Tsukino Usagi looks up at the younger, taller girl, `There's something seriously fucked going on here,' she shoves off the wall with a twitch of her shoulders, `So I'm gonna help, whether you like it or not.'
`Then I'd better like it, huh?' Tenjou Utena looks down at the woman camouflaged in an Ohtori uniform.
`Yep. You coming, Himemiya?'
`Yes, Tsukino-san,' the dark-skinned girl nods, a tiny smile gracing her lips.
Acheron Set About 2775 CE, and a few thousand lightyears spinward. by Suika Roberts
Usagi follows the two girls across campus, `They said they'd be cleaning up the old science building,' she scowls, `You were with me when they did,' she looks up at Utena.
`Yep. At least they got one of the rooms in the East Hall fixed up before they moved us in there.'
Utena shrugs, `I don't have any more of an idea what's going on than you do, but Himemiya needed someone to look out for her, so.'
`The pamphlet from the facilities committee said the East Hall was coming down two months ago.'
`They've said that every fall for a while,' Anthy says.
`Oh lovely. And no one's complained?'
`It gets a page in the school paper every spring.'
`Almost as nice as the way they put us in a half-ruined building with rampant ghost stories running around the school about it,' Utena gestures around the still fairly ragged lobby before leading the way up the stairs, `One of the residence rooms is fixed, one latrine, and the dining hall and kitchen downstairs. No cooks, though, so I take care of that.'
`Do you run logpac, too?'
`Nah, there's civilians for that.'
`Sit,' Utena waves at the low table, and Anthy bustles about with a teapot.
`Utena,' Usagi says, reaching behind her head and drawing a gun, `strip.'
Utena plops down at the table-side, holds out a hand, `Wrench and rag.'
Usagi hands over the .45. Utena clears it, then sets the loose round next to the magazine. She takes the proffered rag and bushing wrench, and sets to work field-stripping the gun.
Anthy sets the tea set on the free side of the table, then settles across from Usagi, watching as Utena works with the ancient weapon.
`Militec,' Utena says after a while, and takes the proffered bottle of metal conditioner.
A few moments later Usagi accepts the weapon back, repeats the function check Utena just did, `Good job,' then reloads, loose round in the chamber, fourteen round mag locked, safety checked and weapon holstered again.
Usagi downs her cup of tea, smiles when Anthy refills it, and pulls the rag over in front of her before field stripping her backup gun onto it.
`Himemiya,' she says, a few pieces of plastic, alloy, and blued steel spread on the formerly-white cloth in front of her, black fingers rubbing oil into them as they go back together, `How old are you?'
`What do you mean, Tsukino-san?'
`How old do you think I am?'
`You have a starship of your own, and you have been here at least five years, so about twenty?' Anthy sips her tea, `Darkies can take a long time to grow up.'
`Yes, they can,' Usagi smiles, `It'll still be another few months until my seventy fifth birthday.'
`Wow. You're,' Utena pauses, at Usagi's familiar quelling look, realizing that she's interrupting an interrogation, `Well preserved.'
`Quite,' Usagi's lips twitch, and she looks back at Anthy, `How old are you?'
`I don't know,' Anthy bows her head, setting her cup down. She doesn't flinch at the *snickThunk* of Usagi chambering the top round before she puts the little gun back up under her top, `I've been doing this for a long time, it blurs after the first dozen times through eighth grade.'
`I'd think so. At least in the Army it was always a different mess. What year were you born?'
`I don't know. I don't remember.'
`What happens to the winners of the tournament?'
`No one's won.'
`I . . . ' she shakes her head, `I don't remember.'
`All right, your questions, madam,' Usagi gestures at Anthy, wiping her hands clean on a rag.
Utena accepts it as normal, but Anthy, `How does that work?'
Usagi stops stuffing the rag back into her pocket, and hands it across the table with clean hands, `Magic.' She picks up the cup Anthy had poured for her, and takes a sip, `Thank you.'
Anthy smells the rag, then shakes out the slightly frayed brown fabric, smooth and shiny and spotless. `Spot,' she holds out her hand for Usagi's left.
Usagi reaches over, and Anthy wipes gently at the greyish stain. It pales, but is still visible, `Rub a little harder.'
Once the spot is gone Anthy looks at the rag again, then makes to hand it back, `Here,'
`Keep it. You seem like you could use a little magic,' Usagi smiles at her.
Anthy nods, and tucks it into her own pocket, `How did you meet Utena?'
Usagi glances at Utena, smiles at the familiar address, `She was standing on the bank of the river waving a stick around. She wasn't very good at it, but . . . ' she trails off, smiles at the memory.
`So I taught her a little, then wandered off for a couple years.'
`My parents liked her, and had her down as next-of-kin, so they called her up when the accident happened.'
Anthy looks at the woman in front of her, bemused.
`I'm pretty small for a ten-year-old, but that's when I locked myself, so,' Usagi shrugs, `I'm gonna be like this for a long time, so I cope, and everyone who deals with me does too,' Usagi smiles up at Anthy, `Or I beat them up, or sic the lawyers on them, or both.'
Anthy just stares.
`You're supposed to laugh,' Usagi pouts, complete with melted face and big watery eyes.
Utena breaks, gasping as she tries not to fall over, and Anthy smiles.
Usagi stands, turns to Anthy, `Are you sure you're safe here?' she pauses, `Your wards are good, but-' she shrugs, shivering slightly.
`As safe as anywhere on this planet,' Anthy says with a crooked twist of her lips.
Usagi looks up at the girl, shivers again, her hands reflexively checking her gear, then tilts her head, `Come with me.'
-* A *-
`You drive?' Anthy asks, then looks down.
Usagi climbs into the drivers seat, `You can sit in the back with Utena or up front with me,' She smiles, shakes the shift knob back and forth to make sure she's out of gear, then cranks the ancient vehicle over with a whining grind of starter motor, followed by a whistling *putt putt*.
`Is it safe?'
`She's been around longer than your planet has had people on it,' Usagi pushes the clutch to the floor, presses the shift knob down towards the floor, then pulls it back with a noticeable *Chunk*, `And she's never been totaled.'
`What is she?' Anthy settles herself onto the black vinyl-upholstered cushion of the passenger seat, fumbles with her seatbelt a moment before getting it almost to lock. She settles back and it pops loose.
Utena leans forward and forces the recalcitrant mechanism, `Nineteen seventy-four Volkswagen Thing. 1600CC gasoline motor, four-speed manual transmission, rear engine, rear wheel drive, top speed of just over ninety miles an hour.'
`How fast is that in kilometers?'
-* A *-
`This is Yuriko,' Usagi says, as Anthy stares up at the crystalline bulk of a Corellian Yards FTL courier, `I've had her a long time.'
Anthy nods as Usagi pulls the Thing onto the obviously retrofitted freight lift. She shivers suddenly as they are lifted towards the hatch, then relaxes, realizing why they didn't just teleport in, `Her shields are really strong.'
`The main spells are over a thousand years old now. They'll stop Mama, in a rage, with the ginzuisho and her harem to back her. Not for long, but five minutes should be enough time to get out of range,' Usagi shrugs, `And Yuri's not bad at dodging once she's undocked.'
`Mama?' Anthy asks.
`Bitch-queen of the sixty billion,' Usagi shrugs, `Even though it's closer to seventy-five billion, now. Ruler of more than half of known space, rapacious conquerer of peaceful neighbors, all that good stuff.'
`Tsukino Usagi, youngest daughter of Queen Serenity?'
`Please, I've not been the youngest since I was eight.'
`Youngest daughter of her body, then?'
`Nope, not even that, the little one's almost five.'
`Do you mind if we put Anthy in your room, Utena?'
`I still have a room?'
`What, you think that just because I let you go off to boarding school I'd forget about you?'
`It's not like you've much space.'
`They packed two hundred and ten Dark Kingdom warriors into her on at least two occasions back in the 1990s.'
`For how long?'
`Couple hours each time,' Usagi smiles, unbraiding pink hair, `Besides, it's generally just me and Yuri anyway.'
`Do you mind?' Utena asks Anthy.
She got a little smile and shaken head for an answer.
`I'll be over here, then,' Usagi flops down and pulls her socks off, then leans back against a crystalline bulkhead and closes her eyes. Her fingers twitch as she types a moment.
Anthy follows Utena from the room, pausing at the door, `So she sleeps out there?'
`Yep. She says it's because she's lazy,' Utena looks around the room, `I can grab a sleeping pad and sheets, so you can have the bed. Latrine's on the left, closet's on the right, the arms locker's by the door,' she gestures at the cabinet.
`I don't need that much space,' Anthy looks at the huge bed.
`That's what I told her, and she said that since she'd gone to the trouble of getting sheets for her bed, I had to take this one.'
`Something about no one making sheets for a four foot round bed,' Utena points with her chin, Dark Kingdom style, towards the main room.
`Oh, so that's not an antigrav combat platform she's sitting on?'
`It might be that, too,' Utena laughs, turning to look at the other again, smiling at the sight of the pretty girl in her nightgown, sitting on the edge of the bed.
`Come here,' Anthy says, `There's plenty of space, I shouldn't be a bother.'
`It's not trouble, really. You ever been on a night bivy in Antarctica, on Earth? She's got some strange ideas about things to do for summer vacation.'
`Please?' Anthy clenches one hand in the sheets, and the other almost reaches out.
Utena nods, dropping to one knee and reaching for the extended hand, `As you wish.'
Anthy twines their fingers together and tucks their joined hands under her chin, eyes closed.
-* A *-
Utena wakes in the familiar room, pondering the warm hand twined in her own for several minutes before she twists to look at the time display. Fifteen more minutes. She settles back against the bed, turning to watch Anthy sleep, soft dark features twitching as she slowly drifts towards consciousness.
Utena smiles at her as she opens her eyes, and Anthy smiles back.
`Good morning, Himemiya.'
o/~ Do not envy the man with the X-Ray eyes o/~
Anthy startles and Utena smirks at the sight, `Told you the alarm would go off at six thirty.'
`What is that racket?'
`A song that's been out of style for about eight hundred years, knowing Usagi.'
`Oh,' Anthy slips out of bed and makes for the door to the latrine.
`Don't take too long, please.'
`You can join me.'
Utena studies the girl carefully, trying to read what she actually wants, and, as usual, mostly failing. She seems much more enthusiastic than usual, but . . . and she enjoyed it when they danced together, but . . . Utena smiles, again, and says softly, `Not this time. Go ahead.'
Anthy blinks, then nods, still smiling as she turns to the door.
Once she's inside, Utena almost succumbs to the urge to bolt, but instead walks from the room at a normal pace, closing the door behind her, `Help?' she says in a small voice.
Usagi rolls over, still in bed, topsheet tangled around her legs, and puts her head on her hands, `With?'
Utena sits crosslegged in the middle of the room, pulls her knees up and wraps her arms around her pajama-clad legs, `Himemiya is the Rose Bride, prize of the tourney, and I don't want to hurt her.'
`Good,' Usagi nods, `What do you know about this tourney?'
`The rings are magic, and keyed to the contest. Without a ring, you're not a duelist. The others were chosen by "end of the world". Most of them are creeps. The guy who had her when I got involved was hitting her, and she was just putting up with it.'
A small hand touches Utena's, and she looks down in surprise, `Chu-chu?'
Utena pets his head, `How did you get in here, anyway?'
`He came in with you. Where'd you find a Mandecovian?'
`He's Himemiya's friend.'
`I think that's a good sign,' Usagi says, `What's the problem?'
`I . . . she . . . ' Utena pauses, then tries again, owning her statements, `I think she's really pretty. I kinda think she maybe likes me, but maybe she's just going along with her role as the Rose Bride, and . . . ' Utena takes a deep breath, `I don't want to feel I need to shoot myself in the forehead, even if she . . . ' she shakes her head, burying her face against her thighs.
`Chu. Chu-Chuch,' Chi-chu hugs Utena's ankle.
`Yeah, what he said, and let her decide.'
`And if she's under a compulsion do do what I want her to?'
`You can still hug her, or let her kiss you, right?'
`But if she doesn't really want to . . . '
`I'll beat the crap out of you for her, if she doesn't, once the tourney's broken. Would that make you feel better?'
Utena laughs, looking up from her knees, `Yeah, I guess it will.'
`Chu- chu,' the little alien agrees.
`Utena,' Anthy says from the doorway, already dressed in her school uniform, `I'm out of the bathroom.'
`Bathroom's over there,' Usagi and Utena say in unison, pointing to a door on the other wall of the main room, then laugh at each other.
`Sorry,' Utena says, getting to her feet, `Someone's been in the Deployable Forces for too long,' she points at Usagi with her chin.
`You want an MRE for breakfast, or what?' Usagi asks back.
`Do you have any C-rats left?'
Usagi shoves herself back, up onto her knees, then directs a quizzical look at the ceiling.
`Actually, we do,' a new voice answers, `Do you actually want one?'
`Himemiya's kinda a vegitarian, Yuri,' Utena says instead.
`Gotcha. Would you like anything in particular, Himemiya-san?'
`I'll make pancakes, then, since Utena likes 'em. Do we still got any of the pie filling?' Usagi gets to her feet, clad in just a brown t-shirt and matching panties, and wanders towards yet another door off the main room. `It should still be good, it hasn't come out of the freezer yet,' Yuri answers.
`Good, good,' she scratches under her left arm, and climbs up on the counter to pull down a mixing bowl and a cast-iron skillet.
Anthy watches as she bustles around the kitchen, years of practice mostly making up for slight stature, `Dark Kingdom doctors could rebuild you taller, can't they, even if you're age-locked? It must be difficult to be so small.'
`Being Mandecovian sized would be pretty difficult,' Usagi shakes her head, `But I'm not just age-locked. My other Serial Number is 3876-435-0.'
`What does that mean?'
Usagi pours the first pancake, watches the bubbles rise for a moment, then answers, `Dark Kingdom SNs aren't some sort of secure UUID, just a convenient number that marks your status as a Citizen. If you're just a citizen because you lived to 21 or naturalized - the number is the P.O.E.E. date, followed by a sequence number. Defaults get a six-digit hex number after the date, Enlisted get a four-digit hex number, Officers get a three digit, Warrant Officers get a two-digit, and Sailors get a one-digit. Sailors are zero-indexed, unlike the others, and there's only one Sailor who's serial number doesn't end in zero.'
`Oh,' Anthy blinks at the tiny woman in front of her, `So you're a Sailor,' flickers her right hand fingers over her left hand, working an abacus that isn't there, `and you first transformed when you were _ten_?'
`Give the girl a pancake!' Usagi smiles at her, `I've not seen anyone do that in years,' she preps a plate, sets it on the counter in front of Anthy, places the pot of thick berry syrup on a trisket in easy reach, `with the soroban. I thought the skill was lost, I sure never learned it,' she pauses, `Haven't yet, anyway.'
`It's the only way I can work with hex or octal, but decimal is pretty easy to learn,' Anthy says, standing at the counter.
`You can teach me later, if you want. Sit, eat. Coffee or tea? Sorry, shoulda asked sooner.'
`Coffee's fine,' Anthy drags a stool over a bit, and sits.
`Male and female uniforms, rather than summer and winter?' Usagi greets Utena, putting pancakes on a plate, `Three?'
Utena nods, `Yep. Kinda scary, actually, with the way they raise kids around here,' she takes her plate, pours herself a cup of coffee, and settles onto a stool next to Anthy.
`Yeah, I've noticed that,' Usagi frowns, sips her own coffee, which is half milk, `They speak Japanese, the architecture's kinda French, but most of the settlers came from the United States, and the stupider parts at that.'
Anthy shudders, `At least the Baptist Council's dropped out of sight recently. They were pretty scary.'
Usagi blinks, and shakes her head when Utena opens her mouth to ask about that.
Utena nods, and subsides.
`That wasn't very recent, was it?' Anthy says, `We covered the pogroms in class . . . it's 2775, and they were in the 2200s, right after settlement . . . I don't feel that old . . . ' she sets her cup down, and pushes her plate back before dropping her head onto her layered hands.
Utena shoves the last bite of her breakfast in her mouth and stands, cupping Anthy's shoulder and pulling her close.
Anthy twists, pressing her face into Utena's breast, and whimpers, `Why?'
`I don't know, but we'll stop it,' Utena looks up at Usagi's voice, `Right?'
`Right,' Utena says firmly, hugging the girl in her arms as Usagi walks out to get dressed.
She's still leaned back against the counter, the side of her face pressed to the top of Anthy's head when Usagi comes back into the room, tosses her uniform coat on the counter, and starts washing the dishes.
`You still carrying the five point seven?'
`Of course,' Utena says, taking a moment to check the weapon on her strong-side hip, under the familiar chill of its concealment spells.
`Good. How many people know of it?'
`It's just not done around here, so no one's looking beyond the normal metal detectors and stuff. The people who know I'm a Darkling should know, but probably don't.'
`OK.' A bit later Usagi grabs up her coat and shrugs it on, shakes her hands dry again, `Let's go.'
`Himemiya?' Utena asks.
`Hmmm,' Anthy sits up, then slides off her stool. Utena gives her a hug, then offers her hand.
-* A *-
Usagi frowns as she parks the Thing, barely paying attention, focused on Anthy, `Are you OK, Himemiya?'
`Yes,' Anthy flinches again, `It's just that the swords couldn't find me last night, so they're angrier than normal.'
`The swords of the world's hatred,' Anthy says, not really paying attention to anything beyond Utena's hand, wrapped in her own and, again, tucked under her chin.
`Usagi,' Utena turns pleading eyes on her guardian, `Please.'
`Soon,' She jerks up the parking brake with a ratcheting *krickikikir* `What are the keys to tactical victory?'
`Good intelligence, sufficient firepower, and violence of action,' Utena answers, climbing out of the doorless vehicle, then helping Anthy out.
`Logistics, aerospace superiority, and overwhelming artillery support,' Utena smiles, suddenly, `So we've got this problem, you're saying?'
`Once I know what the problem is, yes, we do.'
-* A *-
`I've been out of school for a bit, so I'm auditing a few classes to see where I'm at, sensei,' Usagi smiles up at the thirty-ish man at the front of the class, hands clasped around one dark-clad knee. Once he turns back to the rest of the class she places her hands on the desk in front of her, leans forward a bit. At the end of class she twitches, then just pulls the black uniform jacket down, rather than let herself make the full equipment check she wants to make.
She wanders out in the middle of math class with a little wave towards the pretty woman teaching, and follows the green-haired boy with the duelist's ring. -* A *-
Usagi drops three rose-seal rings into Utena's hand, a fourth on her ring finger, `I had to mug four of 'em before I found one that'd fit.'
`That leaves,' Anthy pauses, `Three of them?'
`I think so. You want one? Miki's might fit you.'
`I,' she pauses, `It would be different.'
`Mug?' Utena asks, as she slips the smallest of the rings onto Anthy's finger.
`Beat someone up and take their stuff. Rob, as opposed to steal or pilfer.'
`Let's go, I need to talk to the honcho about punching Saionji in the balls, apparently.'
`And they let you go without an escort?'
`It's not like they could do much with me anyway.'
`They're not usually that smart around here,' Anthy says.
`Which is why the escort's in the janitor's closet in Alden hall.'
`Honcho's been through a lot of names, but is currently going by Ohtori Akio. Stupid bastard's been showing up regularly in the promo lit for this place since the late 2100s, so . . . '
`He's my brother,' Anthy says, `But he got broken when I tried to save him from the swords.' Utena clutches her close, and presses her face to Anthy's neck. Anthy pats her back awkwardly.
`Fuck,' Usagi says, and waits for Utena to recover her composure before leading off again.
-* A *-
`So, what the fuck are you trying to accomplish?' Usagi steps forward, Utena holding Anthy close behind her.
Akio smiles, `The Revolution of the World.'
`This world? This universe? Some chunk of the multiverse?'
`You don't know, do you,' Usagi pauses, staring at the tall, dark skinned, white haired boy in front of her.
`Of course I do.'
`And what the _Fuck_,' she punctuates the word with a sharp jab of her bladed hand, drill-sergeant style, `Will this revolution accomplish?'
`Why, the Revolution of the World.'
`Right, you just said that. Use different words.'
`There are no other words,' he scowls, and draws a sword from nowhere.
Usagi slaps it to the side, and her answering fist stops a bare inch from his pants in a flash of light.
`Atchatcha,' she says, shaking her hand, then her black uniform shakes into something completely different, short pink skirt over a white bodysuit, and she brandishes something in one hand, `Pink Sugar Heart Attack!'
A barrage of little pink hearts splash against his shields, then against his skin, tickling, making him laugh. He continues to laugh even as Usagi leaps, grabbing his collar with her left hand as she brings the stainless steel .45 against his eye with the right.
*BLAM* Akio drops, blood and gore spouting everywhere, and Anthy screams, clutching her face as she curls into a fetal position.
`Well, fuck,' Usagi turns Akio's body over with one foot, a frown marring her lightly blood-splattered face, `He's not dead, probably due to her link with him. Is she OK?'
`That hurt,' Anthy says, getting, with Utena's help, upright, but not up, one hand still clutched to her face, `But I think I'll be fine.'
`Good. I didn't expect that,' she looks down at the body, which is no longer bleeding, the destroyed eye already beginning to regenerate, `Yuri, hypercom, we need a forensic mage team here, old magic, unknown tradition, major working, stat. He may be functional again in as little as eight hours.'
Brilliant purple light flares through the vaulted space a few minutes later. Six Sailors and twelve police mages drop hands, and turn to look around the room.
Utena watches the Sailors approach.
`Who are they?' Anthy asks, after a quick glance followed by a wince.
`Moon, Mars, Chibi-Moon, Saturn, Nox and Erebus.'
The first four head over to Usagi and Akio's body, the later two drop to one knee on either side of Anthy.
`Hmm,' Erebus sets her pale grey gloved hand on Anthy's head, `Feel it?'
`Got it,' Nox gathers something pale and glowing up in her black gloved hands, pulling on it until it resolves into a cord, then ties a black ribbon she pulls from her LBV around it, wrapping it twice before cinching it tight, and letting it go.
The cord vanishes, and she turns to Anthy, `Is that better, dear?'
Anthy sags into Utena, `Yes.'
`You've got her?' Erebus asks softly.
`Yes,' Utena tucks the girl under her chin, `I've got her.'
`Good.' Nox and Erebus share a smile, then turn towards the others.
-* A *-
`Isn't it kind of . . . odd . . . to be hanging out with yourself?' Utena asks, watching Hotaru and the older Usagis bustle about the East Hall kitchen.
`No, odd was realizing, in one of the clearest memories I've got from when I was about five, that the women who were babysitting me were me and my wife, who'd been together for almost seven hundred years at that point, and thinking "well, I'll be prettier than Yoda after nine hundred years."'
`That might be a bit odd,' Anthy smiles, and cuddles Utena close.
`They're still not sure what the working was supposed to do,' Asami says, stepping into the room, `But they've untangled most of it, and released the energy. We're pretty sure you're severed from it, Himemiya-san.'
`Do you remember what happened?'
`Somewhat. I remember a little bit of being a kid, and the last couple years, but most of the intervening time is . . . really blurred together. I don't think that's a bad thing,' she blinks, and Utena presses a kiss against her hair, `Will my brother be OK again?'
`I don't know. His persona matrix shattered when Moon blew his brains out, but it looks like he's forming a new one. Unless you object we'll find him a foster family in the Dark Kingdom.'
`Please,' Anthy says into Utena's breast, `I just wanted him to be happy.'
`We'll do our best.'
~ Fin ~
3173/Confusion/12: This came up from a thought - Chibi-Usa probably baby-sat herself. DKR Chibi-Usa definately did. So where do you put a line like "And I thought it was odd to have yourself and your wife who was born seven hundred years before you and is four hundred years younger than you for baby-sitters."?
3173/Confusion/15: First draft finished. Still needs a title, and the temptation to pontificate in places was strong.
3173/Confusion/19: changed out a theory for a tradition. Still no comments, email, nothing . . . Maybe no one else does read these (yes, that is fishing for feedback)
3173/Confusion/33: Decided the flashback didn't fit, and whacked it. Still no comments.
3181/Confusion/10: Decided on a name.
3183/Confusion/44: Edited for posting to ff.n