The references to the Inter-Middle are a sort of nod to the fact that ViVid did not, and will not, happen in this universe. (And if it did, Vivio would be disqualified on the grounds of Olivie.)

Sette: Big Sister

Life in transition did not agree with Sette. She was used to stability and order. Going straight into military service and not accepting the offer of Genya Nakajima to adopt her into his much-expanded family had been her recognition that she just wasn't cut out for an unstructured life. Here, under the capable tutelage of a Senior Mage Specialist, she found a comforting order.

But the team was in transition, converting to an all-Cyborg unit. That meant Sette would stay, but Bei would go. It was clear neither he nor her commanding officer were pleased with this. While Sette didn't think it was because her CO did not trust anyone else to supervise or teach Sette, she could not rule it out. One of the few emotions that Sette had never been without was self-conscious or self-critical embarrassment, which Quattro's tampering had left intact because it was a useful training tool.

Add that to her disquiet over the changes already, and she was having a very bad day. At least in Sette terms. Certainly not the sort of day she wanted to see her self-adoptive brother and sister. But they wanted to see her. And she regarded it as a duty rather than something she could avoid.

"Sette!" Isis was always happy to see her.

"Sette." Tohma was too, but...he was still trying to emulate Sette. It thus disconcerted him a great deal to have Sette smile at him in response. Sette had gotten much better at smiling now, much more natural and less like she was trying to pretend she was human.

"Auntie Tre!" Isis added, and rushed past Sette after she'd hugged both her self-adoptees. Tre had a look that suggested she had no idea what to do upon being promoted to family, but she realized it wouldn't be smart to not to give the littlest Cyborg a hug.

That left Sette with Tohma, and she patted his shoulder. "We should talk." He looked comforted to hear her trademark monotone, and she shook her head in genuine frustration.

"Tohma. You want to be like me, yes?" Sette asked softly. Volume only; not tone. She still came across as somebody wearing a human suit more often than she didn't.

"Yes." Tohma confirmed. He couldn't match her tonelessness. Some of his desire to do that leaked out.

"You...probably cannot." Sette said softly. "There is much about me that is admirable, I suppose. But you must know that much of what I am was done to me by a sister, and was done unkindly. You could become a Combat Cyborg, and should it become possible I will support you in doing so." She paused. "But this wanting to be like me in all things. Even I do not want to be like me. You should consider that."

Tohma looked rather surprised. "But you're never afraid, and after all this, I'd...really like to be never afraid."

Sette tried on a sigh. It actually seemed to work, from Tohma's reaction. "I do not fear because I was made not to fear. It is not natural. It is not something that can be learned. And it caused a great deal of trouble when I was younger." Tohma was visibly upset by this and Sette leaned down and gave him a hug. "You need to learn not to fear things that should not be feared, Tohma. I cannot teach you that, but I know people who can."

That seemed to satisfy him for now, but Sette didn't think his interest in being more like his new role model was over. She gave another hug to Isis, and nodded to her request that they go shopping.

It wasn't actually shopping, not really. The deeply personalized nature of most Devices ensured that. Still even with a war on, there were young mages who needed their first Device. Isis gravitated almost at once to a selection of bracelet and glove types. Isis had been taught to use a blade, before the Bureau had saved her from a premature biological burnout, but that's the past. She has no desire to do that again.

Tohma didn't appear interested in any of them. His parents had not been mages, so he was not inheriting a tradition. Cyborg Inherent Equipment tended to be bulky and unmanageable for non-Cyborgs, so he couldn't copy Sette here. He drifted past a selection of Devices modeled after ones belonging to Inter-Middle finalists, Sette behind him silent as his shadow.

Tohma admires that. He knows she is not light and catlike, his adopted big sister is actually quite heavy, but she manages such silence regardless. One of many things about her he admires. Something he hopes to one day learn. He stops in front of an array of old, Belkan-style Devices, many of them in forms that have come close to passing out of active use. The dispay is more meant as a historical curiosity than a real effort to give someone more options, but Tohma doesn't know that. Picks one up.

It is like a long glove. Slowly, he slips it on. It fits well. And he clenches his fist. A solid plate of armor, three centimeters thick, appears as he clenches. It is flat, covering the outer side of his arm and spreading beyond it, curving around to cover the front of his fist as well. Unmarked, and unadorned, like the glove itself, it has the dull glint of worked metal. But it has no apparent weight as he moves his arm. He extends his fingers again, trying to touch it, but opening his fist causes the plate to vanish.

Sette watched, curiously. "I do not recognize that design."

Tohma looked up in shock. Sette knew everything, or at least that was what it seemed like to him. "You don't?"

"It's only part of a set, might be confusing her." Tre added. "Belkan King's Plate. Device and armor both. Royal Family members and Royal Guard exclusive, wasn't very popular even with them. But it'll do everything a normal Device will do."

"I want it," Tohma said softly.