Chapter 12: "Crying Over You"
By Bill K
"You've Really Got A Hold On Me" was written by Smokey Robinson and is copyright 1963 by Motown Records
"Alert!" announced the Automated Surveillance System in Crystal Tokyo's Central Defense and Protection Center, drawing the attention of the officers on duty. "Mid-air collision in sector 2758. Immediate threat to surrounding area from crash debris and lubricant fires."
"Diverting patrols to the area!" the duty officer called out. "Notify Fire Safety and Rescue Teams!"
"Notification confirmed," the computer replied. "Diversion of air traffic patterns by surveillance drones confirmed."
"What happened?" Chief Nakamura barked as he bolted into the room.
"Mid-air collision between two air cars, Sir," the duty officer reported as other officers worked their monitors trying to coordinate aid efforts and minimize chaos.
"Video?" he asked. Air car collisions weren't unheard of, in spite of their sophisticated guidance systems, but they didn't usually set off the surveillance monitors like this.
"Downloading from surveillance drones now, Sir," the duty officer said.
The pair watched a replay of the crash. One craft darted below the structure of an elevated people mover at a high rate of speed, then ascended directly into a public air traffic lane and impacted a second craft.
"Wow," the duty officer whispered. "It had to have been going at a high velocity to cause that kind of explosion. Usually hull integrity allows them to just glance off each other."
"Probably some joy-riding dropout," Nakamura fumed. "Well, it's hit the fan now." He turned and stalked out of the room, headed for his personal department air car. "Now we get to clean up the mess."
Queen Serenity was meeting with Ami, Makoto and Rei in her chambers. The three were discussing new curriculum for the on-going education of the princess and her senshi. They were approaching the end of their sophomore year and plans had to be made on each girl's course of study based on her previous grades and test results.
Minako was supposed to be there, too, but she had called off, using what Rei termed "the single lamest excuse ever". As for Serenity, she was struggling to keep her attention on the subject matter, which was a struggle during daylight hours. The only reason they were holding it in the evening was to accommodate Ami's doctor hours. The Queen struggled mightily to keep focused, but was becoming dimly aware that she was losing.
"Are we boring you?" Rei asked bluntly.
"As a matter of fact, yes!" Serenity snapped. Then she held up a finger before Rei could speak. "And before you say anything, yes I know this is important and yes I am TRYING to concentrate on it! And BEFORE you make your usual mean crack, just remember that I'm Queen around here and I can throw you in the dungeon if I wanted to!"
Serenity surveyed her three friends and saw their mouths were curling at the thought of Serenity, known far and wide for having a backbone of pudding when it came to punishing people, throwing Rei in a dungeon - - which the palace didn't have anyway. Serenity's giggle broke first and in seconds all four women were laughing.
"Dungeon! That's a good one, Hon'!" cackled Makoto.
"Nice to see your denseness is good for something," Rei needled happily.
"Watch it!" Serenity fumed playfully. "I'll build one specifically for you, Rei Hino!"
"Perhaps we should call this a night," Ami twittered, wiping her eye. "There's still time for some of these decisions to be made and . . ."
Everything stopped when they heard Serenity gasp. Rei could feel the anxiety roll off the Queen like waves from a surging ocean surf. The other two merely had to look at the suddenly pale, haunted expression on their friend's face.
"Hon', what is it?" Makoto asked.
"Someone just died," Serenity whispered, staring off into space with a horrified look. A moment later Ami's pager signaled. She scanned the message.
"There's been a very bad mid-air collision between two air cars in the west-central part of the city," Ami announced. "Trauma teams are en route." She glanced anxiously at Serenity. "Though it's apparently too late for at least one of the pilots."
Rei was by Serenity's side in an instant, her arm around the Queen in an effort to console her.
"Please find out who died," she said to no one in particular. "I'd - - like to visit the surviving family - - see what I can do to - - help them past their loss."
"I'll get right on it," Rei assured her. Diplomatically Ami and Makoto got up to leave.
"I wonder if it's anyone we know," Makoto remarked in passing as she and Ami left.
"JUN!" Ves-Ves shrieked in horror.
Instantly her henshin stick was out. She didn't know what she could do, what animal form she could take to possibly save her sister in everything but blood, but it was better than standing there and watching helplessly as the red fireball dissipated and debris fell to the ground. The transformation only took a moment, but it was a far too slow moment for young Ves-Ves. Finally it locked into place.
"Fauna Assimilation," Sailor Vesta began.
"Vesta," the voice came from behind her. Was it a ghost? Was she hearing things? Or was it possible . . .? Sailor Vesta turned around.
Jun-Jun stood there, not twenty meters from her. She was alive. She was whole. Vesta broke into a run, her lip quivering, cursing herself for the fluid that was collecting at her eyelids. Jun-Jun stood motionless. Vesta grabbed her in a bear hug, lifted her off the ground and spun her around.
"I thought you were dead!" Vesta howled. She set her sister back down on her feet and pulled back to look at her. Only then did she realize that Jun-Jun may have been alive, but she wasn't whole. Tenderly Vesta brushed her gloved fingers along her sister's brow. "What happened?"
Rescue craft landed, scouring the area for injured and dead while above robot drones poured chemical flame retardant on the last of the smouldering debris from the crash. People, still curious about the gruesome even after a thousand years, huddled and stared, exchanged rumors and wondered.
A safety officer stepped over to one of the rescue technicians. She watched the man jab a metal probe into the charred remains of something that had once been human. The probe would extract a DNA sample from the remains and, linking with Endymion's vast computer network, identify the victim.
"Figure out how many victims we've got?" the officer asked.
"Running the last check now," the tech replied. "Positive ID on one already. Toya Yamazaki, thirty-six, married with three children according to the last census. Works for the Community Maintenance Board."
"Three kids," the officer sympathized. "That's a shame. Suppose he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
"Either that or his vehicle's guidance system malfunctioned. How likely is that?" asked the tech. "Second ID is coming up now." He stared at the screen of his handheld device. "Uh oh."
"Take a look," and the tech showed the results to the officer. The officer swallowed.
"I better call my commander," she whispered.
On the edge of the scene, Ves-Ves and Jun-Jun sat on one of the many benches that lined the streets of Crystal Tokyo. Jun-Jun just stared at the accident scene numbly while Ves-Ves watched her with growing impatience.
"Jun?" Ves-Ves probed again. "Come on, say something! You know I don't do 'silent' very good! Talk to me!"
"I almost went with him," Jun-Jun said at last. "He wanted to go joy riding - - have fun, forget about reality and just feel the speed."
"Sounds like he was running away," Ves-Ves scowled.
"I guess he was," Jun reluctantly agreed. "We were - - I can't really say fighting. I was trying to get him to choose for me."
"Choose for you? Choose what?"
"Whether I should stay. I was at a crossroads, Ves. If I stayed with him, maybe I could save him - - from himself. But that would have meant me giving up being a senshi, giving up living in the palace with you guys, giving up everything I've worked for these last two years."
"Yeah?" Ves asked, a little scared. "Would you have?"
"I think so," Jun-Jun said blankly, "if he loved me. But he wouldn't commit. He wouldn't bend, not even a little. I would have given up everything for him if only he'd told me he loved me. But he wouldn't do it. He wouldn't even tie himself down that much."
"And what did it get him?" Ves scowled. "You're not going to like hearing this, but he got what he deserved. I've seen his type all my life. He was a creep and a user. He wasn't worthy of you." Ves sneered at the wreckage. "I bet he's sorry now he didn't love you."
"Bet he's not," Jun whispered.
"Jun," Ves-Ves groaned.
"You didn't know him, Ves. You saw what everybody saw - - the image he projected. Speed didn't scare him. Speed was his refuge. If he died because of it, he was willing to accept it. I think dying of old age is what scared him."
Ves-Ves kept waiting for her sister to break down. Instead she just stared, like she kept expecting Quadrel to sit up, dust himself off and amble over to her with that cocky grin on his face.
"You really would have left?" Ves asked, looking back at the crash scene. "After all we've been through?"
"It wasn't like I wanted to," Jun told her. "But being with Quad would have meant sacrifice." She paused, then added as an afterthought, "I would have missed you all."
"Over a guy," Ves scowled. "I got us out of that orphanage and this is how you pay me back?"
"I'm sorry, Ves," Jun offered weakly. She seemed tired. The fight in her was gone. Ves felt her anger cool.
"Come on. Let's go home," Ves pleaded. "Staring at the crash isn't going to help anything. Besides, the smoke is making my nose itch."
"What were you doing here, anyway?" Jun-Jun asked softly, emotionlessly. "Were you going to beat him up?"
Ves-Ves scowled more deeply. "What if I was?"
Jun-Jun stared at the crash site.
"Thanks," Jun-Jun replied. "But don't do it again. You can't live your life with just your fists."
"Yeah? I'm sure as Hell not going to live it with my school grades." Ves-Ves said. Hearing the old admonition gave Ves-Ves hope. "Come on, let's blow this place. You're not doing yourself any good here."
Jun-Jun stared at the wreckage while Ves-Ves waited for her answer. The rescue technicians gathered the remains of the two victims into stasis fields and carted them away. About to speak, Ves-Ves suddenly quieted. Her sister's lip quivered and for a moment she seemed about to cry. But tears never came. Finally Jun-Jun rose from the bench. Ves-Ves turned her in the general direction of the palace and Jun-Jun shuffled off with her sister's arm protectively around her.
Chief Nakamura sat in the dark living room of his dark home staring at the darkness without seeing anything. The house was empty of life, save for himself. And that's the way it would be - - for the rest of his days. Of course, his wife was long gone with her paramour and his son Quadrel had moved out several years ago amid much shouting and recriminations. But there had always been that solitary slim hope that someday Quadrel would find a way to mature and reconcile with him.
Now that was gone forever.
"You have two visitors," the environmental control computer announced. Nakamura let a tired sigh escape.
"Identify," he requested.
"King Endymion and Queen Serenity of the Crystal Palace," the computer told him. Unfortunately these were two people he couldn't shun.
"Lights to forty percent," he commanded and the room filled with a soft, somber light. "Let them in."
Nakamura pried himself from his chair and bowed respectfully as the royal couple entered. Endymion bowed back out of respect for him while Serenity looked on with sad, mournful eyes.
"Nakamura-San," Serenity said in a soft, almost timid coo, "please accept our deepest sympathy over your tragedy."
"Thank you, your m - - Queen Serenity," he mumbled, recalling just in time The Queen's disdain for the title "Your Majesty".
"You must be in so much pain right now. Quadrel was your only child. Are you bearing it?"
"Please don't concern yourself, Queen Serenity," Nakamura said with the stiff reserve of a soldier. "This will not affect my duties, I promise you."
"That was the least of my concerns. Feel free to take as much time as you need to deal with this tragedy."
"That isn't necessary. I can deal with this and still perform my duties of office."
"But he was your son," Serenity said in disbelief.
"He was also selfish and inconsiderate," Nakamura said thinly. "He flaunted his life and the welfare of others in search of cheap thrills and the bill finally came due. We reap what we sow."
Serenity stared, stunned at him. Then she dropped her gaze and clutched her hands.
"Perhaps you only speak from the pain you feel," Serenity said, not looking at him. "If you like, I can help with that. I can make it so it doesn't hurt so much - - if you wish."
"No, Queen Serenity," Nakamura said with a tightly clenched jaw. "Your offer is very generous, but I must decline it. Thank you for your kindness in visiting me. Please excuse me now." He turned to Endymion. "I'll be back at work tomorrow, Your Majesty."
"As you wish," Endymion said, scowling with frustration. "But please don't push yourself. You're a valuable officer. I wouldn't want to lose that because you felt you had to prove something."
"Understood, Your Majesty," Nakamura nodded.
The king and queen turned and walked out, the front door hissing closed behind them. Nakamura, his shoulders slumped and weary, turned back to sit down. Then he caught sight of a framed holographic image sitting on a shelf nearby. The man picked it up and stared at it. It was an image of Quadrel at seven years old, manufactured just a year before his mother would leave them for another man.
"We reap what we sow," Nakamura whispered as he stared at the image. "Lights off."
The room went dark.
In classroom one, Jun-Jun stared at her computer screen, not really seeing what was there. She kept seeing Quadrel's hand reach for her. She kept feeling the memory of his hand lightly caressing her cheek and the goose flesh it would raise on her arms. She kept recalling the heat of their intermingling breath as they kissed, how his skin felt against her chest, how her insides would tense and bunch until they threatened to break at his very proximity.
And how she'd never, ever experience such things again for as long as she lived.
The touch of a hand on her shoulder shook Jun-Jun out of her reverie. She turned and found Sensei Aino-sama bending over her. She looked sympathetic. Then Jun-Jun looked around and realized that everyone else in the classroom was gone.
"I'm sorry, Aino-sama," Jun-Jun groaned.
"After what you've been through?" Minako smiled almost maternally. "Hey, you've got a lot better excuse for spacing out in class than I ever had." She sat down in the seat next to her pupil. "It's probably a silly question, but how are you doing?"
"I'm too numb to know," Jun-Jun admitted. "I know I miss him so much - - and I shouldn't - - but I do." She glanced over at Minako. "When that guy that you were in love with died, how did you feel?"
"Ace? Wow, I went through so many emotions, I can't really pick just one. I was sad, because I was never going to experience that obscenely wonderful man ever again. And yet, I was relieved because I could get on with my life. Ace had me on a string. He busted up three marriages and I don't remember how many relationships. When he died, the string was broken." She glanced back at Jun-Jun. "I kind of got that perspective later. At the time, all I could really think of was what a sense of loss I felt. I knew I shouldn't feel that loss - - he put me through ten kinds of Hell and all he had to do was look at me in that way he had and I'd just come back for more - - but I did."
"Yeah," Jun-Jun whispered in agreement. "How'd you get through it? I know you said you cried. I want to do that. I really feel I have to do that if I'm ever going to get past this. But it's been almost a week now - - and nothing seems to come."
"Don't try to force it. You'll pull something," Minako quipped. "I did a lot of things. I tried to drown myself in my work. I tried drowning myself in chocolate. What helped the most was leaning on my friends. They're good people when a girl's in need. You've got some friends like that, too. Don't be a pest about it, but don't think you can't open up and let it out with one of them - - or all of them."
The pair just sat in silence in the classroom while Jun-Jun digested this.
"One more thing that helped me, anyway, was finding a way to let my feelings out," Minako added. "You said you want to cry. That's good. That's a way to let it out. But there are other ways if you can't." Minako took Jun-Jun's work station and began typing. "I stumbled across this old song that just seemed to sum up my feelings about Ace perfectly. Now I just happened to be lucky enough to be recording one of my albums at the time, so I had access to a recording studio and I recorded it. And, naturally, my adoring public didn't give it a second glance," Minako scowled, then softened, "but recording it was kind of cathartic. I kept breaking down in the middle of it and messing the take up. I think I did a hundred takes and my producer was about ready to have me executed. But I wouldn't be talked out of recording it and by the time we got a useable take, it didn't hurt so much."
The music file popped up on Jun-Jun's computer.
"Give it a listen," Minako suggested. "It may not do anything for you, but then again it may give you an idea of how to purge some of the grief you're feeling." Then her mouth twisted into a playful grin and she pointed at the young senshi. "And no comments on my singing. Just remember, nobody likes a critic."
"Yes, Aino-sama," Jun-Jun replied, amazed that the corners of her mouth could still turn up.
That evening, after homework was done, dinner was eaten and family obligations were taken care of, Jun-Jun sat alone in her room. She was cross-legged on her futon, the work station in front of her.
Pulling up the music file, Jun-Jun ran it. Immediately the high-pitched, yet lonely twang of an authentic Japanese shamisen appeared. It filled the room with its melancholy intro, an intro delicately speaking about the agony being in love sometimes was, then led into the melodic but clearly pain-ridden voice of Aino-sama.
"I don't like you,
but I love you.
Seems that I'm always thinking of you.
Whoa oh oh,
you treat me badly.
I love you madly.
You've really got a hold on me."
As the lonesome shamisen led the listener into Minako's second chorus of heartbreak, Jun-Jun felt her emotions bubbling up. Her chest and shoulders began to shudder. Her numbness washed away and the pain flowed up and out through her eyes, dribbling down her cheeks. She found she couldn't move, save to shudder and sob. She couldn't speak. She couldn't do anything except grieve for the beautiful young love of her life who had been too proud and too angry and too selfish to realize that something wonderful had been in his hands and as a result cast it away.
Only after the song finished did Jun-Jun find the strength to move. She reached out with a shaky right hand - - and played the song again - - and cried some more.