A cold, wet wind, heavy with the rain that had fallen that morning and the promise of more later in the day, swept through the streets of Aegis, capital city of Administered World #103. The blonde girl shivered as it bit at her, wishing now that she'd brought her coat. She knocked on the heavy steel door in front of her, making it rattle under her fist. A slot in the door snapped open, revealing dark, suspicious eyes.
"Whattya want?" a man's voice barked.
"My name is Takamachi Vivio," the seventeen-year-old said. While she identified herself, the gaze watching her went from suspicious to leering, traveling up and down her tall, leggy, busty form in a fashion that she only wanted her girlfriend doing. "I'm here to speak with a Mr. Martan Audi on behalf of the Time-Space Administration—"
"It's the damned Bureau!" the voice shouted, cutting her off even as its owner was slamming the hatch shut.
"Protection," intoned Vivio's Intelligent Device, Burning Glory, and a shimmering dome of shifting rainbow light sprang up around her to stop the spray of slugs that smashed into it from two directions. The door had clearly been watched by sentries, which was no surprise; the Aegis police had told her that this was the home ground of one of the city's nastiest street gangs, the 207s. They were hard-core criminals, involved in drug and weapons trafficking as well as extortion who did not hesitate to defend themselves and their bottom line with assault and murder.
Still, Vivio had hoped things wouldn't have to get violent. Even criminals could be reasonable businessmen, couldn't they? At least she'd thought so, but they seemed intent on fighting.
"Burning Glory, set up!" she ordered. If they wanted a fight, she could give them one.
"Barrier Jacket: Royal Mode." In the next instant her ordinary clothing had been replaced by a snug-fitting blue-gray bodysuit underneath a short white jacket, with armored gloves clutching a long staff capped by a Belka Kreuz, the blue gem of Burning Glory's core set at the cross's center.
"Track and identify targets; mark for homing."
A half-dozen bullets of rainbow light appeared around the staff's tip and went shooting off in two separate directions, following the target lock. The hail of fire stopped at once; apparently the shooters had lacked Barrier Jackets or other magical defenses.
"I think that gives us just cause to enter the premises by force, don't you, Burning Glory?"
"I agree, mistress."
Vivio spun and drove her fist into the door in a Strike Arts technique that channeled magic into the punch like a Belkan-style attack, but the door only shivered without breaking. Apparently it had been magically reinforced.
The staff transformed in an instant into what looked very much like a large handgun with a heavily built-up barrel, except that there was no opening in the muzzle—which wasn't as crazy as it seemed, because this gun wasn't meant for shooting people. Vivio pulled the trigger, discharging a stored-magic cartridge, and Burning Glory was wreathed in a rainbow aura. Vivio slammed the Device's revolver barrel into the door once, denting it badly; twice, crumpling it in so that gaps showed around the edges; three times, tearing it off its hinges and launching it into the building where it crashed into a wall in a shower of broken plaster.
"Let's go!" She sprang into the air for greater mobility and flew through the now-open door, only to freeze in place. A leprous-green magic circle had appeared beneath her and a bright golden aura above, both spraying out binding chains that fastened tightly around her, holding her in place.
Nanoha-mama will scold me if she finds out I walked right into a trap, Vivio thought glumly. The special defensive magic of her Barrier Jacket started to decay the binds at once, but it wouldn't be in time to stop the eight people that surrounded her in a semicircle, carrying two automatic mass-drivers, two shotgun-like ones that no doubt threw high-energy slugs, a military-grade linear rifle, and three genuine Storage Devices. She tried to cast a defensive spell to augment her protections, but at least one of the trap spells must have been like her mentor Yuuno's Struggle Bind, keeping her from linking mana to invoke new magic.
Vivio screamed as physical and magical blasts hammered her simultaneously. She actually missed the point when the bindings were erased, her head was ringing so thoroughly, until she was jolted by falling onto the concrete floor. Fortunately, her Intelligent Device was clear-headed.
The pain stopped almost at once, excepting only a dull headache and a pulsing throb in her side where a linear rifle shot had found a soft spot. She was going to have an ugly bruise, she just knew it. She was lucky that was all; those things were designed to pierce through a low-grade Barrier Jacket at close range, especially when that Jacket had been simultaneously stressed holding off the attack magic of three mages of at least C rank. If she'd been even a B-ranker defensively, she'd have been seriously injured or dead.
I guess that's why they sent me on this job...
Vivio pulled Burning Glory's trigger twice, charging the defensive spell until it glowed brightly. It wasn't to get extra protection; the spell was shedding the continuing hail of attacks fine on its own.
The energy stored in the barrier spell exploded outward, slamming into the attackers and knocking them sprawling. The five non-mages were stunned unconscious outright, and Vivio was already springing for one of the other three the moment the burst went off. One had been knocked down, so she dove at the nearer of the other two, punching him hard in the belly to double him up and smashing Burning Glory down on the back of his head. Even as he dropped, Vivio was spinning around towards the other still-upright mage. She loaded another cartridge and sprang.
"Round Shield!" the Sevener babbled desperately, conjuring up a defense.
"Burning Cross!" Vivio already had the counter ready and used the cartridge's energy to whip Burning Glory in two slashes, vertical and horizontal, that tore the shield to shreds and slammed the mage onto his butt just from the backblast. She pivoted and kicked—stomped, more like—his chin, adding him to the sleeping set. The last mage didn't even try getting up or fighting. He just scrambled on his hands and knees for the wrecked door, fleeing out into the street. Vivio ignored him; she had a job to do and beating up every last thug wasn't it.
"Burning Glory, are we close enough for you to lock on to the beacon's tracing signature?"
"Yes, mistress. It is within the building, one hundred and forty-nine feet from our current position."
"Let's go get it, then."
She ran down the hall to her left, then up another one and through a door onto what was obviously the work floor of the old factory the 207s had taken over for their home. Vivio shifted Burning Glory back to its staff-like Kreuz Form and launched into the air, even as she was coming under fire. Remembering her air combat lessons, she kept in three-dimensional motion in order to reduce her target profile and the ability of the enemy to lead her or to keep homing attacks properly on her tail. As she wove among catwalks and gantries, ducking in and around machinery, she launched her own counterattacks, spraying a Radiant Shooter to scatter the Seveners on the floor, then another at a catwalk sniper. A mage firing stun charges at her ended up eating a Sacred Cluster, which didn't defeat the woman outright due to a hastily-conjured Defenser, but obliterated the catwalk around her and allowed her to demonstrate her lack of flight skills. Since the mage's Barrier Jacket had been nearly shredded in the attack and wouldn't necessarily absorb the impact, Vivio kindly caught her in midair before dumping her on the floor and stunning her.
In approximately two and a half minutes, the room was clear of conscious Seveners, all of them either having been downed or fled. The beacon from Vivio's target wasn't in the work area, though, but apparently came from the next room over, which seemed to be some kind of pressure chamber with an airlock-style door.
"Is that room reinforced?"
"Yes," Burning Glory reported. "The walls and door alike have been strengthened with multiple defensive spells designed to resist impact, particularly kinetic and heat damage."
"Particularly? How about purely magic damage?"
"Less so, with fewer and less permanent spells, although the overall structural resistance would also reduce the force of magic damage."
"I see. So I guess it was originally some kind of blast chamber, but the 207 gang decided to turn it into a bunker or safe room," Vivio deduced. She hoped they didn't intend to blow up the factory itself with some kind of hidden self-destruct that the bunker could resist but would be likely to take out anyone outside it in a "last resort" kind of defense. She really didn't need any more headaches.
Then again, she could also solve two problems at once just by cracking open that particular egg. Like Nanoha-mama says, the reason she seems so trigger-happy is because so often the direct solution is the best one!
"Barrier Jacket: Saint Mode!"
Externally, the only changes seemed to be that the gauntlets vanished and the colors flipped: the bodysuit had become white, its electric-blue tracery silver, and the jacket dark blue. This form, though, sacrificed defense to augment Vivio's offensive magic power. She leveled Burning Glory's tip at the door, the triangular Belkan spell-rune shining beneath her.
"Sing to the shining glory of the heavens!"
Three blasts of magic exploded from a triangular pattern around Burning Glory's tip, the beams coiling together in a blazing pillar of energy. The searing bolt hammered into the door, the twisting coils making it seem like the spell was a giant drill grinding away at the barrier, and then it suddenly broke through, obliterating the door and a good chunk of the wall. Vivio flew down at once, taking stock of the four shell-shocked occupants of the bunker. Well, more accurately it was three, because she'd collected a young woman wearing a yellow-striped minidress when the spell blew out the door.
"Fucking Kaiser's ass!" cursed the apparent leader, a big, muscular man with tattoo-like patterns shaved into his close-cropped hair and a mace-like Armed Device in his hand.
"Now, that's just rude," Vivio huffed. "Burning Glory, let's teach them some manners."
"Yes, mistress. Loading cartridges."
The two sharp detonations of the last two cartridges in the cylinder loading echoed in the cavernous work room, as did the high-pitched whine of gathering magic.
The Belkan spell-rune spun into position beneath Vivio's feet again.
"Sacred Cluster Augmented."
The searing beam looked, at first, like a typical cannon-type shooting magic, but after traveling twenty feet or so suddenly split into six separate comets which spread out, then zigzagged in, homing in two to a target, exploding in bomb-like detonations as they hit. Only one of the three got up any active defenses, which shattered under the first impact. One Sevener was left unconscious, the other two dazed and sprawling, smoke rising theatrically from their shredded Barrier Jackets.
"Nicely done, mistress," Burning Glory said brightly.
"Thank you," Vivio replied. Since this was an official field mission, she carried extra cartridges with her, and she fed a fresh supply into her Device's cylinder, the glided down inside the bunker, ready to deal with anything the last gang members had to offer. They did not, however, seem inclined to fight.
"No more! I surrender!" the leader shouted, throwing down his Device. His associate, a dark-skinned woman with blonde cornrows, released hers back to its standby mode, dropping her Barrier Jacket in favor of her ordinary T-shirt and jeans. She extended the card to Vivio, who took it along with picking up the leader's mace, just in case either one was inclined to make more trouble.
"You agree to cease hostilities and submit to custody?" Vivio said a bit stiffly, not used to being lead officer on field missions.
"Kaiser's rack, yes, just tell us what you want?"
"I want you to stop using my body parts as profanities, for one thing. It's really obnoxious!" She cleared her throat while they were digesting that. "Now, if I can finish what I was saying when you guys ambushed me at the door, my name is Takamachi Vivio and I am here to speak with a Mr. Martan Audi on behalf of the Time-Space Administration Bureau Infinity Library. He is registered as the borrower of Manipulations of Etheric Symbology by Van Carolus, via inter-library loan, and it's four weeks overdue."
"Tracking beacon indicates the target book is six feet, four inches at ten-forty-five from your current facing and position, mistress," Burning Glory suggested helpfully.
Vivio went over to the remains of a table where one of the unconscious 207s was sprawled, then retrieved the book from the man's backpack.
"You blew up our whole gang over a library book!" the woman babbled incredulously.
"You were the ones who attacked me! I guess now I know why the local branch wanted us to send an agent to collect it. I can only imagine what you'd have tried if we wanted to collect the late fees!"
~X X X~
A/N: Linear rifles are the creation of synaesthetic, aka syn010110, author of false light and "The Call." Never let it be said that I'm not willing to snarf up the contribution of another Shadowverse author and misuse it for my own ends!
With regard to the tracking beacon in the book, offhand, while the Infinity Library does not put "active" trackers in its works due to privacy concerns, it does mark each book with a uniquely coded beacon that will "ping" on active locator spells that any librarian learns in their training courses. Frankly, knowing that library, they're probably most useful for simply finding the books on the shelves!
~X X X~
Vivio's Magical Omake Theater!
"...and so the local police took the entire gang into custody on charges of assaulting a TSAB officer in the course of her duties and possession of unlicensed restricted weapons. That also gave them probable cause to search the factory and the data storage of various Devices and comm terminals, which gave rise to more serious indictments. Apparently, the gang's completely smashed, now!" Vivio said proudly.
Lutecia Alphine took a sip of her cherry Coke, then smiled at her girlfriend.
"That's really nice work, Vivio."
"Thanks! But...there is one thing I wonder about."
"Well..." she began hesitantly, "Cia...do people really use my body parts as swear words?"
Lutecia spent the next couple of minutes coughing and trying to clear the soda she'd snorted up the back of her nose.
"S-sorry, Vivio. Seriously, no, I haven't heard that before. The only cursing I know of concerning your body is when I swear about it not being eighteen years old yet."