Chapter 7

        Now that Spy was back with his assortment of knives, he invited as much of the team as he could to the inhibitor room later that day. Spy used his headset-mounted hat in lieu of his disguise kit PDA that was still in Sniper's belongings.
        Scout and FemScout were the few other Codename Fortress mercs in attendance. They, along with Spy, were equipped with headsets for quick communication, as well as scatterguns and revolvers in case of an attack.
        Of the Holy Quintet girls, Madoka was joined by Homura and Sayaka, all in their school uniforms. Homura was only there to console Madoka and hopefully get the chance to suggest a course of action against the Time Police. Sayaka, however, also invited someone else to come look at Spy's knives.
        As Spy began to lay out his knives one by one on the floor, FemScout hastily yelled into the comm lines.
        "Medic, would you kindly move your ass to the freaking dispenser-point?!"
        At the main lobby of Drogentote Medical, Medic finally chose to head to the outdoor fountain. He had heard FemScout's impatient demand over his headset to go to the "dispenser-point"-- the mercs' term for a mental inhibitor. However, unbeknownst to the others, a tall black-haired man in a labcoat was scrutinizing Medic at this very moment, preventing him from going anywhere.
        "Hold thy tongue," ordered the man. "You are addressing the rabbit hole’s preeminent denizen: Hououin Kyouma!" Upon introducing himself by his nickname, the man then bent his arms in front of him in a distinct pose. His real name was Rintaro Okabe, a name he blatantly refused to go by.
        Medic spoke up. "Idiot! I must get to the--"
        "A hearty hail and well-met will suffice," interrupted Rintaro. "Mark me, my poor signed friend. One of these days, you’ll despair to have missed even the least of my utterances."
        Just then, Kurisu stepped out of the waiting room through the nearby bloodstained door.
        "What did you try to tell me earlier?" she asked Medic. "You tried to tell me something fifteen minutes ago, remember?"
        However, Kurisu's long inquiry gave Rintaro enough time to recognize her.
        "Well, lookie here," he announced.
        Kurisu was shocked that a guy like him could find his way here. She was left speechless, but quickly frowned at him.
        Rintaro began his request by using another nickname, this time on the red-haired girl. "Christina, I want you to dispense with the attitude and come back to the lab on assignment."
        "You can at least stick to calling me one name," muttered Kurisu.
        Their argument was interrupted when they heard an electric bullet being shot into the nearby operating room.
        "What? Seriously?" blurted Rintaro.
        Another electric bullet. And this time, there was a pained Scottish-accented scream loud enough to be heard from the operating room.
        A distinct klaxon sounded over Medic's headset.
        "Move! Schnell!" ordered Medic as he and Kurisu made their way inside.
        Rintaro paused. He knew he heard those electric bullets before. But he had other things to worry about, so he took out his red cell phone and muttered half-heartedly into it.
        "Sorry, no dice. My sources say it was probably just a rumor. El Psy Kongroo."
        That oughta throw that big French guy off his tracks for now.


*   *   *

        The inhibitors displayed the "Security breach detected" notice once more. FemScout used the primary inhibitor and managed to open a video signal to the Drogentote Medical operating room for the others to see.
        The viewscreen showed Pyro and Demoman lying in crumpled heaps on the floor right next to Heavy and Sniper.
        As Medic appeared onscreen, he yelled, "Pyro and Demo are down!"
        Kurisu was then shown with a hand over her mouth, in disbelief over the attack. She then quickly turned away as if to hide her expression.
        The team's ringtone sounded.
        The Fugitive's voice returned to the comm lines. "Resurrection Movement, this was pretty much inevitable. I think we should probably get today's thing over with."
        "Ja," agreed Medic.
        "Wait... Medic, why aren't you at the fountain?" asked the Fugitive. "And why is--?"
        "Ahem." Spy cleared his throat.
        "Spy, I did not forget about you, okay?" asserted the Fugitive. "Just get those knives out on display."
        "Welcome to the we-lose-once-again-fest," muttered Medic as he finally decided to head out of the decrepit hospital.
        Kurisu was too shocked over the new headshot attacks to even consider slapping her hand against her face.
        "Voila!" Spy exclaimed once he was ready.
        With no table in the room, his knives were laid out, blades exposed, on the floor in front of him as he stood next to the primary inhibitor. They ranged from several foldable butterfly-knives-- some of which had intricate flower designs on the handles-- and medieval-style daggers, to an oversized voodoo pin, a kunai, a taped-up switchblade...
        And a dark gray dagger of a futuristic symmetrical design. Its blade was separated in two by a lengthwise gap, and its cross-like handle had a circular hole near the center.
        Scout and FemScout chuckled a bit as they looked over the collection, while Madoka smiled at the flower-patterned knives. She knew they were dangerous in skilled hands, but she couldn't help saying, "Whoa, how pretty!"
        "I spare no expense on luxuries," quipped Spy.
        Homura's attention, however, was drawn to a custom black-handled butterfly knife with a black skull on it and a long sharp green crystal as its blade. She couldn't seem to figure out the knife's significance.
        The Fugitive then spoke over the comm systems. "Well, one of them's gotta work on Miss Strength... really well. I mean, I could suggest something."
        Spy picked up the futuristic dagger as soon as a pink-haired girl in a waitress uniform arrived in the room, much to Sayaka's delight.
        "What's up?" the girl greeted. She was known as Lisbeth, and though she played as a blacksmith in video games, she somehow felt amazed when she appraised Sayaka's sword over a year ago.
        Once Sayaka saw her friend's arrival, she stood tall and proudly faced the others. "Ask us anything you want. Fire away."
        "Sayaka, don't be rude," Madoka warned with an embarrassed smile.
        "This is gonna be fun," noted Lisbeth.
        "Okay, Lisbeth, just say which one you think we should use," said the Fugitive.
        Lisbeth didn't seem to mind that there was someone who spoke through the inhibitor systems. She looked over half of Spy's knife collection before she began to focus on the futuristic dagger and the skull knife. She felt as if there was something peculiar about those knives, much like that striped katana that Sayaka showed her recently.
        Lisbeth replied, "Hmm... Kinda hard for me to say." Her gaze fell on the dagger for a moment. Then she blinked, stepped over to the primary inhibitor, and spoke up. "Yup. But if you wanna find out what it is, get ready."
        The team members watched as Lisbeth placed her hand onto the inhibitor's frontal column.
        A signal scramble produced an archive image. It was a close-up of the dagger being held in someone's hand. The primary inhibitor was interpreting where Lisbeth remembered seeing the dagger several years ago.
        "Woo hoo!" cheered Scout.
        But just as soon as the image appeared, the viewscreen became layered with grainy noise. Lisbeth hit the inhibitor a few times in exasperation, but suddenly it shut off.
        A message appeared on the now-blank viewscreen:


Strike the parallel

        Everyone in the room looked at each other in confusion, except for Spy.
        "Very nice, yea?" said Spy as he held the dagger out in his hand. "The pièce de résistance."
        The team members looked at the dagger, Lisbeth worriedly faced the viewscreen while she groaned, "Please don't remind me..." But soon, she faced the team without a worry, gestured to the inhibitor behind her, and said, "Don't tell me you haven't heard?"
        Those were the last words she spoke before an electric shock froze her up and sent her spiralling away while a bright light surrounded her.
        Sayaka groaned as soon as the time-screw pulled Lisbeth away.
        After the team's ringtone sounded again, the Fugitive's voice returned.
        "Team, if you're there... I don't know why that picture from years ago showed up, but I'm very sure that dagger in that picture is the only thing that will take Miss Strength down."
        As the team members listened, they checked to make sure they had their weapons and Soul Gem rings.
        The Fugitive continued. "I mean, that Back Scatter gun that Homura used seemed to work a couple months ago, too. You just gotta get past those giant metal hands."
        By this time, Homura had stepped up to the inhibitor and placed her hand onto it.
        The coastline map with lambda-symbols and the square-claw logo appeared on the viewscreen.
        "You see that?" asked FemScout.
        "Aw, geez!" Scout reacted once he saw the map.


*   *   *

        Meanwhile, near the outdoor fountain, Elsa was showing Mami and Kyoko the copy of the coastline map that Spy gave her.
        "Why not? I think I can handle it," assured Elsa.
        Mami and Kyoko were enjoying the chocolates that Elsa had brought, with Kyoko expressing great delight as she stuffed a piece into her mouth with a gulp.
        Mami nodded.
        "Sounds good to me," agreed Kyoko as she stuffed another piece into her mouth. "Getting kinda boring around here, anyway. Gotta shake things up, you know what I'm saying?"
        The three of them suddenly heard the loud electric whoosh of Soldier's Tux penguin. But they didn't know that.
        "That was very odd," noted Elsa.
        "Odd like how?" Kyoko asked before she caught herself and blinked.
        None of the three knew that a woman with red horns and dark red hair was nearby. The woman, known as Black Gold Saw, was determined to fight Strength and defeat her. But it seemed, to her, as though no one on the team she once assisted, in their fight against Black Rock Shooter over a year ago, considered Strength's takedown as their main task. She felt she had to take matters into her own hands.
        Black Gold Saw then quietly hid behind a building so that the three ladies in the area would not see her.
        For now.
        March 12, 2015.
        Kyoko would soon have other things on her mind as she used the primary inhibitor by herself just over a week later. She tapped the frontal column a few times and then placed her palm onto it before she began to leave a message for the Fugitive. "This ain't a game," she asserted. "Not everyone can do this job."
        A two-tone electronic alarm caught Kyoko off guard and made her sigh in exasperation.
        The inhibitor began to play back the Fugitive's voice. He sounded as if he was in a panic.
        "And I wanna say this, and I think Madoka knows about it too, but I don't want anyone else to know."
        Kyoko had accidentally triggered the Fugitive's fateful recording, which he made on the day he was almost murdered on December 16, 2012. She was one of the few Resurrection Movement members who had not heard the recording.
        The Fugitive's voice continued. "Okay, look, it was four months ago, but...
        I made a deal with a devil. A. Devil."

        The fact that the Fugitive, their team commander, even did such a nefarious act defied Kyoko's beliefs so much, it caused her wide-mouthed gasp to become a snarl as she slammed her fist onto the inhibitor.
        The recording stopped.
        Just then, Annie arrived at the inhibitor room and spoke up right away with her usual scowl. "It's a crapshoot, anyway," she declared.

        "What do you mean?" Kyoko replied as she turned around.
        "Forget it," muttered Annie. "Point is, only the idiots take this part seriously. Idiots, whatever they are."
        "Stop right there," warned Kyoko.
        Annie quickly stepped right in front of Kyoko and continued to speak. "First rule of this life, kid: The better you are at dropping the bad guys, the more distance the powers-that-be put between you."
        "The only people who should do this are the ones who've got no other choice," countered Kyoko. "Anyone else who sticks their nose in it--"
        "That's what this whole stupid farce is about."
        "Yeah, but you never know, right?"
        Pew pew POW!
        The bright flashes of a time-screw dropped someone into the inhibitor room.
        While Annie took her fighting stance without a second thought, Kyoko quickly summoned her spear through her Soul Gem. The both of them saw that the person who got thrown in was Squigly, the zombie-like girl who was with them two months ago.
        Squigly felt too weak to stand up, even with her body under control from her snake-like parasite. She unsteadily pointed at the primary inhibitor and groaned weakly, "Don't... trust them...."
        Kyoko took a glance at the inhibitor just as Annie stepped right in front of her.
        "Face it. You don't fight the nature of things and win," declared Annie. "Look around you. All the sons of bitches really expect us to do is play the game. Don't be a pawn."
        Having finished her stern warning, Annie strolled out of the room.

        Kyoko frowned as she looked back and forth between the downed Squigly and the inhibitor machine that essentially proved to her that the Fugitive committed an unforgivable sin. She then had a sneering grin on her face as she realized that it was okay to hate the Fugitive's guts.
        And that meant it was okay to ditch the team.
        Kyoko decided, right then and there, to stop the team in their tracks the next time they went off to fight the Opposition.




Chapter 8 >