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Old 03-20-2012, 11:35 AM   #81
Lightysnake
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Rin lay on her side, feeling the warmth of Hei's hand resting on her thigh. She leaned in and brushed her lips against his. She felt him lean in, answering her kiss with his own, and playfully slipped her tongue past his lips.

He caught her, pulling her in closer to feel the warmth of her bare skin against his, rolling her to her back to lie above her. Rin had left her glasses on the bedside, but she could still perceive Hei's handsome face, and see the warmth in his black eyes. She grinned and drew him down for another kiss before gasping as she felt him gently run a hand over her left breast.

"Insatiable tonight, aren't we…?" She asked with a playful smirk. Hei leaned in, running his mouth over the softness of her neck. Rin slid her arms around his shoulders, loving the feel of his firm muscles beneath her hands. She had loved every soft sigh she'd elicited from him. Every caress with her lips or hands gave him a new pleasure…pleasure she'd received in kind.

Rin questioned again how they'd come to this…they'd come a long way from him being the faceless villain she'd attempted to defeat, to becoming allies, partners…then friends…and now lovers. She drew him into a kiss again as she whispered. "I'll protect you, Hei…"

He was inside her again, making her gasp, her back arching as she tightened her arms around him.

"I will protect you, Rin…" His voice was at her ear, soft and gentle. She moved her hips, encouraging him further. "I swear it…"

Grasping one another tight, they moved slowly, savoring one another. Out the windows, the stars continued to burn bright.

Tamotsu Yanagihara was sat in the records room, piecing through every case he could get his hands on. Something didn't seem to be adding up, he thought grimly. He'd had his suspicions recently, but right now? All these cases…Contractor related nearly to a one, all overseen by Director Horai, and almost all of them inconclusive. Or worse, the scent of corruption had been all over some.

Eric Nishijima had been involved in several, involving issues with Pandora, despite it being an allegedly independent research group. What was he doing in frequent contact with Horai? What was more, in several of the records, he'd been able to trace more links to suspicious deaths and potential associations as far back as Yamanobe Genetics. He'd found the records of Detective Isozaki's murder, and the sudden resignation of his partner Kuno from the force.

He closed the file he was looking at, remembering the rumors of some power 'Syndicate,' that was somehow looking more and more likely all the time now that he thought about it. Who did he bring any suspicions to, though? He couldn't trust any member of the force. To tell anyone would make him a target, or them.

There was one he was one hundred percent certain was on the level…Misaki. He knew he could trust her…but to put her in danger…Tamotsu frowned. He'd held her on his knee when he'd been a little girl, he'd visited the Kiriharas for her birthday, he'd swelled with pride as he saw her graduate the academy and accept her badge for the first time.

But…she was still the chief of her own division, a cop who'd faced danger constantly and someone who'd strangled a Contractor to death with her belt just a short time before. She and Mayu Ohtsuka had recovered from the incident faster than he believed possible. Misaki would gladly risk her life in pursuit of justice…

Tamotsu breathed in, setting the records back aside. He had to think on it, and fast. If he was right, the danger was coming from inside the system…

Eric Nishijima picked up his phone. "Nishijima."

"You have a rat sniffing about," the voice said calmly. "Horai and Maxley are on the line as well."

Nishijima took a breath. "We'll…look into it, Apos. I promise. In the mean-"

"Did any of you bother to find out what Yamanobe was actually planning?" Apos sounded…amused. He took their silence for a 'no.'

"I thought not. As for Evening Primrose, was there any progress?"

"Some," Maxley confessed. "We managed to capture a Contractor in their employ…but he used his power to commit suicide rather than-"

"Contractors don't operate like that," Nishijima protested. "They don't kill themselves when-"

"This one did," Maxley growled impatiently. "It's that woman, Amber. She inspires this sort of loyalty. Hei ditched my unit to follow her, along with half the best Contractors in South America."

"In this case," Horai said in a calm tone, "We'll need access to all the Contractors who might be a part of Evening Primrose for better targeting. Nishijima, can you gain access to the classified files?"

"There's not a chance in the world," Nishijima whispered, rubbing his head. "That's the fundamental province of the astronomy or research divisions…And it doesn't ever leave Pandora."

"Then you'll have to take it by force," Apos sounded amused. "I think it would be a delightful shake up. As long as the primary equipment and personnel aren't damaged….and there aren't any of those in the astronomy division."

Maxley seemed to consider it. "Military forces in Pandora…you'd need a hell of an excuse…"

"Your special forces are loyal to the Syndicate and more importantly to you, General," Apos said. "But I could make an excuse for you…keep an eye on the news. As for our little rat…I'll have the details sent, General Maxley. Deal with it soon, won't you?"

Misaki looked up as April walked into the room, grinning merrily. "Misaki!" She said cheerfully, bringing out a can of beer and cracking it open. "Can I tempt you?"

"I don't really drink…"

"You don't really live, you mean," April winked, dropping into the seat across from her. "So, this is your home? Nice place."

"Yep…make yourself at home. Thanks for coming over, April."

April turned serious almost right off. "He's worried about you…it's not every day you hear about…what happened. Decade's keeping him busy, though."

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Old 03-20-2012, 11:36 AM   #82
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"I don't think I've had it as bad as Ohtsuka, but…" Misaki rubbed her head. "Life was so much easier a year ago…no nightmares, no Reaper, no immortals, no angels..."

April set her beer aside. "Misaki, you did what you had to do to save your life and the life of someone else. To a Contractor, that's no choice at all."

"I'm not a Contractor," Misaki said, looking to her.

"You're my friend is what you are," April smiled at her. "Can I let you in on a little secret? We Contractors feel right and wrong the same as anyone else. I've always done my job because I feel it's the right thing to do. I'm able to rationally look at it and decide for myself my options, though. It helps with guilt."

"I'm aware…I didn't have another choice…and the world's probably better off without him…" Misaki sighed. "Ohtsuka took a few days off. She was pretty rattled beside. This whole thing nearly took my mind off Rin."

"So you called me over to have a girl's chat?" April smiled. "That's so bloody human of you. I like it, truth be told. It's nice seeing the great Misaki Kirihara allows herself some vulnerable spots after fighting like such a champion. But if you want my advice…you have to go speak to her. If November did something like that on me, I'd give him the back of my hand for a start…"

Misaki stayed silent. April smiled. "You have to talk to her, Misaki."

"I know," Misaki admitted. "I guess I have issues with trust."

"And here you are, inviting a Contractor into your home! Selective issues." April winked.

Misaki couldn't help but smile. "How do you see it all ending here, April?"

"Logically speaking?" April smiled wider. "In fire. Avalanche's started now, Misaki…pebbles don't get to vote any longer."

Rin had seen Hei off, exchanging smiles and a kiss with him. Her phone rang a short time later. It was the call she'd been dreading for this long.

"Detective Kirihara."

"Detective, Asogi," Misaki's voice said calmly. "Do you have an hour later?"

"To be booked and locked away?"

"To talk," Misaki said sharply. "I was wondering if I could come over. If nobody else would be waiting for me."

"Just a hacker and a war criminal," Rin said dryly, kicking herself mentally. Sarcasm, Rin? Great way to endear yourself to her at this juncture.

"We need to talk."

"I know," Rin said. "You have my address, Misaki. I'll be waiting…"

Misaki didn't take long to arrive at the Asogi Consulting agency. Rin was standing by the door as Misaki exited the car. "Detective Kirihara," Rin said, trying to be as formal as possible. "Come inside."

Misaki looked to Rin when they reached her office. "How long were you lying to me, Rin?"

"After the incident with Carm-…Havoc. The Reap-"

"His name is Hei. Call him that," Misaki interrupted.

"After Hei…you didn't see what I did, Misaki. He saved her from November 11. He saved me several times…he might have saved all humanity from Yamanobe. He saved you from Wei Zhijun."

"I understand all of this," Misaki said. "Rin, the fact remains, he's accused of crimes that you can't just explain away. This is a system I believe in."

"You've noticed by now something is wrong in the system, Misaki!" Rin couldn't contain herself. "Apos is playing it! You go after Hei, he wins! You arrest me, he wins! He wants us at one another's throats!"

"You've barely told me anything about Apos! Stop expecting me to take what you say at face value, Rin!" Misaki's hands balled into fists.

Rin paused before nodding. "Apos is someone who's always chased immortality. He's as old as I am. Maybe older."

"You said he's chasing immortality. How is he that old?"

"Apos feeds on immortals to extend his life. He's killed thousands of them…hundreds of thousands maybe. He's always situated himself in positions of power, manipulating and controlling people to get what he wants. Sayara Yamanobe, the war in South America, what's happening now…he wants me, Misaki. My time fruit is something he's always hungered for. You want to hear me just say it? I'm scared of him! He's stronger than a regular angel, he's the one behind the Syndicate now…Sayara was a game to him, so imagine what he can do when he gets serious. I won't deny it any longer Misaki, Hei and I are together in this, but he has a stake you can't even imagine!"

The phone rang at that moment. Rin blinked and looked. "Tamo…?"

"Put it on speaker," Misaki said, blinking as well. Rin pressed the phone's button.

"Tamotsu? Tamo, it's-"

"Rin, there's no time. I'm at a payphone…I'm sure they have my cellphone tapped at this point."

"Tamo, we've been over-"

"Rin, there's no time! You're the only person I can trust to take this to her…they might be watching me if I try. She said the name 'Apos,' it came up more elsewhere-"

"Apos…Tamotsu, where are you?"

"A few miles out. Listen, Rin, that Syndicate…the police force…it's-" His breath escaped him in a surprised gasp.

"Tamotsu?"

"Uncle Tamo?" Miskai whispered.

"Rin…" Tamotsu's voice sounded strained. "…I think I've just been shot…"

Tamotsu Yanagihara didn't feel pain. He thought that was a bit odd. He felt cold numbness spreading down his legs, and saw the spreading red stain on his shirt. Sniper? It had to be. So he'd been followed. He'd been too careless, after all. And so many rooftops around…why hadn't he considered that…?

"Tamotsu!" he heard her yelling his name. He kept his grip on the phone as he felt his legs buckle, forcing him to his knees.

"Tell me where you are! I'll be right there!" She shouted. "Tamotsu, hang on!"

I really mean that much to you…? He could remember so many years of knowing Rin. He'd never considered himself much more than just another man she'd known in her long, long life. But hearing her now.

"Tamotsu! Tamotsu! Speak to me!"

"Rin…" He whispered her name. "twenty…second avenue…near the cafes…Hey, Rin…?"

"Don't try to talk!"

"That time…we had…" He smiled wistfully, remembering Rin's face…the touch of her hands…the beauty of her smile. He remembered her strength, her resolve, her warmth…

"It was fun…wasn't it…?"

He focused on the one, sweetest memory he had, wanting it to be the last he held to. Her voice seemed to come from far away now. He closed his eyes, drawing in a final breath.

Rin called out his name, the words following him into the darkness like a bittersweet goodbye.

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Old 03-20-2012, 11:36 AM   #83
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Hei looked up sharply, hearing the excited chatter around…the sky was filled with winged figures. Angels had appeared over Tokyo.

Not now…he thought. In the streets, he saw one woman collapse, hugging herself, looking up with horror. There were perhaps a dozen of the winged monsters in the sky. People were gathering, calling out and pointing as they flew off in one direction.

"Mmm, isn't it delightful?" He heard the voice whisper. He whirled around, staring down the alley at the golden liquid that had taken a familiar form.

"Apos…"

"Relax, no need to fight now, Hei." Apos said, smiling gently. "I just advise you move if you want to help Rin. They're heading where she's going to be. You can probably tell I'm not lying."

"You bastard-"

' "Now, now, that's just rude," Apos said, lips twisting into a sneer. "I kept some tabs, Hei…before, this was a bit personal, but now? I take special care with men who stick their cocks in Rin, you know."

Hei felt his fist clench so tight, his nails drew blood from his palm. "I'm going to kill you." He said as traffic came to a dead stop, people stepping out to see the flights of angels

"You'll try," Apos said with a shrug. "I've heard it all before. You're not special, Hei. I'm eternal. To this point, this has all been a game for me. Try to imagine how insignificant I find you. Can you even contemplate it?"

"Is that what you believe or what you want me to think you believe?"

Apos lost his smile. "You better hurry," He hissed.

Hei moved into the alleyway, all too aware Apos was watching him. He just hoped everyone else was too busy…he opened his back and withdrew his coat and hat…

"Angels?" Misaki shouted, hearing the panicked yells outside. "Did Apos-"

"It has to be!" Rin shouted. "Mimi, are you certain?"

"That's what my feed is getting!" Mimi shouted, looking to Misaki and Rin. "They're…flying towards-"

"Us!" Rin snarled, her eyes glistening with tears of loss and fury. Tamotsu was gone…

"You have to get out of here," Misaki faced her and Rin felt her heart go out to the other woman. All the pain, betrayal and loss Misaki had suffered and she was still keeping herself as strong as possible. There would be time to mourn later..

Carmine breathed in. "Angels…all here…"

"We don't have a way to fight back…not against this many…" Mimi said, shaking with terror. "What…what do we do?"

Carmine then seized the car keys…running towards the door.

"Carmine? Carmine, what are you doing?" Mimi shouted, hearing the door slam. "She…she just…"

"No…no, she wouldn't leave us…" a horrified realization hit Rin. She couldn't mean…

"We get out of her…now. We can't be stationary."

Mimi hugged Genta. Misaki signaled them. "Go, the Angels won't want me-"

"No, they'll just kill you if you're in the way! You're coming with us!" Rin shouted, grabbing her arm.

Carmine knew the roads would be blocked, so she simply activated Misaki's siren, forcing other cars to make way.

She didn't have to go far at all. Not when she wasn't fighting it. She felt the rage, the fury washing over her as she slammed to a stop.

She felt the blood on her hands, staining them anew.

I'm sorry… she thought bleakly.

Oh, god…I don't see another way…it's the only way to save you…I love you…all of you…so much…

Hei looked to the rooftops, leaping across them without caring who saw him now, following the angels as fast as he could force his body. One angel swooped down suddenly, landing to the street. People cried out in shock mixed with awe. One man stepped forward, only for the angel to sweep a hand, knocking his head clean off. The Angel moved on, systematically killing anyone who barred its way. The cries turned to horror as people began to flee. Hei was grateful there were no newscasters yet…

He sprang to higher ground, glancing to where the angels looked. He saw Mimi, having collapsed to the ground, hugging herself as Rin tried to pull her to her feet.

Have to…make it in time…he thought, leaping…when he saw the car..

Everyone else had now been fleeing from the angels after the blood bath in the streets…but this car was making its way towards them. The door opened and Carmine stepped out.

Oh, no…god, no…Hei thought as he saw the look on her face.

She raised her hands and the blue glow appeared.

The vacuum formed suddenly, in the sky, right in the midst of the angel swarm, dragging the entire group into it. The power of the vacuum increased, pulling them together, their roars turning into howls of pain as their bodies were torn to pieces.

On the ground, the remaining angel leaped and slashed, but Carmine barely managed to pull away, catching only a glancing blow, enough to throw her back roughly. Hei didn't waste time, leaping from the roof and throwing a knife through the angel's throat, forcing it back to dust.

Carmine moaned in pain. She saw Rin and Mimi freed from the effect of the angels, the streets deserted with people having fled…it could be mass chaos now throughout the city.

Mimi rushed to her. "Carmine! Oh, god, what'd you do?"

"Had…" Carmine gasped weakly. Mimi leaned in as Hei landed, Carmine whispering weakly. "Hurt…"

"We'll get you-"

"My…my baby…is it…"

Mimi paused. "You're…you mean…oh…oh my god…" she said. "Is it-"

"Hei…Hei doesn't…only…found out…" Carmine's face twisted in pain. "Fighting…it…the Price…I…" Her eyes closed as unconsciousness claimed her.

Hei moved over, kneeling by Carmine. "She used her powers…"

"To save us…" Mimi said.

"…that means one thing." Hei said, pausing for a moment.

"What is he-" Miskai started, as Hei reached a hand over to gently cover Carmine's face.

"I'm sorry…but she'd want it this way. If not for-"

"Hei, don't!" Mimi screamed. "She's pregnant!"

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Old 03-20-2012, 05:19 PM   #84
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Great chapter...the ending...new dilemma...

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Old 04-23-2012, 02:29 AM   #85
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"She's pregnant!"

Hei froze in place, hand extended towards Carmine's face. Misaki's eyes were wide as she realized the implications of what Mimi meant…the Black Reaper and Havoc had conceived a child.

"Carmine," Hei whispered, looking to her face. Her breathing was irregular, her face pale. She was suffering from withdrawal, from the need to pay her Price. His hand began to tremble. Had this gone so wrong in just the last half hour? The world had been flipped upside down, with panic in the streets, angels in the sky and Carmine lying there, her hand pressed against her stomach even in unconsciousness.

"Mimi….Mimi, how do you know?" Rin whispered, wiping cold sweat from her forehead.

"Sh-she told me…" Mimi managed. "Just before she passed out. She was worried about…oh, God, Hei…you can't…"

"I don't have another choice. She'll kill again. It isn't Carmine any more. It's Havoc-"

"She was worried about the baby! Hei!" Mimi shouted. "Maybe she's different now!"

His hand remained outstretched, hovering above Carmine. He turned, gazing with the cold, bone-white face of his mask towards Rin and Misaki. Misaki was frozen in place, her entire world having come crashing down around her. Rin looked to him. And she realized.

"Hei…" She managed before he stood up, glancing once again at Carmine.

"Hei, use my blood! Physically, I'm young enough!" Mimi shouted. "I can't die, so you-"

"It has to be…" He whispered, in a daze. "You're too old…it won't work." He looked up and Rin realized. Misaki's eyes widened and she shook her head.

"No. No. No, you can't! Reaper….BK-201….Hei! Please-"

"I can't let her die. Not with…it doesn't…it doesn't have to be lethal. Just enough…" He managed. Misaki's hand went to her gun.

"I can't let you. I won't let you…"

His hand snapped out, and a wire wrapped around Misaki's gun. Hei yanked and the gun flew out of her hands into his. He ejected the bullet from the chamber and released the clip before throwing the gun to the ground. He didn't spare another word before he turned and Rin, leaping off into the crowd.

Misaki turned to Rin, face twisted in horror and disbelief. "Rin…Rin, dear god, we can't…"

Rin's shoulders were shaking. "You think I want this?" She shouted. "One of my best friends just died…my city is under attack…one of my best friends is dying in front of me! Hei is doing this so we don't have to! It's his child!"

"That doesn't make this right!"

"There is no right answer now!"

"Stop it! Just stop it!" Mimi shouted, hugging Genta to her, tears in her eyes. "Don't take this out on one another…you're both hurting right now…but Carmine…"

"You heard Hei," Rin whispered. "It doesn't have to be lethal…this doesn't have to…" Her voice trailed off, and the words seemed to echo in her mind, empty and worthless.

The world seemed to have collapsed in on itself. Kaori could hear the screams and see the people running past her. Never in all her five years had she imagined a sight like this, and it chilled her to the bone. She'd been in the park when it started, and while the other children had their parents, her mother seemed to have been lost in the crowd and no matter how loudly she called, mama didn't come from the crowd. The creatures that had filled the sky were gone, but they'd left chaos in their wake. She'd barely avoided being trampled when she tried to step into the street. Now, she could only huddle away from the crowds and hope someone came.

She heard something behind her, turning to see the man in black. She had no time to react as he leaned down. He seemed to be wearing some kind of white, clown-like mask.

"I'm sorry." She heard, before his hand went to her head. She felt something, more impact than pain.

Then the darkness came and she knew no more.

When Hei returned, Misaki was standing there, fist clenched, teeth bared and her head lowered. Rin's face was expressionless. She saw Hei and turned away, refusing to look at him. In the chaos, it'd been easy to weave between the crowd, taking his cargo with him. She couldn't have been more than five or six.

He made sure nobody was watching. He didn't look as Mimi hid her eyes, Rin wrapping an arm around her old friend, refusing to look at Hei as he drew his knife.

He thought of Pai's smile. It'd been so long since he'd seen it…he remembered the last true smile she'd given him the night the stars vanished. He could remember when she'd been this girl's age. Control yourself, he said harshly in his own mind. He wished he could give Carmine the end she'd wanted, but this changed things. He had no idea what he'd do when she woke up…if she was Havoc again.

He raises his knife to the girl's wrist and cut, immediately placing it over Carmine's lips, tiny red drops falling on them. Carmine's eyes fluttered beneath the closed eyelids and her tongue ran out, catching each drop.

"Carmine…our child…" Hei whispered. "I'm sorry…" He managed in a strangled growl. "I'm sorry…"

He lowered the girl's wrist. She hadn't even flinched, so deep was the sleep he'd put her in. Even in her sleep, Carmine reached up, grasping the wrist and fastening her mouth to the wound, sucking hard at it. Small sounds escaped her, gasps of near ecstasy as she took the blood inside her.

Hei was breathing quicker, daring to look at the others. Rin refused to meet his gaze, Misaki's face was a mask of fury, disgust and hopelessness. Carmine's hands tightened on the arm, her mouth sucking greedily.

"I'm sorry…" Hei whispered again. "Carmine…that's enough…" Her price had been paid…it had to be enough now. Carmine ignored him, continuing to drink. "Carmine!" His voice raised, the mask obscuring his hopelessness.

"Make her stop!" Misaki shouted. The girl had gone pale, so much blood had been lost now. Hei pulled at her arm but Carmine's grip tightened, her eyes flickering open. Hei lashed out, striking her head quickly. Carmine slackened and Hei pulled the girl free, removing a wire and tying it quickly around the girl's arm, forming a tourniquet.

Rin was at his side. "Let me see," She whispered, putting two fingers to the girl's neck. "It's faint…and the bleeding…Mimi, rip your shirt!"

Mimi did so without argument, Rin wrapped it as a makeshift bandage. "I'll keep pressure…"

"Let me-" Hei started, but Rin faced him.

"You've done enough," She said, her voice flat. "Just don't, Hei…please…" A note of pleading entered her voice as she looked to Misaki. "Medical attention. Misaki."

Misaki managed to regain her composure, nodding once. "Carmine…is she-"

"She'll be alright now…" Hei said, as Carmine stirred, green eyes flickering open.

"Wh…wh…" Her tongue ran over her lips, tasting the warm, salty, red fluid left there. "I…"

Hei turned to Rin. "I had no-"

"I know." She said. "I know you didn't. I know you did what you had to, I know I would have done…just…don't say it…please…

He wanted to take the damned mask off, to let her see the pain and regret in his eyes, but that would have exposed Misaki to Li Shengshung's true identity, so he did nothing. Misaki had her phone out, calling in. the police had been called to restore order in the streets with the public. Mimi was holding Carmine's hand.

"Did I…" She whispered. "Did you…"

"Nobody died," Mimi said quickly, Genta giving a whine. "Nobody."

"But…my Price…you paid my…"

"You're pregnant." Hei said, looking at her.

Carmine's eyes widened. "Hei…you…"

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Old 04-23-2012, 02:29 AM   #86
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"Is it you, Carmine? Or is it Havoc? Look me in the eye."

She managed to sit up, looking at her hands. "I...is the child…is it alright?"

Hei's shoulders sagged in visible relief. "She'll be fine. Misaki is going to get her help-"

"Take off that fucking mask and look me in the eye," She whispered.

He knelt in front of her, pulling the mask up, out of Misaki's vision. "Carmine-"

She raised her hand as if to strike him, but her hand shook and then lowered. "I didn't know how to tell you….but you should have just killed me…Havoc's alive. I feel it, Hei. I feel the anger…it's still here…it's taking all I have."

"I'm sorry," He whispered, and she saw pain twist his face. "Carmine, I'm so sorry, but I couldn't-"

"Innocent blood," She whispered. "That's what it took, Hei. I'm a Contractor…if I have a child…if Havoc has a child…if I use them ever again…I could kill our-"

"Stop talking like that!" He couldn't bear to hear it. "Carmine, please."

"You can't let me use them ever again, Hei. I can't do it. You have to-"

He pulled the mask down, looking to Rin. Rin came over. "Carmine, please…there's been enough today." She put her hands to her shoulders, Misaki having stepped out of sight, moving to get the girl to safety as she called the ambulance. "You saved our lives, Carmine. We have to mask the best-"

Carmine buried her face in her hands, shaking. Mimi hugged her tight. "They can't know, Hei. The Syndicate can't know."

"They won't…I promise-"

"Hei." Rin whispered. He met her gaze, removing the mask, knowing his back would be to Misaki if she returned.

"Rin, I-"

"I know." She whispered, shaking her head. "But…it doesn't change what we just did."

He was silent for a moment. "I'll go."

"Just…give us time," She managed the ghost of a smile that faded away quickly. She couldn't meet his gaze. He pulled the mask back down.

"This was Apos. He'll try again." Hei turned to Carmine. "The city's in uproar. Mao and Huang'll be staying out of it."

"Get out of sight," Rin whispered. "Just meet back in an hour, Hei. "

He looked to Carmine, kneeling by her. "Carmine…" He took her hand as she breathed in and out, trying to steady herself. "I'm sorry…We'll make this-"

"The only way this works…is if I never see this child…if I never know where it is…" She whispered. He said nothing.

He looked to Rin and Mimi, breathed in and swept off.

___

Nishijima sat back, breathing in and out. "Relax," Laura smirked, leaning back in the car. "Just enjoy the show, will you?"

"I don't find chaos as thrilling as your employer," Nishijima said, gazing out the limousine's windows. "I like things ordered and neat."

"Boring," Laura chuckled, leaning back. "Just have a cover story ready. I want to see the look on Rin's face when we get there."

Nishijima adjusted his glasses. "You really have something against her, don't you."

"She survived," Laura growled. "No mark's ever done that before."

"Truly, my heart bleeds," Nishijima commented, folding his hands before his phone rang. "Sir?"

"Eric," Apos's voice said pleasantly. "Wait fifteen minutes. Then go where I said."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, and Eric? Make sure to take Havoc alive. There's something very special involved in this."

Nishijima rubbed his head, looking to Laura. "Fifteen minutes, take Havoc alive. Everyone's ready."

"Good," Laura grinned.

"One thing, Apos," Nishijima said into the phone. "How do we know she won't use her powers on us?"

"Be very quick about it. And let Laura handle that."

Nishijima swallowed back a retort before Apos hung up. "Alright," he whispered, trying to fight his anxiety. The fifteen minutes passed at a crawl before he finally nodded. The situation seemed to have stabilized outside. Laura opened the door, grabbing her sidearm and tucking it into her holster. The soldiers from the Syndicate were wearing casual clothing now, but all armed and ready. Laura gave the signal. Nishijima wanted to stay in the safety of the car, but he knew he had to see this through. He opened the door and followed Laura out, trailing behind at a leisurely pace.

He saw them approaching the building again. Rin Asogi, a teenage girl with lavender hair, and with them…He smiled icily. Havoc. We have you now, he thought.

Laura gave the signal. Rin looked up, seeing the people around. Laura stepped out. "Rin," she said with a smirk."

"Laura," Rin spun to face her, a knife in her hand. Havoc looked up, seeing Laura and freezing, her eyes going wide.

"I don't have time for this today," Rin growled. "One of-"

"The old cop? Who do you think shot him, Rin? Kirihara's out of range, don't worry, by the by. We need a hero cop to look good after all this."

"Alex?" Carmine whispered.

"Hey, Car. Stay calm, you won't get hurt. We have a dozen guns on you, Rin. Not even you're this good…"

"You and me, Laura." Rin said, voice tight. "You want me, so let's-"

"Business today, Rin. Not pleasure."

"Too many people around, Laura. You can't-"

"You're harboring a war criminal, Rin. Think anyone'll bat an eye?" Laura raised her gun, Rin raising the knife. "Give her up."

"Alex," Carmine stepped forward. "What the hell are you-"

"The name's Laura now, Car," Laura answered. "Rin? Play this smart. Apos says you can walk away."

Carmine's eyes flashed and she started to raise her hand. Immediately, every man drew his gun. Nishijima scrambled backwards, but Carmine hesitated, hand shaking.

"No more taste for blood, Car? Plenty of kids around…"

Carmine's teeth pressed together before one man raised his gun and fired. The dart hit Carmine in the neck. Her eyes widened and she staggered, raising her hand again…only to collapse in a heap. Rin turned, raising the knife, but she hesitated, seeing the guns.

"There, Rin, don't want to get anyone caught in the crossfire?" Laura said mockingly as Rin lowered her hands, the girl at her side glaring, the dog with her growling angrily.

"Take Havoc," Laura ordered. "By the by, Rin? Apos wants you to try. He's looking forward to it."

------

Apos heard the phone ring and he picked it up. "Eric?"

"Havoc is secure."

"Rin?"

"Free, as per your orders. Laura…accomplished this effectively."

"Oh, I know she did. I was observing this time. Eric, that something special? Keep Havoc under heavy sedation. She's pregnant after all."

Nishijima paused. "She's…she's what?"

"Pregnant. Are there any instances of a Contractor giving birth, Eric?"

"No…no, not at all…this is new. This is a first. We can witness a Contractor…and HAVOC of all the….but sir, why leave Rin?"

"Rin is important. I'll deal with her in time. It'd be too boring to take Havoc without her making the token attempt, Eric." He knew Nishijima would hate that. "Offhand, publicly…?"

"Pandora will be blamed. Your Angels will be products of an experiment…an attack. We'll be able to invade and gain the access to the research division that we need."

"Well done, Eric. Put the Reaper on an assignment, keep him busy. Right now, they'll hardly be in a position to-"

"The Reaper…you mean Hei-" Nishijima paused. "It's his child."

"Excellent deduction."

"But, sir-"

"Don't second guess me, Eric. He'll die. But first he'll know pain like he's never believed."

"Yes, sir…your diversion with the Angels worked perfectly…it's a shame they're gone."

"Gone, Eric?" Apos chuckles, walking to the window above the courtyard of the castle, ignoring Tajimamori's baleful gaze. "Whatever made you think I sent all the Angels I've cultivated? Amber's little gang forced me to accelerate operations."

"How many…sir…?"

Apos smiled, gazing at the courtyard. "Not a fan of surprises, Eric? When The Gate is dealt with, you'll see. But since you asked…"

His red eyes gleamed as he gazed down at his army.

"About five thousand…"

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Old 05-25-2012, 02:59 AM   #87
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Eric Nishijima gazed at the unconscious Contractor. Laura stepped up next to him as the other scientists swiftly secured Havoc to the table. One withdrew a syringe, testing the dosage. Nishijima fixed him with a look. "You're sure this dosage is safe?"

"Yes, sir. It's just right to keep her under without harming the child," was the response. Nishijima gave a nod. He knew of Contractors that had given birth before the Gate had appeared, but never one after. What was more, the child of two Contractors? Contractors as powerful as Havoc and the Black Reaper? To a researcher like himself, it sent shivers down his spine. He could only imagine what some of the scientists in the other divisions would say.

"We'll keep nutrients going until she's ready to give birth. We won't miss a single dosage of the tranquilizers, to keep her from using her powers."

"When you're done?" Laura asked.

"Potential vivisection. It's hardly an opportunity to be missed," Nishijima responded. Laura looked to the unconscious woman for a moment.

"You knew her," Nishijima said, allowing a note of curiously to creep into his voice.

"She's my sister," Laura said coldly. "We're not close."

"I see," Nishijima said, trying to keep a bead of sweat from appearing at his forehead. He knew at this distance, if Laura lost her temper, there was nothing he could do to stop her. "Does that-"

"I'm not being paid to feel sorry for anyone. It's her damn fault…opening her legs for the Reaper, helping Rin. She brought this on herself," Laura leaned back. Nishijima decided not to push his luck.

"The money has been transferred to your account."

"I'm more interested in Rin…she'll come. I want her," Laura said, gritting her teeth.

"I'm sure she will,but this place i-"

"She'll find a way. Rin always finds a way to get past…" Laura said. "Don't get in my way when she does."

"Of course not," Nishijima said quickly, looking to his phone. The 'investigation' had begun to the angel monsters that had appeared in the city. He knew what the result would be. The research division would soon yield its secrets to him.

----

Rin slammed her fist into the wall so hard, she felt the house shake. She was sure she'd just broken something as well. "Mimi, I need you to-"

"Hack Pandora? Way ahead of you!" Mimi leaped into her seat, turning her computer on. "Good god, Rin…the news…"

Rin looked at the screen, seeing the reports. She saw the images: the damage, flashes of hysterical, terrified people, and theories ranging everywhere from religious panic to government experiments." He's just succeeded in causing a global panic. My God." She gritted her teeth, considering calling Misaki, but decided against it. The Syndicate had come perilously close to invading her home and had taken Carmine. What was more, Laura and Carmine had known one another. Carmine had even called her 'Alex.' Rin slammed her fist into the wall again, harder this time.

"Rin, I understand the need to vent, but the wall didn't do anything," Mimi said mildly, reaching to take Rin's hands in hers. "We'll get her back…"

"How much longer can we do this," Rin shut her eyes. "I stood by and let a little girl be bled like that. What does that make me, Mimi? And Tamo…Tamo…"

There had been so little time to consider her old friend's death, so soon after Koki's. Rin collapsed into her seat, Mimi rubbing her hand as she removed her glasses and buried her head in her hands. Apos had unleashed his Angels upon the city, Koki and Tamo were dead, Carmine was a hostage. She had to inform Hei that the woman she had promised him she'd protect- and Hei's own child inside her- had been taken by Pandora. She had already felt the wedge between them from the day's events, so soon after she'd accepted her feelings for him. She had no idea if they'd survive this.

"There was nothing we could do. About either of it, Rin," Mimi brought a hand to her cheek. "You taught me we have to keep fighting, and going on. Always. You can't let Apos win. He does everything he can to hurt you."

"Tamotsu died because he knew me, Mimi. Tamo, Koki and-"

"Koki wouldn't have had a life if not for you. He wouldn't have met Yuki, had a son…you gave him so many years he'd never have had. And seeing you with Hei, Rin…he's different. He's not just the Black Reaper. You've been help to Misaki…you saved Carmine. Tamo didn't die because of you, Rin, he died for you. Don't sit here and start pitying yourself…he'd never forgive you for that."

Rin took a deep, shuddering breath, looking up to face her oldest and dearest friend. She took Mimi's face in her hands and kissed her forehead gently, before pressing their lips together for a moment.

"Rin…"

"Mimi…thank you." Rin smiled. "Find me whatever you can from Pandora. If they're expecting us, we're going to give them everything."

"You have a plan?" hope filled Mimi's eyes.

"I'll worry about that later. Right now…it's to hope some people care about doing what's right."

----

Misaki Kirihara felt she could breathe again. The little girl's life had been saved after Misaki had gotten her medical treatment, with her mother located. Misaki hadn't told them just exactly how she'd lost so much blood from such a clinical cut, though.

Misaki stepped into Director Horai's office, her team waiting outside. She hadn't been able to bring herself to call Rin, sickened by guilt and grief. She hadn't managed to speak to her father yet, though he must certainly have known of Tamotsu Yanigahara's death now. She didn't think she could tell him that not only had she assisted a fugitive, she'd watched as he'd bled a little girl to feed the bloodlust of a war criminal.

Horai was sitting back, hands folded. "Chief Kirihara. You're to be commended."

"Commended…sir?"

"There are riots right now, and mass panic, have no doubt. In fact, the United States embassy was attacked, along with the British embassies. Research is showing this was a new assault by Pandora-"

"Pandora?" Misaki couldn't believe her ears. That made absolutely no sense. "Sir,Pandora is a research facil-"

"Research, yes. Most of that research remains classified at all levels under the articles that formed Pandora. We know of other experiments at Pandora. For what purpose, we can only guess, Chief Kirihara. Perhaps something went wrong, or it was an attempt to destroy the two parties at interest in Contractor Research, but nonetheless, this is what happened. Nevertheless, order will be restored soon and these ridiculous theories about the apocalypse are soon to end. Unfortunately, we're likely be dealing with internet conspiracy theories for the next decade, but that isn't why I called you here.

"The reason I called you in, Chief Kirihara is to discuss how I must reward you."

"Sir?" Kirihara blinked rapidly.

"Your actions have led to the apprehension of war criminal Havoc, who is also believed to have been responsible in part for these attacks."

Misaki felt a chill run down her spine. "But…I never encountered-"

"When teams arrived at your location, Havoc was discovered and tranquilized before she could use her powers."

"But sir-"

"She's been positively identified. In these difficult times, people need heroes, Chief Kirihara. Do we understand one another? Unless there is something you feel I should know?"

"No, sir. Nothing. I understand," Misaki said softly.

"I'm sorry about Tamotsu Yanigahara. He'll have a hero's funeral. Unfortunately, we've yet to establish motive in his death…it was a tragedy during this rioting."

That wasn't right at all. Misaki had been on the phone with him. Tamotsu had been sniped as he had been trying to warn her and Rin. There was no way a forensics team would miss such a thing, which left one conclusion: Horai was lying. What was worse…it meant Horai was covering for someone. He didn't know Misaki had been there to hear Tamotsu's last words. It took all her strength to keep her face stony.

"Yes, sir. A tragedy," she repeated softly.

"Take the time you need. Your father will need you, Chief Kirihara. You'll be facing a promotion when you return."

She remembered April, November 11…she remembered their advice: trust nobody at first, rely on her instincts. Misaki locked her eyes on Horai's, knowing that behind that calm gaze, was a man of ruthless ambition, one who had contributed to all the death and pain.

"I look forward to it, sir," she nodded once and turned before striding out. Carmine and her child had been taken, and to twist the knife, she was receiving the 'credit' for it. She trusted her team, she trusted Kanami, she trusted November 11 and April, as strange as that sounded, and she trusted her father, but she couldn't in good conscience endanger their lives at this point. That left the one person who had lied to her, and concealed the truth from her.

Ironically, it was the person Misaki now believed she trusted more than anyone else in the world.

-----

Hei hadn't returned in an hour to see 'd gone back to his apartment as fast as he could, filled with self-loathing and anger. He didn't remember how long he'd been sitting there, when the phone rang. He lifted it. "Hello-"

"There's no time," a woman's voice said. "The Syndicate will have you marked."

"Who is-"

"Apos is doing this for a reason. You need to get clear. Huang, Mao and Yin are in danger as well. After this, you will all be slated for termination. It's believed there's an attack on Pandora imminent. They're making a move. Get to Rin. You need to get to Pandora. Find Huang, I'll meet you there when-"

The line went head. Hei thought he heard something outside. It was his only warning before his wall splintered and the angel smashed through.

Hei felt like he was struck by a train when it smashed into him, throwing him across the room into the wall. He was sure he felt something give in his back from that. The Angel 's mouth twisted up into a parody of a smile.

"Apos…" it rasped, "Says…hello…"

Hei attempted to rise to his knees, desperately summoning his energy, even as he prepared for death. Fangs bared, talons ready, the angel swept towards him.

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Old 06-20-2012, 01:30 AM   #88
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Hei forced his body up, rolling away as the angel lunged. Its claw came forward, embedding in the wall. Hei hoped it would find itself halted, but the creature yanked its arm, ripping free of the wall easily. Hei dearly hoped his neighbors would be absent, or too busy partying to hear. If they came to investigate, he could only imagine what the Angel would do.

Hei dove to the side as it came again. It was too fast, and he was too unaware, emotionally drained and exhausted from the day. He looked to the other side of the apartment, rolling again to evade the creature and seizing his knife from the dresser. When the angel came this time, Hei was ready, angling the weapon. The angel's arm swung, but Hei moved to the side, letting the angel demolish the dresser. Hei came forward, stabbing the long knife under through the soft flesh below the angel's chin until the tip burst out the top of its head. Hei pulled, the sharp blade sliding out from the angel's face in a shower of gore. The creature fell forward, already crumbling into dust.

Hei stumbled back, breathing heavily. Already, his mind was whirling. He had to listen to the voice on the phone, and get out of this apartment. He couldn't return, that much was certain. He felt a brief pang of regret, thinking of the old landlady Misuzu, and her kindness towards him. He thought of Irene and the others, who'd all have to deal with his disappearance, but to stay here any longer as Li Shengshung would put them in mortal danger. It had been nothing short of a miracle none of them had lost their lives that night.

Making matters worse was the unprecedented police presence on the streets. After the attack of the angels, nearly every block was populated by police officers keeping peace in time of the riots. Hei would have to move fast. He seized his IDs, his weaponry, and his mask, packing them into a bag quickly, when he noticed the golden light taking form.

"That went as I expected," the soft voice said, sounding amused. Relocating.

"Apos," Hei whispered it like a curse.

"If I wanted you dead right now, I'd have sent a thousand here. You'd be amazed how many people will have a little nibble of a strange fruit when I promise them immortality for it," Apos chuckled. "But I just wanted your attention."

"I'm leaving this place tonight. Everyone else who lives here? They're not part of this."

Apos's mouth twisted in a parody of a smile, "Dictating terms? You only get to do that if you're in a position of strength, Hei."

"You've got what you want. You don't care about them."

"And you do?" Apos cocked his head. "It's intriguing…in South America, you were the most ruthless human imaginable. You must have filled entire graveyards. But now that you're a-"

"I've heard this before," Hei's voice rose. "Stop hiding behind angels and sending projections ahead of you. If you have anything with me, show yourself and let's do this."

"No, I don't think we'll be doing that," Apos chuckled. "I find it hilarious a man who lives in the shadows, making a living by assassinating on behalf of a corrupt organization is calling me out for a fair fight. This is beside the point. You should go to Rin. Tonight."

"What are you-"

Something dark entered Apos's tone. "You really should have kept your cock out of her, it would have made this much better for you. But speaking of where you put it and in whom…well, Carmine was just apprehended. And with a little extra special something, too."

It took all of Hei's strength not to draw his blade and cut at Apos's image. Apos grinned. "Your child, yes. They're going to cut it out of her when it's viable. They're going to cut her apart, while she's alive and breathing. And for the child? I wonder. Have you even considered what your boy or girl shall be like?"

Apos's voice turned mocking, "With your power? With Havoc's? Her thirst for blood? I wonder indeed…I do believe there's a fake Pandora ID in there, Hei. I eagerly await your response."

Hei barely waited for his response. He ran, straight through the shimmering gold image, leaping over the rails to the streets below, taking off into the night.

It was not difficult to evade the police when he took to the rooftops. With his coat now on, he blended all too easily into the night. He forced the raging storm in his head to be silent, pressing logic back into his mind. Carmine wasn't dead. If what Apos said was true, then they'd hold her until they had a viable child to remove…which meant she had months, even if every second was too long for them to hold her.

It was insane, but somehow he trusted Apos's words. The ruthless immortal was too arrogant and sadistic to lie. For some inconceivable purpose, he meant for Hei and Rin to go to Pandora and attempt to save Carmine. He knew there was no chance of a refusal, either.

Hei had to wonder what Amber knew. Her silence was perhaps most disturbing to him throughout this. Evening Primrose hadn't mounted any campaigns, released any messages, or carried out any attacks. He knew, however, that Amber was observing the chaos, waiting for any opportunity to seize control. He had no option now but to find this contact who had called.

He arrived at the coordinates he'd been given, noticing the lack of officers there, he slid a knife into his hands, ready for anything when he heard movement. "Stay there," he said warningly.

"You came alone…not very Contractor," the woman's voice said. Hei turned to see the woman step out of the alley. She was wrapped in a dark coat, long dark hair flowing behind her. "Syndicate Agent as well," she said.

"You warned me," Hei said.

"You're not the only one onto something," the woman said. "I don't have a name, in case you're wondering, Black Reaper."

"I want answers."

"I was sent to infiltrate a Gate cult. The leader is a Contractor. She broke off from the Syndicate as well. They were doing business with Evening Primrose, providing supplies to them."

"And you went AWOL?"

"I had to. My name on my last mission was Shihoko Kashida. I functioned as an assassin for the Syndicate, but on this mission, someone…brought something to my attention."

Hei frowned. "Someone?"

"It involves the Syndicate. The name 'Apos' came out." She focused on Hei. "I was told you're the best hope for survival now."

"For you?" He blinked.

"For all of us," she said urgently. "they mean to wipe out all of us. Every Contractor. That's what they're after. It's why the Syndicate's been using us all this time."

"To wipe out…all of us? The Contractors-"

"I know how insane that sounds. I don't have all the details, but it involves Pandora. Not even the prophet of this religion knows."

"After today, religion might get even more complicated," Hei growled.

"No denying that," Shihoko said. "I tried to warn you, though. Does that count for anything?"

"You'd be amazed how little I can trust anyone right now, Kashida."

"I can understand that," she admitted. "I don't have any proof…except you know the Syndicate. You must know Apos. There's one thing I can offer though…a member of your team. His name is Huang."

Hei paused at that. "You know Huang?"

"I knew him when his name was Kuno. I know how he drinks without ever getting drunk. I know he learned to shoot in the army. I know how he acts like he doesn't care about anything in the world, but he gives more of a damn than he ever lets on-"

"You could have gotten any of that by-" Hei started, before he saw her eyes. There was something he couldn't explain there, a mixture of guilt, pain and something else…something he'd so rarely seen in a Contractor's eyes…Hei stopped.

"What do you propose?"

"Pandora…there's a man there called Dr. Schroeder…his name was mentioned many times in what I saw. He can be the key to all of it."

"I'm going to Pandora soon. You can contact Huang-"

She shook her head sharply. "No," she said quickly. "No, I can't do that. Don't ask me to explain."

And Hei understood instantly. "You're the reason he's in the Syndicate." Her silence was confirmation enough. He hasn't spoken of it."

"It's not something he'd share," she said softly. "It's not safe to talk longer…."

"I'm going to recover Havoc from Pandora," Hei said. "You have a way to contact me-"

"The cat's radio," Shihoko gave a smile. "If you survive this…I'll be in touch."

___

Rin answered her door when she heard his voice, seeing Hei there, looking shaken, disheveled and battered. "Hei…" she whispered.

"Got evicted," he managed. "Apos sent an angel for me…Rin, I am so sorry I haven't-"

She cut him off, grabbing his hands and pulling him in, wrapping her arms around him tight and holding him in. "They took her-"

"I know about Carmine," He whispered. "There was a mole…she told me everything. I called Huang on the way here…Rin…the Syndicate is moving against Pandora."

"That's what all this was for…damn it, and Apos-"

"He wants us to go there…I don't know why…"

Rin wanted to collapse as badly as Hei did. Losing Carmine to the Syndicate, losing Tamotsu, what she'd had to allow, and Tokyo and Shinjuku in chaos, with the Syndicate assaulting Pandora. Somehow, she managed to keep her feet and she looked at Hei. "Then it can't end well, can it?"

"I don't see any way it can."

"We're going anyways." It wasn't a question.

"We are…" Hei nodded. "I've already gotten Mao, Yin and Huang.

Rin smiled. "Even Guy's noticing something up...must be serious…" she forced in some humor…when Hei put a hand to her cheek.

"No matter what happens, Rin-"

"We're going to save Carmine. We're going to save your child," Rin said firmly. "And if Amber or Apos try anything…" she broke apart from Hei. "Mimi's on the computer now…I was looking for a way when…"

"Rin…about today…"

"You did what you had to, for Carmine. I wish I could hate you for it. It'd make it easier, Hei. But…"

She drew a hand up to his cheek. "When this is over…there's going to be an us. We're going to try. We're going to find your sister and forget I'm never aging a day while you're an ex-assassin. We're going to try for a life. You're going to hold your child and show your sister her niece or nephew. Do you understand me?"

He pressed his forehead to hers for a moment…and then she saw him smile at her. "Are you ready to go?"

"Let me get my knives. I still half don't believe that coat is bulletproof.."

"Hopefully we won't find out. Doubt we're that lucky…"

Rin turned and walked down the hallways. When she was halfway down the room, Hei closed his eyes and whispered softly. "I love you."

"What was that?" Rin glanced over her shoulder.

"No time to waste…let's go as fast as we can, Rin."

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Old 06-20-2012, 02:00 AM   #89
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Nice chapter dude, though a little short.

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Old 07-23-2012, 07:13 PM   #90
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Hei tapped his radio. "Mao?"

"Coast clear here. Huang?"

"Choppers all over the place, soldiers entering Pandora. Got your work cut out for ya, kid. Yin, keep us posted."

Hei looked to see Rin. Rin looked over. "You know, there's a part of this I haven't quite figured out, Hei. The 'break into Pandora' thing? They kind of know me here."

"I have a civilian ID."

"Which will help enormously with the squad of soldiers we can see breaking in now?"

"Here I was hoping you just wouldn't be that memorable," Hei said, putting the mask on.

"You're about to learn relationships involve sleeping on the couch sometimes," Rin gave a half smile as the two observed from the abandoned buildings across the street. The enforced curfew had kept people away, and in order to get in Pandora, Maxley had simply had his men blow down the walls.

"Touchin' as the drama is," Huang growled over his radio, "The feed from the Syndicate is that they're launching a takeover. The British even have men in the streets to prevent people from getting too close, which means they've got people inside there, too. Horai'll make sure the Japanese don't get near. This is as close as you're gonna get. They've made you an opening."

"Can you give us a readout, Yin?" Rin asked, hearing Yin respond in the comm.

"Dozens inside that I can see. The leader is a general. I can't find Carmine."

"She's in a place with no water…" Rin nodded. "It'll be where they were keeping her before. It was safe, out of the way…Nishijima wouldn't risk her being hurt or caught in the crossfire. Laura's in there, too, I'm sure of it."

Mimi's voice piped in over the channel. "If you're going in, now's your chance. Don't let this slip by, guys. And keep the lovey-dovey to a minimum."

"Huang," Hei said, making sure his mask was secure. "Keep the readout with Mao. Let me know if any surprises come up."

"Will do, kid." Huang hesitated for a moment. "You better come outta there, you know. Don't think I'm ever going to forgive you if you don't."

"Didn't know you cared, Huang," Mao chuckled.

"Guards?"

"Fourteen in front of the entrance. Ten of them are on patrol route."

"If we drop the four in front, that'll be just as incriminating as being seen," Rin said. She looked to Hei. "Rooftops?"

"After you."

Hei wrapped an arm around Rin as they stepped out, throwing a wire to pull them to the roof tops. Holding her tight, he swung up to the next, careful to evade the lights, until they landed, silently, behind the outer walls of Pandora, behind the backs of the guards.

Turning the two entered the hole at the wall. When he felt it was safe to talk again, Hei whispered. "Mimi."

"Reading all the cameras. Nothing in the immediate vicinity. I'll tell you before you approach one, though. You won't get through this without- oh, hell."

"Mimi?" Rin whispered.

"They're rounding up astronomers and researchers…herding them into the main observatory. Most of the soldiers are up there. Maxley, too. I can't read Nishijima now. No idea where Laura i-"

"Calm down," Rin whispered, looking to Hei. "We'll do what we can."
---

Kanami Ishizaki stepped forward, mouth pressed into a line. "I demand to know the meaning of this!" She stepped in front of the trembling young Indian scientist-she thought she remembered her name as Mina Kandaswami,, that the soldier had leveled a gun at. "Pandora is a neutral territory! It was agreed-"

"That was before you unleashed those things out there," a gruff voice said. The man Kanami figured as the leader stepped forward, removing his hat. His heavy gray mustache gave him an almost grandfatherly appearance, but his steel-colored eyes met hers, showing her lack of pity or compassion. "The United States has a long reach, Dr. Ishizaki. Did you think Pandora could escape the consequences?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about!" Kanami said. "This is a research and diplomatic facility! I am an astronomer who-"

"Sell it to someone who's buying. My name is General Maxley, I'm in charge of these soldiers. British intelligence funneled the information to us. You're to turn over all available data in the research division, beyond the Saturn Ring project."

"I…you can't just step in here and demand…" Kanami found her voice again. "I don't have the authority to issue-"

"You are the highest ranking researcher in Pandora now, Dr. Ishizaki. Do not waste my time, or my men's time." Maxley slid a pistol into his hand. "I assure you, I'm not bluffing."

"You think I'm afraid?" Kanami willed the quiver out of her voice. Stay strong, she told herself. Think what Misaki would do. "This is nothing but international terrorism on innocent people. I don't even have the clearance codes for-"

Maxley raised his gun and shot one scientist in the face. The man fell man, his mouth open in a surprised 'o.' He waited for the terrified screams to die down before he looked to Kanami. "That blood is on your hands, Dr. Ishizaki. For wasting my time."

"Y-you…you…he had a family.." She whispered, her eyes wide.

"Then you can send them your condolences. I will ask you again. If you say no, I will shoot another. And another after that."

"I…only the doctors on the Saturn ring project have-"

"We have information from Segrei Vectrof and Robert Schroeder. Our interest is the gate data from the research and Astronomy divisions."

"I told you…I don't have clearance."

Maxley watched her coldly. Kanami forced herself to stand on trembling legs. Was this how Misaki felt when she'd stood against Contractors? Had she been this terrified deep down? But she'd forced herself to stand anyways. Kanami took a breath.

"Why do you…there's nothing on there. We had nothing to do with-" Mina shouted. Maxley looked to her and then back to Kanami.

"Dr. Vectrof is secure downstairs. I want you to-"

"This isn't about this…" Kanami said. "This is something else."

"It's of no concern of yours, Dr. Ishizaki. Give me the clearance. This is the last time I'll ask."

The gun turned to Mina's head. Kanami's mouth opened and she managed a syllable before one soldier walked forward, whispering to Maxley.

"I see," Maxley. "Nishijima, you spineless bureaucrat." He gave a scowl. "Take five men. Clear them out. If it's him…apologies. Dr. Ishizaki, I'm afraid a matter has come up. We'll continue this conversation soon." He holstered his gun. "Take them out to the observatory deck. Shoot anyone who resists."

"You want us to interrogate her, sir?"

"No. I'll finish that when I'm back. Keep them secure."

"Roger that, General," the soldier nodded and Maxley signaled his men. "Go."

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Old 07-23-2012, 07:14 PM   #91
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Eric Nishijima was drawing up vivisection plans when he noticed the call. "Nishijima here."

"It's Maxley. Did you hear?"

"General, with due respect, we might be in the same building, but I am a huge distance away from you. Get to the-"

"Intruders. Schroeder and Vectrof are on lockdown?"

"I have every on the Saturn Ring on lockdown, Maxley," Nishijima snapped. "I have Havoc unconscious here, Laura is here somewhere, what are you-"

"Apos called one of my men. He says people are coming. Now. I had to cut the interrogation short."

"You didn't leave the rest to one of your men?"

"Who else would you trust with the codes, Nishijima? If it's Hei, I need to deal with him myself. There's nobody else here-"

"I have the best troops in Pandora besides your men, general. They'll stop him. I'll sound the alarm."

"You don't know Hei, Nishijima. You've read files, but you've never seen-"

"Spare me the melodrama, general. This is Pandora. My place of-"

"Then what are we doing here?" Maxley's voice took on a mocking edge. Nishijima ground his teeth together.

"Doing a job," he shot back. "I am in charge here-"

"SO in charge you needed me and my men to come in and get information that should be a computer away for you."

"There is a place and time for this, Maxley! Kill the Reaper!"

"Way ahead of you," Maxley said. "Send your men. And get Laura if you can." He shut the communications off.

Maxley turned to his men. "He has no idea what he's doing. Get to the top floor. The Reaper can have Havoc for all I care. I'll head to the roof...the only way to handle him is in the open."
---
Rin looked up as she heard the blare of alarms. "Wonderful."

"They must have known. Damn it, we were so careful-"

"Saw it coming…" Rin said. "They'll consider you the bigger danger." She thought quick. "I'll get to the hostages, Hei. You get to Carmine. We split up here and we meet back."

"Sending me at the worst of it?"

Rin gave a smile. "Got my knives, got my suit, got my immortality. I'll be fine." She gave him a wink. "Draw some fire, would you?"

"Didn't you just say you were immortal?"

"Being shot hurts."

Hei took off down one corridor without another word, Rin taking off the other way. Hei took a breath. He remembered the corridors of Pandora from his infiltration. Rin had told him the way to Carmine.

Hei ran into one open room, just as the soldiers entered it. The men weren't Maxley's, each was dressed in black uniforms, all armed with assault weapons, raised and pointed at him.

"Get out of my way." Hei gave them one chance. The men were professionals, the Syndicate's assassins. They didn't waste time to bandy words. Hei saw there were five of them now, with more doubtlessly to be alerted by what was to come. They raised their guns and fired.

Hei came up with two knives, his body whirling as he danced through the gunfire, his hands snapping out. Gunfire abruptly ceased from two rifles as the holders went own. Their bulletproof coverings did nothing against his knives. Hei snapped a hand out as the clips of the others ran out, locking a wire around one man's wrist and pulling him close. He delivered a lethal jolt before shoving the corpse at another soldier. He ran up, winding the wire around the two soldiers and the corpse before they could react, discharging his electricity through their bodies, their dying screams fading quickly.

Hei pulled the wire out, hoping it gave Rin time to save the hostages. He had a feeling he'd have company soon. Maxley couldn't have had more than a few dozen men, if that. He had no idea how many Nishijima could have. He hoped any of the innocent people at Pandora had been vacated before, or were hiding in their rooms. He looked up, hearing the boots. He moved swiftly, and closed in for battle with his knives ready.

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Old 07-23-2012, 07:15 PM   #92
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---
"What do you mean he's unstoppable?' Nishijima screamed into the radio. "You outnumber him thirty to one! You are better equipped, better trained, better….go do your jobs!" he flung the radio into the wall, feeling sweat on his forehead. Calm down, he warned himself. He's locked out, no way inside now. This place was safe-"

Laura stepped in. Nishijima leaped up. "Where did you-"

"Rin is here," Laura said with a grin…and Nishijima saw Apos step out next to her.

"Sir, I-"

"Eric, please don't panic. I plan to deal with Hei personally. Your men aren't going to stop him, of course. On the other hand, the Saturn Ring is protected?"

"Yes,sir…we had Vectrof and Schroeder set away-"

"Hm," Apos frowned. "That's annoying. Amber will move on that. Also, did you check on the British agents?"

"Decade ordered the woman's elimination. Her partner should be-"

"Well done, Eric. I'll drop Laura off at the Observatory. Take good care of Carmine, will you?" Apos smiled. "Tomorrow is when everything changes."

"But the Saturn Ring project isn't until-"

"Change happens in increments, Eric." Apos said. "Laura?"

Nishijima tried to fight back the fear when the golden light rose to consume the two. What did Apos mean? Still, he had nothing to worry about-"

He heard the control panel short out. The door slid open. Nishijima stumbled back in fear. "It's…"

A drop of blood stained the white mask, the only sign of the fight. The Reaper stepped in. Nishijima felt his mouth go dry. Did Apos know? "R-Reaper…"

Hei stepped in without a word…walking to the table to see Carmine there.

"Sh-she's alive, of course!" Nishijima said. "we'd never-"

Then the Reaper saw the computer. 'Vivisection' written at the top…the outline…

Hei turned to face Nishijima. Nishijima stepped back. "Black Reaper…Hei…I mean Hei…you must understand, the scientific possibilities are-"

Hei's hand settled on the computer, which seemed to explode in a shower of sparks.

"Pl-please look at this logically!" Nishijima stepped back to the doorway of the room Laura and apos had come from. "There had never been a child of contractors before…but…but…she's not in a coma! She's just drugged! It's temporary! We can be more useful alive! I swear it!"

Hei walked to Carmine, pressing a hand to her cheek. To Nishijima's shock…his body took on the blue aura as his breathing quickened. "What are you…I have the antidote! I can wake-"

Carmine's eyes seemed to flutter and open She groaned weakly. "Hei…?"

"How did you…?" Nishijima whispered as Hei looked at his own hand, as if shocked at what he had done. Then Hei focused on Nishijima as if remembering him.

"Vivisection." The word was a death sentence.

"We can come to an arrangement! Project Saturn Ring! It's Apos's! He's-"

Hei stepped forward. In his hand was a knife. Carmine looked up, attempting to sit up, breathing heavily.

"H-Havoc! Carmine! Please tell him!" Nishijima stumbled back into the room, falling over his desk, eyes wide with terror. "Her Price! I can take away her Price!"

"You'd say anything." Hei moved closer.

"Apos! Please!" He looked to Carmine beseechingly, finding no mercy in her eyes. "Apos, help!"

Nishijima felt the Reaper's hand seize his face and he was lifted up to stare at the pitiless mask. In that instant, Eric Nishijima realized the depth of Apos's treachery and his own insignificance in the grand plans that would come to pass. He had time to wonder just what Apos truly intended beyond the Saturn Ring. A part of him felt satisfaction; the Contractors would not long out live. Most of him, however, felt empty. cold. Devoid of hope.

The Reaper's body began to glow. Eric Nishijima wondered if it would hurt.

And then all of him became nothing at all.
---
"Rin…we have to get to her…can you walk?" Hei turned to Carmine.

"Well enough…" she touched her feet to the floor. "coming for me like this…was really stupid, you know. It's not something a Contractor-"

He hugged her tight, cutting her off. "We came to get you out. That's exactly what we're doing."

He felt her hug him back tight. "We really are hopeless fools…but your powers…"

"I don't know…it's never worked that way before…I didn't even think about-"

"I'm this close to the gate…our powers won't get stronger than this…just don't let me kill."

"Never again…I'm sorry...you had to see-"

"He would have done things...to our..." Carmine couldn't finish the word. "I understand."

"Thank you," Hei whispered. He removed the mask, letting her see his face. It was an expression wracked by pain and grief. The one Hei kept deep within himself.

"Let's go."
---
Rin looked to Kanami Ishizaki, removing her knife from the throat of the final guard. "Is there a place you can hide with the others?"

The woman nodded. "Yes…I can seal off the back room with the Stargazer until the real authorities arrive."

"Do that, then," Rin said with a nod.

"You were the one with Misaki…" Kanami said. "Is she-"

"She's fine…we'll talk later…" Rin nodded to the shaken astronomy chief. Kanami nodded, signaling the others.

"Everyone with me! Just stay calm!" She filed them out. Rin had had Mimi place the call to Misaki specifically, knowing she would bring only police she trusted. She hoped to have cleaned up Maxley's soldiers by then.

The golden flash was her only warning. She leapt back, avoiding the swing of Laura's knife. "Do you ever give up?"

"That's it, Rin?" Laura gave a vicious smile. "Nice to see you, too?"

Rin frowned angrily. "What's Apos doing here tonight?"

"Recruiting," Laura came forward, but Rin dodged to the side, slipping a knife into her hand.

"We've been through this dance a few times, Laura. I'm just killing you again."

The assassin's eyes darkened. "Oh, we knew you'd come for my sister after your boyfriend knocked her up." She went low this time, stabbing at Rin's kidney. Shock made the immortal move slower, but she turned, seizing Laura's wrist and flung her across the room.

"Guess we know who has the brains in the family. Where's Maxley, Laura?"

"The roof. He wasn't stupid enough to send his men after the Reaper. Apos has what he wants anyways…terrorist attack…the Saturn Ring ready…"

Laura leaped forward, coming in faster this time, hands moving in a blur. Rin let Laura lead her back, blocking her hits as she went, before she reversed her hand, slashing over Laura's wrist with a knife. Laura snarled, stepping back, and Rin could see the cybernetics from where blood was trickling from the wound.

"You let them fix you up, I see."

"Worth it to kill you…after you destroyed my body." Laura's face twisted in rage as she came forward again, drawing her knife and slashing viciously at Rin.. Rin caught her wrist between her arms and twisted, hearing the crunch of bone and wire together. Laura screamed as Rin threw her back, with enough force to go through the glass doors and onto the observation deck. Laura glanced to Rin and back.

"Enjoy it…while you can…Apos told me to tell you one thing…your first love's gonna die…"

Rin paused as Laura stepped back, grinning. "Yggdrasil will be revealed…the fruits will spread…and not a thing you can do about it…"

Laura stepped back, over the edge, her laughter lingering in the night.
---

Hei had let Carmine wait behind as he dealt with the soldiers. "Rin, you read?"

"Near the roof…at the observation deck. Maxley's the floor above. I took care of the hostages."

"He can't have many men left. Stay on guard. I'm bringing Carmine to you."

Hei hit the top floor before long, stepping into the night air. Maxley was standing there.

"That wasn't all of your men, General."

"No. I sent most of them out anyways. I wasn't throwing them away on you. I figured you'd find me. Nishijima?"

"Dead."

"That's a shame. We were all played tonight. He didn't care about secret information. We'll just be the United States army assaulting a foreign power."

Hei didn't answer, knife in hand.

"How long was it since South America, Hei?" Maxley drew his gun, aiming at Hei calmly.

"You stayed behind. It's only you and me now."

"Let them drag my name through the mud. We could've ruled the Syndicate/ I knew trusting that immortal, womanish freak was a bad idea. You've improved since Heaven's War, Hei…but you still let women rule your life." He sneered. "Did you ever imagine Pandora'd be so deserted?"

Hei stepped forward.

"Who was it who trained you!" Maxley snarled. "I did it because you were human! And you betrayed us. You joined that woman's group, you became a filthy Contractor!" His voice turned even. "You disappoint me, Hei."

"That's my pleasure." Hei said beneath the mask.

"Your pleasure? You go against the Syndicate, freeing Havoc, risking the world's order, and you call that your pleasure? Think I'll forgive that pleasure, Hei?" Maxley lowered the gun, and from his side, he drew a combat knife.

"I owe you this much. I'll bury you with my own hands." He pointed the knife at Hei.

"Come at me, boy. It's time we settle this."

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Old 09-06-2012, 12:24 AM   #93
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Hei sprang back, evading the knife that nearly slashed over his chest. Immediately, he retaliated, coming up with a swift stab, but Maxley was as quick as ever. The blade bit through nothing but cold air as Maxley leaped back, too close to the edge of the roof, as if he dared Hei to come for him.

Hei didn't take the bait. Instead, he let Maxley charge again. He moved back, letting Maxley gain momentum. It was a mistake, Maxley too skilled in arms to let Hei surprise him, and he knew Hei too well. The tip of the knife barely avoided flesh, but it caught the edge of the mask, throwing it from Hei's face.

Hei slashed out, giving himself cover as he fell back. Maxley twirled his blade, pointing it at Hei. "You look older. It's in your eyes, Contractor."

Hei found his breath coming in slightly faster. Maxley was on another level from the men he'd killed below. Maxley raised the knife, pointing at Hei's face. "You're being played and you don't even know it."

"The same applies to you, Maxley."

Maxley's eyes blazed with feral rage, but his mouth remained frozen in a grim line. Hei pulled free from the cloak, letting it fall to the ground. Maxley's steely eyes met Hei's. "You're distracted. Thinking of the woman."

"And you're thinking that makes me weak."

"I already know that, Hei!" Maxley and Hei charged as one, and their knives collided, the two struggling against one another. Hei's hand snapped out, but Maxley grabbed it with a gloved hand, negating Hei's ability to discharge electricity through him with the insulating leather.

Instead Hei stepped, kicking out at Maxley's legs. He swept the general down, throwing him to the ground. Maxley rolled aside before Hei could stab through him. Maxley lashed out, booted foot catching Hei in the head.

Hei saw stars, bright lights exploding in his vision. He went back, trying to will strength back into his limbs. He saw the outline of Maxley coming at him, and he pushed his shoulder up, Maxley's knife plunging into flesh. Hei gave a hiss of pain, but the sudden burning agony helped him focus. He kicked out, catching Maxley's leg. He felt something pop and the general gave a roar of pain. Hei's hand jabbed out, and Maxley pulled his head back. One of Hei's fingers scratched something soft and bulbous and Maxley gave a howl of pain, falling back with a hand clasped to a ruined eye. "Damn you!"

Hei took the chance to shake his head and recover, which gave Maxley the time to ready himself. He lunged to where he had dropped his gun.

Hei's hand snapped out, hurling one of his wires. Maxley twisted, the wire avoiding him, but Hei was already moving. He leaped in low, kicking at Maxley's injured leg. Maxley tried to turn, the blow glancing off his shin, but Hei spun suddenly and brought his hand on the back of Maxley's head, throwing the general aside.

Maxley skidded to the edge of the roof, scrambling to seize edge with his hand before he could go over. He groaned weakly, as Hei stepped over him. Hei kicked the gun away from Maxley's grip. Maxley looked up at Hei, teeth bared. "Do it. Go on."

Hei looked down at Maxley calmly. Maxley snarled, legs dangling over the empty air. "I don't have the strength to pull myself back up now…you filthy Contractor. I deserved better…"

"Nothing left to prove, General." Hei said. He raised his foot and slammed it down on Maxley's face, ripping him from his hold on the roof, into the arms of the waiting night.

Hei's blows had ruined his eyes. The only mercy was that he could not see the ground rush up to welcome him to oblivion.

---

Below, Rin radioed in to Mimi and Mao, informing them of the updates. Mimi had assured her she would have Misaki informed the situation was clear. She was going to get clear as soon as possible. She looked up suddenly, seeing Hei walk into the room, masked, supported by Carmine. "Hei!"

"The hostages?"

"Mostly alright…the Astronomy chief is looking out for them. I think there are still researches below though. Maxley?"

"Dead. Just like Nishijima." Carmine said, looking up. "We shouldn't stay here much longer. Hei took damage."

Hei shook his head. "I'm fine. Maxley got the worst of-"

Rin cut him off by pulling his mask off, leaning in and kissing him as hard as she could. "Stop putting up a tough front for me," she whispered with a smile. "Let the two of us take care of you for once."

She saw him smile then. A real one. She felt her heart flutter in her chest before she looked to Carmine. Smooth, Rin, she kicked herself internally. Kiss Hei in front of-

Carmine gave her a gentle smile before taking a breath. Rin realized she was looking at the blood on the ground….staring at it…

"Carmine," Rin said, jolting the other woman back. Carmine nodded. "Right, sorry." She took a shuddering breath. "Doctor Vectrof and Dr. Schroeder are still here. Whatever the Syndicate had planned the entire time, I think they're a major part of it."

Hei frowned. "I know. The Syndicate forces won't stay out here long, so this may be the one chance we have."

Rin looked to Carmine. "Carmine, you're hardly at your best, and you're pregnant, we-"

"Don't give me that. I'm in this with both of you. Nishijima was going to…" she shook her head. "I'm not leaving without the two of you."

"Hands up!" They heard suddenly, and turned, seeing three men with guns drawn. "Where's the general?"

"Dead," Hei said calmly. "Put those down and you can walk out of her tonight."

Rin stepped in front of Carmine protectively. One soldier shouted "No sudden moves!"

They then hear a sound like the snapping of fingers…and all three soldiers fell forward, gaping holes in their backs, as if the flesh had just vanished into nothingness.

Rin and Hei paused, Carmine blinking. "What…just…" she pulled away her gaze from the blood, gritting her teeth to keep control.

"That was like-"

"His power," Hei said. "Wei Zhijun. Let's move!"

They didn't have to go far. Right down the corridor, he was there.

Wei Zhijun, dressed only in a white coat, examined his nails idly. The cold arrogance still shone in his dark eyes, but his face was now hideous. The once handsome, aquiline features were ruined by the hideous burns that covered one side of his face, his once long hair cut short and spiky.

"Black Reaper. And your women." He said, adding the latter as a near after thought.

"We never saw your star fall."

"We're here on our own errand. She doesn't want you to interfere." Wei said.

She. There was no doubt as to who he meant. Hei tensed furiously, his eyes blazing. "Where is Amber?!" he roared.

"Temper, temper," Wei wagged a finger, revealing a jagged cut on his wrist. "She said you'd get like that, too. Well done with the general, though. Amber knew that would happen."

Hei moved forward, but Wei stepped back. "Followed me," he said mockingly, and took off. "Quickly now!"

Hei took off after him, followed by Rin and Carmine, Rin helping Carmine move. The mention of Amber had sent Hei into a near berserker fury.

"Hei, don't rush in!" Rin growled before they reached the center room. In the central room, they could see every floor in Pandora. Hei looked up, seeing on two floors above, Amber staring down at him, Rin and Carmine, smiling.

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Old 09-06-2012, 12:25 AM   #94
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"We have the doctors, Wei. You didn't have to go this far." Amber said chidingly. She looked younger than before, in her early teens. She folded her arms. The white coat she wore seemed comically big for her, draped around her body and hanging to the floor.

"Hello, Hei. Britta?"

Hei was suddenly aware of a presence before him and he spun. The blond woman had appeared there, reaching to him. He summoned his power, but a blue glow surrounded her before she vanished, Hei's hand striking empty air. Above, Hei could see a bespectacled man with wild gray hair and a small white beard watching in awe.

He heard Rin start to call his name before he spun, lashing out with a foot. The Contractor named Britta had grabbed for him again, intending to teleport him, but Hei kicked her hand aside. She managed to teleport just in time, appearing by Wei and collapsing to a knee before straightening.

"Teleportation…only organic matter from the looks of it," Carmine said, noting Britta's nudity. The woman stood and quickly kissed Wei's cheek before facing Hei. "Good as they say," she said. "Dr. Schroeder, you may want-"

Rin's hand snapped out and two knives flew out. Britta teleported to Amber while Wei leaped back, the knife grazing his shoulder. Hei took the chance, snapping a hand out as a wire bound on the railing a floor above. He pulled himself up to the floor, evading Wei as the contractor flung his blood. Rin was already moving to engage the Chinese assassin when Hei landed in front of Amber.

"What more do I have for you to take from me?!" he roared, grabbing her by the head. Amber looked up at him impassively, her face unreadable.

"Tell me why! Where is Pai?!" Hei shouted, his body beginning to glow. Dr. Schroeder could see the blow glow suddenly spread out, enveloping the building as the very foundations began to shake and tremble.

"Why ask her?" Another voice said. "You know she lies, BK-201!"

Hei looked up as the golden light took shape, and Apos emerged. "I had to come in person. After Rin did that job on Laura…and after Hei did the one on Nishijima and Maxley, well, it makes my job easier!"

"Apos," Amber said calmly. "I was wondering when you showed up." Wei stepped back with Britta, his eyes narrowed.

Hei spun, drawing his knife as Amber sighed. "There's too much to explain, Hei, but this man is your enemy."

"How rude. I would say we're fast friends by now. I just stopped by to deliver a few Time Fruits, and what do I get?" Apos grinned wider. "Everyone together. Hello, Hei. Hello, Carmine. Hello, Rin. And hello, Amber." He spread his arms slightly.

"Yggdrasil's full awakening is at hand. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. This world is going to acknowledge its new order soon."

"Hei-" amber started but Hei snarled.

"Both of you are the same to me."

"That really hurts," Amber said calmly. "You don't understand though."

"So tell me!" He shouted, but Amber was silent.

Apos seemed to phase from his position, appeared by Rin. "And you, my dear…I'm so sorry about Koki Maeno…and Yanigahara…"

He didn't pay attention to Carmine, ignoring her as he would an insect. He dodged back from Rin's knife slash, grinning. "Go on, Hei…kill her! Kill Amber! She's the one who lied to you! The one who's used you! Even now you play at what she wants you to!"

Hei glanced to Amber for a moment. "I plan to…but right now," he flung the knife. Apos raised a hand, smacking it out of the air.

"Unwise as usual, I hoped-" He gasped suddenly as Carmine drove one of Rin's knives through his back.

"Forgot me?"

"Little harlot-" He pulled away, voice contorted more from rage than pain. Amber watched impassively as golden light appeared in his hand, forming into a long sword.

Hei was on him in an instant. Apos looked up, his body started to wrap in golden light.

Hei slammed into him, the light consuming him as well.

Hei hit the ground roughly, feeling the cold wind and the cold stone of the floor. Where am I, he barely had time to register before he looked up, seeing Apos staring at him.

"So you managed to hitch a ride." Apos sighed, tapping the sword on his shoulder. "I don't suppose we can talk-"

Hei drove the knife into his stomach. Apos stared at it. "I suppose n-"

Hei unleashed his powers, and Apos screaming, collapsed to the ground in a twitching, smoking heap. Hei stumbled back, scarcely daring to hope, before Apos rose, his body repairing itself.

"I'll have my pound of flesh for that one…" he whispered. He seized his sword and swung faster than Hei believed possibly. Hei rolled away, realizing they were in a long corridor of…what appeared to be a stone castle, overlooking a snowy cliff. He avoided Apos's next swing, taking off in full sprint. Apos snarled and raised a hand.

Hei heard the beating of wings as the Angels rose into the air.

"Take him…rend him asunder…bring me his head, attached or not!" Apos roared.

Dozens of Angel swooped in as Hei ran, hearing them behind him. He summoned all the strength he had left, hell itself thundering at his heels. Come on, come on, he thought desperately. He dove into one room, seeing the wide chamber as the angels landed on the floor advancing. With the snow, Hei had one advantage. He discharged his power through the floor, having the satisfaction of dozens of the monsters writhing and turning to ashes. But still more came…he fled again, down to the next room, when-

"Enough," the voice said and Hei saw golden light flash over the doors and windows. He heard angels snarling, their fists beating at it. He looked over to see the man in the chair.

He was tall, dressed in dark clothing. His coal-black hair reached to his shoulders. His face was handsome, the man appearing in his late thirties. He fixed Hei with his gaze calmly.

"Who-"

"Who I am is not important. This will not hold them for long. You are the one called 'Hei' then…the Black Reaper. Call me Tajimamori if you need a name."

Hei found the strength to nod. "Apos…?"

"I have never seen him like this. He is planning something he's kept even from me. Listen to me, time is of the essence, Hei. You know Rin."

It wasn't a question. Somehow, when fixed by the man's piercing gaze, Hei felt he could trust him. "I am the former Guardian of Yggdrasil. I passed it on to my blood, to Apos. He has misused it. He does not mean to ever surrender control of Yggdrasil. The Guardian's job is to preserve the tree, preserve the world and all its knowledge and secrets. Apos would see them pulled to its own ends."

"I don't understand-"

"Forgive me…" Tajimamori breathed in. "There is so much I have to say and little time. Are you armed?"

Hei held up a knife in response. Tajimamori nodded to a sword on the table. "Not all of his Angels are in here now. He's sent them to…strategic positions. We cannot defeat Apos here, not where Yggdrasil is strongest. As long as he rules Yggdrasil, he is truly an immortal angel as he claims."

"How do you know Rin?"

"A thousand years ago, I found her newly awakened in immortality. I.." he closed his eyes. "Kept my distance. It was safer for both of us. As much as I longed for her…for a thousand years…"

Hei paused…Rin had mentioned a man before. He had no idea it had gone back this far.

"She told me about you…she told me about a man she cares for deeply. I would aid you, Hei. I do not have my old power. Such a barrier took much of my energy…it will take me time to gather enough to send you back."

"There's too much I have to ask you! Heaven's War?"

"It was a power play…Apos orchestrated much of it to seize the Gate. The Gate is linked to Yggdrasil. For what purpose, not even the Guardian knows, but it might hold the truth behind the false stars in the sky, and the Contractors. Apos fears the Contractors, Hei. He fears what they could become. He means to destroy the entire race now, and he can. You must-"

The golden barriers seemed to sunder. Tajimamori frowned. "With me." He said. "I have not fought against young angels in some time!"

Hei had no choice. He thought of Carmine…Rin…Yin…even Misaki Kirihara…Huang,Mimi, Mao, all his comades…and Pai..

Tajimamori signaled him as the angels rushed in…and Hei and Tajimamori ran to meet them.

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Old 10-21-2012, 11:56 PM   #95
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Hei threw himself to the side, avoiding a talon before Tajimamori drove his sword through the assailant's throat. The angel had time to manage a blood-choked rattle before its body fell to dust. Hei had lost track of how many they had killed, but he knew without the older man, he would have fallen already.

Tajimamori was moving to cover Hei's blind spots, sword flashing quickly to sever the grasping claws of any Angel that reached for him. For his part, Hei had found his rhythm, cutting through the angels in front of him while trusting his back to Tajimamori. With a partner, he found himself unable to discharge his powers through the wet stone, but he compensated with nothing more than speed and skill.

Hei was only human, though, and the Angel horde seemed inexhaustible. What was more, they hadn't seen Apos yet, while the angels continued to rush in. Tajimamori looked up. "Throw a knife through the window," he said. "We need to retreat."

Hei flung one of his knives, aiming it so it struck the large window. He'd left it attached to one of his wires, and pulled it so the knife touched the stone outside. Hei then summoned his power and unleashed it through the snowy foundation of the castle's outside, through any Angel that was luckless enough to cling there, and through any Angel that was touching the victim.

"Jump!" Tajimamori shouted. "Trust me!"

Hei had reservations about throwing himself off the edge of the castle, but he took Tajimamori's words to heart, especially with the barrier gone. He charged forward and leaped out into open air He felt strong arms grasp him suddenly and then he was lifted up out of the fall.

He turned his head, seeing Tajimamori grasping him, red wings sprouted from his back. He folded them and dropped to a dive. Hei noticed the angels weren't pursuing, and he looked to Tajimamori as the man flew them to a lower floor of the castle, entering it through the window. "You're an Angel?"

"Not exactly. The Guardian of Yggdrasil takes on aspects of Angel and Immortal. I'm mostly Angel, but I keep my sanity and humanity." He released Hei who sagged back against the wall.

"I met Rin a thousand years ago, before she truly understood what happened to her. I…kept tabs on her since then."

Hei looked to him. A thousand years? And he had only known Rin for…

"Like I said…" Tajimamori smiled. "She's told me of you. But you've been known to Apos and I before then."

"I want answers," Hei said.

"You deserve them," Tajimamori said, looking up. They heard the beating of wings outside. "We haven't even killed a fraction of them. He isn't having them pursue us for whatever reason, but we should keep moving until my strength is back."

And that without his strength back…Hei thought, remembering the dance of Tajimamori's sword through his enemies. He looked to him. "I have to know."

Tajimamori's eyes closed for a moment. "I erred in choosing Apos as the successor of Yggdrasil. He was born to it, and I thought he would understand the importance and dignity of his role. Instead, he glories in cruelty and sadism. Countless people have died due to nothing more than his appetites."

"Why don't you challenge him? Take Yggdrasil back?"

"I do not have the immortality Apos does. I am forced to eat time fruits from the tree to continue preserving my life and sanity, but Apos has no such restriction. It…amuses him to let me live, but if he cut off the supply, I would become a mindless beast. And if I tried to stop him, he would cut me down as easily as I slew those young beasts back there.

"The truth of the matter now is above all else, Apos is wariest of you, Hei. He has sought to throw you off, to intimidate you and make you believe you are helpless before him. But there are things he doesn't understand. Your powers are amongst those. The Gate is another."

"Do you know? The gate? The purpose?"

"I have a theory. Part of it is something…different. There is an intelligence behind the Gate. I believe it is linked to Yggdrasil and the very foundation of this world. I believe the powers it's bestowed are in part meant to stop Apos before he destroys the balance of this world forever."

"Do you know about Pai? My-"

"Your sister…Apos mentioned her during Heaven's War before his focus shifted to you. You awoke with her powers at the war's conclusion, did you not?"

"Amber betrayed us all, and the Gate…was sealed off."

"Amber," Tajimamori nodded. "I doubt anyone knows more than she does now. Forgive me, Hei, I cannot say what happened to your sister, or why you awoke with her abilities. The answers might well be found in the Gate, or with Amber."

"If Apos and Amber have your answers," Hei clenched a fist. "Neither of them have given anything but lies."

"I don't think that's true. Every best lie contains the grain of truth. I understand the fury you must feel towards Amber, but if Apos stands in opposition to her, you should consider her a potential ally."

"Just because we share an enemy doesn't make us friends." Hei said as they moved, knife in hand. "All of this is a game to her. Everything she's done-"

"You loved her, didn't you?" Tajimamori asked gently. "Such hatred can only come from that."

Hei's fist clenched and Tajimamori nodded. "As for Rin…we share the same feelings for her. She is the most import-"

A wave of force struck Hei suddenly and he was flung back, smashing into the ground. It felt like a sledgehammer has smashed into his ribs. He looked up, seeing Laura having stepped around one corridor, smoke drifting from the muzzle of her rifle. "Bulletproof. I forgot."

Tajimamori had time to turn to Hei before he gasped, blood gushing from his chest as the silver tip of a sword burst through his heart.

"Telling him so much is against the rules, old man." Apos's gloating voice whispered. "I should have done this centuries ago." He twisted the blade and Tajimamori cried out before Apos pulled the blade out, letting his father sink to the ground, clutching his chest.

"Hei…" Tajimamori held his hand up. "Give me your…"

Hei found the strength to move forward, seizing the wounded man's hand. Tajimamori's nails suddenly lengthened and he dug them into Hei's wrist, sharp enough to draw blood. Hei hissed in pain, but Tajimamori held him firm, his own blood running into Hei's wounds.

"It's a shame you're not at your best, Hei," Apos said chidingly. "Laura never would have ambushed you so easily-" He stopped, as the back of Hei's hand began to glow, a pair of wings appearing on the back. The blood running from Hei's wrist suddenly seemed to become…white in color.

"Oh, you stupid old man," He snarled. "Yggdrasil is mine!" He advanced, raising the sword.

"To Rin…" Tajimamori whispered."My time fruit…you'll know…"

Hei looked up at Apos. "Heaven's War…"

"Oh…so he told you a bit of that…? It was a spot of fun there. I'm through taking you lightly tonight, Hei. You're right after-"

Hei's pupils turned red,the blue glow appearing. Laura raised her gun, aiming at him.

Hei suddenly felt his mind turn towards her. It was suddenly inconceivable that she should fire that gun. She should not be able. He reached out with his mind, demanding it of the universe itself that her gun not fire. Laura's finger closed on the trigger…

There was no explosion of a bullet ripping from her weapon, just a click. "Wha?!" Laura shouted as Apos raised his sword. "On second thought, die first!"

It was just as inconceivable that Apos's sword touch him. Hei, still winded, didn't managed to get his knife up in time as Apos's sword swung down, the keen edge of the sword falling to his head-

Apos held up his sword. The upper half of the blade was simply gone. It had vanished the moment it had touched Hei. "…this shouldn't be. You can't-"

Hei focused on Apos with an expression of seething hate and fury. The blue glow spread through the corridor. The castle itself began to shake.

Hei didn't need to touch the stone. He was the stones now. If he desired them to collapse, they would. He had simply ordered the metal of the sword not to be when it had swung on him, and the moment it had touched him, it had simply ceased to be.

He felt more…he felt the snows, he felt the grass of the garden, he felt the roots of the world tree itself…He could see it then, the massive form of the Tree outside, its fruits drifting through the air, ready to bestow immortality to those who consumed them. He felt its branches and roots that spread throughout the entire world.

And for a moment, he saw the true stars and moon in the sky, hidden above the canopy of false stars that represented the lives of all Contractors. For just one, blessed, indescribable moment…Hei felt the very heart of the world itself.

He saw the look on Apos's face turn from surprise to horror. "What are you?!" He shouted. "No contractor should have this power! Yggdrasil is mine!" His face contorted in a feral grimace. "You think you've known pain?! You've seen nothing, you worthless human! Yggdrasil and Rin! They're both mine!"

Hei felt Apos there suddenly, grabbing Yggdrasil, ripping it away until he could feel it no longer. The sudden shock of his perception confined to his own body drove him to his knees. Tajimamori grasped Hei's hand. "Rin is the true Guardian…giv h-"

Apos drove his sword into his father's back again and again, stabbing him savagely. Tajimamori cried out, but reached into the wound Apos made. He tore through his own body and pulled, placing something in Hei's hand.

Hei looked down to a see blood-stained timefruit there. He looked to the dying man as his body began to crumble to dust.

"Farewell." Tajimamori whispered , shutting his eyes as he focused.

Hei's world vanished in golden light.

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Old 11-18-2012, 03:17 AM   #96
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Hei felt the pavement hit him as the world returned to him. He groaned, pulling himself up. He had the feeling human beings were not meant to travel the way he just had.

Mask, gone. Most weapons, gone. Coat's still on, he noted methodically, patting himself down as his eyes adjusted. It was still night in Tokyo, with nobody he could see on the streets, not even the authorities. He couldn't see or hear any living human soul. He took a look at the streets, getting an idea of where he was when a blue glow caught his eye in a nearby puddle. Yin, he thought.

That meant they had his location now. He gave a sigh of relief. It was only minutes later the car pulled up and the door opened. "Hei! In!" He heard Rin's voice. He rushed into the car, shutting the door. Every single muscle and joint in his body hurt. He found himself running over the events of the last hour more and more.

What had he done? He'd prevented a gun from firing. He'd made solid steel crumble to dust when it had touched his skin. For one moment, he had felt as if he was the king of the world, connected to all that existed. What had happened? What did that have to do with Pai?

"Hei, Hei!" He looked up at Rin. She put her hands to his face and pulled him into a hard kiss.

"You're alright…Yin saw you…I had no idea what had…"

"Kid, back there," Huang said. "We had to leave the other car and get out fast as we could."

Yin was sat in the driver's seat, hand in a bucket of water. Hei thought he could sense relief from her as well. He saw Mao sat in her lap. "Cutting it close enough, Hei," the cat said. "What happened?"

He told them everything…Rin's eyes widened when he mentioned Tajimamori, and shut in pain when he mentioned the man's death at Apos's hands.

"Rin-" Carmine asked. Rin shook her head.

"He was…someone important to me," Rin said softly. "He taught me how to read and write…about immortality…we met a thousand years ago. He kept his distance for my sake, but-"

Hei kept his face neutral, but he reached out to take his lover's hand. He didn't know how Rin kept from breaking. Everything that had happened this past year alone would have crushed a lesser human being. She had lost her friends, and now her first love. But she kept pushing on, never once breaking. Her strength, independence and resolution to take the next step forward made him admire her, look to her for strength to draw upon himself.

When he told them about what had happened with his powers, Mao's eyes widened. "How is that even possible? Your powers are electric shocks. You've never shown you can-"

"What about back when we saw Amber? The whole place was shaking.," Carmine said. "Hei, how far do your powers even go?"

"What happened to Vectrof and Schroeder?"

"Amber pulled her disappearing act…we found ourselves outside, and there was no sign of her, or Wei Zhijun, or the blond. I radioed Misaki and the authorities have closed in. The hostages are secure, but this could have bad repercussions throughout. And if Tajimamori is dead, I don't have the same protection anymore," Rin clenched a fist.

"before they disappeared, Schroeder said he knew what caused the disaster in South America," Carmine said. "Hei, do you think Pai-"

"That was when you were already known as the Black Reaper," Huang said. "But your sister, Pai, had the designation BK-201?"

"Hei, her powers were identical to yours," Carmine said. "But…" her eyes closed. "My memories….they're coming back to me…"

Rin blinked in surprise. "The day the gate in South America vanished?"

"When I…awoke my powers again," Carmine shivered, "It came back somewhat. That day…holding the meteor shard, just before it all ended…"

Huang glanced back, realization in his eyes. "Are you really sayin'-"

"It was Pai. Pai was the one working with Amber. She was the one who sealed the Gate."

Yin glanced up suddenly. "Radio," she said, a note of urgency in her voice. "News."

"Huh?" Huang blinked, turning it on. There was a brief burst of static, and then, a voice sounded. Eric Nishijima's voice.

"Terrorist activities launched on Pandora by the United Stated Government in violation of-" the broadcast began.

"I killed him," Hei snarled. "I know I killed-"

"A time fruit," Rin finished. "Apos brought him back before or after Amber came for Vectrof and Schroeder. We know they're working on something for the Syndicate. We just don't know what."

"We need a safehouse," Huang said. "It ain't safe to stay at your place now. Rin, you got connections in the government, can you pull something off?"

"Anything I have there will be cut off by now. It was never more than a few people I'd done jobs for or helped in the past. The Syndicate's bound to have cut that off. Hei's apartment is already compromised and can't fit all of us anyways. That leaves-"

"There was someone," Hei said. "Who warned me. Her name was…Shihoko Kashida."

Huang nearly ran them off the road. "What?!" He roared. "What did you just say?!"

"Huang, calm down!" Mao said.

"The hell I will! What're you doing talking to-"

"She warned me about a lot tonight, Huang. The information was accurate. Do you have a better option?"

Huang was seething silently when the radio continued. "On the next note, the heinous attack on Tokyo was from twisted experiments at what we have found, the secret of immortality and The Gate. The secret of the Divine."

"Mr. Nishijima," the reporter said. "This is quite the claim, can you-"

"Just look outside," was the response.

The dawn peaked over Tokyo's buildings, setting the skies aflame. Rising high in the sky, everyone could see now, the glowing, starry canopy of the world tree, towering high above the Gate itself.

They could see the fruits drifting through the air, they could feel the connection to something far greater. Many fell to their knees, weeping as the angel appeared.

His hair was golden, his wings red as his eyes. His skin was polished alabaster and his beauty was beyond compare. When he spoke, his voice magnified across the world, it was as if his voice was gentle music.

"People of this realm! My name is Apos, and I am the steward of the Tree I have now chosen to make visible to you!" He descended, every camera trained on him. "There are those who have sought to corrupt it, use it wrongly. Many of you have long wondered at the divine, but your prayers have never fallen upon deaf ears!"

He smiled gently. "You can all now feel the kinship you have through the Tree that connects all of your souls to this world! Through the Gate! I am a representative of God Almighty, an Eternal Angel who brings with him the message…"

"We want no war, no pain, no suffering…we want your troubles to be over! We want you to feel kinship to us, through this tree…consider what I have said. We will be watching and bestowing our gifts. Soon enough, you shall see the stars and moon anew!"

Golden light surrounded the angel, and he vanished, leaving a world to marvel at what they had seen.

Misaki Kirihara's jaw hung slack as she saw the people in the streets. Some looked incredulous, some pondered openly if they had just seen special effects, but so many were weeping, falling to their knees, staring at Yggdrasil. What had happened?

"Misaki!" she heard her name and turned, seeing the man making his way to her. "Jack?"

"Quick, no time to waste," November 11 grabbed her wrist. "We're compromised,"

"What are you talking about?"

"The attack on Pandora was the last bloody straw. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong and you were right. They told me to kill April. They're expecting her dead within hours."

"Jack, did you just see-"

"I saw!" He said. "Misaki," he whispered. "I don't believe in God, or angels or demons or anything like that. All I know is Decade and my agency have played me from the start now."

"It's the same with Horai and my agency. Do you think they're working together?"

"The Syndicate, yes." November said. "We have to go as soon as possible. This is the start of the end."
---
Apos flew into the sky above his castle, arms stretched out towards Yggdrasil. His crimson eyes were wide, his smile split across his face. His father was dead. With that meddling relic gone, he felt so liberated he had to wonder why he'd let Tajimamori live so long.

Deep inside though, he felt it still. The fear Hei had made him feel in that moment. But it was absurd now. He had put the final piece in place. The Syndicate was preparing its final means to wipe out Hei and all Contractors from the world. He had nothing to fear now, he told himself. Nothing at all.

He'd severed Hei and Rin's final protection. There was nowhere they could hide. Oh, humanity would ponder and debate, but he was going to provide proof of divinity. He would be a generous god, extending the fruits of eternity throughout Tokyo. Before he sent his angels to harvest the city, and bring the souls and memories to Yggdrasil for him to devour.

Apos laughed madly. "It's your move, Amber!" He howled to the blue sky. "I've won! I've won the real Heaven's War!"

With the Americans on the defensive, he'd turned nations towards one another's throats. The situation left it wide open for him now. He grinned at Yggdrasil, knowing it belonged to him completely now. All he needed now was Rin.

He turned his thoughts to Tokyo. Let the humans worship him now. The Angel's dawn had begun.

Let the fire of truth rain down.

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Old 12-21-2012, 05:44 PM   #97
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Misaki Kirihara looked to November 11 as he sat in the passenger seat of the car. "I think it's time you explain yourself," she said.

"Is there any answer that would satisfy you?" The Contractor asked. "I've been having a lot of problems with management of late."

"I could stop the car and tell you to get out," Misaki said.

"Threatening a man who can freeze the blood in your veins at the cost of one day closer to lung cancer if he was of a mind? Misaki, this is why I love working with you." November grinned at her, his ice-blue eyes hidden behind his sunglasses. "I didn't think you'd learned humor on the job."

"I'm serious, Jack. I've been pulled left and right by everyone. You will give me answers or I am stopping the car. I will tell you to get out." She fixed him with a hard look. "And if I do, you will listen."

November found himself rendered momentarily speechless, before he allowed a genuine smile to cross his face. "Fair enough," He said softly. "They were right about it, Misaki. Everything."

"I already know about Director Horai. He let it slip after Tamotsu Yanigahara died. Said something he had no idea I'd know,"

"Make an espionage champion out of you yet," November said with admiration. "Misaki, consider that any action could be dangerous. Not just for you, but your team. Your father as well."

"They already hurt my best friend," Misaki said. "Horai doesn't know I know. Is your superior?"

"I didn't have confirmation until they ordered April's elimination," November admitted, "But Decade is one of them. That means…"

"The attack on Pandora. The American General?"

"Now American international relations are at an all time low, and that's saying something. Nobody believes Maxley was acting on his own. Britain's making a big show of it now. And the entire world looks to be finding religion."

"Which allows them cover for whatever they were planning…" Misaki finished. November nodded.

"the one conclusion I come to is that there's one damn person who knows what's happening and has an actual handle on it."

"You mean Amber."

"Codename February, yes," November said with a nod. "I'm beginning to have my doubts she's just another terrorist. What's more,after April's previous untimely death, I did some digging," He reached into his pocket, removing his wallet and leafing through to remove several photos. "April brought these back with her, of Contractors she saw when February had her. Naturally, February must have given them to April herself."

Misaki spared a look when they stopped for traffic. The first woman was tall and beautiful, with purple lipstick and blond hair brought up into a tight bun, glasses making her features look severe. "I've seen that one before."

"She works at the American embassy. Her name is Britta, obvious alias. Her power is teleportation of organic matter. Next," November showed a photo of a woman with long brown hair that went just past her shoulders. "British attachment, name of Tamara Ashdown. Again, obvious alias. Her powers are matter duplication. Organic or otherwise."

"That explains how they had April's body," Misaki said. "She can make…clones of people?"

"Not with any cognitive function. It's essentially a corpse from the moment of creation. April said her remuneration was agonizing, though."

"No surprises there…were there any others?"

"The one I killed, naturally,: November said with a trace of professional pride to his voice. "The final one? I believe you know Wei Zhijun? Though his face has seen better days."

Misaki gritted her teeth. "So he did survive…"

"The final one," November said, moving on quickly as he could, "Is the one I saw myself. The big fellow, Amagiri. His power…concussive force, remuneration is to eat hardboiled eggs."

"Pretty light…"

"Not at all, think of the cholesterol!" November grinned. "But now that you know this, we need a way to find February herself."

"Oh, so we'll just do what every police agency in the world hasn't?"

"The difference is she wants us to find them. I had an open door policy to Evening Primrose, Misaki. I also have the funny feeling that February knew what moves I'd make. It's why she gave April this info."

"So do we just drive around until she calls on us? Look at everyone in the streets, just looking up at that…thing."

"Is rather eerie," November agreed. Everyone was outdoors…staring at the massive form of Yggdrasil in the distance. Many had looks of awe or fear on their faces, others were weeping. Misaki could see the colorless spores of Yggdrasil drifting all over. "I must admit, Apos holds the cards now."

"Where are April and July?"

"Safe right now," November said. "I figured we should get them before I get my answers. When I know what we're up against…I say, do you mind being my getaway driver?"

"You're going to kill Decade, aren't you?"

"Damned right I am," November's voice went cold. "He used me. He tried to murder my partner."

"She's not just your partner…" Misaki looked him in the eye. "She's your friend,"

November breathed in and gave a nod. "Yes. Yes she is. I didn't even realize how much my team meant to me…before…" He caught himself. "I can't help but think BK-201 is on our side in this."

"And Rin, too, November grinned. "Always the most likely suspects. Misaki, I understand I'm asking a lot on this."

Misaki took a moment to collect herself. November was asking for her permission to commit murder. She'd always upheld the law, and refrained from killing when possible. But she'd done a lot recently she'd never thought she could. She remembered Hans straining against her, fighting for life as she choked it from him…

This wasn't a situation where normal laws applied. This was a war, and one that men like Horai, Nishijima and Decade had waged with no thought that anything could ever touch them. They'd killed Tamotsu as easily as she would have swatted a hornet.

"You leave Horai to me if possible. If nothing else…I know my father is clean. There needs to be some chance to return order to this. Some integrity."

"Deal," November said. "I'll call April."

Misaki nodded. "First…" she took out her phone and dialed a number. She waited four rings before…

"H-hello? Chief?"

"Ohtsuka," Misaki said. "How are you holding up?"

"Oh, I'm fine! Ready for work again-"

"Listen, Ohtsuka," Misaki said, silencing Mayu. "I need you to get on something for me. There's someone I want you to call after you listen to me. Send it to the rest of the team. Her name is Mimi…"

After what seemed an eternity of driving, Hei stepped of the car, taking a deep breath. Huang rubbed his head. "Right out in the countryside, huh?" He looked as Mao hopped out, the cat stretching before they looked around, seeing the compound a short distance away.

___

"You made it," They looked up and saw Shihoko Kashida waking over with guards. Huang froze, hand trembling at his side. The woman made no sign she recognized him.

"You're going to be public enemy number one now," Shihoko said, fixing Hei with her gaze . She didn't look at Huang, or let her face betray anything. "This is our compound. The Founder is inside. She'll have business with Evening Primrose later. You'll be able to send a message. This might be your one chance."

Hei nodded and glanced to Huang. "You understand we don't trust easy right now."

"I wasn't aware you had a choice," Shihoko said. "Everyone here is loyal."

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Old 12-21-2012, 05:44 PM   #98
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"And you?" Mao asked

"I was Syndicate once," she said. And Huang's face twisted, rage and pain clear on his features. Out of instinct, Mimi reached out to grasp his shoulder. He seemed to relax at that contact.

"The others will show you in. You're guests, not prisoners," Shihoko said to Hei. "What you did at Pandora…" She looked to Carmine, "It's on the lips of every Contractor by now."

____

There wasn't much to complain about the rooms. Everyone was situated with guards, and Huang had seemed to calm. Hei was grateful for that small favor.

Rin stepped out from the shower, dressed in fresh clothing and drying her hair. The compound was a simple place, with the occupants living in decent conditions, with multiple rooms with their own bathrooms and beds. Clothes had been provided, as well as food. Rin supposed Hei must have depleted the stores by at least half there, though.

"Is Huang…"

"No. He's not alright," Hei said. "Whatever history they had, it's going to be a problem. Is Carmine…?"

"She's fine…Mimi is on her laptop, managed to get service. They said their high priestess wants to see you soon."

"Gate religions…and Contractors leading them," Hei's lip curled. Rin sat by him.

"I keep forgetting how much you hate what you are." She said, reaching to take his hand.

"They're manipulating these people. We're taking advantage of it just by being here. What other choice do we have?"

Rin looked to him. "I need to ask you something…and be honest with me."

"Rin?"

"How…how did he die? Tajimamori?" He saw something in her eyes.

"He died…saving my life," Hei said, grasping her hand with his. "He died…entrusting me with everything. To stop Apos. I have no idea if we can now. Or if we can trust Shihoko's people, or if we have to work with Amber. I'm as lost as you are."

Rin put a hand to his face. "Not lost. We've got each other. And everyone else…" She grinned. "I've even got something Mr. Kurosawa can help us with…"

"You don't say," The barest hints of a smile crossed his face before he fixed dark eyes on her green ones. Rin removed her glasses.

"I haven't…had time to mourn a lot of people, Hei. Tamotsu, Koki…now Tajimamori…I never even knew his name….but I haad…wanted to see him again, for a thousand years. It was so hard. The distance…"

"He said Yggdrasil..was meant for you," hei remembered the white blood dripping into his veins as Tajimamori had died. The Time Fruit given into his keeping…what did it all mean.

"I don't even know what that means now," she said. "I just want him gone. But even if we destroy Apos, it won't change the Syndicate being gone."

"No." He said softly. "They'll take a blow, but…I'll be their enemy. As long as you're with me, you're in danger. Carmine, our child, Mimi, Yin-"

"You don't dare pull that idiot martyr cliché on me," Rin said and kissed him suddenly. "I'm one thousand years old. I've lived for danger longer than you know. You aren't the only one who gets a say here, Hei."

Hei didn't respond with words. Instead, he leaned in and kissed her, reaching a hand to her cheek. He suddenly saw the mark on the back of his hand glow with soft light.

Rin pulled him in to the next kiss, lips pressing to his mouth, her tongue parting his lips. "Let's…" She started, but whatever she was about to say died as he kissed her back, both possessed by sudden desire and need to be free of the pain of the past days.

Their clothes were discarded, their bodies bared to one another. Rin's legs were locked around him as they moved, their hands clasped tight. There was no mistaking now, the glow on the back of Hei's palm.

She barely bit back a cry as she climaxed, feeling him spend inside her. She shut her eyes tight and hugged him to her, feeling tears she had suppressed run down her cheeks. He leaned in to kiss them gently. Neither said a word. Neither needed to. For even one moment more, they had eachother. That was enough.

In his own room, Huang looked as a message appeared on his cellphone. The sender was unknown, but the message read in clear bold words: KILL SHIHIKO KASHIDA. KILL THE PROPHET.

The next message followed. AND ALL IS FORGIVEN.

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Old 01-21-2013, 12:14 AM   #99
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"I told you I wasn't stealing anything!"

"Hey, I'm sorry, I just thought-"

"Hmph, well, I can't make my audition now!" She leaned back with a frown. "Suppose I'll be satisfied with all the money I get from the settlement! What's your name anyways, Gloomy Gus?"

"Name's Kuno…"

Kuno, huh?" She looked to him and actually smiled ."I'm Shihoko. Shihoko Kashida. Aspiring actress."

Actress. Yeah, she'd been a good one, Huang thought. Every smile. Every word. Every gesture. Every kiss. A lit. All a lie. All to get close. All to deceive him.

How stupid had he been to even consider a Contractor as an ally? They were monsters, all of them. Huang stared at his gun. Kill them and all was forgiven? It was such a good deal. What did he have left to him but survival? What did going against the Syndicate give him but death?

Survival. His lip curled at that. Is that all he had now? A life as a Syndicate errand boy?

Goddamn right it is. Whose fault is that, anyways? You tried, old man. You tried damn hard. Nobody can say you didn't. Not the kid, not Mao, nobody. They'd do the same thing. They're Contractors.

So why are they being more human than you are? The other voice whispered. You've seen them, old man. They're not perfect, but they don't stop trying. They fight, they try, they move on, they fix what's wrong, they look after themselves and all of the others.

Because it benefits them. More human than me-

Look how far the kid went to save her. Right in the heart of Pandora for her and his child. Would you have done that? He was right. You are a coward. And here you are, about to betray the only people-

I deserve this. SHE deserves this. I had people who cared about me. Isozaki was my partner and she-

He remembered the look on his partner's face as his insides had melted. The look of ice on Shihioko's face as she'd walked away. It had been only days later before they'd taken him, with the choice only to work for them without question or lose his memories.

I was scared, dammit. I was so scared.

You're still scared, the voice said. But you don't have to be. You told that angel where he could put that thing he offered you. Show that spine now.

Sorry. No spine here. Just an old man who can't get drunk no matter how hard he tries, who visits his partner's widow out of his own guilt.

Calmly, Huang reached out and picked up the gun. Gloomy Gus, huh? It'd been her pet name for him, as much as he'd hated it. He'd probably hated it for how much it suited him at that. Whenever they'd gone out drinking, he'd been the one to stay sober despite his best efforts, except for a treasured few occasions. He'd loved her.

He still did. And that was why he could hate her so damned much.

___

Rin reached out to the other side of the bed, but felt only warm sheets. Really hate it when he does that. She sat up and put on her glasses, eyes adjusting to the dark. She saw Hei standing at the window, his arms folded.

"This is the part where I say 'come back to bed' and you give me the sullen, angsty reply where I try to be soothing?" she grinned playfully at him. "Come on, what's on your mind?"

"We know Evening Primrose is coming. Apos is being considered an angel by most of the world."

"I admit these occurred to me, too," Rin's expression turned serious and she stood, not bothering to cover herself. She walked to Hei and put her hands to his shoulders, resting her head on his back.

"He has the world on his side now. I keep looking for a way to beat him, but…"

"You're the Contractor. Nothing rational?"

"No," Hei said softly. "Not a thing. The Syndicate won't ever stop, even if he's gone. I'm not closer to finding Pai."

"Yeah? You found us." Rin smiled at him. "Tajimamori trusted you. Carmine trusted you. Yin has every faith in you. You don't give yourself enough credit."

He turned to face her and put a hand to her cheek. She smiled and leaned against it. "We're going to figure this out."

"You have any ideas?"

"As a matter of fact? If we can expose Apos…"

"Easier said than done…and the chaos it might cause…"

"I know," Rin said. "But right now, no immortal is safe. And whatever they have planned with the Contractors…"

"You think I should ask Amber." Hei said. It was a clear statement. "No matter what, she won't tell the truth."

"I don't think that's right, Hei. Amber speaks in riddles, but…right now, she might be our only ally in this. The only one still alive. I know I'm asking a lot…"

"No…you're right to." He nodded. "This is bigger than my grudge…but I'll deal with it later. I won't let everyone who died have been in vain…I promise."

___

Mimi grinned cheerfully at Yin, "So, know much about computers?"

"I'm blind."

"Not with water around!" Mimi said. "And you play a great piano!"

"I studied," Yin said. She was dressed in a bathrobe after a hot shower, wearing her silver hair down. Mimi had to admit she was extremely beautiful. It was hard to believe she was in her twenties, actually.

"You've been talking much more, too. I like it," Mimi smiled. "You have a great smile, too!"

In response, Yin tugged the corners of her mouth up, making Mimi laugh. "That is too great!" She leaned back. "I don't like to admit, though…but I'm kinda jealous of Hei and Rin. You get that way?"

"No." Yin shook her head. "You are…in love with Rin?"

"You could call it that," Mimi smiled. "She saved my life a long time ago. Killed an angel before it ate me…took me and Genta in. We were inseparable ever since. We've both had lovers since, but…" Mimi grinned. "Hei's different. More permanent. I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing Rin every week or so, though." She turned her gaze to Yin. "…You really love him, don't you?"

"Yes," Yin said.

"And Amber told you a lot, didn't she?" Mimi said softly.

"Yes," Yin nodded. The Doll stared ahead for a moment. "Hei…asked me to make up my own mind. To choose my own fate. Nobody ever has. He saw me as an equal. Not a…doll. I want him to be happy. I want him to smile. Amber wants the same."

"But she's…a terrorist…she's hurt people…"

"Yes," Yin said again. "But she's deeper than that. Amber wants freedom for Contractors. She wants equality. Apos would kill them all. That day in South America, when Heaven's Gate vanished…"

"Yin…do you know what happened?"

"Not exactly," Yin said. "Pai sealed the Gate after Hei's team was trapped. But Hei…he's wrong about Amber."

Mao slunk into the room. "Hello, girls," The black cat hopped on the bed, stretching. "How are we looking?"

Mimi gestured to the open laptop. "No problems searching around here. The news outside ain't good."

"When is it ever," Mao sighed. "Update me."

"Well, when you have dead proof of the divine? After the Gate, plenty religions took a hit to begin with, but now? He didn't even go full Christian, so you have heavily Christian and Muslim nations on full debate over what he's going to reveal…but there aren't many actually doubting him. Skeptic communities are the ones most up in arms, but with Yggdrasil there…and the Gate…most people are ready to believe it seems."

"Perfect!" Mao sighed. "Well, at least nobody'll hunt a cat eventually. At least Pandora hasn't shut my brain off."

He paused as Genta darted in front of him. "…good dog." He said as Genta growled.

Mao found himself huddled in Yin's arms as Genta panted smugly moments later. "I hate you," Mao muttered.

___

"The Prophet will see you now," Hei had dressed and had gone to meet Carmine. They had been greeted by Shihoko. "She just gave a sermon."

"Prophet," Hei said distastefully.

"It's what they believe here, Hei," Shihoko said. "Not very religious, I take it?"

"Whatever the Gate is, I doubt it's from anything I'd like to worship."

Shihoko almost smiled at that. "We're friends anyways here. Evening Primrose worked with us. Works with us," she added. "Not long ago we'd have been enemies."

"Not long ago, we were Syndicate."

"Why work with people who want you dead? Our entire race?"

"So, that's it," Carmine said. "The master plan? We don't fit in, do we? Genocide is just the logical conclusion. And they call themselves 'humans,'" she said icily.

"You two are possibly the most important examples of Contractors now. The idea of a child conceived by Contractors, especially of your power?"

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Old 01-21-2013, 12:15 AM   #100
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"Our child," Carmine said, "Is important because it is our child. I don't give a fuck about the science, the religion, anything. It pales next to that fact."

"I understand that. I envy your feelings for that," Shihoko said. "But you know it could inherit both your powers, or neither. There is a great deal of potential,"

"We know," Hei said, his black eyes meeting Carmine's green. "I'll meet your prophet, then."

"This way," Shihoko led the two down long corridors, past multiple guard points until finally she opened two large doors. "I'll wait here."

"So you trust Havoc and the Black Reaper, then?"

"I trust in your gratitude," Shihoko responded, leaning against the wall. "Go on."

Hei walked inside, Carmine waiting to make sure there was no interference.

___

Outside, unseen…red wings beat the sky. On a hill overlooking the compound, the green haired girl looked up with a frown. "It's going to burn. Amagiri?"

"Right," the large, red haired man nodded. "Britta's on it. We'll get out who we can."

"Contractor and human alike," Amber said. "Tamara should oversee it well enough. Wei, too. Foolish to think this was out of Apos's sight."

Dark, winged shapes struck down. Amber heard the cries.


___

Rin had been speaking to Mimi when she felt the rush of desire. No…

Mimi gasped, falling to her knees as Genta whimpered. Yin said simply. "Angels."

"He found us…" Rin pushed herself to her feet, seeing the terror in Mimi's eyes. They heard the explosion then. "We have to get…clear…"

Mao frowned. "And go where next?"

"Figure…it out…" RIn managed before she drew one of her knives and stabbed it into her shoulder. She cried out, the pain helping her fight off the wave of desire. She grabbed Mimi and slashed her hand. Mimi yelped, but Rin knew she was grateful for I as well.

"Heads together. Find Hei, Huang and Carmine."

"Stick together," Mao said before scratching Genta, having picked up on what they were doing. The dog yelped, but shook her shaggy head.

"Get moving!"

___

"Come closer, Reaper, let me see you," Hei heard the voice of the old, old woman in the darkness of the room. "Amber's told me all about you. I remember your work in the war as well."

"So you're the prophet. This is your true form." He saw the woman on the bed. Her wizened lips curled into a smile, gray hair hanging tattered around her face.

"Prophet? Yes. It's a title I took. Originally, I was an operative, much like you. I was sent to infiltrate groups like this."

"And decided to lead one?"

"For no sinister purpose," the old woman chuckled. Hei had a sudden feeling this woman was close to the end of her life, far from the commanding, beautiful blond prophet plastered on the images around the compound.

The first blast shook the room. The old woman shook her head. "Remain there. It will be over soon…Amber has told me how this ends."

"While people die out there?"

"Many deaths will be prevented because of what you do, Reaper. It's a paradox. You share the name with one meant to take life. He fancies himself an Angel, a true herald of God. You seek endlessly for answers within yourself, while he ever hungers for what is above."

Hei stepped to her bedside. "And you?"

She smiled at him, reached out a withered hand to rest on his. "Tell me. What is the difference between a Contractor and a human?"

"Contractors have powers. They kill people."

"Ah, the most obvious answer! But wrong…Yes, we have powers, but does that set us apart so much? Give a human our powers and they could do the same. A human kills with a gun, or a knife, or a bomb…humans can lack the same empathy as a Contractor. I did once."

"Contractors don't dream."

"They say that, but is it true? I've had a dream for a long time now. Contractors and humans living in peace together, openly. I've had it every night. I'm sure you've dreamed, too. Dreamed of what you've lost. Dreamed of new life. Of the life within the one who was once known as Havoc."

Hei breathed in. "Contractors feel nothing. Contractors don't care for others," he knew it was false.

Her smile was kind. "What truly sets us apart is our propensity for rational judgment. But does that mean we don't care? Contractors ever know the rational response, but does that mean we cannot love, or sacrifice or care the same as any human? My Price is that every time I use my powers, I age. But then I saw how my young, beautiful self appealed to my followers, gave them hope for the Gate and the future. I used my powers again and again, knowing full well what would result. Here I lay before you, about to pay the ultimate Price. But I have no regrets. Amber told me this was the day. But this? This is a new beginning."

Her body shimmered, and the old woman was replaced with a beautiful, youthful blond. She smiled, saying in a strong voice. "Come closer, Reaper. There are things for your ears alone.

___

Huang had felt the burst and had stumbled out, going for his gun when he felt the winged shape descend on him. This was it then. Determined to meet his end well, he raised his head, raising the gun.

The angel's talon seized the gun, ripping it from his hands- and he was damned lucky it didn't take the fingers as well. It then saw his face, cocking its head in recognition.

Huang saw its mouth stretch into a fanged parody of a grin, before it took his hand gently and then put the gun back inside it. The angel pointed one long finger back to the compound.

"You…have a…job to do…" It rasped before it flew into the night sky.

____

The compound was in flames from the angels having dropped something. Rin heard the shouts, but she needn't have worried.

There was a blast, like a crack of a gun and one angel fell to pieces in the skies, falling to dust. The one next to it followed suit.

Rin then saw each of the winged creatures fall to pieces in the sky. On the ground, she saw the Contractors, each wielding their own power to destroy the unprepared swarm.

"See to the fires," The large redhead leader said. "The Reaper's inside? Amber wants to see him."

Mao blinked. "Why did you-"

"My, my, a talking kitty!"

He turned around and saw Amber grinning down at him.

"…meow?"

____

Shihoko Kashida looked to Carmine. "Just hold on…wait just a few moe moments, we'll have this covered. I'll join them soon."

Carmine growled before she looked up, hearing footsteps. "Huang?" she blinked, seeing the short man walking up. "What's going on, where-"

"Hey, Gus," Shihoko said, as if she'd expected this.

"Not even pretending anymore, sweetie?"

"Carmine. Don't interfere." Shihoko said softly.

She steeled herself as Huang raised his gun and aimed at her face.

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