Chapter 1: "Pluto's Plea"
A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2006 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2006 by Bill K.
As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:
"Happy birthday, Miss Hotaru Ma'am!" Palla-Palla sang out.
To Hotaru's chagrin, they were in the dining hall at the time. Dining hall staff and members of the palace staff dining there turned and smiled at the young girl. Gentle amusement swelled in them when they saw the shy girl's cheeks grow crimson. Then, remembering how her friend Jun-Jun felt about birthdays, Hotaru glanced nervously at her.
"I'm good with it, Hotaru," Jun-Jun smiled, unconsciously fingering the locket she obsessively wore, the locket that contained the scrap of paper with her own birthday on it. "Don't worry."
"So you finally made it to sixteen," Usa grinned, her chin propped on one hand and a smirk on her lips. Her pink and white, extremely form-fitting body suit made her look to Hotaru like something out of a twentieth century science fiction film. At any moment she expected Usa to transform into Prince Of Space. Then Usa's expression changed to one of puzzlement. "Are you taller?"
Hotaru flushed with embarrassment again.
"She's wearing heels!" Cere-Cere exclaimed. Her friend's gold lame pants and midriff-baring top, trimmed in scarlet, made Hotaru momentarily flash back to the vibrant villainesses on the science fiction films. "Three inches!"
"Wow," gasped Jun-Jun, in green slacks and a white blouse.
"Do you like them?" Hotaru asked. "Michiru-mama gave them to me as an early birthday present."
"They're nice," Usa nodded. Hotaru had on a short skirted, long-sleeved charcoal dress and nude hose. "And so mature. Between that dress and those heels, you're so - - dare I even say it - - vixenish."
"Usa!" huffed Hotaru.
"Yeah, a little lipstick and some dark eyeshadow and Yutaka may just wet himself," smirked Cere-Cere.
"Stop teasing me!" Hotaru fumed playfully.
"They only do it because you're such an easy mark," grinned Ves-Ves, garbed in a maroon muscle shirt, shorts and boots. "You don't see them teasing me."
"Actually we do tease you," Cere-Cere told her. "You're just too dense to notice."
Hotaru took a seat at the table. Palla-Palla beamed at her, then went back to devouring her heaping bowl of sugary cereal.
"So what are your plans for today after school?" Usa asked.
"Well, I was going to spend a few hours with Haruka-papa, Michiru-mama and Setsuna-mama," Hotaru explained. She flushed again and averted her eyes, but couldn't conceal her smile. "Then Yutaka's taking me out tonight."
"Is Yutaka going to give you a present," Jun-Jun asked, "or are you going to give him one?"
"JUN!" gasped Cere-Cere. Everyone looked at her in shock except Palla-Palla, who was characteristically mystified.
"Hey, just because I'm 'the good girl' doesn't mean I don't think about it!" Jun-Jun retorted.
"You don't have to answer that, Hotaru," chuckled Usa.
"I wasn't going to," Hotaru replied, her brow furrowed.
"Well since your day sounds pretty booked up," Usa began, grinning with anticipation, "here's my gift. Happy birthday."
"Thank you, Usa," Hotaru sighed. She opened the little box and her eyes popped.
"What is it, Miss Hotaru ma'am?" Palla-Palla inquired.
"Usa, it's beautiful," Hotaru gasped softly. She removed a small chain from the box. On the chain was a jade pendant shaped like the planet Saturn.
"Oh thanks a lot, Princess!" fussed Ves-Ves. "Blow our gifts right out of the water!"
"What?" Usa asked defensively.
"We're not as rich as you! We can't compete with that!"
"I didn't know it WAS a competition!"
"I'm sure I'll like your gifts, too," Hotaru replied charitably. "Thank you, Usa. I'll wear it tonight."
"Hope it brings you luck," Usa smiled back.
Cere-Cere sighed dramatically. "Oh, I'm SO envious of you, Hotaru. You've got a boyfriend who you can spend your birthday with."
"Bet the next thing she says is 'I miss Gallan'," Ves-Ves whispered to Palla-Palla.
"I miss Gallan so," whined Cere-Cere.
Ves-Ves smirked at Palla-Palla, who giggled.
"Oh be quiet, you two!" huffed Cere-Cere.
"You've only been singing that same song for three months now," Ves-Ves barked. "Give it a rest already!"
After a quick meal and receiving her presents from the Asteroids, Hotaru accompanied the others to Classroom One.
"Do you know where Yutaka is taking you?" Usa asked as they all walked down the corridor.
"Well, I didn't want to say anything," Hotaru demurred, "but we're going to your show tonight at The Andromeda Club."
"You are? Great!" beamed Usa. "I'm going to have to dedicate a song to you two now!"
"Usa, don't," Hotaru grimaced shyly.
"Let's see," the Princess pondered openly, "what's the most romantic ballad I know?"
"I knew I shouldn't have said anything," fretted Hotaru.
"You know," Jun-Jun said, leaning close to Hotaru's ear, "if you really want her to back off, all you have to do is invite the King and Queen along."
"YOU SHUT UP!" Usa shouted, swinging playfully at her. "That's a royal command!"
"Yes, Princess," Jun-Jun snickered while Hotaru and the others twittered with laughter.
As Hotaru prepared for her date, the Princess headed out for a last minute shopping trip and the King busied himself with city management conferences, Queen Serenity was returning from an impromptu tour of one of the residential neighborhoods of the city-state. From time to time, often on a whim, the Queen would suddenly decide to travel to a part of the city and visit with the people, unscheduled and unannounced. It was a treat for the people - - Queen Serenity had the status of a celebrity among the common people and many drew great pleasure just from seeing her or touching her hand. The fact that she would often stop and talk to several of them, chatting them up about their lives, was akin to being blessed to the people.
As a concession to her senshi, Serenity would always allow one of them to accompany her on her trips, as a bodyguard. She never felt it was necessary, but acquiesced, in her words, "to keep Rei from yelling at me". The others insisted, for they knew that even though Serenity was widely loved, she was not universally loved.
As it so happened, Rei was the one senshi available this time.
"Wasn't that just so much fun, Rei?" Serenity squealed, the cheers and sighs of the crowd following her. The crowd itself would have followed her, but they'd passed the security perimeter around the palace and it blocked them off.
"You've got a way about you," Rei replied admiringly. It never ceased to amaze her what an uplifting effect Serenity had on the common people. "I think you do more for the morale of this city than any of Endymion's governmental programs."
"Sometimes all a person really wants is to know somebody else cares," Serenity shrugged. "To know they're not alone in their burden can be the one thing that helps them shoulder it more easily."
"Still, even you can take it too far," Rei added. "The way you slobbered all over that poor woman's baby . . ."
"I DID NOT slobber!" fussed Serenity.
"And I wasn't sure you were going to give that baby back," Rei needled. "And neither was his mother."
"Welllll," Serenity grimaced with chagrin. "He was just so cute! I wouldn't have minded a bit keeping him. But I'd never do that to another person."
"I know," Rei smiled. Then her eyes narrowed. "And then there was the ice cream."
"He wanted to give me a gift," huffed Serenity. "It would have been rude to refuse."
"You ate twelve."
"Yeah, I could see how hard he had to bend your arm," Rei scowled. "By the twelfth one he was probably wondering if you were going to put him out of business."
Serenity turned and stuck her tongue out at the priest.
"Hey, Mom!" Usa tossed over her shoulder as the girl buzzed passed the two older women, through the front gate and into the palace. "Hi, Aunt Rei!"
"Usa, you almost ran us over!" huffed the queen.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Rei asked.
"Yeah, Aunt Rei!" the teen exclaimed. "You're the best!"
"What was she looking for?" Serenity asked.
"'The perfect love ballad', in her exact words," Rei replied. Serenity was confused, a not unusual state. "Hotaru and Yutaka are attending her show tonight. Since it's Hotaru's birthday, she wanted to dedicate a special love ballad to them."
"Oh, that's sweet!" gushed the queen.
"So I hooked her up with this little place I know. Kuzawa-San sells downloads of lyric files, among other things, and has probably the largest catalog of songs in the world - - probably bigger than Endymion's. He's got everything that was ever published, from the most popular standards to that junk Minako recorded. I figured if anyone could help her, Kuzawa-San could."
"Maybe I can pry Endymion out of his computer room and we can see the show tonight," Serenity said with a feline grin.
"No," Rei quickly advised.
"It's Hotaru's special night. You being there will just make Usa nervous."
"But Rei!" the queen whined. "I love listening to Usa sing!"
The priest glared at the queen.
"You never let me do anything I want to do!" Serenity huffed, her arms folded sternly over her chest.
"Oh, stop it. Next I'll be changing your diaper," Rei muttered. She got another tongue volley for her trouble.
Usa steamed down the corridor toward her room. Unknown to Rei and Serenity, she had two missions she'd accomplished. The first was obtaining the song. The second was purchasing a gift for Setsuna to give to the birthday girl. Since Setsuna wouldn't leave the door of time, Usa volunteered to make the purchase once Setsuna decided on a gift.
That in itself had been a laborious process for the normally decisive Sailor Pluto.
"Diana!" Usa called out upon entering her quarters. Diana had agreed to fill in at the Door of Time to allow Setsuna to attend Hotaru's birthday celebration at home. "I'm back! Are you ready to go?"
"I've been ready for an hour," Diana replied in her throaty purr of a voice. The smoke gray cat wandered leisurely from the closet into the room. Usa wrinkled her nose at the cat and her mild reproach. "Did you select an appropriate song?"
"That's what took so long," Usa alibied, placing the song on the desk. "I had to find the song that was just right. What do you think?"
Diana leaped up onto the desk and looked the song over.
"I can't say that I'm familiar with this piece," Diana said. "However, I don't follow music that closely, so don't go by that."
"I'm not surprised you don't know it," Usa smiled. "I only heard it for the first time in the shop. It was first recorded in 2166 by Mai Shimura and Hojo Narita. Diana, it was the most popular song of the whole year, and the next one! Oh, and if you heard them sing it, you'd understand why." Usa shivered involuntarily. "If I can just come close to the way they did it, Yutaka might propose to Hotaru that very moment!"
Diana replied with a cynical look.
Minutes later the pair were passing through the dimensional phase that separated the real world with the limbo surrounding the Door of Time.
"I wish I could visit longer with Puu," sighed Usa.
"Why can't you?" Diana asked.
"Because she's got to be with Hotaru. This is Hotaru's day, not mine. Besides, I need to practice my phrasing on that song. I want it to be JUST RIGHT!"
"Yes, one false note and Yutaka may be proposing to the maintenance robot," Diana replied with a cynical leer.
"Gee, one more thing you've inherited from your mother," Usa shot back. "Her cutting wit."
"Hush," the gray cat scowled.
As they moved through the mists of the temporal limbo, Usa and Diana could see the hazy outline of the Door of Time. However, the closer they got, the more they realized that the picture was incomplete.
"Puu?" Usa called out. There was no answer. "Puu, where are you?"
Diana ran forward. "Princess, there's no one here!"
"That can't be! Puu would never leave her post! We had to practically blackmail her to get her to go to Hotaru's party!"
"Nevertheless," Diana began, then was seized by an idea. The cat turned and ran off into the mists.
"Diana?" Usa called out.
"Stay there, Princess! I know my way about the mists! You don't!"
Anxious moments passed as the teen waited for her cat to return. Finally her burden was eased by Diana's reappearance. The cat had an ornate box with her, carrying it with the handle in her mouth. She set the case down and pawed open the latches.
"Thankfully they're all here," Diana said. Usa recognized the contents of the case as the collection of time keys. "Perhaps Sailor Pluto has traveled into time for some reason."
"Maybe we better tell Mom and Dad," Usa frowned.
"Perhaps you're right," Diana concurred.
The pair passed back through the dimensional phase into reality. However it was not the reality they'd left. The sky was a dismal gray. The sun was covered by a shroud. Where once the Palace of Crystal Tokyo stood, now there was only a jutting mound of dirt and rock gouged from the land and stuck into a body of water Usa dimly recognized as Juuban Park lake. Around her, the city was devastated, beaten to pieces by war and disaster.
"D-Diana?" Usa began. It was like being in the middle of a nightmare.
"I-I don't know, Princess," the cat stammered. "It's as if reality itself has shifted. I recognize fragments of this place as Tokyo, but it isn't our Tokyo."
"Did we accidentally travel to some alternate future?"
"Doubtful. We'd have had to pass through the Door of Time to accomplish that."
"My Lady," they heard Sailor Pluto gasp from behind them. Turning, both Usa and Diana found Sailor Pluto on her knees, holding herself up only by gripping her Ruby Orb Staff. She seemed ghostly and not all there.
"Puu?" Usa gasped. "What happened to you? What happened to everything?"
"Let me explain, My Lady, please!" Pluto gasped out desperately. "I have little time left!" Pluto gathered herself, even as her physical form shimmered and began to dissipate. "I am held prisoner here on Earth. This form you see is a past self. I have come to warn you! The past has been violated! Your mother, the Queen, has been struck down at age four. That single act has undone everything!"
"Mama!" Usa gasped, horrified.
"Go back, My Lady!" Pluto said, fading faster with every moment. "Protect your mother! Prevent what has been done! Everything depends upon you!" With her last bit of energy, Pluto forced the Ruby Orb to glow. A black shape began to materialize before them. "You will need this - - this and your power and glory as the Princess - - and future queen of - - Crystal Tokyo."
And with that Sailor Pluto faded from view. Left in her place was Luna-P.
Continued in Chapter 2