Chapter 1: "The Foreign Import"
A Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2007 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2007 by Bill K.

Dr. Ami Mizuno had just finished her rounds for the day. She was at the nurse's station on the fifth floor ward filling out some last minute instructions on a patient's chart. In the background was the muted beeping of patient monitors, the occasional ring of a telephone or the intrusion of an intercom page, as well as the chatter of the nurses there. Ami had managed to block it out and concentrate on her written instructions. But the mention of a familiar name caught her attention.

"Dr. Chiba, huh?" smiled Nurse Kuzawa. She was a weathered woman in her forties, a veteran of the hospital.

"Yeah, isn't he just so gorgeous," sighed Nurse Hakajima. She was young, pretty, and just out of college. She'd only been on that floor of the hospital a month.

"I hope you know he's off the market."

"I know," Nurse Hakajima sighed forlornly. "But a girl can dream, can't she?"

"Well, I have to give you credit for taste, Kimiko," Nurse Kuzawa smiled maternally. "If there was a doctor on this floor that would catch a woman's eye, it would be Dr. Chiba." Ami smiled to herself.

"If only I'd met him sooner," Kimiko Hakajima mused wistfully.

"Since you've got enough time to sit around and gossip, I assume the rounds have been done for this hour," stated a stern voice. It belonged to Dr. Haruki Koda, who was standing at the desk unnoticed by anyone until just then. Koda was a still handsome woman at twenty-nine, with pinned back black hair and a business-like wall around her personality.

"Yes, Dr. Koda," Kimiko Hakajima replied, slightly defensively. "I was just taking a moment to sit down."

"Very good," Dr. Koda said awkwardly. She took a moment to summon her nerve. "I apologize if I came off as brusk. It's just that I don't consider it - - professional - - to talk about other staff members that way. Since you're still new here, I think it's one of the things you should learn."

"Yes, Doctor," Hakajima replied, chastened.

Dr. Koda turned and headed off. Ami decided to join her. She caught Dr. Koda half way down the hall.

"Mizuno," Dr. Koda nodded. "Are you off shift?"

"I just finished," Ami replied. "You?"

"That report I left at the desk was my last for the day. Just had to put in a prescription for Jojima in 414." Then Dr. Koda's business-like aura sagged some. "Did I come across as harsh to that nurse?"

"Well," Ami grimaced, "it is difficult sometimes to balance a co-worker's feelings and the demands of their duties."

"I was afraid of that," Koda sighed. "It's just that things like that set me on edge. I shouldn't let it irritate me though."

The pair entered the elevator.

"Are you headed for the parking garage?" Ami asked. Koda nodded. "Fine. We can walk down together."

"Afraid of the dark?" Koda chuckled.

"Koda," Ami gaped. "Do you honestly feel safe going into the garage alone after what's happened the last few months?" Koda stared at her uncomprehendingly. "The murders."

"Oh," Koda replied, surprised. "Yes, I suppose I should be more careful about such things. You know how it is - - you never think anything bad is going to happen to you. Pretty cavalier attitude for me to take, I guess. Any clues? I haven't been following it."

"Well," Ami stated. "The victims all seem to be random attacks. The only connection they had was working here. They didn't even work the same floor. That's led to speculation that it's a serial killer. But I have a theory that perhaps they are connected. All of the victims worked the same floor at one point in their career. Ours, in fact."

Koda was staring at her with an amused look. "What are you, an amateur sleuth?"

"I dabble," Ami shrugged.

After seeing Dr. Koda to her car, Ami walked to her Toyota mid-size. As she walked, though, senshi-honed senses kept a wary eye on every looming shadow in the garage. Despite all her experience, Ami couldn't help being on edge. Three murders in as many months, so soon after the business with the aliens, had a lot of people on edge. Reaching her car without incident, Ami slid in and started it up. She was going to have to carve out some time in her life to look more closely into this. But it would have to wait. She had an appointment.

It was quiet at Hikawa Shrine. The after school crowd had filtered out and Rei was anticipating a quiet night. She'd noticed a little more business recently. That was good. There was a time not too long ago when she'd contemplated closing the shrine and giving up. After a night of prayer and soul-searching, she'd decided to give it a little longer. It seemed that the gods were beginning to reward her persistence.

As she swept off the walk, Rei tossed back her mane of black hair. Maybe, if things were quiet, she could slip away and have some fun. Cobble together a nice outfit from the odds and ends she had, head over to Roppongi and see if she could meet a cute guy. At the very least, forget she was a priest for a night. Maybe she would indulge in a little karaoki, get a nice, inexpensive dinner and . . .

The sound of raucous laughter caught her ear. It was over by the prayer bells. The clap of the bells were followed by more laughter. Rei's lips thinned. If it was those stupid high school boys from the soccer team messing around again - - well, this time she was armed. Clutching her broom, Rei stalked over.

She found several males acting in a juvenile manner, but not the ones she expected. There were four men together. One was making a prayer offering and ringing the bell. It was obvious he'd had too much to drink. His companions were enjoying his drunken antics very loudly. They may have been drunk, too. Three of the men were Japanese, solidly built without being huge. The fourth, though, was a black man with wide shoulders and powerful arms. He towered half a foot over his fellow worshipers. Rei stood and watched them, trying to read whether they intended trouble or were just lacking in manners. When one of the men noticed her, he immediately snapped to attention.

"Sensei!" he gasped. "Forgive us if we disturbed you!" The man then bowed penitently. His sober Japanese partner did the same.

"Yeah, forgive us for being happy," the drunken one slurred. Then he began giggling.

"Sensei?" the black man queried. "She's a priest?"

"Yes," Rei replied, temper flaring. "I'm the priest of this shrine."

"There's women priests here?" He smiled in a way that Rei took as amorous. "Damn if this country don't have everything."

"Is there anything else I can help with?" Rei asked with an edge to her voice. "Because I think your friend there needs to go home and sleep it off."

"That's going to be kind of hard," chuckled the black man. "He's supposed to play center field tonight." Rei was confused and didn't bother to conceal it. "Uh, we're with the Giants. Maybe you recognized us?"

"I don't follow baseball," Rei replied cooly.

"Ohhhh-Kay," the black man said. "Sorry we bothered you, ma'am. The guys just wanted to show me what a beautiful shrine you've got here. We'll be going now."

The three sober players surrounded their drunken friend and escorted him out of the shrine. But before he disappeared from sight down the steps, the black man turned and took a last look at Rei. It wasn't hostile. It almost seemed to her like he liked what he saw.

Putting the situation out of her mind, Rei went back inside. She doffed her robes, took a quick shower, then pieced together a flattering outfit from her closet. Adding a little makeup to her face from a kit Usagi had given her as a present - - the one she swore up and down that she never, ever used - - Rei borrowed some yen from her "emergency fund" stash and headed for Roppongi.

But as she walked, her thoughts drifted back to the ball players, particularly the huge black man. The fact that he seemed to like what he saw gave Rei a good feeling. Though it was another thing she was loathe to admit, Rei had an ego and someone seeing past the robes of her calling to the woman beneath appealed to that ego. And now that she recalled the situation without vision clouded by annoyance, she had to say that she liked what she saw, too. And that surprised her, for Rei never thought she could feel that way about someone who wasn't Japanese.

"Oooooh, Mako-chan, that smells delicious!" Usagi exclaimed.

"Thanks," Makoto smiled as she stirred a pot on her stove. "Ami's coming over tonight. I'm making up something special."

"You didn't invite me?" Usagi asked, her blue eyes saucers and her lower lip extended.

"You've got a husband to go home to, Usagi," Makoto smiled. "Ami doesn't."

"Oh yeah," Usagi squeaked.

"Besides, this dinner is 'payment for services rendered'. Ami's coming over tonight for my monthly check-up," and Makoto patted her distended abdomen. "You know, see how the little guy is doing. And you know Ames, she won't take money for it, even though I've offered to pay her. So we agreed that she'd see me as an obstetrician once a month and I'd cook dinner for her. Gets her out of that apartment of hers once a month and gets me the best doctor in all of Japan."

"Good," Usagi nodded. Then she glanced at the pot again. "Any chance I can get the leftovers?"

Just then, two year old Akiko burst into the room. She was waving a page from a coloring book.

"Mommy, Mommy! Look at what I did!" she exclaimed.

"That's nice, Akiko," Makoto said, glancing at the page and then returning to her pot.

"Mommy! Look!" Akiko demanded.

"Akiko, I'm busy!" Makoto retorted. "It's a very nice picture, but I have to concentrate on what I'm doing!"

In a huff, the child stormed off. Makoto sighed with frustration.

"Honestly, hon', she's been like that ever since I got pregnant," Makoto related. "It's bad enough she's two and insists on being the center of the universe, but now every time she sees me and my big fat tummy she knows that she's not - - and isn't ever going to be again. San-San and I have talked to her and talked to her . . ."

"Maybe I can do something," Usagi suggested. "I'm pretty good with kids. We're on the same intellectual level, after all."

Usagi found the chubby brown-haired little girl sitting in the dining room in a corner. Her crayons and coloring book were to one side, ignored. Usagi knelt down next to her.

"Akiko?" she inquired, brushing the girl's brown hair. "Your mom's busy. She's cooking one of her wonderful dinners and she has to meet with your Aunt Ami later. It doesn't mean she doesn't love you. She's just got other things she has to do."

"This never happened before," Akiko mumbled. "Things were different before 'he' came along. Why did things have to change, Auntie Usagi? I liked it the way it was!"

"Oh, Akiko," Usagi began, "getting a baby brother doesn't have to be a bad thing."

"Why did she have to get a baby brother?" Akiko pouted. "Wasn't I good enough?"

"Oh, no, Akiko!" Usagi gasped, hugging the child. "Your mom and dad love you! In fact, they love you so much that they thought two would be twice as good as one!"

Akiko continued to stare into the corner. "I liked it better the way it was."

"Akiko-chan," Usagi said, touching the girl's shoulder, "I know what it's like to have a baby brother. I've got one myself. And yes, they can be annoying and aggravating to the point where you wonder if they were hatched instead of born. But there's a lot of good things about them, too. They give you someone to teach and to be responsible for, and they give you - - well, someone you can talk to or lean on besides your mom or dad, someone who understands what you've gone through, because they've gone through most of it with you. Baby brothers aren't a punishment or an imposition. They're a gift - - if you just look at them the right way. And they're good training, because they teach you things like sharing and . . ."

"I don't want to share!" Akiko huffed.

"Akiko," Usagi said gently, "people who don't share are selfish. And nobody likes selfish people. Everybody likes people who are kind and loving and giving, not selfish. People will be more likely to like you if you share what you have and love them back."

"But what about me?"

"Well, if you share with others, people are more likely to share with you. And even if they don't, giving and sharing can make you feel warm and good inside. It's like this," and Usagi slipped a piece of candy out of her pocket, then gave it to Akiko. "I'm sharing my candy with you. And it makes me feel good because I've made you happy. And you can make your mom and dad happy by sharing them with your little brother. Does that make any sense?"

Akiko thought about it as she slipped the candy into her mouth. After a few moments, she nodded timidly.

"Thank you, Akiko," Usagi said, hugging the girl.

"Do you like my picture?" Akiko ventured.

"Oh, it's beautiful!" Usagi cooed. "It's so colorful! And you even stay in the lines more often than I do."

Akiko giggled. Sensing a presence, Usagi turned and found Makoto in the doorway, staring at them. The woman was awestruck.

"Hon'," Makoto marveled, "how do you do it?"

Usagi answered the question with a shrug and a mystified look.

The elevator door opened onto the parking garage of the hospital. Kimiko Hakajima and one of the hospital security guards exited the elevator.

"I'm sorry for having to put you through this," Kimiko apologized.

"It's no trouble," the guard smiled at her. "I'd much rather be making sure you nurses are safe than having illegally parked cars towed or unlocking office doors for forgetful administrators. And with what's happened over the last three months, it's better to be safe than sorry."

"Yes," Kimiko mused. She'd known one of the victims. They'd interned together. They'd even made a bet as to who would get the handsome Dr. Chiba to ask them out. Of course that was before they found out he was married. Kimiko felt the emotion constricting her throat. It all seemed so silly now in the face of Nuriko's ultimate fate.

The nurse got to her car and opened the door. She waved to the security guard and got in. It was a used Mitsubishi compact that ran smoothly when the gods were willing. When she was more established, she'd buy a new one. But that was a worry for later. Now she had to concentrate on getting through her probationary period at the hospital.

The drive home was slow due to Tokyo traffic. Despite herself, it gave Kimiko time to think about Nuriko. It was so tragic. Bad enough to die so young and so suddenly, but to have her throat slashed in the hospital parking garage. To lay there in the oil-stained concrete and just feel her life ooze away, the thought was enough to drive Kimiko to the brink of emotion. She recalled the hysterics and the utter devastation she saw in Nuriko's parents and siblings during the funeral.

"Maybe I should give Mom a call when I get home," the woman mused.

Finally the aged Mitsubishi made it to the garage beneath Kimiko's apartment building in Azabu. As Kimiko got out of the car, she pondered for a moment whether she should visit the shrine over on the hill, the one with the woman priest she'd discovered just last week. The whim puzzled her. She'd never been deeply religious, but her mother had always told her that it didn't hurt to be on the good side of the gods. That memory made her smirk. Maybe she'd stroll over there tomorrow morning before she went in to work. Tonight she wanted to call her mother, then play the tape of the romantic melodrama she'd recorded from afternoon television. Who knew - - maybe she'd find her path to her true love through the example of the heroine in the story?

The click of heels alerted Kimiko to someone's approach. The woman glanced warily to the sound. But when she got a look at the approaching person, the woman relaxed.

"Well, I'm surprised to see you here," Kimiko said. "Do you live in this building?"

The figure continued to approach Kimiko until they were a foot apart. A hand concealed in a pocket emerged. There was a flash of metal as the hand quickly drew across Kimiko's throat in an arc.

The woman staggered back against her car. Red was spattered everywhere. She felt warm liquid oozing against her fingers. Kimiko wanted to believe it was anything but blood, but she was too terrified to look. She tried to scream, but the only sound that emerged from her throat was a gurgle. Her lungs tried to suck in air, but only got blood. As she began to choke, Kimiko felt the strength leave her legs. She tumbled back against the car, glanced off and fell to the concrete of the parking garage. The clack of the heels of her executioner echoed against the cold, dark walls of the garage.

Kimiko's last thought as she died was how sorry she was for the grief her death would cause her mother and father.

Continued in Chapter 2