Chapter 12: "A Fate Worse Than Death"
A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Uranus held the Space Sword above her head, the blade gleaming in the sun. She was poised to bring it down and, hopefully, end Av'Rith's life and the threat she posed to all living things on Earth. She didn't want to do it. Sailor Uranus had nothing personally against the young teen from outer space. And the piteous pleadings of her charge, Sailor Saturn, had touched her far more than she let on. But there was dirty work to be done and, of all the senshi, it fell to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune to do that dirty work.
For her part, Sailor Saturn cringed away, not wanting to see. She wanted desperately for there to be another solution to this problem. Perhaps, with time, there was. But they had no time. She had stopped Av'Rith with her "Azrael's Slumber" attack, barely, and Saturn wasn't certain she could do it again. Av'Rith's life was precious, but so were the billions who lived on Earth.
Av'Rith lay still on the broken pavement, waiting for the end. Her life had been one of isolation and suspicion. Now it was one of pain and suffering, both for her and for those around her who had befriended her and shown her kindness. Contrary to what she told Saturn, Av'Rith did fear the unknown of death. But she feared living like this much, much more.
Uranus was about to strike when she noticed Av'Rith's eyes grow wide with wonder. The girl wasn't staring at her. She was staring above her. Then Uranus felt it. It was hard not to sense Serenity when she was present. Turning, Uranus saw her, hand in hand with Endymion, levitating down from the sky. She seemed the very picture of divine grace - - and yet one hand was awkwardly placed between her legs to keep her skirt from billowing out too far and showing off too much. Uranus smirked. Even after all these centuries, a little bit of her old, beloved "Dumpling" still remained.
"Please, Uranus, put your sword down," Serenity said as she and Endymion gently touched down. "There's no need for that."
"She's still siphoning energy from her environment, Serenity," Neptune countered. To Saturn and the Asteroids, Neptune almost seemed to bristle at Serenity's words. "Her threat hasn't been neutralized yet."
"Then I'll neutralize it," Serenity replied calmly and without malice.
She moved toward Av'Rith. Av'Rith, for her part, stared up at Serenity like she was the great Se'Chel come from the heavens themselves. Her eyes were wide and her mouth opened in awe. Serenity smiled gently at her.
"Not too close," Uranus warned the Queen, her hand jutting out to bar Serenity's path. "She'll siphon you if you get too close."
"I'll be careful," Serenity replied. She turned back to Av'Rith. "Please don't be afraid. I'm going to make certain this never happens again."
Av'Rith seemed to surge with hope. "I - - will no longer be a monster?"
"You were never a monster, Av'Rith," Serenity said. "You were just the victim of an unfortunate situation."
Watching from her infirmary room, Princess Usa stared intently at the holographic video stream of the situation. Beside her, Helios stood and watched as well. He showed the effects of their encounter with Av'Rith as well, but maintained to Ami that he was well enough to stand. Rei stood off to one side, as mesmerized by Serenity as Usa was.
"Aunt Ami!" Usa shouted. "Mom and Pop's there!"
"That would explain Av'Rith's rise in blood pressure," Ami replied, coming out of her office. Her own holographic video stream of the events followed her as she walked. Beside it was a screen with telemetry data.
"What's that?" Rei asked.
"I'm getting sensor readings of Av'Rith's biomedical situation," Ami explained. "I redirected one of the area Security Monitor Drones to relay biomedical telemetry. If my assumption is correct, Serenity is going to use the Silver Crystal to 'wish' Av'Rith to be genetically like others of her kind, since she doesn't understand the specifics of genetic code modification. I'm monitoring this to see precisely what gets modified and how. Hopefully I'll be able to pass the information on to the Tevrii along with a means to bio-engineer any of their population who might suffer from this unfortunate condition in the future."
"Sounds like something you'd do, Aunt Ami," smiled Usa. "Hey, the crystal is beginning to glow! Watch this, Helios. This is why Mom is so legendary."
Serenity extended the Silver Crystal out from her body, the crystal itself levitating between her two hands. Silver radiance glowed from the crystal. That radiance bathed Av'Rith in its light and the girl arched. As the light engulfed her, Av'Rith's elongated form began to contract to normal. Her eyes closed and, after a few moments, she let out a sigh of total, utter contentment. She eased back down onto the pavement and exhaled. Her eyes opened and she looked up at Serenity with such joy.
"Thank you," Av'Rith said happily as Serenity allowed the crystal to return to her chest. Everyone watching looked on gratefully. They had been witness to yet another miracle at the hands of Queen Serenity.
Av'Rith closed her eyes. Her head lolled to the side. And suddenly Serenity's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes wide with shock and horror. Back in the infirmary, Ami stared at her telemetry monitor and gasped in surprise. Usa, Rei and Helios turned to her in confusion.
"I don't understand," Ami whispered in shock. "Av'Rith just - - died."
Usa stared, stunned. "What?" she whispered, her voice stolen.
Usa watched from a holographic computer monitor delivering her a live stream of the aeropad on the palace roof. The Tevrii scout shuttle was there. Endymion and Ami were talking with the representatives of the Tevrii. Uranus and Neptune were there, just in case the Tevrii got out of line, though only they expected that. Sealed in a transparent crystalline coffin, Av'Rith's body was being transferred onto the shuttle. When the camera caught sight of it, Usa cut the connection.
Getting out of her bed in the infirmary, Usa wandered out into the outer area. Helios was there, sitting in a chair, in meditation. The teen walked over to him. She didn't really want to interrupt his meditations. He was probably doing something important, like monitoring dreams. But she needed his touch. Her fingers brushed along his cheek as she crossed behind him. Helios came out of his meditative state and caught her hand, bringing it to his lips.
"The Tevrii picked up Av'Rith's - - Av'Rith," she said softly. Her lip began to quiver. "Man, it sucks that she died."
"It was tragic," Helios agreed. "She was so close to becoming what she hoped to become."
"No thanks to me," Usa muttered. "All I was able to do for her was give her a lot of empty promises I couldn't deliver on."
"You extended a hand, and befriended her when none had before, Maiden," Helios told her. "This is no small thing. You gave her much in a short time that she had never experienced before. I have seen into her soul through the window of her dreams, Maiden. You became as important a person to her as any since the one who gave her life. You gave her great joy."
Usa silently mulled that over.
"If only I hadn't fainted," Usa asked. "I don't get it, Helios. Didn't I have enough faith?"
"More than enough, Maiden," Helios replied, looking up at her. "But faith can sometimes be a poor shield against reality. Faith allows you to protect that which you believe in. It gives you the courage to put your head into the lion's mouth. It does not prevent the lion from biting down."
"Or dying of food poisoning," Usa added. "I thought I could help her."
"You did, Maiden."
"But she still died."
"Maiden," Helios said, reaching up and grasping her hand, "you cannot save everyone. You must always try, but you must also reconcile yourself to the immutable law that you will not save everyone. It is not physically possible."
"Maybe if I'd done more," Usa said stubbornly. "Been better."
"You often claim that your mother is far better than you," Helios began. "And yet she could not save Av'Rith, either."
Helios gently pulled the Princess into his lap. She rested her head against his chest.
"It was not your faith that faltered in this case, Maiden, nor your ability," he counseled her. "Faith is a wonderful thing. But faith is not a course of action in and of itself. Faith will not put things right merely because you believe they will be put right. Faith is the air that gives flight to the actions you do to put things right. But if you do not know if what you do will put things right, faith alone will not make it so. That is why your mother failed."
Usa pulled closer to Helios. Whatever he told her always seemed to make sense when he said it.
"Yeah," Usa sighed. "I bet she's pretty down right now."
"Perhaps you should go to her," Helios suggested. "Perhaps, in providing solace for her, you will find your own."
"I'm not really supposed to leave the infirmary," Usa said. "Aunt Ami will really get mad."
"And when has that ever stopped you?" Helios asked with an ironic smile. Despite herself, a similar smile sprouted on the face of the young Princess.
The door to the Royal Chambers hissed open. Usa saw her mother sitting in a chair, crying. Luna was perched on an arm, trying to console her. The cat looked at the teen hopefully. Usa nodded. Leaping to the floor, Luna left them alone.
"It wasn't your fault, Mom," Usa said, her hand resting on her mother's head.
"I should have done more," wept Serenity.
"You did what you intended," Usa argued. "Aunt Ami said her scans showed you successfully altered Av'Rith's DNA. You cured her of her energy siphoning condition. You cured her, Mom."
"She still died," Serenity mewled.
"How could you know that absorbing all of that energy had mangled her internal organs beyond repair?" Usa asked.
"I should have," Serenity sobbed.
The question startled Serenity. She looked up at her daughter through tear-stained blue eyes in confusion.
"Are you a god?" Usa asked impatiently. "Are you perfect? You're always telling me you're not."
"I'm not," whimpered Serenity.
"Then why were you supposed to know Av'Rith was so beat up internally that the only thing keeping her alive was the same energy that was killing her?" Usa demanded. "Aunt Ami didn't know. Pop didn't know. I didn't know. Nobody knew."
"I should have known," Serenity shook her head sadly.
"Mom, that makes no sense!" Usa growled. She sat down on the arm of the chair and draped her arms around her mother. "Poor Av'Rith got a rotten deal from life. I guess nothing was going to change that. At least you gave her back her self. She was able to die as Av'Rith and not some mythological energy leech." She sighed. "It's more than I did."
"No, Honey," Serenity said softly. "You gave her hope. You gave her friendship. You gave her something to live for other that being afraid of dying. You gave her someone to face her problems with, instead of having to face them alone. That's very important, especially to someone facing a terrible situation alone."
"I guess," Usa said.
Usa and Serenity just sat there, the gravity of the situation stilling further discussion.
"Aunt Ami said she was able to plot a procedure to genetically alter any Tevrii who is born with Av'Rith's condition in the future, so they don't have to be killed." Her head leaned onto her mother's. "At least Av'Rith didn't die for nothing."
The two women leaned on each other, resting in the chair.
"I guess it was just her time, huh?" Usa sniffed, finally speaking.
"I guess," Serenity whispered.
They sat unmoving.
"So maybe we should stop beating ourselves up over it?" Usa suggested at last.
"Maybe we should," Serenity echoed. "I will miss her, though."
"You barely knew her," Usa replied.
"I'll miss her because you'll miss her."
"Yeah," Usa replied glumly.
"Prisoner will stand," the guard standing outside the detention facility Ves was in announced. Ves looked up from her boredom on the sofa. The guard, a CDP officer attached to the palace - - at Chief Nakamura's insistence, Ves had heard - - didn't look like he was kidding.
Ves got to her feet.
The guard deactivated the force screen over the entrance to the room. Shock club in hand, he motioned for Ves to come out. Once she complied and was outside, he motioned her down the corridor.
"Where we going?" Ves grunted sullenly. To this day, she still mistrusted law enforcement officials. When the officer didn't respond, Ves lapsed into a sullen silence. Along the way, she thought about how easy it would be to disarm this CDP officer and get away. After all, he was only armed with a shock club. But she didn't do it. She knew Palla-Palla wouldn't like it and the thought of disappointing her again made Ves reject any thought of escape.
Ascending on a lift, the pair disembarked on another level of the palace. Instantly Ves recognized it: The main receiving room of the palace, where Endymion and Serenity conducted state business. Ves took a deep breath.
"Judgment day, huh?" Ves mumbled. The officer didn't respond.
The doors to the receiving room slid open and Ves walked in. Seated on the ceremonial thrones of their station were King Endymion and Queen Serenity. Luna sat on the left arm of Serenity's throne. Artemis sat between the two chairs. A carpet led from the door to the platform where the thrones were. Two five foot candle-holders of solid gold flanked the carpet.
Lining Endymion's side were the elder senshi, all six and each in full senshi attire. The only one not there was Sailor Pluto and it took Ves a minute to remember that Pluto was still an elder. Lining Serenity's side were Sailor Moon, Sailor Saturn and the Asteroid senshi. Diana sat next to Sailor Moon's foot. Ves glanced over at Pallas. Pallas seemed nervous and apprehensive.
Maybe she had a reason to be.
Ves also noticed two optical drones transmitting a live feed to the video stream. All state business was transmitted live to video streams for anyone in the population who cared enough to watch it. Endymion had asked for that to demonstrate openness in government. To say that the ratings weren't one hundredth of the current popular video stream, "Lupin 3000", was an understatement, but Endymion provided it just the same.
"Nothing like being humiliated in front of the whole country," Ves scowled. She could feel her anger welling again.
"Don't be mad, Ves-Ves," she felt Pallas communicate to her telepathically. "You were bad and you have to do this."
If only she wasn't right.
Ves got to a spot ten feet from the Royal Platform and stopped. Japanese tradition held that Ves bow at that point, but Endymion thought it a tiresome custom and knew Ves wouldn't think to do it anyway, so he didn't press the point. There were more important things to do than stand on ceremony. Ves did get a withering glare from Sailor Mars, though.
"Ves," Endymion said. "You have been implicated in the battery on another citizen of Crystal Tokyo, in a club in the entertainment district one week ago tonight. How do you respond to the implication?"
"I did it," Ves responded hoarsely, looking down. "But he started it."
"Be that as it may," Endymion replied, "as a senshi, you are held to a higher standard of conduct than other citizens of Crystal Tokyo. As such, I am instructing you to go to the man you battered and apologize."
Ves audibly groaned.
"In the traditional Japanese manner," Endymion added.
"Couldn't I just cut my arm off instead?" Ves scowled.
"No," Endymion replied, and there was a touch of sympathy in him that several in the room picked up on, "because I don't think that would hurt as much."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Ves sighed.
"Furthermore," Endymion began and Ves shot him a pained look, "you will serve another thirty days in detention. After that, you will be restricted to the palace for a period of one year, except for when your duties as a senshi force you to leave the palace grounds."
Ves didn't respond, but everyone could tell by the tension in her jaw that the teen's temperature was rising.
"Do you think I'm being unfair?" Endymion asked.
"Does it matter what I think?" Ves muttered.
"Ves-Ves!" Ves felt Pallas shout telepathically.
"Actually, it does," Endymion replied calmly. "It's not going to change your sentence, but I'm always interested in hearing what other people think. Sometimes it points out flaws in my own thinking - - and sometimes it reinforces my belief that I'm right. An open mind is less prone to violence."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Ves muttered.
"And I HOPE this is the last time I'll have to see you under these circumstances. You may go, Ves. Officer, please take her back to her detention cell."
After Ves got settled back in her cell, she looked up and found her three "sisters" at the entrance, along with Usa and Hotaru. Ves got up and ambled over to them.
"I think you got off easier than you could have," Jun offered.
"I don't know," grumbled Ves. "Being restricted to the palace for a year is going to put a cramp in my love life."
"You could always fall in love with one of the men in the palace, like Miss Hotaru-Ma'am did," Palla-Palla suggested.
"Nah, Yutaka was about the only talent worth looking at in this place," Ves said.
"And he's off-limits," Hotaru murmured, looking down. Cere glanced at her and grinned.
"Maybe it's for the best," Ves remarked. "I suppose I can't keep going through life leading with my knuckles. That's how my dad did it, and I sure don't want to end up like him. And Kino-Sensei said she'll keep working with me on controlling my temper. So it could be worse."
"That's Aunt Makoto: Loyal to the end," Usa smiled. "I wasn't worried. And I'll do anything I can to help you out, Ves. All you have to do is ask."
"Yeah?" Ves said. "Can you go apologize to that guy for me?"
"OH NO!" Ceres exclaimed. "YOU are doing it! And I'm going to make sure I get a vid-crystal recording of it!"
"Well that should tell you how badly I messed up," Ves said to the others, scowling. "Obviously I beat up the wrong person."
Cere gave her a superior smirk and walked away. Jun rolled her eyes, while Palla-Palla just seemed mystified. Usa and Hotaru exchanged rueful smiles.