Chapter 12: "Atonement"

A neo-Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

In her room, Princess Usagi lay sleeping on her bed. Diana was sleeping on the dresser. She normally slept at the foot of Usa's bed, but tossing and turning by the Princess had already woken her twice this evening, necessitating a move. Something disturbed the sleep of the Princess this night.

Unseen by either of them, a figure entered the room, bi-passing the security lock and the environmental computer controls. The darkened figure entered the bedroom, looked around to gain a mental picture of the room, then headed straight for the sleeping Princess. A hand reached down and grasped her shoulder just below the strap of her baby-doll nightgown.

"Hmm?" Usa murmured as she was jolted to consciousness. It was a moment before she could make sense of the data flooding into her brain. "Who is - - Helios? What are you doing in my room?"

"Forgive me for disturbing you, Maiden," Helios said, sitting on the side of the bed next to her. By now Diana was awake. "I had to see you."

"My Lady, I hardly think this is appropriate," Diana warned.

"It concerns your friend, Jun-Jun," Helios continued. "I sensed the dream she most recently had. It was not a pleasant one. I sense she has not returned to sleep. The dream has undoubtedly disturbed her quite deeply."

"Wow," Usa scowled. "Poor Jun. She feels so guilty over what happened."

"That is not all, Maiden," Helios continued. "I am sensing - - something not of this world - - is near. It is here, in the palace. I am not certain, but I strongly believe that this presence has come for your friend."

"Really?" Usa gasped. She piled out of bed and grabbed her robe. "We've got to find Jun! Computer: location of Jun-Jun!"

"Jun-Jun is currently in the level three cafeteria," the computer responded. Usa and Helios ran out the door, with Diana springing down and out the door on their heels.

When they arrived at the cafeteria, they found Jun face to face with one of the gate guards. He was staring at her with a malicious, pleased glare as Jun shrank back from him.

"I intend to possess you, as I did before," the guard boasted. "And then I will wreck havoc in your name. I'll kill and maim and destroy, just as you four did so long ago. And then when they come to put you down like a rabid dog," and a chilling smile grew on the yurei's face, "I'll let them. Oh, do transform into your other self. It will save me the trouble of doing it for you. That form can bring so much more destruction about than this one can."

"JUNO STAR POWER MAKE UP!" Jun shouted anxiously, knowing the only defense she might hope to have against the yurei was in her senshi form.

Watching from the door, Usa and Helios saw a spirit form rise from the guard as Jun transformed. The spirit lunged at the newly transformed Sailor Juno, entering her body while the guard sank limply to the floor. Juno folded into herself for a few moments, then stood up. The malicious grin had transferred to her.

"STOP!" shrieked Usa as she bolted from the doorway into the cafeteria. "You can't do this! Think of how many other people you'll be hurting!"

"My Lady!" screeched Diana.

"Diana," Helios told her. "Summon the other senshi! I will guard our Princess!" Diana nodded and scurried off.

"What do I care?" Juno said. It was her voice, but not her words. "I'm only interested in dream mirrors, don't you know? I can't be bothered with petty concerns like LIVES!"

"Hurting other people isn't going to bring your son back!" Usa pleaded. Juno's response was a backhand across Usa's face that spun the Princess to the floor.

"Stand down, Spirit!" demanded Helios. "Do not force my hand!"

"Aqua Initiation!" Juno snarled.

Water rose up out of the taps, the food wells and the dish cleaning units. Forming a high pressure gusher, it slammed into Helios with the force of a water cannon. Helios was pushed hard into the wall. He sunk to the floor and lay stunned.

"Stop it!" Usa screamed. She was back on her feet and lunged at Juno, pinning the senshi's arms to her sides. "Let her go! You can't do this!"

"I must have my vengeance!" bellowed Juno. "I must show the world this animal's true colors!"

"What good is it?" argued Usa. "What will vengeance accomplish? It won't bring your son back!"

"It will keep her from killing again!"

"She won't kill again! She's changed!"

"My son cries out! My son demands justice!"

And with a titanic show of strength, Juno wrenched free and shoved Usa away. The Princess stumbled back against a table.

"Vengeance will be mine! I have waited a thousand years for this!" Juno roared.

"Don't you see?" Usa pleaded. "That's what's kept you here! That's what kept you bound to that site for a thousand years! All your hatred has done is bind you to Earth. It's kept you from passing on - - from being reunited with the son you love so much! Let it go! Please! Let your hatred and thirst for vengeance go! Be with your son! Forgive them and go to your rest!"

"Forgive? Them? NEVER!" snarled Juno.

She lunged and caught Usa by the throat with her hands. Hunched shoulders bent the Princess back until she lay across the table behind her. Usa tried to pry the hands off of her, but they were too strong. Air was quickly becoming hard to get. Usa looked up - - and saw the horror on Juno's face. Though the yurei still controlled her hands, Juno was back in control of her face. The yurei was allowing her to experience strangling Princess Usagi to death.

"Not your . . . fault," Usa said to Juno. "Please . . . Ishikawa-San. Let her go."

Juno's hands tightened on Usa's throat. Blackness was inching into her vision.

"I . . . forgive you . . . Ishikawa-San," Usa croaked out. ". . .forgive . . . you. . ."

Just then, Helios desperately slammed into Sailor Juno. The body block broke the grip around Usa's throat. The Princess sank to the floor while Juno and Helios landed in a heap nearby. Helios turned to her.

"Maiden," he gasped desperately. "Your crystal! It has opened to me!"

Usa coughed for air and swallowed, for she could feel a new energy flood through her body. It was vaguely reminiscent of her thought connection with Helios earlier. And with the tide of energy came a phrase that suddenly popped in her head.

"Moon Cosmic Power Make Up!" Usa croaked out.

The transformation took hold instantly. Usa felt a new rush of energy surge through her, a surge that seemed twenty times more powerful than her previous transformations. When the transformation was done, Sailor Moon was standing where Usa had been sitting. Her fuku was different. Her waist belt was yellow rather than white, with a red heart-shaped buckle. Her skirt was white instead of pink and had double trim at the bottom, a pink band at the hem and a yellow band above it. Sheer epaulets appeared at the top of her shoulders, fanning out from the blouse, and winged barrettes decorated her pink hair. The bow in back was larger and more pronounced.

And a pair of white wings was mounted on the back of her fuku. More importantly, she held the Moon Kaleidoscope in her hand. Sailor Moon stared at it in momentary confusion. Then she noticed Sailor Juno pulling herself off the floor.

"You won't keep me from my vengeance!" Juno snarled angrily. "I've waited a thousand years! You won't KEEP ME FROM MY VENGEANCE!"

In confusion, Sailor Moon glanced at Helios. They locked eyes. Helios, who was still on the floor, shimmered for a moment, then coalesced into a burst of energy that leaped to the rod portion of the Moon Kaleidoscope. The Kaleidoscope glowed with energy. Acting on instinct, Sailor Moon pointed the Moon Kaleidoscope at Sailor Juno.

Again acting on instinct, Sailor Moon said, "Moon Gorgeous Meditation!"

Juno was bathed in a swirling rainbow of colored light. Initially she tried to resist, but soon her body was twirling limply in the grasp of the swirling light. Her head lolled back helplessly and looked up to the heavens. Juno's eyes closed and her lips parted.

"Beautiful," she sighed.

And swirling above her was the spirit of Junichi Ishikawa. It rose up out of Juno's form and was held aloft above her by the rainbow energy. The yurei's expression was one of bliss tinged with just a hint of remorse.

"Forgive me, my son," the yurei murmured. "Forgive me for waiting so long to join you. I was a fool. I forgive them now. Forgive me . . ."

And with that, the spirit dissipated forever from this Earth.

Moments later, Diana came running into the cafeteria, followed closely by Sailor Saturn, Sailor Vesta, Sailor Ceres and Sailor Pallas. Not far behind was King Endymion. They found Sailor Juno laying on the floor, unconscious. They found Sailor Moon sitting nearby, in a different fuku. Her arms were folded over her knees and her forehead rested on her arms. In one hand was the Moon Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope began to shimmer, then disappeared into a cloud of energy. It lingered for a moment near Sailor Moon, then coalesced into Helios. Endymion quickly went to Sailor Moon, while Saturn checked on Helios and the Asteroids knelt by Juno.

"Usa honey," Endymion said, cradling his daughter against him. Sailor Moon's head lolled back. She was barely conscious. Then a huge smile grew on her face.

"That," she said breathlessly, "was a rush!" She took a few moments to bask in the glow, then her eyes snapped opened. "Helios!" Sailor Moon looked over to the Prince of Dreams. She saw Saturn supporting him. "Helios, are you all right?" Reaching over, she touched his hand.

Helios looked over to her and smiled. "Well done, Maiden," he said and clasped her hand with his. No one was sure if they'd ever seen Sailor Moon look happier.

"You are making a huge mistake," Rei replied. Her glare was one of frustration and cynicism. It was a familiar look.

"Wouldn't be the first time," Makoto only smiled. She leaned against the wall outside of the palace shrine. A small bag dangled from one hand. "Rei, you've tried your way, with both Jun and Ves, and it hasn't worked, has it?"

"Look, I admit Jun is too consumed with guilt to listen to me," Rei fired back. "Maybe she will listen to you. But Ves is a lost cause. The sooner she's stripped of her powers and out of here, the better everyone will be."

"I disagree," Makoto replied with maddening calm.

Rei paused for a second, reading her friend. "She is not - - like - - you."

"You haven't known me all my life," Makoto told her. "Just nine-tenths of it. Give me a shot at her. We've got nothing to lose."

"Famous last words," Rei muttered. "Well, if we go to Serenity, I already know what she'll say, so go ahead and try. I'll back off." Rei turned to go into the shrine, but stopped and looked back. "But remember that I told you so."

"Makoto Kino desires entry," the environmental computer announced. Dutifully Palla-Palla got up and waved her hand across the sensor. It didn't occur to her that she could just tell the computer to open the door.

"Hi, Sweetie," Makoto grinned. "Is it OK to come in? I just wanted to talk to Ves and Jun."

"Yes, Miss Makoto-Ma'am, please come in," Palla-Palla replied with memorized politeness. Then her attention wavered. "Are those cookies?"

"Um hmm," smirked Makoto. "I brought them for Jun, but I think I can spare one for you."

"Yes, please!" Palla-Palla's face lit up. Makoto handed her the cookie as Ves wandered in.

"Hey, Kino-Sensei," Ves nodded. "You here to talk to Jun? She's still pretty messed up. Think you can help her?"

"I can sure try," Makoto offered. "But I'd like to talk to you, too."

"Better make it quick," Ves darkened. "Hino-Sensei will probably be here any minute to boot me out of here."

"I got her to back off," Makoto assured her. Ves seemed visibly relieved. "But now you have to do me a favor."

"Control myself, I know," Ves scowled. "Kino-Sensei, I try! I do! It's just - - I'm not someone who can sit around and just let bad things happen to people close to me! I'm not a thinker. I'm a doer."

Makoto put her arm around Ves and led the girl into her room. "I know the feeling, Ves. I've been to the place you're headed for. You think you can fight the world if you just strike quick enough and hit hard enough. But you can't."

She sat Ves down on her bed and sat next to her.

"Ves, not everyone is out to get you. But you can't see that if you just think with your fists and your feet all the time. All you end up doing is driving off the people who want to help you and you don't do anything to the people who really are out to get you. I had to learn that the hard way. And I almost screwed up my whole life in the process. If it hadn't been for two people who just wouldn't give up on me, I probably would have."

"Who were they?" Ves asked.

"Well, the Queen was one," Makoto reminisced. "And Shinozaki was the other. He just wouldn't let me destroy myself."

"Were you and him," Ves prodded, "a thing?"

"A thing?" Makoto asked, perplexed. Ves conveyed her meaning silently. "Oh! Shinozaki? No!" Makoto chuckled. "Me and Shinozaki were friends. We were buds. We were running mates, you know?"

"Yeah, I think I do," Ves nodded sentimentally.

"He grabbed me by the hand and he refused to let me fall into the abyss," Makoto continued. "An abyss, I might add, of my own making. Life may have led me to the edge, but I was the one pushing myself off. And he wouldn't let me fall."

She turned to Ves and looked her straight in the eye.

"And I'm not going to let you fall, either," Makoto told her. "I'm going to make you succeed. You're not going to like everything I tell you. You may curse me and you may take a poke at me. But the only way you're going to escape me is if you quit and leave - - and then we both lose. Just always keep in mind that everything I'm doing is designed to help you." Then she smirked playfully. "And keep in mind that I'm bigger than you are."

A small smile crept across Ves's face. "You know, if anybody else said that to me, I'd clock them." Her demeanor sobered. "Kino-Sensei - - sometimes I see that abyss you're talking about. And I can feel the ground crumbling under my feet." She sighed with frustration. "If you can help me, I will kiss the ground you walk on. But I can't help wondering if you're already too late."

Makoto draped her arm around Ves. "Won't know until we try."

Getting up, Makoto headed out of the room. Crossing over to Jun's room, she peered in and found nothing.

"Palla-Palla?" Makoto asked. "Jun's gone."

"Yes, Miss Makoto-Ma'am," Palla-Palla nodded. "Palla-Palla saw her leave while you were talking to Ves-Ves."

"Do you know where she went?" Makoto asked anxiously.

"And then I felt him connect with me," Usa explained to her parents, babbling excitedly, "just like before! And suddenly I knew I could transform! And I summoned the Moon Kaleidoscope and Helios powered it!"

"See, Honey, I knew it would come to you," Serenity beamed. "You just had to prove to your crystal that you were worthy of it. And when you forgave that poor man in spite of everything he did, that was all the proof the crystal needed." Helios nodded proudly in the background. "Although I wish there could have been a less dangerous way. Does your throat still hurt?"

"A little," Usa shrugged. "I'll be OK."

"A spoonful of honey might help your throat," Endymion suggested.

"And even if it doesn't, who cares," Serenity grinned.

"You're such a bad influence on her, Your Majesty," Luna clucked.

"Helios," Endymion said, rising and grasping the Dream Guardian's hand firmly, "once again we are indebted to you for helping us and guarding the Princess. Our gratitude to you will be undying."

"I was happy to be of assistance, Your Majesty," Helios smiled demurely. "There is little else as important to me as the safety of the Princess." Usa grew a smile a mile wide and her red eyes twinkled.

"Endymion," Serenity began, "now that Usa and Helios are linked by the Sailor Moon transformation, wouldn't it be better to invite Helios to live in the palace?" Luna noticed the deviousness of Serenity's words and her eyes narrowed.

Usa nearly jumped with glee at the mention of the idea. Endymion was less than thrilled and Helios immediately picked up on the awkwardness of the situation.

"I mean, if Usa needs Helios to transform into Sailor Moon, and she needs him to charge the Moon Kaleidoscope like I used to, wouldn't it make sense to have him close by?" Serenity persisted. She tried to affect an innocent look and failed miserably.

"Yeah, Pop, it makes perfect sense!" Usa chimed in.

"For how long?" Endymion inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, as long as she's at this level, I guess," Serenity shrugged. "Until she evolves into Eternal Sailor Moon, wouldn't you think? It shouldn't be TOO long," Serenity added with the deviousness of a five year old. "After all, she's already skipped one level."

"And what about Elysian?" Endymion asked. "Are they going to be able to manage without him?"

"Actually, Ravonna and my mother can substitute for me if it becomes necessary," Helios interjected. He received an unexpected wink from Usa for merely being honest.

"There, it's settled," Serenity nodded.

"No, it is NOT settled," Endymion argued.

"BUT POP . . .!" Usa gasped dramatically.

"Now, now, Usa," Serenity intervened. "I've learned to trust your father's judgment, and if he doesn't think it's a workable plan, we'll have to find another way."

Usa glared impatiently at her mother.

"I suppose," Serenity began sweetly, "we'll just have to travel to the fortieth century and bring back your daughter so she can summon Helios. You do still have the Twinkle Bell, don't you Helios?"

"I . . ." Helios began, then stopped, unsure how to proceed.

"Hold it," Endymion scowled. "We're not - - disrupting - - the time stream."

"Then," Serenity stared at him, stricken and horrified, "you don't want Usa to be Sailor Moon anymore?"

"I never said that!" gasped Endymion.

"Then it's settled. Helios will stay," Serenity proclaimed.

"But . . .!"

"OH THANK YOU, POP!" Usa squealed, bounding up and hugging him while she looked up at him with wide, energetic eyes.

"Thank you, Endymion. You've made a wise choice," Serenity smiled and hugged him as well, looking up at him with loving blue eyes.

"I . . ." Endymion began. Then he grimaced. "I REALLY hate it when you two double-team me like this. Helios," he said, turning to the slightly bemused Dream Guardian, "welcome to our home. I hope you won't come to regret staying here."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Helios said, bowing to him. "I pledge to you that I will be on my best behavior here."

"It not you I'm worried about," Endymion replied, glancing down at Usa and Serenity.

Jun sat outside of Dr. Mizuno's office, waiting patiently and hoping that no one was staring at her or whispering about her. In fact, the urge to disappear completely was strong within her.

The memory of what she had done to the younger Ishikawa ten centuries prior was there. That bothered her. But it wasn't a strong memory. She could place his face and the events in her mind, but he tended to blend in with all the other people she'd brought terror and pain to during her career. That bothered her even more.

The guilt over that phase of her life always had lingered just below the surface, to be dwelled upon only when forced - - or alone. The others coped in their own way. Cere had talked herself into believing that Queen Neherenia and Zirconia had cast a spell over them and they weren't really responsible. Ves, as was her way, refused to take any responsibility for her past and lived only in the present. And Palla-Palla often barely seemed to remember those times. She, on the other hand, buried herself in being responsible and trying to make something of herself. If only it were that easy. Maybe Neherenia and her cursed circus and her black magic balls had held some sort of corrupting sway over them. But they'd joined her in the beginning of their own free will, because it was a way to get what they all wanted.

And it was somewhere they could belong. But was it worth a human life? And was young Ishikawa the only one? Were there other victims that Sailor Moon and the senshi hadn't rescued from their voracious Lemures? Would another ghost from her past rise up when she least expected it, determined to get revenge upon her - - or worse, her sisters or her friends?

The door to Ami's office hissed open and Jun quickly wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked up and found Hotaru in the doorway. The two teens met eyes for a moment. Jun broke the contact and looked down in shame.

"I'll set up another session for next week at this time, Hotaru," Ami was heard saying as she approached the door. "And don't forget that you're scheduled tomorrow night for your regular work-study shift in the infirmary. So tell your young man that you won't be available."

"Yes, Mizuno-Sensei," Hotaru replied, flushing slightly. Ami popped out of the door just in time to see Hotaru bend down and touch Jun's hand. When Jun looked up, Hotaru smiled and said, "Please call me if you need to talk to someone about things." And Hotaru headed out.

"Jun?" Ami inquired. "Can I be of assistance?"

"Um, I'm sorry for taking up your time, Mizuno-Sensei," Jun began. "I just needed to ask you something . . ."

"Certainly. Come right in, please," Ami said, even though it was assumed on her part that Makoto was probably waiting with dinner. "Is this concerning what happened recently?"

"Yes," Jun choked out, looking down. "I'm beginning to wonder if, well, maybe I should," and she took a steadying breath, "well, quit the team."

"Why?" Ami asked.

"You know what I did," Jun grimaced. "I don't deserved this: this power, this uniform, this whole life! How can I stand for love and justice knowing what I did?"

"Jun," Ami began with measured tones, "I understand the guilt you feel and I understand the compulsion you feel to do penance. It's very noble of you and it's a barometer of your current moral compass. However, even the desire to atone can become a detrimental attitude if used incorrectly." Ami walked over to her desk and brought up the virtual computer screen showing her calendar. "If you'd like, I can set up some time so we can discuss your feelings of guilt and remorse. Perhaps, together, we can find a way of allowing you to accept your past actions and focus your desire to atone in more constructive ways."

Jun stared silently at the floor.

"Or, if you don't feel comfortable talking about it with me, I'm certain that Rei or Makoto, Minako or even the King and Queen would be willing to listen and work with you. Or I can refer you to any of two dozen highly qualified professional counselors. But frankly, I think the last thing you should do is quit the senshi and leave the palace."

Jun continued to stare at the floor. "Why?" she said finally. "Why would all of you do that? Why would you do that for me?"

Ami walked over and put her hand on the teen's shoulder. "Because you've more than earned it," she smiled. "You may not agree at this moment, but you've more than earned another chance."

Jun considered this. The silence dragged on. Finally she nodded.

"OK, Mizuno-Sensei," she whispered. "I'll do whatever you suggest. I only hope I don't end up letting you down."