Chapter 2: Logistics
Colbert adjusted his glasses once more nervously while he travelled down the hall in the dead of night. He had with him a couple small tools with which to analyze Louise's summoned golem. Nothing major, as he didn't want to do anything that might be considered invasive, and he didn't want to do anything that might disrupt the golem. Further tests would have to wait until he could ask permission of the young Valliere. Really, it was fascinating, a self aware golem of such size and quality, it was unheard of. To think of the research that must of gone into its design, the willpower of the individual or individuals that cast the spell would have had to have been enormous. Perhaps it was even elven magic, though that might have dire consequences should they have taken offence to its disappearance.
Finally exiting into the courtyard where it still resided, Colbert noticed it seemed to have gone dormant. He sincerely hoped that meant it wasn't 'dead' and out of energy, as it would be a tragic waste of possible research material... and horrible to the young Valliere.
As he got closer however, his angle of approach enabled him to see something a little odd. A small faint red glow seemed to emit from a behind a chair like object in a hole that had opened up in the golem's abdomen. Slowing down a few meters from the opening, Colbert adjusted his glasses once more and leaned in for a better look, seeing some strange panels and numerous pins and raised surfaces, with small ropes leading from some to other locations where they disappeared into another strange structure.
He was about to climb up for a better look when he heard a faint tearing nose followed by a series of incomprehensible expletives.
"Are you fucking kidding me?! 30 potatoes tore this piece of shit satchel?" someone seemed to speak to himself, it was soft and slightly muffled, as if said someone were sneaking about, but what person would sneak onto the campus for potatoes of all things?
Regardless, Colbert readied his staff and cast a simple spell to illuminate his immediate area, before calling out, "Who's there?" his authoritative tone came from his military days, and put the fear of god into students who got so far out of line as to necessitate its use. As it was, he heard some quick scrambling as he turned to face the noise and moved quickly but with care for his stance towards it.
After only a couple moments he had indeed come across a pile of potatoes dumped on the ground, and a strange sack with a shoulder strap. The sack seemed to have a torn seam along the bottom that turned the bottom into a circular flap, and it was made out of a most curious material, that looked rather thin, but was strong enough to hold the bulge of potatoes all the way from presumably the kitchen to this point. The material itself hadn't even failed, but rather the stitching.
This all possessed very little of Colbert's attention however, as he was a Teacher first, soldier second, and not a fabric worker. His attention was to the hedges a short distance away, where he presumed the interloper to have hidden himself. He slowly took another step forward while reaching out to allow the torch-like light on the end of his staff to illuminate the hedges.
"Freeze. You have a handgun aimed at your head, and whatever bullshit you newtypes can pull I doubt it's faster than me pulling this trigger."
Colbert immediately stopped moving, unable to place the accent, but easily catching the glint of the metal of the gun just at the edge of his illumination, putting a little more willpower into it, he was able to see now the man you threatened him from the bushes just to his side. He also was able to make out the strange garb of the man threatening him. It was odd in make, but had the definite appearance of a uniform, with a emblem on the right breast, with the same feathery motif as the golem.
"What were you doing with my Zaku?"
Colbert blinked, not tying the name with anything, "I'm sorry?"
"The god damned giant robot! What. Were. You. Doing?!"
Colbert noticed a bit of a twitch, the man was trying to put off an air of suspicion and anger, but Colbert wasn't so rusty he couldn't see the man for what he really was. Tiredness and fear were visible in his posture if one knew the signs. This made him dangerous and unpredictable, best to be placate him for now.
Colbert made sure his hands were visible, and calmly responded, "I haven't done anything to your, 'Zaku', was it? I was getting ready to perform a couple of tests on it. To see how it worked. Its really a magnificent golem."
"Golem?" the question was flat, as though the term familiar, but not its relevance.
"Minerals collected together and animated through willpower and complex spells?"
"No magic is involved here wizard."
"Really now? Well, that's fascinating!" Colbert was almost shocked out of his frozen stance, though his face had changed from weary to one of extreme interest.
The individual didn't respond for a moment, deep in thought, when a strange chirp played, and the hue of his helmets faceplate turned red.
"Oh goddammit, never switched off the internal air supply. Fine, you have unfucked yourself, I'm sure you recognized enough of this situation to see I planned on shooting you for my anonymity, but now we can both offer the other something."
He flipped something on the side of his gun before pointing it down and placing it in a holster on his thigh. Then he reached to the side of his helmet, before pressing something that made a hiss like a snake, and unclasping the helmet.
"I have been awake for a little over forty eight hours, and I haven't eaten for most of that, and have been fighting for a decent portion of it as well. I am tired, and ravenously hungry. You don't say a goddamn word about me, and handle my food and water needs each night, and you get to look at pretty moving parts while I'm eating. For now, help grab my potatoes."
Colbert mulled over what had just transpired for a moment. On one hand, he really ought to just report the man's existence and let him get the sleep and food he wants along with the comfort of a bed and the peace of mind that he wasn't about to be killed by enemies. On the other hand, he would be violating a beleaguered soldiers trust, which seemed immensely wrong to Colbert somehow, and he had just been offered his dream scenario for his silence.
Maybe a little time of secrecy between tired soldiers would be best for now. "Alright, but we could improve your food situation if I enlisted the help of one of the academies servan-"
"Shut up, fine, you get ONE. ONE goddamn servant you really feel you can trust to shut up. For now, still help me with the potatoes, I want to eat during the day too, and these don't spoil easily, and hell as I recall the Irish lived a really long time just eating these and nothing else."
Colbert blinked again as he reached down and began rolling the potatoes he could into a bundle with the ruined sack, and paused for a moment trying to place the name 'Irish'.
"Then again, they got really messed up when the blight destroyed their cro- Those are 2 big ass moons. Did someone mess with the orbits of the goddamn Moon and Luna II? No, that would destroy the weather systems and the tides, and it still sure as hell feels like one gee here."
Colbert stopped for a moment to quirk an eyebrow and stare at the strange man who had him: a noble, a teacher, and engineer picking up potatoes. Was this man perhaps suffering from some malady of the mind?
Finishing taking off his helmet, he then revealed a man who was so average in features it was almost abnormal. He seemed slightly more rounded than his frame in the uniform would suggest, as if his muscle growth hadn't eaten the fat from his body yet. His brown hair was currently quite greasy and disheveled, showing the look of one who had been exerting himself and unable to wash for some time.
Choosing wisely to keep his comments to himself, Colbert finished wrapping the potatoes with the ruined sack. He watched the individual then crouch and spring into the air as hard as he could, ending in a lackluster amount of altitude to his jump.
"Yep, definitely one gee, I come from a point eight gee colony myself, I'm used to a little more air time on that. So that rules earth out, which is good i guess, but mars doesn't have this greenery and sure as hell not this much air or as large of moons. So between that and the swords and sorcery shenanigans where the hell am I?"
Leaning back down to retrieve his staff again, Colbert replied, "You are currently in the Vestri Courtyard of the Tristain Academy of Magic. I am Professor Jean Colbert, and you are?"
"Steve, Steve Lazlo Smith, of Florida Colony." Steve replied, now grinning somewhat deliriously, "First Lieutenant and Mobile Suit Pilot for the previously glorious and now defunct Principality of Zeon."
"Zeon? Mobile Suit?" Colbert asked. "Is that what this machine is called?"
"You first. Where exactly is this Tristain."
"Well it might be easier if I had a point of reference for you.""
"Somehow I doubt that, but hey, I'm from way up there." Steve said, pointing past the moons and at the stars.
"You mean you're from Albion?"
"Somehow I doubt it, swords and sorcery means you think too small of scale. Describe Albion." Steve replied, crossing his arms patiently.
Colbert paused. He had been sure the man's odd accent had been that of a man from Albion, and his pointing had seemed to confirm it. "It is a large mass of land laden with windstone minerals, allowing it to float in the sky at a low altitude."
Steve uncrossed his arms and made a short shoving motion, "Wait wait, slow down, you have a floating continent here? I'm already reaching my limit for weird things with your perpetual fireball there, but really? Hope I can see that sometime, sounds interesting at least, but no. Think of something man-made, closer to the moon than to the planet, it will be closer but still way off."
"So you live in a massive airship too high to see? That sounds preposterous!" Colbert exclaimed as he looked back up at the sky. "Even dragons will start to feel ill at a certain altitude. How can humans live so far above the earth?"
"Close enough, but I can't really explain the science of it to you. Just trust me, it's complicated beyond your wildest dreams." Steve explained, a vaguely superior smile on his face, showing at least a small arrogance streak. "Now I haven't really been fair here, so let me explain about Zeon, and our pride and joy, the mobile suit."
Potatoes forgotten for the moment, Colbert listened to the fantastic tale this young soldier regaled to him. Questions were asked, and answers returned until the horizon began to brighten, and the two would part with something resembling the start of a friendship.
Colbert didn't look as tidy as usual as he headed off to instruct his first class of the day. He had only really had the opportunity for an hour of rest before he had to prepare the materials for the day's lecture, and then a quick meal, before setting off. Steve's story had seemed far-fetched, but the earlier lunacy had seemed to have melted away as he told his tale, as if it had allowed him some peace of mind to take stock of the situation himself.
Colbert himself meanwhile was appalled, the numbers had to be exaggerated, but the conflict only made sense when the numbers correlated with each other in their large scale. It was atrocious, but it made a horrifying kind of SENSE! The weapons used, and their quantity applied to nations with resources far more massive than the whole of Halkeginia could ever hope to produce.
What's more, apparently the self proclaimed Lieutenant could prove it with some strange device that recorded all the information from a battle, after the first shot fired, and would show it to him tonight. Such was the excitement that Colbert once again let slip his mind the fact he had yet to test the 'Zaku' or its 'pilot' with detect magic, or check for runes. More pertinent and amazing things were opening doors of opportunity.
Louise was apprehensive as she sat down in her desk for Professor Chevreuse's class, while she had clearly displayed an element in her familiar summoning, she wasn't sure if knowing that would help her as much as she had believed it would last night, now that a possible practical application was making itself prevalent. She looked about the room to let her mind wander to something other than the coming challenge. What she saw boosted her spirits somewhat, her usual tormentors were steadfastly NOT looking at her, and had tight expressions.
HA, served them right, insinuating she was no better than a commoner since all her spells failed, and finally, with the ceremony, she had summoned something so grand it was clear her potential dwarfed theirs, perhaps all of her tormentors combined did not match scale. It brought her great joy, something that she had sorely lacked the last year of her studies at the academy. Now, she had something to be proud of. Would her mother be proud of her familiar? She would have to be, she would be... not ecstatic, that would be unfitting of her station, but certainly she would be pleased.
Miss Chevreuse chose this moment to come into the room and place herself behind the practical area, a small podium like structure front and center of the class. It was probably meant to be a desk, but truth be told Professor Chevreuse wasn't particularly tall, and in fact was probably only equal to Louise herself.
"Well, everyone, it seems that the Springtime Familiar Summoning was a great success. I, Chevreuse, always enjoy seeing the new familiars that are summoned each spring."
Louise brightened and let a small smile come to her features. "Ah Miss Louise, it is good to have you in my class, I've heard of the magnificent familiar you summoned, it seems we share an affinity for the earth element" she remarked as she looked out the window, where from her angle the massive golem was just barely visible, still as a statue. The compliment was genuine, but the classroom dissolved into dissatisfied grumbling.
"I bet it was a fluke, or she had someone with more influence from her family arrange it."
The other students chuckled.
"Mrs. Chevreuse! I've been accused of fraud! Malicorne the 'Common Cold' just insulted me!" Louise banged her fist against the tabletop in protest. She was not going to take this insult.
"Common cold? I'm Malicorne the Windward! I haven't caught any cold!"
"Well, your hoarse voice sounds exactly like you've caught one!"
The boy called Malicorne stood up and glared at Louise. Chevreuse pointed at them with the wand in her hand. The two suddenly jerked about like puppets on a string and rigidly sat back down.
"Miss Vallière, Mister Malicorne. Please stop this unnecessary argument."
Louise looked visibly dejected. All the vivacity that she'd shown just earlier seemed to have evaporated.
"Calling friends 'Zero' or 'Common Cold' is not acceptable. Do you understand?"
"Uhh Mrs. Chevreuse, I didn't call Louise by that title, though for her, it's the truth."
A few giggles broke out from somewhere, as Chevreuse seemed to wince slightly, having been caught perpetuating a rumor. She had clearly heard enough of Louise's reputation that she had prepared defenses for her, the notion was sweet, but still an insult in itself considering her summon.
Chevreuse steeled herself and looked around the classroom with a severe expression. She pointed her wand again, and, as if from nowhere, the mouths of the students who'd giggled were suddenly filled with lumps of red clay.
"You people shall continue the lesson in that state."
This put a firm stopper on any further outbursts.
"Now then, let's begin the lesson."
Chevreuse coughed heavily and waved her wand. A few pebbles materialized on her desktop.
"My Runic name is 'Red Clay.' Chevreuse the Red Clay. This year, I will be teaching you all the magic of the Earth element. Do you know the four great elements of magic, Mister Malicorne?"
"Y-Yes, Mrs. Chevreuse. They are Fire, Water, Earth and Wind."
"And combined with the now-lost element of 'Void,' there are five elements in total - as everyone should already know. Of the five elements, I believe Earth holds an extremely important position. This isn't just because my affinity is Earth, nor is it simply a personal preference."
Once again, Chevreuse coughed heavily.
"The magic of Earth is very important magic that governs the creation of all matter. If it wasn't for Earth magic, we wouldn't be able to produce or process necessary metals. Raising buildings from large boulders and harvesting crops would also involve much more work. In this manner, the magic of the Earth element is intimately related to everyone's life."
"Now, everyone, please recall that the basic magic of the Earth element is 'transmutation'. While there will be people here who have already learned this in their first year, basics build foundations, so let's review it once more. All of you pay attention, even you Miss Vallierre, slacking due to recent success will not be permitted in my class."
Chevreuse turned her attention to the pebbles and twirled her wand over them. She then whispered a spell, and they began to glow brightly. When the light dimmed away, the pebbles had been changed into sparkling lumps of metal.
"Is that g-g-gold, Professor Chevreuse!?" Kirche asked as she leaned forward over her desk to get a closer look at the new metals.
"No, it isn't. It's plain brass. Only Square-class mages are able to transmute to gold. I'm just..." Chevreuse gave a self-important cough. "A Triangle mage..."
Louise had to forcibly restrain herself from rolling her eyes at the professor's sudden bragging. She was spiraling down a pit now for respect from Louise, the accidental insult had been quite telling.
"Now Louise, since you seem to show such promise, why don't you demonstrate for us? I'm sure you already know the process. Just envision a metal of your choice." As she said this an uneasiness settled over the class, and they seemed to shrink back, with a couple even taking cover. Louise took some pride in that at least none of them said anything about her recent being her only success to date. Such thoughts at least gave her a metal to envision, she would make the pebbles into the same metal as made up that blade hanging at her familiars side, the gleaming edge of the massive axe.
She began to chant.
Steve's rest was rudely interrupted by a loud explosion coming from nearby, and he on autopilot immediately scrambled out of the cashew position he was sleeping in and into a position of combat readiness, seeing the smoking hole in a far tower, he immediately switched his Zaku's computer back into combat mode.
Then he burned.
He burned with vigor and aptitude. He recognized his Zaku was still configured for space usage, and shut down the AMBAC systems, and prepped himself to vault the two walls between him and the hole in the tower. Squatting with the mobile suit, he started his thruster pack, and let loose for the first time upon Halkeginia the scream of jet engines. Pushing into his jump, Steve left a hellish scorched landscape across most of the Vestri Court, and left the ground, perfectly sending himself along a trajectory to land in the plaza on the far side of the walls, and intersperse himself between the hole and any hostiles. Clearly the academy was under attack, he had been a fool for being so complacent, he could have been taken in the opening salvo had the enemy seen him through the main tower.
Landing heavily, he slid into a stance in the ruined earth beneath his feet and aimed outward from the hole, while shielding it with his body. He swept the land scape several times with his gun at the ready, waiting to tear into those who would attack civilian children with explosive 120mm rounds fired in rapid succession. When no threats presented themselves, he turned to the smoking rubble, and turned up the audio sensors on the Zaku to try and pick up calls for help. Leaning in he also swept his camera from left to right to try and survey the damage visually.
The return from the audio sensors was grizzled and unclear from the debris continuing to settle. Steve had to strain to pull anything useful from the output, but he could pick up some groans from the dazed students, a lot of them in fact. As a bit more of the dust cleared, from the markings on the walls he could tell that the detonation had occurred towards the front of the room and largely pressed outward from a single point, this wall was just the weak point that allowed the overpressure to escape.
Miraculously, no one seemed overly injured, just dazed, and a couple of students even less then that, one, a pudgy blond straightened out his cloak and began to yell insults at someone further in the room. Steve couldn't see clearly further in do to the misting of dust still in the air, and increased the resolution on his camera. The tone as the camera pulsed gave pause to the boy for a moment.
"Even you aren't a change, you are nothing but a fluke!" The boy seemed to say as he pointed at the Zaku. "The Zero once was, and always is a failure, her family should just disown her and pull her from the scho-"
Whatever he was about to say was cut off as the student next to him, a rather developed dark skinned girl apparently took offense and proceeded to belt him across the face with her first, rendering herself the only fully conscious individual still in the room.
"You really do say too much Malicorn the Windmouth. Don't bother with him Zero, your familiar is a reflection of yourse- Louise? You there?" The girl looked to the front of the room, surprised seemingly that she hadn't been interrupted yet.
Steve panned the eye slightly, to focus on the pink haired one who he recognized as the one who kissed his Zaku's foot before. She was currently sitting back on her own legs, head tilted back, seemingly in a daze, even through the Zaku's limited resolution camera, at this range he could see the trails from the eyes of the girl identified as Louise. She was clearly in a state of catatonia at the moment and most likely hadn't heard a word that was said.
The dark skinned girl seemed ready to try and touch Louise to see if she was alright, when she was stopped by a blue haired girl who had just entered the room, who shook her head at the questioning glance she was given. Steve noted she was of few words and actions, but very precise in the few moments he observed. "She's military." Steve thought to himself, recognizing her manner from the commissioned officers he had served under. He also noted she was wise, unless this dark skinned girl was a very close friend, she had best not be the person to comfort the girl on her knees, who's head had shifted slightly to allow her to look at the eye of the zaku. Her look almost seemed to be accusing him, asking him "Why?"
It made Steve distinctly uncomfortable, even a bit of shame creeped from somewhere, though that look could probably inspire that feeling in anyone. Regardless of who was at fault here, Louise needed somewhere she could lash out, Steve hadn't been without his own emotional breakdowns in life, hell he had been near one when the white Zaku pilot had consoled him during the retreat from Solomon.
The bluenette took the initiative and knelt in Louise's view and motioned her to her feet a few times before taking her hand and helping her up. Steve offered the Zaku's free hand as a ride from the room, and the bluenette nodded once before leading Louise over with the dark skinned girl bringing up the rear. Stepping out of the way as if leading royalty to a carriage.
Louise stepped lightly into the Zaku's palm. She had stopped crying since she had been broken out of her catatonia, but it was clear that this was just out of some grace she felt she needed to keep in front of the others. Seeing that the other students drew back, probably deciding to let Louise have her time alone, Steve drew away from the tower, and walked the Zaku into the forest.
Interestingly enough, when the Zaku stopped and knelt in the forested clearing, Louise's first response wasn't to break out in more sobs, but to bellow out a guttural scream and begin demolishing several of the nearby trees, shrubbery, and one particularly unlucky bear. The reaction of flesh to a rage induced bolt of unfocused magic from a screaming young girl drove home to Steve again just WHY he was opting to stay in his mobile suit, and let everyone think he didn't exist, and the Zaku was just a particularly fancy golem.
Yes, Steve much preferred not being rendered goo; goo didn't experience the pleasures of living and eating fresh kiwi like he had enjoyed.
After about only a minute of this the girl had seemingly tired and screamed herself out. Instead she opted to repeat a mantra to herself that only became clear after some tooling around with his Zaku's audio sensors. "This is unbecoming of a noble, I am like steel, I do not bend to pressure. This is unbecoming of a noble, I am like steel, I do not bend to pressure." she muttered, hands clenched tightly about her wand.
Steve thought it an odd mantra, having a bit of a metallurgy nerd rage as he noted the mantra implied a steel that would probably break rather easily. It likely was a personal thing, related to something in her past. Steve was tempted to turn on the intercom and try to console her, but even if he tried to pretend to be the 'golem', could golem's even speak?
"Familiar, what am I? I wont be a failure, I won't accept that. But all my spells fail, even just now all I threw out were more attempts at transmutation." She hicced a moment, before continuing, "Transmutation! The simplest basis of earth magic! I can't even manage transmutation when my familiar is such a clear sign of an earth affinity! Why?! Why do I have to deal with that barbaric Zerbst having such clear mastery of her element, while mine is such a failure? Nothing I've done has mattered. Even that teacher knew my title!"
Steve winced, that comment had struck a sore spot of his own, fresh wounds from Solomon and A Baoa Qu to his pride as a soldier of Zeon were opened wide. His own career was a disgusting though short series of failures. His first deployment at Solomon he had been stationed to ensure infiltrators didn't use the hanger he was BASED in for their entry. He had left his post on a whim to try and get a position with vision that had better cover, and hadn't been behind the ridge he chose for five seconds before suddenly the entirety of Solomon blazed. His comms a mess of screams and pleas for help as his allies and the rest of his squad were vaporized.
Then, during the retreat, he was ordered to help provide cover for the transports that were being loaded with supplies to keep them out of Federation hands as Zeon retreated from Solomon. Moments prior to the last crate of munitions being loaded a shell came from nowhere and struck the package dead center. The detonation carrying into both the the transport and the bay full of even more munitions laden with charges to be detonated once the transports were away. The secondaries destroyed the transports and killed all hands in both the hanger and the two mobile suits helping with the operation. Leaving just Steve and someone from another unit who had been stationed here, an older Lieutenant himself, who had been supplied a Rick Dom, that he had painted his own colors, presumably an ace from the battle following the solar ray. They had wiped out the small contingent of Balls that had attacked from the debris field in the shadow of Solomon itself, but the damage was done.
Steve and this girl named Louise, it seemed, had failure at least in common. At least he held the joy of not having a reputation and title, if he did, it would probably be something like, "If you really want to die, just ask this guy to protect you."
"Take us back to the academy familiar, it will be time for lunch soon, and if I do not make an appearance after a defeat like this it will reflect poorly upon my family."
Familiar. She and others had referred to him as that a few times now, it wasn't a term he was versed with. What did it mean? Perhaps it would be a prudent topic of discussion with Colbert later. If he could tear the man away from his combat footage.
Shifting the Zaku, Steve brought it to a standing position. Destination in sight, he kicked the remains of a tree out of the way, and set his Zaku back into non-combat mode. He was met with what almost seemed to be a cooling sensation, before he set his mind to the task.
And took one step before falling on the Zaku's face from overbalance. The thundering crash was probably audible from the academy, and deafening to Steve who had his audio sensors cranked up to hear Louise. HOW could he have forgotten he was still configured for operation in SPACE! Zero gee to one gee genius!
Come to think of it, how had he gotten out here over the uneven terrain without falling. He could have killed Louise like that. "OH FUCK!" Steve exclaimed, bringing the camera rapidly to bear on Louise's form.
"OW ow ow ow, what was that? Familiar be more careful! I could have been hurt!" The girl exclaimed, rising from her fall onto the Zaku's palm.
"You could have been killed is what the problem is." Steve thought to himself, before bringing the Zaku back to a kneeling position, Louise still in hand. On a whim, he returned the Zaku to combat mode.
He burned with energy once again.
"Okay, that's not normal" He thought, he would definitely have to bring this whole familiar thing up with Colbert. He then flawlessly brought the Zaku to a full standing position and walked back to the academy's main gate.
Colbert set yet another book over to the side, before sighing in exasperation. He had only a short amount of time left before he had to prepare his lecture again for his next class, but he had yet to find anything in the library about people living amongst the stars at all, much less anything of theirs being summoned. The library did have quite a repository of information on familiars, even a few old texts about the familiars of Brimir were placed off to the side for future reading. Maybe he would have a bit more luck with those, as the truly powerful familiars of history had been associated with him.
For now though, he had to complete his deal and concessions with the man inside the machine. Cleaning up from his studies, he walked over and caught the maid that had been dusting a nearby clock just as she was preparing to set about another task.
"Excuse me, but do you know who will be feeding the newly summoned familiars today?" He asked, a modicum of politeness entering his tone.
The maid let out a small eep and checked the clock in a panic, before letting out a relieved sigh, as if she was reminded of something and worried she had missed a task.
He couldn't have just asked the particular maid in question had he? The odds against that were ridiculous.
Nevertheless, the words out of her mouth a moment later were, "That would be me actually sir, I'm almost late to begin, so I must be quick, what do you need?"
Colbert was silent a moment, before he gave a small chuckle, "Actually, I just need you to do something for me. Now, you know of the familiar Miss Valliere summoned correct? I want you to go stand in front of it with a meal fit for a guest of the academy, and I will reward you with twenty Ecu if you don't speak of what you see to anyone."
Steve remained outside the dining hall with the 'other familiars' as Louise had put it. This included a menagerie of strange and fantastic creatures that Steve could name precisely two of, namely a giant mole, and a giant snake, the latter of which seemed quite content, like the cat that got the canary. He recognized a great many of them from his debut on this world, when he was 'summoned' as the locals seemed to put it.
Thinking on it, Steve really started to grock for the first time that he was in a whole new universe. He hadn't thought much on it till now, just processing the facts as they related to him and his continued survival. He mulled on it as he saw some of 'the help' bringing out a large trolley full of food and feed, and with a platter of food on top that seemed fit for human consumption. He thought it was a bit fancy for the lunch of someone in her position, but wrote it off as a difference in customs.
He watched for a bit as she went from group to group to the familiars. Oddly enough some groupings seemed to have herbivores and carnivores right next to each other. Any analysis of that would have to wait as she took the platter and started walking over to his Zaku. Tilting the head down and adjusting the Zaku's posture slightly, Steve kept her in view as she moved to the space just on front of him. Surmising that she wanted to take a look at something interesting before eating, he didn't think anything of it until a few motionless minutes passed and she shuffled nervously.
Realizing what was going on, Steve panned his camera back and forth a few times to ensure that there were no observers, seeing that the only thing even facing him was a large blue lizard more concerned with the leg of goat in its mouth, before kneeling and putting his loudspeakers on their lowest possible output, before asking, "Did Colbert send you?"
The maid jumped and almost spilled the platter, but hesitantly nodded. Steve shut off the loudspeaker and popped the hatch before dropping down from the cockpit and taking a few steps towards the maid, who seemed frozen in shock. She snapped out of her daze when he took the platter from her, stepped back towards the Zaku, and propped his back on the leg and sitting down to eat.
"I'm assuming he went ahead and told you to keep this secret, telling no one what you saw." He said, before stabbing at some pieces of ham with his fork, clearly irritated. He took a bite though and calmed down a bit, clearly enjoying the well prepared food.
The maid still seemed uncomfortable, before she asked, "I'm sorry sir, did i do something wrong? I seemed to have upset you."
"Actually I'm massively pissed off, but its okay, not your fault. Just when you get the chance, tell Colbert never again, not during the day, it's way, way, way too risky." He continued to eat even as he was talking, clearly both very hungry and not used to such good food. "Thank you for bringing this though, its quite good, I have to say for earthnoids you guys put together something pretty nice, might I get your name?
Siesta blushed, "Thank you sir, I helped put it together, and my name is Siesta, Siesta of Tarbes." she frowned for a moment then, something seeming familiar about the comment, "You called us earthnoids, does that mean you're from a colony?"
The plate made a distinctly loud ting as the fork dropped from the pilot's hand and he stopped eating to look up in shock. "I'm sorry say that again?"
"Well, its just your comment, it reminded me of my grandfather's old stories, about people who made their homes with the stars, and called themselves spacenoids." She left it unsaid that she thought it was related to the dementia he developed late in life, not wanting to offend the man in front of her.
Steve allowed his mouth to hang open a bit, before closing it, then letting it hang open again. he then raised a hand and pointed a finger between himself and her, "We...we have to talk, not now though, too many prying eyes and ears. When Colbert grabs you for my food again tonight, try to collect your thoughts on your grandfather's 'stories.' They might be importa- what the hell." He was interrupted as the blue winged lizard from before had finished its leg and was now much closer than he would have liked without having heard it. It probed its long neck forward a bit to sniff him a few times, before giving a curious trill.
Steve looked distinctly uncomfortable as the large carnivorous animal continued to sniff at him, but noted it wasn't exactly acting hostile, just curious and oddly giving the impression of being childish. Steve went ahead and pointed to its chest and turned to Siesta again, "So uh, what's this thing, and why is it looking at me?"
Siesta giggled at the man's amusing reaction, before replying "I believe its a wind dragon, its Miss Tabitha's familiar, you can relax, she's really quite sweet and friendly."
"Uh huh, right, nice dragon." he tentatively reached forward, letting the reptile sniff his hand before he reached around and rubbed the base of one of its horns, causing it to trill happily. "Dragon, right, so I feel I have to ask, are they intelligent?"
Siesta tilted her head to the side in thought for a moment, before replying, "Well she is quite clever as far as dragons go, but only Rhyme Dragons could speak, and they are extinct."
Steve was smiling now, starting to enjoy the trills the dragon was emitting, "Well that's kind of tragic actually, sentience is to be valued after all, but really this is good for me, it would be really really bad for me if she reported back to her master about thi-"
The doors to the dining hall chose that moment to begin creaking open as the students inside prepared to leave.
"Oh fuck me!" he exclaimed before scrambling back in his cockpit, he then pointed between Siesta and jokingly the dragon, which had begun to whine at the loss of its attention, "Remember, not a word out of either of you. I don't exist." With that, he snapped the hatch shut, and started bringing the Zaku to its feet, as Siesta retrieved the platter and headed back to the trolley.
Sylphid, or Irukuku, depending on what one knew of her nature, was in high spirits as her big sister rode her back and they soared in the starry night sky, the pretty moons shining overhead.
"Irukuku made a new friend today big sister! Kuii! He was nice and rubbed my horns just the way I like, he lives in the giant man that your classmate summoned, that seems silly to Irukuku, but he didn't want me to say anything, it seems so sad for him to just stay in that hole all day though, so Irukuku told you! You can convince him to come out and play with Irukuku too right big sis?"
Tabitha said nothing, instead deep in thought. While she had sensed something off about Louise's familiar, she hadn't expected anything like this. When she had instructed Irukuku to keep an eye on it she had honestly just been expecting it to talk to the other familiars when the humans couldn't see.
"He kinda smells funny too, and not just sweaty, he doesnt smell like nature. Maybe he's lived in that big man his whole life, maybe that's what the nice food lady meant when she called him that weird name, spacenoid, that's a funny word. He called her something weird too, earthnoid, thats a funny word too."
"Yes." Tabitha could tell something far beyond anything she had seen in her travels was going on with Louise's familiar, she just hoped nothing bad came of it, and that this new development didn't threaten her uncle. She did not enjoy the prospect of a battle with such a large steel golem, and she would hate to kill the man who was nice to Sylphid.
On the other hand, it wasn't as if Joseph knew of any of this, and maybe keeping this to herself would be a nice trump card. She allowed herself a small grin. If it became a problem for him, it certainly would throw a roadblock that would be quite satisfying for the petite mage.
Louise leaned on her windowsill in her nightgown, looking at the once again dormant form of her familiar. Since the familiars had been moved from the Vestri Court due to the damages her familiar had caused coming to her aid, it was much farther away now and she could only see its shoulders and up over the walls.
She only now realized what an odd thing it was. There was such a human and precise shape to it, unlike most golems, and certainly any golems of its size. She had to wonder about who made it. There were so many strange things about it. Its quality, its need to rest, its ability to make mistakes like the incident in the forest. Why was it only given one eye, why did it's eye only glow when the golem was awake. How did they manage such a powerful flame spell integrating with it and why not wind to make it FLY.
Oh how she wished she could have seen that, such a display of power, in loyal service of its master, the golem ignored the boundaries between it and flew to her to protect her. She again began to wish to understand the insight its creator had. It was clearly a weapon of war, but it could clearly understand so much more. She had begrudgingly listened to Kirche who had explained to her that no order had been given, the familiar CHOSE to offer Louise a private place in her moment of weakness.
Why give a war golem so much understanding of emotion?
Louise looked eagerly to tomorrow, the day of void would certainly be a good day to get to know more about her familiar. Once more, she was asleep as soon as she turned around and entered her bed.
Colbert had been apologetic when he showed up, but to Steve it didn't seem entirely sincere. Clearly the man had understood the implications of daylight activities, but didn't think Steve would be so upset about it. Steve let it go, it was unimportant for now, currently he was dumbing down some of the concepts being introduced in the replay of his combat footage for understanding in the current setting. While he had free moments, he would tear into the stew he had been brought by Siesta, while posing her with questions.
Colbert was currently wearing Steve's helmet so he could get audio from the recordings without drawing unwanted attention. The visor was open, which allowed one to see the grim face he sported as the vid went on.
War was hell, Colbert had understood that, but he thought his career as a soldier would steel him against the horror of it, and he thought that since everyone fought in these machines and in their magnificent ships, he would be more detached. The sheer scale of it though got through to him, he realized that likely this battle alone killed the same number of people that currently occupied Tristain. That and the screams, the screams for help, for reinforcements, for family, war could get no more horrible than this. He found it hard to focus on the reason he was actually watching, to get a grasp of the scale, and to see this world that Steve came from.
Steve meanwhile, was getting a grasp of the situation he now found himself in, and tried to verse himself on the mechanics of the world around him. "So, a familiar is a creature summoned to serve and protect a mage, a mage typically being one of noble descent, and the ruling class of Halkeginia, the continent we are on, and of which Tristain is a country, a small one, but a country nonetheless. Countries are typically ruled by ones who can trace their decent all the way back to a saint-like Deity named Brimir, who was the only user of an element called void, which is also worshiped."
Siesta nodded at each point, and elaborated more, "Mages are also ranked based on how many elements they can use, each element being a corner to a shape."
"So it goes point, line, triangle, rectangle? that about right? Since void is so sacred I assume it isn't factored in, so no pentagon." Steve asked, wanting to be as savvy as he could be in preparation for what Colbert told him was coming tomorrow. He pretty much could count on a field trip alone with his 'master' who would be doing her best to find out anything she could about him.
Siesta winced a moment, before correcting, "Dot and Square actually, but yes. Most mages reach triangle level near the end of their careers, but only a select few ever reach square."
"I can't listen to any more of this." Colbert interrupted.
"What she get something wro- oh, right. Forgot you probably aren't used to this kind of war. I guess I kind of expected you to be too busy marveling over the technology involved to be noting the actual context." Steve seemed apologetic in his tone, but it didn't seem that he had the same reservations about war and its horrors Colbert did. Why should he, he had been hardened against it by his training and being subject to said horrors. Not to mention that he also had the added distraction of trying to not die at the time of the recording.
"Well now that you have the sense of scale of the gap between our development, on the side of the cockpit under the left monitor there is a box. No, down by your knee. Yes that, open that." Steve guided and instructed Colbert. "See we have a lil problem, my Zaku is still actually configured for space flight, and I need it configured for ground movement, after that at some point we will have to actually maintain the thing. That there is an operators manual, you need to start reading that so we can someday, start fixing up my Zaku to work properly here." Steve explained, "Now for the moment, I seem to be able to compensate for the configuration while in combat mode due to some shenanigans regarding this familiar thing, but I don't want to rely on that."
Colbert then raised the book in question and faced it to Steve, "I can't read a word of this, it looks similar to Albionese, but I can't decipher the letters. Second, you say you believe your status as a familiar is helping you compensate for your machines problems?"
"Well that's a pain in the ass, I'm going to have to help you transcribe the thing then, and that will take weeks like this." Finally setting down his empty bowl from his stew, Steve took the book from Colbert's hand. "As for the familiar thing, yeah, I didn't used to experience sudden temperature differences when I changed computer modes, and I most certainly never received training for compensating for a incorrectly configured machine on the ground."
"Well if we saw your runes, I might be able to pull something from their meaning."
"Runes?" Steve replied quizzically, not familiar with the term.
"They should have been inscribed somewhere on your body when Miss Vallierre bonded you as her familiar."
"I'm not exactly wearing anything under this pilot suit. I'm not sure Siesta would appreciate me going in the buff."
"You don't remember feeling anything when you were summoned?"
"Oh that's what that shit was? It felt like someone stabbed me in the hand with a burning knife repeatedly! Why the hell would someone do that to a living creature?!"
Colbert looked aghast, agony being a quick thing to understand after watching the record on the Zaku, "We most ceretainly would revise the procedure if that was the norm, most creatures don't even show the slightest of discomforts."
"Well at least we know where it is, I can just take a glove off, lets get this over wi-"
"I can read this!" Siesta suddenly interrupted, completely derailing the discussion, "Maintenance and Operations Manual: MS-06F-2: Zaku II F2, edition seven." She proudly proclaimed.
Steve blinked a few times in surprise, before smiling widely, "Colbert, you just got a study buddy."