Hey everyone! This is my first ever fanfic so go easy on me here. I'm kinda throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Do leave a review - I would love some constructive criticism! This was admittedly a bit of a spur of the moment idea so we'll see how it goes. Hopefully my inspiration doesn't die. And with that, here we go!


Prologue

Sleep didn't come easily to Ren most of the time. Despite his closest companion's constant insistence for early bedtimes, his sleep was often plagued by nightmares. Gone were the times where he would be greeted with blue walls and a jail cell, punctured through by a soft, haunting melody. Now he was visited by many, many images – of him being hauled off into a police car after being accused of a crime he didn't commit. Of his friends put into danger before they awakened to their power. Of many adults who towered over him, rendering him powerless had he not the gifts he had been granted. Of a young man in black closing a metal door. Of vanishing out of existence. Of a God of Order. And of a perfect dreamlike world granted by a man who wished to heal the pain of others while unable to heal his own.

Of an interrogation cell, surrounded by cruel men who saw him as an obstacle, and a grey-haired woman's gaze demanding answers as his brain pushed through a drug induced haze. And of course, of the gun pointed to his head.

Soon, he stirred. The halls gleamed underneath the white fluorescent lights. Pristine and sterile, they had a clinical precision to them that could only come from technology – or magic. The logo branded on the walls showed the organization behind the place: the Chaldea Security Organization. The place was currently quiet – most of the staffing were apparently in some sort of orientation meeting. They wouldn't be out and about for some time. There was no one here. The only sound was the quiet hiss of the vents as they pumped in warm air from the Antarctic climate outside. It wasn't the most welcoming environment, but neither was it the most hostile either. It honestly felt like a gigantic laboratory.

Ren, blinking his eyes as he laid on the floor, found the entire place surprisingly oddly familiar. Morgana often pushed him for sleep, but even he would balk at the fact that he passed out here. Must've been stress. He felt soft paws and a cool nose nudge against him. "M-Morgana?" he asked groggily, blinking away the fog in his eyes as he slowly sat up –

And came face to face with a white, small, dog-like… creature. "Fou, fou!" it barked up at him.

"Umm. Since it's neither morning nor night, please wake up, Senpai."

Ren blinked his eyes at the speaker in question. For a second, he saw a girl there with long red hair, with an even more vivid red hairbow. Then he blinked again, and she was gone. Instead, there was a girl there still, with shorter lilac hair, hoodie, red tie, and skirt. Her purple eyes were unsure and a bit anxious. He winced as he got up. Though he was used to harder surfaces thanks to the bed he had back in LeBlanc, sleeping on the floor wasn't exactly comfortable on a person's body. "Heh, sorry, I guess I've just been a bit more tired than usual," Ren replied with a bashful grin as he slowly got up. As he stood up to his full height, he noted that he was easily a head and shoulders above the girl in height.

The girl nodded. "Of course, senpai. I understand," she accepted demurely. Then her eyes widened. "Of, I haven't introduced you yet. This is Fou. A Privileged Life-form allowed to wander the halls of Chaldea. Fou led me here, and that's how I ran into you. Normally he doesn't go near anyone besides me, but he seems to like you." Ren processed the information, kneeling down to pet the small creature who was rubbing up against his leg. Privileged Life-form… would he be able to get that designation for Morgana, he wondered. Well, probably not. It wasn't like anyone but Ren was aware Morgana was here. His friend insisted on coming along on this job and they came up with a plan to smuggle him across. It hadn't been easy, but Morgana was far smarter than the average cat. Or human, for that matter. And he was a Phantom Thief regardless – his mentor, in fact. Slipping into corners and past vigilant eyes was second nature to him.

This job honestly came a bit out of the blue. He was in his hometown and volunteered for blood donations. He couldn't do his Phantom Thief activities anymore, but if he could help someone, then he would. A few days later, men in suits showed up at his house and explained to him and his parents that he was perfect for a particular job. It was for a research facility over in Antarctica where they studied specific people, and Ren happened to be the perfect match for it. It was incredibly shady, but it paid extremely well. His parents' eyes practically lit up with yen signs. Ren had never been close to them – before or after the incident – and they would've practically signed the contract for him if they could. The men left a business card for the Chaldea Security Organization and only said they awaited his answer.

He talked to his friends about it. All of them shared Ren's unease: It was all incredibly suspicious. Even more so when Futaba, their genius hacker, looked into the organization and found herself stonewalled. All she could figure out was that it was mostly privately funded but U.N sanctioned. And then she started rambling they had some sort of secret tech there that she'd be dying to get her hands on. "Or maybe even ALIENS!" she exclaimed over group chat. Yusuke in turn got off track, pondering about the artistic inspiration of a research facility and the frigid wastes of Antarctica. Ryuji started grumbling about 'shitty adults' (which Ren agreed with). Ann, Haru, and Sumire were equally concerned but curious. It took the ever-reliable Makoto to rein in everyone and get back on track. Futaba at the very least confirmed they were legit.

Ren considered it overnight, then came to a decision. He didn't want to be around his hometown or his parents any longer than he had to, and this would be an interesting experience. After all, Tokyo had been the center of a lot of things in his life, good or ill. Perhaps this place in the Antarctic would be too. Besides, it WAS a lot of yen they were offering. They were reluctant but agreed there was little their fearless leader couldn't handle. On one condition: Morgana came with. That wasn't even a question. Ren didn't expect his parents to look after or care for Morgana – he had entirely done so by himself when he got back – and wouldn't be surprised if he came home and found that Morgana had been given away or something. Besides, if he was heading to such a place, it would be good to have some backup. With that, he contacted Chaldea, set everything up, and his friends all wished him well, asking for postcards or souvenirs if he could get his hands on them. Ren promised them and added he would treat them all to dinner if the paycheck was as big as he expected. That was met with fervent approval from Ryuji, Yusuke, and Sumire.

Then a voice echoed through the halls. "Ah, there you are, Mash! That won't do you know, wandering about with permission…" Ren and the girl (Mash? Curious name…) turned to see a gentleman approaching them. Tall green hat with green suit, with longer curly brown hair and a pleasant smile. Immediately, Ren got shivers down his spine. All his instincts were screaming that this man wasn't good news, much like Kamoshida was when he first saw him. "Oh, you're already with someone?" he asked rhetorically, looking over Ren. "You're… I see. One of the rookies that just got assigned here. I'm Lev Lynor, one of the technicians here. And your name is?" The man held out his hand.

As much as Ren didn't want to, he didn't want to start any hostilities here. He wasn't a Phantom Thief, and even then he knew when to keep his head down. He shook the gentleman's hand. "Ren Amamiya," Ren replied coolly. "A pleasure to meet you."

"And I you, Mr. Amamiya," the man replied cordially. Then he checked his watch. "Still, it seems any other pleasantries will have to be put on hold. I highly suggest making your way to the Command Room. The Director expects punctuality and is not the type to forgive and forget. If you show up late, you'll be on her radar for a year. The Command Room is just down this hall. Best run along. Mash, could you show him there just in case?"

Mash blinked and nodded. "Of course, Mr. Lynor," she replied with a quick bow. She turned back to Ren. "We should probably hurry, senpai. The Director is expecting you, after all."

Ren nodded and walked with the girl beside him. Fou had jumped up and perched on her shoulder easily. He kind of wished he could bring Morgana along in his bag, but he had a feeling this place wouldn't be quite so lenient in that regard. Looking over at the girl, he gave a small smile. "Mash, huh?" he asked. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Didn't get your name the first time."

The girl blinked in surprise, then bowed again. "Ah, my apologies, senpai," she said hurriedly. "I wasn't sure if I should. I'm Mash Kyrielight, an assistant with Chaldea. It's a pleasure to meet you, senpai!"

He chuckled in turn. "You don't have to call me senpai, you know," Ren responded easily. "I only just got here – I barely even know anyone or anything." He could be meek if need be around adults and get under their guard. But for someone like Mash, that wasn't necessary. He could use a more forward, active personality. Switching gears like that wasn't all too difficult for him to do. It wasn't any different than switching masks, after all.

"Oh, but you ARE my senpai," Mash explained, glancing back up at Ren. "You are my senpai when it comes to humanity and the world. I haven't really been outside of Chaldea, you see, so I don't know much about the world except what I've studied."

Ren frowned. Never been outside of Chaldea? Was she born here? This didn't seem like the best place to raise a kid, after all. Before he could ask for any further information, they came to the command room. Ren had seen a lot but the command room was something else. Everything looked like it came out of a sci-fi movie. A giant astrolabe sat at the center, commanding his attention as everyone sat in foldable chairs, waiting for the director. The director was… a girl with white hair only a couple years older than him? Granted, Sae was a well-respected prosecutor with the SIU at the age of 24, but this was pushing it a bit, wasn't it? The director looked over and her eyes narrowed in a glare, her amber eyes flashing with impatience. Mash nudged him and pointed. "There, a seat up front. Good luck, senpai!"

He looked at the seat, then looked back over at the girl, whose arms were crossed and looking more irritated by the second. Ren sighed as he made his way to his seat. This was going to be a long day.

And it had only gotten longer. Ren almost dozed off again in his seat and was almost literally and figuratively kicked out of the orientation with a slap to the face. As a consequence, he would be excluded from the first mission of everyone there – whatever that mission was. In terms of first impressions, that hadn't been great. Mash had come over to escort Ren out of the command room to his own, leaving the poor young man wincing at his rather sore cheek. Well, it could've been worse. Some derision and scorn for incompetence was honestly nothing compared to being considered a criminal in high school. Not an experience to brag about but…

Mash left for the command room again, leaving Ren alone. He sighed as he touched a panel near the door, causing it to hiss open. Huh. Futaba would practically have stars in her eyes over this place – the astrolabe, the automatic doors, and he was fairly certain he saw some robots cleaning in another hallway. He had to smirk. Maybe he could find a way to sneak in a picture or three of the less sensitive things here. All his friends would have their jaws drop at just what little he saw so far.

His room was fairly standard. Polished floor, white walls. A reasonably soft bed with a little TV screen right above it and a bedside table. A potted plant with a small shelf nearby for small accessories. A shower and a bathroom. A closet for him to put his clothes (and where he put his bag). A desk with a chair, with said chair being occupied by a young man – wait what.

Said man immediately scrambled up out of the chair, flabbergasted. "Wait, whaaaat? Who are you?!" he demanded. "This is an empty room! It's where I come to slack off! Who gave you permission to come in?!" Ren could only blink, nonplussed as he took in details. White long coat with green in the middle, reminiscent admittedly of a doctor's coat and scrubs. Gloves. Nametag around his neck. Then Ren got his bearings back and glanced around. No sign or mention of Morgana. He must've hid himself in time then.

"I believe this is my room," Ren replied coolly, making sure to keep his expression neutral.

The man blinked several times, then sagged a bit. "Your room? Oh. The last one finally showed up," he muttered to himself. He drew himself back up and gave Ren a friendly smile. "Well, nice to meet you. Ren Amamiya, right? Allow me to introduce myself again. I'm the head of the medical department, Romani Archaman. For some reason, people call me Dr. Roman. It seems to roll off the tongue easier, so just call me Roman." The doctor held out his hand. Ren took it. Roman didn't seem to be a bad person. Just a bit clumsy and lazy was all, but he didn't have any bad feelings about it. Besides, when it came to strange doctors, hardly anyone could beat Tae Takemi, as smart as she was.

Somewhere in Tokyo, a doctor dressed like a punk sneezed.

"So, I'm guessing you got on the director's bad side?" he asked. Ren just mutely nodded. Roman chuckled in turn. "Then you and I are alike. I got yelled by her too. The entire staff's supposed to help, but the machines are doing a better job handling everyone's vitals, so I had nothing to do. She turned to me, yelled 'When you're here, Romani, everyone slacks off!' And so she booted me out. I just came here to sulk." Ren laughed as well. The director did seem to have a gigantic stick up her rear. "Well, you're here, so we might as well kill some time and deepen our friendship, right?"

Ren smirked a bit at that line. Ah, now that sounded extremely familiar, didn't it?

And so they fell easily into talking, with Roman explaining about Chaldea. Apparently it used a state-of-the-art technology called CHALDEAS and SHEBA, respectively a globe able to accurately depict the state of the world and just about any time, using observational data from SHEBA, which can collect said data about different times. That sounded wildly fantastical to Ren (and wondered how a certain fortune teller would take it – either it would fly over her head faster than one of Makoto's punches or she'd be frothing at the mouth now that her job was made irrelevant) but interesting to listen to. He had no doubt Morgana was listening to it as well, wherever in the room he was. Besides, given what he had seen in the Metaverse, he was willing to accept all sorts of odd explanations

Finally, Roman sighed. "Well, as interesting as it is to talk, I do have a job to do," he said standing up, Ren standing with him. "I may not have much to do, but when all the staff are called, I should probably be present too. After all, never know when my medical knowledge might actually be useful." Ren chuckled at that, matched by Roman. "Come by the infirmary after this is done. I'll treat you to some cake." Ren raised an eyebrow at that. Was having cake even allowed in an infirmary? Well, he wasn't about to look a gift cake in the mouth. He opened his mouth to answer when suddenly, the lights went off. And then an explosion echoed through the walls. Alarms started blaring out.

'Emergency. Emergency. A fire has broken out in the Central Power Station and the Central Command Room. Central Area's containment wall will activate in 90 seconds. All staff must evacuate from Gate 2 at once. Repeat. The Central Power Station –'

Roman stiffened. "Monitor, show the Central Command Room!" he barked. The monitor above his bed flickered on, showing the Command Room filled with flames. Ren's eyes widened. The image was filled with static, but he could see enough what's going on. Wait, Central Command Room? Then what about –

"Ren, evacuate immediately," Roman ordered. Gone was that easy-going doctor he was just talking to. Roman's eyes were serious and hard. "The containment wall is about to close. Get yourself out before it's too late." With that, he immediately slammed a hand on the panel and rushed out, leaving Ren alone. As soon as the doctor left, he felt a familiar clawed weight leap on his shoulder – a black and white cat, his blue eyes worried.

"Joker, what's going on?!" the cat asked, his boyish voice concerned. Ren didn't answer immediately. Evacuate? Sure, he could save himself but what about everyone else? He couldn't just stand by, could he? He remembered those words from what felt like another lifetime ago.

Are you forsaking him to save yourself? Death awaits him if you do nothing. Was your previous decision a mistake then?

The answer then was just as clear as the answer now. "We got trouble, Morgana," Ren said as he slapped the panel, rushing out just as Roman did as Morgana clung on to his shoulder. "Something went wrong, and the place is in flames. We gotta help evacuate everyone we can." Morgana's eyes widened, then furrowed into determination as he nodded.

"I'll go and scout ahead, then!" Morgana replied. "Stay safe, Joker!" With that, he leaped off Ren's shoulder and ran ahead towards the flames, faster than Joker with his two legs. Though Ren worried about Morgana, he trusted him to take care of himself. They had been through thick and thin together. He knew well Morgana's intelligence and capabilities. Roman was only a bit ahead of him, but before he could notice Morgana, Ren was beside him. The doctor gawked, but decided it wasn't the time to argue or send Ren back.

Coming to the Command Room, all they found was a sea of flame. Ren's stomach turned as he saw numerous corpses. Roman knelt down to check the pulse of one, scowled, and looked over at the rest. Roman turned to Ren and told him he would turn on the backup generators and to get himself out as soon as possible. Ren barely heard him. Killing shadows or even cognitions was one thing but seeing so many dead people was another entirely. They were people with their own thoughts, their own hearts, be they distorted or no. And they were gone entirely. So… even still, he had to look. Maybe there were survivors –

"Joker! Over here!"

His name rousing Ren from his stupor, he locked onto Morgana's voice and raced over. Morgana looked concernedly at the victim: Mash Kyrielight, bleeding from the head, pinned under rumble. Her eyes flickered open. "S-senpai?" she stammered weakly, her gentle voice barely audible over the roaring flames. Ren didn't hesitate. He grabbed the rubble and heaved as hard as he could, trying to shift the rubble off her. Morgana ran underneath despite the risk and tried pushing with his back, using his legs for leverage. "It's… all right," she whispered. "You can't save me. Please… run…"

Ren looked down at her and blinked. Suddenly, he saw a girl with long orange hair and glasses, bleeding as well, the goggles on her head cracked as she tried to struggle out. He blinked, and it was Mash once more. "I'm not leaving you here!" he yelled as he pushed harder. He couldn't abandon her. How could he just stand aside and save his own neck if that meant leaving others to suffer or die? He could never let that happen, and like hell he was starting now! He noticed that CHALDEAS went from a dull globe into a gigantic fireball, but he couldn't care about that now. Just push a bit more. Just a bit more-!

Then an announcement came. The Central Area was sealed off. They were stuck. Ren got off the rubble heaving. Morgana looked around with concerned eyes. There had to be a way out. There had to be. "Mona, do you see anything?"

Morgana looked around and shook his head despondently. "Sorry, Joker. I don't see anything. I think… I think we're really stuck here."

Mash looked up and faintly smiled. "Oh, a cat," she murmured. "I haven't seen one before. I guess you talk to it very often, senpai." Ren looked down at her. The girl was smiling faintly at Morgana, as if she was trying to capture one last memory before she finally vanished. A girl who had never been out of Chaldea before, and never seen the world.

He clenched his hand. Where the hell was the 'justice' in that?!

"Senpai?" Ren looked back over at Mash again. He had just about to find something to pry the rubble away. "Would you mind… holding my hand…?" It was a simple request. A dying request. One that Ren didn't want to acquiesce to.

"Yeah, sure."

Ren knelt down and took the girl's hand in his own. It felt small compared to his, and cool too. Morgana hopped down from the rubble he had been perched on and loafed nearby, looking at her in concern. Mash gave a weak smile and used her other hand to gently pet Morgana, who nuzzled her hand in turn. There were no more words to be said or shared. This was going to be their tomb, after all. The announcements were still going off, but Ren paid no heed to them. What point was there? He wasn't the type to give up, but even he knew when the jig was up. So ended the leader of the Phantom Thieves and his mentor, trapped in Antarctica under an impromptu tomb.

But the area around them was getting brighter and brighter. Ren and Morgana noticed and looked about. But before either of them could see the cause, there was a bright flash – and both of them saw no more.