Hi! This is my first Nanoha story, and before I get to the meat of things, I thought I'd clear up a few details. I would have preferred to make this foreword its own chapter, honestly, but rules are rules and I've had things deleted in the past.
Timeline-wise, the bulk of this story takes place roughly half a year after A's. I chose to play in the ten-year period between seasons two and three, because… well, that's ten years worth of time in which apparently only like, three things happened. Plus, I like the thought of Nanoha having to save the world every six months like some kind of heroic magical alarm clock.
As a result, this means I will be playing fast and loose with canon. I will be giving StrikerS a wave every once in awhile to reassure it that everything's going as planned even as I probably ruin continuity forever. As for the supplementary mangas, I will be ignoring them completely, and they should be happy about that since I could do far worse. I do this because they are, for the most part, largely unimportant little sides-stories that, while entertaining, really don't affect all that much… except for this one chapter that takes place in pretty much exactly the time frame I wanted to write this story in, and has some plot points that just really annoy me. So I'm ignoring them. Take that, canon!
Another thing is that this is my first real shot at an action-based story (Yes, action. You know, the other thing about Nanoha. Friendship and camaraderie and really huge magic laser beams. I will certainly be teasing, because toying with shippers fills me with glee, but there shall be no romance in this story because me attempting to write romance is a sad, sad thing). As a result… well, it may suck. I don't know yet, so I just thought I'd warn you. But hey, it might turn out really good! You'll just have to read it. But this is mostly relevant because I'm used to writing humor, and that's gonna show through (see? It's written right under the story, next to action/adventure). So if it seems like the mood has a case of whiplash, and some of the characters' personalities are a little exaggerated… that's because they probably are.
It's okay, you can laugh. It's funny.
And now, without further ado, on with the show.
This unit has been offline for 5017 standard program cycles. No administrators currently logged in. System Rights are open, Beginning Standard Emergency Protocols.
Attempting Recovery of Current Space/Time Coordinates.
System Error. Current Space/Time Coordinates cannot be computed with presently available data. Current spatial coordinates shall be logged as Unknown until new data is acquired. Until Imperal Calendar date can be determined, restart time coordinates will be logged as Cycle 5018, Year 1, Day 1, Hour 00:00:00. Current time coordinates Cycle 5018, Year 1, Day 1, Hour 00:00:03.
Attempting Environmental Analysis.
Environmental analysis indicates small-scale hyperspace distortions approximately 1.24 tiketas to the north/northwest of this installation. Cause unknown, duration unknown. High energy output detected, high spatial warp rate detected. Calculated Threat level 3: Potentially harmful to organic life. Issuing request for instructions to all administrative terminals.
No instructions received. Program 000203010 load: "In the event administrative functions are non-responsive, engage basic search protocols upon encounter with any unidentified phenomena". Research drone dispatched.
Current Spatial Coordinates: Unknown. Current Time Coordinates: Cycle 5018, Year 1, Day 1, Hour 00:22:37
Site inspection completed. Unidentified spatial distortion no longer detected. Two samples recovered from site. Preliminary analysis confirms them to be of extradimensional origin. Attempting to cross-reference analysis with dimensional archive database to discern dimension of origin.
System Error. Link with dimensional archive database lost. Attempting to restore link. System Error. Link restoration attempt failed. Potential causes: Physical Damage to database or associated link systems. Issuing order request to all administrative terminals.
No orders received. Program 000203516 load: "In the event administrative functions are non-responsive, any and all unidentified artifacts/samples of interest are to be transported to the nearest functional credited Imperial Research Center for advanced study". Searching for available Research Centers…
None found. Program 01450198 load: "If no Imperial Research facility is able to take on new specimens at this time, all possible data is to be collected by available on-site equipment. Samples are then to be transported to nearest available storage facility and placed in stasis lock until more in-depth study can be conducted".
Unknown Sample #01. Designation: Organic life form, humanoid. Dimension of origin: Unknown. Status: Deceased. Severe structural damage detected. Recommended course of action: Disposal.
Unknown Sample #02. Designation: Organic life form, humanoid. Dimension of origin: Unknown. Status: System Error.
Status: System Error.
Recommended course of action: …
Sample purity meets all required specifications.
Local Processor Offline. This operation is hereby transferred to Yggdrasil Central Control. Rebooting, stand by. Ready.
Current Dimensional Coordinates: N/A.
Current Temporal Coordinates: Imperial Calander Year 507,132. The seventh day of the month of Ashra, hour 03:45:24. This unit has been offline for approximately 501,700 standard years.
The Revelation Protocols are now in effect, The Yggdrasil Program has been successfully loaded to all administrative terminals. Project: Broken Throne has been approved. Main utilities mainframe active. Power and life support will be restored to the following facilities: Central Command, The Palace of Twilight, The Cradle of God. Initiate data link to central Lazarus circuits. Sample #02 is to be transported to the Cradle for immediate activation.
Current Dimensional Coordinates: Void
Current Temporal Coordinates: Ashra 7, Hour 12:11:54, Imperial Calendar Year 507,132.
Upload Status: Attempt #0001 Unsuccessful. Data Corrupted, File lost.
Upload Status: Attempt #0002 Unsuccessful. Data Corrupted, File lost.
Upload Status: Attempt #0003 Unsuccessful. Pattern rejected, sample unsuitable.
Upload Status: Attempt #0004 Successful. Compatible Pattern Located. Data Corruption Minimal, File successfully recovered.
Upload Complete. Unit Activation Complete.
"Good Afternoon, Master."
And in a dim building, in an empty city, on a world wrapped in perpetual darkness, a woman that had been dead for far longer than she had ever been alive opened unfamiliar eyes… and smiled. "Good afternoon," she said. "Now, could you please tell me what happened while I was asleep?"
One Year Later…
Jacobus 'The Terrible' Tarra was not having a good day.
Ever since he'd been old enough to hold a staff, Tarra had wanted nothing more than to be a mage of the Time Space Administration Bureau. To the people of his homeworld, Astarte, the TSAB were the epitome of celebrity. Astarte was a small, unassuming world that was blessed with abnormally high concentration of fertile farmland, and not much in the way of anything else. It had been settled several centuries ago by Midchildan colonists, and today was the single largest producer of foodstuffs in bureau-controlled dimensional space. This resulted in a civilization composed almost entirely of farmers who, nonetheless, knew enough about the universe to tell their children stories about the brave bureau mages of who sailed between worlds in gigantic ships bristling with magical weaponry, fighting evil and sealing away world-destroying artifacts of terror.
This, naturally, resulted in a great many children who decided that sailing between worlds in gigantic ships bristling with magical weaponry, fighting evil and sealing away world-destroying artifacts of terror sounded a great deal more interesting than, y'know, farming. Every child dreamed of the day they might be tested for magical potential, and, if they were lucky, be taken away from a life of livestock and crops to the academy, to one day become one of those shining golden heroes.
Tarra had been one of the children lucky enough to have sufficient magical power to warrant training, and one of the children lucky enough to be taken to that glowing golden palace in the stars known as the TSAB Ground Forces academy.
He was also one of the children unlucky enough to discover it kind of sucked there.
Despite what his mother might have said to the contrary, Jacobus Tarra was not a particularly likable young man, nor one blessed with a great deal of self-control. His childhood on Astarte had been notable primarily for the amount of bullying it included, mostly directed from him towards other, smaller people. Which was not to say that other things hadn't had an impact on his youthful development; fighting, womanizing, and the local home-brewed alcohol had all had significant impacts when he'd reached his teens.
To a young man raised on being answerable to basically nobody, the strict academy life had chafed. While he quite enjoyed the combat training (particularly sparring with other, more squish-able cadets), pretty much everything else about the academy grated on him. And as it grated on him, he began to act out… and quickly discovered that the proctors were considerably less forgiving of his stupidity than what had passed for authority figures on Astarte.
For instance, were you aware that the standard punishment for a drunk and disorderly charge for a TSAB cadet was one week in the brig? Or that the punishment for escaping from the brig before your sentence was up was expulsion from the academy? Or that the punishment for throwing a punch at the officer announcing your expulsion was that the officer in question would beat you within an inch of your life and unceremoniously dump you in the infirmary, to be escorted off-site by security as soon as you could walk under your own power? Because Jacobus Tarra was completely aware of all these facts; in fact, he now had first-hand knowledge of them.
But he was not a quitter, no sir. And although he was no longer welcome in the TSAB, there was still a world of infinite possibilities for an enterprising young man with some skill in combat magic, a healthy distaste for authority, and very few morals.
Well, okay, there weren't that many possibilities. But Tarra found a good one. The territory maintained by the TSAB was vast, and included many worlds filled with dead civilizations just waiting to be ransacked, and many more worlds too small and undeveloped to defend themselves. As a result, piracy was hardly uncommon, and criminals who'd managed to get their hands on a surplus cruiser were always looking for more muscle. And so it was that Jacobus Tarra threw away the last vestige of respectability he had and took the long-coming step of just becoming an outright criminal. He was even pretty good at it; it was, after all, basically what he'd been doing for free his entire life. In short order, he taken over the captaincy of his own refitted dimensional gunship, which he'd christened the Freebooter, and a small crew. He even began calling himself Jacobus the Terrible, just because he could. He and his boys raided small worlds, undeveloped worlds, looted ruins, and made damn fine money for themselves in the process. Nobody told him what to do, he took whatever he wanted, and he was even starting to become known amongst the outlaw community. There was even talk of him getting a bounty on his head! Yes, life had been good.
Then he'd made the mistake of ignoring that librarian.
The librarian had sent him a transmission as he'd fled the scene of his last big job. He and his crew had ransacked the ruins of a small city on a world orbiting a star so old it had virtually burned itself out, in a dimension all but devoid of life in general. The librarian had informed him that he'd tripped an alarm and sensor net set by an archaeological expedition that had been on the planet earlier, and that if he'd actually found something they missed it might very well be highly dangerous contraband, and that if he knew what was good for him he would set back down, put back anything he'd taken, and go off to take up a new career. Tarra had laughed in the young man's face, gleefully shown off the five glowing, marble-sized emerald spheres that they had looted and commented that such obviously magical devices would surely fetch a high price on the black market. The librarian had sighed, said something about making a call to his friends, and closed the link.
As Jacobus looked around the burning, shattered ruins of his headquarters (located, for irony's sake, on an uncharted desert world known mostly for having virtually no native plant life. No farms here, dammit!), and the crushed pile of twisted scrap that had once been his ship, parked on the landing pad outside, he began to consider that maybe those gems really hadn't been worth the trouble.
"I'm sorry about that." The little girl in the frilly white dress said. "I'm sure that your ship was very expensive, but you are criminals. And it was really for your own good; I didn't really understand everything that Yuuno said, but I guess those jewels you stole from that ruin are pretty dangerous, and nobody knows more about the Lost Logia than him. He said that if you use them wrong you might make a dimensional rift, and that's never good. So you see, it really is for the best if you just give them back so we can make sure they're safely stored. Now, you should probably just stay here and wait quietly. A ship will be arriving in about twenty minutes to take you to prison and deliver the Lost Logia into storage. And if you tell your men to stop fighting, I'll even put in a good word for you at your trial!"
"You… alone… you…" Jacobus stammered.
"Hm? Oh, no, it's not just me! Fate and Arf are outside dealing with your border defenses. It probably would have been more, but well, this operation was so tiny… oh, I'm sorry! I made you sound like you weren't threatening! But what I really meant was that Chrono is in charge of his own ship now, so we couldn't really ask him to come along without it, and the brass wouldn't let us bring it… they, um, said you weren't dangerous enough to justify the Asura's involvement… not that you aren't dangerous! And Yuuno wanted to come, but he's so busy in the library, if he took that much time off he'd really fall behind. And I guess the Wolkenritter are still on probation until Hayate finishes basic training. I don't know, six months seems like a long time to me, but I'm not in charge. I suppose that her legs still aren't up to walking unaided, so it probably is best not to rush things."
"My… my… my…" Jacobus said, pointing out the huge hole in his wall to the slag that had once been his ship.
"OH! You meant that. I guess it was sort of silly to think you were asking where my friends were. Yeah, I thought I should make sure you didn't use that ship to escape before we got back the artifacts. So, since Fate was keeping your security busy, I decided to just come right here and… again, I'm sorry I had to smash your boat, but I had to make sure you didn't get away. And I was really careful to make sure none of your friends were hurt!" the girl said. And the worst part was that she honestly did sound a little sorry.
Jacobus Tarra was a large man, nearly seven-feet tall and built like a truck. He was a (partially) trained combat mage and his device, a wickedly curved sword forged in the Belkan tradition (or, to be more accurate, forged by a man who claimed he'd learned to make devices in the Belkan tradition and actually made cheap knockoffs), had cut down many people who'd thought themselves his better. But most importantly, he was a man who'd made a living out of picking on people smaller than himself. To be looked down on like this… pitied… by a little girl…
The large pirate let out a guttural yell, his blade bursting into red light as he charged.
The little girl in the frilly white dress sighed and raised one hand. "Raising Heart?"
"Axel Shooter, full autofire." Her staff said.
"Shoot." She commanded.
Three seconds later, as Tarra lost consciousness, he vaguely heard Nanoha Takamachi say, "I did ask you nicely to come quietly."
And when he woke up, two hours later, packed into the hold of a transport ship in shackles with the rest of his crew and a splitting headache being shipped to the nearest prison (while the little girl in question was, unbeknownst to him, already back at school taking a math test) he couldn't help but think that maybe he would have been better off just apologizing to her.
In their defense, there was really nothing the crew of the TSAB gunship Vishnu could have done differently. After arriving at Unsettled World 1274-0019, at the request of Chief Librarian Scrya, they had taken into custody 27 suspects and five contraband Lost Logia of unknown purpose. They had also winced when they saw what, exactly, the two little girls and the magic dog had done to the suspects in question, although that was not, strictly speaking, a part of official mission parameters. Still, it was both kind of awesome and completely frightening, and they could be forgiven for reacting to it.
After taking the devices and suspects into custody for transfer to a secure facility, and asking the field operatives if they would require transport (to which they answered no, that they had teleported in directly from their homeworld and would have to leave the same way if they hoped to get back to school before lunch ended. But thank you very much for offering!), the Vishnu had embarked on its return trip; not to Midchilda, but to the Lost Logia Secure Containment and Registration Facility. A fully self-sufficient artificial station intentionally stationed as far (dimensionally speaking, which meant the distance was really sort of metaphorical, but it still counted for something) as possible from any and all life-supporting worlds, the Facility was where all Lost Logia or other technology that had not yet been categorized were stored until Research and Development could get their hands on them.
Basically, it was where the stuff that might explode and rip open the universe if you poked it wrong was kept. Most TSAB workers called it 'The Powder Keg'.
As they were transporting dangerous contraband and enemy combatants, the Vishnu was running in full combat mode; magical barriers charged, weapons hot. Dimensional space was always dangerous, of course, but the biggest dangers were to lone travelers or those without proper protection. The Vishnu was neither.
So, the fact that billions of lives were about to be put in extreme danger was not really their fault.
It started with a hole. The maelstrom of blues, reds, and purples in the space between dimensions cracked slightly, a spot of pure blackness beginning to grow amongst the swirling colors. It did not get very big, really; no larger than a meter or two across and less than half that from top to bottom. But then it didn't really need to be very large. It was, after all, only there for a single spell to pass through.
The spell in question was a very subtle enchantment, designed only to create a link between two computer systems. It was among the most common enchantments found in any magical world, allowing, essentially, the creation of an internet that stretched between entire dimensions. In this case, it was only being used for the far simpler task of creating a link between the central computer of the Vishnu and the significantly more advanced system in the building on the other side of the small gate.
Staring through the gate at the Vishnu, the dead woman asked, "Do you have it, Yggdrasil? Holding these gates open is rather draining, so I'd appreciate if we could handle it quickly." A glowing white hexagram surrounded by runes spun around her feet as she focused the spells holding the gate open into dimensional space. She was a small woman, and the grey cloak she was wearing was obviously too large for her, but it was the mark of her office and she would wear it with pride, dammit all. Resizing be damned, she refused to be made a fool of by her own blasted clothes.
"Link established, Master." Said the smooth, cultured, and utterly inhuman voice of Yggdrasil, the sentient central computer for the complex she was standing in… and, to be fair, the entire world, although it wasn't as through there was much requiring its attention anywhere but in the Twilight Palace, at the moment.
"Download and copy all files, before you do anything else. We know all too little about the people who had the gall to build their little kingdom on top of our graves. The intelligence our guest has provided is not nearly enough for my tastes."
"I did so immediately upon link establishment, Master. Their security is insufficient to either detect or repel my advances."
The dead woman smiled slightly. "Well done. Have you confirmed the presence of the target on board?"
"Confirmed. Vessel cargo manifest lists five gems of unknown origin. Physical description consistent with Dimensional Drive Units, Aharasala Heavy Industries model 66-92Y."
"Five? That's better than I'd hoped for. We need to get as many as possible away from that ship, Yggdrasil, but I'd prefer to handle this subtly if possible. We don't have the capacity to fight a war right at this moment."
"Confirmed. Accessing command subroutines…"
On board the Vishnu, the first officer turned to the Captain to report that there had been a slight error in one of the automated status reports from the engine room, and that they should probably run a diagnostic on the central computer.
It was roughly this exact second that Yggdrasil seized complete control of the Vishnu's central command systems, and ordered them to begin venting the ship's atmosphere.
Deciding that this would be sufficient distraction, Yggdrasil promptly left the subverted environmental programs to cheerfully carry out their new instructions and began to implement the next stage of the operation. Several security programs, activated by this far more overt action, attempted to hinder its progress, but they were neither advanced enough technologically nor powerful enough magically to hold off a sentient computer capable of handling the information processing of an entire magical world. It continued working its way through the Vishnu's systems until it finally located the systems for control of the cargo containment units. This section of the ship was, conveniently, designed to jettison in the event that the cargo was discovered to be hazardous, allowing the rest of the vessel to be preserved.
Yggdrasil informed the hold computers that, yes, the cargo was highly dangerous and that the hold should be ejected immediately. It then seized command of the small robotic drones used to handle materials dangerous to organic life and ordered them to wait thirty seconds after ejection, then gather near the thinnest section of the container's hull and self-detonate.
With the Drive Units safely away from the ship, Yggdrasil determined that nearly two minutes of ship-wide explosive decompression had probably distracted the crew enough. Informing the environmental command routines that they had done a very good job indeed, it ordered them to begin restoring the atmospheric integrity as much as possible. The suffocating crew, who had been fighting desperately against their own rapidly diminishing oxygen supply, collapsed to their knees and began breathing gratefully.
The Captain, a long-time veteran who had never before had any ship he'd served on spontaneously try to kill him, looked across his bridge like the natural leader he was and said in his most commanding voice, "What… the… Hell?!"
Okay, he wasn't really looking across the bridge, and his most commanding voice was a pained gasp from two minutes without air. But he was doing his best.
"I'm… checking…" the first officer gasped, checking his console. "Um… sir…?"
"The ship's computer… has… well…" the officer said, sounding somewhat embarassed. "Well, after it brought the air back... it seems to have erased itself. Completely."
And just to prove that even a planetary scale sentient machine can have a twisted sense of humor, before Yggdrasil ordered the Vishnu's computers to completely erase all files, condemning the crew to days of drifting helplessly before they could manage so much as the most basic communications, it ordered one of the cargo drones that had been in the maintenance bay for a software upgrade to travel to the brig, open the doors, and drag one of the unconscious pirates to one of the secondary command terminals. And so it was that the Vishnu's security detail, following a massive computer failure and patrolling the ship searching for potential problems, found Captain Jacobus 'The Terrible' Tarra, himself having not ten seconds earlier woken up from his oxygen deprivation induced nap.
Outside his cell.
Next to a computer terminal.
And so it was that the erstwhile Captain Tarra received his second brutal pounding of the day.
And so it was that nobody on the Vishnu noticed, or was even capable of noticing, when a small explosion split open their ejected cargo container, letting the contents fall into dimensional space. Nor did they notice when, on the other side of the small rip in the maelstrom, the dead woman extended one hand and made a beckoning gesture, causing five small gems to float out of the ruptured pod.
The dark gate snapped shut behind them, leaving no clues as to what, exactly, had made the Vishnu go completely insane. The dead woman smiled at the green globes floating serenely above her outstretched palm. "Finally. After a year spent scrying old storage facilities to find some functioning units, then being beaten to the punch by a pack of common thugs, it's about time something went well around here. I never would have expected to find five working units. And they're still in such good condition after all those millennia! I wonder if that's because the sun went dark near the depot world? Cold does funny things."
"Uncertain, master. I could conduct a study, if you wish."
The dead woman giggled rather girlishly. "No, no, that's all right. As long as they work, it doesn't really matter why they work." She said, smiling at the gems, which seemed to glow more brightly in response. "They're quite lovely, aren't they?"
"I am afraid I am unable to make such aesthetic judgements, my master."
"No need to apologize. Truthfully, their real beauty lies in their utility, more than their appearance." She said, smiling more widely. "So small, and yet, within them lies the potential to turn back the clock nearly half a… million… … actually, no. Download all files from that vessel concerning the current universal time and calendar system to my memory, and begin using it yourself as well. Language, also."
"I do not understand, master. I see no reason for you to lower yourself to the level of the current…"
"Our world is dead, Yggdrasil. Our empire is dead. And both have been that way for some time. If we hope to bring them back from the great beyond, some things are going to have to change by necessity. Most importantly, we need to able to communicate and relate to the common populace of the modern day civilizations."
"Very well. Command confirmed. Rerouting… rerouting…" The dead woman closed her eyes as new information and concepts rushed into her mind, accepting the pain as nothing more than the price for such knowledge. Growth often hurt. After a short pause, the computer began to speak again, but in a completely different language. "Universal translation program active, new time systems integrated. The current year is Dimensional Calendar Year 66. This unit has been offline for approximately 199,941 standard years by the TSAB calendar."
"… really? My, they have rather long years if that few have passed."
"TSAB Calendar years are based on the routine appearance of a dimensional vortex located in coordinates…" Yggdrasil began helpfully.
"Yes, thank you, but I don't actually need to know that just this moment."
"Of course, master. Is there any information you do require?"
She thought for a moment. "Well, I do wonder as to the status of my guardians. How are their repairs going?"
"Restoration of Lightning and Ocean units has reached 90% completion. They will be operational and ready for field work within the next eight standard days. Restoration of Flame unit has reached 84% completion. It will be operational and ready for field work within the next ten standard days."
"They do have names, you know." The dead woman said dryly. "But I suppose I can't fault you for being impersonal, given that you are not, in fact, a person. Continue their repairs then, and send 'Ocean' and 'Lightning' to install the first driver as soon as they are complete. Oh, and shut down surveillance of my bedchambers. I'm still getting used to holding those rifts open for more than a few seconds, and this body hasn't a great deal of stamina. I need to rest."
"As you command, Master." Yggdrasil said.
Travelling to the lavish bed in the adjoining chambers, the dead woman laid down on it and let the five small gems float freely in the air above her. She smiled at them again as they cast their soft green glow over her face. "Eight days." She said softly. "In eight little days, we'll get it all back."