The Old War
(revision 1.0, proofread once, notes appended, successfully uploaded)
Chapter One: Fate-o-Vision
MISSION 345-112B-09, DATE XX-XX-XXXX
KEYWORDS: TREASON ENF. HARLAOWN, FATE T. LOGIA 213905-W-139 LOGIA RECOVERY TEAM 7 5th SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNIT TOP SECRET … (EXCESS KEYS OMITTED)
"GODS!" Erst Jeryich nearly jumped out of his skin. He spun, and stopped himself from reaching for his sidearm. "Enforcer," he puffed, "glad to see you made it ok. This is a mess."
Fate T. Harlaown nodded. Jeryich quickly pulled together his compsure and went on. "As I'm sure you read, the 5th SOU just got dropped here a bit before you. As I'm also sure you know, we don't get dropped for fun friendly family camping trips. The word of the day is Treason. One of the Logia research and extraction teams found something, and decided they didn't want to send it home according to procedure. I am the man given the extraordinarily unpleasant duty of killing them all, while trying not to trigger the collapse of the multiverse due to whatever cosmic horror they've unleashed."
Fate nodded again. "You, ma'am, apparently get to fight the cosmic horror. Fortunately for both of us, I am hereby ordered to turn over command of this operation to you. As I've heard, you have a knack for avoiding fatalities in situations like this. The 5th SOU is yours, ma'am."
"Have you already established a perimeter?" she asked as they walked out of the command tent.
"Yes'm. No one has gone in or out, a barrier is being maintained and outside the building the only contacts are some very frustrated birds. Inside, it's a bit more hot. We've been getting incredible readings from whatever they've set up in the basement, and whatever is being channeled or cast is apparently reaching an apex. We've picked up a few of them barricading the doors and windows on the first floor. "
"That's the messy part, ma'am;" Jeryich gulped, "they are totally unarmed. A bunch of geeks in lab coats. No devices, no mage combat-ranked above E, no weapons of any kind. They have effectively signed their death warrants in their birthday suits. This goes extraordinarily well, we put them down quickly and ship them home for interrogation. But in my experience . . ." he trailed off.
"Men who oppose the TSAB over Lost Logia are never unarmed," she finished. "I understand, Commander. We'll do this by the book. Roof, windows, and blow open the front door. Shoot on sight; I don't even want to give them an opportunity to convince us to use more force. Once floors 1-5 are secure, we'll deploy a secondary barrier supported by an internal device in the center of floor 1, and then we'll storm the basement. At that time, I'll take point."
"Are you familiar with the Limiter system, Commander?"
"Something about keeping the best mages from blowing the world up?"
Fate faintly smirked. " . . . Indeed. For the full duration of this mission, I have been granted full release, no restrictions."
"Is that unusual?"
"I've never had it open for longer than two hours straight since the day it was first applied."
Jeyrich stopped, paled slightly, and considered. His next words came out in the cold tone of a man about to send soldiers to their deaths.
"Permission to speak freely, ma'am."
"What the hell did they find?"
Fate turned to him. She held his gaze for a moment, and he noticed a crack in her impassive façade. In a flash, she donned her Barrier Jacket.
"They didn't tell me." Bardiche manifested in her hand, and she began walking to the research facility. "They never tell me."
Phase one went as planned, but for one small hitch. They captured two researchers on the first floor, and after disabling them, were unable to revive them. A quick scan showed that their linker cores were exhausted, as if they had been casting until they were about to fall over. They'd be fine, but were in no condition to talk.
Jeyrich spat. "So much for a gathering any intel. Shall we lower our output to compensate?"
"Affirmative. However, don't hesitate to switch back at the slightest sign of resistance. I only want to talk to the first one we meet, then the leader. Everyone else can sleep for a few days.
A radio chirped.
"Sir, camp reports that the reading will be reaching their predicted apex in 300 seconds or less," reported a soldier.
"Thank you, corporal. Enforcer?"
"New plan: I'll head directly for the power reading. Spread out and clear behind me."
Fate dashed down the stairwell into the lower levels. She hit level B5, bumped the door open, and saw two more researchers sitting in the hallway. One looked up at her, turned, and inhaled to yell a warning. He got zapped. The second one opened his mouth, but stopped short when he saw Fate's electricity.
"Ahaha, of all the ways for this to end, they had to send a lightning mage. Ha ha ha, HAHAHA~!" He started laughing madly. Fate hesitated a moment, then zapped him too. Charging ahead, she came to the central room. Inside, she saw-
A giant ritual-class spell sigil on the floor. A yellow Belkan triangle, with a man at each corner. In the center floated a black sphere about the size of a bowling ball. It was covered in pulsating blue labyrinthine lines. Energy arced from the sigil to the ball and back again. The three men channeling paid her no heed, but the two manning consoles to either side spun around and made sounds of dismay. They began to charge her, and she brought up Bardiche. The left console showed a countdown.
Fate blinked, and cast two rapid spells.
"PHOTON LANCER. DEFENSER," Bardiche intoned.
A barrier surrounded Fate and her would-be assailants. Bolts of power blasted the two consoles, and the explosions shook the room.
Fate came to, coughed, and sat up. She shook her head, and couldn't stop the ringing sound. Then she remembered what she was doing. That shouldn't have been so powerful. How much energy were they routing? The smoke cleared slightly.
In the center of the room, the three casters were down and bleeding. They were all groaning in various degrees of pain, so none had died. Yet. The two consoles were destroyed, with intense electrical fires flaring brightly in both. The Logia . . .
The Logia flared with a blue light, then fell to the ground. It bounced, twice, and rolled away. Where it had been floating was . . . a man. A naked man, in the fetal position. Before Fate could make out any details, the man dropped to the ground and landed in a crouch. He stood, looking around in apparent confusion, then noticed the injured men around him. He muttered something inaudible and a suit of armor manifested around him. Or was it a barrier jacket? It definitely had something like a helmet covering his face now. There was too much smoke to see. Fate jumped as a hand grabbed her leg.
"You stopped us. You let it out. You've killed us all!" gasped the researcher.
The figure in black turned to them and stared. Fate got to her feet slowly. The figure asked something, but Fate was still having trouble hearing. Or was she? She had just heard the researcher fine . . . it was as if he was speaking another language.
Of course he was! But why wasn't it auto translating? Fate sent a telepathic query.
Can you understand this? She almost doubled over from the intensity of the response.
MIND/SPEECH ? - WHERE/I - FACTION/YOU
I am Enforcer Fate T. Harlaown of the Time-Space Administration Bureau. We are on Non-Administrated World 32, Mo-
"It came from in here! Move in!" Jeyrich's voice echoed from radios in the hall. Simultaneously, Bardiche pulsed twice.
"SIR. OXYGEN LEVELS DROPPING."
At this the Logia-man snapped his full attention to Bardiche. He looked back at Fate, and let out a animalistic growl.
He charged forward, and in a flash of indigo light, the playback ends.
The briefing room was silent.
Nanoha, Hayate, and the Wolkenritter sat for a few seconds after Bardiche's playback ended. The first to speak was Vita.
"Oy, did he say what I think he did?"
"Never mind that, I don't believe Testarossa went down that easy," Signum added.
Shamal glanced at each of them, and shut her eyes. "The playback ended because Bardiche was disabled. We don't know how much longer the fight went on after that. At least she's going to be fine- just not for a week or two. Honestly, considering how quickly she was defeated, he could have done far worse."
Vita leaned back in her chair. "Still, why did they release her limiter just for that guy? Usually people have to die before the brass gets that serious. Or worlds ending, or –"
Zafira chuckled. "Or someone failing to warn Vita that Hayate is on an away mission more than a day in advance."
"HEY, take that back you fleaaAUGH!" Vita fell backwards and landed unceremoniously on her neck. "Wait, where's Nanoha? Hayate, did you see her leave?"
"Huh, what?" Hayate snapped out of her thoughts, "Oh, Nanoha . . . no. I was too busy thinking about how serious this could be. As happy as I am to be working with everyone again, I'm way too aware how much we're disliked up top to be entirely carefree. It took Carim's prophecy to start Riot Force 6, and this time we're all tossed together as soon as a particular Logia's registration number comes up? I don't like it. And the fact that Fate is safe . . . don't get me wrong, but it bugs me. We aren't being given all the information. Even Fate picked up on that. But that's just it. They don't trust us S+ and higher mage prodigies. They don't even seem want us all on the same planet for more than a few hours at a time these days." She quickly glanced sideways and gritted her teeth, "and they have installed the loveliest glass ceilings at headquarters since the last time an Earth-born mage started climbing the ranks there." She resumed her normal expression.
She turned to the door Nanoha had vanished through. "Shamal, tell me again why we're not allowed to visit Fate?"
The healer beagn to sweat slightly, "Ah, well, it's sort of complicated, Mistress."
"Cut the Mistress crap." Hayate shot. "It makes me feel old."
Signum shrugged, "I don't think anyone's in the mood for company if they lose a fight that badly. I don't know how serious it got after Bardiche cut out, but being spared after such a defeat could be construed as a fatal insult-" she noticed everyone looking at her, coughed, and continued, "but Testarossa isn't as old fashioned as I am. Shamal, you were saying?"
"Ah, her honor is probably intact. Her pride is debatable, but we've lived long enough to sort of gloss over individual defeats. Her condition is sort of unique in my experience, and it pains me to say that any outcome that would have allowed it to happen would have just as easily allowed a coup de grace. "
Vita sniffed and dusted herself off. "This is Fate. She faced US down once without blinking. It's not like she fell over and wet herself. What's the big deal?"
Shamal flinched, and sighed. "I guess it needs to be said. OK, Vita imagine this. You know the linker core is in the body, right?"
"Right." Vita closed her eyes.
"Imagine the linker core as a quiet and clear lake in the middle of a beautiful forest."
"Now imagine Blaster-mode Nanoha floating in the sky and firing a Zenryoku Zenkai Starlight Breaker straight down into this lake."
Vita made an uncomfortable noise. "It can't be that . . . wait. That would just make a big splash. A huge splash even. But in the end just a big mess."
"Precisely. Her mana has been scrambled all through her body. In battle, it's a completely pointless move; if you can to that to someone you could instead more easily capture or kill them outright. The symptoms are not unlike classic amnesia, but with a catch."
Signum frowned. "Amnesia seems like a pretty big catch."
"Well, classic amnesia strips you of your identity, your memories, your personal knowledge, and any skills you haven't committed to reflex or instinct. It leaves your language facilities, motor skills, and general social skills intact. This surge did the opposite."
Signum paled. "Oh no."
Zafira's ears folded back, and Hayate kneeled down next to him and hugged him. "Well, she remembers us, right? I don't see wha-" she tilted her head, and continued, "Oh dear. Okay, I understand now."
Vita glanced around in confusion. "Hey, what am I missing? Okay, so she can remember us and everything, and so the opposite is she can't . . . talk? Or walk? Or . . ." She trailed off and her face went as red as her armor. "Oh no. I'm an idiot." She shot lethal glances to everyone in the room. "None of you quotes me. It never happened. Anyone that has a problem with that will talk to Eisen."
Signum nodded. "As far as I'm concerned she's unconscious for the next couple weeks. In accordance with her wishes, I'll see her then. In the meantime, we have a mission to prepare for." She left the room.
"So, Shamal, in about two weeks she's all better? The lake fills back up?" Hayate asked.
"Yes. It might be sooner, if she chooses to simply drain her linker core almost to empty."
"But she can't remember her magic right now, and Bardiche is damaged. And even if she did that she'd still be weakened and unfit for combat."
"Exactly. But to her that might be preferable to even a single day more of this. Still, we are probably going to have to wait. Nanoha will be . . . oh no. This isn't good." Shamal blinked.
"Nanoha . . . oh, we're idiots. I know exactly where she went, don't I?" Hayate let out a sigh. "Heaven help anyone who tries to stop her . . ." She stood up. "It's been a while since I've been deployed to the field. I'm going to make sure the rest of my department is in order before I head to the ship. We'll discuss this further on the way there." She stood and left.
So the first time I try to get something up on it's flinging errors, and I had no idea it was their end and not mine. Finally I get this up. Phew.
Anyways, this chapter I was going for scene setting, and less for metafictional accuracy; for example I don't know what appropriate rank the normal CO of a deployed special ops-ish unit would be, and 'Commander' sounded OK. This story for me is going to be an exercise in established character reactions; I'm not going to try for heart rending drama, but more "OK, if THIS happens, can I imagine how everyone might react, and if something begins to stray from established canon, can I persuasively justify it? More importantly, can I aim for those and stay interesting?"
I spent more time trying to get this online than I did writing it. I can see why stuff gets updated infrequently. o_O Errors, contracts to sign, captchas to pass, uggh. I also have to get used to the auto-reformatting. Well, we'll see how it goes. Enjoy the ride.