"So, how's the Kira research coming along?"
Usagi's voice was a little too high-pitched, her manner a little too nervous, her question a little too casual. Ami was prepared for this.
"I wish I had some news to tell you," she said, an apologetic smile on her face. "There's only so much I can do with the resources available to me, and I can't neglect my job for this."
"But you knew Takada Kiyomi at Toudai, right?"
Ami's smile was still frozen on her face. "I knew of her. She certainly didn't know me."
"Oh. Okay. I understand." Usagi must have sensed Ami's impatience even through the fuzziness of the webcam. She sounded hurt.
This was why it was so hard to deal with Usagi sometimes, Ami thought with an internal sigh. Usagi was too kind for the world's cruelty, and Ami would always feel a need to protect that kindness.
"I'm sorry, it's been stressful at work," she said. "The lab has been...tense.
"No, I'm the one who should be apologizing, Ami. I'm just so...so frustrated, you know? We stop all the youma like we've always done, but when I get to school in the morning all my students can talk about is Kira this, Kira that. They think he's a hero, and the kids who don't buy into it are too afraid to say anything. I'm not allowed to say anything."
"It's the same at the lab."
"It's not the killing that scares me," said Usagi. "What scares me is that people are supporting him."
It surprised Ami, to hear that. Not so naïve after all, their princess. She feels responsible for what's happening, Ami realized in a sudden moment of clarity. She already feels responsible for her future subjects.
Her future subjects, these people whose hearts were not so pure as her own. No doubt Usagi was already anticipating a magical showdown with Kira over the fate of humanity. "Release the hearts of the people from your spell, evil-doer!"
"Ah, that reminds me," said Ami, thinking that it would be best to change the subject, "I've been trying to figure out why we can't pick up any magical energy signals from Kira. Maybe he's not using magic per se. Maybe the magic is imbedded inside something so that we can't trace it. We were never able to pick up on the locations of the rainbow crystals or the talismans when they were inside people, for instance.
"But the crystals and talismans couldn't be properly used unless they got taken out..."
"I know, I'm still working on that part. But maybe he's...using something else? Or someone else? It's hard to say. I've got nothing to work on."
"If only we could bust into Police HQ and steal whatever evidence they have."
Ami broke into surprised laughter. "Usagi! That's no way for a future queen to talk!"
The future queen was sticking her tongue out at the webcam. "When I'm queen I'll be able to do whatever I want."
"No, you won't. Royalty are the most restricted people of all. Especially women. People will be watching your movements like a hawk."
"Come on, Ami. Lighten up a little. Crystal Tokyo is gonna be my town."
"Yes, I suppose it will be."
"And it's going to be the perfect city. No murders, no fear, no Kira."
Ami gave Usagi a long look.
"There's no such thing as a perfect city," she said.
"But we know Crystal Tokyo is going to be a utopia, like the Silver Millenium."
The Silver Millenium gave birth to Beryl, Ami wanted to say. It gave birth to us.
She told Usagi blandly: "It's not likely that an ideal city is going to spring up out of nothing. My theory is that the initial cohesiveness of Crystal Tokyo will be based on the shared need for survival and the threat of youma attack, but this will eventually give way to a proper civil order based on—"
"—love and justice in the name of the moon!"
Ami had been about to say "democratic principles" but she smiled at Usagi's outburst.
"There will be justice done," said Ami. "Because Kira doesn't know that the Great Ice is coming. Only we do. There are so many factors that can't be predicted. Kira's world won't last forever."
"Right," said Usagi, seeming to give the idea some thought.
Don't let her realize that I just said the end of the world is going to be our greatest weapon.
"You know," Usagi said seriously, "even if Kira is caught, what is the world going to be like afterwards? I might joke around about Crystal Tokyo, but I really do want it to be the perfect city. I want it to be something that everyone builds together. I can't imagine the people out there—" she waved her hand vaguely, probably in the direction of a window, "—the Kira supporters, are going to be the sort of people who will help us build Crystal Tokyo."
Ami gave her a wry look. "Usagi, the truth of the matter is that the world is more unified than it has ever been. If you want order—and I think order is what's the most important thing in getting a city built—then you've got it."
Usagi's voice was incredulous. "Ami, you don't think Kira is laying the foundations for Crystal Tokyo, do you?"
Ami recognized the emotion in her princess' eyes—she had seen it too often over the years. It was the hurt of betrayal.
"I never thought such a thing. I think the people will go back to normal when Kira is caught," Ami said with more sincerity than she actually felt. "Like when we kill a youma and their spell is released."
"Release the hearts of the people from your spell, evil-doer!" Usagi chimed in with a giggle.
"You're probably right. You're Ami after all."
"Now I'm blushing," said Ami, who was a bit alarmed to find that she actually was.
"Well, I'm glad," said Usagi.
There was something about the way she said it that was just a little sad—no, not exactly sad. It was probably all in Ami's head as she overlaid the Usagi of her memories with the Usagi she saw in front of her, the impossibly innocent girl against the fuzzy graphic of a young woman on her computer screen. Not sad, exactly. But whatever it was that Ami saw in Usagi's face, it was gone in a moment.
"Oops, what time is it? Um, I have to go now. Mamoru will be home soon and I have to prepare dinner."
"Say hi to him for me."
"You bet. Take care of yourself, okay? I mean it."
Ami managed to smile weakly. "You too."
Usagi was so pure it was almost exasperating, thought Ami guiltily as she closed the chat program, so pure that she would never truly understand how terrible humanity could be, in all its mundane glory. How people could come home every day and turn on the television to see the foundations of their civilization being shaken to the core by one man—and do nothing. Usagi couldn't even see Ami, as they faced each other through the blink-blink-blink of their computer screens, sliding into mundanity along with the rest of the world.
It was wrong of her to think of Usagi in such terms, but Ami couldn't help it as she surfed the Internet for new developments on the Kira front. Early this morning, four convicted felons in their late teens who were responsible for a chain of break-ins in Shibuya were found dead in their jail cells. The cause of death was heart failure. Usagi would have been disturbed, but Ami was mostly disinterested. She couldn't get worked up over everything, after all, not if she wanted to remain sane and useful.
The websites devoted to Kira-worship weren't showing much activity today, though Ami hadn't expected much help from that quarter. The ravings of lunatics were not a particularly useful source of information.
She did a quick survey of the most important Kira fan sites before turning to news on the business world. This was the part of her research that really frightened her—untangling the coded language of takeovers and mergers and three-point margins to realize that almost all of the major corporations were, as if in concert, turning towards Kira. It was the inevitable logic of economics. To her this was worse than hearing the politicians spewing their pro-Kira rhetoric; it was more easily hidden, more insidious, more pervasive.
Ami suddenly realized that she was reading a news brief about the company she worked for.
...stock rose to nearly one hundred US dollars last month, an increase of almost ten percent in this quarter alone. President Togawa had this to say about his company's success:
"We can't really take all the credit, can we? The true heroes are the people who have made Japan—no, not just Japan—the whole world, a place where businesses like ours can operate with a sense of security. Confidence is up and the tech sector as a whole is receiving a great deal of investment..."
That was enough for tonight. She closed the web browser, shut down her computer, and covered up the webcam with a dustcloth. She didn't like having the lens gazing down at her from atop her computer when she was trying to fall asleep at night.
The only reason she owned a webcam at all was because it had been a gift from Minako ("I know how you love gadgets, Ami, and now you'll have no excuse not to see us once in a while!"). Ami didn't much like using it during her chat sessions, in fact. She hated trying to keep one eye on the monitor and the other on the camera and seeing the person on the other side of the screen doing the same. Their eyes did not quite connect. It was a problem that could be solved with improvements in technology but, nevertheless, she felt that the essential schism could not be overcome.
The gaze of the webcam reminded her of something, she abruptly realized.
She opened up her closet and dug around until she found an old tape recorder she had used during university. She clicked the play button.
"...admired by many for the economy of its design. In its purest form, the Panopticon prison would require but one guard to observe the entire complex. You can imagine why the people writing the paycheques liked that idea." The sound of the class laughing, enthralled.
"The main principle behind Bentham's design is 'the disciplining gaze,'" Yagami continued. "The prison is designed so that a single observer in a high place can see every action that takes place within its walls, but the prisoners cannot see the observer. They do not know when they are being watched. They understand that surveillance, though invisible, is ubiquitous. Eventually, they internalize the gaze to such an extent that a watcher is hardly needed.
"But more than that, the idea of the eye in its high tower, as the single organizing principle and agent of discipline for an entire prison—it was thought to be quite elegant."
She wondered why she had bothered to keep this recording. While it was relevant to the Kira case in an abstract sense, the subject matter was something that could be easily found in a textbook. She could only conclude that she had not recorded over it because she had some interest in Yagami himself. He had been self-assured and eloquent, but these traits were hardly unusual in Toudai students. She remembered the uncomfortable feeling of being surrounded by a throng of former class presidents, and how she had preferred to shrink into the background during her lectures.
Despite her shyness, Yagami had been kind enough to speak to her once or twice. He had even called her by name. It was remarkable, the soothing influence he was able to exude with words alone. His was the voice of serenity.
She wondered if that was what Kira's voice sounded like. A voice that calmed her soul and let her forget her fears for a little while.
She closed her eyes and laid her head down on her desk, exhausted.
That night she dreamed she stood in an ashen plain dotted by trees of bone, whose spindly branches were laden with innumerable red apples and where shadowy creatures wove their secrets. There was something impossibly beautiful about the blasted landscape, about the way the trees seemed to bow towards a single point on the horizon. In the distance she heard the voice of Serenity saying conversationally, "You don't think Kira is laying the foundations for Crystal Tokyo, do you?"
Ami saw herself look up. She saw herself seeing a shinigami's eye in a crystal tower, gazing down at her with a terrible, undeniable brilliance.
To whoever first cooked up the idea of Crystal Tokyo as a totalitarian state, I salute you. I suspect it was Mark Doherty in his marvellous(ly unfinished) classic "I'm Here to Help," but I'm not sure. Speaking of which, does anyone know where to find that story? My Google searches have turned up naught but sad, broken links. At any rate, I owe a lot to "I'm Here to Help," as well as to Ken Wolfe's "The Four Horsemen."
I'm not very familiar with Sailor Moon canon or fanon, so comments and criticisms are very welcome.