Kirijo Company Headquarters,

Tokyo, 1999

"Mr. Kirijo!"

"I don't have time for this."

"Please sir! The TMPD Public Security Bureau is asking for you at the door!"

"Tell them to take a number."

With that scathing remark, Takeharu Kirijo slammed the large, ebony wooden door to the administrative meeting room. He strode to a long table at which two dozen men sat, each expression marring their faces more grave than the last.

"This is getting out of hand, Kirijo-dono." An elderly gentleman idly twirling his gold pen stated.

"We're running damage control with the authorities; so far there is no positive link between us and the accident."

"I still say it's reckless!" A man in his early forties slapped the table angrily and smoothed his hair back in a calmer motion, "This threat is too large for us to handle ourselves! For all they know WE are the ones responsible for the damage!"

"And what is the media saying about that?"

A secretary looked up from a portable laptop streaming a news feed, "The major stations are attributing the disaster to stress fractures in the metal, and an automotive collision."

"…and how much did we pay someone to make that stick?"

"Enough," Takeharu withdrew an unlit cigar from his jacket's breast pocket, chewing grimly on the end, "What's the status of the official investigation?"

"The Cabinet Intelligence & Research office has their agents watching us, they know we're involved and are just waiting for an agent to slip up and give them a reason to dig further."

"NAICHO's involved? That's just what we need."

There was a ripple of uncomfortable shifting.

"So we can't even use plainclothes agents?"

"No! No. We don't know how much they know, or how many are compromised. They've already been cleared for cursory probes, evidently, since one of our most secure installations was victim to a cyber-warfare suite."

"That better be your idea of humor, Hideo."

"No joke. All the data was wiped on detection of forced entry, so we're in the clean."

"All th- What in the fuck was wiped?!"

"Our Yakushima server wh-"

Takeharu Kirijo sank back into his chair, rubbing the corner of his remaining good eye.

"So that's why we can't locate the ASW."

"Yes sir, the GPS tags went up in smoke, so unless we can get an asset into visual range and spot an IR signal…"

The old man flipping his pen ceased to motion, narrowing his eyes, "And how do we know the police can't find it first?"

"They don't carry the respective equipment, even the JSDF has a scarce amount of NVGs, there's no reason, no incentive to even suspect…"

"We're treading water gentlemen; this could go belly-up in a matter of minutes."

"And why haven't they looked under the fucking bridge?!"

"To be frank," A senior CEO who had not spoken before now chimed in, "The police are not particularly experienced in real world terrorist scenarios. They're treating the accident as if it were a case of gang-related violence, or severe corporate infighting."

"Meaning?"

"The damage was contained to one area, where the ASW engaged the shadow. For all intents and purposes, it appears to be a shaped charge; a bomb, that caused the damage."

"And after our initial efforts being rebuffed as we tried to mount a cover-up, we are the prime suspects." Finished Takeharu, stroking his temple near the eyepatch, deep in thought.

"So you see, they have no reason to suspect there's further evidence at the scene. The investigation has been led to believe something was planted on one of the victim's vehicles, and because they happened to work for us, we are under scrutiny."

"How convenient. They must think themselves so clever."

"They have every reason to think we're involved. We are involved."

"So what now?"

Takeharu looked at the assembled faces turned to him for guidance. He sighed heavily, and lit his cigar with a match, cupping the end.

"Total lockdown. No one goes in or out for two weeks, then we attempt a covert investigation of the scene. That ASW has to be recovered, or should it come down to it, destroyed. If the wrong hands get a hold of that technology, it's more than just our employment that's on the line."

He glared out at them with renewed vigor, "Never the less, we will not halt our efforts to combat the shadow threat; the threat that we are responsible for. Have an inventory run of what ASWs we still have, operational or otherwise, and have a new server arranged for a refit operation."

He looked over to the older gentleman with a pen.

"Kazuya, have your people monitor the usual suspects, and make sure our friends in high places don't find the weapon before we do. If you even hear a rumor, I want to know."

A nod of the head.

"Hideo, inform me the moment we are no longer under surveillance, and have someone go take a look around that bridge, but not a moment before. I don't want to betray our hand too soon and have the police start snooping the area any more than they have."

"Yes sir."

"Good."

"Um, sir?"

"Yes?"

"What if we can't locate the ASW?"

There was a pregnant pause, and the silence seemed almost offensive.

"If we cannot locate the ASW, then we must accept it as lost to us. There is no way to pinpoint it's position after the servers have been wiped, and unless we scour the bottom of the waterway, which would make it look like we most certainly have something to hide, then despite our best efforts we have no real way of locating the weapon."

"So we just, forget about it?"

"Yes, Hideo. There's nothing more we can do. As long as no one in the agencies gets a hold of it, we go ahead as planned."

Takeharu exhaled a cloud of blue smoke, feeling twice his age after the latest hassle over the accident.

"That will be all."


Moonlight Bridge, Tatsumi Port Island

Japan, 1999

E:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\bootpart /?

Boot Partition 2.50 FATAL ERROR No_Disk

Scanning…

Critical System Error: D:* type=6 NO_SOD FAT16, size= 28590392874764TB, Lba Pos=63

Critical System Error: E:* type=7 NEG_FEEDBACK, HPFS/NTFS

Passive Systems Only

Monitor[p_cam1] IFRA=N,LADAR=N,NVG=N,OPTIC=Y

Reg_Camera 001B Active

/Boot

Her backup systems cycled quietly. There was no outside indication that she still functioned.

Following the grievous damage suffered in combating the Shadow, the combat gynoid 'Aigis' reverted back to her passive observation cameras.

Power was slowed to a snail's crawl; there was just barely enough to continue real-time footage of her immediate surroundings, and limited cognitive capabilities.

In this state, she was meant to observe what occurred after the battle for a post-action report. Recovery would be handled by a Kirijo Group team during the cover-up of the incident.

She gave the robotic equivalent of a shrug, and settled in to wait.

The first day, she watched the distant image of emergency workers removing the wreckage from the bridge, clearing the way for commute.

The second day she watched all evidence of the battle cleaned and removed from the premises.

The third day she considered the possibility that the Kirijo Operations Team could not locate her so far underneath the bridge. That thought was refuted through the supplication that it was only logical to survey the underside of the battleground. Her infra-red signal should have been spotted by the proper equipment…

The fourth day, she processed the concept of her personal standing in the group's priority tasking.

The fifth day she shut off her IR strobe.

The sixth day she watched seagulls circle overhead, blindingly white against the vast blue expanse above her. She sent a low-level electrical impulse to her remaining intact limb, but received no feedback at all.

On the seventh day she deleted her information records pertaining to the Kirijo group, as per Operational Security (OPSEC) mandates in the event of falling into third-party hands. She brought up a text file concerning the timeline for rust formation on metal.

She lay in the surf, garbage and foam swishing around her torso.

Aigis came to the conclusion that she was expendable. Her makers did not come looking for her remains. There was no further directive for her to follow.

Damage to her memory banks locked some of her Random Access Memory. Footage stored from the battle was corrupted, and much of her other history files were partial. She could not explain what had happened, or who she was made by or worked for, now that security measures had to be taken.

The only intact partitions were Core Functioning, Language Codex, Shadows/Dark Hour and Defensive Suites. She opened a new subfolder and began recording her passive camera footage.

With nothing for her to do, she was resigned to wait endlessly. No directive, no mission.

No one.

She pondered the glitching system feedback she was experiencing. There was no static_pain impulses, yet her humanoid emotive subroutines were responding as if she were in pain.

A steady, aching pain.

Aigis refreshed her emotive runtimes a dozen times, and yet the pain returned.

Then, someone found her.

She observed a young boy with blue hair step in front of her camera range. She trawled through the fragmented partitions until she found a still frame from corrupted combat footage that identified him.

He was [REDACTED_TAG NOT FOUND]

That was strange, his identity had a priority tag, yet he could not be positively identified.

Whoever he was, it was important that she-

And then, in the middle of her processing, the human boy knelt in the filthy water with her, and lifted her ruined chest up to himself, cradling her head against his shoulder.

She registered minute vibrations from the boy, which her emotive codex identified as (SADNESS, WOE, MOURNING, CRYING) and oddly enough (RELIEF).

Unable to move in the slightest, still gazing blankly over his shoulder, Aigis wrote a new directive for herself.

C:\Priority Tasking\Alpha\

Remain by his side.


The only thing she could do from then on was watch him.

She watched as he took her with him, as he collected all her defunct parts, and cleaned them by hand with crude solvents and tools.

She watched as he tucked a cloth sheet up to her neck, mimicking a human sleep ritual of staying warm despite her absence of a need to do so.

She watched him return from wherever he went during the day, carrying textbooks that he slowly absorbed, moving on to larger, plainer looking ones with small script.

He began to accumulate tools and hardware, nowhere near the level of [REDACTED] Laboratories.

He removed parts from her torso and limbs, making diagrams and measurements before returning them to their proper place.

There were adults that visited him once or twice; men that spoke in soothing, understanding tones as he answered their questions quietly. Whenever anyone came into his room, he covered her in the blanket, and threw his laundry over the pile. He was gently admonished by the caretakers of the orphanage to keep his place tidy.

Some days he returned with newly fabricated parts fashioned from plain steel, and some from simple alloys. To her surprise, he began to piece together and re-attach her arms and legs.

Much time passed, and he had fully assembled her body, and was replacing joints and gyros, fabricating delicate parts to refit her internal systems damaged by the Shadow.

On a particular date in the month of December, every year, he would have a small tree sapling in the room, adorned with colored metal decorations. During that time, he sat alone on his bed, nursing a cup of steaming liquid. He wouldn't say anything, and yet he would look at her, smile, and put a red and white-trimmed cap on her head. After doing this, he would fall asleep with his head in her lap, shaking slightly.

Aigis sent impulses to her limbs regularly now. She felt an urge to hold him, and there was no distinct response modifier to explain why she felt such.

The boy grew as the years went by. She was witness to him progress from an innocuous child into a boy equal her height, long blue hair tufted about his head.

It was painful being alone in the room during the day, yet she rejoiced to see him come through the door, smiling and greeting her comatose self. He never got an answer, and yet he continued to treat her like…

…like she was a girl.

He didn't call her 'It,' or 'weapon,' 'ASW,' or any impartial, sterile abbreviations that the technicians who serviced her at [REDACTED] did.

She liked his protocol better.

Her data banks now had a number of still frame image files, saved from over the years as he laboured with her repairs.

Almost all of them were of him smiling at her.

And then, one day…

A battery cluster was hooked up to her ext. terminal, and a surge of electricity suddenly flooded power systems long dormant.

01001001 00100000 01001100 01001111 01010110 01000101 00100000 01011001 01001111 01010101 00100000 01001101 01001001 01001110 01000001 01010100 01001111

REBOOTING…

"Thank You."


"Why don't we sit down?"

Minato took the gynoid's hand and led her to the edge of his bed. The cushy single-unit mattress groaned as the two occupied it.

The girl's movements were hesitant and measured. She had not used her limbs in a long time, and the replacement parts were slightly imperfect after all.

Despite this, she took her place right next to the bluenette, holding onto his forearm to steady herself.

"You have repaired me." She stated simply, staring at him with those expressive eyes again. Minato gulped as he tried to find the words and respond.

"I did. I'm…sorry it took so long."

The gynoid smiled, her teeth bright as she shook her blond tresses.

"It's fine. I am supposed to be serviced by a team of twelve, in a heavy-industries laboratory."

"Well, I'll try to get one of those next time."

"I would prefer you remain my only technician."

Minato colored slightly at her response, and turned his head when she smiled at him again.

"So, what are you exactly?" He asked carefully.

"I am Aigis," She began, sitting up straighter, "I am an Anti Shadow Weapon designed to use firearms and evoke a Persona."

The boy stared at her, images of that nigh all so long ago flitting through his head.

"So…that night in 1999…that thing that ki- that thing was a shadow?" He asked, correcting himself at the last second.

"Affirmative."

"What are they?" His brows knit together as he became serious, "No one else could see them."

Over the next few hours, Aigis related to him the full knowledge of shadows that she possessed. How they appear during the mysterious 25th hour of the day, what forms they take, and how they are destroyed.

Minato listened attentively, turning his academic talent to absorbing this new information, seeking answers with thirst.

"You said you use something called a 'Persona?'"

"Affirmative."

"What is that?"

"A persona is a manifestation of a person's inner self, called out in a defensive nature against supernatural threats, such as the shadows."

Minato nodded. Things were beginning to fall into place at long last, strange as it may seem.

"So you're supposed stop them, but aren't there more like you? What about your creators?"

The gynoid looked down at her knees, shifting slightly as she responded in a morose tone, "I don't know. No one came for me. My memory is incomplete, I have no information on where I came from either."

The two of them sat in silence for a while. Then, Minato looped his arm around the android girl's back, and slid over to her side.

"I don't have a family anymore. I'm all alone, like you."

Aigis peeked up at him through her blonde bangs.

"If you want, you can stay with me. And I'll…help you destroy these shadows. I don't know if I can make a persona like you can, I guess I can swing a sword…but…"

He inhaled, and spoke more forcefully.

"I'll be your support, as long as you need me."

"I need you now."

Her voice was so fragile the boy thought it might break. The girl timidly circled her arms about his chest again, breathing erratically as she shuddered against him. Minato placed his chin on her head, rocking her back and forth ever so slightly.

"Shh, I'm here. I'm here…"

He felt her hug him tighter, and waited until the tremors subsided, and placed his hands on her shoulders.

"Then, you don't want to leave?"

She shook her head.

"Okay…well, I guess we'd better get you some clothes."

She looked up at him, rubbing the moisture from the lens of her eyes.

"But I don't need any, I'm a machine…"

Minato shook his head this time.

"If you're going to come to school with me, then you need clothes. I mean, all the heroes on…well, um, on TV would go to school during the day, and fight bad guys by night."

"School?" A quizzical look accompanied her implied question.

"It's a place where people go to learn. I'll have to call a friend of mine and get some identity papers forged, and I think I can use the scholarship money I was given from this program to…"

Minato rambled for a bit, pre-occupied with the details of helping Aigis into her new life. She sat there on the bed, quiet, watching him move to the computer and fire off emails to his contacts online, sorting things out as he continued talking to her.

And he was smiling.

Aigis drew her knees up to her chest, and rested her chin on them, arms wrapped about her shins as she watched him contentedly.


Welcome back Blue42

New| Delete | Sweep | Mark As v | Move To v | Categories | IRC | Contacts |

New\Send Message\...

Blue42: Yuki?

Yuki: ya?

Blue42: I need your help.

Yuki: oh wow blu, you nevr ask me for help!

Blue42: This is kind of, well, not legal. Is is okay to talk here?

Yuki: our irc isn't snooped, haha, not unless you've done something wrong already and theyre watching you!? ;_;

Blue42: No, I need to get some fake papers made for a friend.

Yuki: a girl?!

Blue42: Why would you think it's a girl all of a sudden?

Yuki: o im sorry, are you gay? Cuz that's kinda hot blu. o/o

Blue42: No.

Blue42: Im not gay.

Blue42: Stop putting me in your yaoi fantasies.

Yuki: awww

Blue42: Stop.

Yuki: AWWWW

Yuki: *u*

Yuki: well anyways, yeah I can get in touch with someone. when u need them?

Blue42: Fast. Fast-ish, at least before the end of high school registration.

Yuki: okies, email me tha particulars and paypal the ninja fee!

Blue42: Thanks Yuki, you're a lifesaver.

Yuki: i know lol. hey, how's your ai research coming?

Blue42: It's going great, I can't write anything, no way. Just debug some programs and, stuff I guess.

Yuki: never gonna tell me why, huh?

Blue42: I just like it, okay? Sheesh.

Blue42: Anyway, thanks again.

Yuki: u owe me! _

Logging you out…


"Alright," Minato turned off the monitor and faced the gynoid watching him with her head cocked to one side, "We should have some identity papers for you soon, nothing fancy, but enough to fool the school board."

"I comprehend."

"Yeah, well, we still need to get you some clothes so… for the time being you can wear some of mine. Something baggy I guess, to hide your, um, metal bits until we can get some girl's wear for you."

"Affirmative."

"And you can just say, err… 'yes' and 'no,' since no one really says 'affirmative."

"Yes."

"Okay…"

Minato closed his eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the tension of the last few hours taking a toll on him.

"Let's get you dressed, and then we can sneak out and find you some supplies. After all, no one else knows you're here, and I can't really explain. Oh man…" He ran a hand through his blue locks, "This is going to be tougher than I thought…"

"Is this okay?"

Minato looked up to see Aigis wearing one of his sweatshirts backwards, flopping the sleeves up and down.

"A lot tougher than I thought…"