A/N- Can you believe it is almost 2014? And I've started SNC at 2011… Unbelievable. Thank you for sticking up with this story until now and huge, gigantic thanks for all who reviewed, followed and favored it.
Silver and cold
"Sick and tired of this world
There's no more air
Trippin' over myself
And I took a dive"
Ryan Cabrera- On the way down
"Ayase…" A deep, yet soft voice blended into his dream, calling his name.
"Hmm… what?" He mumbled and snuggled further into his pillow.
"Ayase…" Hands grabbing at his arms, hot breath on his ear.
Now the boy was completely awake and he rolled within the embrace of the man to face his black eyes.
"What is it?"
"Listen to me, Ayase, the alarm will be set on any minute now, and after that we'd be going downstairs. I'm going to get really busy really soon and I might not have another chance to… I want you to promise me to do whatever you're told to, stick close to Marcus at all times… don't try anything foolish, stay safe… Promise me you'll stay safe."
Ayase blinked and swallowed, and the horrible screeching alarm set in, both deafening and freezing the blood.
Kanou did not let go. "Promise me." He insisted.
"I… I promise."
Kanou's lips landed on his with a soft swift kiss, than curved up with a smile and he rose up loosening his grip. "Here we go." He whispered, than got out of bed, drawing back the curtness.
"Good morning lazy fucks!" he roared above the cacophonic sound of the alarm "Rise and shine, people, it is downstairs today!"
Men arose from their beds with a frown or a scowl to great each other with grave silence, no morning greetings, no jokes, no friendly teases as they dragged themselves reluctantly to form the straight line near the bars.
"All inmates please report to line up. All inmates please report to line up." The familiar automatic female voce urged them to the scan.
Ayase held himself still as the green rays scanned his features, throwing once I a while a glance at Kanou how tolerated his own scan tight lipped and brooding.
"Scan completed- Black team's population at 99% capacity. Morning line-up is completed."
The scanning robots retreated and doors clicked open.
Ayase woke up from his trance as Kanou turned to his teammates "All right everyone, get dressed, take your personal and group gear and follow me. You've got five."
"Get going, people" Zack continued "This ain't the first time around, you know the drill."
Ayase certainly did not, sure he knew he was supposed to change into his thermal suite and put on the air supplying unit on it, but he couldn't figure out if he has done it correctly, it would be horrible to find out while chocking.
Ayase struggled with the buckles and straps while desperately watching the others finishing their preparations and exiting their dormitory.
"Need some help, little guy?" someone approached him.
Ayase could not help but smile with relief.
"Turn over and let me see."
Ayase blinked a tear and obeyed.
"Looks …just about… fine…" the young man reassured him after tightening one of the straps a bit and fumbling with a plastic tube."You know how this works, right? In there, there's a catalyst that takes your carbon dioxide and breaks it back to oxygen. It has about six hours worth of work before it needs refreshing and you can monitor it with this bracelet- once it turns blue you've got one minute to plug it into a power source for recharging… I would not worry about it, though, because you'll stay mostly at the pit and not venture out. Your bracelet is also a communicator, so you could keep in touch with the rest of us. You know how to use it, right?"
"Yes…" Ayase said hesitatingly. "Every bracelet has a number on it. You press the number of the person you want to speak to and then press "send"."
"What happens if you only press "send"?"
"Then everyone hears you."
"Great, what's Kanou's number?"
"Mine is 71, are you ready to go?"
"Yes." Ayase turned back, smiling gratefully; grabbing a hold on the medical bag he was in charge of and followed Hall out.
They were not heading to the dining hall as they did on maintenance duty, but deep into the mechanical section instead.
"No breakfast today?" Ayase asked and Hall smiled.
"No, baby, we go down on an empty stomach, safer this way. We can't have anyone vomiting into his breather, can we?"
Kanou was up on the lead talking to Hassan and Zack as they walked, Ayase had no hope of catching up with him. His suite was itchy and it heated up quite quickly as they started to march, his medical bag was heavy on his shoulders along with his personal bag and he seemed to be unable to place his mask comfortably on his face, it was so confining and claustrophobic and he could not breath right.
"There you go." Someone yanked his mask off, Marcus.
Ayase moved his hand on his sweaty locks to keep them from falling on his eyes; it was already dark at the edge of his sight.
"You didn't have to put it on just yet…" Marcus sneered "And you were also hyperventilating which was a very bad combo."
"Not at all…"
They continued to walk together, and Ayase noted that everyone has already passed them, they were the last in line, walking so slowly, and when Ayase realized that it was because of Marcus that they have opened this gap, he looked at the old man with worry.
"Are you alright?"
Marcus flinched at the question "A bit tired, that's all"
It looked like he was in some sort of a pain, his face was pale and his breath heavy but Ayase knew he would not be allowed to inquire any further.
So they walked on, corridor after corridor, screen after screen, some he though to recognize from the maintenance duty but then again, all those tunnels looked the same.
Then, the group had reached an area where the tunnel opened up into a very wide, high, and a very round cavity, and at its center there was a hollow pillar rising up and falling down where Ayase's gaze couldn't follow.
The Black group settled there, placing their gear down, breaking into small groups, lighting up cigarettes and chatting.
Ayase approached Kanou's group with shy steps but was welcomed with a warm smile. The talk was about the best way to split the men for the descending.
There was nothing he could contribute on the topic, so he settled next to Zack just enjoying the company. Ayase looked at his surrounding, trying to figure it out. The hall was vast and spacious, almost like a cathedral, but with near to no light, and it was of steel rather than marble that covered the walls, all the same it made him want to pray.
"We're at the center of the bolt" Zack answered his unspoken question. "There's an elevator pier here that goes all the way up or down. You've already used it once, don't you remember?"
Ayase shook his head; there were many things he could not recall at the moment, his entire life before 950A, for example, was a total mystery to him.
Minutes later, the Blue team arrived, the young twins in the lead and the rest of the lot following them. As one of the twins recognized Kanou in the crowd his face lit up and he raised his arm in a wave.
"You're late" Kanou greeted them.
"Actually we're on time." Homare answered smiling "You were early."
"A smoke?" Kanou offered both a cigarette "last one before the drop."
"Sure, why not."
Homare and Misao took upon the offering and Kanou landed them his lighter as he gazed upon their men. "Your Blues are ready?"
"As ready as they'll ever be."
"That's our…" Misao tried to recall.
"Third trip down to hell" Homare reminded him "And yours?" He turned to Kanou.
"No shit." Both twins choked on their smoke at the same time.
"Check this out…" Homare handed Kanou a tablet and the screen showed black white and grey security camera online video data.
"Hey that's our…"
"Dormitories, yes. We figured out that it would be best to keep an eye on them while we are away, in case Raus or one of his henchmen snoops around while we're gone. We know he's up to something fishy and we thought…"
"You thought right, brilliant, actually. Here, Ayase!" Kanou handed the tablet to the boy. "You'll be in charge of this. Any suspicious move and you report back to me, understood?"
"Yes, sir." The boy accepted the tablet with a shaky hand, and tucked it neatly in his backpack.
Hassan, accompanied by two black teammates and three others from the blue team approached Kanou's group.
"We are all set to go." Hassan said smiling. "Much looking forwarded for two months at the tip"
"Sure you are."
"I've heard that you bought the new carbon filters from the Greens. What a relief and to think we were about to go down with invalid ones… How did you convince them to sell?"
"That was easy." Kanou smirked "They are six months away from their downstairs duty, plus they're broke thanks to Gion's scheming. It was an easy bargain"
"And a genius one, sir. I bet you could have been a great business man out there, in a different life perhaps."
"In a different life I'd be a billionaire." Kanou smirked. "And I'd run a flying circus."
"All ends well then…" Hassan smiled "I'll be off now; we'll start sending the platforms down as soon as we're settled."
"Great. Don't forget, once we're in, I expect radio contact once every two hours."
"I know the drill, sir. Best of luck."
The first platform arrived about 45 minutes after Hassan's departure. It was a hideous thing, a heavy pallet of bare steel, falling down out of nowhere, making no sound at all. Two cables of metal followed it, like giant anacondas, one colored blue and the other red.
"Platform one launched, please confirm." A radio transmission came from Kanou's control bracelet, Hassan's voice.
"Confirmed." Kanou answered. "Keep rolling them down."
"O.k. First wave, get on board." Kanou ordered.
"First wave, go go go!" Misao hurried his men.
And the first group of four approached the platform, placing their breathers on their faces, loading their gear and taking their positions.
Zack was on the first wave, as well as Homare and wait… was Kanou on the first wave too?
"Kanou-san!" Ayase could not stop himself from running into the man's arms.
Kanou lowered his gaze to the boy, amusement glittering in his eyes. "What's with you?" he mumbled softly, obviously embarrassed in front of their audience.
"I want to go with you." Ayase buried his face in the man's chest.
"First wave is the most dangerous one." Kanou answered "If things get wrong they usually get wrong on the first wave. It is safer that way."
"No!" Ayase nearly wept.
"Let go now." Kanou chuckled softy "Let go. See you soon." And with that, and a kiss, Kanou freed himself and joined the others at the pallet.
"Take us down" He whispered to his bracelet.
"Down you go." Hassan answered, and Kanou smiled at Ayase before placing his mask on.
Ayase only caught a glimpse of it, as with silence, the platform hurled down so fast it almost looked like it evaporated into thin air.
On the second wave Hall and Misao left, and on the third wave Ayase recognize two more friendly faces biding him farewell. He was left on the last group with no one he knew save Marcus.
It seemed like forever until their platform arrived, and as much as Ayase longed for it to show up, he dreaded it when it finally came reeling in. He found himself staring at it, until Marcus places his heavy hand upon his shoulder. "Come help me out with the medical gear."
"Yes." Ayase breathed deeply and followed Marcus's lead.
Ayase's worry for Marcus only grew as they carried their bags to the pallet, only yesterday Marcus lifted those bags with ease and today, every step was a struggle, and they were among the last to go on board.
Marcus took out a cotton handkerchief from his pocket to wipe out the sweat from his face before settling in.
"Are you sure you are alright?" Ayase asked as he tried to figure out how to encore himself to the safety bars.
"Would you stop your nagging already?" Marcus grumbled at him while helping him settle in. "If you must know the truth- the truth is that this is my 26'th trip down, and I'm sick and tired of it. There you go, happy?"
"Marcus I'm sorry, I didn't know…"
"Just put your goddamned mask on!"
Ayase sighed and did as he was told. As much as he tried to oppress it, he could not shake his excitement away. It was his first time downstairs and he felt safe under Kanou's wings, safe as a kid with his father buckling up for his first roller coaster ride, and he knew this was foolish but he was truly eager to explore the depths of this asteroid, from bits and pieces he picked up of random conversations, he knew downstairs to be both horrific and breathtakingly beautiful.
"Hello sweet pea." Someone sat down near him, far too close, rubbing against his shoulder. "It has been a long time, but still…do you remember me? Tom?"
Ayase turned to look at the man, and he was familiar but in an uncomfortable, repelling way, he had no clue.
"Must be the shave." Tom mumbled with disappointment.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" Ayase tried to be polite.
"You will, honey, you will..." Tom smiled again revealing his teeth that were for some reason decorated with silver, and then that smile disappeared behind a mask, which was an improvement at least at Ayase's opinion.
Their wave leader passed his glance on the group and then gave his green light for Hassan to start lowering them down.
Ayase soon forgot all about his creepy neighbor, and disregarded him as someone who happened to share his ride but will have no further interaction with, and he focused on the descent, it felt wonderful at first, his heart accelerated with the speed of the plunge. He felt weightless, light as a feather, and he felt a wave of air brushing though his hair, which was the only exposed part of his body, and still it has been ages since he felt a breeze and he enjoyed it as it came.
He wondered what will happen if he let go of the bars. Will his hand rise up as floating? He freed one hand and indeed felt it pulled gently up, until someone took it by force and placed it back at the bar, Marcus, and he mumbled something incoherent behind his mask.
"Keep them down if you wanna keep them at all!" the old man scolded him, naturally.
"Embrace yourselves." The wave leader announced at the public communicator.
Ayase looked around to see everyone crouching down, so he did his best to imitate them.
"Airlock." The leader informed them as they came into a sudden halt.
Ayase found himself glued to the flood, but this uncomfortable feeling lasted only a few seconds.
They all looked up, so Ayase raised his eyes to, to see two enormous platforms closing in above them, casting an ever growing shadow and sealing them away from the light.
Then a noise, a machine of a sort, screeching and moaning, what was its function? The ringing of his ears gave it away; the air was sucked out of their chamber, and the pressure in his ears grew larger and larger until he thought his ears will bleed, but instead it was his nose that bled. His first instinct was to try and remove the mask to pinch it, but both Tom and Marcus stopped his hand.
"No, silly boy!" Tom giggled.
"Leave it on!" Marcus roared.
"Airlock established, hands on bars." The wave leader continued, he was one of the blue team, and Ayase didn't know him, yet he seemed very calm and that was what really mattered.
Ayase decided to comply this time, as two platforms opened beneath them, but holding no lights, and the plunge continued, slower this time and a bit more shaky, but no air movement and no sound save the sound of his own breathing, and it was cold, it was getting colder by the second, creeping underneath his thermo suit to freeze his sweat.
"Illuminate the flanks." The wave leader commanded, and the inmates in position turned on the platform flank flashlights, and they gave away an eerie pale blue glow as if they were diving into an ocean.
"Look up." Tom placed his arm upon Ayase's shoulder, and as much as the boy wanted to brush it away, he lingered, paralyzed maybe, enjoying the other's body warmth perhaps, so he looked up, and his breath was taken away. They were diving down a narrow chasm, made entirely of metal ores, and the only human signature on it was the little track the platform moved upon, the rest was razor sharp sculptured, glittering like diamonds, still and frozen like ice and it was beautiful as much as it was scary.
"300 kilometers to the pit going at 60 kilometers per hour." The commander said "Five hours till touchdown, try to get some rest."
After that, the commander disconnected himself from the public radio, and an unnatural silence filled their decline.
Ayase could not tare his gaze from his surroundings; he drank in the breathtaking view of this natural deep pore, with its colorful metal wall, carved as if a giant hand clawed it with its nails, blue and purple and green, sometimes even gold spots adorned it, and it reminded him the color of a water puddle tainted with oil.
A heavy burden fell on his shoulder, warm and weary; Ayase turned towards it and saw Marcus silvery mane resting against his neck.
"Are you ok?" he asked the old man but his voice must have not breached his clumsy mask, and Marcus did not respond.
Frustrated he knew that all he could do was to wait, until this dive would be over, until they reach whatever it is downstairs that is waiting for them.
Ayase took a deep breath, leaned into his sit and closed his eyes. Five more hours, the wave leader said, he really should try and get some sleep.
A/N- Happy holidays, everyone. Hope to update soon.