Friday, February 28, 2014

Insert Bundles of Fluff Here


The white cat clambered out of the tangle of silken sheets, his emotions still racing but slowly being replaced by bafflement. He peered down, unable to resist the cat urge to wash himself. He then shook, and jumped off the bed and onto the rug.

And then there was a Librarian in the room. Something was wrong; he could feel it. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind and school his breathing to calm.

Then he felt it; an overwhelming pull, as if someone had thrown a rope around his spirit and was yanking him backwards. Almost as soon as he realised it, he was a cat again, the edge of the bed a foot above his head.
The violet eyes blinked, then scowled, and he transformed back. Now he was certain something bad was going on, he turned to the door, but realised two things before he put a hand on the handle.

One, he remembered what he had been doing, and his eyes returned to the bed. There was a scrabbly movement underneath the pile of sheets, and a squeak of alarm; he tugged back the silk, and there lay a beautiful black bicolour cat, with four clear white socks and large round mint-green eyes.

"Meow!" said the cat.


His jaw hanging open, he forgot himself and the world heightened again as he was pulled back to feline form. With a grunt he changed back for the third time, and scooped up the cat on the bed, who purred and rubbed her head on his bare chest.

"Ah…" Adrian thought, remembering the second thing…and just what he had been doing. Going a lovely shade of raspberry he glanced down and realised he was stark naked.

He let the cat jump back onto the bed and pulled on the nearest, cleanest clothes. He tossed a ubiquitous trenchcoat over an arm, picked up the cat again, and headed out of his room.

"Holy…!" He saw a lot more cats as he hurried down the corridors, and more worryingly, piles of clothes…he had a slowly-developing idea of where to go, hoping he was wrong…he stepped over and wove around cats as he went towards the tech labs.

A kind of vague pop tune floated out as he got closer to the labs, reminding Adrian somewhat of Velcro in the sound of it. As he peered round the doorway, he saw the only occupant in the lab obliviously humming along to the song, fiddling with a screwdriver and the back of a Walkie-Talkie.

Usually the tech labs were relatively bustling…he answered the question of where the others were as a tabby nearly tripped him up on his dart from Chevila's bonnet to the door.

There was also a large-ish rectangular machine on a trolley with its case off and smoking a little.

"Emily…" he ventured.

"Waa!" The young girl jumped about a foot and dropped her screwdriver. "Oh, Adrian! Sorry. I was jus' rewiring the talkie…"

"Yeah…" he turned to the rather sorry-looking machine, remembering what it was…

"I was gonna say but I forgot. The Anthropomorphiser kinda broke and started spitting sparks so I had to use the fire extinguisher on it. I went into it to fix it, so it's okay now."

Her voice beamed with confidence. "How did it break?" he asked warily, with the cat in his arms scrabbling onto his chest to rest her head on his shoulder.

"I was wanting to test it. You know, I think it has too many controls, it's like it Blue Screened on me."

This machine, a very new prototype invention of the techies, was designed to assist getting non-shapeshifting agents into anthropomorphic fandoms, from anything between Thundercats to The Jungle Book, hence the rather long name. Different levels between a hundred and zero controlled the amount of anthropomorphism created. Becoming alarmed, he approached it and wiped the soot away from its screen…

"Please don't be completely animal… please!"

It was on level two… the only thing missing was the mating instincts…

He sighed; at least that was better than he feared. He lost it again and was suddenly looking up at the Anthropomorphiser with the black cat on top of him; lights were still on within it, and machinery was still whirring.

He changed back; Emily hadn't noticed as she retrieved her screwdriver. He plonked the black cat onto the tabletop.

"Awww! Cute kitty!" Emily squeaked immediately. "Hello! Where'd you come from?"

"Emily… the Anthropomorphiser is still on…"

"Yeah I know. It'll reboot itself after it's cooled down and then it'll be working again."

"It's still emitting the transforming wave…"

"Oh it's okay, it hasn't been tested yet."

"Emily… that's Tash…"

She paused, looking up at him.

"You've made it work – but too well, and now it's broken…" he said, the truth dawning. "You've turned everyone in the Library apart from yourself into a cat!"


It had taken them two long, scratch-filled hours but at last every cat in the Library had been rounded up and placed in the same room, which had been piled up with cushions and boxes that were expendable if the cats decided to shred them. They had counted twenty-seven in total; Adrian had sent word to all those who were still out on missions or on holiday, and thus unaffected, to hole up somewhere in the fandom they were in and avoid returning to the Library until they had this issue sorted.

Emily longed to be in that room to play with the cats. Adrian had noted that every tail shot vertically into the air when they saw her; the cats also very interested in snuggling with and sitting upon the girl when they could get the chance. However he had sent her back off to the tech labs to sort out the problem with the machine – she had gone only through protest and Adrian's promise she could return later with cat toys and a camera.

Grouping the cats into one room kept them within view, but Adrian had a feeling that he needed to keep them distracted or there might be trouble, especially amongst the men. He was trying to think of a way of sectioning off the corridors that a nimble feline couldn't jump over or crawl through. They seemed to be more interested in him being in the room however, so he took the opportunity to figure which cat was who. He had a packet of markers and a long roll of white elasticated ribbon to tie round each cat's neck.

He pulled the white-socked black cat onto his lap first. "I know exactly who you are, catling," he said to kitty-Tash, stroking behind her ears and listening to her contented purr. He cut a length of ribbon and wrote Tash's name on the fabric, letting the ink dry for a moment before offering the un-inked part for her to sniff. He gently eased it under her chin and tied it around her neck, trimming the knot ends so it would be comfortable. The ribbon was stretchy enough to allow the cat to escape if it was caught dangerously and also to not choke them when they were turned back to human form, but he made it just tight enough to not allow them to scrabble it off themselves. He then placed kitty-Tash back on the floor sporting her new accessory, and she rubbed against his legs and curled up beside him.

He then looked around. One cat, an ordinary brown tabby with white patches on its belly and paws, threaded through the milling crowd and meowed loudly at Adrian.

"Hello, who are you?" Adrian said, picking the cat up and setting it on his lap.

"Meow!" said the cat.

"Uh… huh. You're just meowing. Umm, let's see…" He stroked the cat a few times to calm it, then with red cheeks and not believing he was having to do this, tentatively lifted the tail up to check the gender.

"Meow?" The cat blinked in surprise.

"Ah. Yes. Male. Okay. Er…"

"Meow!" The cat headbutted him gently.

"You're trying to alert me… to something wrong. So that means…" Adrian then noticed a smaller, slightly fluffier cat sat at his feet with its round copper eyes on the cat on his lap. "I think you're Michael?"

The cat's ears twitched at the sound of his name.

"Bingo," said Adrian, writing another ribbon and tying it round kitty-Michael's neck. "And that means you…" he said, letting him jump off and picking up the patient cat, double-checking under the tail, " – must be Claire."

Kitty-Claire purred in response, watching him write her ribbon. She was a calico, white separating the blotches of dual colour, but whereas the two other calicos in the room were black and orange with varying levels of white, she was a pale grey and cream. "Aren't you exquisite. There you go."

He picked up the next cat, a fluffy silver-tabby-and-white, who was much lighter than the other examples of grey in the room, which verged into the dark bluish slate colours. This cat meowed and flailed a little in his grip, and when set on his lap, turned and practically leapt onto his chest, licked the underside of his chin and nuzzled.

"Okay, you're Alice, I've never seen a cat who's actually tried to glomp me before," laughed Adrian, writing her ribbon out. The silver tabby was curious, trying to bite the lid of his pen. She sniffed the ribbon, sneezing as she came across the ink, which allowed him to slip it round her neck. "Now don't you go pouncing on everyone, young lady," he said.

"Meow!" kitty-Alice said happily, accepting a tickle on her neck before leaping down. Adrian followed her path, realising that the cats might be grouping together, and scooped up the tortoiseshell that she tried to leap upon.

"Hello there," said Adrian.

The tortoiseshell, a subtle mottling of orange and black with a single white sock, made a small noise and looked up at him. Adrian looked at her – as he discovered when he lifted the bushy tail, much to the cat's chagrin – then noted kitty-Alice's playful jumping from beside him, trying to catch the tail…

"Louise?" he enquired, and the cat's ears twitched and she meowed softly. "Aww. It's all right, catling. Here, have a ribbon."

He placed kitty-Louise back on the floor, whereupon she was immediately jumped upon by the silver tabby. He picked up a grey-and-white bicolour from nearby, the clear white arranged in a 'tuxedo' pattern against the fine steel-coloured coat. The cat crouched on Adrian's lap, his tail lowered; a clear submissive position, and a frightened one at that.

He stroked the cat gently for a while, trying to reassure him. Alice and Louise were at his feet. He knew exactly who this cat was; one who was still somewhat uncomfortable around Adrian at times.

"You must be Robert," he said, watching the twitch of a response. Kitty-Robert meowed quietly and curled up all the more. Trying to write the ribbon with one hand, he kept up the supporting strokes, talking softly and slowly drawing the ribbon around his neck so as not to startle him. He then picked him up and knocked over one of the stacked floor cushions, placing him on it and watching the two girls go to join him.

Adrian then managed to catch a particular annoyance of his – one cat who was forever pretending to be someone else, in her amusement changing her fur pattern every few minutes when he wasn't looking!

"Your eyes are giving you away, girl," he grinned at the cat in his arms, returning to his chair. Kitty-Phoenixia turned herself completely white and rolled onto her back, batting at Adrian's hand; her violet eyes, even more unnatural in cats than it was in humans, were the one unchanging thing, allowing him to spot her easily. She got a ribbon, and was shooed off.

He was getting better at identifying the agents. The cinnamon Van pattern who liked digging in the piles of cushions was Dave; he squirmed like the billy-oh when Adrian checked under his tail, though what really gave him away was the flash of luminous green in the otherwise amber eyes when his current pile of cushions toppled onto him. Kitty-Jess also struggled, quite considerably too, as if he had interrupted her love of tackling things. She was mostly white with a few black spots.

He finally found Valerie, who he noticed was weaving through all the cats and rubbing heads, purring softly and on a few occasions licking ears or necks compassionately. The cat, an Abyssinian-esque ticked tabby in a pale flecked fawn with a few residual brown markings on her head, ears, legs and tail and a white belly, also seemed to be shepherding some of the other cats away from the doors. She responded immediately to the sound of her name, bounding towards Adrian to sniff his hand.

The next cat he labelled he treated with the utmost care, for the fur was very long and silky, hovering around the ankles as it walked and settling into a soft mound when it sat. The tail was long and thick, making it troublesome to check the gender; the cat squirmed and sat down on Adrian's lap.

He took a moment to marvel at the almost ethereal-looking fur, knowing it would lead him to an answer. She was mostly white, but unlike all the other instances of white in the room, which were solid and bright like the colour of fresh milk, this white was tipped with silver so that it shimmered softly as she moved. The effect reminded him of moonlight. What also gave it away were the patches of light blue – actual blue – on the ears, back and tail.


It was surprising how elegant Aster looked in cat form, and Adrian was very careful when he tied the ribbon on her neck. It compressed the Persian-esque ruff, and made her look a bit silly. She meowed indignantly at him.

"Sorry, catling," he chuckled, placing her back on the floor.

He then turned his attention to a pair of cats in the corner: the second calico, patched orange and black almost everywhere aside from a white belly and chin. It was playing with a small milk pan and carried a butter knife in its mouth, placing the utensil in the pan and taking it out again. The only thing that could be seen of the second was a pair of teal-green eyes glowing in the shadows; it joined in the game of 'find-the-butter-knife'.

Adrian picked up the calico, pretty certain of who it was. A quick check under the tail – and a shocked hiss from the cat – confirmed it.

"Hello, Rhia," he said, carrying her to his chair to make her a ribbon. She pawed at him playfully, tempting the second cat from the corner; she leapt down newly-ribboned, and Adrian swooped upon her partner, trying to slip away.

Adrian was nearly scratched as he checked under the tail. The slender cat was a jet black self, reflecting grey in the light and with no sign of rusting at all.

"Even as a cat, Cristoph, you're still a ninja…" said Adrian. Kitty-Cristoph struggled as he tried to tie the white ribbon round his neck. "Yes I am making you more noticeable. I know." He set the cat, who was more long squirming legs than body, down next to kitty-Rhia, who purred and rubbed against him, their tails entwining.

Harriet was easy to detect, as she was the grey marbled tabby playing with a cricket ball. Tom, also a grey but a ticked tabby similar to Valerie, took a little thinking – and more squirms – as he checked the tail, but Adrian realised that most of the archaeologists in the room were enjoying digging their way into (and through!) piles of cushions as if in search of treasure. He also identified the last calico in the room, who bore only a sprinkling of orange and browny-black across her otherwise-white ears and back, as Karissa, simply by the virtue of sneaking round all the other cats before she made herself noticeable by falling over dizzy.

He also realised that the groups were definitely hanging together. He tempted the next two closer by clucking gently – another black-and-white bicolour and a graceful green Oriental colourpoint. The green of the Siamese, from grass-green on the paws, face and tail fading to white on her body, gave her away immediately as Lily. Adrian smiled; not even Prohibition could defeat the base coding of one's phenotype, meaning whatever made Lily green would stick around.

"And that means you…" Adrian picked up the bicolour. It was male, but that was expected. Then he spotted what shape the white formed against the black… a radiation symbol.

"Oh, Ben…" Adrian sighed, collaring them both and shooing kitty-Ben off his lap. Where was Avak, he wondered. Those three generally hung round together. He went on a search, following the pair to what seemed to be a box fort and found a semi-longhair cinnamon smoke cat curled up on top of a pile of books and dozing. Stroking the cat's neck made it jump, but the green Siamese kept leaping up in a game of 'catch the fluffy tail'. Identifying the cinnamon as Avak, relieved he had not gotten lost, Adrian managed to slip a label around his neck.

A rather nasal meow from an orange tabby sounded, breaking his reverie, followed by a few headbutts on his leg. The ginger was followed by what had to be the biggest cat in the room, built sturdily as if for cold weather and with a thick chocolate coat with tufts on the ears. Adrian recognised the nasally meow as Gareth, especially after he followed the cat's path and saw the mess made of the nearest clock…

That meant that the brown cat had to be his fiancé, Red. She was not yet a member though she had expressed an interest in joining, and as yet another of these WARG people she had been roped into it by Tash, though there was some ankle-chewing, fish-stealing, and hair-dyeing involved in her introduction. Adrian merely shrugged, remembering her as the red kitten from before, and gave her a ribbon too. His hands came away covered in shed fur and a few nips.

"Speaking of big balls of fluff, hello Miri," he said and he picked up the third bundle of fur in the room, and the second Persian-esque cat. This time the cat was white with random patches of bright, tabbied orange, which as it matched her hair gave her away.

One cat proved very hard to catch, and even more difficult to hang onto. The semi-longhair chocolate bicolour edged further and further away as Adrian approached, hissing with fury, and when he finally managed to grab the cat after a long moment's pause, scratched him on the arm in an attempt to escape. It was hard to check the gender – the cat did not like that one bit – and even harder to tie the ribbon on, as Adrian was almost bitten. This aversion to touch identified the bicolour as Kyle, and he let him go as soon as the knot was secure, kitty-Kyle racing away and leaping over other cats to curl up on a high box and watch everyone, calming down and beginning to purr again soon after.

There were only two pairs left to identify. A second black cat slunk around the edge of the room, shining a rusty Marmite colour in the light, while a small cat in a pretty grey colourpoint ran after it and pounced every so often. The black would often turn to bat the young grey off, but then they would bump heads and continue. The colourpoint was certainly the smallest cat in the room…so therefore the youngest agent…

Adrian walked over and scooped kitty-Inara into his arms. Her tail rose with interest and she meowed, echoed by the rusty-black self now sat at his feet. He wrestled a ribbon round her neck, then crouched down to the cat who had to be Willie, as he and her had been training together for a little while.

The other pair were two tabbies, one blue and one orange though both with white. The orange tabby was chasing a very sorry-looking squad of moving green plastic soldiers…

The Little Plastic Marine Corps shouted their rather tinny thanks to the Librarian as they made a dash for the nearest under-the-door exit after Adrian picked Jared up. He squirmed, wanting to get down; Chloe, the blue tabby, decided to join the fun and leap onto his lap also. He managed to get them both collared, though he had a sinking feeling that he had muddled up their names and was unable to catch either of them to check.

Oh well. So that was every cat named, apart from himself. He made himself one and looped it around the base of his tail. Interestingly he noted that the British and American agents could be told apart simply by their cat body shapes. The Brits had very dense, plush coats, round and widely-set eyes, and sturdy, almost cobby bodies. The Yanks were slightly leaner, tails more pointed and smooth and eyes with much sharper features. The only ones who were unlike either of these were Lily and Cristoph, who were both the slender and narrow-eyed of the Oriental cat; Avak, who was somewhere in between; and Aster, Miriku and Red being bundles of fluff hiding their shape beneath. Robert had taken on a similar shape to the British cats, and Adrian guessed it was because of the historical parallels of his homeland.

He turned into a cat himself, and jumped off his chair to mingle.


"Here kitty! Here kitty! Go chase the ball!"

At last, Adrian had allowed Emily a break from trying to fix the Anthropomorphiser, and had taken over himself, letting the young girl mind the cats to her heart's content. The machine, still broken but still on at the same time, had been moved to a space in the hall, and Adrian prodded the machinery from beneath while lying on a wheeled board for ease of access. It was being a stubborn thing, refusing to respond much to either of their skills.

Emily threw a bouncy ball over the cats' heads, and several leapt up for it at once. A few, like kitty-Lily and kitty-Claire, had learned that more excitement could be had if they returned the ball to be thrown again, adding to the fun of the game. Several cats had gathered around her, either joining in or curling up next to her and nuzzling close. Most of the other cats basked on cushions or high places and watched lazily.

The soundtrack from The Aristocats was playing in the background, with kitty-Phoenixia glaring at the hi-fi and trying (and failing) to bat the buttons enough to change the sound. Every attempt she made saw her furry coat change to a new pattern each time. She only succeeded in turning the volume up and hitting the 'Repeat' button to make Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat play over and over again. Eventually, she did the butt-waggle-jump and leapt to the top of the music player, changing to a lilac lynx point and curling up to purr.

Beneath the machine, Adrian sighed, and not only because the song was beginning to get on his nerves. His knowledge of the very intricate and difficult machine was lacking, having had no hand in its planning or prototyping. He wished a techie was around, but the resident mechanic was currently a ginger tabby and Charis and Pete had gone on holiday somewhere. But he was learning slowly about the machine, interested in finding that it only controlled selection of the wanted species; any colour and pattern combination that resulted came from the individual's genes, and nothing else. He was relieved that there had been a single failsafe built in; that the person who pressed the big green button was spared from being affected by the shapeshifting rays, explaining why Emily hadn't noticed her mistake…he was thankful that he had her to help, though, and she had made some good progress.

No, his major annoyance at the present moment came in the form of a little grey colourpoint…kitty-Inara was determined to chomp on his tail, and every time he would try and move it out of the way she would follow.

Before long Emily was to be found flat on her back, her arms and legs spread-eagled, with at least four cats draped over each limb. Kitty-Aster was curled up on her chest and purring like a lawnmower, enjoying the rise-and-fall movement. Kitty-Harriet lay on Emily's hair and was licking her forehead like a mother cat to her kitten.

The young girl had been giggling, the bouncy ball long forgotten, which initiated almost every cat to purr in response. "Adriaaaaan!" she wailed eventually through her laughter.

"Mmm?" he replied from underneath the machine.


"Why's that then?" He could not keep the mirth from his voice.

"The cats won't move! Hati's licking my face!"

"That's nice, dear!"


There was then a 'click!' and Emily managed to twist her head enough to see the Librarian with a camera. She gasped indignantly; he just cackled and took some more.

"Please help?"

"All right," he chortled, bending down to shoo the cats off her arms and let Emily sit up and shuffle to the nearest wall so they couldn't lie on her and knock her over again. The cats, becoming lazier by the moment, simply rolled off when nudged and lay close to the warm friendly Emily, or sat on one of the closest bookshelves, all continuing the chorus of purring. The large Norwegian Forest Cat that was Red clambered into Emily's lap like a queen, her large brush-like tail seeing off all others who wanted that prestigious position. Emily found a soft-bristled brush, and began gently sweeping it from head to tail tip.

"I was thinking, she piped up eventually, "if this is how powerful the Anthropomorphiser is, as well as helping us for missions, maybe we could really use it as a weapon?"

"A weapon?" he replied, peering out from under the machine. There was a smudge of dirt on his nose.

"Yeah. Turn 'em all in'ta cats instead."

Adrian snorted with amusement, his face creasing up as he suddenly had images of a very pissed-off black cat with emerald eyes. "Oh dear, Emily…"

"Maybe we could distract them with tuna!" she chirped with a silly grin on her face. "Or maybe tuna laced with dynamite!"

Adrian facepalmed. These kids and their imaginations…

Then a wisp of chocolate-coloured fur drifted past and ticked his nose, causing him to sneeze and carefully-balanced part of the machine's interior to dislodge. He only just caught himself from swearing. He glanced over, seeing that the entire floor now had a new carpet of the stuff.

"You had to go and brush Red, didn't you?"


Adrian had already sent word to the many missions which were currently extant, telling them to hole up in a safe place, or rent a hotel room, until the issue was sorted. The first call back to the Library had come from Stephen, and Adrian answered with a cat in his arms, a couple of others curled up on the desk.

"Hey, what's going on? Everything here's sorted, Sue and all," he said through the screen in the Monitor Room. The Sue in question could be seen in the background, tied to a chair.

"That's good news. No, it's probably best you stay there for a while; I'll call you when it's safe to return," replied Adrian.

Stephen's voice turned urgent. "What's happened?"

"Nothing dangerous per se, just an annoyance…"

"Ohh…" Stephen had spotted the calico prowling Adrian's lap. "Did Rhia bring her cats into the Library again?"

"Stephen…" Adrian scooped up the cat and held her in the air. "This IS Rhia."

There was a moment of pause as he digested the news, and tried not to burst out laughing. "Seriously? Oh man, that's awesome."

"Heh. Yeah, it was a machine that malfunctioned in the tech labs. Thing is the machine's area effect is still very active – we're trying to fix it, but the pull for me to be a cat is very strong – " and at that moment, Adrian lost his hold and turned into a white cat, whom the calico leapt upon before jumping to the floor. The white cat sighed and turned back, shaking his head to Stephen's laughter. "See what I mean? Trust me, it's best you stay out there for the moment."

"All right, will do. Take pictures!"




"Uhhh Adrian?"



"I think the cats are hungry…"

"All right, hold on…"

Adrian followed Emily away from the cats, of at least half were yowling for attention. By some miracle they managed to get into the kitchen without any of them entering too.

"Thank God we don't have Tyler around, I think he'd be trying to eat everything in the room by now…" He went to clean the oil and dirt off his hands, and Emily looked around for cat food. This was Kitchen One, which was much more now the generic pantry than anything else; Kitchen Two was Rhia's kitchen, where most people went to and at least three times bigger than this; Kitchen Three was the place of dusty and mouldy horror that nobody dared to enter. There was apparently a Kitchen Four somewhere, but that was more a Medieval roasting pit than anything else and hadn't been seen by the Society at all.

"What are we going to give the cats?" asked Emily, searching the cupboards.

"Protein, preferably," he said, drying his hands and joining the search. "Cats aren't like dogs, being able to eat anything, Emily; they're what's known as 'obligate carnivores'. They have to eat meat or similar."

"Robert mentioned to me once that he gave cats scrambled egg?" she said, pulling out a quarter-empty box of twenty-four eggs.

Adrian smirked. "He was brought up on a farm where they have a large colony of mousers. That's what you'd feed a sick cat or an elder kitten. This lot need something more substantial."

"Aha!" said Emily, finding what she'd been looking for and pulling out the huge sack of kibble. "I knew Rhia had left some of this here…"

She hauled it out and dumped it next to the table. She then scooped out a handful of the dry cat food, and placed it on a plate. Adrian eyed it with a sudden sense of suspicion.

"Will this do?"


"Try it."

"You try it."

"Nuh-uh. I'm not a cat."


Adrian vanished and was replaced by the white self, the ribbon on his tail beginning to slip off. Emily seized it, and him, and wrestled the ribbon around his neck loosely. He wriggled, but settled down in front of the plate.

Slowly he sniffed the dry food. He recoiled.

"Go on, kitty…" she said, stroking the top of his head.

He pawed one piece out, and after a long hesitation, ate it.


The cat let out a squeak, and leapt off the table as if he had been electrocuted. There was a retching sound, and the table shuddered with a 'boink' from below as Adrian transformed back and hit his head on the underside. He crawled out, stood up, and tripped over a chair.

"Bleecchh! Eee-yuk!"

"No good then?"

He dived for the sink. "That stuff… tastes like barf, and soap, and mouldy fishskins, and gone-off custard…" He lifted from the tap, the lower half of his face dripping. "It's better used as a weapon than food!"

Emily was howling with laughter. "Okay, that's a no."

"Tuna. No cat knows how to refuse tuna."

Emily raised an eyebrow. "I only saw three tins in the cupboard," she said, retrieving them.

"Hmm. We might need to dig around in the freezer and cook some…"

"But what?"

"I think I have a plan," he said, pulling a few frying pans from yet another cupboard. "Go and fetch the two fussiest Agents, would you?"

Emily ventured down the corridors, spotting cats here and there curled up on bookshelves. Several had found one of the desks Adrian worked at and had made a nice home on top of his paperwork. Most of them, however, had remained in the room with the cushions and boxes. Most of them were also napping.

She tiptoed around the cats, some of whom half-woke enough to headbutt her foot or wrap a tail around her
ankle. She reached the large floor cushion where three cats slept, and took in the cute scene. Kitty-Louise was curled into a tight ball, nestled in one corner; kitty-Alice sprawled out on the dark starry fabric, with kitty-Robert snuggled up against her with one paw over her protectively.

Emily pulled out her camera and snapped a picture, before bending down and tickling the silver tabby. She woke up, disturbing kitty-Robert with her; Emily slid her arm under the cat and picked her up. Kitty-Robert sat up and meowed plaintively.

Kitty-Valerie lay comfortably on her side in a box, purring softly. Emily clucked at her from above, and she woke and rolled onto her back.

"Come on kitty," she said gently, watching the lightly-striped tail lift as the cat sprang gracefully out of the box. Kitty-Alice scrabbled in Emily's arms, slid free and jumped upon the ticked tabby; the two tussled for a moment, but purred and bumped heads.

Emily giggled, taking more pictures. She then withdrew a toy mouse on a string from her pocket, and dangled it in front of the two before running out the door. The two cats followed excitedly, and then the smell of food attracted them further. It was a miracle that none of the others followed, but Emily did hear a few meows and scratches from behind her.

The cats and the young girl entered the kitchen, and Adrian had prepared by placing several covered plates on the table. "Got them?" he asked. "Good. Sit them on the table, would you? It's time to test a few things."

Emily placed kitty-Alice, then kitty-Valerie on the table, and they sniffed some of the closest plates curiously.

The two that were still human grinned at each other, and presented the two fusspots with the first plates. On each was a small handful of kibble.

The effect was immediate. Neither cat would go near it; kitty-Valerie actually leapt off, and kitty-Alice hissed and batted both plates off the table before following.

A few moments had to be spent to catch both tabbies and to clean up the smashed china with a dustpan and brush. They then presented the second plates to the two cats: both contained a little tuna.

And of course, being fussy, both of them were struggling with their new cat instincts. Kitty-Valerie shrank away, but kitty-Alice sniffed around it and crouched down low.

"God, they're fussy," said Emily, before she realised she was talking to no-one in particular.

Adrian had vanished again, and the white cat padded across the table, eyes fixed intently on the lovely fish. The two girls looked at him, twitching lightly as if they wanted to defend their food; but they allowed him to steal a chunk before he jumped off the table.

"Hungry?" quipped Emily.

"Mmph. Sorry," he said with his mouth full.

"So the three cans will be empty pretty soon. Next?"

The third plates contained a small amount of white fish, lightly cooked. Kitty-Alice sniffed, licked, and ate a little chunk warily, before finishing it off. Kitty-Valerie, still fighting the cat instincts, only managed to get to the licking stage before she backed off. Emily ticked the back of her neck.

"Fair enough," said Adrian. "That's another good one. Just means a lot of light frying and tinfoil…we have to feed all the cats at the same time, so I'll need your help, Ems."

"Okay," she replied. "What about the last plates?"

"The control…" he said, lifting the lids and presenting the small amount of steaming chicken fillet to the two cats, who snapped them up quite happily.

The mission to get the cats fed was quite something, sourcing out almost every bit of chicken and fish in the fridge, the freezer and in other cold stores in the entire Library, cooking it gently and briefly and using one of those big wheeled multi-level portable trays to stack the numerous plates on.

As Adrian returned from another foray into a secret freezer, he passed the door to the basement. A muffled yowl distracted him, and pressing his ear to the locked door he could hear the mews and scratches of the Sues below. He sighed, having forgotten the Anthropomorphiser would have affected them too, and the steel cross-barred walls had grid holes big enough for a cat to jump through and escape their cells. Not that he blamed them, really, with the situation. He mentally counted how many were down there and added the number to how many more chunks of food he needed to warm up. He'd bring them dinner later.

Wheeling the full trays into the room with the cats stirred most of them into a loud frenzy. The pair worked quickly, hovering each plate over a cat who always moved beneath it when they tried to set it down, so quickly they learnt to dodge the plate to the side and slip it onto the floor. They had made sure there was plenty for all; the tuna was almost fought over but vanished before it got to scratches. The sound of quiet little 'chomp-chomp-chomps' replaced the loud meowing.

Adrian piled the last of the plates on a tray and began to head off to the basement. "Ems, get yourself something to eat too, then get back to that machine… 'kay?"

She sighed. "All right…"

When she returned with her sandwiches, the cats had eaten their fill and had dozed off again quite contentedly. All that is except for kitty-Louise, who was going round every single plate on the floor and hoovering up every leftover there might be, and licking them all clean afterwards.

"Silly kitty," said Emily, sitting on a chair to watch.


It all started so suddenly.

Emily had been underneath the machine, having finally stopped the transforming ray that for half an hour had stopped even Adrian from keeping a human form for more than ten seconds. She swore she was on the verge of getting the thing fixed…

But then, the happy meows had turned – almost in a single moment – to annoyed hisses and yowls. Then there was an almighty 'THUMP' as something collided with the side of the machine.

"Eeek!" Emily squeaked, scrabbling to roll out from under the machine, and ending up in the middle of a fight.

A large bunch of no less than five cats were facing off in the centre of the room. With a ferocious whack, the orange tabby scored a hit on a black self's nose and sent him spinning into the corner, before facing the other four and growling with his back arched. The wild tabby met his challenge.

Emily gasped, recognising the dazed cat as Willie… the brown tabby as Michael and the ginger as Gareth…

Kitty-Willie stood up, shook himself off, and jumped to stand in front of kitty-Inara. Kitty-Robert had already been ejected from the battle – which now was seeing two tabbies tussling with each other – with a bloody score mark down his nose, and had limped back over to the two girls on the floor cushion.

Emily dodged the main group, leapt over a black-and-white and a cinnamon smoke having a face-off, and went to shriek for Adrian.

"Emily? What's happened? Is the roof on fire? What?"

"They're fighting – "

And at that moment, kitty-Avak barrelled into Adrian's shins, and used his legs as a ladder. Kitty-Ben slunk away to a dark corner, that battle having ended in stalemate.

Adrian blinked in shock for just a moment. "Oh b – " he nearly swore. He struggled to remember which of the girls may have been that-time-of-the-month grouchy the day before. "They're all intact males aren't they! They're fighting over what they see as theirs…"

"But – they're not – ?"

"Two levels above being animal…we've got to stop this now!" Thrusting the cat into Emily's arms, Adrian transformed and plunged into the room himself.

He almost wished Val's team weren't busy at the time, as she was making a good attempt to break up the fighting, but to little avail. He noted three singletons, the Van pattern that was Dave and the blue ticked that was Tom, join kitty-Kyle up high on the bookshelves safe from the tussle below. He marched straight to the fight and hissed enough to swing their attention onto him… but this was a bad idea, for as he glanced round, he saw no less than four girl cats in his wake…

The white self vanished under a mess of black selfs, the ferocious orange tabby that was Gareth, a ginger-and-white and the boisterous wild tabby. But Emily returned just at that moment with a smaller version of her Supersoaker, filled with nothing but cold water; the first squirt caught kitty-Gareth full in the face, and he rolled backwards to be caught by the chocolate Red.


He transformed back, sporting several nasty scratches down his cheeks. "Ow… ow."

"You okay?"

"Fine. Good idea. We need to separate that fight, and I know how," he said, scooping up kitty-Rhia and holding her out of reach. The cats had already scattered at a large human suddenly appearing beneath them, but now the slim black kitty-Cristoph yowled and bounded forwards – only for Adrian to run to a room, dump the calico on a chair, make sure the cat had followed and pull the door to.

Emily caught on quick, picking up a random girl and lobbing them into a room like bait. Sometimes it failed, but most of the time the man whose cat mind demanded possession ran in after their female – or females; in several cases a cat sought to defend more than one girl, and would not go in unless their other was found, including kitty-Robert (with both Alice and Louise) and kitty-Michael (Claire and Miri). But most proudly, or most embarrassingly of all, was Adrian's 'harem' of four – Aster, Tash, Valerie and Phoenixia. They let those four remain in the hall with the three singletons. The doors were open enough to allow egress once they had all calmed down.

And at the thought of calming down, Adrian sank onto the starry floor cushion. The carpet of Red fur floated around the place and covered every surface. "Urrfff…I feel like Alice has been glomping me non-stop for an hour…"

"I can get you a drink?" said Emily, smiling.

"Oh you're a sweetheart. That'd be lovely…"

He caught her intention just a second too late, as she pumped the last of her Supersoaker water onto his face and ran off, cackling.


"Library? Library, come in."


"Bugger…" mumbled Ingrid to herself, before trying again. "Library?"

Her line was picked up at last, and she took in a deep breath to share her report, until she noticed the Monitor Room was empty.

Mental alarm bells started going off.

"Library! Anyone! I – "

She cut off as she noticed something strange. There at the bottom of the screen was a waving fluffy tail, silver with black stripes and a white tip…


A slightly higher-pitched voice caught the attention of the owner of that tail, and suddenly, making Ingrid jump, a cat leapt up and pressed both front paws onto the screen.

Ingrid's mouth fell open as the silver tabby filled her communicator's screen. "Uh – the f…?"

"Meow!" Pleased by the noise, the cat continued pawing the screen. There were beeps and clicks from below as she stepped on the controls.

"Uhhh… hello, kitty," said Ingrid. The cat meowed in response, licking the screen where she could see Ingrid's nose. Ingrid smiled despite herself. "Here kitty kitty kitty, now what's going on?"

The tabby's head turned, ears twitching towards different sounds, and Ingrid caught sight of the name written on the ribbon round the cat's neck.


Kitty-Alice glanced back to the screen at the sound of her name, pawing at the friendly shape she could see. "Miow?"

Ingrid could see more cats in the room beyond…

And then, just as Adrian burst through the doors – kitty-Alice stepped on controls enough to cut the feed all together.

"Oh bollocks!" Adrian cursed. He went over to the control panel, shooing the tabby off – not that she got very far, sliding into the nearest chair – and tried to get the feed back, but Ingrid tried a different tactic and sent a text message instead, updating him on her current progress. He sent a reply, reaffirming his warning to not return yet. He then turned, and scooped kitty-Alice into his arms.

"Right you, you've volunteered to be our guinea-pig," he said, carrying the silver tabby out of the Monitor Room.

Adrian met up with Emily back in the tech labs, where she was finally reattaching the control panel to the Anthropomorphiser. She smiled at him – he reciprocated the gesture, understanding that despite her overconfident mistake this morning, she had mostly been a great help to him in fixing the problem – and he approached, setting Alice down on a table.

"I think it's fixed! Should we test it now? Should I turn on the Change-back mode?"

"Emily, we can't just turn on the area-effect…"

"Oh, why?"

"Because…" Adrian nudged a pile of clothes on the floor with his foot. "…if you haven't noticed, Shapeshifter Baggage is ignored below Anthropomorphic level fifty-five. If we turn them all back in one fell swoop, they're all going to be stark naked, and they're not going to forgive me for it!"

"They're not going to forgive you anyway for having to look at their balls!"

Emily watched Adrian's mind change gear without the clutch and stall.

"Baaaaww… EMILY!"

"What?" she grinned, enjoying the nice shade of puce that his face was going. "S'true!"

"That's not – I had to – You shouldn't – you shouldn't know things like that, young lady!"

"You give me too little credit. I'm insulted." She crossed her arms and turned away, but her giggles let him know she wasn't serious.

"All right…" he sighed, going to tap the controls of the Anthropomorphiser and turning a dial to a low setting. "We're going to do it individually, starting with this one."

Kitty-Alice padded over and Emily tickled her white belly, the cat rolling over on the worktop. "Why not Tash?"

"Ummm." The blush returned to his cheeks.

"It is safe, yannow!"

"I think she'd, um, prefer it if we change her back elsewhere."

Emily grinned at him, but scooped up the tabby and set her on the floor. Adrian threw a couple of large blankets over the cat, then nodded to Emily and dodged out of the way.

At the thump of a big green button, a pink and yellow ray emanated from a slot in the side of the machine and hit the struggling bundle on the floor. For a moment nothing happened; but then there was a very human yelp and the small bundle became a large one.


"It works!"

There was a muffled 'eek!" from within the blankets, and Alice's head popped out. She was holding the rest of the blankets tightly around her.

"Alice!" said Adrian. "Long story. Are you all right?"

"I'm naked!" she blurted. "I was a cat!"

"You remember? That's interesting. Look – uhh…"

Alice regained her senses a little more, glancing up at the two around her and her situation. She eased up to her feet, clutching her blankets to save her dignity. "I feel fine. Whoa, everything looks different…" Becoming slightly dizzy, she stumbled, and Adrian caught her.

"Careful." He sat her down on a bench. As Alice watched, Adrian showed her what they were doing by picking up the next nearest cat, the wild-colour tabby, and soon had the second cat under a jumble of blankets. Alice's eyes bugged as they turned on the ray again, and proved the machine had been fixed as a very red-faced Michael emerged from his bundle.


"Michael? How're you doing?" Adrian asked.

"I… I feel fine, mostly… why am I starkers?"

"Sorry about that, but…" Adrian explained swiftly.

Alice and Michael glanced at each other, small embarrassed grins coming to their faces as they heard the story.

"If you two run and get dressed, we could use your help in turning back everyone else…"

"But why were we cats in the first place?" Alice asked.

Adrian glanced pointedly to Emily, and Alice and Michael's gazes followed…



Some hours later, most of the agents who had been cats not too long ago had gathered in the Mod Sofa Lounge. The set of modular blue sofas had been rearranged at least twice, suiting the current conversation groups. Many were debating the events of the day, or giggling over what they could remember. Others had decided it was time for tea and had made sandwiches. Some were simply relaxing, bathing in the ambient light-heartedness.

Those who had missed the 'fun' had returned the moment Adrian had sent the all-clear, somewhat disappointed that they had missed all the bundles of fluff.

There was an exchange of Litwicks going on in one corner; the numbers of the little candle Pokémon had ballooned over the past few weeks, and Alice was happy to give her surplus to others who thought they were adorable. Inara, who had otherwise been devouring an entire bowl of fruit to forget the knowledge that her cat self had happily eaten a fish earlier in the day, squeaked when hers was placed in her hands; he cocked his head on one side and made immediately for Inara's sleeve, purple flame and all. Tash had two, one perched happily on her head. Louise was examining hers, and happy with her, placed her on the back of her chunk of sofa. Asuka glared closely at one set on the floor, not entirely sure what to make of the small creature.

Everyone stopped, however when Adrian opened the door to the Mod Sofa Lounge and let a young cat out.

Slinking round his legs, she sniffed her surroundings, her thin feathered tail lifting with interest, before padding lightly into the room. All eyes in the room, paused in mid-conversation, were upon her.

"Hey, look who's here!" cheered Harriet, kneeling with her arms outstretched. The kitten, recognising her, scurried towards her happily and was scooped up.

"Who on earth…?" began Louise, baffled. Her Litwick cheeped behind her. They had all been turned back to human for several hours now; the Anthropomorphiser had been fixed, surely?

The cat, with the appearance and playfulness of a yearling kitten, was a truly beautiful creature; a silver torbie point Balinese, or a longhair Siamese cat. She had stripes of black and silver with orange patches clear on her face, tail and legs, all fading to a pale ivory over the rest of her body. She gave a sweet little meow, high and melodious, wriggled out of Harriet's arms and leapt over to Louise, nuzzling round and round her legs. Almost instinctively, she bent down and stroked the cat's neck.

"Is this… Emily?"

"Yes, it is," said Tash. "Ain't she gorgeous?"

"How… what… what? Why is she a cat?"

"We've turned her into one for the day."

Louise's hand froze. "What?"

"This is discipline!" said Harriet, pointing into the air. "She has to learn that there are consequences to her actions, and that playing with the machines in the tech labs even if she's certain about them could be extremely dangerous. So for today and tonight, same length of time we had, she's gonna be a cat."

"But – you can't just go turning her into things!"

"This isn't Harry Potter, Lou," said Alice, clucking to the cat with a mousey-on-a-stick. Kitty-Emily seemed to have springs built into her legs, bounding over and furiously attempting to bat at the toy.

"She's just a child!"

"Oh Lou, this isn't anything bad, surely?" said Tash, attempting to explain. Kitty-Emily snagged the mouse and rolled around on the floor with it. "She's twelve years old, and we can't let her go fiddling with stuff willy-nilly and to hell with the consequences. She may be brilliant with our machines but her overconfidence in being able to fix anything could have been dangerous, so we need tempering there. It's just a small lesson, like what you have to do with kids to tell them where they've gone wrong."

"Yeah," said Alice, "remember my car crash last year served to make me a much more cautious driver, Lou?"

Kitty-Emily wove her way past the few hands which were petting her and returned to Louise, looking plaintively up at her and her meow the only sound in the room. Slowly her hand reached to the kitten's neck and tickled, her head moving into the touch. At a nudge, kitty-Emily leapt into Louise's lap and snuggled down, beginning to purr.

"It's okay, little one," she murmured.

"Lou… she seems to be enjoying your lap… we had to do something, otherwise she won't have learned. I was half-expecting her to ask me to use the Anthropomorphiser on her anyway," said Adrian.

"I'm just saying that there are other ways to discipline a child… I don't like it. Find a more orthodox way next time, guys."

Kitty-Emily yawned, wriggled, and settled down for a nap.

Insert Heroic Mime Here

The wilds of Caeldonia were not for the faint of heart, or the lacking of skill. That had been made very clear. The Rippling Walls that once proudly surrounded the city had been made to keep the dangers of the wild out, and even then it was a challenge. The wildlife was openly hostile towards anything that tried to intrude upon the territory, and many had died trying to stake out new land for the city, if the broken weapons littering the ground were any indication.

There was no stopping him, however. He had survived the Calamity, and now he was going to take back the shards from the wilds, so he could set everything right again. He had collected the cores of the city in record time, assembling them in the Monument. He knew where all of them were, and he had been a driving force behind it's creation, along with most other inventions the Mancers , the greatest minds of Caeldonia, came up with, in addition to singlehandedly leading every charge in the Caeldonian-Ura war. He had been a part of the city's elite Calvary unit, the Triggers, in addition to his work as a Mason, assembling the great Rippling Walls. He held the record of the longest tour of duty in the city's history, despite his dark and tragic past.

Fabian Francisco de Smytheford was his name, and he was determined to be the hero of the Bastion, like he was born to be. His trusty clockwork rifle on his back, his pistols at his hips, and his hammer and machete in his hands, he smashed and slashed his way through the floating mass of wilderness like it was nothing. The pincushions couldn't manage to hit him with his amazing speed, and wallflowers had no defense he couldn't break. He was almost at the final shard, his hands outstretched to take it, when a rock hit him in the back of the head. He turned to face the beast he must have missed in his rampage, only to see…a survivor? No, not a survivor…The man was dressed too differently. The man in question had what could only be described as medium length brown hair, obviously not very well kept, what appeared to be a gray button-up shirt, and long gray jacket covering up the khaki pants that were stained with mud and grime from the muck that seemed to cover the ground of the Wild. The rock had a bright blue note card tied to it, so he stopped to read…

By the order of the Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society, I'm placing you under arrest for destruction of a perfectly good fandom.

"An agent of the Society, eh? I've been looking for a way to make an impression upon them! My name is Fabian Francisco de Smytheford, and I will strike you down where you stand! Tell me your name, so I may properly inform your next of kin of your demise!"

The man reached about for a second, before finding another rock. He rifled through his coat, pulling out four card binders, before putting three of them back. After he found the card he was looking for, he pulled out a small ball of twine, biting a small piece off. He tied the card to the rock with the twine, hefting it a few times to test it. Fabian watched him intently the entire time, curious as to what the agent was doing. After testing it once more, the man threw the rock at Fabian. Fabian, in proper Stu fashion, stopped the rock just before it hit him. He ripped the card off, reading intently.

My name is John. You ruined a favorite universe of mine. This is a distraction.

"Wha? What is this supposed to mean- YOU KNAVE!" Fabian could do naught but shout as John retreated into the wilds, back into hiding. "Rest assured, Agent! There is no escape from Fabian Francisco de Smythe for-AH!" Fabian recoiled as he was hit in the face by yet another rock.


The Stu emptied his pistols into the tree the rock was thrown from, but the agent was already long gone.

"Fine then, Agent. We will have a game of cat and mouse... But rest assured, I will emerge victorious, or my name is not Fabian Francisco de Smythe!"

John was already on the run, the ground forming up below him with every step. He knew, even if he was carrying a weapon, he couldn't beat a stu in straight combat. No, he only had one real chance, and that was to out think him. Based on the mission reports he had read before he had come out here, Sues and Stus were powerful and perfect in every way except for a sheer lack of intelligence. I guess, when you're perfect, you don't really have ta' think much. He mused, ceasing his sprint in the middle of a tight clump of bushes. Stinkweed, pincushions… I think I can work with this.

As his plotting and planning began, his phone kicked on, seemingly cycling through tracks on it's own. It finally settled on one he had acquired recently.

Now Playing: Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor Fate 3rd Movement

Fabian ran through the clearing, using his flawless tracking skills he had acquired during his term with the Brushers, of which he had been a captain. He followed the crushed grass and footprints into a clearing, seemingly empty.

"Where are you, John the Agent? I know you're in here somewhere!"

He took another step, only to look down too late to notice the string of twine, pulled taut across the obvious path. He recoiled quickly, only to get hit in the face by a dense clump of stinkweed.

"Argh-The smell! It's in my eyes!"

Fabian briefly stumbled backwards, before springing forward once more.

"Do you really think such a pathetic trap will stop me, Agent? There is nothing that can hold back the unrestrained fury of Fabian Francisco de Smythe!" He continued forward, abit more cautiously. He kept his eyes on the road in front of him, pushing his hammer along in front of him. Anyone trained in trap avoidance could tell you that using something to probe the ground only works if said object is light enough to avoid triggering the trap itself, a lesson that the Stu learned the hard way by triggering another barrage of stinkweed to the face. Once again, the Stu recoiled, this time straight over the edge of the path, screaming as he fell into the abyss… before landing face first on the path once more. You see, there was a little bit of the Bastion's power in the city's crest, the shining silver gear that he wore around his neck. Even now, the Bastion was protecting everyone left as best it could. If they fell, the Bastion would yank them right back above the path, letting them fall back into safety. It still hurt, but it hurt a lot less then falling all the way back down.

"Argh… I am growing tired of these games, Agent! If you will not come out and face me, I'll force you out myself!" Fabian growled, pulling out a fine-tuned Fire Bellows. He didn't hesitate as he started lighting the foliage on fire, the flame leaping from the bellows as he pumped them. The fire seemed to dance from tree to tree, until soon, the entire clearing was burning. The smoke spiraled into the air, choking the Peckers trying to escape the inferno the stu had started so carelessly. What felt like seconds later, the clearing, once vibrant and teeming with life, was now empty, charred, and black. Fabian turned in place, his eyes searching for his target, finding it standing on the other side of the field, staring at the sun, coat flowing in the wind. Fabian grinned. The agent was surely giving up, having seen the pure destructive potential he possessed! "Goodbye, Age-UWAH!"

The coat he had lunged at so quickly with his hammer was, once again, a trap. This time, it was just a coat on a stick that was stood straight up, the oldest trick in the trappers book. The Stu lept at it, and found that the weight of his own hammer swing was now dragging him over the edge once again. After he picked himself up off the floor, he finally found his opponent… kicking a ball of twine into the air repeatedly. "Why… MUST YOU… MAKE OUR EPIC CONFLICT… A GAME!"

His roar seemingly startled the agent, causing him to jump and the ball of twine to fall. The agent whipped out another card, obviously annoyed.

I had almost beaten my personal record, you ass.

The Stu just twitched, and charged, yelling something incomprehensible but definitely loud.

John just stepped out of the way… again. The Stu tumbled over the edge… again. After he peeled his body off of the ground once more, he just stopped, eying the agent warily.

"I'm not attacking you again. Do you think I'm some kind of fool? No, I know that if I don't move, you can't get me with any traps, and you'll have to fight me on my terms, where I am certain of victory!"

The agent just smiled, then opened his mouth.

"Do you really think that can stop me, Fabian? No, it really can't."

Fabian recoiled. Something seemed fundamentally wrong with this man talking.

"No, I think I'll just say you died. Nobody will question me, after all. As for you…"

Fabian recoiled in horror as the agent split in two, then four, then six, then eight, then sixteen, and so on and so forth. The fact that there was more than one agent wasn't the scary part, but the fact that each of the copies had no eyes and was covered in rotting flesh, arms outstretched and reaching towards him, slowly coming towards him on all sides… "No, no, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

John walked up to the collapsed Stu, tapping him with the heel of his shoe. The Stu grunted gently, murmuring something about zombie agents. Lord only knew what was going on in his head.

John had been hiding further down the path, laughing to himself as each of his traps succeeded at their overall purpose. The rigged catapults had succeeded at annoying the Stu to the point of burning the entire place down, which in turn angered the Lungblossom that was in the brush. Lungblossoms were dangerous things, like most everything else out here, with petals that looked like a giant gaping maw and the ability to throw it's seeds at anyone that walked too close. The Lungblossom did what they always do, releasing a powerful hallucinogen that had dropped the Stu in just under the minute. John had just waited for the hallucinogenic cloud to disperse before he walked back over to the Stu. He made sure he was good and out before he walked over, dragging the Stu's unconscious body away from the Lungblossom before it got it in it's mind that he was a snack. Slapping the prohibitor on his wrist, he sent a quick message back to the Library before sending the both of them on the trip home.

John sat around, staring at the paperwork on his desk. He really should get working on it… but… he was awfully tired…

One eight hour nap later, John woke up… outside his room. There was a moment of confusion before he saw the giant mounds of paperwork sliding out of his room, and then that moment became a full on symphony of confusion.

"You have to finish the paperwork quick, or else it breeds, dude."

John looked up at the speaker, a boy in his mid-teens, wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. He grabbed a sheet of paper, scribbling down his response.

Yeah, I see that now.

"So, new guy? There's usually a note or something, but I guess I didn't see it. My name is Ben, and yours is…?"

John took the paper back from Ben, writing underneath his previous scribbles.

John. Looking forward to working with you.

Ben laughed, a jolly sound if John had ever heard one. He couldn't help but smile, although he was pretty damn annoyed with the rude awakening. The boy's good mood was infectious.

"So, what's with the notes? Shy, or something?"

Pfffft. Do I look like the shy type? I'm mute, unfortunately. It's one of those things you learn to live with, you know?

Ben's smile seemed to falter for a half second, before it came back. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Anyways, I'll be seeing you around the Library, I'm sure. Good luck and all with the paperwork, I'm gonna go…not help you.


By the time John had gotten it in his mind to look up, Ben was already gone.

Daaaaaaamn. He runs faster than me when I'm trying to get out of a bad date. That's gotta be a land speed record or something.

He stopped and looked back at the gigantic mound of paperwork, now slowly pushing it's way out of his room.

I'll work on this paperwork…later. Maybe after it blocks the hallway. I wonder if those bellows are still lying around?

And thus, the chronicles of that lazy bastard begin.

Insert Actual Military School Here

Two years after the Second Europan War ended in Gallia, things have gotten rough. Following Archduchess Cordelia revealing her true heritage as a Darcsen, not a Valkyria as many had believed, the people of Gallia were polarized. In the southern areas of Gallia, rebellion has turned its ugly, mustachioed head, led by the Gassenarl family. They gained many followers in the south due to their anti-Darcsen beliefs, and soon turned their attention to the capital, Randgriz. Due to the nature of the rebellion, the militia, the characters that the player controlled in the previous game, could not be mobilized against them.

Enter Lanseal, Gallia's premier military academy, training young men and women in the ways of war. Gallia follows a policy of 'universal conscription', meaning that every man and woman can be enlisted to the armed forces in times of war, and military education is required for all citizens. Since the militia cannot be mobilized in the face of a rebellion, Lanseal and her students have turned into the last line of defense against the rebellion.
The safety of Gallia's peace rests on the shoulders of these soldiers, these… children.

Now, enter Class G. In Lanseal, Class G is where the misfits are sent. They have little motivation, a track record that is a bit iffy, and a completely mismatched student body.

For example: a soldier from the Empire (the last game's antagonists) sent as collateral for the peace treaty, a 'professional' singer, a famous wartime painter, a prince from a nearby kingdom, a stalker, and many, many more.

And then, of course, there's their Class Chair, their commanding officer.

If you are familiar with this game, and thought it was the hot-blooded, slightly daft Avan Hardins, you would be wrong. He isn't even going to be brought up in this story.

Her name is Evelynn Aliceabeth Marah Lanseal, a direct descendent of the founder of Lanseal. To call her the best of the best would be an insult. She is the best of the best of the best of the best. She not only passed her entrance exam with flying colors, she stumped the proctors. They literally had no idea which of the five classes (Scout, Trooper, Lancer, Engineer, Armored Tech) she fit into. So, Evelynn made a suggestion.

"Why can't I just be all of them?"

None of the proctors argued. The R&D department quickly devised (with Evelynn's help, of course) a weapon that combined all the characteristics of the weaponry of the main classes, including the sub-classes.

It was called the Infinity. The accuracy of a sniper-rifle, the rapid fire of a heavy machine gun, the punch of an anti-tank lance, with attachments that included an enormous fencer's blade and shield, an under-barrel grenade launcher that also functioned as a mortar launcher, a flamethrower, and an engineer's wrench. Yet it was still as slim and sexy as its bearer.

She entered Class G in January, and took the previously vacant position of Class Chair. And no, she didn't lead Class G to victory time and time again. That would be implying that she needed their help.

She had the mobility of an Elite Scout. The aim of an Elite Sniper. The heal-all Ragnaid of an Elite Engineer. The hit points of an Elite Lancer. The armor of an Elite Armored Tech. No other soldiers needed to come with her on sorties. She singlehandedly won against Class A in the Laevatein Cup, facing off against their Class Chair, the brilliant and just slightly bitchy Juliana Everhart. After the battle, Juliana swallowed her pride out of sheer respect for Evelynn, and transferred to Class G so she could be closer to her.

Every girl in Class G wanted to be like her. Every guy in Class G wanted to be with her.

But, I digress. Been blabbing about her long enough. Let's get this thing started, shall we?


The morning bells rang, signaling the beginning of morning classes. In Class G, the students filed away from Evelynn's desk to sit at their own. Their homeroom teacher, Mr. Brixham, clapped his hands twice.

"Class, may I have your attention, please," He said, brandishing his pointer, idly tapping it against his temples. He glanced at Evelynn for a moment, his eyes hovering over her silky, chocolate brown hair, her big, blue eyes, her… no. Focus.

"We, uh, we have a new transfer arriving today from western Gallia. I hope you'll treat him with respect," Brixham said. The door to the classroom opened, and the new transfer walked in.

He looked about seventeen, around a hundred seventy centimeters tall. The first thing he did upon entering the room was writing his name on the board in the front of the room, underlining the 'ph' in his name. When that was done, he turned to face the other students.

"Name's Stephen Irving, Lancer. Hope you'll all take care of me," He said, doffing his floppy orange hat. His blue eyes darted to Evelynn at the front of the class. He gave her a friendly smile and a small, polite bow. Evelynn's pupils dilated. Everything else about her was the same as it ever was.

"Alright, does anybody have any questions for Stephen?" Brixham asked.

One hand raised. A mousy looking young woman with large ears and a blue beret. "What town are you from?" She asked. Stephen glanced at his palm, making sure nobody noticed the motion. Only one student noticed.

"Nadre. Born and raised there," he said. Another hand. A tall young man, very well built, broad face, tanned skin, black hair.

"Do you have any experience as a Lancer?" He asked.

"No, not much. But, hey, it's a stick that shoots explosions, so I think I should like it just fine," Stephen said. A few students chuckled. The one student who noticed Stephen glance at his palm lifted an eyebrow. Something was up, she thought.

"Alright, Stephen, I think that's all the time we have for questions right now. Could you please take your seat next to, hmm…" Brixham looked for any empty seats in the class. He noticed one next to a girl with her nose buried in a book. "There, next to Magari, if you don't mind."

Stephen gulped. "S-s-s-s-sure," He stammered, taking his seat next to the Darcsen girl whose dark blue hair looked like she had just rolled out of bed. His face was a deep red.

"Alright, class, please turn your history books to page eighty-one…" Brixham said. The new student pulled out his books, flipping it open to the proper page. All through history class, he cast glances at the girl next to him. Eventually, he got a glare from the orange-haired girl next to her, and wisely stopped.

After class…

"Excuse me, Stephen?" The subject of Evelynn's question looked up at her.

"Yeah, Class Chair?" He said. She smiled at him sweetly.

"I was wondering if I could talk to you about something outside of class. Do you mind?" Evelynn asked. Every male in the class glared at Stephen, wishing they could end his life with a simple glance. Stephen slowly nodded.

"Sure, lead the way," He said, standing up to follow her. She led him out of the classroom, every pair of eyes in the room following her. Once Evelynn and Stephen left the room, a brown-haired girl with pigtails, glasses, and a camera around her neck stood up quickly and followed them. As she tiptoed after them, she sang something under her breath in excitement.

"Scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop, I've got a scoo~oop…"


Lotte Netzel, the editor (and only reporter) of the 'school newspaper', the Lotte Insider, peered around the building, her camera at the ready. She'd followed the new transfer and Evelynn outside to the back area, and thoughts were already popping into her mind as to why she had summoned him.

'Hmm, old childhood friends, maybe? Ooh, what if it wasn't friends, but… but… childhood enemies? It'll need a title…' She thought, hugging the corner, out of their sight. Time to listen in, and what she heard was…

…Repeated thumping and cries of pain.

Lotte's jaw dropped.




The thumping got louder. Unable to contain her need to take a picture, Lotte took another look around the corner.

Whoop, false alarm. Evelynn was just… slamming… the new transfer student's head against the wall.

"Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow."

Lotte ducked back. Yep, that clinched it. Definitely childhood enemies.

The thumping continued for a few more minutes, each time followed by the transfer saying 'ow' in a monotone.

"Alright, now talk," Evelynn ordered, pressing Stephen to the wall by his throat.

"Okay, well, I'm Stephen, I like hamburgers, my favorite color is blue, I think I look dashing in this uniform, and I…"

Another slam.

"Why are you here, Agent?"

"Would you believe me if I said it was a coincidence?"


"Is that a no?"


"That is definitely a no."

"Tell me the truth!"

"I am! It's a coincidence! I just came here to get away from the Library for a few days!"

Lotte stroked her chin. Agent? Library? What were they talking about?

"And why the Hel would you want to do that?"

"Long story, alright? I'm not here to bring you in, and that's the truth," The transfer said. There was another loud slam, and Evelynn left in a huff, not noticing Lotte hugging the wall and praying that she wasn't seen. As soon as Evelynn was out of sight, Lotte looked around the corner again, and saw that the transfer student was gone, and the only evidence of what had just happened was a head shaped hole in the wall and a few pictures on Lotte's camera.


"…And if we subtract x from y, we find that…" Brixham's math lecture was cut short by a loud clanging coming from the bell tower. It wasn't the bells tolling the hour; it was just a clamorous call to arms for the students. Stephen stood up, glad for the reprieve from math class.

"Alright, some action!" He said, stretching out his arms. He turned to the back wall of the classroom, where all the gear was stored in lockers for the students when they needed to move against the rebels. That was when he noticed that nobody else was standing up except for Evelynn.

"Why isn't anyone…" Stephen muttered. The door slammed as Evelynn, fully armored and equipped, left for the mission.

"Stephen, will you please sit back down," Brixham requested, turning back to the chalkboard. "As I was saying, we find that x equals…"

Stephen leaned over to the girl next to him. "Why did only Evelynn leave?" He whispered. Magari either didn't hear him or ignored his question, choosing to continue to read.

"Because she didn't need any of us," The man on Stephen's other side answered. He was tall, and his long gray hair was in a ponytail over his shoulder. Sitting on his desk was a pot of tea and two teacups. He slowly filled one of them, offering it to Stephen.

"Would you care for some tea?" he asked. Stephen shook his head politely, still intrigued about what was going on.

"What do you mean she didn't need any of you?" he asked.

"We haven't seen live combat since she got here. She's able to complete the missions quite well without our help," the man answered, taking a sip from his own cup. The transfer's eyebrows lifted in surprise. His hand shot up.

"Mr. Brixham, may I please be excused?" he asked. Brixham nodded, and Stephen jumped out of his seat and nearly dashed out of the classroom. After he was gone, Lotte also raised her hand and asked to be excused.

There was a story afoot, and she wasn't going to miss it because of some algebra.


Lotte glanced down the hall to make sure there was nobody in sight before pressing her ear against the door to the men's bathroom. Two voices: Stephen and some woman with an odd accent that Lotte had never heard before.

"A week. You want to take a week to capture her."

"I have a plan on how to take her down without having to lift a finger against her, Tash."

"That's bull, you just don't want to continue the training I set up for you."

"That's because I'm concerned you got the regimen from Dragonball Z!"

"Alright, you think you can pull this off? Lets make a bet. If you're able to bring her in without any bloodshed from you or her, I'll let you interrogate Vlad immediately."

"Seriously? You will?"

"Yes. But! If your plan doesn't work, then you have to continue the training without any complaint. Do we have a deal?"

"Get the zappy thingy ready, Tash. I'll be back in a week."

There was a click. Lotte hopped away from the door, a plan to get the truth from him already fresh in her mind. She whipped out her notebook and pencil, prepared to do what she did best. A moment later, the door opened and Stephen walked out, straight into Lotte.

"Hey, dude! I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions for the school newspaper!" Lotte said, nearly making Stephen jump out of his skin.

"Gah! Lotte, you scared me!" He said, his hand over his heart.

"Alright, just a few questions," Lotte said, not giving him any time to react, "First, you said you were from Nadre, right?"


"What part of Nadre?" Lotte grinned.

"Um… from the… north part."

"You said you don't have any experience as a Lancer?"

"Th-that's right…"

"What is your relationship to Evelynn?"


"Have you visited the academy's library yet?"

"No, I haven't had the chance…"

"Were you scouted by one of Lanseal's agents?"


"Alright, last question, dude…" Lotte's grin widened. "How did you know my name?"

Stephen visibly paled. "Lucky guess?" He said.

Lotte shook her head at him. "Nice try, dude. Who are you, really?"

"I'm Stephen Irving."

"Really," Lotte said, "You claim not to have any experience as a Lancer, despite the fact that all middle school students are required to have basic weapons training covering all class weaponry."She grabbed his face. "Nadre's a desert town. Lotsa sun there, but you don't seem to have much of a tan." She grabbed his hand. "You wrote down important information on your hand. 'Hometown: Nadre. Reason to join Lanseal: Protect Gallia. Eggs, milk, butter'," Lotte released his hand and lifted her camera. "I have pictures on here of you being interrogated quite forcefully by our Class Chair, where you claimed not being here to 'bring her in', among other things." Lotte stared him dead in the eye. "Now, who are you, dude? Some sorta secret agent or something?"

Stephen gulped. He was silent for a few moments, as if he was thinking about his answer. His eyes abruptly lit up.

"I'm sorry, but my mission here is classified," he said, averting his gaze.

"How classified?" Lotte asked.

"So classified I'd have to kill you just for telling you how classified it is," Stephen answered, trying to get around her.

"It's about Evelynn, isn't it, dude?" Lotte asked, "Did she do something?"

"You might say that," Stephen answered.

"You really think you can bring her in by yourself in a week without resorting to violence?"

"…Heard that, huh?"

"I can help out, dude."

"Why would you want to do that?"

"Because something is up, and the truth is out there. It's my job as a reporter to find it," Lotte answered. Stephen scratched the side of his face in thought.

"Well, it would help me to have some backup…" He said to himself. After another moment of thought, he nodded to her. "Okay, you're in."

"Dude! Yes! Secret Agent, Lotte Netzel!" Lotte chirped, making a gun with her fingers.

"First things first, introductions," Stephen said, reaching into his pocket and whipping out a golden badge and then pocketing it before Lotte could get proper details.

"Special Agent Stephen Irving, of the top-secret Gallian Military Organization only known as the 'Society'."

"So, do you answer only to the Archduchess?"

"The Archduchess doesn't even know we exist. I was sent here to locate and apprehend a dangerous Rebel spy who infiltrated Lanseal, specifically Class G, using experimental technology."

"Dude! Evelynn's a rebel spy? But she's been fighting them for months!"

"It's my belief that she's working directly for the Gassenarls as their hidden trump card for a later conflict. As far as I can tell, she's using, um, a ragnite based technology that makes her seem absolutely perfect to those without proper mental training. She has Class G, except for you and me, hanging off her every word."

"Wait, dude, how come I'm immune?"

Stephen grinned. "Lotte Netzel. It's your dream to be a reporter like the great Irene Ellet, right?"

"Hell yeah!"

"Here's my theory. Deep down, you can tell something's not right here, and your journalistic instincts are just yelling at you that she's not perfect, that she has some dark secret. Am I right?"

"Well, yeah. Everybody's got some hidden truth; I've just gotta find it."

"Well, with your help, we'll make sure that everybody knows her hidden truth. I have a plan."

"What's the plan, dude?"

Stephen grinned. "Well, first of all, we're going to have to…"


Juliana's eye twitched. No matter what she did, there was no way to get out of the current pickle. This transfer student was good.

"Not getting any younger here, Miss Everhart," Stephen said from behind his tented fingers. He had (somehow) procured a pair of white gloves and orange tinted glasses for reasons unknown. Juliana growled a bit under her breath. This kid had just waltzed into the classroom, daring anybody to challenge him in a simple game of wits. Like a fool, she'd accepted.

Valkyrur damn it.

Juliana flicked over her king. Checkmate.

A gasp of awe spread through the surrounding students. Juliana Everhart, brilliant tactician, had just lost a game of chess to the new transfer.

Lotte peered out the window again. No sign of her yet.

"Anybody else wanna go?" Stephen taunted, leaning back in his chair.

"I'll take a shot," A bespectacled Darcsen woman, Mischlitt, said. She took Juliana's seat, watching as Stephen idly reset the pieces on the board.

Time passed slowly, dotted by the sound of pieces being set on the board. Mischlitt was a genius, there was no doubt about that, but somehow, Stephen was staying one step ahead of her at all times.

His orange glasses, seeming to constantly catch the sunlight, disguised his glances at the odd device between his feet.

Lotte glanced out the window again. There she was. She gave Stephen a thumbs up.

Stephen started to go on the offensive. Mischlitt's pieces fell one after another, until only one remained.

"Checkmate," Stephen announced as Evelynn entered the room. Jaws dropped.

"Hmph," Mischlitt scoffed, "Impressive. I haven't lost a match in years."

"Well, what can I say? I just might be the best strategist in Class G!" Stephen crowed, making sure that Evelynn heard him as she stowed her gear. She showed no reaction to Stephen's claim. Stephen scowled.

"A-yup, the best. Not one of the best, the best. Best of the best of the best." Still no reaction. Evelynn was just calmly returning her gear to the locker in the back of the classroom.

"Yep. Best of the best of the best. Of. The. Best."

Evelynn whirled around, fire in her eyes. "Oh? Care to back up that claim?"

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't. What did you have in mind, Class Chair?" Now, assume that this was a fishing tournament, Stephen was a fisherman, and Evelynn was a fish. Let us assume that there is only one fisherman and one fish in this competition, just for simplicity's sake. If these conditions were true, then Stephen would only have to reel in the fish, because he had her hook, line, and sinker.

"Move it, Mischlitt. I'll take him down," Evelynn stated, taking Mischlitt's seat across from Stephen. Stephen clucked disapprovingly.

"I wasn't thinking of playing chess, Class Chair. For such a formidable opponent, I was thinking of playing a different kind of game," He said. Evelynn scowled.

"What are you playing at?"

"Well, here's what I think we should do…" Stephen leaned forward, confident that he had her attention, "A mock battle with members of Class G."

"Hah! All I would need on my side of the field would be me!" Evelynn laughed. Stephen shook his head.

"I thought that this was a competition of tactics, not battle prowess. The two of us would only give orders," he clarified.

"…I accept. On one condition…" She leaned forward to Stephen, whispering something in his ear. Stephen whispered something back, and Evelynn's eyes widened.

"Well? I'll accept your terms if you accept mine," Stephen said. Evelynn slowly nodded. A murmur went up through the assembled students. The new kid versus the school's idol. This would be big.


Stephen and Evelynn decided the rules for the match behind closed doors, in Class G's briefing room. The teams would have one member from each second level sub class. In Valkyria Chronicles II, classes are able to upgrade following a tree for their class, with two choices on the second level (after the basic class) and four on the third level. With two sub-classes for each of the five classes, the teams totaled ten people. The ten classes were Scout Veteran, Sniper, Trooper Veteran, Gunner, Lancer Veteran, Mortarer, Engineer Veteran, Anthem Corp, Tech Veteran, and Fencer.

The match would take place in one week.

Evelynn and Stephen chose students for their team at random, using pictures of the students. The pictures were separated by class, and both leaders chose one card from each pile.

After determining the teams, Evelynn left to review her strategies in the library, leaving the briefing room available for Stephen and Lotte. Stephen handed the list of students on his team to Lotte, who looked over it quickly.

"Scout Vet, me. Sniper, Nichol Martin. Trooper Vet, Erik Kampmann. Gunner, Anisette Nelson. Lancer Vet, Reiner Tristan. Mortarer, Rene Randall. Engineer Vet, Raymond Moen. Anthem Corp… Dude, stop blushing."


"Anthem Corp, Magari. Tech Vet, Morris Ling, and Fencer, Alexis Hildern. Not a bad lineup, I guess," She said, handing the paper back to him. Stephen nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, but I'm still worried," he said, crossing his arms.


"Because I don't think I can think up better tactics than Evelynn can. So, there's only one thing that I can do to win."

"Which is?"

"The same thing I did during those chess matches: Cheat until the cows come home. Also, I have an advantage that she doesn't…"

"Well, it'd better be a good one," Lotte said, looking over the list of students on Evelynn's team. She read them off one by one.

"Scout Vet, Helmut Bourdais. Sniper, Melissa Dalen. Trooper Vet, Franca Martin. Gunner, Marion Siegbahn. Lancer Vet, Coleen Celsius. Mortarer, Vario Kraatz. Engineer Vet, Heinz Gilden. Anthem Corp, Randy Hamsun. Tech Vet, Inghild Noverre, and Fencer… dude. She got Juliana?" Lotte gasped. Stephen nodded.

"We got to choose one student manually. I chose you, she chose Juliana."

"…Yeah, your advantage better be a good one, dude."

"It is. You guys haven't seen combat since she joined, right?"

"Nope. The only chance we get to actually fight is during training, and Evelynn sits out of that. She says she doesn't need it."

"One more question: Do you trust her?" Stephen asked. Lotte paused for a moment, thinking over her answer.

"Well… I guess I did, dude. But now that I know she's a Rebel spy… I dunno."

"Okay, how much did you trust her? Enough to tell her your secrets?"

Lotte's answer came faster this time. "No. I… I don't think so."

"There's a world of difference between 'trust' and 'respect', Lotte. And I can bet that most of Class G only respects her. There's no real bonds there, no camaraderie with her forged in the flames of battle," He said, "And that's my advantage."

"That her team doesn't trust her?"

"Nope. She doesn't know the things that they only tell to people that they trust," Stephen pointed his thumb at himself, "I, however, do."

Lotte's jaw dropped. "What? Dude, how?"

"Don't underestimate the Society's information gathering," Stephen said, standing up, "Now, let's go people watching real quick."


Lotte and Stephen sat on a bench in the sunny courtyard, watching the people pass by. Students sat by the fountain, chatting idly about their day. In the midst of all this throng, two people marched through, one of them intent, the other a bit meek.

"Hurry up, Nichol! Stop being so slow!" The elder of the two, a twenty-year-old girl, with dark hair combed to the side, and a single braid, barked at the younger boy.

"Y-yes, Franca," The boy, sixteen, with chaotic brown hair, responded quietly.

"I said march! Valkyrur, no wonder you're a worthless soldier!" Franca scoffed at her younger brother. Nichol stared at the ground, ashamed of himself.

"Y-yes, Franca," He repeated. From the bench, Lotte growled.

"Ooh, that girl ticks me off! She treats that poor kid like trash!" She grumbled.

"In the match, she'll turn against Evelynn, mark my words," Stephen said. Lotte stared at him as if he'd just predicted that he would be hit by a meteor five minutes ago.

"Are you serious. Dude, are you even looking at her? She hates the poor kid!" Lotte said, her voice rising. Stephen smiled.

"Everybody has a hidden truth," He said, reaching into the sack at his hip, "Especially her." He pulled out a spool of black thread, a wad of some sort of clay, and a hollow tube. He held the spool out to Lotte.

"See this thread?"

Lotte took the spool and examined it. "Yeah, it's just thread. Why?"

Stephen took the spool back and attached the loose end of the thread to a small wad of putty. "Swiped the thread from one of my colleagues, who will probably want me to give it back. It's made from a plant called a Cladcrea-something-something weed, and it's pretty darn tough. Prehensile strength of maybe two hundred pounds, and it's completely fireproof. And now… observe," He said. He stuffed the wad down the hollow tube, brought it up to his mouth, took a deep breath, and blew.

The small projectile shot out of the tube, trailed by the black thread. The putty struck the side of the fountain half a foot off the ground, sticking there and making a fairly effective trip wire. Franca had already passed it, but Nichol hadn't. The boy's shuffling gait caused him to trip over the wire, sending him tumbling to the ground. Franca wheeled around instantly, her eyes panicked.

"Nichol!" She gasped, dropping to her knees to make sure her younger brother was alright. Stephen yanked on the thread, pulling it and the wad of putty free from the fountain and reeling it in.

"Owowowow…" Nichol hissed. His face and palms had been scratched up a little bit, but he was otherwise fine.

"You need to watch where you're going, Nichol. Come on, let's get you to the nurse's office," Franca fussed, helping Nichol to his feet. Lotte almost gasped when she saw Franca's face. While she had looked tough and unforgiving a moment ago, she now looked a mixture of worried and compassionate. Stephen smirked slightly.

"I-I'm fine, Franca," Nichol tried to say. Franca hushed him and pulled him away, her face tough again, but still showing signs of that compassion.

"D-dude, what was that?" Lotte asked in shock. Stephen just leaned back.

"Cross Franca Martin off the list, Lotte," He said. Lotte pulled out her notebook and crossed out Franca's name.

"So, this is your plan? Manipulate the members of Evelynn's team so they can't fight?" Lotte asked. Stephen nodded.

"Exactly. Now, there are a few things that I need you to do. First of all..."

A few minutes of talking later, the bell rang, signaling the beginning of the next class.

"You got all that?" Stephen asked Lotte. She nodded, scowling slightly.

"Great. Now, let's get to weapons training."


Coleen Celsius, an eighteen-year old woman with short, pinkish hair adorned with a flower headband, took a deep breath in. She balanced the front-heavy lance on her shoulder, aiming the lance-shaped rocket at the target. The anti-tank lance was a simple long rod with a rocket at the tip, and it could punch through tank armor like it was nothing. Only problem was that they were heavy and it was hard to move while carrying one. Once Coleen was confident about her aim, she pulled the trigger.

The rocket shot off, the recoil causing the lance to buck a little bit, despite her best attempts to hold it steady. It struck the wooden target a hundred meters away, turning it into mere shrapnel. Coleen smiled. "And that's how it's done. You ready to try?" She asked the transfer. Stephen had been trained as a shocktrooper at school in Nadre due to a lack of AT lances, so he was unfamiliar with how to use one. He'd come to Coleen, who was one of the most proficient with a lance in the class, for help.

Stephen nodded, taking the same kneeling stance as Coleen and easily positioning his own lance on his shoulder. He paused for a moment, making sure that the lance was pointed directly at the target. Coleen looked over his stance.

"Hold on, hold on," She said, standing up to direct him properly. "Hold the lance so that it's balanced on your shoulder like…" She moved his hands into the proper position, "This. Alright, when you're ready…"

"FIRE!" Stephen shouted abruptly, pulling the trigger. The rocket shot off, missing the target by about a meter. He hadn't really counted on the recoil, and it sent him sprawling to the ground. Coleen was also knocked back by the sudden force, but she was able to remain in control of her balance. Unfortunately, when she was quickly adjusting her feet to stop from falling, she stepped on a loose rock, which skidded away and caused her foot to land in an awkward position. Pain shot up her leg.

"Gah!" She winced, dropping to the ground. Stephen sat up and looked at the target. He slammed his fist to the ground, making small pebbles in a short radius jump a little bit.

"Dang it, I missed! Coleen, did you see…" He turned to face her, finally noticing that she was on the ground, her ankle bent in an odd direction. "Oh, crap. Are you alright?" He asked, quickly moving to her side to check the injury. Down the aisle of the target range, people started to notice that there was an injury. One student in particular from the grenade range hustled over to see what was going on.

Coleen nodded. "Y-yeah, I'll be fine. Just a little Ragnaid and I'll be alright," Coleen said. She tried to stand up, but winced when she put weight on her injured ankle.

"Here, let me help…" Stephen said, moving forward to support her weight. Unfortunately for him, somebody had beaten him to it. He was around eighteen, wearing the armor of an armored tech, and he had short, black hair hanging straight down.

"I-I'll take you to the nurse's office," He offered, cutting past Stephen. Nobody noticed Stephen's sly grin.

"O-okay…" Coleen said. The boy, Morris Ling, turned his back to her and lowered himself slightly, leaning forward a bit.

"Hop on. I-it'll be easier this way," He said, trying his best to hide how hard he was blushing. Coleen slowly nodded, putting her hands on Morris's shoulders and lifting her legs slightly so that Morris could hook his hands under her kneecaps. A student nearby chuckled a bit. Morris wasn't very tall for a guy, and he was only a few centimeters taller than Coleen, so it was a bit of a spectacle to see him carrying her.

As Morris carried Coleen away, nobody was able to see that her face was slightly pink.

Lotte approached Stephen. "What was that supposed to accomplish?" She asked.

"Cross Coleen off the list. She's been dealt with," Stephen said, ignoring her question.

"Dude, are you serious? She'll be up and walking again in like, an hour," Lotte said. Stephen nodded.

"I know that. Just trust me," He said, "You took the pictures?"

"Yeah, they're right here," Lotte said. She held out a roll of film to him, full of pictures taken just a few minutes ago. "Just take 'em to the store to have 'em developed. Tell the shopkeeper that I sent you," She said, handing it to him. Stephen pocketed the film.

"Everything's starting to fall into place, Lotte," He said, doing his best to look dramatic, "Everything's falling into place."

The next day…

As the girl moved silently through the shadows of Lanseal's library, none saw her. Nobody ever saw her when she didn't want to be seen. In Lanseal, the shadows were the territory of Melissa Dalen.

She was seventeen, with short black hair and a single loch of hair sticking up from the top of her head. Her eyes were constantly half-lidded. Now, they were scanning the room, looking for her target. It was a weekend, and there were no classes, so he was probably here.

"There you are…" She whispered as she saw him sitting at a desk. Zeri. Dark blue, spiky hair, a patterned armband, glasses, pointed chin, serious expression at all times. He may have been a Darcsen, but he was her Darcsen.

…Whether he knew it or not.

…He… didn't know.

Let's make something a bit clear here: Melissa is a stalker. She really, really likes Zeri.

After several minutes, Zeri shut the book he had been reading and left the library. Melissa, feeling like she had logged in her Zeri-stalking hours for the day, decided to have a look around the rest of the library and see what everyone else was up to. It was always good to have practice.

Magari was reading a book (how surprising), Raymond was looking up field medicine, and the new transfer was sitting alone at a table, with nobody else in sight. Melissa peered at him from behind a bookshelf. He was certainly an odd child. On his first day, he had beaten two of the smartest members of Class G in chess and challenged the Class Chair to a competition. Melissa had no idea what he was planning, but it was probably something…

"I know you're watching, Melissa," He said, not looking up from his book. A spike of fear drove through Melissa's heart. He… he'd seen her? That was impossible.

Impossible, but interesting. She stepped out from the shadows, no longer hiding her presence.

"Impressive. How'd you know I was there?" She asked slowly. He turned around in his seat to face her.

"I didn't. I've been saying that at regular intervals over the past few hours. If you hadn't shown up, I would've been here all night," He said. He pulled a manila envelope from his blue uniform blazer and tossed it to Melissa, watching it slide across the floor to arrive at her feet. "I think you should find that interesting," He said. Melissa reached down and opened it, pulling out the photos inside. She glanced over them.

Rage burned in her heart, silent and hot. All the pictures were of Evelynn, sitting on the sidelines of the target range, and they showed quite clearly that she was gazing at a certain Darcsen.

"Well…" Melissa said, crumpling the pictures up, "…this just won't do."

"I know you'll be her sniper in the match in six days," Stephen continued, "Let me tell you a secret. If I win, then she goes away for a long, long time."

"…You want me to betray her, huh?"

"Do you?"

A slow smile crept across Melissa's face. "You don't even have to ask," She said, and she vanished into the shadows, a soft laugh being the only indication she was ever there.


The school newspaper was a small thing, and not entirely official. The Lotte Insider, founded, run, and owned by Lotte Netzel, the editor and only reporter, covered simple gossip in Lanseal, and many perceived it as being a rag and a waste of paper. Still, it sold, and the proceeds were split fifty-fifty between Lotte and the school store (That's right. For every five copies sold, Lotte got a sweet five ducats). Lotte had dropped off the latest edition early that morning, praying to the gods of journalism that they would have mercy on her for reporting something that wasn't entirely, well, true.

...Okay, she'd done it before, but not on purpose.

Vario Kraatz, the boisterous almost-professional singer and Mortarer, made it a habit to buy the paper as soon as it came out. Sometimes, it had relationship news in it, and Vario always liked to know where he could find heartbroken girls to comfort with his song. The same can't be said of the girls, however.

Vario was almost always loud. Now, as he read the latest edition on a bench in the courtyard, he was completely silent, his jaw dropped. He lifted the eye-patch over his right eye, since what he had just read had been deemed worthy of his using both eyes to read it again.


You won't hear about this in the Gallia Times, folks! This is an exclusive scoop, from insider information! It's shocking, sudden, and completely true!

Bridgette 'Rosie' Stark, famed singer of the song 'A Love Passed On', which tugged at Gallia's collective heartstrings following EWII, is coming to town! She's making an unscheduled stop near Lanseal to visit the bar where she first started singing, and she's barely told anybody! My source, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told me that next Friday, Rosie Stark will be at the Drunk Lance Bar from noon to six, singing the songs she once sang before she hit the big stage! Check it out!

Vario set the paper down, covering his mouth as he tried to comprehend what he had just read.

Bridgette 'Rosie' Stark was coming. The same woman who had inspired him time and time again with the raw emotion in her song. The woman who could bring an entire audience to tears. She was his inspiration, the reason he sang.

He simply had to see her.

Wait. Next Friday. The match.

Oh, jeez.


Randy Hamsun, the well-liked vice-president of the student body council at Lanseal, sighed. The president's chair was so much fun to sit in. He knew there would be no interruptions to his chair time. The president hadn't come out of the bathroom for about a week now, the door to the office was locked, and the other members of the council were busy doing other stuff.

Randy loved this chair.


A fist popped through the door. Randy nearly jumped out of his chair. The new arm in the door felt around a little bit before locating the doorknob and undoing the lock. The arm pulled back, and there was a loud crack as the door was pulled off its hinges. The transfer student set it aside, humming a simple tune.

"I really shouldn't enjoy doing that so much," He said to Randy. At the moment, Randy was frozen in shock. "I thought I'd find you here, Mr. Hamsun. Sitting in the student body council president's chair, are we, student body council vice-president? Hmmm?"

"I… you… just… that was…"

"Yeah, sorry about the door. Anyway, to business. We need to talk," Stephen said, pulling up a chair in front of Randy's desk. Randy quickly hid his shock and smiled warmly, exuding as much of his natural charisma that he could.

"Of course. I'm always willing to spare a little time to help out new students. Oh, and don't worry about the door. I'll pay for it," Randy said kindly. Stephen smirked, cocking his head to the side a little bit.

"I don't need the nice guy routine, Mr. Hamsun," He said, leaning back and putting his feet on top of Randy's desk. "I know that you've been putting laxatives in the president's food every now and then when you want to sit in the big boy chair. He looks like an incompetent moron, and you get to take up his workload, giving yourself a higher position in the students' minds. But that's not what I'm here to chat about." He set his feet back down on the floor, much to Randy's delight, and leaned across the table. "Mr. Hamsun, I know your motives. You want to be in command of this school. And you just so happen to have a certain obstacle standing in your way, don't you?"

Randy slowly smirked. His blonde hair nearly blocked out his eyes, putting them in shadow and giving him the malevolent look that was his true self. "Evelynn. Try as I might, I just can't defame her in the eyes of the student body. I make it look like she stole something, she just apologizes and nobody brings it up again. I give her laxatives by the dozen, and they just don't affect her. She's untouchable," Randy said, "So, what is it you want from me?"

"On Friday is the match. During the battle, you'll report all of her actions to me. If you do this, and I win the battle, Evelynn will leave, and nobody will ever remember her," Stephen said. "Do we have a deal?"

Randy started to chuckle. "Deal."


The days left until the match passed quickly. Stephen spent most of his free time in the library, reading up on military strategies and trying, unsuccessfully, to flirt with Magari.

The day before the match, Stephen passed Lotte a note during class, telling her to meet him outside the girl's dorms after lights-out. He had something to show her.

When Lotte snuck out of the dorms and crept around back, she saw Stephen sitting against the building, looking up at the first few stars of the night. She sat down next to him.

"You ready for the match, dude?" She asked.

"I hope so. I've got a lot riding on this," Stephen answered.

"That deal you made?"

"Heard that too, huh?"

"C'mon, spill the beans, dude. Off-record, I swear. Scout's honor," Lotte said. Stephen chuckled a little bit.

"Alright, I'll tell you. Well, I've been looking for a certain… Rebel operative, an old friend of mine. Anyway, he's hiding somewhere, and my superiors aren't letting me interrogate the only person who might know where he is because I nearly died trying to capture him. I have to catch a few more Su… spies if I want to do the interrogation. However, if I can bring in Evelynn without having to fight her, they'll let me interrogate the guy immediately. I'm hoping that he'll know where to find the guy I'm looking for," Stephen said.

"Lemme guess, you wanna talk some sense into this old friend of yours?" Lotte asked. Stephen laughed.

"Hel no. I'm gonna try to kill him before he can kill me," he answered, standing up.

"Um… okay, dude. So, what did you want to show me?" Lotte asked. Stephen adjusted his glasses (it had seemed to become a habit recently). They reflected the small amount of light in the area, hiding his eyes.

"Everything is going according to plan, Lotte," Stephen said gravely.

"That's it?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"WHO'S OUT THERE?" A voice called out. Stephen and Lotte paled.

"Scatter!" Stephen hissed, and he and Lotte ran for cover.

The next day…

Evelynn's squad surrounded the map of the battleground on the table in the middle of the command center. Of course, to call it a 'command center' would be a bit of a stretch. It was basically just a table with a map on it, a radio (for relaying orders), and a chair under a tarp. All the squad-members were dressed in full battle gear, using training equipment that could knock a person out, but (hopefully) not kill. Melissa was cleaning her sniper rifle's scope, Heinz was organizing his extra ammo supplies, Juliana was standing by herself off to the side, making practice swings with her massive sword, then bringing up her tower shield to block an imaginary attack, Vario was fidgeting about and checking his pocket watch every so often, and Marion was stroking her machine gun like it was a cat. Evelynn cleared her throat, instantly catching her subordinates' attention.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today. Now, as you all know, what is currently at stake is not your lives. It is not your pride, it is not your honor, it is not your country. It is something much more important than that," Evelynn slammed her hands down on the map, "It is MY pride. I expect you all to follow my orders to the letter," She said.

"YES, MA'AM!" was the unanimous response, whether they meant it or not.

"Thank you," Evelynn said, smiling, "Now, here's the plan." Unbeknownst to her, Randy turned on a handheld transmitter he had received from Stephen, catching every word Evelynn said.

"Our objective is to capture the enemy base camp in this area. Marion, you will stay at our base camp and protect it. Juliana, you will make a frontal assault on the camp. Inghild and Coleen, go to this area and capture the camp there. Melissa, get to the tower in this area and snipe from there. Everybody else will be on standby until given orders. Any questions?"

Randy raised a hand.


"Could you repeat that just a bit louder so that we can be sure that everyone heard it?"


Lotte vaulted over another sandbag barrier on her way to the enemy camp. Stephen's plan had worked perfectly. Juliana and Alexis, Class G's other expert Fencer, were still duking it out. Morris caught Inghild and Coleen off-guard, knocking out Inghild with one blow to the back of the head from his wrench (it was a big wrench). From that range, Coleen could have easily hit him with a dummy rocket, but for some reason, she didn't, choosing instead to just stand there, blushing and stammering. Morris took the same approach. Nichol had intercepted Franca and Helmut while they were sneaking towards one of the camps. Franca had found herself unable to shoot her little brother and switched sides, taking out Helmut in the process, Vario deserted early on, and Melissa flat out disappeared after ambushing Heinz, who was trying to resupply her after she had 'lost' her ammo.

Now, Lotte had been sent to make an assault on the enemy base camp, her trained legs letting her cover much more distance than the other classes. Before she had left, Stephen had given her a small parcel, instructing her to use it as bait when the time came.

Lotte ducked behind one of the massive crates near the enemy's base camp. It was a straightaway to get to the camp now, the only cover being provided by the large crates. Lotte crept around the crate, moving forward and staying out of Marion's line of sight. She poked her head around the corner, then ducking back before Marion could notice her. Just trying to shoot her would be futile. She was crouching behind a barrier of sandbags, and the machine gun she carried would turn Lotte into a thimble before she could get close enough to lob a dummy grenade.

Lotte pulled the parcel off of her belt, untying the strings and pulling the brown paper away. "He must be joking," Lotte decided to herself. Inside the package was a small, metal gun, a pistol, unlike any Lotte had ever seen before, and it had a string tied to the butt. A piece of paper was attached to the gun. It read, 'no, I am NOT joking,'.

Lotte growled under her breath as she ripped the note off of the gun. She uncoiled the string from the gun, grabbing one end and leaving the other end attached. She tossed the gun around the corner, ducking back and uttering a short prayer to the Valkyrur. There was silence for a moment, followed by a crunch of gravel. Slow footsteps.

The footsteps stopped, just in front of where the gun had landed.

"Ohhhhh," Marion moaned, "That shape is delicious."

Lotte, too scared to wonder why Marion, high-classed, straight-laced Marion, was moaning at the sight of a gun, yanked on the string, pulling the gun back.

"Don't try to run away!" Marion giggled, trying to pounce on the gun. Lotte kept pulling, and Marion kept following. Finally, the gun was in Lotte's sight again. Lotte stopped pulling the string, and Marion snatched up the gun, falling to her knees as she marveled it.

"Oh, aren't you beautiful…" She sighed, stroking the gun, inspecting every aspect of it. "Mmmm, point forty five ammo, so nice…"

Lotte, finally deciding that she'd had enough of seeing Marion fetishizing over the gun, smacked her over the head with the butt of her rifle. Marion went down like a bag of bricks. Lotte stepped over her, muttering a quick apology, and ran for the flag pole in the base camp.

A minute later, Evelynn's blue flag was lowered, and a red flag hung in its place. Lotte breathed a sigh of relief. They'd won. Lotte slumped against the sandbags, the adrenaline from the past few minutes of running finally wearing off.

And then, there was a scream, and Evelynn's command center burst into blue flames. A sole figure, wrapped in the same blue flames and carrying a pair of spiraling blue lances, dashed from the command center, heading…

…Straight for Lotte.

"Oh, shit," Was the last thing Lotte got out before Evelynn Aliceabeth Marah Lanseal, who was secretly a Valkyrur, fired an enormous burst of blue energy, sending Lotte flying through the air to crash against a crate.


Lotte's vision came back blurrily, slowly focusing until she could make out the engineer applying Ragnaid to her head.

"Ow… head…" She moaned. The massive, broad shouldered engineer, Raymond, jumped when he heard her.

"Lotte's awake!" He announced.

"What happened?" Lotte asked, sitting up slowly. She quickly regretted it as the burns on her front screamed at her. She winced. Before falling back down, she took note of her surroundings. She definitely wasn't back at the Evelynn's base camp. Engineers were scurrying about, applying Ragnaid to other injured members of Class G, almost all of whom seemed to be burnt badly.

"Evelynn happened. Everybody kinda swarmed Stephen when we saw the flag go up, then Evelynn showed up and went completely nuts, just trying to fry everybody, shouting, um, stuff I shouldn't repeat. Stephen ran off a few minutes ago, and Evelynn followed him, but everybody was too hurt to chase her," Raymond said, opening a small canister of Ragnaid and bathing Lotte in a blue glow. The pain slowly subsided as the burns faded away. Lotte stood up, slowly stretching out her limbs to make sure nothing was broken.

"Where'd they go?" She asked.

"I think they were heading to R&D," Raymond answered, "But it's been almost fifteen minutes, so I'm not sure if they're still there." Lotte looked down at her chest. Her camera was still hanging there, singed, but probably functional.

"I need a rifle," She said.


Looking at the hangars in R&D, one would think that a tornado had decided to try its hand at organization. Parts of the walls were on fire, but didn't seem to be spreading, and there was the sound of conflict from deeper in. Lotte ran towards it, her rifle at her side, and her camera at the ready. She had her priorities.

Suddenly, a small tank sailed through the air above Lotte's head. It was struck down in midair by a blast of blue fire, and the small APC sent after it shared its fate. Evelynn sailed over Lotte, thankfully not noticing her. There was the sound of several more blasts. Lotte took cover behind an upside down tank and peeked over, her camera at the ready.

There they were. Evelynn, still on fire and her hair turned silver, and Stephen, covered in small burn marks. Evelynn was stabbing at Stephen repeatedly with her two lances, but Stephen was able to dodge the attacks while only suffering small scratches. Lotte took a picture of the battle, her camera's shutter making a tiny click.

The sound did not go unnoticed. Evelynn, without even looking, pointed one of her lances at Lotte. Lotte scrambled out of the way as the lance started to glow, focusing its energies.

Stephen took advantage of the gap in Evelynn's defense and cracked her across the jaw and kicking the arm she was aiming at Lotte with, throwing off her aim. The beam hit the ceiling above them, causing rubble to fall. Stephen slipped past Evelynn, quickly sweeping her legs out from under her as he passed. Evelynn fell to the ground as she was crushed under the rubble. Stephen didn't stop running.

"Lotte, MOVE!" He shouted, pulling Lotte to her feet without stopping. "That's the third time that's happened to her! She's not gonna stay down for long!" He explained as tongues of flame started to lick at the pile of rubble from inside.

"This way!" Lotte hissed. Just before leaving the R&D building, she pulled Stephen behind a parked truck. She peeked around the truck, and saw the pile of rubble explode, revealing the unharmed, and extremely annoyed, Valkyrur.

"BASTAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!" She screamed, likely at Stephen. Lotte ducked out of sight. Evelynn dashed past their hiding spot, believing that they had left the building.

"Why did you come here?" Stephen hissed at Lotte.

"I wasn't about to miss taking some action shots!" Lotte answered, showing him her camera.

"Well, unless you can help me beat her, you should probably get out of here!" Stephen ordered.

"I'll help out! What's the plan?"

"I don't have one! So unless you can think of a way to give me an advantage against her in close combat, we're screwed!" Stephen answered irritably. Lotte rubbed her temples in thought.

"What if she was to lose her balance?"

"That'd work! Any ideas?" Stephen said. Evelynn was still outside, vaporizing anything that moved.

"One! I'm borrowing this real quick!" Lotte hissed, reaching into Stephen's leather pouch and pulling out the spool of thread. She quickly tied it around one of the truck's wheels, and ran across the building to another parked truck, wrapping the spool around one of its wheels. Stephen grinned, having figured out Lotte's plan. He ran between the two vehicles, on the side of the thread that Evelynn wasn't on. Lotte ducked out of sight.

"Hey! Looking for me?" Stephen called out, grabbing Evelynn's attention.

As soon as he spoke, Evelynn whirled around and fired at him. Lotte averted her eyes, not wanting to see Stephen disintegrated by the ragnite energy. Just before being struck, Stephen whispered a word under his breath, and his body tensed. When the blast ended, he was completely fine.

"Bo-ring," Stephen said after a second. "How 'bout we fight fair?"

"FAIR? After you made a MOCKERY of me?"

"Okay, so I cheated a bit. But you broke your promise, so I guess we're even," Stephen said. Evelynn fired at him again. Stephen whispered one word, and the outcome was the same as the last time. He was unharmed.

"Yes, that tickles," Stephen said sarcastically. Evelynn howled in rage. She bounded straight at Stephen, both lances prepared to pierce him. Stephen grinned, and pulled his right foot back, dropping into a low stance. He gathered his hands at his side, cupping them around an invisible object.

"KAAAAA… MEEEEEEE… HAAAAAA… MEEEEEEE…" he shouted as Evelynn kept on getting closer.

What happened next seemed to Lotte to be in slow motion. Evelynn tripped over the thread, sending herself pitching forward, out of control. She held out her lances to try and stop her fall, all while slowly entering Stephen's attack range.

"HAAAAAADOOUUUUKEEEEN!" Stephen screamed, shifting his weight forward and striking Evelynn in the gut with his two open hands. Lotte's camera shutter clicked just as Stephen struck Evelynn.

It was good that she didn't take pictures of what happened next.

Evelynn went flying outside the building, her eyes blank. She slid to a halt after a few dozen meters, and didn't stand back up. Unfortunately, Stephen was also affected by the force of the blast. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, so he went flying in the other direction. He struck the far wall with a crash.

"OW!" Lotte heard. She winced.

"You okay, dude?" Lotte called out, coming out from behind her cover.

"Yes. Just… definitely going to… have better footing… next time I do that," Stephen grunted, collecting himself from the floor. "Is she out?"

Lotte glanced at Evelynn. "Yeah, she's out cold, dude."

"Then I do believe… that my work here… is done," Stephen said, stumbling past Lotte. He hobbled over to Evelynn, kneeling over her body and slipping a metal bracelet around her wrist.

"Two down," Stephen said to himself, picking up Evelynn and throwing her over his shoulder. "Thanks for all your help, Lotte," He said.

"You're… leaving?" She asked. Stephen nodded.

"Yeah. Society policy. I take care of the job, I leave, nobody remembers I was ever there."

"You seriously expect Class G to just forget about you, dude?"

"They will. As soon as I'm gone, every sign that Evelynn and I ever existed will vanish. Things 'll go back to the way they should be," Stephen said, rooting through his pockets before pulling out an odd looking gun.

"You're welcome back to Class G anytime you want, you know," Lotte said. Stephen smiled, and pulled the trigger. A hole appeared in the air where he had aimed. Lotte's breath hitched in her throat.

"I'll keep that in mind," Stephen said, and he stepped through the portal.

A few days later…

"Hey, shopkeep!" Lotte said cheerfully, slapping the final draft of the next Lotte Insider on the counter. "I've got the new paper for ya!"

"Ah, thank you, Lotte. I'll have that printed up as soon as I can," The shopkeeper said, filing the paper away. He pulled out a large envelope and handed it to Lotte. "Here's those pictures you had me develop, by the way. Some… impressive stuff on that roll of film," He said.

"Huh?" Lotte said, opening the envelope and pulling out the photographs. She flipped through them, easily remembering when each of them had been taken.

Then, she nearly dropped them all in shock.

It was a picture of two people, a young woman and a young man. They were both wearing Lanseal uniforms, but Lotte didn't recognize either of them. The woman was holding two lances, Valkyrian lances, and there was some sort of glow around her. And the man was striking her in the midsection, his mouth opened as he screamed something.

In a flash, Lotte remembered everything. It was Stephen and Evelynn. She gasped.

"Is something wrong, Lotte?" The shopkeeper asked.

"No, no," Lotte said, "Nothing at all." She tucked the photos safely away back in the envelope.

"Nothing at all."