There are still too many secrets.

It's been two weeks since the end of the Level Plus incident. Two weeks since I found out something horrible, something monstrous took place in the city I call my home. Two weeks since I faced down a woman who destroyed herself trying to make it right. Two weeks since I helped to kill...something...that was born from her mind.

Two weeks since I learned how much I really don't know.

And the worst part is, somehow, I know I've only scratched the surface. There's the obvious question—if something like the IUE project could happen, not just ignored but approved and supervised by the city government, what other atrocities could be happening behind the scenes?

And then there's those two words. Two words Kiyama Harumi burned into my mind, that she made sure I would remember—that she said only I could make right.

RADIO NOISE.

I'm not sure why she didn't just tell me what it is, why she couldn't just force the memories into my head the way she did with the IUE. Maybe it was too much for her brain, what with it being on the verge of failing completely. Maybe she didn't remember what it was anymore, only that it was something that needed to be made right.

Or maybe she did get something across, and I just didn't realize it at the time. I think I might be seeing it in my dreams.

It's the same one, almost every night: a war-torn battlefield, sometimes quiet, sometimes with the sounds of war so loud my ears ring when I wake up. I see the soldiers surrounding me fight and fall, fearlessly, silently. And I realize: every single one of them is a child.

And when I turn over one of the bodies, my eyes roam over its bloodstained face and meet its frozen eyes, and it's like staring into a—


I wake up with a gasp, take the usual few moments to realize that I'm in bed, in the Shidarezakura dorms, not stranded on some screwed-up foreign battlefield. It's starting to become almost routine at this point—ungodly hour of the morning, check. Pajamas and bed soaked in sweat, check. Kuroko still sound asleep across the room, check. My phone (newly replaced; my last one was fried sometime during the fight) says it's 4 in the morning. Wonderful.

The nightmares started coming the night I got out of neuro-regen therapy, just a couple days after the fight. I've asked the doctors if nightmares were an expected side effect, and the answer was: not directly, but if I'd been through something nightmare-inducing immediately prior to therapy it could make those nightmares more frequent and more intense for a while.

I couldn't get a straight answer on how long "a while" might be. Welcome to the new normal, I guess.


A quick shower and a change of clothes later, I'm stuck wondering just what the heck to do with the rest of the morning. I glance over my summer homework briefly but can't focus. I check the news on my phone—protests in Russia as Putin re-elected at age 94; US opens first new nuclear power plant in 54 years—but nothing really catches my attention. Per Uiharu's instructions I run a couple searches for retro CD players, look through the results, then pretend to almost buy one and back out before hitting CONFIRM.

Uiharu-san...argh. Thinking of her is enough to bring back the memories of what happened in the hospital with Saten yesterday. I was just trying to cheer her up and encourage her! Why the hell did she freak out at me like that? What is her problem?

I stew on that for a while until Kuroko's alarm goes off at 5:30 sharp; as usual I hear about eight seconds of surprisingly intense electric guitar before she manages to find her phone and mute it. One of these days I'll have to ask her what kind of music she actually listens to. She yawns as she slowly peels herself away from the bed, then looks over at me, blinks a couple times, and frowns. "Good morning...Already awake, Onee-sama?"

"Yeah." I don't elaborate.

"I see." The frown only deepens. "You know...if there's anything troubling you...I'm here if you want to talk about it."

"It's nothing. Don't worry about it."

"...If you say so." She nods and gets up; before long she's dressed and out the door for her morning run.

Leaving me alone with a whole day ahead of me.

A couple hours of texting and gacha games on my cellphone later, I'm not any less bored. Kuroko is doing Judgement stuff. Kinuho and Maaya are both visiting family. Hokaze has a date. Megumi has soccer practice. Even—ugh—Kongou is participating in some kind of research project. I wouldn't mind hanging out with Uiharu, but that would probably mean coming within visual range of Saten and I'm pretty sure she'd come after me with a baseball bat or something. I could always spend a few hours at the arcade, but wrecking nublets at Street Fighter VR doesn't sound as appealing as it usually does for some reason.

I scroll through my contact list, and one entry catches my attention—Tsuchimikado Maika. That's right, the earplugs she made me got fried during the fight. I should call her and apologize, maybe ask if she can make some replacements? I dial her number—

"MISAKA-SAN!" She picks up immediately. "Ohmigod it's been forever how are you?!"

"Hey, Maika-chan. Uh, listen, about the earplugs you made me—"

"Oh don't worry about those I've already looked at the telemetry from the Big Thing That Happened that Big Bro totally knows about but he won't tell me anything but anyway I'm working on replacements with way better tolerances and they can do other cool stuff too and I was actually thinking about calling you to see if you wanted to test them can you come over today?"

I blink. Did she breathe at all during that? "Uh, yeah, sure! Where do you live again?"


I've never been to Maika's apartment before; it's pretty tiny, all the more so since she apparently shares it with her brother. (He's not around today, a fact that Maika says I should be extraordinarily grateful for.) A bunkbed and computer desk take up much of what little floor space there is, but there's enough room to move around at least temporarily.

"Sooooooo first off, are you hungry?" Maika asks as she finishes with the tour. "I don't have much except for instant ramen and pizza, though…"

"Nah, I'm good." I take a look at the computer desk; it's littered with various half-finished electronic things I can't even guess at the function of, plus a small 3D printer tucked in one corner. "So what're you working on here?"

"Oh! Well there's the earplugs obviously but also I'm helping Uiharu-senpai with some security stuff and also working on a new way to control the cleaner bots because they finally patched the NFC bug I've been using, only took them six months, and then there's this thing I'm calling Project Aufwachen which if it works and it probably won't I'm going to need you to help test it but if it does work it's going to be totally awesome!"

"Oh, uh, that's cool! What exactly is Project...Off-thingy?"

Maika's grin is huge. "I so want to tell you but Uiharu-senpai said to keep it secret from everybody because otherwise the government is gonna find out about it and probably steal all my ideas. Which I mean I dunno if that would be bad, I'mma need lotsa cash to even build a partial working prototype, but Uiharu-senpai is usually right about this stuff. Oh, here are the new earplugs!" She holds them up; they look pretty much the same as the old ones. "Should be good up to at least double the voltage you were putting out before they cut off last time. Also now they're a fully functional Internet phone, here, let me give you the IP address to set 'em up." She scribbles what look like random letters and numbers onto a post-it note and hands it to me. "Should be pretty self-explanatory. So yeah, that's that I guess."

There's a moment of awkward silence as I try to process everything she just said. "Wait. You said they're a cellphone now?"

"Well, Internet phone. Logging into cellphone networks is more trouble than it's worth; but they can connect to wifi or satfi and make calls from there. Call quality isn't too great, unfortunately, not much room for a good microphone or speaker, but if you've got an emergency and fried your cellphone or something, well, they're there!"

"Huh, okay. That actually could be pretty useful. Thanks for making these, Maika!" I start digging for my wallet. "Uh, I know these can't be cheap to make, how much—"

She glares at me. "Don't you dare even finish that sentence. I do this stuff for fun. Plus it's all on Big Bro's card anyway." Her expression softens, turns thoughtful. "I wonder why he doesn't get us a bigger apartment? I know he can afford it. Anyway! I got no other plans today, wanna hit the arcade or something?"


Any embarrassment or awkwardness I might have felt at hanging out with a girl five years younger than me quickly evaporates once we reach the arcade. It is there that I discover that while Tsuchimikado Maika is not quite better than me at Street Fighter, she is definitely good enough to make me work for a win. Maybe I should hang out with her more often…


My good mood fades pretty quickly once I get back to the dorm that evening; I know there's not much but creepy nightmares, sweaty bedsheets, and a complete lack of actual rest awaiting me tonight. And sure enough, that night goes pretty much the same way as the one before it.

One thing's different this time, though. When I check my phone for the time (3:45 AM), there's also a new message. From Uiharu-san, roughly...45 minutes ago. Not exactly surprising, from the short time I've known her. What is surprising is the contents of the message: "hey, tracked down that retro cd player u were looking 4. come by l8r and ill show u!"

Needless to say, I have not spontaneously developed an interest in retro CD players, though (at Uiharu's insistence) my search history might indicate otherwise. In fact, that message basically just translates to "I found something I can't talk about over the Internet. Come by ASAP."

Already? So soon after Saten-san...I wince as I recall what happened in the hospital yesterday. What exactly did I say that got her so angry? Still gotta figure that out. I sigh, peel myself off the bed, and head for the shower.


After texting back Uiharu with a "sure, around noon good?", I spend most of the morning half-heartedly trying to catch up on summer homework...mostly to no avail. Not even Kuroko's daily coffee delivery (never asked for, always appreciated) helps me make sense out of the linear algebra problems. I'm too distracted, too preoccupied with whatever revelations Uiharu-san might have uncovered. It's a relief when I finally close my books and head for the bus stop, Kuroko in tow.

"I sincerely doubt she's found anything...er...notable," Kuroko says as we board the bus. "Assuming there's something to find at all, it won't be anywhere that the general public would be able to find it."

"Uiharu-san's not exactly 'the general public', though, is she?" I shoot back.

"...I suppose not," she says, frowning. "Still, do you really think there's something else? Another incident like...like all of that? What if…" Her frown deepens as she looks around us at the crowded bus.

"What if what?"

"Nothing. Later. Best not to talk about it here."


Uiharu-san opens the door with a big, cheery smile. "Hey, Misaka-san! And...hey, you!" She smirks over at Kuroko, who just rolls her eyes. "You are not gonna believe how awesome this old CD player is, it's got so many dials—it's got dials on its dials. And some of them even go to 11! Here, come in, come in. Ruiko-chan!" She calls back into the apartment. "Misaka and Shirai are here!"

"Kay."

I take off my shoes in the entryway and let Uiharu-san show me around the cozy little apartment. Emphasis on "cozy" and "little": it's bigger than Maika's place, but the whole thing, bedroom, kitchen, living 'room' and all, is still barely bigger than a Shidarezakura or Tokiwadai dorm bedroom.

Oh, and right in the middle of the living room floor (in front of a large sky-blue comfy chair currently occupied by Saten-san) is a gigantic...audio...thing. What were they called, bang boxes? I stare at Uiharu. "Wait, you actually bought one of those things?"

A muscle twitches under her eye, and her big, welcoming smile suddenly looks slightly annoyed. "Of course I did. Because it was what you were looking for, and that's why we're meeting here today. Right?"

"...Right."

"Right! Hang on, let's test it out, let me close the blinds real fast—" She taps a homemade-looking button wired up next to the living room window, and with a quick whirr the blinds immediately snap closed. She waits a moment, and then taps a quick sequence of buttons on top of the CD player. A faint, staticky humming noise suddenly fills my ears, and Uiharu's grin drops. "Okay. Wifi and cell signals are jammed, any cameras are seeing nothing but an infrared whiteout, any regular microphones are hearing nothing but white noise, and any laser mics pointed at the window are picking up early-aughties pop music. Now we can talk."

I...um... "I...um…Isn't that a little much?"

She looks at me very seriously. "Maybe, if we're not being watched, and I can't say for sure that we are. But if we're being watched, the right question is 'are you sure this is enough?'"

"...Okay..." I decide to humor her. "...So, are you sure this is enough?"

"No. But it's all we could afford."

"I see...Uiharu-san, are you quite sure these...er...security measures are in compliance with your rental agreement and city safety codes?" Kuroko asks, examining the CD player dubiously.

Uiharu doesn't dignify that with a response beyond a withering glare. "In any case, let's not waste any more time. As you've probably guessed by now...I've found something. Several somethings. One sec, let me get my laptop…"

Minutes later, all four of us are staring at the first piece of hard evidence: a document titled "Self Defense Force 2042 Budget Overview - Advanced Research Projects Division".

"People submit National Disclosure Law requests for this kind of info all the time," Uiharu says. "Usually they get redacted to the point of uselessness. This time, though…" She scrolls down to a section titled "Collaborative Projects - Academy City Special Administrative Zone", under which is what looks like a chart of project names and their respective budgets, though all but two of the project names (SEALED LAMP and CANTOS) have been covered by a thick black line. "Best guess, some temp got put in charge of unredacting just those two and screwed it up somehow. In any case…" She quickly highlights the chart and copy-pastes it over into a spreadsheet program—and just like that, the redaction lines are gone.

I scan over the newly revealed project names. ETERNITY HOUSE. DEEP SENTINEL III. INVERSION LAYER. And...there it is, plain as day.

RADIO NOISE.

"It's real…" I find myself mumbling. "It...it actually exists." It wasn't just the paranoid ranting of a brain-damaged neuroscientist, not just a delusion in my own head. It's a real, actual thing.

"Yeah. It's real, it's military, and it's expensive," Uiharu replies. "Four hundred and thirty billion yen just for 2042 alone. That's big money even for the SDF; it's new-aircraft-carrier money. Whatever it is, the SDF wants it really badly."

"Four hundred and thirty billion..." Saten mumbles. Our eyes meet for a second as we both look up from the laptop screen; she immediately glares and looks away again. Not forgiven yet, I guess.

"I...I very much do not think that we...that it's permissible for us to be looking at this document," Kuroko says. "Per...perhaps we should just...close it and forget we ever saw it?" She actually looks...nervous?

"Of course we're not supposed to be seeing it, Shirai," Uiharu says with an roll of her eyes. "That's why it was redacted in the first place. But due to some incompetent screwup, we are seeing it, and we're not the first ones to do so, not by a long shot."

"So what is it?" I ask. "Are there any other clues?"

"Well, that's where we get into fuzzier territory," Uiharu says. "We know from the fact that Kiyama was involved that it had something to do with bleeding-edge neuroscience...not that that tells us much, can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting bleeding-edge neuroscience. I haven't found any definite clues yet, buuuuuut I'm also not the first one to look for them."

"And here we go…" Saten interjects, a bit of world-weariness in her voice.

"I know, I know, Ruiko-chan, but believe me, speaking as someone who works for The Man, I can say that they're on the right track more often than you'd think."

"Who is?" I ask, suddenly curious.

Uiharu flashes me a grin. "Conspiracy theorists." She taps a couple keys on her computer, and all of a sudden the tackiest-looking website I've ever seen pops up in front of me. "BEYOND EYES ONLY", it proclaims at me in English, and more importantly in a font that looks like an eight-year-old's idea of 'alien writing'.

"Oh, for...Onee-sama, come. We're going home, we've wasted enough time on this nonsense." Kuroko's already on her way out the door, but I stay planted where I am. What can I say? I want to see where Uiharu is going with this.

"Okay, hear me out. The kind of folks who hang out on these forums...they believe some seriously crazy shit, yeah. But they are always looking for information to confirm that crazy shit, and that means that sometimes they find connections that, uh, more stable people wouldn't. Of course, you have to sort those from the connections they find that don't actually exist, but, well, you get the idea."

"Lots of Type I errors but not many Type IIs," I say quietly.

"Bingo. That and they find actual, hard information most people would never even think to look for. Where do you think I found out about the budget document in the first place?"

"Okay...so, what are they saying about RADIO NOISE?"

"Well, you know, mostly the usual." She pulls up a bookmarked page—it looks like the website is a forum of some kind—and starts scrolling through the posts there. "Government mind control program, corporate mind control program, flat-Earth coverup, hollow-Earth coverup, one guy thinks it's giving him intrusive thoughts about his waifu not being real. But between all that...there's a general consensus based on looking through other unredacted budgets that it's been running since 2039 through today, and—this is the interesting part—the beginning of the program coincides with large budget changes at three Academy City companies: Citrine Communications, Higuchi Pharmaceuticals, and Redline Systems." She's talking faster, really getting into it now. I don't blame her; even Kuroko's made her way back to the glow of the laptop screen. "All three of them are known to be SDF contractors buuuuuuuut here's the thing. Citrine makes hardened communications equipment—satellite radios, telemetry processors and the like. Redline makes Linux boxes specially built for real-time computing. Higuchi...well, Higuchi mostly does gene therapy, but they also do some neurological stuff—their logo is on a lot of the equipment they use for the Kihara Process, in fact."

"And we know it's neuroscience, so it's got to be Higuchi, right?" I ask.

"Well, hold up, that just means it's at least Higuchi. It could also be a collaboration with Citrine or Redline, or all three. But yes, Higuchi is a good place to start."

"Okay, so, Higuchi is our starting point. Where do we start poking?"

Uiharu frowns at me. "Start...look, Misaka-san, everything I've found so far is based on publicly available information. Accidentally public, sure, but even so. If we actually go trying to find less public stuff, there's a very real risk that it could bring, uh, unwanted attention onto us."

I look her straight in the eye. "And that's a reason to stop?"

"Not for me. But…" She looks around at the other two.

"I'm in. No more secrets," Saten says flatly.

All of us turn to look at Kuroko. "Er...this is extremely irregular, and I'm not sure I can condone it," she says, sounding as conflicted as she looks. "But on the other hand…" She sighs. "I cannot deny that certain aspects of the Kiyama incident were also extremely irregular, and that this...er...investigation might be a way to reveal the full truth of what happened there. I will not try to stop you, but I will need some more solid evidence before I help you."

"Yeeeeeeah, that's about what I expected to hear from you," Uiharu says. "No worries. I have a feeling you'll come around once we have some more dirt. Now, as for where to start digging, I had a few ideas…"


A/N: Sorry, everyone, this took far longer to write than I expected. There are reasons, some of them good, some of them less so, but regardless you can rest assured that the Rewrite Project is by no means dead.