Monday the 13th
"He owned almost all gifts of life, expect the gift of how to use them." -Charles Kingsley
(at least that's what was in the calendar today)
I woke up too early, or shall I say I didn't sleep at all and got up too early. At least that's what I thought when I put on my clothes and left my house without waking up my parents today. I didn't eat breakfast, but I wasn't exactly hungry anyway. Not admiting it, I was on edge - too nervous. I didn't really tell my parents a goodbye, that I love them, but I haven't got a reason to right? Nothing's going to happen.
The traffic was narrow, not enough buses going at that early hour, so I walked most of the way to the lab. It was still dark and the streets were dimly lit by the street lights and the silent bleeding colors coming from windows where people watched television here and there.
I looked up to the sky and the cresent moon was almost grining at me, and then I saw a shooting star. But before I could say don't let it repeat in my head it was gone. Perseids they're called, the tears of St. Lawrence, meteor shower of a comet Swift-Tuttle, what a coincidence, today was the last day of the summer you could see them. But I didn't see one after that anymore, as much as I tried. I blamed the city lights for that or the coming sun, but somewhere in the depth of my skull it rang that the one I saw was probably the last one that could be seen.
I came to the lab. For a minute I was just watching the dimly lit street, trying to come up with how the events played out before, checking my watch constantly. But there was nothing out of ordinary. The CRT Braun shop still closed, no lights from inside of the 2nd floor, no MTB in front of the store (but that was a given). Yeah, the same old ordinary. My feet felt as heavy as lead as I made my way up the stairs, I fumbled in the darkness on the fuse box for the key, it was in the same place where I put it. I unlocked the security device I installed before and then it hit me, 'call the service'. Why? That only happens when someone hits up the alarm. I wiped my forehead, cold sweat. Then I sighed, a visible relief, yeah it was me, this Friday, I was locking the place up but Kurisu was still there on the toilet and she sounded the alarm. Funny thing is that I don't really recall which was louder, her or the 100Watt horn. Anyway I unlocked the place, switched off the alarm and went inside.
It was dark.
I couldn't see, but everything seemed OK so far. The only thing off was the smell. The rotten wet smell trapped inside the whole weekend. I switched on the lights, my fingers shaking a little. And I saw imidiatelly what it was, the breaker had to switch off at some point and the fridge shut itself off, everything what was inside began to decay. Or I guessed. I came in and what I saw was, well...
The horror of such simple sight could only be described if you saw my face.
The clock, usually hanging on the wall was now sitting on the table in front of the computer.
Why was the clock on the table?
What the hell was going on? Frantically looking around trying to sense the assasins, connecting all of my instincts together I dove for the ground, checking the ceiling for laser sights.
But then I saw the paper.
Still on the ground I scarved it down and read it as fast as I could. At first I couldn't understand the contents then when I read it again slowly I realized it was some memo of the inventory of items we had in the lab. Now that was interesting, so our mighty FB had raided my lab, huh?! WHAT A LOWBLOW! Explains why the clock was on the table though... anyway him creeping around, around today at that... We're just missing Kiriyu Moeka.
I shook the thought standing upright once again.
I wasn't hungry but I had to pour some of that intelect into myself so I opened the fridge, yeah, it was flooding, and frozen over as the water that fled out froze after that.
It was 5:36AM, I decided it was good as anything and started to clean up.
After that I even started with the dishes and cleaned the tables and sorted out the boxes lying around.
As I was washing the dishes I came upon a tiny little spoon with red label on it that said 'HANDS OFF OKABE -k'
My spoon, huh? Maybe I'll buy her that fork if we get through today.
Then it came to me.
Why was I - the genius chaos inducing mastermind - cleaning around. I was that out of whack.
The rest of the early morning I just sat on the couch, thinking in the dark.
Then around 8, Mayuri came around.
"Tuturuuu~ Good morning Okarin!" at least she was as enthusiastic as ever. "Were you sleeping here again?"
"Sort of," I couldn't tell her I was snooping around since 4:30.
"Whoa! I'm amazed this is just awesomey~" She said, "You cleaned this right? When I was leaving this Friday I thought I'd clean in the morning today but... what's wrong?"
"No, it's nothing rest asured I - the mad scientist Hououin Kyouma - haven't even touched these," I proclaimed, trying not to sound half-hearted. "Now why would I even need to, this is exactly why I have an assistant now don't I?"
"So, Kurisu-chan did... huuh..."
She had two bags one she tossed over to the couch the other one she took into the kitchen(temp).
"Are you hungry Okarin?" She opened her bag and took out some rools and marmelade, "I took some off the breakfast thinking we all could share."
"Nah, not really, let's wait for the others."
I tried my hardest to be the usual self, no need to be depressed if nothing's going to happen.
After that she unloaded some things on the table, I don't really follow all these comicon things but I guess something is just around the corner. Then she came up with two big needles and started to undo a piece of knotted wool.
"Alrighty then, I already ate before so we'll share with Kurisu-chan and Daru-kun... hey Okarin, could you help me with this," she said. "Hold it like this."
And so I held the knotted piece for her and she began to fold it neatly.
It was always like this when we were alone, we didn't talk much and that sure brought memories. But we didn't need to talk back then, I didn't need to spun around spitting MS BS all the time being just alright with hearing her hum cheerfully.
I knew nothing was going to happen - I had to be right, I wasn't going to let her die.
There was a knot going in the string I pulled off, Mayuri untangled it. If this mess of a wool is the future, how in the world you're going to know what's going to happen anyway. If we're in Steins;Gate this mess is pretty much how it should be. Another knot and Mayuri sees it as nothing but a piece of wool humming it away by a change of tune. The mess of the future... Titor came from 2036, what if the future is just playing out differently, maybe I'm the only one who remembers this, maybe the Titor that came before was just a hoax in this timeline, but maybe the future will be just different. The world isn't coming to an end, it's 2012 and the only thing that's playing out in that scenario is the economical crisis in EU. But to me it's like a second stage, the actors the same. The whole economy thing started in 2008, Titor said it started in 2004 although he talked about war - maybe this is how it is going to play out.
Another knot on the string - I read in an article somewhere that the whole thing started much sooner, where the banks around the world had a secret meeting where they 'knew' about the upcoming downfall and decided to let it slide - that meeting was in 2004. According to JT the real war wasn't until late 2012... World falling into debt, EU disbanding... I had a sudden urge to check out the divergence meter.
I looked into my hands, but it's a mess and anything can happen, I told myself I wouldn't know until seven in the evening.
Right then I was just untying a piece of wool with Mayuri and maybe that was everything that was ever going to happen.
"Well hello there," Kurisu made her apperance around 10. "Finally putting that hidden intelect of yours in use and doing something useful, huh?"
"Yeah, that's me... Ahem! You're pretty late is this how assistants are supposed to show up?"
"Kurisu-chan, tuturuu~," Mayuri greeted her, knowing full enough that the bitter comment was aimed at me. "How was your weekend?"
"Hi Mayuri, is it the comiket time again?" Kurisu ignored me, going over into kitchen(temp). "I thought that already ended yesterday, you have some leftovers from that? Hope you're not planning to coax me into some cosplay again..."
She started up the water, it was late, yet I could see her making a late morning coffee to wake up.
"You certainly know your timetable, Christina, got any rare doujin manga to share?" I grinned.
"W-Well that's!" She stopped in her tracks almost spilling the hot water. "I just KNOW it, is it such a bad thing to be the one knowledgeable around!?"
"It wouldn't be a bad thing even if you went there," I said. "It's nothing to be ashamed of really, everyone has hobbies, even neurosience super robot project pioneers such as yourself."
Then Daru came in, he almost didn't greet us and it wasn't because of the argument. He went straight to the pile of boxes I was sorting out before.
"Now where is it!" He cried out. "Here! Wohoo! I thought I made a mistake when I hid it here yesterday, the newest addition to my Rai-net collection and even the Bloodtune, whew, is this really a time for someone to clean up?!"
Just watching it Kurisu gave me a glare, "Like this you mean?"
"No, I guess that's too extreme," I said giving Mayuri the finished wool. "But at least he's not a closet maniac and can enjoy the fruit of life not worried needlessly about what others might think."
"NOW WHO'S A CLOSET FREAK!?" Kurisu shouted out, "You're always here tinkering around useless BS, like that IBM over there, or this Nixie watch, watching some anime secretly."
"I like mecha-anime so what of it?"
"You always pause and Alt Tab it when I come around," She pouted. "How about that, is that how normal people watch movies normally?"
"I thought you wouldn't be interested, and well I can't be caught slacking off either," I sighed, it was time to act mature and put an end to the charade, I wasn't really in the mood today. "You can watch with me next time, I promise."
"Really, I can?" Out of words was she, "I-I mean only out of curiosity that is and not like I-I'd enjoy watching something or even spending time with you."
I smiled to myself shaking my head at Mayuri, "She's never going to change is she?"
To Kurisu I said, "But we do that all the time, I mean we're dati-"
"DON'T SAY IT!" She put her hand on my mouth, thursting her tomato face at me as if I was saying something anyone in this room didn't already know.
I shrugged, alright.
Daru was still shuffling around his manga he bought yesterday, but you could hear him mumble, "Lucky man, I almost want to kill you - a real life tsundere - a once in a lifetime catch."
"I AM NOT TSUNDERE!" She got estatic, as if her face got injected with oxynenated hemoglobin, "I mean what does it even MEAN!"
She knows, she knows. We all know for geez.
"Seeing this love comedy playing out, makes Mayushii really full," Mayuri exclaimed happily.
And I thanked god I couldn't see my own face, but Kurisu was as good as a mirror in this case. In any way we both blushed our faces away.
"Isn't that the roll you're eating Mayushii?" Daru said.
"Love-comedy!? As if!" And she went into the kitchen(temp), to hide her face I could guess.
"A-Ahem," I forcibly coughed and got out my phone by instinct. "Yeah it's me... now what."
With not much to say to myself aside from El. Psy. Congroo. I put the phone back into my pocket and went into the kitchen(temp) to make myself something. Nothing seemed to play out as if some dark, untold thing hanged just above our heads, I could reassure myself again. Although, when it happened before I was doing exactly this, enjoying times cheerfully. If only these times were to play forever, but nothing good lasts for long. I learned that the worst way, but even when I was a kid I can count the good times on one hand and it's impossible to count the bad. For instance, college will start soon, Kurisu said she's on a holiday so she won't have to go to America for a while, but she'll have to eventually. Mayuri will be busy with school soon as her exams will come this year, and Daru and I - well we don't have that much subjects shared in the college. But still, having all this, I couldn't help but be grateful, if of course it won't end today.
I made two marmelade rolls and ate one.
Kurisu turned to me still pouting, "What do you have to smile about? You good for nothing pretendious sneering bastard."
"You know you love me so much for that," I said. "Here take one, it's Mayuri's she said we can have them."
When I tried to go away, she caught my shirt and dragged me away, then kissed me on my cheek, "S-So long we're clear who's in charge of this relationship."
I tried to grab her and grab this one in a week chance, but she just grabbed the roll in my hand and smeared it on my face.
Smiling playfully, she said, "Me who else?"
And she went away from me.
I was glad that everyone was the same, the cheerful atmosphere just hung around with nothing to really endager that aspect. At that point I usually came to Daru or Kurisu to invesigate some problem that didn't really exist or some thing that was pretty much normal, but I made it sound abnormal and we were to find the hidden capabilities. But I didn't feel like that at all today, and I knew well enough why. It was as if someone suddenly sprayed the air with foul mood - like if you listened to bad music. And it hung around me.
I didn't want the time to fly, but I didn't realize it and it was already a lunchtime. I spent most of the day gazing into the screen of my laptop, gathering thoughts.
I came up with a conclusion that I'd send everyone home around three in the afternoon, just in case.
I knew nothing would happen, just in case.
Just in case.
It was around lunch that I screwed up again.
Nobody really had anything to eat on them and it turned out that I did something with the fridge that I wasn't supposed to do and it shut off, so all the food went stale and the ice melted. Putting the rags around to dry the wet ground I made it sound like I did it on purpose, an experiment with freezing tachyons inside to see if the clock I put there hour after I realized the mistake would slow down compared with the main one. Judging by the faces everyone made not even Mayuri believed me. At first it was a downfall on my side, but I realized I could diverge this into a good thing. I mean we could just go outside to buy something and eat it here, but...
Spared the usual, loud, announcment style, I said very quietly, "We could just eat out, I'll treat everyone."
"You're awesome Okarin!"
"Great! Mayushii is really looking forward to the udon special they have today!"
I forced a sigh, "Strange, when I announce a roundtable nobody really hears me no matter how I shout it out."
"That's because," Daru was putting on his shoes. "You're not the one paying in that case."
"Man I'm gonna order the most expensive thing on the menu," Kurisu said to Mayuri. "What about you, Mayuri?"
"I'll go with the today's special," She said, her voice echoing from the hall outside the lab. "It's actually the first time this many people are going there! I'm so looking forward to it!"
After a short while Kurisu came back, "You're coming or not? As the most important part of the 'treat' you can't be allowed to miss it out."
I reached for my secret stash of money. Mayuri's microwave was going to have to wait for a while.
I didn't want to go to MayQueen.
1) Sure it would be fun to have almost everyone settle in a place that Feyris tends but... but that would probably make my brain explode inside of my skull. I mean, just think about it, I know you can imagine it.
2) Not enough money.
No really, she said before that if a customer doesn't have money to pay up for the services they either call the cops or make them wash the dishes for a week. I don't mind the cops, but after the unknown streak of normality I had this morning, I realized just how boring washing the dishes is. And it's Feyris - she'll make me wash dishes wearing cat ears I bet.
Instead we went to the place Daru and I usually frequent, the rundown almost home like atmosphere... ehm...
"Seriously you can't remember the name of a restaurant you like?" Kurisu laughed walking beside me. "Just how exactly lame a man can be."
"Ehehe, Mayushii doesn't really recall either..." Mayuri said, making Kurisu change instantly to almost a mother's face.
"But that's fine, you can't remember a name of a place these two perverts eat in, in fact that's actually a better," Kurisu said, full of herself.
"Really, Okarin, how could you forget it," Daru was always - kick them in balls while they're on ground. "I mean we go there all the time."
I said, "But you don't remember it either."
"But at least I know where it is."
We found the place, took a seat neatly in the back where people don't shout over each other and waited for the owner to place an order. Small talk broke out. And again I felt content. It was as if all the things that I've seen or done never happened, I guess they really didn't and I just have incoherent memories from different timelines. All those sleepless nights where the things I done to achive or get to Steins;Gate came at me from every angle, where all those things loomed behind me like a gaping event horizon funnel hole you can't run from yawning at my heels. You try to run from it, but the more you run the deeper it grows behind you. The only chance was to turn around and face it, but it was like looking down into a grave of my love, or kissing the mouth of a gun, a bullet trembling in its dark nest, ready to blow my head off. But the most horrifying thing was that in those sleepless nights, with all those thoughts cocktailing in my brain I was not really upset by the violence anymore, I just don't want those things to happen. This proved the point, somehow I couldn't shake it, and the thought that in this world line I got only one chance to do anything...
"Okabe?" Kurisu cut my dark train of thought.
"What is it?" Pretendious as I am - I prenteded to be fine.
"Are you deaf? She's asking you about your order?" Kurisu pointed at the owner with a tab in her hand.
I guess everyone ordered while I was left out in my own sorry little dark world.
"Just some udon, I guess."
All I could manage was a weak smile. What I hate the most there's no way to stop thinking negatively.
Because there is just no way that you can forget the smell of blood of the love of your life on your hands.
It was a glaring white light washing the thoughts away, I killed Kurisu but I didn't and killing her was the only way to save her.
Funny as hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.
But somehow watching this carefree converstation at the table with the people I value the most... somehow it is enough to make me forget.
"Good ending, huh?"
Kurisu turned from her food to me, "What are you babbling to yourself over there?"
"It's just..." I began, smiling ear to ear. "If this was a game I managed to transform dead end into a good ending."
"Fag, no you're a nerd," she said.
"No you're a nerd," I countered.
"You're blabering that after what just came out of your mouth?" She said. "I bet you play the same stuff Daru does."
"Nerds know too much, you can't argue with them about anything, they just oversmart you, that's who you are the smartest person I've ever met," I said.
She didn't know, but it was her - Makise Kurisu - who saved the life of Shiina Mayuri and even saved the world. In this worldline she didn't invent it, but without a time-machine she made, who knows what would have happened. She's the heroine, I'm just an observer.
"Without you I'd be lost forever," I said, giving my thanks to god that others didn't pay much attention to our talk.
She hooded over her eyes, but you could see her face get red.
"Geez, really..." She fumbled. "You're the only person I know who can transform an insult into a compliment."
"And you love me so much for that."
"Why you!" And she threw a piece of bread at me.
And I counterfired her with a piece of mine.
It didn't take long and an all-out deathmatch broke on our table as some of my shots misfired at Daru.
Soon we got kicked out by the manager, but we all agreed that it was pretty much worth it. We managed to get ourselves full, but most importantly we didn't have to pay because of that much rucus. Of course we couldn't come back after that for a while, but we'll just have to deal with that minor setback.
When we got back to the lab it was around two in the afternoon, almost time I was supposed to send everyone home.
In the end everyone was doing whatever they felt like and I didn't exactly tell them different. Daru and Mayuri were browsing their newest additions to the overflowing herd of manga magazines and doujinshi I never even heard of, but yeah I give them that they had some pretty interesting pieces here and there, I even borrowed one Sci-Fi mag from Daru. Kurisu, reading a hefty sience something book, was eyeing us with that curious spying eye of hers, and Mayuri told her she can borrow whatever she wants, but she just told her she wasn't interested. I told Mayuri to let her dwell in that little world of hers and got hit by a shoe. And boy did that hurt, anyway we left her in her own little world and before I knew it it was four in the afternoon. No sweat, but now what?
I decided to take the easy approach.
But just as I tried to somehow announce some bullcrap to make them go home, Mayuri shot up, "Oh yes, Okarin I just remembered mom wanted to wash the curtains and wanted me to help her take them off."
"I really have to go now," Mayuri was already packing her things.
"Hey, I could hel-" I stopped myself, not this time. "Alright, see you tomorrow then."
"Bye~ Bye~ Everyone!" And she left with that.
One down, two to go.
Now I could somehow presuade Daru or tell him the truth, but instead I decided to take the easy approach.
I went the the hall leading out to the main door and pulled up a chair to reach the top shelf of the empty closet that just stood there. It wasn't important, I had a spare jacket in there and some raincoats for the others in case some random rainstorm catches us off guard. What was important though was the internet router on top of it.
I pulled the power cord out and switched it off, "Banzai~"
It only took second for the magic to work.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT I'M GONNA FUCKING KILL THOSE UPC IDIOTS, LINE'EM UP!" It was Daru.
I crossed my arms and stood behind him, shaking my head laughing to myself. He tried to refresh the site a few times, then gave up.
"It could be the line cable, or the router," he said to himself standing up.
"I'll check it out," I said and went over to the router again pretending to switch it on.
I came back, "Does it work?"
"Nope," he said then massaged this temples. "You paid for the net this month right?"
"Right, I'm going home then, I got some mags to catch up to anyway," he said packed the manga he bought yesterday and left without saying goodbye.
Well it's not like I deserve being greeted being a manipulating bastard I am, but it was for a good cause.
Two down, one more to go.
After I switched the net back on I went back to the biggest part of the problem.
Kurisu was still sitting on the couch, reading a big book I wouldn't understand a word of, her legs crossed, suggestive as ever.
"What?" She asked when she saw me looking.
She rolled her eyes and went back to her book.
Yea, as expected from the boss of the level - pretty tricky.
"You want me away that much?" She closed her book. "What's with that look, you think I'm stupid?"
"Yes, I-I mean NO but..." Cooking plain water here again, "What I AM going to do here is an experiment with infrared light emitors that will be very dangerous to the retina and I only got one protection googles on me."
"Reaaally..." She said sarcasticaly.
"Fuhahaha! Yeah, I got it right there in the box but the whole thing is pretty time consuming - it wouldn't do if just stood outside the lab for a while, better would be if you left like the others."
"I bet you will take out some sort of flashlight and pretend it, since you can't see IR," shaking her head she stood up. "Smart, but it doesn't look good."
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, just leave while you still can, or you want your retina detached," I took out the future gadget #3 'THE Ultra Sight' and put the modified googles on my face.
"What's wrong with you Okabe?" She ignored that I'm Kyouma now completely and asked somewhat worried. "You sulk all day, looking at nothing almost through things, through people. You space out when people are talking to you. If you don't want to talk about it with the others, you can talk with me I mean we're..."
She looked directly into my eyes, "I want to know what's troubling you. Even though you act like an asshole you help everyone around you. But you also keep a closed lid on your own problems, geez OPEN YOUR EYES!"
"fuuufufufhahaHAHAHAHAHA, troubled? Me? ME?! I AM mad scientist Hououin Kyouma I am only troubled by the lack of chaos and destruction in the world, but soon nothing will be in my way! HAHAHAWAHASHWAGA, NOW LEAVE! OR SUFFER THE GRISLY CONSEQUENCES!" I cast out my hand and then pointed to the door.
"FINE! YOU WANNA BE ALONE, YOU ARE GONNA BE ALONE!" And she left, crashing with the door very loud.
And so here I am sitting alone in a dim lab lit by the remnants of the sun waiting for rounders to crash a party that is not happening this year. The future gadget #13, 'Nemesis' is sitting in my lap, it's not really a gadget it's a BB Gun with a scope. The scope is pretty much useless in this small space though, so I took it off. We used it with Daru to shoot down pigeons off an antenna on the roof that was future gadget #12 'Freedom TV' - a DVB-T hack that didn't quite work as we planned - I mean the cops and all, me having to pay for the TV the duration of the time it was installed and such details.
I dismantled the couch and laid it in front of the door, but not so it couldn't be opened just so it would act like a fortress. I dug around through Mayuri's cosplay stuff and found an Axis Powers (yeah she watches it) nazi helmet, I put it on. I pull over a chair and sit on it facing the door.
I put the nixie clock I made a while ago on the ground in front of me.
It's almost seven, it's almost the time. Outside, it's yellowish haze. The streets are empty, hushed. On the other side of the street I see a family sitting down to a supper through an open window. Traffic lights change red to green with no cars to stop or go. My mouth goes dry. If I concentrate just so, there is the subconscious hum of something about to happen. Two claustrophobic minutes and I realize I'm covered in sweat. The time grows wider, almost physical. I see myself in the nixie tubes, the image is wavering, untrue. My perception of self becomes incidental, and everything but the reason why I am sitting here alone seems to disappear. I am not Hououin Kyouma, detached and cool, I am Okabe Rintaro, vulnerable and exposed. It's been weeks since I slept with my eyes closed, awaiting this very day. I'm funny though, I'm a clown in a lab coat. I'm nervous and it's too hot. I take off the lab coat and leave it wadded on the floor. I feel clammy, terrified. Kurisu lives in a hotel just three blocks from here, I imagine her in a psychology class, a sience workshop. Her hair in a ponytail. She frowns and takes notes in small, spidery handwriting. I was in her hotel room once. She is in 3D and this makes me smile. Kurisu is three-dimensional. If Daru was here we'd laugh at the joke.
But enough of this I tell myself to be brutal, detached, Hououin Kyouma.
Otherwise I won't have what it takes to get through the next hour.
I grind my teeth, back and forth.
My reflection shimmers in the nixie clock, it's half past seven.
Nobody came yet.
Now I dozed off, just blinked microsleep like and someone is standing behind the fortress I built, the door opened, it's few minutes until eight.
She looks tough and efficient, she glances at me her hands crossed. Then she laughs, I know what at - me.
After that she steps over the couch and goes all the way over to me, I slide back to the wall with the chair, she stops just before me her hands on her hips. She breathes. She waits for me to say the first word. I control my breathing, I wait for five seconds, fifteen. I wait until my mind is relatively empty. I want to tell her I just wanted her to be safe.
"I'm sorry that I scared you, Kurisu," I say, my voice dry.
"You know that doesn't work anymore, but..." she said.
She leans to kiss me. Her open lips find my mouth then pull away. The red tip of her tongue like a ghost against my teeth.
"What were you doing?"
"Nothing," I say. "Thinking."
"Why do you look guilty?"
"I'm just thinking."
Kurisu smiles at me and I lean to kiss her. She kisses me harder than she ever did before. Her tongue darts into my mouth and I remember. She stops.
"I love you, Okarin," she says.
I am Okabe Rintaro the vulnerable, exposed idiot who thought that today would bring only destruction and pain.