Chapter 3

        Seven of the Resurrection Movement members stood in front of Inhibitor 3's viewscreen. Four of them-- Engineer, Spy, Scout, and FemScout-- represented the Codename Fortress division, while the other three-- Madoka, Homura, and Mami-- were from their self-named Holy Quintet.
        Engineer still wore his hardhat-mounted headset. Instead of his regular overalls, though, he now had a brown vest on with some tools and front pockets on it. He also had a fast-food drink cup stored in the big pouch on his belt.
        Spy, who didn't bring his own headset-hat, had begrudgingly decided to wear his old suit. The suit had been caked with bloodstains that were over a year old by now.
        Scout and FemScout wore their own headsets and walkie-talkies. Scout was no longer wearing his red triangular-eyed scarf replica over his shirt collar.
        Madoka, Homura, and Mami were in their school uniforms, with long-sleeved beige and white shirts marked with red ribbons on their chests, and black pleated skirts with white criss-cross patterns.
        Mami noticed that Engineer had attached Sniper's camcorder with a black cable to the back of the inhibitor. He had placed the camcorder on the flat surface on top of the machine. As Mami rose to be the first to speak up, the team's ringtone sounded.
        RRRING RRRING!
        "Point going up!" declared Engineer, who was another one of the people closest to the inhibitor. He struck the machine with his wrench.
        WHACK!
        Kshzzzt!
        The signal scramble connected the inhibitor to the Fugitive.

        "Hi again, Resurrection Movement," greeted the voice. "Now, I wanted to bring up something first. Some of you are gonna know what I mean by this, and-- well, Madoka and her friends weren't here when it happened, so..."
        Mami took a step back. She paused for a moment, and then nodded to the viewscreen.
        "Okay. You remember those crazy green-onion missiles that were always flying into everything?" asked the Fugitive.
        Engineer, Spy, and Scout paid closer attention to the viewscreen.


        There was a final "CODE RED" mission back on January 2, 2011. Years before the Opposition began attacking them, the mercenaries and some unlikely friends held back a sudden amassment of self-propelling missiles that were suspiciously shaped like green onions.

        That day, the mercs learned that the incident they witnessed was a reenactment of the controversial case file named #SK09-HM10-07XX: Miku, a turquoise-haired performer and close friend of Sniper, propelled herself through the air surrounded by green onion-shaped missiles, all while being vulnerable to naughty camera angles. She then unleashed a long vocal note powerful enough to detonate the missiles, and even went so far as to summon more missiles that she could control herself.

 

        Come to think of it, Engineer and Spy wondered if Miku was still all right. Sniper, who had just been gunned down, became obsessed with defending her back then, and had kept calling her a "princess".
        The Fugitive continued. "Well, there was that guy who looked way too much like Vader, but wasn't actually Vader. He was some 'Internet persona' or something." There was a hint of resentment in his voice.
        FemScout frowned. Did he mean that black-armored character with the glowing red sword in that sci-fi series? Or was that "Internet persona" pretending to be him?
        "And... for all I know, he got himself stuck in GLaDOS's body-- her supercomputer body-- and forced her to go into another one she didn't really like. Because of that, GLaDOS had to look like a white-haired version of that singer Miku."
        Spy gasped in realization. That blue vector-lined sci-fi samurai mask was giving out all those vague hints during the old missions, while that robot girl, who did in fact look a bit like Sniper's "princess", led the team.
        Madoka looked around with a frown. Neither she nor her friends even knew that something like "CODE RED" happened. Back then, they had not yet been contracted by Kyubey, nor had someone threatened to end his own life. They hadn't even met Engineer and his friends yet, either.
        FemScout, who had lived elsewhere at the time, was also visibly lost to what the Fugitive was talking about. Her frown didn't go unnoticed by Madoka.
        "Team, I just found out that when whoever-it-was from the Opposition slashed that inhibitor last year, they got rid of the Vader-mask Net persona from the computer systems."
        Engineer groaned. It turned out that GLaDOS didn't get to delete him after all-- not that the mercs even thought about wanting him gone.
        "He didn't actually get deleted, though," the Fugitive continued. "I heard a white-haired girl with ponytails... wait, I think it was... Yeah, while GLaDOS was flying around in her other body, she apparently found his soul as a glowing white ball lying around her room and she locked it away somewhere. Later, I think an angel of death got that glowing ball in the mail for safekeeping or something like that."
        Madoka silently gasped. An angel of death? That sounded a bit too familiar.
        "I mean, she probably... ferries the souls of the dead and I think I just met up with her again..." mumbled the Fugitive.
        Madoka could only frown. That could not have been the same person with light blue hair--
        "Anyway," the Fugitive continued, "the Net persona's gone now, so we don't have to worry about him. He's not part of the Opposition or anything."
        Homura sulked. She herself did remember reading some info on that angel of death online just after the attack last night. Still, she could not recall anyone who looked like Vader, and she was glad that the Net persona wouldn't be able to interfere with the team's efforts.

        Mami quickly closed her mouth into a smile and began to wave at the viewscreen.
        "Oh, uh, Mami Tomoe, you got something to say right now?" asked the Fugitive.
        "Yes," replied Mami. She turned to face the group. "I thought there were a few things we should go over. Many of the inexplicable suicides and murders that occur are caused by a witch's curse."
        Spy groaned.
        "What?" Scout said in disbelief.
        Mami continued. "Its darkness grows within a person, until it consumes them from the inside out."
        The Fugitive then spoke up. "Hmm. Interesting," he noted. "But I don't think the kind of witches you and Madoka... used to fight can get rid of Heavy and Sniper like that. I mean, not with guns. Speaking of murders, I don't even know why the Opposition wants us dead."
        FemScout was impatient. "Dammit, come on, come on!" she yelled.
        "All right, okay, okay," said the Fugitive, somewhat nervously. He began to casually give his commands. "Team, this inhibitor right here... It handles the more volatile messed-up stuff, but that means it's got a further reach for the things we gotta find out about. You've got that camera hooked up, too, so just look up the stuff from May 16 to yesterday, May 18. Try to... take turns, and find any clues about who's been attacking us and slapping people in the face and everything."
        Homura jolted at the indirect mention. Madoka looked over to her with a slight frown, but Homura's reaction went otherwise unnoticed by the others.
        Mami stepped up to the inhibitor beside Engineer. She nodded her head once toward the viewscreen in agreement, and placed her right hand onto the front triangular column.
        Kshzzzt!

        Text appeared on Inhibitor 3's black viewscreen:


Archive found:
MAY 16 2014 - MAY 18 2014


        The dates onscreen marked those of the weekend gathering the teammates had attended. With a nearly-disorienting warp, the standard color bars appeared on the viewscreen and became solid as the text disappeared.
        The seven teammates were then treated to a near-rapid video montage showing many different people, most of whom were either the teammates themselves over the past few days, or others they met up with during that gathering.

 

*   *   *


        The screen was marked with a date and time in the bottom left corner:
        MAY 16 2014 8:15 AM.
        Inside a worn-out apartment building, Engineer and Spy were seen attentively watching TV, with Miku, Scout, and Sniper in the room with them. Luka, a woman with long pink hair, and two friends of hers had invited the five to watch the news report with them live. As the newscast began, Engineer realized that it was about the very weekend gathering that all these people, including that Fugitive some of them were protecting, were heading over to that afternoon.
        Just nearby, Scout exclaimed "Aw yeah!" with a chuckle. He had apparently noticed two cute young women wave to the news presenter on TV.
        A tall young man with brown hair, holding a black notebook against his left arm, looked over for a brief moment at the TV screen. He turned to the tiny blonde-haired man beside him, and then back at the TV.
        "There must be something wrong with me to even consider it," the brown-haired man muttered to himself. After all, he still had to consider that the blonde-haired girl he... agreed to work with never ever wants to see him with other girls.
        The tiny man, who wore a black hat and a black cloak, remained silent and kept his eyes on the TV.

        A brief moment of color bars, with a short test tone, separated that clip from the next and each subsequent clip of archive footage.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 8:15 AM.
        On the Construct grounds, a projector was set up toward one of the outdoor walls, displaying the same news report. Two men were watching: a young black-haired man who wore pants with a red flame design, and a middle-aged man in a blue and yellow helmet and tracksuit-like outfit.
        The man in the blue outfit pointed forward and exclaimed, "Here it comes!"
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 8:17 AM.
        Back at the apartment, Luka was shown to have red bell strings in her hair and a white scarf around her collar. She had a confused expression on her face as she looked at the tiny man standing beside her.
        The tiny man declared, "I want you to become part of the Holy Roman Empire!"
        Luka waved her right hand down in front of the man's face, causing him to stop shouting.
        "So," Luka said with a Japanese accent, "I'll see you all this weekend, okay?" She waved to the others.
        ("Wait a minute. What's this Opposition?") asked Miku in Japanese as she walked up to Luka.
        "Opposition?" replied Luka. She didn't seem to be aware of the ongoing struggle.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 10:16 AM.
        The viewscreen showed the point of view of a woman in a white dress at the Construct grounds. She was shaking hands with, or rather, she had placed her hand within the large red claw-like glove of Black Gold Saw, a woman with long dark red hair and bright red curved horns on her head, who wore a black outfit with red armor around her legs. The dark-haired woman had recovered Sakura's wand when the Resurrection Movement defeated Black Rock Shooter months ago.
        Black Gold Saw nodded her head, closed her red eyes briefly, and smiled as best as she could.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 1:32 PM.
        At an urban street, a woman had shoulder-length hair, with red hair on one side of her head and pink hair on the other side. She wore a pink and purple skirt-like outfit with black shorts. She stood in front of two other girls. One of the girls had long green hair and a purple maid outfit, while the other had long black hair, a dark blue uniform blazer jacket with a blue ribbon, and a light blue pleated skirt.
        The woman with red and pink hair gently waved to someone in front of her. She waved to none other than Homura herself. Once Homura saw the woman wave at her, she tried to hide a growing smile on her face with her right hand.
        "Oh look!" exclaimed the woman cheerfully. "You're smiling again!"
        Homura lowered her hand and nodded softly at the woman as her solemn look returned.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 4:02 PM.
        The viewscreen then showed the silvery blonde-haired woman in the crystalline blue dress, walking down the black featureless void. A blue-hooded white-haired man, carrying a tall wooden hooked staff, followed the woman closely. The man was being followed himself by two people: a young brown-haired woman with a black and blue dress, who apparently had chosen to dye some of her hair white despite an incident she had some time ago; and a tall blonde-haired man in a thick gray fur coat, something that didn't seem right for the late spring months.
        The brown-haired woman looked over to the blonde-haired woman and asked, "Elsa? Taking time out for fun? Wow, this is so unlike you."
        Elsa seemed to look over at the others in embarrassment.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 4:03 PM.
        Moments later, Elsa brought the brown-haired woman away from the others, and asked her, "Anna, why am I not surprised you're here?"
        A girl who stood nearby, who had black hair with a red streak in it, looked up from the portable gaming device strapped around her left wrist. The device, which had a rounded shape, a glossy black finish, transparent shoulder buttons, and a widescreen display, had apparently been playing a copy of the news report from earlier that day. The black-haired girl hit a button on the device to pause the video. She looked up at the two royal-looking girls and managed to crack a smile. Another girl, who had shoulder-length brown hair and wore a blue and white school uniform, managed to catch up with the black-haired girl and give her a wave with a happy grin on her face.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 4:11 PM.
        With her device on the floor, the black-haired girl swung her giant red scissor blade around a few times in front of her with only her right hand, and then waved at FemScout with her left hand. The girl smiled while trying to tone down her fierce expression as best as she could.
        "That's what I'm talking about! Thanks, pally!" FemScout exclaimed.
        The black-haired girl gave a nod and began to walk away. She didn't notice a bespectacled man with short brown hair, a brown trenchcoat and a brown pinstripe suit walking by.
        BEEP.

        MAY 16 2014 4:30 PM.
        The viewscreen showed a young woman at the urban street who wore her white hair in ponytails marked by four small replicas of Aperture Science Personality Constructs. She had purple eyes and wore a white skirt outfit with detached white sleeves, as well as a silver rectangular mask on the side of her head, marked with a dark inner rectangle and a single yellow circle in the center. The woman was GLaDOS herself. She was still in the humanoid body from the old "CODE RED" missions that made her look like a white-haired Miku, though she was wearing a mask that depicted her supercomputer head.
        GLaDOS glanced over to a nearby purple haired girl, who wore her hair in ponytails as well, and gestured towards her.
        "Why do I know this woman?" she worriedly asked with a matching expression on her face. Her voice seemed electronically filtered and somewhat dissonant with her youthful appearance, and her right eye seemed to glow yellow for a brief moment, much like the circle on her rectangular mask.
        GLaDOS, in her humanoid body, had been talking to another woman.
        This black-haired woman was in a distinctive jacketed belted uniform of tan, white, and brown, and she also wore a red scarf. As the woman looked over to the purple haired girl as well, one of the teammates was nearby.
        FemScout was with yet another girl with shoulder-length purple hair and a yellow ribbon tied in a bow on her head. FemScout spread her arms wide in a smug show-off manner, and threw her left hand down in a quick pointing motion.
        "Bonk!" FemScout called out.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 5:21 PM.
        In a grassy field, two teenagers-- a boy and a girl-- who had blonde hair in different styles and wore white headphones and similar outfits of white, yellow, and dark gray, stood behind Luka. Luka, still with her bell-strings and scarf, seemed to notice someone who was nearby. The blonde-haired girl then excitedly pointed at something in the area.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 5:59 PM.
       

Everybody dance now

       
        As the dance-pop song played as the background track to this clip, the viewscreen then showed the urban street once more, where that girl with blue hair and a white cap was at the moment. The girl raised a blue umbrella with her right hand and had her left hand on her hip.
        "I am Squid Girl!" she declared as she quickly pointed her umbrella in front of her and sprung it open. She raised her umbrella high above her head and continued, "From this base, I will proceed to inkvade mankind!"
        While Squid Girl made her declaration, the purple-haired girl with the yellow bow on her head passed by behind her.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 8:28 PM.
        Sayaka, in her school uniform, was in front of a brown wooden door. This magical girl, serving as a Resurrection Movement member, appeared to have two metallic character pins attached to the ribbon on her shirt, but their designs were unclear. Having her left hand already raised beside her head, Sayaka waved in front of her.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 10:36 PM.
        The viewscreen showed Mami at the Chinatown area that Scout and FemScout would be in days later. With a bright smile, Mami waved in front of her with both her hands.
        She was joined by a tiny humanoid girl who was hovering in the air next to her. The humanoid had black oval eyes, two wide pink-haired ponytails, a black hood with red polka dots, and a red cape. She raised her arms up beside her head one at a time, as if to wave herself.
        BEEP.
       
        MAY 16 2014 10:40 PM.
        In another area at Chinatown, the girl with pink and red hair from earlier could barely be seen walking offscreen, while Mami and the tiny humanoid girl were joined by Luka. The three of them walked past a blonde-haired girl in a black Gothic-like dress.
        The blonde-haired girl hopped in place and excitedly waved her arms from side to side to someone in front of her. The waves happened to be similar to the ones she made five months ago toward a blue-haired girl who had returned her black notebook.
        BEEP.

 

 

 

Chapter 4 >