Chapter 13: The Fallout Of The Nuclear Springtime
A Sailor Moon fanfiction

by Bill K.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All around Rei, all she could see was flame. Red and yellow were the flames, mixing into orange, hungrily climbing higher into the sky in search of oxygen to burn. After a moment of confusion, she realized that there was no heat coming from the flame - - a vision? No, it was too wrong to be a vision. Concentrating her senses, Rei began to feel what it was.

At once she could begin to make out corpses in the fire. They stood upright and stared at her with eerily illuminated empty skull sockets. Bits of charred hair and skin and clothing clung to the blackening skeletons. Hackles rose on Rei's neck. They weren't just bodies left behind. They were the manifestations of the spirits of the dead that made up Bachikasai. Using her sight, Rei could see there were still human spirits clinging to these burning, charring corpses. They were some of the people who died at Hiroshima, people whose need for revenge kept them from passing on and transformed them into the giant ogre lizard. The spirits surrounded Rei on all sides. Something kept them from attacking her, though. She wasn't certain it was anything she was doing, but she wasn't certain it was some benevolent decision on their part.

"Why?" a voice asked. It had come from one of the spirits, which one she didn't know.

"Why do I oppose you?" Rei asked, though her mouth didn't move in her spirit form.

"Why do you protect them? They released the fire of the man-made sun upon the Earth again."

"They're human beings," Rei replied. "I am obligated to protect life, even those who do wrong to others."

"They have forgotten," came another voice.

"They have the arrogance to think they can harness the fires," another sounded.

"They must be punished for their folly," charged a third.

"It's not for you to punish them," argued Rei.

"Who better?" came the response, and it was several voiced blended together in an unearthly manner.

"We burned in the fire of the man-made sun - - burned in agony."

"We died in that fire long ago."

"We did nothing wrong."

"No, you didn't," Rei said. "You died in the most senseless of all the senseless ways someone can die in a war: You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was your only crime. No one blames you. No one begrudges you your anger over being deprived of your future."

"Then why do you protect them? Why did the other priest, long ago, protect them?"

"Because she knew," Rei began, "and I have since learned from a wise prophet that vengeance reaps only pain for the target and no satisfaction for the victim claiming vengeance. It is a waste - - a pointless waste. It is the fetters that hold you all Earthbound and deny you your reward in the afterlife. Let it go. Pass on."

"No," one of the voices declared and others murmured assent. "We were wronged. We will have justice. We want justice."

"There is no justice for the victims of war," Rei told them. "War is only waste. You died because of that war, not because of the atom bomb. If you had died of hunger in Hiroshima, would you have demanded vengeance against the government who deprived you or the gods who ignored you? If you had died of a bullet on the battlefield or of disease at home, it would have still been because of the war and it would have been just as much an unjust waste. You could wage your quest for vengeance against the Emperor himself and he would be just as much to blame as the man who dropped the bomb or the man who invented it. And it would be just as pointless."

There was a small buzz from somewhere. Rei could sense some of the spirits wavering.

"Give up your anger," she urged. "Follow the teachings. Let go of your need for vengeance, the need that saps your spirit and chains you to this world. Join your ancestors in the afterlife. They miss you."

"I am weary," one of the spirits mumbled.

"No. We must stay together. We must have justice," said another.

"I'm sorry," Rei told them. "You seek something you can never gain. Pass on. Embrace eternal peace."

Slowly it happened. One of the burning corpses seemed to fade from existence. Another followed, two here, one there, then three and four until there was more empty space around her than spirits of the dead; as more faded, more seemed to follow. Finally there was just one spirit standing face to face with Rei. The hollow orbital cavity of the spirit's skull stared at Rei. She could see it didn't want to give up, but that it had realized the hopelessness of its cause.

"They had no right," it said.

"War makes honorable men do terrible things," Rei told him. "But a wrong does nothing to cleanse a wrong."

The spirit bowed its head slightly in defeat and faded from view.

"Rei?" she heard a voice call urgently. It seemed like Sailor Venus.

Suddenly Venus was in front of her - - or more specifically over her, as Rei realized that she was flat on her back on the turf of the Tokyo Dome. Over Venus's left shoulder Rei saw Akira. He looked worried.

"Did they pass on?" she asked breathlessly.

"They who?" Venus asked. "Was there a 'they'?"

"What are you babbling about?" Rei scowled.

"What are YOU babbling about?" Venus retorted. "One minute you and Scaly Joe zone out. Then he fades from sight, leaving my Love Me Chain behind, and you keel over."

It took a moment to process this. When she did, Rei smiled.

"They did pass on," she said gratefully.

"The spirits of the dead of Hiroshima?" Akira asked. Rei nodded.

"So Bachi-whatsis is gone?" Venus inquired.

"Yes," Rei exhaled.

"All right! Victory lap!" Venus exclaimed, drawing a snicker from Akira.

Letting the exclamation pass, Rei gestured for Venus to help her up. The priest felt very tired and drained. The only thing that made it feel worth it was the fact that Bachikasai had dissipated and passed on. She had met her obligation to her grandfather and to her hero, perhaps even surpassed it.

"Can we go back to the shrine?" Rei asked breathlessly. "I need to rest."

"Perhaps you're forgetting something?" Akira said. At Rei's inquiring look, he nodded to the ground behind her.

Rei turned and found a sword lying in the grass. She didn't need to examine it to know what it was. The aura alone told her it was the sacred Shinguji family sword that Ogami-Sensei had lost inside of Bachikasai back in 1946.

"I think she'd want you to have it," Venus suggested. Rei nodded. Akira picked the sword up and the three headed for the car amid overwhelmed stares from the Tokyo Dome staff.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"You're certain about this?" Mamoru asked his wife. Ami and Makoto stood in the background and watched solemnly.

"Yes, Mamo-Chan," she said with a gentle confidence that was unusual for her. "I need to stay. I need to help. These people need so much. They need what I can give them, both as myself and as Sailor Moon." She reached up and caressed his cheek with her soft hand. "I understand you and Ami have to go back to Tokyo. You have obligations to your patients there and they need you. I'll be all right."

"You say that now," Mamoru began skeptically.

"I will be," she assured him. "I only wish I could divide myself up into a thousand Sailor Moons to help everybody who needs help. It kills me to see all of this devastation here in Soma and I know the same devastation is being repeated in hundreds of other cities and towns." Usagi looked down. "I know I can't solve it all. Maybe one day when I'm stronger, if that day ever comes, I'll be able to do something more than just care for the sick and the homeless. But that's all I can do now and I have to do it." She arched up on her tiptoes and kissed Mamoru. "The only bad part of it will be missing you - - and my shows."

"I'm glad I rated top billing," Mamoru smirked.

"Hon', I feel like I'm abandoning you," Makoto moaned.

"Don't," she smiled. "You have an obligation to your family. You children need a mother." She patted her friend on the shoulder.

"I admit I can't help feeling I should do more," Ami offered.

"Your patients need you, too," Usagi told her. "How are you coping with your Dad's death?"

"I still miss him," Ami admitted. "But working amid all of this devastation and suffering has put my loss into perspective. My personal tragedy pales in comparison to all of this."

"I'll get Luna to set up a communications link so I can check on you," Mamoru told her.

"Every night?" Usagi asked hopefully.

"Every night," Mamoru smiled. "And I'll drive up every weekend, as long as the roads hold out."

Usagi hugged her husband. Ami and Makoto smiled.

"Chiba-San!" called one of the relief workers. Usagi and Mamoru both looked and realized the man was calling Usagi. "They really need you in the kitchen!"

"Bet you'll never hear that again," Usagi winked to Makoto. Everyone chuckled. Then Mamoru, Ami and Makoto got into Mamoru's car. It headed off in the direction of Tokyo. Usagi watched them go until the car was long in the distance.

Then with a sigh of fatigue, she turned around and headed for the temporary kitchen where all of the relief workers and demolition crews ate.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It was after six at the cemetery. A pair of graves had mourners when Ami and Hayami entered. Each gave them a cursory glance and went back to their private thoughts. The couple walked between the rows of markers.

"I want to thank you again for accompanying me, Hayami," Ami said.

"It's no trouble, Ami," Hayami was quick to assure her. The chubby little nebbish pushed his glasses up. "Your father was a great man. And I want to honor him." He swallowed. "Besides, I, um, thought that you might, well, appreciate the support. I'm sure this is still hard for you."

Ami smiled softly. One of Hayami's little quirks was over-explaining and over-qualifying everything.

And suddenly Ami got an impulse. It was odd in itself, because she was so rarely impulsive. Without warning, she turned to Hayami and kissed him on the cheek. The gentle librarian stopped and stared, startled.

"I do," she told him. "You're very thoughtful, Hayami. That's a quality my father had - - when he wasn't absorbed in a painting."

Turning back to their path, Ami started forward again. But she made certain first to slither her hand into Hayami's. After a moment, the hand gripped hers tightly. Ami glanced to her companion, her gratitude matched by his.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Derek, where are you taking me?" Rei demanded.

She was dressed in a flattering violet dress with a conservative bodice and a skirt that ended just above the knee. Derek wore a green sport coat and slacks with an open-collar shirt. They drove in a 2011 Toyota mid-size that Derek was leasing for the season.

"A little supper club I know," Derek replied. "With the season pushed back because of the earthquake, I've got a few evenings free and I thought I'd spend one of them making sure my favorite priest doesn't work herself to death. I know there's people suffering, but you can't help them by working yourself ragged."

Rei didn't respond, but she did find herself smiling. Then her eyes bulged.

"You want to get me a job singing?" she gasped.

"Damn, how DO you do that?" Derek cursed.

"What makes you think I want to perform in a supper club?"

"Because I saw the way you looked when you were singing karaoke that time," Derek explained. "You weren't just happy - - you were glowing. You were doing something you really wanted to do: Sing, perform in public, entertain - - not be a priest."

"What makes you think I don't want to be a priest?" Rei demanded.

"Didn't say that," Derek responded. "Being a priest is your calling. I know that. Being a baseball player is my calling. But I'm still glad when the season's over and I can relax for a few months. Just because you have a calling to be a priest doesn't mean you have to be one 24/7. This will give you a chance to do something else once in a while. Let you be you in other ways. Because let's face it, you are one deep lady."

Rei scowled and stared ahead. But she didn't protest any further.

Inside the club, even Rei towered over the diminutive club manager. He bowed to Derek enthusiastically, as he was a huge Giants fan, and Derek returned the gesture. Then he looked Rei over with a critical eye, which made the priest extremely uncomfortable.

"She's got a great look," nodded Mr. Boshi. "Very classy. Dress her up in opera gloves and a gown, she'll really turn heads. Where have you performed before, Miss?"

"I haven't," Rei replied, caught off-balance by the question. "Not professionally. I'm a priest."

"A PRIEST?" gasped Mr. Boshi. He turned to Derek. "Johnson-San, what is this?"

"Listen to her sing," Derek assured him.

Mr. Boshi sighed and shrugged, then gestured to the stage on one side of the supper club. No one was there except for the staff preparing for the evening. As Mr. Boshi went to turn on the sound system, Rei glared at Derek. And she read the supreme confidence he had in her ability. He was doing this because he wanted to see her succeed, and because he seemed to sense that she wanted to succeed at this despite her doubts.

Steeling herself, Rei stepped onto the stage. She stood before the microphone, closed her eyes and sang the song she sang at the karaoke club. When she finished, Rei opened her eyes and sought out Derek and Mr. Boshi. Derek smiled and silently gave her a thumbs up.

"She needs to work on her stage presence," Mr. Boshi assessed. "Don't close your eyes when you're singing to an audience, Miss." He sighed. "But she's got the pipes. Get her a low cut red gown and some white gloves - - and a repertoire of torch songs, it could work. So how about I try you out on Saturday nights?"

"You mean - - you want me to sing here?" Rei stammered.

"That's why you came, wasn't it?" Mr. Boshi asked.

Struck speechless, Rei could only nod her agreement.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"The media and the refugees have called you a hero for your actions, Sailor Moon," the reporter on the television said. Her microphone pointed to Sailor Moon for a response.

Minako was on the phone with her agent while the news program played on the television. Artemis watched from his perch on the kitchen counter.

"No!" Sailor Moon howled, aghast at the very notion. "I'm no more a hero than any of the emergency response workers here! Everyone is doing everything they can to help these poor people! There are men in Fukushima who risked their lives to go into that nuclear plant and prevent a meltdown! And there are hundreds, thousands of others who have been treating injured evacuees, trying to find them and help get them to the evacuation centers! And hundreds more who are clearing away the broken homes and businesses and trying to reconnect the utilities so we can start to rebuild! They work day and night with no thought to themselves to help these poor people! I haven't done anything more than they have, and they don't have a magic wand to make things happen! They're the heroes - - not me."

"You tell 'em, Usagi," Minako grinned.

"Minako, are you listening to me?" Shiro inquired.

"Not if you're trying to talk me out of it," Minako retorted.

"Look, I understand you feel for these refugees. So do I. But donating your earnings for the coming year to the relief effort?"

"You just make sure I have some earnings to donate," Minako told him. "So do you think the benefit can get off the ground?"

"I'll float it by some people in the industry," her agent said. "But with the economic impact this disaster has already had on the country, I don't know how many will bite. The recording industry is already tight. I'm sure a lot of artists and labels will want to help, but I don't know how many can afford to help."

"Do what you can," Minako answered. "I'll do the benefit alone if I have to."

After she hung up the phone, Minako stared at the television without seeing it.

"Usagi would say it's a nice thing you're doing," Artemis offered.

"It's the least I can do," Minako replied. "I'd go help Usagi if I didn't think it would do more harm than good. All they need is some idol getting in people's way, cluttering up the place with the press." Artemis perched on the back of the sofa and Minako stroked him. "At least the tax people are off my back, thanks to you." She looked around the luxurious apartment. "Maybe we should move. There are people who have nothing. Who am I to live in a place like this? Besides, I may not be able to afford a place like this much longer."

"Personally I never did like the place," Artemis frowned. "I can still smell 'him'."

Smiling, Minako reached up, clamped her hand behind the white cat's head and wrestled him into her lap, playfully grinding her knuckles into his forehead. Only the sound of the doorbell saved Artemis. Curious, Minako got up and opened the door.

Outside in the hall was an old man. He was tall and withered, but stooped so he had once been even taller. Even Mamoru wasn't this tall and Mamoru was the tallest guy she knew. His hair was white and his hopelessly out of date suit hung on him. As Minako surveyed him, he just stared at her like he was reliving a memory. Supporting him was a blonde woman, stout and in her forties. They were both clearly western rather than Japanese. The man, his hands shaking and his legs weak, continued to stare.

"Yeah?" Minako prompted them. As a star of some renown, she occasionally had to put up with people who felt compelled to inject themselves into her life just so they could be star struck in her presence.

["Are you Minako Aino?"] the woman asked. Her accent betrayed her. She was American. And Americans always assumed everyone spoke English.

["Yeah,] Minako replied, her command of English a little rusty. ["I did not know I had otakus in America."]

["This is my grandfather,"] she said, ["Chris Ohlendorf."] Minako felt her breath catch. ["I don't know if you're aware of it, but - - we're related."]

Minako looked into the old man's eyes again. They were drowning in a sea of sadness and regret. This was the man she had last met less than a month ago through the descriptive words of Sakura Ogami. This was the man her mother had told stories about whenever she wanted to make Minako feel guilty. Now she had a face to put with all of those memories. Minako glanced back at the woman supporting him. Now she could see traces of her mother's face in this woman's face.

Numbly she gestured the two inside. Chris Ohlendorf, now eighty-five, shuffled unsteadily and leaned hard on the woman with him. As Artemis watched, the two women led him to a chair and eased him down. Once he was safe in the chair, Minako looked to his companion again.

["Grandpa is dying,"] the woman admitted. ["He has a laryngeal tumor. It's inoperable. He only has a few more months."]

["I-I am sorry,"] Minako replied. ["But why come all the way over here, and now of all times? Should he not be in a hospital?"]

["He and I have spent the last ten months tracing what happened to Yuki Saboru,"] the woman explained.

["I had always heard he did not care,"] Minako interjected.

["For the longest time, he didn't,"] the woman admitted. Minako glanced at the old man. ["That began to change after his brother died. He and Uncle Will had been separated for so long, and he regretted it. And he began to regret cutting himself off from Miss Saboru, and from the baby he'd fathered. When he found out that he was terminal, Grandpa decided that he needed to come here,"] and the woman began to choke up, ["while he still could."]

"I wanted to say," withered, weakened, shaky Chris Ohlendorf said in perfect Japanese marred only by the terrible rasp of his voice, a rasp that reminded Minako momentarily of Bachikasai, "that I wish - - things had been different. That I wish I had forgiven Yuki." He wheezed out a breath. "That I'm sorry."

["We've already been to see your parents,"] the companion continued. ["Everyone else is dead. If there's time, Grandpa would like to meet Uncle Will's family here. We had a line on one of them, but apparently she's off somewhere helping with the earthquake."] The woman took a moment to compose herself. ["We don't want anything from you. If you don't want anything to do with us, we'll leave. It's just - - Grandpa felt he had to do this. I'm sorry for intruding on your life."]

["Well I admit it is like getting kicked in the head,"] Minako responded. Then she noticed the old man again. "Why do you keep staring? Do I remind you of Great-Grandma Yuki?"

"Not in the slightest," Chris rasped out. Talking was difficult for him. "But you do remind me of someone very dear to me. The complexion's darker, and of course the eyes are different."

"OK, I'll bite," quipped Minako. "Who?"

"My mother," Chris said.

His granddaughter stared at them, not understanding what they were saying. Minako just sat and digested this. Artemis watched her curiously.

"What do you remember about Yuki?" Chris asked. "Can you tell me? That is, if you don't mind indulging a foolish old man who once let pride and anger get in the way of - - of something beautiful."

Minako looked at him and considered what she wanted to do.

"Well," she began, "I remember she was always fussing with Mom. She thought Mom had screwed up her life by getting pregnant so early. Great-Grandma Yuki was only in her sixties back then. I think she was afraid Mom was going down the same path she had. But she always made me feel special. I remember - - she always used to love the fact that I was blonde."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Luna's ears perked up when she heard the key turn in the lock. The sight that greeted her coming through the door was a happy one.

"Usagi!" the little black cat gasped, running up to greet her charge. "Welcome home! Are you back to stay?"

"Yes," Usagi sighed wearily. "All the debris has been cleared from Soma, so most of the Emergency Response workers are headed home. I asked them if they needed my help anywhere else, but they said they didn't." She smiled warmly. "They were really grateful. It felt good. Is Mamo-Chan back from the office yet?"

"No, I don't expect him back until six," Luna informed her.

"Then I've got time to call my editor," Usagi nodded, "assuming he's still speaking to me. I'm cooking dinner, too, not getting takeout. I actually learned how to cook a few things." She punched out the number to Osabu Baishaku's office. "I just have to figure out the proportions to cook for three people instead of three hundred."

"Hello?" Baishaku answered.

"Um, hi," Usagi said timidly. "It's me - - Usagi?"

"Chiba-San! The connection sounds local. Are you back?"

"Yeah. Baishaku-San, I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very sorry about missing my deadline! It's just that I couldn't help it."

"I understand, Chiba-San," Baishaku said with good humor.

"So, could I please have another chance?"

"That really won't be necessary."

"Oh," Usagi squeaked.

"You're still under contract, Chiba-San," Baishaku assured her. "Things like this do happen in the publishing industry. Artists get sick, have accidents, family emergencies. I was able to shuffle some things around so the August and September issues don't have sixteen blank pages in them. As for July, well you should have your complimentary copy by now."

"Psst!" Luna called to Usagi. She pointed with her paw at an envelope on the end table. Usagi opened the envelope up and found the July issue of Nakayoshi.

"When Marie heard what you were doing, she was very touched," Baishaku explained. "So she called all of her old assistants and suggested they each contribute four pages of a filler story she wrote, as a tribute to a talented artist who put aside her big break to help others in need. The others were only too happy to comply. You're still fondly remembered at the old Happy Eskimos Studio, Chiba-San."

Usagi had the magazine open to the filler story. She read the dedication and nearly burst into tears.

"Oh, I can't believe they would do something like that for me!" Usagi whimpered.

"They would and they did," Baishaku said, "because, in Marie's words, they knew you would do the same for them without hesitation."

"I have to thank them," Usagi whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"As for 'Fire Princess Rika', we're still very anxious to publish it," Baishaku said. "And it's a good thing you've already got fourteen pages done on chapter two. That'll let you get settled in before you have to make your deadline for the November issue." He paused for effect. "But don't take TOO long."

"I won't! Oh, I won't!" Usagi exclaimed. "Thank you, Baishaku-San! I promise I won't let you down! And please tell your wife to expect a thank you visit from me real soon!"

"Good news?" Luna asked as Usagi hung up.

"Luna, I'm not fired!" Usagi squealed with joy.

"Just as it should be," the cat replied. "Given all of the good karma you've got stored up, I should say that's just as it should be."

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Prime Minister of Japan resigned under increasing criticism of his government's handling of the March 11 earthquake, the resulting tsunami and of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. He fulfilled a promise he made in order to survive a no confidence vote by the Japanese Diet in June.

Though The Democratic Party of Japan planned to appoint a successor from its own ranks, members of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party pushed for new elections in an attempt to again establish its dominance over the Diet. Rising star Shinjiro Hino would be the consensus nominee for Prime Minister should the LDP win.

Post script

By July 31, 2011, Japan still had 19,918 evacuees living in temporary shelters or in inns or hotels. The Fukushima Daiichi reactors remain shut down, though explosions and a fire have weakened the containment vessel and resulted in some radiation leaks. An expert estimated that it might be one hundred years before the damaged fuel rods could be safely removed.

Seventy-three percent of the farms in the area affected by the tsunami had resumed production. However, there were ongoing concerns over contamination of the food grown, either from radiation in the air or salt in the soil carried there by the tsunami.

By March, 2012, 644 companies in Japan were forced into bankruptcy due to the effects of the disaster, either because their facilities of production were destroyed, they could not obtain supplies to continue operating, or they no longer had a market for their products. Up to ninety percent of the fishing industry in the northeast coast of Japan was destroyed due to fishing boats and processing facilities being damaged beyond salvage.

15, 867 people died in the disaster, with another 2909 listed as missing, many of them seniors over sixty. Of those, 14, 308 drowned in the tsunami, while 667 were crushed by debris from the earthquake and 145 burned to death in fires brought on by earthquake damage. 747 evacuees later died in temporary shelters due to stress, insufficient food or insufficient medical care.