by Queen Serenity III

         “Another canister has arrived, your Highness,” reported a servant.  She was a small woman, somewhat timid, and asked her master from outside the door instead of stepping into the monarch’s chambers.
         “Just lay it on the dresser,” the queen commanded, though in the manner she said it, it sounded more like a request.  The servant slipped quietly in the room and set the canister on the bureau, then returned to the door, awaiting further instructions.  “That’s all for now.”
         “Good night, your Highness.”  She left the queen, who had prepared herself for bed.  It was late and she would need plenty of rest to get through the next day.  Things had been tough for Serenity ever since the untimely death of her mother, Queen Luna.  At the young age of fourteen she was crowned the new Queen of the Moon.  Though she received helpful advice from her aunt, Princess Artemis, it was still difficult for a young teenage girl to handle all of the responsibilities of being a ruler.  At times, she felt she couldn’t take all of the pressure anymore and was ready to crack.  It was at these times she always seemed to receive a small box containing something which always brought some joy into her life.
         Serenity opened the lid of the metal box by pressing two buttons on it sides with her index fingers.  She looked inside to find a single envelope with her name on the front of it.  She carefully opened the envelope, ensuring that the letter inside would neither get torn nor crumpled when she took it out.  After retrieving the letter, she placed the envelope beside the box on the dresser and unfolded the sheet of paper, her eyes scanning the handwritten text.

         Oh, how I long to see your beauty.  It becomes increasingly difficult to focus on my duties as a leader when I think of you and the distance that separates us.  But I must continue to shepherd them, for the people need me to lead them and once again I regret that I cannot meet you.  As I write this, I am on the planet Aleph, one that is very near my homeworld.  I turn my eyes toward the beautiful crescent moon.  It resembles the wand you hold in that last portrait you sent.  But I have my obligations, as you have yours, so once again I must decline your invitation.  I truly am sorry, and I hope one day to meet you in person.

                                                                                                                             With the love of a thousand planets,

         She looked at the letter for one moment more, then refolded it and placed it back in its envelope.  Then she opened the bottom left drawer of her bureau and laid it on top of the other letters she received from him.  For a minute, she stared at the pile of letters and recalled how this correspondence came to be.  Exactly two years after her mother’s death, Serenity was sitting on the throne.  It was an ordinary day, busy but not hectic.  Two neighbors were having a dispute over property and the queen listened to the case, trying to ascertain which of the two Lunarians was right.  All of a sudden, a servant ran into the room, interrupting the proceedings.  He directed Serenity’s attention to a window, and she rose from her seat to look outside.  An object that looked like a capsule laid on the ground, directly in front of the palace.  She ran outside to get a better look at it.  As she approached it, it automatically opened, revealing a small, metallic box inside.  Inside of the box was a letter, a letter of first contact.  It was from Tottamo, a prince from a distant universe, and arrived through a trans-dimensional portal near the Moon.  Serenity replied to the missive, confirming that the letter arrived at its destination.  Thus began a communication between the monarchs, which started out as a means of exchanging information that evolved into love letters.
         Now Serenity wasn’t sure if her beloved wanted to complete this amour by meeting vis-a-vis.  Every time she asked him to visit her, he turned down her offers, using a different reason each time.  She began to doubt if he truly loved her and decided to send another letter, a final plea, and wait for his response.  She closed the drawer and made her way to the desk where she sat down.  She took out a piece of stationery and wrote her response.

         Why are you reluctant to see me?  Do you think I am ugly?  Am I not good enough for you?  If you do not wish to see me, then just tell me and don’t make these excuses.  I love you very much, but with each subsequent refusal my heart is broken.  If there is any sincerity in your words, please come and visit me, or let me come to you.  The passage that connects our two universes may close at any time, and I only wish to hear your voice, hold your hand, or see you under the light of the moon on Earth.  I have waited for three years, but I can’t wait forever, for I have a kingdom to run as well, and my loyalty shall always remain with my people.  Tottamo, if you love me, please let us complete this written romance in the flesh.  Paper can’t contain my feelings for you; only a person-to-person meeting will do that.

                                                                                                                               Your author of love,
         She waited for the ink to dry before placing the letter in an envelope with Tottamo’s name on it.  After sealing the envelope, she laid it on the desk.  It would be sent early the next morning, but it was too late to send it now.  Now was the time for sleep, for the only time Serenity ever got any rest was in her dreams.

*               *               *
         A pair of fighters locked their eyes on each other as they circled the room.  Both opponents had long, dark unruly hair that ran down their gray garb, though the mane of one was fuller and longer than the other.  Both were silent, waiting for someone to make the first move and trying not to let their faces betray their strategy.  Normally this would have worked, but each man could see through the other’s poker face as if it were a pane of glass.  These two weren’t just fighters, they were brothers and they had sparred many times before.
         The staredown could last for hours until one man let down his guard for a split second in weariness, leaving him open to an attack.  Both men employed this strategy equally well, so one of the brothers chose to do something to throw the other off quickly, wanting to see if a change of tactics could result in a victory.
         “What did she tell you?” the younger brother asked the older.  It wasn’t unusual for them to talk while they sparred.  In fact, some of the most important decisions of their lives were made in this very room.  But the topic he had in mind was certain to cause a reaction.
         “Who?” asked the man with the longer hair.
         “Serenity.”  The moment he said the name, his opponent dropped his guard in surprise.  The name was sacred to him, not something to be invoked in a fight.  Seeing an opportunity, the younger brother kicked the elder one in the head, knocking him back a few feet.  He then rushed in on the disoriented fighter, hoping to catch him before he regained his senses.  His brother was too quick for him, and simply stepped out of the way.  Then the two faced and circled each other once again.  After about five minutes, the younger brother spoke again.  “You never answered my question.”
         It took a while for his rival to respond.  “She gave me an ultimatum.  Either I go see her or we part our ways.”
         “Then you have no choice.  I’m sorry, but this relationship has to end now.”  He threw a quick jab to see if he was paying attention.
         “Cumbre!” He barely dodged his brother’s fist.  “How can you say that?”
         “She’s the queen of the Moon.  End of story.”
         “But I love her.  I want to go to her.”  He attempted a sweep kick on Cumbre, but his brother leapt out of the way.
         “You only love her because you can’t have her.”  For a second Cumbre thought about countering with an energy blast, but remembered that the rules prohibited it.  Instead, he performed a nearly flawless jump kick, but his opponent ducked, and Cumbre landed behind him.  His brother immediately whirled around.  “If she were the ruler of any planet in this dimension, you wouldn’t want anything to do with her.”
         “I’ve thought about that, but it’s more than just a desire.  I truly care about this woman.”
         “Then let her go.  You’ll find someone else.”
         “But it won’t be Serenity.”  The fight progressed into a more rapid affair, the punches, kicks, and dodges becoming a mere blur to the human eye.  But for these two, this was their usual fighting pace.   They casually continued their conversation.  “I must go see her.”
         “Tottamo, you’re about to become king in two weeks!  You can’t go hopping to another dimension at this time.”
         “If I were to leave tomorrow, I should be back in a week.  That leaves plenty of time to prepare for the ceremony.”
         “What if the portal closes?  You’ll be stuck over in the other side.”
         “What if I’m on a shuttlecraft and it crashes into an asteroid on a diplomatic mission?  The chances of the portal closing are negligible in comparison.”
         “Do you really know how stable that portal is?  It might collapse on you as you’re passing through it.”
         “My brother, the eternal pessimist.”
         “I have a right to be one.  Someone has to make sure you don’t lose your head.”
         “The eternal, overprotective pessimist.”  Though Tottamo paused in his words, he continued to dodge Cumbre’s blows while trying to cause some damage. “Don’t worry.  It would be senseless to go through the portal.”
         “You’re finally seeing my point?  There may be hope for you yet.”
         “Even though I can go to her dimension, I can never meet her in person.  If only there was some way...”
         “There isn’t, except that way.”  Cumbre raised an eyebrow full of insinuation.
         “I’d gladly do it if it were up to me.”
         “But then I’d have to lead the people.”  His words carried an air of jest in their tone.
         Tottamo knew his brother was joking, and asked in a more serious, but jovial, manner, “Isn’t that what you always wanted?”
         Cumbre’s reply full of good-natured sarcasm.  “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind the boring feasts with ambassadors, the long, lonely shuttlecraft rides and, of course, the tedious negotiations with hostile species.”  He never wanted to a leader.  Being a prince was bad enough, with all of the rules, both statutory and social, to restrict behavior, but at least he didn’t have the responsibilities of a king.  The king not only had absolute power, but he was responsible for the lives of the people.  Tottamo had a natural ability to lead without dictating, to receive respect through his actions and words rather than demanding it, and that was the reason he should have been king.
         After a while, the exchanges of blows were no longer even, and Tottamo was winning the fight.  He intentionally threw slower, harder punches that normally wouldn’t have his brother.  But Cumbre was weakened and the thundering, taunting blows didn’t help his condition.  One of the haymakers hit him squarely in the jaw, and for a second he was dazed.  That second was all Tottamo needed to respond with a well placed standing side-kick to knock him to the floor.  Before he could get up, his brother stood with his right foot on his back.
         “You tried to beat me but you failed.”  Tottamo’s voice was saturated with arrogance.  He didn’t even sound like the same person.
         Cumbre was aware that Tottamo was just as tired as he was and by prematurely assuming victory, the older brother put himself in a very vulnerable position.  In a desperate burst of strength, he grabbed Tottamo’s left foot and pulled it.  As Tottamo fell to the floor, Cumbre leapt on top of him, pinning his arms against the floor.  Tottamo shifted his weight and rolled on top of his brother, making sure he couldn’t move.
         “Do you give?” he asked the pinned Cumbre.
         “Once again I’ve proved that I am the best fighter on this planet.”
         “I almost beat you.  Your overconfidence will be your ruin.”
         Tottamo didn’t reply immediately and waited for the emotional high of beating his opponent to wear off.  “You’re right.   That’s why I hate fighting.”  Cumbre was glad his older brother was beginning to return to normal.  During their sparring sessions, the two brothers could release their anger and frustration on each other, but fighting brought out a part of Tottamo that normally stayed buried.  The warrior spirit inside of him was strong and enabled him to defeat his opponents easily, so easily that the only one who dared fight against him now was his brother.  Yet it also turned him into a cocky and ruthless opponent.  This usually lasted only until after the fight was over and in a few minutes, Tottamo was back to his regular self.
         A chime rang, signaling someone wanted to enter the room.  “Come in,” Cumbre said.
         The door slid open and a young and fairly attractive raven-haired woman came in, balancing some glasses and a pitcher of ice water on top of some towels.  She set them down on the side and poured two glasses of the refreshing liquid.  She carried them to two sweaty fighters, who cheerfully took them.  Tottamo expressed both his and his brother’s gratitude verbally by saying, “Thank you.”  Then both of them lifted the glasses to their mouths and let the cool water trickle down their parched throats.  The woman took a step back before asking, “Anything else?”
         “No, Cherry, that’s all.”  Before she left the room, she gave Cumbre a glance and smiled, who winked and smiled in return.  She nearly ran out of the room, giggling down the hall.
         “What was that all about?” Tottamo asked.
         “You have your secrets. I have mine.”
         “One of them must not be a simple sidestep.  I still can’t believe you let me nail you with that kick.”
         “I must not have seen it coming.”
         “You had to have been blind not to see that coming.  Let me show you...”  He let his voice trail off, thinking about his words.
         “What is it?”
         “That’s it!”
         “I’ve just realized there is a way to meet Serenity after all, and you helped me find it.”  He embraced his brother, then left the room humming a song.
         Tottamo, Cumbre thought, I hope you know what you’re doing.
*               *               *
         The mere mention of your name fills me with a warm, calm feeling so real that I can almost touch it.  But the feeling is as intangible as my words, comforting, but not satisfying.  I do not think you are ugly, nor am I too good for you.  I long to see you as much as you want to meet me.  This time there are no excuses and as I write this I am making preparations for my departure.  Enclosed are the conditions for our rendezvous.  I look forward to meeting you.

                                                                                                                                Eternally yours,

         This was the letter Serenity received and this was the reason why she was on her way to Earth.  She had worn her best dress for this occasion, a sleeveless, flowing white gown with gold trimmings.  Upon her feet were cushy flat-heeled shoes with a golden crescent moon symbol where a bow would have been.  She even took extra care when doing the traditional hairstyle, making sure every hair was in place before leaving the Moon.
         There wasn’t much space in the Lunarian shuttlecraft, but it was sufficient for her and Rocco.  Rocco was Serenity’s personal bodyguard.  He stood at an even six feet tall, his dark Martian hair contained in a single braid which stopped at the middle of his back.  The red uniform tugged tightly at his body and his black boots were far from comfortable, but he had long been accustomed to the way they felt.  Unlike his liege, he didn’t sit on one of the cushioned seats but remained on his feet.
         “I still don’t understand how a wise woman such as yourself would be so enamored with this Tomato,” Rocco remarked.  He never trusted the man, or rather the letters that this man supposedly wrote.  Why would this person continually send letters to a person he had never met face-to-face?  Why did he want to meet Serenity on Earth, on the new moon no less?  It smelled like a trap and Serenity, her senses dampened by infatuation, would step right into it.
         She corrected, “I’ve told you a thousand times.  His name is Tottamo.  A tomato is a Terran fruit.  I hope you don’t call him that to his face.  After all, I’d hate it if his bodyguard called me ‘Serendipity’.”
         “Don’t worry.  I’ll remember his name.”
         “Thank you, Rocco.”  She looked out of the window, staring at the black sky littered with countless tiny points of light.  Her mind held steady on Tottamo and what she would do when she met him.  She had studied the sketches of the prince carefully and tried to recreate the likeness using her imagination.  She closed her eyes as an image of Tottamo came to mind.  She pictured his entire body, from his long, thick, untamed ebony hair to the mysterious monkey tail which always caught her attention.  None of the inhabitants of the Moon Kingdom had tails, nor did any of the species Serenity had encountered.  She wanted to know more about it, but always thought it was too improper a question to put in a letter.  She’d simply ask him about it later.
         “Serenity?”  Rocco’s voice broke the queen’s concentration.
         “Why am I the only bodyguard accompanying you?”
         “Do you question my orders?”  Her tone was inquisitive, not demanding, and her question was sincere.
         “No, my queen.”  She hated it when a friend addressed her by a title.  “I do not.”
         “Rocco.”  She used the light-hearted tone of voice she reserved for those who were close to her.  “I want you to understand.  I know you have reservations about this meeting.  Please tell me what you think.”
         “My thoughts are irrelevant.”
         “Then in that case maybe I shouldn’t have brought you.”
         “Serenity!”  She had never rejected his company before.  Not once did she refuse to include him on any journey she made off of the Moon.  Now she was talking about leaving him out of this, possibly the most important meeting in her young life.
         “I wanted to bring you because other than being my personal bodyguard, you have been a true friend.  I haven’t ignored your suspicions; I just try to counterbalance it with my faith, my hope, and my love for a man I have never seen in person yet know so well.  The situation may seem strange for a rendezvous, but I can’t deny myself this chance. If it is a folly of mine, so be it, but in my heart I am sure Tottamo is sincere.”  Afterwards she was silent.  She had nothing further to say.
         “But something could still go wrong.  I just have this feeling...”  He couldn’t finish the sentence, but Serenity understood what he was trying to say.
         Because she had that feeling too, and she didn’t like it at all.

*               *               *
         “Watch your step,” warned Rocco as Serenity stepped out of the shuttlecraft.  The distance between the floor of the spacecraft and the ground was more than she expected, so when she put her foot down on the grass she stumbled for a moment.  Rocco rushed to her side.  He wanted to look at the queen, to see if she had begun to listen to her intuition instead of her heart, but he couldn’t see her face under the hood she wore.  It was strange, not being able to see the features of a woman he had known and protected for so long.  A wall separated them-- strong, silent, and effective.  If the whole purpose of the trip was to estrange the duo, it was doing a good job.
         Rocco and Serenity took a few steps away from the shuttlecraft and the door closed in response, darkening the area.  The two activated the lamps on their belts so they could maneuver around without fumbling in the dark.  Serenity took a few steps and visually scanned the area, surveying it for any signs of her lover, but the cowl and the mask she had on underneath it restricted her vision.  They were part of the conditions Tottamo had set forth in his letter, and Serenity adhered to them even if she thought they were odd.  From what she could see she was in a perfectly level, expansive grassy plain marred by a large, though not incredibly steep, hill to her right.  But Tottamo was nowhere in sight.
         “Tottamo!” she yelled and was surprised to hear her voice echo her cry.  It made her feel more alone than the day her mother died.  Though Luna had been sick for weeks, Serenity had thought her mother was immortal, that this illness would be a distant memory and Luna would come back to the throne stronger than ever.  But she didn’t come back, and Serenity stood by her mother’s deathbed and listened to her mother’s last words.  “Serenity, you must be strong.  Remember all that I taught you...”  At that instant, Luna’s soul left her decrepit body, free from the pain it had brought her recently.  Serenity, was too surprised, too stricken by grief to cry, and despite being surrounded by various attendants, felt more lonely at that moment than she could ever imagine feeling-- until now.
         A low rumbling noise which was out of the hearing range of the two before slowly increased in volume, seemingly coming from the sky.  Both turned their heads to the sky and widened their eyes in disbelief as a spacecraft decloaked above them.  It shined a beam of light onto the ground in front of Serenity, and in the light a humanoid being appeared.  She instantly recognized it as Tottamo.  From head to tail he looked exactly like the sketches that were sent to her, except that he was wearing a long, black tunic, a pair of black pants, and a pair of black pointed boots.  The queen was so overjoyed to see him that she almost didn’t notice that he was wearing a blindfold.
         Serenity forgot all of the composure she had learned as a princess and hugged Tottamo, embracing him for as long as she could.  Rocco stared at the two.  He couldn’t believe how Serenity just threw herself into the arms of a stranger.  After about two minutes, she released her hold on the blindfolded gentleman and apologized.  “I’m sorry.  I was just overcome with emotion.  I’d never thought this moment would come to pass.
         “Neither did I,” Tottamo replied.  His voice was just as gentle as she had imagined.  “We have so much to discuss.”  He held out his hand.  “Would you kindly lead the way?”
         “Where do you want to go?”
         “To the top of this hill, if it’s no trouble.”
         “No, it’s no trouble at all.”  She took his hand and the two began to climb the hill.
*               *               *
         The moonless night hampered visibility, but Ersatz didn’t mind.  It made her job-- the assassination of Queen Serenity-- all the easier.  The Negaverse had recently begun to take notice of the Moon Kingdom.  It was a powerful alliance, one that would make a fine addition to the Negaverse.  But now was not the time for a head-on assault.  A new queen, Beryl, had taken over the Dark Kingdom of late, and the subjects were uncertain of their new leader.  Though she was feared and obeyed, she didn’t want the immediate assimilation of the Moon Kingdom.  Beryl wanted to make sure the Negaverse had enough energy to take down such a powerful opponent, but most of the citizens of the Dark Kingdom wanted action.
         That’s where Ersatz came in.  Through a Negaverse spy in Serenity’s court, Beryl found out that the young moon queen prepared to leave for Earth.  This was not unusual, for she had several good friends there and often tried to get the maverick planet to join the Moon Kingdom.  But Serenity always made sure that her visits to the planet were during the day or when the moon shone brightly in the night sky.  The more full the moon was, the more power Serenity retained outside of the Moon.  This trip was different, though, for Serenity journeyed to the Earth on a new moon, when she would be weakest.  A golden opportunity like this was not to be wasted, so Beryl sent one of her assassins to kill the queen.
         Now Ersatz crouched behind the Lunarian shuttlecraft, the gentle summer breeze cooled her ears, a reminder that she had cut her hair short.  She strained her ears to hear the faint noise she could barely make out as conversation.  She had no idea who the queen was talking to; she wasn’t even sure the voice she heard belonged to the queen.  But this was not the time for speculation.  No, this was the time for her to act, to strike, to complete her mission.  With a simple mental command, she activated the flight bracelets on her arms and launched herself into the air.
         It didn’t take long for her to find Serenity, since even though a cowl covered her face, the royal gown she wore gave her identity away.  She was sitting on top of a tall hill, next to a man with long, black, untamed hair.  At first she thought he was a Terran, but she quickly spotted his tail.  For a second she mused on the significance of this oddity but resumed scouting the area.  She found the Martian bodyguard standing several meters away.  He was close enough to notice if anything peculiar was going on between this stranger and Serenity, but respectfully distant enough to let the couple have come privacy.  Ersatz wanted to nullify his presence quietly, not wanting to take any chances.  Slowly she dropped down behind the Martian.  He never saw her coming, for in all the directions he scanned in, it never occurred to him to look up.  As she struck him on the back of the neck with her disruptor, she said to herself that this was all too easy.
         She took to the air once more and set her eyes on her target, slowly approaching her.  As Ersatz hovered in the air, she powered up her disruptor, ensuring that one shot should be enough.  Good-bye, Serenity, she thought as she pulled the trigger.
*               *               *
         The two lovers sat on top of the hill.  One wore a blindfold, unable to see the beautiful sky or his equally beautiful mate.  A hood and a mask concealed the belle, denying the world a mere glimpse of her face.
         “There’s so much I haven’t told you,” he said.
         “We barely know each other,” she said.
         “And yet...”
         “I know what you mean.  I have this feeling that we were meant to be.”
         “Even if...” He stopped himself short of finishing the sentence.
         “Even if I can never look at your face when we are so close to each other.”  There was a short pause.
         “Why did you want to meet me, like this?”
         “It was the only way.”
         “The only way for what?  The only way for you to meet me without seeing me?  I don’t understand.”
         “Serenity.”  He took a breath for he was about to explain something very important.  The queen could see the prince’s manner shift, hear it in the way he said her name.  But those words would never come out of his mouth.  He sensed something.  He didn’t know what it was, but his instincts told him that Serenity was in trouble.  He did the one thing, the only thing he could have done to save Serenity’s life.  He knocked her flat on the ground and covered her, steeling himself against the pain of an energy blast.  The tunic he wore disintegrated instantly, exposing his chest to the ray of energy.  Had he been a human or even a Lunarian, Tottamo would have been utterly destroyed by the blast.  The Saiya-jin suffered a sever burn on his back for his heroic efforts, but it was nothing compared to what the person who fired the energy beam was to receive.
         “Whatever you do,” he told Serenity, “don’t take that cowl off.”  His voice was different now.  It had the authority of a future king mixed with the love a man had for his wife.  He tore off the blindfold and looked around for the assailant.  It didn’t take long to spot her, for Ersatz had lowered herself to a few meters above the pair.
         “Who are you?” he asked the woman in black.  “Why did you attack us?”  He was wary of her, lest she catch him off guard.  Still he didn’t want to fight her unless absolutely necessary.  He didn’t want to make enemies in a strange land.
         “My name is Ersatz.  Negaverse assassin, Sigma rank.”  As she replied, she tried to formulate several plans to take this man out of the picture.  He withstood an energy blast from her disruptor that would have easily killed her, let alone the Lunarian queen.  Yet she couldn’t take him by surprise--he appeared too ready for any ruses or feints she might try.  The only way to remove this unwanted variable was to face him in combat, something she was prepared to do.  “Why don’t you and I settle this one on one?”  She raised herself to the heights of the atmosphere and hovered, waiting for Tottamo to accept her challenge.  After readying himself for battle, he harnessed his energy and flew after her.  An aerial battle was about to begin between the humanoid figures, a battle in which one was certain to die.
         And as Serenity watched from the hill, her only hope was that Tottamo wouldn’t lose.
*               *               *
         Even though Cumbre was nineteen years old, at this point in time had the form of a young boy.  He was playing in a field with his brother who had also somehow become younger.  His father and mother laughed gaily at their two children.  The sun shined brightly on this seemingly auspicious day, freely sharing its golden light with the inhabitants of the planet.
         Suddenly the Saiya-jin queen fainted for no apparent reason and lied dead on the ground.  Cumbre rushed over to his mother, but there was nothing he could do.  He was older now, an adolescent, for his mother’s death had aged him.  Clouds formed in the sky and a light rain began to fall.  Cumbre didn’t want to stay here and neither did his brother or father.  They ran as quickly as they could away from the field.  But his father started to lag behind, unable to catch his breath.  Cumbre and Tottamo ran back to him, trying to support the king.  But it was of no use.  He fell and died in the same fashion as his wife.  The two brothers wept bitterly and realized that once more they had mysteriously returned to their rightful ages.  A strong wind kicked up and the slight drizzle became a steady, heavy downpour.  Thunder rumbled in the distance and the two decided to look for any shelter they could.
         In the distance, a solitary object emitted an eerie light.  Cumbre was unaffected by it but his brother seemed fixated on the luminary.  Tottamo drew nearer to it while Cumbre followed him.  As the two got closer they recognized the source of the glow.  The figure was Serenity, and she had a peaceful look on her face.  She stood under a large tree, dry and comfortable, beckoning the two wet Saiya-jins to join her.  Tottamo ran toward her, toward the shelter she provided, but Cumbre yelled warnings at him.  He may as well have been mute, for his brother couldn’t hear him.  As Tottamo reached the tree, he embraced Serenity.  Out of nowhere, a huge bolt of lightning struck the tree, blinding and deafening Cumbre at the same time.
         Then he woke up.  It was late at night and no clouds were in the sky.  Cumbre was relieved to be safe in his bed.  Then he remembered the dream-- Tottamo, Serenity, and the white death which took his brother.
         “Tottamo,” he whispered aloud.  “No.”
*               *               *
         Serenity watched the fight above her in awe.  The flashes of light caused by the energy discharges exchanged between the two were unlike anything she’d ever seen.  It was a magnificent display, even though she couldn’t experience its full splendor due to the mask and cowl which limited her vision.  She wanted to tear the mask off but each time her hand made its way to her face, she recalled Tottamo’s instructions as set forth in the letter, then lowered her hand.  Terrible images filled her mind as she imagined the possible consequences of her actions: Tottamo leaving her, an interplanetary war developing, the destruction of the Moon Kingdom.  But the displeasure of wearing the mask was stronger than the fear of taking it off.  For minutes she went on this way-- her face unbearably hot, her vision obscured, her breathing hindered-- until finally the discomfort was too much.  She felt as if she would die if she didn’t remove it and swiftly took off the mask.
         At once, shame and relief bombarded her as she held the mask in her hand.  None of the imagined events came to pass.  Air flowed into her nose and on her face once more.  She wanted to remove the hood as well, so she could see the entire battle, but Tottamo’s warning came back to haunt her.  She was content with having the mask off, not wanting to push her luck.   In a few minutes, she intended put it back on, but for now she needed to enjoy the fresh air while she could.
         Serenity turned her eyes to the fight once again, but found it difficult to keep track of the action.  Both opponents moved with lightning-quick speed, appearing to be at different places at once.  At last, she resigned to the fact that the action was too fast for her to follow and cast her eyes downward, once again praying for Tottamo’s safety.
*               *               *

         Ersatz was desperate.  When she received the order from Beryl to kill Serenity, she had no idea Tottamo would be there.  The warrior had proven to be more than a match for her, and for a moment she wondered if she truly deserved the Sigma rank she acquired.  Though her style was a quick, surprising, fatal strike, as a Sigma assassin, she was also one of the best fighters in the Negaverse.  Not many of those from the Dark Kingdom received the rank of Sigma; only those warriors whose fighting skills matched their allegiance to the Negaverse were allowed in this elite position.
         Another of Tottamo’s energy blasts struck her, leaving a burn upon her upper arm.  Even with the flight bracelets, she couldn’t outmaneuver her adversary.  Not only could he dodge her attacks, but he could also hit her pretty hard with some of his.  She couldn’t outrun him, outfight him, or outlast him and prepared herself for the harsh punishment Beryl would have in store for her.  Ersatz prepared the trans-dimensional device on her belt to teleport her directly to Beryl’s throneroom, knowing she could never beat Tottamo.
         Then she realized she didn’t have to.
         Serenity was wide open, and since she wasn’t on the Moon her power was not at its peak.  The new moon nullified many of her abilities, making her an easier target.  A fully powered energy blast would kill her easily, and it wouldn’t take more than fifteen seconds to charge one up.  She only had enough power to try it once, but she knew she could make a direct hit.  All she had to do was stall for time.
         “Wait!” she called, all the while powering up the disruptor in her hand.  “I yield.  Let me retreat in peace.”
         The Saiya-jin prince had readied another energy blast, one that would have surely killed Ersatz.  At these spoken words, however, he powered down, using only enough strength to keep him floating.  Part of him was glad she stopped the assault and saw her error, but his violent side still wanted to destroy her.  Regardless of how badly he wanted to annihilate his opponent, she had acknowledged defeat, and Tottamo was honor bound to let her go.
         “I see you now realize you cannot win,” he said in a cocky tone which had surprised even him.  The fight brought out the warrior in him, along with his overconfidence which he struggled to keep in check.  “No one messes with Queen Serenity without paying dearly for their actions.”
         “Yes, you are right about one thing.”  She paused for a second, mentally double checking that she allowed enough time for her disruptor to fully power up.  “I can’t win...but I won’t lose, either!”  Before she had completed the sentence, she had already fired the energy discharge, and it was going toward Serenity at an enormous speed.  Within seconds, the ruler of the Moon would be no more, letting the Negaverse begin its ultimate conquest of the Moon Kingdom.
         Tottamo wouldn’t let that happen.  He had been a little closer to Serenity than Ersatz when she fired her weapon, but the energy beam got a headstart on him.  He could beat the beam to its intended target if the distance between the two women was large enough.  Immediately, he began a rapid descent through the air in a race against the energy discharge.  He had already caught up with it before it was halfway between the assassin and the queen, but the battle had drained some of his resources, and it became increasingly difficult for him to keep up his speed.  He looked at Serenity, who still wore her cowl, unaware of the impending doom.  Her very innocence gave him a strength he never knew before.  He couldn’t let the woman he loved die so easily, so unfairly, without a chance to defend herself.  With a red streak of energy trailing behind him, Tottamo gained a burst of speed, enabling him to reach Serenity just in the nick of time.
         As soon as he reached the queen, he grabbed her by the waist and carried her with him as she fell, slowing down gradually so when the two reached the ground, neither of them would feel more than a slight jolt.  Both of them heard the energy’s crackle as it made contact with the ground behind them, startling Serenity so much that she dropped the mask in her hand.  During the fall, the hood she used to cloak herself fell off, revealing her beautiful face and tresses.  Upon seeing this Tottamo was stunned, unable to say or do anything except keep the deceleration steady while he maintained a firm grip on the queen.  Silver eyes met black and for a moment the two felt like they were floating rather than falling, as though nothing else in the world existed.  For a moment it looked as if everything was going to be fine.
         At least until they hit the ground.  The jolt was stronger than both had anticipated and broke the spell the magic moment had cast.  Tottamo loosened his hold on Serenity now that she was out of danger, but couldn’t find it in himself to release her.  For the first time he had seen her face, the woman that so entranced him and drew him from another universe.  At last he was rewarded for his patience, his loyalty, and his sacrifice with the vision of his beloved.  As he gazed at her, so bewitched by the crescent moon symbol on her forehead, a tingling sensation went throughout his body.
         He realized his mistake, a fatal mistake, but it was too late.
         “No!” he shouted, pushing Serenity away from him.
         “What is it?”  Serenity was puzzled by her companion’s reaction.  Just a few seconds earlier he saved he life.  Now he acted as if she were a plague of evil.
         “Run! Get away from here as fast as you can!”  She could tell something was wrong by the change in his manner, but she couldn’t figure out what it was.  Then she looked at his tail and saw that it had stopped swinging.  Realizing she had to get out of there, she began to sprint across the open field without even looking back.  Already Tottamo could feel the metamorphosis starting to overwhelm him, his thoughts being smothered by pure, savage instinct.  The beast inside of him began to take over, bursting out of the humanoid frame and reshaping it into a simian form, all the while rapidly enlarging.  By the time the painful transformation had completed, a gigantic monkey stood where Serenity’s lover had been.
         And he wasn’t in a good mood.

*               *               *

         Slowly, the darkness that had been Rocco’s company for the past ten minutes gave way to the light of the lantern on his belt.  He had fought his way back to consciousness, and the battle had taken its toll.  His body was totally unresponsive to any of his commands, and the temptation to go back to sleep was very strong.  In spite of that, he kept trying to move his body and after a labored effort he was able to stand up.
         His first organized thoughts were about Serenity.  He had no idea where she was at or what had happened.  He knew he shouldn’t have let Serenity come to Earth without more bodyguards.  Before he scolded himself further he heard a deafening roar and not one to repeat a mistake, the first direction Rocco looked in was up.  It proved to be a fortuitous decision.  A woman in a black bodysuit was above him, flying, but she didn’t notice him.  She was trying to avoid a large monkey-like creature, which shot beams at the woman through its mouth.  She fired a weapon at it, but she might as well have been firing at thin air for all of the good that accomplished.  Then she hovered in the air for a few seconds, leaving herself open for an attack by the creature.  Luckily for her, the monkey chose not to fire any more energy beams, but began stomp violently.
         Ersatz wasn’t hovering in one spot for no reason, even though to an observer on the ground it may have looked that way.  She was fiddling with her belt, trying to open a portal that would take her back to the Negaverse, but for some inexplicable reason, the device gave her a hard time.  Finally she quit messing with it and turned her attention toward at her gigantic adversary, who seemed to be having a temper tantrum.  Serenity, you pick the worst types as boyfriends, she thought as she once again fired her disruptor at the being.
         This time it didn’t retaliate with a beam of energy. Instead, it started to chase the assassin, who easily sped away, then paused to check the power level on her bracelets and disruptor, and both were dangerously low.  With the flight bracelets losing energy and the portal generator malfunctioning, sooner or later, the monkey would destroy her.  In haste she formed a plan of desperation, one that her life depended on.
         She flew toward the beast as quickly as she could, all the time powering up her disruptor so it held every bit of energy it had left ready to fire. The creature swatted at her, but she ascended just out of his reach and stopped once she was behind the creature.  Ersatz descended so she would be at the creature’s eye level and waited for the giant to turn around, clutching her disruptor with both hands.  It behaved as she predicted and a grin appeared on her face, believing the beast would soon be dead.  All she had to do was make a quick change in her position so she was directly beside its ear and fire the disruptor into the opening.  The damage would spread throughout its internal system and it would be vaporized from the inside out.  There was only one problem.
         The flight bracelets didn’t respond.
         “Oh--”  Ersatz didn’t even get the chance to curse as the monkey hit her with the paw, sending her flying, this time not of her own volition.  The force of the blow should have killed her instantly, yet amazingly though death remained near, it gave her the chance to reflect upon her life as an assassin.  Memories played in her mind, most of them surprisingly pleasant.  However, one memory stood out more than the others.  She was preparing for this assignment and her intuition told her to check the bracelets.  They responded nearly perfectly, except that one occasion, they stalled.  She should have requested new ones, but she dismissed the feeling, assured that if push came to shove, she could finish the job without them.
         She hit the ground only a few yards from Rocco, who ran over to her.  The grim reaper decided to take his time and allowed Ersatz a few last breaths.  She saw Rocco, but didn’t recognize him; her dying mind was fixated on her mistake.  “Darn bracelets,” she was able to mutter before her soul was harvested.
         Rocco only made out the “bracelets” part of her message and examined them until he finally figured how to take them off.  He put them on, not certain what function they were supposed to perform.  He also took the woman’s disruptor, though he considered his actions no better than a grave robber’s.  If only I could fly as she did, he wished, then I could find Serenity easily.  At once he felt as if he were being pulled into the air and thought the giant monkey had him in its clutches.  When he turned around, though, he saw nothing, all the while continuing to rise.  He finally glanced at the ground and noticed how high above the ground he was and nearly yelled out in surprise before realizing it would do him little good.  He hoped whatever force was causing his ascent would stop, and instantly he stopped rising.  Testing a hypothesis, he thought about going in a direction perpendicular to his movement and he shot forward.  Then he gave the mental command for the bracelets to take him back to the aerial position he’d come from, and they responded by propelling him where he wished.  He silently thanked the dead woman for this gift and promised to put it to good use.
         He chose not to descend but to remain at this height, for he could see all across the open expanse.  The giant beast was headed away from his position, chasing some other prey.  He was about to ignore it until he saw a flash of light originate from that direction.  “Serenity!” he exclaimed, then flew as fast as he could toward that point.

*               *               *

         It took all of Serenity’s strength to keep herself from collapsing as she ran for her life.  Fear helped her to maintain her speed while shock, grief, and reason tried to slow her down, to make her remember all that had happened to cause this situation.  But it was pure terror that forced her to run despite the weariness of her body and her mind.  That instinctual fear kept her alive.
         Still, it did not matter how fast she ran, for the giant simian figure behind her grew ever closer.  It was only a matter of seconds before the great beast would trample her.  She knew she had to do something to stop it, but there was nothing she could think of that would have any effect upon it.  Then she cast her eyes down to her side and saw the Crescent Moon Wand held in place by the belt around her waist.  She nearly exclaimed with joy as she realized there was a chance to save both herself and Tottamo.  In one swift motion, she stopped running, pulled out the wand, and turned around, pointing it at the monkey.
         “Moon Healing Activation!” she shouted slowly and carefully, focusing her energy so that the Crystal could amplify the wand’s power.  She stared directly at the creature, which stopped as it was bathed in the warm, glowing moonlight.  A look of peace was on the beast’s face, and Serenity smiled as the magic began to work on it.  But that serene countenance quickly turned into an angry scowl, causing Serenity to concentrate even harder.  It was of no use; the creature was more irate than ever and began to head toward the queen once more.
         She knew there was no use in running, for her legs felt like lead and they had rooted themselves into the ground.  Even if she could get moving again, the monkey would be closer to her than it was before, resulting in even less time for her survival.  There was only one option, one course of action Serenity could take to avoid a dismal fate for her and Earth.  A tear containing the mixed emotions which battled on the playing field of her heart came out of her eye, but she quickly steadied herself so no more of it’s kind could follow.  “I’m sorry, Tottamo,” she whispered as she held the wand out in front of her, this time for a purpose other than healing.
         “Cosmic Moon Power!”  As before, she focused her energy, trying to create the most powerful blast possible.  Yet this energy wasn’t the soft healing moonlight of before.  This was harsh lunar energy, potent and destructive, able to reduce a skyscraper to ashes in less than a second.  It had no effect on the gargantuan, though, and it maintained its velocity.  Serenity could feel the strain of the Crystal on her body, but she ignored it.  She had to stop this beast at all costs.  Pouring her entire will into the Crystal, she glared intently at the monkey, hoping that the power of the Moon could defeat it.  But that hope was useless, for the beast was directly in front of her.  It lifted its right paw in the air, ready to stomp the queen of the Moon into the ground.  Serenity closed her eyes in a moment of acceptance and prayed that the next ruler of the Moon would be more competent than she had been.
         When she heard the thud in the distance, Serenity opened her eyes in surprise.  Immediately she realized she had been saved and when she saw the identity of her rescuer, a wave of relief overcome her.  Rocco had a steady grip on her, almost to the point of impairing her breathing.  She soon discovered the reason why he held on so tightly.  They were both several hundred feet above the ground, flying through the air.
         A bright beam of energy shot by and narrowly missed the airborne duo.  Serenity glanced at the giant monkey.  “Tottamo...” she said softly, but loud enough for Rocco to hear and misinterpret.  She then focused on Rocco once more. “What are we going to do?”
         “I don’t know, but we can’t run forever.”
         Serenity looked at the disruptor hanging from Rocco’s belt.  “Have you tried shooting at it?”
         “No effect.  The creature is too strong.”
         “If the Crescent Moon Wand can’t defeat it, then what can?”  Rocco turned his eyes toward the wand Serenity held onto so dearly.  In of itself the wand was a powerful object and Serenity wielded it expertly.  Combined with the power of the Silver Imperial Crystal, it was nearly unbeatable.  The Crystal was a powerful object that could magnify the energy poured through it, be it from an inanimate object, a person, or both as it was in the case of Serenity. That fact held fast to Rocco’s mind as he held fast to the queen, the image of the Crystal embedded in his mind.
         Then in a flash, it hit him.  The answer was so simple and clear, in front of him for all of this time.  Quickly but gently he descended, getting as far away from the monkey as he could before setting Serenity on the grass.  “I need the Crystal,” he told her.
         She put the wand behind her back, out of Rooco’s sight.  “Are you mad?”
         “It’s the only way.  I’ll return it once I’m finished.  I don’t have time to argue.”
         “But I can’t just give the Crystal to anyone, not even you, Rocco.”
         “Look over there!”  He pointed to the area from which they had came.  All of the wildlife had been trampled, smashed flat under the paws of the giant beast.  Now it was no better than a graveyard, a true wasteland.  “That’s what will become of Earth if you don’t hand the Crystal over now.  I can’t force you Serenity, but for the sake of Earth, let me use the Crystal this one time.  I swear on your life, our friendship, and everything else that I hold dear.  I won’t misuse its power.”
         Serenity stared at the Crystal for a few seconds.  She wanted to say no, had to say no, but couldn’t find the words to do so.  Instead she separated the Crystal from the wand and handed it to Rocco.
         He took to the air once more and grabbed the disruptor, shutting out the twinges of shame he felt using a weapon of the recently deceased.  At first he had trouble finding a spot to put the crystal in and as the monkey grew ever closer to him, he worried that the plan might not work.  The Crystal slipped from his fingers, but instead of falling it emitted a warm glow and slowly floated toward the weapon until it rested on top if it.  Wasting no time, he fired the disruptor and an enormous continuous ray of energy shot out of it.  The beast didn’t stop its forward progress even as the energy hit it directly in the chest.  Rocco didn’t know how much power the disruptor had left, but he knew if the creature didn’t die soon, then all his efforts would be in vain.
         No, he thought.  I can’t let her die.  I can’t let the Terrans die.  In the name all of those who live on Earth, give me the strength to defeat this monster.  He poured his will and soul into the Crystal, which responded by glowing even more brightly.  The beam got wider and more intense, blinding Rocco.  Serenity covered her face with the cowl to protect her eyes from the blinding light.  Finally, the beast began to succumb to the power of the Crystal.  It stopped and began to shrink, all the time being pelted by the mysterious ray.  Gradually, the beam lessened in strength until it finally stopped altogether, returning darkness to the night.
         Rocco opened his eyes and he saw nothing, still blinded by the beam of energy.  Then he looked to the ground and discerned a faint point of light.  Descending to the earth, he recognized it was Serenity, taking off the cowl.  As soon as he touched the ground, he pulled the Crystal from its makeshift spot in the disruptor and handed it to Serenity, who immediately put it back on the Crescent Moon Wand.
         A low moan pierced the air, which sent the duo looking for the source of the sound.  After a few minutes they found it, the battered, naked body of Tottamo.  Without hesitation, Serenity undid the clasp on her cowl and threw it over him.  By contrast, Rocco was so stunned that he couldn’t move.  He’d conjectured Tottamo had been killed by the beast.  Now he realized he was responsible for the Saiya-jin’s death and though he had distrusted the prince, he had never wanted him dead.  He remained silent as Serenity knelt beside her lover.  Tottamo opened his eyes and turned them toward the queen, and she shirked back in fear.  He reassured her in a weak voice, “Don’t worry.  Nothing’s going to happen...this time.”
 She returned to his side.  “Save your strength,” she commanded.
         “Too body won’t even trans--”  Serenity stopped his words with a finger to his lips.
         “Be quiet.”  Tears welled up in her eyes.  “I wonder if you’re going to be this stubborn when we get married.”
         “Don’t...make this harder.  We both know I’m...”
         “I’d always thought we’d take a honeymoon on Venus.  The planet is so beautiful.”
         “Serenity.”  The manner in which he said her name broke the spell delusion cast on her mind.  “Seeing your face is all I need to die happily.”  He paused as the water streamed from her eyes then dropped on the cowl she placed on top of him.  “I’ll always love you,” he declared.
 She bent down pressed her lips against his, their first and last kiss.  “And so will I always love you as well.”
         Those were the last words Tottamo heard as the cruelly merciful hand of death swept across him, ushering his spirit to the afterlife. Serenity released his limp hand and turned to Rocco, both wordlessly affirming there was nothing they could do.
         Then the spaceship appeared in the sky, and Serenity put on her cowl once more as she, Rocco, and Tottamo’s body were transported to the vessel.

*               *               *

         It had been a long night for Serenity, too long for her to ponder as she sat on the bed in her chambers.  The events of the past few hours had both physically exhausted her and the shock hadn’t yet worn off her mind yet.  She needed an escape, and her body needed rest, so she resolved to fall asleep and deal with everything in the morning.
         An unexpected knock at the door changed that.  Serenity sighed, then said, “You may enter.”  The person who opened the door wasn’t one of the palace servants.  This woman had blue skin and short green hair and was dressed in an entirely black outfit.  If Serenity hadn’t recognized her as one of the servants aboard the spacecraft, she would have screamed in horror, thinking she was another assassin.  “What is it?”
         “I have something for you,” she replied, and showed her an envelope with her name written on it.  The instant Serenity saw it, she shrank back.
         “Can’t it wait until tomorrow?  I’m too tired to read it now.”
         “I wish I could wait, but we’re leaving tonight.”  She paused, then added tentatively, “He’d want you to read it.”
         The servant handed the envelope to Serenity, who struggled to keep her hands steady as she opened it.  Before she took the letter out of the envelope she nodded to the servant, who understood the silent command and left the queen to be alone.  Slowly she extracted the letter and unfolded it, her hands trembling uncontrollably.

My Dearest Queen,
         If you are reading this letter now, it means that I am unable to meet you face to face.  I instructed one of my servants to deliver it to you in case something has happened to me...

         She stopped reading it, unable to go on.  Her eyes wanted to fill with tears, causing her vision to blur.  She skimmed the letter, looking past the pleasantries which had once made her happy and searched for an explanation.  She found it a paragraph later, forcing herself to see through the mist in her eyes.

         ...I am a Saiya-jin, a member of a warrior race.  Though we once craved battle and action, my father, my brother, and I have worked toward a peaceful planet, and there has been much success in that area.  Nevertheless, we are a cursed people, for as powerful and advanced as our people would like to claim, we are truly ferocious beasts of destruction inside of these humanoid bodies.  The light of the full moon unleashes our true forms, as gigantic, monstrous beings capable of annihilating entire worlds.  That is why I could not visit you, Serenity, for as the Queen of the Moon, you emit the light of the full moon in your aura.  This is the reason I asked for so many portraits from your artists, for if I were ever to gaze upon your true face-- the very thought of somehow harming you, the only woman that I ever loved, frightens me...

         The letter continued, and Serenity read every single word.  He wrote about the journey, though it wasn’t very long compared to some of the trips he had been on, it crossed dimensions and made him feel so far away from the home he loved.  More attention was given to the measures he had tried to prevent the transformation on numerous occasions, but all of them had failed.  The only action he could have taken that would allow him to see Serenity without any adverse effects--the severing of his tail--was unavailable to him.  It would have invalidated him as ruler and his closest advisors would not allow it.  So the conditions he set for their meeting were the only means he could meet the queen without destroying her.
         He ended his note with the usual declaration of love, and told Serenity to be a strong ruler for him.
         “I will,” she whispered softly.  “The Negaverse will pay.”  A tear fell onto the paper, sealing the promise.

*               *               *

         “Sir,” Cherry begged.  “Please calm down.”
         “Calm down?!” came the angry reply.  Cumbre was livid and had thrown several priceless articles in his chambers in a blind rage.  “How dare you!  You, an only child, a servant for that matter, tell me to calm down.  Have you ever lost a brother?  Tell me, do you know what it’s like?”  A week ago, his brother had went into the inter-dimensional passage safe and sound.  Now he was dead.  Dead.  He wasn’t killed by a freak accident during the trek.  That would have been easier to accept, though just as painful.  No, Tottamo, who was to be coronated king upon his return to this dimension, was killed by the white death in his dream.  Serenity, queen of the Moon, was responsible.  Earth was responsible.
         All of them would pay, starting right now.
         “I want to speak with General Koarn,” he said quietly.
         “General Koarn?”  Koarn was a ruthless tactician who was an obstacle to the peace process, Cumbre, Tottamo, and their father had dedicated themselves.  He had been exiled to the southern polar region for trying to lead a rebellion against the monarchy.  The very thought of Cumbre allying himself with Koarn sent chills up the servant’s spine.
         Cumbre slowly and steadily walked closer and closer to Cherry, all the time staring directly at her.  She lowered her eyes in submission and respect until he commanded, “Look at me!”  She raised her eyes and stared into his.  It was like looking into the eyes of a stranger, not the man she had so faithfully served and loved of before.  Any remnant of kindness, warmth, or forgiveness in them was dead.  All that was left was an acidic desire for vengeance and a deep loneliness of being the only surviving member of his family.  He slapped the servant across the cheek, leaving a bright red handprint there.  “Don’t you ever, ever, question my orders!  Get me Koarn, now!”
         “Yes, sir.”  She hurriedly left the room in tears, but carried out Cumbre’s order, nonetheless.

*               *               *
         Cumbre stood on the bridge of the flagship of the Saiya-jin space fleet with his arms folded, slightly tapping his fingers against his arm in impatience.  It had been three months since his brother’s death, a time the prince used to plan the invasion of the Moon Kingdom.  He pardoned General Koarn of his crimes and appointed him as the new leader of the military.  In return, Koarn promised the only thing Cumbre wanted-- the total annihilation of Earth and the Moon Kingdom.  In the short span of time, new spaceships were built, new rules were made, and the armed forces got a makeover, one for the bloodier.  All of that preparation and planning was about to come to fruition, but it couldn’t be soon enough for Cumbre.
         “Approaching the portal,” a helmsman reported.  Cumbre didn’t need the announcement, for he could see the phenomena on the viewscreen.  The passage was a dark purple perfectly two-dimensional disk, resembling a whirlpool of clouds.  He smiled, the first time he had done so since he learned his brother had died.  In only a few days, his revenge would be complete, the rage in his heart quelled, his quest finally over.
         Fate wouldn’t let that happen.  More quickly than anyone could expect, the portal began to rapidly change colors, wiping the smile off of his face.  “Sir,” the same helmsman informed.  “The portal is becoming unstable.”  Then, in a fraction of a second, a flash of light illuminated the entire region of space, then died down into nothing.  “It’s gone, sir.”
         “Gone...”  Cumbre clenched his fist and yelled a scream of raw anger.  He tightened his fist even further to the point of drawing blood.  All eyes on the bridge were upon him, but not one person dared to move.  Several minutes past before he spoke once again.  “One day, Earth will suffer the same pain I feel at this moment.  Its moon will become the tool for its destruction.  Then, and only then, will my brother be avenged.”
         A drop of blood fell on the floor, sealing the promise.