Chapter 12: "Family"
A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfiction

By Bill K.

Saturn tried to raise her arms to ward off the coming blow. But despite the withered, crippled condition of Miguel's right arm, he brought it down through her defenses and struck her. Before she could mount any defense, he began beating her with the useless arm, using it like a club, focusing all of his fury through the arm and onto her. When she managed to grasp it, Miguel would shake her, holding her by the bodice of her fuku, until she let go.

"You weren't going to hurt us, you said!" bellowed Miguel. His face sagged and his speech was slurred, but his meaning was crystal clear. "You only wanted to talk, you said! You weren't a threat, you said!"

"Beautiful Incantation!" shouted Sailor Pallas. She was over by Santo, using her telepathy to show him how to breathe again.

Several rocks launched from the ground and flew at Miguel. But one glare from Miguel mentally deflected the rocks so they missed him and landed harmlessly. Then Pallas pitched backward, struck by an invisible force. She sprawled awkwardly on the ground. Miguel turned back to Saturn.

"Silence Wall!" she shouted desperately.

The shield sprang up around her, knocking Miguel back several steps. Seething with rage, he focused his telekinesis at her. The force pounded against the shield, but couldn't penetrate it. Saturn desperately clung to the shield, trying to keep it up until she could think of a way to stop him.

"Little bitch!" he fumed. "You've crippled me! You and your group destroyed everything I had! You turned all of my brothers against me!" His telekinetic force slammed against the shield again, but couldn't get through. "Fine! Cower back there! You think I can't hurt you? Cower back there and watch while I destroy your Princess!"

"NO!" Saturn shrieked.

Sailor Moon was too far away for Saturn to extend her shield. She tried to summon another mental bolt, but as usual it never came when she wanted it to come. Miguel stared with his good eye at Sailor Moon, who was trying to pull herself off of the ground and get back into the fight. Saturn could tell she wasn't going to make it.

Then Saturn remembered the attack Pallas just made. The deflected rocks were on Miguel's right side. He wouldn't see them, so he wouldn't block them. It wouldn't stop Miguel, but if it could stagger him just long enough for Sailor Moon to recover or for someone else to intercede, maybe they could still be saved. Saturn reached out with her mind, trying to lift a nearby rock. The rock was a good sized one, about six inches by six with a jagged edge that came to a point and probably weighed several pounds. It jiggled, but wouldn't move.

"Don't panic," Saturn told herself. "Find your center. Calm."

The rock shot up like it was fired from a gun and struck Miguel in the side of the head with more speed and force than either he or Saturn were expecting. Miguel pitched over to the side, knocked off balance, and tumbled to the dark volcanic ground. Red spattered across the black soil, carried by the momentum of the rock, and colored the soil just above his head.

A sudden hush fell over the plateau. Sailor Moon got up. Miguel didn't move. Saturn stared at him. Miguel didn't move.

The reality of the situation began to dawn on them both. There was no movement in Miguel's chest. His good eye stared out, seeing as little as his damaged one.

"No," Saturn whispered.

Water spilled over her eyelids and streamed down her scuffed, dirty face. She buried her face in her hands and bent over, her torso shuddering with emotion. Sailor Moon came over, softly knelt down next to her friend, draped her arms around Saturn and held her while she cried.

The air car had landed in the clearing after getting the go ahead signal from Sailor Juno. Jupiter and the pilot tended to Sailor Saturn, as did Sailor Moon. Ceres was with Juno, while Vesta hovered over Pallas. Carlos and Santo sat together, stunned into silence.

For his part, Luis stood at the edge of the plateau and stared out over the thick jungle covering the side of the mountain and the basin below. The sun shown down on him. It was going to be another hot, humid day in the valley. But that was OK. Luis had long ago determined that the heat and humidity of the day was an even exchange for the sunshine. Bathing in the rays of the sun always seemed to make him feel stronger.

With her arm around Pallas, Vesta walked up to Sailor Jupiter as she lingered outside the air car. Jupiter turned to them as they approached.

"How are you doing, Pallas?" Jupiter asked.

"Pallas will be all right," the senshi said. "She's a little beat up, though."

"Wish I could have been here," Vesta grumbled. "Maybe things would have turned out different."

"It was Sailor Moon's call," Jupiter advised her. "Given the circumstances, I think it was the right one. You and Ceres were too vulnerable to Miguel's illusions."

"I'm not saying she wasn't right," Vesta replied. "But I don't have to like it."

"How is Miss Saturn-Ma'am doing?" Pallas asked. "Pallas would peek, but that would be rude."

"She's pretty broken up about what happened," Jupiter reported.

"Why? She did what she had to do," Vesta stated. "That Miguel was going to kill every one of them. It was justified."

"Vesta," Jupiter responded patiently, "how did you feel the first time you had to kill somebody?"

The question took Vesta by surprise. "I've never killed no one. Not that I know of." Jupiter's expression grew sad. She put her hand on Vesta's shoulder.

"Then don't pass judgment on things you don't understand," Jupiter said softly.

Luis was still staring down at the valley below. Tentatively Juno walked up to him. After a moment he noticed. He glanced at her, then quickly looked back at the valley.

"I'm sorry if this is a shock to you," Juno offered. "And I'm sorry about what happened to Miguel - - and Antonio."

"I guess it's one of those things," Luis replied, still not looking at her. "You see it coming, but you don't want to admit that it's possible. Thinking back, I can see Miguel was turning into this. But he was family." Awkwardly he glanced at Juno again. "Not blood, but - - well, you know what I mean, don't you?"

"Yeah," Juno said. "I've been running with Cere and Ves and Palla-Palla so long, it's like they're my family."

She looked down.

"About that . . ."

"Look, I guess we are related. Blood don't lie. And I guess you want - - well, I don't know what you want from me. I'm just some guy who has lived on the side of a mountain for fourteen years. It's not like I'm somebody special."

"I just want to get to know you," Juno told him, looking over at him as he continued to avoid her. "Who you are. What you're like. What you had to go through. After all, we're family too."

"No," Luis said, looking at her finally. "We didn't grow up together. We didn't face the same things. We're only connected because the same guy forced himself on two different women. We're blood. But they're my family." And he pointed at Carlos and Santo. "And it sounds like those other girls are your family. And I can't understand why you'd want to mess that up. Aren't you happy?"

"I don't," Juno shook her head. Then she looked down. "I guess I'm a little greedy. For all of my life, it's just been me and mi padre, or me in the orphanage, or me and the girls. I-I guess I just want to know I belong somewhere - - in case where I am now falls through."

"I can see that, I guess," Luis offered. "I don't know if I can give that to you, though. Like I said, I don't have a lot. I'm nobody special. And I've still got to wrap my head around the fact that I'm the son of that pig Batista. It's going to take a while."

Juno nodded. "I know."

Luis just stared out over the valley. Jun stood by him awkwardly.

"So what will you and the others do now? Stay here?" she asked.

"I don't want to stay here on this mountain. Not after losing Antonio. And Miguel. And Miguel was right about one thing: I want to see what else this country has besides this mountain." Luis flashed a slightly embarrassed smile. "And now that I've seen girls up close, you know . . ."

"You're welcome to come to Crystal Tokyo with me."

"Crystal Tokyo? What's that?" Luis asked.

"It's in Japan. It's a pretty nice place."

"I don't know. It sounds a little drastic from living on the side of a mountain for fourteen years. I haven't even seen most of Colombia." He sighed. "Maybe I'll go down into one of the villages. I'll find a wife. Get a job. Be normal." He glanced sheepishly at Juno. "Grow up, you know?"

"If that's what you want," Juno replied, though she couldn't hide her disappointment.

"I'm sorry I can't be what you were expecting."

Juno shook her head. "You can only be who you are. I wouldn't want anything else." She thought a moment. "Let me know where you settle, OK? I'll send you an ethernet comm - - if that's OK?"

"Sure. I'll try to find an ethernet station," Luis nodded.

"And if you want to contact me, you do it - - anytime. Just contact the Palace In Crystal Tokyo and address it to Jun. They'll get it to me," Juno told him.

"Not Junelle?" Luis asked.

"Junelle was a whole other life ago," Juno said, "just like The Lab was a whole other life ago for you. I'm Jun now."

Turning away, Juno slowly made her way back over to the other Asteroids. Luis watched her for a few moments, then ventured over to his comrades.

"Well I'm glad you're all safe," Endymion said, communicating via satellite transmission to his daughter. "I'm just sorry it didn't work out for Jun."

"Yeah, she was kind of disappointed," Usa said, sitting in her hotel room, her legs crossed under her in a chair before her comm station. "But she's using the time to visit with Chief Minister Gomez. They've spent just about every minute we've been back together." Usa twirled one of her pink hair trails around her index finger. "I was going to ask you if we could extend our visit here for a week."

"I'm perfectly fine with that, as long as Minister Gomez is," Endymion told her.

"To be perfectly honest, Pop, I don't think he'll mind a bit," Usa replied, "although I don't know if he'll find any time for state business with me."

"It'll be good for him," Endymion concluded. "And it'll be good for Jun. And I think that can pay dividends for relations with Japan as well. And even if it doesn't, I'm fine with it." He looked at his daughter. "I think the time away has done you a little good, too."

Usa shrugged.

"Well, your mother and I will miss you terribly, but we'll bow to your judgment on this," he smiled.

"She's not moping around the palace, is she?" groaned Usa.

"A little," the king conceded. "I'll take her out for ice cream tonight. Be well, Sweetie."

"Bye, Pop," Usa signed off, unable to conceal the grin on her face. Once the link was broken, Helios moved into view and put his hand on her shoulder. Usa brought her hand up and covered his.

The news of their extended stay was greeted with elation by the Gomez government. Jun was already at the Chief Minister's home and news of the extension meant more time to learn about her dead mother and her long-lost maternal side of the family. The other Amazons took the news well, also. Cere immediately left to explore the re-emerging culture spots of Bogota. Ves checked out the sporting venues, despite her disdain for Colombian soccer. And Palla-Palla watched cartoons on the Colombian vid-streams.

So when Usa answered the electronic summons at her hotel room door, she was surprised to find Hotaru there. The deep depression her friend was in instantly filled the Princess with concern.

"Usa," Hotaru began. Her eyes were puffy, something Hotaru self-consciously tried to conceal. "Do you need me to stay?"

"Don't you want to stay?" Usa asked.

"No," Hotaru admitted. "I will if you need me, though."

"No, if you want to go home, go ahead. Aunt Makoto and I will book your passage on the next shuttle." She bent her head down to try to look in Hotaru's eyes. "You still strung out about what happened?"

Reluctantly Hotaru nodded. "I suppose I shouldn't be. I am 'The Death Senshi', after all. But I never wanted to be."

"Nobody thinks of you as anybody but Hotaru," Usa assured her.

Hotaru nodded. "I just want to go home - - be in familiar surroundings."

"We'll get you set up," Usa said, gathering Hotaru up and hugging her. "Try not to let this bug you too much, OK? You did what you had to do. Nobody blames you."

When Usa released her, Hotaru nodded. Then she shuffled off to her suite to prepare. Usa watched her, eyes misting. Helios came up behind her and grasped her upper arms to steady her.

"Gods, I'm so stupid sometimes," Usa grimaced.

"How so?" Helios asked.

"Did you see how messed up poor Hotaru is? And Antonio and Miguel are dead. And the others are displaced now. All because I had to go sticking my royal nose into things."

"You sought to do a good deed for Jun," Helios cautioned her.

"And as usual I didn't know when to quit," Usa responded.

"Can you predict the future, Maiden?" Helios asked, folding his arms around her from behind, his chin resting on her shoulder and his cheek against hers. "You had no way of knowing how things would result, and you acted only with good intentions. Do not blame yourself for the tragedy that resulted. If blame must be assigned, let it go to those who would not listen, to those who would not trust, to those who would stem the waves of change with blood and violence."

"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?" Usa asked in a fragile voice.

"Maiden, I could never lie to one such as you," Helios said.

Usa's arms snaked up and wrapped over his. She snuggled up against him as he kissed her cheek.

Hotaru lay on her bed in her room, staring up at the ceiling without seeing it. She had just arrived back in Crystal Tokyo on the inter-orbital shuttle from Rio de Janeiro, since there still wasn't direct shuttle service to Bogota. All through the flight, her mind replayed the sight of Miguel being struck with the rock, the blood spattering upon impact, and the lifeless stare in his good eye. She desperately wanted to think of something else, but all her mind would process was that incident, over and over.

Michiru and Haruka had been surprised to see her back. Absently she endured their hugs and greetings, then quickly excused herself. The girl claimed to be tired, and she was. It was a tiring flight back and a tiring adventure before that. But mostly she was tired of seeing the blood spurt from Miguel's temple.

After a while, the inevitable computer page sounded, signaling that Michiru was at the door. Hotaru didn't know how long her foster mother had waited before venturing this, but she knew it was coming. She really didn't want to talk to her, or Haruka, or Yutaka or anyone. Her shame was too great. But Michiru wasn't going to go away. Once Michiru Kaioh set her mind to something, it was going to happen sooner or later. Hotaru sighed with a deep-seeded hopelessness and bade her foster mother in.

"I heard about what happened," Michiru said softly, lingering by the door.

"You must be so proud," Hotaru replied distastefully. And yet her voice was soft and without accusation, because even now her shyness wouldn't let her be any other way.

"Hotaru, it isn't always easy doing what you have to do," Michiru stated, trying to salve and teach at the same time. "Haruka and I learned that very early in our lives. Killing is a huge step in a person's life, a dreadful step that must be taken only in the most dire of circumstances. It's an action of last resort. But certain people and certain circumstances force us into that situation."

Hotaru didn't respond. She only stared up at the ceiling.

"The horror and disgust you're feeling is actually a good thing," Michiru continued. "It shows that you don't take doing this lightly. That's good, both for you and for everyone around you. If you didn't feel guilty about it, then we'd be worried about you."

Still Hotaru stayed silent.

"Hotaru!" Michiru sighed in frustration.

Just then the door to the room hissed open. Haruka stood framed in the doorway. Someone was behind her. Michiru turned curiously. Haruka reached out and gently pulled Michiru towards the door. As that happened, Queen Serenity glided in. The Queen nodded deferentially to Michiru, then glided over to Hotaru's bed. Michiru turned in the doorway to Haruka.

"Haruka," Michiru hissed softly. "I was handling this."

"It's OK. This is no reflection on you," Haruka told her. "But you and Firefly already went around this subject once. Maybe she just needs a fresh perspective."

Michiru looked at Haruka. Then she turned and looked at Serenity, already holding Hotaru's hand. Hotaru hadn't responded, but at least she was looking at Serenity. Michiru exhaled her frustration once more.

"All right," Michiru conceded. Then she looked Haruka squarely in the eye. "But I could have handled it."

"You know, stubbornness isn't a trait that makes you look very cute," Haruka needled her.

"I'll show you 'cute'," Michiru said, her rage only partly mocking. They disappeared out the door.

"Hotaru," Serenity said, her voice saturated with sympathy and concern, "I'm sorry you had to do what you did. I know you feel badly about it and I do understand why." She patted Hotaru's hand as she held it. "But you're missing the good that came out of it. It would have been terrible to lose you, and Usa, and the others."

"You wouldn't have done it," Hotaru said.

"Well, I would have tried," Serenity answered honestly, because she knew no other way. "But if there was no other way to save Usa and you . . ." Her voice trailed off. Hotaru turned away. "It's terrible that some people can't realize the futility of violence. One day these situations won't occur."

Hotaru sighed deeply. "I didn't even mean to do it. He wasn't really evil. He was just scared. He was desperate to keep from losing everyone and everything that was important to him."

"That's very perceptive of you, Hotaru," Serenity smiled. "Given that, maybe you could manage to find your way to forgive in this circumstance."

"But I do, Queen Serenity!" Hotaru protested. "I do forgive him!" Serenity beamed.

"That's very gratifying to hear," Serenity said, stroking Hotaru's cheek. "But I wasn't talking about him. I was hoping you could find it in your heart to forgive yourself."

Hotaru dropped her gaze. Serenity stroked her forehead.

"After all, you were just desperate to keep from losing everyone and everything that was important to you," Serenity offered charitably, "weren't you?"

Pressing her lips together to suppress her surging emotions, Hotaru rose up to hug the Queen. Gratefully Serenity bent down to meet her half way.

A week later Usa and the Asteroids were back from Colombia. The Asteroids were safely ensconced in their quarters, except for Ves who was working out in the gym. Jun was pouring over some of the picture crystals that Chief Minister Gomez had given her, while Palla-Palla tended to her dolls and Cere leafed through an online catalog of art. At length, though, Palla-Palla got up and walked over to Jun. It was a moment before Jun noticed her standing there.

"Palla-Palla is sorry that your brother didn't like you," Palla-Palla offered innocently.

"I don't think it's because he didn't like me," Jun explained. "It's just kind of a shock suddenly finding out you have a brother or a sister. It's a big change. You don't know how to react." Her expression dimmed. "Besides, he was dealing with some heavy stuff. He didn't need me trying to pick his brain."

"Then you don't miss him?" Palla-Palla asked. Cere looked over from her virtual catalog.

"It would have been nice to get to know him," Jun shrugged, "especially after all we went through." She paused for a moment, then grew certain. "But Luis said something to me that's really beginning to make sense."

"What's that?" Cere asked.

"Why was I going half-way around the world looking for family," Jun smiled wistfully, "when I already have a pretty good one right here?"

A huge smile broke out on Palla-Palla's face. She flung her arms around Jun and hugged her.

"Not bad," smirked Cere. "Cute and grounded." She scowled. "If only he were taller." And she went back to looking at her art catalog.