Fandom: Guilty Gear
Pairing: future Sol/Ky
Rating: PG, for now
Warnings: Alternate Timeline, beginning around GGX.
Summary: After the war, Ky finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy of unprecedented magnitude, with secrets that threaten to change his world forever.
Notes: This fic grabs canon by the throat and shakes it until all the shiny things come tumbling out. Including Sin. Somewhere along the line, the world gets saved. Go figure.
I | II | III | IV | V | Interlude I | VI | Interlude II | VII | Interlude III | VIII (First Half, Second Half) | IX | X (First Half, Second Half)
Going off the Record
Andreyev had decided a long time ago that the only difference between winter and spring in the field was the amount of water you could feel collecting in your boots. Winter had the side effect of costing you a couple of toes if you weren't careful, but spring allowed you to enjoy the sandpaper sensation of dirt-soaked wool rubbing your skin raw.
This far south, the onset of March marked the beginning of the rains, great drenching sheets sweeping across the land until pitching tents almost didn't matter anymore, everything steeped in cold slush. In comparison, the base had been a relative comfort zone despite standing practically on the edge of hell, with heated rooms and canned meals, and Andreyev could admit, if only to himself, that it had made him soft. His feet were once again as unused to marching as they had been when he'd still been a recruit, fresh from training and ready to be introduced to all the aches and pains that came with serving in the field, and the lovely thumb-sized blisters were almost as embarrassing as they hurt. He thought he was doing a pretty good job of hiding his discomfort, though, until the Commander gave him a sympathetic smile over the morning reports, and inquired whether his feet were feeling any better.
Their orders were to head further east, into a strip of uninhabited land, but the Commander just frowned at the sheet and held it out to Badguy, who shook his head and said, "What the fuck," and then the Commander went to direct the battalion the other way.
It wasn't the first time he'd seen them like this, heads bent together and muttering things that only they seemed to understand, as if the only one they had to answer to was each other, and in Badguy's case, maybe not even that. Andreyev knew better than to ask, better than to pry. Once upon a time, he might have, but no longer. He was only owing it to the Commander that he was even here and not bleeding out in a ditch somewhere as part of a punishment-slash-suicide-reassignment, so all he needed to know was that they were the people who were going to keep him alive.
The change in plans took them north, straight into a stretch of burnt villages, the rains washing away the rubble until all that was left was a couple of charred cornerstones to mark where the houses had been. No one left, and no bodies, no names to any of them, and Andreyev wasn't sure if these towns had simply been forgotten, too small and too far away to earn a spot on a map or a mission plan, or deemed a waste of time and energy, a responsibility ignored until it was too late.
The Commander's face betrayed nothing, and at the time, Andreyev was almost grateful for it, not yet ready to wonder about other Moscows. The trials had been hard enough to accept, the idea that committing insubordination to save more than ten-thousand refugees was somehow worse than sentencing them to death, and although he'd never asked, had never had the chance to find out what happened to Gorsky or anyone else involved in the bombardment, he was pretty sure he wouldn't have liked the answer. It was easier to deal with it by cutting out that part of the Order, by pretending things began and ended with the Commander, who stood above everything, unfaltering and untouchable.
And it stayed that way until a grand total of two weeks into the campaign.
The Commander had left the army to Badguy and taken a couple of platoons for an assault team, pushing onward in an attempt to save the towns that lay beyond the burnt wasteland. The further they came, the easier Andreyev could see why nobody had thought the region worthy of consideration, shantytowns half-built into mountainsides, nothing any HQ tactician would deem worth risking lives for. The people themselves looked more dead than alive, ragged and so terrified that they were ready to hail the soldiers as God's army come to herald Judgment Day, throwing themselves at their feet and begging for salvation.
It was in that moment, seeing the Commander kneel and embrace a wailing, toothless old man in an attempt to coax them all into lifting their faces, the moment before he looked up and wordlessly motioned for Andreyev to make preparations to move out. Andreyev could only nod and gesture for the soldiers to follow, not quite able to forget the split-second glimpse of something else — the honest pain in Commander Kiske's eyes at being called a savior.
There was an unexpected sense of shame in the discovery, in realizing that he was no better than these frightened ghosts, so far gone that all they had to cling to was the legend of the Order's messiah.
Partly, it was that guilt that finally led to him fidgeting around with a cup of soup, rainwater dripping between his fingers despite his best efforts. They'd been pushed back into a valley, the Gears closing steadily in on them, and no radio contact with the rest of the army. No way to tell if they even knew their position, and the only comfort was the thought that the rain was at least buying time, washing away the scent of sweat and human blood. The Commander was keeping faith, though, as if he knew something the rest of them didn't, unshakable in his conviction that they would push through at the critical moment.
Andreyev found him crouched between some rocks, taking an extra watch so that the rest of the team could regather their strength, squinting into the forest for any sign of the dreaded shapes. He felt decidedly foolish, shifting from foot to foot like an anxious child, until the Commander took the decision out of his hands by turning, a smile lighting up on his pale, tired face when he spied the offering. His hands were shaking when he accepted the cup, perhaps from cold or exhaustion or both, and he gulped the lukewarm broth so quickly that he couldn't have been eating enough steady meals, no doubt sharing his rations with a couple of the half-starved children and just not bothering to tell anyone else. He seemed smaller somehow, then, the aura of untouchability wavering to allow glimpses of a boy to shine through, a boy almost half Andreyev's age who truly shouldn't have been there at all.
It might have been that which prompted him to speak, to question the Commander's decision when he otherwise wouldn't have dared. "I could take over here, sir, if... I mean, you could rest a bit."
He realized it had been tactless to say so even as he did, the Commander sitting up just that much straighter, determination brushing aside the fatigue. "Thank you, Lieutenant, I'll be fine. Besides—" and this was half-murmured into his collar, "—something will probably explode as soon as I sit down."
His tone was so dry, so matter-of-fact, that it wasn't until his lips quirked again that Andreyev understood he hadn't been serious; it wasn't really true that Justice would send her troops pouring into the gorge as soon as he closed his eyes.
Something must have shown on his face, because the Commander's smile widened just that extra notch, a spark lighting in his eyes. "It's just my special karma."
When there was no response, his expression grew serious once again, and eventually, he turned his gaze back into the forest, signaling the end of their conversation.
Andreyev was still trying to process what had just transpired, realizing a little too late that maybe, he should have been doing something, or saying something to let the Commander know it was okay for him to be joking, instead of standing there useless and ineffectual like the rest of them, too wound up and dependant to even allow the Commander something as small as a momentary burst of humor. If this had been a test, he was pretty sure he'd managed to fail spectacularly.
Clearing his throat, he stepped forward. "I could... I mean. I'm sure we could ask the water mages to help out in that case, sir."
Now, years later, Andreyev realized how little had changed.
In the time he'd been gone, the mood had tipped from professional tension into a kind of nervousness that felt like touching a live wire, a persistent buzz that was making his hackles rise without even knowing why. The guards at the north exit were unusually jumpy, speaking in mumbles and sharing uncertain glances, and Andreyev knew that look from countless hours in the field — something had happened, and it was affecting the Commander.
Moving through the backstage area, he quickened his step, brushing past people and equipment in his way with barely the mind to apologize. He'd known, known that something was going to happen, with all the paranoia of someone whose life had too long depended on gut instinct alone, and now he just found himself wishing he'd acted on it. It wouldn't have kept anything from happening, perhaps, but he might've been able to take the brunt of it, nab a part of the workload before the Commander had a chance to take it all for himself. At the very least, he could have thought of radioing back in, because of course the Commander would be too polite to interrupt his break, too determined to deal with things on his own.
At least, there wasn't the commotion typically associated with dead bodies, which would have been his first guess. He'd heard enough snippets on his way to piece together a picture, vague as it was; some kind of important guy making a fuss, bringing problems to their doorstep, though nobody seemed to know what exactly it was. Nothing that could be easily resolved, that was for sure, if only because big people tended to make big trouble. That was something every soldier had known, the first piece of wisdom handed to new recruits in the army, and he thought he'd known, too, until Moscow. After that, everything else just paled in comparison.
The front area was once again filled with noise, delegates slowly retaking seats, drinks and plates of dessert still in hand. No sign of Sir Kiske anywhere, so that left the command center on the far side of the overhangs. The place was hardly deserving of such a grand name, a shed consisting entirely of detachable walls to house what little equipment they'd graciously been allowed to bring along, since the festival committee was far too concerned with aesthetics to bother with things such as order and security.
And the Commander, leaning against the side of the shack, the headset pressed against his ears and listening closely. He hadn't acknowledged Andreyev's presence, frowning to himself and murmuring confirmations into the microphone.
"...I understand. That's—" A short pause. "No, thank you, Bernard. I wouldn't want you to take any risks until we know what we're at. We'll wait and see what develops. I will contact you again as soon as I know more."
The transmission clicked off, and he lowered the headset, pressing his lips together. Andreyev waited for a minute, before hesitantly clearing his throat. "...Sir?"
For a moment, the Commander's eyes were piercing. Then, he shook his head, whatever he had been preoccupied with being shoved to the back of his mind to make room for a gentler expression, but Andreyev knew that look all too well, the same intense gaze that would come with a battle.
"Lieutenant. I didn't expect you back so early." He smiled. "Though I can't say I'm unhappy you didn't listen to me."
"You know me, sir. History of insubordination and all," Andreyev said, a sheepish grin settling on his face momentarily before he sobered. "What's going on here? The guys up north were pretty highstrung, but they couldn't tell me anything past, what was it? Oh yeah, 'a pig-eyed little bastard thinking himself boss of us'."
"We're not much better off, unfortunately," the Commander said, the glint of good humor evaporating as fast as it had appeared. He reached into the folds of his coat, pulling out an ornamented letter and handing it to him. "I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to treat the contents as confidential for the time being."
"The Holy See?" Andreyev breathed, barely able to bite back an oath as he skimmed the lines.
"The very same," the Commander said grimly. "Let's just say some very important people are very interested in bypassing the security inspections with an unregistered team. I don't know who, or why, but there's something they don't want us to see, and that's not happening on my watch."
Andreyev shook his head. "But why would the Church even... I mean, they were the ones making a fuss about this entire thing in the first place."
"'Opposition on the grounds of concerns about heretic research,'" the Commander quoted and rolled his eyes, no doubt recalling the flood of outraged protests. Some of them had even found their way to the IPF, as if they had any influence on the event whatsoever. At the time, they'd both thought of it as a rather crude attempt at instilling a collective guilt complex in former Holy Knights, or perhaps an appeal to the esteemed Commander's presumed principles, but now...
The door to the shed opened, Jarre sticking his head through. "Sir? I don't think we're going to get anything out of the committee. Seemed pretty flustered about my call, though."
"They probably expected the name on the paper to carry," the Commander said, nodding to himself.
"Looks like it, sir. They told me to take it up with their sponsors if we had further questions, since they're just low and humble organizers, and so on and so forth, and that was the end of that. But..." Testing a grin, Jarre pulled out a sheet of paper, names and phone numbers scrawled across its length. "Their secretary was much more helpful when she found out she'd be doing you a favor, sir. She gave me a list of their sponsors... going through them all's going to be a bit of work. There's at least ten big ones, but technically, it could be anyone."
"Thank you, Major. That might not necessary."
"I just got a call from Bernard. Do you have Dominique Vaillant on that list?" the Commander asked.
"No... not by name, sir. But... I've got the Foreign Ministry among the top five sponsors."
He shook his head. "Never mind, Major. According to Bernard, the cardinal's office has been maintaining unusually close contact with the ministry. Apparently it had something to do with issuing collective entry visas for our mysterious guests."
Andreyev frowned, still not sure what was going on. "What would they need that for? Unless..."
"Exactly, Lieutenant. They aren't from anywhere within Europe." He drew a breath. "I'm pretty sure we're going to receive a visit from Zepp."
There had been a time when it had surprised him to learn that Commander Kiske wasn't as well-liked by his superiors as he was by his subordinates.
Andreyev didn't consider himself someone who trusted easily; nothing else would've done, in that war, than to watch those higher on the food chain closely — the brigadier general, the squad captain, even the NCO breaking in his little team of wide-eyed green recruits. If he was going to be handing his life over to someone, he figured, then that person would have to deal with being watched, and questioned, and evaluated. It was the reason he'd never made it past lieutenant, too good not to be awarded the position but considered too troublesome to climb any higher. He hadn't really cared, had wanted just enough control over his fate to be able to voice his thoughts, and if his objections kept a handful of people from being torn to pieces for nothing, then that was enough.
The only mistake he'd ever made had been Gorsky, who had seen too much and experienced too much for Andreyev to think him untrustworthy. A harsh man, opinionated, maybe, but he'd had much more temperamental leaders than to consider that an issue, never once recognizing that harshness was merely an armor for someone who had little else left.
In comparison, the first few weeks with the Commander had been almost unreal; serving under someone who never idled, never lingered, someone for whom pride and pain meant nothing if he could save even one life. Someone who could, and would, try to reassure the frightened young medic sent to patch him up even when he was bleeding all over himself.
It was impossible to remain wary of such a man, not to grow to like him, that the answer kept eluding him for longer than it should have. The people who didn't like the Commander didn't see him as a person, but as an unwelcome measuring pole for themselves, someone whose name brought an adoring shine to every common soldier's eye, and past all the cynicism and envy lay something much simpler — the pure, unadulterated fear of what Ky Kiske might do with so much devotion.
Looking at the assembled officers, Andreyev was quite certain that nothing had changed, every single one of them ready to disobey the missive if the Commander asked them to, ministry and Vatican and whoever else be damned. He couldn't quite keep from toying with the thought of a little impromptu insurrection, ridiculous as it was, because he didn't like the idea of the Church strolling back into their lives to give orders as if the war had never ended.
The Commander himself, of course, seemed as unaffected as always, and if Andreyev had ever been able to tell what he was thinking in these moments, he couldn't now. Privately, he suspected the Commander was at least a little bit angry, though, if the way he was instructing them to politely tail their visitors was any indication. At least, Andreyev liked to imagine it that way, if only to feel better about his own childish ideas.
"Until we know more, I would like you to treat these special guests with all the care and attention they deserve. Remain on guard, and report any unusual activities." The Commander paused, surveying the group, before adding, "Also keep in mind that some of our other charges might not be all that well-disposed towards Zeppians. I would like to keep their arrival the only untoward occurrence. That is all."
Watching the officers salute and return to their posts, Andreyev murmured, "You think that's going to be an issue, sir?"
"Hostilities?" The Commander had pulled out the letter again, studying it as if it might reveal anything new through sheer willpower. "To be honest, I'm dreading the reception. Alcohol and a few hundred delegates who can't stand each other. I know several people in attendance who used to call blacktech the devil's work and advocated the... purification of its worshippers. Heaven help anyone who so much as uttered 'Zepp' in their presence."
"Speaking from experience, sir?"
"You have no idea, Lieutenant, how much grief it would have saved us, allying with Zepp. Neither Commander Undersen nor I could ever convince them of doing something so small as sharing information on Gear movements."
Andreyev blinked. "Really, sir? But wasn't that—"
"Considered heresy?" There was a twinkle in the Commander's eyes, as if he was enjoying the memory. "Oh, we did catch hell for it, Lieutenant. Several times. But Gears don't wait for scheduled hearings, and after a while... well."
And after a while, Andreyev thought, someone must have realized that if the Commander went, half the army would go with him. He frowned. "I still can't quite... I mean, they hate blacktech. Why Zepp? Why now?"
"I think we're both aware that the organization we used to work for can decide very quickly which virtues are convenient at what time," the Commander said quietly, sighing.
"Pardon, sir, but... you don't sound all that surprised."
An indecipherable look flitted across the Commander's face, so dark and pensive that it almost made him regret asking, before it vanished as if it had never been. "I've heard them change their tune so often when it came to the important things... rebuffed one moment, approved the next. This just seems like another line in a familiar song. Plus, Vaillant and the ministry have been pushing for a 'reconciliation' with Zepp for quite some time. Since nobody can say a word about that sort of thing without the inquisition breathing down their necks, I suspect they had someone's goodwill."
"But that leaves the question what they're getting out of it. If they were never interested in trade before..."
They were interrupted by a crackle from the radio. "Sir?"
"Kiske speaking." The Commander lowered his head to listen, before turning and heading in the direction of the northern checkpoint. "That, Lieutenant, is what I'm afraid we're about to find out."
Andreyev stood looking after him for a moment, still preoccupied with the puzzle. It was times like this that almost made him long for the days when all he'd had to worry about was fulfilling his duty, when the objectives had been clear-cut and simple, nothing beyond survival. They'd never been for the Commander, though, that much he knew, but he had the distinct feeling that if asked, Sir Kiske would agree that fighting Gears was easier than politics. At least, monsters didn't cook up conspiracies.
Something crinkled in his hand, and he realized he'd still been holding onto the paper bags like an idiot, never once following through with his original objective. With a mournful sigh, he set them down and hurried after the Commander. Judging by how things were shaping up, they'd be lucky to even be able to grab a bite at the dinner reception tonight.
"So, how is it looking?"
They were standing in the dim stuffiness of a warehouse, surrounded by tarps and linen wraps. The town itself had been something of an unexpected gift, a deserted ruin in the middle of nowhere that wasn't even marked on the map. Dead for a good fifty years, judging by the degree of growth, the plants in the process of reclaiming the empty buildings. The shrubbery was climbing the walls, flowers sprouting from between the cobblestones, a willow tree bursting through the broken church spire. It was rare to find places like this, settlements that had been abandoned instead of razed to the ground, and most of the soldiers seemed happy about it — the first signs of civilization they'd seen in almost four months, providing better shelter from the wind-swept plains.
Andreyev found it strange to be walking through the streets, brushing past weeds and half-collapsed walls, and catching glimpses of long-gone lives; farming tools scattered about, a rocking chair covered in cobwebs, a stuffed rabbit that came apart in his hands when he picked it up. Whoever had lived here had probably left in a hurry, and he briefly thought, as he tried to reattach the head to the rabbit's body, that the child it had once belonged to had to be old by now, if it had managed to live into adulthood.
"Sterno stoves, a couple of fuel cells. Welders." Badguy reappeared between the tarps, wiping his hands on his thighs and sneezing against the dust. "Two emergency generators. Not bad, all in all. I could rig the big guns with those, make up for the busted cores."
The Commander narrowed his eyes. "Repairs with blacktech components, you mean."
"Nah, you got it all wrong." He pushed another covering out of the way, revealing an assortment of parts that Andreyev had never seen in his life. Some vaguely looked like pumps, while others reminded him of giant clockworks, but he couldn't even begin to guess at their true purpose. Badguy picked up one of the pieces, a rectangular box with a couple of switches sitting on top of it, and demonstratively held it out to the Commander.
"See, this here's got a magically forged alloy, and if I open it up here—" He lifted the side panel to show a tangle of wires. "You can see the power crystal."
Andreyev squinted, seeing exactly nothing, but the Commander nodded solemnly, and made a note on his form sheet. "Excellent. What about those things over there?"
"Turboshafts. Perfectly normal, everyday turboshafts."
Andreyev had no idea what a turboshaft was, but the Commander obviously did, because he nodded again, and made another note.
"And before you ask, the coils are fine because they were welded by magical blowtorches and blah blah blah, et cetera et cetera."
The Commander raised an eyebrow. "You know, you used to be better at this."
"Can't remember what I said last time," Badguy said, shrugging. "Oh, and better toss some holy water on these generators. You know. Just to be sure."
"Fine." The Commander tore off the form sheet, folding it in half and handing it to Andreyev. "Lieutenant, please cross-check this with the copy of form AC/457-9. I'd rather the reports match."
Andreyev could only salute in response and hurry to fulfill the request, trying not to think about the fact that he'd just been privy to the most unorthodox blacktech verification process of his entire career.
Whatever reservations he might have had towards blacktech, serving under the Commander with his no-nonsense attitude managed to swiftly eliminate any concerns. What could be used was used, no matter where it did or did not come from, the Commander unwilling to sacrifice lives over superstitions and superficiality. Andreyev had never managed to guess at Badguy's involvement in all of it, as the man certainly had no special rank or qualifications to speak of, but he'd seen experienced technicians bow out whenever he approached, fixing weapons with an air of eternal disgruntlement that kept anyone from asking questions.
Sometimes, Andreyev had wondered about him being from Zepp, but he couldn't recall ever meeting a Zeppian in his life, and thus had no way to prove the theory.
What little he knew about the country came from briefings and orders that were just barely skirting labeling them an enemy. There was to be no interaction with the devil's own, no exchange of words or goods, and anything suspected of belonging to that heathen cult was to be purged immediately. He'd grown up on stories of people who simply disappeared, never to be seen again, for disobeying God's law. Zeppians were heretics, spreading the seeds of evil by tempting the good and faithful with lies, promises of an easier life at the small cost of one's soul. Their wicked ways were to blame for the existence of the Gears, and the best way to identify them was by the greedy gleam in their small, beady eyes, and their heavy rolling words that sounded like the buzzing of locusts' wings.
Eventually, though, his world had expanded beyond the Saturday morning lessons in the rickety village chapel, swiftly and brutally, and if the field taught him anything, it was that the self-proclaimed just and righteous were the ones who would divide the world into those worth saving and those worth damning. Their words seemed to have consequences far more real than any distant blame recorded in children's tales, and sometimes, surrounded by so much death and dying, he had to wonder if there had ever really been a time without Gears.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected from their surprise guests, but now that he was standing face to face with their caravan, he had to admit that he'd thought them to be at least a little bit outlandish. Words like 'scavengers' and 'heretics' had helped to paint rather interesting pictures, so it was a bit hard to ditch the mental image of cultist robes studded with mysterious gadgets. They hadn't even brought anything remotely otherworldly, just ordinary horse-drawn wagons loaded with the standard transport containers, and if anything, most of the scientists appeared rather timid.
Then again, Andreyev reflected, they probably hadn't expected to be greeted by a dozen officers.
After a moment of tense silence, a tall, dark-haired woman stepped forward, bowing deeply. When she spoke, her voice was soft and clear, rolling the consonants. "Sir Kiske. It is an honor to finally meet you. I'm Lara Kahren."
The Commander bowed in turn, the smile on his face nothing but polite and hospitable. "The pleasure is mine, Doctor. Welcome to Paris."
"Not at all. On behalf of our team leader, I'd like to extend my deepest apologies. We heard about the... unfortunate circumstances surrounding our participation." She shook her head regretfully. "We assumed that all the official details had been taken care of. Doctor Meirth asked me to assure you that we will register an official complaint as soon as possible."
"Thank you. I greatly appreciate any help in clearing up this misunderstanding," the Commander said. "We will do our best to make yours an enjoyable stay. Since we're missing all the necessary applications, however, I will have to ask you and your team to provide some form of identification."
"Of course." She reached into the pocket of her lab coat. "I assume our visas will suffice?"
"Certainly. Major Jarre will take care of the formalities." On cue, Jarre stepped forward, distributing the forms among the group.
"I'm afraid we will have to trouble you further, Sir Kiske," Kahren was saying, her pen flying across the paper with all the efficiency of someone who was used to filling out reports. "Doctor Meirth hasn't been feeling well since we arrived, so he's resting at the hotel. Would it be all right for him to sign these later?"
If the Commander was surprised at this piece of news, he didn't show it, still the very picture of cordiality. If Andreyev hadn't been present for the briefing, he would have been none the wiser. "That won't be a problem. You may unload your transports in the area beyond here. The officers will gladly assist you."
"Thank you again, but... we will have to do this ourselves. The equipment is quite delicate, you see, and we would like to have our big reveal at the presentations tomorrow."
"I apologize, Doctor, but that won't be possible. I'm sure you understand that security is an equally delicate matter. And in the unlikely event that anything happens, we won't be able to act on your behalf, either, unless we can verify the equipment in its original state."
She hesitated for a moment, a shadow of uncertainty darting across her features. "I'd... have to ask Doctor Meirth for permission."
The Commander inclined his head, and she reached into her coat again, pulling out a headset. It was smaller and sleeker than what they were used to at the IPF, but unmistakably a radio device, and Andreyev only had a second to wonder why on Earth a simple scientist would be walking around with a radio in her pocket, before a man's voice burst from the speaker, tinny and hollow, but with the tone of someone who was very much not sick.
"Lara? How unexpected. What seems to be the trouble?"
In the space of only a few words, Kahren's entire countenance seemed to change, the self-assuredness melting away, her fingers clenching around the radio unit. "I'm sorry, Doctor Meirth. Sir Kiske is asking to see the project ahead of time for security reasons. What should we—"
A brief pause, and when the voice spoke again, Andreyev could swear it sounded amused. "But Lara, what kind of question is that. If Sir Kiske insists, then we will have to do exactly that. After all, I have no doubt that he will find our project most interesting."
Kahren was practically squirming now, and Andreyev exchanged a suspicious glance with the Commander. "...Understood, Doctor."
The channel went dead, and she lowered the radio, biting her lip. "Very well. Miren, Anis, open container A for inspection. Sir Kiske..."
The two assistants looked at each other, before climbing onto the first wagon and on top of the container. Clamps were released, dropping back with a dull sound, and then the front slid open and upwards, revealing the interior.
Andreyev took a step back in sheer reflex, reaching for the hilt of his sword even before he fully realized what he was seeing — four perfect, evenly sized figures in identical uniforms, only distinguishable from the real thing by the metallic gleam on their inhuman faces. Gasps all around, the officers too shocked to even speak, and Kahren was saying something, trying to explain, but he couldn't tear his gaze away.
Beside him, Sir Kiske had frozen, eyes widening as he stared at something that simply couldn't be.
...just like you, sir.
A/N: We took the red pill. C&C is much appreciated, and thanks go to Tofu for being the guinea pig. XD
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