DISCLAIMER: Relatively standard stuff. Existing characters are properties of the people who made them up. Mitsuki, and several other characters are mine, and so's the story, hence ownership and copyright of them belongs to me. Contact me at domino@linksnet.nu if you want permission to use anything I've written for whatnot purposes.

NOTE: Once more, I've forgotten to put a title in for a chapter... the title for chapter 14 is "Beginnings".

 

TRUTH

by

Raymond Cooper

Chapter 15

** Spaced Invaders **

 

Sailor Moon looked from Keitaro to the girl behind them... Keitaro had called her Natsumi? Two monsters at once? Would they be capable of -

But they had to be. That was it. There was no other choice for the senshi.

Off to one side, Ranko fought against one of Keitaro's former friends... an ex girlfriend, Sailor Moon understood. Her freakish but natural super strength and endurance meant that the blows Ranko rained upon her were having little effect. Considering Ranko had helped turn the tide against the other monsters... she'd be needed, no matter if Sailor Moon didn't want to admit it.

Keitaro moved lazily around the front of the refectory's main counter, stalking back and forth. Natsumi raised an eyebrow as she studied him. He didn't seem powerful enough to deal with all the senshi yet... but then, the other progeny of the master's... well, they had matured fast as well. She flipped her VR headset up onto the top of her head, revealing glowing red eyes, and leaned up against the door frame to watch. "Go to it, young one," she said.

Mercury didn't give him a chance to go on the offensive. The senshi had determined a few things in private after their last few fights with these new, strong monsters, and one of the things decided had been simple: no speeches, not niceties, just get in early and don't let up. It seemed to be Ranko's major success with them. She raised her hands. "Mercury aqua illusion!" Water sprayed from her fingertips, coalescing into a ball around Keitaro before it exploded. She wanted to save Keitaro... but with the power her visor had read previously... and experience with the other recent monsters... she knew this would likely only slow him a little at this stage of the battle.

Keitaro staggered back a few steps, bending low at the waist, gasping in pain. Then he looked up, angry. "Bitch! I will kill you for that! I will rip out your entrails and use them to hang your friends! I -"

Jupiter stepped forward. "Not to my friends, you won't. Sparkling wide pressure!" Lightning crackled out at Keitaro, knocking him back further. Venus stepped up, as did Mars, while Saturn kept an eye on their rear.

"Venus love and beauty shock!"

"Mars flame sniper!"

More bursts of semi-magical energies coruscated down Keitaro's form. His clothes started burning, and he fell to the ground. Sailor Moon stepped up. "In the name of the moon, I will save you!" Personal, Ranma noted distantly, as if this Keitaro had done something to this woman herself... or to a close friend of hers. He continued to fight Narusegawa, though, while Sailor Moon made her move. She called up her moon staff, and pointed it at Keitaro. "Rainbow moon heart attack!" A huge heart generated from the end of her moon staff, and crossed the space between her and the monster in under a second. Raw energies washed around his form, blurring it, his body darkening and fading... but he growled, tensed his arms and shoulders, and the energy exploded out of him.

Keitaro was smoking, parts of his flesh charred and twisted, half-melted. But hate glared from his eyes, one of them popping and melting down his face even as the senshi watched. Mercury unconsciously raised a hand to her mouth in horror, and even the others took a step back. The monster glared. "Is that the best you can do?" he puffed.

"It's seeming to be enough to take you down, monster!" Sailor Moon declared. Her stance was more aggressive than usual. The other senshi gathered themselves quickly and moved into flanking positions, in similar stances. Nemesis and Saturn continued watching the rear, making sure Natsumi didn'r close in any closer. She merely continued to lean up against the door frame.

Keitaro chuckled, forcing a step forward. He grimaced, and slammed his eyelids shut in concentration. Flesh melted back into its proper place, colouring back to its normal tones. His burnt hair poked out further, and he stood up straight, twisted his neck around with a crack to stretch his spine. The senshi grew nervous, and launched another salvo of attacks. This time, Keitaro knew what to expect, and reflected and deflected them with his forearms and a savage grin.

Seeing magical attacks were having no effect, Mars leapt in, and tried a kick to his chin. Keitaro's head snapped backwards, and he staggered back. Emboldened, Mars spun another kick to his cheek, before snapping out with her hands. A pole of fire looking remarkably similar to a bokken lanced from her fingertips, and she slashed, burning holes through his defences and flesh.

Keitaro screamed.

"His energy level is weakening! We might be able to save him!" Mercury called out, studying the data flowing up on her visor.

Behind the senshi, Natsumi stirred. Her smirk slipped from her face as she pushed off from the wall. "You might need some help here, Keitaro. Well, that's what I'm here for." Natsumi raised her hands to her VR headset, and faced the senshi. Saturn and Nemesis hesitated - neither knew what this one would try. "Virtual world transportation!"

"Jump!" Nemesis yelled a scant instant before Saturn, but the warning was too late for the senshi. Searing white light burnt into them, blurring then pixelating their frames. With a weird digital sound effect, they disappeared. Natsumi dropped her hands, and moved back to the door way.

Saturn and Nemesis gaped. "What... what did you...?"

"They're still alive!" Ranma called from his fight. "Can't you feel them?"

Saturn hesitated, but Nemesis nodded. "I can feel them still. Faint, distant." She paused. "They're in a pocket dimension."

Ranma shook his head, avoiding a punch and two kicks from Narusegawa. "I don't know about that. But they're okay. For now."

******

In the arcade on the other side of the new home prefecture, Ryogi and Hiroshi were taking another day off school. The third that week. No one was terribly concerned by their absences. No one bar the arcade manager. He'd gotten a new game in... a role-playing game. Where players took on the roles of monsters, designed to stop a horde of rampaging heroes from sacking a cave system.

"I'm taking a minotaur," Hiroshi announced to no one in particular. He was hoping several of the girls in the small crowd beginning to surround them would take note of the manly creature he would be playing as first up.

Ryogi smirked. "Nice try at compensation," he muttered just loud enough. One of the girls shifted her attention to him when she saw him wiggle the joystick a little and lightly tap several buttons in a complicated dance to pick his beast.

"Ooo... here we go," she breathed as the title screen came up. CAVE DEFENDERS! it pronouced to all watching. Five women in shiny white sailor fukus flashed up at the screen and passed by. A loud ooooo from the boys in the crowd.

Then the screen darkened, and the game brought up the first scene. The five women in fukus appeared again, and text began to scroll up in boxes at the bottom of the monitor.

******

"Where the heck are we?" Sailor Moon asked, looking around the dank but surprisingly large cave they found themselves in. Behind them, there appeared to be a hole to the outside. Mars took two steps towards it, but instead of walking through, just bounced off something that wasn't there.

"This is weird... it's flat," Mars said, picking herself up from the ground.

"What do you mean?" Mercury asked.

"I mean flat," Mars continued. "That's not the outside there. It's a flat image."

Mercury looked confused, then a little suspicious. She brought her visor down and began scanning the local area. "I've got a bad feeling about this..."

"You and me both," Jupiter remarked, backing up to protect Mercury against anything that came from deeper in the caves.

Sailor Moon pulled herself together, and started walking further into the cave. "Let's just find out what that monster did to us, then get back to the fight." She walked straight into a barrier that couldn't be seen and fell over, rolling backwards with the force of it.

******

"Woo! Panty shot!"

"Check out those polygons," someone else added. "Someone was paying attention in biology."

"Reproductive science, don't you mean?" a female voice asked.

"Nah, sex ed we weren't looking at naked women."

Hiroshi frowned. The people behind him were distracting his attention... when to attack? A new text box appeared, and he read it.

SAILOR MOON: Ouch! What the hell was that? A magical barrier?

SAILOR MERCURY: No... the information I'm getting suggests it's a digital barrier.

******

Something roared from above the girls. "What's that?" Venus asked, moving towards Mars and Sailor Moon. No one responded.

But a giant naked - and very masculine - minotaur dropped from the darkened cavetop, smashing his feet into the ground, causing a small earth tremour as he did so. Small rocks fell from the roof, and the senshi fell over. It stood, fully four metres in height, then started stomping towards the senshi.

Sailor Mars recovered first. "Fire soul!" Fire leaped at the beast, and scorched something about the height of her head. Mars blushed, then leapt in again to deliver a pair of spinning kicks. Both scored hits, and the monster was knocked backwards, falling to the floor.

Sailor Moon stood back. "Let's let Mars take this one."

Mercury gasped. "This monster... it's all digital information!"

"A digital monster?" Jupiter asked.

"A digi-mon?" Sailor Moon asked. Venus clouted her around the back of the head without being asked.

Mercury continued. "There's no energy pattern, nothing disruptive, no dark energies, no negative energies... we're just in a digital world!"

Sailor Moon went to say something, but Venus hit her again. "So... we're on the internet?"

"No," Mercury shook her head. "Wherever we are, there's much less resources than on the internet. It's a small localised system... I'm surprised we can all fit inside the RAM of whatever system we're on."

******

"Wow," one girl breathed. "It's like The Sims, but they know they're inside the computer!"

"Eh," Hiroshi grunted, picking his minotaur up and charging the so-called Sailor Mars. Once upon her, he rotated the joystick from the down position to the up position, hammering buttons A, A, B, C, A and D.

******

Badly pixeltated flames burst from the hands of the minotaur, and he threw a flaming punch at Mars. Mars grabbed the hand, spun on it so she could clasp it between her legs, then bent backwards, flipping up to its shoulders. She wrapped her legs around his throat, grabbed his horns with her hands, then pulled backwards. The head tilted back, giving her legs better purchase around the throat, so she tightened them considerably. "How long until he suffocates, Mercury?"

"Blood-oxygen ratios aren't modeled in this game, Mars, you'll have to beat him through damage dealt to him directly!"

"Like by punching him?" Mercury nodded, and Mars flipped off his back, delivering another double kick as she dropped to the ground, landing lightly on her feet.

Mars then stood. "Fire soul bird!" A flaming phoenix wrapped the minotaur up in burning wings, causing it to jump backwards and fall to the ground again. Mars nodded; she could see the video game influence on this monster. "This could be bad. What happens if we die?"

Mercury shrugged. "I suppose our data is deleted. We die," she added for Sailor Moon.

******

"Kill you!" Narusegawa growled. "I hate you! Pervert! Idiot! Why can't you be nice to *me*?"

Ranma continued to dodge her rain of attacks. While he was no doubt stronger, and definitely faster, he wasn't trying to hurt this woman, and that was putting him in problems. While mind-controlled, she seemed to be fighting on with all her energy. There was no thought given to replenishing it, or resting to regain strength. It was being ripped from her body all over to supply her rant and rave and fighting spirit. He could feel her ki out of balance in her body, the hot running much more than the cold, the overbalance causing her body to begin feeding on itself. Maybe there was a chance... maybe. He could try the hiryuu shouten ha... he wouldn't even have to insult her to throw her balance to one side.

But there were dangers. This wasn't a case of the balance being maintained with her ki... her balance was shot. There was still the same amount of cold, but her hot was multiplying at an almost exponential rate.

Narusegawa threw another punch, and Ranma watched part of her life force disappear to power her next attack.

There was one other danger Ranma could think of. Hitting her while opposing her ki force could very likely severely injure her. But maybe... maybe he could adapt the dragon punch to another use...

She telegraphed her next move a heartbeat after her last, and Ranma prepared. He crossed his arms as the usual defensive block he'd been using against her, and as the punch came forward he brought it up, raising her arm upwards. He forced his cold ki into her via introducing his foot to her stomach. Her own balance was met by Ranma's forced unbalance of his own. In the next heartbeat, as the anger and fury left her eyes, and a heartbeat before the surprise came and unconsciousness took her, Ranma absorbed the rest of the excess hot and cold ki, returning her to normal levels. The women dropped onto him, limp and loose like a child's rag doll. Ranma caught her, and lowered her to the ground. Nice. A new attack. Something he might be able to use again.

But for now... he had an excess of power himself. He was forcing his body to reach a new balance, but he'd be a little off until he could lose this power he'd gained. How best to do that?

He caught sight of the senshi and the other two monsters now, and noticed that the five of the women who had disappeared had yet to reappear. He picked his way over to Saturn and Nemesis quickly, picking up a long straight metal pipe that had fallen from the ceiling with his toes before swinging it around a moment to check on the balance of it. It would do for now. He glanced sideways at Saturn. "The others not back yet?"

Saturn shook her head. "I'm worried, sempai. I can't feel them."

Nemesis grimaced. "I can. Mars is fighting." She glanced at Ranma. "Ranko...?"

Ranma shook his head. "Later. For now - we've got two monsters to take down." He considered several actions, paths to possible victories, and more often than not, outright failures.

Nemesis nodded, and moved to cover Ranma's back. "We'll go with your orders, sensei."

"That makes this easier." Ranma shook himself out of his combat stance, and turned to face Natsumi. She smirked at him. He bowed, deeply from the waist. "Natsumi Otohime, I believe? I have a question to ask you." Natsumi nodded, and gestured for Ranma to continue. "I'm not sure... of your intentions. But I want my students to have an... honourable chance at winning. If I promise to refrain from their fight against your student, can you refrain from interfering with my students?"

Natsumi considered that, then nodded. "Yeah. We can do that. It'll make this more fun."

Ranma turned back to the senshi. "Um... Saturn... Nemesis... I've got faith in you two. Okay? Just remember what we trained. Keep at him. Don't let him get his power back. Nor his health. I don't want to be responsible for killing people, either... but unless we get that Sailor Moon back, am I right in assuming you guys can't heal him?" His eyes turned to Saturn, who blushed, and looked downwards.

"I'm not sure, sempai." She shrugged, nervously. "I can try..."

Ranma nodded, and stepped back. Natsumi just nodded as he took up a position across the doorway from her, taking the same pose as well. This woman, Ranko, seemed to be calm, confident in her students' abilities. She wasn't sure if this Ranko trained all the Sailor senshi, or just these two. But no matter. The five in the digital world would never return.

She nodded at Keitaro, and he started bunching his muscles, gathering his power for this fight. That Mercury bitch had been correct - Keitaro's power had dropped. But he'd managed to regain some in the time since the other girls had been transported out. Natsumi hoped it would be enough. This was, after all, a test case. The master had said so.

The two senshi took up poses. Nemesis took the pipe offered by her sensei, and spun it around several fingers, getting a feel for it. It appeared to satisfy her, and she turned to face Keitaro fully.

Keitaro growled, then powered up an aura of energy, using that to propel him towards the women in fukus.

******

Mars dealt a final double-punch to the monster's crotch, and it fell over, comically, holding itself with a very pained expression on its face. Then it bounced, once, twice, then lay still. A moment later, it faded away with a blue pixelated swirl.

Mars struck a heroic-looking pose, skirt flapping in a non-existant breeze, feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, one hand on her hips, the other forward with her fingers in a V-shape.

"Ooooh-kay," Sailor Moon said. "So... why did you do that?"

"Victory pose. If we're in a video game, *someone's* got to be watching us."

"Oh," Sailor Moon said, after a moment. Then, very conscienciously, pressed the hem of her skirt down further.

******

"Nice," one of the girls said. "She's modest."

Hiroshi stepped back from the joystick. "Your turn, Ryogi, old friend... let's see you try it now."

"Ha! With my monster, I will utterly crush these women!" Ryogi struck a pose. His single female follower tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed at the screen.

"They're moving."

And so the senshi were. They were moving along slowly, carefully, but not carefully enough to avoid the next screen end. That klutzy Sailor Moon bounced back again, and there were appreciative whistles from several people. Including one girl.

"Shut up, Tomoyo," another girl hissed. The first giggled, and held up her video camera.

Ryogi took his position at the arcade machine's controls, then selected his character's entry button.

******

In the digital world, there was a scream from above, quickly rising in intensity and volume. The senshi stepped back, looking up and around, trying to find the source. And then, it dropped down.

Splat. Into the ground.

It groaned, and picked itself up, dusting itself off. Then it looked at the senshi, raised its arms, and growled.

The senshi stared with wide-open eyes. "What-what are you?" Mercury asked, a hand partially covering her mouth.

"I am Kerberos! The beast of the seal!" the tiny yellow teddy bear squeaked. "And in the name of Clow Reed, I will punish you!"

 

SAILOR MOON SAYS:

Okay, this end came from nowhere much. Originally, the last monster in the game was going to be Cerberos, the 3-headed dog. But... how scary was that? This isn't quite the cute'n'cuddly Kero-chan any Sakura fans might recognise, though. Keep reading :)

Next time: Kero-chan! Kero-chan! How can we think of anything else? And the first test of Ranma's training, as two senshi try to use that to their advantage with minimal use of their magical power.

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