endl[E]ss cycle - Chapter 62 - Decima (AngstyChaosMagicUser) (2024)

Chapter Text

They set out from the Resistance Camp at a steady run, jumping to the rooftops as soon as they're able. And usually they'd use this route to minimize the number of hostile encounters they have to deal with, but…

"We should do a broad sweep," Two says, eyeing a mid-sized group of shielded stubbies and a few large bipeds ambling around a stream that cuts across a major road. Their eyes glow a faint red. "Clear out any path we might take on our way back." (It's… Odd to think of herself as Two, but - it doesn't hurt as much as '2B' or '2E,' and she likes the connection to Nines.)

"That'll slow down them filling back in," Nines muses, crouching beside her on the ruined skyscraper's edge. "Though it might provoke a wider response."

"Then we'll kill a wider number of machines," Two says flatly, and rolls her eyes when Nines grins at her.

"Knew you were bored with these milk runs," he chirps, a teasing grin plastered across his face.

"It sounds like," she says, keeping her tone carefully level and not at all amused, "You want some practice with melee in your new body."

"Whoah, wait, Two, uh I'm really better at ranged - " he squeaks, smile disappearing, but he fails to dodge quickly enough when she grabs the back of his jacket, and he then fails to effectively resist her when she flings him off the edge.

She has no idea what he's screaming about. He got his sword under him in time to turn the fall into a downwards attack (and a very useful shockwave that scatters the gathered machines), Pod 153 realized what Two was about to do before he did and could have caught him, and Executioner chassis are tough anyways.

Two lets her lips twitch a little, then says to her own Pod: "Let Sevens know we're doing a sweep. We'll catch up to her at the safehouse at the halfway point." Sevens had apparently taken the initiative of asking to be assigned to the patrols in that direction, so she's actually now ahead of her team. (Two doesn't know whether to be exasperated at the recklessness or proud at the initiative.)

She is, however, definitely exasperated with the way Nines is fighting far below her. "Stop running and break their shields!" she sends down to him. "You'll get nowhere at this rate."

"Two," he sends back, "Help!"

"If you have the energy to whine, you have the energy to fight," she replies, entirely reasonably. That gets a groan from him - but he does stop talking and start fighting, even if his style is a chaotic mess. He clearly isn't used to his new strength yet, nor to the responsiveness of his evasive system, and he apparently hasn't yet processed that he now has a second slot in his NFCS.

Helpfully, she throws Virtuous Dignity down to him. (She isn't mean, so it does take out a biped that was closing behind him.) "Use both your NFCS slots to their fullest potential," she advises, putting her hands on her hips.

"I don't have spear fighting routines - !"

And then another large biped lunges for him, and his sword is wholly insufficient for keeping it at a distance. He squeaks and grabs her spear as he throws himself out of the way, then brings it up like he's swinging a bat (terrible, he clearly needs more training) and slams it into the machine's side. He's at least strong enough now to send it flying when he does that, whereas a week ago he probably would've at most annoyed it.

He looks down at her spear and then at the machine with fairly clear surprise. She bites down on the urge to tell him to pay attention, though her black box does start racing, her mind accelerating and her body shifting into ambush mode, as she carefully tracks enemy movements to see if she'll need to intervene.

Luckily, Nines breaks out of his surprise even before the machines can properly register the potential opening. Golden circles of light race down Virtuous Dignity's length as he slots it into his NFCS - his hands glow almost like he's about to hack something, but he doesn't target the machines - and then he grins, shifts her spear into a more confident left-hand grip -

- And throws it at the large biped he'd knocked over, dead center and perfectly targeted to hit the seam between chest and head at a slightly upwards angle. It's farther than his NFCS should reach, more in the range she'd expect him to use the Pod, and she looks on in interest as he seamlessly turns, Cruel Oath in his right hand, to parry a machine that was sneaking up behind him - Virtuous Dignity spins back into his hand, and he stumbles briefly, apparently unsure what to do with two weapons - has to dodge suddenly, then dodges and jumps back a few times to give himself distance - throws his sword on a twirling arc while Virtuous Dignity floats in front of him, slashing in broad though inexact arcs -


"Hey Pod," Two says, "Remind me to ask Nines for combat data when he's done."

If he wants to convince her to not bodily toss him into machine lifeform nests, he isn't doing a very good job of it. This is pretty clearly working well as a training technique. However, her own itch to join in is… Well, it's a little bit distracting. Though since he's her orientee, it'd be - appropriate, for her to get him his own spear, and then they can fight like this side by side.

Especially once she gets her swords back, she tries not to think, because it sends a flash of incredibly unproductive anger through her chest -

Which is when she glimpses a humanoid figure in the distance, backlit and difficult to make out details, but it lands on a far off roof, long white hair flowing behind it, catching the light -

Two can't give chase, she can't abandon Nines - she looks at him to verify how he's doing, and he is holding his own -

But when she glances back, a bare fraction of a second later, the figure is gone like it was never there.

"Pod," she whispers urgently, the pointless hairs on the back of her neck rising as her pulse speeds up even more, as her body tries to shift of its own accord towards a running-oriented mode, "Did you see an android over there?" And she pushes the approximate location.

"Negative," Pod 042 responds. "This Pod's sensors were focused entirely on observing Unit 9S."

Two takes a deep breath, and then wrenches her eyes away from what her gut tells her must have been A2, back to Nines' fight against the machines.

Nines is finally feeling like he's actually in the groove of the fight - possibly getting a bit ahead, instead of frantically racing to make sure his enemy predeceases him - when Two drops like a rocket out of the sky, fist crumpling a large biped, breaking her fall apparently just enough that she can flip off it - she takes out a stubby with a powerful roundhouse kick - then lands at his back, breath unusually harsh.

"What - ? Two, what's going on?" he asks, turning his attention more urgently to scanning their surroundings. She wouldn't have interfered unless he was in serious danger, that was pretty obvious - but he doesn't see anything -

"We need to get moving," she snaps, as her Pod swings into place beside her and joins Pod 153 in shooting down machines.

"Stat?" he asks, as he tosses her spear to her. It disconnects from his NFCS as it hits her palm, immediately slotting into hers. (It's a relief, honestly. Managing two weapons while fighting is hard.)

She demolishes a stubby's shield with a precise swipe of her spear, opening it to attack by her Pod - she's clearly hesitating - both of them have to twist apart as a large biped closes far too quickly, but they're learning each other and while Two goes high, twisting her body with the force of her swing, Nines goes low, throwing his sword to hit its knees - it goes down in that one coordinated blow - Two lands on her feet. "I saw A2," she says.

Who is very, very fast. (And very, very dangerous.)

"If she's made a run for it - we'll already be following her trail," he points out.

Two huffs. "I know," she grits out. "Let's finish here."

He nods, sharply, stepping back into formation with her as more machine lifeforms approach. They're down to only one large biped at least, and after that the stubbies are mostly nuisances even with the shields. The last one falls soon enough with both androids in the fight - though he can pretty easily tell it isn't soon enough for Two.

He does a quick scanning pulse - "Hostiles eliminated," he confirms. Then: "Pod, activate pursuit mode." He isn't familiar enough with his new configuration to make all those tweaks himself. Pod 153 can, though shifting into such a dramatically different mode is… Weird. He takes a deep breath to steady himself, then tells Two, "I've got your back - Pod, focus on scanning for androids."

"Acknowledged," Pod 153 says, falling in behind him as he falls into step with Two. They're apparently going back to the rooftops, though in an arc that'll take them away from Pascal's Village if they keep following it. Nines focuses on their surroundings, trying to ignore the sick feeling in his gut.

Pod 042 relays the information on where Two reported seeing A2 to both him and Pod 153, and he frowns and replies: "Can you send me the image file?" It'd have to be pulled from her memory, of course, which most androids find way too intimate - but she's shared memories with him before, and this is important anyways.

"Once we reach that point," Two says stubbornly. Nines sighs, but he can't exactly argue - sorting memories to extract a single file, especially one still held in short term memory storage, can be difficult even when not sprinting over rooftops in pursuit mode. They're only a couple seconds out at max speed anyways - "We're here," Two abruptly says, and Nines skids a bit as he pulls up short.

"I'll run scans - can you get that image to me?" Nines reminds her.

She frowns ever so faintly - it'd be a thunderous scowl on anyone else - but does nod once. She does look around, gaze darting over the surrounding buildings while she's presumably doing that processing, but Nines elects to ignore that. His own scans are more effective, anyways - he puts Pod 153 on detailed short range scans, while he does quick visual scans in the near field and more detailed in the far field -

He spots the hair very quickly. A single long white hair, in fact, even as his early scans tell him there's no black boxes in range. Plenty of machines, even a Resistance member - but no YoRHa. He picks up the hair, rolling it between his fingers, then takes off his glove to investigate it a bit better. "Composition is similar to YoRHa hair filaments…" he says, a bit dubiously. "But I'm not picking up any black boxes."

"A2 is able to cloak her function, and possibly has our stealth function," Two grits out, though she sends him a short memory clip from when she spotted the mystery figure. It's… Not very conclusive, and Two doesn't have the kinds of onboard instruments he does. Still, he makes a safe copy of the clip and starts running enhancement and analysis programs over it. "Besides," Two adds after a moment's breath, "We can't assume she isn't more familiar than us with the tunnels here."

He makes a face. "Yeah. We really need to map those, pronto…" On top of the numerous other directions they're constantly being pulled in. He shakes his head. "I can't find a trail away from here, though. It's like she just vanished." He sighs at Two's frown. "Though there is a signal consistent with Resistance cores nearby. Whoever that was might have seen something, or might know how to vanish quickly around here."

"Alright. Where?" Two says, probably trying to sound calm and even, but, uh.

"...Why don't I do the talking?" Nines says, a bit sheepishly. "You might… Come on a bit strong."

"Fine." She glances away, the motion sharp. "I can investigate this area more."

He opens his mouth to agree, but -

There's still that sick feeling in his gut. "I'm not comfortable splitting up," he says after a moment, sounding out the thought even as he speaks it. "I don't know why, but - "

"You're a scanner," Two interrupts him, though her posture is tense. "It's your job to evaluate the situation. If you say it's unsafe to split up, then we won't."

He shoots her a relieved smile. "Thanks."

She nods jerkily, then pauses. "...Sevens is still ahead." Her posture tightens. "Pod, contact Pod 312. Inform 7S that 9S and I will be delayed, and that we are investigating a possible hostile android. She is ordered to remain at the Resistance safehouse, and to stay with other androids until this order is countermanded, or until we arrive at the safehouse. If she cannot do both, she is to prioritize staying in contact with other androids."

"Affirmative," Pod 042 intones.

Nines sends Two a questioning look. "Isn't that kinda a lot?" he asks.

She shakes her head, though. "We don't know what's going on, the enemy has some kind of advanced stealth function and is possibly following us, and you have a bad feeling about splitting up," she points out. "Listen to your gut - how many machines have you ambushed like this?"

He makes a face. "A lot." He's had to worry about ambushes by machines himself, too, but - it's never felt like a real possibility since his assignment alongside Two, and he somehow hadn't put those dots together. (...He's probably going to start ambushing other androids soon, too.) "...A2 probably needs to rely on ambush tactics to take out teams."

"Sometimes," Two acknowledges. "She also makes clever use of terrain and of surrounding machine lifeforms."

"I'll be on my guard," he promises, then reruns his far field scans - now is when it pays to be paranoid - but there's only minor changes. The possible Resistance has moved a small amount, there's machines churning around… But still no sign of A2. "I'm marking the possible Resistance android on your map," he informs Two.

She nods. Then: "If you're doing the talking, you should lead."

Not how they usually do it, but: "Alright." He takes off (with Pod 153 trailing enough to keep an eye on Two) across the rooftops. The Resistance android's on one of the lower rooftops, moving through some jagged ruins… Nines spots him before being spotted, and sends to Two over private comms, "Is it me, or is he acting shifty?"

"We can't investigate everything," Two points out, probably reasonably, though she quickly relents a little with, "But we can keep our eyes open for trouble."

"Right." Nines pauses only briefly - this really isn't a major concern - and the guy is acting really shifty. He's on his own, for one, even though Lily has a pretty strong policy discouraging that, and he's looking around with hurried glances like someone who expects to get caught at any moment. He could just be nervous about the machines, of course, but there aren't really any nearby.

Nines jumps down to the floor a solid distance from the Resistance member - the guy jumps, but Nines calls out, "Hey, had a quick question."

The guy turns to them - looks away - pretty visibly forces himself to look confidently at Nines, an awkward smile on his face. "You're YoRHa, right? What can I do to help?"

"We're looking for another android that came this way. Have you seen anyone recently?" Nines asks, deciding at the last moment to keep things a bit vague.

"Uh, no," the guy says, then rubs the back of his head with a nervous laugh. "Usually isn't anyone right around here. Place's pretty dangerous."

"Then… What are you doing here?" Nines asks, unable to help himself from getting distracted.

"Just - looking for something to help my family," the Resistance android says. "Actually, could you guys help - ?"

…They really do need to get going… "Another time," Nines says after a moment. "We need to finish this mission first. But if you give me your comm code, I can call you when I'm free?"

The guy hesitates, then nods and transmits the a string over. "Good luck with your search," he offers. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of areas to vanish here."

"We've noticed." Nines sighs. "Any you'd recommend checking out?"

"I'll send a map," the guy says quickly. Nines nods and indicates he should send it to Pod 153.

"Thanks," Nines tells him. "We'll - leave you to your stuff." And then he and Two leave before the interaction can spiral more. "This is the weirdest day," he grouches privately at Two. "Something is definitely up with that guy."

"We'll look into it when we have time," she responds. "We need to find A2 right now."

Nines hesitates, then huffs. "You know she's probably long gone, right? And we need to work on that sweep, then get back to Sevens."

Two's quiet for a long stretch, falling back to trail him - he tries not to shoot her too many concerned glances - before saying: "You're right. Let's focus on the mission." She has her Pod let Sevens know they're on their way, and then she and Nines restart their sweep along probable travel paths.

Two doesn't force him to do any other fights solo, though she does insist he participate in melee more, which is… Yeah, he needs practice.

(He keeps an eye on the rooftops around them, on everywhere with a sight line, but he doesn't see a single flash of white - and if Two does, she doesn't tell him.)

endl[E]ss cycle - Chapter 62 - Decima (AngstyChaosMagicUser) (2024)


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