Part Five -- the Audition
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Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
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At the Hikawa Shrine the next afternoon, plans were laid and strategies reviewed. "Serena and Darien, you're coming with me," Nephrite said. "Serena, can you do the disguise magic with Darien's car?"
"I think so," she answered. "As long as at least one of us is touching it. We all have to be in contact for the disguise power to work."
"Good. Now, Amy, Lita, and Mina, you three be ready to back us up if we need help. You say you can teleport to a location you've never seen before?"
"Yes," Amy said. "Especially if we're in contact over the communicator, the three of us can easily teleport to where you are."
"What about me?" Raye asked.
"You stay here. Listen to me," Nephrite added as Raye began to steam and turn red. "You're too emotionally involved in this. Emotional involvement leads to bad decisions."
"I don't care. If Chad needs me, I'm going."
"Raye. Do I have to order you to stay?"
"Order me? ORDER me? Who do you think --"
"Raye, baby." Chad spoke up. "I think he knows what he's talking about. Just do what he says, ok?"
Raye looked around the rest of the group for support, without finding any. "Trust him, Raye," Molly said softly.
"Besides," Nephrite added, "I don't want Molly left here alone."
"All right, I guess I'll stay. But that isn't a promise!"
Nephrite laughed as he led the group outside to the Shrine's small parking lot, while Raye fumed behind his back. "Give us about a ten-minute head start, Chad, so we can check things out and watch you go in. After that, be ready to run if we say so. Serena, are you ready with that disguise pen?"
"Yep. Hold on!" She held the disguise pen high in her right hand. She, Darien, and Nephrite gripped each other's hands and Nephrite put his left hand on Darien's red car. Serena waved the pen and shouted, "Disguise power, turn us into a bunch of... tragically hip record company executives with a black BMW!"
There were shimmering swirls of light, which quickly cleared to reveal the sleek black car and the three people standing beside it. Darien and Nephrite wore slick, wide-shouldered suits over tight black t-shirts, and long ponytails. Darien, who had never worn earrings, had a diamond dangling from his left earlobe, while Nephrite had a hoop in each ear next to the gold studs he always wore. They both wore black sunglasses with tiny oval lenses. Serena had a blonde buzz cut, and wore a chartreuse suit whose jacket was longer than the microscopic skirt. She had on a black bustier under the jacket, black Doc Marten boots, and sunglasses with inch-wide purple lenses. "Hey, it worked!" she chirped happily.
Chad and the girls were speechless. "Wow," Molly finally said. Mina and Lita couldn't restrain themselves any longer, and started laughing and pointing at Serena. "Hey, that's a great look for you, Serena! No more meatballs!"
Serena patted her hair with a look on her face that made the other Sailor Scouts fall down laughing. "Don't worry, Serena, they'll grow back!" Darien gasped between howls of laughter.
"I didn't mean it to come out quite that short," Serena said. "It is tragically hip, though. Besides, it's only pretend."
Nephrite looked at his watch. "Time to get going. Remember, Chad, ten minutes. And try to look like you actually want the job." He came over to Molly, pulled her close, and kissed her deeply. "Don't worry, babe, ok?"
Molly nodded. "I'll try."
Nephrite went to the BMW' and opened a back door to get in. "Darien, you drive over. I'll handle the getaway, if we have to make one." Serena and Darien climbed into the front seat, and the car drove off.
Those remaining stared after the car for a moment, then Chad took Raye by the hand and led her around a corner. "Let me know when it's time, ok?"
Soon enough, Lita had to go pry them apart, and the girls watched as Chad's car disappeared into the city below the hill. Molly and Raye looked at each other, Molly trying to think of what comfort she could give Raye when she was scared to death herself. But Raye spoke first. "I'm sorry, Molly, but how can you stand being married to that arrogant jerk?"
Molly felt a wave of pure rage wash over her, that Raye should speak of Nephrite that way. Easy, she told herself. She's scared and she doesn't know yet that she can trust him.
"He seems like he's a really nice man, Raye," Amy was saying.
"Yeah, Raye," Lita added. "I don't know what your problem is."
"So if he's such a great guy, then why'd he join the Negaverse in the first place?" Raye demanded. "Tell me that."
Molly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I don't know, Raye. He hasn't told me that. All he's told me is that he betrayed everything he was, everything he believed in, by joining the Dark Kingdom. What he wants the most is to become the person he was before he fell. He's trying so hard, Raye, and he's a good, good man. Please trust him. Please give him a chance."
"I'm so scared," Raye said, "and I can't do anything to help." Angrily, she wiped away the tear that ran down her cheek.
Molly took one of Raye's hands in both of her own. "I know, Raye. I'm scared, too.
"Hey," Mina spoke up brightly, "I brought something to kill the time." She held up a deck of cards in one hand and a huge bag of chocolate caramels in the other. "Poker and chocolate." The five girls settled happily at the table, which had Luna and Artemis dozing in the middle. Amy dealt the cards while Mina divvied out the chocolates.
"Why can't they ever be serious?" Luna muttered to Artemis.
"I think they are serious," Artemis replied.
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The three record company executives' sat in their black BMW in the parking lot of the auditorium where the auditions were being held, until they saw Chad's car arrive. They followed him in at a discreet distance and took seats near the back of the auditorium. They noted where the other exits from the hall were, and looked over the layout and who was there. On the stage was a huge drum set and sound system. Half a dozen hopeful drummers, including Chad, sat in the center of the front row, while three men who looked like roadies, with their tight t-shirts and bulging muscles, sat near the right end of that row. Halfway back in the hall, towards the left side, sat three people in black turtlenecks: a man with long, silvery hair, a woman with a long, tawny ponytail, and a man with short, thick blond hair.
"That's all three of them," Nephrite whispered to Darien, who sat between him and Serena. Darien nodded and pointed out the three to Serena, who also nodded.
In the center of that same row, a few seats away from the others, sat another man. He had a huge volume of wildly shaggy hair, black with jagged white stripes running through it. He wore a black sleeveless t-shirt, displaying scrawny, pale, heavily tattooed arms. "That must be our friend Mazz," Darien whispered.
Nephrite closed his eyes, trying to get a sense of the rock star's energy. "He's Negaverse, all right. Very powerful. I'd be willing to bet he's Beryl's replacement."
The other drummers all went before Chad. They were obviously ringers brought in to make the audition look legitimate; their qualifications mostly seemed to be that they could count to four and move both hands and both feet at the same time. Each one played a solo, then played along with a tape, minus the drum track, of a Mazz Destrukshun so-called song.
Nephrite rubbed his forehead, where a killer of a headache was starting to come on, and sighed with relief as the last drummer before Chad was dismissed. People actually paid money to listen to this? Humans...
Chad walked onto the stage, sat at the drum set, and made a few adjustments to the stool and the placement of the various components of the set. He juggled his drumsticks in his hands and said, "Before I start, I just want to say what an honor this is, Mr. Destrukshun. This is, like, totally a dream come true for me. I really hope I get the job, but it's just so, like, totally bodacious that you even asked me to try out."
Nephrite smiled a little, approvingly. If the boy couldn't make it as a musician, he could always be an actor. He glanced sideways at Darien and Serena; they were both red-faced and teary-eyed in their efforts to not laugh.
Then Chad began to play his solo. Nephrite sat back, truly impressed. The boy (he reminded himself that the boy' was twenty-five years old) had real talent. He whispered to Darien, "I had no idea Chad was so good. He reminds me of some of the great jazz drummers, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich. He could be that good."
Darien nodded with the air of a man who also knew his jazz, while Serena sat open-mouthed and entranced. The recorded song came on, thankfully for the last time, and Chad did things to make it actually sound like something vaguely resembling music. That took talent.
Chad's audition ended, and the three executives' sat up straight, on the alert now. Mazz Destrukshun and his three associates' stood and filed out of the row where they had been sitting. The Generals stood in front of the stage, discussing something, while Mazz himself went up onto the stage and over to Chad. He reached up to put an arm around the tall drummer's shoulders. The rock star's face was completely obscured by white greasepaint, with black lightning bolts around the eyes and black lipstick. "I wonder," Serena whispered, "if there's really a face under there or if it's like the Invisible Man when he takes his makeup off."
"Chad," the rock star said in a surprisingly mild, mellow voice, "you're the man, dude. Welcome to the team. Come on, the rest of the band is waiting back at the hotel. Time to go rehearse."
Nephrite sat on the edge of his seat, poised to jump up and start running.
"Actually, Mr. Destrukshun, this is so totally great, but I, like, told my girlfriend I'd be home? So I have to go, but I'll come to the hotel in, like, a couple of hours, Ok?"
"Sorry, dude, you're coming with us now." The voice had grown harsh and hissing. The three Generals signaled to the roadies, who stood and rushed onto the stage. Their bodies distorted, becoming monstrously over-muscled, their skin turned purple and their eyes glowed red. Nephrite began to run towards the stage. Behind him, Serena and Darien transformed, and Sailor Moon began one of her patented speeches, "I'm Sailor Moon, the champion of --"
"Can the speech and get him out of here!" Nephrite yelled. "I'll cover you!" His three former colleagues, hatred in their faces, turned towards him at the sound of his voice, but they reacted too late. He shot half a dozen balls of blue energy out of his right hand, knocking them down in a heap against the edge of the stage, and kept them down by firing off another shot of energy every time one of them moved. There was much to be said for the element of surprise.
The three roadie-youma had grabbed Chad, and were hauling him towards a rear exit from the stage. Chad was putting up a good fight, being a healthy-sized young man and a skilled martial arts fighter, but the three muscle-bound youma posed unbeatable odds. Nephrite didn't dare blast them because Chad might get hurt, but it turned out he didn't have to. Tux took out one of the youma with a red rose right to the eyes, while Moon knocked down a second with a high leaping kick. Nephrite kept those two down with blasts of energy, while still keeping the Generals under control. He was starting to get fatigued, and knew that soon his energy would be completely drained. They had to get Chad away from the last youma so Moon could do her Tiara thing.
Mazz Destrukshun was hiding in the curtains off stage. He was keeping Tux and Moon off-balance by firing off poorly-aimed but powerful bolts of black lightning from his hands. Nephrite quickly determined that if he ran the long way around, behind Tux, he should be able to reach Chad and the third youma without getting hit. Using almost all that was left of his strength, Nephrite called his Kharandha'i greatsword to him. It shimmered into his hand. "Help me rescue my friend from this evil," he said to it in his native tongue. He ran towards the last youma, which was still holding Chad in a strangling grip, and drove the sword right through the youma's chest. The youma made a gurgling sound and fell to the floor, releasing its grip on Chad. Mazz Destrukshun disappeared into the off-stage maze of wings, curtains, and scenery.
Nephrite, still holding the sword, and Tuxedo picked up Chad, who was by now semi-unconscious, and dragged him out the exit. Behind him, Nephrite heard Sailor Moon call out, "Moon Scepter Elimination!" followed by the death-screams of the other two youma. That moon-scepter thing was a new one on him; he was glad he wouldn't be on the receiving end of it.
Sailor Moon caught up with the three men and they ran, dragging Chad, to the BMW.' Nephrite stuffed Chad into the back seat and dropped his sword on the floor. Moon climbed into the other side of the back seat. Nephrite got into the driver's seat and started the car while Tux was still climbing into the passenger-side seat. Tuxedo Mask had barely closed his door when Nephrite pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor and the Beemer screeched out of the parking lot.
Nephrite raced the car through the heavy late-afternoon traffic, keeping an eye constantly in the rear-view mirror, watching for pursuit. At last, satisfied that the enemy wasn't following them, at least not by car, he checked on his passengers. All three of them sat rigid and pale, faces frozen in wide-eyed grimaces of terror. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"We're all going to freaking die!" Tux choked out.
"Don't worry. I'm an excellent driver." Nephrite skillfully changed lanes to avoid an oncoming delivery truck.
"Eh-heh," Tux replied weakly. For some reason he didn't sound convinced.
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The poker game had been a rousing success, at least for Molly. She had amassed most of the chocolate caramels into a huge pile in front of her. The other girls had all folded, and now Molly was sharing out the candies with them, and setting aside a pile for Serena, who otherwise would be ticked that she missed out on the candy.
There was a squealing of brakes and tires from the parking lot. "They're back!" Molly said. She jumped up, scattering chocolates on the floor, and ran outside, followed closely by Raye and the other girls. Nephrite was the first to get out of the car. He leaned against the open door for a moment, then turned and smiled at Molly and the other girls. He shouted into the car, "You guys can move now. We're back!"
Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon, and Chad climbed out of the car, looking pale and shaken. All the transformations faded away, leaving people and car in their normal appearances. "That man is a menace to the public safety!" Darien said.
"Nonsense," said Nephrite. "I've never been in an accident." Then he leaned against the car again and closed his eyes. Molly ran to him. He was pale and trembling. She put her hands on his shoulders. "Nephrite, are you ok? What's wrong?"
He put his arms around her. "Just a little tired, babe. I'm ok."
Chad and Raye stood with their arms tightly around each other, While Chad tried to reassure Raye that, despite nearly being kidnapped by monsters and then being a passenger in a car driven by Nephrite, he was fine. "Plus, I won the audition."
"Oh, shut up, Chad." Raye smiled through the tears of relief on her face.
"It was awesome, you guys," Serena said. "You should have seen it. After Chad got the job, the roadies turned into youma and were dragging him away, and Nephrite was blasting the Generals and everyone else with energy balls, and Tuxedo Mask got one of the youma right in the eyes with a rose, and I kicked one right in the head, totally nailed him, and then Nephrite made this sword appear out of nowhere and stabbed this other youma right through the middle...."
Serena chattered on as they all went into Raye's house. No wonder Nephrite was so exhausted, Molly thought. Inside, they all sat at the low dining table, still rehashing the entire event, while Raye phoned for pizza. With a tired groan, Nephrite collapsed onto his back, taking Molly down with him. He pulled Molly on top of him, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her, long, slow, and deep.
"Ahem," Darien said after a moment. Nephrite opened one eye and looked at the younger man. Darien said, "Save it for the bedroom, you guys."
Molly blushed and hid her face in Nephrite's hair. "Hey, saving the world is hard work," Nephrite said. "Don't I deserve a little fun?"
"He's absolutely right, you know, Darien," Serena said. "We just helped save the world too, you know." She looked Darien in the eyes, practically puckering her lips at him.
Darien blushed while Chad, Lita, and Mina snickered.
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"Well, that was a rousing success," Malachite muttered. He took several gulps of red wine, trying to wash the taste of total ignominious defeat out of his mouth. This had been one of the most humiliating days of his long life.
"You guys really screwed that up," Jasper said. He hadn't called the Generals to his apartment for this dressing-down. Rather he had gone to their place, to show that they couldn't hide from him. "Those monster things were totally lame."
"Only because you wouldn't give us enough energy to do it properly!" Zoisite said. "It takes at least two or three times a normal human's energy to create a really useful youma."
"You could have at least given us enough energy to do our own attacks," Jadeite added.
"I think the real problem," Malachite said, "was that Sailor Moon and Company were already suspicious."
"How could they have been?" Jadeite asked.
"Because King Jasper's little antics have been getting into the newspapers every week. Don't you think that by now the Scouts would know to be suspicious whenever weird things start happening?"
"So now it's my fault," the King said.
"Frankly, my King, I think it is." Malachite's face grew pale and a light sweat broke out on his forehead, but he continued speaking despite his fear. "You would do well to control your appetites and be more discreet."
Jasper grinned and pointed a forefinger at Malachite. Black lightning shot out of the finger, knocking the silver-haired General clear across the room and taking out an antique table and priceless vase at the same time.
Zoisite screamed, "Malachite!" and ran to her lover's side. Once she determined that he was still alive, she glared at her king. "Damn you, you could have killed him!"
Jasper smiled again. "I know. Now, does anyone else want to blame me for your screwups?"
Though they hated themselves for it, Jadeite and Zoisite remained silent.
"Good. Jadeite, do you have the pictures ready?"
Looking disgusted, Jadeite threw a manila envelope onto the glass-topped coffee table. Jasper peered into the envelope and expressed his appreciation for the contents in highly obscene terms. "I don't think this will work, King Jasper," Jadeite said. "As I understand it, Darien and Serena have been separated before, but they always get back together, and their separations never affect the Tuxedo Mask - Sailor Moon partnership. According to Malachite, even when Tuxedo Mask was under Beryl's control, he ended up protecting Sailor Moon as often as not."
"But they've never actually hated each other before, have they?"
"Not that I know of, but still....Those pictures are so obviously fake."
Jasper laid a hand across the envelope. Black lightning flashed out of his hand, surrounded the envelope, and was absorbed. "Don't matter." He handed the envelope back to Jadeite. "Make sure this gets mailed. Now, when are you going to get that red-haired chick for me? I'm getting tired of waiting."
Zoisite glared at him again. "It isn't that easy. We can't get close to her. She's always with Nephrite, the bastard -- I can't believe he tried to kill us today -- or the Sailor Scouts. It's almost like he knows not to leave her alone."
"After you kidnapped her before, he probably does know," Jadeite said.
"Look, losers," Jasper said, "You want to get back at that Nephrite dude for trying to waste you, take down some of the Sailor Scouts, and make me happy? GET THAT GIRL FOR ME!" He teleported from the apartment without another word. Jadeite and Zoisite scowled after him.
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return to Index / go to Chapter 6
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury