Beginning notes: This fic takes place after Red Jewel Diaries, which takes place after MGLN: Crisis. If you haven't read those two, then some things that take place here might not make sense.
Magical Lyrical G-Squad
Chapter 1: Take Off
"We have six more aircraft incoming," Otto's calm voice announced over the communication channel. "I am still inbound, ETA: 2 minutes."
Arisa let her magic extend throughout her machine, letting it guide the finer movements as she moved her golem behind a small hill and checked her displays where Terra was relaying the data; they registered as F-16s with a bomb payload, presumably coming in for a run against the targets they were defending. "Vice, can you intercept?"
In his own golem, Vice kept on the move, lining up perfect shot after perfect shot with his golem's rifle to take out cannon emplacements and tanks, but there were somehow always more to harass him. "Negative; I'm still engaged over here, and would need time to set up shots that far away. Even with the golem's enhancements, Storm Raider will have trouble hitting targets moving that fast unless I remain still."
"I can't abandon my position yet, or the village will be left undefended," Arisa announced, popping up from cover to fire several measured shots from her hand-held magic cannon, taking out several advancing tanks. "Arf, what's your status?" When there was no response, she repeated again, "Arf? Does anyone see her?"
"She's not appearing on any scanners, and her unit isn't responding," Suzuka added over the frequency from the Ventek in orbit. "And that strange jamming frequency is still in effect which is making it difficult to tell what's going on down there."
Arisa quickly checked positions again, taking off on a short hop across the jungle, as Terra lined up targets. Doing so made her an easier target for the dozen stinger missiles and tracer rounds that lanced up, but she needed to switch positions if she was going to relieve Vice.
She twisted in mid-air and hit her boosters after taking her shots, but at least half the number impacted against Terra's barrier shielding, dropping it by another 10%; that wasn't so bad, and the golem's relic core would recharge it in 20 minutes or so, but her overall power remaining was down to 46%. She'd need to drop back and let her batteries recharge soon at this rate, and that was unacceptable as it would leave her zone undefended.
Several Apache helicopters appeared over the horizon, firing a full load of missiles, forcing Arisa to drop her golem into a roll under the tree line. Terra acquired locks as she came back up, but half had ducked back down behind the hill, and she was only able to hit three with return fire.
"I'm coming to relieve you, Vice!" Arisa shouted, engaging her boosters for another hop that dropped her battery reserves to 45%. "Terra reads that those fighters will be in range to bomb in 45 seconds; I'll take the heat off so you can take them down!"
"You can't leave your sector undefended!" Vice countered, gritting his teeth as Storm Raider took several rounds of cannon fire from a hill embankment. "I'll push my shields up to max and take the shots!"
"Your reserves are lower than mine," Arisa shot back. "You won't last until Otto can relieve you, and Arf is still MIA!"
Another flight of missiles came arcing in over the horizon, forcing the short-haired pilot to halt her momentum slightly and switch to flak shots, but the damage was done; she wouldn't be able to cover Vice in time to stop the bombing. Cursing, she slammed a hand down on her console; where was Arf!
"Someone call?" came Arf's enthusiastic voice over the tacnet. "Sorry, I had to deep six my pursuers and my communicator was damaged; Fenrir finally got it back online. Vice, I'll cover you, do it!"
Arisa exhaled a small sigh of relief as she glanced at a side screen, noting Arf's golem landing beside Vice and extending her shield while attacking the tanks, helicopters, and troops assaulting his location. Storm raider raised it's rifle, aiming for a spot in the sky only it could see, then snapped off six quick shots.
"6 for 6, nice!" Arf complimented, shifting her Fenrir golem into lupine mode for enhanced speed and maneuverability, and leaping into a tank to use using it's hardened claws to tear the main weapon off.
"Good, now someone needs to find and neutralize those long-range missile batteries, and we can wrap this up!" Arisa announced, running through the jungle to head off another thrust aiming to take out the village she was protecting.
"Andro and I have have them," Otto declared, just as Arisa noticed the cyborg's golem descend past the hills, firing a volley of green beams. "All five of them have been disabled."
Arisa allowed herself a small sense of elation. "Nice job! I think we're-"
"ICBMs!" Suzuka's alarm suddenly came over the comm frequency.
"Suzuka?" Arisa wondered aloud, checking her sensors. "I don't see anything. Are you sure?"
"Yes!" came the response. "I barely detected them myself, but I've been working on breaking through the long-range sensor jamming. They have some kind of stealth shielding, and I barely registered them before they disappeared again, but I'm positive they are there!"
Arisa cursed again; no wonder the enemy was jamming them so thoroughly. "Can anyone else see them and take them out?"
"I've got a bead on them," Vice replied. "12 of them deploying chaff and dummies among the real warheads; but I don't have enough energy left to get all of them and Storm Raider can't tell which ones are hot!"
"Do what you can," Arisa ordered. "Alto, Vice will need a pickup; Otto, get shields up on those villages; I'll handle the rest!"
"What are you going to do, Lieutenant?" Otto's steady voice came back.
Arisa activated Terra's flight mode, wings appeared on the golem's back as she shot into the sky on boosters. "At close range, I can use Terra's Death Blossom to take out all targets at once. But I need you protecting those villages in case anything gets through!"
"Arisa, you can't!" Suzuka protested. "Even if it works, you'll be out of power!"
"No choice," Arisa replied grimly, deploying the artillery boxes on her shoulders and lower legs as she gained altitude; a dozen magical beam hard points on each one. "Besides, that's what the parachute is for!"
Then there was no more time for talk as her visual monitors zoomed in on the dozens of small objects descending, while Terra acquired weapons lock on each one but informing her accuracy was diminished due to the long-range jamming. Arisa sent her golem into a spin as each artillery box began firing dozens of thin blue magical beams at almost every angle as she passed the cloud of warheads, minutare explosions blossoming all around her. Red lights flashed as her shields began to fail under the strain of the nearby detonations.
Then all her power was gone, and the golem began to plummet toward the ground; even worse, Terra's sensors had registered that she missed three, of which at least one was a real one as the ground erupted into a huge fireball, laying waste to the jungle. She hoped Otto's shields had at least protected the people, but realized she couldn't eject are the heat from the blast would kill her parachute; glumly, she realized she was going to crash.
"[I got you!]" Arf called via telepathy, which let Arisa know the Guardian Beast was very close; that was confirmed when her free-fall was slowly arrested. "[Alto already picked up Vice; I should be able to get you to the pickup zone. Otto will meet us there after the explosion has faded; the villages are safe.]"
"[Thank you,]" Arisa replied, watching her power tick back up to 2% and systems slowly came back online. She probably could have flown to the pickup zone, but let Fenrir carry her anyway; it was physically stronger, built for heavy duty activities.
"Simulation over," came Lindy's voice over the channel. "Good job everyone; exit for immediate debriefing."
Arisa blinked, wondering why it had been called off so soon; the training exercise wasn't supposed to end until they had completed the mission and been successfully extracted. Curious, she reached down and pulled out her key device from the center panel, a silver plated dog tag inlaid with a yellow diamond jewel, and hooked the silver chain it was connected to around her neck.
"Well, time to go face the music, Terra," Arisa intoned as she popped the hatched.
"No worry, Arisa," Terra's pleasant female voice came from the diamond on the dag tag. "The mission was completed successfully."
She noted the other three members in her squad, Vice, Arf, and Otto, also disembarking their golems that were suspended in a large gyroscope; it was to better simulate the movement in their training exercises. Arf flashed a thumbs up while Vice smiled, which was in contrast to Otto's emotionless curt nod; sometimes Arisa wondered what went through the cyborg's head. Suzuka and Alto also joined them as they hit the floor; the former being their head tech and the latter their transport pilot. Both were as much a part of the team as any of them.
In addition to Lindy Harlaown who had been chosen to lead the diplomatic mission Arisa's unit would be supporting, General Adams was also waiting for them on the floor, and he didn't seem happy. He was technically their commanding officer, and although uneasy about the new golem unit, he was a supportive, if critical, man.
And apparently he was in the latter mode today. "Lt. Bannings, would you care to explain why you chose to confront those missiles yourself instead of sending Otto to do it? You know very well her shields are better than yours, and she would have had a better chance of containing them before they hit the ground."
"We still managed to protect the villages!" Arisa replied defiantly. "That was the mission objective!"
He sighed. "Yes, you did; at the cost of the surrounding jungle that the natives need to live off of. You just created a humanitarian disaster. That's not how a diplomatic humanitarian force functions! The United Nations would order us out after such a stunt, and they'd be right to do it!"
"It wasn't a fair test, though!" Suzuka protested. "I analyzed the units; those were military units from the United States, and they'd never attack peaceful villages in Africa!"
"Anything can happen in combat, and it's my job to prepare you for that," the general explained, then sighed as he removed his hat and ran fingers through his short, brown hair. "While Admiral Lindy is in overall command of this diplomatic mission to Earth, I remain in charge of the military forces, which means your unit. I shouldn't have to tell you how important this is; I was once an Earth native, too. Their technology level has grown quite a bit, and they have the capability to nuke themselves back into the stone age, or another planet if they discover spaceflight. It's our job to see that they understand a more peaceful alternative. I have no desire to watch my home planet destroy itself."
"Come now, General, don't you think you're being a bit hard on them?" Lindy questioned with a small smile, displaying the diplomacy that was part of the reason for her assignment on this mission. "Everyone knows what's at stake here, and whether we like it or not, this is our best option. Earth isn't quite ready for the existence of magic, and thus this golem squad is perfect for the small defense unit that will protect the diplomatic team; they look like advanced technological forces that Earth would be more comfortable with. The Bureau also wants a decent test of this capability, and so we're killing two birds with one stone."
"Yes, I know," the general relented. "I just want them to be ready. Anyway, review the mission and this latest training flub, and be ready for departure at 0900 tomorrow morning. Dismissed!"
"Yes, sir!" the six replied, saluting as General Adams made an about-face and walked out of the hanger.
"Well, I have some work to finish up on as well," Lindy announced, waving. "I'll see you all on the Ventek tomorrow!"
"I need to head out and check out the shuttle, too," Alto said. "The #4 transport hook still has locking troubles; I wouldn't want to lose a golem while I was transporting you guys!"
Arisa waved with the others as Alto and the admiral left, then let out a sigh she had been holding.
A hand found itself on her shoulder, and she looked up into the face of Lt. Vice Granseic who flashed her a thumbs up and smile. "Don't let it get to you; we'll do good out there! Won't we, Storm Raider?"
The green jewel on his own dog tag flashed as the female voice responded, "That's right!"
Arisa allowed herself a smile, knowing that her key devices, as well as Otto's and Arf's, were modeled after Vice's; it allowed them to carry the AI with them, and prevented anyone else from piloting the golems without it. In Arisa and Vice's case, they also doubled as their personal armed devices as well; a cartridge-based rifle for him and a combat staff for her. Arf and Otto had their own natural defenses, that their devices only moderately enhanced.
"We're definitely getting better," Arf agreed from a seemingly bottomless pit of enthusiasm. "Fenrir keeps up with me very well!"
"Thank you," the male voice voice sounded from the orange jewel on her own dog tag.
"Well, both your device and golem were custom made for you, based on your magic output and fighting style," Suzuka replied with a smile. "Although I admit I named yours myself, after a wolf of mythology from my home planet. Based on what I've learned from Mariel about her golems, I'll probably need to make some more adjustments so you can take full advantage of it. Speaking of which, Otto, I'll need you and Andro to come by later for more adjustments."
"Alright, I will be there," the mostly-quiet cyborg replied.
Her device was equally as succinct and to the point, speaking in an electronic voice that wasn't quite male or female. "Yes."
"And it looks like we have company!" Vice announced, as the six turned to see their guest walking up.
"Hayate!" Suzuka almost squealed, jumping over to grab her friend's hands. "What brings you here?"
"Well, you are heading out tomorrow on your big mission," Hayate declared, grinning. "How could I not come by and invite you guys out for a last meal? Oh, and Otto, your sister is here to see you as well; she's waiting in the cafeteria."
Arisa glanced at the cyborg, who seemed to stiffen a bit, but otherwise showed no sign. "I shall go speak with her, then, thank you."
Otto executed a short bow, then turned and walked away. Arisa caught Suzuka's gaze, who pursed her lips, looking concerned; out of all of them, Otto's reasons for joining the unit were a bit of a mystery still, and Arisa though wasn't prone to prying, but Suzuka still seemed worried so the blonde-haired golem pilot thought it might be prudent to speak with Otto for the good of the unit.
"Well, shall we go?" Hayate inquired. "Nanoha and Fate are waiting by the car. Oh, and sorry Vice, it's girls only!"
"Haha, no worry, I have my own plans," he informed them, winking mysteriously.
"You're really starting to put on some weight," Arisa noted wryly to the girl across the small round, outdoor cafe table.
"Well, with the way she's been eating, can you blame her?" Suzuka added, going along with the joke.
"Very funny you two!" Nanoha groused, but still feeling a bit self-conscious as she devoured her large ice cream parfait. "I challenge you to look any better at four months!"
"Well, it was rather sudden, you getting pregnant so shortly after your wedding," Arisa told her, returning to her own banana split. "Hayate barely had time to arrange the betting pool!"
Nanoha sighed. "I heard about that. So, who won?"
Hayate grinned. "Oddly, it was Zafira, but he won't tell us how he guessed."
"He wouldn't even tell me," Arf added with a laugh.
"Maybe it's a subtle sign to you," Arisa teased, which caused the Guardian beast to actually blush and clam up.
Suzuka looked over at Fate to take pressure off the embarrassed Arf. "How about you? Have you decided if and when you want to have a child?"
The golden-haired agent looked down a bit into her simple milkshake. "Um, not really. At least not for now."
"I think Fate wants to remain in her current job for now," Nanoha offered wryly between spoonfuls of fudge-covered ice-cream. "Pregnancy would put her out of action for longer than she likes right now. Anyway, speaking of Zafira, how is he taking the news that Arf is joining your unit and going to Earth?"
"Oh, you know him, never says much," Arf answered with a grin that said she knew more than she was telling. "But Earth isn't that far away by teleporter, so he'll still be able to visit. I just feel like getting back out into the field to help where I can."
Fate reached over to squeeze Arf's shoulder, and something passed between the two that Arisa couldn't figure out, but it didn't seem like something they were going to share, so she filed it away for now.
"He never did," Hayate agreed, continuing the conversation. "Sometimes I think he went wolf-form just to try and fool people into thinking he couldn't talk at all."
"Although he has been visiting the hanger quite often to see Arf as she works her golem out," Arisa added. "It's kinda cute, really."
Nanoha paused her ravenous intake to sit back and smile as she gazed at her two childhood friends. "I still don't know what I have a hard time believing the most; that Arisa got command of her own golem unit at C-rank, that you two are going back to Earth with it as part of a diplomatic effort led by Lindy to hopefully bring Earth into the Bureau, or how in the world you got Otto and Arf as golem pilots."
"Hey, I'm C+!" Arisa corrected, indignant. "I worked very hard on it, too!"
"And there is nothing surprising about the mission," Suzuka answered. "You know how far along Earth is with regards to technology. The Bureau seems to regard high levels of technology as a dangerous thing, and they hope to wean Earth off it's weapons of mass destruction and to switch it to a more magic-based society, like Mid-Childa. I learned all about the ancient Belkan past, where they destroyed their own home planet, and several others, due to mass-based weaponry. Even though I love tinkering with scientific technology, I can understand their fears."
Fate finished off her milkshake. "So how did you come to choose Arf and Otto, of all people, for pilots?"
"Well, after we got Vice, we needed a way to evaluate potential pilots and yet keep the reason for it secret," Arisa explained, then grinned. "And Suzuka came up with a rather... interesting idea."
The pregnant woman raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Do tell."
Suzuka blushed. "It was just something I saw in a movie that gave me the idea: create a golem piloting video game. The highest scores would indicate the people with the best pilot potential. And ironically enough, we discovered both on the same day, and in the same place. Otto and Arf were literally playing right next to each other, and blowing all previous scores away."
Arf shrugged, although appeared suitably embarrassed. "What can I say? It was fun!"
"As for Otto, we still don't know," Arisa added. "She must have her reasons for accepting when we asked her, but she hasn't decided to share them yet."
Nanoha tapped her lip. "I wonder..."
"Are you really leaving, Otto?" Vivio asked in the nearly empty base cafeteria, obviously saddened. "I didn't make you want to go away, did I?"
"No, it wasn't your majesty's fault," Otto replied, kneeling down to look the little girl in the eyes, smiling. "I just realized that I needed to get out more and see things. First from Jail, then rehabilitation, and finally the church... I realized I was letting myself get cooped up. I need to see more of the world, or at least another one, and apparently I can do some good where I am going."
"So it really wasn't because I made you upset?" Vivio pressed. "I didn't mean to yell at you, I was just embarrassed."
Otto took Vivio's hands in hers. "No, definitely not. Like your majesty, I have much to learn, but my school will be out there. However, I will return."
Vivio surged forward and hugged the cyborg. "I'll miss you. Come back and visit soon, okay?"
Otto nodded, stroking fingers through the little girl's hair. "I promise."
Vivio pulled back and smiled, as Deed reached down and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I need to speak to Otto alone for a moment now, is that okay? I talked to the chef, though, and he has a special chocolate parfait for you."
"Okay!" Vivio agreed enthusiastically, taking another moment to smile at Otto, before speeding away to the counter.
"So, you brought her here," Otto said simply, gazing out the cafeteria windows.
Deed didn't say anything at first; she didn't need to. Even though all the cyborgs considered themselves sisters of each other, Otto and Deed were closer to the true meaning of the term. Not only did they came from the same genetic material, but their personality types were very similar, and Deed was the only person Otto trusted completely. Thus, for them, words weren't necessary, as they could understand each other without them.
But Deed spoke anyway. "Yes. Even I considered this move a bit rash for you."
"I feel I needed to improve myself, in order to serve our majesty," Otto replied. "Somehow, that means being out there; I cannot explain it. I was wondering if my place was really at the church, and was looking for a sign."
"And you found it at that arcade?" Deed probed.
Otto nodded. "It was just something I passed and decided to do to pass the time, but apparently I am fairly good at it. And I want to do what I can to make up for what we did."
She didn't need to ask what that was; they all still felt guilt over their role in the JS incident. But Deed's suspicion of her sister's reasons were confirmed; while Jail treated them well during their time with him, and they saw him as a father, they remained ignorant of the world and what they were doing. Somehow, Otto felt her compass was drifting, and felt she needed this to get back on track.
Deed lowered her hand and took Otto's, squeezing it gently, letting her know all this with one gesture.
Otto squeezed back; she would be careful, and would return.
"So, I'm shipping out tomorrow," Vice offered nonchalantly as they walked along the stone pathway, festive music drifting lightly over the evening breeze in the Marine Garden amusement park.
"Ah," Signum replied, her gaze still focused forward.
"Anything could happen," Vice suggested, the two pausing by a railing to look out over the ocean.
"That is the nature of missions," Signum agreed, hiding a smile. "Combat is entirely possible."
"I could lose my life, or be horribly maimed or something," Vice admitted, getting a bit more direct. "Are you sure there isn't anything you'd like to say or do before I go?"
"You are a fine warrior," Signum told him, finally glancing over at him, giving him a wry smile. "I am confident you will do well."
She had begun to value his camaraderie more and more lately, but for some reason, didn't want to tell him; somehow, being vague this way was more amusing. Although she wasn't too interested in a relationship due to the past memories, she had to admit that he was a decent guy, and she did enjoy his company.
Vice deflated and fell silent as they both turned to see the lighted ferris wheel's reflection in the water. "Well, I suppose that's it, then. I think we've hit all the rides, and seen everything. Thank you for your company, as always; it was an honor."
Before he could resume walking again, Signum grabbed him and turned him to face her, placing her warm hands on his cheeks and leaning down, her face millimeters from his face in her hands.
"I do hope you come back, though," she admitted, her cheeks a bit rosy, touching her forehead to his. "I might have something for you if you do. Consider it... motivation."
Vice was motivated by what followed next.
"So, I hear you're shipping out tomorrow, Bannings," came a familiar gruff voice.
Arisa looked up from her golem maintenance, having come to understand a decent amount about its inner workings. "Nakajima. Have you come to see me off?" She grinned. "Will you miss me that much?"
Nove barked a short laugh. "Hardly. I just came to tell you that you better not die out there. And you better not get fat and lazy piloting that thing. I want to be able to kick your ass decently when you come back."
"I can kick your butt anytime," Arisa replied coolly, setting her tools down and straightening up. "As I recall, you've never been able to defeat me."
"You've never been able to beat me, either!" Nove growled, leaning in forward to stare down her rival, then quickly turned away. "And as much as I'd love going a few rounds with you now, I have things to attend to, and your teammates wouldn't appreciate it if they had to ship out with you in the hospital."
Arisa chuckled, walking around to the cyborg's side and thrusting her hand out. "Well then, I guess I'll just have to promise to come back so I can thoroughly humiliate you. You better practice hard."
Nove glanced at the hand, then grinned evilly and took it. "Ha! I can promise you, I'll have outpaced you by miles. It won't even be a contest."
"We're agreed, then," Arisa declared, leaning in a bit. "On how much I'll wipe the floor with you."
Nove released the hand and began walking away. "Think what you want. We both know who the stronger warrior is; I'll remind you when you get back. I just wanted to let you know that you better come back."
"Oh, I shall," Arisa called back as Nove neared the hanger door. "You can count on it!"
Arisa watched the cyborg pause for a second, then walk around the corner. Grin still on her face, the blonde-haired girl knew there were definitely things she'd have to come back for.
Lindy closed the book in front of her. She could have used a holo-screen to confirm everyone was aboard instead of a ledger, but sometimes she just liked the feel of a book in her hands. That, and this mission was somehow important to her, although she couldn't figure out exactly why. She had retired to more of a desk job to let the next generation take over, but when word had come of a need of someone to lead a mission to ease unadministered world #97 into the Bureau, she jumped at it; she knew there was no one better qualified.
And obviously, the upper brass seemed to agree. She was past her prime, at least as far as they were concerned, and so she was a safe candidate; if she failed, it would all be on her. But if she succeeded...
Lindy allowed herself a small grin; that was probably the reason why she decided to do this, in order to show them that she was
"We're ready for departure, mo-err-Admiral," Chrono declared, reminding her of the other reason; she'd still be near to her family. "Everyone is aboard."
"Oh, I'm in your sitting in your chair," Lindy realized, beginning to get out of the captain's seat.
Chrono pushed her back down. "No, that's okay. I'll reclaim it once we get to Earth, but you are in charge of this mission. It's only right that you have it on the trip over."
Lindy smiled and rubbed her hands on the armrests "It has been awhile... Very well, Admiral Harleown, take us out!"
The Ventek jumped into hyperspace.
"I see, thank you for your call, do let me know if you have other information," the elegant, short-haired brunette said into her cell phone, then hung up.
The other woman in her office raised an eyebrow. "Is that who I think it was, Lilith?"
Lilith nodded, leaning back in her chair. "They are on their way after all, which is... inconvenient for us."
The second woman stood, adjusting her flower-patterned kimono. "Then let me deal with it. They are setting up camp in my territory."
"Remember our goals and methods," Lilith told her. "It must be subtle. Our presence cannot be known."
"I've been a part of this for thousands of years," the second tersely informed her, her white painted face remaining emotionless. "You sired and trained me yourself. I can handle this nuisance."
Lilith studied her pupil. "For your sake, Amaterasu, I hope so. The council was quite put out. They think such a situation as this demands more attention. They aren't sure you are up to it."
Amaterasu finally allowed some showing of emotion in the form of a smile. "The Bureau will regret coming here. They will be dead or gone within six months."
Welcome to Secondary Characters 'R Us! The cast of Nanoha has grown fairly big, so in order to continue things, I felt splitting them up might be an interesting idea, so that others could shine in the limelight. Expect quite a few more to end up on Earth, while "Through a Mirror, Darkly" will deal more with the mains on Mid-Childa.
Oh, and if you're a mythology buff, you'll get some more fun out of this particular fic; especially if you recognized the names at the end there, heh.
Lastly, you can guess one of my favorite nerdy childhood films if you caught the reference. Suzuka liked it, too.^^