Karina attempted to balance a large plate of food, while the ship swayed a little. Trying to make sure no food committed Hari-Kiri, she tried not to giggle at the silly image now running through her mind. She smiled as she felt Kotetsu's hand on her elbow.
"And what's so funny?" Kotetsu kept his hold on her elbow, as his plate was nowhere near as full as hers was, and didn't let go until she had set her plate down on the table.
Plopping down in her chair somewhat gracefully, Karina burst out laughing. "It's ridiculous, and now you're just making me laugh even more because of how absurd it is."
"Now you have to tell me, Karina-chan." Kotetsu grinned, picking up his napkin from the table, situating it on his lap.
She waited until her giggles died down before speaking. "Well, I was just picturing my caprese tomatoes jumping off of my plate, sacrificing their lives to defend my honor."
"You do have an active imagination." Kotetsu laughed, shaking his head.
Blushing, she giggled softly. "I can't help it. It's just what runs through my-" She stopped talking when a loud noise sounded through the dining area, and then, complete darkness. The only source of light was from the buildings along the shoreline, and even those were disappearing behind a dense fog quickly.
Karina went into high alert, and saw her lover doing the same. So much for a nice evening. Squinting her eyes, she could see two blobs making their way over to where the two of them were. Any trace of the champagne she had had was gone the moment she activated her Hero powers, sobering her up instantly. She looked over at Kotetsu and saw that his domino mask was already firmly in place.
"Karina, stay here." Kotetsu got up from his seat, actively scanning the area. He waited until the two blobs appeared next to their table. "Keith, Ivan - keep her safe. I'm going to go check things out."
Before she could protest to her lover, she watched him walk in the shadows, keeping himself completely hidden. "Do either of you know what's going on?" Karina whispered, hearing more screams and shouts through the boat. Her armband began flashing 'CALL'. "Shit. I'll be under the table." She met Ivan's eyes, and saw him nod his head, while holding up the white linen table cloth. She slipped down and sat cross-legged, thankful no one could see her. Pressing the button, she answered her phone and saw Agnes.
"There you are!" The producer of Hero TV practically screamed. Panicking, Karina shushed her and held up her finger to her mouth, using the universal sign to be quiet. "Karina...Are you..."
Nodding her head, she could hear more gunshots. "If you want to know where I am, I'm on a dinner cruise. I guess something is happening? Kotetsu went to go and check it out, as he's better prepared to jump into something like this than I am."
"Something is happening, yes. On the ship you're on. Is there anyone else there that I should know about?" Agnes began giving instructions to the crew members. "Kotetsu needs his suit. You need your things."
"Um, Keith and Ivan are here too." She bit her lip, afraid of seeing the producer's face. "Is this person a NEXT? It was a clear night, and as soon as whatever happened on the ship, it became extremely foggy, very fast."
She didn't disappoint, as her face turned red. "Wonderful. You all stay put, and stay out of harm's way. I'm still trying to get the details, but yes, it sounds like a NEXT is upset with the police, and is now taking hostages. Which would explain the sudden fog, as they don't want to be found quickly."
"Hostages?!" Karina squeaked, covering her mouth as she realized how loud she had spoken. "What do you mean, hostages?"
The tablecloth lifted up, sending Karina's heart into overdrive. She saw the black and white domino mask of her lover's, and let out the breath she had just been holding. "Kotetsu is here with me," she remarked, turning her arm, so that Kotetsu could see Agnes.
"Don't be foolish or stupid," Agnes crossed her arms over her chest. "I've got Barnaby and Rock Bison coming to you guys. Sneak away to the stern of the ship in about five minutes time. Saito-san will be meeting you there with your suits. I'll have him bring both Origami Cyclone's and Sky High's as well. I repeat, do NOT do anything until you have your suits."
Kotetsu ran a hand through his hair. "Ah...well..."
"What did you do?" Karina looked at her lover, and noticed that he had a fat lip.
"Nothing!" Kotetsu shook his head. "I just had a little bit of an altercation with someone who thought they would be the hero. He's been apprehended."
The producer of Hero TV groaned. "Okay, fine. As long as you don't destroy anything, and you make sure to keep everyone safe? Then it doesn't matter. I won't contact you again, until I know you have your suits." Agnes signed off, the screen disappearing without a trace.
Another loud shriek sounded through the cabin, as more gunshots were fired. Karina looked at her lover's face, and saw his eyes were set, still bright amber. "Don't use your power until you absolutely need to," Karina whispered. "I don't want anything happening to you."
"Karina-chan, I'm sorry our nice date has turned into this." Kotetsu gave her a soft kiss, making her heart melt and her stomach do a tiny flip-flop. "Are you ready to go to the stern of the ship?"
Panting softly, she gave a nod of her head. She slipped out from under the table, and saw that both Keith and Ivan were actively searching the room, trying to get as many people out of the main dining area, and into the area that they were in. Karina tried to call out to them, but saw Ivan give her a shake of his head, cutting her off instantly. She hoped that they had gotten the message from Agnes, and would be joining them shortly. Taking Kotetsu's offered hand, she felt herself moving fast. Almost too fast.
As they made it outside, the dense fog that had appeared was still there, and becoming even thicker. Karina slid on her foot, almost toppling over backwards. She let go of Kotetsu's hand, trying to compensate for her clumsiness, and soon landed on her buttt. "Ouch," she muttered, trying to stand back up. But there was too much condensation from the fog, and she kept slipping back to her knees. Where the hell is Kotetsu? She hadn't seen or heard her lover, and was surprised that he wasn't asking where she was. As she began to speak, a cloth was placed over her nose, forcing her to breathe in the fumes. The last thing she heard before her eyes closed involuntarily was a deep baritone voice speaking into her ear.
"Ojii-san. Ojii-san! KOTETSU, WAKE UP!"
Groaning, the older Hero sat up and touched the back of his head. "Bunny-chan? Is that you?" He looked around, trying to find the sound of his partner's voice. "Bunny, what's going on? I can't see anything." And it was the truth. The last thing he remembered, he was going towards the stern, holding..."Karina!" He stood up quickly, frantically looking around. "Where is she? She was here with me!"
"We're looking for her." Antonio appeared beside him, the drills on his shoulders barely visible because of the dense fog. "It seems as if the ones that were responsible for taking over the ship took about 5 hostages."
Kotetsu's heart stopped. "What? No, that can't be. She was here with me. We were going to meet you two. We were-"
"Kaburagi-san," Saito appeared out of thin air, speaking quietly. "Please, don't panic. We're working on trying to find out where they took them. They couldn't have gone far. Not in this mess."
He swayed on his feet, the back of his head still throbbing. "Guh, my suit. Where's my suit?"
"Don't activate until we know where they are," Barnaby warned, closing his face shield. Kotetsu felt his heart stop again as he heard the same words that had left his lover's mouth before they had made their way to the back of the ship. He stood still as he watched Barnaby move swiftly. "I'm going to go and find Origami Cyclone and Sky High." The pink suited Hero dashed off back towards the dining cabin.
Saito took Kotetsu's arm and led him towards where the ship they had arrived in was anchored. Antonio had darted off with Barnaby, leaving the older man with his suit's creator. He jumped down onto the small boat, and followed the short man to below the deck, where it seemed it would be putting on his own Hero suit. Muttering to himself, he replayed the moments from when they had run outside, to where he was now. And he still couldn't pinpoint just what had happened, except for the excruciating pain in the back of his skull. He slipped his helmet on, and heard the quiet man screaming in his ears.
"IT APPEARS YOU WERE KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS BY SOMEONE."
Groaning, Kotetsu put the rest of his suit on. "Yeah, that would explain why my head hurts so bad. Do we know who these guys are? Besides being able to control weather patterns?"
"YOU ARE CORRECT. THE FOG IS FROM THEM, AND THEY KEEP INCREASING THE BAROMETRIC PRESSURE. THE MAN SAYS HE HAS NO NAME, AND THAT HE ONLY WANTS WHAT BELONGS TO HIM."
He was used to the constant screaming, and didn't have the heart to tell the shorter gentleman that he didn't need to scream. "That's great, but why was Karina taken? No one should know she's a NEXT. I put on my domino mask, as I always keep it on me."
"We're still trying to figure that out. There may be no reason why she was taken. Perhaps it was just the luck of the draw." Agnes' voice came through his headset, thankfully nowhere near at the same decibel as the scientist. "Kotetsu, do you remember anything? We think that these people are on another boat now, but we can't be too sure."
Closing his face shield, Kotetsu began to climb back up the ladder. "I remember heading to the back of the boat, like you told us to, and then blackness. When I woke up," he bit his lower lip, trying to keep his head on straight as he processed what had happened, "When I woke up, I was alone. And Bunny was yelling at me. I guess between the time we had gone into the fog, we were separated, and then this happened."
"Does anyone know who the two of you were?" Agnes asked, talking to one of the other producers in the room with her. "You two are always careful, aren't you?"
"Of course we are!" Kotetsu grumbled, stepping out onto the small deck. He bent his knees, and jumped the short distance between Saito's boat, and the ship they had been enjoying their nice evening on. "Agnes, you gotta tell me when you find that boat. I can't let them do anything to her."
"What about the other hostages?"
"You know what I mean," Kotetsu shook his head as he headed back towards the dining area. "The sooner this is over, and the sooner I get to see her again, the happier I will be. And the happier everyone will be, because they don't want to see me mad."
"Why not, ojii-san?" Barnaby appeared on his left side, startling him.
"Eeah...You need to wear a bell, Bunny-chan." He looked around the room with his enhanced vision, thanks to the power of his helmet, and could see that most of the passengers had made it off the boat safely. "Is it just us?"
"It is." Keith appeared on his right flank. "What do you think we should do, Wild Tiger?"
"Why don't we..." Kotetsu honestly didn't know what to do. Any help he was hoping to get, it would have been from the person that was missing from his side. Karina, I swear to you, I won't let you get hurt. I should have been paying more attention. Please...please be alright.
Barnaby coughed into his hand. "Why not use Sky High's NEXT power to help us get rid of the fog? At least, in the immediate area. Unless these people used a speedboat, it's more likely than not they'll still be in this vicinity."
"I can do that!" Keith nodded his head. "I can do that! I'll go make a large circle, hopefully getting rid of some of this cloud cover." He took off into the air, beginning to spin fast.
Not bothering to stay outside, Kotetsu began to walk towards the bow of the ship. "What were you two doing here?" Barnaby asked, as they walked at a fast pace. It seemed that Keith's trick was working, as the fog began to lift around the areas he was flying.
"We were on a date." Kotetsu sighed, keeping his face shield down. He could feel the angsty look coming off of his partner without having to see his face. "You know that I didn't see her all this week. I wanted tonight to be special. And now? Now, it's worse than I could have imagined."
The blonde laid on a hand on his bulky shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about Ms. Lyle. You know that she's tough. I'm sure that she's trying to take control of the situation herself right now."
"Don't say that!" Kotetsu turned and faced his partner. "I don't want to think that she's hurt!"
Barnaby shook his head. "Is this how you react when I'm in danger? Do you have no trust in your partners? Be them sexual or work related? Because she was doing just fine as a NEXT before you two got together."
"Yeah, except when she used her cutie escape."
Kotetsu stopped talking, as what he had just said suddenly made him stop. "Her cutie escape! Maybe she made it away and we're searching in the wrong place!"
"I ALREADY THOUGHT OF THAT." Saito came blaring through both of their headsets. "SHE DID NOT ESCAPE. AT LEAST, NOT THAT I CAN SEE. I TRIED TO LOCATE HER WITH HER HERO WRISTBAND, BUT NO LUCK SO FAR."
Groaning, Kotetsu shook his head. "What did Agnes tell us? If we were to ever be caught, the first thing to dispose of would be that bracelet. If it fell into the wrong hands, who knows what could happen? I'm sure she was smart enough to take it off. You're the only person that everyone know is a Hero."
"Thank you for remembering at least one thing I've said to you before," Agnes' voice came through. "It looks like the area is starting to clear up, from the view we've got from our chopper."
Barnaby looked out over the bow. "I think I see a boat moving towards the shoreline."
"I'm on it!" Keith said, flying towards the boat.
"Be careful!" Agnes warned. "If he confirms that that's what we're looking for, I want you to wait until we've got someone on your boat, so they can film what happens."
The older Hero almost lost it. "No, we're going with or without a camera." He looked at his partner, who he could see was watching for Sky High's signal. There was a small reflective flash, and that was enough for them. "We're going."
"Hold on to me," Barnaby said, grabbing Kotetsu's hand. "My power still lasts longer than yours." Kotetsu heard Barnaby's suit activate with his NEXT power, and soon they were dashing across the water at a fast speed.
Keeping happy thoughts in his mind, Kotetsu prayed that nothing had been done to any of the hostages, and that the person who was trying to prove something had been apprehended. The words that Barnaby had said struck a chord within him. Do I really not trust them to get the job done? It's different with her. I love her. I don't want anything bad to happen to her. If something happens, I'm directly responsible for it, because I failed. I was taken by surprise and she was taken from me. I don't ever want something like this to happen again. They touched down on the boat silently, thanks to a gadget Saito had put into their suits, making their otherwise loud, clunky suits to be barely noticeable. Kotetsu looked over and saw that Sky High was there, as was the cameraman that Agnes somehow managed to get on the boat with them.
"Don't go charging in," Barnaby spoke quietly. "I've activated my powers. Let me take care of them."
Kotetsu balled his hands into fists. "Make sure no one gets hurt." He relented in giving the others the chance to rescue everyone. He didn't care. He just wanted her to be safe. Only cared for her well being.
He hung back, waiting for the signal from Barnaby. He could hear the Hero TV announcer going on about what was happening, but he paid no attention. He kept his focus on the five people he could see huddled together, his heart beating faster as he saw her. Karina appeared to be passed out, slumped over one of the other women.
"You won't stop me!" Someone shouted from inside.
Not thinking, Kotetsu activated his NEXT power, his eyes glowing blue. Charging in, he knocked over the poorly dressed NEXT, who was trying to summon more fog to the area. He pressed the man into the floor, thankful that he had done no permanent damage to anything. "It looks like you would be wrong," Kotetsu flipped the man over, trying to secure the man's wrists with his makeshift handcuffs.
He was about to make another comment when he heard a thud behind him. Twisting his neck, he saw that Antonio had apprehended another man, who had been right behind Kotetsu. "I told you, Ojii-san, to wait for me." Barnaby flipped his face shield up, glaring at him with piercing blue eyes. "When will you listen!"
"Where are the police?" Kotetsu asked. He heard a loud thud from outside, and saw one of Sternbild's finest standing at the door with his weapon drawn. "Ah, there you are."
Climbing off the man, the older man watched as both men were dragged away by the cops. "You won't see the last of us! Remember our name! Niebla de la Razón!" The two shouted their name together as they disappeared onto the police vessel. Kotetsu looked up at the cameraman, and saw that he had shut off his camera as soon as the action was over, and was heading back outside.
Kotetsu made his way over to where the hostages were all waking up from whatever had happened to them. Keith, Antonio, Barnaby and Ivan all helped them up, and began to take them to the Coast Guard ship that had been called by the police. Taking off his helmet, making sure his domino mask was still securely on his face, he saw that Karina was slowly waking up. She met his eyes, and burst into tears.
"Oh, Karina-chan," Kotetsu reached out to her, and soon held her body as close to him as he could, except for the pesky Hero suit in the way. "Karina, are you hurt? They didn't hurt you, did they? I'm so sorry...I'm so, so sorry..."
Sniffling, she shook her head. "Don't be sorry. I'm just glad you're here. I don't know what happened. I just...can we please get your suit off? I don't want to feel the cold metal. I want to feel you." She looked up at him, her eyes still full of unshed tears.
"You got it." His eyes had returned to their natural amber, as he picked her up in his arms, holding her like the princess she was, and walked outside. He saw the boat that Saito was using anchored next to the boat they were on. He looked over and saw that both Keith and Ivan were speaking together. "Oy, see you later?"
Keith extended his index and middle finger to give Kotetsu a salute. "Good job on apprehending the suspect."
"Well, one of them." Kotetsu muttered, stepping onto the boat carefully. "Thanks for your help tonight. I'd hate to think what would have happened had there not been -"
The smaller blonde spoke quietly. "Kotetsu-san, there is no reason to think that way. What happened, happened." Ivan gave a small bow.
"He's got a point," Barnaby said, dressed only in his black spandex suit. Kotetsu shot him a look and headed down below, anxious to take off his Hero suit.
He set Karina down on the small seat that was there, watching her very carefully. "Do you feel okay? Do you want to go to the doctor? Do you want Saito-san to look you over, just to be safe?"
"Just get out of your suit, please," Karina said weakly. "I could really use a hug from you right now."
Hearing her plea loud and clear, he stood in his makeshift chamber, and felt the suit come off of his body. Saito began to speak, but he quickly held up his hand to stop the chatter. "Not right now, Saito-san." He walked out and over to his lover, sinking to his knees. He gripped her tightly around the waist and pressed his face against her chest. "I'm so sorry..." He whispered softly.
"Don't be." She clung tightly to him, sniffling. "It's not your fault. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I shouldn't have worn these shoes. I slipped and fell, and that's when they got me."
His grip around her waist tightened, as he hugged her close. "Please, let Saito take a look at you. I'm sure it was nothing, but I just want to make sure. Saito-san, you've got equipment on this boat to do that, don't you?"
The quiet scientist walked over to them and gave a small nod of his head. Speaking barely above a whisper, he said "I do. It won't be as thorough as it would back at headquarters. Ms. Lyle, we're not that far away from shore. Would you mind if we just made sure you were okay back at Apollon?"
"That's fine," she exhaled, resting her head against Kotetsu's shoulder. She still felt off, and just wanted to never let go of her lover. "Please, hurry. I'd just like to go back home."
Looking up, Kotetsu kissed her pale cheek with tender care. "Of course, Hime. We'll get you back home. Your parents are still out of town, yes?"
"I meant home with you," Karina spoke softly. "Please?"
Barnaby coughed into his hand. "Ms. Lyle, if it would make you feel more comfortable, we can have someone escort you back to the office?"
"No, thank you." She looked over at him, giving him a small smile. "I'm just fine where I'm at. I just want to be done with this night." Laying her head back on Kotetsu's shoulder, she closed her eyes and sighed quietly.
He rubbed his chin against her cheek. "We'll get you cleared and ready to go before you know it. Just rest, Karina." Her soft snores flitting into his ear canal made him smile. "She's asleep." He looked up at his partner. "Do we have someplace we can let her lay down?"
"We just made it to the dock," Barnaby looked out. "Want me to help you carry her?"
"I got it." Kotetsu lifted her up into his arms, and headed to the top, and stepped off the boat and onto the dock. Looking down at her, he watched as she buried her head against his chest. He headed to the van Saito normally drove when they were landlocked. "Are you coming back with us, Bunny-chan?" He noticed his partner was still standing by the boat.
Barnaby shook his head. "No, but I'll call you later to see how she's feeling. Did you find her wristband?" He pointed to her naked wrist.
Glancing down, he saw her purse was still in her hands, genuinely surprised to see it there. He opened it carefully, not wanting to jostle her too much, and saw that the wristband was tucked inside a small pocket that anyone could have missed, if they didn't know what they were looking for. "She's got it."
"Keep me posted," Barnaby gave a small wave as the van door closed, leaving him alone with his sleeping princess. He hoped that they would find nothing wrong with her, and would be back at his condo before too long.
A/N: Up next, a quick check up and then back to Kotetsu's place. Maybe. ;) And the English name for the NEXT that attacked the ship is 'Fog of Reason'. For my constant readers, my apologies for the delay in updating. Thanks for reading! :D