The Ascension Trilogy
Book One: THE COMING ICE AGE
Chapter 1: "Flight of Freedom"
A Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

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Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2002 by Naoko Takeuchi/
Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with
respect. Story is (c)2002 by Bill Kropfhauser.

As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:

Usagi=Serena
Ami=Amy
Rei=Raye
Makoto=Lita
Minako=Mina
Haruka=Amara
Michiru=Michelle
Setsuna=Trista
Mamoru=Darien
Chibi-Usa=Rini

Finally, Haruka and Michiru are NOT cousins.
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July 23, 2013.

It began with a simple act of human kindness.
* * * *
In the doctor's office she shared with Mamoru Chiba, the still
newly christened Dr. Ami Fujihara, formerly Ami Mizuno, escorted her
latest patient out of the exam room.

"Now it's very important to take all of this medicine," Ami said,
handing the older woman a prescription, "but it's just as important to
rest. The medicine alone won't fix your feet. It will only allow you
to rest more comfortably. The rest is the key. Please stay off of them
as much as possible. All right?"

"Yes, Doctor," the woman said, bowing to Ami.

"And be sure to prop them up like I showed you. If it doesn't
clear up, you let me know. Now please take care." She watched the
woman amble gingerly out the door, them slumped and turned to Naomi, her
receptionist. "Is anyone else waiting? I'm done in."

"Just one," the pretty young woman of twenty smiled. "But I don't
think he's sick." She pointed and Ami looked.

"Hi, Ami," the smallish, ordinary man of thirty-six with the thick
black frames smiled quietly. Ami's face lit up.

"Hayami," she said, crossing over to him. Folding her arms around
him, she put her lips to his and they kissed like they'd only been
married for eight months - - which they had.

"Hard day?" he asked sympathetically.

"Long more than hard," Ami smiled. "Hard day at the library?"

"No," he said, slightly embarrassed. "The summers are our quiet
period."

"Fraternizing with the patients? What would your husband say?"
Mamoru chuckled, entering the reception area. Ami and Hayami both
blushed.

At that moment the outer door opened. They turned, hoping it
wasn't another patient, and saw Usagi enter. Immediately upon seeing
Mamoru, she closed her eyes, her hand flying to her forehead.

"Oh!" She gasped dramatically. "Hard . . . to breathe! Need help
. . . need . . . handsome doctor . . .!" She staggered across the room
and swooned into Mamoru's arms. "Help . . . me. . ." she squeaked.

"Can't breathe, huh?" Mamoru asked. Usagi nodded. "Do you think
you need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?" Usagi nodded vigorously as she
dangled limply in Mamoru's arms. "I don't know. That's how germs get
passed." Usagi kicked him in the shins. "Well, anything for a
patient." Mamoru bent down and kissed his wife on the mouth. Usagi
arched up to him, sighing into his mouth.

"You know, Usagi, you are thirty-four years old," clucked Ami
disapprovingly. Usagi pulled her mouth away from Mamoru's.

"Mind your own business, Doc," she said, then resumed kissing
Mamoru.

"Come on," Ami waved to the receptionist and the two medical
technicians peering through the door at them. "Let's get the computer
files done so we can leave. If they're still at it when we get back,
we'll hose them down."

"I hope we're that passionate when we've been married fifteen
years," Hayami remarked.

"Dear, we aren't THAT passionate now," Ami murmured to him,
flushing slightly.

Suddenly Mamoru jerked Usagi up to her feet. While she collected
her senses, he turned to Ami.

"I've already done the files," he told her. "We can all lock up
and go home."

"Great!" squealed the receptionist. She grabbed her purse and
scurried for the door, the medical techs hot on her heels. "See you
Monday!"

"Ami, do you and Hayami have plans?" Usagi asked suddenly.

"Not really," Ami said, cautiously looking to her husband for
confirmation. "We were just going to spend a quiet evening at home.
Why?"

"I just got my latest royalty check," beamed Usagi. "I want to
take everybody out to dinner, on me!"

"The Butterfly Palace again?" Hayami queried. "Makoto's going to
throw us out if we're there too often."

"No she wouldn't," grinned Usagi. "She knows I'm her best
customer. But I was thinking more along the lines of The Green Room."

"Usagi, that's a very expensive place!" gasped Ami. "Are you sure
you can afford it?"

"Obviously you didn't see my royalty check," smirked Usagi.
"'Fire Princess Rika' is selling off the stands. Besides, one of my
favorite entertainers is going to be there tonight, ironically enough,
and I just had to see her." Ami and Hayami looked at her in confusion,
but Mamoru, knowing his wife as he did, caught on quickly.

"Rei?" he asked. Usagi nodded enthusiastically.

"Rei's singing there tonight?" Ami gasped. "Well, I guess I can't
very well miss that, can I? Hayami?"

"Sure," he shrugged. "I'm easy."

"Great! We just have time to get changed!" squealed Usagi.

"Is this formal?" Hayami asked uneasily. "I'm not sure . . ."

"A suit will be fine," Mamoru reassured him.

"Too bad," Usagi said, caressing her husband's cheek. "I've
always thought you look great in a tuxedo."
* * * *
The violets of dusk colored the sky. Night began to creep over
the city. It had been a hot day, but not particularly humid. Still,
Setsuna was happy to relax in her lawn chair. She wore an
uncharacteristically small pair of white twill shorts and a floral
blouse with the sleeves rolled up, tied at the midriff. She crossed her
long legs, brought a glass of iced fruit juice to her lips, and watched
the colors of the garden change in the dimming light.

It was coming up on fifteen years since she'd moved out of the
house she'd shared with Haruka, Michiru and Hotaru and purchased the
small house she now lived in - - alone. Michiru had insisted then that
it was all right for her to stay, that she and Haruka weren't even there
half the time. But Setsuna remained firm. Since Hotaru left, living in
that house seemed wrong to her. She felt she was imposing on the
intimacy Haruka and Michiru craved. And, she confessed, she missed
Hotaru. She had a weakness for children. Without Hotaru being there,
she felt she was better off alone.

Setsuna didn't mind. She was comfortable with being alone. She
had her work at the university to give her human contact. Now she had
the quiet of the garden to give her tranquillity. Her head eased back
on the lawn chair. She didn't miss people. They were never an
intrusion, but she never saw them as a necessity, the way others did.
She was fine by herself, even liked being by herself. Ninety-nine
percent of the time, she preferred being by herself. The other one
percent - - well, there were artificial remedies for that.

Unbidden, her mind thought of Usagi. Usagi would never approve of
such ideas. Usagi felt there was never a good time to be alone and that
a mate existed for everyone. Furthermore, anyone who didn't search for
that mate was being irresponsible.

But Setsuna had resigned herself to being alone. She knew as a
senshi that hers was a higher mission in life. She knew that might
necessitate giving up certain things. She sensed it was her destiny to
be alone. If that was so, she accepted that without malice. She might
even prefer it.

Still, every so often, it would be nice . . .

A noise brought her quickly out of her reverie. Something
plummeted through the trees and fell into a flower bed at the end of the
garden. Setsuna peered into the brush from her chair, one hand
summoning her henshin stick while the other set her juice down in the
grass. Her eyes narrowed.

Rising up from the chair, she cautiously padded toward the flower
bed. As she got closer, Setsuna began to question her senses. It was a
man - - she thought. It looked like a man, but were those wings beneath
him?

She knelt down next to him.

"Did he fall from something?" Setsuna mused quietly to herself.
She examined the sky above. "I heard no plane." Her long fingers
glided over the wings that cushioned him. The silky feathers felt good
against her skin. "He seems human, save for these."

Her thoughts ended when she noticed his eyes open. The lids rose
slowly, revealing liquid pale blue eyes trying to focus. His head
turned slowly to her and he looked up through strands of his silver
hair. Focusing on Setsuna, his demeanor grew urgent and he struggled to
rise.

"Do not move suddenly," she cautioned, gently pressing a hand to
his bare chest. It felt good against her palm. "You are injured."

"Please," he whispered, an articulate tone coated in a velvety
tenor voice. "I will not . . . surrender . . . to them." He grimaced
in some discomfort.

"I do not wish to hurt you," Setsuna reassured him. She looked
over his impeccably muscled body and noted only scratches. "Can you
rise?"

The strange being thought a moment, then did so with some
difficulty. With Setsuna's aid, he gained his unsteady feet.

"Come," Setsuna said. "There is a bed inside. You can lay down
and recover from your ordeal and any injuries you have sustained."

Setsuna began to lead the limping man to the house. When he
realized where they were headed, he stopped and shied.

"Please relax," she said to him gently. "I do not seek to harm
you." Then she did something she rarely did - - she smiled. The
gesture seemed to reassure him. He smiled timidly back at her and they
went inside the house.
* * * *
The restaurant was intimate. It had a self-conscious elegance,
but not an elegance that crossed the line into arrogance. Nicely
dressed couples dined in an atmosphere rich with upscale pleasure. It
was a chance for middle class people to be upper class, if for one
night.

Usagi sat between her husband and the husband of her friend Ami.
She was dressed in a flattering light blue dress with short sleeves, a
high collar and a moderate hem. Her signature ribbons of yellow hair
were wrapped and pinned atop her head. Ami wore a very quiet violet
dress and matching heels, while the men wore suits.

"Honestly, one of these days I'm going to cut this off," groused
Usagi, checking her precarious coiffure with her hand for the sixth
time.

"No you're not," rumbled Mamoru with an amorous undertone. Usagi
smiled flirtatiously at him.

"This food is very good," Ami commented. "It has a wonderful
flavor. I wonder what the chef puts into it." She took another bite of
her chicken.

"It's good," Usagi nodded. "But Makoto could do better."

"Is there anything you don't think Makoto could cook better?" Ami
asked.

"No," Usagi said, completely missing the gentle mocking tone of
Ami's voice. The others glanced, amused, at each other.

A gaunt man stepped onto the small stage at the back of the
restaurant. The spotlight reflecting off of his glasses, he moved to a
microphone and glanced at the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen, The Green Room presents for your dining and
listening pleasure, the musical stylings of Miss Rei Hino."

Both Mamoru and Hayami grimaced as Usagi clamped excitedly onto
their forearms. The curtain pulled back and a vision walked out.

Long thick black hair cascaded down her back. Long white opera
gloves adorned her arms. A tight, sequined red gown decorated a robust,
womanly figure. The dress was cut low at the bodice, held up by
spaghetti straps that almost seemed inadequate for the job. Its hem
leisurely grazed the floor, with red leather pumps peeking out from
beneath.

Her gloved hands cupped the microphone like she was caressing a
lover. A full red mouth leaned in close and a low, velvety voice came
forth. As a four-piece jazz combo began playing in the background, Rei
began crooning sixty-year-old American torch songs like she was trying
to seduce a man. She sang from the heart, her mature, powerful singing
voice traveling out across the room and caressing each individual patron
in the room like she was singing only to them.

"She's good," whispered Hayami, in awe. "You know her, dear?"

"You've met Rei," Ami smiled. "My friend, Rei? The priest that
married us?"

"That's a priest?" goggled Hayami.

"It's not a side she usually shows," Mamoru said, his eyes glued
to the stage.

After a half-hour set, Rei retired to a back dressing room. She
sat down at a small vanity and dabbed perspiration from her face with a
towel. She caught her expression in the mirror and was momentarily
embarrassed by the giddy satisfaction she saw in it. Then she shifted
to a wry grin and gave her reflection a thumb's up.

"Who is it?" Rei asked in response to a knock on the door.

"Your biggest fan!" came the response.

"Usagi! Come in!"

Usagi came in, scampering across the small room and hugged Rei.
Rei returned the hug, smiling warmly as she spotted the other guests.

"Oh, Rei, you were great out there!" Usagi squealed.

"You did a wonderful job," echoed Mamoru.

"I was very moved by it," smiled Ami. Hayami nodded in agreement.
He seemed a bit awed being in Rei's presence, particularly dressed like
she was.

"Thanks, everybody," grinned Rei. She noticed Hayami staring and
her smile gained a cynical tilt. "Nice to see you too, Hayami."

"Oh!" he said, shaking himself. His cheeks colored
self-consciously. "I, uh, you were very good. I never knew. You
should do this all the time - - even make CD's!"

"Tell the record companies," Rei said ruefully. "I'm not exactly
what they're looking for."

"Why not?" Usagi asked, incensed. "You've got talent."

"You need more than just talent. You need something they can
sell. Just look at Minako."

"But you sing every bit as well as Minako," Ami protested.

"I sing better than Minako," Rei proclaimed proudly. "But she's
got something I'll never have - - charisma. I put everything I have
into my songs when I'm on stage, but I'm stuck singing part-time in
supper clubs. All Minako has to do is flip her blonde hair and flash
that smile of hers and she's got an audience eating out of her hand.
She doesn't even have to sing a note."

No one argued. No one could.

"Boy, does that sound bitter," Rei grinned sheepishly. "But it's
what the masses want. Besides, she looks American. That's another
advantage I don't have. I'm just one more Japanese girl who can carry a
tune, and we're a dime a dozen. Minako's been an idol for, what, five
years now? Ever since her song from that goofy TV show she did hit the
charts?"

"Yeah, 'Island Princess'," nodded Hayami.

"Well, it's because she stands out," Rei said ruefully, "and I
guess I don't." She glanced at Hayami staring at her again. "Well, not
enough, anyway."

"Rei, don't feel bad," pleaded Usagi.

"I don't," Rei said, giving her a small smile. "I've got a
career, remember? Giving people spiritual guidance is way more
important than selling CD's and appearing on 'Celebrity Beat'. I can
live without all the fame - - though I wouldn't mind having some. I'm
just grateful I can come here two or three times a month, express my
creative side and massage my ego a little. After all, even us priests
need hobbies, too."

"Well I'm glad to hear that," Usagi said hopefully. "I kind of
have some news I wanted to spring on you. I've been negotiating with an
animation company about doing an anime version of 'Fire Princess Rika'.
Well, we signed the contract today."

"Usagi, that's great!" Rei gasped. The others murmured agreement.

"That's not the news! Rei, I want you to do Rika's voice."

"M-Me?!"

"Well why not?

"I've never done voice-overs! How do you know if I'll be any
good?"

"Well why wouldn't you be? I based Rika on you when I created
her! All you'd have to do is be yourself!"

"Usagi, they're not going to give this role to an amateur!"

"Oh yes they will," Usagi said confidently. "I have creative veto
on scripts and vocal characterizations and I intend to be very stubborn
on this." She clasped Rei's hand. "Don't be afraid, Rei. You told me
once you wanted to be a voice actress in anime. This is your chance to
get a foot in the door."

"I told you that almost twenty years ago!" gasped Rei. "How can
you possibly remember something that far back? You can't even remember
your PIN numbers for your ATM card!"

"Well excuse me for caring!" huffed Usagi. "I just thought you'd
be good for the role and you'd like doing it!"

"Well," scowled Rei. "You thought right!" It took a few moments
for Usagi to realize what Rei had said. In that time, the fiery
priestess softened her expression. "I think it'd be a gas. Thank you.
I hope I don't disappoint you."

Usagi began to mist up, grinning gratefully.

"But this doesn't change the fact that you're still a ditz, even
after all these years!" barked Rei.

Usagi sputtered for a few moments, then shot her tongue at Rei.

"Do they do this a lot?" Hayami asked.

"As long as I've known them," Ami smiled. "The only way to tell
if they're really mad at each other is if they DON'T fight."

"And I take it all back!" Usagi grumped. "Minako's a much better
singer than you are!"

"Which just proves your ear is as tinny as your brain is!" Rei
shot back, a twinkle in her eyes.
* * * *
Setsuna eased quietly into the doorway to her bedroom. She looked
down at the winged man lying there in the first shadows of night. He
had lapsed back into a fitful unconsciousness. His body was bathed in
perspiration as he fidgeted and grimaced in the darkness.

His exquisite body.

The future mistress of the Door Of Time shook herself. There was
a time and a place for everything and lusting over a very beautiful man
was definitely not something for this time or this place. She silently
crossed over to him and placed her hand on his forehead. For a moment
she recalled involuntarily how smooth and exciting his skin was before
pushing the thought from her mind.

And suddenly the room was gone. In its place were the broken
remnants of her home. Setsuna looked around. Everything for as far as
she could see was draped in thick ice. Trees, grass, birds, even
people, for as far as she could see; there was no life to be witnessed.

The tall woman snatched her hand away from her guest and the
vision faded like a bad dream. She looked down at him, her eyes wide
and wondrous, her mouth small and frightened. For years now Setsuna had
been having more and more visions of the past, the future, alternate
futures and present events in other places. They had been
disconcerting, but she'd grown used to them. But she'd never seen
anything like this. And why when she touched her mysterious guest? Was
he involved?

Setsuna put her hand up to her throat. Would the senshi be needed
again? And this time, would they be enough?

Continued in part 2