Notes and Disclaimers: The following story includes characters from Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, copyright Takeuchi Naoko, Kodansha and Bandai, all rights reserved. All other characters and situations are copyright E. Friedman, 1999. Author’s notes follow the final chapter of this story.
There are some sexual situations in this story. If you would not be allowed into an “R” rated movie, do not continue to read. Thank you for showing some common sense and discretion.
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Warp and Weft
Sailor Pluto looked up from the screen, turning her head to identify the computer console that had beeped. She had been back in Charon Castle for a few weeks now, but there seemed a never-ending stream of temporal anomalies, erratum, and conundrums to deal with. Enough to keep her busy for years, it seemed. Which was a problem, as she had every intention of returning to Crystal Tokyo tonight.
She huffed in annoyance as she read the monitor. Another anomaly. Sailor Pluto rolled her head gently from side to side to release the tension gathering in her shoulders. Another anomaly; nothing there, just shadows.
“I really despise temporal anomalies.” Her voice echoed in the empty chamber and bounced back to her, ghost-like.
“Princess Pluto,” a deep, sonorous voice responded. “please allow me the opportunity of serving you. I will investigate the anomaly if it would please you.”
Sailor Pluto looked over her shoulder at the unkempt, bearded and wizened figure that stood behind her. She smiled at him. “Thank you Charon, but I’ll check this one out myself.”
“Please, Princess, you have been working too hard since you returned. Allow me to do this for you. After all…,” if Charon had been human, his voice might have been described as obliging, “that is my function.”
Turning, Sailor Pluto confronted the holographic personification of her computer system. He looked exactly as if he would be likely to leap on you, steal your purse and run away, cackling. On a recent visit, Usagi had labeled Charon “creepy,” while Minako had called her “morbid.” Sailor Pluto smiled inwardly at her little joke. She had insisted that Charon look the part of the infernal ferryman. Despite his appearance, Charon was as good a partner to her as she could have wished for. Better perhaps, as his existence gave her the freedom to spend time with her family and friends in Crystal Tokyo.
She inclined her head towards Charon. “But please, Charon. Call me Setsuna.”
“Yes, Mistress. Although,” his voice now became slightly petulant, “I cannot understand why you prefer the name you used in the 20th century. It is a human name…”
Setsuna turned back to the computers and entered a few corrections. “You can never have enough humanity, Charon.”
“Yes, Mistress.” He clearly did not agree.
Setsuna laughed at his discomfiture. “And Charon, before you go…can you find me that black gown? I want to wear it for the ball tonight.”
“Then you are planning to return to Crystal Tokyo?”
“Yes, for a little while.”
“You have just returned to Pluto…” Charon sounded more than a little peevish. Setsuna had a few uncharitable thoughts about the personality algorithm she had Ami create for the castle’s computer.
“Missed me, Charon?”
“No, of course not, Mistress. I am only a computer program.”
“Of course.” You old faker. “There are some people I am planning on visiting, as well. I may be gone for a few days.”
“Setsuna.” Setsuna prodded.
“Setsuna-sama.” Charon’s voice made it plain that no future concessions would be forthcoming. Setsuna smiled to herself as the program faded from the room. Her smile softened as she thought of those she would be visiting tonight. All the Senshi were gathering for the party at the Palace. This would be the first time they had all been together in Crystal Tokyo since immediately after the defeat of Nemesis, and the return of peace to the Crystal Millenium.
“Haruka, Michiru, Hotaru…it will be good to see you again.” she whispered, and turned to another computer that beeped insistently.
Her fingers moved rapidly over the keyboard, calling up data from both spatial and temporal sources.
“Damn!” Setsuna muttered as she took in the reports. “Idiots!” Paradox. She moved quickly around the room, trying to get a fix on the information. Paradox never works. The energy signature looked vaguely familiar, though. An old enemy? No, the signature was a new one, it matched none of the computer’s records. A new enemy, then, one more attempt at a temporal attack. But paradox…really, when would their enemies realize the futility of a paradox?
Setsuna thought of calling Charon to assist her, but he was busy with the earlier anomaly. It wasn’t fair to make him bear the brunt of her duty. Taking one last look at the report, Setsuna grabbed her Staff, and marched out of the control room. As she walked down the corridors of Charon Castle, she thought about the readings she had received. If they were not incorrect, someone was attempting to create a paradox in the past – attempting to change the time-stream.
I have never understood why so many people find the idea of a temporal paradox appealing, Setsuna admitted silently. Paradox can never work, it is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, destined to cancel itself out. But so many of our enemies have tried to change what was…. Time cannot change, it has already happened. Setsuna laughed grimly as she headed for her personal chamber, it seemed so obvious – on this side of Time. Her laughter faded as she thought back to many of the battles she had fought to protect the Moon Kingdom. So many of them were victories, but when would one end in defeat? Sailor Pluto gripped the Garnet Rod firmly, as she thought of the few opponents that had challenged her solitary abilities. She remembered then, the one enemy who had nearly defeated her. The energy signature had been similar…could it be? No, that’s impossible, she thought.
Sailor Pluto turned the corner, and headed for the teleport chamber. This had been installed for the convenience of the other Senshi. Her castle was very far away from the center of the kingdom, and it was a hard trip – for the Inner Senshi particularly – unless they were accompanied by the Queen. And she had wanted them to visit, especially after her first return to her castle, a thousand years ago. Minako and she had become quite close after their battle with Neherenia’s clones and Setsuna had wanted to see all she could of the girl.
This chamber had become a favorite method of communicating with Charon, as well. By routing herself through it, Setsuna found that there was always a record of when and where she had been headed. Charon could quietly keep tabs on her without nagging, and she could save energy that might be needed later. It was an unorthodox partnership she had with Charon, she’d admit, nothing like that between Michiru and Haruka, but it worked for her. Setsuna smiled at the thought of her teammates, and programmed the chamber to the coordinates that the readouts had given her.
“Setsuna.” The voice, soft, almost sad, came from immediately behind her. Setsuna whirled around, the Staff moving up to protect her, but it was too late.
All she saw was a single blurred motion, heard herself grunt in pain, then blackness engulfed her.
The alarm rang, piercing the thick veil of sleep that wrapped itself about her. Setsuna reached out groggily and hit the snooze button. Without moving from the bed, or even opening her eyes, she did a mental appraisal of her situation. Alarm clock…electricity…that means the twentieth century – late twentieth century. She cracked one eye opened and ran it reluctantly around the room. She shut it again with a groan. The furnishings and patterns of the room were horrendous. She cringed at the sight that had greeted her.
“1978. Ugh,” she moaned, “I hated the 70’s. The clothes alone will kill me.” With a sudden thought, she sprang out of bed and looked desperately for a mirror, as if merely existing in the 1970s would have given her bad hair. She fell backwards as excruciating pain pounded into her eyes. She felt as if she had an incredible hangover. But that was impossible – she had never made it to the party.
“Idiot!” she grunted, as another needle pierced her left eye. She laid down quickly, willing herself to relax. She knew very well that in her Senshi form she did not get headaches, or other symptoms of excess. Therefore, she concluded, she was currently in her human form. It was hard to think around the pain. I was forcibly detransformed…what happened?
Setsuna briefly thought of transforming to get rid of the headache, but passed that off as a weak moment. She remembered a blur, a voice….
“Who was it?” she thought, and lapsed into a miserable silence. Almost immediately, she fell asleep once more.
When she awoke for the second time, her head no longer ached, but she wouldn’t be operating any heavy machinery any time soon, either. Setsuna indulged in a long, luxurious stretch and felt for the alarm clock at the bedside. Nearly noon. That meant nothing, of course. The concept of time had so little to do with clocks that she almost giggled. The sun coming in through the window was cheery, casting shadows and lines all over the apartment.
Setsuna sat up. She knew this apartment well enough. It was one of her own, one of the several she rented in various places and times under assumed names, through agents, managers and lawyers. This was a nice place in Central Tokyo, small, just enough space for herself and a few meager belongings. She winced at the wallpaper, a cacophony of color and remembered her earlier assessment.
“1978.” She repeated to the empty apartment. “Why am I here?” First things first. Setsuna rose, not resisting the temptation to complete an earlier motion. Her hand touching her hair, she looked into the mirror and smiled. “Timeless,” she quipped, then stopped. Her hair style was intact.
Which was odd. She usually released it from its tight bun before going to sleep. The smile faded from her lips.
Reaching her arm forward, the Garnet Rod appeared in her grasp, its heft comforting, as always. Setsuna thumbed a small panel, sliding it aside to reveal a set of buttons. She keyed in a code and spoke to the air. “Charon, come in.”
Frowning, she programmed in a new code and called to her Castle once more. No answer was forthcoming.
While it was true that Charon was looking into that anomaly, he should have been present to answer her. Either communications had been cut off on her end..or his. She needed to think this through, and her head still felt as if, well, as if she had been hit with the obligatory blunt instrument. A bath would settle her nerves and soothe her body, she decided, as she willed the Staff away.
Efficiently, she moved around the small apartment, gathering accouterments for a bath. There was a public bath just down the block, one of the selling points of the apartment. Her head, while no longer pounding, did not feel right, and there was a distinct stiffness in her shoulders and back. A bath would give her time to think, and reflect on exactly why she was here in the twentieth century…against her will.
The attendant at the bath looked askance at the tall, stately woman with dark green hair that entered. It was so rare to see a young person here at midday, especially one so striking. She nodded to Setsuna, who smiled pleasantly and greeted her politely, but refused any assistance.
After washing, Setsuna lowered herself into the hot water with a sigh of relief. She closed her eyes and pretended not to notice the old women who were not quite openly staring at her. She had other things on her mind at the moment, let them talk. She let the women’s gossip waft over her as she relaxed her body, then allowed her mind to worry at the problem that faced her.
When she had punched in the code to contact Charon, she had also activated an internal alarm. It would register where and when the message had been received from. If she did not deactivate the alarm, in 48 hours it would contact the Queen…she paused.
Contact the Queen! If she could find Usagi now…suddenly the significance of the year hit her. The calendar in her apartment had read March 1978. Tsukino Usagi would not be born for another 3 months. She was completely alone here. Yes, the Prince, and Haruka and Michiru were alive, but what were they, 2, 3, 4 years old? No, she’d have to figure this out on her own.
She wiped the sweat off of her face with a towel. Now she knew why she had been sent to this time. But was it a decoy, or was she here for some other purpose? Was she here to fight an enemy, or for an enemy?
Setsuna thought about the last readings she had gotten from the computer before leaving the control room. They had indicated a paradox coming from somewhere near her planet, in the immediate present. Had she been shanghaied to the past to keep her away from a closer threat?
And that energy signature still bothered her, as well. It was so like his…but that could not be possible. She shook her head angrily, drawing attention to herself once more. The old women smiled toothlessly at her as she rose and left the bath.
She had to get back to the future…something was about to happen and she needed to be there. She left the bathhouse, and with a purposeful step headed back to her apartment.
From across the street, a figure clad in jeans and a leather jacket watched casually as Setsuna walked past him and up the street. When she turned the corner, the figure stepped up to a motorcycle parked at the curb, started it, kicked it into gear and pulled away. He headed around the same corner at a slow pace, keeping her just within sight.
Standing in her small apartment, Setsuna called to her hand the henshin wand that she had held so many times. She gazed at it, marveling at its still-bright color, the shine that had never faded. Filled with anticipation, she held it over her head and called upon her guardian planet to once again make her Sailor Pluto.
The rush of adrenaline was fantastic, as it always was. She felt alive, her nerves thrumming, her hearing and eyesight sharpened. Each heartbeat seemed pregnant with possibility and she spent one single moment simply reveling in the feeling. For thousands of years she had been doing this, and it never once felt boring or wrong. Sailor Pluto called her Staff to her hands, marshaled her power and focused on her home, on the loneliest planet in the far-distant future. Power coalesced around her, the very air glowed with it. Her hair rose in the cosmic wind and in a sudden rush, the power exploded outwards…and dissipated, leaving her standing alone in her apartment.
“Well, that solves that,” Setsuna said philosophically, as she willed the Rod away, and detransformed. “I had better come up with a plan ‘B.’”
Meioh Setsuna grabbed her purse off the chair, and walked briskly out the door.
She sat in the hotel bar, sipping a glass of white wine, surrounded by leisure-suited salarymen. None of them had yet dared approach her, and she willed them away until she finished her drink. One lushly garrulous man at the end of the bar joked with his friends loudly, and was encouraged to try and chat with her, but she intensified the aura of coldness about her, and he did not come over.
Why she had come here, she could not say. It had been a bad choice, and she knew it. There were too many memories here and so few of them good ones. Time heals all wounds, she thought bitterly. How much time is needed to heal this one?
Time passed, as it does in places like hotel bars, and Setsuna was nearly done with her wine. She contemplated dinner and found it held no appeal for her. She was feeling frustrated and confused and wished she could figure out why she was here. What was she here to do – or not do? For every moment she wasted here, a plot of some kind was being formed against her Queen, her home, her family. Setsuna was beginning to lose her temper.
“Hello, Pu.” the voice, soft and a little sad, came from immediately behind her. Setsuna managed not to jump, not to cry out, not to scream. In tones as smooth and cold as a glacier she responded, without turning.
A pause for just one beat then, “I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”
She paused for a beat more, then, just as evenly, not stressing any of the syllables, “Mar-ga-rite, then. And please do not call me Pu.”
Setsuna had still not turned around. Her heart sank everytime he spoke to her. All the clues had been there, she hadn’t wanted to see them. With every ounce of discipline she could muster she simply said, “Setsuna.”
“Marcas.” Pause. “Aren’t you going to ask me to sit?” His voice was plaintive.
She whirled on him, anger darkening her face, her voice now raised just a bit, just enough to draw the attention of those around her. “Ask you to sit? Are you kidding? You’re dead! I killed you!” she stood, her fists clenched, her body shaking with emotion. She gritted her teeth and hissed, “What are you doing here, Margarite?”
He did not speak for a time, until the short attention spans of their audience forced them to turn away from the tableau. Setsuna took the opportunity to regain her composure and measure up her companion. He had not changed at all; he was exactly as she remembered him on the day she had killed him. His hair was shoulder length, medium brown, pulled back into a pony tail. He wore, of course, twentieth century clothing; a brown leather jacket over a T-shirt, jeans, boots. His brown eyes were solemn, and he had grown a bushy mustache. She found it hard not to stare at him, so she dropped her eyes.
Margarite spent a moment sizing Setsuna up, but found that it hurt to look at her. She was exactly the same as he remembered her, cold, remote and beautiful. Her hair shimmered, even in the poorly lit bar. There was a place in his chest that would not stop aching as he watched her drop her eyes and unclench her hands.
“Why are you here?” she repeated, her eyes closed.
“I need your help, Pu…Pl…Setsuna.”
She raised her head, incredulous. “You have got to be kidding.”
“I’m serious…Setsuna, I want, I need your help.”
Setsuna wasn’t sure whether to cry or to laugh. This ghost from the past had come to her, the man she had killed, the man she had loved…she felt light-headed. “Come on…Marcas, I need some fresh air and food.” She grabbed her purse and without turning to see if he followed, left the bar.
Setsuna faced Marcas across and linen draped table. Food sat on plates in front of them, untouched. Scraps of bread and glasses of wine seemed to be the only casualties on this battlefield.
“Tell me again why you need my help?” Setsuna refused to believe what she had heard. “Wait, first, tell me how you came to be alive.”
Marcas stared out the window on a twilit Tokyo. “Beryl resurrected me, almost immediately after you killed me. She renamed me Marcasite, so if rumor came to you, you would not recognize that it was me. I did not want to return, Setsuna, I swear it. It was a relief when you killed me in the battle over the Moon Kingdom. I thought I would have peace at last, but Beryl wanted control over Time and she brought me back. When Queen Serenity sealed Beryl away and sent her to the future, I was sealed away with her.”
*It was a relief when you killed me.* Setsuna thought of that final battle in front of the Doors of Time. Margarite, one of the Generals of the Dark Kingdom, her nemesis and her lover of many years, had finally fallen to her. She could feel herself slipping quietly into insanity.
She saw him, a general of Earth, accompanying his Prince to the Moon Kingdom on a visit…
Pluto stood, along with other Senshi, arrayed behind their Queen and Princess. The younger Senshi were dressed in finery, as befitted princesses of their respective planets and giggled and flirted with the handsome soldiers of the Earth. Princess Serenity, of course, had eyes for no one but her beloved Endymion. Pluto smiled to see the two so in love.
Pluto, Uranus and Neptune stood at attention, arrayed in their fuku, as they had agreed earlier. It would not do to be completely unprotected, even if this was a friendly visit. In a spirit of friendship none of them held their Talisman, although Pluto felt somewhat at a loss without it. She began to fidget with her hands and Neptune had smiled reassuringly at her. Pluto smiled back and turned to see the ranks of Earth nobility walk by. Later that evening would be a party, but now the formalities had to be seen to.
Eventually Endymion came to collect his beloved, accompanied by 8 of his closest counselors and generals. Each asked one of the Senshi to accompany him into the Palace. Setsuna, as the oldest, and representative of the most distant planet, was last. The young man who took her arm was her own height, his warm, brown eyes regarding her in a friendly, but not overly familiar fashion. Margarite, he said his name was, and he was extremely interested in Time. He had, he told her, actually requested the position of her escort, having heard so much about her. But not, he hastened to add, how beautiful she was…
Pluto had laughed at him, then. And together they had smiled at the couples that preceded them, Uranus and Neptune had been paired with Kunzite and Zoisite, respectively, a fitting pairing, as the latter were are well know as lovers as the former. It amused them all to escort each other, and they were bantering and flirting between themselves. Pluto and Margarite joined in the banter as they entered the palace….
He had been so gallant that night, so charming. She had danced with him all night then, and walked with him, talking until the dawn broke. A tear broke free of Setsuna’s eye and slid down her face. She wiped it away impatiently. Marcas was still talking.
“And she wants me to fight you again. She told me to attack you in your time, where you wouldn’t expect it. I told her it was foolish, that Serenity and the other Senshi are stronger than they’ve ever been…so she told me to do whatever seemed best….” Marcas stopped.
“She?” Setsuna asked, confused.
“Who is she?”
“We don’t know, but she is marshaling the forces of the Dark Kingdom again – and she’s unlikely to make the same mistakes Beryl did. She’s much smarter.”
“Marcas? Why are you telling me this? Why did you bring me here?” Setsuna stared him directly in the eyes for the first time since she had seen him. He did not look away, his eyes softened and he reached across the table to touch her hand with his own.
“She wants me to prevent Queen Serenity from ever being born. Setsuna, I want out, I want to leave…and we both know there is only one way. You have to defeat me. Please, in the name of what we had together, please defeat me once again.” He was pleading, and she thought her heart would break at the sadness in his voice.
“In the name of what we had? The betrayal? The bitterness?” She couldn’t help herself, the words slipped out before she had a chance to supress them. Marcas lowered his head and did not respond. She felt anger again. “You betrayed your planet, your Prince and me, Margarite. Why should I help you?”
He lifted his head and met her gaze. His eyes became hard and dark. “Because if you don’t defeat me, Sailor Moon will never be born.” The word sat between them, hovering, filling the space around them….paradox.