Chapter 35

"The Imperium Silver Crystal..."

They all gazed at the glittering rock, troubles momentarily forgotten.  Finally, Serena broke the silence.  "Does it work?  Mine..."  She pulled her own crystal from its locket.  It had a marked lack of shimmer.  Set next to Celeste's, it was like a cubic zirconia versus a real diamond.

Celeste blushed.  "I don't know.  I've never used it... I'm not quite sure how to.  I was told only to use it in the most dire of emergencies...  I think this counts..." She trailed off, eyes listless.

* * *

Wiseman gave a patronizing half smile.  "Well, sister?  Are you satisfied?  I've always told you your ambition would get you into trouble."  He chuckled at her wild attempts to put her confusion into words. 

"But... but..."  Garnetia's mind was reeling.  Her little brother was plotting against her with Wiseman, who was... her little brother...?!  She threw a furious look at Rubeus.  "This is all your fault!!  You knew!"

The red-haired man held up his hands in innocence.  He approached Wiseman with a look of surprised wonder.  "It really... you're me."

Wiseman hmphed.  "Why do you think I never killed you, despite all your mistakes?"  He sighed.  "This opens us to all kinds of paradoxes--"

"Paradoxes?" Rubeus asked.  "What sort of consequences?"

The ancient man coughed shallowly before continuing.  "Well, the time stream isn't meant to have multiple versions of the same person.  One of us is likely to end up going insane.  Since I'm used to this, it'll probably be you."  He smiled at Rubeus's horrified look.  "Calm down, this is bad, but nothing I haven't planned for.  Where is the Time Key?"

Garnetia grinned, getting to her feet.  "It's been destroyed.  Those silly Scouts won't be returning to the past, and neither will you!"  Her wild laugh was cut off as a clawed hand of force slammed her into the wall.

"You what?!"  All trace of feebleness was gone from Wiseman's voice.  "I should kill you..."  The hand tightened around Garnetia's neck.  She gasped, finding it hard to breathe.

"Stop it," Rubeus cried.  "Don't-- I..."  He trailed off at the feral look Wiseman turned towards him.

"You...  You still have the piece of the Time Key from all those years ago..."  Without releasing Garnetia, he approached Rubeus, eyesockets glinting red.  "Give it to me," he growled.

" me..." his sister gasped, her struggles becoming weaker.

Rubeus backed away, searching for an answer.  Garnetia had been ready to kill him just moments ago.  Plus, he wasn't sure he could defeat Wiseman in a fair fight-- and it was assured the battle would be tipped in his favor.  However, appeasing Wiseman didn't seem a much better alternative.  Once he had the Time Key piece, he'd probably kill both him and Garnetia... maybe worse.

Rubeus chose the best alternative of the two people depending on him.  He fled.  With a slight wind, he was gone.

"Damn," Wiseman commented.  But this proved one thing-- Rubeus still had the Key piece.  He'd have to be found.  And for that, he'd need her.

He released Garnetia, letting her slide to the floor.  Eventually, she drew a shallow, ragged breath.  Perfect.  "Now you'll listen to me," he addressed the prone woman.  He placed a hand on her forehead and began weaving the spell.

* * *

He felt a presence.  Quickly, Wiseman replaced his hood.  "Who enters unbidden?"  He heard a noise behind him.  It was that worthless servant, Sailor Moon.  "What?" he barked, not turning.  But something felt wrong.  He turned to see the mohawked girl fall face-first ot the floor.  Standing behind her was a girl in a pink sailor fuku.

"I am Sailor Little Moon!" she cried.  "I will right wrongs, and triumph over evil!  For the awful things you've done to my family and this world, that most definitely means you!"  She struck a fierce pose.

Wheezing, breathless laughter filled the room.  "Do you want to fight, little girl?  I'm afraid you're a little out of your league."

Little Moon replied with a tiara attack.  It whirled through the chamber and hit Wiseman, trapping him in a ring of pink energy.  "That's for murdering my father!" she cried tearfully.

"Oh, but you're mistaken.  I didn't kill your father.  However, I'll be happy to do you and your mother instead."  Wiseman began to glow with dark energy.  He was quickly free, Little Moon's tiara lying broken on the floor.  "Now, get ready for a family reunion..."

Lances of dark energy sprang from his hands, piercing both Little Moon and the mohawked woman.  As the last vestiges of life began to drain out of Little Moon's body, Wiseman paused.  Here was his chance to finally rid himself of the Crystal Child-- Sailor Earth.  This girl would be the perfect bait.

* * *

Sailor Earth blanched.  "It's my sister... she's in danger-- I can feel it!"

"I feel it too," Raye nodded.  "I'd wondered where she'd run off to...  From the amount of evil around her, she must've been captured by the Dark Moon.

Serena clenched her fists.  "We'll go save her.  We can't afford to lose anyone else.  If Garnetia or Rubeus has her-"

"No."  Sailor Time sat motionless, eyes glassy.  "Rubeus is with the Time Key."

"But the Time Key was destroyed!" Mina protested.

"Most of it, not all," Time continued.  "Rubeus posesses it.  And he is alone."  Sailor Time stood.  "I've never sensed this before.  I need to find the Time Key while I can still feel it."

For the first time since Mercury's death, Lita spoke.  "We should split into groups.  I'll go with Rini...  Amy died for the Time Key; I won't give it up."

"Then I'll go with Celeste," Raye replied.  "I couldn't save Amy.  Maybe I can save Little Moon."

"All right," Serena said, assuming a leadership position.  "Let's keep in touch.  If anyone gets lost or separated and can't use their communicator, come back here."  She softened.  "I... I want to see you all back here.  Be careful..."

"Let's move out!" Serena, Sailor Earth and Mars traveled east to where Sailor Little Moon was captured, while Time, Jupiter and Venus moved south to Rubeus and the Time Key piece.

* * *

"Master, it's begun," Garnetia said in a dull, emotionless voice.

"Of course," Wiseman said.  "All according to plan.  Soon the Scouts will be dead, and the Key-- and the Imperium Silver Crystal-- will be mine."

Chapter 35 was submitted by Double E.

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