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Queen of Tragedy
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Place of rocks and trees, and trees and rocks...and water.
Lots of thanks to DezoPenguin for his help with the early draft of this Part
. Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian fans!
Crime Never Sleeps
“The worst things we do are always by our own choice.”
New Part 1-4A
New Part 4B
New Part 5: Trial Day 1A
New Part 5: Trial Day 1B
New Part 5: Trial Day 1C and New Part 6
New Part 7
Part 8 and Part 9: Trial Day 2
Part 10: Trial Day 2
Side Story: Raven
Crime Never Sleeps, Part 16
SUBJECT: Hero funeral
You are invited to a hero’s funeral, taking place at Main Office too-night. Dress attire is formal, but no military attire. Look your best, even though cameras are prohibited from the event under Privacy Code 453, 676, and 908.
While we are Sad tHAt Death is upon us, we will nOt despair because We can SEE PROOF that we are valued by our families. The gallantry of our troops will be rewarded as usual.
Let the Blackbird fly in honour of our fallen.
“Shit,” Auris muttered as she re-read the intercepted message.
Alvar Lonsdale nodded empathetically, cutting a deck of cards one-handed over and over. “Very! I barely caught it—the encryption was beyond military-grade, and it was only because I was reviewing the auto-generated alerts by eye that I noticed it at all.”
“Do you have any idea who the sender and recipient are?”
The intelligence agent shook his head.
“Damn,” Auris sighed, drumming her fingers on her desk. “I expected something like this, but this is terrible timing. Half of Cranagan Main Office is under renovation, and that leaves too many gaps in security for us to cover discreetly.”
“There is no Privacy Code 453, 676, and 908,” Lonsdale pointed out. “Those are floor sectors. Couldn’t we just put agents at those locations?”
“Just because there would be no security coverage at those locations,” Auris replied, “doesn’t mean that the assassin will necessarily enter through any of those places. We can’t risk anything happening to Raven Gallant before the last day of the trial.”
Especially, Auris thought darkly, if the client wanted the assassin to frame the Shadows for the kill. Even if Auris wanted to terminate Raven Gallant, and didn’t particularly care if people could guess her sentiments, that didn’t mean she would let a crude attempt like this pass. This had to be the Black Hats again. She was not going to let anyone jerk her around, NSIS Overseer or not.
“Lonsdale, have any agents ever used ‘Blackbird,’ or any variations of it, for an alias?” Auris had already checked the official databanks and came up empty, but if Lonsdale could find any connection between a Shadow agent and the name in the nebulous internet, that could point them to the killer.
“None,” Lonsdale confirmed apologetically. He pulled up a display in front of him. “But I did find some references to an assassin named Blackbird in the market: female, independent, and known for using mass weapons. She’s a weak mage, and although she’s listed as freelance it’s likely that she has a private sponsor, since her confirmed hit rate is too low for anyone to make a living off of just those jobs. She’s probably young, since her active record only began a few years ago—although she has an impressive success rate.”
“Send me a file on Blackbird,” Auris ordered, thinking hard. She didn’t have any time to spare—according to the message, the hit would take place either tonight, or two nights from now, if the spelling error was a code. If the Black Hats didn’t have a Shadow agent available for the assassination it was likely that they had hired an outside killer to do the job then pin it on Auris.
Any uncertainty from Auris about taking immediate action against the Black Hats had vanished.
was the NSIS Director, and Auris wasn’t going to let
pull her strings around. Stopping their child-soldier trafficking conspiracy would hurt the NSIS recruitment numbers, but Auris would rather take a slight statistic drop in her unit assessments than be beholden to someone else for anything.
The Mayor, the two corrupt Overseers, the Gallants and all those other sponsors had overstepped their bounds, and she will show them what it means to cross Auris Gaiz.
But first of all, she had to deal with this inconvenient assassination plot. Auris thanked Lonsdale and dismissed him, then went over Blackbird’s file herself, trying to decide how to proceed.
The easiest answer would be to alert the local authorities to tighten security on Headquarters and Long Arch—no doubt Hayate could easily make that happen—but it was a risky plan for Auris. If Blackbird managed to fool the security officers that she was a Shadow agent, the end result would be the same for Auris regardless of whether or not Raven Gallant was alive at the end of the night. Discretion was key…
“Damn it.” There was no other way. Auris needed an assassin for an assassin.
That was the trouble. All of her current active agents who were capable of dealing with Blackbird and keeping the situation quiet were in the field, and at a cursory glance Auris couldn’t justify pulling any of them from their assignments. Neither did Auris want to risk outsourcing the mission to one of the other TSAB special forces branches. Futilely, Auris skimmed her list of in-office agents again, hoping for some kind of magical solution.
Auris bit her lip, narrowing her eyes at one name.
She had her magical solution.
Lutecia paused in her data reports when Ascelipus beeped with a private message for her.
Naval Private Communications Network: Intelligence Service
Message flag: RED
Security code: 9
Lutecia whistled lowly, activating the security system around her work desk as she opened the message. Security code 9? That was a secure mission between only a small task force, with only preliminary information released prior to acceptance of the mission.
When Lutecia clicked the message, a private note from Director Gaiz popped up.
I know that you are listed on non-active duty coming off medical leave, so this is a voluntary mission. It is time sensitive, so without your confirmation in 60 min I will find a replacement agent.
You are the agent in range with the highest field experience for this kind of mission. Please consider it carefully before dismissing.
Lutecia’s first instinct was to trash the message. But she sighed, opening the attached file with trepidation.
Mission: stop a freelance assassin from terminating her target.
Security: internal, no publicity, politically sensitive.
Permissions: Termination authorized.
Assassin: Blackbird -- young, female, success rate 88%, mass weapons preference.
Mass weapons? Lutecia frowned, skimming Blackbird’s list of known kills. There were a surprising number of mages on that list, although granted, most of the mages were B-rank or below. But what kind of mass weapons would Blackbird have to use to punch through a B-rank mage’s shields and Barrier Jacket? The preliminary file didn’t state whether or not Blackbird had fought her targets in combat—indeed, it was more likely not the case, as it wasn’t usually an assassin’s job to even be involved in a fight. If Blackbird had simply caught her targets off-guard or in an Anti Magilink Field, that could explain the kill record…but regardless of how, the fact that Blackbird had so many dead mages on her record meant that her threat level was a rank IV at least, possibly even rank III.
That meant that if Lutecia didn’t take the assignment, it was doubtful that Auris could find anyone even close to the S-class summoner to approach.
But could Lutecia do this? She had already conceded to herself that she would eventually come back to active duty, even if she was starting to become accustomed to desk work. Lutecia had thought that she would have a few more months at least to slowly ease into the field, but this was plunging in head-first. A black-ops mission, with termination authorization, blatantly at Cranagan’s Main Office centre?
This was the darker side of the Shadows all at once.
Even though she had worked with Hayate to build personal boundaries between herself and her work, Lutecia wasn’t quite sure that she was ready to let so much darkness in at once. Especially now that she had someone else to share her highs and lows with—and Lutecia didn’t want to subject Vivio to how low she could go.
But Lutecia had known what could happen when Hayate had asked. Her hesitation was personal, not professional, and Lutecia knew what she had to do.
She called up a communications screen, hitting speed dial.
Rather than the soft clicks that indicated being transferred around, the line was picked up right away.
“Cia!” Vivio greeted, holding Burning Glory up in front of her. “I almost didn’t pick up—you
know that I’m working right now, right?” She said playfully, panning the video screen briefly at her surrounding. Lutecia caught a flash of a half-painted school and other uniformed and paint-splattered librarians slaving away alongside the students.
“Community Outreach program, right?” Lutecia remembered.
“Yup. Hey, is everything alright?” Now Vivio was looking slightly concerned. “You never call me on a personal line during the workday.”
Lutecia deflated, lowering her gaze in guilt. Then she forced herself to meet Vivio’s eyes again, not wanting to overly worry her partner. Besides, seeing the blue paint splattered over Vivio’s ironed shirt and blond hair was inappropriately adorable for the moment.
“I’ve been contacted about a mission that will bring me back to active duty. I have a limited time to make my decision of whether or not to accept it,” Lutecia paused, swallowing. “So I called you to talk.”
Vivio bit her lip, putting her paintbrush back into the bucket. “O-Okay. What did you want to talk about?”
Lutecia tapped her pen on her desktop, staring at the blur of the blue cap. “I…I wanted to talk over it with you.”
“Cia…this is your decision,” Vivio said gently, even if she betrayed a little of her age by looking wistful that she couldn’t rant about
thoughts on the matter. “You know that I’ll support you on anything.”
“I know.” The knowledge made Lutecia relax, warmed by the reminder. “Still, I…I want to tell you about it, before I decide anything.”
“Okay. Why don’t you tell me about it? At least, what you can say, I know.”
“It looks very important,” Lutecia admitted. “But I’m not sure if it’s important to me, or just for other people. It’s dangerous, and I’m worried that I might have to do things I don’t enjoy again.” She sighed. “I know that I had decided to one day come back to this work, but I guess I was naïve enough to think that I could…ease into the job.”
“This one would be kind of diving in head-first?” Vivio’s mouth tightened, and she reached out with one hand only to retract it when she remembered that Lutecia wasn’t actually next to her. It was a very Vivio gesture, and Lutecia smiled fondly.
“Yeah. But there’s no one else who can do it as well as I could, and that’s why I want to do it in the first place.” Lutecia couldn’t bear sitting at her desk and seeing missions completed in ways that she wouldn’t have done, resulting in more casualties than necessary. Working as a Shadow was about helping people in the long run, but Lutecia never wanted to lose sight of the collateral along the way. They had to work to prevent the loss of innocent life outside the scope of the mission, and it was a second kind of hardship for Lutecia to see mission reports containing disasters that could have been prevented—that
could have prevented.
She had nearly sacrificed her soul once for the larger ideal of the TSAB and the NSIS—Lutecia didn’t want to lose it entirely by refusing the power that she had and the responsibility she held because of it. Doing nothing would kill her faster than walking the knife’s edge of morality.
Besides, Lutecia wasn’t a secretive and self-sacrificing 19 year old anymore. She had grown up, and she had people who supported her.
Becoming an active agent again could mean that an uncertain and damaged teenaged Shadow wouldn’t have to do some of the horrors Lutecia had lived through at that age.
That was worth something in itself.
“I…I want to take it.”
“Oh.” Lutecia saw Vivio let out a huff of breath, chewing her lip in anxiety. She loved how expressive and honest Vivio was, even in her expressions; Lutecia could see the warring worry, disappointment, anger, and sadness all shine through Vivio’s red and green eyes and the twitch of her jaw. “Okay.”
From that tone, it was definitely
entirely okay. Lutecia wished she could be on the other side of the screen, touching Vivio’s hand so that she could communicate with her partner with more than just words. “Vi?”
“Really! Well…” Vivio hesitated, then gave in, her shoulders slumping. “I know that we had talked about the possibility, but it’s still kind of a shock that it’s happening
, you know?”
“I know,” Lutecia lied.
Vivio tried a smile, which widened into an adequate one. “I trust you. So make sure you come home, okay?”
“I will, but not tonight,” Lutecia apologized, lowering her gaze. “I need to get briefed, and do some work.” From the kind of urgency she picked up in the message, this was one of those missions that sucked a full 72 hours of an agent’s life away. “I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
The blonde nodded, swirling the bucket in her hands anxiously. “Be careful. Love you, Cia.”
Lutecia glanced down, and hit the Send button on her holoscreen. Her confirmation elicited an instant response from Auris, but Lutecia left that message unread as she looked back at her partner.
“I love you too.”
Vivio finally signed off, but Lutecia didn’t let the communications screen blink out. She had been reluctantly thinking about the idea, and was becoming more and more convinced that she
take a chance based on knowledge instead of instinct.
Abruptly, she dialled a familiar number. To her relief, it was picked up right away.
“Yuuno? I need your help with something…”
There are some overt references to "Shadow in the Rain" by Dezo, as I tried to include the elements of that fic without requiring the reader to have read it in order to understand Lutecia's internal dilemma.
Latest "Angel" chapter
Latest "Daily Activity Logs" chapter
Latest "Crime Never Sleeps"
The Hayate x Vivio Files
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