Through a Glass, Darkly

© 1999 by E. Liddell

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Author's Notes:

Quick reminder: Sailor Moon and its characters are the property of Takeuchi Naoko and a bunch of other people. They don't belong to me. I've just borrowed them for a not-for-profit story. Please don't sue, not that you'd get any money from me anyway. Being a student, I'm perpetually broke.

I'm not quite sure why I wrote this one. It's about a character I never much cared about before: Serena's younger brother, Sammy, and what happened to him in the Crystal Weaver universe. Some events may turn out to be significant in later Crystal Weaver stories. And, yes, "Choices" is almost done, and the first chapters should be out by the end of the month..

One other thing I should mention: my beta reader seems to have dropped off the face of the planet, so I never got her comments on this one.

I do love feedback, people! Email

The noise of the celebration fades as I step through the doorway. I walk down the hallway that leads to the private wing as quietly as I can. Not that that's very quiet. Not when the hallway's uncarpeted and the heels of my boots click against bare stone. My sister could have the floor covered with anything she wants, of course, but in the private sections of the palace, she prefers this almost painful plainness.

Arriving at my suite, I absently kick the door open. The wood of the bottom half is scarred from other similar kicks. Inside, I strip off my blue-and-silver jacket and toss it onto a chair. Then I pour myself a glass of sake -- not the watered stuff they were serving down at the party, but a real drink, a man's portion -- and collapse onto the couch. I could light the fire that was already laid in the fireplace, but I'm just too tired. Too drained.

If Mom and Dad could see me now... I think as I swing my polished white boots up onto the coffee table. But Mom and Dad will never see anyone or anything again. The Dark Moon didn't spare anyone, not even the royal family.

I glance over at the photograph that hangs, framed, on the far wall. Four people grin back at me. Only four. It's too early a picture for Darien or my niece to be in it. I'd been about nine, and Serena... Serena must have been about fifteen.

I run one hand absently through my hair -- not plain brown now, but speckled with grey, despite the fact that I'm only in my mid-twenties. Where has the time gone?

I drain half my glass at a gulp, and I remember...

None of us had understood what had happened, at first. For most of the world, me included, the better part of a thousand years had passed in the blink of an eye. Just an instant of freezing cold, and then a winter afternoon had become a summer evening.

I was in class that day. High school. Crossroads High wasn't exactly a famous or prestigious school (hey, my sister had made it in, and that was back in the days when she was still a slacker), but it was respectable enough, and they worked us fairly hard.

They adjourned the classes immediately when they figured out that something weird was going on, and sent us all home. I was lucky that I was within walking distance. Some of the kids who took the bus took hours to get home, I later discovered, because a bunch of streets in the middle of downtown had been torn up by a plane crash.

Well, when I did get home, it seemed normal enough. I walked in, kicked off my shoes, and shouted "I'm home!" at the world in general just as though it were any other day.

My parents were both home. That wasn't exactly usual, but I assumed that Dad's employers had given him the rest of the day (what little of it there was) off when they'd realized that something weird was going on. I went into the living room and joined them in front of the TV.

"Hey, did you --" I began, but they both shushed me and pointed at the TV. It looked like a news report to me. Just the sort of thing I'd expect to see them watching together.

Then I heard what the announcer was saying and sat abruptly down beside my Mom.

"This just in. Astronomical observations have confirmed that a thousand years indeed did pass in an interval of time that seemed to everyone -- me included -- not to be any more than a fraction of a second. Welcome to 2989, folks. If what we've been told is to be believed, today is the eighth of June.

"To recap, for those of you who've just joined us..."

And then I wasn't listening anymore. Because a picture had just come onto the screen.

She was blonde and blue-eyed and beautiful, wearing a white dress and a crown and leaning on the arm of a dark-haired man in a tuxedo. Around them stood six of the Sailor Scouts. Sailor Moon was missing. I didn't understand why that was. Nor did I care. Because the two people in the center were my sister, Serena, and my brother-in-law, Darien.

By the time I'd located my jaw, which had dropped down to somewhere around my ankles, and lifted it back into place, the picture had shifted. Serena and Darien were still there, but in the background. In front of them was a handsome blonde man wearing a grey uniform with red trim. As the camera zoomed in on his face, I realized that he had earrings. In both ears. I'd never seen a guy who wore more than one before.

Get a grip, I told myself in disgust, and tried to listen to what the blonde guy was saying.

"...and so you're Jadeite, General of the Negaverse," said a voice from off-camera. "Is that correct?"

"It is," the blonde man agreed. There was a slight hesitation.

"Would you mind explaining to our viewers what you're doing here today?" The invisible reporter sounded almost plaintive, as though he were trying to pretend that he was one step ahead of the news when in fact he was running along behind trying to keep up just like everyone else.

Jadeite smiled. "That's precisely what I'm here to do, actually. Explain. You see, a great deal has happened while most of the world was asleep..."

I lost the thread of his explanation at that point, because someone was knocking on the door.

"Sammy, would you mind seeing who that is?" my Mom asked, not moving her eyes from the screen.

There turned out to be two people outside the door. I was beyond shock as I opened it and beckoned them inside.

"Thanks, Sammy," the taller of the two said. "You're a real pal. Hey, don't you recognize us? It's me, Lita."

"And Amy," I said numbly. "Were you two always Sailor Scouts?"

"Ever since you've known us," the brunette admitted. "Serena was Sailor Moon for a lot longer, though."

"Was Sailor Moon?" And Polly wanna cracker, I thought distantly. Oh, well, she doesn't seem to have noticed.

"She's kinda given up the job now," Lita said. "Look, why don't you show us the rest of the way in, so that we can explain to your parents, too? This concerns all of you."

I quaff from my glass again, emptying it, and refill it from the bottle that stands on the low table beside my booted feet. Oh, yeah, they'd explained, all right. Explained that we were now sort of related, due to Serena's reincarnation, to the royal family of a place that didn't exist anymore. Explained that Serena was going to rule the Earth, with Darien as her consort. Explained that the normal lives that we had lived up to that point were over. It was in my own living room that I became Lord Samuel, the Neo-Queen's brother, instead of just plain Sammy Tsukino.

My entire life changed that day. Suddenly, I was transferred from Crossroads to a very exclusive private school, paid for by General Nephrite of the Negaverse (AKA Maxfield Stanton), although I didn't find out about that part until after I'd graduated. Serena wanted me to have the best of everything, as befitted... well, I wasn't exactly a prince. I wasn't actually of Phoebe's bloodline. But I was still the Queen's brother, and a nobleman. Even though no one recognized that yet.

Very few of the Earth's nations bowed immediately to the rule of Crystal Tokyo. Japan was an exception. Multiple plane crashes all over Tokyo had decimated the upper ranks of our government. No other country in the world was quite so unfortunate. They turned the country over to Serena to run as a kind of stopgap measure. It was only intended to last until everything had been cleaned up and they'd either held an election or decided which of the few survivors was in charge. But, to my great surprise if no one else's, Serena and Darien did a magnificent job of ruling. People kept on batting the idea of an election around for years -- for all I know, they still are, actually -- but no one ever bothered to do anything about it, and after a while no one really took it seriously, either.

I don't know whether it was Serena's newfound political skills or the power of the Silver Crystal, but most of the world fell into line in the two years following. It drove my geography teacher nuts, because none of his maps stayed good for more than a day or two. Then some other country would join the Earthan kingdom, and everything would be out of date again. With the discreet help of the Negaverse, Serena brought the nations of the world under her banner and ended dozens of pointless little wars that had been raging for generations.

A few nations of religious or racist fanatics held out a bit longer than the rest. I had graduated from high school and entered the Royal Military Academy (again at Serena's insistence -- long gone were the days when I could talk her into anything!) when the Wars of Assimilation began. They didn't last long, because Serena had one secret weapon on her side that none of the other nations possessed. She had magic. And magic can do any number of nasty things. If a soldier can teleport, he can enter the control center of an enemy installation without having to pass through the perimeter defenses or give anyone any warning that he's coming. If a man can move small objects with a gesture and a whispered word, he can make hash out of the guts of what was laughably termed "modern" machinery without actually getting anywhere near it.

And if you have the Silver Crystal, you can protect yourself against anything, up to and including several hundred megatons of nuclear warhead. There is no weapons-grade plutonium left on Earth anymore. Not anywhere. Serena cast a spell on the entire planet that makes the stuff disintegrate harmlessly as fast as it forms. It left her weak and ill for almost a month afterwards, but I've never met anyone who doesn't think it was worth it.

I graduated from the Academy soon enough to serve as a lieutenant in the war against Iraq, which was one of the most tenacious holdouts. I got a see a little action -- a very little, but hey, that's the way it is. I've still got the magic ring they gave me, the one that lets me move things without touching them if I ask it in just the right way. All the officers had them, and so did a lot of the troops. I understand that Nephrite made the first of many fortunes off Serena by selling her those things. They were of Negaverse manufacture, of course. Even now, Earth is only just beginning to get used to the idea of magic. We don't have more than a couple of dozen trained mages of our own even yet, not anywhere on the planet. And none of them is as powerful as any but the weakest youma, a fact which has forced our worlds into a sort of peculiar symbiosis. Modern Earth couldn't be run without magic, but we're completely dependent on the Negaverse to produce the devices that we need.

It's probably a good thing that the youma are such fierce fighters. I've heard a lot of young fools who'd like to end our dependence on the Negaverse by destroying it. Damn, I'm even thinking like an old man, these days! Admittedly, I'm supposed to be a senior officer, the Admiral commanding our space forces. That's more of a joke than anything else, since those forces consist only of a couple of dozen ships. But I'm still expected to be able to think strategically.

I suppose, in light of the strength and martial prowess of the youma, that it's also a good thing that Malachite's content with his realm of shadows, and doesn't seem to want the Earth. If he did, I don't know if we'd be able to stop him. Alone, I don't think he's any match for the Silver Crystal, but him and his Weave together... Well, let's hope that it never comes to that. No matter who won, it would be incredibly messy.

I can still remember the first time that I met the white-haired King. Indeed, given the other events that occurred the same night, I'm likely never to forget. It was a full three years after Serena's ascension to the throne, and I was a young Captain in the Earthan army (We didn't have a space force back then), promoted not so much because of outstanding service in the war against Iraq as because said war had killed my immediate superior, and all the available replacements were equally mediocre. It was the first time I'd been to Court since graduating from the Academy, and I was as nervous as all hell. I remember polishing my boots to a mirror sheen, which isn't easy. That damned white leather smudges if you look at it cross-eyed. One thing that Serena didn't do well was designing dress uniforms. Well, I suppose you can't expect someone who dresses in pseudo-nightgowns most of the time to have any fashion sense, but still...

Anyway, it was supposed to be a victory celebration. Earth was finally united, after three and a half years of nearly ceaseless effort, and everyone wanted to blow off steam. So they threw a big bash at the palace, and invited everyone, including the entire roster of Negaverse Generals. A few of them declined. I know Sapphire did. So did Demantoid -- I don't think I've met him even yet. But most of them did show, including His Majesty.

I remember the herald calling my name as I entered the room. I still wasn't used to being "Lord Captain Samuel Tsukino", and it was all I could do not to look behind me to see who the other guy was. I was headed toward my sister, to fulfill Court etiquette by introducing myself to my host. Even family members aren't completely exempt from that sort of thing, not at a Court function.

She was talking to someone that I couldn't see, who was standing in the shadow of one of the bulky curtains that half-concealed the balcony doors. Maybe I should have waited until they were done, but I wanted to get this over with so that I could dance with some girls. So I tapped my sister on the shoulder.

She looked a bit irritated when she turned to face me, but that expression faded when she realized who I was. "Oh, hello, Samuel." That was toward the end of the period of time when she was still having trouble with contractions and nicknames. "Was there something you wanted?"

"Only to pay my respects, your Majesty." Later, in private, she'd probably rib me about the stilted phrasing, I knew.

"Ah. Malachite, have you ever met my brother?"

That was when I realized who she'd been talking to. My glance upward was almost involuntary.

I'd seen hundreds of pictures and dozens of newscasts, of course, but none of them could do justice to the real thing. It's some sort of aura that he projects. He's powerful, and he's dangerous, and he knows it -- and he wants to make sure that you know it, too. I took an involuntary half-step backward, then caught myself and forced myself to stand still.

"I don't believe I've had the pleasure," the tall Crystal Weaver said. His eyes glittered despite the shadows that partly concealed his face. "Lord Samuel." He inclined his head. I was just thanking the gods that he hadn't offered to shake my hand.

"King Malachite," I managed. "I'm honored."

My sister and the white-haired man exchanged a glance that made me feel distinctly nervous.

"I hope you're right about this," Malachite said. Then there was a flicker of blueness as he vanished, without ceremony or any form of farewell.

I turned to Serena. "Do you mind telling me what that was all about?"

"The future," my sister replied. "I have made a decision of which he does not entirely approve, but he will not stop me, even though it does peripherally concern him. However, there is something that we two must do now."

"Like what?" I asked.

Serena shook her head. "Not here. Come with me, please, Samuel. I promise you that this will not take long."

I shrugged and followed her back into the labyrinthine depths of the palace, to a room that was empty except for a plinth on which rested a glass case, inside which was...

What in hell can she want with that thing? It's hers, or Rini's. It has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Serena lifted the glass cover down, then hesitated.

"Give me your hand," she ordered brusquely.

Deliberately misunderstanding, I held out my left, palm down. She firmly turned it palm up and cupped her own left hand underneath it. With her right, she plucked the Silver Crystal from its place and dropped it into my hand.

It flashed brightly, forcing me to close my eyes, and I felt a pressure against my forehead. A wave of energy rippled up my arm and traced a tingling path through my entire body. It made me feel awake, and alert, and just so incredibly alive that I laughed out loud. Then it was gone and my eyes were open and Serena was putting the Crystal back.

"Can you tell me what that was about now?" I asked.

She sighed. "You know that Rini and I are the last descendants of Phoebe's line. Have you ever considered what that means, really? Darien and I will probably never have any more children. That makes Rini the sole heir. If she should die before having a daughter of her own..."

"Then Phoebe's Ward dies with her," I supplied impatiently. "What does that have to do with me?"

"Our bloodline must never die out again," Serena murmured. "Two are not enough. I needed... additional insurance, so I asked the Crystal..."

"Serena, what did you just do to me?" I growled.

She bit her lip. "You carry the bloodline as well, now, thanks to the Crystal's magic," she said. "I am sorry. I know that I should have asked you first, but I could not risk having you say no... And in any case, for you it means nothing. But if things should become desperate again, it will be possible for your female descendants to inherit the guardianship."

I just stared at her, after that, for a long, long time. It wasn't until later that night, when I'd gone back to the party, that I caught a look at my reflection in the side of a wineglass, and discovered that I now had a golden crescent on my forehead. I still do. It won't wash off, and I can't seem to conceal it no matter what I do. It marks me permanently as a part of the family.

Serena was wrong. It does mean something, although I still don't understand what. Sometimes I go to the room where the Silver Crystal resides and just stare at it. Sometimes I think I hear it whispering to me, but nothing that I can do will make its voice come clear in my mind.

I didn't ask for any of this. I know it seems selfish of me to complain, when I've been living my boyhood dreams -- I've been an astronaut, and an explorer, and I've walked on Mars and investigated Silver Millennium ruins on Venus -- but I really didn't ask for it. Before all of this started, I wanted to be an architect. I was looking forward to a nice, solid, lucrative career. I thought that maybe one day I'd get married. That isn't bloody likely now. That damned moon crescent seems to repel all of the nice girls and attract every gold digger and social climber in the solar system. So what Serena did to me may turn out to be wasted after all.

Tonight is the first anniversary of our victory over the Dark Moon. I have no wish to celebrate the war that killed my parents, which is why I left the party so early. I think I'll just sit here, quietly, and drink myself into a stupor.

I raise my glass in salute to the photograph of my family. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you a toast: To everything that might have been.

The End

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