[FFML] [SM][Fanfic] Terrible Things to Waste Part 11

Bastion bastion at ix.netcom.com
Mon Feb 9 15:03:40 PST 2009


Yo FFML, hope you didn't forget me.  Then again how can you forget
something you never remembered?  Either way, I've decided to torture
you with more of my writing.  Yay!

If you're looking for more hurting, previous chapters and fanart can
be found here:
http://www.mediaminer.org/fanfic/view_st.php/24/
Or just chapters:
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/380353/

C&C/screaming in horror/excessive gagging/complaining is welcome.

--------------------------------
Terrible Things to Waste
Part 11: Edge of No Control
--------------------------------

They continued to walk down the beach in silence which helped Amy
try and clear her mind.  Michelle's words hurt her and hurt her
deeply.  In school, she had heard such harsh words from fellow
classmates who resented her number one ranking in class.

Though their words hurt, she never allowed herself to retaliate.  It
would only intensify that unforgiving spotlight and bring her more
attention she didn't want.  So instead, she analyzed them, looking for
any flaw she could find.  With most of her tormentors it wasn't very
hard.  Usually the girls who picked on her were much less intelligent
and had issues of insecurity just bubbling below the surface.  It
wasn't much, she admitted, but it gave her some solace when they would
murmur all sorts of mean spirited things just loud enough for her to
hear.

Befriending Serena had changed all that.  Serena had instantly
accepted her as a member of the Sailor Scouts despite Amy's purported
cold reputation much to her surprise.   It didn't take long for
Serena's near inexhaustible supply of optimism to wrap itself around
Amy like a warm and comforting blanket.  Through Serena she was able
to meet Lita, Mina, and even Raye and eventually formed a bond with
them that she had never experienced prior.  They insulated her against
those hurtful words and gave her confidence to live her life
unconcerned about what others thought of her.

Now, however, they were lost to her and there was a very high
probability that she'd never see them again.  Without them she could
feel old habits encroaching on her as she studied the green-haired
girl walking just ahead of her.  To find fault with Michelle was a
challenge.  Her friends nearly idolized both Michelle and Erica.  They
did everything perfectly exhibiting greater skill and intelligence at
things they considered their strengths.

But being ever pragmatic, Amy remained steadfast in the rational
beliefs of realism.  Nothing was perfect and Michelle was no
exception.  Arrogance was their greatest fault as well as their
distrust.  A few years ago, when they first met them, as Sailor
Scouts, how they refused to cooperate and went as far as refusing to
recognize Serena as their princess.  That all changed once she bested
them in battle (to this day Amy was still amazed she had done it).
That arrogance and stubbornness nearly cost them several key battles
and lives blindly following Pluto's orders like puppets on a string.
Recent events made light just how much the Time Guardian was willing
to sacrifice to reach her goal.

Then there was Michelle's dependence on Erica.  Amy dragged her eyes
from her computer screen and watched the wavy sea of green sway as she
noted her teammate still walking stiffly.  Amy remembered how harshly
Michelle reacted when she broached the topic of the blonde tomboy.
Frowning, the words Michelle had hissed hurt her the most.

'There's nothing wrong with not allowing Greg's absence bother me.'
She determined returning to her analysis.  'We're in a crisis and in a
crisis one must be in control of their emotions to survive.'

Unfortunately, a nagging little pessimistic voice teased her calling
her an emotionless cold bitch.  It taunted her suggesting she would
abandon her friends in a heart beat in favor of scientific pursuits.

Memories of past obsessions came to mind, times where the rest of the
world faded away and she cared little for anything but her ambitions.
But she did care about her friends.  She cared about Greg!  She missed
his kind words, his bright smile, his soft kissable lips, his gentle
hands as they caressed her-

Amy blinked and fanned her face vigorously hoping to cool it down
before Michelle noticed the flush on her cheeks.  Yes, there was no
doubt about it.  She definitely missed Greg.  And she when she got
home, she was going to make sure he knew that too.

"It appears we've found a village."  Michelle announced and peered
back, her eyes glimmering.  Amy hoped the flush had gone by unnoticed.

The cliff that towered over them as they walked the small strip of
beach had tapered away revealing several wooden cottages, none of
which appeared to be more than three or four stories tall.

Glancing down at the screen, she was pleased to see that the distinct
purple blip that represented their target had remained stationary.
"And I think that's where we'll find Victoria."

Still peering back, Michelle nodded to her.  "Let's hurry and make
sure she's safe."

Before Amy could open her mouth, Michelle bound off towards the
village.  "Why are they so impatient?"  She asked aloud and ran off
after her fellow Sailor Scout.

It took all of her enhanced abilities to keep up with Michelle and
having to dart her eyes from the screen to Michelle and back again
didn't help her progress.  Once they cleared the cliff, Amy noticed a
faint signal near Victoria's and became worried.  She wanted to warn
Michelle, but she was so far ahead Amy doubted she'd hear her.  Of
course, even if she did hear her Amy doubted Michelle would listen.

As they swept through the village, no one had appeared.  In fact, it
appeared the entire village was abandoned.  Most of the buildings were
beginning to show signs of neglect and disrepair.  Amy glanced again
at that faint blip and her worry grew.

Surveying the village, it became obvious where Victoria was.  There
was tall stony building that lurched from the ground.  It stood out at
the center of all the humble structures and it was about where
Victoria's blip indicated.

As they approached, a large glider could be seen floating at the
entrance.  It swayed and jerked about in the strong gusts like it was
weightless.  Amy breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the small
diminutive form of Victoria clutching her glaive.   She appeared to be
unharmed.

It had taken all her strength to keep up with Michelle up to this
point, but upon seeing Victoria, Michelle took off like lightning
leaving Amy far behind.

"Vicky!"  She shouted once they were in earshot.

The small child snapped out of her trance and looked over at them and
a slight smiled formed on her lips.  She still clutched the glaive
tightly though.  Amy kept her eye on the faint blip on her computer.

"Aunt Michelle."  Her voice was happy but oddly strained.  "Amy."

Before either girl could respond, an old woman in a thick weathered
blue blouse and pants emerged from the castle carrying a pair of
masks.  She immediately noticed Amy and Michelle and evaluated them
with caution.  Meanwhile, Amy could tell Michelle had tensed and Amy
was worried she would jump into action at the slightest provocation.
Finally, the woman smiled.

'Why hello.'  A sweet, friendly voice spoke in their minds.

The sensation was disturbing to Amy and she noticed Michelle growl to
the woman.

Amy reacted quickly.  Engaging a woman who had telepathic abilities
had the potential to turn very messy.

"We mean no harm."  Amy announced, reaching out to hold Michelle
back.  "We're here for our friend."

The old woman made a face when Victoria spoke up.  "She can't
understand you.  You must talk to her with your thoughts."

"With our thoughts?"  Michelle said eyeing the suspicious woman.
"She didn't do anything to you, did she Vicky?"

The old woman's face suddenly went neutral, apparently reading the
look she had been given by Michelle.  The telepathic voice went
silent.  Amy relaxed a little; it was definitely was a wise move.

"No."  The child answered simply, gazing out towards the decrepit
forest.  "She was taking me to the one who is calling for the
Silence."

Michelle frowned at Victoria's declaration and spun back toward the
old woman.  "What have you done to her!?"

"Michelle."  Amy began when the solemn old woman closed her eyes.

'I swear I have done nothing to harm the child.'  The woman's voice
came to her with such jarring clarity, it made Amy dizzy.  What kind
of abilities did this woman have?  'I only wanted to protect her from
the Sea of Corruption.'

'Sea of Corruption?'  Amy echoed mentally glancing at the twisted
trees that overlooked the high rocky walls.

'Yes.'  The woman answered.  'The spores from the trees are very
lethal if you inhale them.  That is why I insisted that I take her
there to make sure she wore her mask.'

'Ha!'  Amy beamed in triumph.  'I knew there was something wrong with
the forest and I even had it right with the spores too!  Score one for
Amy!  Oh yeah!'

'I can hear you Amy.'  Michelle's cool, demure voice rang in Amy's head.

Looking around Amy watched in horror as everyone regarded her like
she had grown an extra head.  The old woman in particular appeared
pained and apologetic.

'Uh, er, sorry.  I didn't mean to gloat.'  Amy whimpered mentally as
she blushed profusely.

'It should be I to apologize.'  The old woman smiled and approached
with care.  'I should have warned you that I was broadcasting each of
your thoughts.  I just believed it would be the most efficient way we
could communicate with one another.'

'I would appreciate it if you kept out of my mind.'  Michelle's reply
was terse and Amy couldn't exactly blame her, she knew Michelle valued
her privacy.  Unfortunately, they needed to humor the woman since she
obviously had a wealth of knowledge about this alien environment.

'Her name is Nausicaa.'  This time it was Victoria's voice she heard.
 'She is going to take me to the forest using her glider.'

Just off to their right was the glider in question.  With her worries
about Victoria and the old woman alleviated to some degree Amy took a
moment to admire the floating wing.  The wing had a single fuselage
that had an opening that resembled the mouth of some large, flat fish.
 It was a marvelous design and it didn't take much of a wind to make
it as buoyant as a balloon.

'What a wonderful piece of machinery.'  Amy thought idly.

'Thank you.'  Amy started at the old woman's voice and chided herself
for being so careless.  She'd have to be more careful in future, she'd
never had to deal with a telepath before.

"Victoria."  Michelle spoke aloud it appeared she didn't want the old
woman to hear their conversation.  "What is this talk about the
Silence?  What is calling for the Silence?"

The girl's grim expression didn't change.  "A soul has called out for
the Silence.  The end of their existence.  It is the realm that I rule
over as a Scout and I am compelled to obey when a soul begs to be
Silenced."

"And when they ask for the Silence?"  Michelle asked.  "They are asking for?"

Victoria's large violet eyes regarded them intently.  "Total annihilation."

Amy repressed the chill that ran down her spine and checked her
screen again.  "And where did you say this soul was?"

"Over there."  Victoria answered, pointing the blade of her glaive
toward the thickest part of the forest.

Amy spread out her scan and focused on the area Victoria indicated.
When the scan was complete she gasped.

'Is there something in the forest?'  Nausicaa sounded concerned.  'Is
it an insect stampede?'

Puzzled, Amy shook her head.  An insect stampede?  'No, I'm getting a
strong signal from the forest.  A familiar signal.'

'What is it that you've found on your strange device?'  The old woman
came closer to peer at Amy's computer.

"What did you find Amy?"  Michelle asked aloud.  Amy sighed.  She
hoped she wasn't going to have to carry on two conversations
simultaneously because of Michelle's paranoia.

'Ms. Nausicaa, please communicate to Michelle I have found a signal
of someone from my database.'  Amy could tell the old woman was
hesitant which made Amy feel better about her.  If she was reluctant
to prod a person's mind against their wishes, then it wasn't likely
the woman would use them maliciously.  'I realize she may not like it
but I am not going to repeat myself twice.  Besides I think my friend
is being overtly cautious.  You have won my trust plus your knowledge
would be most helpful to us to get back home.'

'Ah.'  Nausicaa smiled.  'Thank you.  I will repeat what you just
told me to your friends then.'

As Amy waited for Nausicaa to report she watched Michelle's face
twist and sour.  "Amy, what is wrong with you?  She is a stranger and
a telepath.  There's no telling what she's done to Victoria-"

"Aunt Michelle, she hasn't *done* anything to me."  The child insisted.

"Besides," Amy replied casually, "there is a Traveller in the general
vicinity of where Victoria is getting her feeling."

Michelle frowned.  "A Traveller?  Are you sure?"

Amy shared a look with Nausicaa and nodded.  She waited for the old
woman to nod back before she continued, but this time through her
thoughts.  'Yes I am sure it is a Traveller.  This might be the
solution to our problem or it could be a further complication.
Depends on which it is, if we know them.'

"Insistent aren't we."  Michelle's frowned deepened but addressed the
topic at hand through the telepath.  'Your computer can't tell them
apart?'

'No, I was only able to get a base reading by comparing my analysis
of Malance and Cindy.  I didn't get enough information to tell them
apart.'

'I see.'  Amy noticed that Michelle had a harder time masking her
emotions when speaking telepathically.

'Excuse me, but who is Malance?'  Nausicaa asked.  Amy was surprised
the woman didn't ask any questions earlier.  Then again, Victoria may
have filled Nausicaa in on some of the details.

Amy peered at her screen and pondered the blip.  'I'll explain on the
way.  There's no telling how long that Traveller is going to be here
and I want to find them before they take off and leave us behind and
we really get stuck here.'

Nausicaa nodded in agreement and scampered back to the small entrance
to the castle.  'Let me get two more masks for you and your friend and
we'll be off to find this Traveller friend of yours.'

"I wouldn't consider them much of a friend if I were you."  Michelle murmured.
	
--------------------------------------------------------------------

Silence in darkness.  It immersed his senses and gave finality to it
all.  Was this death?  No, there were still tinges of pain attacking
his battered body, electrifying every nerve.  He didn't remember much,
except the image of his face from his youth, stolen by Nihil, laughing
at him and all of the sudden tumbling down and down.  His limbs didn't
want to move, and he didn't bother moving them.  He couldn't breathe,
and he didn't bother.

Why bother?

He could give in and it would end.  But giving up was the epitome of
weakness, and he wasn't weak.  He was never going to let Nihil win.
Never.

Halebit groaned and coughed allowing the thick, viscous liquid
squirm down his throat.  Jolting upward, the General opened his goo
covered eyes and looked down at a pool of some red substance.  He
could see it slowly dripping off his head in long sticky strands down
into the pool below.  The pains in his injured arms became more acute
from supporting his weight.

Carefully, the old man moved his sore body around.  He glanced upward
to see a transparent shell he had shattered.  Following the upper
curve of the shell, Halebit surmised it was a bulb full of this red
substance currently drying on his forehead.  It was attached to one of
the decrepit trees bowing from its weight.

Wiping off some of the syrup from his forehead, Halebit tasted a bit
of it.  He noted the familiarity of the bitter taste when a sensation
on his leg distracted his thoughts.  Gingerly, the General tilted his
neck.

One of the smaller insects had crawled onto his leg.  The General
stared into its multi blue eyes dotted all over its armor clad head.
Its many little feelers pricked and tickled the General's leg, from
his thigh to his ankle, bringing along with it unpleasant sensations.

By reflex, the General threw out his hand at the insect.  To his
surprise, the insect flew off his leg and smashed into a nearby tree.
Pausing a moment, the General stared at his hand and the red substance
that stained his fingers.  The taste.  The color.  The power.

"It must be."  He gasped in amazement and he began to wipe off the
substance from his forehead greedily licking his fingers.

"More."  He gasped and turned around, shoving handfuls of the potent
elixir down his throat.

The strength spread through his limbs, revitalizing his body.
Finally, he stopped his gorging and composed himself, wiping away some
of the substance off his lips.  He reverently stood and thrust his
right palm outwards.  The crystalline trunk of a nearby tree crumbled
and the tree folded over.  The General's face hardened and a smile
crept onto the cliff of his visage.  He paused again, closing his
eyes.  He had to confirm the silence had definitely returned that he
had successfully sealed away Nihil.

Once satisfied, the General walked over to the small insect writhing
on the forest ground.  With a gesture of his open hand, he raised it
off the ground.  He was once again in total control.

'Now who has control, Nihil.'  Halebit narrowed his eyes and
snapped his fist shut.


			*		*		*


Tracer groaned and his head throbbed.  Why did they have to focus on
his head?  Blood trickled from his mouth and nose, pooling on the
white floor.  Tracer imagined his silvery red blood decorated a good
number of the walls too.

He attempted to stand but his entire abdomen felt like it had been put
through a meat grinder making it nearly impossible to sit upright on
the cot in his cell.  He'd felt worse pain that was for certain, but
what he was feeling after the beating wasn't pleasant.

In the end, he only told Naes some of the truth.  He revealed to the
Counsule Elder how he and Callide had found Aste's lair and located
the sword but then got split up when both Aste and the Counsule's
guards ambushed them.  Of course Tracer left out most of the details,
he didn't feel at all incline to share them.  Naes didn't need to know
Callide had tricked him and had intended to let Aste grind him into
paste while the little shit tried to sneak out with Faust's Sword.
Though Tracer honestly didn't know what Callide wanted with the damn
thing however telling Naes that didn't stop the beatings.

When Tracer just stopped responding to questions and strikes, the
beatings mercifully stopped.

"Ah well.  I guess that's all he knows."  Naes said, sounding tired
and bored.  "Hrrmmm, I'm disappointed.  I would have thought you'd put
up more of a fight.  What a bother."

What!?  Was this beating mainly for his entertainment!?  He fought
hard against the impulse to bounce on the old bastard knowing that
damn energy shield would stop him cold in his tracks.  No, this time
he would bide his time and plan.  Sure it was a pain in the ass to sit
down and waste time thinking but in this case it would be worth it.
This bastard had this coming for a very long time.  Naes never liked
him ever since he and his mother lived in the protection of Counsule
Building after his father's death.

Naes sighed and Tracer slid his good eye open, well the least swollen
eye.  "I suppose we should reward you for cooperating and delivering
us Faust's Sword.  Avex!"

"Yes, Counsule Elder Naes."  A calm voice devoid of any emotion
answered.  It sounded like it came from everywhere.

"Allow our prisoner his final request."  Naes ordered as Tracer heard
him walk away.  Watching him go, his long grey hair swayed like a
cloak draped over the old man's frail body.  A thin, spry hand waved
flippantly as he left.  "Within reason of course."

As Naes left, the pair of guards followed, their heavy footsteps
shaking his cot.  With the rhythm of their march fading away down the
hallway, Tracer was confused.  Last request?  What did he mean by
that?

Suddenly, a translucent screen popped up right in front of his face.

"Tracer Zen."  The monotone voice greeted.  "Here are the results
from your last query into the Counsule's Archives."

The swelling around his good eye had reduced significantly in past
few minutes, allowing him to blink in surprise.  "Huh?"

"Your query about the Sentinels."  The voice of the AI answered.

"Sentinels?"  Tracer was at a loss.  The gears in his mind ticked a
few times until it finally dawned on him.

When Callide had used the AI, Avex, to get some information about Aste
and Faust's Sword, Tracer took the opportunity, (i.e. when Callide was
distracted), to investigate Xendyte's history and figure out why a
Society member claimed the woman was his boss when records showed she
had been murdered by the Society.  With Avex hacking through the
Counsule's restricted Archives like it was warm cheese, Tracer
discovered that Xendyte's family had been killed by a team of
Sentinels and that she was rescued by the Society before they could
eliminate her.  It had given the Society member's story some
credibility and through some impressive detective work Tracer
discovered the Society's hideout.  Unfortunately, the hideout turned
out to be a baited trap that wiped out nearly half of the Timelords
but it was impressive detective work nonetheless.

Anyway, before Tracer had to abandon his search, he had requested
Avex find everything he could about these Sentinels.  The Society
member had mentioned them and it left him curious until he found out
Halebit was running the Society.  Then he had bigger fish to flay.

"Yes."  Avex's response made him concentrate on the floating
illuminated screen as words and pictures flashed.

"Subject, Sentinels."  It announced as its voice became deeper and
with heavier authority.  "Warning, this file is level one access.  Any
personnel not authorized to view this file is in violation of Counsule
edict 1337-sigma-delta.  Knowingly violating this edict will result in
prosecution of treason-"

"Blah, blah, blah."  Tracer sneered and then winced from the pain.
"Can't you see I'm already in a cell?  I'm in deep enough shit as it
is."

"Charges do include execution."  Avex informed.

"Yeah, right."  Tracer grunted.  "Like they'd do that to me.  Now
save me the legal crap and tell me what I want to know.  What the hell
are these Sentinels?"

Several more pictures and text scrolled onto the screen.  Tracer sat
back and sighed.  "And just give me the highlights; I'm not going to
remember most of it anyway."

"Very well."  Avex answered.  "The Sentinels were created when
suspicions arose that Timelords were joining the ranks of the
Society."

"How?"

"There had been a sharp increase in defections that coincided with an
increase in Society activity.  Thus the Counsule decided that the
Timelords could not be entrusted to protect the Community."

An image of a man's face flashed upon the screen.  The man looked
strange, his face looking like a freaky facsimile of a fleshy skull.
He had a long jaw that curved into a large toothy smile framed by a
large nose and small beady eyes.  He had all the appearances of a man
looking for a fight.  Tracer liked him already.

"The Counsule initiated a program to create a soldier who would not
go against the Counsule's orders."  Avex continued.  "Their first
experiment was using the latest in cybernetics and robotics to create
an android that was built to be nearly indestructible.  This initial
Sentinel, codename, Novus, was lost when his programming became
corrupted and he disappeared into dimensions unknown."

"Ah."

"The program then used genetic manipulation to grow their soldiers
rather building them.  Using a process very similar to cloning, the
Counsule used the DNA of several highly qualified candidates from a
variety of dimensions to create soldiers who were both intellectually
and physically superior.  Unfortunately, when the Counsule tried to do
extensive work of replacing vital organs and bones with artificial
devices similar to those in other Travellers, none would survive.

"With no solution in sight, the program languished for several years
until a test subject was found who survived the process.  Using that
subject's DNA, the program was revitalized and several soldiers were
created successfully."

"How many?"  Tracer swallowed.  Something deep down inside him felt
some dread from all this information, but he wasn't sure why.

"Five.  They are Sentinels Prair, Murci, Creid, Deus, and Treus."

Images slide into the view, names underneath each one.  The profiles
of three men, a woman, and a red 'x' appeared in each one.  Tracer
blinked, both eyes now nearly healed, when he saw the image of Creid
and recognized the red-head immediately.  He was going to ask about
him when he noticed that a man who looked a little too eerily like
himself except with shorter hair, was dimmed grey.  The feeling of
dread returned.

"Why is Deus greyed out?"  He asked.

"He was killed in action by the Society."

Tracer stared at the image and something occurred to him.  "Which
Sentinels were sent to kill Cindy and her family?"

"Deus, Prair, Creid, and Murci."

"What happened to the others?"

"Prair."  The pale round and bald face of a man enlarged.  "Retreated
from the attack is assumed to have deserted."

"Murci."  The attractive blonde's profile enlarged as the other
shrunk back.  Tracer couldn't help but feel like he'd seen the short
haired beauty somewhere before but dismissed it.  Once you've seen one
pretty blonde you've seen them all.  "Retreated from the attack is
assumed to have deserted."

"Creid."  The familiar face of the red-head pushed forward.  "He was
the only Sentinel that survived and returned."

Tracer frowned, so this man was definitely there when Tracer
confronted Halebit the first time.  "That explains a lot.  Did he
survive the Society trap that killed all those Timelords?"

"Yes."

A lazy toothy grin spanned Tracer's face.  "Where is he now?  I want
to have a word with that son of a bitch."

"The Counsule Building."

"That's great!"  Tracer stood and the screen automatically followed.
"Then you wouldn't mind lowering the shield to my cell and letting me
get better acquainted with that bastard."

"I'm sorry but I'm afraid I can't do that yet."

Tracer paused and was about to ask what the AI meant when he heard
someone running towards his cell.
	
"It appears I have a visitor."  With his beating still fresh in his
mind, though his body was mostly healed, Tracer flexed his hand.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

"Would you care for some wine, Lady Serenity?"

Serena eyed the crimson liquid that filled the delicate crystal
extended to her.  Though it looked tempting, especially after the
crazy day she'd been having so far, she had the alcoholic tolerance of
a koala and she needed her wits in order to make this work.

"Ah, no thanks."  Her voice wavered.  Come on, Serena, you can soldier
through this!  "I'm still real full from all that delicious food!
Hehe."

The old man watched her with a soft steady gaze and smiled, gently
stroking his thin white beard.   He took a sip from the wine glass and
sunk into a large plush chair.  Beside him was Tracer's sword, its
translucent blade stuck half way through a stony pedestal.  Obviously,
Nairb treated Tracer's sole heirloom, the only thing he had left of
his dead father, like it was his!  It just wasn't right!  But as she
stared at it, she became mesmerized by this strange aura she felt from
it.

"My Lady, what is it that you would like to discuss?"  Nairb asked as
he took a measured drink of his wine while his lazy half linden eyes
studied her carefully.

"I was hoping maybe you could tell me more about the sword."  Serena
tried to settle her rattling nerves as she approached.  "It looks so
fascinating."

Glancing at the sword, Nairb smiled and chuckled softly.  "Yes it is
a marvelous piece of work.  It is said that Faust forged it himself
using an archaic art he'd learned in his early travels of the
dimensions.  It is said to be made up of powerful artifacts he found
on those travels."

"Why did he need it?"  Serena paused.

Nairb took another long drag from his glass, looking thoughtful
before he answered.  "When Faust established the Community not long
after the Great Cataclysm, there was a… faction that didn't agree with
Faust and his vision for the surviving Travellers.  They left to
wander the dimensions free to do as they pleased and for good reason
we called them Nomads.  However there was a fear that they would
return and forcefully try to overthrow Faust."

"Why?"  It seemed a little over the top to Serena to go to such
extremes if these Nomads had left peacefully.

"Life for the Nomads was harsh while the Travellers who remained in
the Community lived in a utopian world."  Nairb's voice became airy
and nostalgic before crashing back to something more somber.
"Jealousy had driven them to instigate the Great War."

She cringed but Nairb didn't seem to notice it as his expression
became unreadable.  "If it wasn't for Faust's Sword and Trekker, the
leader of the invaders would never have been defeated."

"That was Tracer's father, right?  He had that sword?  How did he get it?"

Nairb sat up and sighed, intently gazing at his drink.  "He was a
Zen.  Faust passed his sword onto his son and it was passed down in
each succeeding generation."

Serena's eyes lit up.  "So that means Faust is Tracer's ancestor?"

Nairb stopped swirling his wine and mumbled.  "More or less."

Her hands felt clammy.  Now or never.  "So that sword is rightfully
Tracer's then?"

Nairb stiffened and then relaxed.  Lying back, he rubbed his temple
with his free hand.  "It is.  There is no denying Tracer's claim to
it, but we don't have much of a choice to keep it from him.  He's
committed a crime and betrayed our trust!  Plus that boy has been a
maverick from the day he was born.  My daughter was the only one who
seemed to mollify him but when she died, he just wouldn't listen to me
or anyone else anymore.  If he wields something like Faust's Sword, I
can't even fathom the calamity that will befall all the dimensions!"

"Wait."  Alarmed, Serena interrupted and moved closer to Nairb.
"What did your daughter have to do with Tracer?"

"She was Tracer's mother.  He's my grandson."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

The things he did for love.  Darien grumbled as he raced through the
never-ending hallways.  This place could easily be a labyrinth, but
fortunately for Darien he had been able to maneuver around without
getting lost.  He didn't *think* he was lost.

Why did Serena insist they rescue the asshole?  Of course, he knew
she had a lot of faith in others and bless her heart it's why he loved
her so much, but rescue Tracer?  Had she gone mad?  Didn't she
remember that he was ready to brawl with them until Greg stepped in?

Darien snorted as he ran into the bowels of the building as it got
darker.  He must be going underground, he noted.  Good, the old man,
Nairb, had mentioned Tracer was in trouble; maybe they put him in some
kind of dungeon.

He frowned.  If that asshole was locked up then his task was going to
be harder.  Then again it might give Darien a bargaining chip in
getting the asshole's cooperation.  That's if he was lucky but he
wasn't counting on it.

He continued running until the hallway opened up into a darkened
cavernous room lined with doorways brightly lit sterile rooms.  Darien
was amazed.  The number of these doorways stretched out almost to
infinity.  Finding Tracer in this place was going to be daunting but
this was for Serena, he told himself.  Repeatedly.

Choosing a wall, Darien dashed at full speed peering into each cell.
In most he saw nothing, but in a few he saw haggard looking
individuals laying or sitting on narrow cots.  Most of them were
already awake by the time Darien flew by allowing him brief eye
contact.  In that brief moment, what Darien saw in those eyes were
haunting.  What did these people do to be stuck here?

When all was said and done, he would make it a point to have Serena
bring it up with the Counsule.  The look of despair and hopelessness
didn't seem to fit the image he had of a criminal and it bugged him.

He was nearly so lost in his thoughts that he almost missed the
looming transposed shadow standing in the light of the doorway that
illuminated the dark floor.  For a moment, Darien thanked his lucky
stars he had chosen this line of cells since it appeared there were
far more awaiting him ahead.

Skidding to a stop, Darien turned to find Tracer scowling at him.
Darien sighed.  Yep, this definitely wasn't going to be easy.

"What the hell do *you* want?"  Tracer barked.

Almost literally biting his tongue, Darien scowled back.  "I'm here
to rescue you."

Tracer's scowl deepened like it was a challenge.  "I don't need
rescuin'.  And I certainly don't need any rescuin' from fancy
candy-ass pansies like you."

Darien gritted his teeth and resisted magically materializing a few
dozen sharpened roses to menace the ungrateful cretin.  "I didn't say
it was *my* idea.  I'm just doing someone a favor.  Honestly I'd
prefer to just let you rot here."

Tracer's scowl softened and then morphed into that damn smirk of his.
 "I see, your little bitch pulled the leash on ya and you're here
because she wants to save me so I'll feel all warm and fuzzy so I can
get ya back home."  Tracer's smirk disappeared.  "Forget it.  You can
tell your blonde bimbo she can go shove it up her dainty little ass."

That's it, if this guy wasn't going to cooperate then it was not on
his conscience anymore.  "Fine, whatever.  I told her it was a waste
of time trying to talk to you.  You're just a worthless little prick
who thinks the world revolves around you.  I have no idea what Serena
thought she saw in you."

Darien tried to repress his glee at Tracer's immediate rage.  Ooo, he
must have hit a nerve.  Serves him right, the jerk.  "I am not fucking
worthless you sniveling limped wristed pillow biter!  What does she
see in me?  Does your precious little Serenity think she can find this
'goodness' in me and save it?  Is that it?  She thinks she can 'cure'
me like I have some kinda disease and make me some kinda happy go
lucky hand holding wimp?  IS THAT IT!?  Let me tell you something, is
she really going to save me?  Is she really going to make me happy?
Huh!  Or is she going to turn me into some mindless dweeb who blindly
follows the orders of some slobbering cunt and her gallery of long
legged whores!?  Tell me Mr. Love!  TELL ME!"

A calming chill fell over Darien's heart as he spoke very slowly.
"You are beyond redemption.  Serena was willing to turn you into
someone worth a damn, but hey if you want to continue being nothing
more than a burlap sack of shit, be my guest."

Tracer's smirk returned momentarily before he snarled.  "Someone
worth a damn!?  I am _fucking_ Tracer Zen!  I am not going to change
just because some little tart thinks there's something wrong with me.
And I swear if I didn't have this mother fucking energy shield in my
way I would fucking wipe your candy ass from one side of this fucking
room to another.  And it's a pretty big fucking room."

"I guess that's too bad."

At that, Tracer swung at the invisible barrier between them.  By
reflex Darien leapt back.  He could see Tracer smirk victoriously at
his retreat only to vanish when his fist didn't meet any resistance.
Stumbling forward, the shocked dark haired man looked up at Darien,
momentarily confused and then smiled.  It was a large sadistic smile.

"Maybe it's not."  He said as he struck with the sharp tips of claw.

Having already fought him once already, Darien easily dodged the
attack with his superior speed and the next several wild swings that
followed.  He was going to let the fool rampage after him like a blind
gorilla, but he couldn't resist hitting the jerk with a rose or two.
Serena didn't say anything about not maiming him.

"YEOW!"  Tracer roared as he ripped a rose from his shoulder.  "That
fucking hurts!"

Darien chuckled which fueled his opponent's rage.  "Don't you laugh
at me, you sissy!  Fight me like you actually have a pair!"

Dancing around the large hall, Darien continued to dodge Tracer's
attacks maneuvering the mindless beast towards the exit.  Hopefully,
he could keep this up until they got back to Serena.  He frowned
imagining Serena trying to calm the homicidal manic.  That wouldn't do
at all.

Using his cape to hide his right arm, Darien called upon his cane and
spun around connecting solidly with the Timelord's head.

His head jolted back from the impact but instead of going down, like
Darien had hoped, the Timelord shook his head, shaking loose his black
mop of hair.

"RAAWRR!"  He howled.  It was jarring how inhuman it sounded.

Now Tracer came at him even more aggressively and faster than he had
seen him previously.  It was becoming a concern to Darien, when did
Tracer get so fast?  He needed to end this quickly before Tracer was
able to gain the upperha-

"Oh shit."  Darien stared in disbelief as Tracer held his cape
tightly in his claws.

The next thing he knew he was seeing stars.  After that he was
sliding down the wall on the opposing side of the hall.

"Let me show a thing or two about love."  Tracer taunted, his voice
approaching.

Darien struggled to peel himself off the floor.  His ears were
ringing and his jaw was painfully clenched.  When he reached his feet,
the Timelord dropped the remaining tatters of his cape.  The Timelord
looked down upon him like a lion eyeing its wounded prey.

"Oh, I'm gonna enjoy this."  Tracer raised his clawed, metallic fist.

Darien clenched his roses.  He wasn't about to lose.  He studied his
opponent's face to wait for the very second he was going to swing when
he noticed several glowing red dots spotting Tracer's face.

"DO NOT MOVE!"  A synthesized voice commanded.  It sounded like it
was coming from everywhere.

Slowly and steadily, Darien rose to his feet with his hands in the
air.  Several of the bulky automated guards he had seen escorting them
earlier surrounded the pair.  Each of those guards carried a rather
nasty looking gun with beady red scopes.

Just behind him, Tracer grumbled in defeat and oddly didn't offer any
resistance.  That didn't seem right, why would Tracer give up so
easily when he was ready to fight him to the death just a few seconds
ago, Darien wondered.

"Tracer Zen, you are charged with illegally accessing the Restricted
Archives and attempting to escape from imprisonment."  The omnipresent
commanding voice announced.

"Endymion, you are charged with aiding and abiding in the escape of a
prisoner."

"What!?"  Darien nearly fell backwards from the shock.  What the hell
was going on?
       	
--------------------------------------------------------------------

Serena's mouth hung open.  "He's your grandson?"

Nairb didn't meet her shocked gaze and swallowed the rest of his wine.  "Yes."

"Then that's why you didn't want to talk about him earlier?"

"Yes."

"So you didn't want him put into jail?"

"Of course not but he left me no choice.  He had been skating on thin
ice for *years* and this incident finally pushed us to take action."

"What did he do?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."  The old man was usually fidgety.

Using a trick she that worked so well on Darien in the past, Serena
coyly half pouted and let her eyes get large and watery.  It was a
nasty trick for certain, but desperate times and all.  "You don't
trust me?"

Nairb appeared flustered by the assault of Serena's patented innocent
cuteness attack.  "Of course not Lady Serenity!  It's just that we on
the Counsule must remain vigilant, for there are criminal elements
afoot that would gladly use any kind of advantage to upend the peace
of our home."

Criminal element, Serena wondered for a moment before it dawned on
her, he meant the Society.  All of the sudden, Serena was reminded
once again why she had willfully walked this path: to give Cindy hope
for her future and right the injustices done to her and her family.
Now she had one of the men responsible square in her sights.

For the moment, she decided to feign ignorance.  "Criminal elements?
Like who?"

"The Society."  The old man answered gravely.  "They have sought to
undermine our peace and sown chaos in the Community.  And with one of
our former generals, Halebit, at the helm of this group we must be
ready for anything.  He's already proven to be a devastating
tactician."

Serena's head was spinning.  The man who ordered Cindy to kidnap
Reenie used to work for the Counsule?

"Former general?"  She squeaked.

"Yes."  He said rising to Serena's height.  "In fact when he
disappeared we feared Tracer had jumped to Halebit's side like some of
his other pupils had.  Fortunately, it seems he went to your time
stream to hide out.  At least the boy has *some* sense."

Serena tried to speak but her mouth felt dry.  It was like Nairb's
anxiety was contagious.  Licking her lips, she steadied her nerves and
focused on the real topic on hand.  "What about your own people?  I
mean all this secrecy would make them nervous?"

The question appeared to shake Nairb from his obvious agitation and
gave him the moment he needed to restore some calm to his façade.
Smiling, a tinkle came to his eyes.  "Ah spoken like a true benevolent
queen.  That's why I admire you."  Nairb clasped his hand before his
face, caressing the tips with his lips as he appeared thoughtful.
"And it is also why we need your help Lady Serenity.  This conflict
with the Society is taking its toll on the Travellers of the
Community.  They don't want to continue to look over their shoulders,
fearing the shadows."

Letting his arms fall loosely from his face, he swung them behind his
back as he paced in front of her.  "If you were to come out in support
of us, it would ease the concerns of the people, most especially those
from The Children of Serenity order.  They are particularly restless.
Don't you see?  With your help we can stop this tension among the
people of the Community and allow us to focus on the true fiends, the
Society.  We'll do everything we can to make your stay comfortable and
when the conflict is over we'll send you back to the exact moment you
left your time stream."

Dumbstruck, Serena stared at the excited old man.  A loud knock
startled her as Nairb turned to his door as it opened.  Just beyond
the threshold, a lanky, wispy man loomed his white robes, the low
light glimmering off the folds of cloth that swallowed his tall form.
This was the last Counsule member who they missed during their meal
and unlike the others this one was more open with his critical
appraisal.  It unnerved Serena.

"Ah brother, what is the good word with my way ward grandson?"  Nairb
welcomed his new guest with a jubilant grin.

The old man spared his brother a look but kept his eyes locked on
Serena.  "He is… good.  Listen, brother, there is urgent news I need
to report to you.  Privately."

Nairb looked over his shoulder at Serena and then cocked his head.
"I see.  Would you prefer I send Lady Serenity on her way?"

Serena thought she could feel the heat from the man's intense gaze.
"No, the hallway here will be sufficient.  Besides there is only one
way in or out of this room."

As the door closed behind the old men, Serena shivered.  "Creepy."

Without Nairb around, Serena let her eyes roam about the lavish room.
 Lush furniture, thick soft carpeting, and she could spy a large comfy
looking bed partially hidden away in another room.  Then her sights
fell upon the sword.  That strange aura still glowed like a halo
around it beckoning her.  The aura felt familiar and friendly and she
had the urge to touch and run her fingers along its crystalline blade.
 All she had to do was reach out and-

"Stop, Lady Serenity!"  Serena nearly hit the ceiling at the strange voice.

Whipping around, she heard something like the rustling of paper and
found a man adjusting his dark cloak.  He had long stringy very light
blond hair that hung over his cloak.  The mysterious man appeared as
old as Nairb and his brother, but the winkles around his mouth and
eyes seem harder and weathered than the others.  His dark blue eyes
regarded her with respect and wisdom rather than with fear and
ridicule she had seen from the members of the Counsule.

"W-who are you?"  Serena stuttered, her face growing warm from being
reprimanded by this stranger.  It like was getting scolded by her
grandfather or something.

The man smiled and bowed slightly.  "I am Briar Zen.  I am Trekker's
father and Tracer's *other* grandfather.  I come on behalf of the
Children of Serenity."

For a moment Serena's brain stopped functioning and for that reason
she just reacted.  "How long have you been there!?"

Briar let out sigh and gave an anxious look towards the door.  "I'm
sorry, Lady Serenity, but my time is short and there is too much to
say.  Do not trust the Counsule for they are telling you lies."

"I know that."  Serena replied by reflex, her mind still slow in
processing everything.

"How?"

"Cindy told us."

"Xendyte Animi?  Michi's daughter?"

"I believe that's her."

"Then what are you doing here?  Where is Xendyte?"

"I have no idea where Cindy went.  Halebit used my Silver Crystal to
create some kind of black hole and we ended up here."

"A portal?"  Briar's eyes were wide, amazed and shook his head.  "Who
had the sword?  Was it Halebit?"

"No, Tracer."  This was too much.  Serena shook herself from her
stupor.  "How *did* you get in here?"

The older man glanced at the door and spoke in quiet yet harsh tone.
"I called in a favor and had a friend hack their security system to
get me in."

Serena brightened.  "Good then you can help me and my friends get
Tracer out of here!"

Briar cringed.  "I doubt that will work Lady Serenity.  The security
system they have here is highly sophisticated and I was barely able to
sneak around the place on my own."  He breathed out.  "Trying to hide
you, Tracer, and your friends without detection would be next to
impossible."

"You're a Traveller right, like Cindy?  Can't you, uh, teleport us
away from here back to our time?"

Serena's heart sank when his eyes went downcast.  "I'm afraid I can't
Lady Serenity.  There is a substantial barrier around the Counsule
Building that will prevent me or Tracer from taking us back to your
home."

"So what can we d-"

Serena's blood froze as the room was engulfed in flashing red lights
and a blaring alarm.  The old man frowned and once again there was
that shuffling sound.  Sulking back into the darkness, the shadows
reached out gobbling up his form.

"I will do everything in my power to get you out of here, Lady
Serenity."  Briar's voice promised as he disappeared into the
darkness.  "But using force now will only result in tragedy.  Until I
return, please do whatever you can to keep you and your friends safe."
	
--------------------------------------------------------------------

It was like they were running down this never-ending hallway that
went on to eternity.  Though Erica loved a vigorous jog, racing
through a labyrinth with no foreseeable exit annoyed her greatly.
Hell this wasn't a labyrinth at all it was a damn-

"We're running around in circles."  Mina observed, lowering head and
coming to a stop.

Gritting her teeth, Erica dug her heels into the smooth metallic
floor squealing to a halt.  "What do you mean?  How can you possibly
tell?  Every God damn hall looks exactly the same as the other!"

Mina grinned.  Erica couldn't believe it, she was grinning.  With one
manicured finger, the blonde Scout pointed at the ceiling.  "Like I
was trying to tell you earlier, I was connecting the dots."

Peering at the ceiling, there were distinct markings that were subtly
different from the section next to it.  Erica's jaw unhinged slightly
as she thought.  "You memorized the pattern on the ceiling ever since
we got in her, haven't you?"

Rather than answer, Mina smiled.  "We've been running in circles for
a while now but we walked through this hallway to get to that dining
hall."

Erica rubbed her chin realizing she'd underestimated Mina.
"Someone's been moving the hallways around."

"Like one of those sliding picture puzzle things!"  Mina exclaimed
before pouting.  "But they always end up looking like a Piccolo
whenever I try to solve them."

Okay, maybe she didn't underestimate Mina.  "So we're running in
circles."  Erica reasoned to herself.  "Then there is only one way out
of here."

Raising her open palm, Erica summoned her elemental power.  If they
thought they could capture the wind, they had another thing coming.
"World Shak-"

A blaring alarm interrupted Erica as the hallway bathed in flashing
red light.  Erica stood for a moment stunned, how did they know they
were going on the offensive?

Erica frowned.  She wasn't about to take this lying down.  It was
time to bid a destructive yet hasty retreat out of this weird
technological funhouse.  With her hand still raised, Erica repeated
the spell.

"World-"

"DO NOT MOVE!"  A synthesized voice commanded.  It sounded like it
was coming from everywhere.

Erica blinked, in the flashing light she could make out several
silhouettes of those very stocky toy soldiers that escorted them into
the building except now in the occasional flashes revealed that each
held a large bulky looking gun with laser scopes pinned on her head.
Erica was baffled.  Where did they come from?  How did they sneak up
on them so fast?

"Lady Venus and Lady Uranus, you are charged with aiding and abiding
in the escape of prisoner Tracer and attempting to commit conspiracy
against the Counsule."

"What!?"  Erica was outraged!  They just wanted to go home!

"Huh."  Mina huffed, putting her hands up in the air.  "The Counsule
thinks we're space aliens?"

Erica imagined her glared was melting Mina into a bloody pool.

			*		*		*

David set his glass down on the only table that wasn't either smashed
or splintered in what was left of this 'theatre' as they called it
here in Japoness.

The furious owner demanded he pay for the damage to the place (which
was extensive) as well as give him back the money he paid up front for
Hikari's performance.  Damn, he thought he'd been so shrewd.

Doing a quick calculation in his head, they'd be lucky to have enough
money to get a ticket back to New Texas.    This was a big mess that
they had gotten themselves into this time which he had few solutions
to.  This rice wine didn't inspire much anything to mind either.

At least the mob had left him in peace when they ran after that
little pink haired brat and his gaggle of psychotic marionettes.
Currently, he had no idea where the machine had gone.  Knowing his
luck, the thing was probably damaged beyond repair which meant further
spending.  Great.

He'd had to talk to Matt to figure out how to fix Hikari so it didn't
go crazy like it did this time.  The Maiden Circuit had to go, whether
or not it made the marionette more life like.  Who cared whether the
machine could imitate a human, as long as it looked sexy and sultry.
David gave a shiver and drained his warm rice wine.

"I guess I better find that brother of mine."  David pronounced with
a sigh, rising from the table.

Only to be firmly seated by a heavy hand on his shoulder.  Startled,
David stared at the white glove of the large hand grip him tightly.
He followed that glove to the thick rich velvety red sleeve adored
with golden star cufflinks.  From the sleeve, David gazed at an older
man with long blond hair whose harden black eyes bore into him.

"Gelhardt von Faust."  He croaked, his throat clinching painfully.

A rather large smile formed on the man's angular face.  David used
all of his salesmen skill to keep from trembling in fear.  Faust's
deep voice rumbled and shook David to the very core of his soul.  "We
too have a keen interest in the whereabouts of your dear sibling."

"We?"  He squeaked, tearing his sights away from Faust's face to see
battle ready marionettes filling the space of the wrecked theater.
One particular red-headed marionette stood out among the rest.  Her
body was flexible and tense ready to pounce him like a hungry tiger.
Her eyes looked fiery and alive, much like Hikari's.  Faust had a
Maiden Circuit too?

"Yes."  Faust motioned to the battle marionettes stationed around the
room.  "We were hoping you could direct us and help to persuade him to
give back something that was stolen from us."

David swallowed as the red-headed marionette licked its lips.  How
could he say no?

--------------------------------------------------------------------

"Okay, think hard Cindy!"  The blonde Traveller mumbled while she
tried to keep pace with Raye, Lita, and Reenie.  "You have to have
read something about this crazy backwards place!"

"What was that?"  Lita had to shout to be heard over the roar of the
mob in hot pursuit.  "You've got a plan to shake these guys off our
tail?"

There was a playful twinkle in Lita's eye and Cindy fumed somewhat.
Easy for her to say, they were Sailor Senshi.  They had elements of
nature at their beck and call.  Heck, it was a challenge for Cindy to
keep up with Reenie and she was a child.

"None that involve incinerating everyone."  Cindy barked in reply.
She noticed Raye never bothered to glare back at her and Cindy's guilt
bloomed anew.

Reflecting back to last night, she asked herself once again why didn't
she fight back against Halebit when he attacked Raye's shrine and harm
her friends?  Raye had every right to be angry with her, she was a
coward.

However, when Raye had faced off against the mob the anguish and rage
Cindy witnessed disturbed her.  Something was very wrong with Raye.
The murderous glint in her violet eyes and her pleased expression as
she prepared her attack terrified Cindy.    Did Raye truly intend to
kill all those people?  Yes, she was angry but Cindy wasn't about to
allow her to commit murder.  Thankfully, she had grabbed the
priestess' wrists just in time and then anticipated her body turning
into a charred, smoldering carcass.  Instead Raye met her gaze,
snorted, and retreated with the rest of them without a word.

'I'll worry about Raye later.'  She decided, ignoring the whining
aches in her legs.  'I need to think of way out of this situation!'

Someone once told her of a planet like this, where women didn't exist
except for the feminine looking robots.  It had piqued her interest
and Cindy had read up on it.  She held out some hope that this was the
place.  She heard someone refer to this place as Japoness which
sounded familiar.  They also referred to the robots as marionettes and
that also rang a bell.  Did anything she read give them some
advantage?

'Well, worse comes to worse, Lita, Raye, and me could beat them up.
Hopefully, Lita can keep Raye in check.'  Cindy seriously hoped the
tall brunette could, Raye was ready to scorch the surface of the
planet.

"Stop right there!"  Cindy nearly collided with Lita when the three
Sailor Senshi stopped in their tracks.

A woman, no wait, marionette dressed in blue robes stood in their path
both of her swords drawn.  Two large, freaky-looking glowing swords.
Cindy swallowed hard.  She hadn't read anything about them mastering
particle beam technology.  If these people did they were in for some
trouble Sailor Senshi or not.

"Hey!  That's our line!"  Reenie bellowed shaking her fist.

Lita stepped in front of the girl and eased into a fighting stance.
"Who the hell do you think you are?  Get the hell out of our way!"

The green-haired android's expression didn't slacken in the least at
Lita's display and only its large vivid red eyes widen slightly as if
appraising the brunette.  Cindy glanced behind her and saw another
marionette, this one dressed in red robes carrying a naginata.  Though
they were effectively surrounded by armed androids, they thankfully
stopped the mob dead in its tracks.

"I am Baiko, Guard of the Imperial Court."  The green-haired
marionette's tone was cool and threatening.

"And I am her partner, Tamasaburo."  The other marionette added blandly.

"Are you agents of Gartland?  Did Faust send you?  Identify yourselves."

'Faust?'  The name rang an immediate bell.  That's right!  She had
studied this era in particular because one of the rulers had a name
similar to the founder of the Community.  She had gotten curious to
see if there was any connection but found none.  Names and history
came flooding into her mind and she quickly formulated a plan, a
completely crazy plan but if it didn't work, what the hell?  Cindy's
money was on the Sailor Senshi, advanced technology or not.

"Wait!"  Cindy shouted, jumping between Lita and Baiko.

"Huh?"  Lita froze, momentarily shocked and then frowned.  "What are you-"

Cindy turned and pleaded.  "Trust me on this one, okay?"

Lita wavered and Cindy panicked a little until the brunette relaxed
her stance.  "Okay."

Calming her shaking limbs, Cindy faced the green-haired marionette and
tried to project a sense of authority, like she was meant to be here.
She hoped to Serenity that she had all the names right.  "My name is
Lorelei, the last known woman alive!  Allow me and my marionettes to
pass."

The serious expression on Baiko's face remained unchanged though its
eyebrows raised a fraction.  "Marionettes?"

Cindy thought for names.  She needed some significant names.  She
hoped they weren't around already.  "Yes, my three marionettes."  She
pointed to Reenie.  "Lime."  Then to Lita.  "Bloodberry."  And finally
to Raye.  "And Cherry."

The marionette gave her the same appraising gaze it had given to Lita
earlier and then nodded.  "Very well.  Where are you rushing off to?
What did you do to gather such a large… following?"

"They took it!"  Reenie blurted making Cindy cringe.

"Who?"

"Someone has taken a Maid Circuit booster that we need."  Cindy
answered hastily.

"Maiden Circuit, you mean."

Cindy cringed but replied strongly.  "Yes."

"Very well then."  Cindy resisted fidgeting under Baiko's intense
stare.  "Would you be able to find where this… booster is?"

"Of course.  One of my marionettes can pinpoint its location, isn't
that right Lime."

When Reenie didn't respond, Cindy repeated herself, more loudly this
time.  "Isn't that right, _Lime_."

"Huh?  Oh yeah."  Reenie blushed, realizing she missed her cue.  "I
know exactly where it is."

Baiko stared at them for an excruciating minute and then announced to
the crowd.  "Citizens of Japoness!  Return to you homes for we will
deal with these strangers personally.  This is what your Shogun,
Ieyasu, decrees!"

There were murmurs from the crowd while they dispersed and Cindy
nearly wanted to do a little celebratory dance but she didn't because
the Lorelei she had read about was regal, competent, soft spoken, and
demure.

"Shall we get going, Ms. Lorelei?"  The marionette asked, stepping aside.

Cindy exchanged looks with the girls.  Lita and Reenie shrugged while
Raye glared at her.  The blonde Traveller sighed, at least it was
progress.  Maybe she'd get her to scream a few expletives at her
later.  One could only hope.

"Ack!"  Cindy yelped as Baiko took her in its arms.  Cindy noticed
the other girls were looking at her strange and she felt pretty
sheepish.  "Uh, thanks."

Meanwhile, Baiko seemed to gage her weight in its arms.  Cindy
wondered what it was doing when the marionette turned to Reenie.  "We
will escort you to your destination."

Reenie hesitated until Cindy nodded her head and the small
pink-haired sprite took off.  The other girls followed with the
marionettes taking up the rear.

As they leapt from rooftop to rooftop, Baiko spoke.  "You know, Ms.
Lorelei, the Shogun finds it odd for being the last woman alive that
you have more metal in your body than your supposed marionettes."

Stiffening, Cindy's throat tightened preventing her from offering
nothing more than a squeak.  Baiko quickly added.  "Do not fear, fair
stranger, we mean you no harm.  Whatever it is you are after so is
Gartland.  We will assist you but we request you answer some questions
of our own."

Dumbly, Cindy nodded her head.   Oh boy, what did she get herself into now?

--------------------------------------------------------------------

He didn't know if he could hang on any longer.  He couldn't feel his
fingers anymore and the swinging about threatened to make him
nauseous.  He'd stopped screaming since his throat felt raw and
scratchy though that didn't stop Hikari from wailing.

"Waaaaah!"  The marionette cried still running at full speed.  "Let
me go you pervert!"

That struck a nerve.  He wasn't like those freaky weirdoes who don't
dare venture outside their rooms as they did unspeakably lecherous
things to their marionettes.

"I am not a pervert!" He croaked indignantly.  "I created you!"

Hikari skidded to a stop.  Unfortunately for Matt, momentum didn't
work in his favor and he took a terrible tumble, eventually landing
head first in front of the whimpering marionette tears in her eyes.

With a groan, Matt rubbed his sore bits and frowned at the highly
emotional machine.  Is this what a full powered Maiden Circuit did to
a marionette?  Turn them into babbling, sobbing emotional wrecks?
Matt sighed.  That's not at all how he had envisioned Hikari when he
programmed her originally.

He had wanted Hikari to be strong and patient.  He loved it when she
listened attentively about the newest machine he'd built or the
fascinating things he learned as he worked on them.  She did without
spacing out or yawning or telling him to go soak his head like David
always did.  Though he knew he had programmed her to be so agreeable,
somehow it made him feel a little warmth in his chest to imagine deep
down, somehow, she really was listening and enjoying his company.

'But now,' Matt gazed at the tears raining down Hikari's cheeks before
the marionette rushed up to him and embraced him in a crushing hug.

"Daddy!"  She proclaimed happily.  "I have a Daddy!"

Matt frowned and struggled to breathe.  'Now it's like dealing with a child.'

Hearing a sound, Matt peered over Hikari's shoulder to see a tall
marionette dressed in a rather short skirt and a peculiar looking
broad collar.  Unlike most marionettes this one had dark skin, much
darker than he had ever seen before.  And unlike most other
marionettes, it carried a large staff adorn with a red orb.

The marionette's sudden appearance made Matt's hair rise and its
expression filled him with trepidation.

"I am the Time Guardian, Sailor Pluto."  It announced.  "And I believe
you have something that doesn't belong to you."

Terrified, Hikari yelped and in a flash she huddled behind him,
shielding her from the imposing marionette.

"She's scary Daddy."  She whimpered.

Meanwhile, Matt was still trying to figure out what caused this
marionette to malfunction.  Time Guardian?  Pluto?  This marionette
must have a Maiden Circuit; nothing else could explain its madness.
Who owned this marionette and what did they want with him and Hikari?

He felt Hikari shiver and Matt's heart filled with compassion.  Sure
it disappointed him she was acting so child-like but she sought him
out to protect her.  Technically he was her father (no matter how many
disturbing memories perverted that notion) and he had little choice
but to embrace that role.

Gathering his courage, Matt met the marionette's stern gaze.  "I won't
let you harm Hikari!"

In response, the wide alley filled with marionettes dressed in sleek
black uniforms.  Their visors glowed in the shadows and all were fixed
on him and Hikari.  Then he heard a loud crack and the cement between
him and Pluto erupted.

"Ho, ho, ho."  Perched on a ledge above them, another marionette
chuckled coiling its whip with a snap.  "I believe you have something
that doesn't belong to you."

The new marionette adjusted her cap, ruffling some of the red hair
that cropped out from underneath it.  Unlike the other marionettes
that surrounded them, this one wore tight leather pants and very tight
white shirt that must had been made of highly resilient thread to
contain the marionette's very large chest.

Looking down, a large wicked grin formed on its face.  "That Maiden
Circuit in your precious marionette belongs to Gartland, little man.
I expect you'll be cooperative."  The marionette gestured to the tall
one in the short skirt.  "As for you, I think I'll have a little fun
with you."

Matt tensed as the marionette licked its lips.  With a snap of its
wrist, the whip sprung from its hand like a rattlesnake.  Matt glanced
at the pulverized concrete at his feet and feared the grotesque
results the whip would have on the other marionette, the crazy one
that called itself Pluto.  To his horror Pluto did not move an inch
and it hardly looked concerned as the projectile sped towards it.

"Excuse me."  Pluto said simply, clicking her staff.

In the blink of an eye, Pluto disappeared.  The loud crack of the whip
along with the cracking and splitter of rock filled the void.  Matt
heard a grunt and suddenly the other marionette flew ungracefully into
the other side of the alley.  With a loud crash, the marionette plowed
through the building wall like it was made of pastry.  Pluto now stood
in place of the other marionette on the ledge.  Matt was amazed, how
did it travel so fast?

"Get her!"  The marionette snarled from the crumbling hole.

At her command, gun turrets emerged from the surrounding marionettes'
shoulders.  The cacophony of gun fire hurt Matt's ears and drowned out
Hikari's fearful wailing.  Grabbing Hikari, Matt threw her to the
ground and protected her.  The logical part of his brain reminded him
that his soft, pliable flesh would do little to protect her.  Hell, it
would have been safer to have Hikari lying on top of him.  However,
Hikari was depending on him to protect her and he wasn't about to
abandon his obligations.

One by one, Matt heard each gun go silent followed by a crash and the
sound of twisted metal.  Finally, all the guns went silent.  Raising
his head, Matt could see the marionette with the whip dancing around
growling in frustration.  Each time it made a lunge with its whip
Pluto would appear behind it and strike with the staff.

After a few rounds like this, the red-headed marionette looked worse
for wear but didn't appear to be giving up any time soon.  On the
other hand, Pluto was totally unblemished like it had rolled off the
line brand new.  However, Pluto did seem to be getting agitated with
the marionette.

"Enough of this."  Pluto raised its staff and to his utter amazement
sand swirled around the orb collecting into a ball.  Was there
anything this marionette *couldn't* do?  "Dead Sc-"

"I would reconsider that move, marionette."  Getting to his feet, Matt
snapped his head towards the mouth of the alley.  "I'm not about to
lose my Tiger to a malfunctioning machine like you."

Stepping forward, Matt could see a tall man with long flowing blond
hair.  He wore a large billowing cape and uniform that he instantly
recognized.  It was the leader of Gartland, the Fuhrer Faust!  He was
holding his saber to his brother's throat!

-End of Part 11-

Author's Note:
Finally, another chapter done.  Took me long enough.  Can't say much
about this one personally other than I'm rather pleased with how it
turned out.  I was worried it'd drag on and on.
Once again, David and Matt are based on real life FFML contributors
David and Matt Johnston and they are being used with their permission.
Hoped you enjoyed it!

Soundtrack:
Various scenes inspired by music.
Halebit's Under Control - Edge of No Control Part 2 by Meat Beat Manifesto
Counsule's Restricted Archive – Untold Stories by Meat Beat Manifesto
Mr. Love – Mexican Hairless/Mister Love by Toadies
Connecting the Dots – Circles by Meat Beat Manifesto
Pluto – Pluto by Bjork

Disclaimer:
All original characters are owned and copyrighted by Bastion (c) 2008.
Sailor Moon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi
Saber Marionette J is owned by Satoru Akahori
Nausicaa is owned by Hayao Miyazaki

Bastion
02/09




More information about the ffml mailing list