Shades of Gray
A Sailor Moon Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack
Prologue: The Day Before
"It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine..."
- 'End of the World', REM
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi, whose creative talents far exceed my most humble own. Distribution and other rights to Sailor Moon belong to lots of different companies that I do not own. I make or imply no claim to ownership of Sailor Moon or its characters. However, the text of this fanfic is mine, and should not be used without permission. Thank you.
After five hours, it was over. It seemed anticlimactic for the culmination such a cataclysmic conflict. Countless, untold millions had died in five years' warfare on a scale unseen since the dawn of the Silver Millennium, and now it was over. But, satisfactory or not, it was the end. The last of the Lunar warships had surrendered, and the rebel fleet was at last able to enter low Lunar orbit. No ground-based defenses existed to challenge the hundreds of warships. For centuries if not millennia, it had been inconceivable that any force could assault Luna itself, the heart of the Moon Kingdom's unchallenged empire, and the few defenses that remained on the surface of Luna had been destroyed by the youma attacks.
The youma... in the short term, their attacks had been good for the rebellion, but in the long term they could lead to the destruction of everything the rebels had fought for. And, most likely, Beryl thought the same way about the rebels. The nominal leader of the rebellion bowed his head in thought, caressing the hilt of his broadsword, which had rarely left his side in over a decade. The five years since he had last seen Luna seemed so long ago now, and it was nearly unrecognizable. Even though, until now, the rebellion had been unable to strike at Luna, war had not left the tiny world unscarred. Even now, an almost inconceivably large youma force was besieging the very Moon Palace itself, now the last stronghold of the old regime.
His hand tightened on his sword. One way or another, that regime was about to end. Even when he had launched this rebellion, he had never thought that it might come this far, down the long, terrible road from outnumbered revolutionaries and leaderless rioters to the mighty war machine that now moved at his command, preparing to land the war's final, bloody blow.
"Captain Ashiant, get me a communication line to the Queen. I have to try to end this now." The rebel spoke almost without thinking. If by some means he could bring this war to an end before that blow landed, he would do so. Too many had died already.
The thin Saturnian by his side nodded. "Of course, Champion." Ashiant had once been the Seneschal of Diamond City, the largest population center in the Saturnian system. That had changed in one bloodstained day, when Saturn had gone over to the rebels. Now, he was the captain of the Memory of Juno, the rebel flagship. Moments later, he turned to his commander. "You are being put through now, Champion."
The rebel leader stood in front of the ship's crystal globe, where an image of his former monarch was now beginning to form. He gave a shallow bow. "Queen Serenity."
"Champion." Serenity's voice was icy, colder than the frozen wastes of Mercury.
The rebel didn't let that faze him. "As you are no doubt aware, the last of your fleet was vanquished today. The last loyalists on Venus surrendered eight months ago, and Mercury has been ours for years. Terra is nearly overrun by Beryl's forces, as is Luna. Mars and Saturn have been with us from the start, and Jupiter was liberated in the first year of the war. The Uranus and Neptune colonies have been taken. In short, out of your whole domain, only Pluto continues to submit to your rule."
Queen Serenity nearly growled her reply. "And so you have called to gloat, Champion?"
The rebel made a negative hand gesture. "I've called to end this war. Order the spaceports on Luna open to our ships. We have the power to scourge Luna clean of the youma, if you will let us."
"And what do you ask of us in return?" Serenity replied, once again almost emotionless.
"You know very well what we desire. You will abdicate your throne, and order all resistance to cease." The rebel's eyes flashed. "And you will give Iris to us."
The Queen's reply was filled with all the royal imperiousness she could muster. "Never."
With that, the rebel leader lost his temper. "By all the Ten, Serenity! You have no choice! What forces you have left are pinned on Pluto. You have no fleet left, and your army is nearly nonexistent!"
The Queen drew herself up in her throne, brandishing a small crystal. "The Queen of the Moon Kingdom always has another choice. By the end of the day, neither you rebels nor the youma will trouble the Moon Kingdom again." With that, she broke the connection, leaving the rebel leader to swear at the blank globe in front of him.
The rebel leader bowed his head, calming himself. It should not have ended like this, but Serenity now left him no choice. If she was willing to unleash the Ginzuishou's full power, there was no telling what could result. In any case, he had no intention of standing by and watching her. He knew the orders he must give. He also knew that they would stain his conscience forever. He would have to order an atrocity that would have been inconceivable only five years ago. But, along with so much else, that had changed in the skies over Juno.
"Damn you, Iris," he thought. "And damn you too, Serenity, for leading us to this." The familiar rage washed over the rebel leader like the flames he commanded, burning off his doubt. This was the only choice he could make.
"Forgive me, Phoebe." he whispered, not aware that he spoke aloud. He bowed his head once more, before speaking in a strong, clear voice that was tinged with sorrow. "Captain Ashiant, I want a message sent out to all ships. The bombardment of Luna is to begin as planned in one hour. We'll hit the Moon Palace and all the fortresses and youma encampments. I don't want any of them left standing by tomorrow."
The color drained out of Ashiant's face. "Your will, Champion."
How many millions would die in the terrible apocalypse he had just ordered? He knew he would never know. The Moon Palace had to be teeming with refugees, and the lesser fortifications as well. Though there was still one way that might be averted.
The rebel commander continued with his orders. "There will be one modification to the plan. Pause the bombardment for two hours once the teleport shields fail. I want volunteer squads ready to attack the Moon Palace." He grinned weakly, hand returning once again to his sword's hilt. "If we can kill the Queen before she can use the Ginzuishou, maybe the Princess will prove more willing to negotiate."
"Jadeite." The voice was silky smooth, filled with confidence and power.
Jadeite managed to fight the conflicting urges to kneel in awe and recoil in disgust. His queen was mighty and magnificent, yet there was a subtle dissonance, the faintest scent of corruption and decay that followed her wherever she went. Recently, there was something inhuman about her, a terrible darkness. The same darkness that lay in Jadeite himself.
"My queen." Jadeite finally replied, barely able to keep his voice steady. The dim light cast her features into an even more unearthly form, a visage that seemed more demonic with each passing day. She was closer to the darkness than any of them, and she paid a terrible price for that. But what they had purchased with that price was worth it.
"What is the current situation?" his mistress asked. Jadeite swiftly called up the Terran strategic map on the view screen, and a not at all pleasant grin appeared on his face as he observed the result. Green icons representing friendly forces far outnumbered the scattered red icons that represented enemy units still in fighting condition.
"As Your Majesty is no doubt aware, most organized resistance on Terra ceased within days of the fall of Crystal City." His grin widened as he remembered the viscous carnage, the blood splattered all over the 'impenetrable' crystal walls. He continued, "Though several small areas remain outside our control, primarily in region of the old Urian Duchy, there are no significant threats to your rule. General Kunzite is coordinating our efforts there from the city of Uria."
Jadeite switched the screen to the Lunar map, and his grin weakened. Here, the situation was not as good at the moment, though that would change with time. A large concentration of green icons surrounded an area that was completely covered in red icons. Elsewhere, green icons were few and far between, though they were only slightly outnumbered by the red icons.
Jadeite paused a moment to clear his throat. "On Luna, the vast majority of our forces have managed to pin down most of the Silver Army, including the elite Imperium Brigade, inside the Moon Palace. General Nephrite is currently in command of those forces, and is preparing to settle down for a long siege. General Zoicite is leading the remainder of our Lunar forces, with the goal of keeping the Third and Fourth Lunar Home Guards," continued Jadeite, pointing to the mentioned units, "as well as the other enemy forces present, from relieving the siege of the palace."
Jadeite switched the screen to a three dimensional view of Terran space, and his grin faltered and vanished. A vast horde of red icons nearly surrounded Luna, and were obviously reaching out to engulf a thin line of green icons that connected Terra and Luna. Dreading his mistress's reaction to the bad news to come, Jadeite began to explain the situation. "The Champions' fleet has managed to gain complete control of Lunar space, and their ships will be in a position to sever our supply line in an hour. My calculations show that ours will likely be the last ship to safely arrive on Luna. After that, teleportation will be the only way on or off Luna, and the energy costs for that will be too high to bring in any significant forces. My estimates show that the fleet contains enough power to easily wipe out what we have available on Luna, and if they cooperate with the resistance forces, enough to retake most of Terra."
His mistress frowned, and Jadeite trembled in fear. He had seen too many subordinates slain without a second thought by his Queen for bearing bad news, though never one so high-ranking as him. Somehow though, that thought was not too comforting After a heart rending moment, she spoke. "Very well. Send out the following orders over my name. Kunzite is to teleport himself to Luna with as many youma as he can take along. Zoicite is to gather as many forces as he can and proceed to the Moon Palace. Once we are all there, we will begin an all out assault. We don't have much time. This will all be over in a day."
Jadeite had to struggle to avoid showing any sign of relief. To show relief was too show weakness, and in his Queen's court that was never safe. Jadeite bowed low before replying. "Your will, Queen Beryl."
Senshi Mars was frustrated. She longed to be on the palace walls, flinging her flame down on the youma armies. Instead, she was stuck in the war room, guarding her Princess and her Queen. She knew that this was necessary: one couldn't tell when an assassin, be it youma or traitor, would strike. But she wished that it had been someone else's turn to do guard duty.
She watched the situation, as displayed on the crystal view screens lining the room, with a hawk's eye. She felt a deep dread settle into her heart as the last light representing a loyal warship in orbit went dark. The traitors now controlled lunar space. There would be no victory for the Moon Kingdom today.
"Mars?" The quiet voice was barely raised above a whisper.
The Senshi turned to the speaker. "Yes, Princess?"
"What's going to happen?" It was a question a child might ask a parent. Though the Senshi of Mars and the Moon Princess were of like age, a bare seventy years old, the Senshi had grown up fast, both in the deserts of her homeworld and on dozens of battlefields across the solar system, while her charge had left the Moon Palace only once in her life, on her journey to collect her Senshi.
Mars frowned briefly, pausing for a moment. Should she tell a reassuring lie, as a protector, or tell the truth, as a friend? It was always difficult for her to decide what mantle she should wear. "I don't know, Princess. I don't know." It was the truth. So much would depend on what the rebels wanted, how her Queen would react, and on how long her fellow Senshi could keep Beryl's forces at bay. They could all be dead in an hour. They... she... could be fighting at the Champions' side once more by the afternoon. So many possibilities, and Mars doubted even Lady Pluto knew which would occur. With that, she once more turned her full attention to the view screens, and frowned. That was odd, what type of formation was that... oh, no. She recognized that formation. Deinas had taught it to her at the Battle of Vulcan's Gap. Taught her the hard way.
"Jupiter!" Her thought went out as swift as an arrow.
"What, Mars? I'm sort of busy now." Jupiter was, as always, irritated.
"Redirect as many forces as you can to the Pacific Gate!", Mars ordered.
"Why? There's hardly any youma there..." Jupiter's irritation was increasing.
"They're going to teleport them, you idiot! And if you don't get some units there now, they'll be able to charge straight through to the center of the palace!" Mars shouted mentally.
"Oh! You're right, I'll get right on it." Jupiter broke the mental connection. And thus was the traitor Nephrite's latest stratagem to break the defense stopped.
Mars hardly noticed when the call from the rebel flagship came through, and she deliberately tuned out the all too familiar voice that spoke. Deinas... a cold rage burned in her every time she thought of him. The title that had been given to him suited him so well. Betrayer. He had betrayed his planet, betrayed his Queen... and betrayed her.
The pain hadn't dimmed with time. Instead, it had grown, each time their paths had crossed, each time the two had met on opposite sides of a battlefield. And the worst part was that she could still remember how it had been when she had loved him. A part of her was dead now, a part she equally hoped could be forgotten and wished had never died. Mars departed from her musings when the call ended, as her Queen had turned to her.
"Senshi Mars," the Queen spoke with a practiced air of command.
"Yes, my Queen?" was the only response Mars could give.
"Call the other Senshi. I want them to meet us here as soon as possible. I'm going to need their help if I'm to have a chance to succeed at using the Ginzuishou."
"Your will, my Queen." Mars bowed as the low thunder of the rebel bombardment began to force its way through the soundproofed walls of the war room. Calling back the Senshi would weaken the external defenses, but if the Queen was going to use the Ginzuishou, it probably wouldn't matter. One way or another, this would all be over in a day.
A day later, the Silver Millennium was no more. Serenity's final magic had heralded the end, as the mana wells on all nine planets died out. Magic failed, and with it civilization too failed. The few survivors were hard pressed by constant assaults from the small number of remaining youma. Only on green Terra would a remnant of a remnant survive to carry on the line of man.
On distant Pluto, the Senshi of Time began her lonely vigil. A Great Seal had been formed to master the spells binding both rebels and youma away from this universe. And so Senshi Pluto gained a second charge, one almost as dangerous as the Gates of Time she had guarded her entire life.
As she lay dying, Queen Serenity had performed one last spell. The souls of those who had died in Luna's final hour were sent into the future. Should the wards Serenity had died to create fail, they would be reborn to face the menace.
And for ten millennia, neither Senshi nor Champion entered the annals of history.
The Gates of Time.
Perhaps the most dangerous magical device in the universe, they had easily survived the long millennia since the Silver Millennium. As had their Guardian.
Sailor Pluto stared silently at her charge. Her future self had recently vanished through the Gates, returning to her own time. Apparently, the Death Busters were not to be the last threat on the twisting road to Crystal Tokyo. That was expected. Yet... what was the new threat? Her future self had refused to speak even the slightest hint as to the identity of the new enemy. Apparently, her knowing at this point would endanger Crystal Tokyo, which likely meant that she was going to be taking a direct role in the events to come.
The threat should not come from outside the solar system. Just days ago she had finished her search of the surrounding space, ensuring both that Pharaoh 90 was truly gone and that no other evils approached. Nor was it to be a time traveling enemy. She would have sensed that coming a long time ago. But, who could it be? The only major concentration of evil left inside the solar system was the remnants of the Dark Kingdom, and even if someone was able to unite the surviving youma, they were hardly "the greatest challenge we have yet faced," as her future self had put it.
She had to know of the enemy, since she had been told in no uncertain terms that she could not aid the other Senshi in determining its identity, once she knew it. Yet no search of her vast memories provided a sufficient threat, and no equally thorough search of the the solar system uncovered any hidden evils. The timestream was for the moment placid, whatever threat there might be shielded from her sight.
For the first time in millennia, Pluto didn't know what she would be facing. And that scared her as nothing else could.
Author's Random Revised Ramblings
1) Just shy of the third anniversary of this fic, I've decided to bite the bullet and do what has been a death knell for many a fic: revise and rewrite the earlier chapters to match my modern writing style and conceptions of the fic. Wish me luck.
2) Any and all comments, from readers old and new, are of course welcome.
3) For newcomers, this fic takes place in the immediate aftermath of Sailor Moon S (the third season), and draws primarily on the Japanese anime. The SuperS (fourth) and Sailor Stars (fifth) seasons are considered to not occur, as are the S and SuperS movies. The status of the R movie is undetermined.
4) A warning: given some of the responses to later portions of the story, I'm almost tempted to label this a darkfic. Nothing really dark happens for quite sometime, but if you're looking for warm and fuzzy feelings, you may be disappointed.
5) Another warning: this fic is long. The first version is over 800k long, and I don't anticipate it getting any shorter. It's also the first of a planned series of fics.
Released: August 27, 2000
Revised: August 11, 2003
Final: December 30, 2003