Chapter 12: "And Lo I Am An Angel Of Death"

A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

"Don't you like Palla-Palla?" she continued. "Palla-Palla thought that mommies and daddies were supposed to love their little babies. Why don't you like Palla-Palla? Why do you hurt people?"

Palla-Palla stood in the back room of the herbal store and clandestine pediatric/abortion clinic. She stared at her biological father, Abrahan Melo. They were eye to eye as he sat at a computer terminal, cooking up some new plan to realize his scheme of harnessing psychics he created and tapping their power. Six year old Maria stood vacantly by the desk.

"You're not capable of understanding," Melo scowled. "I discovered a means to revolutionize society - - to reinvent what humanity is capable of. And I was scorned and rejected at every turn! And why? All I did was take the refuse of human society and convert them so they had some use. What did it matter to society as a whole? They were rejects, forgotten and ignored! But somehow I was being cruel to them!"

"Queen Serenity says it's wrong to be mean to people," Palla-Palla said. "But Palla-Palla forgives you, because Queen Serenity says you should - - and because you're Palla-Palla's daddy."

"What do I care about your forgiveness?" Melo sneered. "You're a lab experiment to me. Nothing more! The only connection we have is that my chromosomes helped create you, and that was a matter of simple expediency. I am not your 'daddy' and I have no desire to be."

Palla-Palla's eyes widened and her lip protruded. Melo's eyes, however, narrowed ominously.

"But perhaps it was fortuitous that you tracked me down after all," he mused with a growing smile. "Maria - - possess her."

"Why?" Melo and Palla-Palla both sensed with their minds, though Maria still didn't move or react.

"What?" gasped Melo in astonishment. "How long have you been capable of conscious thought?"

"Since the other," Maria responded mentally. Again her expression didn't change. "Why do I have to possess Palla-Palla? I like Palla-Palla. She's my sister and she's nice to me."

"You don't have to do it, Maria," Palla-Palla thought to her. By his reaction, Melo seemed to pick up what she said as well. "Queen Serenity and Jun-Jun and everybody says you don't have to do what a grown up says if they tell you to do something bad."

"Maria," Melo said, calmly but firmly. "Your function on this world is to obey me."

"But Palla-Palla says what you want me to do is bad," Maria responded mentally. "Why do you want me to do bad?"

"Maria, obey me," Melo repeated. "I brought you into this world and I can take you out."

"Why am I like this?" Maria asked both him and Palla-Palla telepathically. "Why can't I speak like Palla-Palla does? Why do I hear so many voices? And why can't I remember before yesterday? Are you my daddy, like Palla-Palla said? Help me, Daddy! Help me understand!"

Instead, Abrahan Melo brought a small box out of his pants pocket. It looked like a remote and it had a single button. Without qualms or hesitation, Melo pressed the button.

For the first and last time in her young life, Maria's face showed emotion. Her features contorted in agony. Then she collapsed limply to the floor.

"Maria!" Palla-Palla screamed. "What happened to Maria?"

"I terminated her," Melo responded objectively. "Clearly her mind had been contaminated by some outside force. And thanks to that little incident yesterday, I don't have the time or the facilities for a post-mortem to determine . . ."

"Pallas Star Power Make Up!"

Abrahan Melo stared in amazement as Palla-Palla began to glow white. When the glow died, she wasn't Palla-Palla anymore.

"That uniform!" he gasped. "Those outsiders who attacked my lab yesterday wore uniforms like that!"

"Why did you kill Maria?" Sailor Pallas demanded tearfully. "Why do you have to do bad things? You're Pallas's daddy! Why do you have to be a bad man?"

"That's what we want to know," a male's voice came from the outer room. Pallas and Melo whirled at the sound. Two rough-looking men in their early twenties moved to block the doorway. They were dressed in dark clothes with their jet black hair falling into their eyes. Menace oozed from every inch of them. Violence was clearly their stock in trade.

"What do you want?" Melo demanded, backing to his desk.

"We heard you been a bad boy, Doc," one of the toughs said. He smirked mockingly.

"Heard you been experimenting on the neighborhood women," the other continued. "Heard you were behind that little show in the Government Plaza. Folks from this end work in the building you crushed. They work hard. Folks here don't like what you're doing."

"And now we come here and find you killing a little girl?" the other added. "And what's with the chica in the costume? You a freak on top of everything else?"

"Bottom line, the folks sent us here to tell you they don't like the things you been doing to them," his partner summarized. He produced a cheap laser pistol. "They sent us here to put a stop to you. Because we protect our own."

"NO!" Pallas shouted. She took a position directly in front of Melo, facing the two street thugs.

"Move, chica!" the armed man demanded. Pallas saw his partner draw a laser pistol as well.

"No, you can't hurt him!" Pallas said. "Queen Serenity says that's wrong!"

"He hire you to protect him?" the smirking one asked. "Or is he boning you? Either way, move if you don't want to get hurt!"

"Pallas won't move! Pallas won't let you hurt her Daddy!"

"Daddy? Chica, you know what he's done?"

"Pallas knows. Pallas knows he's a bad man and he has to be punished. But you can't kill him! Killing is bad! Queen Serenity says so and Pallas believes her! Please don't make Pallas punish you, too!"

"What can you do?" sneered the grim assailant. He drew a bead on Abrahan Melo with his weapon.

"Beautiful Incantation!" Sailor Pallas shouted.

An invisible force grasped the top of the grim assailant's laser weapon, crushing it in his hand. The focus crystal inside shattered into powder and the light-generation engine sparked. The man dropped the weapon to avoid being bitten by the sparks. He looked at Pallas with amazement.

His partner brought his weapon's aim from Melo to Pallas in a swift motion. Pallas gestured at it and it crumpled into twisted, sparking metal as well. Threatened, he gave off a feral snarl. It was a startling change from his snickering superiority.

Pallas was about to speak to them, but a movement from Melo caught her attention. In the confusion, Melo had drawn a laser weapon of his own from his desk drawer. He had it pointed at the street thugs. His finger depressed the trigger and a crimson beam lanced across the room, momentarily bathing the room in a low red glow. The grim assailant was struck chest high and to the right. It pierced his collarbone and the man spun to the floor, howling in pain. Melo turned the pistol onto the other assailant, but before he could get off another shot the gun crumpled into a sparking, twisted lump of metal. Angrily he looked at Sailor Pallas.

"No, Daddy," Pallas said tearfully. "Pallas won't let you hurt anymore people. It's not right." She turned to the two street thugs. "Please go. Pallas won't let Daddy hurt you, but she won't let you hurt Daddy, either."

The pair glanced at each other, then scrambled out of the room, one still holding his injured shoulder.

"Look," Melo began anxiously, "you have power. I gave you that power! I can help you refine it! Together . . .!"

"You also made Pallas stupid," Pallas replied. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Betrayal colored her midnight blue eyes. "Why did you do that? Pallas hates being stupid!"

"Part of the brain's capacity and function has to be sacrificed in order to allow the unused portion that PKE abilities reside in the room to grow and flourish," Melo explained, not expecting her to understand. "It's - - an unfortunate sacrifice, but necessary. Pallas, you are the prototype to a new evolutionary step in humanity! But you still need me to guide you to the fulfillment of your true potential!"

"Pallas doesn't want that," the girl squeaked. "Pallas gets all the school she needs in the palace. Pallas wants you to be her daddy and love her."

"I can," he smiled, with a practiced charm that had seduced so many women over the years. "Stay with me. Let me make you into all that you can become - - and you'll realize the love you seek."

"But," Pallas hesitated, because it sounded like everything she wanted, "what about Pallas's sisters?"

"The other test subjects? We can get to them in time. But you come first."

"No, Ves-Ves and Jun-Jun and Cere-Cere. Those are Pallas's sisters. And what about the Princess? Pallas promised to protect her. She can't go back on her promise."

"Pallas," Melo said, grasping her gently by the arms. "Sometimes you have to choose. If you continue to think of others and just others, you'll never get what you want. Sometimes you have to disregard what others want in order to help yourself."

Pallas thought over that statement. Melo could tell he had influenced her thinking, but she hadn't committed just yet. It was probably a lot for her simple mind to digest. Sensing he'd prodded enough, the man sat back and waited for her to give into her desires. And then she'd be his. She wasn't the perfect conduit that Maria had been - - but in some ways she could be better.

Suddenly Pallas turned her back on him.

"No, Daddy," Pallas said softly. "Pallas can't go back on her word."

Melo's expression soured. Another failure - - another mind too ingrained with a sense of self to ever be anything but questioning and rebellious. His hand eased into the desk drawer. It came out with a hand-held neuro-stimulator that he had illegally modified. Like the miniaturized version he'd implanted in Maria's brain, this device delivered an electric shock when pressed to the back of the neck along the spine. With Melo's illicit modifications, the shock was of sufficient strength to overload the neural net of a person and kill instantly. He brought the device up and aimed it for the back of Sailor Pallas's neck. If she wouldn't join him, he wouldn't allow her to oppose him.

At the last moment, though, Pallas turned and faced him. He sensed with the rudimentary telepathy that he possessed that she'd sensed his thoughts. A moment of adrenalin surged through him and Melo lunged with the weapon.

"Beautiful Incantation!" Pallas shouted.

Before the device could connect, it crumpled under the assault of her telekinesis. The electrical storage element inside ruptured and the full charge coursed through Melo's hand and up into his body. Melo shook helplessly, a twisted scream wrenched from his mouth, his reaction of agony looking much the way Maria had reacted. When the charge spent itself, Melo crumpled to the floor, staring lifelessly up at Pallas. His expression was one of intense surprise.

"Pallas is sorry," the senshi whimpered softly, "Daddy."

Turning from her dead father, Pallas walked over to the lifeless body of Maria. She knelt down next to the body and touched it. Maria was cold to the touch.

"Maria?" Pallas whimpered, tears streaming down her cheeks again. Maria didn't respond physically or mentally and quickly Pallas realized the awful truth. "Pallas is sorry she couldn't save you. She really wishes she could have known you longer."

After a time - - Pallas didn't know how long - - she heard footsteps behind her. The senshi turned and found Vesta and Ceres staring at her from the doorway.

"You OK?" Vesta asked. Though Vesta tried to conceal it, a deep, frightened panic bubbled just beneath the senshi's surface.

Wordlessly, Pallas ran across the room and leaped into Vesta's protective arms. She cried bitterly while Vesta held her and Ceres looked over the useless waste of lives littering the room.

A message came up to the Asteroids' hotel room. Coming down, Ves-Ves scanned the desk and the lobby for the person who sent the message. When she saw Sancha, her dour spirits lifted slightly.

"Hey, Ves," Sancha said, a hopeful mood hiding the anxiety beneath. "Is everything OK with your sisters? I heard some of what happened from the guys Martin knew."

"Palla-Palla's still alive," Ves shrugged, trying as she always did to mute her own anxiety under a cover of indifference. "Didn't exactly go down the way I hoped it would, but at least that dog of a father of hers is dead."

"So he is dead?" Sancha prodded. Ves nodded a response. "A lot of people are going to be happy to hear that. That guy wasn't right. How's your sister taking it?"

"A lot better than I thought she would," Ves admitted. "That's the way she is. The way she's always been. Something bad happens and she bawls like a little baby at first, but as time goes by, she just files it away and acts like normal - - well, normal for her. I don't know if she's too stupid to understand that something really bad has happened," and Ves thought for a moment, a small smile creeping onto her face, "or she's got this - - inner peace that lets her cope with stuff. If she does, I wish she'd teach it to me."

Sancha replied with a smile of recognition. "So - - what's with this sailor suit stuff?" Ves looked at her with guilt, but said nothing. "Those guys said she turned into a sailor girl? And crushed their heaters with her mind?"

"It's a long story, Sancha," Ves replied. "Part of it's what her father did to her. Part of it has to do with that job I told you we have in Japan."

"Oh. And I just thought you were some super-kung fu ninja now." An awkward silence followed. "So, I guess you're all going to be headed back to Japan now, huh?"

"Once we make arrangements for Maria's funeral, yeah," Ves replied. Another awkward silence occurred. Ves suddenly had an epiphany. The mean streets of Sao Paolo no longer held her in their iron grip. She had managed to escape. But Sancha . . .

"Well, take care," Sancha said reluctantly.

"Sancha," Ves said suddenly. "Do you want to come with us?"

"To Japan?"

"I can get you a job in the palace. It's nice there."

"What about Martin? Ves, I think I love him."

"I'll get him a job, too! Come on!"

Sancha looked at her for a moment. Ves could see the pride the girl had in their friendship. It made Ves feel like she'd actually done something important during her time surviving in this urban jungle.

"I appreciate the offer, Vanessa," Sancha said. "But what would I do there? Clean floors? I'm not exactly a college graduate and I don't fight so good. That's your thing. Besides, I can't speak Japanese."

"I'll get you a universal translator unit," Ves argued.

"It's not home. Vanessa, home was never that important to you. But it's important to me. I'm starting something here. I'm finally rid of my father. I'm living with a wonderful man. Maybe we're not as well off as we could be, but we're trying. I want to try here. I want to have half a dozen babies with him and teach them about their heritage and give them something I never had."

"You can do all that in Crystal Tokyo!" Ves protested.

"I can do it better here," Sancha smiled. "You go back to Crystal Tokyo and be great. I want to stay here in Sao Paulo and make my tiny little corner just a little more beautiful."

Ves scowled and Sancha knew from experience that her friend was frustrated. Some things about Vanessa would never change. When her shoulders sagged, Sancha knew that she had surrendered.

"Well, I think you're crazy," huffed Ves. "But if it's what you want." The redhead reached over to the check-in desk and grabbed a portable computer input pad. She scribbled something on it with a stylus, then printed out a memory crystal. "Here," Ves said, handing the crystal to Sancha. "This is how to reach me in Crystal Tokyo. If you need anything - - and I mean ANYTHING - - you contact me, understand?"

"Yes, Vanessa," Sancha smiled.

"And I want to see holographs of your half dozen kids," Ves grinned. "Although, as ugly as you are, you better pray they take after their father."

"You've got no room to talk, muscle girl," Sancha shot back affectionately. "Good-bye, Vanessa."

Ves watched her walk out of the hotel lobby. To her credit, she didn't break anything after Sancha was gone.

Upstairs in the hotel, Rei was making final arrangements for the funeral and touching base with the palace back in Crystal Tokyo. That gave Usa the time she needed. Silently she ventured into the bedroom and found exactly what she thought she'd find. Hotaru lay on the bed, brooding.

"It's not your fault," Usa told her. Hotaru looked up at her.

"What's not my fault?" Hotaru asked.

"The panic attack. Losing control of your powers like that. Given everything that's happened to you over the years . . ."

"I shouldn't have done it," Hotaru interrupted. "I should have more control - - more courage."

"Nobody blames you. We're all scared of something."

"But I let my fear rule me! Right when everybody needed me the most, I turned into a scared little girl." She turned and faced Usa. "I'm supposed to be a senshi. I'm supposed to guard you. How can I do that if I become a worse threat than whatever I'm supposed to be guarding you from?"

"I haven't asked you to quit, have I?" Usa offered.

"Maybe you should."

"No way. I've seen you face down things scary enough to make me hide under the covers. You don't know how much of a help you are to me, Hotaru, because you never believe just how much you matter to the world."

"But how much of a help can I be if you can't depend on me? I folded under pressure once. How do we know I won't do it again?"

"Well I don't think you will," Usa said with that fervent conviction that always gave Hotaru a chill. "But if you don't think you can deal with this alone, maybe you should talk it over with someone. Aunt Ami is real good with psychology and stuff. And Aunt Rei is a priest and knows a lot of stuff that Aunt Ami doesn't know. And Aunt Makoto may not have a lot to diplomas, but she's really smart about stuff that counts. And Aunt Minako," and Usa stopped. The girl thought for a moment. "Well, she can teach you how to get guys."

Hotaru giggled in spite of herself, and a conspiratory grin sprouted on the face of the Princess. Hotaru looked over and gave her friend a grateful look. Usa extended her hand. Hotaru took it and pulled herself up off the bed.

"Maybe I will talk to Mizuno-sensei," Hotaru murmured. Then she glanced over at her friend again, her gratitude deeper and quite unconcealed. "Thanks for pulling me back, Usa - - again. I'm so much trouble to you."

Usa nudged her with her hip. "It'd be even more trouble without you."

The Princess and her senshi had been back in Crystal Tokyo one month. In that month, Hotaru had gone to Ami and they'd begun psychoanalysis sessions to help Hotaru try to come to terms with her deep-seeded fear of being confined in darkness. Usa badgered Ami every day for progress reports on how Hotaru was doing. Ami wouldn't tell her anything, citing doctor-patient confidentiality, but she didn't discourage the girl either. After all, worrying about Hotaru kept the Princess from pining for Helios. She still did it, according to her mother - - just not as much.

Ves-Ves spent her time keeping close watch over Palla-Palla. Palla-Palla, for her part, appreciated the attention and even got Ves to play dolls with her once. Though Ves was too taken in by surface details, Jun and Cere could see that Palla-Palla still hurt from her mother's rejection and her father's less-than-sterling character. She tended to cling to Ves just a little more at times, though at other times she could be her normal cheerful self. Those times were usually after one of Palla-Palla's visits with Queen Serenity. Palla-Palla seemed to visit the Queen a little more often now, seeing Serenity almost as a surrogate mother figure. The Queen didn't discourage the relationship, but Palla-Palla's sisters still worried. Jun even went so far as to ask Makoto's advice about what to do. Though Makoto's advice to let time heal the wound didn't satisfy her, Jun figured that the elder senshi knew from experience what she was talking about and followed her direction.

When Cere wasn't occupied with some vain or frivolous pursuit, she could be found in her room. Her room, at her insistence, had a window that overlooked the palace grounds. At just the right angle, one could see part of the Queen's garden. Whenever Jun or Ves entered, they might find Cere sitting at the window, gazing outside on the barren trees of fall, fiddling with a memory crystal. When asked about it, Cere would usually be evasive, saying only that it was personal. What they didn't know was that Cere would play the crystal, always alone and always at the window. When engaged, the crystal would display a holographic picture of Gallan. He had recorded the crystal when they were in Brasilia. Queen Serenity herself had given the crystal to Cere when they returned. She still recalled the surprise she felt when she engaged the crystal and Gallan's image appeared.

"My dear Cere," his recorded voice said that first time she played it. "Please forgive me for any anxiety I may have given you when last we met. Your news was difficult for me to handle, but it was no excuse for the brusk manner in which I spoke with you. I am sorry we can never be more than friends, but it is your wish - - and I care too much for you to not honor your wish. With the aid of good Queen Serenity, I have managed to come to terms with this difficult turn of events.

"I, too, hope that someday we may be friends again. One day, I vow, I will look upon you and not feel the pain I now feel. The failing is entirely my own. I must be strong. Please, my dear Cere, until that day comes, do not seek me out. I will come to you, and I will come to you a better entity for it.

"I wish you good life and good health. I wish all your dreams fulfilled. You are a shining goddess upon the Earth, Cere. Please do not let this mishap diminish you.

"I make only one request of you. Should you find another who is able to capture and keep your heart where I could not, I ask you not to bring him to the palace. It would be a blow from which I do not think I could recover. Forgive me my weakness, my dear Cere. I am trying."

Today was the first day since she'd received the crystal that Cere hadn't played the message. Maybe by spring they could be friends again. Cere certainly hoped so.

It was at that one month mark when Jun looked up from her computer station and noticed Palla-Palla. Palla-Palla also had a computer work station, though it had simpler, voice-activated controls and programming geared to the intelligence level and interests of a five-year-old. What attracted her attention was Palla-Palla's silence. Her sister usually kept quiet like this when she was working on some arts and crafts project, but Jun couldn't recall any such assignment from any of their teachers.

"What are you doing, Palla-Palla?" Jun asked as she peered over the teen's shoulder.

"Palla-Palla is making a 'Get Well Soon' card for her Mommy," the girl answered.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Jun asked, kneeling down next to her. "You do remember that your mom doesn't want anything to do with you, don't you?"

"Palla-Palla knows," she replied somberly.

"I know it hurts," Jun explained. "I just don't want you to get your hopes up and then get crushed again."

"Palla-Palla knows how her mommy feels," she said softly. Then her resolution seemed to grow. "But Palla-Palla wants to do this. Because she really does want her mommy to get all better. And because maybe if her mommy knows that somebody in the world loves her, her mommy will be strong and not get sick again." She glanced at Jun and smiled innocently. "And because when Palla-Palla asked Queen Serenity about it, Queen Serenity said that it'd be a really nice thing to do - - and Palla-Palla wants to be nice to people like Queen Serenity is."

Jun began to feel a glow building inside of her heart. "Well, in that case, I think it's a good idea, too."

Palla-Palla grinned a response.

"That's a nice design," Jun told her. "I think she'll like that."

"Then Palla-Palla will cyber-mail it to her," she nodded. Then the teen clouded over. "Only Palla-Palla can't remember how to do that. Would you help Palla-Palla do that, Jun-Jun? She remembers her mommy's cyber-mail reception coordinates. They're 22.68109.43455.461."

Jun gave her a wide-eyed look for just a second. Then she eased into a warm smile.

"I think I can do that," Jun said. "But before we do, why don't you add an 'xoxo' to your signature."

"What does that mean?" Palla-Palla wondered out loud.

"That's an old style abbreviation for 'hugs and kisses'."

Palla-Palla beamed. "That's just what Palla-Palla wanted to say!"