Vocal Vision

The Government did What!?!?

“Wrong again!” yelled Luka, knocking Miku on her butt for the umpteenth time that day. It was high noon, and they still hadn’t gotten anywhere since they started.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” came Miku’s protest, “That was perfect!”

They had moved on to physical training. With daily treatments from Luka, Miku’s arm had healed up nicely and she was now able to use it normally again. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a problem.

It had been three weeks since Miku started her training. The spring breeze was beginning to give way to summer heat and the days were getting longer. She was learning startlingly fast but had recently hit a bit of an impasse. She had discovered that blocking just was not her thing. She was a hothead when it came to fighting and her usual strategy was to rush in guns blazing and completely overwhelm the opponent. Luka had shown her that this was a stupid idea and had told her as much.

“I keep telling you Miku, you have to keep your guard up!” came the voice of her teacher, “If you only try to go on the offensive your opponent will be able to figure out your movements in an instant!”

Miku was frustrated, to say the least. She did not like waiting, and that’s exactly what blocking made her do. Wait for your opponent to make the first move, wait for an opportunity to strike, wait wait WAIT! She was getting sick of it. She was a person of action!

“Ok, let’s try this again” said Luka, getting into her stance once more, “You know the drill. I’m going to come in from your left. I want you keep your guard up and use your forearm to block my punch.”

Miku put her guard up again half-heartedly. Luka charged in, circling around to Miku’s left side, leading with a vicious haymaker. Ok, enough is enough thought Miku. This time she was definitely getting this right.

As Luka came in, Miku brought up her left arm and swiped the blow aside. Success!

“Good! Now the right!” yelled Luka, swinging in low from the opposite side.

Miku pivoted and brought her right arm down, sweeping Luka’s strike aside for a second time.

“Finally! You’re making progress!” yelled Luka, obviously glad that Miku was finally getting it, “Good job, now the left leg!”

“What!?!?” yelled Miku. Before she could react, however, Luka’s right leg came in and swept her legs right out from under her. She crashed to the ground once again.

“Well, you’re certainly making progress.” Said Luka, “Next we can start working on kicking technique.”

“I wish you would have told me that before you did it. Ouch.” Said Miku, rubbing her hip where she had landed.

“Miku, you have to learn to think on your feet, not off of them.” Said Luka, grinning as she helped Miku up.

“Ha ha, very funny.” Said Miku, though she still smiled at the lame joke, “Anyways, it has to be lunch time by now, right?”

“Is food all you ever think about?” said Luka exasperatedly, “You’re going to eat me out of house and home you know.”

She had a right to be worried. Since Miku had started living with her, her costs of daily living had tripled.

Miku, on the other hand, didn’t pay it much heed. In her usual manner she failed to think about where the food she ate came from (and who paid for it) and focused more on the eating part. However, one of Miku’s many questions about Luka’s lifestyle had been answered the first time the fridge had run out of food.

As it turned out, Luka actually went shopping. At a store. Like a normal person. Miku couldn’t believe it. She was sure that Luka had some strange and mysterious way of obtaining the food that she ate.

As for the internet, cable, and certain other amenities, Miku was still as confused as ever, and she doubted that she would ever find out just how Luka managed to get them. She had imagined that Luka ran a really long cable to the nearest town, however impossible it seemed.

When they had gone into town for food that first time, Miku got a glimpse of just how much Luka feared being recognized. She refused to go out without first changing her hair style and her normal choice of clothing. And when Luka changed her hair style, she didn’t just put it up or something, she went the whole nine yards. It took her an hour to dye her hair completely black while Miku lounged around in the living room, complaining about how hungry she was. It took her only a moment to remove the dye with her powers when they got back (“Well you couldn’t expect me to keep my hair that terrible color, could you?”).

They went shopping in Kuroki town, since it was closest. Miku had gotten somewhat better at using vocal energy to increase her running speed, and she had been eager to try it out, but to her dismay, Luka had forbidden the use of powers for the duration of the trip, just on the off chance that someone in town could use Vocal Vision. Now that was being paranoid.

The financial side of Luka’s life was also a mystery until this shopping trip. As it turned out, Luka only ever paid in cash. This made sense, as she would never buy a credit card and didn’t really have a valid billing address anyways. Where the money came from was also a bit of a surprise. Luka had a huge Vocalock-brand safe embedded in the wall of her room. Inside of it was more money than Miku had ever seen in her life. Luka said it all came from her days as the “Legendary Assassin”. Apparently, it had been quite a lucrative practice.

As they sat down at the table to eat lunch (soup and sandwiches), Luka pulled out a bottle of something that Miku had never seen before (it looked like cola). She offered Miku a glass of it and Miku, not being one to turn down free soda, accepted it gratefully.

To her surprise, however, it most certainly was not soda. It tasted like somebody had taken rotten strawberries and squeezed the juice out of them. It burned her throat and she choked and sputtered on it when she tried to swallow.

“Ugh! What the hell is this stuff?” said Miku, disgusted.

“Oh, that’s sunshine berry wine.” Said Luka, taking a sip herself.

It took a moment for Miku’s brain to process what Luka had just said, partially because she had never heard of that particular beverage and also because the name sounded vaguely (read: very much) like an alcoholic drink.

“Wait, you just tried to give me alcohol!?!? I’m a minor!” yelled Miku, “And besides! It’s like, 12:30 in the afternoon! Why are you drinking now!?!?”

Luka looked at her like she was crazy for a moment, before a look of understanding spread across her face.

“Oh! That’s right! Children don’t drink in this country.” Said Luka, laughing a bit, “I never remember that.”

“How did you forget!!??” Miku said, flabbergasted that someone could be so ignorant.

“Oh that’s right! I never told you, did I?” said Luka, as if it had just slipped her mind, “I grew up in a different country. One where the customs are completely different.”

Miku supposed that made sense, but she still found it absolutely ridiculous.

“Ok… how different are we talking here?” said Miku, slightly curious.

“Well, you know how I always wear these clothes?” said Luka, “This is what everyone wears in Lucentia. It’s a relatively small nation that’s far away from here in the east.”

“So that’s why you’re always dressed like a weirdo.” Said Miku, nodding her head in understanding. She received a flick to the forehead for that one.

“Don’t be disrespectful” said Luka, slightly annoyed, “Anyways, yes, that’s why I dress this way. It’s also why a lot of my furniture is different than furniture from here. It’s made from glazewood trees, which don’t grow in this part of the world.”

“I guess that makes sense” said Miku, pieces staring to fall into place in her head. Ever since she had woken up in her bedroom that first morning, she had wondered about the dresser and shelves in there. They looked so… strange. And there were also…

“Hey, what about all the animal statues and stuff?” asked Miku. Now that Luka was sharing, the floodgates of Miku’s curiosity had been opened.

“You mean the Oniigasen?” asked Luka, like it was a term in common use.

“The oni-who?” asked Miku, once again confused.

“The Oniigasen” said Luka, “They’re animal spirits and they’re considered sacred in Lucentia. It’s not uncommon for a family to have six or seven Oniigasen around their house. They’re sort of like the house’s protectors. Having them around is supposed to bless the people living there with good fortune since the spirits are watching over them.”

“So the statues are supposed to make your life better… ok…” said Miku, not really understanding how people could believe in this stuff. She followed up with a very blunt: “Sounds like a load of hooey to me.”

Another flick to the forehead later…

“What did I say about being disrespectful?” said Luka, once again annoyed, “Just because you don’t understand someone else’s way of life doesn’t mean it’s any less valid than your own. I for one am happy to have the Oniigasen in my house and I try to live by the principles they represent.”

“So now they each mean something different?” said Miku, beginning to get a little bored with the theology lesson the conversation was turning into.

“Of course” said Luka, again like it was common knowledge, “There’s the tiger, who represents strength, the monkey, he represents a sound mind, then there’s the dog for loyalty, the deer for kindness, the honeybee for resourcefulness…” Luka noticed that Miku had stopped paying attention and was staring off into space. “And who can forget the Miku, who represents airheadedness.”

“Huh, wha?” said Miku, snapping back to reality, “oh right, yeah, the animals and they mean stuff. Got it. I’m gonna go watch TV.”

Luka sighed as Miku picked up her dishes and walked into the living room to plop down in front of the television. Sometimes that girl could be so frustrating. Didn’t she care about anything that did have to do with fighting or eating?

Suddenly from the other room came a loud shattering noise. It sounded like Miku had dropped her dishes. Luka rushed to inspect the damage and was about to start telling Miku off when the image on the Television caught her eye. All at once a wave of uneasiness settled over her.

Miku slowly turned to face her, her complexion pale and an expression of mixed fear and anger contorting her features.

You said that it would blow over…” she said, her emotions evident in her voice, “Does THAT look like blowing over to you!?!?!!?”


As Teto walked home from school, she was frustrated. She had not given up on trying to manifest some sort of vocal powers for the last several days. But no matter how hard she tried, or how much she strained, she couldn’t seem to make anything happen. It was weird though, there seemed to be a lot of things wrong with their house as of late. There were cracks on the walls in her room and the hardwood floors were scratched up all over the place. Neither her or her mother could figure out where all the damage had come from but they supposed it must have been there the whole time and they just didn’t notice. After all, how could it just happen all of a sudden?

Yeah, but still no vocal powers whatsoever she thought to herself. She had run out of ideas. She had tried pretty much every type of music she could think of and nothing seemed to work. Everything around her just stayed the same. She let out a despairing sigh and slumped a little.

Uta, who was walking next to her, had noticed something was up but Teto had convinced her that it was nothing. She had made up some lame excuse about being tired to explain why she was distracted all the time.

It was this distraction that had almost prevented her from passing her makeup exam for biology. She had barely passed as it was, her marks being nothing more than adequate and only tentatively at that. Still, she had passed, and that was enough for her. She was just glad to be done with it. As she had suspected, the studying had been hell. Having her mind focused on other things hadn’t helped either.

But none of that mattered now! School was out for the summer anyways! And to Teto, that meant only one thing: she could be as lazy as she wanted to be, and no one could say anything about it. She perked back up a bit as she remembered this. Maybe it’s not all bad she thought with a smile.

“Hey! Earth to Teto!” came Uta’s voice, shaking her out of her reverie, “Anyone home?”

“Huh? What? Who?” said Teto, coming back to reality, “Oh, sorry, I was just thinking about all the cool things I get to do now that school’s out.”

“I assume you mean sleep?” said Uta, aware of Teto’s affinity for naps.

“What else?” replied Teto. The two shared a laugh.

I guess there are things more important than being a Vocaloid… Teto thought to herself, realizing that she had it pretty good. Still, it would be awesome to see the look on Yumi’s face if she could use her powers to get back at her.

They walked past a strange sight. A few police vehicles were parked in a line on the opposite side of the street accompanied by two jeeps emblazoned with the army’s coat of arms. It was a rare sight to see military vehicles anywhere near here. Near one of these, an officer and a uniformed military official were speaking.

“So, Captain, I trust that we have your department’s full cooperation in this?” said the military man, addressing the cop who was reading over an official-looking document with a grave expression on his face.

“Of course, sir” he responded. Taking his eyes off the paper in his hand he fixed the man with a troubled stare. “But… are you sure these are your orders? It doesn’t seem right…”

“Unfortunately, yes. These come straight from the top.” The uniformed man replied, “General Stahl himself has coordinated this operation and most of the general public has already been informed. Your town is one of the last in the country to be involved, being so far out of the way. We’ll begin full scale implementation tomorrow morning.”

“I hope the government knows what it’s doing here…” said the officer, shaking his head, “These are dark times we’re living in.”

The two men shook hands and left to go about whatever task had been set to them.

Teto and Uta remained blissfully unaware, however, as they were engrossed in their plans for what they envisioned to be the best summer vacation ever.

As they reached the front gate of Teto’s yard, they said their goodbyes and promised to see each other first thing the next day. Teto waved as Uta disappeared down the street towards her own home. She thought how lucky she was to have as good a friend as Uta. She imagined that not every friend would be as accommodating of her laziness as she was.

In a particularly good mood, Teto opened the door of her house. Things were looking up for her. So what if she hadn’t discovered her powers yet? That didn’t mean she didn’t have them! She must have them! It only made sense! And she had all summer to figure it out.

Whistling as she took off her shoes she walked towards the kitchen (Noting that she only bumped into one thing on the way there. Today really was a good day!). As she rummaged through the fridge she knew that there was nothing that could possibly ruin this amazing day. If only she knew how wrong she was.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of muffled crying coming from the other room. Her unassailable good mood told her that her mother was probably watching a sad movie, but the concerned daughter in her urged her to check it out anyways.

As she walked into the room, she glimpsed her mother sitting on the couch, practically shaking with despair. Ok, definitely not a sappy romance flick she thought to herself. She practically tripped over herself in her haste to comfort her mother (though thankfully her clumsiness was temporarily disabled by worry and she managed to stay upright).

“Mom! Oh my God what’s wrong!?!?” her voice nearly cracking as she saw her mother’s tear-stained face. Apparently she had been at this for a while. She hugged her close and her mother practically latched onto her, sobbing the entire time.

She was extremely confused. Had someone died? A relative, perhaps? What could possibly be causing her mother this much pain? She received no answers, however, as it seemed her mother was incapable of speaking at the moment. She only continued to sob and hold Teto closer.

What on earth could… but her mind froze as she turned her head to the side and caught a glimpse of the television.

For the first time in several weeks, Teto Kasane was glad that she was not a Vocaloid.

Very glad.


“Quarantines…” said Miku, still dumbfounded. She had said the word dozens of times over the past hour, but she still didn’t understand how it could have happened.

Luka was likewise at a loss for more effective vocabulary. She had been sure this was just another crazy conspiracy, how could it have gained this much momentum? There’s no way that being a Vocaloid was a genetic disorder or a disease or whatever they were calling it, that was as plain as day.

In the past hour they had learned that events had come to pass that seemed ridiculous… no, not just ridiculous but impossible. The news report had informed them that the government had ordered nation-wide quarantines for all Vocaloids. Apparently, the “threat” of “contamination” had become so severe that it was the only course of action left. These quarantines were to be spearheaded by the DCMA (the Disease Control and Management Agency) and enforced by the military. The protocols being put into effect stated that all Vocaloids were to be registered and quarantined until such a time that a cure could be found. Until that time, they were a threat to the general populace and must be contained.

Of course these announcements hadn’t come without widespread dissent and protest, not just from Vocaloids but from the rest of the population as well. Most people (non-Vocaloids) were of the opinion that the government was doing the right thing by protecting its country’s citizens. However, there was a large movement that had started practically over-night that vehemently protested and opposed the tactics being used by the government. Even though they were assured that all Vocaloids would be kept safe and sound and would be provided with food and water, the protesters argued that it was an affront to their basic rights as humans.

But every coin has two sides. While there were those that protested this treatment of Vocaloids, there were also those who embraced it. An entirely new faction of Vocaloid haters had banded together to form the NAVT (Normals Against Vocal Tyranny).

An entirely new form of discrimination had divided the nation, and it had only taken a single day.

Miku’s broken dishes still lay on the floor of the living room, the now cold soup soaking into the carpet. It was going to leave a nasty stain but neither of them cared enough to clean it right then. It was nothing short of a miracle that those dishes were the only thing that had been broken. Upon hearing the announcement, Miku had been filled with such a rage that the house was lucky to be left standing.

“How could this have happened?” she said in disbelief, “How could the government possibly think this is a good idea?”

“Miku, I know this must be hard to take, even more so because I assured you that it wouldn’t come to this” said Luka, trying to be consoling, “But I don’t think this is the government’s doing.”

“What do you mean?” asked Miku. It said right there on the television that the government had ordered this.

“There has to be something else going on here” said Luka, who was viewing the news broadcast with skepticism, “This kind of thing can’t just happen like this. It should have taken years to get to this point, and it probably never would have in the first place unless…”

“Unless what?” said Miku, eager to grasp at any alternative reasoning she was given.

“Unless… I don’t know yet” Luka replied, still mulling over possibilities in her head, “But there has to be some other force at work here.”

“But what kind of ‘other force’ could cause this?” said Miku incredulously, “It’s not like you can just take over the government and start doing whatever you want without someone noticing!”

“I know… but still…” said Luka. She didn’t know what was going on, but what she could sense was that this was only the beginning. She wasn’t about to tell that to Miku though, she was stressed enough as it was. This was exactly the kind of situation that collided with Miku’s personality. She needed to be the hero, to be the one that could come in, beat up the bad guys and save the day. But this was an enemy she couldn’t see, much less fight.

“You know Miku, your friend back home is probably pretty worried right now” said Luka, eager to get Miku’s mind off the topic of dark forces manipulating the government.

Miku looked like she had been punched in the gut.

“Oh my God… Gumi! I’m the worst friend ever! I have to call her right now!” she exclaimed, rushing off to her room to call Gumi.

The phone rang and rang, and Miku feared that Gumi wouldn’t pick up. Finally there was click and a shaky voice came across from the earpiece.

“…Miku?” she sounded like she had been crying her eyes out.

Dark forces be damned. If they made Gumi feel like this, then there was no power on heaven or earth that could stop her from kicking their asses, whoever “they” might be.


It had taken the better part of an hour for Miku to get Gumi to calm down enough to speak coherently. After she did, her friend was still so shaken up that her voice wavered and broke at random intervals.

“Gumi, this is what I was talking about before” said Miku. Now that she had had time to process the situation, she was coming to a few conclusions. “There’s a difference between being worried and being prepared.”

“I know you s-s-said that” said Gumi, hiccupping a little as her crying subsided, “B-b-but what do you mean?”

“All it means is that it pays to have a plan” said Miku. It did not occur to her that she was the one who always rushed in without thinking. “You mark my words: I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I’m going to find the people responsible, yell at them a bit, kick their asses, then everything should be fine, right?”

Gumi thought that was all fine and great, but as usual, Miku had left out the part where she actually figured out how to accomplish any of what she said she was going to do. Gumi was trying very hard to understand what Miku was getting at, and she felt that she had a pretty good grasp of it. The only question left to answer was exactly what “being prepared” entailed.

“Miku... I’m not quite as… imaginative as you are when it comes to having a plan” Gumi believed in practicality over anything else when it came to being ready for things. She could study for a test, plot out a work schedule, etc. etc. But what was she supposed to do in this situation? What was she even preparing for? The quarantine was in effect, what else could happen…

But as I’ve stated before, Gumi is a smart cookie. Being a technological prodigy came with perks, and one of those perks was a brilliant mind. Despite her current emotional state, Gumi’s brain had been in overclock mode since she had heard the news. Whether she knew it or not, she was perfectly suited for making a plan for this situation. However, being so brilliant also meant that Gumi had a good idea what would come next from a logical standpoint. If allowed to continue, this wouldn’t stop at just a nationwide quarantine, the next step would be the removal of Vocaloids altogether, as their continued presence would pose more of a threat, at least in the eyes of the government. And then, (Gumi shuddered a bit at the morbidity of her own thought processes) when the costs of containing thousands of Vocaloids finally rose too high, the only option left was… extermination.

Miku’s voice brought her back from the brink of despair, just as it always did.

“Not as imaginative? Yeah right!” said Miku, her fighting spirit unaffected by the dreadful atmosphere, “If anything you’re more imaginative than I am! Who was it that designed the phones we’re talking on right now? You. And who’s the smartest person in our home town? You. Who always believes in having a plan? YOU! With your brains, you could probably come up with a better plan than I ever could! And it probably wouldn’t even have to involve the risk of death or serious injury!”

Gumi didn’t know how Miku did it. Honestly, it stumped her every time. Every logical fiber of her being (So basically all of her) was telling her that it was a ludicrous idea to even think that any of Miku’s suggestions could work, and yet she felt compelled to go along with them. They were brash, impulsive, and usually dangerous, but they gave her hope, and that, more than anything else was how Gumi found the strength to carry on.

Miku was right. She should have known it from the beginning. Even though logic dictated that Miku was clearly insane, she was still right. Suddenly, irrationally, Gumi had the strangest sense that everything was going to work out. But not just that. It was going to work out because she was going to make sure it did. When they were growing up, Miku had always looked out for her. She was sure that if Miku was there now, she would have already been arrested for assault. Miku wouldn’t take this lying down, why should she?

After a long pause, Gumi spoke again.

“I…” she stammered, trying to find the right words, “I think I know what you mean.”

“You do?” asked Miku, sounding genuinely surprised. It wasn’t like Gumi to just agree with her. “You don’t think my plan is stupid? Really?”

The response Miku got was still shaky, but there were undertones of confidence now.

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves" she said. "Stupidity is relative. That doesn’t mean I can’t agree with you, though. Your plan is great, it just needs some… tweaking.”

“Well, it’s not much of a plan yet…” said Miku. Wait. When had their roles been reversed? Gumi was the skeptical one, not her. “I mean yeah! It’s a great plan! The best! Like me!”

With Gumi’s newfound optimism, the two began scheming. They didn’t get anywhere, but it was still nice to feel like they were accomplishing something. When they finally said goodbye, it was with the promise that they would speak again very soon, after they had both come up with some ideas.

But as the line went silent, and Miku’s voice disappeared, Gumi once again felt that same sense of helplessness and non-direction. She mentally chided herself. No. Not this time. She wasn’t going to fall back into that. Drastic times called for drastic measures, however scary and worrisome those measures might be.

Gathering her thoughts, Gumi sat down at her desk and did what she always did when she didn’t know where to start.

Brainstorm.


Luka heard Miku’s door open almost two hours after it had shut. She expected that Miku had needed to do some serious pep-talking during that call. She also expected that Miku had a lot of questions and that she was in for a lengthy discussion. Well, she was right about the questions, but the discussion was another matter. What actually happened surprised her.

Miku walked straight up to her, looked her in the eyes, and said:

“I think it’s time we stepped up my training.”

Luka was surprised for a moment, then she smiled.

“What did you have in mind?”


Elsewhere

Silence.

The room was totally silent save for the ever-present hum of the computer terminals and their various components.

Two figures clad in black with hoods casting obscuring shadows over their faces stared wordlessly at a brightly glowing pod, as if they were expecting something.

After several moments, the event they were waiting for became apparent as the pod ceased its glowing and began to open slowly. The figure of Ritsu Namine was visible inside. After a brief pause he began to stir.

His eyes opened and he looked about him. He then proceeded to crack his neck and each of his joints in turn.

“Oh man am I stiff!” he said as he stretched, “I suppose being in a pod for three weeks will do that to you though.”

One of the hooded figures stepped forward.

“Congratulations, Ritsu. This mission was a complete success.”

“Well duh! It was way easier than you made it out to be” said Ritsu, feigning offense, “That guy’s resistance fell like a house of cards the instant I went in. You’ll be happy to know that he’s totally ours now. We officially have an agent on the inside.” He paused. “Well, other than you-know-who, that is.”

“Ah yes, what is Kaito up to?” Said the cloaked figure, “He was supposed to report two days ago.”

“Well, here’s the thing” said Ritsu, scratching the back of his head, “He actually forgot.”

One of the figures lowered their hood and shook out a head of long yellow hair that was tied up in a ponytail on one side. Her features were sharp, as was her gaze. She had hawk-like eyes that gave the impression that she was taking in every detail of the room at once simultaneously. “If it was anyone other than him, I wouldn’t believe it.”

“Oh, give him a break Neru” argued Ritsu, “He’s been busting his ass. You don’t exactly get a lot of alone time when you’re head of the military’s department of technology. Besides, he promised he’d check in today.”

Almost as if on cue, the large terminal in the center of the wall lit up and a ringing noise sounded. Someone was sending a request for a video conference.

“I take it that would be him then?” asked Neru.

“Right on schedule. Well, kind of” said Ritsu.

The still-hooded figure moved across the room and pressed a button on the console. The call waiting message disappeared and was replaced with a video feed. A man with well-groomed blue hair stood in the center of the room. He wore a white coat with blue trim and gold accents; the mark of a high-ranking military official. At first glance the man was very handsome and seemed to be a gentleman of class and distinction. The only thing contrary to this image was the rest of his outfit. Instead of completing the formal uniform he had exchanged the pants with a pair of plain brown slacks with a belt and some practical shoes that matched. Despite this, the man still cut a rather impressive figure. A headset was visible on his left ear.

“Kaito, so nice of you to join us” said the hooded figure, “I assume you have at least something to report?”

Kaito simply let out a good-natured laugh. His voice was a pleasing tenor.

“Straight to business as always I see. Don’t you have any time for pleasantries?” He looked at Neru and Ritsu. “Neru, you’re looking lovely as always. Still a little childish for my tastes though.” Neru tried unsuccessfully to hide embarrassment as her cheeks reddened. “And Ritsu! Let me say that that was a stunning performance! I’ve known the head scientist of the research department for years and I couldn’t tell a whisper of difference in your portrayal. Flawless.” Ritsu gave a short bow. “And of course how could we forget…”

Even with the face obscured, one could tell that the hooded figure was annoyed.

“Well… maybe the pleasantries can, ah, wait until later then…” Kaito cleared his throat, “I am happy to report that we have been given the go-ahead to continue development of Project Diva. Also, in light of the current situation, we are essentially cleared for any financing we may need for continued progress on the anti-Vocaloid weaponry that we have been developing.”

The hooded figure’s annoyance softened. Neru was no longer blushing and Ritsu seemed to be on the verge of bouncing up and down in excitement. The three seemed genuinely impressed by Kaito’s report, not least of which was the hooded figure.

“Well… I must say that’s… impressive Kaito” came the voice from beneath the hood, “Honestly I expected it to take months more for Project Diva to get clearance. This puts us far ahead of my original projections. Good work. I expect another report in two weeks. Make sure it’s punctual this time.”

“Of course. Now, about those pleasantries. Let me just say that…”

The hooded figure terminated the call. Neru spoke up.

“I don’t see why you even put up with that pervert” she hmphed, clearly still bristled by Kaito’s earlier comment.

“Now Neru, you cannot deny that he has certain valuable talents and assets” the figure responded, then she smiled a bit, white teeth visible in the gloomy light, “Even if he is a bit… inappropriate at times.” The smile dissipated and her businesslike manner returned. “Now Neru, I believe I shall retire for the night, I trust you have several tasks to complete?”

Neru’s own attitude instantly returned to its normal, expressionless state. “Of course. Goodnight.”

The hooded figure took her leave, shortly followed by Ritsu, who was still popping his joints and muttering something about sleeping in a bed instead of a pod. The room once again fell silent except for the constant drone of the machinery. Neru walked over to an array of screens adorning one of the walls.

She passed an uneventful half-hour in this manner. Suddenly she had the strangest sensation that she was being watched. But her senses were uncannily sharp, and she had expected it. She turned around and called out to the apparently empty room.

“You can come out now. I know you’ve been hiding there for the past ten minutes.”

An obnoxiously loud female voice answered her from behind a terminal near the back of the room.

“Ha! I would expect nothing less from the infamous Neru Akita. But how, pray tell, did you know I was here?”

“Simple. Cameras two, eight, and thirteen are all offline, whereas they were all functional approximately twenty-seven minutes ago. Each of these cameras is placed in a location that leads to this very room, and they were taken out in the order one would encounter them when entering from the south. Camera two went down approximately twenty minutes ago, with cameras eight and thirteen following four and ten minutes later, respectively. From this information I can glean that you must be an individual who possesses exceptional stealth and infiltration skills, that you entered through the maintenance door on the southern side of the building, and that you most likely have had prior access to floor plans of this facility. I’d say that about sums it up, yes? As to why you would choose to do such a foolish thing, however, I can only guess.”

The figure was silent for a moment, then she began to laugh.

“Well then, I guess the jig’s up! Haha! You caught me! But don’t think that means this is over. I may have lost the element of surprise but I shall not be deterred! For none can stop the advent of justice!”

With that being said, the mysterious person walked out from her hiding place. For being such a stealthy person, her clothing didn’t really fit the bill. She wore a white sleeveless one-piece with blue trim that ended just below her hips. It was cinched around her waist with a blue and red belt. There was a blue star directly in the center of her chest. Her boots matched her top and she had striped red and blue stockings as well as elbow length gloves of the same design. She had long reddish-pink hair with an antenna on top and earmuffs with large star emblems covering her ears. Altogether she painted a very odd picture.

“Prepare yourself Neru! Today you pay for your crimes! For none can escape the arm of the law, and the explosive justice of the Shooting Star!”

Neru was sharp, and she tended to know what was going to happen before it happened, but nothing could have prepared her for that. That was just too ridiculous. This whole situation was ridiculous. She started to laugh. It was a high pitched, cold-sounding laugh that nonetheless sounded like she genuinely thought the situation at hand was nothing short of hilarious.

BOOM!

Something hit her in the chest. Hard. In fact, it exploded on impact. The force of the blast sent her flying backwards directly into the main terminal, destroying the screen and dropping Neru amidst sparking wiring and circuits.

Ok, maybe not that funny.

Noting the pain in her chest she surmised that she had at least one cracked rib. The concussive force of that attack had been intense, and had blown her backwards nearly ten feet. She suspected that it would have been further had she not hit the terminal.

She observed the individual across from her, the self-proclaimed “Shooting Star” and began assessing the situation. She was standing in a battle stance, holding what appeared to be glowing stars. Neru quickly identified them as compressed packets of vocal energy. Her opponent was a Vocaloid, and a rather skilled one at that.

Fortunately for Neru, so was she.

The Shooting Star threw two more of her explosives directly at Neru, but this time she was ready. Suddenly, electricity flared around her, being absorbed from the broken terminal. Quicker than the eye could see, a field of lightning expanded around her, intercepting the projectiles. They exploded in the middle of the room. An overhead light burst, raining sparks down onto the floor.

Every terminal in the room shorted out as fuses blew left and right. The leader was going to be furious with her for that, but it was an unfortunate side effect of large-scale use of her power. Besides, fuses could be replaced, exploded computers had to be rebuilt.

With surprising agility that belied her small frame, Neru leapt into the air, casting arcing bolts of energy towards her target. Shooting Star jumped out of the way and threw another explosive in her direction.

This time, the electric field expanded and the explosive rebounded back towards its source. Shooting Star ducked just in time to avoid being hit, but the small bomb blew out a window behind her.

Using the small distraction this maneuver provided her, Neru rushed in close and charged up energy in both hands. She thrust them both forward, her palms crackling with enough volts to fry a human being.

Shooting Star met the attack with one of her own. Forming another exploding star in her hand, she likewise put her hand forward and pushed the explosive directly into the electricity.

She had intended for the explosion to generate only away from her, and it would have, if not for the electrical field Neru was producing. As it was, the attack rebounded and sent her flying through the previously destroyed window and out into a small courtyard. She bounced along the ground, taking more damage than she would have liked, but she recovered and managed to skid to a halt facing Neru, who was now stepping through the window herself, her eyes glowing a bright yellow.

The air smelled faintly of ozone as the lightning burned the oxygen around it.

Neru’s attacks were relentless. A barrage of lightning bolts arced through the air at Shooting Star, who dodged and weaved, returning the assault with more explosives of her own. Suddenly she stopped and jumped backwards, a smirk on her face.

“Gotcha!” she yelled, clenching her fist.

Neru was confused until she looked down and saw one of the explosives at her feet, undetonated.

Timed explosives.

Before she had time to put up her electric field, the bomb exploded with a huge bang. The force of the blast sent Neru back and up, where she impacted against the concrete wall of the building with a sickening crunch noise. That was more than just a cracked rib. She fell back down to earth, landing in a heap at the base of the wall.

Shooting Star didn’t let up. She threw volley after volley of her energy bombs at Neru, causing massive explosions and reducing the wall behind her to rubble. She threw them five at a time from each hand, the force would have killed a normal person by now.

But Neru was far from normal, being a very experienced fighter and tactician, as well as being a master of Vocal Vision. The force of each blast was mostly negated by her own electrical field, the bombs themselves being redirected away from her to impact in other, less deadly places.

“ENOUGH!!!!!!”

The voice of Neru, projected outwards, amplified by her powers. An incredible electrical field expanded around her, carrying with it an incredible force. Every window in the courtyard shattered, broken glass flying in every direction. Rocks and chunks of the earth were ripped up, by the outward force of the blast. Every bomb currently in transit detonated, as well as the ones Shooting Star was holding, blasting her backwards where she impacted hard and slumped against the wall.

Shooting star coughed up blood and wiped it away with the back of her hand. This was bad. Surely others in the compound had heard the explosions. She was sure that she would be surrounded any moment now. She had intended to attack Neru from the shadows, but she had been noticed and therefore had lost the element of surprise.

Neru’s eyes were glowing a neon yellow and there was electricity crackling along every inch of her body. Clearly she had decided to step it up and start using some of her real power. But Shooting Star realized that even though she could match that power and take it up a notch herself, it would soon be her against not only Neru, but the rest of the forces here.

“Damn, I was hoping to finish you off here, but it looks like I’ll have to postpone this fight” she yelled at Neru, “But know this: your time is limited, Neru Akita. The Shooting Star never stops, and justice never sleeps!”

“You aren’t going anywhere!” Neru screamed as she brought her hand down in a slicing motion. A massive wave of energy cut the air like a sword, sending a shockwave directly at Shooting Star. But despite Neru’s efforts, there was a blinding flash of light and Shooting Star was gone. Neru cursed. She had allowed herself to be attacked unexpectedly by a foe she had dismissed due to appearances. The phrase “Never judge a book by its cover” came to mind. She cursed again.

“Neru, would you care to explain why my computers are destroyed?” came a quiet voice from behind her. It carried a note of extreme displeasure.

She turned around to see the figure of her leader, this time with her hood removed to reveal a head of very long silver hair and two piercing red eyes. Neru took in the state of the room the fight had started in. It was a mess. All the terminals were in varying states of destruction and portions of the roof had even collapsed. Dust filled the air and sparking wires protruded from severed cables.

Her blood ran cold at the sight of her leader’s gaze. It had a murderous intent to it. Only two words:

“Explain. Now.”

If it was the last thing she did, she was going to find this “Shooting Star” and make her rue the day she was born.


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