"Hello, Mina-chan," Makoto waved. "No idea. Come and join us!"
Mina found a spot on the coach not occupied by the sprawling Usagi or her tremendous pigtails. The snack dish in front of the girl was licked clean, of course. Mina sighed, made herself comfortable.
"Doom is the plaything of no man. Let a lesser man act as a mere rat in a laboratory maze; the superior intellect trancends such petty concerns."
"Who is that guy in the armor?"
"Pretty full of yourself, aren't you? You know, you could do with a good editor. That flowery stuff might work in one of those stuffy novels but a newspaper man knows the American public wants good straight plain talk."
"And who is the guy with the cigar with his sleeves rolled up?"
"Shhh!" several of the senshi said loudly.
"Ssss. Hissss. Not ss-happy ss-here!"
"And what is that!"
"Ah. According to this communications device, our deluded captor will soon attempt to taunt us again with his feeble threats and meaningless demands."
"You mean the phone's ringing. Don't you ever run out of the ten-dollar words, Vic?"
"Never call me that." The voice was soft and threatening. The speaker, Mina saw, was dressed in head-to-toe armor, a lumpy robot-like getup of dark metal, and swathed in a dark green cloak and hood.
"Hey, I'm shaking, 'Doctor.' Nice title you gave yourself -- considering they kicked you out of grad school for blowing up the dorm. I guess rank has its priviledges."
"What exactly are you inferring, Jameson?"
The man in armor had stood up. Mina tensed, expecting fireworks at any moment. But instead a new voice spoke.
"Gentlemen! Welcome to this totally escape-proof space station! The walls are all adamantium and the chairs are all made of hard rubber. A magnetic field capable of putting north and south poles on your hemoglobin surrounds the station and swimming in that is about six metric tons of finely crushed antimatter. Plus there's a fusion bomb under the floor."
"Cease this mindless prattling and arrive at your petty point."
"You sure like the word 'petty,' don't you, Doc? I'll be brief. You gentlemen are the guests of my very own meta-MST, a short-lived self-referentiallism sure to confuse almost everyone. I picked three bad guys to review an even worse writer. You are going to be shown, and you are going to comment on, a piece of bad fan fiction I found on the internet."
"What's a fan fiction?"
"It is when someone writes their own version of a story they may have seen on TV or read in a published book. It generally means the original show was very popular."
"You sound like Umino, Ami!"
"It actually sounds kind of interesting. Been a while since I did a good line edit. What are you paying per page?"
"I don't blow you up."
"Sounds good to me!"
"Wait a durn minute!" The man did a double-take. "What do you mean, 'bad guy!' Doctor Doom here I can understand; they don't come much badder than that. And the Lizard is bad news. He used to team up with that menace, Spider-man. But me? I'm a hard worker, I treat my employees well, and I tell the truth. No, I bring the truth to the American people. Daily. With an extra edition on Saturdays."
"You treat poor Peter Parker like dirt, you make up stories about Spider-man, and do I have to talk about Spider-slayers?"
"Umm. Point taken. Look, I may have made some mistakes in the past..."
"You and Magnetto."
"But...Hey, what am I saying? You're the maniac with a bomb under my a...under the floor here. Whatever you say, hey, I'm cool with that. Show me this fan fic of yours."
"It looks like our two doctors aren't quite as happy as J. Jonah Jameson. I know, I know, Doctor Doom; you are no show dog to jump through another's brightly colored hoops while circus music plays. You are no trained flea to pull a gaily decorated miniature coach in the shape of a pumpkin... Sorry. I know you'd spit in Galactus's eye. In fact, I think you did. You'd challenge the Beyonder and win. You know, you should have killed him while he was down. Saved everyone a lot of pain later."
The muscular man in the gray armor stood impassively. The voice from the complicated-looking console before the captives continued.
"Look, Doc, I know this task is a pitiful waste for your talents. Letting your great intellect loose on an internet fanfic is like using trinotoluene to clean out a garbage disposal. In fact, you might as well amuse yourself plotting, or breaking free. I'm sure J. Jonah Jameson and our friend the Lizard can do a workmanlike job. They may miss a few details your eagle-like eye would spot instantly, but it isn't like anything of world-shattering importance is being done here. I'm sure, what with giant nuclear cannon to invent and your personal armor to continually improve and strengthen you have neither the time nor the need for any of the lesser, slighter things of life that amuse the mayfly-like lives of lesser beings..."
"Doom is not fooled by your flattery. But let it not be said that Doom is blind to the softer side of life, and the simpler joys. I will read this fan fic of yours."
"Hiss. Ssss. Reads in sssswamp. Ssscientific American readssss. Likesss ssssomething new."
"You sure you aren't related to Gollum? Okay, gents, here goes!"
While the commercial for the latest Sailor V Nintendo emulator rolled Makoto ran into the kitchen to check her pots and grab some more snacks for her guests. She made sure to put the plate as far as possible from Usagi. Not that it would do any good.
The Seino kangaroo made it's little hop -- "Sei-NO" -- and the MST began again. The three captive villians were comfortable in spacey-looking bucket seats before a giant screen. On the screen, a story began to unfold.
SEARCH FOR THE MOON PRINCESS
"Now there's a bad sign! Any writer that hides his face behind a pen-name is just a coward. And using his internet name is just plain tacky!"
I didn't play the game of alternate history properly, I'm afraid. I took things off at a tangent fairly rapidly. My apologies to the original creator, Naoko Takeuchi, the publisher, animators, voice talent, and so forth...
"And now he tries to weasel out of doing his research with this little whine."
"I think the tea is ready!"
"Shut up, Makoto!"
"Ooh! The Moon Princess!"
"Snap out of it, Usa-chan!"
Prologue:"This girl, then, is to be the future Sailor Moon?"
The blond girl with the outrageous pigtails raced down the sidewalk. She teetered around a corner, almost stumbled, then charged on towards her school with yet another anguished look at her watch.
"You know the show, Doc? You surprise me."
"Doctor Doom was ever a protector and champion of the weaker sex."
"Look, Vic baby, there's this new invention out, called the First Person. You ought to try it sometime."
"Never call me that!"
"Hey, that's me!"
Usagi's friends let their heads sag for a moment. Okay, so she wasn't the fastest gun in the west.
A million miles away, and much more than that as well, a man stared into a glittering crystal. Then he nodded silently to himself. His hands shifted and light glowed."A mere tool, a sleight of hand. I would imagine the writer knows no more of this mysterious but oh-so-convient man than what he has placed here."
"What's 'much more' than a million miles? A million and ten? Two million? Four score and seven?"
"Sss. Can onesss nod loudly?"
"Two points to the lad in green. Unless he had rocks in his head, like a certain photographer in my employ."
The girl's foot slipped on a pebble that hadn't been there a moment before. She teetered in air for a moment then slammed into the pavement. Tears fountained instantly as she sat and wailed.
"Wah! He's making me look like a clumsy crybaby!"
There was much hard breathing as Usagi's friends struggled to stiffle the obvious retort.
"It is done." The man flicked his fingers and the crystal images ceased. There was no going back now. "Now what was to be," he said somberly, "will be no longer."
"Oh, what poetry!"
"Cribbed from a Star Trek episode, no doubt."
On the Tokyo street a black cat slipped from an alley and looked with a more-than-feline intelligence....
"A talking cat? Naaaaw!"
"And in an neigboring alley a white man slipped from the street..."
"Don't get fanssssy."
...towards the sounds of the girl's stumble. For a long moment the cat stared. Then it turned and raced off, searching deeper into the city.
"Whereas this alley must be in the wading pool end."
"Hey, If she stumbled already, what is the cat listening to?"
"No doubt those high-decibel cries our young Usagi is so famous for."
"Wah!!! Now everyone is making fun of me!"
"Have a rice ball! And please stop crying!"
"Makes you almost miss Chibi-usa." Mina whispered to Rei.
"No, it doesn't," Rei whispered back.
Chapter One: Dreams
AMY clutched her backpack tighter, holding it in front of her. Maybe chemistry lab would be better, she thought. Maybe she would feel more at home. Maybe she wouldn't feel quite so lonely.
"It's the NA version!"
"Where Mamoru is -- shudder -- Darien. And the senshi are the too-twee 'Sailor Scouts!'"
"Please tell me it isn't an Ami-chan. Please tell me."
"As predestined as the fate of the smaller, dimmer stars is the saga of fan favorites. Yet another author has fallen in love with the lady of the calculator."
"Hey; dig the lizard."
"Amiiii. Sssss. Amiiii."
Ami heard the heartfelt sigh and blushed. "Actually, the lizard guy is kinda cute," she ventured.
"It's the lab coat that does it for you, Ami-chan!" Mina retorted laughingly.
"I don't understand this stuff about NA," Usagi said. She had gotten over her cry as quickly as usual. She had also inhaled the rice ball Makoto had bribed her with and was searching hopefully for another.
"When the show was translated for the American market they changed all the names," Ami explained. "Some fans think that too much was changed, especially about the characters. They even claimed that Ail and Ann came from the Negaverse!"
"Ail and Ann were good people, ah..."
"Plants?" Rei put in helpfully.
"..whatever. They were good! And they had nothing ever to do with the Negaverse!" Usagi could be pretty passionate when she was defending a friend.
"Many of the fans lack access to information about the real senshi -- some even prefer the strange names that Dic came up with for their translation."
"I'll bet she knows all about Robotech, too," Rei said behind a hand to Mina.
"Everyone, we're missing the show!" Makoto called.
"...a paltry exercise in parlor psychiatry, that. I am afraid an intellect of the caliber of Mizuno Ami is too subtle for a writer like this to comprehend."
"Sounds like you got the hots for Ami too, Vic."
She also knew that there was something very wrong at Crossroads Junior High. It wasn't her first transfer -- her engineer father had moved before, taking his family with him in a way few Japanese of his generation would. Amy was proud of him for holding his family together like that.
"This writer is unusually lazy, then!"
"Check your facts, fan-boy!"
Ami blinked. "A dad? And when did Mom give up her medical practice?"
"Yeah, I'll bet this guy gave me six older brothers," Makoto jibed.
"Yeah, well, he thinks Usagi's brother is named -- shudder -- Sammy!"
Crossroads was a big, urban junior high. It wasn't on the fast track to Tokyo University but graduation from Crossroads still meant something. The 1960's buildings were sturdy and spacious and well maintained.
"Next comes a detailed treatise on the local water table."
"Is he trying to say 'Todai' but doesn't know how? At least he could have written 'University of Tokyo!'"
"Neither here nor there, Jameson. This is a story of adventure. We do not need details on the Japanese educational establishment."
Beneath this cheery facade, though, something else seemed to lurk.
"Ssss. Trollsss, no doubt."
"Lizard, are you sure you have never conversed with a gentle professor by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien?"
Amy had been startled at the general dirt and neglect around the school grounds. She had been startled, too, by the number of closed blinds, hand-written "Keep out!" signs and barking dogs in the surrounding neighborhood.
"For one moment I saw those poor mastifs penning said signs. We must take up a collection and buy this man some periods."
"General Dirt, and Private Neglect, reporting for duty!"
The students at Crossroads were troubled, too. Even now, as Amy climbed the long central stairs to the chem lab and the upstairs lecture hall, she was surprised by the strain so many students seemed to be under. She'd overheard that half a dozen students had been sent home this week by the school nurse.
"Somehow the school nurse never noticed the suspicious bite marks on their necks."
"We must get this poor fellow out of that dismal swamp of his."
"I didn't know we had a lecture hall. I would like it very much if we had a decent chemistry lab."
"Where would you put it?" Makoto snicked. "This is Japan; there's no space to spare."
"Maybe he was thinking of the school assembly room."
"Oooh. Don't remind me of that place!" Usagi said.
Angry words hissed somewhere below her, and there was a brief scuffle.
"They ssscuffle over briefssss? Lawyer'sss briefsss? Or girlsss..."
"Don't go there, green guy!"
That's the second fight I've seen, she thought.
"Oh, why couldn't it have lasted longer!"
And this is only my first week! Where are all these negative emotions coming from?
"A bad copy of Dianetics?"
"Banish those negative emotions! Think only happy cheerfull thoughts! With balloons and rabbits in them!"
"Doom, you okay? Your helmet a little tight or something?"
Amy pushed open the door and bowed to the teacher. Faces looked up at her. More strangers. She was still the new girl, the outsider.
"If this is the NA version, how does the writer explain the bowing?"
"The same way Dic did. But I'll never forgive them for giving Usa-chan meatballs instead of odango's."
"Meatballs?! That's disgusting! I'd get spagetti sauce all over me! And the stink!"
"First time I ever heard her objecting to food," Mina whispered to Rei.
Amy shrugged, tried to push away her gloomy thoughts. But she couldn't escape from the simple fact that Crossroads was not a happy school.
"But Basketball is a peaceful planet."
"Are we done yet?"
"No creature from a dimension as yet unexplored has attacked as of this juncture. Nor has an event I fear even more greatly; yes, Doctor Doom can feel fear, before such a horrible..."
"You mean self-insertion. God help us. I can see it coming."
"What's that mean?"
"That means the writer adds himself to the story."
This time Rei whispered. "I really don't want to explain this one to her."
"Good thing it's time for a commercial," Mina whispered back.
"And stop all that whispering!" Usagi glared.
Following yet another commercial, and some stirring and thermometer checking by Makoto, they all settled down to watch the show some more. Usagi had kept pestering Ami with questions until the blue-haired girl threatened to invite Umino over to explain everything.
"Maybe we should, though," Makoto said. "Invite them both. We haven't had Naru over for a while."
"But do we really need monsters attacking us on a Saturday?" Rei said behind her hand.
"Naru-chan is just a bit of a trouble magnet," Mina chuckled softly in return.
"More roses, Darien? She must be quite a girl!"
The tall, handsome young man answered the flower-seller with a gesture that was half shrug, half wave. Why do I keep buying roses? he wondered. I guess I just like having them around.
"Good answer as any."
"But what does he do with the old ones? Is his place full of dried-up roses? Does he make tea?"
"Oh. He's SO romantic!"
The other senshi rolled their eyes.
"Well! Just because I have a boyfriend!"
He opened the door of his spacious though surprisingly cheap apartment.
"Warning, warning; the writer is being snide!"
"We can not blame Dic for this; if was Toei that moved young Mamoru from high school to college."
"And she's only fourteen. There's some sick puppies at Toei."
"Well, how old was that Negaverse General Naru fell for?"
He left the door open, dropped the roses in a vase already prepared for them, and opened both windows wide. The curtains billowed past him in the cross-breeze.
"And he shouted; 'Turn off that damned wind machine!'"
Darien's eyes were thoughtful beneath the shock of black hair.
Why don't I have a girl? he wondered. Am I holding back, am I subconsciously waiting for Her?
"You mean, Christina Ricci?"
"Would you can it, Usako!"
The dreams were coming more frequently now. Is she even real? Darien wondered. And what is her connection to me? To Darien, if that is my real name?
"Yes, General, if that really is your name!"
"Good Peter Sellars, Doom!"
Does my dream girl hold the secrets of my past? He could see her almost as clearly waking as sleeping now;
"She is a little cloudy when waking? She is clear when sleeping? Like glass?"
"Have to watch your dangling participles. Time to re-read Strunk & White."
the dream had come so often, and had been the same in every detail.
"Except that is was cloudy, not detailed, earlier."
"Dream cloudy; try again later."
The Princess in her long white dress, a silhouette before a great crescent moon.
"No. Don't even go there."
"There is nothing indecent about the image, Jameson."
"Except that it's stock footage. Used a few million times in the series, as I recall."
Half-turning, looking over her shoulder towards him with longing and love and an implication of lives long entwined.
"Find me, Darien," she said. "Find the Silver Moon Crystal."
"I will," Darien said to the darkening city below his window. "I will."
Then he caught himself. With a sniff of amusement at the way his imagination kept running away with him Darien turned from the window. He pushed his door shut and went into the kitchen, and the homely light of an open refrigerator banished the shadows of moonlight.
"I have read worse."
"Ooh. He's so romantic."
"I think someone is getting low blood sugar!"
"Speaking of which, haven't things simmered long enough?" Rei tried to speak sharply, but it was spoiled by the hopeful look on her face.
"They have," Makoto said. "Call up Naru and Umino if you like; there's going to be plenty. Let's put the VCR on and we can come back to this over popcorn, tonight.
okay, a few bits i might use if i were to continue...
"An origin story, then."
"Hey, begin at the begining worked for the Queen of Hearts!"
"I had began to wonder if you read anything beyond that scandalous rag you call a newspaper. I am thankful at least one of the classics passed under your gaze."
"Right. I'm tired of your blustering, Doom. Make something of it!"
"You miserable puny excuse of a human weakling. My armor's built-in weapons could turn you into a slight darkening of one of these adamantium walls."
"Hey, Doomsie, think before you jump here. You think I went through ten generations of Spider-Slayer robots without saving some of that technology for myself?"
"You are armed?"
"Hey, New York's a tough town."