|A Year and Change|
So she was there when the pain hit.
Istvan Nagy was standing on a parquet floor, in a hussar's uniform. It was the same uniform, he now realized, he had seen in a picture-book the day he had started wanting to be a soldier. Music came from everywhere, and from nowhere. The floor stretched out into darkness. The sky was filled with crescent moons, of many colors, many sizes.
Maria was nowhere in sight. There was no one in sight, except a girl in a sailor-cut school uniform. She had blond hair done up in two long ponytails with little buns where they joined her crown, and deep blue, almond eyes, not pinched but large and limpid.
She was in a wheelchair.
The girl said, "Why do you do this thing, Nagy-san?" Her voice was small and sweet, yet it echoed.
Before he could answer, or think to answer, came the rumbling he had heard before.
When the pain was past, Major Horthy stood up straight. She saw that Vietengoff, taking his turn by the field phone while Ramirez walked the perimeter, had also doubled over. There was no blood she could feel.
"What Devil's work was that?" Vietengoff said in German.
Horthy heard firing, from somewhere below. It was very muffled. Then came some kind of detonation, perhaps closer, and more firing, definitely closer. She grabbed the field phone to call the command center. There was no answer. "Vietengoff! Keep trying to get through to Command!" She grabbed her radio. Forgetting to use a false name for once, she shouted, "Alert! Alert! This is Horthy! Alert! West Patrol, report!"
The West Patrol reported that they heard firing behind them. But of course, Horthy heard it even better, because the firing was much closer to her.
Ginger Han was still recovering from the pain when she saw their guard pull back the operating lever of his rifle. Ami had fallen over; she was helpless at this moment. Ginger lunged, butting the guard in the crotch with her head. She dematerialized her bonds, and was doing the same for Ami when the guard shot her in the back.
Usagi was in her uniform, her middle school uniform, the one she had worn the day she found out she was Sailor Moon. Her hands were smaller; the bosom beneath her brooch, almost non-existent. She was fourteen again.
And yet she was in her wheelchair, feeling nothing below her waist.
Nagy, the man who had led the takeover, was standing before her, dressed in an old-time uniform, with high boots, a huge curved sword hanging low in its scabbard, an elaborate jacket draped over one shoulder, dark hair hanging in braids. He was young, too. But he was still a soldier.
"Why have you done this thing?" Usagi asked. "Why did you do this thing for Fazi?"
Fazi came up, dressed in a magnificent modern uniform--except that his boots faded into nothingness before they reached the ground. He was a ghost. "Why do you care? It is done! You cannot stop me! My name will live forever!" The rest of Fazi faded away, even as she raised her wand to punish him . . . she was Sailor Moon, now, in her first winged form. But she was still in her wheelchair.
Ginger appeared. Her feet were on the floor, so she was not a ghost. She was dressed in jeans and boots and a bomber jacket, the clothes she had worn for the chilly night of Usagi's wedding, the night she had given Mamoru to her. "It looks kinda bad now, Bunny."
"Popov! What's happening?" shouted Horthy into the field phone.
"I don't know. The Colonel passed out. There was firing, and now there's some kind of fog here. Can't see. I just found the damned phone." There was a heavy rumble Horthy could hear both over the phone and through her own ears. "What was that?" Popov exclaimed.
There was more firing, and a scream loud enough to be heard through the concrete floors. More detonations, from further away but sounding stronger. Major Horthy made icy calculations. If the Americans were attacking, they would have picked off the roof sentries, or at least fired on them. But Ramirez had just reported by radio . . . It was some kind of internal conflict, perhaps between her people and Baiburs', or perhaps Baiburs' and Fahd's. There was only one hope of settling that, unfortunately: Sultan, and she did not have a secure connection through the field phones in the command center. Using the radio would inform the Americans, and they would jump in. "Popov, I heard more firing and some explosions."
"Yes, Major. It's from below, I think. Stopped now. I hear yelling. I think it's Baiburs."
"When the Colonel comes to, tell him I've gone to see Sultan. Do you--" Horthy was about to say "understand," but there was more firing. This was from outside, as was the banshee shriek which followed. Artillery rocket? A blood-curdling scream penetrated the silence which followed.
"Madre de Dios!"
It was Ramirez. He was on the south side.
Istvan Nagy turned back from the rumbling to see Sultan fade away, and then the woman arrived--one of the medical women, he remembered. Before he could speak, Federov, the baby face, and Beriev were before him. Beriev was holding his head in his hands.
"What happened?" asked Nagy.
Beriev's head spoke. "I fought an archangel. She had a sword."
Federov said, "Fahd's man panicked, and started to run down the tunnel. I stopped Baiburs' man from shooting the wretch. One of the others shot me. I think it was the one with the bucket boy."
Beriev put his head back on and said, "We have made our final report, sir. We must go on now." Beriev and Federov faded away.
By the time Horthy reached the south side, there was no firing. Something was burning on the South Lawn. The South Patrol did not answer the radio, and it did not seem to be jammed.
Ramirez called out, "Is that you, Major?"
"Yes, Ramirez. Can't you see me?" The moonlight was bright.
"I can't see anything, Major. I think one of the things blinded me."
"Your Majesty, we all fought them, all of us," said Yuuichirou. "Every one." Yuuichirou was dressed as Musashi; Umino was in his homemade Tuxedo Kamen costume that had started to win Naru's heart; Ryo as the fearsome shadow warrior, but with human aspect; poor Kurume was in Lionheart mail but wielding a huge piece of chalk instead of a sword. None of them had feet.
Usagi was in the winged gown, the royal costume of the never-to-be realm. She said, "It isn't supposed to be this way!"
"It is the way it is," said Ryo, already fading away.
Usagi was blinded by her tears. Then a smaller voice came.
"I fought too, okasan."
She opened her eyes. It was Kimi Moon. Her feet were fading.
"No! No!!" cried Sailor Moon. She folded her black wings around Kimi Moon, to keep her from evaporating. "I will use the ginzuishou! You must not go now!"
"You must not go now," said Tuxedo Kamen.
Tuxedo Kamen held out two roses. The blue one he handed to Kimi Moon, saying, "You must return now." Kimi Moon became blue and gold lights, which danced away.
Tuxedo Kamen held out the white rose to Gin-chan, but she did not take it, saying, "No, it is meant for another." Then Gin-chan turned to Sailor Moon and said, "You must look after Lily. I don't think Mom and Pop can handle a senshi." She faded away.
Sailor Moon turned to Tuxedo Kamen. There were no feet visible under his cape. He was a ghost. He handed the white rose to her, saying, "You must keep this for the one who is to come."
"Don't go! I will use the ginzuishou! It is better for me to go! Who will protect the Earth?"
"You will, Usako. You and the one who is to come."
"Stay. Please, don't go. You are my life."
"You were my life, Usako," said Tuxedo Kamen, starting to fade away. "It was a very good life you gave me." He was gone before the words were finished.
Major Horthy was not a woman without compassion, but she was a professional. She had left Ramerez to go downstairs and re-establish some sort of command. The first thing was to see Sultan, before Baiburs took over. But on the Second Floor, she found no one--no one alive.
Minako Jones was a woman of infinite compassion. Sailor Venus had that, but she also had within the ghost of the last General of the Moon Kingdom. Even as she held sobbing, orphaned Lily to her breast, even as her own tears fell as rain, she said to the President, "Fazi had a radio detonator he tried to use. It can't have had a very long range. The bomb must be near the White House. Or in the White House. We are only a kilometer and a half away. We must get further away. I'm afraid we can't take everyone, Madame President, but we can take you. Even if the enemy in the White House does not detonate the bomb, there could easily be someone on the outside with a more powerful transmitter. Luna, is there any danger to Usagi from a teleport?"
"I don't know," said Luna.
"The enemy could detonate the bomb at any time now. We must risk it. Madame President, if you want to go with us, stand next to Usagi."
"Who is Usagi?"
"Stand next to the floating lady," said Adrienne, ushering Anne Marie and her grandmother into the circle.
Sailor Venus said, "Lily-chan, you are a senshi now. Make mother and father in heaven proud." Then she commanded: "Chibis, henshin yo! Teleport, now!"
Then they were gone. A pile of clothes was left behind, which Major Vierhofen investigated before the two conscious FBI men. "Looks like the wad I lost to the redhead," he said, holding up some bills.
"This is the President's," said Ballin, holding up a gown.
"They must have a load limit or something," speculated Vierhofen.
Ruthen started picking up things. "Let's get this cleared up before the DC cops come to. I'm pretty sure this is going to be classified information, Major."
"Yes," said Vierhofen, "I think that is a safe bet."
In the second basement, there were still bodies sprawled in the hallway. Baiburs shouted at his surviving men at bullhorn level, but when he turned to Major Horthy, he spoke calmly. "What happened outside? Upstairs?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Horthy, "One of the roof sentries was wounded. My man on the South Balcony was killed. So were Commander Sargon and his guards. Two men dead on the Ground Floor. I lost one man on the next floor the same way, and I'm afraid the guard you left with the medical women is also dead. The women are missing, all of them. The South Patrol is missing, but there is no activity to the south. North, East, and West Patrols are intact and reporting. There was no firing from the Americans on any side, I saw none in the building, and there is still no movement toward us we can see. Did they come through the tunnel?"
"They came through the tunnel, but they were not the Americans," said Baiburs. "They were djinn, like in the war. When I made it clear to them we would kill the rest of the prisoners before we surrendered, they went away."
"Djinn?" said Fahd, who had trailed along with Horthy. "We are fighting the djinn?"
"They are formidable," said Baiburs, "But not invincible. Several were wounded. As long as we have prisoners, we are safe," said Baiburs. He repeated that, very loudly, so that all his men could hear. Then he said, "I am afraid some of my men assumed the attack was more serious than it was. Some of the prisoners have been expended. The djinn were able to take the President and several others, I am afraid, but we still have the two Ambassadors, the two Ministers, and the American Secretary of State. We have--" Baiburs looked at his watch "--only twenty-eight hours and forty-four minutes at most until we leave. You will inform the negotiators that the further use of djinn will be considered an attack requiring immediate and full retaliation. Use that phrase. Insist that they publicise it immediately. There is always the chance the djinn are independent of the Americans, but they obviously value the hostages. Do it now, Major. If you keep your head, you will come out of this alive and wealthy."
Horthy was ready to shoot Baiburs when he started his speech, but the bastard made sense, or as much sense as could be made of this thing. She saluted and went to the command center. Sergeiev had appeared, and briefed her on the details of the fight as they moved upstairs. "We came down after the fog cleared; heard the firing. It was like Baiburs said, they were women, even girls, except for one man in a cape. Baiburs was the only man standing, but he was holding them off, holding this boy with a gun to his head. He stopped them, and then he rallied his men. They backed off, and then suddenly, they were gone. Just vanished . . . Baiburs is a son-of-a-bitch, but he is no coward. One of them had a poleaxe at his throat. He brassed his way out of it."
"He doesn't seem to be shedding tears for his great comrade the little colonel," said Horthy.
"He is still a son-of-a-bitch, Major . . . we lost Grigor."
"Your nephew?" asked Horthy.
"Yes," said the laconic Siberian. "He was on tunnel watch . . . must have been hit first." Sergeiev expended no more words about his dead nephew.
The President found herself in a bedroom, nude. The floating lady was nude too. Two girls were there, also nude, one winged, the other still unconscious in her arms. The floating lady floated over the bed.
The winged girl was still crying as she began to pass the President. "Where are we?"
"We are home," said the small winged one. "My home. This is where . . . where Mamo-chan and okasan slept. This is the room I was born in." She sobbed, and then seemed to pull herself up. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to." Then she floated out the door with the smaller girl in her arms.
Sailor Venus was naked. At the first instant she thought she had de-transformed, but she still had her wings and so did Lily-chan. She took a moment to realize where she was, but not another moment why: Chibi Moon had seized control of the jump, probably unconsciously. <Lost our clothes, can't even manifest a costume, and scattered,> Sailor Venus thought as a General. The teleport had barely succeeded, so they were utterly drained.
With poor Lily in her arms, and Isis and Achilles fastened to each leg like limpets, it was going to take awhile to rally the <senshi. <Where were Ishi-chan and Afa-chan, for a start?> The Minako part of Sailor Venus wanted to retch at the memory of her visit with Fazi, but that would have to wait.
Next: The Morning After
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