Gunslinger Girl Fan Fiction ❯ The Alpha Effect: Inizio-Encounter ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights; property, intellectual, financial, distribution, etc., to Gunslinger Girl. All rights therein are the possession of Yu Aida, Media Works Inc., and Funimation Entertainment
“Do either of you mind explaining how our two best fratello are found lying unconscious no more than ten meters from plain sight?”
A cold chill washed over the room as dim lights from the ceiling lent an uncomfortable mood to those who sat. Triela, Hillshire, José, and Henrietta were motionless at Jean's assault. Normally for them, this was a briefing before being assigned a mission. This summons however, had come after.
“We've recovered surveillance footage from the home of Senore' Demitri. Let's watch it shall we?”
Silence spoke loudly as the soft electronic hum of the equipment was all they could hear.
“Now, pay attention. Here's where Triela leads in with Henrietta followed by José. Both of you girls go to opposite sides of the room with you men covering the doors. Now, you girls head upstairs while Hilshire and José case the lower floor. Then; you girls check the main office on the second floor, step out, then static. So,” he finished standing in front of them again, “what happened?”
“We were attacked,” José said.
“Obviously,” Jean replied.
“Someone got to the target before we did,” Hilshire added.
“We discovered the objective's remains upon entering the upper floor office,” Triela added. “I told Henrietta to go downstairs to notify José and Hilshire of a possible hostile within the perimeter.
Henrietta nervously began, “When I got down, I found José and Hilshire lying on the floor of the dining room. I ran to check on them before I heard something that sounded like an air gun round. All I remember after that is feeling numb and falling down.”
“I searched all of the upstairs rooms and found nothing,” Triela continued. “I went to the loft overlooking the main room and saw a glimpse of someone climbing out the skylight. I jumped off the balcony to the floor below and ran to find a back door. I found a door in the kitchen leading to a delivery alley. When I got out of the house, only the street exit was lit, everything else was in shadow. I heard a sound behind me. I turned toward that sound, but before I could react my Winchester went flying into a corner. I heard a mumbling behind me, before all my body felt numb.”
“So the hostile got behind you twice?” Jean inquired.
“Yes, sir,” Triela answered.
“What if they were two?”
“I don't believe so, sir.”
“I heard only one set of footsteps the entire time.”
“So they were faster than you.”
“I believe so.”
“Judging from reports of your past missions and the bare fact of your having a cyborg body and mind, you'll see how hard it is for me to believe that statement.”
“It's possible, sir,” Hilshire answered.
“I agree with Hilshire,” José seconded. “The hostile who attacked us moved so fast I could have sworn they were a cyborg as well.”
“Could you make a positive I. D.?” Jean retorted.
“No, sir,” José and Hilshire answered.
“Then this is all theoretical hearsay. If you all have nothing more to report on this matter, then this debriefing will continue at a later time. Dismissed.”
The four of them stood up to walk out. As they exited the room, a well dressed woman rushed in almost knocking over Henrietta.
“Ferro?” Jean asked.
“We've just recovered the feed from a security camera overlooking the alley where we found Triela.”
“I thought all we had was static?”
“There was, but this must have been farthest from the source. We were able to be clean it up.”
“Should I call back José and Hillshire?”
“No, please don't. This footage you should see first along with Dr. Bianchi and Director Lorenzo.”
“I'm a very busy man, Ferro,” the director said taking a seat.
“This better be important Jean. I was doing necessary research with Claes,” Bianchi said entering the room.
“It is. Will you please close and lock the door Dr. Bianchi?” Ferro answered him.
Dr. Bianchi closed the door as Ferro played the footage. The three men watched the monitor when they saw Triela stop just outside a building. They paid close attention at what appeared to be a blur attacking Triela, before watching her fall to the ground.
“It just clarifies Triela's account of the mission,” Jean said folding his arms.
“I still don't see what this has to do with me,” said Dr. Bianchi as he firmly put his hands inside of his lab coat pockets.
“Nor me,” Lorenzo chided in.
“That's not what you need to see,” Ferro said walking to the control panel of the vid-player. “Watch…”
Zooming in on the person standing over Triela, Ferro played the footage frame-by-frame. Both Lorenzo and Dr. Bianchi couldn't hold their gasps.
“That was my initial reaction,” Ferro said facing them all.
“It can't be,” said Dr. Bianchi.
“I believe it is,” Lorenzo replied. “But he was supposed to have died. That explosion took out an entire city block in Naples.”
“Apparently he hasn't. He already took down two fratello single-handed. What's worse is I believe he knows about us.”
“What do you mean?” Lorenzo asked.
“The serum sample,” Jean inquired.
“Yes,” Ferro answered. "He used a neurotoxin on the girls. It used to be manufactured by the British military, but no longer. It's engineered to stop motor nervous function and disable sensory function. This particular sample was very concentrated. We dug about three milliliters out of Triela and Henrietta. If any of us would've taken even a fraction of that, we would be dead before hitting the ground."
“He's the original,” Bianchi said walking toward the screen, “before Section 1, before there was even a Social Welfare Agency. He was the original test subject with the original technology. Everything I do now is based on direct analysis after the original files were destroyed.”
“I remember,” Jean muttered, “Vividly.”
“Good work Ferro,” said Lorenzo. “Attention, this knowledge never leaves this room. This conversation only happened in our imaginations.” Lorenzo stood up from his seat facing them all, “Jean, Bianchi.”
“Sir,” they answered.
“I want this to be the only copy of the footage. It will remain with me at all times. Relocate anybody who was around during the old days. Anybody that can answer questions curious little girls might ask. Give them assignments of choice, I'll authorize it.”
“Yes, right away.” Bianchi confirmed. Jean merely nodded.
“Dismissed,” Lorenzo said with finality. Jean and the doctor left, while Lorenzo looked back at the monitor with a mix of sorrow, anger, confusion, and disdain. ”Why have you returned…Alpha?”
Triela had been mute since returning from the debriefing. Claes was buried in her new chemistry textbook and Triela decided not to interrupt her. `How easy it must be,' Triela thought. `Just sitting up there with nothing to do, but read. To only here about missions instead of partaking in them.'
“Okay, I give up,” Claes muttered, “What happened?”
“Oh, I'm sorry. What was that Claes?” Triela said craning her head toward the sound.
“What happened? In the field, I mean,” Claes said; her eyes remaining in her book.
“I don't know what you mean.”
“You're like an open dictionary, you know. The definitions are there for all to see. You're usually a chatterbox when you walk in here and you haven't even looked at the chocolate mousse cheesecake I set out for you. I thought it was your favorite?”
“I'm …just not hungry.”
“Then what about the other thing?”
Other thing?”
“The mission, it's not like you failed, as if you could."
“Well, not exactly.”
“So, what is it?”
“It's nothing, honest.”
“Then maybe you want something from Hilshire. Humph, and here I was wondering if you were a real blonde.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Triela screamed standing sharply upsetting the table.
“Nothing, it was just something to get your attention.”
Claes stood up before jumping down from her bunk. She began picking up the plates and spilt food while Triela stood over her, fists clenched.
“You can relax. I didn't mean anything by it and it wasn't like I said anything directly toward Hilshire,” Claes said; “So, are you going to tell me what's bothering you?” Claes asked gathering the remains of the table's contents.
“I suppose,” Triela said relaxing her hands.
After righting the table and chairs they both sat down as Triela recited her accounts of the mission. Claes listened intently with effortless comprehension. When Triela had finished, Claes had looked off to the side, a blank expression covering her face.
“Claes?” Triela muttered staring at her looking off into nothingness.
Claes stood up and walked to the window where she stared outside for a few minutes before answering Triela.
“The fact that the mark was dead before you got there doesn't surprise me. In our line of work, we have to expect that our targets have enemies other than us. What surprises me most is that you and Henrietta were overpowered, if indirectly. You and she are nearly unstoppable when you're together. I honestly think that only a tank battalion can stop you and even then they'd have a hard fight. There was just that one time.”
“Yeah, you saved our necks. I can't thank you enough.”
“You don't have to.”
“You don't have to. You, Henrietta, Rico, and the others protect your handlers, right? Well, I don't have a handler; or at least not anymore, I think. So you girls are my wards. I protect you as you would your handlers and at times care for you as your handlers would. I see you go on your missions and hope I won't have to go after you again. Despite this calm exterior, I'm a bit of a nervous wreck when even one of you is gone. So I stay in my bed reading, or in my garden removing my mind from what could happen. I…we lost Angelica already. Elsa was also hard for me to bear. I bet you never would've figured that one. If you, Henrietta, or Rico didn't come back from a mission…”
Claes let a tear fall upon the windowsill after the last statement. Triela's trained cybernetic eyes widened witnessing this. Claes never showed emotion. The only other time she did was when she slapped Angelica in the infirmary. Triela always thought of herself as the mother hen, but now watching Claes struggle to keep her emotions under control something finally clicked.
`If this were an orphanage,' Triela thought, 'I would be the kind, mothering sister and Claes would be the stern headmistress sitting quietly in the background. Rarely seen yet always within reach. Intervening only when she felt it was needed.'
Triela couldn't recall a single time when she turned down a question from one of the girls. Triela stood when she saw another tear hit the windowsill, the reason Claes slapped Angelica was clear. It was something they all knew could happen, but it wasn't something they needed to be made aware of. Recalling Angelica's words still made her shoulders feel cold. Dealing with it then might have broken her, all of them. So Claes took it upon herself, bearing the fear they all refused to face. Triela took a step forward. Claes spun around, her eyes still watery.
“I'm sorry,” Claes said, “I suppose I'm having trouble controlling my emotions. Would you mind if this stayed between us?”
“Claes,” Triela said looking in disbelief at the girl who had always watched them in her own way. Claes hid her emotions as a caretaker would, so not to worry her charge.
“There's glass all over that cheesecake. It's inedible, unless you enjoy going under Dr. Bianchi's knife. I should have some of that cherry custard tart from yesterday. Let me go get it. Will you please set the table, I won't be long.”
Claes left the room and swiftly headed for the kitchen. Triela stood still for a minute glaring at the door. Her eyes shifted to the wall by the door and across from the bed headboards. Two pictures hung on the wall.
One was of Angelica looking toward her left and at a downward glance. Triela remembered this, it was one of the last times they saw her. She had been given the necessary repairs, but her body and mind endured too much over the years. Four days later, she died with her handler, Marco, watching beside her.
The picture to the right of that was of Elsa. Staring straight ahead, the expression on her face was like stone, which spoke volumes about her personality. While Claes was sociable when needed, Elsa was social like a glacier.
`Funny,' Triela thought, `Elsa never liked speaking to anyone, but I wonder if she spoke to Claes at all. Come to think of it, why haven't I noticed those pictures before? Oh well.'
“Sorry I took so long,” Claes said, “I decided to pick up some butter biscuits and tea as well. Thank you for setting the table already.”
Triela gazed at Claes as she put down the tart and tea with serene grace. A question suddenly came to her.
“Claes,” Triela said. “Have you ever danced?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“It's just the way you move. It's different, less forceful then…well, then the rest of us.”
“I read about ballet and thought I'd try it. It came pretty easy too.”
“Hmm, I'd like to see you sometime,” Triela said as she cupped her face in her hands.
“No, you wouldn't. The cybernetic replacements have a tendency to make such movements rigid. We were built for strength rather then elegance.”
“That's for sure,” Triela said with a smirk.
“Here, your tart and tea.”
“Thank you, Auntie Claes.”
“Your welcome, and how many times do I have to tell you stop adding titles to my name?”
Triela giggled taking her first bite.