Author Topic: Sisters and Daughters: An Analysis On Maids - A MaidRPG Fanfic  (Read 586 times)

Online Deeox2

Hey, I finished my story. Only took three grueling, painful weeks, and I've only done one full reread and edit, so there might be a million grammatical errors! Who knows~ I'm just glad I finally wrote my transgirl Maid story. It was a good way of extending the kind of people I can write and put into stories, which is something I try to do often, and I also think is valuable.

Content warning for, as one may expect, transphobia, homophobia, drug references, violence and sexual references, I guess.

And this story is 25323 words or 54 pages on Google Docs.

Part One
In the dank, disgusting darkness under Akkierens, things were moving. Pipes rattled every time a boot hit concrete, every time a box was set down, and every time a forklift stopped. There was a faint layer of cigarette smoke surrounding the whole operation. Several of the guards sat around a metal table, pistols, rifles and shotguns but an arm’s reach away as they tried to read the faces of their poker opponents. “Why the fuck do we even need to be here,” one of them said aloud. “When’s the last time one of those fuckwit Maids actually tried to hit us?”

“Last week, dumbass,” said another and tried to snub out his cigarette on the other’s hand. “Rick here nearly got himself killed by one and now he’s taken up Predator.”

“I thought you were already taking the stuff, man. You’re already built like a tank.”

The tank in question cracked his knuckles and growled. “When I see one of those skirts again I’m going to tear her apart…” They all laughed. All of them had their reasons to oppose the Lyceum and the Administration. Hate, revenge, money… the exacts didn’t matter, Apocrypha took everyone in. The game went on, money exchanged hands, laughs and glares were exchanged.

Another pause. One of them pointed to the corner of the room where a young girl was chained up. “The fuck’s her deal?”

“That’s a boy, ‘cept he’s taking estrogen or progesterone or whatever the hell they caught him trying to steal. I heard kids take that stuff to try and become Maids.”

“Is he trans or something?” The entire table glared at the speaker.

“‘Trans’? Are you gay or something?”

“What? No! Fuck you, man!” He stood up, turned toward the girl in the corner and picked up his pistol. He clicked the safety off and started to advance. “Why’s the boss got you cuffed?” The girl looked up at him, blew her hair away from her eyes and stared at him. He didn’t notice it for a moment, but slowly her eyes began to glow a faint blue. The guard dropped his gun. “What the fuck? What the fuck! He’s a fucking Maid?”

“Exactly,” one of the others said. “Boss wants to find out why so he can get us all jacked up on Adalstier and finally kill all the Maids.”

The scared guard kicked the girl in the ribs, causing her to curl up, before he went back to pick up his gun. “That’s just fucked up, man.” They all went back to the card game, ignoring the girl once again. The trucks continued to be loaded with guns, energy weapons, explosives and their Adalstier counterparts. Sometimes one would leave, sometimes one would come in, but the loading continued. The girl didn’t move. Then, there came a sound from somewhere above them. A reverberating clink. The poker game stopped when the obvious question was asked. One of them picked up their rifle and stepped out, looking up above at the ceiling first and then at the foreman’s office.

“That you guys up there?”

An explosion blasted a piece of the roof onto the rifleman. Someone jumped down, landed smoothly and looked around. As the dust cleared, a woman stood out in the open, her white hair finally falling into place upon her black coat and skirt. The call was given. “Maid!” The Maid lifted her hand, a set of knives suddenly held between her thumb and forefinger. She threw them, tearing through flesh and bone as her knives traveled like flechettes into the bodies of the first set of guards. The shots they did get off, she deflected off her arm, not showing the slightest hint of acknowledgement to the attack. She drew the knives back and they flew back towards her, seemingly magnetically, before she caught them in her hands.

The slab of meat from before, revealed himself from behind one of the trucks, cramming apex into his mouth. “I said I’d kill you, Maid!” He charged forward and the Maid tossed her knives at him, but they only went through him as he kept running. His fist caught her in the chest and she was thrown back, hitting the floor numerous times before reorienting herself and skidding around the floor on her hand and two feet. She cracked her neck, drew her hand back and charged him. He answered the challenge and charged her in return. She aimed for his fist and he aimed for hers. The Maid’s Engine flashed a neon green and when their fists collided, the vivid explosion of bones shattering in the man’s arm reverberated around the entire room. He didn’t seem to feel it, but he looked at his arm, now hanging limp, with the bone sticking out for all to see and he paused. When he did, the Maid advanced upon him, swung her arms back almost as if in a dance and pulled all of her knives back to her through his skull.

During their tangle, the trucks seemed to have packed up and the drivers had begun to climb into their seats and stomp on the acceleration. The Maid only looked to the side, picked up a case of Skadia crystals, leaned down to pick a pistol off the floor and hurled the case forward. She pulled the trigger twice, the case exploded, and the exit collapsed on top of the foremost truck. The passengers of the vehicles all climbed out, pulled out guns or energy weapons and pointed them at her. She wasted no time in rushing forward, tossing her knives, taking the gun from one of them, using it to mow down a section of the guards before discarding it and restarting the process again. In fewer than a minute’s time, the Maid had killed or injured every single person there.

Except for one.

The Maid crouched down beside the girl. “Who are you?” the Maid asked.

“Who wants to know?”

“Anastasia Vasiliev. I’m a Maid. You shouldn’t be here.”

“Neither should you.”

The trip back to the Lyceum was quiet and dark. The APC only had so many internal lights, and the light that penetrated the viewports from the outside was only that of streetlights. Anastasia leaned against the ladder that led to the APC’s main gun, watching the girl. “I need a name. I need to know who you are.”

“I’m nobody,” she said, staring at Anastasia through her bangs. Her hair hid the dark skin of her face and her clothes covered the rest.

“I can’t let you go, but I can protect you from Apocrypha. I know you’re important, otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered with you. They don’t kidnap people for no reason.” The girl didn’t respond. “Or are you hiding from the police? The Lyceum? The Order?”

“The Lyceum and the Order don’t care about anyone else but themselves. You know that.” Anastasia raised an eyebrow. She had struck a nerve then.

“Even if that’s true, the Lyceum and the Order still care about people interfering with their affairs. Did you?” The girl shook her head. “Then what’s the problem here?”

“The Lyceum got my sister killed. They pushed her too far. She couldn’t handle all the Adalstier that got pumped into her body.”

Anastasia took a breath out, looking at the metallic digits of her hand. She knew about that kind of thing firsthand. “Okay, so you don’t want to go to the Lyceum, I get it, but there’s nothing I can do to circumvent it.” The girl looked away from her, but she continued. “The headmistress will want to see you.”

“Of course she does… Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” The girl seemed to retreat into herself, muttering quietly to herself. Anastasia sighed.

“Listen, I’m only telling you what’s going to happen. I’m not doing this because I want to, in fact I’d rather not, because then you could go back to whatever it is you were doing before you were picked up my Apocrypha. This is just protocol.”

“I doubt your protocol will hold up when you all realize what I am.” She looked her in the eye.

“And what are you?” Anastasia asked in a slightly mocking tone.

“I can manipulate Adalstier.”

“I can too.”

“I was born male.”

Anastasia nodded her head slowly. “Oh, that is different.”

Anastasia looked up at the Lyceum, eyeing each of the four towers that ascended from the main circular complex. Each of the towers were surrounded by floating circular rings that pulsed softly with the latent Adalstier energy present. This was a place of power, and in a way, Anastasia understood the anger of Apocrypha. This power? It was safeguarded, kept from others. Like a secret society or a cult. She might be in it, and she might have pledged herself like all the other Maids to safeguard the city but other people not born with the gift had more courage than her. How could fate deny people better than her a means to protect what they cared about the most? She sighed and tossed the thought to the side. The headmistress and the deputy headmistress were likely in the central tower right now. Maid Day was long past them, so they weren’t busy with that sort of thing anymore. It was just a normal day at a special school for special children. Anastasia dragged the girl along with her as they entered the Lyceum’s grounds proper. It was mostly parks, paths, gardens, with all of it being meticulously maintained. She turned her head to the girl. “So, are you ever going to tell me your name?”

“It’s Karima, and I’m Aevum, if you were wondering that.”

“Karima?” She nodded to herself. “Nice name. What’s the meaning of it?”

Karima rolled her eyes. “Generous. Noble. What about you?”

“Reborn. Resurrection.”

“Fitting, considering you’re sixty percent metal.” She smiled smugly at her. “So, you’re not Aevum, but you broke that guy’s arm like it was nothing. How’d you do it?”

Anastasia put her hand on the girl’s head and messed up her hair. “Like you said, I’m sixty percent metal. All I need is a moment, and suddenly my arm has all the power of a tank behind it.”

Karima smoothed out her hair. “You’re using Cyseince and Vidrein to imitate the effects of Aevum. Interesting.”

Anastasia smiled as they finally entered the Lyceum. “You’re a smart kid.”

“I thought it was obvious.”

They passed through the halls of the Lyceum, walking by classrooms bustling with Maids. Some walked by them, looked at both of them and proceeded to talk in whispers as they began to talk down the hallway faster. “What’s their deal?” Karima asked.

“Well, I’m one of the Maids they’re not supposed to talk to, and you’re an outsider who isn’t wearing a big puffy dress. They do the same thing with boys they don’t know that get into the Lyceum. A rarity, since all the boys they already know here are either middle aged men working as staff or having sex with one of the senior Maids.”

“I thought all the Maids were supposed to be secretly gay.”

“Is that what the pamphlets say these days? I thought everyone was still into butlers.”

The two stepped into an elevator and Anastasia hit a button on the holographic display for the top floor. Gradually, the elevator began to ascend. Karima put her hands in her pockets while Anastasia simply stood there, tapping her foot. They went up to the fifth floor and the door opened. Another Maid walked in, with a head full of flowing red hair and a black overcoat and pants. She leaned against the wall beside Anastasia. “Headmistress wants to talk to you downstairs.” Then she looked at Karima. “Who’s that?”

“New Maid. I have to bring her up first.”

The red haired Maid grinned. “A personal meeting with the headmistress? Damn, you’re one lucky kid.” A look of realization appeared on her face. “Oh, you’re the complication that Ana found. I get it.” She wiped the grin off her face. “Well, hopefully the headmistress doesn’t toss you into prison.” Karima just stared back at her. “No reaction? Huh. Well, you are something then…”

Anastasia got her attention again. “What’s the news on Apocrypha?”

The Maid shrugged. “Recovery team couldn’t seem to pull out anything noteworthy out of the underground warehouse you trashed. Just standard stuff; munitions, weapons, Adalstier crystals.”

“Where do they keep getting that much Adalstier?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. Listen, we can talk about this when you’ve got the kid into the headmistress’ office.”

Anastasia nodded as the elevator door opened, this time at their destination. There was the receptionist at his desk, a camera in the corner, and the two imprints in the roof where the twin high calibre machine guns would drop down and spray any would be intruder or assassin with enough lead to fill a swimming pool. Anastasia nodded to the receptionist and he buzzed them in. Instead of the headmistress sitting behind the desk as Anastasia had thought, it was the deputy headmistress. She gave the two a bright smile. “Why don’t you sit down,” she said to Karima. “The headmistress said she had something very important today, so you’ll just have to put up with me~” She gave a look to Anastasia and she departed immediately, leading Karima and Yuki in the room together.

Karima eyed the deputy headmistress carefully. She didn’t trust anyone with that big a smile, but she sat down nonetheless. She was in the Lyceum now. “What do you want?” she asked Yuki.

“Nothing too much,” she said, lessening her massive grin into a gentle smile. “I’ve just heard that you’re a very special young girl, but a certain someone made it very clear that she couldn’t tell me why.”

“Why don’t you just get Anastasia to tell you. She’s a Maid and you’re the deputy headmistress.”

“I can’t get her to do something she doesn’t want to do, and here at the Lyceum, we trust the judgement of our Sisters.”

Karima grimaced and looked away from the sickly sweet aura Yuki seemed to give off. “Yeah, of course you do.”

Yuki raised her hands and waved them apologetically. “Sorry, I must have struck a tender spot. That wasn’t my intention.” She set her hands down, looking to the side for a moment as she considered her approach. “People like Anastasia have been fighting the terrorist group that kidnapped you for a long time now. They get hurt, they take losses…” The smile was gone now. “If you know anything that could possibly help us… could you please tell us?”

Karima scratched the side of her head. She really couldn’t argue with that. She didn’t like the Lyceum, or a lot of the people in it, but putting down Apocrypha as soon as humanly possible was in the best interest of everyone. People getting hurt on her conscience was bad. “They kidnapped me because I’m a Maid. They want to try and find a way to manipulate Adalstier so they can fight the Lyceum headon.”

“Many people have tried to get boys and men to manipulate Adalstier before. Kidnapping maids is nothing new.”

“Yeah, but I was born a boy.”

Yuki stared at Karima for a pregnant moment. “I guess I understand Anastasia’s surprise. Historically, all the Maids I’ve ever heard of were born girls and died girls.”

Karima leaned forward. “Maybe it’s time things changed.”

Yuki nodded slowly. “Maybe you’re right…”

Anastasia rejoined the red haired Maid in the elevator, setting her Engine against the holographic pad. A moment later, it began to descend. “You sure killed a lot of them, Ana,” she said.

“It’s part of the job, Jun. They’d do the same to us.”

Jun made a shrugging motion. “I don’t judge you for that. You just do it with such brutal efficiency. Most Maids of our calibre don’t even use guns, but here you are taking their weapons and just ripping them to shreds.” She leaned forward, grinning. “Kinda hot.”

Anastasia raised a hand. “Not in the elevator, Jun.”

“What? Do you think some junior Maids are just gonna walk-”

The doors of the elevator opened and two junior Maids walked in. Anastasia and Jun stared blankly forward. One of the maids had light blue hair with two prominent drills, while the other one had pink hair tied up with ribbons. They were both rather short.

“I can’t believe Naurya would say such horrible things about me on the holonet! What nerve! I thought I showed her at the Maid Day ball, but apparently she didn’t get the message! I’ll get her back for this, Pluto. The Avannaas keep going too far! I’ll show her!” They promptly left the elevator, with the pink haired girl nodding politely the whole time.

Jun laughed nervously when Anastasia shot her a glare. “Hey, that doesn’t usually happen.”

Anastasia shook her head. “Was that the d'Avignon girl? Why are there so many nobles this year? Wakefields, Swifts, d'Avignons… You know what that does to the Lyceum? It turns it into a breeding ground for unnecessary politics. We’re about protecting people not worrying about our position in the Order.”

“I’ve heard that most of them don’t actually care all that much about that sort of thing.”

“The Order won’t let them forget about it.”

The elevator finally opened up on their floor and they exited, running their Engines against the scanner to signal their arrival and entering the main meeting room. The room itself was sleek and a polished white. The headmistress was already there looking at holographic screen against the wall, but she didn’t say a word as Anastasia and Jun took a seat at the table with their fellow Maids. Some of them said hello, and some said congratulations on a mission well done. Soon, the lights began to dim and the headmistress finally turned.

“First, I’d like to congratulate Anastasia on a job well done. I’ve heard she secured an important asset, but we’ll discuss that later.” A bit of clapping but then she was onto the next subject. “Something has come up.” Suddenly, a mess of photographs taken from security cameras appeared on the screen. It was all of one person, a young woman with a red masquerade mask covering the top portion of her face. She looked young enough to be a junior Maid. The backgrounds of the pictures seemed to suggest it was some sort of building in downtown Akkierens, likely an office building or something belonging to a corporation.

The headmistress continued. “There is reason to believe this woman is a Maid from our Lyceum.” She shifted the slide to security footage of the woman stepping up to a large security door and blowing it open with a blast from the Engine at her wrist. A Skadia Maid thief.

One of the Maids, clad in a jumpsuit reading “D7” on the shoulder patches raised her hand. “What's so important about what she stole?”

“What she stole was a prototype Skadia reactor. The company in question is First Technologies.” The next slide was of schematics for the device. “They assure us that failure to reacquire this prototype will have disastrous effects for the people of Akkierens. As such, we have to assume the worst.”

“How are we going to find this thing, boss?”

“While First Technologies devises us a means of tracking the energy signature of the reactor, we will have to find this particular Maid. Declaration-7 will be deployed in partners across Akkierens. Several possible targets have been marked, and we need to be in the area when the alarm is raised.”

“Are we working with local security teams?”

She nodded. “We’ve been able to secure the cooperation of numerous companies.” The questions seemed to end there. “You’ll be working with your usual partners. We’ll meet in the hangar at 0800.”

The meeting was dismissed, but Elidia caught Anastasia's eye and beckoned her over. Anastasia looked to Jun. “We’ll talk later,” she said and stood up to walk over to the headmistress.

She was curt and to the point. “Tell me about the girl you found in the Apocrypha warehouse.”

“She’s a Maid. Biologically male. As far as I understand, Apocrypha seemed to want her to find out how she can manipulate Adalstier.”

Elidia nodded. “That’s odd for Apocrypha.”

“I know. They wouldn't leave such a valuable asset so underprotected. Either they don't think they can get anything out of this, or their brass didn't know about her.”

“You delivered her to the Lyceum?”

Anastasia nodded. “She should still be speaking with Deputy Headmistress Minase right now.”

“Good.” Elidia clasped Anastasia on the shoulder. “She’ll be in the care of the Lyceum until we get this sorted. You won't have to deal with her.”

“Understood, Headmistress.” It felt a bit premature, but she supposed it didn't matter.

The Curator looked at Karima suspiciously. “You already have an Engine? How?”

She held the bracelet out. “It's my sister's. She gave it to me before she died.” When he reached out to touch it, she pulled it away from his grasp.

He raised an eyebrow at her and looked at Yuki, to which she shrugged. “Could you tell me what the Engine’s name is?” Karima looked at him silently before she shook her head. “Okay, what about your sister's name?”

“Adira Bishara.”

“That would make you Karima Bishara, am I correct?”


“Okay then.” He scratched his head, turned to his terminal and punched the apparently deceased Maid’s name in. “Well, your sister did seem to go here, and she’s written down as deceased… but there’s a large chunk missing. Just blank.” Weird, but he shrugged. “Well, I suppose if both headmistress Elidia and the deputy headmistress are allowing your entrance into the Lyceum then you’re in.” He looked to Yuki when Karima didn't respond.

“Let’s go, Karima. We’ll have to figure out your housing situation.” With that they departed from the Sepulchre.

“What if I don't want to join the Lyceum?”

Yuki seemed taken aback by this. “What do you mean? Everyone wants to be a Maid.”

Karima looked blankly at her. “Why would everyone want to be a Maid?”

“You protect people. You practically become a celebrity. You’re a hero. People look up to you.”

“I don't want to protect people who don't deserve it. People are horrible. I have enough problems inside the barrier, why make the outside my problem?”

Yuki blinked, but slowly nodded. “I see. I remember a Maid that said something similar before. She said that the city was itself the problem and that the Lyceum was defending a 'cancer’, she called it. The headmistress told her that it was not our place to judge what the city did, but the other Maid did not listen. She left Akkierens and some followed her, taking their Engines with them. When the Remnant attacked, we couldn't count on their support, and we lost good people.” She led Karima along the skybridge back into the central block of the Lyceum. “A Maid takes an unspoken oath when they join. They say… 'I am here to dedicate my life to the protection of the city.’ You simply cannot say you’re here for a personal goal, or to learn the secrets of Adalstier manipulation. Being a Maid is about selflessness in all its forms.”

“So, you’re saying I shouldn't join if I don't care about the cause of the Lyceum?”

“Yes, and we’ll have to take your Engine away.”

Karima sighed. The Lyceum was utterly impossible. She didn't care about them, especially not when they didn't care about her or her sister. Of course she didn't want people to die, but trusting the Lyceum or the Administration... She really couldn't. She looked out the massive window of the skybridge out onto the gardens below, trying to get her thoughts in order. Some of the Maids were coming out, with some talking, walking, eating lunch. It was just another normal day in the Lyceum.  To her surprise, she could see Anastasia. She was with the red haired Maid, talking while they walked through the gardens. Anastasia was a weird person, Karima remarked. A deadly and efficient killer for the Lyceum and yet she walked around and talked like she was any other senior Maid. It was enough to make Karima almost forget how they met. Almost. If Karima was going to not join the Lyceum, and if they would even let her leave… she would likely never see Anastasia again. She regarded the thought for a moment. “If I joined the Lyceum, what would happen?”

“You would be issued a room, and you would begin classes immediately.”

“I'll do it then.”

Yuki breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you came to a decision. Let's go then.”

Anastasia awoke in her apartment. It was six and the light filtering through her curtains was dim and dull. She stood up, put the coffee on, cleaned her hair and slipped herself back into her working clothes. Her hand clasped around the area where the metal attached to skin, but she couldn’t feel it, not really. There were a certain amount of allowances from the technology, but it was nothing compared to real nerves sending real genuine signals to her brain. She took her coffee, drank it slowly, put the holonet on, watched something that dampened her neurons and then waited. She didn’t even need to be awake now. She could have slept another hour, and she really didn’t know why she hadn’t. It would have been better for her. The Lyceum often had her awake for long hours. She should have taken the extra hour that was allowed to her.

Eventually Jun came and rang the doorbell. Anastasia answered, locked up, and they walked to the tram station. “Apparently we’re stationed at some security technology firm downtown,” Jun said. “They just finalized discussions with them.”

“At least we’re not stuck in bureaucratic limbo.”

The trip to the Lyceum hangar was quick. The headmistress was already there, giving small briefings to the teams already being sent out in smaller Lyceum transport vehicles. When it came to Anastasia and Jun, however, Elidia simply directed them to the flight pad. “For whatever reason, this company insisted on bringing in their own transport for you two.” She leaned in slightly closer. “Be on your guard.”

Moments later, a very particular Zephyr made its way into the Lyceum hangar and stopped upon the flight pad. It was a sleek model, top of the line, and adorned with ballistic plates. The door was pulled open and a man stepped out. Everyone was watching the pistol at his hip, but he didn't seem to notice or mind. He looked military, with the grim and serious expression on his dark face.

He offered the headmistress his hand and she shook it. “I’m the head of security for DusTec. Mr. Go sends you his regards, but he’ll be meeting with your operatives when they reach the complex. Mr. Go is very conscious of his own security.”

“Of course,” the headmistress replied. “Tell Mr. Go that we appreciate his cooperation.”

“Will do.” He looked to the two Maids. “All right, let's go. We have a schedule to keep.”

All three of them piled into the Zephyr and they took off. Elidia watched them go, and Anastasia caught her shaking her head as the helicopter finally left the Lyceum hangar. With that, it began its steady travel back into the city. Anastasia watched the view from the window.

The head of security caught Jun's attention. “Name’s Simon Ikande.”

Jun replied in a friendly manner. “I'm Jun and my partner is Anastasia. What can we expect from DusTec?”

“Top of the line Adalstier technology still in research and development, or at least that’s what the tagline is.” Simon shrugged. “I just run security, which usually involves making sure researchers and engineers don't try and steal things or drunk and homeless people don’t cause a mess in the lobby…”

“Then why is this thing a flying tank?”

“Mr. Go is a man concerned with appearances. He likes to make himself appear the best in all aspects. If that means pouring money into a security force that doesn't usually see action, then he’ll do it. Except, well, now it seems like it was worth it.”

Jun nodded. “You don't usually deal with Maids, do you?”

“No. Hell, most of us don't even see Maids, except on TVs. I basically work all day every day. But, yeah, a Maid posing a security threat? That’s just unheard of.”

“Trust me on this one, Simon. Maids rarely go rogue, and the one’s that do are put down fast. This person, whoever they are, is an outlier.” Jun didn’t mention how blowing up a high tech security door was also quite odd. “How’s your security operation anyway? You guys got armed guards doing rounds 24/7?”

One could practically hear Simon enter his investor spiel mode. “Our security is top of the line, as I said. Armed guards, cameras watching every angle. It’s practically a fortress.”

“I suppose we’ll have to see where a Skadia Maid could possibly find a kink in your system.”

Anastasia watched as the scenery turned from the Lyceum’s outskirts, into residential, and finally, into the economic sector that was their destination. They landed on the bright shiny skyscraper, getting a nice view of the DusTec logo on the side, likely on purpose. Simon stepped out first and helped the two Maids out. Already, just below the flight pad was a set of security guards and a man in a freshly pressed business suit.

The guards themselves seemed both ex-military, and brutish, but the man in the middle was quite a different story. He looked relatively young, just a bit below middle age, and handsome, more so than any man in a business suit deserved to be. Had they landed on a fashion magazine’s rooftop instead?

“Mr. Go, I presume?” Anastasia asked.

“Yes, that would be me.” His smile was already trying to soften them up. “But you can call me Seongjin, if you’d like.”

“We’ll call you Mr. Go.”

He chuckled. “So cold, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Please, come with me.” He gestured for them to follow, and they did, with the security detail both leading them and taking up the rear.

They made their way down numerous flights of stairs, all fully encased in glass so that they could look out into the busyness of the city. Seongjin took them onto what seemed to be a research and development floor. On one side of them was an extensive research lab, and on the other seemed to be for the testing of Adalstier based weaponry. He lead them through the middle. “I’m not here to show you two what we’re working on, no, no. I know your headmistress isn’t interested in purchasing anything we have to offer, but this is the floor I think you two will find the most interesting.”

“Why’s that?” Jun asked.

“For two reasons. You both are very peculiar Maids. I expected more frills and less of a military look about you, but also, this is where the item I think your thief will be interested in.”

Anastasia raised an eyebrow. “Sir, we are very peculiar maids because this is a very peculiar situation.”

“You hunt rogue Maids for a living?”

“Something of the sort…” She pushed the question away. “What exactly is this item you think the thief will be interested in?”

Seongjin scanned a keycard on a large door and waited for the electronic locks to pull the complex workings of the door apart. “We’re currently working to develop a contract for heavy Adalstier based cannons for the Administration’s Zephyrs. Currently, the project is too costly for mass production on the scale the Administration would want for this product, but I have hope.” He gave a smile and a wink as the door finally opened. “Behold, the Biblica Cannon.”

Jun stepped forward to inspect while Anastasia stayed with Seongjin. It was extremely sleek, and stylized black and grey like how the Administration liked it. It’s barrel was about the size of any other heavy deck gun, but the main point of interest was the gently glowing viewport on its rear where the Skadia crystal internal focus was positioned. It was a complex set of focusing lenses, all pinpointed on one relatively small crystal. Jun whistled quietly. “I guess kinetic batteries are so last year…”

“I’ll have to use that in a pitch.” Seongjin laughed again. “The focus on the weapon is truly the most impressive part. The amount of effort and late nights my staff put into that…”

Anastasia reeled Jun back in. “I think we understand your situation, Mr. Go. We’ll be getting to work immediately.”

Karima looked at the frilly maid dress hanging from her dresser with the goofy smiley face on the note card. Was this really what she had to wear? It was so excessive. Did all Maids wear something like this into battle? That would be frankly ridiculous if they did. How could you get the elaborate footwork in, how could you dodge an attack? How could you last long enough to win a battle in this… thing?

She ended up wearing it anyway, but she in no way enjoyed it.

Karima had received a small note from the deputy headmistress detailing everything she needed to do today, and, as it was a schedule, what she would be doing for the rest of her life as a student of the Lyceum.


She broke into the cafeteria as the rush began and somehow forced her skirt to align with her intention to smoothly slide over one of the cafeteria tables before she skidded into the kitchen. She practically ransacked it, sifting through cupboards and refrigerated containers. Most of the Maids looked at her strangely, and three asked her if she needed help, to which she looked at them strangely and shook her head. One Maid, however, pulled her back and looked her up and down. She was a white haired girl, with numerous pieces of medieval style armour strapped to her Maid gear. Karima wondered if those were real, but that wasn’t exactly the most important thing at that moment.

“What exactly are you doing?” the girl asked.

“It’s breakfast,” Karima replied and took a bite from an apple she had managed to find.

The girl blinked, but no other change occurred on her face. “You could help the other Maids. And not cause a disturbance.”

Karima laughed. “Yeah, I’ll think about that.” She took the loaf of bread, the jar of peanut butter and the apple in her arms and very quickly backed out of the kitchen before bolting. The girl didn’t seem to follow, or maybe Karima just got away.


Karima looked at the board as Archivist Laudo spoke endlessly about the history of Antiope. All the lines connecting all the subject matter together seemed to blur into one big ball of lines. No logic, no rules, just chaos. She didn’t get any of it. She fell asleep and was awoken by the bell. It seemed the teacher had changed to someone else entirely. Guess she missed that, and everything that was on the board.


This time, Karima snuck in the back while everyone was busy and very carefully took a choice box of cookies that she had seen the first time she was in the kitchen. Only when she turned around did she notice that the white haired Maid from before was waiting at the rear exit and a purple haired Maid was now guarding the main exit. Karima set down her box very carefully on the counter, laughed extremely nervously, and took her place helping the others.


The Maid in charge today seemed like an overtly happy sort. She was all orders and giggles, but she did seem to be one of the students. Maybe it was odd that one of the students seemed to be leading this, but Karima didn’t really care. Maybe the real instructor was off banging the headmistress or something. Karima noticed something that she did find strange though, and that being the man in the corner who didn’t say anything, but every once in awhile, when it didn’t look like he was trying to look up the skirts of the Maids, looked at the senior Maid for what seemed way longer than would be considered polite and normal. She guessed Anastasia was right when she said the men here were all having sex with one of the senior Maids.

Once everyone else was given something to do with the promise the Maid would come over and watch them carefully, the senior Maid approached Karima in particular. “You must be the new girl.” She smiled warmly, almost motherly. “My name is Kurumi Ishihara.”

Karima blinked awkwardly. “Oh, hi. I’m Karima.”

“Well, I won’t keep you here when we all have work to do, but I was told to give you something.” She picked up a long and thin case and handed it to Karima, which she took and opened.

Inside, was a sword, or what seemed to be one. It only had one cutting edge, with the other side being the barrel of a gun, ending in a handle on one side. It was painted brown and white. She cradled it in her hands and examined the detailing of thorned roses on the blade itself. There were two letters on the handle. AD.

“Adira…” Karima muttered. “So, this is my sister’s.”

Kurumi nodded. “That’s what I was told. Since this is your first day, how about you practice with yourself for a little bit, and try and figure out how the weapon works.”

Karima nodded and was left to her own devices. She stood by herself in one part of the room, quietly watching all the other Maids in action. Already, they seemed like they all knew themselves and their weapons. While some of their weapons seemed really weird, like the umbrella and the massive machine gun, they all seemed to be somewhere approaching professionals. Karima was… She looked at the weapon in her hand. What was she?

She accidentally thumbed something on the other side of the handle and recoiled as the blade folded up against the barrel, the handle curved slightly and a sight extended itself out from the top. She awkwardly placed her hands where she thought her hands were supposed to go on a rifle before she snapped it back into its sword form and held it out in front of herself. She had to protect the city with this thing and - she looked at the band on her wrist - and that thing? She was so far behind that this point how was she ever going to catch up?

One of the other Maids stepped up beside her and gave a polite bow before looking at Karima with serious yellow eyes. “Do you need any help?”

Karima looked at the Maid and then looked at the sword in her hands. “To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“May I?” the Maid asked.

Karima shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

The Maid positioned Karima’s arms, showed Karima how her legs should be set, and very carefully pushed Karima’s torso ever so slightly forward. She stepped back and regarded her work. “It’s a start…” she said. “I see you have no experience with the sword. I suppose not everyone can be so lucky as to be raised to follow the Code, but there is always a place to start one’s training.”

“I don’t think I’ve even seen a sword in a museum. Would you mind… helping me a bit more?” Karima smiled nervously. The girl only nodded before drawing her own sword and taking up a position in front of Karima. Without any warning, she used her sword to strike Karima’s, who instantly lost the stance she had been taught and very nearly dropped the sword on the ground. “What was that for?”

“Your grip is weak and you lack conviction. Fencing is more than swinging one’s sword. One brings themself to understand their own body and how the sword extends their ability. To fence, you need to not only understand your weapon, but also yourself. You must understand how you and the blade are one.”

Karima blinked. “That sounds like a whole lot of mumbo jumbo that people use to sell kendo classes on the web.”

The girl gave her a look. “Take it or leave it, but your grip is still weak… and my services don’t cost anything, unlike kendo classes.”

“That’s a relief.” She chuckled. “I’m Karima.”


Karima was very surprised that anyone had approached her. It was one thing to be noticed, she had found, but it was another to be offered help. It was an odd moment, considering everyone else already seemed to have sorted themselves as friends, acquaintances and rivals. Now, she was just one of the Maids. She had never thought that would happen.

Beatrix was a nice girl, and extremely selfless. A model Maid, following what the deputy headmistress had said, but Karima highly suspected at this point that Yuki’s words were tempered to place Karima’s mind in a certain place. Still, she found that Beatrix was highly helpful. All the nuance of fencing and swordplay… Beatrix explained it as if she herself was the sword. It was sad, Karima remarked. This was how Apocrypha saw the average Maid. A tool for the objectives of the Lyceum and, by some extension, the Administration. Was Beatrix an example of what Apocrypha hated, or was Beatrix simply a possible scapegoat for the anger of Apocrypha?

Karima found herself understanding the basics of the weapon as the day began to pass, and later Beatrix elected the help of a girl named Sylvia to help Karima learn how to shoot the thing… after a lengthy session where they begged Kurumi to give some ammunition to the newbie Maid. Sylvia, though, was the other Maid that had cornered her during lunch. The first one? A girl named Cordelia.

Somehow, Karima found herself in the ring with the girl.

Cordelia’s axe easily dwarfed Karima herself and she found herself more than a bit afraid. She did her best not to show it, but that wasn’t easy. She eased herself back into the stance that Beatrix had taught her, trying to figure out how she could survive this.

“Go easy on her, Cordelia. She’s new to this,” Beatrix said.

“To the Lyceum? Yes, but we’ll see about the rest.” She hefted the mighty weapon up, posed to strike.

Kurumi eyed both Cordelia and Karima. “Don’t go crazy girls, but… Start.”

Cordelia had the advantage and she used it to deliver the first strike. It was an easy attack to block, and Karima put her weight into her sword to deflect the heft of the weapon… Only that was exactly as Cordelia had predicted Karima would act, and used the momentum of Karima pushing away her attack to sweep the end of the handle at Karima’s feet. She toppled over and landed on her face.

That was sloppy. She pressed her fist against the floor and pushed herself up with her sword. Cordelia offered her hand, but Karima just pushed it away before standing up for herself. “We can stop if you want,” Cordelia offered.

Karima shook her head and held out her sword in front of her. “We’ll keep going.”

Cordelia didn’t react immediately, rather simply reading Karima. After a moment, she resettled her feet into an appropriate stance. Karima nodded. She’d have to exploit the deficiencies of Cordelia’s weapon and maintain the advantages of her own. Not too hard… right?

Cordelia let Karima have the first move, and Karima took full advantage of this, dropping entirely out of her sword stance and forcibly dashing to the side to get out of the immediate reach of the massive weapon. An attack did come, but from the other side with the handle, like a backhanded slap. Karima let her blade come into contact with it, doing just enough to stop it from impacting with her face. She took the moment to slash forward, but it was an easy counter with the midsection of the axe’s handle. Cordelia shoved Karima back and lifted the axe up so that she could bring it down. Karima let her.

She slid underneath the blow and tackled Cordelia. With the blade of the axe firmly embedded in the floor, it didn’t take nearly as much to wrench Cordelia’s grasp from the weapon. Karima landed on top of Cordelia, lifted her sword up and posed it for a strike at Cordelia’s neck.

Karima was a panting mess, but Cordelia just smiled. “Good job.” Karima didn’t get it.

Anastasia stood with Simon in the security room, or, more specifically, Anastasia had elected to stand while Simon had very obviously offered her a chair. So, she stood and he sat as they watched the monitors. Nothing was happening, but Anastasia had presumed that. It was approaching the darker hours of the evening, so if something was going to happen today, it would happen soon. Jun was on the lower floors in case that was where the thief would enter from and Anastasia was on the higher ones for the same reason.

Simon was trying to pass the time with small talk. “So, do all the Maids have cool weapons?”

Anastasia offered to let him hold one of her knives, and he took it into his hands. “A weapon’s just a tool for getting the job done. It doesn’t have to be cool, it has to be effective.” He offered the knife back, and she lifted her fingers up, allowing the weapon to float back to her hand.

“Well then, why doesn’t everyone have a gun? Swords seem less effective than rifles.”

Anastasia shrugged. “Maybe we like getting in close and personal. Maybe it’s ceremonial. I guess it’s easier than requisitioning more ammunition than we need to.” He nodded. “I’m guessing you’ve never spoken with a Maid before.”

“I’ve read Q&As on the holonet with Maids, but mostly that’s just highly publicized stuff. Practically propaganda. When do the little guys like me ever get to talk to a real Maid?”

Anastasia supposed that was true, but she also wasn’t what this man would likely consider a “real Maid”. She wasn’t on the frontline fighting incursions from Remnant or what have you, she was in the city, fighting people. She wondered, if the man would still consider her a protector of the city if he knew exactly what she did.

Anastasia saw something out of the corner of her eye. “What was that?” Simon turned around and put his hands to the keyboard. She pointed to one of the camera feeds. “That one. Turn it back a couple seconds.” For the briefest of moments, a flash of a silhouette bolted down the hallway. Not even a discernable person, simply a flash. She’d seen it before. Leysa.

“What floor is that?”

“The one above us-”

Anastasia walked out of the room and hurried down the hall. She lifted her wrist to her face. “Jun, I need you back on the upper floors. I think I’ve found our Maid.”

“Roger that,” came the reply. “Are you moving to engage?”

“I am.” She climbed up the stairs and emerged on the next floor. “Try to keep up.” Anastasia looked around the floor, finding that she was back on the R&D area. There were less people now, the lights had dimmed and the sun was gone and the moon was shining instead. She stepped forward and looked around each of the hallways.

Where was this Maid? She had to be here, but where… She came to a window and looked around. Anastasia made sure to scan the peripheries of her vision, in case the Maid was tailing her, but she didn’t see anything to her left or to her right or when she looked… She looked up and a foot slammed into her jaw and clacked her teeth together. Anastasia dragged herself backward to get a modicum of breathing room.

In front of her stood the Maid in the masquerade mask. Her stance was low, poised to strike again. Anastasia drew her knives and threw them immediately, but the Maid tossed something to the side and all of her knives dragged themselves off course and onto it. Some sort of magnet? Just great. The Maid dropped the low stance and entered a more proper martial arts stance. Immediately, the Maid’s fists sparked with some sort of electric force, and visible blue sparks jumped between each knuckle. Anastasia noticed the same thing on the Maid’s feet. It would be hand to hand then, with an electrifying twist.

The Maid attacked her, striking repeatedly in an attempt for either the electricity or the blows themselves to get through Anastasia’s guard. They didn’t. The electricity didn’t conduct well enough through her arms to affect her and she wasn’t hitting hard enough to do much else except tire out Anastasia. Only when she began to get more creative, using her feet in increasingly hard to block combinations did Anastasia begin to worry. Anastasia took a risk and pinned one of the Maid’s legs against her own body when she made for a kick. The shock padding touched against her back and she instantly felt the electricity hit her. She moved to the next part of her plan and threw the Maid to the ground so she could pin her. With an activation of her Engine, she pulled her hand back and aimed for the Maid’s head.

The other Maid activated her Engine and moved out of the way as the tile exploded beside her head. Instantly, she punched Anastasia in the face with her shock gloves and then firmly planted her boots against Anastasia’s chest before she kicked her.

If the shattering of glass and the rushing of air beside her ears was any indication before the sudden violent landing, the Maid had kicked her through the window. In some ways lucky and in other ways unlucky, she had landed on the adjacent building’s rooftop. Lucky as in, she wasn’t dead from falling, and unlucky as in she still had to fight this Maid.

Anastasia dragged herself back to her feet as the other Maid jumped over to follow her. “You’re no amateur.”

A voice did reply, hidden with a voice distorter. “No amateur can take on the Lyceum and the Administration.”

“Fair enough,” Anastasia said and watched as a flash of red hair jumped down behind the Maid.

“Missed me?” said Jun as she pulled out the two revolvers from her coat and began to unload them on the Maid. Immediately the Maid countered by activating her Engine. She dodged the initial hail of gunfire before advancing on Jun and kicking one of the revolvers from her hand. Jun activated her own Engine in retaliation and extended the blade on the underside of her revolver. Anastasia couldn’t keep track as the two dissolved into an almost indiscernible flurry of blows. In the background, members of the DusTec security team were setting up with rifles as they watched the fight unfurl from the DusTec tower. This was going to be a PR mess for both the Lyceum and DusTec, she just knew it.

The masked Maid pushed herself back from Jun, pulled her arm back and activated her Engine. Anastasia didn’t even need to process the action to know what was happening. She dashed forward and jumped out in front of Jun, crossing her arms in front of her. The bolt of lightning struck her, conducted through her arms, jumped to her chest and stopped her heart. Jun shouted out as Anastasia dropped her arms to her sides, her legs lost their strength, and she collapsed.

Karima laid out on the roof, watching the stars go by. The rest of the Maids were here doing the same exact thing. It was a Friday night, so none of them were particularly worried about the next day’s happenings. There wasn’t a care in the world. Karima had a bunch of new friends, a position as a student Maid and no one was trying to kill her right now. Life couldn’t be better.

A light Zephyr exploded past them without any warning, docking immediately at the Lyceum hangar. Karima shot up. “A Zephyr docking this late at night?”

The pink haired Maid lifts her head. “It happens more often than you think.”

Karima stood up and strained her eyes to see all the way to the skybridge between the Lyceum proper and the hangar. There was a sudden rush of people running across it to the hangar, and a few moments after that, the surge of people ran the other way, back into the Lyceum. They were pushing something. It seemed quite odd if that was some sort of shipment for everyone to rush over… Karima paused for a moment, suddenly becoming very anxious. “I have to go,” she said aloud and immediately ran for the stairs. She didn’t bother to listen to the confusion of her fellow Maids. As soon as Karima found out where the infirmary was she bolted for it. Some of the senior Maids yelled at her about curfew and running in the halls, but she didn’t let them stop her. She barged in, the room flooded with staff and Maids who looked less like Maids and more like regular soldiers. It was as Karima had predicted. Anastasia was out cold, paler than she had any right to be and tended to by a menagerie of staff. Karima tried to push herself through, but was only pushed back.

Karima heard her name, but not from Anastasia as she would have hoped. It’s from the woman at the back. The same woman who had been in the elevator. She looked far worse than when Karima saw her last. She beckoned Karima over. “Hey, kid. You wouldn’t believe the day we had. Good thing I can talk about it because it’s definitely going to be on the news at this rate.”

“What happened?” Karima held a certain amount of anger in her voice.

“Hey, hey.” She held her one hand up. “I didn’t do anything bad here, little lady. Except maybe get my ass handed to me…” She sighed, rubbing her arm. “Anastasia and myself hunted down a rogue Maid and Ana decided that it would be a good idea to risk her life for me, instead of, you know, being a more capable Maid than I am, just let me take the hit. She was clinically dead for like… what… five minutes?”

“She was dead? You let her die? And you fought a Maid?”

“Ana’s been through worse. She didn’t get all those prosthetics jammed onto her just because she thought they would be cool. Sometimes being a Maid is more than being a soldier, it’s about being a friend.” She took a moment to look around the room. “And yes, we did fight a Maid. Some Maids don’t agree with the Lyceum, and that’s just because they’re human. Just politics for you.” Karima didn’t know what to think about that.

The headmistress came into the room, gave one look to Anastasia and then turned to Jun. “Where’d the rogue Maid go?”

“I said over the network, headmistress. A Zephyr came out of nowhere and picked her up. She might be working with Apocrypha but… I guess that’s unlikely.”

“Their CEO informed me that someone was still able to steal a piece of the weapon they had.” Elidia gave a side glance to Karima. “You both are off active duty-”

“Headmistress, please…”

“You’re both injured. Take a vacation. The rest of Declaration-7 and our Sisters can handle this.” It’s firm. Jun nods. Elidia seems to turn to Karima to say something else but someone appears at the door. It’s the commodore, and he looks hardpressed to speak with the headmistress. Elidia is forced to see what he needs.

Jun sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Hey, why don’t you come back tomorrow. I’m sure Ana will want to see you then.”

Karima nodded slowly, casted a glance towards Anastasia and then left silently. She caught a couple words from the commodore as she walked off. “... the Administration is thinking of dissolving Declaration-7.”

Karima awoke silently and dragged herself out of bed. It was around twelve. She was supposed to be studying independently, but she didn’t want to. Seeing the two Maids battered and bruised was just a reminder of the threat Apocrypha poised to her own life. They likely still wanted her. A possible clue into discovering what exactly allowed for Adalstier manipulation was no small thing.

Karima elected to wear the clothes she had brought into the Lyceum on the first day and pulled her hair back and out of her face before tying it to make sure it stayed there. She didn’t look like a Maid anymore, and maybe that was better. She didn’t really want to be one… It felt like a curse on her conscience. Adira had been a great Maid, she had heard. Karima could never be her. She was just pretending to be a Maid. Pretending to be a…

She took a deep breath in and shook her head. No, she was as much one as all the others here. She didn’t care what others said. They didn’t understand her and she didn’t need them to. She headed out of her room and towards the infirmary. One of the Stratocarriers landed on the far side of the Hollow and a whole mess of Maids clambered on board before it took off. Seemed like something was happening. Karima was only a couple days into the whole Lyceum thing but maybe she had assumed that the Maids were constantly being deployed? She really didn’t know what to expect. Growing up, Maids were practically superheroes. Now they were just soldiers, like a separate branch of the military.

The infirmary was much quieter now. It was only the red haired Maid and Anastasia. Jun looked utterly exhausted. Maybe she had spent the night here in the infirmary. Anastasia was awake now and there was the slightest hint of a burn mark where her chest was exposed. Jun had her one good hand on Anastasia’s shoulder. Karima assumed it was because Anastasia couldn’t actually feel Jun’s hand if it was on her arm. They were talking, but in quiet tones.  Eventually, Karima knocked against the open door, signalling her existence.

Anastasia looked over. “Oh, Karima. Here I’d thought you’d forgotten about me.” She beckoned her closer. “I heard you’ve made friends. That’s good. I’m sure it’s hard to adjust to such a new environment.”

Karima just asked. “Are you okay?”

Anastasia and Jun shared a glance. “I’m fine. As Jun told you, I’ve been through worse… Far worse.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” She lifted her arm and slowly but surely laid it on Karima’s head. “You shouldn’t be worried about me. You should be worried about yourself. You’re a Maid now.” Anastasia read Karima’s face well enough. “You are a Maid. You are. If someone has told you that you are not, report them.”

“No, no one’s said anything like that.” Anastasia turned back to Jun, who shrugged.

“Well,” Jun said. “We were going to go downtown today… Do you want to come?”

Karima nodded slowly. “Sure. I’ll come.”

Jun helped Anastasia out of bed. It seemed to take them a lot longer than Karima would have guessed it to. Anastasia’s steps were uncertain and unsteady. She leaned on Jun, trying to stand up, and after awhile she did. Karima was worried. This wasn’t the image of Anastasia that she had had before. Had something else happened? Or was this actually how Anastasia was...

They got Anastasia discharged and left the Lyceum, taking the rail downtown. Both the two senior Maids tried to keep Karima occupied and in the conversation, and Karima tried too, but it felt odd to be suddenly so friendly with the two Maids. She didn’t really know them, and she especially didn’t know Jun. Even if she was supposedly a special Maid, she was still a student. Someone who barely knew what they were doing. Being next to these two giants was daunting.

They arrived, and stepped off. It was cold, and there was a hint of snow in the air. Anastasia wrapped a scarf around her neck, Karima stuffed herself into her hoodie and Jun didn’t seem to mind at all. They seemed to be on some sort of heavy commercial block. There was a big screen, displaying some sort of animated show in bright flashy colours and fonts. A butler, likely having stuffed his outfit with heat packs, stood outside a café beckoning customers inside with his smile. A group of either dramatically overweight or dramatically underweight otaku bumbled down the sidewalk with dozens of bags in their arms. How classical this all was… Karima breathed it in.

Jun dragged them into a more quiet café. It seemed to be one for some sort of children’s show character. Jun ordered Karima a full meal, despite the girl’s very loud protests. When the plate of food finally arrived, decorated in an adorable bear’s face, Karima stared at Jun. She smiled back. Karima still ate anyway, watching as one of the holonet hard screen monitors in the café played a news report. It was the scene at the DusTec headquarters, captured by someone’s low quality camera. Karima could see Jun and Anastasia up on the rooftop, fighting with whoever that rogue Maid was. Miss Sumeragi was talking with some political commentators on the possibilities of the Lyceum overextending its power. That was obviously not what was happening, but she guessed without knowing really what was happening that’s what one would assume. Luckily neither Anastasia nor Jun seemed to be watching.

“So, what kind of Maid are you, Karima?” Jun asked just as Karima shoved some rice in her mouth. “I’m Leysa, minor in Skadia.”

“Aevum,” she said through her food. “Just Aevum, and Anastasia's Cyseince and Vidrein, right? Why don’t you ever use that to disable people’s guns when you fight them?”

Anastasia lifted her coffee cup. “My cybernetics aren’t a flesh extension of my body. I can’t touch their weapons, and resonating from a distance is far too taxing to be worth it. Using Adalstier manipulation to augment my limbs is infinitely more effective.” She took a sip. “And constructing items with Vidrein is… difficult for me. You’re lucky, Karima. You could use Aevum to keep yourself and your friends alive. I cannot repair a strike against the rest of my body.”

“I suppose…” Karima said, sifting through her plate. “Are you two dating?”

Jun made a sound like a fox crying out, proceeded to choke on her drink and then sat there coughing, her face hanging between the table and her seat. It took awhile for her to recover. “It’s complicated,” she choked out. “Maids are complicated. Humans are complicated. Relationships are complicated.”

“Why are you embarrassed?” Karima asked. “It’s what everyone thinks about the Lyceum.” All the Maids were secretly gay afterall.

“I’m not embarrassed-”

“You can consider us to be dating if you want, Karima,” Anastasia said and took another drink of her coffee. “It doesn’t matter to me.” And so it was.

They talked for awhile longer on much more calm subjects, like the weather and pop culture. Karima found it beginning to be nice. It was… almost familial. Jun eventually shot up and asked Karima, “Hey, I know this cool arcade that I used to go to when I was younger. You wanna come with?”

“An arcade? Yeah, sure, I'll come!” Finally, something that wasn't boring or depressing! Karima could only take so many hours of Maidship, classes and training before she just wanted to do something fun.

“Nice.” Jun offered Karima a high five and she took it. “How about you wait outside for five seconds. I have to talk to Ana for a sec.”

“Oh, okay.”

Karima put her hands into her pockets, stood up and went to wait in the cold air. She guessed Jun was cool, then. She was friendly, a capable Maid, and seemed to care a great deal about Anastasia. Nice qualities to have in your girlfriend. Karima couldn't help but try and spy through the window to see what they were talking about. She couldn't really see enough without being obvious, so she dropped it after a moment. Jun came out after a moment. “Okay, let's get going!” They walked a block down, pushing through the wind. They came up to a particular part of the street and stopped outside. A big closed for renovations sign was hung on the front entrance. “Oh, well. I guess I haven't been here for a long time. Let's go do something else.” Jun thought for a moment. “What's a cool thing to do around here…” They walked around a bit more, slightly aimlessly, before happening upon a store for anime. “You kids like this kinda thing right?”

“Our age gap isn't that wide, Jun.” Still, they went in. Karima had literally no clue what any of anything was. Jun seemed to be much more interested, reacting very strongly when she saw a very intricate figure of some lady knight on a horse. She spouted a bunch of facts about the character, complimented the artistic detail that went into such a lifelike creation and practically died several times over as she sang the praises of the subject material. Karima was beginning to wonder why Anastasia was attracted to such an otaku. “Just buy it, Jun.”

She paused her worship. “I can't afford it.” Karima didn't know what she expected.

As Karima followed Jun around, Jun tried to find something that Karima might like. She showed her a million different cases, trying to entice her with such details as computer animation, really funny comedy, heartwarming romance, beautiful soundtracks, cool fight scenes, and a whole mess of other things that Karima thought would be okay, but wasn't incredibly thrilled with. She really just wanted to ask a question. “Hey, Jun… how did Anastasia get her prosthetics?”

Jun quietly put down the case for some sort of horror show. “You couldn’t just ask Ana herself?” She scratched the side of her head. “Would she get mad at me if I told you? Probably not, right…” She took a long hard moment to think, thumbing through the plastic cases in the bin in front of her. “Ana and I have known each other for a long time, and I don’t want to violate her trust. If she doesn’t think it’s time to tell you, or if she never thinks it's time to do so then it’s her decision, right?”

“I guess…” Karima said. “It seemed like something too personal to ask her. She told me about the elements of her Engine, but that’s not really something any Maid needs to keep secret, right?”

Jun cracked a smile. “Well, unless you’re fighting humans like us, but I guess Ana doesn’t think you’re gonna go and snitch.”

Finally, Jun just decided to get Karima some crappy and dramatically over dramaticized show about Maids. “It’s stupid fun,” she explained to Karima as Karima awkwardly glanced at some dark and gritty noir cop drama that looked interesting. They began to make the walk back to the café, and they continued the small talk. Luckily, Karima didn’t seem to have made things awkward by asking about Anastasia, so that was good, but she still wanted to know. Maybe she could get Anastasia to tell her eventually.

They came back to the café and Anastasia was waiting patiently, her coffee finished and a sly smile on her face. “Have fun? Are you two best friends now?” She stood up. “Let’s get going.” The trip back to the station was uneventful, and once Karima was on her way back to the Lyceum and Anastasia and Jun were on their way back to their homes, the outing was over.

It was nice, if Karima was absolutely honest with herself. She hadn’t done something like that in a long time, and never with Maids. Now she had to go back to the Lyceum and probably… study… and do… other… boring things… She sighed. Maybe she could go do something while she was still out here.

Karima got off at the next stop. She was far away from the core of the commercial district. It seemed to be a much shadier part of town, but that didn't stop her. She had packed her sword, so if someone was gonna try and mug her, she’d teach them a lesson. Not that she actually had anything else besides the sword or that show that Jun bought her for someone to steal from her. She didn't have rich, or alive parents like the rest of those Lyceum kids… or at least she thought most of them had money or family. She hadn't exactly been around there long enough to really know that kinda thing.

She stopped in the middle of a park and sat down on a swing set. Idly, she pushed herself back and forth. On the street in front of her, there seemed to be a dust den if the smell was any indication. She remembered trying the stuff, but getting sick to her stomach. Living on the street had been a horrible mess. In a way, she supposed, the Lyceum was the greatest thing that ever happened to her. Other kids didn't get the opportunity she did, though. Just because she was special, she got her accommodations and food paid for. She hadn't saved anyone’s life yet, and even if Anastasia said that she was a Maid no matter what anyone said, was she? She still felt like just a stupid girl. A stupid girl that didn't know what she was doing, a terrorist organization wanted, and sometimes people didn't even think she was a girl.

A group of men in thick vests that barely covered them came around, smoking and chatting. Karima could see one of them had a gun tucked into his pants. “The boss wants us to find that girl again. He says we gotta hurry up before the Lyceum or the cops try and shut us down.”

The other one dragged the cigarette out of his mouth and tossed it into the snow. “That's what he always says. You see that Maid on the news? The one that’s apparently on our side? Man, I’d love to have a piece of her. She kicked the asses of both those other Maids.”

“What? You get your rocks off on getting electrocuted? You could get a girl off the street to do that for you.”

Apocrypha goons… Karima sighed. She knew she should have went back to the Lyceum. Carefully, she stood up and turned to leave, but then she heard something else.

“The deal’s at the edge of the barrier, right? The last piece that the boss wants? At ten tomorrow?”

“Yeah, and you better not be late. The boss’ll have your balls if you show up to Maiden's late.”

Karima scurried away. She shouldn't have heard that. She should have just went back to the Lyceum and not been an idiot. What had she been thinking? She didn't even have any money! What was she going to do outside except wallow in her own self-pity! She kicked herself the whole way back to the Lyceum.

Karima went back to her studies. She was stuck trying to understand the lesson about Antiope history that she had fell asleep during. To her, it was boring, and she didn't get why it was really all that important to know. The present seemed much more important to her.

The words of the Apocrypha henchmen she had encountered still rang loudly in her head, but she hadn't told anyone. Declaration-7 was the special group Anastasia was in, right? And if the commodore came to tell the headmistress that they wanted to close it down… that meant that the Administration was going to take full control of taking down Apocrypha, right? Telling the headmistress would be useless then, and if she told Anastasia… then what could Anastasia do? Nothing…

She sat idly in her room, looking at her sister’s sword. Her sister had been a great woman. She had saved people. Karima was still in her shadow. She wanted to be like Adira, but she just wasn't there yet. But what if…

She waited until nightfall and went off and stole a backpack from one of the lost and found bins, and then she snuck into the kitchen and stole some food. No one saw her. She stuffed the bag under her bed and went to sleep, setting her alarm for early in the morning.

When she did wake up, no one had came to drag her in for disciplinary action. She grabbed the bag, stuffed her sword inside and went to leave. She hesitated for a moment as she went for the handle… so she stopped and went to her desk and quickly wrote a note. “Anastasia… I'm sorry.”

Part Two
Anastasia looked out through the curtains of her window, watching the cars pass overhead. Jun was over and they’d cracked open the good bottle of hard liquor. “So you wanna go to a different Barrier City? See the sights?” Jun asked from her position beside Anastasia. “You were never a very adventurous person, Ana. What’s wrong?”

“I'm worried,” she said. “I don't want to be here if something bad happens. We’re just senior Maids now, Jun. We don't have authority if we’re not Declaration-7.”

“You seem angry. Very angry.”

“Of course I'm angry,” she said, turning around to face Jun. “Apocrypha threatens this city. They’re a cancer. A cancer I can't stop. I want to find whoever the hell their boss is and I want to kill him myself. I want to watch him bleed.”

Jun sighed. This wasn't just about Apocrypha. “She accepted her death, Ana. She didn't want to see you die either. You know that, and she didn't know that none of your limbs would make it out of there.”

“And now the prosthetics aren't working properly, Jun. They’re rejecting me.” She tried to slam her fist against the countertop, but the motion sputtered and she only managed to place her fist there. She looked down at herself for a quiet moment. “I shouldn't be yelling at you. I'm sorry, Jun.”

Jun could only smile and wrap her arms around Anastasia. “It's okay. Tomorrow, let’s buy those tickets and get the hell out of here. Maybe we can go see Karima, tell her we’re off, say our goodbyes.”

“I'd like that.”

They went to bed, woke up, had breakfast and then went onto the holonet to buy their tickets. Two tickets straight the hell out of Akkierens. Anastasia sat there wondering if leaving was the right thing to do. She was worried. By no means was she the most capable Maid, but she was still a capable one. Maybe they’d need her? But then again, surely this was on the forefront of the headmistress’ mind. If anyone was gonna put Apocrypha in the ground, it would be her, especially if they were a direct and active threat to the Lyceum.

Idly, they packed the essentials. Anything else they could buy with their stipends. After that, it was off to the Lyceum. They spoke with one of the student Maids - one with the responsibilities and none of the respect of a senior Maid - and asked if she could track down Karima by her resonator. The young Maid said the girl was in her room, so they walked to the dormitories, found Karima’s room and knocked on the door. No response.

“Maybe she’s asleep?” Jun said.

“No, it’s ten. A girl like her probably wakes up at six.” Anastasia wrapped her hand around the door handle and turned it. It wasn’t locked. “I’m coming in!” she said just in case and opened the door. There was no one there. The Maid outfit she had seen Karima in before was hung up on her closet and the bed was made. “Where is she…?”

The network resonator was on Karima’s desk, along with a note written hastily in pen. Anastasia picked it up, read it quickly and then set it down. “Jun, you can fly a Zephyr, right?”

“Yeah, I took the course.”

“How hard would it be to steal one from the hangar?”

Jun was beginning to get an understanding of what was happening. “Doable, but I’ll probably get my Engine and Maid status revoked when we get back.”

“We’ll tell them I threatened you.”

Karima pulled her hoodie close to her face. It was incredibly dusty, almost unbearably so, but for the most part she fit in with the cargo containers and garbage fires. She had learned that “Maiden’s” was actually a bar called The Maiden’s Awakening. She was a bit confused if that referred to the awakening of Adalstier manipulation in Maids or whether it was a reference to the presumed “sexual awakening” of women. The former seemed weird out here, to say the least.

Among the sheet metal and rags, she finally found it. The sign was made of cheap neon lights and one of those light fixtures that had lights that turned off and on repeatedly, this time in the shape of a mermaid waving her massive tail. There was a bouncer at the door, but he didn’t give Karima much mind as she stepped up and pushed the door open. Inside, it was mostly deserted, save for a few people drunk to the edge of consciousness and a group of armed scavengers playing poker in the corner.

Karima stepped up to the counter where a woman stood cleaning out a mug with a rag. She had a scar running down from her forehead and across one of her eyes. There was also a motorcycle helmet on the counter, which seemed rather out of place. When Karima sat down, the woman set down the glass and offered Karima two bottles. One was of some off brand discount soda and the other was beer. “I can’t pay,” Karima said.

“It’s on the house,” the woman said. Karima slowly pointed at the soda. She set the bottle down, cracked it open and set it in front of Karima. “What’s a young girl like you doing out here?”

Karima took a sip. It was cold and sweet. She wasn’t sure if she should actually speak to the woman, but she supposed it wouldn’t really hurt her. “I’m here to find out if I’m really what people say I am.”

“That’s a new one,” she said and leaned back against the back counter. “Most people come here because they’ve lost their reason, their money, their lives. They think that out here maybe there’s a chance they’ll find something that’ll make them remember that they’re alive and maybe get them back into the city.”

“Do people find it?”

“If they’re not killed by some other idiot looking for salvage, not arrested by the Administration and don’t starve to death, then they still need enough luck to find enough quality junk they can sell. It rarely happens.” Karima figured as much. There didn’t seem to be a lot of hope out here.

“What about you?” Karima asked.

She smiled darkly. “There isn’t enough blood on this planet I can spill that would let me find myself again.”

Karima took another sip and noticed a group of men step through the door. They didn’t say anything to the bartender and instead walked past the bar and to a backroom. Karima swallowed, bit her cheek and waited. She counted to herself; one… two… She counted to ten, took a long drink of the soda then pushed herself off her chair. The woman at the bar picked up the bottle and didn’t bother watching Karima as she followed the path the men had taken to the back, reaching for the sword in her bag. She came to the door, which was in an area partitioned in such a way that no one could see it from the rest of the bar and reached out for the handle.

There was a set of stairs that lead downwards, but it was completely quiet. Karima snuck down them, careful not to make a sound on the wooden boards. Eventually, she set her feet down on the cement floor. There was only one light, but she could make out the details of the room well enough. In one corner was a boiler, and in another was a fusebox. Most important was, pushed up against one of the walls, was the body of a man with a bullet hole in his forehead. Karima gritted her teeth and looked around. She didn’t see any of the men from before in the room, just the body. Carefully, she stepped forward and shut the eyes of the dead man. Well, if the Apocrypha goons weren’t here then…

She stopped as she heard a pair of shoes behind her. When she turned around, she didn’t immediately see thugs from Apocrypha, but instead she saw the bartender. Karima reached for her bag and the sword inside, but when she finally pulled it free from its case, she found the bartender was now flanked by a set of men with guns. Karima very slowly lifted up her sword.

The bartender approached her and stopped a few feet away. The light illuminated the bottom half of her face and covered the top portion in shadow. Karima’s blood ran cold.

Somewhere above them, a voice crackled over a loudspeaker. “This is the Administration. We have you surrounded and we will not hesitate to use lethal force-” The voice was answered with gunfire and the sounds of bullets being unloaded reverberated through the cement room.

The “bartender” looked at the two men. “Get her secured. They’ll call in a Declaration-7 agent if this gets worse.” As she moved to walk back up the stairs, the two men began to approach Karima. She tensed as one of them reached out and she stepped backwards.

She knew she had to fight them. Get away. But she couldn’t. She fell into their trap so easily. She wasn’t like Anastasia. She wasn’t like Jun. She wasn’t like the headmistress, or the deputy headmistress. She wasn’t like Adira. She wasn’t anything.

There was no way the two senior Maids would steal a Zephyr without anyone knowing. The first person, Anastasia knew, would be the person signalling departures and arrivals of Zephyr and the headmistress would be informed seconds later when the deck officer realized the people stealing said Zephyr were two senior Maids. But as soon as Jun, erratically dodging the gunfire of the three Administration Zephyrs that had just stopped giving them warnings and shifted to trying to shoot them down, saw said Zephyrs pull away, they both figured something was up. But they didn’t bother to take time to question it as they passed outside the limits of the city and were met with the sight of Administration forces fighting armed gunmen hiding behind metal scrap and waste.

Anastasia pulled open the sliding door of the dropship, gazing down at the chaos. “I’m jumping, Jun.”

“Wait, wait, wait! You need backup, Ana!”

“This isn’t like before. This is Karima we’re talking about, not some piece of equipment that we don’t know what it’s going to be used for.”

Jun took one hand off the controls and rubbed her forehead with it. “Fine, but I’m coming for you as soon as I land this damn thing. Don’t get yourself killed, Ana.”

Anastasia smiled a tired and weary smile as she turned around to look at the back of Jun’s head. “It’s hard to guarantee things these days.” She leaned back and let gravity carry her out the door. In a moment, she flipped herself over and activated her Engine before she hit the ground. The storage container she hit bent. She hopped off, taking her throwing knives into her hand and began to run. One of her legs failed to fully extend and she tripped for a brief moment before she went back into her run.

Anastasia immediately recognized the bar in the centre of the firefight to be what Karima had identified in her note. She was both surprised and not at all surprised that a firefight had erupted. If the Administration was here then it just meant that they were doing their jobs right for once. It didn’t seem that the Administration soldiers had received the memo about the stolen Zephyr from the small salutes some of them gave her, but that didn’t matter. The same warm reception was not given from what she now realized were members of Apocrypha. They shot at her as soon as they realized that she was a Maid.

Anastasia abandoned a direct approach and began to zigzag through the tents, cement and metal sheets. With a bit of a jump, she busted through a section of wood paneling behind a group of gunmen. They all saw her. She dispatched one with a knife to the throat and then the two others with a well placed frontal kick, sending one flying into the other. With three of Apocrypha’s own gone, the Administration pushed in and Anastasia saw her window to get to the bar.

She ran for the front door and reached for the handle. The wooden door instead exploded, showering her in wood fragments. Anastasia covered her face for the brief moment and when she looked back, a motorcycle helmet stared back at her, before it kicked her in the stomach, sending a surge of electricity through her.

The Maid from DusTec cracked her knuckles, sparks bouncing across her hands just like before. “The girl is ours, Anastasia. Give up or I will kill you.”

“You’re working for Apocrypha? They want all the Maids dead!”

“They want the Lyceum dead, and that includes you.” She moved forward to attack.

The Maid’s fist came from the side as she aimed for Anastasia’s face, but Anastasia grabbed it, the electricity sparking across the metal of her arm. Another blow came for her stomach, but she did the same thing, meeting the Maid’s hand with her fist. They both pushed against each other, trying to overpower the other. The Maid just slammed her head into Anastasia’s, before delivering a punch to her chest. Anastasia fell back, feeling her heart rate climb both as the wind was knocked out of her and the electricity reminded her of their last fight. She unfurled her knives in her grasp and threw them at her opponent, but the Maid just tossed out another magnetic device onto the ground. Her knives were pulled in just like last time.

“Is this how you will spend your life, Anastasia? Dying for the Lyceum like every pathetic Maid before you? Our gift is not so we can protect the sniveling cowards and weak masses. They do not deserve our protection. They should fear us, and not what is beyond the barrier!”

Anastasia breathed in hard and fast, raising her hands to fight once again. She didn’t need to hear her drivel. This wouldn’t be a bedside conversion. “Just fight me and stop talking.”

The Maid fought hard against her, making it obvious that Anastasia’s death was her end goal. Last time, the kicks and strikes had been born out of a need to stall her. They had been much more surgical and rapid. This time the attacks were harder, with all the Maid’s weight put behind them, and all of them were poised to crush Anastasia’s defenses instead of simply keeping her on the defense.

Karima had asked about how Anastasia used her Engine. It was a tool to amplify the abilities of her cybernetics was what she had said. It wasn’t the full capability of the Engine, but ever since she had switched from flesh to metal limbs, it was what she had to do. A thing born out of her injuries. As this Maid fought her, it began to be increasingly clear what she had to let her do. Hopefully Jun would forgive her for being so reckless.

Anastasia let her hit her. She felt the strike in her gut erupt in pain. The fact that her body hadn’t properly or completely healed from last time did not help. Anastasia activated her Engine and resonated with the shock gloves. The electricity on them flashed violently, jumping more erratically and more often than normally, and then it exploded. The Maid screamed out in pain but Anastasia took the moment to pry her knives off the magnet device and smash it underneath her boot. When Anastasia turned back, the Maid was running. She threw a knife, slicing through the top of the Maid’s shoulder, but didn’t stop her. Anastasia chased the Maid into the bar, and watched as she carried Karima through a back door. Karima yelled out for Anastasia, and Anastasia yelled back.

Anastasia ran after them as they descended back into the shantytown. Anastasia tried to keep up, but the Maid was always one step ahead of her. The shantytown was like a maze, and Anastasia did not know how to navigate it at all. For a moment, she lost them, only for Karima to call for her and then Anastasia was able to catch up again. One of the Administration Zephyrs was now tailing them, shouting at both Anastasia and the Maid to stop. It seemed now that they had gotten wind of the stolen Zephyr.

Something came from beyond the barrier and Anastasia saw it before the Administration Zephyr did. It was a Zephyr, painted a sandy beige, perfect for the deadlands past the barrier. It came in low, passed through the barrier and unloaded a missile that shot the Administration Zephyr out of the air. Anastasia averted her eyes as it crashed.

The new Zephyr hovered above one of the shacks and Anastasia watched as the Maid climbed the shack and went for the Zephyr, all with Karima over her shoulder. Anastasia pushed herself harder and climbed after her. The Maid clambered inside, threw Karima to the ground and was handed an assault rifle. Anastasia ducked down as the Maid tried to pepper her with bullets. With Anastasia halted, there was nothing she could do to stop the Zephyr from taking off with Karima.

Anastasia clambered onto the roof of the shack and watched the Zephyr go back through the Barrier. Administration batteries began to fire at it, but to no avail. Anastasia stood there, breathing in and out. Karima was gone…

Another Zephyr screeched beside her and before Anastasia had a chance to wonder why there were so many damn Zephyrs around, Jun shouted out at her. “There is no damn parking here! Get in and let’s get after them!”

Anastasia did and shut the door, racing up to stand beside Jun in the cockpit. They passed through the barrier and Jun gunned it, pushing their Zephyr to go as fast as it would allow itself. The deadlands of Antiope began to swirl around them, pushing dust and debris against the glass. Yet the Apocrypha Zephyr was still attainable, they just needed to get to it before…

“Are they flying into that firestorm?” Jun pointed out at the spinning mass of fire, lightning and brimstone that had just made itself apparent. “That’s suicide!”

“Maybe they’re trying to get us to back off. Keep following them.” Anastasia fell back to look out the small windows of the sliding door. If they could get close enough maybe she could board them or disable the engines or… something. She didn’t know what yet, but she just needed to do something.

Jun finally managed to bring them close enough to the Apocrypha Zephyr and Anastasia threw open the door. She turned her head, sputtered and coughed as sand blew itself into her face. With a deep breath and not a lot of thinking, she launched herself out. Anastasia clattered against the roof of the Zephyr, tumbling until she was able to grab one of the railings on the side. She repositioned herself, unsteady at first, but with an activation of her Engine, she smashed through the steel plating with her fist and tore the door off.

She rolled in and immediately dodged under the Maid’s grasp as she tried to grab Anastasia. One of the Apocrypha members pulled a pistol on her but she instantly threw him to the ground, snapping his arm with a quick motion before she took the gun and used it to shoot the two other men standing in the compartment. She looked at the Maid. Her eyes were covered by the helmet, but surely their gazes were meeting. Anastasia adjusted her finger’s position on the trigger. Karima was in the corner, staring at Anastasia. Frightened.

Anastasia hesitated long enough for lightning to finally hit the Zephyr. It threw everyone to the ground and they went into a violent spin. It hit the ground hard, sending people flying out from the wreckage. Anastasia was thrown out from the hole she had created when she tore the door off, bouncing and clattering against the sand, eventually landing on her stomach.

Anastasia groaned, grasping at the sand as it flowed out between her fingers. She reached out, trying to pull herself forward. Her arms gave out and laid there uselessly. She watched as the Zephyr began to smoke and then eventually light itself on fire on fire. It’s engine exploded, sending metal fragments across the sands. Anastasia tried to push herself forward with her legs. They gave up on her. The firestorm began to pull closer, blowing around dust and sand. The temperature shot up. There were cinders in the air now. Anastasia wondered how long it would take for her to boil to death.

Dark figures appeared on the horizon. Anastasia nodded. So the Remnant must have found her. If anyone else had survived the initial crash, they’d die with her soon.

Jun couldn’t find the wreckage of the Apocrypha Zephyr. She spent as long as the storm would allow her looking. Eventually, the storm had passed enough that she knew that wherever the Zephyr had crashed, it would be impossible to find it without flying directly into the storm. Jun might be stupid at times, but she wasn’t reckless.

When she arrived back at Akkierens, she was met with several Administration Zephyrs ready to escort her. She let them. Jun had no reason to fight the Administration, and neither would it produce any results if she did. They led her back to the Core Block, forced her to land and threw her in handcuffs. They stripped her of her Engine and her weapons before tossing her away in a cell.

Jun paced around her cell idly. Soon, they’d call the Lyceum. The headmistress would strip her of her seniority and her Engine and then she’d be thrown onto the street. She couldn’t remember if she could still make that flight. Probably not. Also they probably didn’t want her leaving the city.

She finally stopped pacing after a while. She had never seen the body of Anastasia or Karima - or the rogue Maid for that matter. They could still be alive… but it was unlikely. Maybe if they used their Engines in some interesting way to survive? She thought about being emotional, but there wasn’t much of a point, at least not yet. She could mourn later, after they had courtmartialed her or whatever.

Eventually one of the Administration guards came and gave her a network resonator. It was the deputy headmistress. “The headmistress not wanting to bother dealing with me?”

“She’s busy dealing with the Administration. They really don’t want any more Maids running around and putting innocent civilians in danger.” There was a quiet moment where neither said anything. “What happened out there?”

“Apocrypha brought in a Zephyr. It crashed with Anastasia and Karima on board.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I’ll… see about a rescue operation. Goodbye, Jun. I’ll be in touch.”

Jun handed the resonator back and set her head in her hands. She really didn’t know what she was going to do now.

Karima wasn't dead, but she wasn't uninjured either. She had found herself on soft fabrics in a dark room, lit by candles. The walls were made of stone and there were ceramic pots in the occasional corner. One other person was in the room, dark skinned and with a maroon blindfold across her eyes. Maybe she was blind, Karima couldn't tell. She never said anything, but every so often she would undo the bandages that were wrapped around the injuries Karima had accrued, wash the bandages and the wounds, and then apply a set she had cleaned earlier.

Karima didn't really want to move. She was tired after everything that had happened, and her injuries really didn't agree with the idea of anything else but sitting there. Had she been picked up and brought to some Apocrypha den? Could be.

After a while, perhaps hours, Karima summoned up the energy to speak. “Where is Anastasia…?”

The woman turned her head towards Karima. Her voice was gentle and kind. “Ah, so you are awake.” She paused. “Anastasia… No, she is not here. There was another Maid who was brought in with you, but her name is Iva.”

Dammit… No, Anastasia couldn’t be dead. If she was then… that meant it was her fault. She tensed and felt the tears begin to well up in the corners of her eyes. Anastasia had tried to protect her and Karima had only got her killed.

The woman could hear her tears. “What is wrong? Was Anastasia important to you?”

“She tried to save me, but I just got her killed…”

There was silence. The woman began to speak. “I am sure that Mother Adalstier will guide Anastasia back to you.”

Karima stuffed down her feelings, choking down her emotions. “Where am I?”

“You are in a special place. This is the sanctum of the Daughters of Mother Adalstier.”

“... What? Wait, you’re a Maid?”

“I am one of many thought dead by the Lyceums of Antiope. While I was once part of the Akkierens Lyceum, this is now my home.” She bowed her head, adjusted her blindfold and came back up. “I am Sister Amana. The one who leads us is named Sister Sibel, and she is the one who found you and the other Maid.”

Karima let her head sink into the pillow. Had she really run into the group of Maids that Deputy Headmistress Minase was talking about? Would she ever get out of here? “So… Sister Amana… What’s going on with the other Maid, Iva?”

“Sister Sibel is interrogating her, and after we will have to determine what we will do with her.”

Karima grasped at Amana’s arm. “You can’t let her go. She works for a terrorist organization. She’ll hurt innocent people.”

Amana took Karima’s hand and held it gently. It felt familial, perhaps motherly. “Sibel knows. While we are no longer the self-proclaimed protectors of the Barrier Cities, we can not allow a murderer who bears the gift of Mother Adalstier to roam free.”

Amana let Karima eat and they continued to speak to one another. They had recovered Karima’s Engine and her weapon. Amana said that, according to Sibel, Karima had been thrown out the windshield of the Zephyr and after the Zephyr had exploded. The resulting blast had thrown metal fragments into Karima. She was lucky to have survived, but perhaps Karima’s Engine and her element of Aevum had allowed her to survive. Amana couldn’t really tell. “The will of Mother Adalstier is an odd thing, I must say. Also… you’ve been unconscious for three days.”

“Unconscious? Three days? What?”

“I believe that you were practically dead when Sibel found you. Your Engine must have activated at some point, but I’m unsure when. One of the Maids here used her own Aevum to ensure you would be stable for a natural recovery.”

Karima gritted her teeth. “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me, but I need to get back to Akkierens. Anastasia has a… lover who’s probably still alive. The Administration will probably try and put the blame on her, or something. I need to go back to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“That may be difficult. The terrorists you mentioned, Apocrypha, are close. I believe they may be planning something, and soon.”

“How close?”

“... Three kilometers?” Karima began to get out of the bed, much to Amana’s concern. “Please don’t move, Karima, you’ll rip open the stitches.”

“I’m going to go get that Iva to tell me what Apocrypha is planning, and then I’m going to avenge Anastasia.”

“Karima, wait.” But Karima had already left the room, nabbing her Engine and sword from a table. She walked through a lengthy tunnel, with small rooms like the one she had been in. Every so often there would be a Maid, and most of them stopped and stared at her. Karima kept going.

She reached some sort of crossroads in the underground area. There were four paths. One held the smell of flowers and incense, another the smell of some sort of food that she couldn't discern and the third had yelling. She picked that path. What she stumbled into was a sort of armoury. There was a military semi-automatic rifle on a table duct taped in numerous places, and beside it, several cartridges of ammunition. A hodgepodge of other weapons, ranging from pistols to halberds, sat in other places in the room. Karima had not come to look at cool weapons, Karima had come to find the shouting. In a portion of the room, visually cut off from the entrance, was a chair. Tied to that chair was the rogue Maid, leaning forward with her eyes looking down at her lap. The corner of her mouth dripped blood onto her pants and onto the floor. Standing over her was an entirely new person, cracking her knuckles. Her skin was a dark brown and her hair was extremely short, practically a buzzcut. Sister Sibel, Karima assumed.

“Apparently this is what you want, Iva. You want me to drag you back here every day, continuing this again and again… You must enjoy this. You know that going to this… Apocrypha was the worst idea you’ve ever had. You know they’ll end up killing you, because that’s what they said they would do. They’ll kill every single Maid.” She leaned forward. “You try to forget that, but you can’t deny what is so obviously the truth.”

Iva looked up. “Fuck you, Sibel. The Lyceum abandoned me, you abandoned me and I’ll kill you-” Sibel set her hand against Iva’s face and Karima saw Sibel activate one of Iva’s shock gloves. Iva screamed a desperate, sobbing, angry scream before Sibel pulled her hand away. Iva slumped her head to the side and began to cry. It was disgusting, yet Karima couldn’t help feel somewhat sympathetic, but only because of the visual sight of seeing someone cry in such a messy way. Karima knew Iva was a terrible person, killing and terrorizing people for the benefit of Apocrypha, and Sibel was reducing her to nothing. It was a bit sad.

Sibel turned around to lean against a table and saw Karima. “Oh, you’re up. Does… Amana… know you’re here?” There was a gruffness about the woman, much different from Anastasia’s professionalism, but yet, there was still that same underlying compassion in her voice like every other Maid before her.

“Well, she didn’t want me to come here,” Karima replied. “I want to know what Apocrypha is planning.”

Sibel raised an eyebrow. “Do you now… Unfortunately for the two of us, Iva is not keen on divulging that information.” She looked back at Iva and shook her head before returning her gaze to Karima. “I suppose you’ll want to go to this Apocrypha hideout then? Do whatever it is that the Lyceum has put into your head. Be a hero, beat the bad guys, sacrifice your life. Bad news, there’s an elemental storm circling above us, and it’s been there since your Zephyr crashed.”

So they were just in the middle of the deadlands. “I just want to cut the head off the snake. Their leader needs to die.”

“That would be nice, considering it’s not great for a large group of anti-Maid militants to be so close. Perhaps I’ll take you to them, but not yet. The storm was bad enough when we were simply picking up you and Iva from our doorstep, but traveling through it is out of the question.”

“Fine, then what can we do now?”

“You’re… Aevum, correct?” Karima nodded. “Iva will pass out soon. Don’t worry about her. Come with me, I’d like to see what you can do.”

Sibel lead Karima out of the armoury and back to the crossroads. Amana had finally caught up to them, feeling her way through the hallway. “Sibel? Sibel, please, Karima ran off and I can’t find her.” She sounded very worried, much more than someone who had just met Karima should be.

“She’s right here, Amana. I’m going to examine her Engine with her. If she is so fixated on fighting Apocrypha, she may as well understand how she should fight them.” Amana seemed to calm down somewhat and let them go. Karima watched her as she followed Sibel. Amana looked disappointed.

Sibel brought Karima down the path in which the scent of incense was strong. This room was much different from the armoury. There were large rugs set around near every square inch of the room, with sticks and leaves of fragrance burning. Several Maids knelt, their hands clasped or their heads set down in front of them in prayer or meditation. The centre piece of the room was a statue of a brilliant white, depicting a woman who was both shapeless yet rigid in form. Her hands were in offering, a gift. In her hands sat each colour of Adalstier. Leysa, Aevum, Cyseince, Skadia, Vidrein… It was all there.

Karima was in awe “Is that… Wait, was she a real woman?”

“Of course she was,” Sibel said. “Mother Adalstier gave us the gift of Adalstier Manipulation. Instead of the militants of the Lyceum, fighting for those who do not deserve the protection of Mother Adalstier, we meditate on the meaning of this gift. We seek to understand the meaning of each element, and what Adalstier truly means for our universe.”

“Is the statue…”

“Pure white… A pure form of Adalstier. It is the only medium that one can use to depict Mother Adalstier. You cannot use any other form. It is simply disrespectful to her.” Karima had certainly never heard of… pure white Adalstier, but she believed that might be a bit of the point. The mysterious glow of the statue was beautiful, and even if it was, somehow, just numerous layers of Adalstier set to produce this beautiful white colour, she didn’t really care.

In the shadow of Mother Adalstier, Karima offered Sibel her Engine. She took it with a bow, and regarded it. While unengaged and not activated, it was nothing more than a simple band containing the crystal of Aevum. “This one is special, Karima. This Engine only chooses those who are willing to give their life to save another. It is not chivalrous, nor pragmatic, not utilitarian. It does not believe in saving the most people possible. It believes that the Maid who wields it must save those who are worthy of being saved, and that is the only criteria it holds.” She smiled. “Did the Curator tell you that?”


She laughed. “He is a fool.” She took Karima’s hand and slipped the Engine back onto her arm. “This Engine understands destiny. You must believe in your own destiny while you wield it.”

“What is its name?”

“An Engine is not its name, Karima. Names are useless. They tell you nothing about what something is. You must know the Engine for what it is, and not what syllables you use to address it.”

Karima nodded slowly. She didn’t know if she agreed with that, but Sibel probably had her reasons for her choice of words. Karima let the Engine engage. It wrapped between her fingers, covering the palm and back of her hand, but was fingerless. The Aevum crystal twinkled on the back of her hand. “Please, Sibel. I must avenge Anastasia. I have to.”

“Good, then you understand the destiny put forward by your Engine and Mother Adalstier. I will help you fully realize it.”

Anastasia was not dead either, though she deeply wished she was. She saw the Apocrypha iconography practically everywhere as they dragged her through their dirtied and dust filled halls. In the beginning, there was sand in nearly every hall, but as they continued to pull her through, she found this one thing that connected her to the surface shrunk to be lesser and lesser in intensity. She had no strength to resist the two brutish men, and even if she had, her limbs no longer responded to her. Her knives were still at her waist, but she couldn’t do anything with them, and the two men knew this.

They strung her up, and thus began the beatings. Whoever cared enough to come was allowed in. Some forced her to look and them, their anger and disappointment for themselves and their lives burnt into her mind. The meeting of disgusting flesh and jagged bone against her skin was nothing she had not experienced before, but it was constant. The reprieves were short. Sometimes they would ask if they could rape her - or simply not ask and begin to loosen their belts - but the guards told them no. The boss had plans, they would say.

Hours passed, and then they finally cut her down and moved her. They tossed her into a dark room with a single window and let her lay there on the floor. She wished, in a way, that there was no window. It was tantalizing. If she could only move, there would be the possibility of escape. But she couldn’t. They would make her suffer, and if Karima was still alive, they would do the same to her.

They let her waste away for the rest of the day. She heard nothing on the other side of the door, neither did she hear anything beyond the window. It was quiet, and all she had was her thoughts to occupy her. She hated her thoughts. She was a failure of a Maid. Anastasia had failed to save Karima, had gotten herself captured, had defied the wishes of the Lyceum and the Administration. And now Jun was alone. Why had she done that to Jun of all people? Jun loved her, and she loved Jun. When Anastasia finally died, Jun would be alone. She had done that to her. She was horrible. Despicable. Worthless.

And Karima… Why had she put thoughts of blind heroism in her mind? Karima’s capture was her fault. If only she had been able to make it up to Karima and had saved her. Why couldn’t she have at least done that. Why… why… why. She could have saved her.

Finally, they came for her and she let them. They dragged her, this time, into a much cleaner room. There were technicians, doctors and nurses here, and a metal chair, equipped with restraints. They stripped her down to her underwear, because they didn’t need to see her naked. Once done, they set her in the seat, and strapped her in, but not on her wrists, only areas such as her neck, her waist, her thighs and her upper arms. One of the technicians began to work around the circuitry and paneling of the prosthetics on her arms, starting the grueling task of removing them from her body. She let herself go limp.

Someone she had not anticipated to show their face arrived. The despicable businessman and CEO, Seongjin Go. She laughed softly and sadly. It was obvious now. Apocrypha was well equipped and their entrance at DusTec had been too easy.

He smiled. She stared at him, her mouth slightly open because it was easier than keeping it closed. “Do you know what’s going to happen, Anastasia? You’re a lucky woman. You and the girl, Karima, are going to be part of history.”

“She won’t do what you want.”

“I know that,” he said. “But I can control the offspring that I ensure you and her to create.”

Anastasia’s brain was foggy, and the implication did not immediately reach her. When it did, she felt her stomach violently convulse. She gritted her teeth, and swallowed before she could vomit. “You’re disgusting,” she said. “And it doesn’t make sense. It’ll take decades.”

“Of course, Anastasia, but you are not the only Maid here. There are others… from many of the Lyceums of Antiope. Some of them were thought killed in combat with Remnant, others abandoned the teachings of their Lyceums and escaped here into the wastelands.” His voice was cancerously coddling. “Those children that do not awaken… they are useless to me, but those who do will surely bring about a new age.” He ran a hand across her cheek. “The Maids… are a cancer, but the gift of Adalstier Manipulation is not. The Maids and the Lyceums believe they are the only ones who can protect the people of Antiope, and rightfully so. The Administration of Akkierens is useless. They cannot fight what still persists from the Old War, and neither can they fight the Maids. My Maid has been operating for months, and when they finally discovered her existence, they sent you. The true purpose of the Lyceum is not to protect Akkierens, Anastasia. It is to consolidate the power of a select group of individuals. As long as the Lyceum stands, the Administration holds its propaganda and elite fighting force. As long as the Administration stands, the Captain has his power. Maids are power.”

“I protect people, Seongjin, you bastard.”

“Where were you when the Lyceum killed my family.” He laughed, his demeanor shifting from calm to manic. “You must be thinking that the Lyceum could not have killed my family, because you did not hear about it. Does the public and the bulk of the Lyceum know of Declaration-7? No. You must be then thinking, ‘This is the reason for this madness?’ This is not madness, Anastasia. Revenge is not madness. You want revenge, and are you insane? You know what is insanity, Anastasia? Do you really want to know what is so mad about this world? Soldiers prancing about in fluffy and frilly dresses, being worshipped by adoring fans who do not even truly understand what they do. That is the true madness in this world, Anastasia. When I was broken and I lost everything, did I retreat into stagnation like the Lyceum and the Administration? No, I built myself an empire. What did you do when you lost everything, Anastasia? What will you do when you lose everything again?” Anastasia stared into the face of madness and it only stared back. “When the Lyceum is gone and the Administration begins to crumble, I will provide them a solution.”

Amana helped Karima into the clothes the Daughters of Mother Adalstier had given her. It seemed to be a cobbled together suit of Administration body armour, with pieces patched and taped. Amana explained that, if any Administration or Lyceum ships crashed here and their crews did not survive, the Daughters picked up supplies from the wreckage. They did not want that connection to the Barrier Cities, but it was necessary for the survival of the convent.

Amana led Karima away from the underground and towards the surface. The entrance was the airlock of a stratocarrier, probably torn off during its crash. Karima did not know what stratocarrier it had been, as the markings were all worn, but it was most likely from the first generation of the massive machines, given how archaic the design seemed. Sibel had gathered herself and two other apostate Maids. They had rifles, and not the conventionally close range weapons of most Maids she had seen. Evidently, they didn’t seem to be worried about Remnant. Iva sat cross-legged on the floor, and her Engine and shock weapons laid on a crate nearby, not that Iva was close enough to grab them.

Amana clasped her hands together and stood in front of Iva. “Your rites, Sister Iva.” Iva didn’t respond. “Mother Adalstier, we give you this Maid who has strayed from your light and forsaken your guidance, so that you may decide if she is yet worthy of your forgiveness, or if she will perish in the darkness of Antiope.”

Once Amana was done, Sibel slammed her fist against the airlock release and a burst of sand shot through the opening. It cleared after a moment, leaving the Maids to look out into the firestorm. They had waited long enough, and now the firestorm was less violent, simply flashy and burning cloud cover. It was perfect for the Daughters, and Apocrypha.

Sibel and the other two Maids lead Iva out into the wastes. Karima followed them, but gave Amana a quick goodbye, for courtesy’s sake. They began their walk through the rolling dunes. It was extremely hot, mostly from the fire above them, but Karima didn’t dare take off her armour. A slow and possible death from heatstroke was better than a fast and definite death from a bullet.

They came to the top of a dune, and Sibel brought Iva to her knees and cut Iva’s binds with a knife before pushing her. Karima watched Iva roll down the sand before coming to a stop at the bottom. “It is in Mother Adalstier’s hands now,” Sibel said, and the Maids continued on, leaving Iva.

“I don’t mean to be offensive, Sister Sibel,” Karima began, “but isn’t Iva still a threat out here?”

“She is without her Engine and without her weapons. To Apocrypha, she now has no use, and she knows this. If she does not, she will come to realize this, or perhaps she will simply perish. It does not concern us any longer, Karima.”

The trek was long, and Karima didn’t bother to engage in conversation. Her mind was focused entirely on Anastasia, Jun, and Apocrypha. She needed to prepare herself. She would need to kill so that she could achieve her goal. There was no room for hesitation here. She was a Maid, her Engine was with her, and her weapon was her sister’s own steel. That would be enough, she knew, and as long as she played to her own strengths she could succeed.

They approached another dune and laid out on top of it. Sibel put her eye to her rifle’s scope, adjusted the knob on the side and then let Karima gaze out it. There, out in the open, was a large office complex. All of the windows had long been blown out, but the front door had been reinforced and replaced with a heavy duty sliding door. There was an intercom set up beside the door, with some sort of keycard reader. Sibel shifted the scope onto something else. It was nearly invisible, but there was the slightest hint of a rifle’s barrel sticking out of one of the windows. Karima took her head away from the scope and began to unpack and attach a silencer to the end of her rifle. “When I shoot the man in the window, you will have to go to the front door. When you ring the intercom, you should say nothing except make a perceptible sound. They will ask their sniper to see who you are, and when he does not reply, they will send armed men out the front door. Do you understand what you should do?”

Karima nodded. “I’m ready. Thank you, Sibel.”

“May Mother Adalstier guide your path, Karima. For your sake, I hope we will not have to meet again.” Sibel took the shot.

Karima slid down the dune, landed on her feet and ran for the door, drawing her sword from its case. Her hand hit the intercom button and she slammed her sword into the speaker, blowing it out. Karima stepped to the side and waited. When the door slid open and the group of men, armed with assault rifles did come out, Karima was ready for them. She had, after consideration for how her sister would have used the weapon to its full potential, found she didn't even need to fully transition the weapon into either mode to utilize it's ranged or close quarters capabilities. She slid in, severing the kneecap of one of the men and then brought the sword to rest on her arm. She pulled the trigger, slamming a bullet through one of their hearts as she rolled with the recoil and brought the blade down on the head of the first man. There was one left and he brought his rifle to bear on Karima. She saw him begin to squeeze the trigger, but he stopped, a hole suddenly in his throat. He gagged on the blood that sputtered out and then fell over.

Karima raised a hand to Sibel in thanks. She could see as the Maid shook her head, raised a hand in farewell, and then turned to depart with her two comrades. They disappeared behind the dune and Karima turned to enter the building. She found it to be as one would expect; abandoned, disheveled and dirty. Sand had blown in from the higher windows and seeped in from holes in the roofing. Apocrypha seemed to have made a conscious effort to block off this one particular hallway so that one would need to go through the front door, so the path was straight forward. Karima was cautious, but also nervous. She loaded in a fresh clip, her finger twitched beside the trigger, and she watched forward.

A set of stairs lead her into the bowels of the complex. Some of the construction was new, but most of it was old, not to even begin to mention how much sand there was. Dear Adalstier, there was so much sand one would think it was a drug den. Karima noticed one thing, though. There was no camera surveillance system, or if there was one, it was invisible to her eyes. It was much more likely there just wasn't one. Karima had a hunch that Apocrypha was so focused on weapons that they would rather get another twenty boxes of assault rifles than set up a working camera system. It was a bit absurd considering they were fighting Maids. You couldn't use any of those fancy weapons if you didn't see your enemy coming.

Someone came down the hall and Karima idly hid behind a crate. When she was sure they hadn't saw her, she continued onward. There was some crude signage on a wall, printed out and taped on with duct tape. An armoury, which might be a good idea for her to destroy. A flight pad, which would likely be her ticket out of here considering her situation. A lab? What were they possibly researching?

Karima remembered what the Apocrypha members had talked about at the beginning of her journey with Anastasia and the Lyceum. Yes, it was probably about her and the prospect of creating more Maids born and assigned male at birth. The thing about that entire conundrum was that she couldn’t really fathom how they would be researching that without her present. If the entire complex was dedicated to furthering the twofold terrorist plot of creating controllable Maids and destroying the Lyceum, but they weren’t even doing any planning or research in their lab, then no one would be here. She needed to get there as soon as possible and destroy what they had.

Also get there as soon as possible because the person who had passed her earlier was probably going to find those dead bodies outside that she had neglected to move. She cursed under her breath and began to run.

Her path took her into what seemed to be a sort of flight pad set up in what looked like a missile silo. She couldn't really tell, considering she didn't really know what a missile silo was supposed to look like, and the only sort of “place where Zephyrs land” she had seen was in the Lyceum’s hangar that one time someone bothered to show her it. Sure enough, as she walked into the area, the alarm went off. A voice calmly uttered “Possible breach at front entrance, security please respond.” Karima made sure to use all the supply crates and refueling containers to hide behind as Apocrypha scrambled around her. The Zephyr was left mostly unattended, other than only a handful of guards. It was a different type than the one that had crash landed in the wastelands, but Karima could see bits of that crashed Zephyr around the hangar. The door that Anastasia hadn't torn off was lying to the side.

While this Zephyr was likely how she would have to get back to Akkierens later on, she still needed to get through the hangar and find her way to the lab, and doing that would be much easier if she didn't leave a trail of bodies in her wake. Anastasia would probably take that route, but for Karima, it would probably get her killed, primarily because Karima was not as good a fighter as Anastasia was. So, Karima stuck to the shadows and hugged the wall until she reached the opposite end where another crude sign pointed her in the right direction.

The lab, with its long hallways, endless stretches of windows, seemed to be the bulk of the facility. It also seemed to have been professionally constructed, as opposed to most of the rest of the place, like the flight pad, which were just ruins that Apocrypha decided to inhabit. Sneaking past the Apocrypha guards was surprisingly easy. Most of them seemed incredibly tired, and they were easily visible with the fact they were standing and the windows all started at about waist height. The more she looked around, the more she was sure of it. Apocrypha was a disorganized mess. The lab area had a fresh and shiny coat of paint on it, but there were very few people around and supplies and equipment were strewn about. It might look nice, but the lab area was very much the same as the sand filled hallways.

Karima was also trying to discern exactly how they were carrying out their research. There were some rooms where it appeared they were looking into some sort of stem cell… genetic… hormone therapy? Karima wasn't exactly familiar with this sort of thing beyond the fact she had used to take hormones, and then she had been younger and not much had been explained to her. She stumbled into some tablets in some of the rooms and scrolled through the research notes present on the devices.

She laughed. It made sense now. No one had ever been able to find out what actually allowed Adalstier manipulation other than “girls can do it”. Apocrypha wasn't just going to stumble upon the secret, and it was unlikely that them studying a singular transgirl would just suddenly give them a sort of Eureka moment. The only thing anyone knew is that Maids had a higher chance of giving birth to Maids. So, as a next logical step, having both parents be Maids would increase the chance of a person capable of Adalstier manipulation being born, right?

She looked through their list of Maids captured, organized alphabetically by presumed surname. Much of the notes for each of them included their condition mentally and physically, what Adalstier elements they were able to manipulate, the weapons they used as Maids… The last person on the list was a Vidrein Cyseince Maid, with cybernetic prosthetics and magnetically controlled throwing knives… who had also been apart of the Akkierens Lyceum… Part of Karima wanted to jump for joy, given that Anastasia wasn't dead, but another part feared seeing Anastasia again after having nearly gotten her killed. Karima had made a mistake, and had gotten both of them stuck in an Apocrypha trap. Anastasia should be angry at her, but Karima knew she wouldn't be.

One tablet had a couple pictures in its gallery. While most of them just seemed to be photographs of the tablet’s owner after they accidentally opened the front facing camera, there was a picture seemingly downloaded from somewhere. It was of the layout for the laboratory complex. There were some scribbles drawn with the tablet’s software in red, denoting that a particular part of the complex hadn’t been completed or that the area with the cells was full. Karima snickered, reading “our asshole boss won’t let us take a break”. Lovely.

She hurried out, making her way to the cells. That was the plan then. Karima would get Anastasia out and together they would bring this place crashing to the ground. Simple enough.

Karima reached a point where she could peer into the holding cell area. It was comprised of three stories, each containing numerous cells. Here, there seemed to be a repertoire of competent and armed guard. It was unlikely that she would be able to sneak in and get Anastasia out. She didn’t want to fight her way in, but once she had Anastasia with her, they’d be able to get out of here without issue. She nodded to herself, yeah, this’d be a cinch. She looked down over the cell area from the window above it. Okay, maybe she wasn’t a Maid like Anastasia who was plenty capable, but Maids were heroes! This was like child’s play to people so monumental. She was one of them now. She could do this!

With a deep breath, she smashed the window with her sword, sending shards of glass showering down below, and then she vaulted over. She activated her Engine and absorbed the impact of landing with her body. With the power of Aevum Adalstier flowing through her, she quickly analyzed the targets in the room. One on the very top floor, two on the second floor, and two where she was. Easy enough.

She twisted to the side as a burst of assault rifle rounds passed by her, threw her sword over her shoulder and fired it. She flipped her weapon back with the natural recoil of the weapon and rushed the other guard, driving her sword into his thigh before ripping it out and tearing his jaw apart with a vertical swing upward. Two of the other three began to shoot at her, with one of them hauling himself down the stairs to try and reach her. She sprinted towards the stairs herself, intent on reaching the guard before he reached her. With a firm kick against the wall for the vertical momentum, she grabbed his head and slammed it against the rail. Recovering, she bounded up the last few stairs and slid across the floor toward her second last target. She pulled the trigger mid slide, blowing out his kneecap, before jumping up and holding him up as his partner riddled him full of bullets. Karima threw him aside and simply shot the last guard in the face.

Wow, she had actually done it. She unloaded her partially empty clip and slapped a new one in, quickly falling off of an adrenaline and Aevum fueled high. There was a very sudden pain in her arm and she grabbed at her shoulder, pulling her hand away to look at the bullet hole where it had snuck through the ballistic plating. “Oh, oh…” She bit her tongue and hopped back down toward the security room. It was beginning to really hurt.

Karima looked at the list written on a whiteboard in the security room. She quickly found Anastasia’s cell, fumbled with the cell release mechanism and specifically opened Anastasia’s cell. She didn’t know who were in the other cells. They could all be Maids, but they could be hostile and violent Maids like Iva. She would rather not risk that.

As she walked over to Anastasia’s cell, still clutching her shoulder, something came over the intercom. It wasn’t the calm voice like before. “Who just opened one of the cells? Get on the line now.” They waited for a moment, seemingly waiting for someone to do so. They gave up after a moment. “Security, send a team to the holding block. Your intruder is already in the base.” If that wasn’t an indication for Karima to hurry, then she didn’t know what one was.

Anastasia was there, and the door was open, but Anastasia was certainly not in the condition she had been in before. She seemed to be only half conscious, with numerous bruises and cuts across her mostly naked body. Karima had not expected this… no, she had not even considered it. She shuffled forward, placing her hand against Anastasia’s shoulder and shook her. “Anastasia… please. We have to go. I have to save you.” That’s when she realized Anastasia had no arms from the elbow down. She could see the messy scar tissue, long faded, after what she assumed was the initial hasty operation to apply her cybernetics, or maybe that was from the wound that took her arms and legs in the first place.

Karima wrapped her arms around Anastasia and activated her Engine. They had left Anastasia’s legs intact, luckily. Slowly but surely, she began to lead Anastasia out of her cell, all the while using her Engine to try and heal her. Karima tried to hurry them out of the holding cell area, but every stumble stole valuable seconds from them. Karima also didn’t know where Anastasia’s weapons or Engine were. This had been a bad plan…

Someone came around a corner and Karima tried to singlehandedly use her rifle to shoot them. The bullet hit, but she felt the recoil of the weapon throw fire onto her shoulder wound. Karima crumpled to the floor, dragging Anastasia with her. She hauled herself up and forced them both to keep going. Karima needed Anastasia to help her. Where would they be keeping her arms? Where… Karima grabbed the tablet and fumbled for the map. Operating theatre? There was a note under it that said it was also a dissection lab. Disgusting, but probably her best bet. She tossed the tablet to the side and made a beeline for it, navigating around the very loud sounds of Apocrypha guards trying to reach her last known position.

Eventually Karima kicked open the door of the operating theatre and found several doctors and technicians arm deep in a dead woman. There was brief moment where no one moved, but when Karima dumped Anastasia in a chair - one with an odd amount of straps - and dropped a cabinet in front of the door, the implications were very obvious.

“Where are her arms?” was the question she raised.

In the end, she got them to pull Anastasia’s cybernetics from a bin they had haphazardly thrown them in and she put Anastasia on the table. As someone began to pound against the door, trying to get in, Karima forced them to get to work reattaching the two cybernetic pieces. It was not a hard process, but the banging on the door and Karima’s threat of a swift death from a bullet did not expedite the process. When they finally reattached the second arm and reconfigured its wiring so it worked, Karima forced them all to step back. Finally, she laid her hands on Anastasia stomach and focused her Engine on bringing Anastasia back to her normal health. Without Anastasia, she wouldn’t be able to escape from here. She needed Anastasia. Anastasia was an infinitely more capable Maid…

The door blew open in a controlled explosion and Karima ducked for cover. Dust and debris flew out wildly, before gunshots were fired indiscriminately, and then they stopped. Karima, still alive, looked around. Most of the technicians and doctors were lying on the ground dead or injured, as well as the Apocrypha guards. Karima looked up to see Anastasia, gripping a bloody combat knife taken from one of the guards in her hand tightly, blood sprayed against her face, breathing in ragged breaths. She tore off the clothing of one of the guards and pulled it onto herself. “Karima, let’s get out of here.” They needed to stop this madness now.

Anastasia set her knives away and picked up an assault rifle. She checked the ammunition contents and the sight as she began to move away. Karima followed behind her. “Where are we going, Anastasia?”

“My unit,” she began to explain, “was investigating stolen Adalstier technology pieces that Apocrypha’s Maid was stealing. What do you think they were building?”

“A big gun?”

“A bomb, and where do you think they’re going to detonate it?”

“The Lyceum… Where’s the bomb?’

Anastasia rounded a corner and instantly ducked to cover when she saw a group of Apocrypha men entrenched. They started shooting at her a moment later. “It’s in their proving grounds, right behind that door.” She began to return fire, and ducked to jam a new magazine into the gun before she began to forcibly push the cover she was using toward the barricade, firing over the top the whole way. “Come on!” she yelled at Karima before vaulting over her cover and pushing directly past the barricade. Karima sprinted after her, stabbing a guard in the back that Anastasia didn’t see before shooting another that Anastasia had kicked away from her. They pushed into the proving grounds together.

Seongjin was standing in the centre of the room, leaning against a crate, with the open top facing Karima and Anastasia. The crate was empty. Both Karima and Anastasia kept their guns trained on him, especially as Apocrypha shuffled onto the catwalks above them. “I’m guessing you already know what this crate was for, Anastasia,” Seongjin said.

“It’s for the Skadia bomb you developed, and of course I know, because you couldn’t help yourself when you told me.”

“I told you, Anastasia, because you need to know the truth. Who came to rescue you? Karima. Not Declaration-7. Not the Lyceum. Not the Administration. They’ve abandoned you. You did what you thought was morally right, and now they won’t even come to help you.”

Karima was the one to speak this time. “We’re sitting in the middle of an elemental storm. I think it’s a little hard to get a ship in here.”

“Actually, while you were prancing about my facility, the storm shifted away from us, which is why we are about to take the device out of here. We’ll destroy the Lyceum, break the Administration’s dependence on their Maids, and then I’ll have what I want. You’ll be here. Dead.”

“Whatever happened to your convoluted plan for making new Maids?” Anastasia said.

Seongjin laughed. “Male Maids, female Maids… It matters not in the end. I don’t need you or the girl, but it would have been nice.”

Anastasia held her finger against the metal of the assault rifle’s trigger. She just needed to shoot the man. That’s all she needed. Apocrypha would crumble without leadership and it’s poorly organized remnants would either disband or be hunted down by the Administration. She just needed to kill him. The agonizing thing was that she couldn’t. She needed to get both herself and Karima out of here, alive. Karima didn’t need the mental scarring that was sure to happen if Anastasia sacrificed herself for Karima.

Anastasia pulled the magazine out of her gun and tossed it to the side. “Fine, Seongjin. You win.” Karima looked at her, confused.

“Really?” He smiled and reached behind his back, pulling out a pistol. “That’s nice to hear.”

Anastasia and Karima both heard a sound from nowhere. That lovely clink and the jiggling of metal pipes somewhere beyond the room. Seongjin looked around. “Find where that’s coming from!” he yelled at his men.

“It doesn’t matter where that’s coming from, Mr. Go,” Anastasia said. Seongjin looked at her, began to realize, and then began to run. Parts of the roof collapsed, repelling ropes dropped from the ceiling and the colours of the Lyceum and the Administration dropped down. Finally, they had gotten their device tracker working.

The room began the quick process of being covered in Apocrypha blood. Bullets were fired on both sides, but the Administration and Lyceum forces, being much better in both training and supplies, easily shredded the surprised Apocrypha forces. Anastasia saw a familiar head of red hair. “Jun!”

Jun looked at Anastasia and Karima, slamming a new set of rounds into her revolvers. “You’re alive? You’re alive!” She ran over and moved to embrace Anastasia, but Anastasia stopped her, holding her by the arms.

“Their leader is getting away with their bomb!” Anastasia began to bolt after Seongjin and Karima ran after her.

Karima looked back at Jun. “Why are you guys here!”

“The deputy headmistress is a very persuasive person!” Jun yelled back.

Anastasia and Karima chased Seongjin through the lab floor. He had the head start and was climbing the stairs to the Zephyr by the time Anastasia and Karima entered the room. Only a handful of Apocrypha was even in the room, and the armed ones began to shoot at the two Maids immediately. Anastasia bounded after him and Karima struggled to keep pace. When Seongjin jumped into the Zephyr, Anastasia jumped after him, tackling him to the floor of the ship. Karima jumped on board a second later, just as the Zephyr began to rise. They flew up, into the decaying remains of an office building and then smashed through concrete, as the pilot hoped to escape as fast as possible. Karima tried to help Anastasia hold Seongjin down, all the while as Anastasia began to beat him mercilessly.

Seongjin pushed Karima away for a moment, and when she hit the door of the Zephyr she saw something out of the corner of her eyes. Silver Wings, hovering above the ruins. The Lyceum had pulled out all the stops. Small Zephyrs were being deployed, dropping troops into the Apocrypha base. She noticed a singular cannon deploy from the side of Silver Wings, aiming at them. Karima began to panic. “They’re going to shoot at us!” They didn’t know they were on board and the small Zephyr was gunning it away. How could they know that the two Maids were on board. Neither of them had resonators!

The cannon fired and tore apart the Zephyr’s thrusters. It sputtered, and then immediately began to dive toward the ground. Again, the people on board were thrown to the side, but it hit much lighter than last time. It pierced the sand as its forward momentum kept it going, drifting forward, shredding pieces of itself and cargo. It finally stopped, leaving a trail of debris behind it.

Karima’s leg was badly sprained in the crash, but Anastasia was fine. Anastasia hauled herself up and then grabbed Karima, tearing off the partially attached door and moving out onto the sand. Anastasia ran for something, holding Karima in her arms. She set Karima down and Karima watched as Anastasia tore open a panel, and jammed her fist inside the electronics of an odd device. Anastasia eventually pulled her arm out, a hexagonal prism of a container with six Skadia crystals inlaid into it. She pulled her arm back and threw the container as far as she could. It skittered in the sand, and stopped, far away from them and the bomb. That was it then. They had finally stopped Apocrypha and they could all go home.

There was a gunshot, and Anastasia doubled over as crimson began to spread across her abdomen.

Seongjin stumbled over to them, a smoking gun in one hand and a metal pipe in the other. Something had torn through his suit jacket, and he was bleeding profusely from his side, but he kept walking. “I guess you win then, Anastasia.” He didn’t even bother regarding Karima. “You’ve destroyed my organization, defused my bomb, and my plans are nothing but dust in the wind…” He tossed the pistol to the side and brought the pipe into his hands. “I hope you don’t mind if I relieve my anger. There certainly is a lot of it.”

He kicked Anastasia over and swung the pipe down on her. Karima could hear the very audible sound of Anastasia’s bones breaking. Karima looked away. Anastasia didn’t react loudly to the blows, which seemed to drive Seongjin further in his anger. Karima didn’t want to hear any of it. The sickening sound of metal hitting and breaking bone, flesh breaking apart, blood spraying across the sand. She didn’t want to hear it. Not to Anastasia. Not to the person she looked up to. Not to a person she loved.

Karima pushed herself away from her seated position and dragged herself toward the pistol Seongjin had dropped. Her leg ached as she pulled it across the sand, and her shoulder yelped in pain when she used her arm to pull herself forward, but she kept going. She made one final grand pull forward and shot her arm out far enough to grasp around the handle of the gun. She wrapped her hand around the handle, put her finger on the trigger and pointed it at Seongjin. “Stop, or I’ll shoot!” she yelled at him.

He did stop and looked at her. His face was initially of surprise, but then it was of laughter and insanity. He stood up. “You’re really going to shoot me? You can’t. You’re weak. You’re nothing compared to the other Maids; less than nothing.” His face was cold and unfeeling now. “You know if you kill me, then you’re as good as all the people you hate.” He took a step toward her.” “You’re like me. I’ve killed people. You fear becoming me.” He took another step forward. “You’ll never shoot-”

Karima shot him in the chest. “Just shut up,” she said, and then shot him again. He fell forward, falling to his knees, and then she shot him again. When he finally landed on his face, Karima pushed herself onto her feet. It hurt to stand, but she took a few steps forward, pointed the gun at Seongjin’s body, and emptied the clip into his back. When the gun stopped firing bullets, she tossed it to the side and stumbled past him toward Anastasia. Karima felt herself getting lightheaded. “Yup, I’m gonna pass out from all this bleeding.” Karima fell on top of Anastasia and then passed out from all the bleeding.

Karima remembered the initial events after Apocrypha quite vibrantly. She had awoken in the Lyceum’s infirmary, jammed with numerous needles and was drugged to high hell. Anastasia was asleep, with her stitched up face resting against the blanket of the cot. Jun was snoring loudly in another chair. The Silver Wings gunner that had shot them out of the sky came and apologized very profusely, explaining that the information that two Maids were onboard that Zephyr had reached her after she had taken the shot.

Headmistress Elidia had come, reprimanded both Anastasia and Jun, declaring them banned from Maid activity for a period of five years, and took their weapons and Engines away so that the Lyceum would hold onto them for that five year period. It wasn’t like Anastasia particularly cared after all she had been through, and it wasn’t like Jun cared, considering they just wanted to be together. When Karima was much more lucid, the headmistress also gave her an earful. Karima mostly just nodded and got away with a month long suspension of using her Lyceum free time for anything other than study. She was really tired.

The deputy headmistress came by too, and she echoed much of the same sentiment. She said she wasn’t going to do anything about the suspensions, because really, they all should have known better. She did, though, commend them on their heroism.

Their recoveries were fairly quick, considering the amount of money the Lyceum had at its disposal. When all the casts and slings finally came off, Anastasia and Jun went off, boarding a Zephyr and going on vacation. The headmistress made the one exception to let Karima see them off. It was a teary departure, but Karima knew she’d see them again.

Studying was much the same as before, though she was asked why she just disappeared for no reason - which she said was an actual secret and she really couldn’t talk about it. She got help from her classmates, goofed off a bit, and found herself becoming a better Maid. With Adira’s weapon and Engine, she felt her sister guiding her the whole way. Though, she was definitely going to interrogate Anastasia on Adira when she got back.

A few months after it had all ended, she found herself sitting on a bench at the commercial Zephyr depot. It was also warm, the snow in Akkierens had disappeared awhile ago. She ate a burger she had picked up on the way and watched as a Zephyr from Ilskaieh pulled in and began to unload passengers. It wasn’t Anastasia and Jun’s, but she watched the people go by to their happy reunions. Life was normal. She remembered having thought it wouldn’t be when she arrived at the Lyceum. She was the first trans Maid in the history of the Lyceum. Someone might think that would instantly mean she would either fall in love with one of the other Maids, or create some sort of love triangle, or have extensive amounts of sex with the other Maids, but no. She was just a Maid like the rest of them. It didn’t matter what happened when she was born.

The Zephyr she was waiting for finally pulled in. She tossed her food wrapper away and ran over to the platform. Sure enough, in the sea of people flooding in, she saw the white hair of Anastasia and the red hair of Jun. As soon as a path opened, she rushed in.

“Hey, kid!” Jun said and messed up her hair. “What’s my favorite Maid been up to?”

Karima raised an eyebrow. “I thought Anastasia would be your favorite Maid.”

Jun leaned in closely and whispered. “Hey, don’t let her hear you say that. It’s a secret between you and me.” She winked and Karima laughed.

Anastasia punched Jun in the side. “Are you two done? I’d like to go eat something.” They began to walk off the platform, and off to whatever restaurant Jun would inevitably decide to go to.

Offline Meliran

Re: Sisters and Daughters: An Analysis On Maids - A MaidRPG Fanfic
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2017, 02:53:29 am »
OK, managed to finish this story. My thoughts in the spoiler~

This story has a lot of strong points. You are really good at writing action sequences - something I'm pretty pitiful at. I really did enjoy the final sequence. But more than all of that, I enjoyed the calm time in the nunnery, at least that's what I thought of it as. You also made some pretty well defined characters throughout the story, and had enough cameos to perk up the attention of the reader with familiarity of the universe.

5 things I think could be improved:
1. The story's main conflict took a while to develop. Like, at the start it seemed like the conflict was going to be about being a male maid, and that turned to the rogue maid, which turned into the actual conflict about halfway through the story. I'd have like a lot more on the rogue organization at the start to keep it a constant conflict.
2. Too many names are obscured for too long. Like, Iva being "the rogue maid" or Cordelia as "the white-haired maid."
3. This is my main dilemma now in my own writing - avoiding talking heads. Let us see their entire body language instead of saying how they're smiling, where they're looking, and the shrugs of their shoulders. If it involve body language below the shoulders, it's on the right track.
4. The whole male maid thing seems a bit forced. Like, I feel it could be removed from the story and nothing of much importance would've been lost. I'd like to have seen more conflict internally and externally over it.
5. I sorta felt like when they returned to Lyceum, that day out bit was kinda unneeded. I felt like there were better ways to establish their relations than that through stuff which advanced the plot.

Online Deeox2

Re: Sisters and Daughters: An Analysis On Maids - A MaidRPG Fanfic
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2017, 03:38:48 am »
OK, managed to finish this story. My thoughts in the spoiler~

This story has a lot of strong points. You are really good at writing action sequences - something I'm pretty pitiful at. I really did enjoy the final sequence. But more than all of that, I enjoyed the calm time in the nunnery, at least that's what I thought of it as. You also made some pretty well defined characters throughout the story, and had enough cameos to perk up the attention of the reader with familiarity of the universe.

5 things I think could be improved:
1. The story's main conflict took a while to develop. Like, at the start it seemed like the conflict was going to be about being a male maid, and that turned to the rogue maid, which turned into the actual conflict about halfway through the story. I'd have like a lot more on the rogue organization at the start to keep it a constant conflict.
2. Too many names are obscured for too long. Like, Iva being "the rogue maid" or Cordelia as "the white-haired maid."
3. This is my main dilemma now in my own writing - avoiding talking heads. Let us see their entire body language instead of saying how they're smiling, where they're looking, and the shrugs of their shoulders. If it involve body language below the shoulders, it's on the right track.
4. The whole male maid thing seems a bit forced. Like, I feel it could be removed from the story and nothing of much importance would've been lost. I'd like to have seen more conflict internally and externally over it.
5. I sorta felt like when they returned to Lyceum, that day out bit was kinda unneeded. I felt like there were better ways to establish their relations than that through stuff which advanced the plot.

Wow, that was some really good feedback.


I do think some of the points you made were greatly exacerbated because when I started writing I had like five things that I wanted to have happen and I had no idea how they were going to get strung together. I should plan things out better!

Anyway, yeah, that talking head thing? That's a really good point. I don't think I've ever really thought about that.