Millions of people live beneath this expansive sky, and they all harbor a myriad of wishes and feelings. Sometimes, a person's emotions can touch and clash with someone else's. And there's people whose feelings can bond with another's so perfectly, they can talk without saying a word. Well, this is a story about people like that, and what happens when they eventually meet.

Magical Girl Lyrical Taylor is about to start!

Magical Girl Lyrical Taylor
by P.H. Wise

1.1 - Stand By. Ready. Set Up.

Disclaimer: Do these even work? Legally speaking, I think having one of these might be worse than not having one, since an acknowledgment of deliberate copyright infringement seems like it would be way easier to prosecute than the innocent and unintentional variety of the same. But then, I'm not a lawyer. I'm just a writer of fanfic.

I don't remember much about the day mom died. I know I was with her in the car, and I remember that she was angry and sad, but I don't remember the accident. I remember her picking me up from school, and I remember that I asked, "Isn't dad picking me up today?" That's all. After that, I woke up in the hospital with a broken collarbone, and everything you've ever heard about how bad that hurts is true. The nurse said that only two things hurt more than breaking your collarbone: childbirth and kidney stones. If that's true, then any woman who decides to have another baby after she's already given birth and knows what it feels like must be insane. I guess that explains why mom stopped with just me. I asked when my mom and dad were going to come see me, and the nurse just looked sad and said, "I'm sure they both want to."

I remember dad came into the hospital room, and the moment I saw him I knew something was wrong. I felt something cold clench in the pit of my stomach. I knew what he was going to say. I didn't remember it happening, but I knew.

"Taylor," he said, and he choked off. "Your mom..." He couldn't say anything else, but he didn't need to.

I didn't cry. Not at first. I just sat there, staring at the wall in a sort of numb shock.

The day before, just before I was about to go bed, mom had taken me aside. "Taylor," she'd said, "I have something for you." Then she'd pulled out the pendant she'd always worn. It wasn't much to look at: just a little red gem maybe 1.5 cm across in a gold setting on a black opera-length necklace. I cupped my hands and held them out, and she dropped it into my hands. It felt warm. "This was your grandmother's," she'd said. There'd been a distant look in her eyes, and she'd had this sad kind of smile. "She gave it to me when I was your age, but I was never able to use it. Now I'm giving it to you."

"What is it?" I'd asked.

"It's a very special pendant," she'd said.

My eyes had widened as I stared at the pendant she held out to me. It hadn't looked like anything special: just a red gem about 1.5 cm across in a gold setting on a black opera-length necklace. "It's special?" I'd asked.

She'd smiled. "Very."

My eyes had widened even further, then. "Was grandma a Tinker?" I'd asked.

Mom had laughed. "Something like that, Taylor. I want you to keep it with you, okay? It will keep you safe."

After what happened… I'd worn it ever since. After things got bad with Emma, Sophia, and Madison, Emma had tried to take it from me a few times, and I honestly don't know what I would have done if she'd succeeded.

Since then, I'd gotten in the habit of going for runs: every morning and every other afternoon. It had been hard at first, but I'd stuck with it. At first all I alternated between jogging and walking, but as I got in better shape I was able to go for longer. Now, I could do my entire circuit across the east side of Brockton Bay at an easy run. I don't really know why I started. Maybe it was because I'd been having trouble sleeping lately, and it gave me something to do in the mornings? All I knew was that when I got into the rhythm of it, things didn't seem so bad. I could just move, feeling the wind in my hair as I went along, the city passing by around me, the slight almost-pain of running on pavement mingling pleasantly with the endorphin rush.

It made me feel free. For a little while.

I could have joined the track team to do it even more often, I guess, but that would have meant dealing with Sophia even more often than I already had to, so that was out. She was part of a clique that had decided to make my life a living hell at school. Sophia Hess. Madison Clements. Emma Barnes. I tried not to think about it. Thinking about it - especially about Emma - just took me back to that empty sort of feeling that was starting to become my new default. It wasn't unhappiness, not really. It wasn't really anything. Just… off. Like someone had hit the universe's slow motion button and forgot they'd left it on. When I ran, I didn't feel like that. I felt… like a person, I guess. I didn't know why the terrible trio hated me so much, but I wasn't going to deliberately spend time with a member of that group, no matter how much I liked to run.

Some days, when I was doing a really big run - usually in the afternoon - I'd take the bus and then do a couple laps around the Boardwalk. I stayed away from the more dangerous neighborhoods, and people usually didn't bother me. Probably because I was built like a stick. Being tall and thin, with almost zero curves to speak of, eyes that were just a little too big and a mouth just a little bit too wide for my face made me ignorable at best. Though hey, at least I generally didn't have to deal with assholes harassing me on the street with wolf whistles and catcalls the way girls that looked like Emma did. Gotta look on the bright side, right? It didn't hurt that I never really wore jewellery, either. Well, except for mom's pendant.

Winter break was coming up in a couple of days. We'd had a little snow, but not much. Still, it was cold, but a hoodie and sweats plus running fixed that for me. I'd finished my run and my cool down stretches just a few minutes earlier, and my shirt was pretty well soaked with sweat. Ditto my hair. I didn't want to go inside anywhere to stink up a store like this, so I went to this little hole in the wall deli just past the southern border of the Boardwalk, got myself a sandwich and a bottle of water, walked back to the Boardwalk proper and sat down at a table for a late lunch. It was Saturday, and the Boardwalk was crowded: mostly with tourists. From where I sat, I had a pretty good view of the huge steel and glass building in the middle of Downtown that housed the Protectorate Headquarters. You could see it from most places in the city, and every time I looked at it, I wondered, just for a second, what it might be like if I had superpowers.

It was stupid. And I was pretty sure that having them would actually cause me problems instead of solving them, but… a girl can dream, right? Every little girl wants to be Alexandria at some point in her life. Sooner or later, they have to grow up and live a life that doesn't involve thrilling rescues and exciting adventures. ...Maybe I just hadn't grown out of it yet.

I was about halfway through my lunch when the explosions began. Six of them, all in a row. Wait. No. More like… fireworks? People had just started to panic when a huge circle of gold light sprang up all around the immediate area at the south end of the boardwalk, about a hundred feet from side to side in front of the arcade. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and I looked up in time to see a gold sphere the size of a tennis ball zoom by overhead. I recognized it immediately.

People started to leave the area in a rush, though a bunch stayed outside the circle filming the goings on. I got up and jogged out of the circle before I turned to look at whoever was in the middle of it.

At the center of the golden circle of light stood Glory Girl and Laserdream - two members of New Wave - each in costume, and each with both a purse and a shopping bag in hand. And Glory Girl was facepalming.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!" a booming voice rang out, amplified impressively and sounding a lot like a movie announcer. A spotlight shone down from atop the arcade to illuminate a pair of dramatically red caped men in vaguely familiar looking bodysuits, their hair dramatically spiky, and each with a red headband. "UNDER THESE OMINOUS CLOUDS, YOU MIGHT FEEL THAT ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THIS MATCH! CAN THE GLORY GIRL LASERDREAM TAG TEAM DEFEAT THE MIGHT OF UBER AND LEET'S SKULL GUNDAM AND ASHURA GUNDAM?"

'You have got to be fucking kidding me,' I thought, staring at the pair in disbelief.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Glory Girl muttered, staring at the pair in disbelief.

"Language!" Laserdream said, and Glory Girl immediately and visibly blushed.

A spiraling metal ring descended from above both Uber and Leet, passing down over them and settling on the ground. When the ring had passed, each was wearing an extremely accurate Gundam costume. Uber was Ashura Gundam; Leet was Skull Gundam, and oh God I recognized those Gundams on sight.

Stupid Earth-Aleph video games.

"Well, HERE WE GO!" Uber cried, raising his now metal-clad fist into the air. "GUNDAM! FIGHT!"

Glory Girl instantly shot forward, fists held out in front of her in a full frontal charge towards the two villains.

"Glory Girl," Laserdream said, "Wait!"

She didn't. And when she hit a spot exactly halfway between her cousin and her opponents, she immediately belly-flopped into the ground with a loud crack. She tried to get up, grimaced, and then looked up at her two Gundam enemies. "What is this?"

Laserdream stared. "Is that…"

"A super gravitational field?" Uber asked, interrupting Laserdream.

"Why yes!" Leet replied, not as smooth as Uber, but he poured on extra ham to make up for it. "Glory Girl is being pulled down by a gravitational field many times the force of gravity! She and Laserdream will have no chance in this… TOURNAMENT OF GUNDAMS!"

Laserdream responded with a full salvo of her hard-light beams, blasting Leet off his feet. "NOT FUNNY!" she shouted.

"Damn it," Glory Girl cursed, straining to get up with all her might. The surface of the boardwalk cracked slightly beneath her.

I probably should have run. Almost everyone else was, though not in the "complete panic" kind of way that they would have if this had been an attack by the ABB or the E88. Uber and Leet were livestreaming this through their golden camera drone. They did that. I was pretty sure they had a time delay on it in order to not instantly give themselves away when they started up, but their channel was pretty popular, and I'd watched it myself a couple of times. Their activities were generally videogame themed. One day, they'd be Mario and Bowser. The next, they'd be Sonic and Tails speeding through a bank collecting "coins." And sometimes they challenged other capes to ridiculous fights like this.

I stared as the fight unfolded, Glory Girl totally unable to move because of the gravity field even as the boardwalk continued to crack beneath her feet. Laserdream was getting her butt kicked in the meantime. She made a good showing, sure, and she probably could have defeated either one of them without too much trouble, but both at once was just too much at the moment. At first it was confined to the arena, but then, about a minute into the fight, Leet leveled his arm at Laserdream; a panel opened up, revealing four miniature missile launchers, one on each side of the arm. Then he fired off almost a hundred mini-missiles like they were bullets in a fully automatic weapon. "MACROSS MISSILE MASSACRE!" he shouted, laughing like a maniac.

Laserdream's eyes widened, and she took to the air, soaring up and down in great loops as she led the missiles on a chase, throwing occasional shots at them over her shoulders. "HOW IS THAT EVEN A THING!?" she shrieked.

A few missiles veered off course and detonated near the onlookers who were still watching. A few stayed put, but most panicked, sprinting away now at top speed. I stood there frozen like a moron.

Laserdream darted in my direction. Our eyes met and she immediately pulled sharply up, probably expecting the missiles to follow.

Then three things happened all at once. The Boardwalk beneath Glory Girl suddenly collapsed with a rumble and she fell through the hole the collapse had made. Leet swore loudly. And instead of following Laserdream up into the air, the entire volley of missiles ran out of fuel all at the same time, every single one of them heading straight for me.

Laserdream, Uber and Leet's heads all snapped around towards me, but none of them able to react in time.

My eyes widened. "Oh shi-" I had time to start saying.

And then a synthetic-sounding woman's voice rang out, one I had never heard before but which seemed achingly familiar. "Protection," the woman announced.

The volley of missiles hit me, and the world vanished in a thunderous cacophony of explosions and shimmering light.

The light faded. The smoke faded. I hadn't been hurt. I hadn't even been touched! And my mother's gem was floating in the air in front of me, glowing with a brilliant red light. The light was warm, and I swear I could smell mom's perfume in the air, ever so faintly.

I stared. Uber and Leet stared. Laserdream stared.

"...Mom?" I asked, reaching out to touch the gem. When I touched it, the light shifted from red to iridescent to pink, and I felt the light's warmth spreading through my body

"New User Registration," the gem said in a synthetic but still obviously female voice. "Full Open." A whirling circle of pink light sprang up around me, centered on my feet, within it a complex pattern of concentric circles and squares and alien text I couldn't even begin to decipher. "Please Repeat After Me: The wind is in the sky, the stars are in the heavens…"

I kept right on staring for a long moment before complying. "The wind is in the sky, the stars are in the heavens," I said, not quite keeping the total disbelief out of my voice.

"And a resolute heart beats within my chest…"

"And a resolute heart beats within my chest," I echoed. The warmth grew to almost unbearable levels, and I could see something glowing inside me exactly at the base of my rib cage. Ripples of pink light started spreading out from me. I floated into the air, and my skin began to glow. My eyes were now as wide as they could possibly go.

"Magic is in these hands."

"Magic is in these hands!" And then, without any need to be told what to say next, I went on, "Raising Heart! Set Up!"

The Gem pulsed. "Stand By. Ready. Set Up."

I don't know quite how to describe it. It was like taking a breath for the first time. I felt a warmth in my chest, in my whole body, even around my whole body as Raising Heart woke my slumbering Linker Core, interfaced with it, and we connected. My mind and hers linked together, but we were still separate. Power filled me, and a pillar of light shot up into the sky that was so bright that the whole world pinked out. And in the brightness, I saw ... clothes.

What the hell?

Yeah. There they were, fixed in front of me like a hologram. A long white skirt and long sleeved blouse both with blue piping and dotted with red gems. There was a yellow crest over the chest like a capital T with a red gem set into the center. The outfit included weird blue fingerless gauntlets that would have covered my hands and extended up to just below my elbows plus shoulder almost-pauldrons, white socks, and cute white and blue shoes. There was a questioning behind it. Like something was asking for my approval.

No. Hell no. That wasn't what a superhero costume was supposed to look like!

It started changing, but before I could see what it turned into, the light faded, and I felt different. I was holding some kind of tinkertech staff in my hands with my mother's gem - the same gem I'd had befire, but expanded somehow: larger - now suspended within a partial gold ring with two golden exhaust valves near where the ring connected with the rest of the staff's white and pink shaft. And a massive hole had been blasted in the cloud cover above the boardwalk, showing a blue winter sky where there had previously been only an overcast grey.

I wasn't sweaty anymore. Hell, I wasn't even TIRED. I spun in a circle, grinning like a madwoman. A giddy feeling bubbled out of me, and I started to laugh. Regular, healthy, every day laughter. Definitely not maniacal. At all.

Wait. I hadn't been wearing white clothes when I left home this morning. I was looking through some sort of high-tech blue and white visor now, but the blue in my vision went away almost immediately. I caught my reflection in the glass doors of the cafe. The clothes were still white, the highlights still blue, and the red gems were still there, but now I had a long coat that flared out to the length the skirt had been, and sections of both it and the jumpsuit I had on under it were more obviously armored now. I still had the weird gauntlets and the almost-pauldrons, and I still had the golden crest on my chest with the red gem in the middle, but now it was less like a capital T and more like something halfway between a capital T and a capital Y; it was sort like three slightly curved triangles with a red gem at the heart. The shoes had been replaced by boots. To be honest, the design was a lot like Alexandria's costume, just with a different color scheme, a long coat instead of a cape, and without the image of the tower that she used as her crest.

My brows knit together in confusion. "Huh," I said.

Laserdream broke the silence. "What. The hell. Was that?"