Falling from the Moon
A "Please Save My Earth" fanfic
By Natalie Baan
High above the city, Tamura Kazuto glanced out through the plate glass window. Roppongi's lights glittered in the distance below, small and seemingly very far away. Turning, he looked across the unlit length of the lower observation deck's floor.
Hell of a thing, to be sneaking around inside Tokyo Tower at night.
Putting his back against a girder, he stared up at the ceiling. Somewhere above it, a small group of young people was doing mysterious things. He and Mikuro had watched them climb the long stairs of the Tower--had watched those tiny creeping shadows the old-fashioned way, with binoculars from a convenient tree, because apparently ESP-viewing could be detected by the one person they above all had to be wary of. At least, so Mikuro had said. They'd observed the kids' straggling progress, and the widening split as one band of climbers left the other further and further behind. And then, when the first group had cleared the level of the deck, there'd been the nerve-wracking flight through the darkness, Mikuro levitating them both up carefully under cover of the Tower's supports. Tamura's palms had sweated the whole way from the ground at the idea that some precarious force was the only thing supporting them, but they'd made it at last. Mikuro thought he'd clouded their presence well enough that they hadn't been noticed. So there was only the waiting.
Waiting always made him tense. Instinctively his fingers groped toward his trenchcoat's inner pocket. Just as they touched his cigarette pack with the faintest of cellophane crinkles, Mikuro, crouching on the railing behind him, nudged at his back. Kazuto froze, then caught faint echoes of footsteps and laboring breaths. The sounds were coming from the open stairwell. Straightening, he let the girder's bulk hide his silhouette as Mikuro melted back into the steel beam's shadow.
"Almost there," he heard a quiet, familiar voice say. "Can you make it?"
The reply was more an affirmative pant than a word. After a moment, Haruhiko's rumpled dark head hove up above the level of the floor. He managed another step, then stopped just shy of the landing, bending to plant both hands on his knees and gasp for air. Issei appeared next to Haruhiko, his expression hard to read in the dim glow of the stairwell's exit sign, but the way he hovered close to the other teen spoke volumes. "Just a couple more steps," he was saying, "and we can rest for a while. They're not going to leave without us, you know."
"No...it's all right. My heart's fine. It's just...I'm not used to climbing so much." Levering himself up on the hand rail, Haruhiko stared into space. "It's not so far...I can make it...and anyway...I don't want him to think I'm causing problems."
"/That/ jerk." Casting a baleful glance toward the ceiling, Issei planted his hands on his hips and sniffed. "You'd think that he'd--" Whatever Issei thought about the person in question was cut off by a mellow chime. Kazuto started, his attention leaping to a thin crack of light in one wall, a crack that was rapidly growing wider. The elevator doors slid the rest of the way open, and two figures stepped out in what to dark-adapted eyes was a blinding glare.
"Gotta be imagining things," one of them was muttering. "Who the hell would be climbing Tokyo Tower in the middle of the freakin' night?"
As the doors glided shut, Kazuto blinked spots of glare from before his eyes. The security guards had flicked their flashlights on and were swinging the beams carelessly around. Kazuto shot a glance toward the stairway and the two boys frozen there, staring in panic. One guard aimed his light right at the stairs, and Issei leaped in front of Haruhiko with a little cry.
No--/not/ Issei, but a young woman, pale brown hair swinging around her shoulders as she moved. Kazuto's mouth fell open; behind him, Mikuro made a quiet, inarticulate sound. The woman spread her arms and the long coat she was wearing--entirely unlike Issei's short, dark jacket--flared with her motion, half-hiding the other figure that huddled on the steps.
"A girl?" The guard took an incredulous stride forward. "Hey, miss--the Tower's closed! You're not supposed to be up here! What d'you think you're doing?"
"Um, we're college students!" Damn, even the voice was different. Thunderstruck, Kazuto watched as she flinched from the approaching guards, a woman right down to her nervous, fluttering gestures. "Our sempai had a bet with another guy and, um...." Haruhiko straightened slowly, and she darted him an anxious look. The guards' flashlights caught on white clothes, pallid hair--one of the men shone a light into his eyes, and he cringed, an expression of naked terror on that stranger's face.
Hell...Kazuto forced himself to take a breath. A sharp move on Issei's part, trying to hide their real identities, but the trouble was his ploy didn't have anywhere to go from there, and Issei clearly realized it. After all, college students didn't have any more right to be prowling Tokyo Tower than high school kids--and might actually be old enough to get arrested for trespassing. Kazuto pressed one hand against the girder's cold solidity, trying to focus his thoughts. Should he jump in now, or consider it a lucky break that Issei and Haruhiko wouldn't be making it to whatever was going on at the top of the Tower?
He could always bail the two of them out of jail, if it came to that.
"All right, the fun's over for you two," the second guard declared. He marched over and made as if to grab for Haruhiko, but Issei--or was it Enju?--interposed herself again. Scowling, the man put his flashlight right up to her face, the beam throwing stark shadows into the hollows of both their features. "Don't start trouble," he warned, and she shivered, closing her eyes against the light. Planting one hand on her shoulder, he shoved her toward the other guard, and then turned back to Haruhiko. "What are you--" The man broke off, and even from Kazuto's hiding place he could see the dusky flicker, brown skin and black hair half-visible beneath the moon scientist's image as the illusion faltered and reality began glimmering through it. "/What the--!/"
"Wait!" Enju cried, trying to break away from the other man. Kazuto rocked up onto the balls of his feet as Shukaido/Haruhiko gasped and the guard reached for his stick--
White light blasted across the observation deck like the headlamp of an onrushing train--searing light, and at its center a tall, unfamiliar silhouette. Kazuto caught a glimpse of flying darkness before he was blinded, a nimbus of long, wild hair--
--and something struck the air like a hurricane gale, soundless but stunning in its power. Dimly, as if that force had muffled all other vibrations, he heard the guards scream, heard Haruhiko cry out, "/No!/" As the light's intensity dimmed, Kazuto peered through more glare spots and saw the elevator's doors slide open just in time for the guards to be swept neatly through them. The bell chimed again and the doors rolled shut, cutting off his view of the two men lying in a tangled, groaning heap. Kazuto blinked hard to get his vision back into focus as shadows reclaimed the deck, restoring his and Mikuro's momentarily broken cover.
Where the center of that eruption had been, the mysterious figure was gone, and in its place a small boy hovered, hands in pockets. A wispy white radiance swirled from him in slender streamers, rising into the air like smoke.
"Shion," Haruhiko whimpered, as if resigning himself to some dreaded but necessary ordeal. The two teenagers had reverted to their present-day forms; Haruhiko was slumped against the railing, while Issei tugged at his arm, trying to coax him up those last few steps. It took all of Kazuto's willpower to continue to wait, to bide his time until he could see what the hell was going on. Growling inwardly, he clenched his fists, forcing them to stay at his sides. At least it seemed that, so far, none of the kids had realized they weren't alone.
Shion slipped one hand out of his jacket pocket and tugged at his cap, pulling it down to shade his eyes. "Nice going, Shu," he said. "Next time, why don't you take out an ad in the paper and let the rest of the world know as well?"
"What? Why is this my fault?" Haruhiko climbed up onto the deck's floor finally and stood facing off against Shion. "I didn't do anything to attract attention!"
"It's because you're taking too damn long! You /do/ understand that we're on a schedule here?"
"Hey," Issei murmured warningly.
"I'm going as fast as I can!" Catching himself, Haruhiko fought down the quaver in his voice, and then went on more calmly, "You need me alive, right? So I'm not going to teleport this close to the jump, just in case it's too much. And you said we couldn't use the elevators because it would show up on the security monitors." He stared back at Shion with fragile determination. "So I'm walking, just the same as everyone else is. I can make it--I just need more time."
"Time," Shion remarked, "is something we're a little bit short of tonight." Tilting forward, he crossed his arms, managing despite his size to loom effectively over Haruhiko. "Your health issues aren't my problem. They're /your/ problem. Deal with them without screwing things up for the rest of us."
"Are you? I wonder." Angling further, so that he was nearly horizontal, Shion floated down until he and Haruhiko were practically nose to nose. His amused eyes gazed into Haruhiko's haunted violet ones, his aura casting a vague glow over Haruhiko's face. "Did it ever occur to you," Shion said then, "not to teleport, but instead simply to /fly/ yourself up there?"
Haruhiko's eyes glazed over with pitiable blankness, and Kazuto could see the bottom drop right out of his self-confidence. It obviously /hadn't/ occurred to him--maybe, Kazuto thought ruefully, because he'd unconsciously felt some need to suffer, as a penance for those past misdeeds.
"Martyrs!" Shion snapped in disgust, echoing Kazuto's own thought just a shade too closely for comfort. "I'm surrounded by idiots and martyrs." Leaning back, he threw up both hands in annoyance, a startlingly grown-up gesture. Haruhiko hung his head.
"/Excuse/ me," Issei cut in, "but if we're /so/ short on time isn't there something highly technological and complicated that you ought to be doing?" The brat threw him a cold look, and Kazuto was mildly surprised to see Issei return that glare with a complete lack of intimidation. He hadn't pegged Issei as the foolhardy type; either Issei really had unshakable faith that the kid wasn't all bad, or he had some kind of hold over the little menace. Shion regarded Issei for a few seconds, unblinking, then kicked himself backward and higher into the air.
"Twenty minutes," Shion stated. "That's the maximum I figure we've got until the next wave of security comes after those guys." He fixed Haruhiko with a sharp stare, and Haru flinched, seemed to refocus hurriedly on the present. "You two had /better/ be up there. Got it?"
Floating a couple of meters above the floor, he smiled then, as sweetly malevolent as a small, evil angel.
"Oh, yeah," he added, almost as an afterthought, and his eyes shifted, glancing straight through the shadows to where Kazuto was standing. "Why don't you come too?"
The world tied itself into a knot around Kazuto, then unwound, taking his insides with it.
With a muffled exclamation, he fought to keep nausea under control as light and darkness warped around him and the floor wavered away from his feet and then came back. The girder was gone from beside him, and a blast of fresh, chill air hit his face. He staggered--the space around him had changed completely, and he blinked in the unexpected, sulfur-yellow glow of emergency lighting. He was on an open air deck, a crows' nest platform bounded by a metal rail. Above him, girders swept upward, narrowing to a point that vanished against the deep night sky--he was still on the Tower, but someplace much higher up, he realized dazedly. This had to be a maintenance platform for the radio transmitter. Wind struck its cold fist through his open trenchcoat as he whirled, confronting the boy who hovered just below those beams and cables. Somewhere close at hand, a girl's voice screamed. There were other shadowy figures, and one more dropped from above him, landing in a tense crouch just a few meters away. Kazuto spun again, trying to keep them all from his back as his mind raced with the effort to identify those half-seen presences without losing track of Shion.
"/Tamura-san!/" Haruhiko appeared with his hand already clenched in Kazuto's coat sleeve, so close that if the fine hairs on the back of Kazuto's neck had been able to stand up any further, they would have. A heartbeat later, Mikuro flickered into view an arms-length from his other side. As one, the three of them stared at Shion.
"Well," the child said gleefully, "isn't this nice? We have guests."
"/What?/" That was from the person who'd jumped down from the girders, and who now stood up and glowered. On closer inspection, he turned out to be a sandy-haired boy, about Haruhiko's age. He favored Haruhiko in particular with a deeply suspicious look and demanded, "Friends of yours?"
Haruhiko blanched and dropped his gaze to the scuffed metal flooring. His hand, however, remained firmly locked onto Kazuto's arm.
"Tamura-san?" Getting a better look around now that his eyes were adjusting, Kazuto noticed a girl moving hesitantly toward them. After a instant of bewilderment, he recognized her: she was the one who'd been with Issei at the hospital, that night when Haruhiko had almost drowned. She clearly remembered him, and her tentative expression changed quickly into a smile of relief. "It /is/ you!" Coming over, she bowed. "It's good to see you again! You remember me, right? Kokushou Sakura?"
"Um, yes." Kazuto bowed in return. "It's...a pleasure." Straightening, he smiled and then rubbed at his head, torn between politeness and the need to stay on the defensive. Somehow, this wasn't turning out as he'd imagined.
"'Guests?' What guests? What's going on? Does this mean there's been a change in plans?" The new voice belonged to yet another boy, unremarkable to look at but speaking with a certain quiet authority, as if he genuinely expected to be answered. The rest of the kids looked at Shion. There was one other young person present: a girl who leaned against the railing, glancing over her shoulder at Kazuto with sad eyes, her long, black hair streaming down the back of her coat. Five teenagers, including Haruhiko, one ESPer brat, and Mikuro.
He was surrounded by children. It made the situation even more unreal.
Shion raised his eyebrows, seemingly unfazed by the others' attention. "Don't look at me," he said. "/I'm/ not the one who told them everything. But since they're here and they seem to want to know what's we're up to so badly, then why don't we let them come along? After all, they've already been involved for quite a while now. Isn't that right?"
"What?--/no!/" Haruhiko gasped, sounding appalled, and Kazuto wondered what upset him more: the all-too-casual invitation that so clearly was a setup or the insinuations crawling all over it. The boy who'd been confronting them folded his arms and scowled. Mouth pursed into a smile, Shion floated above them all, the wind stirring his hair and blowing his jacket around him as he met Haruhiko's eyes. In the brief pause that followed, Kazuto studied the little monster, and all his uncertainty fled.
No matter what the others said or did, one thing he was sure of: /this/ kid meant no good to anyone, and especially not to him and his friends.
"Oh, is that so? Well, I don't know, but...I suppose it might be useful to have somebody go with us. An outside party who can corroborate our story, just in case we ever do decide to go public with it." The young man who spoke seemed intrigued but dubious, as if he really wanted more time to consider the matter. Haruhiko made a tiny, choking sound of protest, almost a sob. Sakura seemed to have something else on her mind and was peering around the platform.
"Hey! Whatever happened to--" She broke off, cocking her head to listen, just as Kazuto became aware of a distant metallic pounding. The racket got louder and closer, until a door he hadn't noticed before slammed open with a crash. Issei staggered out of an access stairwell, wild-eyed and panting. He boggled at them all as though stunned by the lack of carnage before collapsing into a heap on the floor.
"/Enju-kun!/" Sakura started toward him, then stopped, putting a hand to her mouth. It poorly hid the smile that had begun to creep across her face. "So, sport," she went on in a very different tone, "exactly /how/ many flights of stairs did you just run up?"
"Go away," Issei moaned, "and let me die with dignity...."
"Time's short," Shion put in, "so make up your minds and let's get going. I really don't care one way or the other." A swift flicker of his eyes toward Kazuto and Mikuro gave the lie to his words. "And while you're all discussing it, I'll finish setting up." Vaulting between the beams, he disappeared. His voice drifted down from the shadows overhead, faint but curt--"Gyokulan! Get up here and help!"--and the angry teenager's feet were lifted from the floor. Flailing, he was hauled up through a gap between the girders, vanishing with a squawk of outrage that ended in a muffled thump and a curse.
"That was Jinpachi," Issei offered weakly from the floor, "also known as Gyokulan. He's not having a very good week."
As Kazuto shut his mouth and dragged his eyes back to the platform, trying not to look as at sea as he felt, Issei rolled to his feet and got up slowly. The kid was flushed and still breathing hard, but otherwise seemed none the worse for his sprint. "And you remember Shusulan," he added, coming over to them. Nodding, Kazuto exchanged another smile with the girl as he marveled at how he'd never even guessed the first time they'd met that she was anything out of the ordinary. He would never have thought it of any of them, really: one would imagine a past like theirs would leave some obvious mark, but all except Shion seemed normal enough. Only that child was unnatural, and Kazuto tightened his hands into fists, wondering whether that difference was part of what made him so uneasy.
At least with Shion, a body knew to be on guard.
Issei gave Haruhiko a miniscule poke in the arm. "Next time take me with you, you idiot," he said, not unkindly. Haruhiko stammered an apology and rubbed at his nose in embarrassment, but at least he let go the death grip on Kazuto's sleeve.
"Dobashi Daisuke," the other teenaged boy declared as he approached. "Also known as Hiragi." He bowed formally, smiling, then studied Kazuto with polite but measured appraisal. Hiragi had been the leader of the moon base people, Kazuto recalled; maybe that explained his sober attitude. "So you've been told our story?" At Kazuto's nod, he appeared to ponder briefly before relaxing, his smile growing easier and more frank. "Well, we certainly hadn't planned on this, but I think it's all right. Especially since you seem fairly well-acquainted with most of us already. You know, I'd be really interested to get your account of all of this. I'm documenting our experiences, and an observer's perspective would be quite valuable...."
"But it's /not/ all right!" Haruhiko complained, his voice rising pitifully. "Tamura-san--!" Turning, Kazuto planted both hands on Haruhiko's shoulders, squeezing them in a firm, hopefully steadying grip. He could tell from Haruhiko's trembling that the oversensitive teenager's nerves were already close to the breaking-point.
"Haru-chan, I'll leave it up to you," he murmured, addressing Haru as if the two of them were the only ones on the Tower. "If you really don't want me here, I'll go. But just remember it was my choice that got me involved in the first place, and it had nothing at all to do with you. So if anything happens to me, it isn't your fault. It's my own responsibility." He smiled into that anxious face. "Since I've come this far already, I'd be awfully disappointed not to stay for the rest. What do you say?"
Distraught, Haruhiko stared at Kazuto, those extraordinary pale violet eyes wide and fractured with anguish, startling against his warm brown skin. Then he looked down at the floor again, his hair falling over his face. He slumped under Kazuto's hands and nodded once in defeat and reluctant acceptance.
Haruhiko was a good kid, a sweet kid--but he fretted too damned much.
"Well!" Kazuto said more energetically. "Then that's settled, right?" He clapped Haruhiko on the shoulders, trying to chase away that pinched, melancholy expression. Turning back to the others, he was wondering how to cover for their conference when he glimpsed Mikuro from the corner of his eye, a silent shadow he'd almost forgotten. With an embarrassed laugh, he introduced the ESPer around. From the look on Mikuro's face, he'd have preferred to continue lurking, but he responded with terse politeness, and the kids seemed to accept him as Haruhiko's friend as well. Daisuke immediately remembered how he had teleported in and began peppering him with questions, while Sakura studied him with the particular, highly focused interest of a teenaged girl.
Issei leaned over to stage-whisper into her ear, "Drool much?"
She promptly punched him in the arm.
"And this," Daisuke interrupted himself, extending his hand to the final member of their group, "this is Sakaguchi Alice. You would have heard of her as Mokulen, of course." The dark-haired girl came forward; clasping her hands in front of herself, she bowed. Kazuto bowed in reply, and as they straightened, the girl brushing back a long lock of her hair, he glanced into her solemn face. For a breath, as their gazes met, he felt the jolt of something strange, as though his look was echoing back to him across some vast expanse of stillness, or was returned by an uncountable number of presences that observed him through her quiet grey eyes. Then she looked away again, her fingers anxiously entwining, and she became just an ordinary girl--an ordinary, obviously very frightened girl.
Kazuto bowed more deeply, touched by a mystery he didn't really understand but which added its subtle shading to all that he'd been told and shown. "Truly, it's a very great pleasure," he murmured.
From above them, a caterwaul of pain or fury rang out, followed by Shion's accusatory shout, "Then don't /touch/ that!"
Alice sighed, and Issei rolled his eyes. The moment had definitely been broken.
Kazuto cleared his throat. "So," he began, moving to the rail, where he'd be downwind from all the kids. He was long overdue for a smoke. "Uh, where exactly are we going?" Everyone on the platform stared at him and then each other; as he tapped a cigarette out of its pack and put it between his lips he wondered what he'd missed. Then, with a broad smile, Daisuke swept out one arm, his finger striking toward the black night sky and the narrowing crescent just above the horizon.
Kazuto's stomach immediately took the express elevator to the bottom of the Tower without him. Stunned, he let the wind snatch the cigarette from his mouth, whirling it over the railing and out of sight. Haruhiko looked miserable and vindicated at the same time.
* * * * *
"That's done it!" Shion declared, plummeting between the girders and gliding to a stop just above the floor, like a spider on its thread. Jinpachi swung down next to Shion, excitement at the success of whatever they'd been working on having nearly wiped away his frown. "Get that reflector into place!" The other kids grabbed large pieces of folded cardboard that had been piled in a corner; opened, they gave off a bright silver glitter as they were laid out in a circle. "Don't tear the foil," Shion warned. Still in shock, Kazuto watched the careful alignment of edges, accompanied by urgently murmured consultations.
"I can't believe," he muttered, "that I'm going to the moon...on a contraption made out of a Tokyo landmark and some tin foil."
"Oh," Shion said cheerfully, "then I guess you don't want to know about the chewing gum, huh?"
Sweating despite the wind's chill, Kazuto stared as the boy turned away, and decided that no, he did /not/ want to know. Uneasily, he wondered whether he'd gotten himself into something far over his head--maybe, he thought with a wince, in more ways than one. Seeming to have lost interest in baiting him, Shion swung into the air before Alice, holding out one hand with unusual gentleness. Alice took that offered hand, and as the final piece of cardboard was slipped into place Shion drew her onto the irregular silver circle, his sneakers coming to rest on the foil just as she stepped onto it.
Shion had loved Mokulen, Kazuto remembered from what he'd been told--had been cruel to her but had loved her nonetheless. Seeing those two together, the way Alice placed slim hands on Shion's shoulders as though both guarding him and seeking his support, Kazuto found himself wondering just how that past played itself out in their present lives. How much of what they'd been did they remember--how much could they even understand?
And what kind of person had Shion been, to have loved like that and yet become a monster?
"T minus two minutes," Shion announced, with a pointed look at Haruhiko. "Let's get moving!" There was a general scramble for backpacks and other bags, and then the kids piled onto the reflector, careful not to damage it or disturb its positioning. For a split second, Kazuto hesitated on the Tower's deck, frozen by the insanity of what he was about to do. /It's a game these kids are playing,/ his rational mind insisted, skeptical despite all he'd seen, /nothing's going to happen. You'll only look like a fool if you fall for it,/ while at the same time something in him was chilled by the thought that it might indeed be real, and that he might be about to leave everything he knew far, far behind.
He glanced at Mikuro, who standing with long-suffering patience in the midst of that jostling, moderately unruly band of teenagers. Mikuro's eyes met Kazuto's, and he gave Kazuto a minute nod. Squaring his shoulders, Kazuto stepped forward and eased into place in the circle, murmuring an apology as he brushed against Jinpachi, who nodded tautly in reply. The boy shifted, hands curled into fists, his eyes bright and alert just like the others', all distractions forgotten.
Leaning against Alice's legs, Shion sang a scatter of words: a command in some alien language, tonal and weirdly melodious. From the darkness above, there came a burst of static, and then a clipped, mechanical-sounding response.
"Here we go!" Shion crowed as the platform's lights began to fade.
And they went.
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