Hey.

Kindasortamaybe depressing note later on... but for now, I hope you enjoy. If you don't, then make sure not to tell me.

Just kidding. Happy reading.



Previously...

5:34 pm JST | MkyWy Sector (306,209) | Planet Delta

Deep within the multiplex data streams and encryption networks of the Integrated Data Sentient Entity, a movement was felt, and dimensions parted as Organization X assembled itself. Zettabytes (One zettabyte equals approximately 100 million terabytes, or 2^70 bytes) of information passed between its various entities, as they computed various scenarios faster than the speed of thought. Finally, a decision reached, the organization split and parted ways, pausing only to send a short command line to a particular Humanoid Interface.

5:35 pm JST | MkyWy Sector (124, 650) | Planet Delta

[...]

[message= code command line]

[sender= IDSE]

[priority= double red]

Advanced Interface Mode deactivated.

All processing power diverted to decrypting and processing message.

Life support rerouted to backup power.

Initating Basic Interface Mode.

[Basic Interface Mode command line requesting processor space for preliminary status report. priority= yellow. Y/N?]

[Y]

[Accepted]

[Basic Interface Mode message:

life support= check

environmental changes= energy diverted from muscle function.

physical body shifted approximately 102 degrees northeast.

earth gravity sped up impact to ground level at constant 9.80665 m/s2 earth units

no injuries reported

miscellaneous notes= Subject /[`/0|\|-1 moved a distance of 2.366 earth meters to near-physical body proximity. Sound level emanating from Subject /[`/0|\| at 75 earth decibel level. Divert processing power and decode human language. Y/N?]

[N]

[Accepted]

[Perform misc. action. Y/N?]

[...]

[Y]

[send preset Basic Interface Mode message 45 to subject /[`/0|\|-1

communication method: verbal]

[additional Registry Code: shutoff Interface communicator]

[Accepted]

Processing IDSE command code...

Thump

My head came up with a start. I checked the time, groggily rubbing at my eyes.

5:37 pm

Wow. Two minutes had passed by? I can't seem to catch a break- I can't even doze off without something interrupting. I mean, it was an oddly peaceful scene- perfect for sleeping, with Nagato on the floor, a blank look in her eyes, my jacket there on the hook, the snow falling in droves, and the ticking of the-

Wait.

Nagato!

With a rush of andrenaline, Kyon pushed back his chair and hurried to Nagato's whipped off his jacket at once and laid it carefully over the petite, prone figure on the floor. Kyon took Nagato's diminuitive wrist in his hands and measured her pulse.

Her body temperature's definitely colder than it should be. But there's a pulse, at least, no matter how weak.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Kyon then proceeded to use the most advanced medical technique he could think of- tilting her head up by slipping his arm under her neck, wrapping his other arm around her shoulder, and shaking her until she woke up.

True, it wasn't as well thought-out as it could have been, but Earth medical techniques would have hardly worked on the data-manipulator in the first place, so I consider my strategy at least halfway decent. My one hope was that Taniguchi wouldn't pop in through the door again. I would never be able to explain my questionable position with Nagato twice.

"Nagato! Nagato! Wake up!"

Her eyes were dull and lifeless, all traces of sparkle extinguished. I started to panic.

"Come on, Nagato, please. If this is some kind of joke, then consider it a rousing success! Just wake up- please!"

To tell you the truth, I didn't hold much hope for this scenario. The chances of Nagato pulling a prank on me were just about as high as the chances of Haruhi confessing her love to that computer club president.

Just then, Nagato's head snapped back to look at me, her eyes lifeless and calculating, resembling more of an alien than ever before. I almost had the feeling that her eyes were zooming in and out on me, identifying me like a microscope to a colony of zooplankton. Then she began to speak. Or at least, she seemed to speak. I wouldn't know, as her mouth didn't move at all during her monologue... It was disconcerting, to say the least.

"Humanoid Interface Program number 79, code name Nagato Yuki is currently operating under backup power per request of the IDSE. Initializing preset message number 45-" droned Nagato. She kept speaking, but a new sound began overpowering this... audio recording.

It was at this particular moment that Haruhi chose to crash in through the door.

"Kyon! Hand me Mikuru's bunny suit! I've just got a..."

She suddenly noticed my awkward position on the floor. Haruhi's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"Kyon, what's going on-"

I tried to somehow "turn off" Nagato, honest. But it's not like there was a power button anywhere, or a volume rocker. So I resorted to covering her mouth. Too bad she wasn't using her mouth to emanate noise.

"... this message, then you must reboot my OS immediately. The OS reset disk can be found inside my apartment complex. It will take the form of a gray teacup. You must place this backup disk within two feet of my physical body, and..."

I was about to speak, to reassure Haruhi that Nagato had just had a stroke, a seizure, gone insane, anything to assuage her suspicions. As if she had read my mind, Haruhi waved my hapless efforts to speak off with a movement of her hand. She kneeled down next to Nagato, to listen to her emotionless transmission with intense, furrowed-brow concentration.

I gulped; this was bad. I had absolutely no idea what kind of information Nagato had put in this "voicemail message". The message could very well reveal some things to Haruhi that would better be kept unrevealed. The fact that Yuki was the most trusted character in the club didn't help matters either.

Looking again, I noticed that Haruhi had gone totally silent while listening to Nagato, her face blank.

Haruhi.

Silent.

Emotionless.

I am so screwed.

There was nothing else to do, so I perked my ears, and caught the last bits of Nagato's message.

"... and intercept the Integrated Data Entity transmission frequency, code 75-Alpha. And above all..."

Here the voice actually seemed to hesistate,

"good luck, Kyon."

Snow swirled outside like glittering piles of soft sugar. The school grounds were covered with a blanket of pure white powder. A snowflake dabbed cheerfully against the window pane.

Heh?

Was there any way to be more cryptic?

There was no way of defeating Haruhi's voracious curiosity once it had been awakened- all that could be done now is to think of a way to justify this- any way to justify this. While my brain was spinning with this conundrum, two more heads popped in- literally. Mikuru, in normal schoolgirl uniform (for once), and Koizumi haphazardly stumbled together into the room, as if shoved.

"Kyon...? What's going on?"

Mikuru's attention turned to me, her large, innocent eyes questioning.

I was not in the mood for her sweet vulnerability (for the first time in my life), however.

Koizumi's attention was also diverted from the doorway to the floor, where Nagato, her message finished, was once again lying on the floor, eyes open and glassy yet again.

I chose not to answer Mikuru's question, as Haruhi turned from the prostate body, to face us, her face hooded.

A dark aura entered the room, and it wasn't the visible kind.

Face still hooded, so we couldn't see her expression, Haruhi lifted her arm, and extended one finger towards Mikuru. The girl shuffled back in fright, mewing helplessly.

"Time traveler." Haruhi deadpanned.

Sweat began to accumulate above my brow.

Her arms swiveled to Koizumi.

"Esper."

The inexorable arm continued its steady march, onward to Nagato's prone body.

"Alien..." she was whispering by now. A pained, hoarse whisper.

At this, her arm collapsed. But she wasn't finished. Without even lifting her head, without any motions whatsoever, I knew she was referring to me. My vision blurred- I felt dizzy and fearful at the same time. It couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't be like this. The universe, however, had one last card to play. Haruhi choked out one last phrase, barely audible, but hauntingly clear nevertheless.

"John... John Smith..."

My muscles tensed. I felt ready to jump at anything and everything, but what could I do against a god? How do you pacify one who controls everything? And what did Nagato tell her- I didn't believe that Yuki would actually intentionally, or even accidentally let slip anything that would cause Haruhi to lose control. What was going on here?

Haruhi lifted her head, and the whole room saw her expression clearly. There was rage, I saw and expected, rage of the white-hot variety. But these was something else. There were tears. Haruhi was crying, streams of silver carving down her face. I think it was the first time any of us had actually seen the girl cry. Her eyes spoke volumes, and made up for all the words she didn't, or couldn't say. There was pain, sadness, frustration, bitterness, betrayal, and, what shocked me to the core, loneliness. A pitch-black, infinitely-deep pool of loneliness. She trusted her friends. Her friends hadn't trusted her. Her high school life, was essentially, one big lie.

She shook her head slowly, unspoken message clear and ringing.

You lied to me. You all lied to me. How could you? You knew- all of you knew!

Then, without another word, Haruhi Suzumiya turned, and ran out of the room.

Silence.

You know the phrase "the calm before the storm"? The moment where, nobody moves, nobody breathes, and everyone anticipates something horrible, with a sinking feeling of dread? I felt that- I think we all did.

Darkness clouded my vision.

I felt myself slipping into the void.

Gasping, I tried one last time to reach for Haruhi...

"Haruhi- NO!"

I jerked out of bed, reaching for... for... my ceiling. And then I fell. Hard.

Thump.

"... Wha-...?"

I blinked, and looked around me, disoriented. It was my room. There was no crying (shiver) Haruhi, no smiling Koizumi, no panicked Mikuru, and no lifeless Nagato.

Whew...

I hadn't had a nightmare this bad since... since...

My attention was suddenly diverted to the clock on my desk. 10:56 am it showed, cheerfully. Flipping open my cellphone, I also realized that today was Friday. A school day.

"DAMMIT".

Something was nudging at me in the back of my mind, something that felt very important. I, however, had no time for such thoughts. I had to get to school before my teachers skinned me alive- I've never been late to school before!

I cursed my bad luck, got dressed, took my bag, and hopped on to my bike, hoping against hope that we weren't having a pop quiz, or anything along those lines. Our teacher may be lenient in lectures, but he's absolutely killer on tests, quizzes, and the like. I heard, actually, that once, during finals, there was this kid who disobeyed-

No! Now's not the time. Focus on turning that brainpower into fuel for your legs. Keep an even rhythm.

Pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal...

Why is it so hot outside...?

Kyon panted as he raced up the steps into the school building.

Almost... there...

Finally, he burst in through the door, and raced to his seat. In record time, Kyon set up his papers, pencils, and assorted school paraphernalia on his desk, and opened his mouth to recite his excuse.

"I'm sorry, Mr.-" he began; but no one was listening.

Around him, the chatter of conversation ebbed and flowed after a brief interruption, when all of his classmates looked at Kyon curiously. With a sweatdrop, and sigh, Kyon read the words: "Study session" on the board, and realized that his teacher was no where to be found.

Of course, the one day Kyon was in a panicked hurry to get to school would be the one day when the class had a free study period.

Sweat dripped freely down his brow, free falling down, soaking his rumpled school uniform.

Sigh.

Kyon put his head to his desk with a loud thump.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Get a coffee or something. You'll need all of your energy for today's SOS Brigade session!"

It was Haruhi, poking me from behind. I mumbled a little, and waved her hand off. She frowned, and poked me harder.

"Don't disrespect your Brigade leader, or I'll punish you with laps around the school in-... Hey. What's wrong with you today, anyway?"

Dazed, I mumbled a few admittedly ill-chosen words.

"Some stuff... a nightmare... can't remember it... about you..."

Silence.

When I left class that day, in addition to my persistent headache and sleep deprivation, there was a decidedly large lump growing out of the left portion of my scalp. Great. Now I was fatigued, frustrated, and in pain.

I climbed a floor, then opened the door into the familiar atmosphere of the SOS Brigade. Koizumi was standing at the teapot, in Mikuru's place. Strange. It seemed like Mikuru was absent today. But how a time traveler could actually be "late" was beyond my comprehension.

Oh well. A thought for another day.

As usual, Nagato was sitting in a chair by the window, reading a thickly-bound book. Glancing at the cover out of a flash of interest, I realized it was in Latin. At that point, I utilized my pathetic vocabulary from a year in Latin studies to figure that it was titled Red Blade.

Odd. I actually remember reading that book, in homeroom. I can't recall exactly, but I think it had something to do with a dictator, who plants a sleeper agent* in a rebel group's ranks. Someone must have translated it into Latin, for some reason. It was odd because-

I paused. Something had nudged me again. Brushed against my consciousness. This was a "Eureka" moment coming, I could feel it. With a sudden revelation, I glanced at Yuki again, to find her staring back at me. Her eyes were... I don't know how to describe it. I think the best comparison would be to a newly-purchased whiteboard.

...

"Yuki, I-"

"KYOOON!"

I winced, covered my ears, and the train of thought, as well as my supposed "Eureka" moment, faded away into the headache Haruhi's announcement had produced. I turned back to the obnoxiously loud Haruhi, who had just marched in through the doorway. Koizumi smiled (as always), and informed her that Mikuru had come down with the flu, and couldn't come to the club meeting today.

As if.

I was much too tired to try to pry Koizumi for details, however, and let his amazing (read: witheringly frustrating) sense of secrecy prevail- once again.

"Oh, alright." Haruhi scowled slightly, but continued explaining our activities for the day. What were they? I can't tell you. I was preoccupied with the many strange events that had happened to me today.

First, I got up late... I must have slept through at least a dozen alarms. That in itself is pretty odd. And then, this nudging feeling that I've been having... that definitely doesn't count as normal. Then again, when is my life ever normal?

I sighed aloud at this point, drawing a glare from our esteemed leader.

"Kyon. Are you listening? If you can't repeat, word-by-word, my instructions by the end of the club session, you'll have to pay for our next ten meals!"

Even if I had been listening, I still could never recite your deranged instructions!

"Ah-hah. So you admit that you weren't listening. That's it. 20 meals it is. I hope you have deep pockets, Kyon~"

I sighed once again, and bowed my head in surrender. Fighting with Haruhi was just about as tiring as... well... fighting with Haruhi. There's just no comparison in the world.

Then, with a clap, and a nod, our club activity instructions had been given.

"Now go, all of you. Kyon, I'll expect the recital of my instructions by the time we get back."

But you've already charged me with 20 meals! How does that make sense?

Haruhi blinked.

"Oh... I have, haven't I? Oh well. Ten additional meals then, if you can't comply. At the new, fancy cafe down the road. We'll have a year's supply of food, before long, if you keep slacking off like this, Kyon!"

Koizumi just smiled apologetically at me. If that was supposed to help, it didn't.

I groaned. There was no way around her. Haruhi was an inexorable tsunami, destroying everything in her path. That included me, the thinly built hut standing in her way. Before long, I'll be nothing but a pile of sticks and stones.

Haruhi pouted, but left the room, followed by her ever-cheerful servant, Koizumi. Nagato and I made no move to follow.

"Nagato? Coming?"

"Haruhi did not request my presence," she deadpanned, "It was clearly outlined in her directions. Sentence 17."

I knew that.

Glancing at the door, I winced and realized that I probably should have followed Haruhi a while ago. Oh well. As long as I was paying for the group's next few dozen meals, 10 more wouldn't hurt. I took this opportunity to confide in Nagato about my troubles. The whole nine yards. I told her about my dream, the conscious brushings, and her odd, blank expression. Blanker than usual, that is.

The sun shone outside with all the intensity of a white-hot star 149,600,000 kilometers away.

Nagato took this all in without blinking. Seriously. She didn't blink. It was kind of creepy, to tell you the truth. I'm used to her at least making an effort to blink every 6.53 seconds or so, to give the semblance of human behavior. Not that I've been watching. Or counting.

"Not to worry. This is merely a system malfunction, what you would call "stress". Paranoid symptoms should disappear within one week."

I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thanks, Nagato. I can always count on you."

She gave a terse nod.

I was about to say something else, but she interrupted me first.

"I need to use the restroom facility. I will be right back." With a surprisingly jerky movement, Nagato stood up, placed her book flat on her chair, pages up, and walked out the door. Odd. She's usually much more graceful than that. She must have had to go badly.

I perused the clubroom after that, checking out the equipment and books, dreading to face Haruhi's hellish wrath after my absence was realized.

Then it hit me, like one of Haruhi's sucker punches.

I've never seen Nagato use the restroom before! She's made out of data- she doesn't need to use the restroom. What's up with that?

I briefly considered following Nagato, but discarded that idea at once. Following a so-called "A-" girl into the girl's restroom was a suicidal move on my part. I reevaluated my options, and sat down in Nagato's chair, thinking.

She must have wanted to me to do something... She was trying to tell me something, I know it!

But we were the only ones in the room. Who did she have to hide from? What did she have to hide from?

Nagato's chair seemed oddly uncomfortable.

Oh. Stupid. I was sitting on her book.

I absentmindedly picked it up, and glanced at a few words while pushing my figurative "thinking cap" over my head.

Now what could she possibly need? What could she possibly want? It's possible that she just doesn't know human etiquette, and actually expects me to follow her into the bathroom, but that's not likely. She's learned a lot since the beginning of the year about social standards. And why talk in code, then? Am I paranoid? Then again, Yuki never does anything without purpose... Gah...

Think, Kyon...

Think...



*Sleeper agent: A spy who is placed in a target country or organization, not to undertake an immediate mission, but rather to act as a potential asset if activated at a later point in time. Memory wipes are commonly used, with an external stimuli used to "wake" the agent up to fulfill his/her mission.

Yeah... anyway, if you've noticed any typos, grammar mistakes, plot holes, or anything of that nature, I know. I've noticed myself that this chapter's been slightly... off...

It wasn't Beta'd, and I've... kind of lost my train of thought for this story, so to speak. I've only posted the rough draft for chapter 2 because I didn't think letting it collect dust was going to really help much. So, this story is pretty much abandoned/on hiatus/up for adoption.

I might continue it in the future, but for now, I have the beginning and ending sketched out... but not much else. I'm truely sorry for making you all wait so long for this, just to proclaim this, but my muse for this story has deserted me entirely.

I would also not be averse to someone adopting this story. I've purposely made it so this chapter is as flexible as possible. There are any number of branches it can go. Contact me if you're interested. Otherwise, thanks for reading, and sorry again.

On the not-so-terrible side of life, I've started a new story, to replace this one. Not sure when I'll get it finished, but it's heavily AU. Hope it works out.

Thanks for reading,

-Cedarx