An Empire reborn
Ch1 : The Death of a Kingdom
Serenity sat on her intricately carved wooden throne absentmindedly running her fingers across the golden inlays. Everything about her throne spoke of power and wealth, from the finely carved designs to the inlaid gold and precious gems. Only a monarch who held absolute control over her kingdoms resources could have commanded the time and skill required to build such a fine piece.
Even with such a display of extreme wealth and obvious power her throne was not gaudy. This sent a powerful message to supplicants that the person siting in that throne was confident in her own power without the need for outrages displays and demonstrations. Looking around the giant chamber, which held the throne to her kingdom, Serenity could not help but be proud of the craftsmen that had built her throne and modelled the room, which housed it. If her throne was a work of art, then this chamber was a monument. Her throne room really was the pinnacle of her reign, demonstrating the wealth and prosperity of her empire, a wealth that had been generously shared among her people.
Her eyes were immediately drawn to the solid timber doors that barred entrance to the great hall. It had taken 5 years and hordes of master artists to build those doors and yet it had taken her would be destroyers only minutes to raze them. It wouldn't be long now before they gave and allowed the legions of the Queen Beryl to enter. They would kill her but not before destroying her kingdom, her death would not be enough to satisfy them and there was little stopping them from doing so. She had spent all her life expanding the kingdom and following the path of peace. Where there had been a choice of diplomacy and war she had always taken diplomacy.
Her people had loved her for it. Trade had flourished and people led more enriched and satisfying lives. The nine Senshi were all feared warriors who safeguarded her kingdom but they were more guardians than harbingers of war, their armies more ceremonial than battle hardened veterans. In their lifetime they had not needed to be anything more. That had been their down fall, her downfall and the end to what was once the most wealthy and powerful kingdom in history. Her armies, generals and Senshi had not been ready to face a seasoned enemy determined to see their kingdoms destruction and death.
They might have been caught off guard but they had not gone down easily and she was proud of her people for that. Military might was, after all, only one way to measure the power and potential of an empire. This should have been the peak of her reign, resources had been pouring in from comets and asteroid belts that had been tamed for the greater good, bringing more wealth into her empirical coffers, enough to fund massive building programs.
Sailor Mercury was making great strides developing technologies to ease her subject's lives and new colony ships were nearing completion. She would have soon been in the position to spread her wealth throughout the galaxy as she had throughout the solar system. It was said that the people of the moon kingdom lived the lives of kings and queens. No one had suspected the betrayal that came from within or its suddenness.
Armies marched on the moon kingdom from earth, all lead by Queen Beryl, the only sovereign who had not accepted incorporation into the moon Kingdom. Before her overt declaration of war, she had remained on good terms with the foreign power so close to her own kingdom. Almost to the extent of being part of the moon kingdom by proxy, even if Beryl had stubbornly resisted the benefits, which would have flowed to earth, had she joined the moon kingdom. Why then had Beryl staged such a sudden and viscous attack on her people? Serenity asked herself even as she felt the Senshi of Saturn die in one of the many skirmishes that still dotted her once great kingdom.
When each of the royal families had joined her empire she had granted them great powers in exchange for ensuring the peace over her kingdom. Granting such great powers had created a link between them, strong enough that she had felt their deaths long before official word had reached her palace on the moon. The link also told her more accurately than any computer generated report how short the war between her empire and the earth would be.
Now it was almost over, with the death of the princess and Senshi of Saturn only her death remained to completely eliminate any hope of her kingdom every recovering from it's annihilation. Why had Beryl committed herself to such a destructive act? Beryl had always been a friend, a fellow monarch who understood the strains of rule. Queen Serenity could not imagine what Beryl must be thinking of. After all, surely the total destruction and pillaging of such a wealthy kingdom benefited no one in the medium to long term.
It was time. "Pluto, come"
"Your majesty why did you not let me prevent this by using my powers with the time gate, my death would have been well spent to stop this … madness." Serenity looked at Pluto's impassioned face and felt saddened that she had let her people down. Both her subjects and her Senshi deserved more than the inevitable conclusion to this war. She felt comfort however knowing that her actions today may somehow absolve her failure in this time by providing some positive effect in the future. Besides, even had she allowed Pluto to spend her life stopping Beryl the moon kingdoms destruction was inevitable, her kingdom was just not geared to battle the militaristic hordes of an over populated earth.
"Pluto, you should know the restrictions placed on you by the time gates better than I. Certainly you know them well enough not to ask that question of me. No, all I ask is that you go find someone worthy of wielding this. No matter how far into the future you need to look," she added with a weighted tone.
Serenity handed over the Ginzuishou, the source of her empires power or at least one of the sources of her power. All the others had been destroyed or so well guarded that their use would be neigh impossible after what she planned. "I have borrowed enough energy to finish this, now do as I say." The expression on Pluto's face broke Serenity's heart but she knew that Pluto would obey without question. Her Senshi had always had faith in her but today that faith had been betrayed in a spectacular and final fashion.
Pluto bowed before vanishing with the only remaining accessible crystalline source of the moon kingdoms power. It would be the last command Serenity would give before she too fell to Beryl. It would also be the last time Pluto obeyed any order that she gave, the time gates were often harsh on its guardians.
Serenity straightened proudly on her throne "soooo…" sneered Beryl walking in through the broken doors of her throne room. "It seems that the charmed life of the moon bitches have come to an end."
Serenity smiled sadly at Beryl "yes it has, its legacy has been broken at the height of its power. But today there are no victors." Focusing on the power she had borrowed from the Ginzuishou and concentrating her own last remaining strength she wrought a spell that would cast the souls of Beryl and her minions into a pocket dimension. Today she had lost a kingdom and as a result of this spell would lose her life, but Beryl would still receive judgement for her actions from the last surviving monarch of her powerful and ancient nation before she died. Imprisonment, a life sentence would be too good for her and she would not miss the opportunity to act by verbally sparing with Beryl. "Today your actions will be judged by moon law and history will forget us both!" Serenity's voice rang out clearly as she passed judgement before releasing her spell.
The final blackness of death followed but impossibly her spirit was pulled back to the world of the living, tugged towards the irresistible draw of the Ginzuishou through time.
Ehri gently touched the scabrous surface of the panel in front of her, the alien texture conflicted with the knowledge that she had taken part in developing it. Or rather she had supervised the development of the rough inorganic fibre that covered the inside and outside of the ship. So new and experimental that it had not yet been named, the scaly self-assembling material that covered every surface of the ship nevertheless held great civic and military applications. This sponsored program was to be the first true showcase of its abilities. Used in an equally untested and experimental colony ship it would either prove its usefulness here or become one of sciences interesting but inevitably useless extravagances.
It still amazed her that she was actually on a ship headed for another galaxy and she was saddened that it had taken such disastrous circumstances to put her there. She had never dreamed that she would take part in the colonisation project to spread humanity to the stars but events had provided more opportunity than her military rank ever had, enabling her to achieve what she had once deemed impossible.
The constant tug of acceleration, which was noticeable despite the magnetic fields generated to dampen the inertial effect of the rapid acceleration the ship was undergoing, was a constant reminder that they were not just colonists but refugees, refugees fleeing for their lives from a battle that still waged strongly. Refugees who were never meant to be on this unfinished, unsupplied and highly experimental colony ship but rather enjoying the fruits of their labour in their wealthy and prosperous kingdom.
In less than a minute Ehri would no longer be able to see any evidence of the planetary system that had been her home through the view port, 'their home' she thought looking around at the people she had smuggled aboard, all crew now whatever their profession had been before. "Maam, we have leaks in the cooling pipes in the electronics section." Bokkhai cried urgently as he scrambled down the cramped corridor that led to the command room, or rather command pit Ehri thought wryly looking around at the cramped space. There was no air resistance in space so the size and shape of the ship should not have mattered greatly in the design but it had certainly played a great part. Not that she was complaining now, the smaller ship had taken less time to build and had provided them all a way to escape with their lives.
"Don't panic Bokkhai, it should have fixed itself by now, but if it hasn't here," she handed him a fine metallic powder in a clear vial, it was the last of the nannites which could be used to speed up the self assembling of the rough fibre which coated the ship. "Sprinkle some of this on, but only a little bit there's a limited amount and who knows what else will go wrong aboard this travelling experiment." She had little faith in those scientist who lived only with the world of theories and mathematics, in her experience things happened which no amount of probabilities could account for.
Ideally she would have been commanding a crew of scientist and military officers, people whom knew the ship inside out and had planned for every contingency on their maiden voyage. As it was they were in a highly experimental ship with untried and often uncompleted systems, which she barely understood, with a crew of scared civilians traumatised by the events they had fled. Even Bokkhai had only recently joined the program and his over eagerness to please his superiors only seemed to end in disaster. He would get over it with age, experience and maturity, if he were given the time, nothing was certain anymore – only death. Death seemed to come sooner for her friends and colleagues than anyone had thought. Once again she ran her hand over the scabrous surface of the panel in front of her, this time exerting a little more pressure and watched as the inorganic fabric rolled back revealing a command display from underneath the protective coating which covered all surfaces of the ship.
The florescent display showed the status of all the ships systems demonstrating how unfinished the ship actually was, she was amazed the ship could even fly, the fact that it did was a credit to the expertise and thoroughness of the engineers and scientist who had built it. Another tap and the scabrous fibre once again covered over the display, she would prey for the souls of those engineers and scientist who had built this marvel as they where almost certainly dead by now, and the reason was not the little known effect of relativity but more likely the result of the war, which was being fought even as they fled. A war which they had been losing badly to the barbarians of Earth.
The Senshi of Mars had been the most skilled of the warrior guardians who protected the worlds of the moon kingdom but even she had not been a match for an entire army. With a hypermnesia that was frightening she could still see her commanding officer giving her final orders over the dreadful and painful sound of melee. Seconds into the surprise attack and they were already being overrun despite their obvious technological and combat advantage.
"Ehri, get as many civilians as you can into that colony ship and accelerate as hard as the engines will stand. Take Bokkhai if he's still alive," it was an order she had obeyed without question but she couldn't help but wonder at the fate of the powerful kingdom she had called home. They had been attacked, ambushed really and apart from recognising Queen Beryl's motif she didn't know much else.
"Eizhan," she addressed a slightly overweight man who was still huddling in the corner. She didn't blame the man for his grief and she forgave him his tears, he was still holding his dead and bloodied family when she had found him and dragged him to the ship. A ship that may yet be their coffin. "Please Eizhan, put aside your grief and collect the crew together we need to make a list of everyone's name and skills for…"
"Ma'am, its still leaking ma'am," even as Bokkhai returned with the nearly empty bottle of nanites she had specifically asked him to use sparingly a fleshy thunk signalled a piece of the synthetic bulk head blowing out. The hiss, which was followed by a rapidly lowering temperature, signalled another leak. Trying in vein to hold back a frustrated growl Ehri snatched the bottle off the incompetent private before she lost sight of it in the mist of condensing gases. A beeping, which was almost masked by the hissing of over pressurised gas confirmed her worst fears about home, a home she would most likely never see again.
With the addition of some of the metallic powder she watched as the self-assembling fibre was aided by the nanites she just added to heal the latest leak. "Show me," she snapped, if things continued like this, fine workmanship or no, the ship would not get them to their destination or home again.
Civilians crowded the corridors and holed up in corners as Eizhan slowly made his way among them. 150 people she had saved, 150 out of the millions which had perished when Beryls rampaging army had set into effect something which would within a generation leave mars and for all she knew the rest of the habitats in the solar system nothing more than barren wastelands incapable of supporting life. A generation she knew had already long past.
She would not tell the people on board about the automated and encoded message which had been relayed from a military installation on mars by speed of light communication. It had just caught up with them and it had not been good news. The moon kingdom had fallen, no survivors. Such news would no doubt be devastating for the people on board, almost as much as news that by the time they got to their destination several hundred lifetimes would have past.
"By Serenity what have you done!" Ehri cursed. The leak had sealed with minimal loss of the compressed gas that cooled all the sensitive electronics but she could see evidence of severe damage to the electronics that the scabrous fibre was supposed to protect. It was almost as if he had poured the entire bottle straight onto the sensitive equipment allowing the nanites to wreak havoc. The instruments were badly etched and corroded, not something she wanted to see on such a vital system as life support.
With her knowledge of the systems she could only guess at the effects of such a damage-causing mistake. Once again she lamented escaping on the experimental ship with such an incompetent crew even though intellectually she knew nothing else was fast enough to out run Beryl's crusade or escape her blockade and that the very experimental nature of the ship had saved her life.
Ehri forced herself to ease her glare from the almost cringing Bokkhai, it wasn't his fault that he hadn't undergone the required training - he hadn't had the time before Beryl changed everything by invading. Hopefully Eizhan had done a better job in his task. No one would have to know that the invasion they had escaped had turned the once glorious moon kingdom into a necropolis and by the time they returned she could blame their homes destruction on the passage of time. She needed all of them to band together to increase all of their chances of survival and when they did get home they would be the regrowth after an all too effective purging. The moon kingdom would live again, rising from its ashes.
Pocketing the vial of nannites she rushed to see how Eizhan was going, she had noticed a reversal in the ever-present acceleration that she had come to associate with the movement of the colony ship. Either way it meant that they would be arriving at their destination, orbit around a carefully studied life-supporting world. Or at least as studied as it could be from afar or with probes. She would need to prepare people for there arrival and organise them for the return trip. At least she hoped she could persuade them to return with her rather than stay as was originally intended.
Nodding gratefully at Eizhan and glancing spuriously at the list he handed her she turned and activated an intercommunication device. Why that had been completed with so much of the other parts of the ship in disarray she would never know. No doubt so the engineers could listen to music while they worked, it seemed a silly reason now after what she had experienced.
"For those who didn't catch my name before I pulled you from your homes or workplace I am Ehri, a lieutenant in the Martian special forces. I like you never expected to be uprooted from the life I knew by Beryls treacherous invasion but we must make the most of circumstances. For the past few hours we have been travelling at near the speed of light towards Circinus galaxy. As you will no doubt have guessed by now we will be reaching our destination soon, the destination should be a habitable planet orbiting a blue sun much like mars and with the supplies on the ship you all should be able to make a decent life there as a community. But even if it is possible to stay there when we arrive and live a decent life I want you all to consider joining with me in repairing this ship so that we can return home, the war should be over and we can rebuild the lives, which were so quickly destroyed by Beryl's treachery."
"Can't we do both? There is no life for me there with my family dead and my home destroyed and I know I am not the only one that wants to forget what we just fled."
Ehri tried not to frown at the murmuring this comment generated, she wanted to return home and do her part for the war effort even if generations had passed by. "We fled before this ship was fully stocked or even finished built, it is impossible to do both. If even a few decide to stay there will not be enough supplies for the rest of us to return. Please discuss it among yourselves," even though she wanted to get back she could not force the crew to go back. She was one against a hundred and fifty, even if she wanted to she could not force their decision. Still they were Martians and even though the brilliant blue star visible over the crest of the blue and green mars like planet provided a symbol of possibilities she had little doubt that the outcome of the discussions would be positive. Their Martian blood called out for revenge and righteous resistance.
Leaving the crew to discuss their future in an ever more audible and heated argument she went to investigate the small tug of inertia that she could still feel. For the acceleration of the ship to be noticeable even now in orbit there had to be something wrong. Her last brief investigations told her that there was nothing wrong with the dampeners but what other explanation could there be? Whatever the answer every minute that past with the ship still accelerating potentially meant generations passing back home due to time dilation so the sooner a decision was made the better.
And safer, she was still waiting for the effects of the damaged electronics to become apparent, with the life support system so damaged and the ship so crowded it would be safer to use the suns gravity to catapult them home if they were to decide on that course of action.
"Has a decision been made, I am not confident about just quietly taking the course of action that Beryl has deemed for us. It makes me uncomfortable to meekly accept the lifestyle that has been thrust on us. My choice is to go back what about you," Ehri yelled making herself heard over the raucous.
To her surprise it was Eizhan that came forward with the decision of the civilians in exile, "it doesn't feel right to us either lieutenant. Get us home safely," Ehri smiled she was worried that they would make the wrong decision and force her to do something drastic to change there minds like defenestration.
Pluto knelt silently over the child that would one day wield the Ginzuishou. Her breathing was haggard and uneven but she would accomplish what had been asked of her before she died. In her last moments she had been permitted to freely browse the future time streams. That ability had been given to the guardians of the time gate with the intention of finding an appropriate successor but instead she would use it to fulfil her queen's last request. She would trust the gates redundancy systems to find a replacement in her stead. Amongst the flows of time she had found a soul that was as great as it was beautiful or at least which had the potential to be. This was a child who Serenity would have approved off and perhaps even fostered had she been alive in this era.
Still looking down at the chubby infant before her she could not see the potential as clearly as she had from the time gates but her powers were already failing as she neared death. "Serenity, know this. I have obeyed your last request even though it meant my death."
Drawing out the crystal that her queen had entrusted her she slowly merged it with the child. The bond would grow stronger as he aged and by his teens it would no longer be possible to remove for any length of time without killing him. By that time he should have unconsciously learnt to prevent its removal anyway so she wasn't worried.
"Ranma, the purity of this crystal will help you live up to your potential. I have no doubt." When he learnt to yield the power either unconsciously or consciously he would be a wolf among the sheep in terms of power. It was one of the reasons she had been so cautious when selecting a bearer for such a great power, he would bear enough power to affect every life on earth. If only Serenity had been alive to nurture and guide him to ensure that he only used his power for good and not for self-gain as had been the custom, it would certainly put most of her worries to rest.
With a last agonised breath Sailor Pluto, guardian of the time gates and the last surviving reminder of the great kingdom long forgotten to time vanished. The consequences of browsing the time stream had caught up to her. Only the young child it seemed could see the disembodied and very confused Serenity in the corner before she too vanished.
Setsuna growled in disgust as she scrubbed the dirt from under her chipped fingernails. If her mother was to be believed she was of noble blood and yet here she was grubbing around in the dirt trying to grow enough food to survive like some peasant. Not that it really mattered if she was of noble blood her not, it was said that everyone noble or common lived like royalty before the earth queen had foolishly invaded the powerful moon kingdom. The few magic users remaining after the war and the rapidly failing pieces of tech backed up those claims quite well, but soon they too would vanish into history leaving only poverty in their wake.
Only two generations after the war between Earth and the Moon kingdom and memories from that time were already being forgotten. Even the reason for the war was unclear since all those responsible had either been killed or simply disappeared. Beryl and her legions never returned even as reports of the total destruction of the moon kingdom were delivered to officials back on earth. The resulting power vacuum and cessation of trade between such a wealthy neighbour and earth started the inevitable collapse of Beryl's own kingdom as petty nobles hastened the expenditure of resources in a power struggle.
Thousands died of plague and starvation, even more from civil wars. If Setsuna had to guess, her children or their children would know nothing of their legacy instead only the constant burden of trying to feed themselves, how far they had fallen.
"Would you change that?"
Setsuna jerked as a voice pounded into her head, "or would you watch the inevitable flow of time pass passively?"
She clutched the wall with one hand and her head with the other while trying to understand what was being asked of her. "What would you do with eternal life and the chance to make a difference? Would you create an empire or watch empires crumble?"
Setsuna grunted in pain as her wet hand slipped from its purchase causing her to fall uncontrolled onto the unforgivingly tiled floor. "Who are you, what are you asking, what do you want from me?" she pushed out against the unbearable pressure inside her head.
"You've heard of the time gates? I need a guardian and I'm offering you the choice, the chance and the opportunity. No trace remains of the old guardian – she broke the fundamental rules of guardianship and was judged, her potential successor remains lost in time and may not be usable or even able to take up the role. Will you accept the position even without full knowledge, knowing it could mean your death?"
She had heard whispers of a secret weapon, which had not been used during the war, and if this were it then it would give her uncontrollable power. Yet, even as the voice scrambled her thoughts she was hesitant. The time gate was a relic from the moon kingdoms past, a powerful and mysterious past. Did she want to get involved, it was a great risk? It was certainly better than the life that she had here and the future that she looked forward to even if might mean her death. "I accept," and it would stop the dreadful pounding of her head.
Setsuna stood silently over the cot judging the suitability of the sleeping child within. Her staff was heavy in her hand as she considered what she was about to do. With this action she would set in motion a series of events, which would, she hoped lead to the establishment of Crystal Tokyo. A kingdom, which would rival Beryl's and contain much of what she admired from the moon kingdom. Or at least what the stories told of that time, even after all the time she had spent guarding a moon kingdoms relic, she had only discovered bits and pieces about the moon kingdom and its past. Still combined with the stories she had been told and the bits of tech she had recovered it must have been a wondrous place.
It had been a long time since she had accepted guardianship of the time gate and she had spent it all learning what she could and couldn't do with its powers. Endless lifetimes were spent learning to manipulate events and people to create circumstances that would lead to different outcomes, emulating the forbidden powers of the gates. Even more was spent gathering tech and artefacts from her own time so that when the time came she could create what she dreamed off so often. It seemed strange but apart from the initial offering, the time gates had not spoken to her any information about itself and its place in the once powerful and dominant moon kingdom.
Crystal Tokyo. She now felt confidant enough in her control over the gates and her experience over humanity and its history to attempt its creation. The first step would be to create new Senshi to help in its creation and guard against its destruction.
She had not forgotten the reason for the old time guardians destruction or the whispers of a potential heir lost in time. But with so long learning the intricacies of the position she felt that she had little to fear of being usurped, but it was wise to be cautious. Setsuna held out her staff now glowing brightly and lightly touched the sleeping infant with its tip. Artificially created memories of a past life and magical powers not seen in countless generations would ensure their loyalty to the idea of Crystal Tokyo. Firm guidance and leadership during their adolescence and the awakening of their powers would cement their loyalty to her.
Still it was a shame that browsing the future time streams would mean her death since as she had found out during her many experiments with society, no matter what her experience in the area of manipulating events there was always room for error. Setsuna could see no obstacles to her plans, all traces and memory of the moon kingdom had as she'd foreseen vanished within three generations of its down fall as survival had taken priority for the poverty stricken citizens and its magic had seemingly died out not long after the disappearance of Beryl and her generals.
That was one of the reasons she had chosen Japan for the seat of her power, it was the least likely country to create any problems. Magic had died out in this part of the world first and it was the furthest from where Beryl held her court so it was unlikely for any artefacts to turn up with the re-emergence of magic to disrupt her plans. At least unexpected artefacts, she planned to gift her soldiers with enough powerful artefacts to cement their position as rulers over this pitifully backward world.
The Senshi of Pluto straightened her seifuku and grasping her staff disappeared with the intention of 'reawakening' the other Senshi, she would need seven more after all.