Author's note: Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed the first chapter. It'll probably take me longer to write the next part, if only because the holidays are fast approaching and I won't have as much free time to write... But I digress. Read, review, and (hopefully) enjoy.
Also, as a disclaimer, I don't own Nanoha or Halo.
"Captain!" Amy's panicked voice carried over the intercom. "Right before transition, a ship of some kind attached itself to our hull, and we carried them along with us!"
"Marines!" Admiral Lindy commanded in response. "Deploy to the contact point and defend the Arthra!"
As she gave the order, the ship shook again, and the faint sound of an explosion drifted onto the bridge. "Admiral, these, these things… they're not human!" a panicked voice reported over the intercom before dissolving into static.
"Report!" Lindy demanded.
"Admiral," a different voice replied, "we've made contact with approximately two dozen hostiles, non-human. They're not using magic… primarily some kind of directed energy weapon. We can't hold them back!"
Before the report even finished, Chrono's staff was in his hands, and his barrier jacket deployed with a flash as he strode for the doors to the bridge. "I'm going," he stated simply. "Nanoha, Fate, protect the bridge."
"I'm going too!" Nanoha shot back, yanking Raising Heart off its necklace. "Raising Heart Excelion!"
"Stand by… ready," her device replied. A cloud of magenta light consumed Nanoha, and then shattered. Nanoha's school uniform had vanished, to be replaced by her blue and white barrier jacket. She held Raising Heart, now in its staff form, loosely in one hand.
"We can't let you go alone, Chrono," Fate agreed calmly. "Bardiche Assault."
"Get set," her device responded. Fate was surrounded by yellow light, but otherwise the process was much the same. Her barrier jacket was primarily black, with a long cape. Bardiche had become an axe-like weapon, which Fate held in ready position.
Chrono sighed. "Just stay behind me then." He tore out of the bridge at top speed, Nanoha and Fate barely keeping up. The red-lit corridors of the Arthra flew past as they raced toward the battle.
Within a half minute, the sounds of battle could be heard from up ahead. Shouting and screams mixed with the sound of weapons fire, both the laser-like zapping sounds of Midchildan magical attacks and a slightly different, unfamiliar noise. As they continued forward, the sound became more and more intermittent, as the battle ahead reached some kind of conclusion.
As Chrono rounded the next corner, he slowed up suddenly, causing Nanoha and Fate to nearly knock him over as they charged up behind him. The reason for his hesitation was immediately apparent: the battle was all but over, and the Arthra's marines had lost. Bodies littered the hallway they had just entered. The majority were human, their white armor cracked open or even just melted away in some cases. Midchildan devices lay scattered around where the Arthra's marines had dropped them.
The one body that wasn't human, though, was of far more interest. While it was somewhat difficult to tell, it looked to be maybe five and a half feet tall, wearing yellow armor that was cracked in a dozen places. A breathing mask of some kind obscured half its face, and the visible skin on its face was a mottled grey shade. And in the ceiling almost directly above the alien corpse, a hole glowed with purple light.
"Why didn't we encounter any of the ene-" Fate started to wonder out loud.
An explosion cut her off. From a side corridor up ahead, one of the Arthra's marines flew out, accompanied by a quick burst of blue flames. He slammed into the side wall of the corridor and slumped down with a sigh, his entire front side seared black.
"They must have gone that way," Chrono stated grimly. Advancing without any further hesitation, he rounded the corner, bringing up a barrier of magical energy as he did so.
That shield saved his life. The round, magic circle-like shield intercepted a volley of green bolts of energy, deflecting them into the walls and ceiling of the side corridor. Five more of the strange, alien creatures had fired on him without warning, chattering something in a high-pitched voice about enemies.
Worse yet, behind that group of enemies was a taller, almost reptilian bipedal humanoid. The creature waved a two-pronged weapon, the like of which Chrono had never seen before, and roared something unintelligible.
Coolly, Chrono leveled his staff in response and unleashed a volley of blue bolts of energy. The precisely-aimed attack tore through the shorter aliens, dropping three of them in a spray of luminous blue blood. The remaining two were knocked to the ground, armor cracking as it took the blows.
The taller, blue-armored one, however, merely stood tall as a bolt zeroed in on his chest. It slammed into him and flared into a small explosion, one that was entirely rejected by a shimmering energy covering his form.
"A shield?" Chrono cursed. As the alien leveled his strange weapon, Chrono hurriedly brought up another energy shield to defend himself, unable to dodge with Fate and Nanoha right behind him. The magical barrier shuddered as it deflected a rain of blue plasma bolts, cracking slightly under the strain.
Suddenly, Fate's voice issued forth from behind him. "Get down, Chrono!" she yelled.
A mechanical-sounding "Haken Form" from Bardiche, and the steadily weakening shield in front of him, provided all the motivation he needed. Chrono hurriedly hit the deck just as his shield shattered, clearing the way for Fate to take over.
"Haken Saber," Bardiche declared almost calmly. Fate took the scythe that Bardiche had become and swung it, releasing a whirling halo of yellow energy at the taller alien. Plasma bolts disintegrated in midair as the blade of force cut through them, zeroing in on their source.
The alien didn't even have time to dodge before the attack slammed into him. A massive explosion echoed through the corridor. When the dust faded, none of the enemies remained standing.
Chrono took a few steps forward, followed closely by Fate. Kneeling down, he examined one of the unmoving aliens, and the weapon lying by its side. "What are these things?" he asked rhetorically, not expecting an answer.
A low growl, and the thump of something landing behind them, interrupted their musings. Nanoha, taking up the rear, spun around in surprise to see a gold-armored alien swinging a crackling blue sword at her face.
"Protection Powered," Raising Heart interrupted the attack. A magenta-colored, shimmering barrier faded into existence an instant before the sword slammed into it. It sparked as it tried to cut through Raising Heart's barricade.
"Why are you attacking us?" Nanoha demanded angrily, holding the line firmly against the sudden attack.
Suddenly, the alien spoke, not in some unrecognizable tongue, but in perfectly understandable English. "Your destruction is the will of the gods!" he declared proudly, bearing down hard with the energy sword while clenching his other hand into a fist.
Nanoha's eyes widened in shock. Before she could react, the alien punched out, straining the barrier beyond its limits. With a noise akin to breaking glass, the field shattered, and the alien's punch knocked Nanoha across the corridor, the energy sword just barely missing her. She slammed into Chrono, knocking both of them to the ground.
"Nanoha!" Fate screamed. She spared a glance for Nanoha and Chrono, both of whom looked to be stunned, but still alive. Leveling Bardiche at the offending enemy, she fixed him with a furious glare, and coldly continued, "You've hurt Nanoha… I can't forgive you for that." As she spoke, a sphere of yellow fire blossomed in her open palm.
Roaring, the sword-wielding foe charged, covering the distance separating them in no more than a few seconds. As it turned out, however, he was a step or two short when Fate brought her hand back around.
"Plasma… Smasher!" she shouted, unleashing a massive beam of magical energy at point-blank range. When the flare of light and its accompanying report had finally faded, the gold-armored alien was lying at the base of a very cracked, battered wall a full twenty feet away, unmoving.
Bardiche shifted slightly, revealing vents that released a blast of steam into the air. Fate sighed with relief in unison with her device, then looked back to Nanoha.
With a moan, Nanoha shakily stood up, and shook her head once or twice to clear it. Chrono was already back on his feet, looking warily up and down the corridor.
"Are you all right, Nanoha? Chrono?" Fate asked worriedly, looking them over.
"I'm fine, just a little dizzy," Nanoha replied brightly, staggering slightly as she took a step in Fate's direction.
"More importantly," Chrono cut in, "Amy, is that all of them?"
Dead silence answered his query. A long ten seconds ticked by without any response, positive or negative.
Chrono's face quickly shaded to a stark white, shock and concern settling in. "Amy!" he yelled out, dashing down the corridor toward the Arthra's combat information center.
"Oh no, Amy!" Nanoha echoed him, only to be brought up short by a mental voice intruding on her concerns.
"Nanoha, this is Signum," the easily-recognizable voice of the Wolkenritter leader echoed through a telepathic link. "We're pinned down in the sickbay by over a dozen of these… things."
"We'll have to let Chrono handle Amy," Fate suggested worriedly, having received the message as well. "Hayate and the knights need help too."
Having come to the same conclusion, Nanoha quickly replied, "We'll be right there!"
Chrono dashed through the Arthra at a breakneck pace, desperately trying to contact Amy all the while. Every call was met with silence, and the distinctive sounds of the invaders' weapons could be heard from up ahead.
"Chrono, this is Nanoha," a voice intruded on his musings. "The knights need backup in the sickbay, so we're going to help them… but let us know if you need help, okay?"
Wrapped up in his concern, he barely even noticed the message. Almost as an afterthought, he sent back something vaguely like agreement and refocused on the scene in front of him.
One more corner separated Chrono from the Arthra's combat information center. Almost unwillingly, he checked his run and peered around the corner cautiously, hoping to get an idea of the tactical situation before charging in headlong.
The corridor he looked into was a blasted ruin. Scorch marks covered the walls and ceiling, especially surrounding the now nonexistent door leading into Amy's typical post. Something sparked in the ceiling above the scorched hole. And worse yet, another group of the shorter aliens surrounded the former door, pouring a near-endless stream of weapons fire into the combat information center.
"That's far enough!" Chrono yelled out, bursting around the corner and leveling his device at the enemies.
"Blaze Cannon," it recited. A blue-white sphere of energy quickly grew in front of Chrono, completely eclipsing his view of the enemies beyond. Before his targets could do anything more than spin around in surprise, a blast of energy tore through the hallway. For a brief instant, chattering screams echoed in the confined space.
Chrono charged forward in the wake of his attack, ignoring the carpet of downed enemies he had just created. Skidding to a stop in front of the blasted hole in the wall, he brought his device around, preparing to open fire on any possible threats within.
Instead, he froze, taking in the scene in an instant. The combat information center was even more of a blasted wreck than the corridor outside, with half-melted metal decorating the walls and floor. Scorch marks covered the computer equipment, and the screen filling the far end of the room was in pieces on the floor.
Another one of the taller aliens stood in the center of the room, next to the destroyed main console. With one hand, he maintained a firm grip on the uniformed girl, Amy, next to him, rendering her attempts to escape somewhat useless.
Amy's eyes widened when she saw Chrono appear in the doorway. "Chrono-"
Savagely, the alien punched out with the weapon in his other hand, knocking her to the ground. She collapsed with a scream, lying stunned on the deck.
"How dare you!" Chrono yelled to him, taking a step forward.
"Don't move!" his adversary rasped, leveling the weapon at Amy again. "One more step, and she dies!"
Chrono froze again, his own device still leveled at the tall, blue-armored form. The moment of hesitation passed quickly. Shifting his aim ever so slightly, he readied a spell.
A thin blue beam of light lanced out of the end of his device, covering the distance between him and his enemy in the blink of an eye. It slammed into and through the alien's weapon, knocking his aim aside and rendering the weapon useless in the same moment.
Growling, the enemy tossed the now-useless weapon aside and simply charged. Chrono tried to redirect the energy bolt he had fired, but the enemy was faster. With a roar, the alien slammed into Chrono, knocking him back out into the hallway. His barrier jacket absorbed some of the hit, but he was still thrown heavily into the corridor's far wall.
He recovered from the shock of the hit just in time to see the menacing form of the seven-foot-tall alien standing over him, swinging down at him with a fist. Frantically, he ducked the blow, rolling away from the attack and regaining his feet in one swift motion.
Chrono had a moment to open fire, unleashing a volley of magical bolts into the alien's shield. Ignoring the attack, the alien dove at Chrono again, even as his shield sparked and then failed entirely under the magical attack.
And this time, Chrono was ready for the charge attack. Swinging his device like a club, he knocked his adversary aside, deflecting the charge into a nearby wall. As the alien slumped to the floor, Chrono's staff-like device came back around, the pointed tip on the end of the handle hovering a few inches over the momentarily stunned enemy.
"Break Impulse," the device intoned dispassionately.
Fixing the alien with a cold gaze, Chrono brought the weapon down. A flash of light accompanied a spray of indigo blood, as the blast of energy tied into the melee strike slammed through the enemy to crack the floor of the corridor beneath him.
Chrono spared a glance for what was left of his opponent before dashing over to where Amy was picking herself up off the deck of the combat information center. "Are you all right, Amy?" he called to her as he bolted through the doorway.
"Yeah, I think…" she replied shakily, grunting in pain as she stood up. "Thanks, Chrono."
"Come on," he suggested, taking her hand. "Let's get you up to the bridge, since it doesn't look like anything in here is working anymore."
She sighed regretfully in assent, looking around at the remains of her usual station. "All right."
As the two of them left the destroyed combat information center, Chrono established a mental line to Nanoha. "Amy's safe," he informed her. "How are things on your end?"
Another volley of pinkish spikes flew out, originating from one of the enemies at the end of the hall. They bounced uselessly off the shimmering white barrier blocking the corridor, falling to the ground and shattering with a series of quick popping sounds.
"Zafira," Signum curtly asked, "will the barrier hold?"
The four members of the Wolkenritter were clustered just outside the door to the sickbay, all in full armor with weapons at the ready. Zafira knelt down in the center, maintaining a pair of barricades on either side of the knights. Beyond those shields, at the ends of the corridor on either side, two entire squads of the alien infantry were clustered, one in each direction. They were using the corner as cover and occasionally popping out to lay down fire.
"It'll take a lot more than this to threaten me," Zafira replied just as curtly.
"Damn it!" Vita cursed, pacing back and forth in the narrow corridor. "Can't we just go smash them all?"
"They're too far away," Shamal warned her. "They'd have plenty of time to shoot you if you tried to charge."
"Fine then!" Vita snarled. "Then we do this!"
Four reddish spheres materialized from nowhere in front of Vita. Zafira dropped the shield in front of Vita for a few seconds, long enough for her to raise Graf Eisen and bring it around in a sweeping strike.
"Schwalbe Fliegen!" the hammer declared, striking the four spheres and sending them flying down the corridor. As Zafira brought the shield back up, the four bullets slammed into the wall at the end of the corridor and exploded.
"How d'you like that?" Vita yelled down the corridor angrily.
As if in response, a thick volley of plasma fire slammed into the shield, and a small, blue-glowing sphere arced through the air. It landed at the base of the shield and sat for a few seconds before exploding in a maelstrom of blue fire. Zafira grunted in surprise, both barriers faltering for a moment before stabilizing.
"Come on, Signum, can't you do anything?" Vita demanded.
"And what would you propose?" she calmly bit back. "Falcon? I'd destroy the sickbay if I tried to use that in these tight quarters." As Vita seethed with balked fury, Signum rebuked her, "Calm down, Vita."
"Calm down?" Vita growled. "I'm really tired of just sitting here, getting shot at!"
As if to punctuate Vita's sentence, another grenade exploded against Zafira's barrier. This time, the barrier barely even wavered, but Zafira grunted in something approaching annoyance.
"Nanoha and Fate will be here shortly, and they'll flank these things from behind," Signum pointed out. "We can attack then, once they're distracted."
At that very moment, the two of whom Signum spoke were peering around a corner of their own, examining the non-existent rear guard of one of the enemy squads. One of the taller aliens led a group of six shorter ones, with all of the enemies focused almost blindly on the knights guarding the sickbay.
"According to what Signum said, there's another squad on the other side of the sickbay," Fate whispered. "I'll head over there, so wait until I'm in position."
"Got it, Fate," Nanoha whispered back. Fate dashed off, making her way down a corridor running along the opposite side of the sickbay. Before a half minute had passed, she was in position to strike at the second group, waving at Nanoha to get her attention.
"Ready, Raising Heart?" Nanoha asked softly.
In response, her device shifted into its long-range attack form, an almost cannon-like spear. "Buster mode, stun setting," it recited quietly.
She whipped around the corner in one smooth motion and leveled Raising Heart at the taller alien, the apparent leader of the group. "Divine… Buster!" she called out loudly.
As the group of enemies turned in surprise, a searing magenta beam of energy shot forth from Raising Heart, catching the blue-armored leader squarely. Its shield flared into existence as it took the hit, deflecting small rivulets of energy into the wall behind him. However, the shield lasted all of four or five seconds against the torrent of magical energy before failing completely, leaving the alien exposed to the full force of the attack.
The smaller enemies could only stare in shock as their leader was knocked to the ground, rendered unconscious by the sudden ambush. Almost in unison, they looked to his unconscious form, and then to the tiny little girl that had taken him down so effortlessly.
One of them squealed "Leader down!" and dashed around the corner, as if to escape. As the rest followed his retreat, though, they realized that the only other direction they could run was no better.
"Raketen… Hammer!" Vita shrieked, a trail of smoke marking her progress down the corridor. The rocket engine embedded in Graf Eisen flared, propelling Vita toward the lead enemy.
That enemy had a moment to gape before Vita struck, spinning Graf Eisen into an overhand blow at the last moment. The massive blow almost literally pounded the alien into paste, dropping him to the deck in an instant.
Lacking any other option, the remaining enemies opened fire, somewhat uselessly. Vita tore through them with a violent rampage that was both quick and mercilessly effective. By the time Nanoha rounded the corner, all of the smaller aliens were laid out on the deck with terminal hammer wounds.
"What took you so long, Nanoha?" Vita muttered.
"Uh…" she gaped in response, staring wide-eyed at the aftermath of the massacre. "I-I mean, we got here as fast as we could…" she replied a little hesitantly.
"No matter," Vita crowed, smirking slightly. "As I thought, they couldn't stand up to me after all."
As Nanoha was searching for some kind of reply, a mental transmission intruded on her thoughts. "Amy's safe," Chrono's voice echoed from across the Arthra. "How are things on your end?"
"Fine," Nanoha replied almost gratefully, thankful for the distraction. Looking down the hallway, she confirmed that Fate and Signum had dealt with the other group of foes. "We've dealt with the enemies over here."
After a slight pause, Chrono replied again. "From what Amy could determine before she was attacked, that should be all of them. Clean things up over there and get to the briefing room; the Admiral wants a word with everyone."
"All right, Chrono," Nanoha replied easily.
"Amy, how's the Arthra?" Admiral Lindy asked, a trace of concern in her voice.
The briefing room that the meeting was taking place in was laid out somewhat like a conference room, with a long table dominating the space. Lindy sat at the head, and the senior staff of the Arthra lined one side of the table, including Chrono, Amy, Alex, and Randy. Nanoha, Fate, and Signum took up the opposite side.
"Not good, ma'am," Amy replied wearily. As she spoke, a hologram popped up in the center of the table, displaying the Arthra under normal conditions. The destroyed piece of the ship flashed red on the display, and yellow and orange marks decorated a good portion of what was left. "Before we could retreat, we took a heavy blow from the enemy ship. As you can see, the portside forward prong was completely destroyed. And a multitude of smaller hits broke through our armor and did minor damage to wiring and general integrity throughout the entire outer hull."
Alongside the ship diagram, a list of major systems began scrolling down. As Amy continued, two of the icons shifted from green to red, indicating the systems that had been knocked out. "Thanks to the damage, the Arc-en-Ciel is no longer working, and the links from the reactor to the shields have been destroyed as well, rendering those nonfunctional."
Everyone stared grimly at the readout as Amy finished her report. "Finally, the wiring damage has impeded shipboard communications, leaving 'dead zones' where the intercom system no longer functions, and the destruction of the combat information center means we no longer have effective control over sensors, tracking, or ship-to-ship communication." Four more icons shaded to orange as she spoke.
"The transfer port is still functional?" Admiral Lindy confirmed.
"Yes ma'am," Amy replied quickly. "Though without the combat information center, anything beyond personal teleports will be difficult."
Admiral Lindy looked down at the table for a long moment in contemplation.
"By all rights, I should be ordering us back to headquarters for repairs," she admitted. Her gaze came back up, a fierce determination clearly visible in her eyes. "But those rifts worry me, and that ring worries me." The holographic display changed, to a representation of the ring-shaped world. "Amy?"
Correctly divining the question, Amy replied, "We couldn't get much on it, ma'am; we didn't really have time for active scanning." Several points along the surface of the ring began glowing. "The sensors did pick up several energy responses powerful enough to be Lost Logia, but without the combat information center, our ability to analyze the signatures is minimal."
Lindy sighed. "We don't have a choice then. Chrono!"
"Yes, ma'am!" he responded quickly.
"I need you to go down there and figure out what's going on in more detail," she ordered. "Determine the cause of the dimensional rifts we observed, and ensure that the ring world itself poses no threat to dimensional space."
Nanoha and Fate stared in surprise as Chrono assented with another "Yes, ma'am!"
"Fate…" Lindy turned to her next. "I need you to go with Chrono and back him up, understand?"
"Y-yes," Fate stuttered.
"Nanoha," Lindy began, "I don't really have the right to ask you to-"
"Like hell I'm letting Fate go alone," Nanoha cut her off. "I'm going too."
"Alone?" Chrono asked archly, raising an eyebrow.
Ignoring the question, Signum cut into the conversation. "The Arthra's marines were decimated in the battle, correct?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Amy replied slowly.
"Then we will remain on the Arthra and ensure its safety, should any of the prisoners escape or if it is boarded again," she suggested.
"Thank you," Lindy replied gratefully. Turning back to Chrono, she pointed at a spot on the ring world. "Since I'd rather not send you directly to one of the energy responses we picked up, I think you'd be best served teleporting to this desert plateau here and flying from there to points of interest."
"Very well, Admiral," Chrono replied. "Nanoha, Fate, let's get going." The three stood up and marched out of the room.
"Good luck, and be careful!" Admiral Lindy saw them off.