A/N: I think I'm supposed to mention that I don't own any of these characters, but that seems pretty obvious. Still, if you weren't aware, I don't. This is just for fun.
On that note, this is my first fanfiction, so let me know what you think and where I can improve. It was pretty challenging to write; the events force the characters beyond the situations they'd normally deal with, so there are parts where I didn't have much of a reference for how certain characters would act. At any rate, I just hope other fans of the series can enjoy this story.
As for placement within the series, this story takes place after Surprise, so you'll definitely need to have read the Haruhi Suzumiya novels if you want it to make any sense. It refers to events that take place long after the end of the anime/movie, so if you haven't read on after that, this contains a lot of spoilers. That also means that whenever Mr. Tanigawa finally gives us a new novel, some aspects of this story may conflict with it. I'd be fine with that if it means getting a new Haruhi novel.
I guess that's all the rambling I can think of right now. I hope you enjoy this story.
I've always sort of wondered why Haruhi chose the name "The SOS Brigade" for our club. I mean, sure, I know what it stands for, but it takes a pretty serious stretch of the imagination to condense "Spreading Excitement All Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya" down to "SOS". To be fair, I guess it does have a certain ring to it, and it feels strangely appropriate considering "SOS" is also used as a distress signal. If there's a group out there more deserving of a name synonymous with "We're in trouble", you have my sincere sympathy.
Who am I kidding? She just picked it because she thought it sounded cool.
"Kyon, hurry up! I gotta go to the bathroom!"
Why didn't you go before waking me up? If you can get up early enough to drag me out of bed every morning, surely you have enough time to go to the bathroom first.
Oh well. I lost my train of thought anyway.
For the most part, I was used to my daily walk up the hill by now. Over a year had passed since I started high school, and if nothing else, my legs were probably stronger than they'd ever been. Having said that, when combined with the overwhelming heat and humidity of summer, climbing this hill could still be a daunting task.
My only comfort was the fact that today was July 16th, the last Monday of the semester. Once the final bell rang on Friday, we'd be free for the summer.
Well, I say free, but Haruhi already had our schedules booked.
Don't get me wrong, we had some pretty cool stuff planned. During our New Year's skiing trip, Miss Tsuruya had let it slip that a family friend of hers owned a castle overseas, and that had been a commitment as far as Haruhi was concerned. For the past couple of months, she'd nagged us nonstop to fill out all the paperwork to get our passports, and guess who finally got his in the mail the other day?
"Yours came last, so you have to take whatever seat is left over after the rest of us pick!" she'd said as if it really mattered. Well, maybe it mattered a little bit. A window seat would be cool.
But that wasn't the reason for the unshakeable sense of dread that had been following me for the past few days. Can you blame me? I enjoy slacking off as much as the next guy, but after what happened last year, I was getting worried about what would happen if our trip didn't live up to Haruhi's expectations. Hell, I still get paranoid every time I feel the slightest hint of déjà vu.
Still. Flying overseas on a private jet to spend three nights in a castle? Yes, please. Besides, we'd somehow managed to get everything sorted out a bit early, so for the rest of this week, it'd be smooth sailing. No stressing out about passports or paperwork, just a few games of Shogi and some of Miss Asahina's tea.
Somehow, I managed to make it to the classroom without bumping into Taniguchi, which had to be some kind of miracle. What surprised me more was the fact that the desk behind mine was empty. Haruhi almost always beat me to class. Maybe when she gets here, I should tell her there's a penalty...
Nah. I'm not /that/ crazy.
It wasn't until the bell rang, and there was still no sign of Haruhi, that I started getting concerned. Not that I was worried about her being sick, of course. Haruhi was practically immune to that kind of stuff. But last time she was absent, it was because I'd woken up in a different reality where Haruhi wasn't a student at North High. Are all these supernatural adventures making me paranoid?
I was about to poke the student in front of me and ask if he knew her when the classroom door opened.
"Sorry I'm late."
Thank goodness. Occasions where Haruhi's face brought a sigh of relief were few and far between, but this was one of them. She hurried to her seat, and I proceeded to zone out.
The rest of the day was business as usual. Haruhi rushed out of the room during each break, and since she always came back right as the bell rang, I never got a chance to ask her why she was late. Wait, she couldn't be planning something, could she? We only had a week left until the end of the semester. There wasn't time for one of her schemes, right?
Oh please, tell me she's not up to something.
As you probably guessed, she was up to something.
My first clue, aside from her slightly-stranger-than-normal behavior, was the fact that all the furniture had been pushed out of the clubroom and into the hallway. I stood at the top of the stairs, debating whether or not she'd kill me if I skipped, before deciding to bite the bullet and knock on the door.
Ah, that angelic voice was enough to soothe any fears I'd had. I opened the door, and found Miss Asahina, Koizumi, and Nagato standing side-by-side. A second later, I saw what they were staring at.
You've got to be kidding me.
Our club room was now equipped with three guitars, a microphone, a keyboard, and a full set of drums. She can't be serious about this.
"It would seem Miss Suzumiya has plans for us today," Koizumi said. "I don't suppose you have any idea what she has in store?"
Yeah, I know alright. I'd kind of been hoping Haruhi had forgotten, but I should have known better. After last year's culture festival, when Haruhi and Nagato had filled in for a couple of members of a rock band, she'd seemed upset that she hadn't had more time to practice. Somehow, that had led to her deciding to form a band of our own and perform next––er, this year. But the culture festival was still months away. Why start practicing now?
"Perhaps she feels as though we need to pass the time until our vacation," he said, strolling over to the drums. "She's been so obsessed with planning our trip, it must feel strange to have nothing left to keep her busy during these last five days."
Good for her, but I'd like to take it easy, if you don't mind. Besides, Haruhi and Nagato aside, can any of us even play any instruments? I glanced over at Miss Asahina, who hadn't bothered to change into her maid outfit. "Can you play any of these?"
She shook her head, a concerned look already on her face. I looked to Koizumi, who just shrugged. "Maybe that's why she wants to get started so early. It'll give us a chance to learn."
"That's exactly right, Koizumi! Three hundred points!"
Haruhi entered in her typical, noisy fashion. Wait, he got three hundred points for that? These points must be suffering from some serious inflation.
With a look of determination that would make Gengis Khan stop in his tracks, Haruhi charged forward and placed several folders on the keyboard. "I stopped by the music club and got us some sheet music to get started! It's really easy stuff, so it should be fine, even for you, Kyon."
What about the fact that I can't play any of these instruments?
Ignoring me, she went on. "Get ready, because the SOS Brigade is going to steal the show at this year's culture festival!"
Yep, I called it. And Haruhi, aren't you forgetting something? We shot a trailer for The Revenge of Yuki Nagato just a few months ago. Don't tell me you're already bored with the idea of filming a sequel? Wait, scratch that. If I say anything, she'll just end up making us work on both projects simultaneously.
I have a feeling it's going to be a long week.
Over the next two hours, it became clear that playing a musical instrument is a lot harder than Haruhi makes it look.
Or maybe I just don't have any talent. Not that I ever wanted to be in a band in the first place. Haruhi and Nagato reprised their roles on rhythm and lead guitar, respectively, with Haruhi covering vocals again. Koizumi actually has a pretty decent sense of rhythm, so he wound up playing the drums, and since the keyboard was the only instrument left that didn't hurt Miss Asahina's fingers, I found myself stuck playing the bass guitar.
Well, maybe "playing" is a bit generous; I was more or less fumbling my way through a confusing mess of notes that I barely knew how to read. Maybe Haruhi could just pick up an instrument and figure it out on her own, but I couldn't. How the hell was I supposed to keep up with everyone else? And that's not even mentioning the fact that I'd only heard the song we were trying to play once or twice. Haruhi even gave Miss Asahina a watered-down keyboard part so she could follow along. It's not fair!
"Kyon, you need to concentrate! How are we supposed to make any progress if you keep dropping out?"
I can't drop out if I'm never "in" in the first place. You can't expect everyone to be able to pick things up as quickly as you.
"Koizumi's doing just fine, though."
That's because drums don't involve having to remember a bunch of different notes. And Koizumi, you're not exactly helping my case, you know.
"Don't try to change the subject," she said, crossing her arms. "You're going to have to practice at least five hours every night if you want to get caught up in time for the culture festival."
Yeah, no. Besides, I don't think the music club would be too happy with us if we took these instruments home. "Cut me some slack. This is my first time picking up a guitar, let alone playing one. I can't just automatically know how to play it like you can."
Haruhi shrugged. "Oh well. I guess it can't be helped. Let's take it from the top. Just try to keep up as much as possible. Oh, and Mikuru, turn the keyboard up. I can hardly hear you."
Miss Asahina gave the volume knob a tentative click, but Haruhi wasn't having it. She reached over and cranked it up several more notches, causing Miss Asahina to start to panic. Poor thing, she was probably terrified of being put on the spot like that.
Haruhi nodded to Koizumi, and after a few clicks of his drumsticks, we went back to what loosely fit the definition of "rehearsing".
I eventually started getting the hang of it, if only because I'd been trying to play the same notes for hours at this point, but my fingertips were getting sore, making it hard to focus on the music. I was actually managing to keep up for once, though, so I wasn't about to stop now. We still sounded like garbage, but at least we were keeping our heads above the water, so to speak. Maybe I could pull this off after all.
Something sounded off, though, and it took me a second to figure out what it was. Nagato had stopped playing, leaving us without a lead guitar, and was just staring blankly at the wall with her hands still on her instrument. Haruhi stopped a second later, followed by the rest of us.
"Hey, Yuki, what's up? Why'd you stop playing?"
Why can't she ever use that calm, concerned tone with me?
Nagato didn't answer, nor did she move a muscle. From the way she was staring off into space, you'd think she'd seen a ghost or something. Koizumi wasn't even trying to fake a smile anymore, which was almost as eerie if you ask me.
"Hello? Earth to Yuki. Are you okay?" Haruhi waved her hand in front of Nagato's face, and she finally seemed to snap back to reality.
"My fingers," she said, looking down at her reddened fingertips.
Haruhi gave her a sympathetic smile. "I guess we have been at it for a while. Alright, let's call it a day!" She put her guitar back on its stand and picked up her bag. "We'll pick up where we left off tomorrow."
That was weird. I'd seen Nagato grip a knife by the blade, take half a dozen metal spears through the chest, and stop a not-a-laser with her bare hand, and not once had she complained about pain. That couldn't be what was bothering her.
"I have to say, this does get quite tiring after a while," Koizumi said, now back to his usual smiling self. "Now that I know how difficult it is, I'm even more impressed that the two of you were able to pull it off with so little time to prepare."
A grin spread across Haruhi's face. "Naturally! I know we could have been thirty times better if we'd had more time, but the past is the past. And the SOS Brigade only looks at the future!" She unplugged the amplifier from the wall, not even bothering to turn it off first. "We may have been allies last time, but when we take the stage this year, ENOZ will be our rival."
I'd hate to imagine what sort of apocalyptic horror might be unleashed if we came in second. Wait, since when is it even a competition? /You/ helped ENOZ become popular, so it'll be your fault if their fans cheer louder than ours. Not that we even have any fans to begin with.
With fresh blisters forming on our hands, we went our separate ways for the night. At least, that's what we needed Haruhi to believe. Once I was sure she was out of earshot, I took out my phone and started dialing Nagato's number.
Before I could finish, I got a call from Koizumi. "Uh, hey, what's up? I was actually just about to call Nagato."
"I'm with her now, actually. I take it you also noticed her unusual behavior?"
How could I not? It wasn't like Nagato to get distracted.
"That's true. I'm afraid our situation has just taken a turn for the worst. It seems Miss Suzumiya may be in danger, and Miss Nagato could become a target as well."
Okay, you have my attention. "Where are you?"
"Meet us by the front gate. Try not to do anything that would suggest something's wrong, though. I'm going to give Miss Suzumiya a call and suggest a brigade sleepover at Miss Nagato's apartment, so keep that in mind. It'll give us a chance to keep a closer eye on Miss Suzumiya overnight."
Off the top of my head, I can think of several dozen things I'd rather be doing than spending even more time with Haruhi. And it's hard to imagine her being in any real danger, but if Nagato might be in trouble, I guess I'll come.
I could almost hear him smile. "See you soon."
The moment we hung up, I hurried back to the school as fast as I could without actually running. If I were to make a list of things that could actually pose a threat to Nagato, it'd be pretty short. There was the Data Integration Thought Entity, and the Heavenly Canopy Dominion, and I suppose if Miss Asahina's people had some sort of super-advanced weapon, they might be a threat, too. I doubted Miss Asahina's people would want to hurt Nagato, and I still had the Data Integration Thought Entity in check thanks to Haruhi's awesome powers. That only left one possibility. Dammit, if anything happened to either one of them, I'd personally hunt down whoever was responsible and make them pay!
I take it back. You can have Haruhi, just leave Nagato out of it.
The others had already gathered by the time I spotted them. How the hell had Haruhi beaten me? Did she run? Knowing her, she probably didn't want me to have the satisfaction of not being last for once.
She seemed excited, though. "This was a great idea, Koizumi! An SOS Brigade sleepover is just what we need to get pumped for the trip!" She swung an arm around Miss Asahina and leaned in close. "I have just the thing for you to wear to bed, Mikuru."
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
"Why don't you two go gather your things?" Koizumi said. "We'll go do the same, and we can all meet back at Miss Nagato's apartment."
Excuse me, Koizumi, but I hope you don't think I'm letting you in my house. And what happened to Haruhi being in danger? You're just going to let her wander off alone with Miss Asahina? Time traveler or not, she's not exactly what I'd call a bodyguard.
"That sounds good! You guys better hurry. If we beat you there, you'll pay for making us wait outside."
With that, Haruhi dashed off, dragging a stumbling Miss Asahina behind her. When I turned back to Koizumi and Nagato, their faces had become serious. Well, Koizumi's anyway.
"Let's go. I'll explain on the way."
We set off toward my house, and it wasn't long before Haruhi and Miss Asahina were completely out of sight. "Alright," I said, looking over at Koizumi, "start talking."
"Actually, I think our situation would be best explained by Miss Nagato."
I looked down at Nagato, but she didn't say anything. I was used to her responding to my questions with silence, but they were always questions that didn't really need to be asked. This one was different. Even after she opened her mouth, she wasn't quite ready to speak yet. Don't tell me Kuyoh's trying to disable her again?
Finally, she spoke. "The Data Integration Thought Entity has reached a majority consensus. Observation of Haruhi Suzumiya's abilities in their natural state is preferred. However, allowing the current situation to escalate further would be dangerous. It has been decided that the benefits of allowing Haruhi Suzumiya to remain in possession of her power no longer outweigh the associated risks."
Considering how long it took you to prepare that statement, I was sort of hoping it would make more sense. Think you could simplify it a bit?
Another long pause. Then, "The risk that you will use Haruhi Suzumiya's powers to erase the Data Integration Thought Entity from existence is unacceptably high. Her powers are to be transferred, and I am to be terminated."