Part 6

lost souls







"S'all dark.  Looks like Gemma's asleep."

"Good.  Now follow me, and don't do anything stupid."

The door to John's townhouse opened slowly, and the duo of
John 'Wonder Woman' Constantine and Chas 'Cabbie' Chandler
snuck inside. 

"We're gettin' a hostage?" whispered Chas.

"Yeah," said John.  "Small white cat.  Scruffly little
bastard's around here somewhere, I can feel it." 

Through sheer bloody luck, John and Chas didn't stumble on
anything or knock any objects down.

They made it as far as the stairs.

Good Luck, at that point, ceased to be a factor.


- - -


Gemma yawned and sat up, sleep still evading her grasp.
As she rose from bed, she pulled at the blanket, which in
turn sent 'Bill' the cat rolling.

*thud*

-meow?-

"Oh, sorry about that, Bill."

The cat gave her a blank stare, and then lazily strolled out
the door.

A moment later, there was a loud cat yowl and frenzied
yelling, followed by the sound of something falling down the
stairs.

"Bill, you stupid cat, what'd you do now?"

Gemma rose from bed, went to the hallway, then stared in
utter shock at the foot of the stairs.  There was Uncle
Chas, on the floor, his face buried in some girl's chest.

"Stupid bloody ca-WHOOPS!"

"CHAS!  Get yer hands offa me!"

"Ow!  Hold on, John!  It was an acc-"

"Uncle Chas?"

The two slowly looked up, both looking mortified and
sheepish.

"WHAT are you doing?!" yelled Gemma.

"S'not what it looks like!" said Chas, blushing badly and
getting up as fast as he could manage.  "I swear!" 

"You ought to be ASHAMED!  What would Geraldine think?
Uncle Chas, I'm sho... er..."

As she ranted on, Gemma kept on looking at the girl.  She
couldn't help it, as there just seemed to be _something_
about her that nagged on Gemma's mind.

A small voice in her head whispered the answer.  It was an
impossible answer, but as Gemma stared at the girl she
_knew_ it was true.

The short blond hair.

The rogue-esque look about her.

The cigarette in her mouth.  Silk cut brand.

The distinctive trenchcoat. 

"U-Uncle John?"

The girl grinned sheepishly.  "Aheh, hi princess.  You'll
_never_ believe what happened to me." 

"Hey, will you get off?  This hurts, you know." 

All three paused, then turned to stare at the cat that was
partially crushed under John's back, a bandage dangling off
of its forehead.

"What?" asked the cat.  "Was it something I said?"

Gemma fainted.


- - -


"Well he's back," said Minako.  "Now what do we do?"

"Wait and see what he does next."

"Why are we watching in our civvies?"

"I suspect," said Setsuna, "that Constantine would sense us
if we weren't." 

"Hey, you don't think he's gonna... y'know... do something
to his niece?  You know, the evil uncle thing and all that."

"Given his history with the girl, I don't think so."

"Oh."

The two continued to stare at the townhouse, hidden in the
shadows.  Setsuna was, as ever, serene.  Minako was going
crazy.

"Minako."

"Yeah?"

"Stop tapping your feet."

"Oh.  Sorry.  Hey, is it just me or does Constantine kinda
look like Haruka?" 

"Hm... they _do_ look somewhat related, don't they?"

At last, there was movement from the house.  John and Chas
left, with John carrying a small sack that seemed to be
wobbling about.

A small white cat head popped out.

"Minako, when was the last time you saw Artemis?"

"Not for a couple of days.  He said he just had an errand to
run," said Minako. "You think...?" 

"Let's go."


- - -


Chas should have been feeling fairly shakey about now, but
he wasn't.  A talking cat was fairly high up there in the
weirdness scale, but its impact was weakened greatly by
super-powered school girls, hellhounds, and a female John
Constantine.

It was still pretty bloody weird.

The cat poked its head out of the bag.  "Is this bag really
necessary?  Come on now, let me out!" 

"Shattup, scruffy," growled John, "Or I'll knock you one."

"Fine, fine," said the cat as it ducked back into the bag.
"No need to get touchy."

A cold breeze swept through the lawn.  Static energy tickled
John's skin.  Something was about to happen.  Something
magical.

"VENUS CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE UP!"

"PLUTO PLANET POWER, MAKE UP!"

John groaned.  "Oh bugger."

"Hey," said the cat as it popped its head out of the bag
again, "those girls look familiar."

"Back in, you!"  John shoved the cat back in the bag and
turned to face the two magical girls.  "Geddouta here, Chas.
I think I can handle it from here."

"Right then, see you later John.  Lemme know how it turns
out, eh?"

Chas left for his cab quickly, leaving John to face the two
approaching magical girls.

"Hold it right there, catnapper!" yelled Sailor Venus.

"Ow!  Hey, it's getting a bit uncomfortable in here!" yelled
the cat.

"Well well, just the girls I've been looking for," said John
smoothly.  Her whip materialized in her hand, which silently
began snaking around the bag.  "Back away now, else the cat
gets a Hell's Tentacle Up The Arse." 

"Artemis!" called Venus, "Are you okay!"

"Artemis?" replied a muffled voice in the bag.  "That name
certainly sounds familiar... is that my name?  I think it
is." 

"What do you want, Constantine?" asked Pluto calmly.

John inwardly bristled as Pluto spoke.  From Jemma's
memories, she reminded John entirely too much of the Phantom
Stranger, with all that being-so-bloody-enigmatic business
and having a ridiculous amount of power but never bothering
to use it. 

Perhaps they were related.

"I want you two at Stonehenge before sunrise," said John. 
"Be seeing you.  HELL'S GATE!" 

A circle lined with mysterious symbols appeared under John's
feet, and before the two Sailor Senshi could react, John
sank into it and disappeared.

John's last words, before disappearing, faded into the
wind... 

"Well bugger me, it worked."


- - -


It was all some weird dream, thought Gemma.  She'd had that
nasty microwave dinner before going to sleep and it gave her
a weird dream.

Her uncle was not an aunt.

He, er, she, was not on the floor with Uncle Chas.

The cat did not talk.

Right.

With those thoughts firmly in place, Gemma made her way back
to the guest room just in time to see a shimmering portal
appear in the middle of the room.

Uncle... er... Aunt John appeared, holding a squirming bag.

"Hey princess, sorry about earlier.  Be a dear and hold this
bag for a bit?  Just need to hide the fleabag till things
cool down and I figure they'd never think of looking in
here.  Whatever you do, don't let it go.  Back in a bit! 
HELL'S GATE!" 

A portal appeared beneath John's feet, which she quickly
sank into.  John's last words faded and echoed as she
disappeared.

"Worked again.  Frig, this is nice..." 

And then the cat popped its head out of the bag.

And it talked.

"Sorry, it's just getting too cramped in there.  Mind if I
stretch my legs a bit?"

And Gemma fainted.

Again.


- - -


Many hours later, traveling through the night, Pluto and
Venus arrived at Stonehenge.  At its center stood John
Constantine, while drawn all around him with some sort of
white powder were sigils, lines, and circles.

"Good," said John.  She glanced at the first rays of the
rising sun as it streaked across the stones.  "Just in
time." 

"Where's Artemis?" asked Venus.

"Cat's in the bag, so to speak," quipped John.  "And I know
where the bag is.  You get him back after you've helped me.
Trust me, the fleabag's unharmed."

"If anything happens to Artemis..."

"She's in you, isn't she," said Pluto.  "Jemma."

"Yes she is," replied John.  She snapped her fingers.  A
small flame lit at her fingertips, which she used to light
up the cigarette in her mouth. "Be glad you're dealing with
me instead, luv.  She _really_ doesn't like you.  But since
you're dealing with me, we'll take things one step at a
time.  Jemma here is looking for a little redemption, and
you ladies are going to help." 

"She killed over a million people," said Venus, "and she
destroyed an entire planet.  I've got plenty of reason not
to trust her."

"Ah, yes, the planet thing," said John casually.  "Might as
well straighten that out."  She went on to explain Jemma's
side of the tale.

There was a moment of silence.

"So she was responsible for Wiseman too," said Venus flatly.

Pluto sighed.  "Nemesis was always unlucky."

"Is there something I should know 'bout this Wiseman?" asked
John.

Pluto stepped forward and pulled John aside.  "Well, you
see, it's like this," she said, and then she began to
explain the events of the Black Moon Crisis of a thousand
years into the future. 

Venus couldn't hear entirely what Pluto was saying, but did
hear some of John's reactions:

   "Queen Serenity?  Not another bloody king'n queen
   system."

   "Well, I can see why they'd object.  Purged by some
   crystal thing?  Sounds more like mind control."

   "Wiseman?  As in... oh.  So that's what happened to the
   bastard, eh?  Well, look at it this way, Jemma kept'em
   outta your hair for about three thousand years, yeah?"

   "Almost destroyed the kingdom?  Oh, well, everything was
   fine in the end, right?"

John could feel Jemma's growing embarrassment and depression
with every word.  To destroy a planet was bad enough, to
have the side effects of it carry over through thousands of
years to the future wasn't helping. 

There was another moment of silence.

John spoke first.  "Let's... just try to make this a fresh
start, eh?  Look, Jemma was under a lot of pressure back
then.  I'm sure you noticed she wasn't exactly in the best
of shape when she came to you."  Pluto nodded.  "She knows
she made a mistake," continued John, "and she just wants to
make things right."

"So, what is it she wishes to do, and how are we involved?" 
asked Pluto. 

"Well, this circle," said John as she pointed to a a small
circle at the edge of the stones, "is for you.  And this
one's for your friend," said John, indicating another circle
at the opposite end of the stones.  "And what you two will
be doing is lending me a little energy for a trip."

Pluto shook her head.  "I will not allow time trav-"

"Ah, just a minute, who said anything about time travel?" 
asked John.  "You're a smart girl, Pluto.  Have a look at my
little drawings.  You tell me what I'm gonna do." 

Pluto examined the sigils, circles, and arcane symbols,
while always keeping John in sight.  Finally, it dawned on
her.

"This is a gate to the asteroid belt."

"Smart girl."

"But... why?"

"Tell me, after Nemesis bit the big one, did anyone bother
examining what was left?"

"No, it was too hazardous to.  Dark magic was running wild
amongst the asteroids, even until the fall of the Silver
Millenium." 

"Well, you should have."

"And why is that?" asked Minako.


- - -


Gemma had always heard about the stuff her Uncle John was up
to, by way of rumor and whisper and word on the street.
She'd heard of him bringing down demons and exorcising
ghosts.  She'd heard that he even beat the Devil.

"Do you have any more tuna?"

A talking cat didn't seem to fit into the description.

"Right here."

"Ah. Thank you.  You've been a most gracious host, by the
way.  I only wish we'd have met under calmer circumstances." 

Gemma was sitting in John's living room, watching TV with a
talking cat.  This was many things:  weird, cool, and stupid
all came to mind.

"So you've got all your memory back yet?" asked Gemma.

"Most of it," said the cat.  "Still a bit fuzzy, especially
recent events, but for the most part yes."

"A magical cat, eh?"

"Mm-hm.  That's me.  Name's Artemis."

"And you're normally in Japan?"

"I have lots of memories of sushi, yes."

"Why weren't you talking earlier?" asked Gemma.

"Mostly because you had that bandage on my forehead.  It
covered up that crescent moon there, see?  When that happens
I'm reduced to being a rather normal cat."

"Ah, I see.  So... what were you doing 'round here?" 

"Something to do with a transformation rod.. I think I was
supposed to give you one."

"Transformation rod?"

Artemis nodded.  "Say... you ever watch that cartoon show
Sailor V?"

"Seen it a few times.  It's about that girl that transforms
into something Wonder Woman-like, yeah?" 

"Well, I suppose that's right."

"Why do you ask?" 

"Because you were supposed to become like Sailor V."

Gemma stared at Artemis.

"Nooo, no bloody way," she said in disbelief.

"You do know the cartoon is based on a real super-heroine,
yes?"

"Really?"

"Yes, though she's a regular of Tokyo these days, she did
spend a few months here."

"Really?" asked Gemma. 

"Oh, yes," said Artemis proudly.  "It was a few years back,
you might've caught it in the newspapers."

"I'm not the newspaper type.  Sorry."

"Oh."  This took some of the steam out of Artemis' momentum
and pride.  "Er, well, anyway, I recall it was a good stint
in London." 

"So I was supposed to be like that, was I?"

"Yes."

"With that bloody ridiculous short skirt?" asked Gemma with
a frown.

"Well, it's not as short as it seems..."

"And I'm to run about beating up nasties in the name of the
moon, the stars, and lots of love?" asked Gemma, her frown
deepening.

"Not in those exact words," said Artemis sheepishly.

"Why me?"

"Well, it's a long story," said Artemis.  "Do you believe in
reincarnation?"


- - -


A solitary speck of light appeared amongst the darkness
of the asteroid belt.  That light expanded, becoming a
circle, which in turn became a ring.  From within that ring,
John Constantine emerged.

She'd always wondered what space was like.  Breathtaking was
one word that came to mind.  Given that logically she
should've been dead, Pretty Bloody Scary came to mind as
well. 

"Right then, Jemma.  Let's do it."

John closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath.  It
was not for the sake of oxygen (which there was none of, not
in space, but merely as a relaxation technique.

Then she stretched her arms out wide.

John began chanting in ancient tongues not spoken for
thousands of years, spells forgotten to all but a handfull
of beings on earth, and she reached out with the magic.

Slowly, gradually, the entire ring of the asteroid belt
began to glow.  It was, at first, wrapped in a dingy purple
light.  After a while, the unpleasant aura faded away.  A
few seconds later, the asteroids were consumed with an eerie
aura of flickering white. 

"I'm sorry you waited so long," said John.  "Go on, you're
free."

A small point of light floated away from one of the
asteroids.  It floated in space for a moment, spinning
around in lazy circles, then disappeared into the void.  
It was followed by one, then two, twenty, a hundred, a
thousand, a swarming sea of shining white souls that drifted
from the remains of Nemesis and into the darkness of
eternity. 

And at last, it was over.

'Thank you, Uncle.'

"My pleasure, princess.  C'mon, let's go home."


- - -


"A million souls trapped for thousands of years," said Pluto
sadly.  "Such a tragedy."

"Yeah, like the Titanic," said Venus.  "Only worse.  You
think John'll be able to set them free?"

"If not John, then the part of Jemma that's within him.  And
if not her, perhaps Sailor Mars."  Pluto hesitated, looked
up to the sky, then smiled.  "She did it.  They're free."

Venus arched an eyebrow.  "How do you know?"

"I just do."

"Oh."

John Constantine, Sailor Hellblazer, emerged from the
shining portal at the heart of Stonehenge once more, in
_just_ the right angle to get totally blinded by the rising
sun.

"Ow, shite!  Bright!"

And then she was grabbed by the throat by Sailor Venus in a
not-so-friendly manner.

"Ack!"

"Artemis!  Now!"

"Right!  Ack!  Okay!"


- - -


"And so you're saying I was one of those Sailor Girlies?"
asked Gemma.

"Well, yes."

"Hm.  Do you remember how I was, what kind of a person I
was, back then?" 

"Sorry, no.  I didn't know you personally." 

"Hm."

After that, they killed some time watching the Dirk Rigby
show.

"Nice fellow, Dirk," said Artemis.  "I remember he
interviewed Sailor V once."

"Oh."

They watched television a bit longer, until Gemma broke the
silence once more.

"How'd you know that it was me that was supposed to get that
magic wand?  And where'd you get it, anyway?" she asked.

Artemis shrugged.  "It's part of the job.  The wand appears,
I get a vague idea where I should go, and so I go.  And
sooner or later I meet the right person."

"Rather odd, don't you think?  You don't even know where the
wand comes from?"

"It's easier to accept things without questioning, every now
and then."

"Heh, Uncle John'd disagree with you on that one.  You think
they'll be back soon?" asked Gemma. 

"I don't... er... hey, what's that?" asked Artemis

"What's what?"

"That big shimmering portal hovering in the air outside."

Gemma looked outside to see a shimmering disc floating
several meters above the lawn.  A moment later, three
figures fell ungracefully from it with a collection of
thuds.

-thud-  "Oof."

-thud-  "Ow!"

-thud-  "Bloody Fucking Hell!"

"Ah," said Gemma.  "They're back." 


- - -


A day later...

With no more mysteries to solve and no more adventure to be
found, Minako Aino went to a train station, again found
herself facing the wedding of Katerina and Alan.

No sense in putting things off, she thought, and after a day
of catching up on the sleep she'd missed, Minako caught the
first train out.  The wedding ceremony was to be held in a
country estate owned by an uncle of Alan's, a few miles away
from London with a good amount of trees and forests around.

Waiting for the train was something she wasn't looking
forward to, if only because of what lay ahead.

"So, are you ready?" asked Setsuna.

"As ready as I'll ever be," mumbled Minako.

"You'll be just fine," said Artemis.  "You're just nervous
because you haven't seen them in a long while."

"I agree with Artemis," said Pluto.  "You've nothing to
worry about."

Trains came and went, as did the passengers in a light
swarm.  Birdsong and idle chatter filled the morning air.

"So, you think the whole Nemesis thing is settled?" asked
Minako.

"Probably not," said Setsuna.  "Though Constantine says
Jemma has been silent since they returned from the asteroid
belt, it is no guarantee that things will be stable.  With
the Constantine family line, things rarely ever are.  I'll
be keeping an eye on him... ah... her from time to time." 

"Maybe we should've invited Constantine over to Japan."

Setsuna arched an eyebrow.  "Why?"

"I dunno... maybe Ami or Rei woulda been able to figure
something out.  Maybe it'd help John get used to the idea of
being a Sailor Senshi."

"Can you imagine Constantine and Haruka in the same room?"

Minako thought about it.

"Oooh, they wouldn't get along at all."

Setsuna nodded.

"You know, I couldn't imagine how it'd be like, stuck as a
guy.  I wonder how well Constantine's gonna take being stuck
as a girl."


- - -


This was not a good morning for John Constantine, Sailor
Hellblazer.

The first matter of business was a confrontation with Gemma.
John had never argued with her before, not like this.

"But Uncle John-"

"Ah-ah.  NO.  First of all, your mom would tear my balls off
if she knew I let you get into magic.  Second, -I- don't
want you getting into it."

"But-"

"Gemma, you don't understa-"

"No, Uncle John, YOU don't understand!  I'm a grown woman
now!  I can make these decisions for myself!  Besides, it's
my destiny-"

"Destiny?  Destiny's bullshit, and so's this Sailor Nemesis
nonsense!  You're NOT going to mess about with magic!"

"Oh, 'Do as I say, not as I do' then?!  That's not fair!"

"Do as I say 'cos I know what the hell I'm taking about!"

"But... but what about you, eh?  'Auntie' John?" 

John sighed and took a deep breath.  Arguing with Gemma like
this was something that hurt a lot.  She'd never done it
before, and hoped to never do it again.

"Don't you see, Gemma?" asked John sadly.  "I'm yer auntie
now BECAUSE of magic.  It seems all neat and keen when
you're on the outside, but once you're in it just takes so
much from you.  Magic's got a price, especially for us
Constantines.  I don't ever want you to know how much
that'll cost you."  Before Gemma could argue, John held her
in a tight embrace.  "I just don't want you to get hurt,
princess.  You understand?"

Gemma nodded, embracing John as well.

"Now listen up," said John as she slowly let Gemma go.  "I'm
gonna be off traveling for a while.  There's some people I
know that know people and such, and I'm thinking maybe
they'll help me get back to being 'Uncle' John instead of
'Auntie' John."

"Okay, Uncle."

John grinned mischievously, though her eyes were still
somber. "Now, can I trust you to watch over the house? Eh? 
No wild bloody parties with toilet paper flyin'about,
right?" 

"'Course not, Auntie John.  Take care, eh?"

"Who, me?  Of course.  Right then."  John gave Gemma a kiss
on the forehead, then one more smile.  "G'bye, Gemma." 

And so John walked away, from her house, from Gemma, and
quite possibly from ever being a man again.

And the first thing John did was go somewhere with alcohol.
Right about now she felt the need to get rightly and truly
pissed.


-  e n d  p a r t  6  -