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A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Elsa Bibat

A story set in "A Dance Set to the Music of Time" sequence: prelude to the Dreamquest of Luna and Artemis.

Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. This is used without permission.

This disclaimer also applies to several intellectual properties referred to in the text. Please be guided accordingly.

There Is No Time Here:

Of all the gin joints, in all the countries in all the world, she had to walk into mine.

Well, technically, it wasn't a gin joint and it wasn't mine and she hadn't walked in yet, but hey, why ruin the atmosphere?

The Inn of a Thousand Sleeping Cats looked a lot different now than it was a few… um… one… two… hell, a lot of millennia ago. Not that it mattered, for as my dream guide liked to say, There Is No Time Here.

Yes, he said it that way, with the capitals intact in speech. Kinda like, Things Man Was Not Meant To Know or Go Forth At Your Own Peril or What Are You Doing In Bed With My Daughter?

But I digress.

The inn was looking very different from the last time I dropped by. For one thing, it had dropped the comfy Silver Millennium atmosphere and now looked like something out of those old Humphrey Bogart movies that Minako's father liked watching. You know… wine, women, piano players… and for some strange reason everything was in black and white.

It seems something started to rot in Denmark while I was away. Either that or some of the paradigm harmonics of the Dream were getting screwy again. By Serenity's thin and very skimpy white gown, what the hell was going on?!

I mean I finally get to do some decent catnappery and I wake up looking like a cross between Rick from Casablanca and Errol Flynn. Not that I'm complaining. I'm pretty dashing with the white coat and everything, plus the fact that the waitresses give me those flirtatious smiles when I pat their bottom, just like the one this particular serving maiden is giving me as she offers me a drink.

Which reminds me.

I look around for my favorite black cat, just in case. I really don't want to start being pummeled for the simple fact that I'm a good-looking guy that women like.

Good, the coast is still clear, and playfully run my hand over the waitress' fingers as she gives me the glass. I think she's blushing. I give her a roguish smile and take a sip as she walks away with a spring in her step.

I shake my head as I survey the clientele.

Definitely Casablanca. Ayup, from shining shoes to the hairdo. Though there are glaring errors. Sword and daggers are where guns should be, the food and fare are distinctly Ultharian, and the fact that there was an occasional seepage of color in the monochrome. Especially from the cats. Calico seemed to be the only color available other than black or white. No one recognizes me since, unlike Luna, I believe in subtlety and hid my crescent mark with a simple Weaving.

Anyway, I was having a good time when the black hats stepped in. Literally.

You know that scene in old movies where the bad guys enter and everyone seems to clear out?

That's what was happening.

Nine guys in black coats and black hats and with the aura of cannon fodder came in, and everybody, except for me, walked out surreptitiously. Well, except for the cats, but hey, this is Ulthar, for Serenity's sake, so that's normal. One nervous waitress stayed behind to deliver my drink and got out of there when I waved her away. But before she left, she whispered something to me.

"Please don't wreck the place, milord."

Crap. So people did recognize me. That probably explained the welcoming committee.

At this point of the narrative, I'd have to humbly say that I have a reputation around these parts. I mean, what sort of self-respecting denizen of the Dream does not know of my adventures and escapades?

Me, the White Shadow that faced down the Nightmare of Hkas-nakoth, that bearded the Laughing Mask of Truth under the shadow of the Mount Harnath, chosen by the Great Mother, servant of the Argent Flame.

I mean, who doesn't know me?

As the black hats pulled out their weapons, I got my answer.

So I sighed and did what Clint Eastwood liked to say.

I drew.

Claw neatly decapitated one of the idiots while Fang sank into another's chest. I leaped over an axe stroke that thudded noisily into the wooden flooring, landing on the haft and hitting the wielder in the face with a flying crescent kick.

That's when it got complicated.

When you're in the Dream and you're in a fight, body muscles aren't the only things you flex. Flexing your mind is another important part of it.

And my mind is as sharp as my blade.

So as I floated in midair, I sssslllloooowwwweeeedddd the Dream down. Everyone, except for me, started moving with the geological speed of molasses.

Using the remaining impetus from my kick, I flipped in midair. Yeah, I know it violates all the rules of physics and gravity. But when you're flexing your mind, you are the law of gravity.

My hand caught the axehandle and, continuing my midair whirl, drew it out of its position of repose. I landed perfectly balanced on the counter.

Cats always land on their feet, don't'cha know?

The remaining black hats, staying true to the asserting paradigm, rushed me like all true movie cannon fodder are supposed to do.

A kick in the face knocked back one of the goons, while I danced over a bevy of blades and other very sharp implements of doom. The axe hacked into a head, which fountained black blood in a way that was not supposed to be seen in a PG-13 movie or in a 1940s period film.

Leaving the borrowed weapon in its fleshy sheath, I somersaulted over the murderous throng. Landing with a roll, I drew Fang out of the chest it had punctured and went into an old Silver Millennium sword-and-dagger stance for close-in fighting, Fang in a lower prime and Claw in high quinte.

"I don't think you're going to win this one, boys." Dashing smile and wink for emphasis. By the Three, I love my job.

Then the world suddenly threw me to the side like a cheap piece of toilet paper after use.

Thankfully, I felt the crushing pain in my ribs shortly after feeling the shock of being smashed into three pretty sturdy wooden tables and a rather solid wall or I'd have passed out. As it was I was pretty much immobilized as I looked through a momentarily swirling view of the eight universes.

What I saw was a large mechanical creature, which brought the thought into my head of how in the name of Endymion's metal crotch-piece did they manage to sneak that in? The answer to that question came in a rather shapely package, if I should say so myself.

The tight bodice, short skirt, pseudo-S&M boots, and dark tones in her choice for makeup and clothing obviously made her a bad guy. Now, if she was wearing white and pastel colors she'd be a good guy. An obvious beginner in the Dream, but good enough to assert Reality, it seems.

"I had thought that the Vhite Shadow vould be a lot more… vormidable." See. The accent gives it all away. Paradigms in the Dream assert themselves if you weren't a native or an experienced traveler. So she's going to be thankfully gloating for awhile, which gives me a bit of breathing space.

Feeling around my chest, I made sure I hadn't broken any of the really important parts of my body. Grinding bones made me grit my teeth as I slowly stood up. Thankfully, I had held on to Fang and Claw when I was given the brief introduction to heavier-than-air flight, but they were limp in my hands. An elbow was quite obviously broken and my shoulder seemed out of joint. I smiled.

Cliché time.

"So the great varrior arises! Vant some more?"

"I'd like to tango, babe, but your dance card's kinda full."

"Vat?" Only in the Dream can you see such comical looks of surprise.

"Look behind you." Summoning the few dredges of skill I have in the art of the Weaving, I Wove the next part of the great story that is the Dream. Usually it would be difficult, but I was using a cliché, and it was inevitable anyway. I just hurried it along before I got hurt any more than I had been.

Then she was there, at the inn's door, an apparition in black, crescent moon mark on her forehead visible through the raven hair. And she was definitely not pleased.

"The Black Herald! Tik-tok, kill her!"

Luna had that look on her face that she usually had when forced to deal with the small vermin of the castle back in the Silver Millennium. The lumbering mechanical monstrosity moved with incredible swiftnessm yet still too slow as my favorite black cat drew Sense from its sheath and put down the seven foot tall metallic monster with a twelve-inch blade, and Unweaving the iron giant with a few choice moves. It was like watching a work of art, if you were a connoisseur of that sort of thing.

To say that the black hats were shocked was an understatement.

"My advice, lady, is to run. Now. Before she gets really pissed and Unmakes you."

"Ve vill be back! Just you vait!" Dream folded and bent. Then the pseudo-dominatrix and her goons were gone with a puff of smoke. Totally amateurish.

Luna arched an eyebrow as she looked from the remaining wafts of smoke to me. I stood up a bit straighter and winced as I felt a few broken parts objected at my actions.

"Now you're going to say that this isn't your fault." Her deadpan delivery made me smile.

"Actually, it wasn't. Now… Ow, my ribs hurt—" My strength gave out and so did my legs.

Luna was suddenly at my side, helping me lie back down on the floor. "Stupid macho pride."

"Hey, gotta be me." The droll look on her face told me what she thought about that.

Luna sniffed and asserted Reality around ourselves and fixed the damage. The fact that all the pain of healing an injury that was supposed to be healed over a gradual period of time made me yowl.

"Hush, Artemis! You should pay more attention to your surroundings rather than grandstanding."

"That's why I have you, my sidekick, for."

"'Sidekick', indeed!" Another sniff and she helped me stand up. A bit of crick here and there, plus a few sore spots bruises, but healing in the Dream can only go so far. At least my dreamself had absorbed all that damage and not my real body. Minako would have a fit if I managed to cough up blood on her sheets.

"There is obviously something wrong around here. That 'Tik-tok' was the second one that I had encountered. Though the sluts and henchmen were not included with that one."

I smiled. "I smell an adventure coming."

Luna was obviously keeping her 'disdainful sniff' quota whenever she was in her dreamself, as she held up her nose and rolled her eyes and did what she was known for here.

"You know you better be careful with that noise. Pepper might get into it."

She had that look in her eye that usually meant a good solid whacking for me, but she was obviously holding back for the sake of my recent injuries. I smiled and sheathed Fang and Claw as I continued.

"Anyway, it seems Pluto reminded us about this for more than the simple reason of being nice."

"I noticed." Luna's deadpan delivery was on target once again as we looked around at the mess we made. Several cats of normal standing stared back at us, legends in the flesh.

"You'll be paying for this one, my dear."

"And why is that?"

"I spent my money on good ale. Since you don't drink ale and disdain most vices, you obviously have a few pieces of four in some pocket somewhere."

Luna's long-suffering look at me made me smile as I gestured for one of the braver waitresses over to us.

An adventure in the offing. Dark and mysterious enemies. Assassination attempts. Most likely, there'd be a dastardly plot afoot. Probably even an Evil Overlord with Plans for World Domination (or at least Conquest and Oppression).

I breathed in a good long breath and sighed happily.

It was good to be back.


Author's Notes: Yes, I know totally horrible trilingual pun for a title, but hey, it's a lot more upbeat than my last one. If the flavor seems a bit different from Luna's Dreamlands piece… Well, this is Artemis we're talking about. ^_^

Anyway, see you around.

Artemis and his 'sidekick', Luna will return to the Dance in…

The Dreamquest of Luna and Artemis

A Parisian Encounter
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