“Let me introduce myself again,” said the strawberry blond haired guy who had been squatting in the room assigned to Ritsuka.“I’m the head of the medical department, Romani Archaman. For some reason, people just call me Dr. Roman.”
Dr. Roman stood up from where he’d been eating cookies on the bed during his introduction and extended a hand out to Ritsuka, who accepted the handshake while saying, “What a coincidence, I also have a nickname. I’m Fujimaru Ritsuka, but my friends call me Gudao.”
“Oh, then pleased to meet you, Gudao. Go ahead and call me Dr. Roman, since it’s easier to pronounce. Ah, why don’t you share a cup of tea with me?”
Ritsuka peered at the end table for his bed to see the thermos of European tea that was sitting open on it, and audibly remarked, “You brought two teacups with you? I’m sorry, were you expecting company?”
While Ritsuka was fully aware that he was standing in his own room, his Japanese upbringing made him feel guilty over interrupting another person’s social plans. On the flip side, Dr. Roman responded, bright and cheerful, “Oh, no. I just bring a second cup in case I need to offer a bribe to someone who comes looking for me. Then we could both enjoy ourselves while ducking our duty.”
“…Oh, so you’re the fluffy type?”
“Fluffy,” asked Dr. Roman, tilting his head before coming to a misunderstanding. “Oh, you mean my hair? I’m normally pretty busy so I just let it grow.”
As Dr. Roman toyed with his, admittedly rather fluffy and full bodied hair that was tied in a ponytail, Ritsuka decided not to correct him.
But it would probably be a good idea to let Dr. Roman know I’ve been assigned to him, thought Ritsuka. Then Dr. Roman got completely side tracked by trying to appeal to Fou, who he’d apparently never actually seen before now.
* * * * *
It took a little time before Dr. Roman was able to recover from being completely snubbed by Fou, Ritsuka was able to relate the details of his disgraceful assignment to Dr. Roman for basic training. By this point they were both sitting on the bed, sipping tea.
“Then you and I are both alike, we’re both on the Director’s bad side,” said Dr. Roman happily. Ritsuka thought it wasn’t a subject to be that pleased about, but Dr. Roman carried on. “Since I had no part in the Rayshift experiment, I got thrown out like you did. So I came here to do my sulking, where I met you. Since neither of us have anywhere to go, why don’t we spend our time deepening our friendship!”
“Sure. This is my room, anyhow,” replied Ritsuka with a mischievous smile before taking another sip of tea.
“Yeah. So that means I’m visiting a friend’s room! Woo hoo! I’ve made a new friend!”
You know, despite making a bad first impression, and a weak second impression, Dr. Roman’s a good guy. Maybe I was lucky to have been put under his care…
* * * * *
“This isn’t the infirmary, is it?”
Dr. Roman had been interrupted during his explanation of the Chaldea installation, built 6,000 meters above sea level in the middle of the antarctic when the call from Mr. Leinur came in, requesting Dr. Roman’s presence at the Rayshift. Mr. Leinur seemed to be under the impression that Dr. Roman was in the infirmary.
“Please don’t mention that… It’s gonna take five minutes from here, no matter what, instead of two…”
Dr. Roman seemed to instantly bypass the depressed sigh he released to reach acceptance of his being late and getting into trouble, and thus, started explaining things all over again instead of departing for the test site immediately. The “fluffy type” really was the best way to describe Dr. Roman after all…
After Dr. Roman stopped gushing about the facility’s technology, he said, “Thanks for chatting with me, Gudao! When you get settled in, come by the infirmary. Next time, I’ll treat you to some yummy cake.”
Almost like that was the que line, the lights in the room went dark and the walls and floor trembled along with, or from, the sound of an explosion in the distance. Red emergency lighting flickered on so dim that it was impossible to see anything more detailed than general forms of everything in the surroundings.
Emergency. Emergency. A fire has broken out in the Central Power Station and the Central Command Room. Central Area’s containment wall will activate in 90 seconds. All staff must evacuate from Gate 2 at once.
“Monitor, show us the Command Room,” shouted Dr. Roman without any composure. But he was far more composed than Ritsuka was. Ritsuka lost what little calm he had remaining when an image appeared on the monitor screen built into the wall of his room.
The great chamber Ritsuka had been in not half an hour before was shown, filled with wreckage of the stone walls and fire burning over nearly every surface and clouds of smoke already filling the air. There was no longer anything in that room but devastation. Ritsuka froze up at the image, the surreal nature making him doubt the reality, thinking it was some bad joke that was being broadcast onto his room’s monitor. Ritsuka might have remained locked up like that except for Dr. Roman issuing Ritsuka an order.
“Gudao, evacuate right now. I’m going to the Command Room. The containment wall is about to close. Get yourself out before it’s too late!”
Dr. Roman had already opened the door to Ritsuka’s room and was on his way out.
“Fou,” called the innocent faced squirrel-rabbit from the bed. Ritsuka gripped his hands into fists and said, “Yeah, if a fluffy guy like that can help, what excuse do I have?”
* * * * *
Ritsuka had elbowed open the safety glass on a fire extinguisher emplacement before catching up with Dr. Roman and then forcing him to allow Ritsuka’s cooperation, mainly on the basis that there was no time for arguing, before reaching the Central Command Room. The regular self opening hatch doors had been blown open and smoke was pouring into the hallway. Dr. Roman mumbled something about this not being an accident while taking stock of the devastated control room.
Generator operation stopped. Power level critical.
Switch to the backup generator, error. Please make switch manually.
Containment wall will close-
Dr. Roman immediately started running for a distant hall within the central room, calling out, “I’m heading down to the underground power station. We can’t let Chaldea’s light go out. Hurry up and go back the way we came, you can still make it! Go outside, and wait for help!”
As Dr. Roman’s form disappeared into the darkness of the hall, Ritsuka said, “To hell with that,” and immediately started looking for any survivors. He was there, now, with a fire extinguisher. He might not be able to do much, but he was going to do something, damn it!
System switching to the final phase of Rayshift.
Ritsuka dashed up some stairs where a sign pointed out the command room had been. Inside was shattered screens, twisted metal, blasted terminals, and chunks of red that had been burnt black. There was nothing there that could be considered a person anymore. Ritsuka gagged from revulsion and smoke, before dashing back down the stairs.
Coordinates, AD 2004, January, 30th, Fuyuki, Japan.
There was shattered and fallen stone everywhere. The gentle blue hue of earlier was a memory dyed in the crimson of fire and the black of ash. But in the center of the chamber, standing out from the ground, were cylinders, maybe fifty of them.
Laplace’s shifting protection established.
Ritsuka dashed over to them, fire was burning over the one nearest him. Ritsuka blasted the flames out with his fire extinguisher once he saw a human form inside.
Singularity’s additional factor slot secured.
A blond girl with an eyepatch over one eye wearing an improbably tight orange jumpsuit was inside, unconscious and apparently struggling to breath, but alive. Ritsuka immediately started looking for a handle, an emergency release hatch, a big obvious button that said, “Press this to save someone,” but there was nothing but impossibly foreign technology in front of him.
Unsummon Program set.
Each of these fifty tubes had a person inside. Dead or dying, and Ritsuka had no idea how to help them. He started spinning from looking at one helpless victim to another before shouting, “Can anyone hear me?! Is anyone awake!” Ritsuka needed someone, anyone, who knew how to help these people! What did he leap into a fire for if he couldn’t help even one person?!
Please start final adjustments.
The voice was impossibly weak, but it stabbed into Ritsuka’s consciousness precisely because, in this horrible scenery, it was the first thing he could recognize. Ritsuka turned in the direction it had come from, climbed over a fallen slab of stone, and saw his self-appointed Kouhai on the ground, pinned face down under a slab of fallen rock. Ritsuka scrambled over to Mash’s side, saying, “Hang in there, I’m going to get you out of this! When I move this thing, crawl out from under it!”
Warning all observation staff. Chaldeas’ state has changed.
Ritsuka gripped the underside of the slab of stone, and began lifting with all his might, straining his entire body. The stone at the edges gave out before Ritsuka’s muscles could, crumbling and causing his grip to fail and the palms of his hands to slide across the broken surface. Crying out from the pain, Ritsuka pulled his hands back and checked them for damage.
“…It’s all…right. You can’t…save…me. Don’t mind me, please… Run.”
Now rewriting Sheba’s near future prediction data. Unable to detect the existence of mankind 100 years in the near-future on Earth.
Mash was talking in fractured English instead of the Japanese she’d been talking to Ritsuka in before, semi-delirious. Ritsuka found that he’d torn the skin open on both palms, and blood was already seeping from the wounds. While looking down at his own hands, he saw the pool of blood that was seeping out from where Mash’s lower half was wedged beneath the unyielding stone. Ritsuka grabbed up a long slate of rock, and a broken stone, and started positioning them like a lever and fulcrum.
“I’m not leaving you here, Mash. Just be ready to crawl out, then I’ll take you to Dr. Roman, alright!”
Unable to confirm human survivors. Unable to guarantee mankind’s future.
Ritsuka was so focused on Mash he didn’t notice the globe of Chaldeas in the center of the room turning bright red. He wouldn’t have cared even if he’d noticed. His entire will was put into moving the stone that was killing his kouhai.
Central Area, sealed. 180 seconds till internal containment procedure.
“…they, shut off, the area. …Now, we can’t, get out.”
“We’ll figure something out,” shouted Ritsuka as he put his back into the impromptu lever.
Coffin Vitals: Masters
Baseline not reached.
Rayshift requirement not met.
The stone lever cracked and slipped, causing Ritsuka to fall flat onto the ground. He made eye contact with mash, who’d lost her red rimmed glasses somewhere. But it was obvious she didn’t need them anymore as her eyes were completely unfocused. She was already too far gone to be able to see around her.
Searching for qualifying master… Found.
Candidate No. 48, Fujimaru Ritsuka reset as Master.
“It’s… alright… Senpai. It’s already… enough…”
It was nowhere near enough, Ritsuka wanted to say. Instead he cursed his own weakness and bit his lip.
“Um… Sen..pai? Would you mind… Holding my hand?”
“No, Mash. I don’t mind at all,” choked Ritsuka on his own grief and incompetence. Ritsuka took hold of Mash’s left hand with his right, and when he felt slight returning pressure, put more strength into his grip so she could tell; he was there, and he wasn’t leaving her. “Everything’s going to be alright, Mash,” Ritsuka lied.
Unsummon Program, start. Spiritron Conversion, start.
“Thank you… Senpai…”
Rayshift starting in 3 2 1
All procedures clear. First Order, commencing operation.
As the tears ran unchecked down Ritsuka’s face, his consciousness faded swiftly to black. In that final moment of clarity, it seemed like the world around him was tinged in gold.