Aaaand here we go again! This'll eventually be a collection of thirty-one ficlets, one about each of the students in Class 3-A. Some will be long, others short; some will be dramatic, others funny (hopefully). We'll see how that goes, but for now, let's get to the first five.
1. Aisaka Sayo
The plane hums in flight, the soft susurrus of icy air streaming over the chassis providing a quiet background to the conversations taking place around the cabin. As it has before, the drinks cart comes down the aisle; row after row of dozing or typing travelers assure the stewardess that no, thank you, they're fine. Finally, near the back of the plane, she is flagged down by a red-haired young woman. Putting on her smile, she pushes the cart down.
"What can I get for you, miss?" she asks politely. The young lady closes her notebook, a small flip-top pad like you see journalists using on television, and gives her a radiant smile.
"Green tea for me, please," she says, then turns to the empty seat next to her. "Want anything?" The stewardess feels her smile grow brittle as she notices the tiny doll lying on the seat cushion. She'd thought the girl too old for toys. As quickly as she can, she pours the tea and hands it over.
As the cart fades away down the aisle, the doll struggles upward until the seat belt is once again tucked securely under her arms. "I don't think I'm going to get my drink," she murmurs.
"Don't worry, Sayo-chan," Asakura says, smiling. "You can have some of mine."
6. Okōchi Akira
There was serenity in the water, Akira reflected, trailing a hand across the surface. Even here in the baths of Haruna's airship, with the steam dancing in the air and the heated water jets stirring the depths, the surface was placid, and clear. She pushed off, scything through the water with ease, feeling the displaced liquid surge behind her to fill in her wake.
She knew she had a reputation as being quiet, or even shy. It was true that she wasn't as outgoing as the rest of the class, that she wasn't as charismatic as Iinchō or as talented as Ako. But she wasn't shy so much as… baffled.
Ako. Akira sighed, her breath skimming the water. She watched the ripples chase each other across the bath. In the water, you could feel the flow of events. You could see the consequences of your actions. People were much more complicated, and much more unknowable. However much Ako pretended to be fine, however she had smiled and laughed at the ball, Akira remembered the broken girl she had held in her arms, remembered the heat of her tears. She remembered how little she had been able to do for her.
Akira pulled herself from the water. Yes, people were a mystery, one she'd preferred not to explore; but perhaps it was time to dive into those murky depths, and to get a better hold on the complexities hiding below the surface. She wrapped herself in one of the bathhouse's soft linen towels, drying the droplets of water that clung, pearl-like, to her skin.
Behind her, the water's surface stilled.
24. Hakase Satomi
"Hoo," Satomi sighed, leaning back in her worn old desk chair. The dull light from her computer screen, the only illumination in the room, glinted off her glasses, but behind the lenses her eyes sparkled with satisfaction. "You've outdone yourself this time, Professor." She cracked the kinks out of her neck with a long, circular stretch, then scrolled back up to read the header aloud.
" 'Artificial Infatuation: A study of simulations of affection in artificial intelligence/personality constructs and the mechanical and computational effects thereof.'" She chuckled softly to herself. All the data and relevant information from the Chachamaru Rampage event, as Engineering had begun referring to it, had been compiled and attached to the letter. All that remained was to send the whole package to MIT's computing and robotics labs. She could almost taste the joint Nobel.
It would be incorrect to say that it was without a little ceremony that she moved the mouse to hover over 'send'. To be one of the first scientists ever to successfully create true artificial intelligence, much less an AI that could love – she grinned eagerly at the mere thought of it.
A sharp twinge in her cheek gave her pause and, annoyed, she laid her hand on the affected area. Chachamaru had really whacked her one, hadn't she? It still hurt sometimes, even a month later. Slowly, her grin faded, to be replaced with… something else. Something mysterious.
What, scientifically speaking, was this feeling? Elevated heart rate, dilated blood vessels in the face and neck resulting in increased subjective temperature in the aforementioned areas, discomfort beneath the breastbone? In layman's terms, a flushed face and a pain in her chest. That sounded like embarrassment, or… guilt?
Ridiculous. The advancement of science was paramount, the cause she'd sold her soul to. Ego aside, the world could only benefit from increased knowledge of artificial intelligence and supercomplex computers. Surely, once she'd explained that to Chachamaru, these feelings would cease. They were unprofessional. There was no room in the laboratory for sentimentality, or superstition, or…
"G'morning, Hakase-san," Minami Tohru yawned, covering his mouth half-heartedly. "How'd that project you were working on turn out last night?"
"The report?" Satomi asked, chewing on a fresh Chao Bao Zi nikuman. "I deleted it."
That was enough to wake Minami up fully, and he stared at Satomi in shock. "Y-you deleted it? Why on earth did you do that?"
Satomi smiled, reaching up to adjust her glasses – or was it to brush her cheek?
"I promised a friend," she replied simply.
15. Setsuna Sakurazaki
"Bwah. Konoka, you got up at five AM to buy apples?" Asuna asked incredulously, rubbing sleep from her eyes as Konoka hefted a basket onto the small writing desk in the corner.
"You have to get up early to get the best ones," Konoka said, pouting. "And I wanted to see Secchan."
Setsuna, sitting nearby, offered a plastic bag to Konoka, who took it excitedly. "We stopped by the convenience store as well," the swordswoman explained, somewhat resignedly. "Ojō-sama insisted. Apparently –" she paused as Konoka let out a delighted "Aha!" – "Apparently apples go well with cake frosting."
"It does, Se-chan!" Konoka replied, placing little ¥100 cans of vanilla and chocolate cupcake frosting on the table next to the basket. "You scoop up the frosting with slices of apple."
"Apples are supposed to be good for you…" Asuna muttered. "It's a good thing Negi's off with Kū Fei-chan. He'd be all over these."
"I could go get him for you, ane-san," Chamo offered, poking his head out of Asuna's underwear drawer. She threw a textbook at him.
"Aw, this one's squishy," Konoka moaned, holding a dark red apple up to her eye. "Secchan, did you remember to check them?"
Setsuna shook her head sheepishly. "Sorry, ojō-sama. I didn't want to squeeze your apples."
"Yes you did. Admit it," Chamo put in slyly.
Setsuna flushed bright red and made for the dresser. "I'll squeeze you," she muttered, reaching for the ermine.
28. Murakami Natsumi
"You're kidding me, right, Natsumi-nēchan?" Kotarō muttered, his voice made tinny through the thin wooden door.
"No, Kotarō-kun. Please hurry up. We're on stage soon," Natsumi replied, trying not to fidget. The time right before the curtain lifted was always the worst; even after so many years with the Theatre Club, she still got jittery with nothing to do but wait.
"Weren't you guys practicin' with some goofy elementary kid?" Kotarō grumbled, and Natsumi could hear him sliding the costumes around on their racks.
"Hikaru-kun got sick," she called. "It's costume 234. Just look for the –"
"I know what it looks like," he interrupted her. "I'm just havin' trouble findin' – ah."
"Quick," she urged him. Hikaru-kun's role wasn't really an important one, but it did have one line, and cutting it out would throw off the comedic timing of the scene.
"Yeah, yeah," he shot back, over the sounds of cloth sliding across skin. For some reason, Natsumi felt her face heat up.
"So, um, Kotarō-kun, thanks for agreeing to help us out," she said. Perhaps if she distracted herself, the embarrassing flush would go away.
"Eh, I wasn't doin' anything else anyway," he replied. "An' I already went to see Chizu-ne an' Iinchō-nesan, so…"
"Eh?" Natsumi couldn't help letting a little bit of annoyance show. Last?
"Yeah," he continued. "I went around earlier with Ne –" He broke off, and there was a rather loud clatter; it sounded as though he'd thrown the hanger to the floor.
"Kotarō-kun?" Natsumi called, concerned.
"I ain't wearin' this," he growled. "Not with Negi watchin'."
"Wh-what? Kotarō-kun, you have to! We don't have anyone else who can do it," she cried. "What's wrong with Negi-sensei being in the audience, anyway?"
"He's my rival," he answered, voice sounding like he was pulling something over his head. Like, say, a costume shirt. "I'm not gonna wear some stupid costume in front of my rival."
"Kotarō-kun, please," she pleaded. "Do it for me."
The sounds of cloth and Kotarō's half-inaudible grumblings stopped abruptly. Natsumi found herself leaning closer to the door, trying to hear something.
Suddenly, the door opened inward, and Natsumi pinwheeled backward to keep from falling over. Kotarō stood in the door, fully costumed.
"You play dirty, Natsumi-nechan," he mumbled. Was that a faint hint of pink in his cheeks? It must just have been the poor lighting backstage.
Natsumi smiled, then bent to give the boy demon a hug. "Hey! What the heck, Natsumi-nechan?" he sputtered, struggling to escape.
"Thank you, Kotarō-kun," she said, smiling.
This time he definitely did flush, and looked away. "Let's just get this over with," he said, starting toward the wings. Natsumi watched him for a moment, still smiling, then ran to catch up.
So there you have it, five of thirty-one. Am I crazy? Perhaps. That depends on whether I actually finish this project, y'know?
Remember, reviews are love! There are still three spots open in Chapter 2, so let me know who you'd like to see and I'll see what I can do.