"Can't! Late!" Serena Tsukino puffed, tearing off down the sidewalk, pig-tails flying.
"Serena!" Amy yelled. "It's Saturday!"
Serena came to a complete stop so suddenly that the momentum caused to her to trip over, and she slammed into the pavement, face first.
"Why," she groaned from the ground, "didn't you tell me?"
"I did," Amy answered, catching up to her. She offered her hand and pulled the fallen girl up. "Just now."
"Then why didn't my parents tell me?" she wailed, dusting herself off. "Now I've missed out on sleep."
"You were probably a blur, anyway," Amy chuckled. "I've see you in action--people can barely say hello before you're out the door!"
Serena grumbled in reply. Finally, pulling her pride together, she turned and started for home. "Hey," Amy called out, jogging to catch up. "Where are you going? I thought you were coming window-shopping with us?"
Serena stopped, and stared at her blue-haired friend. "Shop...?" she stuttered, growing red. "Shopping? I nearly passed over shopping to go to school?!"
"It's a step in the right direction," Amy chuckled. "We'll have you studying before you know it!"
Serena screamed. "But then--then--I'll be just like you!"
Amy's face fell, and she sighed. Serena screamed again and tore off down the sidewalk, creating dust clouds like a trail. "I've got to get changed!" she yelled over her shoulder. "I've got to make up for lost time...."
Amy just shook her head, and started off towards the street where the others were waiting.
"Honestly, Serena, if you devoted the same amount of time to the hunt for the Negaverse as you do to shopping, the world would be a safe place for everyone," Luna grouched from her place on Serena's bed. "Not to mention, you thinking it was a Saturday-- that was just plain careless."
"Yeah, yeah," Serena muttered. "Where's my lime green tank top?"
"You're not thinking of wearing it with that purple skirt, are you?" Luna groaned. "That'll look horrible!"
"Thank you, Miss-I-don't-wear-clothes," Serena answered, buried headfirst in her drawer. "Ah! There it is!"
"So what are you doing, again?" Luna asked, as she stretched.
"Shopping," Serena replied, slipping the tank on. "And then some more shopping, and then a break for burgers!"
"So she was really dressed for school?" chuckled Lita Kino. "She didn't remember that it was Saturday?"
Amy shook her head. "And when she found out, she rushed off to, quote, make up for lost time!" She chuckled at the memory. "Unquote," she added.
Mina Aino giggled. "Maybe you shouldn't have told her-- should've let her get to the gates and think she's been locked out again!"
Raye Hino laughed out loud, nearly spitting out the milk shake she'd been drinking. "Serve the meatball head right!" she exclaimed loudly, drawing looks from several other patrons.
Amy and Lita shook their heads. "That's mean, guys."
"What's mean?" exclaimed a voice from behind them, as Serena came bouncing up.
"Nothing," all four chimed.
"Were you gossiping? Why can't you tell me?" she whined, squeezing herself into the booth beside Lita and Mina.
"'Cause we were talking about you," Raye said, finishing with a slurp. "Amy told us about this morning."
Serena went bright red. "Yeah, well....uh..."
"It's okay," said Lita cheerfully. "Everybody's done that at least once."
"Exactly," Amy agreed quickly. "I always look forward to school so much that every once in a while, I forget too, 'cause I can't wait to start learning."
The others groaned. Mina started sliding under the table. "Puh-leeze," she moaned. "Nobody likes school that much."
"I do," Amy insisted. They all groaned again. Serena suddenly picked up, looking across the street.
"Hey, is that Darien?"
She leaped out of the booth, and launched herself across the busy street, deftly avoiding all the cars and trucks. The others were amazed.
"And yet she can never duck and weave like that when it's the Negaverse she's navigating," Raye sighed. "She's such a ditz."
"She can do anything, if Darien's involved," Mina snickered. "'Course, Raye would be the same!"
Raye turned bright red. "You take that back!"
"Guys," Amy sighed.
"We need more energy," Alan scowled. "The Doom Tree hasn't recovered at all, even with the last load. We need lots, lots more."
"Tell me about it," Ann sighed, floating serenely over the withering roots of the Tree. "But those pesky Scouts keep getting in the way."
Alan was deep in thought as he stared at the few, fragrant blossoms left. "You know..." he began.
"What?" Ann perked up. "Do you have an idea?"
"What if we count on the Scouts showing up? We know they will--what if we design a Cardian to trap them?" He smiled viciously, as his plan became crystal clear in his mind.
"Trap them? How?" Anne was getting excited. "Something strong enough to beat even them?"
"Close." Alan pulled out a stack of cards. Using his magic, he shuffled them, then made them appear in front of Ann. "Choose one, and I'll alter it, for our plan."
"What is the plan?" Ann asked again, pulling out a card from the middle. The rest of the deck vanished. She tossed the card into the air and it hung, waiting for Alan to call it forth.
"We send against the Scouts the one thing that they can't beat--themselves," he said quietly. He created his flute from thin air, and began to play his song. The card began to shine, and showed a creature covered in feathers, resembling a young woman. "Parikeet, come forth!"
"I love shopping," Serena sang, swinging her full bags back and forth like a pendulum. "It makes the rest of the week seem like a dream. And I can just be a normal girl, without having to worry about the Negaverse, or fighting, or anything."
"It is relaxing," Amy agreed, her own bag heavy with books on her new hobby-subjects--Latin and Astrometric Physics--that she got at a college supply shop/bookstore.
"Yeah, and just think about how many hot guys we got to check out," Mina sighed. "There was that one by the bus stop, the one in the sunglasses store--the one eating ice cream--"
"The one that looked like Freddy," Lita added with a sigh. Mina rolled her eyes.
"Hey!" Raye exclaimed. "Do I see the word sale?"
"Sale?!" In unison, the four girls' heads whipped around to the direction that Raye was pointing. "SALE!"
"A clothing blowout? And a cute guy that looks like Freddy, all in one day? I'm in heaven," Lita swooned as they headed into the boutique.
"Wow, this is beautiful clothing," Mina said, once they were in, fingering a gorgeous silk dress. It was trimmed with bright feathers at the neck, hem and cuffs. "Bea-u-ti-full!"
"It's 70% off," sang a voice behind her. She turned to see a saleswoman, dressed in a black "power suit" and wearing a hat that was also trimmed with multi-colour feathers. "Do you like it? I don't think green is your colour, Miss, I think you'd look lovely in the orange version, though," she added, pulling out one from a side rack.
Mina's eyes glazed over as she saw the stunning silk ensemble. "It's...it's..."
"70% off!" the saleswoman chirped.
Ann scowled, watching the customers flutter around the store like starlings at a feeder. "They're so disgusting," she snarled. "Look at the energy they're wasting on clothing."
"I know," Alan agreed, "but that only means more energy for us. And when the Sailor Twerps arrive, they'll be easier to catch than pigeons on a street corner!"
Ann looked at him sideways. "Are pigeons easy to catch?"
"It's an expression, love," he replied smoothly.
"I've never heard it before," she persisted.
"That's because I made it up," he said with a sigh.
The saleswoman was accompanying Mina to the cash register when they bumped into someone familiar. "Molly!" Mina exclaimed. "You here for the sale, too?"
"You bet!" Molly replied. "I couldn't tear myself away-- where's Serena? I know she must be in here, too."
"Good guess," Mina laughed. She pointed to a table covered in silk scarves. "She's with Lita and Raye--Amy's staying outside, says she's tired."
Molly chuckled. "Not a veteran shopper?"
Mina laughed and waved goodbye as she headed towards the cash with her dress slung over her arm. It was a gorgeous colour and it fit like a dream. She could barely wait to pay for it and take it home. If only she had something to wear it to...
She put the dress down on the counter, but noticed a strange feeling in the room. She looked over her shoulder at the dozens of young girls shopping, but she couldn't pinpoint where the feeling was coming from. If Luna were here, she'd say its the Negaverse, she thought. She's probably right.
"Uh, maybe I won't be getting this after all," she said, starting to back away from the counter. All of a sudden, she felt too closed in. Stifled.
The saleswoman gave her an odd look. "Are you all right? You look a little pale."
"I'm fine," Mina assured her. "I just think that maybe this dress isn't for me."
"She's starting to clue in," Alan snarled. "I think it's time we harvested all the energy. Parikeet! Come forth!"
The saleswoman gasped, and fell to the ground. Out of her rose a spirit that resolved itself into a bird-woman, covered in green feathers and with large wings. "Parakeet!" she crowed, and spread her arms wide.
The doors of the boutique slammed closed, the windows blackened and the frightened patrons screamed in response. One, a certain red-haired girl named Molly, fainted dead away, falling headfirst into the scarf rack.
"Parakeet!" she cried again. Great clouds of energy began to form around the girls, only to be siphoned away by the Cardian. The girls, one by one, began to faint as their energy was taken away.
Lita, Mina, Raye and Serena looked at each other from across the room. They nodded.
"Moon crystal power!" Serena yelled first.
"Mars star power!" cried Raye, holding her transformation wand aloft.
"Jupiter star power!"
"Venus star power!"
The girls transformed in a blaze of light and background music into the sailor suited soldiers of love, the Sailor Scouts.
Meanwhile, Amy was sitting on a bench under a lovely shady tree reading her new book when she thought she heard someone scream. She looked behind her and realised that the scream was coming from the boutique that her friends had gone into. The doors suddenly slammed shut, and the windows blackened.
Gasping, Amy leapt to her feet, and pulled her communicator out of her pocket. "Luna! Artemis!" she yelped. "Something's happening downtown--I think it's the Negaverse!"
"We'll be on our way," Luna replied briskly.
"Stop right there!" Sailor Moon yelled, stepping forward. "You can't harm these people!"
Almost instantaneously, Alan and Ann appeared out of thin air. They were floating over the sales counter. "Oh, the Sailor Brats are here. What a surprise," Ann sneered. "Good thing we're ready for you!"
"We can handle anything you throw at us!" Jupiter said confidently.
"Oh yeah?" Alan countered. "Let's see if you can handle this!"
The room dissolved into mist.
"Sailor Moon? Mars? Jupiter?" Venus called, as she lost sight of them. It was a thick fog, and she suddenly realised what it felt to be like on the receiving end of a Mercury Bubble Blast. "Guys?"
"Guys?" chirped someone. "Guys?"
"Hello?" Venus ventured. The voice sounded familiar, and a figure was materialising out of the mist. It was...herself. She took a fighting stance, and the impostor countered with the same posture. "You want a fight?" Venus growled.
"Want a fight," it replied.
"Then you're going to get one! Venus Crescent Beam Smash!" she yelled, using her attack. However, at the same time, the other Sailor Venus used the same attack, and the beams flew past each other. The impostor leaped out of the way quickly enough, but Venus was taken by surprise, and was struck full on by the beam, and she collapsed.
"Venus?" Jupiter yelled, as she heard her friend cry out. It was difficult to see in this fog--Venus had been across the store when they had transformed--she couldn't tell where the fallen scout was any more.
"Venus," called out a voice, as someone approached. Jupiter recognised the voice as her own and knew at once it was a Negaverse trick.
"I'm ready for you," she said, as a version of herself approached.
"Ready for you?" the imposter mocked. "Ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be, Nega-trash!" Jupiter exclaimed. "Jupiter Thunder Crash!"
A bolt of lightning surrounded her, and at her command leapt out towards the Cardian, who had summoned her own thunderclap. The two bolts met head on, and created a supercharged ball of electricity. It exploded outwards, flinging Jupiter across the room. She sailed into a wall, and was knocked unconscious.
Mars scowled. She had heard Venus and Jupiter, and there was no way she was going to get caught by some Negaverse lackey. "Mars Fire Ignite!" she cried, hoping to burn away some of the mist, and help her find the others.
It worked, partially, for it revealed the Cardian, just as it was changing into a mirror-image of herself. Mars yelled a battle cry and leaped for the imposter, and it in turn leapt towards her. They crashed in the middle, and simultaneously rolled to the side. Mars stared at the creature that wore her face.
"You didn't get the hair quite right," she said, jumping to her feet and attacking the Cardian with a fast array of karate moves, learned from her grandfather.
"Quite right," it sang, mirroring her moves perfectly. Perfectly, and that gave Mars an idea. She deliberately used a move that left her wide open, knowing that the Cardian would counter the attack the same way and thus be left open itself.
But she didn't count on the fact that the imposter was capable of acting on its own, and it seized the opportunity she gave it to gain the upper hand. Within moments, Mars was out cold.
Sailor Mercury emerged from the alley way where she had transformed, and jogged over to the boutique. The two cat guardians were there, having just arrived.
"I could sense the Negaverse from several blocks away," Luna commented.
Mercury activated her mini-computer. "I think this door has been sealed from the inside, but I might be able to come up with a way to counter it."
"Good. You try that, and Luna and I will try getting in from the back," Artemis replied. "I have a bad feeling about this--I don't think the battle is going well."
Sailor Moon whimpered. "Jupiter?" she whispered. "Mars? Venus?"
There was no reply. She whimpered again, shivering in the fog. A figure approached.
"Mars?" she asked it, hopefully.
"Mars," the figure chirped back. It emerged from the mist and it was her twin. "Mars."
Sailor Moon stared at it in horror, and it stared back. "How do I fight me?" she cried.
"Fight me!" sobbed the other version.
She sniffled, and reached for her Moon Sceptre, but she saw her other self reach for it as well, and she paused.
The Cardian was trapped. She couldn't copy Sailor Moon's moves if Sailor Moon didn't do anything, but if she attacked first, she lost what little advantage she had.
"What am I supposed to do?" the real Sailor Moon whispered. Almost like a reply, a white rose fell to the ground, striking the floor directly in front of the Cardian.
"Huh?" Sailor Moon looked to the side, and saw the Moonlight Knight appear, out of nowhere.
"Sailor Moon," he said softly. "You are unique, like all other people on this vast planet. You must realise that any copy of you is a bad one. Only you know what you are capable of, remember that." He disappeared with a swish of his cape.
Sailor Moon blinked, and then a plan formed in her head. She drew out her Moon Sceptre, and was relieved to see that the copy did the same.
The Scout smiled, and held the Sceptre aloft in one hand. Her mirror-image did the same.
"Moon--" she began, with the Cardian echoing her a split- second later, but where the Cardian was poised to use the Sceptre, Sailor Moon whipped off her tiara and threw it yelling: "...Tiara Magic!"
The Cardian screamed as the tiara cut into it. It changed back to its original form, that of a feather-covered bird woman, disappeared into a small card, that blackened and fell to the ground.
The doors suddenly opened, and the mist dissipated, revealing the store, the Scouts and Alan and Ann.
Sailor Moon lifted her Sceptre again, and smiled. "Moon...Sceptre...."
Alan and Ann gave a quick glance to each other, and teleported away. Sailor Moon smiled at the mystified Mercury. Just then Luna and Artemis appeared from the supply-room door. "We're here to...help? Sailor Moon!"
"Yep," she said proudly. "The one and only."
"So the Cardian couldn't copy you if you didn't move, and it couldn't risk starting on its own," Raye nodded. "For once your ditziness came in handy, Meat-ball head."
"Hey!" exclaimed Serena, nearly dropping her ice-cream cone.
"I think Serena did a fine job," Amy said quickly. "Especially figuring out the Cardian's parroting act so quickly." The others stared at her. "What? What did I say?"