A/N: So...it's been a while...s'up.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of DC.
"Bourbon!" Naku exclaims, his emerald eyes opening wide with surprise as he slows to a stop, just a couple of feet from the tan-skinned man. That's when he notices the girl slung over Bourbon's shoulder; it's Ayumi. Seeing the unconscious girl, limbs dangling in the air, Naku attempts to make a comment. He is interrupted, however, before he has a chance to do so, Bourbon asking him a question instead.
"What's wrong, kiddo? Not happy to see me?" the Black Organization operative asks, a mock frown across his face.
Naku immediately shakes his head. "No, that's not it," he replies, hesitating for a moment before continuing, "I just thought that Sera-chan was going to be here."
At that, Bourbon smiles- the kind of smile that is ever so neutral- and gives Naku a pat on the head with his free hand, ruffling the teen's hair a bit in the process. The gesture causes Naku to frown in annoyance; he quickly shrugs away from the hand then fixes his hair back to the way it was. Bourbon just looks on and laughs. Then turning around, he says, "Shall we get going? I'll be your getaway driver for today."
Naku nods in reply, not that it really matters; Bourbon is already walking away, about to turn the corner out the alley. Naku quickly scuttles behind, following Bourbon to a generic-looking silver Toyota Camry, parked not so far in the lot of a convenience store. As Naku approaches the car, he finds that Bourbon is already busy putting Ayumi in the trunk, securing the girl to make sure that she would not escape. Naku looks around nervously in the meantime, an action which does not escape Bourbon's notice. "Don't worry," Bourbon reassures, directing Naku to the passenger seat of the car, "I checked this area already. No cameras."
"U-un," Naku replies, entering the car and plopping himself down on the leather chair. He waits for a moment, then sees Bourbon get behind the driver's wheel, igniting the engine with a push of a button. The car instantly hums to life, the dull drone of the engine signalling that they were set to go.
Bourbon does not put the car into drive, however. Instead, he turns to Naku and asks, "So, what did you think?"
"Huh? About what?" Naku asks, evidently distracted by something and not quite understanding the question.
"About your first solo mission," Bourbon clarifies, giving Naku a curious look. "Did you think it was easy? Hard?"
At that, Naku pauses for a moment, thinking back to the close encounter just minutes before. Thankfully, he had managed to grab the stun gun from the ground before the man attacked. Otherwise, Naku begins, letting the thought drift off. His hand reflexively touches his neck where a dark bruise was beginning to form, an image of Kuroba Kaito's cold, calm demeanor still fresh in his mind. The image also calls forth a past memory of Wolf, of the early days...More so than nearly dying, Wolf's disappointed face causes Naku to shutter. Wolf wouldn't fault him for nearly letting Ayumi escape, would he? I-I did everything Okami-sama told me, Naku reassures himself, trying to shake the unpleasant thoughts from his head. I did everything...
"Kiddo?" Bourbon asks, the sound of the man's voice pulling Naku back to reality.
"I-" Naku says, forming the start of a response but only to let the sentence drop. Everything's fine. I did just fine, he thinks again. Then with a more vigorous shake of his head, Naku pushes away the pit in his stomach, putting on a brave smile instead. "I'm fine. Shouldn't we be going? Okami-sama's probably waiting for us."
"Right," Bourbon says, giving Naku one last look before putting the car into drive. Then without another word, the two BO operatives turn out of the parking lot and disappear into the morning traffic.
"So let me get this straight," the Brit, Charles, begins as he glances around the room, "you're saying that Ignotis is responsible for the coup in South Africa, the bombings in Egypt, the intellectual thefts in the USA, assassinations in just about every country in Asia, AND somehow, he still had time to dislocate millions of villagers from their rural homes in South America?"
"Don't forget the acts of terrorism against countries of the European Union," Victoria adds, drawing a wry smirk from the Brit.
"Yes, how could I have forgotten?" Charles asks sarcastically with a roll of his eyes. Leaning back in his chair, with hands behind his head, he continues, "And how exactly do we know that all this is Ignotis' doing? Last I checked with MI6, there was no evidence."
"That's precisely how we know," Victoria counters.
Charles laughs, the bemused expression still on his face. "Oh, that's just cheery, the evidence being the lack thereof! Anyone else find this whole thing absurd?" Prompted by the question, several heads in the room nod. Before the conversation can return once more to the bickering from before, however, Luke interrupts.
"It's not simply that there's no evidence," he says, pulling the attention in the room towards himself, "It's that the crimes are carried out to perfection. Bombings usually leave bomb fragments that can be identified, but Ignotis leaves none. Digital thefts leave footprints, but again, Ignotis leaves none. Assassinations-"
"Alright, I get it," Charles interrupts, holding up a hand. "If all this is true, and Ignotis really doesn't leave evidence, and if INTERPOL is right about that boy being Ignotis, then we have to assume he made himself known to us at the airport for a reason."
"That's what I've been saying from the start!" Victoria says, obviously annoyed at the circular nature of the conversation.
"And now we're all on the same page," Luke replies, trying to calm the woman down. Then turning to look around the room, he asks, "Everyone agrees that Ignotis is up to something in Japan?" For the most part, each person in the room nods, all except Camel, who is busy staring down at his hands. Noticing the distracted look on Camel's face, Luke asks, "Is everything alright, Agent Camel?"
Camel, though, appears not to have heard, looking up only after Jodie gives him a jab to the ribs. Then finding that everyone is staring, he quickly says, "Ah, I'm fine. Please, continue."
The answer does not seem satisfactory though; Luke gives Camel a wary glance and asks, "If there's something you want to add-"
Camel shakes his head. After all, what was he supposed to say? That Agent Redgrace wasn't who he claimed to be? That he might actually be...Camel lets the thought slip from his mind, returning his attention to the conversation at hand. "I agree-" he begins to reply, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door. To his surprise, it's Redgrace, as if Fate herself had come down from Heaven to intervene. Redgrace walks into the conference room and nods a brief greeting before turning his eyes towards Camel.
"I need to borrow Agent Camel for something, if you all don't mind," Redgrace says nonchalantly, gesturing to the door.
"Me?" Camel asks, suspicious and surprised. He points a finger to himself, just to be sure. Redgrace verifies with a nod of his head, waiting patiently as Camel leaves his seat. Before Camel is able to get far though, he feels a tug on his sleeve, pulling him back. Looking down, he notices it is Jodie, her hand gripping tightly onto the fabric of his suit.
"What's this about, Camel-kun?" Jodie whispers.
Camel just shrugs in reply. "I honestly don't know," he says. A half truth. Somewhere in his mind, Camel had his suspicions, but there was no evidence yet. For now, he would just go along with whatever Redgrace had in store.
Noticing that Jodie had let go of his sleeve, Camel proceeds to the door and exits with Redgrace into the hallway. The two men walk silently for a while, solid footsteps echoing loudly in the otherwise empty passage. Thud. Thud. Finally, unable to resist any further, Camel turns to Redgrace, mouth open and about to speak. To his surprise though, Redgrace preempts him, and as if reading his mind, asks the question that he wanted to ask.
"You want to know what this is all about, right?" Redgrace says, more of a statement than a question. Camel just nods his head, eyes following Redgrace warily as the man continues, "Fair enough. I can't tell you all the details but the short of it is, we've discovered Ignotis' location. Or rather, where he will be."
"What?!" Camel exclaims, only to be instantly hushed by Redgrace. Then in a much lower voice, Camel continues, "If you know where Ignotis is going to be, then why haven't you told all the other agents? Wouldn't it be better to have more manpower to apprehend him?"
"More isn't always better," Redgrace replies, "You never know who may have a loose tongue."
"You don't mean-?" Camel begins, letting the question hang in the air. Redgrace does not provide a response, however. Instead, he simply places a finger over his lips and gives Camel a wink. Then turning to the garage, Redgrace opens the door and gestures for Camel to proceed. Camel doesn't budge though, a look of contemplation still on his face. Finally, he asks, "Why me?"
With a grin, Redgrace replies, "You're an excellent driver." Then without another word, Redgrace disappears into the garage, leaving a rather stunned Camel standing alone in the empty hallway.
"You're not going to eat?" Bourbon asks, his cheek resting lightly on the palm of his hand, supported off the table so as to provide a small tilt of his head. Pale blue eyes stare straight ahead, distant, yet strangely clear, forming an expression of curiosity, reflective of a perceptive mind. Across the table from him is Naku, who is busy poking at a chocolate chip pancake with a fork, evidently distracted by something. It is only when Bourbon asks a second time that Naku's eyes dart up in surprise, like a deer caught by the headlights of a car.
"W-what?" Naku stutters out, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
Instantly, Bourbon's eyes narrow, like two blades that pierce right through the soul. "What's wrong, kiddo? You've been acting strange ever since the job," Bourbon asks, moving so that he's sitting upright, his arms crossed over his chest.
"N-nothing," Naku replies, averting his eyes.
"Is that so?" Bourbon says, easily recognizing the lie. But before he can pursue the matter, he feels a vibrating in his pocket. It's his phone. With one quick motion, Bourbon pulls the cell out and flips open the cover. "It's the Boss," he says, holding the phone out for Naku to see, "He probably wants to know how to the job went." Almost instantly, Naku gets up out of his seat, his eyes wild with nerves.
"I-I have to use the bathroom," he quickly says, just about to run off.
So that's what this is about, Bourbon muses, a smirk crossing his tan face. With one sudden motion, Bourbon darts his hand out and catches Naku by the arm, pulling him back to the table.
"W-what are you doing? I really need to pee!" Naku exclaims, struggling to break free from Bourbon's hold. Bourbon just continues his smirk, however, and takes out a pair of headphones, giving one to Naku and then putting the other into his own ear.
"Shhh," Bourbon says, gesturing for Naku to be quiet with his finger. Then, assured that Naku would stop making a fuss, Bourbon picks up the call. "Boss? How's it going?" he asks into the receiver of the cell.
Through the headphone in his ear, Naku hears Wolf's response. "Bourbon? What are you doing with Sera's phone?"
"I thought I would lend her a hand," Bourbon replies casually, prompting a period of silence. The only sound on the phone is static, white noise.
Finally, Wolf continues. "And what about the girl. Did Naku secure her?"
"Yes," Bourbon replies.
"Any problems?" Wolf asks, as if pushing the point.
The question nearly causing Naku's heart to jump out of his throat. Is Bourbon going to tell-? Naku panics, feeling his heartbeat growing ever faster. What's Okami-sama going to think of me if he finds out I almost let Ayumi-chan escape? To his surprise though, Bourbon says nothing of the sort, instead just assuring Wolf that no problems had arisen.
"Very well. Bring her to the designated place," Wolf says. Then after another pause, he adds, "And tell Naku I said, 'Good job, but I'm still not wearing that ridiculous costume.'"
"Will do, Boss," Bourbon says as he looks over and gives Naku a wink. Then returning his attention to the call, Bourbon adds, "By the way, Boss, what are you up to right now?
"Just doing some cleanup," Wolf replies, sounding rather bored. Then, as if on cue, the sound of muffled screams appear in the background of the call, lasting for a few seconds before abruptly stopping. "Well, I'm done here. I'll meet you at the designated location tonight, Bourbon. Goodbye."
"Bye, Boss," Bourbon says as he hangs up the phone. Only once the phone is securely in Bourbon's pocket again does Naku allow himself to take a big sigh of relief. "Will that do, Kiddo?" Bourbon asks, letting go of Naku's arm. Naku nods silently, opting not to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Good," Bourbon continues, a sly grin on his face, "Because there's something I need you to do for me."
"What?" Naku asks, surprised that Bourbon would request his help.
"I need you to look into this," Bourbon replies, pulling out a folder from his inside coat pocket.
"What is it?" Naku asks.
"You'll see," Bourbon says, handing the folder over. "Oh, and one more thing," he adds, "You can't let the Boss know about it, okay?"
"Okami-sama?" Naku asks, looking at the folder in his hands, obviously hesitating at the request.
"Understand?" Bourbon presses, staring Naku in the eyes to make sure the message got through.
"U-un," Naku finally replies, tucking the folder away.
"Good boy," Bourbon says, once again ruffling Naku's wavy hair. And as before, Naku brushes the hand away with annoyance, causing Bourbon to laugh out loud. "Anyways, how about I get you some new pancakes?" Bourbon suggests, standing up and heading to the counter of the IHOP.
Naku nods, then calls out to Bourbon while the man is still in earshot, "Hey, Bourbon?"
"Yeah, Kiddo?" Bourbon asks, pausing to turn around.
"Thanks," Naku replies bashfully, "with Okami-sama."
At that, Bourbon smiles, then walks back to the table, reaching out a hand and placing it on Naku's head. There's no ruffling this time, and Naku does not protest either, though not for the sake of sentimentality. Rather, it is the glint in Bourbon's eyes, the symptoms of danger, which cause Naku to freeze in place, unable to muster the will to move. On his head, Naku can feel Bourbon's large hand resting- gripping his head- as if it could clamp down at any moment. As simple as popping an egg. Still with the same smile on his face, Bourbon's eyes curve into crescents, masking the threat below the surface. Then in a cool, almost ice cold voice, he says, "Don't get the wrong idea, Kiddo. We're not friends. We're coworkers and nothing more. Please do try to remember. Okay?" Then with a pat on the head, Bourbon turns around and continues on his way to the counter, leaving Naku alone at the table. And for a moment, Naku remains motionless, the loud thumping of his heart echoing in his ears. Finally, Naku lifts a hand and puts it on his head, as if making sure it was still in one piece.
"Right," Naku mumbles, looking on as Bourbon returns, a new plate of chocolate chip pancakes in hand.
"Binary?" Satou asks, raising an eyebrow, "You mean like 1's and 0's?"
"That's exactly it, Satou-keibu," Mitsuhiko replies, pointing to the digits on his computer screen. "See these? The chance that they'd be only 1's and 0's, if the code were not binary, would be infinitesimally small. Plus, notice the zeroes at the start of the codes: 0-0-0-1-0-0-1-0 and 0-0-0-0-1-0-1-1."
"What about them?" Satou asks, once again looking over Mitsuhiko's shoulder.
"They're unnecessary. It's like saying zero zero one hundred when you just mean one hundred. See how'd they'd be unnecessary? Unless of course-" Mitsuhiko pauses, clearly enjoying himself.
"Unless what?" Satou asks, taking the bait.
"Unless it's a representation of all the possible codes," Mitsuhiko explains, "Notice that both codes are exactly eight digits. The lowest number would be all zeroes and the highest number would be all ones. Or if we convert it to base ten, the range is from zero to two hundred and fifty-five."
"I see," Satou says, her expression one of contemplation, "And what does that mean?"
"Well," Mitsuhiko begins, before breaking out into nervous laughter, "I haven't quite figured that out yet."
"So basically, we're still left with a bunch of random number," Satou points out.
"Y-yeah, I guess so," Mitsuhiko admits, his previous enthusiasm dampened.
Noticing the effect her words had, Satou quickly changes her tone, trying to cheer the boy up. "But it's still something, right?" Satou asks, making an effort to put a smile on her face, despite how exhausted she felt inside. Satou silently cursed herself for not getting enough sleep. And there was still the downsizing to worry about. With a sigh, Satou collects herself, about to make her way back to the precinct. Before she could leave though, Mitsuhiko interrupts.
"Ah, Satou-keibu, there was one more thing I wanted to show you," he says, pulling up another page on the computer.
"What is it?" Satou asks.
"Remember when I deduced that the murder victim in the alley was from a local motorcycle gang?"
Satou nods her head in reply. "But we haven't been able to tie him to any of the gangs in Tokyo," she says, "And the victim didn't turn up in any of our databases."
"Well, I think I might have figured out which gang he belongs to," Mitsuhiko says, drawing a surprised look from Satou. "Here, check this out," Mitsuhiko continues, pointing to the screen of the computer, "This is an online site for motorcycle enthusiasts and recently in one of their IRC, there was talk of a possible turf war between the different motorcycle gangs. Apparently, one of the gangs suspects another gang of killing its own former members."
"And you think the former members they're talking about is the man from the alley," Satou says. Mitsuhiko nods. "It's certainly possible," Satou continues, a thoughtful expression again settling on her face. "Do you know the gang's name?"
Again, Mitsuhiko nods, "The Unagi Gang. They're situated in east Tokyo. And according to the chats, they have a weekly meeting today, by the piers."
"What time?" Satou asks.
"At noon," Mitsuhiko replies.
"Noon," Satou mumbles, glancing down at her watch. The face reads 11:35. There would be plenty of time to get there, especially if she was driving. Looking up, Satou gives Mitsuhiko a grin and asks, "Ne, Mitsuhiko, what's say the two of us go for a ride?"
"Un!" Mitsuhiko nods eagerly.
Being TASER'ed is never a fun experience. The muscle cramps, the heart palpation, and the feeling that bones have suddenly turned to rubber- it gets to a person. And being TASER'ed twice is even less fun than being TASER'ed once. Hence, it was understandable that, as Kaito awoke, he was in a fairly terrible mood...
Pushing himself against a wall, Kaito manages to sit upright, letting his body rest for a moment as he planned his next course of action. Just who was that kid? he wonders, And just who is 'Okami-sama'? One thing was for sure, the kid had been no amateur; he had training.
Just as he finishes the thought, a sudden muscle spasm occurs, causes Kaito to wince, his hand moving to clutch his chest. "He got me good," Kaito laughs, deducing that the stun gun must have been picked up in those split seconds he had been tossed through the air. That kind of reaction takes practice, Kaito muses as he breathes deeply, causing his body to relax. He could feel the cramps begin to disappear, his muscles becoming limber once more. Ready to stand, Kaito picks himself up off the ground, using the wall as support. Then slowly, he stumbles towards the exit of the alley.
"First thing's first," Kaito mumbles to himself, noting the state of his attire; there was blood and dirt everywhere. He needed to clean up. Which meant heading to one of his safe houses first and then...
"Ah, crap," Kaito cusses, realizing that he had forgotten something. And as if fate had decided to personally remind him, his phone suddenly starts ringing. Pulling the cell out of his pocket, Kaito notices that it is none other than Aoko. "The damn date," Kaito mumbles, clearing his voice a few times before picking up. Then in as casual a voice as possible, he says, "Hey, Aoko, what's up?"
"Where the hell are you, Kaito?" Aoko asks in reply, "We were supposed to meet an hour ago."
"An hour ago? Just how long was I out?" Kaito mumbles.
"What was that?" Aoko asks.
"Ah, it's nothing," Kaito quickly replies before checking the time on his cellphone. 1:00PM. Damn, I probably missed Song Hai at the diner already. She's not going to be pleased.
"Kaito, you there?" Aoko asks, breaking Kaito out of his thoughts.
"Yeah, give me a second, I'll-" Kaito replies, but his sentence is cut short when he hears a sudden ring coming from one of his pockets. Another phone? Kaito wonders, his eyes instantly narrowing with suspicion. Without pause, Kaito pats himself down, finding a hidden phone buried in his coat pocket. Holding it up, Kaito realizes that he had never seen the phone before; it wasn't one of his. Then who-? Kaito wonders. Wait, could it be-? Hastily, Kaito swipes his finger across the screen, unlocking the phone. Within is a single text message, sent, no doubt, from a burner phone. This must have been what the kid was trying to do...sneak this phone on me, Kaito concludes, his finger hovering over the notification on the phone's screen. For a moment, he hesitates, wondering if he really wanted to get involved with whatever charade that kid had been getting at. In the end though, curiosity gets the better of him. Kaito clicks on the message, watching as a single line appears on the screen, a single line that causes Kaito to freeze, paralyzed where he stood. It is only at the sound of Aoko's voice, still on the other phone, that Kaito finally averts his eyes.
Kaito picks up the other phone and says, "I'm sorry, Aoko. We're going to have to reschedule."
"Reschedule? When?" Aoko asks, but Kaito is hardly listening.
"I'll let you know," he replies before abruptly hanging up. He then returns his attention to the mysterious phone, the single line still lingering on the screen:
You'll find her there once more. Fourth street, abandoned church by the footbridge.
"Shinichi!" Kaito exclaims.