Chapter II: Dreams and Visions
Ami had been sitting at her computer for seven hours straight. Her eyes kept falling out of focus and she was getting a little frustrated. In her quest to locate information on the name Astera she had come across a computer technology company with the same name. This had caused problems with all her search results because they would often turn up with this company or references to it.
She was just about ready to give up for the night when she decided to go into an Astrology/Astronomy chat room to see if anyone in there could help. There we 22 people in the room.
"Hello," she typed, "does anyone know of a planet with the name Astera?" She waited but no one replied to her. "Can someone help me?" She typed, "I need to know the significance of the name Astera."
Suddenly an Instant Message screen appeared. The screenname was AstroKid325. "Astera is the exploding planet," the screen said. She typed back, "What exploding planet?"
He replied, "Between Mars and Jupiter. You know the Asteriod Belt?"
"What?" Ami typed, "There is no conclusive evidence that the that belt was ever a planet."
"It's actually a biblical story of some sort," AstroKid325 replied. "It was said to be the planet on which a great battle between good and evil occurred. In the battle the entire planet was destroyed by an ultimate good, destroying the evil that was there."
"Thanks so much," Ami replied and signed off.
Usagi sat at the kitchen table drinking tea with a blonde-haired friend she had met a few months ago. It was dusk and Usagi had been thinking about the possibility of a new sailor senshi since that afternoon when she left Rei's. Her friend, Sakura Kakatini, was stirring her cup slowly.
"Ami doesn't hate you Sakura," Usagi was saying as she tried to forget about her senshi dilemma for the moment, "she's just subscribing to those rumors." Sakura had been placed in their classroom at the beginning of that year after being removed from her previous class due to a 'disagreement' with the professor. Sakura seemed to keep mostly to herself, but Usagi noticed her occasionally lurking near and her group of friends. She wondered if the pretty blond just needed someone to include her.
Today, as a friendly gesture, Usagi had invited Sakura over, much against Luna's wishes. Luna knew the group was planning to have another meeting about the recent events and she was disappointed that Usagi would shirk her duties as a sailor senshi to spend time with this new friend. Luna planed to speak to Usagi about this after Sakura had left, but Rei had beat her to it by giving Usagi a few curt words when they all met outside the school gates. “Honestly Usagi,” she had said when Usagi told her she would miss the meeting, “we all have obligations - you especially.”
On the way home, Sakura had asked Usagi if it were better for her to hang out with her other friends instead of causing all this jealousy. “I don’t want to be a burden to you,” Sakura had offered.
“Don’t worry,” Usagi smiled, “Rei doesn't mean anything against you. They will warm up to you.”
"She seemed awefully serious," Sakura said, "I hope I can get to know her better and we can be friends too. I don't bite!" She said, snapping her teeth through her grin.
Usagi laughed too, "Oh don't worry about it, she'll come around, you'll see. Rei's just stressed about other things."
When they had gotten to Usagi’s house, Usagi's mother had already set the tea out and began doting over the girls. Usagi was happy she had decided to hang out with Sakura that day; she really seemed to open up once Usagi got her talking. She figured the heat from the others would blow over. Usagi assured herself there would be plenty of time to investigate the new disturbances and there was nothing wrong with meeting new people.
Usagi’s mother was bringing out some tasty cakes when the phone rang. “I got it!” Usagi barred over and tossed the receiver into her palm, “Hello?” Ami quickly chimed in told her about the significance of the name Astera and about the exploding planet theory. She also told Usagi that she really ought to come by. Usagi simply replied with "yeah"'s and "uh-huh"'s being careful not to look worried. She was surprised that Ami was not calling to preach at her about missing the meeting – this must be big news.
"I don't know what it means really," Ami's voice came through on the line, "but I think I should do a little more research. We could be dealing with someone that's for real."
"Well, okay Ami!" Usagi said ever so cheerfully, "I'm glad you finished your paper!"
"Usagi, this isn't a joke. We could have some real trouble on our hands!" Ami said with impatience.
"Okay that's great Ami," Usagi said, "I'll talk to you later tonight if I get a chance! Bye-bye!" She hung up.
"That was Ami?" Sakura asked.
"Yeah," Usagi said, "Just making sure we got home okay." She finished her tea and tried really hard to remember anything from her past that might help. She was so tense in thought that the door bell scared her so much she almost fell off her chair.
"Oh Usagi! Are you all right?” Sakura laughed. “Let me get the door," she jumped up and ran to the door and Usagi followed hoping it wasn't a very angry Ami. “Nah,” she thought, “Ami can't run that fast...”
Sakura opened the door, "Oh!" she exclaimed, "Hello."
Mamoru was standing in the door way with a rose in his right hand. A long, silky, white ribbon was tied in a bow around the stem and the thorns had been taken out. He smiled and looked beyond Sakura into the room and spotted Usagi. Squealing, she ran to him as he scooped her up and spun her around. "I missed you so much!" she said and closed her eyes for a kiss.
"Ah-hem!" Sakura cleared her throat and interrupted.
Usagi rolled her head around and dropped the pucker in exchange for a blush, "Oh! Mamo-chan this is Sakura; she's come over for tea today. Sakura, this is Mamoru. He's my boyfriend!"
"Hi," she said with a casual but coy smile. "I've heard a lot about you." Usagi blushed a shade deeper red, and then turned a little green in regards to the look Sakura was giving her Mamo-chan.
"Well, it's nice to meet you," he said noticing the odd shade her violet eyes. "You have a very interesting eye color. Contacts?" Usagi's brow creased.
Sakura smiled, denying the answer.
After talking with Usagi, Ami called Rei and told her about what she had found.
"Another planet?" Rei asked, "But that would mean another sailor senshi from the Silver Millennium."
"Quite possibly," Ami said, "but why wouldn't we remember her?"
"Hmmm..." Rei said, "I don't know. But at least we can assume we're dealing with someone who might be legitimate. Perhaps just some memory we haven't unlocked." She looked at the scrawled note that was tacked on her bedroom wall then glanced at the fire she had been working at.
Suddenly, she got a troublesome vision. Her mind went dark for an instant in which she saw most recognizably Neo-Queen Serenity standing on the grounds of the Moon Kingdom with King Endymion beside her. Serenity was calling an order for a full attack. Rei saw a massive battle with thousands of enemies battling the soldiers of the White Moon. A strong and robust blonde man on a black horse led the rebel army. Serenity stood strong with her King and Rei saw the unmistakable flash of the power of the Ginzuishou. Then there was a massive explosion, so powerful she felt as if the very planet she stood on would crumble to pieces.
Rei snapped out of it in a cold sweat.
"Rei?" Ami was saying, "Rei, Earth to Rei!"
"Sorry Ami," she stuttered, "I lost you for a second." The vision had escaped her memory but her hands were still trembling at the eerie feeling it had left her. She realized then that there was much more they did not know about this new enemy.
After her new friend had left, Mamoru and Usagi were able to catch up on the events of the last few days. Usagi informed him of all of the mysterious circumstances of the appearance of the new sailor senshi and asked him to try to remember anything from the past that might help. Mamoru agreed to search through the deep recesses of his mind and let her know anything he cam up with.
He told Usagi all about Toroku and how he was healing. He mentioned to her that he would probably be spending a lot of time with Toroku because without the use of his legs, things would be difficult for some time. Usagi admired his dedication to his friend, but undoubtedly felt a pang of jealousy knowing he would be around less. To add to this unease, Mamoru announced that he would be taking his leave of her not more than half and hour after his arrival. He seemed very distant to her just then, as he was pulling his jacket on.
"But Mamo-chan, it's only nine," she pleaded, "Stay."
"I really can't Usako," His placid look burned into her crystal blue eyes. "I need some rest; I'm very tired from the trip." She pouted and leaned in on his arm. He smiled a little, “When I pick up Toroku in a few days we could all go out together one night,” he offered, hoping this would cheer her.
But Usagi felt troubled that night and needy of attention. She broke from his gaze and looked out the window. The sky was clear and the full moon cast an almost daylight glow on the yard. “It's beautiful,” she thought. “And Mamoru is home, so what seems wrong with this night?”
"Usagi, I'm sorry," Mamoru was saying. "It's just that I have to go. It's important," But he did not go on; he did not even know what he was going to say, really. Something had come over him since he had gotten there. “Maybe it was that airline food...” he considered to himself.
She turned her face back to him and lifted her finger to her lips. She took his hand and led him outside to the sidewalk and she sat down. He sat beside her and followed her gaze up to the moon.
"I've missed you," she said quietly. “Things are getting strange again; we have a new enemy.” “I need you,” she added in her own thoughts.
He began to say he had missed her too and that he would always be there to protect her, but something stopped him. It seemed as though all he could think about was Toroku, lying in that hospital bed. He felt a strange urge to protect him at this moment.
"I have to go," was what he said instead. He stood up and began to walk away half expecting Usagi to cry out, the other half expecting her to weep silently. He could not bear the thought of her crying but something was driving him away from her. He walked quickly without turning back.
She did not cry out, her face did not even flinch. Her gaze was fixed on the ever present moon as she comforted herself with thoughts of the future.
Rei, Makoto, Minako, and Ami were all sitting around the fire at the temple. Rei's eyes were closed and her hands clasped in front of her. Yuuichirou Kumada, the longhaired temple apprentice, stood in the back against the wall. He watched Rei with anticipation and admiration that had built up since he had first come to the temple to work for her grandfather. Yuuichirou shivered as a draft came though under the door. The girls barely noticed it as they were warmed by the fire.
Luna was lying on the floor beside Artemis. She was distraught as she had not yet been able to recall anything about this new senshi. In the subconscious recesses of her mind she vaguely recalled the powerful senshi of the outer solar system and compared each to this new person. Nothing clicked. It was as though a part of her memory had been erased or destroyed and it bothered the guardian cat greatly. Artemis also was feeling useless as he could provide no useful information for the search.
Rei opened her eyes. "It's no use," she sighed, "I can't get anything now."
"Well, I guess we'll just have to prepare for the worst," Makoto said. "We'll confront her! After all there's one of her and five of us."
"We don't know anything about her," Minako pointed out, "That could be a pretty big risk."
"It's true," Ami said. "We should gather as much information as we can before we encounter her."
"What could she possibly be motivated by?" Makoto asked.
The fire abruptly jumped up and flared wildly. The girls all jumped back as well, except for Rei who immediately closed her ever-seeing eyes. They watched as the fire settled again and the shadows deepened throughout the room. Rei's face grew tight and her brow creased.
Then, suddenly and without warning Rei’s eyes flashed open and she uttered out a terrified scream before she fell backwards and unconscious to the floor.
"Rei!" Everyone jumped to her side but Yuuichirou was the first to touch her. He lifted her head, “Miss Hino! Are you all right? Rei! Wake up!”
Ami checked for a pulse. "She'll be all right," she said. "She's just fainted."
"Are you sure? Rei can you hear me?" Yuuichirou asked, still very concerned. "Go open the door Minako," Makoto said, "let some cool air in. I'll go get some water." She ran off to the kitchen and Minako ran to the door. When Minako went to open the door, a gust of cold winter air blew it open for her. Minako yelped and tried to pull it shut again, but the air gushed into the room. The smoldering flames of the temple fire extinguished. Rei woke with a start.
She looked up at Yuuichirou; her head was in his lap. "Ugh!" She sat up, "what do you think you're doing?" He backed off and mumbled an apology. Feeling a little embarrassed, he decided to leave the girls alone. However after he got outside of the room, he leaned against the wall to listen.
Rei looked at the smoldering ashes. It's a bad omen for the temple fire to go out, she thought.
Then suddenly, the vision came back to her all at once like a flood. It was the same as before except the blonde man on the black horse was no longer there at the end. Now, instead, she saw a tall and beautiful woman with long flowing black hair and deep violet eyes that were steaming tears. She almost passed out again from the pain she felt, but just then Makoto came rushing back and dumped the bucket of water on her head.
"Oh!" Rei cried out, "That's her!"
Chapter III: Deceptive Appearances.