AN: I can't stay away from this fandom. I'm one of those "still holding out for a season 3" people. So really, something more than just those oneshots was an inevitability. Just a warning, while I'm gonna try and keep this close to how things work in canon, things are going to get less... restrained... than they have been before. Branches off prior to Book 9.

Filed under humor/supernatural because while there are going to be supernatural incidents coming out this story's ears, Kyon's narration is enough to make ANY story in to a partial comedy.

I don't own Haruhi Suzumiya, and I am perfectly alright with that- having to create it would mean I wouldn't have experienced it nearly the same way, and considering how much I love this series, I'd call that a good thing.


It was a perfectly ordinary day when all hell broke loose.

A rather strong statement, I know. Perhaps I should rephrase- it wasn't a perfectly ordinary day, I only thought it was. Then again, considering everything that's happened thus far in my sojourn through high school, I suppose it may as well have "ordinary". There's not much that surprises me anymore- I've seen blue giants demolishing buildings, time traveled (multiple times), made sure "God" didn't lose faith in herself, watched two aliens manipulate reality around them to fight each other- you get the idea. I may not have asked for it, but I've been dragged through more weird, paranormal events than I suspect most anyone else on the planet has. The strange is my ordinary these days, and I've done pretty well at taking it all in stride, if I do say so myself. So an event on a scale that even I would consider "all hell breaking loose" would have to be earthshakingly huge, right?

Yes. It was. Or at least, it would be.

It also started quite literally.

I was making my way to the clubroom that it seems I'm simply doomed to spend the next two years of my life in when the earthquake struck. It was a real stroke of bad luck that it happened while I was in the hallway, as there was a regrettable lack of heavy objects I could hide beneath to protect myself.

Now, I usually consider myself to be a fairly sensible person, so understand I had very little time to make a decision when I came to the rather badly thought out conclusion that the next wisest course of action would be to curl into a ball and make myself as small a target as possible. I really should have scrambled for a doorway, there were plenty around. Or perhaps not, since I've heard that may only apply to older style buildings? Maybe I did have the right idea.

Thankfully, the quake passes quickly, and the school seems to have remained intact.

My first thought upon standing back up is of course to wonder what Haruhi did THIS time. The second is that usually when these things happen, they aren't nearly so obvious. So, was it really just a random earthquake then?

Only one way to find out...

I pace the rest of the way to the clubroom slowly and deliberately, already dreading what may await me there. As usual, I knock at the door to avoid walking in on something I shouldn't, and am greeted with a timid sounding "Come in!". Seems at least Asahina-san is already here.

Entering, I notice that both Koizumi and Haruhi aren't here yet. The clubroom seems fine, I don't see anything broken. Nagato looks unaffected, and is in her normal position, reading, while Asahina-san is already dressed and making tea, albeit looking a bit shaken. Odd for our resident esper to not be here on time, usually he does everything in his power to avoid upsetting Haruhi. Where could he be?

"Hello Nagato, Asahina-san. Are you both alri-"

Before I can so much as greet the two occupants of the room, the door I'd just closed behind me rockets open and slams in to me from behind, causing me to very nearly drive my face directly into the wall. Asahina-san lets out a small gasp as Haruhi comes rushing in, dragging Koizumi behind her and not looking like she cares in the slightest that she just very nearly broke my nose.

"ATTENTION BRIGADE!" she yells, either not noticing or just plain ignoring me as I stumble over to a seat, rubbing my head. I'd protest such treatment, but I've grown used to the lack of sympathy by now. Although, usually she at least gives an offhand apology anymore, but apparently she's too excited for even that today.

"I am sure all of you felt the earthquake that occurred mere moments ago?" Haruhi continues. Well, yes, it would be hard not to feel that.

"Well, this presents us with a perfect opportunity! While I was planning on holding a brainstorming session on what we could do better in our searches, there is a very real possibility that this evening's trembling of the planet was caused by something supernatural!"

Or, it could just be a quake. This is Japan, after all. Earthquakes aren't uncommon here, Haruhi.

The brigade leader shoots me a dirty look. "OR, it could be mole people! Or demons! Or a god waking up from its slumber deep beneath the Earth! Must you really be so boring Kyon?!"

Well, someone has to temper your enthusiasm. Also, the only "god" I know of, if you can call her that, isn't sleeping. In fact, she happens to be so constantly full of energy that I have a hard time imagining she ever sleeps at all.

The finger of the entity in question whips around to point at the rough center of the three of us, not counting Koizumi who is still behind her. "So, today we're going to be thinking about what we need to do better while searching, as we search for the cause of this mysterious earthquake! It'll serve a double purpose!"

I think its usually said as 'dual' purpose...

As usual, I'm brushed off completely. "Yeah, yeah, whatever, who cares how it's said? Mikuru, get changed! Kyon, you-"

"Wait," I interrupt, "can't we first just think about-"

That's as much as I get out before I'm physically ushered out of the room so that Haruhi can strip and redress the far too cute time traveler. Oh Asahina-san, forgive me, for as much as I might want to I cannot save you...

Grumbling under my breath, I rest my back against the wall. Koizumi, who smartly walked out of the room before he too was forcibly ejected from the premises, grins his usual plasticine smile. "Well, she certainly is excitable today, isn't she?"

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Twenty minutes later, we're out on the streets looking for who knows what, with our intrepid brigade leader leading us who knows where, and I still haven't objected to this plan because who knows why. I can't help but feel like a lemming, stuck following its pack along in to new territory whether it wants to or not, and completely unable to stop us when we come to the inevitable cliff.

Haruhi has broken out the shrine maiden outfit again, in the event that it actually is "demons" emerging from the underworld, so we're getting some rather odd looks as we walk along. Poor Asahina-san. She never really does get a break, does she?

Abruptly, the typhoon manifest as a senior high girl halts and turns to speak, apparently having decided she'll finally tell us what we're supposed to currently be doing. "Alright subordinates, listen up! We will not be splitting up today!" Well, there go my plans to head somewhere to relax if I wasn't paired with her or Koizumi...

"The fact that we haven't found anything interesting yet clearly proves you all need my tutelage! We can't have subpar search methods holding us back!"

The passerby are all staring at us now. Only you would choose to do this in public, Haruhi. Also, I notice you seem to have forgotten you yourself haven't found anything, even with these so-called superior methods. Though, technically, I suppose you have found what you're looking for, you just aren't allowed to know...

"Kyon, stop spacing out! Penalty! You're paying for snacks!" Oh come on...

For once, I decide to speak out against this recurring injustice. "Haruhi, haven't you drained my wallet enough yet?"

The brunette whirlwind remains unimpressed. "As the lowest ranked member of the brigade, it would be your job to support the needs of your superiors even if you weren't constantly incurring penalties! Be glad I'm so merciful!" Yes, I feel ever so lucky.

Shortly after this, we get dragged to a random cafe to once again lighten my pockets, an activity which I've grown very tired of. Then the four of us are dragged to various areas of the city in quick succession, with "search" activities comprised of Haruhi turning over random rocks, Haruhi commanding us (or rather, me) to inspect specific portions of the ground, and Haruhi questioning people off the sidewalk on the earthquake and what they, specifically, might have had to do with it.

I'll give her this- Suzumiya Haruhi has no shame whatsoever. There's not even the slightest of flinching as she looks a greasy looking shop owner in the eye and asks if he's seen any mole people or dwarves running around. It's like the concept of embarrassment is utterly foreign to this girl. She really, truly does not care what others think of her. I'd say I envy her for that quality, but then I might be the one running around attempting to shake down totally innocent strangers for information on something they most likely know nothing about. So I think I'll instead be thankful I DO have some sense of what is and isn't appropriate behavior.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to get away from Haruhi for long enough to ask Nagato if I really should be worried about us stumbling across something strange. She hasn't made any effort to pull me aside though, and her expression seems to be about the same as it usually is- typically I can detect a very slight difference if something is wrong, so I'm hoping I can assume we don't need to worry about anything.

For about a quarter of the time that we're trailing in Haruhi's wake as if dragged along by leashes, she busies herself by "teaching" us the best way to search for the supernatural, which are almost all ideas that I will most assuredly never be using. I can't help but notice that she seems much harsher than she'd been during our last citywide search. It's like we're back to how this club worked at the beginning of the school year. Is this earthquake really such a big deal to her?

I don't have time to ponder this for long, because Haruhi seems particularly focused on whether or not I'm paying attention to her lessons. No Haruhi, I'm not going to grab a guy's shirt by the neck just to make sure he knows I'm not joking. Does it really matter WHICH miniscule crack in the ground I'm looking at? Hey, now you're not even pretending to search, this is a clothing store! No I don't think there could possibly be brownies or faeries messing with the clothes in the back, I thought we were searching for what caused the quake?!

Our seemingly pointless quest continues in around this fashion until around six, at which point Haruhi FINALLY gives up for the night, stating she'll continue the search without us tomorrow. According to her we aren't that helpful, which, honestly, is just fine with me. I'm about ready to collapse by the time I get home.

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It's nearing nine o' clock when my cell phone rings. I rise from my spot on the sofa to glance at the caller ID and groan. Of course it's her. Who else calls at this time of night?

Taking care to hold the phone away from my ear in the event that Haruhi decides to try to blow out my eardrum like she seems to have made a goal out of whenever she calls, I open the device. "Hello?"

"KYON!" Yep, it was smart to hold this away from my head. "Did you see the news?! Turn it on turn it on turn it on!"

Okay, fine, sheesh. You couldn't say that at a normal volume?

I quickly send a prayer to whomever might be listening, asking for whatever Haruhi was so excited about to please not be related to the earthquake, before I switch on the TV and flip to the nearest news channel.

"-evening's earthquake seems to have opened a large sinkhole in the area. Local residents are asked to stay away from..." Hey, isn't that Kitaguchi Station? That's the same park we usually meet up at for our weekly "searches", though we didn't go there today on account of starting from the school. We're all very familiar with the area by now, though given what I've personally been through there, its image brings up rather different memories than it likely does for Haruhi...

A burst of noise from the phone brings my attention back to it. "Kyon, that's our meeting spot! It can't be just a coincidence that the only major damage from that quake happened right where we start our weekend searches! I can't believe something happened there the one day we conducted a search but didn't start from there! Something strange is going on in that park, I just know it! And you're coming to help me investigate it!"

It can so be a coincidence, and it's the middle of the night! We spent the entire afternoon searching with you! You can't really expect me to drop everything and run out to a park at this hour just so you can look at a giant hole in the ground! Besides, didn't they just announce the area to be off limits?

"You can't let rules keep you from exploring the unknown! Besides, if we go any later, it'll have even more security around it! We need to go now, before anyone messes with the evidence!" It's not a crime sce- "Meet me there in fifteen minutes! There will be a MAJOR penalty if you're not there, got it?!"

Without even waiting for my response, the line goes dead. Great. I've been drafted.

Before I can mull too much over whether or not I should just accept the "penalty", the phone rings again. I open it without bothering to look at the ID, assuming it's Haruhi calling back to tell me I should be bringing spirit wards with me, or something of the sort that I likely don't own.

"Kyon."

Instead of the person I was expecting, it's... Nagato. Nagato calling means... well, I'm probably going to end up going to the park tonight no matter what my original choice would have been. I brace myself for bad news. "Hello, Nagato. May I ask why you're calling?" As if I didn't already know.

"Approximately ten minutes ago, a series of data anomalies emerged from the Earth's crust." Yep. Major problem. Called it.

"Yeah, I figured it was something like that. Would they area they emerged from, by any chance, be Kitaguchi Station?"

"Yes."

Called that one too. I resist the urge to palm my face.

"So, I assume you already know Haruhi just called and told me to head up there with her so she can investigate the area? Just to be devil's advocate, let me make another guess- the 'anomalies' are still in the park, and you want me to help since Haruhi can't be allowed to see them?"

"Yes."

Man, I am just on fire tonight. Perhaps I'm becoming an esper too- or, I've just gotten so used to this sort of situation by now that I already know roughly how the script is going to read. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better to just tell Haruhi everything and hope it works out for the best.

"The Integrated Data Thought Entity has determined that for Suzumiya Haruhi to become aware of her abilities at this juncture would be inadvisable."

What, are you reading my thoughts, Nagato? Or do you really just know me that well?

It doesn't really matter, I suppose. "Alright then. Any suggestions on how to get rid of whatever it is for good? If she doesn't find anything tonight, there's no guarantee Haruhi won't go back tomorrow. Not to mention whatever these anomalies are might leave the park. I mean, if they can leave the park." For all I know there could be some sort of rule imposed upon them by Haruhi's subconscious to make them stick around just so she can find them.

"I will be accompanying you."

Oh. Well, that makes things easier then. If there's one person in the SOS Brigade I know I can rely on, it's definitely Nagato.

"Okay then. Do you need me to... come pick you up, or something?" I doubt it, but it's only polite to ask, right?

"No. I will meet you there. Follow me once you arrive. Do not tell her I am coming."

The line goes dead.

Well, at least now I know there's potential danger going in, which is better than going in blind. And yours truly gets to deal with trying to keep it secret from the one person rushing in headfirst to meet it, once again...

I don't get this. Didn't Koizumi say Haruhi had been winding down as of late? That we wouldn't have to worry so much? This doesn't seem much like a calmer, saner Haruhi to me. In fact, come to think of it, she hasn't dragged us out to search with that kind of seriousness in a while- that is, she hadn't, up until today. She had been getting better, what changed? Let's go back to how it was a few days ago please.

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I tell my parents that I forgot to return a borrowed textbook a friend needs by tomorrow, and that I'm going to bike over and return it. Not sure how well that excuse went over with them, it may depend on just how long I end up being out.

It takes about twenty minutes total for me to grab a flashlight and bike my way to the park. Not to say this is enough for Haruhi, who is already there in what looks like her "adventure" clothes by the time I arrive. "Late!"

Let me guess, penalty.

"Hmm..." She puts a hand to her chin as if in deep thought. "No, I was only going to give you one if you didn't show up. You did do your duty as a brigade member earlier today, and I'll admit it's kinda late, so consider this your one time pass." Huh. Guess I'm not secretly an esper after all.

Luckily, it seems my flashlight isn't entirely necessary, as the park still has working streetlights, making it easy to spot the shocking lack of security around the five meter wide hole in the ground. I can't tell how deep it is, but all the authorities seem to have done is stick some caution tape around it. Seems they aren't taking this nearly as seriously as Haruhi is. That, or her desires somehow made them more lax than usual in their precautions so she would have an easy time investigating it.

"Alright!" she exclaims. That manic gleam in her eyes, visible only when she gets extremely excited or has thought up another insane idea, is back. "Kyon, loan me your flashlight, I'm gonna go investigate the bottom of the sinkhole." You didn't bring a flashlight of your own? What kind of poor planning is that?

A glimpse of grayish purple catches my eye from behind a shadowed tree, out of Haruhi's line of vision. No prizes for figuring out who that is. Now I just need to split up with the resident reality warper somehow... ah.

"Alright Haruhi, here." I hand her my flashlight. "Be careful. I'm gonna go check the surrounding area in case whatever might have come out of that pit is running around in the park."

Haruhi looks pleased. "Good show of initiative for once Kyon! Scream if you get in trouble, hopefully I'll get there in time to stop whatever supernatural creature might be attacking you!"

Before I die, or before the attacker gets too tired to talk with you from mauling me?

"Both, of course! Now get going!"

With that, she makes her way over to the hole, slides underneath the caution tape, and starts to use the flashlight to peer in. Time for me to get lost.

I immediately hurry over to the area where I'm sure I saw Nagato, but she seems to have disappeared. I'm not sure if I should call out or not since Haruhi isn't supposed to know she's here, but I decide to risk a whisper.

"Nagato... Nagato, are you here?"

A finger taps me from behind, and I whirl around to find the alien I've come to rely on so much since joining this brigade. Looks like she found me.

Nagato puts a finger to her lips and motions for me to follow- I'm glad she knows where she's going, I don't know how long Haruhi is going to spend searching the bottom of that pit before she gets bored and comes looking for me. As I follow the knowledgeable girl deeper into the wooded area, a question occurs to me.

"Nagato... quick question, but why exactly do you need me here?" Suddenly I'm wondering why my presence is even necessary. She can just get rid of these things on her own, can't she? It isn't like I can really help in that regard.

She turns to face me, looking slightly... nervous? Less light is reaching us here, but I'm pretty sure that's what I'm seeing. Not an expression I'd ever seen on her before, no matter how slight- that probably isn't a good sign.

"I do not need you to come with me. I have only brought us here so we may talk at a normal volume." Okay, that makes sense so far.

Nagato keeps going without my prompting for once. "Currently, Suzumiya Haruhi is examining the anomalies' collective point of emergence. This is acceptable, as they have vacated the area prior to her arrival."

Oh good, because if I let her go investigate that hole and there was still something in it, this whole plan would already have gone up in flames.

"Where are they now then?" I ask.

"The vast majority are currently are positioned approximately 335 meters from here. They are of little threat to me, but analysis has gathered that they have the ability to effortlessly break down data jurisdiction."

Er... while I'm glad they're not a threat to you, you're gonna have to explain that bit about the data jurisdiction thing. I thought that was the created space Ryoko used to keep me from escaping and control the area when she tried to murder me- the first time, that is.

Nagato nods. "Correct. Thus I will be unable to contain or confine the anomalies once I initiate contact with them."

Oh. "Well, that's not an issue as long as they don't move towards Haruhi, right?"

"They are moving towards us as we speak. It appears they are attracted to her presence."

Crap. Quick then, what do you need me to do?

Nagato points back the way we came. "Please return to their point of emergence- I will try to eliminate the anomalies before they arrive, but they are numerous. If I fail to fully terminate them before they reach you, I will need you to prevent any observation by Suzumiya Haruhi from taking place."

So the reason I'm here is to distract Haruhi. At least I'm not fighting the things- not that I expected to be. Good luck, Nagato.

Once I'm finished talking, she vanishes. It seems either super speed or practical teleportation is included in the abilities you get if you're an alien humanoid interface working for an immense living mass of sentient data, if I understand it correctly.

I make my way back to the path marked by the crater Haruhi is so intent on inspecting, and see... nothing. Great, did she get bored of it already and run off to inspect somewhere else? That would throw a major wrench into this plan not even a minute after it started.

Then I hear sounds coming from inside the sinkhole, and realize she must have dropped inside to get a closer look. I guess that thing must not be too deep, or she wouldn't be able to get out. I decide to leave her alone for now, and instead just stand at the treeline to make sure nothing unexpected shows up.

It's eerily quiet, aside from the sounds of what I can only assume is Haruhi trying to dig deeper in to the gaping pit without any tools. Considering that I know Nagato is fighting something right now just a little ways off, the lack of sound is a bit unnerving. I suppose it'll keep Haruhi from popping her head out of there due to suspicious noises though, so I shouldn't complain.

A few minutes pass before I spy something at the corner of my vision. I crouch down before I look down the path... and have to force myself to bite back a scream.

When Nagato told me these things could break down any data barriers she could put up, for some reason this put the image in my head that the "anomalies" were either miniscule, microbe like things that could just slip past any walls, or invisible data entities like whatever it was that was making those dogs sick. Apparently I should not have assumed such.

Instead, what I'm looking at is what appears to be an elephant sized, far scarier version of a bedsheet ghost, which would be almost funny, except it's minus a few cut out holes and plus a few immense purplish-red tentacles coming out its bottom half. Coming trailing after it are several quadrapedal, far smaller things with reddish, rock like skin and lobster like claws, all circling around the tentaghost as it seems to glide into the area. Thankfully, they're quiet enough not to alert Haruhi, and I don't think they've spotted me yet, but then again I can't figure out where the facial features of any of them are.

Evidently Haruhi had been hoping for demons to emerge from the Earth more than she'd been hoping for mole people, a god, or whatever else she'd thought might have come up that she hadn't spoken about. But why would she want this?! I thought her purpose in finding all these paranormal entities was to hang out and have fun with them, not so they could terrify anyone who dares come close! Shouldn't her subconscious have understood that?! You couldn't possibly hang around these things, you'd have the military after you in hours, assuming the likely-hellish creatures themselves didn't try to eat you first!

"Errrrgh, there's nothing down here!" Haruhi's voice echoes out of the ground. No, Haruhi, keep searching for just a little longer! You've already spent a good 10 minutes down there, far longer than anyone else would investigate the bottom of a hole, and you pick now to get tired of it?! Nagato, please hurry!

The things continue to move towards the hole, and there's no helpful alien in sight. Haruhi's voice reaches my ears again. "Oh, forget this! Maybe Kyon found something..." There's sounds of movement that seem to indicate she's going to start climbing the side out. No choice now, I've gotta stall her.

I sprint out of my hiding spot and rush past the demons to the hole, just as I spot Nagato practically flying towards them. Thank goodness, now if I can just keep Haruhi from leaving the hole for another minute-!

Without even thinking about it, I jump over the rim and fall a distance about three times my height before landing on surprisingly soft ground. Not to say the landing is pleasant, because I very nearly land on Haruhi, who yelps as I crash down in front of her. And here I thought nothing could startle our unflappable brigade leader. Turns out all you need is a flying Kyon.

Naturally, and perhaps for once justifiably, surprise soon turns to anger, which turns to yelling. "Kyon! Just what do you think you're doing! You could have landed on me!"

This hole's walls are slanted at about 75 degrees, but it's still too deep to see much of anything that isn't either straight above us, or that the flashlight Haruhi took from me isn't illuminating. Nagato is evidently at least able to keep sound of battle from reaching us, if the last few minutes were any indication, so it seems like as long as we stay down here and the demons don't make it to the mouth of this pit, Haruhi shouldn't notice anything. "Yeah, sorry about that. Just thought I'd drop in."

Wow. That was both cliche AND terrible. Haruhi seems to think the same from what I can see of her face. I get a feeling there's another death penalty in my near future unless I distract her, and quickly. "Anyways, I couldn't find anything, so I thought I'd come join you."

Haruhi's expression turns from anger to annoyance. "Well, you're too late," she fumes. "I already searched everything down here, and there's nothing special about this hole." Hmm. I wonder how the demons came out of this thing if there's no tunnel to anywhere deeper. Did Haruhi's powers just make them sort of... appear, right where we're standing? No wonder they got out.

"Anyways, I'm getting out of here." Haruhi continues over my musing. "I bet you didn't search the rest of the park area very well if you're already back, so we're going over that together! Come on, help me climb out!" She tosses the flashlight to me and begins to climb up the surprisingly numerous handholds faster than I can even respond.

"Wait!" I cry out, a little more panicked sounding than I really would like. To my horror, when I glance upwards, I can see a large, purplish-red tentacle beginning to reach over the rim of the crater. I tear my eyes away from it before Haruhi wonders what I'm looking at. Thankfully it seems she was looking for more handholds when I looked up, but now she's looking at me oddly from the corner of her eye.

"What? Why do you sound so scared? It's just a park, Kyon."

The silence allows me to hear a small mumble follow that statement. "It's not like you believe there's anything here anyways..."

I don't think I was supposed to be able to hear that, but it would have been hard not to given how quiet everything is. I'll just have to ignore it for now though. "Er... are you sure you searched the entire bottom of this place?" I ask. "It's a pretty big hole." I turn, shining the flashlight over the debris ridden floor.

"Yes I'm sure! I turned over every rock and broken piece of path in here, and I couldn't find a single crack big enough for a paranormal being to fit through!" Wow, all this debris? You work fast. "I'm done with this pit! Now shine the light back over here, I can't see!" Well good, that's the goal.

I risk another glance up, and breathe a sigh of relief. The tentacle is gone. "Fine." I shine the light back to the area directly above her. "Could you help me up once you're out?"

If she could turn her head the whole way around from where she is on the wall I'm sure I'd be getting some sort of death glare. Instead, she settles for telling me off. "Idiot, you jumped down here not knowing if you could get out or not? You really can't plan at all, can you Kyon?" I won't bother responding to that.

Luckily, Haruhi is wearing pants for once, so I don't need to worry about her getting angry at me for looking up to see where I need to shine the light. As she reaches the lip of the hole and clamors out, I start to make my way up as well, though it's hard trying to use the flashlight in my hand at the same time.

"What the-?" I hear Haruhi exclaim from above me.

It suddenly occurs to me that the tentacle being gone didn't necessarily mean the demon it was attached too was gone as well. The three seconds it takes for Haruhi to say something else seem to drag on forever.

"Yuki? What are you doing here?"

Phew...

I somehow manage to make it out of the pit, even with the flashlight handicapping me (thanks for the assistance, Haruhi). Crawling under the caution tape and looking up greets me with the sight of the self proclaimed brigade chief, a confused look on her face, staring at Nagato, who for all the world looks like she was just out taking a midnight stroll. There's nothing else around. Crisis over, it seems.

Haruhi's question still stands, and at first it doesn't seem like Nagato isn't going to respond at all, but after a few moments she opens her mouth. "...Walking."

Haruhi presses on. "Isn't it a little late for that?" Isn't it a little late to be searching the bottom of an earthquake-made hole in a public park? "Besides, this area is supposed to be dangerous!"

Nagato seems to stare right through Haruhi to lock eyes with me. What? Do I have dirt on my face? "...I was unaware."

"I guess you didn't see the news, huh? Come on, I'll take you home." Wait, why would Nagato need you to take her home if she got here herself? And um, ahem?

I clear my throat and Haruhi turns around to face me. Forgot I was here, did you? "Does that mean we're done here then? You were ready to search the rest of the park all of a minute ago."

She doesn't look happy, but the girl who would warp reality nods nonetheless. "Yeah, we're done. I mean, if there wasn't anything in the hole itself then I doubt there's anything in the rest of the park, or if there was it probably ran away by now..."

Her expression turns rather melancholic, the same way it used to nearly always be when we first met. Her eyes turn downcast, the corners of her mouth drooping in disappointment.

Great. This is the last thing we need right now... and yet I can't help but feel bad for her. She got her hopes up for what, in her eyes, turned out to be nothing.

I have to say something...

"Hey, cheer up. Maybe we'll find something next time, right?"

I get a vague nod in response. "Maybe..."

I don't think there's all that much I can do here. Hopefully she'll be over it by tomorrow. I do have some questions for Nagato though, so... "Listen, Haruhi, Nagato's apartment isn't far away, but it's not exactly close either, and you don't have a bike. Why don't I escort her home if you're so worried?"

The glare she gives me doesn't seem to have any real heart in it. "Because you...!"

...Because I what?

When she fails to continue, I turn to Nagato. "Is that idea alright with you?"

There's a brief pause, followed by a stiff nod.

Haruhi crosses her arms and looks down. "...Fine. It does make more sense that way..." All of a sudden a finger is shoved in my face. "Don't you dare try anything funny with her, got it?"

Trust me, I wouldn't dream of it. Besides, I don't think there's anything in the nearby universe besides the IDTE itself that could possibly threaten or force Nagato to do anything she didn't want to do- except perhaps you.

Haruhi begins to walk off, and Nagato remains, silent and staring. Guess I better go grab my bike.

88888888

The way back to Nagato's apartment is a quiet affair. Nagato is riding on the back of my bike, much like she did during our endlessly looping summer vacation. She hasn't said a word since we left the park. If I want to know anything about what just happened, I think I'm going to have to initiate the conversation.

"Hey Nagato, why is it those things were able to break down your data jurisdiction?" Hey, I remembered the name this time!

A moment passes before she responds. "Unclear. There seems to be no logical reason that such anomalies had the ability to interfere with an enclosed data space, especially as they were not data based life forms themselves, nor did they possess control over any other aspect of data manipulation."

So, in other words, just Haruhi unconsciously making things harder for us for no reason. Got it.

"No. That scenario is highly unlikely. That which is caused by Suzumiya Haruhi must have purpose to manifest at all."

That confuses me. So... there is a reason, we just don't know it?

"Correct. It has been determined that the most likely explanation is that her will to find the anomalies was strong enough that they gained such abilities upon creation, specifically to ensure they could make their way to their creator. It is also possible that this is why they were immediately attracted to her presence upon her occupation of their emergence point."

I... don't know how to feel about that. Nagato's being far more talkative tonight than usual, and unfortunately not about anything good. I'm feeling disbelief more than I am panic honestly. Haruhi doesn't even know Nagato is an alien, let alone that she has any "data" powers. She doesn't even know about the conspiracy to keep her locked out of the loop, and her own abilities are trying to compensate anyways? How is that even possible?

I can practically feel Nagato's stare on the back of my neck. "I do not know."

Quiet falls. It occurs to me that Koizumi probably needs to be here when we pick this discussion back up, considering it concerns him as well.

Neither of us speaks for several minutes, which quickly begins to eat at me. Nagato is naturally quiet, but taking her home in this sort of mutual soundlessness feels awkward. Another question has been tickling my brain since we left the park anyways, so I suppose I may as well ask. "So, Nagato, you said earlier that the demons... I assume those were demons... were 'numerous'. Just how many of them did Haruhi create anyways?"

Silence. For a moment I think I may have said something wrong, until Nagato finally speaks. "The amount of code utilized to generate spontaneous non-data based life was... quite high."

She pauses. For some reason, I get the feeling that if this wasn't Nagato I was talking too, she would be biting her lip.

"One thousand nine hundred thirty six 'demonic' entities were created and subsequently deleted between the hours of 7:51 and 9:43 PM."

I almost choke. Is she telling me there were almost two THOUSAND demons running around in that park? There's no way Nagato would lie, but... I'm amazed that we didn't run in to any of them on the way in now. Even for Nagato, that must have been quite the task- I'm actually surprised what I saw is all that managed to get through.

"Well, um, thanks then, Nagato."

Somehow I don't feel that was adequate, but just how does one express proper gratitude for preventing a demon horde, no matter how unseen, from ever reaching you?

Nagato's voice brings me out of my thoughts about what else I could possibly say to her. "...I would like to apologize."

Wait, what? What for?

"I failed. Several of the anomalies broke through to the area you and Suzumiya Haruhi were currently occupying. Had you not been able to delay her egress from the emergence point, there is an 86.14266% probability that she would have perceived them before I could deconstruct their data."

Does she seriously think what she did wasn't enough? "Really Nagato, it's okay. Distracting Haruhi was my only job anyways, right? It all worked out in the end, so there's no need to apologize."

I briefly pull the bike over so I can look at her while we're talking. This seems a little too important to discuss while I'm trying to concentrate on where I'm going. To my surprise, Nagato actually appears a tiny bit upset. Her head is inclined a fraction of an inch, and her eyes are slightly downcast- compared to her usual state of being, it's practically palpable regret.

"Nevertheless, I am sorry."

Well, warranted or not, it's nice to see Nagato display some small amount of emotion on the rare occasions that side of her emerges. Being in the SOS brigade has done more good for her than it has any of the rest of us. I might as well just accept the apology.

"Alright Nagato. You are... fully forgiven. Let's get you back home."

I start to pedal again, and we ride the rest of the way to her apartment in silence.

88888888

By the time I get Nagato back to her apartment and bike my way back home, it's nearing 10:30. The house is dark- my parents probably got tired of waiting at the door a good while ago and went to sleep when they realized I left my cell phone here. I'm sure I'll be in trouble tomorrow, but I just can't bring myself to care right now. I shrug my clothes off and stumble to my room, falling asleep the moment I hit the mattress.

Tomorrow better not be this stressful.


AN: Better not place your bets on that Kyon...

AN2: Okay, I am just, the wishy-washiest person ever.

If you're confused by that statement, you weren't here before. To put it bluntly, this story has had three, yes, THREE different versions of Chapter 2, none of which were even remotely similar. And I put each of those versions out at different points in time, decided at some point later that I hated them, and subsequently deleted them. It was a lot of work and I was constantly fretting over having something I wasn't satisfied with out.

So, I've finally decided that this story is on hold, probably until I've got maybe three chapters worth of material done. That way I'll at least be set to a course and won't be flip-flopping back and forth to delete the second chapter over and over and over again. Hopefully, by that point I'll be happy with what I'm doing and have out for public viewing.

Sorry about this... ^^;