AN: Sorry this is so late guys...Jazzy's been super busy, so I'll post the beta'd chapter when I get it, but I wanted to post anyway so I hope its not too awful. I'll try to be quicker with the next chapter.
New York City, Long Island Sound
Project Miasma, Underground Headquarters
Sunday, June 19th 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
38 Hours, 15 Minutes until Archangel Release
"You're awfully glib for a man about to lose his will to live."
The gleaming edge of Sango's blade flickered in the glow of the overhead light as she teased it closer to the genitals of the man bound and prostrate at her feet.
"I'm telling you," he sneered, squinting up at her through the puffy blackness of two swollen eyes. "I don't know anything."
"And I'm telling you..." The ripping of cloth sounded extraordinarily loud as the tip of her knife cut through the seamed crotch of his camouflage pants. "I don't believe you."
"Better to just talk to the lady already," Miroku said with a sigh from his seat in the corner where he lounged on a rusted out folding chair, watching the proceedings with personal interest. "She has been known to be quite irrational when she doesn't get what she wants."
Another rip, followed by a wince and a whimper, not of pain yet, but of fear of impending pain. Oh, and it would hurt: Sango would make sure of that.
"Hm? What was that? Did you suddenly remember something?" Sango's voice was warm despite the cold, calculated violence she was threatening with the utmost intentions of following through.
Their prisoner remained silent, his lips pressing firmly in a thin white slash across his face. Sango met Miroku's eyes over the man's head. He was an elemental youkai of some sort, and potentially could have caused them a bit of trouble had they not taken him unaware and used his great oaf of a brother as leverage.
Having Sesshoumaru on their team was also a plus. The man could wilt flowers from fifty paces with no more than a glance.
Imperceptibly, Miroku nodded. With a flick of her wrist, the waist-length braid of shining onyx hair was severed so close to his scalp that it bled. He hissed his displeasure as the luxurious rope was pooled before his face in a taunting coil.
"We can take care of the rest of that for you as well," Miroku baited, straight faced and expectant. This man, be he youkai or not, was exceedingly vain. It was evident from the way he carried himself to the obvious pains he took in his grooming. "It would be quaint, matching your brother and all." He made an exaggerated nod to the saggy lump hunched unconscious in the corner.
"Can't guarantee my handy-work, though," Sango admitted off-handedly while running her free hand through the loose thatch of uneven hair at the front of his head. "Shaky hands."
She gave him a not-so-gentle tug to emphasize her words, jerking his chin off the floor and nearly making Miroku wince in sympathy. The woman could be ruthless when the situation called for it. Damn, but it was a turn on.
"Mmm. Yes, that could be a problem," Miroku mused as if to himself, though his tone said quite clearly that he expected to be overheard. "But it's doubtful that you'd lose more than an ear." He paused thoughtfully, fore finger tapping against his chin. "Not much more, at least."
"Or perhaps we should start by practicing somewhere less…noticeable." Sango offered, ripping a wide rent in his pants to reveal a shiny pair of red underwear. "Bikini…How very predictable."
Sango smirked deliciously when he whimpered, scraping his forehead against the concrete in a way that made him look like a rabid animal. He was caving. Miroku grinned back at her, their eyes connecting with a savage heat as he nodded for her to keep pushing him. If his assessments were correct, and they usually were, he would spill like a fourteen-year-old boy in a Victoria's Secret dressing room with little to no bloodletting.
"So," Sango purred, cutting the seam of his skivvies with a flash of movement that provided only enough pressure to let him know she was quite serious about giving him a shave, "how 'bout it?"
"Ok! Ok! I'll talk, you sick little bitch." He squirmed, trying to put some distance between his goulash and Sango's knife. Sango sat back on her heels, a victorious smirk in place that made her look positively catty.
"When did Naraku vacate the premises?" Miroku asked with perfunctory assuredness, his voice straight and solid as they got down to business.
"How the hell should I know," the semi-pant less and now balding elemental spat, a disgusted look on his face "do you think he would have left me behind if I was important enough to run his schedule by?" His eyes turned disparagingly on the pile of hair in front of his nose. "Damn! You skanky bitch! Did you have to cut off my hair?"
"Watch your mouth." Miroku's eyes narrowed dangerously. It was not an idle threat, which the elemental seemed to realize as his eyes immediately swung away from Sango's lithe, if a bit grubby, form. "Now, where would Naraku go to lay low until the exchange."
The elemental youkai flashed an exaggerated dead-pan look at Miroku before clicking his tongue. "Oh, he has a house in the Hamptons," he then murmured under his breath "Idiot."
The whistling of a knife cutting through air gave only momentary notice before the blade sunk into the exposed plane of his shoulder to the hilt. It would have been mildly amusing to watch him scream like a little girl had they not been on a crunch for time. As it was, Miroku settled back with a benign smile, his fingers folded comfortably over his chest as he waited.
"You were saying?"
"Shit!" he hissed in high pitched disbelief, "You crazy bitch! You're all a bunch of sick fuckers! You hear me? I'll kill you fuckers for this! I'll –"
Sango pulled a second knife from the holster strapped to her thigh, twirling it with haphazard grace between long, deft fingers, effectively cutting off the stream of filth spewing from the hostage's mouth.
"There are a couple places I know of," he admitted reluctantly, his face a clear mask of disgust.
"Yes?" Miroku prompted evenly, assured in the fact that his calm demeanor was infuriating their hostage. The man was scraping his forehead against the floor again, for God sakes! "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
Another of Sango's knives flew, plunking with a soundless threat into the coil of hair in front of his nose.
"I said there's a place in Toronto, Canada, and a ship called the Dante, but it's docked for repairs.
"Anything a bit more local?" Miroku didn't like where this was heading. If this guy couldn't offer anything more substantial, then they were back to square one.
"Nothing underground. Not that I know of anyway. He's got the guy putting up the new Carrington building by the balls, Carrington Towers or something like that. Lower East Side. Down town, near the river."
Miroku nodded indolently. "Excellent. Thanks so much for your cooperation."
Then his eyes rolled back into his head with a slurred "bitch" when the heel of Sango's steel reinforced boot relieved him of his consciousness.
"Now that was a bit harsh, my luscious nymph," Miroku accused with a teasing smile.
Sango tch'd and booted the unconscious demon in the botchy bald spot on the back of his head for good measure. "Cutting off his balls might have been harsh. Might being the operative word."
"Ouch." Miroku mocked a wince, the smile still broadly etched across his face.
"Hn." Sango spun on her heels, breezing out the door with a nod to Sesshoumaru as they brushed past one another. Sesshoumaru barely cut his eyes at her, but Miroku caught the re-evaluation in his glance.
"You heard?" Miroku asked with out preamble.
"I would presume Canada would be an unlikely candidate, but that leaves the ship and the Carrington construction. I'll get Shippo on the horn. He'll have the choppers in the air over the sound and the coast guard running a full sweep of the grid in the next twenty minutes. We can have locals run a check on the place in Toronto just to be sure. It wouldn't hurt to shut down his operations over there anyways."
Sesshoumaru nodded his approval, his glare burning into the lump of disfigured youkai flesh in the corner, a pathetic attempt at a human guise. He bore the faintest hint of Kagome's scent about him, still detectable, old and degenerated as it was. It confirmed her presence here, even if her stay had been brief.
Miroku sighed, slapping a sutra on the unconscious youkai's bald patch to ensure that his nap would be nice and long. He rocked back on the balls of his feet, balancing his weight on his haunches as his quick mind ran over scenarios and strategies. "It would be foolish to assume these to be his only hide outs, but it's best to take our leads as they come."
"Agreed." Sesshoumaru turned toward the door as the urge to tear the subdued youkai apart for simply having come in contact with Kagome teased his vision with the all encompassing red haze. "I will take the Carrington Tower myself, while your team holds here until the cleaners arrive."
"Yes, but are you sure you should be going on your own." He didn't dare say it, but it was tactfully clear that Miroku was alluding to Sesshoumaru's current tentative hold on his control. "I could accompany you. Sango is more than capable of holding this position."
"Not necessary." Sesshoumaru said coldly, his face turned upward to the ceiling as his senses fanned out slightly. One sharp golden eye cut to the side to regard Miroku with calm integrity. "This Sesshoumaru has need for neither babysitter nor bodyguard." His look shifted to reflect something that could almost be misconstrued as regret in another man. "But your concern is unnecessary. My youki has…stabilized."
Miroku nodded, feeling a touch of mute shock at getting something that so resembled an explanation from the immovably proud youkai.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Erm. Ok then. We will radio ahead when we're on our way to your location."
Sesshoumaru nodded curtly, heading out the door. He stopped in the doorway, calling out "Houshi" as an afterthought in his deep baritone.
Then he was gone. Miroku stared at the empty doorway for a moment with a gaping incredulity coloring his features. As long as he had known the man, Sesshoumaru Takishima had been a serious man – stoic and professional to a fault. Even after he started seeing Kagome, though he'd lightened up almost imperceptibly in some ways, he had become more intense than ever in others. He didn't go out for drinks after missions. He didn't joke around with his teammates, not even to alleviate tension in a bad situation. Always serious – always at face value.
But that…that little quip had sounded suspiciously like a friendly jibe. The kind of teasing exchanged between friends, or at least people he didn't intend to kill any time in the near future.
Quite unexpected, Miroku thought with a ghost of a smile, his lips lifting at the cosmic irony of it. When threatened with the loss of his lover and the complete devastation of society as a whole, the immovable rock reveals a chink in his armor.
Miroku almost felt bad for Naraku. He didn't suspect there would be enough left of him interrogate when this was all over. Almost was a very broad term, however.
"Just don't forget to get the antidote first." He spoke quietly, his thoughts echoing off the bare concrete walls like a prayer. Miroku didn't even want to consider the consequences.
New York City, Brooklyn
5th Street Subway Station
Sunday, June 19th, 9:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
35 Hours, 30 Minutes until Archangel Release
Kagome hugged her arms across her chest self-consciously, trying to conceal the jangling straps and buckles that dangled from her grungy, blood speckled straight jacket, She was taking pains to remain as inconspicuous as possible, hoping to simply disappear into the push and pull of the thinning crowd as she hunched in on herself.
She felt acutely paranoid of eyes watching her, mostly imagined she was sure, but it made the back of her neck and arms itch and her ears burn hotly under the curtain of her lank, greasy hair.
Somewhere at the back of her mind she realized she was running blind, trying to put as much distance between herself and the scene of her crime as possible. Yet, her selfish mind was already running through the rationalization of what she'd done. He was a criminal, a terrorist. He was threatening her, threatening the whole city with the ramifications of his ambition…it was self-defense…it was pro-active citizenship. She was a hero, not a…a murderer.
Now she just had to keep repeating it over and over until it was true.
Kagome glanced at the scrolling neon sign proclaiming that the East bound train would be heading for Queens in the next five minutes. She had no money, no plastic, and no ID, having been stripped of all personal effects before being shoved in her cell, but for some reason they had left her subway pass in the pocket of her jeans. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she had headed straight for the nearest junction.
But now if felt as if she were at a bit of a stale mate, unsure of where she should go, or what she should do at this point. Should she contact someone? And if so, who? The police? The FBI? HASMAT? Sesshou?
After a few moments of indecisive lingering in one of the darker recesses of the station like a frightening specter, she had to accept that standing there swaying on her feet and mumbling to herself in a straight jacket wasn't doing anything for her perceived sanity, and was sure to draw some seriously unwanted attention if she didn't snap out of it. There was a line of payphones just down the way, set back in dirty blue and gray graffiti covered stalls in a paltry attempt at privacy.
The first two lines had been severed at the box, the curling cords dangling limply from finger-smudged receivers. The third was completely empty, the box having been ripped from the wall with only a few jutting wires to show that a phone had ever been there to begin with. Also, it had apparently been used as an impromptu toilet. Thankfully the fourth seemed intact. The stench was abhorrent though.
Kagome cast a paranoid glance around her before using her back as a shield against prying eyes as she lifted the heavy black receiver from its cradle. It was revoltingly greasy, but now was not the time to be concerned with such petty matters a hygiene. More importantly, the line clicked loudly as a dial tone bleeped in her ear.
Her hands were shaking. Kagome had to clench her fist a few times to steady herself enough to punch in the memorized numbers of her calling card, and then, haltingly, Sesshoumaru's cell phone. There were a few tense moments of silence as the call was connected, during which Kagome tried to huddle as much of herself out of sight behind the Plexiglas blinders as possible.
It rang four times before her own happy voice chimed in a cheery greeting, announcing that the caller had reached Sesshou Tadiama etc…ad nauseum… It would have been comforting except for the fact that the cheerful woman on his voicemail didn't seem like her any longer, almost seemed that it had never been her to begin with…It was all falsehood and pretense, not even his name was real, and poor naive Kagome had bought into it like a fool.
She sighed loudly at the beep, taking a moment before she could speak. What was she supposed to say? I know you're a big fat liar, but how bout we call a truce for now and you come save my sorry tail. It was one thing for the bravado to rage around the inside like a ruffled hen, but it was quite another to get it out.
"S-sess – ," she finally started in a voice entirely too meek to be her own, "Sesshoumaru, its Kagome." She used his real name, or rather his full name she supposed. She just couldn't stomach the thought of stringing along under pretext a moment longer. Her breathing was harsh in the receiver, probably gratingly so, but she couldn't seem to rein in control. "I-I'm in trouble. I don't know what to do." She sucked in a shuttered sigh. "I'm at the 5th street tunnel station. I don't know where to go. I j-just – " the phone bleeped, signaling that she'd taken too long.
Slowly, with quaking hands, she hung up the receiver. She was crying, sobbing actually, and she had no one else to turn to. She didn't want her mother involved, and none of her friends were close enough to be trusted with something so important – so personally devastating.
The rattling rumble of the 9:20 train shook the stagnant air in the tunnel as it groaned to a stop at the platform. It wouldn't be there long, she needed to decide.
With a quick swipe over her cheeks with the backs of her grubby hands, Kagome gathered her arms around herself and turned to scramble toward the train. It seemed that there were a lot of people gathered on the platform suddenly, all eager to board the East bound.
She hesitated at the prospect of joining the queue, the thought of being crammed in a car with so many people to stare at her, to realize what she was wearing – what she had done, making her jerk to a halt. Maybe the train wasn't such a good idea. Maybe she should just walk.
It didn't matter that it was dangerous to walk alone at night: she still had the gun.
Someone jostled her shoulder, causing her to have to shuffle sideways to maintain her balance with out compromising the protective position of her arms.
"Excuse me." A young woman in a worn knit cap apologized with an earnest smile before heading along hurriedly to the train.
The little girl being tugged along behind by the hand watched Kagome with smooth, coco-colored cheeks and a wide grin, trusting in her mother to guide her safely through the swarm of bodies. Her beautiful dark eyes were sparkling and alive, even in the dim yellowed fluorescence cast by the dirty halogen bulbs overhead, and Kagome felt transfixed to watch until she disappeared behind the sliding metal door of car one.
After 48 hours the virus will spread like wild fire. Naraku's voice haunted her, taunting the darkened recesses of her mind. Millions of innocent people…
Dear God…what was she doing? This was no time for self-pity: she had to go away, someplace far away from other people.
That clock had read 37 hours over an hour ago…she was running out of time.
With that thought pounding against the inside of her skull like a fist, Kagome turned and ran, shouldering her way past work weary travelers in her haste to be clear of the fetid, stagnant train tube.
But even once she had reached the darkened street above, she still ran, her shoes pounding an unsteady rhythm on the sidewalk. Even if she ran, nothing would change. Even if she locked herself away in some secluded hole to die alone, the virus would spread and people would die.
Oh yes, this was quite the song Naraku had composed for her: a lamentation of death.
No matter what, she was going to die. Now it was up to her to decide whether she would die alone, or take countless innocents down with her.
Thanks to you all! I promise, there is much action, much suspense, and much luv'in to come! R&R!