This chapter is one long battle. Strong language is used, and the depiction of violence is graphic. If you have handled "The Exorcist" and "Saving Private Ryan," you should be able to handle this. Otherwise, skip to the synopsis at the end.
Text between <<double angle brackets>> is the Iturbe-monster speaking directly into the minds of others.
"Help me! Help me, Chibi Moon!" cried the girl, rising into the air.
<<Yes, HELP her, Chibi Moon . . . stop me, if you can!>> The horrible voice sounded in Chibi-Usa's head--and the other kids around her, while Larry Gigerman's soulless body hopped around like a freshly-killed chicken, spraying blood over his "friends" and Chibi-Usa's friends, and Chibi-Usa.
Chibi-Usa didn't think about the other kids watching her. She transformed without a gesture, without a word. And without another, she shot an actinic blast toward the thing, snaking just above Kimberly-chan's head. But it went right through the thing.
<<Impressive . . . Most Impressive! But you are not your mother yet! Find me and stop me, if you can. I won't kill her, for a little while . . .>> The thing vanished, with Kimberly-chan, before the next blast reached it.
Chibi Moon flew up, not knowing anything more than that she had to find the thing again before it was too late . . .
There was a buzz of talk in the hall--among the staff. Jimmy couldn't make it out, but after he found Usagi and they started for the parking lot together, they passed a clot of staff who hushed up when they got close. But they weren't quiet enough with their thoughts. Usagi dropped her bookbag and sprinted for the exit. When the security guard put out an arm, she flipped him around herself into the wall, hardly breaking stride.
Dr Goodman had a scanner in her Hummer. She charted the course of the angel girl by listening to the police calls--mostly through the startled breaks from monotone code numbers. She also heard more and more bursts of static, and then she saw the violet-white streaks. She couldn't see the girl yet. But she could feel the thing--it was in pain. Not really in danger yet, but not as impervious as it was pretending to be . . . <If only she'd had another year,> thought Dr. Goodman. <Those blasts could sink a battleship! But she can't control them enough to lock it in, and it won't give her time to learn . . . >
Dr. Goodman realized she wasn't going to catch up with them--the girl was moving away, much faster than she could make it through traffic. But . . .
Dr. Goodman saw dust ahead. <Accident. Immobilized in a minute, take an hour to get out . . .>
She swerved off the freeway, and crashed through the chain-link fence. <Good thing they ran out of money for those useless sound-walls . . . >
Jimmy drove straight to the middle school. There were police and reporters all around, and a big bloody patch of grass by an ambulance. "Hysteria" and "Shock" were the words he heard from many official mouths. Then he found Nancy. She was sitting in on the floor a hallway, curled up against the wall, crying, and no one at all was paying any attention to her. He picked her up and carried her out of the school. He would have punched out several people, but he had his hands full.
He was going to take her home, but then he saw the streaks in the sky. And so did she. And she said, "Find her! Find them! Before it kills her!"
He cut across the lawn, and peeled off down the street, in front of a dozen cops. None of them paid any attention, because they were all looking open-mouthed into the sky, listening to the banshee shrieks that followed every violet blast.
If the incident had happened twenty years before, or even ten, there would have been a military response within thirty minutes, perhaps less. But on the day of the biggest UFO event in history, and possible hostile action in the Silicon Valley, there weren't any fighting aircraft in the State of California which could be scrambled.
But there was an aircraft carrier about 200 miles south. Six hours after the incident began, they got orders to launch a mission.
Sailor Moon was in her angel form, the one which could fly the fastest. But she couldn't keep up with Chibi-Moon, try as she could. She couldn't even get close enough to see if Chibi Moon had a new form to go with her new attack. Hours had passed. They could have flown far from the Southbay in that time, but the thing--which she only glimpsed for a second or two, mostly by following the blasts--the killer thing was circling, leading Chibi-moon around and around, phasing in and out. It did speak to her mind, taunting her. >>Your girl is providing great sport . . . I could go on for days, but your Kimberly-chan won't keep . . . she'll lose the rest of her wits soon, and then she won't be fun any more. Thank Dr. Goodman so much . . . it will be so special to do it to her again. But I'll be fair . . . I'll let you catch up with me, after I kill them. Unless you can do it before, Moon-slut. >> And so on, endlessly. But she could not read its true thoughts.
Sailor Moon could see that Chibi was being careful not to fire when she might hurt someone, but she had started some brush fires. The thing shot its green bolts occasionally, sometimes at Chibi Moon, but more often at something on the ground--always near Sailor Moon, so she would have to see if she could help anyone. Once it blew up a big airplane; twice it shot down helicopters. There wasn't anything Sailor Moon could do to help, except carry one person on the ground away from the burning fuel.
It was keeping her away from itself and Chibi Moon. But was she supposed to leave people to burn in the fires the thing started?
Dr Goodman saw them beside the steaming hatchback, and she stopped. "If you want to come with me, come now!" she shouted. Not knowing why, Jimmy picked up his sister, again reduced to curled-up-senseless-weeping, and ran to the Hummer. He could actually hear sirens over the blasts. There were no streetlights--or any lights--because by that time Chibi-moon's ionized blasts had disrupted the power grid of three-quarters of the Southbay.
"What is that thing?" he asked Dr. Goodman.
"A spirit-creature. But it was once a man."
"You mean, a ghost."
"More than a ghost--and less. A voudonista would call it an "in-betweener." It is neither wholly in the material or the spirit world. That is why it is so difficult to fight. If it was just one or the other, one of those blasts would destroy it."
"That is Sarah?"
"My God, the power! She's only thirteen!
"She's actually over nine hundred years old, kids. She was a small child for all that time, until she was forced to use her powers."
"She's stronger than Sailor Moon, isn't she?" asserted Nancy.
"In many ways, yes . . . if she matures, she will be stronger."
"Why can't she beat this thing, then?"
"She's still too much of a child . . . this thing likes to prey on girls exactly her apparent age. If she had time to think, she could destroy it. But it's not giving her time."
"Is there any hope?"
"There is always hope . . . Whatever happens, remember, don't give up hope. If you give up, this thing will win. It doesn't just feed off of rape or murder or even fear. It feeds on the corruption of life. If you let it lock you behind your doors, if you let it wither friendship and joy and trust, it will only grow stronger. It cannot live on murder alone. And it can't even feed on that if its victims fight to the end."
Now Jimmy began to cry. "We'll never catch up. It will kill them all."
"No. It won't. And I'm not chasing it. I know where it is really going."
"The Victorian Hills Mall."
"Why," asked Nancy bitterly, "So it can do some shopping after it kills them?"
"No. Thirteen years ago, that mall was a fruit orchard. And that is where Roberto Iturbe raped and killed Kathleen Tilden. It was his first murder."
"Then it is a man after all?" said Nancy with uncertain hope.
"Not any more," said Jimmy. "I remember him. The cops shot him eight years ago."
"Actually, they wounded him. Paralyzed him. He burned to death; the tear gas cannisters set the house on fire," said Dr Goodman. "He'd already killed all his hostages."
"How did you know that?"
"They had me reconstruct his face from the skull. They wanted to be absolutely sure he was dead."
"They were wrong."
"Yes. And so was I. A shameful lapse, given my Art."
It was pitch dark. There was no moon up; it was just past the New Moon, so it wouldn't have done much good anyway. But in angel form, Sailor Moon could see what was below her well enough. She could also see that at last, she was getting closer to Chibi Moon. Not because she was flying faster. Sailor moon had noticed that Chibi Moon slowed down whenever she fired a blast. She was firing a lot of blasts now.
But just when she thought she would get in range of the thing at last, something roared past her. Two jet airplanes--and they were launching their missiles. Sailor Moon saw that the missiles were heading straight for Chibi Moon.
Lt. Louise Martini felt the AMRAAM slip away by the change in trim before she saw it. "Missile One Away. Tracking. Lock. Victor-Two has also launched . . . I have lock--what th--Malfunction! Portside missiles are all offline--Flight emergency! Hydraulic systems have failed--JESUS!"
Louise Martini had only a split second to act. She'd just seen her wingman fly past her rapidly failing aircraft--and a green fireball streak into her wingman's aircraft, which exploded instantly. She pulled down the curtain and hit the eject button. That system worked. After being shot up at several gravities and falling free until her canopy opened, her wits gradually returned. She saw an orange fireball miles away, probably her ship. She didn't catch the sound of the explosion. Whatever it was she had been shooting at was filling the air with banshee shrieks. It was firing violet streaks now, lots of them, not at her.
Other than that, it was pleasant enough, floating a mile or so up on a warm night. Her career was over the fantail, of course, but . . .
She realized she'd thought too soon. A green fireball came toward her, lazily, and then very fast. It missed her, passing over her head.
But her canopy was gone. She was falling free, about a mile up.
She was trying to remember how to say an act of contrition when the angel caught her. She passed out in a second, but she remembered the glowing moon on the angel's forehead, and the fury in her eyes.
Chibi-Moon screamed, and fell. One of the missiles had exploded, and fragments of the continuous-rod warhead cut into her legs and body. If she had been mere flesh, she would have been cut apart, but transformed, she was tougher. But not invulnerable.
The thing approached, seeing a chance. But Chibi Moon saw a chance, too. She let herself fall almost to the ground, and then pulled up and fired. The thing screamed in her mind for a moment before phasing out. But it rematerialized not too far away. Chibi knew it was hurt badly. She flew as fast as she could toward it, preparing to hit it at close range, where it could not use Kimberly to shield itself.
Dr. Goodman shouted, "The glovebox, there! There are some charms. Each of you, put one on. They may help."
They were necklaces made out of small bones, each with a small animal skull.
Almost as soon as Jimmy and Nancy had put on the gruesome neckwear, they saw Chibi Moon fly by no more than forty feet up. She then started climbing. Something dark was before her, silhouetted by the blasts she kept firing. And amid that dark something, glimpses of a screaming girl.
<<Ooooh, you got me . . . that really hurt, little moon girl. I'm afraid I just can't hold on any more . . . Catch!>>
Chibi Moon caught Kimberly as she tumbled through the air. The terrified girl grabbed at her, pulling Chibi Moon's face into her bosom. It blinded her. She couldn't see to fire her blasts.
That was what the Iturbe-thing was waiting for. It shot out impossibly long, slender tentacles, forming sharp blades at the tips. They sliced into Chibi Moon in a dozen places, with unholy precision, causing the maximum amount of pain.
<<Oh, it hurts, poor little moon girl! But don't drop your friend! It is still a long way to the ground.>>
Chibi Moon screamed in pain, a sound that was heard for miles by ears and minds. Almost everyone passed out, because they felt a small part of her pain for an instant. Jimmy and Nancy did not pass out, though they felt pain as never before--the charms directed away most of it, before crumbling into dust.
But Chibi Moon did not drop her friend, whom she had fought so long and desperately for. She flew on, though her wings were shredded, feathers falling everywhere. She glowed, and all the tentacles touching her vaporized. But she could not see her enemy. Her eyes were gone. Yet she set down on the ground gently, with Kimberly still physically unharmed in her arms.
<<Pity. I really didn't mean to blind you. So I'll just tell you what I'm doing. You hurt me, little moon. I salute you; you were a worthy challenge. So I will forgo the pleasure of raping your Kimberly-chan again. I'm just disemboweling her, and taking her head. Time to go . . . Your mother is coming, and I owe her a death as splendid as yours.>>
Sailor Moon tried to hit the thing, but she couldn't see it without Chibi's blasts. It was many times farther than she had ever tried to fight from before--and she heard the thing scream it its mind again, for a moment. But only a moment. Then she heard it speak in her mind as it butchered Kimberly. Then it vanished. It was just not there any more, on any plane of existence she could perceive.
She flew to Chibi Moon, dropping the pilot lady who had hurt Chibi with her missile as soon as she set down on the ground.
Incredibly, Chibi Moon could still speak when they moved her onto the silken tarp. "Kimberly-chan . . ."
Dr. Goodman said, "I can't save two, and you have a chance."
The Grey Lady worked her spell. Sailor Moon cried glowing tears. Chibi Moon began to become whole again--but then, the glow went out of her. It rose from her in a silvery mist, and then formed a transluscent figure. The spirit-form of Chibi-Moon reached out with its half-formed arms for Sailor Moon. It embraced her, and then melted into her.
And was gone.
<<Touching,>> a horrid voice sounded in the minds of the four grieving souls.
The ginzuishou materialized at the base of Sailor Moon's throat. She fired a halation attack at the laughing form that had materialized--Jimmy recognized it as Iturbe. The figure shimmered for a moment, but re-formed. The half-built parking garage behind it collapsed.
<<So, you want to turn me to dust? Let me return the favor.>>
A sickly green bolt shot out from the figure. It consumed Dr Goodman.
<<I don't wanna play any more tonight. But don't forget me. I won't forget you, moon slut. Or your friends . . . Especially you, Nancy. I'll do you up nice before I kill you. Be sure to wear pretty panties. I still collect them, you know.>>
Sirens were coming. Jimmy said, "Come on. Dr. Goodman left her keys in the ignition. We can still get away."
Usagi, now just a naked, shivering girl, still held the corpse of Chibi-Usa. "I will stay, Jimmy-chan. Take Nancy-chan."
"I want to stay with you," Nancy said to Usagi, looking up from the headless, mangled form of Kimberly, wondering what she would tell Kimberly's child. Wondering if she would die this way herself. Wondering when.
"Go with Jimmy-chan. They will stop looking when they find me."
"But I want to stay."
"Please, go, while there is time."
"Why? That thing is still out there."
"It cannot return tonight. It used the last of its strength on the Grey Lady. Go, Jimmy will not leave without you. And you need to go get the Grey Lady's baby. Take it home. You can make the sitter give it to you, Nancy-chan."
Nancy put her arms around both Usagi and the gory corpse of Chibi-Usa for an eternal moment. Then she ran to the Hummer.
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