Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha
Six years have passed since the conclusion of the Jail Scagliettie case. The dimensional sea has changed little since then, with conflicts raising every so often, some annually. This would normally please most of the upper bureaucrats of the Time-Space Administration Bureau, an organisation turned militant government whose goal is to secure the peace, as the only way to secure peace is to have conflict in the first place.
A dimensional sea in peace would put them out of the job.
However those said bureaucrats were very displeased at the moment. Yes, there was conflict to be stamped out. The only problem was, it was from within the Administration Bureau itself. And the ones causing the conflict were the bureaucrats themselves.
This however, wasnft the reason why Fate Testarossa Harlaown looked so pensive as she leant against the rails of her officefs rooftop in the dead of night. She distantly watched some of her colleagues head to the warmth of their cars and homes as she listened to the ringing tone of her mobile phone.
She was tired. Shefd been working overtime for months on end now, thanks to the before mentioned bureaucrats. But she couldnft complain about it. Everyone was in the same boat. The Administration Bureau was at breaking point now that a large number of its experienced commissioned officers either resigned or were forced from their jobs. She was forced from her office on the dimensional space station that serves as the Bureaufs headquarters to fill in the gaps in rank on Midchilda. While the re-assignment came with a promotion to Senior Enforcer, the assignment itself could easily be seen by others, and herself, as a demotion. Everyone knew that the Ground Defence Force took care of investigations on Midchilda.
The call timed out. She gave a sigh of frustration as she pressed the call button again and pressed it to her ear once more, and allowed her thoughts to wonder down a different path.
Since when was the Administration Bureau a government? How can a Bureau be a government?
Oh thatfs right. It was about the time when the bureaucrats started to play up. A new leadership calls for a new change. They claimed that as the Bureau was an organisation that took care of planets and in some cases even ruled them, they should then form an Empire.
That was what they first suggested anyway. It didnft go down to well so they opted for a gMilitant-Democracy.h The thought of the idea made Fate shake her head. A military government whofs rulers and laws were elected by the populace? That was probably when everything went to hell.
The bureaucrats who lobbied for the government were probably thinking that theyfd have a chance to take the leadership, though seemed to lack insight as a militant government, democracy or not, is ruled by military officials. So when they decided to go ahead with the government plan, the bureaucrats quickly found the errors of their ways and instead of trying to drop the plan, decided to get some officers to do their biddings for them.
The phone call timed out again and Fate gave up. She slipped the phone back in her pocket and headed inside. She didnft like the call she received from Arisa. She was lucky she got it at all, as her work forced her to have her phone off most of the time, and she often forgot to turn it back on.
After Arisa had vented about not being able to get in contact with her for so long, she told her about the upcoming plans that some of her old high school friends were planning and she was invited to join in, though Arisa sounded like she wasnft going to give Fate the option.
Then she told her to pass the invitation to Nanoha, who no one was able to get in contact with for what Arisa said was etwo whole months!f Fate figured that Nanoha was pushing herself once again, and had just tried to get in contact with her, with no success. She wouldnft answer any form of communication.
But that wasnft the most worrisome thing about Arisafs call. A tingle went down her spine when Arisa held and uncomfortable pause then asked: eDid you hear what happened to Nanohafs mother?f
It made Fate hesitate. There was something about the way she asked it. eNo...f she replied cautiously. There was another long pause as Fate figured Arisa was trying to find the right words. It made her nervous.
eShe was taken to hospital last month...f Arisa answered. Fate froze. eShe had a stroke...f
And during the entire time, no one could get in touch with Nanoha. They had tried though. From what she was told, her family still tries at least once a day.
She had called Nanohafs apartment, using the Bureaufs video communication system, only to get through to her daughter, Vivio.
eMamafs not home at the moment...f Vivio replied distantly. The girl seemed depressed over something.
eI see... Do you know when Nanoha will be home?f Fate asked.
Vivio looked crestfallen. eMama hardly comes home now...f
The answer shocked Fate. She knew that Nanoha worked herself too hard, but ever since she adopted Vivio, she made sure that Vivio came first. Fate was worried from time to time that she doted the girl too much.
eWhen Mama does come home, she only goes to bed...f Vivio continued. Fate realised why she looked so depressed. She was lonely.
eWhat about Yuuno?f Fate asked. Yuuno and Nanoha had made an arrangement. If Nanohafs work was going to keep her back, and Fate couldnft take care of Vivio then Yuuno would step it. Vivio was getting on very well with Yuuno too.
Which is why Fate was even more shocked when Vivio scowled. eHefs not here. I donft want him here.f
Vivio wouldnft tell her what happened between them, but for Vivio to not want to talk about it, it would have been something huge. And from the looks of it, shefd been on her own for some time now.
And that also meant that she couldnft get in contact with Nanoha through Vivio, which put Fate in an uncomfortable situation. She wanted to be there for Vivio, who she still thought of as a foster child, but she wanted to go to see Nanoha, who would probably still be working, and find out what was going on with her.
She couldnft visit Vivio, and then run off to find Nanoha. She wouldnft be able to drag herself away from the girl. But on the other hand, if she went to find Nanoha, by the time she arrived to visit Vivio, the girl would have gone to bed on her own.
She slumped into her office chair, held her head in her hands and gave an irritated groan over the situation. From behind her, Tiana turned from her work and looked at her inquisitively.
eWhatfs up?f she asked.
Fate sighed and told her everything that just happened. Tiana was put in the same situation as Fate. When the bureaucrats lost the plot, Tiana was also sent to their new office, although she didnft have the small saving grace of a promotion. Their new commander saw their potential, and unofficially partnered them together. This gave them the flexibility of working together if needed, or working separately. This also helped as Tianafs assistant wasnft allowed to go with her, so they both shared Shario.
There was something else about Tiana that Fate noticed was different from their time together in Section 6. Apart from the fact that she wore her hair down now, Tianafs personality was a lot softer now. She wasnft as irritable, and she often joined in on some of the pointless jokes that would occasionally float around the office.
eAnd so now youfre stuck over finding Nanoha and visiting Vivio,f Tiana concluded. eAs Ifd expect from Fate-mama!f she cried. Fate replied with a sarcastic smile, and looked over Tianafs shoulder to the time display on her workstationfs console. It read 1938.
eWherefs Nanoha stationed now, anyway?f Tiana asked. eJust about everyonefs been posted somewhere else since the re-organisation.f
eNorthern Midchilda 4th Military Academy.f
eNo way!f Tiana gasped. eThatfs my academy!f
eI know. But itfs over an hour and a half drive in the wrong direction of Nanohafs apartment. If I go there, Ifd never be able to visit Vivio in time!f Fate bit her lip. She was starting to get anxious, but that was to be expected. She was Viviofs godmother, and she cared for her as much as her actual mother did.
The two did a bit of lip biting and finger tapping.
eHow about I go to the academy then?f Tiana offered. She noticed Fate freeze for a bit, and her expression lightened.
eCould you really do that?f Fate asked, almost pleaded as she leant forward and placed her hands on Tianafs knees.
eSure,f Tiana agreed. eIfm havenft got anything planned for after work anyway, and itfs my old academy. I wouldnft mind giving the place a visit. If Ifm lucky I might be able to meet up with some of my old instructors too, and tell them how they were so wrong about my future,f she added with a cheeky grin. eItfll be interesting.f
Fatefs eyes were almost gleaming now, and she was leaning dangerously forward. If she leant forward any further, shefd be leaping into Tianafs arms.
Close by, someone cleared their throat.
It was Shario. She was standing over them, hands on her hips and giving the two a look normally reserved for a school teacher who caught some students giggling their way through a lesson.
eEnforcer Tiana Lanster,f she said carefully, making sure to squeeze as much authority into her voice as possible, ebefore you go anywhere, I still need todayfs report. The commander said that hefd need it for his meeting tomorrow, though Ifm sure you know that.f
Tiana spun her chair back around and began typing again, acting as if she had never taken her hands from the keypad. eOh please, Shari!f Tiana laughed nervously. eItfll get done before I go, honestly!f She paused and quickly scanned over what she just wrote, then held down the backspace key.
She risked a glance to the assistant as she held the key. There was a slight grin creeping across her face. She was enjoying this, the swine! Tiana was confident that making sure everyone was working was one of Shariofs joys in life. It was the only time she technically had more authority than her superiors, and savoured every second of it.
With a chuckle, Fate got up from her seat, placed her hands on Tianafs shoulders and bent down to whisper in her ear: eThanks a lot Tiana, I really appreciate it. Ifll make up for it someday.f
Tiana simply raised her head proudly, grinning with false pride. eWhat are you talking about, Fate?f she said haughtily, eIfll gladly do this for my trusty partner! After all, shefd gladly do the same for me, wouldnft she?f
Fate replied with a nervous smile. It was the smile she always gave Tiana when she wanted to change the subject. Tianafs grin slowly faded from her face. She turned look at Fate again, who was walking to her jacket that was hanging on the corner of the filing cabinet.
Fate made sure she Tiana couldnft see her face. Tiana wasnft sure, but she noticed that Shario was enjoying this greatly, standing up straight to attention with her hands behind her back. Tiana was starting to get worried; she knew that Fate and Shario were planning something.
eOh, Fate-san!f Shario chirped playfully, eI forgot to mention that the commander has approved your leave and wishes that you enjoy yourself!f
eThatfs great, thanks Shari.f Fate replied nervously as she straightened her jacket.
eHuh?f was about the only thing Tiana managed to say. Shario looked at her with a poorly acted confused look, while Fate kept her nervous smile. eWait, whatfs this about leave!? I never heard of it!f she cried. Shario looked to Fate, then back to Tiana.
eUmcf Fate muttered nervously, edidnft I tell you Tiana? Arisa told me that my high school friends are organizing a reunion. Ifm taking time off so I can go along, it should be... er... fun.f
eNo you didnft tell me!f Tiana cried, jumping out of her chair. eWhat about the investigation!? How am I supposed to do it by myself?!f
Fate shrugged. eThe same way you do everything else by yourself?f she suggested and then she gestured an apology before turning to head for the exit. eOh, do me a favour and tell Nanoha about the reunion too, please. Ifll tell her more about it if shefs interested.f She called behind her, trying to ignore Tianafs dumbstruck stare. eI think Ifll probably spend the night at Nanohafs anyway, just to be on the safe side. Well, see you tomorrow... my trusty partner.f She waved without looking back as she walked out of the office.
Tiana slammed her hands on her desk. eWhat partner!?f she yelled angrily. eI trusted you! You owe me big for this! Demon! Slaver!f
eShut up, Lanster!f another officer yelled from somewhere within the office, making Tiana duck instinctively.
eSorryc!f she whispered, slumping back into her chair and rested her head on her desk with a heavy sigh.
Shario was still there though, standing to attention, hands behind her back and grinning a demonic kind of grin. Tiana rolled her head to one side to throw her an annoying look. It didnft faze her.
eWhat?f she finally asked, and Shario just tilted her head to match the angle Tianafs head was lying at.
eThe report, Enforcer Tiana Lanster.f Shario answered with a pleasant yet unpleasant voice.
The city of Cranagan, capital of Midchilda, never sleeps. When the dead of the night sets in, and most people in other cities call it a night and go to bed, Cranagan simply gets a little bit less busy.
However, the fewer cars and pedestrians on the streets was all that the shrouded figure needed as it skulked from shadow to shadow, avoiding street lights where ever possible and only staying still when someone walked past or a car sped by.
It didnft try to conceal itself. It simply became a part of the scenery. No one bothered to pay it any attention, although it did think to itself, would anyone really bother anyway? But it didnft take the chance. Someone might have recognised it, and it couldnft risk that.
It didnft wear black. Black, to the trained eye, was too noticeable in shadows. It wore a mixture of washed out dark greens, blues and greys, the typical colours of the night time Cranagan.
Eventually the figure found an alley way to its liking and hurried down to a manhole not too far down from the road, checked to make sure no one was looking and then made its way down.
Cranagan was an old city, one that was standing well before the time of the Ancient Belkans. It was a city of everlasting growth, and when you donft have room to grow out, you grew up. Even on top of the old buildings and infrastructure.
This meant that Cranaganfs underground wasnft soil. It was a massive maze of tunnels, sewers, subways and even buildings. Not all of it was mapped out, though if you looked hard enough, youfd be able to find some old, possibly even ancient maps of the cityfs subway or sewer networks that werenft in any of the current maps.
And the figure knew where to look. It made its way through the maze with a hurried patience, opening old rusted doors, jumping over sewer streams and climbing over small walls that was presumably, once someonefs fence. Eventually it made it to a small steel door. There was a buzz of work coming from the other side. It straightened itself up, then silently made its way inside.
Beyond the door was an abandoned subway station. In it, was a large group of people, all in scrappy street clothes and all hurrying about their business very quickly. They were loading creates into five small flatbed trucks, two were already loaded and covered with tarpaulin. There were workstations, what looked like make-shift labs, being dismantled and burnt. And being placed inside the creates were what looked like vial holders, all filled with vials with a milky blue substance.
The figure didnft make itself noticed, but it didnft conceal itself either. It simply stood in the unused opening of the subway just beyond the door it entered and watched. Eventually, someone noticed her, put down the create he was carrying and ran over to the person who looked like the person in charge. The man whispered something into the other manfs ear, and then as the worker ran back to his previous job, the leader looked over to the figure and scowled.
He stormed towards the figure. eYou said they wouldnft find us down here, you lying bitch!f he bellowed.
eThey got lucky,f the figure replied calmly. Its voice was distorted, but it was enough to define it as her. Her voice also had a sense of expensiveness about it, the kind that wasnft too haughty, but still had an air of thick arrogance about it.
eLucky my ass,f the man growled, edo you have any idea of how many men I lost today? How much Boost we lost? Do you know how expensive that stuff is?f
eThat is none of my concern. The deal was that I let you know of a safer route, and if your business grows, you transport some of my goods for me.f The shrouded figure looked over to a metal bin burning with green and pink flames. eIt isnft my fault that some of your men got lazy and left the tunnels without checking to see if there was any Bureau officers at the other end. They certainly didnft have to fight back either. And you donft have to go to such extremes as to destroying your lab.f
eIfm playing safe here, missy.f
There was a pause as the figure examined the man. He was well built, but didnft seem too bright. She figured his usual way of making sure things happened was to hit enough people to encourage them to get the job done, by promising not as much hitting if they did. He didnft dare try to use that method on her though. He wasnft that stupid.
eWhere are my goods?f she asked.
The man glared at her, then walked off to a bench that hadnft been destroyed yet, picked up a small metal case and handed it to her. She opened it. Inside, laying in a thick grey bed of foam were three clear blue liquid vials. There were five empty slots.
She snapped the case shut again. eThree?f she asked. There was a hint of irritation in her voice. eWhat am I supposed to do with three? I ordered eight!f
The man shrugged then folded his arms. eThatfs none of my business. The rest were in the other convoys that we lost.f
eI told you one vial per car! There should be five in here!f
eYeah. Ifm playing it safe here, missy.f The man repeated.
They stared at each other for a while. The figure took the opportunity to think over her plans. Only three vials... enough to finish up one job, but...
eFine then,f the figure said. ePlay it safe. May we never meet again.f The figure turned and made its way for the door in came in through. The man gave her a disgusted look and spat on the area she once stood before turning back to continue packing up his shop.
He never checked to see if the figure had actually gone through the door. He probably should have. The figure silently made its way towards the burning bin, ignoring the intense heat. She didnft sneak, or dart from shadow to shadow. She simply moved with care and patience, and no one seemed to notice her.
She placed a hand on the bin, and waited for a bit. The bin eventually started to glow feint blue, and the flames died down a little. Satisfied, the figure left the subway, made her way back to the surface, then stealthily made her way out of the area before finding another alley. There she fetched a bag out of an industrial bin, brushing a few food scraps off it as she did. She removed her cloak and put it in the bag along with the metal case, and then took a long blonde wig from it, and placed it on her head with long practiced precision. She adjusted her glasses, straightened her casual outfit, then made her way back out to the street again and hailed a taxi down.
Later on that night, long before the crew in the subway could possibly be ready to leave, the city shook gently as something exploded. Several people looked up as glasses rattled and the ground rumbled, but then passed it off as someone elsefs problem and went back to doing whatever it was they were doing.
Winter was starting to set in, and Tianafs thick brown bikerfs jacket did little to keep out the stinging wind-chill. She kept as low as possible on her new black and blue motorcycle to keep the wind resistance to a minimum, but her cheeks were beginning to numb as some air managed to rush over the wind shield and into her face. She really ought to buy a full helmet, but she loved her half-top helmet and goggles too much to leave them on a shelf in her dorm. They were the kind of times that needed to be used to be appreciated.
She cursed to herself as she thought of the dorms. They were only a quarter of an hour behind her now, and turning back seemed more inviting than ever before. As everyone else was, she was tired, and it was very late and the thought of being in her warm bed made it even colder. It made the thought of turning back even more inviting. Fate owed her big now.
It might not have been so bad if she had been able to leave thirty minutes earlier, but the acting supervisor decided that then was a good time to throw his authority around, and lecture her on punctuality and discipline within the office.
She passed the last possible turnoff on the highway for her to be able to head back to the dorms, and with a sigh, she pressed on, and pressed harder against the bikefs fuel tank.
Her dormitory wasnft really all that grand a place. It was similar to any other dorm youfd expect to find; filled with people too busy to use them properly. Because of that, it never felt like home. There was never the chance to furnish the room to her liking. Anything could happen to a military dorm, and expensive or valuable items werenft permitted. She just had to remember what happened to Section 6 to understand why. And besides, there was no telling how long she was going to be there until she got reassigned elsewhere. Military life was like that these days.
At least her rank gave her the privilege of her own room. If she was still a Private, shefd more than likely be bunking with three or four other soldiers.
Vehicles were allowed though, which was unusual for a Midchildan military dorm, and the bike was Tianafs pride and joy. Shefd often got around by borrowing the bike of whichever unit she was attached to, but now she was attached to not a unit, but the Main Branch, borrowing a bike proved difficult. Eventually, she managed to buy her own sports bike. It was similar to the one that Sergeant Vice had in Section 6, but more sleek, a bit faster, slightly more agile, and was black and blue instead of red. It was also personalised to have a screen that displayed various information, instead of various dials for bits of information. And at the flick of a switch, its siren and flashing lights would materialise, fitting for an officer of the law.
A little while later she pulled into a high-way side service station to re-fuel her bike and warm herself up with a hot coffee. She also took advantage from one of the various fast food stores to get some much needed food in her stomach. She hadnft had anything to eat since lunch, and the call she got from Fate just after she left the office made it worse.
It was an innocent call, wanting to know if she was still in the office and telling her that she shouldnft push herself, but she did so while eating her own nice, warm hearty meal with Vivio. Fate had also told Tiana that some other people, not only Nanohafs family and friends had been trying to contact her, but Nanoha was still at work. At least this wasnft all for nothing then.
After downing a poorly made hotdog, Tiana mounted her motorcycle once more, and continued her journey.
It was half an hour later when she turned her bike into the large administration car park of the Time-Space Administration Bureaufs Northern Midchilda 4th Military Academy. It was very late now, and the car parkfs lights have already turned off, but the full moon in the clear sky made it easy enough to see. There were still a few cars within the car park, but plenty of space for her to park her bike.
She rolled into a spot closest to the large administration building and kicked the bike rest into the concrete and then tore her helmet off her head and shook her hair back over her shoulders. Sliding off the bike, she made her way down the cement path that lead to the administration building. The path was nostalgic, bringing back memories from when she and Subaru were just trainees, eager to earn their spot within the Bureau.
She admired the building as she unzipped her bikerfs jacket and removed her gloves from her hands. It was old and the outer walls were laid with sandstone. Now days, youfll be hard pressed to find a new building made from sandstone. It took too much effort and was too expensive to maintain. Tiana could see that a quarter of the wall was covered in scaffolding, a part of the annual attempt to maintain the sandstonefs brilliance which was sure to be lost after nine months from weather, dirt and grime.
The highest point above the entrance marked what the building was for. With large Midchildan letters, it read gTime-Space Administration Bureau Northern Midchilda 4th Military Academyh and was lit by powerful lights that extruded from the building below the words. People often misread what the 4th means. It doesnft mean that it was the 4th academy within Northern Midchilda, but it was the 4th academy ever established.
She reached the doorway, the words gAdm nis at onh sat above the door, the i t r and i missing from either worn adhesive or stolen from some student. It brought a faint smile to Tianafs lips, and was yet another reminder of how old the building was. She couldnft see anything through the heavily tinted glass, but there was an orange glow coming from underneath the doorway.
Tiana reached out to open the door, but hesitated. She then placed one of her gloves on the metal door handle and swung it open.
As the door closed behind her with the metallic thud of a door that failed to close itself softly, another vehicle pulled into the parking lot. It was a slick black hover-car that only the most prestigious of people would ever drive in. In an overly careful and pedantic fashion, the car made its way around the maze of painted white lines and came to an agonisingly slow stop with its rear passenger door to the cement footpath.
When the car came to a stop, the driver bailed out of the car and ran around to the passengerfs door, only to have it swing open just before he reached it. He stepped back nervously and adjusted his officerfs jacket as a middle aged woman made her own way out of the car. She was bulky, but not fat. Her black hair was dreadlocked and tied into a short, neat but tatty ponytail. Her pristine white and blue uniform with gold trim made an interesting contrast to her dark chocolate skin. Her square face was creased, not with age, but with experience. In all, she looked very regal, and very annoyed.
The driver straightened nervously as she shot a steely glare at him, and cleared his throat. eMay I ask how long you will be, Madam Grand Admiral?f his voice croaked slightly.
The Admiralfs glare intensified. eNo, you may not,f she replied, shutting the door behind her. eNow park the car properly. Donft follow me inside either, Warrant Officer, Ifm sure Ifm capable of walking by myself.f She didnft wait for a reply as she made her way inside the facility.
Tiana basked in the warmth of the administration building as the door closed behind her with a metallic thud. The foyer was as she remembered it, just more cluttered. There were memorabilia anywhere it could fit. Weapons, pictures, trophies and certificates were hanging or placed on every wall, pillar and cabinet that was available. Some even hung from the ceiling.
As Tiana slowly walked through the foyer, she remembered the first time she stepped foot within the room. It was ten years ago, and she was only twelve years old, incredibly nervous but determined. Others arrived with their parents, or with friends, and had others to support them as they made the greatest step in their lives: enrolling into the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Tiana had herself. No one was cheering her on. No one was holding her hand. The memory filled her with pride.
On a large section of wall, alongside other life sized photographs was one of Nanoha, smiling warmly while holding a sharp, textbook salute. It seemed only fitting that Nanoha had such a grand photograph on the administration buildingfs walls. There were some of past students on the other walls too, although they werenft as large and grand, and Tiana wondered if she would be able to find one of her and Subaru.
On the far side of the foyer, opposite the entrance was a desk. On either side of the desk, grand curved stair cases rose to the second floor above, which Tiana knew was an array of officers for all the instructors, academy administration staff and the grand Headmasterfs room. Behind the desk was a greying woman, and behind her was a small open office with no one in it. The woman had been watching Tiana from the corner of her eyes since she entered the lobby, with a somewhat disappointed look on her face as Tiana wasnft shaking the feeling back into her hands from the static prone metal doors. For company, the lady had an old television playing a show that was repeating for the nth time, and a cup of coffee.
eSo what can I do for you at this hour of the night...f the woman asked as Tiana approached the desk, hesitating as she peered closer to get a clearer look at her uniform, eMiss Enforcer Mafam?f Her voice had a stuttered slurred and dripped with sarcasm.
Tiana peered into the office behind the woman, and didnft respond until she had placed her helmet and gloves on the desk. eNo security?f she asked, leaning against the steel blue laminated desk.
eThe thugs donft kick me out until Ten Tfirty.f The woman took a sip of her coffee. It seemed to have an oily gleam. eBut I doubt thatfs what yef want from me.f
eIfd like to see Captain Takamachi—e
eMajor,f the woman interrupted.
Tiana blinked. eSorry?f she asked, standing up straight again.
eItfs Major Takamachi. Shefs no Capfn,f the woman said as she took another sip of her coffee. Tianafs attention was drawn to it again. It looked like the gleam was also frosting.
eShe was promoted?f Tiana asked.
eDonf know any other way to become a Major. Tell me if you do though, Ifd much appreciafe the pay rise.f
Tiana ignored the last comment. eWhy didnft she tell us?f Tiana asked herself, but the woman thought otherwise.
eI edunno... Why donf you ask her during your appoinfment?f she asked, taking yet another sip of her defiantly cold coffee. The womanfs attitude was starting to annoy Tiana. eSpeaking of which,f the woman continued, ewhen would you like to see the good headmistress?f
Tiana almost fell over.
eHeadmistress?f she asked.
eHeadmistress indeed,f the woman replied.
eHeadmistress Major Takamachi Nanoha?f Tiana asked again, just to make sure that her fatigue wasnft playing tricks with her.
The woman gave her a long look. eYer not tryinf to makf a fool ouf of me... are you?f she asked before dismissively pointing to the life-size picture of Nanoha that Tiana had spotted as she walked through the foyer. It was then that Tiana realised that lined up next to Nanohafs picture were all the previous headmasters in the academyfs history.
eWhen did this happen?f Tiana asked in dismay.
efbout two and a half months ago.f There was another sip of the oily, frosting coffee. eThough if you have any more questions about the good lady, Ifd prefer youfd ask her yourself. So... when did you wanf this appoinfment?f
eNow!f an irritated voice boomed from behind Tiana. She spun around startled; she didnft even notice that anyone was approaching from behind. Normally any shoe would tap loudly against the white marble floor.
At the sight of the Grand Admiral uniform, Tianafs body snapped into a salute. The roomfs atmosphere suddenly became so intense Tiana was finding it hard to breathe.
eAt ease, Enforcer,f the Admiral grumbled as she came to a stop beside Tiana. The salute was dropped, but Tiana found it impossible to relax. The admiral was giving the greying woman a steely glare as she gingerly rose up from her chair and made a show of saluting.
eWell now, Grand Admiral, Mafam, would you like an appoinfment with the good Major too?f the woman asked, placing her coffee cup on top of the desk.
eNo. I will see her now.f The Admiral said coldly. Her steely gaze was growing harsher and her jaw was tensing, and told Tiana that the lady was running low on a short supply of patience.
eThafll be a problem you see...f the woman began, efcus the good headmistress is currently tuforinf some of her good studenfs. Ifve been told thaf Ifm nof to be disturbinf her while shefs tuforinf. Can be dangerous, yeh see.f
eIs that so?f the Admiral asked with a disturbingly calm voice.
eIt is so, Grand Admiral Mafam. eTis a military academy after all.f
Patience ran out.
The Admiral was only a step away from the desk, but she stormed forward with enough force to walk through it and slammed her hands on a desk with a deafening thud.
eThen obviously youfve forgotten that I can meet my officers in my buildings whenever I want to!f the Admiral roared with so much volume Tianafs ears were ringing. The woman was taken aback and almost fell over her chair, but instead into it. She seemed to lose her attitude as the Admiral slammed her fist into the desk with so much force that the coffee cup was knocked over, spilling its contents over Tianafs helmet and gloves.
eNow,f she continued, not any quieter, eyoufre going to find the Major for me, youfre going to tell her that Ifm waiting in her office, and youfre going to do it now! Is that understood!?f
The greying woman managed to stagger back to her feet and gather herself back together from the Admiralfs verbal barrage.
eErr...f she managed to mutter, eYes, Grand Admiral. Mafam... Err...f she hesitated for a brief moment, visually going over what she was about to say, filtering out anything that could get her into any more trouble. eThe headmistressf office is locked af the momenf, Mafam. Grand Admiral. Mafam... Err... Would you like for me to fefch the keys for you?f
The Admiral held her gaze for a moment longer and the woman shrunk into herself. eSo you are capable of thought,f she eventually said, her jaw unclenching but still very irritate. The woman took the reply as a yes and scurried away, almost stumbling over her chair, to find the keys needed in the office behind her.
The Admiral took a few deep breaths to compose herself again as she took a handkerchief out of her to dab the sweat off her forehead. Then, as if she just realised what had happened, she picked up one of Tianafs dripping gloves.
eSorry about that, Enforcer...f she hung onto the last word as she began to wipe the coffee off the glove with her handkerchief.
eLanster...f The atmosphere lightened enough for Tianafs body to relax again and she stepped forward to retrieve her helmet. eTiana Lanster, Grand Admiral Carrington.f
eAdmiral will do, Lanster, Ifm not fond of such titles,f Carrington said and then she paused. eLanster... where have I heard that name before...?f
Tiana froze. Oh crap, she thought, I havenft screwed up, have I? There was an awkward silence as Carrington stood in thought and Tiana stood in nervous terror, her hands robotically cleaning the coffee off her helmet.
eOh thatfs right!f Carrington suddenly exclaimed, and she turned to face Tiana with a warm smile which didnft help Tianafs nerves, even though she looked like a teddy bear compared to the beast she was just a few seconds ago. eYoufre working with that Harlaown girl, arenft you?f
eYes, thatfs right mafam,f this constant tension mustnft be good for my health, Tiana thought as relief ran through her again. But the lady now gave off the aura of an elderly mother. Not a grandmother, but a mother approaching her elder years and took a soft approach to everything. Tiana was silently amazed how a person could change her personality to such extremes in such a short amount of time.
eItfs no wonder why youfre after Takamachi too then. Ifm sure her friends would want a word or two with her as well.f Carrington finished wiping one of the coffee soaked gloves clean and handed back to Tiana. eOnce again, sorry about that.f
eNot at all, Mafam,f Tiana replied as the Admiral started on the other glove. eActually, Ifm an acquaintance of Nanoha-san too.f
eIs that so?f
eYes Mafam, Nanoha-san was my squad commander in Section 6.f
Carrington looked lost for a moment. eSection 6? Oh yes, the Lost Article Mobile Section 6, I remember now. Thatfs quite an achievement, that...f the Admiral then looked away in though. eSection 6, huh...f she muttered, wiping the glove absentmindedly.
Tiana finished wiping off her helmet and gave it a sniff to see if it stunk. Her nostrils burnt, her eyes watered and her throat dried as she took in the smell of coffee. She dropped her helmet as she sneezed uncontrollably. eWhat the hell is that stuff?f she cried when calmed down.
Carrington carefully took a sniff of the glove in her hand, her face souring as she did. eWhiskey...?f she guessed. eOh dear...f she muttered as there was a disturbing noise coming from the office area behind the desk.
For General Hatsudoki Seizo of the Japanese Self Defence Force, life was just as frustrating as for those at the Time-Space Administration Bureau, not that he knew anything about them. It wasnft because there was an internal conflict within the Self Defence Force... it was mainly his own conflict against the view of... well... the world.
You see, his father fought in World War Two, and came home with glorious stories of how he fought patriotically for his country to expand the mighty empire. Seizo himself wished to do the same. But the foreign bastards who mercilessly bombed their land and claimed themselves the winner decided to create this law that because they didnft do as well as they did in the Second World War, and now they werenft allowed to have any others. Nor were they allowed to have an empire.
So the mighty Japanese military machine was whittled down to become a gSelf Defence Forceh and the empire became a nation. People had argued that the empire never existed to begin with, seeing as it only spanned one nationality to being with, but those people were unpatriotic bastards, and frankly, not worth his time.
Seizo pinched the bridge of his nose. Okay, he could admit that they werenft an empire anymore, but therefs no reason to say we shouldnft have a military. Japan had all the necessary pieces together for a military. They had just crossed out the word gMilitaryh and quickly wrote underneath it gSelf-Defence Force, We Wonft Leave Our Borders Honest.h There was no need to force the punishment of losing a war on them for this long either. Most of those who were alive during the war had passed away now, and most of those who were still alive were only children at the time. Japan had put the war behind them long ago. It was time to move on.
But no, we canft have that, they say, we might upset someone. Who? The Americans? Oh yes, it would upset the Americans. After all, they only trespass on our soil under the name of the United States Forces Japan and do what they want saying that theyfre, ghelping Japan defend Japanh. Since 1952, therefve been over two hundred thousand crimes committed by the US dogs. Oh, some could be called gaccidentsh if you looked at them from a certain light, but if you looked at it straight on you saw the real picture. Over one thousand Japanese civilians killed as well. And in most cases the suspects were given a slap on the wrist, given a lolly pop and told to go back to camp and think about what they just did or they might also go without supper.
And there were all the military establishments the US held as well. Hokkaido, Okinawa, Aomori, Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Hiroshima, Shizuoka, Nagasaki... Those were some of the places where the US held their bases that Seizo could name off the top of his head. He also knew that the US Navy had some hotel in Tokyo too. And as for Okinawa, well... The US might as well claim that as their next Hawaii.
Well that was going to change. Seizo didnft become a General for nothing, and while others might talk and laugh behind his back, he was going to stand firm and take action. He couldnft stand the thought of Americans loitering on Japanese soil. It was worse than rubbing salt in a wound that had been open for far too long.
A knock from the door shook Seizo from his dreams of patriotism and glory. eEnter,f he barked primly as he faced his chair to the door. His office looked like a war room, containing only what was necessary, and on one wall, a massive map of the only battlefield he was allowed to deploy on: Japan. It had markers showing where all the Japanese forces were in blue, and where all the American forces were in red.
The door opened, and a sharp young officer entered. He closed the door, saluted, and then gave an awkward glance to the map. The only defining feature on the manfs face was a large scar that ran down its right side, and quite literally, from top to bottom. There were many stories as to how he got it, but the man himself had never hinted which was the correct one. But one of the most remarkable things about the scar was that it never pulled on his face. Apart from that, the only other comment you could make about him was that he was taller than average, and slightly built.
Seizo himself could be thought of as your average stereotypical stubborn old thin Japanese military man. His face wrapped around his head and he looked so Asian it made other Asians embarrassed. He didnft have any other hair on his balding head apart from his neatly trimmed moustache, which miraculously bristled when he got angry. No one knew how he managed to do it.
eAh, Captain Raiden,f Seizo said, wondering if his name was any reference to the scar. eHow are the training drills going?f
eSir, Ifve come here to inform you that theyfre not, Sir.f
eThe training drills are not happening, Sir.f There was no cheek in Raidenfs voice. He was simply stating facts.
The moustache bristled. Seizo didnft show any other reaction. eAnd why are the drills not happening, Captain?f
eBecause I was ensuring that our careers within the Defence Force remain long lasting ones, Sir.f
eI surly doubt it if you werenft following my instructions!f Seizo barked. eWhat the hell kind of an excuse is that?f
eWell, Sir, if youfll excuse me for saying so, Ifm not a foolish man. The drills are one that I would prepare if I was going to storm the Yokohama North Docks, Sir. Which I do believe is under the control of the United States Army. If anyone found out about such a drill, both of our careers will be in risk, Sir.f
Seizofs moustache continued to bristle as he glared at the young man. Raiden remained indifferent. He was a good officer, Seizo thought. Bright. Perhaps too bright. Like that kind of brightness that can often turn cheeky and start bushfires that threaten to burn down several neighbourhoods. A shame that.
eYou are aware of the consequences of ignoring a direct order, arenft you Captain?f
eI am, Sir. I figured that even if I am in a lose-lose situation, it might weigh out if I save the job of my superior officer.f There was still no change in Raidenfs face.
Too bright indeed. Probably thinks too much as well. That often gets in the way of taking orders.
eFine. Get out. Ifll deal with you later.f
Raiden saluted again. eSir,f he said before leaving the room, silently closing the door behind him.
Seizo pinched the bridge of his nose again. He had no intention of storming Yokohama. Not yet, anyway. But when the time came to rebuild the mighty Japanese military, and it will, chances are the Americans wouldnft want to leave.
And he wanted to be prepared for that chance.
There was another knocking at the door.
eWhat is it now?f Seizo growled with annoyance. The door shyly crept open, and an older soldier stepped in this time. He timidly gave a salute as the door closed behind him.
Seizo recognised the man as Iwasaki. His rank eluded him, but he was one of those chubby men that spent most of the time looking busy behind their desk, and Seizo had to admit, Iwasaki did a good job of it. Seizo also knew that Iwasaki did everything that he was told to. Everything.
eYes, Iwasaki?f Seizo sighed. Having Iwasaki show up normally meant someone had some more bad news that they were too afraid to tell in person, which Seizo didnft want at the moment. He already had to figure out a replacement for Raiden.
eGeneral, I was given this letter by a young lady this afternoon...f Iwasaki fumbled with a letter and placed it carefully on Seizofs desk under his suspicious glare. eItfs for you,f Iwasaki added.
Iwasaki remained at attention as Seizo read the letter, and watched in well hidden horror as the Generalfs moustache began to bristle and his eyes widened in growing fury. He eventually finished reading the letter and slammed it down on the desk.
eOh no shefs not!f he roared, reaching for the phone. eIfll be damned if Ifll let my own granddaughter move to America!f
Iwasaki chose to quietly excuse himself from the room, with a nervous salute. It seemed to him that things were Going to Get Personal.
Nanoha made her way down the corridor that lead to her office. The call over the academyfs intercom had confused her and made her slightly worried. She doubted that a Grand Admiral would personally call her to her office so late at night, but if she knew enough about Carrington, it was possible that shefd be sitting behind Nanohafs desk at this very moment. There was also the possibility that some of the unruly students were playing some sort of prank, and if they were theyfd pay dearly for it. Nanoha doesnft like her training sessions to be interrupted, and she had to finish this one an hour early to attend to the call.
But she was prepared for situations where her students might act against her. Apart from Vita, who only looked young, she was the youngest instructor in the academy, and yet she was also the headmistress. Even the oldest students here were also just a few years younger than her. She understood that some students would have difficulty comprehending the fact that such a young woman was in charge of their next few years of education, but she was prepared to demonstrate why she was chosen for this job if necessary.
She reached the end of the corridor, facing the large double oak door with intricate carvings that was the entrance to her office. She felt uncomfortable as she stared at the plaque that read gMajor Nanoha Takamachi – Headmistressh. Shefd tried many times to get the plaque fixed to have her family name first, but every time she was refused. It seemed the Bureau didnft have enough money to write her name properly. She wrapped her knuckle on the thick wood twice; the knock was solid and very clear to hear.
eYes, come in Major,f a voice called from within the room. Nanoha recognized the Grand Admiralfs voice, and in a single movement, opened the door and took a single step into the, clicked her heals together and gave a text book salute.
eMajor Takamachi Nanoha, reporting as requested, Grand Admiral Carrington,f Nanoha said briskly, still saluting. She looked ahead at nothingness, even though directly in front of her, the Admiral was sitting in her rich leather chair, feet resting on her desk with an indifferent and slightly bored look.
eYes, very nice Major,f Carrington said dismissively as she swung her feet off the desk and sat up in the chair. eAt ease.f
Nanoha let her gaze fix on the Admiral now, and it seemed the Admiral preferred it that way. She swivelled the chair gently side to side, obviously finding it comfortable.
eThis is a very nice office,f she said looking around.
And it was. There room was once a single room, but one of the walls was removed to make a casual sitting area where Nanoha could discuss whatever it was she needed to discuss in a comfortable, casual manor. The entire back wall of the office was wall of blinded windows, some blinds were open and the courtyard of the academy was clearly visible below, even in the darkness of night. Her office area was roomy as well. Her rosewood desk was large and spacious and had an old fashioned desk lamp on it that arched over several photographs of friends and family, but mostly Vivio. The wall opposite the lounge room was one massive wall unit, filled with books, files, awards, medals, some decorative weapons and more photographs.
eTherefs only one problem with it though...f Carrington continued and she stopped swivelling the chair to look directly at Nanoha, her hands were interlocked at the fingers and resting on her stomach, eitfs not used.f
eI prefer to be with the students, Mafam,f Nanoha responded crisply.
eThatfs reasonable, I suppose, but this is your office, and youfre headmistress now. Not an ordinary instructor. You should be attending to matters here as well as overseeing your students.f
Carrington flashed an irritated look to Nanoha. eWhat are you doing standing in the doorway for anyway? As I said, this is your office, not mine. You shouldnft have to knock to enter it either.f Nanoha shifted her balance awkwardly, and then moved to close the door. eDo you know why Ifm here Takamachi?f Carrington asked.
Nanoha closed the oak door and slowly walked to her desk in thought. eWould it be my tutoring hours?f She guessed.
Carrington smiled curtly. eClose, but wrong. Itfs your school Takamachi; you can teach how you see fit. Ifm here because I wanted to see how you were fitting in your new command.f
eAt this time of the night?f Nanoha looked slightly confused. The Admiral leant forward onto the desk.
eYes. After all, I couldnft contact you. You wouldnft answer my calls, so I couldnft arrange a more suitable time.f
eIfm terribly sorry Mafam,f Nanoha straightened up again, eIfve been havingc some communication difficulties recently.f
Carrington sighed heavily. eTakamachi, a lie would have been better than twisting the truth,f she said leaning back again. eAnd from what I know, youfve had more than just gsomeh difficulties. I met one of your old pupils in the foyer. Tiana Lanster she called herself.f
Nanoha perked up. eTianafs here?f she asked.
eShe was. I told her to go home and get some rest. I canft have our officers not doing their jobs properly because of fatigue from spending the night being worried about their former colleagues who refuses to the let the world contact them.f This seemed to upset Nanoha.
eIt seems you havenft told them about your promotion, either. The girl was surprised that youfre now running the academy she graduated from.f
e... Ifve been busy...f Nanoha said defensively.
eWefve all been busy, Takamachi. But Lanster still found time to check on her old squad captain.f Carrington waited for a reply, but it never came. Nanoha simply stood there, looking slightly guilty.
eThatfs not the only thing, Takamachi,f Carrington added as she opened a draw and pulled out Nanohafs cell phone. Nanoha was about to protest, but Carrington got in first. eIfve been told that your family has been trying to get in contact with you too. For some months now it seems. Youfll have to forgive me, I needed to make sure.f She started to go into some of the phonefs functions.
eEven though itfs primitive, itfs still a rather ingenious device, donft you think?f the Admiral said absentmindedly. eHere itfs listed all the callfs youfve missed. Your father, sister, your father again for some time, youfre brother, Arisa, Suzuka, your mother, Amy, your mother againc There are several hundred calls here, you know?f
Carrington caught Nanohafs defiant glare, but continued on. eThere are also a few hundred gemailh things in here, too. It seems youfve ran out of memory space though, so therefs every chance there would have been a lot more. Most of them are just asking if youfre okay, telling you to answer the phone and so forth. This onefs interesting though. Itfs from your sister, and reads, gNanoha, where are you? Mumfs had a stroke and is in hospital. Itfs really bad, hurry up and come home.hf
Carrington looked up to Nanoha from the corner of her eyes. Shefd struck a chord. Nanoha had frozen still, and she looked like she just saw the ghost of her mother.
eYoufre lying...f Nanoha managed to say.
eI wish I was,f Carrington said shaking her head, ebut therefs several other messages from your family, saying the same thing. gWhere are you?h gYour motherfs sick.h gCome home.h Have a look for yourself.f Carrington threw the phone to Nanoha, who fumbled with it as she desperately checked through her messages. Tears were starting to form in her eyes as she became increasingly worried.
eNoc this canftcf she muttered as she made her way through the list.
eItfs not in your inbox, probably because it filled up, but Lanster tells me that your motherfs recovered. Shefs out of hospital now. Apparently itfs been three weeks now. So you can stop worrying, Takamachi. Enforcer Harlaown told her it seems.f
Nanoha almost collapsed from relief, and Carrington leaned on the rosewood desk again. eThe last message in there was a month ago, Takamachi. The last message you read was over two months ago. Ifve been trying to contact you for the last week as well.f She stood up, and reached in pocket to get a handkerchief for Nanoha, who was trying to compose herself again and wiping some tears away from her face. She hesitated as she remembered what happened in the lobby, then decided against it and walked to the blinded window behind the desk and peered through to the view of the courtyard below.
eThis place was facing closure three months ago because of that pathetic corruption investigation,f Carrington continued. eMajor Cloud was forced to resign when several officers pinned her for corruption, though Ifm sure that you and I both know she wasnft capable of such an act. No one thought we had anyone left to fill her spot. Thatfs when I suggested you fill it, Takamachi. A lot of people thought I was crazy for doing that. Youfre young, you have a daughter to attend to, and youfre inexperiencedcf Carrington glanced back to Nanoha, who had composed herself again and was listening to the Admiral attentively, although her eyes were still noticeably puffed and red.
eWell, we all know how much truth is in that last statement,f Carrington said with a smile, which Nanoha weakly returned. eRegardless of what they said, I believed you could do it. Youfre a great instructor, and every student you teach either becomes a valuable soldier, or a trustworthy leader. Youfre one of the hardest workers Ifve known and you treat your job like a passion. I believed you could save this school and be its headmistress, so I promoted you and gave you command. A lot of people told me that I was making a mistake, and that I should have just closed the academy.f Carrington paused for several moments in though. She turned to look at Nanoha again, concerned. eDid I make a mistake, Takamachi? Can you do the job?f she asked.
eWhat?f Nanoha stammered, taken aback by the Admiralfs question. eNo, of course not! I can do this!f
eThatfs what I hope, but I have doubts now. Why havenft you let anyone contact you for the last two months?f
Nanoha shied away. eItfs personal,f she stated.
eIfm sorry, Mafam, I canft tell you! Itfs really personal, but Ifm on top of it now! I can do this, I promise!f
Carrington sighed and walked to Nanoha. eIfve heard of personal issues getting in the way of work, Takamachi, but itfs worrisome when personal issues get in the way of personal issues.f She placed a hand on Nanohafs shoulder. eI do believe you can still do this job though. Hell, I even believe that one day youfll make Chief of Staff. Maybe youfll even take my job. But before you can do anything, you need to clear yourself of this issue of yours.f
Nanoha was going to reply, but hesitated and read into the last few words further. eWhat do you mean?f Nanoha asked.
eIfll give you an option Takamachi. You can take two weeks leave. Sort out your issues, see your family and meet with your friends. Enjoy yourself for a change. This place can go two weeks without a headmistress.f
Nanoha contemplated it. eWhatfs the other choice?f she asked eventually.
eI suspend you, force you to see your family, meet your friends and donft let you back on active duty until youfve sorted your issue.f
Nanoha smiled wearily. eThatfs not much of a choice, Mafam.f
eReally? I thought it was. The first one sees you back here in two weeks. The other could see you back in a year. And you donft get paid either.f Carrington added with a grin and Nanoha laughed.
eOkay, Ifll take the leave. When does it start?f
eNow. Go home Takamachi, your daughter is lonely. I called your house and your daughter told me to tell you, gstop being a bad girl and have dinner at home,hf Carrington anticipated Nanohafs smile. eShefs a sweet girl.f
eWell, I should leave you to prepare for your leave then, Major,f Carrington said as she turned for the door. She hesitated before she reached it. eOh, I forgot to mention. It seems that Testarossa Harlaown is taking care of your daughter for now. She has something to tell you about some sort of reunion.f
eThank you,f Nanoha said. She wondered what it could be about as she saluted again. eGood night, Grand Admiral Carrington.f
eOh, and Takamachi!f Carrington said before she reached the grand oak doors. She retrieved something from her pocket. eI think itfs best if you kept things like this hidden in better places, not lying in your desk drawer.f
The object was passed carefully to Nanoha who was now standing behind her desk next to her chair. She caught it looked at it curiously. It was a black cubical box made of tough but smooth plastic about the size of her hand. The edges were lined in a red metal strip and the Administration Bureau insignia was made of gold embroidery on the lid which took half of the box. It also made Nanohafs heart leap.
eThere are some... exotic materials used to make that, Takamachi. You could get into a lot of trouble, seeing as you had it made without the proper authorisation,f Carrington said. eWhofs it for?f
Nanoha hesitated. From what she knew, she was in a lot of trouble already. eMy daughter...f
Nanoha was surprised to see the Admiral smile. eThen youfd best get back to her,f she said before leaving the office.