Things Left Behind

A Valkyria Chronicles fanfiction by Renfro Calhoun

Notes: Howdy-do, folks! Yes, after yet another lengthy, unintended hiatus I'm back. With any luck I'll actually get some writing done this time! As you might have noticed, this is my first foray into Valkyria Chronicles; late to the party on the series, but I fell in love with it all the same. This idea's been rattling around in my head for months now, and only recently have I been able to hammer out the details. While I'm doing my best to keep everything nice and canon-y, I'll gladly accept any comments and criticism if I miss something.

For those of you who remember it, no, I haven't given up on .Hack/Rejoinder. Apart from having to edit several chapters for consistency, I sort of hit the block hard lately. Blame falls partly on work for being, well, rather depressing, but in the end it's my responsibility. I will see that story through to the end, as I will for this. As for how long that'll take... all I can do is my best, and I ask that you kindly bear with me.

Incidentally, I turn 30 in a couple days. It's tough getting old.

As always, I own none of the characters or ideas from the games. They are used without permission, but with the utmost respect.


Prologue


"There is always more to the story. That, above all, has been the guiding principle of my work in the field: to tell the truth of it, from the first tank that rolled across the border to the last shot fired to repel it. Sometimes the truth leads you to ugly places, dark corners of history perhaps better left unearthed. A people, over time, can forget much of what happened in the past, but for those there in the moment, those pulling the trigger and taking the bullet, the memory very often lives on.

So it is with Rhodall and those who were sent there."

- Irene Koller, "On the Gallian Front"


She watched, disinterested, as raindrops tapped against the glass. Her own breath coated the window in a thin fog, partly veiling the passing buildings outside. The rhythmic thumping of wheels on train tracks might have lulled her to sleep, if not for the chatter in her brain: questions to ask, details to clarify.

Already slowing, the train gradually pulled to a halt at the weatherbeaten platform. The stop caused the package on the seat with her to slide, and she put a hand down to keep it in place. And a delivery to make, she thought with a tiny smile.

"Now arriving at Shelway!" belted the portly, uniformed conductor by the doors. He quickly glanced over the mostly empty seats, nodding to the few passengers that stood up. "Shelway! Make sure you have your passports with you!"

My stop. Package in hand she made her way to the exit, digging a compact umbrella out from her satchel. Last in line, she hopped out onto the enclosed platform, seemingly undisturbed by the cold and gray around her.

Her stay in the rain was short-lived, with the other passengers quickly leading her to a small office helpfully marked with a "Customs" sign. The two guards opposite the doors regarded her curiously - perhaps more the camera case around her neck - but said nothing as she pushed through.

Quite the cheery place, she thought as she waited her turn. It figures he wouldn't end up somewhere sunny. Oh well. C'mon Irene, you've been through worse.

"Next," called the young customs agent, a bookish fellow of little distinction save for the glasses he wore. His brow furrowed for a second upon seeing her, as if he were pondering something intensely only to let it drop just as suddenly. "Name?"

Stowing her umbrella, she produced a well-worn and up-to-date passport bearing her name and likeness. "Irene Koller," she said for emphasis.

He nodded, taking the document and inking the stamp in his free hand. "Purpose?" he asked flatly, flipping to a blank page.

"Research."

He pressed the stamp down, then looked at up her with renewed interest. Something sparked behind his eyes, two and two coming together. "Wait... Koller. The reporter?"

Irene mirrored the smile on her passport, pleased that someone so far from Gallia had heard of her. "The one and only."

"Yeah, I've heard of you," he said, a bit of a smile climbing onto his own face. "Used to be Irene Ellet, right? 'The Writing on the Wall?' A lot of embedded journalists come through here, your name comes up a lot."

She stole a quick glance at the clerk's nameplate: Oliver Sutton. "Good things, I hope," she said under her breath.

He handed back her passport. "What brings you to Shelway? Research, you said?"

"Yep. It's a long story - or, it'll be a long story, at least - but I needed to verify a few things here. Could you tell me the fastest way to Wellington Memorial Hospital?"

Judging by the raised eyebrow, the word hospital, or perhaps the name, piqued the young man's interest. "It's about six blocks north of here and a couple over, at the intersection of seventh and... Peltor, that's it. There's a map stand near the door, help yourself."

"Thanks," she bowed her head slightly and stepped away from the counter. "Well, if you'll pardon me."

"Sure thing. Have a nice day, Ms. Koller!"

Irene snapped up one of the maps and made her way to the streetside exit. The cold air was little improvement over that of the stuffy customs office, though the recognition had been a pleasant surprise. Spirits buoyed, she scanned the map excitedly and spotted the hospital in question: six up and two over, as the clerk had said.

Stowing her documents, she dug out her umbrella again and hefted it skyward, taking her first official steps into Federation territory. The details of her research topic crept to the forefront of her mind, a curious subject that provided much gossip but little fact amongst Squad 7. Preoccupied with the clash at Naggiar, the reporter had paid little attention to the four alleged volunteers at first; just another reconnaissance effort, easily overshadowed in the revelations that followed.

Drawing the package in close, Irene hopped over a small but growing puddle and made haste across the street. What began as idle chatter drew more pointed inquiries about the recon team, and few consistent details. "Something happened at Rhodall," one soldier had said. "Nobody knows exactly what, but it shook up the Captain pretty bad. Gunther, too."

Irene's inquisitive mind kept her from being too concerned, but something about Varrot's tight-lipped "Not now, Ellet," had unsettled the reporter. She recalled the distant look in Welkin's eyes, followed by a dispassionate shake of the head. 'Later,' he had mouthed.

Later never came, again lost in the wake of greater things, but the questions persisted. Something had gone very wrong, and for once it had little to do with a mad prince or the Valkyrur. Even after Maximillian's defeat atop the Marmota, a strange buzz surrounded the topic of Rhodall. Civilians reported extensive damage to the city, far more than was suffered during the local militia's retreat. Army investigators remained silent about their findings, save that an Imperial force had been encountered and destroyed.

She sighed as her feet carried her up the rain-slick sidewalk, her thoughts carrying her to equally unpleasant places. Only rumblings of civil war could fully silence the rumors, shocking anew a nation already crippled. For Irene the matter lingered like a splinter in the mind, aggravated as she collected research for her book. It had taken her months to merely dredge up the names of the participants, and longer still for proper interviews. The important details matched, but of the four, only one seemed eager to help.

More importantly, only one had evidence and a name, both of which were currently nestled under the reporter's arm.

"If you had this all the time, why didn't you tell anybody?" she remembered asking.

"It took a long time to repair, and someone else needs it more," was the simple, honest reply; uncharacteristic of the speaker.

"Who?"

"...a friend. Someone important to me."

Before long, Irene found herself before the hospital. In contrast to the clustered apartments and storefronts, Wellington contented itself to sprawl: an older, more imposing structure at the intersection, with clearly newer wings stretching up the block in each direction. Lights over the entrance flickered uneasily, attesting to the building's age. Waiting for a truck to pass, she took another glance at the package and the name unsteadily printed on its surface.

Okay Lloyd, she thought, starting towards the hospital entrance. Let's hope you're taking visitors.