Louise: What makes you think my familiar is something other than a simple human commoner? Kirche: When he put his hands on your shoulders, I saw his face change. Louise: Who wouldn't want to make faces at a shameless woman like you? Kirche: This is serious, Vallière. You remember that sound it made? I know you heard it because you looked up. Your familiar's face changed. It started wearing your face.
There are many Zero no Tsukaima fics where Louise summons a different person at the beginning of the story, providing dynamics parallel to or wildly disparate from those in canon. In very few of those stories, though, is the summoned being an unstoppable, betentacled monstrosity fresh from (literally) chewing his way through most of the U.S. Marine Corps.Started in the wake of The Hill Of Swords on the SpaceBattles Fanfiction Forum, Unfamiliar, by Cpl_Facehugger, is a crossover between Zero no Tsukaima and Prototype, where Louise summons Alex. It's actually less unfair than the premise sounds (no Mercer Attacks Everyone Dies, for example).Yes, seriously.See Prototype and Zero no Tsukaima for the tropes of those respective universes.
Unfamiliar provides examples of the following tropes:
Anti-Hero: Alex, obviously. He's less a good guy and more an independent, sapient killing machine that happens to hang out with the good guys, and lacks a firm grasp on that whole 'ethics' thing.
Anti-Villain: Discussed in Alex's internal monologue. "Why was it that everyone always had to have sympathetic reasons for being his enemies? Why couldn't he ever have to kill someone who was just a raving murderer, driven by hate and evil and an urge to kick puppies?"
Asexuality: Alex doesn't care for human notions of romantic love; viruses, even humanoid ones (presumably), don't reproduce that way, after all.
Authority Equals Asskicking: King Albrecht Wales, who takes positively ridiculous amounts of punishment. Hinted that he's not fully human.
Henrietta, showing that one can be the most Badass person in the realm without being a One-Man Army
"Allow me to promise you this, Karin: If you cross me, I will break you. I will use your family as an example of those who oppose me. There are but two options. You can join the tsunami or you can be crushed underneath it. I'll drag Tristain into the future whether you like it or not."
Alex: "I tear your arms off and use them as clubs to beat down the man next to you. By then the arms are getting pretty bruised and tender, so I simply tear the next man's spine out. Now, a spine is a useless weapon, no matter what literature would tell you. So from there, I start gutting your men like fish and feasting upon their delicious flesh. Perhaps I could even skip the gutting and start when you're alive." Mercer replied. "Either way, I proceed on to the rest of your gang and kill them too."
Alex: "I survived the heat of a newborn sun! I survived a building collapsing on me! I've survived things you can't even imagine! If that's your best shot, you better start running!"
Alex: "Individuals can't win wars where I'm from. The wars are too big for that," Mercer leaned in, giving her a cold grin. "Unless that individual is me."
Karin: "Nobles have always policed themselves. Some abuses are the price we pay for the freedoms we cherish."
Henrietta: "That must change. Justice is the word of law, not the perverse whimsy of men like Lord Mott. And change it will. My mother will not be queen forever.
Henrietta: "Then, I will no longer have to hide in the shadows and sign minor reforms in her name. When that day comes, you will have two options. You can support me and secure the Vallière family's future... Or you can obstruct me, and I will grind you to dust underneath my heel."
Berserk Button: Okay, Alex, as in canon, has more of a Berserk Switchboard, but of importance to the story is his insistence that you never treat people like things. You can insult them, hate them, kill them, whatever, but you acknowledge them as people who can think, just like you, not tools to be used or toys to be played with or animals to be caged, even if they're peasants and you're a noble. It doesn't just apply to him, either, though he reacts violently to Mott calling him Louise's "pet".
He also really hates Blackwatch. His joy at finding the armory full of modern weapons is sullied when he realizes it's a Blackwatch armory.
Break the Haughty: Many of Alex's actions at the beginning of the story are about systematically doing this to Louise, showing her that she cannot and will not control him.
Broken Pedestal: Alluded to by Karin, who thinks that putting Louise on the throne as a puppet would be a bad idea because of this.
Call Back: Several regarding the events of Prototype.
Cargo Cult: In a way. They are a bunch of descendants of the Blackwatch group that got stranded that are continuing the mission and protecting the base. Also they lampshaded it a bit.
"What do you think we are, superstitious barbarians who worship anything that's shiny?" The cult leader replied. “We may venerate our ancestors and respect them, but we know they were human just as we are today. And we know their weapons are mortal weapons, made by man to slay his enemies."
Cargo Ship: In-universe, Alex shows a bit too much affection for the Javelin.
And just like the Doomguy, he ditches the Javelin when he stumbles upon a stocked Blackwatch base, complete with helicopter gunship.
Just a simple gust of wind, just like his memories showed him. Nothing. Probably because he'd not expected anything to happen. He had dozens of scientific degrees telling him that it was impossible after all.
Also counter-used by Alex twice.
"You don't believe you can do it. That's why it's not working. Magic won't work if you don't believe you can do what you want."
"This base is powered on electricity, and that won't change just because you deny it."
"It'll be fun! In fact, let's go down there right now and introduce ourselves with a great big surprise stab! Like surprise sex, except even more fun!"
The spoilered character has a personality that's very similar to Lilarcor of Baldur's Gate II.
Cool Airship: Alex gets a helicopter in the Blackwatch station.
Cruel Mercy: Foquet/Matilda is spared, but will be watched closely by Alex from then on. One slip and Alex will go after her.
“I wanted to punish the Flame Snake. ... But seeing him here... Any punishment I dole out is just going to be weak next to what he's already doing to himself. The cruel thing will be to let him live."
Curb-Stomp Battle: Guiche, Montmorency, Kirche, and Tabitha all gang up on Mercer. Mercer takes them out in less than a minute.
Alex still has a hard time with Kirche's flame spell, though. It became a war of endurance.
If by a hard time, you mean walking it off in a few seconds and replying that he "survived the heat of a newborn sun", sure.
The duel between Mott and Mercer ends the same way. But this time with Mercer killing him slowly.
According to Word of God, this will be averted in the Hold the Line scene in the original story, when Saito holds off the army of 70,000 men.
Cynicism Catalyst: In this continuity, Dana never came out of her coma and eventually passed away; Alex is therefore left with no emotional ties to his old world and a vacancy for a young adopted sibling to alternately protect with his life and unintentionally horrify. Until he meets Louise, he starts to lose any sense of humanity he may have formed after the events of the game.
Dangerous Deserter: There are some who have turned to piracy and taken a warship with them. Except they aren't.
Darker and Edgier: A lot. Where do we start? How about... Alex only being summoned in a second, half-crazed attempt? Henrietta being a firm practitioner of Good Is Not Nice?
Deconstruction Fic: The story closely examines the dark implications of the abuse that Louise would often inflict on Saito by using Mott as a more extreme example. And when Louise is confronted with how much of a sadist she can be after she has Alex kill him, she's notably horrified.
The Dreaded: The viral monsters created by Redlight and Blacklight are scary in their own right, but after six thousand years they have become apocalyptic monsters of legend. Siesta's reaction when she realizes that Alex is ZEUS says it all.
Even Heroic Sociopaths Have Standards: Louise notes that Alex's kills, while incredibly brutal and bloody, are also very quick. Mott prefers to draw out the suffering of his victims and break their wills along with their bodies.
Kirche also mentions that Germania, which likes to think of itself as sexually liberal, banned the book A Thousand and One Albion Nights, which Mott drew from, as being too depraved.
"And if they ban it in Germania of all places, it must be really sick."
In terms of actual villains, Wardes prefers to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties - he's insistent on any deaths he causes being meaningful. Note, however, that he has an extremely broad definition of 'meaningful'.
Evil Sounds Deep: The leader of the cultists maintaining the Blackwatch base has a "low and sinister" voice.
Face Death with Dignity: Foquet makes a point of keeping her dignity intact once Alex has her at his mercy, simply requesting that they pass a message on to Tiffania. Luckily for her, he spares her life.
Feel No Pain: When Louise first tries whipping Alex. She's extremely sore at the end of the session, and he is far from fazed.
Finagle's Law: Mercer grumbling to himself as he glides towards an enemy airship.
"Should've brought the chopper," Mercer muttered, barely able to hear his own voice over the wind rushing all around him as he glided towards the enemy. "No, it's too obvious I said. I won't run into anything I can't kill myself I said. I should've known Murphy would screw with me."
Also, Louise about Henrietta some degree. Entrusting her with all your secrets is not a great move, especially when her first thought is how to use those secrets to remove a potential threat to the throne and the Valiere family. It did have the upside of guilt-tripping her, though.
Horror Hunger: Not that horrific to him, but Alex has to actively rein in his urge to feed. Word of God states that this Alex did not have a civilian all-you-can-eat buffet during the game's events.
As said to Cattleya, "For instance, right now, I'm having to restrain myself from killing you. Not because I have anything against you, but because there's a big part of me that looks at you and sees fresh food. There's another part of me who wants to infect you and make you like me, but that's just the same as killing you. We'd end up with something that looks like you and has all your memories but isn't you."
It's implied that it was less than a standard player's run of the game but more than the "minimal civilian consumption" achievement.
He eventually deals with it by feeding on orcs which he claims aren't truly self-aware.
Humans Are Cthulhu: '[Alex] seemed to be tapping the letters set into its form, and moving around a strange rounded thing that reminded her of a field mouse, if some unthinkably alien mind were to take it and reimagine it according to their sensibilities.'
Humans Through Alien Eyes: Alex is a sapient virus, after all. He knows the rationale and underlying science of stuff, but still doesn't actually understand why people think and act the way they do, lacking proper human intuition. He knows when Louise is upset, but has no idea what to do about it or what to say to make her feel better.
Iron Lady: Henrietta. Karin of the "Heavy Wind" is one of the strongest and most feared warriors in the land, her name told in awed whispers and her mere presence making even Colbert sweat in fright. When she confronts Henrietta thinking she was using her daughter as blackmail material, she not only was unamused, but completely derailed her opinion and called out her nonsense while drinking tea.
Irony: Kirche saying "Tabitha! I need your brain!"
Look at the first Mythology Gag below. Louise tells Alex that she would have stopped before causing permanent damage.
Alex notes the irony when Foquet's mountain-sized golem grabs him with a huge tentacle.
The D-Code Super Soldier being called a Hunter of God. For those of you joining us from the Zero no Tsukaima side, D-Codes were created to kill Hunters.
Kid with the Leash: Although Louise doesn't have anything like complete control over Alex, he'll defer to her if she asks nicely. And he makes it clear that he must be treated as a partner, not a servant or a pet, if Louise wants him following any of her orders. Then again, if she does ask nicely, there's pretty much nothing he won't actually do for her.
Lack of Empathy: Probably the strongest thematic in the story. Just like in the original work, the Lack of Empathy is what can and did create some of the greatest brutalities in the world. And this goes not only for obvious monsters like Mott and the King of Albion, it goes for even the main and secondary characters: Louise and Karin's view of commoners, Siesta's view of nobles, and Mercer's view on humans in general. As stated by Mercer;
You can insult them, hate them, kill them, whatever, but you acknowledge them as "people who can think and feel.".
Mercer in particular has instinctive Lack of Empathy due to his viral nature, and tries even harder to fight it. He also encourages Louise to avert it.
"Belong to?" Montmorency asked, looking at the servant nearest her as if for the first time. "B-but slavery isn't legal in Tristain." "Of course it isn't! Keeping human beings as chattel? Horrible. Absolutely horrible," Mott replied. "I'd never condone such a thing." "So what do you call this," Louise gestured towards the three servants. Her voice came out as a low growl. "If not slavery?" "These aren't people. They're trained dogs." Mott replied. "You can't enslave an animal. You can only tame it."
Note: This is him actually believing it. The man went off the deep end a long time ago.
Mad Bomber: Alex. For him, the bigger the explosion, the better. He even provides the quote for When All You Have Is a Hammer below. It's justified by him having consumed several pyromaniac soldiers.
Alex: After class, I want you to show me your spells; (...) I know they're explosions, but I like explosions. I like them a lot.
Mama Bear: Deconstructed. Karin loves her daughters very much and wants to protect them above all else... so she ended pushing each one beyond their breaking point and refused to even smile in pride of their accomplishments to make them strong. This has left Louise with severe emotional problems and Cattleya's openly questioning if she even cares.
Though Wardes'd have to make sure that damn sword never met Karin. Because he just knew it would start teasing him about having a teacher complex, and how Louise was clearly just a stand in for his mentor, despite that being just as foolish as the idea that he somehow liked undeveloped girls.
Derflinger: "Then we kill it? Because I'm behind that. I'm so behind that I've warped around to being in front of that. And by in front of that I mean I'll stab the hell out of it. Stabbity stab stab-"
Kirche: "Or find it on animals that have absolutely no business carrying money!"
Morality Pet: Louise takes Dana's place in this regard. Alex's memories of Dana sometimes keep him honest...ish.
Moral Myopia: Siesta accuses Louise of this. Henrietta poses a similar question to Karin, though the readers have noted that Henrietta herself is guilty too.
The difference with Henrietta is that her ruthlessness is with people in the game, while Karin was content enough to let Mott act scot free as long it suited her goals. She was not amused by this.
Mugging the Monster: A bunch of bandits see Louise and her "servant" walking alone at night down a blind alley, and think they'll be easy prey. They are disabused of this notion thoroughly when Louise' "servant" makes easy prey of them.
Mundane Utility: When Alex tries to explain electricity by likening it to lightning magic, Montmorency is outraged by the thought of using it for light and likens that to using a fireball for toe-warming.
Mythology Gag: "Imagine you came upon a scene where a woman was beating a man with a bullwhip. Imagine you saw her cackling like an insane harpy, imagine you saw the whip tearing long bloody strips from the man's back... Imagine you saw him begging for mercy."
"Louise thought she felt a slight tug in the back of her mind as she passed a particular shop, one with a bronze sign in the shape of a sword."
"Louise recognized its make, it was a form of training harness, used for training hunting dogs. Enchanted with wind magic, it was able to give a powerful shock on command. But seeing a human being in it made Louise feel ill. She couldn't imagine anyone who would put a person in something like that. She didn't want to imagine anyone who would put a person in something like that."
"Just following orders? That excuse went out of style at Nuremberg," Mercer muttered.
"What does a Germanian township famous for its crab apples have to do with such things?" Cattleya asked, now thoroughly confused.
Necessarily Evil: How Louise and Alex interpret Blackwatch's motives. The fact that the group recognizes their evil and does it for a tenuously good purpose is perceived as what keeps them from Mott's level of depravity.
Brutally mocked by Henrietta to Karin, stating simply that there is no excuse for knowing what Lord Mott did and still protect him to advance her schedule.
The words "kill them" were on the tip of his tongue. But Cattleya's words about how Louise felt responsible for his actions bubbled up from the back of his mind. "-Knock them out so we can interrogate them."
No Social Skills: Alex hasn't improved in this regard since the game. He does not, for instance, see any problem with walking up to a pair of arguing sisters, lifting one off the ground, and threatening her with death unless she makes nice with his mage. It says something that this is actually a step up from where he started.
When Louise starts to fall apart, thinking she's becoming a monster, he's completely unable to do much more than watch in frustration. He didn't even notice Louise was freaking out until Cattleya pointed it out to him.
He also doesn't see anything wrong with reassuring Louise with a hand on the shoulder after she commands him to kill Mott... while the hand was still a claw, covered in gore, and he was feeding on Mott's severed head with his free hand. Granted, he doesn't understand human behavior, but what's commonplace to him is often Nightmare Fuel.
Not So Different: Louise realizes this after she learns Alex's true nature and compares his own struggle with himself to her desire to prove she isn't just "zero".
She frowned; hadn't she begged for exactly what she got? Some powerful monster to be her familiar? Clearly God had a perverse sense of irony.[...]
Something struggling against itself, wanting something new for itself...She laughed. A perverse sense of irony indeed.
Louise was struck by how vicious that last line was, at least for Cattleya.
Another from Louise:
Louise cut her off. Meek Louise cut her off. The shock of that was almost enough to give even Karin pause. The very notion was stunning, like having a battalion of mage-knights wiped out by a farmer's militia.
Now [Erina] was quiet. She never spoke once on the way back, and the only sound she made was the soft inhale/exhale of breathing. And she never, ever smiled. Now she seemed hesitant and frightened and fuck Mott.
Protectorate: Alex's - along with every other familiar's - purpose is to protect the mage he's bound to, and thus far he's shown very willing to threaten and/or murder anything that looks at Louise funny.
Henrietta and Karin's conversation in chapter 9 reminds some people of Wrex and Uvenk's talk in Mass Effect 2. Most especially "I'll drag Tristain into the future whether you like it or not."
Later, Agnes reveals that the reason she survived the Flame Snake's attack was because "Hate is a hell of an anesthetic," taken nearly word-for-word from DLC character Zaeed's description of how he got shot in the head. Interestingly, they both have heavy facial scarring, both seek out a man they're trying to kill (Flame Snake for Agnes, Vido for Zaeed,) and both are... rather good at killing people.
Lord Mott's discussion about how he makes his slaves wear their collars is right out of Silus' description of the same to Carrie Boyd in Fallout: New Vegas.
The Princess' smile was too predatory to be anything else, and her eyes said she'd not been bluffing.
And when Agnes confronts Colbert
It was a smile, yes, but it was different. Malicious, cruel. This was scary. His smile was scary. Matilda realized then that she was seeing the true face of the Flame Snake, perhaps for the first time.
And when Mott begs Louise to spare him.
Louise smiled, eyes wide and gleeful. She didn't even notice Kirche and the others backing away from her.
The Stations of the Canon: Does a good job of mangling this to make the plot more interesting. Louise only summons Alex after the formal class, the duel arc involves Guiche, Kirche, Tabitha, and Montmorency trying to kill him for being a plaguebearer while using Louise as bait, etc.
"So who's resetting those traps then?" Louise asked, more to herself. She almost expected some hideous and reptilian voice to call out "I am," but that only happened in clichéd stories.
This Is Unforgivable: Alex and Louise both say this nearly verbatim when they see what Mott's been up to.
Throw 'Em to the Wolves: Both Inverted and played straight. Louise leaves Mott to the mercy of Alex, intending for her familiar to kill him in a duel... but Alex had been fully intent on killing the guy anyway, and might have done so even without prompt. And Louise definitely didn't avoid getting her hands dirty in the incident, at least how she sees it.
Timey-Wimey Ball: Used to explain how Blackwatch was summoned by the Founder six thousand years before Alex was.
Moreover, Blackwatch from several years after Prototype happened.
Word of God: Cpl_Facehugger has provided some in-depth analysis of how this version of ZnT came to be, including history, technology, personal history, military doctrine, the works. He's shown his work quite extensively.