After a long argument, I managed to talk Haruhi out of making us go back into the abandoned school building, and I got to spend my Saturday sleeping in peace at home.
But I didn't find out what had truly happened in the abandoned school building until Monday.
I tried calling Koizumi, Nagato-san, and Asahina-san on Sunday, but I never got a response from any of them. I thought about riding over to Nagato-san's house, but I knew that if they weren't answering the phone, that likely meant they were with their respective higher-ups giving a formal report of our escapades the other night.
I bet being friends with Haruhi requires a lot of paperwork for those three.
During class Monday, Haruhi seemed distracted, and she wasn't in the clubroom when I arrived, which was fine by me because it gave the four sane members of the SOS Brigade time to talk about insane things, namely ghosts.
And as it turns out, it wasn't Haruhi causing the ghosts after all.
You're innocent on this charge, Haruhi. We'll consider this the exception to the rule.
The ghosts were actually Asahina-san's fault, or well, more specifically, the fault of time-travelers.
She sat me down when I arrived in the clubroom and started a very nervous explanation of the whole thing, and judging by the way Nagato-san and Koizumi reacted, they had already heard it all.
"That building we entered was actually a classified information. Um, I mean. . ."
Great, Asahina-san's time-traveler censorship is on. This explanation is likely to leave me more confused than ever.
"It's like a safe-house for bad guys. I noticed it when we first entered."
Safe-house for bad guys? I had no clue where this was going, but it did explain why Asahina-san was acting so strangely when we first arrived for the campout.
"The ghosts you saw were actually members of classified information, um, I mean. . . they're like. . . people who time travel illegally. They can't use a TPDD, so they have to find illegal ways to go back in time, and many of those ways leave imprints on the past."
I stared at her for a moment. I could tell Asahina-san wanted some confirmation that I was following her.
"I don't understand," I said.
She paused for a moment to think, and the sight of her gently tapping her finger on her chin was so cute. Even when she has serious business to deal with, she can't help but do things in an innocent way.
"Ah! Do you remember when I told you time traveling is like adding an extra page into a flip book?"
I nodded. She told me that the day she revealed her true identity to me. I'll never forget that.
"Well, a TPDD takes the page back out when we're through. But people who time travel illegally, it's like they drew themselves into the flip books right on top of the normal pages. When they go to leave, they erase the picture they drew of themselves."
"And sometimes they don't erase all the way?" I asked as I started to put it together.
She nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah!"
"So what we were seeing, what we thought were ghosts. . ."
". . . were just imprints of time travelers who had stayed in that building at some point," she finished.
Now I felt stupid knowing I was running from imprints. At least I felt a little justified when I thought they were ghosts.
"But wait. They reacted to us. Attacked. . . threw things at us."
Asahina-san shook her head. "That was a coincidence. The imprints can't physically interact with this world. They just act out a moment from a different time period, usually only a few seconds or so. They're like. . . like . . ."
"Holograms," Koizumi suggested.
"Yeah, like holograms. They were reacting to something that happened in another time period, and you just thought they were reacting to you."
I thought back to the encounters we'd had in the school building. Most of the ghosts had ignored us completely. The one that had thrown something at us, well, it had seemed like she was mad at us, but I guess it's possible we were just seeing the transparent reenactment of some past time-traveler related dispute. That would explain why that object of hers never hit me.
"So we were never in any real danger?" I asked.
Koizumi grinned. "Our panic actually put us in more danger than the imprints causing the panic. We really could have gotten hurt running through those dark halls."
Oh, now you think that place was dangerous, Koizumi. Where were you when I was making all my protests the other night?
"And of course, the danger that Suzumiya-san would see one was still very real," he added.
I'm not worried about that kind of danger.
"Leave it to Suzumiya-san to uncover such a place. It's rather amazing."
I don't really think it's that impressive, Koizumi.
"Okay, I think I get it," I began, "but where did you go?"
As it turns out, if we had simply taken the time to walk out the front doors when we were searching for her, we would have found Asahina-san immediately and most of that craziness wouldn't have happened.
After noticing that we had walked into an imprint goldmine, Asahina-san decided to sneak away in the middle of the night to contact her superiors. She was on the front lawn the entire time, and our stupid assumption that she had gotten lost somewhere was what resulted in Haruhi almost finding out.
Oh, and as for Nagato-san, when she ran across her first imprint while searching for Asahina-san, she immediately realized what was going on. Knowing that Koizumi and I weren't in any danger from the apparitions, she decided that getting rid of them so that Haruhi didn't accidently run across one should be her priority. So instead of returning to the meeting place, she went outside where she figured Asahina-san would be making contact and receiving instructions on what actions to take. The flash of light that blinded the three of us down in the basement was Nagato-san resetting the space-time continuum or something.
She explained it all, but of course she used Nagato-speak, so I have no clue how it works. It was something about isolating the area and making it reflect the quantum mechanics of the rest of the world.
I need a degree in physics just to talk to Nagato-san sometimes.
And there you have it. The whole adventure was really just the product of a glitch in the universe and a lot of miscommunication and assumptions on our part. It sounds like the plot to a really bad comedy show; all we needed was a ludicrous chase scene and some bad dialogue.
Asahina-san finished by mentioning that her superiors would be sending people to monitor the place in case the illegal time-travelers ever came back.
When she mentioned that, I remembered walking into that large meeting hall at the bottom of the building. I remembered seeing the weapons they were all holding.
"Asahina-san, is this group a threat to you and your superiors?"
"Classified information," she said, but I could tell by the way her voice faltered and she dropped her head that it was true.
I looked around the room, first to Asahina-san, then Nagato-san, and even Koizumi.
Don't worry Asahina-san, if anything seriously threatens you, threatens any of you, Haruhi and I will go into genuine hero-mode. It'll just take a couple words to get her charging to the rescue with all the power in the universe behind her.
I would have liked to have told them that, but about that time Haruhi walked in. We all had to go back to acting normal, which meant serving tea for Asahina-san, reading for Nagato-san, and board games for Koizumi and me.
In my attempts to be nonchalant and unsurprised by her entrance, I didn't bother looking up from the game of chess spread out on the table, so I didn't know she was standing behind me until it slapped down on the table in front of me, tipping my king over like I had surrendered.
It was a copy of "Rabbit Doubt," the manga I had stolen my story from for the campout.
I looked up at Haruhi, who had two neutron stars burning just behind her pupils.
"Super mega ultra punishment!"
The sheer number of adjectives in that phrase makes me sick to my stomach.
And that is how I ended up wearing a new pink cat costume to class for an entire day.
I won't go into detail about it, because honestly, that was the scariest story of all.
A/N: Well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed it. You might check out my other two Haruhi fics if you liked this one. The others are similar--short, fun little adventures that Haruhi drags the SOS Brigade on.
I have another Haruhi fic I'll probably post later this week. It's going to be a oneshot that's completely different from my other stories. I also have an idea for a much longer fic that would actually get into the main plot of the story, but whether or not I write that one depends on how much time I have. Thanks for reading.