Chapter 28: Whether Glorious or Tragic
At the sound of that voice, and at the sight of the figure standing at the foot of the bed, Chitose woke with a start.
It was but one word, but one of significance to her nevertheless. While both her daughters were still alive – as alive as artificial beings could be, anyway – it was still the last thing she'd expect she'd ever get to hear again, given that neither of them seemed to remember much of their past lives as her children. Needless to say, hearing that word made Chitose very happy indeed.
At least, it should have.
Yet something seemed off, somehow…
Wait a minute…
Chitose's confusion mounted with each passing moment. It sure seemed like Chii, given that the outfit she wore was one of Chitose's old dresses. To be precise, it was the exact same one worn by Chii on that fateful night. On the other hand, her voice was a bit too husky, and for that matter, the grave, almost grim expression on her face was one Chitose had never seen Chii wear before.
And that thing on her arm…
There was no answer, but the way her daughter's eyes hardened told Chitose that she was right. "Mother."
"I had to borrow Chii's body, mother," Freya explained, her eyes locked onto her mother's the entire time.
"The ones who violated me…"
"…They've been sent to kill Minoru Kokubunji."
She wasn't quite sure exactly how Freya had come across that information, but Chitose nevertheless let out a small, horrified gasp at the terrible, terrible turn of events. Prodigy though he was, Minoru was still a child. What reason could anyone have to try and kill him…?
"Minoru-kun? How-?" Chitose began, but Freya cut her off.
"There's no time right now, mother. Do you still have access to GUNGNIR?"
At that word, Chitose looked up. "How did you-?"
"Mother, there's no time. You have to trust me on this."
Chitose hadn't expected Freya to know about GUNGNIR, but then Abstergo – or, more likely, Regenschirm – had probably programmed that bit of information into her. Her husband had considered him a close friend, after all…
Her brow furrowed at the thought of Regenschirm's betrayal.
GUNGNIR was a countermeasure the two of them had developed together, to be used in case of widespread persocom malfunction, capable of overriding a persocom's systems and forcing a system shutdown - in other words, a more powerful version of the special function Chii possessed. The main difference was that while Chii would indiscriminately shut down all persocoms in close proximity to her, GUNGNIR could be directed at specific targets.
At least, provided the user knew their IP addresses.
Needless to say, GUNGNIR was far from perfect. Not only would it fail to work without the IP addresses of the targets in question, it would also be useless against persocoms that shared Chii and Freya's system structure. The second one was a moot point, however. Excluding Chii and Freya themselves, only four such persocoms were known to exist.
And it was just as well, too. GUNGNIR was something neither Chitose nor her husband would have used lightly, given how, on some level, both of them viewed all persocoms as surrogate children. Both of them were well aware that it had been created out of necessity, but that didn't mean they had to like it.
Chitose forced herself to look up at her daughter as she made her choice.
"Won't you come with me to the lab?"
Chitose still didn't like the idea of having to use GUNGNIR again. Right now, though, saving lives took greater precedence.
"Thank you, Chii…" Freya whispered to herself as she stood watch on the roof of the Mikage house.
"Thank you, mother."
She pulled up the peaked hood of her Assassin robes – the same robes she'd been garbed in when she awakened in Abstergo's lab, albeit washed clean of all the blood that had tainted it – as she stared up at the moon. She crossed her arms in front of her chest, her hidden blades extending as she flexed her wrists.
She leapt from the roof, landing on one knee on the ground below.
"Let's be on our way, shall we?"
Freya decided it was time for her to pay someone a visit.
"Intruder detected. Activating security system."
Yuzuki's voice sounded over the PA system as she sat in the study, right in front of Minoru's computer terminal. Freya's fragment in Yuzuki had also awakened by now, having been become aware of the intruders that had broken and entered into the Kokubunji mansion.
Unlike what happened with Chii, though, Freya hadn't yet seen fit to take over Yuzuki's body.
Nor did she see the point.
The main reason she'd done that back when Chii came under attack was as a psychological attack; she and Chii were twins, after all. It wasn't too much of a stretch for the enemy to have assumed that it was Freya they'd encountered, and so she saw no reason to disabuse them of the notion. Besides, it was her own way of getting her point across: anyone who so much as laid a finger on her loved ones would come to regret it.
"Point defense systems online."
It was different in this case, though. For one thing, the enemies before Freya were also persocoms, and she was all but certain that Abstergo hadn't programmed them with the capacity for emotions such as fear.
"Please cease your attempt at trespass and leave the premises at once."
"If you do not comply, we cannot guarantee your safety."
Of course, Freya knew better than to hope that the enemy would do just that. In this case, it was probably too much of a stretch to even call these enemies of hers persocoms, given how Abstergo had more or less deprived them of the capacity for independent action. It would probably be more appropriate to label them 'dolls' or 'marionettes', or something else to that effect.
"…Miss Freya?" Yuzuki looked round as she heard the voice, though she knew perfectly well that she'd heard it in her head. "Where are you?"
"I'm right where you are, silly," came the reply, voiced in a tone at odds with the words spoken.
"I'd hoped you'd never need it, but…"
"This is my gift to you."
Yuzuki's eyes widened, light streaking across them as the mass of data Freya had given her suddenly began decompressing itself. The second it took her to analyze it was enough for her to understand just what Freya had meant by what she'd said at the time, too. Combat data, infiltration and assassination were but three areas covered by Freya's 'gift', but it was enough for her to understand.
In effect, Yuzuki had become a copy of Freya.
"How you use my gift... is up to you."
She got up from her seat and made her way back to Minoru's room.
Yuzuki still had misgivings about what Freya had given her, but hopefully, the gift she'd received would let her protect him.
Getting up from bed to turn to his bedside table, Lorenzo Auditore frowned at his laptop's screen as he read the reports Ceres and Demeter had sent.
So he had been right, after all. Rei's persocom – Freya, Ceres had called her – was indeed Abstergo's so-called Platinum Angel. In fact, if her report was to be believed, Freya had literally found her way to the Mikage house's doorstep the morning immediately after the incident, and had been living with them ever since.
His wife had come to trust her, as had their daughter. Both arguably meant something in themselves, but that Ceres herself vouched for Freya's trustworthiness was even more incredible. If even Ceres, who had been taught to remain constantly vigilant, had come to trust Abstergo's pet project gone rogue, that surely meant she was the real deal.
As for Rei himself…
There was no need to guess how Rei regarded her, in light of the fact that it was his idea to take her in to begin with.
But from what Ceres had reported, their relationship was even closer than that.
Indeed, if Ceres was to be believed, his brother-in-law now had a girlfriend who happened to be arguably the most lethal persocom ever made. Freya would accompany him to school, and at times, said Ceres, the two of them would even take Oyuki with them out to dates. Grave though the situation admittedly was, Lorenzo couldn't help but smile at the image that had formed in his head.
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.
To say that nothing is true, is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization.
Not for the first time, Abstergo's attempt at undermining free will blew up in its face, and on a major, major scale. From the data they'd obtained, Freya had been given abilities that all but made her a one-man army. On its own, the video they'd acquired of her murderous rampage already served as testament to her lethality, and at the time, she hadn't even been using her enhancements.
To say that everything is permitted, is to understand that we are the architects of our own actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.
And now, they'd kidnapped Rei and angered Freya further.
Lorenzo closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again as he typed out a message to his twins. He couldn't completely trust Freya, at least not yet, but he felt that she at least deserved the benefit of the doubt. After all, the mere fact that his family trusted her – his wife, his daughters – all three of them – and his brother-in-law – counted for something. If nothing else, they at least had a common goal they could work together to achieve.
Bravo, Abstergo, he thought with a smirk.
Indeed, Lorenzo almost felt sorry for them.
If Freya already hated them with a murderous rage for what they'd done to her, he couldn't even begin to imagine what she'd do to them now that they'd kidnapped Rei.
And... wait a minute.
Now where have I heard that name before?
He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the name seemed somehow familiar to him.
And as Lorenzo sought to remember exactly where he'd encountered Freya before, the image of an eccentric, quirky scientist came to mind.
Kotoko relaxed as her 'daughter' entered, pulling down her hood to reveal long, silver hair. While she seemed whole and undamaged, the way her pale eyes seemed to flicker and glow told Kotoko of displeasure. As she was alone, Kotoko assumed that her 'sisters' had returned to Abstergo instead.
The Nephilim stepped forward, eyes locked onto her 'mother' all the while.
"I'm happy to see you've returned, Siren," Kotoko began, her air that of a mother addressing a beloved but somewhat rebellious child. "What's on your mind, though? Is something wrong?"
Kotoko received no answer from the persocom she called her daughter, but nevertheless, she understood. She knew that if Siren was that way, it was thanks to the personality she, Kotoko, had programmed her with. As per the orders from Kojima's bosses, she wasn't even supposed to have a personality – or for that matter, free will and emotions – to begin with.
Of course, Kotoko had included a final countermeasure if ever she and her Koji-kun were to be targeted by Abstergo. Even then, though, said countermeasure was something she, Kotoko, would rather not use at all, if at all possible.
If she did so, she'd be no different from them.
And finally, after a long silence, her daughter spoke.
"Mother," Siren muttered. "Am I useless?"
Kotoko could detect the barest hint of regret in her daughter's voice as she said those words. She surmised that Vidic and the others might have been the ones to have told Siren that, considering the skirmish she'd gotten herself into, earlier that night. She didn't like that man, not in the least bit; after all, he was the one who'd been putting Kojima up to all this, and the one who sought to use her daughter as some murderous doll.
Regardless, Kotoko sought to dispel the inner turmoil she sensed in her daughter, and so moved to embrace her.
"No, you're not. Didn't I tell you?"
"You're Project Nephilim's one and only."
The faint grunt that followed as Kotoko let go was the one sign Siren gave that conveyed understanding of her words. Next thing Kotoko knew, her daughter was standing at the edge of the balcony as before.
"I'm commencing my mission now."
And with that, the Nephilim took a dive off the edge.
A/N: Props to ThanosofTitan, whose ideas I borrowed as inspiration for certain aspects of this fic. Props also to everyone who's followed the story so far. ^^
Reviews will be much appreciated, whether it's a simple 'OMGLOLZAWSUM' or a comprehensive critique. Do note, though - flames will be put out with extreme prejudice.
Only 10 or so chapters to go, guys, stay with me here? :)