Chapter 8

        "Curses," muttered Neru.
        "Huh?" gasped a soft voice nearby.
        Neru looked over and saw a girl with a pink ponytail over her left shoulder. The girl was none other than Serah Farron herself. Neru had heard that, five months ago, once those Resurrection Movement twerps defeated Black Rock Shooter, this girl had arrived onto the scene and slapped a pesky black-haired girl in the face. But then again, Serah was also with this blonde-haired boy in a green hood headdress thing...
        Just thinking about that boy who tagged along with Serah as she slapped that girl in the face had reminded Neru of another blonde boy she once liked. When she voluntary joined the taskforce that wanted a Fugitive dead, she had to leave him behind.
        Len. That boy, along with his female counterpart with a white bow on her head, would probably have told that rival Miku about her stint with the Opposition by now.
        And now that one of her higher-ups in the Opposition had taken down Miku's friend Sniper, that attention-grabbing girl would probably end up joining those Resurrection twerps. That meant Miku could get to throw one of those stupid green onion rockets at her again....
        Neru stopped her train of thought and stepped back to let Serah use the inhibitor. She jolted. She didn't want anyone else to use the machine when she was around! But then, she noticed that Serah was slamming her fists onto the machine just as angrily as she herself had moments earlier.

        With a worried scowl on her face, Serah pounded the machine's frontal column with her fist one more time.
        On the viewscreen, she saw the boy she had been supervising in another featureless black hallway.
        The boy was Nagisa Hazuki. After walking around a gathering of many people just days before, Nagisa now found himself with one of these people.
        "I guess you're right," he said. "Before worrying about others, we should worry about ourselves."
        He glanced down as the person in front of him slowly raised a sword with blue and white stripes into view.
        "Well..." Nagisa began.
        That was all Serah could watch on the inhibitor before the machine to her left suddenly let loose a bright jolt into her chest.
        Serah felt her entire body freeze up as something pulled her backwards. The inhibitor room faded away in a blinding light that surrounded her....
        "That was close," muttered Neru. She knew her higher-ups in the Opposition would use those time-screw teleports to banish people from the inhibitor rooms... but only if they weren't working alongside them or with those Resurrection twerps. But then again...
        "Ugh, never mind," Neru groaned to herself. She stepped over to the inhibitor once more before she began to hear a particular whoosh that was like a small incoming rocket.
        Neru stepped back from the inhibitor and turned away. She tried to focus on the whoosh that was growing louder by the second. A faint blue dot was zooming closer and closer from the black nothingness around the inhibitors.
        In a matter of seconds, the blue dot appeared to grow the size of her head, if not bigger. Too late, Neru noticed the distinct white spikes on top of the blue thing as it spun once in a midair hovering orbit above her and propelled itself to the ground.
        Engineer burst out in laughter, along with Spy, Scout and FemScout, as they watched the nearby explosion.
        Their blue-shell plan had worked. Engineer had been tinkering with a personal supply of those infamous blue shells for nearly two years. He was able to use his Wrangler device to move the shells remotely, but he never got the chance to use their explosive properties on any adversaries until now. Engineer hoped that nobody from the Opposition would steal his supply and use it against his team.
        "Y'all take that, string bean!" called Engineer.
        The mercs saw Neru lying face up on the unseen ground, in between the three inhibitors. They expected Neru to have her usual stunned expression on her face after she had sustained knockback (Scout chuckled as he remembered the time he had sent Neru flying across her room with his metal bat), but what they saw was an angry sulking frown with her eyes closed.
        Neru's eyes sprang open.
        "Run, you f***ers," she threatened coldly.
        Her left hand began to glow a fiery red, but Scout didn't care. Scout chuckled as he used his roll of wrapping paper to bat his Christmas bauble straight at Neru.
        The bauble shattered onto Neru's upper left shoulder, extinguishing the glow in her hand. With her right hand, Neru quickly covered her shoulder and hid any cuts the glass shards had inflicted. She then disappeared from the area with a time-screw teleport.
        After the teleport faded, Engineer hurried over to the primary inhibitor.
        A few hits with a wrench would be all it took. It didn't matter that he was using his Eureka Effect one, which was not as effective for in-battle setup. But he wasn't assembling a Dispenser.
        "Get going!" Engineer yelled into his headset.
        Back at the city, Madoka heard Engineer's voice on Mami's walkie-talkie. She brought the comm device closer to Mami as Engineer called out once more.
        "Whoo-wee! Makin' bacon."
        A dull clang was heard over the comm. Mami gestured for the other girls to move in closer.
        But they noticed that the second-Homura had her hand on her shield.
        The six girls, and any weapons they still had out, disappeared from the city in a blue fading portal that was likewise ignored by the few people scattered on the streets.
        Pew pew POW!
        As three bright flashes filled the room, the magical girls returned amid cheers by Scout, FemScout, Engineer, and Spy.
        Mami received her walkie-talkie back from Madoka and stepped over to the primary inhibitor. Engineer moved back to give her some room and watched as she placed her right hand on the frontal column and spoke into her walkie-talkie.
        "Do you dislike sharing with others?" asked Mami.
        The ringtone sounded, and the Fugitive spoke right away.
        "Uhh, Mami Tomoe... it-it's not that." the Fugitive stammered as his voice was heard from the inhibitor. "Anyway, good job, Resurrection Movement."
        "Sweet," said Scout.
        "Man, it's a good thing none of the spacesuit helmets burst open, or otherwise their really ugly faces would probably have spread to you folks by now," the Fugitive continued. "Anyway, we're not quite done with Miss Neru yet, so you're gonna have to really fight her, and I don't mean using blue shells on her. Now, Neru's shotgun's gonna be really... accurate-- like she's cheating-- and she's probably got nostalgia-virus powers on her. Just be careful."
        "Of course," replied Spy.
        "And, uh... Engineer? Some police officers... want to talk to you about what happened with Sniper and Heavy. They couldn't find any evidence of any attack, and you were there when someone shot them both. So you're gonna have to go to the platform of infamy tomorrow for some witness-interview or something."
        Engineer nodded.
        "I want Homura to stay here and--" The Fugitive paused for a moment before he asked, "Uh, team? What's that other Homura doing with her hand like that?"
        Sure enough, the second-Homura had not moved her hand off her shield since the teleport.
        "You really are determined, aren't you?" asked the second-Homura. She felt that these "police officers" that the Fugitive mentioned were those men from who-knows-where...
        But before the Fugitive could reply, the woman in the crystalline blue dress from earlier walked in among the group.
        "Who is this?" asked Elsa as she pointed to the second-Homura. She looked at Homura and back to the doppelganger.
        "Her again..." muttered Sayaka. She and Kyoko were nibbling on some leftover biscuit sticks they had been carrying around.
        "I'm sorry, I'm confused," said Elsa.
        "I know, it's all... mixed up," the Fugitive admitted.
        Elsa looked at the primary inhibitor. She felt like she heard the voice on that red and black machine just a day or two ago. But she didn't think he needed this much emotional support... did he?
        "Well... how do I say this...? Hi again..." muttered the Fugitive.
        "You're... Elsa, right?"
        "Actually, Q-Queen Elsa, to be exact."
        The second-Homura shook her head and turned her shield on its axis.
        "Ugh. Of course the second Homura gets the frigging hell away..." grumbled the Fugitive before resuming his talk. "Anyway, uh... Elsa-- sorry-- this team here's been fighting seven people who want us dead. We got rid of two of them so far, and I wanna be quick: anyone who's not with us or with them, they get zapped out to who-knows-where. So I want you to help us, all right?"
        "Yeah!" cheered FemScout. "You seeing this?"
        "That works," noted Engineer.
        "Slow down. I could use a little fun," responded Elsa. She looked at Mami. "What about you?"
        "This is not supposed to be fun," moaned Mami.
        "Why not?" said Elsa as she looked around once more and gestured to herself. "You could probably use an extra magical hand."
        "Well," the Fugitive explained, "what we're doing is kinda dangerous. A lot of things happened since the Opposition started trying to kill us last year. Someone just shot two of Engineer's friends yesterday, and they got sent into comas."
        "Oh, dear. Well, that's disappointing," replied Elsa. "Perhaps next time."
        "Hmm..." The Fugitive thought about his response. "Well, if you change your mind, we'd love to see you back."
        "This is a very good team."
        "We're always... well, we're gonna be here, okay?"
        "Thank you."
        "Just join us within... six months or something, and I think we'll be all right, okay?" There was a hint of desperation in the Fugitive's voice.
        "With pleasure. Let me know if there's anything else I can do." Elsa nodded and began to turn away from the viewscreen. She noticed Madoka quickly waving at her. "You're quite enthusiastic, aren't you?" chuckled Elsa as she waved back at Madoka.
        "Whoo!" FemScout cheered.
        Homura, however, had a bit of a glaring look on her face. She felt that the Fugitive might be hiding something that will eventually tear a rift between the people who were at the inhibitors. It was all a matter of knowing when.




Chapter 9 >