THE HOSTAGE BRIDE
Chapter 12: "A Mother's Son"
By Bill K.
"Enough talk," Mehaat choked out gruffly, his teeth clenched. Sharply he turned to the formation of soldiers behind him. "Destroy them all!"
Instantly the soldiers moved to obey. Queen Serenity closed her eyes, as if fearing it was her last moment of life. Sailor Saturn lurched forward, hoping against hope that she would be quick enough. And Sailor Moon locked eyes with King Mehaat, the two exchanging looks of reproach and betrayal.
"SILENCE WALL!" Saturn cried out quickly. The shield erected, but nothing struck it. Already the soldiers of Mehaat were looking at their swords and hand weapons, puzzled as to why they didn't function.
"Must we disable every weapon on this planet before you'll listen to reason?" Serenity asked. Saturn dropped the shield.
"To ask a Zacharian to surrender is akin to asking for his beating heart," Mehaat replied. "We do not give in. We fight to the very last."
Serenity stared at him.
"May we speak in private, Your Highest Majesty?" she asked. "Perhaps it would aid our ability to - - negotiate more freely."
The air was suddenly split with the sound of propelled matter. It seemed to echo dimly through the palace grounds. Mehaat didn't react, holding Serenity's gaze like a cobra. Saturn and Sailor Moon heard the noise, but reacted too slowly.
But Endymion was far quicker. Warned by his inner sense of danger to Serenity and Sailor Moon, the King turned. His hand shot out and snatched something out of the air behind Serenity's head. His hand and arm snapped back and the King grimaced in pain.
"Endymion!" Serenity gasped, turning to her husband and trying to comfort him.
Sailor Moon searched the sky while Saturn glared at the squadron of soldiers, glaive raised. Endymion was holding his hand. It quivered with the tension of pain and injury. Slowly he opened the hand. Inside was a metal projectile, cylindrical and blunted, fired by a sniper for Serenity's head. Pushing past the pain, Endymion straightened up. He faced Mehaat and his amazed troops, opened his hand and threw the projectile on the cobblestone grounds at Mehaat's feet.
"I have been more than patient with you," Endymion said. Mehaat met his glare unflinchingly, but several of his soldiers shifted uneasily. "If you insist on being belligerent, we will have to neutralize you." He turned to the others. "Combine powers."
Serenity reached out with her hand and gently took Endymion's. He began to glow gold as she glowed silver. Mehaat turned to his second and nodded. Sailor Moon turned and extended her hand to Sailor Saturn, the hand as well as its owner glowing pink. Saturn clutched it with her free hand and took on a violet aura. Sailor Moon then tapped on her mother's arm. Serenity looked and saw her daughter's extended hand. She smiled and took it.
From out of the south, fighter craft screamed through the heavens. They bore in on the four beings from Earth, spraying crimson energy beams, strafing the intruders' position. The energy beams were caught by the growing aura of the four and instantly neutralized. Again and again they strafed the position, Mehaat and his squadron falling back from the barrage. The contingent from Earth ignored it as if being struck by falling snow.
At once a pulse came from the four Earth emissaries. The pulse traveled out from them in a circle, passing through solid objects on its path around the globe. The energy fanned out over the entire planet of Zachar. To their amazement, as the soldiers felt the energy pass through them, they found all their weaponry began to disintegrate. Swords, projectile weapons, explosive belts, anything that had been built for a weapon suddenly changed to dust. Uneasy murmuring rose up among the troops. Mehaat stared at them, unable to believe the level of enemy he had taken on.
The glow dissipated around the four Earth emissaries. They took a deep, slightly fatigued breath, then released each other's hands. Mehaat seemed ready to bolt for a moment. Then he recovered. Straightening himself with military precision, Mehaat faced Endymion.
"Perhaps we should retire to the Royal Chambers to," he said stiffly and in a controlled manner, "discuss the situation."
"But - - Your Highest Majesty . . .!" sputtered his second.
"Check the armories," Mehaat replied gruffly. "See if everything is truly inoperable. Do not disturb us until I send for you."
He searched his monarch's face for understanding. Then the officer nodded and crisply went about his task. Mehaat turned and entered the palace. Endymion and his group followed, the squadron of soldiers parting in wonder as they passed.
"It seems that you have me at a disadvantage," Mehaat said as the door to the Royal Chambers closed behind them. The room was sparse and lacking in comforts, though it was thick with trophies and mounted weaponry. An imposing throne on a platform stood in one corner, while a large desk occupied another. "Our intelligence severely underestimated your capabilities. That was my father's initial mistake and one I was foolish enough to repeat."
"I think the only mistakes you made were seeking conquest rather than friendship," Endymion said, his steely gaze locked on Mehaat, "and continually dealing with us with duplicity rather than honesty."
"You're quite blunt," Mehaat replied. "Since you have the upper hand, I suppose that gives you the right. I'll confess to the second. Duplicity is a tactic in war and a good leader uses all tactics at his disposal to achieve victory. I make no apology." He crossed over to a carafe and some glasses. "Beverage?" Unbidden, he poured out a glass and offered it to Endymion.
"Is that how King Sallaar died?" Sailor Moon asked contemptuously.
Mehaat's features clouded over and he averted his gaze for a moment.
"Yes," he admitted, emotion affecting his voice. "Very clever of you. You would have made a very - - interesting wife." Mehaat straightened. "Very well. No more duplicity. I have dispatched an armada to Earth. It was waiting in space when we first learned you were coming. It should be in orbit in, oh, twenty-five units." He met Endymion's eye. "Check if you don't believe me."
Endymion and Serenity glanced at each other.
"Now, King Endymion," Mehaat continued, "you will surrender your planet, your government," and he glanced at Sailor Moon, "AND your daughter to me or my armada will lay waste to your world. They have the firepower, make no mistake about that."
Endymion's hands clenched into fists. Serenity clung to him, while Sailor Moon and Sailor Saturn contemplated an attack.
"Now, if you think I'm being duplicitous again, do nothing," Mehaat continued
confidently. "If you choose, you may kill me. But be warned: The armada is under orders to
attack. Only I can countermand that order. Kill me and your planet loses. So, King Endymion,
those are my terms. Do you accept?"
"Endymion?" Serenity thought-cast to her husband.
"I can try to get there in time," he thought back. "But the trip here and disarming this entire planet took a lot out of me."
"We can merge energies," Serenity suggested telepathically.
"I'm not sensing a lot left in your tank, either," Endymion replied. "We may have to solve this here."
"Influence his thoughts," Endymion thought to her. "It's a chance, because I don't know how strong his mind is, but . . ."
"Endymion!" Serenity mentally recoiled.
"Serenity, I don't know what else we . . ."
"Congratulations," Sailor Moon said contemptuously to Mehaat. The King and Queen turned to her with surprise. "Your father would be very proud of you. You've grown up to be just like him."
"Do not judge me!" Mehaat snapped at her. "You know nothing of my situation!"
"I know a coward when I see one," Sailor Moon scowled.
"Usa!" Serenity said with reproach.
"I am King of Zachar! Ruler of the Galactic Alliance! I must be strong for my people, to hold on to what we have and what we are!" proclaimed the Zacharian. "If others must fall so that we may continue, then so be it! The strong prosper and the weak fall by the wayside!"
"You don't believe that anymore," Sailor Moon sneered. "I can see it in your eyes."
"Because you bewitched me!" Mehaat roared. "You sapped my will with your pink magic! You jumbled my brain and . . .!"
"BULL!" snapped Sailor Moon. "My Halation attack isn't permanent! It wears off! If you're having second thoughts about all this, they were in you all the time!"
Mehaat stopped short, staring as if struck by a hammer.
"The one thing I always thought you were, Mehaat," Sailor Moon continued, "was intelligent - - too intelligent for this. Any idiot can kill. Any lowlife thug can dominate a weaker person and take what he wants. But the strong never rule for very long unless they have the strength of character to be benevolent."
A chill ran through the Zacharian ruler's spine. Mehaat just stared at Sailor Moon, dumbfounded. The words were different, but the sentiment was the same one his mother had always told him in secret when his father wasn't around. They were a deep, cherished memory of his mother, just as much as his memory of her gentle caress or her reassuring kiss.
"You're king now, Mehaat," Sailor Moon persisted. "You can stop this. You may be the only one who CAN stop this! You don't have to become your father. It's not etched in stone."
"I am not my father!" Mehaat barked.
"Prove it!" Sailor Moon barked back. "End this! Change this world! You can be strong and benevolent! The two aren't mutually exclusive! Show them!"
Mehaat turned away, turned to conceal what he saw as weakness and doubt. "What you ask is impossible! Delusional! How can one man, even a king, change an entire world, change centuries of ingrained behavior? We are warriors! These ways are all my people have known! And I'm just one man."
"One person can make a difference," Sailor Moon told him. "All that person has to have is the strength and conviction to stand up for what's right."
"And you think it's that simple? My Mother believed as you do. What did it gain her? She died - - murdered. If I traveled her path, what do you think would happen? My people would revolt. They'd kill me."
"Well, you've said many times that you're not afraid to die," Sailor Moon replied, unmoved. "Are you afraid to change? Your mother wasn't afraid to do what's right. OK, she died - - but she planted a seed in you before she died. That seed bloomed today. Now you have the chance to plant the seed in more people. Maybe you'll die before you see things change, too. But you can change them. You can make a difference. Don't tell me one person can't make a difference. I know better! My Mom made a difference, back on Earth! Just her, by herself, standing up for what she believed in! And you can, too, Mehaat. But only if you have the courage to try."
A pregnant pause filled the room. Mehaat studied Sailor Moon's face, searching for duplicity. He found only the fervency of belief that he remembered seeing in his mother's eyes when she told him of her devotion to him. Sailor Moon was completely different from his mother in every way he could imagine, and yet - - in this one way, it was like looking at his mother reincarnated.
The room seemed to swirl. After a moment, Mehaat realized it was just his conflicting emotions. Every instinct in him told him not to back down. But they were instincts his despised father had beaten into him. Could so hideous and evil a being as he be right about anything? Could so wonderful a person as his mother, and her beautiful surrogate Sailor Moon, be wrong? His experience told him they were, but he could no longer trust his experience. What to do? What path to take? He looked to Sailor Moon, to those red eyes. Could he trust those eyes?
His hand moved to a computer monitor on the desk and hovered over a key. For a moment, Mehaat wondered if he'd descended into madness. He expelled a breath and pressed the key.
"This is King Mehaat Kahrsamn, to Swordthrust," he said flatly.
"Swordthrust here, Your Highest Majesty! Leader Tellnahr speaking!"
Mehaat sighed. "Code sign alpha six."
"Counter sign beta eight!"
"Attack plan is aborted, Leader," Mehaat said. He frowned. "Return to Zachar."
"As you command!"
Wearily he turned to Endymion and Serenity. "Your world is safe. You've won."
"Don't frown, Your Highest Majesty," Serenity said. "We've all won."
The monarch snorted. "It does not feel like a victory. Perhaps in time, I'll come to understand this feeling. Right now, though, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth." He considered his words. "Perhaps that's my father still talking through my words."
Summoning his strength, Mehaat stood up and straightened his uniform. He walked over to Sailor Moon.
"Did you mean what you said?" Mehaat asked. "About my strength of character?"
"It's there," Sailor Moon said. "You just have to control your temper and let your intelligence rule your judgment." She grinned shyly. "Believe me, I know that's hard sometimes."
"Perhaps you are right," he replied, still staring at her. "About one person making a difference with the strength of their convictions and not their sword arm. Had I not witnessed such a thing, I wouldn't be so ready to believe you. You're very wise for one younger than I. And - - in that way you're very much like my mother. And she WAS a remarkable woman."
Sailor Moon felt herself tremble slightly.
"Stay with me?" he asked. "Teach me?"
"I've already got a boyfriend," she whispered. "And your mother taught you everything you need to know. You just have to remember it."
Turning, Sailor Moon accepted her father's offered hand and rejoined her group.
"If you're serious about reforming the society of this world," Endymion said with a wary eye, "I can send you advisors to teach you what works best. Call us. We'll keep lines of communication open."
As they all began to change into energy forms to travel through space, Serenity turned to her daughter and leaned in.
"You handled that situation wonderfully, Usa," Serenity whispered. "I always knew you had it in you."
"Thanks, Mom," Sailor Moon whispered back, silently cursing her flushing cheeks.
The royal couple and their younger charges reappeared on the roof of the palace amid a glow of gold and silver mix. Naturally Rei and the other senshi were there waiting for them. Serenity was about to ask how they knew, then realized Rei probably sensed their arrival. The Queen glanced in Rei's direction, eager to reunite with her and the Queen's other best friends. But when she saw the contrite look on the fiery senshi's face, it reminded her of the last time they'd been face to face.
As the glow faded, everyone saw Rei start for them. Serenity's hope swelled, and the other senshi stood silently hopeful. But it quickly became apparent that the priest was headed for Sailor Moon and not the Queen. Rei grasped the girl by the shoulders intently. The Queen silently looked away. Everybody grimaced.
"Are you all right, Muffin?" Rei asked. It seemed for a moment that she was going to cry. Sailor Moon just stared for a moment. She'd always been close to her "Aunt" Rei and everybody knew how attached Rei was to her. But this was as intense as anything the teen had experienced. Rei was as concerned for her as her own parents had been.
"Yeah, Aunt Rei," Sailor Moon whispered. "I-I'm fine." The grateful smile she received stunned her just a little bit, but she was happy to inspire it as well.
Sailor Moon and Sailor Saturn scampered over to join their friends. Endymion moved to brief the cats and kept an eye on his wife. Serenity hesitated. She looked down, then seemed to gather herself. Sensing the tension, the other senshi held back, giving Rei the first chance to speak - - if she wanted to. But Rei seemed to hesitate, unsure if she still had the right to speak to her best friend.
"I'm glad you all made it home safely," Serenity said to them all, though she looked directly at Rei. Violet eyes sought the rooftop for a beat.
"We're glad you made it back, too," Rei whispered. Then she straightened up. "I'm, um . . . Serenity, I'm sorry for hitting you. I shouldn't have done it."
"I forgive you, Rei," Serenity smiled.
"Not because I was wrong about how you chose to respond to this," Rei continued resolutely. "You can't keep giving in to bullies, Serenity. Otherwise, pretty soon you won't have anything left to give in on." Her resolution faded and her eyes sought her shoes again. "But I should have better control of my temper. There was no excuse for slapping you."
"I never claimed to be perfect, Rei," Serenity smiled, reaching out and touching her friend's hand. "And I've never expected you to be perfect, either. I realize your reaction was from your love for Usa rather than any hatred you might have for me. It's a testament to her that she can inspire such fierce loyalty in people."
Rei encircled Serenity's hand with her own and held on tight.
"She gets it from her mom," Rei said, peeking up at her. Serenity beamed. The other five women smiled warmly.
"So are we still part of the Alliance?" Minako asked.
"No," Serenity replied with relief. "We 'politely declined' their invitation and, thanks entirely to Usa, were able to convince them to accept that answer."
"How much did you four have to break first to convince them?" Haruka posed with a wry grin.
"Nothing - - much. Oh, Usa was wonderful! You should have seen her! How about I tell all of you over a nice big lunch?" Serenity offered. "I'm REALLY hungry."
"Imagine that," Rei commented dryly. Serenity shot her a peevish pout. And all the senshi knew that things in the palace were back to normal. Meanwhile, Sailor Moon and Sailor Saturn had reverted to civilian form and were walking down the corridor with the Asteroids.
"So, did you see much action?" Ves-Ves asked.
"Well, Mom and Pop had to deactivate all their weapons first," Usa related. "But after that, I was finally able to get through to Mehaat. I hope it works out for him."
"I hope so, too," Cere-Cere added. "He was kind of cute."
Jun-Jun glared at her.
"Well, he was!" Cere-Cere shot back defensively.
"How about we all go out?" Usa proposed suddenly. "Find a place where the music is so loud nobody can hear and just kick back?"
"Sounds great!" Ves-Ves smiled in anticipation.
"Well, SOMEBODY'S got a spring in their step," Jun-Jun observed the Princess wryly, then glanced at her sisters.
"Yeah, and I CAN'T IMAGINE why," Cere-Cere nodded conspiratorially.
"What?" Usa asked.
"You know what 'what'," Cere-Cere persisted. Usa continued to play dumb while Hotaru smothered a laugh.
"Do we have to spell it out for you?" Jun-Jun interjected. "Cave, you, Helios - - ALONE!"
"Naked!" Cere-Cere added.
"Why, whatever do you mean?" Usa smiled sweetly. "Helios and I were merely observing chemical reactions."
"Yeah, I've had a few 'chemistry lessons' like that myself," Ves-Ves quipped.
"Palla-Palla thinks it's nice that Prince Horsie-Man would help the Princess with her homework," Palla-Palla chimed in. That caused the laughter dam to burst on Hotaru. Jun-Jun and Cere-Cere quickly followed, leaving Palla-Palla once again puzzled.
"So when are you two 'chemistry students' going to get married?" Cere-Cere asked.
"Not nearly soon enough for me," Usa scowled.
The six teens arrived at the quarters of the Asteroids and the four occupants ducked in to change for the evening's festivities. Usa and Hotaru continued on.
"Forgive me if I'm prying," Hotaru began shyly.
"Hey, you know you can ask me anything," Usa replied.
Hotaru gathered herself. "Was it everything you hoped it would be?"
"Well, I never thought it would happen in a cave," Usa chuckled, brushing at her pink hair. "But yeah. Helios was so wonderful. I didn't think I could love him anymore than I did, but I do."
"I'm glad for you," Hotaru said, then looked down.
"I'm, well," the girl began. "I've been thinking - - about me and Yutaka . . ."
"He's not pressuring you, is he?"
"No! It's just," and Hotaru cringed, still a victim of her lingering shyness, "I've been, well, thinking - - wondering about what it would be like."
Usa took her hand. "Well, Helios and I just sort of got caught up in the moment. We didn't plan it. But if you think the moment is right," and she smiled and shrugged. Hotaru returned the smile gratefully.
Later that night - - or more accurately, early the next morning - - six teens returned to the palace from a night on the town.
"Boy, could that guy dance!" chortled Ves-Ves.
"Sound like somebody got swept off her feet," Hotaru smiled.
"Yeah, he was hot. I'm going to have to call him," Ves-Ves nodded, then stopped short. "I hope I can remember his name."
"Kentatsu Yomimuri," Palla-Palla said suddenly, her eyes drooping from sleepiness.
"How do you know that?" Ves-Ves inquired.
"Know what?" Palla-Palla asked blankly.
That gave the group another excuse to dissolve into giggles. But the giggles died away when they looked up and found Queen Serenity waiting for them.
"Uh oh, somebody's in trouble," Cere-Cere whispered maliciously.
"Yeah, right. In for a guilt trip, more like," snorted Usa. The other girls quickly dispersed while Usa wandered up to her mother. The pair walked casually down the corridor. "Kind of past your bedtime, isn't it Mom?"
"I couldn't sleep," Serenity shrugged. "I had to be sure my baby was safe."
Usa was about to object. Then she remembered what they'd all just been through and decided to allow her mother's over-protectiveness this time.
"So how was it?" Serenity asked.
"It was spanking," Usa admitted. "It was nice to cut loose after everything we've been through. And we kept a leash on Ves-Ves, so there wasn't much property damage."
"That's nice," Serenity persisted. "But I meant you and Helios."
The Princess looked at her mother with a growing sense of horror.
"M-Me and Helios what?" she asked.
"Usa, I know what happened," Serenity smiled gently. "OK, I don't know the specifics, but I know you and Helios, well - - got - - romantic."
Usa just stared at her in shock.
"I don't know whether it's because of the silver crystal or if it's just mother's intuition, but I know."
"MOTHER!" gasped Usa.
"You have been taking your anti-pregnancy inoculations, haven't you?"
"Yes, Mother," Usa replied through clenched teeth.
"Good. Usa, I'm very happy for you."
"Well, yes! Usa, I think Helios is a wonderful man! He's perfect for you! You couldn't have made a better choice! And you probably don't see it, but you glow just a little more brightly when you're in his presence."
"Must be another 'mother' thing," Usa mumbled to herself.
"So, was it everything you hoped it would be?" Serenity asked.
"Mom, do you have any understanding of the word 'privacy' at all?"
"Oh, poo! I don't see why you're so embarrassed. After all, you aren't doing anything your father and I weren't doing when we were your age."
"Oh, Mom, way too much information!" scowled the pink teen.
"Well, fine! Be that way!" Serenity huffed. "Oh, and I plan to invite Helios to visit the palace in a few weeks."
Usa's face lit up.
"I think your father and I need to discuss your future with him." Instantly the Princess deflated again. Serenity patted her on the cheek. "And don't worry, honey. I'll handle your father."
The Queen glided off. As she walked to her quarters, Usa silently debated whether seeing Helios again was worth subjecting him to that.
Diana raised up from her sleeping spot at the foot of Usa's bed. She saw the Princess slip into her room. The cat glanced at the chronometer.
"After midnight, My Lady?" the cat observed dryly.
The teen shrugged as she wiggled out of her dress.
"And what did your parents have to say about that?"
"Mom was concerned with - - other things," Usa shrugged, slipping into her nightgown. "I'll probably hear about it from Pop in the morning. I imagine Pop's spy-eyes probably already have the time I got back logged." She flopped onto the bed and sighed. "But I don't care."
"You must have had a very good time," Diana observed.
"After what I've just been through, kicking back was just what I needed," the young Princess said, snuggling up in bed. "Besides, I'm in love."
Diana smiled. "So what else is new?" the cat said softly.
The Princess felt the pillow cushion her head. She took note mentally of her fatigue.
Suddenly Usa found herself laying in a strange, but very soft place. Pushing herself up on her hip, she looked around.
The room was covered by thick, plush satin pillows. The walls were draped in ornate, pastel colored silk. In the four corners of the room were candles in candlesticks of gold, giving off a soft, warm, romantic light. Her ears listened. From somewhere unknown, soft music wafted through the air, the strings caressing her gently as the bass formed a soft, comfortable bed for her senses to recline in. The teen took in a breath and the scent of jasmine filled her nostrils.
Looking down, Usa found that she wore pajamas of gold silk embroidered with flowers of red and white. A sly smile crossed her lips. The Princess closed her eyes and concentrated. When she opened them again, her ensemble had changed to a very sheer, revealing red lace teddy and a red choker, just like the one she'd seen on a fashion stream she and Cere-Cere had perused. Red stockings and high heels encased her legs, held up by rose-crested garters. Her smile deepened.
"Helios?" she asked softly. Usa felt a hand gently grasp her shoulder and she turned to find him behind her. His chest was bared. He wore only pajama bottoms. His platinum hair dangled over his pastel eyes and he was oh so incredibly attractive. She lightly brushed the hair from his eyes. "Just like you promised."
"Better delayed than not at all," Helios said, his passion for her unconcealed. She watched the way his lips formed words and suddenly wanted to kiss those lips. From behind him, Helios brought his hand. It held a bunch of grapes.
Usa giggled. Then she sagged against his chest.
"Well, this is more attractive than a cave," she mused. "But then again, there was a sort of primitive appeal to that cave." She reached up and caressed her love's cheek with her hand. "Guess it's not the place, it's who you're with."
"I could not agree more," Helios said between kissing his love's neck.
"Oh, Helios, I wish this was real," Usa sighed. "After the real thing, dreams aren't nearly as good."
"Some day, My Love," Helios whispered into her ear as he nuzzled her. "This I swear. One day we will be together as man and woman, united for all time. Until then, this must suffice."
Usa took a moment to bask in the feel of her love pressing against her, his hands caressing her stomach, his lips caressing her neck and shoulder.
She was getting those feelings again.
"So is this dream going to last ten thousand years?" she breathed, her pulse quickening.
"Only one night, sadly," Helios murmured in response as he continued to nuzzle her.
"Then we're wasting time," she mumbled. Her lips sought out his.
And in the waking world, a sleeping princess sighed happily into her pillow.