Chapter 2

        May 19, 2014.
        The morning after the attack, Homura was using the redesigned primary mental inhibitor, out of the three machines in the room, to hold a conversation with the Fugitive. The red and black triangular-prisms were equipped with dual touch-thought interfaces, embedded viewscreens, and internal cameras.
        "We're not protectors," asserted Homura.
        "Homura, you people are protectors," replied the Fugitive. "I mean, you and the others are doing all right protecting. You people got rid of two of the Opposition, at least. It's just that we never had to... deal with enemy snipers before."
        "It can't be helped."
        "Just... be thankful they didn't find me and shoot my head off. I mean... Look, what if it's not just the Opposition out there? Do you think there's other people, you know, with something agains-- other-- other people who want us dead? I mean..."
        "Most likely. I guess that's just the way it is."
        "Wait, Homura, let me clarify something. You and Mami Tomoe... Did you-- Did the both of you just make friends with someone?"
        Homura hesitated a bit before replying. "That's my business."
        "You could have let me know about it."
        "Would you believe me if I did?"
        "Yyy..." began the Fugitive, stumbling over his answer. He then changed the subject. "Anyway... it's kinda hot around. You should probably go get something to drink. Just don't drink Scout's pop. It's probably kinda over-hyperactive for you."
        Homura was unaware that her doppelganger was hiding behind Inhibitor 3.

        The second-Homura peeked over the machine and stared, past her present-day self, at the redesigned machine at the centre. She thought back to the one time that same machine posed an obstacle in her former purpose here: to fight despair in this world....
        November 17, 2012A.
        Homura Akemi was in the inhibitor room. She was about to use the primary inhibitor to check if that man was still threatening to end his own life in about a month. She briskly walked up to the angular red and black machine. However, she swung her left arm forward too much and accidentally bumped it against the machine. A bright arc jolted with a loud shriek onto the shield that was attached to Homura's forearm.
        Homura was knocked onto her bottom by that burst of energy. As she caught her breath, she looked at her shield on her left forearm. The round inner mechanisms were visible, but then the shield's windows closed up. Other than that, Homura didn't feel any different. She raised her right arm and lightly tapped the left upper side of her head.
        Her headband hadn't been changed into a ribbon, and that meant Madoka was still around.
        But Homura remembered that Madoka was also worried about that man's well-being, and she considered that now wasn't the best time to focus all her efforts on Madoka yet.
        As she began to speak up, Homura heard the whoosh of a sword materializing somewhere behind her. She turned around and saw Sayaka, in her magical girl outfit, place one of her magically summoned swords in the hands of a young pink-haired girl in a chestplated red dress. This waitress-like outfit was apparently supposed to be her blacksmith outfit.
        The girl was Rika Shinozaki, better known as Lisbeth. She had played some virtual-reality RPGs and had a role as a weapons blacksmith within at least one of them. Though her appraisal skills weren't as sharp outside the games, Lisbeth gasped in amazement. Somehow, she felt that Sayaka's sword had such a high quality, even though Sayaka could summon multiple copies at any time.
        "This is the gnarliest magic sword a person can get!" declared Lisbeth.
        "I kinda feel like I wanna congratulate myself, too!" giggled Sayaka.
        Homura turned her attention away from Sayaka and Lisbeth, and began to leave a video message for that suicidal man. She considered no more what that flash of energy did to her shield, or what those two were even doing in the room....
        The second-Homura had her right hand against her head once more as her memories of the past faded from her eyes like a hole burning through a sheet of paper. The doppelganger noticed that the present-day Homura had left the inhibitor room, so she decided to step up to the primary inhibitor herself.
        She tapped her fingers on the frontal column a few times, slapped her palm onto it, and invoked a signal scramble that connected her to the Fugitive.
        "Hi... again, Homura," answered the Fugitive in a nervous manner. "Is something going on over there?"
        "It's been a while," said the second-Homura.
        "Been a while? I kinda talked to you just now, though."
        "Are you sure about that?!" The second-Homura did not mean to reply in an outburst. "Uhh, I mean, it's just that..."
        "Wait. Umm... Is it because you wanna get rid of the other Opposition Members and that frigging candy cane sword girl?"
        "That's right." The second-Homura sounded confident once more and raised her left hand a bit. "I want to stop the attack. That's all that matters. And I'll need everyone's help to do it."
        "Okay," the Fugitive agreed. "Well, I'm gonna try to get the others together for this next thing. And, also, we're gonna need your help too... Homura."
        It was just as the second-Homura expected. The Fugitive still thought she was the Homura from this timeline. Five months had passed after the doppelganger stepped in to defeat Black Rock Shooter, the second Opposition Member, and this man still didn't believe that there was indeed a second-Homura around.
        That was going to change soon enough, but for now, the doppelganger wanted to talk to one more person.

*   *   *

        The second-Homura found Engineer at RED's Teufort base.
        Engineer still had on his headset that was embedded into his yellow construction helmet. He had been examining a trap-like box-shaped device that was emitting a full-scale red hologram of him. Engineer had developed this Reanimator device in collaboration with Medic in case those two Mecha-Engineers decided to cause an uprising, though these trap boxes could theoretically be used for the team's ongoing struggle against the Opposition.
        Engineer was also receiving a steady healing stream from a nearby Mini-Dispenser he preferred because they were less conspicuous than the more well-known full-size Dispensers.

        "I'm ready!" said Engineer as he turned to face the girl.
        "Well..." The second-Homura asked a question. "If... he knew I existed, how do you think he would react?"
        "I think it's safe to assume he wouldn't accept me. After all, we've never even met."
        Engineer silently frowned in confusion. Of course that Fugitive of theirs met Homura, he thought. She was even worried about that guy dying a long time ago.
        "I wouldn't be that way, though," the second-Homura concluded.
        The team's ringtone sounded over Engineer's headset.
        "Yeah?" Engineer spoke into the comm as he turned back toward his trap-like device. He did not notice the second-Homura turn her shield and disappear from behind him.




Chapter 3 >