Mysterious Encounters

 

Shinji Ikari stared at the payphone handset. Like all the others, this one was useless, all lines unavailable. Out of habit, he hung it back on the hook, and grabbed his things.

Stepping out of the booth, the distant rumblings were louder, closer than they had been when he had got off the train. He checked the postcard that gave the very vague instructions, scrawled around the seriously off-duty photo of the woman who should have been there to meet him, then consulted his watch.

Well, there was nothing more to do. He had seen the signs at the station for the public shelters. Might just as well head back and wait this all out, whatever "this" was. He looked down the silent, deserted street to check the signs.

And there, some way away, in the middle of the road, a girl, looking younger than him, in what looked like a rather formal school uniform, a white jacket, and calf length white skirt.

The fluttering of a flock of pigeons from the power lines, disturbed by the ever closer rumbles, distracted him for an instant; and when he looked again, she had gone.


It had started the night before, in a strange dream of the sea at night, and strange fires both above and beneath the waves. A monstrous presence, a desperate attempt to contain it, then wounded headlong flight into darkess. There had been an odd atmosphere about the dream that had left Nanoha Takamachi distracted all morning, while she had been helping around her family's coffee shop by the railway station.

An errand to run across town had been a welcome break, out in the fresh air, under a sky that gave at least occasional glimpses of sun; and then, on the way back, the alert sirens had sounded.

She paused a moment, and then made her decision. She would hurry back, to the shelter near the coffee shop, rather than have everyone worry about her while she took refuge in a shelter out here. There was a short-cut through the park that would get her close to her destination, through an overgrown area of trees.

Under their crowding branches, the air was still and opressive, the only sound her feet on the gravel path, and there was a sense of something lurking, but she shook that off as a silly thing for littler girls than herself. Then a feeling like she had walked into something, that brought her up short as if she had. Was there something?

She looked around. Nothing. Just the pounding of her heart. She was about to move, when the feeling came again. Something about a small, almost overgrown path off to the left, ahead.

"Can you hear me? Can you help me?"

Not a voice in her ears, but in her head. Disorientation swept her, until she realised what it was about this place. It was just like where her dream had ended.

Trotting now, she headed down the side path.

"Help me!"

The not-voice came again, stronger. And there, in a wider piece of the path, in a patch of sunlight, there was an animal curled. Not knowing why, she stopped, and knelt down beside it. A bright little face looked up at her, and climbed wearily into her hands. Long and creamy coloured, it looked like a ferret, and one with a red bauble on its collar.

"Can you hear my voice?"

It was clearly the animal talking into her head, and not her ears.

"You who have heard me, please lend me your strength," it asked, "The time left, the danger, it may already be too late."

As if to emphasise that, the sound of distant rumbling came distinct on a rush of breeze, and in the gap between the trees, in the distance, a flight of aerodynes, retreating steadily before a giant thing.

"What's going on? What is that thing?"

Nanoha began to hurry back down the path, intent on home and safety.

"You have the proper talent for this. Will you lend me your strength?"

"Talent?"

"I have come here from another world in search of something; but I don't think I shall be able to this all just by myself. That's why... If anyone with the proper talent could find it in themselves to assist me, I shall repay you, I promise. I want you to use the power I carry with me. "

The ferret held up its head, presenting the jewel at its throat.

"Use this magical power."

"Magic?"

The sounds of missiles and artillery, and the rumbling of giant footsteps were getting uncomfortably close.

"I promise to repay you, so please?"

"This isn't really the time to be talking about that, is it? What am I supposed to do."

"Take this device, hold it, close your eyes, and repeat after me..."

She grasped the red stone, which had come free of the collar. It was surprisingly warm to the touch, She clasped it in her left hand, while keeping the ferret in the crook of her right arm.

"I who have accepted this mission...upon the ancient contract, command you to release your power..."

The stone seemed to pulse in her hand, and even though her fist was closed about it, and her eyes were shut, there was the feeling of light shining from it.

"Wind in the sky,... stars in the heavens,..."

Redness was swallowing the universe, and the stone pulsed through it like the heart of the world.

"And a resolute heart... beats within my breast!"

The world was dissolving around her, but the mantra seemed unstoppable.

"This magic in my hand! Raging Heart, Set Up!"

The cosmos held its breath, it seemed.

"Stand by. Ready. Set up."

The Raging Heart spoke, and light flowed from her hand into the sky.

"Focus, and picture the tools you need in your mind. The conduit for your magic, the form of a magical staff, and a strong armour, to protect your body."

But her imagination was blank.

"There's no way you can expect me do do that, just like this!" she protested. But if she had to, then she had to,

She had seen magical girls on the TV. She knew roughly how a staff should look. And as for an outfit, well, perhaps something like her formal school uniform. That would have to do for the moment.

She felt herself falling into the gem as if the world was turned inside out around her, and then back again. The fountain of light that poured from her hand became solid, a magical staff, carrying the Raging Heart in its crook; and her clothes unwove and reconstituted themselves around her, more substantial and yet more comfortable than before.

"It's a success!"

"Uh..." She paused, uncertain, looking down at herself. "What's with this outfit?"

And a strange bird-like head loomed over her.

She took a step back, raising the staff.

A great green-black hand was reaching down for her; and light was gathering in its palm.

She closed her eyes, and held the staff up to ward it away.

"Protection."

Light flared through her closed eyelids, and there was a roaring noise, sounding, as it felt, like she was holding an umbrella up against a waterfall.

It went on and on, until a series of detonations rang out from high above. She opened one eye, cautiously, to see the giant had turned its attention to the planes that were buzzing about it, and firing their missiles.

The middle of the town didn't seem like a good place to be doing this sort of thing —either what she was doing, or what the Self-Defense Forces were doing. Even as she watched a plane was struck by a lance of light from the creature's hand, and began to tumble from the sky, looking like it would impact somewhere near the station.

"Flash Move."

The scenery blurred around her as she took just one step, and then she halted, almost by the station. The stricken plane was heading for one of the office blocks. And there was a boy, standing on the pavement opposite, just looking at her; not noticing what was happening, not aware of the imminent impact over his head.


Shinji became aware of a growing roaring above, and then as he looked up, an explosion of impact as a downed plane struck near the top of the building he was standing near, sending slabs of glass and concrete tumbling. Useless instinct drove him to hide his head under his arms, as he waited for the worst.

"Wide Area Protection."

A mechanical voice, like the announcer on the train, but speaking English; and the sound like a landslide, punctuated with the shattering of glass, but nothing was actually falling on him. Peering between his forearms, he saw the wreckage and rubble sliding off a surface marked by a slowly rotating ring of cherry-pink light.

"This … isn't a … safe … place …, senpai."

Speaking between gasps for breath, the girl he had just seen was now standing behind him, holding a crook staff that was alive with more of the pink light.

Around them, the debris continued to descend as the giant strode on past, dogged by the swarming planes; and amidst the tumult, the sound of squaling tires, as a blue car screeched to a halt beside them.

"I'm..." the woman who was driving flung the passenger door open and spoke, cutting short in surprise.

It took Shinji a few moments to realise that this woman in black dress and shades was the one whose photo he had been carrying. She in her turn appeared taken aback by what she saw.

"Go!" the girl urged, as a barrage of missiles struck the giant, sending a rain of shrapnel down onto her shield. "I'll manage."

At that, Shinji scrambled into the car, dragging the door shut, as with a grinding of gears, the car spun around.


Miles away, in an underground redout, a red phone rang, and was picked up by a white-gloved hand.

"Ikari. Continue."

A woman's voice at the far end sounded tinnily.

"Spikes of AT Field activity have been detected. Pattern cerise."

Ikari's features hardened almost imperceptibly, as he continued to gaze impassively at the monitor displays showing the almost continuous bombardment that the Angel was receiving, artillery, air-to-surface missiles, and even one of the JSSDF's limited supply of heavy cruise missiles.

“It's the AT Field, isn't it?” Kozo Fuyutsuki, who had been standing silently behind him, spoke to confirm their understanding.

“Indeed. Conventional weapons are useless against an Angel.”

But there were too many outsiders here, the boys in green uniforms playing with their expensive toys, for him to voice his disquiet.


With the tide of battle retreating, and the bystanders seen to safety, Nanoha let the protection shield drop. She was panting with effort, like she had just run a mile; and could hardly keep her eyes open.

"Rest, now. I can keep a barrier around us."

The ferret was bounding across the road toward her, while she leaned on her staff.

"You have done well, for a beginner; and when you have recovered, I will continue the chase."

"No way! I've started this -- I want to see it through to the end, now.

"Takamachi Nanoha, pleased to meet you."

"Yuuno Scrya." and he nodded his head.

A green circle expanded from under him, surrounding them both; and Nanoha could feel the web of energy surround them. With a sigh of relief, she relaxed, letting the Raging Heart dissolve back to a gem in her hand; her normal clothes return, and was asleep before she had finished curling to the ground.


Gendo Ikari looked up at the assorted brass on the observation deck above him. They had loosed everything in their armoury against this Angel, all to no avail; and while they might look down at him literally, as well as figuratively, the moment was now his.

"Are you certain you can defeat it?" one of them asked.

“Nerv exists for that very purpose.”

There could be no thinking otherwise, not in these circumstances. He kept his expression neutral as the officers departed, leaving the stage to him. This was the day long anticipated.

When the military had gone, Kozo asked the painfully necessary question, under the circumstances as he knew them.

“Even the UN army has been brought to its knees. What are you going to do?”

“I will activate Lævateinn.”

The mask slipped, and he allowed himself a wry smile.

“Lævateinn? But we have no wielder.”

“No problem. One will soon be arriving.”


Shinji was feeling completely lost in this vast underground maze that Misato had brought him to -- and, at times, he had the feeling that she was too. He tried to let the sights and the events of the day keep him distracted, not always with success, from the encounter that must surely lie ahead.

After lots of down, up, moving walkways and echoing corridors, they were finally travelling in a surprisingly normal lift. carrying down into the bowels of the Earth.

He braced himself as the lift stopped, and the doors opened; but it was a stranger who stood there, a severe looking woman with bleached blonde hair, to whom Misato immediately deferred.

“The boy in question, I presume.”

She hardly gave him a glance as she spoke.

“Right. According to the Marduk Report, he's the Third.” Misato confirmed.

“Nice to meet you.” Finally she took notice of him.

He grunted the necessary reply, then turned back to reading the fat file of briefing documents he had been carrying, letting the grown-ups talk.


Finally the lift stopped, and they stepped out into darkness that was absolute. The space felt vast, but there was no light of the sky above.

As the lift doors shut behind them, and his eyes began to adjust, he thought he could see a faint purple spark in the unknowable distance.

And then, a cluster of spots fired up, casting a bright pool of light around a night black plinth, the blade and hilt of a sword standing out of its top surface. And at the guard, an amethyst, the size of his fist, glowing with more than the reflected light.

The manual... He flipped through the pages, trying to see if the mystery was explained there.

“You won't find this in the manual,” said the bleached blonde, dismissively. “This is the Ultimate All-Purpose Decisive Battle Weapon developed by humanity. The Armed Device. That is Lævateinn.

“Its construction carried out in complete secrecy, it is our — humanity's — final trump.”

The crunch could not be far away now.

“This is my father's work?” he had to ask.

“Correct.”

An amplified voice; and a figure silhouetted against a brightly lit window high above where they stood.

“…It's been a while.”

He could not tell the tone of voice, and the word “…Father.” just dropped from his lips. He could not bear to look at the man.

“—Sortie.”

A stern word, the word of a man not used to anything but instant compliance.

“Sortie!! Isn't Bardiche still being frozen?" Misato again seemed as lost as he was "No, you plan on using Lævateinn?”

“There's no other way,” Ritsuko's voice was resigned.

“Now, wait! Fate can't do it yet, can she? We don't have a wielder!”

“One has just been delivered.”

“…Are you serious?”

“…Shinji Ikari.”

Like he was in a dream, he looked at her. "Yes?" he asked

“You will take it up.”

“But it even took Fate Testarossa seven months just to activate her Device. This child just got here — it's impossible for him to do it!”

“All he has to do is take it up, and speak the incantation. We don't expect more than that.

“Right now, intercepting the Angel is our top priority. To that end, if someone seems to have the slightest chance of working with the Device, we have no choice but to put in their hands.”

Shinji shook his head. These people were talking about him, as if he was not there. He would ignore them, in return.

“Father… Why did you send for me?”

“You know exactly why.”

“So, you're saying I should take up that sword and go fight that thing?”

“Precisely.”

He broke into a tirade that had long been bottled up inside.

“Why me?”

“Because no one else can.”

No, this was not possible, he could not do this.

"If you are going to take up the sword, do it quickly. If not, then depart." he father spoke with familiar contempt.

A tremor struck the hall, and another.

“Shinji-kun, we don't have any time.”

"Take up the sword."

No, he could not do this. What had he come here for? He had torn up the letter, and yet he could not escape the dread fascination.

“Fuyutsuki.” his father's voice, somewhat off-mike, "Go wake up Fate."

He could not make out the reply, but the matter of factness of his father's next words chilled him

“She isn't dead.”

Activity burst out around him, as Ritsuko barked out orders to reset systems.

A creaking of casters announced the arrival of a hospital trolley, being pushed out from the lift. Lying inert on the thin mattress, a frail looking girl, pallid, with long blonde hair, wearing a black leotard and bandages. She looked distantly from the one strange, red eye that was not bandaged.

In obvious pain, she slowly pulled herself into a seating position.

Another tremor. Closer, more intense.

The trolley, slight off balance, tipped, tumbling the girl to the floor, where she lay, inert.

Shinji too tumbled. Lying on his back, winded, he could see the lighting gantry descending upon him. Once again he put his hands over his head, anticipating the agony.

"Panzer Geist."

A harsh metallic voice spoke, and a beam of lilac light shot forth from the gem in the sword's hilt, blossoming into a whirling triangle, from which the gantry bounced, harmlessly.

"Impossible!" Ritsuko was clearly as shocked as he was. "There had been no activation. It should not have been able to cast."

Shinji picked himself up, and looked at the one who had been neglected in all this -- the injured girl, sprawled clumsily on the ground. He dashed over to her, and raised her in his arms. There was almost no weight to her -- but the shuddering surely indicated that she was in more pain than she was showing, and there was wet warmth in his hand.

He looked at the sword, then at the girl's blood on his hand.

He was in their trap. He just had to give up, go with the flow.

“—I'll do it. I will take up the sword.”

He let Ritsuko lead him to the plinth.

"Draw the sword," she commanded.

He had to stand on tiptoe to grab the hilt, but the blade then came easily free.

"Now, repeat the activation after me..."

"Spirit of balance and light I call upon you for strength in this time of need."

The sword felt light, almost alive in his hands.

"Walk beside me and help to guide me on the path of light and battle against those that would bring harm."

A flood of rainbow colours filled his vision

"Enfolding me in your protection."

Warmth enfolded him, and he felt a subtle weight upon his shoulders

"Lævateinn, Activate!"

"Anfang."

He was holding the white hilt of the sword with heavy black gauntlets; and his school clothes were replaced with something vaguely military in black with some silver flashings; and a full length black cloak.

A series of grindings and booming above signalled a series of heavy bulkheads opening overhead.

"Launch!" Misato took over command at the end.

"Jahwohl. Adlerflug."

Without any volition on his part, Shinji found himself soaring up, up and then out into the last of the evening light.

And facing the same giant creature that he had seen earlier that day.


Write to the author at — webmaster at steve gilham dot com.

Material Copyright © 2001–2007 Steve Gilham