-Neptune: Year One-
Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon or any of its characters, they are all owned by Naoko Takeushi, Toei and Kodansha.
She woke up to find the sun streaming into her apartment's bedroom. She let out a groan as she turned away from the light and pulled the covers back over her head. A soft pounce, followed by light movement behind her, told her she was no longer alone. "G'morning Artemis," she greeted grudgingly, knowing already what was coming.
"Minako-chan, we need to have a serious discussion."
"Artemis," she replied as she reluctantly turned and peered out from within warm protection of her blankets, "Can you keep the lecture short this time so I can get back to sleep soon?"
Artemis huffed indignantly. "Minako, do you remember how long ago we came to England?"
Minako let out a yawn. "Around the end of last October."
"And what day is it today?"
Minako blinked. "Today?"
"It's the second of April," Artemis admonished. "We've been here for nearly six months, Minako-chan. And as far as I can tell, the last member of the Dark Agency here was defeated close to two months ago. So why are we still here in London?"
Minako frowned; it was a rhetorical question, and they both knew it. "You know why, Artemis."
Artemis sighed. "Minako-chan, Katarina-san is an officer in Interpol. She is not some helpless heroine who needs a Senshi for a bodyguard. She can take care of herself. And as for Allan…"
"Don't go there, Artemis."
"Look, you're thirteen. I can understand puppy love..."
"This isn't puppy-love."
"Have the two of you even kissed yet?"
"Minako-chan, he's twenty-two."
"So? According to you, I'm some sort of eternal warrior or something, which would make me thousands of years older than him, right?"
Artemis brought his paw up to his forehead in frustration, "It doesn't work that way."
"And anyways, if we were sixty-three and seventy-two, no one would think twice about it. And don't forget, the age of consent in Japan is thirteen.
"Minako-chan, we're in England!" Artemis exclaimed exasperatedly. Letting out a sigh, he came closer, his voice softer as he tried to reason with her. "Minako-chan, you have a mission. You have to stop the Dark Agency and find their leader. Your friendship with Katrina and your infatuation with Allen have sidetracked you. Maybe it's because so far things have gone relatively easy for you. It's all been a grand adventure thus far, and because of that you've felt secure enough to settle down and make friends. But we're needed elsewhere, Minako-chan. It's time to leave..."
Minako narrowed her eyes, her lips pressed into a thin line. Artemis had no right to talk down to her like she was a baby. She was about to tell him so, when the buzzer to her door rang. Artemis leapt off the bed as Minako got up in her orange pajamas and put on a light cream-colored bathrobe. She looked out the peephole of the door, and in an instant her sour mood vanished. "Katarina!" she exclaimed happily as she opened the door and let her friend in.
"Minako, I'm sorry to wake you like this, but…" she looked around quickly, "Are you alone?"
Minako nodded. "Hai… er, I mean yes," she said, correcting herself as the British agent came in and shut the door. "What's wrong?"
"We got a tip," she said, sitting down as Artemis silently crept up to the officer's leg. "A rather militant faction within the IRA has been using a warehouse out by the wharfs to transport contraband into our country. I've been assigned to investigate."
"I see," Minako said seriously, "Then they don't know you're aware of their activity yet?"
"Well," Katrina said hesitantly, "That's the problem. Our source is a less than reliable Irish Republican Army radical currently behind bars. We've offered a lighter sentence to him in exchange for information. It could be legit, but it could also be a trap. Minako," she said, fixing the thirteen-year-old with her gaze, "Do you think you could help me tonight as Sailor V?"
"MEOW?" Artemis practically shrieked in shock. Minako never told the cat that she'd revealed her secret identity to the officer. The Senshi shot Artemis a quick glance before turning her attention back to Katrina.
"Of course I can," she said confidently, flashing a 'V for Victory' sign and a wink as she continued, "After all, you know what they say, 'better safe than to keep the doctor away."
Katrina tilted her head a bit. "Uh, yes, quite. Now then, here's the specifics…"
Minako Aino made sure there was nobody around her on the roof of the apartment building as she raised her transformation pen above herself. "Moon Power, Transform!" In a flash of brilliant white light, the blonde transformed into Sailor V. A second later, she leaped from the roof out into the darkness of the London night.
A short distance away, Katrina kept to the shadows. Her Interpol uniform hugging her curves as she crept to a safe spot across the street from the warehouse. A thud behind her startled her, her heart nearly leaping out of her chest as she turned to find Sailor V crouched down behind her. "So," Katrina whispered, breathing a sigh of relief as the Senshi came closer, "How would you suggest we proceed?"
"Let me go in first," Sailor V answered back in a low voice, "To make sure the coast is clear. Once I know it's safe, I can signal for you to follow."
Katrina shook her head. "No way."
"These aren't mindless monsters we're talking about, Minako. They're armed terrorists."
"Which is why, with my powers and heightened reflexes, you need to send me in there first. I'll have a better chance of getting out of harm's way should anything go wrong than you would. Katrina," she sad as she put her hand on the officer's shoulder, "I know you think of me as a kid sister. Heck, truth be told, you're like the older sister I never had. But I'm asking you to set that aside for now. You know I'm right about this."
Katarina stared silently at Sailor V for several tense seconds as she seemed to weigh her options. "Very well," she said at last, "You go in first."
They both rushed across the street to the warehouse. Katrina scanned the area around them quickly before she picked the lock on the door. She then turned to her friend and reluctantly nodded for her to go in. Sailor V cautiously opened the door and stepped inside.
Almost immediately the hairs on the back of the Senshi's neck stood on end. There was something very definitely wrong with the scene. The warehouse appeared to be abandoned; there were no arms, no crates of supplies, nothing but a rather noxious odor that was making the young girl suddenly feel light headed. As the sound of her heels striking the floor echoed through the empty warehouse and her eyes slowly became more accustomed to the darkness, she could see a stray bullet or two scattered throughout the floor, the only evidence left of what had once gone on in the building.
The strange smell was getting stronger, and was starting to make her feel nauseous. She was trying to place what it could be, when far in the distance the rear door to the building was opened. She could see a shadowy figure in the doorframe toss something in before turning around and running away as if his life depended on it. The object bounced off the floor with a clang several times before coming to rest not too far from the heroine. In an instant, Sailor V realized two very important things; first, she realized that the object was a hand grenade.
Second, she realized the odor was gasoline.
Outside the building, Katarina likewise heard the clanging sound. "Sailor V?" she called out. "Sailor V, wha…"
Time seemed to slow down as Katarina found herself blown into the air by the force of the explosion, the deafening sound nearly bursting her eardrums. She landed with a thud, knocking the wind out of her and badly scraping her. Struggling up to all fours, she turned and saw the warehouse engulfed in flames.
"Minako!" she screamed as the faraway sound of sirens could be heard, "Minako!"
A short distance away, in the narrow space between a fish cannery and the rental property next to the burning warehouse, Sailor V clutched her left arm close to her in pain. She'd just barely escaped the building before it was engulfed, but in the process she'd injured her arm and was fairly shaken. As she slowly made her way out from between the two buildings, she could see the flashing lights of fire trucks and police cars. She could also see Katarina. The Interpol agent was running up to somebody
"Allan!" Katrina cried out, tears running down her cheeks, "Allan, Minako was… Minako was…"
Allan grabbed her with both hands by her shoulders. Even from a distance, the Senshi could recognize him as her Allan. "What happened to Minako?" he asked
The agent began to cry uncontrollably, pressing her face into his chest. Sailor V was just about to limp out of the shadows to reassure her friends she was still alive, when she saw Allan wrap his arms around Katarina.
"Be strong," he said, "You have me."
The words were like a knife in Minako's heart. The man she loved was in love with her best friend. How long had this been going on? She'd introduced them, they'd had fun together at the amusement park less than a month ago, how could she not have seen this?
Still cradling her arm, she leaned her back against the wall behind her and slid down to the ground as warm bitter tears began to stream down her cheeks.
Artemis continued feverishly typing away with his paws at the computer he'd had Minako install in the apartment. Back in Japan, the Sailor V arcade game continued to generate the revenue necessary for him to help Minako pay for the one bedroom dwelling. Unfortunately, he had yet to be able to make contact with a certain black fellow feline guardian through the game. Could she still be waiting to be revived?
Just then the door opened. The cat allowed a gasp to escape as he saw Minako's condition. "Minako-chan! What happened?"
"Can… Can we head back to Japan tomorrow?" she muttured.
Artemis slowly nodded. "Hai," he said softly, "Tomorrow would be fine."
"Good," she whispered before sinking to her knees and once more giving vent to her heartbreak, her lower lip quivering as she wept. Artemis came over and rubbed up against her, hoping to comfort her.
The next day, as Haruka and Michiru entered the Crown, Minako boarded a plane for Japan carrying Artemis in a pet carrier.
-End Fifth Interlude-
End Notes: "Moon Power, Transform!" was Minako's original transformation phrase in the manga "Codename: Sailor V." Also, according to episode 42 of the anime where she related the events of this chapter, Minako left England "…about six months ago." So by placing the explosion at the beginning of April, episode forty-two would then take place around the beginning of October.
Now before anyone jumps on me about "There's not enough time for Usagi to have become Sailor Moon near the beginning of the school year in September and then have forty-two episodes of the anime take place in less than a month of real time," it should be noted that the school year in Japan doesn't begin in September, but in April. Thus, Minako returns to Japan just in time for the new school year, and plenty of time is allowed for the events of the first forty-two episodes to take place between the beginning of the Japanese school year and October.