Chapter 5

        February 1, 2015.
        It wasn't too chilly at the snow-covered Construct grounds. Scout had a red football helmet on his head, and wore white shoulder pads with red outlines and a RED-Team insignia. He had a football in his hands.
        "Play ball!" he shouted.
        FemScout caught the thrown ball in her hands.
        "Whoo-hoo-hoo!" she exclaimed.
        She then saw something out of the corner of her eye and turned to look. Three people were there-- Stocking, Nagisa, and Serah-- watching the two Scouts play catch.
        Stocking was dumbfounded at what she was looking at.
        "Maybe this is some sort of bad prank," she guessed. "You know how desperate they are for our attention."
        "What??? Don't say that...!" groaned Nagisa as he shoved his head into Stocking's hair, much to her annoyance.
        But before Serah can speak up, the three people in the area began to hear artificial male voices chanting a single word.
        "Football! Football!"
        Scout and FemScout heard it too. They stopped playing catch and saw several spacesuit-wearing protesters in the area. The protesters wore the exact same suits as the ones who were under Neru Akita's personal command before her defeat. They even sounded like them.
        "Football football football!" The protesters' chants became more rapid and overlaid.
        Then, one of them groaned a droning "Uhhhhh, why the hell do you look like that? You don't even look like a real football player!" This seemed to pull the other protesters out of their excitement that someone had brought a football with them, and on that day, no less.
        "Look, boggets," another protester cursed, "just because we let you live doesn't mean we don't want you or the Fugitive dead."
        "Oh what, you're gonna cry?" Scout and FemScout said in unison. "You're gonna cry now?"
        "The Fugitive sucks, plain and simple. No reason."
        "Yeah!" another protester agreed. "What reason do we need for anything we do? And why are you still working for him?"
        "What kind of hippie sh*t is this?" growled Stocking.
        This drew the protesters' attention away from the Scouts.
        "How dare you, bogget?! We are not hippies," interjected one of the protesters. "Besides, you pretty much want the Fugitive dead, too. So if you don't wanna suck, why don't you join us?"
        Another protester continued. "After our chief mistress boss blew herself up, we want someone to take her place in our rallies against the bogget Fugitive!"
        "Aah! That's too mean!" yelled Nagisa.
        A third protester chimed in. "Only, we don't want the pink-haired chick. She completely blows."
        Serah jolted, too, just as she saw a baseball fly into that last protester's head.
        Scout had tossed his helmet off, taken his metal bat and baseball out of his bag and hit the ball against the protester.
        "Real smooth, dummy!" he taunted.
        "Great, please kill me," muttered Stocking as she slapped her palm against her face.
        "Wait!" Serah shouted at Scout.
        But Scout proceeded to rush the rest of the spacesuited protesters and strike them down with his bat, while FemScout cheered him on as she held the football.
        The protesters wailed cries that sounded just a bit ridiculous.
        "How's that feel, wimps?" Scout taunted again.
        A thunderbolt, or what sounded like one, shot down from the sky and set off a signal scramble that briefly engulfed the area in pixels.
        "What the--?" yelped Scout.
        FemScout took out her long-barreled Lugermorph pistol and pointed it at Stocking, who readied her one striped-katana in response.
        But Stocking took one look around her and saw that Serah and Nagisa had wandered off, not far from where she was, with someone she couldn't recognize: a girl with orange hair in a ponytail, who wore an orange and yellow dress outfit with white frills on one side and some decorative chains.
        Even Scout and FemScout couldn't help but look at the girl, though they couldn't recognize her, either. However, the girl was too busy having a private talk with Serah and Nagisa to even think about waving at anyone.
        Scout turned his focus on the spacesuited protester beside him and slammed his bat onto him once more.
        The protester then recited an odd verse. "What strength! But don't forget there are many guys like you all over the world."
        A time-screw portal then took the defeated spacesuits away before fading.
        "Curiouser and curiouser," mumbled Stocking. Still, she couldn't believe that the two people who used to always hang out with her were drawn away just like that by someone else. She found some relief in thinking maybe that orange-haired dress-girl who just showed up also hated the Fugitive. But she was too bored to think about that, or even take on the Scouts right now.
        While looking at the orange-haired girl once more, Scout, FemScout, and Stocking managed to notice a gasmasked officer just inside the entrance to the nearby structure. However, he didn't wear the same uniform or mask as the Time Police did; he had brown patches on his uniform, and wore a modified gasmask with a hexagonal respirator and two small filters. The mask also had glowing yellow circles for lenses.
        The yellow-eyed officer nodded briskly at the orange-haired girl, enough to get her attention. The girl smiled and nodded back, much to the confusion of the others in the area.


*   *   *

        February 10, 2015.
        On another not-too-cold day at the Construct grounds, a blonde-haired girl named Asuna, who wore a red-and-white outfit, was with a young black-haired man nicknamed Kirito, who had a jacketless black outfit. They had a stack of "Missing: Lambent Light" posters, although the posters had details left out and their old contact numbers listed by accident. Asuna had to write on the new information by hand on all the posters, leaving her a bit tired and about to shiver. Nevertheless, both she and Kirito were on their way to put up the posters.
        "We can't ignore this," asserted Asuna.
        "I know," agreed Kirito.
        "No one's gonna be safe in the towns.... Oh. Now I get it. I think I figured out why you brought me here today."
        "Oh, you did, huh?"
        "Mm-hmm." Asuna had heard that the Construct grounds were a hub between areas for many people passing through, though different from the unstable black voids between worlds she usually found herself in. She took out a very rough map she drew of Construct's hub connections and landmarks of other destinations, marked with several two-way arrows denoting paths through the voids.
        Suddenly, she and Kirito heard a stern male voice over a nearby walkie-talkie.
        "Are you running off doing things together again? Why haven't I heard from you?"
        Asuna recognized the voice from months ago, but couldn't remember from exactly where.
        The voice continued. "I mean, I've heard from the others, but why aren't you telling me what's going on?"
        Asuna and Kirito looked around and saw two people on the snow-covered lawn: Mami in her school uniform, and a silvery-blonde-haired woman with a flowing crystalline dress, who was none other than Queen Elsa herself. Mami and Elsa were looking at the walkie-talkie with looks of slight worry.
        Kirito motioned for Asuna to follow him onto the rooftop of a nearby structure via a nearby stairway.
        "Is this about someone who doesn't want to help the team?" the Fugitive asked sternly. "Because I'm pretty sure it is."
        Without hesitation, Elsa blasted the walkie-talkie out of Mami's hand using a thin flurry from her own hand.
        The flurry formed a layer of ice around the walkie-talkie.
        "No. You need to talk to him," urged Mami.
        "We can't," asserted Elsa. With that, she anxiously folded her arms against her chest and took a few steps away.
        Mami pulled the ice-encased walkie-talkie off the snow-covered ground. It felt cold to her ungloved hand. She looked at the walkie-talkie for a moment, but the Fugitive's voice no longer broadcasted through it. The walkie-talkie essentially became out-of-order when the ice formed around it.
        Asuna and Kirito watched Mami catch up with Elsa. They were thankfully unseen by the others.
        "Thank you... for today," Asuna admitted with uncertainty.
        "Why?" replied Kirito.
        "For keeping an eye on me. Thank you."
        "Sure. Sure, anytime!"
        They didn't want to risk asking Mami or Elsa about the missing rapier... at least, not when those two were having personal issues with that mysterious voice. They took a look at Asuna's rough map once more.


*   *   *

        February 17, 2015.
        Madoka was alone in her magical girl outfit at night, with her phone in hand. She was walking down a red-framed tube-shaped pedestrian bridge with large curved triangular and diamond-shaped windows in a double-helix pattern.
        Once again, the Fugitive had not responded to Madoka's call, so she was forced to leave another message.
        "Are you... okay? By yourself?" Madoka asked into her phone. "When I think about Mami, I... just... I don't know what to do."
        Madoka then noticed a blue-suited blonde-haired person whose arms and head were wrapped mostly with white bandages, only showing the person's eyes. Madoka took a few steps to her right to let the person pass, and continued to talk into her phone.
        "Please don't fight with Mami," begged Madoka. "It'll be a lot safer for everyone."


*   *   *

        February 21, 2015.
        At Office Building 52375 during nighttime, Elsa stood at a desk counter, and had a piece of paper in front of her. She was halfway done writing a short message in regards to what happened 11 days earlier.
        Elsa began to hear some radio-filtered voices from Time Police officers.
        "I've got suspect-one here. Prepare for 10-15."
        "Roger that. All units, move to arrest positions."
        "10-4. Inoculate, pacify."
        Elsa began to write as fast as she could.
        "In position," declared an officer who turned the corner and aimed his pistol.
        Elsa ducked to avoid the gunshot, but when she turned around, she saw that the officer had collapsed instead of firing.
        "Officer down! Request all units, code 3 to my 10-20!" yelled another officer through the radio.
        There was a sound of ice forming via the Time Police radio, but Elsa wasn't using her powers. She guessed that something else must be freezing up the officers and defeating them.
        "Officer needs assistance--"
        "Sorry to 'pop-in' unannounced," quipped Spy's French-accented voice, once he saw that the latest scouting party-of-three was all taken out.
        Spy had returned from his overseas trip and used a sturdy icicle he picked up from outside as an improvised shiv, along with his Ambassador revolver to take down the first officer. He wore a blue business suit and an antenna-mounted headset attached to a gray-camo hat, which he placed on top of his balaclava.
        Spy looked down and noticed that the third officer had dropped a folded-up piece of paper.
        A moment later, he found Elsa hastily finishing up her message. Elsa turned around and faced him.
        "Oh hi. Hello," greeted Elsa.
        "Cheers," replied Spy as he showed her the paper that the officer had dropped. Printed on the paper was a worn-out coastline map marked with ink-drawn lambda symbols around it and a square claw-like logo near the top-left corner. He then gestured to the Time Police officer's body he dragged along beside him.
        "What do you think?" asked Spy.
        Elsa turned around to write a signature, and then grabbed her paper from the counter. She took a brief look at the message and showed it to Spy. Her message read,


Arendelle will no longer do business with anyone who has connections with a fugitive commander


unless they enlist my personal help in rescuing my sister, Princess Anna, from the gasmasked kidnappers.


        Elsa hesitantly gave Spy a thumbs-up.
        Spy chuckled. "Well, let us move!" They exchanged papers.
        "Perfect," replied Elsa. "Where do I begin?"


*   *   *

        February 22, 2015.
        Mami arrived at the inhibitor room with her walkie-talkie, which was still wrapped in a layer of ice. The ice had not melted over the past 12 days due to Elsa's powers, but Mami felt that the unseen Fugitive expected someone to contact him right away, instead of the other way around.
        However, Mami noticed Elsa using the primary inhibitor, and also saw the two Mecha-Engineer replicas blocking the way as they examined Inhibitor 3. Mami would not be able to push her way to any of the inhibitors at the moment without drawing attention to herself. Also, the force field around the damaged, slash-sustaining, smoke-billowing Inhibitor 2 would definitely lead to trouble if it deflected her onto anyone in the room. With her walkie-talkie still encased in ice, Mami didn't have any means of contact that would reach the unseen commander at such an urgent time.
        As Elsa hummed to herself, she was tapping her fingers on the machine's frontal column to try to call someone in the Resurrection Movement-- someone whom Spy had personally recommended.
        After the signal scramble, there was a faint click on the other end.
        "Yeah?" answered Kyoko.
        "Hello. I'm Queen Elsa of Arendelle. Will you accept my invitation?"
        Kyoko lowered her phone from her ear. She turned her head towards Sayaka, who was reading Elsa's message.
        "What's the deal, huh?" Kyoko asked. "This ain't anything like what you said."
        "Would it really be that surprising if it was?" replied Sayaka.
        "Come on, we could do so much together," insisted Elsa.
        There was a brief pause.
        "I got no idea what your trip is, girl," replied Kyoko. "But whatever it is, I don't think you're pulling my leg here."
        As Mami continued to eavesdrop, she knew the Fugitive would be really angry if he found out that people on the team were secretly working with someone who betrayed his expectations. She felt that the unseen commander was probably already uncomfortable with the fact that she and Elsa were seeing each other without his knowledge.
        Mami decided it was time to set things straight with the Fugitive. She took off a ring from her left hand and morphed it into her yellow ovoid Soul Gem. She then held the Soul Gem and her ice-covered walkie-talkie next to each other with both hands.
        There was a brief yellow glow, and the ice surrounding the walkie-talkie vanished without leaving any puddles of water.
        After demorphing her Soul Gem back into a ring on her hand, Mami then pressed a few buttons on the walkie-talkie, being careful not to send a signal to all the other Resurrection Movement members.
        "Hello...?" greeted the Fugitive.
        "Oh?" Mami gasped. Her walkie-talkie was working, even after the ice could have short-circuited it.
        "Mami Tomoe? Is that you? What's going on? Why aren't you...?"
        "Now, now, don't start with that," warned Mami as calmly as she could.
        The Fugitive continued to stammer so much that Mami had some time to think carefully about how she would respond. She remembered that the Fugitive made a deal with a devil-- based on a recording she found last May-- and inferred that it may be giving him mood swings; not just those that made him completely furious, but also those that made him a nervous wreck.
        "You and your group's involved in all of this," Mami pointed out.
        "Then what are you doing with Elsa all the time? I mean, she's pretty much like you... right?"
        There was a pause. Mami looked at Elsa, who now had her hands on her hips.
        "Yes, there's no doubt about it," replied Mami. "She seems to be a fairly powerful one, too."
        "And she's obviously too busy to talk to me, right?"
        "Most likely, yes."
        "Look, Mami Tomoe, I'd hate it if she had something against me. I mean, I don't wanna think you had... It'd..."
        Mami seemed to know what he was trying to explain.
        "It's okay," insisted Mami. She giggled cutely. "I'm sorry."
        "Good," sighed the Fugitive.
        "It's not worth leaving you alone after what you've been through."
        The Fugitive inhaled a slow worried gasp.
        "Are you okay?" asked Mami.
        "Better. Thanks for seeking me out... Mami Tomoe. And thanks for the talk. We got a lot to do, and I... I hope you can help us again."
        "I see. Thank goodness it wasn't anything serious." Mami smiled.




Chapter 6 >