The Nightmare of Sagittarius
Prologue: Through the Years and Far Away
Disclaimer: The novel series of Suzumiya Haruhi that began with 'The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' is the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa. No disrespect is intended by the posting of this fanfiction, as I do not own the characters or settings involved. I'm merely dabbling with another set of paints.
Warning: Technobabble is going to happen. A LOT OF TECHNOBABBLE. Like, potentially to hard-core sci-fi levels. In fact, it may be SO sci-fi, you're no longer sure what's being crossed over with, except that there is TECHNOBABBLE. So, yeah, I hope that's your thing.
I want to avoid the cliche of saying the day started normally. This story is somewhat exceptional, even considering everything else I've endured. Thankfully, the start of this story was not very normal at all.
It began when the president of the computer club, simply enough, challenged Haruhi - and therefore, the rest of us - to a contest of personal skill.
Not content with merely being challenged, Haruhi had dragged the poor computer club president into the Literature Club's room, made him sit on a chair away from the table, and then interrogated him on the nature of his challenge. I felt my sympathy for the club president slowly trickle away to nothingness; he had, after all, challenged Haruhi, and didn't seem willing to back down.
Still, this made my job simpler. I could just endure whatever happened without needing to push for a victory.
The Computer Research Society President made his challenge, and even managed to look the slightest bit noble, being cowed by Haruhi. Normally, when you see someone being cowed by a girl with half their bodymass, you would not think it was something worthy of respect on that other person's part. Considering that this is Haruhi, I feel we must make an exception.
Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, good president. It will forever be known that you did not go gently into that good night.
Except, something unexpected happened. After hearing out the terms of the challenge, Haruhi flipped the CD with the cover of some generic bearded spaceship captain over in her hands, and her interest flickered. Something in her eyes seemed for a heartbeat to want to be interested, but like myself with most school lessons, in the midst of hearing the boy out, I could tell that Haruhi was barely interested in it.
I glanced at our resident esper, who straightened up and looked preturbed at exactly the same time I saw Haruhi's interest fade. Too much to hope for that it was just a coincidence, then? I suppose this is where things get complicated...
"So," Haruhi commented, cracking the case open and frowning at the blank back of the insert, "why do I care?"
"Why do you care!" the president protested. "I- All of us, actually, put our hearts and souls into that game! We want to challenge you on fair and level ground, and to win-"
"But it's so generic," Haruhi complained, snapping the case shot and tossing it at the president, who fumbled desperately, almost dropping it. "Two fleets meet in space, justification for the conflict to come afterwards? If you want me to care about your challenge, then present something interesting! Something with depth! All you've really got here is just another strategy game, except it's in space. At least come up with a good story!"
"Y...you..." The president scowled. "There is a story! It's the conflict for resources!"
"Truly, that seems the traditional cause of most strife throughout history," Koizumi remarked, cautiously trying to encourage Haruhi to pick up the challenge. For myself, I was of mixed opinions on the matter. I didn't particularly care about the game, but it would keep Haruhi distracted. And yet, at the same time, I actually agreed with our eccentric brigade chief; the backstory for the game was not particularly inspired.
"If it's a resource conflict, then are the sides matched, or does one side have abundant resources, while the other barely has any?" Haruhi posed. "How much sense does it make that poor rebels and rich oppressors have the same access to technology and ships? These things require an explanation!"
"Why you- How dare you badmouth our game?" the president growled hotly. "Are you saying you don't accept the challenge!"
"Until you come up with a more interesting story, I reject your game," Haruhi corrected. "But if you want a challenge right now, I'll wrestle any of your club members into submission!" She stomped on the floor, raising one fist menacingly. The president flinched back, and again, no one should blame him for that.
Koizumi shot me a warning glance, then looked at Haruhi significantly. Naturally, for reasons that I cannot fathom, the responsibility for handling this situation falls to me.
"Is it really that big a deal?" I asked Haruhi, instantly drawing her focused gaze off the president and bringing it to bear on myself. I can endure this, though it's unpleasant. "I mean this for both of you," I add, which surprises Haruhi, but leaves her looking a little off balance. I like that look on her; it's nice to see her unsettled even the slightest bit once in a while. "The story for his game may be a bit bland, but it's only the story. Should it really effect the game that much?"
"Exactly!" the president agrees. "It's just a setting! We wanted something simple and original, instead of just making a doujin game of some anime."
"And that's why I disagree!" Haruhi growls. "Think about it! I'll give you points for trying to come up with your own story, but it'll take a bit more than just that. If I can't care about the setting, how can I care about the game? Because if I can't care about it - well, then I just can't take your challenge seriously!"
"Fine," the president retorts, "We'll write up a better setting!"
"And then we'll accept your challenge," Haruhi confirms, smirking.
I sense that a bullet has been dodged, somehow, but Koizumi looks somehow troubled behind his smile. Asahina-san just seems confused, as always, and Nagato has yet to look up from her book.
Well, maybe I was wrong; maybe this is a pretty normal day for us after all. Then again, that, actually, is not the specific day that things turned irreparably strange for us.
Two days later, looking smugly self-assured, the president and one of his cronies came back with a manuscript explaining the setting in detail. Haruhi's vanished interest, curiously waned, instantly reignited once she snatched it from the president's hands and began flipping through it eagerly.
"So," she said, nodding slowly, "the resources that are valuable are worlds, since starship building materials are relatively easy to come by? Why didn't you say so in the first place? And there's an idealogical rift between factions because of genetic engineering, and-"
She looks up abruptly, thrusting the stack of papers at Nagato, knocking her own book from her hands. Nagato blinks once, then takes the pages and begins reading through them.
"With this, I can accept your challenge!" Haruhi yells, grinning triumphantly. "These details are important; they make the game so real, I can actually believe I'm going to those worlds to fight! And that makes the challenge worthwhile! Don't you agree, Yuki?"
Nagato looks momentarily unsure, her eyes scanning across the page before she evidently sees something that works for her. Then she nods, a strange look in her eyes. The president is babbling about something, and Haruhi turns to babble back at him; but the entire world feels like only Nagato and I are in it. Somehow, as transient as a shadow, Asahina-san's presence is there, on the very immaterial edges of my perception. I have the strangest, most brief impression that she's trying to warn me about something very important.
Then Nagato says something... 'New story'? 'I'm sorry'? I'm not sure; she mouths the words, but I hear nothing.
And now, I realize, I may never know.
Ever since I was young, I had known to put the belief of fanciful things behind me. The premise that a galaxy-spanning civilization greater than ourselves, which would intercede on our behalf in times of most dire need seemed to be something designed to cheer toddlers. Likewise, things like 'love' or 'alternate realities', or 'time travel'.
There was a period of my life, before leaving the Lower Academy, where I did believe in things I ought to have given up on before. 'True friends' are a concept of media; they are much beloved, but as intangible as a tachyon emission. If alternate realities existed, any of the Dimension Drive experiments would have revealed some sort of resonance along the Stellar Plane, but to date, the only thing on the other side of that boundry is the emptiness of the true void.
Time travel should exist, according to our sciences. We can transmit data instaneously, we can move through space faster than light, and we have drives and shields capable of pushing probes within mere thousands of kilometers of the largest exospheres in the entirety of the Core Supercluster. But even our most primitive means of quantum entanglement are too complex to survive the transition.
All data is lost when it travels through time contrary to the nature of the universe. We've known that for decades, after we reclaimed Old Earth for our own, finally recovered from the Last Stumble of the late twenty second century. There were no Posts waiting like a cluster of luminous angels to welcome humanity back to their home. Only a battered, weary planet, struggling to heal itself from the wounds of centuries of pollution and uncontrolled genetic engineering.
Myself, I was born on that world, though this is a secret known only to myself and a few choice members of High Command. Long before the nanites, but not long before the Last Stumble. There was an island there, and I had a name, a real name, in the custom of the people who dwelled there - not the title I bear now.
My parents pointed at one star and told me a story, several dark centuries of cryo ago. They had told me this story would be my key to recovering myself in a time of dire need. They told me the name of that star and its companion. And how, across the water, on the greater land, there was a name for the god that was tied to that star. It was not my name, but I was told to hold the name of that star in my heart, always.
I learned not to believe that story either.
Except ... even if I did not believe, I did remember.
Don't children remember fairy tales? Don't everyday people remember their mediafeeds? Holo, oldline text, hyperjunction, sense-sim, whatever else they use for their entertainment fixes, those things aren't real, either. But they are remembered. So, when they asked what my new name should be, that was my answer.
It's a slight mispronunciation of that god's name that I hear across comm channels, rousing me from my reflection. "Kyon!"
I adjust my captain's cap and eye the viewscreen to my left. Unadorned synthetics work the bridge controls, acting as a crew. Small comfort, that; I never saw the point in assigning augmented reality appearances for them. The expression of my current high commander, her excellency, Haruhi Suzumiya, glares back at me through the comm portal.
"Excellency," I reply flatly.
The channel is secured with a spare moment of focus and a small hand gesture; Suzumiya has forgotten to do this herself. Her expression sours from 'very confident' to 'annoyed' immediately after the visual indicator - a red border - appears.
"Tell me what's going on!" she barks.
With a sigh, I slide the comm portal to overlay the primary displays in front of me. The synthetics handle things while I summon our tactical situation, and forward it to her viewscreens. When we're synched, I read her the situation mechanically, verbatim from the screens.
Her expression shifts, and she looks angry, then determined, then suspicious. It's a very natural movement for her to lean back into her seat and look away; she seems to have forgotten that the capture mechanism for the visual feed is slaved to her own movement at the moment, so it follows her. I look through the comm portal, losing focus on it as I gaze at the display behind it.
My attention diverts briefly back as she recalls something and slides the portal to one side of her own reference frame. For me, her face turns, and the muted blur of the backdrop behind her shifts. "I want an in-person conference to discuss the situation," she declares.
"Negative," I return. "We engage in under ten minutes. There is insufficient time."
She looks very, very cross, shooting me the darkest of all looks. Such behavior wouldn't be good for morale, if I care about that. "Fine," she snaps. "We're meeting to discuss this after engagement!"
The com portal closes. A heartbeat later, comms activate again, connecting me with another fleet captain. Koizumi's viewing portal also lacks a red border. "Ah, Kyon, we should discuss certain things rather shortly; I have concerns about our situation. Do you suppose we could arrange that?" I engage security while he wastes time giving me a warm smile.
He blinks, looking startled, and I ignore him, as two more comm channels open. These are properly secured. "Hold that thought," I tell Koizumi, one-way blanking his screen. I can see his face, but he can't see or hear me.
"Nagato," I call, sending her viewing portal flying across the bridge and into the main tactical display. It smoothly integrates, and she synchs our systems. My augmentations handle sorting her high-speed stream of tactical data, while my eyes and conscious mind turns to the third viewing portal.
"Asahina," I greet nodding, trying to borrow some of Koizumi's smile for her.
"Ah," she says, looking very nervous. "Um, Kyon-kun, I'm a bit scared about what's going on, here."
I react to that; I can't help it. Japanese as a spoken language is readily availible to anyone who takes the linguasoft, but I cannot imagine any reason why she would even know it existed. She doesn't notice that I stare, more precious seconds of our pre-battle preparation slipping away.
Belief... That's a funny thing, really.
Her Excellency is already broadcasting battle commands and repositioning, while we haven't even dispatched more than the thinnest screen of scouts. I send a message directly to Asahina via augment. Aloud, I assure her, "We will meet in person to discuss things after this fleet action."
I link Koizumi's comm portal to hers; Nagato is automatically present thanks to our synch. "Koizumi," I say, "you will be in charge of tactical management after assignment; Asahina, disengage all fighter craft and reorder them to Nagato's command; Nagato, Koiumi, reorder all utility craft to Asahina's command; Nagato, divide Asahina's craft into two subfleets and reorder half to her Excellency."
"Understood," the three respond with the trained precision they would owe a higher ranking officer, but not myself.
...and even though they all do as I instruct, without acknowledging her excellency, they all seem more confident, more assured. But why would that be?
Is it because they believe in me?
Is it because I'm mad? Have my augmentations gone haywire, feeding me bad data? Am I dying, and these are the last fleeting images through my mind?
Or worse, is it because they found out about my history, that bloody deal struck with High Command so long ago?
And then, on the other side of things...
Is it perhaps that I am not the only person who suddenly has an extra set of memories from an Earth that none of us ever knew?
Author's Notes: Been pondering this one for a while. Kyon: Big Damn Hero may slow down a bit while I work on this one. I don't anticipate it being hugely long, but let's see how it goes.