Author's Note: welcome to all new fans. Just as a side note, I have edited this first chapter and I have now outlined the rest of this story. It will be long and full of wonderful twisty-ness :D I am very excited about this! Enjoy!
Usagi grabbed a plate of cookies her mother had made a few minutes ago and plopped down in front of the television. She munched happily on the still-warm sugar cookies and pulled the remote control towards her with her toe, leaning over to grab it with sticky fingers. Her mother said something to Usagi's brother, Shingo, as he too received a plateful of cookies as Usagi flipped through some channels. The walls flashed green, then pink, then green again as various soap operas, anime, and nature channels flashed across the screen. Usagi mechanically lifted each cookie to her lips, staring just above the screen at a family portrait of her parents, a baby Shingo, and a much younger Usagi (missing her front tooth) grinning back at her. She wasn't really paying attention to what was right in front of her, instead focusing on what she would have to do that afternoon.
First she had to pack for a sleepover at Rei's temple (toothbrush, pajamas, the bunny stuffed animal that Mamoru had bought her the year before, hair brush, shampoo and conditioner, cell phone with the crescent moon charm, her transmitter, socks… was there anything else?) and then there was the Senshi meeting scheduled for an hour or so before bedtime. That meant she'd have roughly two hours in which to attempt (however futilely) some of the mounting homework she had been putting off thus far. She also had to find some time to talk to her parents about getting a part-time job since she wasn't too happy about her allowance (she dreaded this, fairly sure that it wouldn't happen on a basis of time alone). She also had to look into some extra training and replacements for patrolling since there hadn't been any attacks from any youma lately and that usually meant something pretty bad was eventually going to happen.
Some other little thoughts passed through her mind as she zoned out further, ignoring the television even as she held the remote control limply. She even stopped nibbling on the cookie in her hand, instead pressing it against her bottom lip. Shingo plopped down beside her and started laughing. Attracted by the sound, Usagi looked over at him.
"What?" she asked curiously.
"You're watching the news? Since when do you care what happens in the world outside of your comics," he chortled. Usagi looked over at the television and flushed. There was some kind of event going on that looked so completely boring, she normally would have just skipped over it if she had been paying attention. The only time she watched the news was when some dark energy queen/king decided to destroy the Earth and she had to watch for signs of destruction. She started to retort that she did pay attention to the news, sometimes (which was technically true) and that he shouldn't make such rude comments about his older sister when she caught a couple words from the television.
"Experts have claimed to see unidentifiable objects on the dark side of the moon's surface that were recently undetectable through earlier technologies but which have caused a stir of intellectual curiosity since their discovery several months ago. The most recent moon launch by the Americans were sent to recover samples from a site close to the location in question and, through international cooperation and assistance, has been routed to explore this area, known as the "Mare Serenitatis," or the "Sea of Serenity." Here is a picture of this area as seen from the Lunar XI254 satellite launched four years ago." As the reporter said this, a crisp picture of a crater in the moon was shown. The crest of the crater was shown as starkly white and very bright whereas the depression and the surrounding ground were black and deep. Serena peered closer, trying to see what "unidentifiable" objects the scientists had supposedly seen.
The screen changed to show a group of four people walking towards a space shuttle. A woman, drowned in the heavy astronaut suit, made a peace sign at the camera. The camera angle changed again to show the anchor speaking.
"Oh my God, you actually are watching the news," Shingo suddenly said, awed. Usagi prepared a sharp retort but couldn't bring herself to. She was curious about the news report. Anything about the moon always interested her.
"Hush," she said instead, munching on another cookie. Shingo stared at her for a moment but then turned curiously towards the television, probably determined to find out what could be so fascinating as to attract Usagi's generally short attention.
"Scientists have not disclosed pictures of the supposed questionable clues found on the moon which have sparked their sudden interest in this area, but the media has been assured that when something substantial is found, the public will be informed of their discoveries. What mysterious does the moon still hold? Are there signs of life which we have not discovered yet which will lead us to breakthroughs in theories about how life was created in the universe? We may never know. Until we receive more information, this is Kira Yskine reporting."
Usagi frowned thoughtfully as she leaned back, munching on a cookie. What could scientists find that would make news reports? Usually they kept their discoveries for people who actually cared about such things. She knew that scientists made discoveries all the time about the moon and surrounding planets that broke new ground in scientific research but that the general public usually found boring (just because they'd found evidence of iron in one of their rocks didn't mean people understood why that was important). It was the big discoveries, such as evidence of ice on Mars for example, that attracted media attention because it suggested that life could have existed. At least, that's the way Luna had always explained it to her.
Shingo continued to watch the program, even as it switched to commentary on the weather for the weekend and upcoming events, such a concert appearances for well-known pop stars. Shrugging to herself, Usagi stood and took her plate back to the kitchen sink and pecked her mom on the cheek before heading to her room. Whatever this new discovery was, it probably wouldn't affect her.
Katherine Mulligan had dreamt of being an astronaut since she was five years old. Her parents had not worried about her choice of career, though they had hoped that their only daughter's aspirations at that age would run closer to that of becoming a ballerina or an actress. When she grew older and showed no signs of changing her mind, her parents decided to help her along her path by sending her to one of the top math and science colleges in the United States (they didn't have any other control over her). Her grades were spectacular and she moved up the ranks quickly until, finally, she had joined the Artemis Explorer's team. She was the third youngest person (and the second youngest woman) to go up into space to the moon.
Standing there now, on the crest of a giant crater in the middle of space with four men bouncing effortlessly ahead of her, she felt the joy and triumph of a woman whose success had come early. She grinned as she followed her team down the crater edge, excited by what she had been sent to do. Explore, study, take samples… she felt like a pioneer. The sky seemed massive from her, stretching beyond the horizon. Galaxies lazily drifted overhead, lighting their path and making Katherine feel small and important. She was among giants here and, part of her felt, she was being watched by them. She felt as if she were on the cusp of something magnificent.
As they reached the checkpoint that headquarters had set for them, the team took a break. Katherine, Kathy as she was known to her friends, sat beside Michael Jacobs. They grinned at each other as Julio Martinez, Timothy Greene (Tim), and Joshua Grivet (Josh) stood around them. Michael was the technician and handy dandy repair man. He was the one who they went to if the equipment went to hell and they were all going to die unless it was fixed within the next few seconds. Julio, Tim, and Josh worked more with the intellectual and mathematical part of the mission, and communication with headquarters. Kathy was the weather lady who studied the charts and information that streamed constantly towards them to warn them of conditions on the moon that could affect their various missions.
Kathy smiled and resisted the urge to scratch the back of her neck where sweat and hair clung annoyingly to her space suit. She felt light and happy, and it wasn't all because of the lighter gravity. Michael was trying to juggle three moon rocks as Tim and Josh chatted quietly about their timing and how long it would take them to explore the crater and get back, ensuring they had enough oxygen for the trip.
"Let's get going, people," Julio said. Kathy smiled as she used a nearby rock to stand and followed the other men in single file. She looked around, hoping to find something wonderful. The reports had been promising, showing what appeared to be a river of ice, resembling tree roots as they branched out all around the crater. Scientists back at headquarters theorized that it had stemmed from a young comet whose ice had melted and solidified after the collision and speculated that the comet may have contributed to the crater itself. This was a good theory, but it was still a theory. They had to find pieces of the comet and perhaps from these samples, something new could be learned about both the moon and the outer recesses of space.
"What the hell is that?" Michael demanded, breaking Kathy's train of thought. Kathy immediately looked around, trying to see whatever he was seeing.
"What? What is it?" she asked. Her suit did not help her mobility and she held her breath when he pointed a pudgy finger somewhere to his right.
"Don't you see the little green men?" he couldn't help but snort halfway through his comment and started laughing. Julio and Josh snickered to themselves and Kathy caught even Tim cracking a smile before he faced forward again and all she could see was the back of his suit. She glared at them as they bounced ahead of her.
"Ha ha, very funny," she said though she couldn't help smiling also (they couldn't see her anyway). Part of her had sort of expected to see a little green man waving at her from behind a dusty dune. It really was funny. "Can we get down to business please? We're trying to be serious professionals, aren't we?"
"Uh huh," Josh said amusedly. "That's us. Totally professional."
"Who's bright idea was it to send us up here again?" Julio said.
They bounced in silence for a few minutes before Kathy noticed something odd, or at least odder than she'd come to expect from being on an alien planet. There was a strange object sticking out of the ground ahead of them, something that didn't seem to fit with the rest of the otherwise bare, dusty ground. It wasn't a regular dune, nor was it shaped like the rocks that had dotted their journey thus far. Tim was the one who sped up a little to investigate it.
"Well, that's weird," Michael said as they came closer. Tim peered at whatever was in the ground and lifted it carefully. He made a strangled sound and dropped it, jumping back. Kathy and the others hurried forward to see what it was. Michael tripped and fell, bouncing forward. He stared from the ground, his eyes wide. Tim looked up at them and Kathy could now see that his face was raw with surprise.
"This has to be a mistake," he whispered. Michael crawled to his knees and peered closer at the object. Julio helped him to his feet as Michael slowly pulled it out of the dust and he too gasped. This time Kathy could see it. It was a painting.
"Holy… no, it can't be. Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Josh whispered, his eyes wide. He slowly knelt by the painting and peered at it closely. "Oh my god."
"Little green men…" Julio suddenly said. He crossed himself as he held onto Michael. Kathy thought the action a bit archaic but when she saw the painting more closely, she felt it was somewhat warranted.
"That doesn't look like a little green man," she heard herself say. Indeed, it wasn't. There was a tall, slender woman in the painting. Her long silver hair trailed out behind her, carefully framing her hear-shaped face. Her large blue eyes smiled with her perfect lips. That wasn't the extraordinary part of her. The extraordinary part was the full, brilliant silver moon mark on her forehead – highlighted in the painting by the background of the painting of a crescent shape of the Earth behind her.
"Someone's screwing with us. This can't be real," Tim whispered.
"Uh, guys? You need to see this," Michael said from farther down the crater. Kathy hadn't even noticed his absence until then.
"Not right now, Michael. This is-," Julio began.
"No, I really mean it. Get your asses over here," Michael said. Kathy looked up at where he was and slowly went towards him, her heart in her throat. As she came closer and looked over the ridge into the center of the crater, she felt numbness spread throughout her body.
There were pieces of buildings everywhere. Some were reduced to rubble but some, in a freak act of luck, were completely intact. They looked like Greek columns, Kathy thought, and promptly fell back on an old memory. She was a freshman in college again, forced to take an introductory course in English literature and the teacher was old, possibly blind, and hated the students as much as they hated her back. She forced them to read every deplorable line of John Keats's "Endymion," a convoluted, confusing, and completely ridiculous piece of shit she swore to bleach from her memory forever afterwards. In that moment, standing there staring at the empty courtyards and the broken fountains, on the moon, in space, she recalled a section from the poem when Endymion was dreaming:
"O known Unknown! from whom my being sips
Such darling essence, wherefore may I not
Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot
Pillow my chin for ever? ever press
These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?
Why not for ever and for ever feel
That breath about my eyes? Ah, thou wilt steal
Away from me again, indeed, indeed"
She had no idea why she remembered that part of the poem, especially because it was the section her professor had referred to as Keats's "mental masturbation," colorfully called that by Lord Byron, another writer she'd hated. The lines stayed in her mind, surprising and confusing her, as she stared at everything around her.
Kathy shook the years away and focused on her surroundings, bounding forward to join her colleagues. They were already in the dust, lifting things carefully, staring at things, ignoring each other completely. As Kathy came closer, she saw something just as strange as the buildings themselves. There were large clumps of ice everywhere. No, not ice, Kathy realized as she and the others mutely moved forward. Bodies. There were bodies encased in the ice, which couldn't be ice. Its crystal, Kathy realized.
"What the hell is this place?" Julio mumbled. Kathy tried to say something but couldn't. Keats continued to echo in her mind, endlessly, different poems she never knew she'd memorized.
"We have to get back to the ship," Julio said. "We have to call headquarters. We have to report all of this…"
"Pictures," Kathy mumbled. The other men looked at her, surprised by the strange word. "We need proof of this for them to see. And we should try to bring as much of this back as we can." To prove we aren't crazy, she mentally added. She thought of how a lot of people had thought Keats was crazy… she was liking the long-dead poet more and more. Funny that she had to go to another planet to realize she'd like Keats all along, under all that hate for his work.
All the astronauts were probably thinking the same thing, Kathy was sure. They couldn't bring themselves to speak as they gathered samples and photographs of everything they found.
Citation (because I'm a good English major): Keats, John. Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Book II, Lines 739-746. Selected Poems and Letters, Riverside Editions, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston: 1959. Edited by Douglas Bush.