Disclaimer: Noblesse isn't mine.

I Am Tao (Part 38)

"Are you there yet?"

"Ask me that one more time, and I'll turn off the headset."

"Okay! Okay!" Tao laughed as he filtered through the information on his computer monitors and dropped into a more serious tone. "Yuna said that the boy lives near her, and he's a Ye Ran student. There are two possible locations within Yuna's apartment building and seven total in the area. I'm tracking down her cell phone as we speak."

"Alright, I'm on the roof of her building now." Takeo searched the streets below for any sign of the two children. Rai was perched on a taller building, and as always, Seira was at his side. "I still don't see anything. The others are still looking, too."

"Almost got it." Tao zoomed in on the signal. "Looks like she's southeast of you."

"I see her." Takeo dropped down to the ground in a narrow alleyway and peeked around the corner. "Yuna's two blocks away from me. It looks like the boy is resting on the sidewalk, and she's trying to get him to move to the stairs."

"Is she okay? Does she look hurt at all? You're going to have to search her for injuries, or she could turn-"

"Um, Tao?"


"Maybe Seira could handle that."

"Oh. Right."

Takeo motioned to Rai and Seira. They both appeared at his side in seconds. "We're moving in."

[-] [-] [-]

The door opened. "What are you doing here, Ikhan?"

The boys looked at each other then back at the police chief. Why were they there? Suyi had called, but she hadn't told them anything. Ikhan stepped forward, quickly forming an excuse in his mind as he adjusted his glasses. "I noticed a vulnerability in the computer system that could be used to access police files. I thought I should take care of this immediately."

"And him?"

"Him?" Ikhan glanced back at his friend. "He just tagged along."

"Hey!" Shinwoo protested. "I didn't-"

"You're the one that insisted on seeing the inside of the police station. Don't try to deny it now." Ikhan ducked around his uncle and waved at Detective Kim. "We just need to borrow your computer. We'll just be a minute."

[-] [-] [-]

"Get ready."

Suyi closed her eyes and covered her ears, humming the tune to "Days of Summer" to distract herself.

"Okay," Jameson whispered, bracing himself. "Here goes nothing."

The shot rang through the room, and she was flying. Her eyes sprang open as her hands involuntarily clung to the arm wrapped around her stomach. The empty hallway flashed by, and he set her down in the observation room before she had a chance to react at all.

"We're in luck!" Jameson laughed under his breath. "No one's watching. You're in the clear, kid!" His smile faded as he glared back at her. "Now get lost."

"What about you?"

Did she have to sound so pitiful? Jameson looked away. "I'm staying here. Just leave."

"Mr. Jameson?" She clasped both of her hands around one of his. "I will never forget you. Please, be safe."

"Sure, kid, anything you say." Jameson murmured awkwardly, uncomfortable shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Seconds passed, but she didn't pull away. He should say something. There wasn't time for this sentimental nonsense. "Uh, kid?"

Suyi stared through the glass into the other interrogation room. Two men were inside, but her eyes were concentrated on the frilly blonde in a pinstripe suit.

"Kid?" Jameson rigidly gave her hand a quick squeeze. "Suyi, let go."

"That's Principal Lee!" She snapped out of the daze and, throwing his hand away, ran into the hallway.

The blonde glanced at the glass and reached for a coffee cup. The other man, having heard the shot, moved toward the doorway with his fingers on the handle of his gun. The door swung open before he reached it. The gun aimed. A shock of blue hair burst into the room.

"You idiot!"

[-] [-] [-]

"You can make me stronger, right?" M-21 held his gaze, forcing his mind to focus. "I volunteer."

"Volunteering for an experiment." Crombel mussed aloud, repeating the same simple phrase several times now. Each time he said the words, the corners of his lips curved up farther, and he turned back to M-21 with amusement in his eyes. "You truly believe you have a choice."

M-21 gritted his teeth to hold back his words. He would have to be careful now.

"If you truly volunteer," Crombel filled a syringe with a new round of drugs, "then you would not resist this."

"I said I volunteer." M-21 held out his arm without hesitation.

"Your increase in strength is very intriguing. I may have to disassemble and reconstruct you to investigate the changes in your body." Crombel slid the needle under his skin and injected half the solution. He pulled out the syringe without finishing the dose. "But, I have already taken samples from you. I can study those, and as I said, I am not very interested in you right now. The Noble is much more valuable."

M-21 sprung off the bench, summoning his powers to his fingertips, but no claws formed. His legs gave out from under him, throwing him to the floor, as nausea overtook him. The medicine already surged through his system.

"I have all I need from you for now. Grow stronger. I will take you up on your offer someday."

M-21 glared back with all of his resolve. "You think I'd let you?"

Crombel looked down on his creation. "Just because I let you run loose doesn't mean that I don't still own you."

[-] [-] [-]

"I have decreased his regeneration abilities to a manageable level."

The words sounded strange, distant, and no one answered them. Was the person on the phone? Speaking to himself? It was hard to tell.

The sound of wheels turning filled the room, and the cart jostled as it hit the grooves between the tiles. It rolled to a stop next to the bed. No. It was more like a table. It felt hard beneath him. He could sense someone was near, hear the person moving, and he struggled to open his eyes.

A ring of light bulbs floated above him, but no light came from them. His eyes strained to widen farther, taking in the sea of blue cloth that covered him. It felt as light as paper, but under it was something stronger that weighed him down. The strap over his chest made it hard to breathe although the face mask pumped air into his lungs.

The person near him moved again. A man also clothed in blue. His yellow hair was tucked under a cap, and he glared down at the table from behind his white mask.

"Noble A-1 is starting to gain consciousness."

No one answered him again. Who was he speaking to? Who else was here? Where was…

He felt a haziness flow through his mind. The lights above him came on, but darkness filled his sight. The room began to fade, and someone finally answered.

"The surgery will have to be rushed."

Then everything fell silent.