." That was an order he certainly had no qualms against. Stepping up to his levitating sibling, he once again wrapped his arms around her as best he could, determined to not cause her any more unnecessary pain. It was bad enough with what she was feeling throbbing there in the back of his mind through the ancient bond he had with her, a bond formed when the two of them as well as two others all swore a pact of siblingship with one another. "I promise everything's going to be okay, Zo'," Garnet whispered to her, staring down at her, letting her see the love and concern on his face.

Her large, violet-blue eyes opened, the long lashes parting to allow her to gaze up at the ruggedly handsome Gemlord. She managed to give him a weak smile, a loving expression that seemed somehow even more endearing being there on a face that was streaked with dirt and tears. "Always knew I could count on you, Gar," she murmured back.

He gave her an answering smile, then mentally reached out for the oh-so-familiar pattern of the Symbol of Space. "Vortex Mirror Return."

Obsidian echoed the ancient command, his black-clad form disappearing a fraction of a second after the younger Gemlords winked out in the center of Garnet's teleportational field, the helix of scarlet light erupting from the ground to wind upward around himself and Zoisite.

Even in that terrible moment, when every happy feeling she had sank into a morass of fear and rage, Draco moved with an almost eerie silence. Too long out in the field, doing jobs that make quiet an absolute necessity, made making as little noise as possible second nature to her. She'd seen the angle of that blast; taking an educated guess, she narrowed her eyes in concentration even as she was in midstride. The air around her shimmered and rippled, suddenly looking like a mirage dancing above the horizon in the middle of the desert. Buildings, objects, sources of light, they all became distorted images as the field formed around her. Then came the flashpoint, that one particular moment when just enough energy swirled around her. Space literally folded in on her, swallowing her up into its rippling, gaping maw--

--and spat her out right where she wanted.

Gemlord senses abruptly screamed out a warning. Someone had joined him up there on that balcony. Kunzite whirled as fast as he could, only to feel a sudden burst of fiery agony rake across his ribs, the sound of his cape and tunic being shredded accompanying the unexpected sensation. Gritting his teeth, he lashed out with a hand, grabbing his "guest" by the wrist before she could slash the other set of wicked claws at him. Violet-pink fluid--the Southern Commander's blood--dripped down to spatter against the surface of the balcony as Draco curled her still-free hand up into a fist and punched outward at the other warrior, hoping to skewer that handsome face of his with her Dragon Claws.

Lupine eyes narrowed as Kunzite jerked his head to the side, the soft whisper of the deadly metal and the faint breeze of the talons' passage caressing his ear. He never felt even a tug as a few strands of his glorious, lavender-highlighted mane floated down from where they had been severed to join the spatters of his blood on the balcony.

"Oh my. I've managed to cut you," Draco hissed, leering at her foe. As quick as lightning, her free hand clamped down on Kunzite's forearm inches beyond where he had a tight grip on her right wrist. A bend of her black-clad knees, a twist of her supple body just so and she brought leverage and strength both to bear against the caped male.

Almost too late the Southern Commander felt his booted feet lift off from the building's surface. Violet-pink energy flared around him as he brought his telekinesis into play, cushioning the blow his tall form suffered when the brutal Senshi tossed him against the apartment wall.

Cold, empty, dark . . . He seemed to be floating there in an infinite nothingness, no sense of anything save the awareness of himself, of his rapidly beating heart. Is this it then? Nephrite asked himself, the memory of the darkness and the tiny star of hope playing through his thoughts. Am I facing the end?

No! I tried! he called out into the unending, inky blackness. I swear to Cosmos that I tried! Panic filled him, a terror beyond all imagination that made even his sense of himself falter under the power of the emotion. The desire to exist clawed at him, threatening to choke even his thoughts to ineffective whimpers.

He didn't want to no longer be.

A pinpoint of brilliance appeared, like the first star to grace the surface of a twilight sky; a gentle presence made itself known to him. Yes, Prince of the Element of Earth, you tried. In slight amazement, Nephrite felt what seemed to be a delicate hand come to rest against his forehead, felt a sudden warmth permeate the place where the deep green jade stone embedded within his circlet of rank would have been were he wearing it. Somehow, that comforting hand was reaching into his very soul, pulling up the very powers denied him in his mortal, human existence.

There is no greater sacrifice one can make than to risk everything for the sake of another. The soft voice held something of a note of relief and joy both. With no thought of yourself, you did what you could for someone else. Such nobility deserves to be rewarded . . .

Before Nephrite's surprised mind could make a thought in reply to that, the heat sitting there where his circlet should be, underneath that presence's hand, began to radiate throughout him, filling his awareness with a warmth and comfort beyond anything he could recall ever experiencing before. The sense of self faded before that warmth, even as the darkness gave way to a scintillating radiance.

The moment the impact of her victim hitting the wall shivered up her arms, Draco let go of her hold on the pale haired man. Standing there, feet apart and poised for any sort of instantaneous reaction, her golden eyes kept vigil on Kunzite as he dropped hard to the balcony. Nephrite was still her overriding concern; much as she'd love to take out a few pounds of flesh from Kunzite in payment for injuries sustained in the past, she just didn't have the time. Even now he could be bleeding to death down there on that pavement.

Let Kunzite have the other Senshi. She needed to get the boy out of there.

Dragon green boots scraped against the surface as she bent her knees and coiled her body under herself. A push of her legs and she was airborne again, leaping high up over the concrete and metal railing and soaring down toward the street below, her bright red hair and golden cape flaring out behind her. Despite her denser mass and the force of gravity pulling her down, the black-clad Senshi landed on her feet as light as any cat. By the time Kunzite was back on his feet, she was there at the downed teen's side.

Forest green eyes remained focused on the tall, caped general. Now that the strange Scout was down here on the ground with her, Jupiter had a perfect shot and knew it. Never once taking her gaze from Kunzite, the ponytailed girl shouted, "Get him to safety! I'll deal with Kunzite!" The other Scout was quick and strong both; she should easily be able to get the unconscious Nathan out of the way of being hurt even worse.

Draco only smiled a bit at the girl's bravely-spoken words. Dropping to a knee, a mental command made the thin, deadly blades of the Dragon Claws retract; a cold, barely heard shing disturbed the silence just before the redheaded warrioress scooped up the still form of the boy into her arms. Even as she was lifting him up and returning to a standing position, she could feel electricity begin to crackle in the air.

"I call upon the power of Jupiter!" the green and white uniformed Scout cried out, her gloved hands once again forming the gesture needed to channel the energies. Above the green, oval-shaped jewel in the center of her tiara, the slim, miniature lightning rod housed within extended itself, silvery lightning beginning to coalesce around her. "Jupiter Thunder--"

Hugging the auburn haired boy's form close against her, Draco did her best to not think about how still his body remained, how unresponsive he seemed to be. The brilliant light of the other Senshi's attack illuminating the night-shrouded street, Draco took off in a ground-covering sprint. She had to get help. She wouldn't--couldn't--fail again.

At the forceful shout of his lord's intended victim, Kunzite made an annoyingly casual gesture. Not even sparing the fleeing Senshi a look--he had no interest in the boy, and he could ill afford to try to avenge Zoisite, not with the order to get Sailor Jupiter in effect--the Fire Warrior kept his predatory gaze on his target, even as his protective shield snapped back up into place.

"--Crash!" White-hot lightning sizzled through the air, arcing upward at the command of the one that had released its elemental force, making eerie shadows skitter across the the asphalt and up the sides of the surrounding objects. It then sputtered and gutted out as it struck the swirling, translucent sphere of violet-pink energy that surrounded Kunzite.

"You'll have to do better than that, Jupiter," the pale haired Southern Commander cooly stated.

Within the wall of the circular room, the tall, flat surface of the Vortex Mirror began to ripple and dance like the surface of a pond disturbed. The surface bowed out slightly, then broke and shimmered apart like so much dark water, giving way before Garnet's entrance into the sacred chamber at the top of his lord's tower. Stepping down off the dais, his boots making soft footfalls on the three stairs as he walked to the floor, the young spy turned and waited for the Guardian of Space to appear.

"Gar, I'm scared . . ." Her voice sounding both lost and forlorn, the injured Gemlord turned her pain-filled eyes to stare up at the redheaded man holding her as carefully as possible.

"Shh. Don't talk and save your strength, Zo'," came the soft reply. "We'll get you fixed up right away."

If she could have, she would have reached up and grabbed the older Gemlord's black T-shirt, her fingers curling into it with a deathgrip. As it was, she could only lie there loosely cradled in Garnet's arms, pain throbbing throughout her. **You don't understand, Gar. I screwed up. The entire mission became a flop because of me, and he'll make Kunzite pay the price for my mistakes.**

He turned his violet gaze from the still-glowing Mirror to stare down at his little sibling's ashen face, internally wincing at the hysterical note that had crept into her telepathed voice. "What do you mean, he'll make Kunzite pay?"

**Had to promise to help him. He's our true ruler after all. But he said that if I screwed up as badly as I had on the mission to safeguard Beryl, he'd see to it that he . . . that he'd . . .** Zoisite slammed her eyes shut, trying her best to not lose it and start crying all over again, though a choked sob escaped her. **He's going to kill Kunzite and then shatter his stone, all because I blew it!**

"He's what?" However much he'd like to clarify what it was that his sibling was afraid of, Garnet found it suddenly prudent to not pursue that line of inquiry. He could sense the very moment that the Guardian of Space stepped into the Hall from the Vortex Mirror. Lord Obsidian had a way of filling a room just by his presence alone.

"I have her, Garnet," the Lord of Lithos softly intoned as he stepped down from the dais and came to a halt near where the pair of younger Gemlords were, his melodic baritone voice sounding gentle and concerned both. He raised a hand, the gold and obsidian signet ring glittering faintly in the light of the illumination crystals, green light of the deepest hue flaring softly around the Water Warrior's slender form. "Do me a favor and go over to that table over there. Pick me out a Healer."

"Pick you out a Healer, Sir?" Garnet echoed, stepping back away from the wounded woman. Something within him shuddered at the possible implication of those words, something that dreaded just what he might see, something that could be almost as bad as watching the Elemental Guard, those four supposedly there to protect Lithos among other duties, blithely work for something as wrong as the Negaverse was.

"Yes. We'll need one for Commander Zoisite," Obsidian confirmed.

The Water Warrior let out the breath that she hadn't realized she was holding, though that sent new twinges of pain through her. He'd used her title still. That was a good sign at least. Doing her best to force herself to relax, Zoisite floated there under her lord's power, listening to her brother's almost silent footfalls as he crossed over the Zodiac carpet toward the low table that had become something of a morbid shrine for the Guardian of Space to dwell upon.

Cosmos . . .

Garnet stared down at the table, his mind recoiling from the sight. The surface was covered with a rainbow of soulstones, loosely arranged in groups--all of them dull, gray, dead.

All of them. He was looking essentially at an open-to-the-air mass grave . . .

He forced himself to set aside his emotions; they would only cause more trouble right now. Numbly, he studied the lusterless, seemingly worn stones; almost by itself, his hand reached out and picked one up. It was the easiest to identify in that morgue of souls, the dual shades of dead gray giving away the identity crystallized within.

He returned to Obsidian, putting the stone into the palm of his lord's waiting hand. Despite its dimmed, lifeless cast, it was still recognizable--half golden-yellow, half rich violet, with almost no mergence in the colors at the dividing line.

"Ametrine, my lord," Garnet said, rather unnecessarily; it was said more to reassure the suffering Zoisite that help was being found than anything else.

The Lord of Lithos quirked an eyebrow up, apparently just a little bit surprised at the identity of the Gemlord Healer the redheaded spy had chosen. However, one Healer was as good as another, and this one could be equally useful at other things. Curling his hand around the bicolored soulstone, Obsidian softly murmured, "Stay with her, Lord Garnet. I shall attend to this."

"As you wish, Sir," the younger man responded, taking those last couple of steps between himself and where the slender form of the Western Commander floated in the air in a supine position under a power not within her own control. "Sir . . . ?"

Obsidian turned slightly at the sound, pausing. He had started to walk away from the others, stone in hand, when Garnet's hesitant question had caught his attention. "What is it?"

The redheaded Lithosian kept his violet gaze on his people's lord, respectful but challenging as well. "Zo' did her best and obviously ran into something she wasn't prepared for. She needs your support now, not your censure, Sir." The honorific held just the smallest hint of ice in its tone.

Oh Cosmos, Gar . . . Don't make him angry for Cosmos's sake . . . Zoisite inwardly groaned, squeezing her eyes shut even tighter. She could just see it now, the Guardian of Space losing his temper and denying her any help at all, all because her sibling had decided now was a good time to stick up for what was right.

"I'll keep that in mind, Lord Garnet," the black- and gold-clad Guardian grumbled as he turned back away from the pair and continued his walk across the Zodiac-carpeted floor. His footsteps hardly heard in the vast, echoing chamber, Obsidian smiled faintly as he approached the vitreous prison of his own making that stood there next to the Vortex Mirror.

He'd enjoyed that last time, the feel of drawing that golden power out of the trapped Senshi. There was something quite pleasurable in doing that, and in a way he looked forward to doing so again. Coming to a halt before the solid effects of his own power, the Guardian of Space reached out with his free hand and lightly caressed the glass matrix of deepest green. Yes, I feel it . . . The energy of an entire galaxy, waiting, potent . . . Long fingers slid along the glassy surface as Obsidian closed his eyes, mentally reaching within, seeking out to find that reserve of bright yellow power.

**What's he doing, Gar?** Despite the pain and the fear, Zoisite was as curious as ever. Floating on her back, she couldn't see anything from her vantage point--though opening her eyes would have helped some--save the frescoes high up on the Hall's domed ceiling, but she could feel the stirrings of something beginning to tickle the edges of her telempathic senses. She hated not being able to see for herself what was going on.

"Shh. Save your strength, Zo'," the redheaded spy softly admonished. Shuddering inwardly, his numbed mind realizing what his lord--his friend--was doing, Garnet decided that the best course of action was to just not think about anything and ignore all that was going on. Concentrating instead on offering some comfort to his injured sister, he reached out and carefully took one of her hands in his own, intertwining their fingers. "He's going to bring back Ametrine to Heal you."

Much as she would love to ask her red-haired sibling why Ametrine--she knew that there were some sort of hard feelings between the dual Gemlord and Garnet--something about the spy's tone of voice kept her silent. With the throbbing pain dominating just about everything in her awareness, Zoisite found it too much effort to pursue anything, even with her innate curiosity.

Power. Energy. The tingling brilliance of a galaxy . . . The dark lord shivered in delight as his awareness touched that reservoir of golden brilliance. Drawing it into himself, he could feel every nerve humming with the energy, the feeling of pleasure rather exhilarating. He siphoned off the trapped Sailor Andromeda's power slowly, savoring the growing state of bliss that taking the energy gave him. What a rush . . .

For a moment, Obsidian even forgot the reason why he was doing this, why he needed the energy in the first place. But then he became aware of holding something hard and round in his hand, and it came back to him.

Ametrine. Need to give the energy to them. Stepping back, hand lingering on the surface of the glassy prison with a reluctance to let go and stop, Obsidian quietly sighed as he forced himself to break the contact. Mentally balancing the power stolen from Andromeda within himself, he turned his attention to the double-colored stone.

Remaining there halfway between the center of the round Hall and the polished surface of the Vortex Mirror, the pair of young Gemlords could feel the steadily growing sense of power swirling around them, could see the brilliance the yellow energy gave off as it lit up the place. Garnet swallowed hard, pushing aside all the images that came to him from what he had witnessed before. Zoisite softly moaned, not only in agony from her current injuries, but also because what she was sensing emotionally from the Guardian of Space was just too horrible to contemplate . . .

The stolen energy reluctantly given to the dead soulstone, the citrine and amethyst gem glowing under its own power as the soul within awoke, Obsidian knelt down and placed the gently pulsing jewel down onto the rich carpeting that covered the floor. He then stepped back, deep brown eyes narrowing slightly as he watched the young Gemlord regain life and form.

. . . If it's my life you want, not my love, I give it to you freely . . .

Memory of pain--a blast so powerful that it split one form in twain, killing one part, leaving the other nearly crippled with agony and grief, staring into amber eyes that held almost no emotion.

So cold . . . So violent . . . What happened to you to make you so?

Garnet watched silently--when the bright light had suddenly been no more, he just had to turn his violet gaze to the events going on near the three-stepped dais--holding Zoisite's hand in his, as the reawakened Gemlord stirred on the floor. Draped in fine veils of violet-and-yellow silken fabric that ornamented rather than concealed, the body was sleek, graceful, androgynous in its balance of wiry muscle and smooth curving lines. The curiously beautiful face was marred, at the moment, only by the tiny jewel of a tear that slipped beneath the lashes of one eye. Those eyes--violet and gold splintered together, like the long hair that framed the Gemlord's face--opened a moment later, as the sense of being alive slowly registered.

Ametrine sat up slowly, looking around with dreamy confusion. Catching sight of Obsidian, the young Gemlord gasped softly and started to rise.

Only one form came to its knees, but when bare feet held weight against the floor, two bodies stood there. In those few brief seconds, that oddly nonsexual body blurred and then separated, the one form of blended masculine and feminine flowing apart into two forms, each one obviously of a specific sex. To Garnet's watchful, violet gaze, it looked something like mitosis or the forming of two amoeba from the splitting of one.

Ametrine's division of physical self was instinctive, knowing how others became uneasy around that eerily asexual shape. They had found, over the centuries, that most others responded better if the physical form had an easily identified gender of male or female. Manifesting dual forms at once had been the Lithosian's instinctive compromise.

Lord Ametrine had short blonde hair and clear amethystine eyes; Lady Ametrine's rich violet hair hung in a long opulent cloak past her waist, and her eyes were a vivid sunlight-gold. Still holding each other's hand, the twinned selves of Ametrine rushed to greet Obsidian, identical bright smiles on their faces. "My lord! You're all right!" the lady called out, a bright smile gracing her face, an expression as sunny as the color of her eyes.

"I knew we could count on you, my lord," the lord stated at nearly the same time as his other half spoke.

Obsidian smiled back just as brightly. For a moment, the Cosmos was a slightly better place. One more of his precious people lived again. As the twin bodies crowded around him and he found himself in the young Lithosian's dual embrace, the Guardian of Space chuckled and hugged them back in equal measure, both lord and lady alike. "I'm glad to see you too, Ametrine."

Observing from something of a distance, Garnet set his jaw and plastered a rather fake smile on his face. Yes, the dual Lithosian was quite fond of the dark lord--most Gemlords were; after all, Obsidian held a special place within their entire society--but did they have to be so obvious about it? Luckily for the young spy, the reunion was short-lived.

Noting that the newly reawakened Gemlord was about to launch into a double questioning of what's happened and what's gone on, Obsidian slipped his arm from around the amethyst-haired lady and held up that hand in a gesture of warding off. "Before you start asking me all sorts of things, I have need of your skills, Lady Ametrine."

"My lord?" both the lord and the lady asked, their voices blending together perfectly, golden and violet eyes registering their startlement.

"Zoisite's been wounded. I need you to Heal her."

Instantly the twin Gemlord turned their eyes toward the center of the Hall, amethyst and citrine gazes falling on the floating blond and the far-too-cheerful-appearing redhead. The lady nodded, long hair swaying just slightly, then rippling around her as she briskly strode over to where Zoisite continued to be levitated. "What happened to her?" the lord asked, turning his attention back to the Guardian of Space.

Before Obsidian could reply, Garnet growled out an answer. "She ran into something big and nasty. I would think that's obvious."

"No sense in remaining angry about it, Lord Garnet," the dark lord responded. "While you Heal the Western Commander, I'll tell you what I know, Ametrine."

Sorry, little Senshi, but face it. It's just not going to work. Kunzite watched, seemingly dispassionately, as yet another arc of blue-white lightning lit up the evening sky and blazed through the air toward his swirling shell of protective energy. The silly child had blasted away at him a couple of time, both getting the same result. Against her basic attack, he had very little to worry about.

"Get down here and fight like a man, Kunzite!" Jupiter snarled, seeing her Thunder Crash still have no effect against her elegant, pale-haired foe.

"Well, well, isn't this your lucky night?" the Fire Warrior purred, smirking slightly. "I feel like humoring you just a bit." A toss of his arm sent his cape flaring outward while simultaneously dropping his protective shielding. He then leapt up and balanced for a moment on the railing of the apartment balcony just long enough to shift his momentum forward before springing forcefully forward. Pale lavender cloth and lavender-tinged hair rippled in the wake of his telekinetically-guided freefall. Landing on his booted feet as graceful as any great cat, Kunzite allowed himself a faint grin as he watched the green- and white-clad Senshi draw herself up into a wary stance.

Sailor Jupiter was determined to not give him even a moment to prepare. Though startled at his sudden descent, the ponytailed girl swiftly recovered, her pretty face settling into a grim expression. The minute he touched down onto the city sidewalk, the Energetic Warrior burst into motion, one white-gloved hand bunched up in a fist. "Eeyah!" the brunette shouted as she swung her fist right at the smirking man's face.

That smirk never once faltered as Kunzite leaned swiftly to one side, dodging the blow with perfect precision even as he took a step back. Just as easily dodged were the second, and third punches, each one making a few strands of his hair float in the wind of Jupiter's fist and each time he took another step back.

"Damn you," the athletic girl growled, darting forward and attempting to deck the Negadweeb yet again.


Jupiter gasped, forest green eyes going wide as she felt the momentum of her hand stop dead. Her foe had caught her hand in his, the long fingers forming a stronger-than-expected prison for her gloved fist. Growling, she lashed out with a foot, only to feel herself suddenly up-ended violently, her back crashing hard against the pavement of the sidewalk. The damned bastard must have grabbed her by the foot and used her own momentum against herself.

"Is that the best you can do?" Kunzite softly murmured, raising a hand and pulling up energy within himself. It was all but over now.

**Kunzite! Return to the Tower, at once!**

The Fire Warrior hesitated, jaw setting in annoyance. Just like last time, when he and Zoisite had almost had the remainder of the Rainbow Crystals from Tuxedo Mask; victory was in his grasp, and he was being called away.

However, it wasn't his place to question. From the tone of Lord Obsidian's command, the Southern Commander would be best served by instantly obeying. **As you wish, my lord.** Inwardly sighing, the tall Gemlord stepped back away from the prostrate Senshi, lowering his hand and shifting the thrumming energy to different channels. He'd need that for the teleport back through the Mirror into the Tower in the heart of the Vortex.

"Venus Crescent Beam Smash!"

The new voice cracked through the air, the sounds coming too fast for Kunzite to react swiftly enough. The caped Gemlord had only enough time to turn toward the source of the shout before the racing bolt of golden energy struck him. He hit the wall of the apartment building hard, his breath nearly knocked out of him.

"Hurry up, Moon! He's not going to stay off-balance for long! Jupiter? Are you all right?" Orange heeled shoes making sharp footfalls against the asphalt, her long sunny-gold hair flowing out behind her, Sailor Venus hurried over toward where the brunette Scout was beginning to climb to her booted feet.

I don't have time for this. Vortex Mirror Return! Feeling the power of the Symbol of Space reach out and surround him, pulling him towards it, Kunzite relaxed and let the obsidian artifact take control, yanking him from the physical reality of Terra and into the Vortex between all places.

"Damn, he's getting away," Jupiter complained, straightening up while watching the oddly-attired man's form shimmer away in the midst of an aura of violet-pink light. "Yeah, I'm all right, Venus," she added, frowning as she absently began smoothing down her rather ruffled Scout uniform.

"Oh, Jupiter! I'm so glad to see that you're okay!" Red boots clicking along the hard surface of the street, her twin bun-topped ponytails streaming out behind her, Sailor Moon loped over to where the other two Scouts were standing. "You're not hurt or anything, are you?"

"No, no, I'm fine. Just a bit furious, that's all." The tall brunette sighed, then turned to look over at her friends. "Come on. Let's hurry back to the shrine before they regroup and come back. I'll tell you what happened to me and then you can tell me what happened earlier."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Venus confirmed, starting down the street. Right behind her came the other two, the trio of girl warriors keeping eyes and ears open for any sign that their foes had returned. There was going to be a lot of explaining to do on everyone's part.

[Back] [Scriptorium] [Forward]

This page formatted and © by Dianna Silver

"The Silverlands", "The Obsidian Tower", and "The Rose Garden" all © 1997 - by Dianna Silver. All Rights Reserved