Author's Note: Wow. Okay, I think I have a few things to say. Starting with "my sincerest apologies". It's been over two years since first posting this story, and one and a half since the last update. In that time, I've had the final part of Midchildan Music mostly written and ready for publishing. I really don't have much of any excuse for keeping you all waiting, and I rather suspect that most of the people reading this had assumed I had simply abandoned it without fanfare, which I guess a lot of fanfic writers end up doing.
Going into this, I'd say I was worried about that happening and wanted to try and avoid it. Clearly, I failed. So... yeah. My apologies. Life happened, I guess. Somehow, I ended up prioritizing everything else over polishing and posting the final chapter of this story.
There is a reason I'm pulling this out again after a year or more of inactivity, and it has to do with what I did last November. Given what happened to this story, I won't make any promises... but if you do potentially want to see more Vocaloids as Nanoha-verse Devices, I recommend keeping an eye out.
For those of you that have just now come to this story, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it. For those of you that have been waiting (eagerly or otherwise) for this conclusion, again, you have my apologies, and I hope you won't judge me too harshly for it.
And please read, review, and enjoy this, the final chapter of Midchildan Music.
Disclaimer: I don't own Nanoha, any of the Vocaloids characters, or any of the Vocaloids music.
Someone suggested to me once that you save hyperbole until you really need it.
Why am I thinking of this now? Because I recall thinking the last time I woke up that I had the worst headache ever. And really, this one puts that one to shame. I felt like my head was about to split open. I was imagining a drill boring into my brain. I… well, you get the idea by now.
This was not helped along by the fact that I felt like a limp rag that had been thoroughly wrung out. In all honesty, going right back to sleep was a very tempting choice. I was tired enough to make opening my eyes a chore and a half, never mind actually trying to move.
Nevertheless, I forced my eyes open. I was lying on my back on something cool and hard, looking up into a plain metallic ceiling. Fluorescent lighting shined down steadily; I would have covered my eyes with a hand, except moving my hand turned out to be harder than expected. Just exhaustion, I hoped.
I tilted my head on its side to look around me. I was in fact lying on a metal examining table of some kind, and the small room was filled with computers and analysis gear, some of which I recognized and some of which I didn't. No one else seemed to be in the room, and nothing seemed to be on.
Operating on sheer force of will, I managed to bring life back into my limbs and braced myself, sitting up on the table. Just that much caused the room to spin violently, and the idea of going back to sleep became infinitely more inviting. Something inside me rebelled at the idea, and I swung my legs over the side of the table and attempted to stand.
I got maybe two steps forward before I had to throw my hands out in a desperate attempt to remain standing. Thankfully, I managed to brace myself against a (nonfunctional) computer terminal in front of me, sparing me the indignity and possible injury of falling to the ground. I held position there until I felt strong enough to take another go at it, and then slowly released my death grip on the terminal.
With a little effort, I found I could manage an almost drunken, exhausted stumble. I felt truly hammered, as if I had tried to stay awake for days on end… and then my gaze fell on a clock across the room that was apparently the only thing in the room that was functioning. It was barely midday. I had been sleeping for another few hours, and yet I was exhausted. What was going on here?
Operating almost purely on instinct, I stumbled my way towards the door. As I came up to it, I tried to push the thing open. Predictably, that didn't work. In fact, I rather suspected that this time the door would be locked. Whatever that Doctor Haynes wanted from me, I seriously doubted that giving me free access to his facility was one of them.
But perhaps he was depending on me to be asleep? I mean, even a C rank mage can do something. There was a fairly basic unlocking spell…
I reached inside myself for my source of magic and instantly realized why I felt exhausted. As far as my magical reserves were concerned, I was. Something was pulling at me, demanding a steady flow of power and leaving me with barely anything left. It was a miracle I was awake at all with this much of a drain on my pathetic ability!
And that would make escaping a challenge. But it had to be done. Growling with fury, I dredged up yet more energy from somewhere. My vision began to gray out at the edges as I forced power into the door in front of me.
"Unlock," I rasped. The door hissed open softly as the spell took effect, and I practically fell through, bracing myself against the door frame as I tried to regain some sense of equilibrium. In the moment of casting, I think I blacked out entirely for the briefest moment, in fact. That I was still standing at all was a welcome surprise.
How nice it would have been if that was the last thing I had to worry about. Unfortunately, the now-open door didn't lead into anything interesting at all. Just a bleak white-walled corridor in a bleak facility, branching off endlessly even within my sight.
As I stumbled out into the corridor, my hand instinctively checked my pocket. The cool metallic data chip was oddly soothing, still safely tucked away. I think that's the point at which I just kind of shut down for a little while. I don't actually know what I did from there. I suppose I could have followed the pulling sensation on my magical reserves. Maybe I remembered more of the layout of the building than I actually thought. Or maybe I just randomly wandered around the base. My memory isn't too clear on the subject, to tell the truth.
What shook me loose from that was the sound of a voice. Actually, the sound of Miku's voice, in all its innocent, honest, open glory.
"Why am I supposed to do what you ask of me?"
I glanced around in surprise. Somehow, while I had been out of sorts, my feet had carried me up to another unmarked door in a forest of plain corridors and unmarked doors. I could hear talking behind it, though!
"Come now, Miku, I am Doctor Richard Haynes! I am the one that created you, gave life to you…"
Again I forced a door open. This time, my rage burned sharper. I managed to remain standing without bracing myself against the door frame. And I walked through.
I found myself in a plain room with steel armor coating the walls. A single, metal examining bed adorned the center of the room, surrounded by machines that I had never seen before in my life. High on one wall, a glass-like screen blocked access to what looked like a control room. I could see Doctor Haynes and that Michael standing up in the control room, surrounded by technicians.
That only got a glance, though, compared to what was on the floor in front of me, standing next to the bed. A young woman, perhaps in her late teens, stood next to the bed. Long teal-colored hair, the same color as the magic circles that had appeared when I used magic with Miku's help, was tied into twin pigtails that extended to the floor, tied with an almost mechanical-looking pair of black rings with red highlights. She was wearing a skin-tight white leotard, with the belt that had appeared the one time secured around her waist. Black leggings covered her legs, ending in white anklets over bare feet; black sleeves hugged her lower arms, extending to the middle finger on each hand while coming up to the middle of her upper arm. Most strikingly, a red "01" adorned her left shoulder.
"Miku?" I asked in open surprise, reaching a hand up as if I could touch her from across the room.
She spun in surprise to fix me with a slightly confused gaze. "Who are you?"
I froze. Out of all the questions I could imagine being asked, that hadn't been on the list. Was this really…?
Haynes laughed loudly, drawing my gaze back up to him. "Oh, Sergeant, you never cease to amaze me." Beside him, Michael looked… vaguely worried?
"You know this person?" Miku asked of him, turning up to face him as well.
"Why yes, Miku," he gloated. "He is the one to whom you are tied as a familiar. Or should I say, as a Unison Device."
Instantly I realized. "That data was never intended to be put onto an Intelligent Device, was it," I accused.
"Of course not," Doctor Haynes shot back. "Miku was always going to be the next generation of Device."
Miku sighed heavily from the center of the room. "Is he some kind of test? Some kind of threat?" she asked mildly. "Are you going to ask me to start singing?"
I flinched slightly at the tone in her voice. Almost… resigned somehow, and yet there was still a trace of innocence… "You changed the personality code, didn't you," I yelled up at Haynes.
"Of course I did," he replied. "I didn't need any of the memory data you provided us, and I felt that giving her some sense of her abilities might be more useful." His glance shifted to Miku as he continued, "And if you will not do what I will, I don't see what need I have of you."
Turning to Miku, I stared intently at her, as if to will her to understand. "Miku, listen. This isn't the first time you've woken up. I can prove that to you."
Haynes continued as if I hadn't said a word. "If I don't have any other use for you, I might as well test what happens when a Unison Device loses the master to whom it is connected." His gaze flicked to me. "Sergeant, I suggest you convince her to do as I say."
I ignored him just as readily, reaching into my pocket and pulling out the data chip. "Miku… This is yours." Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Michael's face twist in what looked very much like shocked surprise. Doctor Haynes, on the other hand, was practically smoking with rage.
"Kaito! Meiko!" he yelled loudly. From the door behind me, as well as another one across the room, I heard footsteps. Across the room, Kaito walked in hurriedly. I glanced behind me for a quick moment, catching a glimpse of a woman who appeared to be in her 20s, wearing a skimpy red outfit. "Destroy that data chip immediately!"
My hand came back down, using my body to shield the data chip, as a crossfire of energy bolts ricocheted off the walls, blue and red meeting and exploding in midair.
"Miku!" I yelled out, stumbling forward as a wave of exhaustion pulled at me.
She leapt forward in one fluid motion, catching me before I had a chance to fall. I reached my hand up and handed over the data chip. "This is how you were originally created; this is how I knew you," I told this Miku. "Decide for yourself which path you prefer."
Kaito and Meiko advanced into the room, seemingly unsure of what to do now that the chip was not an obvious target. Miku barely paused before dashing back over to the bed in the center of the room, leaving me on my knees a few feet away.
Doctor Haynes's face was turning an amusing shade of purple. The things you notice at a time like this… "Kaito, Meiko," his voice echoed out from the control room, "we're going to reset this entire damn experiment. Erase them both."
The two of them continued to advance, standing side by side in between the bed and the control room window. A pair of magic circles manifested, and a crazy, dissonant mess of sound burst forth as they each began their own separate ritual spell.
A moment later, there was a scream from over by the bed. Miku cried out as a wave of energy poured from the machines surrounding her.
"I thought we shut that down!" Haynes roared in fury.
"We did!" one of the techs yelled back. "She must have powered it herself!"
I smiled. "Kind of is a pity that you created artificial mages… or is she more like a familiar? I don't know. You were aware that they could channel magic, right?"
Breathing heavily, Miku glanced up from the bed and met my gaze. With a faint smile, she leapt down again and ran to me, hand outstretched. Weakly, I reached out in response. Our hands met and twined together, and something just… clicked.
"Unison, in!" our two voices called out, perfectly in sync.
Power flowed around me. Miku's form faded into a teal wave of energy that merged with my own strength; my exhaustion vanished in an instant. My clothes shifted slightly; my uniform shaded into a silvery color, while my pants changed to black. Even my hair changed color, to match Miku's teal shade, although thankfully it didn't lengthen any. On my sleeves, computer-like buttons and screens emerged.
I… we?… glanced back towards the pair of Vocaloids singing in front of the control room's window. And I heard Miku's voice echoing in my head.
What are we going to do about them? she asked, a trace of concern in her voice.
Do you still have knowledge of your spellcasting abilities? I asked in return. Sensing assent from her, I continued, Pick a spell that can get both of them at once, and start from a good part; we don't want to give them too much longer.
There was a moment's pause, and then I could almost feel Miku smile. This should do! But you'll want to stand next to them.
Reveling in my newly restored energy, I practically leaped forward to stand just outside the barriers that they had in place. Hit it!
The screen on my left sleeve flashed, displaying the ritual status. Studying the title, I realized that Miku had picked a song called "Love is War", and smiled eagerly. The mess of sound outside seemed to fade away as Miku's voice echoed outward, filling my head with a sharp guitar riff and a Miku that sang with an angrily defiant edge.
And so it begins; this is war!
I reveled in the forcefulness of her voice, even though I was only getting a portion of the song. This was the first test of the changes I had made, the ability to start a song in the middle and end it early. So I was only getting the chorus, but even that much was enough. As her last note faded out, the screen flashed again. Ritual interrupt complete. Ready spell: Sonic Shockwave. I smiled evilly again when I realized that even those twenty or so seconds of music had given me a little over eighteen percent of the full effect.
I glanced up and fixed Haynes's surprised stare with my evil smirk. And to oblige the demands of the magic system, I parroted, "Sonic Shockwave!"
A blast of force echoed outward, a point-blank area of effect attack that hammered the protective shields established by Kaito and Meiko. I suspect that had I cast the fully charged, over-S level version of the spell, I would have reduced both of them to paste. As it stood, with this weakened version, Miku and I still broke through their defenses and knocked them both away. Energy flared up violently as their rituals were forcibly interrupted.
"They're not going to beat me, Haynes," I called out. "Not now that Miku's helping. Call them off."
Before he could reply, another voice cut in. "Doctor, there's a Bureau enforcer practically knocking down the front door!"
He cursed angrily. I noted in surprise that Michael was nowhere to be seen. "Kaito, Meiko, come and back up my departure!" he ordered sharply.
"Now hold on a moment!" I yelled. "Look, you two, you don't have to just follow every order he gives! You have the right to think for-" I realized I was yelling at an empty room, as Kaito and Meiko had taken off almost as soon as the order had been given.
You tried, Miku reminded me gently. That's all you can do.
Miku! I eagerly replied. You're…
I remember, she said almost sadly. I was able to control the patching process, to keep the information they gave me about the ritual spellcasting and… all that. But I remember all that you've done, too.
I really… I tried to say, pausing as I realized I had no idea what to say. I really didn't do that much. You don't owe me anything. I treated you the same way at first, remember?
But you changed, Miku argued back. In a cold voice, she continued, He probably never will.
I fell silent. What do you say? What can you say? She still seemed to trust me. Perhaps she saw something in me that I didn't.
Well, when we get a free moment, I suggested, you'll have to show me that song creation system.
Again, I could almost feel her smile, rather than see it. I'd love to.
I glanced around, trying to get a feel for what to do next. The control room above seemed abandoned now, and all of the doors were wide open.
We need to destroy this place, Miku said sharply. I don't want to see him… or anyone… doing this to another helpless Vocaloid like me.
I smiled again. That can be arranged.
Finding my way around the base was much easier with Miku in my head and the abandoned control room within easy reach. It only took a few minutes to trace out a route deep into the facility, and little more than that to make my way through the place. There were people running in every direction, but they tended to get out of the way when they saw the look in my eyes and the energy swirling around my fingertips.
Along the way, I took some time to review with Miku her spell selection and song database. It was somewhat of a tense, spartan conversation; Miku seemed reluctant to discuss the matter, but was direct and clear in relating her understanding of her capabilities.
It doesn't… bother you anymore? I asked hesitantly, once I had run out of questions about her magical abilities. The whole… weapon thing?
Of course it bothers me. Miku's reply was instant and unyielding. I kept that part of my original personality file. I am a Vocaloid, not a Unison Device. I would rather be designed to sing.
I… guess I can understand that…? I said a little questioningly. I mean, it is sort of outside my own experience, given the time I've spent training and practicing with magic… I value that ability very highly.
Miku's response to that wasn't entirely what I expected. I realize I was first created back when you finished that Intelligent Device, in a sense, she began, but according to my memory data I've spent a lot of time training and practicing too - just not with magic. It… annoys me that the 'effort' I've put into music should be secondary to my function as a magical weapon.
That set me back on my heels a little. There's a sense in which I think I can say the same thing, I mused. It annoys me that the effort I've put into magic should be secondary to my abilities with Device maintenance.
What did you do about it? Miku asked.
With a wry smile, I answered, I don't think I had ever really thought about it that way until you came along and provided me with the words to describe the feeling.
I could almost feel Miku's pout in the back of my head. That's not very helpful…
It wasn't supposed to be, I said. Then again, I can tell you that my response was to redouble my efforts to improve my magic, even when I started to get tired of the same runaround that I kept getting from the promotion tests.
Are you… saying that I might get tired of music? I could hear the faintest note of horror in Miku's voice.
Well, the other thing you have to remember is that you're different from me, I pointed out. Looking back, I think I would have enjoyed working on my Device skills more… although as long as you're here and willing to help me as a Unison Device, it's kind of a moot point since you can do far more with magic than I could ever hope to attempt. But you… your personality files define who you are, and those can be patched or rewritten. Knowing the way Devices are put together, I can say you wouldn't even need my help to do it.
What do you mean…? Miku sounded confused. Hardly surprising.
Any Intelligent Device can develop a personality or change the one they were created with; that code is part of you as well, even though you're more than an Intelligent Device at this point, I explained. Devices can have desires, make requests, suggest courses of action suited to those… so can you. Using you as a magical weapon was what he wanted from you. Now that he's created you, though, you can decide what you want to do.
At that moment, we reached our destination. The room I walked into was a wide-open room, filled with old-style physical control panels (that is to say, switches and buttons rather than magical screens) and display readouts of the surrounding machinery. There was a reason for the design difference. The surrounding machinery was the magical reactor that provided the facility with its power, and physical control was required if the reactor should suffer damage.
As it was about to.
My gaze swept over the readouts, but I admit that my focus wasn't on them. I was still caught up in what Miku had been saying, and yet I managed to take in the details well enough. The main containment system there. Razor-thin control circuits, that directed the flow of energy through the reactor, surrounding that. Energy transfer cables, as thick around as my forearm, to actually carry output away. Several failsafe systems that would cut off energy generation if unsafe conditions developed. A connection to the main vent, if the reactor should need to dispose of excess output quickly. And the control room, where I was standing, just about in the center of it all.
Now, I recall something that you said you wanted to do earlier… I suggested grimly. I don't think I can do it alone, though.
I'm with you, Miku told me. I may not have wanted this power, but if I have to use it, I will.
Shall we start then? I suggested, walking slowly to the center of the room next to a control panel. I think I know which song fits this…
So do I, Miku replied. Haunting organ music heralded the beginning of Miku's song, and a magic circle burst into life at my feet - a shimmering one glowing a very dark, almost black, shade of blue. I didn't even glance at the screen this time. I knew what she was singing.
Much to my surprise, it took nearly a minute for the inevitable interruption to arrive. "Stop right there!" an all too familiar voice called out from behind. I whirled around in surprise to see Fate charge into the reactor control room, a scythe of yellow energy at her side. She paused for a moment in what seemed to be surprise as she registered my presence.
I shall evolve into a princess that brings forth only destruction…
"Oh. You." Her voice sounded almost… contrite. "I need you to evacuate this facility and await debriefing-"
"No," I cut her off, Miku's singing echoing in my ears. "Miku and I have decided. We're destroying this facility."
I saw Fate's hand tighten noticeably on her Bardiche. "My orders are to secure this facility. I can't let you destroy it."
For a long moment, we looked at each other. I shrugged. "That you're here now tells me that you realize this facility should never have existed. If you and the Bureau wanted it, you should have brought it under control before all of this happened," I rebuked her angrily. "Now? Well, I don't intend to hurt you… but if you do want a second fight, things will go differently."
Is there meaning in destroying things…?
Slowly, Bardiche came up to ready position, scythe braced for a rush that would end with me in two pieces. Fate still seemed to be hesitating. Perhaps she remembered the last time she had rushed into things?
And yet, I couldn't help but laugh. "You realize you're making the same tactical mistake you made last time, right?"
Fate's eyes narrowed. "What?!"
These overflowing tears are dyed black; to this world that has changed everything I sing the prelude to destruction!
"Can't you hear the music?" I reminded her. "Don't you realize what that means?"
Her eyes widened slightly in surprised recollection for the briefest moment.
"This time, though, it isn't a shield," I taunted. Ready spell.
Her blade flashed as the inevitable rush finally came. She was fast. No doubt about that. But she had paused for an instant too long.
"Prelude to Destruction!" I called out triumphantly. Pinpricks of black flame filled the space around me, causing Fate to check her charge just short of running headlong into the glittering points of dark fire.
To her credit, Fate didn't even hesitate. Bardiche shifted back into its standard form, and she whipped around to the side and fired a series of energy bolts at me.
I just stood there, directing the spell that I had just cast. One of the points of black flame flared and unleashed a tight laser of magical energy, neatly cutting through the attack before it got anywhere near me. Turning to keep Fate in sight as best I could, I waited for a quick moment until she was right where I wanted her, then opened fire with a triad of focused lasers.
She dodged aside as if it was nothing, leaving my beam attack to burrow into the wall behind where she used to be. The energy attacks from this new spell, this Prelude, were powerful and fast, but Fate seemed to be on an entirely different level even compared to it. She was just too fast for anything to come even close! Well, it wasn't actually going to be that much of a problem, I hoped.
Faintly, I registered that Miku was still singing, readying a second spell for me as I used up the first. It was a minor concern as I went into an all-out attack, firing a steady series of beam attacks at a target I could barely even see. A few times, one of my beam attacks would come close to the yellow-white blur that was my target, but most of them missed, scoring long lines in the surrounding walls and occasionally punching through them. Display screens shattered and control panels were left bent and twisted as I racked up miss after miss.
The only upside was that Fate could do little to regain the offensive while I was pounding her with the steady attack pattern. Or so I thought. That was about when she redirected and came at me through the hailstorm of laser fire. It actually didn't go too badly for her; given her speed I only landed one or two hits in the time I had, and those were glancing blows.
In return, Bardiche flashed back into its scythe mode and lashed out. I activated all of my remaining lasers, encasing myself in a cage of black fire that neatly deflected the blade's strike, and then Fate was past me and back out of melee range. Finally, she skidded to a stop, staring at me with surprise and confusion clear on her face.
I was smiling broadly. That might have had something to do with her confusion.
"Do you think you have the advantage here?" she asked bluntly. "Even if you activate that spell again, you won't have as much endurance this time around. Mine will outdo yours."
"Fate," I informed her just as sharply, "I'm not a combat mage. Surviving that exchange might as well be a victory. Besides," I continued as the entire room shuddered slightly, "I did what I needed to do."
That didn't seem to alleviate any of her confusion, although the entire room shaking seemed to affect her poise a little. "What are you talking…?"
"Let's be honest here," I shot back, "if I had any practice at all with combat magic on this level, I could have torn you to pieces just now, and you know it." I let my gaze drift to the main monitor that I had intentionally left intact throughout the exchange of fire; the room shuddered violently once more. "Unfortunately for you, I don't need that level of practice to achieve a kind of victory here… and I was never really the type of person to go around tearing other Bureau employees to pieces anyway."
Fate followed my gaze to the main monitor, the reactor status readout. To the yellow caution indicators on it that were shifting to the flashing red of a critical situation even as I spoke.
"I had a chance to think about that, you know - who I am: a top-notch device technician. An engineer. Specialist in the framework that runs everything from small devices… to facility-level reactor systems." The color drained from Fate's face as I continued in a flat, cold monotone. "Admittedly I don't really have any experience with something on this scale, but I understand it well enough to break it in a number of really bad ways. And with you running around like that, it was simple enough to 'miss' you and hit, say… all the failsafes. A stray shot here and there fusing the output cables to the control circuits. A laser neatly severing the vent connection. That kind of thing."
"You're completely mad," Fate whispered in shock, really looking at the readout for the first time. "A reactor meltdown of this size-"
"Should create an explosion that will completely sterilize everything within two hundred meters of this point and cause severe damage to an area ten times that size, if I understand these readouts correctly," I finished for her. "It's hard to say, really, but I think we probably have little more than five or six minutes before we get to see for ourselves."
"Don't you realize what that will do?" Fate yelled at me.
"Well," I replied coldly, "among other things, if you go now you still have time to search the facility and the surrounding area, and try to ensure that no one will be caught up in it. Thankfully reactor tech has improved considerably over the many years that we've been building these things, so we shouldn't see any kind of shockwave effect that might cause casualties outside the immediate blast zone."
Now Fate was just staring at me with open, molten hatred. "How dare you…"
"Prelude to Destruction." The field of black fire was noticeably smaller this time, but I had high hopes for this bluff all the same. "If you fight, you'll probably win. You might even win in enough time to get us both out of here before this thing goes up."
"Damn you!" Fate yelled out angrily. In an instant, she blurred out through the door, practically tearing it off its hinges as she rushed out of the room.
I sighed heavily. Well, at least she'll be fine.
What about us?! Miku demanded, fear obvious in her voice.
That's why you need to start singing again.
Fate hovered nearly a kilometer over the forest, frantically scanning the foliage for signs of life. The research facility was in a secluded area, but people always had a habit of showing up where they weren't supposed to be. The techs from the lab, for example, were running away from the now-doomed facility as fast as they could, but they weren't nearly far enough away yet. And all it would take was one group of campers in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Yet again Fate cursed her luck. A moment too late to lay hands on that Haynes bastard… god only knows where he went. A rogue Sergeant with a death wish. And now he's going to take an area the size of a small city with him.
She arrowed down into the forest, alighting next to the group of lab technicians. "Halt!"
"But-" one of them started to protest.
"You'll never get far enough away," Fate shot back in a tone that brooked no argument. "Bardiche!"
"Defenser Plus," it replied, as a yellow energy barrier flashed into existence around the group.
"That should be enough, at this range," Fate sighed. "Hold there while I try to make sure that no one else-"
"Warning. Energy levels peaking." Bardiche announced calmly. "Reactor energy release imminent."
Desperately, Fate shot up into the air. "Nothing detected in the surrounding area?" she demanded.
"As yet uncer-" Bardiche's last word faded out before the massive roar of a titanic explosion. A massive column of fire bloomed over the trees as the reactor let go, reducing the research facility to ash in all of an instant.
The fireball faded just as quickly; most of its energy had for some reason been directed upward rather than outward, vaporizing the facility itself but leaving much of the surrounding forest intact. Fate sighed with something very much like relief.
"Ma'am?" a new voice asked from her left. Fate turned to acknowledge the arrival of the Bureau aerial mages.
"Unfortunately I was unable to prevent the facility's destruction," she explained. "Spread out and check for survivors or injuries. Take into custody any people connected to the research facility."
As the Bureau marines darted off in every direction to do their jobs, Fate sighed. Well, looks like this case has come to a highly unsatisfying end.
NEW CALENDAR 0079 MONTH 11 DAY 17 H23M03
FILE RECOVERY COMPLETED
COPY OF RELEVANT FILE APPENDED BELOW
BEGINNING TRACKING OPERATION OF ALPHA AND BETA TARGETS
THE HUNT GOES ON
TYPE: TEXT FILE (ELECTRONIC MAIL)
RECOVERED FROM: CENTRAL BUREAU SERVER BANKS
NOTES: DELETED BY RECIPIENT
From: Unknown_sender (unknown)
To: Haruko Nakamura (Final Judgment)
You may consider this letter my resignation from the Time-Space Administration Bureau's Ground Forces. Then again, if they realized that we're not actually dead (and I'd hope that someone noticed the odd pattern of the explosion and wondered how that happened!), I imagine you'd be under orders to take me into custody, were I to deliver this in person. So I guess resignation's kind of implied by now.
You're welcome to tell the higher-ups that we're still around, if you want. I don't actually care about keeping it a secret; if I did I wouldn't have sent you this message. Good luck tracking it back to me though. You'll need it, should you try.
I do need to say, too, that neither of us is interested in working for the Bureau any further, especially not as research subjects. And Miku agreed that she should hold onto the ritual system that enabled that high-power spellcasting. So if the higher-ups do want to do something about the fact that we're still around, I suggest they send someone powerful.
Miku wants to explore, see the many different worlds that our universe has to offer. As for me, well, I think I've had more than enough of my life in the Bureau Ground Forces, and Miku said she'd like someone to keep her company. Besides, I know more about getting around in Bureau space than she does.
Well, I think that's about it. Miku sends her regards, and says she regrets never really introducing herself to you. As for me… I really need to thank you for all that you did for me. I don't really know how best to put it, actually. Maybe all I can say is that, while I now realize that the Ground Forces weren't what I wanted to do with my life, I'm nevertheless honored to have served in the 42nd under your command.
Until the next time we meet, Haruko.