Curse of the Heavens
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The White House, Washington DC
10 April 1970, 9 PM EST
It was a purely social meeting on the White House balcony, but President Nixon and Secretary of Defense Laird nevertheless had time to talk business. After all, there was a hidden war going on.
"What kind of odds you think Thirteen's got, Mel?" said the President, watching the moon and sipping his champagne. "If all goes well, they'll be launching tomorrow."
"Pretty darn good odds, Rich," said the Secretary of Defense. "Pretty darn good. Charlie and Alan hit 'em pretty hard." He grinned wryly. "Of course, Neil and Buzz hit 'em harder."
Nixon slowly nodded. The war against the Lunar Capital had been going on since before he had been elected President, and while he often felt that it was all due to a misunderstanding, until diplomacy brought things to an end, they still needed to fight. For one thing, the Terran forces needed to overcome Earth's gravity, while the Lunarians only needed to overcome the moon's. They could not afford to give the Lunarians a chance to drop bombs on a population center. Hell, even rocks would do, if you're talking orbital height. Admittedly, they seemed not to want to reveal themselves to Earth's general population, but as long as we were talking rocks instead of bombs ...
Besides, he felt a perverse amusement at the fact that the enemy soldiers consisted of what appeared to be Playboy bunnies with DayGlo hair in schoolgirl uniforms, and the United States Military was fighting them with magic and witchcraft.
"Think we'll have more refugees?" he said.
"Oh, probably," said Laird. "I don't know if you saw the report, but we've accounted for more of 'em. Twelve of the ones that came from 11 and 12 are confirmed dead, another twenty or so have snuck off into various magical worlds, ten have been officially granted asylum from the Japanese government and elsewhere and given new identities, and we still dunno what's happened to the one that just disappeared."
Nixon nodded. "Odd," he said. "I wonder what happened to her?"
"Who knows?" says Laird. "I'd've put her down as dead, but there wasn't even any wreckage. We did get a name, though — something like 'Raisin.'"
Nixon laughed. "Raisin, huh? Strange." He sighed and shook his head. "We've been lucky, haven't we?" he said, turning more serious.
"Yep," said Laird, shaking his head. "Hell ... we're learning more and more about magic, and half the stuff we did in Apollo 11 and 12 was supposed to be impossible. The other half, turns out it was way too risky. Stuff that makes the concerns people had about the Manhattan Project look like grousing over the price of sirloin."
"I know it," said Nixon grimly.
He stared up at the moon. Somewhere, hidden behind some a magical barrier, was the Lunar Capital. Whether or not the war was justified, they were still the enemy.
"Apollo 13 must succeed," he whispered.
200,000 miles from Earth, en route to the Moon
14 April 1970, 3:05 AM UTC
So far, the mission was going rather swimmingly. Oh, there had been that minor malfunction in the second stage, but it looked like the President's worries were groundless.
"How much longer do you think it'll be?" said John Swigert, the Command Module's pilot.
"Oh, with our run of luck, we'll take the Capital by Apollo 15," said Fred Haise, who was set to be the pilot of the Lunar Module.
"Cut the chatter, you two," said Commander James Lovell. "I've just detected a blip on the magiradar."
Instantly, they shifted out of their relaxed positions, going on full alert. The Command Module didn't have any conventional weapons — it was hard enough hiding the project's military nature from the general public as it was — and space combat was generally magical in nature.
They all sensed it at the same time. A strange sort of magical presence was approaching them.
"What the hell's that?" muttered Lovell.
"Looks like some sort of Lunar magic," said Swigert. "Never seen anything like that, though."
"Me neither," said Haise. "Putting up barrier now."
A faintly-visible glow appeared around the module as it flew through space. It was one of the best defensive spells the military had. In fact, it was the main reason they survived what happened next.
Suddenly, a complex pattern of black elongated orbs with red and blue halos appeared around the Command Module. They turned white in an alternating spiral, and then all of them flew straight towards it.
"Shit," hissed Haise. "Danmaku!" For all their military technology, they had made very little progress towards countering this particular magical martial art, other than simply enduring it.
Fortunately, when every single one of the orbs slammed into the space ship, the shield held. In fact, the magical crackling was barely audible.
The crew a collective sigh of relief. Immediately, the number two oxygen tank in the Service Module exploded.
Swigert keyed in the transmission to Earth. "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here," he said.
A voice on the radio said, "This is Houston, say again, please."
"Houston, we've had a problem," said Lovell.
The White House, Washington, DC
18 April 1970, 7:27 PM EST
"Damn," muttered President Nixon as he stood in the Secret War Room, listening to the reports.
"Well, they all got back to Earth in one piece, at least," said Secretary of Defense Laird.
Nixon snorted. "Not much good it'll do us if the bunnies drop a nuke on Washington," he muttered.
"Hopefully it won't come to that," said Laird. "Mostly, I think they just want us to piss off."
"I've a mind to, if they don't retaliate," said Nixon, shaking his head.
Laird gave him a reassuring slap on the back. "Don't worry about it too much," he said. "This is definitely the most successful failure we could've hoped for."
"Right," muttered Nixon.
Watatsuki Palace, Lunar Capital
19 April 1970, 2:14 PM JST
The two princesses of the Watatsuki family sat in the lounge of their palace, listening to the report from one of the rabbits.
"An old defensive spell," said Watatsuki no Toyohime slowly.
"Yes, milady," said the rabbit, wiping a drop of sweat from her brow. "It transmitted an out-of-date military success-code to the Capital once the invaders' oxygen tank exploded. We only just got done examining it."
Watatsuki no Yorihime paused. "How out-of-date are we talking, here?" she said.
"Er, about fourteen or fifteen centuries at least, milady," said the rabbit, looking from one to the other. "It bore the mark of Yagokoro."
"Yagokoro," said Toyohime, sitting back and arching an eyebrow. "Well, well, well." A smile played across her face.
Yorihime grinned. "Now that's a name I haven't heard in a very, very long time," she said. She turned to the rabbit. "You're dismissed for now."
"Very, very interesting," said Toyohime once the rabbit had left.
"I wonder if she knows it was set off," said Yorihime.
"Oh, probably," said Toyohime. "Most curses from that era have some sort of sympathetic-magic component to them. She'd know it instantly, even if she was on the other side of the galaxy."
They digested this information for a moment.
"I wonder if we ought to go look for her again," said Yorihime. "It's been over a thousand years since we last searched for her, hasn't it?"
"Closer to twelve hundred," said Toyohime, nodding. "I suppose ... well, we'd best wait until this war's completely sorted out."
"Mm, true," said Yorihime. "We can put it on the back burner for now."
22 April 1970, 11:50 AM JST
In spite of Tewi's best efforts, Eirin Yagokoro arrived back in Eientei. (She knew she was also being followed by that phoenix-girl, but she didn't bother her since, well, the phoenix-girl wasn't bothering her at the moment, either.)
"Welcome back!" said Kaguya, meeting her at the entrance.
Standing beside her was that refugee moon-rabbit, Reisen Udongein. "Did you find what you were looking for in the Outside World?" she asked timidly.
"Yes," said Eirin, smiling. "I don't think the Shrine Maiden even knows I went through either way. The short version is that the thirteenth Apollo mission failed."
"Interesting!" said Kaguya, and she grinned at Reisen. "I wonder if you'll be able to go back ..."
"She won't," said Eirin. It was a hard thing for the poor girl to hear, but it was best to stop her hopes from getting too high before they crashed down; Reisen had been through enough emotional hardships as it was. "Whoever wins, she'll still be considered a traitor, and unlike us, she won't have the luxury of living long enough until memories fade."
Reisen's face fell. "I don't mind," she lied.
"Udonge," said Eirin softly, calling her by her nickname, "you'll be safe here with us. You said yourself you didn't really enjoy life there, didn't you?" She patted the rabbit on her head.
"I know," murmured Reisen. "I just ... well ... still, it had been my home all my life ..."
"Mmm ... Why don't you tell us the whole story over lunch?" said Kaguya, by way of defusing the situation.
Eirin smiled. "That sounds like a good idea," she said.
It would give her time to think, too. She'd set up the Curse of the Heavens about a century before Kaguya had been born, in case ... well, in case something exactly like the Apollo missions eventually happened. It had probably degraded over time; the superstition of the Outsiders from that nation surrounding the number thirteen must have been enough to awaken it fully.
But those in the Lunar Capital must have known she was the one responsible by now. Which meant that they'd probably have to start worrying about Lunar emissaries again, once they'd dealt with this war.
Eirin gave it about thirty years. Thirty-five, tops. Their encounters had caused enough trouble before; they needed to find a way to prevent them from reaching them at all.
Oh well. They had time enough to prepare.