The bright sunlight filtered in through the open blinds, harshly illuminating the small utilitarian room, bringing out sharp planes and sharper edges. Nothing of value decorated the room save for the small TV bolted into the corner and the even smaller painting someone had thought to hang on a barren white wall, no doubt in a futile attempt to make the place seem less sterile.
Aside from the meager decorations, a narrow bed took up most of the available space in the tiny room. On that bed, a pale figure laid, barely covered with a thin sheet with one arm flung to the side. The shorthaired blonde was as still as death but on more careful examination, one could see the steady rise and fall of her chest and the minute movement of eyes behind closed lids. The silent figure was dreaming, of what, no one could be certain but when quick twitches suddenly evolved into full out thrashing, it was relatively safe to say whatever she was dreaming couldn't be all that pleasant.
Frightened green eyes, dark with fear, suddenly snapped wide open. Her mind, still mired somewhere in between full consciousness and the land of nightmares, the disoriented senshi looked wildly around at her unfamiliar surroundings. After the initial few seconds of panic in which she waited for something to jump out at her from some corner of the inordinately bright room, she started to relax -- her heart slowing from its frantic pace.
She stared up at the tiled ceiling, automatically cataloging the different aches and pains her body was so very clearly communicating to her mind. While taking inventory, the blonde looked around at her strange new surroundings, vaguely aware of the muted noises coming from outside. It was starting to become habit, this perpetual sense of disorientation -- a fact Haruka did not appreciate in the least since every time she woke up, she had no idea how she got where she was. But in her relatively brief career as a racecar driver and her side occupation as a sailor senshi, fighting for truth and justice, Haruka was no stranger to hospitals. And this room had all the classic indicators of being inside a medical facility, tops on that list being the distinctively antiseptic smell that made the senshi's nose wrinkle in distaste.
Through a miasma of fuzzy memories, she recalled that the last thing she remembered doing was going off to find her princess. She couldn't recall anything else after that except for an overwhelming sense of doom that seemed to follow her through her nocturnal travels, only lessening now that she was awake. But the feeling hadn't completely disappeared; it was still there, hiding like a creature of the night, fearful of being revealed. Absently the wind senshi rubbed the flesh above her heart, trying to relieve an ache she felt.
The fact that she was currently lying in some hospital bed with no Usagi in sight probably meant she hadn't finished what she'd set out to do last night. Slowly, Haruka tried to sit up, fully cognizant that the last time she'd tried sitting up from a prone position, her entire body had felt like an exposed nerve ending. Although it wasn't as excruciating an experience, this latest attempt was by no means a walk in the park either.
Her gown was sticking unpleasantly to her lightly perspiring body by the time she finally succeeded in getting upright. A somewhat strained grin of triumph lit up the racer's face. The pain was bearable; she would not faint. As long as that was the case, then she saw no reason why she should even be in this place. After all, hospitals were for the sick and she wasn't sick -- just a little sore. She figured, pain was an unavoidable side effect anytime one gets thrown off a building. Haruka wasn't going to let this small inconvenience take her down for long though. She had a princess to see and questions that needed answers.
Haruka was in the process of swinging her legs over the edge of the bed in her bid for freedom when the door to her room suddenly swung open, revealing a very surprised nurse on the other side. They stared at each other for a few seconds, both assessing what they saw. Haruka saw a petite figure with her red hair in a ponytail -- someone who looked too young to have graduated from school, let alone become a nurse.
The redhead reacted first and broke the silent stare down. With a slight frown on her face, the petite figure stepped into the room, closing the door behind her.
"You shouldn't be out of bed yet," she admonished, moving closer to the seated senshi. "You could end up injuring yourself even further. If you need anything, I'll get it for you."
Haruka gave the girl her most charming smile -- a smile that was adept at getting favors, especially from young women. The sandy haired racer was very aware of her limitations and she was just as aware of her assets. She was born with features that many people considered beautiful and, although not vain, she wasn't beyond using those looks to her advantage when the situation called for it.
"I'm badly in need of some clothes that don't let in drafts," Haruka said with a self-deprecating shrug, indicating her flimsy gown. "If you could get some for me, my backside will be eternally grateful to you, Miss … "
There was the barest flush on soft cheeks. "Takahashi. But you can call me Maru."
"And you can call me Haruka." Another winning smile. "Now, about those clothes … "
"I can probably find you some spare clothes," Maru said hesitantly. "They had to cut off the clothes you were wearing when they brought you in. They're nothing more than rags now. But you're in no condition to leave. You've got two cracked ribs, some mild head trauma, and too many bruises to count. The doctor will give you the complete list when he comes around. I'm kind of surprised you're even awake right now, considering the ordeal your body must have been through."
"Maru, you don't understand. I have to go find a friend of mine. It's very important that I talk with her."
The nurse was unmoved by the senshi's forceful argument. "I doubt you can barely walk the length of this room. How are you going to find anyone in your condition?"
Haruka shook her head, mildly frustrated. It was obvious the nurse didn't understand the gravity of her situation and to reveal the how's and why's behind her reasoning would just make Maru think she needed to be committed.
Seeing the patient's distress, Maru tried another tactic to get the racer to settle down. "How about a phone call? Can you try to call your friend instead?"
Haruka thought about it for a second and realized it was a good idea. For all she knew, Usagi might not even be at home at the moment, or like Michiru, she might have even disappeared. Once she was sure her princess was at home, she could then get out of here, doctor's orders or not.
"All right," the senshi said, allowing Maru to help her back into bed. "Could you get me a phone, please?"
"I'll get you a phone but you stay right here … and absolutely no moving while I'm gone, okay?"
Haruka gave the nurse a brief smile and agreed in her most acquiescent manner, not wanting to make the nurse suspicious of her motives. As soon as Maru was out the door, the senshi's thoughts immediately turned back to her present predicament. As it stood now, she might as well be mired neck deep in quicksand as far as unanswered questions were concerned. She had no idea what was going on and no theories from which to work from -- granted, her ignorance mostly stemmed from the fact that she'd been unconscious for so long but the uncertainty still grated on the normally in control young woman.
She could only hope she could get in touch with Usagi soon to clear up some of this mystery. But there was another reason why she wanted to get in touch with her princess so badly. No doubt there was some kind of evil behind Michiru's absence and their apartment's transformation. And where there was evil, one could usually find Sailor Moon standing smack dab in the middle. It was exactly because of that tendency that Haruka was now worried for her princess' safety as well.
She waited impatiently for Maru to return, her fist clenching and unclenching as her mind brought up ever new and more horrific scenarios of all the things that could have befallen her princess by now while she sat uselessly here. She had gotten herself so worked up that by the time Maru came back, she nearly jumped off the bed, trying to get to the phone from her before the senshi remembered that abrupt movements were not her friend.
"Hey, easy there," the redhead called out, rushing towards the bed. "Are you all right?"
"Never better," Haruka gasped out from her doubled over position.
Much to the sandy haired woman's chagrin, Maru insisted on settling her back onto the bed before the nurse would hand over the phone. Only when everything was to the redhead's satisfaction did Haruka get her hands on the mobile. Disregarding the nurse's presence, the senshi dialed the number by heart, her fingers fumbling over the small buttons in her haste. She waited impatiently as the phone began to ring, her body nearly vibrating along with her nerves.
Finally, after three rings -- an eternity to her -- someone picked up at the other end of the line. Haruka immediately recognized the voice, having heard it on several other occasions when she would call for Usagi. Some of the tension immediately left her body.
"Hello Mrs. Tsukino. This is Haruka. Is your daughter there?"
"Haruka?" There was a clearly puzzled tone to her voice but the senshi disregarded it. "Well … Usagi's at school right now but would you like to leave a message for her?"
The blonde didn't try to hide her disappointment, her face falling at the news. In truth, she hadn't even considered that her princess might be at school. The activity seemed so mundane, so normal, especially compared to the strange sequence of events that had occurred to her over the last few days.
"Could you just tell her when she comes home that Haruka called?" She asked. "And that I'll be by to see her as soon as I can?"
"I can do that. Is there anything else?"
"No, that's it. Thank you Mrs. Tsukino."
Haruka hung up after exchanging a faint goodbye to the woman, her mind already wandering onto something else. Green eyes turned unfocused and stared unseeing off into space. After an interminable length of time, an embarrassed cough broke her from her reverie and the senshi turned her attention to Maru who was still standing beside her bed, looking awkward and unsure.
"I'm sorry," Haruka said, still somewhat distracted. She handed over the phone with a slight smile. "Thank you for indulging me."
Their fingers brushed for the barest second as Maru took the offered phone and the petite figure blushed nearly as red as her hair.
Clutching the small phone to her chest, Maru asked, "Do you think you might be up for some food?" She laughed at the look of distaste that came over Haruka's face. It looked so completely out of place on the racer's beautiful face.
"It's not exactly high cuisine but it's not that bad," the nurse continued. "And of course, if you eat all your vegetables, I might even find you some vanilla ice cream for desert," she said in a teasing voice.
The blonde folded her arms across her chest in an impressive impersonation of a pouting child. "I prefer chocolate."
"I'll keep that in mind," the nurse said indulgently as she walked towards the door. "And remember, if you need to get out of bed or if you need to go the restroom, press the buzzer for a nurse to come help you. I don't want to come back and find you passed out on the floor."
Haruka gave the redhead a playful grin. "It always warms my heart when a pretty young lady worries about me."
The racer watched as the blush returned full force to the other woman's face -- it was cute, she noted dispassionately. The nurse stammered a few unintelligible words before quickly slipping from the room. As soon as she was out the door, Haruka tossed back the bed sheet. As expected, getting out of bed took some effort but she zoned out the worst of the pain. There was some dizziness when she stood up, the kind that occurs when you try to stand up too fast. When she was sure she wasn't going to fall down, she shuffled towards the small bathroom on the other side of her bed. It consisted of nothing more than a sink, a mirror, and a toilet. There was barely enough room for her to turn without bumping into a wall.
The first look she got of herself in the mirror left her openmouthed -- not because she saw something grotesque staring back at her -- quite the opposite. With the way she felt, she was expecting much worse than what she saw. Her skin was paler than normal, there were dark circles under her eyes, and a nice sized cut above her left eyebrow, which would no doubt leave a scar when it was healed. Whoever had put in the stitches had done a good job though so she didn't expect any scarring to be very noticeable. All that aside, Haruka thought she looked pretty good.
Feeling a strange compulsion, she lifted up the front of her gown. Her ribs and arms complained at the strain but that was swiftly forgotten as she got her first good look at her upper body. Although not big, the mirror allowed her a good view of her torso and what she saw made her cringe. Every square inch of her body seemed to be covered in black and blue marks. A particularly ugly looking bruise decorated the left side of her chest, right above her heart. A quick examination of her back revealed the same unsettling damage as her front -- it was no wonder she felt like a walking bruise when she looked like one too. Unable to do much about the injuries, Haruka dropped the gown and turned back around.
The senshi dipped her head, splashing her face with some cold water from the sink. Surprisingly refreshed and feeling much better than just a few seconds before, the senshi made her way to the door, determined to leave the hospital. She now knew that Usagi hadn't disappeared like Michiru and she was going to see to it that it stayed that way. The only way she could make sure of that was if she was by her princess' side.
Poking her head out the door, she looked down both ends of the hallway her room was located. On the left, the hallway led off to a dead end. There were a couple of people walking back and forth across the T-section at the right end of the hall but nobody else aside from that. Haruka eased out the door, trying to look as normal as possible in case someone happened to look her way. She walked towards the T-section, eyes roaming from door to door until she came across one that made a grin pop up on her face.
She was wondering how she would get out of here dressed in a gown that showed off most of her assets when the answer suddenly appeared before her eyes. If not exactly a sign sent from heaven, the sign that announced 'Employee Locker room' was still just as sweet. Pushing past the door, she stepped into the room, listening intently for anyone that might be inside. Satisfied that she was alone, the wind senshi wasted no time in walking towards the nearest locker.
When she'd first received her powers, it seemed that in one fell swoop, not only had she realized her destiny but also the heavy responsibility with which she'd been entrusted. But destiny and responsibility aside, suddenly gaining the ability to blow things up was too much a temptation for a teenager not to do some experimenting. She'd blown up big things, heavy things, small things, and fluffy things. Michiru had been less than impressed when she'd destroyed the sea senshi's crystal vase but it had nonetheless been an impressive explosion.
Now, her past enthusiasm would serve her well as she attempted to break into one of these lockers. Taking out her henshin pen, Haruka recited the familiar words:
"Uranus Crystal Power Make-Up!"
In a bright flash of light, she was once again the sailor senshi, Uranus. Anyone who happened to walk into the room at this moment would probably have to rub their eyes a few times at the incongruous sight. Fortunately, no one did. She reached out for the lock, wrapping her hand around the small piece of metal and letting the energy gather in her fist. If she were facing a youma, she would have let the energy grow exponentially larger but since it was only a tiny lock and not a bank safe, Uranus tempered the power, focusing it in her fist until she heard the telltale pop. As she opened her hand, the twisted piece of metal dropped to the floor and the locker door swung open.
The senshi emitted a frustrated growl after a thorough tossing of the contents revealed nothing but a purse and some sneakers two sizes too small for her. The thought of taking some of the money she found certainly crossed her mind but the idea was summarily rejected almost as soon as it formed. She might be desperate but she wasn't about to stoop that low. The sandy haired senshi had to pop two more lockers before she finally ran across some clothes that would fit her lanky frame.
Quickly de-transforming, Haruka happily changed out of the drafty gown and into the hooded gray sweatshirt, a pair of blue jeans, and what looked like brand new sneakers. She experienced a momentary pang of guilt at taking what wasn't hers but justified it as a necessary evil. How else was she going to get out of here and not draw notice? Whoever had done this to her was the one at fault -- not her. With more anger than she intended, she slammed the metal door closed and headed out of the locker room.
It was only a small matter after that for Haruka to walk out of the hospital, not to say she was completely inconspicuous since she attracted a fair share of wandering eyes but no one questioned the striking young woman with the barely noticeable limp. The senshi had a fairly long way to walk and the blonde had no intention of stopping until she reached her odango atama.