She’d surprised everyone by majoring in political science. Well, that wasn’t as much a surprise as her acceptance into college to begin with, but the peace that had fallen after their first year in high school made it much easier to concentrate on her studies—Ami’s insistence that their Queen could not be an unintelligent fool had stung enough to motivate her as well. Usagi felt that—and the others agreed—to be a competent ruler she should have some idea of what she was doing. It had been hard, and much less fun than goofing off at the arcade. However, with Mamoru studying abroad and even Minako realizing that no one stayed carefree and childlike forever, the usual hi-jinks and distractions faded away and all of the girls managed to graduate from high school with acceptable grades. College was even less of a picnic—particularly since Ami had been accepted to a much more prestigious university than any of the girls and was unable to help—but over time everyone slowly adjusted and discovered their own paths.
Rei had gone to school to refine her skills as a priestess. She still composed music, but she often said her family duties were more important than her hobbies; Minako had promised to hire her out as her first songwriter, though, so it offered some hope that Minako’s time spent in performance school would come to fruition. However, Minako had been having more luck—and more fun, as it were—working backstage and plotting the scripts and direction of the shows she had once aspired to be on. Managing the Three Lights—as well as her overactive imagination and tactical skills as a warrior—had given her a taste of power. She liked molding her idols to perfection—but she still promised Rei that the first chance she was able to find a singer, she would buy out Rei’s entire discography.
Makoto had gone to culinary school and studied flower arranging at night. Somehow in all of this, she’d managed to hook a fellow culinary student—a young man named Hiro—on her cherry pies. This was the running joke anyway, cheerfully encouraged by Hiro himself; the pair were often found dreaming up new recipes together, surrounded by cookbooks and calling Usagi to come over and to taste-test. Usagi was, of course, only too happy to oblige and spent the time not eating giving Makoto suggestive looks. Makoto only blushed happily. Ami had been accepted into a difficult pre-med program designed to advance the students to medical school in three years—instead of the usual four—and as it was a year-round program her friends rarely saw her. Occasionally she would join Usagi at a library to study in mutual silence, but past that she had little time for fun outside of her usual regimen of studying and lab work.
Usagi and Mamoru had married between her junior and senior year; and compliant with the established timeline, they welcomed their own Chibi-usa not long after her graduation. Mamoru was entering his residency at a local hospital at this point, and she put off her own career to raise her daughter. Now, however, she was 23 years old and still waiting for the future as she knew it to come to pass.
Usagi had been accepted into a low-ranking position in the National Security Council, knowing a little something of warfare and defense as well as politics. Her mother had offered to care for Chibi-usa while she and Mamoru were at work during the day; Mamoru was still trying to get his schedule changed to work the night shift at the hospital, so he and Usagi would not have to rely on her parents to care for Chibi-usa. As the days passed, and she grew accustomed to the new work and learned the ways to get around security procedures, Usagi learned more about the state of the world than she realized was being kept from the Japanese people. She was troubled by this, and wondered often to her husband why, when the world was in such a state of disarray, she had yet to be called upon as it had been foretold. “You worry too much, Usako,” he would often reply.
“I know, Mamo-chan, but… I’m afraid that we may have done something wrong,” Usagi would reply.
Eventually, he suggested that she speak to Setsuna, if she was that concerned. Mamoru never seemed too concerned about the timeline, but even as Usagi was not entirely prepared to take on the mantle of queen, she had learned long ago that refusing her destiny would never lead to any good. And so, she called Setsuna and asked her to come over the following Sunday to talk.
On the Sunday where our story begins, Mamoru took Chibi-usa out for a father-daughter day. Usagi teased him that the child was only one, and wouldn’t know the difference between father-daughter and mother-daughter; he merely laughed her off and left her to discuss her worries with her guardian.
Setsuna arrived promptly at one o’clock, and found her Princess making snacks in the kitchen. “Usagi-chan, it’s been a while.”
Usagi turned and beamed. “Setsuna! I’m glad you could make it. Please, sit down.”
Setsuna sat at the table, and Usagi brought over a tray of small sandwiches and tea. As she poured, Setsuna regarded the younger woman carefully. “You sounded concerned on the phone, Usagi.”
Usagi’s eyebrows furrowed slightly. “There’s been a lot on my mind lately. I just had a few questions; Mamo-chan thought you would be the best person to ask about it.”
“By all means.”
They each took a sandwich, and Setsuna waited for Usagi to find her words. Usagi mostly fiddled with hers, tearing at the bread. “When we met, before you were reincarnated, King Endymion told us a lot about the future. Actually, he told us more than he should have… which is why I’m so worried.”
Setsuna sighed. “And now you know the curse of knowing the future.”
Usagi nodded. “But a lot of what he said was supposed to happen, it never did. Well, Mamo-chan and I got married, and we had Chibi-usa… and we did all of that when we were supposed to! I mean…” She blushed a deep scarlet. “We would have anyway, I think, but we knew we were supposed to have Chibi-usa when I was 22. And I’m supposed to stop aging by now. How can I tell if I’ve stopped aging? And I’m supposed to have saved the world from an ice age by now, and become Queen. I’m 23, and none of that has happened!”
Setsuna took a drink, and set the cup down gently. “Well, I can tell you from experience that you won’t notice right away if you’ve stopped aging. We can worry about that part later. As for the other… Usagi, time is not a linear progression… well, it can be linear, but it branches off into other linear timelines. Each action we make in the present creates new futures. It’s very complicated.”
“So… what does that mean for this problem?”
“Simply speaking, the future you knew? It’s not the future you will enter.”
“And that’s because…”
“You made different choices than the Serenity of that future. And you confronted different enemies. Did you ever think why Serenity would have allowed the Black Moon Family to attack if she had known about it?” Setsuna asked. “No one would allow their daughter to go through that, not even if her powers have yet to awaken.”
Usagi had to give her that. “So that future had never fought the Black Moon Family in the past, I get that. But was that supposed to be our future originally? And if it changed, why was Chibi-usa able to keep coming back to a timeline that veered away from her version of the future?”
“Yes, it was to be your future, but with the Black Moon Family coming back to the past—Chibi-usa coming back to the past—that future changed. The only reason you were able to enter that point in the future, and why Chibi-usa was able to return to this point in the past, is because she was the anchoring point to both. She existed in both timelines, and couldn’t return to a different one. She existed still in this timeline—you and Mamoru-sama and your guardians remembered her—and was thus able to return to it.”
Usagi nodded, slowly understanding. “And as her biological parents we were still part of her future’s past, at some point, which is why the future became unstable and she had to come back when Mamo-chan was killed by Galaxia.”
“Right,” Setsuna nodded.
Usagi sighed, and rested her chin on her hand, looking out the window. While she hated to see the younger woman under duress, Setsuna enjoyed the rare moments when Usagi was so serious and contemplative. She knew her Princess was intelligent, and these moments showed her turning over a thousand thoughts in her mind to come up with a solution. “Is it possible,” Usagi said suddenly, “that we have chosen a path where we do not become the Earth’s rulers?”
It was Setsuna’s turn to be contemplative. “Well… I suppose it is possible. I have not looked into the time stream in some time.”
“The ice age, though…”
“…is not a fixed point in time. It occurred in one future, and not in another.”
“I see. Are none of these foretold events fixed points?”
“Only those that you and Mamoru have already taken. You have corrected the mistakes of the past by marrying and carrying on the royal lineage in Chibi-usa. What comes next… Chibi-usa must become the next bearer of the Silver Crystal. How that occurs is up to the fates. Chibi-usa may grow to be a normal girl who becomes a normal woman, or she may grow to be a princess who becomes a queen.”
Usagi let out a nervous giggle. “So the burden of the future is not so much of a burden after all… except for the uncertainty now. I was expecting so much, but now I don’t know what to think…”
Setsuna reached over the table and covered Usagi’s free hand with hers. “I wish I could ease your mind, Usagi-chan. I can look into the time stream, but I cannot guarantee an easy or exact answer. As I said before, each choice we make changes the future. I have seen dozens of futures for us. And some events are even obscured from me; as I am part of the established timeline, some events that affect my personal future are forbidden to my knowledge. Big events that change the course of all that we know. It is likely that I would not be able to see such an event if that is what lies in our future.”
Usagi smiled gently. “Thanks, Setsuna, but knowing the future put me into this fit to begin with. I might actually be able to enjoy life like a normal person now! I appreciate you coming over.”
Setsuna smiled in return, but she was still focused on Usagi’s last question. Was it possible that the future kingdom would not come to pass at all? This was something to contemplate.
Later that week, Usagi was looking for her boss; her arms were full of papers that needed to be signed, and no one was around to sign them. She sighed exasperatedly, pushing her bangs out of her eyes. Hikaru, another assistant, was also wandering around with a large pile of papers. She grinned. “It’s like they all vanished at once because they knew work had to be done!”
Usagi laughed. “I know the feeling.”
There was a nagging sensation at the back of her mind, but she brushed it off. She would have to check her schedule later to be sure she wasn’t missing any important appointments, but she also knew she had worked over lunch and hadn’t been able to call her mother like usual. She was just missing her lunchtime talk with her mother and her daughter, and that was all. Usagi snapped out of her thoughts when she saw an upper level employee hurrying out of one door and down the hall. “Excuse me! Please, wait!”
The man paused and looked back. His face was paler than it should have been and he looked anxious. “Can I help you? Miss… er…”
“Chiba. Mrs. Chiba. And I’m looking for Mr. Fushikenwa?” Usagi turned on the helpless doe-eyes. “He’s my superior, and I have all of these documents for him… he absolutely must look over them, they’re important.”
The man pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I… fine. I don’t have time to argue this. Follow me, but be careful not to disturb anyone else. And I must warn you,” he said as he started walking, Usagi at his heels, “not to discuss anything going on in this room or ask any questions that do not relate to this paperwork with your boss. This is past your security clearance.”
Usagi’s eyebrows rose, but she said nothing. It must be important. She followed him through several corridors until they reached a rather foreboding-looking metal door. Her guide had to swipe a key card and press his hand against a scanner before a thick, dull ‘clank’ signaled the door unsealing. She hurried after him before she was locked out, and tried not to gape at what lay beyond.
It was just like all of the movies depicted. Men and women wearing headsets sat before dozens of lighted keyboards and large screens that took up parts of the walls. Maps were being zoomed in on and supervisors were barking into telephones. Usagi knew better than to ask what was going on, and sound her way through the desks and down the stairs to Mr. Fushikenwa, who stood watching a younger man type furiously and speaking rapidly into the headset he wore. Usagi caught a few words that sounded like foreign cities, but she did her best to focus on her own task. ‘It’s more than my job’s worth to find out more than this…’
“I know you’re there, Chiba, just give me a moment,” Mr. Fushikenwa said quietly to her.
Thankfully her boss was more lenient than some of the others in the NSC; she didn’t expect much trouble for coercing her way into a top-security observation center. She looked around nervously, not wanting to catch on to more than she was supposed to, but words like ‘terrorist organization’, ‘scouting force’, and ‘suspicious activity’ kept coming at her. She fought to keep her face neutral; she hadn’t needed to transform into Sailor Moon more than a handful of times in the past eight years, and even then the threats had been mild compared to Galaxia and the Chaos at the center of the galaxy.
Usagi and her guardians had been on guard after the terrorist attacks in the United States several years back, but the threat against Japan was milder in comparison. It was part of the reason she had wanted to go into politics: she had never truly understood why there was so much war and strife in such a supposedly civilized age and understanding that particular dance might help her grasp the bigger picture. She’d specialized in foreign diplomacy, but her heart was in Japan and she hoped she could do half as well from home as she would have been able to abroad. Being in this room, monitoring the kinds of activities she and her friends had been monitoring from the basement of the arcade so many years ago… she felt a strange sense of longing. ‘I’ve actually missed this,’ Usagi thought with a bit of a wry grin. Wait until Rei-chan heard about that.
Her boss turned to her. He still kept his voice down. “Alright, Chiba, what was so important that you had to use those eyes of yours to get in here?”
She smiled sheepishly. “Fushikenwa-san knows me too well. There’s some paperwork the Prime Minister needs right away, and I just wanted you to review the highlighted points before I retyped it—”
The rest of her request was cut off by a woman screaming across the room. “Ho Chi Minh City! They… I can’t believe they actually did it!”
She wasn’t even scolded for her manners. Another man barked a command, and all of the monitors on the wall changed to a sight that sent nervous jitters through Usagi’s veins. A large cumulus cloud showed on the satellite view of the otherwise fair-skies South China Sea. An infrared satellite video feed popped up; the angle made it difficult to fully understand what it was showing until someone made the command to rotate the camera. Despite the coloring, it was impossible to mistake the mushroom cloud for anything else.