Telekinetic: Part Two
Three hundred and twenty years have passed
Since the Coven sank in the dark.
Threads of existence gathering together.
A calm precipitates the second half of the storm.
Chapter 8: Without Leave
It wasn't really morning. The sun had risen somewhere, Michael was sure of that, but the thick barrier of clouds outside allowed only the vaguest glint of sunrise to shine through. Not that it mattered much to him anyway. Michael had learned to measure time not by his sporadic sleeping cycles but rather by coffee breaks and lunches taken at midnight. Sunrise was merely a formality.
In fact, he was going to need a nap soon enough. But what he really needed now was some of that coffee. That settled, he approached the metal-and-glass demigoddess, offering up bean libations in exchange for her morning blessing. "'Morning, Michael.' 'What are you doing up so late, Michael?' 'Damn, Michael, you've really gotta stop working your butt off every once in a while.'" He mumbled the English words to himself rather absently, focusing instead on prepping the machine.
He had to admit that the Hunts were beginning to wear on him lately. Between the fiasco yesterday (in which he had to listen to Kosaka apologize to Zaizen so many different ways that he was beginning to wonder if Kosaka hadn't actually been trying to flirt with his superior) and the mind-numbing task of sorting through historical data that followed, Michael very much looked forward to getting a good nap today. Preferably one that involved more than three hours of sleep at a time. Heck, if he didn't get one soon, he might just fall asleep without any permission at all.
The raging thunderstorm from that morning had faded into a soft summer shower, for which he was grateful. There was no way a mere storm could take out his computer systems, of course, but thunderstorms were never all that helpful when it came to electronics. After filling his mug from the pot, he stared down into the sienna liquid, watching the reflection of raindrops on glass that seemed to hover just below the liquid's surface. "Been a while since I've seen rain up close, huh," he said. "Maybe I can sneak sticking my head out the window later." Yeah, that sure didn't sound pathetic.
Hypothetical pathetic-ness of the computer nerd aside, the case they were working on was rather interesting. Michael resettled himself at the computer, coffee mug set in what was seemingly the only spot not covered by paperwork or trash. With that done, he hunched himself comfortably and let his fingers do the rest. Motosuwa. On the surface, there had been a surprisingly ample amount of information available. Apparently there were several branches of the family, though few of them were marked as being active Seed bloodlines. Along the ones that had been marked, there were at least five active Witches, two of which being the duo they'd fought yesterday. Basic stats were all there. He'd half expected to find their favorite colors and hobbies listed as well.
The catch was that they were all legally dead.
Michael stretched, leaning back far enough to stare at the rain-spattered windows above him. He'd had a helluva time last night while poking around for additional information. Tsukasa and Keisuke were easy enough to pull up, but the moment he skipped to a different branch the going got surprisingly difficult. Even for him. In the end, he'd just been left with a trio of names--names of Witches who had supposedly been Hunted within mere days of each other--and little else. Motosuwa Hanako, Hunted. Motosuwa Haruka, also Hunted. Motosuwa Haruto, dead. And not even a picture to mark their passing.
It was all very complicated, and not in the way that he liked it. Even all his efforts last night had turned up nothing but documents referring to the test projects surrounding Orbo, and he'd already cracked that secret ages ago. Not that there'd been much point in that. What was he going to do, tell his team that Orbo was really Soylent Green? He'd much rather keep his skinny hacker ass un-corpsified for the moment. And at least he never had to touch the stuff.
As if summoned by his thoughts, a shadow suddenly loomed over him. He had about a split second to register the sudden backwards dip the chair had taken; then he was an awkward pile of limbs and paperwork on the floor. "Karasuma, ah--"
The older woman chuckled tiredly. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't realize you were so deep in thought."
"Wouldn't call it thinking," he returned, pulling himself up into a kneeling position. With one hand, he began regathering the documents that were now spread haphazardly all over the floor. "You beat Amon here. That's kinda amazing, y'know."
In response, she lifted delicate fingers to massage her temples. "I was already awake when you called," she said. "It's been a little stressful lately."
"Kinda guessed." Karasuma always looked far too old for her nineteen years of age, though that was normally due to her professional-cut clothes and level demeanor. Today, however, her expression seemed distant, her clothes slightly mussed, and her hair frizzled even under the outline of her hairpins. "Coffee's fresh over there." Dammit, it would take most of the rest of the day to sort through the paperwork that had fallen. For neither the first nor the last time, Michael considered being more organized.
"I'm fine, thanks," said Karasuma. "I'll just need to rest later."
Then she paused unexpectedly, as if mulling something over in her mind. Michael stopped as well, eyes blinking behind his amber glasses. "Something up?"
She didn't answer him at first. In fact, she seemed quite content to focus on righting the chair that he'd knocked over moments before. "I'd like to ask a favor of you, actually." As she spoke, Karasuma drew a slim envelope out of her lavender jacket and held it out to him. "I need this analyzed. Quietly, if possible." A frown darkened her face. "I think something's wrong here."
Michael took the packet, felt the cross-like shape with his fingers before reaching inside. And then he blinked again. "Orbo?" The vial glittered dully in his hands, but otherwise looked the same as any other Orbo necklace he'd ever seen. "You looking for something in particular?"
"I'm not sure." She stared absently at his computer screen, the names reflected bright in her gray eyes. "But I'm fairly sure it was causing Sakaki some trouble. I'd like any information you can give me about it." Then she paused, eyelids flickering low. "Please."
At that, Michael lifted one eyebrow. "You worried about him?"
Karasuma allowed herself a wane smile. "Is there ever not a reason to worry?" She lingered on the chair a moment more, then withdrew in the direction of the coffee machine. "Thanks, Michael."
"No problem." The hacker glanced at the Orbo one more time. Looks normal to me, he thought. But if there was something interesting hiding here...he'd be the first to discover it. And that, he thought to himself, was reason enough to give it a shot. Not now, though. Even as he glanced up to check the rest of the office, he spotted Amon making his silent entrance through the elevator doors. Casually, Michael slid the envelope into one of the lower drawers of his desk, beneath some well-placed photographs from a previous case.
Time to get going.
The "emergency" that Amon had called them all in for turned out to be something less than urgent. Or rather, that was the impression that Amon had chosen to give. He stood solemnly at the end of their usual meeting table, his stoic face illuminated by the glare of the monitors in front of him.
"Wait," said Doujima, who was idly braiding a bit of her hair. "You're saying that the reason I missed out on beauty sleep is because some measly files got stolen?" She fixed Michael with a cheerfully pointed stare. "I wonder whose fault that could be."
Michael adjusted his glasses with one finger. "Not mine, actually. I already explained this to the boss." The keyboard clacked comfortably beneath his other hand as he pulled up another diagram on the screen. "It was an old terminal, from back before we started using Orbo. It was supposed to have been destroyed ages ago."
Kosaka suddenly looked nervous. "Which is to say," he interrupted hastily, "it was certainly put on the schedule. There were more important things at hand, and the red tape..." The chief seemed to bow his head apologetically. "It was here before I was, you understand."
However, Zaizen seemed entirely bored with the current conversation. Michael paused as he looked at his boss, his gaze kept there by the way that Zaizen was currently eying the table. As if he were counting something...
"What files --" began Doujima and Robin suddenly, then stopped just as suddenly again. Doujima laughed and poked Robin gently in the arm. "Robin-chan is a curious little girl."
The red-haired Craft user looked much more embarrassed than curious at the moment. "It seems odd," she murmured. "It's strange to have an early meeting about nothing important."
From his position at the end of the table, Amon regarded Robin silently for a moment. He seemed to be weighing something in his head, putting a great deal of thought into his words before actually speaking them. "These," he said. Michael took the hint and pulled up a set of images for the group. Personally, he couldn't figure out what was particularly important about these documents anyway. He'd spent plenty of time looking at them last night, to very little avail. If there was anything wrong, he'd have to say it had something to do with the fact that someone had gotten documents at all, not the files themselves.
The rest of the group seemed similarly confused, and Michael didn't blame them. Most of the files were things that could have been easily accessed via the internet: a map of the city sewers in this area, another map of the above-ground terrain, a record of the amount of power that was used by this area every year, some miscellaneous crime reports... The only objects that had him remotely worried were the files that contained a current list of Hunters and another list with the most recent Hunts on it. The last file taken was heavily encrypted, past even his own abilities to hack into...for the moment.
It seemed, however, that the last file might just have been the important one. Even Doujima peered intently at it as it flashed across the screen. "Hey, what was that?" she said. "What kinda hacker steals gibberish?"
"Not gibberish." Karasuma spoke up for the first time that meeting. She held gloved fingers to her temples, massaging them gently. "It's more likely to be encryption."
"And it definitely wasn't a hacker," added Michael. "He got it out of the terminal normally. That's why that 'gibberish' is still showing up." He was slightly impressed by Karasuma being able to recognize its status just by looking at it. Apparently he hadn't given the Hunter enough credit for her superior experience.
Meanwhile, Doujima squinted at the file on the screen, her face a perfect mask of boredom. "Still pretty silly if you ask me," she said. "So we've got a Witch with a map fetish. Big deal." Despite her tone, however, her gaze was keen. What's got her so interested?
"It's unprecedented," said Amon. "And troublesome, especially considering the current situation." He gave Michael a little nod, at which the hacker clicked through his files yet again. Images of the Motosuwa family blinked up for the rest of the team to see--minus, of course, the sections that Michael had decrypted for "extra credit." That mostly left the skeletons of family trees, with the odd name blanked out.
Doujima gave a low whistle. "Okay, lots of witches. But how do we know the two are connected with our gibberish-stealer?" she asked, flipping a stray tuft of blonde hair over her shoulder.
It was Karasuma's turn to speak up, apparently, so she did. "The fact that it happened during the attack on the subway station. It's very likely that that incident was just the distraction." She had finally removed her hand from her face, but her eyes reflected only the glare of the monitors and the lingering pain of her headache. Worried about Haruto, huh... thought Michael. And then, quite suddenly, he realized something. Where was Haruto?
The rest of the conversation faded into gibberish as he focused on that new revelation. Sure enough, once he took a moment to look around the room, he counted only six people other than himself. And Haruto wasn't one of them. Had Karasuma mentioned something about that? He frowned at his computer screen as he tried to remember the specifics of their most recent conversation. Sakaki in trouble...Orbo doing something...definitely no mention of why he's not here.
He jerked. Whoops, so much for paying attention. "Yes Boss?" he answered automatically.
"I assume you called everyone in to work today?" He had both arms crossed over his chest, but his expression seemed ... odd. Michael found himself staring at his face, trying to figure out that vaguely amused expression.
"Yeah," he said after a moment's pause. "That's right."
"And you spoke to everyone personally."
"Yes Boss. Everyone --" Except Haruto, he realized. Karasuma had insisted on calling the rookie herself. And now Haruto wasn't here, a fact which Zaizen had very clearly picked up on. Even as he paused, hesitating, the rest of the group (save Karasuma) seemed to blink and look about, looks of vague realization dawning on the faces of those who were actually capable of facial expressions. "I didn't actually speak to Haruto," he finished lamely.
"I did," said Karasuma suddenly. She sat there calmly, apathetic to the fact that she was being stared at by the rest of the group. "I had to admonish him anyway because of what happened yesterday." She folded her hands. "He's staying home for the day. Under my orders."
If anything, Zaizen's look of amusement only deepened further. What the hell's got him smiling like that? "I'll trust your judgment," he said. "In any case, Amon has your orders. I leave this meeting in his hands." With that, his boss left the room. Michael watched him go for a long moment, a frown beginning to spread across his face. What the hell, what the hell.
He was still mulling the matter over after the meeting had ended. Once again, the office was emptying out; Amon and Robin had already left, and Doujima had gone out to wait for Karasuma in the car. That left Karasuma herself, pulling on a pair of gloves just behind him.
"Is he really sick?"
The words were out before he thought to stop himself. He turned in his chair, focusing intently on the older woman. She blinked at him, slowly, then gave a quiet, rattling laugh. "I'm not sure. But something's wrong." Her gaze slid towards the pile of papers where he'd hidden the Orbo pendant and she lowered her voice. "Very wrong."
A chill went up his spine. He wanted to be far away all of a sudden. "I'll look into it," he said, turning back towards his computer. He could still see her reflected in the screen if he looked at it just so. "Seeya in a bit."
She lingered for a moment more, then slowly faded out of the reflection. Now he could only see the flickering green of the data he had pulled up, plus the vague mist of rain on the windows outside. Nobody in the office ... He slipped the packet out from its hiding place and shook it, once, so that the pendant fell neatly into his hand.
It didn't look special. A glance at the serial number told him nothing. The holder was old, but considering how often the liquid itself was replaced, the Orbo itself could have been made years ago or just last week. Let's crack this baby, he thought to himself.
The rain continued to drizzle long into the afternoon.
A/N: Has it really been years since I updated this thing? Wow. Anyway--I want to thank everyone who reviewed even while this story was dead. (It may return to death yet. But let's hope that doesn't happen!) Special thanks to psquare for his/her especially thoughtful comments. It's mostly due to you that I even started picking this story up again, even if it's been eight months since your review.
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