This here is a story I've been posting on SpaceBattles and Sufficient Velocity over the past few months. I figured I might as well put it here too. To whoever's reading this, please review, and share if you like it.
Crusader Jerome presents:
Mirai Shoujo Brigitte
(a Lyrical Nanoha fanfiction)
Chapter 1: Chrono Hates Vacation
Chrono Harlaown was convinced that vacations were a lie. This was not an old opinion from the early days of his career, before he had seen any serious action. No, this was a belief that he had formed based on experience, and much against his will. It wasn't the seemingly endless paperwork; compared to field work, Chrono found paperwork relaxing and would regularly do it on his days off. It wasn't that vacations never really happened, either; Chrono had taken an entire week away from duty on multiple occasions. It was what happened on vacations that invalidated the premise of the thing. A quiet trip with no action in sight was, he had found, merely an excuse for the universe to throw something painful in the Bureau's face. Thus, Chrono stuck to paperwork as much as possible. It was best not to leave any openings, wasn't it?
Of course, the paperwork did run out at times, and when those times came, he could only hope that the oncoming incident would not involve A-class Lost Logia and little girls with issues. The last time he had taken a serious vacation, Nanoha had been severely injured while dogfighting with drones. The time before that was the Arthra's recreational "tour of duty" that had neatly coincided with the final Book of Darkness incident. Sometimes, Chrono wondered if the universe had it out for him and his friends in particular, but he usually concluded that dealing with unpleasant things fell to them because they could handle it. It was merely the price of competence.
The rationalization failed to make him any less paranoid.
A teenager and a young adult ran through the alleys of Cranagan's industrial district at a semi-urgent pace. The work day had ended hours ago, so the area was deserted except for these Bureau mages and their quarry.
"I have a bad feeling about this," said Chrono.
Yuuno, running next to him, frowned. "Why is that?"
"It's vacation time."
Yuuno's face twisted in confusion. "I think I'm missing some context here."
"The context, Scrya, is every vacation I've ever had. Now, quiet. She's stopped moving."
[How far away?] Yuuno asked, switching to telepathy.
[Three blocks,] Chrono replied. [The security feed is giving me her location, but I can't see what she's doing. Barrier Jackets up, just in case.]
The two made their way carefully to a warehouse that looked exactly like every other warehouse in the vicinity-drab-colored walls and tiny, dust-crusted windows. The door had definitely been used, though. [Shall we?] Chrono asked.
Chrono threw open the door with more force than was strictly necessary. "Don't run away!" he called. "We just want to talk."
A girl, about ten years old, blinked in surprise from her set on the floor. Her hand froze in the action of scrolling through a holographic display from the bracelet Device on her other hand.
Yuuno stepped forward and raised his hands in a placating gesture. "Don't worry; this isn't an arrest. We're just...mildly curious as to how you managed to break into the Infinity Library's systems and gain administrator access to the databases. That's something of a major security breach."
The girl lowered her eyes. "Used your password. Not sorry." Her right hand went back to scrolling through the holographic feed.
Yuuno's eyebrow twitched. "Pardon? Do you, perhaps, mean the time-sensitive hexadecimal encryption/decryption algorithm that I invented myself, implemented two months ago, and have revealed to no one but myself?"
The girl nodded. "Yeah, that one. Is there anything else?" she asked, glancing at Chrono. "I want to get back to this. I can only read two files at a time while carrying on a conversation."
"See, that's the thing," said Yuuno. "Except for one, all the files you took are completely declassified and available to the general public. If you had asked, I or any of the staff would have given them to you without a fuss and without you tampering with a government database! That's a crime on Administered worlds."
"Can I have them, then?" the girl asked.
Yuuno was growing red in the face, so Chrono decided to step in. "A moment, if you please," he said. "Before we get into an argument of legality, what documents did you take?"
"History and geography of several Administered worlds, papers on the mechanics of the Dimensional Sea and Imaginary Space, and the complete documentation of the Arc-en-Ciel," said Yuuno.
"Archaeological records, too," said the girl. "Don't forget those."
Yuuno growled. "That's included in history and geography."
"Sure." The girl cocked her head, her expression blank.
"Okaaay..." said Chrono. "Why do you need the blueprints for the Arc-en-Ciel?"
The girl shrugged, her hand still moving on the display. "Can't sabotage one properly unless I know how it works, can I?"
"And this is important because..."
"Private business. Sorry." Her hand left the display to tap the bracelet Device on her other arm.
"All right, then: who put you up to this? I won't accept a non-answer." Chrono held up his Storage Device's card form. "Don't try me."
The girl paused, looking at both of them in turn. She sighed. "It's just me. My dad had the idea, him and some guy you don't know, but..." Abruptly, she stood and closed the hologram. "It's been a nice chat, but I have to go now." Her Device chimed, and a teleport circle flashed beneath her feet. She grinned at Yuuno, showing her teeth. "Teasing you really is fun!" The air shimmered around her.
[Chrono, grab on! I'll track her teleport.]
Chrono gripped Yuuno's wrist, and all three vanished.
Chrono and Yuuno rematerialized to find the girl already casting a second teleport. She waved at them. "Good luck keeping up with me!"
Yuuno only grunted and pushed more effort into his spell.
Several minutes later, Yuuno was beginning to get annoyed. The girl was leading them in what amounted to a game of tag around the warehouse district. Following a complex teleport chain by hand was a skill in which he had only recently achieved proficiency, while the girl was so fluid with her escape routes that he would have had trouble even without a passenger.
I need to change my tactics, he thought. Then, to Chrono, [I can't keep this up. She'll lose us soon.] They teleported. [Can you charge a bind between teleports and cast it as soon as we come out?]
Chrono's Device began to glow. They teleported.
Yuuno risked a glance and saw that Chrono's spell was stable. [Right. After this jump.] On impulse, he threw in more power than he needed, aiming to overshoot the target slightly. They teleported.
They appeared right behind the girl, who spun to face them with shock on hers.
Chrono tapped her on the head with his Device. "Struggle Bind." She cried out as the spectral chains wrapped around her, breaking her concentration and dispelling her teleport-in-progress. Chrono turned to Yuuno. "I believe that this constitutes resisting arrest after freely confessing to a crime. Do you have anything to add, since it was your facility that was broken into?"
"Hey!" whined the girl, vainly twisting in the bind. "You said you wouldn't arrest me."
"You lost the privilege of turning yourself in when you ran away."
"Oh," she said. "So that's how it works."
"Look here," said Yuuno, trying and failing to hide his annoyance. "I'm sure you can imagine how suspicious it is that a ten-year-old managed to hack one of the most complex password systems in existence in order to download a classified weapon design."
He stepped forward to stand in front of her. "You seem to be treating this like a game with no stakes. What is your deal?"
She sighed heavily. "Do you remember how I said, earlier, that my dad came up with the plan? He was going to do it himself, but I did it first so he wouldn't have to."
"You're not talking about the files from the Library any more, are you?"
She shook her head. "Nope! I'm not giving you anything else. But I will tell you one thing." She forced her hands together, despite the chains, and flipped a tiny switch on her bracelet. "You're ten years too early to beat me in a game of teleport tag."
The chains shuddered and disintegrated, and Yuuno's Barrier Jacket began to fray from an invisible pressure.
"It's an AMF!" Chrono shouted. "Get back!"
Too late, Yuuno noticed the girl's left fist in his stomach, a gauntlet where the bracelet had been. He staggered back.
"S2U, Stinger Blade!"
Yuuno fell to one knee as Chrono summoned a cloud of spectral blades. The girl hopped backward, bracing her gauntlet with her right hand. "Sorry for hitting you, but I can't let you guys stop me," she called, sounding...genuinely apologetic? "Anyway, it's been fun. Maybe I'll see you guys later, have a rematch in ten years, you know?" She breathed in. "Calliope, Spell Release."
"Acknowledged. Coordinates set. Transferring."
The pressure of the AMF field cut off, and Chrono immediately hurled his blades at the girl, but he was too late. A teleport circle flashed beneath her feet, and she vanished, leaving the projectiles to embed themselves in the ground where she had stood.
The two stood and watched the spent mana dissipate into the air. Finally, Chrono said, "As I said, vacations. Vacations and young girls."
Yuuno didn't bother to answer.