A Year and Change

A Sailor Moon fan fiction by Thomas Sewell (oldgringo2001@yahoo.com)

The Morning After

White House, Washington, DC
Time: Unknown
ROLAND DESCARTES had been fortunate enough to be put in with the journalists--his first conversation with Horthy and Nagy had earned him this privilige, for in explaining that he was a celebrity, they had convinced Fazi al Kaukji that Roland Descartes was one of the bigger prizes, one with extra propaganda value. What this meant for him and the three male members of the press who had been caught was that instead of being frequently beaten in a large lighted room, they were left neglected in a small dark room. Pitch dark; there were no windows, and they were forbidden to switch on the lights without permission, even if they could manage it with bound hands. Since they had been separated from the others, there had been no meals, only two offerings of water, and infrequent visits by the bucket boy. It had been a very long time since his last call, before the firing.

Being neglected, at least it was safe to talk, for the most part, although not loudly--there had been enough sudden intrusions by guards to drill caution into all four men. Still, no one at all had come in since a short time after the firing ended, when Baiburs himself had taken their measure--without answering any questions, of course.

Two of the journalists had clucked away with each other, endlessly speculating on exactly what had happened. They were rather appropriately named Poulet and Henns--Poulet had pointed out to Roland that while he knew the French way to pronounce his name was "Poo-lay," his family had always pronounced it "Pullet."

The third, Jack Crawford, had not said much at all. In fact, not so long after the firing stopped, the man stopped talking altogether. His occasional snoring announced in the dark that he was still among the living.

Sleep was beyond Roland's grasp, though he was desperately tired. Hunger, thirst, the need for the bucket boy's attention, worry about his family, and, yes, fear kept him awake. Descartes was no coward, but he did not have the coolness old Crawford apparently had. <A remarkable man or a complete fool,> Roland thought. <Napoleon could sleep like this, they say . . . napping in the middle of a battle.> During the long night--if it was night, for he had not been able to read a clock or a watch since they had been brought to this place--Roland remembered that he had encountered Crawford before, when he had distracted the pig reporter Warfield from Titania. <Warfield . . . Odd that she would be here.> For a moment, Roland thought she might be connected with the takeover, but he decided that was too much, however much he loathed the woman.

After who-knew how long, and many false alarms as footsteps came close to the door, and then faded away again, came the sound of the latch. The door opened; unbound hands flipped the light switches. Words incomprehensible to Roland Descartes barked out. Squinting in the now-unbearable light with his dark-adapted eyes, Roland saw the welcome face of the bucket boy. He almost cried out with relief--almost. He also recognized the guard, who had an even harder look on his face. Poulet did speak out at some length. He seemed to have a shorter memory, but the guard refreshed it with his gun-butt.

With hands bound, Roland and the others were quite dependent on the bucket-boy, whoever he was. Perhaps he was someone Michiru had invited; perhaps a scion of one of the Japanese officials. He had never met him before tonight. There was no way to find out now, under the eyes and ears of the guard.

The time needed for everyone to have their turn with the bucket was just long enough for their eyes to adapt to the light. Then, as soon as the bucket boy was out the door, the lights went out again, and the door was locked. It had been possible to see something in the room with dark-adapted eyes by the light through the tiny gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. Now there was only a dim thread of light in absolute darkness.

Poulet and Henns began clucking to each other long before Roland's eyes adjusted to the darkness again. Not hearing snoring, he decided to attempt conversation with Crawford. He did not start with subjects that really were uppermost in his mind, like what had happened to his children. He said, "Mr. Crawford, you were in the Middle East. Do you know what the guards are talking about? Now?" There was an conversation going on somewhere beyond their door.

"No," said Crawford. "I'm terrible with languages. I always use interpreters."

"I have several languages," said Roland, adding modestly, "Like many in Europe. But no Arabic. Though I recognize it. One hears it much in Paris these days."

"If you say, Mr. Descartes," said Crawford. "I've never been closer to Paris than De Gaulle Airport."

"A shocking lapse, Mr. Crawford! No one should miss being in Paris if they have the means."

"Well, I'd say the same thing about San Francisco, Mr. Descartes . . . I think the women and children must be safe."

"How are you sure of that?" interjected Poulet, the more assertive of the cluckers.

"Oh, I don't know," said Crawford. "Maybe because we are still alive to ask the question."

That shut up the cluckers for awhile. After some quiet moments in the dark striving to believe old Crawford was correct about the women and children, Descartes asked another idle question to pass the time. "I wonder who the boy with the bucket is?"

Surprisingly, there was an immediate answer, from Crawford: "The boy is Mrs. Chiba's brother, Mr. Descartes. And the husband of the girl your wife and Michiru helped raise."

"Oh, Shingo," said Roland. "Yes, I know of him, but I have never met him . . . until now."

"That boy's married already?" drawled Henns in an accent even Roland Descartes could recognize as Southern American.

"Yes," explained Descartes. "Some foolishness led to a baby. But he is not as young as he looks, I think, unless he is a prodigy. He has two years of university, I believe. That is why I have not met him. He was at university when I started my last tour. There was no time to . . . no time meet everyone before the performance. And no time after because of our friends, as you style them, Mr. Crawford."

Fortunately Henns transported Roland away from thinking about their friends for awhile by starting the first of several yarns about early marriages, which were apparently a commonplace of his family history and the milieu of his native region. Clucker Henns proved such a wonderful yarnspinner that he took Roland's mind far enough from care to slip into sleep at last, into a strange, strange dream . . .




White House, Washington, DC
Sunday, 7:00 am EDT

It was a quiet Sunday morning in Washington, quieter than it had been in decades. The curfew would not lift for another hour. Looking down on the prospect of Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol from the Third Floor, Major Maria Horthy could see only one vehicle moving--a car. It was undoubtedly a government car of some kind, but just a car, perhaps two kilometers away. Birdsong was the dominant sound. In this quiet moment, from this spot on the walkaround surrounding the artfully-concealed penthouse that held the rooms of the White House's Third Floor, it was just possible to believe that it had all been a bad dream . . .

It had not been quiet during the night. Since the firefight with whatever they were, there had been a lot of activity around the perimeter. The American press had not been muzzled; apparently their police and their army were searching the area. There were men missing, but it this seemed like a vast effort to catch their deserters, if they had deserted. Perhaps they were searching for Baiburs' confederates. Sultan and now Baiburs had instructed Nagy and herself to mention outside forces to the negotiators, perhaps to unsettle the Americans. But perhaps he did have people in the area. Even one dependable agent on the outside would be a great asset. Still, room-to-room searches seemed unlikely to Maria Horthy to turn up anyone who had been blending in all along. Of course, it was the kind of heavy-handed action she would expect of the Stassi, or the KGB, or many other flavors of political police she had known. But she had thought America too sophisticated for this.

Two of the missing men were quite obviously not deserters. There were two blackened corpses on the South Lawn. There was no telling who they were; the clothes were burnt away, and their features, according to their replacements on the South Patrol. Something should be done with them, of course; one of them could be her man, and at least one of them wasn't Baiburs'. But with so many lost now, who could be spared for the task without leaving some place unguarded? <Maybe another prisoner working party . . . > That meant approaching Baiburs, but that was unavoidable, anyway . . .

From within the third-floor walkaround, smoke marks from the fire in Sultan's bedroom were not visible, but Horthy could smell the effects as she walked above it. The fire had flared up after Horthy had first looked in the room, and provided some lively moments. The sprinkler system seemed to be offline, perhaps another legacy of Hacker John. It was a godsent chance for the Americans to launch another effort, but they did not. Good news for her team, but Horthy did not like it that a man like Baiburs had faced down the enemy.

From the west side of the roof, nothing appeared to have changed unless one looked closely at the grounds: there was a slight subsidence caused by the collapsed portion of the tunnel, blown in by the charges Hans had set. The effects were greater inside the West Wing; the floors were sagging over the collapse, and the West Patrol made its way to the two-story office structure at the west end across the lawns now.

Seven of her team lost--eight counting Nagy, who seemed to be in some kind of coma. Stroke? Five dead, one missing, and Ramirez was blind. Baiburs had lost eight, five of them dead and a sixth still alive but he could not last much longer, one missing, one wounded in hands and arms from a chamber explosion and useless for combat now. There had been a few other weapons malfunctions, something that much surprised Sergeiev, who was their armorer. Galils were not fancy equipment, many of them being reworked Soviet or Chinese weapons captured in Israel's many wars, but they were rugged and quality control was excellent. When Sergeiev said he had inspected every piece, Horthy believed him. Even Baiburs' goons couldn't have mucked up so many pieces so quickly. <Sabotage?> By who? If the Americans or another hostile power had infiltrated her group, they would have hardly let them get this far.

Maria stopped at the northwest corner to look up Pennsylvania Avenue. A few vehicles moving, none very urgently. No movement in Lafayette Park except a few birds.

Heading around to the stairs on the north side, nodding to Vietingoff, Horthy took another last look at the eastern skies. There was some cloud, but Hurricane Barrett--it had been upgraded during the night--was somewhere over the horizon on the unseen ocean.




University Hospital
Washington, DC
7:25 am EDT

Kaidou Yoko had broken into joyous tears when she heard that Goro was saved, but her husband never saw them. Kaidou Goro had not even the capability to dream Yoko could do such a thing now . . . Yoko seemed her all-too-familiar self when Kaidou-san woke up and saw her beside his hospital bed. Her first words were, "I thought Hino-san's daughter would still be here."

"The women were all gone when they brought me to this ward," said Kaidou Goro smoothly enough. Being able to come up with quick, plausible responses in the most appalling situations was, after all, part of a diplomat's stock-in-trade. "How are you here? The curfew has not lifted yet."

"Don't be a fool, Goro. Of course they let me through," said Yoko dismissively. Instead of telling Goro she had been beside his bed for most of the last six hours, Yoko returned to the subject of the woman Goro was obviously still obsessed with. "Hino-san's daughter was very badly beaten. I saw it. Perhaps they moved her to another hospital?"

"I do not know where Hino-san's daughter is," said Goro, perhaps a little forcefully. Then he said, "I do not know about Hino-san himself. He was not kept with us."

"Us?" asked Yoko. "Who do you mean? Husband, I do not know what happened to you. If the Americans really know, they have not informed the embassy, or the baka we have left there haven't told me. There are wild stories that bishoujo senshi rescued you. Even pictures on television, though they do not show much."

"The bishoujo did save us," said Goro. "Some of us, at least . . . They brought us to this hospital, somehow . . . When I say 'us' I mean the prisoners I was with. Unimportant men, the enemy must have thought . . . They must not have known who your father is, Yoko."

"I did not tell them," replied Yoko. "That would have made me a prize for them. And you."

"A wise choice," said Kaidou Goro.

"Real bishoujo senshi," mused Yoko after Goro was silent for a long time. "If they are real, why did they not save everyone?"

"They can be hurt," said Goro, "And Baiburs threatened to kill everyone else . . .They killed Yamashita-san."

"I know that," said Yoko. "I also know that Kumada-san is dead. He was the husband of Hino-san's daughter."

"Yes," said Goro. "He fought the guards. He fought well."

"They are saying Yamashita-san fought well at the embassy," said Yoko. "I think they will make him into a hero."

Goro laughed bitterly. "Yamashita-san was the first they shot. Poor baka! He had no chance. The man who shot him, his gun blew up, but it still shot Yamashita. Baka was right next to me. His brains were all over me . . . Kumada-san put up the best fight I saw, but they shot him down too. I think they shot one of their own men to do it, but they shot Kumada-san . . . many times, many times. They must have used up most of their bullets on him. When the bishoujo finally came, they didn't shoot as much, I think . . . I don't know how long it was, the fight. Probably not long, but it seemed a long time . . . a long time"

"And did you fight, husband?"

"No."

"A wise choice," said Yoko, repeating Goros phrase pointedly, matching inflections precisely.

<A perfect ear>, thought Kaidou Goro. <She could--she would have been a koto-master if that were allowed to a woman of her breeding . . . but koto is part of the floating world, at least in the mind of her father, something for geisha, not respectable enough for his daughter . . .>

"I made no choice," said Kaidou Goro. "I just did nothing. Maybe I am a coward. Maybe not. I did not try to hide . . . I just did nothing. Nothing . . . Some of the men that fought, you would never have thought . . . some of the ones who tried to hide, who begged and cried and fouled themselves . . . you would have never thought they could do so, if I pointed them out . . . I would rather not, Yoko. I will admit what I did, or what I did not do, but--"

"You are no fighter," snapped Yoko. "Baka. Have you told others about Kumada-san?"

"I told--"

"Who? Who did you tell?"

<I told her, weeping over Kumada-san. They brought out the corpses, some of them, and it was her, it was her, it was her! . . . It could be none other . . . Kami-sama, she was one when I knew her, did old Hino-san know all along?>

"Baka! Who did you tell?" screeched Yoko, far beyond irritation, sounding like her father on the rare and terrible occasions his temper completely broke.

"I told one of the bishoujo that he fought well, but I did not say his name. I can say I meant Yamashita, even if the bishoujo should say something in public . . . which she won't." <I must tell her . . . It is better for Yamashita to be the hero. There will be enough reporters after her as it is . . . Why is Yoko so upset? I said bishoujo, not--Gods, no, did Rei tell her?>

Yoko regained her composure. "You told a bishoujo . . . No doubt you looked her legs while you were bleeding almost to death." Yoko was revealing a truth amid her clever remark, but Goro missed it. "They all have such nice legs . . . but you told no one else?"

"No."

"Good. So Yamashita will be the hero. I should be sorry for Hino-san's daughter, but she will never know if you are right about your bishoujo senshi. . . Would you like it if I dressed as a bishoujo senshi for you sometime? Do you have your friends in the water trade do that for your mens' parties, husband? Maybe I could ask them where to find the best fuku."




Director's Suite
J Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, DC
7:57 am EDT

"What is it?" asked Anne Marie Kerkorian. "Who are you?" <Must have fallen asleep during . . . strange dream. Strange, dreams, strange strange dreams . . . the woman in the wheelchair, never met her . . . what could she mean?> "Who are you? . . . Ruthen, who are these people? Why are you here?" She was on the day bed . . .

"I'm Ballin, Director," the Agent said gently.

She remembered Ballin now . . .

The third man was an Army man, a major, "Vierhofen" on the tag on his blouse, the black beret of Delta Force or a vet of the DF on his head. He said, "Do you have trouble remembering, Ma'am?" He sounded more like a shrink than a commando.

"I remember . . . " <I remember! The flurry of questions the feeling like nothing else . . . the flash! over her eyes for an instant, just as the recorder went pop! in her hand . . . talking in the lounge . . . and then she was in the dream, a real dream, and yet . . .> "I think I remember, now. I remember what you told me about the angels."

"Bishoujo senshi," said Vierhofen. "Means something like 'pretty young girl soldiers.' That is what they call themselves, or what they let were called in Japan . . . The President said that there could be some memory trouble."

"Because of Ms. Chiba?" asked Kerkorian.

"Yes," said the Major.

"Where is the President, Major?"

"Can't say, Ma'am. She's in contact, but I can't say."

Ann Kerkorian took stock for a moment. "What are you doing here, now, Major? There's no one to interrogate."

"Debrief, Ma'am," said Vierhofen. "Suspects and prisoners are interrogated. Friendlies are debriefed."

"Well, no one to debrief. So what are you doing in my office, Major?"

"Why, intelligence liaison, Ma'am," he said.

"Can you speak in plain words?" asked Kerkorian.

"In plain words, us four and the President are the only ones who know who the bishoujo senshi really are."

"That we know of," said Ballin. "I found some things. There's material on them that's invisible unless you access from an Epsilon-level station like the one Director Halinan had installed in this office. Your office now, Director. I still can't read it, but I can read the cross-references. It's enough to tell me the Bureau investigated our friends a lot, right up to the week Halinan died."

"I didn't think to look . . . Halinan must have known, and he didn't tell me . . . he didn't tell the President!"

The Major said. "You know, we don't know that yet . . . speaking plainly "

"We don't?" asked Ballin.

"All we really know is that our new friends rescued the President," said Vierhofen. "We don't know she didn't know about them . . . and from what you just said . . . isn't it strange they would all be invited to the White House? Maybe the President wanted to make a deal with them."

Kerkorian was sufficiently paranoid now to believe that--for the split second it took old Ruthen to draw breath and say, "Bullshit."

"Bullshit?" said the Major.

"Bullshit. I don't know beans about our current Chief Executive, but I knew Halinan from the day he reported to Quantico. He was a lawyer first, and he thought like one. He wouldn't lay something like this on the President unless he had enough evidence to choke a whale. You guessed right about all the ladies coming, but my guess is that it was Halinan's idea. His wife was pretty thick with the Chief of Protocol, you know."

"Yes, I do know that," said the Acting Director pointedly. "Major, you still haven't said why you are here, in plain words."

"To keep an eye on you," said the Major. "The Joint Chiefs don't want you to make some kind of exclusive deal with the senshi. For the Bureau, of course. They could pick anyone to watch you, but I already know the big secrets; another grunt could find it out minding you. And if we get anyone to debrief after the firefight last night? You'll want to debrief them yourself, Ma'am, so I won't be out of place."

Pausing long enough to make a coda, the Major said, "And soon our place will be back at the Pentagon. That's why we came to wake you up, Ma'am."




Kensington, California
Morning

Kimberly Chiba opened her eyes, squinting. The sun was above the hill now, pouring its light through the nearest window into her eyes. She was in bed, in her own bed. It felt strange--she had no clothes on. Looking around, Kimi saw Sarah on her bed, but not really in it; her sister's arm showed she was wearing a sweatshirt. Someone had folded up Sarah's quilts over her like she was the filling in an enchilada. An ankle showed. Sarah was wearing her jeans, too. <Sarah must have fallen asleep without wanting too. She never wears her jeans in bed no matter how beat she is . . . >

<It was all a dream,> Kimi thought. She didn't have as many bad dreams as Sarah, or Ishi, or the ones that ZoŽ still wouldn't really explain, at least to Kimi. But she had bad dreams sometimes, especially about the man she had fought to save Mika . . . that seemed so long ago, now. Kimi reached down to her leg, to rub it a little before she put some weight on it, but . . . it felt okay, now, mostly . . . better than it had since her fight . . . <It must have been a bad dream . . . Where's my cane?> she asked herself. <Must have fallen down, Sarah wouldn't move it.>

Kimi sat up and put her legs out over the edge of her bed, but held the covers around herself--she was beyond the shameless state of childhood now and did not like to be naked, even in front of Sarah, even more than Sarah, who was a little more Japanese in some of her ways . . . <Sarah yelled at me for using my Eye in the restroom when we saved Uncle Marvell, but here she uses the toilet when I'm in the shower . . . ditches gym because she doesn't want to take showers with strangers, but she'll go to the shower without a robe here sometimes when we don't have strangers staying over . . . sleeps in her undies a lot now, even naked sometimes, but that's not me . . . Not even my undies . . . Where's my cane? Maybe someone kicked it under the bed? By accident?>

Kimi tried to use her magic eye, but couldn't. That happened sometimes, since the fight with the man who'd taken Mika, especially when she was really tired, and she was really tired now. Bad dreams stole the good from sleep sometimes. <Why doesn't Pegasus protect us from bad dreams?> thought Kimi. <I wish he was more than a story that okasan and Sarah and Auntie Junjun and her sisters like to tell . . .> Kimi tried not to be scared of the dream and of losing her Eye for now, and listened . . . <People in okasan's room now, talking . . . Auntie Minako and Auntie Luna and Auntie Naru, but what are they saying? . . . I wish I could hear like Neri-chan . . . sometimes . . . Ikuko-chan is crying . . . That must be why okasan isn't talking, she must be with Ikuko-chan . . . But why are the others still in her room? Is otousan home?> Kimi really wanted her father to be home because of what happened in the dream . . .




Kensington, California
9:07 am PDT

The President of the United States stood silent in a room, in borrowed clothes, looking at a floating woman, a floating jewel, listening to the talk but unable to speak . . . <It had not been a dream.> Angels had come for her and taken her away from the terrorists . . . away to this very real place.

The woman was dressed again in black, and now she was holding a very white rose . . . the jewel was never the same, sometimes like a flower, sometimes a faceted globe, sometimes a spiky thing, sometimes an octahedron . . . and countless other variations. Once it had made a nest at the base of the woman's throat, but now it was floating fee again . . . <How long have I been watching her now?>

The President became more aware of the conversation. It was in Japanese . . . <Maybe> "Excuse me, what are you talking about?"

The blond angel started to say something, but the red-haired woman made a fast gesture and then said in slightly accented English, "We were talking about helping Sailor Moon. I am afraid we cannot tell you exactly how, but it is not your affair. You can't help us with her problem--"

The blond angel found her voice. "There is no need to be rude, Naru-chan. There is a person we call the Grey Lady who may be able to help Sailor Moon, and perhaps help us against the enemy. It is difficult to reach her. Umino-san is right when she says you cannot help. But you do care about our friend."

"She's the one in the wheelchair!" exclaimed the President. "I remember--"

"Looking through her eyes," said Umino Naru, who had mastered the prerequisites for her first mindreading spell since the night Venus-sama had taken a husband. "When Usagi reads more than the present thoughts of someone, things like this can happen--more and more, lately. Her power has grown. She cannot always control it. That is part of what happened, is it not, Luna-sensei?"

"Yes," said the most mature-seeming woman, though there were no physical signs of age the President could be sure of. "That is part of it. Forgive Umino-san and myself, if we cannot tell you everything, but there are secrets of our circle we may not reveal without permission . . . and frankly, without charge. Your government has dealt with us in the past, even if you know nothing of it, Madame President. But I can tell you that . . . "




Kimi could wake up Sarah to get her cane, of course, but she did not like Sarah to do everything for her, and, anyway, Sarah looked kind of frazzled. It wasn't like her to sleep in her clothes. <Maybe she was out late on a date? Or with Val and the others? But in those clothes? Maybe babysitting . . . but she never wears old things like that when she goes babysitting . . . Why can't I remember?> Maybe okasan had given her the forgetting powder . . . Ishi had taken it once, Sarah a couple of times, when the dreams got really bad . . . <Pegasus, why can't you be real? . . . But why do I remember the dream?> The forgetting powder did not work very well on senshi, usually . . . <It could mess up your powers, maybe that's why I can't use my Eye now . . . A mission! That must be what happened! A sudden mission and I saw something so awful okasan or otousan gave me the forgetting powder!>

It had to be that. The dream of the men with the mean men with guns and the bad things they did, and the fight, and being with her mother and father in the strange place with one of the leaders of the mean men dressed up like a soldier from olden times . . . it had to be a dream, a mixed-up dream maybe the forgetting powder had something to do with . . .

Kimberly Chiba shut out other possibilities. Okasan could use help with Ikuko-chan, or with Julie-chan because Ikuko-san was so much to handle when she was having one of her crying spells . . . and was that Lily-chan crying? <It was . . . Lily-chan crying . . . She's not a cryer . . . She cried even less than Julie-chan when she was tiny, and now . . . > That had to be tended to, if no one else could do it now, and that must be it because no one would let sweet little Lily suffer alone if they might help, not even Sarah when she was at her wit's end to get some privacy from Lily, the "Fifth Asatara," as she had appointed herself when the four Asatara had last visited . . . <And that is Parapara I hear, and Auntie Junjun and Auntie Seresere . . . are they still here? I dreamed all that?>

Kimi could either wake up her sister, or find her cane herself. Lily-chan was crying and Ikuko-chan too. Who knew how long it would take to wake Sarah? Grandma said that Sarah was even worse than okasan to wake up sometimes . . . Kimi needed to do something now. She steeled herself, and eased off the bed, letting go of the covers. Modesty would have to be risked; the covers were pretty heavy with the four quilts okasan had made for her, more than she wanted to trust to her damaged leg.

Fortunately her bed was lower than okasan's, which had to be high so she could slip on and off into her wheelchair by herself. Sarah had the bed okasan had used in Japan, a big box with drawers and a recessed top that kept the futon in place. But Kimi had a western-style bed with a mattress and springs and space underneath; not much space, but just enough for her cane to get lost in. Okasan had bought it used from someone for little money. While the little man who owned the house could and would provide anything they really needed, and some of her aunties and uncles were quite wealthy now and always willing to give, otousan did not like to take too much from them, and otousan was far from wealthy, so okasan was pretty careful with otousan's money, always looking for bargains and mending clothes and . . . <I hope otousan is home today . . . Where's my cane? It's not under the bed . . .>

Kimi stood up and began looking . . . and then stopped. She was walking . . . her right leg was a little sore, a little stiff, a little hard to control, but it wasn't weak, and . . .

Kimi covered the most private parts of herself with her hands; someone had come in. It was . . . "Auntie Carmen?" Auntie Carmen's eyes were red and puffy. Her mother and father's old friend, and of course Auntie Gin's . . . she stood speechless for a moment, and then she covered her mouth, and then she rushed to Kimi and knelt down and took Kimi into her arms.

"You're all right . . . Thank God you're all right . . . " sobbed Auntie Carmen. Kimi had never seen Auntie Carmen cry . . . And Sarah woke up, and came over, and she was crying . . . and Auntie Olivia, and Auntie Minako, who was Venus now but was still crying only not out loud . . . and . . . and . . .

"Otousan!" cried out Kimi. "What happened to otousan?!"

Mama Venus, for she was somehow even more like okasan when she was this way, knelt down and took Kimi's cheeks in her hands. "Mamo-chan is with the kami now, Kimi-chan. There was no other way to keep you with us. You must be a brave soldier now, Kimi Moon. The enemies have a terrible weapon, and we need you to keep them from using it."




The President watched the scene in the girls' room, feeling like a voyeur, and yet compelled to keep looking and listening. Finally Sailor Venus--<Sailor Venus,> yesterday a cartoon her nieces loved, today . . . finally Sailor Venus emerged from the now-crowded room and began to speak. "We will need an expert with nuclear weapons, Madame President. Maybe one with regular bombs, too. Usagi was sure that Fazi was very smart about some things and very careful. I think his bomb may have traps to keep someone from disarming it. Surely it would if he wanted to get away . . . yes, an expert with such things, too. Kimi can lend her eye to the experts . . . but it may be hard for them to use it. Luna-sensei, could you link me with Kimi and one or two others? I can spot the bomb, I think, and maybe I can help them use her eye . . . "

Sailor Venus continued to weep as she said all that . . .




Kensington, California.
11:38 pm PDT

Their best chances required Kimberly Chiba's Eye. Really, the only chance, so there was no point in sending the senshi without Kimi Moon, Sailor Venus had explained to the President. Now Kimi had recovered enough control to transform, so Venus had gathered her mission team in the operations room. But there was a problem now . . .

"No, I will punish them!" screamed Lily Chiba. It was impossible to restrain her; she was in her chibi senshi form and phased out instantly when anyone grabbed her--and she seemed faster now. "You have to let me come! I have to punish them for mama and papa!"

Ishtar was about to say the words, but she could feel so much of Lily's pain, and that piled on top of her own, that she could say nothing. Instead, Deja spoke.

"Venus-sama has ordered that even I must stay, Lily-chan."

"And I," said Pleione.

"And I," said Maia, "And we can fight."

"They can't hurt me if I don't let them!" said Lily.

"We're not sure of that," said ZoŽ, who had a similar power. "Bullets come faster than you can think, Lily. They didn't hit me this time, but they didn't shoot much, and I really didn't fight much." She knelt and sat on her legs very much like Makoto, her adopted mother, as if she were such an outsized person, though she was, in fact, only a little taller than an average almost-sixteen American girl. ZoŽ opened her arms in invitation. "Come, Lily-chan," she said in Japanese, for if she would never lose her American accent, she spoke it more often than even Deja. "Do you not think I want to punish these men for Papa Ryo? But Venus-sama orders us to stay, and we must obey."

Seresere said, "This is so, Lily-chan. The Fifth Asatara must stay behind, to help guard the Third and Fourth Moons and the other babies."

"Yes, Lily," said Sarah, in English. "I am still the High Princess of the Asatara. I order my Fifth Asatara to stay here in reserve."

That almost calmed her, but then ZoŽ made the mistake of moving toward Lily; she phased out of ZoŽ's grasp and flew up, and now Naru could not throw the sleep spell she had been building--it took a powerful one to put out an excited senshi, and time to prepare it, and now it was wasted. Lily would fall, if Naru managed to hit her with the spell.

"I will punish them! I must punish them!" shouted the child senshi. "You must let me go back with you! Please! Auntie Venus, please!"

"Iie, Lily-chan,"said Sailor Venus, choosing Japanese. "As the General, I order you to stay and guard here. Your High Princess has ordered the Fifth Asatara to stay. We will not leave until you return to your duties here. Artemis-sensei is your commanding officer, Fifth Asatara. Obey him while we are gone. Now, come down, and stand with the reserves like Ishi-chan. Stand aside, so that we may go. The longer you keep us waiting, the more chance the enemy will use his weapon before we find it. They will kill many people if they do that. You were a brave soldier, hiding your powers so the evil men did not know of us until it was too late for them. Will you be a good soldier now? Mother and father in heaven are watching you, Lily-chan. Will the Fifth Asatara follow her orders?"

Lily obeyed at last, and as soon as she was among the other chibi senshi who were staying, she was never out of loving arms for long.

Then Sailor Venus gathered her army around the President, Luna, and Naru, and they teleported out. Just before they did, someone said, "I will punish them for you, Lily-chan."

It was not quick-tempered Chibi Moon who said that. It was gentle Kimi Moon.



"Stassi" stood for Staatzpoleizei, I believe, the thankfully-extinct apparatus that helped keep the unwanted Communist regime in power in East Germany for so long.

As I understand it, the "floating world" is the world of entertainment in Japan, including its seamier aspects. The "water trade" is a related euphemism. There's a book called Pictures From the Water Trade which will explain it to you mature readers. It should be in any reasonably large public library, but it will raise parental eyebrows.

Black berets as exclusive uniform for the Delta Force are really an invention of mine, but it seems a reasonable one. Actually anyone in the Army can wear a black beret now as part of the uniform; I assume that the US Army of Sailor Moon's world didn't implement this dubious "morale-building" policy.

The real Delta Force is a multiservice force created after the failure of the infamous hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1979. There is a wonderfully cheesy movie celebrating the Delta Force with Chuck Norris and the late, great Lee Marvin. It also has Shelley Winters and Lainie Kazan for that full Yentascope experience.

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