The rumbling drone of the elevator ended.

As the small bell sounded, the doors lid open, allowing the young man to step out.

Walking down the hallway, he checked the flowers for the umpteenth time. Yes, all of the thorns had been removed, and none had been coated with suspicious fluids. Right, there were no obvious listening devices secreted away in the stems or leaves. Indeed, there were eleven long stem roses, as the twelfth had been sacrificed for random analysis.

The beads of sweat kept reappearing on his forehead. He wiped them away with his sleeve, knowing that it was only a temporary fix. Kaname would take notice of that, if she wasn't still angry.

The surface of a Great White Shark's snout has thousands of tiny holes which make up an important sensory organ, which allows the creature to detect a tiny drop of blood in 4,600,000 liters of water. Kaname's ability to detect sweat was no less remarkable.

Sousuke stood in the hallway, still out of view of Kaname's apartment door. It was not cowardice. Rather, it was mental preparation. He routinely did that during important missions. In some aspects, this would be an important mission. Success would bring him nothing. Failure would be catastrophic.

"I still do not see why she is so angry."

Kaname had left school without telling him. She had been called away to the Principal's office, and then had hurried on her way. Her earlier reaction should not have been enough to warrant official reprimand; but, Sousuke was beyond trying to figure out the reasoning of school officials. No one had been killed. No equipment had been destroyed.

Sure, she had dumped an entire tray of food on his head during lunch. But, that had been better than the violent acts she had been prone to in the past. Her anger had been prompted by the fact that a News crew were filming in the cafeteria, preparing a piece on High School life.

'How many of you at this table are actually dating?' A reporter had asked. 'The number seems to be growing these days.'

Naturally, everyone had marked Sousuke and Kaname as a couple. That had led to a series of questions, all of which were answered without any difficulty. Kaname had even gone as far to say 'You're doing great, keep it up.' Unfortunately, his innocent reply to one query had led to unexpected problems.

'So, she cooks for you? That is very nice. And you spend a great deal of time together.' The woman asking the questions had smiled at Kaname. The camera man gave Sousuke a thumbs up.

'Yes, I had two fine breasts last night.'

Sousuke had been referring to the chicken that Kaname had prepared. He was growing to appreciate the taste and consistency of food more and more, and had been particularly pleased by last night's dinner.

Despite the bright lights, boom mike, and other portable studio equipment, the boys at the table had all slapped the table, clapped, or whistled. They knew what Sousuke probably meant. But, what did that matter? The girls all sighed, hid their face in their hands, or glared at Sousuke.

'It's…… it's not what it sounds like….'

Kaname had held up her hands, kicking Sousuke under the table. It didn't matter that it wasn't a live feed. Sousuke's remark had made it on camera.

'You are ashamed, Kaname? Why? They were large and succulent. I doubt that I could have gotten better elsewhere.'

He had not understood why she might be embarrassed by her food preparation. The portions had been overly generous, and the meat had been tender beyond belief.

The anchorwoman had dropped her mike. It broke. The cameraman instinctively zoomed in on Kaname's chest, a mistake since the tripod-mounted monitor showed what was being captured on film. When Kaname stood to turn away, she fell over Sousuke's leg, catching herself by her hands. In the process, her skirt inverted, resulting in an unplanned panty shot.

The events after that were still a blur. Sousuke ended up wearing food. The cameraman ended up with a bump on his head the size of a goose egg. The reporter had the shakes for ten straight minutes. The guys at the table had scattered, after Oonuki asked the stunned camera operator if they could get a copy of the film.

Sousuke had apologized for Kaname's behavior after she had stormed off. He had explained that he was talking about chicken. And, he had rendered the digital disc holding the recording inoperable.

When he had learned that Kaname had left, Sousuke wanted to follow. He could not, as the school Vice President wanted to hear every detail of what happened. That had been confusing, when he later learned that Kaname had stopped in to see the Principal. The school officials must have doubted their words. If her actions led to disciplinary action, the young soldier knew who his girlfriend would blame.

"Hopefully, she has become more receptive to my apology."

Sousuke began walking towards her apartment again. As he did so, he thought about Kaname's subsequent behavior. Worried about her, he had called her at home a number of times. Each time she had picked up and heard his voice, she had said 'Sorry, wrong number' and hung up.

He hoped that flowers would help improve her mood. The two of them had been closer day by day, but he still wondered if he was right for her. If something as innocent as this were to come between them, he would be terribly remorseful.

Taking a deep breath and wiping away his perspiration one last time, Sousuke knocked on the door. After he had done so, he heard what appeared to be a mature male voice. Had that been the television? Was someone in there with Kaname?

The sound of footsteps grew louder, stocking feet against the wooden floor. Looking in through the security peep hole, he saw the blurred image of an eye. But, the door did not open. The footsteps retreated.

What was going on?

Sousuke knocked again, but this time there was no sound of footsteps. Taking out his pistol, he used the butt to rap even harder against the wooden door. This time, the footsteps were hurried. The door opened, the chain still attached to the wall.

Kaname's head poked out.

"Oh! I'm sorry. I don't accept solicitations. Please pedal your product elsewhere." With that, she shut the door.

The young agent rubbed his hand through his hair. He was growing more concerned by the moment. Kaname had been speaking artificially loud, as if to ensure that someone heard her deception. That fact was especially worrisome, given her strange behavior on the phone.

But, if she had been captive, why didn't she make an attempt to run out the door? There could be a gun pointed at her. Or, she might be wearing an explosive harness!

"Think things through. No rash actions. Remember what Kaname said."

He needed to calm down. Jumping to conclusions could have a disastrous effect, especially since he was already on Kaname's bad side. Putting his ear to the door, he listened, to see if he could hear anything crucial.

"But, I really don't want to go with you. Please. I haven't done anything wrong."

That had been Kaname's voice. She did not sound frantic or overly scared. His heart swelled with pride for her. But, he should have expected nothing less. His girlfriend had been through difficult situations on a number of occasions.

"I hope I do not have to resort to something drastic, young lady. You should have known that this might happen some day. The foreign facilities should help get the most of your special abilities."

It was that man's voice again. Mature. Calm, with just a touch of anger or callousness. And that statement! Exploitation of special abilities! Someone was after Kaname because she was Whispered. Was it Amalgam again, or a new player in the game?

Sousuke ran for the stairs. There would be no time to wait for back up. Just the same, he used his satellite phone to call in a report. The only thing he could hope for would be help from Wraith; but, the man seemed to merely be an observer, since there was no evidence that he had ever physically done anything to help Kaname during the times she had been abducted or came close to being killed.

Reaching the roof, he waved his arm, but caught no sign of movement on any of the nearby buildings. Fine. He was used to working on his own when necessary.

It was finally time to try out a method that he had set up long ago. Although the movie 'Die Hard' was rife with ridiculous plot contrivances regarding its terrorist characters, it did provide a neat inspiration.

Taking out his pistol, Sousuke changed out a clip of rubber bullets, and added a clip of 9mm. It was unlikely that his weight and momentum would be able to crash him through the glass in Kaname's window. While this method might seem ridiculous, he could not afford to chance the balcony. A wise foe would have booby-trapped that obvious approach, and would have placed a small inconspicuous surveillance camera in that area.

"I can't wait. This must be done now."

Sousuke didn't have time to figure out why a kidnapper would stay so long in Kaname's domicile. Most likely, he was waiting for some kind of back-up. If there were multiple personnel…… and they were well-trained…… he would be in danger of failing this rescue attempt, if he merely lay in wait.

Going over to an old musty wooden supply box, he lifted the lid. Good. It looked as if things had not been touched for months. A long length of string he had left on things was still in place. Grunting, he pulled on the brass nozzle of the fire hose, unreeling the flat rubber device to its full length.

He fervently hoped that there were no News teams in the vicinity. The last thing he needed was for this to show up in the media. Such an event would be difficult for Mithril to cover up.

Wood chips exploded from a wooden pole supporting the buildings aerial. Sousuke ducked instinctively, correctly assuming that it had been a rifle shot. He was very fortunate that he wasn't hit, as he had been standing in the open, an easy target.

He didn't know that it had been Wraith's warning. The Intelligence operative had been accurate in his assessment of Sousuke's intentions. He did not have access to Sousuke's new phone number.

Instead of causing Sousuke to stop, the gunfire merely spurred him on, convincing him that Kaname must be in some kind of serious danger. Still, he should not be too rushed. He would have only one chance at this.

"I'm coming, Kaname!"

Jumping far out into the city air, he held tightly onto the hose. His body jerked when the flat tubing snapped taught. After that, the wind ruffled his hair as he swung down towards his destination. Pistol held in one hand, he fired at a precise point in the glass, one which would weaken the window while placing bullets in an area unlikely to threaten Kaname.

Heels crashing through the window, Sousuke rolled into a ball and entered Kaname's living room accompanied by a swarm of glass fragments. Uncovering his face, he saw Kaname in his peripheral vision, his sight focused primarily on the middle-aged man standing in the center of the room.

"Kaname! Run!"

Springing upward from the floor, his clothes shredded by his exotic entry, Sousuke struck the man with a flying kick. Landing on top of him, he drew his pistol out again, and then placed it at the man's temple.

"You will not harm Miss Chidori! The Whispered are not yours for the taking. She is not a tool for your science!"

Sousuke blinked rapidly, when the gun was kicked out of his hand. Had he missed a second assailant? No, it had been Kaname's foot. But, he had overlooked a young woman with short brown hair.


Kaname pushed Sousuke off of the man, a stricken look on her face. She bent down to help the gentleman up.

"Daddy…… Daddy, are you OK?"

Sousuke swallowed hard.