And now, a black box recording from the author: Greetings, readers! By the time you hear this, you'll most likely have found my plane in the side of Mt. Fuji. Went kaiju watching. Rodan was having a bad day. Long story short, Rodan's kind of a dick. But I'm pretty sure I'll survive! Kaiju watching is a dangerous hobby after all, so come prepared. Anyways, before my plane smears itself on Japan's landmark, I've got a couple of things I'd like to say. First of all, I'm happy to report I've finally got Chapter 24 done! Had to do it in bursts of writing, got hampered by university studies, BUT I got it done! Little warning: there's a little political mumbo-jumbo involved in trying to explain this world's backstory, so sorry if you get lost during that. Kept it as brief as I could. If it's too complicated, just think Gundam. Also apologise if the quality of this chapter may fluctuate at points. Like I said, I had to write this in bits and pieces. Hopefully it turned out alright, but if there's something you feel could use tweaking, leave a review, tell me what you felt could've been added (or removed) and I'll factor that into my next chapter. Not sure when I'll get started on 25, but I'll try to get it to you as soon as possible like I usually do! Admittedly, I've had some other story ideas I want to try writing, but I want to finish Alternative before I start uploading anything else. Well, Mt. Fuji's looking pretty big and scary now, so I'm bailing out! See you next time! *EJECTION*
Disclaimer: Rodan is property of Toho (LONG LIVE KAIJU) and Gundam is property of Sunrise Studios. I'd also mention Haruhi Suzumiya, but I've hammered that into your poor little skulls enough.
Chapter 24: Oh, hi Yuki
I've never ridden in a giant robot before (then again, I'm pretty sure not many people outside this dimension have) and I have to say, it's…cramped. Obviously, the cockpit was designed for a single occupant and didn't come equipped with the option for two hitchhikers. Ryoko and I were squashed up on either side of the chair my counterpart sat in to pilot this machine, doing our best to not accidentally nudge any controls or instruments. Fortunately, a lot of things were holographically displayed and he was able to move most of the relevant status screens and control panels to the front. The only downside was his view now looked like somebody's computer screen when they had a lot of windows open. He had to use a narrow field of view to navigate. At least the active camouflage will give us some cover on the way back.
While we endured the cramped, hot conditions of being smushed into a one-seater vehicle, my counterpart took the opportunity to explain some things ahead of time. Well, when he wasn't squinting through the small opening he left among the holographic displays to see where we were going. At least, I think he's squinting. Hard to tell with that helmet on his head.
"You're probably wondering why I'm not really all that shocked by the fact I'm currently sharing this cockpit with myself. Literally," he began. Yeah, you seem awfully non-chalant about this. "Well, that's because this isn't the first time this shit's happened." Wait a minute; you've been visited by people from other dimensions before? "At least one to my knowledge. And it wasn't so much a 'visit' as a 'can I crash in your dimension for a while?' kind of situation."
So let me get this straight: you had a refugee from another dimension?
"You make it sound like they left already."
Oh, so they're still here then. Wonder if it will be anyone I recognise? Guess I'll find out.
Our journey took about two hours and ended with us entering a cave. The camouflage was deactivated and we were allowed in past a set of mechanised doors, revealing a hidden military complex with robotic war machines of many varieties parked. After parking his ride, my counterpart left us in the capable hands of some allied soldiers while he went to be debriefed on his foray.
We're taken to a sort of waiting room and given wet towels to clean the blood off ourselves. While we wait, Ryoko and I ask the guards about who attacked us, what's up with the state of the world and other such questions. It's a little hard to follow as there's a lot of politics involved, stuff about competition for resources, a sudden and highly unexpected outburst of nationalism, civil wars and international conflicts. If I took the time to explain that, we'd be here a while, so I'm just going to drop these little facts.
The USA and Russia have been divided by civil war for the second time in history. Europe is a patchy network of allied nations and carved territories of emerging empires. Africa, South America and South-East Asia are hotly contested locations for their resources and are majorly disunited and conflicted. And the only ones left who escaped the wave of nationalism and with a shred of unity is the remaining United States of America, Canada, many of the NATO nations (albeit with different borders due to Europe's patchwork territories thanks to the nationalists), the surviving Russian Federation and Ukraine, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand…our faction, in other words.
That's the gist of it anyway. It's a war against nationalism basically. What gets me is the timing of it all-supposedly, this rise of nationalism happened near simultaneously across the globe. Coupled with the fact some nations were mysteriously deploying some of these war machines (referred to as 'Stalkers' according to the soldiers) where they were previously thought to not possess them and it all looks like it was set up. Someone planned this. They intentionally plunged the world into chaos, riled up nationalism worldwide and distributed Stalkers illicitly to those that didn't have them. But who and why?
Ryoko and I were still trying to wrap our heads around this world's predicament when my counterpart returned, out of the pilot suit he was wearing and in some form of military fatigues, and led us to another room. Upon entry, he saluted all the people present and then gestured us to follow him as he approached a large, square 'table' of sorts with a large screen in the middle. He waved his hand at a pair of seats and we took the hint to sit down. My counterpart then moved to the other side of the 'square' opposite us and sat down next to a familiar face.
On the opposite side of the 'square' was this world's version of the SOS Brigade. Haruhi was front and centre, to the right of my counterpart, carefully looking back and forth between my face and his as though comparing them. On her right was Mikuru, offering us a warm smile as if to calm whatever nervousness we had. Standing behind either side of Haruhi were the figures of Nagato and Koizumi, both standing at attention but with different facial expressions, Nagato possessing a stoic, disciplined face while Koizumi simply bore that annoying grin I've come to hate him for. There were a few people on our adjacent sides too. Two of them I recognised as Tsuruya and this world's Ryoko, the latter of whom was keeping her composure despite staring down her alternate. Then again, my counterpart didn't seem too fazed when he first saw me, so maybe they've just gotten used to it after whatever 'visitor' they let stay with them.
Haruhi locked her gaze on me after having studied the features of my counterpart for a bit. She smiled. "Well I'll be damned," she commented. "If it weren't for your uniforms, I don't think I could tell you two apart." Clearing her throat, she addressed us. "First of all, allow me to welcome you to our world. Not sure why you'd want to come to a war-torn place like this, but I'm sure you've got your reasons. I'd introduce myself, but if our last…'guest' was any indicator, you probably already know us in some way."
"Yes, that's quite correct…Haruhi Suzumiya," I respond, confirming her suspicions by saying her name. I glance to the other familiar faces and address them. "To your right is Mikuru Asahina, I'm to your left, behind you are Yuki Nagato and Itsuki Koizumi. On the adjacent sides I can see Tsuruya and the counterpart to my companion, Ryoko Asakura."
The Ryoko of this world nods, as if in approval. "Just like our last 'visitor'. You know the names of nearly all the people in this room. Although…" She gives an awkward smile. "I was probably easy to identify since I'm right next to you."
Quite a few of us have a light snicker. The Ryoko that accompanied me addresses herself. "Our apologies for our abrupt arrival, but we're currently trying to track down something that's become lost, presumably throughout the dimensions. We'll do our best not to impose too much, but I can't guarantee how long it will take us to locate the artefact in question."
Haruhi simply laughs, good naturedly. "Relax! We're happy to help however we can." She leans in with a friendly smile. "It shouldn't be a problem taking care of you, however long it takes. I sure as hell don't want you walking around in this world without the proper protection and security. Besides, this interdimensional stuff sounds pretty damn important." Her smile falters as she shifts to a more serious look. "If our refugee's testimony is anything, dimensional security is nothing to sneeze at. I assume what you're looking for is highly important?"
"Very," I confirm. Everyone looks at me with stern faces. I continue. "This artefact, through reasons I don't think anyone fully understands, has become infused with a massive amount of dimensional energy (or some bullshit like that). Consequently, this means it has a high potential for dimensional disruption and loss of integrity…at least, so I'm told."
The table was silent for a bit as everyone tried to process this. Most likely, they were trying to wrap their heads around the idea of interdimensional…'physics'. I don't know what to call it; I just roll with this shit. Fortunately, Tsuruya was able to sum it up pretty well.
"So basically," she said. "It's incredibly dangerous and we should prioritise finding it before the universe explodes? Or implodes…something bad like that."
"Basically," I confirm. Probably should've just said that in the first place. Would've gotten the point across easier. "Have there been any anomalies, strange sightings or unexplained phenomena recently? They might be side effects of the artefact."
"There's nothing that's really come to our immediate attention…" answered Mikuru, putting a finger to her chin with a thoughtful expression. I have no idea what kind of girl this Asahina is, but she still looks damn adorable with little traits like that. "But we could compile a list of reports on strange activity. I'm sure plenty there are bound to be some soldiers who have encountered something weird, probably spreading it as a strange tale among the ranks, but without any official confirmation." She turns to Koizumi. "Lieutenant, could you check the records and testimonies for any bizarre or odd features?"
"Yes, ma'am," he responds, politely. Huh…so Asahina outranks Koizumi. I wonder if she outranks me. "I'll also chase up any reports on UFOs or the like, as those could be related to the artefact's effects as well."
"Arigatou, Koizumi," Asahina says with a friendly smile.
Koizumi bows to her and then turns to the table, bowing again. "Please excuse me." And with that, he leaves in search of possible leads.
Shortly after Koizumi departs, Haruhi addresses Nagato. "Yuki, could you retrieve our 'refugee' as well? I believe they might be able to provide valuable insight into this incident as well." Nagato wordlessly nods and exits the room without a sound.
"Excuse me," the Ryoko I know (We'll call her Ryoko A) speaks. "Is your refugee also a slider? What kind of insight might they provide?"
Haruhi smiled back at us in response, clasping her hands in front of her like a certain anime character. You know the one.
"They're not a 'slider' like Kyon…that is to say, that Kyon." She points toward me just so we're clear who she's talking about, though my counterpart looks like he knew which one of us she was talking about anyway. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone knew when you mentioned my name and slider in the same sentence. It's not like your Kyon can go between dimensions after all. "As we mentioned, they're a refugee. An interdimensional refugee. That means their world is no longer habitable due to…reasons…that you mentioned."
It suddenly dawned on me I already knew a refugee. She was sitting right next to me and when I looked toward Ryoko A, an expression of sudden realisation had crossed her face. There was also a bit of anticipation. I think I knew what she was hoping.
Right about then, a door opened and Nagato returned. She held the door open for someone else. When they stepped in, I was mildly astonished by who the refugee was, but Ryoko A's eyes widened in surprise and she stood up from her chair abruptly, gaze fixated on the new person. They were female, wearing a North High uniform with a cardigan. She was slightly shorter than Nagato, but that's where the physical differences ended…her short, pale hair and yellow eyes matched her counterpart's perfectly.
The refugee was none other than a version of Yuki Nagato.