: A Black Eyepatch
This is ridiculous. It used to be that you could be out of commission for an entire disc and your main character spot would be waiting for you when you got back. I wasn’t even gone two months and I have to share. Bah.
At any rate, it was as Keiko suspected. During her speech, I got an alarm signal originating from the Pavilion of Air. Logically, you would think that would be a matter for the security on site to deal with, but it was originating from the deepest chambers, where the core of the Lattice Shield System was located.
I should explain, that during this time, myself and Keiko weren’t acting as Guardians. Though Keiko had retrieved all of the aegii, the fact was that President Dallgun was still dead and the Headmaster was unaccounted for. It’d still be a bit longer before the Guardians were a functioning organization again, so for that time being, Keiko and I were running our planet. Somehow, I found myself as head of security, among other roles.
This is all declassified information now, so I can say that the Lattice Shield System was fueled by the radiance of Maiden candidates, along with the Divine Maiden herself. Beneath the Pavilion of Air was where we kept the capsules that siphoned the radiance from the women and the machines that turned it into the shield that protected Neudaiz from SEED falls. Naturally, neither Keiko nor myself were particularly thrilled with this arrangement, but what can you do when you inherit a clusterfudge like that?
On my way down, I found the intruder. Wasn’t particularly difficult; after all, he had never been there before and Communion buildings resemble a maze. I always found it poor design myself, but, meh. The intruder was none other than the wanted criminal, Ethan Waber.
What can I say about Ethan Waber. He had become something of a phenom among the Guardians since he joined, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, he became a rogue. Well, later I came to understand his reasons, but I first encounters were…um…not good. So naturally, when I found the red headed lout in a secure area, I wasn’t too eager to give him the benefit of the doubt.
”You!” I said, quite astutely, I think.
”Launcher!” he said, whipping around to face me across the long hallway that separated us. I…can’t say with 100% certainty which of us drew his weapon first. I want to believe it was him, but when I look back at the scene, I can’t deny that it might have been me. Either way, he took out his double saber and I took out my Save the Maiden within milliseconds of each other and we charged down the hallway at each other.
The photon cages on our weapons met with a distinctive crash, like the sound of glass clattering. We met with equal momentum and neither of us gave up an inch from the initial point of contact; we were deadlocked. “What’s your reason for being here?” I asked.
”I could ask you the same thing!” he said.
”What? That doesn’t make any sense,” I replied. I stepped off to the side to break the deadlock and let Waber stumble forward. Taking the opening, I thrust at his back as he stumbled. He recovered quickly though, and turned his momentum around to parry my rapier thrust with a slash from his double saber.
”Oh, right,” he said. He thrust with his double saber, and I batted it away with a light swipe from my rapier. We went back and forth like that for a while, causing the sounds of glass shattering to echo in the halls. I have to say, I was in rare swashbuckling form that day. It would have looked like an elegant duel to anyone who had the privilege to watch.
I should confess, I wasn’t taking the fight that seriously. Yes, the Communion had put him on terrorist watch, but that was under Rutsu’s tenure, and quite frankly, anyone that pisses off Rutsu is an ally of mine. That, and in the fight, Waber just didn’t have any killer intent. To him, I must have just been an obstacle that popped up at an inopportune time. So, I never cast any technics in that skirmish.
”This is pointless, we’re at a stalemate,” I eventually said after one clash of blades that forced us both to back up. “Tell me seriously, what have you come here for?”
His grip on his weapon relaxed, but he still had it pointed at me. So, I lowered my rapier and relaxed my posture. Seeing that, he exhaled and did the same. “I want to see Karen, er, I mean, Mirei.”
”Uh huh…” I said. Naturally, I knew of the replacement act we had pulled involving the Mikuna twins. I still say that was the most laughably contrived scheme ever. “Why would you want to do that?”
”Huh? Oh, because…” He couldn’t quite finish the thought, but the bewildered expression on his face told me what I needed to know.
”Oh. …Fine then.”
”Wait, huh?” he asked just as I put my weapon away.
”You want to see her right? I can tell you’re lost, so follow me,” I said. I had already started to walk down the hall, but I could hear his confused gurgling from behind me, so I paused and looked over my shoulder. “Problem?”
”You’re going to take me to her just like that?” he asked.
I regarded him for a few moments longer over my shoulder, and then turned to continue walking. “Why not? You barged into a heavily guarded, secure facility to see the woman you love. You’re hardly one to talk about rationale.”
“…All right,” he said. He stowed his weapon in his nanotransformer and followed after me. Just like that, we were on a leisurely stroll after a spirited clash of whirling blades. I don’t think he had quite finished switching gears, because he was keeping a healthy distance from me as we walked.
”Why did you leave the Guardians?” I asked. He turned to me with a puzzled expression and I said, “just killing time.”
”It’s probably different for an Aegis, but for a regular Guardian, there’s a lot of places I can’t go. I need the freedom I have a rogue, at least for now,” he said. “It started when I was on a security job on Parum, with Leo…” Eh…he told me about how he got blackmailed into trying to assassinate the President, blah, blah, this is really someone else’s story to tell. I believed him, for the most part.
”We’re here,” I said as we came upon the door to the chamber. I opened it up and in we went. As I described, there were capsules hooked up to machines, most of which had a newman woman inside. Immediately, Ethan’s eyes darted around the room, and he found who he was looking for. He darted to the middle and pressed against the glass capsule with Mirei…Karen, inside.
”Is she okay?” he asked as I walked up behind him.
”I can’t say definitively, but from what I understand about this system, she, and all of the other women here, should be fine,” I said. I’ve been told that I have a long winded way of answering yes or no questions. I don’t see it. “However, as you can see, she’s comatose. You can’t speak with-“
And just then, so much bullocks; Erra started to wake up in her capsule. Her murmurs were quiet, but I’d heard the murmuring of a sleepy woman many, many times by that point, so I picked up on it immediately. I peered over into the glass, and sure enough, her eyes were opening and her arms were scraping around in her confinement. “…The hell?” I said.
”Sh-she’s waking up!” Waber said.
”Yes…” I was rather dumbfounded myself, so I didn’t give that statement of obvious fact the witty retort it deserved. Instead, I just hit a button on the panel to pop the lid of the capsule. Erra rose, still seated, and looked around. Immediately, her eyes found Waber.
And then there was some lovey dovey nonsense, I wasn’t really paying attention. …Well, I say that, but looking back, I think I may have been a little jealous. After all, the woman I loved was still lost to me. …Nah. At any rate, after a few minutes of that, I cleared my throat for attention.
”I hate to ruin the mood, but I feel like I should remind you that you’re still an intruder, Waber,” I said.
”No, he’s not,” Erra said. She rushed to get out of the capsule, but having been comatose for so long, her legs gave way as soon as she put them on the floor. Naturally, Waber caught her by the arm for support. Damned white knights. “Ethan is welcome on Communion grounds, if I have any say in it!”
”Yeah…about that,” I said. “Maybe you should sit back down before I bring you up to speed on recent events.” I told her about Keiko’s coup. It should be appreciated just how critical it was that the situation be handled well. I believe Keiko covered this already, but it’s worth reiterating. Neudaiz, and Gurhal, are loyal to the Divine Maiden before any government; they’re stupid in that way. …Oh hell, is that going in? Blah, whatever, I’m retired anyway.
If Erra wouldn’t give her blessing to Keiko’s actions, then her reign would go straight to hell. It was absolutely imperative to get her on our side. As soon as we returned from Parum, I had already been thinking about what the best way to handle the situation when it arose, would be. I confess, I briefly considered assassinating her and just calling it a day. It gave me that much of a headache.
”And that’s where we’re left now,” I said, once I reached the end of my summary.
”You just usurped the Communion?!” she said.
”To be fair, Rutsu was kind of a douche,” I said. I never liked that guy. Though, if I knew he would get his arse whupped by a sixteen year old girl, some of that loathing would have been pity instead.
”It’s true,” Waber said with a nod.
”I understand how it looks, but I need you to understand, that the girl sitting on the throne right now isn’t a person with any lust for power. She did what she did because she genuinely believed it was the right thing to do,” I said. Did I mention how important it was that this worked out in our favor? “If you give her your support, I honestly believe that you will not regret it.”
…Yeah, so then I got down on my hands and knees. I said, “so I’m asking, please, help her.”
Erra was quiet. I felt like she and Waber were trading looks, but I had my head squarely pointed at the ground, so I couldn’t say for sure. “It’s weird seeing you like this, Aegis Launcher,” she said. I had to suppress a smirk. That was my plan after all. My reputation as a Guardian, unsurprisingly, was one of unshaken conviction and undying pride. Other people may not have used such romantic words for it, but screw them, they write their own memoirs. Anyway, I figured it was a good enough cause to cash in the capital I had built up as a result to impress upon Erra how serious the situation was.
I’m a magnificent bastard.
”I’m still not sure about everything, but Neudaiz still needs the Lattice Shield System, doesn’t it?” she asked. I hesitated. The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes,’ of course, but I can imagine how Waber felt.
”It does,” he said. His voice broke slightly, but he said it resolutely. “I’m glad, I got to see you again, Karen.” And then some more lovely dovey nonsense. Blah, blah, blah, no one cares.
”I’ll leave it in the empress’ hands for now, Aegis Launcher. Please come get me as soon as you can spare the shield,” she said. I nodded and rose to my feet.
With that, Waber and I left. I’m not sure why, but on our way out, I asked him, “are you all right?” Again, it may have just been sympathy for kindred spirit. …Nah.
”Yeah…I mean, I just wanted to be sure she was safe,” he said with a heavy sigh.
”Shame I was there though. If you two had been alone, you could have had a proper reunion,” I said. That got him sputtering. Classic virgin. “I’m joking. Seriously though, what are you planning on doing now?”
”I’m on my way to Parum now. I need to find Laia,” he said. My raised eyebrow was reply enough, and he went on, “in the president’s last message, he said he wanted her to become the new President.” My eyebrow arched further. “I know, I know, I thought the same thing at first, but I think it’s actually a good idea now.”
”Well…that does save me the trouble of guilt tricking Eustace into doing it. Do you have any leads?”
”I’m hearing that she’s holed up in Rozenom, but it’s just a rumor. It’s the best I have though, so it’s worth checking out,” he said. His expression lit up and I had to take a step back when he stepped forward with his arm flailing. “Hey, you wanna come?”
”When the hell did we become such good buddies?” I asked. “Bah. Regardless, I can’t. I have my hands full here on Neudaiz.”
His flailing hand calmed and he extended it to me for a handshake. “Thanks for your help, Aegis Launcher!” I stared at his open hand for a few moments, then lightly met it with my own for a light, but polite handshake. “I’m glad we’re on the same team now!”
”Hey, by the way, where’d you get that eyepatch?” he asked. Ah, my eyepatch. It was a great accessory. It was held over my left eye by three thick straps and fit over the shape of my face like a second skin.
”It was a gift from a sweet huney,” I said.