Sailor Moon 4200: What has gone before
It's the year 4200. More than seven hundred years ago, Crystal Tokyo was destroyed in an as-yet-unexplained disaster. Queen Serenity and her Senshi died fighting a hopeless battle against the mysterious evil. All over the world, civilisation fell. Then, one hundred years ago, a great renaissance began. Today the city of Third Tokyo is the centre of a new world order ruled by the Serenity Council (the "Serries").
Artemis survived the final battle, and now wanders the world with his young great-granddaughter Bendis, hoping that the Senshi will somehow be reborn once more. When Bendis accidentally speaks to a Serenity Council member, the Council begins a surreptitious hunt for her. Shortly after, Artemis and Bendis argue and split up. In a nearby school, Bendis finds that one of the students, McCrea Beth, is the new Sailor Venus: first of a new generation of Senshi. Bendis decides to train her on her own.
Meanwhile Artemis asks an old friend to help find Bendis again: Hino Rei, once Sailor Mars, who somehow survived the final battle for Crystal Tokyo. Now powerless, she tries to avoid recognition, going by the name Pappadopoulos Itsuko, owner of the Olympus Gymnasium. However, Itsuko's efforts to help Artemis draw attention and a secret investigation of the Olympus begins. At the same time, she starts to have visions suggesting that the evil that destroyed Crystal Tokyo is beginning to move again.
After a recording of the new Venus in action is broadcast nationally, public opinion is divided: she is alternately welcomed, believed to be a hoax, and even hated for daring to step in the dead Senshi's shoes. The Council begin plans to deal with her, and order their chief scientist to develop a Senshi-detector. And also put other, more sinister plans into operation…
Sailor Pluto secretly alters records to obstruct the investigation of the Olympus. And Artemis finds another schoolgirl, Hayashi Miyo, who is apparently Kino Makoto, Sailor Jupiter, reborn…
By Angus MacSpon
Sailor Moon 4200 Home Page
Based on "Sailor Moon" created by Naoko Takeuchi
Hayashi Miyo was having a strange day at school. She was being haunted by a cat.
She saw it again at lunch-time. Three times. It was almost as if the thing were following her around. But why would a cat be following her?
Boys, she could understand. There was always one who thought that a girl as tall as she was had to be a challenge. That was all right, thought; she knew how to deal with boys who got too attentive when she didn't want it. But a cat?
For a while she thought it could smell food on her. But she hadn't been handling any food today; her mother had packed her lunch for her. (Her mother was the only person Miyo knew who cooked better than she did herself.)
So…it had to be a weird coincidence. Right?
Coincidence hell. Something was going on.
She had to admit that sounded paranoid. Why was she getting worried about a cat, of all things? But there was something weird about that cat. Something about the way it looked at her. And (this was the weird bit) something about the way she kept thinking that—somehow, somewhere, oh this was impossible—she'd seen it before. That she recognised it. And that was insane, right?
The idea that she was going mad was confirmed when she heard a voice say, "The other girl called you Miyo, right? Look, we need to talk."
She looked down and saw the cat. She squawked, and ran for it.
She found her friends, Kin and Dhiti, a few minutes later. Kin looked up as she approached and said, "Wow, Miyo-chan, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost." She was a tiny girl, almost elfin, with short blonde hair and a cheeky grin.
"Maybe I have," Miyo said wildly, panting. "I just saw—" She stopped suddenly. She was going to tell her friends that a cat was talking to her? Sure she was.
"Nothing," she finished firmly. "I didn't see anything." The other two looked at her oddly and she sighed. "Sorry, guys," she said. "I'm having a very weird day."
"Yeah, like you aren't weird most of the time anyway," snorted Dhiti. She was taller than Kin, dark-skinned, with jet-black hair falling just below her shoulders. The tilak on her forehead caught the light for a moment as she spoke.
"Hey, at least she doesn't have any black eyes this time," pointed out Kin.
"Hmm." Dhiti pretended to study Miyo. "No scrapes or bruises either. You feeling all right, Hayashi?"
"Ha! You should see the other guy!" said Miyo, playing along. She was starting to relax at last. It was good to be with normal people. Away from mysterious…white cats who definitely hadn't been talking to her, dammit!
Dhiti snorted. "At least it isn't your brothers again."
"Ah…" Miyo made a face. "No."
"You and your brothers," said Kin, shaking her head. "I don't know how you stand it."
"Yeah, well, all your brothers are younger than you. Trust me, it makes a difference."
Dhiti snickered. "Every time I see you and your brothers, I remember how glad I am to be an only child."
Miyo grinned and said, "Dhiti-chan, we're all glad you're an only child. Having any more like you would be insufferable."
"Oh yeah?" retorted Dhiti. "Let me tell you—"
"Look out!" someone shouted.
At the same time, somebody collided with Miyo, almost knocking her down. A boy, she registered vaguely. He sprinted on without looking back, took a great leap into the air, and just barely missed catching the ball he'd been chasing. He cursed in some foreign language—English, she thought.
Moments later he came hurrying back, holding the ball and looking annoyed. He slowed down as he passed the three girls, nodded to Miyo and said, "Sorry about that." His Japanese was good, but had a definite accent. She recognised him now: one of the two new boys who'd started a week or two ago, transfer students from some enclave or other. He was tall, with short black hair, and inoffensively handsome.
"Yeah, well, you oughta be!" replied Miyo. She wasn't actually angry with him; but she did have a reputation to uphold, after all. "Why don't you watch where you're going?"
He looked surprised for a moment. Then he grinned—and knelt down before her. "My humble apologies, Hayashi-sama," he intoned. "Can you ever forgive me?"
"Oh—" She ran out of words, flushing unaccountably. "Oh, get out of here!"
He ran off, laughing. She heard more laughs coming from behind her. "Real good line, Hayashi," said Dhiti with a snicker.
"Couldn't be she likes him, could it?" added Kin, smirking.
Miyo sighed. "You know," she said dreamily, "he reminds me of my…of my…" She blinked suddenly. "Sorry," she said after a moment. "I forgot what I was going to say."
"Oh, she's got it bad," Dhiti carolled. "Look out, Wright-kun, Hayashi's on the rampage—"
"Will you cut it out?" said Miyo, irritated.
"He is good-looking, though," offered Kin. "If you don't want him, Miyo-chan, I'd be glad to—"
"Look, will you stop that?" Miyo wished she'd kept her big mouth shut. What had she been thinking of, saying that about him? (Whatever it was that she'd been about to say.)
"Or there's always the other one," pointed out Dhiti helpfully. She was grinning from ear to ear. "You know, the one who—"
"Thank you," Miyo said through gritted teeth. "I know the one you mean."
It would have been hard to forget, actually. The two boys had caused a sensation on their first day in class. The suave, polished-looking Alaskan, Wright Mark (but he kept getting it wrong and saying Mark Wright), had half the girls in class swooning over him…while his friend, Keenan Liam, had the rest of them giggling at his bizarre accent and the odd way he kept phrasing himself. (Where was he from again? "Kilkenny"—where was that?)
"Ooh, you do?" said Dhiti, fluttering her eyelashes madly. "Oh, Kin-chan, did you hear that? She loves him passionately! How romantic! Soon they'll be married and settling down with half a dozen pigtailed children who can't speak a word of Japanese—"
She had to stop there because Miyo's hands were around her throat. She flailed around for a moment, appealing for help from Kin; but Kin was laughing too hard to be able to do a thing.
"Would you like to rephrase that?" inquired Miyo.
Dhiti nodded frantically. The grip on her throat eased for a moment and she managed to gasp out, "All right! I'm sorry! I meant…I meant a dozen pigtailed children—"
Miyo tried to throttle her again; but by this time she was laughing too hard herself to be able to do a good job of it. When she caught sight of Kin's face, she only laughed harder; and before long all three were in a heap on the ground, roaring and snorting helplessly.
From that point, seriousness was a lost cause. It had become one of those classic laughing fits that went on and on; whenever it threatened to die down, one of them would gasp out "Pigtails" or "A dozen children," and all three would start to whoop again. After a few minutes they started to attract a crowd, and some time later a teacher arrived to demand what was going on. None of them were too coherent by that time, though, and eventually he stumped away, shaking his head and muttering.
It had to end at last, though. Kin staggered away, clutching her sides and actually looking sick; and without her, gradually the other two were able to let it die away. After a few minutes Kin rejoined them, and the three lay back in the grass, gasping for breath.
"Hoo," said Miyo at last. "I needed that. Thanks, Dhiti-chan."
"Natch," said Dhiti. "So what was your problem, anyway? You looked pretty spooked before. Somebody getting your goat again?"
"Um. Not exactly…" Miyo hesitated. She didn't want to admit how upset she'd been by that damned cat. It was pretty silly, in retrospect. But somehow, it just seemed to—
The cat was there, only a few metres away. Watching her.
She jumped up with an incoherent shout, waved her fist at it, and bellowed, "What are you doing!" The cat stared back, its eyes very wide. Then it took off. Miyo followed it a moment later, yelling, "You're not getting away that easily!" Dhiti and Kin watched her go, eyes wide.
"Well," said Kin after a minute or two. "That was odd."
Dhiti raised her eyebrows. "This is Hayashi we're talking about, remember."
Kin nodded slowly. "Right. But still…that was pretty odd."
They looked at each other, and nodded solemnly. Then they both started to laugh again.
The cat managed to get away somehow, to Miyo's fury, and she was grumpy for the rest of the day. Her classmates recognised the signs, and stayed well clear—even Mark, which disappointed her for some reason. Thus deprived of anything to take out her frustrations on, she arrived home in a foul mood.
Her brothers were home already, which did not help matters. Ichiyo was watching some kind of sports program on the viddy; he glanced up as she came in, saw her face, and called out, "Watch it! Miyo's on the warpath."
She made a face at him (which he ignored), and stalked past on the way to her room. Fujimaro picked that moment to poke his head out and shout, "What is it this time? Oh!" He cleared his throat and added, at a lower volume, "Hi, oneesan. Didn't see you there."
"I just bet," she hissed, thinking about punching him. It would be satisfying, she decided regretfully, but more trouble than it was worth. She could probably still take him; but he was starting to put on some muscle and things might get messy, especially if Ichiyo decided to join in.
With a sigh that was part frustration and part resignation, she pushed past him and opened the door to her bedroom—or rather, the room she shared with Miliko, her twelve-year-old sister. As she stalked in Fujimaro called out, "Boyfriend trouble again?" She could almost hear his grin.
She froze on the threshold, weighing the options. She wanted to hit somebody, very badly. But something inside her kept saying: do you really want to get into a fight because you couldn't catch a cat? And in the end, shaking her head wearily, she stepped in and closed the door behind her.
When she looked up, her breath caught.
Miliko was sitting on her bed, with a cat in her lap. The white cat. She was stroking it, and it was purring.
As Miyo stared at it, it looked up at her.
Unmistakably, it winked.
Her face quite blank, Miyo stepped out of her room, closed the door quietly, and started to count to a hundred. I'm calm, she told herself firmly, remembering her father's acid comments after the last time she come home with her uniform ripped and filthy. I am not angry. I'm not getting into a—
Fujimaro chose that moment to make another humourous comment. She froze, with the count on sixty-eight…and then, with a howl of pent-up rage and frustration, hurled herself on him and did her level best to beat the grin off his face. Eventually, Ichiyo had to pull her off him.
Later, as she lay on her bed alone while the rest of the family ate dinner, the cat lifted its head, cleared its throat, and said, "Can we talk now? Or are you going to run away again?"
She scowled at it, then looked away.
With a sigh, the cat said, "Look, I'm sorry you're in trouble. But it's not exactly my fault, you know. You did it all yourself."
"Oh, shut up," she grumped. "You don't even exist, anyway."
The cat snorted. "Considering what the news has been full of, these last couple of days, I'd have thought you'd be a bit more open-minded about talking cats. Let me introduce myself. My name is Artemis."
"Oh, of course," Miyo said sarcastically. "And you've come to recruit me to be a Sailor Senshi, right?"
"Well, not exactly," the cat said. "Actually, I've come to ask you to be a Sailor Senshi again."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, again? Gee, I must have amnesia. I suppose I've secretly been creeping out every night to fight evil in my pyjamas?"
The cat snorted. "No." It fixed her with an unnervingly direct gaze and said, "Hear me, Hayashi Miyo: you are Kino Makoto reborn. You are the reincarnation of Sailor Jupiter of Crystal Tokyo, friend and team-mate of Queen Serenity; and the further reincarnation of Hebe, Senshi Jupiter of the Silver Millennium, champion and guardian of the planet Jupiter, warrior of the Thunder and servant of Serenity the Last." He took a deep breath. "And it is time for you to resume your duties."
She stared at him, a little awed in spite of herself. "You…you almost sound serious."
He made a noise that sounded like a stifled chuckle. "Miyo-san, just lie back, and relax. Relax…and remember."
REMEMBER. The word seemed to echo in her ears. She felt disoriented, dizzy; she found that she could not move. For a moment she thought she saw the mark on the cat's forehead, the mark shaped like a crescent moon, glowing. But the cat's eyes—those bright feline eyes—were spreading, growing, growing to fill her entire field of vision. And then they swallowed her up completely.
When she woke up, she remembered. She remembered everything.
Number Twelve touched an icon on her control pad, and the steel shutters rolled apart with a faint rumble. The tank beyond them was filled with a murky liquid, dimly lit. There was something suspended in the liquid. It was not human, or even humanoid, any more.
"Impressive," said the chairman of the Serenity Council. "I wasn't expecting you to be ready for another week yet."
Twelve smiled. "The old method proved…impractical. But we were able to find an easier way. Number Eight dug up some useful records from the Archives."
"Really?" The chairman was interested. "What sort of records?"
"Transcripts of the excavation of Mugen Gakuen. The Nemesis expedition report. Analyses of youma ash. There's quite a lot there, if you know what you're looking for."
The chairman nodded. "Excellent work. Give Eight my compliments." He hesitated. "Remember, though…we don't want these things to be too successful. Not yet. Just enough of a threat to draw the Senshi out."
"Don't worry. We'll have them under tight control." She hesitated, then added, "I'm sorry about the recording."
"It can't be helped," the chairman said, shrugging. "We should probably have expected it anyway."
The enhanced recording of Sailor Venus' debut appearance had been played at a Council meeting that morning. It had been of excellent quality…except for the images of Venus herself. Those remained blurred and grainy, unrecognisable. The image-enhancement experts at the Tenshin Institute professed themselves baffled.
"I understand that a similar phenomenon was observed in the Twentieth Century," the chairman went on. "I expect the Opal recordings of last night's incident will be just as bad. Well, we'll just have to do it the hard way."
He looked at the shape floating in the tank, and smiled. "In the end, it will be very hard," he promised.
She stood outside in the early morning light, watching the sun rise, watching the stars slowly fade. Watching one star in particular.
So many years…so many memories. The faces of people she had known, now lost in the past. Places she had been, things she had done. Enemies and friends; Queens and Senshi; colleagues and loved ones. All gone now. All lost, left behind. Desolation threatened to sweep her away; but she held firm, her expression unchanging, her eyes fixed on that star.
The air was cool on her skin, and she shivered; but she did not move, did not permit herself to waver until Jupiter's last sparkle was lost in the growing daylight. Then, only then, did she allow herself to turn away, back to the house that she hardly recognised, that was her home now—back to the life that she lived now. Back to the Here, back to the Present. And to the cat that patiently awaited her.
"I can't find my henshin wand," she said without preamble. "I assume it was lost when I died?"
"I have it," Artemis admitted. "Are you sure you want to rush into—" He stopped, seeing her expression. "All right. Wait a moment, and I'll pull it out of storage."
He braced himself, took a deep breath, and then began to spin around madly, as if chasing his tail. Faster, faster, whirling like a dervish, until he was only a blur—
And suddenly something appeared in the midst of the blur: a tiny, glittering object. Artemis spun to a stop, panting. "Hard work," he gasped. "But it's got to be better than the gymnastics method."
Ignoring him, she bent down and picked up the object: a short, yellow rod, with an ancient symbol at the tip. Nodding shortly, she held it up to the sky—pointing it at her home planet, hidden behind the growing blue of the sky—and said the words.
And the thunder descended.
Artemis watched nervously as Sailor Jupiter looked down, inspected herself briefly, and gave one quick satisfied nod. When she looked up again, he saw that something in her face had changed. Before, she had looked cold…remote. But now—
"Artemis," she said.
—she looked annoyed.
"Are you all right?" he said cautiously. "How well do you remember?"
"Well enough," she said unhelpfully. Then, "Artemis, what the hell did you think you were doing, following me around like that? You were scaring me!"
"Scaring you?" said Artemis, surprised. "Is that why you got so—but why? I mean, how? Why were you afraid of—" He stopped. "Wait a moment. You mean…you were starting to remember? Even then?"
"I don't know!" she replied, irritated. "It was just…like there was something really spooky going on, y'know?"
"Interesting," he mused. "Sounds like something was beginning to leak through. Have you been having any odd dreams? Anything that might connect to your other life?" She nodded. He cocked his head to one side, thinking. "I wonder if that's significant," he muttered.
Jupiter snorted. "You never were too hot on that stuff, were you?" she said, grinning faintly. "Why don't you just ask Luna? She's the expert on the mental—what's wrong? What did I say?"
"Luna…didn't make it," Artemis said carefully. "She died just a few minutes after you."
"Oh…" Jupiter bit her lip. "I'm sorry."
They both stood for a moment, lost in the memory of that last, doomed battle. Then, making a deliberate effort to change the subject, Artemis said, "It all seems to have come back to you pretty well. How much do you remember?"
Jupiter shrugged. "Pretty much everything, as far as I can tell," she said. He could see it, too clearly, in her face—the feeling of loss: places, faces…enemies, friends, loved ones. And the brightest face of them all—
"Oh, Usagi," she whispered. "Oh, Serenity. She died, didn't she?"
"Yes," Artemis nodded. "She died. Working the same magic her mother did, to send you all forward again…"
"Oh, no…" Jupiter looked up at the sky again. At the star…the planet. With her enhanced vision, he knew, she would still be able to pick it out. In her Senshi form, she would always be able to do that. Always be able to see home.
"Oh, Usagi," she repeated softly. "I'd offer a prayer for you in the Halls of Conscience if I could…"
Artemis looked up at her, confused. "'Halls of Conscience'?" he said. "What are the—" Wait a minute; that did sound familiar, somehow. Something he'd heard, a long time ago—"Oh, right, I remember. Hey, wait a moment! The Halls of Conscience were on Callisto! What do you know about them?"
She frowned. "Huh? What are you talking about? Don't be silly, Artemis. I was born on Callisto, back when I was Hebe. I've been to the Halls lots of times."
"No, I mean…Makoto—ahh, Miyo-san…" Artemis stopped, frustrated. Then, very seriously, he asked, "Just how much do you remember about the Silver Millennium, anyway?"
"You already asked me that. I told you: all of it."
"No, I meant—really? Everything? You remember everything?"
"Yes. What's the matter?" Jupiter's eyes widened suddenly. "Wait a minute. Oh, no. That's right. I didn't before, did I? I didn't remember it at all, did I?"
She stared down at him. "You idiot cat, what have you done to me now?"
"I don't know," he muttered. "I have absolutely no idea."
It was a relief to be out of the house. Bendis had spent entirely too long cooped up inside over the last week or so. It was turning out to be quite difficult to get out when Beth was away at school; apparently Helen, Beth's mother, had gotten the idea that Bendis would run away if she got outside, so she was very careful never to give the cat a chance.
Today, though, Beth had helped smuggle Bendis out; and it felt so good to be able to wander around, free, that several times she actually caught herself purring. Embarrassing, that.
Er, not that she was just wandering around, of course (she told herself firmly). She did have a good excuse (reason!) to be out. She wanted to prowl around Beth's school and eavesdrop on conversations, try to get an idea of public reactions to the new Senshi.
Some of the news reports on the viddy of late had been rather worrying. Sailor Venus had begun as a sensational new story, and the newsies had all been falling over themselves to find new superlatives to use about her. That had continued, to some extent, after her second outing, when somebody at 'P' Division leaked the tapes from the Opal that had been on the scene. But even then, the tenor of the stories had been beginning to change. Now, only a day later, there was a disturbing trend setting in. They were starting to do "thought" pieces, and a number of the commentators were asking: do we need Senshi any more?
How much of that was an attempt to scare up ratings, and how much was genuine? More importantly, did the news programs reflect what ordinary people thought? How many people did not welcome a new set of Senshi? Beth's experience of two nights before, at the jeweller's, was especially disturbing. Out of three 'P' Division officers, one had heaped scorn her, one had apparently wanted to worship her—and only one had acted in what Bendis would have called a normal manner. Those were worrying figures. But how real were they? How did, for example, the children at Beth's school feel?
She wished she could talk to Artemis about it. And she hated herself for feeling that way.
The jeweller's had left Beth badly shaken. She hadn't said much about it, except to briefly outline what had happened; but it was clear how upset the girl was. She hadn't gone out last night—her mother, at least, was relieved—and she was hardly speaking to Bendis at all. And for two nights running, now, she had cried herself to sleep.
Bendis was half-afraid to leave her alone. But she had to know.
She left Beth a little way short of the school gates, and climbed over the boundary wall. There were twenty minutes or so to go before classes began, and a number of students were milling around. She strolled over to the nearest group and began her just-an-innocent-kitty act, sniffing fingers, rubbing against legs and purring for all she was worth.
For the next quarter of an hour she went from group to group, being as friendly as she could, accepting a good deal of hospitality (this system of information-gathering had many advantages) and keeping her ears open. Before long she had heard more than enough to worry her even more.
Some students were still positive, even enthusiastic. But others were far less so. The way the Serenity Council still hadn't taken any public position didn't help. Quite a few were claiming that the whole thing had been a hoax. The fact that Venus had dealt with the jewel robbery so quickly, and so easily, lent credence to this. There had been no extroverted action, no dazzling super-powers; just the quick flash of the chain, which after all would be very simple to fake (they said). Also, Venus hadn't appeared last night. Why not? Was she afraid? After all, she'd run away pretty quickly from the jeweller's. Or was it because she was a fraud, not up to handling real action?
And there was a small but vocal group who thought that Senshi who just ran around catching burglars weren't much use, or even terribly interesting. What was the point? they asked. And really, who cared? A Sailor Senshi who spent her time on something that trivial could have little to do with the Senshi of the past, who'd fought with Queen Serenity.
Bendis had to restrain herself, several times, from scratching the hands that were stroking her.
She squirmed free of the latest pair of arms and walked away, fuming quietly. These people were so fickle! No wonder Beth was so upset. She must have been hearing this sort of thing all yesterday, and not been able to say a word in her own defence. These people, these students who'd welcomed her so quickly, who'd been so enthusiastic about her first appearance…how readily they changed their tune, she thought bitterly. How easily they—
A hand reached down and picked her up. Another hand curled around her, holding her firmly. She stiffened, struggled briefly, but couldn't move. She tried to squirm around, see who had caught her. Oh, shit, she thought frantically. The Serries have got me at last—
Then a voice said happily, "Moon cat!"
She groaned aloud. It was worse than the Serries. It was Hideo.
The young man had short blond hair and wore dark glasses. He was smiling broadly as he walked into the coffee shop, and the woman behind the counter smiled back. He looked cheerful, charming even, she told the police later. Right up until the moment when he pulled out the gun and invited her to empty the cash register for him.
She obeyed nervously. To her surprise, the man didn't take the money and run. Instead he remained exactly where he was, gun levelled at her, still grinning that cheerful grin. For a few seconds she thought he had other things in mind besides robbery, and began to tremble. But then—
Then, he stood motionless for fifteen minutes. The gun, and the grin, never wavered throughout that time. It was as if he were waiting for something.
At last, after a quarter of an hour, he moved again. He lowered the gun, picked up the money, and walked quietly out. As he was going through the door, his grin slipped for a moment. He looked almost…disappointed?
Miyo was having a bad day at school.
She should have expected it, she knew. After all, she now had clear memories of two previous lives—school years and all—and it made for a certain monotony. Admittedly, the schooling system back in the Silver Millennium had been rather different—especially for daughters of the Royal House of Jupiter—but still she thought she was justified in feeling a little bored.
The only interesting moments came when the teacher said something that completely contradicted something she'd learned before. Then she had to try and work out which of the two versions was correct. Sometimes it wasn't easy. Once, she made the mistake of asking the teacher: when he was talking about radioactive isotopes, she put up her hand to ask a question about using epichronic fields to lengthen half-lives. He looked at her as if she'd gone mad. So did the rest of the class. She made a hasty excuse about a science-fiction book she was reading; to her relief he gave her a disgusted look and went on with the lecture, while she privately vowed to keep her mouth shut in future.
It was difficult dealing with her friends, too. Yesterday she'd been an ordinary schoolgirl—well, fairly ordinary; taller than most, true, and with something of a reputation for scrapping, but that was the natural outcome of having two argumentative brothers. Today she was three people rolled into one. There were two other lifetimes in her head, both of them far in the past; and in one of them she had been fifteen hundred years old. It made it rather difficult to relate to the other girls.
At least they weren't around at the moment. Kin was off at her music practice, and Dhiti had run off when the bell went—probably on another one of her endless hobbies. For now, she was blessedly alone.
Morbidly, she started to catalogue the differences in her lives. Life in the Silver Millennium—a princess, born thousands of years ago on a world hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth; companion to the heirs of seven other worlds; guardian to the Heir to the Throne. A life filled with wonder and beauty. And then, reborn: a schoolgirl in Tokyo, gradually awakening to her heritage: the power, and the obligations. But not the memory; not the knowledge, the certainty of what she had been. Guardian once more, but starting afresh—and that newness, that difference, gave her a clean perspective, a chance to build a life all over again. A life…
What kind of life did she have ahead of her now? What kind of life could she have? She felt suffocated. She was drowning, deluged in experience. And she was honestly not sure that she had the heart to go through with it all over again.
Yesterday she had been happy. Yesterday she had been free, her future completely open. Today, the past behind her cast a shadow over that future, as black as night. Sometimes, she thought wryly, life really sucked. You thought everything was fine, and then Life came and tapped on your shoulder, and nothing could ever be the same again—
Somebody came and tapped on her shoulder.
"Yo, Hayashi!" Dhiti shouted, almost in her ear. She nearly screamed. "You all right? You've been acting pretty weird. What's the matter? Your boyfriend tell you he's pregnant?"
Miyo sighed. "I should be so lucky," she said, remembering other men, long ago. Nephrite, and her sempai…and…and…wait a minute.
"What did you say?" she demanded incredulously.
Dhiti dissolved into laughter. "If you could s-see your expression…" she managed to say.
Then again, Miyo thought darkly, what did I know, back then? Neither of those other lives ever had to deal with a Dhiti!
She stood up slowly; seeing her expression, Dhiti started to back away. A sensible reaction at last; but she had left it far too late.
One thing's for sure. This girl needs punishing—and in the name of Jupiter—
With a triumphant whoop Miyo launched herself forward, catching Dhiti around the legs in a textbook-perfect tackle. From there on, everything got simply too silly for words.
Bendis was having a bad day at school.
Hideo held on to her tightly, blithely oblivious to her struggles to break free. "So I was right?" he burbled. "It was one of those girls that you were looking for? And she's Sailor Venus? I'm so glad you came back—"
Bendis struggled again. His grip was almost suffocating her, but having to listen to him chatter on and on was far worse. One little mistake, she thought bitterly, and you never stop paying for it… But of course, speaking to Hideo, back when she'd been looking for Beth, hadn't been a little mistake—as she was learning now. It had been a gigantic one, and if she could reach back in time and throttle herself before she spoke to him, she'd do it cheerfully—
"-na? Luna? Are you listening to me, Luna?"
Oh, no. Not that again.
She mustered what breath she could, and shouted at the top of her lungs: "Look, kid, how many times to I have to tell you, my name is NOT LUNA!"
He gave her that same woeful, hangdog expression that he'd worn the first time she'd told him—like a dog that had just been kicked. Well, good, she thought spitefully. Let's kick him some more.
"You got it? My name is Bendis. Not Luna. Luna is dead. Dead, got it? Dead! She died more than seven hundred years ago, now can you get that into your head? I. Am. NOT. LUNA!"
He stared at her miserably for some time. Then suddenly his expression changed to one of almost idiotic cunning and he said, "But what kind of name is 'Bendis'? That's not a moon name!"
'Moon name?' Oh, please… Bendis muttered something under her breath—it almost sounded like something about a "stupid joke of Artemis's"—before saying, "Look, just forget it, kid, all right? Bendis. That's what my name is. The rest doesn't matter."
He pondered this for a moment. "Are you mad at me?" he asked.
Oh, brother. "Now why would I be mad at you?" she asked sarcastically in response. "You pick me up without warning, you hold onto me so tight I can hardly breathe, and to make matters worse you keep on talking to me out where anyone can see you…! Now gee, I wonder, why would I be angry about any of that?"
Oh, great. Now she'd confused him. "Oh, for heaven's sake. Look, kid—look, Hideo. Can you just put me down?"
"Which one of them is Sailor Venus?" he asked suddenly.
"Be—" she started to answer before she could stop herself. There was a long silence as they stared at each other.
Damn! The kid was good. She hadn't seen that coming at all. She had been set up. He'd actually lured her—acted the fool to make her drop her guard, deliberately made her lose her temper so she wouldn't be thinking too clearly—then sprung that question without warning, and it had damn nearly worked.
She squirmed again, and this time he loosened his grip, allowing her to jump down to the ground. She ran a few paces, getting a safe distance between them, before looking back.
"I'm sorry," Hideo whispered. He looked a lot older than twelve in that moment. "I'm sorry. But I…I just have to know…"
"How can I tell you anything?" Bendis said bitterly. "How can I ever trust you—now?"
His mouth worked for a moment. His lips formed the words "I'm sorry" once more, but no sound came out. He looked away at last, to her relief, and she turned and walked off, not quickly, leaving him standing there. Alone.
She took a long, rambling course through the school grounds: not heading anywhere in particular, but simply walking aimlessly. Inwardly, still fuming; snarling, raging at the betrayal.
She had thought Hideo was—well, not a friend. But an ally. Someone that she could call on, if she needed him. Not that she ever would need him, naturally—things would have to be pretty bad before she needed the help of a twelve-year-old boy again—but still, it was nice to know that there were others she could call on if she needed them, others besides Artemis—
Nope. Not gonna go there.
But he had to keep pushing! Twice in the days after she'd found Beth, she'd had to dodge him; and now he'd actually managed to catch her unawares, and almost gotten important information out of her…
Couldn't he see? Couldn't he see that there were things she couldn't talk about? Did he think that because he had helped her once, he had a right to be told everything? But of course he did. He was young, and infatuated with the mystique. He needed to get in closer, to be there. To reach out and touch it. To be part of the legend.
In a way, he was like the 'P' Division officer who'd upset Beth so much. The one who'd wanted to worship her. Hideo wasn't that far gone; but he posed just as much of a danger to Beth. Or perhaps more. The Church of Serenity were for the most part quiet, dedicated people whose odd beliefs, to Bendis' way of thinking, did more harm to themselves than anyone else. But Hideo could do worse than worship Beth; he could easily reveal her identity to the world, accidentally or otherwise; and in this day and age, that would be catastrophic.
At some point in her musings, Bendis gradually became aware that she was being followed.
It was only a nagging feeling, at first. Just a hunch. But before long she was sure. They were doing it quite well: keeping a good distance, not watching her directly, blending in with the rest of the children in the grounds. But, naturally, it wasn't hard to work out who. And why.
She continued on on her aimless stroll around the grounds. Occasionally someone would notice her and want to cuddle her, or feed her, or pet her; and then she would politely sniff fingers, or take a bite or two of what was offered, or accept a few strokes; but then she would move on. Working her way slowly toward the point she had chosen—
—And then she ducked around the side of one of the school buildings, and leaped up onto a recessed windowsill, out of the immediate sight of anyone coming around the corner…and waited.
He came panting after her, a few seconds later, anxious not to let her get out of sight. Then, not seeing her, he stopped suddenly. Hideo, of course.
She cleared her throat deliberately. He jumped, looked around—and saw her, almost eye-to-eye, only a few centimetres away on the sill. She reached out a paw deliberately—hating herself for doing it, but knowing that this had to end—and scratched his face. Not too deeply, but enough to draw a little blood.
He stared at her, his face white. She said two words: "No more."
Then she jumped to the ground and streaked away at full speed, ducking and weaving around people, too fast and too erratic for him to follow even if he tried. He would not try, though, she knew. She had just lost an ally.
She hoped she hadn't made an enemy.
Hideo watched her go. He touched his face gingerly, brought his fingers away bloody. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and scrubbed the tiny wound, wincing a little.
Then he took a deep breath. Squared his jaw. And set out after her again. He had been longing for this all his life, and she was not going to keep him out of it. No way.
Still laughing and taking playful swipes at each other, Miyo and Dhiti found a spot to sit down and pulled out their bento boxes. Thank the kami for friends, Miyo thought wryly. Talk about a self-pity attack.
Somewhere in the middle of the mock-fight, it had all finally become clear to her. All right, so she'd lived two lives before. So she was (at least in a sense) hundreds of years old, and stuck back in school. But she also had the memories of this life, firm and clear. She still had her friends of this life. She still had a life. Why hadn't she seen it before?
Anyway, this third time around might be a golden opportunity. With all those centuries of experience behind her, she might be able to get through life without getting into fights all the time. With a little more dignity. Without making any stupid mistakes.
Then she opened her bento box, smiled in anticipation at the food inside, and absent-mindedly recited the old Callistan blessing that she'd been taught as a child in the Silver Millennium. "Immarha segni aurien 'da spei, mai segni 'da limm spei, far chiël tekel spei—"
She noticed Dhiti staring at her, and suddenly realised what she was saying.
Old habits die hard.
She thought fast. "—and 'Klaatu barada nikto!'" she finished triumphantly. To her relief, Dhiti rolled her eyes and groaned.
Thank goodness for old movies. Last month's release from the Archives had been a bizarre twentieth-century film called "The Day The Earth Stood Still" that had had all the girls in hysterics, laughing so hard they could barely make out the subtitles. (Though, oddly enough, she didn't seem to remember it as a comedy back in her last life. Now why was that?)
"I was right," Dhiti grumbled. "You are acting weird today." But then she mouthed 'Klaatu barada nikto' silently, and snickered.
Miyo winked at her. "Can't let you take all the honours all the time," she said.
All right. Without making so many stupid mistakes.
The young man with the short blond hair and dark glasses was smiling broadly as he walked into the grocery store, and the owner gave him a welcoming smile in return. He looked polite, the owner said later; polite and respectful, and not the type to be wary of at all. This impression was shattered when the young man pulled out his gun.
The shopkeeper gave the young man all the money he had in the shop, as ordered. He'd been robbed before, and knew better than to argue. But the young man didn't leave. Instead he simply waited—as if he expected something to happen. After a while, the owner tried to talk to him, ask him what he wanted, but he only waved the man back with his gun.
After a quarter of an hour, the young man seemed to tire of it. He glanced around, raised his gun higher, and shot out every window in the shop. Then he picked up the money and left.
"So how's she doing?" asked Itsuko.
"Mm…" Artemis hesitated. "It's hard to say, actually. She was pretty upset, the morning after I restored her memories. But she'd cheered up by the time she got home from school. Since then, well, she's had a couple of days to settle down, but…" He closed his eyes, thinking. "I think she's confused, as much as anything. Having a hard time adjusting, perhaps."
He glanced up at Itsuko. "It would help if I could bring her in to see you," he said pointedly. "Another old friend might—"
Itsuko shook her head. "I'd rather avoid that, for the moment."
"You keep saying that, but you never say why," Artemis complained. "Look, I'm doing what I can, but it's not easy! I could use some help here! I'm—" He paced back and forth, shaking his head, a picture of frustration. "I'm out of my depth. I can try to keep her company, try to give her a bit of perspective…try to talk to her about old times…but dammit, Rei, I'm not the one who should be doing this! You are! I never knew Makoto half as well as you did!"
"Serve you right for spending all your time with Minako," Itsuko said unsympathetically.
"Look, let's not get into that again, all right?" Artemis said, irritated. He'd gotten tired of that particular joke more than two thousand years ago. Why did people have to bringing it up? Nobody ever blamed Luna for staying with Usagi all the time, did they? So why did everyone think there was something kinky going on with him and Minako? But it was just like Itsuko to keep rubbing his face in it after all these years. She probably thought it was just a friendly ribbing.
"Sorry," Itsuko told him, sounding decidedly unapologetic. In a more serious tone she went on, "I'd have thought she'd be happy to have a familiar face to talk to, though."
"It's not the same. Not for her. Luna and me, we were more the guardian type roles back then, you know? The mentor kind of thing—" Itsuko started snickering. "All right, but you know what I mean. I wasn't her friend. Not close." He stared up at her. "Not like you. Why won't you talk to her, Itsuko?"
Itsuko turned her back and went to stand at the window, looking out. She did not speak for some time. Artemis watched her, concerned. Something was bothering her—a lot. He could see it in the tension in her back, the way her hands kept twitching as if she wanted to clench them into fists. He couldn't understand it. He'd been trying to persuade her to see Miyo for two days now, and all she'd give him was a flat refusal.
"Why, Rei?" he added softly.
"You don't understand," she whispered. "You don't…it's not that I don't want…oh, damn it all," she cursed. She turned back, and he saw, finally, the pain and the regret in her eyes. "Artemis, the truth is, when it happened, when everything went to hell and she got killed, we…" She took a deep breath. "The truth is, Makoto and I, we hadn't spoken in more than fifteen years."
"You…what?" Artemis stared at her.
"It was just a silly argument. Nothing important at all. But…" She shifted uneasily. "It got out of hand…neither of us would back down, and…oh, it just went on and on! For weeks, whenever we saw each other, we'd just end up bringing it up again, and…and it just kept getting worse…we knew each other so well, we knew all the wrong things to say…we usually ended up shouting at each other…"
She sat down heavily, staring fixedly at a point in mid-air. "One day I…it was my fault, I went too far…I said some horrible things to her, really horrible things, things I couldn't take back. And then she said—" She shook her head. "No. I don't want to think about what she said. Not ever again. And we fought, Artemis, we actually fought…
"I think that was the worst thing I ever did. We'd been such friends, for so long—and all we could do was try to kill each other…
"I don't remember how it ended. I truly don't. Nobody stopped us, I know that much. I don't think anyone else even knew. But finally…afterward…" She was silent for a moment. Her hands, folded before her on the table, were trembling. But her voice, though low, was steady as she said, "We avoided each other after that. We both knew there was no going back. It wasn't hard to keep it a secret from the others—she was overseas or off-planet a lot of the time, and hell, I often went weeks without seeing any of the others except you or Serenity—and neither of us wanted to admit what had happened. But…from that day until the Fall began, we never spoke. We tried never to be in the same room together. The few times we couldn't avoid each other, I could see that she hadn't forgotten a thing…and I'm sure she could see that I hadn't either…"
"And you still can't forgive her?" said Artemis gently. "Is that it?"
"Oh, Artemis, you idiot!" she snapped. "That was seven hundred years ago! Of course I can forgive her!"
"What?" Artemis was taken aback. "But then I don't see—"
She sighed. "You can be pretty dense sometimes, can't you?" Shaking her head, she said, "Artemis, think. It wasn't seven hundred years ago for her."
"Oh!" Finally, he did see. "Oh." And he could think of nothing more to add.
Masao walked out of the changing rooms slowly, his gear-bag slung over his shoulder. He groaned a little as he tried to flex his arms. Ochiyo gave him a sympathetic look as he went past the front desk, and he grinned wryly in return. He hobbled down the stairs to the ground floor, occasionally stopping to rub an aching muscle.
Once he stepped through the front doors and out of sight, though, his whole demeanour changed. The tired, hangdog expression vanished, the limp and the sore feet were gone. He ducked into an alleyway and ran.
The alley, and Masao, emerged into a back street behind the Olympus building. There was an beaten-up old van parked on the side of the road. It had apparently been abandoned: both rear wheels had been removed, and several of the side panels had been stolen. A thin, frayed cable hung from the roof to a nearby charging station, suggesting that somebody had taken up residence in the shell of the vehicle. But Masao ran toward it as if he were going to meet a lover.
Inside, the van was rather different. Hiiro's people had fitted it out as an observation post. One wall was piled high with cartons of equipment. Wedged into the corner was Mitsukai's electronics gear. The opposite wall was devoted to a long desk that was covered with documents: membership lists for the Olympus, member profiles and photographs, surveillance reports, all the paperwork that a proper investigation demanded. We may be spending our time looking for a cat, the desk said, but we're experts and we're doing a damn good job of it.
It was all very business-like and impressive, Masao knew, until you realised that most of the equipment cartons were filled with gym gear, and that for all of the 'S' Division team's clever techniques and effort, so far they hadn't discovered a thing.
That was about to change, he thought triumphantly as he burst in through the rear doors.
Hiiro looked up slowly. "Nice work, Kitada," he said in a dry tone. "Glad to see you're being so careful not to draw any attention to us. Like to try it again to see if you can make any more noise?"
"I've found something!" Masao shouted excitedly, paying no attention.
"Oh, this I must hear," murmured Aoiro.
Hiiro gave him a quick grin, then looked back to Masao. "All right," he sighed. "Let's hear it. What have you found this time?"
Masao told him.
The others stared at him for several seconds. Then Aoiro blinked. "Well, that's certainly a new one," he admitted. Kuroi cleared his throat and stretched out a hand, and he grimaced and passed over a banknote.
Hiiro cleared his throat. "Seriously, Kitada—" he began.
"But it's true!" Masao insisted. "I saw it!"
"Kitada, what do you take me for? You seriously expect me to believe that you just saw one of Queen Serenity's chief advisors, who died hundreds of years ago, alive and well and hanging around a gymnasium, of all places?"
"I saw it! It was Artemis! I'm certain!"
"Keep talking, Kitada," advised Kuroi. "Insanity is a good way out of 'S' Division."
"And what would Artemis be doing here?" demanded Aoiro. "Checking out all the female members, just in case any of them turn out to be Sailor Senshi?" He hesitated suddenly. "All right," he admitted, "so it's not such a wild idea as all that. But really—"
"Too bad you didn't think to get a photo," jeered Kuroi.
Masao jerked. "Photo!" he exclaimed. "That's it! That's what I was forgetting!" He started to rummage through his pockets.
"I can't stand this…" Kuroi clutched his head as if in pain.
Masao pulled out a tiny cylinder, about half the size of his thumb, and passed it to Mitsukai, who took it with evident reluctance. "Go on," he urged her. "Check it!"
She glanced at Hiiro, who rolled his eyes and nodded. With a sigh of resignation, she pushed the data wand into the reader on her computer. A few touches on the computer screen opened the photo file from Masao's hidden camera.
She blinked at the results. "What the hell?" she said.
"What have you got?" Hiiro said, snapping alert. He walked over to the computer to see. Then he blinked too. "I'll be damned," he said.
"What?" said Aoiro curiously. "Masao been raiding the women's changing rooms?" Then he saw Hiiro's expression. "What a moment—you don't mean he really—"
There was a mass rush for the computer. Everyone crowded around, trying to see the screen.
"I hate to admit it," Kuroi said reluctantly, "but that really does look like Artemis."
Hiiro scratched his head. "Kitada, you haven't been playing with the graphics software—" He sighed. "No, silly of me. Sorry. Mitsukai, can you get anything more out of it? Enhance it or anything?" She shrugged and turned back to the computer, tapping the screen rapidly.
"What are we going to do about it?" asked Aoiro. "I mean…well, what do we do about something like this?"
"Damned if I know," Hiiro admitted. "There aren't any procedures to cover something like this. I suppose I should report it in to headquarters, but…"
"But?" prompted Aoiro.
"Well…I'm not sure that it's any of our business. I mean, Sailor Senshi stuff…" He trailed off uncertainly.
"You turning True Believer?" inquired Kuroi, grinning.
"Knock it off, Ryozo," Hiiro said. "The Senshi are supposed to be the good guys, aren't they? If Artemis wants to check out the kids at the local gyms to see if any of them fit, well…I'd say, let him. He's not the cat we're after anyway, so why worry?"
"How sure are we about that, though?" said Kuroi suddenly. "I mean, hell, what are we looking for? A cat with a mark on its forehead…"
There was a brief silence as they all thought about it. "A round mark, we were told," said Aoiro at last. "Not a crescent. And a tabby cat, not white."
"Quite a coincidence, though," Kuroi pointed out.
"But—oh, come on!" Masao protested. "It's got to be a coincidence! If we were supposed to be looking for Moon Cats, they'd have told us!"
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" agreed Hiiro. But he looked thoughtful. "I think we'd maybe better take a closer look. Keep a casual eye open…you know. We don't have to report it in, for now. Not unless it does suddenly turn out that we're looking for white cats as well. Until then, it's none of our business. But just in case—"
He glanced around and saw agreement on most faces. Masao looked unhappy, but at last he too nodded.
"All right, then. We'd better start by putting cameras on the windows, and getting a video feed on the most likely approaches—"
"—So you're just going to wait and see?" finished Artemis.
Itsuko nodded. "For now. We really need to get some idea of how she's settling down. If you can manage to get her into some action, that could be useful." She grinned. "It might help with our other problem, too. If Venus hears that she's around, she might show up, and we'd be able to get in contact with her."
"And with Bendis," growled Artemis.
"Now, now. Be nice."
He snorted. "Oh, I'll be nice. You won't believe how nice I'll be. I'll be 'nice' to her until she begs for mercy…" Catching Itsuko's expression, he sighed. "Oh, I know. But she and I are going to have serious words, sooner or later."
"Well…try not to leave any scars, hmm?" she said, grinning. "Hey, have you told Miyo about Venus and Bendis?"
"No, not…exactly. I mean, she knows Venus is out there, of course, and she knows Bendis exists. But I've let her assume we're just working separately—like when I found Minako and Luna found the rest of you."
Itsuko laughed at the thought. Looking out the window idly, she said, "Why not just tell her the truth? Too embarrassing?"
"No! Well…I just want to handle this myself, you know? This is my great-granddaughter we're talking about here, after all!"
"Have it your way." She shrugged. "I don't think it's that big a deal, but still, it's up to you." She glanced down to the street. "You know, someday you're going to have to tell me how you managed to have a great-granddaughter at all, with no other Moon Cats aro—What the hell?"
Artemis looked up quickly. "What? What's wrong?"
"Wait a minute." She went over to a chest of drawers and rummaged around for a moment. "Ah! There you are," she said, pulling out a small rectangular mirror. She went back to the window and, as Artemis watched, steadily more baffled, knelt just below it and used the mirror to look out. "Damn!" she swore.
"What is it?" he asked again.
"How careful were you when you came up here today?"
He tried to remember. "About the usual, I think. Why?"
"There's a man down there setting up cameras. Someone may have spotted you."
Now it was Artemis' turn to say "Damn." "It couldn't be something else?" he said hopefully.
She shrugged, retreating from the window. "Of course it could. But what are the odds? Look, you'd better slip out while you can. They can't have covered all the exits yet."
He stared at her. "Aren't you overreacting a little?"
"Quiet, I'm thinking. And no, I'm not overreacting. You really want the newsies on your back? Remember how it was back when we all went public the first time? We just have to hope that it's you they've spotted, not me. I can't move as easily as you can—"
"Do you really think it's that serious?" Before Itsuko could reply, Artemis answered his own question. "No, you're right. We can't afford to take the risk. All right, I'll head back to Miyo's. Um…We'll need to arrange to meet—say, in a couple of days?"
"Oh…make it the alley where you found me the other day. Eight o'clock in the evening. There's usually nobody around then."
"All right. If you need me before then…" She sighed. "I guess there'll be no help for it. Get Miyo to call me. And I'll call her…if I have to."
Artemis stared at her for a moment. The he said, "All right. Anything else?" She shook her head. "Goodbye, then. See you in two days…"
He slipped out quietly. She watched him go, shaking her head. How had anybody found them, so soon? How?
The young man had short blond hair and wore dark glasses. He was smiling broadly as he walked into the menswear shop, and the duty manager gave him a cheerful grin in return as he advanced to offer assistance. The grin vanished when the young man pulled out a gun.
They emptied the cash registers as he ordered. As they did so, one of the counter staff triggered the silent alarm. Then they waited for him to pick up the bag and run out. But he didn't; instead, he stood, unmoving, still smiling, covering the three staff. And waited.
After a few minutes, he suddenly seemed to come alive again. He lowered the gun, picked up the money-bag and left. On the way out, he paused to break the duty manager's arm.
Thirty seconds later, the police rushed in.
S A I L O R M O O N 4 2 0 0
END OF CHAPTER FOUR
Next: A battle, a meeting of Senshi, and a taste of further troubles to come…
Thanks to my pre-reader, Sandy Drobic.
26 April, 1998
Revised: 24 September, 2005