You sit quietly, staring at the white form on the bed. White, as it is covered with a sheet. You don't see the sheet though. Your mind's eye show with perfect clarity the girl beneath.
The others left you alone hours ago, to let you mourn. If you thought about it, you would be grateful, but there is no room for it. In the last few hours you have mourned, screamed, cried and for the first time ever used swear words. Thoughts have raced through your head, what if's piling up to crush you.
If you had been just a little faster in launching the second Divine Buster, the masked bastard would have been occupied for a while longer. He would not have had the chance to steal Fate's Linker Core.
But now, you don't feel anything. All there is left is a cold numbness, a hole that you instinctively know will never be filled again. Not even when your own core was stolen, in that moment when you could feel the pain of it being sucked out of you, did it feel this bad. In fact, you would rather have that happen to you again, a thousand times over, instead of this.
You look at the powered down Bardiche placed on the bedside table. You can feel it radiating the same sorrow you felt only an hour ago. You pick it up, turning it over in your hand. The feeling from it changes; it begs you to help it avenge its master. You know you can't use it as Fate did; its powers are too different from your strengths. Raging Heart comes to life across your lap, and you will never know if it was your doing or if it did it on its own. You think back at what Amy said when she described the new features in yours and Fate's intelligent devices. That you should not use Raging Heart before it had been reinforced.
That has still not been done, and now that you are one team member short, that is a weakness you cannot afford. The thought has scarcely entered your mind before your magic and that of the two devices react. Bardiche enters set up mode, but does not go to solid form. Its energies snake around Raging Heart, partially sinking into it. The staff part becomes thicker, too thick to hold easily. To rectify that, handles form, providing better grip than ever.
You know that the new design sacrifices close combat capability to increase your long range powers. But two intelligent devices working together can overcome this weakness. A second head forms at the end of the staff, serving dual purposes. It will be the new exhaust port for excess magical energy, but also be capable of firing a Divine Shooter to serve as your shield. It will tax your mind to control them both, but you do not care. You will not be captured again.
The original head of Raging Heart also changes. The exhaust system vanishes, now obsolete. The head also reforms from two prongs around the core to four evenly long ones. They are not evenly gold any more, but instead they are layered gold and black. The red core is now further out, making room for Bardiche's yellow core to take place beneath it. Together, the two cores will be more effective than if they had been one; truly a sum greater than its parts.
You stand up and feel a uniform take shape around you. Not your original one, the white that in another universe would have been your trademark. No, the one you wear now is a tribute to your partner, and a reflection of yourself all at the same time. It is black, so black that light seems to fall into it, never to escape. It is a skin tight body suit much like Fate's, but it covers your whole body. It is much stiffer too, a higher class of armor. Again, you sacrifice speed and maneuverability, this time for defense. If Fate could not move fast enough to avoid her attacker, you would stand no chance.
A visor forms in front of your face, both serving as protection and to display information. Behind the edge of your vision it transforms into a helmet, your long hair hidden within it. Numbers scroll before your eyes, schematics forming and vanishing as they are needed. Every part is checked and rechecked, as no faults can be tolerated. You know that only a live fire test will be able to stress the new design enough to shake out any lingering faults now, and you make a mental note to locate and teleport to a remote place to conduct that test.
You relax, letting the armor de-form for now and your weapon return to its jewel configuration. Not even that is the same though; the red pearl is now surrounded by an intricate net of black metal threads.
You head out into the deserted corridors, heading for the armory. There are more things you need, and you hope that they will have them.
You choose a target at a slightly longer distance than what you are really comfortable with, but you want to test the targeting system first. You order your weapon to charge to medium power and to keep a close monitoring on beam dissipation. You feel the weapon hum with the energy gathering, and as soon as you get confirmed that it is ready to fire, you give the order to do so.
The beam launches out, arching towards your target. It is no longer the pink that it used to be; it too, has been changed. Now it is orange, but not an even color. The mix is unstable, making some parts bright orange bordering on yellow and some parts dark enough to seem red. It looks almost exactly like a column of fire. A grim smile forms on your lips as you read through the incoming data. The beam holds together superbly, hardly losing any energy as it travels.
The beam hit slightly to the right of the one meter wide target you have chosen, something that your weapon will adjust for. But in this case it did not matter, as the explosion is unexpectedly large. Where the target was is now a large crater, and you can see a shockwave travel out from the blast. You brace yourself, and when the shockwave hits you, you actually slide backwards a few feet. Thankfully, this is a barren world, the surface consisting only of stones.
Your smile only widens, gaining a vicious edge. The next time you fire upon your enemies, they will feel it, no matter how good the armor they have is.
It has been a few days now, and not a trace of these Belkan Knights has been seen. No strange magical disturbances, no people missing their cores. It is starting to get to you, even if you are grateful it has let you train and Yuuno and the others to find more information. You have personally gone over all the records that the TSAB have from earlier times the Book of Darkness had wreaked havoc. Always with the same knights and always with horrifying losses to those around it.
You stare at the phone in front of you, hardly contemplating what is written. Arisa and Suzuka have mailed you about going to visit Suzuka's new friend at the hospital. You don't feel like interacting with anyone, much less outside of what is absolutely necessary. Thankfully, they and the rest of the class have refrained from asking about the 'family emergency' that is the official reason why Fate is not in school and why you are upset.
Yuuno, who has temporarily abandoned his search of the Infinite Library to support you, has to talk fast to convince you that you shouldn't just go home right after school. In the end, you agree to accompany them.
Uminari University Hospital
Arisa and Suzuka open the door to Hayate's room, cheerfully calling out their greetings. You follow, but as soon as you notice the other people there, you feel your insides turn to ice, while your weapon grows hot against your chest. You almost let go of your coat and activate it. Only the presence of your friends stays your hand.
Picking up on the suddenly tense atmosphere, your friends turn to you before they have had a chance to reveal their gifts. Suzuka asks you what is wrong, and you force yourself to relax and your face to only show hesitation and embarrassment.
You comment to Signum that your cellphone is not working, and she reveals that the older girl, named Shamal, is their support and that such a small area barrier is easy for her to put up.
You land on the rooftop, where Signum and Shamal wait for you. You stand in silence, something that they clearly aren't comfortable with. Signum tells you that they will complete the Book of Darkness no matter what. You are about to respond when a scream from behind you draws your attention. Vita is coming at you at full speed, her weapon mid swing. You brace yourself just as it hits you, throwing you against the railing. You lay there, feigning being stunned so that you will get to see what she will do.
She doesn't disappoint you, firing her weapon again. Amidst the flames of the explosion, your uniform materializes around you, and when the flames dies down you step through them. Vita is shocked to see you unscathed, and she calls you a demon. Your weapon forming in your hand, you tell her that you don't mind being a demon, as long as you get to drag them with you to hell. You don't know it, but the information from your visor makes your eyes glow red, further scaring them. Your weapon loads cartridges as Signum and Shamal activate theirs.
Suddenly your weapon gives a warning, but a split second later a bind restricts you. You start a scan and pick up a slight dimensional disturbance up in the air. As the bind has not captured your weapon, it is easy for you to fire against it. The space there seems to waver and ripple, and soon you see HIM. He holds his hands up defensively, blocking your attack. Suddenly there is another warning, and your weapon auto fires a Buster at an incoming figure. He retreats quickly at the unexpected attack, and you break your other attack. The new figure flies up to his companion, standing in front of him.
One of your Buster bullets hits the bind, restoring your mobility. You swing around and fire a wide area attack on the knights, throwing them away and over the edge of the building. You will deal with them later, when you have dealt with the ones personally responsible for taking Fate from you.
The first one pulls out what looks like cards, and the second one throws up a shield against you. Not that it helps, as your Buster bullets have circled them and now attack from all unshielded sides. They spot them too late to do anything, having to rely on their passive defenses. When the smoke clears, they are singed and reeling. You press your offensive, showing the bastards the proper way to bind someone. Yellow rings form around their wrists and ankles, drawing them out to hang spread eagle.
You order your weapon to load cartridges, and plant your feet securely on the roof. Carefully aiming at them, you fire the now fully loaded weapon. They manage to throw up some barriers despite their state, but your attack rips through them like they were tissue paper. Soon their tortured screams are heard even through the roar of the attack, only to be cut off when the attack explodes. You see their forms fly out of the dust cloud, both smoking heavily.
Just as your weapon vents the excess magical energy, a warning pops up, and you jump high in the air. Your weapon loads more cartridges as you scan for your attacker. The place where you just stood has vanished in a ball of fire, you absently note. Vita's work, no doubt. You twist around, raising your weapon to block Signum's slash against your back. A point blank Buster rips through her armor and throws her weapon away.
Capitalizing on her sudden vulnerable state, you hit her over the head with the head of your weapon. You sacrificed MOST of the close combat capabilities of your weapon, but hitting someone in the head works just as fine at times. As she starts falling, you see Shamal racing to catch her. You have no time to interfere with that, though, as Vita again comes screaming at you. A quick Flyer Fin helps you dodge her swing, and as she is overextended, you fire point blank into her. The little pest is thrown back and down, not stopping until she impacts the ground below.
You aim your weapon to finish her off, but Signum rejoins the fight. Her weapon has been changed, and she is now holding a bow with a glowing arrow. You scoff at her attempt at long range attack, putting up a shield against it. She fires anyway, either taking the chance that her attack will break through or counting on it distracting you long enough for someone else to join the fight.
You know from experience that all shields can be penetrated if the attack is strong enough, especially a magical attack that can go on for a while. But you have some ideas about how to deal with that, inspired by the normal wars of your planet. Just before the attack hits your shield, you tilt its top away from you. The attack now hits it at an angle, veering off downwards. With a magical attack, it is normally not enough to save you, as most of them can be steered. In this case though, you use the unexpectedness of your tactical change to your advantage. Even if this attack was one that could be steered, Signum can't react fast enough to stop it from hitting the ground.
You tried to use their own attack against them by directing it at where Vita crashed. Your quick calculations were a bit off though, and you only hit the ground floor of a building next to her. The attack is strong enough to blow away a good part of the building, including its supporting columns. The whole front of the sky rise topples outwards, entombing your downed opponent under ton after ton of debris. You hear a howl of rage from behind you and turning around, you spot their familiar in a mad dash against you. You absently note that the previous attack was then probably meant to be a distraction.
The mutt is lost in his rage and doesn't care that his cover has been blown. Another Flyer Fin puts you above him, and you then put him into the ground with another attack. He won't be rejoining the fight, as he crashes right into the collapsed building and gets impaled on a steel beam.
The still active Flyer Fin suddenly flares, taking you out of the path of another of Signum's ranged attacks. She has apparently learned to not rely on hitting you, as she is now flying away, zigzagging to avoid attacks from you. You set your weapon to track her while you scan the area.
Shamal is hurrying towards the downed building, staying covered the whole time. You leave her alone; as long as she is wasting time on that, she isn't a threat to you. And no matter her skill, there is nothing she will be able to do. There are no life signs from inside the rubble and the mutt's are on the verge of vanishing. With a little luck, he will hang on long enough that Shamal will waste even more time on trying to heal him.
There is another flickering life sign a little further away and you fly over to investigate. One of the masked bastards lies there, bent over backwards over a concrete divider. You don't need to look closely to see that his back is broken. Your attention shifts to the tracking of Signum; she is moving closer and upwards to get a good shot at you. You load cartridges and wait for her to stop.
As soon as she skids to a halt on a roof, you fire at her. The beam has traveled half the distance when she notices it, having concentrated on charging her weapon. She flies away from the rooftop, getting hit by the shockwave. When she manages to straighten out of her tumble you are right behind her, and the second head of your weapon makes a satisfying crunch as you hit her over the back with it. She gasps in pain only to receive a point blank shot to the same place.
This time Shamal is not there to break her fall, and she is driven right into the ground. Just as you are about to finish her off, a large emission of magic registers on your sensors, coming from the collapsed building. You waste no time in flying there, arriving just as the magic peaks. There, in a glowing circle, is Hayate. The second masked bastard is there in front of her, showing her the mutt's broken body. Apparently they see you as enough of a threat to activate the book to its full extent, as it begins to glow.
You have no intention of letting it do so, and you aim your weapon. While you flew, your weapon loaded more cartridges, and is ready to fire. A single thought from you launches the attack, and a second later the pile of rubble ceases to exist. The shockwave makes the high-rises around you sway and blow out all the windows in all directions. At the same time Signum,s life signs drops, briefly transformed into a chaotic emission of magic before it too disappears.
In the middle of the newly formed crater is a ball of energy that is twisting and pulsing. Flying closer, your sensors tell you that it is an enormous collection of magical energy that is apparently the book trying to reform. You order more cartridges to load and fire a fully powered attack into the mess. The book has no defenses to put up, and your attack goes right into it. It tries to absorb it, but those energies are only able to destroy. The result is an unstable mixture of energies rapidly approaching its most volatile point.
A detonation of that magnitude would wipe out the whole town, and you have no hope on containing it. You can, however, DIRECT it. You create a number of shields, covering the crater around the ball of energy. A Bullet leaves your hand as soon as your shields are up and rockets towards the center of them. It makes a sharp turn up and then down to impact the ball of energy from above. It punches halfway through it, pushing it down to the bottom of the crater, before exploding. The explosion gives the final push the mixture needs to go beyond its limits. The detonation is indescribable. It is as if the sun has suddenly come down to earth, and you struggle to keep your shields up. Beads of sweat make their way down your face, and your breathing gets labored. A column of light shoots up into the sky, a pillar of energy that dwarfs anything you or any mage could produce.
It takes over a minute before the inferno dissipates, and you sag to the ground, almost spent. Gulping down air, you struggle to rise up. Your weapon serves as your crutch as you hobble back towards your last enemy. You ignore the radio chatter that has filled the air after Shamal's barrier went down, as well as Yuuno's and Arf's mental communication. You cannot rest until all your enemies have been killed.
When you reach the place where the last one lies, your breathing has evened out and you can walk unaided again. You scan him carefully as you approach; they have proved to be tricky before. He is sheeted in magic, apparently some transformatic spell as you can see a faint echo of another form beneath. He is conscious, keeping his breathing shallow. Every time he breathes in too deeply he grunts in pain, probably because of his broken back. He doesn't notice you approaching, and when you place the main head of your weapon against his mask, he stiffens, holding his breath.
You order him to drop his transformation, or you will kill him to end it. You don't see a need to mention that you will kill him anyway, that you just want to see his real face as you take away his life as they stole Fate's. With a groan of pain he transforms and his mask clatters to the ground. Hate wells up inside you when it reveals your enemy's real face, a face you know. Lying there looking up pleadingly at you, her identity screams at you that there is still one more enemy you must kill. An enemy that they are totally loyal to; and that therefore must have ordered this to happen. You will hunt him down and see if it was his plan, or if there are even more that you need to kill.
The little bitch beneath you is pleading for help, for you to take her to the hospital. You look down at her dispassionately; your weapon still only inches from her face. You rotate it slightly and grip the handles firmly. Fear twists her face as you drive your weapon forward with a hard thrust, plunging one of the prongs through her eye and into her brain. She screams in fear, then pain, then the scream is cut off as she dies.
You feel Yuuno and Arf landing a few paces away from you at the same time as a full team of clerks from the Asura teleports in around you. You don't spare them a single look; instead you give your approval to your weapon to do what it wants. Deep within it is the pattern for Fate's teleportation, and it is dragged up and activated. The end point: TSAB headquarters. In a flash you are gone, speeding towards another enemy to kill.
The distance is a bit too great for a teleportation, and you appear ten feet of the floor, above a pool of water. A TSAB clerk comes running towards you, drawn by the splash and the shocked screams of the people around the pool. He reaches you just after you step out of the water, demanding that you state your reasons for appearing like that. You simply walk around him, not sparing him a glance. Your only concern is how to get to your last enemy, not an easy feat as you have only been to his quarters once.
The clerk behind you is not dissuaded by either your facial expression or your readied weapon. He places a hand on your shoulder, intent on making you stop. You don't take kindly to this interruption; swinging around you use your weapon to toss him away. You complete your turn immediately and continue walking before his flight ends in the middle of the pool.
You quicken your step as he starts screaming for more guards. You don't have much energy left, magical or otherwise, and you don't want to waste it. Unfortunately the guards are quick, and before you reach the stairs to the next floor, the block your path. With their weapons raised, they order you to stop and stand down. Without even a pause in your step you swing your weapon, a wide area attack already leaving the head. It is only a warning shot, just enough to scorch the floor and send the guards flying.
Taking the stairs two steps at a time you move up a floor. Just as you approach one of the elevators to continue upwards, they are locked down, blocking you off. At the same time, more guards rushes out to circle you. Apparently they have decided that you are too determined and instead of orders, you are on the receiving end of several attacks. You are forced to throw up a magical barrier to protect yourself, and you feel it straining under the onslaught. Gritting your teeth, you pour more magical energy into it. Finally they relent, and you immediately return the favor. Taken flatfooted by your quick response, they are thrown away, hitting the walls or falling down a floor.
You feel fatigue creep up on you, and your field of vision shrinks. Digging into one of your pouches, you pull out an item taken from the armory. It is a precursor of the Belkan cartridge system, a booster meant for the mage instead of the weapon that was later abandoned for other, more permanent solutions. You were lucky to find one of the surviving pieces, having recognized it from your research about your enemies.
Slipping it on your left wrist, you watch it activate. The cartridges load one by one, and you feel the energy flood your system. The feeling is unpleasant, throbbing and buzzing, being filled by energy but not being energized. You feel filled with energy at the same time as your instincts scream at you to rest and sleep. You ruthlessly suppress both feelings; they do not matter to you.
As the guards start to recover and more of them arrive, you activate your Flyer Fin. A quick flight up and you let a Buster Bullet rip a hole in the wall, granting you access to the corridor within. Scanning the structure, you note one person in the quarter you are going to; most likely your quarry. You are so close now; there is less than two hundred feet of corridor to traverse. Suddenly an attack hits you from behind, having come too suddenly for you to notice. Your armor absorbs the blast, but it rips you off your feet and throws you down the corridor.
Tumbling to a stop you put up a shield to block another attack. Looking back, you see two Enforcers stepping into the corridor. Dropping the shield, you fire a Divine Buster, forcing them to stop their advance. One of them blocks and the other deflects your attack with the ease of seasoned warriors.
You have used the time to get back on your feet and are ready to attack again. Frowning at the obstacle they present, you order your weapon to load cartridges. There is no meaning with wasting energy on repeated clashes to find out their limits. You need to get rid of them immediately.
It becomes obvious that they are used to working together, as one of them raises a shield while the other one readies an attack. Your left foot slides back just before you fire, which gives them little chance to spot it. This is the best advantage your new weapon gives you. By stripping away most of the safeties, there is almost no time to spot your attacks before they are launched. To you it is meaningless that it increases the wear on your weapon or that it increases the chance of malfunction to one every two hundred shots.
Your attack bursts out against them, expanding until it fills the corridor completely. In such an enclosed space the roar of it is deafening, and when you end it takes a few seconds for your hearing to adjust. The corridor in front of you is badly damaged, all sides of it scratched and buckling. Sparks are spilling out from where a cover has been ripped away from the wall, crackling sounds accompanying the flashes of light. On the other side of the atrium there is a large hole in the wall where your attack hit, revealing the structure within.
Suddenly the lights flicker off; leaving you only in the red of emergency lighting. Alarms are blaring, and orders shouted. You spin around and start sprinting down the corridor, time is running out. The temporary boost from the cartridge system has already started wearing off. You breathe heavily, and just manage to react to the warning that pops up in your visor as you turn a corner. You throw up the strongest shield you can manage, straining to hold against multiple attacks.
They are learning fast, instead of all attacking at once they take turns, never letting the pressure up. You are sweating, the effort of maintaining the shield eating through your reserves at a frightening pace. You order your weapon to load the last of the cartridges you have with you; before dropping to the floor as you release your shield. Two attacks fly harmlessly above you, and before they have a chance to adjust you fire your own. Again the corridor is filled with a fire roar, and your way is clear.
You push yourself up from the floor, unsteadily making your way towards the door that is your goal. Twenty meters, then fifteen. You lean heavily on your weapon, not noticing how silent it has become. Your visor flickers, almost no energy left.
Ten meters, then five. Your vision is graying out and darkness is creeping in. As you reach the door it silently opens, and you stumble through it. Your body feels so heavy, but you force it to move toward the figure in front of you. You don't notice the door closing behind you.
Admiral Graham just stands there, his hands behind his back. He makes no moves to stop you; in fact his posture is inviting you to attack him. A tear falls from his left eye, disappearing into his beard. White-hot rage flares in your chest, and you lift your weapon. With a yell that is filled with all your hatred, you drive it forward, its prongs sinking into his chest.
The force you put behind it carries him backward until he hit the window behind him. You rip your weapon back, and he slumps to the floor. You switch your grip and drive it down into him, one prong going into his forehead and one into his throat.
Your weapon hits the ground, its reason for existence spent, now only a cold and inert piece of metal and gems, never usable as an intelligent device again. As all goes black, your last breath leaves you.
"I'm sorry, Fate."
AN. When I watched episode seven, this fic jumped into my head. I started writing, and when I watched the episode when Fate was 'sucked' into the Book of Darkness I got evidence that this could have been Nanoha's reaction. Her expression when the Fate disappeared showed a girl well on her way to become what she is below. If Amy had not been able to see Fate's vital signs, I believe Nanoha would have gone berserk.