The past few days had been terribly harsh for Gamindustri. A storm like nothing the world had ever seen had been terrorizing all four nations, and everything in-between, and not a single person could determine its origins. It had just up and started one day, causing more and more damage as time went on without giving the world any indication that the end was in sight.
At first, it had seemed like it would be manageable. The CPUs gathered together, despite the storm, to make an announcement to the people at large. It was a basic sort of precautionary thing, stay inside and don't go near windows and whatnot, but it seemed to have helped calm people down. The CPUs had requested the aid of 5pb. to deliver encouraging messages to the masses via the net, and thanks to their combined efforts, the people could stay calm.
That is, at least, until power started to fail.
First it crashed in Lowee. They had already been getting over a particularly nasty blizzard, so the mysterious storm couldn't have had worse timing. Being relatively close, Lastation and Planeptune's CPUs put past differences aside and began making preparations to get the ailing nation supplies. No one had heard from Lowee in a full day, and neither their CPU or Candidates had appeared despite the fact they should have been able to brave the storm.
Things seemed like they couldn't get worse, but at least those in Planeptune and Lastation figured they could get a better idea of the situation once they got to Lowee. There was some hope to be found there, wasn't there?
It didn't seem like it once communications with Leanbox ceased as well.
Black Heart of Lastation had been ready sooner, so she went to deliver what she could to Lowee. Without any ships running, she was taking a heavy load all on her own, but she knew it had to be better than nothing. Purple Heart and Purple Sister, worried as they were, were to wait for word from Black Heart before they took their own supplies down to Leanbox.
It had been nearly a day since Neptune, otherwise known as Purple Heart and the CPU of Planeptune, had heard from Noire, aka Black Heart.
"If something is so wrong that Blanc can't get through to us... We can't risk running in blind. If you don't hear from me in a day, then something went wrong."
The girl on the other line had paused.
"... Take care of Uni for me."
The other CPU had disconnected, leaving Neptune staring at her communicator in stunned silence.
Neptune shook her head furiously. It hadn't been a full day yet! Noire was probably fine! The reason it was taking so long was probably because she was just helping in Lowee or something... Yeah, that had to be it! That workaholic had probably gotten so wrapped up in helping people, she had forgotten all about letting everyone know she was okay!
"That has to be it, right?" Neptune asked herself quietly, staring out her office's window in concern. It was a room she almost never used, but in this kind of emergency situation, any emergency signal or transmission was to go straight to this room, unless of course Histoire picked up on it first. Because of that, as soon as Lowee had lost power, Neptune found herself checking in on her dusty old office a lot.
Neptune shook her head. She wasn't sure if it was her connection to the Sharicite or just how strangely worried she had gotten, but ever since the storm had started, she had begun feeling like she was hearing things. Not with her ears, though... With her heart.
It was weird. Was someone calling her? Was it Blanc? Vert? No, she had been hearing the voice for longer than Lowee and Leanbox had been without power. So what could it have possible been?
"Maybe I'm just going bonkers... I must be getting cabin fever or something! Yeah, that's it."
Neptune nodded to herself. It had to be something like that. She couldn't add hallucinations to the list of problems she was already dealing with. She was the only active CPU left in the world right now, at least until Noire got back (which she would!), so she couldn't afford to slack off right now. Even a couch potato like her understood that much.
The CPU was pulled out of her musing when she heard a knock at the door.
"Sister? Dinner is ready. It's not a lot, but..."
The soft voice of Neptune's younger sister, Planeptune's CPU Candidate, came from the other side of the door. Forcing a grin, Neptune called out to the girl and made her way towards her door.
"I can smell it from here, Nep Jr.! Can't wait to-"
Neptune's words caught in her throat. What was this? Was this a practical joke? The storm? Or was someone reaching out to her, but only she could hear?
The voice gone, Neptune sighed as she opened the door.
"Whoever it is should probably try something else. That was the plot of the first-"
"What the goo- Bwah!"
Having already forgotten about Nepgear thanks to that pesky head voice, Neptune had gone and smashed the door right into her baby sister's schnoz! Poor Nep Jr.!
"S-Sorry about that!" Neptune cried, guiltily grateful for the mundane distraction as she bent down to check on Nepgear, who was slowly sitting up with a dizzy look in her eyes. "You okay? Didn't bust it, did I?"
"I-I'm fine, I just didn't realize you would come right out...!" Nepgear was rushing her words out now, a weak grin coming to her features. Neptune narrowed her eyes as she looked over her sister, eyes finally settling on the growing lump on her forehead.
"Shoot... I did that, didn't I?" Neptune smiled sheepishly as she helped her sister up. It didn't look too bad, and a quick healing item would fix it under normal circumstances, but with things as they were, they had to ration things. "You want me to go get some ice for you?"
"Oh no, I'll get it," Nepgear shook her head furiously. The fact she could do that without falling over made Neptune feel a little bit better, but not by much. Seeing her elder sister's concern, Nepgear raised her hands in front of her in protest. "Honest! You just took me by surprise..."
Neptune eyed Nepgear warily, before placing her hands on her hips and sighing in defeat.
"Alright, you win. I'm gonna check around outside for you though, you take it easy!" And before Nepgear could refuse, Neptune was dashing down the hallway, arm raised in a farewell wave.
Planeptune was the only nation of the four with advanced enough backup generators that, should the storm take out primary power, things should still be able to run as they would normally.
Well, as normally as possible in horrific weather like this, anyway.
While Nepgear and her team were the one who kept the things running and up to date, currently all that needed to be done was make sure they or the nearby facility they were inside hadn't been damaged. Normally this was Nepgear's job, but Neptune didn't want her little sis out and about if she might be feeling woozy.
No, truthfully Neptune didn't want Nepgear (or anyone for that matter) to be out in this at all. Who knew when they could meet the same fate as Lowee and Leanbox had? Those backup generators weren't guarantees!
Neptune berated herself inwardly as she headed towards the doors that would lead her to the currently terrifying outside world. "The same fate as Lowee and Leanbox"? They could be fine for all she knew! They probably were, in fact!
"S-Shoot!" Neptune felt like she almost blew away as soon as she stepped outside. The winds had really picked up, it was pouring, and the sound of thunder was echoing in her ears already. It was almost like she had walked right into a cartoon for crying out loud!
Pulling her hood over her head, the goddess began to run towards her destination, her feet making large splashes with each step she took. Thankfully they weren't suffering the same kind of flooding Lastation was dealing with, but Neptune figured at this point that it was only a matter of when it happened to them, not if.
As she hurried down the empty Planeptune streets, Neptune grimaced. Not only was she soaked, freezing, and feeling like she could get blown away at any second, but that stupid voice just had to pick now to bug her too?! Could its timing BE any worse?!
Finally, stupid hallucinations be darned, Neptune had arrived at the facility she needed to check. She let out a sigh of relief as she made her way towards the front door, which thankfully was made to automatically unlock when a CPU or Candidate of Planeptune approached. Some idea of Nepgear's involving Sharicite. Whatever it was, Neptune had never understood it but she had never been more thankful for her nerdy sister as she rushed through the front doors and into the glorious, glorious dryness of the generator facility.
"Think I'll stick around and keep these poor lonely machines company for a little while while I dry off..." Neptune mused as she removed her soaking hoodie. She was still standing in the entrance hall, panting and dripping from the rain, but she already felt a little better.
Neptune simply stood there got a few moments, leaning against the wall with her eyes closed as her breathing finally returned to its normal pace... Which revealed the flaw of her stripping plan.
Much as she knew she needed to get out of that hoodie-turned-sponge, she was still freezing.
"Let's just get this over with so I can go home..." Neptune grumbled, deciding to ignore the dumb voice for the time being. She had more important things to do. At least Nepgear hadn't had to come out in this, though that feeling of sisterly accomplishment did little to warm her up. Sighing, Neptune began trudging deeper into the cold, metal building, towards where the generators were, ignoring the slick, squeaking noises her shoes were making as she walked.
Neptune stopped suddenly. She was pretty sure the voice had never said that before. Curiosity getting the better of her, Neptune looked around to see if anyone was around.
Nope. Not that she expected anything different.
"Why what?" the freezing CPU called out. She waited, hearing her voice echo throughout the building, in the hopes that someone might answer her and let her in on why she had been hearing things.
However, after a few moments, the echoing began to fade and still no one answered. Neptune supposed she should have seen that coming, but even so, she couldn't help but sigh in exasperation. Didn't whoever was calling know she had better things to deal with than-
In one second flat Neptune went from frustrated to alert, which was really saying something for her. The building shook from an especially loud bout of thunder, but Neptune paid it and the following crashes no mind.
The voice that had been asking for help all this time... It had been asking for help from this storm?!
"Where are you?! I can't help if I don't know which way I should go!" Neptune's cried out, making her way towards the generators much more quickly now. If the voice was answering her, then that meant she might need to try to get its owner help, and if that was the case, she couldn't be wasting time here!
The thunder and wind outside was getting louder, and Neptune realized some windows must have broken and that had caused the crash a few moments ago. She needed to move quickly!
There, the generator room was just ahead!
Neptune breathed a sigh of relief as she slowed her pace somewhat. Despite the rush she suddenly found herself in, she was relieved to see everything in here was doing okay. Even the roar of the wind and thunder and rain wasn't going to stop her now.
At that moment, a loud crash, one even louder than the last, shook away any feeling of relief she might have had.
"Yikes!" Neptune glanced in the direction it had come from, suddenly realizing that had sounded really close. Too close for comfort and way too close to worry about voices right now.
"...have to save..."
Neptune made her way over to the generators, faster than she might normally have, to give them a quick once over. Nepgear's "procedure" would have taken too long, all she really needed to do was make sure the things were still running and-
More crashes. She hasn't been sure before, but those were definitely coming from somewhere close inside the building.
Neptune shook her head. Couldn't this dumb voice tell she was busy?!
The loudest noise of all. Neptune, on instinct, looked up towards the source, her eyes going wide. Time seemed to slow down as her mind rushed to piece together what she was seeing.
The ceiling was gone.
No, that wasn't right.
It was coming towards her.
The ceiling was coming right towards her.
The voice was the last thing Neptune's mind registered before her whole world went black.
Neptune was in pain. A whole lot of pain, in fact. The first thing she could tell as she slowly began to regain consciousness was that she ached all over. Her whole body hurt and she let out a groan, squeezing her eyes shut as she rolled over. The soft mattress she found herself in was at least really, really soft, and the fluffy blankets that were surrounding her made it feel like she could just up and melt right into them...
The act of rolling over caused her to groan again, but now that she was lying on her bare stomach, she felt much more comfortable. Her cold body, sore as it was, was so incredibly grateful for this warm bed and these warm, fluffy blankets that she couldn't be too bothered with the details right now.
Boy was Neptune glad she had started sleeping in the nude! She could never have felt this good with how cold and sore she was with clothes on!
... Hold on a minute.
Wait just one gosh darn second.
Since when did she sleep in the nude?!
Letting out a cry, Neptune pushed herself up and sat up, which only caused her to cry out a second time, this time as her naked body was wrapped in icy cold air and pain from the sudden movement.
The CPU wrapped her arms around herself, both to give herself a sense of decency as well as to provide warmth while she surveyed her surroundings.
She was in a nice looking bed, one she knew from just a few moments ago was incredibly comfy, though the colors of the sheets and pillows were lacking. As she looked around to the left and right, she didn't see much in the way of furniture. Just the necessities, all with the colors of someone who clearly spent too much time around graveyards.
"Finally awake, are you? Good. I was kind of hoping I would get my bed back some time this week..."
Neptune froze. And it wasn't because she was cold.
The voice that came from behind her... She knew that voice. She knew that voice all too well. She had no idea why the owner of that voice would want anything to do with her, but there was just no mistaking it.
Turning her aching head, a sense of dread welling up in her, Neptune still found herself crying out when her fears were confirmed.