"You have got to be shitting me," Warden William Harms looked over the letter that had quite literally dropped into the lap of the man sitting on the other side of the desk with trepidation.
"Tell me about it. Damn near blew the thing away before it opened up its parachute." Cole MacGrath shook his head at the recollection of the event earlier in the day. "I thought some First Son had gotten lucky, and was trying to drop a mortar on me. Almost threw it out over the water anyways.
Harms didn't feel like telling Cole that not once had they found evidence of a Mortar in Empire City, but that a parachute like that could have meant an air-burst of some chemical into the air, like Sasha's Tar. Thoughts like that were not a new thing to the powerfully built man as he read the letter again.
Instead, he said something a bit more diplomatic. "Not exactly what I was thinking about, Cole." Harms stood up to stretch his legs a bit – a long day in the office would do that to any one. "But I see your point. Although along those lines, my boys think we've located another First Son's safe house on the north side of the Historic District."
"Really?" Cole looked up in surprise, which was quickly replaced by expectation. "First I've heard of it. Want me go flush them out for you?"
"No. Thanks, though. For the offer." Harms returned to his seat. "No Conduits, so I've decided to let my boys handle it." He was apologetic. "I don't want the people to think their boys in blue couldn't handle things without the Electric Man watching over their shoulders like some sort of angel."
"Heh. Better than being called the 'Lightbulb'." Cole didn't hide his reaction at the better nickname. "So, what were you really thinking about?"
"Well, in the couple days before the quarantine got pushed into place, back when you could still get a phone call out of the city, I sent a message to that city asking for help." He sighed. "Then everything went to hell with the Reapers and the Dust Men. Never got a reply."
"Damn, that sucks."
"And by the time things got settled, well, you had pretty much wiped the Reapers, the Dust Men and the First Sons out." He looked out the window of the old fortress that had been converted into a prison. "I always thought the stories from there were about kooks and other charlatans, but after this past month, I've changed my mind."
"I never paid much attention to those sorts of things." Cole admitted. "Still not sure what these people want from me though."
"Academy City?" Harms knew exactly what was wanted. "They want you, Cole. They want you bad."
"This is ridiculous!" Misaka Mikoto, the third ranked Level Five of Academy City threw down the official letter from her school onto the desk. She was thankful that her roommate / stalker hadn't found about the contents yet. "Why does this have to happen to me? It's not like I have his luck!"
"Like what, Onee-sama?" And so much for the stalker. Kuroko simply teleported back into their room, bypassing any chance she might have had of hiding this development. "Let me see!" And just like that, the letter was off her desk and into Kuroko's hands. "Let's see here..." She teleported away from Misaka's grasping hands, "Oh, you received your letter for your Work Experience Day? What did they say? Mayor? No, of course not. That would be too low for you!"
Then she read the letter in its entirety. And her joy turned to mud. "What's this? This has to be a mistake! There's no way my beloved Onee-sama could possibly wind up with a mundane job like that!" She stopped moving about the room to appear before Misaka, bowing low. "Please, allow me to deal with this impertinence directly", then she was gone.
"Oh for the love of!" Misaka groaned. "It can't be that bad, can it?"
No matter how they read it, no matter what eye they took to it, the letter was simple. "They want to sell out the First Sons," Cole waved a hand in the air to emphasize his point.
"Yeah. But what they're offering, and requesting in return," Harms shook his head at the simple piece of paper, "but the law man in me doesn't like this one bit. It's just... off." He thought a bit. "They want you to visit their city for two days. First will be spent in a hospital where they'll examine you, see what makes you immune to the plague, that sort of thing. This doctor, the man they call the 'Heaven Canceller' -"
"Doesn't he have a real name?" Cole interjected sourly. "I don't like the idea of people hiding behind code words and call signs." In the courier business, you had to trust the people you worked with, that meant real names. Those who tried to use some fancy name were just puffing themselves up, and they were the ones who usually fell first.
"It's a title, like how we call Navarro the President instead of President Navarro." Harms recovered nicely, but the other thing is going to be this PR stunt of theirs. Giving out 'personal' demonstrations without actually telling you what they mean by that?" He groaned. "And the fact that they're willing to contribute aid to Empire City just sweetens the pot."
"They ain't gonna learn anything," Cole grumbled. "I've spent too much time at Bayview, and they couldn't figure me out," what he left unsaid was that he was still persona non grata at the Hospital in the Warrens for breaking their MRI machine. It was an accident, everyone agreed, but it wasn't like he was welcome there for a while. "Doubt they'll learn any more."
"I don't know Cole, Academy City is pretty advanced, even compared to the States. They might have a leg up, able to crack your secrets."
Cole didn't know how he felt about that. He changed the subject. "And what about these 'personal demonstrations' that they're asking for. Any ideas?"
"Probably the ones where you do that fancy light show, you know? Show off for the politicians and the kiddies?" Harms grinned at the thoughts, "You know the ones you hate?"
"Oh, you mean the same ones where people want you to be the next Mayor?"
"God, don't remind me. Being the Warden does not make be a good choice for a civilian leader." Harms admitted firmly. "I'm just not that kind of man."
"Neither am I."
"Still, the fact that they're so willing to stack the deal in your favour – it just rings false. They're desperate."
"I know. But the only way to spring the trap is to walk right in. Even if it is a trap in the first place. They're giving this huge deal because they can't afford anything else."
"Heh. I think they're also playing PR games. Offering help like this will score them points with the international community."
"Ugh. Give me some First Sons to shoot any day"
"I hear you. Listen, about this signal they want you to send out. Don't you think it's a little obvious?"
"What's subtle about three Ion Strikes in a certain pattern? There's no way it would be by accident."
"Still, at least they've asked for them where you won't harm anyone."
"And I can recover on the rails to the next spot." He didn't hide his joy at the experience of floating just above the tracks, the power flowing through him and the wind in his face. "Besides, I can trust you guys to make sure I don't get interrupted."
"So you're going then?"
"Yes." The admission was quick and quiet.
"What about Zeke? He's been cluttering up my answering machine trying to reach you."
"I ain't talking to the bastard, shooting Kessler ain't made up for that." Cole's voice turned sour. "Don't talk to me about him."
"Fine. But he's trying, Cole. You gotta respect that. But moving on, this is a solid three day trip. At least. My cousin went to Japan a couple years back. It's like an 18 hour trip. Plus the two days you spend there..."
"Well, don't you think the gangs will get ideas if you suddenly vanish for half a week?"
"Look, there's room for some negotiation with this deal. I think I can swing something."
"Well, Academy City has these 'Anti-Skill' people that are apparently trained to deal with Conduits – though they call them 'Espers' over there."
"Wait!" Cole snapped his fingers in recognition, "Isn't Academy City that place that hosts that fake sports event where they have all those.. kids... with..."
"Super powers? Yes. I know. Want a stiff one to get over the shock?" Harms pulled a hip flask from his desk and gave it a quick shake to measure how much was in it. He tossed the entire thing to Cole. "I found one of my guys who had an illicit recording of the one from earlier in the year. It was... sobering." He timed his last word to coincide with Cole taking a swig straight from the flask. "Freaky too, but seeing all those kids, and knowing that it wasn't CGI or some other trickery."
"You got that video still?"
"Yeah. Want to see it?"
"Damn straight. I want to see what sort of hell I'm going to be getting myself into."
It took a few minutes for the Warden to find the tape and turn on the TV. Silently he and Cole watched highlights of the athletic competition.
"Yep." Harms took the flask back from Cole, only to find it empty. Ah well, there would be time to hit up the still in the tower later.
"I counted dozens of Conduits. All with different powers."
"Well, it was a giant game of dodgeball there. Everyone had to do their thing."
"Still... how the hell didn't we know about this? I mean, was there a Ray Sphere blast in the City?"
"No," Harms answered. "I think they're all natural. It's just that Academy City has been... collecting them."
Uiharu tried to ignore the proximity of a rabid Kuroko. Normally, she would be having a blast at playing with the computer, using all the resources at her disposal to get what she wanted in the service of Judgement. But Shirai-san was breathing down her neck demanding to know what error happened to give her beloved Railgun such a duty for Work Experience Week.
"You know the entire system is semi-random, right? I mean, it won't give a job to someone who physically couldn't do it," she tried to explain through her flu-mask, but it was to no avail as Kuroko simply wasn't listening.
"There must be a mistake! Fix it, Uiharu! You must, for my sake, and hers!" Kuroko's fingers gripped the back of Uiharu's chair, causing the poor thing to creak under the pressure. "Please!"
Tapping the monitor, Uiharu drew her attention to the information at hand. "No, it's right." She didn't add that making a change like that could get them both into serious trouble. And she liked being in Judgement!
"Then who is she working for!?" The demand was shrill.
"It doesn't say..."
Harms and Cole had taken a break from their discussion to grab a bite to eat, and to check on the latest repairs to the outer walls of the damaged prison. Finally, they returned to his office for more discussion. "I don't like this. Not one bit, Cole." Harms groaned as he sat in his chair. "We don't know when you'll come back, or even if. You vanish for a couple days, and I know the Gangs will get uppity."
"They won't have to know I'm gone," Cole countered. "I can do a couple serious sweeps through the Neon and the Warrens before I leave." He grinned at the thought. "Do a bit of being 'obvious' to keep their heads down." Cole paused as he considered Harms' other concern. "Besides, if this whole deal is a trap for me, I'm pretty sure they got nothing that can stop me." He flexed his fingers, arcing electricity between them in a demonstration of power.
"And then you would be on the other side of the Pacific, Cole. And I know how you and water react." The Warden saw the signs in Cole that he had made up his mind, and knew that there was nothing he could do to dissuade the saviour of Empire City from leaving on this trip. "I know the offer is mighty temping, but you have to think this through. The whole 'aid' thing, well, it's just so vague, I don't know what to make of it."
"I suppose I could make this signal they want, and see if they'll negotiate? I mean, I don't have the leave the City."
"And we can have some of my boys for backup if things go south." Harms knew he wanted some boots on the ground, just in case this was a trap.
"Alright then, I'll do it. When?"
"I think tomorrow morning will give me time to get a squad car or two freed up."
The last echo of thunder rattled past the edge of the destroyed Fisherman's Wharf. Cole didn't want to come here, the memories of John's death were too vivid. But Harms was with him, offering his support. "I don't expect another response right away," Cole commented. "They'll probably send another message in a bottle rocket."
The two men turned away from the rising sun, heading for the point where the wharf met dry land. Harms gave a signal to his men, allowing them to disperse. "So, what are you going to do?"
"Think I'll head back to the Neon. Grab a bite to eat. There's a place over there that I like that's finally reopened."
"Oh? That's nice to hear. Which one?"
"Marcellos. Good pasta."
"I'll have to try it out then." The Warden promised casually as they reached the waiting car. "Cole, let me know when you get the message. I'll back you up any way I can."
"Pardon me, Mister MacGrath? My name is Mister Mori. I am from Academy City. Thank you for agreeing in part to our proposal." From behind them, a slight Japanese man spoke up, drawing the startled attention of both men, Harms – a hand on the holster of his pistol, while Cole had one hand up, ready to rain lighting on a potential enemy.
Cole was about to demand to know who this man really was when the words died on his lips. For Mister Mori, as he called himself, was clean. His suit was pressed immaculately, his hair perfectly cut, and for all of this, he was completely without a smudge of dirt or dust on him. He was clean in a way no one in this city had been for over a month."I'm Warden William Harms. Can you provide some identification?" The Warden was used to dealing with people in places of power wearing suits, so he reflexively went for the first legitimate idea that he was trained for.
"Of course, Warden. My card." Mister Mori produced a business card from an inside pocket, presenting it to him. "I have been given leave to negotiate some of the details of our agreement. Is there a place we can discuss this?" He looked to the sky curiously. "Perhaps somewhere indoors? The weather forecast called for some light rain later this afternoon, and I do not wish to make Mister MacGrath uncomfortable."
Cole and the Warden exchanged glances. "3rd and Skyline down in the Neon. You can't miss it, it's got the green sign. I'll be waiting outside."
"Of course. Mister Mori, would you accept a ride from me?" He gestured to a squad car, and the Academy City representative bowed slightly.
"I would be honoured."
The three men were given the best seats in the house, the proud owner of Marcellos (who was not, in fact, Marcello) was beyond joy to have the two most important men in Empire City – and their guest – come to his door on his reopening. Nothing but the best was the order of the day for them.
"Pardon my inquiry, Warden Harms, but the information about the status of Empire City in the international community is limited." Mister Mori said as water was placed in front of them. "How did you come to be Mayor?"
"I'm not," Harms replied, taking a sip. "The 43rd District, which included the Penitentiary survived the blast very well. We became a strong-point in the efforts to retake the city from the gangs, and people started to look to me for leadership."
"What happened to the actual Mayor?"
"Killed in the Blast." Cole admitted sourly. "The City Council was in session when the explosion happened. They were less than a block away."
"I am sorry to hear that. For what it is worth, Warden Harms, in my opinion, you have done an admirable job."
"Thanks. But I'm not looking to run the city. Once the limits on getting in and out of the city are lifted, I'm going to make sure we get some elections going, and to make sure people don't put me in as a write-on ballot."
"I understand." The three waited, making small talk about the weather and other sundry items that were far and away from the actual reason for their meeting here. Finally, their food arrived, and they began to talk in earnest. "You have some reservations about our proposal?" Mister Mori asked as he carefully began to eat the spaghetti in front of him.
"A bit." Harms began, and began to talk about their suspicions over the timing of these events.
"I was told that we did receive your initial request, but by the time we could mount a proper response, your government had already closed off all avenues of help." The words would have to make due for an apology. "We have been monitoring the situation as best we could, updating our plans as time passed, so if you accept our offer, we can act immediately."
"How did you get in?" Cole asked as soon as Mori stopped talking.
"Boat." The response was just as quick.
"Funny. So, why?"
"There are many answers to that question, Mister MacGrath. One of our top physicians, Doctor Meido Gaeshi, was interested in how you are able to use your powers to heal people." Mister Mori paused in his explanation to eat some more. "I believe that was part of the initial offer? That you spend some time at one of our hospitals?"
"Makes some sense. I suppose you'd also want copies of the files from our hospital about me?" Cole enjoyed the hell out of that meatball as he waited for the response.
"While appreciated, that is not a contingent demand or request. Our facilities are beyond state of the art, and we have plans in place to work around your issues, Mister MacGrath."
"So, why Cole?" Harms asked carefully, "I know you've got Conduits in Academy City, so why all this interest in him?"
"Because he is a good man."
Cole glared. "I'm not." He knew in his heart that he could not claim to being the hero the people wanted him to be when he chose to sacrifice six doctors to save Trish, only for Kessler to know, and to make sure that even then, he failed. He glared at Mori, hoping to convince the Asian man that was the wrong way to go about complimenting him.
Taking his rage out on Kessler was cathartic, but he still felt... hurt inside.
"You acted out of love for your fellow man, Mister MacGrath. That is nothing to be ashamed of."
"I gotta agree with him, Cole. Kessler would have killed her, no matter what you chose." Harms had, with Zeke out of the way, been Cole's confidant in the days after the final battle. It was that confidence which made him come to the Warden when the message first came to him.
"Doesn't make it any more right."
"Still, it shows the direction of your moral compass. If you desire a more empirical reason, then consider that the number of people in Academy City who can do what you can, could probably be measured on one hand. Your healing ability alone is enough for the Board of Directors to make this offer in order to advance the cause of medicine."
Cole knew that Mori was tugging at his relationship with Trish. But it was still a legitimate thing as the Doctors at Bayview compared him to a walking AED at the worst of times. And if his powers could be used to help people, then why not?
The conversation continued for some time, the food growing cool as they talked details. Eventually, a final agreement was hammered out. Academy City would provide certain relief groups, especially to bring down Alden's Tower safely and a squad of Anti-Skills to cover for Cole during his absence. More immediate material supplies were already being handled by local disaster relief organizations, so Academy City didn't need to worry about that.
The final handshake occurred that evening. Mister Mori stood and bowed as his culture demanded, Cole and Harms poorly mimicking the motion before setting for a more Western means of thanking the eastern man. "If you do not mind, I would like to contact my associates now, and let them know the details of the final agreement. You can expect the first sea-planes with specialists tomorrow morning, and the rest will follow. Good evening gentlemen."
"Good evening." "Good night." The two who called Empire City home watched the clean man walk away, pulling a phone from his pocket and soon talking animatedly before he turned and vanished around the corner.
"You look like you want to say something, Warden."
"I still think you leaving is a bad idea."
"I've made up my mind."
"I know. But still, sleep on it." Harms looked up to the sky, at the developing second wave of storm clouds. "Who knows, maybe we can blame the weather for your absence."
"Maybe. Night Warden."
"Give it up, Kuroko. You're not going to change this." Misaka sighed as she watched her roommate grumble over a well-worn sheet of paper. "I mean, it's not like I got given something like... garbage collector." For a moment, she wondered what he had gotten, then dismissed it. Whatever it was, she didn't need to know, nor did she need to care.
"It's more than that, Onee-sama!" The teleporter complained, "It's that Uiharu couldn't find any information about who you would be working for! I can accept such a lowbrow job if your experience was of high quality! Yet, she couldn't discover the name of the company!"
"Maybe it's an individual?" Misaka grabbed her large teddy bear and held it over her head. "You know, someone that the City trusts as a courier, and they act privately?"
Kuroko was only slightly mollified by the suggestion. "Still, it is highly suspect!" She paused, drawing in a deep and exaggerated breath. "Maybe you're going to be a Diplomatic Courier, and will be taking a message to Russia!" She knew that relations between the superpower and academy City had been frosty as of late, and having the Railgun go forth as a diplomat would be more appropriate to her status.
"That's stupid. Get some sleep." Misaka rolled over herself, drawing up the covers. "You'll have a clearer head in the morning."
"Can I sleep with you then, onee-sama!?" Instantly Kuroko was above Misaka's bed, ready to dive in, permission or not. She tried stopping her with a small lightning bolt, then another larger one with the first failed to dissuade her.
Harms watched as Cole jumped off the power cables, the azure electric arc following him as he quickly used his power to angle his descent, carrying him out toward the waiting Warden and Academy City representative. Harms narrowed his eyes as Cole landed with a roll to dissipate any remaining static charge from his travel across the city. "How was the trip?"
"HEY! COLE! I LOVE YOU!" A random woman yelled out from the road, causing Cole to wave back blindly. "EEEEEEEEE!" The girlish squeal at the recognition carried much farther than the distance between her and the Electric Man.
"Quiet. Until now." Cole admitted with a groan as the woman's friends dragged her away. "I know you can't so anything to stop them, but please, Warden, could you like, get on the radio or something to tell people to stop that? It's... not always welcome."
"I promise nothing, but I'll see what I can do." Harms had no intention of following through, suspecting that any attempt to dissuade attention would only generate more. The attention of the people on their hero was far too much for him to overcome. "You get something to read?"
"Fourteen hour flight? Yep. Thanks for the heads up." Cole patted his courier bag, where the bulge of the paperback books could be seen if one looked carefully.
Once again, Harms hid the truth of the matter. He had talked to Zeke the night previous.
"Academy City? Dammit Warden! That place is freak central!" Zeke complained bitterly as he fidgeted in the Warden's office. "He ain't answering me, so why the hell is he off to that place?"
Harms explained the nature of the deal, and Zeke groaned. "Great. I mean, seriously? This is a place where they clone soldiers for Urban Warfare, have Conduits up the wazoo – including those who claim to be 'more powerful than God', have buildings with no way in or out, thirty-year olds who look eight, people who go around calling themselves 'magicians' and 'angels' – though I think them's just normal Conduits pullin' the wool over people's eyes – and hell Warden, even I don't believe some of the crazier stuff that comes outta that place!"
"But it's his choice, Zeke."
"I know! I know! Snakes alive, maybe what he really needs is a vacation. With the Blast, Trish, Kessler, and who-knows what else, Cole needs a break."
"I think so too. But do you think this is the right place for him?"
"Got no better options. As long as he keeps his head clear, that is." Zeke looked pained at Harms. "Please, Warden. Let my brother be alright."
"Cole, got a minute?"
"Sure. But when are these Academy folks supposed to arrive?"
"In another 10 minutes, Mister MacGrath." Mister Mori said, his suit just as clean as it was yesterday. "Please, take your time. On a journey of this length, a few minuets leeway is expected."
"Alright. What's up, Warden?"
They walked a few meters away from the cleared wharf where the two planes were expected to dock. "Cole, I saw you come off the line there. Are your powers alright? You seemed a bit more... intense. Like you were lighter, or something."
"I'm just getting more used to my high-end stuff that's all. Transit called me, started getting on my ass about the power drain from me riding the rails, said to keep it to the high-tension wires, which could take it better." Cole made an excuse, and Harms didn't buy it.
"It's more than that. Are you still growing stronger?"
"... A bit. Maybe. Not sure."
"Cole, if you want to back out because you're not well..." Harms found himself worried for Cole, not wanting to see him off in some other country in case something went wrong. He looked after the city in its time of trial, and the Warden would be damned if the city didn't look after him right back. "Just say the word."
"No. Thanks. I mean it." Cole slumped a little. "I know something of where my powers can go, so it's like I'm still growing. Going to that city isn't going to change that."
"Yeah. I am. Don't worry. I'm just getting stronger. I'll be fine."
"I want to believe that, Cole, but this is something completely different."
Cole put his hands on Harms' shoulders. "Trust me. Please."
"Alright. But you take care. And anyone gives you grief, you give them your special brand of hell."
"You know it, Warden."
From there, the two men rejoined Mister Mori in the early morning as two distant flecks of darkness came out of the dawn and resolved into two low-flying sea-planes. Cole was tense, waiting for some other shoe to drop. Some missile from the sky, or something to ruin everything. But there was nothing.
With delicate grace, the two planes settled into the water, twin sprays signalling their approach as they coasted to a stop by the wharf, where several officers with experience in anchoring boats and the like made quick work of the ropes to hold them in place.
Cole waited on solid ground as the Warden greeted their new arrivals as they formed up. It was obvious to him who were the 'Anti-Skill' people, and who were the civilians by the way they held themselves, and by how they looked at him. They knew who he was, and he wasn't going to show them any fear.
Mister Mori came up to him. "Mister MacGrath, thank you again for your agreement. Once you ware ready, please board the plane on the left. It has been refitted to accommodate your... special needs."
"I will, of course, be joining you on your journey."
"Brave man, to be in a plane with me."
"Nothing of the sort, Mister MacGrath. I trust the engineers who made the refits, and I trust you."
The compliment was delivered smoothly, and Cole couldn't help but believe it for a moment. "Alright then."
The plane smoothly lifted off, leaving the islands of Empire City behind it. Cole sat in the shielded compartment, which allowed the aircraft to function without his electricity interfering. It was a small cabin, holding only four seats formerly occupied by a set of engineers who would help the locals restore functionality to Empire City's utilities. If he focused, he could see the faint outlines of them in the seats, the glowing green frame their natural bioelectric fields generated and retained in the surroundings.
Mister Mori sat across from him on the other side of the isle. "I have some papers for you to look over, Mister MacGrath."
"Nothing serious. A finalized itinerary, and delivery contracts."
"Of course. On the second day of your trip, you committed to doing 'personal demonstrations, am I not correct?"
"Well, yeah. But I thought that was doing stunts for politicians or something like that."
"Oh, no. Your arrival coincides with Work Experience Day. We have in our city, a girl by the name of Mikoto Misaka, who, like you, uses Electricity as her power."
Cole began to see what was being asked of him, but waited for Mori to finish. "It is the desire of Academy City that you spend the day with her to allow her to learn how you use some of your powers,. And to expedite this, we wish to contract you to perform certain deliveries that are non-critical throughout the day."
"What packages?" Cole's demand was abrupt. "Last delivery I made, I got promised a half-grand to check the package, and got a face full of explosion for my troubles," he said angrily, referring to the event that Kessler orchestrated for Cole's 'benefit'."
Nothing out of the ordinary, I assure you. Some financial reports for the Sister's Noise Project, and other sundry paperwork. These are things that are copies that must be delivered by hand, you understand?"
"That I get. So just make-work to show this... Meesahkah?"
"Misaka, yes. That is her family name."
"Miss Misaka how to do stuff. But I gotta tell you most of my stuff revolves around kicking ass."
"We are aware of your combat potential, but you also have non-combat skills you may choose to pass on."
"Induction Grind. Pulse Heal. Static Thrusters." Cole rattled off the names Zeke gave to some of his powers as he thought it over. "I suppose." He realized something was off. "Wait, how am I supposed to find this girl? Or her, me?"
"We will deliver to you more information once the last details are set in place, Mister MacGrath, which should be by the morning of your work. Ideally, you would meet her in front of her school at the start of classes, and from there your time is your own until curfew at 22:00. She should be back to her Dormitory by then."
"Makes sense." Cole had seen 'Bring your kid to work' days before, and this sounded just like that.
"I am glad for your understanding. Now, I have something to give you." Mori pulled a small card out of a pocket. "This is a temporary Identification Card for use in Academy City. It is also attached to a small expense account should you choose to make any incidental purchases during your stay." He handed it over to Cole, who examined it closely. The front of the card had his name written on it, as well as a photo he recognized as from his now-useless driver's license. There was a large '3' embossed underneath a whole slew of writing he couldn't read.
"A visitor classification. You're a foreigner brought in to perform a task for the City, and you should be treated in all regards as an Employee for the duration of your stay." Mori gave out the prepared lie with ease.
Cole grumbled a bit before checking the card some more, then sticking it into a pocket for ease of access. "What else?"
"This," Mori reached behind him to produce a small briefcase, "is a pair of prototype translation earpieces. By wearing this, it will translate Japanese spoken in front of you into English. While young Miss Misaka speaks English fluently, we cannot guarantee that everyone you meet will. This will allow you to understand them, even if they cannot you." He paused to let Cole think it over. "The crafters of these devices recognize that they are still in a testing phase, and would like to hear back from you about your experiences with them." He handed the case over to Cole who opened it carefully, finding a small pair of devices that would wrap around and into his ear.
"You want me to try it now?"
"If you'd like."
"Why not?" Cole gingerly picked it up, and was surprised when it didn't short out. He figured it must have been shielded as well.
Setting it into his ear, he looked at Mori, who rattled off a quick sentence in Japanese. "勘案にあって初めて市乳を知る " After a moment, Cole heard Mori's voice approximated in his ear. "Friends are known first in hardships." Cole repeated the proverb back, and Mori nodded. "That is what I said. Good. Now, let us discuss some details of your itinerary."
The two talked long into the journey.
Aleister had no time for doubts. Not with so much currently at stake. He watched through UNDERLINE into the plane currently holding his newest pawn. No, a Knight would be more appropriate to the symbolism.
Introducing Cole MacGrath (some wanted to call him the Thunder God without realizing that title was inaccurate) to Mikoto Misaka, the Railgun was a gamble, but a necessary one to give her a chance to learn different potential uses to her power.
And most importantly, he wanted to meet the man who would have become Kessler.