Continuing Tales

Fatal Exposure

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 5 of 13

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Fatal Exposure

A glance at the clock on her nightstand told Usagi that it was time to go downstairs. It was nearly six and Mamoru would be here any moment. As much as she wanted to stay in her room and hide, that just wasn't an option.

"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you when you tell your Mom and Dad?" Luna asked from where she sat on Usagi's bed. "It might go easier if I'm there to help explain."

Usagi finished running a brush through her long, loose, hair. She hadn't put it up in the "odongos" today. She was much too nervous to get it to come out right and so had opted for a simple headband to keep it out of her eyes.

"Thanks anyway, Luna but starting the conversation out with a talking cat might be too much for my Mom and Dad first thing in the morning. Why don't let me soften them up a little first. I should probably make sure they've had their coffee before you start to talk to them."

Luna didn't appear convinced by Usagi's argument. "Well, I'll wait just outside the kitchen. Call me in if you need me."

As she walked slowly down the stairs, Usagi once again rehearsed the various speeches she'd come up with as she'd lain awake in the wee hours of the night.

"I'm Sailor Moon, Mom and Dad." Usagi grimaced and tried a different, lighter tone, "Guess what, I'm Sailor Moon!" She shook her head, not liking the way that phrase sounded any better than the first.

Usagi decided to try it one more time, "I am Sailor Moon," she said in slow cadence. It unfortunately made her sound like she was talking to either a child or someone with an IQ of about room temperature.

She could hear Mamoru's car pull into the driveway as she realized that was just no good way to say this sort of thing. Usagi opened the door and watched Mamoru walk toward her. The sun was coming up in back of him, silhouetting him with gentle golden light. The sight of him made her heart do flip-flops in her chest. Usagi silently wondered if the day would ever come when she wouldn't react like this to seeing Mamoru. She hoped not.

He took her hand as they went inside together. He could feel her shaking with tension. "Nervous?"

Usagi gave a short bark of jittery laughter. "Why would I be nervous, Mamo-chan? I'm just about to tell the people who wouldn't let me cross the street by myself until I was ten that, I've been fighting the most powerful villains in the universe on a fairly regular basis."

He pulled Usagi to him and enveloped her in his arms, not fooled by her attempt at humor. Usagi sighed and let herself draw comfort from him. Mamoru rested his chin on the top of her head until she finally stopped shaking.

"It's going to be okay, Usako. Whatever happens, we'll face it…" Mamoru took her face in his hands and gently kissed her, "…together.

"You know, it's a good thing that your father isn't here to see this," came the voice of Usagi's Mother.

The two pulled apart in record time and both blushed. "What do you mean Dad isn't here?" said Usagi as her mother's words finally sunk in. Oh damn, she only wanted to have to do this once!

"He left at four-thirty this morning for a meeting in Osaka. Good morning Mamoru. Would you like to join us for breakfast?" Ikuko gave him a suspicious glance as she moved to the refrigerator.

All of Usagi's carefully prepared speeches went out the window. Taking a deep breath she forced herself to speak slowly. "Mamo-chan and I have something to tell you."

This caught her mother's full attention and she shut the refrigerator door. Ikuko indicated that they should sit down at the kitchen table with a curt gesture.

"All right" she said with a carefully neutral voice, "What is it?"

Usagi and Mamoru looked at each other, waiting for the other to speak first.

"Well?" asked Ikuko with growing anxiety, "Just tell me, ne?"

There was no gentle way to do this, Usagi suddenly knew. She reached for Mamoru's hand as she said, "Mom, I'm Sailor Moon."

Usagi's mother craned her head forward, "…and?"

"Isn't that enough?" Usagi blurted out, "Didn't you hear me, Mom? I-am-Sailor-Moon."

Ikuko let out the breath she'd been holding in a loud sigh. "Oh, thank God that's all it is," she said, surprising the two young people across the table from her. "I thought you were going to tell me you're pregnant!"

Mamoru thought that, perhaps, she was in shock. "Tsukino-san, do you understand what Usagi just said to you?"

Ikuko laughed, much to Mamoru's surprise. "Yes, of course. She's Sailor Moon. Her father and I all ready know that. Mamoru, I'm making pancakes, would you like some?"

"Yes, thank you," he replied politely, more than a little confused.

"You know?" Usagi shouted at her mother as the woman got up and started to collect the necessary ingredients. "How long have you known? How did you find out? Why didn't you tell me you knew?"

Ikuko measured out the flour as she spoke. "I realized you were Sailor Moon the first time I saw pictures of her on television. For some reason they never seem to be able to get a good picture of your face."

"Then how did you know?" Mamoru asked.

"Mamoru, dear, I'm her mother. I've been watching her since she was born. Usagi's body mechanics are somewhat unusual, as I'm sure you've noticed. She used to fall down a lot when she was a little girl. I've always thought that's because her father insisted that she use her right hand instead the left hand she naturally does. Anyway, I when saw Sailor Moon move in exactly the same way, I knew it had to be her."

"Why didn't you tell me you knew?" asked Usagi. This conversation wasn't even remotely going the way it was supposed to.

Ikuko cracked the eggs into the mixture. "We figured you'd tell us when you were ready. To be honest, I was very concerned about your safety, but Mamoru… " she paused beating the batter and looked at Mamoru, "…That is you in the cape isn't it?" Ikuko continued when nodded mutely, "Mamoru seems to be doing a very good job of protecting you. For goodness sake Usagi, why do think your father has always been so dead set against your seeing Mamoru? Every time you two were off together he imagined that you were in some kind of danger."

"I thought it was because he doesn't like me," mumbled Mamoru.

"It's not really that, Mamoru." smiled the woman, "It's just that every father wants to be the only hero in his daughter's life and well, you cut quite the dashing figure in that tuxedo. Please call me 'Mom' or 'Ikuko'. It seems silly to be so formal, doesn't it?"

You know," Usagi repeated to herself. "You've known for years."

"Ikuko-mama" said Mamoru, choosing the middle road, "You must have questions about all of this."

The griddle hissed as she poured some of the batter on it. "More than you can imagine. I don't suppose you'd be willing to answer some of those questions now, would you?"

Usagi shook her head to clear it. "Well, there is someone who can tell you everything you'd ever want to know. Luna?"

Luna, who'd been sitting out of sight just around the corner, padded regally into the kitchen. With delicate, precise steps, she walked toward Usagi's mother. Ikuko watched her with spatula in hand.

"Luna," Usagi said. "Would you please answer a few questions for my mother?"

"Certainly. Why don't I start at the beginning?" She sat in the middle of the floor with her long, black tail curled primly around her body. "I am Luna, guardian and advisor to Princess Serenity."

Ikuko never took her eyes off the cat. Inching along the edge of the counters, Ikuko came to where Usagi and Mamoru sat. Still staring at Luna, she gently leaned over. Her eyes were wide and blinked at irregular intervals.

"Usagi, dear," she said to her daughter. "Is the cat talking? That's amazing!"

Luna continued, undaunted. "The story begin one thousand years ago when the Moon still had it's Kingdom. It was a time known as the Silver Millennium."

"No Mom, getting her to talk is the easy part. It's getting her to stop that's truly amazing."

Yamamoto Jiro had watched the tape at least a hundred times by now. Like any responsible newsman, he'd immediately sent it down to be assessed. More than one person had ruined their career by jumping on a story that later turned out to be a hoax. Jiro hadn't gotten to be the senior investigative reporter of Tokyo's largest TV station by being stupid. If the tape was a fake or altered in some way, his people in the lab would find out.

He'd also gotten to the pinnacle of his profession by listening to the little voice inside him. That little voice was shouting in alarm as he looked out the door of his office at the man who'd brought the tape to a junior colleague. Kashu Hikaru was just too smooth, too polished, and too damned altruistic to be for real.

Then there was the fact that his face looked like someone had been using it for a punching bag. Kashu had brushed aside Jiro's questions on that front. Yamamotto knew, without being able to tell you exactly how he knew, that this Kashu had a private agenda and that was invariably dangerous.

The phone on his desk gave a jarring ring that brought Jiro back to the real world. "Moshi, moshi?"

"Yamamotto-sama? This is Takei in the lab. We have the results on that tape you sent us."

The moment of truth had arrived, Jiro mused. "And?"

There was an uncomfortable pause on the other end. "It's the real thing, sir. We've run it through every test we can think of and a few that we'd never tried before but the tape keeps coming back as real."

"You're sure?" Yamamotto repeated. He clicked on the small tape recorder attached to his telephone. If sometime went wrong, he might need it cover his own butt. "You're positive that the tape hasn't been doctored or altered in some way?"

The man on the other end sounded nervous. "As sure as we can be. If this tape is a fake, it's better than anything I've ever seen."

"Arigatto, Takei-san. I trust your judgment. Please bring the tape back up to my office at once. Oh, and do it yourself. I don't want to take a chance on anything happening to it."

As he hung up the phone, Jiro was still disturbed by the thought of airing this information. With a shake of his head, he pushed the thought aside. This was the biggest story to cross his desk in fifty years.

By being the first man to broadcast the news he'd have a share in the fame that went with it. His face and voice would go into the history archives along the likes of Edward R. Murrough, broadcasting from London during the blitz, and Walter Cronkite telling the world that an American president had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. It was a turning point in the history of mankind. So why was he so uncomfortable with it? This was a decision for the station owners to make, and for once Yamamotto Jiro was glad they didn't ask his opinions anymore.

First Mamoru, then Usagi told Rei, Ami and Makoto about what the man called Kashu Hikaru had done and what he threatened to do. As they finished the tale, the only sound that could be heard was that of the sacred fire popping as one of the larger logs within it collapsed into the inferno.

Rei started at the sound and turned her head to look at the fire. Kashu Hikaru, the name meant "Bearer of the Light of Chaos". The meanings of her wild, jumbled visions in the flames became painfully clear to her. Makoto was the first to recover her voice.

"I say we find this man and pound him into sushi. It'll be really hard for him to tell anyone anything with his jaw wired shut!" Makoto was so delightfully direct at times.

Luna sat next to Artemis for comfort. "Perhaps we could reason with him?"

"Or at least, get that tape away from him?" added Artemis.

Ami shook her head slowly. "I don't think we can count on Kashu being as stupid as we'd like him to be. He's probably made several copies by now."

Mamoru sat by Usagi. His arms were folded across his chest. All in all, he presented the perfect picture of thoughtful, suppressed anger. "Kashu is ruthless, morally bankrupt and totally without any kind of ethics beyond what is good for himself. He will use that tape and soon I fear."

"What bothers me most right now is what we don't know," said Ami softly. Part of the problem with having a quick mind was that she was able to see where things were headed before everyone else.

Mamoru nodded his head at her, "Exactly. He knows Usagi is Sailor Moon but does he know who the other Senshi really are?"

"If he does, he never let on, at least to me." Usagi looked down at the floor in shame. "He may have had other things on his mind right then. Kashu did say that wants to control our power."

"What happened isn't your fault, Usagi," Rei said to her in a surprisingly gentle voice. "Men like that pig, try to take what they want."

The pounding of feet caught everyone's attention. Right on the heels of the sound came a hurried knock on the door of Rei's room. Even as the Priestess went to answer it, the door slid open to reveal a tall ,young woman with long green hair pulled back in a braid.

"Setsuna?" asked Ami, not sure that this was indeed the Senshi of Pluto. The face was thinner, the cheekbones more prominent and the woman's movements lacked the confidence Setsuna always seemed to exude.

"No," Luna immediately spoke up sharply. "This is Lorilei. Why are you here? What's wrong?"

"I'm so sorry to barge in this way, but your telephone isn't working," the woman gasped as she bent over trying to catch her breath. "Got here as fast I could," she huffed, "Ran all the way from the bus stop. Do you have a television? Please, turn it on!"

Rei scrambled to turn on the small set she kept in a corner of the room. Her dislike of television was well known to her friends. Despite the thin layer of dust on the mostly ignored appliance, it came grudgingly to life. There was a man with graying hair looking intently into the camera. In the left corner of the picture a videotape was running.

It showed Usagi transforming first into Eternal Sailor Moon, then into Princess Serenity and then back into Usagi.

"The young woman is identified as Tsukino Usagi of the Juban district of Tokyo. As this video, which has been authenticated by the finest technicians available shows, Ms. Tsukino is the mysterious figure known as 'Sailor Moon.'"

Lorilei was still breathing heavily from her mad dash to the temple. "It's on every channel. It started about half an hour ago and has been playing continuously."

"Oh God…" mumbled Usagi as she watched herself on the small television. "I'm on TV and I'm as good as naked at one point. My Dad is going to go crazy!"

"It gets worse, I'm afraid," said Lorilei. "There's a man named Kashu who comes on and says…Oh, here he is!"

"…Dr. Kashu Hikaru from the Human Genome Project and the owner of this film. Thank you for joining us Dr. Kashu. You say there's more to this story?"

"Much more." Although he'd had a great deal of makeup applied to his face, the Kashu's nose was swollen and large dark bruises surrounded his eyes. Mamoru took little satisfaction in the pain the man must be experiencing. "I have hard proof that this young woman, this Tsukino Usagi, isn't really human. She is, at the very least, a human hybrid of some sort, or more likely, an extraterrestrial."

Yamamotto cut him off, "Are you saying that this Sailor Moon is an alien?"

Kashu gave a sage nod of his head. "Yamamotto-san, that's exactly what I am saying."

"Kami-sama have mercy!" said Rei as she turned the volume down slightly, "He thinks Usagi is an alien? This guy is fruit loops!"

Mamoru pushed the anger and shock he was feeling down into a small space inside him. Usagi sat beside him much too quietly. "We need everyone here as fast as possible."

Makoto looked at her watch. "Minako should be on a plane over the pacific right about now. She's supposed to land in Tokyo in a few hours. Are Michiru and Haruka still in Paris? What about Setsuna?"

Lorilei discreetly cleared her throat and raised a tentative hand to catch their attention. "Excuse me, but I've all ready…contacted Setsuna. She's going to try to use the Timegate to collect the others and get them here."

Luna's ears pinned straight back against her head in surprise. "She's not supposed to do that! It's much too dangerous."

Lorilei raised a single eyebrow at the lunar cat, looking very like her sister for a moment. "I trust that Setsuna knows what she's doing, Luna. If you feel that strongly about it, you can take it up with her when she gets here." As she finished speaking, the young woman moved her head slightly, as if hearing something the others could not.

A brilliant, silver light filled the small room, blinding everyone for a moment. When the light faded Setsuna, Senshi of Pluto stood beside a glowing door. Pluto placed a single hand on it and the doors opened very slowly. A luminous mist flowed from it. Within the temporal fog three shapes took form. The mists faded and Minako, Haruka and Michiru walked into the Hikawa temple.

"What a ride," smiled Haruka, "Better than 'Space Mountain' at Disney."

Michiru looked slightly green around the edges, "And just as likely to make me loose my lunch."

Setsuna, now looking very pale and sweating visibly, raised her staff, then brought it to the floor with a thud that rang through everyone's mind.

"Pluto Timegate, close!" she whispered the words and the great door shifted to a silver fog that ran into her body.

Minako broke the silence that had descended on the room's occupants, "Fly Pluto airlines when it absolutely, positively has to be there before it even left," she said in her best announcer voice. "Now, what's all this about some moron knowing that Usagi-chan is Sailor Moon?"

The story was first aired in Japan. Then, as it hit the satellite relays, the international community picked it up. Within two hours the videotape was being shown in over fifty countries. The world slowed then stopped, held spellbound by the first verified pictures of an extraterrestrial.

In the blink of an eye, a young blonde woman from Tokyo became the most sought after person in the world. Emergency meetings were held by every major news organization on the planet. Senior Mangers told their staff the same thing. Find Tsukino Usagi and get the exclusive rights to her story, no matter what it took to do so.

Hotaru had been left with a friend of Minako's from Scotland. The shy teen would be much better off away from Tokyo until things calmed down a little. Hotaru had, in true sixteen year old form, fallen desperately in love with the tall, dark, muscular Highlander at first sight. Haruka had been reluctant to leave her behind until she met Duncan. Even the notoriously difficult to impress Sailor Uranus was satisfied when she saw how he handled a blade.

"Trust me," Minako had laughed. "If there's one person in this world who understands what it's like to have everyone want your head, it's Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!"

"What's this nonsense about Usagi not being human? It's bad enough that this Kashu has a tape of her henshin but to claim she's an alien goes way beyond the pale." Haruka's tone implied that she agreed with Makoto that pounding Kashu into sushi sounded like a very good idea.

Setsuna had found a chair in the back of the room after closing down the Timegate and collapsed into it. Lorilei silently sat in the shadows in back of her, a hand on Pluto's arm as she pushed some of own energy into the exhausted woman. Setsuna looked somewhat better now, less haggard at least.

"That claim isn't as crazy as it sounds, I'm afraid," Pluto said.

Luna moved to sit in the middle of room, Artemis beside her. With a steady voice she tried to explain the unexplainable.

"The problem is that you while you are all human, you aren't Terran human, at least not anymore. Except maybe for Mamoru-san and I'm not even sure about him now. That last night in the Moon Kingdom, do you remember what Queen Selene told you about that?"

Usagi spoke for them all. "That she sent us forward to the future, hoping to find a time and place where we could live in peace."

Luna nodded, "Exactly. She sent you forward. You and as many of the Moon Kingdom's people as she could manage. You were all broken down into your simplest forms. With the last of her strength the Queen insured that the Princess, her Senshi and the Prince would be reborn in the same part of this world. The rest were scattered, I think."

Ami put it together before anyone else. "My God, that's why we look exactly the same as we did a thousand years ago. I've always thought that it was just too big a coincidence. We literally are the same people!"

Artemis took up the tale now, "The Queen instructed the Silver Crystal to find suitable 'foster parents', ones that preferably had an ancestor that was originally from the Silver Millennium. These women would be more likely to be able to carry each of you to term."

Setsuna spoke again, "I suspect that as long as your power as Senshi slept, you remained a base line human. However, once that power was being used in your bodies, it changed you little by little," said Pluto. "Over the years, as your powers have grown the changes in you accelerated. Today you are all what you were then, children of the Silver Millennium."

Makoto gave an astonished snort, "That miserable, son of a bitch Kashu is right, then? We really aren't human?"

"We are human, Mako-chan," responded Michiru. "Just a different type of human. Our hearts haven't changed."

Haruka reached for her lifemate's hand. "Michiru is right. Some of us have never really been accepted by this society. If some people want to be blind bigots, then let them. Our true friends will stand by us."

Minako gave a bright smile. The others were unsettled by the idea of publicity, but she certainly wasn't. "The longer we let this go unanswered, the longer Kashu has to spin his side of the story. We can face this issue and come out on top. The first thing we have to do is come up with how we're going to handle the media."

"No," said Ami softly. "The first thing we have to do is talk to our families. Even if this Kashu person doesn't know who the rest of the Senshi are, now that the larger media is involved, it's only a matter of time before they figure it out. We have to tell our families about ourselves before anyone else does."

A soft knock on the door interrupted any argument before it began. The door slid open and Rei's grandfather was there with a tray of tea. He looked at the now crowded room with surprise.

"Oh, I didn't hear anyone else come in. Why don't I go and get some more tea."

Rei impulsively jumped to her feet. "No, Grandpa. I…I have something important to tell you." She glanced at her astonished friends, "Well, someone has to go first."

The old man sighed as he put the tray down. "All right, what's wrong this time?"

"Grandpa, I'm a Sailor Senshi."

This caused the old man to burst out laughing. "That's good one, Rei but I'm not about to fall for that old joke."

It's true!" replied Rei, getting a little annoyed, "I am a Sailor Senshi."

Grandpa was willing to play along with her for a minute. "Which one? The blonde with the legs that go all the way up to her neck, Venus?"

"No!" shouted Re,i really angry now, while Minako blushed to the roots of her hair. "Sailor Mars, of course! I am the Senshi of Fire, for Kami's sake!" She whipped out her henshin stick, and with a cry of "Mars Eternal Power, Make up!" transformed in a burst of flame.

Her Grandfather looked at her in the red fuku with the high heels. If he was surprised he hid it well. Tilting his head up and down, he gave her a long appraisal.

"Figures," he mumbled, then turned and left the room. "The Senshi of Fire and she can't light a stove to save her life."

"That went well," laughed Usagi. "Between your Grandfather and my folks, I'm beginning to wonder if they only secret around here is how many people know and haven't told us."

Ami was staring at the television again. "Look, why don't we all take a break and do what we need to. I have to talk to my mother and I also want to study that videotape more closely. We can meet again here at, say, four this afternoon?"

Mamoru had been more or less silent, observing intently what was going on around him. He nodded his head in agreement as he finally joined in the conversation. "That's a very good idea, Ami. I'm going to go to the hospital for my shift. Let's not change our routines too much and give ourselves away, ne?"

"Yeah," Makoto added, "Going to the restaurant and doing some baking sounds really good to me right about now. I always think better with my hands covered in flour."

Michiru reached out to gently touch Usagi on the shoulder, "Usagi-chan, why don't you come home with Haruka and I. Your house is bound to swamped by the press. It might be safer with us for now."

"I'd really rather go home," relied Usagi. She was more shaken than she was about to admit to anyone. Part of her felt a lost child. More than anything she wanted her mother to hold her and tell her that everything would be okay.

Mamoru saw what his beloved was trying so hard to hide. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Please, Usako," he whispered to her, "Go with them for me? It'll make me feel better."

Usagi never could say no to those incredible blue eyes. "Okay, for you. See you later?"

The smile that made her knees turn to jello appeared on Mamoru's face. "Just try and keep me away."

Mamoru watched the three of them disappear toward Haruka's car. He was quietly thankful for Haruka's obsessive attachment to her sports car. She'd left it here at the shrine when she and Michiru had gone on their trip rather than chance leaving it in the airport garage where it might be (horrors!) scratched. The future King of Earth wasn't comfortable with the idea of his Queen taking the bus.

As the car pulled away, Mamoru turned back to the room only to find it empty. He grimaced as he left. He'd wanted to get a few things straightened out, but knew they would have to wait until after his shift. It was going to be a long day.

Ami's mother took it a lot better than she ever dared hope for. The young woman been prepared for anything from screaming and fainting to a refusal of her mother to accept the truth. However, as Ami stood in her in the center of their living room in her incarnation as the Senshi of Mercury, her mother got that thoughtful look on her face that indicated she was trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

"And you've been doing this since you were…?" Dr. Mizuno asked.

"Fourteen, but we didn't discover that Usagi was the Princess for months after we were awakened."

Ami's mother stood up (now that she was sure her legs would support her) and went to her daughter. "Amazing!" she exclaimed. "Even though I know it's you, I have a hard time looking you in the face."

Ami smiled. Much her own curiosity came from being raised by this extraordinary woman, "That's part of the magic that protects us. Queen Selene wanted to make sure we could live as normal a life as possible. This helps us to do that. At least it has, until now."

Ami's mother gave a derisive snort, "Bah, 'magic' indeed! There's no such thing as magic, dear. This is just technology that our science can't explain yet."

Letting her transformation fade, Ami gave a bright, relived laugh, "That's what I've always thought but it so much easier just accept it as magic then lose any more sleep figuring it all out."

Ami threw her arms around her mother, tears coming unexpectedly to her eyes. "Oh Mom, I was so afraid you'd hate me because of all of this."

Holding her only child close, Ami's mother made soothing noises as if her daughter was still a little one. "It's okay, hush sweetness. It's all right now."

Ami let herself be a child again for a moment. She felt so safe, so loved and warm, as if her mother's embrace truly could shield her from the world. In the years to come, Ami would remember this moment and how it made her feel.

"I will always love you," her mother whispered to her, "and nothing will ever change that, my precious girl. Nothing."

The house was empty when Minako got to it. She was surprised at first, because her parents had promised to meet her here. It was urgent and she needed to talk to them, she'd said. The note on the table in the front hall had her name scrawled across it. Minako picked it up and opened it with trembling hands.

Dear Minako,

I'm sorry we missed you. Dad had a to go and smooth things over with a client and I have a tennis lesson at the club. Call us when you have a minute and we'll catch up.


She wasn't even aware she was crying until she saw her tears splash onto the expensive paper, making the ink run. Some things never changed, Minako thought as she threw the note away and headed for the door. All her life she'd tried so hard to win their love, but whatever she did was never enough. There was always something else that demanded their time and attention.

She stopped and shouted to the empty rooms. "Well, to hell with you, too! I am Minako, Princess of Venus and Leader of the Senshi that guard the Crown Princess of the Silver Millennium. So take your money and your old family name, roll it up really tight and stuff it. I don't want it, I don't need it and I don't need you!"

As she slammed the door behind her, Minako heard something fall and shatter. She hoped what ever had broken was expensive. That, at least, would get their attention.

Baking had not brought the usual satisfaction it did but, as always, Makoto did an expert job. The Master pastry chef she was apprenticed to said this was the best work she'd ever done. Somehow, the praise was made her feel even worse.

When she got home, Mako sat in her spotless apartment and simply stared at an old photograph of her parents. The shifting light in the room told her it was getting late, but still she sat there. The doorbell persistently ringing finally forced her to move. Still holding the faded picture, she opened the door to see Minako.

Makoto looked at her friend then at the photo in her hands and it hit her.

"I don't have anyone to tell," she said as the tears began to fall. "I don't have anyone to tell."

"I know," replied Minako, moving to comfort her friend. "I don't, either."

Mamoru looked at the piece of paper in his hand again then up at the door in front of him. He wanted to be sure that he had the right address. After all, he'd never been here before. Satisfied, he rang the bell and waited.

The door was answered promptly. The young woman gave him a startled, shy smile. "Mamoru-san! Please, come in."

"Thank you, Lorilei," replied Mamoru. "I'm sorry I didn't call first but this can't wait."

She motioned for him to sit on the couch as she went to the large piano that dominated the small living room and nervously gathered up the sheet music scattered on the floor around it. "May I offer you something, tea perhaps?"

"No, thank you," he said politely as he watched her. "It was nice to see you today. We hardly ever do. In fact, if not for hearing Setsuna occasionally say your name, I might think I'd imagined you. It almost as if you're avoiding us."

Lorilei came to sit in a chair opposite of the couch. "Well, I am concert pianist. My job keeps me on the move a lot."

Mamoru continued as if she hadn't spoken. "On those rare times when your name is mentioned, Luna and Artemis get very uncomfortable. I have to wonder why that is? You knew when Setsuna was about to appear at the temple today."

He held up a hand to forestall the argument he could see her beginning to form, "Please, I don't mean to be brusque, but I don't have to time to play word games. Who are you Lorilei?"

The shy young woman with the violet eyes looked down at the floor. She took a long, slow breath as if weighing something in her mind. "I'm not a Senshi, if that's what you're asking."

"Can you control the Timegate?" he asked bluntly.

"No," she replied at once. "The same bond that Setsuna and I share is what binds the Timegate to her. I can hear the Gate, like distant thunder but that's all. Think of me as another one of the Moon's children that the Queen sent forward on that last night. I don't have any power, but I swear to do whatever I can to protect the Princess and you."

This was less than Mamoru wanted, but fit in with what little he'd been able to pry out of Luna about Lorilei. The Prince of Earth was a good judge of character and his instincts told him that the woman in front of him could be trusted.

He rose and extended his hand. "I'll take that promise."

Lorilei shyly took it and smiled. "Remember that I'm a friend, Mamoru-san. If things go as badly in the coming days as you fear, you're going to need all the friends you can get."

Mamoru thought about their conversation while he drove to the temple. Any number of things she'd said to him gave him pause to think, but one phrase in particular stuck out. 'Think of me as another one of the Moon's children that the Queen sent forward', she'd said. That statement made Mamoru wonder.

How many undiscovered children of the Moon were still out there?

Fatal Exposure

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 5 of 13

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