Claws rang against Wonder Woman’s indestructible bracelets like a bell starting a title bout. Amazon and chimera grappled in a show of strength that cracked the earth beneath their feet. A putrid stink roared from the mutant’s jowls, but Diana of Themyscira did not waver.
“Sailor Moon!” she cried. “Get to safety! Now!”
But the heroine was frozen. She had to do more than run. How could she abandon an ally? She balled her fists, fighting to tear away. A part of her would love to hide, and cry, but her heart knew different.
But this was Wonder Woman asking! She was the real hero; smarter, faster, stronger in every sense. So why couldn’t Usagi just listen to her?
Planet X shimmered like a mirage, radiating discord on a cosmic scale. It emerged from the corners of the void more mysteriously than its intent, whether or not it was conscious. An ill wind blew, as though the elements themselves were attempting to flee.
A throng of winged beasts congregated and charged like daggers from Heaven – or somewhere darker. There were dozens, maybe hundreds! No one hero stood a chance against such overwhelming force.
Sailor Moon shielded her face with a squeal. This was it. They had her for sure!
Fortunately, she was not alone.
Flame erupted in an immense ball launching into the heart of the multitude. The monsters scattered. Those caught in the line of fire beat their wings in vain.
At the origin stood a girl in a sailor uniform, with black hair and a red skirt. Sailor Mars – Rei – glared at her teammate.
“Go, Sailor Moon! We’ll protect you!”
The passions of Sailor Mars were unrelenting. In Roman mythology her namesake was the god of war; a fitting title for one whose flame tore through evil without forgiveness. Though they were different fires, that same directness clashed with friend and foe alike.
Usagi knew that best of all.
Sailor Mars tore through the monsters, single minded in her charge. Perhaps she most of all had the mettle for combat, and insight to where the strikes should land. But, capable though she was, the heroine would not be without her allies – her friends.
A string of attacks unleashed against the monsters. Against one they were formidable, but against the combined force of the Sailor Guardians?
Sailor Venus called upon a whip of golden light, beaded with pearls. “Venus Love-Me Chain!” It twirled around her body, snapped between their enemies, and rent the dark energies holding their corporeal form.
From her tiara, Sailor Jupiter produced an antenna, through which the guardian channeled her power. “Jupiter Thunderbolt!” Surges of electricity leapt at their foes, from one body to the next, dousing them with an overwhelming charge. Lightning poured through the endless chain, bringing more to the ground.
Those that landed quickly met Sailor Mercury. “Shine Aqua Illusion!” Under the sailor scout’s guiding hand a torrent crashed down on the monsters, striking them like a tempest, washing them from the battlefield.
Sailor Moon shook herself to reason. Of course she wasn’t powerless, so long as she had her friends. They all had a role to play, after all.
“Rei, Mina, Mako, Ami. Thank you,” she said without shame.
Usagi ran, and winced with every hard sound at her back. Her friends could handle themselves – Wonder Woman could handle herself; they all said so. Trusting them was a choice, and though she’d made it many times before Usagi committed herself to it again.
Though she did not make it far. A figure in a tattered grey robe appeared in her path.
“Greetings, Princess Serenity,” said the woman under the shroud.
Usagi seized. Whoever this stranger was, she was wrong – just wrong – like someone that did not belong to her world or any other; someone so fundamentally alien that it defied explanation.
Sailor Moon steeled her resolve. “Who-who are you? What are you?”
The stranger removed her hood. She was little more than a girl, barely a woman; beautiful in her symmetry, demure, but vacant. Her eyes were dull and empty, betraying a dearth of thought behind them.
How strange, Usagi thought. Where there should have been a monster there was this – she didn’t know else how to describe it – doll. A person that wasn’t a person, oblivious to her surroundings. This was the danger she needed protection from? But if Wonder Woman was here she had to be serious.
Diana of Themyscira twirled with a kick, knocking her monstrous foe off balance. But Lady Chimera did not stay down for long. The two traded blows with equal fervor, with no sign of yielding. They might have been at it all night had Wonder Woman not spotted the princess.
Alarm propelled the Amazon away from the beast. She charged across the battlefield. “Sailor Moon! Get away from her!”
“My name,” the girl said, her features twisting with new life, “is Larisa.”
She watched, fascinated and horrified by the surge coursing through the strangers body.
At one moment Larisa was idle, and the next she was on the precipice of war, with Sailor Moon forefront in her sights.
Anxiety lingered, but Usagi swallowed it down. “You don’t look so tough,” she lied.
Larisa raised her arm, and produced a stone as black as pitch, the same as Larisa’s eyes. It appeared to glow – or the opposite of glowing – absorbing the light around it. In it was the antithesis of all life; the inevitable pit to which all things fell.
Sailor Moon shook. She couldn’t bear such a thing to exist. It had to be destroyed! She grasped her Moon Stick, and calling upon the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal, aimed it toward the darkness.
Every enemy she’d ever known reeled in the face of the Moon Stick, but Larisa didn’t flinch. In fact, she was anticipating it! By the time Usagi recognised that something was wrong it was too late.
Disaster was but a split second away!
Sailor Moon jerked under a mighty pull. She gasped, then discovered that which halted her in her tracks; an endless golden lasso encapsulating her chest and arm. On the other end was Wonder Woman, who with another firm tug dragged the heroine into her arms.
Usagi’s face crashed against the amazon’s neck. Diana’s hold on her was firm yet tender in a way she hadn’t known before, not even in Mamo’s arms.
She looked up to the heroine, whose stern features remained fixed on the enemy. The warmth of the lasso held her like an old friend, and she knew that though they had only met, this person would fight for her protection.
“Be careful, Sailor Moon,” Wonder Woman said. “Larisa would use your powers against you.”
Usagi whirled at Wonder Woman, by habit to give her a piece of her mind. What was the big idea, butting into her battle? Just when she had the baddies cornered!
She stopped upon realising the weight on the princess’ brow. Diana furrowed, not daring to look the young heroine in the eye. Whatever the amazon carried cut deeper than words.
The lasso fell slack, and Sailor Moon stood at the ready with Wonder Woman at her side.
Claws slashed the length of Wonder Woman’s back. She fell to her knees, grunted, but even with the pain didn’t cry out.
Sailor Moon flew with a kick, crying with indignant rage, but Lady Chimera jumped clear.
Diana found her feet, and the two heroes came back to back against two different enemies.
The amazon’s breathing became heavy. She was hurt. How was she hurt? She was Wonder Woman; she was supposed to be invincible! Bullets bounced off her, and swords shattered. Most of all, she never bled. That’s how the story was supposed to go!
The amazon forced a smirk. “Don’t worry about me. I’ve had worse.”
Not worry? “That’s easy for you to say,” Sailor Moon quipped. Worrying, despite being her least favorite hobby, was also the one to demand the most attention.
Larisa radiated with a hatred fermented for countless lifetimes. It was palpable under the atmosphere of Planet X, and saturated all caught within it.
Now matter how many times Usagi stared malice in the face she wondered, what happened to make you like this? More than most people could ever dream, she supposed; and more than anyone could summon from nightmares.
Somewhere, deep down, there was a decent person inside Larisa. Sailor Moon was sure of it! Wounded, perhaps; misguided – because people don’t just turn evil. She searched the stranger, but found nothing.
Sailor Moon wanted to cry.
“I did not claw my way out of Tartarus to be denied power,” Larisa seethed, but it wasn’t Larisa. Someone, or something, was using her voice. “Give me the Legendary Silver Crystal!”
Usagi clutched the Moon Stick to her chest. Of all the treasures of the universe it was among the most sacred. In the wrong hands it was a source of endless suffering. Many villains had attempted to lay claim to it – all failed. Larisa was but the last in a long, long line.
“Not even if you said ‘please’!” she cried.
Wonder Woman remained locked with her opponent, though the smirk carried in her voice. “They told me you were strong,” she said.
Sailor Moon blushed. What a time for compliments!
The battle of two on two shifted with the sound of rifles cocking. At the triggers were a sturdy woman with weaved hair tied back, and Colonel Trevor, with Larisa positioned in his sights.
“So you know, we’re packing the special ordinance saved for you meta types,” the Colonel said. “Same goes Lieutenant Candy over here. Isn’t that right, Lieutenant?”
“You bet your butt, Colonel,” she said.
Sailor Moon frowned, wishing she were better at English.
The blanket of wings and noise lifted from the battlefield, making way for the Sailor Scouts. Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter each landed in an alert crouch, positioned at either side of their allies.
Wonder Woman taunted her foes. “More than an even match for your like, wouldn’t you say?”
Lady Chimera snarled, but Larisa did not waver. The sorceress stepped away and into the magics curling at her heels. Her monstrous companion followed suit, giving over to the ether. They said nothing, and vanished.
The haze lifted from over the schoolyard, and purple skies gave way to the everyday blue. The sun shone without the sickly filter twisting its warmth, and all it touched lifted with new life.
All was as it should be; all, save for the dim sphere still hanging above, threatening the world from afar.
Wonder Woman fell to one knee and grunted. The wound along her back ran deep.
Usagi squatted to inspect the damage. Diana would endure, there was no question of that – but the cost of her heroism was paid in blood. What cruel fate it was for peace to demand such a price.
She helped the amazon to her feet. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Diana said, and was genuine. The razor cuts did not appear to bother her at all.
“Sailor Moon,” she said. “We need to talk.”
There’s nothing remarkable about the Game Crown Center. The middle and high schoolers spent all their free time married to the Sailor V arcade game, but that was nothing special.
Few might have suspected that beyond skill testers and racing sims was a hyperspace control room folded into a pocket reality – the secret base of the Sailor Guardians!
Chibi-Usa’s mouth hung agape. She watched intently as translucent energy poured from an unknown device.
‘The Purple Ray’, they called it. Technology developed by the amazons over thousands of years, able to heal any wound. Scratches, infections, diseases – you name it!
Chibi-Usa had seen devices just like it in the future, where she was born, and the world was still catching up. She sighed, thinking of the little things, as well as her Mama and Papa as they were; as they were currently growing up to be.
Lieutenant Candy gripped the handles on the dish and aimed it at Wonder Woman’s back. The air tickled with ozone, gently enough that most mightn’t notice. The furious wounds eased in seconds, and melded until Diana’s back was without blemish.
The girl squeaked. “Amazing!”
“Amazing! Amazing!” echoed the cat-faced ball in her arms. It rocked from side to side, twitching its ears, and flailing the antenna above it’s head.
Steve and Etta remembered their first time seeing the Purple Ray. They called it impossible. Light stitching wounds closed? That was more than science-fiction; it was pure fantasy! And yet the evidence sat before their very eyes, repeated again and again, until they too were using it to heal their friend.
Wonder Woman beamed, thanked them, and patted Chibi-Usa’s crown. The girl loosed a sound of delight so high that only half of them heard. They all chuckled. A child’s laughter was clear in any language.
“I have a cat named Diana,” Chibi-Usa said, “except that she’s in the future.”
The amazon grinned. “I have a friend named Artemis, except that she’s not a cat. She’s from Themyscira, like me.”
“Someone say my name?” asked the white cat, whose name was Artemis.
Sailor Moon fumed at her ‘little sister’. Who did that twerp think she was, stealing Wonder Woman’s attention? This was supposed to be her team-up; epic and outstanding, the subject of comics and cartoons and feature films!
“You know she’s older than she looks,” Usagi said to Wonder Woman.
The amazon smirked. “Aren’t we all?”
Usagi blinked. What was that supposed to mean? Then it hit her. Wonder Woman was from an island of immortal women! Who could say how old they were? She kicked herself for being oblivious.
A hard grin was fixed on Lieutenant Candy’s face all through their banter, but it was fading. She turned to Colonel Trevor, who shrugged.
“Don’t look at me. I don’t know what they’re saying.”
Sailor Mercury smiled a meek smile. “Actually,” she said, in English, “I have something that might help!”
Her fingers danced over the console as she moved between monitors. Strings of information scrolled along the projector. A number of green lights dinged with approval.
With all her knowledge, it was a cinch to solve their collective problem. It was only a matter of words, after all. And with the accumulated data in their computer, all she had to do was put two and two together.
The small black cat jumped on the panel. “Excellent work, Ami! You’ve configured the translation matrix!”
The lieutenant fought to close her jaw. “Did… did that cat just talk?”
“I think it did,” Colonel Trevor said, equally baffled.
Wonder Woman stood by the cat. “No need to be so rude,” she said, running a hand along her fur. The cat nuzzled her head into Diana’s hand. “Steve, Etta, this is Luna. Luna, these are my very dear friends.”
“A-a pleasure,” Steve said.
“Likewise,” said Etta.
It should have come as no surprise. Colonel Trevor had spoken with lions, bulls and vipers in his storied career, along with a handful of chimps and gorillas. The more he thought about it, a talking house cat wasn’t much different.
Sailor Mars folded her arms. They could talk all day if nobody put their foot down. “Now that we’ve solved our communication problem, don’t you think it’s time we focused on Larisa and Lady Chimera?”
Usagi stiffened, heavy with the knowledge that she was no good to anyone in this fight. What was she even doing there? The other Sailor Guardians could carry on without her.
“If Usagi’s not going to fight, then she should go home and catch up on homework,” Chibi-Usa said.
The girl fumed. “You little brat!”
So much for focusing on the task at hand.
Chibi-Usa demanded Usagi act like an adult, but Usagi countered saying that Chibi-Usa was the little sister, therefore it wasn’t her place to tell grown-ups what to do! To which Chibi-Usa was quick to remind Usagi that she wasn’t a grown up, and hadn’t yet earned an adult’s respect, et cetera.
A collective groan filled the room. This argument, again?
“It’s true, isn’t it, Miss Prince? Usagi needs to study if she’s going to learn anything!” The pink haired child beamed up at the amazon, eager for approval.
Wonder Woman guided Chibi-Usa with a gentle hand. “I’m afraid there’s no time for that, young one. We still need Sailor Moon. She’s going to play an essential role in what lies ahead.”
Usagi tilted. “But I thought you said-”
She placed a hand on Usagi’s shoulder, and met her with the same soft knowing they shared in the classroom.
Diana flinched so slightly that Usagi almost missed it. For the briefest moment she wasn’t the princess, an ambassador of peace, or a diplomat. She was something entirely more human, even vulnerable.
The amazon, whom she’d always imagined wore her heart on her sleeve, hid it well.
“I asked you to step away from the battle,” she said, “but you still have a place amongst your sisters. Worry not, Sailor Moon. So long as we work together, fight hard, and believe in one another, there’s nothing that can stand in our way.”
Her sisters? Usagi scanned the room. Sailor Mercury, loyal and true; Sailor Venus, able to light up any room; Sailor Mars, burning with passion; and Sailor Jupiter, a compassionate powerhouse if ever there was one. Even Chibi-Usa had a place in their family which spanned over millennia to come.
Sailor Moon’s heart leaped. She couldn’t doubt those words, even if she wanted to.
“What do you need me to do?” she asked.
Wonder Woman drew a deep breath. “To understand what we face, you must first understand the origins of our enemy. One thousand years ago, the amazons and the Moon Kingdom shared a sacred bond, and a vicious foe born under the influence of Planet X.”