Chapter VII: Twisted Fate
When Rei got back to the temple the moon was high in the sky. Rei noticed that the lights were all off inside and she wondered if Yuuichirou had returned. The day had been draining and she walked tenderly as she was mindful of the wounds on her back. Making her way up the steps and across the front of the temple, Rei looked around to make sure everything appeared in order before heading inside. The porch was dark and she made her way through the familiar setting. Right when she stepped inside she could tell something was a miss; the familiar smell of sage that Grandpa burned each night was not there. It was also apparent from the lack of noise that Yuuichirou was not there.
"Hello?" she called to the dark interior of the temple. She walked to the wall and lit a light. The main room was empty. She walked into the fire room.
"Grandpa? Yuuichirou?" The fire was burning low and it cast deep shadows all over the room. She turned on another light and the shadows lifted a little. Cautiously she walked into her Grandpa’s room. It was littered with papers and broken furniture. There she found her Grandpa face down on the carpet.
"Grandpa!" she ran to his side and check for a pulse; he lifted his head.
"I'll get them..." he muttered, "get out of my temple!" He threw Rei's arm away in frustration.
"No Grandpa, it's me: Rei!" She lifted his face up and noticed a deep gash across his forehead. Whatever had done this had caught him off guard for sure.
"Rei? Oh Rei! Look what they did to my temple Rei!" He was ranting a raving about the mess as Rei led him to his room.
"Just lie down Gramps," she helped him into bed. "Tell me, what happened?"
He climbed into his bed and she knelt down beside it, "Some young lady, very attractive mind you, came in here looking for Yuuichirou and when he came out to see her she attacked him. I think I tried to help him, but all I can seem to remember is her eyes..." He shook his head, which proved to be an awful idea in the wake of the wound Rei was dressing.
Rei gasped at the story and asked, "Grandpa! Where is he?!" She stood up, letting the gauze fall from her hands to the floor.
He rubbed his hands together and pressed the wrapping against his wound, "I don't remember..." She ran out into the hall. "Rei?" He called after her. “Should I wrap this myself?”
She ran back into the main room and immediately she saw what she had missed before. There on the back of the door a note was tacked: "Sailor Mars..."
Minako and Makoto walked along the sidewalk on their way to Minako's house. They were worried about Ami and both wondered where Shinozaki and Motoki had gone off to without telling anyone.
"Maybe they went out and Shinozaki's car broke down." Makoto said. “Or maybe they decided to go on a road trip.”
"Yeah," Minako replied, "I'm sure it's nothing serious. You guy how random guys can be, especially those two." It was strange enough that Motoki had not shown up for work, but as they had later found out, Shinozaki had not showed up to drive his aunt to work that night either.
"It's really weird," Minako thought out loud as they reached her house. "But I am sure we’ll have a good laugh about it when we hear from them. Well, Thanks for walking my home," she said as they reached her place.
Makoto smiled, "Sure, I'll call you tomorrow." Minako walked in the open door and waved to Makoto as she shut it behind her. Makoto stood outside and waited for the light to go on in the bottom right window before walking on to her house a few blocks down.
Minako was greeted by an empty house. She found a note on the kitchen counter, "Gone to dinner, be home late. XOXO Mom and Dad." She shrugged, A night to myself, she thought as she went to her room. She walked into the mess, shut her door behind her and flopped down on her bed all ready for an evening of comics and movies when a little scrap of paper tacked to the door caught her attention.
She walked over to it and read only the first sentence before she shrieked: "Sailor Venus, Motoki hasn't much time..."
As Makoto walked along the sidewalk she thought about the day. “Poor Ami,” she reflected, “imagine how it is to finally find love and then loose it so suddenly.” She sighed. The back door was unlocked and she walked into the spotless living room she had just cleaned the day before. There were some dishes to do but she had always maintained a clean place since she could remember. “I'll take care of those in the morning.”
The answering machine was blinking and hoping it would be word on Motoki, she pressed the playback button. Minako's voice came frantic through the speaker, "Makoto! When you get home call me right away!" Minako sounded like she was crying which startled Makoto and made quite alarmed, "I don't know what this means! I found a note on my bedroom door! Oh Motoki, I'm so..." Minako was suddenly cut off. Makoto stopped the machine and picked up the phone but the line was dead. She was suddenly full of panic as she heard something move in the back of the house. Slowly, she made her way in the direction of the sound ready to attack anything that moved. A small irregular tapping noise was coming from her bedroom. Tap. Tap tap. Tap. Steadily, she approached the half open door. In one rapid motion she kicked the door all the way open and slammed it against the wall as she flashed the lights on.
The window was open and her curtain rod was tapping against the window sill in the light evening breeze; she sighed heavily as she released the tension and let her nerves settle. As the door rolled back on its hinges, Makoto saw it's reflection in the mirror. “Curious,” she said, seeing something tacked to the back.
She swung the door closed and read the words on the scrap of paper. Not even halfway through it, she tore it off the door violently and ran out of the house. A ripped piece escaped from her hand: "Sailor Jupiter, Shinozaki hasn’t much time. He's mine now..."
"...and if you want to see him again, meet me at the Juuban Ice Rink tonight, midnight." Usagi read the last part of her note and the other three girls clutched theirs tightly. Each had a heart that was gripped with fear. Yuuichirou, Shinozaki, Motoki, and Mamoru: all taken. The large clock in the center of the gardens struck eleven.
Makoto was a fit of rage, "Sailor Astera!" She slammed her fist down against the concrete, not even feeling any pain, “I’ll destroy her with the first chance I get!"
Rei looked at her watch, "We have an hour."
Usagi nodded. "We have to stop her." Usagi had found her note tacked to her bedroom door after she had brought Ami home. Terrified, she had called the other girl's only to find the lines dead. She has used her communicator to round them up to meet at the park an hour later.
"Should we go get Ami?" Minako asked.
"No," Usagi remembered how upset Ami had been when she left her house. She felt bad leaving her alone since her mom would not be home for a few hours, but she was falling asleep while she was walking. “I should have spent the night...” she thought, “but now this...”
The girls made their way through the lamp lit side streets thinking about their plans for what was most obviously a trap. The nights had been cold the past few days and Usagi pulled her sweater closer around her. Makoto walked silently starring at the ground in front of her while Minako was focused on the rink roof a few blocks down. Rei had her eyes lowered.
"We need a plan," Minako said critically as they approached the rink. There was a pause. "Maybe we should have called Ami," Usagi said, half joking, half serious.
"We'll see what she's up to," offered Rei, "Then decided from there."
"Shinozaki is in there," Makoto said quietly but full of disgust, "I can feel it." With that she transformed and walked toward the doors of the rink. The other's followed her lead. As the senshi walked into the building it became apparent that this would be no easy task. The familiar rink lobby had been transformed into a series of reflective tunnels and passages. With a sigh Usagi began guessing which ones to take.
"Ami's computer would really help right now..."
Astera walked into the building through a back entrance she had discovered the night before. The empty skating rink was freezing since it had been air conditioned all day and closed off for the night. She walked through the halls to the storage room where the janitors kept their supplies. Hastily, she opened the padlock and pulled the door open.
Mamoru squinted as light flooded the small room. As her eyes focused, Astera saw the other three boys sitting around the perimeter of the room. What had they been talking about? She had heard whispers when as she was approaching the door. She walked over to Mamoru and slapped him with malice and jealousy. He turned his head from the force of the impact but did not make a sound.
"It's too bad you fell in love with such a tiresome and weak girl." She tossed her long golden hair over her shoulder and leaned down beside his face, "You could have lived," she whispered. The others heard it and Yuuichirou glanced nervously at Motoki. Shinozaki sat silent in a corner. His mind was reeling for a plan, but he could not do too much with his legs tied together and his arms handcuffed to a pipe. Astera went to each boy and check their restraints, but came back to Mamoru one last time.
"I hope you realize that this isn't your fault," she smiled condescendingly. "She's the only one you can blame." If looks could kill Astera would have been in bloody shards on the floor but in his present situation, Mamoru could do nothing except wait. “Oh, just to remind you - in case you’ve forgotten. That band around Shinozaki’s neck is a power-surge explosive. If you transform in here you will blow his head off.” Mamoru had received this warning immediately after her woke up in this hole. He was not sure if Astera was bluffing or not, but for the sake of Shinozaki, he did not call her on it.
Astera walked out of the room and quietly shut the door and replaced the lock. With a sigh she leaned against the wall. She had not realized how tired she was. Thyrei was gone now; she felt it. That meant the girls would have returned home and by now to find the little gifts she had left them. She glanced at her watch; it was nearing midnight. Quickly she made her way to the security room and flicked off the lights. The glow of the hazy black and white monitors lit up the room and she saw them standing in an empty lobby walking in circle. “It seems the illusion is working."
They were in her tunnels. Mars and Moon appeared to be arguing with one another over witch direction to take. "Good," Astera thought, "I will need to rest before I am confronted with this challenge." She sat against the wall and tilted her head back as she drifted off...
"No daddy!" Astera cried. She had lived on Astera for her whole life, and now her father was asking her to leave and go to some strange and dark planet called Nemesis. "I can't leave here!"
"Astera, you will be in great danger if you stay here and I can't have that." He touched his hand to her chin and lifted her maturing young woman’s face, "You are the future queen and ruler of this solar system, it's up to me to protect you." Astera had only been months old when her mother had suddenly vanished. Her father would never tell her the real story behind her mother or why she had stopped growing when she reached seventeen. Being a sorcerer, King Yukio had been able to sustain his age, but he felt that his time was drawing to a close.
"I will go," she said reluctantly, "but you must promise you'll return to me."
"I will return to you," he said. He kissed her forehead and took her hand as he lead her to the awaiting transportation ship. "I will see you again, my child." As the door was sealed, and the pod released into space, King Yukio gave orders for a course change.
"To the Earth," he said, "Let the battle commence!”
She sat up suddenly alert. There was movement in the room behind her. Frustrated, she stood and opened the door to find the four boys standing out of their restraints. Her shock caused her to hesitate for only a moment before she slammed the door shut behind her and pulled out her Adazuishou, "Amethyst Crystal Power, MAKE UP!" In minutes she had them subdued, each one re-cuffed and this time chained together.
She kicked Yuuichirou violently in the gut, "Get up!" He groaned at a crushing feeling in his chest and struggled to stand. Mamoru was already up, in fact he had not fallen for any of Astera's brutalities thus far. A gash adorned his face. Astera touched it lightly and noticed it had been rapidly healing.
"Mamo-chan, a secret power of yours?" She smiled, but her eyes looked dreadfully ominous.
Motoki failed to stand as well. Shinozaki tried to help him up but soon discovered he himself could barely stand. Astera sighed.
"Fine, I'll make it easy." With that she lifted and hand, in a flash, the room was empty.
The senshi walked down the tunnel Sailor Moon had chosen.
"We're going in circles!" Mars was saying. She had her arms folded defiantly across her chest and her eyes narrowed.
"Well I don't see how you could really guess any better!" Sailor Moon said.
Venus put her hand to her head, "Can we please not argue guys? We need to figure out this place soon or..." she paused thinking of Motoki and did not finish.
Sailor Moon walked on, a determined look on her face and her hands clutched in fists. “Mamo-chan,” she thought, “hang on because I'm coming.” The reflective tunnels cast an eerie feeling and made them feel surrounded, even if it was images of themselves. The odd angles and jagged pieces proved not only painful when accidentally rubbed against, but continuously created illusion after illusion.
"Sailor Moon!" Jupiter said suddenly. The group stopped.
"What is it?" Moon replied.
Jupiter pointed straight to the left. A door was there but hard to make out. It was just as reflective as the tunnel around them but two iron handles marked it.
"Should we try it?" Mars asked.
"It might be a trap." Moon said.
Venus looked around her, "Given the current situation..." The other three nodded. They approached the door with caution. Jupiter reached for the handle and, though she was surprised to actually grasp it and not punch a reflective surface, she swung it open in one quick motion. The four senshi piled into the room ready for a fight.
Immediately they were confronted with a strangely familiar setting: more reflective tunneling.
Sailor Moon slumped in a whine.
With a little persuasion, simply a few minutes of relentless attacks, the boys had become all but half-conscious lumps. Mamoru had put up the most for the fight, but without his ability to become Tuxedo Mask he was much more tame. She had securely set them in place and walked the perimeter of the rink twice.
"They are denser than I thought!" she said to herself. Suddenly Demitrius came running in to the rink.
"They've found the first door," he reported.
She looked down at him eyes wide, "The FIRST door?!" she asked in amazement. He looked up at her matter-of-factly, "The smart one, Mercury, is not with them." Astera nodded slowly. That would be a problem. It would meant one of them would still have to be dealt with after tonight. She went back in her mind to remind herself just why she was here; just why she put up with all this time and effort on this forsaken planet…
The pod traveled through space at great speeds, covering the distance between Astera and Nemesis in only two hours. Astera had fallen asleep and when the pod gently touched down on Nemesis, she was not was alert to see the sun setting like a tiny dot on the horizon. The pod was carried by conveyor to the main facilities and opened.
Astera was shaken awake by and old man who smelled of rotting flesh, "Wake up sugar pie," he said. She slapped his dirty hand away and climbed out of the pod. That had been the beginning of her troubles. Shortly after, in her given quarters, she was greeted by a small brown feline who intruded himself as Demetrius. “This journey will not be easy for you, Princess,” he told her, “but I will be here to make sure you are lead down the right path.” Less than 3 days after her arrival, a transmission from the Earth was intercepted, an raven haired man with a dark crescent moon on his forehead delivered the message to Astera's room.
"Hey," he said as he barged in, “you better get used to this quaint little planet cause it's your new home." He dropped a copy of the transmission in front of her on the floor and walked out.
She picked it up and read the words: "2.17.2905 N.K. 23:03 - Rebels of Astera defeated. Planet destroyed." She read the words over and over again, her mind unwilling to believe. No, she thought, no!
"You Promised!" Astera yelled. She looked down, as if startled by her own voice.
"What did I promise?" Demetrius asked.
"Nevermind," she said, "Get them in here, things are ready." Her eyes brimmed with tears as she made her way to her post. This was going to be the end of all her suffering. She had little idea how much truth that thought held.
Chapter VIII: Facing Death