Chapter 5: Nerves

"Everyone in the attack has been incarcerated. It seems they're incapable of forming coherent sentences. The worst of it is that none of these people are in our database," said Hayate.

The large debriefing room was silent at that. At the head of the steel table was Hayate, a small black pointer in her grasp and a computer screen displaying several of the individuals that had attacked at her side.

At the table itself sat everyone who had participated in the mission, the numbers included, atill in their combat mode and minus the ones that had been at the church at the time.

Cinque, Nove, Dieci, and Wendi.

On the opposite side sat Nanoha, Fate, Signum, and Vita.

Not a single one of them knew what to make of the situation.

Hayate continued, "After thorough examination we found these." The Colonel held up what looked like a small, green computer chip, throwing it to the center of the table.

Nove gasped, "That's..."

Hayate nodded, "It has similarities to the control system we extracted from Lutecia, but this one is completely different." She tapped the computer screen with her pointer, causing the display to change. It was now of a human brain that appeared to have several wires running through it, "Doctor Scaglietti's system was much less specific. True it controlled the subject, but only to an extent so as not to disrupt brain patterns or cause any long term damage. This one gives whoever is behind this army complete dominance over whoever they have it implanted in."

Nanoha's eyes widened, "That's horrible."

"That's not all. This extent of control isn't feasible, as many of you saw yesterday. Thirty percent of the subjects are brain dead, the others are still unconscious, in comas. Whoever did this is either sloppy or..."

Cinque's eye narrowed, "Or they're testing, doing experiments until they find something that works."

Fate nodded solemnly, "I'd say the latter is most likely. So, do you want to implement it yet Hayate-chan?"

Hayate shook her head, "No, that's worst case scenario. I want to see what we're up against before I go signing papers and making the upper brass angry. Besides, it's only been two years since the Scaglietti incident, and I'll need a good reason to do that."

Wendi grinned, "Aw, but making high ranking people angry is fun."

Hayate smiled, "I would rather not deal with that Wendi-chan. Ultimately the decision lies with the Admiral, I just make the request, and I can't just do it on a gut feeling."

Cinque sighed, leaning her small frame back in the chair, "Sometimes a gut feeling is all that's needed. I don't regret my decisions since back then, but this place has enough red tape to sink a battleship."

Nanoha sighed, she had to admit that Cinque was right. Even now that Gaiz was gone and the ground forces weren't intruding on their every move, the politics in the military as a whole still got in their way more often than not. It was an endless cycle.

The administration wanted order and peace, and so rules were created.

Rules were created when something bad results from something someone did, and that happened a lot.

So the administration ended up with rules that hindered more than helped.

It was unavoidable.

"Well," said Hayate, "For now all we can do is examine what we have and help the people we can, Shamal is already working on a counter-measure and healing for the system, and I'm officially leading the investigation into this, so we shouldn't have too much trouble."

"I hope not," mumbled Fate.


I breathed deep, letting the night air fill my lungs. We had just finished with our homework, so we snuck out as soon as my mom was asleep and headed to the park clearing for some training.

Ai stood across from me on the other end of the clearing, "So," she said, "Do you feel better?"

I smiled, "Yeah, I was as limp as a noodle all day after that fight, but I feel a hundred percent now."

"Good, because it's training time. You're obviously a melee type, considering the hammer, but that doesn't mean you can't let off huge laser beams when you need them."

I nodded, "Yeah, like Thunder Shot."

"What if I told you that was one of the more low level attacks that Thor had in his programming?"

My eyes widened, "Wha..."

"Yeah. You and your weapon are connected Yusuke-kun, as you grow more powerful Thor will have more to work with, and as you become more proficient it won't have to make up for what you're lacking. In other words, the more powerful and skilled you get, the more powerful and skilled your weapon becomes."

Ai reached into her pocket and pulled out what looked like small metal orbs. She tossed them into the air and they immediately grew to the size of our heads, "These are training drones, if you're joining the administration you better get used to seeing them."

The orbs all floated around Ai, and they each had a small yellow barrier and what looked like little guns mounted to the sides.

I nodded firmly, digging a foot into the ground and pulling the bracelet from my wrist.

I was holding Thor and wearing my barrier jacket in the next instant, "Alright," I said.

Ai held up a finger, "First lesson, the best offence is a good defence."

What a cliche.

One of the drones fired at me.

I barely had time to move out of the way of what looked like a yellow ball of pain.

Ai giggled, "You might want to pay attention if you don't wanna get fried. Oh by the way, if you get hit by these things too much they will knock you out, and you won't be up for hours."

I gritted my teeth, "You gotta be frikkin' kidding."

Another blast. I couldn't tell which one it came from, there were about ten of them so it was pretty hard.

Protection.

A barrier popped up in front of me and the bullet stopped dead in its tracks. After a moment the bullet ceased struggling and fizzled out against my barrier.

"Good," said Ai. "There are three types of barriers, the one you just used absorbs the attack. There's another that surrounds your body with the same effect, but it's less powerful than a focused barrier, pretty useful if you don't know where an attack is going to come from. Let's see it in action."

Suddenly the drones departed away from their mistress, flying above the clearing.

I got a little nervous, "Um... Kurosawa, I don't know how to do that barrier."

She grinned, "You better find out quick then."

"Thor?"

Confirmed, Protection Zeta.

A thin blue barrier surrounded my entire body. I could see the energy from the barrier coming off of my skin while it protected me.

I looked up and had just enough time to flinch when all the drones glowed and opened fire at once.

I felt the impact of the bullets, but it was more than likely far less than what it would have been if I hadn't reacted in time.

"You're a quick learner, let's see how long you can keep that up. The third type of barrier deflects instead of absorbs, very handy for getting the drop on your opponent for a counter attack. You saw that man use it the day before."

I nodded firmly.

This one I hadn't used, but I knew it.

The triangle with the three magic circles at its points.

The drones all gathered right in front of Ai, who looked amused at best and psychotic at worst. As before they all charged up at the same time.

I held up my gloved hand.

Deflect.

They fired all at once, their beams combining into one large attack.

Luckily it hit the barrier and bounced away into the sky.

The drones once again took their default positions and Ai started clapping when I dropped the barrier.

"Good good, now lets see how long you can go without getting hit."

She held up her hand as if she were about to start a race, "Ready and..."

I took a deep breath.

"Go!"

She brought her hand down...

And the clearing went to hell.

The drones all moved at once. One unit, one mind.

Three of them fired at me, but I threw up a solid barrier and they fizzled out, not able to even come close to breaking through.

I heard the sound of another one charging up, and my eyes widened.

'Behind me!'

I pivoted on my right foot and spun around as fast as I could, swinging Thor the whole way. My hammer hit the shot just as it got in reach, sending it careening out of the clearing.

"Good, barriers aren't the only form of protection!" shouted Ai, "If you don't have time to react and protect yourself, parry and counter attack!"

Three of them swooped down on me, firing at the same time.

I rolled out of the way, jumping back to my feet and throwing up another absorption barrier just as another shot came within range.

These things were everywhere, I wouldn't last long against ten of them.

That was probably the point of this whole exercise.

"Good job. never forget the basics! If you can't throw up a barrier or get a homerun, get the hell out of the way! If you stand there like an idiot you're gonna get hit!"

Another shot, this one from right in front of me.

I held up Thor, throwing up a deflect barrier just in time.

I tried to catch my breath, but I ended up just panting. My lungs were on fire.

Gym class didn't exactly prepare you for life or death battles it seemed.

My last barrier was thrown up too late, and a shot hit me right in the chest.

I gasped.

It felt like I was back in third grade again, when the class bully Yuki punched me square in the chest. All the air was immediately knocked out of my lungs, and when I collided with the ground all I could do was try to force air in and regain myself.

Ai called the drones off and ran over to me, laughing the whole way.

I took a deep breath and gritted my teeth, glaring up at her, "It's not... funny."

She grinned and ruffled my hair before holding out a hand to help me up, "Everyone gets nailed that quick their first time, don't worry about it."

I sighed and shook my head before grabbing her hand.

Too bad I put too much forward momentum on my way to getting up.

"Wah!"

Ai tumbled, and I went down straight on top of her.

It was a while before I regained my bearings and realized that we weren't exactly in the most innocent of positions with me falling on top of her and all.

Ai's face might as well have been on fire, and I was no better off.

"Erm... sorry," I mumbled, pushing myself up using the ground below her and dusting myself off.

Ai stood up slowly, still with red cheeks, and scratched the back of her head, "Let's um... let's do that exercise a few more times and then we'll head back."

"R... right..."


"Nanoha-mama, Fate-mama!"

Nanoha and Fate smiled and laughed when Vivio collided with both of their legs. She had grown about two inches taller since the JS incident, and still greeted them the same way whenever they came through the door, "Hi Vivio," said Nanoha, smiling broadly, "Sorry we're home late, I'll get started on dinner. Is your homework done?"

"Yep!"

Fate ruffled the little girl's hair, still smiling.

It didn't seem like so long ago when they were her age.

Nanoha made her way around Vivio and through the living room towards their small kitchen.

"I'm going to train again tomorrow with Yuuno-sensei."

Fate frowned, "I hope Deed knows about this. You know how she gets when she catches you fighting without her around."

Vivio laughed a bit nervously at that, "Well, yeah... I've been afraid to not tell her ever since what happened last time."

Fate sighed, "Poor Arf never even saw her coming. I don't think Deed can tell the difference between a mock battle and a real one."

They heard Nanoha laugh from the kitchen, "She's always so nice, so I guess it's not too bad."

"Yeah," said Fate with a smirk, "She reminds me of a certain scary someone."

"Hey! I'm not scary!"

Vivio giggled, "Nanoha-mama is scaaaary!"

"Jeez, you two."


I was sore all over when we decided to head back. We walked slow, savoring the cool air. We decided it would be best if we went to sleep right away, considering as it was already eleven at night, but we still had the walk back to talk. "How long have you known Nanoha-san?"

Ai laughed, "Believe it or not I used to babysit for her."

"What?"

"Yeah, her daughter Vivio-chan, probably the cutest little thing on two legs. I decided to be an officer because of Nanoha. She didn't go easy on me, but I somehow made it through the training I guess. It didn't help that I had to pass a test to go from C designation to B."

"You have to pass tests?"

"Oh yeah. When you're more powerful, or you want to be part of a special unit, or even just for a promotion. Which really sucks because we have to test for our military rank too, so we need to be careful not to mess ourselves up and accidently put our tests back to back."

"It sounds really complicated."

"Believe me, it is. Despite what I told you the other day, kids like us don't often join the military. It's almost an unspoken rule to wait until you're older, but there's nothing against it, and if you're good enough they'll take you. Nanoha-san officially became part of the administration at around our age also."

"That's crazy."

"Not really. If someone has the skills and wants to utilize them in the administration that's their own decision. It's nothing like a draft or anything. I know a couple of Strikers that would just be getting past junior in high school if they lived here on Earth."

"Wait... Strikers?"

"Oh jeez, sorry. Here I am tossing around terms and you don't know what I'm talking about. Strikers are a special class of mages, it's more of an award than anything, kind of like a medal of honor. You get the title for being the best of the best pretty much, never giving up, doing something crazy or heroic."

"I see... My dad was like that."

"He was?"

"Yeah. There was a time when he drove past a burning building before the fire department got there, and he got out of his car to see what was going on. A mother's child was still in there and she was screaming for him. My dad handed her his hat and ran in. He ended up getting the kid out just as the fire truck rounded the corner, got an award for it and everything."

"It sounds like your dad was a great man. Is he why you want to join the administration?"

"Yeah."


The incarceration facility of Mid-Childa wasn't much to look at aside from sheer size.

It was a large stone building with one courtyard and two entrances. The facility was enough to house prisoners in the hundreds. Constantly patrolled by guards on twelve hour shifts, and utilizing a custom AMF field in each and every one of its cells.

It was considered a very high security facility.

There had been a few escapes here and there, but not many.

It was in the morning that Colonel Hayate Yagami, along with Rein riding on her shoulder, decided to pay the facility a visit.

"Ma'am," said the guard, saluting her as she approached the door into the facility.

She returned the salute before speaking, "I'm here to see a prisoner, the one apprehended by enforcer-in-training Ai Kurosawa."

"Ah, the woman." The guard nodded, "She's been quite a handful, but she went quiet as soon as in processing was done and we got her into her cell. If you're here it must be for an investigation."

"That's right."

"She hasn't been talking, but maybe you can get something out of her."

Hayate nodded, entering through the doors.

The entrance lobby was that of a prison, sign in, in processing, a visitor desk, metal detectors, everything you would expect. Hayate walked to the metal detectors, dropping Reinforce in the bin at the xray belt and removing her shoes.

Rein floated over the bin, kicking off her shoes next to Reinforce before making her way back to Hayate's shoulder.

With their shoes back on and the Tome of the Night Sky back around her neck, the duo made their way into the main hall.

They already knew where they were going.

The main hall split up into several smaller halls, where the cells were housed, this repeated for several floors.

Hayate hadn't been here much, but whenever she went it always left her shocked at how huge the place was.

She picked the third hall on her left and walked for what seemed like forever before coming upon the cell she had intended.

The place was eerily quiet, especially for a prison.

"Colonel Hayate Yagami of the investigation unit. Born on Earth, involved in the Book of Darkness incident that nearly swallowed the city of Uminari. Yet here you stand, a Colonel in the Administration's military."

Rein frowned, floating forward and glaring at the woman in the cell, "Don't talk about Hayate-chan like that!"

The woman was laying down, her hands behind her head, staring at the ceiling. The white prison garb wasn't exactly flattering, "It's okay Rein. She's right."

"But..."

Hayate shook her head.

The small girl frowned and floated back to Hayate's shoulder, looking slightly more irritated than she had before.

The woman laughed, "So you admit it?"

"I've never denied my crimes, but the reason I'm here is because I'm working to make up for them. I can't change what happened in the past, but what I do in the future is what I control."

"That's a unique way of looking at things. I guess you earned that shiny bird on your shoulder didn't you? Make your nose a little more brown and it'll be a star before you know it."

Hayate sighed and shook her head, "Are you connected to the attack against the capital city?"

"And what if I was? I'm already in prison, what does it matter what I tell you now?"

"You seem like you know a great deal about Mid-Childa, our history, and the way our army and air force works. Not only that but you know about my own past, which, by the way, is highly classified information. So, knowing all that, you should also know how things work around here. If you cooperate we can make your sentence anything from easier to pretty much non-existant."

The woman chuckled, "And what? Have me do community service and arrest bad guys for a few years so I can live in the capital city? No thanks, you can take that and shove it."

"Why did you attack Yusuke Ryudou, what do you hope to gain by gathering the Jewel Seeds?"

The woman grinned, "You still don't get it do you Colonel? It's not just the Jewel Seeds little girl, it's every Lost Logia we can get our hands on."

"Alright then, here's the really important question. What's your name?"

The woman frowned, "Viola."

Hayate nodded, "Very well Viola. I'll be back. I'll give you time to think about whether or not you'll help us."

"Tch... whatever."

With that final sentence, Hayate walked back the way she came.

"Hayate-chan," mumbled Rein, "Is that really okay, can't we just have Acous-san get the information out of her for us?"

Hayate shook her head, "That would be easier, but I want to learn more about this lost tribe. She's clearly working with that other man, Leon. If she tells us willingly we might be able to reach some sort of agreement."

"Alright."