Greetings! This story is a tasty little surprise that I have been working on over the last three weeks. The title for this one is exactly what is going to happen, so be prepared!
'Love Hina: Doomsday' is a totally stand-alone story, that is not part of the 'Love Hina: Crime and Punishment', 'Sailor Moon: Devastation' universe. It takes place over several chapters, so it will be longer than your basic one-shot. Rated 'T' for - well, you'll just have to see, won't you?
This first chapter is something of a essential prologue - it sets the scene for the events of the rest of the story. There's a fair bit of imagery in it, which may not appeal to all readers, especially those who like to dive straight in to the action, but bear with me. Chapter Two starts off with a bang!
LOVE HINA: DOOMSDAY
The Location: Pararakelse Island, the Mid-Pacific Ocean, just below the equator.
The Date: The not too distant future.
The day now drawing to its close above the waterless and almost impassable 'Desert of Death' had been long and hot. So scorching had the blazing, midday tropical sun been that nothing had dared to stir beneath its savage radiance. The only sign of movement to be seen anywhere at all across its eye-wateringly glary expanse came from the shimmering heat waves dancing across the endless ranks of barren sand dunes that faded away into the hazy horizon.
The aptly named 'Desert of Death' stretched from the forest fringed southern coast of this particular isolated oceanic landmass, into its spacious, bone-dry interior. This vast and unforgiving desert covered the entire southern third of this huge tropical island, from the coast to the inland mountain range. These craggy peaks soaring high in the interior of the island were the reason for the existence of this arid region in the first place, for they effectively blocked the moisture-laden trade winds from the north and the east, starving the south almost completely of life giving precipitation from the sky.
At this time of the day, not even a soaring hawk could be seen moving in the crystal clear azure sky above the baking landscape below. But if there were any hardy life forms safely hidden beneath the searingly hot top layer of slowly shifting sand, for them, there was one small consolation to be had. At least the moisture and strength-sapping hot breeze that had blown all day like the breath from some immense volcano was now finally beginning to drop in both intensity and temperature as the furnace-like afternoon lengthened into early evening. Overhead, the blazing tropical sun was at long last beginning to shroud itself behind several multi-layered banks of gathering cloud on the far western horizon, the not too distant setting of the glowing orange orb promising a more than welcome relief from the all-pervading desert heat.
But even although one would have to search hard to find it, visible signs of life were indeed to be found, even way out here in this sandy wasteland, which on a typical day resembled nothing so much as an outpost of hell. For in at least one small area of this enormous desert, life wasn't just visible, it grew in profusion.
As the steadily weakening rays from the tropical sunset angled ever more horizontally to wash across the solid waves of sand, the slowly fading solar radiance picked out and bathed in glowing light a solitary mesa of rock that towered up in proud isolation above the surrounding desolate region, painting the massive rocky outcrop in pastel hues of orange and red. At the base of this imposing natural tower, and now mostly covered by the wide blanket of shadow cast by the low angle of the sun, lay a surprisingly large but fairly shallow freshwater lake, fed by a small waterfall near its right hand end. The source of this cascade was in turn a small river tumbling down from the lip of the bush covered cliff face that overhung the mostly calm sheet of water.
Surrounding this life-giving reservoir was a verdant oasis of leafy greenery, which spread out for several hundred meters on all sides of the lake. This unexpectedly luxuriant tropical forest clothed the gentle slopes of the kilometer wide, saucer shaped depression with the lake at its base, before fading out through lack of water and exposure at the edge of the unforgiving desert. However, with the sun now slipping slowly down behind the building banks of cloud, only the very tops of the multitude of coconut palm trees that towered above the dream-like landscape, and the rocky hills that backed it, were now still illuminated. The feathery plumes of these living marker flags were now glowing like orange-red explosions above the steadily darkening landscape, spotlighted in the last rays of the inexorably setting sun.
To any casual observer, this hidden gem lost in the desert would have appeared at first glance like it had remained undiscovered for the entire lifetime of the island itself. However, a closer look at the weathered mesa looming up high above the deepening shadows at lake level would have revealed that this tiny paradise had not been totally untouched by the hand of man. For at the very summit of the craggy, natural tower fronting the lake, the raw stone had been cut away and levelled off to form a circular balcony that ringed the entire circumference of the isolated peak, leaving only a ten meter wide, smooth sided cylinder of rock in its very center. For safety's sake, a solid steel, three-tier safety rail had also been installed along the edge of the observation platform. Into the vertical inner wall of smoothly polished stone, a square doorway had been cut; into which a solid door made of tropical hardwood had been set. Four glass-fronted windows had also been set into the continuous stone wall of this circular room capping the mesa, one paned opening facing each of the four main points of the compass.
Behind the open hardwood door, inside the peak itself, a short, rectangular hallway had been tunnelled through the raw stone. Built into the left-side wall of the hallway was a second door that led into the U-shaped observation room. A few metres beyond that closed entrance, at the end of the passage, a tunnel with stone steps led at a steep angle down towards a larger suite of living quarters that were situated even deeper into this remarkable natural skyscraper.
Amazingly, many of these now modernized rooms had been of ancient origin. The earliest, long dead inhabitants of the oasis had once lived here, too, fashioning the original, largely hidden rooms from the natural system of caves that had once existed in the interior of the monolithic, mostly granite outcropping.
Many years of hard physical labor from the latest residents had gone into repairing, adapting, rebuilding and furnishing the pre-existing complex of ancient rooms. But fortunately, the current occupants whom had situated their living quarters here had in their possession advanced laser technology, amongst other things, which had enormously simplified the normally backbreaking task of tunnelling through, smoothing, and shifting tons of solid rock.
Back outside in the open air, seated on a solid wooden chair at the very edge of this elevated balcony and totally absorbed with watching the spectacular sunset unfolding off to the west, was a man of slightly under average size and height, his face behind his rectangular-rimmed glasses and other visible areas of skin tanned a light brown by years of constant exposure to the bright, tropical sunlight. At first glance, the solitary watcher seemed to be only in his mid-twenties. But in reality, looks were deceptive, especially in his case. The motionless observer was actually far older than he looked. In fact the patiently watching man had often speculated on whether he could possibly even be immortal, as several long dead friends had once claimed, only half jokingly, about him.
Unbelievable though that idea may seem, the seated man actually had good grounds for giving it his serious consideration. For in all the years that he had spent in this hidden oasis, he hadn't seemed to have physically aged much, if at all.
In addition to that puzzling state of affairs, the resting man had his almost superhuman resiliency to harm to consider. And while he was still reasonably sure that he could indeed be killed, previous painful experience had half-convinced him that to do so would require an accident of almost biblical proportions.
But then again, he thought, I've already survived one of those. So, just maybe it really is true...? No, I just heal fast and age slowly, that's all…
The man didn't move from his comfortable position, except for the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in the lukewarm desert air. Nor did he speak. He just sat there, his arms resting on the safely rail, lost in his contemplations and memories as he stared off with haunted eyes into the orange, red and purple blaze burning like hot embers in the western sky.
Despite the youthful looking man's best efforts to forget the past and move on with his life, nearly every evening the exile felt himself drawn back up to his seat on the observation deck at the summit of his tower, to watch the setting sun, and to remember.
He subconsciously knew the reason for that, too. For every fiery blaze of light in the twilight sky like this one reminded him of a far hotter inferno. A holocaust that had robbed him of his previous life and happiness, a nuclear sun that had taken nearly everything from him that he had known and loved, and forced him into exile thousands of miles away from the country of his birth.
The man's name was Keitaro Urashima, and he was the nearly sole remaining survivor of an appalling disaster that should never have even happened.
Only he and one other had escaped it. And now here he was, living in an isolated and nearly unknown desert oasis, separated from the defining event of his life by the twin gulfs of both physical distance and the inexorable passage of time.
Keitaro had seriously considered attempting to return home incognito on more than one occasion during the past years of his self-imposed exile, even if only for a quick visit. The physical distance back to Japan was, after all, easily bridgeable. But there was nothing left of his old life remaining for him to return to – not even a trace. And there hadn't been for many years now.
Crossing the gulf of time – well, that was something entirely different. Keitaro had once thought that his longed for previous life, steadily receding day-by-day even further into the past by the relentless march of time, would be forever beyond his reach, or that of anyone else. Even her. But now, after what his companion had been telling him over the past couple of years, he wasn't so sure…
After all of this time, years after they had occurred, the brooding exile could still remember the horrific events of that dreadful day as if they had happened only yesterday. The memory of the incident had been irrevocably burned into his mind. Every once in a while, even now, Keitaro would still sometimes wake in the dead of night, sweating and screaming as replayed in his tormented mind the life that he had known and loved coming to a permanent end.
The sheer magnitude of the disaster itself had been awe-inspiring, and its effects had been nearly total. The Hinata Apartments were gone, erased from existence like they had never even been. The town of Hinata Hots Springs had likewise been wiped from the map. Most of Hinata City was in ruins. The casualty count amongst the inhabitants of the doomed region had been unimaginably horrific – as had been his more personal loss of family and friends.
Unbidden tears welled up in Keitaro's eyes as he walked once more in his mind with the dear friends who had also perished on that terrible day of destruction. The Hinata girls were all long dead, now – all save one. The sole exception being the ever-present, ever-active, ever-youthful Kaolla Su.
Keitaro knew that he should have died on that long ago day, too, vaporized along with his family and friends in the all-consuming holocaust. And, whether he really was immortal or not, that would indeed have been his fate, if it hadn't been for the quick thinking and supreme efforts of the Molmol teen genius. Keitaro owed his life to her, and he knew that he should have been more thankful at the time, but with his soul crushed by the tragedy, he hadn't been in any shape afterwards to appreciate just how lucky he was to be still alive and kicking. The physical pain from his injuries gained during their escape, combined with the heartbreak and anguish at all that he had lost had nearly broken both his mind and his badly injured body. Even after he had physically recovered from his ordeal, it had taken Keitaro almost a year to finally fully reject and expunge from his mind the notion that maybe it would have been better for Su to have escaped alone, leaving him to peaceful oblivion with his friends and the amazing, beautiful - though short-tempered – teenage girl that he had so desperately loved.
Like Keitaro had done, Su had survived Doomsday solely because of her fortuitous location at the time of the terrible nuclear accident. During their hair-raising escape from ground zero, her mechanical aptitude, piloting skills, and sheer dumb luck had had a big part in ensuring her continuing survival, too. And thanks to Su, he had survived as well. As had Tama-chan. But of all the rest of the Hinata girls, including his sister, Kanako, not even ash had remained as a testament to their snuffed out existences.
Once more, Keitaro's subconscious mind turned back unbidden to that long ago day of terror, when the nightmare had begun…