So, ever since GB did the little Mind of Steel snippet I kind of wanted to write this. If you have found this fiction by some means other than Gabriel Blessing's forum then know that this story is based on In Flight, by Gabriel Blessing, which uses characters from Fate/Stay Night and Sekirei to create an extremely good read that I would strongly recommend you look into first. [Edit: Now with more line breaks!]
IN FLIGHT remix
Hanging By A Thread
I had experienced far more pleasant flights, I mused, as the line towards the security checkpoint slowly trudged forward. That strange man had talked at me the entire flight, either unaware or uncaring that I had never once been awake for the duration of the three hour flight from Hong Kong to Shin Tokyo. I wasn't sure if it had been a bother or a blessing, considering had the man ever stopped I wasn't sure if any magic short of the Third again would have pulled me out of the deep slumber I was so eager to try out for the first time in three years. Ever since that night I have been unable to sleep, probably because strictly speaking I didn't need it anymore. But all that was over now, it had taken us two years, untold millions of yen, and more danger to his person than he would ever admit to his wife, but he had finally tracked the puppet maker of that first surrogate body of his.
She had run from him for a year before he was able to even speak with her, and when he finally managed to convey to her that he was in fact not trying to kill or capture her because of her Sealing Designation I had nearly wept for joy when she said she would make me a new body. While Sakura had no reservations about my erie timelessness, I found it hard to conduct my business when to all appearances I still looked to be in my second year of high school. It had been an incredible relief when Touko had told me just how far her doll-making had come since my first body, and I had been more than a little amazed at what Touko could reproduce with just the tattered preserved remains of my natural body. I could finally sleep, for one thing.
It was because of this near perfect reproduction of my natural body that I was confident that even this strange new security measure being tried in the immigration office of Shin Tokyo would find nothing out of the ordinary. He had passed through the security checks in Hong Kong without effort after all. I had every confidence that Touko's skill would pass this test as well. And so, confident and in exceptionally good spirits, I did as I was instructed when it was my turn with the strange device.
A simple chirp from the machine indicated that not all was well, and my good cheer evaporated. The technician gave me an apologetic look that was by this time quite well practiced and bid me to try again. Once again I exhaled on to the strange device, and once again the machine indicated that something was amiss. I knew that the machine wasn't entirely at fault for this turn of events, but even still I couldn't help but hate the strange thing. The new body had just been so perfect, I hadn't even thought twice about what might happen were it to detect something like my body being fake.
"Don't worry Sir, if you would please follow the security personnel to a waiting room we will have an MBI employee figure out what exactly the problem seems to be."
I nodded, trying not to let the disappointment show on my face. Whatever the strange machine tested it had found me lacking in some way, and this could seriously hamper my travel plans in the future if this annoying little machine became widespread. I made a mental note to inform Touko of the difficulty, all while reviewing what could have caused this, bringing me to an alarming fact. I had no clue what that strange machine was even testing for... They had told me to breathe on the contraption, but beyond that I was baffled. Usually when I needed to understand technology I cheated and used Structural Analysis, but I had never thought to do so on the device. So while walking with my security guard escort, I decided to ask.
"What does that machine do exactly?" I asked with a hint of embarrassment in my voice.
"Do? What it does is give me and everyone else a great big pain in our as ses, that's what it does" came the guard's aggravated reply. Feeling a bit less inclined to push the already irate guard I chuckled an empty laugh before choosing to follow in silence. After I was brought to the small waiting room I turned to address my guard once more before he left, asking: "Do you know how long this might take? You see, I have a train to catch, and if I don't get home on time, well my wife... she worries you see?" While raising my left hand to display the plain metal band that sat comfortably on my ring finger.
The security guard turned to scowl briefly, strangely I felt that the scowl hadn't been for me, before his face regained its impassive demeanor.
"Sir, I'm sorry for the inconvenience but I really couldn't tell you. I've seen all kinds come in here, from the elderly to children, and even though I can be damn sure gramps and the brats aren't on any international terrorist DNA database, we have to follow protocol. And that takes time, more time than it ought too, but there's nothing I can do. If it were up to me this whole program would have been scrapped before it made it through the door. We have twelve still waiting for that damn MBI tech, thirteen now with you added. I just hope your train doesn't leave soon. Sorry again." Thus having said his piece the security guard turned and exited, leaving me alone in the small room.
The wait was supremely uneventful. I considered trying to sleep, but thought my time might be better spent on other things. Those other things being a mental checklist of why a machine would name me a terrorist, and if it had anything to do with this body that Touko had made. Perhaps she was on that list, and this body was contaminated? I had just the most basic grasp of what DNA testing was, and understood nothing of how the machine that had tested me had worked. But I was fairly sure that Touko's name probably wasn't on any terrorist watch lists, and I doubted even more that they would have any DNA sample from her. It had likely been a simple error, much like what the security guard had ranted about.
When the tired looking MBI technician burst through the door, apologising profusely for the wait, I couldn't help but be polite and forgiving. Faulty equipment was hardly the fault of anyone here, and it was no use for me to vent frustrations upon a man that had already suffered more than his fair share for someone else's mistake. The civility seemed to surprise the man, his apologetic demeanor changing to grateful and then quickly to friendly.
"Well, we've kept you waiting long enough, let's figure out what exactly went wrong here" he said as he rolled a cart with a portable version of the now hated machine into my small room.
The technician bid me to repeat my performance from earlier, and I obliged. A number of 'Hmmm's' and other minor exclamations later, the man slowly turned to face me, regret clear on his face. "I'm afraid, Emiya-san, that this problem is a little beyond me... I've never seen this error code before, and that means I have to call my superiors about this... I am deeply sorry but could you please help us resolve this problem so that we can make this process easier for everyone involved?"
If the technician had just been less polite, or not used those simple words that invariably got me into trouble I could have gotten angry and made a scene and maybe see my wife tonight, I mused. Nevertheless he had been polite, and he had used those fatal words that always seemed to get me into trouble, even when I knew better.
"Sure, Suzuki-san, but do you mind if I ask for a favor? Since it looks like I may need to be here awhile I really need to call my wife..." and after a brief moment of consideration I added "And could someone fetch my luggage? And some food I suppose... it has been the better part of a day with just airplane food to keep me going."
"Absolutely, Emiya-san, I'll have an attendant get you a phone that works in these rooms and a menu for one of the onsite restaurants, compliments of MBI, and don't worry about your luggage." The technician said before he bowed low and exited.
True to his word, not five minutes later I was greeted by a small woman rolling my suitcase and carrying a small stack of menus, and trying very hard not to drop the bulky phone that rest on top of them. I thanked her, while relieving her of her small burden, and began to leaf through the menus looking for nothing in particular. After ordering I took the time to properly inspect the phone the attendant had needed to install into the room. It seemed the room had some sort of shielding, preventing cell phones from getting signal, but still had functional land line connections. I supposed that while my case was certainly a mix up these rooms were meant to hold suspected terrorists so a communications lockdown made sense. Dismissing the whole thing, I picked up the phone to call my wife.
The answer came after two rings, and I was greeted by a voice I was glad to hear, even if it wasn't my wife's.
"Emiya residence, who may I ask is calling?" The voice brought a smile to my lips, and I felt the need to indulge in some spontaneous teasing in a mood I swear must have been summoned by Rin somehow.
"Ah~, Medu-san~ haven't we talked about this? It's polite to name yourself first when answering the phone, sheesh I know you don't use the phone much, but still, what will I do if a client calls?"
The brief bit of fumbling and squawking that I hear lets me picture the reaction I had been hoping for, using the nickname for Rider that Rin had coined after learning her identity.
"Shi-Shirou, I- Please don't call me that..." I could practically hear the blush that had formed on Rider's face, and smiled wider despite my knowledge that neither party could see the faces we made.
"Look, Rider, I have some bad news and some good news, but while I need to say the bad news I would much prefer to save the good news for Sakura in person. Can you tell her that there's been a hold up here at the airport? I've already missed the train for Fuyuki by now, and there won't be another until tomorrow morning."
"Understood, Shirou, if you like I could..." Rider began, but I cut her off.
"That won't be necessary, Medu-san~ besides I'd hate to put any strain on you or Sakura-hime by having to call on Bell-san."
Again the tell-tale signs of Rider's embarrassment could be heard in the background, before she spoke again. "How are your reserves? You were out for three weeks..."
"Don't worry Rider, I'm still perfectly fine, better than fine even, and you'll see why soon, but even if I were running low I always have the amulet Rin lent me, and it's not like I'll need to fight my way back to Fuyuki." Despite myself I chuckled, for it had been some time since I had needed to fight. I still found myself wanting to help whenever humanly possible, but ever since that night, nearly four years ago, Sakura had always come first, which had meant that while I had learned to use much of the fragmented knowledge I still possessed from the frankensteinian merging of my alternate universe future self and the experience gained fighting Heroic Spirits, I had mostly avoided the battlegrounds where that skill and prowess might have gathered attention that could have caused Sakura trouble.
"Come home soon Shirou, Sakura has very much missed you, and so have I." Rider's last words were so quiet I could barely hear them, Rider's shyness getting the better of her. It was only natural, I supposed, it had only been within the last year that Sakura and Rider had really come to terms with their feelings for each other, and for me, a thought which still has me wondering when the world decided to take leave of its senses. Sakura had been so intensely jealous at first, guarding me with a zeal akin to how a drowning woman might grasp a life preserver. And Rider had thought her own feelings for Sakura and I were nothing more than the same protectiveness she had felt for her sisters. It had taken years of awkward moments, slips of the tongue, and constant reassurances for Sakura before Rider had finally told Sakura the extent of her feelings. That had been one of the worst nights of my life, and I had a very large stockpile of bad nights to choose from, some of them half remembered dreams from Archer.
Hanging up the phone, I returned to my seat, and began my silent waiting vigil on the door.
Hours passed. After the first I decided to let myself fall into the familiar habit of cleaning my Reality Marble. Since the events of the Heaven's Feel ritual I had been aware of my Reality Marble, but due to my spiritual linkage to my older self had been unable to truly utilize it. Myself, Sakura and Rin had spent long hours puzzling out what was actually wrong with it, and the answer seemed to come back to how incompatible my own world view was with Archer's. While I had inherited the necessary knowledge to deploy the Reality Marble; the marble itself was a reflection of the user, a window into the soul. Archer's soul was so defined by his willingness to sacrifice for the good of many without regard for himself or those he cared about, that it was incompatible with my own choice to place Sakura and those I love above my ideals.
What it left me with was an incomplete Reality Marble, still capable of storing every bladed weapon I have ever seen (and some only Archer had seen) and capable of calling them into existence through my particular method of Projection, but the true skill, the Unlimited Blade Works, could never fully be called forth into the world in its current state. The reason why was simple, if one saw it as I did; looking into my soul I no longer saw the familiar endless graveyard of swords. Here now the sky seemed to be a paradox, with the sun in every position in the sky while at the same time never where I attempted to find it. The overall effect seemed to display a sky that randomly flitted through the times of the day as I tried to take notice of it. The massive gears that had littered the sky of Archer's Reality Marble had collapsed, taking vast portions of the sky with them that showed in those vast tears a night time scenery like no where on earth. Some of the massive gears had fallen onto the ground, their size dwarfing the landscape, and dizzying to behold. In the center of it all, where once there had stood only a hill marked by a graveyard of swords, there now grew an impossibly large tree, a Sakura tree in perpetual bloom, the soft pink petals falling to the red rust ground and onto countless blades.
This was the world Archer had built, and the world Sakura had changed. I knew Unlimited Blade Works might one day be fully realized, but at the moment, the two worlds were still in conflict. I could feel it, at the edges of my soul, where the horizon met the sky I could still see Archer's world. In those border places were swords I have yet to see, memories I have yet to delve, and horrors I did not want to face.
A hauntingly familiar scent roused me from my meditation, a scent that reminded me strangely enough of my own corpse, when they had finally found it inside the collapsed cave, with a strange addition as if it were coated in honey, nearly masking the scent of decay, each of these strange scents were almost entirely dwarfed by the scent of blood so thick that it could only belong to one person.
I smiled somewhat ruefully, preparing the minor scolding I would have to give to Rider for coming all this way despite what I told her. The first scent caught me off guard, but the second let me slip back into the comfortable lull of inaction. Whatever that first thing was it was unlikely to bother me, and even if it did it would have a whole world of surprises in store when it tried to tangle with a Heroic Spirit and a pseudo-ex-Counter Guardian.
Imagine my surprise when the source of both scents entered into my room at once, resolving into a single being, and certainly not the one I had been expecting. I was so confounded by this change that I very nearly missed the second figure to walk into the room, pushing a third example of the now loathed machine.
I could have sworn that with their entrance the temperature dropped by several degrees.
The first female to enter the room was tall by Japanese standards, maybe only a few centimeters shorter than myself, which would have made her positively amazonian in the eyes of most given my own height was a bit above Japanese average. Her hair was a pale grey, but lustrous and healthy in a way that naturally occurring human grey hairs never seemed to have. Sharp eyes embedded on a face that would have been undeniably gorgeous had her lips not been plastered with a frown of annoyance met my own for a moment before sweeping the room in a casual but practiced manner. She wore a simple military style white coat over a black dress shirt that met its match at her hip, smoothly transitioning into a thin pencil skirt before revealing creamy white skin where the skirt met supermodel quality thigh before quickly disappearing underneath more black thigh high stockings. Her figure could have set an army to sail in Rider's day, but my attention was focused like a laser on the conspicuous addition to the ensemble resting at her waist.
Ninety-nine centimeters of the finest titanium-carbon monocrystal superalloy I had ever laid eyes on waited patiently within a high tech sheathe, and even then I could tell that its owner was no stranger to the sword. But without a proper look at the blade I couldn't get much more than it's material composition and traces of intent, even so the knowledge of the blade's material composition gave me an uncomfortable piece of information, as this blade was capable of withstanding stresses no human could ever hope to create, and yet, there, twenty centimeters from the tip of the blade, infinitesimally small stress fractures existed visible only in my mind's eye. Whatever this thing appeared to be, she was most certainly not human.
Following close behind her inhuman companion was a woman of slightly above average height, dwarfed as she was by her company. Like her associate she too had grey hair, which I at first assumed to mean she shared a heritage with her erstwhile guardian, but even as my magical sense of "smell" became accustomed to the first woman's presence no new hints of magecraft were noticeable. Moreover unlike her companion she, while being rather attractive, did not possess the nearly legendary beauty of her compatriot. She also lacked the timeless quality that the first grey haired woman seemed to have, giving a more definite impression of age. I would probably have thrown my best guess to be roughly late thirties, possibly early forties. She also wore a white coat, but this one looked less like a military style and more like a lab coat, buttoned in the front to cover her from neck to knee in white fabric.
I suppose it was the arrival of the machine that kept me mostly calm in the face of this strange new supernatural presence. Whatever else was going on, at the very least this whole debacle still seemed to center around the strange device, although why this strange creature was standing in the room before me was still a mystery. I tried to keep a positive outlook, after all I lived with Rider and thus was no stranger to beings of great power smelling like the vital fluid, but the honey sweet smell vaguely reminded me of the one Dead Apostle hunt I had found myself in when some pompous Clocktower noble having felt slighted by Rin's apprenticeship had managed to maneuver Rin into one of the more dangerous hunts conducted by that psychotic Woman-who-shall-not-be-named. Sakura and I had been so worried that I had left to act as her bodyguard for nearly a month, leaving Rider to keep Sakura safe.
I will remember that month as the third worst in my entire life, and I pray that nothing ever usurps its position. That Edelfelt woman had been the most grating person I had ever met, constantly competing with Rin, trying to seduce me in the mistaken hope that it would bother Rin, although I will say that when I found out earlier this year that Rin and Luvia were an item I couldn't stop laughing for days. Really looking back I should have seen the signs. Anyway I was almost glad when we arrived at the small eastern european town the Apostle had destroyed, then I saw the children, shambling forward with those hungry eyes. Some looked like they had been torn in half before joining the ranks of the living dead. Those were the easy ones, so twisted, so clearly dead, so far beyond hope that it was almost easy to write off any hope of salvation. It was the ones that still looked human, the ones that seemed so full of life, so normal, that they could approach, crying and screaming for their parents, breaking into wicked grins of feral hunger when a poor soul came to help. Killing them had felt like pulling teeth with a jackhammer. What kept me on edge was the smell of death, covered with sweetness or not, this thing reeked of power, power I was unfamiliar with.
"Hello, are you here to -" I tried to greet the two who walked in, but before I could finish my sentence the woman in professional attire pushing the DNA scanner cut me off.
"Cut the crap."
"Pardon?" More than slightly taken aback by the second woman's opening remark I bit back; "Your scanner delays me for what - six hours now? And the first thing you say to me when you come in here is 'cut the crap'? What the he-"
I was unable to finish my retort as before I began my third sentence the older more professionally dressed woman whose MBI identification hanging from her neck professes her to be one Assistant Director Sahashi Takami gave a curt gesture to her inhuman associate that set her to draw her weapon.
"Karasuba." The name was spoken as a command, eliciting an immediate, lightning fast response. In half the time it would have taken to blink an eye the woman had drawn her sword, wonder alloy appearing every bit like regular steel, and with a slight itching sensation I took stock of its new position lightly pressed against the flesh of my neck just above my adam's apple.
"Now, I'm asking the questions here, and if I hear answers I don't care for Karasuba here is going to make that six hour wait feel like a walk in the park. First, who are you working for?"
I took a moment to consider what exactly was happening before my eyes. The seemingly human woman was giving the definitely inhuman woman orders, odd but not inconceivable. The woman (Karasuba I mentally appended) had drawn her sword on me on Takami's orders, and had done so not just unflinchingly but with what I now saw to be a vicious grin, that could be trouble. They seemed to be unaware of who I was, but the line of questioning was strikingly familiar to the times I had been accused of spying on the governments of one or two middle eastern countries I had admittedly been spying on. I chose to answer honestly, in the hope that this might be some sort of mistaken identity case. Besides, the eyeful of miraculous steel analog her inhuman companion held was enough to placate my annoyance at being detained, I had after all suffered more abuse for less.
"I'm self employed."
"Karasuba, he seems to not understand your purpose here, demonstrate please." Takami spoke in a positively glacial tone.
"Happily." Came the reply, fractions of a second before Karasuba's hand found my face in a way that made me absolutely certain this woman couldn't be human. I would place Karasuba's weight somewhere in the area of sixty kilos soaking wet, I on the other hand am roughly one hundred and nine kilos, somewhat heavier than I look due to my body's unique composition. Needless to say no normal human even close to sixty kilos could have slapped me with enough force to throw me into the opposite wall.
"Karasuba, next time you hit him that hard make sure not to hit his head, we need to know what he's doing here and who sent him. Which means if he can't talk because of a broken jaw or a fractured skull we have squat."
Karasuba looked at her hand with a measure of surprise before regaining her composure and blithely replying.
"Yeah yeah, Director, besides I had this feeling that he's got a thick skull."
"Yeah... Director... My wife says the same thing all the time..." I groaned, pushing myself from the floor and silently thanking Touko for constructing such a sturdy body.
"I really hope you're not some sort of masochist. I'm not prepared for some sicko enjoying pain, it ruins my fun." Karasuba replied.
"No worries on that end then, I can't stand pain" considering I can turn my own pain reception off entirely "and really, every hit just makes me more money when your Director over then realizes what a mistake this is." I casually reply.
Twisting a delicate wrist up to bring a slim index finger to her lower lip Karasuba makes a pouting expression that would drive an idol green with envy. "Director, I think I don't loathe this one. Can I keep him? I wonder what kind of noises he'd make if I crushed the bones in his hand phalanges by phalanges, how long would it take to break that cocky attitude?"
The way she said it gave me the distinct impression that she'd tried it before. No matter, living with Rider had given me a measure of immunity to threats centered on sadism, it was almost cute really, given how out of her depth this creature was.
I had gotten a good look at her blade. I had seen countless hours training on equipment tested to endure the heaviest punishment an Abrams main battle tank could dish out, and with that blade she had cut through it like butter. Countless men had died by that blade, and yet I didn't have the slightest doubt in my mind that I could kill her before she even thought to raise her blade.
She had only ever fought mundane humans. Guns, missiles, tanks, aircraft, these were the only threat she felt a human could bring to bear against her, and even then she knew with absolute certainty that she was faster than any threat. It would be child's play to call forth Gae Bolg while she wondered just what this puny human could do with a spear in such close quarters. With two words she'd be impaled, inevitably, impossibly if need be, and she wouldn't even comprehend how. It was all I needed to relax once again and let this strange situation carry itself out, secure in the knowledge that if this interrogation turned sour it would hardly be more than an exercise in hiding bodies.
With a labored sigh, the Director spoke. "Karasuba, you can do whatever you like with him after we have the information we need. Now you, whatever your name is, if you cooperate and talk I'll make sure Karasuba doesn't get her wish." Karasuba's contemplative expression fell as Takami finished her sentence resuming it's previous scowl.
"You're no fun Director."
Picking myself up off the ground while I spoke I moved to retake my seat. "My name is Emiya Shirou, and while I appreciate your supposed need for intimidation right now, I can tell you it won't do you a gram of good. I don't work for anyone because I'm self employed, I own a repair shop in Fuyuki City, I'm returning from Hong Kong after meeting with a business associate. I got pulled in here by your broken machine, missed my train home, and now my wife has to go home alone for another night while you sit there asking me stupid questions."
The two women spared a glance at me before looking at each other, somewhat perplexed.
"Are you going to sit there completely calm, and tell me you aren't some government operative? After Karasuba's knocked you across the room and you don't even flinch? You're either suffering a serious concussion, or completely insane." Takami said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms while pinning me with an intense glare. Karasuba however seemed to be having difficulty keeping her giggling in check, as she held a hand over her mouth whispering. "Re-Repair man... heh oh man, balls of steel at least."
"Look me up, Emiya Repairs, I just paid an old classmate of mine to make one of those website thingies. Swore up and down it'd bring in new customers. My picture's there, I think. Old though, from back when I first bought the place right after high school. As for the other matter, I'm a freelance photographer when I get the time, I've been to African hell-holes and border skirmishes in the Middle East. A supermodel with an attitude is easily one of the more pleasant interrogators I've had."
Again both women gave me strange looks, before Takami set to work on her small tablet computer while Karasuba began to stare with a fascination that would have been arousing were I not aware of her sadistic nature and happily married. While Takami tapped away Karasuba took the opportunity to speak.
"War Photography? What, repairing cars not good enough for you? You got some creepy obsession with taking pictures of dead people?" I took note of how her tone lacked even the hint of derision her words implied.
"Not at all. I want to help people. As much as I want too, one man just can't stop a war. It just isn't possible" which is why Archer got himself in so deep "so I try and show the world what happens. I try and make people wake up to the reality of men, women and children dying senselessly. I take pictures because while it is impossible for one man to end a war, if I can show enough people what they want to ignore, if I can get them to see what's happening, then maybe I can make a difference."
Karasuba's mouth twitched through a surprising variety of expressions as she heard my reasoning, before once again settling on a snicker that she quickly covered.
"Super Repair Man, this is just too rich. Next you'll say you're moonlighting as some sort of Superhero..."
Fixing me with another hard stare Takami lowered her computer and said "Karasuba, quit joking. You said your name was Emiya right? I found the repair shop but you made a mistake trying to justify your cool, there's no one employed for any publishing company named Emiya Shirou, and there never has been. So once again. Who are you?"
"Like I said, my name is Emiya Shirou. You won't find my name under any publishers payroll because I use an alias for all my photography. Look for Archer Smith. Thats the name I use for the associated press."
A scowl and a number of swift taps later Takami looked up from her machine.
"So, what, how do I know you're actually who you say you are?"
"Aside from showing you my passport, my train ticket to Fuyuki, or my commercial commerce licence for my garage, you mean?"
"Ah, the first should suffice." Came a rather more nervous than expected reply.
"Wait. It was good as far as covers go Director, I'll give him that, but are you really telling me you believe this guy?"
"Karasuba, the tax records for this garage go back two and a half years. The photography career of Archer Smith is the same, I pulled school records, and one Emiya Shirou graduated around that time, I've got airline records that he's bought tickets to Hong Kong, South Africa, Turkey, and even London. His family registry's a bit odd but his marriage checks out. Even the train tickets check out. This passport's the real deal, and if all of that wasn't enough- look here." Takami spoke while lifting the tablet to show Karasuba an image she had pulled from my garage's website, there I was, standing inside my garage, grinning like an idiot with Sakura by my side. The image alone was enough to get me smiling, mirroring the tablet.
Looking slightly dumbfounded, switching from the picture on the tablet to myself, Karasuba seemed to finally relent, pushing herself into a nearby chair with a cross expression and crossed arms. "Fine then, take all my fun. But now we have to pay him off. It'd be so much easier if I just killed him." She harumphed before leaning back in her chair, balancing perfectly on two legs.
"Right... about that..." Takami seemed to turn a slight shade of green as she reflected back on the events of the utterly unnecessary interrogation.
"Look. As much as I wouldn't mind another source of income, you came here to fix a machine. I still haven't gotten a straight answer about what the hell caused all this. And ultimately I just want this over with. So what exactly is this special error that got me in so much trouble?" I asked some of the irritation I felt leaking into my voice.
"Ah. Of course, well, it's somewhat complicated, but essentially these machines are still prototypes. We only just loaded the criminal DNA databank from Interpol less than a month ago onto the machines, and in our rush we left the test databank on the machine. The machines were all tested using MBI employees, and every employee MBI has is in that databank. The error code we received registered you as a partial match for two different employees at MBI, as you can imagine that should be impossible unless you..." Takami began to trail off as she explained to me the reason this whole mess had started. She seemed to lose all color as she slowly turned to look back at me, wide eyed.
"Mr. Emiya, could you please breathe one more time into the device? I need to be sure of something." I noted with some alarm that her hands were shaking as she worked the controls of the accursed device. Even so I did as I was instructed, once more breathing into the sensor and saying my name. A familiar beep heralded the silence that fell while Takami stared at the diagnostic screen of the machine. Half formed expressions warred for dominance on the woman's face as Karasuba, seemingly bored with the silence, turned to sarcastically remark, "Found some long lost kid of some researcher's secret love tryst? Don't tell me- the red hair, the height, I bet he's Horaki's over in accounting right? But who's the father? From what I hear it could have been half the department." Karasuba snickered, but Takami's reaction cut her short.
"Not another word Karasuba. Not now..." a longer than normal pause later "Shirou? I was looking at your family registry and it said you were added to the Emiya household when you were eight years old. Why?"
Somewhat nonplussed by the use of my first name, I answered candidly "I was adopted. My father found me after the Fuyuki fire and took me to the hospital. I'd suffered serious burns and had what the doctors called trauma induced memory loss, I woke up and all I knew was my name. When no one came to claim me Emiya Kiritsugu adopted me as his only son. Why? Karasuba said something about finding children? Did my parents work for MBI before the fire?" Suddenly aware of the potential bombshell this machine was giving me, my voice became strained as my questions became more frantic.
Takami had gone whiter than a sheet, listening to my explanation, seemingly ignoring my frantic tone while she breathed noticeably heavier, struggling to control herself. Karasuba looked annoyed, either at being ignored or being told to be silent, and stood. Moving around to look over Takami's shoulder at the diagnostic screen she too seemed to pause while she digested some piece of information, before breaking out into guffaws of belly deep laughter.
"YOU-" words formed from desperate attempts to cease her laughter "He's YOUR kid?" Trying and failing to contain her mirth I found myself flabbergasted while Karasuba spoke. "I guess that explains the crazy." With a new bout of laughter Karasuba sank back into her chair laughing like a woman possessed.
Confused, and bewildered as I was I didn't miss what happened next. Overpowering even the scent next to me a coppery tang assaulted my nose, even as I held my breath waiting for the confirmation of this impossible new information. It was so strong I wondered how I could have possibly mistaken this thing near me for her, my Medusa, Sakura's Rider. Either by my own laser focus on the door or by some mystic sense she possessed Karasuba's head turned to focus on the door an instant before Rider opened it with all the speed of a gunshot. If as that sick old bastard Makiri believed the Third really makes one immortal then I will never in a thousand lifetimes forget Rider's face of stricken panic as she zeroed in on my face and said with a note of emotion I have never heard before "Sakura's been hurt!"
And like a switch being flipped in my head my concerns about parentage were immediately dispelled. The world slowed to a crawl as I rapidly brought myself to the maximum tolerance of my body's reinforcement limit, unsatisfied with even that, I brought to mind a sword that would push me far beyond the limits of anything seen since the Age of the Gods. Berserker's Axe-club, an impossibly heavy and improbably large chunk of alchemically treated temple in the form of a crude single edged blade had nevertheless been used in battle by the demigod himself. I knew his impossible strength, his unfathomable speed, and right now more than anything I needed to be where Sakura was. Still even in my haze of desperation I knew creating the massive weapon in the confines of the room would be in poor judgement, so I stole a trick from the remnants of Archer- I adjusted the scale of the weapon when reproducing its accumulated years, costly in terms of prana and detrimental to the power and speed imparted, but an expenditure I gladly paid. The once gigantic sword now fit inside the palm of my hand, and since I was clutching tightly was completely concealed.
Rising from my seat with the speed and power of the greatest hero of Greece I saw the beginning of a drawing motion from Karasuba, her focus still firmly on the intruding figure of Rider. Action proceeded thought as my fist clutching the tiny sword streaked of its own accord into the nearby threat, landing with a thunder like crack against her cheekbone. I didn't stop to see where she landed after that, my feet already moving at near sonic speeds to keep up with Rider, I was burning prana like a small star moving at this speed. It took the two of us roughly forty five seconds to exit the airport, and barely half a minute later I was streaking through the sky on the back of a pegasus at speeds in excess of a thousand kilometers an hour.