Schulmanator: Is she really? She's just sitting in her cell, not really doing anything...
PREVIOUSLY on The Best Defense: Why did Coyote Versus show up out of the blue to join the team for seemingly no reason despite his history of troublemaking? Why does Gragus seem to think something terrible is going to happen in Port Matthew, one of reality's Nexus points? Can I get through an entire PREVIOUSLY without making a statement! I sure can! Wait a minute. Dang. I almost had it, too.
KRAKOOM! KRAKOOM! BOOM!
?: I can't control it! Help me! Help!
The Defenders were outside the convention center between Fuji-Cho and Stranahan Hills, brought by the sound of thunder and the rumbling ground. A girl, no older than a schoolgirl, was caught in a hail of lightning strikes, bright flashes of electricity streaking to the ground and buildings around her, rending the pavement and destroying property. She had her arms around her head and was running aimlessly, trying to avoid the high voltage mayhem.
Cosmette: What is going on?
Cosmette took a step forward, and felt Titus' hand on her arm.
Titus: Let me go first. My armor can absorb electricity, let me go first.
Titus left his feet and streaked towards the girl, but before he could get within ten yards of her, a lightning bolt struck him and slammed him to the ground with physical force. He tried to get up, but again, another bolt flattened him, and a third, and a fourth.
Sensational Girl: Oh, no!
Cosmette leaped into the air and deftly swooped between the lightning strikes to rescue the armored hero. She brought Titus back to them, his armor smoking.
Titus: Uh... I'm okay, my armor was overwhelmed, though. I'm open to other tactics.
Sensational Girl: I've been trying to shut her powers down...
Sensational Girl's face was starting to look a little green.
Sensational Girl: But... There's something strange about them. They're there, but... like... not... I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do, it's like her powers are separate from her, I can't turn them off!
Mizu-no-Hime: Defenders! Oh, thank god you're here!
They looked over to see Mizu-no-Hime jumping down towards them.
Cosmette: Mizu-no-Hime? What's going on?
Cosmette looked like she was about to make a run into the mayhem to stop the girl.
Mizu-no-Hime: Don't go, Cosmette, you have to listen to me first. That girl is one of us!
Cosmette: One of you?
Mizu-no-Hime: Yes! But, something went wrong with her powers and now we don't know how to turn them off! Hoshi-Hime is gone and Hi-no-Hime is down, but the Power Unit is helping them out. Please, you guys, don't hurt her!
Juliet: Okay, but what should we do? She's not responding to my magic, either. I think I'd probably have to hurt her to stop her.
Mizu-no-Hime: I'll tell you quickly! Look...
And while Mizu-no-Hime gives the Defenders a short version of what little she knew of the situation in the midst of a lightning storm, we'll flash back a week and get the whole story, starting the night Hoshi-Hime, dressed down as PMU student Serena, met Naruki for a cup of tea in a cafe near the campus.
Naruki: So, I know that you were probably imagining that a night out with the super-amazing Naruki Hashimoto would be all fun and parties and then we'd go back to my place and take all our clothes off and wrestle, but-
Hoshi-Hime: But just when I was starting to like you, you have to go and be a jerk again and ruin it.
Despite how arrogant and abrasive she had found him on campus, she could not stop herself from being incredibly attracted to him. They had been having a fairly good night, the conversation was fun, he was nice to look at, and had only sparingly used his irritating cockiness to that point. Her foot 'accidentally' brushed his leg and she set her tea down, no longer bothering to hide the color in her cheeks.
Naruki: Heh, actually, that's the part about me you like. But seriously, there is something on your mind. You should tell me. I'll help you.
She looked at him skeptically.
Hoshi-Hime: Help me? You? Be serious, Naruki.
Naruki: Seriously. You were pretty mad at your friends the other day, and then you weren't angry at me at all, something's up. You gotta tell me.
Serena's cheeks lost their color and she looked down into her tea. Even in the dim lighting of the cafe, her souring mood was evident.
Naruki: There's more to you than you show. I know about it, Serena. There's nothing you should do to keep things secret from me.
Hoshi-Hime: What? What did you say? What are you talking about?
He merely smiled at her and motioned for her to talk.
Hoshi-Hime: I don't know what you're hinting at. You're crazy. I'm starting to think that it was a mistake to go out with you. I'll go now. Good bye.
And as Serena rose to leave, Naruki reached out and grabbed her hand. In that moment of contact, there was a flash between the couple, Serena found that she could not move away, and without any effort on his part, she sank back into her seat. She looked at his face, startled at the look of strain darkening it. When he began to pull his hand away, she reached out with both of hers and grabbed it.
Hoshi-Hime: No! No, Naruki, don't pull away from me.
He gazed at her for a moment, and then nodded, leaving his hand in hers on the table. He tried not to show any anxiety, and was only successful in putting a wounded, uncertain smile on his face.
Hoshi-Hime: What did...
Serena took a moment to herself as well.
Hoshi-Hime: What did you do? What was that? Why...
Naruki: We're together, the way it was supposed to be... I think they were trying to keep you from me, keep us from each other. But we're ready. This is how it should be.
Hoshi-Hime: But... Why?
Naruki: No idea. But somehow I just know. I know that we're supposed to be together. I know about your... uh, about what you can do, and I can do those things, too. That's why I can help you, but only if you let me.
Serena nodded. She took a deep breath and tried to organize her thoughts.
Hoshi-Hime: The Defenders, they just fought a villain, Shar Pen.
She saw him nod in understanding and continued.
Hoshi-Hime: I was there, too. Me and Airi and Tomi, we were all there, and they fought Halloran and his team while I was recovering from being messed up by Shar Pen. After that, Fearless was taken, and we all fought over how to find him, and we left the team and they went off to fight her themselves. They might have had an easier time if we had stayed and helped them, but... But somehow, I couldn't. Ever since I was out of bed after recovering from Shar Pen's magic, I've been having these horrible nightmares. They're just awful.
Naruki: Yeah, I caught a glimpse of them just now...
Hoshi-Hime: Then you can feel it, too. I can feel you...
Her voice trailed off and they just looked at each other. Somehow, through their hands, they could feel each others' hearts. Their feelings, their memories and experiences, everything felt open and shared, as though they had just then lived their entire lives together. Their lives, and countless others before. Serena could not take her eyes off him, and he felt the same. Whatever had come before, she felt that from that moment forward, they would be inseparable.
Naruki: You'll soon meet another.
Naruki: Yes. She is in the city, not far from here, a student at Southport High School.
Hoshi-Hime: How do you know?
Naruki: I just do. Your guardians, Austin Goldberg and Laurinette, they don't know everything like they think they do. Others know quite a lot more, and I think that worries them and that makes them way too cautious.
Serena finally let go of his hand and leaned back in her chair. She stared down at the table for a moment trying to process what had just passed in the preceding minutes. It seemed like they had been together for their entire lives, that years and years were spent holding hands like that. All that information in a matter of moments, it took them both some time to get used to it, to their new existence together.
Hoshi-Hime: We have to meet her.
Naruki: Yes. But not tonight.
Hoshi-Hime: No... Let's do... something else tonight...
Serena smiled at Naruki and they rose from their table and left for places more comfortable. More private...
Serena stood next to Naruki across the street from Southport High School Stadium beneath the monorail a few days later. Groups of students were engaged in all manner of extracurricular activities. Cheerleaders occupied a corner of the field. The football team held court on one half while the girls' soccer team used the other. Track and cross country runners circled them on the track. Naruki had pointed at one of the runners, a sprinter with long legs and an excellent physique. A western girl, most of her brown hair was held back from her pretty face in a pony tail, and sweat matted her bangs to her forehead. She had a look of toughness many of her teammates seemed to lack. There was no question who the star athlete on the team was.
Hoshi-Hime: That's her?
Naruki: Yup. Name's Kylie Moore. Broken home, lives with her dad after her mother turned into an abusive drunk. They've lived in Matthewton, Kardon, and Carthage before settling down here in Southport where they've been for the last three years, because she kept getting into fights and getting kicked out of her schools. She even spent a summer in Fort Mison in the very small girls' juvenile corrections facility. That seems to have helped her somewhat.
Hoshi-Hime: A fighter? Just what I imagined she'd be.
Serena sighed. She looked up at Naruki and he merely smiled back at her.
Naruki: Come on. Their practice finishes in five minutes. We'll go wait by the exit and introduce ourselves when she leaves.
It was about a half an hour they had to spend loitering near the school grounds. Few people paid them any mind, they could have been a pair of the massive school's many seniors hanging around after school flirting with each other. When they saw Kylie come out, Serena was pressed into action.
Hoshi-Hime: Uh, excuse me!
Serena rushed up behind the girl. She stopped in her tracks when the girl looked back at her. She sure was pretty, but her eyes were cold and distrusting, and she was a good six inches taller than Serena. It took everything she had not to let Kylie intimidate her.
Hoshi-Hime: Are you Kylie Moore?
Kylie Moore: Who are you?
Hoshi-Hime: I'm the girl who's going to change your entire life. Forever...