Chapter One: "Welcome….to the Unknown Sky."
….a stinging pain shot though her back as a bright light burned its way though her eye lids.
With a pained groan Mami sat up with one hand supporting her while she used the other to shield her eyes from the intense light.
After waiting for the spinning to stop, Mami pried her eyes open as she rubbed her aching neck. Wide clear blue skies and a vast open desert filled with massive oddly shaped towers of stone and dead blackened trees greeted her.
"What.…where…this…this isn't Charlotte's maz-ack," A painful cough interrupted her before she could finish. Mami began to apply healing magic as she stared numbly at the sight, the drastic change in scenery and the pounding headache not helping her all that much. Looking around from where she was sat revealed more of the same.
Nothing but sand, stone, and….and….
"That is Not a Cactus." Mami found it hard to look away from the strange, glowing orange eye like things that covered the…cactus. It almost felt like they were staring back at her. "Good God that's creepy…it looks…natural…real. That isn't a Witch's creation," Mami thought as a small shiver worked it's way down her spine. When she finally managed to look away from the cactus she noticed the other strange plants that dotted the landscape around her. "Are those…giant mushrooms..," some part of Mami's mind wondered distantly. A closer look revealed that there was indeed large mushroom like growths next to more of those weird cacti that she just now noticed happened to be rather close.
Getting more than a little freaked out by the glowing eyed cacti, Mami began to scoot backwards until she bumped into something causing her to jump straight up in surprise. Only her horribly bruised throat keeping her from screaming out loud.
Mami quickly transformed into her puella magi attire as she spun around to see…
"…Kyo…uko?" Mami muttered in shock. While it had been some time since they had last seen one another Mami could still recognize the girl laying there next to…Madoka, Homura, and Sayaka?
"Am I seeing things? Are they?"
A closer look revealed that it really was her friends and Homura scattered about on the ground near her former student, unconscious just like Kyouko. Unfortunately, like her, they weren't in the best of shape. Homura looked like a building had been dropped on top of her while Sayaka seemed to be horribly sick, sweating and moaning in her sleep. Kyouko and Madoka seemed to be the best off with only dark rings under their eyes, the kind people got from lack of sleep. Worried about her friends, her former student, and even Homura despite everything that happened Mami rushed over to them forgetting or just plain ignoring the nearby…cacti and other things.
Before she could even get to them, however, a loud growl from the side stopped Mami in her tracks.
Mami reacted instantly. She spun on her feet and turned around in a ready stance, prepared to summon a rifle at a moments notice.
Mami found herself face to face with an aggressive, all too real looking green dog-like creature. A part of Mami's mind that had been honed over the years that she had spent fighting other magical girls, witches and familiars allowed her to analyze the thing in a calm and detached manner despite how hammered she felt at the moment. She noted the four legged beast was covered in what seemed to be thick organic armor plates and the large hook-like claws on its feet. She also noticed that there was something odd about the way the beast's jaws flexed as it growled at her. Mami narrowed her eyes at that, "It…looks like there's a split going up to its head…three jaws maybe? Like that one Witch's familiars."
Mami stared intently with both her eyes and her magic as the creature took a step forward, "A familiar? No. The energy signature feels different and its existence doesn't shift at all and it looks too real to be a familiar."
Mami chewed her lip thoughtfully as she glanced out the corner of her eye at the others for a moment before she looked away and focused back on the beast as it step forward once again with a deep grow, "I need to get it further away from them…I don't know what this thing can do and any one of them could get hurt if a fight breaks out this close." Mami frowned in thought, "Maybe if it works on lions…on real animals? This thing is real unlike Witches or familiars…it feels just like an animal does…maybe." Just as it was about to move again Mami boldly took a couple of steps toward the creature, causing the beast to hesitate and move back a step. "Good. It can feel fear too, just like a real animal should. I've made it nervous. Maybe I can scare it off." Mami moved even closer toward the beast, once again making sure not to show any fear or hesitation in her walk.
The creature started to more back once more before it stopped and instead crouched down low on all fours, its body bulging as powerful muscles flexed and become taut under the creature's hard bony armor.
Mami's eyes widened as she realized what the beast was about to do just seconds before the creature launched itself toward her at high speed. Mami cursed as she jumped to the side, landing on the ground one handed while bent sideways. Then she secured her hand to the earth with magic and kicked into the hide of the passing creature with both feet sending it flying away from the others and herself.
As the beast crashed into a pile of rubble Mami pushed off the ground and back onto her feet with a slight wobble as two sliver rifles dropped out of her skirt. She grabbed one of the rifles and took aim at the beast as it began to pull its head out of the newly formed crater.
"Okay," Mami winced as her legs twitched slightly, "that hurt a little bit. That thing is a lot heavier than I thought it was. That it could move like that under that much weight" Mami's eyes narrowed as she watched the creature stand back up and turn around to face her once more. "That armor….all that and it's barely scratched?"
It opened its three jaws wide and roared. The beast's tongue, almost longer than it was, lashed out at the ground with a whip crack and the rock fractured from the blow. Nasty green liquid oozed out of its mouth…
Mami's eyebrow twitched. "How gross."
The magical bullet tore though the air and flew down the beast's throat at high velocity, pushing the creature backwards and smashing it into the crater it just got out of.
Mami sighed as she let the used up rifle fade away, "That thing was hard to detect at close range…so there's no way I'm going to be able to know if there is any more of them around until there right on top of me. And while that wasn't my strongest shot I know it can pierce fairly thick metal. It didn't break though that armor." Mami paused as something else occurred to her, "My magic feels…different…lighter?" Mami bit her lip, "I need to grab the others and find somewhere safe now. I can worry about…that later."
She was just picking up the remaining rifle when she heard clapping from behind her. Surprised, Mami almost lost her balance as she quickly turned around to see Kyouko awake and in her puella magi outfit leaning against a oddly shaped rock.
"Well, your aim certainly got a lot better over the years." Kyouko tiredly gave Mami a forced grin as she tried to sit up.
"Kyouko, you're awake!" Lowering her rifle Mami gave a happy, if shaky, smile as she walked over to her former student and gently but firmly forced her back down while she used healing magic to help alleviate her exhaustion while checking for other injuries. "Take it easy! You look like you're barely conscious as it is. Does it hurt anywhere? Are you…?" Mami paused when she finally noticed the odd look Kyouko was giving her, "what's with that look? Is something wrong?"
Kyouko almost seemed to stare through Mami for a moment before she let out a tired sigh and looked to where the other girl's hand was still on her shoulder, "Sorry. I feel like complete crap right now and….well…I didn't expect to see you anytime soon, Mami." Kyouko looked away as she admitted that, "Of course I wasn't expecting to see you anytime soon! You're supposed to be dead!?" Kyouko glanced at Sayaka out the corner of her right eye, "And…I blew myself and Sayaka to kingdom come when I detonated my Soul Gem…so…how are we here too, for that matter? Is this…the afterlife…?"
Kyouko lowered her eyes as she genuinely considered the thought for a second before dismissing it completely.
"No. This place doesn't look like heaven at all and while I might deserve to go there…there's no way Sayaka, Mami or Madoka would end up in hell and despite how scary Homura can be, I doubt she'd end up there either."
Mami took Kyouko's gesture to mean something else and decided to change the subject, "Kyouko, do you have any idea how we…." Mami stared open mouthed as the shadow cast by the oddly shaped tower of stone behind the group finally moved, revealing…"Oh wow, I must really be out of it if I didn't notice something like that" Mami actually looked embarrassed.
"Mami?" Kyouko turned around as best as she could to see what Mami was staring at. Her breath caught in her throat at what she saw, "…Holy Crap! Is that what I think it is?"
A low, dry voice answered from the side with a slight deadpan, "If you mean a high rise building that's somehow fused with a cliff face, than yes, it is." Kyouko turned around to see Homura Akemi standing up somewhat unsteadily, one hand supporting her weight against a chuck of fused rock.
As Homura steadied her legs she pointed out toward the smaller towers in the distance that Mami and Kyouko now realized were chucks of skyscrapers that had also fused with the local stone. With both the shadow cast by the larger building behind them and the large potions of stone fused with the outsides, the rubble ended up looking like nothing more than rocky outcrops and towers of stone at first glance.
With the sun almost directly overhead there was now enough light to recognize what the strange structures really were.
"It's the same with the ground we're walking on." As she limped over to them Homura gestured to the area around them, "The whole area is a mixture of concrete and local stone. Its all debris from the battle with Walpurgis Night, I think." Homura stopped and stood shakily just short of them, seeming to eye Mami for some reason.
Kyouko frowned at that, "Walpurgis Night…has it been that long since?" Kyouko shivered slightly. "And why are you looking at Mami like that, Homura?"
"Walpurgis Night? But Kyuubee said that it was" Mami paused, suddenly looking pale. Mami glanced to the side at Madoka, Sayaka and Kyouko. "Akemi, how long has it been?" Kyouko cocked an eyebrow at that, "Has she…?"
"Almost a month." Homura answered as she limped a little closer, still keeping her eyes on Mami.
Kyouko looked away and rubbed the back of her head when Mami gave her a questioning glance, desperation shining in her eyes.
Mami sucked in a sharp breath as panic briefly flashed across her pale face, before a look of pained realization set in and Mami closed her eyes with a sigh. Kyouko turned back to Mami, to say something when Mami just shook her head.
Homura fidgeted for moment before she lowered her gaze and nodded.
Kyouko looked up at Mami and gave her a firm nod as she awkwardly placed her hand on Mami's shoulder.
"It happened. It wasn't a dream." Mami sighed slightly, "There's no way Homura or the others could have stopped the witch from biting my head off. Homura might have…no, must have killed the witch before it could eat Madoka and Sayaka." Mami opened her eyes and looked over to Kyouko, who gazed back in silence.
Mami swallowed heavily and let out a shaky breath.
"Akemi…Kyouko." The girls in question looked up at Mami," did anyone one else die?" Mami's heart dropped at the look on Kyouko's face, "Kyouko…"
"Madoka and I were the only ones who were still alive when Walpurgis Night attacked." Homura limped until she was right next to Kyouko, who noticed that Homura wasn't eyeing Mami oddly anymore. Instead Homura was watching Mami with what seemed to be relief.
"Huh? Am I missing something? Was she worried that Mami would flip out? What about m-..Oh." Kyouko pause in thought, "I'm not in any shape to cause problems right now, not like Mami if she lost it…but why would she think that Mami wou-no. Later."
They had more important concerns right now, so Kyouko let the train of thought die.
Mami took a deep breath once more.
"Akemi…do you know.." Mami stopped and shook her head as color returned to her face, visibly calming down as she nodded to herself. "No. That's not important right now, questions can wait. It's just too dangerous for that here. I couldn't sense that beast until is was right on top of us. Maybe I'm just really out of it." Mami eyed the way Homura was standing, "First things first, we need to patch each other up and check on the others. After that…maybe search the 'buildings' around us for supplies before finding someplace safe to 'camp' out."
Course set, Mami laid her remaining rifle against the same rock Kyouko was leaning on and walked over to Homura who was already sitting herself down while giving Mami a stiff nod, "Akemi, how bad is the leg? Is there any other injuries that need immediate attention? Or can they wait?"
Homura shifted to lay back against a phone booth that had fallen on its side before fusing with a concrete wall and a boulder, "The leg and two of my ribs are fractured…" Homura's face scrunched up in pain briefly as Mami prodded her leg with glowing hands , "some internal bleeding. I do not believe it is that bad however…the worst of it has already heale-" Homura winced when Mami set to work on her sides.
"Sorry, but given the situation I can't afford to waste magic or time to numb the pain." Mami replied in a formal but gentle tone of voice, "That should do it. You were right about the bleeding, it wasn't that hard to take care of. As for your leg and ribs, try not to lift anything heavy for a couple of days please. I could fix it completely, but we can't afford to waste anymore energy or time right now." Homura stiffly nodded her thanks as Mami helped her to stand.
Mami frowned thoughtfully before asking, "Akemi," Mami stopped as she realized something right then. Mami bit her lip as she glanced to the side for a second and continued with a less formal tone, "Homura…do you feel up to…helping me search for supplies from…" Here Mami awkwardly gestured to the ruins around them, a tinge of pink on her cheeks.
"God…I feel so embarrassed." Mami grimaced slightly, "Showing of to Madoka like that…leaving her trapped in a witches maze unable to defend herself…not really my best moment, was it?" An eyebrow went up. "Not that my actions were totally unwarranted after what she said the night before but still…that was rude of me, she wasn't even being hostile…she really did look like she meant what she said too. She never actually attacked me either." Mami glanced back to see Homura prodding her sides thoughtfully, "…and more importantly I missed an opportunity to see what she could do, unlike her. Homura's already seen me in action before. I know better then that." Mami snapped back to attention when the other girl began speaking.
"Yes, I should have no problem helping." Homura gestured toward her shield and pulled out a black thermos, "We can use my shield to store anything we find, that way we won't need to drag it around with us. Can't really afford to do that anyway here."
Mami nodded her head while eyeing the thermos, "You're right." She looked over toward where the ugly…thing…was, "there might be more of them around here or something even worse. We need to hurry and find what we need first before the sun sets, if we can't find someplace safe to haul up in here we'll have to leave and look around…maybe a cave…" Mami cradled her chin in her hand while she thought.
Kyouko decided that she was tired of being ignored and voiced her opinion from where she lay, "Yeah, just like to ask what you two plan on doing about us? Cause hey, I ain't going nowhere fast, Sayaka and Madoka probably won't wake up anytime soon either. Beauty sleep and all that."
Kyouko grinned at the tinge of pink on both of their cheeks, Mami feeling more than a little embarrassed that she had missed that little detail. "Mami might as well just look for that 'someplace safe' to put us before you guys go off looting while Homura here can guard us and what's in that thermos? Cause I'm about to pass out over here. Fricking sun, cooking me like an egg…b-" Mami blushed slightly at the muttered swearing that followed.
Mami blinked "Huh? Why would she…?"
"Homura…why would you have apple juice in your shield? I mean, the other stuff I saw you pull out before I can understand, heck even soda…but apple juice?" Kyouko almost looked like she was holding back a laugh as she asked the question Mami herself wanted to.
Homura frowned as she asked, "What's wrong with apple juice? You're thirsty, right? What does it matter?" Her frown deepened and her eyes narrowed ever so slightly at Kyouko. Mami felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up at that.
Abruptly, Kyouko seemed to sit up even straighter.
"Ah! Never mind! Sun must've baked my brain a little…or something." She laughed nervously while rubbing the back of her head. Kyouko quickly held out her hand toward Homura. "Anyway, hurry up and hand it over! God I'm thirsty, why'd it have to be a desert?" Kyouko shook her head while Homura placed the thermos in her hand. "What else you got in there? A fridge?" She chuckled a little as she took a sip-
-Kyouko choked as Mami raised an eyebrow in interest. Kyouko turned back to Homura and asked, "What? Really?" At Homura's slow nod she leaned back and rubbed her chin for a moment before she started grinning. "So…you got a portable T.V. in there too? Games? Hey-"
"Yes, I have games too. Among other things for after that Witch. " Homura glared in irritation, "Got tired of having to buy the same stuff…." Mami blinked when the black haired girl ended that with a cough.(1)
"Maybe Kyouko knows something?"
"After huh? Like a party or something?"
Homura nodded at Kyouko while she gestured to the ruins around them, "Sorry, Kyouko, but we don't have time right now. We can talk about it later."
"Yes, Homura is right." Mami gave one last look at Homura's shield before turning back to the rubble surrounding them. Mami hummed as she eyed a high rise that was planted straight up in the ground, looking taller and more stable than the rest. She bit her lower lip in thought for a moment before turning to Homura and Kyouko while pointing at it, "Somewhere high up might be a good place to stay. I think we'll be able to see the whole valley from up there too."
Kyouko nodded with a slight frown. "Yeah, if it's sturdy enough we can crash there. Magic…night vision goggles or something," Kyouko glanced over to Homura to see her thoughtful nod, "will let us keep watch after the sun sets. Gonna have to close or trap the lower half of that scraper before we hit the hay….don't know about you guys, but I don't wanna wake up with something munching on me" Kyouko pointedly looked back at the green dog beast thing before sticking her finger in her mouth and faking a gag, "God that thing smells like a sewer…can we get rid of it? Please?" Kyouko puffed out her bottom lip for good measure.
Mami glanced over at the beast. "Yeah, I'll deal with it." The older girl grimaced as she scanned the area for a moment. "I…think that's a cliff over there" Under her breath Mami muttered, "I hope"
Homura looked up from her Soul Gem to look at the building as well, "As for securing the building, I can rig some remote cameras out of the security cams from the buildings around us and equipment from the two stores over there." The dark haired girl pointed over at a Radio Shack and a store with its front missing. Homura paused as she glanced at her shield, thoughtful, before giving a nod, "I can also trap the area around the tower and the lower half."
Mami made a questioning noise, "With what?"
Mami blinked and gave the dark haired girl a thoughtful look while Kyouko stared, "How many do you have?"
"I didn't get a chance to use all of them" The younger girl hummed for a second before deciding to answer with, "More than enough."
Nodding, Mami gave the shield another long look. "Either she likes to conserve her energy or she doesn't have a very useful magic attack."
Kyouko let out a small laugh while shaking her head, "She uses mines? Sure, why not. Next you're gonna tell me you've got auto-turrets too? Like the ones from that new game?" Kyouko took another sip of the thermos.
Homura tilted her head with a slightly amused smile, "My auto-turrets would be a better idea to use in the building than the mines. Can't risk damaging the structure anymore in its current state."
Kyouko sweat dropped. "Ok…mines I can get. I've seen other girls use them against me too. But Auto-turrets? When could you possibly use them-wait….how would you even have those?" She tried not to giggle at Kyouko's grumblings.
Too much. She had some of the same thoughts too, after all.
"I just happened to find some in storage, is all."
"We're all gonna have a long talk soon."
Mami hummed before setting off to the beast's corpse with a slight smile, "I'm sure there's a story behind that Homura. I'm getting rid of this before it attracts anything else and then I'm going to our chosen building to see if its safe. Kyouko, if you can, help Homura check over the others." Mami summoned several ribbons to grab the corpse before setting off toward the cliff with the corpse behind her.
"Please be deep enough…that smell…."
(1) Homura does have free time, at least that's what it looked like to me in the show. Here and there. Not enough to really play games or anything, not really. It makes sense to me that she would know Madoka well enough to know how to get her into the "right" state of mind to not wish for anything, among other things. That and not everything can been done quickly. She is seen toward to the end just sitting when the rat shows up. For the most part though, all the non-combat stuff is in boxes labeled "A New Day." Which is exactly what it means.
Alright so, I haven't had a computer for a while now. All I have is this kindle so...it's going to be slow. Things happened and I just couldn't get back to this, I'm going to try though. Wish me good luck I guess.