Author's Notes: I have no excuse. My muse has been on vacation.
Summary: Here in my car I feel safest of all. Its the only way to live. In cars.
Chapter 12 – Relic's Point
For an excruciatingly long moment, Agito Makishima's mind refused to process the image standing before him.
Of all the possible men to be wearing the third guyver unit, this one had never once occurred to him. He wanted to say that looking back he felt it should have, but no matter how hard he tried there were no indicators in his memory that pointed to this boy having any connection to Chronos, much less one that ran deep enough for the level of knowledge Guyver 3 had displayed in the times they had met.
There had been only the smallest of signs that Fukamachi was even worth a few moments of attention. He had been almost a non-entity within the student council, little more than a human recorder and the tiny amount of information Agito had on his life outside of that was... well, boring.
Sho Fukamachi was an average student. His family's wealth and standing were average middle class. His extracurriculars were unremarkable and even his level of fitness was almost ridiculously average...
He was as a whole one of the most unremarkable people that Agito Makishima had ever met.
Or at least he had seemed to be.
"No proper greetings again?" Fukamachi sounded amused and looking into the other boy's face, Agito Makishima was hit with how completely utterly wrong he had been about this person. On the outside Sho Fukamachi might have appeared normal, but looking in his eyes... those were not the eyes of a regular teenager. Agito wasn't sure they were eyes that even belonged to a human.
"Having already been through this crap once today – can you please stop taunting your friend and just get in the damn car?" Murakami's voice cut through the tension of their staring contest and all at once Fukamachi looked like himself again, vacant smile and all.
"Right, sorry about that." Fukamachi rubbed at the back of his head in embarrassment. "Um, we haven't been introduced yet, Mr...?" His attention switched to Yohei.
Murakami growled at the change in tactic and stalked around the vehicle to shove open the rear doors.
"Introductions later. In the car. Now."
Fukamachi rolled his eyes at the gesture, but approached the jeep hoping into the middle seat in front of Agito carelessly.
"I told you I just scanned the area. We're clear for a mile square at least, no need to be in so much of a hurry that you're rude." Fukamachi turned around to face Agito again as Murakami climbed in opposite him and a clearly confused Yohei climbed into the front passenger seat. From the driver's seat, Shizu's eyes met his in question. He nodded ever so slightly to her, not at all sure that they should be trusting these two, but willing to chance it for the time being.
It wasn't as if they had that much of a choice in the matter.
"Please tell me that there's food in that box." Fukamachi half climbed over the back of his seat, scrambling for the supply package that Shizu had just loaded.
"I saw you die." Agito managed finally. The younger boy only hummed vaguely in response, too wrapped up in his frantic dig through the box to spare Agito a glance.
"I saw you die." He repeated more firmly.
"Hah!" Fukamachi emerged from his contortion act across two rows of seats, a box of energy bars in hand. He fished one out and shoved it in Agito's direction before slumping back down into his own seat. "Healing major body parts always leaves me starving." The boy mused, "All that energy has to come from somewhere you know." He offered the older boy a serious look as he unwrapped the food. "You should eat that. It'll help." He advised before stuffing the energy bar gracelessly into his mouth.
Agito stared down at the offering dubiously before turning back to Fukamachi.
"I. Saw. You. Die." In another time, when he was less exhausted, Agito was entirely confident that he could have come up with something better to say, but this was not that time or place and he was running on his last reserves.
The memory was clear. Fukamachi stumbling out into the courtyard. The laser blast. There was no way the unfortunate idiot could have escaped before he'd been completely atomized.
"You saw what you wanted to see." Fukamachi had polished off the first bar and was now working at the wrapper of a second intently. Something had shifted in his face, and once again Agito was possessed of the feeling of wrongness about that look. "Your mind took what it could from a limited vantage and processed it in a way that was comprehensible to you. And you accepted that what you thought you saw was what you actually did see."
"You're not connected to Chronos. You're not connected to any of this! I would have known if you were! I would have...!" He was yelling now, his temper over-running his restraint. "Its not possible for you to be Guyver III!"
From the front, Yohei was offering him concerned glances while Shizu and Murakami studiously pretended not to notice his meltdown.
Fukamachi only stared at him. Something that he thought might have been sympathy in the younger boy's eyes.
"Eat." He advised at last, his attention returning to his own interrupted meal. "And then get some rest."
Aptom sat opposite Commander Guyot in the limousine, watching the man's expression change from stern to disgusted to angry all in the span of about a minute.
"Do you mean to tell me that two hyper zoaniods were insufficient to subdue a pair of teenagers and an old man?" Reichman Guyot's voice was fascinating to the lost number. In a good mood the gruff tone was intimidating, but in a bad one... in a bad one the man growled more than he spoke. It should have been impossible to put that level of rage and venom into a mere voice, yet the commander managed it without any effort whatsoever.
Aptom smirked faintly as the man's cell phone cracked under the force of his grip. He felt sorry for whatever poor underling was on the other end of the line.
He had made good use of his time out of Relic's Point. Some bribery combined with a bit of pseudo-telepathic persuasion had given him rather a lot of information on just what was going on with the Japanese arm of the company and more specifically just how spectacularly the matter of the unit-gs had been bungled.
The smuggling of the units out of Relic's Point had been impressive, and all signs pointed to it being an inside job. But even with as widespread and powerful as Chronos was, this wouldn't have been the first attempt at corporate espionage to befall them. It would be a very rare retrieval and containment failure however.
That two of the units were lost in their entirety before the Japan branch had mobilized to hunt down the rogue agent that had stolen them was ridiculous. That the branch had been careless enough to allow the third to be activated by a visiting inspector was no better.
That they had subsequently misplaced said inspector was absolutely ridiculous.
Aptom supposed that the commander could be commended for at least identifying one of the hosts of the initially lost units, though the fact that it was again an insider that had activated it was another mark again the Japan branch.
"Idiots!" Guyot snarled, the cell phone offering one last feeble spark of protest before imploding into so much scrap under the force of the man's grip. The commander scowled at the destroyed tech, shaking the broken bits from his hand in disgust.
Aptom turned his attention from the fuming councilman to survey the passing landscape. They were getting close to Minakami.
One thing bothered him about this assignment still. His best efforts at Chronos Japan had failed to bring up any suggestion of just what Guyot had done to provoke the doctor's ire. As near as he could tell based on all the information he had gathered regarding the guyver units it didn't appear to be a related offense. Which meant that he had missed something at Relic's Point. Once they arrived back, he fully intended to rectify that.
Masaki Murakami glanced discretely about the car as they drove away from the cabin. This was not exactly the outcome he might have expected or desired from the side trip Sho had requested. On the one hand, keeping one of the guyver units out of Chronos' hands was important.
On the other he trusted Agito Makishima even less than he trusted the brat and taking him into Relic's Point and showing the former Chronos lackey the inner workings of the rebellion seemed at best unwise and at worst... well, he didn't really want to think to hard about that.
The two civilians were going to be a problem as well. It would be work to smuggle in two other people, not to say anything of four.
"We should go pick up your car." Sho interrupted his musings quietly.
And there was another reason to be annoyed with the boy. They'd be lucky if his car was still where they'd left it. At least there wasn't anything that important in it.
"You left a car somewhere?" The girl's voice interrupted before he had a chance to respond.
"We were in something of a hurry at the time." Masaki grumbled. "No telling if its still there."
"It should be, there aren't enough police this far out to make towing it a priority." Sho pointed out.
"It might be good to have a second vehicle." Shizu noted, her gaze shifting briefly to Masaki in the rear view mirror before returning to the barely visible path they seemed to be following. "If they are looking for us in the forest, being out on paved roads could also work to our advantage."
Masaki shifted in his seat and considered that he might have written the girl off a little too quickly after all.
"It'll make it harder to be followed if we're able to split up." Sho pressed. "And I wouldn't mind getting my pack back."
"Please tell me you're not stupid enough to have left anything incriminating in my car." Masaki glowered at the boy but Sho only rolled his eyes.
"I'm not an idiot, Masaki." He twitched at the still overly familiar address, but let it slide. Probably the brat was only using his name to annoy him anyway. "I just want to change."
Sho picked absently at the slashed sweatshirt, the only visible reminder of his recent injuries.
Masaki risked a glance behind himself to where Makishima had passed out after his earlier outburst. The older boy hadn't been injured nearly as badly as Sho, but he seemed to be suffering more for it.
"Why aren't you passed out as well?" He wondered aloud.
"Hmm, that's..... a good question." Sho ran a hand through his hair, scratching at his presumably newly grown scalp absently. "The answer is complicated. Lets say... its to do with experience. Turn here, please." The boy leaned forward to point off their track onto an even more dubious path. "There's a dirt road up ahead that will let us out on the road where we left the car."
Shizu obligingly altered their route and Masaki supposed this meant that retrieving the car had been decided without him. Part of him wanted to argue, but his desire to have the Mazda back won out.
"Experience? Is this something to do with regrowing half your brain?" He demanded instead.
Sho winced a bit at the observation and Yohei started, turning to give them a confused look.
"That was... not exactly what I meant." An uncomfortable silence fell, and for a moment Masaki was sure the brat wasn't going to offer any more of an answer than that.
"It's not a pleasant experience, you know." He began slowly. "I feel everything... everything that happens to the armor happens to me." Sho shook his head, a haunted look flashing ever so briefly across features that were far too young to know the kind of pain it held.
"The guyver pulls its power from the host. Its extremely efficient at that. It can actually harness something like a fusion reaction from organic cells. The problem is that every organism's DNA reacts differently to the process. The control metal takes time to... calibrate the reaction to its host." Sho glanced back at his sleeping counterpart. "I've simply been connected to my unit longer than he has."
"So eventually using this thing will be easier on Master Agito?" Shizu's voice was tinted with relief.
"Eventually." Sho agreed, and the girl seemed pleased with the answer, but Masaki had to wonder at the boy's tone just how long 'eventually' took.
Relic's Point was on high alert for them when they arrived.
Aptom watched silently as an escort of soldiers surrounded Reichman Guyot on their arrival, ushering the man towards the doctor's labs.
It was not hard with the distraction provided to discreetly slip away from the group. He ducked down a less used research corridor as the group boarded the freight elevator that led to the labs.
"Have a nice trip, little brother?" Somlum's voice welcomed him from one of the shadowed doorways. He scowled at the address, turning to face his counterpart.
"It was no better than any other." He returned, crossing his arms as he studied the empty hall thoughtfully.
Aptom would not have considered anyone within Chronos as a friend. But the other lost numbers were the nearest things he had to family and circumstance had drawn the three into a strange kind of trust and camaraderie. If the elder zoaniods were sometimes jealous of his more frequent trips to the outside world then they could at least be counted on to limit their expression of it to casual verbal sniping.
"Dyme reports that the doctor has been rather occupied with something going on out on the mountain since you left." Somlum informed him, gesturing Aptom to follow him into the maze of rooms that made up the Bases processing center.
Relic's Point was one of the largest collections of processing technology in the world, fully ten levels of the massive underground base were devoted to little more than holding rooms for the large tanks that could transition a mere human into a genetically modified super-being. The systems were largely automated these days and though Relic's Point hosted a massive staff or scientists and trainees the labyrinth of processing tanks was left largely to its own devices unless it required maintenance or an insertion or extraction was in process.
Some of the scientists referred to the darkened maze as the Horror House, and glancing about the rooms into the foggy liquid it was not hard to understand why. Half mutated beings hovered unconsciously in the nutrient gel in varying states of transition. Often during the processing it was hard to make out just how many limbs a being possessed and the shift was rarely the relatively smooth reordering of cells that occurred during a normal transformation.
Some of the men that floated in these tanks had flesh and organs bulging grotesquely through the outer skin or beginnings of a carapace, others had eyes that floated loosely in the surrounding gel, attached only by a fine collection of nerves and overextended muscles. Tongues lolled out of unformed jaws and bone poked through the ends of fingers or claws. Tails emerged as lumpy spikes from backsides, and brain tissues was often visible through partially reformed skulls.
It was a disturbing place to be, but for the lost numbers it was home. Horrible scenery or no it was strangely comforting to Aptom to walk between the silent tanks.
"Guyot sent out some kind of orders before we left. I rather expect the two things are related." Aptom observed, keeping a wary eye on the other zoaniod. Somlum did not comment on the revelation, instead changing trajectory abruptly to head deeper into the maze.
"These "Guyver" units seem to be a higher priority concern than I'd originally thought." He added, following the other man.
"We've been looking into it while you were out." Somlum agreed. "It seems they originated from the Relic itself." The lost number came to halt at a dead end where a jumpsuit had been tossed casually across the back of a monitoring console. "You remember that incident a few years back when they threw away a whole platoon getting inside the thing?"
"I heard about it." He had been unconscious at the time, in one of his transition periods but it was worthless to say anything about it. Somlum remembered and was only baiting him.
"Apparently the units are all that came of the exploration."
Aptom frowned a little. Most of Relic's Point that had been around since then knew about the incident Somlum was referring to, as well as the fact that Commander Guyot had brought something out of the interior of the biological machine that lived under the base. In spite of some dedicated searching just after the occurrence, however, the lost numbers had never managed to dig up just what that something was.
"Well, well, Aptom," A resonant voice echoed from the walls of the room as the ceiling just above him seemed to be trying to melt. "Have we got things to tell you." Dyme reformed as well as he was able on the ground before the two men.
If he had not been as close to the two men as he was, Aptom often felt he would be inclined to pity Dyme. Of the three of them Dyme's physical shell had suffered the most for his transformation. While Aptom and Somlum could both still revert to a human appearance, Dyme was limited to a form that was at best mostly man-shaped. His flesh draped itself into a semi-solid body that lacked the solidity of a real skeleton and if his unnaturally chalky complexion and hollow eyes did not immediately give him away, his strange way of moving would.
Dyme would receive no sympathy from him, however. The lost number's unique physiology might have appeared outwardly to be a hindrance, but he spent so little time in his body that he might as well not have one. In many ways Dyme had more freedom than Aptom and Somlum combined. The nature of his abilities allowed him to 'see' into most of the base and surrounding countryside, his reach and senses limited only by distance and the lines of electric wiring that powered the base from its thermal reactor. The liquid nature of his cells had saved the man more than a few trips to the reprocessing tanks as well.
"Do you now?" Aptom prompted as Dyme flowed into his uniform.
"Oh yes, I have some big news indeed." Dyme smiled that too wide smile of his, lips parting to reveal a gaping hole where there should have been teeth. "We should prepare. It seems that soon Relic's Point will be receiving some very important guests."
Sho slid into the passenger seat of the RX-7 as Masaki gave Shizu directions to where they would rendezvous back with Makashima and the Onumas. The car was pretty much as they'd left it, which was less surprising than it might have been considering they'd basically left it in the middle of nowhere.
:small time gone: The unit whispered, apparently finished with its scan of the area.
It was right. The dash clock reported that only perhaps five hours had passed since they had abandoned the RX-7. It seemed longer.
His mind was foggy from the earlier injury. Brain damage was always disorienting but this was more so than he had experienced before. The unit had remained intact and aware for the duration of his unconsciousness and there were strange distorted echoes of what had happened in his absence where there would have once just been a period of blankness.
The sense of concern/apology from the unit strangely helped to quell the sense of vertigo that came with examining the other memories too closely.
:Not your fault I was careless.: He pointed out reasonably, digging through his pack for a spare shirt.
Masaki slid into the driver's seat as he pulled off the ruined sweatshirt, giving it a quick once over before stuffing it to the bottom of the bag until he had a chance to dispose of it. His spare top was a little thin for the cool evening, but it was intact and clean.
"How long is 'eventually'?" Masaki prompted as they pulled out onto the darkening street, the headlights only half visible in the evening light. Sho spared him a sideways glance, debating for just a moment how to answer the question. Lying to the man was hard, but the truth was complicated.
"....long." Sho offered at last, turning his attention to the surrounding landscape. It was hard to tell in the waning light, but he thought he could just see Mt. Minakami in the distance.
:Forever maybe...: He mused silently. Makishima was at a substantial disadvantage. It would take a lifetime that never seemed to end for the other man to reach the 'eventually' that Sho had now.
"The units have only been out of Chronos for a few weeks." Masaki pointed out, sparing a side glance for Sho. "Either your unit isn't one of the three that was stolen..."
"It is." He cut off the protolord a bit more abruptly than he'd intended, but there was no sense letting the man get his hopes up.
"Then what you're saying is that somehow you had access to the guyver unit before it was 'lost'." Masaki's tone was less harsh than he would have expected at such an observation.
"In a manner of speaking." He agreed reluctantly.
"I would love to know how you managed that." Masaki mused, and Sho was surprised that there wasn't more of a demand in the man's voice.
"Shall we just say its a matter of perspective and leave it at that for the time being?" He offered hopefully. Sho might have trusted Masaki Murakami implicitly but there were some things that the man wasn't any more ready to hear than he was ready to tell him. In this lifetime they had barely met, and however much he wanted to lean on the old camaraderie...
:Will I ever be able to relate to people normally again?: He wondered inwardly. Everyone he interacted with had a long history with him that they couldn't remember. How was he supposed to deal with that?
The urge to run away was strong but fleeting. He'd made up his mind already. And if he wanted to change things he needed to do more than just change himself, he needed to change the other players as well.
"For now." Masaki agreed reluctantly.
Sho turned to look at the man's profile. Visually Masaki Murakami had not changed all that much from his memories – his hair was shorter, and there was a hunch to his shoulders, faint but there, that hinted at the chronic pain that had plagued the man's life in recent years. It was already far too dark for the sunglasses he wore, but preternatural night vision had always been one of the protolord's abilities and somehow the man looked more natural to him with the lenses than without.
"You haven't gone out of your way to make a real good impression on me but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt." Masaki paused, considering his words. "Something in my gut says that it's worth the risk. Just remember – Someday you're going to sit down and explain this to me start to finish."
"Someday." He agreed with a small quirk of amusement.
"Goddamn brat." Masaki grumbled under his breathe.
Sho's chest clenched painfully as he looked at the familiar scowl and he forced himself to look away before his body could consider hyperventilating. The fear would paralyze him if he wasn't careful. Loosing his friend and mentor had been hard enough once, but it was entirely possible that his actions now would cause the man's loss again. This time perhaps more permanently.
:cannot predict: came the gentle intrusion.
:No: He agreed tiredly :And that's the problem:
All the future knowledge in the world was only going to get him so far, after that... after that he was on his own, with only his gut and experience to guide him.
:we: came the correction and he felt a small smile quirk at the protest.
:Right: He agreed, staring out at the dark landscape. After that... they were on their own.
Author's End Note: I'm looking for a beta reader to help me get the rest of this fic finished. Details on my profile page. K THX BYE!
Next Time: Everything goes to hell. In a hand basket. Aptom is in charge of bringing the munchies.