Chapter 12: "A Memory Of You"

By Bill K.

Ignoring the tantrum of a petulant two year old was becoming increasingly difficult for young Ikuko Tsukino. She asked herself again if motherhood was worth putting up with this. Shingo continued to thrash around in his playpen, howling like a banshee because he had been denied his way - - the cardinal sin to a two year old. It would die out soon. They always had. It was getting to that point that was the test. Ikuko willed herself to be strong.

Thinking of Kenji helped. Memories of his quick wit, his easy smile, his earnest tenderness when she was angry or frustrated or questioning her place in the world, made her glow with the love she felt for him. Thoughts of the way he supported her, the new ideas he opened up to her, the marvelous way he accepted her ability to teach him as well - - and the way he touched her just so in that special place that seemed to make her one with the universe for a brief moment, all helped get her past her son's selfish caterwauling. One day Shingo would grow up to be an approximation of Kenji. That gave her the strength to continue.

The door chime shook Ikuko out of her reverie. She moved to answer it. Then it chimed again and again. Soon whoever it was began pounding.

"Yes, yes, I'm coming!" Ikuko fussed irritably. This day was quickly becoming one where she should have stayed in bed. She opened the door and found a beautiful pink haired sixteen year old standing there.

"Is Usagi here?" the teen gasped frantically.

"Why do you want my daughter, young lady?" Ikuko asked suspiciously.

Usa went pale.

"Oh no! Luna-P's hypno-beam wore off!" the teen thought, gaping in horror at Ikuko. "She doesn't remember me!"

Usa felt her life flash before her eyes. Then, from depths unguessed, came inspiration.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am," Usa bowed. "I'm, um, Hotaru! From down the street! We just moved in! Anyway, I heard a policeman say that there was a criminal loose in the neighborhood! And I knew you had that cute little girl, and I wanted to make sure she was safe!"

"Oh no!" Ikuko gasped, her hand going to her mouth. "Usagi just went to Juuban Park!"

Instantly Usa turned on her heels and tore down the street, followed closely by Diana. She heard Ikuko call after her, but didn't make out the words. As she ran, she felt a loathing for herself inside her heart for terrifying her grandmother that way. Recriminations, though, were short-lived. She had more important concerns.

In the alley, Usagi peered in as she walked closer to the moaning young woman with the platinum hair crouched behind a trash bin. The four year old wondered if the woman had hurt her face, since her hand was over the left side.

"Did you hit your head?" Usagi asked, now right next to the woman and leaning in. "We can go see my Mama. I bet she can fix you up. She knows everything. If you need me to, I can help you walk."

The eye that wasn't covered looked up at Usagi. It seemed strange to the little girl, but she couldn't understand why. Then the woman smiled at her.

"You're such a good little girl to help me," she said. Usagi couldn't understand why her visible eye seemed so much like that of her favorite doll. "So full of love and charity - - even at this young age. What better way to lure you in."

The woman's hand slid away from her face. Usagi's big blue eyes grew wide when she saw the gleaming metal skull beneath the torn away left side around the eye. She screamed in terror and surprise, backing away from Viluy as the villain's left hand reared back to strike. Then Usagi stumbled and she fell backwards onto the pavement. Viluy loomed over her, her left hand cocked to strike. Usagi screamed again.

Then Viluy screamed as the world seemed to explode in light. It reminded Usagi of the flash from her father's camera when he took her picture on her fourth birthday. For a second she couldn't see anything but intense white. Then the light dissipated. When it did, Viluy no longer had a left hand. Movement to Usagi's left caught her eye and the pre-schooler glanced over. An energy disk shot through the air, then was caught by a hand draped in a white glove with pink trim.

"USA-ONEECHAN!" Usagi cried happily.

"Run, Usagi!" Sailor Moon barked urgently. "Run home! Now!"

Viluy lunged at the fallen girl with her remaining hand. Usagi squealed in fright, but the hand was intercepted by the energy disk again. Angrily, Viluy turned to Sailor Moon and Usagi took this chance to run.

"This ends, child!" Viluy snarled.

"I couldn't agree more," Sailor Moon replied.

Sailor Moon reared back and flung her tiara energy disk at the charging Viluy. Her target was the replicant's throat, her intent to sever the head from the villain's body. Perhaps she wouldn't die, being an artificial construct now, but it would certainly stop her murderous rampage - - and if she did die, well, right now Sailor Moon wasn't thinking that far ahead.

But just as suddenly, Viluy froze in mid-stride. Exerting her mental control over her tiara energy disk, Sailor Moon caused it to hover inches from Viluy's throat. But the replicant just stood in mid-stride, not moving and not reacting.

"You suppose her battery went dead?" Sailor Moon asked Diana.

"I'm not certain," the cat replied. "Perhaps the damage to her hand corrupted her internal processors."

"It was neither," said Sailor Pluto. To Sailor Moon and Diana, she seemed to emerge from the shadows of the far wall themselves. "I have stopped time around her. Viluy is no longer a threat."

They all heard a shoe scuff on pavement. As Sailor Moon turned to the sound, Sailor Pluto quickly receded back into the shadow. The pink senshi spotted Usagi crouched behind the corner of a building at the mouth of the alley.

"I thought I told you to go home?" Sailor Moon scowled.

"I'm sorry, Usa-oneechan," Usagi whimpered, emerging from the corner. "I was worried about you. What did you do to the bad lady?"

"Um," Sailor Moon thought as she reclaimed her tiara, "I, uh, froze her - - magically. She's not going to hurt you anymore."

Usagi broke into a run for her. Sailor Moon caught the girl and returned the child's hug. For a moment there seemed to be a surge of crystal energy between them, but it died quickly.

"Thank you for coming back, Usa-oneechan!" Usagi squealed. "I've really missed you since you've been gone!"

"Well it's good to be missed," Sailor Moon smiled.

"And thank you for saving me from the bad lady."

"That's what I do," she shrugged.

"Are you staying for good?" Usagi asked. Her big blue eyes pleaded silently and Sailor Moon flashed back to a hundred thousand guilt trips those big blue eyes had previously induced in her. God, she hated when her mother pleaded with her eyes.

"Can't," Sailor Moon replied.

"Why not?" Usagi asked and Sailor Moon knew from experience "the misty eyes" were coming next.

"It's not that I don't like you, Usagi-chan," Sailor Moon explained. "It's just - - I don't belong here, you know." The child seemed crestfallen. "And all my friends are in - - Fairyworld. And Mom and Dad are back in - - in Fairyworld, remember, and I - - well, I guess I need to be with them, you know? You don't want to make my Mom and Dad unhappy, do you?"

"No," Usagi mumbled forlornly. Then she looked up. "Will I ever see you again?"

"Oh yeah," Sailor Moon grinned. "I promise. It won't be for a long time, but I promise we will meet again." Usagi beamed at her and Sailor Moon could feel the girl's innate spell working on her. "Now you need to run on home. Your Mom's worried about you."

"OK, Usa-oneechan! Good-bye!" and Usagi ran off.

"And don't trip!" Sailor Moon called after her.

"I don't trip that much!" huffed Usagi. Then she promptly stumbled on the curb and almost fell.

"You had to get in that last shot, didn't you?" Diana said as Sailor Moon giggled to herself. Pluto emerged from the shadows again.

"You OK, Puu?" Sailor Moon asked.

"I am quite well," Pluto responded calmly, "thanks in no small measure to the efforts of you and of Sailor Saturn. You have my gratitude, My Lady, for that as well as for successfully stopping Viluy's plans. Your efforts did you great pride," and then Pluto's brow furrowed. She glanced down. "Until the last, that is."

Sailor Moon looked at her, perplexed.

"My Lady," Pluto asked with a clearly heavy heart, "did you intend to kill Viluy?"

The girl's mouth hardened. She was silent for a moment.

"I intended to stop her," Sailor Moon replied, perhaps a bit harshly. "She was about to murder a four year old girl, who just happened to be my mother. I didn't set out to kill her - - but if she died, it wasn't like it would be a big loss to the world."

Pluto's gaze fell at those words. Sailor Moon felt her cheeks flush and anger begin to well.

"Tell me you wouldn't have done the same!" the girl barked.

"I cannot, in all honesty," Pluto said, still looking down. Then she looked up and locked eyes with the girl. "But your mother would not have done so."

Sailor Moon felt her eyes sting. Her mouth tightened. Her victory of a few moments ago was now ashes in her mouth. Then Pluto reached out and placed a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Our youth is the proving ground in which we are allowed to make mistakes, My Lady," Pluto counseled. "The key to enlightenment is to learn from these mistakes. I bear you no ill,My Lady."

Sailor Moon's eyes cast down. After an awkward moment, she nodded her acceptance.

"So what do we do with her?" Sailor Moon asked, nodding to the frozen Viluy. "Are you going to keep her frozen like that forever?"

"No. I am incapable of such an expenditure of energy. Even now, I begin to feel the strain." Pluto turned and pointed the Ruby Orb at Viluy. The replicant faded from view. "I have created a loop in time in the thirtieth century. Viluy will be in her lab, dormant and undergoing a recharge of her android body's power cell. Those thirty minutes of recharge time will now loop upon themselves, going from the end to the beginning and back to the end, for all of eternity. Viluy will, in effect, lay dormant for the rest of time."

Sailor Moon nodded silently. Pluto noted that she seemed troubled. It saddened the senshi of time, but she knew it was for the best.

"If you are ready to return, My Lady?" Pluto inquired.

The girl nodded. With a turn of her staff, Pluto transported them all back to the thirtieth century.

When Sailor Moon and Diana exited the dimensional nexus into the real world, they found Saturn and the senshi waiting for them.

"So, did you get her?" Vesta asked point blank.

"Yeah," Sailor Moon nodded. "With a little help from Sailor Pluto."

"Hey, whatever works," Ceres offered. "That means the Queen is safe, right?"

"Obviously," Juno replied, "because everything is back to normal."

"And how would you know if things WERE different?" Ceres countered. Juno was about to reply, then stopped short.

"Yeah, how would I know?" Juno pondered.

"HA! Beat you for once, Smartie!" Ceres cackled in triumph.

"Wow, one in a row. I'm impressed."

"Don't try to minimize it! I beat you! I-yie beat you!"

"She said, making the mature response," scowled Juno.

"Ha ha, I beat you," mimicked Ceres.

"So the crisis is over?" Saturn asked anxiously.

"Yeah, Pluto's back in her spot and everything's back to normal," Sailor Moon replied.

"And you don't need us anymore?" Saturn asked.

"No," Sailor Moon said, curious about Saturn's behavior. The girl quickly reverted to Hotaru. "What's up?"

"What's up?" Hotaru howled. "I've only got two hours to get ready for my date with Yutaka tonight!" Turning, the girl bolted off at top speed.

"Oh, that's right!" gasped Sailor Moon. "All this bouncing back and forth between the past and the present, I forgot what today is! I've just got time to make it to the club for tonight's set!"

"You're singing tonight, Usa?" Cere-Cere asked as Sailor Moon reverted back to Usa. The princess nodded as she scurried off, Diana at her heel. "We're coming!"

"Goodie!" squealed Palla-Palla. "The princess has such a pretty voice! Palla-Palla hopes she can stay awake this time."

"I'll nudge you if you drift off, Stupid," Ves-Ves grinned. "Yeah, this'll be a treat. Usa sings almost as good as Aino-Sama!"

The footfalls of the princess thundered through the halls of the palace, a not unusual occurrence for the palace staff anymore. They smiled and nodded to her, enjoying her youthful energy and grateful that she was again seen in the halls of the crystalline structure. However, the thunderous footfalls were enough to alert someone else to her presence - - as if he needed anything else.

"Usa," Endymion called to her, popping his head out of a palace meeting room. "Can I see you for a moment?" The pink-tressed teen stopped in her tracks.

"Pop!" she howled. "I've got to get to the club! I'm singing for Hotaru tonight!"

"It won't take that long," Endymion replied calmly. Usa resisted. "As King to senshi, Sailor Moon - - please?"

Usa knew that tone.

"Ohhhhh, what did I do now?" she huffed in frustration. Endymion disappeared back into the room as she headed toward it, her arms folded across her chest and her shoulders hunched.

"Perhaps he's curious about your recent activities," suggested Diana. Usa unclenched instantly.

"You suppose?" she gulped. "OK, Diana, not one word about us going into the past!"

"For heaven's sake, why not?" demanded the cat.

"Because I'm still banned from time travel, remember?" fussed Usa.

"You were acting to save your mother, Sailor Pluto and all of reality!" Diana countered. "Surely those are mitigating circumstances if I've ever heard them."

"Yeah, well Pop's not going to see it that way," Usa maintained, "and what he doesn't know won't hurt ME. So keep quiet."

Diana sighed with frustration. "Sometimes you are the most exasperating child."

"Maybe you've been hanging around Mom too long," Usa told her as they entered the room. "You're beginning to sound like her now."

Inside the room with Endymion were Ami and Minako. Usa suppressed a giddy shudder, because it was the first time she'd seen Ami since witnessing her fate as Viluy's operating system in the alternate future. It was good to see she was all right. The euphoria quickly faded. All three adults focused on the teen as she entered and Usa suddenly felt like she was on trial.

"Pop, whatever it is, I didn't do it," she said in a pre-emptive strike. "And if I did do it, I had a good reason!"

"Don't you just love kids?" Minako glanced at Ami with a cynical grin.

"Flashing back to YOUR childhood?" Ami volleyed back.

"Hey, I was way more creative than that," Minako answered.

"I understand you and the senshi were out this afternoon," Endymion asked, the soul of calm.

"I suppose your spy-eyes caught us," Usa scowled. "We had a good reason, Pop!"

"Which was?" Endymion asked.

"We - - got a tip," Usa began, editing as she went. "We found an underground lab under that media shop - - and Viluy was running it!"

"Viluy?" Minako asked, suddenly all business. Ami grew serious, too, and just a bit anxious.

"Yui is still alive?" Ami demanded.

"Yeah! She's imprinted her mind into this android body!" Usa related. "And we found out she was going to go into the past and - - and change history so she would come out on top!"

"Where's Viluy now?" Endymion queried.

"Sailor Pluto locked her up in some sort of time loop thing," Usa answered.

"So how did you tumble to this?" Minako questioned.

"Um, Pluto warned me."

"Why you?"

"I don't know! I guess you'll have to ask her. Anyway, that's what happened."

And Usa waited for her scolding.

"Very good job, Usa," Endymion told her.

"You're not going to rip me?" Usa asked.

"You found a threat to the safety of society and you dealt with it," the king said. "That is what Sailor Moon and the senshi are supposed to do."

"But . . ."

"Usa, I held you back before because I didn't think you were ready," Endymion smiled. "You've proven over and over again that you're more than ready. You don't need my permission to help someone in distress or stop a threat to society." He reached out and grasped her hand. "Just keep me in the loop, OK? I am king, after all, and it would be nice to know that someone as dangerous as Viluy is lurking."

"Um . . ." Usa mumbled, stunned. "OK, Pop."

Usa noticed Ami and Minako grinning at her. She felt her cheeks flush.

"That's an interesting pendant you have there, Usa," Ami spoke up. "Where did you get it?"

"Um, it's Luna-P," Usa replied. "She kind of helped run down Viluy." The adults could see how crestfallen the teen became. "But I think I burned her circuits out."

"Would you like me to repair her?" Ami ventured.

"Could you?" Usa gasped.

"I still have the original production schematics stored. I doubt it would be very complex."

"Oh, Aunt Ami, that would be great! Thank you!"

"It would be my pleasure," Ami smiled. "I can even imprint the circuitry into a pendant instead of a ball this time, if you'd like."

Ami got her answer. Usa lunged over the table and hugged her. Just then, Queen Serenity and Makoto entered the room in an animated discussion.

"Well," whined Serenity, "I thought if one cup of sugar made it sweet, ten cups would make it super-sweet!"

"That's why we have recipes, Hon'," Makoto sighed with flagging patience.

"Oh, who needs to read an old recipe!" fussed the queen.

"Hon, how do you think I make all those dishes I've made over the years? The magic cooking fairy?"

"Hey, don't make fun! Fairies are real!" Serenity replied adamantly.

"Come on," grinned Makoto.

"They are!"

"You're kidding us, right?" Minako chuckled, eavesdropping from the far table.

"I've seen one!" Serenity protested.

"Yeah, and did this happen AFTER you visited Makoto's cooking wine cellar?" Minako grinned.

"I did!"

"You're certain?" Ami asked skeptically.

"I did! When I was a little girl! She did magic and everything!"

"You're sure you're not thinking of 'Peter Pan'?" Minako asked.

"She was real!" huffed the queen. "And she was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen! And she had these big beautiful red eyes and long beautiful . . . pink . . ." and the queen turned suddenly and gave her daughter the strangest look, ". . . hair."

Usa ambled over and gave her mother a hug and a peck on the cheek.

"I believe you, Mom," she said, then headed for the door.

The teen could feel five sets of eyes on her, but at that moment didn't care. All she could think of was a single heart-warming thought.

"She remembered," Usa thought.