Chapter 6

        Unbeknownst to the team, the second-Homura had been hiding behind the primary inhibitor the whole time. Suddenly, she realized that the man she overheard talking to the team was the same man who died in her timeline... by his own hand. The second Homura remembered it all too well: the first fateful cold day at the outdoor fountain....

        December 15, 2012A.
        Homura and Madoka were on the way to an event. However, just moments ago, they had found a trail of blood splashes in the snow along the road they took. When the both of them had reached the outdoor fountain, they saw a man with sunglasses on, who had bled out his left arm from several wounds and fallen to the ground dead in a pool of blood.
        Neither Homura nor Madoka could see a weapon or tool that may have caused the cuts in his arm, but just seconds after their arrival, they heard an ambulance drift recklessly into the fence just behind them as its siren faltered and stopped.
        Still, the sight of someone in the bloodstained snow sent Madoka into a state of shock.
        "Homura... that's awful!" whimpered Madoka.
        "You shouldn't blame yourself for what happened," said Homura softly.
        "But I..."
        Madoka then collapsed onto her knees right next to the pool of blood.
        Homura remained standing. She glared at the corpse in disappointment. Homura knew that the man whose body they were seeing in front of them was the very person she had begged not to take his own life months ago, and she knew Madoka wanted to make sure he lived as well. But he went and did it, and now nobody knew except Madoka and Homura.
        "How could you?" asked Homura softly, addressing the man who wasn't supposed to die.
        "I'm sorry," said Madoka softly. Then she threw herself onto the corpse as she burst into tears. "I'm sorry...!" she repeated, her voice muffled by the bloodstained body.
        It was then that Homura made her choice.
        She would not go to that event, not for another year and a half. The moment she turned her shield upside-down, Homura knew she would be sent all the way back to that hospital bed and she would have to repeat the same actions and inactions she undertook for the year and a half.
        She would have to see Madoka disappear.
        She would have to let herself and Madoka get thrown into the black voids within reality.
        Homura fought so long to save her friend Madoka from dying... now she was going to save this man with sunglasses from his own suicide, just so she can see that Madoka stayed happy.
        Homura turned her shield upside-down. She was ready to fight another long battle. The shutters on the shield clanked open, revealing sets of gears that began to spin quickly.
        Homura could only watch as a silvery-blue tunnel lined with jagged black patterns surrounded her and soared past her....

        November 17, 2012B.


        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.
        Then Homura looked around... Instead of lying down in her pajamas in her bed at that hospital, she found herself in her magical girl uniform in the inhibitor room! It was then that Homura realized: the energy burst that came from that machine in front of her set a permanent checkpoint when she turned back the clock and jumped back in time!
        But... how? Nothing was supposed to override that kind of...
        Homura was relieved, though: She did not need to redo a year and a half's worth of actions. She didn't have to save Madoka, or see her disappear and reappear anymore.
        What was happening, though, was a man threatened to end his own life in just under a month.
        Homura was not going to let that happen.
        But before she could leave, Homura heard Sayaka summon one of her swords behind her. She turned around and watched intently as Sayaka placed it into Lisbeth's hands.
        Sayaka caught Homura's apparent glare. She showed a look of disgust on her face, which quickly faded when Lisbeth gasped in amazement.
        "This is the gnarliest magic sword a person can get!" declared Lisbeth.
        "I kinda feel like I wanna congratulate myself, too!" giggled Sayaka.
        Homura made a mental reminder to give an anonymous tip to the authorities. She chose to wait until a few days before the day that man would be found in a pool of his own blood. That was when she would submit the tip.
        As Homura stood up, she ran her fingers through her hair... and noticed it felt different, as if it was smoother and sleeker than it was before....
        The second-Homura became conscious of her present surroundings as the past burned away from her eyes once more. She noticed that the seven people were still in front of that inhibitor machine, and attentively watched their meeting for a bit longer.
        Mami was now the one in front of the other six teammates. They had stepped back to give each other some space. Mami leaned forward and had her arms stretched against Inhibitor 3's frontal column, as if she had been discussing details with the unseen voice who began to sound a bit on-edge.
        "Team," the Fugitive demanded, "if you run into the blonde-haired guy with that green hood thing, or that pink-haired girl with the curly ponytail on the side, just deal with them right there, all right?"
        Pew pew POW!
        A young pink-ponytailed girl in a slim black intricate Gothic-style dress had been brought in by a time-screw teleport. She landed beside Mami, who then took a few steps back.
        "What's going on?" the girl asked in a singsong manner.
        "Team, get--!" ordered the Fugitive, only to interrupt his own command with his sudden hesitation.
        The four mercs had hesitated in reaching for their weapons.
        "Wait..." muttered the Fugitive, "That can't be right. That girl..."
        The girl turned to look at Homura behind her. "Miss me?" she asked.
        Homura stared and shrugged her shoulders in confusion. The girl had unknowingly mistaken Homura for that twin-from-another-time she met with five months ago... or quite possibly that girl made it look like that on purpose.
        "Excuse me, you there with the black dress?" asked the Fugitive. "Uhh, you kinda got that same ponytail..."
        The girl turned to face the viewscreen. She gestured to herself with her hands.
        "I have a name," she asserted. "It's Lumina. And I know a lot about you." She then leaned forward into a curtsy-like half-bow while keeping her arms to her sides and spreading out her fingers.
        "Hi, I guess? Okay, well, Lumina," replied the Fugitive, "if you're gonna help us fight the people who want us dead, we're gonna have to talk after this, all right?" He turned his attention back to the teammates. "Anyway, team, there's this other pink-haired girl who looks a lot like Miss Lumina here."
        Lumina smugly nodded her head. "That's it! You aren't so dumb after all," she noted. "Of course it's Serah!"
        "Well, now," said Spy.
        The Fugitive continued, "Yeah, anyway, last year Serah apparently slapped--"
        While the Fugitive was in mid-sentence, the second-Homura appeared out of nowhere, wearing her magical girl clothes, in front of the Resurrection Movement teammates. She faced the viewscreen and had her right hand on her circular shield.
        "Homura-- wait, Hom... ura...?" The Fugitive had trailed off mid-sentence.
        "Sorry to keep you waiting," said the doppelganger.
        "Team?" asked the Fugitive. "Did any of you bring a friend who's still all dressed up as Homura?"
        Engineer, Spy, Mami, and Madoka began to frown. They could not believe what they were seeing.
        "Uh, no," replied Scout.
        "You've got it all wrong," the second-Homura sighed as she placed her arms to her sides.
        "Don't pretend you don't know," Lumina asserted as she turned to face the viewscreen. "Okay?"
        "Homura..." Madoka said softly. She looked at the doppelganger, then back at Homura.
        Then Homura pressed her right hand against the side of her head once more, just like she did at the office building months ago....
        "Excuse me," she told the viewscreen. "I'm not feeling well."
        "Oh-- oh! Right," the Fugitive said in realization. "Homura, you just told me you'd get a headache if there was a second one of you around and..." He began to address the team again, but began to stammer. "Uh-- uh, okay, now we got two people here who-- who's two of the same person, and Miss Lumina over here who's g-- wh-who's got Serah's hair... style, and--"

        A signal scramble occurred in the area. Vanellope, stuck in her teenager-like appearance from the day before, appeared beside Lumina in the sudden shower of pixels.
        "You were great yesterday," exclaimed Vanellope to the viewscreen. "I had a blast!"
        "Right here!" Scout called out to Vanellope before the Fugitive could respond.
        Vanellope turned around to look at Scout, but then saw both Homuras in her field of view. "Whoa," she softly exclaimed as she shook her head. "Okay, keep it together, Vanellope."
        "This is allll youuurrr fauuulllt!" wailed FemScout to Scout.
        "What?!" Scout shouted in disbelief.
        Vanellope looked over at FemScout, and then at Engineer. She faced the viewscreen once more.
        "I hope they're not gonna make me wear one of those red outfits," Vanellope spoke to the viewscreen. "Personally, I'm just into more of the comfy casual thing."
        Engineer groaned, while Spy chuckled.
        "Hope they don't miss me too much back in Sugar Rush," said Vanellope.
        "Do you have something important to do?" asked Madoka.
        Vanellope nodded.

        "Anyway, yeah-- uh, Vanellope?" the Fugitive continued, "Thanks for that... but I wanna know for sure that Miss Lumina here's not been working with whoever slapped Homura in the face and everything."
        Homura glared angrily at the viewscreen, appalled that the Fugitive could not let that embarrassing moment go. The second-Homura, however, let her eyebrows droop in a bit of worry.
        "Ouch... That hurts, you know?" moaned Lumina. It was unclear, however, whether she was actually pretending to be hurt.
        "Uhh--" began the Fugitive.
        He was cut off by a burst of static.
        "Are you done committing blasphemy, you bogs?" a synthetic male voice taunted.
        The voice was from the subordinate-leader of the spacesuit-wearing men. These men had held rampant protests rallying for the death of the Fugitive and had constantly sent death-threats to anyone defending him. The subordinate-leader was joined by another man in an identical spacesuit.
        Pew pew POW!
        Two more spacesuit-men appeared in a time-screw teleport seconds later. The subordinate-leader continued his misguided rant toward the team and their guests.
        "Don't you know already?" sneered the man. "That gae-iou fugitive of yours deserves to die for all the crimes he's committing!"
        "Yeah!" agreed an identical voice in the group. It was unclear which of the four spoke out.
        "Ugh! Would you listen to this nonsense?!" groaned Lumina.
        "Boooo!" yelled Scout and FemScout in unison to the four protesters.
        The subordinate-leader continued, "He doesn't want you to leave him because--"
        Pew pew POW!
        The third bright flash of another time-screw sent a red fireball that instantly crashed into the slashed Inhibitor 2.

Goli maaaaaaaaaarrr!

        Time seemed to freeze during the out-of-place foreign-language song clip that filled the room. The area was bathed in an eerie green glow as a single alarm-like drone blared from the fireball's impact.
        Neru Akita lowered her outstretched left hand to her side. This young woman with bright orange hair and a long singular side ponytail was Opposition Member #3. She had both her vibrant red-centered flower and a yellow sun visor on her head, and a look of extreme disdain on her face. No one seemed to notice a yellow touchscreen smartphone that was now attached to Neru's left leg, not even the four spacesuit-wearing protesters who she accompanied.
        "Boss!" exclaimed the subordinate-leader without any hint of a whine in his voice. "That's not from the 90s or his childhood! Do you even know what that aeiou was?!"
        Neru's response was to poke her index finger against the middle of the helmet visor, as if to shush his mouth.
        While the Resurrection Movement members stared in silence and disbelief, Lumina giggled and leaped, with her arms outstretched, into her own teleport.
        "Hey! I wasn't done here, lady!" the protester called out to the space where Lumina had been.
        "Uhhhhhhhhhhh..." The three other protesters began a lengthy overlapping same-voice drone, only to be interrupted by their true leader.
        "Take a look," Neru spoke to the protesters in her synthetic English voice.
        The protesters stopped their vocal drone.
        Neru continued, "Those morons are so confounded, they're just standing there not doing anything. That means I get to do this."
        Neru pushed down on the flower with her hand.
        The three inhibitors started malfunctioning once more. Spheres of electricity crackled on each of the inhibitors' viewscreens, just like they did a few days before.
        "Damn dagnabit--!" yelled Engineer.
        But before anyone else in the group could understand what was happening, the crackling spheres sent out long jolts of energy that met at the same time where the group was.
        Neru stood up, having hopped backwards out of the way of the electric beams. She watched as the glowing portal of a time-screw faded away in front of her.

        Knowing that she sent her spacesuit-wearing protesters along with those incessant Resurrection Movement twerps to battle, just as she wanted, Neru marched up to the primary inhibitor. After a brief moment in hesitant thought, Neru slapped her right hand down on the machine's black frontal column.




Chapter 7 >