Monday at last. The day to see if Haruhi's coaching abilities are of those equal of an Olympic Trainer. The Brigade was assembled in the clubroom preparing to run with everything we have. We changed and went to the field. Koizumi had a few words before we started.
"Good luck Alan, I hope we win."
"Me too, are you sure you're not hurt anywhere?"
"No, thanks for worrying, I'm fine, but we really do have to win this."
"Don't put too much pressure on me…"
"Suzumiya may or may not destroy the world depending on if we win or lose, but no pressure!"
He smiled and shrugged. No Koizumi, this is one of those rare times where you're actually supposed to say "Just kidding"…

"Ready… One, two…"
The first up with the baton was Koizumi. Recovering from his battle against Asakura, he ran as if he had been getting plenty of rest and exercise for the last few weeks, looking better than ever, he kept even speeds with the other runners. He passed the baton to Kyon who burst out from the start and was running out of energy fast. Easy to see who was the one who did the least amounts of laps in Haruhi's endurance trials. He fumbled the baton to Mikuru who was running with all her strength. Shame she couldn't have started closer so I could get a better look… We were in fifth place out of six runners.
Haruhi was further behind the track looking as impatient as ever. Mikuru passed the baton with two hands and what seemed like a clumsy bow before Nagato had started her share of distance. This is it! We've won! She's our trump card. We were in fourth place, third, second, then third… then forth… back to fifth… what? Nagato was slowing down, was she getting tired? This must be from fighting Asakura again. Even interfaces have limits. She was almost to Haruhi as she was already stretching her hand out for the baton. Nagato made the pass and Haruhi started sprinting, passing fourth place, knocking the runner down with her awesome speed (Honor to the computer society~!). She passed third and was catching up to second.
I was too distracted by her running. She was speeding right at me with the baton, brandishing it around like some idiot with a knife. How do I receive anything from Haruhi the way she was flailing that thing around? I started forward and reached back for the baton as she closed in on me.
"Run Alan!"
Almost dropping the baton, I hauled it out of there, my mind was white. I imagined that I was back in the closed space. I ran like there was no tomorrow, cause if I didn't win there might not be one.
"Good luck Alan!" Koizumi called out.
"Work hard Alan!" Kyon yelled.
"Don't lose!" Mikuru cheered.
"Go" Nagato said… I think.
I passed third place. I'm getting worn out. I'm right behind second… ugh I can't do this…
I passed second.
Right behind first.
I'm right next to him, there's the finish line. He was slowly getting ahead of me. Damn, I can't settle for second now!
No good I can't catch up. There's no time left, it's almost over.

I saw a streak of blue.
"Keep running with me Alan."
My arm was being pulled forward, making me run more than I could handle on my own. My lungs were about to burst. Even so it was a wonderful feeling, like I was flying. Only a bit left… I shut my eyes and collapsed on the track.

The rest of the story went as is. After I passed out I woke up in the clubroom to find out that I had won the race and that Koizumi, being the least tired, carried me all the way up to the clubroom. As disgusted as I was and wanting to take a shower as soon as I got home, I was relieved and happy that the whole race was finally over. Better yet that I had won. Something still bothers me though.
Everyone was amazed that I was able to make that last burst of speed into the finish line. To be honest I had given up when I was suddenly pulled along against my will. If you're wondering about what happened to Asakura it's not much of a surprise to know that Nagato once again exercised her brilliant ability to manipulate data, and made it so that Asakura returned to Canada at the last moment Sunday night. Haruhi on the other hand wasn't so quiet about the whole transfer. For the next few weeks we investigated for the missing SOS Brigade member. Only to be turned down by the landlords and neighbors who claim they never knew she came back to begin with. The room she had stayed in was empty and looks as if no one had set foot in it for a long time. Like I expect how it happened last time, there was no address or any contact numbers. She was indeed, officially gone from this world.
Even so the funny thing is that everything that was left behind stayed in a way that made me believe Asakura would just burst into that dull grey clubroom that stunk of Othello and Haruhi's madness, with that excited glow in her eyes and repaint the whole scene in a brighter hue any moment. The blue bunny suit she had worn was hung in the assortment of costumes in the corner, the whole sports festival was exactly as planned by Asakura, I can remember the taste of her cooking, the dress Kyon and I had to buy for her was no longer on display at the shop, I remember the look on Haruhi's face when she wanted to join, I know where she sat in the classroom.
She might as well been out with a cold and I wouldn't be surprised if she came to class the next day smiling like she usually does. Everything and everyone was waiting for her to once again make a return and make everything a bit happier again.
That was past and done. She was as I've said as many times already, gone.

Then again I'm in a world where Haruhi's a god, Nagato's an alien, and Mikuru's a Time Traveler, and Koizumi's a member of the Esper rangers. Most of the stuff that has happened, is happening, and everything I expect to happen would be something more interesting than I want it to be or can handle. Therefore I'll be the only loser if I'm not on guard till the end. No matter how hopeless the chances are she's still stealing away every one of my weekends to look for mysteries. Maybe we'll actually find one. Maybe those mysteries want to find us as much as we want to find them. Maybe we'll have that one unexpected boost in the end, past the barriers we thought were one impossible. Those mysteries just keep pulling us along wanting us to find and solve them.

"All data leaves traces, right?"