Author Notes: this is a reboot of my fic ‘Stars Reborn’. The central ideas remain (this is mostly a Buffy/Sailor Moon/Rosario+Vampire fic and an uchronia) but as my style has evolved, I chose to rewrite it completely and redo some background elements. The goal is, in general, to obtain a better constructed world and a better written story. This means that Star Reborn is discontinued and will be taken down on the 5 Jan to give time to people who would like to download it before it disappears (maybe earlier depending on moderator’s reaction to the rule about posting the same story twice. If a moderator is reading this and wondering about quarantine, please do it on the old version if you deem it necessary). Summary: In 1985, as the Senshi faced Galaxia, a risk was taken and a different outcome obtained. Two survived while all the others died and they worked to accomplish a promise, waiting for their friends’ return. Disclaimer Warning: as this story is an uchronia and one of my ‘merged universes’, some things will change drastically from canon. Fandom I do not own anything of: - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Rosario+Vampire (manga) - Cat’s Eye (manga) - Angel Heart (manga) - Sailor Moon (manga). - The Final Countdown Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed by Masamune Shirow, Neuromancer by William Gibson, GURPS Transhuman Space and Cyberpunk 2020 for terms and concepts, though they are often generic. Rating: FR18
--- Unknown Space-Time Coordinates ---
The two young women were walking with great difficulty. One had jet black hair in a bob cut, with a perfect pale skin that would have made the envy of many conservative ladies in Japan. At the moment, she wasn’t feeling really pretty, though. Her clothes were torn and she was covered in clotted blood. She was also limping, using her glaive as a walking stick. At her side, a pink-haired woman with a haircut that seemed to be a mix of ox buns and a twin ponytail was almost grappling her. She stopped for an instant, catching her breath.
"We have to move, Usagi. The singularity is closing," said the dark-haired one.
The other nodded painfully and resumed her walk, trying to control her shivers. The path that seemed cut out of a ribbon of starry night absorbed the sound of their feet, winding through a tunnel of blackness whose walls were traveled by opalescent waves. Behind them, the tunnel was collapsing, closing the gate to a place that resided at the same time outside of what is and at the center of it. The woman with the glaive had a look backwards, feeling the delicate balance between Order and Chaos once again restored. I hope the price was worth it… I will keep my promise, Setsuna-mama.
"Hotaru? Are you… still yourself?" asked the pink-haired one.
"Y… no, not in the way you mean. You remember when you saw me right before I nuked Pharaoh 90?”
“The cold and aloof you… you seemed so lonely back then… that means, you remember the Silver Millennium like Mina-chan and Mom did?”
“Yes… and no. All of them only remembered of that era what Selene – your grandmother – wanted them to remember. I remember everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“Selene… I’ll tell you more later but she wanted to spare us… and by doing so deprived us of our real strength.”
Usagi shivered once again. She could feel the aura of Hotaru. It had been building up since Sailor Pluto did something to her… probably breaking all the seals on her power and memories. Hotaru had been one of the most innocent among the Sailor Senshi. The fully awakened Saturn, on the contrary, deserved every bit of her title of Soldier of Destruction. If she had been awakened all along… our enemies would have been wiped out like lesser Youma. But was it worth it? This darkness I feel in her…
Her gaze fell on Saturn’s eyes and she gasped. Gone was the shy, innocent black she was used to. Her irises were scarlet, with vertical, slit pupils. She also felt… stronger and Usagi was almost certain that most of Hotaru’s wounds had disappeared.
“Hotaru… your eyes…”
“My body is remembering, too, Usagi. Again, I’ll explain more later but the Sailor Senshi only look human. Back in the Silver Millennium, there was one species on each planet.”
The pink-haired Senshi screamed. She felt her insides twisting as she clung desperately to Saturn. Something was being torn out of her, trying to suck her whole being into oblivion. Hotaru held her with an arm that seemed stronger than steel and jumped. Reality shifted in a demented maelstrom of colors, finally settling in a huge room with a purple marble floor.
“Hush,” said Hotaru as she lowered her friend on the ground, keeping her on her knees. “It’s gonna be all right.”
Dazed by the pain, she saw Saturn leaning on her, then the brush of her lips on her neck. Before she had even the time to tell her friend that she didn’t like her that way, she felt a piercing, needle-like pain followed by something else. There was a warmth spreading from the place Hotaru’s mouth was glued on her, like a sweet, dark fire that crept through her veins, dulling the pain and restoring her strength. As the Senshi of Saturn lifted her head, Sailor Chibimoon was almost tempted to embrace her, to make her stay.
“Here,” said Hotaru, her lips bloody and her fangs so white in the light that played on the rings of the planet Saturn, clearly visible through the windows. “My blood will help you make the transition.”
“Vampire… you’re a vampire.”
Hotaru rose, lifting her friend in her arms like if she weighted nothing. There was a flash of purple light and they found themselves in a palatial room of what Usagi was now certain to be Castle Titan.
“I’m a Saturnian, a Raksha to use the old name,” she said as she laid her friend on the bed. “Before you ask, my blood will not change you into one of my… subjects. For a Lunarian like you, it is merely a more potent version of my healing power. You need it. What you’re feeling is your link with the thirty first century Silver Crystal being severed.”
“Pluto… she asked you to build a better future… a future where I won’t be born. How long do I have until the time stream erases me?”
Saturn smiled gently to her. Usagi Tsukino Junior, also known as Small Lady Serenity and Sailor Chibimoon, had been her first friend, the first one to see further than her strangeness. Later, Hotaru had learnt that her friend was a time traveler, the daughter of Sailor Moon coming from a distant future. But, now, because of choices taken during the Sailor Senshi’s last battle, this future leading to Crystal Tokyo had no chance to happen. Usagi’s Sailor transformation finished to fade, revealing her civilian clothes.
“This is of no importance to you. You are stranded here, but Setsuna-mama knew what she did. There are ways to… cheat.”
“Like this,” replied Saturn, taking a mirror and lifting it so that her friend could see her face.
Shaking, Usagi put a hand to her brow as the reflection revealed it to her. She cried as her fingers traced the moon crescent that adorned it. She was used to its shape, though it manifested rarely. The issue was with the color. It wasn’t its usual golden but of a black so deep it seemed to suck on light.
“No… No!” she yelled as she punched the mirror away. “I… not like that! I don’t want to be evil again!”
The Black Moon, the symbol of the Black Moon Clan, of Nemesis. She remembered her fall in their hands, the corruption that nearly made her kill her mother and bed her father. She had been saved and the others never really held her responsible for what she did then but… she remembered and she knew that darkness was still here.
“You won’t be,” said Hotaru, hugging her friend. “Nemesis was evil because Wiseman corrupted it. I won’t let it happen again.”
She took a kind of apparatus on her nightstand and quickly manipulated some controls, displaying holograms. She stopped on one where an older Saturn stood with a slender woman with grey hair. The woman had a playful smirk and was making a golden coin spin on the tip of her right forefinger.
“This is my old friend Tyche,” said Hotaru. “She was Sailor Nemesis.”
--- George Washington University Hospital, 6 April 1981 ---
“Mister President,” said a greying man with patch on his left eye.
He thought that the President didn’t look too bad for someone who had taken a bullet in a lung a few days ago. There was however a question. Why did he send the Secret service to fetch a retired veteran like him while he was still in the hospital?
“Please sit down, Mister Scott,” said the President, pointing to the chair near the bed. “We have to talk about the real reason why I took a bullet. This reason falls in your area of expertise.”
Clive Scott frowned. Usually, the President was kept blissfully unaware of certain realities.
“Shortly after I took office, Henry told me about you and the kind of things the DRI fought during World War Two. He told about what you found when you raided that SS castle. When I started to dig… some people didn’t like it. I’m not sure who did it. Maybe some people in my administration who want to exploit the leftovers of the DRI or another faction, but I have reasons to believe that my assassin’s madness was artificial. Given that I’m still alive, it was probably done to scare me. Well… I’m not an easy man to scare. I’m giving you full powers to create an agency to take care of the paranormal.”
“There are many ways to interpret this mission, Mister President.”
“I see that Henry was right when he told me you were using your mind. I know that I cannot make things public, but my intent is that any… non-human sentient American that just wants to live in peace will be protected by your agency just as the FBI would for… regular people. I know that others cannot be reasoned with and will have to be dealt with like rabid beasts but I want you to make the distinction, to handle things with decency.”
“I understand. This means I will have to recruit… unusual people.”
“Full powers, Mister Scott. We need this… Bureau of Metahuman Affairs.”
--- Elsewhere, 27 hours later --- Where am I?
Usagi woke up, looking around. This wasn’t the room where Sailor Saturn had tucked her to bed in Castle Titan. The architectural style was very different, different from the one she had come to associate with the Silver Millennium. It was much more… human-sized than the huge halls of the planetary castles. Also, the intricate decorations in the room reminded her of what she had seen in school about classical India. There were even some inscriptions in something that resembled Sanskrit characters.
She got up, draping the black silken sheets around her naked body but suddenly stopped. Something was wrong. She looked for a mirror, finally finding one and sighed.
“I should have known…”
She left the sheet fall, taking in fully the changes in her body. It was disturbingly familiar to her. One of the ways Wiseman had found to tempt and corrupt her had been to play on the condition that made her body stay childish despite an age measured in centuries. When she absorbed Nemesis’ Black Crystal, she obtained the body of her dreams, the body of a femme fatale. The body I’m seeing in the mirror right now…
Not wanting to delve too much on the problem, she looked around and found clothes that had obviously been left at her attention. The style was again roughly Indian, though the tiger stripes also reminded her of the clothes worn by Lum and the other Oni in Urusei Yatsura.
“May I come in?” said a voice from outside the room.
Usagi frowned. The voice resembled Hotaru’s but had a strange modulation. She went to the door and opened, revealing a kind of chibi version of Sailor Saturn.
“You’re the Guardian Spirit of Castle Titan, right?”
“That’s one way to put it,” replied the ‘child’. “The Queen told me to bring you to her. She is in the War Room.”
“The Queen? You mean that my grand…”
“No, you’re still on Saturn, so I’m speaking of my Mistress Kali, of course.”
“Kali… like the Hindu goddess?”
“Yep. From what I observed about Terra in the last twelve millennia, the kings and queens of the planetary realms became worshipped as gods and goddesses. Think about it: your grandmother Selene is the goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology. Kali is the name of my Queen’s first incarnation, long before she was reborn as Hotaru Tomoe.”
“Okay… are we still in Castle Titan?”
“No. For reasons she will explain, her Majesty moved you to Sanaiscara, the capitol city of Saturn’s kingdom. Normally, the place would float in the upper atmosphere, with a clear sight on the rings, but it lowered itself in secure position after the last of the Raksha left for Terra.”
The Guardian led her through the halls, finally pushing the doors of a big room where Hotaru was busy manipulating what looked like interactive holograms. Just like her, Sailor Saturn looked older, maybe eighteen.
“I think I need a lot of explanations, Hotaru.”
“True… What do you want to know?”
“Let’s start with why we’re here and not in Castle Titan?”
“Taking a shortcut when space folding is risky. In our case, my jump to bring us faster to Castle Titan made me… imprecise regarding the time of our arrival. To be blunt, we’re the sixth of April 1981. I therefore had to get us in a… private place.”
“Almost four years before the battle with Galaxia…”
Usagi immediately thought about her mother who died using the last of her energy not only to reincarnate all the other Senshi once again, but also to repair all what she could of the worlds devastated by Galaxia, probably reshaping a good part of the galaxy in the process. Maybe she could…
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Hotaru, deciphering her friend’s expression. “Destroying the Death Busters and saving ‘younger me’ from Mistress Nine is very tempting… but we have no guarantee that this will allow them to go through the next battles more easily than we did. More than all, we cannot guess Pluto’s reaction.”
“But she… if we explain things to her…”
“If she was fully awakened, I would contact her right away. This kind of temporal mess happened quite a few times back in the old days. But she is a mere shadow of herself right now… I guess it’s time I tell you about your grandmother and what really happened in the Silver Millennium…”
--- Washington, almost at the same time ---
“Thank you for receiving me so quickly, Richard,” said Scott.
Richard Tideman was an old friend from the time of the DRI, and his brother-in-law. Since the war, he had founded a company – Tideman Industries – that was now a major defense contractor, their last big contract being the construction of the supercarriers like the USS Nimitz.
“So, what made you leave your retreat in the Montana, Clive?”
“The President asked to reopen the DRI and, that’s his words, to transform it into the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs.”
“A name with a nice ‘Superman’ ring… I suppose he has reasons to think the attempt came from our old ‘area of expertise’”
“Not so old according to a report from the Navy I saw…”
Tideman smiled innocently. They both had excellent reasons to know why, a few months ago, the Nimitz completely disappeared from the surface of the Pacific Ocean for a few days. It was following the ‘other end’ of this event that, in December 1941, Scott had helped a ‘displaced’ Richard Owens to become Richard Tideman. He could not refuse anything to the man who saved his sister.
“Did your people make any progress on discovering why this happened?” asked Clive.
“Not really. The recorders that were hidden in the Nimitz gave us new data, but nothing conclusive. My people think the phenomenon is a kind of ripple going both ways through time following a very big event that may not even happen on Earth. Like if someone was trying to fix up things, messed up and corrected again. I suppose you’re interested in my ‘Special Projects’ unit, right?”
“You have been working on such matters for thirty years and never abused what you learnt. Others are not so… prudent.”
“Well, once bitten… I don’t see why Tideman Industries could not become the main contractor to provide your Bureau with equipment. Don’t expect me to dress like a bat, though. Also, Laurel would kill me if I behaved like him.”
--- Saturn, some hours later ---
Usagi was feeling truly miserable as she raised her head from the toilet bowl. Thankfully, there had been one of those next to the War Room where Hotaru had shown her all those archive movies to make sure her point went through.
It had all started with the initial Youma invasion, an event that happened roughly twenty six thousand years ago and wiped out the old world. The survivors gathered in a fortress called Hyperborea, had finally managed to regroup and defeat them. At first, Usagi had thought it was by creating the first Sailor Senshi but she had soon understood that it had gone a lot further than that. The Senshi had effectively been created, but at the same time the people from Hyperborea changed themselves, becoming something more than human, something that could fight Youma and that mythology called by many names, names like Deva and Asura. After the war, they left Earth to recover, erasing all traces of the old civilization apart from a surveillance station on an artificial island near the Azores that would become the Earth Kingdom, Atlantis for Plato.
They then settled on the other planets. Contrarily to what she had been led to believe so far, the different kingdoms weren’t vassals of the Moon Kingdom, but formed a Confederacy, each planet evolving into its own civilization. There were the fierce warriors of Saturn, guardians of the peace, the mysterious scientists of Pluto, delving deep in the mysteries of time, the hedonists of Venus and so on. The Confederacy suffered from attacks but it always managed to recover, in part thanks to the adaptability provided by its ‘Chaotic’ nations: Saturn, Nemesis, the League of the Great Asteroid Belt and, to some extent, Venus.
It wasn’t always easy and the different nations were almost always squabbling for one thing or another. From Hotaru’s viewpoint, this tension was fundamental as it kept things from becoming too humdrum. The Youma made other attempts but the Confederacy prevailed, even if it suffered many losses. This was how Kali – Hotaru’s Silver Millennium incarnation – had lost her husband Shiva and her daughter Nirrti.
However, one of the monarchs was not content with this state of things. The Lunarians were orderly people and had often stated that a centralized state could do better. Selene had the Silver Crystal created, a weapon that would allow her to reshape reality according to her desire. She first crippled the Belt League when she imprisoned Nehellenia in the Mirror World. Nemesis and Saturn were next on her list, because she knew she wouldn’t be able to ‘make them see reason’, in other words to control them to do what she believed to be right.
“Feeling better?” asked Hotaru’s voice from the hall.
“My life is a lie!”
“I suppose you know the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Selene wasn’t evil like our adversaries were and… that makes her all the most horrifying. She believed that what she was doing was right, that she would bring peace and happiness to everybody. People built for Chaos and War like me had no place in her utopia, so we had to be removed. The Nemesians chose to go out in a blaze of glory, which finally led Ishtar – Sailor Venus – to kill Tyche in duel. I chose to survive and what little was left of my people joined me in coldsleep, waiting for better times.”
“Why were you so sure everything would go to hell?”
“When I saw a little of Crystal Tokyo, I wondered why the Senshi of that time needed us. They were supposed to be older, more experienced and powerful version of ourselves. Later, as I walked through the city, I could not get rid of my uneasiness. I didn’t understand back then but now, I know why Crystal Tokyo must not exist.”
“But it’s… a world without crime and murder.”
“It’s a hospice for a dying civilization, Usagi. In the world of Crystal Tokyo, people didn’t hope, didn’t dream. They were content and wasted away, losing their will to live. Humanity is made to look forward, to rise to the challenge. Sure, it often hurts, but without that struggle, everything becomes pointless. Crystal Tokyo as well as the Silver Millennium… it’s like when you tame a wild animal, making it unable to survive outside of its cage.”
“Then, the Black Moon Clan?”
“They said it themselves: they were disappointed by Crystal Tokyo, by that gilded cage. Their problem is that they fell on Wiseman who used them for his nihilistic goals. Back in the Silver Millennium, others did the same, mainly the Belters. They left for other star systems, founding worlds like Kinmoku and creating their own Senshi. A few millennia later, they even in some cases established diplomatic relations with the Moon Kingdom, sending ambassadors whose children were sometimes made part of your mother’s entourage.”
“You’re talking about Artemis and Luna, right?”
“Yes. Finally Metallia arrived and the Kingdom was this time unable to fight the Youma. It fell and a few of the survivors managed to settle on Earth. I should have awakened at that moment but I was taken in Selene’s reincarnation spell. Another good intention that got twisted. Because Selene wanted us to have innocent lives, we were reincarnated as mere shadows of ourselves… until Pluto understood and freed me.”
“So… what do we do now? We wait here for these four years to pass?”
“No. I need to understand the world if I am to change it and you need training to use Nemesis’ powers.”
“We’ll need money… and identities,” said Usagi as she went out of the toilets.
“The first is not a problem. My kingdom’s treasury is still mostly intact… let’s say I’m more concerned about wrecking gold market prices than lacking in funds. As for identities, I’m not as good as Pluto at that little game, but I already had to do that kind of things… in the distant past.”
--- Paris, 27 May 1981 ---
Usagi listened with attention as Hotaru ordered their dinner in perfect French. Thanks to the disguise pen, they both looked older than they really were, rather like twenty-something students than their current teenage selves. The disguise also served to hide their most remarkable traits, like Hotaru’s scarlet eyes or Usagi’s pink hair.
“This translation spell is kind of scary, Hotaru,” said Usagi in Japanese.
“One of Sarasvati’s best ones,” replied Sailor Saturn, using Sailor Mercury’s ‘old name’. “Not only can we understand perfectly both spoken and written version of the language once we have enough of a comparison basis, but we learn it at the same time. The only defect is the strain. It’s a little tiring for us, but it would cause brain damage in humans.”
They had been starting their training trip on Earth since a month, after a few weeks of training on Saturn. They were currently in a small restaurant near the Sorbonne, easily losing themselves among the crowd of students in the neighborhood. They had been here for the two last weeks, meeting various people from the French Communist Party. Hotaru’s interest in ‘Red things’ had started shortly after they acquired forged identities from the Hong Kong Triads. It was so easy for her to deal with those criminals…
“You look thoughtful.”
“I was thinking about Hong Kong… and how easy it was for you to... I almost thought you have been a Yakuza in another life.”
“This is not the best place to speak about this but, it should do no harm if we speak Svargan,” she said, having shifted to something resembling Sanskrit. “When I was younger, I did a lot of… stupid things and got finally arrested. As my country was going to war, some people thought my talents could serve in a special unit, the kind that… was expendable. I decided to prove them wrong. I forged that unit, the Tiger Guard, into the sharpest blade of Svarga’s armies. However, this had a side-effect that did not really please the high-ups. The Guard was loyal to me, not to the country.”
Usagi looked at her glass of red wine and drank it straight. Intellectually, she knew that the persons the Senshi had been during the Silver Millennium could be really different from the ones they had grown to be in their recent incarnation. But Hotaru as a Yakuza boss turned elite soldier was too much for her. As their dishes arrived, she was quite happy to concentrate on the food. However, she could only notice that Hotaru was eating a steak tartare, probably to soothe her bloodlust.
“You know, Usagi… in Shintoism, kami have two souls, one gentle and one assertive. I’m like that. The Hotaru you knew in Japan is my ‘Parvati’ side. She’s nice and shy. She dislikes fighting but does it because she wouldn’t forgive herself if someone was hurt when she could have done something. The one you’re seeing now is ‘Kali’, the lady of war forged by countless battles.”
“I miss the old Hotaru…”
“We’re the same person in the end, Usagi. Kali learnt some harsh lessons Parvati was spared from… I promise that you will see her again, that I will be able to be ‘Parvati’ again. But, right now, I need Kali, because she knows what to do.”
“Are the other Senshi like this too? Are their old selves so different from the ones I know?”
“For some things, yes. Believe it or not but Minako was a brilliant astrophysicist in her first life.”
“You’re right I don’t believe it,” said Usagi, remembering the difficulties of Sailor Venus with her grades. “I’m not going to buy she’s as brilliant as Ami.”
“Never said that. Minako may look dumb but it’s rather a matter of lack of motivation than of intelligence. In her old life, she was Ami’s best friend and Ami gave her the motivation to become a good scientist, even if she wasn’t a genius. It went both ways as Minako managed to tear Ami from her books and have some social life.”
“Her case is different. Ami, Minako and I are all from the first generation, the one of the founders of the planetary realms, the same as your grandmother Selene. Setsuna, Haruka and Michiru are from that generation too but we met later. Rei, Makoto and your mother are younger. There were also others you were never told about. Among other things, there were men,” she said with a smile.
Hotaru took a pill from a small box and let it fall in her glass of water. It dissolved almost instantly, coloring the water scarlet. She took a sip, grimacing a little like one did when he drank some foul tasting medicine.
“Can’t you… I don’t know, go to a butcher shop and have some real stuff?”
“I will probably have to as it’s tasting worse every time… well one can’t expect dried rations to taste great.”
They finished their meal, discussing of lighter things and paid. As they walked back to their hotel in the warm evening, Hotaru suddenly stiffened.
“Blood… human blood has been shed.”
--- Not very far away, at the same time ---
Miriam Vance was almost praying for her mind to go numb, but the searing pain coming from her leg was making her notice the inhuman face of her aggressor all too vividly. She had heard stories that students had disappeared in the last weeks but did not really believe them. Now, she could see the ridges on the monster’s brow, the fangs and the yellow eyes. She felt his breath, stinking of blood and decay as he aimed for her throat. She screamed as her skin was pierced and blood left her body in a sickening sucking noise. She knew that another of those monsters, a woman this time, was around, looking at the scene with the same soulless eyes, a sadistic grin on her lips.
Suddenly, the monster was ripped away from her, thrown against the opposite wall by… She had sometimes fantasized about being ravished by a romantic vampire, a fantasy that her aggressor had thoroughly destroyed. But the woman that had just thrown the vampire away was… everything a vampire should be. She was elegant and aristocratic, maybe Asian given her features. She had a petite frame that made her look a little like a porcelain doll, particularly with that frilly black and purple dress that seemed to come straight from the Old South. Despite that, she exuded power. Her pale skin was perfect, ethereal and her face looked kind despite the scarlet fire in her eyes. She’s beautiful… she looks at the other vampires… like the plantation beauty disgusted by the misconduct of riffraff...
“Bite on this,” said the noble vampiress while she gave her a leather glove. “I have to set your knee back.”
Miriam nodded, not daring to disobey her, but stared as the male vampire got up and charged her savior. Turning slightly, the Asian vampiress moved her right hand faster than a cobra, her index touching the brow of the monster. Miriam could only wonder if she was completely hallucinating as the vampire suddenly seemed to move in slow motion while purple rings gravitated around him, taking him away as they lifted him from the ground. The vampiress closed her hand in a swift move and the rings contracted with a flash, leaving only a pellet that fell very heavily on the ground.
“You… you cannot exist,” said the vampire’s companion. “Purebloods are a fuckin’ myth!”
“Fortuna,” said the vampiress, “can you be a dear and subdue this piece of trash. She may have interesting things to say to us.”
“Of course,” said a woman with long pink hair in a strange twin ponytail and a rather risqué black dress.
Miriam bit the glove, hard as the Asian vampiress set her dislocated knee back. She felt something warm emanating from the hand of the woman, a deep purple glow that dulled the pain.
“That’s what I feared. You’re going into shock,” said the vampiress. “I will give you a little of my blood. Not enough to turn you, but enough to save your life and help you to heal.”
Miriam nodded slowly. She was studying biology and knew the symptoms and consequences. She had to stay conscious. Suddenly, she felt the vampiress’ wrist pushed against her lips, and the rich fragrance of her blood coming from a small wound.
Miriam took a sip, not daring to disobey that voice. The warmth of the blood seeped through her and she felt good, protected. Too soon to her taste, the vampiress removed her wrist and she fell asleep against her dark savior, her heart beating peacefully.
Usagi smiled as she looked at Hotaru. Now she was sure that her friend was still here. The way she had helped this woman, not even thinking about the risks… She was just… an adult Hotaru, sure of herself and her powers. A Hotaru that had learnt the price of battle and knew better than to hesitate to annihilate her enemies yet also knew when to show kindness. And a Sailor Saturn that can use all of her powers without transforming, with an absolute control on them… Note that neither do I need to transform anymore.
“Where did you put her?” asked Hotaru.
“Here,” replied Usagi, flipping a copper coin whose ‘heads’ face sported the screaming visage of a female vampire.
“I see that my lessons on Tyche’s tricks were not lost…”
“What do we do with your damsel in distress?”
“Can you check her purse? We bring her back to her home, tuck her in bed and she’ll probably believe it was a nightmare.”
“Okay let’s see if I’m lucky… got it.”
Usagi took out a city plan and quickly compared the address to it.
“Looks like it’s only a kilometer or so from here. Roof-hopping?”
The two Senshi jumped, reaching a nearby roof in one smooth jump. They quickly found the place.
“No alarm I can detect,” said Usagi as she pocketed her compact. “You can change into mist?”
“Nope and I would do too much damage teleporting.”
“Well, I’m not Cat’s Eye, but I used to fiddle with locks in the palace…”
Hotaru stifled a giggle. Because of their time jump, Japan’s most famous trio of cat burglars would not start their operations for two years but Hotaru remembered the time she had spent with Usagi Jr., looking for clues in the news. Her adoptive parents had… mixed reactions on the subject. Haruka-papa was mostly impressed by the stunts they organized, making Shinjuku’s police look like utter fools while Michiru-mama was usually raising an eyebrow in that ‘what kind of example do you believe you’re giving to our daughter?’ way. And Setsuna-mama, as usual, had that little smile indicating that she knew but couldn’t or wouldn’t tell…
The window soon opened and they entered silently, soon undressing the young woman and tucking her in bed.
“Will her leg be okay?” whispered Usagi.
“Yes. She will be ravenous when she wakes up, but my blood will otherwise repair the damage.”
They left and Hotaru fiddled immediately with the disguise pen, removing the illusion of the old-fashioned dress to appear in a style that reminded Usagi of Haruka’s casual mixed with Saturn’s colors: black slacks, purple turtleneck and black aviator leather jacket.
“I swear… Minako made some very bizarre presets on this thing,” said Hotaru.
“I know we… or rather you cannot use your Senshi transformation but can’t Pluto detect what you did?”
“No. The mass of data is already huge and with her reduced capacities, Setsuna-mama has to concentrate on specific factors, like the Sailor costumes. To be sure, I used override codes Pluto has forgotten to order the Castles’ Network to blind the Gates of Time on things like our magical signatures. As long as we stay within the parameters I set, the risk is very low.” And now that was a very Kali moment,
thought Usagi… that habit to plan things like a military campaign.
“Okay… before I take the skank out of the coin, I thought vampires were like you. Are they a different kind?”
“You remember what I told you about us being only a handful when Selene did her coup? A Youma that goes by the pompous name of the First Evil managed to corrupt one of the major vampire clans, the Turok-Han. We destroyed them but were greatly diminished in that war.”
“That’s when Shiva died?”
“Yes. He sealed the First Evil in a place that is currently near Los Angeles. In a way, he is still alive, as his essence is what makes the seal. Nirrti and I… had words after that. She left on a quest to resurrect her father and I never saw her again. The point is that I think that we missed some of the traitors and these degenerate mutants are their descendants. After the fall of the Earth Kingdom, there was probably little to prevent them from pullulating.”
“From what Guardian Saturn said the last – I will say Raksha to prevent confusion – left for Earth. There may still be some of your people around.”
“Maybe the skank will know something. Well, I heard many stories about the quarries under Paris. Do you think we could use one for a nice interrogation?”
“I don’t see why not. Concerning that girl… she doesn’t risk to suddenly turn into a Raksha, with you being the Dark Mother and all?”
“If she stays away from magic, she will live a normal life. Maybe she will age a little slower than an ‘untainted’ human and like her meat a little rarer, but that’s all.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Then I will feel it and I’ll teach my new daughter how to walk the night. Now,” she said, taking her map of Paris out of her jacket, “where was that entry…”
--- Paris, 28 May 1981 ---
“Mr. Giles, I’m happy to see you.”
“I came as soon as I could, Jacques. What do we have?” asked the Senior Watcher Sir Percival Giles.
“It seems to have started in one of the quarries below the town. Vampires have been using that labyrinth for ages and you know where some lead to.”
“That old demon temple… Aymerich is still there?” asked the Englishman, naming the Master of Paris vampires.
“No. As far as we know, he’s dusted. There is a trail of destruction going from that quarry all the way to the temple. As for the temple… it’s better you see it. This picture was taken by people from the ‘Inspection des Carrières’ who are in the know.”
He took out a picture. Giles blinked. He had already seen some drawings of the old temple but never a photo… and now he knew he never would. The tormented sculptures of the place sometimes called the Inverted Cathedral were gone. All that was left was a perfectly spherical empty space whose walls looked like purplish obsidian.
“I had some analyses done. Physically, this ‘rock’ has a density three times the one of lead. Magically, it’s pulsating with an unknown, but fading energy.”
“The sphere is what, thirty yards in diameter?”
“Do we know who did it?”
“At first, before I saw that picture, I wondered if someone sent the Slayer here without telling me anything. The first witness spoke of a super-strong teenage girl moving like quicksilver and killing everything in her path with a kind of halberd. She was accompanied by a pink-haired witch with a black moon crescent tattooed on her brow.”
“Punk witches… o tempora o mores… The Slayer is not in Europe so, what did the other witnesses tell?”
“If we didn’t have the results in picture… I would have disbelieved the tale. Spells like that have never been seen. One witness told something interesting about the ‘Slayer’. She had vampire fangs, but no brow ridges and scarlet eyes instead of yellow ones.”
Percival started to clean his glasses.
“Jacques, have you ever heard about Noble Vampires?”
The French Watcher frowned. Noble Vampires, sometimes called Purebloods, were a myth. They were a superior breed of vampires with terrifying powers and none of the traditional weaknesses. At various points in history, some vampires had tried to make other demons believe they were one of those but failed. The myth said that the last of those vampires had disappeared with the fall of Carthage.
“Our colleagues in the Far East have reasons to believe that one clan is hiding among the Japanese Yokai,” continued the Englishman. “But given our relationships with the local authorities…”
“It has been impossible to verify.”
Japan was one of those places where the Demonic community and the human authorities had come to an understanding and managed to ignore each other. The Yokai made their own police, exterminating ruthlessly demons that attacked humans and the humans were discouraged to look too much into things. An indirect consequence was that the Watchers’ Council was not welcome in the Land of the Rising Sun. Things were only slightly less difficult in China and the other nations of the Far East.
“What do we do then?” asked the French Watcher.
“Unless she manifests again, nothing.”
--- In an Aeroflot flight on the way to Moscow, at the same time ---
“Didn’t we go a little overboard?” asked Usagi in Svargan.
“Maybe a little,” said Hotaru. “But that was sooo satisfying.”
“Why did you tell me to spare some of the Youma?”
“There are many kind of Youma and some just want to live in peace on the outskirts of human society, like some Yokai in the stories in Japan.”
“But not the Turok vampires?”
“They only know their hunger and their lust, without any trace of conscience. They’re rabid beasts and have to be put down before they can hurt more. I’ll have to look for a more global solution later.”
“On another matter, you think things will go smoothly in Moscow?”
“I chose to meet these people in Paris because they were intelligent enough to recognize the facts and had the ear of the Soviet Ambassador… who has himself worked for several years in the State Planning Committee.”
Usagi nodded. The ambassador had listened to Hotaru’s plan because it provided solutions that were ideologically acceptable. He had arranged them a meeting with some of the high-ups of the Gosplan. She massaged her temple. This mission to save the USSR from economic collapse was also for her a crash-course on the probability altering part of Nemesis’ powers.
“Why is this mission so important?”
“Just like in the old times of the Confederacy, it’s a question of balance. It may seem strange, but the sole superpower situation is a lot less stable than a world with two political poles. Typically, a small fanatic movement is a lot more likely to use a nuclear warhead than a superpower. If the USSR collapses, someone pawning their arsenal to such a movement becomes a real concern. Thankfully, the analyses mini-me ran about their economy are sufficiently similar to problems one of the Old World nations had, so I know what solutions will work… and stay ideologically acceptable for them.”
“By Old World, you mean antediluvian, right?”
“Right, a place called Gladsheimr. A mix of Russia and Germany’s history as a revolution took out the old corrupt monarchy and replaced it with a dictatorship that had similar ideas regarding economy. They renamed the country Thule and finally went to war with Svarga. We kicked their ass and annexed them. Later, their descendants settled on Jupiter and restored the pre-revolution culture.”
“I think we need to ask something in exchange to make our story more believable.”
“I suppose you have an idea,” said Hotaru, smiling to see her friend starting to participate actively in the plan.
“Proton rockets are a little rugged, but reliable. We will need them for what we have in mind.”
--- Somewhere near La Jolla, California February 1985 ---
Clive Scott was looking at the large Californian house that had become the home of a family of Japanese expatriate very recently. Officially, they were only rich people who decided for a change of scenery, but the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs had been keeping tabs on the three Kisugi sisters and their entourage. After all, I know their father…
A thing that not many people knew was that the sisters’ father was a German painter called Michael Heinz who fled the country during the 1930’s because his art was not Germanic enough for the taste of the new Chancellor. During the War, Michael Heinz had sometimes collaborated with the Demon Research Initiative to oppose Himmler’s ‘antiquities collectors’. Heinz had become a good friend and they had often corresponded when he settled in Japan and married someone from there.
He rang. He still needed a West Coast director for the BMA and Rui Kisugi, the eldest of the sisters, was very high on his list because of her intellect and planning abilities. The fact she was, like her sisters, a probable Slayer Potential was an interesting bonus.
--- Tokyo, February 1985 ---
Saeko Mizuno was crying. She was thinking about all that she would have liked to share with her daughter. For too long, she had consecrated her life to her medical career, neglecting Ami. Now it was too late. Her daughter was dead, lost to a mindless terrorist attack with most of her friends. Now, all that was left to her was grief and a little tombstone in that graveyard.
“Who… who are you?”
She rose, facing a young woman wearing an expensive purple pantsuit that was probably better suited to a meeting with corporate representatives than to walking in a graveyard.
“Ami may have told you about me. My name is Hotaru Tomoe.”
Saeko frowned. From what Ami had told her, she would have expected someone younger than a woman that was maybe twenty. She also remembered reading about that name in her professional journal, in relation to a new company called Apex Industries that recently patented a method for nerve regeneration using stem cells.
“I… sorry, the Hotaru Ami told about…”
“I know, I’m supposed to be younger. It’s a rather complicated story but everything revolves around a thing you probably believe to be an urban legend: the Sailor Senshi.”
The doctor paled. She knew that most people believed them to be a myth. A lot of people in Juuban, like her, were on the contrary trying very hard to forget having witnessed a monster attack. Suddenly, Ami’s unexplained absences made a lot more sense.
“No!” said Saeko while she clung to Hotaru’s jacket. “Those terrorists?”
“I am sorry for that masquerade, but it had to be done to give the families of the Sailor Senshi closure. Ami was Sailor Mercury. She fought bravely, but she fell in a faraway place.”
“Then… why are you telling me this? Why do you torture me?”
“Because you have something the others don’t. Because I can offer you something I cannot give to the Tsukino or the Aino, not without making them pay a price neither Minako nor Usagi would forgive me for.”
“What can you offer? Can you give me Ami back?”
“Usagi used the last of her power to reincarnate the Senshi. They will come back, but it may be in decades. What I can give you is what I have: the possibility to retain your youth as long as you want.”
“Your pregnancy was difficult and you were very near to lose her. Because of this, some of Ami’s blood – Mercurian blood – ended in your system. I can finalize the mutation process. I can make you a Vidyadhara.”
“This sounds like something out of the Vedas… Don’t they have another name?”
“Yes. Here in Japan, Vidyadhara are well known. You call them Yuki Onna.”
--- Sankakusu Artificial Island, Tokyo Bay, October 1987 ---
"Why do it here of all places?"
Hotaru raised her eyes from the schematics she was studying and looked at Usagi. She took a hardhat on the table and invited her friend to follow her.
"Why not? It's ideally placed for our corporate headquarters and the terrain belongs to us already."
Usagi rolled her eyes.
"You know exactly what I mean."
"As I suppose you're referring to the facts it's the former location of the Tomoe Research Center…"
"Also known as Death Buster Central…"
"That's one more reason, actually. I prefer by far to find anything my father could have hidden here rather than have someone else do it.”
“I suppose that the bid to rehabilitate the terrain made by Wolfram and Hart to City Hall convinced you to make haste… Fair enough I suppose.”
They were arriving to a lift. A foreman opened the door for his bosses, asking himself why they were speaking in that language. He didn't really care though. Even if it was unusual for a Japanese corporation to be run by two young women, Apex was a successful company and treated employees like family, even if they weren't Japanese. It was very important for an Indian immigrant like him. So if his bosses wanted to speak in what looked like an archaic form of Sanskrit, it was their absolute right.
“Speaking of City Hall, I have dealt with the last oppositions against the submarine part of the project. The Ecologists are satisfied with our guarantees.”
They were now on the top of the structure. The hexagonal pyramid that would be the Apex Arcology was already rousing a lot of curiosity around the world. In the last two years, the young women now called Hotaru and Usagi Tomoe had merged the corporate assets of the late Sailor Senshi with the empire they had built in the shadows, turning it into a whole new keireitsu with interests in most of the world. Saturn was an expert in warfare, and economy was just another battlefield to her…
Usagi had fully participated to the growth of the company. Like Hotaru, she had shed the last remnants of her childhood and a good part of her innocence. She had learnt to be merciless when she needed it, because, sometimes, people had to be sacrificed for the greater good. She often wondered what her mother would think when she would see their work after her reincarnation. Would she understand what they did and the price they paid?
"By the way, did the Americans make difficulties for our last takeover?" asked Hotaru.
"Yes and no. We acquired what we wanted in Seattle, but Wolfram and Hart is seriously getting on my nerves. I'm certain they're helping anti-Japanese lobbying in Washington, saying we're basically buying the country and…"
"It's not completely wrong. They are so eager to sell it… But, as we both know, that particular law firm is more than a nuisance."
"I will be more than happy when we will be ready to crush them. On your side, how did your trip to the sunny islands go? Not too much water for your vampiric taste?"
Hotaru laughed. Usagi often teased her on the vulnerabilities of her species. Pureblood vampires didn't have most of the defects of their western counterparts. They didn't burn in sunlight, need an invitation to enter a house or fear holy objects. They were also living beings, not soulless walking corpses. After all, they were the originals, not pale copies made for mass production. They had a weakness the copy didn't have though, one that had to do with their ability to use their innate magic to augment their physical power. Water basically "short-circuited" them.
"Saltwater is not so bad with a few barrier spells. Otherwise, Kiribati's government is ours. They don't really understand why we're investing there, but don't care. Our plan will make their islands a wealthy state."
"The Watcher's Council?"
"I was… watched of course, but they checked if I could find magical artifacts in the area. Like most supernatural factions, they think the laws of physics don't concern them…"
Usagi took easily the reference. One thing she had learnt working with Saturn, building Apex Industries, was that the universe was a whole and everything was interconnected. Organizations like the Watcher's Council almost forgot that the "mundane" world existed. That made them vulnerable to organizations that were able to see the big picture, like Apex, and, to Usagi's irritation, Wolfram and Hart.
"Why can't they see why we're acquiring acres of reef in the Pacific, right on the Equator and the neighboring islands? It's evident even if you have only the basics in astronautics. So, what will we call the city that will rise on the sea? New Atlantis?"
"I was thinking of Babel," said Hotaru, thinking of the reason they would build it at that precise latitude.
--- Los Angeles, January 19th 1997---
Joyce Summers was breathing, using every trick in the exercises she had practiced during the last months, and only breaking her concentration to follow the orders of her doctor. Finally, she felt it was done and a small cry confirmed it. Soon, the nurse gave her two little bundles.
“Elisabeth,” she said, kissing the brow of the eldest of her twins. “Dawn,” she added, kissing the second one. “Hank?”
“I can see them Joyce,” said a voice coming from a loudspeaker while the face of Hank Summers smiled on the large screen occupying a wall. “A pity I could not come back in time.”
“At least you could see it all by vidphone.”
He nodded, still smiling. He had not been able to cancel this business trip and was currently in Sydney. Suddenly, a wild chorus of cheers rose from the large office space behind him.
“Sorry dear… the guys here are following the landing.”
“I suppose it was the same in 69. Nurse, can you…”
The nurse manipulated some controls and a window opened on the screen, showing a spaceship landing on a reddish-brown, rocky soil. She knew that this actually happened almost half an hour ago, despite being transmitted in direct. It was just a matter of distance and the limit posed by the speed of light. The flag of the East Pacific Alliance, the nation recently formed by Japan, Australia and most islands in-between, was painted on the hull alongside the ones of the USA, the European Union and the USSR.
“Look my darlings,” said Joyce as a woman in a spacesuit exited the spaceship. “We made it to Mars.”