#include "stddisclaimer.h"

Final Attempt VIII
Graf Zepplin

A story by Suika Roberts, Saint of Eris Discordia
Based on the work of Takahashi Rumiko, Takeuchi Naoko, Fujishima Kousuke, and others.

'Yaah!' Moon screaches, dodging, as the illegal machine-gun in the minion's hands chases her back, the uncontrolled, random fire keeping the rest of our force down.

'Moon!' Mars yells, quietly sending a jet of flame after the machine-gunner.

The machine-gunner cackles, spraying the area with yet more bullets. The Daimon continues to rampage, taking the occasional stray rounds, which splash off of its skin, leaving shiny silver spots.

There is a sudden, soft "crack" noise, somewhat wet, and the gunfire stops.

I look, and see an almost familiar figure walking away from the crumpled form of the minion, and I jump up to follow. The minion's head is almost twisted all the way around.

'Hey,' I start, when I catch up.

The figure turns, 'I said to leave me alone, Jupiter. I need time to deal, OK? I'll help if I can, but I just don't trust myself, and you should know why, what with the recent demonstration, right?'

'Talk to us, we're your friends.'

'Later, maybe. Tell Usa- Moon, that I miss her, and thanks again for that pen,' the figure turns and walks away, warped from the carefree girl I knew by both tragedy and magic, ever since then.

'Was that?' Usa - Moon, puts her hand on my shoulder, and I turn to look down into her eyes.

'Yeah, that was her. She said thanks again for the disguise pen.'

'So, whatever happened-'

'We know what happened, to at least a certain degree,' I interrupt her, 'At least Yui's alive, and recovering. I don't know if Minako ever will.'

'She's strong,' Moon hugs me, `It will take a while, though. The minion wasn't all the way dead, Misa,' I look at her, 'the medic, thinks she'll be OK shortly.'

'Maybe we'll get some answers as to what this lot is after.'

'Mercury hopes so.'

-8-

'We can't isolate them - we can only say that they're within a six kilometer radius of here,' she taps the map, 'on Thor's data, and the portable sensors aren't sensitive enough.'

'I thought the Thors in eliptical orbits came within three hundred kilometers of here - isn't that close enough for better data?'

'Only if one of them is overhead when it is needed, when they transform. We only have a hundred and twelve eliptics and sixteen geosyncs.'

'And the geosyncs are giving us over a hundred square kilometers to look through. Didn't I authorize the extra 896 eliptics you wanted?'

'Yeah, but we diverted them to Wonderland since the UN raised such a stink. Wonderland is fully outfitted now, so the ones currently being manufactured are earmarked for Earth orbit. The first should be done next month.'

'Too long - Can we throw a sensor pack on some sort of ballon or helicopter?'

'That'd work, I think. We can get something that would work by next week if we divert production from elsewhere.'

'That will find us our foreign sailors. What about the Daimon? And what are they all looking for?'

'Don't know where the Daimon are coming from, but the women controling them and the other senshi are looking for something attached to the heart crystals of people with 'pure hearts', three talismans for a Messiah.'

'Not good. She was babbling something about a "Messiah of Silence" too.'

'There are supposed to be two different Messiahs, and whichever gets the talismans will determine the fate of the world.'

'Very bad. All we need, to know that this isn't just a clusterfuck, but a bounding clusterfuck, is for Em to arrive.'

'You called?' Em rubs the back of her head.

Usagi bangs her head on the table.

'Can you tell us why you're here?'

'Yeah, they,' she waves towards Moon, `Say I need "polish" or something. And you said that I needed to meet someone, and all of you said that I'm going to pretend to be a middle-schooler at someplace called "Mugen." What fun.'

-8-

'These things are getting-' Moon's comment about the Daimon we're facing is cut off with an 'Ooof!' by a small figure landing on her shoulders and knocking her out of the way.

The figure is wearing what looks like a black and white, with maybe some grey, dazzle-camo, and is holding some sort of sub machine gun.

I notice that because a line of rounds stitch their way up the Daimon's torso, and I get a brief glimpse of it, as long as the girl's forearm, pistol-grip at the front, action at the back, long barrel at the top, long clip along the bottom, which she is holding with her left hand, probably to steady the weapon.

Then, in a familiar hidden-weapons move, it disappears, and she jumps today's minion, a woman named Eudial, at least, she matches the discription Kaolinite gave us.

The figure kicks Eudial in the head three times in an impossible capoera combination before griping her by the arm and pressing her face into the dirt, one hand at her elbow, the other intwined with her fingers, ready to bend the joint backwards, 'Do you yield?'

Eudial doesn't respond.

'Oh. They said you were tougher than most, but still not very,' she sounds disgusted, 'Hope I didn't do too much damage there,' she continues, turning to Moon after dropping the unconscious woman's arm.

'Eighteen thirteen. You said I should make sure you remember that.'

I check my watch. 18:14.

'Em?'

'Pin-pon!' she says, and pulls her balaclava off, revealing dark reddish hair, tied up in somewhat bedraggled odango.

'What did you hit the Daimon with?' Mercury asks, scanning the remains.

'Six forty-five caliber hypersonic blessed silver-plated duranium rounds.'

'And the gun?'

'A GWSR 13, rev. C, which was the first one that didn't- no, you said not to tell you that. Or let you get too good of a look at it.'

Mercury actually laughs, 'OK, I won't.'

-8-

'How many are in your group?'

'Lots! We've got Professor Tomoe, who talks to Mistress Nine. We've got Mimette, who hates me, and Terruru too, and you just got Eudial, and that leaves whatshername, and Hotaru, but she isn't really, since we need to keep her in the dark on all of this. We'd do better if we had henches, but Pharoh 90 has told us not to let too many people know, and we're living off what the Professor can embezzle from Mugen, which really isn't much, considering that we have to pay for equipment and everything. It would be much easier if the Dark Kingdom gave us a grant, but no, the Professor says there's no time for a grant app, no time to put heart crystals back, no time to have sex anymore, not time for anything anymore, but he stays up all night and giggles without _doing_ anything. It sucks,' Kaolinite finally winds down.

'It's the way she is - the healer swears all she did was convince her we could be trusted. Her scans,' Ami waves at the monitors, 'Say the same. They also say she's a little cracked, and a lot hyperactive.'

'She seemed very calm when Gen-Minako took her down.'

'Whenever someone not on her list of trusted people comes in she locks it all up. I think that's why she's cracked.'

'Who else does she trust?'

'Only us three.'

'Ouch. And she doesn't really trust us.'

'She really trusts us, she just didn't arrive at that naturally.'

'I feel bad enough about messing with her like this. We will not betray that trust,' Usagi leans her forehead against the two-way mirror.

-8-

Sixty members of the Dark Kingdom special police, along with three Sailors easily occupy Professor Tomoe's house, capturing the professor, his equipment, and two more members of the Witches' Five.

Em stays with Hotaru.

The last of the Witches' Five is captured in her home, along with the last of their equipment.

-8-

'My papa was grooming me to host a space monster and destroy the world,' Hotaru's tone is flat.

'Unfortunately, yes. He was under the influence of another space monster but still . . . '

'Yeah,' Hotaru looks down, distraught, then brightens cautiously, `You said was?'

'Yep. King Serenity broke the link, and he's himself again. Mostly. No way of telling when he'll be ready to face the world again, unfortunately,' Em says, placing her hand over Hotaru's.

'Can I see him?'

'I think he'd like that.'

-8-

'A mylar-skinned copy of the Graf Zepplin. Cargo cap is high enough?' Usagi asks.

'Yep. It masses about eighty tons less than the original.'

'You didn't mess up the balance or anything, did you?'

'I did, but Carrera caught it,' she indicates one of her assistants with her chin.

'That's good. The sensor pack is installed?'

'And the autopilot. We flew her around a little, and she tests good to go.'

'Launch and gate her into place, then. We need to find out what is up with these other Sailors.'

The Zepplin moves slowly, gracefully out of the hanger, over the dark blue grass, her wheels not touching, unducted fans barely turning. The UDFs spin up, and the Zepplin soars from the ground.

-8-

'It's been a week, and not a hint of them. If we ask Kaolinite-'

'I don't want to risk her.'

'She's getting worried that we don't trust her.'

'Oh,' Usagi sighs, `Ask her.'

-8-

'Who do I zap? That tall one? He looks really studious . . .'

'Me.'

'You?!' she is stricken, `But what if those nasty, mean Sailors grab your heart crystal? You'd die! I can't!'

'If they look like they are going to grab my heart crystal, zap them too, OK? I trust you not to lose my heart crystal.'

'You mustn't! I'm a fuckup, you know that-'

'No,' Usagi cuts her off, `you aren't. But if they prove too much, we have Special Police covering your back. I want to know you pulled this off, though,' a peculiar noise comes from the ready-to-hatch daimon, happily ensconced in a worn-out MX boot, 'The daimon is hatching. Can I trust you?' Usagi smiles, encouraging.

Kaolinite nods, adjusts her costume, shifts the gun in her hand, 'You can, I swear it.'

'Good.'

The daimon hatches, a giant armored, blue and white, form, and starts wreaking havoc. The Dark Kingdom containment team, dressed as civilians, mill around screaming and trying not to look like they are enjoying it.

Kaolinite makes a nervious face, aims the gun, and extracts Usagi's heart crystal. It glows so brightly the sunlight seems to pale, and Kaolinite gasps. She takes it in her hand, the other still on the pistol-grip of the gun, and separates something from it. Holding that under her thumb, she goes to return Usagi's heart crystal.

'WORLD SHAKING!'

Kaolinite slaps the heart crystal against Usagi's chest, and rolls away. Usagi misses the full force of the attack, Kaolinite is knocked on her ass, and the Daimon roars in outrage at being completely missed.

'Deep Submerge!'

Kaolinite rolls onto her belly, aims, and fires, extracting the taller Sailor's heart crystal.

The shorter screams, 'Haru-Uranus!' and charges towards Kaolinite, forgetting tactics in her rage and fear.

Kaolinite pulls the trigger, staying up until the heart crystal is extracted, then, with a faint sigh, passes out, her costume slick with her blood.

Usagi revives with ginger movements, holding her head still as she gets to her hands and knees.

She notices the torn pavement, and the strange object. She forces herself to her feet, taking the strange object in hand.

A quick glance around and she takes charge, 'You numbnuts! Stop playing with the daimon, and tend to Kaolinite!'

She staggers over, and grabs Uranus's heart crystal, the Talisman separating at her touch. She pats the heart crystal back into the tall blonde's chest, who groans, shaking her head.

Walking more steadily she grabs the other Sailor's heart crystal, and makes a face when the Talisman separates. The green-haired woman's heart crystal sinks back into her chest, and she opens her eyes with a groan, 'Haruka?'

'No, but a friend, anyway.'

'Michiru?' the other woman calls.

The green-haired woman tries to call back, but starts coughing instead.

'Over here,' Usagi calls, helping Michiru to her feet. She staggers them both over to where Haruka is forcing herself to her feet.

The two exhausted women collapse into each others arms, and watch while the containment team cages the daimon and hauls it away, another team fixing the broken asphault, a medic, exhausted, her blue and red uniform dark and shiny with blood, kneeling next to Kaolinite.

'Is she OK?' Usagi asks her, holding her henshin pen.

'She'll be fine, after she gets some fluid in her. I'm about to lose my glamour from exhaustion, though,' the medic smiles tiredly.

Without a word Usagi transforms straight to King Serenity, grey uniform and all. Haruka and Michiru watch as she lays hands on the medic, who loses her grey tinge, still bloody but no longer exhausted.

'What happened? I'd've expected you out here as soon as the danger backed down,' King Serenity's tone is gentle, questioning.

'The containment team chief blocked me.'

'Oh,' King Serenity's tone turns icy, `CHIEF!'

'Yes?' the chief is a pretty woman, except for her expression, which is sour as spoiled milk.

'Did you block this medic from her duty?'

'Yes.'

'Why?' King Serenity's voice has turned so softly menacing that even the medic cringes.

The chief somehow doesn't notice, 'It was only a few non-citizens.'

Jaws drop and all work stops.

The chief hastens to explain, 'You yourself have said that any citizen is worth more than any non-citizen,' she stammers a little, realizing now how big a hole she's in.

'One of the reasons for that is that we behave in accordance to the Rules. Rule three.'

'"I will not needlessly endanger anyone else by my actions,"' the chief recites.

'Medics are trained to assess the risk to themselves, by themselves. If a medic says they are going to gate into a star without a suit on a rescue, you make sure they know that there is no air, and that the energy densities are high enough to kill, then you let them go. Do not impede a medic again.'

The chief gulps, 'Yes,'

'You should think about visiting a mind-healer - your attitude is a danger to yourself and others.'

'I will,' the chief looks shaken.

King Serenity starts after Kaolinite and the medic, returning to being Usagi after a few steps. She slips under Kaolinite's other arm, helping to support her up a side-street. A few meters past the corner is an unmarked red van, the door of which slides open as they approach.

'You OK?' Rei asks, `You seem to be, but . . .'

'I've gotten good at feigning it. I'm fine, Kaolinite needs food and fluid rather badly,' She gestures behind her, 'Those two need some sugar.'

The medic preps an IV, and sticks Kaolinite.

Usagi grabs a bottle of gatorade out of the bottom of the fridge, which is under the monitors, 'What flavor do you want? We have,' she looks under the medical supplies, 'green, blue, orange, and purple.'

'Hardly what one would expect from the ruler of the new superpower.'

'I never asked for the job,' she cracks her own bottle, and drains half of it at a gulp, 'What flavor?'

'Green,' Haruka says.

'Purple.'

Usagi hands one over, and Rei the other.

A phone rings, and Usagi grabs her watch, pressing one of the gems on it's ornate face. The crystal fogs, clears to Ami's face, 'Found three. Two right on you, one here,' a tiny map with a tiny blinking dot replaces her face, 'I'm guessing you found the two right there.'

'Yep. All three Talismans, too.'

'Great. Now we just need two Messiahs and we can call this one over. Ick!' Ami makes a face.

'Very. Talk to you later.'

'Later.'

'As you heard, I have all three talismans. Why were you looking for them?'

'Sailor Pluto told us we had to find them, or the Silence would come and destroy the Earth.'

'With the two of you running around playing superhero you were much less likely to be recognized as the "pure hearts" her,' she points to Kaolinite with her chin, 'old crew were looking for. I certainly wouldn't have pegged myself,' she looks at her hands, 'as one of them.'

She looks up, 'Do you know the rules?'

Both nod.

'Swear to follow them, and you're free to go - I will return your Talismans after Ami has a chance to look at them.'

'I swear upon my honor as a Sailor,' Haruka speaks up.

'I do as well.'

'Say the words, Michiru,' Usagi tells her.

'I swear to obey the rules.'

'Would you like a ride home?'

Haruka looks for a moment like she's going to decline, but Michiru speaks first, 'Please.'

-8-

'You did good,' Usagi tells Kaolinite.

'I did?' Kaolinite sounds surprised, `I got one of them, but the other . . . '

'You got her too. Nearly bought it before the medic got to you, but you accomplished the mission in a heroic fashion, and survived. Good job.'

'Thank you,' Kaolinite smiles, and lays back in her bed.

-8-

Em solves part of the Messiah problem, 'Oh, that's you, Usagi.'

'Fuck me. Gently. With a chainsaw,' Usagi mutters the quote in responce.

-8-

Hotaru steps in front of the oncoming car, and knocks it aside, away from the little boy, and the pile of kittens he is trying to get out of the street. Half a second later Usagi has all thirteen of them on the curb.

'The mark was like this,' Usagi draws it, `I think she's a Sailor, that is why the Death Busters needed her.'

'Saturn, the Sailor of Silence.'

'Flaming big clue, Luna-chan.'

'I only just remembered, Usagi,' Luna hangs her head in mock-shame anyway.

-8-

'The UN can bite us. Launch them.'

'All of them?'

'The planned 896. Keep the others on hand in case someone blows one or more of them.'

'I don't think there is a terrestrial weapons system that could take one of them out.'

'We don't only have to worry about terrestrial threats.'

'True.'

-
log:
Most of 2000: plotting
2001 Jan 12: wrote the first bit
2002 Apr 13: wrote more, paper draft.
2002 Jun 9: edit, typed in paper draft.
2003 Apr 8: tiny edit.
2003 Aug 31: another tiny edit
2004 Jan 4: Tiny edit, title block
2009 Jul 12: Tiny edits, mauled for posting to ff.n