!OQs5gd.aUs 2014/12/21 (Sun) 15:34 No. 183708 ▼
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-0-0-0- Prologue -0-0-0-
Thank the Saint for whoever thought to make the elevator's walls reflective mirrors. You make sure your black Enforcer's uniform is immaculate as the elevator climbs towards the admiral's floor. After all, it isn't every day that a newly commissioned officer fresh out of training is summoned by the top brass for a private briefing.
With a final ?ding? the elevator arrives at the admiral's floor. The admiral's secretary looks up from her work when the doors open and you step out. "Enforcer Avalon?" she asks with a professional, polite smile, half query, half rhetorical. You glance at her shoulders - yup, she outranks you. Her name badge reads ?Carina?.
"Yes ma?am," you snap to attention and salute. For some reason that brings a light chuckle to Carina's face as she returns the gesture.
"The admiral will see you now," she waves you in while pressing a button beneath her desk.
You make your way to the admiral's office. The plaque on the door reads ?Adm. C. Harlaown?. You steel yourself, take a deep breath, and open the door.
"Enforcer Avalon reporting, sir!" You salute.
"At ease," he salutes and offers his hand. The man's handshake is firm and to the point. "Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea?"
You freeze up for a moment, realizing that in all your training, you have never been taught whether admirals offering tea was something to be taken at face value and accepted or whether it was a polite gesture meant to be refused. Harlaown sees your momentary indecision and laughs. "There will come a point in your career when accepting or declining someone's offer of tea can be a very serious political decision. Luckily for you, you're much too young for that."
"Then I'll happily have some tea, sir," you nod and finally sit down.
"That's quite enough with the ?sir?s. Relax a little; you're not in boot camp anymore."
Right on cue, there is a knock on the door and a moment Carina enters, setting down a pair of steaming cups on the admiral's desk before retreating gracefully. The tea is unlike any you have seen before. Instead of red or black, it is green, of all colors. There is neither milk nor sugar to go with it. You decide to imitate what Harlaown does with it, which is to lift the cup to his lips and take a sip of it plain.
"Green tea," he explains. "I daresay you'll have plenty of chances to taste the real thing where you're going. Then you can come back and tell me all about how this stuff is a cheap export brand." His voice turns from pleasantries to business. "Comes from this world. Recognize it?" A holographic projection of a planet flickers into being above the desk, rotating serenely about its snow-capped poles, a brilliant blue orb in the darkness of space.
"Unadministered world number 97," you reply automatically, recognizing the outlines of its continents in the middle of the oceans that cover most of the planet. "Homeworld of my aerial combat instructor during officer training."
"Then I don't have to worry about your combat competency, at least. It says here that you learned the language of her homeworld. Self-taught, no less. Impressive," Harlaown says with a straight face, having pulled up your service record and personnel files. Your cheeks heat up as blood surges into them. You thought you had left that hormone-ridden crush-filled phase of your young life safely behind now that you were commissioned - apparently not.
"Yes. Though I'm probably rusty; I haven't used it in a while."
"Better than nothing, at least." Harlaown looks up at you. "Have you deduced your mission yet?"
You sit up a little straighter. "Obviously I'm being dispatched to World 97, probably a covert operation of some sort, don't let magic leak out to the locals, and all that. As for why?" you take a sip of tea. "I have theories about Lost Logia, but the information's classified - beyond my own clearance, I mean, certainly not beyond yours, general."
The admiral laughs at that, a friendly and understanding laugh. "You'll soon discover in your line of work that success, or even survival, depends on knowing things you aren't supposed to know. Off the record then, go on."
"Around twenty years ago, there were a number of incidents, to put it one way, involving Lost Logia on World 97. They were all supposedly retrieved, but my guess is that one of them was dormant and didn't get picked up. Until now, when it starts acting up again, and the TSAB wants a team to retrieve it on the quiet without letting the locals being any the wiser about it."
Harlaown looks impressed. "That's about as close to the truth as you can get. I'm starting to understand why you were recommended for this mission."
"Recommended, sir?" You raise an eyebrow, wondering which of your superiors? attention you could have possibly gotten.
"You either have a guardian angel or really pissed someone off, I still can't decide which. This is the sort of mission that can make or break careers, and it's definitely not the sort that you usually send out a rookie for, even if she did graduate top of her class. No offense intended."
"None taken, sir."
"Good. The rest of your orders will be uploaded into your Device." He checks the time. "Report to the Asura immediately. Dismissed."
The Asura is a space-faring and dimension-faring vessel, of a slightly outdated design but still useful for routine surveillance patrols. On board you meet your fellow Enforcer and partner for this mission, Captain Prius, who has quite a few more years of experience than you do. The woman seems friendly and jovial enough, apparently not minding the fact that she has been assigned a rookie to be her partner for this mission.
While the Asura sails across the sea of dimensions, you and Prius have some time to study your orders and come up with a plan. A poster-sized map of Japan has been tacked up to the wall of the cabin that you two have been assigned. Marked on the map are two locations of interest - Uminari City, where the previous battles for the Lost Logia took place (and remained miraculously hidden from the rest of the population, somehow), and somewhere in the middle of nowhere in inland Japan, where the mysterious magical energy signature has been detected.
"The energy signature's all wrong," Prius says with a frown. "There are many types of Lost Logia, but they are all immensely powerful magical artifacts that should be giving off a much stronger signal than this."
"And it doesn't match anything in your database either," you add, having just finished the analysis on your Intelligent Device - an artificial intelligence designed to assist mages (like you) in utilizing magic and casting spells, on top of all the functions a computer can perform, all fitting neatly in a tiny compact form which in your case is a disc smaller than your palm that you wear around your neck like a pendant. You decide not to ask where Prius got a top-secret database of Lost Logia that she isn't supposed to have.
"No precedents to guide us, then. We'll have to wing it as we go," she concludes. "Speaking of which, what's your idea for insertion? The Asura's going to enter orbit soon."
"The standard procedure would be personal cross-dimension transfer into Uminari City, meet up with the friendly contacts there, and see if we can get any new intelligence from the ground," you reply, almost reciting the words.
"But, if the Lost Logia has a self-defence program, or Saint forbid, there's a mage trying to activate it, they'll pick up our arrival for sure. In which case, we should consider transferring out right on top of the signature's coordinates to get the drop on them."
"Go in hot, spells blazing? I like the sound of that," Prius nods.
"Aren't you supposed to be the calm voice of experienced caution against my rookie tendency to rush in and get myself killed?"
"Am I? I must have missed the memo," she says completely straight, then bursts into laughter at the end.