A SHADOW OVER CRYSTAL TOKYO
Chapter 9: "And The Truth Shall Set You Free"

By Bill K.

Hotaru sat in a comfortable chair, though she was anything but
comfortable. Sensory pads were attached to her head and body and
data from the pads was collected and displayed on virtual monitors
floating around Ami's head. Glancing at the information, Ami leaned
forward, her glasses perched on her nose, and smiled sympathetically.

"Please relax, Hotaru," Ami said. "You're not being punished.
We're just trying to find out what's happening and what we can do to
help you."

Hotaru nodded cautiously.

"I've reviewed the sensor logs from the scout ship. There's no
visual evidence of Mistress 9 anywhere; there are only recordings of
significant electromagnetic energy in the area, which could be
comparable to brain wave activity. Yet you and everyone else clearly
saw Mistress 9 by the road and only Sailor Pallas recognized it as a
psychic manifestation."

"I didn't do it on purpose," Hotaru whimpered. "I didn't even
know I was doing it. You have to believe me."

"I do, Hotaru. The sub-conscious can sometimes work
independently of conscious thought. The question is why? Did
something happen to make you afraid that Mistress 9 was coming back?"

Hotaru shifted uncomfortably.

"Hotaru, I can't help you if I don't know what's happening,"
Ami said. "I won't judge you, I promise. There's nothing you can
say that will make me hate you."

"I don't know what's happening," Hotaru said, wringing her
hands. "Sometimes I'll feel something in my mind - - like
something's stabbing out from it - - and then bad things happen."

"What bad things?"

"Like what happened to Sailor Vesta," Hotaru continued.

"A force from your brain jabbed out at Sailor Vesta during the
confrontation?"

"Yes. I didn't mean to do it."

"What emotions were you feeling when it happened?"

"Well - - she wanted me to go back and I didn't want to. I was
afraid I'd be a threat to Usa, and everyone."

"Has something like this happened before?"

"This morning - - my bathroom mirror broke - - for no reason!
Then there was the computer station in my classroom. I'm pretty sure
I shorted it out. And two days ago, Cere-Cere's hand began to hurt
right after I felt one of those pushes in my brain."

Ami nodded. "Were you scared then?"

"No. She was making fun of me. I was kind of angry for a
moment. But I didn't want to hurt her."

"How about when the computer station shorted out?"

"I guess I was frustrated mostly. Those things make me feel so
stupid sometimes."

"So you were frustrated about your lack of progress in school?
Were you angry with the computer or with yourself?"

"Maybe a little of both."

"And when the mirror broke?"

"Well - - I was frustrated again," and Hotaru hesitated,
reluctant to go on. Ami silently prodded her. "I was jealous - -
about how glamorous Usa is and how I'm not."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of. Usa's a very pretty girl. But
her beauty doesn't devalue you. People don't judge you in comparison
to her. You know that, don't you?" Hotaru nodded unconvincingly and
Ami suffered a pang of memory. "Has this push you describe ever
happened before two days ago?"

Hotaru looked at her hands. She resembled a trapped animal.

"Back in the twentieth century," she mumbled. "What I did to
Vesta, I did to a girl at school. And later, when Sakiko threatened
Sailor Moon - - only she knocked it back and it hit me. That's what
Usa had to save me from. Maybe she shouldn't have."

"We all would have been a lot poorer if she hadn't, Hotaru.
Was the girl in school threatening you?" Ami asked.

Hotaru seemed not to hear. "It was out before I knew it - -
before I could stop it. It always worked that way. That's why I
thought Mistress 9 was back. Before - - the first time - - my mind
would hurt people, without me even realizing it. I thought it was
happening all over again!" Hotaru wiped her eyes with her hands.

Ami nodded silently. "Hotaru, I can't explain what happened in
your first - - well, incarnation, because I don't have any test
information. But this time it sounds to me like you're developing a
form of extra-sensory ability known as telekinesis. It allows you to
manipulate physical objects, spaces or environments with your mind.
That fits with both the previous exam I took of you and what I'm
seeing now on these sensory read-outs. The first time you developed
powers could very well have been some form of ESP as well. These
abilities often manifest at puberty. You were right around puberty
the first time this happened, weren't you? Just a year or so younger
than you are now?"

Hotaru nodded.

"And Mistress 9 may have used these abilities to her own
advantage. It may even have been her using your abilities to hurt
people. And now you see the signs of your abilities manifesting
again and you're afraid the cycle will start all over again, due to
your inability to control these abilities. This is understandable
given the traumatic feelings you seem to have over what happened. No
doubt your sub-conscious reacted to this traumatic fear of
repossession and used your power to manufacture the image of Mistress
9. I imagine it's what you saw beside your bed that night."

"But why?" Hotaru asked.

"It's hard to say without deeper analysis. Perhaps
sub-conscious feelings of guilt led you to try to punish yourself
when you felt you were reverting to the cycle again. Perhaps you
were trying to force yourself to act on the problem rather than
suppress it. This has been going on for some time now by your
account."

"I-I didn't want anyone to know," Hotaru admitted. "Before, I
was always shunned when something like that happened. I didn't want
to drive people away - - drive Usa away. It was so lonely the first
time."

Ami smiled sympathetically. "Well, you have to realize that
people in the twentieth century didn't understand ESP, and they were
very fearful of ESPers because of that ignorance." She walked over
and disconnected the sensor pads from Hotaru. "And of course you
being from that era as well, you would think nothing has changed.
But this is the thirtieth century, Hotaru, and enough research has
been done on ESP to fill a room full of memory crystals."

Ami gently guided Hotaru out of the room. Instantly, Sailor
Moon and the others jumped up.

"Hotaru, are you OK?" Sailor Moon asked desperately.

"Have you been waiting here the entire time?" Ami asked,
amazed.

"Yes, Ami-san. Mama thought it would be a good idea, in case
Hotaru needed us. She's going to be all right, isn't she?"

"I certainly think so," Ami smiled. "Thank you for waiting
though. I don't think it will be necessary any longer. Why don't
you girls go on? I'm sure you all have plans of your own."

"Can't I stay here?" Vesta asked. "Otherwise I've got shrine
maiden duty."

"Sorry, I'm not facing Rei's wrath," Ami joked. "If you did
something to earn shrine maiden duty, you're going to have to face
the music on your own."

Vesta sighed in defeat. "Come on, Vesta," Ceres moped. "Let's
get it over with."

She and Vesta nodded silent encouragement to Hotaru and exited.
Juno did the same and followed. Sailor Moon lingered, wanting to say
more, but was shooed out by Ami. Once they were gone, Ami escorted
Hotaru out the door and down the hall.

"So nobody'll be afraid of me in this time?" Hotaru asked.

"Well, there will always be ignorant or jealous people, Hotaru.
We haven't cured that. And it also depends on your ability to
control your special gifts so you don't hurt anyone with them. But
we have ways to identify and train young ESPers so they can control
their abilities and use them for the benefit of all. Because of that
an ESPer today is looked upon much the way an Olympic athlete was in
the twentieth century."

They approached a door and Ami pressed the entry button. The
door slid open, revealing a classroom with about twenty teens.

"This is the ESPer training class we run in the palace. These
young people come from all over Crystal Tokyo. They each have
growing abilities, like you, that they're learning to control." She
turned and spoke earnestly to Hotaru. "As far as I can tell, your
ability seems to manifest itself only when you're experiencing
powerful emotional states, such as fear, anger or bouts of
self-loathing. This is fairly common, as those emotions trigger
chemical reactions in the brain that stimulate the body to
self-defense, triggering the ability. Here, you can learn to control
that response, even use it proactively."

An older Chinese man walked up and bowed to Ami.

"Good afternoon, Mizuno-Sensei," he smiled.

"Good afternoon, Sun-Sensei," Ami bowed in return. "I have a
new student for you. Sensei, this is Tomoe Hotaru. She's in the
opening stages of telekinesis. Hotaru, this is Sun Zhong-Ju. He
teaches this class and is himself an ESPer."

"You are?" Hotaru marveled.

"Yes," Sun nodded calmly. "I am a pyrokinetic - - I can start
fires with my mind. A lot more efficient than rubbing sticks
together." Hotaru tried to smother a smile. "I mastered my ability
years ago and now I teach others to master their abilities." He put
his hand on her shoulder. "You feel like an outcast now. You feel
different - - less than human - - unworthy of society. Do not fear,
Tomoe-chan. You, too, will learn what you need to know to be normal
among the normals and extra-ordinary when necessary."

"T-Thank you, Sensei," Hotaru smiled timidly.

"And I think you know one of our other students," Ami said,
directing Hotaru's line of sight to a corner of the room. There
Hotaru spotted Palla-Palla and the girl waved happily. "You see,
you're not alone, Hotaru. Roughly twenty-five percent of the
population are full blown ESPers. It's not a sin to be one. So if
you ever need advice, don't ever feel there's no one to confide in.
Talk to me, or Sun-Sensei - - or Rei, for that matter. Not only is
she a very good priest, but she's an ESPer as well and she went
through a lot of what you're going through when she was your age.
You're never alone, Hotaru. Never feel that you are."

"I'll remember, Ami," Hotaru nodded. "Can I go now? I'm sure
Usa's very worried about me."

"Yes," Ami smiled. "But you be here at nine tomorrow to set up
your schedule with the sensei."

"I will!" Hotaru nodded.

"Make it ten," Sun said. "Just because you get up at the crack
of dawn, Ami, doesn't mean everyone does." Ami flushed with
embarrassment and the sensei and his new pupil shared a laugh.

As she walked down the hall, Hotaru felt a tremendous burden
had been lifted from her. The specter of Mistress 9 reclaiming her
had ruled her life for weeks and to learn it wasn't true was an
immense relief to her. To learn that she could actually get help for
her condition, that she didn't have to face it alone - - because of
that she sensed something was growing in her. It wasn't Mistress 9,
but for a moment she wondered what it was.

Then she knew. It was hope. She couldn't wait to tell Usa.

Turning the corner, headed for her quarters, Hotaru stopped
suddenly for a surprising sight. The edges of her mouth curled.
Quietly she walked over to the figure sitting next to her door.

"You could have waited inside," Hotaru said gently. Usa jumped
with a start, then sprang to her feet. "I wouldn't have minded."

"Are you OK?" Usa asked fervently.

"I'm fine now. I'm sorry for putting you and everyone else
through all of that."

"Don't worry about it! So what happened to Mistress 9?"

"Let's get something to eat, OK?" Hotaru requested. "I'll tell
you everything, but I haven't eaten since morning."

Fifteen minutes later Usa and Hotaru sat in the nearly empty
dining hall munching on pizza. Neither girl had eaten much since
morning, as it turned out, and the double cheese deep dish was just
the right remedy. As they ate, Hotaru recounted everything from her
session with Ami, right up to her visit to the classroom for ESPers.
Usa hung on every word, a response Hotaru felt touching and
gratifying.

"Wow," marveled Usa. "I knew Ami-san would figure it out. But
you should have said something, to me if nobody else."

"I know," Hotaru said shyly. "I'm sorry. I was just scared
I'd hurt somebody - - especially you. And I didn't think you'd
understand. You don't know what it was like - - when Mistress 9 had
me."

"Actually I do," Usa said gravely. Hotaru looked at her. "Go
into your computer's history files and look up the name 'Black Lady'.
It'll curl your toes! I know just what it's like to be possessed,
corrupted and used as a weapon against everyone you love. Heck, Black
Lady could have probably kicked Mistress 9's butt."

"I never knew," Hotaru said.

"And I know what being afraid is like, too. Every so often
I'll catch a shadow out of the corner of my eye or hear a sound, or
dream about what happened - - and I'll be afraid for a moment that
Wise Man's come back for me, even though I know he's dead." Usa
paused for a moment. "But it usually doesn't last long, because I
know he's dead - - and even if he isn't, I'm not going back. And I'm
not going to be afraid. I won't give him the satisfaction. And
you've got to be like that, too. Mistress 9 is gone, Hotaru. She's
not coming back. You beat her."

"We beat her," Hotaru said, grasping Usa's hand. "I'll try,
Usa. I promise. And I'll try not to be such a 'fraidy-cat in the
future. Forgive me?"

"I forgive you," Usa grinned. "It's not like I've never done
anything stupid. Just don't tell my parents I said that, huh?"

"I swear I won't," Hotaru giggled. "So, Usa, how about after
we finish this pizza we study together tonight? I'm - - kind of sick
of being by myself, you know?"

"Can we make it tomorrow night?" pleaded Usa. "I've kind of
got plans tonight."

"Oh," Hotaru said, masking her disappointment as best she
could. "Sure. That'll be fine."

"Well don't be so disappointed," Usa said. "I was hoping you'd
come with me."

"Me?"

"Please, Hotaru? After everything that's happened, you need
some fun! And I guarantee this will be fun! I swear it! Please?"

"Well," Hotaru hesitated, "where are we going?"
* * * *
Hotaru sat at a table in the darkened club, near and to the
right of the stage. She sipped on a root beer, trying to control her
anticipation. Nervously she glanced behind her. Minako and Jun-Jun
were at the table behind her, eyeing the stage with as much
anticipation as she felt. Hotaru felt a hand on her shoulder and
turned.

"Hi, Hotaru," whispered Rei. "Mind if I sit with you?"

"No! Please!" nodded Hotaru. Rei sat down.

"First time here?"

"Yes. It's a very nice place. And it's nice of them to
provide stage time for all of these beginning entertainers."

"Yeah, well you're in for a real treat now."

"That's what I keep hearing. It's too bad the king and queen
aren't here."

"They're here," Rei smiled. "They're back in the back.
Endymion was worried that Usa might get embarrassed if she saw them
up front."

Hotaru was about to say more, but the Master of Ceremonies came
out on stage.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said smoothly, the directional audio
receptor above the stage easily picking up his every word, "our next
participant is quickly becoming a favorite here at 'The Gathering'.
Pretty soon we're going to have to give her a permanent spot just to
give the other participants a chance. So please give a warm welcome
to - - 'Simply Usa'!"

The M.C. retreated as Usa took the stage. She strode
confidently, her twin ribbons of pink hair trailing her, ceremonial
microphone in hand. She wore a daring, clingy dress of vibrant red
with a plunging neckline, short sleeves and a hem that skirted the
edge of her bottom. Three-inch black heels adorned her feet and
black stockings covered the distance from her shoes to her hem. Red
gloves that were cuffed at the wrist covered her hands and trashy
hoop bracelets jangled above the gloves. Usa confidently looked out
at the audience like she owned them. It was difficult to remember
that the girl was just fifteen. The transformation was remarkable
and Hotaru sucked in air.

A synthesized beat began, aided by synthesized rhythm in a
different key that combined to sound vaguely late-twentieth century
dance mix. The intro played while Usa insolently tapped her foot to
the beat, a coiling tiger about to pounce. Six notes from the
intro's end, she strode audaciously to center stage and figuratively
pounced.

"La la la
Never give up gambaruwa (Never give up, I'll give it my best)
Kono shoubu ni kaketeru no (This time for sure it's my turn)
Uki-uki tokimeku no (Thump, thump, My heart is pounding with joy)
Shishunki eiji (In the age of adolescence)
Kakikae OK (It's okay to rewrite)
Koi suru purofiiru (What is in your loving profile)

Kiite houkago no torikkusutaa (After school today, I saw that
trickster)
Hitome bore na no yo (It was love at first sight, because he looks
like my old flame)
Mae no kare to niteru (Now my head is spinning, don't want to get
hurt again)
Kurukuru mawaru mata kizukku ka na (What should I do? But I've
already decided)
Doushiyou demo kimeteruno (I want to toy with him for a while)
Wazato jirashitai (I can win his heart with my sailor suit)
Se ra fuku nabikasete (I'll go as myself)
"Rashiku" Ikimasho (Let's be like that)

La la la
Never give up gambaruwa (Never give up, I'lll give it my best)
Kono shoubu ni kaketeru no (This time for sure it's my turn)
Uki-uki tokimeku no (Thump, thump, My heart is pounding with joy)
Shishunki eiji (In the age of adolescence)
Kakikae OK (It's okay to rewrite)
Koi suru purofiiru (What is in your loving profile)

Kiite shuumatsu ni aruiteitano (Over the weekend, I was walking)
Toshiue no hito to futa mata kaketeru (With an older man. I can't
decide between them)
Pin to kitano rikei kankaku (We clicked so well, and this feels
logical)
Doushitara kono kurushisa wo (What can I do, with this pain
inside)
Nukedaseru no kana (I wonder if I can abandon it)
Se ra fuku nabikasete (I can win his heart with my sailor suit)
Shobu kakemasho (I will bet on this game)

La la la
Nakitai toki ni wa pokeberu nara shite (When I find myself wanting
to cry, I ring my pocket bell)
Yonde senshi no kyuusoku (And call a break from being a soldier)
Shishunki eiji (In the age of adolescence)
Kakikae OK (It's okay to rewrite)
Tatakau purofiiru (What is in your fighting profile)

Hotaru had to remember to breathe. Her friend didn't just sing
a song - - she possessed it, prowling the stage with a audacious
presence, daring people not to like her, drawing sounds from her
chest that seemed plumbed from the depths of her soul. It was a
slight tune, an old twentieth century anime ditty, but Usa breathed
meaning and power into it. She was possessive. She was hypnotic.
She held your attention in a stranglehold, as much by the force of
her stage presence as by the beautiful melodic alto of her voice.

It was a moment before Hotaru realized the song Usa was singing
was over. The applause of the audience ringing in her ears, Hotaru
began clapping enthusiastically as well. Usa dropped her stage
persona long enough to smile shyly and nod to the audience. Then she
launched into the next song, prancing energetically around the stage.

"She's good, isn't she?" Rei whispered.

"She's great!" gasped Hotaru. "How long has she been doing
this?"

"A couple of months. It just comes naturally to her."

Usa's set lasted three songs and one encore. Afterwards she
scampered over to Hotaru's table. She was dripping with sweat from
her energetic performance, but the girl seemed to glow with the
pleasure of a job well done and the adulation that followed. Rei had
to smile simply from the good vibes the girl was exuding.

"Usa, you were great!" gushed Hotaru. "I couldn't believe it
was you!"

Usa shrugged. "Anybody could do it. Heck, I bet you could go
up there and do just as good."

"Oh, no," Hotaru shrank down self-consciously. "I could never
do anything like that!"

"Bet you could. And someday you'll be a great doctor. That's
something I'll never be able to do."

"Maybe not the way things are going," Hotaru mumbled.

"Hey, you'll get it. You're smart, Hotaru. You just got to
have faith in that. That's how I am when I get on stage. I have
faith in my voice and my moves, and faith that I'm going to knock
their socks off and they'll all love me. And they do, because I give
them what they want - - a good time. You've got to have faith, too
- - faith in yourself. Some people are good at a lot of things, but
everybody's good at something. You just got to find that something
and grab it and hold onto it."

"She makes a lot of sense, Hotaru," Rei smiled. "Even though
she sounds just like a ditsy little airhead I used to know once."

"Oh Rei-san! As if!" gasped Usa. "Why don't you like totally
make me want to puke!"

Before anyone could respond, the clack of high heels on the
floor warned them of an approaching elemental force. Usa had just
enough time to roll her eyes before she was scooped up and crushed to
her mother's breast.

"Oh, honey!" Serenity sobbed happily. "You were wonderful!
I'm so proud of you!" Off to one side, Endymion looked on, unable to
conceal his fatherly pride as well.

"Mot-her," Usa murmured. "You are so totally embarrassing me."
However, Hotaru noted that, despite her protests to the contrary, Usa
couldn't keep the grateful smile from spreading over her pretty face.

"Hotaru," Rei leaned in and said softly, "my grandfather was a
very, very wise man. One of the things he used to say was 'sometimes
a person's greatest enemy is their own fears'. You've got everything
you're ever going to need to succeed right there inside of you. The
only thing stopping you is you." And she winked at Hotaru, then
leaned back to watch Usa try to squirm out of her mother's death
grip.

Hotaru took a sip of her root beer. A feeling was blooming in
her again, a sensation that made the corners of her own tiny mouth
pull up. It was a feeling she hadn't had in a while, a feeling she
was afraid she'd lost forever.

After weeks of uncertainty and discomfort, weeks of groping in
the darkness, at last she felt like she was safe.

THE END

Neo-Sailor Moon and her senshi will return in "Blood Of The Immortal".