Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is the creative property of Seven Arcs, whom created this wonderful anime/manga series. Anything not attributed to Seven Arcs belongs to their respective owners, such as other series, references, and vice-versa. This story is written purely just for fun, guys; please for God's sake, don't sue me! I'm just a college student with too much free time on his hands! On the other hand, any specific author created characters I created for this fic (despite how unoriginal they may be at times) are mine. So without further ado, let's get on with the show!
The Surgeon General's Warning:
Read at your own risk.
for Crimson Air / For You / Memories of Once / The Detective's Story...
A Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha AU fanfic by James "Ray" Edwards
Time index: 113501082035
The Mason's Residence, Building #117, the corner of Fifteenth Street, Park Slope, "Little Brooklyn"...
To my experience, most police officers born on this world do not prefer to take to the skies, even if they have the freedom and the authorization to do so. I believe, there is a certain phobia to flying as free as a bird without a parachute on your back, or a pressurized seal between you, an aluminum cabin, and the near infinite "blue yonder." Of course, there are exceptions, but few people try to make like "Superman" due to safety hazards.
I certainly decided to fly, as traveling any other way through Arkham City would be too damned slow. My city --- or should I? My mega city? --- is simply titanic in scale. I have been tinkering with the idea of "Teleportation" these past several years, but with my "pressing concerns", I have not been able to take the spell protocol beyond the prototype phase. Even then, it is extremely inefficient and there lies the danger of myself being "splinched" into the pavement, a building, or some other obstruction if my "calculations" are off.
Traveling east bound towards the waterfront, I was given a subtle appreciation in the diversity of my city, as Shinto shrines and torii gates gave way to churches and synagogues. I find it ironic that the Japanese settled in the west while the "Westerners" settled in the east, primarily. Little Brooklyn, in truth, is not so little at all (much like Little Tokyo, except Little Brooklyn is legally its own county); they might as well call it "Brooklyn", but I hear the residents here decided on the name out of sentimental value. I hope you are starting to see the trend here as far as how the peoples of this world have settled in this "fortress of humanity." If you go to any other mega city in the Blue Zone, I assure you, you will see the same trends as well.
In any case, the neighborhoods down here are characterized dominantly by "19th Century" brick townhouses and brownstone. The residents here are typically bilingual at least in the capacity of Japanese (a mandatory requirement by the Japanese Government, you understand) and English, though it is not unusual to find people with more language skills. They were their own independent community, complete with public facilities, restaurants, bars, shops, parks, green spaces, neighborhood gathering spaces, and the list goes on and on, according to a survey done by Natural Home magazine's December 2034 issue.
Did not take me long from the air to spot my LZ, a cozy neighborhood edging a wide public park; there the county police had already cordoned off the entire block. My arrival on site, however, stirred a bit of trouble, judging from the reception committee gathered. By appearance, I had the standard-issue Arkhamn City Police Department barrier jacket active, which was more or less identical to the one I wore as a Bureau enforcer some ages ago:
First, the distinctive black greatcoat, fitted to the wearer, with grey panels and highlights, and a pair of mana turbine "spikes" on the shoulders. Then, there were blue combat trousers, flat grey armored gloves and boots, and a pre-configured utility belt with whatever the officer needed. I chose to forego materializing my helmet, like the officers below, simply because they were designed riot squad-style, and not exactly suitable for every day work.
In any case, the lack of any identifying remarks or insignia was some cause of alarm. It went against regulation, you see, and the sergeant, a typical heavyset civil servant fellow, confronting me was about ready to arrest me, if I was an impostor, or give me the reprimand of my life, if I was some hot shot greenhorn. Fortunately, one flash of Section-7's badge and my own identification, prompting a reaction in his bifocals widening to the size of dinner plates (in metaphor), and the problem was taken care of...though I wish he had not apologized so profusely.
Typical of the Japanese...
Turns out the sergeant was the senior uniformed man on deck in charge of security outside. The detectives and other investigative personnel were inside already, and awaiting my arrival. He joked to me the college runts had no idea who I was, which they should not if security protocols have been followed to the letter, and they were expecting a civilian, not a "real deal mega spook" from the Japanese National Public Safety Commission. His description is fairly accurate for despite our moniker, "Public Mystic Authority Section 7," we adhere much closer to the operations of a paramilitary intelligence department by virtue of our wide jurisdiction and powers.
My specialty in particular revolves around: firstly, organized crime, specifically the trafficking of Lost Logia --- Black Technology that has ironically been discovered on this world too. Secondly, I took notice of crimes committed by the unlawful and/or inhumane use of magic, particularly ritualistic murders, sacrifices, experiments, etc. And the third would be everything else I do...investigating cults, terminating these evangelist terrorists and lunatics, and putting them behind bars (if I have to) along side the rest of their twisted ilk, sociopaths and psychopaths alike.
I do not believe in Gods and Devils, much in the same way I believe that magic does not kill people. It always comes down to people, and that vision back there at Fate's apartment must have...!
Alas, my thought was interrupted by a sudden billow of thick scented cigar smoke. The foul stuff invaded my nostrils by an involuntary sniff, and instantly, I was struck by the urge to gag and reel away from it.
"Well, whad'dya know? Welcome back to Earth, Mister Haraoun," a smooth and lightly bemused baritone greeted me in English. "I was worried ya'd gone off in to outta space and would never come back. Hope the Cuban didn't offend you too much."
Thanks to the rude awakening, I was aware that I was now inside someone's home, that is the home of Mister Harry Mason, if I recall from the address Sharion provided for me is up to date. I must have stepped inside subconsciously with the sergeant, and well, here I was now: I could hear the sounds of activity coming from the other rooms, as investigators and forensic specialists buzzed in and out of the hallways.
"Detective Sergeant Wolfwood, I'm the guy supervising this show," the new fellow introduced himself with a theatric wave of his cuban cigar. He was older than me, roguish, dark haired, the glimmer of a five o'clock shadow, a semi-permanent smirk, probably early thirties, maybe late twenties, and his barrier jacket hid his physique that was not noticeably pudgy or thin. The air confidence he carried about himself, combined with the irritating smoke, gave me enough clues he knew how to handle himself in a fight and was no greenhorn.
"Chrono Haraoun, Section-Seven." I nodded. He did not need to know anything else about me.
"Heh, sorry 'bout the breach in protocol if you're into that sort of thing, sir. The lieutenant always runs late to the scene, if you know what I mean. God loves to interrupt him with bad news at the best time possible, yeah?"
"Hey, Takeda-san, you can head on back. Wouldn't want you to see anything that'd scar your wife and kids for life, ya know?" Wolfwood turned to address the other sergeant, easily picking up on the older heavyset fellow's unease thanks to him fidgeting around.
Was the air in this place honestly that oppressive? Hardly, it feels just like home to me.
Sergeant Takeda bowed gratefully, and promptly escaped out the front door without a further. Perhaps, he was more used to dealing with traffic violations, theft, and domestic violence, instead of "tough" cases such as this supposed murder. Then again, that sort of grunt work is normal for patrol officers...a murder on the other hand would be --- extraordinary.
"Now that he's gone, why don't you follow me and I'll fill you in 'bout what we know so far, eh, sir? The sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can disappear, go back to the Tower, and do whatever it is you do that keeps us all ordinary and happy."
The victim was one of their own, in fact: a police officer, been a veteran on the block for twenty or so odd years. Lieutenant Cybil Bennet, single, a real hardass, used to work in the States, before coming here to Arkham City. She had a pretty good Magus Certification of "B+", a crackshot on the range, and knew how to handle herself in a fight. Even if she was a friend of the suspect, there was no way he should have had a ghost of a chance in hell of taking her, especially not --- with what he did to her.
"Nasty stuff." She was pretty much "attacked": bites, stab wounds and lacerations presumably from some kind of knife, lots of head trauma, punctures in her throat from when he was strangling her, broken jaw, and pretty much tore up the entire living room and kitchen with her. They would have to wait for the autopsy for the full details of everything that happened, but the CSI boys and girls are busy with her right now in the kitchen, so Wolfwood could not let him have a look.
The suspect, on the other hand, was a surprise from left field. Harry Mason, middle-aged, a mild-mannered writer and editor, widowed and never remarried, and had one kid, Heather Mason, his teenaged daughter. Mason's magical potential was laughable at a "D-", low even for a civilian. No history of any serious crimes save for the usual round of moving violations, and he too came from the States.
It was a little ironic to note he was a "Horror Novelist". They were still trying to contact his daughter and get her into custody as soon as possible, should Mister Mason be the on the loose, and out to kill again, before "disappearing" or conveniently committing suicide to evade the law. After all, a dead man was no good to the living and Officer Bennet's family when they are the informed the news of her death; murdered by someone she called "Friend".
"Now, the part we called you for here, sir," Wolfwood gestured, as he lead me up the stairs, "is right 'round the corner. Please, by my guest, and have a look first. Go left, straight. Master Bedroom. Can't miss it. Oh, and don't mind the wards; they're only there to --- well, you'll see what I mean. Don't sweat. I'm right behind ya."
I did as the detective instructed, and sure enough, immediately spotted the blue glow of the wards he mentioned. Upon closer inspection, I recognized them to be sealing wards, fairly high level and somewhat brutish in execution, using Shinto-themed paper seals plastered in en masse all over the walls, floor, and ceiling. It was a semi-permeable containment seal, apparently so, as I could pass in and out of the "bubble" without hindrance.
The bubble itself projected a soothing air of peace and purity, but as I approached further in, my instincts grew on edge. The coppery smell of blood was a dead giveaway, but the foul --- "malicious" --- miasma that followed behind it was what truly got my attention. Now, I am not the type to believe in the romantic notion of "killing intent", but I know what it feels like to have someone's full malice brought to bear against me.
The source was coming from the master bedroom, predictably enough, the door splashed with blood and more of the crimson life leaking out from underneath. "Blood Magic" is a barbaric phenomenon I encountered here for the first time on this world. I refuse to acknowledge it as a true magic system (in fact, it is illegal, a forbidden taboo), but --- I cannot deny its effectiveness either: close quarters combat, sabotage, subterfuge, and assassination, a violent and extremely aggressive art. The Belkan offshoot of Mid-Childa magic pales in comparison.
It does not help all practitioners of the style gain the ability to drain mana and "burn" the magic circuits of their victim's linker core, which can combined with another of their foul talents to increase the drain efficiency and temporarily "silence" the victims. They also possess a kind of natural "supernatural" magic resistance, and a kind of arcane affinity that happens to make them, again, naturally proficient enchanters. Of course, all too many cultists, satanic evangelists, rogue individuals, and vice-versa, prefer this magic system, as it suits their masochistic and/or sadistic megalomania.
"The Seal of Solomon, inverted pentagram-style, two concentric rings complete with a goat's head," Wolfwood's voice interrupted, alerting me to his sudden presence behind me. "Right smack dab on the door, and it's still giving me the goosebumps."
Honestly, I need to stop being so over introspective, or should I think about acquiring a familiar for myself?
"If that ain't somethin' occult, satanic, whateva' then I dunno what is."
With his apt words, it was obvious enough now that Mister Mason may have had connections to occult activities (my area of expertise), his "horror novelist" status not helping. However, I noticed something more queer just above the seal, a greeting...
"'Welcome to Paradise'?" I murmured aloud, hoping the detective sergeant would divulge a hint or two my way. The phrase felt awfully nostalgic, but I cannot seem to remember where I heard it or saw it before...
"No idea. Still, waiting on that; could be a clue, but with all due respect, I think you oughta be more worried 'bout the blood, sir."
Wolfwood's friendly tone grew just a little colder then, putting my instincts even more on edge. I knew a threat when I heard it, and the dagger glare biting in my neck was a familiar feeling, but he was not about to make his move yet.
"What about the blood?" I asked him.
"We did some preliminary tests. Nothin' conclusive yet, and it turns out the blood there is Mister Mason's, Officer Bennet's, and --- yours."
Ah, now the puzzle is starting to come together. I assume this is part of the reason Sharion was so hesitant over the phone, but perhaps, I could be wrong. At the time, she seemed to have been more worried about the case than me. She must have a lot of faith that I was not the culprit or a collaborator in the effort to be my alibi, considering Officer Wolfwood here has some rather incriminating evidence of my presence at the scene of the murder.
But with my carte blanche immunity as "Special Enforcer," he would not be able to hold me unless he had definite incorrigible evidence and witnesses to the crime. The ball was in my court, still. Let us see how much more I can play out of him:
"Could you give me an estimate on the time the murder occurred, detective?"
"Oh, 'round seven in the morning," he replied nonchalantly, remaining in my shadow. It seemed he did not rule out the option of taking me down right here, yet. "We didn't get here until about an hour later when the Nine-One-One call went out from a scarred shitless neighbor. Don't worry, we got 'em in custody too, safe and sound."
"Well, I honestly cannot say how they managed to get a hold of a blood sample from me. I have not donated blood in years."
"We'll see how sincere your testimony really is soon enough, sir. But there's still one more thing we need you for, before I let you go."
Hmm? He's letting me go just like that? What's the catch?
"I want you to open that door," Wolfwood informed me. An audible click of a safety release by ticked off made it clear to me that he was serious too. He had no qualms about shooting me in the back; after all, it was a perfectly legal act of "self-defense in the process of detaining a flee suspect".
Though, honestly, does he expect to stop me with just a Weapon Device?
I smiled. "Let me guess. The door's been magically booby trapped to high heaven. Your team of experts have tried everything in the book, and even simple common sense, that is approaching the quarters from outside, above, and below, but the trap is perfect. The only one who can open it is me, as if the killer wanted me to come here, specifically, yes?"
"And to the point, why did the sick bastard pick --- you? A spooky guy like you, who belongs to the Tower, has so much red tape hiding him, that an ordinary sicko like Mister Mason should have no chance in hell of finding you. And I wonder, for real, just who are you really, Mister Haraoun?"
"I am afraid that information is classified, detective. But as for the killer and this door --- well, you all have my attention now. This sort of thing is part of my area of expertise upstairs, and I am interested to see who would call me out, personally, knowing how infamous I am in their world."
"Man, save the cloak and dagger, hocus pocus, creepy shit for someone else. I'm just a cop, and I got no intention getting mixed in with you crazies. My only joy in this is tracking down who did this to Officer Bennet and bring the freak to justice, case closed, ya dig?"
"Understandable." I nodded before stepping towards the door. Of course, before I began the process, a darkly humorous thought occurred to me, prompting me to glance back slyly at the cool detective. He did not bat an eye at my gaze, but the long intake of breath let me know he was quite edge and my ruse ought to be entertaining.
"You may want to take some precautions, Detective Wolfwood. Wouldn't want you to be covered with my bloody remains and gore, if something went horribly, horribly wrong, yes? Blood Magic is rather fickle and violent, you realize."
The detective scoffed at my warning, his custom chrome finished Powered Glock 18C, a vicious Weapon Device patterned after the classic machine pistol, clearly visible now in his dominant hand. He had a choice between limited enchanted bullets or a near-limitless supply of magic photon bullets. Of course, at this range and the fact I did not come prepared to fight another officer, he had a pretty good chance of seriously hurting me before my struggle bind could take effect.
In any case, he gave me a wide berth and settled to my task, breathing deep to focus my concentration into tapping the surrounding mana and my own reserves. The boosted gloves that comprised S4U, the blue control medals glowing white as particles gathered about generating an interface array. On cue the "blood seal" reacted, glowing alive, and I was able to pick out a line of code that stood out in permanence above the "controlled" chaos of multiplying runes and cannibalistic sigils: it was my name...
A keyhole formed in the seal, clearly asking for myself to "donate" some of my own mana to close the "deal" per say. I was tempted to poke around its architecture, instead of bowing out so simply, as there was much one could learn about another through his or her magic. The workmanship here was unlike anything I had previously encountered: anything made by humans has a pattern or some form of order, no matter how twisted the mind that crafted it.
This thing was...
Suddenly, the seal fizzled out before my eyes, and the door creaked open. Surprise and shock filled my flaring senses: who the hell had just opened the door? I had not done a damn thing yet!
I shot a questioning glance over to detective only to find...
I heard the clatter of the magi-pistol hitting the wooden floor, but even so, the sight was surreal. In the short span of my observation, something had gone horribly wrong. The house had grown eerily quiet, no longer could I hear the background ambience created by the chatter and flash photography of the personnel below. I was left entirely alone with the bubbling pool of blood saturating the "empty" remains of Detective Sergeant Wolfwood: his uniform, his magi-pistol, and his storage device, a "harmless" cigarette lighter.
My first instinct was to call for backup. The situation had spun unexpectedly out of control and right into my jurisdiction, a "Code Blue" warranting an immediate lockdown of the entire neighborhood in a two square kilometer radius with a "Class I" temporal force field: just in case things get messy. I needed an Incident Response Team here ASAP to secure the site, isolate any additional incidents in the area, salvage all of the evidence for analysis back at HQ, and get us out of here. Site security will stay on post until local authorities can relieve them; otherwise, we were never there and nothing happened.
In fact, the incident will cease to exist. This was a major attack that caused the deaths of at least twenty police officers, by my reckoning (assuming the officers outside have met a similar doom), and the public cannot know of any of what has transpired here. Arkham City is a haven, you see; yes, we had our round of crimes --- felonies and misdemeanors --- and other social ills, but terrorist attacks and mass killings? They do not exist. In fact, they do not happen, and we will do whatever it takes to keep the masses high on "opium and good feelings" because they do not need to know about the things that go bump in the night.
Yes: terrorists, extremists, outlaws, monsters; they are out there. But --- they are not here, you see?
Alas, I ignored my first instinct for once. Curiosity had the day; after all, why was it I was still alive and the others were not so fortunate? I had no better protection than they did with my "flimsy" barrier jacket in its default settings. Did the answers lie beyond this door?
My resolution firm, I dispelled the interface array and summoned a few old "friends": S4U, you see, is a Boost Device, specializing primarily in "the manipulation of space", a field I had been pursuing in the past several years. Its got the standard support utilities and defensive protocol spells, of course, but nothing beats the security knowing I am packing enough firepower and gadgetry with me everywhere I go to start a small war and survive easily for twenty-eight days in comfort.
With a snap of my fingers, the control medals glowed with a white hum of power, causing the surrounding phase space to warp and twist with visible distortions, becoming a thin viscous fluid akin to water. I reached in and out came S2U, my old friend ready for action, though I shortened him over the years more into a handy flanged mace, while my other hand was occupied with a "Type 30D Round Buckler" --- a shield gauntlet for the best description. It is a sophisticated "defensive" Weapon Device made by Isurugi Industries that shares a kind of --- "man-machine link" --- with the user, and thus, is capable of anticipating threats and deploying two independent "Round Shield" defense protocol spells that orbit the user in a defensive matrix. They can realign as needed at fantastic speeds, and can be used in a "traditional" style to hammer, slam, disarm, and crush opponents that get too close for comfort.
Armed and dangerous, I nudged open the door, the hinges creaking ominously with a shrill squeal. The rancid smell of decay and death hit me first, by my reckoning it was not fresh at all, several days old in fact. At a quick glance, the darkened master bedroom (thanks to the blinds and curtains being closed) as it turns out was quite spacious, enough to accommodate a small study. Dried blood, old caked ochre, and ichor was strewn liberally all over in a spiraling pattern leading to the center, forming oddly legible words:
"KILL!" again and again.
"EAT!" the same repetition.
And then, unexpectedly...
"Kill him; kill, Chrono Clyde Haraoun Le Fay!"
Now that got my attention: whoever they were knew my full name. ...How in the hell did they find that out? I never told anyone; no one outside of our coiled circle should know; and yet, here is the evidence of --- betrayal? Why? Who? How?
Black anger rose in my veins, a burning acid that threatened to drive me into a rage, but I managed to stem the flow when my eyes by chance was pricked by the disturbance of shadow and light. I was aware of another creaking then, slow and steady, almost like wail, that drew my eyes upward. Suffice to say, I found Mister Harry Mason, what was left of him anyway.
The medical jars below, filled with nauseating formaldehyde, proofed his identity: hair, urine, feces, an assortment of organs, i.e. liver, kidneys, etc., eyeballs, and a tongue. Somebody had hog tied the naked cadaver up to the ceiling fan, and gutted him like a pig, stitching shut his eyes, and let the entrails spill down as macabre celebration to his death. Another cruel unusual dissection, and I could spot chunks of flesh missing, bone visible, as if somebody had taken to cannibalizing him for a quick snack too.
Is this not just like what happened to A...Amy? the ugly thought struck me then.
But that was the only thing that struck me, a terrible bout of nausea gripped me suddenly, and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat. In fact, I tripped straight down the stairs thanks to a puddle of blood from another unfortunate officer's remains, my barrier jacket and a bit of good fortune saving me from any serious injury. But I was not done yet, an unnatural impulse drove me forwards, crawling out the opened front door through another puddle crimson and personal effects, before dry heaving myself nearly to death.
My throat was burning and hoarse, my chest sore and hurting, when the trauma was over. What sparked the almost septic shock-like reaction I did not know, and because I did not know it had me all the more worried. What was happening to me? I was acting unconsciously without my own will. The "Me" I know would never have fled from such a grisly scene, so who was this person, this skin I was wearing then?
Ugh, useless speculations; there was no way I had gone completely insane, yet. If I was insane, then it must mean we were all truly lost, with no hope of redemption, for I was the only one amongst all of us whose memories were still intact, untouched, and whole. "The Truth" lived within me, an awesome concept that had saved and destroyed --- everything; it was my privilege, my curse to bear, as "The Witness."
But enough, I needed to call Sharion; one look around me only confirmed my cynicism. The other officers had been dissolved into blood as well, their remains marked by their clothes and gear strewn about the cordoned neighborhood. In fact, the situation was probably even worse than I thought because the neighborhood was also eerily quiet, a grayish-white fog had descended mysteriously without my notice, blotting out the sun, and limiting visibility to a dozen or so yards.
Clearly, it could not have been a natural phenomenon as today's forecast was clear skies with no overcast at all, meaning somebody had to be doing this, in broad day light no less! What an audacious prick; I swear I will make them pay for taking us so lightly. The burst static from my cellphone soured my mood, driving me towards the idling patrol cars for a working radio that hopefully had not been jammed.
No such luck; I tried my linker core's telepathic channels next only to meet the same defeat too. Whoever was doing this was very thorough and meticulous, indeed. I was isolated, the sole survivor. Why? Who was doing this to me? What did they want from me? Was the hallucination from this morning a premonition? Did the Testarossa woman have something to do with whoever or whatever force was doing this to me?
Damn, there goes my healthy paranoia. The air grows chilly, and I can feel the cold cutting amazingly through my barrier jacket. I could take the time to prepare myself for battle or charge in ahead now. The perpetrators for this atrocity could not be far; in fact, they were probably watching me right now.
Problem is: where to start and what to do?
...tee hee hee.
...tee hee hee!
I followed the sound as best I could, spotting a silhouette across the street. Veiled by the fog, a feminine figure, I could not make out --- her identity too well, but that Bureau uniform...long brown hair, th-that yellow bow ribbon!
It could not be...?
"...A-Amy?" I blanched white as a sinner.
To be continued...
Well, there you have it. Memory 1.5 in all of its glory. Thoughts, feelings, questions: hey, fire away, fellas.
Thank you all for tuning in and remember, I always encourage each and everyone of you to feel free to comment, review, and/or discuss the story. Your comments can really make a difference, I assure you, and if you're up to it, feel free to ring me up on AIM, or even send me an e-mail (although you really don't need to boost my ego too often). You know how to get in touch with the maestro here.