Day ?: Prologue: Pandora's Box reopened:
I jog down the third floor corridor, checking each window as I pass. If any still remain open after 4.5 months of lockdown, I'd be exceptionally surprised for the brief seconds before everyone in the building was killed or converted by Super Duper High School Despair. Hence why I'm checking the windows. I need the exercise anyway, I've noticed that I tire too easily in the physical protection training with Sakura. As I pass by the library, I look in, to see that Togami and Fukawa had, yet again, claimed a large portion of the library as reading space, despite the occasional complaints of the other students.
"Byakuya," I ask, "made any progress on uncovering Despair's leadership yet?"
He scoffs, returning a response which had become routine between us: "No, but I notice that I am confused. Specifically, confused by your continued belief that my actions are not subject to the planning fallacy."
I smirk, and continue to jog. Hearing Togami be humble does wonders for my emotions. The scion was damn near unbearable for the first few months I knew him, until I finally showed him that other people can outperform him in matters of intelligence. It was, admittedly, difficult to do so.
I increase my pace slightly, heading for the data processing room; Fujisaki apparently made major progress on both the FAI and robotics systems, and I'm interested to see his results. I've been told I'll find it unbearably impressive, though both Kirigiri and Oowada sniggered while telling me that. I slow as I approach the staircase leading up to the fourth floor; Enoshima and Ikusaba are sitting on the landing, chatting to each other in low, intent voices. I catch a few hurried snatches of conversation, something about a switch, before they notice I'm there.
"Morning, Naegi!" Enoshima says brightly, "On your way to see Fujisaki's new toys? Or are you just running one of your despairingly boring patrols that Mukuro assures me are tactically necessary?"
"Yes," I reply, "I am. And despairingly boring is a bit of an exaggeration."
She laughs, and it sounds out of place in our grim surroundings. "I guess that answers my question. Tell Kiri and Fujisaki hi for me when you get up there, ok?"
"Certainly. Will either of you be heading up to see his work?"
Ikusaba turns towards me, with a strange, almost sad look on her face as she responds."No, Naegi. And I doubt we'll be able to get to see Chihiro's work for a while, at least the rest of today. We're going to be pretty indisposed. Tell me how it looks when we next meet?"
"Sure," I answer, "But I must admit, I am confused as to what you could possibly be doing for an entire day here. Planning something special?"
Her eyes widen slightly, before narrowing. "What makes you say that, Naegi? Why so suspicious all of a sudden?"
I take a step closer, as I am curious what caused her to react like that. "Is that a serious question, Mukuro? You've known me for, what, 500 days now, and this behavior is unexpected?"
Her expression returns to normal, and she relaxes. "You're right, sorry. I guess I'm just paranoid because of our situation here. I mean, what if Despair gets in? Our windows can't stand up to any serious external assault. And, worse, what if they just nuke the school? We have no antimissile defenses."
'That is a disturbing possibility. With the threat we pose to them, and the sheer disregard they hold for human life, it seems inevitable that they'll come to that idea sooner or later. In fact, why haven't they attacked before now? One would think...wait. I'm missing something here.'
As my thoughts continue on, I realize that I have been silent for the past minute or so, and both Enoshima and Ikusaba are looking at me with concerned expressions. I wave them off, assuring them that I am fine, and head up to the data processing room, still lost in thought. As I get to the top of the stairs, the headmaster bolts out of the door to data processing, barely sparing a glance in my direction. Kirigiri and Fujisaki follow close behind.
I call to them as they pass. "What's going on?"
Kirigiri turns toward me, smiling for a moment before her face turns serious as she answers. "There's been an attempted intrusion. Not much more serious than the last few, but we're checking it out. Looks like the front guns got a few more despair operatives, but there's no sense in not making sure of that. The camera hasn't been providing clear pictures lately, so fujisaki's going to try to upgrade it with hardware from the AV room."
"Then why are all 3 of you going?" I ask, before cutting myself off, "Never mind-too risky to send fujisaki down with your electroID and the headmaster's access key, right?"
"Yes, especially with the possibility that it wasn't just a failed intrusion." She begins to say more, but suddenly collapses with a shriek, pressing a hand to her head. The headmaster and Fujisaki turn at the sound.
"Kirigiri!" I shout, propelling myself to where she lies. "What is this?!"
She gasps, her eyes closing. "They...are...inside...prepare...signal...don't give in...beware...Gemini."
My eyes widen, as she hands me a piece of paper. I take it from her hands, pulling a similar one from my pocket, before putting both in a plastic bag. I then hurriedly store the bag in the side of my cheek, before attaching a false cheek piece made of wax to the spot. As I do so, a clear gas begins to flood from the air vents. My last thought before falling unconscious is to hope, desperately, that the people who have outmaneuvered us don't notice the bulge.