MGLN: Future Tense
Chapter 1: Future Shock
Her first few sensations were landing on the cold, hard metal ground on all fours, wet and naked, coughing water out from her lungs. Her next was a shiver as a brief wind chilled her damp and dripping skin.
"It's okay, it's just oxygenated liquid," a female voice soothed, as she felt a towel on her back, wiping her down. "Take a few moments to get it all out of your system."
"I don't think we have a few minutes," a harsher female voice intoned.
Nanoha rubbed her eyes, then looked up as she blinked them open, surprised at who she saw. "U-" but her voice was raspy, and she descended into another coughing fit.
"You'll be able to speak in a bit," Uno told her, helping her up by draping Nanoha's arm across her shoulders.
"Get her dressed," a somewhat electronic voice commanded. "Tre is right, we don't have long. I've put up traps and firewalls, but that won't hold them for long; they know."
Nanoha glanced around as Tre finished toweling her off and Uno began laying clothes out for her; other than Sette, she didn't see anyone else, so who was the other voice? And what was she doing here? Numb and confused, she quickly got into the bra and panties that were presented to her, but she froze at the faded blue jumpsuit she was handed next.
It was exactly like one the cyborgs had initially worn when they attacked Clanagan during the JS incident; Ginga had worn a similar one when she was kidnapped and brainwashed.
Her hands shook as she stared at it, horrible thoughts going through her mind, then her head came up and she managed to croak out, "What did you do to me?"
"Just put it on!" Tre demanded impatiently. "Although I don't see why we need to go through with this."
Uno laid a gentle hand on Nanoha's shoulder. "Please, just put it on. We don't have much time, but we will explain."
Nanoha was surprised with the urgent yet gentle sincerity in the #1 cyborg's voice, and decided to play along for now; she slipped into the jump suit and Uno zipped it up in the back for her, then began drying and fixing her hair, which she tied into a single pony tail draping down the middle of her back.
That's when Nanoha got her first view of the tri-wheeled robot with something like a brain in a glass dome case on top as it wheeled over to her, a familiar face appearing on a monitor.
"They are breaking through faster than expected," Jail's face told them in that electronic voice, then turned to Nanoha. "I'm sorry, but apparently we won't have time to catch up; you'll need to get out of here."
"I'm not going anywhere until I know what's going on," she demanded in a firm voice, getting her wits about her again. "From the sounds of things, it appears my friends are the way to rescue me."
To her surprise, Jail seemed to have lost his fire, and he actually looked a bit melancholic instead of laughing at her like he would have normally done. "Yes and no. I know you have no reason to trust me, but you must; your friends, and the future of your world, depend on it. Go with Uno, she will explain everything. After that, you are free to do as you wish. I regret I can't go with you."
"Doctor, you can't stay here!" Tre argued. "You know what they'll do to you!"
"I know," he told her sadly. "But I'll never be able to keep up like this. You, Uno, and Sette must get her out of here."
Nanoha stared as the small wheeled robot with Jail's face wheeled over to a wall, and deployed a flexible silver tentacle that hit a few buttons, causing a section of the wall to slide open. [If this is a trick,] Nanoha realized slowly. [It's a very good one. They seem very sincere... and deathly afraid.]
"Come on," Tre told her, grabbing Nanoha's hand and pulling her toward the hole in the wall.
"Wait, where is my device, Raging Heart?" Nanoha demanded.
"We don't have it," Jail answered from his brain-toting robot. "And we have no more time. You must go!"
Reluctantly, Nanoha allowed herself to be pulled by Tre into the tunnel, but after a few steps, Tre stopped and turned around, asking, "Wait, Sette?"
Nanoha glanced back to see the #7 cyborg standing at the tunnel entrance. "Someone needs to seal the passageway, and buy you time to escape. Good luck, my sisters."
"No, Sette!" Tre roared, leaping towards the doorway as it slammed shut.
Uno laid a hand on Tre's arm. "It was her wish. We have no choice; we must do as the doctor asked us to. They wanted us to live. All hope lies with Nanoha now."
"Feh," Tre spat, pounding the door once, then turning around to roughly slide an arm around Nanoha's waist, and the other around Uno's, taking off in flight. "My sister just gave her life for you. Appreciate it."
Nanoha was shocked at the finality in Tre's voice, glancing over to see the Uno's hard face hiding a hint of genuine sadness; something else was going on here, but what?
"Alright, I'll go with you for now, if you'll tell me what's going on," Nanoha conceded at last. "Who was after us?"
Tre's jaw was firm, seemingly in no mood to talk, but apparently Uno was. "Enforcers of someone you used to know: Hayate Yagami."
Nanoha's eyes narrowed. "So they were friends of mine, coming for me!"
Uno shook her head. "Not as you knew them. Things have changed greatly since you've been gone."
Nanoha's brow furrowed. "Gone? What do you mean? How long have I been gone?
Even though Nanoha figured there wasn't much else that could shock her, Uno's deadly serious look and next words did anyway. "The year is 0129; over 50 years have gone by since you last knew the world."
"Hello, doctor!" oozed a sultry and pleased female voice looking around, then frowning. "So, where is she? And where are my sisters?"
"Where is who, my dear Quattro?" Jail asked innocently, eyeing the soldiers pointing their war staves at him.
The #4 cyborg leaned down to look the computer screen in the eye, tracing a finger delicately over his glass brain case. "You know who. I assume you sent my sisters off with her, although I can't imagine why, or what you're up to. You never trusted me with that information, which means you must have known I was spying for Hayate. So why did you do it?"
Jail chuckled. "I just wanted to get the gang all back together; was that so wrong?"
Quattro jammed her hand into a wall and pulled out a conduit crackling with energy, jamming it against the brain dome. Jail's electronic voice scream in pain as Quattro's lips tugged upwards into a smile, but she pulled it away after only a few seconds.
"Don't toy with me doctor, you know how much it pains me to hurt my own father," she cooed. "Why did you do it? You'll tell me... or you'll tell Hayate. It's your choice, but I'd tell me if I were you."
The screen flickered a bit, but Jail's face on it was clearly in pain. "My dear Quattro, when you were born, I could never have imagined how far you would go in life. I wouldn't dream of depriving you of an interesting mystery to ponder over."
Quattro smiled lazily as she jammed the conduit against him for another few moments, delighting in the electronic screams. "You're right, I do so love a mystery. But it pains me to know Hayate will get it out of you. Enforcers, take the dear doctor here to get prepped; our dear leader will want a word with him."
"Yes, ma'am," they replied instantly, beginning to wheel him out. One hung back and gestured to the floor. "What about the other one?"
Quattro glanced down at the body on the floor that used to be her sister, Sette, and casually kicked it. "Take it to my lab; it's merely an empty shell now, but I may be able to squeeze some juicy secrets out of her mind. Such a shame, though, that she had to pick the wrong side. But, in the end, I guess that's what made her such a perfect soldier; she was loyal to Jail until the end."
The flight continued in silence, passing from the worn-down technologic setting of the tunnel into a disused stone aqueduct, as Nanoha tried to wrap her mind around what Uno had told her. [50 years? That can't be possible, can it?]
She studied the two cyborgs, now seeing small details she hadn't noticed before. Tre had a few age lines on her face and Uno's hair sported small gray spots here and there, but Nanoha was confused; the cyborgs shouldn't age normally, and Mid-Childan medical technology meant that they should look normal, even 50 years later.
"Tell me, Nanoha, what is your last memory, before waking up here?" Uno probed.
"My last memory?" she questioned, thinking, but it was all a jumbled mess.
She shook her head. "Just a bunch of images. I do remember you and the JS incident, though. And I think a year or two after that, and then it gets fuzzy."
"I see," Uno replied thoughtfully, glancing at Tre, who looked grimly back at her.
"I can guess why you two would be running away from Hayate, but why take me?" Nanoha questioned. "Why is it so urgent to get me away from her?"
"Things have changed since you've been gone, and Hayate isn't the woman you once knew," Uno replied, to which Tre barked a short laugh. "She is now in charge of the TSAB, having implemented new draconian laws over the years as a way of ensuring safety and maintaining order. There is precious little of the freedom left that you so value."
"Hayate wouldn't do that," Nanoha countered. "She's not like that, and none of our friends would let it come to that!"
"Sorry to interrupt, but we're here," Tre announced, landing and setting the two women down.
There was a thick iron grating across the exit to the aqueduct, but not much light shone from outside; Nanoha guessed it might be evening. She turned to see what the cyborgs were doing, observing Uno kneeling down and taking several bricks out of the wall, removing a small box from the hidden compartment. Curious, she watched as the cyborg removed several long pieces of drab brown cloth, tossing one at Nanoha, who discovered it was a large, raggedy cloak.
"Put this on, and cover your head with the hood," Uno instructed. "And then we'll have to be quiet for now. The explanation will resume once we are outside the city."
Nanoha debated flying off once they were out and trying to rejoin Hayate's force to see what was really going on, but something about the whole situation, and the way the cyborgs and that Jail robot had been acting, gave her pause. It could have all been a trick, but what would be the point? She didn't feel brainwashed, and if Jail had wanted her to do something, he could have done like he did with Ginga. Also, they had promised she would be free to do what she wanted once they got her outside of the city, so Nanoha supposed she could wait.
Tre bent the bars of the grate open enough for them to slip out, then bent them back to return it to normal. Outside was a dirty, run-down city with small, dull-gray buildings separated by muddy ground that informed her it had rained recently; overall, she got her the impression she was in some sort of ghetto. She wondered what time it was, but with the sky heavily cloudy and overcast, she couldn't even see a sun or moons; she could only deduce it felt like day still. She quickly put up her hood, and followed the other two as they led on.
"Where are we?" Nanoha whispered, leaning close to Uno.
The cyborg hesitated a moment before answering. "Clanagan."
Nanoha was stunned, searching the horizon for taller buildings; in the distant haze, she thought she could make out the central spire, but none of the surrounding spires, and they were well behind a fairly high wall that seemed to lock out the ghetto portion of the town. She wanted to ask how things had degraded so much, but remembered what they said about being quiet, and decide to respect that for now.
But when they left the alley and turned onto a more main street, and she beheld the squalor and abject poverty of the people in the streets, she couldn't hold it in anymore and finally asked why things were like this.
"This is the outskirts," Uno answered quietly. "The main city itself behind the wall isn't too bad, fairly prosperous, and people travel long distances to get some of that prosperity. But there isn't enough resources for everyone."
"There always was before," Nanoha replied, unable to take her eyes off the people sitting or laying at the side of the road or on the short steps of the various run-down houses and buildings. Most barely lifted their eyes to gaze back at her, and if they did, they quickly lost interest.
"Hayate has redirected most of it to the army and navy, for the use in liberating other worlds," Uno explained.
"More like 'conquering'," Tre spat.
Before Nanoha could inquire further, an elderly female voice called to her from her right. "Would you like to buy some of my fruit? It is very fresh still. Please buy some of my fruit!"
As Nanoha turned, she was shocked by the poor quality; most of it was half-rotted, and the old woman in the poorly-built stall appeared to be in her nineties. Still, Nanoha felt compelled to do something, yet realized she had no money, and so turned to her temporary companions.
"We have some," Uno whispered back. "But we must save it in case we need it later."
Nanoha fixed them with a look, planting her hands on her waist. Uno sighed and gave in, handing over a couple of strange bronze coins that Nanoha had never seen before. But the old woman eagerly took them and thanked her, handing over a couple of fruits that looked like miniature apples.
"Thank you," Nanoha told Uno, as the trio began to move off. "I wish we could help all of them."
"If we succeed in our mission, you may be able to," Uno told her.
Curious, Nanoha began to ask, "What is-"
"Stop right there!" declared a male in a commanding voice, causing all three to turn suddenly.
Tre bent her knees slightly, and Nanoha could feel her tensing for battle, but she relaxed when they realized the shout wasn't addressed to them. A young boy in a ragged cloak was running towards them, carrying something, while three lightly armored, but helmeted enforcers chased him. He seemed to be gaining distance, but then tripped and fell in the mud, sliding a couple of meters which allowed the enforcers to catch up.
"You're under arrest," one of them declared, picking the young boy up by the neck of his cloak.
"I'm not afraid of you!" the boy shot back defiantly, but Nanoha could also sense fear in the the voice.
Disturbed, she walked over and asked the enforcers, "What has he done?"
The one who appeared to be the leader of the three didn't turn around, but replied, "He's a thief. He's been stealing from the merchant district for some time now." He reached down and grabbed the wrapped object the boy was carrying, uncovering it to reveal a loaf of bread.
"How else are we supposed to eat!" the boy asked angrily.
"You have your daily ration and that should be enough for you," the captain replied tersely. "If you want more, you have only to enlist in the army or navy."
"But I don't want to kill people!" the boy whined.
Before Nanoha could respond, she found her shoudler roughly grabbed and spun and as she was pulled back, coming face to face with an angry Tre.
"What are you doing?" the #3 cyborg hissed in a quiet voice. "We can't risk drawing attention to ourselves!"
"I've always tried to do the right thing before," Nanoha replied evenly, gathering her magic. "And I'm not about to stop now." She wrenched herself out of Tre's grasp as she turned back around, raising her finger. "Lyrical Magical! Holy light, come to my hand. Under my guidance, reverberate through the sky! Divine Shooter, shoot!"
Three pink orbs appeared at her fingertip which she fired, smacking each one of the enforcers who dropped the child and the food; the former promptly grabbed the latter and took off, not even a word of thanks, but that didn't matter to Nanoha.
Tre smacked her forehead, and began removing her cloak. "Of all the stupid, idiotic... Uno!"
Before Nanoha could realize what they were doing, Uno had grabbed Nanoha's arm firmly and used her superior cyborg strength to pull Nanoha into an alley. More enforcers arrived on the scene mere seconds after they reached cover, and Tre was beginning to fight them.
"What are you doing?" Nanoha demanded angrily. "We have to help Tre!"
"She's allowing us to get away, by giving us a distraction," Uno replied. "The sensors registered a fight, and more enforcers will be on us soon. If they don't find someone, they'll keep searching and lock down the area. We need to take another route out of the city. I apologize for this."
Nanoha felt a hand roughly chop her across the back of the neck, which promptly made her lose control of her entire body, but Uno supported her easily. "Why? We have to go back and help her! She's your sister!"
"Yes, she is," Uno replied, pushing Nanoha into some hole in the wall.
Helpless to control herself at all, Nanoha quickly descended into some sort of horrible-smelling slide, the darkness swallowing her up.
"Is that all you got?" Tre spat, tossing another enforcer to the ground. "If this is the best you can do, I may as well take over around here!"
More and more enforcers were filling into the streets, attacking her point blank with their lances. Despite her speed at evading them, enough numbers meant that some would get lucky, and she had already taken a few jabs that sent pain flaring throughout her body.
"Enforcers, fall back," a female voice commanded. "I'll handle this."
Tre wiped blood from her lip and smiled. "Well, well, we meet again. Somehow I always figured it would be you."
"Tre, surrender at once, and you'll get a fair trial," the helmeted-woman ordered.
"Ha!" Tre barked. "I think we both know how fair those trials are. Why don't you remove that fancy headgear and do what you came to do?"
The enforcer commander sighed and prepared her weapon. "Very well. Quattro can probably still download the contents of your mind after you are dead."
Tre slowly grinned at the crackling golden blade of her opponent. "That's better. Let's hope you can avoid destroying my head, or your masters will be displeased!"
Adrenaline pumping, she promptly leapt at the other woman, feeling glad to be back in her element, at least for a short while.
The winding slide went back and forth a few times, but somewhere along the route Uno managed to catch up and hold onto her, as both came back out into the light at the ride's end, And fell several meters into a pile of garbage; Nanoha realized she would have landed badly, if Uno hadn't cushioned her fall.
"We have to get out of here," Uno told her, hoisting the woman across her shoulders as an explosion sounded in the city. "Your mobility will return soon; that technique is only temporary.
"What about Tre?" Nanoha demanded again.
Uno's voice and stride didn't change in the slightest, as she replied, "Tre is dead."
"How do you know?" Nanoha pushed again. "It was my fault that happened, you should have let me-"
"I know," Uno said again. "I am connected with my sisters via a subspace link. Tre and Sette are no more."
"And you don't care?" Nanoha asked, incredulous, feeling some measure of feeling coming back to her limbs.
"Of course I care," Uno replied evenly and emotionlessly. "But it is pointless to do anything about it now. They gave their lives to help accomplish this mission. The only logical thing is to go forward."
Still a bit numb and realizing further discussion of the topic was pointless, Nanoha managed to crane her neck back, seeing smoke rising into the sky as well as the hole in the stone wall they had come flying out of. She was even more surprised when a hologram of Hayate appeared in the sky, further stunning Nanoha that Hayate did indeed appear a bit older; but it was hard to tell how exactly how much.
"Citizens of Mid-Childa, our time is growing closer," the hologram announced, spreading her arms. "True paradise is close, and all your hard work will be rewarded soon. We are nearing our goal of liberating all the known planets in our galaxy. All our dreams will be fulfilled, and everyone will gain the happiness and security we so deserve. Your time of sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, and you will all be rewarded. Together, we will build a brighter future for tomorrow!"
It sounded like Hayate, and yet it didn't quite seem like the woman she used to know; Nanoha was having a hard time reconciling what she had seen so far, with what she knew.
"What happened?" Nanoha asked at last as Uno set the other woman down once she could walk on her own. "What could possibly have happened that managed to change things this drastically? What happened to me?"
Uno sighed, turned to Nanoha, and said simply, "You died."
This is a story that's been in my mind for awhile now, and I didn't think I'd get around to writing it for awhile, but I thought I might concentrate on something else for a bit, to give people a chance to catch up on my Crisis universe before I go into the next two stories.
And even though I've kinda spilled this plot with a couple of people, things are still in flux and subject to change. There are still several important plot points I'm debating on, and time will tell which way I go with them.
Lastly, for timeline purposes, this split off sometime after StrikerS. Exact details will be revealed in future chapters.