Sailor Moon X: Lunar Eclipse
a Sailor Moon/X-Men crossover
Chapter 19: Day of Decision
Sailor Moon rubbed the bridge of her nose, shutting her eyes tightly as she shook her head in frustration. Upon opening them again, she looked back down at Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. Just dropped off in their own backyard, wrapped up in yellow-and-black striped metal bars. Luckily for them, their little encounter with Magneto didn’t short out their communicators. Really powerful magnetic fields could do that, right? It didn’t matter. As it was, Sailor Moon was even less willing to dwell on sciencey details than usual. “Tell me, Dr. McCoy… Is wrapping people in metal bars a mutant thing, or is this just some new kink Haruka and Michiru keep trying out?”
“Very funny, Sailor Moon,” grumbled Uranus. Even with the only light afforded coming from the stars and a half-moon, Sailor Moon could see her exasperated face. Neptune’s wasn’t much different.
“Seriously, this is ruining the image I had of you two,” said Sailor Moon, putting her hands on her hips. “That’s three times some of the Inner Senshi needed to come bail you out. Keep it up, though. Soon, we’ll finally be even.”
“Fine, fine,” hissed Neptune. “Can someone just get these bars off of us?”
Sailor Moon looked to her left and her right. Standing on either side were Naru and McCoy. Naru decided to come with her and Chibi-Moon, bounding clear across the city via rooftops, when Uranus sent out her call for help. She just wanted out of her house, saying her family’s obvious unease was too much. Professor Xavier was evidently keeping an eye on her family, since they soon came across McCoy, heading toward their house in a similar fashion.
Sailor Moon shrugged her shoulders while shoving her open hands forward, staring at them with an impatient look. Getting the hint, McCoy and Naru stepped forward. Naru knelt down, making short work of Neptune’s bindings. It took a little more effort on McCoy’s part to free Uranus. The Outer Senshi slowly stood, flexing their muscles after being bound up for well over an hour.
“There. Now that you’re free, care to explain just what possessed you to try breaking into Kizachi’s building alone, when you knew damn well she’d have countermeasures ready?” demanded Chibi-Moon, folding her arms.
“Because sitting around on our butts while Kizachi’s plans go forward was an even worse idea,” said Uranus.
“Besides, we had reason to suspect Magneto was behind that monorail accident,” added Neptune.
“Magneto? He made that train nearly topple? Why?” demanded Naru, incredulous.
“To coax you into revealing your powers in public, why else?” said Uranus. “What better way to make recruitment more appealing than arranging events so plenty of people turn on you?”
“And did Magneto readily admit to this deed?” asked McCoy.
“He didn’t take credit, but he didn’t exactly deny it either,” said Neptune. “Magneto being here in Tokyo is bad enough, but he’s brought backup. The big bruiser Sabretooth and that shapeshifter Mystique were with him and Kizachi. Who knows how many more of the Brotherhood tagged along?”
“We were handling those two,” Uranus said quickly. “But then Magneto blindsided us and changed everything.”
Sailor Moon could see that yet another defeat at the hands of mutants weighed on Uranus and Neptune. And unlike before, these mutants truly were enemies of the Sailor Senshi. Magneto’s arrival in Japan seemed like a small, yet horrifying, possibility when this mess first started. This changed everything. He was here in Tokyo, right now. He could strike again anytime, and he already made short work of two of the toughest Senshi.
Little wonder people can get so worked up over mutants, Sailor Moon admitted to herself. Her gaze drifted to Naru, who had an odd, anxious look on her face. What was on her mind right now? Something told Sailor Moon this was hitting home far harder than it should have.
“You two are right about one thing,” said Sailor Moon. “There’s no taking Magneto lightly. So I hope this means you two don’t do something this stupid again!”
“Hey, don’t yell at us,” barked Neptune. “Storm tried to break in by herself, don’t forget.”
“While in constant telepathic contact with Nathan, with both Logan and Kitty acting as lookouts,” McCoy pointed out. “And Ororo pulled back when it looked like there would be too little potential gain when faced with such uncertainty and risk. It was a coordinated effort, and they were willing to call it off, and opposed to charging in blindly without a clue as to what Erina Kizachi had up her sleeve.”
“Now we have an idea, at least,” said Uranus.
“That’s for sure. Now we know Magneto’s right here in the city,” said Chibi-Moon. “AND he knows who we all are, something we couldn’t say about the Death Busters or the Dead Moon Circus. Which makes it even more important the two of you don’t go riding off like a couple of goddamn cowboys yet again, especially when we’ve got friends who know how to fight him!”
The others were a bit stunned by the little girl’s vehemence, even Sailor Moon. “Yeah, what she said,” was all she could say, pointing at her future daughter.
“Yeah, they’ve done a bang-up job so far,” growled Uranus. “I mean, if Cable’s such a powerful telepath, how come he doesn’t just rip the information we need right from Kizachi’s swelled head!?”
“Nathan has already tried, naturally,” said McCoy. “However, she seems to have some countermeasure against mutant telepathy. It was one reason the X-Men also suspected Kizachi was Eclipse for a time. Now we believe she’s come up with some technological defense yet unknown to us.”’
The mention of her Eclipse identity made Naru look uneasy once more, and she finally spoke up again. “Anyway, if you want, I’ll gladly go pound some answers out of them. This Sabretooth guy doesn’t sound too tough…”
“Magneto is another matter altogether, Ms. Osaka,” said McCoy quickly. “As the professor said, you haven’t been trained. The techniques the X-Men and Sailor Senshi have both perfected to utilize teamwork would be essential to bringing down Magneto.”
“Besides, if Uranus and Neptune are right about Magneto wanting you, it’s best you say far, far away from him,” said Sailor Moon. “You should just…”
A sudden crackling noise, accompanied by the stench of ozone, silenced Sailor Moon. There was a bright flash of light, and when she looked to it, she saw Cable standing there, in full uniform.
“Where’d HE come from!?” demanded Chibi-Moon.
“I call it a ‘bodyslide’, Chibiusa. Basically the same as teleportation,” said Cable quickly.
“I thought we agreed with the feedback your techno-organic components suffered after Sailor Moon’s attack, using that functionality would be less than prudent,” said McCoy delicately. Sailor Moon looked anxiously at the ground. She didn’t need reminders of how viciously their two teams fought before, not when the Sailor Senshi might need them against Magneto.
“A risk that has to be taken, Hank,” said Cable, shoving a box in McCoy’s arms. Sailor Moon could see that it was a medical kit. “Trouble at the jewelry store. It’s Naru’s mother. She needs help, now.”
“What!? What’s going on!?” demanded Naru. “No, wait… Just ‘bodyslide’ me back there with you, NOW!” Cable simply nodded, slinging his arms around Naru and McCoy’s shoulders.
“I’m coming too!” cried Chibi-Moon. “Maybe I can turn Luna-P into something Dr. McCoy can use.”
“Then come on, fellow partner in time,” Cable quipped. Chibi-Moon just growled at him as she grabbed hold of his leg along with Luna-P. “I’ll come back for the rest of you, especially since Haruka and Michiru’s options for transportation are now more limited.” With that, energy crackled around Cable, and the four of them vanished in a flash of light.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” demanded Uranus.
Sailor Moon grimaced. “Well, after you sent out that S.O.S., Minako kind of… volunteered to go ‘retrieve’ the dirtbike you rode over to Kizachi Technologies.” That’s when Sailor Moon heard a sound she’d never expect to come from Sailor Uranus: a pitiful whimper.
Thankfully, Cab le returned a moment later to ‘bodyslide’ the three of them into the OSA-P. It felt like she was getting sunburned, though the whole process wasn’t quite as intense as using the Sailor Teleport. When the blinding light faded, Sailor Moon realized they were in the back rooms of the jewelry store, no doubt so the light didn’t alert any cops outside. Cable motioned for the Senshi to follow him, but not upstairs or onto the showroom floor, but toward the kitchen.
When they walked in, that was when Sailor Moon saw Mayumi Osaka lying on the floor. Dr. McCoy already had equipment out, tending to her, while Sailor Mercury knelt beside them, furiously typing at her computer while scanning Mayumi. All the while, Naru was sobbing. Storm held her close, trying to comfort her, though of course she couldn’t hold Naru in place if she wished to break free.
“What happened here!?” demanded Neptune. “I thought you X-Men were keeping an eye on this place!”
“It musta been while the place was empty, after she took a brick to the head,” came Logan’s voice. Neptune and Uranus turned to see that Logan was hanging back in the shadows. “Someone slipped some sort of toxin into their food.” He pointed at the floor. That was when Sailor Moon saw a carton lying on it, its contents spilled. “I heard something funny going on soon after I relieved Kitty, so I busted in and saw this, then sounded the alarm.”
Mercury ceased her scans, though her visor was still on, and was now actively assisting McCoy. First she has to help her mother patch up Naru’s, and now this!? Sailor Moon thought angrily. Whoever poisoned their food must’ve been trying to get to Naru, but hurt her mother instead! Humans hurting their own kind, because of their hatred for mutants!? When would this end!? “B-B-But you found out just in time, Logan! That means Ms. Osaka’s gonna be just fine, right!?”
“I hope so, Sailor Moon,” said Mercury. “My scans don’t paint a pretty picture. Whatever was slipped into the juice carton is interacting with the medicines my mother gave her, exacerbating the effects.”
“Then we’ve got to get her back to a hospital!” roared Naru, finally shoving Storm off of her. Storm grunted as she got slammed into a wall. “What you’ve got here isn’t cutting it! We’ve got to…”
“I’m sorry, Naru, but… It’s too late,” said Mercury suddenly, sobbing. “She’s gone into cardiac arrest, and… there’s no hope of reviving her. She’s… gone.” McCoy grabbed Mayumi’s limp wrist to feel for a pulse, and shook his head, confirming what Mercury said.
Sailor Moon couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How could the hits keep coming for Naru like this!? And now the Sailor Senshi and the X-Men were working together! Between their two teams, they had to be able to do SOMETHING! ANYTHING!
“No, you’re LYING! NO!” Naru shrieked, effortlessly shoving aside Mercury and McCoy. She cradled her mother’s lifeless body in her arms, sobbing uncontrollably. Sailor Moon couldn’t even begin to imagine what Naru was going through. Being stomped on like this so cruelly, continuously, all culminating into this!? What was there Sailor Moon could do now? What was there to say?
“Naru, please understand, if there was something we could do…” Uranus began.
“I did everything I could, Naru,” said McCoy. “Y-Y-You were fortunate to have such a loving mother. I wish I could’ve…”
“Oh, SAVE IT!” Naru roared, shoving McCoy aside again, storming out toward the showroom, sobbing still. Despite having no clue what to do for her friend now, Sailor Moon didn’t hesitate to follow.
“Naru, we’ll find whoever did this, I promise you!” Sailor Moon called out after her. Naru had stopped in the middle of the showroom, shaking as she continued to sob. “Logan and Cable will be able to sniff them out.”
“A fat lot of good that’ll do my mom now,” hissed Naru, her back turned to Sailor Moon. “They were all too late to act, just like you were!”
“Just like… What’re you talking about Naru?” asked Sailor Moon anxiously.
“NEPHRITE!” roared Naru, rounding on her. “You Senshi were too late to do anything for him! And now both you AND the X-Men were too late to do anything for my mother!”
“Naru, you make it sound like Sailor Moon intentionally held back, purposely didn’t act fast enough,” said Storm calmly, stopping beside Sailor Moon. “You two have known each other for a long time. Can you honestly believe that?”
“What am I supposed to think, then!?” demanded Naru angrily. “She’s saved so many people, but the only ones she’s failed so miserably were two people I was closest to!”
“Naru, I’m not trying to minimize your loss, but please…” Storm began.
Naru still wasn’t having it. “She didn’t care I was a mutant! How many mutant kids can say that about their mothers!? She was one of the few I could rely on, and now she’s been taken away! And you people have no idea who did it!” As she ranted, Sailor Moon could see and hear dark power crackling all over Naru. Clearly, her oil slick wasn’t the only power closely linked with her turbulent emotions.
More people walked out into the showroom, hoping to calm Naru down. Logan was actually bold enough to step toward her, without hesitation. “Well, it ain’t Magneto, and it ain’t Erina Kizachi,” he said, sniffing. “But I don’t care if it’s some random asshole or some yakuza jackass or some Brotherhood dope we haven’t seen yet. I’ll be…”
“Oh just SHUT UP!” shrieked Naru, backhanding Logan hard. Hard enough to send him flying into a display case clear across the store. That was hardly the end of it. Tendrils of her oily sludge and bolts of black lightning shot out all across the store, smashing apart more cases and taking out chunks of the walls. All the while, Naru wailed in anger and sorrow as her powers raged out of control.
Uranus tackled Storm to the floor, just as a blast of dark energy sailed over them. Others weren’t so lucky. One blast knocked Cable down before he could get a telekinetic barrier up, while tendrils splattered onto Neptune and Chibi-Moon, pinning them against a mangled display case. Sailor Moon peeked out from behind another, having no idea what to do. What COULD she do? Use the power of Sailor Moon on her friend again? Naru already bore an ugly scar from the first time she unknowingly did so. The thought of resorting to that again…
Luckily, Sailor Mercury had a better option. McCoy covered her, shielding her from a writhing tendril as she shouted “Shabon Spray!” Blinding, icy fog engulfed the showroom, making Naru gag and sputter. More importantly, it weakened her oil slick, letting Neptune and Chibi-Moon slip free.
It also bought time for Cable to recover. As Naru whipped tendrils around to dispel the fog, Cable snuck up behind her and raised a hand. Suddenly, Naru stopped in her tracks, gagging and coughing as she clawed at her face. But no, her fingers weren’t even touching her face! It took a moment for Sailor Moon to realize what Cable was doing. A telekinetic barrier right around Naru’s head, cutting off her air. In her shock, she couldn’t muster quite enough strength to punch her fingers through it. Eventually, after long, torturous moments, Naru sagged to her knees, then hit the floor. The dark energy abated, and her oil slick slowly receded into her body.
“Well, things just took a swell turn this evening,” grumbled Cable as he telekinetically levitated Naru’s unconscious form off the floor. “Osaka will be harder than ever to reach and reason with, and we’ve got another mystery on our hands that needs solving yesterday.”
“Spoken like a true tactician,” sputtered Chibi-Moon as she wiped what gunk remained off of her. “She’s just lost her mother! Doesn’t that matter to you!? To any of you!?”
“More than you’ll ever know, darlin’,” said Logan as he picked himself up. Thanks to that metal skeleton and healing power of his, no doubt he’d weather Naru’s blow just fine. “We’ve taken hard hits before, lost some people. But we also gotta make sure this is the end of it. That no one else suffers because of whatever Magneto and Kizachi are stirrin’ up.”
“In any case, this will DEFINITELY alert any police outside. And soon they’ll realize Naru was here, thanks to the ooze,” Uranus pointed out. “We’ll have to discuss what comes next later, after we’ve cleared out.”
“Since Cable apparently can’t bodyslide everyone out at once, I’d suggest anyone who can fly or jump across rooftops do so. Now,” added Neptune.
“I’ll provide cover this time,” said Storm, her eyes turning white. Sailor Moon looked outside, and saw that a thick fog had suddenly enveloped the street. Getting the hint, she walked over to Naru and let Cable drop her in her arms. She followed the other Senshi to the roof, while Storm and McCoy followed her. Cable and Logan stayed behind, possibly to find as many clues as they could before they had to flee. Hopefully they would find Mayumi Osaka’s murderer soon. Sailor Moon glanced down at the unconscious girl in her arms as the Senshi and McCoy hopped from rooftop to rooftop. Why was all this happening to Naru? She wanted to reach her friend so badly, but one tragedy after another threatened to tear them apart, possibly forever.
“Gai, you UNMITIGATED FOOL! This could ruin EVERYTHING!” Erina screeched. She darted across her hidden office in an eyeblink to grab her nephew’s collar, slamming him against a shelf. He looked astonished that such a little woman had the strength to shove him around. Even more galling was how he just looked astonished period. All those years trying to look out for him as he got deeper and deeper into yakuza business, knowing he was pushing the limits of her patience. Tonight, Gai may have finally pushed her past that limit. “Mayumi Osaka wasn’t supposed to die! You were supposed to slip a toxin in their food that would debilitate her. Make her daughter think random humans were behind it, but not KILL her outright!”
“Hey, I can read labels and look at books to see what drugs do!” Gai protested, still too astonished to pry his aunt off. “What I slipped in that carton shouldn’t have been enough to kill her!”
“On its own, no!” roared Erina. “But your choice of poison interacted with the medicine Sailor Mercury’s mother gave Osaka! Any physician worth her salt would’ve prescribed something after a patient took a blow like that! Goddamnit, even the head injury itself could’ve caused your poison’s affects to be amplified! You should’ve come to me once we learned Osaka required a hospital visit! We’ve been planning each step of this operation meticulously for over a year, Gai, and you chose THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to get sloppy! No wonder you got a finger chopped off, if this was the quality of your work with your old crowd!”
“How does this set us back, Aunt Erina?” asked Gai delicately. “Wolverine’s never had a whiff of me, so he can’t match my scent from their kitchen. And it’s not like his buddy in the wheelchair can read your mind and figure out it was us.”
Erina pulled away a little, eyeing the shelf she shoved Gai against. There, still writhing around in glass containers, where what remained of Telulu and Viluy, her one-time assailants. Better than eye-for-an-eye revenge. Just as they had been about to leave her for dead, so had the Sailor Senshi done with them, giving Erina a chance to collect what housed the last bits of their essence.
The monstrous plant that fused with Telulu right before detonation, the nanomachines that went rogue and devoured Viluy alive… Erina had put their work to good use. Now, in death, those two Death Busters served her. By reverse-engineering Viluy’s nanomachines and combining them with Telulu’s bio-engineered plant cells, she had a means of surreptitiously screening out telepathic intrusion. Not just for her and her nephew, but just about all of her staff, with them none the wiser.
“So yeah, in my old line of work, sometimes folks who don’t need killing wind up dead anyway. Sad fact of life,” Gai went on. “Anyway, I don’t see what the big deal is. There’s a difference between your flip-outs that involve your work, and the ones that involve something personal. This is more like the latter. Why? You hardly ever saw Mayumi Osaka. Besides, we’ve been spending nearly over a year conspiring to make her daughter’s life a living hell. Looking like poison nearly killed her, poison actually killing her, what’s the difference?”
“You DAMN WELL know what the difference is!” Erina shrieked, spinning around and throwing Gai to the ground. “A mother who wouldn’t forsake her mutant child… That’s as much a rarity in Japan as it is in the rest of the world! This was sloppy work, Gai, and I DO NOT TOLERATE sloppy work!”
“Nor do I, but in this case, for slightly different reasons,” came a cold voice from the ladder. Erina had heard that voice many times without feeling a shiver of fear, unlike so many other Homo sapiens. This time, however, there was cause for concern. Gai was right in that Mayumi Osaka’s death wouldn’t disrupt HER plans too much, but Lehnsherr’s plans were another matter. “Making it look like some random Homo sapien, acting on blind hatred, targeted her family was supposed to nudge young Osaka ever so closer into my fold. But now, there’s no telling what direction the death of her mother may push her in.”
Erina slowly turned to face Lehnsherr. He still had on the coat from either, and he wasn’t alone. Erina bristled when she saw Mystique was with him, but otherwise succeeded in keeping her emotions – fear mixed with annoyance – in check. A minor miracle, given how her nephew had taxed her patience yet again.
“It’s too soon to know how this will affect Naru Osaka’s decisions,” said Erina evenly. “If anything, this will drive a bigger rift between her and the Sailor Senshi than ever before…”
“Revenge against the Sailor Senshi is your aim, Kizachi,” Mystique cut in. “I could certainly care less about your vendetta, and I suspect Magneto feels the same,” she added dangerously with an evil smirk.
No, not the Senshi as a whole. Just Usagi Tsukino. Hurting the rest is simply an efficient means to further hurt her as well, Erina thought to herself. Out loud, she said, “But this also drives a wedge between Naru Osaka and the X-Men. In her eyes, they failed her mother as much as the Senshi did.”
“Still, this is an extreme emotional shock to Osaka, which will make her decisions unpredictable,” said Mystique.
“It is true that she’s now far less likely to accept my old friend’s offer,” said Lehnsherr. “That’s a small comfort, however, if she spurns our offer as well. So much relies on the people of Japan seeing Naru Osaka join us. A girl who had everything a human could want. A loving family, wealth, prestige, being admired by all around her. Only for that ideal life to fall apart upon discovering she’s part of the next phase of evolution, and showing the rest of Japan’s mutants there’s only one path to choose.”
“Which you know is the same thing I want, Lehnsherr,” said Erina testily. Mystique shot her a dubious look, but Erina ignored her completely.
“And now, thanks to your nephew’s incompetence, all that is in jeopardy,” said Lehnsherr. “As you said, Mayumi Osaka had more sense about her than most other human women. I would have gladly made a place for her on Asteroid M. But now, her daughter has one less reason to join us.”
“But still, a very good reason remains,” said Erina, raising a finger to Lehnsherr’s face. “Her mother wasn’t the only human close to her, remember? There’s still her boyfriend, Gerio Umino. With any luck, this unforeseen turn of events will goad her into taking action to safeguard the only human left in her life that matters.”
“You didn’t build your company and get this far by relying on luck,” spat Mystique. “Naturally, we don’t either.”
“I’m simply saying all is not lost, Darkholme,” Erina shot back. “Can either of you honestly see Naru going with the X-Men after seeing her mother die on Wolverine and McCoy’s watch? And now, who else is there for her to turn to? You’ve already made the pitch to her, Darkholme. We’ll all just have to be patient, wait and see if Naru bites.”
“All good points, Kizachi,” Lehnsherr relented. “It’s true that you’ve manipulated events quite adroitly on your end. So we shall wait and see. And perhaps, like you’ve suggested, events have been steered down a certain path for so long, there may be no chance of a radical course change. Still, I’d be lying if I said this turn of events hasn’t eroded my faith a little.” With that, Lehnsherr cast a withering glance Gai’s way. Erina could feel the chill going down her nephew’s spine.
“Let me worry about making sure my nephew doesn’t screw up anything else,” said Erina dryly. “Trust me, I’ve had half a lifetime to practice that delicate art.”
“But not perfect it, obviously,” Mystique snarled. “Honestly, I don’t see why we need to keep up this dog and pony show, Kizachi.”
“Because the Sentinels that Masato Sanjoin wanted me to build without Beryl knowing may yet serve your boss’s interests instead,” said Erina.
“Delightful woman, from what I’ve heard of her,” said Lehnsherr sarcastically. “And you’ve always said her hasty decisions when a minion failed her contributed to her ultimate downfall. So let’s avoid doing anything hasty… Raven,” Lehnsherr finished, glancing over at the shapeshifter. Mystique merely folded her arms, glaring at them.
Erina fought to not let out a sigh of relief. Lehnsherr still saw reason. That had never been a certainty, especially when she first sought out the Master of Magnetism. Erina had studied all the reports about the dreaded Magneto closely, but of course, being written by fellow humans terrified of what they didn’t understand, their veracity was in doubt. Was the real Erik Lehnsherr even more unhinged and bloodthirsty than the newspapers made him out to be? Or could he be bargained with if you made an inviting enough offer, even if you were just another Homo sapien?
Fortunately for Erina, the truth was closer to the latter. Lehnsherr was far more complex than she could have ever imagined, but like anyone else, he would respond to a big enough incentive. Upon realizing they were on the same page in so many ways, Lehnsherr agreed to her offer, albeit with a good deal of skepticism.
But as time went on, Erina proved herself deserving of his trust, her nephew’s screwup notwithstanding. Thus, Erina had the powerful ally she needed to counter the Sailor Senshi. Her Sentinels alone, masterpieces as they were, were no foolproof guarantee, as proven by that field test.
That would probably be crucial. No doubt the collective wrath of the X-Men and the Sailor Senshi would come down on her, and soon. But in a way, she welcomed it. Erina had no real plans for what came after their scheme finally reaching fruition. Her life already ended some time ago, not just the sham her marriage had become. So let those horribly naïve superheroes try to take her out, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she would go out knowing she had done the impossible, something so many failed at: crushing Sailor Moon’s heart beyond all repair.
Silence. Welcoming, comforting silence. It was what Naru let herself wallow in for over a day, after returning home to see her mother lying dead on the floor, the Sailor Senshi and X-Men too late to do anything. Not even a chance to say goodbye after that incident with the monorail. Having to lay low, move from one spot to the next, unable to risk going back to the OSA-P. These last few months, it was as if the world was determined to break her down until there was nothing left. And now, at last, Naru thought that moment had come.
She risked everything, exposing herself as a mutant, to save total strangers on that monorail. And put the fear of God into countless yakuza operatives before that. And what was her reward? Being turned into a pariah, left to bury her mother.
Why did this keep happening? So many times, after having her heart stomped on, things seemed to get better, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, only to have it ripped out again. Nephrite died in her arms after protecting her, but then she found love again with Umino, only to have everything threatened again by rising anti-mutant hysteria. Both the X-Men and the Sailor Senshi backed off when they learned the truth, the former even making a generous offer to her and Umino, only for calamity to strike again and have the life she knew completely stolen away.
According to the X-Men and the Sailor Senshi, though, Magneto was responsible for the monorail accident. Ami even claimed she had proof. But it didn’t matter. Something would have happened even without Magneto, outing her as a mutant. Naru knew she was delaying the inevitable this whole time. But to lose her mother, probably because of hateful humans trying to get at her!?
It was just too much. And now, at least for the time being, it caused Naru to completely shut down. The X-Men and the Sailor Senshi mostly kept their distance. Not angry with how she lashed out, but also unwilling to pry her out of her shell, which suited her fine. So she hardly said a word to any of them, and hardly ate a thing, despite the black hole for protein that was her stomach growling in protest.
So she sat in silence in Rei’s room at her family’s temple, clad once again in shorts, leggings and a black leotard. Her grandfather and Yuuichirou were about to go off on a days-long training retreat, essentially giving the Sailor Senshi and X-Men free reign of the shrine. They were blissfully unaware of the X-Men camping in their backyard, but did know about Naru. Rei’s grandfather didn’t care one bit, though. At least there was one other human who wasn’t terrified of her. Even if it was just because he was always a sucker for any pretty face, regardless of what her DNA looked like.
Yuuichirou was a different story. “Rei, you sure it’s a good idea to stay here alone with, well…” Naru could hear him say right outside the door. She clenched her fists in her lap. Even after all his time here, was he unaware how thin these walls were!?
“We’re NOT going through this again,” said Rei defiantly. “Grandpa says she can stay, so that better be good enough for you. Now get going!” she finished, eager to be rid of him.
Naru heard Yuuichirou shuffle out of the shrine, only for someone else to walk in. A woman, evidently, judging by the clicking of heels. “Reluctant acceptance… I guess that’ll have to suffice from him,” Naru heard Michiru say.
“A pity Naru can’t stay the whole time they’re gone,” said Rei. “We have to keep moving her, throw off the authorities. After finding her mother’s dead body as the OSA-P, the police are stepping things up. They searched Usagi’s place this morning, and it’s a safe bet they’ll move on to the homes of her friends.”
“Haruka and I will take her next, then,” said Michiru. “No one suspects our connection to Naru.”
“In the meantime, we have to step things up ourselves,” said Rei. “You and Haruka had the right idea. No more piddling around with Kizachi and her allies.”
“Tell me about it. This whole mess is having repercussions on a global scale,” said Michiru. Naru heard the ruffling of a newspaper. “Japan is being excoriated in the foreign press. The Daily Bugle had its entire editorial column stuffed with pieces chewing us for villainizing someone who saved total strangers, and letting her mother die in the aftermath. And when you’ve lost the editor with a vendetta against Spider-Man…”
“I guess Americans can’t stand having a mirror thrown in their faces. The same thing happens over there,” Rei pointed out. “We can’t be too judgmental ourselves, though. Logan did say something about a lawyer over there trying to get clearance to practice internationally, so she can get Naru off. Jennifer Walker, or something like that…”
“Assuming Naru simply doesn’t choose to go to Xavier’s school with Umino,” said Michiru. “Which reminds me, I need to know where he lives. He’ll likely be the next target, of either Kizachi or vengeful yakuza members…”
Naru’s eyes widened. She had been so consumed with grief over losing her mother, she hadn’t considered anyone going after Umino. It was just… unthinkable. She had lost so much, but to lose the boy who loved her unconditionally, who would follow her anywhere!?
Naru waited patiently for the sound of Rei and Michiru’s footsteps to die away. Once she was certain they were out of earshot, she fished out the communicator Mystique gave her.
For many long moments, she stared at it again. So what if Magneto purposely outed her? It just showed how she couldn’t trust any normal humans besides Umino. Almost all of them saw her as their enemy. They turned on her despite saving some of their number, vandalized her mother’s store and then KILLED her! Now Umino was all she had left! And Rei was right about how this sort of thing happened in every country. She and Umino wouldn’t be safe anywhere on Earth!
But on Asteroid M? That was a different story.
With tears in her eyes, Naru stood up and pressed the button.
“Naru, dear? Is that you?” came Mystique’s voice, sounding scratchy thanks to the communicator. She asked that so sweetly. “I heard about your mother. My condolences. I assume this means you’re considering our offer?”
“Does this offer still include getting Umino on Asteroid M, where no other Homo sapiens can touch him?” Naru demanded.
“I’ll let you lay down your conditions with Magneto himself, as promised,” said Mystique.
“So Magneto’s here in Tokyo, just like everyone’s been saying?” asked Naru dubiously.
“And he’s ready to meet you, Naru. Whatever conditions you want met before joining his cause, he’s willing to listen,” said Mystique.
Naru took a deep breath. If she did this, there was no going back. But what was there to go back to? She was already a wanted fugitive. More importantly, Umino was all she had left. The Sailor Senshi failed Nephrite, and now they and the X-Men failed her mother. She had no choice but to ensure Umino’s safety herself. “Then name the time and place,” Naru said coldly, her mind made up. “I’ll slip out sometime tonight, and… YAAAHHHH!”
Naru screamed upon seeing a hand shoot RIGHT THROUGH HER CHEST, grabbing the communicator. It was still in her fingers when the hand pulled back, though, but now it was sparking and sputtering.
It took a moment for Naru’s mind to register what just happened. She nervously turned around, seeing Kitty standing there, with a fierce look that made Naru’s blood run cold. “I can’t believe you were about to do that, Naru,” Kitty spat icily. “The whole day I spent with you, trying to be your friend, getting to know you… I truly thought you’d be incapable of a decision like this! We all thought so! That’s why we didn’t do anything until just now, when the Blackbird picked up a weak comm signal!”
“Y-Y-You knew Mystique talked to me!?” Naru spluttered incredulously. “H-H-How!? No one can read my mind!”
“No one had to. Cable could peer into Mystique’s, plus we have Logan’s nose,” Kitty said frostily. “We knew almost as soon as Raven approached you, but no one said anything. With everything Usagi said, with the time the X-Men spent with you… We just couldn’t believe you’d ever consider joining a maniac like Magneto!”
“That was before my mother died on your watch!” Naru snarled. She threw a punch, but it sailed right through Kitty. Kitty folded her arms as more punches passed harmlessly through her. Naru tried one more time, only for Kitty to go solid again, duck under her swing, and hurl her over her shoulder. Naru collided with the far wall, but sprang back up, eyeing Kitty angrily as dark power crackled in her fists.
“Do I have to phase you into some solid walls like I did Makoto to get through your thick skull!?” Kitty spat, unimpressed. “Joining Magneto’s a road to nowhere, Naru. I can’t let you…”
“No, Kitty,” came a commanding voice. The door to Rei’s room slid open, revealing Ororo. Nathan, Logan, Rei, Michiru and Dr. McCoy were right behind her. The faces of the other mutants were unreadable, but Rei’s betrayed heartbreak while Michiru simply looked disappointed. “This is not how we do things, and you know it. We have no right to demand anything of Naru, to make decisions for her. If Naru ultimately chooses to follow Magneto’s path, we cannot stand in her way.”
“You can’t?” asked Naru, flummoxed. From what time she spent with the X-Men’s leader, Naru would have expected Kitty’s current antics from her. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, because Storm was the one X-Man in Japan who could stop her cold, quite literally.
Kitty was still mutinous. “Come on, Ororo! This is EXACTLY what Magneto’s been working toward, working Naru up so she makes a horrible mistake!”
“Kitty, do not talk about Naru as if she’s not even here,” Ororo scolded. “She has been through a great deal. We cannot be so dismissive of her loss, not when we’ve suffered terrible losses of our own.” Then she turned to Naru, her face softening a little. “But Naru, before you make your final choice, I ask only one thing of you…”
After so many years, it invariably came back to this. A never-ending game of chess with his old friend Erik. Unable to reconcile their differences, always struggling to thwart the other, scrabbling for whatever pawns they could. That harsh reality was a bitter pill Charles Xavier was forced to swallow time and again. Both of them were always scouring the globe for new recruits, both of them thinking they had the most to offer young mutants with emerging powers. Xavier was determined to provide a nurturing environment with his school where his students would feel accepted, not feared, while Erik sought to gear them up for a battle for survival. And at the end of the day, with training his most capable recruits in the Danger Room, Xavier’s aims weren’t too different from Magneto’s.
Still, there were profound differences between himself and his old friend. Things he had to make Naru Osaka aware of before she chose what path to follow. Xavier desperately wished it wouldn’t come to this. Yet like Ororo, he knew he had no right to force his will on the young mutant. Furthermore, Xavier couldn’t, even if he wished to. For reasons that still eluded him, mutant telepathy had no effect on the girl. That made it doubly necessary to resort to this, as stomach-churning as it would be.
And not just for Naru. Shortly after Kitty stepped in to keep Naru from meeting up with Magneto, Usagi and Chibiusa, along with their cat Luna, arrived at the shrine to check up on their old friend. They were crushed to discover Naru was willing to side with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Acolytes. Now their heartache would be even more profound. But most importantly, Naru would see what such a choice truly meant. Again, harsh reality. As a headmaster and a mentor to so many, it was Xavier’s natural instinct to want to shield his young charges from its full weight. Right now, there was no escaping it, though it tore at his soul.
And now, Naru Osaka’s.
“Hello nurse, we are the Acolytes. And we’re here to slaughter flatscans,” beamed a bizarre-looking mutant on surveillance footage taken from a hospital. A creature called the Kleinstocks, essentially the upper bodies of two huge men sharing the same pair of legs, fiery energy crackling in their fists. They were flanked by more mutants in matching uniforms, murder in their eyes.
And then, the preserved footage showed the carnage beginning. All throughout the hospital, patients and staff were mercilessly slaughtered in the most heinous ways imaginable. The hallways of the hospital sprayed with blood, the bodies of helpless patients flung about without remorse. The most vulnerable people, and those who dedicated their careers to their care, cut down without mercy. This was one reason why the X-Men existed, to counter such mutants who harbored such hate, who would abuse their powers. Hopefully, Ororo’s idea to show Naru the Acolytes’ raw savagery would dissuade her from becoming one of them.
Right from the start, it was working. It wasn’t long before tears were streaming down Naru’s cheeks as she sat there in front of the Blackbird’s terminal near the back. She looked on in shocked silence, not believing what she was seeing. The archived footage showed the Kleinstocks superheating the IV fluids of a frail old man in intensive care, heralding a slow, torturous death. A pitiful gasp escaped Naru’s lips. Even now, years after this Acolyte attack, Xavier still found it hard to believe even they were capable of such butchery. Xavier silently prayed the day would never come when he’d be unaffected by such horror.
Fortunately, it appears our new friends will never have that problem, Xavier mused, turning to Usagi. Little surprise she was just as horrified as Naru, and crying as well, while this ‘future daughter’ of hers was ready to be sick. Rei’s disgust was palpable, being someone who harbored deep, spiritual beliefs. Michiru also couldn’t quite keep the horror out of her expression. She and her partner were supposedly the most hardened of the Sailor Senshi. Yet with the evil nature of the X-Men’s enemies laid bare, not even she was unaffected. Even Luna, who lived through the destruction of the Moon Kingdom according to Ami’s files, was taken aback.
The rest of his X-Men stood by to watch as well. For them, the signs were subtle, since they had all fought the Acolytes before. Yet their enmity toward Magneto’s self-professed worshippers had not abated in the least.
As the footage neared its end, Naru’s faced turned a sickly color. Her hand flew to her mouth. Getting the hint, Nathan used his telekinesis to levitate a plastic bucket over from the other side of the Blackbird.
“Thank you,” Naru said weakly, taking the bucket and throwing up in it. After a moment, Naru picked her head back up to glance at the screen. The carnage continued. Now Senyaka was using his energized whips to burn and choke a nurse. “Ugh, glad I haven’t eaten much, I think I’m good… Never mind, there’s more!” After another bout of sicking up, Naru glanced up again, only to turn away in tears, unable to watch any more.
“Oh no, you don’t get to just look away!” snapped Nathan, and suddenly Naru’s gaze was locked with the screen again. Xavier could sense he was using telekinesis on her. “Did any of their victims get to just look away as the Acolytes slaughtered them all? I understand how much it hurts to lose your mother, but think of all the kids who lost loved ones that day. The animals you were about to join up with, they caused the same heartache you’re going through!”
“That’s quite enough, Nathan,” said Xavier, softly but firmly. Making Naru watch this was traumatic enough, no point in berating her further. Better to simply let her see what consequences her decision would bring.
“He raises a valid point, Professor,” said Ororo. “Naru, I was told you were considering a nursing career. Can you still say you’d want to join Magneto to protect Umino, if you’d be asked to take part in slaughter like this? I refuse to believe the girl Usagi told us so much about is capable of that.”
“Besides darlin’, you just saw what the lives of normal humans mean to these monsters,” added Logan. “You really want them lookin’ out for your boyfriend whenever you ain’t on Asteroid M?”
At last, they went through the last of the footage, and the screen blanked out. Naru could only stare blankly ahead, still in disbelief over what she just saw. “I-I-I-I… H-H-How could… I d-d-didn’t know…”
“Naru, I’ve LITERALLY had nightmares of you doing something like this,” said Usagi. “Please, please, PLEASE tell me this convinced you otherwise.”
“Before you answer her, Naru, you need to see something else,” Kitty cut in. She walked over and punched in a few commands, bringing up another round of archived footage. Lockheed was perched on her shoulder, shooting Naru a withering glare at point-blank range. “In case you’re thinking Mystique’s outfit is sufficiently less bloodthirsty, get a load of this.”
Xavier caught some bristling irritation from Michiru upon hearing that name, which wasn’t surprising. Michiru was surprised, however, by what appeared on the screen. “I recognize that… It’s the United States Senate. And that man speaking… Robert Kelly, your country’s own version of Kizachi’s husband. Why…” Michiru fell silent when the footage showed Mystique and her Brotherhood making their move, proudly declaring they were there to assassinate the senator. The X-Men, however, were there to stop them.
“Who’s the fuzzy goblin guy, and the man with wings?” asked Rei.
“Nightcrawler and Angel,” said Usagi. “Come on, Angel’s one of the original X-Men! Seriously, how come I still know more about this than you do?”
“And that guy with Mystique…” Rei went on, ignoring Usagi’s jab. “Ugh, I swear I’ll never call you a fat-ass again, Usagi.”
“Makoto was right to refrain from making any more bets,” grumbled Luna.
Naru watched as the fight spilled out onto the streets of Washington, D.C., with Pyro using his blaze to box in troops and Avalanche nearly burying others alive. Eventually, the X-Men subdued most of them and saved Senator Kelly. “I don’t get it,” muttered Naru. “Sure, the flame guy and the earthquake guy almost killed a whole bunch, but… Ororo, you and Kitty and Logan stopped them. Why show me this?”
“You don’t know the whole story,” said Nathan. “The reason the X-Men showed was because they got a tipoff. From the future, and not from me.”
“WHAT!? Then from who!?” Chibiusa demanded vehemently.
“From her,” said Usagi, pointing at Kitty.
Kitty nodded. “More specifically, my future self’s consciousness travelling back to take over her younger body. My fourteen-year-old self, seen in that footage.”
“Travelling back… taking over your younger…” Chibiusa facepalmed hard. “Oh, if I ever see Plu again, she’s got some explaining to do.”
“The point is, Kitty’s future self warned the X-Men that if the senator was assassinated, it would start a chain of events making anti-mutant paranoia rage out of control,” said Hank.
“Which would lead to a revitalized Sentinel program, which would go off the rails and eventually lead to not only the near-extinction of mutantkind, but the decimation of all the other super-beings on Earth,” said Kitty. She looked over at the Sailor Senshi. “And I do mean ALL of them.” Even Michiru looked a bit shaken by this revelation.
“But you averted that fate, didn’t you?” asked Luna anxiously. “You saved Kelly, and that program hasn’t come about.”
“Not yet. But every time we get a whiff of a new batch o’ Sentinels, we take it seriously,” said Logan.
“Hence why you’re all here,” said Michiru.
“So, you’re saying… Magneto and his teams… They’ll send the whole world down that sort of path?” Naru asked, horrified.
“Which is why, painful as it is, we X-Men always stand ready to thwart my old friend. Even if the rest of humanity doesn’t understand what it is we fight to prevent, we do it because we must,” said Xavier, wheeling himself closer to Naru. “Naru, whether or not you enroll at my school… I cannot ask such a decision of you just yet, not with the loss you’ve suffered. But I hope I’ve impressed upon you what a mistake it would be to join Magneto.”
“If this hasn’t worked, Professor, I’ll be glad to volunteer!” came an icy voice. Everyone turned to see a hologram flicker to life, not too far away from the terminal. Xavier sighed a little as he saw Emma Frost’s hologram stare coldly at the still shaking Naru. “Just let it be known, Ms. Osaka, that were you currently enrolled and had me as your instructor, I wouldn’t hesitate to drill some sense into you! And don’t think this immunity to mutant telepathy matters one jot!” The Senshi watched in confusion as her hologram suddenly changed, Frost assuming her form of living diamond. “I have OTHER means!” Xavier couldn’t help but notice Kitty flapping her hand as she mockingly mouthed Frost’s words, much to Lockheed and Usagi’s amusement. Would those two EVER get along?
Thankfully, Naru wouldn’t have to put up with Frost’s disparagement much longer. Rogue and Peter stepped into the projector back at the mansion. “Thank you, Emma, for checkin’ to see if the projector’s still workin’,” Rogue said sharply as she shoved Frost out of the way. “But I do believe Naru’ll be a tad more receptive to what Peter and I gotta tell her.”
Frost tried to butt in again. “Just hope you don’t wind up in my class, Ms. Osaka! Because…” Frost was cut off when Rogue pushed her so hard, she crashed into the wall of the communications room, making the projection shake.
“Wow, and you thought Ms. Haruna was a hardcase, Usagi,” muttered Luna.
“Rogue, Colossus… What’s this all about?” asked Naru.
“You saw the archived footage, Naru. But you need to hear it from people who were actually IN the Brotherhood and the Acolytes,” said Peter.
“What!? You two!?” Michiru cried incredulously.
“Yes, Michiru. In my grief, I turned to the Acolytes for a time,” said Peter, the sting of shame in his voice.
“What would’ve possessed you to do that!?” demanded Michiru. “The attack on that hospital… Why would you ever join THEM, Peter!?”
“The same reason Naru is tempted,” said Peter. “The loss of someone dear.”
This seemed to grab Naru’s attention. “Who was it?”
“My sister Illyana. She fell victim to the Legacy Virus, something Professor Xavier seemed powerless to stop,” said Peter. “In my grief, I ran off with Magneto’s group, feeling there was no place left for me on Earth. No doubt you wondered just why I could no longer paint for so long, Michiru. Now you know.”
“Peter’s long since learned what a big mistake that was,” said Rogue. “Me? I’ve had to live with some dumb decisions a lot longer.”
“So you were in the Brotherhood,” said Michiru dryly.
“It was more than that, Michiru,” said Rogue. “I hear you and Haruka had a run-in with my foster mother.”
Michiru’s eyes widened. “That shapeshifting psychopath… She RAISED you!?”
“More or less,” Rogue admitted. “I was part of her outfit for a good long while, up until that run-in with Carol Danvers. She’s the one I permanently got a lot o’ these powers from, plus a chunk of her psyche.”
“Soon after that, Rogue came to me for help. And I made her an X-Man over the objections of most of the team,” said Xavier. “Mentally, the ordeal left her a wreck, and I refused to go back on my vow to help a young mutant in need.”
“It also scarred Danvers for life, and I’ve had to live with the guilt ever since,” said Rogue, turning to Naru. “So I’m beggin’ ya, Naru, don’t go joinin’ my mom. Gettin’ mixed up in those outfits’ll lead to things you’ll regret forever, take it for me an’ Pete.”
As Naru fumbled for words, Michiru continued to stare at them in disbelief. “The kind of pain your powers led to, Rogue, and why you couldn’t paint any more Peter… I never imagined.”
“You had good reason to be suspicious of us, Michiru,” said Peter. “We have read the files regarding Mistress 9, but now you know the two of us are hardly blameless as well.”
“What’s done is done,” said Michiru firmly. “After our encounter with Magneto and his flunkies… Don’t worry, Haruka and I now know full well which mutants are truly our enemies.”
“What about you, Ms. Osaka?” Xavier asked, turning his attention back to Naru. “You’ve heard pleas from two people who know firsthand what it means to work with these groups, and you’ve seen what they’ve done in the past. Can you still say joining them to protect Umino is worth the price?”
“Especially if the price may very well be your soul?” Rei added.
Naru looked to them, eyes still full of tears. At length, she buried her face in her arms to blot them away. “N-N-N-No… I-I-I-I can’t do it. I could… n-n-n-never do all that…”
Xavier heard Usagi let out a huge sigh of relief, her hand over her heart. As elated as she was to hear Naru would never join Magneto’s army, Xavier could sense her lingering hesitation to approach Naru. These events still caused a rift between them, one Usagi still desperately wanted to bridge, but didn’t quite know how. Pain like this would take much time to heal, but he promised Usagi he would do what he could for Naru. It was his life’s work, and he was as determined as ever to see it through to the end.
In Usagi’s place, Ororo approached Naru to give her a shoulder to cry on. But soon, Ororo would have to return her attention to the task at hand. Logan was quite right about the need to squelch any new Sentinel program, and Magneto playing some unknown role in this mess made things even more pressing. On top of that, they owed Naru answers as to who killed her mother. They dissuaded Naru from making a terrible mistake, but Xavier knew his duty to aid this young, troubled mutant was far from over.
No, it’s not just Naru I have an obligation too, but the Sailor Senshi as well, Xavier reminded himself. He turned his wheelchair around, sensing the eagerness of some of the Senshi to speak with him. Usagi cradled Luna in her arms, her tearful eyes pleading. Rei and Michiru, however, looked impatient.
“Well, your people certainly diffused that time bomb in a hurry, Xavier,” said Michiru. “Now what about Kizachi, Magneto and those Sentinels?”
“Unfortunately, Ms. Kaioh, there may not be much we can do at the moment,” said Xavier. “You and Haruka did succeed in penetrating deeper into Kizachi’s facility. But from what you’ve told us, it confirms our earlier suspicions. The Sentinels, in all likelihood, are not being assembled there. Kizachi has a second site for their final assembly and deployment. I fear that even though the X-Men and Sailor Senshi could easily raze her corporate headquarters to the ground tonight, it would amount to nothing. Save increasing anti-mutant hysteria and turning your country against the Senshi.”
“We’ve heard that before, but we still have to do something,” said Rei. “Can’t you just read Kizachi’s mind, or the minds of her staff?”
“He’s tried, but Kizachi’s got some sort of defense against telepathy,” Michiru grumbled.
At least Rei’s gotten over her fear of my power, after our mishap, Xavier thought hopefully. And Michiru’s long since forgiven Rogue and Colossus. Our teams may yet mesh well together, but it’s clearly imperative I find a means to focus our collective energies. And frustrations. “Very true, Ms. Kaioh. Kizachi’s taken great pains to keep her Sentinel program hidden until she feels the time is right. Her company is still the key, however. Perhaps Kitty can work with Mizuno again to break into her company’s computer records. Additionally, Aino can redouble her efforts to track Kizachi’s financial transactions while Logan continues investigating yakuza activity. Her Interpol connections could be crucial to untangling this complicated web she’s woven.”
Xavier didn’t need his telepathy to sense Rei and Michiru’s festering impatience, but they nodded anyway. Luna, however, wasn’t so easily placated. “And what about Magneto and his outfit?”
“You must be patient, Luna,” Xavier pleaded. “I know Erik. How he thinks, how he works. Much like some of the enemies you’ve fought, his schemes can’t be foiled so quickly. I simply ask for your trust and continued assistance as the X-Men and I work to close in on him. When we’re getting close, I promise you the Sailor Senshi will be there to fight him with us.”
Usagi didn’t look all too eager to fight the Master of Magnetism. Tears still streamed down her cheeks. “A-A-At least we won’t have to fight Naru too,” she spluttered. “I can’t thank you enough, Professor. You kept her from turning bad…”
“We kept her from making the worst possible choice, for now. That is all,” said Xavier, turning back to see Naru still crying, though Lockheed was lapping up her tears. “I fear, Ms. Tsukino, that Ms. Osaka’s road to recovery will be long and hard. For all of us.”