Symphony of Valkyries

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  1. Series Opening Theme
    For hundreds of years, humanity has flourished under its combined mastery of magic and science. Magitechnology is commonplace, and space and dimensional travel is readily available on mankind's advanced starships. The Time-Space Administration Bureau, or TSAB, oversees the majority of humanity, in a vast and enlightened federation. Some rumors persist that it only seems benevolent, and properly exists to exert control over the masses, simply with a silk glove over the iron fist. Regardless of the methods, humanity is largely at peace, and the TSAB continues to be a stable and hopeful leader toward the future.

    Two Years Ago: First Contact
    An exploratory expedition at the edge of human space was attacked by an unidentified enemy. The monstrous, biomechanical horde struck without warning, asking no quarter and offering none. Of all the ships and personnel involved, only a handful managed to escape, bringing with them tales of an absolute nightmare battle, and one word to identify their mysterious attackers: "Bydo."

    Since then, the TSAB has been at war with the extradimensional alien threat, now known more properly as the Bydo Empire. At first, mankind steadily lost ground from the pressure of an inexorable foe capable of turning their own people and weapons against them. Only those capable of wielding magic seem particularly resistant to the unique methods of Bydo assault, and magical attacks also prove highly effective, leading to a large number of mages deployed along the front lines. Tables soon turned, and the situation has stabilized, with careful cordons on both sides of any known Bydo territories, and most troubles coming from border skirmishes, surprise attacks, or unpleasant discovers on either unexplored worlds or reclaimed territory.

    Current Affairs
    To many, the war has slowed and cooled down. The Bydo Empire has continued to be intractable and shows no sign of communicating, although its own aggression seems to have waned, and it at least no longer presses the borders of TSAB space with unbridled ferocity. Those within the TSAB's military branches feel it is more a matter of time that another offensive begins: both sides are researching their enemies, finding better ways to fight back, and soon, one or the other will be able to launch the next assault.

    A typical world within TSAB space, Lyonesse is close enough to the front lines to maintain a large military presence, although it primarily sees a role as a resupply base, rather than experiencing heavy fighting. A large research contingent has also grown up around investigating the Bydo and their unusual biology.

    Arondight Base, as always, is bustling with activity, as one of the TSAB's primary hubs on the planet. Today, fresh recruits have just arrived, new mages finishing or just out of their training and eager to prove themselves. It was also the closest one veteran would be getting to the front lines. Mana still couldn't believe that she'd been tapped for some new training program, but it did beat being discharged completely. She had arrived early and already dropped off her things at her room, and was currently on her way to meet her commanding officer, Major Ichijo. She wandered the hallways of the base, keeping an eye out for the right office, and for her new "partner".

    NPC quick reference (open)

    Yukari Ichijo will be the girls' commanding officer. She looks far too young for her rank, or to be the veteran of conflicts before even the Bydo were encountered, at about all of 12. It is generally best not to discuss such things with her directly, last one incur her wrath. She treats her subordinates fairly, but can be extremely strict and willing to inflict strange and embarrassing punishments on those who break the rules or make trouble for her. She drinks and smokes far more than her adjutant would like.
  2. Space travel was a wonder of the modern world. With it, humanity had spread far and wide, reaching into the stars that their ancestors could only dream of exploring. Both knowledge and resources had poured into human reach, and habitable worlds and colonies had soon followed. Its existence was both an example and cause of human kind’s continued growth, and promised to be a corner stone of the entire species’ future. It can’t be understated how important space travel had quickly become.

    And right now, Annabel was starting to regret its entire existence.

    The newly minted magical-girl-in-training pulled a grimace as her stomach did another flip, protesting against the sensation of zero gravity. The urge to double over and clutch at the offending organ was overwhelming, but her seat’s harness was firmly locked in place. With only her legs and head being free to move than just the inch or so the harness allowed, she was forced to sit and hope the sensation passed. How some of the other personnel that were sharing the transport with her were able to sleep and nap, she would never know.

    “Hey, are you alright?”

    Annabel looked to her right, meeting the gaze of a girl around the same age as herself. Judging by the girl’s crisp and primarily white uniform, Annabel guessed that she was a fellow member of the mage division (or ‘magical girl division’ depending on who you ask). Seeing the genuine concern in the girl’s eyes, Annabel worked up a smile.

    “Yea, I’m okay. I mean, I used to get car sick as a kid.” Annabel choked out a laugh. “I guess a spacecraft is just a really big, fast, flying car. With no gravity.”

    “Hehe, I see. Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll get used to it eventually.”

    Annabel wasn’t entirely certain that she found that eventually comforting.

    “When are we gonna land, anyway? I mean, I know Lyonesse is a few light-years away from Earth, but still.” The red haired mage fidgeted in her seat, at least as much as her seat would allow. She really hoped that it wouldn’t be too much longer now, considering every part of her body felt like it was in a desperate need of a stretch. She was starting to feel pretty envious of her neighbour’s ability to sit still.

    “A few hours yet.” The girl to Annabel’s right said as she looked off to one side, missing the red head’s dejected sigh. “I’m pretty nervous, to be honest. I mean, this will be our first real assignment, even if it is just training…”

    Annabel sobered up at that. It had been a thought that had run circles around her head all the way through take off, and through the first stage of this flight: the fact that she was actually, really, taking her first steps. After all of her practicing, studying and day dreaming, it was kind of hard to believe that she was actually flying to where her career would truly begin. Her head was melting pot of both celebratory relief and nervousness about the inevitable danger she was going to have to face. Still, she wouldn’t trade her place for anyone in the world. Well, unless trading her place also got her more comfortable seat…

    “Hey, what’s your name?”

    Annabel’s head shot up, back to looking at the girl next to her, looking with surprise into the girl’s curious amber eyes.

    “Oh! Err, Annabel Bright, but just call me Ann.”

    “Yu Chiaki,” The girl, evidently Yu, said with a nod and a smile. “I look forward to working with you, Miss Ann.”

    Annabel laughed, unused to hearing her name said so formally. If everyone talked this formally in the military, it was going to take some getting used to

    The rest of the flight was uneventful: it wasn’t long before Yu tried to catch a few more hours of sleep before landing, and Annabel went back to nursing her stomach. When their ship finally reached their destination, the sudden appearance of gravity was enough of a lurch to make Annabel regret all of her silent pleas for its return. Just as she started to feel her body settle, the transportation ship landed with a bone-rattling thud. After a small scramble to get her things out of her locker (not easy to do when her legs felt like they were made out of jelly), Annabel took her first few steps onto Lyonesse’s Arondight Base.

    She would openly admit that her jaw dropped. The base was a huge, sprawling complex of buildings of varying shapes and sizes, all built with all with sleek modern designs. Even just standing in the colossal airfield a person could see that this base went on for miles, and every inch it buzzed with activity. The very air seemed charged, like the ground and walls themselves vibrated with energy. Against the clear morning skies, one could even spy the occasional human figure zipping along, the air around them distorted by a magical energy.

    It took Yu bumping into Annabel’s back to even get her moving again.

    It didn’t take long to find out where Annabel’s next destination would be: she was to report to one ‘Yukari Ichijo,’ in one of the central command buildings. Unfortunately, this put her heading in the opposite direction of Yu, though the girl assured her that they would bump into each other before long. With one last instruction from the officer directing the new arrivals, namely that they weren’t to start flying around and disrupting air traffic until they were registered into the main database, Annabel set off.

    Hefting the case carrying her precious Aegis Shield, as well as a small pack of personal effects, Annabel allowed herself some gawking as she went along. This whole place was mind boggling in its scale, and there were so many other mages around! In the entirety of her life, Annabel could count the number of mages she even met on two hands, and she had just walked past almost triple that number in the first ten minutes of her being here! All in all, Annabel was feeling pretty awestruck when she finally marched into the command building that housed her commanding officer.

    It took asking for some directions (twice), but Annabel was finally zeroing in on Yukari Ichijo’s office. While wondering how the building’s corridors managed to be so quiet when everywhere else in the base she had passed had been so noisy, Annabel had managed to turn a sharp corner - walking straight into somebody else.

    While only just barely keeping her footing, Annabel managed to snap out a rapid salute and ‘excuse me!’ It was only when she had oriented herself did she manage to actually take in who she had rammed into: a girl more than several inches taller than herself, and with sharp red eyes.

    Annabel felt a knot of nerves form in her chest. The girl was evidently a mage, but…who the heck had she just run into? Clearing her throat, Annabel spoke more clearly:

    “Uh, excuse me. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
  3. Mana had just got to one of the many corners in the labyrinthine base, when someone turned it just in time to walk right into her. It was enough to get her to stop, although it didn't elicit much else of a reaction. Her eyes carefully scanned the redhead, taking in a few details, such as the gear she still carried, and the mage insignia on her uniform. The rapid, flustered salute and apology were enough to confirm to her that this girl was one of the new arrivals on the base.

    "It's fine," she replied, coolly dismissing the entire thing with a slight smile. "Just try to be more careful, it can be dangerous to zone out like that." The base was far less dangerous than the battlefield, but either way, run into the wrong person or pay too little attention, and it could lead to trouble.

    "You aren't lost, are you," Mana asked. She pointed toward the large bags the other girl was carrying. "This isn't even the right building, if you're just moving in." Clearly, she thought one would want to find their room and drop off the luggage, first. "At least they don't shove everyone into a barracks, so that's probably a step up." She remembered her basic training well enough, and it wasn't always a particularly nice experience.
  4. The feeling of relief that she wasn’t in trouble was quickly swept from Annabel, as the stranger’s other point sunk in. Was she really supposed to have dropped her stuff by this point? The officer in charge had said that she should report to Yukari Ichijo as soon as possible, right?

    …Or, was the exact wording more along the lines of ‘as soon as you can?’ As in, as soon as you can, AFTER you’ve dropped your stuff off?

    “Haaa…Looks like I screwed up.” Annabel suppressed the sudden urge to face palm as she sighed. How had she made such an obvious mistake? “Still, getting my own room sounds pretty good. I guess every cloud has its silver lining, yea?”

    Annabel used the lull in conversation to take in the image of the girl before her with more detail. In addition to noting her pretty eye catching silver hair, Annabel glanced at the girl’s insignia. While the absolute basics were the same, it was pretty easy to see the stranger’s had additional accents and decorations. Even Annabel knew that probably meant the girl was a few ranks higher than herself, which caught Annabel’s interest. The girl couldn’t have been more than a few years older than Annabel at the very most. Had this mage joined the military at a much younger age, or would be it be possible for Annabel to climb the ranks so quickly…?

    Realizing she had been staring, Annabel coughed out an awkward laugh before inclining her body into a bow, her pack shifting noisily as she did so.

    “Sorry, I guess I’m still not used to being so close to a mage. I’d forget I was one, if this damn thing on my back wasn’t so heavy.” Annabel let out a strangled laugh.
  5. If Mana noticed Annabel staring, she didn't comment. "Not quite your own room," she replied. "But one or two others to a room is still a major step up. As for your things...don't worry about them, might as well move in after whatever it is you're here to do."

    Mana raised an eyebrow at the comments on being a mage. That was her device, then? It didn't seem to have the usual systems for compressed storage, so she'd have to suggest bringing it in for a once-over. Such an implement was...probably quite unique. "You'll get used to it," she said, as far as mages went. "We usually work together in the TSAB."

    "We should both be getting to wherever we're going," Mana said to cut the conversation off. "Ichijo's likely mad enough as it is, from me keeping her waiting," she grumbled before leaving to get the rest of the way to the Major's office.
  6. “Ah, yea, I’ll leave you to-”Annabel did a double take. “Wait, did you say, Ichijo?”


    And that’s how, in short order, Annabel found herself trailing after the more senior mage, internally debating if she should move faster to keep pace with the other girl or keep this respectable distance she found herself trailing at.

    In all honesty, the mage in training was a bit of a loss. The other girl had agreed to take her to Yukari Ichijo’s office, but Annabel hadn’t been able to ask for her name before she had set off. Would it have been too awkward to ask for her name, especially since Annabel was pretty sure they would be working in different areas? Deciding to take at least a minor risk, Annabel upped her pace to be at just behind the other girl’s, trying to gauge her expression.

    The girl was hard to read: her eyes and expressions didn’t give any more away than she clearly intended. Then again, Annabel never had been the most proficient at reading people’s expression. Despite her best efforts of trying to think of a conversation piece, Annabel eventually decided to spend the rest of the walk through the building in silence.

    The twosome travelled deeper into the command centre, and it became quickly apparent that that they were among the higher rank offices. The space was quieter than any other part of the building, and security was at its tightest. Although, the main indictor was probably that the titles on the doors were getting longer and more elaborate with each step.

    It wasn’t long before the two mages came to a stop outside of one particular door. Annabel’s guide knocked at the smooth wood surface, and pushed it open after hearing a noise of affirmation from within.

    The room was one of the most orderly spaces Annabel had ever stepped into. Spotless filing cabinets were stacked into one corner, walls neatly decorated with fading photos, and not a single slip of paper was misplaced on the impressively large desk in its very centre. The space was lit by an almost wall sized window at the very back of the room, flooding the room with an almost harsh glare of sunlight. They also just so happened to cast a rather intimidating shadow over the room’s sole occupant: Major Yukari Ichijo

    Ichijo projected an imposing presence throughout the entire room, even as she sat behind her desk. With eyes that felt like they could have cut glass, the Major seemed to trace every little movement Annabel made, and there was deftness to her movements even as she simply raised a glass of questionable contents to her lips. Annabel honestly felt like she was staring back into the eyes of some kind of docile lion than a simple human.

    When she had finished swallowing down whatever she had been drinking, the Major’s eyes finally ceased their inspection of Annabel, and switched to address the girl that had guided the rookie mage to her room. Annabel herself was suddenly reminded of her need to breathe.
  7. Major Ichijo had a way of really looking at someone that, while Mana wasn't a stranger to it like the rookie accompanying her, still got to her a bit. It was like the girl had to be using some sort of magic to do as much as she did. After a brief and silent observation, the Major spoke. "Took you two long enough." Mana sighed. Some things never change. It did get a brief glare from the Major, before she continued.

    "So, until further notice, I'm your boss." A pause to let that sink in. "Again, in some cases. I usually allow for a pretty long leash, so stay out of trouble and there shouldn't be much trouble. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why they're doing it, but TSAB brass is trying some sort of apprenticeship thing to finish up training, so you two will be working and living together."

    Mana didn't seem completely surprised, as they were in the same office, but she still spoke up. "So what, I'm supposed to teach her everything I know?" There was just enough edge in her voice to make it clear she wasn't too happy about that prospect.

    "Look, we've lost a lot of good mages these past few years, and even if they're out of basic, throwing green kids out against the sort of things you've seen isn't going to change that," The Major replied, firmly. "We need to preserve talents like yours and get the new kids up to speed."

    Mana nodded. "Understood, Ma'am."

    "Well, that little objection out of the way, I don't have anything official for you other than the recognition of you two was officially assigned to one another and this base. I expect that to change shortly, but for now, enjoy the free time you have while you've got it. Neither of you have had much time to move in and adjust, at least." The Major paused again for a bit. "Before I dismiss you, any questions?"
  8. Annabel had known about the apprenticeship system. It would have been pretty difficult not to, since it was mentioned at least a dozen times in the documents she had received when signing up. In all honesty, she had been really looking forward to it. Mages were already these awe-inspiring figures that she aspired towards: how awesome would it be to actually be personally tutored by one?

    To that end, she had mentally psyched herself up throughout the entire trip there. She had made a mental plan of what she would say when she first met her mentor, though her imagination had run away with her and it ended up being this really big speech. Never the less, by the end of the flight, she had made it a masterpiece: it was complimentary without being grovelling, it highlighted her strengths without being egoistical, and it was sure to pluck at the heartstrings. All in all, it was perfect.

    As long as it was the first thing she said to her mentor.

    Crushing disappointment settled onto Annabel’s shoulders like the world’s heaviest mantle. She had blown it completely! Not only had she totally missed her chance, but she had spoken so damn casually with her mentor! Professional politeness had given way to basically shooting the breeze! Although she maintained an only slightly put off expression, she felt like ramming her skull into the wall until either or had cracks in it.

    Also, this other mage…wasn’t exactly how she pictured her mentor. Annabel grimaced. She knew it was an unfair assessment: the girl was clearly leagues ahead of Annabel in terms of rank and was likely similarly advanced in ability. But Annabel couldn’t shake the image she had built up in her head. Surely her teacher should have been…older?

    Annabel put it out of her mind. She would have time to worry about this later: right now, she should use this chance to answer a question that had been burning in the back of her head for a while.

    “M-major!” Annabel stepped forward, and tried to adopt a disciplined stance. “If it isn’t too forward to ask, is a mage by the name of Alexis Vavilov present on the base?”
  9. "Looking for someone," Major Ichijo asked, raising one eyebrow. "I'll see what I can do, this shouldn't take too long." She immediately turned to check at her computer for a while, typing away and checking a few things. It was still a long enough pause for one's imagination to run with it, before she had an answer.

    "Since you actually had a name, it was pretty quick. Looks like she's currently here. Working with one of the search and rescue teams, so probably on her way to or from helping out somewhere." Yukari shrugged. She didn't have much else to say about it, not her department, but with the warfare, there were a lot of units near the front who weren't focused on pure combat. "Actually hunting her down might be up to you, all I can get that quickly is that she's here, anything else I'd have to do a bit more legwork myself."

    At least Annabel and Mana had a CO willing to help them out with this sort of thing. She could have been a complete hardass and just shot the question down.

    For her part, Mana hadn't done much the entire time, just watched the other two in the room. She had nothing to add to the conversation, and was too much in the good soldier mindset to really look bored or try to hurry things along. "Before you run off," she finally said to Annabel," Maybe I should at least get you to our room, so you don't have to keep lugging that stuff around with you."
  10. “S-s-s-she’s here!?”

    All pretences of professionalism evaporated in an instant: both of Annabel’s hands slapped against her cheeks as she let out a barely contained squee of excitement.

    Mrs. Vavilov was not only still active, but actually on this very base?! Her saviour and idol was actually within reach?! True, Annabel would have to find the veteran mage before anything else, but still. Annabel had spent so many nights dreaming about actually meeting the one who saved her life so many years ago, and now they were one step closer to becoming a reality.

    The rate at which this day was going, Annabel had to be careful that her eyes didn’t become permanently star struck.

    "Before you run off, maybe I should at least get you to our room, so you don't have to keep lugging that stuff around with you."

    “Ah! I-I mean, yes, please.” Annabel forced herself out of her trance, nodding to her mentor. She could worry about finding Alexis Vavilov in due time. While a part of her did indeed want to sprint off and find the veteran mage, she forced herself to calm. She had waited years to even meet her idol; she could wait a few more days while she settled in.

    Before she left however, Annabel turned back to face Major Ichijo, and bowed as low as she could from the waist.

    “Thank you so very much, ma’am, you have no idea what this means to me!” Annabel made a silent promise that she would do her best to not disappoint her commanding officer. With any luck, she wouldn’t give the major any reason to doubt her acceptance for at least the coming days. Standing back up straight, Annabel’s expression turned slightly sheepish. “I should, uh, go get settled in, if there’s nothing else.”
    #10 Baddamobs, Nov 7, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016
  11. Major Ichijo nodded. "I don't have anything else right now, just wanted to get a good look at you and make sure we're all on the same page. If there's a mission for you two, I'll be sure to let you know. But for now...go get settled in and enjoy your free time while it lasts." She paused. "Dismissed."

    Mana looked over to Annabelle again. "Follow me," she said simply, before leaving. She did, at least, wait for the other girl to follow before taking off. She walked through the halls with a confident, measured pace. "I don't think much has changed since the last time I was here, if you want a grand tour later," she said, before falling into silence again. If she really was some skilled soldier, she sure didn't like saying much, but she wasn't being openly hostile either.

    The older girl easily threaded her way through and between the buildings, although it took quite a while to get to the residential area of the sprawling complex. As she walked, she continued to at least attempt small talk, though it wasn't just asking about the weather. "So, what sort of skills do you have, as a mage," Mana asked. They were going to be partners, so it was only sensible to get to know each other's abilities, after all.

    When they finally arrived at their dormitory building, Mana paused to let Annabelle in, before leading the way back to one of the rooms and unlocking it with a key. "So, here we are. Don't expect five-star accommodations, but it isn't too bad, either." She smiled slightly at her own joke, if that's what it was, before heading into the room.

    The room itself was simple, furnished with a pair of beds arranged one on each side, leaving a free area down the middle. The identical furnishings continued with desks, chairs, and chests of drawers, and each side of the room had a small closet available, as well. Mana apparently hadn't done any additional decorating, as the walls were bare and nothing seemed out of place, aside from any luggage Annabelle didn't have on her person, which had instead been delivered directly to the room and piled up where it was most convenient.
  12. Annabel bowed just once more to the major, before ducking out of the room. She tried to not gawk too much as she once again followed behind her guide: she promised herself that she would try to commit the bases’ layout to memory, even as she eyeballed it all with barely restrained glee. Even so, the prospect of a ‘grand tour’ sounded like a pretty attractive prospect to her, especially if it was given by her…her…

    Mentor? Teacher? …Sensei? They were definitely going to have to hash out the particulars of this relationship; she was starting to get paranoid about what were the rights terms she should be using. She was still fretting when her silver-haired guide asked,

    "So, what sort of skills do you have, as a mage?"

    “Hmm? O-oh, right.” Annabel cleared her throat. “Well, barriers and guarding against attacks were always my specialty, though I guess that figures since my device is a literal shield, hehe. In addition to that, though, I’ve got some pretty hard hitting ranged and melee magic attacks. Just don’t ask me to start zipping around nimbly in the air, or to hit with a lot of speed and pin-point accuracy. This shield was made to take hits and hit back hard, and not a lot else.” Annabel briefly considered asking what kind of powers her mentor had, but held off for a second. She could pry some more details out of her when they reached their room.

    Their room, it turned out, was pretty darn Spartan. Annabel’s mentor wasn’t kidding: the space was undecorated and fairly simple, but never the less clean and clearly well managed. The only thing out of the ordinary was Annabel’s additional bags and cases had been dropped off at the base of what the girl presumed to be her bed. Yet another reminder that she had kind of jumped the gun on the whole ‘meet the major’ thing…

    Dropping her backpack off with the rest of her stuff, Annabel spared a second to be extra careful setting the banged up and bulky case that housed her Aegis Shield down by the side of her bed. With that sorted, she dropped her backside down onto the mattress, bouncing experimentally when she landed.

    “Well, the walls could use a poster or two but the bed’s pretty comfy, and that’s what really matters.” Annabel gave a nod of satisfaction, before bouncing back to her feet. “Besides, it won’t be difficult to put up a picture or two, right, uh…err…”

    It struck Annabel like a meteor crashing into earth’s surface: she didn’t know her mentor’s name. Despite every opportunity to ask, or for it to at least come up, Annabel had missed every one. She hadn’t even gotten lucky enough for the major to have mentioned it out loud.

    “…So…err, Ma’am?” Annabel kind of regretted how awkward it was to just say that out loud, but ploughed on. “I guess we should actually get around to i-introducing ourselves, right?”

    Taking a deep, calming breath, Annabel pushed an errant hair out of her eye line with one hand while offering out the other. With a hopeful smile, Annabel finally spoke.

    “The name’s Annabel Bright, but you can just call me Ann. I look forward to working with you, Ma’am.”
  13. A shield? Not many mages used something like that. Interesting... Mana considered replying with her own abilities, but there would be time enough for it later, and they had already arrived at their room.

    The lack of prior introductions caused Mana to blink in momentary confusion. She already knew the Major, so she didn't need to say much to her superior, but she should do a better job when it came to direct inferior. "Ah...Did i forget something that simple?" She sighed and hung her head in momentary shame.

    "Mana," she replied. "Mana Septima. Nice to meet you, Miss Bright." The formality was intentional, of course. "I'm a Knight." She reached up to pull up her device, secured on a chain around her neck. It looked more like some sort of charm than a weapon, when in its inactive form. "I'm sure someone thought it'd be funny to pair us up. Sword and shield, huh?"

    She shook her head, smiling wryly at the stupidity of it all. "We'll have to work on your agility, if you want to keep up with me." She didn't sound particularly cruel about it, just a statement of fact. "I don't have much ability at long range, so I focus on speed and mobility to close distance quickly."
  14. “Mana Septima…” Annabel repeated to herself, letting the name roll off her tongue. She decided that it was a perfect fit for its owner, as well as being quite the pretty name. At the very least, she now had a name to place with the face of her teacher.

    "I'm sure someone thought it'd be funny to pair us up. Sword and shield, huh?"

    Annabel giggled at the mental image of some military higher-up selecting matches for the mentorship program purely by coincidentally matching devices, though she also snuck a glance at Mana’s device in its inactive state. Annabel had always struggled to compress her shield into a more travel convenient form: there wasn’t any special reason for it, she just couldn’t get her head around the intricacies of changing her shield’s state of being without screwing up somewhere along the line. Very briefly, she recalled the nightmarish incident when she had accidently twisted her shield into what was almost a letter C shape…

    Although it would be embarrassing to ask, Annabel guessed that she could ask Mana to give her a refresher course on the basic principles of changing a device’s state of being.

    "We'll have to work on your agility, if you want to keep up with me. I don't have much ability at long range, so I focus on speed and mobility to close distance quickly."

    Annabel nodded seriously: it was going to be imperative that she moved at the same pace as her instructor, at least when the situation called for it. Considering how damn heavy her kit was, she could already tell training was going to be pretty gruelling however…

    “Well, I can unpack the rest of this later,” Annabel gestured to the rest of her things, before picking the case containing her shield up off the floor, and slinging it over her back. “If it’s not too late, Miss Septima, may I ask if that offer of a grand tour still stands?”
  15. "Sure," Mana replied. "It's a big place, and it's been a while, but I don't think the layout has changed too much, so I should still know my way around well enough." As it turned out, those were famous last words, as she got lost at least three times on the way through the entire base.

    The base itself was quite a sprawling complex, heavily guarded by a number of surface batteries to ensure its accompanying spaceport remains safe. One does need to go into the nearby city for some things, but for the most part, the base itself provided what a soldier could need. The athletic and training areas were, as one would expect, top-notch, with plenty of machines, a full-sized pool, and specialized firing ranges and training areas for mages. It would be absolutely no trouble to keep one's PT current. Mana explained things pretty well, and let slip that she spends an hour or so every day on training to stay in perfect shape.
  16. Annabel was in full gush mode as Mana led her around the base, and the younger girl only got more excited with every inch of the base she became privy to. She was so giddy that she barely noticed the few times Mana took a wrong turn, simply being happy when they retraced their steps past a room or area that had already caught her eye once before. In particular, she had enthusiastically eyeballed the firing ranges and more technically inclined areas, though even she wasn’t sure if her appreciation stemmed from excitement at the idea of using the facilities, or the numerous mages that were currently using them.

    Annabel had absorbed all of the information that Mana gave out as they went about the tour, trying to commit it to memory. When Mana had, perhaps unintentionally, brought up her own exercise regime, Annabel had nodded with appreciative understanding. She had a few hours of the day dedicated to her own work out schedule: while the eventual goal of being able to swing her shield around more easily was a part of it, Annabel had mostly continued the practice after she had started it in her early ‘toughen up to be a magical girl’ training.

    She was glad to know to know that her mentor shared at least some of the same line of thinking, although now she was kind of curious. Annabel looked sidelong at Mana, trying to not make her staring too obvious as they continued to mosey through the base. More than anything else, a part of her just wanted to just who the heck her teacher for the next undetermined amount of time actually was. It surely wasn’t inappropriate to wonder about Mana in such a way, right?

    Steeling herself, Annabel tried to sound as innocent and casual as possible as she finally asked,

    “So, Miss Septima, how long have you been in the military?”
  17. "Hm?" Mana paused in her walking for a step. "I've been in, oh...probably four or five years now." It wasn't all that long, but considering her age, it certainly meant she had started early. "You could say this business runs in my family," she added. "It was a matter of course that I'd join up when I could. Things...haven't always gone well since. Anyone who tries to act like I'm some kind of legendary ace doesn't know what they're talking about." The tour continued as she talked. She didn't seem to be particularly eager to talk about her past, and readily changed the subject by asking a question of her own. "What about you? Why'd you decide to join up? Something to do with that girl you asked the Major about?"

    She got a little lost on the way to the dining facilities, but eventually regained her bearings. "Food here's pretty good, as far as it goes. You can do better in town if you can sneak off base. But, the bar here tends not to ask too many questions if you've got a military ID, so there is that." She leaned in to whisper that, as if it was some big secret, instead of one of the most poorly-kept ones. There was also a store where one could buy all manner of things, in case sundries went missing, or needed to be replaced, or whatever else.

    Mana also pointed out some facilities for recreation that didn't involve working up a sweat, as they had a library and movie theater conveniently on the base. She hadn't watched anything recently, so she couldn't say what was good or even what was currently playing.
  18. “Four or five years, huh…”

    Annabel couldn’t even fathom the idea of being in anything like the military at such a young age. She was feeling a real sense of dread and concern for whatever combat she would be facing now, let alone if she had to face it at such an early age. No wonder Mana was such a high rank; not only had she been at it for years, she must have nerves of steel by this point.

    Annabel found that thought about her mentor was pretty admirable, though at the same time Mana’s mention of her career being linked to her family and the denial of how impressive her service record was peeked Annabel’s interest. Before Annabel could open her mouth and insert her foot, however, Mana interjected.

    “What about you? Why'd you decide to join up? Something to do with that girl you asked the Major about?"

    “Ah, you mean Alexis Vavilov, right?” Annabel’s curiosity was instantly consumed in the onrush of her fangirl mode. “It’s not exactly an original reason to sign up, but she saved me when I was only a kid, and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be that kind of hero to someone else. She was actually off duty when she saved me, ya know; I was insanely lucky that she was not only taking a vacation to Earth, but also to the city only a few miles from my town. I don’t know a lot about her personally, only little pieces the other rescue staff told me, but I’m still hoping that I can be half the hero she was when she rescued me.”

    Annabel decided to not bring up that a small part of her had signed up to the military in the vague hope of one day meeting her childhood hero. Looking back on it, that had been a kind of embarrassingly naïve hope she had harboured, despite the fact that the actual success of that dream had increased exponentially now that she knew Miss Vavilov was on the base.

    Thankfully for all involved, Mana continued the tour before Annabel let her mouth run away with her. The younger of the two unconsciously salivated slightly as they arrived at the base’s dining facilities, though tried to hold back the obvious signs of her hunger. She was starting to really regret not eating something when she had the chance.

    “…But, the bar here tends not to ask too many questions if you've got a military ID, so there is that."

    Annabel giggled before nodding.

    “I’ll keep that mind, although I’m kind of a light weight-”

    Suddenly, a pretty ungodly growl sounded off. Annabel initially thought it was some kind of enemy attack, before she realized that the sound had come from herself.

    Coughing in an attempt to hide her stomach’s noises, Annabel prayed her face wasn’t as red as it felt as she turned to her mentor.

    “A-actually, could we double back to the cafeteria? There hadn’t been an opportunity to eat on the trip over here, and… ya know.”
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