A/N: I now return with my next work and since I've been so busy on my established works it's my first new story in five months and in 2012. It's a nod to the classic Rod Sterling series the Twilight Zone mixing the story with my own ideas. Some of these are based on episodes of the Twilight Zone while others are my own original ideas. The idea for this story came to me a while ago as I read another story on this website called "Videotape" and while it is not connected to the Twilight Zone like my story is the Twilight Zone was mention in the author's notes and a review. If you want to find the episodes I base some of my works on you can find them on YouTube. This will be a series of eighteen tales of mystery, suspense, intrigue and horror then it'll be followed by another Gunslinger Girl fanfic. These will focus on various cyborgs and there handlers, one will focus on Padania and two will be multiple girls from the Agency. This is the first and only story to star Claes in it because there wasn't much I could do seeing as she's inactive. Enough talk now with the story.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gunslinger Girl or the Twilight Zone.
It was a warm, sunny and bright summer day in the Eternal City better know as Rome. As those employed by the Social Welfare Agency went about doing their routine jobs two girls toiled away outside. Claes, it seemed, had it somewhat easier than the other girls at the Agency. She didn't have gun practice, never had to risk her life on a mission except for rare occasions, and was very intelligent making school work easy for her. The only tasks she had were her medical which had become so routine it bored her more than anything else.
"The tulips are coming in nicely." noted Claes as she looked over and saw Beatrice watering the dill sprouts in another part of the garden. If she didn't know better Claes would swear she'd seen Beatrice flashing a small smile as she worked.
"So these will be food?" asked Beatrice as she stared at the tiny sprouts.
"Dill is a seasoning for food and used to preserve foods like dill pickles." explained Claes.
"They smell good anyway." replied Beatrice taking in the aroma of the tiny sprouts thanks to her superb nose.
"Hey Beatrice, time to go! We've got training then a mission!" called Bernardo from outside an open window.
"I've got to go." said Beatrice as she stood up and brushed the dirt off of herself.
"I've got exams myself." replied Claes and with that the two were off. As they walked inside nobody noticed the ghostly figure of Enrica Croce take form. The departed girl stood over the garden watching the two cyborgs head inside.
"Witness the girl formerly know as Claes Freda Johansson now simply Claes. She is a charter member in the sorority of dreamers. A bookish girl who's loving of gardening is topped only for the love of books begun in childhood and embedded into her by her dead handler Raballo. However, the constant routine of exams and missions wares on Claes who finds escape in her garden, painting or a good book. But in just a moment, Claes will enter a world without medical exams or Padania or gardens or anything else. She'll have a world all to herself...without anyone."
In the medical wing of the Agency, Claes was experiencing the usual exams for endurance and research as the called it. Claes knew she was just a guinea pig but it was her lot in life so be it. The only thing she was concerned about was the sheer monotony of the same daily routine. After the tests finished Claes began to re-dress.
"What's wrong?" asked Dr. Bianchi noticing the girl seemed unusually out of it. Normally Claes wouldn't say much and just did her routine tests but today there was something especially off about her. Claes just seemed out of it.
"I'm stuck in a rut. It's the same dull routine every day of staying her while everybody else is out and performing the same tests over and over." explained Claes.
"What about your garden?" asked Bianchi.
"It's great and I enjoy it especially when Beatrice helps but when she has to go it's not as pleasant." answered Claes, "Triela is my roommate but she also has practice and missions. It gets...lonely."
"I could see how you feel that way." relied Bianchi who mused for a solution, "You love reading."
"I've read every book here twice." said Claes.
"Then I'm really not certain what to tell you." said Bianchi.
"It's fine doctor." replied Claes who then left and headed back to the room she shares with Triela. Upon arriving Claes threw herself into her bed. Worn out she took a nap which eventually ended when roommate. Triela had been gone for a few days on a mission in the north.
"Hey Claes." called Triela as she entered the room and removed her tie. The sun was setting now and after her mission Triela only wanted to fall asleep as soon as possible.
"What time is it?" asked Claes slowly getting herself up.
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were napping." said Triela realizing what she had done.
"You didn't know." replied Claes, "How was the mission?"
"Just killed a member of the Informal Anarchist Federation. In and out but earlier Hilshire and I were in Ferrara tracking down a business man who used to be a member of the Red Brigades then when we found him the guy took off. We had to follow him through Veneto and into Friuli-Venezia Giulia before tracking him to Trieste. We finally killed him before he could sneak across the border to Slovenia. Then we got back to Rome and Jean tells us to kill this anarchist planning before we have time to come back here. To top it all off we had to stake out his apartment for hours before he finally came out. I'm wiped out." said Triela falling onto her bed.
"Sounds like you had fun." said Claes teasingly.
"Very funny." laughed Triela, "What about you?"
"Beatrice and I are trying to grow dill in our garden. That's all that's new for me." answered Claes.
"Read any new books?" asked Triela.
"I've read everything here twice already." answered Claes.
"That stinks." replied Triela pulling herself off of the bed, "You could always try to get more books."
"Jean would never go for it. He would see it as frivolous." said Claes.
"If only they'd let us girls have computers." said Triela now getting her clothes for bed.
"We'd spend all out time on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook while neglecting our studies and missions." said Claes and both roommates shared a laugh.
"Besides, one of the girls might try an online dating site and it'd be somebody who works here." added Triela.
"God knows how awkward it'd be if that happened and you're date ended up being Jean." said Claes and both girls shared another laugh.
"I'm getting ready for bed." said Triela grabbing her nightgown and heading to the bathroom to change.
"Goodnight." said Claes trying to fall back asleep but unfortunately she was awake most of the night.
"Another day." sighed Claes as she awoke the next day. Sitting up in her bed the girls stretched before climbing down the ladder from the top of her bunk bed. Triela was gone probably out with Hilshire. Looking out the window she saw it was raining cats and dogs meaning that gardening was out of the question though with Beatrice and Bernardo killing a mafia boss today it didn't matter anyway. Claes looked over at her paintings and tried to work up the enthusiasm to paint but simply couldn't. Claes got dressed and went to the infirmary where she preformed her usual medical tests. Upon returning to her room Claes looked around for a book she hadn't read in a while eventually settling on the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
"Hey Claes." said Triela as she entered the room after her mission.
"Not much time to rest after yesterday." noted Claes as she climbed up on her bed and opened the book.
"It was much easier today. The guy was a total novice and when we confronted him he feel to his knees begging us to spare his life. It's was sad actually. Of course we couldn't spare him so I killed the guy." answered Triela.
"Business is business." replied Claes opening her book to it's first page.
"Exactly. Nothing I could do. The rain was the worst part. Poor Rico is running laps for missing several targets during practice this morning." said Triela.
"That's the way Jean is." shrugged Claes.
"Yup." agreed Triela who noticed the book, "What are you reading?"
"David Copperfield by Charles Dickens." answered Claes.
"What's it about?" asked Triela.
"The story traces the life of young Englishman David Copperfield from youth to adulthood. Along the way he faces many villainous people including his step-father Edward Murdstone." began Claes.
"That sounds like a villainous name." laughed Triela, "Sorry for interrupting you."
"It's fine and is a perfect name for a villain. Murdstone has a malevolent sound to it." replied Claes but before she could continue their bedroom door opened.
"Triela!" cried Henrietta bursting into the room.
"What's wrong?" asked Triela as the crying brunette threw herself at her bronze-skinned comrade.
"Jose is mad at me!" cried Henrietta as tears rolled down her cheeks.
"What happened?" asked Triela knowing how prone Henrietta was to outbursts when she though Jose was angry at her.
As Henrietta began to tell her story it became clear that Jose was not mad at her but she was simply overreacting as she often does when ever Jose doesn't act as totally lovey-dovey to her.
"I think you're overreacting Henrietta." said Triela stroking he younger girl's hair but it clearly wasn't working as well as she would have hoped.
"No...he hates me...Jose is mad at me and...wants..a new...cyborg." cried Henrietta.
"I'm going find somewhere more..secluded. I'll catch up with you later." said Claes who got up and headed for the door.
"Thanks." replied Triela sarcastically as Claes left.
Now gone from her own room Claes searched for somewhere to sit and read her book but the headquarters of a counter-terrorist agency that is hard to find. Eventually she found herself walking by a room with several employees talking.
"I heard the North Korean mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, saying they've got some long-range missile and were bragging about nuking Seoul or Tokyo." said a voice Claes recognized as Alessandro.
"If they do that the South Korean Army and JSDF will kick the crap out of North Korea." replied another voice she recognized as Alfonso.
"Not to mention the Americans." added Amadeo.
"If they get involved won't China help North Korea?" asked Giorgio.
"They have trade relations with the US so I doubt it." answered Hilshire.
"Then again the Chinese have always defended North Korea so they might not have a choice." said Marco.
"In that case we're all screwed." replied Alessandro.
"Not to mention Israel and Iran are ready to destroy one another. If the Iranian government doesn't strike first the Israeli government will." said Alfonso.
"Now I heard a Russian general is talking of a preemptive strike against the missile defenses in Central Europe." said Priscilla.
"I hope that won't happen but who knows." sighed Marco.
"It might happen. I doubt Putin backs it but a rogue general might. Then again Putin is a master of dirty politics. Part of the reason I left Russia to start with." replied Olga.
"Let's not forget the deep tension between Pakistan and India especially over Kashmir. Both of those countries also have nuclear weapons." said Alessandro.
"And of course we're part of the nuclear weapons sharing from NATO. God knows how bad it'd be if the Padania got any of the nukes the Americans have given us." said Marco.
"If there is a nuclear war they're won't be anymore fish." said Claes to herself though she couldn't remember why that was upsetting to her.
Claes kept looking for a secluded area of the Agency so she could read her book in peace. As she walked she noticed Dr. Bianchi walking down the hallway opposite her.
"Hello Claes." said Dr. Bianchi as he walked down the hallway.
"Hello Dr. Bianchi." replied Claes as she walked by.
"What are you reading?" asked Bianchi as he noticed the book Claes was holding.
"I'm trying to read David Copperfield but I can't find anywhere quieter enough to read it." answered Claes, "Henrietta came crying to Triela so I had to leave my room."
"If I remember correctly from when I first joined the Agency there's an old bomb shelter from the Cold War. It was built in the late 1950s for fear of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union." replied Bianchi, "It's on the edge of the compound surrounded by trees."
"I'll check it out tomorrow." said Claes, "Thank you."
"No problem." replied Bianchi and with that the two parted ways.
Claes eventually went back to her room and found only Triela who explained she calmed Henrietta down and convinced her to talk to Jose. Claes the read her book then had dinner. After dinner she returned to her room and managed to finish a painting she had begun days ago. Then Claes went to bed and slept for eight and a half hours before waking up the next morning.
"Morning." said Claes as she climbed out of her bed but only got a semi-audible groan from Triela still half-awake.
Claes began her day as usual: first she showered and changed her clothes then got breakfast. After that she began a new painting until Beatrice was available allowing the two work on their garden for an hour until they had to part ways. Claes did her routine medical exams and gave Dr. Bianchi a smile before returning to her room where she picked the The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus by Washington Irving. Claes then left the dorm sneaking out to the wooded part of the compound.
"There it is." said Claes upon discovering the shelter. There was no structure standing just a steel square ten feet by ten feet. In the center a round mound sat with a large hand wheel on the top.
"I guess this is how I get in." said Claes who turned the wheel and opened the hatch. She then climbed down the ladder into the shelter. The inside of the shelter was simply four cement walls, several shelters of food, an old map of Europe that featured Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and a 50s radio.
"If I just spruce this place up I can make this my little secret place." said Claes to herself as she sat back and read her book after which she took a nap. Upon waking Claes knew she would have to return to the dorm soon but decided to delay her departure by seeing if the radio worked.
("This is an emergency broadcast from Rai Radio 1.") came a male voice over the radio.
"This can't be good." said Claes as she waited for more information.
("North Korea launched a nuclear strike today across the board into South Korea and across the ocean at Japan. In response both countries have begun bombing the isolated communist dictatorship. In response the Chinese have begun to shoot missiles at South Korea and Japan and now the Untied States has begun attacking China. We can now confirm both countries are using nuclear weapons against the other. South of that India and Pakistan have begun firing nuclear missiles at each other as have Israel and Iran while an all out Palestinian uprising has engulfed the Jewish State. In Latin America, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe war, civil war and revolution has created a nightmarish scene. We can also confirm that Padania terrorists have taken hold of nuclear weapons given to Italy by the United States as part of the NATO nuclear weapons sharing program which has led the government to strike first. We can confirm Milan, Turin, Venice and Florence have been struck by nuclear bombs launched by our government. We can't be sure if the Padania will fire back so please find shelter-")
"What the hell?" asked Claes before a massive explosion shook the entire shelter to its foundation.
Claes climbed out of the shelter and to her horror found the entire Social Welfare Agency gone. Well it was clear the blast didn't hit the Agency it was close enough to be obliterated. Claes found her garden blackened and vegetation dead. She reached what was left of the buildings and wondered through the rubble knowing everybody there was dead. She eventually reached her room and found what was left of Triela spread across the grounds. Not being able to stomach the sight, Claes left and headed towards Rome which had been flattened.
"Not a red balloon in sight." noted Claes looking up at the sky before entering the former capital nicknamed the Eternal City. Now that title seemed cruelly mocking. She passed by the ruins of what were once buildings from Parliament to a day-care center until she reached what was once a supermarket.
"As least I'll be well feed." said Claes entering the ruins before enjoying a meal made from various food items in the store topped with a glass of wine. After her meal Claes wandered around Rome looking for survivors and finding none until eventually nightfall came.
"I'll get rebuilding tomorrow." yawned Claes as she walked into what was once a hotel and threw herself on the nearest bed sleeping.
"Another day of solitude." sighed Claes as she awoke. It had been several days, or so it seemed since Claes had no way of keeping track of time anymore, since the nuclear nightmare that destroyed Rome and probably most of the world.
"It's funny." said Claes as she began to wonder through the city, "I wanted solitude and quiet so I could read and now I have it but at what cost? All of my friends are dead. Being alone is different from being lonely."
"You aren't alone." came a male voice seemingly out of nowhere.
"Who are you?" asked Claes looking around for the voice.
"I've always been looking out for you if I wasn't here physically." replied the disembodied voice.
"How do you how me?" asked Claes wandering through the streets looking for this voice.
"I'd never forget my fratello." answered the voice.
"Are you my handler?" asked Claes.
"I was but that was in the past." answered the voice, "I have to go now. Maybe we can go fishing again like the old days."
"Don't leave!" cried out Claes but got no reply. Dejected, Claes looked up and saw she was in front of the Angelica Library. Heading inside Claes found a treasure-trove of books in excellent condition. She grabbed armful after armful outside where she stacked them to her height.
"I have enough books here to last more than a year." smiled Claes beaming, "Not only that but I have all the time in the world."
Claes reached up to grab a copy of Arabian Nights off the top of the pile nearest to her. As she pulled the book down it slipped out of her hand and fell to the ground. When Claes bent over to pick it up her glasses fell off her face and smashed on the ground.
"That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed...! That's not fair!" cried out Claes before making a realization, "The Agency fixed my vision. I can see fine without my glasses."
Claes then sat down on the steps of the former library and began reading. As she did the ghost of Enrica Croce appeared nearby.
"The best laid plans of mice and men...and Claes...the girl who only wanted peace and solitude and made the greatest sacrifice to get it. She may seem happy now but it shall pass for Claes now resides in not only the ruins of Rome but a special place...the Twilight Zone."
A/N: I hope you enjoyed that story because I struggled a little. I'm sorry if there was too much of me explaining thing but with one person dialogue was hard. The scene where Triela and Claes were talking about computers and going on a date only to have it be Jean is a nod to another story called the Lighter Side which you can find in my favorites section. I recommend it because it's hilarious. This chapter was based on the classic Twilight Zone episode "Time enough at last" which is one of the most famous episodes and will be the most famous episode I base a chapter on because they're played out and it's be predictable and cliche of me to do lots of them. So lesser know episodes will be covered here. I hope you like Enrica taking the role of Rod Sterling here as well. It was going to be either her or Elsa and I choice her though that doesn't mean Elsa won't appear later on. Anyway, so there is the first chapter and next week I start chapter two. I hope you keeping reading and please review. Seriously, reviews keep me motivated and if I think nobody is reading or if I get no feedback then why waste my time. So please review.